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So lately I have been noticing that a lot of people on fora tend to mistake manga and manhwa. And of course, I know that manga stands for comics made in Japan, and manhwa for comics made in Korea.

But what is the reason for the different naming? Or is there even a reason besides them coming from different lands to begin with?

In the end they are both comics with usually (a bit dependent on the artist/writer of course) same art/story building and the like.

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    I believe Manhwa is simply the Korean word for it. Apr 4, 2014 at 15:29
  • @MadaraUchiha Then why do so many people make a fuzz off it? Some anime related sites even ignore the whole existance of manwha (myanimelist) as if its a total differnt entity
    – Dimitri mx
    Apr 4, 2014 at 15:55
  • @Dimitrimx It's the same reason why people make such a fuss over "anime" vs "cartoons". Of course anime and cartoons are the same thing. Some people just want to make themselves feel special. Apr 4, 2014 at 18:20
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    don't forget manhua...
    – user2435
    Apr 5, 2014 at 11:09

2 Answers 2

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Briefly: manhwa is the Korean reading of the word 漫画, while manga is the Japanese reading.1 In their respective languages, both words basically mean the same thing - "comics". In English, we use the Korean reading manhwa to refer to Korean comics, and the Japanese reading manga to refer to Japanese comics.

Why do we have different words for these things? Because manhwa and manga are not the same thing.


To explain what I mean, let me backtrack a bit and talk about why we don't just call manga "comics". I know that these days there's something of a backlash against the idea that "manga" is a distinct thing from "comics", presumably a reaction against '90s-era weeabooism and orientalism that identifies Japanese art as some sort of elevated form that is beyond comparison with the art of the West.

There is a kernel of truth in this backlash, but it's been taken too far. Reasonable people today will probably agree that there isn't anything about manga that makes them inherently superior to Western comics - but it is certainly the case that manga and Western comics are different. In fact, aside from being of the same medium, manga and Western comics (for the most part) have essentially nothing in common! Art styles, typical plots / subject matter, character archetypes, form factors, publication methodologies, etc. all differ between manga and Western comics.

Now, manhwa and manga are more closely related than manga and Western comics, but the same principle still applies - there are salient differences between the two forms, which is why we often talk about them using two different words. Foremost among the differences is the fact that they're largely written by two different groups of people, and thus tend to reflect the interests of two different cultures. (Try telling a Korean person that their culture is basically Japanese, or vice versa - they probably won't be happy!)

In closing, I will reply to this claim of yours:

In the end they are both comics with usually (bit Dependant on the artist/writer off course) same art/story building and the likes.

There's more to art than just medium. Medium matters, but so does content, and it would be a gross oversimplification to claim that content of manga and manhwa are essentially the same.


Notes

1 More or less, anyway, modulo issues of character simplification.

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As senshin's answer said: though the medium might be the same, many things like processes, styles, story writing, country, etc. are different.

Conveying different art/writing styles

In my opinion, it's not even just a matter of X artwork/writer coming from Y country, but about how to convey the styles when introducing it to different people that may/may not know the works. It is because calling all of them "comics" would cause half the people to only get a vague idea about it if they don't know the style & name of the works called in English & not Japanese/Korean even if they accept that all works can be called "comics" in English, just like comics are called "manhwa", etc. in their language.

But if you use the word "manga"/"manhwa"/"manhua", people are more likely to be instantly conveyed of what style it is. So, the precision of words can give either instant recognition or confusion. So, not calling everything (manga, manhwa, manhua, chitra katha (Indian comics), webcomics/webtoons (webcomics on Line webtoons/other apps)) as "comics" may reduce some confusion.

Confusion due to generalization of comics

Half people are going to be confused as to what people are talking about.

Personal experience: I know a person who I had to handle really carefully because they thought I was talking about Marvel/DC (because they thought webcomics = American comics (DC/Marvel) whose art styles they disliked.

Generalization process: In America, those styles were more popular because a lot of people preferred a ratio of more action & less depth/psychological emotions back then, compared to mangas/manhwas. So, the same was more popularized & distributed around the world too, sadly generalizing its format.

It took me a good amount of explaining & showing the photos carefully to make them understand that no, it might be the comics as a medium, but comics as American comics & manhuwas/manhwas are very different things. So, they don't get totally averse to checking it out.

While even if they didn't know what manhwas were, they wouldn't have automatically presumed I was talking about comics & might have shown a bit of curiosity as long as I didn't use the word comics.

Difference in contexts & perspectives

So, we need to understand that the same word might mean something totally different according to context & person's social conditioning.

Alternatives

The other alternative is to call them "American comics", "Korean comics", "Japanese comics", "Indian comics", etc. But that's long & it's ok if you want to introduce it to different people that don't know the words manhuas/manhwas/mangas. Otherwise, just using their original countries' names is easier even if you speak English.

Global bending in of writers. Works' names are not about the writer's origin anymore as writers ―regardless of the country― make works of each other country's style, e.g. Japanese writers may make manhwa-style webtoons & American writers may make Korean-style webtoons & vice versa.

We can convey hybrid blend styles by just saying it's a mix of manhwa & manhua (e.g. The God of High School has a manhwa style artwork & anime/manga style writing). That too doesn't need to be stated as much unless the work is too different.

What each main/subcategory term instantly signifies. Anyway, just know that when people say:

  • Comics, they think of DC/Marvel (with exception of webcomics/webtoon readers).
  • Manga reminds them of greyscale Japanese mangas.
  • Manhwas reminds them of older physical Korean manhwas (if speaking to Koreans) + webtoons/webcomics (for people that read them).
  • Manhuas reminds people of ancient Chinese historical kinds of webtoons/webcomics (literally historical Chinese drama turned into comics).
  • Graphic novels which are a bit different from comics as well.
  • Light novels in Japan are different from just novels in the west.

Other causes of fuss: misnaming. Many make a fuss because that's what they're used to hearing & acknowledging it as. So, it feels like misnaming something important they like/generalizing something unique.

Imagine human misnaming that feels similar: like when people are annoyed a bit when someone calls your name differently & that name is similar to someone else's name once, then super annoyed when they keep hearing it as if that's your real name.

It feels like misidentification/attack on your identity when another person has no such intentions (usually unless someone's doing it deliberately for teasing purposes).

Generalized/over-simplified presumptions made about a work based on types of works. Imagine this conversation:

A: Hey, wanna read manhwas/webtoons?
B: (doesn't know what it is via experience/imagery so they presume) Oh, it's just comics, right? So, nah.

It hurts to hear that because American comics & mangas/hwas/huas may offer 4 completely different experiences. For many, manga/manhwas have been life-changing experiences. So, it hurts them to see people presume it's something they know & not a big deal without giving it a chance, even if it's nothing personal.

E.g. people thinking some shounen anime is just superhero cartoons & if they've already watched too many superhero movies/works, etc. they're tired of that genre & ignoring it. When genre-wise they might be similar, Bleach/Naruto/One Piece/My Hero Academia are different from Superman/Batman/Spiderman/Green Arrow. Some may like one more than the other, but they can be substituted easily, though maybe some prefer My Hero Academia that's closest to superhero works.

Comparison of superiority (sometimes unfair), another reason for fuss. Because though now American comics are online webtoons too & offer a lot more than just DC/Marvel like comics, sadly they aren't as popular.

As many like/prefer/consider manhwa/manga styles better & though sometimes it's true that manga/hwa/huas have better art style & diverse writing, it's not always the case, and though unlike some people, I didn't look down on/totally dislike American comics.

I used to wonder if American comics only have generic superhero stuff in it with similar storylines & I wished for something different in art styles/storylines. Though I knew that maybe there's a minority of different works that, I don't know. That is until I read some chapters of many underrated comics like Sithrah/Space Boy, The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn, Brothers Bond, etc. on Line Webtoon. They may still have that original American messy, edgy styles which do suit them & make them unique even if I still like manga/hwa/hua styles better.

Diverse context-wise reasonings. The point is, without context & asking the person's reasoning for their beliefs/unless we know which of circumstances they fit in, we can't fully presume just one reason as to know why they make a fuss about it. We can only guess a bit according to the circumstances I gave (whichever fits them better) & then ask their reasons.

Online aggresion. Some people getting excessively hyper about it & getting too aggressive about it isn't ok.

Middle ground/nuances: because I'm stating the reasons, both sides understand each other's reasons & both change their approaches/find a middle ground than insisting that they're right. People that want to call subcategories by names have practical reasons apart from just misnaming/respect/habit though. So, I personally prefer mentioning subcategories. But it doesn't mean I'm going to be as fuming as some people if someone missed it. Just that it'd cause me to type extra sentences & ask them what kind of work they're talking about & it can be a confusing conversation if someone calls every subcategory "comic"/"manga" due to misnaming. I hope that people that get extremely angry when it's misnamed can understand why other people say it too so they can strike a communication & explain why proper naming may reduce confusion.

Manga/anime are generalized too: yes, some people have a habit of calling everything "picture story"/"animation related" a "manga"/"anime" because similar to comics, that's a generalized word & because they don't know another word for it. And when they're introduced, they aren't habitual to it enough, so they forget.

e.g. animation style of/in:

  • America = cartoon
  • Japan = anime
  • Korea = aeini
  • China = donghua

But since only anime is worldwide popular today, succeeding cartoons people use the word "anime" for aeini/donghuas too (which aren't as different as cartoon & anime)

Hope I covered some other points other than which senshin made.


Similar example of cartoon & anime

Avatar the Last Airbender debate

E.g. How there was a lot of debate over if Avatar the Last Airbender is a cartoon or an anime when it's a mix of both style-wise, like a cartoon-anime hybrid, but there is no word for the blend, hence the confusion.

Word for anime & cartoon hybrid blends. I too was confused about what to call it, cartoonime/animetoon/carnime... none, except "animetoon" came naturally because maybe I've heard that word before somewhere. But calling it a blend/hybrid of both suffices to explain what it is too. But most people lean towards anime due to its style being so similar to anime. And I try to add that it's a blend when I can so I don't discredit the cartoon side.

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