Read the label

Tom Spurgeon points to a manga flap in Lexington, KY, involving a copy of Yuu Watase’s Absolute Boyfriend (from Viz’s Shojo Beat imprint and serialized in the magazine) in the children’s section of a Books-A-Million. I don’t really have anything much to say about the story itself, which reads like one of those “Can too much applesauce be fatal?” stories that local news outfits love so much. But Tom did make a couple of points about the Books-A-Million chain, and I wanted to chime in:

“The one thing that jumps out at me is that Book-a-Million is a big growth account for manga recently, and it’s my understanding that the chain has shown up in some towns that haven’t had a bookstore in a while. That would mean the store has increased coverage for manga in addition to simply increasing the number of outlets where it’s available.”

That was certainly the case here in north-central West Virginia. Books-a-Million was the first stand-alone chain bookstore in town, and it’s had a reasonably sized (and growing) manga section since it opened a few years back. It’s since been joined by a Barnes & Noble, which has its own substantial graphic novel/manga section.

I vaguely remember reports of Books-a-Million having a special “adult graphic novel/manga” section separate from the general population for some of the spicier, plastic-wrapped offerings, though I’ve never seen that set-up personally. And I’ve never seen manga or graphic novels shelved in the children’s section, though admittedly I don’t spend a lot of time there.

I can say without qualification that I think Absolute Boyfriend is probably the worse thing Watase has ever created, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s rated for older teens, as is a fair amount of the Shojo Beat line (or just for teens), so it sounds like it might have been carelessly shelved, if in fact it was in the children’s section.

14 Responses to Read the label

  1. gynocrat says:

    That’s okay, I found that retched ‘Zowie it’s Yaoi’ located in the teen girl fiction section of Barnes and Nobles once. :/ There were two copies there, and I pointed out that just because there’s “cartoon” boys on the cover, doesn’t mean it’s for ‘teen girls’.

  2. davidpwelsh says:

    I can’t even picture that book being anywhere in a Barnes & Noble, but what do I know? Why didn’t you call the local television station? What kind of outraged consumer are you?!

  3. gynocrat says:

    The kind that laughs it off while explaining to the salesperson what ‘yaoi’ is, by showing them a book that has nothing to do with yaoi. XD

  4. Simon Jones says:

    From my reading, the book was not improperly shelved per se, but the entire manga section was in close proximity to the Children’s section (this is why I’ve always supported racking manga by their individual genres rather than a general manga section).

    In any case, instead of relocating other sections, Children’s books should be moved outside the store. That way kids wouldn’t have to walk past any other book section which may or may not contain material unsuitable for them… which by definition, most probably do.

  5. davidpwelsh says:

    “Children’s books should be moved outside the store.”

    I like the way you think.

    At this point, though, mightn’t it be more practical to shelve manga by age rating instead of genre?

  6. Chloe says:

    “At this point, though, mightn’t it be more practical to shelve manga by age rating instead of genre?”

    I feel awkward enough buying manga with questionably younger-centric covers; having to trapse through rows of twelve year olds to do so would be adding insult to injury! That, and I’m reasonably sure most sales associates would dump more “all ages” titles like Yotsuba& down at the lower end of the age shelf simply on cover alone, which would be a bit of an injustice.

  7. Simon Jones says:

    I guess this betrays my own traditionalist/elitist bias… manga genres, as defined by the Japanese, *are* grouped by age.

    But yeah, that’s basically what ought to happen.

  8. Simon Jones says:

    Oops, hit submit too early…

    But even if manga were racked properly, if they were located anywhere between the front door and the children’s section, this parent’s complaint still applies. So kick the little jerks to the curb, I say!

  9. davidpwelsh says:

    Hee! Seriously, there’s always empty retail space somewhere. If the Gap and Pottery Barn can segregate the tykes…

  10. […] of which is entirely too much verbiage for a story this stupid, but there you are. Oh, and David Welsh has commentary, if you’re still […]

  11. […] is moving their manga department farther away from the kids’ section in response. David Welsh has a good time with it, and check the comments for more. As the aunt of a second-grader, all I can say is, will they be […]

  12. Personally, I think “Imadoki”and “Alice 19th” are worse than “Absolute Boyfriend”… 😉

  13. Speaking of Simon Jones’ great quote, it’s amazing how much more shocked our culture is by visual offensive material than written descriptions of offensive material. Then again, I suppose it’s just human nature. But what I wonder is, would these parents be equally offended by a young adult novel with the line, “He stood in front of her, completely naked”? Sadly, a small percentage probably would be…

  14. davidpwelsh says:

    I’m sure you’re right, Jason.

    Not about Imadoki, obviously, but the “described in prose” versus “obliquely drawn” issue… 😉

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