Exploring the broadening horizons of Manga in India

90’s kids have grown up humming tunes of the Pokemon theme song, collecting ‘tazos’ and spinning many Beyblades in the craze of their favourite cartoons.

Manga, a unique style of art that is peculiar to Japanese Comics, has had a widespread influence over Indian viewers. A majority of the millennials who grew up watching Cartoon Network can recall being fascinated by a breadth of regaling and gripping Japanese content. Few people know that even Jungle Book, the series based on the Rudyard Kipling’s book was an anime (a Japanese style animation). 

India is one of the largest consumers of Japanese anime-styled content. Today’s kids are just as enamoured by a range of anime cartoons. Crayon Shinchan, another manga-based anime is among the top five shows for kids aged two to 14, competing with the likes of Chhota Bheem.

The unique style has managed to capture imaginations across the world with a cult-like following in many countries. To gauge the magnitude of manga’s influence on Indian consumers, we spoke to India’s first award-winning manga-styled webcomic, The Beast of Legion’s creator, Jazyl Homavazir.

Jazyl Homavazir

In answer to the question of what role manga plays in India, he said, “Manga/Anime awareness and love have grown exponentially in India since 2012. Whether advertently or inadvertently, the anime culture was always there from the 90’s including several shows like Ninku, DragonBall Z, Ninja Robots and more first hit screens. I remember in 2011 at comic con when I first launched my web manga, The Beast Legion, I could barely spot three-four people dawning anime character cosplays. Today more than half the cosplayers dress up as their favourite characters at almost every Comic Con. That being said, Comic-Con has played a huge role in increasing the awareness and has brought a huge company like viz media to officially release their titles here in India”

Appending the notion that manga has caught on with the fount of Indian consumer demands for quality content, he opined that Manga is a perfect medium to bring long-form character-driven storytelling through amazing art.

Speaking of his own journey, he continued, “Although back in the day, we never had access to any manga content due to the lack of the internet & hence we were mostly introduced to various series purely through TV in the form of anime. As a huge fan of cartoons and animation, I loved watching any shows which had varied art styles. Anime as far as I can remember started in India through AXN which started with shows such as Ninku, Yamato Takeru, Grander Musashi, Ghost sweeper and quite a few, back in the 90s although at that time my differentiation of the genres was very vague. However Anime truly made an impact when Cartoon Network first aired DragonBall Z (in 1996 I think), everyone in school was buzzing with this new action-packed show that didn’t shy away from the brutal action. I remember friends using their 512 Mbps connections to start downloading episodes online after CN stopped the series midway during the Goku/Frieza battle. It was unprecedented. That was the time, I actually felt Anime had landed. After DragonBall Z, Pokemon and Digimon took the centre stage. Even today, I believe India is one of the largest fan bases in the world when it comes to DragonBall Z and I’m hoping the new Broly Movie somehow makes it to theatres here.”

Comic Con has indeed been a harbinger of hope and promise as far as the spreading the awareness of this art-form goes. It has promoted creators of various art-forms and storytelling platforms. A confluence of forces has emerged in bringing consumers closer to the content of their preference.

Homavazir said, “I remember in 2011 when I attended my first Comic-Con, there were hardly 10 cosplayers who were dressed up as anime characters (mostly Naruto/Bleach) I instantly connected with them and most have been Facebook friends ever since. However within two years, there was so much awareness for the genre, we had anime clubs popping up all over social media, friends discussing the latest chapters so that meant new people joining the revolution. Before you knew it at comic con 2014, more than 50 percent of the cosplayers were Anime based and I had a 10-year-old coming up to my stall & sharing all the details of Naruto and how much he loved the show & it really put a smile on my face. It’s a time when I was convinced that as long as you present an amazing story in the best possible way kids of any age will love it. After that, I was associated with working on character designs for an Indian anime style show but sadly it never saw the light of day due to last moment funding issues. However, after that, I’ve been working on so many assignments related o anime art both locally and outsourced.”

Vegeta vs Toppo

Plenty of anime are based on Manga comics which were not previously available in India until online shopping companies began the sales of anime DVDs and Manga comics from other parts of the world.

However, It would be wrong to say that the anime culture isn’t developing in India. Growing fan clubs; online social media groups are providing great platforms to share and gather information; stores have come up with merchandise like clothes, cups, gift and other manga-related products. Awareness does seem to be spreading albeit at a slow pace.

Commenting on how Manga stands out from the rest and how he sees its future in India, Homovazir who’s the illustrator and creator of India’s first award winning Manga web-comic, The Beast of Legion added, “I personally love manga over any other comic style not just for the art but because of the long form storytelling that it brings for the readers. Everything from character development to interactions is woven so intricately in the story so it doesn’t actually matter if the art is coloured or black and white. Being an anime style artist from India, I’m very hopeful of the prospect of anime once again becoming mainstream and giving inspiration to animators and artists like me to create our own content in similar fashion and make an impact.”

If you are planning to start watching some of it, here are some of our picks: Death Note, Naruto, Hunter X Hunter, Dragonball Z, Fullmetal Alchemist, Fairy Tail, Pokémon, One Piece, Bleach, Attack on Titan, Cowboy Bebop,Code Geass, Clannad and One Punch Man.

The future of Manga looks bright as more and more people are beginning to respond to its charm. We hope that it continues to get all the love that it deserves. 

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