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As the international service of Japan’s public broadcaster tasked with bringing in-depth coverage of Japanese culture to global audiences, NHK World-Japan is one of the best sources of information on anime and manga. On its website, the Anime and Manga Spotlight section allows fans to explore the secrets of these industries through interviews with creators, in-depth looks at properties that have changed the world of entertainment, and other exciting content available in English or in Japanese with English subtitles.

Through this, fans can also get closer to Japanese culture. “When you ask people from overseas why they started studying Japanese,” said Yoshihito Kuroiwa, chief producer of NHK World-Japan, “they often answer that it was thanks to manga and anime. Nowadays, both words are known around the world and intrinsically linked to Japan. You often hear them used by foreign outlets and people on the street. That makes manga and anime a very accessible entry point for becoming familiar with Japan and its culture.”

Anime and Manga Spotlight’s content reflects that, with the “Anime Manga Explosion” program focusing on titles that “have gained an immense global following.” One of AME’s latest installments covered “Captain Tsubasa,” a franchise based on the Yoichi Takahashi soccer manga that debuted in 1981. Today, fans of the titular soccer prodigy Tsubasa Ozora include such big names as Andres Iniesta, a former Spanish national team midfielder who played at J. League first-division club Vissel Kobe from 2018 to 2023. “Multiple factors influenced my decision to come to Japan,” he said in the AME soccer special, “but playing in the birthplace of Captain Tsubasa is a great honor.” Similarly, when Lionel Messi joined FC Barcelona, he reportedly exclaimed “I’m on the same team as Tsubasa!” as the fictional character did indeed join the club later in the series.

“‘Captain Tsubasa’ is a world-class franchise, which is why we chose it as the focus of this program,” Kuroiwa said. “But the role of AME isn’t just to tell people to watch anime, but to provide information that will help them understand and enjoy this part of Japanese culture more.” That’s why the “Captain Tsubasa” special also focuses on things like Takahashi’s skillful use of manga panels for adding three-dimensionality and action to his story, as well as the origins of some of the series’ famous super shots.

"The Rose of Versailles," a comic book widely considered a timeless classic in Japan, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
“The Rose of Versailles,” a comic book widely considered a timeless classic in Japan, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Another AME segment available on the NHK World-Japan site showcases “The Rose of Versailles,” which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. A historic romance set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, the segment uses interviews with its creator Riyoko Ikeda to explore a production that’s had a lasting impact on feminist portrayals in manga for girls and teens.

Manga fans must also check out “Manben: Behind the Scenes of Manga with Urasawa Naoki.” In this series, whose title makes use of a portmanteau of manga and benkyo (study), the host and author of such bestsellers as “Monster” and “20th Century Boys” conducts interviews with artists to provide an unprecedented behind-the-scenes view of the process of manga creation.

Wataru Watanabe, the manga artist behind "Yowamushi Pedal," works at his studio. "Manben" provides a rare opportunity to go behind the scenes and see how manga are created.
Wataru Watanabe, the manga artist behind “Yowamushi Pedal,” works at his studio. “Manben” provides a rare opportunity to go behind the scenes and see how manga are created.

In “Manben,” artists invite fans to their studios and allow themselves to be filmed while crafting comic book pages and commenting on things like the pros and cons of drawing with a pen or brush, or the different creative styles of each artist, such as how some prefer working without storyboards while others plan everything out carefully beforehand.

“If you look at the hard work of the creators and their commitment, the way they create their stories, you may find your favorite work more enjoyable,” Kuroiwa explained. As a bonus, the series is presented in Japanese with English subtitles, bringing fans one step closer to the heart of Japanese culture.

To watch more videos on demand, visit the Anime & Manga Spotlight page.
To watch more NHK World-Japan programs, visit https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/pr/