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Manga: The Complete Guide    by Jason Thompson order for
by Jason Thompson
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

While comic books in the United States struggle to be accepted as a legitimate medium, comics in Japan or manga are a mainstream medium read by children and adults alike. But even in the United States, manga is catching on just as fast as domestically produced graphic novels. Dozens of titles are released every week from the major manga publishers. Keeping track of all the new titles can be difficult even for hardcore fans who scout the bookstores every week. But neophytes can feel overwhelmed, confused, and lost among the stacks and shelves of new manga books out there. So Jason Thompson has created a comprehensive guide illustrating the range and categories of manga currently published in the United States.

Though brief, the reviews contain a significant amount of information that can help direct readers towards titles they might find appealing. Each entry includes the English name but also the phonetic Japanese spelling and Japanese characters of each title, along with the artists' names, English-language publisher, genre, number of volumes, and several other interesting if not essential bits of information. Of course this is followed by a brief description of the series, often placing it within the totem of works and indicating its overall merit as manga. The descriptions seem fairly succinct and direct. However the star ratings accorded to each series prove less useful.

In addition to some 900 reviews, Thompson offers additional insight into the world of manga via brief primers on a variety of topics. His introduction gives background description, but doesn't over burden the reader with too much information - just enough to give some perspective on manga. Splashed throughout many pages, readers will catch one or two panels of a particularly popular series that Thompson injects into the guide to add to what could be a monotonous flow of reviews. But one of Thompson's best tools is the alphabetic insertion of numerous short essays into his guide. Each covers a very specific genre or subgenre of manga and discusses its background as well as the major titles associated with it. These prove to be the guide's ultimate tool to help readers better focus their interests and get the most out of the book.

Thompson is fairly extensive in his work, but also clearly communicates what his guidelines and standards are for inclusion into this collection. Besides the reviews, he provides a comprehensive look at the many elements of manga and therefore undoubtedly earns his work the title of The Complete Guide to Manga.

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