Finding Manga: Library Love

Support manga, support your library!

National Library SymbolI recently came to the decision to retire my bimonthly Library Love feature. With the slogan “Support manga, support your library!,” Library Love was a way for me to highlight manga that I was borrowing and reading from my local libraries. It’s time for me to finally say goodbye to Library Love in order to make room at Experiments in Manga for other features and reviews. In the future, I will be including my thoughts on my library manga finds in the “Quick Takes” section of the My Week in Manga feature. As I say my final farewell to Library Love (the feature, not my actual love for libraries which is eternal), I wanted to make one last special Library Love post that focused on actually finding manga in libraries. What I’ll have to say specifically applies to libraries in the United States and Canada since those are what I am most familiar with, but hopefully my comments will apply to library systems in other countries as well.

I adore libraries and I have since I was very young. I don’t think anyone was really very surprised when I fell into librarianship as a career. There are many, many reasons that I’m thankful for libraries which I won’t get into here, but I would like to say this: If it wasn’t for libraries, I would not have become the manga fanatic that I am now. When I first started reading manga, it was all borrowed from libraries. For one thing, collecting manga requires both money and space. Making use of libraries that are already doing some of that collecting is a good thing. It benefits you and it benefits libraries, too. Manga and comics tend to circulate well, and good circulations statistics help libraries in a variety of ways. Plus, by supporting manga at your library, you are also supporting the creators and publishers of that manga.

Manga can be found in all types of libraries: public, academic, school, special. Archives and museums get in on the manga action, too. It’s somewhat difficult to make generalizations regarding how to find manga in libraries because each library is different and serves a different population. Broadly speaking, libraries are organized in the way that best serves its patrons, which means that the same manga found in one library may be shelved in another area entirely at a different library. Some libraries will shelve manga and other comics by subject, mixed in with the rest of the collection. Other libraries will have an entire section devoted specifically to manga and graphic novels. In some cases, a library may divide materials by age group. There any number of ways to organize a collection, and each library is different. Familiarize yourself with your library’s system and be aware that you may need to look in multiple places to find all of the manga.

One of the benefits of a library is that it is a physical location that you can visit.  After you figure out where the manga is shelved, take time to browse! It’s a quick and easy way of determining what sorts of manga your library collects and sampling what it has. There’s also this wonderful phenomena called serendipity—you might discover manga that you didn’t even know you wanted to read. But don’t limit yourself to what you can see on the shelf, because the library will always have more manga available. Be sure to make use of the library’s catalog, too. Most libraries have an online catalog that supports searches by title, creator, subject, ISBN, general keyword, and more. Some libraries are even beginning to explore digital options for manga and comics, too.

Finding manga through a library doesn’t stop there, either. Many libraries participate in interlibrary loan programs which allow one library to borrow materials that another library owns. This is a fantastic way to track down copies of hard-to-find or out-of-print manga to read. Many libraries also accept and pursue purchase suggestions from their patrons. If there’s a manga you’d like to read or that you think would be a good fit for your library, let someone know! Generally, libraries want to provide access to the materials that people want or are excited about; they want to spend money on materials that will actually be used. Which brings me to my final point about manga in libraries: Don’t be afraid to talk with the librarians and other library workers! Make suggestions, ask questions, and give feedback. We really are here to help.

Quick Tips for Finding Manga in Libraries
1) Manga might be kept in multiple areas, you may need to look around
2) Browse the shelves, but search the catalog, too
3) Check to see if your library participates in an interlibrary loan program
4) Many libraries accept purchase suggestions. Don’t see what you want? Ask for it!
5) Don’t be afraid of the librarians and other library workers (We’re here to help!)

Library Love, Part 17

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Arisa5Arisa, Volumes 5-7 by Natsumi Ando. As ridiculous and unbelievable as Arisa can be, I’ll have to admit that I actually am rather enjoying the series. The number of plot twists that Ando works into the manga is astounding. I know that they’re coming, but I have no idea where Arisa is going. I’ve learned not to stress out about it and just sit back and enjoy the absurdity as it develops. However, I can’t help but wonder where all the adults are in all of this. Occasionally a teacher, parent, or guardian is seen, but none of them seem very involved in the students’ lives at all. But then again, that might be part of the point of the series. The students in class 2-B have issues (they have a lot of issues) and King Time began in part because their needs and concerns weren’t being addressed elsewhere. More and more of their secrets are being revealed, but I’m not sure we’re any closer to actually learning who the King really is. Arisa continues along its dark and twisted path and I can’t help but be oddly mesmerized by the whole thing.

Cowa!Cowa! by Akira Toriyama. Cowa! had completely slipped under my radar until just recently. It’s a shame that I didn’t read it sooner because it is a terrific and highly enjoyable manga appropriate for kids as well as adults. The first few chapters are fairly episodic and start out with Paifu, a young half-vampire/half-werekoala, and his best friend and ghost José Rodriguez getting into all sorts of trouble. But then the manga develops a continuing story—Paifu’s hometown of Batwing Ridge is suffering from an epidemic of the Monster Flu. It’s up to Paifu, José, their not exactly friend Apron, and Maruyama, a grumpy ex-sumo wrestler, to save the day. Together they travel in search of the cure and it ends up becoming quite an adventure. There’s action and danger, bad guys and monsters. The interactions between Maruyama and the youngsters are simply marvelous. The manga is a lot of fun and funny, too. It may be silly at times, but it’s also heartwarming and has a good message. Cowa! is an absolute delight and definitely worth a look.

Slam Dunk, Volume 7Slam Dunk, Volumes 7-10 by Takehiko Inoue. I am a huge fan of Inoue’s manga. While Slam Dunk isn’t my favorite of his series, I still find it to be a great manga. Slam Dunk was Inoue’s breakthrough work and is immensely popular and influential. The basketball games in Slam Dunk are extremely well done, but so far what appeals most to me about the series is the characters. I particularly enjoy all of the delinquents that show up in the series and on Shohoku’s basketball team. The guys are just as capable in a fist fight as they are on the court. Granted, Sakuragi still has a lot to learn about basketball. He has some natural ability and potential, but I’m not sure anyone has actually taken the time to explain all the rules to him. Realistically, this is somewhat unbelievable, but it does provide a certain amount of humor. In general, Slam Dunk is much more comedic than Inoue’s other manga available in English. However, there’s still some seriousness and plenty of heartfelt passion in the series, too.

Time LagTime Lag written by Shinobu Gotoh and illustrated by Hotaru Odagiri. I didn’t realize it at first, but Odagiri is also the artist for Only the Ring Finger Knows, which I quite enjoyed. Time Lag is a slightly older work, and not quite as memorable, but still enjoyable and rather sweet. Satoru and Shirou used to be very close growing up, but after junior high they’ve grown apart despite Satoru repeatedly professing his love for the other young man. Satoru can’t seem to figure out what went wrong, but when a letter from Shirou arrives three years late he may have one last chance at setting things right. However, complicating matters even further is a love-triangle involving Seichii, another classmate. Plots that revolve around a giant misunderstanding often annoy me, but in the case of Time Lag I think it was handled very well. Some of the smaller misunderstandings were still frustrating, though. Granted, those deliberately created by Seichii and his jealousy make a fair amount of sense in the context of the story and the resulting drama is understandable.

Library Love, Part 16

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Basara, Volumes 1-5 by Yumi Tamura. After reading only the first five volumes of Basara, I am already convinced that I want to own the entire series. Unfortunately, parts of it are tragically out of print. What’s also unfortunate? My library only has the first five volumes. Basara might be difficult to find but I think it’s worth tracking down. Set in a post-apocalyptic Japan, Basara follows a young woman named Sarasa. She hides the fact that her twin brother Tatara, the “child of destiny” prophesied to save their people from tyrannical imperial rule, has died by taking his place. So far, Basara is a quickly paced series featuring complex characters (including kick-ass women) and a fair amount of violence and tragedy for good measure.

Kaze Hikaru, Volumes 1-3 by Taeko Watanabe. I enjoy a good period manga and I’ve recently developed a particular interest in the Shinsengumi, so it was about time I gave Kaze Hikaru a try. (Plus, it has cross-dressing!) The series was Watanabe’s first foray into historical manga and she put a ton of research and reference work into the story and art. Kaze Hikaru follows Tominaga Sei, a young woman who has disguised herself as a boy in order to join the Mibu-Roshi which will later become the Shinsengumi. What she lacks in skill she makes up for in enthusiasm; for personal reasons, she is determined to become a great swordsman. Like all of the Shinsengumi manga that I’ve read, there are a lot of characters to keep track of in Kaze Hikaru. But I am enjoying Watanabe’s take on the era.

Nana, Volumes 13-15 by Ai Yazawa. I am still absolutely loving this series. (In fact, I finally caved and purchased an entire set. It’s just that good.) The characters and their relationships continue to grow and evolve as the series progresses. Some of them have even closer connections than I initially realized—the lives of the members of Trapnest and the Black Stones all intertwine and have been for quite some time now. Trust issues and jealousy show just how tenuous a relationship can be even when people are deeply in love. Since the beginning the narration of Nana has been somewhat ominous, implying some sort of impending tragic event without yet revealing what has happened. At this point, I’m starting to really worry.

Saturn Apartments, Volumes 3-6 by Hisae Iwaoka. It’s been a while since I’ve read any Saturn Apartments; I had forgotten how much I enjoy this quieter science fiction slice-of-life tale. At first the series seems to be fairly episodic, but as the manga develops an over-arching plot is established. Mitsu continues his training as a window washer of the ring system—a dangerous job, but one that he has come to love. Through his work the likable young man has made many connections and friends. At the same time, the tension between the working class of the lower levels and the upper class residents continues to increase. The sixth volume of Saturn Apartments is particularly excellent. I’m looking forward to seeing how Iwaoka brings everything to a close.

Library Love, Part 15

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Ju-On: Video Side by Miki Rinno. I haven’t actually seen any of the the films in Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On franchise, but I believe that Ju-On: Video Side is an adaptation of the first direct-to-video Ju-On movie, also known as The Curse. The manga opens with a woman being murdered by her husband as their young son looks on. Because of the violence and deaths associated with the house, the property is difficult to sell. Despite being warned against it, the Murakami family moves in. Their lives are quickly consumed by horrifying incidents and bizarre accidents. Anyone even remotely connected to the household is at risk as the vengeful spirits take out their anger on the living.

Nana, Volumes 9-12 by Ai Yazawa. I continue to be impressed by Yazawa’s Nana. I have a feeling that this will be a series that I end up buying to have a copy of my own. It’s just that good. The characterization in Nana is phenomenal. As the series progresses, the characters continue to evolve and grow. They are all multi-layered and their relationships are complex. While the interpersonal drama is still extraordinarily important in Nana, these particular volumes start to focus on Trapnest and Black Stones as bands a bit more. The two groups and their members are revealed to be very closely linked. Complicating matters further, they’re harassed by paparazzi. Their careers get in the way of love and romance as they lose some control over their own lives to their music labels.

The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon. I was happy to discover that all the praise The Nao of Brown has received was well-deserved: Dillon’s artwork is gorgeous and the storytelling is mature. Nao Brown is half-Japanese and half-English, living in London with Purely Obsessional OCD. She is plagued by violent thoughts and is afraid that one day she actually will hurt someone, which makes leading a normal life and developing healthy relationships with other people difficult. But then she meets Gregory, a burly washing machine repairman who reminds her of one of her favorite anime characters. The two of them hit it off pretty well, but not without some problems.

Slam Dunk, Volumes 3-6 by Takehiko Inoue. I am much more familiar with Inoue’s later seinen works Vagabond and Real than I am with Slam Dunk, his immensely popular breakthrough series. Although there are some similar themes to be found in all three series, Slam Dunk is more obviously humorous than the other two. It’s great fun. I’m very fond of Hanamichi as a protagonist. He’s a sort of delinquent with a heart of gold. Actually, the delinquent aspects and Hanamichi’s gang are some of my favorite parts of Slam Dunk. Of course, the basketball is good, too, and really the focus of the series. By this point, Hanamichi finally gets the chance to play in a real game. Even though he’s still a new player and makes plenty of mistakes, he also shows an impressive amount of potential.

Library Love, Part 14

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Emma, Volumes 7-10 by Kaoru Mori. I didn’t realize that the main story of Emma concludes in the seventh volume of the series and so was taken a little by surprise when the ending seemed to come along so suddenly. I like that Mori didn’t go for a trite “happily ever after”; the ending is much more complicated than that and realistically addresses the challenges that Emma and William will face due to their class differences. The final three volumes are actually a collection of short side stories, mostly featuring established characters although some simply feature the established locale and time period. Emma is a wonderful series; I really hope to see its license rescued. Thankfully, my library had a complete set.

Nana, Volume 5-8 by Ai Yazawa. I continue to be greatly impressed by Nana and Yazawa’s work in general. Her characters are marvelously complex and multi-faceted. In Nana, the assholes aren’t complete assholes and the angels aren’t complete angels, either. Yazawa eschews stereotypes and the results are naturally unpredictable. The readers and the characters might expect one thing only to be proven wrong. Because the characters are so complex their relationships are just as complicated if not more so. Selfishness and possessiveness create believable and often heartbreaking situations that the characters have to deal with either together or on their own. Life and relationships are messy and Yazawa doesn’t allow her characters to take the easy way out.

Ode to Kirihito by Osamu Tezuka. Ode to Kirihito is probably one of the stranger Tezuka manga that I have read. It’s a mix of medical drama and some sort of horror, with a bit of a revenge tale thrown in for good measure. Kirihito Osanai is a young doctor investigating Monmow, an incurable disease that causes a person’s body to take on dog-like characteristics. His theory is that it is an endemic condition while his superior is adamant that the disease is both viral and contagious. Osanai’s life is changed forever when he himself contracts Monmow. Ode to Kirihito is an engaging read with some real-life parallels to how people with various medical problems are treated and even shunned by others.

Stargazing Dog by Takashi Murakami. I did enjoy Stargazing Dog but I don’t seem to be quite as taken with it as so many other people are, although I can certainly understand its appeal. What impresses me the most about the manga is how Murakami captures the importance and significance that human-canine relationships can have. Stargazing Dog is about people and the dogs who love them. The manga collects two loosely related stories together, both of which are rather bittersweet. Because Stargazing Dog stands so well on its own and feels satisfyingly complete I was surprised to discover that there is actually a second volume. NBM only released the first volume of the series in print, but both volumes are available digitally from JManga under the title Star Protector Dog.