With a beer in our left hand a shelf full of manga within reach of our right, we’re not sure why we should ever leave.

Japan’s cities are dotted with “manga cafes,” but these establishments deliver much more on the first half of their names than the second. Sure, they’re stocked with plenty of comics to read, but they’re cafes in the same way that Internet cafes are cafes, with pretty drab interiors and a bare-bones drink menu.

But Tokyo’s Manga Night Books is a genuine cafe with manga, or, if you prefer, a manga bar.

Located in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward, Manga Night is actually a very multifaceted place. It’s a manga specialty shop, but also a manga library with a large collection of comics that you can read for free. Then there’s the cafe aspect, with drinks and food, and finally Manga Night is also an art gallery, with rotating exhibits highlighting the works of manga luminaries.

After getting off the subway at Myogadani Station on the Marunouchi Line, we headed towards Manga Night. While its tastefully understated exterior quietly blends into the surrounding cityscape, as soon as we looked inside we knew we were in the right place.

Manga Night’s current exhibition is a salute to Takao Saito’s long-running hit man saga (and real estate muse) Golgo 13, and features some impressive full-color artwork of the series’ aliased star, Duke Togo.

In most manga stores in Japan, the comics are arranged by publisher, and within each publisher’s section they’re further sorted by the author’s name. Manga Night does things a little differently, though, with its books sorted by theme or some other shared characteristic.

When we stopped by, some of the groupings were seasonal autumn manga, manga with iconic school uniform designs, and manga which the Manga Night’s employees say changed their lives.

But like we said, this is a legitimate cafe, and so once you’re inside, your first stop should be the counter where you can order coffee, other soft drinks, and even craft beer! At night, the menu expands even further to include whiskey highballs and hors d’oeuvres.

In addition to manga for purchase, Manga Night has a large collection of comics that visitors can read for free as they sip their drinks. In general, the free-to-read manga are the first collected volumes of their series, but with so many series on offer, there’s no shortage of reading material.

▼ The free-to-read section, marked with the kanji 閲覧専用 (etsuran senyo/”for reading”).

Of course, given the highly visual nature of manga storytelling, the artwork is beautiful to pore over, even if you can’t read the text. With digital manga distribution becoming more and more common, we’ve gotten used to reading manga on our smartphone or PC screens, but our visit to Manga Night had us falling in love with the detail and charm printed-on-paper art all over again.

After picking out a drink and a manga, the next thing to do is to pick a seat. The counter spots are great if you’re looking to mingle with fellow manga fans, but if you’re looking for a place to quietly lose yourself in the art form…

this is the seat you’ll want to snag, with an extra-cushy sofa-style chair tucked into a back corner. Once we settled in, we had a beer at our left hand, and a whole shelf of manga to read within arm’s reach to the right.

In other words, we were in paradise, and if it wasn’t for the fact that eventually Manga Night’s employees have to close up shop and go home for the night, we might still be sitting there, and we’re looking forward to going back again once the cafe/store/gallery has its official grand opening on October 2.

Cafe information
Manga Night Books / マンガナイトBOOKS
Address: Tokyo-to, Bunkyo-ku, Kasuga 2-14-9, Spice 1st floor
東京都文京区春日2-14-9 SPICE 1F
Open 12:30 p.m.-7 p.m., 7:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.
Closed Sundays, Mondays

Photos ©SoraNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]

Follow Casey on Twitter for more on his twin passions of beer and manga.

[ Read in Japanese ]