A Brief History of Manga
Author: Helen McCarthy
Disclosure: A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.
Manga – Japanese comic books – have become increasingly popular in America with comic book fans over the past two decades. Today there is a separate manga department in major bookstores containing many shelves devoted to the American editions of manga titles, usually in multiple volumes. Some of the most popular, such as Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto and Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha, have over a dozen volumes apiece.
There have been many histories of manga for American readers. The new A Brief History of Manga by the British Helen McCarthy, the award-winning English-language expert on anime and manga, has admirably condensed her knowledge into this little (4.5 X 7.3 inches) “essential pocket guide to the Japanese cultural phenomenon”, to quote from the publisher’s press release.
Most books about manga go back only to the startup and popularity of modern titles after World War II. McCarthy’s booklet, illustrated in color on every page, starts with the pre-Western ancestors of manga going back over a thousand years. It profiles the influences of American and British humor magazines from 1861, the first Japanese cartoon magazine in 1874, the first Japanese children’s magazine in 1895, up to the birth of modern manga in 1949; all this with glossy color cover reproductions. The first 25 pages of this 96-page pocket guide cover this historic background. The remaining 70 pages are devoted, two pages each, to modern manga: infants’ manga, young boys’ manga, young girls’ manga, teenage manga, adult manga, sports manga, romance manga, robot manga, outer-space manga, gaming manga, erotic manga, the most popular manga creators, and much more. Where American comic books have evolved toward costumed superhero stories alone, Japanese manga have become more and more diverse. “Bizarrely, Tochi Ueyama’s Cooking Papa is a story about an ordinary guy who likes to cook, complete with recipes. Unlike all the fantasies and dramas that appeared in 1985, it’s still running.” (p. 48)
If you or your readers have any interest in what manga are about, this $12.95 pocket guide will give you a thorough overview. If your readers are already fans of a few manga titles, A Brief History of Manga will introduce them to the full range of genres and show them what they are missing.