It Came From The Book Store Part II

Portland

My wife and I visited Portland earlier this month. Less than 3 miles from our hotel was the world’s biggest store that sells used and new books. Powell’s was heaven for a bookworm such as myself! I could have spent hours days in there. There are 3 locations in Oregon and of course I had to hit up all 3. I picked up a handful of graphic novels (the comic medium is my favorite these days), and can’t think of a better time than to launch part 2 of my “It Came From The Book Store” series (the first one was written almost 8 months ago). But rather than just show you the 14 books I picked up, I’ll share some of the sights we saw in Portland along the way as well.

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The Powell’s location in Burnside covers an entire city block! Incredibly insane. Walking down the first flight of stairs, I immediately ran into the graphic novel section for kids and young adults. As much as I love and appreciate manga, there might be a (big) part of me that enjoys graphic novels even more. I love their bright colors, beautiful artwork, and awesome sturdy design (flip through one and admire the craftmanship and even the smell of the ink). So at Powell’s, some of the books are new while some are used which can be as much as 50% off the cover price. It’s oddly addictive to flip a book over hoping to find a gently used copy for half off or so. It felt like a mini treasure hunt. If I didn’t already own it and it was marked used at 30-50% off, in the basket it went!

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For example, this hardcover graphic novel retails for $22.99. Luckily I found a used copy nearly half off for $11.98. I love how they list the date of the item’s arrival. It’s neat to see how long it’s been sitting in the store. Or conversely, how recently it came in. The latter is always satisfying because you feel like right place, right time! Or maybe that’s just me :P

Graphic novels for days. Graphic novels galore!
Graphic novels for days. Graphic novels galore!

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I love reading these little staff pick cards. Coincidentally, I recently bought Odessa online prior to this Portland trip. I had no idea Jonathan Hill lives in Portland. Nice to see the hometown support. Haven’t read Odessa yet but it looks like a compelling post-apocalyptic adventure.

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His latest work was just published, Tales of a Seventh Grade Lizard Boy. Looks like a fun read for anyone who has ever felt they don’t quite fit in.

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We visited Cosmic Monkey Comics next. Mad respect to them for displaying this shrine, devoted entirely to iconic mangaka (manga artists) such as Osamu Tezuka, Junji Ito and Naoki Urasawa just to name a few. Extra brownie points for including Taiyō Matsumoto!

Impressive manga section
Impressive manga selection
We rode the tram next to get a nice view of Portland
We rode the tram to get a nice view of Portland
Quite lovely
Quite lovely

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For lunch we found ourselves at a quaint spot with 3 restaurant choices. My wife had chicken and rice from Nong’s Khao Man Gai, and me being a sandwich lover I went with Snappy’s, supposedly a local favorite. Their decor adds such a nostalgic flare to the cozy deli store. It felt like I was transported back to the mid ’90s!

Id love to know the backstory to the VHS boxes
I’d love to know the backstory to the VHS boxes
Too bad the sandwich was only OK :P
Too bad the sandwich was only OK :P

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We visited St. Helens (about 45 minutes from our hotel) to see their Halloween Town display. This is the exact location where the 1998 movie was filmed.

All sorts of spooky sights on hand
All sorts of spooky sights on hand
This was a bit creepy
This was a bit creepy
I never saw the movie but my wifes siblings like it
I never saw the movie but my wife’s siblings like it
Lets go explore
Let’s go explore
What we found!
What we found!
Love all the horror movie villain references
Love all the horror movie villain references

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Speaking of ghosts, I bought the collected edition of Brody’s Ghost which collects all 6 volumes in a 600 page tome. It’s one of those harder to find Dark Horse graphic novels so it can go for $50 online. Powell’s had a slightly beat up copy for $35 (no tax in Oregon) so I bit the bullet. But that same day I found it on eBay for $14.99 Buy It Now. I’d planned to buy it later that night but then the seller sent me a $9.99 offer. Talk about patience being a virtue!

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“Mix in a pinch of The Sixth Sense with a dash of The Karate Kid and a bit of The Crow, and you’ll start to get a feel for Brody’s Ghost.” Mighty fine (and tantalizing) blurb from Wired on the back cover.

The note I left the overly generous eBay seller
The note I left the overly generous eBay seller

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So after Halloween Town, I told my wife I’d like to return Brody’s Ghost and that it might be fun to watch Smile. If so, it would be our first movie in a theater since September 2021 when we saw Shang Chi over a year ago! So I Googled Powell’s and found a location in Beaverton where magically there happened to be the only late night showing of Smile. Our trip was winding down and we had wanted to try Killer Burger before leaving Oregon. Luckily, there also happened to be a Killer Burger in the same plaza as Powell’s! The book store, burger joint and movie theater were all within a half mile of one another. Serendipity!

It was very good!
It was very good!

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The Powell’s location in Beaverton is tucked away in a small mall. I remember seeing the store sign looming in the horizon and getting all excited, ha!

Almost there!
Almost there!
I could spend hours here
I could spend hours here. The store was massive

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During the return I was chatting it up with the cashier. I found out he grew up in the same area as I did. It was pretty random but super cool. As mentioned earlier, I returned Brody’s Ghost because an eBay user sold it to me for under $15.

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After returning the book and enjoying our greasy burgers, we caught Smile in the nearby theater. We both liked it a lot. It felt a bit like It Follows but even better. I highly recommend it. It was way better than that piece of crap Halloween Ends.

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On a random note, we saw a screening of this film a few days in advance. I was so disappointed. They did Halloween fans dirty. Go watch Smile instead…

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In total, I bought 14 books from the 3 Powell’s locations. Let me share quickly each book and a sample page :)

Looks like a blast. Cant wait to read
Looks like a blast. Can’t wait to read
WHAT IS THAT?!
WHAT IS THAT?!
Looks absolutely bonkers. Instant buy :P
Looks absolutely bonkers. Instant buy :P
I have the first book in this series. Really vibrant
I have the first book in this series. Really vibrant
Told ya!
Told ya!
Another title I never heard of before
Another title I never heard of before
I'm such a sucker for coming of age shit!
I’m such a sucker for coming of age shit!
Another one I wasn't aware of
Another one I wasn’t aware of
Unique artstyle
Unique art style
Love that cover. Absolutely intriguing
Love that cover. Absolutely intriguing
Huge fan of the atmosphere the art evokes
Huge fan of the atmosphere that the art evokes
The sequel was another no brainer buy
The sequel was another no brainer buy
I bought the last in the trilogy after I got home :P
I bought the last in the trilogy after I got home :P
I think this one has Back to the Future vibes
I think this one has Back to the Future vibes
Beautiful art
Beautiful simplistic art
Another title I never heard of
Another title I never heard of
You had me at hello
Nothing divine about this face!
I'm so done with zombies. Not, haha
I’m so done with zombies. Or not, haha
At half off and in pristine condition its hard to resist
Art is definitely on the sillier and zanier side
I also love graphic novels that are about real life
I also love graphic novels that are about real life
About a boy with ADHD. Done in memoir style
About a boy with ADHD. Done in memoir style
Here's another realistic one
Here’s another realistic one. Love the title pun
Love how super appealing the art is
Love how super appealing the art is
Sick little Halloween display
Sick little Halloween display
Sorry for messing it up. I had to buy this one!
Sorry for messing it up. I had to buy this one!
Not a graphic novel but I still love my prose books!
Not a graphic novel but I still love my prose books!
The 14th and final book I bought while in Oregon
The 14th and final book I bought while in Oregon
Now let's see if they will all fit in my luggage...
Now let’s see if they will all fit in my luggage…
These sturdy hardcovers made for a solid foundation
These sturdy hardcovers made for a solid foundation
Love the perfect fit!
Love the perfect fit!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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We had a great time in Portland. We ate at a ton of food carts. I had a blast at my book stores. We video chatted with my parents multiple times a day so that we could see our almost 5 month old son, Owen. Portland was a lovely little getaway but we were ready to go home and be with Owen again. I hope to take him when he’s around 6 or 7 years old. I have a feeling he’ll grow up liking books, ha! And that he would feel like a kid in a candy store at Powell’s, where the aisles stretch on as far as the eye can see. My wife also wants to see the leaves change colors, which unfortunately we went too early to be able to see. So anyway, hope you enjoyed this little trip to Portland with me. Until next time!

So much sifting through and reading their recs!
So much fun to sift through and to read their recs!

MANGA MANIA!

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Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s I was an avid reader. I loved the wild ride a great book would take me on. Getting swept up in a grand adventure from the coziness of my bed was largely appealing. Whenever I wasn’t gaming or hanging out with my childhood best friend, my nose was most likely buried in a (scary) book. In 2019, after years — nay, DECADES — of not caring much for books, I got back into reading in a big way. I started off collecting all my favorite childhood books, as well as the ones I never read but had always wanted to. It was eerily similar to my SNES resurrection from 2006. History was indeed repeating itself. But then I started branching out from simple chapter books. I got into collecting pulpy horror paperbacks, sci-fi, and eventually the odd graphic novel here and there. Outside of a few comics back in the day, I never really delved into the comic medium. My wife used to joke, “Please don’t ever get into manga or comics.” Exactly one year ago, I somehow did. This article will highlight my descent into manga madness over the past 365 days. But first we have to start from the very beginning. Let’s see now… ahhhh, it all started when…

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Although I loved illustrations growing up, I actually didn’t read much comics outside of Garfield as a kid. That and an old Chinese comic series by the name of Old Master Q. I didn’t know how to read the language, but my uncle was more than eager to turn those comics into story time. I fondly remember many Saturday nights in the late ’80s chilling in the backyard on a cool crisp night as my uncle would read the comics to my brother and me.

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Old Master Q was created by Alfonso Wong (1925-2017) and is considered a legendary Chinese comic for its long running history. These simple comics often consisted of single page six panels, with limited text. A lot of it was pretty universal so that even a little kid who didn’t understand a lick of Chinese could enjoy. I’m not even sure if my uncle could read it; he might have just used his imagination to fill in the blanks. Regardless of his method, my brother and I ate it up. It was a wonderful way to spend a lazy Saturday night back in those good old days of late 1980s suburban life.

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Old Master Q comics were sold at lots of random little places. We always bought them at a local Asian grocery store. I remember the ducks hanging in the window right as you walked by. Believe it or not, it still exists to this day — that picture was taken just last week and brought back a wave of nostalgic memories! I hadn’t been back to that plaza in at least 25 years.

The classic gigantic lion statue still stands as well
The classic gigantic lion statue still stands as well

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Of course back then there were no translations. Apparently “scanlations” (as they call it) now exist. But as I said, the illustrations usually spoke for itself, so the language barrier did not matter as much. And with a crazy uncle dramatically filling in the blanks, it was almost better than movie night. Old Master Q was just really fun. I loved it whenever they featured supernatural elements. Some of those ghostly images are burned into my brain 35+ years later!

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This is where one might think I fell in love with comics and became a lifelong fan. Actually, I mainly stuck to chapter books and somehow never got into the comic or manga scene. But Old Master Q definitely made me appreciate the comic medium, and I’m sure somewhere deep down it became a dormant love that would one day naturally sprout. And sprout it did…

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Saturday, August 21, 2021. I just completed my first teaching week back at school for the first time since that fateful day of March 13, 2020 (coincidentally a Friday the 13th) when news broke that we would be shutting down (as did all schools across the country) due to the lethal wide spread of COVID-19. As luck would have it, my class had a case that first Thursday, so on Friday August 20th my class was shut down for the day. I had to do contact tracing with my principal. It was weird and a difficult time. The following day, my wife and I decided to get out of town for a little bit. We drove out an hour to grab some lunch and visit a board game store she had been meaning to check out. There was a Half Price Books nearby, so I dragged her along reluctantly. Normally I never bother to browse the manga section, but for whatever reason my feet led me there that day. It was a decision that proved to be a game changer, for better or for worse. There on the shelf I spotted a beautiful thick spine (I’m a sucker for such things, you see). It was omnibus volume 1 of Samurai Executioner by Kazuo Koike.

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I quickly pulled it off the shelf to further inspect it. It was a 750+ page monstrosity. It looked so badass and immediately piqued my interest. It was like one of those “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!” moments. I marveled at all the amazing black and white illustrated panels. Other than Garfield, I had never read any comic books or manga in my entire life. For whatever reason, I just never dipped my toe into that ocean. It was as though comics and I were two ships passing in the night. Maybe now it was time to change that. Still, I remained hesitant. Mainly because it had a sticker price of $29.99. Even after my 10% teacher discount, that would be $30 for a book that originally retailed for $19.99.

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I was at a loss for words. I had never seen a book at Half Price Books priced as anything more than half the cover price. Hence the store name of Half Price! So this told me right off the bat that Samurai Executioner was a different kind of breed. I stood there holding the book for what felt like 20 minutes, talking myself into it and then out back and forth. In the end, I found myself placing the omnibus back on the shelf. I just couldn’t justify the $30 price tag. I couldn’t pull the trigger.

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But I did pull the proverbial trigger on Infinite Kung Fu, which was an oversized graphic novel by Kagan McLeod. It was only $12 and that was a bullet I was more than willing to bite. I saw Infinite Kung Fu as sort of compensation for not buying Samurai Executioner.

Mixes kung fu with zombies? SOLD!
Kung fu mixing with zombies?  SOLD!

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Of course, over the next few days my decision not to buy it dominated my every waking moment. By Monday night I had decided I had made a mistake. To rectify that, I was going to drive the long two hour journey (both ways) to pick it up. Tuesday evening, August 24, 2021. After getting out of work late due to a staff meeting and getting my classroom in order for the following day, I arrived at Half Price Books a little after 7 PM. I eagerly ran to the manga section to pluck Samurai Executioner off the shelf. This time I would not blink. (It also turned out that $30 at that time was actually a decent price for it compared to the going rate online). But a pit in my stomach swelled as I glanced at the shelf and saw it was no longer there *insert dramatic gasp*

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I looked up and down the shelves three times, going through the five stages of grief in my typical overly dramatic fashion. It was worse than a gut punch. It felt like I had been decapitated. (Sorry, as stated I tend to have a super dramatic mindset from time to time). In the end, I realized I was simply too late. I regretted not biting the bullet the previous Sunday. Should have known once I left the store that day that it wouldn’t still be there a few short days later. That’s just how these things go. I started to browse other aisles when I saw a guy (probably in his early 40s) carrying a basket. And in that basket — sure enough, because the manga gods have a cruel sense of humor — was that very $30 Samurai Executioner copy! And that’s when I went through the five stages of grief AGAIN for a second time all within 10 minutes. Adding insult to injury, now I knew on top of being too late that I was late by no more than probably 10 minutes! If ONLY I had gotten to the store EVEN JUST a measly 30 minutes earlier… UGH! I was really kicking myself then and there.

I still have some PTSD about that experience...
I still have some PTSD about that experience…

Things got bleak and almost took a dark turn. I got so desperate that the thought of tailing him around the store, hoping to see if he might remove the copy from his basket due to a change of heart, crossed my mind. In another scene, I envisioned myself snatching it from his basket once he put it down and got distracted browsing for more books to buy. That’s when I knew I had to go home. Just the thought of that made me feel disgusted with myself. I cannot and would never sink so low. I made the long hour drive back in defeat and disappointment.

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It was a hard lesson learned: sometimes you just gotta pull the trigger because you might not get a second shot. At least in the wild. Thankfully, with the internet, unless a book is out of print and super rare, odds are you can buy almost anything your heart desires. Sometimes you need a little patience and a lot of money of course, but life is what you make of it. I eventually bought all four omnibus volumes of Samurai Executioner within the month and my little Half Price episode became a distant memory.

Ended up buying volume 4 the very next day
Ended up buying volume 4 the very next day
Alls well that ends well
All’s well that ends well

MY FIRST MANGA

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Samurai Executioner wasn’t my first manga purchase, however. Back in 2019 when I was going on my crazy Sunday Goodwill runs with my girlfriend (now my wife), I came across The Gods Lie. At the time I didn’t care for manga whatsoever but it was in great condition and at $1.99 it was hard to pass up on. That and it looked like something I would enjoy reading one day if I ever made time for it.

Gorgeous spread!
Gorgeous spread!
I'm reading it right now and it's pretty fun so far
I’m reading it right now and it’s pretty fun so far

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On another Goodwill run, I ran across Triton of the Sea omnibus volume 1. There was a considerable blemish affecting the cover and the first few pages but the rest of it was unmarred. The back cover revealed that it was a Kickstarter project retailing for $19.99. At $1.99 it was a no-brainer buy, even though my interest in manga was very minimal. I picked it up with the idea that it would be fun to read one day and who knows, maybe I will get into manga at some point. And if not, it was only 2 bucks. The back cover also boasted that Triton was created by Osamu Tezuka, the legendary mangaka of Astro Boy. I heard of Astro Boy over the years and had some faint understanding that Tezuka was sort of the grandfather of manga. That’s good enough for my $2.

Definitely can't wait to delve into Tezuka's works
Definitely can’t wait to delve more into Tezuka’s work

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In a moment of sheer serendipity, after developing a passion for manga in August of 2021, about a month later I ran across a copy of Astro Boy omnibus 1. I did some Googling and found out that the entire series was published over 7 thick omnibus volumes from Dark Horse. I bought all 7 volumes in my first transaction off Mercari.

Love that thick red spine
Love that thick red spine and image!
The spines lined up are so gloriously satisfying
The spines lined up are so gloriously satisfying

Osamu Tezuka created many classic manga series, such as Phoenix, Black Jack and the aforementioned Astro Boy. I’ve read a few of his works already; they truly are time machines to a bygone era. His work can feel a bit archaic at times, but they are also timeless in many ways. Ah, so many great manga waiting to be read and so little time!

Tezuka's legacy will outlive us all
Tezuka’s legacy will outlive us all

THE THRILL OF THE HUNT

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The internet can definitely be awesome. Over the past year I’ve gotten so many good deals on manga. Early on, particularly those first five months from August to December of 2021, endless packages were arriving nonstop. Things were getting crazy. I was brand new to the hobby and there was so much I wanted that it was easy to find something new I wanted. A slow day would consist of receiving three packages! I suddenly became very familiar with the mailman just like during my Sega Saturn and Super Nintendo days when I was buying them left and right. Few things are as satisfying as waiting on some big packages and seeing that FedEx truck pull up in your neighborhood. It’s a glorious sight, indeed. But buying online will never match the thrill of finding things for cheap in the wild. Whether it’s at Half Price Books, Goodwill or local used book stores, finding a (rare) manga series on the cheap can’t be beat! Here are just some of my more memorable finds…

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Almost found a full set of Hana-Kimi at Goodwill for only $1.99 each! They were in amazing condition as well. I was a little disappointed it didn’t include volumes 1-3 but that very same day just mere hours later…

I found them at Half Price for $5 each! Meant to be
… I found them at Half Price! Meant to be

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Love visiting Half Price because you never know what you might find in the manga section. Some series can be seriously scalped online for ridiculous prices, but Half Price usually sells them for half off. That’s how I was able to find many of the beautiful Shaman King singles for cheap.

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I say usually because some Half Price locations can be shady and scalp their manga at ridiculous prices, sometimes even higher than what they go for online. I always chuckle when I see such crazy prices. It all depends on the manager and the person pricing the manga. Most are cool but some can be very greedy. As a general rule of thumb, be patient and don’t spend more than you’re willing. Most manga will eventually be available for a more reasonable price.

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Definitely not rare by any means, but picked up Bakuman 11-20 for $4.50 each. I love that instant collection feeling when you find half (or more) of a series in one go.

A manga series many older fans will fondly recall
A manga series many older fans will fondly recall
$4.50 each after my 10% teacher discount, score!
$4.50 each after my 10% teacher discount, score!

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There are currently 27 volumes of D. Gray-Man. Was so lucky to run into these for cheap. Like I said, there’s nothing like the thrill of the hunt. You never know what you might find any given time you enter a book store. And it’s all about being at the right place at the right time.

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Occasionally I’ll run into a random series that I might not be interested in buying online, especially at some of those insane prices, but if I see it for cheap in the wild I’m more willing to give it a shot! See Kitchen Princess. Besides, you know I’m just a sucker for those thick spines and omnibus editions! As a fun aside, did you know that Squid Games was based off Kaiji: Gambling Apocalypse?

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I’ll buy manga once in a while from Barnes and Noble as well. I love that educators get a 20% discount. Twice a year during teacher appreciation week we even get 25% off. Man, did I pick the right profession or what? Earlier this month I discovered a new series (actually an old series finally translated to English) by the name of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. It’s supposedly one of the most beloved manga series ever created, ranking in the top 50 currently on the website MyAnimeList. I cannot wait to delve into it!

One of the best slice-of-life manga out there
Supposedly one of the best slice-of-life manga ever
The colors shimmer in the light. So gorgeous!
The letters shimmer in the light. So gorgeous!
My very first RightStufAnime order
My very first RightStufAnime order :)

I also shop on RightStufAnime, which is a famous website for manga lovers. They used to sell manga at a 25% discount rate with free shipping and no tax. Sadly, over the past year the site kept going downhill with some unfavorable changes. 25% discount got reduced to 20% and now tax is charged depending on the state you live in. Bummer. It hasn’t been the same since.

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I have fond memories of hunting down all 18 volumes of Inuyasha the VizBig editions back in late 2021. The hardest to find volumes were numbers 8, 14 and 16. I drove 2 hours and 15 minutes to a Barnes and Noble to buy those 3 harder to find volumes right around Christmas time. It was well worth the drive.

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On that same trip I picked up Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service omnibus volume 4. It was the last copy within a 250 mile radius and the first 3 omnibus volumes were already costing an arm and leg online. So I didn’t want to miss out on volume 4! Volume 5 is finally being released later this month on August 30, 2022, so it’s been a good while between releases. Once again, I’m a sucker for thick spines and omnibuses.

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Barnes has these little blurbs on certain manga series. I always love reading them and admiring the love and passion the staff members put into making them. Dorohedoro is a series I can’t wait to jump into!

Ah, Berserk, an all-time classic according to many
Ah, Berserk, an all-time classic according to many
Another titan of the manga game, MONSTER
Another titan of the manga game, MONSTER
My all time favorite description, hands down
My all time favorite description. Chainsaw Man!

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This was my best find so far. Mushishi volumes 8, 9 and 10 for under $15. This copy sells for north of $200. Like I said, you never know what you might find walking into a book store. And right place, right time. Timing is everything in life.

SOME COLLECTION PHOTOS

Tezuka and Koike living peacefully together
Tezuka and Koike living peacefully together
Love the color scheme here
Love the color scheme here

I don’t always display my manga by alphabetical order. Sometimes it’s based on fit. Ranma ½ is another classic that I’m excited to eventually read one day. Cross Game is slice-of-life and based around baseball, so I know I am going to love that. Heard a lot of good things about it!

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Love when a series fits a shelf perfectly, as seen here with all 37 volumes of Magi. Found Magus of the Library for half off at Half Price and Made in Abyss for cheap online. I rarely pay retail for manga. Great deals are out there if one is willing to exercise a little patience! Heard a lot of praise for these 3 series. Definitely eager to jump into them one day…

Heard Toriko is crazy with its worldbuilding
Heard Toriko is crazy with its world building

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This was my first manga shelf that I ever put up, so this one holds a lot of sentimental value for me. I love the way Barefoot Gen (what a beautiful little series that is) fits in perfectly with the first volume of 20th Century Boys (a fun and wild story)! I’ve since acquired Children of the Sea volume 4, however, and bought more volumes of Maison Ikkoku as they were released, so the shelf no longer looks like this. Love the sturdiness of most manga and how lovingly well crafted they are. The stories inside are usually pretty fantastic, too! The good ones have this incredible way of making me feel like a little kid on the inside all over again. Almost as if I’m hanging out in the backyard with Uncle Jimmy reading Old Master Q on a lazy Saturday night back in the late ’80s. A very satisfying hobby!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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Getting into the manga scene over the past year has been super fulfilling and enjoyable. I can’t believe how I went from never really caring about it for most of my life to it now being my biggest hobby. It seems as though my young son is a fan in the making as well! The little guy is absolutely enthralled by all the illustrations and daddy’s voice reading the dialogue. Thanks for joining me on this very nostalgic trip down memory lane of my manga journey over the past 365 days. I acquired a ton over the past year, so for year number 2 I wish to spend more time reading instead of shopping. My wife certainly shares the same wish! But yeah, in a nutshell that’s been my descent into manga madness over the past year. Thanks a lot, Samurai Executioner! From should I buy it to… all this. What a rabbit hole ride it has been! Looking forward to reading all the amazing stories just waiting to be read and discovered :)

Some of the true GOATs in the manga game there!
Some of the true GOATs in the manga game there!