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Manga (and Web Comics): A College Student’s Best Friend

A Couple Reasons why You might take on the Comic Scene

Let’s say you’re an avid reader; I know I am. I became an English major (double major, coupled with Visual Arts) specifically because I can’t read enough, although I must admit–to my dismay–I find less and less time to read. This may have happened to you, as well. You’re in your second, or forth, or sixth semester of classes and by that time you’re in deep. Psychology class has you reading Nietzsche and Freud. Your biology requirement isn’t your forte and so you have to study extra and on top of that you’ve got a lab. Not to mention all the reading for English 311. Add on the clubs you’re a part of the, the community service requirements for your honors program, socializing, essays, exams, your part-time job, studying: it’s all piling up and you’re going crazy not having the time or the motivation to pick up that new John Grisham or Charlene Harris book.

As a result, you start hanging out more and more on the Internet (you already did, but it becomes a regular part of your life now.) You’ve gotta search J-Stor for an article anyway, so why not visit for a little break? Or watch a couple “Strong Bad” e-mails on

But you still can’t help but feel a massive void, one which had been filled with the joys of reading. You don’t have time to pick up a novel. Conundrum: what is one to do?

That’s where my obsession with manga kinda began. Not entirely, but…well let me explain.

I’m not from the first wave of anime enthusiasts. I mean, I was pretty young when Akira (1988)* was first introduced in the States. I watched it in High School,  but didn’t fully enjoy it…something I regret now. I definitely hold it in high regard and respect the film for what it’s brought to our culture–the introduction of Anime, which paved the way for manga to take a stage. As a side note, I do intend to revisit this film in the future to see if I like it better this time around. My first introduction to the wondrous world of anime, and subsequently manga, was in 1996. I’d say I’m part of the “second” wave of anime fans (there has been a third wave, I’d say brought on by Cartoon Network airing Inu Yasha and Cowboy Bebop.) I was in 6th grade, my early teens, when I accidently discovered at 5:30 a.m. on Fox one of my favorite series of all time: Sailor Moon. Oh my God–life changing…literally. I mean I’d never seen anything like it before in a cartoon. I was a fan of Warner Bros, like just about everyone in my class. Tiny Toons, Animaniacs (still kinda like,) Loony Toons and then a couple of Disney toons like Gummi Bears. As much as those are all fine and dandy….phew! Sailor Moon blew them out of the water.

From there, it was all over. I loved it, and the style in which it was drawn. But what was it about Sailor Moon that stood out? Why was it so different? The same elements drawing me into the television show would be evident–and even more pronounced since it was not altered, edited, or censored–in the manga series by Naoko Takeuchi.

So what does make manga and anime so alluring? What’s it got that makes it so powerful? And why on earth would I suggest it’s a good thing to pick up as a college student (or indeed, anyone?) Well, after such a long introduction to the subject at hand, I decided to try to put this in an organized fashion: a bullet list. As with any of my posts, if there’s anything I don’t explain clearly, if you’d like to leave a comment, or if you have something to add,  I certainly welcome your thoughts! I actually, I’d like to hear what you have to say! Here’s the list:

  1. Easier to read than a novel. Okay, first let me say, I don’t mean the content is fluff and therefore a manga series requires no thinking. Quite the contrary in many cases (though I acknowledge that, as with anything, you’re going to come across crap occasionally.) What I mean to say is, taking on a manga requires less reading. We rely on the graphics to construct  the world in the story: a world usually built by words in a novel. A picture is worth a thousand words–so how many pictures are in a manga? Try multiplying that by 1000. Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea (ha, bet you thought I’d say “picture” since I’m a fool for puns.) You have enough reading to do in college as it is…so why not take a break and pick up a manga, or visit a web comic site? It takes me about an hour, maybe an hour and a half to read a 150-200 page manga–and I’m a slow reader. If all you have is a half hour in a waiting room, or a few minutes before your next class, then why not pull out a manga and read that?

  2. Captivating story lines and deep characterization. Sure, you may have less reading to do, but what’s lacking in verbiage, manga makes up in the in depth tales they weave. Case in point, CLAMP’s Rg Veda. That thing has a crazy complex story-and not just one line going at once. There’s the main story arc, and then each character has their own back story. You’ve got the combination of a story that draws you in, mixed with characters you care about, because you know what they’ve been through. That’s a winning combination in my book. It’s not just Rg Veda that does this, but also Sailor Moon, Angel Sanctuary, Death Note, and many others. Not only are story lines often complex, but they also tend to deal with concepts or subjects that are “taboo,” which almost always draws intrigue. Kaori Yuki may have been familiar with Freud’s Totem and Taboo when writing Angel Sanctuary, which involves sexual relations between brother and sister. Death Note toys with the idea of justice and who has the right to deal punishment and for what reasons: it’s often questioned if the investigator (L) searching for the murderer (Light Yagami) is not just as ruthless as Yagami in his methods (though he’s not so blatant in his methods, and did try to not kill others. I don’t want to give spoilers here, so I’m not going to get into the story line too deeply.) Or the extremely detailed, corrupt country of Amestris in Fullmetal Alchemist and the whole Homunculi deal, the plot twists of Inu Yasha. Great series that have captivating stories, and very deep characterization.

  3. Accessiblity. First off, bookstores across the nation have started to recognize the interest in manga here in the US. It’s true that of late, sales have gone down a bit in America, but that doesn’t mean the main fan base isn’t still alive and strong. If you go into any Barnes and Noble, or Borders, or Walden Books, you’ll find some kind of manga section there. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for on the shelf, you can order it. In addition to this, online you can find all sorts of free manga websites. Two of my favorites are and–but there are so many out there! In addition to great online manga sites, you’ve also got a great variety of web comics to choose from. I’ve been dipping my toes into web comic pools and have found so many sites for these! And they’re updated on a generally reasonable time scale, so there’s always something to look forward to!

  4. Several different genres, a manga for anyone. There’s just as many genres of manga as there are novels. I mean, some even focus on cooking for crying out loud (Yakitate!! Japan!) So no matter what your tastes, you   can  find a manga for it. Here’s and example:

  5. Extremely well done graphics. I have to admit, the first real thing that drew me to that Sailor Moon manga in Hastings, two years after I first discovered Serena (the main character, actually called Usagi in the manga, which means “rabbit”) were the pretty pictures. Oooooooo…..pretty. Heh, but yeah, you get the idea. I liked the style, the different colored hair, the crazy cool outfits that weren’t logical, but certainly looked good (who fights in a mini-skirt school girl outfit?) From then on, I was hooked. And why not? Our vision is very important to us-it’s a sense that we’re sometimes enslaved to. What color looks good on me, is he/she/it appealing to my eyes (not always, but you’d be lying if you said you never judged a person by the looks…in most cases.) All the rich colors we revel in. The works of art we go to museums to see. Art is a major part of culture, partially because of how it appeals to our vision. In some cases art’s one of the few things we know about cultures. Ancient cave paintings are what tell us the little we know about mankind before written history. Art from the Renaissance tells us about Europe and what was important to their society during this time. Art simply reflects what’s going on in a culture, whether it’s a small movement, or a major focus. Today we still have an appreciation for art. I would argue that manga, too, is art. And as art, it entices to our visual senses. We like it, and the existence of this art is almost enough to justify reading manga in and of itself.

Wow. Well, I could go on and on, but to be honest I’m tired, and my butt’s asleep. Plus, I just sprained my ankle last night when I went for a run. Ouch. I need to rest up a bit 😛

If you’d like to discuss this topic further, I’m all for it! I love to talk about manga, and I can certainly expand on any statement I’ve made here today. Just give me a holler or post a comment!

*I consider this to be really the beginning of Anime becoming popular here in
America. I’m sure there are die-hards who have been fans for longer–Kimba the White Lion comes to mind, and it’s from the 1950s I believe.

Posted in All You Need to know about Manga, Blog: Cerulean Sessions.

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