This is a good question, unfortunately there is no essential yet short answer. (so excuse me if I dwell a little).
Quite simply it could be said that “Manga are Japanese comics and Anime should in theory be their animated and sometimes cinematic version”. However, this is only partially true and can often be deceiving. First of all, an inexperienced person might think that Japan has stolen comics from the West but this is not true. Japan has practically been making and using cartoon art for a long time (there are in fact fun ink illustrations depicting animals and caricatures hundreds of years ago, which are linked by their resemblance to modern manga). Certainly, some features of the manga have been taken from the West, but the main features, such as simple lines and stylized features, are distinctly Japanese, even though it seems that Chinese art has had a greater influence than that of the West. Second, Japanese manga and anime are of all types and for all people. Unlike the United States, which normally believes that “comics are for children”, the Japanese manga-Ka (artist) writes for everyone from children to teens, men and women.
To understand what a manga is, it is certainly necessary to find out how the manga differs from other types of comics, especially the American and Italian ones. The ideograms that make up the word man-ga have a translation that could be translated as ‘Images in motion’ and this says a lot about the nature of this type of comic, in fact anyone who has leafed through one of these books can easily notice tables full of action and movement, but very poor in dialogue. All this because the manga relies a lot on the visual impact, so much so that often the images describe the facts much better than a balloon full of words can. In this the manga differs a lot from the Italian comic tradition and from American comics, where most of the time the images are only the background for long and interminable dialogues, assuming only a caption role. Clearly I refer to the classic western comic with the full awareness of the fact that there are important exceptions which fortunately are growing in number.
Another aspect that soon strikes a manga is that it is exclusively in black and white (with some rare exceptions), but the lack of color is rarely felt, because in most cases this deficiency is compensated by a masterful use of screens and hatching that give the characters depth and credibility, without taking into account the backdrops which are very detailed and well studied: rarely when reading a manga you can find color plates (often watercolors or tempera), however , only sporadic cases wanted by the author to start some chapter or to celebrate a particular event.
Even child storylines tend to be medium-busy unlike the American versions (excluding some clever American comics, but thinking about some TV shows).
Manga and anime often even those for children deal with the theme of death — while the United States (on children’s TV) seems determined to distance young people from that reality (such as in the American version of “Golion” ( Voltron) all references to the death of one of the protagonists have been deleted). Surprisingly from ours, many of the Japanese manga and anime depict scenes of students in the classroom doing their homework or of people working in their offices. Ethical work seems omnipresent in the setting, moreover they tend to describe technology in a comprehensive and very detailed way, while some American comics seem to almost avoid or facilitate it as much as possible.
A third main difference is the unique Japanese style of anime / manga, which is distinctive and honestly easy to recognize. This does not mean that the style is limited. Within this common stylistics, the technique of each manga artist is different and unique. The stereotype is of characters with huge hair and big eyes, but there are many and each one different from the others. Of course, there is less emphasis on the “classic superhero” world of the United States. In most manga, men and women are not necessarily exaggerated extremes of their gender stereotypes and wear clothes that are not as tight as American costumes. In fact, manga and anime characters tend to have a unique and aesthetic taste of fashion. (although it is true that many modern American comics have gratefully broken this stereotype). A secondary but no less important difference between Japanese manga and D.C. superhero comics in general. Comics or Marvel (in addition to the fact that the former are in black and white), is that the manga is usually the vision of a single designer (at most 2), as opposed to the American ones, in which many producers tend to create different plots and stories, manga look more like novels, depicting detailed worlds that represent the author’s vision. Characters remain consistent, grow and develop. On a related subject, the manga also tends to be broken up for weekly or biweekly releases that contain other comics from other authors. So the storyline MUST develop and it MUST be interesting but in a reasonably short and quick crop. (there are, after all, crowds of hopefuls who would like to become designers just waiting to spread their wings :)).
A final difference is the onomatopoetic characteristic of the Japanese language; the sound effects fit better and seem less stupid than the English ones. This is just one facet of language; also because the sound effects translated in the manga don’t work too well anyway.
Maybe it’s the blend of harsh reality with the tantalizing world of fantasy that makes Japanese manga and anime so appealing. Many popular series, such as Doraemon, Ranma 1/2 and Kimagure Orange Road, tell the lives of seemingly ordinary people — they go to school, do homework, get scolded by their parents — however they have something that makes them special, some they have psychic powers, others have rather strange friends (eg robots from the future or aliens from other worlds). I suppose this serves to allow readers to sympathize with the characters, to escape from everyday life to dive into a fantasy world, completely different and far from ours.
Even in worlds that take place in the distant future or long ago, the reader is represented by three-dimensional characters, far from being perfect, who have small habits and defects typical of their character, who have hopes and dreams with which they are. possible to empathize. Unlike some American heroes who fight and defeat evil (Superman, Batman …), Japanese characters usually have other goals in life that play big roles in their lives. I have recently heard some say that in manga and anime “oriented characters are used, however these are not forced into the plots; but instead the stories develop through the characters. The heart of the manga / anime is in the hearts of its characters.”
This brings us to three other aspects of manga / anime: the reality of the world, the spirituality and the fact that things end.
With comics, the fusion of art and words create a single tool. Art attracts the mind and words create reality. An image can be worth a thousand words, while words can carry art cannot, but fused together they become truly effective. As for Anime, animation can do things inexpensively that special effects specialists can’t. Art is a limited form of virtual reality.
As I said, even Japanese children’s comics deal with themes like death. These show that even the enemies are not really and only bad. In series like Gundam, you can observe enemies who have hopes and dreams but who above all have reasons for the actions they perform. They are not crazy, but real people. Actions have consequences if the person is cunning, he or she will remember not to make that mistake again. Characters develop and change, learn new skills, mature and gain wisdom. (unless, of course, it’s a comic series).
Another characteristic of manga and anime that I have always liked is their tendency to contain a certain optimism … and not only of simple contents, good wins against evil. The bad guys can improve and find redemption. The unhappy heroes can find each other again, through personal crises and thereby regain lost happiness. Life has a meaning and a purpose and you have to fight to get it. Hard work will pay off … even if only in the long run. Difficulties do happen, but they can be faced and overcome. Characters are strengthened with the help of others, even to the point of their own sacrifice (although not all stories have these philosophical and spiritual messages, many do). When these simple but universal themes are woven more or less convincingly into the plot, magic happens.
And finally, like all good and real stories, manga and anime have a tendency to end. Heroes and heroines die, marry or disappear. Almost everyone tends to have one of these three conclusions: the hero wins, the hero dies (usually after victory), or wins at a high price, usually due to the loss of someone he was very close to. . Of course, in anime and manga just like in good movies only the last scene (page) reveals some very important revelations about the story. The best manga can be considered real gems capable of opening small portals to other fantasy worlds that will entertain us, educate us and make us happy, but above all they will allow us to escape for a while from our daily anxieties and problems 🙂 !