The grade level, special programs or focus, as well as the uniqiue needs of your school community will shape the resources you select for school library. When selecting graphic novels, manga, and/or anime for your school library, selectors should consider publisher’s age ratings as well as professional reviews. (A publisher’s age ratings is the first line of defense!)
Students' interests and maturity in the school setting will differ. Nonetheless, librarians need to consider the school as a whole. When an individual or group of students recommend a title, librarians should do their research as they would with any title they order.
Professional reviews for manga are limited. Many reviews are only for a limited number of volumes in series, and some manga series have a large number of volumes. Storylines and the edginess of stories shift. As newer volumes are published, publishers have changed their age ratings.
Once a selector has determined that the age rating of a graphic novel and/or manga aligns with their school’s population, they should turn to professional reviews to see that reviewers thoughts are aligning with the publishers too. What are some of the sensitive areas that aren’t in the publisher’s description. Some manga are a bit risque and some school populations might be less sensitive to that than others, but violence in some school populations might be entirely off limits. Determining if a title is appropriate for your school means that a librarian must be familiar with a series either by reading reviews or reading the title first-hand.
Manga, like video games and film, has a ratings system. While a little arbitrary and sometimes confusing, it’s still a good jumping off point for collection development. Here are the ratings and their meaning:
E: Everyone / A: All Ages: These two are interchangeable. Basically, this means the manga is intended for all audiences, like a G rating. Think of titles like Chi’s Sweet Home.
Y: Youth, Age 10+: Think of this as Upper Elementary, Middle Grade. There might be some mild cursing or violence. Many of these titles are actually made into Saturday morning cartoons, such as Gundam Wing.
T: Teens, Age 13+: Many titles fall into this range. This is very equivalent to PG-13 films, with potential for sexual innuendo and violence. Most shōnen battle manga falls into this age range.
OT: Older Teens, Age 16+: These are a hit above T, with sometimes explicit sexual content and violence. These titles can vary a lot in terms of appropriateness.
M: Mature, Age 18+: These can be either super violent or fall into the “hentai” or “ecchi” category. The good thing is that the M category is generally (but not always) a good rule of thumb to avoid in a school library, whereas the teen categories are subject to more fluidity. If it’s not hentai, the violence is going to be intense and quite graphic. These titles aren’t intended for a younger audience, and are better left for readers to discover on their own.