Which Came First, Anime Or Manga?


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The earliest forms of manga date back to the end of the 12th century in the form of scrolls. Anime, on the other hand, dates back to 19th century Japan, which means manga came earlier than anime.

Manga as a word came to be known in the late 18th century and is translated as comic. The first Japanese animated film is said to be published in either 1907 or 1917.

History Of Manga

Manga, referring to the Japanese comics and graphic novels that are popular today, has been around for nearly 900 years (a long history for manga comics), from the 12th and 13th centuries. During the Edo period (1603-1867), another book of drawings, Toba Ehon, embedded the concept of manga.

The trademark style and layout of the manga have been traced back to the early 19th century with the appearance of kibyōshi, or early-style comic books.

According to one popular theory, scrolls from the Heian period (in about the 12th century) were early forms of manga.

Because of these scrolls, manga is read in the right-to-left style. Currently, there are 16 different manga genres and six different editorial categories, such as shounen, shoujo, gekiga, etc.

Osamu Tezuka and the term manga


The term manga has been used in Japan as an umbrella term for cartoons and comics for quite some time.

The thing that differentiates manga from cartoons and comics is the art style that manga comics have, thanks to Osamu Tezuka.

Tezuka is the creator of Astro Boy, a beloved manga series that’s been adapted into multiple languages and countries.

Astro Boy Omnibus Volume 1
  • Tezuka, Osamu (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 688 Pages - 10/13/2015 (Publication...

Tezuka was born in 1928 and began drawing from a young age. He’s considered the father of the “manga revolution” in Japan, with his debut manga, New Treasure Island.

Tezuka would continue to produce manga throughout his life to critical acclaim. He’s considered the father of manga and is beloved by Japanese people today.

He died at 60 due to stomach cancer and was mourned by his thousands of fans.

Tezuka was unique because he had a characteristic drawing style. He was fascinated with brilliant and large eyes and tried to incorporate this into his characters. He was a fan of Walt Disney and borrowed many style elements from him.

Tezuka went on to university to become a doctor, but he never quit producing manga. The impact of his work remains today, especially with his style. Because of Tezuka, manga became fervently demanded in Japan and subsequently began to follow a particular style.

Manga in the 80s

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Astro Boy by Osamu Tezuka. Image credits.

Manga quickly became a nationwide phenomenon after Tezuka’s initial works.

Mangas of all genres were being read and written by people of all ages. By the 80s, the manga had grown to legendary status.

Still, people like Akira Toriyama had no idea how much bigger the phenomenon would grow. Toriyama was a young artist who set out to have his own manga published in Shonen Jump, a magazine featuring a loose collection of serial manga chapters.

Toriyama titled his manga Dragon Ball, and his first chapter was met with overwhelming success.

His series would continue on well into the millennium and beyond, inspiring scores of spin-offs and even feature-length films. It was also one of the first mangas to be given an anime, something that would completely change the playing field.

History Of Anime

The first anime debuted as early as 1917 (it could have also been 1907, but it is still debated in the history of anime) but didn’t catch on immediately as the animation was still in its rudimentary stages. Anime as an art form came much later than manga, purely because animation was a technological innovation.

By the 1960s, anime had increased in popularity, especially since it adopted the style of the manga of the time. Before long, anime had become its own massive art form.

Currently, there are 16 different anime genres and five types of anime: shōnen, shōjo, josei, seinen, and kodomo-muke.

Today, the word anime is synonymous with Japanese animation or animation origin form Japan, particularly in the style of Tezuka. In Japan, the word anime simply refers to any animation, even shows that don’t originate in Japan.

The first anime titles

A few names dominated the anime scene in its early years. Tezuka turned his Astro Boy manga into an equally successful spin-off. The first feature films were produced, such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, although anime films were being shown as early as 1917 or 1907.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind...
  • Mark Hamill, Patrick Stewart, Uma...
  • English, English (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance...

Anime studios began to pop up throughout Japan, including Studio Ghibli. Collectively, anime and manga began to merge and differentiate from each other.

Certain themes, such as robots (mecha), became incredibly popular. The most successful mangas would go on to become animes, and this trend would continue on well until today.

Studios that specialized in producing manga were now making films, and these were extremely popular. The popularity of certain characters sparked an interest in merchandise, which even further segmented the industries.

Soon, anime would become a massive industry in Japan, fueling a significant portion of the economy.

Later anime titles

Which_Came_First _- _Anime_Or_Manga_dragon_ball
Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama. Image credits.

One of the first anime/manga combos to achieve a cult-like following was Toriyama’s Dragon Ball in 1984. Toriyama continued to write and produce manga for Shonen Jump well into the 90s and went on to supervise and direct the anime versions.

Dragon Ball was one of the first series to be transformed into a video game, breaking the limits of what anime and manga could be. Other big names would come onto the scene in the anime and manga world. One of those names and one of the best manga artists is Eiichiro Oda, the creator of One Piece.

To this date, One Piece manga has some of the largest published volumes by a single author. Its anime is considered one of the best of all time, as it is the highest-grossing. Oda found untold success with his stories. He quickly amassed a large fortune and following as well.

Mangakas gained legendary status, and Oda was one of them. Early on in his career, Oda decided to advocate for his hard work as an artist by negotiating for higher royalties and contractual payments.

Before Oda, many mangakas and anime artists had never seen the millions of yen that their works produced. Even as merchandise became the standard for popular mangas, studios were notorious for ripping off the creators of the shows. Oda changed that and is now one of the wealthiest mangakas of all time.

Which_Came_First _- _Anime_Or_Manga_one_piece
One Piece by Eiichiro Oda

The Etymology of Manga

The word manga in Japanese is just a catch-all for all things comics and cartooning. The word anime, likewise, refers to animation, which may or may not be in the “anime” style.

However, outside of Japan, these terms represent any media originating from Japan that shares the popularized style. The word anime has even been used to describe this style, applying to both animated and non-animated works. This is especially the case with countries such as the US and Britain.

Anime sparked a cultural wave that not only placed attention on anime and manga but on Japanese culture in general as well. Likewise, Western elements began to be incorporated into current work, whether by chance or to appeal to Western audiences.

Mangakas certainly had Western fans on their mind. Toriyama led the successful spin-off of Dragon Ball, called Dragon Ball Z, which included English dubs and new storylines. This would become a huge hit, and animes with dubs became a standard for Western audiences.

Feature image credits for Dragon Ball & Astro Boy.



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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