My Manga Story

What’s your manga story?

I suppose the same can be asked of any fandom. What’s your anime story, what’s your video game story, etc. But today, I’m sharing my manga story, and am interested in hearing your manga stories as well. I currently work in manga translation and manga has become a bigger part of my life than I ever dreamed, so I think sometimes it’s nice to go back.

For me, I had veered in and out of western comics in elementary school. I read some comics spun off from cartoons I liked, I tried to get into the X-Men comic several times after I got into the Fox cartoon, and I read the Sonic comics voraciously after Sonic SatAM went off the air on a cliffhanger. When I was about to enter middle school, a little show started airing in syndication that completely ignited my imagination and a newfound love of comics and animation that lasts to this day – Sailor Moon.

I’ve never been a morning person, but I got up early enough so I could watch Sailor Moon everyday at 6AM and still make the bus. The first episode I caught was during the Rainbow Crystal arc, when Molly, er, Naru (apologies, I’ll be using mostly Dic dub names, as that’s the version I saw at the time) was morning the death of her love interest Nephlyte, a villain who had been disposed of by his own colleagues. While no masterpiece, episode blew my mind with its balance of slice-of-life story (a girl mourning a deceased love and the friends trying to cheer her up and support her) and its action scenes featuring a female superhero. It was at once a perfect mixture of traditionally girly things (star-shaped lockets, skirts, female friendship, a dramatic story, and a search for a lost princess) and the action that I had loved from shows up to then that I had primarily seen as the realm of boys.

I loved it. I sought to get my friends into it. I watched every one of the 65 syndicated episodes that carried the series halfway through the second half of Sailor Moon R. I watched them again. But I wanted more. I knew it couldn’t be over – the last episode ended on a cliffhanger with all four of the Ayakashii Sisters free from Rubeus’ grasp, but Rini was still stuck in the past and the identity of her mother had just been revealed. And then the next airing started the series all over. It would be a few years before we got the rest of R dubbed. In the interim, my family moved and in the first few weeks at my new school, my parents took my siblings and I out to dinner and for a walk around the strip mall to go shopping before we went home.

I noticed a comic shop at the end of the strip mall and something in my head clicked. I remembered seeing in the credits of Sailor Moon “Based on the comics by Naoko Takeuchi”. I had asked around about it in the past, but had no luck finding a “Sailor Moon comic”. But my family and I headed into this new shop and not long after entering, I noticed a whole wall of things that looked like Sailor Moon. It was my first time seeing and identifying the anime and manga style of character art. And right in the center of it was a Japanese volume of Sailor Moon.

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Copyright Naoko Takeuchi, Kodansha

This one, to be exact. Well, not this one. This copy I bought a few years later. See, the comic shop owner wanted far more money than I had to spend for his copy of volume 18. But nevertheless, here it was, the “Sailor Moon comic”. Standing next to the owner was a woman who also worked there. It was the first time I remember seeing a female comic shop employee. She walked over and said, “you know, I think we have that series in English.” She walked me over to a shelf closer to the door and started telling me about this new magazine that had just started that specialized in manga – Japanese comics like Sailor Moon. She told me if I liked Sailor Moon, I would love the other girls’ manga running in this magazine too – Magic Knight Rayearth. She then handed me the very first issue of MixxZine.

She was right. Right after Sailor Moon, I read Rayearth. And Ice Blade. And Parasyte. Several times in fact. I called the conic shop and found out when the next volume would come out. And in the interim, I saved up babysitting money and began drawing. I inevitably subscribed to MixxZine, and through the rise and fall of the magazine that would become Tokyopop and the departure of Sailor Moon, I would find my way to other series, like the single issue releases of Dragonball Z, Ranma 1/2, InuYasha, and more. While my manga reading habits have waxed and waned over the years, it’s a passion that’s always stuck with me, one that has always influenced me. And I still enjoy it to this day.

So how about you? What’s your manga story? Post it in the comments or use the hashtag #MyMangaStory to share.

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