Manga Intro Syllabus

[This course was taught in German, and the following course details are translated from German.]

Course title: Manga – Introduction to History and Theory

Instructor: Martin de la Iglesia

As taught at: Heidelberg University (Germany), Institute for European Art History

As taught in: Winter 2022/23

Level: Undergraduate (B.A. / Proseminar)

Course description: A comics industry in Japan developed relatively late under the influence of U.S. newspaper strips, but since the second half of the 20th century, the Japanese comic market outperforms all others in terms of audience size and amount of turnover. Today, the ‘manga look’ dominates the pop cultural image production in Japan and has also reached a considerable impact abroad. It is appropriate that now the field of (European) Art History also approaches the manga phenomenon with its own methods. In this course we get to know some of the most important manga of the last 100 years (longer series in excerpts), so that at the end of the semester we will have gained an overview of the development of comics in Japan and its major genres and artists. At the same time we will acquire, by reading secondary literature, methods with which not only Japanese but also most other comics can be analysed.

Recommended reading:

• Miriam Brunner: Manga. Paderborn 2010. [German]

• Paul Gravett: Manga. 60 Years of Japanese Comics. New York 2007.

• Toni Johnson-Woods (ed.): Manga. An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives. New York / London 2010.

• Brigitte Koyama-Richard: One Thousand Years of Manga. Paris 2007.

• Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere and Ryoko Matsuba (eds.): Manga. London 2019.

In-class presentation assignments

(One per student and – usually – per week. Only the first volume in a series needs to be covered.)

1. Nobutsume Oda & Katsuichi Kabashima: Shō-chan no bōken (Shō-chan Adventures), 1923. Translated and narrated by Nicholas Theisen at

2. Gajo Sakamoto: Tank Tankuro, 1934.

3. Osamu Tezuka: Janguru taitei (Kimba, the White Lion), 1950.

4. Chikako Urano: Attack No. 1 (Mila Superstar), 1968.

5. Kazuo Koike & Gōseki Kojima: Kozure ōkami (Lone Wolf & Cub), 1970.

6. Riyoko Ikeda: Versailles no bara (The Rose of Versailles), 1972.

7. Shigeru Mizuki: Sōin gyokusai seyo! (Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths), 1973.

8. Katsuhiro Ōtomo: Akira, 1982.

9. Masamune Shirow: Kōkaku Kidōtai (The Ghost in the Shell), 1989.

10. Jirō Taniguchi: Aruku hito (The Walking Man), 1990.

11. Naoko Takeuchi: Bishōjo senshi Sailor Moon, 1991.

12. Masashi Kishimoto: Naruto, 1999.

13. Kiyohiko Azuma: Azumanga Daiō, 1999.

14. Milk Morinaga: Kuchibiru tameiki sakurairo (Cherry Lips), 2003; OR (student’s choice):
Y. Fumino: Hidamari ga kikoeru (I Hear the Sunspot), 2013.


(Usually one per week.)

1. Scott McCloud: Understanding Comics. The Invisible Art. 1993. Chapter 1.

2. Scott McCloud: Understanding Comics. The Invisible Art. 1993. Chapter 3.

3. Nathalie Mälzer: “Taxonomien von Bild-Text-Beziehungen im Comic”, in: Nathalie Mälzer (ed.): Comics – Übersetzungen und Adaptionen. Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2015, pp. 47–63.

4. Ernst Gombrich: Chapter X, “The Experiment of Caricature”, from: Art and Illusion. A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. 1960.

5. Lambert Wiesing: “Die Sprechblase. Reale Schrift im Bild”, in: Realitätseffekte. Ästhetische Repräsentation des Alltäglichen im 20. Jahrhundert. Paderborn: Fink, 2008, pp. 25–46.

6. Neil Cohn, “Japanese Visual Language. The Structure of Manga”, 2007,

7. Jan-Noël Thon: “Who’s Telling the Tale? Authors and Narrators in Graphic Narrative”, in: Daniel Stein / Jan-Noël Thon (eds.): From Comic Strips to Graphic Novels. Contributions to the Theory and History of Graphic Narrative, 2nd ed., Berlin / Boston: de Gruyter, 2015, pp. 67–99.

8. Jason Dittmer: “Serialization and Displacement in Graphic Narrative”, in: Rob Allen / Thijs van den Berg (eds.): Serialization in Popular Culture, New York / London: Routledge, 2014, pp. 126–140.

9. Lukas R. A. Wilde: “Meta-narrative Knotenpunkte der Medienkonvergenz: Zu den medienwissenschaftlichen Potenzialen des japanischen kyara-Begriffs”, in: Hans-Joachim Backe et al. (eds.): Ästhetik des Gemachten: Interdisziplinäre Beiträge zur Animations- und Comicforschung. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2018, pp. 109–149. DOI: 10.25969/mediarep/11963

10. Marco Pellitteri: The Dragon and the Dazzle. Models, Strategies and Identities of Japanese Imagination. A European Perspective. Latina: Tunué, 2010. Chapter IV until IV-2, i.e. pp. 177–204.

11. Antonia Levi: “The sweet smell of Japan”. Animation in Asia 23 (2013), No. 1, pp. 3–18.

Cyberpunk book chapter on Akira and Ghost in the Shell now available online

Two years ago, The Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture was published, containing a short chapter by Lars Schmeink and me on the seminal anime films by Katsuhiro Ōtomo and Mamoru Oshii. Lars Schmeink has now put a pre-proof HTML version of that text on his website, and I have uploaded a post-print / accepted version (i.e. without the publisher’s layout) to Humanities Commons where you can read and download it free of charge. Now I can proudly say again that all my publications are available in Open Access.

Paper “Art History, Japanese Popular Culture and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics” published

It already feels good to get a PhD thesis completed and submitted, and defended. But the icing on the cake was to receive the ‘August-Grisebach-Preis’ of the Institute of European Art History at Heidelberg University for one of the two best dissertations of the year! Along with the award came the honour of giving a speech at the semester opening of the Institute in October. Usually such a speech would be a summary of the thesis, but I thought it would be more interesting for both the audience and me if I talked about a different topic (that still is loosely related to that of my thesis).

When I received the news in early August, I was engrossed in the Olympics, and I felt that as an expert on Japanese pop culture, I might have an interesting thing or two to say about the manifold ways in which manga, anime etc. were present at that event. At the same time, I wanted to make some statements about the place of (Japanese) pop culture in (European) Art History, and discipline-specific approaches to it. Perhaps that was a bit of a tall order for a twenty-minute talk, but I’m still happy with the way it turned out, so I decided to translate it into English, add some footnotes and publish it on Humanities Commons:

(This also marks the first time that I deposited something on Humanities Commons. So far, I’m very pleased with it.)

Here’s the abstract:

Spectators of the 2020/21 Olympic Games were frequently confronted with references to Japanese popular culture, particularly at the opening and closing ceremonies. However, these references to anime, manga, video games and other visual media were often so subtle that they were easy to miss unless pointed out and explained by television commentators. Art historians should not shy away from engaging with such objects and images.


A page from Crying Freeman ch. 7 by Kazuo Koike and Ryōichi Ikegami.

There has been an unusually long silence on this weblog, but for a good reason: two months ago, the evaluation reports for the PhD thesis I had submitted in late August 2020 arrived at long last, and then I had to prepare for my viva voce a.k.a. oral defense a.k.a. disputatio – which I passed on June 30. Hooray! (Or should I say, yatta!)

However, my journey towards a PhD is far from over, as I still need to turn the thesis into a book. I’m already negotiating a deal with a publisher, and when the book is available I’ll make sure to advertise it here. In the meantime, regular blogging (at approximately 1 post per month) will resume shortly, so stay tuned.

Article on animal liberation in comics published

The latest issue of Closure. Kieler e-Journal für Comicforschung contains a special section on “Eco-comics” to which I contributed one of its four articles. According to the issue introduction,

Martin de la Iglesia’s »Formal Characteristics of Animal Liberation in Comics«, which closes the special section, shares with the preceding articles a concern with the comics form. Particularly, de la Iglesia investigates if comics associate the specific scenario of animal liberation with a formal correlative – and if the comics form is geared towards a presentation of »animal communication and perception« (91) at all. And indeed: some commonalities emerge from the analysis of open cages, sudden flight, and abject suffering in Animal Man, Daredevil, We3, and Pride of Baghdad. In its detailed close readings and search for an overarching graphic rhetoric of liberation, the article pays particular attention to the ›expressive‹ potential of comics devices and the degree to which observers alternately share and are distanced from animal minds.

Read my article “Formal Characteristics of Animal Liberation in Comics” for free in HTML or PDF.

PhD thesis “The Early Reception of Manga in the West” submitted!

These are three copies of the thesis, mind you. It doesn’t span three volumes!

After many long years in which there seemed to be hardly any progress at all, my dissertation about English and German manga translations in the late 1980s and early 90s is now completed. Last week I submitted it to Heidelberg University.

When I started this weblog in 2012, I had thought it was going to be a ‘watch a PhD thesis grow’ type of journal, but I quickly abandoned that idea and blogged about all kinds of other things instead. So even if my journey towards a PhD is slowly but surely coming to its end, The 650-Cent Plague isn’t going away. Regular readers might have noticed that the posting frequency has recently slowed down from two posts per month to one. Nevertheless, I still enjoy writing these blogposts and I’m already looking forward to the next instalments of the regular series, such as the horror manga review for Halloween, the year-end best-of list in December, the Women’s History Month theory post in March, and the Warren Ellis politics post on May 1.

Plus, if and when my PhD thesis gets turned into a book, rest assured that you’ll read about it here.

Book chapter on Akira and Ghost in the Shell (the anime) published

The Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture, edited by Anna McFarlane, Graham J. Murphy, and Lars Schmeink, has been published last month. This book contains a chapter co-authored by Lars Schmeink and myself, titled “Akira and Ghost in the Shell (Case Study)”, on pp. 162-168. Rather than discussing the manga, this short text focusses on the theatrical anime versions (Ōtomo 1988, Oshii 1995) and their relation to cyberpunk. (For Akira the manga and cyberpunk, see my earlier journal article in Arts.)

The Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture contains many more chapters of which some deal with comics and anime and might be of interest to readers of this weblog. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for a table of contents. While the printed book is a bit on the pricey side, consider recommending it to your library for acquisition, borrowing it via interlibrary loan, or purchasing the e-book version.

Poll: Manga Readership Before 1994 / 1997

I’m conducting a short poll on manga readership outside of Japan (primarily in English-speaking countries) before 1994. If you have read any manga back then, please take a minute (or five, but it probably won’t take longer) to participate:

Please note that there is a German version with different reply options; residents of German-speaking countries who have read manga before 1997 are asked to use this one:

The poll closes on December 15, 2019.

Thank you!

It’s Wikipedia Asian Month again

Wikipedia Asian Month 2018 official logo

November is Wikipedia Asian Month. Each year, Wikipedians are invited to write new articles relating to any aspect of Asia. Depending on the number of articles you manage to create within this month, you are awarded bronze, silver and gold virtual badges (though that might be specific to the German Wikipedia), and anyone who creates at least 4 articles gets a postcard (by snail mail!) from a random Asian country.

If you’re reading this weblog, chances are you’re particularly knowledgeable about manga, so how about participating in Wikipedia Asian Month by checking if there’s any manga or mangaka not yet in the Wikipedia of your choice (but should be)? However, there are two caveats:

  1. Make sure that any articles you’re about to create meet the appropriate notability guidelines. There’s already too much stuff in Wikipedia that shouldn’t be in there, and if no one else cares about the topic of your article, it won’t get improved much by the Wikipedia community.
  2. I won’t say “Writing a Wikipedia article is easier than you think”, because probably the opposite is true: successfully creating an article takes a lot of effort, particularly because you need to properly cite published sources for everything you say.

Last year I took part in Wikipedia Asian Month for the first time and created articles on the German Wikipedia on a Japanese live-action film and its director, an anime voice actor, and an anime series. This year I’ll try to reach 4 articles again on the German Wikipedia, maybe with a stronger focus on manga this time.

Paper “Japanese Art in the Contact Zone: Between Orientalism and ‘Japansplaining’” published

More than two years ago, I gave a conference paper titled “Japanese Art in the Contact Zone: Between Orientalism and ‘Japansplaining’”. The proceedings of this conference, Migrations in Visual Art, have now been published as an Open Access PDF at (doi: 10.4312/9789610601166, ISBN: 978-961-06-0116-6). There you’ll also find a table of contents with links to the PDFs of the individual papers. Again, this paper isn’t about comics, but I dare say it’s relevant to anyone interested in transnational manga reception. Here’s the abstract as published in the proceedings:

After WWII, Japan came to be economically and politically at eye level with its
former enemy nations. Therefore, one cannot say that the Western reception of
Japanese artworks takes place within an actual context of an asymmetrical power
relation. Yet, European and American audiences often approach Japanese art from
a position of perceived superiority. Overt and subtle traces of this attitude can be
detected in reviews and other texts on Japanese artworks ranging from the films of
Akira Kurosawa to the photographs of Nobuyoshi Araki.