How to find a manga volume in a Japanese bookstore (outside of Japan)
- a guide, by Mandisa Washington
To provide examples of how this information usually appears on an actual manga, there's a sampling of the covers and spines of some manga on the Visual Aids page.
- Title - The series title, preferably in Japanese characters, as it would appear on the book itself. You can often find this in image form on series-specific fan or commercial websites, or if you've got a Japanese-language enabled web browser, authors, publishers, and bookstores will often list titles in Japanese on their websites. Alternately, the English romanization of a title can be used, but be prepared to either do some on-the-fly translation, or to ask for assistance from the shopkeepers.
- Author - The author(s) of the series, often referred to as manga-ka. Again, getting the name(s) in Japanese characters would be most handy. Don't forget, family name first! Many authors in Japan, as elsewhere, use pen names that are relatively easy for their readers to remember (they *want* you to buy the books). Here's where a little Japanese-language knowledge can go a long way. If you can recognize even one or two of the characters in the author's family name, that will save so much shelf-scanning time.
- Magazine or Imprint - The magazine that the series originally ran in, sometimes called the imprint. All those little manga books, or tankouban, are actually collected editions of episodic stories that were previously published elsewhere. Weekly, monthly and seasonal magazines feature stories from multiple authors. This information can be difficult to come by, even in fandom. Your best bet is to either ask other readers/collectors of the series, and some fan websites will provide the magazine information, especially if the series is still running. From another angle, fans of a series may occasionally list the *other* series that run in the same magazine. And again, browsable Japanese publishers' websites will also list titles by magazine, though their emphasis is on active series.
- Intended Audience - The intended readers in Japan, usually classified by age and gender. Genre doesn't mean much in the manga publishing world, which may be a reason why the stories can be so complex. Instead the publisher's divide their catalog by demographics, or audience type. The magazines themselves may indicate who this audience is, for example, "Weekly Shounen Jump", ancestral home of Dragonball and Yu-Gi-Oh (still-running), is for boys from roughly 8 to 14, as indicated by "shounen" (small boy). By contrast, "Shoujo Comic", origin of Fushigi Yuugi and Shojo Kakumei Utena, is for girls of roughly the same age, as indicated by "shoujo" (small girl). Other telltale signs are the age (not the gender) of the main characters, which is usually close to, or a little older than, the age of the readers, and the publication history of the author, since most authors stick to one type of audience.
- Book Format or Size - Digest, plain, and deluxe are the three most popular formats, with most series falling into the "plain" category. "Plain" are the standard 4.5 x 7" (11.5 x 17.5 cm) size that take up most of the selection. Almost all active or recently-completed series are of this type, so it's a good first guess. "Deluxe" covers a range of larger sizes, though the actual amount of content is typically the same as "plain". "Deluxe" volumes may have higher-quality paper or specialty book designs, so the price is higher, sometimes as much as two times the cost of "plain". Series for older audiences, or series in specialty or low-frequency (quarterly) magazines are often of this type. "DX" is an abbreviation for "Deluxe" which sometimes appears in the imprint title. "Digest" volumes are exclusively reserved for reprints of previously compiled material. Older, popular series, or popular authors' older titles, are frequent candidates for this repackaging treatment. Material from several volumes' worth of "plain" tankouban is collected in a single "digest" volume, and the size generally shrinks to around 4 x 6" (10.5 15.5 cm). The price goes up, but the total number of volumes goes down, so sometimes the "digest" is a better buy in the long run.
- Publisher - The publisher of the series, also the publisher of the parent magazine. This information won't help you find the book on the shelves, but the bookstore staff often have access to indices of series organized by publisher. If you're polite, and if they're not too busy, the staff can use these listings to show you the Japanese spellings of some of the other information.
- ISBN - (International Standard Book Number) A number used to uniquely identify a book. The ISBN system can be used to look up all of the rest of this information, usually through a bookseller. Again, knowing the ISBN can't help you find the book on the shelf, but if you have to order a book, it's almost essential.