New Reference Books on Manga

Manga is a type of Japanese comic book which covers many genres, with stories about everyday life or stories with adventures and action. They are an important part of Japanese popular culture with a steadily growing fan base in the West. I have read through a few, especially if someone recommends one in particular or gives it to me as a gift. I’ve liked the ones I’ve read pretty well, but I always felt like there were more things to learn about them. They seemed to be filled with so many cultural references and specific themes from within the genre. So I decided to examine one of our new reference books in the Critical Survey of Graphic Novels series, this one devoted to manga, and learn more about how they`re made and introduce myself to some of the more famous manga works.

Manga is, after all, very much a Japanese art form, and while I might know a little bit about Japanese culture, I am not at all an expert. This reference book entitled Manga (REF PN6725 .C756) can help me understand it a little bit more. It provides readers with a long list of manga works and gives their plots, characters, and themes, as well as their cultural impact.   I was actually somewhat surprised to see a few that I recognized, like Uzumaki, a really creepy story about a town possessed  by an evil spiral curse, and a series entitled Fullmetal Alchemist, some of which I watched as an anime (Japanese cartoons) and really enjoyed. Where Uzumaki is a trippy horror story, Fullmetal Alchemist is more of a magic steampunk adventure story.


I looked through the book, trying to get a feel for the genre. What really stands out to me is how well the book is put together. It is filled with pictures and information about the works being analyzed, with clear lists of major characters, plot summaries, and the basic themes. The second thing I noticed is how much variety there is in the manga genre. There are books for kids, with cute child protagonists who use magic to win school talent shows, books about the everyday lives of young women trying to succeed in both love and in the corporate world, and gritty stories about  crime and murder made for young adults and teenagers. Although I had heard of some of the books, like Death Note and Ghost in the Shell, I never knew much about them. This book can tell you just about everything you would want to know about these graphic novels themselves, as well as about their creators and how readers respond to them. I will warn you, however, if you read the plot summaries, they will have spoilers, as they basically outline everything that happens in the story from start to finish. Oh, and I don’t want to get into it too much, but there is some stuff of a more sexual nature described.  I`ll just leave it there. If you want more details, you can look it up yourself!
Give this book a look. It’s interesting, informative, and a good place to start if you are a fan of the manga genre or of Japanese culture. And by the way, if you enjoy this title, you might also appreciate its companion volume in the Critical Survey of Graphic Novels series, History, Theme, andTechnique (REF PN6725 .C7536).  Both titles are available in Rice Library’s Reference Collection, located on the library’s first floor.

This entry was posted in comics, critical survey, drawing, history, Japan, Manga, technique. Bookmark the permalink.

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