Manga is a Japanese comic book, and an anime is a TV animated show derived from a manga. Anime and manga are also, perhaps the nerdiest thing that someone can profess to enjoy that isn't AD&D or WoW.
Manga is generally the starting point of all anime, though there are the ocasional ones that are, surprise surprise, original . But pretty much every noteworthy anime series started out in the form of manga (the printed form - you can find it in most bookstores and weird cousins' bookshelves). Your average manga series will release a chapter a week (or month in some cases); each chapter is anywhere from 15-60 pages depending on how often it's published.
Most mangas are serialized in a magazine that specializes in the type of manga that the group falls under. Shonen Jump is the most noteworthy, as their series are the most likely to get released over here in the US of A.
Most manga is also a lot like comics: there's a ton of gay subtext and cleavage to be found. Questions will arise each week but will be answered at a rate of one per year. Also, your characters cannot have normal hair at all. If their hair is a normal style, it must be an improbable color. If the hair is a normal color, it must be a style that would cause your average hairdresser to have multiple heart attacks. All guys must be muscular paragons and all women must be underage, wearing clothes that would make Hef himself blush, and have improbably large chests. Unless they're under the age of five, in which case you may nix the "improbably large chests" part. But just barely.
Pictured: regular cleavage for manga/anime girls.
As for the gay undertone... Let's just say some of the most popular anime/manga heroes have... something unique in their histories.
A main manga hero and his archenemy. No, really.
The next logical step in your adventure is the creation of an anime. (A note: when fans say "the anime", they're not trying to sound like your grandfather who talks about "the Google". No, they mean the animated version of a manga). When a manga gets suitably popular, an anime is born. It's sort of like how when the quarterback got popular, a baby was born, only this time there was a lot less crying and screaming. in the beggining, at least.
Anime has some advantages and disadvantages when compared to manga. On the upside, the animation allows you to show a lot more stuff: that planet-destroying attack that's gonna be useless next week is gonna look awesome. On the other hand, there's some actual censorship for anime, so you can't show that awesome scene where the hero's girlfriend mounts him then decapitates him. You're also going to need to shell out some cash for voice actors. Unlike in America where there's maybe twenty professional voice actors who all work for what amounts to McDonald's wages, in Japan, there's a ton of veteran dubbers that will bring a unique flavor to your production.
You've also got the issue of filler to address. Remember when you had to write that ten-page term paper in college and you wrote about 2 pages of content with 8 pages of quotes? Yeah, that's kinda what writing an anime is like. Since you're deriving your content from the manga, you've got to take the utmost care to ensure that your anime doesn't catch up to its source material. There's two ways to do this - you either write some original arcs (filler) or pad out your manga-derived arcs by ensuring that each fight contains 90% screaming, flashbacks and supporting characters praying for the hero's victory. Or all the three at the same time.
"OH MY GOD, HE'S GOTTA WIN!!!!! WIN LIKE THAT COMPETITION LAST YEAR, WHE SHE..."
So, let's say your anime gets popular. No doubt some English company is going to want to dub it. This will cause your fanbase to revolt, but let's be honest: sneezing would cause that, so try to ignore it.
Your anime is popular enough that they want to make an English version of it! Hooray! That sound you're hearing is the whining of your fanbase (remember, they'll whine when you exhale, so just ignore them). An English adaptation is the next step in the anime cycle. There are basically two ways the anime comes to America:
1. "Subbing", where the Japanese dialogue is translated and subtitled;
2. "Dubbing", where new English audio is created for the process.
Here's where we encounter one of many cultural differences: namely, the prestige of voice actors. See, in Japan, they've got this crazy idea that anything that isn't live action might possibly have merit. I know, crazy, right? Fortunately, in America, home of the WhopperTM, we know that anything that isn't live-action is just for the kiddies. So what this boils down to is as follows: in Japan, voice actors (also called seiyuu) are actually treated like real actors and can pull down some nice coin; in America, voice actors (also called "Hey you") are paid very little and are treated like ordinary citizens.
During the dubbing process, there's a lot to take into consideration. Japanese is like that kind of talk you use when you're trying to score that hot , hot girl without actually using the words "bed", "horny" or "sex": full of subtlety and dual meanings. A lot of the stuff they say just doesn't translate very well over here! You've got the option of either leaving stuff untranslated or trying your best to find the closest cultural translation. Either option will be equally well-received by your fanbase, who will be covered later.
The next thing you have to deal with: Japanese humor. Yes, not all Japanese people are the hardworking, fun-shunning salarymen that '80s movies taught us about; they have a very well-defined sense of humor, mainly consisting of "ha-ha! The Japanese character for this word is similar to the Japanese character for that word! Such humor!" Yeah. This doesn't translate too well, so you've got the options of leaving it untranslated or making up some sort of horrible pun to replace it. Again, fanbase.
That said, sometimes the dubbing gets the surprise effect of being , *GASP* , well received!!!!!! Granted, it has something to do with nostalgic memories, for the older fans,and maybe the all-together lack of access of a subbed version. But let's face it, sometimes, you just don't want to hear a grow up alien warrior screaming like a japanese girl on PMT.
An alien warrior with a bad case of girly voice.
We've made a lot of jabs at the fanbase: let's delve deep into the parents' basement that is their mind, why don't we?
Ah, yes, the fans. Anime fans are what you get when you cross Star Trek fans with AD&D players, mix some drugs and a disturbing taste for dressing up (yes, more disturbing than the former two) .
Meet your average anime and manga public
Watching and enjoying their favorite series ranks a distant second to their absolute favorite activity: bitching about every single facet of your anime. Yes, thanks to the advent of the Internet, everything you do will be scrutinized heavily. Finally hooking up your two love interests? "Why the hell didn't you hook these two up instead?" Not letting your love interests hook up? "Geez man, are you some kinda downer or something?" Having a happy, well-balanced ending where everyone lives happily ever after? "It's the same old ending I've seen a thousand times, and I hate it!" Or rather you're having a depressing ending where the hero loses. "It's unfamiliar, and I hate it!" ...And so on. Basically, you can't take a piss without a thousand nerds complaining.
The thing about anime fans: they like to argue. A lot. You've got a lot of free time when you're living in the "guest room" in Mom and Dad's house, so you've got to fill it with something, right? A few of the more common sticking points are:
1. Subbing vs. dubbing: which one is better? Does the translation destroy the intent of the original, or does it open it up to a whole new audience?
2. Anime: is it kiddy stuff or is it an art form?
3. Should (Character X) be with (Character Y) or (Character Z)?
...And so on. Taking a stand on anything in any forum related to anime is like walking onto the battlefield wearing a target on your back, chest, head, and junk. You're gonna get shot repeatedly and often violently.
A tipical day at an anime forum