Original English Language Manga, occasionally abbreviated as OEL Manga, is a comic book or graphic novel created in the English language that draws artistic inspirations from the aesthetics and storytelling of Japanese comic books, known internationally as manga.

The elements of manga imitated by OEL manga varies based on individual cases of artistic license and publisher’s discretion. OEL manga can be characterized by western faithfulness to any single or combination of factors which can include artistic choices such as the aesthetics of character and setting design or the emphasis of storytelling concepts and devices associated with Japanese fiction like Kaiju (giant monsters), Mecha (giant robots) or Harem (romance characterized by love triangles featuring several members for one romantic partner), as well as production choices for the publication such as digest sized bindings or reading from right to left.

OEL manga has seen publication in Western civilization as early as the late 1980s due to works from comic book publisher Antarctic Press such as Ninja High School and Gold Digger, categorized at the time as American Manga or Amerimanga, with terms such as Euromanga being used to describe the same concept when applied to such comic books originating from various European countries.

At the turn of the millennium however, the concept of OEL began a steady increase in popularity, eventually contributing to the rise of North American manga distributor Tokyopop. In addition to their authentic releases of popular and high selling manga licenses, reading from right to left, Tokyopop would eventually begin to team up with independent creators in order to license wide and mainstream releases of OEL manga, increasing the exposure of independent creators while additionally increasing their own number of content licenses. The move to license more OEL eventually led to the creation of the Rising Stars of Manga, an initially bi-annual turned annual contest to highlight some of the best work that OEL manga had to offer in an anthology release, with the best entries subsequently developed for series release, such as Van Von Hunter, Bizenghast and the critically praised My Dead Girlfriend. Tokyopop also released several OEL manga adaptations of big name franchises outside of the immediate demographic of traditional manga readers such as Warcraft and Star Trek.

The advent of web comics in an age of internet prevalence has additionally accelerated the exposure and popularity of OEL manga. Web comics, such as Megatokyo and stories from sites like Snafu Comics have won several Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards and Vampire Cheerleaders vol. 2, despite its content being posted online at its website for free viewing, became a New York Times Manga bestseller in 2012.

Reasons for OEL manga’s appeal to comic book readers across multiple demographics vary. Some speculate that the stylized visuals with comparatively less emphasis on text and onomatopoeias to deliver scene exposition and sound effects make for a more energetic and dynamic reading experience while others speculate that the broad range of subject matters perhaps offer a variety lacking in mainstream Western comic books, which may appeal to a more homogenized audience.

— Jordan Wright

Further Reading

  • Acosta, Angela Moreno. “The “Japaneseness” of OEL Manga.” Drawing New Color Lines: Transnational Asian American Graphic Narratives (2014): 227.
  • Petersen, Robert S. “The acoustics of manga.” A Comics Studies Reader (2009): 163-171.