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Reading Old Manga has Become my Favorite Soothing Activity

Have you been besieged by seemingly unending stretches of absolute exhaustion? I know I have. Even without the added stressors of the pandemic lifestyle I seem to hit a bottoming out of my energy levels for days, sometimes weeks at a time. Back when I had to commute, this was more or less met with a “just gotta deal with it” attitude as I laid the blame for this feeling squarely on riding public transit and sitting in an office for 40+ hours a week. Now that I’ve been inside and been similarly fatigued I know that there are multiple reasons this could be happening (something I am working on with my therapist). It’s hard for me to want to do anything during these periods; games can be too intensive and my attention span for shows goes right out the window. Reading can be a good replacement, but the attention span problem can again rear its ugly head. It’s hard to get absorbed when my mind is barely running. I found an unexpected new outlet in 2020; reading digital manga.

Shonen Jump Cover

A bit of context. I used to be a veracious manga reader back in middle school and early high school. I would spend the money I made mowing lawns (white suburbia aims to constantly be in the 50’s and our young business was no exception) on anything Shonen Jump related. Naruto, Full Metal Alchemist, and Case Closed were all favorites of mine and I would devour each new volume in less than day, sometimes even in the Barnes and Noble manga section. I would also infrequently buy the monthly magazine at the grocery store so I could see any potential new favorites and read old Yu-Gi-Oh which in no way reflected the Kids WB show. I kept up this habit over the course of 4 years and in the process collected a lot of physical material. Luckily for my thin shelf space, I had friends who would swap volumes with me so I didn’t have the burden of trying to complete a collection. Still it was a cumbersome collection one that didn’t survive the move with me and was donated before I got back into anime in the past couple of years. I eventually fell out of favor with the genre my junior year and stopped collecting.

Fast forward to 2020 and quarantine significantly sped up my anime consumption (I wrote a little bit about that here). I started to get excited about rewatching old shows that I had only seen bits and pieces of on Toonami (Yu Yu Hakasho, Naruto) and revisiting old favorites (Dragon Ball Z). Here is where my time and aforementioned low energy came into play; most days I just didn’t have the energy to commit to watching multiple shows at once. Feeling spent after work meant I didn’t want to sit down with an unfamiliar show in the evenings. I was simultaneously discovering comics on my phone. I had heard of digital comics apps before but had never tried them out. I’m a very infrequent reader of Marvel and DC comics, mostly purchasing old arcs that people or movies reference. The sheer volume and mythology of comic books make them super intimidating to get into. There’s too much I don’t know about and it seems like such a large amount of work to catch up means that it doesn’t sound appealing to try and jump in. I did enjoy X of Swords though; I had read the reboot “House/Powers of X” because it was precisely that, a reboot so I felt at least somewhat primed to read that larger arc.

I was reading an Abnormal Mapping subscriber letter and the writer Em mentioned the Shonen Jump app. You could read any of the back catalog of their numerous manga for only $2 a month. Finally, I had found my way to catch up on old series in a way that worked for my brain. Reading manga after work became my perfect “spent” routine. Shonen manga being mainly adventures meant it was easy to follow the story and not too dense for me to get into. I could be absorbed even when my brain was literally at a stand still. That’s not to denigrate the content of the series, but they are intentionally more straightforward and aimed at a teen audience. The manga I read also had an unexpected upside; they were all complete series. No weird digging into which Spider-man comic impacted this new Avengers storyline or finding what run created this specific X-man character. All of the information and context I needed was in those chapters. That meant I could read a 900 chapter series front to back without having to resort to a lore bible.

Dragon Ball Z Gohan Playing Baseball
Gohan in high school is an underrated and all too brief section

So far I’ve read all of Naruto (~700 chapters) and Dragon Ball (194 and then the 325 that were adapted into Dragon Ball Z). I don’t think I need to sell anyone on either, but I found that both were well worth a read for completely different reasons. Naruto’s world is really fleshed out so it’s amazing seeing different ninjas and nations. The characters are fun to tag along with even though Naruto doesn’t really change much and all the female characters get sidelined. Pour one out for Sakura, she may absolutely wreck other people but Naruto and Sasuke are special boys. Also the power levels at the end of that series are so ridiculous that it becomes a bit too untethered. My main takeaway though is that Kakashi is still the best (Gaara #2). Dragon Ball on the other hand (especially in the chapters before Z) is so so funny. I had only ever caught bits and pieces of the anime on Toonami, but the manga is top tier. It’s a Loony Tunes adaptation of “Journey to the West” but filled with a bit more pervs (which definitely cross the line from time to time). But who could ever forget this killer bit:

Dragon Ball Krillin "No Nose" Joke
Absolute all timer

Kind of a shame they went so action heavy, even though I do really love Dragon Ball Z. There’s something really special about those zany original chapters before it’s all about power levels. The only downside (outside of pervy humor) is the lack of Vegeta.

Honestly having just an easy way to access manga has been an immense help on my low powered brain. It has been the perfect way to distract my mind when I feel like sitting facedown on the floor which is a not infrequent occurrence. If this is sounding like a pitch for the app, I guess it kind of is? Anyways, here’s to the minor activities that help us get through the rough times.

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