Greetings, Iggles and Miggles! I’m Kristin, and the fourth Wednesday of every month will be all about manga. It’ll mostly be reviews and me sneakily trying to persuade you to read certain titles, but today I thought I’d start off with my own personal descent into manga madness. So if you’re debating whether you should pick up a manga for the first time (you so should) or if you’re just excited to see some manga love, let us begin our journey!
In a land of myth and a time of magic, thirteen year old Kristin was in middle school. On one fine summer day, she was playing around on a newfangled site called YouTube and came across an animated music video (AMV) set to Tori Amos’ “Cruel.” Kristin paid little attention to the show, for all she wanted was the music. As she moved to restart the song for the umpteenth time, she failed to minimize the window afterwards (she had and has rather poor aim) and ended up seeing the beginning of the video. There were explosions and monsters and tears and hugs and wine and fire and oh my god, this is amazing <— her thoughts. She watched the video again, this time really focusing on the show, and decided she needed to watch it. (And in case you’re wondering, the video still exists! Right here!).
–Phew. End of third-person POV. —
After some research (really just checking out the description of the video, but saying ‘research’ makes me sound cooler), I learned it was an anime called Yami no Matsuei, or Descendants of Darkness. The whole thing was on YouTube, and I think I marathoned the show in two days. To say I loved it is a bit of an understatement; this was one of the first times a TV show – one not even in my own language, where I had to read subtitles to really get what was happening – had made me cry. So when I found out that there was a manga that went beyond what I’d seen in the anime, I knew I had to get it. At the time, all I knew was that manga was something like a comic book, so I figured it would be fantastic to see the characters I had grown to love in new situations.
Off to my local B&N I went. Now, I had never been to the tiny manga section; sure, I’d passed by it before, and I knew that it was usually really crowded. And as I stood at the edge of the aisle, debating if I should walk forward and possibly mark myself out as being a geek, seeing all of these little kids happily sitting on the floor reading made me realize that, hey – I want my manga, and nothing is going to stop me from getting it. So I marched down the aisle, located the section that held the ‘D’ title mangas, and searched.
And found nothing. B&N didn’t have it. Understandably, I despaired. I went home defeated, convinced manga was something unattainable (my sadness prevented me from comprehending that I was standing amidst a sea of other manga titles I could pick up). So I began watching more AMVs of Yami no Matusei, and then I accidentally stumbled across a video set to Elfen Lied, another anime. It looked gory and creepy, so I marathoned it on YouTube. And, lo and behold, the last episode had a link to the manga in the video description! Overjoyed, I immediately clicked the link and began reading.
Aaaand I was incredibly confused. Nothing made sense; characters responded to questions that weren’t asked yet, actions took place before explanations for them were given…everything was topsy turvy. I googled ‘manga’ and I found that unlike American text, Japanese text is read from right to left. And with manga, there’s a certain order in which you read the panels (not the actual guide I used, but it has the same basic info — http://www.wikihow.com/Read-Manga). I admit that in my first few days of manga reading, I had to keep referring to this guide because I was still unsure. So I went back and re-read the first chapter of Elfen Lied from right to left, and I swear angels sang. Everything made sense.
Elfen Lied ended up being the very first manga I read. It was different from the anime, which I found surprising at first, but since then I’ve come to understand that anime can only include so much of the source material in the adaptation because of episode caps per season. In manga, you have several side stories that tend to either be funny or have little impact on the overall plot but still give you insight into the characters. Another wonderful thing about manga is that you can see the mangaka’s (the artist) art style evolve. In Kaori Yuki’s Godchild series, for instance, the characters undergo huge changes: they start out much rounder and suddenly become much more angular and detailed. It’s so interesting to see the artwork evolve because it shows not just the mangaka’s craft changing, but the characters’ maturation process.
Anyway, after finishing Elfen Lied, I knew that I was hooked. I’ve always been a huge reader, and manga was an exciting medium to try. What I find particularly lovely about manga is that the story exists purely in dialogue and artwork, with a few narrative boxes and thought texts used sparsely throughout the chapters. Unlike traditional novels, manga and comics aren’t overloaded with narrative details and dialogue tags like ‘it was raining,’ ‘he smiled,’ ‘she screamed,’ or ‘she picked up the sword and destroyed the demon.’ Instead, the dialogue, artwork, and sound effects tell you what’s happening. You can hear the emotion in the dialogue. You can see it in the characters’ faces. The story literally (okay, not literally) comes to life before your eyes and the inked figures become living, breathing beings.
Since my first experience with manga, I now own about 100 tankōbon (paperback books containing a set number of chapters). I know you can easily read things online, but there’s just something about actually holding a book in your hands that has always thrilled me (this also explains why I have over 200 novels). And to bring this blog post full circle, Yami no Matsuei ended up being the very first manga I bought for myself; I begged my mother to let me order it online, and I nearly died the day it arrived.
Okay, so this initial post has turned out to be much longer than I anticipated. Next month’s post will feature a more traditional review, I promise.
But in the meantime, let’s talk! What was the first manga that you ever read?