American Manga: Wired's downloadable mini-comic explains the history of the form


Today's Wired bears a nice primer on manga in the USA, a 1.9MB PDF of a comic tracing the history of English manga. It's laid out "backwards," which is unbelievably hard to read off a screen (go to the last page, read, go back two pages, read, go forward one page, read, go back two pages, read, etc), but it rewards patience (or printing). This is some fascinating stuff, and it's superbly presented. Link

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  1. Actually, the reason that it laid out backwards is because Japanese printed media generally is oriented this way. The creators were trying to match the aesthetics of manga.

  2. Yes, but this fails in the case of a PDF, where you don’t read left to right OR right to left, but by clicking “NEXT PAGE.”

  3. I’m confused by the reading order you suggest in the article. The comic should be read by going to the last page, reading from top right to bottom left of the page, going back ONE page and then repeating until done.

    If you’re skipping back two pages when you read the story then in western reading style it’d be the equivalent of turning a page, reading the right page and then the left page – i.e. it’d make no sense. If you’re reading Japanese style, then it’s fully – both in layout and in page ordering.

  4. I’m confused by the reading order you suggest in the article. The comic should be read by going to the last page, reading from top right to bottom left, going back ONE page and then repeating until done.

    If you’re skipping back two pages when you read the story then in western reading style it’d be the equivalent of turning a page, reading the right page and then the left page – i.e. it’d make no sense. If you’re reading Japanese style, then it’s fully – both in layout and in page ordering.

  5. Translating a manga written in Japanese to English, there are some problems of flow that can’t be solved without preserving the right-to-left orientation of flow.

    But producing a written-in-English manga in that form isn’t “preserving an esthetic”. It’s just pretentious.

  6. “But producing a written-in-English manga in that form isn’t “preserving an esthetic”. It’s just pretentious.”

    Maybe, but at this point I’m so used to right-to-left comics that I’ll occasionally catch myself trying to start with the rightmost panel of a Dilbert comic strip, so seeing that in, say, Aoi House, doesn’t faze me at all.

  7. In a pdf it sure it’s hard to read that way. Internet manga readers usually use CDisplay, that already comes with reading backwards support.
    You wouldn’t believe how hard this gets ingrained into your system, I open my books the wrong way almost every time

  8. Grotund, download the PDF. The layouts are two-page spreads, so the “first” page is #11 (the cover), the “second” is #9 (the right-hand side of the first spread), the “third” is #10 (the left hand side of the spread), the “fourth” is #7 (the right hand side of the second spread) and so on.

  9. Ack! I’ve been reading manga for over ten years, but I’ve [I]never[/I] been able to get used to reading “unflipped” manga right-to-left. I agree with Maggie that doing a “manga” that was originally written in English is pretentious. If I can’t tell where the hell I’m supposed to start reading, that’s a problem.

    Come to think of it, I remember reading a Comics Journal article that argued pretty convincingly that presenting manga “unflipped” really doesn’t make them more “authentic.”

  10. I used the Flash version on the site. Turning pages was cute.

    That Pikachu pic may just be my new avatar on some message board.

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