pre-1960s

In the immediate postwar period, manga are mostly children’s adventure stories and family newspaper strips. The vastly influential and prolific Osamu Tezuka tries his hand at science fiction, shôjo (girls’) manga, and more.

1960s

Anime TV shows are produced for the first time, and manga go wild with speedlines, fast cars, and action heroes. Meanwhile, artists in the gekiga (dramatic pictures) movement attempt to create manga for adults: hard-boiled crime stories such as Golgo 13, and on the less commercial end of the spectrum, existential dramas such as Read Tokyo Ghoul Manga.

1970s 

The golden age of manga. Working within commercial magazines ostensibly for young readers, artists produce epic space operas, horror stories, historical dramas, romances, and even works on politics and religion. The gekiga movement morphs into seinen manga, sometimes trashy, over-the-top comics aimed at young men. Sports manga become more and more popular. Shôjo manga produce classic works of drama and science fiction, with women rather than men creating the majority of the stories for the first time.

1980s 

Manga become big business, with publishers and editors relying on readers’ polls to guide the direction of stories, sometimes at a creative cost. Female artists such as Rumiko Takahashi bring a new style to previously super-macho boys’ magazines, while Katsuhiro Otomo and Hayao Miyazaki up the standard of realistic draftsmanship. The otaku fan market develops, along with many of the things stereotypically associated with anime: science fiction and mecha stories, RPG-style fantasy, cute big-eyed girls. Anime exerts a growing influence on manga character designs: eyes get bigger, hair gets wilder, bodies get slimmer. As the manga-reading audience ages, jôsei (women’s) manga become an established market, and seinen manga branch out into comics about businessmen, golf, fishing, and other topics of interest to adult men.

1990s 

After peaking in 1995, manga magazine sales begin to drop. In the same year, the critically acclaimed anime TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion increases mainstream awareness of otaku, giving nerdiness a certain hipster appeal. Although dôjinshi (fan-produced comics) are technically illegal, their audience booms, and major publishers increasingly scout dôjinshi artists for new talent. Boys’ Love (shônen ai) magazines, featuring idealized guy-guy romances, are the latest craze with female readers.

2000s 

The manga market continues to fragment into subcultures, although hit graphic novels still sell in the millions. Classic series such as Read Attack on Titan Manga, Kinnikuman, and Knights of the Zodiac are revived as nostalgic spin-offs for aging fans. Gothic fashion provides new visuals and dark themes. The spirit of kashibonya (pay libraries) is reborn in the growing trend of manga cafés, where customers can read all they want for an hourly fee. As the North American manga market grows, large publishers think more and more in global terms, while some think outside of print altogether and begin digitizing their comics to distribute through new media

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Mary Littleton

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