Anime Invasion - UK Anime and Manga Tsunami


By Barry Crisp

August 15, 2006

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A wide selection of manga is displayed in a UK bookstore.

Anime (cartoons) and manga (comics) have long been circulating the markets in Europe, America and Asia, but never have they been so addictive and popular in the UK until the past three years. Manga has never been a real hit in the UK for the simple reason - inaccessible in shops to buy. It's not surprising that major stores still don't know the difference between anime and manga. But with the growth and introduction of companies, such as TokyoPop publishers and Renga Media, and magazines like NEO, it is now possible to buy translated Japanese manga and anime in the UK.


The last two to three years have seen manga put on shop and library shelves respectively. TokyoPop publishing is at the core for giving birth to manga and making titles like 'Samurai Champloo' and 'Battle Royale' accessible in the UK. Manga lovers can now have access to a wide range of translated comics from major retail stores like WHSmith, Tower Records, HMV and Waterstones. Manga is no longer shoved in the corner, but has respectable spots on bookshelves. Shounen Jump (a weekly Japanese magazine consisting of several manga publications, which is where 'Naruto' made its debut) is but one of the favourites here in the UK. In the United States, these shows can be found on DirectStarTV or your local satellite provider.


The success of TokyoPop has prompted Harper Collins (publishing company) to publish the manga 'Buddha', which has become a very big success. TokyoPop not only publishes Japanese manga but also manga from western artists. Its known Rising Stars of Manga competition helps promote and recognize new manga talents in the UK and America.


As a heaven for lovers of Japan and its popular entertainment culture, the NEO magazine is the ultimate medium for finding out all the latest information necessary for anime and manga lovers. Published monthly, NEO is the only UK magazine with in depth content on Japanese anime, manga, reviews, and games. Two highlights of the NEO magazine are the pages filled with details on the history of manga and how to draw your own manga. "The NEO magazine is fantastic! It contains all the latest news and resources for anime and manga fans. I love it!" says NEO subscriber, Jamie Greenland.


The biggest craze sweeping the UK nation at present is the anime 'Naruto'.  Naruto has long been available to fan sub (fan subtitled) over the Internet. After its official licensed release in America, it has finally arrived here on UK television. "Fan subbing doesn't kill the anime market here in the UK. It promotes it! Fans would still buy the official merchandise if it becomes available," claims graphic design student, Claire Alexander.


Naruto first aired to UK viewers on 22 July 2006 on the Sky Digital Channel 'Jetix'. It has been the biggest anime to land in the UK since the long forgotten days of Pokemon, One Piece, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Dragon Ball (Z). Although the UK and American versions of Naruto have been edited badly (no blood can be shown on UK cartoons, and the American dubbed voices create different character portrayals), nevertheless, the action sticks to its original.


Why is Naruto so popular? Naruto is a story set in a slow-paced, relaxed setting, far away from capitalist society. It is a story filled with ninja's, friendship, love and determination to succeed and protect those around you. Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of Naruto, has been likened to Shakespeare for his excellent script writing and understanding of the human psyche.


In a recent anime MCM Expo in London, May 2006 (third year running), the Naruto cartoon proved to be the most popular Cosplay outfit amongst the crowd. Critically acclaimed anime 'Full Metal Alchemist' can be watched on UK Rapture TV and with its original opening and ending Japanese songs, which is something Naruto fans had hoped for. Anime and manga followers hope that Naruto's success will lead to the televised imports of other great animes like 'Bleach', 'Yakitate Japan', 'Beck', 'Samurai Champloo' (recently published in English, by TokyoPop), 'Mai Hime', 'Paranoia Agent', 'Aishiteru Ze Baby', and 'Samurai 7'.


It is important that anime and manga develop quickly in the UK for the prospects of our younger generation. The young are beginning to realize that there are resources to fulfill their artistic potential without thinking they need to be in the US or Japan to be manga artists. It's for this reason alone that we need to introduce more credible Japanese anime and manga onto our television screens and bookshelves.


Western manga and anime are more action and comedy orientated, where as Japanese works have a lot more variety, better background music and detailed illustrations, with deeper story lines closer to every day life. The Japanese influence to western manga and anime is prompting the West to use different styles of animation, including more adult orientated works. Film industries in the West are exploiting this influence to help make their movies. For example, the hit movie 'Matrix' introduced its anime spin-off, the 'Animatrix' to appeal and generate more profits from anime fans.


The future for UK anime and manga looks very bright and promising. Sweatdrop Studios helps to train and promote manga artists, and along with TokyoPop breathe new life and hope to the UK manga scene. Collaborations between UK and Japan appear to be a way forward, with UK based Renga Media having had collaborated with Japanese illustrators to create the big hit anime movie 'Dominator X'. While importing anime and manga are wonderful for UK audiences, we must most importantly help create, establish and promote our own UK anime and manga artists first.





NEO magazine:

Sweatdrop Studios:

Jetix TV:

Renga Media:

Rapture TV:

MCM Expo:



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