So I have worked in a comic shop for almost two years now and in that time I have never really attempted to read manga. It's always there, that giant section of the store full of little books about people with giant eyes and minimal clothing. Stories where men look like girls, and women look like sex aliens.
People ask me to recommend manga, and I simply cannot do it. I have no idea what any of those books are about. It's second only to Magic cards on the ladder of things that I do not care about.
I have decided to take the plunge and try to read some manga. And you're gonna hear about it! Join me as I read the first volume of randomly selected manga series. Will I give up after a week of tedious backwards reading, or will I become a lifelong manga devotee/cosplay picnic organizer? Only time will tell.
I read three books from the action/adventure genre of manga to start with.
Banya the Explosive Delivery Man #1 by Kim Young-Oh (Dark Horse)
Why I picked it up: Ok, first of all, this is not technically manga. It's manhwa, which means it's Korean, not Japanese. See? I'm learning something already! Unlike manga, which is all backwards and weird, manhwa is read in the left-to-right, front-to-back style that North American's such as myself are used to reading books. Y'know. The normal way. So that was appealing.
Secondly, I flipped through it a bit and the art was really excellent looking. Better than most manga books I glance at. Plus, it's got an attractive cover.
I also trust Dark Horse so I thought I'd start with something they publish.
What it's about: The titular character, Banya, is a delivery boy in a fantasy world that looks kinda like the future and the past at the same time, y'know? He, along with his two pals Mei and Kong, make up the Gaya Desert Post Office. They can deliver any package or message to anyone anywhere for a price. It's established immediately that pretty much nothing can stop these guys if they need to deliver something. The real story starts when a wounded soldier shows up at the post office (which is like a deserted fort type place) and asks that they deliver the parcel that he was carrying to its final destination.
And what did I think about it?: As I said, the art was pretty incredible. There were a lot of really awesome pages. It's an interesting set-up, and the characters seem interesting. Mei, the lone female in the story, is particularly compelling. She isn't wearing much, but by manga standards she's practically a nun. I appreciate that, although she is scantily-clad, she doesn't have giant boobs and there is no cleavage. She also looks tough. And she is tough. She is established as the boss of the post office. That won me over.
There are a lot of mythical animals and monsters in the book that they run into while making deliveries. I'm not really into that kind of thing, but they are very well-drawn.
I find that the dialogue in manga is always kind of jarring. I guess something gets lost in translation because everything is just so awkward-sounding. In this book the three heroes talk like young smart-ass punks, and there is quite a bit of humour. It's just sort of weird-sounding.
Do I want to read the next volume?: I dunno. Kinda. If for no other reason than to look at more of Kim Young-Oh's art. This is basically the first manga book I've read, so it's hard for me to say if it's good manga. It seems like good manga. I think if you liked reading manga, you would like this.
Mei's a cool character. I guess I would like to see more of her.
Black Lagoon #1 by Rei Hiroe (Viz)
What it's about: Strangely enough, this book also turned out to be about delivery people. This time it's set in our world, circa now, more or less. It follows a band of people who will deliver anything anywhere for a price. They travel around on a tricked-out WWII gun boat.
And what did I think about it?: It was pretty fun, actually. It's way over-the-top, but it's more than aware of how silly it is. It's a popcorn action movie with lots of violence and profanity. And the translation was far less awkward than the translation for Banya. It read a lot better, even though it was all backwards. There are some pretty awesome pages in this book too.
Do I want to read the next volume?: I could take or leave it. Of the three books, I'd probably be most interested in the next volume of this one.
Gantz #1 by Hiroya Oku (Dark Horse)
What it's about: I'm not really sure...I was a little distracted by the totally naked woman being treated horribly.
Basically a bunch of people who have recently died find themselves in a room in a building in Tokyo and are being instructed to perform missions for some sort of talking sphere.
So what did I think?: At first I thought it was pretty good...and then the naked woman showed up. She was one of the dead people to appear in the room. Her wrists are cut because she killed herself in the bathtub. She is pretty much immediately hauled off and raped by one of the men in the room, while the other men think about doing the same. There is also a recently dead dog in the room which also sexually assaults her.
And...the woman is totally naked and there are lots of close-ups of her various naughty parts. When the men are naked, however, it is blurred out. WTF?
Do I want to read the next volume: No. In fact, this kind of makes me want to stop reading manga altogether.
So that was my first attempt. I think next round I'll read some girly romance manga to see if that offends me less.