Why is Manga So Popular? — Thoughts From Anime and Manga Fans

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Welcome to my post on why manga is so popular.

American comics and graphic novels are indisputably popular. The US influence on the world in the recent millennia has no doubt catapulted its presence all over the world.

However, with the appearance of Japanese manga internationally in the 1960s and the surge in their popularity in the 1990s through revolutionary series like Pokemon and Dragonball Z adapted into anime for local cable, Japanese manga now rival the most popular of American comics.

But why is it so popular?!

Sceptics, intellectuals, and fans alike have asked this question for years. I myself found myself coming back to this question when talking to my siblings (who are also manga fans).

So today, I want to give my take (and my sibling’s take) on why manga is so popular.

Disclaimer: This post is purely based on our opinions. We are in no way professionals on manga trends. We are also not representative of all manga fans so take our thoughts into perspective and not an information booklet.

So with that, let us begin!

Anyone Can Read Manga (And I Mean Anyone!)

Why do you think manga has so many categories, subcategories, and demographics?

Because mangakas have a huge creative license to make whatever the heck they want. In fact, that huge creative license is what gets them contracted for a manga publishing in the first place.

I won’t get into details on the process of manga publishing here. Just note that the first step to getting a manga published always depends on the ideas that form in the head of these mangakas.

As a result, tons of manga of whatever subject and category are being published left right and centre as long as they show some potential with the targeted audience.

This leads to manga having a wide variety of subjects to read about that can cater to just about anyone. Of course, there are still limitations to explicit, sensitive stuff but for the most part, manga can basically cater to everyone.

As my sister Suzuran puts it:

There are manga for perverts (ecchi), there are manga for the horror freaks, there are manga for intellectuals — plot heavy with deep motifs, there are manga for adrenaline junkies (shounen), there are manga for girly dreamers (shoujo), and there are manga for weirdos (hentai). Manga has a huge audience which creates a huge fanbase that can rival even the most popular of American comics…..like Marvel and DC I think….I’m not sure by how much though.

So huge audience means huge readership, who knew?

*Squee* The Art Style is So Pretty!

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My siblings and I find the manga art style — big eyes, pointed chins, and soft features so wonderful to look at.

The face is very detailed and the expressions so clear, plus they make the characters looks super pretty/handsome so the manga art style is aestherically appealing to manga fans.

Scientifically, my siblings and I don’t really know why this art style is so appealing to everyone. Being a science student, I think it has something to do with face ratios and symmetry. We have all heard of the golden ratio of the human face so I believe that the face ratio and the deliberate symmetry makes manga characters look very beautiful. I have no concrete proof for this though, it’s just my thoughts. I may do thorough research on my theory some other time.

My sister Suzuran is an arts student so she thinks that manga art style is appealing simply because everyone thinks it’s appealing. Coming from the fact that each generation finds different things appealing over time, Suzuran believes that the manga art style is appealing simply because it is. Like before, she doesn’t have concrete proof for this. I may ask her to do research herself as well.

Whatever reason we believe that manga art style is so appealing to everyone, there is no denying that the style is really popular and widespread. People are even learning how to draw it and there are online and offline workshops everywhere.

Yay! No Confusing Universes

This is only applicable to those who have read comic books before manga or are comic book fans as well as manga fans.

This aspect was brought over here by my brother (whom I will call Bro just for simplicity) who reads just as many comic books as manga.

This is what Bro said when I asked him why he likes manga:

Err…It’s episodic if that’s how I want to put it. A lot of comics have different universes that become so confusing because a certain series will just add in an alternate reality when fans would request or because a writer wants it. A lot of the time, those universes don’t connect at all. So in that case, I like manga for not being so confusing or making things go in order to put it simply.

As Bro says that, I did my own digging and I found that even some manga have alternate endings but it’s pretty sparse overall.

I guess it’s due to the corporate-like nature of Japanese manga publishing companies (and companies in general) which prevent fan requests and the mangaka’s whims from being fulfilled too often, making sure that the series is clean and clear in order to gain new readers.

I honestly don’t read a lot of comics because I often don’t know where to start since there are so many universes and alternate realities and storylines to choose from. I just end up not reading many in the process since I’m worried I will get lost.

So take Bro at his word. Manga is coherent and clear so anyone can just pick up a manga and read.

Manga Ain’t Only For Kids

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To add on to my first reason why manga is so popular, manga can be read by children and adults alike.

There are manga series that cater specially to adults (seinen, josei, etc.) so even if you are like 40 years old, you can still be reading manga and it won’t be distasteful.

I can give proof of that. I was in Japan in 2016 and I saw working office ladies in their 40s in the manga store buying manga like it was a normal day at the grocery store. I saw some older guys as well who are fathers to small children buying their own manga as well as children’s manga.

This increases the readership of manga from young people exclusively to older people as well — sometimes retired people read manga! Shock, I know.

Point is, no matter how old you get, you can always read manga as there will be genres catering to your age as well. I’m personally very happy that I can go about my day as an adult while reading manga and no one would think, “Ain’t she a bit too old for that?”

So in addition to many categories, manga caters to all ages too.

Final Thoughts

As I stated at the beginning of this post, all the reasons we think manga is so popular are our (me and my sibling’s) opinions only. I may do an intellectual post on this topic again, with legitimate research from recognised figures.

So they are subjective to debate and speculation and you can most definitely start a discussion with us about our reasons we think manga is so popular. This post is bascially aimed at manga fans wondering about this question and I would be happy if you did put your input in the comment down below, I’d love to hear it 🙂

So in your opinion, why do you think manga is so popular?

Have our thoughts satisfied your curiosity?

Post your thoughts down below, I’d love to hear it 🙂

6 Comments

  1. Hi Violet,

    Thanks for the Manga breakdown.

    There is a lot of Manga out there that can probably be classed as ‘questionable’. at best in terms of its content or popularity.

    The need to find content to extend seasons, series or to compete with more modern comics is becoming tougher no doubt, and as an adult manga liker, I find it interesting to see more diversity if the story-lines, even if some of the stories are a little far-fetched at times.

    1. Hello Shane,

      Yes, I agree that manga out there can be classified as questionable, especially in the ecchi and hentai genre. Some people think they are the same but they are most definitely not. 

      Check out my post on what is ecchi manga 🙂 It can help clarify the differences.

      Funny thing actually, manga trends follow American comics and film trends. With all that stuff on the Avengers and superhero film movies becoming popular, manga and anime have catapulted the isekai (another world) genre to stardom where people become heroes in another world. I think that’s how manga is competing these days.

      When Star Wars was popular in the 70s and 80s, there was a period where space opera manga was popular. It’s funny how trends work haha.

      I do agree as well that some stories are a little far-fetched at times, even for genres that are aimed at adults like ourselves, but then again, we still have the capacity to create such lofty ideals and the diversity is what makes manga so enjoyable for us. 

  2. It is great to read an article where someone really cares or has an interest in what they are writing about. I have watched a couple of animated things. I watched to movie bleach on Netflix. Of course, I was into pokemon and dragon ball.

    I guess that is the extent of manga for me. I see a lot more people dressed up in manga costumes that comic book costumes at my city comic convention the last couple of times that I went.

    After reading your article I have a new respect for manga thank you for writing your article. I also checked out your review of bleach I liked the movie.

    1. Hello Michael,

      Thanks for the kind words 🙂

      Those people dressed in anime/manga costumes are cosplayers. The cosplaying business is very lucrative and people make money just by dressing up and taking photos on Instagram. Shows how popular they are. 

      I’m glad you like the Bleach movie so I hope you could pick up the manga as well if you are interested. The story makes a lot more sense when you read the manga.

      Violet.

  3. Hi Ann! I have asked myself the same question and I think the main reason is because of the huge variety of content available. You mentioned this point. There are so many different audiences targeted with manga, literally from kids just learning to read to people that have retired and have a bit more time.

    So if manga only targeted kids, it wouldn’t be as popular as it is. If it only targeted teenagers, if it only targeted adults… you get the idea. It’s popular because they write about almost everything.

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