What is the Difference Between Manga and Anime? —The Ultimate Quick Guide

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What is the difference between manga and anime? If you are a parent, I’m pretty sure you have gone through this conversation with you anime/manga-loving kids before. Yet, even after they (begrudgingly) explain the differences to you, you still don’t get it.

Take a look at this conversation I had with my mum once before:

One fateful day, my mother walked into my field of sight and asked, “Are you reading anime again?”

(; ̄Д ̄)”Mum, you don’t read anime, you watch it.”

My mother became perplexed, “Then what are you reading?”

“Manga.” I replied.

My mother became exasperated, “Isn’t that the same?!”

I could only sigh in defeat.

Perhaps you require a more comprehensive explanation with references that you are familiar with. I may not know a lot about parenting but I do know something that you might be familiar with.

If you are a newbie to manga or anime, don’t fret. This guide is for you too.

I know this is a bit of a departure from my pure manga content but knowing the differences can help make you manga experience a lot more meaningful.

And so without further ado, let us explore the differences between anime and manga and answer the question once and for all.

Why the Confusion?

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People generally discover anime first because in some countries, anime is aired on cable in their local network.

When I watched Naruto for the first time, it was on Cartoon Network but it was English dubbed so I thought it was a regular cartoon with awesome graphics ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Then a few years later I discover Animax airing Naruto in its original Japanese dub which made me realise Naruto is an anime and there are a lot more just like it. At the same time, I discovered Naruto was based off a manga of the same name and that’s how I discovered manga.

The differences were not so clear to me until I discovered 07-Ghost and read the manga first before I realised there was an anime adaptation and watched it. I won’t spoil but the way 07-Ghost ended in the anime didn’t sit well with me and upon further investigation, I realised this trend was apparent in some anime adaptations of manga too.

Visually, the differences between anime and manga are clear but it’s this specific factor that really defines the differences between anime and manga.

Let’s first look at the visual differences.

Let’s Look at Marvel and DC comics

We all know Marvel and DC right? We know that both Marvel and DC made comics which then were adapted into animated movies/series right?

Why mention this, you may ask?

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Different Anime Art Styles (but you see the big eyes, pointy chin, soft features, etc.)
From the Anime Art Styles Challenge
Source: pinterest.co.uk

Well, comics are drawings that tell a story through speech bubbles and written sound effects. Manga is the Japanese version of comics (in fact Japanese people use the word “comics” (コミックスkomikkusu) to refer to manga volumes) with its own style, speech bubbles, and sound effects. Manga has a distinct style — big eyes, pointy chins, and soft features (although there are many more sub-styles which I don’t want to get into yet); and it’s usually not coloured like in comics.


DC and Marvel comics are usually adapted into animated series and films as they become popular. Likewise, manga is adapted into anime when it becomes popular. Anime is short for “animation” which in Japan, means all sorts of animated media. Besides anime series, there are also anime movies and OVAs/ONAs which are basically independent animated videos.


Visual Examples

Although I have put some visuals in the above explanation, I think it would be even more clear if I put anime and manga adaptations side-by-side for a closer comparison.

Anime Adaptations of Manga

The way manga gets adapted into anime is the exact specific factor I mentioned earlier that really defines the differences between anime and manga.

To start things off, not all manga is adapted into anime. This is because manga production and anime production are two separate entities which is also why manga/anime fans do not use the terms “manga” and “anime” interchangeably.

Anime studios may not follow the story of the manga entirely or add in their own episodes. This is why the term “canon” tends to fly around in the fandom, because some anime don’t follow canon or basically, the original manga storyline.

People get incredibly irritated when the anime doesn’t follow canon but anime studios have restrictions when using a mangaka’s work in animation. It is always ultimately the mangaka’s decision and the anime studios have to revolve their work around it, even if it means creating original work unrelated to the actual plot.

Usually, manga is created then after a few years of popularity, an anime adaptation is issued, but sometimes the other way can happen. Original anime can be aired, then a manga artist will be commissioned to create a manga.

The fact that mangakas get the final say in their anime adaptations creates a crucial feature that differentiates anime and manga.

Final Thoughts

I hope this post has clarified your issues over the differences between manga and anime and maybe you learned something new. I’ve been an anime/manga fan for years so I’m glad to help those who need clarification. As always, if you have anything to discuss with me on the differences feel free to put a comment down below, I’d love to hear it 🙂


  1. Hi Violet, thanks so much for this explanation of manga and anime. It really does help to demystify the two.
    I worked in a school library for 8 years and I can absolutely say that the manga was most popular – hands down. Nothing else came close to it in terms of borrowing statistics. For a school librarian, it was brilliant to see reluctant readers become fanatical readers when they found manga they loved to read. Not just one book – they devoured the entire series – and that can be a lot of reading 😉
    Something that was initially hard for kids was to get used to ‘reading in reverse’ – starting the manga at the end of the book (the traditional English book layout) and reading the right page, then left, turning pages backwards! But after the initial confusion, it made no difference – kids just loved to read it and would ask for more.

    1. I’m glad I can help 🙂 Yes the right to left reading can get a little confusing but otherwise, I’m glad the kids love manga and go to the library to read it.

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