Manga images surround us. The style has become so ubiquitous that we seldom stop to consider the origins and meaning of the characters; often not realising that there is a rich language of storytelling lurking behind every manga graphic, as redolent in symbolism as a Renaissance masterpiece.
So, what is manga?
Manga is a form of storytelling, which relies heavily on visual elements, and which conforms to a broad style developed from serialised cartoon strips that first appeared in Japanese newspapers during the end of the 19th century.
Mangago stories are similar to comics and graphic novels; are read by all ages; and cover a vast range of genres, including adventures stories, romance, science fiction, and political commentary.
Traditionally, manga stories are read from right to left and from top to bottom, in the same way as Japanese writing.
The narrative is contained within frames called koma. So, to read a page of manga, you start with the koma in the top right-hand corner and you end with the koma in the bottom left-hand corner.
The elements that are used to build up a manga story include manpu, fukidashi and gitaigo.
Manpu refers to manga symbols. They are frequently used to express movement or emotions, with stock symbols used to convey feelings such as sadness or anger; embarrassment or tiredness.
When these stock representations become instantly recognisable to regular readers of manga, it means that excessively prolix text becomes superfluous!
Fukidashi are the speech bubbles, which give manga characters their voice.