manga bookshelf

Open Thread: Organizing Your Print Manga

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.

shelves-authors-smWhen 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?

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  1. Due to a lack of shelf space, I mostly shelve my manga whenever it will fit. CLAMP, Fumi Yoshinaga, Natsume Ono, and Yun Kouga all essentially share the same bookcase. All of my non-Yoshinaga BL, yaoi, and yuri has it own shelf hidden where my little brother won’t get into it (the perils of a college student storing their collection at the parents’ place.) Works by Takeshi Obata also has its own little shelf. Beyond that though… where ever there is room! I try to shelf it by genre when I can, but the limited space makes that tough. I’ll need to get a new bookcase soon.

  2. I don’t have nearly enough bookshelf space for all my manga, so about 2/3 are in boxes (spine up for easy access, since I still reread the boxed stuff). In general, completed series get boxed, but other than that, organization is by a scheme that makes sense only to me. The bookshelf closest to my bed is primarily for ongoing series that I want easy access to, to reread or add new volumes, so it’s a mix of favorite series like Natsume’s Book of Friends and frequently released series like Bakuman, plus a shelf of favorite BL. One bookshelf for ongoing shoujo series like Kamisama Kiss, plus a shelf for BL light novels (because they’re small enough to just fit in the space). One bookshelf of the first series I collected when I started reading manga, like After School Nightmare, left in situ because of inertia.. And one bookshelf in the living room for “prestige” titles (including most of my Vertical books), oversize stuff like Wandering Son, and some ongoing shonen series like Pandora Hearts. The boxes are piled in stacks wherever they fit, and get reshuffled whenever I root through them to reread things. Aside from keeping series together and sorting by size, the boxes are mainly organized by when I started buying the series, so finding things can be an adventure. :)

    There are five other bookshelves in the living room, for my non-manga books, and I’m constantly scheming to reshuffle them all somehow to fit in a few more. I haven’t been able to persuade my landlady to take back her living room furniture (she doesn’t have any extra space either), so I’m close to caving in and making room for manga by boxing up some of my non-manga books instead.

    TL;DR: I have too many books. :(

    • I think Michelle has similar containers as your boxes, as she often discusses the challenge in finding/reaching the series that have been packed away in them. I do have a shelf hidden away in another room that contains more manga, but it’s mainly manga I want to get rid of and haven’t figured out how.

  3. With over 5000 volumes, I recently ran out of room for my manga :( I had to pack up 20 boxes of it and put it into storage. My remaining 3 bookcases are currently organized by publisher>imprint. Shogakukan>Flower Comics/Ciao, Hakusensha>Hana to Yume, Kodansha>KC Dessert/etc, Shueisha>Margaret/Ribon/Cookie, Princess Comics, Misc other publishers, plus a shelf for my small collection in English. I packed up all my shounen and seinen, so right now my bookshelves only have the 2 volumes of Haikyuu! shounen manga. (poor shunen, surrounded by so much pink!). Within each publisher section, things are still disorganized. I’m still working on grouping all the books by each author together.

  4. When I was able to have my manga out it was largely by size than by (american) publisher than by title. However because my regular novel collection expanded so much I had to cut my graphic novel collection to two shelves (this is including my american graphic novels) and pack the rest away. so now I only have the series that are either a) ongoing (Claymore, Bride of the Water God, Fenbu Kaiden, Bride’s Story) or b) I need pieces of (Yu Yu Hakusho, 20th Century Boys, Soulless) with all my other series being packed away.

    My Japanese manga I have divided by publisher, but also by whether I have the American edition, whether I expect to have it or whether its a lost cause (like Kyoko Hikiawa’s stuff or Chieko Hosokawa). I hope to have it all sitting out proudly one day (but with all the novels I have that’s not likely to happen til I own a castle..)

  5. Leighann says:

    Well, aside from the fact that my manga collection desperately needs to be cleaned up, since I have books lying around everywhere, I have mine shelved mostly by genre, then creator.

    I have my novels first. Bl, then the rest, and then sorted by author (and series or title within authors). (I’d say alphabetized, but since my collection is entirely Japanese, I decided to put them in gojuuon order instead.) Then I have a shelf dedicated to Mishima Kazuhiko (my favorite mangaka and the only one on my “must buy absolutely everything” list). Then I have the rest of my manga, separated into genres then sorted by author again. Bl first (the majority of the collection), then shoujo, and finally everything else.

    Oh, and then there’s the shelves in the basement where the last bits of my English language collection (the few I missed when purging a couple of years ago) still hang out. Those aren’t in any particular order, and honestly, I don’t remember what’s down there anymore.

  6. Man, I wish I could do something logical! I do have a few dedicated sections though:
    -Osamu Tezuka shelf. Simple as that, though seeing how it will soon be full, who knows! It’s not alphabetical though, and since the Astro Boy manga is a smaller trim size, it gets stacked sideways on top. Everything actually standing normally is approximately the same size somehow, even though there’s three different publishers there. I usually stack the hardcovers sideways though, they’re just taller enough than the paperbacks to mess up the illusion they’re all the same size.
    -Fumi Yoshinaga shelf. Also simple. In alphabetical order with the oversized ones first (most of her stuff is oversized, actually)
    -Shojo section. For some of the shojo. I don’t generally put the fantasy shojo there any more due to space. CMX takes up an entire back row there (only Emma and Monster Collection are not there because they’re seinen/shonen). CMX is in rainbowbetical order by the color around the CMX logo at the top of the spine.
    -GTO shelf. All the GTO is there (though I’ve simply yet to buy 14 days 5-9)
    -Oversized sections. There’s ubersized things (like artbooks or Thermae Romae) from shortest to tallest, with completed normal oversize (like Viz sig) in front (though that’s full now too). There’s another shelf of random oversized, but not quite as oversized as the ubersized ones. And ongoing oversized. 3 shelves total.
    -S.O.S. shelf, aka “Shelf of Sorrow” for series that were either creator or publisher abandoned. Or maybe just stuff impossibly OOP. Petshop of Horrors is only on there because Tokyo was never finished.
    -Everything with normal trim size, and here’s where things get complicated. Other than the “ongoing” shelf (things don’t move off the shelf until there’s only 1 or 2 vols left, and space is factored in for those when I move them). For all normal trim sized books, they are simply organized by how much I like the series. They get put in the front row, lesser ones get put in the back (with a sticky note telling me what’s on the back row, I never have trouble finding things). So the following series are always in the front row: Fruits Basket (over in the shojo section), Banana Fish, Twin Spica, Maison Ikkoku, Hikaru no Go, Firefighter Daigo, Please Save My Earth, and Basara. Then everything else is organized around them to fit the shelf as best they can. And series cannot split the shelf no matter what because that will drive me OCD as all hell. If Kekkaishi’s 35 volumes can fit in one row, and it’s my single longest series, everything else can. It’s seriously “however it best fits” with whatever series are more favored in my brain at the time perhaps jumping up to the front. Sometimes I do random half hearted color scheming, like white spines. Oh and Parasyte (and Phoenix) is always in rainbowbetical order because it is pleasing to the eye. Though I may switch up where the rainbow starts. I seem to move everything around on the standard trim shelves every few weeks, and I have no idea why.

    My anime is far more straightforward, artboxes there, all the Robotech/Macross stuff back there, long series with lots of sets in the back row (alphabetical), and everything else on the front two rows alphabetically splitting to the next row wherever I feel like it (I try to even them out). Movies and short OVAs in their own section alphabetically (only ones directly connected to a series aren’t there and might be next to their series instead). Though with blu-ray/dvd combo packs being in blu-ray sized cases, slightly change is having to emerge: put those at the end of the alphabet row in alphabetical order. Non-anime cartoons get their own section too (mostly alphabetical, though whenever I get Legend of Korra, it’s going right next to Avatar: The Last Airbender anyway, due to my other rule that sequel series with a different starting letter stay together with whatever came first, in chronological release order, because splitting up Banner and Crest of the Stars seems weird to me). I don’t really want to go by genre here as some things, like Simoun, defy genre placement, and most of my things are scifi or fantasy anyway. I have far more genre diversity with my manga.
    Games are pretty straightforward too, by system, though I have too many PS2 games to fit in one row, so PS2 RPGs have their own section.

  7. I’m much more boring. Since I think in terms of titles rather than genre or author, everything I have is alphabetical. I have one set of shelves for completed series, two sets of shelves for ongoing/recently completed, one overflow box (so far) of completed and read titles, and piles of books every where else. My life has been complicated by dogs who have decided to acquire a taste for books, so have have about 8 lower shelving I can’t use, otherwise I wouldn’t have as many piles.

  8. I don’t buy much physical manga these days and what I do, I keep only until I can get to Book Off and sell it, but when I did have a large collection, I always just kept it alpha by author for the most part. All my manga was Japanese, so there were only three different sizes (the shoujo/shounen size, the seinen/josei size, and the small reprint size), and probably 90% of my manga was the shoujo/shounen size, so that made it easy. The larger or smaller ones I kept in a separate section and had them alpha by author there.

    At the height of my manga-collecting, I had way more than could fit on my shelves, so completed series went in boxes in the closet and I only kept ongoing stuff or stuff I hadn’t read yet on the shelf.

    I think buying US manga would drive me crazy with all the different sizes. (US non-manga books have gotten really bad in recent years, too. It used to be you could count on a standard mass market paperback, trade paperback, and hardback size, but now it’s all random. Thankfully I read mostly digital books these days!)

    • The different sizes really are a challenge. In some ways, I think it’s worth it, because I really love some of the larger books I have—especially the hardcover editions from Vertical and Fantagraphics. And Dark Horse’s large CLAMP editions are absolutely gorgeous. But shelving is difficult.

  9. I have one shelf that’s just Seven Seas titles as there one of my faveroute publishers, my middle shelf is for series I’m currently collecting and the bottom shelf is for series that are complete or I don’t plan on collceting until latter or cheap used deals. At least that’s my new system my old system used to be by demographic or authour so Yotsuba & would go next to Tenjo Tenge or all my Clamp titles would go with all my other Clamp titles.

    As I just started recolceting my new system is a little hit or miss throw on top of that the new ammount of American Comics I’m collecting now and I have to have a whole new shelf for that as well.

  10. Zoe Alexander says:

    My collection is mainly sorted by publisher, although if a mangaka is published by several different publishers, they tend to get a shelf to themselves.

    First bookcase has four shelves. The top shelf is non-manga; the rest are Tokyopop titles.

    Second bookcase has six shelves and is a bit miscellaneous. Top shelf has Cross Game and 3-in-1 of Skip-Beat. Second is currently empty, reserved for more Skip-Beat. Third shelf is Chika Shiomi. Fourth is for CMX titles; fifth is for Go! Comi, CPM, and Del Rey. And the last is my Ai Yazawa shelf.

    The third bookcase, which is identical to the second, is pretty much all CLAMP, except for the top, which holds my Death Note manga boxset, artbooks, and fanbooks.

    The last bookshelf is my biggest and allows for double stacking. The second shelf is for Viz Shojo Beat titles, third is Yuu Watase, and the fourth holds my larger trim-sized manga — the shelves are adjustable, so I can change heights — along with some anime DVDs. (Top shelf is for regular books; bottom shelf is for more anime.) Double stacking is a bit of a pain, but so that it is easy to tell which series I’m still collecting, completed series have their early volumes in front, while on-going series are the opposite.

  11. Erica Friedman says:

    When I entered a Master’s program at Rutgers for what at the time was called “Library Science” the very first thing the very first teacher I had asked was “How do you catalog your books?” Sat there, open-mouthed as people said, “By author”. “By color” (I became friends with her) and other ways. When they got to me I said, “Catalog my books?” It struck me as so bizarre that I was expected to be an anal cataloger-type.

    I catalog my books, as it turns out, by proximity. Books I love get shelved closer to where I work. The further away a book is, the less urgently I need/want it. Books in secondary storage are always on the verge of being sold or given away. ^_^

    • I think proximity is a perfectly reasonable organizational scheme! In a way, I’ve done the same. The books I love most are closest to my chair. I’m sure this is not an accident.

  12. I rather like your setup. The layout of my current flat doesn’t allow for walls endlessly lined with shelves, so I have shelves in various places and within them various arrangements. Since I usually read BL right before bed, the majority of my BL is in my bedroom. They are separated by mangaka and ongoing titles are separated from those collections. For mangaka that I have only one title by and the title is a single volume, those titles are separated into three sections: cute, sexy, and dark. All of the completed series for my seinen, josei, shojo, American indie comics, and near-complete collection of Calvin & Hobbes are on the double-sided shelf that divides my living room from my workspace. Since none of my shonen titles are complete, they’re all in the ongoing series section which is all-inclusive regardless of genre (with the exception of BL). These are housed on the shelving that also houses my TV and anime collection. I keep them there because I usually read them on the sofa. The remainder of my BL are on the shelves and window sill of my workspace. These include a handful of favorites and titles that have yet to be read, for sale (or giveaways), or are in the process of being reviewed.

    Additionally, my digital library is swelling rapidly, so soon I’ll need to figure how I’ll organize it across SD cards.

    These are issues I appreciate having.

    • I am still in the infant stages of trying to develop an organizational scheme for my digital library. I’m much less good at keeping things organized when they aren’t staring me in the face. It’s a process. :)

  13. My system is so hard to explain, but I think it’s bizarre enough to warrant a comment. My shelf is a series of cubes that are a little more than a foot wide and tall, and then about ten inches deep, and each cube has a theme: shonen, shojo, comedy, yaoi, magical girl, etc. In most of the cubes there is too much manga to let it sit normally on a shelf, so each cube has some combination of stack and manga shelved normally. Each cube contains around 50-75 books. The shelf is about twelve feet wide and ten feet tall; eight of the cubes contain manga, the rest are “art displays.” (To explain an “art” cube, one of them, named “The Woods,” has a couple of animals carved out of wood, along with a print of Mark Hearld’s “St Eustace’s Beasts”. Another one has some Yoshitomo Nara books and prints, while yet another has a “60s” theme).

  14. AirCommodore says:

    You lot are way more methodical than I am. I kind of just stick books wherever I think they’d look best, as determined by spine design/color/size/random whims- manga mixed with my western graphic novels mixed with my novels (series stay together though). Stuff I like tends to get eye-level shelving, and my least favorite stuff gets shelved by the ceiling or floor or one of the shelves I don’t walk by as often.

  15. I am better at unorganizing than organizing collections. Whenever I do manage to organize a collection, it’s only a matter of time before it gets unorganized again.

    This has only gotten worse since I moved to Taiwan. First of all, in my home in San Francisco, most of my books (including comic books) had to go to the basement because my room was being converted into a guest room, and since the basement doesn’t have bookshelves, that meant it went into bags (hey, it’s not like I was going to pull them out again anytime soon). A small set, mostly my most prized books/comics, got to actually stay in my room on shelves, though they are basically now decoration for a guest bedroom.

    Here in Taiwan a) I do not want to invest in furniture, at all b) I’m trying to keep my physical book collection small because, in the long run, I’ll either have to sell/give them away anyway, or ship them to the US, and I only want to pay for shipping if it’s something of great personal value to me. As it so happens, I don’t have any bookshelves in Taiwan, but my book collection is small enough that I can improvise (books in drawers that are otherwise totally useless! books in piles on the floor!)

    • I’ll be interested to see what you eventually do when you have your own, more permanent space. Will you end up accumulating shelves or sticking to your Taiwan organizational scheme? :D

  16. I sadly do not own a proper bookshelf so I am using my closet at the moment. At first I organized my collection by genre (shoujo, shounen, ect) then by publisher and alphabetically. It worked out pretty well for a while but I didn’t really like it to much. After that I just decided to organize them by author but that only lasted a two weeks and now I currently have all the genre’s mixed together and I have them organized in alphabetical order.

  17. Mine is spread over three bookshelves, mostly because of height and space considerations. One short shelf is my ROD/Japanese untranslated shelf, one set of shelves is mostly alphabetical, except for the taller manga and the other shelves are rather haphazard. The Viz Signature books wound up together because they’re the same size, for instance. I do wish I had enough space to dedicate a whole bookshelf to just manga, but invariably I need the bottom shelf for other oversized books.

  18. LiberryTom says:

    Most of my manga is boxed up in either a garage or attic, with unread series still sitting out (Twin Spica, post-Vol.20 Excel Saga). However, I proudly maintain a bookcase of all Tezuka material, with Unico as the latest addition. If I had more shelf space, I would love to let my OCD demons loose and organize everything.

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