Why Manga is Black and White Explained

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Credit: Yen Press

Apart from a few notable exceptions, manga are most often black and white - apart from the covers, that is. We've more or less accepted this as part of the aesthetic, and, 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 why manga is black and white? Here are some reasons:

1. It's Traditionally Been This Way

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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 though they were popularized in the 20th.

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

2. It's Cost-Effective

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; coloring would mean much more work for already tired and often underpaid artists, and be more costly for the team. Therefore, colored manga would reasonably have to be more expensive.

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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

A lot of comics in the US are released monthly. In comparison, there are many more weekly mangas, which means that keeping everything black and white will help the mangaka adhere to their deadlines while delivering good stories that still look great.

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The fact that mangakas tend to do most of the work by themselves, and that what assistants they might have will only do so much, means that black and white will make distribution easier, and ensure a timely production with the least possible compromise of quality.