The History of Manga in Manga

Go on a cartoon adventure and discover the history of this art form, from Edo-period Japan to the world of today

By Google Arts & Culture

Using content from Keio University Library, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and Tezuka Osamu

The History of Manga in Manga

With a rich palette of colors, a huge cast of characters, some pioneering artists, and a history that stretches back centuries, manga is among Japan's most beloved and important art forms.

Scroll on to follow the history of manga, from the Edo period to the present day, through this new manga strip...

1. Roots

Manga's roots go deep. Scrolls depicting narrative scenes from life and myth are said to date back to the 12th century. It's the school of woodblock printing known as 'ukiyo-e', however, that gives us manga's most recognised precedent.

Katsushika Hokusai, the artist of the famous Great Wave, produced a blockbuster series of prints called Hokusai Manga, showing scenes from nature and everyday life, from 1814 onwards, and the era of manga was born.

2. Modern 'Manga' introduced

The first artist to describe their pictures as 'manga' in the modern sense was Ippyo Imaizumi. Kitazawa Rakuten then popularized the form and his influence on many younger artists has led him to be seen as the father of modern manga. 

3. Say hello to Astro Boy!

Post World War II, the Western occupation of Japan brought American and European influence to manga (and also inspired manga that explicitly resisted this influence). After the occupation, Osamu Tezuka captured Japan's imagination with one curious little character...Astro Boy!

Astro Boy is a naive young boy, but also a hyper-powered robot with superhuman capabilities. These two characteristics made him very relatable to a post-war Japan that was rebuilding itself. Astro Boy also proved internationally popular, launching manga to a global audience.

4. The magnificent women of "shōjo" manga

Shōjo manga is a form of manga made for young women and girls, and dates back to the early 1900s. In the 1970s, however, there was a shōjo manga innovation.

Initially, shōjo manga had been written by men. But the pioneering women of the Year 24 Group (or Magnificent 24s), including Keiko Takemiya, turned that on its head. Their work means that shōjo is now written primarily by women, for women. 

5. Gekiga, a manga uprising

Manga stories are full of endearing, cute characters, and the form lends itself to playfulness. But it can also be a vehicle for resistance against oppression, political satire, and darker subject matter. Gekiga is the name given to the more serious side of manga.

"Gekiga" literally translates to "drama pictures". Takao Saito was among the earliest artists who began making radical political manga in the 1950s and 60s, and the form evolved into the avant-garde approach of stories like Akira.

6. Manga Out of the Box!

Today, manga takes many forms and enjoys a universal popularity. From fashion, to film, to a brand new experiment by Google Arts & Culture, manga's influence spreads far and wide. It's no exaggeration to say that these small panels have spread around the world!

Ready to read more? Head over to Manga Out of the Box to keep exploring.

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.
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