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Why are manga read right to left? Has it always been so? Are there any exceptions?

(Flipped mangas are excused from this question.)

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    I don't think it's just manga. A lot of old Chinese texts were read right-left. A lot of which has carried on to today in many cultures. – Mysticial Feb 25 '13 at 18:38
  • This is related chinese.stackexchange.com/a/608/9508. Basically Chinese and Japanese characters are written from right to left and top to bottom, so the flow of the text stems from the flow of writing a single character. Imagine ending left after writing a word and then having to continue on the right, that would be quite impractical. – Peter Raeves Mar 5 '15 at 19:02
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The traditional Japanese written language goes from right to left.

Books in Japan tend to start from the "right-most" side. It's only natural that manga publications follow the same format.

Traditionally, Japanese is written in a format called tategaki (縦書き?), which copies the traditional Chinese system. In this format, the characters are written in columns going from top to bottom, with columns ordered from right to left. After reaching the bottom of each column, the reader continues at the top of the column to the left of the current one.

Modern Japanese also uses another writing format, called yokogaki (横書き?). This writing format is horizontal and reads from left to right, just like English.

A book printed in tategaki opens from what a Westerner would call the back, while a book printed in yokogaki opens from what traditionally in Japan would have been considered the back.

Wikipedia

  • Thank you. If possible, please also address my sub-questions. Are there any manga printed in yokogaki? Has it always been tategaki with manga? – coleopterist Feb 26 '13 at 1:51
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    @coleopterist Sometimes in manga there is text written left-to-right in horizontal lines (yokogaki), but the book itself is still "right-to-left oriented" (panels on the right are read first, the spine of the book is on the right). But if you're asking if there are any left-to-right oriented manga in Japan (panels on the left are read first, spine is on the left), I'm not sure. – atlantiza Feb 26 '13 at 19:51
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    @coleopterist I really don't know either. I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a flipped manga and one that's originally printed left to right – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Feb 26 '13 at 19:53
  • Do writings in yokogaki start at the western beginning? Or do they start at the back of the book, just the same as with tategaki? (Assuming they keep the same page order,) wouldn't it become confusing to read from left to right, but to turn pages from right to left? – Peter Raeves Mar 5 '15 at 19:08
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    @PeterRaeves Modern books written in yokogaki read exactly like English books in terms of page order, orientation, line order, etc. – senshin Mar 5 '15 at 20:43
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"Manga textbooks" for studying science and math are nice examples of what would be an exception. It's troublesome to keep the tategaki if you want to have some equations in them.

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