The Difference Between Anime and Manga Explained


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In this article, we explore the difference between anime and manga and what makes up these popular mediums.

Key Takeaways

  • Anime refers to hand-drawn and computer-generated animation originating from Japan, which can be enjoyed on screens of all kinds.
  • Manga is a popular form of comics or graphic novels originating from Japan, printed in black-and-white.

What Is the Difference Between Anime and Manga?

To understand the difference between these two concepts, let’s explore what anime and manga are.

Image showcasing the difference between anime and manga in art style. The left side shows anime style (colors and cel shading), and the right side shows manga style (halftones).

What is Anime?

Anime refers to hand-drawn and computer-generated animation originating from Japan. While outside of Japan, anime refers specifically to animation produced in Japan, in Japan, and in Japanese, anime describes all animated works, regardless of style or origin.

Anime is distributed theatrically, through television broadcasts, directly to home media, and over the Internet.

Most often, the usage of the word anime in the US and other countries describes an animated Japanese TV show in the characteristic “anime” style.

What is Manga?

Manga is a popular form of comics or graphic novels originating from Japan, with a broad range of genres, including action, adventure, comedy, drama, horror, romance, science fiction, and fantasy.

Manga has become an increasingly major part of the Japanese publishing industry since the 1950s and has gained a significant worldwide audience.

The North American manga market has snowballed and is valued at almost $250 million. Manga stories are typically printed in black-and-white, serialized in large manga magazines, and republished in tankōbon volumes.

Key Differences Between the Two Mediums

In terms of artistic style, anime is more dynamic, colorful, and reliant on special effects, while manga is more static and minimalist.

Regarding storytelling methods, anime can feature elaborate plotlines and action scenes, while manga has more room for introspection and conveying complex emotions through detailed artwork.

Anime typically consists of a series of episodes, while manga is usually serialized in magazines or online platforms with a single chapter ranging from 15 to 50 pages. Anime tends to be more diverse in terms of genres and age ranges, while manga has a wider range of demographics and subgenres.

Anime and manga are often interrelated, with many anime series being adaptations of popular manga or light novels and vice versa, sometimes resulting in different interpretations or endings.

The Originality of Manga

As manga is a comic book, typically created in black and white while using halftones and hatching techniques to create depth to the art. Manga can be seen as more of an original depiction of the characters and story that the artist behind the manga originally wanted to show.

Doujinshi’s and light novels also enable manga-ka’s of all ages to create a manga that can be enjoyed by anyone worldwide. On the other hand, one-shot manga enables artists to get their vision, story, and characters to be known, which can then get serialized to bigger venues.

The same can’t be said about anime.

The Visual Spectacle of Anime

While manga is created in black and white and printed as a comic book, anime is a colored visual spectacle shown on screens of all kinds.

Anime can be seen as a natural continuation of a popular manga. Anime brings color, motion, sound, and voice to the characters seen in the manga.

Anime, in a way, can enrich the experience that you’ve gotten while reading the manga. Sound, colors, voice acting, and special effects all bring the manga to a whole new level in terms of experience.

Which is Better, Anime or Manga?

Both mediums have their own benefits. Anime is visually stunning to watch, whereas manga is pleasant to read during a train ride home. Anime can be better with visuals, but the manga is better when following the mangaka’s original vision.

Anime and manga each have their own unique characteristics that might make you choose one over the other. Anime, for instance, gets a lot of mainstream representation today on major networks and through conventions.

As appealing as it is, one downside to anime is that it takes a really long time to come from overseas, even in the digital age.

You’ll usually get access to the Japanese version of a show at the same time it comes out in Japan, but it’ll take longer to be subbed and dubbed (as in, have subtitles added and the audio dubbed with English speakers).

And that’s if the show will ever be subbed or dubbed at all. In some cases, dedicated fans will add subtitles themselves!

But in general, what this means for fans is that unless you speak Japanese, you can be limited in what shows or movies you’ll be able to enjoy. Conversely, Manga is quicker to be released, easier to find, and more likely to be translated into multiple languages from the beginning.

Are There Any Anime Without Manga?

Yuri!! On ICE is an anime series that has not yet been produced as a manga comic book. In contrast, there are few anime series without a manga counterpart. Yuri!! on ICE is one that does not have an official manga written for it.

For most of the anime series out there with cult followings, there will be a corresponding manga (or vice versa).

A lot of the top animes started off as mangas that grew in popularity and later received a show. That’s the case with animes like Bleach, One Piece, Naruto, and more.

With Naruto, creator Masashi Kishimoto first debuted his famous character in a “one-shot” manga in 1995. The animated series didn’t come out until 2002.

It’s interesting to think that a legendary show like Naruto can start off as a personal, one-time project and quickly spiral into a worldwide phenomenon in less than a decade.

With manga, a significantly larger variety of genres, storylines, and translations are available. Part of that is because the manga is much easier to mass-produce and is usually e-reader compatible.

Series also tend to have longer, more complex storylines in their manga version and can expand upon existing anime.

What Does Manga Mean in Anime?

In Japan, the word manga refers to all kinds of comics, cartoons, and graphic novels.

At its most simplified, you can think of anime as a Japanese TV show and manga as a Japanese comic book. While there’s so much diversity to the array of content in Japan, when people refer to anime and manga in the US, it’s usually pertaining to a pop culture work that contains fantasy, romance, or adventure elements. It is marketed to a young adult audience.

Japanese comics and TV shows often have a number of stylistic elements that make them appealing to international audiences and cause them to earn the catch-all title of manga or anime.

The most prominent feature of the manga style is the use of exaggerated facial features, such as eyes or emotive expressions.

A significant amount of detail is put into the character’s clothing, hair, and personality. But aside from the instantly recognizable art style, manga, and anime utilize innovative framing and special effects that create a dynamic and engaging experience for the viewers.

The other defining aspect of anime and manga in international culture is the use of character archetypes.

This comes in the form of a young protagonist bored at school whose life is suddenly about to change, or perhaps an unlikely hero who must harness their power to save whom they love.

There are even categorizations for the most tell-tale personality types in popular series: the tsundere, dandere, kuudere, and yandere.


What’s tricky in understanding the difference between anime and manga is that you’ll often hear the two words interchanged, usually by people who don’t bother to know their real meanings.

But if there’s anything to take away, it’s that these two mediums are certainly not one and the same.

Some people try to simplify things and reduce the definitions down. Anime: Japanese TV show. Manga: Japanese comic.

While that’s helpful to the general population, true fans know there’s so much more behind these pop-culture phenomenons.



Digital Artist

I’m a digital artist who is passionate about anime and manga art. My true artist journey pretty much started with CTRL+Z. When I experienced that and the limitless color choices and the number of tools I could use with art software, I was sold. Drawing digital anime art is the thing that makes me happy among eating cheeseburgers in between veggie meals.

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