With so many manga to choose from, looking for one you don’t want to look at might just be crazy enough to work.

“Lots of manga to choose from” doesn’t seem like it should be a problem, and for many otaku, who awaken to their love of animation and comics during their teen years, it’s not. But when adult life hits, grown-up responsibilities gradually chip away at your amount of free time and the practicality of staying up until 2 in the morning every day reading comics.

As leisure time becomes more precious, “just read everything” stops being an option, and finding a series you truly enjoy becomes the difference between a refreshing hour or two of after-work entertainment or a waste of an entire evening. But with mountains of manga being published these days, how do you mine the gems that are really interesting reads? Japanese Twitter user @minetabby recently shared a unique, and seemingly very counterintuitive, method.

@minetabby’s strategy, which originally comes from a friend, is to first search for a manga that has “crappy cover artwork.” Next, check how many collected volumes of the series have been published. If it’s three or more, the manga will, “absolutely,” be worth reading.

On the surface, the “crappy cover” plan seems like it’d immediately backfire. Art aesthetics are a key part of what makes manga manga. Take away the pictures and they’d be novels (novels with sound effects, but still, novels). So why go out of your way to search for a series with art you don’t like?

The tweet doesn’t say, but a few ideas spring to mind. First, while it’s true that a manga without art would be a novel, a manga without words would be just an art collection. It’s the mix of pictures and words that makes it a manga, so if a manga can make it to three collected volumes without appealing artwork, it stands to reason that it must be making up for the sub-par art with a more-interesting-than-average story, themes, and/or characterizations.

In Japan, almost all manga is published in weekly serialized format, in anthologies that constantly swap out unpopular series and replace them with new ones. Individual series’ collected volumes usually contain about a dozen chapters, so by the time a manga makes it to its third volume, it’s been in serialization for about nine months, plus any lead time between when the serialized chapters appeared and the collected volume was printed and distributed. With the Japanese manga market being hyper competitive, that’s more time than most publishers are willing to grant an underperforming title, so the combination of off-putting art plus longevity suggests that there must be something special that’s made a fanbase latch onto it.

There’s also likely one more factor at play. While it’s an oft-repeated exaggeration that all anime and manga characters look alike, it’s definitely true that broad design trends periodically ripple out throughout the industry. It’s not at all hard for publishers to find artists who can draw, with passable quality, in whatever the current flavor of the month style is. With OK-quality art in abundance, any manga that’s standing out from the norm enough to seem “crappy” probably isn’t interested in trying to parrot the biggest mainstream hits, and that willingness to do its own thing just might lead you to a series that offers you something you can’t get anywhere else.

Related: Twitter/@minetabby via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso (edited by SoraNews24
Insert images: Pakutaso
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!