My first encounter with Ancient Magus’ Bride was when the manga first came overseas. I was reading through manga reviews and spotted its beautiful cover, which went accompanied with a perfect 10/10 score. I bought the first volume when I got the opportunity to and enjoyed it a great deal. Even so, I kept feeling something akin to buyer’s remorse, and one glance at my shelves betrayed exactly why I felt that way.
Series. So many series. Sure, some of them are complete, but others I stopped collecting for various reasons and many others are still ongoing. Berserk, Spice & Wolf, Witchcraft Works, Delicious in Dungeon, all of them are as-of-yet unfinished and all of them I kind of regretted starting on.
A lot of manga release in magazines and try to keep their story going so long as the work is popular enough not to risk cancelation, a process that was parodied excellently in Romeo Tanaka’s Humanity Has Declined. While we ultimately want well-paced stories with daring subject matter and surprising twists, authors are encouraged to pander and play it safe, just to make sure their work stays popular enough with as many people to avoid a more forceful conclusion to its story.
And I have been at the losing end of that deal too many times. I have allowed myself to get seriously invested in manga that would end up canceled, I have had series that kept going for so long that I lost interest or it had changed so much it didn’t feel like the same story anymore, and I have started buying new series that would then get an anime adaptation that I liked better.
The little bonus comic at the end of Ancient Magus’ Bride’s first volume hammered the point home nicely. In it, author Kore Yamazaki expresses her excitement at the series being popular and remarks that she doesn’t fully know yet how long the series will go on for and where it might go. An understandable stance from the perspective of an author who makes her living on the continued popularity of this beloved series, but it helped me realize I just don’t like getting myself involved with projects that are still uncertain.
I liked volume 1, but would I still be into it if the series ended up being 30 volumes? What if it would only get 3? What if some big plot-twist completely changed the course of the story and a large part of the fanbase called it quits? If I am going to dedicate myself to reading a longer series or buying its physical volumes, I like being able to research this stuff ahead of time.
Helck was a big commitment for me, but since it was finished there was a lot of information I could find that encouraged me to give it a try anyway. I could see what other people scored it in the end, I could read up on how it topped popularity charts only to be denied an anime adaptation, and AniList tags like “Tragedy” and “Anti-hero” clued me in that the story would be bigger than its comedic first volume implied. Helck is one of my all-time favorite manga series now and I could read it all in one go, whereas a series like Witchcraft Works is also fantastic, save for the fact that I have to wait months for each new volume to come out.
I don’t begrudge Ancient Magus’ Bride for this. If anything, this realization ended up being a good thing that improved my enjoyment of the manga I buy. It also pushed me to clear out some of my old stuff and donate a lot of the series I had stopped buying to a non-profit manga library. However, the allure of new series is never entirely gone. I don’t live in a vacuum and online hype for manga like Komi-san Can’t Communicate does make me wish I could join in on the fun.
What kind of reader are you? Do you follow ongoing series or do you get them in bulk when they are finished? Do you even still do printed media? If not, what the hell are you doing with the vast emptiness in your shelves?