For the longest time, I was what I would call an otaku. I was obsessed with anime and manga where it nearly occupied my every thought (if it wasn’t occupying my thoughts, then something I created was). I was definitely more of a manga consumer though – on the more “practical” side, they’re cheaper than anime (usually ten bucks cheaper, if not more, than the solo DVDs), but on the more “emotional side”, there’s just something about zipping through a black & white comic that comes off to me as more animated and lively than any anime could ever be. My heart belonged much to manga and it still does, though not as much. Even though I don’t consider myself an otaku any longer (though, I often question that by some of my otaku tendencies, like going crazy over a fictional character in an anime), I still have a large appreciation for anime and manga (anime even more so now that I’m not obsessing over it!).
Recently (and by recently, I mean within the past two months), I’ve brought all my manga – a bit over 300 series, I believe – into my room once again. I used to have them up in my room, but due to moving in with my dad and moving back in with my mom, they’ve been stuck in boxes for about two years. Oh man, how I have missed them. I put them up on shelving in the beginning of January, but just got around to alphabetizing them yesterday. At times, I couldn’t help but feel a slight sense of nostalgia – some of the manga I’ve had since I first got into it, back in 6th grade!
While generally I was brought into a state of happy memories, I could help but be reminded of all the changes in the manga industry as well. I remember when the majority of manga on the market was released by VIZ (later renamed VIZ Media) and Tokyopop. Tokyopop held the best series you never heard of. VIZ held all the mainstream series, the ones that the random person sitting in the corner booth at your local Denny’s might have heard about (though, they’re probably more familiar with the better known anime adaption that most likely aired on Cartoon Network). There were a few other publishers too, but you didn’t usually buy manga from them. No, you stayed with the logos you were familiar with: the open book with “VIZ” written inside it, with an eye peering into it, and a floating, unhappy robotic emoticon.
My first manga was Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow, a SEQUEL to Cardcaptor Sakura. Well, first manga in which I knew it was a manga. Years earlier, I had some Pokémon ones divided into actual comic books, but because they were not in a graphic novel format nor did I know of manga at the time, I’m not counting them. CCS: MotC was MY first 100% authentic (or so boasted the back cover) manga. It was confusing to read at first, but after a while, I got used to it. It opened the door to the manga world, where I proceeded to pick up some other series – the most notable ones were probably Zodiac P.I., Kodocha, and Tokyo Mew Mew.
Tokyo Mew Mew seemed to be one of those really popular manga that everyone who read manga seemed to read. Actually, if you ask manga readers now (especially female ones) if they’ve read Tokyo Mew Mew, you’re most likely going to get a “yes!” response from them. Most people reading it now though are probably reading it through Kodansha’s omnibus rerelease (which a part of me wants to get…), not Tokyopop’s original 7-volume release.
Zodiac P.I. wasn’t a popular one, but it was a good one. It was one of those follow up manga I would recommend to my friends after lending them Tokyo Mew Mew. It was among the start of my manga collection. I keep glancing back at it right now – its orange-yellow binding with blue font, the tiny Tokyopop logo at the very top. I remember it being a very good series at the time. I wonder if I’ll still feel the same now? (Most likely not. I hope I’m wrong.)
Kodocha was probably my first real favourite manga. I’m not even sure why right now – maybe I’ll remember when I have a chance to reread it. I just loved something about Sana’s story and Akito. The series was hilarious, though it had it’s upsetting climax moments that helped out the overall story. I was very disappointed none of Miho Obana’s other works made it to the USA. This was one of those manga I always pestered my friends to read and they seemed to enjoy it as well.
Nowadays, peoples first manga series are probably Naruto, One Piece, or Bleach. No one’s probably ever heard of series like Kodocha or Zodiac P.I.. Tokyopop’s now gone – it’s been gone for a few years now. The manga world is shared between VIZ Media, Digital Manga Inc., Kodansha, and Yen Press. Sometimes Dark Horse shows their head too. When you walk into a bookstore, the manga sections which used to take up a good two or three 8 foot bookshelves with 3 or 4 rows of books, now only take up less then one. The titles in the bookstores are usually the same old ones everyone probably owns – Naruto, Bleach, Death Note, One Piece, Black Butler, Soul Eater. It’s amazing when I come across a series I haven’t heard of before or doesn’t seem popular sitting on the shelves.
Don’t get me wrong – I am not saying those series are bad. I enjoying some of them myself. However, I just miss the days I could walk into the bookstore, pick up some random manga I’ve never even heard of before, bring it home, and fall in love with it (that’s how I discovered a majority of my favourite series, after all). It was hard leaving the store empty handed because there was just so much manga for me to discover and to read. Nowadays, it’s easy to leave after one glance over the manga. I still tend to float around the manga section of the stores and browse hard, to make sure I don’t want anything, and always find myself disappointed by the lack of choices in comparison to yesteryear.
I think the best time to be a manga fan was probably in 2006/2007 (at at least, if you’re not only into old school manga; which, by the way, I feel like some of them should be rereleased). The manga industry seemed to be so alive then. There were so many different publishers – Tokyopop and VIZ Media were still ruling the manga world, sure, but you had Digital Manga swooping in with their large amount of boys’ love licenses that catered to the yaoi boom. You had CMX publishing an array of titles that you might not have heard of, but were still appealing to pick up nonetheless. Go! Comi released some of the most fantastic manga you might have never thought of picking up – ones that probably could be considered masterpieces. Del Rey manga tickled my fancy with their translation notes, explaining bits of Japanese culture that they left intact or explain why they changed something in the manga. This wasn’t even all of them. And as I mentioned before, bookstores were FILLED with manga. It was so easy to waltz right into your local bookstore, browse the manga section, and pick up manga you might have never considered picking up before.
I guess you can say that I just miss when the North American anime and manga industry was booming and there was more variety. The only place I seem to be able to find variety at this point is either at anime cons or online.
I miss some of the series on my shelf being found in stores.
I think I just miss manga.