Are You Willing to Commit to Long Series?

Maison Ikkoku volume 1

Kate Dacey (link no longer available) asks a question I find myself very much in sympathy with:

do I really want to spend my money on a series that spans 10, 20, or even 40 volumes if there might be a shorter, snazzier title waiting in the wings?

These days, I find myself losing interest even in series I’ve been enjoying around book six or eight. In the past, I collected longer series. Checking my database, I see that I loved Tramps Like Us through all of its 14 books, and Maison Ikkoku went 15 (although a few of those I thought were repetitive), and I still have Sensual Phrase‘s 18 books. I have hopes for Nana continuing beyond volume 21, once the author feels better, and I can’t wait for Hikaru no Go to complete in May with the next book, Volume 23 (but that became almost a different series around volume 14).

I would adore to see volume 18 and more in The Kindaichi Case Files, but that’s not very serialized; almost any volume can be read in any order. Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs has made it to 17, and that’s similarly episodic, plus: puppies! I hope to see more of that series, although since Volume 18 has no release date, that’s not a good sign. But Sgt. Frog I dropped a long while back (and I don’t even know how many books that’s going to be — it’s over 20 now). I’d forgotten about Tuxedo Gin‘s 15 volumes, but cute penguins apparently were enough for me back then (and it was a series both KC and I liked).

I still mean to reread all 18 entries in Naoki Urasawa’s Monster in order. Now that some of them are out of print, I won’t part with it, which brings up another point — it’s difficult for publishers to keep some of these longer series in print, so even if someone wants to start, getting all the volumes can be difficult.

Kate goes on to ask her readers’ opinions on four current long series she’s started. I’d do the same, but the only long series I’m reading right now is 20th Century Boys. I’ve read through 7, own through 12, and have decided to stop buying until I get caught up and decide if I want to continue. (I’m pretty sure I will — it’s good stuff.)

What lengthy series have you found worthwhile, or which would you recommend to readers?


  • My requisite for getting into a longer series is “does it follow a storyline?” and “does it end?” Which is why I’m willing to fork over cash for anything by Urasawa (although I don’t have all of Monster. Which vols are out of print? I’m horrified by that) and Fullmetal Alchemist. Otherwise the series that I follow are Viz Signature ones (Ooku, Saturn Apartments) where I don’t know their length, but they come out so infrequently I don’t get sick of them. I have kind of abandoned Children of the Sea, because vol 3 was really boring. I may pick it up again someday, tho.

    I don’t buy as much manga as you and Kate, so I feel justified spending my comic budget on the couple of series I follow. Also, I don’t buy very many North American comics, so being able to spend money on a long running manga is nice. I like having something to look forward to at the comic book shop.

  • Jim Kosmicki

    I am surprised to hear that some volumes of Monster are out of print – I wonder if Viz is looking to do omnibus editions? Especially with the anime out there, I would think that’s one that would be a perennial for them.

    My guilty pleasure long-term series is Ultimate Muscle. It pleases the perennial 10 year old in me, but I’m always amazed when yet another volume gets published. It is never on any lists of best sellers, and nobody ever talks about it much.

    and somebody needs to pick up Kindaichi if Tokyopop can’t or won’t continue it – that is a series that could do very well for a company able to find the right hook to get the right audience for it. Given the standalone element of each book, and the mystery angle, this is PERFECT for most library systems.

    and on that note, I’ve noticed that my local library has several of the Minx volumes on the shelf, and they seem to check out well. if DC could have just had patience and marketed better to librarians and bookfairs at schools, who knows what could have happened…

  • Joshua

    Besides several of the ones you mentioned:
    Ouran High School Host Club, Iron Wok Jan (though the end was a let-down), Lone Wolf and Cub, Oh! My Goddess, Hayate the Combat Butler, Love * Com, Eyeshield 21, Wallflower, Ranma 1/2, Ai Yori Aoshi, One Piece, Case Closed, Kare Kano, Fruits Basket. And I’m probably forgetting some.

  • JD

    I’m committed to buying the new volumes of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (stand-alone stories) and Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (mostly stand-alone stories too). Beyond that… Black Lagoon is on hiatus, and Genshiken’s sequel will take a while to reach the West.

    I know that I don’t easily commit to buying new, long-ish series. Especially as I have to consider shelving space. I have a bit less resistance when I know the series has an end (that was the case for Death Note and Azumanga Daioh, and probably of the two above “hiatus” series).

  • Safetygirl

    I followed Boys Over Flowers (37) until the end, as well as Red River (28). Rurouni Kenshin at 27… I don’t have my database on me to remember the others. Oh, Gintama is in the 20’s here and still rolling along in its odd way. Kare Kano (21), Fruits Basket (23), Fushigi Yugi (18), Ouran (18), Kindaichi (17), xxxHolic (18), Fullmetal Alchemist (27?), Nodame Cantabile. Goong is going to be long. But I’ve dropped plenty along the way, mostly in the Jump family.

    I will keep buying Kaze Hikaru (as well as the two extra copies I buy for friends, if my local library carried manga I would buy one for them as well) as long as Viz will put it out, however, it seems to have hit the Excel Saga schedule of annual releases. But I shouldn’t complain, at least it has v19 scheduled. It’s at 30 volumes in Japan, though, with no signs of wrapping up, since certain characters are still in certain places.

    An earlier commenter mention omnibuses, but Viz seems to limit that and their digital releases to top-sellers, opposite of the other companies who use omnibus release for the more midlist titles. It’s a shame, too, that digital isn’t being used more aggressively for OOP books in long series, but that’s a longer comment for another post. :)

  • Angela

    What counts as a long-running series? Is it over 10 volumes? In that case I would say Ouran High School Host Club – that manga has consistently entertained me since the beginning – and Fullmetal Alchemist, which I love, and since it’s almost done will cap off under 30 volumes. I’m a big fan of Hoshin Engi, (though that might be just me; I feel like I’m the only person that cares about that series) and Hikaru no Go is great. Hunter x Hunter is a wonderful series, but the last several volumes focuses on a storyline I don’t much like, and with the author constantly going on hiatus I don’t know if it will ever be completed.

    Lately I’ve been having trouble committing myself to anything I know is more than a few volumes long, since my cash flow is dwindling and i still have all these other long series to worry about. An exception is Twin Spica, which I think reaches 17 volumes, but it is the best thing ever.

  • The only long-running manga series I’ve seen through to the end are Maison Ikkoku, Sanctuary, and Eagle. The only series I’m currently buying and reading regularly is Yotsuba&!

    I’d say that over 75% of manga series don’t make it past vol. 1 for me, and another 15% don’t survive past vol. 2. I almost always quit reading when I still have unread volumes on the shelf. If I like a series I’ll buy volumes as they come out, but then get behind, and then figure if I’m not reading them then I probably wasn’t interested in it anyway and give up.

  • Jim Kosmicki

    I also bought Eagle to the end, but prefer it in the omnibus editions. However, I somehow missed the second volume of the omnibus when they were published, and its OOP. I’ve tried ordering it at least three times and ALWAYS get sent the second volume of the smaller, individual volumes, even when I use the ISBN number. It’s a noticeable gap on my bookshelf.

  • Are you kidding? :-D All else being equal, I will always choose a longer series over a shorter one because if I enjoy it I’ll want to continue the experience for a long time. For that same reason I’d rather have a novel than a short story, because frequently I’ll get to the end of the story and be sorry to have to say goodbye to characters that have piqued my interest.

    Having said that, the thought of buying 10+ books all at once is daunting. I’d much rather collect a series that’s newish and still going, because I know my purchases will be portioned out over the year. Sometimes I can get hooked on an older series by trying out several volumes via my local library, and once I’m convinced I like it I’ll start buying.

    I don’t think I can add any recommended manga to the list, because all my favourites have already been mentioned. :-)

  • Rij

    I commit to a series easily since I generally don’t have such a hard time dropping it while still unfinished if I no longer enjoy it.

    Long (as in more than 10 volumes) series that I’ve committed into include Ouran High School Host Club, Fullmetal Alchemist, Banana Fish, Kekkaishi, Switch, and Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. There’s also some ongoing series I’m buying that will most likely break the 10 volume limit at some point.

    What I am unwilling to do, is committing to an older long series that is either already published in full or that has more than ten volumes out at the time I start reading it. Thankfully most of Banana Fish is easy to find, as I’m still slowly collecting it. I gave up on Tramps Like Us before I bought every volume and read it from the library since hunting down OOP books is not something I enjoy. I’d love to read Basara or many of the other greats but it’d be just too much trouble to hunt down 20+ volumes, some of which are almost impossible to find.

  • I should have pointed out how many of these series are published by Viz in the original post — good on them for making the publishing commitment for these longer runs.

    Tara, I’m glad someone made the case for enjoying a good series longer, although you’re right, you have to jump in at the right time.

    Dave, I share your logic — if I’m not eager to read it when a new book comes out, then I rethink. Which reminds me, I’m glad V12 of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is due soon! (Thanks, JD. And like you, I have run out of shelves!)

    Angela, for my personal definition, long is greater than a dozen books. I don’t know why I picked 12, but it’s a nice round number.

    Safetygirl, you’ve put together a nice list of series I’ve sampled but gave up on because of their length. :) I was surprised at how many of those I’ve read some of.

  • Ralf Haring

    Long current series? Blade of the Immortal, Fullmetal Alchemist, 20th Century Boys, Black Jack. I wouldn’t say I’m especially disinclined to picking up new long-running manga, but that it doesn’t seem that hardly any new manga series seem exciting. There are the occasional one-off giant Tezuka volumes from Vertical, but otherwise I can’t remember the last time a series seemed interesting.

    If there were a long-running series of interest, I think I’d prefer to be able to buy as many volumes as possible in quick succession. It’s easier to maintain enthusiasm that way. I was able to buy all the volumes of Drifting Classroom and consumed them voraciously, whereas some of Urasawa’s quirks are starting to become tedious in 20th Century Boys. It’s an understandable problem when manga starts catching up to the serialization in Japan that the release schedule must slow down, but all I can say is I seemed to enjoy Fullmetal more when it came out every two months instead of twice a year.

  • Yes, two months is about my time limit for keeping the series in my attention. If the delays get too long, I have to reread previous volumes before the current. That’s nice for value, but it does mean more mental investment in the series.

  • lovelyduckie

    Sometimes with long series I stop reading every volume as it comes out, and just start collecting them until I have the complete set and read it all at once.

    I’ve actually read a lot of longer series but the ones that stayed fresh for me the best throughout (besides some of the series you recommended) are Berserk (30+), Skip Beat! (20+), Cardcaptor Sakura (12), Crimson Hero (14+), Full Metal Alchemist (21+), Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (11+), Clamore (15+), One Piece (35+), Peach Girl (18), and Pet Shop of Horrors (14+). I’ve also JUST started Gakuen Alice, I’m only 2 volumes in, we’ll see if it makes the list.

    I’m currently own (but haven’t read yet)the following long series Monster, Blade of the Immortal, Ranma 1/2, Banana Fish, Basara, and Dr. Slump. Usually I sit down with longer series while on a vacation. But maybe I’ve let a few too many collect…

  • Reeve

    Fullmetal Alchemist is currently the longest series I’ve ever read, but it’s also one of my all-time favorites. Just wish Viz’s current publishing schedule wasn’t so slow, especially with the ending just a few volumes away. Even so, I would recommend it to just about anyone.

    After reading Viz’s seven-volume sampling of Oishinbo (which I originally started reading in large part because of your review of the first volume – thanks!), my husband and I are both dying to see the entire series in English. It’s over a hundred volumes, though!

    In general, I tend to know after either the first or second volume whether or not I want to commit to something. Length isn’t much of a factor, and I tend to read longer (10+ volume long) series anyway.

  • Oh, thinking about how much more Oishinbo we could have but don’t makes me so sad… I would love to read more of that! And I’m glad you enjoyed it too.

  • Ju-osh

    Another way long-running series shoot themselves in the foot? By switching translators/formats/publishers. I mean, am I the only one who finds the new Yotsuba?! books not nearly as entertaining as the old ones? What’s worse, I don’t even know if it’s the author’s fault or the new translator’s!

  • Julia L

    The longest series I’ve stuck with is Hikaru no Go. It’s hard to believe that’s nearly over. The only other one is/was Crimson Hero; I haven’t picked up all the volumes from that, because my local store stopped carrying it regularly. I was thinking of getting back to it once Hikaru was done. Most of the series I find are fairly short — 8-10 is long for me (i.e. Emma or Pet Shop of Horrors).

    I think part of the fear with longish series is they might not be completed by their publisher for whatever reasons.

    And second the wish (nay the craving) for more Oishinbo in any format. I don’t think we even got all the A La Carte volumes they did in Japan, so there’s plenty of options.

  • DeBT

    Jim Kosmicki said:

    “I also bought Eagle to the end, but prefer it in the omnibus editions. However, I somehow missed the second volume of the omnibus when they were published, and its OOP. I’ve tried ordering it at least three times and ALWAYS get sent the second volume of the smaller, individual volumes, even when I use the ISBN number. It’s a noticeable gap on my bookshelf.”

    Strange that you should mention that. At a second-hand bookstore I frequent occasionally, I’ve seen the elusive 2nd volume of Eagle you’ve mentioned. The only reason it hasn’t been sold yet is probably because its missing the other volumes, and it’s found in the Entertainment section rather than comics, next to Making of Star Trek books. Of course, since the store’s way up here in Canada, there’s not much chance of getting this shipped and delivered for you.

    If that sounds like too much of a hassle, there’s always

  • Heather

    I have to say I decided over 5 years ago to focus more on smaller series. There was just too much manga coming out and I love almost everything. There are many long series I have stuck with that have already been mentioned. My current favorite is Gakuen Alice. The innocence and power of the kids really moves me. My other indulgence is Baby & Me. I wish more family manga would be released, or even bribing Tokyopop to publish more Kindaichi would make me happy.

  • Anna Frohling

    Wow, two other people menetioned the series I’m collecting now, Hoshin Engi and Ultimate Muscle. There’s only one volume left for both those series, so I’m glad they haven’t been canceled.

    This makes me think…a lot Viz’s best selling series are reaching their end, even stuff like Naruto and One Piece is at 50+. What are they going to do when all these seriges end? What are they going to replace them with?

    Anyways, I love long manga because you really get to know the characters, I really think it takes a long time to get invested in a story. My 12+ series are Inubaka, Ultimate Muscle, Hoshin Engi, Yakitate Japan, Air Gear, B’tx, Berserk, Black God, Case Closed,Drifting Classroom, Eden, Flame of Recca,Fullmetal Alchemist, Gakuen Alice, Galaxy Angel, Gin Tama, Hunter x Hunter, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Kaze Hikaru, Kekkaishi, Muhyo & Rohji, Ranma 1/2, Shaman King, Sgt Frog, Slam Dunk, Zatch Bell, Phoenix, Dr. Slump, and One Piece
    I’ve completed my collection of Flame of Recca, Banana Fish, Please Save My Earth, Knights of the Zodiac, Hunter x Hunter (for now since its on hiatus), Maison Ikkoku, Beet the Vandel Buster, Deathnote, and Dragonball.


  • insaneben

    Way back in 2003, ADV Manga (remember them?) started publishing “Those Who Hunt Elves”. Being a big fan of the anime series, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the manga. Alas, they stopped publishing the series after volume 7 came out in late 2004. (Needless to say, they had another 14 volumes to go, which lead me to believe that ADV Manga was following Tokyopop’s “publish everything and let the fans sort them out” philosophy).

    Another former-ADV title, Aria, was rescued by Tokyopop, yet seems to be getting published at the glacial pace of one volume every 11-13 months (with the sixth volume having come out at the end of last year; at this rate, the twelfth and final volume should be out by roughly 2017, barring any other delays or mishaps).

    So, long answer short (soon to be followed up by an even-longer answer), yes, I’m willing to commit to long-running series (provided I like them). I know Yakitate Japan wasn’t a best-seller, and yet, it’s only one volume away from completion (with the 26th and final volume due out next month). That, in turn, makes me wonder why certain series were never closed out (Harukaze Bitter Bop was only four volumes long, yet Tokyopop only got through two of them before putting the series on the kibosh; Ninin Ga Shinobuden was only four volumes long, but the now-defunct Infinity Studios pulled the plug only a couple months before the last volume was due out, even after soliciting it with a Spring 2008 publishing date; Knights had a mere five volumes, but DMP Manga gave up after two volumes right around the time they decided to focus more on yaoi manga and less on everything else).

    I could go on about the sheer number of personal favorite titles that were aborted before completion (Mamoru The Shadow Protector- 3/6; Lunar Legend Tsukihime- 6/10; Two Flowers For The Dragon- 6/7), but simply put, manga publishers need to be more upfront about whether or not they plan on committing to finishing series both long and short. Yeah, financial and unforeseen problems happen, but that’s no excuse for giving loyal fans the short end of the stick in favor of placing full emphasis on X-Company’s A-list title. Sure, it makes more sense to focus on the most popular titles, but once those series come to an end, what’s left? I was of the belief that you’re rewarded for loyalty, not punished for it (hello, Stu Levy!).

    So, with Tokyopop running itself into the ground, Viz Media betting the farm on Naruto and Bleach (while ignoring most other titles and letting older ones fall out of print and out of reach of most casual consumers’ wallets on the second-hand market), and Del Rey gradually morphing into Kodansha USA (leaving School Rumble in limbo), who’s left to pick up the fallen titles? Where’s Superman when you really need him?

  • I’ve heard a number of people assuming that we wouldn’t see any more Aria from Tokyopop, given their recent troubles, and that would be a shame. It’s one of my favorites.

    It’s difficult to make a success of a title someone else stopped publishing, since the assumption is usually that that happened for a reason. If the title stopped because another company went out of business, then you have the problem of whether to start where they left off (and have new readers left out) or reprint the books (and risk lower sales as people don’t rebuy what they already own).

  • Ralf Haring

    I’m not sure why it needs to be either or. If a previous publisher printed five of a fifteen volume series, why not put out both a new volume 1 and a volume 6, continuing both until all the old volumes are reprinted? (answer: money, but it’d be nice)

  • insaneben

    Apologies for the delayed follow-up post, but…

    Johanna sez:
    “It’s difficult to make a success of a title someone else stopped publishing, since the assumption is usually that that happened for a reason. If the title stopped because another company went out of business, then you have the problem of whether to start where they left off (and have new readers left out) or reprint the books (and risk lower sales as people don’t rebuy what they already own).”

    Difficult, yes. Impossible? Yotsuba&! would like to have a word with you.
    Seriously, when Yotsuba&! was with ADV Manga, it was a success, but not a surefire seller. Since being license-rescued by Yen Press, each new volume has frequently landed on the top 10 in terms of sales, which leads me to believe that it wasn’t the title itself that failed to succeed so much as the publishers’ marketing dept. not promoting the book aggressively enough.

    Now, I know that Yotsuba&! is a rare example of a license-rescue performing better the second time around (it also didn’t hurt that Yen Press picked up Azumanga Daioh and released it in omnibus format, thereby giving it something to tie Yotsuba&! to; they also re-released the first five volumes, re-translated, at the same time), but what about Tenjho Tenge? Surely, after CMX published 18 of 22 volumes, other publishers wouldn’t dare pick up where this already-long series left off, would they? Well, clearly Viz must’ve been thinking otherwise, as they plan to publish all 22 volumes in 11 double-sized volumes, uncensored (given the recent news that Viz has sidelined Inubaka, I’m taking their plans with a barrel of salt).

    With all that said, would it really be that costly of a risk to license-rescue a series if it had only one or three volumes (out of, say, 4 to 7) published? I’ve already mentioned four of the series I’d like to see license-rescued (let’s make it five and throw in “Ninin Ga Shinobuden: Ninja Nonsense”- 3/4; four of the titles I mentioned are owned by Media Factory, so inking a deal with them might help bring four of those titles ashore). Perhaps a more clever marketing strategy (not to mention a better publisher) would nudge things in the right direction (like, say, tying-in ads for each title’s respective anime).

    Apologies for rambling, but Stu Levy’s ego reaching critical mass (remove the “m”, bordering on Charlie Sheen-level delusion) forced my hand.

  • Good counter-example! I hope this rescue pattern continues and success follows.

  • Athena

    I’ll freely admit that when I read something that I think sounds interesting, I do go online and look up how long it is and if it’s still running before I decide to buy. Quite honestly, some series started over a decade ago and are still going, and others are emulating DragonBall’s never-die quality a bit too closely, and I’m getting a bit old for that game. Yet, the sweet sadness is that long running series are often much more worth it than a dozen shorter ones. I don’t regret a minute of having all of Ranma 1/2, and at the end of Maison Ikkoku you can feel how much the mangaka herself loved it. I’m already neck-deep in Bleach and it still enthralls me, so I’m accepting my fate without bitterness on that front. Blade of the Immortal is a long 8 month wait between volumes, but I always feel it’s worth it.

    That being said, there are some series that I did like, but seeing how long they are I realize I don’t like them enough. It’s just about taking a long view of where to put your time, money, and shelf-space. On the flip-side, there were short 2-4 volume series that I got because they were so easy and affordable, but I don’t find myself pulling those out to reread the way I do with some longer series.

    I do support what Viz has been doing with large collected editions (which TokyoPop also tried). I hope they follow suite with HanaKimi, which was just republished a couple of years ago in Japan in a much more manageable large format. Collecting a long series in 12 large volumes rather than 26 small ones seems less daunting to start.

  • hamster428

    I’m late to this topic :D but I’d like to share my view anyway

    I tend to mostly collect series which are already completed in Japan. The whole waiting around doesn’t work very well with me (the years I followed Fruits Basket was painful). I do make exceptions sometimes though, either because there’s no urgency in completing the series or there exists a maddening love for it. For example, I could stand to wait for Kimi ni Todoke, which is quiet and unhurried itself. It may end or it may not, doesn’t matter to me. I read it at a leisure pace anyway. And then there’s something like 7 Seeds, which I won’t hesitate to pick up the moment they release the 1st volume in English. I’d probably kill myself wanting the next volume but I love it enough to start despite not having an end in sight.

    For me, 10+ is manageable. Once it goes over 20 is when it starts getting daunting. The few that I find worthwhile: Basara 27 vol, Kenshin 28 vol, Fruits Basket 23 vol, Red River 28 vol.
    I’m also getting Kekkaishi and Inuyasha, which, thank god for omnibus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *