Organizing and Presenting Manga and Anime

The best way to get to know someone isn’t in conversation. Instead, look at their bookshelves. Your books and DVDs reveal much about your personality, interests, and tastes. My bookshelves are a little messy and eclectic. You will find everything from history to religion, from science fiction novels to video games on them. As books and movies and games turn toward digital, we lose the pleasure of displaying our favorites. Part of the culture of the book (and of the movie) is displaying them. The sight of classic leather covers, the vibrancy of artistic dust jackets, brings as much pleasure as reading. Books and movies are part of your decor. You can use bookshelves as accents or make them central to the room’s look.

Public libraries have many ways of organizing information. The Dewey Decimal System is used for nonfiction. Manga is organized by title or author in most libraries. Anime is alphabetized by title and by genre in some libraries. Organized manga looks great on the shelf, but what’s the best way to organize it? Do you go the library route or make up your own system? Well, it depends on how much you have. Large collections benefit from the library’s alphabetical author method. The problem with this method comes from the different trim sizes some manga has. Some manga are larger than the standard 5.8 x 8.2 inches, 14.732 x 20.828 centimeters.  This can make your shelf look uneven. So one way around this is to separate the books by trim size and then by author or title. Of course, serials look great when organized by volume.

A manga collection at a public library. Notice the space on the shelves that allows for expansion.

A manga collection at a public library. Notice the space on the shelves that allows for expansion.

Most manga collection I’ve seen online lack breathing space. It’s vital to leave room to expand on each shelf. If you don’t leave breathing space, you will have to shift the entire collection to make space for new series. Breathing space helps the collection avoid feelings of claustrophobia and gives an area to display your figures, plants, or art. I like to use breathing space to display the cover art of books. To do this, you can purchase inexpensive photograph stands at your local dollar store. standing a book without a stand can warp the spine over time, so don’t do it!  Breathing space requires you to have a lot of shelving, but it is worth it because of the ease of expansion and nice presentation.

Speaking of presentation, less is more. I’ve seen book collections (including mine) that look cluttered despite being organized. Some collectors try to show off too much at once. Take a look at this collection:

cluttered-manga-collection

The collection has too many figures. They obscure the spines of the manga and make the shelves look busy. Japanese aesthetics follow the less-is-more philosophy. A single flower in a vase gets more attention and appreciation than two thick bouquets. A single wall hanging grabs the eye better than a dozen pictures on a wall. When you mingle your figurine collection with your manga, use this less-is-more philosophy. If you have breathing space on each self, display one to two figurines on each shelf. You may display three if you have long shelves, but don’t cram them. The open space around the figure will draw attention to the figures. If you have a large collection, store them and rotate what is on display. This lets your collection remain fresh. Whenever possible, use groupings of three. Three and multiples of three please the eye.

anime-manga-collection

This collection could use breathing space and bookends. See how the third shelf on the right leans books? This is hard on their binding. But the books are flush with the edge of the shelf. This is good presentation.

Your anime DVD collection can follow the same organization method as manga. Libraries organize DVDs by title. You can organize them by series. If you have the space, you can display the cover art of our favorites. Spine labels on DVDs are much smaller than manga. Alphabetizing anime by title makes them easier to find. Genre is another option, but this can be difficult to determine. Some series can straddle genres. High School of the Dead, for example, straddles ecchi and action genres.

stuffed-manga-collection

Avoid stacking manga on top of shelved books like the above image. This can damage the binding of the books over time. It also looks bad. Avoid direct sunlight. It fades covers. While it is difficult, try to purchase manga that has the same trim size. This helps your presentation and makes shelving easier. I know, I already said this but different book sizes shelved together annoy me. My public library has tiny, thin books shelved with fat hardcover books, and it makes it hard to find the thin books. It’s also ugly.

Invest in bookends. A good bookend reduces wear on your books by preventing shelf sliding. You can also customize bookends if you are crafty. Good bookends are not cheap, but you only need to buy a good bookend once. When shelving books and DVDs, try to keep them close to the opening rather than pushing them against the back. Books neatly lined up and flush with the shelf’s opening looks more inviting than having to reach into the shelf. Just remember to dust behind the books. Dust bunnies like to procreate behind book stacks. The exception to this rule is when your shelving has display lighting. Then you will want to scoot the books back against the back wall.

The image on the left is one of my bookshelves. Please pardon the poor quality of the image. The middle shelf is my Legend of Zelda showcase. I have more Zelda stuff, but I resist placing them all on display at once. See how the three pieces are pleasing? The drawing of Link’s shield is from my younger sister. Absent a bookend, I opted to use my writing notebooks as one. It’s not ideal, but it doesn’t look bad. It’s something you can keep in mind too, but don’t stack the end books too high. Stair-step the book sizes instead. It looks better, and its less of a pain when you want a book from the stack. My organization still needs work, but a book collection is a lifelong work in progress. I wanted to offer my shelf as an imperfect example of everything I’ve discussed. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be pleasing.

The presentation of your library is part of the enjoyment of collecting. A well presented, organized collection spruces up a room and reveals how you value what you own. An organized, neat exterior encourages an organized, calm interior. You can’t be as calm in a cluttered environment as you can be in a neat, organized environment. Your collection is a part of you. Show it well.

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