I haven’t thought about concept in relation to manga for quite a while now, It has been years since I first thought of manga, looked at a couple of books and wondering aloud what the hell the authors expected me to do with a series of black and white images.
As a manga novice I admit to being one of those people that was completely turned away from manga at the idea of a colorless illustrated story. It simply didn’t make sense to me, and it wasn’t until my anime craze kicked in that I finally decided to check out its close cousin, mostly because I wanted to see if naruto was as awesome on paper as it was on screen (those were the days when I would spend sleepless nights watching volume after volume of naruto part 1)
I only recently considered the notion that if I as an anime fan, encountered a serious struggle with the notion of black and white comics, then chances are this is an even bigger problem for comic obsessed fans trying to get into the anime and manga craze.
More than that though, besides the crazy eyes, big hair and ridiculous muscles, the biggest difference that separates western comics and manga is color.
We know that a comic is a comic because when we open a page, our eyes can more easily leap from panel to panel, instantly absorbing information without the strain of having to focus in on specific scenes and analyzing and reanalyzing them just to get a basic idea of what is going on.
There is no denying that color makes a big difference between these two and that if manga could only deal with the coloring part of production, we would see an instant world wide manga craze, and here is why.
BAD:> The fact is the lack of color in manga is a big disadvantage, most none manga fans will most likely never pick a manga volume off the shelf because they just can’t understand the concept of a black and white comic
And why should they? Because in a way, it just doesn’t make sense. Comics provide a fully realized world, and that doesn’t mean that manga doesn’t, but we simply cannot see it. it all comes down to the imagination, and those little descriptions in the margins describing the color of hair, auras and magical blasts involved in any scene.
I recently wrote a review of the Gamaran manga. Afterwards,I ran off to Google to find some images to use, and you won’t believe my shock at the number of colored Gamaran pictures that I found online. The shock wasn't the number as I just insinuated, but the fact that Gama’s samurai outfit was blue and Zenmaru’s was yellow.
It caught me off guard that everything from hair to weapons was nothing like I had pictured it. And it makes a difference when you see the color, because suddenly you can finally understand the mangaka’s mind and what he meant to illustrate.
Who would have known that ichigo’s bankai mode produced a reddish aura with a black edge within his reitsu, because if you have watched bleach, then you will know that all of those little details make a different to the aesthetics that make bleach such a visually amazing series.
Manga is all about the excesses, colored hair, red eyes, glowing skin, all those little quirks that manga heroes and characters possess to better set them apart from your average comic character. But how the hell does that translate in a black and white manga?
I see this every time I come across the rare first or last colored page of new manga that I begin to read; they elaborate on the specific traits of characters, color wise, and I am always shocked that everything I imagined in the last thirty something chapters was nonsense; sometimes the reveal is positive and other times it can be negative.
My point is, manga loses a lot of its defining and shining traits in the colorless world it treads in, and leaves too much of the world designing to the reader, and since we are all influenced by what we have already seen and read, it is easy for the mangaka’s unique idea to get lost in our muddled and ambiguous preformed ideas.
I cannot stress how much manga is losing out with the color thing. We are talking about Asian industries that could contend with giants like marvel and DC for the minds of the western and African world; because most of us have grown up with comics and the idea of a colored book, and if manga made the jump, all those resistant minds wouldn’t pause to explore a whole new world of ideas, trends and concepts beyond anything they may have read in any comic or imagined in their craziest dreams.
THE REASON:> While I hated the black and white concept for the longest time, before finally finding my footing within the manga world, I have come to understand the necessity of uncolored comic books. It will explain it in two reasons.
1. Finances---The manga and comic industry markets are somewhat interesting. At first glance, it doesn’t seem possible to compare them; the comic industry has a massive fan base with several ongoing titles, along with a myriad of animation and movie deals; while manga industry is only beginning to distend beyond the shores of Asia.
But it might be a surprise to realize that, on the whole, these two are moving in different directions; while the manga trade is slowly rising, with expanding target markets in all parts of the world (America mostly, which has of recent discovered a veracious taste for all things Asian and animated), the comic industry is all but grinding to a halt, and while that doesn’t seem nearly as bad as actual falling numbers, it does matter in the grand scheme of things.
Alan Moore, famous comic writer and the author of watchmen spoke, in a recent BBC interview (as well as other articles), of how the comic book industry had all but shriveled up around the world, except for the Comic book industry USA; and even within those borders, Moore complained about how the centralized domination of Marvel and DC titles were leading to a massive decline in the industry in America.
Basically because other books were not allowed to grow, with the kind of publicity and prioritization given to Marvel/DC books, it was stifling the rise of new fresh talent and ideas exogenous to the Marvel/DC world, ideas and concept that could revolutionize the comic industry, and allow a new generation of writers and artists to carry the industry to the coming generations. He basically believed that Marvel/DC’s domination had stagnated the growth of comic book concepts to the ways and workings of the past generation; and while that could be chocked up to other companies’ inability to compete, the domination of these two so drastically affected the sales of other less publicized titles, that new unknown titles would eventually get cancelled before they had a chance to show what they could do.
And other than stifling talent, Moore saw this as the major reason numbers had been falling so drastically; the drop in numbers here obviously refers to a general outlook on comic book sales across a period of 10-20 years. IN other words, yes the revitalization the Marvel/DC universes has brought sales up, but it isn’t really comparable to the figures of earlier times. Not that many are reading comics as they used to, which is why these two universes are starting over,to bring in new readers like me who WILL NOT go back to read issue one of anything.
This is in contrast to manga. The manga industry has been around ages longer than the comic book industry, stretching back to the 1800s where images were drawn on canvas. But the concept had always been a predominantly Asian one, with stories and ideas developed solely for the Asian audience.
AS of recent however, manga (and anime) has began to find a serious audience in parts of Europe and Africa. Sure, some will speak of the anime explosion during the Robotech, gundam, Astro boy eras, but most of that hype was limited to America
Not to say that America is exempt from the current manga explosion. The reason the argument of One piece being the best manga in the world doesn’t work is because One piece is primarily massive in japan. Yes it sold more than a million copies in one month, in Japan. More than accepting it grudgingly, large parts of foreign audiences have shunned it, though recent marketing strategies might change that (such as its arrival to the new toonami schedule along with Naruto…showing sometime after midnight, the idiots).
Naruto is big world wide, and it has been foreign markets that have allowed it to evolve into such an enormously popular franchise. And my point is, foreign markets now play a major role in the future of manga.
But I am getting lost here; my point here is one of the reasons manga is so profitable an industry is because it is in black and white. Basically it is cheap. How many skilled staff do you think is required to produce an average comic book, and that doesn’t even include the studios involved in the actual work.
it is a lot of expensive work. when a manga is dropped due to ratings, it is usually because it is competing with another manga that the company believes would attract more readers to the magazine.
A such, Asian companies are looking at how much more money they can make. With comics, they look at how much money is being lost on producing and printing multiple copies of a comic that simply isn’t selling.
I really hope you understand how cheap it is to create a manga. Because they are dealing with illustrations of pen and pencil, most manga volumes will be printed on the cheapest possible paper you kind find. Same thing goes for an average 300 page weekly shonen jump; sure it is a lot of material, but at $6 dollars a copy, you should know that it didn’t take them much to print those 300 pages.
Comparing costs incurred to sales, it is easy to see how much money can be made with a successful manga. At the very least, even if a manga series tanks, you are not losing as much money for the 1000 copies printed, as opposed to a comic book that prints 1000 comics that don’t sale. I am not saying it is little money, but compared to the costs of creating a comic, the ink, coloring, quality of material, basically it is a lot of money.
2.Feasibility---The reason I always regret getting into series like Claymore and Breaker is that they are monthly, and I have to wait ages to find out what happens next in the plot. I don’t like that, and comics are like that, and sometimes a month might be too generous.
But most successful manga are weekly, and really, how feasible is it that you would expect a mangaka to draw and color 20-35 pages of content in a week. These guys have deadlines to meet, so if one has had the opportunity to have their manga serialized, each chapter will be one of 15 or so released in a weekly manga magazine.
So if it takes 8 hours or so to draw a page, you are looking at over 130 hours spent each week, designing and illustrating a manga chapter. That excludes the coloring, and as such, it is illogical to include the coloring; even with assistants, it isn’t possible for mangaka to color their work on a weekly basis.
That kind of time would take them into monthly releases, and even then, some monthly series like witch hunter have chapters in the 45-60 page mark; so even then it doesn’t seem feasible.
So basically, in order to continue receiving the kind of service and entertainment quality that manga has been providing to us for years now, it is necessary that manga retains its black and white format, if only we can keep getting weekly naruto, one piece and bleach.
Imagine you could get your naruto and one piece colored, but you would have to wait a whole month for each chapter. Would you really prefer that outcome? Because personally, if I want to see some color in my favorite manga, I can wait for the anime. After all, that is the point of anime, to show us the moving colored illustrations of usually static images.
But from what I have heard, it can be done personally. There is this guy called Zarasaki that inks and colors naruto chapters. But he is some ways behind current chapters, after all it is hard work. But I looks amazing. So go color a manga if you feel that strongly about it, though of course you won’t be selling it for a fee…I think I would be illegal but that is a guess.
THE GOOD:> The lack of color is a tradition when it comes to manga; you could even say that it is what separates manga from every other similar art form. And I can’t really say that it is that bad once you get used to it. As far as the good, I can only think of two
1. The first is as stated above. Because of black and white manga, we get to have our stories delivered on a weekly rather than monthly basis. The story remains fresh in our minds and we receive constant entertainment. I would take that over any colored manga.
2. STORY—as far as I am concerned, manga is and has always been about the stories. I have read this reason before on several occasions, that mangaka don’t have time to worry about little things like coloring because they would rather focus on telling a fresh, unique and mind blowing story. The fact is as long as the story is intriguing and amazing, I am more than willing to ignore everything else, so long as the art is at the very least okay
I don’t know if this is true, and I might be a little young as far as comics are concerned, but I have always found manga stories more intriguing. I would say that I don’t mind them sacrificing the art for the story, but I would add that in most good manga, so long as they can get there clear point across, it is an awesome story and intriguing characters that hook a reader rather than mind blowing art. The key is learning to get one’s point across in such a limited spectrum.
And admittedly, I have ran into comics that display page after page of beautifully drawn and amazing art, but with little to no story, like the author wanted to show off his art skills rather than focus on the story. Actually if I think about it, black and white comics force the reader to focus primarily in the story rather than the aesthetics.
Impressively drawn manga are fine, so long as the story takes precedence. It kind of reminds of the terrible anime released in 2011 (that I watched), with mostly brilliant graphics but crap stories.
3. TALENT--- I have always admired the work that mangaka do, especially the difficulties involved. Because as far as I am concerned, they have the tougher challenge.
Imagine that a comic artist and a manga artist are given a challenge. They have to draw a battle scene; two shinobi are tearing across a rocky land mass at incredible speeds, whilst unleashing terrible earth jutsus at each other.
All the comic artist has to worry about is making the scene look cool, However the manga artist has to think of how he will make the scene look cool, but more importantly that the scene looks understandable. Because with the limitations of back and white, an artist has to work extra hard to differentiate between different elements, and to represent a complete, wholesome picture,even without the use of coloring to make distinction.
A mangaka has to illustrate in a away that even without the blue you can tell that the sky is indeed the sky, and that the reader can distinguish between a rush of air and an energy blast, with one look.
It is no easy feat, and I have seen things go awry, when I read a manga and I can’t really differentiate the elements. And as such, I drop what could have been an amazing work, but the mangaka simply couldn’t put his vision to paper.
It takes some inventive art and imagination to create a clear cut image of an action on paper without color, and I admire the successful mangaka for it. Fact is, I appreciate a magaka’s talent so much more than a comic artist because of this reason.
It is a grueling task, especially when it is no longer a matter of simply drawing objects on paper. It becomes about creating the right tools to use on paper to make certain actions visible and for certain factors to be more easily distinguishable in scenes.
I have read comments from comic fans that speak of how a manga will make their eyes hurt after prolonged reading, because of the focus required to read and understand some manga. And when reading manga becomes a chore, you know it is time to stop and move on.
On this topic, I can’t really tell if the colorless thing is a plus or minus for manga. Certainly it wouldn’t make sense for comics to adopt this concept. From what I see, manga will always be black and white because it is an inherently Japanese thing. it is tradition and it works for them.
I would encourage all non manga readers averse to the black and white concept to give it a try; but I would actually understand that many of you aren’t really able to adapt to such an idea, black and white comics. For some people, this is a deal breaker, which is a shame.
These days we are seeing and hearing of more collaborations between comics and manga, especially Stan lee’s first foray into the world of the mangaka. I wonder if that is an appropriate title; since he created Ultimo, a manga, then technically and practically, Stan Less is now a mangaka.
Hm… interesting notion to consider. I would be interested to here you views on the matter.
So whenever I deal with comic related topics and there relation to manga and anime, I will consult Kenny. Kenny is my comic crazy expert. He knows everything there is to know about all things comic related. So in this case I thought I would consult him on this topic, especially since, while it has been his objective to pull me to the dark side of comics (which is why he is my source of all things comics, in terms of not only providing me with soft copies of the latest comics, but doing what he can to give the material context by catching me up on important details and history regarding the heroes in question) I have been doing my best to introduce him to the wonders of manga.
As such his perspective as a manga novice can be helpful in making comic/manga comparisons.
So I asked Kenny what he thought about manga, comics and the color issue:
Kenny:> Well, IMO(In My Opinion)...i believe color adds a sense of richness in terms of texture or visual 'feel' in comics in contrast 2 black and white which appears very abstract. However, this heavily depends on the artists, style or type of comic- for instance if the art style &/or comic is very cartoony(Tom & Jerry, Dennis the menace, Tin tin, Snoopy- types) then the color issue is indifferent; whether colored or not it doesn’t take anything away from d story. But with action heavy hyper-detailed type art common to superhero & superhero affiliated comics, color then compliments & accentuates such art to the benefit of the reader.
QN: Is black and white a plus or a minus for manga?
Kenny:> Uhm...from the different manga I have seen i think it comes down to shading, inking & detail which makes some manga stand out better than others visually & i do believe that manga would indeed benefit from color but that might perhaps take away the aura of speculative imagination manga provides its readers by not revealing everything visually whereby the reader can imagine the colors that suit his/her likes or preferences ...at least till the anime adaptation is released.
NOTE: Although color tends to bring a certain richness to art, the application of the right colors in the right places in the right shades &/or variations can either compliment the art if done very well(referring to the colorist here) or totally destroy the visual appeal.
QN: SO which do you prefer? If you could get a batman issue every week with no color, and a batman issue every month with color, which would you choose?
Kenny:> I settle 4 colored.
QN: But you are getting a monthly instead of a weekly issue. You choose to wait?
Kenny:> Different comics come out every week even though each is on a monthly basis so by picking up Batman once a month, it allows me to read other comics without being overwhelmed.
QN: Wait, I thought comics were monthly?
Kenny:> They are monthly but they don’t all come out on just 1 day a month....different publishers release different comics on different days.
QN: So you would wait for a month to get a comic, instead of weekly? madness
Kenny:> But EACH comic issue is released once a month...although there are some exceptions that are released bi-weekly(every 2 weeks). You are not getting it...DC releases at least 52 different comics monthly, Marvel at least 55 comics, then there are other publishers like Dark horse comics, Image comics, Top Cow comics, Boom comics, Archaia comics, etc....all releasing several individual & different monthly comics.
And they release different comics on different dates of the month; for instance sum comics are released monthly every first week of the month, others monthly every 2 weeks, etc.
QN:That makes sense if you read all 55 comics. But if you read only four for instance, then you might be waiting four weeks for an issue, and it isn't even that many pages.
Kenny:> Perhaps in that situation ...but the comics do not all come-out on the same week so you get to enjoy a different comic each week of the month for some one reading only 4 comics, unless of course that person is unfortunate to have all his comics released on the same date.
Which is Very rare. Anyway every comic book reader probably get at least 10 issues a month, & that’s just for starters.
How many different manga books do you read weekly?
ME:> If i am reading one piece, bleach and Naruto manga, then those are three chapters in one week, if i am reading 6 manga, then 6 chapters a week, and 24 chapters a month. Do you see the difference?
Kenny:> Yeah. How many issues does each chapter have?
ME:> 22-34 mostly
Kenny: Kool…that is the equivalent of two comic books
QN: SO is the black and white thing a barrier to you getting into manga?
Kenny:> In a way, yes but I'm kinda easing my way in2 it.....slowly.
QN: Are u saying if it was colored you would read manga?
Kenny:> It was certainly b a faster transition....anime already has me conquered