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Why manga should be in color

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Today's blog is a bit different, and one that's more for the manga fans here in the forum.

 

 

Why is manga (almost always) in black and white?

 

The answer is quite simple: because it's faster and cheaper. manga originally came about as a cheap method of entertaining people. And to be able to produce more content in a shorter time span, obviously the artists (or "mangaka") weren't going to bother with coloring something that was meant to be disposable. I mean, one look at a page of a weekly manga magazine will immediately tell you this stuff's not meant to last:

 

 

xhry5MV.jpg

 

I've seen newspapers with better print quality.

 

It's no wonder that the Japanese kanji for "manga" roughly translate as "scribbles". At its inception, manga was something that was meant to be consumed, not kept.

 

And yet, over the years, manga changed. The forefather of modern manga, Tezuka Osamu, showed that it was possible for manga to have deep, thoughtful narratives. Over time, we saw nearly all manga getting collected editions - the tankoubon, "standalone books" - with better (though not by any means perfect) paper and print quality so that people could more easily get the chapters from any one series collected in one place (or, more often than not, over several volumes, since manga tend to be long). The 80s also saw a great increase in the number of quality manga put out there, not only in terms of storytelling, but also in terms of the artwork. Techniques were being refined, different styles kept being born every day... it was definitely a great time to be a manga fan. In fact, it still is a great time to be a manga fan, since boatloads of quality manga keep coming our way every day.

 

And yet, manga still keeps getting the black-and-white treatment.

 

BlackWhite-300x225.gif

 

Let's compare, for example, with the U.S. comics industry. In America, comic books also didn't have the greatest reputation to begin with (I mean, just look at the name!), but they started getting treated better over the years. Stories started getting more care and thought put into them. The same happened with artwork, which gained a lot more detail and eye-catching page layouts. More and more collected editions are coming out, and not only do they have excellent paper quality, many of them are even in hardcover format. We even came up with the term "graphic novel" to give comic books some "dignity". And most importantly to this conversation - the vast majority of Western comic books are (and have been for a long time) 100% colorized.

 

color-palette.png

 

But while manga's quality and reputation also rose quite significantly over the years, the same can't be said for its... material quality. Tankoubon are still printed in recycled paper (that sadly gets yellowed after a few years) and printed in black-and-white, like comic strips.

 

Why is this? Why hasn't manga's production kept up with its quality and reputation?

 

Well... Japan is a bit of a different beast than the West. No one in their right mind would think of publishing comic book magazines with such awful print quality over here. The fact is that... manga is sadly still regarded as cheap entertainment. And while its reputation and quality has grown immensely and we have collected editions for those that really enjoy any given series, manga is still not thought of as something that deserves that much care.

 

That and the Japanese are notorious for being quite resistant to change.

 

Though I do hear, every now and then, some people say that monochrome actually benefits the story, that it give the manga a certain ambience.

 

Funny, I never hear people complaining about the colors in Western comics - even the most noir.

 

Honestly, I believe that the people resisting colorized manga are just doing so out of habit. Look at the following picture:

 

hoSynty.jpg

 

Sorry for the crappy photo quality, but I think it gets the point across.

 

Looks gorgeous, doesn't it? Well, it's the exact same manga as the one in the first picture I showed you. In fact, it's the exact same chapter, just a few pages earlier. This is Shokugeki no Souma, a manga series by Saeki Shun, notorious for having a gorgeous art style.

 

Clearly, mangaka aren't incompetent colorists. And while the artwork can work wonders just by itself, coloring it truly brings it to life. Despite still thinking of manga as cheap entertainment, what do manga editors do when a special chapter is coming up? You guessed it, they put the first pages (and occasionally the entire chapter) in full color - as you can see in the example above. This, in and of itself, is proof that manga isn't "supposed" to be black and white. It's not supposed to be that way for "ambience". Manga is still black and white... merely as a way to cut corners.

 

Then what can we do to change this?

 

Sadly, nothing, I'm not in any position to change anything 😛

 

But to be honest, I believe it's time something changed. Coloring isn't even the expensive, time-consuming activity it used to be before the age of computers.

 

My suggestion is - if colorizing manga for the magazine is a bit overkill, then maybe the tankoubon edition could already come colorized. It doesn't even need to be the mangaka himself doing the colors - the poor guys are already stretched for time as it is - they could just have a specialized assistant and supervise the final product. Even in Western comics, the artist and the colorist are always different people - and the colorist almost never gets front billing.

 

If it's not possible for all manga, then at least they could make a Full Color edition for the ones that sell the most. I just think it's a shame that we have such great artwork in so many manga that just isn't able to fully bloom due to still being shackled to the arcane practice of monochrome.

 

There are actually a lot of manga that have already been colorized - Dragon Ball, Naruto, One Piece, Hunter X Hunter and Death Note, just to name a few. However, to my knowledge, Dragon Ball's Full Color edition is the only one to make it out to print. The rest are stuck in the digital realm. And while I'm certainly happy that Dragon Ball got the chance to have a physical color edition (hell, it's my favorite manga of all time!), I just don't believe it's enough. Color manga are at their best in print format, so... come on, manga editors, give those color manga a chance to get some fresh air, will ya? 😉

 

For further illustrative purposes, I will leave you with a page from the aforementioned Dragon Ball. On the left, the original B&W version. On the right, the recent colorized version.

 

See you guys next time!

 

TIvyRqX.jpgvHULYFv.png

Edited by jrdemr
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Manga in colour is a LOT more expensive and doesn't offer that much more in my opinion... I'm fine with black and white.

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Anyone who doesn't think black and white can't be just as gritty, sweaty, bloody, and visceral as color hasn't stepped foot into an Akira Kurosawa movie, and is less of a well-rounded human being because of it. And if the art can't be, it's a failing of the artist, not the medium.

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Just now, damon8r351 said:

Anyone who doesn't think black and white can't be just as gritty, sweaty, bloody, and visceral as color hasn't stepped foot into an Akira Kurosawa movie, and is less of a well-rounded human being because of it. And if the art can't be, it's a failing of the artist, not the medium.

 

Who said I want my art to be gritty, sweaty, bloody and visceral?...

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23 minutes ago, jrdemr said:

 

Who said I want my art to be gritty, sweaty, bloody and visceral?...

 

Don't be contrary just for the giggles. That was the least part of my post, and I couldn't care less what it is you want in your art. My point is that black and white is equal to color, and any perceived deficiencies to it related to color is a fault of the artist, not the medium. Ansel Adams was a master of photography, and all of his best work was in black and white, just like Akira Kurosawa. Color doesn't always make everything better, just like sprinkling in ninjas and zombies doesn't.

Edited by damon8r351
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If it's popular enough it will come out in colour. A lot is fodder and colouring is a waste of time.

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Making manga in color would be counter-productive. The entire point of manga being black and white is to save money. I love colored manga just as much as black and white, but every drop of ink costs money to print, and staying black and white cuts costs.

Edited by Tohru Kobayashi
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It's cheaper, it's traditional, and the Japanese like it the way it is. I don't think that's going to change anytime soon. Especially if it's in anyway trying to appease 'western' tastes and expectations. I like it black and white myself, actually haven't really thought about it tbh.

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42 minutes ago, damon8r351 said:

 

Don't be contrary just for the giggles. That was the least part of my post, and I couldn't care less what it is you want in your art. My point is that black and white is equal to color, and any perceived deficiencies to it related to color is a fault of the artist, not the medium. Ansel Adams was a master of photography, and all of his best work was in black and white, just like Akira Kurosawa. Color doesn't always make everything better, just like sprinkling in ninjas and zombies doesn't.

Kagemusha, Ran, and Dreams are pretty dang good though, 

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Either is good for me , I don't really mind.

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1 minute ago, angelgrievous said:

Kagemusha, Ran, and Dreams are pretty dang good though, 

 

Yes, because Kurosawa was a fantastic filmmaker that could make black and white and color look good.

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Just now, damon8r351 said:

 

Yes, because Kurosawa was a fantastic filmmaker that could make black and white and color look good.

tru dat.

 

One of the best.

Edited by angelgrievous
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I haven't really minded the black and white style. If anything it works very well for some series, like Berserk.

 

berserk-2460207.jpg

 

As far as the why, I never really thought about it. But I do agree that color can make things better, namely something like JoJo's Bizarre Adventure where the characters are meant to be stylish and colorful.

 

4951696-giorno_giovanna__gold_experience

 

It all depends really. I don't think manga should require color unless the artist intends it to be that way, not just because some people don't like black and white and should hold up to a standard of American comics.

 

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I almost gave up on reading when I read that "Tankoubon are still printed in recycled paper", since that's wrong. Magazines are. Tankōbon are printed in good paper (some better than others). Magazines are meant to be thrown out and recycled so you go buy the tankōbon and support the industry, hence the difference in paper quality. I've bought several old and used (or what Japanese call "used", which is to say nearly-mint) tankōbon over the past year and they're not yellowed at all, not to mention I saw several older volumes of various series around the buttload of BookOffs I visited as well - no yellowness. I wonder how people treat their stuff for it to get yellowed. Probably leaving it under constant sunlight and shit-poor conditions.

 

Additionally, you should educate yourself on how much of a pain in the ass it is to draw a weekly chapter even for the most mediocre of series. Coloring ain't as expensive as it used to be, but it's still time-consuming. Not everyone can get their publisher to hire another assistant or two to help ease the workload and many authors are already knees-deep in work to be able to pump out a new chapter every week fully colored - let alonefor the tankōbon. No one can touch things up on the tankōbon except the author him/herself - and that means cutting time dedicated to their already heavy workload.

 

All that said, sure, colo could make things look nicer and tidier, but it's not really something manga needs. If anything, it needs to get good. So much average crap out there.

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The underlying problem with your entire argument, is that you're using manga that already has good art. While the color is nice in Food Wars, it is not needed to help show off those characters or art. This is because both the artist and the writer made sure you understood those characters without needing color and when there was a color page it was only used to establish things like hair color. Color is not needed in Food Wars because those characters are already so personalized with just black ink and white paper.

 

As a matter fact the Dragon Ball pictures that you showed only hurt your point, because the coloring doesn't hurt or benefit the page at all. Toriyama art style is so good that you understand everything that's going on in that page without the need of color to personalize anything. A good manga artist and a good comic book artist only needs color to establish certain things everything else can be established through their art.

 

Since you brought up cost I'm just going to say there's no way there will be colored weekly  manga or tankobon unless something is super popular. Only super popular manga get all color pages usually they have to be successful in America as well. (I haven't kept up with it but I believe only Dragon Ball and Attack on Titan have official full color manga, but I maybe wrong about that).

 

The manga writing process is super strenuous and it doesn't pay well unless you make it big. The manga writing industry is caught in this terrible monopoly because Shueisha and 2 other companies are in charge of everything. They barely pay the non popular artists and writers what would be considered minimum wage and force harsh deadlines upon all of them. On top of all the stuff they have to deal with that routinely puts them in the hospital for overworking, you want the artists too also color all the pages. Even for a tankobon that would be absurd because they will have to take time then they would normally used for the weekly stuff to color the pages. These are people who sometimes don't even get assistance to help them with a black and white stuff.  There is no way full color manga will happen anytime soon.


Plus If you think about it there are plenty of great American comics that are in black and white. The Peanuts, The Boondocks and plenty of superhero comics are in black and white. While  color does help personalized things he can also be a crutch. If an artist art is bad then it doesn't matter how much you color you add it will still be bad and if an artist art is good adding color will not change the fact that is good.

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Can't even imagine how slow a Berserk release would be if the manga was colored.

 

I don't think manga "should" be colored, to be honest, once you have a few chapters read, you won't even notice anymore, and colored pages just make good eyecandy and nothing else. The style has been refined over the years, and chaging the basic of it now wouldn't fit well.

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22 hours ago, damon8r351 said:

 

Don't be contrary just for the giggles. That was the least part of my post, and I couldn't care less what it is you want in your art. My point is that black and white is equal to color, and any perceived deficiencies to it related to color is a fault of the artist, not the medium. Ansel Adams was a master of photography, and all of his best work was in black and white, just like Akira Kurosawa. Color doesn't always make everything better, just like sprinkling in ninjas and zombies doesn't.

 

There have been a lot of answers contrary to my argument, and I'm fine with that. There's a reason I post in a public forum - to encourage discussion. However, when you start outright  dismissing my preferences in this rude a way, that's where I draw the line.

 

I'm not trying to "be contrary just for the giggles". I genuinely meant what I said. I don't need my manga to be "gritty, sweaty, bloody and visceral". In fact, I rarely like those kinds of manga. If you like it, that's perfectly fine - more power to you. Just please don't go to other people's topics and start outright trashing their arguments just because you don't agree with something that's a matter of taste. There are more polite ways to make yourself heard.

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I disagree, manga is perfectly alright in black and white. I'm fine with manga opening scenes having a few colored pages, but the whole thing? I might as well watch the anime then, complete with motion and sound/voice acting to boot.

 

Manga magazines releases are weekly to get fan's entertainment in check and if they were all made in high grade quality that would be a lot of money to waste. Tankoubons are the end result in terms of quality, plus the work can get touched up and refined by the artist apart from its magazine release. If an artist wanted all color for their work, that's up to them, but I would think their magazine schedule wouldn't warrant the time. In addition to that some artists do multiple series, work on illustrations, anthologies, or magazine columns.

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The black and white page from DBZ looks way better than the color counterpart. If you want color, watch the animated adaption for it, manga is fine in black and white as long as the quality is still top notch

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Most of the replies seem to be taking a black-or-white approach to bringing color to manga. Despite it being about a black and white issue, it's not a black and white issue. Some manga may benefit from the added colors while others may not.

 

Personally, I'd prefer them all to be in color as looking at black and white for too long causes me a lot more eye strain than looking at colors.

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Two of my favorite comic series, Creed and Cyberfrog, were amazing in black and white. Color wouldn't have made them better because the style and story are what make them so great. 

 

I dont think any comic or manga is less because it's black and white. 

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I don't want manga to become manhwa.

Leave my black&white alone.

 

 

And frankly, I would rather read black and white each week than colored once a month. And I'm pretty sure Japanese would too. 

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I'm a huge manga fan, I own hunderds of volumes

and I have to say I think manga should be black and white, its nice to have a colour page near the front, but I feel it looses something ¬_¬

The only colour manga I own is the highschool of the dead colour version which are very nice but I prefer black and white

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Another thing, there are really good comics in black and white that are awesome, just read The Walking Dead and see. No color needed there.

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