Why I Read Manga

This is a response to Avalinah’s post, although adjusted to fit this here Spellbook.

I remember digging through hundreds upon hundreds of library records one day, just to discover what my first manga was. It confused me and amused me to find out I’d only been reading manga circa 2009, starting with Case Closed volume 4.

Before that, I’d been centring my life around books – in those days, I was going to be an illustrator, writer, editor when I grew up (hence that one poem about “being an illustrator drawing in a room quietly”…or whatever it was)…but none of that came to fruition when I just hit a wall when it came to reading books and I’ve never really recovered since. (Said “wall” roughly coincided with when I started digging into a bunch of longer series such as Katekyo Hitman Reborn! and PreCure, which…might explain it.)

So, to celebrate the upcoming 10th anniversary of an event that won’t matter to anyone but myself, here’s why I read manga. In no particular order:

So I don’t have to create a mental image of the story while still being able to read at my own pace

I’ll admit it – I may have read metric tonnes of books just by using libraries, but I am still terrible at visualising characters from books in my head unless I have a guide of some sort (a front cover, a graphic novel adaption etc.). Manga means that I have the guide from the beginning, allowing the artist to do the legwork of designing the character so I don’t have to try to retain my flimsy idea of the character instead.

However, I still have the autonomy of going backwards and forwards in the plot at my own pace, without the exact pace anime needs to go. Also, I still get to imagine the colours of things if they’re not provided in colour images.

Examples of manga I read for this reason:

  • basically any manga, but particularly manga with complex visuals such as Tokyo Ghoul or manga where attention to detail is needed such as Detective Conan

Sidebar: Certain graphic novel adaptions are advertised as “manga”, even though they’re done by people not from Japan…so please don’t ask me whether Daniel X: The Manga or its Maximum Ride equivalent are actually manga, because there is no “Japan” in their creation story (except what they were inspired by).

*sigh* Tokyopop and the manga boom really stuffed things up on that front, didn’t they?

To better comprehend the anime and other related material/To see a different side to what happened in the anime

Depending on how the manga differs to the anime, you might get a straight adaption – thereby getting to relive the story – or a completely different one – thereby getting a fresh perspective on the story and its ideas/concepts. I don’t think I need to explain much beyond those words.

Examples of manga I read for this reason:

  • all manga with anime adaptions in some form or another – in the case of a straight adaption an example would be Double Decker! (which is only in Japanese on Tonari no Young Jump and the tankobon created from that) and in the case of major deviation, the example would be Angelic Layer

To pass the time

What is manga’s original purpose but to waste our time with? The reason manga is printed on such cheap paper when it comes to a regular (i.e. no colour pages) tankobon is because it’s ephemera. It may be fun, but it’s still a fleeting hobby, especially with its inherent connection to being transmitted over the internet in both legal and illegal means.

Examples of manga I read for this reason:

  • Fushigi Yuugi (the OG – when it shifts away from Miaka and Yui, it turns out I become a lot more attentive…)
  • Jitsu wa Watashi wa (before it got an anime)

To increase the numbers on my list

What is manga in the long run but a number on your anime list? Again, the idea of ephemera is at play here, but from a personal perspective – all you manga readers out there have probably picked up a new series simply to increase the number of “manga you’ve read”, right? I know you have!

Examples of manga I read for this reason:

  • most of the Jump Starts and online samples which have contributed numbers to my list (LOL)
  • basically any Kaori Yuki work I’ve read (because for some reason I just can’t progress – legally – with any of the ones I do like and I drop any of the ones I don’t like)

Sidebar: In retrospect, this may have been one of the reasons I don’t read as many novels anymore – there was this reading challenge with all these prizes that was meant to “make reading fun”. However, I’d found reading fun from an early age, so when I did get the chance to participate, I ended up rereading titles or putting down titles for the sake of having a fat list…

Tl;dr: “Reading for the sake of increasing list numbers” takes the fun out of reading, so don’t do it often, y’hear me?

To support my local libraries

I’m lucky that my local libraries stock manga, but…from a perspective of someone who’s been dealing with books from a mostly volunteer perspective, dead trees just aren’t as in as they used to be, let’s be real. So if I see a manga I’ve never read before on a library shelf…bam! Out comes the library card.

Examples of manga I read for this reason:

  • I travelled out pretty far to obtain volumes of OOP manga such as 07-Ghost and Deadman Wonderland.
  • For the manga library I currently volunteer at, examples would be Saiyuki Reload and Figure 7.
  • For my local libraries, I’ve been reading almost everything…from Nana to Kuroko no Basuke, if I even have a modicum of interest in it, you bet I’ll try to get my hands on it!

So there you go. Why do you read manga? For anime-only readers out there, why don’t you read manga?

6 thoughts on “Why I Read Manga

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  1. That’s so cool that you wrote this as a response to my post! I’d love to read more manga, but it’s not available here at all in print, and the digital ones are kind of overpriced for the economy here. But that’s why I love the humble bundle. Sometimes I get some good manga through it. like I got ten mangas (I think that’s all of them) of Mushishi! I actually have some original Japanese ones that Japanese friends have sent me back when I studied Japanese. Have you read Hyakki Yakoushou? I don’t know if it’s translated, but if it is, it’s soooooo good.


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