CBLDF Presents Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices

CBLDF Presents Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices could have been used by the industry six or seven years ago, during the first rise of the manga trend, but better late than never, right? In this case, it’s definitely worthwhile to have waited to gather a more balanced, knowledgeable perspective.

Anyone who needs to know the basics of manga — the sub-categories, the speciality terms, the genre expectations, the pitfalls — will find this book, sponsored by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, essential. Each chapter explains a particular type of manga, including shonen, shoji, seinen, josei, yuri, and boys’ love. Specific target audience segments include librarians and booksellers who want to understand how to serve their customers interested in manga.

CBLDF Presents Manga is edited by Melinda Beasi, owner of Manga Bookshelf (although that isn’t mentioned — an “about the contributors” section would have been a useful addition). Several of the contributors also write for that site, including Katherine Dacey (who wrote the history chapter), Sean Gaffney (shojo), and Erica Friedman (yuri, dojinshi). Also contributing are Shaenon Garrity, former Viz editor (shonen, josei, boys’ love), and Ed Chavez, marketing director of manga publisher Vertical (seinen). All obviously know their subject matter and write informatively and clearly, with plenty of examples cited of genres, popular titles, and key artists within the age and gender groupings. I learned a lot.

The book begins with a history of the form, its connections with anime, and explanations of manhua/manhwa/OEL manga. Although it’s important information to know and an obvious starting point, it’s going to be of less immediate use to those seeking to put the material in the book to use in deciding how to stock shelves, for example.

In Chavez’s chapter, I found the praise for Dark Horse (this book’s publisher) and Vertical (his employer) a tad unseemly, since there were no disclaimers as to the associations included. His chapter also discusses key artists without indication of which of their works are available in English, an omission that makes it difficult to follow up. (Why would you talk about Naoki Urasawa without a single title of his listed when the books are readily available? The suspicious might wonder if the same choice would have been made if his titles were published in English by Vertical, since several of their releases are noted by name.) In contrast, Garrity’s josei chapter lists plenty of titles and imprints but doesn’t note that they’ve all ceased publishing.

Friedman’s yuri chapter takes yet another tack, discussing the concept more generally without reference to artists or representative works. Given the wide-ranging associations for that term, it’s a useful and valid approach. Her later section on scanlations, though, I found too short. It states bluntly how they’re all illegal, which is true, but a more nuanced discussion of why customers flock to them, the debate over timeliness and authenticity that often goes along with them, and suggestions on how to convert users would have made for a more thorough treatment of the topic.

Librarian Robin Brenner co-writes the final “Challenges” chapter with Garrity, and this lengthy section is the real meat of the book, discussing potentially troublesome manga subject matter (cross-dressing, sexuality, ethnicity, Christian imagery) in the context of being prepared for objections. It’s a useful catalogue to prepare decision-makers against potential outcry, putting works in the context of their country of original publication. The chapter concludes with an overview of legal cases involving manga.

CBLDF Presents Manga is a unique work. Its target readers will find it essential, while any others interested in the topic, no matter their background, will likely learn more about history and perceptions of the format. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)


5 Responses to “CBLDF Presents Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices”

  1. Melinda Beasi Says:

    Johanna, thanks so much for reviewing the book! I did want to add one piece of information that you probably wouldn’t be aware of, regarding Ed’s praise of Dark Horse in his seinen chapter.

    Given the way this ended up being published, your criticism is well taken. But for what it’s worth, Dark Horse was not the publisher of the book at the time that Ed’s chapter was written. We were all hired by the CBLDF who originally intended to publish and distribute this as an ebook all on their own, and the entire book was completed and submitted to them before the deal with Dark Horse was made. So none of us, Ed included, had any idea at the time that it would eventually be published by Dark Horse.

    Again, thanks for reviewing!

  2. Johanna Says:

    You’re welcome, Melinda — you did a terrific job pulling all this together. I appreciate you letting me know about the book’s background. That also explains a small thing I was curious about, the copyright notice in June and the DH release in December.

  3. Melinda Beasi Says:

    I think that might have been the date of the pre-release CBLDF did (they had the book at conventions all summer). Our work was completed and submitted back in fall of 2012!

  4. Johanna Says:

    I wondered about that — there are a couple of internal references to “coming in 2013″ and similar that suggest a longer lead time than many comic pubs use!

  5. Good Comics at the Comic Shop December 4 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] are also a couple of books aimed at particular audiences. Dark Horse has released CBLDF Presents Manga Introduction Challenges And Best Practices ($15.99), a helpful guide to the popular comics translated from Japan. It’s been produced in […]

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