Know your manga (and anime)
Don’t try asking exactly how many mangas Japan have put out so far because it may be nearly impossible to get any answer. Even the history of manga dates far back to the 18th century when the word “manga” was first used to mean “whimsical pictures”.
Fortunately, mangas have been categorized to save new generation otakus from the fatigue of browsing through thousands of titles. These categories may be divided into three: demographic, theme and genre.
In simple words, this refers to whom the manga is geared towards. The most identifiable in this list are Shonen and Shojo mangas, which holds the most number of readers. Needless to say, most of us know shonen and shojo thanks to Dragonball Z, Bleach, Naruto and Sailormoon and Card Captor Sakura.
But while there are titles that stick to one demographic, there are others that seem to break the wall between shojo and shonen, and which seems predominant in shojo titles. The likes of Magic Knight Rayearth and DNAngel puts the character in shonen-type battles.
And then there are mangas that cater to more matured readers. This is where Seinen and Josei come in, both catering to the older population. Mangas in this demographic has stories that may not be intense for young readers. xxxHOLiC is one good example of today’s josei manga titles.
Kodomo means “child” in Japanese and clearly enough mangas in this demographic are geared towards the youngest readers, some of which may only be starting to learn to read.
Any story has a theme and mangas provide otakus with a whole world of themes that sometimes work together to make an anime worth the otaku thumbs up.
Bishojo and Bishonen literally mean beautiful girls and pretty boys (sometimes girlish-looking boys, even) and of course any otaku should expect a bevy of beauties in these types of manga. A lot, if not almost all anime has bishojo and bishonen themes thrown in it.
The Sentai theme was first introduced in this country through live-action series such as Bioman and Maskman, with characters transforming into peace-defenders in suits. Perhaps not as predominant compared to live-action series, manga also has a number of sentai-themed stories.
The mere mention of Gundam is enough to bring out the word Mecha, which is also another theme in manga. Is there a need to expound on this theme?
Post-Apocalyptic manga put the world on the brink of destruction. X1999 and Neon Genesis Evangelion are good examples on mangas with this theme.
The next theme is perhaps one of the most popular since it started in the 60’s. The Maho Shojo theme puts a female character with extraordinary powers into a world of adventure and self-discovery. Its counterpart is Maho Shonen although not as popular and usually only part of the Maho Shojo theme as in the case of Tuxedo Mask of Sailormoon.
Lately there has been a growth in the number of manga and anime dealing with sports and cooking. These belong to the Expertise theme where characters battle it out to become the number one.
Moe themes have characters that are perky, naïve, cute and sometimes weak. Lolicon gives an underaged female character a sort of sexual flair while Shotacon does the same thing with an underaged male character.
Then there is Harem, a theme most predominant in manga and anime. Now any typical male would of course want to be surrounded by women as in the case of Tenchi Masaki or Keitaro Urashima; Reverse Harem on the other hand can be seen in titles such as Ouran High School Host Club.
The Magical Girlfriend theme has a male character with an inhuman girlfriend. Urusei Yatsura and Chobits have this theme.
And lastly, the ones that are not very suitable to minors: Ecchi or Hentai that deals with sexual perversion and can be further classified into Yuri and Yaoi which is more particular with its target gender market. Shojo-ai and Shonen-ai are its censored counterparts.
Finally, manga and anime can be classified into genres. There’s Action/Adventure where most shonen title fall into; Drama, most predominant in Shojo titles; Game Based, where titles such as pokemon and Yugi-Oh fall into; Horror – titles with dark and supernatural themes; Comedy; and Sci-Fi.