The Biggest Frustration of Being a Manga Reader in the US

Anime is very easy to come across in recent times. Whether through Crunchyroll, Hulu, Funimation, Netflix, Amazon or illegal torrents, anime can be found anywhere and everywhere, as long as you know where to find it. You can complain about certain companies behaving a certain way with their shows (like Netflix not simulcasting, or Amazon being extremely late with their show’s releases), but overall anime is a much bigger thing nowadays and therefore much easier to find and watch.

What has suffered a major hit in America, at least, has been manga. Sure, you can do an easy search online and find illegal sites of fan-translated manga, but that comes with it’s own risks and potential frustrations. The translations might be both great or terrible in quality, most times maintaining very little of the nuance in the original text, the chapters might be months apart, some series might be abandoned completely and most times than not, the actual act of reading an online manga is tiresome and deeply annoying. There’s nothing quite like picking up a book with your hands, flipping the slightly rough pages, sitting down with a good drink, and experiencing the entire act of reading manga.

There are, once again, some options. Dark Horse comics have excellent omnibus releases (like the stellar Cardcaptor Sakura omnibuses), you have Seven Seas releasing a constant stream of yuri and shoujo titles (the likes of Bloom into You, Citrus, Netsuzou TRap, Oshiete! Galko-chan, and Strawberry Panic) and Yen Press with their Konosuba releases and their upcoming Youjo Senki light novels and eventual manga publishing in 2018. These, and many other companies are publishing excellently edited manga here in the United States, and the fact that it is sold in stores like Barnes and Nobles makes the buying and selling of manga, and therefore it’s propagation, a much easier progress.

Sadly, though, this isn’t the case with every manga series.

Where as you can load up KissAnime or Gogoanime and watch an entire, obscure show from 1987 at any time, many, many manga series are being left in the dust completely, with no way of ever being retranslated or rereleased. I mentioned Youjo Senki, but the actual manga came out in 2013 yet the translation has yet to come here at all, left for a 2018 release from questionable purchasing options in Amazon. I recently got very into Gunslinger Girl, and while the 1st volume of the Seven Seas omnibuses is in heavy supply for a great price, after that, it becomes almost undesirable to purchase, with most online stores not having them at all, and those that do, having them for at least $64 in price. The very same Cardcaptor Sakura omnibus release by Dark Horse is also increasingly harder to find, volumes 3 and 4 having almost exclusively 3rd party sellers in websites like Amazon, for much higher prices and astoundingly less physical quality.

Manga simply isn’t the big popular punch that anime is, and while that medium is growing more and more each season, manga seems like it’s becoming more and more of a niche, inviting a supremely low and unloyal fanbase and becoming harder and harder to find good quality prints and releases in North America. It’s honestly frustrating.

This wouldn’t be a problem if I read Japanese, of course, but most manga readers don’t have the drive, time, or money to heavily learn the language, leaving hundreds of potentially excellent manga untouched for the english reader, and that’s the biggest bummer ever.