Manga Man by Barry Lyga



Manga Man by Barry Lyga, Illustrated by Colleen Doran ISBN: 9780547423159

Plot Summary: Marissa seems typical on the outside; she’s beautiful, popular and dates a sports star. So no one can understand why she would dump her boyfriend and start dressing in costumes. Around the same time, Ryoko, a manga character with androgynous looks, falls into Marissa’s world and each is entranced by the other. Ryoko has some difficulty fitting in with his looks and the way he leaves behind puddles after crying or speed lines when he runs. That doesn’t matter to Marissa, but her ex-boyfriend and the rest of the school aren’t so sure of that. What’s worse, lying beyond the borders of the page (a meta element of this comic) is a monster that could destroy their worlds.

Critical Evaluation: I read a fair amount of graphic novels, but I’ve been a little intimidated by manga so far. This provided a lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek look at both types of comic. I noticed pretty quickly that the Western world was drawn in what I think of as 80’s style, with big hair and that style of clothes. I couldn’t tell whether this was supposed to be funny or not. As far as the mood goes, this book hits most of the comedic marks with me. Ryoko provides most of the comic relief with exaggerated emotions demonstrated and visible in that world to everyone around him. When he sees Marissa and hearts encircle his head, everyone else can see those hearts as well, and is totally confused by their presence.

This book also does something that I haven’t seen a comic do before (not to say that other comics aren’t doing it). That is to expose the borders around the illustrations and have characters find them and get out of them. There are quite a few self-referential moments in the book, like this, or the very concept of a book that combines two different graphic worlds. However, what the book struggled more with is to make these characters seem real. Again, maybe that was the point. I never felt like I got to know any of them well enough; they remained rather one dimensional, and seemed to exist mostly to move along the storyline. But my overall impression of the book is a good one.

Reader’s Annotation: What would happen if Eastern manga-style comics met Western graphic novels? This goofy love story about a boy and girl who learn to love and survive across the borders of their vastly different worlds.

Information about the author: Barry Lyga is the author of many young adult novels, such as The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl and Manga Man. He was born in 1971 in Southbridge, Massachusetts. As a child and teen, he was obsessed with comic books, even though the adults around him discouraged that interest.

He majored in English at Yale, where he looked at comic books from an academic standpoint. He then went on to work for Diamond Comic Distributors. He now lives in New York. His first book was published in 2006 and his writing is highly regarded by critics and teens alike.

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Manga

Curriculum ties, if any: I would be very impressed if a teacher taught a unit on graphic novels, and the variations within, which this book would fit into quite well.

Booktalking Ideas: I would play on the popularity of both styles of comic and emphasize the wackiness of this story. I think mentioning elements like the giant beads of sweat that Ryoko has, or the way his cheeks color when he’s embarrassed would be funny to mention.

Reading Level/Interest Age: This is about older teens, and does have some violence and sexual scenes. Publisher’s Weekly recommends it for ages 12 and up, while School Library Journal considers it best suited for grades 9 and up.

Challenge Issues:

  • Sexual situation
  • Violence

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

This book meets the recreational needs of teens and as such, they should have access to it.

Why did you include this book? : I don’t know much about manga, but I thought this might be a fun way to introduce myself.


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  1. Pingback: Alphabetical List of Titles | let's talk about that book...

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