Here's Why Manga Are Black and White!

Why Manga is Black and White Explained
Credit: Yen Press

Why Manga is Black and White Explained
Credit: Yen Press

Apart from a few notable exceptions, manga are black and white, apart from the covers, and the occasional bonus pages. But why is that the case?

We've more or less accepted this as part of the aesthetic because it's always been this way.

Apart from those times when the anime adaptation shatters our headcanon by giving our faves different hair and eye colors than what we had imagined for them, we don't really mind.

But have you ever wondered if there are particular reasons for manga to be black and white?

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1. It's Traditionally Been This Way

Why Manga is Black and White - Tradition
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Credit: Tatsuki Fujimoto / Shueisha

While we tend to think of anime and manga as a relatively recent pop culture phenomenon, it's important to remember that manga has been around for a long time since the 19th century, even if they were popularized in the 20th.

Back then, coloring options were very limited. The increased demand for manga and the many opportunities to publish them post-WWII meant that black-and-white pages remained cost-effective and quick.

Moreover, there was no real reason to change something that had worked just fine in the past.

Nowadays, with art styles being more hybrid than ever, manga's lack of color helps tell them apart from webtoons, Korean manhwa, or even comics and graphic novels that are heavily influenced by the manga style.

Monstress, for instance, isn't a manga, despite being quite influenced by manga and anime aesthetics. This graphic novel series is colored, unlike manga.

2. It's Cost-Effective

Why Manga is Black and White - Cost
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Credit: Gege Akutami / Shueisha

In Japan and elsewhere, manga are very often bought by young people.

Their being black and white means that they can be affordable for the largest possible number of people.

Moreover, coloring would mean much more work for already tired and often underpaid artists, and be more costly for the team.

This being the case, colored manga would reasonably have to be more expensive.

In the West, manga isn't the most affordable book you can buy even in black and white (although there are some legal, affordable ways), so you probably wouldn't want their price to soar even higher.

Embracing the black and white costs nothing, and there's a certain charm about it!

3. Time Concerns

Why Manga is Black and White - Time
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Credit: Tatsuki Fujimoto / Shueisha

For many popular shounen manga, publishers and fans expect a weekly, or bi-weekly schedule, which means creators need to draw entire panels in a matter of days.

Compared to the US, where monthly releases are common, there are many more weekly manga.

This means that keeping everything black and white will help the mangaka adhere to their deadlines while delivering good stories that still look great.

The fact that many mangakas tend to do most of the work by themselves means that black and white will make distribution easier, and ensure a timely production with the least possible compromise of quality.

Do Manga Ever Use Color?

Do Manga Ever Use Color
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Credit: Tatsuya Endo / Shueisha

Black-and-white manga is the norm, but this isn't to say that mangakas never use color!

Volume covers are always colored, so you will eventually get to see what your favorite characters' hair and eyes really look like.

Moreover, there are a few cases of artists who will color their work because they enjoy it, even if they can't do it every time.

For instance, the duo Sho-ma-to, who is creating Shadows House, uploads their chapters in color on Young Jump after the original black-and-white release.

Discover more of our insights and the latest anime news by following us on Twitter @epicstreamanime.

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