With the demise of JManga throwing our digital manga collections for a loop, many fans are feeling the need to cling more firmly to their old reliable print collections. And, let’s face it: if you’re a collector or completist at heart, there’s very little more satisfying than a collection of manga. It’s epic, content-rich, and looks great on the shelf—assuming you’ve got enough shelves to put it on! Like many collectors with small living quarters and a dearth of shelf space, I’ve found collecting manga to be more and more challenging over the years. But one thing that’s helped me keep things manageable (and also helped me decide what to cull when needed) is the way I’ve chosen to organize what I have.
When I first began collecting manga, I attempted to organize alphabetically by title, but that soon proved to be not only cumbersome (Oh, the logistical headache when trying to shelve We Were There next to, say, Wandering Son) but not particularly useful for my needs. After all, when looking for the right manga in any particular moment, I’m likely to choose something that fulfills the desire for a specific mood or genre rather than something that begins with the letter “B.” Furthermore, though there are notable exceptions, publishers tend to use similar trim sizes for similar types of manga, so organizing by genre (or some other theme-based system) tends to make practical sense as well.
My current system is this: I have a mid-sized shelf unit for shounen manga, which most publishers tend to offer in the same small, paperback format that TOKYOPOP popularized during their “100% Authentic Manga” campaign back in the day. Here I have titles like Black Cat, Bleach, Claymore (shelved alphabetically by title), and most of the rest of my Shonen Jump collection (with some specific exceptions to be discussed later), along with other shounen favorites like Nabari no Ou, Cross Game, and Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. Though a few titles are smaller than the standard Jump trim, like GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, for example, the sizes are similar enough to make this the easiest category to shelve.
Next, I have a larger unit that begins with a shoujo section, largely arranged by publisher and imprint. VIZ’s classic “shojo” series (Banana Fish, Basara, Please Save My Earth, etc.) start at the top, moving then into titles from their Shojo Beat imprint, and on to other publishers like TOKYOPOP, CMX, and Go! Comi. VIZBIG editions of series like Fushigi Yuugi and Yen Press’ larger books like The Betrayal Knows My Name segue gracefully into the “adult” section, where josei and seinen titles are shelved together (also by publisher). Here, you’ll find titles from VIZ’s Signature collection, Del Rey series like Mushishi and Nodame Cantabile, Yen Press’ Bunny Drop and Yotsuba&!, and nearly everything I’ve got from Vertical’s catalogue, from Chi’s Sweet Home to Peepo Choo.
On my third and largest shelf unit, BL comics have their own section, which trickles into my large collection of manhwa, made up mostly of Yen Press titles like 13th Boy, Very! Very! Sweet, and Raiders, mixed in with a few odd titles from publishers like Dark Horse (Shaman Warrior) and NBM (Mijeong, Run, Bong-Gu, Run!). Titles from Japanese publishers by Korean artists (Black God, March Story) are also shelved near the manhwa section. There are also a few areas (spread out between the top of my desk and my three separate shelf units) that house less easily-classified items like OEL manga, Yen’s graphic novel adaptations of popular American novels, and books waiting for review.
My favorite section of this unit, however, and the one I tend to most diligently, is the “favorite mangaka” section, where I shelve books (regardless of genre/demographic) by favorite artists like Fumi Yoshinaga, Moyoco Anno, Yun Kouga, CLAMP, Natsume Ono, Osamu Tezuka, Hiromu Arakawa, Kazuya Minekura, Takeshi Obata, Ai Yazawa, and the list goes on. In general, the criteria for ending up in this section (besides being a particular favorite) is that I must own more than one title by the artist at hand (the single exception at this point being Takako Shimura, whose series Wandering Son just plain fits best there—and hey, I’m still holding out hope for Aoi Hana). These mangaka are not shelved in any order aside from what fits best in what space, though I’ll admit I’m a bit proud of how I’ve made it all work together with limited options.
So! Readers! Normally, I’d have considered this a great topic for our online forums, but since we were recently forced to shut them down due to (hopefully temporary!) site-killing memory issues (I’m working on it, I promise!), I’ll officially invite everyone reading this to share their organizational schemes in comments! How do you organize your print manga?