Greetings! After a one-week hiatus, Show Us Your Stuff is back with a new collector: Karen, a professional designer who hails from Northern Ireland. Karen’s library isn’t the largest one we’ve featured on the site, but it’s one of the most carefully curated, as Karen routinely prunes her collection so that she has room for new series and new favorites. Like many of our other featured collectors, Karen’s taste is eclectic: you’ll find Nodame Cantabile and Honey & Clover on her shelves alongside Vagabond, Shadow Star, and X. Here’s what Karen had to say about her manga library. -Katherine Dacey
Hiya. I’m Karen, a 28-year-old digital designer from Belfast, Northern Ireland. I’ve been watching anime from about the age of 13 and collecting manga from around 17. I’m a massive bibliophile and love having so many manga at hand (though at the same time, I’ve very picky about what I buy and like to keep my collection down to just what I really like).
How long have you been collecting manga?
I started sometime during my last two years in high school, so maybe around 11 years. Back then, I lived in a town about 25 miles away from the one shop, as far as I was aware, in the whole of Northern Ireland which sold manga. On the occasional shopping trip to Belfast, I would always visit this comic store in the hopes of having enough money to buy a single volume of manga (back then it would often cost £16/US$25 or more per manga!).
What was the first manga you bought?
I think it was a volume of the Mixx edition of Sailor Moon, shortly followed by Pokemon. As I continued to buy each volume of those series as they were released, I added Shadow Star, No Need for Tenchi (I sold these a few years back), and X/1999 to the list.
How big is your collection?
Around 670 volumes, not including art books, guides, etc. though I’m doing a purge of between 30 and 40 volumes, so that will bring my number down a far bit. But then, in turn, that money is being used to help me catch up on some series that I’m a bit behind with.
What is the rarest item in your collection?
There aren’t that many “rare” items. I do have all of the original Mixx release of Sailor Moon, and the Full Metal Panic! novels seem to be a nightmare to get a hold of.
What is the weirdest item in your collection?
Mmmm, I think the weirdest would be a Japanese volume of Boundary-Scan Moon Night’s Dream (スキャンダリムーンは夜の夢) by Kumi Morikawa. (At least I think that’s the name!) I bought it during a fund-raising sale held by the Japanese Society where I live from one of the older Japanese ladies (the manga was first published in the ’70s, though the volume I have is a more recent reprint). I loved the old-style art, and, along with the other Japanese manga I have, am hoping to use it to practice my Japanese. (Yay for furigana!)
How has your taste in manga evolved since you started your collection?
I’ve gone from buying a lot of shoujo to being more of a josei and seinen fan, and whereas before I would have an interest in some shounen, it’s not something that excites me much any longer, other than some of what I think of as the better series such as Rurouni Kenshin and Full Metal Alchemist.
Who are your favorite comic artists?
At the moment, my favorite manga-ka is Naoki Urasawa. I’ve always been a fan of hardcore sci-fi, so the first one of his works that I read, Pluto, blew me away. Monster was amazing, and out of all the series I’m currently collecting, 20th Century Boys is the one I’m quickest to read when a new volume is released.
I’m also a big fan of Chika Umino, loving her work in Honey and Clover, Eden of the East (one of my favorite anime), and March Comes in Like a Lion (which I’m collecting the Japanese releases of). I hope more of her work is published in English as I would love to be able to read March Comes in Like a Lion without having to try to translate it — I’m still a beginner when it comes to kanji — or looking for other’s translations. Lately I’ve been getting more and more into Fumi Yoshinaga’s works.
I used to be a big CLAMP fan, and Tokyo Babylon is still one of my favorites, but I haven’t been that into their recent stuff, with the exception of xxxHOLiC.
What series are you actively collecting right now?
20th Century Boys, Bride’s Tale, Bunny Drop (though I may drop this after hearing how the series ends…), House of Five Leaves, Kimi ni Todoke, Library Wars: Love & Peace, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya novels, Natsume’s Book of Friends, Ooku, Ouran High School Host Club, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei, Wandering Son, We Were There, xxxHOLiC, and the new X omnibus edition. I’m also playing catch-up with the following: Full Metal Alchemist, Kaze Hikaru, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, and the omnibus editions of both Rurouni Kenshin and Vagabond.
I’m embarrassed to say I still haven’t bought anything by Tezuka! The new version of Adolf in the next few months will probably be my first.
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)?
I don’t do anything that special in terms of physical organization. I just break the collection into two sets in terms of height — tall and normal — in order to fit as many shelves as possible into the bookcases. I remember spending a whole weekend working this out, and ended up going from having no room for more manga, to enough for another 100 volumes or so. After that I just arrange them alphabetically, and stack some vertically, to break things up visually a little, as well as help prevent manga from toppling over while set upright.
In terms of non-physical organization, I catalogue everything, both as list (http://www.akaihane.co.uk/lj/collections/manga-collection.php), as well as on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/1680658-karen-murray?shelf=owned-manga). So if I had any advice, I’d recommend people to sign up to Goodreads. When you have a good few series on the go and a largish collection, it’s very easy to lose track, and spend ages sitting looking at your shelves, trying to remember what you still need to read. This site (and to a lesser extent, MyAnimeList), allows me to have a separate list for manga that I own but have not read yet, and to order them in terms of priority. It helps motivate me to get up to date with what I own. Though I still have 50 or so unread volumes! And every time I seem to lessen that number, I end up going on a buying spree.
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 follow the directions on this page.