When we go to the bookstore, whether digital or in person, and buy something new to read we rarely pause to think about where it came from. Sure, we check the author’s name sometimes to see who wrote the story or illustrated the pictures, but beyond that? How did that story get started? Like a usual book or Western comic? Do you know where the manga that you consume is actually being published and produced?
How manga is sold and consumed in the West is quite different from how it gets started in Japan. A lot of manga don’t go straight to the bookshelf when they're created and instead, are published in collaboration works, magazines, and more. There are so many places to find and read manga because it’s published in more ways than just standalone books! Keep reading to find out where manga is published, how your favourite manga likely got started, and where you can find more manga to read.
Most manga originally start in serial magazines that are released either once a week or once a month. Manga artists sign contracts with these magazines that guarantee they will produce a chapter (or whatever designated length is decided upon) before the deadlines. Readers then enjoy the manga one piece at a time as they follow its progress in these serial magazines. Manga continues to be published in this way until either the story is complete, or a decline in popularity gets it bumped from the magazine.
This is how most manga get started. These serial magazines are not usually published in English, though some of the most popular ones like Shounen Jump do get an international release sometimes. Typically, though, these serial magazines are for sale in Japanese newsstands, convenience stores, and bookshops. After enough chapters have been published in these magazines, sometimes the chapters collaborate into the paper standalone books that we are used to seeing for sale, especially, in Western bookshops. In Japan, these standalone books are called “tankoubon.”
Something for Everyone
There are so many different serial magazines produced in Japan for manga that they are usually divided by genre. So if you enjoy action manga, you can buy a magazine with lots of action stories. If you enjoy slice of life, then you buy that magazine. These serial magazines feature both continuing stories and also one-shot stories that fans might also enjoy. These are usually released every week, and printed on low-quality paper to keep the costs low. Because they are very affordable to buy, and thus popular to read on commutes and lunch breaks, there are some thicker serial magazines released for manga that contain a wide variety of stories that are all being published by the same company. This is how most popular manga are released, and the “magazine” looks more like a thick paperback book that can be up to 850 pages long. With each story being about 20-40 pages each, that’s a lot of manga!
This sort of magazine comes out once a month at the most, leaving fans wanting more from their favourite stories and anticipating the next issue. While still less expensive than a typical book, these issues cost more than the thinner weekly magazines.
If you thought that all manga came out in nice standalone books like you see at your local bookshop, think again! Manga rarely begin as this kind of book and instead are published chapter by chapter over time in serial magazines in Japan. Not until they are long enough are they put into the volumes that we know so well in the West. People in Japan reading new manga have to wait between each chapter to find out what happens next, just like watching an airing anime!
Have you ever read manga in a serial magazine like Shounen Jump? How would you like to read your manga chapter by chapter each week or each month? What genre of serial magazine would you be buying each week? Let us know in the comments below!
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