Article / 27 April 2021

The contrasts of American and Japanese Comics

Rohit C. 


American comics have a rich history, having undergone many changes in content and style over time. The comics have a typical American style with strong themes of doing good for society at large. The superhero is usually born out of adverse conditions with amazing powers to fight evil and save humanity. The comic universe is  a who’s who line-up of superheroes, Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, and the Hulk to name a few. 

Japanese comic books or graphic novels are known as Manga. They have long history and are highly regarded as a form of art in Japan. Manga, with its spellbinding stories, has a huge fan following. In recent years, it has gained fans overseas with manga translated into many languages. Some of the most popular ones are One Piece, Golgo, and Dragon Ball. Both American and Japanese comics are  great media of entertainment, but they have significant differences, just like the different cultures of America and Japan.

Cultural differences

America and Japan are poles apart when it comes to culture, be it  language, clothes, society, or traditions, so it is only natural that their comics are also profoundly different. 

One of the major differences between the two is the speed at which the story develops. Manga is generally slower when it comes to storytelling as compared to American comics. As a result, American comics with all their action can be enjoyed faster while their Japanese counterparts need patience as the story builds up over a few chapters. Comics are published on monthly basis as continuing series. Manga consists of several chapters, collected together to make a volume. Chapters are published weekly or monthly and come in a book form. 

Although in recent times, Manga has experimented with a westernized look for their characters due to the growing influence of American culture, the Japanese themes and art remain the same.


Information flow

The biggest contrast between the two is the flow of information. While in American comics we read from left to right, manga is printed and read from right to left. We see in American comics that the storytelling starts at the very beginning of the page, followed by the image. But in Manga, the readers are generally looking at the whole page so it becomes easy to read backward which is not possible with American comics.

Cinematic Technique

Both types of comics employ different cinematic techniques. Comics are largely very direct and most of them have panels full of action. Manga can have several action-filled panels, they also have many other types of panels that we normally do not see in comics, like the aspect-to-aspect panels which show different aspects occurring at the same time within the same scene. Also, it is common in Manga that the subject-to-subject and aspect-to-aspect panels have almost no dialog at all. 

Visual differences

Both the comics have unique styles when it comes to presentation, colors and size. American comics are almost always designed in color whileManga is more often rendered in black and white. Manga is printed on varying qualities of paper, mostly recycled, American comics usually use a better quality of paper. Manga is generally smaller than western comic books, but at the same time, Manga books are thick and can include over a hundred pages, whereas American comics are much thinner and have about 30-40 pages. 

Ending

Despite significant differences between Western comics and Japanese Manga, comics essentially need an artist and storyteller to create engrossing stories for their readers. It then all depends on the interest of the readers to pick up one over the other. Either way, readers will feel overjoyed spending their quality time following their favorite fictional characters in the comic world.