A manga fan’s review of NLB’s pop-up Manga Library

The pop-up features best-selling series like Hunter Hunter and Full Metal Alchemist for loan.

Nicole Descalsota

Published: 28 February 2023, 1:07 PM

When the National Library Board (NLB) opened its first Manga Library at City Square Mall last Monday (Feb 20), manga lovers – myself included – were over the moon.

The library houses a large collection of 5,000 titles, from childhood classics like Naruto to more recent series such as Spy x Family

Manga, or Japanese comics and graphic novels, are pretty difficult to find in libraries across Singapore, so expectations were high as I paid my first visit to the library. 

Seamless entry and check-out systems

Using a fully self-service Grab-n-Go concept, the library is an introvert’s paradise. The process of tapping to get in and out is intuitive enough, and I observed that even younger children were able to understand the process easily.

The pop-up also features an upgraded check-out system that automatically counts your books, bringing seamlessness to another level. 


The Manga Library’s robot concierge Mr Kiasu, however, was in need of a software update and was not functioning when I visited. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/NICOLE DESCALSOTA


The Grab-n-Go concept definitely works for how small the space is. NLB announced its plans to set up more such pop-ups around Singapore, and I would love to see more of them, perhaps with different themes. 

The selection of manga best-sellers

The comics are divided into two categories: for reference and for borrowing. 

Books for reference cannot be taken out of the library, and include popular titles like Astro Boy, Detective Conan, Dragon Ball Z, the entire collection of Haikyuu!, Fairy Tail, Naruto, One Piece, and Zelda

Titles for loan include famed manga series Hunter Hunter and Full Metal Alchemist, alongside some of the reference titles above that also have copies for borrowing.


Reference books are available on a first-come-first-served basis so it’s better to come early for a long, uninterrupted read. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/NICOLE DESCALSOTA


The Manga Library is a great resource for people who might not be able to invest in a whole collection of Japanese comics, especially since one manga volume can cost upwards of $15. 

With so many quintessential titles available for you to dive into, it’s easy to get lost in the stories and spend a whole day there.

However, the pop-up lacks designated seating areas for visitors to comfortably stay and enjoy the reading experience. This especially posed a problem since many of the books are not available for loan. 


Many students found corners at the library to wolf down multiple chapters in one go. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/NICOLE DESCALSOTA


The library also seems to lack many newer titles and cult classics such as Demon Slayer, Ouran High School Host Club, Attack on Titan, Death Note, and My Hero Academia. I was especially looking forward to getting my hands on other volumes of Ouran again because it was the first manga I owned, but I was sorely disappointed. 

While the range wasn’t bad for its opening weekend, I imagine it will need to add more titles soon, with the speed that some young visitors seemed to devour each volume. 


The catalogue helps visitors see all the available titles on one screen. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/NICOLE DESCALSOTA


For those who might not know which title to start with, there is also a digital catalogue to navigate the entire selection of books. However, the titles were not arranged in any order I could discern, so it seemed more suited for browsing.

The Singapore Collection on display

In a bid to draw more attention to Singapore’s rich comic culture, the Manga Library also features a display of local comics which are now rare to find. 


The collection showcases the best of Singaporean humour and art, from wacky titles like Singapore Shampoo to the honest yet witty Chronicles of A Circuit Breaker. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/NICOLE DESCALSOTA


I would have loved to get a chance to read these pieces of home-grown creative writing, but unfortunately, the books from the Singapore Collection are not available for reading or loan.

In the future, I do hope NLB can set up a Singapore Collection pop-up library and mark the books as “for reference only” so that more people can access the comics.

While there are some shortcomings, the manga library connects manga lovers of all ages and gives them a space to explore and reread some of Japan’s best offerings. It is also a great place for newer manga readers who want to start with the classics. 

As a manga lover, it was definitely nostalgic to see some titles that shaped my childhood. It was also heartening to see the younger generations engrossed in the same stories I grew up with, and still enjoy to this day. 

For those who are unable to find a specific series at the pop-up, fret not. NLB also has a pretty extensive online catalogue where you might be able to find eBooks of select manga collections. 

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