Manga is not just the Japanese version of comic books; it is in many ways the way Japanese read most of the time. People young and old love to read manga, and the volumes fill the bookstores with vast sections easily outnumbering those of traditional, text only books. I come from the American superhero school of comic books, so my introduction to manga was through the manga versions of famous Japanese icons such as Atomic Boy and Macross. It was no surprise to me when I came to Japan to see how much manga is available, but it was more of a surprise to see how easily obtainable it is!
For the most part, you can find manga everywhere. From train kiosks to conbini store shelves, it’s easy to pick up something to read while on the go or simply something easy on the way to a coffee shop. More specialized bookstores will have the latest books by popular mangaka, which is the word for the artist and writers of manga. (In Japan, the artists also write the books; in American and British comic books, the artist and writers are not usually the same person). Manga is also primarily in black and white, but from time to time, color editions for very select titles can be found.
Used manga can also be found all over. Second hand media store Book Off has locations in a lot of places, and I even found a local bookstore in Mobara, Chiba prefecture, which had a gigantic selection of used manga from popular favorites like Naruto and Bleach, to older ones like the Urusei Yatsura tankobon and Azumi volumes that I picked up. It’s also possible to indulge in large, phonebook sized manga in the used stores that can be found for only 100 yen each.
Manga appeal has been famous around the world for some time now. France has always loved its manga, and in America, the wall of manga now easily outnumbers the size of American graphic novels and comic book trade paperbacks. In the past, translation was limited to a handful of companies, but now, since manga is enjoyed by the younger generations, many companies specialize in bringing over the best Japan has to offer.
I’m certainly looking forward to reading more and getting right into the hobby. There isn’t a single genre that dominates like in comic books from other countries – you can find all sorts of subjects that manga covers, from the famous ones like Attack on Titan and Sailor Moon, to romance, history, detective, and medical stories. There’s so much from which to choose that the fun is where it goes next!