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You Do Not Read 'Everything'

A rant about manga recommendations



Manga books on shelf


Here's a common scenario.


Person A: Can you recommend me some manga?


Person B: Sure. What do you like? What have you read?


Person A: Oh, I read everything.


Person B: *self-combusts*





[ End scene. ]


Look, I get it. You read b r o a d l y, like across genres, themes, tropes, maybe even demographics, but also, no. You don't. You don't read "everything." You simply can't. You can't collect everything either because there is too much manga. TOO. MUCH. MANGA. And yet, still not enough in some areas for my liking i.e. not enough shoujo or josei manga. (Also, see mystery manga.)


There is more manga than you or I can possibly read, let alone collect. If we all spoke and read perfect Japanese, our heads would explode with the sheer amount of options available to us, but just accounting for what's licensed in English, we have plenty of options. I regret to inform you that it's no longer the 80s or 90s where you can expect like 12 manga a year. Publishers are releasing scores of manga a month and collectively hundreds of manga a year in print. Don't get me started on digital.



Kristen Wig SNL News "Don't even wanna get me started!!!" GIF


Even if you were to weed out the digital manga that's out there, spread across several store fronts, sites, and apps, some of which are exclusively-tied (and really good), you still have a lot of in-print physical manga to read and collect across several companies. So much so, I bet you don't have a manga from every single English publisher operating today. In fact, I know you don't because I have seen your shelves. I have seen your MAL, Anilist, Goodreads, Libib, and excel spreadsheet too. You do not read and/or collect everything.


Here's the never-ending list of English publishers operating today that license, publish, and sell physical manga.


The List

  • Ablaze Publishing

  • Alien Books

  • Animate International

  • Breakdown Press

  • Cross Infinite World

  • Dark Horse Comics

  • Denpa (KUMA imprint)

  • Drawn & Quarterly

  • E-Manga/Digital Manga Publishing (Juné Manga imprint)

  • EigoManga

  • Fakku

  • Fanfare / Ponent Mon

  • Fantagraphics

  • First Second Books

  • Floating World Comics

  • Glacier Bay Books

  • Hanashi Media

  • Hollow Press

  • Inklore

  • Irodori Comics

  • J18 (VAST Visual imprint)

  • J Novel Club

  • Kaiten Books

  • Kodansha (Vertical imprint)

  • Last Gasp Comics

  • Living the Line

  • Monogatari Novels

  • Netcomics

  • One Peace Books

  • Retrofit Comics

  • Rotten Blossoms

  • Saturday AM

  • Seven Seas

  • Star Fruit Books

  • Square Enix

  • Tentai Books

  • Titan Comics

  • Tokyopop

  • Tuttle Publishing

  • Udon Entertainment

  • Viz (SuBLime imprint)

  • Yaoi Army

  • Yaoi Revolution

  • Yen Press


And the beat goes on.


I probably missed a few publishers. Let me know which non-defunct publishers I missed on X/Twitter @ThatMangaHunter or in the comments below. Speaking of defunct publishers, don't even get me started on those mfers. Add in the defunct publishers whose works are long out-of-print or worse, half-finished and haven't been picked up for re-release, for a second chance. Now that's what I call heartache. I don't recommend OOP manga hunting, even to my worst enemy. Anyway, my point still stands. You. No, WE. Do. Not. Read. Or. Collect. Everything. So, can we just be honest with ourselves and each other? Can we stop hurting each other?





If you want to read outside of your favorite genre because you're feeling burnt out or if you wish to read a "hidden gem," then there are easier ways to achieve that than asking broadly. When you ask generic questions, your recs will start looking like the top hits of a Google search or the results of a Chat GPT prompt.


Observe:




Yes, ai sucks, but this prompt is basically pulling the top results from the world wide web. Take a good look. See anything wrong? I do. The generic "recommend me some manga" prompt yielded only 2/12 or 17% (rounding up) shoujo manga, and both manga were listed under the romance category. I see that as a problem for multiple reasons.


1) It reinforces the "all shoujo manga = romance" stereotype. Shoujo manga and romance are NOT synonyms. There are action/adventure, fantasy, comedy, sci-fi, slice-of-life, etc. shoujo manga too. Shoujo is a target audience, a demographic not a genre.


2) "Girl manga" is not weighed as equally as shounen or seinen manga. It's not seen as "default manga."

3) Finally, manga for adult women (aka "josei" manga) was nowhere to be found. Also, not that anyone actually cares, and by anyone I really mean me, but the kid-friendly manga options, like rated "E" for "everyone" options, are lacking.


Note that the 10 other manga listed above are unambiguously either shounen or seinen manga. You can look up each and see for yourself. They all come from shounen or seinen manga magazines, which is really the most important factor in determining demographics. Shoujo, shounen, seinen, and josei are demographics, not genres. I went over that shtick before, but if you need more info, you can check out this post.



Bernie once again asking meme but make it shoujo


Outside of those issues, I find it funny that mystery isn't listed as a genre category, and if you enjoy the mystery genre like I do, you'll find the results lacking. I've already read Death Note, thanks. (I also watched the anime! Good all-around, but chances are you probably know that already too.) Also, no Junji Ito for horror? Really???





Manga is vast. We English readers only get a small percent of it in general. We get a tiny percent of it in physical form. With the increase in digital-only manga publishing, you can expect that number to shrink even further. Even a tinier percent of physically printed manga is shoved in our faces constantly. Take One Piece as an example.


I can't be online for a fucking minute without seeing One Piece shoved in my face. I can't even log off and touch grass without it being shoved in my face thanks to animanga merchandise and the Netflix live-action series. If I had a $1 for every One Piece hat, t-shirt, backpack, keychain, etc., I've seen casually worn or sold in public, not at a con or other animanga-related event, like out in the wild at the grocery store or on the freaking bus, I'd be a billionaire by now. If it were DBZ, I'd be a trillionaire. (RIP Toriyama.) But sure ask the internet or Joe "Normie" Shmoe for the one-thousandth time if getting into One Piece is "worth it." 🙄


Popular things are popular for a reason. It may be objectively, award-winning, genre-defining, this-manga-changed-the-game good, but it doesn't have to be. Being "objectively good" does increase the chance of anything being popular, but it's not a guarantee. One Piece is, by many accounts, objectively good. Other reasons for a manga's popularity can be exposure (see above), familiarity, genre, theme, timing, the publisher (like the powerhouses Viz and Shueisha), audience, the art, and the "It" factor. One Piece has those qualities in spades. It just hits people in the right places.


Now, some popular animanga might not resonate with you, you contrarian, hunter you, but it resonates with a lot of people, basically everyone else. Stop asking, and start watching/reading One Piece or [insert wildly popular manga here] if you feel inclined. I don't, so there. I don't have an opinion on One Piece because I can't. I haven't watched nor read it so I just grin and bear everyone's unbridled enthusiasm the best I can. However, sometimes I need to complain and lash out, especially when another Case Closed volume drops and I see a chorus of "iT's STill GoInG?!" in response.


Look.


Let me enjoy this in peace. I don't ask for much. Case Closed, aka Detective Conan, aka Meitantei Conan, is just that good. A quintessential mystery series from the illustrious magazine Weekly Shonen Sunday features well-written characters (yes, including the female characters), serious menacing villains and organizations (don't let the alcohol-based aliases and bland name for the organization fool you), romantic subplots (everybody gets bitches), and more! It's a love letter and an excellent intro to the mystery genre. 😭 Sadly, mystery manga is not super popular in the states, and the Case Closed anime did not set the world on fire.  (It should have been on Toonami! 😭) I'm sure in another timeline or multiverse, Case Closed will share space with Pokemon, Digimon, Sailor Moon, DBZ, YuGiOh, and One Piece in people's hearts and minds rather than as an afterthought.


Anyway, as I am deeply committed to one 100+ manga and 1000+ episode show already that's the creme de la creme in its own genre and of the animanga world in general (at least in Japan and other countries that have taste), I don't feel like I'm missing out on One Piece, but hey, feel free to convince me otherwise on X/Twitter @ThatMangaHunter.





Different strokes for different folks and all that jazz. My go-to, "default" genres across mediums (so manga, anime, paperback fiction, movies, videogames, etc.) are mystery and comedy. I generally enjoy supernatural things too. On the other hand, I don't love romance unconditionally. I tend to read m/f and BL pairings in romance, and I want it extra hot i.e. smut and erotica. I like romcoms, contemporary stories, mystery romance, and paranormal romance stories. I tend to stay away from serious drama romance and just drama in general. However, I have no qualms consuming "trashy," melodramatic, soap opera dramas. Besides romance, I also pick and choose my fantasy stories. I pick and choose my own adventure too.


Lastly, horror, sci-fi, and westerns are my least favorite genres, and the few that I enjoy are either exceptions or are "horror/sci-fi/western" AND [blank] types. Like horror that "real horror" fans might not enjoy because it's not that scary or bloody disgusting like the romance and horror with a good smattering of mystery manga Love & Heart. Everything else is either in the "eh, it depends" or "it's a bonus" category. I'm sure you have "default" and favorite genres too. Take note of them. It's so funny to me how people ask if anyone's tired of reading manga and the bookcase shows nothing but the top shounen and seinen fantasy and action/adventure series, like bruh. Have some self-awareness, and maybe try Yona of the Dawn, Requiem of the Rose King, or Prince Freya.



Prince Freya manga frame shows Freya on the floor with dead bodies behind her; Speech bubble says, "...And it's laughable how meaningless their deaths are."


If you think you can just ask the internet or randos on the street for a manga recommendation without adding a few parameters and expect to hit the jackpot, then boy howdy, do I have a manga to sell you. You'll probably won't like it because it's not tailored for you. I'm not a fucking algorithm or a search engine. If you just want random recs, then just shake a magic 8 ball. If you just want someone to tell you what to read, then read Skip, Beat. Going strong for over 20 years and 50+ volumes because it got acting, ninja, action, fake incest, and stuff. I mean look at this.



(In all seriousness, Skip, Beat is one of my all-time faves.)



For better recs, you got to at least say what you like and have read already. Bonus if you explain why you like it. Because there is a difference between "I read Spy x Family for the 'romance' between Yor and Twilight. When are they gonna get together?!" and "I read Spy x Family for the mystery and The Mission." For the record, the former makes me want to go Liam Neeson from Taken on people's asses and cry in, "Why isn't Love of Kill more popular if romance between two badasses is what you're looking for?!" 😭 There is no romance between Twilight and Yor, not now anyway. Just the illusion of it courtesy of a few choice scenes/moments together and horny fanart. There. I've saved you 12 volumes, 2 seasons, and a movie worth of time. You're welcome.



Gus Fring we are not the same meme


Just stating what you have read and what you like is just one way to ask for recs and discover new manga to read and collect. There are other ways to get recs like asking good questions or providing good prompts. You can't be too specific or else you get nothing. At the same time, you can't be too generic or else you get everything, and you don't read everything. You don't collect everything. I haven't mastered the art of asking for recs, but when I do, I'll let you in on the secret for a small fee.



Bernie once again asking meme but make it shoujo
The fee

In the meantime, if you're in the mood for a "hidden gem" or "something different," just read some shoujo and josei manga, and I don't mean Skip & Loafer, The Fragrant Flower Blooms with Dignity, or Rent-A-Girlfriend. It can't be close enough or good enough. It has to be the real deal, and if you don't know what shoujo (or josei) manga to read, all you have to do is ask a diehard fan and maybe mention a genre too.




Anyway, if you can't be bothered to read shoujo or josei, then just read some mystery manga like King in Limbo, Don't Call It Mystery, Seven Princes of the Thousand-Year Labyrinth, Usotoki Rhetoric, Arisa, or Case Closed.


OR...


Read whatever you like and whatever you want when you want. Just don't pretend you actually care to read everything or collect everything or hold everything to be of equal value because 9/10 times you don't, and it shows. Trust me, it shows.





There's manga for everybody, and then there's manga for you. Hope you find it.



Happy Reading.


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