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This peculiar comic format goes by many names: Viz Media calls it Ani-Manga, Tokyopop calls it Cine-Manga, the Japanese publishing industry uses the terms film comic or anime comic, and various versions of the concept around the world have been called things like photonovels, fotonovela, fumetti, and more. They’ve also been used for many different purposes over time. Before home video existed, Star Trek fans in the ‘70s could relive their favorite episodes through official “Fotonovels” that turned screenshots from the show into easily digestible books. Latin America and Italy also had their fair share of photo comics, used for existing properties as well as original melodramas and public health education.

Anime-related photo comics are still made today, although mostly for properties that don’t have manga versions (such as Ghibli movies and non-canon anime films). But the vast majority of them came out in the 2000s, when Viz and Tokyopop released dozens of titles under the Ani-Manga and Cine-Manga names. Some were translated from Japanese publications, such as the Inu-Yasha Ani-Manga, while others were original English language comics that covered everything from Avatar: The Last Airbender to Lizzie Maguire.

At this time, anime was the hot new thing among children and teens, but they weren’t as used to manga yet. It was difficult to get consistent English releases of anything but the most noteworthy titles, so Western audiences didn’t always know how to approach a black-and-white comic with a sketchier art style that you had to read right-to-left. Nowadays, any otaku worth their Pocky can read and understand manga without a problem, but it makes sense that in those earlier days, an exact replica of a popular anime in full-color comic format would make more sense to these readers.