So you want to read Manga…
But you don’t know where to start. I’m going to update this blog with articles reviewing certain mangas and letting you know what to expect.
The main deterrents to most of my friends who want to read manga but don’t are these:
They don’t want to invest in something that goes on for endless amounts of chapters and then feel like their time is wasted. One Piece is like that. It’s in the 700 chapter mark now and that alone is enough to scare off most people I talk to. It seems like a daunting task to read these epic storylines. And why should you invest in something if it just turns into a steaming pile of poo for a storyline… I mean how long can these folks turn out good storylines. I’ll mention length and the different story arcs so that you can know what to expect when taking on a longer manga.
*Too much fanservice.
Fanservice is just as much a problem if not more in Japanese comics as in American comics. The difference is that Japan comics do have more options for women comics that have created a huge audience. America is catching up there but not up to the level of Japan. But as for male oriented comics, Fanservice is probably the number one turn off for me. I will instantly stop reading a comic within the first chapter if the fanservice distracts from the story or believability of the female characters. That’s the lense I view through and I bet there are many like me out there. There are rare occasions where there is an exception, that the story is so intriguing that I will bear through it (Gantz) but for the most part, I don’t make it past the first chapter in most of the mangas I’ve read. In these reviews, I’ll give you the lowdown on fan service level.
*Odd Japanese Humor
The stereotypical zany Japanese gags that randomly pop up in manga are something that is tough to get used to for the typical American. I feel some people instantly take to it, while others find it distracts from believability or the storyline. There are some cases where this might be true, but I feel like in some cases it just needs to be forgiven and understood that there are cultural differences at play. Example would be Full Metal Alchemist. Hands down, one of the greatest mangas ever created (Maybe even the greatest…). I’ve heard that people cannot get through this story because of all the short gags that pop up randomly, even in serious moments. I’ve been reading manga for a while and am used to these gags and didn’t even give them a second thought. So I’ll mention this in my reviews even though I think this particular stigma against manga should be forgiven. I feel the Japanese have a great sense of humor but it just takes a little while to get used to it.
Most of the mangas I will review on this page are going to be either Seinen or Shounen. Shounen mangas tend to have some sort of power levels. Think of the leveling system of pokemon games or Super Saiyans. It can either establish a manga if they are interesting and diverse enough to supplement the story (One Piece) or ruin a manga if the power level is more focused on than the actual story (Bleach).
So I will review some mangas on this page to give you some suggestions on what you should be prepared for when reading. There are amazing stories out there in the form of Manga, and I feel like a lot of time Manga gets put into a box (and most of the above Four problems get mentioned) yet there are many gems that can be appreciated by the typical comic reader.
I’ve been inspired by many mangas in my own art style and stories, as much as American comics and I also want to share with other comic book artists what I think we can learn from the manga style of doing comics.
HUNTER X HUNTER
While this manga is far from my favorite, it is most fresh in my memory so I will start Manga reviews with this one.
Hunter X Hunter is currently in the three hundreds as far as chapter length and I have read that far. (though I had skimmed through a handful of chapters but I will let you know why later on.)
Hunter X Hunter is set in a world of dangerous environments and monsters. There are a bunch of people who want to become Hunters. Hunters are given special privileges in order to gain knowledge or wealth. There are many different specialties for hunters. They can be adventurers, treasure hunters, monster slayers or even assassins. But they have to be tough enough to pass the Hunters Entrance Exam.
The story follows Gon, a young kid who was abandoned by his father at a very young age. He wants to follow his father’s footsteps of becoming a hunter to find out why he left him.
There’s also his best friend he meets up later, Killua, a stone cold killer born from a family of assassins.
The other two main characters are Kurapika, who seeks revenge for the death of his tribe, and Leorio who wants to become a doctor.
This manga has a ton of awesome qualities but also a lot of faults. Ill start with what I’ve always liked about this comic, then let you know what it’s faults are, then tell you why it’s worth the read anyways.
I read the first volume in high school (about 6 years ago). The first thing I noticed was the simple but expert linework in the artwork that gave it a very organic quality (something you don’t see too much in manga). I think the methods Togashi used are the methods of a master artist. I think he mastered his craft sometime during the creation of Yu Yu hakusho but the completion is in Hunter X Hunter. The character designs are very strong. Another thing I always liked was that the main characters had to use their heads to get out of most situations. Many mangas make it impossible for characters who haven’t reached a certain power level to progress in the story line. At least in the beginning of Hunter X Hunter, I felt that out of the box thinking moved the characters forward rather than reaching some ridiculous power level. Togashi also puts the hunters in many positions where not only are their minds stretched at a philosophical levels, but the also the minds of the readers as well.
I also like the horror element that runs through the manga. While on the outside it looks like a typical adventure storyline, this manga gets intense and Togashi does a wonderful job of establishing danger. The most horrifying element in the first hunter exam arc is not the actual exam (which is frought with many horrible situations and dangers), but one of the participants who is a psycopath named Hisoka who enjoys murdering people. If this isn’t enough, he’s dressed as a clown.
He doesn’t murder everyone but has a code that he goes by. In this way, he can appear as a villain in most cases, but also as an anti-hero in other cases.
Many other dangerous situations come as the story goes on, and no one feels safe. The dangerous world is offset with the optimism and innocence of the main character Gon. He is the kid with a heart of gold and creativity that can overcome this crazy, dangerous world.
So here are the pros:
-Great organic line art.
-Good storyline that instills suspense and fear
-Philosophical arguments within the storyline that draws the reader to think and leave with something other than awesome fight scenes.
I’ll leave you with that. Now to what might turn you off from the comic.
While the length is typical of a manga, the length of some of the arcs feel like they last an eternity. Most notable is the last Chimera Ant arc that lasted almost 150 chapters (It’s like almost half the comic.) Now I’m going to give the author some slack because he was injured on and off through the arc and had many hiatus’ but still there were moments where the story got confusing in a bad way and drawn out much longer than it should of. The confusing part is the constant amount of characters that seem to come out of absolutely no where and the strange way of going about defeating the enemy that still doesn’t make much sense to me (I don’t want to spoil it so ill end there.) Also, the enemy was so ridiculously powerful that no amount of planning worked. They couldn’t be defeated with logic, but rather a ridiculous amount of power. I don’t think it would have been as bad if it didn’t last so long.
So I believe the quality of Hunter X Hunter decreases as it goes on. I have some higher hopes for the next arc (it’s just getting started) and hopefully it won’t be as confusing or feel as pointless as the chimera arc.
Another thing that seemed cool in the beginning is nen, but its something that gets really complicated really fast and it’s hard to keep track some times of all the variations. I’m not a huge fan of the different type of powers that seem to pop up all over the manga world (Chakra, chi, etc.). I enjoyed the feeling of danger created by the world but the introduction of nen seemed to shrink the world and there are many chapter devoted to explaining how some characters complex nen works. Honestly, I just don’t care for the kind of thing. I want the story to move forward. The constant explanations greatly slow down the story and I found myself skimming through many of them.
As far as fanservice goes, Hunter X Hunter doesn’t have a lot which is a good thing. But what it lacks in fanservice, it makes up for in characters that look female who are actually male… I don’t know why there are so many characters that could be fine if they were female, that are actually male. Almost the entire Zolydyk family (Killua’s assassin family) look like they are females but are actually male. Maybe it’s an assassin thing, but Kurapika, one of the main characters looks like a woman as well. It just gets confusing a little bit. At least there’s no abundant fanservice, so I guess I’ll let it go for now. Gags aren’t too prevalent in HXH, and the humor seems to flow naturally.
So here are the main negatives from Hunter X Hunter
*Power levels do come and overcomplicate things in a way that might turn off the casual reader
*Certain story lines feel like they are very drawn out.
Overall, I’d recommend most of Hunter X Hunter is worth reading, and it takes a while before it feels tiresome. If anything, the Hunter exam arc is one of the best manga arcs I think I’ve ever read. It’s both very fun and very thought provoking. While I don’t think the arcs after it are as good, I do think there are many worth reading.