How To Read Manga [Understanding How It Works]

Reading a manga can be pretty daunting because it doesn’t follow the standard reading pattern. Furthermore, it requires interpreting symbols and deciphering overlapping text and images. So, how do you read manga?

Traditionally, manga is read like a regular book when printed. But when reading online, you read from the upper-right corner to the left and from top to bottom. It is the opposite of regular western comics, although they are also read from top to bottom.

If you are new to the manga world and want to know how it works, you’ve come to the right place. This article will teach you all you need to know about reading manga and where to get them online.

What is manga?

what is manga - lmshero

A manga is a Japanese storytelling comic that relies on visual elements to convey its message. Manga is usually published in magazines or read online and contains about 150–200 pages.

It is similar to normal comics and graphic novels because they can be read by all ages and offer many genres. These genres include mystery, political commentary, science fiction, comedy, and romance.

How to read manga online

Many people do not read manga because they do not understand how it works. Here is how to read manga.

Read from right to left

The first rule you should always remember when reading a manga online is that it is read from the right to the left. This is because they are written in the Japanese traditional writing system, which is left to right.

However, a few types of manga tried to adopt the right-to-left technique; unfortunately, it never became widespread.

Read from top to bottom

As with other English-language comics or graphic novels, you read manga from top to bottom. This sequence works in conjunction with the right-to-left rule.

Understanding how manga work

Aside from knowing what direction to read in, you must have other basic pieces of knowledge.

The knowledge will help you understand the visual and emotional messages being sent to the reader. Some of this basic knowledge are listed below;

1. Understanding each element

There are mainly three types of elements used in manga, and they include manpu, fukidashi, and gitaigo. These three elements are used to build up a manga story.

The manpu

Manpu are manga symbols that are used to express movement or emotions. These emotions can either be anger, sadness, tiredness, or embarrassment.

When these symbols become recognized by the reader regularly, their representation is better understood by the reader.

The fukidashi

Fukidashi elements are speech symbols or shapes that give voice to manga characters. Each shape of fukidashi represents a particular mood or emotion for the message.

Solid rounded fukidashi often represents normal speech from a character. While cloud-like fukidashi usually represents happiness, and spiky fukidashi denotes tension or surprise from a character in the manga.

The gitiago

Gitiago, also known as Giongo or Giseigo, is an element that imputes sound effects (in writing) and feeling into the story. These sounds are known as onomatopoeia words.

It is known that the Japanese language has more than 3 times the number of onomatopoeia words as the regular English language. This sound plays a huge role as it gives manga stories ample scope for expressing sound in words.

2. Understanding how the backgrounds work

Sometimes you come across a black background that changes or fades to white at the bottom. This usually denotes a flashback or a transition from the past to the present.

3. Understanding the honorifics used

In manga, an honorific is a title put at the end of someone’s name to denote their status, much like how we call people mister, miss, doctor, or engineer.

Below are some common honorifics used in manga and their meanings.

  • San: San is an honorific used among individuals around the same age.
  • Sama: Sama is a more respectful honorific than san, generally used to address special guests.
  • Kun: Kun is used to addressing males of younger age, although some might use this honorific for females also.
  • Chan: Chan is a diminutive honorific, and can be used for various age ranges. Using chan for an elder or a high-ranking individual is often termed rude.
  • Senpai and kohia: Senpia or sempia is an honorific used toward senior colleagues. Kohia, on the other hand, is used toward junior colleagues.

Where can you read manga online?

Originally, manga was published in printed format, but with the advancement of technology, the digital format has been developed.

Below is a list of some of the best online platforms to read manga.

1. Crunchy roll

Crunchy roll is available for iOS, Android, and browsers; it is a platform that allows you to stream anime. Additionally, with a premium membership, you can access a decent number of manga stories.

2. Comixology

Comixology app is also available on Android, iOS, Kindle fire, and Browser. It offers Western comics and a good slate of manga in its libraries.

3. Viz media

Viz media are one of North America’s biggest manga publishers, and the app is available for iOS and Android. It is an app that specializes in translating manga into English.

4. Shonen jump

Shonen jump is the Chinese counterpart of viz media available on iOS, Android, and Browser. They are Japan’s biggest manga publishers, and they offer several manga in their libraries.

5. Book walker

Book walker is similar to Amazon, but the app sells manga and other Japanese novels instead. It is available on Android, iOS, Windows, and the web.


Where can you read manga in English?

You can read manga in English using the viz media app. It is available on both iOS and Android.

Why are there more digital manga than printed ones?

It is because printing, shipping, and distribution are time-consuming. With the advancement of technology, digital manga has become more common than printed ones.

When did the use of manga start?

The use of manga started or appeared first in a Japanese newspaper at the end of the 19th century.

What is the person who writes manga called?

The person who writes manga is called a mangaka.


Knowing how to read and understand all the elements in a manga is the first step to enjoying it.

Generally, manga is read like a normal book, but when reading online, you read from the right to the left and from top to bottom.

Furthermore, you should know how the background, elements, and honorific work. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy not only the images and writing but also the emotions.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Visit LMS Hero to read more informational content.

Thanks for reading.