Over the past few years, I’ve been expanding my manga library. Both physical and virtual. And although I have never even been close to running out of things to read, I do often find myself actively looking for the next manga I want to try.
Like a lot of people, I will go by word of mouth. You know, check out the titles everyone is talking about. I’ve actually found Twitter to be a good place for that. I will often see threads like what manga would you like to see made into an anime or what was your favourite manga of 2021. These threads often get dozens if not hundreds of replies, depending on who posted them. It’s been a pretty good way to quickly figure out what other people are reading and liking. Personally, I find it more useful than the MAL or AniList trending manga pages. Maybe the sample size is just too large on those and strays too far from my personal tastes. But it’s always either manga I have already read or stuff I’m not interested in.
That’s all well and good. However, partly because of this blog, I find that I am often looking for the next big thing or the undiscovered gem. I’m not saying that I won’t review popular and well-known manga. But I find it extra fun if I can make one of my readers discover something new. Even if it’s not necessarily their thing.
And this is where I have a little less luck. I feel like I’ve honed my anime instincts better than my manga ones. I can usually tell by the key visuals and maybe the summary when I’m likely to like an anime. I still get surprised very often and sometimes I miss the mark. But generally speaking, I have a sense for it.
On the other hand, I often find that manga covers really look alike. And there are titles that based on the cover and short summary I would not have picked up, yet I know from watching the anime adaptation that these are exactly the type of manga I love. This problem gets compounded when I start looking into fan translations.
I have noticed that even when a manga is very well translated, fan translations will often overlook the summary and either write a very short description that makes it difficult to really tell what the manga is about or resort to machine translation which is often worse. As such, I feel like I’m often just going in blind.
This causes a few problems. First, it can be extremely expensive to just pick up random volumes of manga you may or may not like. Getting digital editions has helped a lot. I also have to give yet another shoutout to Viz. They give generous sample chapters of most of their works and as such this has both saved me from getting manga I would not have liked and encouraged me to purchase some I was pleasantly surprised by. Sadly, sample chapters are not yet the norm.
But even if we disregard the money altogether, I don’t necessarily want to spend weeks reading manga I’m not into. I’m a little stubborn so if I bought a volume, I feel obligated to read it even if I can tell I don’t really like it after one chapter. And so I have read a lot of meh manga in my life just because I had it. I would like to reduce that if I can.
But if I’m not just randomly picking from the pack, then how should I choose my manga. We’re halfway through the post and I finally get to the point. Basically, I want to know if any of my manga lovers out there have specific tricks to find their next favourite manga. Maybe a website that’s particularly good at giving out useful information and is easy to navigate. Or perhaps you have a YouTuber or Blogger who you really trust. That one is tricky because you have to find someone with tastes similar to yours. I personally am still looking.
One sort of bizarre way I have been doing it lately is to pick a random tag. Let me explain. Last year, I suddenly decided I wanted to read a wholesome manga centred around food. Like preparing and eating food with friends. I’m not sure why I decided this, it’s just what I was in the mood for. A manga craving if you will.
For the record, I have already read all that has been published in English of Delicious in Dungeon. I’m a fan. And I think I had just discovered Wednesday Siblings at the time and it has a lot of really delicious recipes in it as well. So I wanted more of that sort of thing.
As a result, I went to AniList and searched through all the manga on the site for anything tagged with “food”. There is a TON! As a side note, AniList actually has an impressive array of tag, theme and genre filters that can allow you to pinpoint exactly what you’re looking for…provided you know what that is.
So after that, I sorted all my results by rating and just went through a couple of pages jotting down anything that caught my eye. I could have further refined the search. Maybe narrowed it down to Slice of Life or Iyashikei. Unfortunately, Anilist doesn’t let you select things you don’t want to include only lets you narrow it down t things you specifically want to see. At least, I didn’t figure out how to exclude tags.
The other downside is that you only see the relevance of a tag by going to the specific manga’s page. So if the food tag was just randomly added by someone and it’s like a 1% relevance, it’s still going to show up in the results. March Comes in Like a Lion was there for instance. And although there are some really nice scenes of Rei sharing meals with the sisters and their grandpa does make sweets, I still wouldn’t call food a major theme in that manga.
So there was still a lot of me picking out manga a bit randomly but this time with the promise of some food between the pages. and you know what? It was surprisingly successful. I still didn’t bat 100 but I would say my success rate at discovering manga I enjoyed was way above my usual. I quickly discovered half a dozen manga I had never heard of before that I really liked. Maybe I just really like to read about food for some reason…
So I’m thinking that picking out specific combinations of themes and tags that interest me, may be the way to go. Of course the new challenge there is to figure out what those are. I’ve only done it once so far, it may have been a fluke.
The other downside is that by still generally picking according to cover art and summary, I don’t really venture out of my comfort zone that much. I have no reason to. Sure, I would love to discover the best harem Isekai currently being published. I have read a few. But with 100 new ones coming out every month and the fact that it’s not a genre I gravitate to, I don’t even know where to start. So unless someone points me in the right direction, I just tend to give up.
This is why I need you guys’ help. Do you have any tricks to find manga other than word of mouth? If so, can you share? Heck, even if you just have a specific manga to recommend. I’d be happy to hear those.