Kingyo Used Books 1
May 10, 2010
Seimu Yoshizaki – Viz – 2010 – 10+ volumes
On one hand, it’s crazy people like me that are the ones reading this series. This covers a wide and fascinating array of popular and obscure manga from 1940 through today, and in addition to the characters constantly name-dropping series that are summarized in the margins, there’s also commentary in the back about the featured title from each chapter. I learned a LOT about manga from this volume. Remember how I wouldn’t shut up about how great A Drifting Life was last year? This is the same sort of thing, except A Drifting Life is far better at contextualizing its series and giving them a place and historical significance.
Also, because it can’t be said enough times, a huge thanks to Drawn and Quarterly for translating Black Blizzard. I’m still blown away I can read that in English.
On the other hand, I work in a used bookstore. I read the first chapter of this on Viz’s Ikki site, and I nearly burst into tears because IT’S NOTHING LIKE THAT AT ALL. I was happy that the entire volume wasn’t full of stories of weepy customers finding their way thanks to the manga in Kingyo, because even with the bonus manga history, I couldn’t have read it. For every story of an old woman carefully wrapping her valuable books in plastic so that they wouldn’t get ruined in the event her roof caved in during a rainstorm, I think of a buy where a manager and I had to sift through ten boxes of rotten, moldy books with rubber gloves on in order to give a customer a fair price. For every cheerful sedori in Kingyo, I think of the reseller who tries to harass me into giving them an expensive textbook at a deep discount. For every American expat commenting on the peculiar aroma in Kingyo, I’m reminded of the powerful maple syrup odor a customer left behind that lasted several hours.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Awesome job. I can relate to Shiba, the big geek, since I’ve seen a ton of awesome stuff while working there. And we have lots of great customers that love books. But it’s the bad experiences that stick in your mind when you read an overly sentimental take on it like this.
I liked the series well enough. The stories themselves are unremarkable, with each chapter dedicated to telling a story about a character (sometimes characters connected to Kingyo, sometimes strangers), and the stories always feature a manga series somehow, be it a re-discovery that makes them re-focus on what’s important, or bonding with new or old friends over a particular title. It’s the manga history that really gives it its character, and with almost all of the series nearly unheard of in the U.S., there will be little name recognition for readers. But for big geeks like me, it’s an amazing learning experience.
Basically, I liked nitpicking the bookstore setting, and I loved the manga history, but stripped of those two elements, I probably wouldn’t have liked it much. That might change in future volumes as the main cast (the family that works at the bookstore and the possible beau/manga geek) is developed a bit more, but for the time being… I bought Magnolia Sho and Blueberry after reading it, for what it’s worth.
Also, they stress that comics outside Japan will occasionally pop up (one of the chapters featured Blueberry, a French comic by Girard/Moebius). I’m holding out for a Judge Dredd chapter.