Manga and Exposure to the Medium

One less place to buy books and legally purchase manga.

For someone who has spent a fair share of money in Borders the news that Borders is going down hit me, but not only because a major book store chain was in serious trouble but also because the way I see it it is also a setback for the medium in general. Compared to anime, manga isn’t the most prominent or popular among fans and moreso less popular among the public. 

Manga is not cheap and I can understand why many don’t buy as much as much as they would like to, as I also would like to purchase manga more often. I know the feeling well.  Personally, I used to reserve a certain amount of money to buy some manga I knew I just had to buy. Part of it was also the mentally that I was doing the right thing and support the industry even if I was blowing part of my allowance when I could easily get it for free. Sure, I could be spending on other superficial stuff like expanding further my wardrobe and buying some expensive clothing brands only because of its name only. Or for a chance I could be giving back what I’ve been given plenty of times. Luckily, there were ways to soften the blow to continue to thank companies for their patronage over the years. Here is where beside from regular buying I liked about Borders and found that like also other stores they had a positive impact in people new to the medium.

It Had Deals

Borders scored some high points with me back in the day when I found they had these great deals of buy 2 manga then get the 3rd one free which eventually became buy 3 then get the 4th one free or something very similar. Well, that’s the idea. I really liked these deals because it motivated people to buy more manga which meant they could complete a whole collection as well as giving them a chance to explore other titles as well, which I’m sure it was the strategy to begin with. I could buy two volumes of manga of a series I really liked then the third book could be from a title I was planning on checking out. I could also buy two and the third one would complete the collection that I wanted. Buy some manga get another free sounded reasonable and tactical. Some of these deals became rare and rarer as the years went on but it was a great strategy to attract customers that were manga shy.

I’m going to emphasize something that Borders and these business did (and still do) for the medium and for fans  in places where anime and manga aren’t popular.

It gave manga Exposure

I know that it may not seem like much, but I think the medium needed that. Depending on where you live manga (and anime) might not be so popular or even be known much. I was surprised to find that there were comments left by anime fans that complained that in their country no one seemed to know or was into anime/manga and that apparently they were the only ones. Anime is popular enough that more than once I’ve seen in some lectures students sport some type of anime related products or make some reference to the medium (the occasion played out that way). Anime and manga are (still) becoming and are in the process of becoming extremely popular in the world that in a couple of more years it’d be more difficult to encounter people that have not at least heard of the medium. Though as many anime fans and moreso long time anime fans know the medium can be highly misrepresented and misunderstood – further exposition and a better representation of the medium can help earn some positive points with newcomers and the general public. There’s always a part of me that wishes for the world to know that there’s more to anime than Pokemon and Adult Swim shounen, and even those shows can be misunderstood. In the worst case scenario they’ll know more than they want to and in the best scenario they’ll gain a far more cultivated idea of anime and manga is about than they did before. We have little to lose here.

manga cafes where you can read lots of manga. Knowing me I couldn’t concentrate. Still great idea

And Beyond

The fall of stores such as Borders is regrettable enough because people will be losing their jobs and also because this is also a set back – great or minor – for the medium where anime and manga had little exposure. The medium could benefit from gaining more positive exposure. Anime has already gotten its spot on TV, manga I still don’t see it as a big thing. Things are slowly changing and book stores company have to come up new and better ideas to make business the best way they can so this doesn’t repeat in other places.

To my surprise (and for those who didn’t know either) there are places like manga cafes which I thought were only in Japan, now available in some areas. Who knows maybe they could be a possible solution to look into for these book stores, if not it could use some tweaking to make it work. Manga Cafes are still rare, though personally I think that this is a step in the right direction and worth looking into for the medium to have more exposure and for these companies.

From the cashier that recognized that seinen manga at the checkout and praised me for it then proceeded to put the manga in an anime related bag of a show I hadn’t heard of that made me feel a slightly uncomfortable. To those other curious buyers that gave you an odd look because while you were going to buy some 4kidz material they were probably saw when they randomly turned on the TV. To the lady that had never heard of manga before and wondered what was you were buying. To the cashier that secretly had a good idea what manga was and nodded at you. Buying at Borders was an experience. A mixed bag at times but still an experience. It wasn’t the fan wearing anime related products, one making anime clubs, or engaging in anime related conversations. Borders and these type of stores were (are) the place for manga and books and where anime were at mixed with the dozens of other books with a subtle message that said:  “Anime and manga is here and it is here to stay”

Giving credits to Border but also speaking generally like I have, the exposure that these stores give anime and manga is the message that they are near you. There will always be other ways to purchase manga, however, only a few will actually get to see manga around them. Right there in the shelves. Accessible. Palpable. Manga actually near you and for the world to see. Not the end of the world, for there will other stores that will do similarly, however the point is that manga had its place in these stores in the sea of books. Visible. Right in the open and everyone who also went to these stores could also get an idea of what manga was making it possible for them to have the chance to find out for themselves if they would randomly one day become interested and tactfully skimp through some of the material out of curiosity and think that it was totally different from what they originally imaged. This is not so bad they thought. Maybe they could grow to like it after all.

Good bye, Borders. Good bye.

10 thoughts on “Manga and Exposure to the Medium

  1. I have a little different take on the experience with cashiers. I always seemed to get glances of pity whenever I bought manga at Borders or B&N. I eventually turned to buying normal books with them, or just going to Amazon.

    • That’s strange, No one ever treated me any different from buying manga. In fact, When I started my rape of all manga at my local Borders on Friday, I even got help from the cashier, suggesting that she believes they had another volume of the manga I was purchasing, which had apparently just came out. I didn’t care enough to buy it though, but it was still nice.

      Borders closure is bad news for everyone.

    • Those Genshiken back covers can do a number on some people I swear. Totally NOT doujinshi guys!
      (no really they just look like that)

  2. Whenever I bought something, it didn’t matter what, the cashier was the same one at every Borders I went to (granted, where I live). I have no idea how that was possible. She would always talk to me, usually a lecture about how things were different in other places. She was quite nice.
    But, since books are only getting more expensive, I usually go to used book stores. And let me tell you, those places didn’t use to carry manga, but they are starting to.
    There’s even one that had a manga and graphic novel section that was bigger than several Borders I have been to.

    • Manga is getting more exposure, that’s for sure. I think you’ve confirmed this again. Personally, I’m all for seeing more book stores have larger variety in stock so it can meet everyone’s taste.

  3. It’s interesting. Lately I’ve been noticing more and more local libraries where I live (Australia) which stock at least some manga. Some will be limited to your Naruto and One Piece manga, maybe with a splash of Azumanga Daioh, but others are very up-to-date and full of variety. It’s definitely a culture that’s taking the world by storm. I wonder if soon Japan won’t be able to call Manga and Anime their exclusive property anymore.

    • Up-do-date? Those are some awesome libraries. Mine probably don’t have an idea what manga are.

      I mean with libraries, book stores and now with manga cafes (outside of Japan!) we are slowly giving the medium more exposure. Maybe other countries will follow, assuming they aren’t already. I think it’s undeniable that the medium is taking over more than ever. Brace yourselves to what we’re in for in the next years :)

  4. I’ve been fairly lucky–every time after work or when I commute from school to come home, Borders was about a block away. Now I guess it won’t be there anymore. Penn Plaza will look so strange without it -_-

    My personal thought was manga was getting more exposure–moreso than anime (there was hardly a selection in Borders), and that more works (like Wandering Son, Princess Knight) that you think wouldn’t fit was coming over. Borders was a contributor to that since they’ve promoted deals and had an actual manga section in the bookstore. It’s very unfortunate that its going away, but times have changed so much…now I’ll be going to Midtown Comics or Kinokuniya…

    • Let manga come over to where we are, there is plenty for everybody.

      In addition to manga, light novels (still a rarity) are also coming over which is another sign that the medium is getting bigger outside of Japan. Regrettable as it is we probably can’t do anything for Borders now, but everyone who can they could keep an eye for other book stores so they don’t follow the same fate while they come up with better strategies to remain in business.

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