Introduction: How to Read Manga

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Ever tried to read a manga? It's strange at first, perhaps you had no idea which way to read the dialogue, flipped the pages the wrong way, or couldn't navigate the panels? If you're simply stuck, this guide is here to put you on the right course.

Step 1: Backwards, You Say!?

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The most important thing to remember when reading a manga is that the pages turn in the OPPOSITE direction you would turn them reading a novel. The "back" of the manga is actually the front cover. NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, read a manga like you would a comic book or novel, lest you spoil the ending!
Dialogue, as well as sound effects and narration, are also read "backwards". For example, look at the second image. The narration is read from the top right corner, moving down the left. When properly read, it would say "Humanity had been emigrating excess populations to space for over half a century. Hundreds of enormous space colonies floated in orbit around the Earth.".

Step 2: What's Up With the Panels?

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Panels in manga may seem to flow clunkily or awkwardly at a glance. It is often left to the read to decipher the ordering, as there is no really set manner in which the panels flow. For example, in this image, you would read the top panel first, go down the right panels, and then to the left panel.

Step 3: Understanding the Honorifics, As Well As Some Other Basic Japanese Quirks and Phrases.

Picture of Understanding the Honorifics, As Well As Some Other Basic Japanese Quirks and Phrases.

Note, this is MUCH more common in fan translated manga, officially translated manga often remove honorifics and whatnot.
An honorific is a word you put on the end of someone's name to denote their status, sort of like the titles Doctor and Mister. Here you can find a list of the honorifics and their usage in the Japanese language.

San- a respectful honorific, often used among individuals around the same age. Something like "Mister" or "Miss".
Sama- A more respectful version of San, often used towards guests or customers.
Kun- A respectful honorific used towards males of a younger age, though this is not a hard rule. Teachers may use this honorific to address their female students.
Chan- a diminutive honorific, used with one you find endearing. Generally, the suffix is used with children, teenagers, and less commonly, grandparents. Attaching "Chan" to a superior's name is often considered condescending and rude.
Senpai/Sempai and Kohai- Senpai is used towards senior colleagues, while Kohai is for junior colleagues.

Another quirk of the Japanese language is that the family name is said first, then the first name second. For example, Amuro Ray, as he is known in the western world, would be called Ray Amuro in Japan.

Step 4: Recommendations

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Now that you've got a basic idea on how exactly to READ a manga, it's time you go and pick one up, if you haven't already.
There are many, many, MANY manga out today, but to start you should read some of the best of the best. Popular manga series out today include Bleach, One Piece, and Fairy Tale. Personally I have not read any of these, but I do have a few recommendations myself, including Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Elfen Lied, Oyasumi Punpun, and Macross: The First.
Now, go! You have been equipped with knowledge, and the ability to use it! Go enjoy the enormous world of manga!

Comments

seamster (author)2014-09-12

Very insightful! I learned a lot.

Thanks for sharing this!

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