Why Are Manga Books Backwards

Why Are Manga Books Backwards?

Manga books have gained immense popularity not only in Japan but all around the world. They have captivated readers with their unique storytelling, vibrant artwork, and distinct reading format. One of the most intriguing aspects of manga books is that they are read from right to left, which is the opposite of traditional Western reading habits. This article will delve into the reasons behind why manga books are backwards and answer some frequently asked questions related to this fascinating phenomenon.

Historical Origins:

To understand why manga books are backwards, we must delve into their historical origins. Manga, which translates to “whimsical pictures,” traces its roots back to the 12th century, where it first emerged in Japan. The traditional Japanese writing system was initially influenced by Chinese and Korean characters, which were read vertically and from right to left. This influence persisted even after Japan developed its own writing system, known as hiragana and katakana.

The Influence of Woodblock Printing:

In the 17th century, woodblock printing became a popular method of reproducing artwork and books in Japan. This technique involved carving images onto wooden blocks, which were then inked and pressed onto paper. To ensure the readability of the text and images, woodblock printing required that the books be printed from right to left. This printing technique played a significant role in establishing the right-to-left reading direction of manga books.

Preserving the Original Artwork:

Another reason why manga books are backwards is to preserve the original artwork. Manga is created with meticulous attention to detail, and the artists put enormous effort into crafting the layout and flow of the panels. By reading manga from right to left, readers can experience the story exactly as the artist intended, without any modifications made to the original artwork.

Localization Challenges:

When manga started gaining popularity outside of Japan, publishers faced the challenge of localizing the books for international audiences. Rather than mirroring the left-to-right reading direction, publishers decided to keep the original format intact. This decision was made to maintain the authenticity of the manga experience and to respect the artistic vision of the creators.


Q: How do I read manga books?

A: Manga books are read from right to left, starting with the rightmost panel on the page and moving towards the left. The dialogue bubbles and text are also read in the same direction.

Q: Why do some manga books have a left-to-right version?

A: In certain cases, manga books may have a left-to-right version, often referred to as “flipped” manga. This occurs when publishers decide to mirror the original artwork to cater to readers who are accustomed to left-to-right reading. However, these versions are less common and are usually meant for specific markets.

Q: Are all manga books backwards?

A: Yes, the majority of manga books follow the right-to-left reading format. It has become a distinctive characteristic of manga and is considered an integral part of the reading experience.

Q: Does reading manga backwards affect comprehension?

A: Initially, reading manga backwards may feel unusual to those unfamiliar with the format. However, readers quickly adapt and find that it does not hinder their comprehension. In fact, many argue that reading manga in its original format enhances the overall experience and allows for a deeper immersion into the story.

In conclusion, the backwards format of manga books is rooted in historical and cultural factors. It not only preserves the original artwork but also adds to the unique reading experience that manga offers. Despite its unconventional nature, manga’s popularity has soared globally, captivating readers with its captivating stories, intricate artwork, and distinctive right-to-left reading format.

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