Why Does Manga Have No Color? – Everything You Need To Know

Manga is a very unique form of art from the Japanese culture; this artform has an interesting history and a simplistic yet detailed style. There is a lot of pressure in the manga industry and a lot of competition. But why does manga have no color? 

As a whole, Manga historically has no color due to publishers wanting to make Manga more affordable for buyers. With the price of ink and short deadlines for weekly Manga releases, producing Manga in black and white was a way to save both time and money. However, so editions of Manga do have color.

What is the history of manga, and how does it tie into why manga is in black and white? Do creators have help with their work to get the manga done? How strict are the manga creators about their work?

Let's find out. 

 

Why Is Manga In Black And White?

Manga is in monochrome for many reasons; these reasons are down to things like

  • Tradition
  • Pricing
  • Deadlines

and work distribution of the manga, and the people who create manga; who are called Mangakas. 

There are many people who do not like this choice in style when it comes to manga, but there are others who prefer it as they find that it gives the eyes a break from the constant visual stimulation that is we are exposed to every day.  

Black and white manga is a very unique art form with a lot of history in the Japanese culture, and the detail that you can find in manga normally outweighs the need for color in most cases. 

Some manga do have a few color pages in them at the front of the book, but these are usually reserved for special additions.

But let us go through the main reasons as to why they are in black and white in more detail. 

 

Tradition

Manga first began to show up in the 16th century, and from there, they started to become more and more popular, then in the 19th century, they became recognized as their own form of art.

The date on which this art form was developed means that there was little to no color ink available at that time.  

In the 19th century, when manga started to become popular in Japanese culture was also around the time of World War 2, which also played a role in why manga is monochrome.

During the war, mangakas would draw in black and white as they wanted to get their manga issues released as fast as possible as their manga would be given to Japanese soldiers first to help boost morale among the army. 

At that time, manga was being read by cadets, captains, and even their high-ranking generals, which helped to cultivate a sense of community between everyone as it was something that they could all enjoy together.

To help keep this morale going in the Japanese army, new manga issues were released weekly, and printing them in black and white helped them get the issues out at a regular pace. 

All these soldiers that were reading manga were part of the reason why manga popularity grew as they introduced a lot of their family and friends to manga during and after the war.

And now manga is still growing in popularity to this day.

Mangakas today still create their manga in black and white, potentially as a way to honor the soldiers and mangakas of that era, keeping the tradition of monochrome manga alive.

 

Pricing

Pricing is also a big reason as to why manga is created in black and white; manga is generally a large book; they are usually the size of a phone book when they are released.

Manga issues for different series are also released on a weekly basis, and most of their target audience is school children, although this has changed for some manga now. 

This means that their manga issues needed to be affordable for their audience, without the children needing to spend all their pocket money on one manga issue. 

In order to keep the manga book the same size and to keep it affordable for their buyers, and at the same time keep the quality of the manga up, publishers of the manga generally use recycled paper, which is cheaper. 

To help with keeping the cost of production down, they also only use one ink color; these factors allow a manga of 300 to 600 pages to be produced and still be affordable for the end buyer.

These “cost-cutting” practices allow the mangakas to keep doing what they love as well as allow the buyers to keep purchasing their favorite manga without breaking the bank. 

 

Deadlines And Work Distribution

Deadlines and work distribution are other factors as to why manga is in black and white; publishers and the mangakas themselves are motivated and driven by their printing deadlines. 

Most Mangakas do not miss their deadlines, and the deadlines are very rarely mover or extended.

For this reason, mangakas need to be very disciplined and dedicated to their work. When the production of western comic books is compared to the production of manga, comic book creators tend to have a lot more time to create and prepare the next issue, whereas mangakas only have one week, as the manga comes out weekly.

No matter how prepared the mangakas and publishers are, even if they start pre-drawing issues, the hectic deadline will still catch up to them quite quickly.

In some cases, the mangaka will only finish the next issue with only minutes to spare on their publishing deadline. 

In the case of work distribution, it will be quite shocking for most people to find out that one series of manga is usually only created by a single person.

This means that most mangakas need to create the drawing and story in the manga by themselves.  

Some mangakas do have assistants, but even this does not lessen the workload by much, as the manga deadline is extremely short, and with the mangakas that have assistants, the workload is still unequal as the responsibility of the whole manga still lies with the mangaka.

With all this pressure, the last thing the mangakas need is to add another worry, being color, to their plate, especially with the fact that color could mess up the original drawing if not done correctly, which means that the page may have to be redone from scratch again.

This color mistake could make the mangaka miss their deadline.  

 

Mangaka’s Take Pride In Their Work

Mangakas are often extremely proud of their work, as they put in so much effort and hard work into one single issue of a manga.

They are not only proud of their hard work, but they are proud to be a part of the manga history, as well as being a part of keeping these traditions alive. 

Mangakas will be the ones who draw the characters, and if there is color in the manga, then the mangaka is the only person who is allowed to add it to the pages; this is to ensure that it is done correctly and ruin the original drawing. 

The mangakas have extreme attention to detail, and even if they have assistants, they will often just do the work themselves to ensure a high quality of work.

Being a mangaka means that you need to be extremely dedicated, hardworking, creative, and most importantly, you need to be able to work under an immense amount of pressure. 

As you can see, this job is not for everyone out there, and mangakas know that they can be proud of what they manage to do in a week, and rightfully so. 

Mangas And Colored Artwork

As mentioned before, some manga do have color in them, and these color pages are usually reserved for special additions.

Some manga do have a few color pages at the start of every issue. However, this will depend on the specific manga and the mangaka who is creating it.  

Some manga may require fewer pages in an issue compared to another, so there may be time for the mangaka to add in some color. 

However, this is very rare, as the deadlines for manga are tight, and the mangaka will make the drawing as detailed as possible, which still takes a lot of time.

 

Manga does not have color for very specific reasons, but every mangaka and publishing agency will have their own reason as to why they do not include color in their own manga.

These reasons that have been mentioned above are just a few that the mangaka may have for keeping their manga monochrome. 

Manga is a very interesting and unique art form that has a rich history; if you love Japanese culture and are interested in reading something that is fun and exciting and different, then you should give manga a try - we are sure that it won't disappoint. 

 

Also Read: HOW TO BUY MANGA FROM JAPAN

 

Both anime and manga are a medium for storytelling, and they are both generally in the Japanese art style, but they are defiantly not the same thing. Anime is an animated TV series or film, while manga is a comic book or graphic novel. 

Both of them are a very interesting and unique way of storytelling, and they are both worth a try as you can very easily find a genre that you will enjoy and begin to love in both forms. 


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Article| 21/04/2021 | Anime/Manga