You know how you have something on your bookshelf for ages and then you finally say to yourself, “Gee, I think I might like to read that.” That’s pretty much how the May Mini Manga-thon was born. Well, that’s the short version, anyway. I recently started snapping up whatever manga I could find at used book sales so I’ve amassed what I like think of as a respectable manga collection. But I hadn’t bothered to read any of it. So I took stock and decided to interrupt my regularly scheduled reading for a special manga edition TBR. And I set aside a week in May to see how much of my manga I could get through.
Pretty. Awesome. Week. I’ve never been a big reader of comic books but I know that the stories in manga are very often turned into anime, and I do enjoy those versions. So I figured that if I gave it a chance, I would probably enjoy manga as well. That absolutely turned out to be the case and I had a really fun reading week.
Not only was the May Mini Manga-thon a lot of fun, but it turned out to be interesting as well. Reading so many different series back-to-back was enlightening, in that it allowed me to compare several different styles of manga and helped me discover what I really like. As is typical for me as a reader, I tended to gravitate to the stories with slightly darker themes. But even in terms of the visual presentation, it turned out that I even like dark artwork. Like, literally, art that features a lot of black ink. It makes for some incredibly striking imagery and has a way of bringing certain scenes to life for the reader. I feel like I took a crash course in manga appreciation that’s made me a more informed reader, and given me a good idea of what I want to look for in the manga I read in the future.
All told, I read 26 issues of manga, out of a total of 63 issues that I own. That means I read about 41% of my manga collection. A more than respectable TBR takedown, I think.
Without further ado, here’s what I read:
xxxHolic Ominbus by CLAMP, Volume I (Issues 1-3)
xxxHolic is about a teen aged boy who sees spirit who starts working for a witch, and his ensuing supernatural adventures. I generally enjoyed the story, but for the clumsy cross-overs with other titles by the same authors. The cross-over scenes were a painful drag on the story that did little to nothing to move the xxxHolic series forward because they have no real impact on the main character, Watanuki. That aside, I find the story pretty interesting and I intend to read the entire series.
Buso Renkin by Nobuhiro Watsuki, Issues 1-5
This series follows a young boy who is killed by a creature called a humonculus, but is resurrected by a magical artifact and begins fighting humonculi. The series is a shonen manga, which means it’s meant for a young male audience and it reads as such. This one wasn’t really my cup of tea. There’s a lot of action and fighting, but not much character development. And the villain was pretty silly. I don’t think I would like to read any more of this series.
MARS by Fuyumi Soryo, Issues 1-7 & 9-12
This is the story of a “bad boy” and a “good girl” in high school who unexpectedly fall in love. It’s a really good story that called to mind both Boys Over Flowers (Korean version) and Felicity as I was reading. However, both of the main characters lives were besieged by tragedy. Events depicted or alluded to in the series include rape, murder, suicide and mental illness so it’s not a happy, sunny kind of tale. And given that it’s manga, there really wasn’t a lot of room to really delve into each of these situations. So it can feel like the story kind of drops one bomb after another on the reader and then moves on, rather briskly, to the next story arc. However, the two leads, Rei and Kira, are compelling enough to keep you moving forward with them. I loved this series and I’m hoping to be able to read the last three issues.
Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue, Omnibus Volume 1 (Issues 1-3)
This is the story of a seventeen year old ronin named Takezo (who later takes the name Musashi) in feudal Japan who seeks to become a master samurai or, as he puts it “invincible under the sun.” It’s a fictionalization of the life of a real Japanese historical figure name Miyamoto Mushashi. I loved everything about this work. Not only is the story gripping, but the characters are engaging, and the artwork is stellar. This is the only manga I read last week that could be considered “adult,” both in terms of style and content, and it was, for me, the breakout star of the May Mini Manga-thon. Not only do I want to read more of this series, but I’d even love to learn more about the real life Miyamoto Mushashi.
Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninomiya, Issues 1-4
This was the last of the manga series that I sampled last week. I first heard of this series, a light-hearted romance between two music students, straight-laced Shinichi and free-spirited Megumi, when the story was remade as a Korean television drama. I haven’t seen the drama yet, but I got the sense that the original manga was very popular. I was curious enough about it to pick it up these four issues when I saw them at a used book sale. The series is not without its charms but, overall, I just couldn’t get into it. It has some funny moments but I felt like the storytelling could be really incoherent at times. And at the start of the series, the romance is completely one-sided. Although they have become friends, Shinichi is not responding very positively to Megumi’s advances so the story’s just not that romanctic yet. I’m sure that changes down the road but, so far, the romance is off to a pretty slow start.
I’m more eager than ever to start seeking out more manga, now that I have a better idea of what appeals to my taste as a manga reader. Not only that, but I’m also looking forward to having future Manga-thons as my collection grows.
Leave a comment and let me know if you’re a manga reader and what series, old or new, you think I should check out.
Peace and books,
The Dollar Reader