Graphic novels, comics, and cartoons are popular all over the world, and this includes the world of Japanese manga, along with Korean manhwa and Chinese manhua. All of these mediums involve visual storytelling and speech bubbles with text that tells a story, and fans of one are sure to love the other.
For example, a dedicated comic book collector in the West may be curious to try Japanese manga next, but may not be interested in stories suitable for children such as Pokemon or even standard shonen fare like One piece, dragon ball and Demon Slayer. Comic and graphic novel fans are used to a certain style of storytelling in terms of art and content, so to help bridge the gap between comics and manga, the typical comic book collector is recommended to start with seinen manga.
How is Seinen Manga superficially different from Shonen
Fans know that there is more to a comic book or manga series than just their art, but the visuals still play a key role in how the content of the story is presented and how it should be interpreted. Comic collectors often have their favorite artists, as do manga collectors, so any comic collector trying out manga or vice versa can start with the visuals. The graphic presentation of a comic or manga on the cover and pages can really tell the story, literally or otherwise, and that’s a powerful first impression that means a lot. A more seasoned fan who dives deeper can look past questionable or strange art to appreciate a good story, but for comic book collectors getting their first taste of manga, the amazing illustrations of seinen manga are a great place to start.
Unlike shonen manga, which tends to have relatively cartoonish imagery and is rated PG, or shojo manga, which favors visually flowery illustrations, seinen manga subjectively has strong artistic ties to Western comics, such as major Marvel and DC titles. Great manga artists can be found in all genres and demographics, but seinen has the best entry into the art style for comic fans looking for something new. Many of the best seinen manga titles such as Kentaro Miura FranticTakehiko Inoue’s Bum and Naoki Urasawa Monster they have not only some of the best manga artwork, but also artistic and visual storytelling cues that may feel familiar and intuitive to comic book fans. Aside from the black and white visuals and Japanese sound effects, manga series like these “feel” like comics and Western graphic novels, with mature, highly detailed and realistic visuals.
All of this helps to move seinen manga artistically away from the cartoons of the shonen franchises and closer to Western comics, and many comic fans can agree that this is for the better. Similarly, seinen tend to avoid the silliest visual cues of shonen and shojo such as chibi characters, outrageous facial expressions, and clichés like cat girls or cute animal mascots, further helping seinen avoid a heavy “anime” feel that comic book fans may not like at first. .
To be sure, many comic fans can and will like shonen’s goofier visuals, but when taking their first steps into manga, comic collectors may favor seinen and avoid the over-the-top anime-ism of shonen and shojo. Even with the increasing popularity of manga and anime in Western society, some comic book collectors or other users may reject shonen and shojo simply because they are “too anime”. That’s not a problem for seinen — anyone who flips Frantic or Vinland Saga they will see a real graphic novel, no Pokemon-style wackiness.
How Seinen Manga created thematic overlap with Western comics
In terms of content, storytelling styles, themes, and tone, seinen manga is far more similar to Western graphic novels and comics than shonen, although seinen and shonen still overlap somewhat. Namely, “seinen” is broadly defined, like any manga or anime aimed at older male consumers, which means it can be interpreted in different ways. Examples include My darling for dressing up and Kaguya-sama: Love is warwhich are far from any Batman or Daredevil title, but are still seinen. However, the most popular seinen titles are intuitively more similar to comics, and comic book collectors will easily find and appreciate them.
Thematically, seinen manga doesn’t have to be violent, dark, or R-rated, but it can be, and many seinen authors take advantage of that. In other words, seinen manga is freed from shonen’s kid-friendly constraints, so it can explore in depth many difficult and serious topics that shonen usually sanitizes or avoids entirely. Seinen manga also tend to have, on average, more sophisticated, morally ambiguous and thought-provoking material than shonen, often with the use of emotionally complex anti-heroes like Thorfinn Karlsefni or themes of the cost of revenge, as both Vinland Saga and Frantic.
Seinen also offers mentally engaging thriller-style stories such as Monster and based on gambling Kaiji Gambling Apocalypse — stories that feature grounded and somewhat relatable adult male protagonists that any comic book fan can appreciate. The plucky, starry-eyed 15-year-olds in shonen titles aren’t all that relatable or deep in the eyes of comic fans, but seinen is a whole other story.
In short, a seinen manga can explore any subject in any way with any type of character, and can be upbeat, cynical, funny, violent, graphic, or sophisticated as it wants. Seinen isn’t intentionally comic-like, but both areas tend to cater to 20- to 30-something male pop culture fans, so they mesh in many meaningful ways. Fans of both are sure to enjoy the other for what they have in common — and what makes each unique.