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Tracing the Rise of Manga's Popularity

Although manga (pronounced MAHN-gah or MANG-ah) may seem like a fairly new art form, humorous and satirical illustrations trace back to 12th-century Japan. Although now understood to mean "comics originating from Japan," manga is literally translated as "whimsical pictorial." Katsushika Hokusai, a wood engraver and painter who lived from 1760 to 1849, coined the phrase in Hokusai Manga, one of his many publications. In a 15-volume series of sketches published in 1814, he covered various topics ranging from the informative to the comical aspects of the Edo period.

Despite the rapid growth and prosperity displayed in today's manga world, in truth, manga didn't see significant growth until World War II. Under the influence of the great manga artist Tezuka Osamu (1928–1989), manga began to gain not only national but also international recognition with works such as Astro Boy, Black Jack, Buddha, and many more. In the midst of a post-war economic struggle, Tezuka's manga adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island sold 400,000 copies to become the nation's top-seller.

During the 1960s, the generation that enjoyed reading manga as children grew up and brought their manga books and interests with them. People no longer viewed manga as something to be enjoyed only by children — it was now acceptable for adults, too. American comics at the time primarily had a huge audience of young boys idolizing superheroes whose sole mission was to defeat crime, but the Japanese community developed its own audience of both male and female groups, ranging from children to adults.

From 1980 to 2000, manga saw not only an evolvement of genre and style, but also the introduction of sophisticated techniques specifically geared toward enhancing its looks and effects. Techniques like screen tones (a series of adhesive, stylized, design patterns used to suggest color) gave new sleek looks to the finished pages. Story lines became more complex and widespread to include more audience interests, such as science fiction (mostly for males), sports, politics, religion, sex, and romance (pulling in more female readers and artists).

Along with the growing market appeal, scores of new artists are coming up with original ideas of their own in hopes of making it big in Japan and worldwide. At the same time, the number of talented female artists has skyrocketed; many of these artists are housewives who saw the opportunity of launching their manga career in drawing manga catering to female readers. This manga is now referred to as shojo (young girl) manga.

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