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How I fell out of reading Manga, and the ones that got me back into it again

Steingar

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This is a long one, so forgive me in advance. I used to read manga fairly regularly when I was an adolescent. All the usual stuff you'd expect, primarily from the shonen and seinen genre. I was probably still reading it up until the age of 22 when I just...bombed out.

Nothing interested me anymore. All the new stuff coming out, which of course would be fresh and exciting to someone less familiar with the medium, seemed to me to just be a regurgitation of the same tired tropes, stories and ideas I'd been encountering for years. I tried reading some of the classics that people recommended (Dragon Ball, Lone Wolf and Cub, etc.) but I couldn't get interested. It all just seemed so trite, repetitive, and out of touch with the period of my life I found myself in.

None of this is meant as a value judgement against any works in particular, but the problems I started really seeing which bummed me out the most were:
  • Popular manga is a product of, above all things else, industry. This means that many mangaka, compared to artists that work in more singular mediums like novels or film, are far more at the mercy of market forces and the whims of their editors. Again and again and again I'd read a manga with an amazing conceit that would have worked beautifully perhaps in a 40-80 chapter story, but which was inevitably spun out into an agonising hundreds (sometimes thousands) of chapters that by the end had devolved into meandering slog (Kaiji and Monster are examples). This killed a lot of the joy for me, because it felt like these stories existed more for the purpose of making money than for telling a cohesive and interesting story.
  • In addition to the above, its pretty clear that many stories and ideas were influenced more by what was popular than what was interesting or original. It makes sense; why bother thinking up something original when you can regurgitate the same old "boy on heroic journey fight bad guys believe in self grow stronger power of friendship" story-arc that worked so well for so long. Again, no shade on modern works like Demon Slayer or MHA, but after seeing the same storyline that you've already read so many times before, you just get tired.
  • "If you don't like it then just read more adult stories" is the obvious answer to the above. Except a lot of of adult manga has the exact same problems of meandering and being repetitive, but also has the added bonus of often using excessive gore and sex as a crutch. See, there's a big difference between "adult" (meaning edgy) and "mature" (meaning telling stories relatable to an adult) and I was just looking in the wrong places in this department.
The result was that I fell out of manga for quite a while.

Flash forward a few years though, and I'd moved into a new apartment. Nearby to where I loved was a Japan Foundation (library), from which I started borrowing a lot of contemporary Japanese literature from. While perusing their rather extensive manga selection (mostly the popular mangas that fit into the category I described previously), I came across some that were quite...different. I found a lot of works by mangaka I'd never heard of before. The books were sometimes hardbound, usually from a limited printing by a more niche publishing house, often inked quite a while ago, and featured stories no longer than a dozen chapters or so, or literally just single chapter anthologies.

And I'll admit, I'd never come across works quite like them before.

Some were gritty exposes of working class life, almost like kitchen sink realism. Some were pseudo-autobiographies dealing with the mangaka's struggles with poverty. Some where gentle fantasies that looked at the regret and shame that comes from the chore of living. What they all shared in common was an honest and sincere desire to observe life, not from the perspective of an escapist power fantasy, but as a complex, sad, lonely, but ultimately worthwhile experience.

Reading them made me realise is that I never actually stopped liking mangas, or even that the mangas I used to read were "bad". It's just that in the end I really need to read stories that reflect my life as it was in that moment in time. When I was a kid, it was the kind of themes that are common in popular manga today (friendship, coming of age, etc.), which makes sense, because the industry is primarily aimed at kids. But now I've grown up, and it's a revelation to find works that speaks to that reality.

For anyone interested, I'm going to list out a bunch of the mangas that got me back into reading manga. They vary wildly in themes and style, so maybe read the synopsis beforehand to see if it interests you.
  • The Man Without Talent - Yoshiharu Tsuge
  • Cats of the Louvre - Taiyō Matsumoto
  • A Distant Neighbourhood / A Zoo in winter - Jiro Taniguchi
  • A Drifting Life / Abandon the Old in Tokyo / Pushman and other stories - Yoshihiro Tatsumi
  • Trash Market - Tadao Tsuge
  • Cigarette Girl - Masahiko Matsumoto
  • Helter Skelter - Kyoko Okazak
  • Disappearance Diary - Hideo Azuma
And of course, if you know of anything up the same alley, please do recommend.

EDIT: If you want to read some of these digitally, you can get the 'Tachiyomi' app and add 'MangaDex' as a plugin. It looks like a lot of the ones I mentioned are on there.
 
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Yabba

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A Distant Neighbourhood / A Zoo in winter - Jiro Taniguchi
I love Taniguchi's work, the extreme detail he puts into his background, makes it excell artistically.
 
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Orlando Smooth

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I had basically the same experience of getting older and dropping anime first and then manga for all the reasons you described, so I really appreciate this post and will be checking out some of your suggestions. For those who don't live next to a Japan Foundation library, any suggestions of where to find these? Digital preferred but print is cool too? I'm also curious if looking into these smaller publishers you've mentioned has lead you to finding other interesting works, or if you primarily find them through this foundation?
 
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Yabba

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For those who don't live next to a Japan Foundation library, any suggestions of where to find these? Digital preferred but print is cool too?
I'm not sure about the other ones, but you can find a physical release of A Distant Neighborhood on Amazon.
 
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I completely agree with you that modern manga as an industry has become trite and repetitive, for all the reasons you mentioned. We also all grow up, and what we think is good at one point doesn't simply become bad later; we just grew out of it. We're no longer the target audience of something and our experiences change. From making friends and having power in our life in Shonen manga, to more subtle and sorrowful ideas like mortality, hurting people when we don't want to, and just becoming and adult.

That being said I think the modern landscape of manga is having a bit of a renaissance lately. Everyone thinks chainsaw man is good. I think it's pretty good. But I think what it did was more than just be good, it fundamentally changed what the Shonen genre could be. Similarly to how Evangellion was a critique of the Mecha genre, Chainsaw man critiques Shonen by putting a mean, selfish, unheroic, idiotic boy as the protagonist. After Chainsaw man, I've seen manga with more and more characters that are no longer bulletproof. They're still power fantasies in a lot of manga, but I've noticed a change into more multifaceted characters. With the change in Shonen, the most popular manga genre, I think it will reverberate to other genres and create a better landscape for the art. Hopefully that'll include shorter stories, contained in 40-120 chapters max. No more One-Pieces please.

Some manga recommendations too so I'm not just preaching on this thread
-Blood On The Tracks by Shuzo Oshimi (A psychological manga about murder and parental trauma)
-Happiness by Shuzo Oshimi (A coming to age vampire story)
-Eden It's an Endless world by Hiroki Endo (An apocalyptic, Gnosticism inspired manga. Has action and some war crimes)
-Dorohedoro by Q Hayashida (Action oriented manga with a strange premise and interesting art)
 
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goldenvirginiafan53

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i definitely agree with you, i used to be a massive fan of anime and manga and just grew up and let it drift away from me. i remember i despised the fanbases of nigh on every animanga i enjoyed, i also realised just how paedophilic most modern animanga is? i could not get behind or exist in a community where loli waifus were accepted and celebrated? i remember Gantz was the manga that got me back into reading it again.

i was also wondering if anybody here has ever read Psyren by toshiaki iwashiro? i live in a very small town at the bottom of the uk and found all the copies of the manga in my local library, i remember absolutely loving it when i was around 15 but i don't really see much conversation about it?
 
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Steingar

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Some manga recommendations too so I'm not just preaching on this thread
-Blood On The Tracks by Shuzo Oshimi (A psychological manga about murder and parental trauma)
-Happiness by Shuzo Oshimi (A coming to age vampire story)
-Eden It's an Endless world by Hiroki Endo (An apocalyptic, Gnosticism inspired manga. Has action and some war crimes)
-Dorohedoro by Q Hayashida (Action oriented manga with a strange premise and interesting art)
Good comments, and thanks for the recs too! I have actually read Blood on the Tracks (or at least where it was up to about a year ago), and I absolutely loved it. But unfortunately, I think it suffers from bullet point one that I mentioned in my post. The thing that happens 50ish chapters in where his cousin appears in the middle of the night and what happens after that...is just really stupid to me and felt like a way to extend the series beyond its natural life. It's a shame because that was looking to become a favourite for me.

I had basically the same experience of getting older and dropping anime first and then manga for all the reasons you described, so I really appreciate this post and will be checking out some of your suggestions. For those who don't live next to a Japan Foundation library, any suggestions of where to find these? Digital preferred but print is cool too? I'm also curious if looking into these smaller publishers you've mentioned has lead you to finding other interesting works, or if you primarily find them through this foundation?

A lot of the more autobiographical mangas (A drifting life, etc.) reference niche mangakas extensively so I write down a few names as I go. That's how I came across Hideo Azuma's "Disapperance Diary" which I just read and is also a brilliant piece of art (I'll add it to the list above). Other than that, unfortunately I don't know of any particular blog or channel that does these kind of niche recommendations (if there was it would be hard to find in the endless sea of seasonal anime review content).

If I find anything I'll post to this thread later. As for where to find these, you're in luck! Get the Tachiyomi app and add 'MangaDex' as a plug in. It looks like a lot of the ones I mentioned are on there.
 
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Steingar

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I love Taniguchi's work, the extreme detail he puts into his background, makes it excell artistically.
Absolutely. I particularly like his chapter illustrations, any one of them could be framed and put up on a wall. I almost feel like I need to be even a bit older to really "feel" what he's expressing in his stories, but I still appreciate them immensely. The library nearby to me has half a dozen of his works, so I'll be reading even more of him moving forward.
 
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AllNightNippon

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Similarly to how Evangellion was a critique of the Mecha genre, Chainsaw man critiques Shonen by putting a mean, selfish, unheroic, idiotic boy as the protagonist.
Evangelion isn't a critique of the mecha genre. The majority of its themes and story beats are taken from Ultraman, Gundam, Ideon, Mazinger Z, etc. If anything Evangelion is a modernized retelling of the classic showa sci-fi works. Also Denji isn't that out of the ordinary for shonen protagonists. Goku might be the ultimate shonen protagonist and he's often very selfish and does some seemingly unheroic things (giving Cell the senzu bean for a fair fight, putting universes in danger for a big fight he wants in Super) in spite of in the end being a hero. And the even older Joe of Ashita no Joe is far worse than Denji ever is.

Popular manga is a product of, above all things else, industry. This means that many mangaka, compared to artists that work in more singular mediums like novels or film, are far more at the mercy of market forces and the whims of their editors. Again and again and again I'd read a manga with an amazing conceit that would have worked beautifully perhaps in a 40-80 chapter story, but which was inevitably spun out into an agonising hundreds (sometimes thousands) of chapters that by the end had devolved into meandering slog (Kaiji and Monster are examples). This killed a lot of the joy for me, because it felt like these stories existed more for the purpose of making money than for telling a cohesive and interesting story.
How far did you get into Kaiji? I've read up to around the middle of Part 3 and never got the sense of it being a slog. The closest I got was the bog in part 2, but honestly after playing some pachinko myself I understand it a lot more and would probably enjoy the pacing more now.
 

Steingar

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How far did you get into Kaiji? I've read up to around the middle of Part 3 and never got the sense of it being a slog. The closest I got was the bog in part 2, but honestly after playing some pachinko myself I understand it a lot more and would probably enjoy the pacing more now.
I'm up to the latest chapter. Note that you're probably at just about the 1/3 mark.

Let's just say that the series stops being about gambling at a certain point, and that's when it well and truly jumps the shark.
 
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AllNightNippon

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I'm up to the latest chapter. Note that you're probably at just about the 1/3 mark.

Let's just say that the series stops being about gambling at a certain point, and that's when it well and truly jumps the shark.
I was figuring that you got far, but still wanted to ask. I love FKMT even outside of gambling stuff so I'm curious what I'll think of it when I get there.
 

UCD

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Oh man, I am a huge manga fan, but I just started reading a few years ago. I picked up chainsaw man around halfway through its serialzation, read fire punch, then blame!, and then just went straight into the obscure weird stuff without dealing with the generic shonen slop. It's not so hard to find, spend a few hours looking and you'll find lots of blogs and anilist profiles that are covered in stuff so obscure I don't get where they find it. There is no shortage of good quality manga available, I have found so much I don't even look anymore, I just go through my backlog. I'm into surreal and/or arty pretentous stuff so a lot of what I read is probably not interesting to most people, but I have a few authors who I think everyone should read.

My favourite artists (everything that they touch is gold)

- panpanya
- daisuke igarashi
- tsutomu nihei (blame)

some individual manga that I really like:
- planetes
- freesia
- the fable

any suggestions of where to find these? Digital preferred but print is cool too?
I'm pretty sure mangadex is the most complete scanlation library out there, but there I have noticed some missing that were present on other sites. Most of the alternative stuff is only available in physical and actually not that hard to find in physical in bookstores or online stores. Most translators won't translate or scan stuff that is available to purchase in that language, I assume due to legal reasons.
i also realised just how paedophilic most modern animanga is? i could not get behind or exist in a community where loli waifus were accepted and celebrated?
I don't get it. Most of that stuff is extremely uncomfortable for everyone who isn't a pedophile. I can't read monogatari or made in abyss, even though the writing/art is great, its just so disgusting. I don't understand why its like this
Other than that, unfortunately I don't know of any particular blog or channel that does these kind of niche recommendations
Found this gem of a blog recently:
https://mangacapsaicin.tumblr.com/

Try looking up "gekiga", or "alternative manga", they are out there
 
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Evangelion isn't a critique of the mecha genre. The majority of its themes and story beats are taken from Ultraman, Gundam, Ideon, Mazinger Z, etc. If anything Evangelion is a modernized retelling of the classic showa sci-fi works.
While you bring up some good points on where Eva takes it's inspiration from (It's no big secret that Hideki Anno likes Ultraman, he's directed a live action Ultraman in 2022, and a parody Ultraman film in 1983, Gunbuster is also very much inspired by the Super robot genre) I feel like it could still fall under the genre of critique. The entire Eva series is more of a personal statement from Anno, using strange biblical robots and monsters as a vehicle to express himself. A lot of the critique comes from the Shinji and his distaste for piloting the Evas, the more bionic rather than mechanical mecha, and the general cast of flawed and unlikable characters. A sharp juxtaposition, even compared to some of the darker Gundam anime's out there like Zeta and Iron blodded orphans.
Also Denji isn't that out of the ordinary for shonen protagonists. Goku might be the ultimate shonen protagonist and he's often very selfish and does some seemingly unheroic things (giving Cell the senzu bean for a fair fight, putting universes in danger for a big fight he wants in Super) in spite of in the end being a hero. And the even older Joe of Ashita no Joe is far worse than Denji ever is.

I guess what I was trying to say was that Denji as a character does stupid and selfish things completely intentionally and that's sort of his character. Goku Is always supposed to be seen as a hero, even if he makes some outlandishly stupid choices like the Cell senzu bean incident, and watching his son get beaten up by said Cell for apparently no reason. As for Joe in Ashita no Joe, I haven't read that so I'll take your word for it.
 
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Hello Steingar, I've made a thread about manga here and also been preaching some rambling against modern era manga. Unfortunately I got hooked into reading shitty slice of life romcoms like Kaguya sama love is war or please dont bully me nagatoro so I'm trying to move off.

Here was a thread I made with some seinen stuff.

phone posted

 

KingOfTheCow

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  • Popular manga is a product of, above all things else, industry. This means that many mangaka, compared to artists that work in more singular mediums like novels or film, are far more at the mercy of market forces and the whims of their editors. Again and again and again I'd read a manga with an amazing conceit that would have worked beautifully perhaps in a 40-80 chapter story, but which was inevitably spun out into an agonising hundreds (sometimes thousands) of chapters that by the end had devolved into meandering slog (Kaiji and Monster are examples). This killed a lot of the joy for me, because it felt like these stories existed more for the purpose of making money than for telling a cohesive and interesting story.
have you read solanin yet? i don't really read much manga, but I really resonated with it. it's pretty short too, only 28 chapters
 

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