Welcome to another installment of Show Us Your Stuff, a weekly column in which manga lovers share pictures of their libraries. This week’s featured collector is Ellie, who hails from across the pond. When she isn’t baking or drawing, Ellie documents her efforts to learn Japanese at the site 5kanjiaday.wordpress.com. Her taste in manga cants more heavily towards shojo than other demographics, though as you’ll see, her collection is pleasingly eclectic, encompassing everything from Keiko Nishi to Hiromu Arakawa to Katsuhiro Otomo. So without further ado, here’s Ellie in her own words! – Katherine Dacey
I’m another international contributor, as I live in Scotland. I became interested in manga through some friends I made when I started high school. As well as manga and anime, I’m also interested in music, cooking, baking, drawing, and trying to learn Japanese. I’m working at the moment, but I’m hoping to go to university next year to study music.
How long have you been collecting manga?
Since shortly after I started high school, so about 7-8 years now.
What was the first manga you bought?
Volume one of Chobits. It was one of about four manga volumes in the only bookshop in the small town I grew up in, and I bought it on a school friend’s recommendation. I still have it and I’ve never looked back since…
How big is your collection?
As at January 17th, 688 English volumes, including some artbooks, novels and guide books, and omnibuses (which I count as one volume, regardless of how many original volumes they contain). I have three Japanese volumes. I swear it doesn’t look like that much on the shelves, but when I sat down and counted one day, I gave myself a shock!
What is the rarest item in your collection?
Probably a Japanese Okane ga Nai doujinshi that a friend got me from a con. (Not pictured, as it’s still at my parents’ house.) There are several other things I own which seem to be rare — judging by new and used prices on Amazon — including some older BL published by June and BLU; Love Song, which is an early anthology of one-shots by Keiko Nishi and released by Viz in the 1990’s; and a first edition of Legal Drug, Vol. 1, which has the lovely acetates and colour pages.
I also have the complete run of After School Nightmare and Tenshi ja Nai!!, published by Go! Comi. This isn’t manga per se, but I have all but one of the Gothic and Lolita Bibles that Tokyopop published. I also have the first two Strawberry Panic light novel volumes that Seven Seas published before ditching the series years ago. I was so annoyed when the omnibus came out!
What is the weirdest item in your collection?
In terms of pure weird story content, probably Guru Guru Pon-chan and everything I own by Mitsukazu Mihara and Kaori Yuki . I’d say the series that deviate most from the rest of the collection in terms of story content are probably Tegami Bachi, Black Butler and Blue Exorcist, as the vast majority of my collection is shojo and romance, whereas those three are decidedly not…
How has your taste in manga evolved since you started your collection?
When I first got into manga, I would buy literally everything I saw that even vaguely caught my eye, even if I ended up not really liking it that much. I’ve sold quite a lot of stuff because of that. My tastes have matured somewhat now, and I’m a lot more picky about what I buy, and I buy more stuff online (partly due to moving out and having to pay rent and bills!), and I’ll tend to check out reviews before I buy if I’m unsure about something.
I’ve also come to appreciate more mature works as I’ve gotten older, like Honey and Clover and Akira (which would have bored me a few years ago). Recently, I also seem to have got back into shounen series. I gave up on Bleach a few years ago (as you can see, the vast majority of my collection is shoujo) but within the last year I started buying Tegami Bachi, Blue Exorcist, Bakuman, Fullmetal Alchemist and Black Butler. When I’m caught up with a few more things, I want to buy the Rurouni Kenshin and Inuyasha VIZBIG editions, and possibly Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan. I tend to prefer shojo because it (most of the time) doesn’t drag on as long as shonen series. I’ll give anything a chance though.
Who are your favorite comic artists?
My favorite manga artists, in no particular order, are: CLAMP, Yuu Watase, Kaori Yuki, Arina Tanemura, Natsumi Ando, Mitsukazu Mihara, Ai Yazawa, Hiromu Arakawa and Masami Tsuda.This list is purely based on entertainment value, rather than me trying to be objective about quality… I don’t really read Western comics so I don’t have any favorite comic artists.
What series are you actively collecting right now?
Again, in no particular order, Bunny Drop (although I’m not sure whether I will keep buying any more volumes, given what I know of the ending), the Haruhi Suzumiya novels, Sakura Hime Kaden, Kamisama Kiss, Tegami Bachi, Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden (as actively as anyone can collect that), The Story of Saiunkoku, Blue Exorcist, Arisa, Black Butler, Library Wars, Bakuman, Otomen, Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time, Dawn of the Arcana, Honey and Clover, Loveless, Bad Teacher’s Equation, Border, Kare Kano, Ouran High School Host Club, the Love Hina and Tokyo Mew Mew omnibus rereleases, Sailor Moon, Kobato, Full Metal Alchemist, My Girlfriend’s A Geek, Dengeki Daisy, Black Bird, Lovephobia, Vampire Knight, Nana, Kimi ni Todoke, Natsume Yuujinchou, Sensual Phrase, Ai Ore!, and We Were There. If they ever get picked up in English again: Nodame Cantabile, Maid-sama, the Zaregoto novels, and the Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko. I’d say the ones I’m giving the highest priority to are Kamisama Kiss, Story of Saiunkoku, Bakuman, Arisa, Otomen, Black Butler, Sailor Moon, Blue Exorcist, Black Bird, Library Wars, Sakura Hime, Kimi ni Todoke, Vampire Knight, Black Bird, Dengeki Daisy, Ai Ore, Dawn of the Arcana and Natsume Yuujinchou. I also have quite a lot of series which I want to buy but just don’t have the money for at the moment!
Do you have any tips for fellow collectors (e.g. how to organize a collection, where to find rare books, where to score the best deals on new manga)?
Ikea is your friend when it comes to cheap shelves, and a well-organized collection takes up far less space than a messy one. Your books will stay in better condition that way as well. I organize my collection by complete and incomplete series, but if I know how many volumes are left in a series, I create space for it on the “complete” shelves. Once your collection gets above about 100 volumes, keeping a spreadsheet is definitely a good way of keeping track of it. I use it to make sure I don’t end up buying the same things twice etc.
Check the bargain bin of your local comic shop for rare gems; I found two copies of Basara volume 20 for significantly less than RRP each, which I then sold on for a reasonable price to people on the internet who were missing them. I couldn’t bear to see them disposed of when so many people on the Internet were clamouring for them. I ended up sending them both to the US from the UK. If they’d had volume 19 as well, I would’ve started collecting it myself…
Chain bookshops can occasionally unearth gems as well, just keep checking, but I’ve found most of my gems in comic shops all around the country when I’ve been visiting friends, so go and visit friends in other places and see what you can find! Second hand bookshops can occasionally unearth gems; I found two flopped volumes of Sailor Moon in one local to me for 3 pounds each (just before Kodansha announced it) so give your local second hand bookseller a visit sometimes.
As for buying new series, my local comic shop has a perpetual three-for-the-price-of-two deal on all manga, regardless of the publisher or price, so I’m quite lucky in that regard. Being in the UK, I don’t know anything about US based online stores like Right Stuf, but Amazon and eBay can be your friends as well, particularly for earlier volumes in a series. With eBay especially, watch out for the shipping charges though!
Also, don’t be afraid to have a prune once in a while. If you’ve not read something more than once or twice, and you don’t think you’ll miss it, let it go. That gives you more space, and more money to go and buy stuff you’re more interested in. Free listing weekends on eBay are wonderful for listing multiple volumes as a set. If you’re unsure about a series, see if your local library/a friend/ a local anime and manga club has it or see if the publisher has a preview online, so you can check it out before you buy. Read some reviews as well; see if you can find a reviewer who shares similar tastes to you and see what they thought of a series. If it has an anime, see if the anime is available on Crunchyroll or Netflix etc, then you’ll at least be able to see if you like the overall idea of the series. Plus the manga is (almost) always better than the anime (in my opinion) so if you like the anime, you’ll like the manga more!
Show Us Your Stuff is a regular column in which readers share pictures of their manga collections and discuss their favorite series. If you’d like to see your manga library featured here, please send me an email.