So you’ve decided to dip your toes into the world of manga, congratulations! You’re about to step into a whole new world filled with amazing stories and memorable characters that might shape your worldview in the future. With so much out there, however, feeling a little intimidated is totally natural. There’s a whole wide world of adventures out there waiting to be discovered by you. So where does one begin? That’s a great question and over the course of this feature, we’re going to dive into the who’s and what’s of manga reading and get you prepared to dive into your first series!
Research, Research, Research
As we’ve stated, there are literally thousands of titles out there from thousands of different authors who all have their own style and specialty. With so many titles to choose from, how does someone figure out where to begin? Well, the first thing you should decide in order to narrow down your search for the perfect starter title is what you are in the mood to read. Do you want something like an action-packed shonen? Do you want a sweet, shojo love story? Do you want something dark? Would you prefer something light-hearted? Do you need a rich or even complicated story or are would you be happy with a simple slice of life story that revolves entirely around the interactions between characters? Maybe you're in the mood for a fantastical isekai? Do you want a series that is already completed or do you want something that is still being released? These are all things you should consider when sitting down to research which title you want to read.
There are several different websites out there that catalog all of this information and make it easy to peruse. We recommend the two largest cataloging sites MyAnimeList and Anime-Planet, which allows you to filter titles down by genre and even keywords to help you narrow down your search that much faster. Try focusing on things that you’d naturally be interested in. The odds are very good that unless your hobby is super obscure, there’s a manga series about it. There’s no need to go wild with your first few series, stick with what’s comfortable for you, and gradually expand out from there.
The other thing to keep in mind is how recent is the series. If the series is ongoing, the odds are fair that there is a service that has licensed the title and is releasing it weekly (or bi-weekly or monthly; it varies from series to series). Sometimes, however, a series isn’t being released weekly and thus you must wait for collected volumes to be released to store shelves which can take a few months between volumes as enough material has to be published in Japan first.
Just remember that there are as many manga series as stars that you can see with your naked eye on a clear night sky, and no two of them are identical. There are manga titles for every genre and every age, so make sure that you’re reading something that is appropriate for your personal tastes. The last thing you want to do is pick up a title expecting something cute and light and open it up to find explicit body horror instead!
Where to Read
Once you’ve narrowed down your search and settled on a title, it’s time to decide where and how you’re going to read it. Do you prefer physical books or do you prefer digital books? If you prefer physical books, getting manga is as easy as traveling to your local bookstore or hobby shop and choosing out your selected title. If they don’t have it, don’t be afraid to request a special order of it, as this helps publishers know which of their titles are the most in-demand in order to determine which titles to reprint. If you don’t have a local bookstore or don’t want to request a special order, there are also specialty retailers including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Right Stuf which generally keep plentiful amounts of back stock on hand to satisfy all of those manga cravings.
If you prefer a digital copy of your book, there are a number of legal places online to get your fix. Amazon and Barnes and Noble both have their own digital storefront. Some publishers including Crunchyroll, Comixology, Yen Press, and Viz Media even have their own manga sections which you can access for a nominal monthly fee which makes them perfect for instant gratification and satisfying those late night manga cravings!
Stop and Smell the Roses
One easy habit to get into when reading manga is to only read the words and not appreciate the art that is driving that story forward. Don’t let yourself become one of these readers. Manga is a skilled art form and requires many hours of work to complete one chapter and even more hours for one collected volume. Pay attention to the artwork in each panel and really appreciate the effort that it took to create it. Even better, learn about the authors who created the titles that you enjoyed and watch how their style grows and evolves from title to title.
Don’t Be Afraid to Drop Things
The most important quality to have if you’re wanting to become a regular manga reader is patience. Sometimes it can take a few chapters for a story to really pick up and get interesting. At the same time, however, sometimes you just know that a story isn’t right for you, and in those cases, it’s totally ok for you to drop a series and stop reading it. Life is too short for bad entertainment that you’re not enjoying, so you should absolutely not stick with something if it’s not making you happy.
The last word of advice we have for you is as true with manga as it is with any new hobby: pace yourself! While it’s tempting to dive in headfirst into the deep end and binge through as many series as you can fit in your brain all at once, it’s much better if you take the time to savor what you read. As mentioned earlier, the artwork is part of the amazing journey, so savor everything that the author has to offer and take your time with reading each series so that you can properly digest everything that you’re consuming.
Reading manga is an absolutely amazing hobby that will fill you with emotions. Sometimes those emotions will be happy and sometimes they will be heartbreakingly sad. No matter what though, finding the right manga title that speaks to you on a personal level is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have in your life. Finding that title that calls out to you and will stand out in your memories forever.