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Manga: The Complete Guide

New reviewer such_brevity gives us the lowdown on Del Rey's new and comprehensive guide to manga:

Manga: The Complete Guide manages to somehow be the most useful book on the planet for a target audience that doesn’t really exist. I’d be thrilled to get it as a gift, but as someone who knows better than to drop cash on what amounts to Amazon.com: The Hardcover, I’d only recommend buying this book for your newbie convention friends to store in the massive pockets on their oversized bondage pants.

If you’ve been to a bookstore in the past year or so you’d have to be blind not to notice the increasing amount of Japanese merchandise cropping up. Dolls, wall scrolls, and key chains have replaced bookmarks, journals, and self respect. Why are these overpriced knick knacks sprawled across the aisles, forcing your favorite author‘s finest work to cower in a musty corner? If you don’t know, it’s probably already too late to save you.

Manga has come to a Borders near you. It started with a few Ranma 1/2 comic books and began creeping through the cracks, growing, multiplying, and taking over entire aisles. Even overflowing into your favorite private sit-down-and-read nook. These days you have to swat away thirty pimply mall rats with sushi on their breath just to cop a seat and crack open the latest Neil Gaiman offering. Which you’ll probably stain with wasabi infused soy sauce, you filthy hypocrite.

If because of this you find yourself sneering at the endless shelves of Japanese comics, dig deeper. Are you slightly intrigued? Curious about the hype? Thinking that you want to get in on the sweet black and white goodness that is manga? Not a member of OtakuBooty? Del Rey’s new book Manga: The Complete Guide by Jason Thompson is for you. You and the ten others like you left on the planet who still haven’t picked up a copy of Bleach or gotten “Dattebayo!” tattooed above your tribal arm band.

Manga: The Complete Guide is essentially what it sounds like: an in depth guide to every manga currently translated into English. It also features a fair amount of background information on everything even remotely related to Japanese comics. The origins of manga, the many genres that fall under the overwhelming manga umbrella, and even insights to how certain aspects of the Japanese language effect jokes that are lost in translation.

For the casual manga reader, this book has the potential to be incredibly useful. Author Jason Thompson and his team of contributors break down each manga in alphabetical order, outlining all the information you could possibly want to help on your quest finding gems among the rubble. You get the English title, the Japanese title, the age target, and of course a concise description of the story. There’s even a handy 1 to 5 star rating system! That’s not including the rad and super informative articles placed periodically to break up the reviews. Articles on mecha and its evolution in Japanese pop culture or articles on Doujinshi as a subculture mega phenomenon.

The one thing Manga: The Complete Guide doesn’t have is any usefulness whatsoever. While the bits about robots and religion are extremely informative, they are only slightly more in depth than the average corresponding Wikipedia entries. It’s all pretty solid and engrossing, but in today’s web savvy world, there’s only so much need for a hard copy book outlining things that could be looked up quicker online. Yes, this book could be incredibly useful. If you don’t have a computer.

The reviews themselves are pretty solid. They gave One Piece four stars and Loveless two, so you can be sure Thompson’s rating system is pretty useful if you’re looking for quality. Hell, even the brief plot breakdowns are helpful and accurate. But I wonder if a casual manga fan or a total manga virgin will be enticed to drop almost twenty bucks for what amounts to “everything you needed to know about manga but couldn’t find on the internet because you clearly don’t know how to work a search engine.” I somehow doubt it. And as for the more dedicated Japanophile, there’s probably not much in here that you don’t already know.

Manga: The Complete Guide manages to somehow be the most useful book on the planet for a target audience that doesn’t really exist. I’d be thrilled to get it as a gift, but as someone who knows better than to drop cash on what amounts to Amazon.com: The Hardcover, I’d only recommend buying this book for your newbie convention friends to store in the massive pockets on their oversized bondage pants.

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