This is by far the topic I receive the most requests to cover, and my previous posting has the highest views. So, I thought it was time to put some of this into writing, put in some updates, and also put in some additional contexts.
Tips for Collection Development
When it comes to purchasing manga for children, things can be a bit tricky. Most of your patrons or students may actually be consumers of anime that is based upon manga that you may deem not age-relevant in accordance with your collection development policy. The reality is that anime, particularly shonen anime, does appeal to kids. Because in Japan, they are the target audience. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is a popular anime and manga that you may have gotten requests for in your library. In Japan, there was even a McDonalds collaboration with the series.
But Japan has different social mores than Western society, especially the United States. The cultural landscape is very different, and collection development policies in school libraries exist for reasons. This is why manga publishers provide age rating systems. For an elementary librarian, the age rating system will be a valuable friend. Here are the systems for Kodansha and VIZ. The Kodansha guide in particular is librarian-facing and can be particularly helpful.
That being said, age ratings are not the only consideration you should make. My general preference is to think in terms of age relevance- there are titles that may be perfectly fine for a child to read content-wise, but would not necessarily be relevant to their interests. In this case, you should consider reviews from professional sites (you can find several here on my page for Other Useful Resources) or take a look at the titles yourself.
I also have provided a list HERE to help you.
In terms of what’s available for kids, you’ll notice the majority of titles are media-driven. Disney and video game adaptations rule the current landscape of kids’ manga. And to be completely honest, that’s not entirely unusual in Japan either. Mascots and beloved characters are a major part of childhood consumption in Japan. Manga is often only one facet of a media empire, and exporting takes on familiar characters is a surefire way to guarantee book sales.
Other concerns you will see frequently are environmental concerns. There’s a distinct connection to worries about how well people are taking care of the environment. You’ll see several iyashikei titles, which are about healing environments and people taking care of those environments.
The other core topic is sports. Sports manga is incredibly popular and can have the same level of drama and action as a shounen battle title without extreme violence. There’s also a focus on camaraderie and healthy rivalries, which is a refreshing departure from a lot of Western sports content.
Finally, there is an enormous market for animal manga in Japan, and this extends to what gets localized here in the West. Animals, particularly cats, sell well in manga. This is probably because there truly is an “All Ages” appeal. Animal manga can entice readers from all ages and demographics with their extreme cuteness.
There’s More Out There
The thing is… there’s a ton of kid-friendly manga out there, waiting for licensing. What children’s librarians and elementary school librarians really need is for publishers to purchase and distribute these titles. And I’m not simply saying this. I’ve spent my spring break combing through thousands of manga titles, isolating those that would probably do quite well in the children’s market. The results are HERE.
What I found were biographies of historical figures, a dizzying array of animal manga, magical girl titles, action series, and magical fantasies. (Click any of the images below to learn more about a title.)
What’s apparent is that there are plenty of options out there. What librarians need is for the publishers to connect them with the titles that exist.
I know for a while the commonly held belief was that children didn’t like manga because it lacked color. But that’s no longer the trend or the case. Elementary-age children are hungry for manga, and I encourage publishers to embrace this demographic.
Librarians, feel free to refer publishers to titles on this list that you think would resonate with your children! There’s actually a way you can reach out to Seven Seas to encourage this, through their monthly reader survey on their site! You’ll find it on the upper right-hand corner of the home page:
If you would like further guidance or would like for me to review a particular title on the K-5 list, please leave a comment or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.