Welcome to the wonderful world of graphic novels! While you are probably accustomed to comic books, have you ever given other graphic novels a shot? If you are new to Honey’s Anime, you may or may not know about manga, but many of us long-time otaku have at least considered or do read manga. Well, did you know that Japan is not the only country in Asia to release graphic novels?
If you have read manga long enough, you are almost inevitably bound to come across manhwa and manhua, however, what are the differences between all of them? What even is a manhwa? What is a manhua? Why can’t they just all be called manga? Well, we here at Honey’s Anime are ready to tell you why and how the three differ. Here we will explore the differences between manga, manhwa, and manhua.
Manga is easy, right? We have all heard of them in the anime community. Well, let’s start off with what a manga is exactly. Manga is the word used in the Western world to indicate Japanese graphic novels (please note that Japanese people can use anime and manga interchangeably). Manga tend to be the original source material for a lot of anime (and many dramas across Asia!), although some are based on video games like Pokemon.
To read manga, you start from the top right and read from right to left, up to down. Manga is also oriented differently from Western novels where the front of the manga is where the back of a Western novel is. So you flip pages from left to right. This orientation confuses a lot of first-time readers so many companies will include a guide on how to read manga on the last page, where a manga newbie will see it first.
Manga comes from the country of Japan and are drawn by Japanese mangaka. Most of the settings are placed in Japan and utilize a lot of life aspects from the Japanese culture. Sometimes when translated to English, honorifics are taken out, but sometimes you will catch the use of Japanese honorifics like -san, -kun, or -chan in a manga.
Manga artwork can vary greatly due to the amount of mangaka available. Sometimes the artwork is crude, while others, the artwork is incredibly beautiful or realistic. Artwork can be incredibly detailed and change progressively throughout the story. And while the cover art is usually beautifully colored, manga tends to be in black and white.
Many people will follow certain mangaka due to their story writing abilities and artwork, although not everyone joins a mangaka cult. The artwork in a manga is used to describe emotions, action, and movement of the storytelling process. This makes manga a much lighter read than light novels or novels.
Luckily today, many manga are being translated into English. While the Western world may not ever get the entire manga collection, with the rise in popularity of anime, we expect to see many more manga titles available that don’t just have a popular anime.
Many people eventually find manhwa while in search of more reading material. If you have never heard of manhwa, or don’t know what it means, manhwa is the word used to indicate a South Korean graphic novel. As such, manhwa tends to be based in South Korea and utilize a lot of Korean culture in its story elements.
Unlike manga, reading manhwa is different. You read a manhwa from left to right, up to down, like a Western novel. This can be quite confusing if you stumble upon manhwa after reading manga for so long and the story seems to flow either way you read the pages.
Like manga, manhwa is mainly illustration based, although the artwork can oftentimes be rougher and less detailed than many manga (have you seen Arina Tanemura’s work?!). There are some rare gems that have wonderfully beautiful and gentle artwork that is sure to grab at you like The Bride of the Water God or Goong.
Manhwa tends to have more dramatic elements (much like Korean dramas) in comparison to Japanese manga (although there are many dramatic Japanese manga!). Often times school life romances utilize Korean gangs in their plot and dating is a major plot point in many manhwa, however, the stories are well thought out and quite well written. Recently, manhwa writers have opened to the idea of BL so you may come across a BL manhwa from time to time. One example of a BL manhwa that became a major buzz in the fujoshi community is Killing Stalking. now that is a manhwa like no other.
While not all manhwa are professionally translated, there are a few that have been translated into English for the Western world like Killing Stalking. We expect manhwa to become more popular as people seek out deeper stories and dramatic plots. After all, don’t South Koreans rule the drama world?
Lastly, we have manhua, a word once used for Chinese illustrations, Today, manhua refers to Chinese graphic novels that are on the rise due to the prevalence of Japanese manga and anime. Chinese manhua can refer to work published in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. This allows manhua to be more varied in plot compared to manga, which takes place mainly in Tokyo, and manhwa, which takes place mainly in Seoul. Manhua can take place in modern day China, either Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Xian for most of the plots, Hong Kong, or Taipei, Taiwan, as well as Ancient China, where emperors still existed. Due to the origin of the material, manhua feature many aspects of the Chinese culture including food, clothing, and way of life.
Like manga, manhua is read from right to left, top to bottom, which makes it easier for manga readers to adapt to reading manhua. Sometimes you might not notice you picked up a manhua until you come across the names that are quite clearly not Japanese.
Many times, manhua tend to have pretty art and beautiful illustrations, although your mileage may vary. Unlike manhwa and manga, though, manhua are published in full color so each page is a beautiful work of art. It can help make the illustrations pop! This might be a welcome addition for readers who like a little bit more color in their graphic novels.
Storylines for manhua tend to vary with many of the stories set in Ancient China. While your opinions may vary about manhua, manhua tends to be unpopular amongst many readers as the stories are often very clipped and the order distorted. That, and the stories are not very well thought out (Chinese anime, anyone?). Also, like Chinese dramas, the drama is very slight and more emphasis is placed on comedy and romance. This can be a positive or negative, depending on your tastes.
While everyone has their own thoughts and opinions, we here at Honey’s Anime would love to hear yours! We are opening our doors to the world of Asian graphic novels so be sure to share which you love: manga, manhwa, or manhua! Which has the better story elements? Which has the better art? Feel free to share everything in the comments down below.