I spent most of my high school life as a closeted anime fan. I ignored the kids with naruto headbands and obvious anime shirts while in school, and then I’d go home to my bedroom walls covered in anime wall scrolls and read manga for hours. I was a filthy poser. Card Captor Sakura by CLAMP was my introduction into anime and also into manga as well. A think a lot of people look down on manga as just “being pictures” or that somehow reading manga isn’t as involved as reading a novel and I’ll have you know that is a load of hogwash! Manga is an amazing medium that everyone should check out! Yes you need to read the books “backwards” and yes the art style is different from Western comics, but the stories can be just as deep and touching as any comic or novel. So here is why I implore you to listen to my reasons why I’m a fan of manga.
- It spans all genres. You horror that makes you afraid of your condo building carpet because you never actually noticed it was covered in spirals before? (Uzumaki by Ito Junji) Do you want drama that leaves you weeping for days? (Koe no Katachi by Yoshitoki Ōima) Do you want love triangles and easy reads full of love and heartbreak? (Kimi no Todoke by Shiina Karuho) Do you want psychological thrillers? (Death Note by Obata Takeshi) Want an action and coming of age story with amazing characters and a complex storyline/world? (Full Metal Alchemist by Arakawa Hiromu) Do you like comics and want to try getting into manga with similar themes? (Boku no Hero Academia by Horikoshi Kouhei) Do you like hilarious things? (One Punch-Man by Murata Yusuke and ONE & Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun by Tsubaki Izumi) How about over the top sports? (Haikyu! by Furudate Haruichi) I could go on and one, seriously. I promise you that you can find it if you look, or ask.
2. The story lines can be just as involved and fleshed out. I think people have this idea that manga and comics can’t have deep fleshed out storylines with twists and turns. Let me tell you now that is also a load of hogwash. I’m going to use Full Metal Alchemist as an example because it’s a classic and a constantly praised series. The story is about two brothers that live in a world where alchemy is commonly practiced and even used in by soldiers in wars to overpower their opponents. They commit a taboo, which backfires, crippling them both. They embark on a mission to correct their wrongs, wherein they learn about the dark secrets that their country is based upon. Such world building, such character development, such everything man. A powerful story all around.
3. Strong female leads. I LOVE me a strong female lead. Even in romance, I like a strong lady who doesn’t need to be constantly saved. Here is where I can bring up magical girls, strong ass ladies/girls who don’t need no men. And sometimes these cutesy stories can take dark turns. (Puella Magi Madoka★Magica) Currently, Akatsuki no Yona is one of my favorites that I keep coming back to, it just started serialization in english, so check it out! Also here is where I mention classics like Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura. Although, there is always the flip-side, where you have weak female leads falling into the arms of strong men in shoujo manga, but sometimes I’m about that too.
4. I LOVE the art!! I absolutely love the art. It’s also great to see how art in a series progresses as it goes. I initially wasn’t a fan of One Piece, because the art didn’t appeal to me, but Oda has grown as an artist and his art is a lot more fleshed out now. I won’t suggest anyone read One Piece though, because it’s a hideous undertaking and the world is JUST SO HUGE AND THERE IS TOO MUCH. I assume I’ll die before the story is even finished, it’s that long. Also, you can always tell what kind of series you are reading by the art. (Shoujo with long legged girls and giant eyes, Yaoi with giant hands. You guys know these memes I’m sure)
5. LGBT+ Representation. While it still isn’t embraced by Japanese culture as a whole, there is a lot of manga where Yuri/Shoujo-ai (between girls) and Yaoi/shounen-ai (between boys) is a central element. CLAMP is a series where this is more of a secondary element. Honestly, CLAMP has some really strange relationships when it comes right down to it. A great over-the-top shoujo-ai is Revolutionary Girl Utena. Card Captor Sakura had a LOT of yuri undertones, very blatantly obvious ones actually.
6. Not just for young kids. I think here (in America) a lot of manga/anime is marketed as Young Adult, or even younger. The genre names are called Josei (older women) and Seinen (older men). Think a lot more violence, adult themes, deeper stories, less fluff, and the like. One I recently read is Red River, a series about a girl who gets trapped in the past and becomes considered a goddess of war. It has a lot of blood, sexy scenes, and man was it a great read. Another very popular Josei is NANA, the story of two girls both named Nana, who lead very different lives.
7. Learning about different cultures. Of course life in Japan isn’t at all like how it’s portrayed in manga/anime, just like how life isn’t how it really is in disney movies. We don’t actually live like High School Musical all the time. (Or maybe you do, and that’s okay) Although you can learn a little bit about culture in Japan, and I think that’s pretty great!
8. The fan culture/”fan fiction” creation. I feel like here, fan fiction is kind of frowned upon by the original author/creator of the content. In the manga universe though, circles create doujins, which are fan created manga that explore alternative pairings, situations, etc. So if the couple you wanted to end up together didn’t, there is probably a doujin out there for you. Also, they can tend towards the more…adult side. If anyone remembers the old fanfic ratings, there are a lot of lemon doujins out there, and some limes. When I was in Japan I grabbed A LOT of doujins, which are sold in stores, bound and marketed. They aren’t like the fan fiction you read online here, but are actually sold in stores along with the original content!
Manga isn’t for everyone, and of course I’m sure people have reasons they don’t like it, but I think if you find a story that you like, reading manga can be a lot of fun, and open up new and different stories to read as well! Do you have a favorite manga or anime? Why did you get into manga? I’d love to hear some suggestions of good series to check out!!