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Kingyo Used Books Volume 1

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Kingyo Used Books Volume 1 by Seimu Yoshizaki, from VIZ Signature / VIZ Media

Kingyo Used Books Volume 1

KINGYOYA KOSHOTEN © 2005 Seimu YOSHIZAKI / Shogakukan

The Bottom Line

Feeling lonely, aimless, and that you've lost touch with the world? With yourself? Well, there's a little used manga shop — a little out of the way and down by the river — but I assure you that they'll have exactly what you've been looking for... Even if you didn't know you were looking for anything at all!

Kingyo Used Books is a lovely collection of short stories featuring the slightly off-kilter employees of a near-magical bookstore selling used manga, and the people they help and the lives they change. It's an entertaining read, and surprisingly educational, with tons of information about rare manga!

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Pros

  • Utterly unique premise.
  • Shines a wonderful light on rare manga and its place in Japanese culture.
  • A bibliophile's paradise! It introduces so many manga you'll want to read!

Cons

  • Who can afford - or even find - all of these manga?
  • The story veers dangerously close to 'saccharine' on several occasions.
  • The titles of the Japanese manga are translated, making it difficult to find info about the series.

Description

Guide Review - Kingyo Used Books Volume 1

Humble shopkeeper Natsuki, obsessive otaku Shiba, grandfatherly owner Keitaro, and a slew of other oddballs working at Kingyo Used Books will help you find your heart's desire-so long as it's manga.

The first story, "The Components of Memory" sets the stage and is probably the strongest overall: Shopkeeper Natsuki encounters an upwardly mobile young man looking to sell his manga collection, "putting away his childish things," as it were. But at a class reunion where all of his friends have taken different directions in their lives, it's a discussion of the manga they loved as kids (and still love today) that unites them. A quick "class trip" to Kingyo Used Books and a jolt of power is felt, a woman is reduced to tears, all by the power of manga and a strange little shop that sells it!

It's got touches of magical realism, of destiny, and a deeply sentimental appreciation of manga as a gateway to memory and through time. As a manga lover it's difficult to do anything but love this series. Which isn't to say that the author doesn't try to dissuade you.

The fourth chapter introduces the character "Billy", the grandson of Kingyo's owner and a man who has remade himself in the image of the titular hero of the 1950s manga series Billy Puck. The author seems to ask us not just to embrace manga, but also all of the eccentric, possibly disturbed folks who love it. While the characters respond to the improbable weirdo as "AMAZING!" I instead found him distracting, as he draws attention to the fact that Kingyo is, itself, a manga series, with fantastic and credulity-straining events introduced for dramatic purpose. It's unfortunate because the book had a much lighter-touch to this point, and one that served it better. Luckily Billy is "written-out" fairly quickly, and you can hardly fault the author for wanting readers to embrace an oddball character like someone they know... or themselves.

Easily the best part of the book though is the manga. It's hard not to be interested in all of the series Kingyo describes, as they literally change the life (for the better) of the person who reads them! It's a bit of a double-edged sword though, as none of the series' mentioned in Kingyo Used Books Volume 1 are currently available in English.

The book provides excellent and detailed information about the various manga as a bonus feature, and the margins are littered with editor's notes on all of the manga mentioned by the characters. My only complaint is that the manga titles are translated into English rather than being written phonetically in romanji, making it difficult to track down further information on these books.

I enjoyed this volume and am looking forward to the rest; its small failings are more than made up for by the charming, nostalgia-tinged world that Seimu Yoshizaki has created.

Christopher Butcher blogs daily at Comics212.net.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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