If you haven’t heard the term “meta-manga” before, it’s probably because I made it up. The modern use of the term/prefix “meta” generally refers to “x” about “x.” I am very familiar with this concept because I work closely with “meta-data” which is “data” about “data.” In the case of manga, a meta-manga would refer to “manga” about “manga.”
I LOVE meta-manga! There’s something so exciting about reading a manga that is completely self-aware. It’s a bit like watching a movie and waiting for that moment when someone actually speaks the line that is also the title of the movie. It’s a strange and fantastic moment.
There are SO MANY meta-manga to choose from. What manga-ka (manga author) wouldn’t want to write or illustrate something they know about as intimately as their own job? Here are some of my favourites:
ONE. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun by Izumi Tsubaki.
This is a shoujo 4-koma manga (4-panel comedy manga originally marketed to girls) about a high school student named Nozaki who draws shoujo manga for Monthly Girls’ Magazine.
It begins with his cute classmate confessing her love to him and Nozaki, being so completely clueless and unable to focus on anything but writing manga, thinks she is asking for an autograph – and later convinces her to help him work on the actual manga itself.
Throughout the series you meet many other quirkly classmates each with distinct personalities and each with a hidden link to Nozaki’s manga.
The 4-koma format is a little jarring to get used to, as the story doesn’t flow like regular manga. It is really based on a “punch-line” format… similar to say…”Foxtrot.” But, over time as you get used to the format, the flow, the comedy, the characters, it becomes more-and-more enjoyable.
If you’re not sure you’ll like reading the 4-koma format I would highly recommend watching the short anime adaptation of this BEFORE getting into it.
TWO. Flower of Life by Fumi Yoshinaga
This one has been out of print for a while, and will be a little bit hard to find if you’re interested in reading it. But, I really wanted to include it on this list because it’s wonderful!
This is the story of three boys who become friends in high school due to their mutual interest in manga.
Harutaro Hanazono has recently recovered from illness, and is returning to school a year behind everyone else in his class. He becomes fast friends with the shy manga fan Shota Mikuni and the antisocial otaku Kai Majima. Together they form a manga creator’s club with the hope of getting published.
This is a sweet story with one of the best depictions of pure friendship that I’ve read in manga. I highly recommend it!
THREE. I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow / by Shunju Aono
This follows the pursuit of a dream to become a manga-ka (manga artist) by a 40 year old slacker. This is a wonderful drama.
FOUR. Insufficient Direction / by Moyocco Anno
Get an inside look into the life of a real manga-ka and her famous anime director husband. This isn’t recommended to new fans, the pop-culture references are constant and obscure. But, it’s a delightful story.
FIVE. Genshiken / by Shimoku Kio
This is easily one of my favourite series. It follows a college otaku club in their pursuit of everything nerdy! Shimoku Kio has written likable and believable characters, in obsessive detail. A fun story that follows the passion and pursuit in both consuming and creating self-published (dojinshi) manga.
SIX. Kingyo Used Books by Seimu Yoshizaki
The meta-manga to lead the way for all other meta-manga, Kingyo Used Books features a used book store that has everything any person could ever need… manga!
Though it is much longer in Japanese, it only made it to 4 volumes in English, which is an absolute shame. This is a must read for any manga fan.
This manga is your mantra!
This is a series of short stories featuring a used manga shop. Patrons don’t always know why they’ve entered the shop, but there is always something they are looking for… and before they know it, they’ve found it in manga.
I won’t say that every story in it is great. Actually some of the short stories are a bit contrived, and even boring. But, there are a few gems in every volume that make this worth picking up. Plus, as a manga fan, nothing makes me happier than finding a manga that preaches the very thing I do “manga is for everyone.”
It’s a cheerful collection that proves the merits and value of reading manga. If you’re a fan of manga, I would urge you to pick up this series!
Something new that I’ll be doing on this blog (as well as my YouTube) is post a list of themed manga recommendations every 2nd and 4th Monday of the Month (I hope). I’m going to be calling this series #MangaMonday. I know other people have used #MangaMonday as a themed “thing”… but frankly, I didn’t know what else to call it… and so many different people are using #MangaMonday for different purposes that I didn’t think it would hurt to add another voice to this particular hashtag.
Like I said, I’ll be posting twice a month. If you’re looking for content for your blog/youtube channel and want to participate in this too, let me know. I’ve been considering sharing my list of topics ahead of time for others to join in.
Or, alternately, if you want manga recommendations on specific topics send me your suggestions! I have a list of topics I’d like to talk about, but I can easily change them and talk about titles that people actually want to hear about!