Manga vs. anime?

Anime is a type of Japanese animation viewed in films, TV shows, or clips. The term manga references Japanese comic books and graphic novels.

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What is the difference between manga and anime?

Manga and anime are creative forms of Japanese storytelling known for their imagination, style, elaborate plotlines, and relatable characters. Popular examples include cult television classics like Dragon Ball Z and Naruto, which have familiarized fans with Japanese illustration styles and techniques. 

However, both animated cartoons started as Japanese graphic novel series, leaving many people to wonder if books-turned-TV-shows are manga or anime? Or are they both? 

Not all Japanese illustration is the same

The biggest misconception about manga and anime is that they are interchangeable terms to describe all forms of Japanese illustration. Sure, there are visual similarities between the two art forms, but this shouldn’t detract from their differences at the level of artistic process, medium, and product.

Manga is the name for graphic novels and comic books following a style that originated in Japan. As such, manga describes mostly hand-drawn illustrations, although technology advancements have allowed manga artists to produce their work using computer programs. 

Anime, a word derived from the English noun “animation,” describes all animations following an original Japanese illustration style. It is common for Japanese speakers to use the noun “anime” while describing all animation styles and origins. But outside of Japan, the term “animemay reference a film or television show produced in Japan or of the Japanese animation style.

Manga and anime = animation vs. illustration

The main difference between manga and anime falls back on the differences between illustration and animation. According to Lexico, an animation is either: 

  • ‘The technique of photographing successive drawings (or positions of objects) to create an illusion of movement when shown as a sequence,’ or; 
  • The creation of computerized, mobile images.’ 

While animation consists of illustration, it takes the illustration and constructs them into moving images, making the animation. In contrast, the definition of illustration is “a picture illustrating a book, newspaper, etc.,” such as a drawing in a comic book or portrait. Since animation is a compilation of illustrations that create a moving visual, it is technically incorrect to reference manga as anime and vice versa. 

Similarities between manga and anime

While manga and anime are not the same concepts, that’s not to say their styles are not similar. Both anime and manga feature Japanese artistry and style consisting of dramatic facial features (such as the eyes) and recognizable facial expressions. 

The two styles are so similar that before the term “anime” emerged in the 1970s’ (nearly 60 years after the first Japanese animated clip in 1907), anime was known as “TV manga.” However, manga is commonly produced in black and white, while anime is known for its bright colors, elaborate plotlines, and dream-like landscapes. 

But despite the limitations of manga’s medium, it’s not uncommon to find anime adaptations of manga series. For example, Hunter x Hunter is an anime TV series based on the manga written and illustrated by Yoshihiro Togashi. Sailor Moon is another popular anime TV series created by manga writer and illustrator Naoko Takeuchi.

Anime TV series are adapted into mangas as well, so it’s common to find artists who are skilled in both art forms. For instance, Hayao Miyazaki is a renowned Japanese filmmaker, animator, and manga artist known for writing and directing films like My Neighbor Totoro (1988) or Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). 

Did you know?

Mangaka” is a Japanese word for someone who creates mangas, whether they are the author, illustrator, or both. Famous mangaka includes Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy), Eiichiro Odo (One Piece), Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball Z), and Hiro Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist). 

What does anime mean?

According to the New Oxford English Dictionary, the word anime is a noun that describes a Japanese movie and television animation. Many anime series are well known for their science fiction themes, although some subgenres are notorious for their violent or sexual material (“Anime” 62). 

Examples sentences with the noun anime include: 

  • “The landscape in this anime looks realistic, but the vibrant colors make it more spectacular than real-life.”
  • Anime series don’t always have a manga counterpart.”
  • “The anime version of Sailor Moon was trendy in the U.S.”
  • “Naruto and Bleach garnered many new anime fans.” 
  • “The anime writer transfixes audiences with her original story and illustrations.”

Etymology of anime

The Japanese noun anime rose to the mainstream during the 1970s, and it is thought to be a transliteration of the English “animation” (animēshon) or an adaptation of French animé (meaning ‘animated’ or ‘lively’). In either case, the origin of French animé and English animation stem back to Latin animatus, which means ‘to give breath to.’

What does manga mean?

The noun manga describes a genre of Japanese comic books and graphic novels targeted toward audiences of all ages. Like anime, manga may feature science fiction, violence, and sexually explicit content (“Manga” 1063). For example, 

  • “I didn’t start reading manga until I took a course on graphic novels.” 
  • Manga readers enjoy the absence of filler stories shown in anime.” 
  • “Publishers market shonen manga toward teenage males and josei manga toward younger women.” 

The noun magna may also reference a singular comic book or graphic novel of the manga genre, while the plural form is “mangas.” For example, 

  • “I read a similar manga many years ago.” 
  • “He read five manga chapters in a row.” 
  • “Not all animated versions of stick to the original manga storyline.”

Etymology of manga

The Japanese noun manga consists of “man-” for ‘aimless’ and “-ga” for ‘picture,’ and together, it evokes a sense of entertaining and easeful artwork (1063). According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “manga” was coined by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai in 1814 to describe “a sense of free-flowing composition and quirky style” through cartoons and caricatures. 

How to use manga vs. anime in a sentence?

To finalize our understanding of manga vs. anime, let’s take a look at a few published examples that elaborate on their differences:

  • “Aficionados maintain that reading manga is a serious pursuit and that the story lines and drawings involve true artistry and sophistication.” — The New York Times
  • “The distinctive look of anime, with its wide-eyed characters, is influencing toys, cartoons, comics, video games, even movies.” — Bloomberg
  • “Makoto Shinkai’s climate-focused romantic fantasy is a lightning strike of anime-art brilliance.” — Wall Street Journal 
  • “On October 28, Megan Thee Stallion posted a selfie set to her social channels where she referenced the manga/anime Kakegurui (aka Compulsive Gambler).” — Teen Vogue

Did you know?

Pokémon, which is the name of a popular Japanese anime TV show, is both a singular and mass noun. It is grammatically correct to write, “I caught one Pokémon” or “I caught many Pokémon.” 

How to remember the difference between manga and anime?

Due to their stylistic similarities, anime and manga have an overlapping fanbase, and it’s common to hear or read both terms in the same conversation. However, the key difference between manga and anime boils down to the fact that one artform “moves” (as in animation) and one is “still” (as in comic books). 

An easy way to remember the difference between manga and anime is by relaying anime to its etymological root. Once you recall that anime stems from “animation” (they sound very similar aloud), you’ll remember that it is an art that moves or that it’s art with “breath.” The meaning of manga then falls into place as the still-art of graphic novels and comics.

FAQ: Related to manga vs. anime

Is Pokémon anime or manga?

Pokémon is anime because it’s an animated TV show. If we read a Pokémon storyline in a graphic novel or comic book format, then it would be a manga

What is the difference between Japanese manga and American comic books?

Based on our understanding of manga vs. anime, we already know that manga is inherently different from other types of storytelling because it is unique to Japanese artistry. 

Whether it’s the language, style of illustration, or black and white printing, manga is distinctly unique from any comic book you’ll find elsewhere. However, there are more differences to consider, such as: 

  • Mangas read right-to-left instead of left-to-right.
  • Mangas contain more pages but fewer words.
  • Mangas tend to have longer story arcs than comic books.
  • Magnas are often published as a book (i.e., “tankōbon”), whereas comic books are often distributed as magazines (sometimes they are compiled into a book). 

Test Yourself!

Test how well you understand the difference between manga and anime with the following multiple-choice questions. 

  1. True or false: Every anime show has a manga version.
    a. True
    b. False
  2. Manga and anime originated in which country?
    a. United States
    b. France
    c. Japan
    d. Australia
  3. Someone who creates mangas is a ___________.
    a. Animator
    b. Managatere
    c. Manganitis 
    d. Mangaka
  4. The main difference between manga and anime is ___________.
    a. Comic books vs. graphic novels
    b. Illustration vs. animation
    c. Anime TV series vs. anime films
    d. Black and white vs. colored illustrations
  5. A manga’s storyline may appear in which format?
    a. Graphic novel
    b. Animation
    c. Comic book 
    d. All of the above


  1. B
  2. C
  3. D
  4. B
  5. D

Source Material

  1. Animation.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  2. “Anime.” The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, p.  62.
  3. Animation Styles: What Makes Anime Unique.” Show Me The Animation,, 27 July 2015.
  4. French, H.W. “The Rising Sun Sets on Japanese Publishing.” The New York Times, NYT Archive, 10 Dec 2000. 
  5. Harper, D. “Anime (n.).” Online Etymology Dictionary,, 2021. 
  6. Harper, D. “Manga (n.).Online Etymology Dictionary,, 2021. 
  7. Manga.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  8. “Manga.” The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 1063.
  9. Morgenstern, J. “‘Weathering With You’ Review: A Ray of Sunshine.” The Wall Street Journal,, 16 Jan 2020. 
  10. Oldest anime found.” Anime News Network,, 8 Aug 2005. 
  11. Palmeri, C. Bernes, N. “Is Japanese Style Taking Over The World?Bloomberg BusinessWeek,, 25 July 2004. 
  12. Stitch. “Megan Thee Stallion and Anime – Or, the Male Gatekeeping of Fandom Spaces.” Teen Vogue,, 3 Nov 2020.