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Friday, August 25, 2017

Selah's Manga Mania: Intro to Manga: Myth vs Fact

As a reader, I can get behind all sorts of stories. It was that desire to find different types of fiction that drove me to graphic novels, and somehow I was convinced to try manga. And now I want to infect you with that same joy.

I get it, you probably have an idea of what it is, or maybe you think it’s too hard to read, or too expensive. Breathe, I’ve got you, it’s gonna be okay. About four thousand years ago I approached the site about doing a manga review series because I might as well put my obscenely fast reading pace to use. At this point I’ve probably gotten through 60 different series or one-shots, so believe me, I got yer back. Today, though, we’re going to talk about why you should be reading manga and to take some of the nerves out of it. So today’s post is to try to guess some of your questions/hesitations about reading manga and answer them before just dropping you in.

Isn’t it for kids?

Not exclusively, no. There are different age brackets and you’ll hear me kick around the different terms. The biggest barrier is that the age brackets in Japan are somewhat different than how they’re classified in the states, so you do kind of have to flick through things and decide if a series is for you. In general (and REALLY general) Shojo/Shoujo is for young-ish girls, Josei is for young-ish women, Shonen is for young boys, Seinen is older boys/dudes. Kinda. Again, some things squeak through in all age brackets and in the states Shojo and Josei may be marketed under the same imprint, so that’s why when I review a series I’ll try to hit anything that may be cringe worthy. Which brings us to…

Isn’t it weird?

Eh, not as weird as some stuff on the internet. No, seriously, a lot of it isn’t freaky deaky. There are tropes that western readers don’t have, but you find themes easily enough. Honestly, what drove me to manga were the different types of stories, the different things that were done, and some of the insanity that was pulled off really well. So, yes and no. It’s weird in a lot of good ways, but it’s not all the same weird across the board. Just like all YA fic or all romance or all whatever isn’t the same, neither is manga.
But it’s like…really weird, right?

Again, there are some things that may seem odd in a teen series, but I find it refreshing in a lot of ways because their tropes aren’t necessarily our tropes and vice versa. But I think I know what you’re implying…

But…isn’t it like porn?

There we go! Okay, because manga is written for all ages and genres, I mean yeah there are more explicit titles, but nothing I read or talk about is going to be purely about that. So you can either be really disappointed or sigh with relief. However, a lot of series do explore relationships and some get more in your face than others. In coming of age romances the build up of sleeping together can be a thing, sometimes the humor can veer in certain directions, and if we’re talking a horror or dark-themed series, there can be on screen violence and some over the topness.


Whoa killer, stop right there. Look, ANY fiction genre can have those (hi, Twilight anyone? Has anyone read Stephen King’s It?). I’m also going to make it a point to try to point out what readers may be confused or weirded out by (or maybe that’s a selling point I don’t know your life). I’ll try to give an age bracket and disclaim anything that may affect any delicate sensibilities. But to put that label on a whole genre is just…not a great thing to do, y’know? Don’t be that person.

Isn’t it super expensive to read manga since it’s by the volume?

You can get some titles in e-book format these days, there are also half price books, and I read all of the series I keep up with through the library. Sadly, in the US there aren’t really any monthly magazines out anymore, but if you can find older copies of Shonen Jump or Shojo Beat (especially a handful of months in a row), those will introduce you to a few different series at once. They’re great to dip your toe in if you can still find them (libraries or eBay may be your best shot). The one thing I don’t advocate is pirate sites online. Just don’t do it. The translations can be wonky, plus hi, pay for art. People work hard.

Isn’t it confusing to read/don’t I have to know a lot of stuff?

Honestly, a lot of volumes will have footnotes at the end about certain in jokes that we may not get, as well as help on the name suffixes. Anymore, a lot of newer series either don’t translate those as much or have dropped them entirely from what I can tell, so honestly, they’re only a thing if you make them. If they are a major plot issue, generally the book will tell you why it’s important in the footnotes or the sidebar comments from the editors, if they do those. Otherwise, read right to left, you’ll get the hang of it soon enough, I promise.

Here’s the thing. There’s google. There are a lot of sites devoted to manga tropes and name formalities and culture and why all those things matter. I’m not an expert, and I don’t pretend to be. I just like cool stories. You don’t have to memorize a ton of facts to enjoy a good story. And that’s why I wanted to do this because I feel like the art form reaches a certain audience…and stops because people either assume it’s not for them or are intimidated. There is no reason why romance fans shouldn’t be reading certain series, same for horror fans. So I’m here to talk about manga for the non-manga fan if that’s even a thing. You’re welcome.

About the Author:
Selah Janel is a writer who is trying to start doing that again instead of reading manga all the time.


  1. Thanks for the Manga 101, especially the explanation of the age brackets. I'm fascinated by the unusual story tropes and would like to read more. Do you have a favorite Manga blog that you follow?

    1. Not a problem, always happy to help! As far as blogs, I honestly don't have a specific one I follow. I usually choose my titles based on what the library has or what people are talking about, but I do end up googling titles and looking up blogs that way. The one I do consistently follow is Shojo Beat on Tumblr (they're the last little remnant of the Shojo Beat magazine, and a lot of the actual editors for their titles post there). While it's mostly talking about new releases (which is good to see what volume a series is actually up to), it's always interesting to see people's takes on characters and stories. I read a lot of what Viz media (Shojo Beat falls under them) produce, so it's been a way to keep up. I honestly need to go looking for some straight genre or type blogs, but I feel like I'm always caught in between types or not the typical audience, so I'm still looking (and it's partly why I started doing this, because I think people are missing a huge market for readers who haven't naturally gravitated to manga).

  2. Thanks for this! I have been tuber curious about what manga has to offer. I have two for review, they're manga versions of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. I felt I needed stories I already knew as introductions.

    1. I've seen those, and have come close to picking them up a few times - that may actually have to happen, now, because I am curious to see how those stories are translated in a manga style. And I think it's definitely good to start with something you're familiar with. There are also western artists who attempt it (to varying success). I think the first series I really read was the 3 book series called The Dreaming (I think it's by an Australian mangaka, if I remember right). It was a nice, easy slide into the genre. It took a family member reading a lot to finally get me to bite the bullet. I will tell you, you'll be surprised how easy it is to get used to different tropes and story lines once you start reading. It really just takes finding the type of titles that are a good fit for you!