Manga is not just manga
If you read Kingyo Used Books, Vol. 1, then you know the basic pattern of this series. Various individuals with various problems drift into the ream of Kingyo Used Bookstore and discover that the answer to their problems was in manga all the time.
Student Sekiguchi learns that Osamu Tezuka’s Adolph can teach him as much about history as his college professor. Bar hostess Anzu learns through the works of Miyazawa Kenji that dreams can give you the hope of a better life. Tough guy Ikaruga learns that even the most manly man can have a soft spot for something as simple as “Chisaina Koi no Monogatari,” and the young boy Kawai learns that sometimes you just gotta ride the rails and see where life takes you from reading Galaxy Express 999. Throughout these vignettes is the continuing story of Natsuki running the Kingyo Used Book store, and her own journey of falling in love with manga and seeing how much that fantasy world has to offer.
That sounds somewhat sentimental and self-serving, and it is a bit. Artist Seimu Yoshizaki is trying to send a message that manga is not disposable entertainment, but carries the power of youth and nostalgia, and that if adults can just hold onto a little bit of that childhood innocence then they would be happier individuals. I can get behind that. I still have boxes full of comics from when I was a kid, and few things make me happier than to dig them out and be transported back to a world of superheroes and power cosmic. I like Yoshizaki’s message.
The only problem with “Kingyo Used Books” is that most of us reading it in English did not grow up with these books. In fact, we have never heard of them, and two grown men the latest issue of “Chisaina Koi no Monogatari” carries no meaning for us. There are some powerful scenes that work well without this background. One of my favorites was when the student Sekiguchi is reading “Adolph,” and he passes an old man on the street and sees superimposed over his body a brave soldier in his prime. Through manga Sekiguchi has learned to see with his heart and mind as well as his eyes.
Of the manga in Volume 2, the only one I had read as a kid and had any association with was “Galaxy Express 999,” which happened to be the first Japanese anime that I had ever seen. Of course, that made the last story the most personally nostalgic. But still I think anyone with a lingering attachment to something from their childhood can relate to the feelings if not the actual comic books.