Talking about my 600+ legally licensed digital manga collection
Here's what's in my collection:
Alright, you scrolled through? Good. Let's unpack this.
Okay, digital manga is just hard to display and share. Physical collections are great at that. Half of this post was me just wracking my brain, trying to convey what it is I have in my collection without having to take a dozen screenshots, copying and pasting an entire list, or re-doing my journal.
Honestly, I find my little journal the best visual way for me to keep track of everything I have. I pasted in the most recent volume I own of each series rather than "volume 1." Besides my journal, I do have my Google/Word doc list, and while helpful, especially in the notes department, it's not exactly compelling content. So, let's talk about what's on these "shelves."
Unlike my physical collection, my digital collection is fairly recent. I started collecting digital manga back in 2016 or so when I first bought a basic Kindle e-reader. My first manga was Meteor Prince, a 2-volume romcom. It was a test of both buying e-books and reading them, and I ended up enjoying both the series and my experience reading it digitally. From there, I bought more books. Let's talk about those books.
At a glance, it shouldn't be a surprise that over half of my collection is Kodansha manga. Kodansha hasn't been shy about their intentions to adopt a "digital-first" strategy. They have been releasing digital manga every month for the past 7+ years, and they have tossed a lot of their series on subscription apps, from the fledgling Azuki to the established Kindle/Comixology/Prime to the downright weird Inky Pen. You can't turn around without Kodansha announcing that they are tossing yet another dozen manga on some service or app. As a result, Kodansha has good stuff in the digital vault, including many shoujo/josei series. (We'll get to those in a minute.) Additionally, Kodansha has done a lot of Humble Bundle deals, hurting my wallet and inflating my collection by a lot. I've read and discovered series thanks to the deals such as Kasane, Museum, Parasyte, Starving Anonymous, To Your Eternity, and Until Your Bones Rot.
Besides Kodansha titles, I have a lot of boys love and yaoi titles mostly from Media Do (again Humble Bundle deal) and SuBLime. I have been collecting bl and yaoi on my kindle to save room on my physical shelves for series that aren't digital or that I feel the need to have in print like omnibuses, publishers with high print quality like YaoiArmy and KUMA, etc.
Finally, let's address the elephant in the room, the Harlequin Romance manga collection. Just as it sounds, Harlequin Romance novels have been turned into manga and dropped onto the Kindle store and elsewhere, like weekly. The manga (and novels) are junk food. You've read one of them, then you've read them all. Every once in a while, I'll stumble across a good one like Serenade of the Pirate King (drawn by Mick Takeuchi) and The Desert Rose and the Arrogant Sheikh (drawn by You Higuri), but really...they're just guilty pleasures...
Don't judge me.
Recommending Manga from My Collection
So, let's talk about some "good" manga. Unlike my physical collection, I can't recommend a high percentage of my digital manga collection. Some of it is due to the fact that I haven't read the series yet (more on that later) or that I haven't read enough volumes to make that call. Also, I like to collect my more "embarrassing" or "eye-brow raising" reads here, but nonetheless, there is a bunch of manga, mostly Kodansha-published manga, that you should check out. Let's do a quick rundown.
List of Kodansha digital-only manga to check out
As the title states, these are manga that are published as digital-only titles as of this post. Some of these titles may receive physical releases, but I can't tell you when if ever.
1122 for a Happy Marriage by Peko Watanabe - A couple re-evaluates their marriage after being together for several years; this is a sanctioned cheating manga; if you're looking for a more realistic take on marriage and relationships, I recommend you check this out. (romance drama; complete at 7 volumes)
Boss Wife by Mayu Sakurai - A marriage story between a failed illustrator and yakuza. (romance, drama, comedy, smut; ongoing)
Dragon head by Minetaro Mochizuki - A teenager is heading home from a school field trip when disaster strikes. This is an apocalypse drama with a...ending to say the least. Tokyopop published the entire series, but it's out-of-print now. (action/adventure psychological drama; complete at 10 volumes)
Guilty by Ai Okaue - A 35-year-old woman's marriage to her husband unravels because of her friend. This is a melodramatic romance thriller that just keeps going. Secrets and lies are just unveiled each chapter, each volume. One of my favorite recent josei manga as of late. (romance thriller drama; ongoing)
Mr. Bride by Natsumi Shiba - Opposites attract in this fun romcom between an older woman and younger guy. If you're looking for a lighthearted gender role reversal story and a cohabitation story, then I highly recommend you check this out. (romcom; ongoing)
Museum by Ryousuke Tomoe - a cat-and-mouse style thriller between a detective and serial killer. If you like Monster or Death Note, you should read this. Warning: there is quite a bit of blood and gore. (action thriller drama; complete at 3 volumes)
Nina the Starry Bride by Rikachi - A Middle-Eastern ambient adventure story about a young woman who is forced to assume the identity of a dead princess and marry a neighboring kingdom's prince (and enemy). If you enjoy stories like Snow White with the Red Apple Hair, Basara, or Red River, then check this out. Bonus: this is a josei story running in Be Love magazine. (romance, fantasy, drama; ongoing)
Starving Anonymous by Yuu Karaishi (story) and Kazu Inabe (art) and Kengo Mizutani (original concept) - High school students are coming home from school when they are abducted. They wake up to find themselves aboard a truck packed full of bodies on their way to who knows where to do who knows what. If you're a fan of The Promised Neverland or Fort of Apocalypse, then check this out. (sci-fi horror drama; complete at 7 volumes)
There's plenty more that I've read from my collection, but I'll save those for another post (or two).
Other digital-only manga to check out
Kodansha isn't the only publisher in town that's pushing manga as digital-only. Below are a few series from other publishers that I recommend you should check out.
Black Detective by Yen Hioka (Yen Press) - The first volume is cheaper than the rest, and I credit this anonymous review for my decision to jump on this manga back in 2016: "Imagine Sherlock Holmes and Watson but as teenagers. And Sherlock is a sadist. And Watson is a wuss." If that doesn't get you to read the story, then nothing I say will convince you otherwise.(mystery drama; completed at 7 volumes)
Lala's Married Life by Tamekou (Animate International) - Tamekou is the same mangaka behind the josei romcom My Androgrnous Boyfriend. Lala's Married life is a yaoi bl starring a man who assumes the identity of his twin sister and gets married to a rich merchant's son. If you like historical smut bls with androgynous and feminine-looking ukes, then read this. (historical romance; ongoing)
Public Sex by Rihara (Juné) - Pretty fucked up yaoi with a twist ending that I didn't see coming. (psychological romance drama; oneshot/onevolume)
The Mermaid Prince by Yuana Kazumi (Media Do) - A genderbent, female to male (and back again) Little Mermaid story. (supernatural romcom; complete at 4 volumes)
The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window by Tomoko Yamashita (SuBLime) - A shounen-ai supernatural mystery that unfolds over the course of 10 volumes. The leads have a Holmes x Watson dynamic going on. This manga was adapted to anime back in 2021. If you enjoy mysteries, you should definitely check this out. (supernatural mystery; complete at 10 volumes)
How I Read My Manga
I upgraded from a basic Kindle to a Kindle Oasis e-reader. I mostly read my manga on my Oasis, and I recommend that you do read via an e-reader too. E-readers help cut down on blue light and other issues. I sometimes read on my android phone and tablet or on my windows-based computer. I use the Kindle app and Calibri to read on those other devices. I also use the free Adobe pdf reader and my internet browser tor read the pdfs and e-books that come in other formats.
Where I Buy My Manga
You can't really shop around with digital as you'll have to use apps and log-ins to read. It's a pain. I'm super lazy so I just stick with the Kindle e-store for 90% of my purchases and only deviate for drm-free e-books via Humble Bundle or the publisher. Publishers such as YaoiArmy, Glacier Bay Books, SuBLime, Star Fruit Books, etc. offer drm-free e-book options. Additionally, some publishers offer deals on buying both the e-book and physical book. I snagged books and deals from Glacier Bay Books and YaoiArmy using this method.
I also break for free manga. I got the first volumes of Blue Flag, Maison Ikkoku, Sweet Blue Flowers, and Urusei Yatsura for FREE via Google Books. (I also got the first volume of Demon Slayer and Those Snow White Notes for free via Kindle.) They were just on sale for $0 one day. Cheap books are one of the reasons I started collecting digitally; speaking of which...
My Collecting Philosophy
So, here's a good place as any to talk about the reasons why I started reading and collecting digitally. Whenever digital manga is mentioned, it seems people are ready to grab the holy water and start chanting sutras, but I assure you, it's not that bad. To summarize, I started reading and collecting digital manga because it's just so damn convenient. Let me count the ways:
Cheap books. Okay, there are exceptions, like Kodansha, but most publishers sell e-books for half off the what you pay for the print copy. Even if I buy the e-book at full price, I save ducats. I only have to look at my spending so far in 2022 to see the stark difference. I spent $86.88 on digital and scored 63 books whereas I spent $251.47 on 25 physical books. Point goes to digital. Even if I took out the $30 Humble Bundle deal, digital still wins. Finally, when a digital manga goes on sale, I can snag it for a few dollars or even for free, which means even more savings.
Read wherever, whenever. I don't have to schlep a dozen books when I travel, whether it's to the office or downtown or for vacay. The Oasis can store about 40 manga books, and I can access the rest via "The Cloud." I can swap out manga to read easily as long as I have access to wifi. Also, I don't have to travel to the bookstore to buy the latest volume. I can buy the latest volume whenever I want. Digital stores are open 24/7 unlike their physical counterparts. (Bonus: I can borrow books from the library 24/7 too!) Finally, digital manga makes moving day a breeze. No packing and unpacking. No boxes to haul up and down stairs.
Saves physical space. I don't have a "forever" residence. I am an apartment dweller and move at least once every few years so digital manga is a boon for me. I only have so much personal space (aka my bedroom), and I can't fill my space with bookshelves, which is why I take reading and curating my physical collection so seriously.
No damage, no worries! Digital manga means I don't have to worry about, well, common book "problems" like aging. Digital manga will always come pristine, and when there is a big misprint, like missing pages, then they get corrected immediately. All I have to do is re-download the book versus talking to customer service agents and shipping back books. Digital books degrade at a much, much slower rate than my physical books too. Finally, I don't have to worry about damaging my manga. No more upturned water bottles in the backpack or flooded basements. No more tiny rips and tears.
No cleaning. No sticker residue. No bugs. No dusting shelves and airing out books. No nothing. I just clean the screen of my Oasis and flip it on to start reading.
Yep, some good things can come from going digital, but I'm not 100% digital. I think having both a physical and digital manga collection is good. There are books that I can't get digitally for various reasons. Additionally, I want to collect books that I really enjoy and will re-read on a regular basis physically. I also collect special edition manga like "Collector's Editions," hardcover releases, and omnibuses physically. I like having choices, and sometimes when a series is available as both a physical and digital book, I choose digital, which is why I have series like Golden Japanesque, Love of Kill, and The Apothecary Diaries on my Oasis. I don't have a hard and fast rule as to which series I collect digitally and which ones physically. I just pick and choose on length of series, how much I like it (or think I'll like it), and covers. Genres sometimes play a role too. I don't always get it right.
Mistakes have been made. Some of the "bad" habits that I had from collecting physical manga has been shifted to digital. Buying series, then dropping it midway? Check. Some examples include:
Aoharu x Machine Gun by Naoe (dropped at v. 6; just kinda got bored)
Our Fake Marriage by Kiwi Tokina (dropped at v. 3; the first three volumes were repetitive; series doesn't go too far afterwards unfortunately)
Something's Wrong With Us by Natsumi Ando (stopped collecting digitally at v. 5 and switched to print making it the first time I've done that)
Sweat and Soap by Kinetsu Yamada (dropped at v.3; think I'm just gonna finish the rest via the library and think about picking up the boxset if I like it)
Tokyo Alice by Toriko Chiya (dropped at v. 11; just stopped having fun with it; didn't like the direction it was heading; this one hurt. Rarely do I get this far in a series and decide to drop it.).
Another bad habit I have is picking up the first volume or two for cheap because it was on sale and then not buying the rest. I've tested a few series this way. Some examples include:
Asahi-Sempai's Favorite v. 1 by Iroha Machino (got second-hand embarrassment reading this and can't continue 😂)
Demon Slayer v. 1 by Koyoharu Gotuge (yep and you can add the Google books I mentioned earlier on the pile)
Futaba-kun Change! v.1 by Hiroshi Aro (it's a Ranma1/2 rip-off. I haven't decided whether to continue or not. I used to have the first volume and third volume in print from finding it in a second-hand store. The series is severely out-of-print.)
Love & Lies v.1 by Musawo (I liked the first volume just didn't feel the need to collect if further than that. Of course, I made this decision long after the return period for the e-book, which I got during a 99 cents sale. 😑 I've been reading the rest of the series via the library.)
Lovesick Ellie v. 1 by Fujimono (same deal as Love & Lies)
My Boyfriend in Orange v. 1-2 by Non Tamashima (I shouldn't have even tried this series. I so dislike it.)
Finally, I've bought books by mistake. Turns out you can buy some e-books by the chapter, and Kiss Him, Not Me by Junko is one of them. I bought a chapter of the manga instead of like a volume. It was a cheap mistake but a mistake nonetheless.
Unlike physical books, digital books can't be resold, only returned within a certain time frame. So, that poses a problem for when I've bought the entire series volume by volume only to dislike it in the end like Everyone's Getting Married by Izumi Miyazono or To Write Your Words by Aki Amasawa. (Yeah, I'm in the "endings matter" gang.) Ultimately, this means that I have to get a grip on my digital buying and collecting habits. I've become such a hoarder. 🙈 A spring cleaning is in order, and once I figure out how to go about this, I'll share with the class. You can't "hug" a digital book, unfortunately.
Fortunately, my physical collection is under control. Most of it has been read, and most of it "sparks" joy.
I think I'll conclude the novel here. In short, learn from my mistakes. Don't become a digital hoarder. 😂 Also, check out some of the series I've mentioned. A lot of them are available on subscription services too, which is a rant for another day. Read your manga! 🙈
Do you collect manga digitally?
Share your collection (and thoughts) below or on Twitter @ThatMangaHunter!