Mangaplaining is perhaps the best way to get into manga

While I’ve always loved comics, manga has long been an embarrassing blind spot for me. For the longest time, I have been aware of Japanese comics as the source material for many of the anime I already loved, and the passionate, growing fan base that has spent most of my life trying to surpass the readership of the comics I have, only dimly aware did read. I would notice the serious commotion in Barnes & Noble’s manga section and wonder What do you know? could that be me Turns out, yes it could. I just needed the right guidance.

manga plaining is the introduction to the manga I’ve been looking for all this time. The podcast hosted by Christopher Butcher, Deb Aoki, David Brothers and Chip Zdarsky is a book club where Butcher, Aoki and Brothers introduce Zdarsky – the author of Batman and daredevilbut also a toddler manga reader with almost zero experience in the form – a new book every week.

The show’s appeal lies in its focus as a grand tour of everything there is to see in the world of manga available to English readers. In each episode, one of the three expert panelists will introduce Zdarsky to a comic they’ve chosen over the weeks prior, and everyone will discuss it, starting with the ultimate question: Did Chip like it?

manga plaining is an ideal manga guide as it is hosted by a group of friendly comic geeks; It just feels like a bunch of adults talking about things that interest them. That might sound a bit anticlimactic, but manga – due to the sheer volume and variety of series out there – is mostly covered by enthusiasts. And the enthusiast coverage isn’t always the most accessible, as it caters to an audience that’s knowledgeable, passionate, and deeply interested in the subject at hand.

manga plaining may not be the only good manga guide with a non-enthusiast point of view (this website is pretty good at it!), but it does help it be hosted by people who, like me, are deeply immersed in the American comics industry. While the show doesn’t really bother comparing the two forms – a good thing! – there’s a certain ease and confidence that her background brings to the conversation, and an understanding of the different approaches that exist to combining prose with art and the effect they can have on the reader.

three seasons in, manga plaining also avoided the other main trap that many new guides fall into, and that’s where we need to go next after all the popular “good first manga” picks. Part of that is because it’s a podcast, giving the host space to explore all sorts of books in all sorts of genres: shonen, sein, josei, boy love, sports, food, action, horror, sci-fi. Don’t know what some of these words mean? You will learn! It will be great! But even with dozens of episodes under his belt, Chip Zdarsky, the “freshman” is now quite well versed in manga, and the show is starting to develop your tastes and explore new frontiers.

That’s maybe the best part manga plaining: It’s become one of my favorite book clubs to read along to, but it’s also given me a base on which to feel free enough Not Read along and just dive into what interests me. I now feel like I can appreciate manga the way I do other art I already like, learning the names of my favorite mangaka, the genre tropes I can expect and want to avoid, and the books that I can recommend my friends in turn.

So yeah, I’m a manga fan now, stacking my shelves with every Naoki Urasawa volume I can find, and a staunch supporter of the incredibly affordable Shōnen Jump app. I’m a little less surprised by the manga that my colleagues recommend and I’m better able to find out if what they like is what I would like. And every week I have four fun, knowledgeable, and curious guides ready to show me something new and remind me why I love comics so much in the first place. Mangaplaining is perhaps the best way to get into manga

Curtis Crabtree

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