Though former Prime Minister Taro Aso’s ambitious plan for a national media arts center to promote manga and anime has been scrapped by the incumbent government, fans of the art form will welcome the news that the Yoshihiro Yonezawa Memorial Library of Manga and Subcultures opened at Meiji University in Ochanomizu last weekend. The library is a forerunner of a much more ambitious project to house the world’s largest manga collection, which is slated to open in 2014 as part of the university’s School of Japanese Global Studies course. Visitors to the library can browse an impressive collection that includes rare series from the 1960s. (Read all about the library in The Japan Times.)

While there are many commercial manga kissaten (coffee shops for reading manga) in Japan with extensive manga collections, public libraries shy away from comprehensive collections of comic books. My own local library in Chuo Ward, despite being rather large, only has a disappointingly slim number of Osamu Tezuka classics. Before the Yonezawa Library opened in Tokyo, the only other decent public collection available was in Kyoto at the Kyoto International Manga Museum, which opened three years ago.

The recent change in attitude has been brought about by increasing international interest in manga as an art form. Somewhat similar to the way the value of ukiyo-e was reassessed by Japan when Western collectors began buying up the woodblock prints, driving up prices and local interest in a commercial art form that had been thought of as disposable. While the sheer variety of manga produced makes the idea of having a comprehensive collection in any one place almost impossible to contemplate, a look at this video of plans for the new library is pretty impressive, promising to preserve a pretty huge chunk of Japan’s manga heritage.

Got a  favorite manga cafe? Let us know what makes its collection special.

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