Looking for Manga in a Japanese Bookstore

If you’re looking to buy a manga from a Japanese bookstore but you don’t want to ask a clerk for help or just plain order it online, you should keep in mind how manga is organized.

First, you have to know the basic genre of of the manga. There are usually categories like shounen, shoujo, seinen, adult, and so on. Make sure you know what genre it’s officially categorized as because your initial impression may be misleading.

Second, is publisher. Before even the title of the book itself, manga are organized by who publishes them. If you want to get a volume of Dragon Ball Z, you’ll have to go to the Jump Comics area with the Shounen section. If you want a volume of Genshiken, you have to go to the Afternoon Comics area of the Seinen section.

Then, after all that, you get to search by name. But then you have to keep in mind that Japanese bookstores use Japanese alphabetical order.

Japanese alphabetical order goes like this: A, Ka, Sa, Ta, Na, Ha, Ma, Ya, Wa, Ra, N. And with each set of letters, it breaks down into a, i, u, e, o. So if you’re looking for Hokuto no Ken, you go to Ha, and then look down past Hi, Hu, and He, to Ho. If you’ve taken any sort of Japanese class, Japanese alphabetical order is probably already familiar to you.

This sort of thing isn’t really necessary to learn, but if you want to get better at focused browsing in a Japanese bookstore, these are good tips to keep in mind.

Today I went to one looking for a specific title, but I didn’t know the publisher so I gave up.

The Beginner’s Anime

If people ask me what they should show to others to introduce them to anime, Slayers is usually one of my first recommendations. It was one of the first anime I was proud to own, albeit in bootleg VHS fansub form. It was Slayers, specifically Slayers Gorgeous, that I believe got me into anime fandom in a major way. Sure, I loved Voltron as a kid, and I got into Dragon Ball Z as early as 4th or 5th grade, but it was Slayers that told me that Anime is Different when I walked into my high school’s anime club. Slayers was the type of thing you could show to a large crowd and get them all into the moment no matter how much anime they’d watched, which has made me always think of Slayers as a  good Beginner’s Anime. I’m sure you can think of plenty of other titles, like Cowboy Bebop, Robotech, or Naruto.

Actually, I don’t even know if anyone else besides me uses the term “Beginner’s Anime.” Pushing aside that fact, as well as the fact that people are different from one another and that there is clearly no universally acceptable standard for introducing anime to others, the term “Beginner’s Anime” implies that there are anime out there which may be too much for initial viewers, that there is a sort of conditioning or familiarizing that must occur before a fledgling anime fan can be introduced to the Good Stuff, distributed by some shady-looking guys in trenchcoats (hands up, you know who you are) in dark areas. Is it the way stories are structured? Is it the cultural differences and symbolism, the most prominent and perhaps infamous examples being the sweatdrop and the nosebleed? Is it a matter of attention span? This could go on forever and I doubt there’s an answer.

When I examine myself, I am not the anime fan I used to be. Sure, there’s a lot of factors both inside and outside the realm of anime which have influenced me and my watching habits, not least of which are the increase in availability of anime itself and the fact that I’ve simply gotten older, but I have to wonder what could have been. What about the time period I was in? I mean, the president of the anime club at the time was so proud of owning all of Cowboy Bebop that he could not wait to show it to us. It was the very beginning of the digisub age, when Napster was picking up steam and of course buying bootleg vhs fansubs was still a viable process. What about the fact that this was an anime club, a relatively social experience? Anime clubs are a dying breed today, and having a good social experience through anime may become less and less of a requirement. I even remember that when I took over this anime club a year later after the previous president had graduated, I noticed a sudden increase in the number of girls in the anime club. And then I tried to show them Serial Experiments Lain. As it  turns out, Lain is not a very good Beginner’s Anime, at least not as a social experience.

It’d be all too easy to say that every anime is a potential Beginner’s Anime. I mean, there’s a grain of truth to it all, but that sort of open-ended statement reduces the significance of all of the factors  outside of the anime-fan-to-be and the anime being watched. There are clearly some titles that succeed more than others at bringing in new fans, and I think it deserves research.

You’ll probably be seeing this topic again.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie: The End of Inuyasha

I’m not a fan of Inuyasha, so I really haven’t kept up with it this whole time. I do recall buying a single issue from a store back when manga was still being sold like monthly comic books, and I did watch Inuyasha at my college’s anime club. When the heads of the anime club decided to stop showing Inuyasha, I wondered why. One of the last episodes we watched had Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru working together to defeat a common enemy while using their respective blades as intended (Inuyasha for destruction, Sesshoumaru for healing), so I thought that it was finally getting somewhere good and would conclude soon after.

Ha.

Many jokes have been made concerning the “never-ending” nature of Inuyasha, but finally we can stop cracking wise about it and switch to humor based on the fact that as of this week, Inuyasha finishes with 558 chapters.

Inuyasha ends with a final battle with the demon Naraku, after which Kagome makes a decision to choose what’s right over her heart’s desire. The battle itself is pretty nice and conclusive, but it’s the kind of final battle you know that Takahashi could have pulled out at any moment and it would have still made sense. Sesshoumaru wielding his Nendou Bakusai Ken Bakusaiga with its endless destructive capabilities, it could have been a cheese wedge forged by destiny instead.

Inuyasha thankfully concludes with an ending and all that, as opposed to the abrupt stop that occurred with its anime counterpart. It’s not the best ending I’ve seen, but I doubt it’ll displease too many people or get accused of being a cop-out/Gainax Ending/any other conclusion-themed perjorative.

Really, Inuyasha will ultimately not be remembered for its plot, so having an actual ending doesn’t hurt or help too much, though I think it leans towards the latter. I’m not a fan of Inuyasha like I said, but I think its fans will continue to have adventures with Inuyasha and friends for a long time.

Inuyasha is finished, but it’s still endless.

In conclusion, I just want to point out that I was the first person to say that Inuyasha is “Dragon Ball Z for girls.” If anyone says otherwise, they’re wrong.