Love Comics? Give Manga a Chance!

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.


  1. I highly recommend the recently reprinted Sailor Moon manga’s. So far only 4 volumes have come out.

  2. I love Gogol 13 but it still hurts my brain trying to read right to left

  3. This article would have had more impact on me two years ago when I was walking out of the comic book store each Wednesday with only one or two comics. But right now, I feel like we’re living in another new golden age for American comics, where there are more quality titles coming out each week than I can afford or have time to read.

    • Especially since, from what I’ve read, it sounds like manga’s taken an even steeper recline than American comics.

      That being said, I don’t have a problem with checking out manga at all–I recently tried out One Piece at my local library, even though I ended up being more annoyed by it than anything.

    • I’m in the same boat of having enough American comics to read as it is. I actually read some manga regularly before I had a weekly comic habit. I’m not opposed to manga but I only have so much time.

      Kazuo Koike’s work (Lone Wolf and Cub, Samurai Executioner) is always a good example for western readers who may be turned off by the more standard manga art styles.

    • “But right now, I feel like we’re living in another new golden age for American comics”

      I feel the same, especially from smaller publishers. I’m head over heels for Image Comics right now, in a way I haven’t been since 1992. Also, as decompressed as American comics can be, I don’t feel the need to read 22 pages of story in 122 pages like manga. I do love me some Akira, but I utterly flew through those Dark Horse versions, because they’re so decompressed.

  4. I’ve never been really into manga but I LOVED Pluto.

  5. Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!! – every main manga character ever

    Four years ago I essentially gave up on the manga/anime scene. Popular series were stuck repeating themselves or each other and off-color series just weren’t doing it for me. This is also around the time that the J-RPG collapsed and turned into the muck that square-enix poops out yearly.

    I will say however that I remain a fan of what the Evangelion manga was doing and Fullmetal Alchemist has a charm on paper that it doesn’t have on the screen (loved the FMA series though).

    In short, having come from a Manga background and then picking up “western” comics in the last two years i’m much happier with whats going on over here rather than across the pond.

  6. I’ve been having the same feelings recently. I work in a comic shop and find it hard to get even the broadest taste comics readers to try manga. There are some great series out there though. For fans for Vertigo style books the Viz Sig imprint has a few series well worth checking out.
    After having it on my list of shame for years I checked out 20th Century Boys just after Christmas and proceeded to tear through 18 volumes over the course of 2 weeks. I was hooked. The feeling I got from reading through those volumes is a feeling I haven’t experienced since first reading Y The Last Man.
    The story is huge and spans generations but you never feel lost while reading. There are currently 19 volumes available and the series will run for 24. It may seem daunting but it is so worth it.

    • I’ve been wanting to get started on 20th Century Boys. The idea of 18 volumes is extremely daunting, based on cost mostly, at $10(?) a pop it adds up pretty quickly.

      I work in a comic shop also and you’re right, there is definitely a huge invisible wall that “normal comic” readers often just can’t seem get over when it comes to manga. I have a lot of people who come in and never look at the manga section, and then people who will go straight there and only there.

    • The main reasons I can’t get into manga is the art style. There’s probably something I don’t understand about it, but damn, everyone drawn the same! That and how adults are drawn as teens/ pre-teens is the other thing I can’t get past.

    • @TreeoftheStoneAge
      I’ve got to say that I am in the same boat. Most of the time the standard manga art style does nothing for me.

    • About the cost. Each volume has about 200 pages of content. Compared to 20 pages at $4 It seems like a good deal to me.

      Art Style varies from artist to artist. Most of the good stuff doesn’t do what you are complaining about. That being said there is a lot of generic stuff. That’s why you have to find recommendations or try out the series first online.

    • I love 20th Century Boys but I had to stop buying it. 18+ volumes? And a sequel! It’s even less about the money and more about storage. Do I keep the first few volumes on my shelf and just box the rest away until I’m ready for them? Do I start a Manga shelf?

    • @TreeoftheStonage & @benisjamio: Well I guess its a good thing 20th Century Boys has nothing remotely like ‘standard manga art style’ then. (whatever ‘standard manga art style’ is. Is it like ‘standard super-hero art style’ because all american comics are big muscles, large breasts, and pouches. AMIRITE?!

      @OnASunday: Of course you start an manga shelf. Unless you want to stash squarebound comics long boxes, and not show off your book collection. Seriously, many books on a shelf is a lot better looking then a mountain of long boxes.

  7. I tried manga and just did not like it. Not all the stuff was bad, but most of time I just did not like the art. I had a girlfriend who made me watch Fruits Basket with her and I was able to get through most of it without wanting to suck start a pistol, but after that I want nothing to do with it.

  8. Meh. Tried it, didn’t like it.

  9. Like comics in general, it depends on what the manga is about for me to read it.

    Will I read Sailor Moon? No.

    Will I ream Nissan Cup Noodle? Hell yes.

    • but Sailor Moon is awesome 🙂

    • Wasn’t it originally made for teen boys? I know they turned some lesbians into cousins for the american translation of the anime.

    • @Minion

      Nope. Sailor Moon was always aimed at girls. The fact that two of the female characters were in a relationship just isn’t a big deal over there. The Takarazuka Revue, a style of Japanese theatre where all parts are played by women, is immensely popular with women as well.

  10. I love manga I started reading it with Akira when i was 7 or 8 and slowly collected all the Dragonball-DBZ and as i grew up rrly got into great series like Deathnote Naruto Beserk ect give it a chance people.

  11. hopefully some day folks won’t make a distinction between American and Japanese (or any other country) comics…probably never happen, but I can dream, can’t I?

    I’ve always thought that American comics could benefit from going with the manga format (printing larger b/w magazines with several ongoing stories in each, later collected in TPBs)

    • I have a bunch of early marvel and DC books in mini digest sized formats that I have bought at swap meets over the years, they are great, I have the first 6 or 7 issues of spiderman, fantastic four, giantsize xmen, silver surfer galactus saga. They rock.

  12. Alright. Alright, you win. I just bought the first volume of Berserk and Deathnote. Happy?

  13. I got into manga before I returned to american comics and there is definitely much more variety.

    I would recommend books like One Piece, Fullmetal Alchemist, Eyeshield 21, Ouran High School Host Club and Deathnote to pretty much anyone.

  14. Im definetly more of what you call an “American comic reader”
    The only magna ive ever read is Naruto, and i have to say i really enjoyed it! I love the art style, and find the main characters such as Naruto and Sakura to be very intresting and overall just fun to read about. (Although i do think there are too many secondary characters that drive away from the main plot)
    Now ive only read random numbers of the issues, and i dident want to invest in another comic series since there are so many American comic series i still want to read but havent goten to yet. (Looking at you Sandman.)
    But my love of the character of Naruto led me to the anime, My sibilings and i all started with Shipuden and just recenty finished box set 6. Its great and we all have a fun time with it, Its insane how sometime so little happens over the corse of an epsiode, but it just make it better when something does.
    Sorry i kinda got off topic there.

  15. My only Manga experience is Berserk. That shit is better than most of the Western comics I’ve read.

    I’ve searched for stuff kinda like that here and there on the internet, but haven’t really seen anything that interests me.

    • Berserk is by far one of the best series i’ve ever read / seen. The current arc is kind of shitty but im hoping there’s a payoff at the end of it because its been draggin on for like a year now with them on a god damn boat and an island but save for those issues everything has been absolutely STELLAR. must watch the anime series too, super good! been trying to get my hands on the movie for a good while now but i dont see that happening until it gets released in japan at some point in may.


  17. I was hugely into manga back in the day. Ranma 1/2, Flame of Recca, Bleach, Buso Renkin, Naruto, Rave Master, as well as some others, but it got to the point of “I’m running out of shelves,” and I had to choose between comics and manga, and unfortunately manga lost.

  18. Hate reading right to left. Hate the bright pastel colors. Hate how much room they take on a shelf.

  19. Oh ya…Also, you can fill an entire bookcase, but in the end you only have 3 stories. That’s annoying too.

  20. The only manga I liked was Ultimate Muscle. The rest I avoid like the plague.

    I remember when Borders had about three times as much manga as they had of US comics. It was depressing. Look where that got ya, Borders! (RIP, I do miss you).

    • Every time I see someone reading Manga in a book store, they always have big smiles and are practically drooling like infants. I’m just saying. I don’t wanna add to the ignorance of manga, but I just can’t dig it. Everyone looks the same and the translated dialogue is just awful.

  21. Manga produced one of the greatest comic creators of all time, Osamu Tezuka. Creator of Astro Boy, Black Jack, and dozens of other graphic novels. He’s easily as important as the likes of Jack Kirby and Will Eisner on the world stage.

    Japan has continued to produced some phenomenal comic creators since; like Naoki Urasawa. Who’s work on 20th Century Boys, Pluto, and Monster are some of the finest comic the world has to offer.

    Anyone who writes off an entire nation’s output based on silly minor things like reading right-to-left, or the serial graphic novel format (of which is made up short-form serial installments. Is doing themselves a massive disservice as a fan of comics. There’s something for everyone in manga, you just have to look a little bit, and avoid the mass-market genre fiction (just like US comics in that respect actually)

    • Here here! Most of the replies seem pretty positive, but it is a common complaint I see that “I tried [insert current uber-popular series here] and didn’t care for it (and therefore manga).” It’s really no different than dismissing the entire breadth of comics in the US because you didn’t care for the new Justice League.

  22. I swing between Manga and Western Comics, at the moment I’m back on Manga. There are some great titles out at the moment including: Bakuman – if interested in how manga gets made this is fantastic (same creators as Death Note, although I prefer this over Death Note – first volume is a struggle but the rest are awesome), Blue Exorcist and Pandora Hearts. All three are hard to put down and all three written by Women! You should never discount Manga, OK some titles are way to long, but it’s worth it for the story telling and art.

    There’s only so much DC and Marvel stories that I can read, without getting bored of the same. That being said, I’m loving what Image is doing at the moment and can’t wait to get into Saga. If you like stories like Y, Saga, Preacher, then you will definitely find a manga series that will suck you in, hook, line and sinker.

  23. Also, LOLing at people who read Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, etc… titles saying popularized Manga ‘runs to long’.

  24. I have to agree with some of the others in that America is putting out amazing comics currently and I haven’t seen that much appealing lately come out of Japan lately.

    Manga that should be checked out include Vinland Saga, Hikaru No Go, One Piece and Claymore.

  25. VIZ’s version of Tenjou Tengje has been great. Non-censored versions, which I believe with volume 5 have gone past the anime version of the series.

  26. The first comics I ever started reading were manga. I used to read mainly Naruto and I did read all of Death Note (which I loved), but I stopped reading manga when my obsession for Star Wars kicked in. However, this article was great and now I really want to read some new manga! I just ordered Pluto and Akira from my library!

    Thanks again Molly! This article was awesome!

  27. i get my manga in the form of anime. inuyasha comes to mind.

  28. I love Comics, so since Manga is Comics, I love them as well. Gantz, 20th century Boys, Monster, and Durarara! are among my fav’s.

  29. I also go in between both sides (Manga and Western Comics)…at the moment I’m just getting One Piece and Bakuman. Both are great but I would understand someone getting scared to try One Piece which is right now at 61 volumes…Bakuman on the other hand is great despite the plot is about two kids doing and getting in the manga business.

  30. I agree, manga is excellent. And of course, anime. A lotta manga series get pretty much completely faithful anime adaptations chapter for chapter, and it’s excellent. Good thing they got going there.

  31. I find the “tried it, didn’t like it” thought crazy. It’s comics, no different to anything else your reading. You may not have liked what you read but it’s stupid to dismiss the entire format due to that. That’s as bad as saying you don’t like western comics because all you read was Fear Itself.

    Art styles vary. Genres vary. Quality varies.
    It’s all comics people. Don’t dismiss it outright. Your doing a huge disservice to yourself.

  32. I got here a few days late, but I wanted to join the recommendation for Hikaru no Go.

    It’s about a young teenage boy called Hikaru Shindo who finds an old Go board belonging to his grandfather. Go is a board game, with very simple rules but very complex to play (to give you an idea, while the best computer in the world can beat the human chess world champion, an strong amateur Go player can beat the best computer in the world). The board turns out to be haunted by the spirit of Fujiwara-no-Sai, a legendary ancient Go player. Sai wants to play Go again, not having been able to since the late Edo period. Because Hikaru is apparently the only person who can perceive him, Sai inhabits a part of Hikaru’s mind as a separate personality, coexisting, although not always comfortably, with the child.

    Sai convinces Hikaru to let him play, so Hikaru goes into a Go club and, in his typical loud-mouthed fashion, asks who is the strongest player there. Hikaru/Sai ends up playing against a boy called Akira Toya, who is the son of the strongest Go player in Japan. Akira is Hikaru’s age but his personality is completely different. Instead of fun-loving and scatterbrained like Hikaru, he is really intense and serious about Go and already plays at a professional level. Sai easily defeats Akira, leaving him devastated, but Hikaru is so impressed by the intensity of the other boy’s passion for the game that he decides he wants to play like that too, without Sai’s help.

    You don’t need to know anything about Go to enjoy the story, and it’s a really good shonen story (shonen=manga for boys, while shojo=manga for girls). It’s beautifully drawn and it lets you learn things about Japanese culture.