My Manga White Whale(s??) – The Hunt

Recently, I was back to my childhood home where my limited English manga collection resides. I was overly delighted looking from bottom to top. The wonderful world of Fruits Basket, the TokyoPop edition. Alice 19th being the first manga I ever bought, secondhand and off of ebay. Whistle! in it’s in entiredy of English print that was a struggle to get. X/1999 by CLAMP, 17 of 18 volumes in their weirdly flipped because it was 2001 when they were first printed.

And no, this is not about me hunting down volume 18 of X. Believe it or not, that is still relatively easy to find for a decent price. Due to the following story and subsequent panic, I’m actually going to place an order for that now.

Because my top shelf, is dedicated to my one true husbando – Black Jack, of Black Jack by Osamu Tezuka of course. And I swore on more then one occasion, with quite a bit of pride on top of it, that I had the entire series, all 17 volumes printed in English.

So where the fuck did volume 8 go??

This one… haunts me.

Apparently, my memory is fallible. Then again, it’s been over three years since I’ve been to my childhood home. Now with adult money, and accounts to secure this volume by any secondhand means needed – should be easy right? Amazon, ebay, hell I’ll even do Facebook marketplace or even Instagram sales in a true pinch but the more I searched the more I began to vaguely panic.

When I tell you I can’t find this volume, volume 8 of the Vertical.Inc English release of Black Jack, anywhere. I truly mean it.

I have searched beyond high and low, and through resources that became more and more suspicious as three hours ticked by looking for this manga. I found a single listing, for the entire Vertical Inc. release that had volume eight.

This being a mint lot, unopened, unread and a whooping $3000 for the whole thing because scarcity I guess. I’m not shitting on this seller; it is a niche manga, with a limited printing, and now out of print. What they, and other sellers, price the series individually or as a whole, is their prerogative and not something I’m willing to dig into right now.

What’s truly ironic is that while I was drafting this the first time – a copy popped up. For over $100 but under $300. Which isn’t the worst listing I’ve seen for a single volume of Black Jack – I’ve seen a couple copies hit over $400, but a majority of the listings for any given volume hover around the $100 mark or lower.

Part of me does get it. Vertical.Inc USA was bought by Kodansha USA in February 2011, and then fully consolidated into Kodansha in 2020. To my knowledge, there was only ever one printing of each volume. Each volume is 320 pages, so with the supply chain issues, on top of niche interest as much as it hurts my soul – Black Jack is no one’s priority for reprinting. I highly doubt there’s much demand for it either with it still being available in full through e-readers.

Part of me does groan. The idea of a manga, a Japanese comic book that are originally more or less along the lines of pulp fiction titles being priced over $50 irks me. This is coupled with that these books, despite being the god Tezuka himself and translated are nothing special aside from page count. This has no signatures, not a hardcover, not a special edition, not even coming with a million bonus goodies – makes my eyes roll into my skull at the price this is listed at.

I was between a rock and a hard place, readers. To buy or not to buy – on one hand I am an adult and more or less can do whatever the hell I want, on the other hand I know it’s not the best decision to spend $50 or more on a manga, no matter what series it is. I did the only thing I could think of to help logic out, and or enable me – consult that mysterious twin I reference, older sibling, and mother.

I’ve mentioned a bit about the family unit before, but there’s a bit of a reason I did consult them. The mysterious twin – he’s a logical dude. He understands an investment, but also understands the desire to follow your heart and acquire the thing. Was not an enabler, but did help me verbalize the pros and cons of such a purchase. Next was my mother – she’s a collector herself with some pretty expensive pieces and knows how to hunt down a deal or jump on it. At times an enabler but this time actually sided on logic. Last was older sibling – a vinyl collector. Knows their stuff and understands logistically how markets and things work for this sort of stuff, and ultimately said it most succinctly what mysterious twin, and mother said “If you want it, buy it. We can’t stop you, and we can’t tell you it’s dumb because we know, I guess, that you like it”.

Not taking any risks, so it was bought too.

So… what did I end up doing?

Well folks, you can probably guess this but I bought it. Along with that volume 18 of X for good measure. A larger than anticipated chunk of change for two volumes of long since out of print English manga. It’s a bit of a bummer that I won’t be able to read them myself – I’ll be out of my childhood home once they arrive. Shipping them to Japan when a video chat with my mother to check the quality will suffice, would be silly.

I’ll keep folks posted on Instagram, with maybe a follow-up at some point in case this crashes and burns. Fingers crossed it works out fine! But this is my little tale of what happens when you collect stupidly niche manga in limited capacities like me.

Happy manga collecting to all. And be careful and aware of how much you’re spending on them is all. See you next post!

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