History of Japanese Manga! When is the origin? | Hiro8 Japanese Culture Blog

History of Japanese Manga! When is the origin?

Choju-Giga (Image for History of Japanese Manga! When is the origin?)

Japanese comic, or manga became popular today.

But it was not very popular like today in Japan when I was a child.
Manga was just for a child, no more than that as long as I remember.

So, the situation changed a lot over the decades.

I think I’m among the first generation grew up with manga and anime which led to today’s popularity of Manga.
Because I grew up watching with the original Dragon Ball, Samurai X, etc.

I saw how manga suddenly became very popular (Actually, it was gradually) in Japan.

I’ll introduce you the history and very origin of Japanese Manga here.




FROLICKING ANIMALS (Chōjū-giga)(794~)

The very origin of Japanese comic dates back to the Heian Period (794~1185).

There was a picture scroll called “Choju-giga”.
“Frolicking Animals” in English.

It is said that Choju-giga is the oldest surviving comic in Japan.
This is designated as a national treasure.

The creator (comic writer) is unknown.

It is made of 4 scrolls and being said Toba Sojo was the creator of it once but from the difference of the styles in each scroll, now it became a mystery again.

This Frolicking Animals depicts various creatures such as frog, rabbit, monkey, fox, etc.

Literally, they are frolicking each other enjoying Sumo, archery, etc.

Actually, now the exhibition has been held at the Tokyo National Museum.
I’ve been to there and the real one I saw with my eyes was a dynamic work.

Hokusai Manga By Katsushika Hokusai (1603~)

Hokusai Manga
source : WIKIPEFIA

Did you know Hokusai Katsushika also made manga?

It is called “Hokusai Manga”.

Picture scrolls and books were just for people in upper class such as aristocracy before.

But in the Edo period (1603~1868), with the evolution of printing technique, manga (not like today’s manga) became available among ordinary people.

Then, Hokusai Katsushika made Hokusai Manga, which is his collection of sketches of various subjects, in 1814.

This is the time the word manga first appeared and started to use.

It became very popular and influenced even art in Europe at the time.

Japan Punch By Charles Wirgman (1862~)

Japan Punch
source : WIKIPEFIA

“Japan Punch” was the first magazine of manga.

It was made by Charles Wirgman in 1982.
He was a British painter and cartoonist.

He created Japan Punch for those foreign residents who lived in Yokohama city in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The story was satirize on social context in Japan.

Works By Osamu Tezuka (1952~)

Work By Osamu Tezuka

For a short period, manga disappears because of the war.

But Osamu Tezuka appears after the war.
God of Manga, he was called.

Finally, manga we are familiar with today appears thanks to him.

One of his masterpieces “MIGHTY ATOM” had been serialized in a monthly magazine called Shonen in 1952.
Then, “JUNGLE EMPEROR LEO”, “Princess Knight”, “Phonenix”, etc.

He made many manga and all of them made a big hit.

Space Battleship Yamato By Reiji Matsumoto (1977~)

Space Battleship Yamato By Matsumoto Reiji
source : WIKIPEFIA

There was no word like Otaku in those days but there was a long line of people in front of the movie theater in 1977.

This was the very time proved manga or anime was not just for a small child although they were still teenagers.

“Space Battleship Yamato” by Reiji Matsumoto was released at the theater in Shinjuku in 1977.
Many students in junior high and high school lined up and some even stood in line all night.

The movie got a big attention at the time.
Mass media must have been surprised at the scene.

“Gundam” which started in 1979 follows the step and made a big hit.

I can say those are the times manga started to handle difficult themes.
Theme for an adult rather than a child.

Simple manga just for a child started to change itself in 1970s.

Nausicaa By Hayao Miyazaki (1984~)

Hayao Miyazaki is famous worldwide as a producer of “Princess Mononoke”, “Spirited Away”, “Howl’s Moving Castle”, etc.

His first work as a producer was released in 1984 in Japan.

That’s “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”.

He pushed manga and anime up into an another level.

Last year, I watched Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind for the first time at a theater and I was very surprised.

The animation, story, and music, all sophisticated.
I couldn’t believe such a great work was made over 30 years ago.

This was the origin of today’s Ghibli and Ghibli studio was made the next year, in 1985.

By the way, “AKIRA” by Katsuhiro Otomo also started around this time (1982) and also made a big effect on manga and anime culture.

Dragon Ball By Akira Toriyama (1986~)

Dragon Ball By Akira Toriyama

Finally, my generation, I would say anime (plus video game) generation of between 30 to 40 today.

To me, this 1980s is the origin of today’s quality manga.

“Dragon Ball” by Akira Toriyama started in 1986 on TV.
The drawing was sophisticated, not like the simple drawings after the postwar.

I was watching Dragon Ball and many other children did.

Even today, Dragon Ball is popular not only in Japan but worldwide.

Dragon Ball paved the way for manga and its possibility.

Evangelion By Hideaki Anno (1995~)

One word, “Game Changer”.

I would say “Evangelion” changed the current of Managa and anime.

Manga and anime were becoming popular but were still mostly among children.

Most manga or anime was simple and easy to understand.
Fighting between hero and villain and justice always win.

Then, this Evangelion suddenly appears.
I remember I was watching it on TV after came back home after school.

Cretainly, this was also about fighting but completely different one.

Main character suffered often and even run away.
He often said to himself “I mustn’t run away” many times but run away after all.

And the robot (Humanoid decisive weapon) main character controls moves on its own and even eats body of enemies

The more story it progresses. the more complicated it becomes.

I think many people who first imagined simple battling anime at the time were bewildered.

But that sparked a boom with time.

Around this time the word otaku was born and started to use.
People who watch Evangelion every week was certainly a kind of Otaku.

Sadly, Otaku was used in a negative meaning at the time.

But after Evangelion, many deep and sophisticated manga and anime were born.
And people get to think that the theme is difficult to understand even to adults.

Popularity of manga and anime spread even to the adults.

They were not something just for children anymore but also for adults.

Demon Slayer By Koyoharu Gotoge (2016~)

If you are a fan of Japanese manga and anime, you definitely know Demon Slayer, I think.

This “Demon Slayer” by Koyoharu Gotoge became so so popular in Japan.

Even Japanese prime minister Suga Yoshihide used its famous phrase at an extraordinary session last year (although he got some criticisms of not making use of popular anime for political purposes).

Every time I went outside, theme songs of Demon Slayer were playing (although they are mostly in Akihabara and Ikebukuro).

Every time I went to convenience store or super market, various kinds of candies and snacks of Demon Slayer I could see.

Even shops which are not relevant to anime or manga started selling collaborated items of Demon Slayer.

The movie of Demon Slayer became the highest grossing movie in 2020 all over the world.

It became social phenomenon.

That was the moment everyone understood anime and manga are necessary thing in Japan.

Manga Today (2021)

Today, even Japanese government support manga and anime industry.

Decades ago, they never pay attention to manga or anime but made a 180-degree turn in attitude.

I understand it as manga and anime are super popular in Japan and make a big business.

The popularity spread in overseas today, so I understand Japanese government take the industry seriously.

As I told above Demon Slayer became a social phenomenon in 2020 and so many shops sold various kinds of its goods.
Some goods or snacks of Demon Slayer sold out instantly and were hard to get.

Voice actors are also very popular and I could even see their photo albums sold at book stores.

Otaku is not a negative word anymore because many people enjoy manga and anime today.

Just over the decades, the situation surrounding manga and anime changed significantly.

Summary of the History and Origin of Manga

Some successful people in Japan say you can learn everything from manga and anime.

I agree to them, I also think so.

They tell many important things in our life.

I also learned a lot from manga and anime and they became a part of my life.

But I did not know the very origin was over 1200 years ago.

It was handed down across time.

I’m very glad manga and anime are treasured not only in Japan but also in overseas.

Thanks to that I could make friends in overseas, too.

Like music, manga has no borders!!




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