Kingyo Used Books 1 by Seimu Yoshizaki: B

Book description:
Every bookstore has a thousand stories to tell. An art student finds inspiration. An archer hits a bull’s-eye. A homemaker rediscovers romance. A teenager discovers his true self in the pages of a manga magazine. All this and more at Kingyo Used Books, a place that helps people find their dreams.

We have the manga you’re looking for.

No matter what ails you, there’s a manga that’ll make it better just waiting to be discovered at Kingyo Used Books. Each chapter in this episodic first volume adheres to this general premise, whether it features a struggling archer regaining his focus thanks to a gag manga, an art student finding inspiration in the story of a famous painter, or a half-Japanese kid growing up in America finding qualities to emulate in a boy detective. My favorite chapter in this line is about a housewife who rediscovers a stash of her old shoujo manga in her parents’ house, which ultimately leads her to recall why she fell in love with her husband.

After a few chapters, the format does begin to vary somewhat. At first, the staff of the bookstore are mainly present in the background as we spend more time with the customers, but gradually we get to know Natsuki, granddaughter of the owner and acting manager, and Shiba, manga enthusiast and procurement expert, somewhat better. Other recurring characters include a couple of sendori (book scouts) and Natsuki’s grandfather, who has amassed a drool-inducing amount of stock for his store. The last chapter in the volume isn’t about Kingyo at all, but about the sendori helping to save the rare inventory of a manga lending library from damage in a storm.

The low point of the volume is the introductory chapter devoted to the arrival of Natsuki’s cousin, Billy. Essentially, this shy half-Japanese kid living in America is having trouble making friends until he reads the manga Billy Puck, which stars a courageous boy detective and teaches him about bravery and justice, et cetera. This would be fine, except his obsession persists into adulthood, and he arrives in Japan dressing and acting exactly like his favorite character. The other characters react as if he is merely kooky, and maybe somewhat to be admired for his commitment, but all I could think was, “This guy is mentally ill!” Besides, I found it implausible that someone so obsessed as to hand-knit a sweater for Billy Puck’s creator would not also know that said creator died decades ago.

Throughout the volume, many different classic manga are mentioned, and ample footnotes are provided regarding creators, length, and publisher, should one be compelled to track them down. Also, several pages at the end of the book furnish additional detail on the few series that feature more prominently in the narrative. If there ever was a manga to make a person feel like renewing their commitment to learn Japanese, this is it!

In the end, Kingyo Used Books is pleasant and educational, capable of inspiring book lust and a yearning for many titles that will most likely never make it to our shores. Unfortunately, it seldom exceeds the bounds of pleasantry, outside of a few nice moments in the stories of the housewife and the lending library, so there is little here to move or excite the reader. I can see myself continuing to read the series because I care about the manga to which it can introduce me, but not because I particularly care about the characters.

Kingyo Used Books is published in English by VIZ, and is also serialized online at their SigIKKI site. One volume has been released so far, though the still-ongoing series is currently up to ten volumes in Japan.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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  1. “I can see myself continuing to read the series because I care about the manga to which it can introduce me, but not because I particularly care about the characters.”

    Ah, wow, that’s a really good summation.

    • Thank you! 🙂

      • Danielle Leigh says

        Agreed. I read the first chapter online and enjoyed the “nostalgia” factor but the characters didn’t really leave an impression.

        But it’s hard to dislike anything that expresses such a deep, pure love of manga!

        • Michelle says

          Yeah, I never made it beyond the first chapter online. The only characters you ever see again are the bookstore employees, too. Not every chapter is about nostalgia to such a strong degree, but it plays a part in many.


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