If you are reading this in the year 2020, then chances are that you will have a bit of time on your hands. Whether you are a student who has the rest of their semester canceled or a worker deprived of your morning commute, many people around the world are waking up to the possibilities afforded by free time. Here at OTAQUEST, we think you should use this time to stay at home and read manga. Here’s why.
Why stay at home and read manga?
For starters, you should stay at home to avoid spreading the Coronavirus. Seriously. Just do it.
But as to why you should stay at home and read manga, it must be said that there are many inherent advantages that manga has as a medium over anime (here, I am assuming that you are at least familiar with anime).
One of the most attractive for me, personally, is the speed at which it can be consumed. That does depend, of course, on how fast you can read, but Fredrick L. Schodt once said in his Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics that it takes a Japanese reader a little under eight seconds to parse a full page of detailed art and dialogue. That’s pretty fast.
Consumption for consumption’s sake isn’t something that I’d advocate, however, so what is important is how this informs a different kind of storytelling from what you usually find in anime.
In reality, the worlds of anime and manga are closely intertwined. Some of the most high profile and best selling anime of all time are adaptations of likewise high profile and best selling manga, such as Dragon Ball and Fullmetal Alchemist. These then link together to form vast, multimedia empires that go on to conquer the world. But precisely because of this, many anime suffer from problems with pacing and the dreaded filler – either because they are adapting works that are still ongoing or attempting to stretch a story to fit a set number of episodes. Why not skip the middleman, then, and stay at home to read manga?
Another amazing thing about reading manga is the sheer abundance of titles that are on offer. This is something that I discovered when I lived in Japan, where I could walk into a bookstore and walk out with five, ten, even fifteen new and interesting titles that had yet to receive an anime adaptation. This is because the number of manga magazines and other publication methods floating around out there simply dwarfs the number of anime adaptations that manage to get off the ground, which requires a large amount of money and manpower. If you stay at home and read manga, then, the world that will be opened up to you will be vast.
Of course, you could argue that anime is the same; over 50 years of Japanese animation as we know it has produced thousands of shows, many of which will still be hanging around your plan to watch lists. But instead of simply ticking things off a list, it seems much more exciting to go out there and discover things for yourself. Luckily, the avenues in which you can do this have developed exponentially over the past couple of years.
Ease of access
The first generation of western manga fans in the 1970s, which began to spring up more or less after the exportation of anime to the west in the 1960s, had to deal with multiple problems: a lack of titles, poor quality translations, and cultural conflict and social isolation. Compared to them, we are living in paradise – an abundance of titles, inventive and expressive translations, and much freer access and wider cultural acceptance. In a sense, we almost have no excuse not to stay at home and read manga.
Digital subscription services have made the experience of reading manga in the West nowadays particularly stress-free. There are now countless sites being operated, from Amazon’s giant Comixology to the tiny Manga Planet, that offer a selection of titles for a monthly price. The great thing about these services is that they often tend to be very cost-effective, offering speed readers the chance to read hundreds of titles without necessarily having pay for them. They are by far the most popular choice for manga fans these days, and for good reason.
Nevertheless, if you’re still all about building up a collection, then there’s still plenty of choice. The number of brick and mortar manga publishers has never been higher, from the multinational Penguin Random House to the Canadian Drawn & Quarterly, which means that the number of manga that get hardcover and paperback releases is higher than ever. Of course, during this current crisis, your local comic shop or book store will not be open, but they may still be operating online – just a customary search of any series that you may be interested in with your search engine will no doubt immediately bring up an easy way to get your hands on it.
The thing about manga, though, is that it tends to be consumed very quickly. This is why subscription services are so popular, along with digital storefronts. Amazon’s Comixology was already mentioned since it contains a massive amount of both western and Japanese comics, but there are many more such examples. Most of the subscription services, in fact, also offer a digital storefront, such as VIZ Media, who operate the Shonen Jump service as well as their own digital book store. There is also Kodakawa’s BookWalker Global, which specializes in digital manga distribution and contains nearly all of the titles translated thus far into English.
If you’ve read this far, then hopefully I have managed to convince you not only of the inherent advantages of manga as a medium but also how easy it is to access nowadays. As a result, you may be in the mood for some recommendations with which you can stay at home and read manga.
In picking out these series, I tried to choose manga that both show off the best of the medium, as well as those that are currently available in English. I also tried to choose a good mix of series that you may have heard of, as well as those that might be new to you. There are also links to where you can read them digitally.
Firstly, in terms of more action-oriented shonen manga:
- My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi. The anime adaptation by Studio BONES is pretty good, but hardly holds a candle to the manga’s breathtaking visual presentation.
- Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama. One of the most successful manga series in recent memory, and for good reason: the story is enthralling, the characters iconic, and the visual presentation unique. You can also read ahead of last season’s tantalizing cliffhanger.
- Chainsaw Man by Tatsuki Fujimoto. Without a doubt, the best shonen series running right now. Has also yet to get an anime, so you can get ahead of the curve.
But how about reading something more mature from the seinen demographic?
- 20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa. The best series from one of manga’s great masters. VIZ Media’s physical releases are also gorgeous and deserve to be on your bookshelf.
- Berserk by Kentaro Miura. An absolute classic of the medium, but has yet to receive a half-decent anime adaptation – that’s partly because Miura’s art is far too beautiful. Still ongoing, however, so buckle up for a wild ride.
- Fire Punch by Tatsuki Fujimoto. Another series by Fujimoto, who is fast becoming one of the medium’s brightest stars. This one is a beautiful meditation on what it means to be a hero, with only a few bumps along the way.
Comedy can also be important when circumstances force you to stay at home.
- Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei by Koji Kumeta. Although the series is about a suicidal high school teacher, it is still pretty hilarious. Plenty of references to Japanese culture and history, however, so be prepared to dig out a Wikipedia page or two.
- Teasing Master Takagi-san by Souichiro Yamamoto. The author has built up a slice-of-life empire for himself on the back of this series, and for good reason: its comedy is pitch-perfect and the relationship between its characters heartwarming. Much better than the anime, too, because you can read it much faster.
- SPY x FAMILY by Tatsuya Endo. Speaking of heartwarming, this series has sold gangbusters since March precisely because of that: delivering sugary sweet family drama alongside espionage action.
How about using this time to stay at home and read the classics?
- Devilman by Go Nagai. You may have seen Masaaki Yuasa’s recent anime adaptation, but the original manga is definitely worth checking out. Not only is it very different, but its influence on the medium as a whole almost has no equal.
- Black Jack by Osamu Tezuka. One of the greatest series of all time from one of the medium’s greatest masters. Much more accessible than Astro Boy, his other most famous work, because it is much more consistent. Vertical’s physical releases are also gorgeous.
- Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama. This is the series that arguably made shonen. You may have seen the anime in your childhood, but the manga is a completely different beast: not suffering from pacing issues, for one, but also showing off some of the best fight choreography ever put together. You can also save a buck or two with the 3-in-1 editions.
Alternatively, you can choose to stay at home and explore something completely different:
- This Crocodile Will Die in 100 Days by Yuuki Kikuchi. A Twitter webcomic phenomenon that explores issues of life, death, love and loss. While there is no official English translation available yet, there are fan translations out there that seem to jive with the free nature of the series’ distribution.
- Tower of God by SUI. One of the most famous manhwas – that is to say South Korean comics inspired by manga – that is currently receiving an anime adaptation. Its sense of worldbuilding and character development is unrivalled and is available to read for free in almost its entirety via WEBTOON.