As a huge Kuroshitsuji fan and spending the summer in one of the most international cities in the world, a three-hour plane ride away from Tokyo, there is absolutely no doubt that I would go manga hunting. Though it is all very nice to read the quickly translated scans online, there is nothing quite like owning the physical books themselves. Moreover, these official translations provide professional translators’ insights into the manga; though I must say, there are many amateur translators that are amazing, in terms of depth and linguistics. BlackButler.net translators are definitely along these lines.
This post will address three things: where to physically buy manga in Shanghai, what phrases to use when looking for manga, and how to tell apart fake and genuine copies (this is more specific to Kuroshitsuji, but you can probably apply the criterion to other manga).
Address: 580号 Guoquan Road, Yangpu, Shanghai, China
Pro(s): most extensive selection, cheap, sells Japanese manga magazines and photobooks, may have doujinshi
Con(s): kind of shady, likely to get a fake copy
As I scoured the entire internets and asked my Shanghai manga-crazy friend where there was a bookstore entirely devoted to manga, I turned up only one store– 毛毛书店 (Maomao Bookstore). This is just off the Fudan University campus, Handan Rd. entrance. It is a small and cramped bookstore, consisting of only one room, which also sells international magazines and newspapers. Their collection of manga and manga magazines spreads across four to five bookshelves, from floor to ceiling. Manga sells from around 10-30RMB; the copy of KuroshitsujiI purchased was around 10RMB, dirt cheap.
However, before we mistakenly rejoice, it later turned out to be a fake copy. Though it was shrink-wrapped, I saw some early warning signs that it was a fake, but I reasoned that even if it was a fake, it was only 10RMB (around 1.6USD). Out of all the bookstores I visited, Maomao Bookstore is most likely to carry the manga you are looking for, though chances are that it is not a legitimately translated copy. Digging around, I surprisingly spotted a typical yaoi cover– it was an amateur-drawn Grell with Sebastian. This too, was shrink-wrapped, so I could not confirm if it was doujinshi (I only buy doujinshi that is well-drawn and almost identical to the original). However, this may mean that the bookstore carries doujinshi from time to time.
SHANGHAI BOOKSTORE (上海书城)
Address: 465号 Fuzhou Road, Huangpu, Shanghai, China
Pro(s): biggest bookstore in Shanghai and therefore not likely to have fakes
Con(s): small selection, confusing to find
The way you can tell something is the biggest and best in China is whether it has a Starbucks. The unimaginatively named Shanghai Bookstore does have a 星巴克, and I sat in there happily for two hours, studying and sipping my iced mango green tea; from my seat, I could see the massive front lobby swarming with people. Despite its size, Shanghai Bookstore does not have much of a manga collection. In a large bookstore like this, there are two places you can look for manga: (1) children’s / teens / youth reading (2) foreign books. The youth sections usually have an assortment of Chinese and Japanese-translated-to-Chinese comics and manga– if you are looking for a very popular manga, like Bleach or Naruto, then you should start looking there. Chances are a mainland Chinese company has legitimately licensed it. If you cannot find it in the youth sections, your next bet is the foreign section. If the manga is not as popular, then a Chinese company may not have licensed it; however, not all is lost, a Taiwan publisher may have licensed it– the case with Kuroshitsuji. Since it comes from Taiwan, China labels it as a ‘foreign book’. I found my copy of Kuroshitsuji in the foreign section. The Kuroshitsuji Chinese-translated copies cost around 30-40RMB. Shanghai Bookstore also sold bonafide Japanese Kuroshitsuji copies, costing around 60-80RMB.
OTHER BOOKSTORES ON FUZHOU RD.
Address: Fuzhou Rd., please look here for more specific details
Pro(s): bigger stores are less likely to carry fakes, bigger stores are more likely to carry a larger selection of manga
Con(s): hectic, tiring to visit them all
Fuzhou Rd. is a road of bookstores, with at least three large ones, including Shanghai Bookstore. Generally, the bigger the bookstore, the more likely the mangas are legitimate. The same rules apply to these bookstores as in Shanghai Bookstore– to find your manga, look in youth or foreign reading.
SHADY ALLEYWAY DOWN THE STREET FROM SHANGHAI BOOKSTORE
Address: Fuzhou Rd.
When you exit the Shanghai Bookstore, keep walking to the left, and in a few moments, you’ll reach it
Pro(s): can find weird extras
Con(s): small selection, most likely fake
For this shady alleyway store, I do not have any pictures, because the shopkeeper was watching and generally they do not like patrons taking photos as some of the goods obviously violate copyright (e.g., no phone salesperson in China will let you take a photo of the ‘iPad 5’). It has a usual collection of manga and anime, and trinkets to go along with them. Though the alleyway did not sell Kuroshitsuji translations, it sold a Kuroshitsuji novel– manga ‘translated’ into Chinese prose. In America, there are many movies and television shows translated to books; even I own a Sabrina: The Teenage Witch novel. If you are looking for a kitschy and cheap gift for a manga fan, you could probably find something funny there– just keep your eyes peeled, lest you miss it.
Excuse me, where is the nearest bookstore?
Excuse me, how to get to Fuzhou Rd.?
Excuse me, where is the ( manga / foreign / youth ) section?
Excuse me, do you have ( Kuroshitsuji )?
*if there is a phrase that you would like to know, please leave a comment and I will get to it!
*for Kuroshitsuji translated to Chinese
before opening the shrink-wrap
1. The cover must be the same as the one that was originally released. This somewhat reads as a no-brainer, but you need to go do your homework and look up scans of what the cover looks like. The fake copy that I purchased had Grell on the cover, though I remembered that the arc had nothing to do with Grell.
2. The characters must be in traditional. You can check the book’s blurb in the back for this criterion. For manga other than Kuroshitsuji, you must again do your homework and check if a Chinese or a Taiwanese company has licensed the manga. As I said before, only the really popular mangas like One Piece are licensed in China, so for the other 95% of manga, it is probably Taiwanese and therefore uses traditional lettering. If it is supposed to be traditional lettering, but it is not, what the Chinese publisher probably did is download some free simplified fan-scanlations and compiled them into a book. Imagine my surprise when I saw the credit page of BlackButler.net in my fake copy; what probably happened is that the Chinese fan-scanlators clean up the English scans (because my gosh, they are beautiful, American scans are usually so beautiful) and left the credit page in. When the Chinese fake-publishers put together the volume, they did not cut out the credit page either.
3. The book feels compact and solid, like the Japanese volumes or the official US volumes. This might be a little subtle to notice, but my fake copy is a bit bloated and larger.
4. The price is more than 25RMB. If it is only 10RMB, then it is way too good to be true. The fake copy cost me 10.8RMB while the real Chinese scanlation cost me 30RMB. To compare, a real Japanese volume of Kuroshitsuji costs 60RMB at Shanghai Bookstore.
after opening the shrink-wrap
1. Check for traditional characters. As I said before, there is no publisher in China which has legitimately licensed Kuroshitsuji.
2. Look for Yana Toboso’s signature omake. Toboso’s omake is a comical reworking of the covers and a little vignette at the end of the volume detailing it; sometimes she will also do a little comic detailing the work she went through for this volume. In my fake volume, the author’s signature omake was not present and the ending omake instead was a bunch of slightly erotic doujinshi.
Refer to the fake’s blue cover jacket (as photographed above), and the following real copy’s cover jacket and book:
3. Check for scanlation credits. This is a no-brainer– if you see scanlation credits (like photographed above from BlackButler.net), it is obviously a fake.
I hope this helps more than the little pieces of information I cobbled together by Googling prior to coming to Shanghai. Let me know of your successes and failures– even if attempted in Chinese cities other than Shanghai!