Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Seimu Yoshizaki
Genre: Graphic Novel (VIZ Signature/Ikki Comix)
MSRP: $12.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Now Available
This is a story about manga and the people who love it.
Carefully tucked away in a place facing a river and not far from the gate of the local train station is a store with a white sheet with crudely written letters announcing the name of the store. This is Kingyo Used Books, a most unusual manga store that carries just about every manga you could ever imagine and where the proprietor and staff believes in the power that each manga contains and its affects on the lives of various people. Volume1 of Kingyo Used Books is not only a love letter to real manga titles but its also a profoundly revealing look at what manga means to those whose lives it touched with its pages.
Told in seven different stories that occasionally intersect and revolve around a manga store called Kingyo Used Books, the first volume introduces us to the lively and cute store employee by the name of Natsumi. In the first story, a man enters the store looking to sell her his old manga collection because he thinks he too old for manga. Yet when he shows up at a little gathering of his old school mates he discovers that his former classmates and friends still have so many fond memories of manga. When an old classmate hands him back his old copy of Dr. Slump she had borrowed a long time ago, this inspires the young man to take his friends to Kingyo Used Books where a flood of good memories reminds them all of their youth.
In another story, an art student named Misaki returns a manga called Sarusuberi another fellow student named Murao lent her. She tells Murao that she didn’t read it despite the fact that it was a series based on the real life and art of Katsushika Hokusai. You see, she feels that the story hits too close to home seeing as she doesn’t see herself as a great artist who doesn’t hold a candle to Murao’s talent. After she takes a nasty tumble, though, she meets Natsumi who takes her to the store. It is there that she discovers the truth about herself and finds inspiration anew.
The next story finds a young man named Sawaguchi, who is on the school’s archery team, worried that he has lost his focus and worried that his best just isn’t enough. On his way back home, he discovers and old man and a strange younger man laughing heartily at a manga they’re reading. Curious about what is making them laugh so hard, Sawaguchi gets to close to them and suddenly both the older man and the younger man Shiba try to force the young archer to read a copy of Open Mind. Both men take Sawaguchi to Kingyo where not only does the archer realize that the old man is the store’s proprietor but Open Mind and a manga called Densenrun Desu is just the right thing he needed to calm his nerves.
We then meet a young Japanese-American man who has taken up the role and name of Billy after his manga hero, Billy Puck. Just like Billy, he not only dresses like his hero but is also an actual detective as well. He’s come to Japan for one reason … to meet the manga-ka behind Billy Puck. What he does instead is meet his pen pal, Naoaki Shiba (the same young man from the last story) who tells him about the man who brought Billy Puck to life. Billy actually becomes a reoccurring character as the next story finds him helping Shiba and another Kingyo regular find out why Natsumi is hanging out with an older man into an amazing French graphic novel series called Blueberry.
In the next story, a bored housewife finds herself feeling alone until a call from her parents home has her rediscovering a favorite shoujo manga featuring a hunky main characters she had a massive crush on growing up. As it turns out, another mother on the school’s parents association likes the same hunky main character as well and a friendship is formed between them when they meet up again in Kingyo. In another story, a reoccurring character who also happen to be working as a Sedori (who buy old books and sell them to other bookstores for a higher price) tries to save the manga from her favorite old shop during a storm.
As endearing and likeable as the characters and the theme are, however, Kingyo Used Books is far from perfect. We love manga for many reasons and Kingyo captures the things that go through our minds when we pick up a favorite series or discover a new one. It’s not escapism as a few of the stories suggest. I don’t read Dragon Ball to escape from the real world. I read it because despite all the fights and other craziness there are life’s lessons that the story as a whole teaches us … much in the same way that Billy Puck taught the young detective in this story about being brave, kind and seeking justice.
An inspiring collection of stories surrounding a manga store and actual real manga titles, Volume 1 of Kingyo Used Books is proof that manga has a power to make us think, dream and discover things we have forgotten about ourselves as well as the human heart. This could have been a perfect title but somehow it falls a bit flat in some places but, make no mistake, Kingyo Used Books should be read by those who love manga and by those who have also wanted to be introduced to manga.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Kingyo Used Books is the type of place that not only has just about every manga you can imagine but it’s also the place where various characters find inspiration, strength and good memories. We meet a housewife who finds a friend thanks to a favorite manga and an art student who finds new perspective. The fact that this manga uses real manga titles such as Abashiri Ikka, Dr. Slump and even Blueberry as part of the story is something special.
The art is actually quite gorgeous at times and looks great throughout. You just have to admire the loving detail given to each of the characters.
Volume 1 of Kingyo Used Books is a rarity in that it not only reminds us why we love manga so much but it also shows us – through the experiences that unfold for each character – what it means to different people. While it isn’t perfect, there is much to love about a manga that celebrates manga and the joy it brings to those who love it.
Review copy provided by VIZ Media