Anime vs. Manga: What’s the Difference?


Two of the most popular terms coming from Japan are anime and manga. Most people have heard of them, but not all know what they mean. For those of you that don’t actually know the difference between anime and manga – we’re here to help!

Anime is a Japanese term used to describe animated films (or TV shows), but outside Japan, it’s mostly used to describe Japanese animation. Manga, on the other hand, is the Japanese term for comic books and comic cartoons (short comics) but is outside Japan used to signify Japanese comic books.

If you’ve heard of people talking about their favorite anime or manga, you might have been confused as to the exact topic of their conversation. In today’s article, we are going to introduce you to both anime and manga, before we explain the difference between the two. So, keep reading to find out more!

What is anime?

Anime (Japanese: アニメ)  sometimes called Japanimation, is hand-drawn or computer animation coming from Japan and has a distinct Japanese style. The term anime itself is derived from the English word animation, and in Japan, it is used to describe all forms of animation, regardless of origin and style. 

Outside Japan, though, the term refers specifically to animation from Japan or to a specific Japanese animation style often characterized by colorful graphics, vibrant characters, and fantastical themes. This culturally abstract approach to the word’s meaning may open the possibility of anime being produced in countries other than Japan.

The earliest known commercial Japanese animation dates back to 1917. A characteristic style of animation emerged during the 1960s with the works of Osamu Tezuka and spread in the second half of the 20th century, gaining popularity not just in Japan, but also around the world. Anime initially started off as a theatrical and television form, but later expanded to other media, such as video games.

Anime Vs. Manga: What's the difference?
A screenshot from Digimon Adventure: (2020), a popular Japanese anime

Production methods and techniques related to anime have adapted over time in response to emergent technologies, meaning that the animation techniques have become more and more sophisticated.

As a multimedia art form, it combines graphic art, characterization, cinematography, and other creative techniques. Anime production typically focuses less on the animation of movement and more on the realism of settings as well as the use of camera effects, including panning, zooming, and angle shots. 

Diverse art styles are used, and character proportions and features can be quite varied, including characteristically large or realistically sized emotive eyes. Anime is classified into numerous genres targeting both broad and niche audiences, different age groups, genders, etc.

The modern anime industry consists of over 430 production studios, with major names including Studio Ghibli, Gainax, and Toei Animation.

What is manga?

Manga (Japanese: 漫画) is a term that refers to comic books and/or graphic novels originating from Japan. Manga are very popular both in Japan and in the rest of the world. The term manga (katakana: マンガ; hiragana: まんが) has a much wider meaning in Japanese, where it refers to both comic books and comic cartoons. On the other hand, outside Japan, the word is usually used to designate comic books or graphic novels coming from Japan.

Manga has a very specific style, which is associated with a Japanese drawing style from the 19th, although the predecessors are present throughout the history of Japanese art.

In Japan, manga is very popular among all age groups. Manga includes a variety of different genres and topics, some of which are action, adventure, business and commerce, comedy, detective, drama, historical, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction, and fantasy, erotica, sports and games, and suspense, but also a variety of other genres and subgenres. The popularity of the medium had led to it being distributed worldwide and translated into a plethora of different languages. Since the 1950s, manga has become an increasingly major part of the Japanese publishing industry. The growing popularity of manga outside of Japan has also contributed to the increase in revenue for manga artists.

What Is the Difference Between Anime and Manga
A clip from the long-running manga Detective Conan

Manga comics are usually printed in black-and-white. The main reason for this is time – it’s much faster to print black-and-white material – but there are other reasons such as low costs and different artistic reasons (as coloring could lessen the impact of the artwork). Still, there is full-color manga available, one example being the title Colorful.

In Japan, manga are usually serialized in large manga magazines, often containing many stories, each presented in a single episode to be continued in the next issue, which is how serialization generally works (historically, serialized publishing was also popular in the West). Collected chapters are usually republished in so-called tankōbon volumes, frequently (but not exclusively) taking the form of paperback books. A manga artist (mangaka in Japanese) typically works with a few assistants in a small studio and is associated with a creative editor from a commercial publishing company. 


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If a manga series is popular enough, it may be animated after or during its run, which is why there are so many anime series based on different manga. Sometimes, manga are based on previous live-action or animated films, but the reverse process is far more frequent.

Manga-influenced comics, among original works, exist in other parts of the world, particularly in Algeria (“DZ-manga”), China, Hong Kong, Taiwan (“manhua”), and South Korea (“manhwa”).

What is the difference between anime and manga?

As you could’ve deduced for yourselves, anime is a term that refers to animation, i.e., animated films and TV shows. Anime works do have their specific style and are, outside Japan, usually associated with Japanese animation. Manga, on the other hand, refers to Japanese comic books, illustrated in a similar, but not always identical style as anime. So, there you have it – the difference lies in the fact that anime and manga are two different types of media coming from the same country. Anime refers to the film industry, while manga are part of the comic book industry. And that’s the main difference.

As for the popularity, we could say that anime are more popular outside of Japan – they are easier to access, people in the West are more fond of television and movies, etc. – while manga are more popular in Japan – mostly due to the fact that they are considered as a hobby by the always diligent Japanese, who don’t usually have time to sit in front of the television set.

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