Amazing Kids! Magazine

The Deeper (often not so Comical) Difference between the East and the West

By Sehen Gamhewa, Comic Hub Co-Editor and Contributing Writer


The global differences between comics can be truly astounding. You have traditional Western Comics such as DC or Marvel, and then you have Japanese Manga, or Chinese Manhua, or Korean Manhwa.

But before we dive into the huge chasm of differences between traditional Western and Eastern Comics, let’s take a look at a hugely popular manga that ended very recently.

Tokyo Ghoul :re was a manga consisting of 16 Volumes and a 179 chapters. It is the continuation to the original series, Tokyo Ghoul (2011), which details Ken Kaneki’s life as an amnesiac after the events of TG.

Now the thing with Tokyo Ghoul :re is it’s ending. It was actually a happy ending. No one saw that coming.

The original Tokyo Ghoul was dark. Ruthless. Vicious. And Sad. Kaneki, over the course of the original series, suffered and suffered and suffered some more. The series ended at a 143 Chapters and people hailed the story as a ‘true tragedy’. In fact, the author of both series’, Sui Ishida, had portrayed multiple references to tragedy throughout both series. His writing and art was both gorey and disturbing at times, but also hypnotically beautiful.

Tokyo Ghoul :re was no different. Kaneki suffered. Then suffered some more. And then, boom, Ishida-sensei hit us all with a bomb—a happy ending for Kaneki.

It was a miracle, but it happened all the same.

This just goes to show how brutal manga can get. There are plenty of other stories that score even higher on the ‘disturbing’ factor such as Berserk, but then again, there are just as many manga that are totally chill. But the thing is, Manga as a whole innately features plenty of dark ideas and themes, and this is a part of it. Even the lighter hearted ones have an inkling of darker, sometimes profound ideas of death or the nature of truth or the path to redemption.

Now taking comics like DC or Marvel, you can’t say they aren’t dark at all, but in my opinion, they really can’t hold a candle to most Manga/hua/hwa.

These comics are a staple of Western geek culture, and rightly so. They’ve spawned iconic characters such as Superman and Batman, superheroes that fulfill some of the wildest dreams of both children and adults alike. For normal kids, American comics were objects of fascination that always immersed them in epic stories. However, the more you get into them, the harder you find to get involved with it on a deeper, more personal level. So, to many geeks, the deeper, more storytelling style of Eastern comics appeal more, as they grow older.

Besides that, there are also other differences between the two schools of comics.

For example, the length:

This is something very obvious.

American comics are very long. VERY LONG. Because, why end a series when it makes money? Simple, don’t. Superman began in 1938, Batman in 1939 and Spiderman in 1962. All three of these heroes were all joined by a host of other characters over the decades, which has built up to a very, very, very large, complex story and character pool. That’s quite a bit of catching up, if it can even be called that anymore, for newcomers, especially when you consider how difficult it is to find specific issues, such as the older ones, or collector’s editions. Manga can suffer from similar problems, such as Naruto, which ran from 1999 to 2014, but even that is comparatively restrained to something like Superman or Batman. Besides, Naruto ended.

Manga, generally have up to around 5 years of material, after which new series’ take over, thus keeping the whole scene fresh and easier for newcomers to integrate themselves into.

Another major difference between the two schools would be writing. More specifically, whose writing.

Manga (and co.) in general are tied to their author and the series lives and dies by the author. This allows for a consistency in writing, storytelling, style and fans are always able to receive the consistency they desire from their favourite authors.

However, in American comics, they, after all, are continued for such a large span of time that no one writer or group of writers would be able to stick with the project for so long. In fact, most series go through a slew of different authors, and each reboot always features new ones. This potentially harms the series in two ways: quality and consistency. Quality is relatively straightforward. Some writers and illustrators are better than others, and thus ‘Green Lantern Series X’ might be worse than ‘Green Lantern Series Y’. Consistency is much more convoluted both figuratively and literally, because the different writers will literally make the continuity of popular series more convoluted as they write about different events, focus on different aspects of the characters, and create so many alternate realities that your head will spin. The longer a series runs, the more mixed up and contrived its story line gets, as the universe is confused by different writers who have their own directions they would like to take the series in. Villains are resurrected and killed over and over again, multiple dimensions and universes are utilized, and rules put in place by other authors are broken. In the end, you have a mess of a story that can really only be good if taken in parts.

The final element that I feel makes Manga much more interesting, as compared to American comics would be the Scope.

While American comics do diverge in topic, most mainstream American comics can easily be associated with superheroes. While that isn’t necessarily bad in itself, there is a kind of repetitiveness through all those different comics.

Manga, on the other hand, has a great amount of diversity even amongst some of the most popular series. While Akame ga Kill! may be about assassins trying to take down an evil empire, A Silent Voice tells the story of a deaf girl being bullied and the bully’s path to redemption. My Little Monster is a comedic story about an honours student learning to embrace the emotional side of human interactions through a relationship with a delinquent, but Barakamon tells the tale of a calligrapher who is forcibly moved to the rural country and learns about enjoying the small parts of life. All of the series listed above have one thing in common: they are all manga series that have had a volume released in English within the span of a month. The fact that such a large variety exists in such a short timespan is the biggest reason why manga appeals to me so much: the variety just feels so much more fresh than other mediums.

Barring a few, manga almost always consist of deeper writing than Western comics. Western comics focus more on action and fun and adventure rather than venturing into philosophical and metaphysical (at times) worlds.

Manga truly encompasses a variety of themes and genres, including horror and psychology mixed with philosophy and comedy, and the illustration, especially the different styles of different mangakas is enthralling.

In the end of course, there are differences and there are preferences. Some want to fantasize and dream about world-shaking powers while others want a deeper, personal story about a heart-breaking story of say, a kid. In the end, it is but a choice.