Why do mangas read backwards?


Cultural explanations...

Why do mangas read backwards?

The Western reader who wants to dive into the vast universe of manga is usually surprised by one thing: the reading direction of the book. He has the impression that he has to read it backwards, but for a Japanese reader, it is forwards... 

Manga are read from right to left, because they simply follow the rules of the reading direction of kanji (ideograms), katakana and hiragana (phonetics). These three sets of characters are the equivalent of our alphabet. Note that just like the boxes that sequence the story, the bubbles are also read from right to left. 

It is possible to quote some mangas edited and translated in mirror effect for westerners (like the first editions of Dragon Ball at Glénat), but this process has some drawbacks:

  1. The authors think their pages as a unit. The cutting, the positions, the movements give sense to the reading and are vectors of emotions. A good surprise effect is partly linked to its layout. 
  2. A good translation requires an enormous amount of adaptation work on the part of the editor, who will have to recompose certain pages, reposition certain onomatopoeia in order to preserve the graphic and narrative qualities of the original. 
  3. Reading from right to left is to immerse oneself a little more in the Japanese culture. It is very easy to get used to the reading indications at the beginning of the books, so that it becomes a habit.

Reading manga from right to left, it is therefore to accept the work as it is, respecting at best the work of the authors. The narrative subtlety is not only in the text and image, but also in its general form, a bit like a succession of paintings in which each element is thought and reflected by the artist who composes them. 

Manga have many specificities. If you wish to deepen your knowledge and learn Manga drawing, Apolline offers Manga courses in Lausanne, Morges and Montreux or online Manga courses on the Internet.

Our Manga teachers will accompany you in the learning of this art with infinite universes. 

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