Manga: The Complete Guide (Del Rey)

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manga-header.jpgWhether you're a diehard otaku searching for obscure older titles or a newbie who doesn't know a "Naruto" from a "Pokeyman," this massive tome, featuring summaries and reviews of every Japanese comic ever published in the English language, aims to offer something for everybody.

 

576 pgs. B&W, $19.95

(W: Jason Thompson)

As its title may suggest, Manga: The Complete Guide is an ambitious, encyclopedia-style tome that strives to encompass several decades worth of Japanese comics, specifically the ones available in English translations. The book is divided into several sections, including a overview of what manga is, simple descriptions of manga's many genres, and other general information that manga virgins will find indispensable.

 

Click for a larger image.Author Jason Thompson, a former employee of Viz Media who served as the first editor of the popular manga magazine Shonen Jump's American incarnation, is undeniably qualified to tackle this task. His thumbnail entries on everything from Akira to Zyword are comprehensive, readable, and full of critical opinions meant to help readers browsing the book to find a few new series to try. However, it's hard to imagine how this book might fit into a true manga fan's lifestyle. Though the book includes some reproductions of artwork alongside its summaries of manga series, they're few and far between-browsing through these listings is hardly a substitute for browsing the shelves at your local comic or bookstore. Fans will find it kind of fun to look up favorite or loathed series and read Thompson's (usually spot-on) opinions, but the lack of "read if you like" recommendations or cross-referencing is a real shortcoming here.

 

There's a separate section on adult manga at the back of the book, as well as a glossary of manga terms, an index of artists, and a brief Japanese language lesson. The diverse content means that even veteran manga fiends should learn something new about Japanese comic culture, the history of the form, or their favorite genre. Still, Manga: The Complete Guide will most likely find its core audience among people who are very new to manga, or fans of Western comics who find themselves completely bewildered by Eastern visual culture. | J. Bowers

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