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The Asian ApertureMy Top Five Anime and Manga Books
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, June 4, 2013    Share

So you finally decided to enter the wild and crazy world of anime and manga and you suddenly realize that you still have lots of questions. Maybe you donít really considered yourself an otaku or you are merely otaku light, meaning you have heard of Hello Kitty and you vaguely have some idea of what Goku looks like and secretly want his hairstyle. On the other hand, maybe you got hooked on anime back in the 70ís with after school shows like Battle of the Planets and Starblazers, the localized versions of Gatchaman and Space Battleship Yamato and you followed that up with Robotech and now you find yourself in the new millennium wondering what you should be watching. You have the experience but you need to find out what is right for you in your quest for giant mech shows or girls with magical powers. Thankfully there are tons of books on the market that can help. Here are my top five and they make for excellent Summer reading, especially at the beach.

1.) Anime Essentials: Every Thing a Fan Needs to Know by Gilles Poitras. This is a great introduction to anime and otaku fandom from a writer who knows his stuff and is a frequent speaker at cons such as Fanime. Poitras takes you on a guided tour of anime. You will learn what era you fit into, how to get connected with other fans, and how to survive cons. Plus, Poitras lists 41 essential titles that all fans need to be familiar with. Even if you donít like all the titles he mentions, you canít deny that each one played a significant role at the International level.

If you like what you see in Anime Essentials, then it is time to check out two other great books by Gilles Poitras, The Anime Companion: Whatís Japanese in Japanese Animation and The Anime Companion 2 because sometimes it is hard to understand what exactly is going on.

2.) The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917, Revised and Expanded Edition by Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy. This is my go to guide when Iím interested in researching an older series to find out if it is right for me. It contains so much information on about 2,000 series. This is an essential purchase once you have exhausted the Miyazaki catalogue and you have watched every last burning second of Neon Genesis Evangelion and you want to look for something else. Maybe you are scanning the titles on Crunchyroll or Netflix and you spot a title you think you might like but before taking that big plunge into the deep end, you want a little information before you begin. The Anime Encyclopedia is a great big reference guide by two quality writers who know and love their subject.

3.) Manga: The Complete Guide by Jason Thompson. It has been said that there is a manga for every generation in Japan. Young and old alike have titles geared towards specific age groups, even manga for the elderly because you donít want to be shocked at the manga your grandchildren are reading so you may need something appropriate just for you. Thompson is the Manga expert who has read not just one volume in a large series such as One Piece but every volume in English. There are over 900 reviews that are sure to cover your favorite manga titles and introduce you to ones that you might not have ever considered. You can trust Jason Thompson and the other writers helping him out because they know and love manga and you can count on their opinions before dropping your hard earned cash on some unknown series you have some vague notions about. My advice is to take some time and do a little research before buying your next manga. This is my go to research book for manga.

If you truly love manga that by all means read the first essential book to come out in the US by the one and only Frederik L. Schodtís Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics. A great follow up is Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga, also by Frederik L. Schodt, who was the translator for the God of Manga and creator of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka.

4. The Otaku Encyclopedia: An Insiderís Guide to the Subculture of Cool Japan by Patrick W. Galbraith. Ok, after reading through the above mentioned books, you have some idea of anime and manga and how to be a fan and now you want to make sense of this crazy world of Otaku. Americans call themselves Otaku to show how hardcore they are about fandom in the West but in Japan the term can have a negative meaning with lots of nasty connotations. Allow Galbraith to guide you deeper into the Otaku world with wonderful and thoughtful A-Z encyclopedia entries into this sometimes fun and sometimes strange universe. Even hardcore fans who think they know it all will still benefit from reading through The Otaku Encyclopedia. I have been an anime fan since 1978 and I learned some great stuff. It was a fast read for me and I literally couldnít put it down.

In March 2012 I went to Akihabara the electronics district in Tokyo and I was overwhelmed by the sheer mass of anime, manga, and video game stores. Patrick Galbraith also has Tokyo Realtime: Akihabara a CD that is a guided tour through Akihabara starting out at Akihabara Station and going further into true nerd culture. I should have had this before I went on my trip, I would have saved time and focused on what I wanted to see rather than just strolling around with the crowds.

5. Watching Anime, Reading Manga: 25-Years of Essays and Reviews by Fred Patten. Now you should have a good understanding of fandom and are ready to take that big trip to Japan to see what is new and current. You might be wondering about just how long has anime fandom been going on? When did anime and manga cross over to the US? Join Fred Patten, the co founder of the very first anime club in the US, back in the 70ís, as he shows you what it was like for these early fans who were walking inside a dark tunnel with a flashlight. Patten will shine a light on the history of Anime fandom in the US. He is an Animation Historian who loves his subject and puts his heart and soul into all of his writings. Many of his articles have appeared in Fangoria, Starlog, fanzines, and Anime magazine but Watching Anime, Reading Manga is the only book that offers a full scope of his input. Patten was even an employee for Streamline and worked with Carl Macek, who wrote the forward. With Youtube, Crunchyroll, Netflix, and tons of online options, see what these early pioneers had to go through just to watch anime in the 70ís. This is the best history of Anime fandom on the market and it is a valuable and essential book for every fan of animation out there.

These are my top 5 books and there are many other great books on anime, manga, Cool Japan, video games, fashion, and cooking that could possibly sink a battleship. From the novice to the expert, I have included something for everyone. Join me in spreading the good word about Otaku fandom and hopefully dispelling the myth that all Otaku are weirdoes sitting inside the house with no friends. In most cases, it just isnít true anymore. Have fun and happy reading.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2013 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2013 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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