Imported Books Through Mandarake.co.jp: My Experience (Still cheap and fast during COVID!)

NOTE: MORE GOOD INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND IN THE REDDIT POST: GUIDE TO ORDERING MANGA FROM JAPAN.

Photos are towards the bottom of the post, if that’s all you want to see.

Hi all. If you’ve been studying Japanese for a while, reading native material becomes an indispensable part of studying. I’ve been going for almost two years now, and I’ve started working a half-hour to an hour of reading manga into my routine. While you can certainly find untranslated manga online, I prefer to have the physical copies. They look nice on a shelf, and they help limit the amount of cell phone light I’m shining in my face right before bed.

So, since the books I brought home from my trip last year are beginning to thin out, I decided to order more. Mandarake seemed to offer the best deals, so I gave them a shot. I figured I’d share my experiences for anyone else who wanted to do the same.

Also note that while I’m a comic book geek and imported nothing but manga, this all applies to any books you might want to import.


PRICE

So, while nothing beats the cost of picking up used manga directly from a Book Off if you happen to be in Japan, Mandarake is surprisingly cheap, if you buy in bulk. I was nearly scared off when I put a single book in my cart and checked the cost, but DHL very quickly becomes affordable once you’ve put a few titles in your cart.

The mandarake website allows you to order titles from their physical locations as well as SAHRA, their warehouse. If you order from SAHRA, you’ll be able to view the shipping cost in checkout before placing your order. It’s a few screens into checkout, but I recommend ordering from SAHRA if you can and checking every few books, as the price of DHL shipping will plateau for a number of books before jumping up. This is because DHL cost is based on package size, rather than weight. Books are small and heavy, making them ideal for DHL. The store pages for the book will estimate the shipping cost of your full cart with the book added, but I found it underestimated compared to the final price shown in checkout.

Ultimately, I ordered 24 used manga volumes of varying prices and ages. The manga itself cost a total of 6,300 yen (~$58USD) and the shipping cost 4,250 yen (~$39USD), for a grand total of almost exactly $4 per book. Even with the price of shipping, it compares very favorably to buying english-translated manga.


SPEED

A bonus to DHL being the cheapest shipping method is that it’s also one of the fastest. I ordered these books last Thursday night/Friday morning, and they arrived Tuesday afternoon. That’s less than a 5 day turnaround through a weekend from Japan to the East Coast. I imagine it’s slower to more inland states, and probably faster to the West coast, but I can’t be sure.

Note: I’ve heard of DHL charging extortionate ‘custom brokerage’ fees on packages shipped to Canada as well as European/Middle Eastern countries. If you don’t live in the United States, do some research before shipping through them.


QUALITY

Y’know, I didn’t expect to be surprised by this, but I still am. Used books bought in Japan tend to be almost like-new, save for yellowing. But even the really old stuff I got is in great condition. It arrived in a fairly sturdy box. If I could have any complaint about any part of the process, it’s the the bottom of the box was held closed only with glue, and could have conceivably come open if the box were crushed a bit.

Inside the box, the books were arranged neatly on a small cardboard pallet, and the whole thing was wrapped in two or three layers of bubble wrap. The box would have needed to be opened or pierced through for the books to be damaged. In addition, each book was individually wrapped, either in shrinkwrap or a plastic sleeve.

The one thing that really took me off guard was the quality of the Tenchi Muyo: Ryo-Ohki book. Looking at the back, it appears to have been printed in 1995, before I even knew what anime was . The dust jacket and pages are in near-perfect condition, save for yellowing, and it even still has an promotional insert that appears to have come with the original book, advertising Macross, as well as the first volumes of Evangelion and Slayers.


Overall, I had a great experience ordering from Mandarake, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in getting some physical reading material!

35 Likes

Thanks for your experience I’m looking to buy some manga to collect and to read but I’m always cautious ordering them and thinking it’ll take weeks for it to come

It really is shocking to me how cheap manga is.
I bought one on amazon the other day, and yeah, it was also around $4, it came to $18 with shipping, which is literally the same thing that would cost me to go to a store and buy it there, but in this case it was delivered to my door.

I can’t read it yet, bought mostly cause it’s a new manga that I like and wanted to support it (Besides I may have or may have not been reading some uhm alternative translation)
But now it may be a slight motivation to keep up studying

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Yeah, I get it. I mostly read manga that I’ve either read or watched the anime of. Having the context helps me work out words I might otherwise have trouble with, so I don’t find myself reaching for the Jisho app quite so much.

I just wish Amazon Japan offered some cheaper, slower, shipping.
Even buying in bulk, shipping is nearly as much as the books themselves and I swear my Amazon JP packages arrive faster than my Amazon US packages do (I’m in US).
I don’t need my books within a few days. I’ll gladly wait a few weeks if I can save a few bucks. Hell, I’d probably just turn around and use that savings to buy more crap.

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Honestly, me too! I’m honestly kinda shocked at how early it arrived, I swear I could buy something inside my own country and even city, and have it take longer to arrive.

I ordered it on a wednesday and it got to my country by friday, if it wasn’t because of the weekend, I’d had it in my hands in just 2 days.

In that sense, I guess you can justify the shipping being 3 times the book, but another choice could be great as well

THANK YOU!!! I found some stuff I was having trouble getting on Amazon. This is great! @omun!!!

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I am based in the UK and quick Google found https://www.gov.uk/goods-sent-from-abroad which indicates that some customs taxes are in order on top of price of goods imported and postage/packaging, unless the whole package is less than £39… I ordered an anime OST CD from www.play-asia.com once, was the most expensive CD of my life.

A good alternative for people wanting a site for ordering new (as in not used) manga that offers cheaper/slower shipping than Amazon is honto.jp. They offer SAL shipping which is the cheapest option available, as well as express shipping. There are guides online that help walk you through the process of ordering from Honto. I’ve been ordering from them for the past few years and they’re great.

OP, thank you for the review about Mandarake. I’ve been looking into getting some older out of print manga through them, and they have a really great selection.

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Seems like this website reserves customs at checkout, just like Amazon

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Mandarake also offers SAL shipping, actually. Despite being significantly faster, DHL is actually cheaper for books in bulk. This is because with SAL shipping, you’re paying for weight, while with DHL, you pay for the size of the package. Books are heavy and compact, making them perfect for DHL.

I don’t recall exactly, but I believe SAL became more expensive than DHL after somewhere between 8 and 16 books.

I would like to know if there are any stores that do surface mail. That takes several months, but I’ve been told it’s dirt cheap. Considering DHL was only around $1.30 a book at 24 volumes though, it’d have to be a pretty deep discount to be competitive.

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Well well, there goes the budget!

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Also, as a weird side note: The Tenchi Muyo book smells really good for some reason. Is this just something that happens with old books? It’s the oldest of the bunch by nearly ten years.

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I was the previous owner

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I work for a large publisher/distributor and we have a rather large and collection of first additions old and new, in an archive room. I love working in there and I do think old books do smell wonderful. I don’t know what it is, but that room is a calming sanctuary on some days.

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Yeah. This one’s got a weirdly refreshing smell to it. I can’t quite place it. It makes me think of a pool, or a particularly refreshing glass of water?

Bizarre things to compare a book to, I know. And it’s certainly not water damaged.

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Though, I still choose to believe the nice smell is animal glue…

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I was already carting off several mangas in cdjapan when I saw your post!

And oh my god, books here in Mandarake are quite cheaper (I guess because they’re secondhand).

…I ended up impulse buying more than I intended to. I hope they are all in stock :sweat_smile:

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Yeah, Mandarake is a secondhand store, though secondhand book stores in general seem to be very discerning about what they take in. I expect you’ll be pleased with what you get.

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This is amazing! Thank you.