I alway enjoy checking out new points of view on Japanese manga criticism, so I ordered this book to see what the author had to add to the work done by Fred Schodt and other manga scholars.
While this book has its merits, I found it difficult to read, appreciate and use as a reference. By titling it "500 heroes and villains," it gives the illusion that it provides lot of content, or at least a lot of manga reviewed in this volume. But really, the author just dissected several characters from a few manga and split them up into 'groups' based on their roles in the various series.
Splitting up the heroes and villains for each series and talking about them in separate sections of the book makes it harder to understand the relationship dynamic between these 'good' and 'bad' characters' and how they drive the plot of the various series. The result is a disjointed critique that is difficult to cross-reference or refer to as a resource for discovering new manga series or understanding the history of manga.
Also, there are a lot of listings and descriptions of characters without illustrations to accompany them. I would rather that the author had concentrated on fewer series and provided illustrations for each entry rather than jamming in a lot of entries w/o accompanying artwork. Without artwork to illustrate the various points she's making about each character, it's like a cookbook without pictures of food. it does the job, but does it really entice you to cook the dish, much less think its worthwhile to do so?
Entries jump from decade to decade, describing a character from a series from the 1970's next to one introduced in 2002. This is because the author opted to list characters alphabetically by name.
Again, this is a bizarre way to organize this book. Most readers relate to a manga series by its title, not by its individual characters' names. For example, most fans of "Bleach" by Tite Kubo would look for "Bleach" vs. looking up Ichigo Kurosaki, the name of the lead character, much less try to find him in the "Heroes" section.
I'm tempted to sell this book back -- but there are things in here that aren't available in other similar books. I'll just gnash my teeth anytime I try to refer to it -- but I wouldn't recommend it for either the casual manga fan or the reader looking for insight into the evolution of manga and why it's so special and unique compared to Western comics.