by Sara Black
Pretty boys. Magical girls. Demons. High School angst. Fruits Baskets. Whatâ€™s not to love about manga? For the uninitiated they are worth checking out because they are hideously popular to the point that Harlequin is publishing their own and â€œmanga-styleâ€ romances are being solicited, they are fun reads, and youâ€™ve already raided all the other sections of the bookstore.
However, if itâ€™s your first time voyaging into the Graphic Novel section maybe itâ€™s a little intimidating. Maybe you even lose a little cred with the bookstore clerk by referring to the comics as Anime. Maybe youâ€™re still hung up on â€˜what the heck is a Fruits Basket?â€™
Here, let me help. Manga (mawn-gah) refers to Japanese comics books and only the comic books. Though popular series often get turned into Anime (Japanese animation), the comic books are still called manga.
How about some titles?
If youâ€™re looking for action and adventure you may want to give Inu Yasha, One Piece, or Naruto a try. These comics are aimed at younger boys and as such feature long fight scenes, fantasy worlds, and occasional pre-teen level romance (something around the level of â€˜I really like her, but kissing is grossâ€™). Ranma 1/2 is similar but focuses on comedy more than adventure.
And now for a plug. My favorite manga: Rurouni Kenshin. The title character is a diminutive man who killed a whole lot of people during the Meiji revolution and is now trying to atone. The romance is more sophisticated than in the stories mentioned above without getting sensual, though the story revolves around the main character’s redemption.
If your taste is more towards the romantic, teenage angst plots try Mars or Paradise Kiss. These stories are more graphic and feature teenage heroines and heroes struggling with hardship and soap opera level conflict. If you want a little more fantasy (and maybe a magical girl or two) with that angst you may want to try Ceres, Red River or From Far Away. These may depict sensual sexual situations.
For a more innocent view of high schools give the oddly named Fruits Basket a try.
If a mix of history and violence is your thing Blade of the Immortal, Lone Wolf and Cub or Vagabond are more artistically sophisticated series aimed at adult males. There may be a little romance but there is probably more blood.
And if youâ€™re wondering about the ones with groups of pretty boys on the cover and not too many girls on the inside, like Gravitation or Love Mode, those are Shounen-Ai and/or Yaoi. These stories are typically written for woman and revolve around homosexual male relationships, Shounen-Ai being the less graphic of the two. The lesbian equivalent, yuri, is less popular but they are out there.
Of course there are hundred of titles I havenâ€™t mentioned, about sports and board games and anything you can think of, but hopefully Iâ€™ve given you enough to approach those shelves with a little less wariness.
Sara Black has a degree in Cinema/Television from USC. She watches far too much television, eats way too much sushi and is always writing a romance novel. For someone who religiously stays out of the mainstream, she knows an awful lot about Pop Culture. This is the first in a series of posts on the subject.
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