Three large bookcases line the wall behind me in the room where I am typing this. On the bottom shelf of one is a black binder that contains my entire anime collection; it fits into a space about the size of a throw pillow for a couch. Most of an entire second bookcase, though, is my manga collection, and it's been something of an act of myopia that I have spent so much time here digging into the treasures of the former and not so much into the latter. Here, then, is my latest excuse to do just that: I got tagged by Tony Yao of Manga Therapy to talk about what's in my collection.
1. What was your first manga?
Tough question to answer succinctly, because of what could be described as a technicality. One of the first things that passed through my hands that could be labeled "manga" was the periodical Mangajin. This was a wonderful (and lamented) English-language monthly that showcased different aspects of Japanese popular and high culture, and used translated manga excerpts to provide language lessons. We lost a great resource when the company folded, due to declining ad sales. (I even wrote for them briefly, supplying a couple of columns about Japanese text processing in Windows 95.)
I've since collected many back issues and two of the collected language-lesson compilations, the latter available in softback as Basic Japanese Through Comics I and II. Reading any one or two issues alone must have been exposed me to literally dozens of manga titles, if only in passing. Any talk of "first" becomes really difficult in this light!
2. What is you most expensive manga?
Most likely the full run of Sukeban Deka, a vintage 1970s shojo title that cost me a fair amount of coin to get imported. I actually have two separate printings of the entire series (one's larger format, the other has author's afterwords), so the cost of acquiring them both probably ran me around $100 or more.
3. What was your least expensive manga?
The 1 bins at Book-Off have yielded up many surprising treasures. Example: Masurao, a retelling of the story of Yoshitsune's early years with some really classy art.
4. What is the most boring manga you own?
Back in a previous career, I reviewed manga regularly and ended up with literally steamer trunks full of ARCs that I donated to libraries. Most of what I got sent was pretty forgettable. Consequently, anything that isn't worth coming back to a second time doesn't stay in my collection.
5. What is your favorite series?
Berserk. The artistry, the craftsmanship, the scope of the storytelling, the weight of the characterizations — there's a reason Kentarō Miura calls this his life's work, because I can't imagine what a man would move on to after finishing something like this. I hope to whatever god is listening that neither I nor Miura croak before it's concluded.
6. What is the most relatable manga series you own?
Rurouni Kenshin. Aside from having a wonderfully human and endearing cast, Kenshin himself is someone I feel a great affection for and connection with. He is trying to do his best to do good things in a world that is only too eager to exploit his former badness, and he doubts whether or not he can protect his friends from the worst of himself (even if they are adamant in only allowing the best of him to flourish).
Princess Jellyfish also deserves to be in the running, although I won't actually own a copy until Kodansha releases it next year!
7. What is one manga you own based off an anime?
Berserk I already mentioned; Black Lagoon is also in that running. A splendid example of both the source material and the adaptation being two of the finest entries in their respective mediums.
8. What is your rarest manga?
Hideshi Hino's funny-creepy-horrible-terrifying Panorama of Hell, no longer in print and getting extremely difficult to find. I discovered that fairly early on in my manga-reading career and have guarded it jealously ever since. (I also have a number of untranslated titles that are presumably out of print now.)
And then there are my copies of Yoshiharu Tsuge's short he of the infamous short "Neji-shiki"), with a strange story behind them. I discovered these two volumes used in New York City's Strand bookstore, but what caught my attention most was not the works themselves (even though I'd been hunting for them for quite some time) but a curious gift dedication written on the flyleaf: "To Jorge — Don't forget about me, I'll miss you..." and an email address. Curious, I tried to get in touch with the person in question to find out what it all meant, but I never received a reply. Maybe that was unwise: some parts of peoples' lives are not ours for the taking, even when they do pass freely into our hands.
9. What is the most reprinted manga you own?
Kenshin most likely; I have a mind to replace my existing small-print editions with the gorgeous VIZBIG editions one of these years.
10. What is the most popular manga you own?
Kenshin (three for three!) I tend not to pick up a lot of the more popular titles, since I feel like those are covered by other people just fine. My interests are generally in the margins and crannies, but I remain open to being sold on an A-list title if it turns out to be worth the effort.
11. What is the most damaged manga you own?
Few of my books tend to get too messed up, but one sustained some odd damage due to its peculiar binding. Viz once had a line of manga called their "Spectrum Edition", bound in these curious ribbed plastic liners that made them feel like ex-library editions even when they were brand new. Jiro Taniguchi and Natsuo Sekikawa's Hotel Harbor View was printed in this format, and I came across another title in the series called Shion: Blade of the Minstrel by Yu Kinutani, now known (if only in passing) for his work on the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex manga. Somewhere along the line, the plastic covering the back cover got warped — and the back cover along with it. Shion, by the way, is a nifty title — a one-shot in the vein of Miura's Berserk (the art is even passingly similar).
12. Which manga has the most amazing art?
Hiroaki Samura's Blade of the Immortal is also astounding stuff, all the more amazing given that it started with the bar set amazingly high and has only delivered non-stop ever since.
13. What is the oldest published manga you own?
Barring the Osamu Tezuka reprints from Vertical, most likely the above-mentioned Sukeban Deka or Yoshiharu Tsuge works.
14. What is the newest published manga you own?
Most likely Prophecy courtesy of Vertical, since I reviewed that not long ago. I tend not to jump on newer things unless they seem really far out of the mainstream, so most of my purchases end up being older titles by most any standard.
15. What are some of the most recent manga you’ve purchased?
Apart from Prophecy above, I've also picked up the recent Satoshi Kon short-story collection (another Vertical issue). I also have Inio Asano's A Girl on the Shore pre-ordered. Dark Horse and a couple of other companies also send me ARCs, but I don't count those as things I own. Much of the time, if I receive an ARC for a title I like, I'll spend the money on it anyway.
[At the end of this exercise, I was supposed to tag at least two other people. Bad news: all my first round draft choices were eaten up. If other intrepid bloggers want to pick up this thread, feel free to comment below with a link to your blog; the first two commentors that get a thumbs-up are free to charge ahead.]