Narrative in art has been seen for centuries in a wide range of different forms. Now I should start off by saying the 'true origins' of manga is disputed. World War II accelerated the world of comics and manga. However we'll take a look at what has been going on before global conflict changed everything. We'll start with the actual name itself, manga, meaning 'whimsical pictures'. So this is the nature of it, satire, doodles, sketches, exaggeration and humour. The first time this term was used to describe a piece of artwork in Japan was given to Hokusai Manga (first published in 1814). So there is the term itself, but going a bit further back is where it's real history becomes debatable.
Manga started around 12-13th century, the Japanese Fujiwara Period. Animal caricatures known seen on picture scrolls are an early form of narrative. They show mischief and fun doodles, and they are actually an early example of Japanese art that is breaking away from their Chinese roots.
Manga started around the Fujiwara Period or the Heian Period (794 - 1185). This all started with The Legend of Mount Sigi. The style is more serious than the animals seen in the picture scrolls. And the subject itself is also more serious, they depicted monks performing miracles and can be described as serious and dramatic.
So looking at both sides of the argument they both certainly started with scrolls! One whimsical, the other serious, both of which though are certainly mediums to tell stories with. Certainly with the help of print and other factors literacy incrased in Japan during the 18th Century, and illustrated novels called kibyoshi became popular. And in the next couple of centuries we run into the first time the term manga is recorded.
However there are dramatic changes that happen before manga evolves into what it is today. More on that in the near future in another article!