As WPR’s senior weeaboo on staff, I know that Japan and manga are inseparable, but I didn’t realize the extent of manga’s popularity until I sat down and read Kingyo Used Books, Volume 1. Let’s just say that this is a manga for those that read manga, if you’re a neophyte…this probably isn’t the best book for you.
I’m not saying that you can’t pick this volume up if you’ve NEVER read a manga before. I’m just stating that there are a ton of inside jokes and footnotes that pop up within the pages of this manga that will either go right over your head, or unread. This is a manga reader’s manga.
I hesitate to put myself into that category mainly because I’ve been so dormant in my manga reading for oh so many years that I’m woefully out of date on about a decade’s worth of product…but the first story of this volume spoke to that dormant manga fan and touched me in a way that I’ve not felt from reading in a long time.
The series is basically a collection of short stories set near or abouts a used book store called Kingyo (Japanese word for Goldfish). Each chapter involves someone remembering manga that helped them through a tough time, helped them relax, was their inspiration for the lives they lived, or as a way of understanding family.
Take for instance, the chapter that moved me profoundly. In it, the main character of the story stumbles upon Kingyo and asks if they buy used books…which they do. He is mainly looking to get rid of his stacks and stacks of old manga that seem to pile up around the house (which I’ve noticed happening at my house recently) because he feels that it’s time to move on.
It’s not until he starts cleaning out his house that he starts to realize that he really misses reading manga, to the point where he resorts to reading a fellow passenger’s manga over his shoulder. He ends up attending a high-school reunion with some of his best friends and from just a slight mention of manga at the dinner table, the group starts to reminisce about their love for the medium which quickly leads to them all heading toward Kingyo to find some of their favorites once more.
The surprising thing for me is that for a manga obviously made for manga fans, I wasn’t totally out of place with some of the references they made. One such occasion was when they made reference and showed a cover to Akira Toriyama’s Dr. Slump. Which is a real classic humor manga for those not in the know.
The story and art are done by Seimu Yoshizaki who is probably best known for this series in Japan, she’s a relative unknown to the fans here in the United States. I really enjoyed the artwork, and thought that some of the homages that she pays to some of the older manga were really neat to look at and there’s one page in particular that was actually pretty spectacular to see. My only gripe is that she doesn’t seem to do enough to distinguish her style from the many other manga artists out there.
It’s not terrible or a show-stopper by any means, but many of her characters had a very plain look that could have come from just about any other slice-of-life manga.
The writing too is very nice. Like I said, the first short story really caught my attention, but perhaps the best out of the 6.5 chapters that this tankoubon publishes would be “Fujiomi-Kun”. In this one the author does a great job of describing what I think is a true to life representation of what it must be like to be a near middle-aged Japanese housewife. It was a truly sweet story.
Overall, I did enjoy this manga, but at the end of it all, I left with more of a “is that all?” feeling. It was a fun read, but I can easily see where this might not be for everyone. More than likely I see myself adding this series to the giant pile of series I’m currently reading. It’s a good time.