Discussion: Manga as Literature

If you were to have asked me five years ago about this, I would’ve been on the side of the line with those who say, “They’re just comic books. It doesn’t count as reading.”

But I was mistaken. Now if I’m asked if manga counts as reading, my answer is, “Yes. Yes it does.”

You may ask why? After all, they are comics. The definition of manga even says so.


A style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels, typically aimed at adults as well as children.

Though unlike comics as we know them, manga is read differently. In true Japanese fashion, they’re also read from right-to-left, as opposed to reading left-to-right (whether it’s books, comics, or graphic novels). They’re also primarily in black and white as opposed to full color and glossy pages.

So why should manga count as reading? Or even literature?

Well, for one, manga tells a story, which is what books usually do. Granted the stories in manga are quite long and take many volumes to cover the story, but they’re still stories. Secondly, you do technically read them. You just get illustration along with it to see the characters’ actions rather than read what they did along with dialogue. More importantly, manga is diverse and covers the same types of genres and storylines we see in written literature. Social issues, family, romance, mental health, etc.

Just as it is with reading a novel, it’s easy for me to get entranced in the story of the manga I’m reading. I’m also picky about what manga series I read because there are so many genres. Typically, I read more slice of life manga (contemporary), or maybe even sports, as opposed to fantasy. That’s no different than my reading habits with novels.

Manga is a large part of Japan’s publishing industry, which you can be sure benefits them economically, as they sold over 454 million copies worldwide in late 2019. That’s no different than how novels in the American publishing industry benefit our economy. Though I’m sure not many people care about the economic standpoint in this discussion, but I felt it needed to be said.

To many, manga seems childish. Just as graphic novels and comics do. But the fact is, whoever reads them is still reading. In fact, manga and graphic novels might be easier for some people to read as opposed to a typical novel because of a learning disability or because the visuals make it easier for them to understand what’s happening in the story. Or maybe, they just like having visuals with their books. I’m not saying I prefer manga over novels; I don’t and probably never will. It’s just now that I do read manga, I see why it has merit in the literary world.

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What is your take on manga/graphic novels? Discuss!

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6 thoughts on “Discussion: Manga as Literature

  1. aubreym3 says:

    I’ve never separated manga from other literature I read. Most likely, it’s a matter of taste and experience. Those who have never read them don’t really know what they are like beyond they have a specific art style. Or that they came before anime they like. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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