In Conclusion

As a pop cultural form, manga seek primarily to entertain. Romance, heroism, adventure, fantasy, mystery, horror, comedy, and futuristic imagination dominate its narratives, as they do in movies and television. Sexual titillation, nail-biting suspense, mind-blowing imagination, identification with the trials and triumphs of heroes, surprising plot twists, and fantasy fulfillment are the main methods of capturing viewers’ attention. Yet while entertaining, manga have a serious dimension as well. Gender roles, sexual identities, class differences, self-determination within societal limitations, and even the meaning of life itself are explored in manga of various genres. Scholars have turned to manga not only to establish the norms of life in Japan as codified in its popular culture, but also to examine how some mangaka have resisted them.

Though manga could be viewed as just one strand of popular culture, in fact they play a dominant role in its fabric, giving shape to the characters and stories that subsequently inspire other forms of media, and even establishing patterns for everyday life. The aesthetic of kawaii (“cuteness”), exemplified by doe-eyed manga characters, has dominated fashion and personal style in Japan since the 1980s. The traditional aesthetic basara (posing for dramatic effect with showy clothing or gaudy accessories) was reanimated in 1980s and ‘90s manga, and became dominant in Japanese popular music as well as cutting-edge personal fashion. A more recent manga-driven aesthetic is moe (written as “budding,” but implying “burning” by pun), describing the idealized yearning and excitement generated by certain manga characters, which has become a descriptive term for the kind of figure that raises such feelings.

With its powerful influence on daily life, manga stand at the forefront of Japanese popular media, establishing not only the stories and figures with which the masses become emotionally involved, and which exemplify their own desires and interests, but also many of the values that drive contemporary lifestyles.