Monday, February 15, 2010

How to Source Authentic Japanese Manga

Where to start your manga journey

The thousand mile journey starts with a single step. Even if you are just getting into manga through scanlations and anime through fansubs, it's a start. Beware though, if you really want to experience Japanese culture you'll have to experience it first hand and one of the best ways to do that is through reading.

super happy tentacle hentai
super happy tentacle hentai by mugley, on Flickr

Let's look at some ways to source authentic Japanese manga (on dead trees) and then, while you're waiting for your shipment to come through the snow, some online manga to keep you entertained.

Get to a book store

I must admit I'm having a little trouble writing this because my situation is probably a little different from yours. I bought most of my manga from second hand book stores in Japan. Most of you don't have the benefit of being in Japan, so getting started may be a bit more of a challenge. It's still worth an effort to get to a big Japanese book store if you're close enough to a city that has one, just for the sheer awe factor of standing in an isle stacked with manga from one end to the other.

In her video about where to buy Manga natsukigirl visits a Book Off, which you can find in 8 locations in the U.S.A. and other scattered around the globe. Her next favorite is Kinokuniya, which also has 8 locations in the United States, but none in Europe. There is one in Australia, but I've never been there, too far away! So what do you do if you are too far away?

Use your friends

From what I can tell most of you are in the Northern Hemisphere and some of you are in pretty remote locations, which makes getting to a fancy book store pretty difficult. So perhaps you have friends that can take a look for you. That's the first place I start if I want to add to my collection, I just ask the in-laws to bring it over when they visit.

Now you're into social networking right? And you've probably amassed hundreds of Facebook friends, maybe some of them can help? If you're shy I'll understand.

The internet is your friend

Right now I'm tryng to fill in a few gaps in my collection by shopping on Yahoo! Japan Auction, to get to the good stuff you're going to have to know a little Japanese. Ebay is another good place to look. I've done a few quick search scenarios for you for some of the titles I mentioned in the previous post, just for comparison.

For the following exercise I have assumed that you want to buy 6 volumes of Pluto and you live on the West Coast of the U.S.A.

Scenario 1: Yahoo! Japan Auction + Tenso

Five copies of Pluto on Yahoo! Japan Auction will set you back about ¥1,100 plus postage, but they only ship to Japanese addresses. Tenso will provide you with a Japanese address, plus a handling and shipping fee to get it back to your home town. They also take PayPal. Shipping to North America is around 2000¥ plus the service fee of around ¥490 for a total of about ¥3600 including the books. The same number of English language versions of Pluto on eBay would cost around $60 US.

Scenario 2: Kinokuniya BookWeb

Kinokuniya will ship brand new Japanese versions of Pluto for you from any of their 8 stores in the United States for around $9 US plus postage. If you were to buy 6 volumes this would come to about $65 including $8 postage providing you live in any of the first 48 states. Apologies to those in Anchorage and Honolulu, you'll pay three times the postage.


One of the best prices for new volumes of Pluto at ¥550 is on Amazon Japan . The site is partially in English which makes navigation a little easier if you're not entirely confident. Shipping prices seem to be the most expensive here at ¥2700, but if you buy 6 volumes at ¥550 that comes to ¥6000 which is about equivalent to the same books bought from Kinokuniya.

There are some other places around the web that stock manga, but either their collections are limited or you have to scroll through pages of hentai manga which isn't particularly interesting. Most of the manga I have bought has been second hand, and when you are just getting started it's probably the best way to go. You can always start trading up if you start to develop a passion for it.

Online manga

I probably need to cover this in a bit more depth than I can just at the end of this post, because I get at least one request a day on Twitter for sources of online manga. The first place I send anyone is News Manga for a few good reasons;
  1. The content is updated daily.
  2. The stories are short.
  3. It's the same news you'd find in English elsewhere.
Also worth a look at is "Say hi to Blackjack" 「ブラックジャックによろしく」 by Saho Shuho 「佐藤秀峰」 on his online comics page. Two links hardly does online manga any justice, but I've got to end this post somewhere. In the next few days we'll cover the toolkit, and then the techniques you'll need to get reading.

I'm really interested to hear how you source your first manga. Maybe you can help someone out who is tryng to get into it for the first time. Tell all about your experiences with Amazon Japan or Tenso if you've used them. How do you rate the experience?

You might also want to read other posts on this blog about manga:
Learn to Read Japanese Manga  with Rainbowhill and Natsukigirl Online Class Learn to Read Manga with Rainbowhill and Natsukigirl in this live video class on eduFire

Thanks for reading, I mean that. You are what make this blog such fabulous place to learn about Japanese language and culture. Thank you for the support and the ongoing conversation on places like facebook and twitter.
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