Earlier today I opened up Gmail and found the latest column from David Pogue at The New York Times waiting in my inbox. The column, entitled “What I Bought This Year,” is just that. Instead of a review of a newly released product, it’s a few paragraphs on the products that Pogue was willing to spend his own money on. He wrote, “People seem to be interested in what the consumer-tech columnist would buy for himself and his own family, so it seemed like a slam-dunk.” I was one of those interested people. And you know what? If I eventually find myself in the market for some of the products listed in that column, I’ll probably give the ones Pogue mentioned a hard look.
So, I thought to myself, “Maybe people are interested in what a manga blogger and librarian would buy for herself.” What I review and what I purchase for the library sometimes has little to do with my own taste or preferences. But I’m a pretty picky consumer in my private life. I very rarely buy a series for my own collection unless I’ve already sampled it (via library copies, copies borrowed from friends, or copies browsed at brick-and-mortar bookstores). And while I admire other people’s enormous collections, that’s just not practical for me. My shelf space is just too limited. And of course, there’s the budget. In short, I have to really, really like a series to start buying and collecting it.
So here’s an overview of what I bought in 2009. I’m listing standalones and series, but not the individual volumes within each series. I’m not including anything I received as a review copy, as a gift, or through a bookswap site; all of the below were acquired at my own expense.
20th Century Boys by Urasawa Naoki
I love how every few chapters Urasawa manages to make this series exponentially more awesome. It just gets better and better. This is one of the few series for which I regularly pre-order each volume. Also, for budget reasons, I have limited myself to collecting only one Urasawa series at a time, and I chose this over Pluto and Monster. Eventually, of course, I want them all!
After School Nightmare by Mizushiro Setona
This is a series I ended up buying completely out of order, because I first read it via library copies in Ann Arbor. I filled the last gap in my collection last week, though, and I slotted volume 4 into its spot on the shelf with great satisfaction. The imagery of the dream sequences in this series is unforgettable, and the story will surprise you. I especially love the character of Kureha.
Fruits Basket by Takaya Natsuki
Do I even have to explain this one? I am so pleased with how Takaya wrapped up the series; very few stories manage to create such genuine moments of eucatastrophe. And looking back, her foreshadowing is truly impressive.
Fullmetal Alchemist by Arakawa Hiromu
This series hasn’t quite wrapped up, but I love how it is charging into its finale. The tightness of the plotting and the awesomeness of its women characters really makes this stand out from the rest of the shōnen pack.
Hikaru no Go by Hotta Yumi and Obata Takeshi
I played go before I ever read manga; how could I not love this series? (Actually, it says a lot that people who actually play go mostly love Hikaru no Go; a lesser manga would have all the experts madly nitpicking at the details.) One of these days I will do a grand reread of the whole shebang and post on it. On a side note, I own a copy of the Korean edition of vol. 23 (the finale), which amuses me enormously for various spoilery reasons.
Honey and Clover by Umino Chica
I am not always happy with the very slangy translations in Viz’s editions, but my fondness for these characters means I am buying the books anyway. One of these days I’ll find time to sit down with volume 7.
Kimi ni Todoke by Shiina Karuho
This is a comfort read: sweet, funny, and not very complicated, even if Sawako’s loneliness at the beginning of the series does feel real. I hope Shiina can keep it up in future volumes.
Mushishi by Urushibara Yuki
I am so glad that Del Rey is publishing the omnibus 8/9/10 volume in 2010; if they’d left this series unfinished, I would have wanted to cry. I’m rooting for more stories about Ginko’s past before we reach the end.
Nabi by Kim Yeon-joo (김연주) – Korean editions
I picked up a couple more volumes of this fantasy series while I was in Seoul last month. It has some of my favorite sunjeong manhwa art. I only wish my Korean was more up to the task of reading it! (It’s very slow going with my dictionary. Very, very slow going.) Oh licensing Powers That Be, please pick this one up!
Nana by Yazawa Ai
I’m so far behind in collecting this series that it’s not funny, but I am continually amazed by its ability to pull my heart out of my chest and stomp all over it. (Oh, the tragedy!) And it only pulls off that trick because of how much I have come to like the characters.
Naruto by Kishimoto Masashi
I rarely buy Naruto new since Naruto Nation; at this point, I’m so far behind in collecting that I can only point at my shelves and laugh weakly. So my copies mostly come from bookswaps and used bookstores, which feels less wasteful. Sometimes I think I should donate all my copies to the library and give up on the whole thing!
Ouran High School Host Club by Hatori Bisco
For a long time, I was convinced that the anime adaptation was superior to the manga source–and I still think the anime version is pretty damn good–but Ouran won me over when the twins started breaking my heart. This is a recent addition to my buy list.
Saiyuki Reload by Minekura Kazuya
Volume 9 came out this year, so it’s on the list. (Insert usual plea for Saiyuki Gaiden here.) This was my gateway manga series, and my fondness for it has only grown since I first started reading it four years ago. Many manga series portray compelling fictive families, but the Sanzo ikkou remains one of my very favorite examples of them.
Sand Chronicles by Ashihara Hinako
Another series that didn’t impress me early on–I thought it was competent, but nothing more–but the most recent volumes blew me away. I am so impressed by the way it depicts the passage of time and the ups and downs of growing up. Few stories manage to be so perfectly bittersweet.
Silver Diamond by Sugiura Shiho
An unexpectedly charming series. I worried that Silver Diamond would be a casualty of Tpop’s budget issues, but volume 5 appears to be on their 2010 schedule. (Though who knows about volume 6?) My decision to buy this may have been particularly influenced by the talking snake, who is made of win.
Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle by CLAMP
Honestly, I occasionally regret collecting this one, because the latest volumes don’t quite live up to the potential the series had around the Acid Tokyo arc. But since there’s only four more volumes to go (it ends at 28), I’ll probably stick with it until the end. The William Flanagan translations make up for a lot, too!
xxxHolic by CLAMP
I was completely indifferent to this series after the first volume, but I am now enormously fond the main cast, especially Yuko and Watanuki. And, oh, the art! Some of CLAMP’s earlier art leaves me cold, but I love the style they’ve adopted here.
Yotsuba&! by Azuma Kiyohiko
I may have gotten vol. 7 as a review copy (w00t!), but the others came out of pocket. This is the manga series I most want to make my non-manga-reading friends read, and I am collecting it partly so I can lend it to others.
Or rather, standalone, since there’s only one…
Fly by Kim Yeon-joo (김연주) – Korean edition
Short story collection, also picked up during my recent trip to Seoul. Much of what I wrote about Nabi above applies here. I just really love Kim’s art, and I’m looking forward to having some time to sit down with this one properly.
Off the list and on hold
There are several series that I used to collect that I’m no longer collecting, at least not actively. A lot of the series that have slid off my list are from Shonen Jump; I may have a weakness for some Jump tropes (I will protect my precious person! I will work harder and get stronger!), but my patience has worn thin with the pacing of some of them (see: Bleach).
I’m still fond of Blade of the Immortal, but I only own about a third of the run at this point. Since I not-so-secretly hope that Dark Horse will publish unflipped second editions someday, I am putting off buying new volumes for a while.
I’ve enjoyed Chrono Nanae’s Peace Maker and Peace Maker Kurogane off and on, but the series being on indefinite hiatus is not inspiring me to finish collecting it.
So there’s my list–probably a lot longer than some and a lot shorter than others. It’ll be interesting to look at it in a year and see what’s changed! (I suspect I’ll be buying a lot more since I’ll be on the GGNFT committee.) What’s on and off your lists?