sma21 swa1 sma21

History lesson… with MANGA! – In education and schools

Mayuna Mizutani Mayuna Mizutani 08/05/2015 6 min read

*Japanese Female Students Open the Door to Knowledge with Manga

In 2014, the new release of a Japanese monumental shojo manga ‘The Rose of Versailles (Berusaiyu no Bara)’ became a hot topic. This manga by Riyoko Ikeda was serialized from 1972 to 1973. It is a dramatic story of romance unfolding around “the tragic queen” Marie Antoinette, a Swedish count Hans Axel von Fersen, and two fictional characters, Oscar François de Jarjayes (a beautiful lady raised as a man), and André Grandier (one of Oscar’s men, who is in love with her).

Disproving the common belief at the time that “historical manga do not sell well”, ‘The Rose of Versailles’ was so successful it became a social phenomena. With the number of fans increasing further thanks to the TV anime adaptation, it now holds great popularity in Europe too. In 2010, the author Riyoko Ikeda excited the audience at an anime festival in Rome (Romics Roma), by attending the parade in a cosplay of Marie Antoinette.

Although there are some fictional aspects, the story is generally faithful to the actual history. Riyoko Ikeda was awarded the Legion of Honor (L’ordre national de la légion d’honneur) in 2009, for her achievement in introducing French history and culture through manga.

There are indeed an uncountable amount of students who became interested in French history due to the influence of ‘The Rose of Versailles’. I have even seen a professor of history who keeps the entire series in his study.  The manga is recommended to the students as a supplement to learning about the French Revolution.

There are also many girls who start learning Heian ( Period of Japanese history running from 794 to 1185 ) literature at college due to the influence of ‘The Tale of Genji (Asakiyumemishi)’, drawn by Waki Yamato. This is a manga adaptation of a Japanese Classic ‘Genji Monogatari’, a story about the romance of Heian aristocrats.

With splendid a romance story and handsome protagonists, the story may appeal to girls for sure, but since the original version is written in an ancient style of Japanese, it is difficult for people today to fully understand it. This manga, which draws out the elegant life of the aristocrats with beautiful details, is a great aid to imagining the world of ‘Genji Monogatari’.

Manga was once considered to be an obstacle for education, but that view is now archaic. We are now seeing proof that it’s quite the opposite: Manga is a great tool to ingest new knowledge!

Students in Japan nowadays are opening the doors of knowledge, with help from manga!

(Kozue Aou)

Editor’s note :

We definitely hope this trend spreads to outside of Japan! In fact many of historical figures have “Educational Manga” series, like these wonderful example by Shogakukan :

There is even Steve Jobs! Along with Cleopatra, Darwin, Oda Nobunaga...

There is even Steve Jobs! Along with Cleopatra, Darwin, Oda Nobunaga…


We of course have many “Entertainment” Manga that is based on real historical figures too… like the excellent “Keiji” series by Tetsuo Hara. Many young generation in Japan are introduced to the historical legends via manga.

Loved by the nation, "Keiji Maeda" was a lesser known figure before the manga became the mega-hit!

Loved by the nation, “Keiji Maeda” was a lesser known figure before the manga became the mega-hit!

Do you see “Educational Manga” in your schools? If not, what would you like to learn via Manga? Please send us your comments below!

Mayuna Mizutani

Mayuna Mizutani