My love for comics, or manga, as they are called in Japanese, happened later in life. Sure, I read Archie Comics when I was a kid, but the short, colorfully illustrated pamphlets didn’t do much to engage my imagination like a prose novel did. Still, they were good for a short escape, when I didn’t have time to sit down and read a book.
It’s when I hit college that comics opened up a whole new world for me. I was working and trying to put myself through school, and just didn’t have time to read. That was torture; I have always been a reader, and not having the energy or the time to read the latest fantasy novel was killing me.
Comics were the perfect reading material. I needed something short and easy to digest between my dry, dreadfully boring accounting texts. I started with Ranma 1/2 by Rumiko Takahashi, which was about all that was being published back then, and worked my way (backwards), to American super hero comics. These were the days when Image Comics was publishing the cream of the crop, and everywhere you turned in the comic store your eyes were assaulted by ridiculously proportioned humans packed into skin tight latex. I soon became discouraged with the world of superhero comics, and turned my back on it. Where were the comics that called out to me, a female reader? I wanted romance and angsty relationships; instead, I had undead, maggot riddled heroes like Spawn, or the constantly changing creative talent revolving through the X-Men titles.
Not long after, TOKYOPOP emerged on the scene with their manga revolution. They started publishing series in collected volumes, each of them clocking in at around 200 pages. They starting releasing some incredible stuff: Peach Girl, Mars, Card Captor Sakura. Here were stories about young women, and they were written for young women. I became obsessed with them. There were dozens and dozens of new titles, in the span of a year, for me to devour. I started to love the longer series, with their epic story lines and likable characters. Red River by Chie Shinohara, about a modern teen sucked back in time to ancient Anatolia, was a favorite. Sure, the plot was occasionally repetitive, but Yuri was such an exciting heroine! She even rode a black horse, fearlessly leading her troops to battle! I ate that one up.
A lot of people are confused by manga and comics in general. They aren’t just for little kids, and, in fact, there are many graphic novels in my collection that are strictly for an older age bracket. Characters experience love, betrayal, jealousy, even the loss of loved ones. The books suck me in, and some of them, the special ones, even move me to tears. I await the next volume a favorite series with barely contained impatience. There are series to fit every taste – whether you like romance, adventure, fantasy, or historicals, there is a book for you. There is even a series about a board game (Hikaru no Go), and it is one of the most suspenseful titles on the market! Go figure!
It’s hard to convey in the word count allotted to this post just how magical manga can be. With illustrations and dialog working together to form a cohesive, emotional whole, the possibility for a compelling, gripping read is endless. Since I discovered manga, the world, and my wallet, will never be the same. If you are interested in exploring this magical world, hit your local library, or drop me a line at julie(at)mangamaniaccafe(dot)com, and I would be happy to recommend titles that will appeal your reading tastes. Trust me – you’ll never feel the same way about comic books again!
Julie blogs regularly at Manga Mania Cafe