I’ve been reading manga for 4-5 years now and weirdly, I never stopped to wonder Why Manga are black & white. Until yesterday when I was reading Chainsaw Man manga, the thought just popped into my head about how much better the reading experience would be if they were in color. So, Why aren’t they? Well, I did some research…
Manga are black & white because it would be much more expensive to color them and take more time to publish the chapter which is an issue since most manga release chapters on a weekly basis.
It’s cost-effective and faster, and also gives the artist creative freedom, allowing them to focus more on the artistic elements and creating visual impact.
Plus it also helps make the manga a little easier on the buyer’s pocket while also generating good profit for the creators and the publishers.
Brief History Of Manga Coloring
History also plays a part in the reason manga are made in black and white. In the post-war period of 1945-1952, an artistic boom occurred in Japan with some of the very first manga artists becoming popular.
When manga printing started, they were printed in black & white due to the technological constraints and cost considerations of printing. Over time it became a tradition to make manga in black and white. Even now that tradition is followed.
In the last decade or so, there’s been a rise in digitally released manga. Manga authors and publishers release manga chapters online on their websites which the fans can read by paying a certain amount or even for free.
With the growing number of online readers of manga, fans started coloring their favorite manga by themselves and releasing them online for free.
Various Reasons Why Manga Are Black & White
Manga artists already have a lot of work on their plates and no one would want to add to that, especially coloring really complicated and detailed drawings. I mean just look at this manga panel from One Punch Man, I honestly wouldn’t wanna be the one tasked to color that, and this isn’t even the craziest one out there.
Coloring 20ish manga pages to perfection by hand is already a tough job and it becomes even tougher when the drawing is really detailed. Coloring manga can be a really difficult job and choosing not to do it just makes it easier for the artists.
2. Artistic Choice
The colored manga would look good and all but there’s just something about the black-and-white manga that makes them special. The manga artists use black and white to their advantage and give us visually astonishing manga panels that make you question if they were really drawn by hand.
You would often see manga artists use a darker shade to set the tone of a dark scene, creating a sense of suspense and foreboding. It also helps in better capturing facial expressions, and swift movements, and creating a sense of depth on the page.
The use of black and white helps enhance the various artistic aspects of the story that colors just wouldn’t be able to do.
3. Price of Manga
Coloring would obviously add to the cost of manga production. An extra assistant would be needed to color the manga pages, plus the cost of color printing is more than black & white printing. So, the prices of manga volumes and weekly magazines would increase as well.
Most of the manga readers are school kids and Young adults who of course have a tight budget, especially school kids who get a fixed allowance each month. Coloring manga would make it harder for the readers to buy it.
Most manga publish chapters in weekly magazines which forces the author and the artist to complete the chapter in only 7 days.
A lot of manga artists work alone, and due to the tight schedules and weekly releases, they just don’t have the time to color the manga. Many authors have an assistant and sometimes even multiple assistants but even then, it would be too much work for them to color a 20-25 pages manga chapter each week.
For example, the above panel from the Naruto manga alone took the author Masashi Kishimoto three days to draw. Can you imagine how hard it would have been for him to draw the rest of the chapter in so little time?
Color adds to the weight of the manga making them harder to handle in bulk. The light weight of black and white manga makes it cheaper and easier to transport them in bulk to manga stores around the country.
Are There Any Colored Manga
If you read manga, you obviously know that the covers of manga volumes are colored. The artists also often bless us all with colored character designs in the manga which helps us visualize the black & white characters in color while reading the manga. You might also come across colored manga panels that are done as a celebration of occasions such as reaching 100 or 500 chapters, especially for manga like One Piece and Naruto.
But are there any fully colored manga out there? Well, there are.
There are Fan-Colored manga available online on scanslation websites. A group of individual artists works together on a project, coloring the manga panels and making it available on the internet.
Where to Read Colored Manga
There are various sites where you can read fan-colored manga for free. Check out sites like Kissmanga, Mangadex, Mangakkalot, Mangakatana, and such to check if they have colored versions of the manga you want to read.
These websites host a vast collection of manga across all genres from Action and Adventure to Romance and Shojo. Here are the 10 Best Free Manga Reading Sites
But, personally, I would recommend using the Tachiyomi app for Android, the best Manga reading app out there. In Tachiyomi, you can have all the websites and manga in one place using its extensions. To learn more, check out my article Tachiyomi: The Best Manga Reading App.
Colored Manga vs Black & White Manga
|Colored Manga||Black & White Manga|
|Releases of colored manga chapters are not fixed since they’re done by fans.||Releases are fixed – either weekly or monthly.|
|Visually stunning anime-like colored manga panels. The coloring if done right can give us masterpieces.||Also visually amazing and most would even prefer it in black & white.|
|Consistency can be an issue since the coloring is done by a large team of colorists with each individual having different skill levels.||Consistency is maintained since coloring is done by expert manga artists and colorists.|
|Sometimes, coloring can destroy the artistic aspects of the manga panels.||It highlights the parts that the author wants and delivers the story as intended by the creator|