Manga Monday

Manga Monday #14: How to Choose a Manga

There’s a lot of manga out there.  Finding a good manga to read, it’s not much different than finding something new to binge on Hulu or Netflix, or shuffling through the many and varied book trilogies out there.

We all have our own combinations of what requirements a show/book/manga/movie has to meet to get us to even attempt to watch it.

How to Choose a Manga

As you read, you naturally find what genres you like.  This goes for everything we consume, from restaurants to media.  All choices come in their own set of genres, sub-genres, and categories, and thus we naturally build an affinity for certain ones.

In the case of manga, I’ve obviously got my own criteria that I work within, and yours is most likely different in several ways.  But, just for kicks, here’s my standardized checkpoints that I look for in choosing what manga to read.

Art Style

I love all sorts of manga art, especially uniquely rendered ones, but there’s a particular styling from 1970s manga that I’m not super into.  Like, Rose of Versailles is supposed to be this amazing, revolutionary manga, but I just can’t get into the art style.  (Because I suck, I know.)  But, I’m sorry, all the dudes look like girls.

I guess super effeminate men as love interests drive me away pretty quickly, I have a pretty difficult time getting past it.  Wonky anatomy or hands I can get past, but apparently not girly boys.  I’m a terrible person, probably.

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Rose of Versailles, a very famous manga from the 1970s.

I do struggle with “same face” syndrome, however.  You know, where every character design is so freaking similar that only way you can actually distinguish who’s who is their hairstyle?  Attack on Titan is an amazing series, but it suffers from this quite a bit.

Genre

Certain premises chase me away.  Like “harem” manga, which is basically where the entire story is built around one guy having multiple women vying for his affections.  He’s just some regular Joe who magically (sometimes literally magically) finds himself with 5+ beautiful women around him.  Even if the lead dude has his supposed “chosen” one, he still manages to get into situation after situation of girls forcing themselves on him.  It’s insulting, in a way.

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Nisekoi, a more complex harem manga than most, but still a harem manga.

There’s also “reverse harem” which is basically the exact same thing, but it’s a girl that has a million guys after her.  Series such as Ouran High School Host Club and Fruits Basket are extremely well-known and well-loved reverse harem manga.  I keep trying to enjoy them like everyone else seems to, but I just can’t get into them.  Again, it’s just so unrealistic and so demeaning to both parties that it quickly becomes very unattractive to me.

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Fruits Basket, a top-selling manga in the U.S. and Japan.

But otherwise, I’m really up for any other genre, however typical.

Humor

To me, all great stories have humor–no matter how dark and dreary a story, it needs a sense of humor to keep the reader dropping into their own depression.  I’ve touched on the remarkable manga Koe no Katachi on a previous Manga Monday post, but it really is an excellent example of how you take what is a very dark premise (the realities of bullying) and make it edible by interjecting life’s natural humor into it.

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Koe no Katachi has a sad premise but some wonderful humor.

Of course, I love manga that its primary drive is humor.  Especially one-page, four-koma mangas such as Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko! (which I also showed you previously), as well as Mousou Telepathy, both of which allow humor to take the forefront of the story, letting the more dramatic parts of the tale acts as the highlights.

Love Triangles

Ahh, love triangles.  They can either make a story, or they can utterly destroy a story.  They’re such an overused trope that they can become exhausting, and thus when an entire manga’s premise is based around a love triangle, it can become pretty boring–at least to me.

Vampire Knight is one manga that is vastly popular and I think that stems very strongly from the love triangle aspect of it.  I truly couldn’t tell why people would like it otherwise.  Everything else about the plot is strung very poorly, so the fact that it was even made into an anime is beyond me.  Maybe the anime improves on it?

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Vampire Knight‘s love triangle is what kept people interested–even though it’s pretty awful.

Underdog Storylines

Oh gosh, I’m such a sucker for the underdog storylines.  No matter was genre or setting they take place in, they just always seem to pull me in.  More specifically club manga that are all about them being underdogs and striving to make it to the top.  I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

It’s just something about seeing the passion that can develop as people are working in something that they really enjoy.  No matter where someone’s skill level begins, their ability to push themselves to be better is dependent on their enjoyment in doing that thing.  I find that so cool.  (Because I’m a dork.)

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I’ll/CKBC, a beautiful manga about a basketball club that started my love the club sub-genre.

Slow Burn

I talk about this too much on here, but the best stories are the slow burning ones.  Plot burning is about constantly fueling the fire and burning plot as you go.  A slow burn is watching relationships develop within a well fueled plot line–and I love seeing that in manga.

One of the best examples I can think of is Shishunki Bitter Change, a web comic that covers elementary schoolers who accidentally switch bodies, following them from middle school and beyond as they struggle with the idea that they may never switch back, as well as the drama behind their swapped lives.  But the plot isn’t simply about some romantic thing, or even about their attempts to change back.  The slow burn is watching their struggle, and it’s been such a great read–I didn’t think it would be, I didn’t get how it could be, but it’s very well crafted.

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Shishunki Bitter Change, gender-swap manga at its best.

I think that those are the keys that either get me hooked or have me moving along at first look.  Series that seem to not fit into my preferred criteria I’ll avoid, but if they keep popping up on my suggestion list, I’ll eventually find myself looking into series that initially didn’t strike me.  The very first Manga Monday post was about one such manga–you know, the one about the elementary schooler with the cat head.  It turned out to be one of my favorite mangas, oddly enough.  Seriously.

What is your preferred manga type, what gets you reading?

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