Over the past two decades, the world of graphic novels and manga has managed to shake off their perception of genius and they have finally been recognized as the brilliant works of art they always were. But what is the difference between these two storytelling mediums and how do you find the one that will pique your interest?
What are Graphic Novels?
One of the most common mistakes people make when they hear about graphic novels is assuming they are the same as the comics, which couldn’t be further from the truth. While sharing a very similar format on the page, graphic novels deal with darker, more complex, and adult themes aimed at a more sophisticated audience, while comics will, as a general rule, be aimed at the younger generation with simplistic stories.
The most basic definition of a graphic novel is a novel told through comic book format rather than dense prose, but what they can achieve is so much more than that. The beauty of a graphic novel is that it’s as close as we can get to a hybrid of film and book, giving the creators the edge to express internal anguish (as in a novel) and to execute clear vision (as with film and television programmes). The stories you’ll find in this format are often ones that deliberately make use of this hybrid of forms to tell narratives that couldn’t be told in the same way in the adaptations.
If you’re new to reading graphic novels, taking a look at a list of the best graphic novels out there would be a fantastic start to your education and introduce you to the medium’s big hitters. One of the names you need to know in this world is Alan Moore who is responsible for some of the most groundbreaking work ever released such as Watchmen, V for Vendetta and the infamous The Killing Joke (whose ending is still debated to this day.) More reading highlights include Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Jeanna DuPrau’s The City of Ember.
What are mangas?
Manga is not a whole world away from graphic novels, but rather a specific variant of them that comes exclusively from Japan and is defined by its distinctive style of illustration that was developed in the late nineteenth century. In the 2010s, Manga has become so popular in the US that it has actually started selling more homegrown talent in the world of graphic novels, proving that there is something intrinsically cool about Manga that is worth your time.
If you take a look at a beginner’s guide to manga, you’ll find that it’s easier to navigate this foreign form than you thought, as the industry is segmented based on target audience. For example, a manga labeled “Sinen” is aimed at the adult male market, whereas, if you were looking for a gift for a young child, you would look under the label “Kodomomuke”.
A good way to start your manga journey is to hold your wrist and check out the best-selling manga of 2022. If you’re craving a mystery thriller, then “Mystery To Iu Nakare” might be perfect for you, or for more than a magical adventure, ‘Jujutsu Kaisen’ is definitely worth a read.
Graphic novel versus manga
Between these two mediums, almost every type of story you could want to read is out there waiting for you to find it. If you’re just starting out and want to commit to content that feels a little closer to home, starting with graphic novels is your best gateway into this world. However, if you’ve ever been interested in Japanese anime or Japanese culture in general, the world of manga is worth a jump.