What Is Raw Manga?

By Eric Benac

Merriam Webster's dictionary defines manga as “A Japanese comic book.” Manga runs a wide gamut from superhero stories to gritty, real-life crime dramas. Manga in America has been translated into English to make it easier for Americans to read. There is a subset of manga called raw manga which some collectors prefer.


Raw manga is manga that hasn’t been translated into English. It is the same book readers in Japan would be reading. It usually features the same art work as the translated American version. Sometimes, the art work is changed in the translated copies. Sometimes, the story lines are slightly altered as well. These changes often reflect the different cultural milieu of America and Japan. Art and stories that are culturally appropriate in Japan may be considered offensive to American readers. Raw manga is not shipped to America. which makes it harder for American manga readers to collect.


Manga readers that collect raw manga often prefer it because it presents the comic book in its original format. Translating between two languages often leaves certain aspects of the original missing or poorly translated. This can ruin the ideas or change it drastically. Raw manga readers want to read it the way artist and author originally intended without any translation errors or alterations in the story. Readers who are learning Japanese also read the original Japanese copies as reading comprehension practice. Some users may even use it as translation practice, using the translated manga as a guide for their own translations.

Physical Sources

Comic book stores sometimes have an import section. These sections include imports from many different countries, including Japan. You may find raw manga in these import sections. Speak to the attendant at the book store and ask if they do import orders. Some shops may have a list of the books they will import, including a price list. Importing can be expensive, so check the price list before ordering. Major book chains, such as Waldenbooks, will sometimes have an import section you can check for raw manga. These book chains may have more resources for importing than a small, independently run shop.

Online Sources

Raw manga is available from a variety of sources online. Online shops, like Japan’s Amazon division, Nippon Export and others, take book orders from around the globe. Websites, like Raw Scans and Crazy Manga’s Raw Manga, list feature full page scans of multiple books. These sites are updated regularly with new books. These sites are usually free to use. Some use a donation based method to help pay for the costs of purchasing and scanning the manga. Downloadable versions are also available using programs, such as Soulseek or BitTorrent. These downloads may have viruses attached to them which makes them risky to download.