Should I Watch the Anime or Read the Manga? A Beginner’s Guide to Japanese Media

Ah, yes. A question as old as the Earth itself:

ANIME, or MANGA?

After “Subs, or Dubs?” this might be the second most frequently asked question in the world of Japanese media consumers.

While, I don’t know which came into my life first, I will say that I remember buying my first manga many moons ago from Media Play (R.I.P., my friend). Yes, it was Inuyasha, and yes, I read half of the book backwards before I realized how “difficult” manga was to decipher. I know I’m not the only one to have made this rookie mistake. Y’all have done this too, right? Please say, yes!

Anime, on the other hand, was very easy for me to get into. I mean, you can’t watch a show backwards, right? I suppose you could, but come on!

I remember rushing home each day after kindergarten to catch my favorite after-school programming block Toonami. Starting with Hamtaro and ending with Sailor Moon (short, I know, but I thought Dragon Ball Z was “for boys” at the time *sigh*), I got my fix every week day after school before delving into my homework.

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Photo: yugioh1985/Deviant Art

Pokemon. Yu-Gi-Oh. Case Closed. NarutoGurren LagannBlack Lagoon.

If it came on TV, and it was anime, I watched it.

Now let’s fast forward to middle school, after I got a better handle on the whole manga being read right-to-left situation. I was reading Shonen JumpShojo Beat, and Yen Plus like they were going out of style (which now that I think about it, they kind of did…). Not only did manga series leave the publications each week, as new ones were added, eventually the digital sector overtook the bulky monthly anthologies, and with it, part of my childhood, as well.

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Photo: Viz Media

I remember how great it felt to go to school after copping the latest volume of your favorite manga and talking about it with your friends. Everyone walking around, trading copies of Death Note and Naruto like it was the coolest thing ever. And to us, it was. For teachers, not so much. It was truly a time!

But for people who didn’t grow up with both anime and manga in their lives, and for people who weren’t exposed to either, I’d like to use this post as an opportunity to shepherd you into the wonderous world of Japanese media.

One of the reasons why I started this blog was for me to become a better nerd. I’ve been guilty of gatekeeping-type behavior in the past. Judging people for not having heard of or played certain things. Checking people on their levels of nerdiness. You know the behavior. *rolls eyes*

One day, however, I realized that the same parts of nerd culture I hated, I was also guilty of perpetuating. So like I said before, Blerdabytes will definitely be a safe space for ANY and EVERYbody interested in getting into the world of all things nerdy.

So for anybody out there who’s curious about where to begin with anime and manga, I’ve made this post just for you! And for people who’ve known about these things since their date of conception, it’s for you all as well. Without further ado, let’s get down to business!

MANGA

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Photo: Lotus|Nerdcore Nerd Corner/YouTube

Manga is defined quite simply as a Japanese comic book or graphic novel. With manga, you’re going to have to read. So if you’re already into American comics and graphic novels, this won’t be too different for you, besides the fact that manga are read from right-to-left. Don’t make the same mistakes that I did!

Just like American comics and graphic novels, manga can cover a large variety of topics, and aren’t “just for kids.” There are manga written about anything you can imagine, from Jesus and Buddha being roommates in modern day Tokyo to a man deeply in love with a chicken. I promise you, there’s a manga for everyone!

Detailed Drawings
Also with manga, you’re always going to have a greater focus on the artwork. With no animation to hide behind, mangaka (the artists) go all out, paying attention to each and every detail of their panels. You could honestly frame pages of manga and hang them on your living room wall as a centerpiece. I’m sure there are already tons of people out there that do just that, but now we see why! Manga is art, and it deserves to be treated as such.

No Filler
Another benefit of getting into manga is the fact that it’s the original story. Meaning, for the most part, you won’t find filler-filled manga, like you do a lot of times with anime. (I’m looking at you Bleach…) It takes a lot of time to write, draw, and ink a manga, so mangaka don’t usually add in a lot of unnecessary storylines and plot devices. So rejoice in the fact that you will be able to get through the story a lot quicker and be on your way to enjoying many more manga.

Better Backstories
Just like the effort they put into their drawings, in mangamangaka are also able to put more detail into characters’ backstories. And I don’t know about y’all, but I love me some good character development! That’s a HUGE part of the reason why I get so invested in stories, because of the characters and their growth. Everybody gets their time to shine in manga! Of course there’s fan service there too, but I think it’s a lot more fair.

Be In The Know
With manga coming out on a more consistent basis, manga readers are more likely to stay up-to-date with their favorite series. There are less chances for spoilers this way, and you don’t have to wait for new seasons of the anime to be released when the manga is already way ahead. Also, some series never get anime adaptations, so if you’re not into reading, you’d be severely limiting yourself and missing out on some quality manga.

ANIME

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Photo: dinocojv/Deviant Art

Now for animeAnime is defined as a style of animation that was created in Japan and that uses colorful images, strong characters, and action-filled plots. All anime asks of you is to sit there and look at it. Don’t touch it. Don’t talk to it. Just watch it. If you think about it, anime is basically a cat. So if you’ve ever watched TV or a movie, you’re well on your way to watching anime. And don’t listen to rumors. Anime is NOT “just for kids.” Just like manga, there are many different types of anime out there, ranging from ones for kids to ones with very, very mature themes. VERY mature. Like its counterpart, there is also an anime for everybody!

Awesome Animation
While animation is the most obvious difference between anime and manga, it is not the only one. If you’re a fan of seeing things happen in real time, you might prefer anime. I mean we all have bomb-ass imaginations, but sometimes your brain isn’t going to visualize a fight scene the way a full team of animators can. Plus, it’s in color! Who doesn’t like color? (Segregationist much?) There are quite a few sexy anime visuals out there in the world, from food, to hair, to even butts. Yes, some animators are perverted, but we like it anyway. (…so long as it’s legal)

And another part of seeing things happen right before your eyes with animation is that it makes it a lot easier to get invested in the story. There is a sense of isolation that comes with reading manga. You, and only you are reading it, so you, and only you, get engrossed in that world. With anime, you get a better feel for the scene as it’s happening right in front of you, and sometimes, it makes you feel like you’re right there with the characters!

Magical Music
Another thing that sets anime apart from manga is the fact that it comes with music. DO NOT get me started on anime OSTs. In only a matter of 30 seconds, they will make you feel like you can do anything in the world! How do they even do that? *cries*

We all know how important music can be in our daily lives, and it’s not too different when it comes to anime. Movies win Oscars for having great soundtracks. Video games are more fun to play when the music is good. Music is just THAT bitch! Maybe one day, I’ll sit down and suggest some good anime OSTs to get you started on your journey, but for now, just know that music in anime is a VERY good deal.

Can You Hear Me?
Now my next point can be either a very good thing, or a very bad thing. Anime comes with voice actors! I suppose that’s a given because no one wants to read speech bubbles in animated form, but I still feel like I should add it to this list. Great voice acting can really take an anime to the next level. Finally hearing your favorite characters utter their greatest lines is an amazing feeling, but on the occasion that their voice sounds nothing like the one you had envisioned in your head, it can be kind of hard to come to accept. For some people, bad voice acting can ruin an entire series. For me, I can overlook terrible voices for amazing storylines. Whatever you choose, you won’t be wrong, so don’t worry!

Until The End of Time
My last pro to watching anime is the fact that when filler arcs get involved (still looking at you Bleach…), it means more episodes. These are storylines that aren’t in the manga, so that means more time spent with your favorite characters, even if it isn’t canon. If you’re just looking for a way to spend more time with the people and stories you love, anime could be calling your name. Some people love filler arcs. I don’t. (Well, I did like that four episode “Power” arc of Naruto Shippuuden, but that’s it!)

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Photo: Animuverse

So there you have it, I didn’t attempt to settle the debate of anime vs. manga, as if that’s even a debate to be settled. I simply set out to give you both sides of the story (pun intended!) and let you choose what path you want to take. I hope reading this makes it a little bit easier for you to decide as you venture into consuming Japanese media. What I personally recommend is giving both of them a try. Just like with books and their movie adaptations, there a certain things you can and can’t do with all forms of media. So I wouldn’t write off either, and instead, I would embrace the uniqueness of each platform and all of the things that creators ARE able to do with them.

If at any time, you aren’t feeling an anime or manga, guess what you can do? Drop it. That’s right. The worst thing that could come out of trying to getting into something is that you drop the series and discover a new one, one that resonates with you. And isn’t that what life is about anyway?

I hope I have given you the proper tools to go out there and start consuming Japanese media! Some series shine brightly as anime, while others make marvelous manga series. And sometimes, they’re killer in both formats, so you can appreciate that too! The choice is yours, and remember, there is no right or wrong way to be a nerd. Just have fun!

Are you into Japanese media? If so, when did you start consuming it? Do you prefer anime, or manga? Or do you like them both equally? Do you have a favorite series? What about a favorite OST? Let’s talk about all of these things and more in the comments!

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9 thoughts on “Should I Watch the Anime or Read the Manga? A Beginner’s Guide to Japanese Media

  1. I liked how in-depth your analysis is! There are so many pros and cons to each, of course.

    For me the answer is often both. I love Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Black Lagoon, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and School-Live!, and in all those cases I find that the manga often has greater depth of story-telling and narrative coherence, while the anime is often more interesting and has more visual coherence. In the case of Neon Genesis especially the creators are explicit that they are telling different stories, and they’re both great!

    Have fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dave! Writing this post really made me realize that I need to get back into reading manga…I’ve heard My Hero Academia’s is fantastic! And with the third season coming out next week, I know I’m going to be wanting more of it in between episodes! Lol.

      And I like that you’re not opposed to consuming either form of media, whether it be manga or anime. I can always appreciate someone with an open mind!

      I know about all of those series you mentioned, but I’ve yet to watch their anime OR read their manga. I need to get on that! I think I’ll start with Dragon Maid! And wow, I didn’t know that about Neon Genesis! The more ya’ know!

      I will definitely be checking out your blog for future recommendations as I start my journey back into manga~

      Like

    1. I’m also trying to get back into manga because I miss how fast the story progresses in them, sometimes.

      And Toonami truly converted us all into little nerds! They knew what they were doing. Lol.

      Like

      1. Definitely! Any recommendations for a beginner manga? I’ve got plenty of anime watching under my belt already, but I’m not sure where to start with manga.

        Like

      2. I’m not too well-versed in recent manga, but I’ve heard My Hero Academia’s is awesome!

        According to Dave, Miss Kobayashi is good too! As well as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Black Lagoon, and School-Live.

        I also used to LOVE Black Butler and Soul Eater!! And it also seems like Full Metal Alchemist’s manga crushed it too. Still haven’t seen or read it though, sadly. Lol.

        Do you have any anime recommendations for me??

        Like

      3. Yes!! I’ve watched My Hero Academia, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Black Butler, and Full Metal Alchemist. And can recommend you watch any of those.

        If you want something light and fun to look at, I like Ancient Magus Bride right now. I also really love Assassination Classroom if you like unexpected awesomeness and Black Butler is great as an anime. Soul Eater is too and they’re both on Netflix. No Game No Life is pretty light and beautiful to watch too.

        I’m gonna see if I can find Neon Genesis Evangelion. Thanks 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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