On Adapting Manga for Western Audiences

Like many houses with preteens, my house has been increasingly inundated with more and more manga. One of my 10 year old son’s favourite activities is going to the library or manga store and reading for hours.

The New York Times has a beautifully rendered take on how manga are translated for western audiences. There are many subtle aspects, line onomatopoeia being different, and non-subtle ones like the structure of the books, which read right-to-left. Earlier books like Akira, pictured above, were flipped for Western audiences.

Since manga was first introduced to the U.S. in the 1980s, American companies have wrestled with how to adapt the genre for their readers. It requires taking into account not only art and visual concepts that are unique to Japanese, but also an entirely different system of reading.

Today manga is enormously popular in the U.S. and is published in something close to its original form: in black and white, on inexpensive paper stock, to be read in the Japanese style. But this wasn’t always the case.

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