All posts by Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is the writer and reviewer for the manga blog, Manga Xanadu. She also keeps a personal blog at Fangirl Xanadu, and a writing blog at Muse of Xanadu. She contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. As the mother of two teen daughters, she needs all the escape she can get, which reading and writing about manga gives her.

Digital Review: Prisoner of the Tower

It’s the social season, and 17 year old Emma heads to London, with her family’s hope of finding a rich husband weighing heavily on her shoulders. One night, a mysterious man approaches her. A refined handsome face, curly black hair and deep blue eyes… Emma falls in love at first sight and shares with him her first kiss. 12 years later and now a widow, Emma visits the Earl of Greyston to discuss the marriage of her stepdaughter. It is the Earl’s younger brother who is betrothed to her stepdaughter, but the Earl never shows himself. While staying there, Emma spots the man she kissed all those years ago in a portrait on the wall…!

Prisoner of the Towerby Karin Miyamoto, Gayle Wilson
Publisher: DMP/eManga/Harlequin K.K./SOFTBANK Creative Corp.
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Historical, Romance
Price: $4.99 Kindle/Digital Edition
Rating: ★★★★☆

I’m not a big romance fan, but when I was given the chance to read some of the Harlequin romances from DMP, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.  For the most part, I found the stories to be entertaining but formulaic.  One story did stand out; Prisoner of the Tower.  This is a historical romance that hits all the right marks.  It captures the feel of  Victorian England without being overbearing, and has characters that are believable and likable at the same time.

Victorian England wasn’t the best time or place to be a woman.  Women were treated more as property than people, and were often married off for the benefit of the family than for love, especially among the upper classes.  This is the situation Emma is in when we first meet her.  She is going to the Court at London to find a husband of means that can save her family from ruin.  She knows this and hopes for the best that she will find a man that will be kind to her at least.  But before reaching London, her first kiss is stolen by a mysterious man who is headed off to war.  Neither expect to see each other ever again after that night.

12 years later, Emma is going with her stepdaughter and brother-in-law to meet Earl Greystone and get his permission for her and his younger brother to marry.  Emma wants Jorgina to have a good life with her true love, something she couldn’t have herself.  The only thing standing in their way is the Earl himself.  Alexander has no problem with his brother Jamie marrying Jorgina, he just doesn’t want to meet with Emma.  Honor was very important to the upper classes, and with his disfigured face, and the disgrace he feels from his time in the war, he doesn’t want to face anyone.

Even though it’s Jorgina and Jamie that are trying to get the blessings to get married, the story is really about Emma and Alexander getting together.  Both have given up on finding love.  Alexander doesn’t believe anyone could love him because of his disfigurement and disgrace, and Emma is ready to just accept the life of a widow and live alone and out of Jorgina’s life.  Emma doesn’t realize though, that Alexander is her mystery man from all those years before.  What follows is a series of miss communications and missed opportunities as these two star-crossed lovers stumble toward their happy ending.

I really liked the setting of this story.  I enjoy stories where the main characters spur the conventions of their time and/or society, and that is just what Emma is trying to do for Jorgina.  The characters are very well developed, even for a short manga.  They felt real to me, especially with their foibles.  I really wanted to see Emma and Alexander get together, and felt some frustration at their every misstep.  I really wanted to slap Alexander for his assumptions about Emma.  Emma’s determination to win over Alexander was well done.  She was strong without being overbearing which fits the time perfectly.

I also really enjoyed the art.  The 70’s shojo style with the big, sparkling eyes, flowing hair and elaborate clothing fit the story perfectly.  I was drawn in more because of it.  The only thing that marred the look was the typesetting, which looked like it was typed in with a typewriter.  The font is stiff, and the words don’t fit into the text or word bubbles.  But this was the only problem I had with the volume.  It’s only available in digital form, either for the Kindle or through eManga.  I can’t speak for the Kindle, but the eManga site is very easy and intuitive to use.  The story is also short enough that reading online isn’t a bother.  It is smart and well written.  If romances were more like this, I would gladly read them more.

Review copy provided by publisher. Images © Digital Manga Publishing

Jenny's Journal: Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1

When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret…

Twilight v1By Stephenie Meyer;
Art & Adaptation by Young Kim
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Romance
Price: $19.99
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Buy This Book

INTRO:
The book I’m reviewing now is called Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1. I think I regret reading this, and I may never touch it again after setting my eyes upon it. But hey, as long as I’m allowed to bash it for what it is, I’m cool. Anyways, let’s talk about what the story is about.

Continue reading Jenny's Journal: Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1

This Week in Manga 3/27-4/2/10

Reprint-a-thon

Tokyopop, after serious reduction in their catalog, has been slowly building it back up.  Part of that build up is a reprinting of older titles that had become scarce, and difficult for fans to get a hold of.    Now, fans no longer have to hunt high and low, go to trading sites or bid up to ungodly prices to get volumes of their favorite series’ as they reappear back in print.  I’m of two minds about manga as a collectible.  While I understand that demand can set the market price, is there really such a demand for titles to justify prices up in the $100s?  Or is that just greed?  As much as I enjoy my manga, it’s not enough to ever justify that kind of pricing, so kudos to Tokyopop for thinking of the fans and making these books available again.

Bento Comics To Go

A bunch of former Tokyopop creators and employees have gotten together and created a really interesting website.  Bento Comics is a place where you can read comics online from creators like Queenie Chan and Svetlana Chmakova.  Then, if you want to keep the stories, you can choose your favorites and create your own anthology in print on demand, to be mailed to you.  I think this is a great idea, as it lets people choose their favorites and not be tied down by some editors choices that may include some, but not all titles they would enjoy.  I think the a la carte model is the way to go with web comics, and I hope they can get more artists to join in and put their stories up.  I’ve really come to love the idea of anthologies, and getting to make your own just plain sounds fun.

Fooled You!

Thursday was April Fools Day, and there were plenty of fake news stories all over the web, trying their darnest to fool readers into believing their stories were true.  But the best I saw, and the most clever and original was from Kuriousity.com.  Lissa Pattillo, owner of the site, posted a review of a new title called Kuriousity, the story of one manga fan’s attempt to run a manga review site.  It’s really well done, and if it was made into an actual title, I would pick it up!  There’s even a book cover, that looks a lot like a Tokyopop cover, that would fool anyone at first glance.  Definitely check this one out.  Maybe we should see if we could get this to be a series and get it on Bento Comics.

Cons aplenty!

Con season is really starting to gear up, with two cons starting this weekend, both manga related.  On the West Coast is Wondercon, run by the same people as do San Diego Comic Con.  It’s more comics focused and much smaller than SDCC.  Manga Publishers Viz and CMX will be in attendance as well as several of the manga press , including Deb Aoki of manga.about.com and Kate Dacey of mangacritic.com.  Watch there websites for highlights and their twitter feeds for updates.

Over on the East Coast is Anime Boston.  Although it’s an anime con, manga is well represented with several manga panels, and well represented by the east manga community including Brigid Alverson of Manga Blog, Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf, and Sam Kusek and Ken Haley of Manga ReconVertical is the only manga publisher in attendance, but with Ed Chavez running that panel as well as some general manga panels, it would prove to be a good show all around.  Check their sites and twitter feeds for updates and highlights as well.

NYT Best Seller List

Twilight once again rules the Hardback graphic novel list, which is no surprise, but the manga list this week does have some in store!  Tokyopop rules the roost with Warriors: Clan In Need taking the #1 spot.  Del Rey returns with xxxHolic vol 15 which jumps in at #2.  Last week’s #1 and #2, Naruto vol 47 and Bleach vol 30 are now #3 and #4.  Vampire Knight vol 10 falls back one to #5, and another new entry from Del Rey, Fairy Tail vol 10 comes in at #6.  Black Butler vol 1 takes a real dive, falling 4 spots to #7, but Yen Press gets a boost with new entry Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi vol 5 at #8 while Soul Eater vol 2 also falls four to #9.  Tokyopop’s Alice in the Country of Hearts vol 2 also falls four to hold on at #10.  Del Rey’s return to the top 10 keeps Viz from returning to dominance this week with the publisher count coming out at Viz – 3, Yen Press – 3, Del Rey – 2 and Tokyopop – 2.  If only the list could keep this variety.

Manga For Your Ears

Manga Out Loud

Spiraken Manga Review

This Week at Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • Twilight: The Graphic Novel vol 1

Japanese Journal: The Basics

hiraganaFor the good part of 25 years, the thought of learning Japanese has flitted in and out of my mind.  For most of that time, either inaccessibility of resources and/or time has kept me from putting any serious effort into it.  In the last three years, I’ve made two abortive attempts, both ending after collecting resources, but never taking it anywhere.

They say three’s a charm, so with this third attempt, I’m going to write about my experience, which I’m hoping will keep me on track.  That’s the problem with self-study sometimes, motivation.  I’ve set a goal of trying to reach an elementary level of reading that will allow me to read manga.  Speaking is going to be secondary, but since it’s helpful to learning the letters, I will be working on it somewhat along side the reading and writing.

Continue reading Japanese Journal: The Basics

Review: Nightschool Volume 2

When Alex’s sister, Sarah, vanishes and all memory and evidence of her existence is erased, Alex is determined to get to the bottom of her sister’s disappearance.  What better place to start her investigations than the Nightschool itself?  But when she discovers that sneaking into the Nightschool isn’t as simple as it might seem, Alex enrolls as a student.  But is she prepared for what she might find?

Nightschool 2By Sveltlana Chmakova
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★★
Buy This Book

The action in this volume moves to the titular Nightschool as Alex is forced to enroll in order to find out about her sister’s disappearance.  We learn more about the school and it’s inhabitants as Alex goes through orientation and attends a class.  We also see more of the Hunters as well as the seer Marina, as they relax and train at home, and more clues about the broken seal mentioned in volume 1 are dropped.

In order to find her sister, Alex tries to enter the Nightschool, and is twice evicted, but not before meeting Ronee, another weirn that is somehow connected with the prophesy and Alex.  So instead, she has to enroll in the school.  Mrs. Hatcher, the Day Keeper is great, and I love the dragon hatchery that she has to take care of.  They are so cute!  Another possible clue is dropped about Alex’s past as her pencil hovers over a cursed check box.  Once enrolled, she starts to play detective, and gets a tour of the school as orientation.  The best scene though, was her in the Astral Training class and showing up teacher Mrs. Murrey.  I especially liked Alex’s astral making the origami, and the page with Alex sprouting the wings really made this volume.

Also in this volume we get to see the Hunters on their home turf, studying and training.  They appear to be home schooled in much the same way as Alex.  They seem to be like a family, with all the sibling rivalry and play that comes with it.  Daemon, their “teacher” continues to be a mystery, as he is shown to have a connection to a teacher at the Nightschool, Mr. Roi, who also seems to have a connection to the broken seal seen in Marina’s vision.  He also looks like someone you don’t want to make angry.  There is more background on the prophesy, but still no answers.

Nightschool: The Weirn Books continues to move at a good pace.  The clues about the prophesy, the mysterious hooded shades who keep appearing, and the Alex’s sister’s disappearance are dropped at a slow but steady rate.  It’s at just the right speed to keep readers interested and wanting to know more.  The next volume should definitely prove interesting as Alex and Mr. Roi seem destined to meet.  This title remains on my must have list and it should be on yours.

Review copy provided by publisher. Image © Yen Press

This Week in Manga 3/20-3/26/10

Nature vs Nurture

The scanlation debate continues this week.  The first salvo fired was by Kate Dacey of the Manga Critic blog.  Spurred by a tweet that pointed to a link to a review of a Chrome plug-in for OneManga, she explains why a aggregator site like Onemanga is illegal.  Johanna Draper Carlson replies with a post that readers of scanlations know perfectly well what they’re doing is illegal, and just don’t care.  So is it the nature of the net, or a learned behavior?  I think it’s a combination of the two, since a lot of kids are either hearing about the sites from their friends, or searching Google, and the aggregator sites always come up on top.  And it’s going to take more than a “Just Say No” campaign to change things.  Most teens, who are probably the majority of online readers, either don’t know or don’t care about copyright.  Knowing is only half the battle, but as long as the illegal sites come up first in search engines like Google, behavior isn’t going to change.  If publishers don’t try to take down these sites or offer legal alternatives, then readers are going to think they think it’s okay.  Simon Jones of Icarus Publishing (NSFW) pretty much makes this point.

Continue reading This Week in Manga 3/20-3/26/10

Manga Tech Friday: Girl Geeks Represent!

PodcastLogoI’m a total girl geek.  I read comics and manga, watch sci-fi and anime, and I love technology.  One of the things I love about technology is the freedom it gives.  It’s the great equalizer.  With the advent of better and cheaper hardware and software, anyone can have their own radio and/or TV show.  You don’t need to be in broadcasting or work at a radio or TV station to be seen and hear by millions of people.  The tech I’ve come to love and really depend on are podcasts.  They get me to and from work and sometimes through the long day.  I can find podcasts on anime, manga, tech, astronomy, skeptic news and Doctor Who.  I try to share at the manga ones on my This Week in Manga posts, but after listening to the latest batch I realized there was something missing from everything I listened too.  A female voice.

Continue reading Manga Tech Friday: Girl Geeks Represent!

Where the Seed Was Sown

I sometimes wonder where my obsession for collecting manga, for in many respects that is what I do, came from.  It’s easy to assume that it started with comic collecting, but I wasn’t that big of a comic collector when I was growing up.  There were a few series I followed, but it was nothing like the “gotta catch ’em all”, feeling I sometimes get with manga.  It finally hit me, as I was driving home from work, listening to a podcast.

200px-Doctor_Who_CastrovalvaI had grabbed the mp3 of a BBC Radio program, “On the Outside It Looked Like an Old Fashioned Police Box”.  It’s a radio documentary about the old Target book novelizations of the Doctor Who TV series from the 70’s-80’s.  This series of books made available all the episodes of Doctor Who long before there were VCRs or DVDs.  And I used to read them.  I was a big Doctor Who fan long before I was a manga/anime fan.  And with the show not starting in the US until the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker, there was almost 15 years of the show that couldn’t be seen, but through the novelizations, could be read.

As I’m listening to this program, I start my own trip down memory line as I though about how much loved those books.  And there were so many of them! As well as the old stories, there were novelizations of the current ones coming out as well.  I remembered how obsessed I was at getting them.  My mother would buy me one or two for just about any holiday, including Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day!  She always encouraged by love of reading.  The subject didn’t matter, just that I enjoyed reading.  I remembered going to the local Walden’s books, with their card board display and trying to decide which book for which Doctor I should buy next.  I would line up on my bookshelf and constantly reorganize them either by number or by doctor, or alphabetically.

When I remembered all that, I suddenly realized I had the same feeling for manga now as I did for the Doctor Who Target books I had back then.  It’s a strange connection, but true.  Doctor Who was the seed to my manga addiction.

Bone to Pick

Last night, on my way home from work, I was listening to the ANNcast podcast, episode 28, the one with the interview with Kurt Hassler of Yen Press.  Near the end of the episode, they read off some questions take from fans on Twitter.  One of the questions was about license rescues.  Kurt’s response to it really bugged me.  He started going off about why fans think they (Yen Press) would go “trolling” for titles from other publishers.  The hosts of the show weren’t much better, basically likening license rescues to dumpster diving.

Really?  This is what Kurt Hassler and Yen Press think of fan requests and the titles they love and want to see completed legally?  Does he really think that fans consider Yen Press to be a dumping ground for lost titles?  Or could it possibly be, that fans respect what Yen Press does with their titles and are hoping to see a title they love, but wasn’t completed because the original publisher went out of business or cut back to their cash cow titles, completed with a publisher they know will do it justice?  Do they  really think everything published by other companies is just trash, and not even worthy of their consideration?  Because that is exactly how Kurt came off with his mini rant.  If he had just limited his answer to the statement he made AFTER the rant, I would wouldn’t have been upset.

We all have titles we love that weren’t completed for one reason or another, and wish for some knight in shining armor to riding in and save them.  That’s why they’re called license RESCUES, and not license trolls.  Try being a little more considerate of fans that are trying to do the right thing in seeing the titles they love completed in English legally, and not just resorting to the scanlations that were scorned earlier in the interview.

Wish List: Appare Jipangu!

AppareJipangu_vol1One of the fun things about writing this blog is the little surprises that pop up unexpectedly.  I stumbled onto this title while researching Yuu Watase for my Noted Women of Manga postAppare Jipangu! is a short series, only 3 volumes long.  It was published straight to tankoban form instead of being serialized in a magazine.  It ran from 1998-2003, at about the same time as Watase’s more popular series Ayashi no Ceres (Ceres: Celestial Legend).

Yusura was abandoned as a baby and was found under a cherry tree with the Kogoumaru, a staff that turns blue when it is around people who are sad.  Fifteen years later, Yusura is now known as the Hikeshiya, or “extinguisher of sorrow”.  She wields the Kogoumaru to take away people’s sorrow and redirect it at the people who caused it.

What make this series sound so appealing to me is that it’s a lighthearted adventure with the romance secondary to the story the story.  The characters might seem typical for a manga.  Yusura is hot-headed and tomboyish, and Samon, a guy she rescues from assassins, is practically blind with out his glasses, often mistaking objects for Yusura.  But the whole set up sounds like a lot of fun, and with the more shonen style romance, there’s no melodrama over their relationship.

With Arata, Watase’s first official shonen coming out in the US, this shorter, similar in style series would make a great companion to it, as well as contrast with all of her shojo already available.  So how about it Viz?

This Week in Manga 3/13-3/19/10

Hollywood, Here Comes Netcomics!

Netcomics, the Korean publisher that puts all their titles online for a per-chapter fee, is producing a film of their manhwa X Diary.  There’s not much news out yet, other than Variety’s report which includes the names of the writer of the script, one cast member and the producer from Netcomics.  But the news itself isn’t too surprising.  Ever since Hollywood started coming to SDCC, and they’ve found that there’s an audience for comics based books, practically every comic company has been looking to get a title into production.  Though, the premise of X Diary does make it a good candidate.  It’s about a cartoonist and musician who break up as a couple, but try to make it as friends.  It’s a topic that surpasses culture and could very well appeal to non-comic/manhwa readers.  We’ll have to wait and see how production goes.  Lots of titles get started only to stall not far into the process.

Continue reading This Week in Manga 3/13-3/19/10