Origin of Manga


Heiankyō (児雷也豪傑譚,Giraiya Gōketsu Monogatari

The illustrated popular fiction in Edo period

Kibyōshi (黄表紙) is a genre of illustrated popular fiction kusazōshi (草双紙) produced during the middle of the Edo period, from 1775 to the early 19th century. Episodes drawn from contemporary social life, particularly the pleasure quarters, were described with wit, often satirically. Illustrations were included on every page and were crucial to the understanding of the text―although the literacy rate at the time in Edo was over 70% compared with that was approximately 20% in London, and less than 10% in Paris.

金々先生栄花夢 Master Flashgold's Splendiferous Dream by KOIKAWA Harumachi

The first purely adult comic book in Japanese literature

The first major kibyōshi to be published was Kinkin sensei eiga no yume (金々先生栄花夢, Master Flashgold's Splendiferous Dream), by Koikawa Harumachi in 1775. It combined the wit and subject matter of fashion books with the graphic nature of the otogizōshi (御伽草子, popular stories such as folk-tales, didactic narratives, war stories, etc.) to retell the classic noh drama Kantan in contemporary Edo. The piece featured realistic dialogue, trendy language, contemporary slang, and modern fashion trends. Considered to be the first purely adult comic book in Japanese literature, a large picture spans each page, with descriptive prose and dialogue filling the blank spaces in the image or in speech balloons like those in today’s Manga.


Sunshū Ejiri (駿州江尻, Ejiri in Suruga Province) by Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾北斎

Ukiyo-e and Anime

With the rise of popular culture in the Edo period, a style of woodblock prints called ukiyo-e characterized by the aesthetic two-dimensional forms, the absence of western notion of perspective became a major art form and its techniques were fine tuned to produce colorful prints of everything from daily news to schoolbook The Japanese traditional paintings from the classical Japanese style, Yamato-e developed in the late Heian period to ukiyo-e in the Edo period had had no perspective but depicted architectural space through parallel projection. Japanese parallel projection creates a sense of depth with layers on which images are applied and placed over or under an image.

Okuno points out the parallel projection shown in ukiyo-e is the starting point of Japanese anime creation method. In 1739, Western perspective drawing reached Japan via China. Okumura Masanobu (奥村 政信;1686 – 1764) employed western conventions of linear perspective at the first brush and dazzled Edokko (江戸っ子, people born and raised in Edo, lit. child of Edo) with uki-e (浮絵, lit. floating picture, by extension perspective picture), which had free perspective. However, this movement was short lived, and after 1800, ukiyo-e artists created compositions using their own type of structure that did not conform to perspective drawing.

Works from this time by artists such as Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige greatly influenced impressionist artists such as Monet and van Gogh in the late 19th century after they discovered ukiyo-e used as wrapping paper for the pottery from Japan. Artists were especially affected by the exquisite calligraphic lines, the lack of perspective and shadow, the flat areas of dramatic colors, the bold compositional freedom in placing the subject off-center, with mostly a low diagonal axis to the background. Some ukiyo-e images are serene and dignified and look at home in a museum while others are full of drama and violence and look as if they belong in a Manga.

Feature Story

  • Art techniques in Amime & Manga

    Managa is an art form in which expressive elements: drawing, typography, graphic design, and panel layout are highly integrated. The expressive techniques hold true for Anime, and make it a sophisticated art form.

  • 虫プロダクション

    American influence on Amime & Manga

    Tezuka,'the father of manga' and 'the god of comics'loved the Disney stories and illustrations so much, he copied them line for line.

  • The traditional techniques

    Okuno Takuji, a Japanese anthropologist suggests that the expressive techniques in Anime and Manga today derive from the traditional techniques.

  • 高橋留美子/小学館・サンライズ

    The traditional line drawing technique

    Among Japanese traditional art techniques, line drawing has fundamental impact on today's Manga and Anime. "Drawn only with outlines, Manga who inherits the characteristic of Japanese-style painting made up of lines seem three-dimensional.

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