Graphic novels, comics, and comics are popular all over the world, and that includes the world of Japanese manga, along with Korean manhwa and Chinese manhua. All of these mediums involve visual storytelling and text comics to tell a story, and fans of one of these are sure to like the other.
For example, an avid comic collector in the West might be curious to try Japanese manga, but might not be interested in children’s stories like Pokemon or even standard shonen fare like A piece, dragon ball and Demon slayer. Fans of comics and graphic novels are used to a certain style of storytelling in terms of both art and content, so to more easily bridge the gap between comics and manga, a typical comic collector is encouraged to start with seinen manga.
How Seinen Manga is superficially distinguished from Shonen
Fans know that there is more to a comic series or manga than its art, but images still play a key role in how the content of a story is presented and how it is to be interpreted. . Comic collectors often have their favorite artists, as do manga collectors, so any comic collector trying manga or vice versa can start with pictures. The graphic presentation of a comic or manga on its cover and pages can really tell the story, literally or not, and it’s a strong first impression that means a lot. A more seasoned fan who dives deeper may look beyond iffy or weird art to appreciate a good story, but for comic collectors getting their first taste of manga, the seinen manga’s stunning illustrations are a great start. .
Unlike shōnen manga, which tends to have relatively cartoonish and PG-rated imagery, or shōjo manga, which favors visually flowery illustrations, seinen manga has subjectively strong artistic ties to Western comics, such as major Marvel and DC titles. Great manga artists are found across all genres and demographics, sure, but seinen has the best passing art style for comic book fans looking for something new. Many of the best seinen manga titles like Kentaro Miura’s Berserkby Takehiko Inoue Tramp and by Naoki Urasawa Monster they not only have some of the best manga artwork, but also visual narrative and art cues that may seem familiar and intuitive to comic book fans. Aside from the black-and-white visuals and Japanese sound effects, manga series like these “look like” Western comics and graphic novels, with mature, highly detailed, and realistic visuals.
All of this helps to artistically push seinen manga away from the cartoon images of shonen franchises and closer to western comics, and many comic book fans might agree that it’s for the best. Similarly, seinen usually avoids the sillier visual cues of shonen and shojo such as chibi characters, outrageous facial expressions, and clichés like cat girls or cute animal mascots, which further helps seinen avoid the heavy “anime” feel which may not appeal to comic book fans at first.
Truth be told, many comic book fans can and will appreciate the sillier Shonen imagery, but when taking their first steps into manga, comic collectors may prefer the seinen and avoid the excessive animeness of Shonen and Shojo. Even with the growing popularity of manga and anime in Western society, some comic collectors or other consumers may reject shonen and shojo simply because they are “too anime”. This is not a problem for seinen, anyone browse Berserk or Vinland Saga will see a real graphic novel, no Pokemonextravagance in style.
Like Seinen Manga has created a thematic overlap with Western comics
In terms of content, storytelling styles, themes, and tone, seinen manga is much more similar to Western graphic novels and comics than shonen, although seinen and shōnen still have some overlap. In particular, “seinen” has a broad definition, being any manga or anime that is geared towards older male consumers, meaning it can be interpreted in different ways. Examples included My sweetheart in disguise and Kaguya-sama: Love is warwhich are far from any Batman or Reckless title, yet I’m still seinen. That said, the most popular seinen titles are more intuitively comic-like, and comic collectors will have a hard time finding and enjoying them.
Thematically, seinen manga doesn’t have to be violent, dark or R-rated, but it can be, and many seinen authors take advantage of that. Put another way, seinen manga is free from shonen’s kid restrictions, so it can delve deeper into many heavy and serious topics that shonen usually sanitize or avoid altogether. Seinen manga also tends to have, on average, more sophisticated, morally ambiguous and challenging material than shonen, often with the use of emotionally complex anti-heroes such as Thorfinn Karlsefni or with themes of the price of revenge, such as both Vinland Saga and Berserk.
Seinen also offers mentally engaging thriller-style stories like Monster and that based on gambling Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji – stories that feature grounded and somewhat relatable adult male protagonists that any comic book fan can enjoy. The spunky, starry-eyed 15-year-olds in the shonen titles aren’t as relatable or profound in the eyes of comic book fans, but seinen is a different story altogether.
In short, seinen manga can explore any topic in any way with any type of character, and can be as optimistic, cynical, funny, violent, explicit, or sophisticated as you like. Seinen is intentionally not comic book-like, but both realms typically cater to male pop culture fans in their 20s and 30s, so they converge in several significant ways. Fans of both are sure to appreciate the other both for what they have in common, and for what is unique to each.