For most people, watching anime is the most convenient form of entertainment for most people. It’s not too surprising since the voice acting, music and visuals make it a lot easier to experience the story opposed to reading it.
The reality is, anime productions are very expensive. In other words, some of the story will be left out so it can fit it in twelve or twenty-four episodes. When the show ends, you might want to experience more of the story since in most cases, most shows won’t receive another season. With that, there are some reasons why you want to read a manga or light novel.
Manga (漫画) literally means comic book in Japanese. They are comic books or graphic novels originated in Japan. Unlike western comic books, you read them from right to left and top to bottom. This is due to the Japanese language since sentences and dialogs can be written vertically.
Besides the traditional format seen in regular comic books, Yonkoma is also a popular format. Yonkoma Manga (４コマ漫画, lit. 4 panel manga) is another type of Japanese Manga. Similar to a comic strip, it tells a story in four panels. The first panel sets the basis. The second develops the foundation. The third is the climax and the fourth is the conclusion. Yonkoma format is typically used for slice of life and comedy genre manga. Houbunsha’s Manga Time and Manga Time Kirara focuses primarily on Yonkoma, although there are others as well.
Lastly, there are Light Novels. While related to manga, they do not use a comic book format, but instead more akin to regular books. However, the story’s text is in short paragraphs with some illustrations meant for quick reading.
Why should you read more manga or light novels in addition to watching anime? There are some big reasons why you should. First off, they are a better source for practicing your Japanese skills if you are learning Japanese. In the past, I shared reasons why you shouldn’t learn Japanese by just using anime. The main problem with using anime as practice material is that it’s difficult to get the context of what the characters are saying, especially if you are starting out. Most Blu-rays do not contain a Japanese subtitle track, meaning you have to rely entirely on your listening comprehension skills. A lot of words will use the same syllables, making it difficult to know the context of the word they are using. Once you know enough vocabulary, I think it can become a good medium to practice listening comprehension.
On the other hand, manga has a huge advantage just like video games have compared to anime. Since the character’s dialog is in written text, it’s easy to lookup words that you do not know or understand. Also, you will learn new vocabulary and Kanji. Not only that, you don’t have to limit yourself to children’s manga with Furigana providing you know enough grammar. There are now smart phone apps such as Yomiwa that allows you to look up Kanji easily without having to look it up through radicals or drawing the character. Generally, you want to read primarily slice of life genre manga since character’s dialog will resemble everyday conversations.
Another reason to read manga is that you are experiencing the full story as the author originally intended. Everyone should know that not everything is adapted in the same way for anime and movies. There are always going to be parts of the story that will be changed or removed. It’s done so that the story can fit in a certain number of episodes or movie length.
While I realized this when I played some of the Clannad visual novel, it’s more apparent when I read the first volume of Comic Girls. There werea few scenes missing from the manga in the anime. While some of these scenes are not important to the main story, it’s nice to experience some of the scenes that anime-only watchers won’t see.
Third reason is of course the artwork. One of the main reasons you read manga is how good the artwork is. While anime tries to follow the art style of the mangaka with the character designs, it’s not always as detailed in comparison. Sure, animation studios have put a lot of detail into their animation and backgrounds, but at the end of the day, it won’t be as detailed compared to manga. It’s a lot easier to put in a lot of detail in the background and characters in manga or illustrations than many frames for animation.
The fourth reason to read manga is the urge to experience more of the story. The problem is, unless an anime series or franchise is very popular. it won’t receive a sequel. I bet there is a good number of people who want to see a second season of Hanayamata. Let’s face it, it’s not going to happen since the series already concluded. Most often than not, finished series tend to not receive a second season.
In another example, you finished the second season of New Game. Now, you want to know what happens to Kou after she arrives in France while Aoba and her friends take a break before Eagle Jump work on their next big game. Of course, it will be a while until a third season of New Game will come out. The solution is to pick up the 7th volume of New Game and continue off from there.
The bigest advantage with manga is that the author has full control of their works. This means that they can release new chapters or volumes whenever they want. Not only that, the author can freely develop their story. This means you can experience the story’s continuation providing that there are new chapters and volumes out without waiting for another season.
Lastly, manga and light novels are more accessible when you compare it to anime. With anime, licensing restrictions cause a lot of availability problems, especially if you don’t live in North America. This is not the case with manga or light novels. Manga and light novels in general are cheaper to publish, thus they cost less compared to something like anime Blu-rays. Japanese manga volumes typically cost between ¥500 to ¥900 compared to Blu-rays, which typically cost ¥5000 or more for only two or three episodes in a Japanese release.
If you know Japanese, you can buy any manga title you want, providing it doesn’t contain illegal content prohibited by law in your country. Just buy your favorite series from Amazon Japan or CDJapan and have them shipped to your door. You can also download Japanese manga from eBooks shops like CDJapan or Apple Books with a Japanese iTunes account. eBook shops usually have apps that allow you to read them on your computer, smart phone or tablet. For me, I generally buy only manga series from anime that I watched and enjoyed, mostly Manga Time Kirara series, but not always.
Even if you don’t want to read them in Japanese, companies like Seven Seas Entertainment, Viz, Yen Press, and others release licensed and translated versions of most popular series. Like with the Japanese counterpart, you should be able to get eBook versions of them. Even if they are unavailable in eBook format, you can buy the physical copy or even import them.
At the end of the day if you are a fan of anime and never considered reading manga, you should give it a try. After all, anime isn’t always 100% faithful to the source material. Even if it’s close to it, there is always going to be the urge of wanting to experience more of the story. Please note that you should never pirate or read scanlations. This hurts the creator, especially how affordable the format is. You should only obtain them through legal means to support the creator of the series.
However, there are some things that anime can do that manga can’t. Most notably are stories that focus on the music genre like with series like K-On as you can’t put music in manga form. Likewise, some action scenes are conveyed better in anime compared to manga. At the end of the day, there are strengths and weaknesses for both formats. In other words, you shouldn’t limit yourself just to anime, especially if you want to experience more of the story. After all, there is no guarantee that a series or franchise will receive another season.
With that, do you read manga? If so, what are your favorite series? Feel free to share your experiences with manga and light novels in the comments.