Back when I was first introduced to the wide and wonderful world of shojo manga, I lived and breathed anything with romance, beautiful illustrations, and hunky shojo men that are the stuff of fantasy. Among my favorite manga series I’ve read and consider to be absolute classics now are Cardcaptor Sakura, Fushigi Yugi, Sailor Moon, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Hana Yori Dango. I used to consider myself to be on the cutting edge of shojo manga. I would know what the latest titles are and what’s soon to come to the U.S. These days, I find my manga reading more stuck in the past and finding myself more lost than I ever was before about what titles I should be adding to my reading collection.
Anyone who is an avid manga or graphics novel reader would know it’s quite expensive to collect all the volumes of your favorite series, as well as starting up a newer series once you have collected and read the previous one. I didn’t always have a fair amount of money on hand to collect every single volume of a finished series in one go. I gradually read and built my collection of a current series. It may have taken some time to get to the final conclusion of a series, but if it’s one I’m really interested in, I managed to pool all my money into getting the last few books left to have a complete set.
Time also eventually became a factor in a slower than usual collection and reading rate with manga. Being an adult who works full time and is balancing that out with having a life outside of geeky hobbies, it can be tricky to fit in time to read the series I’m currently collecting or looking into a new series to fall in love with.
Every time I check out the manga section at my local bookstore or follow publishers like Shojo Beat on Facebook and Twitter, I feel like a foreigner trying to make sense of all the newer titles that keep getting published in English. Certain cover art makes me more skeptical about wanting to know what the story is about, even before I’ve read the back of the book. A shojo guy looking sexy on the cover but has the girl in bondage? No thanks. Then there are the titles that look and sound like every other manga series I’ve already read. Once you get a rehash of the same old stories but with different characters and slightly different circumstances, then you might not be as excited to read them.
Hana Yori Dango is a much older series, but a long one to collect every single volume of Yoko Kamio’s wildly popular shojo series. The series may have long since concluded, but being able to buy and read each volume feels like reading something brand new every time. I also think there’s something about already knowing these characters beforehand through the anime that makes it easier to slide into the story like a snug glove every time I have a new volume in my possession.
Maybe my manga reading habits are a little old school too. Japanese manga back when I was in junior high to high school was a fairly new genre. Pickings were slim but the ones that did manage to make it over to the U.S. were gems, and with an illustration style that’s completely different from American comics. Now that manga has boomed in the U.S. market, it’s hard to separate the really must-read series from the ones that aren’t worth the money to pay for them.
The question worth asking is will I ever keep up with the latest manga titles that make our way to our local bookstores? Probably not. But if there’s a gem waiting to be found among the sea of titles clamoring for my attention, I’ll find it.