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Find out about Manga, and read the best of it

A guide by GK

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Manga is the Japanese word for comics (sometimes called komikku) and print cartoons. In Japan, manga are widely read by people of all ages, and include a broad range of subjects: action-adventure, romance, sports and games, historical drama, comedy, science fiction and fantasy, mystery, horror, sexuality, and business and commerce, among others. Since the 1950s, manga have steadily become a major part of the Japanese publishing industry, representing a 481 billion yen market in Japan in 2006. Manga have also become increasingly popular worldwide. In 2006, the United States manga market was $175–200 million. Manga are typically printed in black-and-white, although some full-color manga exist. In Japan, manga are usually serialized in telephone book-size manga magazines, often containing many stories each presented in a single episode to be continued in the next issue. If the series is successful, collected chapters may be republished in paperback books called tankobon.

Modern manga originates in the Occupation (1945–1952) and post-Occupation years (1952–early 1960s). There was an explosion of artistic creativity in this period from manga artists such as Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy) and Machiko Hasegawa (Sazae-san).

In 1969, a group of female manga artists later called the Year 24 Group made their shojo manga debut (year 24 comes from the Japanese name for 1949, when many of these artists were born). The group included Hagio Moto, Riyoko Ikeda, Yumiko Oshima, Keiko Takemiya, and Ryoko Yamagishi and they marked the first major entry of women artists into manga. Thereafter, shojo manga would be drawn primarily by women artists for an audience of girls and young women.

Manga for male readers can be characterized by the age of its intended audience: boys up to 18 years old (shonen manga) and young men 18- to 30-years old (seinen manga), as well as by content, including action-adventure often involving male heroes, slapstick humor, themes of honor, and sometimes explicit sexuality.

Manga are primarily classified by the age and gender of the target audience. In particular, books and magazines sold to boys (shonen) and girls (shojo) have distinctive cover art and are placed on different shelves in most bookstores. Due to cross-readership, consumer response is not limited by demographics. For example, male readers subscribing to a series intended for girls and so on.

Japan also has manga cafes, or manga kissa. At a manga kissa, people drink coffee and read manga, and sometimes stay there overnight.

The U.S. manga market took an upturn with mid-1990s anime and manga versions of Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell, translated by Frederik L. Schodt and Toren Smith and becoming very popular among fans. Another success of the mid-1990s was Sailor Moon. By 1995–1998, the Sailor Moon manga had been exported to over 23 countries, including China, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, most of Europe and North America. In 1998, Mixx Entertainment-TokyoPop issued U.S. manga book versions of Sailor Moon and CLAMP's Magic Knight Rayearth. In 1996, Mixx Entertainment founded TokyoPop to publish manga in trade paperbacks and, like Viz, began aggressive marketing of manga to both young male and young female demographics.

In the following years, manga became increasingly popular, and new publishers entered the field while the established publishers greatly expanded their catalogues. As of December 2007, at least 15 U.S. manga publishers have released 1300 to 1400 titles. Simultaneously, mainstream U.S. media began to discuss manga, with articles in the New York Times, Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and Wired magazine.

My Top 10 Manga list:
01. Rurouni Kenshin (chanbara) - Nobuhiro Watsuki
02. Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind (fantasy) - Hayao Miyazaki
03. Crying Freeman (crime) - Kazuo Koike
04. Monster (thriller) - Naoki Urasawa
05. Maison Ikkoku (comedy) - Rumiko Takahashi
06. Berserk (fantasy) - Kentaro Miura
07. Battle Angel Alita (cyberpunk) - Yukito Kishiro
08. Blade Of The Immortal (chanbara) - Hiroaki Samura
09. Nana (drama) - Ai Yazawa
10. GTO (comedy) - Tohru Fujisawa


Manga Series
I included the first volume for each series.

Naoki Urasawa's Monster, Vol. 1 1994 psychological horror, detective fiction (18 volumes): A seinen manga written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa. The series follows Dr. Kenzo Tenma as he pursues a young psychopath/sociopath named Johan, whose life Tenma once saved. The story rapidly progresses through a number of locations: it starts in Dusseldorf, Germany, passes through Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Wiesbaden, cities in the Czech Republic such as Prague, and other cities and villages.

Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story, Vol. 1 1994 sword fighting (28 volumes): Written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The fictional setting takes place during the early Meiji period in Japan. The story is about a fictional assassin named Himura Kenshin, formerly known as the "Hitokiri Battosai", or "Battosai the Manslayer" in the English dub, who becomes a wanderer to protect the people of Japan.

Berserk, Vol. 1 1989 action, horror, fantasy (32 volumes): A long-running dark fantasy manga by mangaka Kentaro Miura. Berserk's setting is inspired by medieval Europe. It centers around the life of Guts, an orphaned mercenary warrior, and Griffith, the leader of a mercenary band called the Band of the Hawk. The story contains elements of both fantasy and horror, as it explores both the best and worst of human nature. Both the manga and anime are noted for their heavy violence.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 1 1982 adventure, drama, sci-fi (7 volumes): A manga by acclaimed Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki, which served as the basis for his 1984 film of the same name. Miyazaki's manga version of Nausicaä was written over a period of 12 years, with breaks taken to work on Studio Ghibli movies. The manga has sold more than 10 million copies in Japan alone.

Death Note, Vol. 1 2003 psychological thriller, supernatural (12 volumes): The series centers on Light Yagami, a high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook dropped on Earth by Ryuk, a shinigami ("death god"), that allows Light to kill anyone by writing the victim's name in the notebook. The user must also know the face of the victim to prevent anyone with the same name from being harmed. The story follows Light's attempt to create and rule a world cleansed of evil using the notebook, and the complex conflict between him and his opponents.

Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms 2003 drama (1 volume): A one-volume manga, written and drawn by Japanese mangaka Fumiyo Kono. The manga is composed of two connected stories about a survivor from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and her relatives. The stories are fiction but based on most people who were in Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Yotsuba&! Volume 1 2003 comedy (8 volumes): A manga series by Kiyohiko Azuma, the creator of Azumanga Daioh. It depicts the everyday adventures of a young girl named Yotsuba as she learns about the world around her.

Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, Vol. 1 2003 detective, sci-fi (6 volumes): The series is based on Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy, specifically "The Greatest Robot on Earth" story arc, and named after the arc's chief villain. Naoki Urasawa reinterprets the story as a suspenseful murder mystery starring Gesicht, a Europol robot detective trying to solve the case of a string of robot and human deaths.

Akira, Vol. 1 1982 cyberpunk (6 volumes): Set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, the work utilises conventions of the cyberpunk genre to detail a saga of turmoil. The work was first published in an English language version by the Marvel Comics imprint Epic Comics, one of the first manga works to be translated in entirety. Otomo's art on the series is considered outstanding, and the work is a breakthrough for both Otomo and the manga form.

GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, Vol. 1 1997 comedy, drama (25 volumes): It is the story of Eikichi Onizuka, a 22 year-old ex-bosozoku member, and his quest to be the greatest teacher in Japan. GTO is a continuation of Tohru Fujisawa's other manga series Shonan Junai Gumi and Bad Company. It won the 1998 Kodansha Manga Award for shonen.

Mushishi 1 1999 occult detective (10 volumes): The story features ubiquitous creatures called Mushi that often display supernatural powers. Mushi are described as beings in touch with the essence of life, far more basic and pure than normal living things. Ginko, the main character of the series, employs himself as a Mushi master, traveling from place to place to research Mushi and aid people suffering from problems caused by them. The series has won numerous awards; in 2003, the manga was awarded an Excellence Prize for manga at the 7th Japan Media Arts Festival, while in 2006, the series won the Kodansha Manga Award for general manga.

Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 1 (Library Edition) 2001 fantasy adventure (20 volumes): The world of Fullmetal Alchemist is styled after Industrial Revolution Europe and several experiences from the author's life. Set in a fictional universe in which alchemy is one of the most advanced scientific techniques known to man, the story follows Edward and Alphonse Elric, two alchemist brothers, who want to recover parts of their bodies lost in an attempt to bring their mother back to life through alchemy.

Vagabond, Vol. 1 1998 sword fighting (28 volumes): An ongoing manga by Takehiko Inoue, portraying a fictionalized account of Miyamoto Musashi's life, on a loose adaptation of Eiji Yoshikawa's novel Musashi. Vagabond won the Grand Prize for manga at the 2000 Japan Media Arts Festival.

Astro Boy, Vol. 1 1952 action, sci-fi (23 volumes): A manga series by Osamu Tezuka, who is often reputed as the "god of manga". The story follows the adventures of a robot boy and a selection of other characters along the way. In November 2007, Astro Boy was named Japan's envoy for overseas safety.

Buddha, Vol. 1: Kapilavastu 1972 drama, supernatural (14 volumes): Drawn by Osamu Tezuka and is Tezuka's unique interpretation of the life of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. The critically-acclaimed series is often referred to as a gritty, even sexual, portrayal of the holy man's life.

Ranma 1/2, Vol. 1 (Library Edition) 1987 martial arts, comedy (36 volumes): Written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi with an anime adaptation. The story revolves around a 16-year old boy named Ranma Saotome who was trained from early childhood in martial arts. As a result of an accident during a training journey, he is cursed to become a girl when splashed with cold water, but hot water will change him back into a boy.

Fruits Basket, Vol. 1 1999 fantasy, romance (23 volumes): The series tells the story of Tohru Honda, an orphan girl who, after meeting Yuki, Kyo, and Shigure Sohma, learns that thirteen members of the Sohma family are possessed by the animals of the Chinese zodiac and are cursed to turn into their animal forms if they embrace anyone of the opposite sex.

Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 1: Blood of a Thousand 1994 sword fighting, supernatural (23 volumes): The series won an Excellence Prize at the 1997 Japan Media Arts Festival and the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award in 2000 for Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material. The series is set in Japan during the mid-Tokugawa Shogunate period, beginning in the 2nd year of the Tenmei era or 1782.

With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, Vol. 1 2000 drama (13 volumes): Sachiko's young son, Hikaru, is autistic. She must learn how to raise and care for a child with extremely special needs, while dealing with ignorant public officials, teachers, "friends" and family, all the while receiving support from helpful officials and new friends, many of whom also have disabled children.

Phoenix, Vol. 1: Dawn 1967 history, sci-fi (12 volumes): Osamu Tezuka considered Phoenix his "life's work"; it consists of 12 books, each of which tells a separate, self-contained story and takes place in a different era. The cycle remains unfinished after Tezuka's death.

Battle Angel Alita, Vol. 1: Rusty Angel 1990 cyberpunk (9 volumes): The people and cyborgs of the Scrap Yard live beneath the flying city of Tiphares, whose inhabitants dump their junk in the Scrap Yard and rules above it's inhabitants. One day doc Ido, a former Tipharean citizen, finds the intact head of young cyborg-girl in a vast pile of scrap. He takes her in and gives her a body and the name Alita. Alita then discovers since long forgotten fighting techniques hidden in her body and decides to become a hunter-warrior like Ido.

Maison Ikkoku, Vol. 1 1980 romantic comedy (15 volumes): A bitter-sweet comedic romance involving a group of madcap people who live in a boarding house in 1980s Tokyo. The story focuses primarily on the blossoming relationship between Yusaku Godai, a poor student down on his luck, and Kyoko Otonashi, the young, recently-widowed boarding house manager.

Planetes, Book 1 2001 sci-fi (4 volumes): The story revolves around a team of space debris collectors based in the debris ship Toy Box in the year 2075. The manga was critically lauded. According to Anime News Network, it has a "solid, engrossing storyline and well-developed characters".

Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 1: Assassin's Road 1970 sword fighting (28 volumes): Lone Wolf and Cub chronicles the story of Ogami Itto;, the Shogun's executioner who uses the Dotanuki battle sword. He was disgraced by false accusations from the Yagyu clan and has been forced to take the path of the assassin. Along with his three-year-old son, Daigoro, they seek revenge on the Yagyu; clan and are known as "Lone Wolf and Cub".

The Last Uniform Vol 1 2004 romance (3 volumes): The Last Uniform takes place at the Tsubakigaoka Girls' Dorm where each of the female students is paired with a roommate. Beniko Kazura is paired with Tsumugi Kase, and Ai Sahara is paired with Fuuko Yamada, though the roommates have crushes on each other which makes it impossible for them to stay merely friends.

Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, Volume 1 2002 comedy (9 volumes): A series by Shimoku Kio about a college club for otaku (extremely devoted fans of various media) and the lifestyle its members pursue. Genshiken has been praised for its execution of the slice-of-life genre, in that it is able to be funny while still maintaining a strong sense of reality.

Honey Hunt, Vol. 1 2006 romance (3 volumes): Yura's parents are celebrities. Her mother is a famous actress and her father is a famous musician. When they get a divorce, and Yura finds her first love with her mom, she decides to destroy her mother's image by becoming an actress. After many failed audition attempts, she finally changes her shy attitude and gets a part in a new drama: as the major role.

Antique Bakery, Vol. 1 (v. 1) 1999 comedy (4 volumes): Depicts the lives of four men who work in a small bakery. The series won the 2002 Kodansha Manga Award for shojo. The manga was adapted as a Japanese TV drama, with the title Antique or Antique Cake Store, and has been adapted into a TV anime.

Ghost In The Shell Volume 1 - 2nd Edition (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) (v. 1) 1989 cyberpunk (1 volume): Created by Masamune Shirow. He followed it up by Ghost in the Shell 2: Man/Machine Interface and more recently by Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human Error Processor. The overarching story of the manga is of Major Motoko Kusanagi's hunt for a cyber-criminal, The Puppeteer, whose real identity is unknown.

Paradise Kiss Vol 1 2000 drama, romance (5 volumes): Written by popular mangaka Ai Yazawa, Paradise Kiss is the semi-sequel to her previous work, Gokinjo Monogatari, as several characters from that series are given cameos. This comic is widely read not only in Japan, but in many countries around the world.

Real, Vol. 1 2001 drama, sports (7 volumes): Deals with wheelchair basketball. The first 7 volumes have sold over 9 million copies in Japan alone. The series received an Excellence Prize for manga at the 2001 Japan Media Arts Festival.

Sanctuary (Volume 1) 1990 crime, political thriller (12 volumes): Sanctuary was a bestseller in Japan, and inspired a live action film. Sanctuary is a political thriller and crime story that featured two childhood friends, Akira Hojo and Chiaki Asami, who are ruthlessly struggling to set a new paradigm of living in Japan.

Tanpenshu Volume 1 1997 drama, psychological (2 volumes): Two tankobon series collection of various short manga by Hiroki Endo. "Tanpenshu" is Japanese for "short stories".

Adolf, Volume 1: A Tale of the Twentieth Century 1983 drama, historical (5 volumes): The story is set before World War II and is centered on three men with the name Adolf. Adolf Kamil is a Jew living in Japan. His best friend Adolf Kaufmann, who is of both Japanese and German descent. The third Adolf is Adolf Hitler, the future dictator of Germany. Adolf won the Kodansha Manga Award in 1986 for general manga.

Skip Beat! Vol. 1 2002 romantic comedy (22 volumes): A shojo manga about a 16-year-old girl who discovers her childhood friend, Sho Fuwa, who is an aspiring pop idol as well as the boy she loves, only keeps her around to act as a maid and earn money. Furious and heart broken, she vows to get revenge by beating him in show business.

Claymore, Vol. 1 2001 fantasy, adventure, (14 volumes): In a world where monsters called Yoma prey on humans and live among them in disguise, humanity's only hope is a new breed of warrior known as Claymores--silver-eyed girls who have willingly become half monster to destroy the predators. But the more the Claymores call on their supernatural strength, the closer they come to losing their human sides forever.

Nana, Volume 1 (v. 1) 2000 drama, romance, (20 volumes): The first twelve volumes of the manga series have cumulatively sold over 22 million copies. The manga derives its title from the name of the two main characters, both of whom are called Nana. What sets them apart, however, is the stark difference between their lives. One Nana comes from a small town, following along with her friends and boyfriend, looking for a goal to obtain, while the other Nana's goal is set on making her dream and band, Black Stones, among the best. The two Nanas are brought together in what has become a major success for author Ai Yazawa and the shojo genre.

Nodame Cantabile, Vol. 1 2001 comedy, romance (21 volumes): The series has been adapted twice on television, as a live-action drama that aired in 2006 and as an anime series that aired in 2007. The series received the 2004 Kodansha Manga Award for shojo. When volume 19 was released in November 2007, it was ranked #1 by the Japanese Comic Ranking.

The Five Star Stories Vol 1 (in Japanese) 1986 space opera (12 volumes): The story is staged at an alien cluster of four major planetary systems. The God of Light, Amaterasu, the immortal emperor of the Grees Kingdom on the Delta Belune planet, is destined to rule the whole Joker System. He and Lachesis, his bride and fatima, are the main characters of this epic story. An anime film adaptation of the first volume, directed by Kazuo Yamazaki, was released in 1989.

Black Jack, Vol. 1 1973 medical drama (17 volumes): Black Jack consists of hundreds of short, self-contained episodes that are typically about 20 pages long. Black Jack has also been animated into an OVA, two television series and two movies. Black Jack is Tezuka's third most famous manga, after Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. In 1977, it won the 1st Kodansha Manga Award for shonen.

2001 Nights, Vol. 1: The Death Trilogy Overture 1984 sci-fi (3 volumes): This series is largely inspired by classic hard science fiction, with many visual homages to previous SF novels and films. The title is a fusion of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Arabian 1001 Nights. Each of the books is loosely structured around a series of short graphic stories, all of which are taking place in a unified timeline spanning several hundred years.

Emma, Vol. 1 2002 historical, romance (7 volumes): Set in Victorian London at the end of the 19th century, Emma is the story of a maid who falls in love with a member of the gentry. However, the young man's family disapproves of him associating with people of the lower classes. The manga has a cult following in Japan, even going as far as opening an Emma-inspired and themed maid cafe in Shinjuku.

Mars #1 1996 romance (15 volumes): The manga stars Kira Aso, a timid artist who lives with her mom, and Rei Kashino, a flirt and playboy with a penchant for racing motorcycles (professionally). These two unlikely teenagers fall in and out of love (and in again by the end) throughout the course of the fifteen book series. Besides the main love story narrative, the storyline of Mars discusses topics such as mental illness, sexual harassment, suicide and bullying, which have contributed to making this manga popular with readers worldwide.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow, Book 1 1996 action, comedy (12 volumes): A magical girl manga series from the well-known all-female artist team CLAMP. The manga is well-known for its emphasis on the shojo genre of the series; nearly every page has detailed flowers, bubbles, or sparkles around the main characters. It won the noted Seiun Award for best manga in 2001.

BECK:Mongolian Chop Squad Volume 1 (Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad (Tokyopop)) 2000 music, romance (34 volumes): Tells the story of a group of Japanese teenagers who form a rock band. It was adapted as an anime television series with the title BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad. The series has also spawned three guidebooks. The manga won the 2002 Kodansha Manga Award for shonen.

Love Com, Vol. 1 2001 romantic comedy (17 volumes): The series is about the romance between a tall girl and a short boy who are treated as a comedy duo by their classmates. In 2004, it received the 49th Shogakukan Manga Award for shojo. The story has been adapted as a live-action movie released in 2006, a 24-episode television anime series broadcast in 2007.

Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys, Vol. 1: Friends 2000 sci-fi, mystery (22 volumes): Naoki Urasawa wrote 20th Century Boys along with another popular title, Monster, for 2 years (Monster ended in 2001). The manga won the 2001 Kodansha Manga Award in the General category, an Excellence Prize at the 2002 Japan Media Arts Festival, and the 2003 Shogakukan Manga Award in the General category.

Fairy Tail, Vol. 1 2006 fantasy, adventure, comedy (11 volumes): Lucy is a 16-year-old girl, who wants to be a full-fledged mage. One day when visiting Harujion Town, she meets Natsu, a young man who gets sick easily by any type of transportation. But Natsu isnt just any ordinary kid, he's a member of one of the world's most infamous mage guilds: Fairy Tail.

The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross, Vol. 1 2004 drama, romance (11 volumes): Otomiya Haine is a student at the Imperial Academy, an exclusive school for the children of rich families. The school is socially stratified according to money, and Haine is near the very bottom of the lowest stratum. To complicate matters, she has set her heart on the highest-ranking student, Tougu Shizumasa, the student council's president. As impossible as the odds may seem, Haine-chan's innate optimism keeps her going, as she pursues her love.

Eden: It's An Endless World!, Vol. 1 (v. 1) 1998 action, cyberpunk (18 volumes): Eden is set in the near future, following a pandemic which killed 15 percent of the world's population, crippled or disfigured many more, and upset the world's political balance greatly. Eden was named Wizard magazine's best manga of 2007. David F. Smith of Newtype USA has called Eden one of the best manga American money can buy.

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Manga Series
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Used & New from: $2.69
4.4 out of 5 stars   (12)
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39.  The Five Star Stories Vol 1 (in Japanese)  by Mamoru Nagano
Used & New from: $19.97
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40.  Black Jack, Vol. 1  by Osamu Tezuka
$13.70 Used & New from: $1.23
4.8 out of 5 stars   (26) | 1 customer discussion
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41.  2001 Nights, Vol. 1: The Death Trilogy Overture  by Yokinobu Hoshino
Used & New from: $33.89
4.9 out of 5 stars   (9)
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42.  Emma, Vol. 1  by Kaoru Mori
Used & New from: $12.73
4.5 out of 5 stars   (17)
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43.  Mars #1  by Fuyumi Soryo
Used & New from: $0.01
4.8 out of 5 stars   (52)
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44.  Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow, Book 1  by Anita Sengupta
Used & New from: $0.01
4.9 out of 5 stars   (15)
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45.  BECK:Mongolian Chop Squad Volume 1 (Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad (Tokyopop))  by Stephen Paul
Used & New from: $0.01
5.0 out of 5 stars   (2)
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46.  Love Com, Vol. 1  by Aya Nakahara
$8.02 Used & New from: $0.01
4.5 out of 5 stars   (13)
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47.  Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys, Vol. 1: Friends  by Naoki Urasawa
$10.95 Used & New from: $4.14
4.8 out of 5 stars   (15)
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48.  Fairy Tail, Vol. 1  by Hiro Mashima
Used & New from: $0.01
4.8 out of 5 stars   (40)
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49.  The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross, Vol. 1  by Arina Tanemura
$8.02 Used & New from: $0.01
4.2 out of 5 stars   (18) | 1 customer discussion
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50.  Eden: It's An Endless World!, Vol. 1 (v. 1)  by Hiroki Endo
$11.66 Used & New from: $0.01
4.9 out of 5 stars   (9)
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Qualifications: high school graduate
Last updated: 3/27/12
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