Manga: Staff Members Pick Their Favourites
Manga are Japanese comic books but that description is perhaps oversimplistic. In Japan, manga are read by people of all ages and classes. Subject matters are varied with non-fiction as well as fiction manga available. It is becoming more popular in North America as well. In 2008, the Canadian and US manga market was valued at $175 million.
Manga generally uses black and white images, often featuring stylized characters with oversized eyes. Most manga published in North America retain their original Japanese formatting with the books reading from right to left.
I asked library staff members to suggest some of their favourite manga titles and these were their responses. Since manga is usually published in multi-volume series, the links below are for the catalogue record for the first book in the series.
Bakuman by Tsugumi Ōba and Takeshi Obata
Two high school students team up to produce manga. The series documents their struggles as they learn to craft a good story and create the art to match.
A Distant Neighborhood by Jirō Taniguchi
A middle-aged business man is given a chance to relive his childhood when he wakes up as a 14 year old. This is a wonderful, poignant story with beautiful illustrations. Unlike most manga, this two volume story is formatted like a Western book, reading from left to right.
Drops of God by Tadashi Agi
A wine critic has died but instead of leaving a traditional will, he has set a challenge. His biological son and his protegé must compete to prove who has more knowledge of wine. The winner takes all. Packed with information about wine, the series was a bestseller in France as well as Japan.
Kingyo Used Books by Seimu Yoshizaki
This mystical used bookstore has the perfect book for every customer who enters. Really a collection of short stories about the bookstore patrons, this series also provides a history of manga.
Oishinbo, a la carte by Tetsu Kariya
A journalist must track down the dishes that will create the "Ultimate Menu" for his newspaper. Each volume of this series centres on a different aspect of Japanese cuisine.
While these are examples of somewhat serious manga stories, there is a lot of variety within the format. You can find horror, historical sagas, science fiction, fantasy and romance among the manga at Toronto Public Library.
Can't get enough graphic novels and manga? Check out these blog posts.