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Alternative manga


Alternative manga

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Alternative manga are Japanese comics that are published outside of the more commercial manga market, or also manga that have different art styles, themes, and narratives, then commonly found in the most popular manga magazines.

Alternative manga got its start through the Lending Libraries in post-war Japan which charged a small fee for borrowing books. This market was essentially its own marketplace with many manga being made exclusively for this market. This market was notorious amongst parental groups for containing more lewd content than the normal mainstream manga publishers would allow. Consequently the market tended to appeal to a slightly older adolescent audience, versus the child-dominated audience of the mainstream magazine anthologies at the time.

In 1958 in this market an author named Yoshihiro Tatsumi decided to do comics that were more realistic and darker. He didn't like calling these works manga (which in Japanese means "frivolous pictures") he instead called these comics gekiga (which in Japanese means "dramatic pictures"). This is very much akin to the term graphic novel being advocated by American alternative cartoonists over the term comics.

As gekiga gained popularity, the lending libraries gradually fell apart due to the better economic conditions that existed in Japan during the 1960s. As a result many gekiga artists left the lending libraries and began to set up their own magazine anthologies. One of these anthologies (Garo) was designed to showcase the newest talent in the manga business. Garo started out as being a gekiga magazine but would eventually grow to a new style with the work of Yoshiharu Tsuge. Tsuge is widely credited with bringing a more personal stance to manga, allowing for manga to be an abstract reflection of his own experiences. Some critics have gone as far as to call his work the comics equivalent to an I novel.

As Garo gained popularity particularly with the youth movements of the 1960s, many other magazines followed in its footsteps. At around the same time gekiga elements began appearing in maintream manga magazines, with Tezuka fully embracing the style and doing more work aimed at older audiences. Eventually Tezuka would start up a magazine called COM, as his answer to Garo. With Gekiga being integrated into mainstream manga, and manga being accepted as an artform by the masses around this time period, some people go as far as to call it the Golden Age of Manga.

After the golden age as comics became more commercialized into the 1980s, alternative manga began to take different routes from the mainstream. Currently the biggest thing going on is influence from abroad. Many mangaka not wanting to follow japanese art conventions are looking to European and even sometimes American comics for influence. The first artist to start this look abroad was Katsuhiro Otomo who had a profound effect on both mainstream seinen oriented and alternative cartoonists in Japan.

List of Movements:

  • Manga Lending Libraries (1950s-1970s)
  • Gekiga (late 1950s-1980s)
  • Garo (1960s-1990s)
  • La nouvelle manga (late 1990s-present).
  • Superflat (1990s-present).

List of Important People:

  • Yoshihiro Tatsumi
  • Yoshiharu Tsuge


  • Gravett, Paul (2004). Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics. Collins Design. ISBN 1856693910.
  • Schodt, Frederick (1988 reprint of 1983 edition). Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics. Kodansha America. ISBN 0870117521.
  • Marechal, Beatrice (2005). "On Top of the Moutain: The Influential Manga of Yoshiharu Tsuge". In Gary Groth, Matt Silve (Eds.), The Comics Journal Special Edition Volume 5 2005 (pp 22-28). Fantagraphics Books. ISBN 1-56097-624-1.
  • Schodt, Frederick (1996). Dreamland Japan: Writings of Modern Manga. Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 188065623X.
  • Oliveros, Chris (Ed.) (2003) Drawn and Quarterly Volume 5. Drawn & Quarterly. pg 59 ISBN 1-896597-61-0.

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