You’ve been reading Manga for a while and perhaps came across an unfamiliar term: a one-shot. It’s clearly different from the series you’re used to reading, but what exactly is it?
A One-Shot Manga is a standalone chapter of Manga that aims to tell a complete story in that one chapter. Unlike an ongoing series, one-shots are not designed to have a follow-up chapter, but instead function as a sales pitch to potential publishers for serialization.
If a one-shot is well received, a Manga magazine will likely approve it for serialization. In which case, it becomes a Manga series. The majority of Manga series start out as one-shots, and many end up becoming quite famous. Here are a few of many:
- One Piece
- Urusei Yatsura
- Death Note
But not all one-shots are created for the sole purpose of becoming a Manga series. The two aren’t quite the same and thus serve different purposes.
Let’s take a closer look into just what a one-shot really is.
What Is the Difference Between a One-Shot and Manga?
To make each easier to understand, let’s look at the etymology of both.
One-shot in the original Japanese is Yomikiri (読み切り), which is composed of two parts: Yomi (読み) meaning ‘to read’ and Kiri (切り) meaning ‘to cut or sever’.
Together, the term implies a Manga meant to be read as a whole without any intention of continuation. It is meant to be ‘read’ and then ‘cut off’.
Conversely, Manga (漫画), originally meaning whimsical or aimless (Man, 漫) pictures (Ga, 画), are just the Japanese equivalent of Comic Books in the west.
The term Manga can refer to any variety of Manga including one-shots. However, almost 100% of the time—if you hear someone say Manga, he’s talking about a series with multiple chapters and volumes. If he wants to talk about a one-shot, he would most likely refer to it as such.
So, a one-shot is meant to end in one chapter, while a Manga series is designed to last as long as possible to maximize profits. And that’s the only real difference between the two.
Both are drawn in the same anime art style, typically in black and white, and utilize panels, action lines, speech bubbles, etc.
A Manga is basically the next step in the evolution of a one-shot. Most one-shots are designed to impress a publisher in the hopes of turning the story into a serialization.
But not all one-shots become series or are even intended to in the first place.
What Are the Different Types of One-Shots?
Manga Artists (Mangaka) don’t necessarily create one-shots for the purpose of turning them into a series. The vast majority do, but there are a few varieties of the ‘one-shot’ format:
As mentioned, many one-shots are created with the hope of being popular enough to be made into a series.
Such one-shots are usually entered into contests organized by major Manga magazine publishers. Whichever one-shots win or catch the eye of an editor are then serialized in the magazine.
In which case, a new, shorter ‘chapter one’ is created to replace the one-shot. Or, the original one-shot (which can be quite long) serves as the ‘pilot’ chapter, much like how the first episode of a TV series is longer than the following episodes.
Not every one-shot is intended to be a series or even can be made into one. Many are like a film that begins and ends its story in one sitting.
You could theoretically drag out any story, but either because the Mangaka feels that she can’t or simply has no interest in doing so, it’s left as just a one-shot.
Such one-shots often feature simple stories with few characters so as to not suggest a larger scope. Romance is usually best for achieving this, such as Naoshi Komi’s Tokidoki. A cruel comparison would be Hallmark movies which are perfectly formatted to fit their 90-minute window.
That said, standalone one-shots are also perfect for experimentation. If a Mangaka just wants to play around with an idea, but not dedicate an entire series to it, the one-shot format is ideal.
Hence, there are plenty of Horror one-shots exploring all sorts of weird ideas. Junji Ito has created several standalone one-shots.
Series of One-Shots
In the event a one-shot isn’t made into a series or if the Mangaka doesn’t care to turn it into one, but still wants to write about the story, characters, and setting in the one-shot, then he might turn it into a ‘series of one-shots’.
Rather than a weekly or monthly release of each chapter, a Mangaka can release each new one-shot at his leisure. That might sound like it’s no longer a one-shot, but just a series with a terrible release schedule. However, as far as semantics go, they still count as one-shots.
Though they may be in the same universe, each one-shot might not necessarily be a continuation of the previous one’s story or even feature the same major characters.
Because of this, most Mangaka make a point to present each one-shot as a standalone story that can be enjoyed without greater context. This way, it doesn’t matter what order you read them in and you get to enjoy learning more about a single world.
‘Special’ chapters of pre-existing series can also be called one-shots. If the Mangaka of a popular series wants to include a story that doesn’t mesh well with the ongoing series, he’ll create a one-shot ‘spin-off’.
It can technically be read by itself, but is clearly intended to be read by those who are fans of the source material.
I’m reluctant to call such works one-shots, but given their longer length, existing outside the main story, and telling a complete story in one chapter, they are, by definition, one-shots.
Famous series like Bleach, One Piece, and Haikyuu all have such spin-off one-shots.
Anyway, let’s say all this talk of one-shots has inspired you to create your own. If so, you should first ask—
How Many Pages are in a One-Shot?
In you’re planning to create your own one-shot, it’s important to know how many pages you can expect to draw.
On average, a One-Shot Manga is 50 pages long. However, depending on the genre and goal of the Mangaka, they could range anywhere from 15 to 70 pages.
The ‘big three’ all started out as One-Shots with these page numbers:
- Naruto – 45 Pages
- Bleach – 50 Pages
- One Piece – 50 Pages
As you can see, it’s going to take around 50 pages to craft a compelling one-shot that might capture readers’ special attention.
But why waste time creating a one-shot? If you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume you’re not Japanese. And not being Japanese, you likely don’t have access to magazine publisher contests to submit your one-shot to. Why not just go ahead and start working on a series?
Perhaps, but there are plenty of good reasons to create a one-shot.
Should You Create a One-Shot?
One-shots are useful for fledging Mangaka for several reasons, mostly revolving around the idea of practice and experimentation. Here are a few:
- Unless you’ve been drawing for a long time, it can be difficult to figure out what styles or stories you work with best. Trying out different concepts via one-shots is a great way to explore your own drawing ability.
- If you have a great idea, but don’t know if it would make a good series, create a one-shot of it. Then, release it to the public for feedback. Much like in a contest, your ‘judges’ will let you know whether or not to move forward with your Manga.
- If you’re new to the scene, you probably don’t have any fans. And few people are going to want to read your long series unless you butter them up a bit first. A one-shot adaptation of your series can be a low-effort investment for potential fans to give your series a try.
And, obviously, the more one-shots you draw, the better your work will be overall. Think of them as practice matches before working on a long-term Manga series.
Anyway, that’s about all there is to say about one-shots. They’re more functional than anything, but are an integral part of a Manga’s life cycle. Without them, many Manga series would never see the light of day.