Vietnamese adults and their obsession with manga


Viet has a 30 square meter room just to store his comics, but even that is not big enough for all of them, so he had to store some in boxes.

“I once helped a friend buy a comic book he liked. When it later got mixed in with the piles of comic books in my house, I couldn’t find it to give to my friend.”

Two shelves in Nguyen Hoang Viet’s house filled with comic books. Photo courtesy of Viet

The 29-year-old from Hai Ba Trung district in Hanoi was first exposed to Japanese comics (manga) when he was four years old.

“My parents used to give my sister a comic every time she got a high score, and I also had to read them. I still remember very well that ‘Duong Dan Den Khung Thanh’ (The Path to the Goal, Kattobi Itto in Japanese) volume 18, was the very first comic I ever read.”

He gradually began to develop a passion for collecting comics. In 2011, he became the administrator of an online community group where people exchanged and shared information about manga.

Although he has lost count of how many manga series he currently owns, he says he owns “40 out of 50 manga currently available in Vietnam.”

He points out that he collects them because it’s a passion and not just to “try to increase the amount of his collection”.

Viet claims that the money he spent on comics over the past five years would be “enough to buy an apartment in the heart of Hanoi”.

Besides manga series published in Vietnam, it also buys comics published overseas. One of his most valuable series is “Thuy Thu Mat Trang” (Sailor Moon) with the author’s signature which has been sold in the United States for more than 2,000 USD per volume.

My Chu is another huge manga fan despite being already 30 years old and married.

A large room in her and her husband’s home in the United States is used to store over 10,000 comics.

Chu has been a fan of manga since he was five years old. As a child, she spent all her “lucky” money and the money she was given to buy breakfast to buy comic books.

After growing up, the salary from his work as a graphic designer allowed him to buy 90% of the series released in Vietnam and 30% in the United States.

She also tracks down old and rare series like those created by the famous Japanese mangaka Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989).

To get them, she is willing to wait months for the shipment to arrive and pay two or three times the original price.

Comic-addicted adults like Viet and My Chu are not uncommon, as Nguyen Thanh Tung, owner of a comic book store in Hanoi’s Hai Ba Trung district, points out: “50% of my customers have more than 25 years “.

Viet also says that many members of his online community group are adults. According to Facebook analytics data, the 25-34 age group accounts for 40% of the approximately 230,000 likes on this page.

“There are teachers in their 50s who also collect manga,” Viet says.

Manga is often associated with entertainment, but for adults addicted to comics, that’s not the only reason they collect thousands of them.

“Some people collect comics now because they couldn’t afford them when they were kids,” Tung says.

Huong Mai stands next to her shelves with over 3,000 comics.  Photo by VnExpress/Minh Trang

Huong Mai stands next to her shelves with over 3,000 comics. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Trang

One such person is Le Huong Mai from HCMC District 2.

The 30-year-old doctor says: “My mother rarely allowed me to buy comic books when I was a child. She completely forbade me from owning comics when I was in middle school, so I rented them to read. all I wanted was to have enough money to buy comics without worrying about the price. Fortunately, I can do it now.”

The series purchased by Mai are nostalgic manga related to her childhood like “Sailor Moon”, “Tham Tu Lung Danh Conan” (Detective Conan), “Bay Vien Ngoc Rong” (Dragon Ball Z) and “Vua Tro Choi” (Yugi Oh ).

But she also buys new ones that she likes for their plot, drawing style and such.

She’s purchased over 3,000 comics since 2015.

The manga market is extremely diverse, she says.

“The world of comics is vast. Every age group has its own series, so the idea that ‘manga is just for kids’ is wrong.”

Adults who read comics point out that some have storylines that are too deep for children to fully understand.

Until the age of 17, Viet read manga simply to relax, but as he grew older he realized that they also had “valuable life lessons”.

“In Doraemon, for example, whenever Nobita uses a magic item for his own benefit, he encounters problems in the form of karma. Or whenever the character Gian bullies his friends, there is no happy ending. “

Many adults rediscovered their old hobby of reading manga when social distancing was in place.

“I would have gone crazy without my comics during the lockdown period,” Chu says.

She said she only dated four times in 2020 and continues to work remotely until now. During the Covid years, she bought a lot of the new manga series.

Tung says comics are an easier hobby than many others, unless it means buying limited editions overseas, like Viet’s “Sailor Moon” collection.

In Vietnam, a manga series is released once a month or every two weeks. A comic book costs on average 30,000 VND.

“So buying more than a dozen manga series every week is no problem for working adults,” says Tung.

Parents no longer come between a person and their love of comics when they reach adulthood.

Chu’s father and husband even paid to ship 70 kg of comics from Vietnam to the United States, made shelves for them, and frequently took it to bookstores.

My collection of Chus comics.  Photo courtesy of Mon

My Chu’s comic book collection. Photo courtesy of Mon

However, they receive unfavorable comments from people around them.

When she posted photos of her comic book collection on social media, Chu received many comments criticizing her for being wasteful.

Mai is often teased by her co-workers who tell her she’s still single because she still reads comic books.

But it’s like water off a duck’s back. “I won’t give up my passion because of the opinions of people who don’t respect me,” Chu says.

Mai says she “still loves manga”, it’s a hobby and helps relieve her stress.

The idea of ​​getting tired of manga never even crossed Viet’s mind. “I don’t think I’ll stop collecting manga anytime soon.”


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