Manga and Anime

In the past, manga and anime were intimately related. We take a look at the relationship between these two mediums in Japan and how they have changed over time.

The Dull Sword (without film frame), 1917.Original Source: National Film Archive of Japan

The beginning of “manga film”
Japanese animation is said to have celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2017. If we follow this theory, it means that the first year of Japanese anime is 1917, the year that the three animators Hekoten Shimokawa, Seitaro Kitayama, and Junichi Kouchi each successively released animated films.
There were many manga artists among the early creators of Japanese anime. "The Dull Sword" (1917), the earliest existing domestically produced animation in Japan, was created by one of those three founders, Junichi Kouchi, who was known for his political manga. As demonstrated by the fact that anime was once long referred to as “manga film,” anime has been closely tied to manga since the beginning of its history.

Momotaro, Sacred Sailors + Spider and Tulip [digitally restored version] (film), 1943/2012Original Source: ©1943/2012 Shochiku Co., Ltd.

Entertainment and realism
“Momotaro, Sacred Sailors” (1945), released during WWII, is said to be the first major feature-length animation produced in Japan. In the past, not only was Japanese anime a form of entertainment, it also originally served educational purposes for children. The film presented a believable portrayal of the military in order to boost national prestige in wartime Japan.
This anime is known to have strongly influenced Osamu Tezuka and other artists in their youth, and its blend of entertainment and realism went on to become a key factor in the development of children’s manga in post-war Japan.

"Astro Boy" (anime), 1963Original Source: (C)Tezuka Productions

Into the “televised manga” era,
"Astro Boy" (1963) established the “weekly 30-minute broadcast” format of televised anime that is still mainstream in Japan today. Its creator, Osamu Tezuka, who had been passionate about anime since his youth, produced the anime at Mushi Production Co., the animation studio he founded himself, based on his own manga.
The business model of producing a televised anime series based on a hit children’s manga and merchandising character-themed products would later become the standard in the industry.
Just as anime films were once called “manga films,” televised anime were also called “televised manga” for a long time.

"Ashita no Joe" (anime), 1970Original Source: © Asao Takamori ,Tetsuya Chiba / Kodansha,TMS

From children to young men
Children’s manga in the late 1960s raised the target age of their readership by incorporating the outcomes of the "gekiga" (realistic manga) movement that occurred in the late 1950s. Following suit, the audience of televised anime, which were based on stories from "Weekly Shōnen Magazine" and other major boys’ manga magazines that promoted these trends, expanded to include young men as well as children.
"Ashita no Joe" [Tomorrow’s Joe] (1970–71), created in the midst of the "spo-kon" (perseverance in sports) boom, is a masterpiece from this era directed by Osamu Dezaki, who made frequent use of still images and other techniques to maximize the impactful artistic style of the original work.

"Sazae-san" (anime), 1969Original Source: © Hasegawa Machiko Art Museum

The birth of national media content
Televised anime from the 1970s onward further raised their target viewer demographic through anime-original works such as Space Battleship Yamato (1974–75) and Mobile Suit Gundam (1979–80). Simultaneously, however, many hit anime were created that were popular with people of all ages and genders.
Family-friendly anime such as "Sazae-san" (1946–74), based on a newspaper-serialized "yonkoma (four-panel) manga", and "Chibi Maruko-chan" (1986–96), originally serialized in a shōjo (girls’) manga magazine, were delivered to living rooms across Japan through broadcast television. This transformed the series into national media content that reached audiences beyond the boundaries of the mediums in which they were originally published and helped them grow into long-running shows.

"Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind "(film), 1984Original Source: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind © 1984 Studio Ghibli・H

The history of feature-length anime films
In the history of feature-length anime films for the cinema, Toei Doga (now Toei Animation), which was established in 1956 with the aim of becoming the “Disney of the East,” is notable for creating high-quality, original works. The company released feature-length anime films nearly every year, starting with “The White Snake”(1958), the first feature-length color anime film to be produced in Japan.
Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, who both worked for Toei Doga, were involved in establishing Studio Ghibli, where they directed many feature-length anime films and became nationally beloved artists. Although many of their works are original anime, the film "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" (1984), which was produced before Ghibli’s establishment, is based on a manga series authored by the director Hayao Miyazaki himself.

Miyazaki Hayao, "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind", Tokuma Shoten, Vol. 1.1983Original Source: © Studio Ghibli

Manga created by an animator
The manga version of "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" by Hayao Miyazaki was serialized in the anime information magazine “Animage” starting in 1982. Because it was not necessarily created to be adapted into an anime, and because Miyazaki portrayed subjects that he was interested in rather than what appealed to the general public, the resulting manga features an original style that would have been difficult for major manga magazines to adopt. Readers will appreciate Miyazaki’s meticulous attention to detail and use of an interesting frame layout that paces the story similarly to how an animator might use a storyboard.
Even after the release of the anime version, which he directed, Miyazaki continued drawing the manga up until 1994. Its epic story, which developed into something quite distinct from the anime version, is renowned as a masterpiece in the history of Japanese manga.

"Ghost in the Shell "(anime), 1995Original Source: -

Japanese anime heads overseas
Although Japanese anime has been exported and developed internationally in various forms throughout its history, for a long time, overseas markets were not actively pursued by the industry. This was partially because the industry was supported by a sufficiently large domestic market. However, this changed in the 1990s, when international ratings and distribution channels also became a focus of attention and importance in anime.
The animated feature film “Ghost in the Shell” (1995) directed by Mamoru Oshii, based on the manga of the same name by Masamune Shirow (1989), became a symbol of “anime popular outside of Japan” due to its “achievement” of having topped Billboard’s weekly video sales chart in the United States.

Shirow Masamune, "THE GHOST IN THE SHELL", Kodansha, Vol. 1, p.101, 1991Original Source: ©︎Shirow Masamune

Expressive techniques adapted to the characteristics of the medium
The manga "THE GHOST IN THE SHELL" by Masamune Shirow, as can be seen in the scene shown here, overwhelms readers with a huge amount of information, even going so far as to add annotations in the margins. This style works because the medium of a paper book allows readers to absorb the story at their own pace.

In contrast, the anime version directed by Mamoru Oshii is created in a style that extracts the essence of the original setting and story, condenses it into a compact running time, and uses the power of visual expression to entertain its audience.

Both Masamune Shirow’s original manga and the anime version directed by Mamoru Oshii can be called masterpieces, as they both fully utilize the characteristics of their respective mediums.

"Ping Pong" (anime), 2014Original Source: ©Taiyo Matsumoto, Shogakukan/Ping Pong Animation Production Committee

Transmedia exchanges
Japanese manga and anime have enjoyed a close relationship over a long span of time, but with the increase in televised anime based on light novels and games from the 2000s onward, manga is thought to be becoming just one source of stories for anime among many others. However, because many long-lived, nationally popular titles are based on stories from manga, transmedia exchanges between manga and anime are still at the core of Japanese culture.
These exchanges continue to create innovative and unique forms of expression. In “Ping Pong ”(2014) directed by Masaaki Yuasa, for example, a method of splitting the screen, reminiscent of the panel layout used by Taiyo Matsumoto in the original manga, is used to spectacular effect.

Credits: Story

Text: Kentaro Miwa
Edit: Yuka Miyazaki(BIJUTSU SHUPPAN-SHA CO., LTD.)
Supervisor: Hirohito Miyamoto(Meiji University)
Written in 2020

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Manga: Out Of The Box
Explore the history and culture of Japanese comics beyond the page
View theme
Google apps