Manga: The Complete Guide Paperback – Oct 9 2007
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About the Author
Jason Thompson has over ten years’ experience as a manga editor, working at SHOHEN JUMP magazine and other publications. His writing has appeared in Animerica and The Comics Journal.
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This book does a tremendous job in dispelling the image of Manga that many of us raised on American comics have about the genre. This book explains not only the history of Manga but the various types of Manga to the point where if you can't find something you'd like, you just didn't look hard enough. Plus there are over 900 reviews!
Don't like big-eyed teenage girls running around in skirts? Don't worry! There is a Manga series that caters to both men and women of every age group and interest. Horror, fantasy, occult, mystery, politics, sci-fi, sports, pets, martial arts, military, business people, etc...Whew! Without this book, the hundreds of titles and dozens of genres would be too much to try and piece together.
I'm sure many experienced Manga fans will disagree with some of his reviews but when you've read as many as the reviewer has, cliches are probably very easy to spot and quality easy to discern.
If you feel that your American Comics collection is getting a bit predictable or drab, or you just want to expose yourself to this art form, this book is a must for people absolutely new to the form.
This volume also contains an introduction and afterward about Japanese comics (and even has a hiragana/katakana chart for reference), which are all very interesting and useful. The book succeeds as a reference guide to manga in general, but the separate yaoi section fails as a good guide for determining whether a series is worthwhile or not, and probably because this book was compiled mostly by men (presumably straight) who are not necessarily fans of the genre (the ratings seem to get lower the more graphic the series are...) and seem to prefer Viz shonen series (for which the author is an editor).
The book does list all of the active licenses up to last year (2007), except for being entirely lacking of any of the BL novels (aside from mentioning the OtRFK novels) or non-BL light novels, and not containing any Korean manwha titles, Chinese manhua, OEL (western graphic novels styled like manga) or cine-manga (picture manga based on anime series/movies). This is an English-licensed-Japanese-manga-only collection.
I wouldn't take the ratings to heart, especially since they go from 0 to 4 stars, which aside from being awkward are completely inconsistent. Naruto got 4 stars, but Fruits Basket, the greatest selling shojo manga in the US and Japan got 3.5. Bleach got 3 stars, though the review would lead you to believe it wasn't "that great" of a title. People expect a 5 star system (0 to 5, that is), especially since it gives you more to work with in differentiating between "bad" titles and "okay" titles. The top score should be reserved for the seminal works and there seemed to be just too many of them slapped on titles that only marginally deserved a high rating (Naruto, anyone?).
The yaoi section reviews were particularly abysmal, when there actually were reviews (many of the titles were left unrated). Some of the most celebrated BL titles of all time were snubbed: FAKE got 2 stars because the reviewer didn't like the artwork; Embracing Love got 4 stars while fellow BBGold signature titles Finder Series and Kizuna got 2.5 stars?! Other marginal titles got rave reviews: Wild Rock got 4 stars, and while not a bad series, the rating seems based on someone's personal feelings about the title and not its own merit.
The review and rating system would have better been served by extensive research of official published reviews for series and average manga fan reactions to them and not the personal and incosistent feelings of the people compiling this book. However, this is a good collection of information about past titles you might want to look into. This is one of those books that you'll want to look out for future editions of/additions to (since there are more and more titles being licensed every day). For the price, I would suggest finding this book on sale or used somewhere. The inconsistent ratings, errors and omissions (particularly of light novels and manwha) only garner this collection 3 stars. If it were available in an updatable e-book format I would recommend that instead.
The book is arranged in alphabetical order by title. Each entry includes the Japanese phonetic title, translation, and kanji title along with author's name. This is followed by the names of both the U.S. and the Japanese publishers and the different dates of publication in each country, as well as the name of the magazine it was originally serialized in, and the total number of volumes. My favorite detail is the category (shojo, shonen, josei, seinen, yaoi, yuri) as well as the genre (fantasy, crime, occult), followed by age ratings that include specific content notices (language, nudity, sexual situations). If you are a parent or librarian trying to decide whether a certain title might be appropriate to purchase for a child, this information is absolutely invaluable.
Last is the review and star rating. I love the fact that many of these are not just plot summaries but honest-to-goodness signed reviews that help gauge the quality of the plot and artwork, as well as place it in context. In general I agreed with most of the reviews and ratings. The titles that are not individually reviewed, especially the newer ones, still have descriptions.
As another reviewer noted, many of the yaoi and mature (including yuri) titles only have basic descriptions instead of reviews and therefore are not rated (perhaps 50%)...however, that still makes this far better than any other manga guide I have seen. Some ignore the yaoi/yuri/mature categories all together, or include only a handful of titles. This book is as close as you're going to get to a comprehensive listing. Also I like the fact that these titles are in a separate section in the back so that they're not mixed in with the titles for children.
Finally, my favorite part of this book is the subject-specific essays and recommendations. I have read other guides organized by genre, such as Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More (Genreflecting Advisory Series) and 500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide, but they include only the broadest of genres. This book includes genres that I have noticed but have never seen discussed elsewhere in print, such as cooking, games, music, pets, politics, etc. I especially appreciate the entry on josei manga, with the largest list of josei I have found. These essays appear in alphabetical order throughout the book, although you can also find them listed in the table of contents. The genre essays average about three pages in length and explain the history of the genre in manga and its relation to Japanese culture, followed by a quick list of titles that fall into that genre. For example, the "horror" genre article provides lists of recommended titles broken down into pure horror, action horror and vampire manga. The essay on "Occult and Religion" is the longest, at five pages, and includes listings of titles featuring angels, devils, Christian imagery, ghosts and shinigami. No other genre listing comes close to the depth and breadth of this resource.
In addition to all this, the introduction has a great history of manga in America, decade by decade, as well as an explanation of "what makes manga different." In the back are excellent articles further discussing issues such as age ratings, censorship, sexism, and race. I highly recommend this book as either a personal or professional reference for anyone who is interested in manga.
The writer freely states when he believes some works use too much cliche, yet he fails to appoint the heavy usage of cliches in Naruto, for example. He even state that Sakura is a "unusually well written love interest". Now please, enlighten me on what's well written about Sakura.
Why the popular titles always get good ratings? I can't help but think this is done on purpose, just to please most readers. Another thing is that violent battle manga are usually given low ratings, with the exception of Berserk.
Overall the sections about manga styles and manga elements are concise and good, the best part of the book.
Seeing titles like Rurouni Kenshin and Hunter X Hunter with ratings lower or equal to Bleach and Naruto tell you that something is wrong. I suggest that you disregard the reviews, read only the manga premise and see if it interests you.
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