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The Japanese style of comic art and comic books, manga, is famous not only in Japan but across the world. The art evolved throughout the years, but its popularity only grew. Fans who visit Japan often buy manga to take home so here’s a short guide to prep you.
Table of Contents
"Manga" is a Japanese word used as a general term for comics and graphic novels. They are published usually in black and white, and sometimes, publications release colored issues for special events or occasions like Valentine's Day and Christmas, or seasonal releases.
Like other Japanese books, they are read from right to left. Since reading Japanese manga is confusing to new readers, there are sometimes guides on how to read manga on the first page of the manga itself if you are reading it electronically, or sometimes even on manga translated into English. Some applications and sites even have features wherein you can just click, and it will lead you to the next scene.
There are different manga genres to choose from, but there are five basic types of manga with different target markets. These are shonen, shojo, seinen, josei, and kodomomuke. Shonen and shojo are written for boys and girls up to their teenage years, respectively. Seinen and josei are for adult men and women and are rated 18 plus. Kodomomuke are manga written for kids.
Ongoing manga series are often published monthly or weekly in manga magazines. If the manga is popular enough, several episodes are collected from the magazines and made into a book or volume (called tankobon). People have the choice to read the manga chapter by chapter as it’s released, or to wait until the full volume is out, or both!
Manga is popular worldwide, which is why many publications translate manga to other languages such as English, Spanish, Chinese, and Korean. The manga itself or manga characters serve as models to different aspiring artists and writers all around the world. These aspiring artists and writers would create their own version of the characters or story, birthing fan art and fanfictions which can be found all over the internet.
Animation and entertainment companies carefully select manga that can be turned into an anime, movie, or live-action adaptations because productions are costly and time-consuming. That is why most of the time, they select manga that is already popular in the hope to have fans as viewers and potential customers. And sometimes a popular manga or anime series will even lead to a live-action version - depicted by real people rather than drawings.
And contrary to popular belief, manga and anime are not just for kids and teens. There is no rule that an adult man or woman can enjoy the happiness and art that these manga and anime bring to people. Moreover, manga and anime also birth popular characters that most people choose to dress up as in manga/anime events like Comiket, Comic-Con, and cosplay events.
Manga varies in prices depending on the country, store (physical or online), and the manga itself. The average price of new release manga in physical stores in Japan is around 400 to 500 yen per book or volume. Moreover, you could also get the most popular manga in the store to be translated in English for 700 to 1,200 yen per book or volume. The prices on Amazon Japan are comparable to the actual prices in bookstores, but sometimes they have online sales where you can get volumes for lower prices. Of course if you order from overseas, you have to consider the shipping costs.
Recently, you can also read manga online. Each site has its own system, where you can either pay per volume, or even chapter, which is usually equivalent to an actual printed manga price (sometimes a little cheaper, especially when on sale) or you can buy points in bulk and use the points to read the manga that you choose.
Of course if you buy manga in your own country, even in the original Japanese, it will usually be more expensive because of import costs. For example, in America, mangas cost you from 8 to 20 USD, sometimes more. Other countries may price manga differently from the US, and other stores may also price their manga depending on the manga. We’ll discuss manga translated into English later in the article.
※ Kinokuniya Book Stores of America Co., Ltd., "Manga New Releases" ※ Amazon Japan, "Comics Manga & Graphic Novels"
If you are a fan of manga and want a great place to leisurely spend time reading them or you have a little time to kill, the best use of your time is to go to a manga cafès ("manga kissa") in Japan. This is an internet cafè, hotel, and library rolled into one. Manga cafès serve drinks and food, they are open 24 hours and have rooms that come equipped with shower privileges like hotels, and often have computers fully equipped with wifi and games as well as, of course, all the manga you could possibly hope to read. Please note that the manga is in Japanese, but you could of course use the internet while there to read English language manga on your preferred sites.
Manga cafès charge depending on how long you stay, the type of seat or room you want and the type of service.
Generally, staying in a manga cafe for 30 minutes will cost you from 100 to 300 yen and on, plus tax, depending on if it’s a private room or not. The type of seat, booth, or room you choose has different prices. Typically, rooms (either a two-person room or a family room) would cost you higher than an open seat or a private booth. If you already know how long you’re going to stay, you can also choose plans by time, such as 3-hour, 6-hour and 9-hour plans or even longer. The prices and time plans vary per manga cafe.
Other charges are paid separately like shower privileges, some snacks, and drinks not included in their bundles and stay extensions. Some manga cafès require a membership that usually costs around 100 to 200 yen and needs IDs or passports to apply before entering. Some cafes offer an affordable pass that is good for 7 days to one month ranging from 20,000 yen to more than 75,000 yen.
※ Customa Cafe, "Rate plan"
Recently there are also some manga cafes overseas so make sure to check in your area if there's anything of the sort! They may not offer all the features of a manga kissa in Japan, but you may find English manga there unlike in Japan!
If you are looking for budget-wise comic books while in Japan, there are also second-hand stores where you can find used manga but are still in good condition. An example of a store that sells second-hand manga in Japan is "Book Off." Book Off is a big chain of stores selling second-hand goods like books, manga, and CDs. Manga in Book Off can be bought for as low as 250 yen - even 100 yen if you’re lucky! - per volume. Though, manga available at these stores are mostly in Japanese. English and other foreign language manga can be found in particular branches like the Nishi-Gotanda branch, but as it’s a secondhand shop, there’s no guarantees as to what will be available.
If you are buying internationally, you can sometimes find manga in your local bookstores stores in your area. If you have a Japanese bookstore in your area, especially found in Japan-towns or areas with a large Japanese population, you can find them in Japanese and maybe English there too. There are also a lot of online stores like Amazon, Ebay, or Lazada (in the Philippines) that sell manga.
Manga in Japan are naturally made for the Japanese market, and hence, it is in the Japanese language. It is rare to find English manga in Japan since it is a non-English speaking country. But fret not, for there are stores that sell English manga in Japan.
Here are some places that sell English manga in and outside Japan:
Kinokuniya - a big bookstore chain that has branches in the US and other parts of Asia. The Shinjuku South branch has the most foreign manga as it has its own floor dedicated to foreign language books.
Yaesu Book Center of Tokyo - a big bookstore filled with Japanese and foreign books and manga
Maruzen - another big bookstore chain that has branches all over Japan. Nihonbashi branch and Maruzen & Junkudo branch have the most foreign books and manga collection.
Tsutaya Shibuya - a popular hangout place for people in Shibuya. It houses a lot of manga, comics, games, and even small mementos for visitors. It also has a cafe in the building which is why a lot of people opt to hang out in Tsutaya. Other Tsutaya may have English manga but you may need to check ahead of time.
Yurindo - it is a bookstore where you can buy and read the manga (3 manga per person) at the same time in the nearby cafe.
There are also some online sites in Japan like Amazon Japan, CDJapan and Honto.jp that sell Japanese goods like manga both in Japanese and English, books, shirts, CDs and DVDs to overseas customers. These goods are in Japanese prices but since they need to ship it internationally, there are additional costs that need to be considered.
Manga is popular Japanese pop culture worldwide that has been around for more than 50 years. A lot of international fans mainly visit Japan for the purpose of buying manga and attending events related to manga and anime. There are a lot of available mediums that one can buy manga in and out of Japan. Some of these are bookstores, online stores, and second - hand stores. Many big fans - often referred to as otaku - would also like to experience manga cafès - considered manga and anime heaven. There is nothing wrong in flying across the world for something you love and admire.
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