Thursday, April 02, 2009

Try Something New Mini-Challenge

I decided to read some manga in March for Nymeth's Try Something New Mini-Challenge. I'd been meaning to for awhile, and even joined Rhinoa's Manga Challenge this year, but this was just the little nudge I needed to finally get started. I was paired up with Amy, but we didn't get our act together soon enough, plus we both wanted to read different genres. So forgive me for not having a joint post, hers will be up soon I believe. Instead here are some questions, and my thoughts on the experience of trying something new.

Why had you hesitated to try this type of book before?

One of the main reasons I'd hesitated to read any manga before was because I simply didn't know where to start. There are so many manga series and all kinds of subgenres. I'd actually half-heartedly tried to read a couple of manga a while ago as a way of studying Japanese. But the only manga that I could attempt to read, because they are written more simply and with few kanji characters, are ones aimed at kids, and I just found those to be way too kawaii. My sappy-cheese metre was through the roof! However, anything written for adults was way way beyond my very limited Japanese.

Then there is the fact that I've never really been into superheroes, or bizarre, supernatural stories. It's no coincidence that most of the few graphic novels I've read are memoirs, and therefore very much based in the here and now, like Persepolis, and Maus.

I finally decided to give up the idea that I'd be able to read manga in Japanese anytime soon, but there are still quite a lot of manga that have been translated into English. How would I find a story that I'd enjoy? So I trolled online for suggestions and came up with 3 to start with.

How was it? Did you enjoy it?

The 3 different series that I tried this month were all quite different from each other. My first, and favourite, was definitely Emma, by Kaoru Mori, an Austen-esque love story with beautiful art and characters that I fell in love with. Next I read Monster by Naoki Urasawa, a serial killer thriller. I quite enjoyed the suspenseful story in this one. Last, I read the first volume of xxxHolic by Clamp, a story of a witch who grants wishes and a boy who can see evil spirits, and this one I didn't really care for.

How did it compare to your pre-conception of this type of book?

Manga often seems to be targeted to either girls/women, or boys/men. And my pre-conception, which I still haven't entirely shaken, is that the ones aimed at girls, or women tend to be very cute, cheesy love stories, and the ones aimed at boys are the superhero stuff with lots of action and violence, and the ones for men only are essentially porn. LOL. No wonder I hesitated to try manga for so long!

xxxHolic actually fit a few of my pre-conceptions of manga, with it's over-exaggerated expressions, cutesy characters, and a touch of the supernatural, and it is those elements that I didn't care for. Emma though was not at all like what I might have expected, it was just a lovely story told predominantly in pictures instead of text.

How likely are you to pick up something else by this author, or in this genre?

Well, I loved the first volume of Emma so much that I ended up reading volumes 2 to 7, the rest of the volumes in the main story, as well last month. And I plan to read the 3 companion volumes that complete the series when they are available, only volume 8 is out so far in English.

Monster is a very long series, 18 volumes in total, but I'm curious to know what happens so I'd like to try another couple to see if I am hooked enough to continue.

I would also very much like to try some other series too, and there are some that I've already made a note of. I do think I need to select somewhat carefully though, and choose storylines that I would be interested to read about in regular fiction. The art is such an integral part of manga that I have a feeling the drawing style could also sway me one way or the other.

A couple of the ones I'm tempted to try:
Vampire Knight - I'm still pretty new to vampire fiction as well but I've enjoyed what I've read so far, and this one sounds like it could be fun.
Shrine of the Morning Mist - The art looks beautiful and I'm fascinated with many aspects of traditional Japan, including shrines and Shintoism, elements of which are apparently incorporated into this story.
The Dreaming - Rhinoa's read this short series, and her reviews left me intrigued.

If you have any other suggestions for me, I would really love to hear them.

Thanks for hosting the challenge, Nymeth!


  1. I've been taking notes from blogger's posts (especially yours) about the manga they've been reading. I have yet to try it, but I do hope to one day. Emma definitely sounds good as well as some of the others you are considering trying.

  2. Oooh, I may have to give Emma a try. Sorry I haven't dropped by, lately. I just realized I had 1000+ posts in my Google Reader. Someone hasn't been checking her reader. I think I've been twitter-obsessed, this week.

  3. I think it's really great that you chose to try something new. Manga, it seems, is particularly hard to break into as a genre.

    I've seen the Emma series all over the place lately. I feel like I should also try something new :P

  4. Too bad, the best manga that I know and would highly recommend are probably not translated to English, like the Glass Mask (garasu no kamen) by Suzue Miuchi, Waki Yamato's, Yoko Matsumoto's, Yuu Asagiri's. (They're older manga as well) Anyway, try Death Note. It's one of the most popular manga in the last few years (that's then made into anime and live-action movies). It's really good.

  5. I wouldn't know where to start either. I've read good things about the Emma series though. Another thing stopping me is that my local libraries don't stock the FIRST in a series or the entire series once I'd started. That puts me right off.

  6. I've watched the animes of Vampire Knight and Monster. I hope you enjoy Monster, it's one of my favourite animes and while it is long, it's worth it.

    ~ Popin

  7. No worries about the joint post! I'm very glad you enjoyed the mini-challenge. Emma was certainly different from anything I'd ever expected. I think you might enjoy Death Note too...very suspenseful and fast-paced. I want to read The Dreaming as well, and now, thanks to you, Shrine of the Morning Mist.

  8. I haven't tried manga, but I've been following your thoughts on Emma and am definitely intrigued. I just started dipping my feet into the graphic novel genre and am loving it so far (but like you I've stuck to the more personal stories).

  9. Wendy - I think Emma really was a great introduction to manga. I hope you enjoy it too if you get a chance to read it someday.

    Nancy - No worries, I haven't been very good about visiting and commenting either lately. Wasn't someone supposed to be working on how to fit more hours in the day??? :P

    saveophelia - I agree with you that manga seems a hard genre to break into. I'd wanted to try it for awhile though so I'm glad to have had a little encouragement last month to finally do so.

    mee - Maybe someday in the distant future, I'll actually be able to read in Japanese! (In the meantime I'm not holding my breath though). I've been wavering on Death Note. I know it's hugely popular, but I wonder if it would be too supernatural for me. I suppose I should just try it and see.

    Michelle - That's really frustrating when you can't get the full series. One good thing about manga I guess is that for a lot of them it's possible to read them online if you can't find them in book-form.

    Popin - That Monster is one of your favourites is good to hear. I do plan to continue on with it when I get a chance to get the next couple of volumes.

    Nymeth - Thanks again for hosting! It was great to have a little nudge. Now that I've started though I think my wishlist and wallet are going to suffer!

    Trish - I'm still quite new to graphic novels as well but I've enjoyed what I've read so far and hope to read some more this year.


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