Japanese comics (manga) explained

Why is tachiyomi (立ち読み-reading standing up in a bookshop or convenience store) such a big thing in Japan?

According to the this week’s From Our Own Correspondent (BBC Radio) it’s also big in France, where the other similarity is the popularity of comics-something you can easily finish in one visit. Once people get into the habit of doing it with comics, I guess it just spreads. Why the shops allow it, however, is still a mystery.

Why do adults read manga (Japanese comics)?

Apart from being too tired after a 12 hour shift to read anything more mentally stimulating and having no need to read the paper because it is supplied at work, one major factor is how a love of reading and writing is not taught in Japanese schools- the method of teaching kanji being seemingly from another century to the creative, exploratory methods that the best teachers use to teach science and maths. This leads to an educational system that teaches 99% of people to read and then puts the vast majority of them off ever doing so. The fact that it is acceptable for a salaryman to completely chill out more or less how they like when finally off duty also goes someway towards making adults reading comics not a matter for embarrassment. And an earlier attempt of mine to answer more or less the same question:

Why are adults quite happy to been seen in public reading manga comics?

First of all, the vast majority of Japanese adults would in fact be highly embarrassed to be caught reading a manga, let alone a pornographic one, in public. The salarymen you seeing reading dodgy comics and magazines on trains are the same who slurp their pasta, spit on the ground etc. in ways that well mannered Japanese never would. Manga does remain more popular amongst adults than in other countries, though. Amongst the salaryman population, this is because they hardly have the energy to read anything more demanding, especially as reading difficult kanji can put a strain on even strong readers. There is also no social pressure to spend your free time productively and an acceptance of reading manga etc. for nostalgic reasons.

Why does a bubble come out of the nose of sleeping people in manga?

It’s supposed to be snot, and it’s supposed to be funny (even though an average Japanese kid would have seen it hundreds of times before).

Why do characters in manga get nose bleeds when they see someone they fancy?
It might be a way of euphemistically showing the rush of blood to another part of a turned on man’s body.

Why are Japanese anime and manga series so long?

You will often read that it is because complicated than in western animation, but that is mistaking the chicken and the egg. The series are made complicated to sustain them over a long series to milk a successful franchise for every penny they can get.

Why do the English titles of Japanese films and manga often have so little connection to the Japanese title?

My favourite example of this (as well as my favourite manga) is Urayasu Tekkin Kazoku (Urayasu- a lower middle class area of Chiba near Disneyland- Steel Muscle Family), which for some reason gets the English title Super Radical Gag Family. And the reason is…

English titles for things that are not designed at all for export are not meant to be a translation, they are supposed to be an addition to the Japanese title to add to it’s impact on the Japanese reader, whilst possibly suggesting that it is good enough the be exported.


  1. Kenichi said,

    June 11, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    The whole topic of “Why are adults quite happy to been seen in public reading manga comics?” conflicts itself, it makes me think that you don’t know what you are talking about.

  2. alexcase said,

    June 13, 2011 at 2:12 am

    I don’t think I have explained myself very well, so let me try again.

    The question itself is a Frequently Asked Question, and therefore some of the answer contradicting it is quite natural, I feel. Many foreigners assume that because you regularly see adults reading manga on the train, including some quite sexual etc stuff, it must be totally okay for everyone in every situation. That is far from the case, and most Japanese lawyers would be just as embarrassed about being caught reading manga on the train by their colleagues as a British lawyer would be embarrassed being spotted reading Just 17. The same is generally true for older blue collar workers.

    That caveat aside, you are much more likely to see it in Japan than any other country I’ve been in. Here are some other possible reasons why:
    – Japanese are generally unconcerned by the reactions of strangers
    – Japanese are not given a love of reading at school, they are taught that it is something you do to better yourself

  3. Psychedelic Butterfree said,

    November 28, 2011 at 8:32 am

    I believe the reason that manga and anime characters get nosebleeds from seeing someone they like has to do with “hotness”, literally; the characters blush so hard that they heat up enough to get a nosebleed.

  4. rafael pereira oliveira rios said,

    December 14, 2018 at 11:36 pm

    None of your answer to both question about of ”why adults read comics” make any sense,the Question itself is highly nonsensical taking in consideration that Manga is as diverse as any other media.

    and I like how you completelly Ignored Japanese society Historical Interesse in Picturial storytelling, and I genuinilly think that you have never read anything beyond shounen jump in your life,because in my experience manga may use Complex Kanji as any other Media,they tend to have less complex sentence structure due to space limitations in the bubbles.

  5. April 19, 2019 at 12:46 am

    ”the vast majority of Japanese adults would in fact be highly embarrassed to be caught reading a manga”

    How do you know that??have you done some kinda of research asking japanese people about it?because I google it on japanese and actually have found polls that says the other way around.

    So I’m curious to know how did you came to this conclusion?

  6. alexcase said,

    June 24, 2019 at 5:54 am

    As I suspected, that’s a completely different question to what I wrote about. It’s perfectly possible to like manga and still be ashamed to be seen reading it in public. How often manga are now read on electronic devices, despite e-book numbers being otherwise low, would suggest that both are the case.

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