You walk into the comic book shop, an air of superiority and excitement around you. It’s King of Days, THE Wednesday – new comic book day. Mmm, you can practically smell the ink now… strolling towards the “NEW” rack, stars slowly develop in your eyes. You have no idea what you’re going to pick up, you just know that you want new things. New comics. New things to devour.
But suddenly… you stop. A sudden realization has come over you: you have no reason to be excited about King of Days. There are barely enough titles on that shelf before you that you want to take home with you to make your trip to your comic shop worth it. You feel that you’ve been reading the same thing over and over. You’re… BORED.
With a sigh of disdain, you half heartedly pick up a few single issues and turn slowly, defeated. You’re about to trudge to the counter when you glance at a shelf you had never noticed before – in the corner there are rows and rows of graphic novels. Perhaps it’s the overwhelming amount of pink over there, but you’ve never seen this shelf before. Hesitantly, you inch towards it, noticing titles you’ve never heard before. You tilt your head to one side like a curious puppy, a look of understanding finally dawning on you: “Is this… is this manga?”
Indeed it is young comic book reader, and today you are going to learn why you shouldn’t be afraid to delve into this huge world of comics from the East. You may remember my series about a year ago where I offered the top choices for certain genres of manga – refer back to those as your schoolwork. But for now, we are just going to learn why you shouldn’t feel daunted by the huge library you are about to have access to.
Manga is huge. I think to most comic book geeks, it’s kind of terrifying to think of even reading manga (I am basing these assumptions on what friends have said to me). It’s like someone who knows nothing about comic book culture suddenly picking up Superman and delving head first into a convoluted canon storyline – it’s a huge undertaking, one that’s a little scary. Manga is easy to ignore even though it’s everywhere – a lot of people write it off before even giving it a try. I have heard a myriad of excuses – there’s too much of it, it’s too girly, they can’t read comics that aren’t in color, they don’t understand the humor, they don’t want to invest money in something they don’t think they’ll like, etc. But I have a particular skill at lending people manga that I know they’ll like, and suddenly a convert is born.
But first, let’s learn a little about manga! Manga is the Japanese word for comics, and unlike over here in America where comics are still pretty nichey, manga is an accepted and prominent part of society and culture in Japan. Manga as we know it today has been around since World War II, and it is read by people of all ages in Japan. Even the most popular girls in high school are absolutely comfortable having a shoujo (manga designed for young women) manga sticking out of their purse.
Similar to the way we do comics in westernized culture, most manga is first released as a weekly or monthly serial. However, instead of single issues it is instead released in various thick magazines that focus on particular genres of manga. This gives readers a sampling of new manga. If it is popular enough, it’s made into graphic novels. (Although there is some manga that begins as a graphic novel)
Slowly but surely, manga has made its way over to America and Europe. Even ten years ago finding a volume of manga was a rare gem, but today walk into any bookstore and the manga section oftentimes overshadows the comic book section. Most comic shops have their manga corner, however small and big… but despite the fact that manga IS comics, very few American comic fans embrace it as readily as I would like.
Personally, I feel one of the reasons for this is the sheer VOLUME of manga available. It is very, very hard to know where to start, and at around 10 dollars a pop for a graphic novel, it is a monetary investment to get into a series you’re not even sure you’ll like. But if American comics are feeling stale or boring or even if you just want new and interesting storylines to get immersed in, I highly suggest trying out manga. If you’re not willing to go to your local shop and browse around until you see something you like, I have a few simple suggestions:
What genre of movie, comic books, or books do you tend to gravitate towards? Action? Romance? Historical dramas? Manga has practically every genre you could ever think of (and even some that you can’t). Google the word “manga” with the genre you like. You’ll get a lot of hits, I guarantee it. Read Wikipedias about series that show up in the search (as long as you don’t mind potential spoilers) and see if you’re interested.
Ask the internet. Go to communities like Reddit, or even discuss in the comments below! Say what you like and manga readers will be very willing to offer you suggestions and reasons for their suggestions. It’s a welcoming fan base.
So go out there and give manga a chance – you won’t be disappointed. I promise.
Molly McIsaac rides a unicorn everywhere instead of driving and regularly dresses up like fictional characters. You can follow her bizarre antics on twitter.