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They come from all over the ethnic patchwork of this neighborhood of modest-to-fancy brick houses and square green lawns in the borough of Queens, New York: East Asian, South Asian, Caribbean, African-American, Jewish. (Only one speaks Japanese at home.) But at the library, they identify as otaku — Japanese slang for manga aficionados — and their divisions run purely along manga lines. Fans of shonen action manga challenge partisans of romantic shojo; experts debate the merits of series like Full Metal Alchemist, Death Note and Fruits Basket. Readers pool their knowledge to puzzle out magic spells, ninja moves and warrior codes that dominate the manga universe.
Manga clubs have coalesced in libraries in various Queens neighborhoods — Flushing, Jamaica, Long Island City — and the genre has colonized young-adult rooms in libraries around the country.
Now, librarians write books and journal articles to figure out how to tap into this powerful vein of interest that seizes early adolescents just at the age when they are most likely to drift away from libraries.
The manga mania, like so much else in the city during the recession, is threatened by budget cuts. Beginning in July, proposed cuts would reduce library staff by more than one-third and opening hours by nearly half, library officials say. Thirty-four community libraries would be open only two or three days a week. New York Times reports.