Home > Japanese Culture > A Few Thoughts on Anime and Manga in Japan

A Few Thoughts on Anime and Manga in Japan

Since moving to Japan, I’ve noticed  several differences between how I imagined Japanese otaku culture and how things really work. The extent of anime and manga’s popularity is much more difficult to describe than in the West. Here are a few things I’ve come across:

Anime means animation

While in the US, the term anime refers specifically to the Japanese style, in Japan all cartoons are anime. Mickey Mouse, Shrek, anything that’s animated.

Everyone reads manga

While there are exceptions to this, the vast majority of Japan reads some type of manga. With little censorship and a low development cost, artists are free to write for any age group on any topic they can think of. Subject matter of manga can range from vampires to bakeries to clumsy musicians.

There is more to Japan than Tokyo

Despite what Japanese media would lead you to believe (anime and manga included), not everyone lives in Tokyo. Most of Japan (like me) lives elsewhere. While Japan is much more homogeneous that a country like the US, there are still significant differences between regions.

Not every otaku looks like Densha Otoko

While the poorly dressed, socially awkward young man is still the most common denizen of anime shops, he far from the only one. Older men, hip young business men, women of all ages like anime too, and numerous shops now cater specifically to high school and college age girls.

Girl’s manga is full of sex

I don’t know a lot about shojo manga, but  anything targeted at middle school girls or old seems to revolve around dating and sex, often featuring nudity. Shonen manga, by comparison, is largely content with awkward confessions and the occasional kiss.

I realize half of this post doesn’t really have much to do with otaku, but I guess that’s kinda the point. Classics like Gundam and Dragonball are wider spread that Superman or Spider-man could ever hope to be, and anime often tops DVD sales charts. Anime and manga are accepted as legitimate art forms and enjoy the respect and ability to experiment that such acceptance entails. There will always be works that only appeal to the core otaku community, just as not everyone who enjoys watching sports spends hours agonizing over stats and managing a fantasy team.

  1. August 31, 2009 at 9:57 am

    I’m glad Anime is specific to only Japanese cartoons here in North America; it’d be awkward to call Mickey Mouse an Anime. I know for a fact Yaoi manga are great attractions to female readers, but nonetheless, young males have a hard time choosing the right mangas. Sounds like you’ve already noticed many traits in the Japanese community.

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