I ran into a manga called Crayon Shinchan a few months ago; I used to be a bit embarrassed at how funny I found it, but I’ve given up on that, and just accepted that it makes me laugh out loud on a regular basis. (I mean that quite literally: I really do inadvertently laugh out loud a couple of times over the course of each volume.) It’s about a young boy (around six or so?), with a truly remarkable combination of innocence, bad behavior, and inappropriately adult remarks. The latter could be grating, but it works very well here.

It’s in an unusual format, at least based on my experience. I’m used to Japanese comics broken up into reasonably coherent episodes / stories that are tens of pages long, and to book-length Japanese comics. And I’m used to American comics in both of those formats, as well as newspaper-length individual strips. (I recently ran into a Japanese comic with more or less the latter format, Azumanga Daioh; is it common in Japan?) Crayon Shinchan, however, is divided up into three-page episodes. (Which are typically loosely connected into story arcs that are about 10-15 episodes long.) I’m not sure what to make of this, but it suits the mood of the comic; I don’t think it would hold up as well with longer stories, but three- or four-panel strips would be too short.

The variety of manga that’s available in the US these days is pretty impressive. I was at a Borders a week or two ago, and they actually had a rather better manga selection than the local comic book stores. I think part of the deal there is that the comic book stores skew fairly strongly towards male customers, while Borders doesn’t have that bias, and there are a lot of manga published in the US these days that are targeted towards teenage girls. (For that matter, I suspect that the Japan-oriented male youths of America don’t necessarily spend much time in comic book stores, either…) Some of which I read; I probably shouldn’t admit to liking Azumanga Daioh or Love Hina, but I do! (I guess it’s okay for me to admit to liking Banana Fish, though.) I’m sure that there’s still a vast amount of material that isn’t making it to the US, but three or five years ago I never would have dreamed at having access to the current range of material.

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