History and characteristics of Manga
The history of manga is said to originate from scrolls dating back to the 12th century, and it is believed they represent the basis for the right-to-left reading style. During the Edo period (1603–1867), Toba Ehon embedded the concept of manga. The word itself first came into common usage in 1798, with the publication of works such as Santō Kyōden's picturebook Shiji no yukikai (1798), and in the early 19th century with such works as Aikawa Minwa's Manga hyakujo (1814) and the Hokusai Manga books (1814–1834). Adam L. Kern has suggested that kibyoshi, picture books from the late 18th century, may have been the world's first comic books. These graphical narratives share with modern manga humorous, satirical, and romantic themes. Some works were mass-produced as serials using woodblock printing.
Writers on manga history have described two broad and complementary processes shaping modern manga. One view represented by other writers such as Frederik L. Schodt, Kinko Ito, and Adam L. Kern, stress continuity of Japanese cultural and aesthetic traditions, including pre-war, Meiji, and pre-Meiji culture and art. The other view, emphasizes events occurring during and after the Allied occupation of Japan (1945–1952), and stresses U.S. cultural influences, including U.S. comics (brought to Japan by the GIs) and images and themes from U.S. television, film, and cartoons (especially Disney).
Manga for male readers sub-divides according to the age of its intended readership: boys up to 18 years old (shōnen manga) and young men 18 to 30 years old (seinen manga); as well as by content, including action-adventure often involving male heroes, slapstick humor, themes of honor, and sometimes explicit sex. The Japanese use different kanji for two closely allied meanings of "seinen"—青年 for "youth, young man" and 成年 for "adult, majority"—the second referring to pornographic manga aimed at grown men and also called seijin ("adult" 成人) manga. Shōnen, seinen, and seijin manga share a number of features in common.
Boys and young men became some of the earliest readers of manga after World War II. From the 1950s on, shōnen manga focused on topics thought to interest the archetypal boy, including subjects like robots, space-travel, and heroic action-adventure. Popular themes include science fiction, technology, sports, and supernatural settings. Manga with solitary costumed superheroes like Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man generally did not become as popular.
The role of girls and women in manga produced for male readers has evolved considerably over time to include those featuring single pretty girls (bishōjo) such as Belldandy from Oh My Goddess!, stories where such girls and women surround the hero, as in Negima and Hanaukyo Maid Team, or groups of heavily armed female warriors (sentō bishōjo)
With the relaxation of censorship in Japan in the 1990s, an assortment of explicit sexual material appeared in manga intended for male readers, and correspondingly continued into the English translations. However, in 2010 the Tokyo Metropolitan Government passed a bill to restrict such content.
The gekiga style of storytelling—thematically somber, adult-oriented, and sometimes deeply violent—focuses on the day-in, day-out grim realities of life, often drawn in a gritty and unvarnished fashion. Gekiga such as Sampei Shirato's 1959–1962 Chronicles of a Ninja's Military Accomplishments (Ninja Bugeichō) arose in the late 1950s and 1960s partly from left-wing student and working-class political activism and partly from the aesthetic dissatisfaction of young manga artists like Yoshihiro Tatsumi with existing manga.