The Difference Between Anime & Manga

Before we begin if you haven’t read or if you don’t know what Anime & Manga are, I have two separate pages on them in which you can read about Manga here, and you can read on Anime here.

Anime and Manga are two art mediums that have similar origins but show some differences between them. Anime is defined by animated movement whereas manga exists on the page. In fact, it should be understood that many cartoons that we view on the television these days are of the anime style. The reason most people confuse one with the other is due to the fact that both these creations have a Japanese origin. However, there is a difference between them, which makes using one term for the other wrong. Therefore, before using the word anime or manga for a cartoon creation, you should be able to identify it for what it really is.

Both manga and anime are huge cultural pillars in Japan, has given rise to various types of sub and pop cultures, and are obviously equally large cultural exports. While they have a somewhat symbiotic relationship, there are very significant differences between the two mediums, and understanding these differences can lead to a deeper appreciation of both.

As simple an issue as it might seem, there are literally college courses dedicated to the topic, because it is layered and complicated. With that in mind, while this list won’t be the defining or final word on the topic, hopefully, it’ll help you bring a more critical eye to your favorite anime and manga.

The defining factors that differentiate these two as based on general opinion are usually; the style of the art, a variety of genres, the way of storytelling, the ‘quality’ of the animation, quality of the music and even down to the expertise of the voice actors. Most perceive that the difference was in fact intended, and are also officially acknowledged by the Japanese themselves that there is such a term that replaces cartoons and comics if it were made by them.

But before we get into those factors let’s take a brief on the two shall we?

Manga (漫画) refers to a Japanese comic which has quite a complicated history. Many people believed that the origins of manga can be traced back to the century 12th. However, it was not until the 19th century that this form of entertainment got the name “manga”. After World War II, manga has developed tremendously, featuring various stories, artworks, and writing styles. Eventually, manga found its way to the Western market and no doubt, now it has become a worldwide phenomenon.

Anime (アニメ) refers to the Japanese hand-drawn or computer animation (the name “anime” is actually a derived version of the word “animation”). Based on this definition, we can say anime is Japanese cartoon and it has a completely unique style, unlike the Western cartoon.

At first, anime’s art style took lots of influences from Osamu Tezuka’s work during the 1960s. Then since the 20th century, anime has gradually built up its popularity and nowadays, it is also an international phenomenon like manga. Throughout years, we have seen lots of incredibly famous anime, typically the anime Your Name (or Kimi No Na Wa) which released on April this year and became the highest-grossing anime film with the international gross of $355,298,270.

For people who are not into manga and anime, they may think manga (and also anime) is for children and teenagers. Yet, on the contrary, there are all kinds of manga for all ages, from children, teen manga to manga for adults featuring various mature and serious matters. It is pretty similar to the Western comic (and also a cartoon) which also has various series and stories for all ages.

Okay so now that we have addressed briefing the two, let’s cover some key factors such as the art style, genre types, use of color and a couple of others.

Art quality

When comparing the art quality, anime has a better art quality than the manga. In anime, thirty frames run per second, which gives it a much better quality. Almost all the anime have billions of images that add to the beauty. The frames form cells, which completes the series.

Unlike anime, manga uses panels to draw images. Each page is separate and each of the pictures are drawn. This creates the storyboard. In the manga, one can come across more space for placing words. As a whole, it can be said that manga has only fewer pages when compared to anime.

All Anime characters come in full color. Anime uses a sharper color with fewer details when compared to the manga. In the manga, only the front, back and inside covers have colored characters.

Then there is the difference of the background. Anime always has a background, whereas manga does not come with one. No anime character is shown in a completely white background. Every scene has different backgrounds according to the situation. The background is drawn even for the thoughts of an anime character. In the manga, the background is not a must. A manga character can easily pass from one page to the other without much of a background.

Content Differences

The largest difference, though, is in content and audience. In America, animated cartoons and films have long been considered more of a medium for children, and most animation produced in America is targeted for that audience.

In Japan, anime can be for children or adults, and some Japanese imports have surprised some parents who discover Japanese animation’s more mature nature. What is appropriate for children and adults can differ between the two cultures; appropriate for a 10-year-old in Japan may not be considered appropriate for a American 10-year-old.


Yaoi = love between boys with explicit content 
Shounen-ai = love between boys with less content (meaning soft) 
Yuri = opposite of yaoi with girls with explicit content 
Shoujo-ai = same as the above but soft 

Shounen = series that appeals to boys, mostly have to do with action and adventure (age target: younger to older teen) 
Shoujo = series that appeals to girls, mostly containing romance (age target: same as shounen) 
These two might have gotten some confusion over the years. Like for shounen, there a girl leads. 

Seinen: series that appeals to older men, mostly have characters with complex and well-developed personalities (age target: older teen to older adults) 
Josei: series that appeal to older women, same as seinen (age target: same as seinen) 

Magical girl/Mahou shoujo = is basically series with magic and adventure with some romance 

Other genres like horror, supernatural, detective, adventures, comedy, etc… are just common genres used in America as well, like for movies and books.

Read Between the Lines

Although both are visual mediums, the limitations inherent in both manga and anime have resulted in some interesting ways of expressing characterization, action, or humor in each. Anime has more direct control over how it is presented to an audience, whether it be the way leitmotifs and musical themes help evoke a certain expectation or feeling from the viewer or visual cues such as slapstick to more clearly illustrate the tone of a particular scene, there are more tools at the disposal of creators to determine how an audience will react to the finished work.

Manga, on the other hand, relies primarily on visual cues provided by the artist, and the deft hand of the writer when it comes to the text and subtext of the work. Linework and popularized emoticons help express the feelings of particular characters without the author having to blatantly state it. There’s also a rather interesting practice when it comes to manga, as the furigana (phonetic pronunciations of Chinese characters written in kana) of certain character names, or words, function as puns or pseudonyms rather than literal pronunciations, which helps establish stronger narrative ties. And although they don’t have access to a soundtrack, manga artists and writers have an almost endless amount of Japanese onomatopoeia at their disposal to better convey the movement or sounds of any particular scene.

Key differences between Anime and Manga

  • The first Japanese animation goes back to the year 1917, while the manga dates back to the 18th century.
  • The characters of the anime are usually a little more unreal than the manga.
  • The anime refers to the Japanese animation that includes from TV series to movies; the manga refers to the graphic comics or Japanese comic.
  • The anime was initially aimed at a more mature audience:
  • teenagers and adults, but the manga were not aimed at a specific audience.
  • The anime stands out for the colorful and vibrant characters, while the manga is usually black and white; although in some cases it may be in color.
  • The anime is usually taken from the manga, but the manga is not created from the anime.
  • The production of the manga is much cheaper than the anime.
  • Usually, manga stories are usually longer than anime stories.

Should I Watch the Anime First or go Straight into the Manga?

Well this all depends and is completely subjective.

Some people enjoy reading first and others enjoy watching first. So ask yourself “Do I like my entertainment absorbed through reading or watching?”

The conclusion you come to, will be your best bet.


We can all agree that most of the time the manga ends up being better than the anime. So it makes sense to watch the anime first and then read the manga.

Because if you read the comic first, you might not enjoy the animation. On the other hand, if you watch the animation first and then move on to the comic-book, your feeling of being entertained only increases.

Typically, anime episodes will last 24 minutes. comic books, on the other hand, depends on your reading and speed and how much time you take to look at manga artwork.

Anime Fight and Manga Fights

You will find this bit very interesting.

There are specific areas where animation can do a better job, and that is with fight scenes.

having an animated series can produce fight scenes with unimaginable magnitude, One Punch Man is a great example of this.

Saitama VS Boros was a fight with an incredible magnitude, fighting on Earth, giant spaceships and getting blasted to the moon.

Although the comic book really does a fantastic job of making this fight what it is, the anime took it a few steps further. It was one of the best fight scenes we’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.

The animated version of-course had a giant advantage because the manga is limited to a few frames per page. And animation has literally thousands of frames in minutes.

Animation also has the capability of music and sound effects which gives us a surge of energy when watching this fight.

Boros powering up

It’s the same with the Bleach animated series.

I watched hundreds of episodes and then switched to the animated series. One of the things I liked with its animated counterpart was, it gave me a default or feel of how Hollows should sound.

And when reading the comic book and seeing text for Hollow screams, instantly sounds from the anime came rushing to my head.

That’s something manga of-course doesn’t have…

…and again, this is completely subjective. You may prefer the manga fight with Saitama VS Boros, or how you thought Hollows would sound like in Bleach.

Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together

These are only a few broadly defined differences between two incredibly complex and culturally significant visual storytelling mediums. The purpose of this article was never to emphasize the superiority of one over the other, or even to create a definitive list, but merely to consider some of the ways in which they’re different in order to better understand and appreciate each for what they are capable of accomplishing.

That said, are there any particularly significant differences you feel like I overlooked? How have those differences shaped the way you consume manga or anime? And of course, although no one has to choose one or the other, which do you prefer, and why? Sound off in the comments below, because I would love to hear from you.