Manga Publishers: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know (And Probably More Than That)

Manga Publishers: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know (And Probably More Than That)

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Red Bard’s Video’s on TOKYOPOP:


Dark Horse:

Seven Seas Entertainment:

Drawn & Quarterly:

Fantagraphics (previously Fantagraphics Books):


Star Fruit Books:

UDON Entertainment:

Yen Press, LLC:

J-Novel Club:

Book Lists for When Your School Has Anime Planet Blocked

Book Lists for When Your School Has Anime Planet Blocked

I’ve heard from some of you that Anime Planet, the list aggregator I use for title recommendations, is blocked at your schools! This is frustrating, and I suspect comes from schools using sweeping blocks of words like anime. I have for those of you impacted by this a collection of all of my lists in Google Doc form. Admittedly, they’re very simple at the moment- I’ll eventually replace them with more sophisticated lists, but my goal to do that keeps getting sidetracked and I don’t want to delay any longer. When the permanent lists are in place, I’ll let you know!

Elementary Manga

Middle Grade Manga

The School Library Manga Starter Kit (High School)

Light Novels You Should Buy from Overdrive

Manga For Librarians Who Don’t Quite Get the Hype

Cat Manga

How I Select Manga

How I Select Manga

I’m currently bedridden with a nasty stomach bug, so I thought I’d talk about how I decide what manga goes on my school library’s shelves.

First off, because I’ve been reading manga for so long, I honestly came into my school library with several “essential titles” in mind. But, for the purpose of helping less voracious readers of the format, let’s talk about what I consider for titles that are not in my favorite genres or that I may not have read.


Manga, like video games and film, has a ratings system. While a little arbitrary and sometimes confusing, it’s still a good jumping off point for collection development. Here are the ratings and their meaning:

E: Everyone / A: All Ages: These two are interchangeable. Basically, this means the manga is intended for all audiences, like a G rating. Think of titles like Chi’s Sweet Home.

Y: Youth, Age 10+: Think of this as Upper Elementary, Middle Grade. There might be some mild cursing or violence. Many of these titles are actually made into Saturday morning cartoons, such as Gundam Wing.

T: Teens, Age 13+: Many titles fall into this range. This is very equivalent to PG-13 films, with potential for sexual innuendo and violence. Most shōnen battle manga falls into this age range.

OT: Older Teens, Age 16+: These are a hit above T, with sometimes explicit sexual content and violence. These titles can vary a lot in terms of appropriateness.

M: Mature, Age 18+: These can be either super violent or fall into the “hentai” or “ecchi” category. The good thing is that the M category is generally (but not always) a good rule of thumb to avoid in a school library, whereas the teen categories are subject to more fluidity. If it’s not hentai, the violence is going to be intense and quite graphic. These titles aren’t intended for a younger audience, and are better left for readers to discover on their own.

Which Anthology Magazine Was It Published In? OR What Publisher?

In Japan, manga is released in big anthology magazines. The most well-known is probably Shounen Jump, the publisher of many popular titles such as Naruto, My Hero Academia, and Dragonball. These magazines publish at varying rates from weekly to only once. They’re printed on lower grade paper, and they collect multiple titles. These magazines have editorial boards who have a vision for what type of work they put out, and knowing who published the work in its first run can be helpful. For example, I know that Hana to Yume and Lala have published some of my favorite series in the past, so I like to keep an eye on what they put out.

If you’re not a crazy otaku, then that might not be super helpful. So, I’d say to also look at who’s publishing over here in the US. There are more of them than you’d probably guess. VIZ Media is one of the biggest, and I will say they’re pretty responsive to school librarians. When a volume of Death Note had a manufacturer’s error, I contacted VIZ and they sent me a new volume. They publish all of the Shounen Jump titles, and also publish a large amount of shōjo titles under their Shoujo Beat imprint. That said, there are other publishers, some of which are known for picking up more sophisticated titles, and others which are anxious to import anything. Publishers that I think do an amazing job of translation and presentation include Kodansha USA (their Eternal Editions of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon are works of art), Vertical, and recently Seven Seas Entertainment.

Who is the Mangaka?

There are various reasons to consider the mangaka when purchasing. Many mangaka have distinctive styles of not just art, but also storytelling. Just as we often will consider the authors of YA novels and graphic novels, it’s important to consider who is writing and creating manga. I know I can trust Takahashi Rumiko, for example, to give stories with a strong balance of action and gentle romance.

I also know that Watsuki Nobuhiro (Rurouni Kenshin) was found guilty of possession of child pornography, and that his work will never be on my shelf despite its popularity.

Field Trip!

For me, the art is half the joy of manga, and I prefer to read physical volumes (although digital publication is on the rise). Also, I find many great new manga via just perusing shelves.

I’m lucky enough to live in NYC, so I like to browse at Kinokuniya and Book Off, but their English sections are actually smaller than that of Barnes and Noble. Barnes and Noble, honestly, has an excellent manga selection, and they frequently run sales. Also, Barnes and Noble will just let you sit and read for a long time, which is helpful for when I’m trying to get a sense of a title. While there, it’s easy to preview titles. The manga section is often where you’ll see young manga fans reading, sitting on the floor. I like to be a little nosey and see what they’re drawn to, which also can be helpful now that I’m a bit removed from what’s hot with the teens.

If you don’t want to leave your computer, though, many manga are now available digitally. Shounen Jump titles have free chapters available, usually the first three or four and the most recent few. It’s a good way to flip through digitally and get a taste.

If There’s an Anime, Watch Episode One

This is also an easy in. That said, not every manga gets an anime adaptation, and adaptations may vary in quality and accuracy. Sometimes the anime is better. Sometimes the anime is an abomination. A lot of the time, the anime only gets one season. However, the anime can give you a working knowledge that can let you know what’s going on.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of some ways into making selections. Obviously, you can also check reviews and other traditional selection tools as well.

Review: Fruits Basket

Review: Fruits Basket

Title: Fruits Basketフルーツバスケット

Mangaka: Natsuki Takaya 高屋 奈月

US Publisher: Formerly TokyoPop, now Yen Press

Status: Complete.

Level: Middle School, High School

Reader’s Advisory Tags: Grief, abuse.

Anime: 2001: Funimation, Hulu.

2019: Funimation, Crunchyroll.

Content Warnings: Discussions of mental and physical abuse.

Fruits Basket, commonly referred to as Furuba (フルバ), is one of the most beloved manga of all time. Like Ouran, Furuba is one of my absolute favorite manga series of all time, and one that I think is essential to a good manga collection. I thought now was the time to talk about Furuba because the new anime has just started airing in simulcast, so school librarians may get an influx of requests for it.

The premise of Furuba is initially relatively simple, but the manga has a complexity and undercurrent that really makes for compelling storytelling. It also has one of the most satisfying conclusions I’ve seen in a manga.

Tohru Honda is a young girl who has recently lost her beloved mother in an accident. When her paternal grandfather, her guardian, needs to live with his family while his home is being renovated, he asks her to stay with friends. Not wanting her friends to worry or be put into a difficult spot, Tohru opts to live out of a tent. The land she chooses to stay on turns out to belong to the Sohma family. Yuki Sohma is Tohru’s classmate, and he and his cousin Shigure live in the house on the property. When Tohru’s tent is buried in a landslide, they offer to let her stay in exchange for doing the cooking and cleaning (something they hate and Tohru loves). Tohru’s such a polite young girl they don’t have to worry about her hugging them out of nowhere- something they are desperate to avoid.

It’s all going very smoothly until Kyo Sohma bursts in through the ceiling, demanding to fight Yuki. Tohru goes to stop him, trips, and accidentally embraces him from behind. When she does so, the Sohma family secret is quickly discovered: when hugged by members of the opposite gender, they turn into the animals from the traditional legend of the Chinese Zodiac. Kyo is the cat, the one animal not included in the Zodiac.

Initially, the manga follows Tohru learning more about the Sohmas and their curse. As it progresses, the relationships among the various members are more parsed out, and it becomes clear that the curse isn’t all cute animal transformations and fun. Furuba ultimately is about healing and moving past grief. It’s about connection, both of the past and the future. It’s also a story of chosen families, escaping abuse, and breaking cycles. It’s a story about how bonds can sour, and how people need space to grow.

I’m going to say, emphatically, that Fruits Basket is a must-buy for a school librarian looking to build a collection of manga. It’s sweet and gentle. It can be quite dark, especially in later volumes, but there’s nothing inappropriate. The darkness comes more in the form of emotional torment and manipulation from the character’s pasts, and in the form of heavy doses of romantic angst as one of the boys falls for Tohru. It all ends, though, with healing and understanding. Everyone, even the perpetrator of much of the abuse in the series, breaks free of a cycle born out of misunderstanding and longing in order to build a fresh new future.

Some readers complain that Tohru, the main character, is a “doormat”. But personally, I’ve never interpreted it that way, and the newer translation is much clearer that Tohru’s weakness is that she’s self-sacrificing to a level that is harmful to her. Tohru has to learn to be more selfish as the series progresses. In my teens and twenties, I had a lot of the same traits as Tohru. I was the “mom” of my social circle, and eventually learned that this was not sustainable or healthy. When I originally read the series, it went over my head that I was in a similar mode and that I needed to learn to practice self care. In my reread of the series, the distance I now have helped me realize how similar my younger self was to Tohru, and that I could have possibly pulled some lessons from her progression.

To understand how beloved this series is, I’d like to point out that the new anime is a prestige anime with beautiful animation, simultaneous release in Japanese and English, and screenings in theaters. It’s basically all the otaku community was talking about since the press release that it was going to be released. The first anime was good for 2001, but it came out before many of the reveals of the series happened, so things were animated and voiced incorrectly. It ends well before the resolution of the plot. (We’re now four episodes in, and I have to say that it is absolutely perfect. The amount of care and love the series is getting from the production is wonderful.)

Anime adaptations like the original Fruits Basket are incredibly common. There are many series that you never got an adequate conclusion from if you didn’t go to pick up the manga. It’s very, very rare for a story to get a second shot in animation. It’s becoming slightly more regular, but mostly shōnen titles get that chance (exceptions being Sailor Moon and Here Comes Miss Modern). For so many resources to be put into the new Furuba is pretty big for the industry, and does a lot to value the impact of shōjo. And if anyone would like to ask, I have a list of other anime I think needs a remake- and others I think it would be a crime to touch.

In short, get this manga, if you don’t have it already. Students love it, and it’s a beautiful story. It’s about finding your place and connecting with others. It’s funny, sad, and thought-provoking.

Review: Tokyo Ghoul

Review: Tokyo Ghoul

Title: Tokyo Ghoul 東京喰種

Mangaka: Sui Ishida 石田 スイ

US Publisher: Viz Signature

Status: Complete.

Level: Upper Middle School, High School

Reader’s Advisory Tags: Violence, body horror

Anime: Funimation.

Content Warnings: Lots of violence and gore.

Honestly, I didn’t get the appeal of Tokyo Ghoul until I sat down and watched the anime. I read the first volume some time ago, to write a review for this blog, and I just couldn’t get into it. It’s not that I don’t like horror, because it’s an issue of the opposite problem. I love horror. I’ve written in the past about Japanese horror in particular. My husband and I watch a lot of Asian horror films (here’s his review of the excellent One Cut of the Dead, which everyone should watch). I’ve been a fan of Junji Ito, an amazing horror mangaka whose work is probably way too graphic to put on my school’s shelves, for a very long time. And the first volume of Tokyo Ghoul is… okay.

The premise is that Ken Kaneki, a college student, survives a deadly date with a ghoul only by receiving organs transplanted into him from that ghoul. Ghouls are creatures who look like humans, but can only survive by eating human flesh. Kaneki finds out that he has been transformed into a half-ghoul, and desperately craves human flesh. He tries to subdue that desire, but eventually has to give in to his new nature.

My students LOVE this series. I was thinking, originally, that they oversold it to me. The manga is fine, but didn’t exactly rock my world. The violence is tamed by the art style, which is both gorey and contained. That might seem strange to say, but Ishida uses a lot of effects, which obfuscate the more explicit gore. There’s a lot of blood, but that blood honestly creates a barrier. In this double page panel, where a character has had a construction beam fall on her, the gore has been reduced by the effects.

The gore levels are honestly fairly on par with most American comics. The fast pace keeps you from really focusing on individual panels.

When I went to watch the anime, though, it was the same story, but visually different. The manga is dark and difficult to parse through at times from the amount of ink on the page, but the anime is vivid and visually engaging. The pacing is also improved.

So, the question that you’re really looking for an answer to with these blogs is whether you should buy it. And I’d say Tokyo Ghoul is perfectly fine to purchase, and that students really love it. The violence might be a bit much for some, but it’s no more violent than a standard issue of Batman or a book like Not Even Bones. There’s nothing sexually explicit, and the story gets vastly more complex and interesting past the first volume. Female characters are powerful and complex, which is a pretty big deal for seinan manga. There’s a lot going on in regard to being an outsider, and finding power in being an outsider, which is where I feel students really connect with this story. After all, this really isn’t about whether I like it or not- it’s whether this manga is something which school librarians should purchase. And ultimately, I’m on the side of buying it. I’d also say the anime is a good one for clubs to watch.

Because this is seinan, it is written with older teens in mind, but I believe it could work for some middle school populations, due to the lack of any sexual content.

Manga and Women: Buying Manga for School Libraries in the #MeToo Era

Manga and Women: Buying Manga for School Libraries in the #MeToo Era

When I talk to other school librarians about manga and anime, many of them voice a similar concern: the manga they see has horrible treatment of women. These are not invalid concerns, especially as school librarians are working to make their collections more inclusive and affirming. And when students are requesting series that depict sexual harassment and assault as comedic occurrences (I’m looking at you, Seven Deadly Sins), or at the very least, series which treat women solely as sexual or romantic beings, I can’t blame my colleagues for their hesitation.

That said, there’s a lot to unpack with this debate. There are elements of Japanese society that are inherently different from American society. Many school librarians also know nothing of the distinctions between genres of manga, or have only heard of what’s most popular among their patrons. Manga is often seen as the way to get boys reading, and so masculine titles tend to be extremely popular for purchasing. What I’m going to do is try to unpack these things, piece by piece, to try and provide some context- and maybe show my peers that the stereotypes of shōnen manga are not all there is out there to purchase.

Societal Differences in the Perception of Gender

If we all work from the supposition that gender is a social construct, then perhaps it might be easier to understand that Japan’s constructs are similar and different to Western constructs. Japanese media can come across as being both freer and stricter with gender roles. Here are a few things you need to understand about Japan in relation to women:

  • Japan is ranked 110 out of 144 countries on the World Economic Forum’s annual report on gender equality.
  • There is only one female member of the Japanese Cabinet.
  • As of 2017, only 3.4% of executives in Japan were women.
  • The ratio of female-to-male physicians in Japan is 21%.
  • Japan has been trying to improve the standing of women in society, but it’s been difficult.
  • Japan is only recently starting to think critically about these issues.

Japan has a long history of having a traditional gender balance of labor wherein women are expected to raise children and take care of housekeeping, while men are expected to work. Japanese society generally has a very heavy line down the center in this division, much more so than there currently is in the West. Since 1986, the Equal Employment Opportunity Law has been in place to try and provide more gender equity in the workplace in Japan, but it’s been a struggle. Part of the problem is that there was no penalty for employers who did not adhere to the changes.

Japan, also, has a serious problem with the way it handles and reports sexual harassment and assault. Certain occurrences which Western women consider assault are not necessarily seen as such by Japanese women. In her article, “Shifting attitudes toward sexual violence in Japan”, Masami Ito describes her experiences:

When I was in junior high school, a young man who lived in the same apartment building flashed me in an elevator, blocking the entrance as he did so.

When I was in college, a middle-aged man cornered me in the box seat on a train and masturbated in front of me.

When I was in my mid-20s, a man pressed himself against me in the aisle of a convenience store and then followed me home. I had to call my father for help that time.

And, of course, I have been groped on trains many, many times.

Until recently, I never considered these incidents to be sexual assaults, nor did I ever view myself as a victim. I told myself that such things happened all the time and I was never physically hurt. I compared my experiences to those of other women and I considered myself lucky.

In Japan, there’s even a word for men who grope women on crowded trains: chikan. Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department reported 1,750 cases of groping on the trains. (I attempted to find figures on this particular crime in NYC from the same year, but was unable to find any exact report of figures.) It’s such a common occurrence, it’s often a plot point in manga. In My Love Story!! the protagonist meets his future girlfriend by stopping a man from groping her.

Viz Media. Let me say right now, before I move on, that I absolutely love My Love Story!!.

I want to be clear, and maybe the panels of My Love Story!! do something to show this, that the problems of sexual harassment in Japan are seen as problems by people in the country. There are Japanese feminists and citizens who want things to change. Last year, the BBC released a documentary titled Japan’s Secret Shame, which went into the experiences of three different women who were raped in Japan. It’s not available at the moment, but if you can find a way to see it, it may give insight into the issue if you want to know more.

Shōnen, Shōjo, and So Much More

The complaints I hear the most are in relation to what is known as shōnen manga. Shōnen is geared toward boys between ages 12 and 18. There’s a reason this stuff flies off the shelf with our male-identifying patrons: it’s literally made for them. The longest running series in Japan are shōnen manga, and are household names here in the West (you’ve probably heard of Dragonball Z, I presume). Typically, these are high-action, hyper-masculine stories. And while there are exceptions, such as My Hero Academia, there’s a large history of “fan service” in shōnen. There’s also some pretty big issues with some of the creators of shōnen titles.

For example, the author of Rurouni Kenshin was found with an enormous backlog of child pornography DVDs. Not only did he have this material, he admitted his attraction to young girls. His manga is currently still in publication, after he paid a fine of only ¥200,000 (about $1,800 USD). No, I am not joking.

I don’t want you to come away from this thinking shōnen manga is evil, by the way. What I want is for fellow school librarians to know that what they’re seeing is just a fraction of what manga has to offer. Some shōnen has female protagonists (Yotsuba&! features a mostly female cast with little to no fan service, as its main character is a child). And a lot of women and girls read shōnen.

Shōjo manga is the counterpart to shōnen: manga written for girls between the ages of 12 and 18. Honestly, shōjo can have its own issues. Some titles feature girls whose identities revolve solely around romance or a desire to get married and make babies. Kidnapping and threats of sexual assault can be normal (the idea being that these girls need to be saved by their boyfriends, who frequently are much older than them). There’s a whole slew of manga revolving around schoolgirls having romantic relationships with their teachers. So, I also don’t want you to think that being labeled shōjo makes the content automatically appropriate for students.

I recently reread a manga I loved as a teen, Ayashi no Ceres. It featured multiple rather explicit sex scenes and the main character dropping out of school to have a baby. It was an easy decision to select other series over that one, although I still consider it a classic. I leave it to students to select series with those sort of themes at their own pace through alternate pathways such as the public library, bookstores, or manga apps.

However, I do want to point out that shōjo manga is a category in which feminine fantasy and identity is often at the forefront. And while this is the case, there are many shōjo manga which widely appeal to boys. Titles which spring to mind are Escaflowne and Magic Knight Rayearth.

There are other categories as well: seinan (for adult men), josei (for adult women), kodomo (for children), and gekiga (for adults, with a more “artistic” and “literary” reputation). The differentiation between adults and teens has more to do with the difficulty of the Japanese than the content or target demographic. Gekiga is probably the most “different”, because it strives to be taken more seriously. (I have a plan to talk more in-depth about each category in their own posts).

Look For Women

When purchasing, if you are looking to move away from the pure moe that is popular among certain titles, I’d suggest looking for women who are mangaka. The likelihood that problematic behavior will be present is lower, and honestly, women creators can always use the boost. Series that are beloved by boys are written by women: Fullmetal Alchemist, Inu-Yasha, and Ranma 1/2 are examples (admittedly, the latter two were both written by Takahashi Rumiko).

Note: I kept this fairly pared down, so if you’d like to know more or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment. If you would like me to go more in depth on any topic, please let me know, and I will do an expansion in a future blog.