I don’t read manga that often anymore, only a few books a year if I’m up for it. But once upon a time, my whole life revolved around manga. Growing up in a country where translated or foreign books weren’t readily available, there was a point when I finished reading the whole kids library and was too young to jump ship to the adult section of the library (which wasn’t good to begin with. The translated English books that I remembered of were mostly mystery books: Agatha Christie, Stephen King, or the “trashy” pop fictions: Sydney Sheldon, Jackie Collins). So there was a huge gap of years for little bookworm me, completely lacking of reading materials. That’s where manga came into play.
Manga came to Indonesia sometime when I was in fifth grade, around early 90s. Since the first one was out, I was immediately hooked. I read all types of manga, from all the girly ones to the boys ones, about dancers, ballerinas, stage actress, pirates, robots, martial arts, billiards, monsters, Japanese dolls, monkey girl, historical fictions, myths, detectives, paid-killers, you name it, I’ve read them all. Not only read, I learned to draw and to illustrate, I daydreamed and doodled all the time in class. A couple of my best friends and I would spend all our spare hours in school and outside school, creating our own world and characters. I saved my pocket money everyday to buy manga every chance I get. Like I said, my whole world revolved around manga. It shaped me to become the person I am today. During those years I must have read thousands of manga. I bought them, borrowed them, I read them standing up in the bookstores for hours, and re-read all of them again and again.
When I left my birth country for good, my manga collection had to be left behind with my parents. In the next decade I moved around numerous times and only last year I was reunited with teenage-hood precious. Now the books mostly just stay on the shelves unread, but I don’t have the heart to move them into boxes and keep in the storage, so they still occupy my main shelves in the bedroom. It gives me comfort to know that anytime I feel like going back to those magical worlds for a while, they are just a hand reach away.
What you see here is one layer. I double-shelf them and there’s another row underneath. These are my own collection.
Above are some collective collection of mine with my two brothers, located at another room.
Some people have asked me about manga to recommend, but I find it very difficult to, because I have no idea which ones get translated to English, which ones are not. In Indonesia we have myriads of manga translated, and they used to be quite cheap back in my time (about 30 cents each, around two portions of lunch money in school canteen). But let’s just say it’s a perfect world and if there is one manga I’d like everybody to read, it is Candy Candy by Mizuki Kyoko and Igarashi Yumiko. Candy Candy was the first manga that came into Indonesia (along with Doraemon), and I recognized it straight away because I watched the anime version back when I was even younger (maybe around first grade). My mom opened a video rental shop back then so the kids got to watch many Asian series and cartoons. (I was told by mom that I was able to walk, turn on the video I wanted, and sit tight to watch since I was two years old..) But I only got to watch the anime for about a dozen episodes, which apparently only covered less than one book in the series! (There are 9 books altogether, and I checked on the web that there are 100+ episodes of anime) So I was ecstatic when I saw the manga!
Candy is an orphan happy-go-lucky girl who was left in front of an orphanage called Pony’s House. After losing her best friend to adoption, she herself was adopted by a rich man who she never meets until much later. There’s so much in the book that I can’t even begin to summarize. It’s about friendship, love, trials, losses, and a great attitude for life. There are surprisingly a number of heartbreaking moments in the books, that I couldn’t re-read them too many times. Well, now you know, this is THE manga you need to read.
I need to slip in one more must-read series because it was so important for me too. It’s Glass Mask (Garasu no Kamen) by Miuchi Suzue, which is about a girl who dreams to become a stage actress. And lucky her, she has unbelievable raw talent, who was found by a fallen old ex-actress. One a poor ugly girl with no connection or reputation and one a scarred ex-actress who has been shunned away by the world, they push through against all odds. But of course life is never easy so there are always roadblocks on the way. This is the series where I learned about Hellen Keller, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and many Western stories from. Informative and super addictive, in high school I saved my pocket money for months and bought 33 books of the series at once! (it’s now up to volume 42 and sadly not yet finished)
I stumbled upon this list which compiled the all time best-selling shoujo manga, and both Candy Candy and Glass Mask are in it (little wonder). The others that caught my eyes were the first in the list Hana Yori Dango (the Taiwanese remake of which is titled Meteor Garden–I’ve watched the live-action series but not read the manga) and Genji Monogatari (would love to read that one!). One that I own and love is Berusaiyu no Bara (The Rose of Versailles) which is historical fiction based on Mary Antoinette.
Apart from mentioned above, my favorite author was Asagiri Yuu. I collected all her books that got published in Indonesia. They are always about growing up and reaching your dreams (just what I needed). Then Matsumoto Yoko, CLAMP (Magic Knight Rayearth), Hikawa Kyoko (apparently you can read Miriam online at One Manga), Toriyama Akira (Dragon Ball Z), Fujiko F. Fujio (Doraemon), Maekawa Takeshi (Tekken Chinmi), and more (I’m sure I missed a couple).
As you can see my knowledge of manga stays in the era of 80s to 90s and I’m no longer following the new ones. Tell me your favorite manga? (No matter which era they are from :)
I wrote this post to participate in tanabata’s Hello Japan! June mini-challenge on manga.