Sunday, August 15, 2004


Here, finally, is my long-promised about buying Japanese-language manga.

Best of all is if you live in, or can conveniently visit, a large metropolitan area with a Japanese bookstore. The two Japanese bookstore chains which have branches in the U.S. are Kinokuniya and Asahiya. Both will stock the popular manga series (at least, all the branches I've been to have). They may, or may not, stock "alternative manga": the Chicago area Asahiya, which is fairly small, doesn't, while the SF Kinokuniya had a pretty good selection. Unfortunately, the manga will all be shrink-wrapped (in the Chicago Asahiya, even the small stock of English-language manga published by Tokyopop et al. are shrink-wrapped), but there's an opening at the top, and you can sort of peek in and get a glimpse of the art.

In addition to the books they have in the store, they'll special order books for you; at least the Chicago Asahiya does, and I can't imagine that other stores wouldn't. The Chicago Asahiya will either hold the books at the store, or mail them to you (a convenience if you only visit the area occasionally). When you're ordering, it's very useful to have the ISBN number, especially if you can't speak Japanese. If you don't know it, you can use amazon.co.jp to find it out. (If you can't input Japanese into your computer, but you know the ISBN of one of the author's other titles, a useful trick is to type that ISBN into the search bar, and when that book comes up, click on the author's name.)

Also very valuable are Japanese used bookstores. The ones I know of are JBC in the Chicago area (there are two branches, but only the one that's not in Mitsuwa carries books) and Book Off in Manhattan, which is much larger. Obviously, with these stores you're limited to what they have in stock at the time. On the plus side, the manga aren't shrinkwrapped, so you can get a much better idea of whether a title looks good. And they're very cheap: JBC sells most manga for three bucks, while Book Off's prices ranged between one and five dollars when I was last there, and the one-dollar books weren't junk, either. I've bought quite a lot from JBC, and I'd buy even more from Book Off if I visited New York City regularly.

Suppose you don't have access to any of these stores? The Chicago Asahiya will let you place special orders by phone, and ship the books to you. I don't know if other Asahiyas or Kinokuniyas will, but they might. (Again, it's good to have the ISBN.) Apart from this, and from what Chris said about YesAsia, which I posted two days ago, I have little to say, since I've never actually bought any Japanese-language manga online. I know some people use the Massachusetts-based Sasuga Books; and if you can read Japanese you could try amazon.co.jp. AnimeonDVD's Retail Forum is a potential source of tips and advice, though it mainly deals with buying anime.

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