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.

After the Party is Over

Stolen Hearts v1It’s been a few weeks since DC announced the end of CMX Manga, and the mangasphere has had something to say about it, including me. And then there’s been the inevitable analysis of why CMX failed. Some have said it was because they didn’t have a recognizable brand or specific line. Others have said it was because one person was choosing the licenses. Hindsight is 20/20, so it’s easy to try to come up with different reason but were they really the cause?

It’s been suggested that one of the reasons CMX failed was because they couldn’t find an audience. Their licenses were all over the place, from 70’s shojo to senien to horror. There was no focus to titles chosen, and therefore no audience to focus on. Is this really a bad thing though? I thought CMX has a great catalog because of all the variety. You could find something for everyone in it. Something for kids and tween, comedy romance, drama, horror, even historical. Variety is the spice of life! And putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea. Having a diverse catalog is just what a good manga publisher should have. And CMX diversified well. If manga were stocks, any financial advisor would be proud!

It’s also been suggested that because one person, Asako Suzuki, was chosing the licenses for the company, and that she was only choosing titles she liked  but didn’t necessarily sell well. I really can’t agree with this. One person chosing the licenses is probably more the norm than the except with manga publishers. And after one person making decisions, well, look at Kurt Hassler when he was at Borders. He is credited with creating the manga selection at Borders and was at one point called one of the most important/influential people in manga/comics. He chose the titles he liked and thought would sell well. Asako no doubt did the same, and I think she did a good job. I certainly found a lot of her choices good!

King of Card Volume 2So what was it that made CMX fail? It’s been said over and over before, but I’ll say it again. It’s parent company, DC didn’t do anything to market that line. Putting a solicitation in Previews is not marketing. DC claimed they would bridge the manga and comic store gap, yet did nothing to help retailers or promote the books to bloggers, bookstores or librarians, their three strongest avocates. You can’t buy or recommend books you don’t know about. While there were other factors that contributed to its ultimate end, the mishandling of the imprint in its first year, and then being completely ignored for the rest was the main factor in its lack of sales.

And it’s such a shame too, as they were on the verge of releases some really promising titles. Word was getting out to reviewers. They were one of the few active publishers on Twitter interacting with reviewers and fans. If no one can or will rescue these, here are the titles that will never see an official english translation:

  • Nyankoi
  • Shisso Holiday
  • The Phantom Guesthouse
  • Tableau Gate
  • 51 Ways to Save Her
  • Polyphonica: Cardinal Crimson
  • Nadeshiko Club

Even though we mourn the lost, there is still plenty alive to celebrate about. While I’m disappointed some titles may never get finished, I am glad for the ones I have been able to read and review, even for just the first volume. These are the titles I’ve been able to review for far, and will continue to review. As long as there are volumes available somewhere, I will continue to recommend the work, not for DC, but for the staff that really cared and put all their time and effort into getting these titles out for us.

Besides all these titles, some of which I still have volumes left to review, there are still more I haven’t gotten to yet. Key to the Kingdom, Fire Investigator Nanase, Two Flowers for the Dragon, Canon, Kiichi and the Magic Books, Recipe for Gertrude, VS, and Venus Capriccio are all yet to be reviewed. And there’s still more I want to pick up volumes of and read still:

  • Apothecarius Argentum
  • Astral Project – Tsuki no Hikari
  • Ballad of a Shinigami
  • Moon Child
  • Name of the Flower

Are there any other titles I should check out? I know there are. People on Twitter listed off their favorite titles and there were several I’d love to check out, but can’t remember! So, leave me a comment and tell me what other CMX titles I’m missing out on.

My Darling! Miss Bancho Volume 1

Souka and her recently divorced mother are looking for a fresh start, so they move to a new place where no one knows them. Souka embraces the idea of starting over and takes it as an opportunity to leave her private school days behind and enroll in the local tech school. The first day of school is nothing quite like she imagined it would be — she is the only female around! Unfortunately, not everyone welcomes Souka with open arms, including the school leader who tries to ambush her. But when she takes him down in front of everyone, Souka becomes the new school leader!

mydarlingmissbanchoBy Mayu Fujikata
Publisher: CMX Manga
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★

My Darling! Miss Bancho is a romantic comedy where there’s more comedy than romance going on in this first volume. It’s got a lot going for it with a good cast of characters, cute art, and a just plain fun story.

Souka, the female protagonist, is trying to be a responsible daughter and help her recently divorced mother, by deciding to go to a public technical school, which will cost a lot less than the private high school she had been attending. Even though she researched the schools thoroughly, she didn’t check the student body. The school she choses, Tokugawa Tech turns out to be full of delinquents.

Souka is a strong female lead, just the way I like them to be. She isn’t easily intimidated. She returns to the school even after seeing the delinquent students, and classes ending early on her first day due to fighting. She can certainly hold her own somewhat with the boys, especially in her class, as she has some violent tendencies of her own, though, they only seem to come out when Katou is in trouble. Trying to help him is what gets her into her predicament in the first place.

Katou is a fun male lead and love interest for Souka. He is the leader of Sophomore class and is a tough fighter, even daring to take on the bigger seniors. He’s also very motherly to his fellow classmate. He’s constantly scolding them about their appearance, and fixing their uniforms. He even fixes Souka’s tie on her first real introduction to him. This dichotomy in his character comes across as very funny, as it’s easy to see.

The chapters in this first volume mostly document Souka’s gradual, and accidental take over Tokugawa Tech and then Toyotomi Agricultural. She never means to get involved with the fighting, but a simple iron plate in her book bag, given for her protection, becomes the vehicle to her rise in power. And it’s still funny the second time around, even when you see it coming. Souka is constantly trying to deny her position as bancho, but she does show an affinity for the position, especially in the chapter where they all go to the beach. One of the funnier moments in the title, is how it keeps track of Souka’s growing minions. I really enjoyed those.

The romance takes a backseat throughout the volume to all the comedy about Souka’s new title. There is an attraction between Souka and Katou, but neither of them see it. They both act as if they’re trying to protect each other out of duty or friendship, but the strange feelings Katou gets when Hideyoshi shows an interest in Souka are obviously not based on duty alone. I have to say, I prefer it this way. Their inability to see their romantic potential really suits the characters, and it keeps the romance from getting in the way of the comedy. It actually adds to it, as we the audience see in the Beach chapter that Katou is reacting to Hideyoshi’s advances towards her, while Souka thinks she’s don’t something to make him mad at her.

The art, like the story, is light and fun. All the characters have a cute appearance rather than anyone looking hot. And there are some ugly guys too so far. Some of the characters make funny faces, but it never goes so far as to going chibi.

This first volume of My Darling! Miss Bancho is a great start to what looks to be a fun series. Unfortunately, we will never know, as the second volume was scheduled to come out in July, AFTER DC’s publishing cut off date. It’s a real shame too, since this title was shaping up to be another great tween title, and CMX seemed to be the only publisher to find titles that really appealed to this demographic. This is a title definitely worth a license rescue. Check out volume 1, even if there might not be any hope of a second. The characters and story are a lot of fun, and since the final chapter ends neatly, it will still be a satisfying read.

This Week in Manga 5/29-6/4/10


Cons for the Holiday

Two cons ran over the long Memorial Day weekend. Anime North is a Canadian convention, and blogger Lissa Pattillo attended. She has two extensive posts about the con, dealer room, and panels she attended, with a third for the last day possibly on the way. Over on the US west coast was Fanime. Several west coast manga bloggers attended and had a meetup. Deb Aoki has a photo gallery of her three days there. There were no big announcements from either con, but with Anime Expo and San Diego Comic Con coming up in a month, that’s understandable. Still check out the posts for what smaller, reasonable cons are like.

Stretching the Manga Buck

I’ve talked about before several times. It a great site to get remainder books for a decent price. The problem with the site has been that it’s mostly only Tokyopop manga that ‘s been available. Not that I haven’t gotten some good titles at great prices, but some variety would be nice. Blogger Tangogant recently discovered another publisher has joined Tokyopop. Yen Press titles, particularly their Korean manhwa titles have appeared on the site. The books are available at 60% off, which puts the books at $3.99. This is a great deal, and is a great chance to catch up on some of Yen Press’ older titles.

A Tragic Loss

I came home from work Friday to some sad news. UK manga blogger, Tiamat’s Disciple had died. He had been fighting prostate cancer, and finally succum to it Tuesday night. His brother was kind enough to post the news on Tiamat’s blog. It’s always sad to hear of someone’s passing. It’s sadder still when you knew the person. I’d had several interesting conversations with Tiamat, including a debate with him on my own blog over library vs parent responsibility, and on Twitter over both anime and manga. I even spoke him on his last night on Twitter, encouraging him to keep with Macross Frontier, and defending it against his preference to Macross 7. Even though he could sometimes be abrasive, and very opinionated, talking with him was never boring, and I will miss him. Brigid Alverson over at the Manga Blog has a remembrance post which includes information about making donations to the CBLDF in his name as a memorial.

NYT Best Seller List

It’s mixin’ it up again on this week’s list. It’s starts out as usual, with Twilight holding on to the #1 spot on the hardback list. Over on the manga list, one Del Rey’s few continuing titles (or so it seems), Negima! Master Negi Magi vol 26 debuts at #1. Black Butler vol 2 takes a step back one to #2 with Black Bird vol 4 right behind at #3. Naruto vol 47 also holds out at #4, pushing Pandora Hearts vol 2 back to #5, which in turn pushes Black Butler vol 1 back one to #6. Seven Seas makes a surprising appearance with Dance in the Vampire Bund vol 7 at #7, while new CLAMP title Kobato vol 1 rests at #8. Rosario Vampire Season II vol 1 moves up one to #9 and Spice and Wolf manga vol 1 returns to the list at #10.  Yen Press wins the battle for dominance this week, holding 5 of the spots on the list. Viz only hold 3, with two in the top 5. Now to see if Del Rey and Seven Seas can hold spots into next week, with another Naruto volume coming out as well as the last of the One Piece blitz.

Manga to Anime

Kekkaishi on Adult Swim

Cartoon Network and Adult Swim continues it’s on-again, off-again relationship with anime by starting to air Kekkaishi, a series based on a manga that is being released by Viz Media. It’s a kind of odd series to start showing though. The manga has been coming out from Viz since 2005 and other than with bloggers, it hasn’t been a big hit. With the 21st volume coming out this month, will Kekkaishi experience a “Cartoon Network Effect” for earlier volumes? Will anyone be able to find the earlier volumes in bookstores if they wanted?

Bleach on Crunchyroll

Joining older brothers Naruto and One Piece, Bleach will begin to have its latest episodes simulcast on Crunchyroll starting next Tuesday with episode #274. It will be available to premieme subscribers 1 hour after airing in Japan in HD, and a week later in SD for free. It will also be available, not just in the US, but in Central and South America, as well as several European countries. Anime companies must feel that simulcasting is doing something for them as they continue to add titles. Are more people watching them than the fan subs? Does giving the fans what they want actually work?

Manga to Live Action

K-drama of Itazuka no Kiss

Itazuka no Kiss, a shojo manga from the 1990’s is getting the live action drama treatment in Korea, to be aired in the Fall of this year. This manga has a sad history to it, as it was never finished because the manga-ka died in an accident. The manga has been made into a live action series twice, once in Japan, and in Taiwan, and it was animated in 2008. The Korean production will be done by the same people as the adaptation of Boys Over Flowers, so there’s at least some experience with adapting manga. Digital Manga Publishing is currently releasing the manga in the US in an omnibus format, and just released the second volume this month. We really need more K-Dramas/J-Dramas to come out here. They are shorter and have been infinitely more entertaining than US TV lately.

Manga For Your Ears

Manga Out Loud

This Week at Manga Village

What I’m reading

  • Itazuka no Kiss vol 1
  • Color of Earth

Tech Friday: The Tablet Wars Have Begun

asus_tabletThe first shot in the tablet wars began with Apple’s release of the iPad, and technology companies have responded. At Computex, a computer and technology show several companies were showing off new devices, some to be available as early as this Fall.

The big announcement that everyone is touting is from the creator of the netbook, Asus. They announced three tablets.  The Eee Pad will come in two versions. The EP101TC will come with a 10 in screen and the EP121TC will have a 12 in screen. Both devices will be able to playback multimedia, read e-books, browse the web, and with a keyboard can be used as a computer. Asus is promising 10 hours of battery life with these devices. Exact specs or release date haven’t been announced yet.

The Eee Tablet is the Asus e-reader. It uses a reflective LCD screen instead of e-ink, and is in grey scale instead of color. It will include a touch screen and style for note taking. It uses Wacom’s pen input technology for more precise and accurate notes. Asus is aiming this device at students. It will include a webcam, microSD slot and USB slot. It will also have a 10 hour battery life and will be available in the Fall.

MSI is determined to not be left out, and has announced its own tablet, the WindPad 110. This is a 10 in with multimedia in mind. It will have a webcam and HDMI support, as well as USB slots. MSI will have its own UI over Windows 7. No word on battery life or release date.

asus-eee-tabletAlso announced this week, but not at Computex is that Amazon will be releasing a slimmer version of the Kindle, with sharper images and faster page turns, supposedly in response to the iPad. But without a touch screen or color, this seems kind of pointless. The Kindle and iPad are for two different markets. Kindle is for e-reading exclusively, while the iPad is a multimedia device. Amazon is just throwing away money trying to compete with that. But they are doing something right by getting the Kindle into a retail store. Starting on Sunday, Target stores nationwide will be selling the Kindle after a trial program.

And it seems publishers aren’t too thrilled with the Apple/Amazon battle. Both companies want to hold a monopoly on e-books by making them available in formats that only their readers can read. Publishers are coming out and saying they don’t want proprietary formats for their e-books. They want one standard across all platforms. I’m happy to hear this from publishers. Books have always been open and available to everyone. They should remain this way in the digital age as well, not trapped in Apple and Amazon’s walled worlds. Though I do wish they would stop worrying about DRM. Pirates will get around it no matter what they do. Just worry about getting them to people in an easy and legal way, and the pirates won’t be an issue.

Summer of Tokyopop

It’s been tough to be a manga fan lately, with one bad piece of bad news after another, and publishers being yanked out from under us. But there is one company that’s weathered the storm of fans and economy and is slowly, but surely making its way back. Back in 2008, when Tokyopop did their whole restructuring, many doom sayers didn’t they could return to be the company they once where. That part is try, but in a good way, that’s a good thing. Tokyopop before the restructuring was a mess, stretched out too far, and using the “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” method of licensing.

Pick of the Litter 5But after two years of streamlining, they have been coming back to life as it were, and bringing with it some titles some of the fans never thought we would see again. One of the titles I thought never be finished was Pick of the Litter, a B-grade comedy about cats and an alternate world. I really liked the comedy, but I’m sure it wasn’t a spectacular seller. Still, Tokyopop finished it last month by releasing the last two volumes in an omnibus edition.  Another title that I didn’t think would EVER be completed is B’TX, the title Masami Kurumada did after finishing Saint Seiya. It’s been sitting at 15 of 16 volumes for years! But now there is a solicitation for the final volume to be released in November. It is such a relief to see the light at the end of what was a dark tunnel for so long.

And the titles keep returning! On their twitter feed came this tweet, announcing that Genju no Seiza would be returning with volume 8, which Amazon has scheduled for August. This title by Matsuri Akino is such a good title, that it had to come back! I’m happy to see that Tokyopop agreed. And right behind it you can get Pet Shop of Horrors volume 7 which is scheduled for September. Another title that’s been in limbo but has been getting a lot of talk from bloggers is Gatcha Gacha, which has had its 8th volume scheduled for early November. To find out why, check out Sean Gaffney’s reviews at his blog A Case For Suitable Treatment. There are reviews of the first three volumes, but by November you can bet all 7 available will be there.

I think it is absolutely awesome that Tokyopop is doing its best to bring back these titles, even though most of them were not stellar sellers. Whatever else you say about Tokyopop, they really do care about the fans. The fact that they bringing these titles out really speaks volumes. But for Tokyopop to succeed, they need our help.

TOKYOPOP: @swanjun Yes, it is. However, retailers are lukewarm on supporting it, so please tell all your friends to order it early&often.

While this tweet was directed at Gatcha Gacha, I think it really applies for all these titles. They wouldn’t have been put on hiatus if they didn’t need more support. The best way to do this is by pre-ordering the titles and then telling all your manga friends to pre-order too.  With manga publishers dropping like flies (or so it seems), we as fans should support the ones that continue, especially when they show they are putting out the effort for us. We as fans of the titles should do the same. With all these titles reappearing, it’s like 2010 will be the summer of Tokyopop.

Now if we can just talk them into rescuing some CMX titles. I could see Stolen Hearts, My Darling! Miss Bancho and Nyankoi! fitting into their catalog really well.

Memorial Manga

eagle-v4-2Memorial Day is a national holiday in the US, the day when we remember all the people who gave their lives in the service of the country. If you look hard enough, you can find this theme in manga as well. Even though Memorial Day is celebrated with parades and ceremonies at cemetaries honoring the fallen, it can also be celebrated through the actions of the living, who carry on the memories of the dead.

In Eagle: The Making of an Asian American President, the protagonist, Yamaoka was a soldier in Vietnam, and decides to become the President of the United States when he returns. In volume 4 of the series, he attends a Remembrance Service at the Vietnam Vet wall, where he denounces war. This upsets a lot of people, but really, what better way is there to honor those who died in war, than to try to keep any more sons and daughters from dying in it?

Pluto 1Pluto: Tezuka x Urasawa is a retelling of the Astro Boy storyline “Greatest Robot in the World”. When Tezuka first wrote the story, he was writing of the Vietnam war as well. In Urasawa’s version, argument can be made that he is discussing the Iraq War, a much more recent, but no less violent conflict. In Pluto, the 39th Central Asia War was fought by robots, but that doesn’t make them any less worthy to be remembered. As the story opens, people are mourning the death of Mont Blanc, a soldier from that war who turned to helping people afterwards. Pluto‘s theme is also one of anti-war, where the memories of the conflict and those who were killed greatly affect the survivors.

Fullmetal 15Fullmetal Alchemist is another title that denounces war. Many of the characters in this title were soldiers in a terrible war against the Ishbalans. In volume 15, we hear the whole story. Roy Mustang was so profoundly affected by the war, that like Yamaoka in Eagle, he decides he must become the leader of Ametris so something like that can never happen again. Though, unlike Yamaoka, there is no democratic way to the top, and Mustang must still be soldier to make his way up. But the memories of what happened, and the vow he made have never been forgotten by him or his subordinates and friends who help him.

This Memorial Day, take some time to think about the men and women who have died to keep this country free, but also think about things we can do so no one else has to mourn a father, mother, sister, brother, son or daughter in such conflicts ever again.

This Week in Manga 5/22-5/28/10


May Movable Manga Feast

This month’s movable manga feast featured the Vertical title To Terra… a sci-fi shonen from the 70’s. It was hosted by Kate Dacey of The Manga Critic blog. Reviews for the title were a lot more varied than on previous titles. People definitely had their opinion of this series and had no problem expressing it. You’ll find an introduction to the series and all the links to the participating reviews at the top link.

Well, That’s a Surprise

Here’s something that shouldn’t shock reader of Hunter x Hunter. It’s going on hiatus. Again.  What is this? Once a year at least, this title has to stop? Is this something in Togashi’s contract? If he hates writing this series so much, why doesn’t he just cancel it. Or hand it off to an assistant. At least do something to give fans closure. This is like a bad relationship, and someone’s gotta stop the vicious circle.

This Actually Is!

Dark Horse, which has started to feature titles on Facebook, recently had one entry on Ghost Talker’s Day Dream, which included the news that the series would be returning in September. The title was previously reported cancelled, so this is very good news for fans. It is a seinen horror action, so it’s written for adults. It can also be rather graphic, so be warned if you’re thinking of checking out this title.

Talkin’ ’bout a Solution

Over on Twitter, Erica Friedman of Okazu blog decided to take things into her own hands (sort of), and start crowd sourcing for a solution to the problem of illegal distribution of manga. After outlining the “Problem”, responses started to come in for a “Good Solution”. After the first session, the conclusion was:

To reiterate: The first wave of the Good Solution for Manga: Browser platform, pay and POD are a must, open-source on language and region…

…creator community, rewards to creators from user focus.

To see more of the responses, search Twitter for “yuricon”, “Problem”, “solution” and you’ll get most of the conversations.

Back to the Problem

Robot 6 helps to point out why illegal distribution is a problem, and why publishers need to implement their own “Good Solution”. Google recently released its list of the 1000 most visited websites based on their Double Click Ad Planner, and One Manga, the aggregator site that hosts illegal scans, placed at 935. It beat out many corporate sites such as and If this doesn’t convince publishers that a “Hulu of manga” is needed, nothing will.

NYT Best Seller List

It’s all out war on the list this week, between Viz and Yen Press.  Starting with the Hardback books, Twilight has once again reclaimed the top spot from Kick Ass. Down on the manga list, Yen Press has also reclaimed the #1 spot with Black Butler vol 2 with Black Bird vol 4 falling back to #2. Pandora Hearts vol 2 debuts and takes the #3 spot, forcing Naruto vol 47 back to #4. Black Butler vol 1 holds on to #5, as D. Gray-man vol 17 falls three to #6. Kobato vol 1, the new CLAMP series, and debuts on the list at #7 followed by Rinne vol 3 at #8. Yotsuba&! vol 8 holds onto #9 and Rosario Vampire: Season II vol 1 falls four to #10. Interesting list, as Yen Press and Viz alternate up the list with Yen taking all the odd number and Viz getting all the evens. It’s also the start of the battle of the blacks. We’ll have to see if next week, the Butler can hold out, or if the Bird will take back it’s #1 spot.

News From Japan

More Manga We’ll Never See

ANN reports of a new manga launching in Japan that we’ll never see legally stateside. It’s a shojo title for the movie of the TV series Macross Frontier, the 25th anniversary TV series, and sequel to the original Macross, which was one of the three series’ that made up Robotech. This particular title is actually about one of the characters, Sheryl, who is the pop idol at the beginning of the series. This manga tells of her beginnings. Due to lawsuits over copyright issues, the US has never had an official release of a Macross series since Macross Plus, and it doesn’t look like things will be changing any time soon, which is a real shame, because is any series could popularize mecha titles in this country, it would be Macross.

Manga For Your Ears

Anime Today


Spiraken Manga Review

This Week at Manga Village

What I’ve Been Reading

  • Tena on a S-String vol 2
  • Yotsuba&! vol 8
  • Shonen Jump July 2010

Review: Broken Blade Volume 1

Rygart Arrow is the only one in his world who lacks the inherent abilityto power up quartz, the energy source that makes all of the machines run. Good thing the King and Queen of the country of Krisna happen to be old college friends! But so is Zess, the leader of the army of mechs invading Krisna. As usual, Aroow feels useless in the face of battle, until he comes across a powerful, ancient battle suit that no one else can run. His natural affinity for the suit’s operating mechanism may just turn Arrow into the most important player of all.

Broken Blade v1aBy Yunosuke Yoshinaga
Publisher: CMX Manga
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Action/Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★½☆☆
Buy This Book

It’s hard to be original in a genre like mecha, where stories of battling robots all seem to look the same. To make these titles appealing, they need interesting characters and/or compelling stories that make the use of the mecha seem necessary. Broken Blade is unable to do either unfortunately, as it presents a “by the numbers” plot and characters that are remarkable only by being unremarkable.

The plot for Broken Blade feels very much like it was created from a checklist of generic mecha plot points.  A mecha is found that it seems no one else is able to pilot except the protagonist because he has a special ability. Or in the case of this title, because he doesn’t. An old friend from school days is now the enemy, who has to prove his loyalty to his county and family. The protagonist doesn’t want to fight, but is thrown into a situation where he has to pilot the mech, and ends up saving the day.

The generic plot wouldn’t be so bad if the characters weren’t so bland. There is nothing about any of the characters that really make them stand out, or even seem interesting. The King and Queen of Krisna are more like scientists than royalty. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just that neither appear really commanding. Rygart is right out of “Mecha Heroes 101” with his peaceful stance and his angst at not having any magic. It’s low-level angst, but angst all the same. Zess is too gung-ho to please his brother, so he is unwilling to talk or listen to anyone, just like any other antagonist. There is nothing introduced in this first volume to make want to care about these characters. There is an attempt to introduce a possible love triangle, and the question of why Zess is trying to please the brother he wanted to stop back in the Academy days, but it’s just not enough.

Like the story and characters, the art is fairly standard. The mecha are well drawn, and the action scene with them are actual pretty good. They are easy to follow. The characters have a good variety of appearance that you won’t be mistaking Rygart for Hodr, the King of Krisna as do the mecha. There’s no confusing the Zess’ and Arrow’s mechs. But there’s nothing outstanding about it.

I had high hopes for this title. I wanted it to be good, since there is so little mech/sci-fi manga licensed, but this title just fell short of the mark. If you’ve never read a mecha title, or seen any of the Gundam series, this title might seem fresh to you. The most fantasy setting might be more attractive than the harder sci-fi of most mecha, so if you’ve been curious about what’s so appealing about mecha titles, Broken Blade is a good place to start. Long time mecha fans will probably be disappointed by it though, as it feels like it’s just going through the motions, with no real life to the story and characters.

Review Rerun: Samurai Commando: Mission 1549 Volume 1

A military test accidentally sends a unit from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces back in time to their country’s feudal past.  When their actions begin to alter the present, a second unit is dispatched to retrieve them.  But Colonel Matoba, commander of the lost battalion, is determined to use his advanced technology to conquer Japan and change his country’s destiny.  It’s up to Kashima, Matoba’s former protégé, to stop him.  But he only has a narrow window of time, and it is rapidly closing.

Samurai Commando v1Samurai Commando:  Mission 1549
Creators:  Ark Performance & Harutoshi Fukui
Publisher:  CMX
Genre:  Action/Sci-Fi
Age Rating: Teen+
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆
Buy This Book

I love historical/time travel plots like The Final Countdown, and Zipang.  So, when I heard about this manga, I was definitely interested.  Based on a novel, for once we aren’t traveling back to WWII to try to not change the outcome.  No, this time, we’re going back to the Warring States Era of Japan, to just before the country was unified.

The volume opens with Matoba killing Nobunaga Oda, the man who was to conquer all of Japan.  Oops.  Well, not really.  Apparently Matoba’s got some sort of plan.  Hell if we know what it is though.  And that’s part of the problem with this volume.  It’s all set up; going to find Kashima, and recruiting him, making the preparations to repeat the experiment that sent the first battalion back.  And in the past, it’s basically the same, with Matoba preparing for future to come after him.  We get little hints here and there about what might be driving Matoba, but nobody, not even his own soldiers seem to know that he’s up to.

While this might be good in a 3-4 volume series, this title only has two.  So everything HAS to be resolved in the next volume, and that makes me think things will get rushed, and in a story like this, that’s not good.  This story is really about Matoba and Kashima, their relationship in the past, how they’ve changed since parting, and what are they going to do when they meet again.  The sci-fi elements of “the changing of the past will affect the future, and the world as we know will disappear” is just there to get them back together. But with what we’ve seen so far, we don’t know enough about either to really make any judgments yet.  And with only one volume to go, I don’t see how we really can.

The art in this volume is very clean-looking, but I was put off my the larger use of grey tones.  Being used to dark inks in other books, the lighter grey made is seem…unfinished, like the inker was just skipped.  I got used to it after a while, but it was really distracting at first.

I have to give CMX props for coming out with a manga like this.  It is very different from the shonen/shojo fare that we get inundated with.  So seeing a story with a more mature plot and real sci-fi elements is really refreshing.  And I do have to admit that I am intrigued to find out what Matoba’s plan is.  I’m just worried that with all that’s been set up in this volume, it won’t all be satisfactorily resolved in the next.  But, it’s piqued my curiosity enough want to see it through.

This Week in Manga 5/15-5/21/10


Do you “Size” Up?

Inspired by a conversation on Twitter about what it means to be a fan, Ed Sizemore of the Manga Worth Reading blog tries to clarify his position. I bring this up because there has been a lot of talk about digital piracy and it’s effects on manga publishers. Ed’s view is basically that you can only call yourself a fan if you invest yourself, time and money, in the thing that you love. While I can see where he’s coming from, I can’t say I completely agree with his position. I don’t think there should be parameters put on what makes someone a fan of something. Being a fan of something, whether it’s TV, movies, or manga, shouldn’t be contingent on how much time you spend talking up a show or buying everything sight that branded with it. I’m a fan of Castle, but I don’t feel a burning need to buy the book or DVDs. I’m fine with watching the show every week. Does that make me less of a fan than someone who makes Lego Castle and Beckett figures? I don’t think so. By the same token, people or borrow manga from a friend or the library can still be fans of manga without actually buying the books, or obsessing over them. I would say you could start to draw the line at people who read licensed material at illegal aggregator sites, but I would still be reluctant to do so. Stealing the material doesn’t mean you’re still not a fan.  You’re just a bad fan. Trying to put up walls about what makes someone a fan will only keep more people out than what should be the desired effect, to get more people in.

When It Rains, It Pours

What a depressing way to come home from work. The news about DC pulling the plug on CMX not only shocked me, it completely ruined my week. Yes, the news of other publishers going under was sad, but most of them hadn’t released a title in at least 6 months, some longer. CMX was not only continuing to release titles, they were putting up new titles.  They were active on Twitter. There was nothing, no sign to indicate that there was a problem. The way it looks is that DC is run by a bunch of asshats who don’t like anything that doesn’t appeal to the male 13-21 demographic, and if anything like that still exists at the company, it must be stamped out immediately.  But don’t just take my word for it. Check out the many articles and blog posts people have written about it, expressing their feelings as well. DC really struck a nerve with this one, and not in a good way. But that’s “business as usual” for them, isn’t it?

Cross Game Online

On Monday, Viz started the serialization of Cross Game, a coming of age story and the game of baseball. The first two chapters are up and can be read for free online. I guess Viz’s experiment with online manga is working for them, or else we wouldn’t keep seeing new titles being introduced. I’m curious to see how successful this title turns out to be. Sports manga hasn’t traditionally done well in the US, despite us being a very sports oriented culture.

Peer Pressure

Manga companies and fans alike would do well to listen to the words of Audrey Taylor, former creative director of Go! Comi. She delves out some advice from her experience at Go! Comi, much of which has been said before, but perhaps coming from a fellow publisher, the words won’t go unheeded. While most of the advice is directed at publishers, readers can take something away from her words too. Once a book has been licensed and published, you don’t need to “build an audience” for it anymore. Posting legal copies online DOES hurt the company you are supposedly trying to help. If you want to “build an audience” then promote the publisher. Don’t scan their book to put online, and don’t continue to scanlate them. I know some people will claim they have to keep scanlating since there’s no guarantee the publisher will complete the series, but that’s just a self-fulfilling prophesy. By continuing to make illegal copies available, less people will buy the books, which makes it harder for the publisher to stay in business, so that when they go out of business you can justify your illegal acts.

Tokyopop-ing Up

Finally we are seeing some progress from Tokyopop’s restructuring from 2 years ago. First TP announced a film based on the manhwa Priest, and now they have plans in the works for The Dreaming, an OEL manga by Queenie-Chan, to become a film.  It will be interesting to see if this venture pans out. The Priest production has gone through a lot to get to a release date. Hopefully, The Dreaming won’t have the same problems.

Two possible new licenses were also sighted on Amazon this week, purported to be coming from Tokyopop. Both are shojo titles from Hakusensha. Sorairo Kaigen is a high school romance about a girl who is rescued on a bus by a boy who may be from her past. It’s complete at 6 volumes. Kirameki Gingachou Shoutengai is a little long at 10 volumes and is a romantic comedy about 6 friends who grew up in the Galaxy Street Shopping Center. Both look interesting, and with the loss of CMX, we need a new source of Hakusensha titles.

NYT Best Seller List

Viz holds 8 of the 10 titles on this week’s list again, and it’s back to business as usual. First, over in the hardback comics list, Kick-Ass and Twilight have switched places again, with Twilight falling back to #2.  Over on the manga list, Black Bird vol 4 keeps hold of the #1 spot for a second week, while Naruto vol 47 returns after a brief stint off last week at #2. D.Gray-man vol 17 holds on to #3 and Inuyasha vol 48 debuts at #4. Black Butler vol 1, one of the two non-Viz titles, returns at #5 as does Rosario Vampire: Season II vol 1 at #6. Falling 5 spots to #7 is Otomen vol 6, while Viz Signature title Biomega vol 2 debuts at #8. Yotsuba&! vol 8, the othe non-Viz title falls back 4 to #9, and only one One Piece, vol 46, hangs onto the list at #10. So Viz continues to dominate with Yen Press being the only other publisher able to hold their own against them week to week. Most of the changes are in which Viz titles will make it to the list, and while not a lot of changes are surprises, it’s nice to see some of the older titles like Inuyasha charting, as well as a Signature title.

Manga For Your Ears

Manga Out Loud

  • Episode 07 – Mechamedia with the Reverse Theives

Sci-Guys Podcast

Spiraken Manga Reviews

This Week at Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • Otodama v1
  • Antique Bakery v1-2
  • Dinosaur King 1-2

Review Rerun: Gon Volume 1

65 million years ago, dinosaurs experienced a catastrophic extinction that ended their dominance on Earth except for ONE!  Now Gon marches across the wilderness, defending the friendly and furry from the mean and hungry.  Follow the journey as he encounters creatures big and small along the way and learns new things about himself from each of them.

Gon 1By Masashi Tanaka
Publisher: CMX
Genre: Action/Adventure
Age Rating: Teen
Price: $5.99
Rating: ★★★★☆
Buy This Book

Gon is a unique series, as it is told complete without words.  But the wordlessness gives the mangaka an opportunity to write to a wide audience with multiple levels of meaning.  Originally published by DC Comics in the 1990s, Gon is being given another chance, printed this time in its original, unflipped format.

Gon is a small orange dinosaur that looks like a t-rex and lives in the post dinosaur-pre human world, interacting with other animals.  The opening pages show how tough Gon as, as first a leopard breaks his teeth on Gon’s head, and then he’s rammed by a Rhinoceros, sent flying, hits a tree and then a rock, before landing on his back.  And he sleeps through the whole thing, until a leaf floats down from the tree and lands on his head.  It’s this kind of physical humor that makes Gon appealing to the younger audience.  And there’s plenty of it as Gon takes on a Grizzly Bear, a lion and a Bobcat, showing them all who’s boss.

But if you take a close look at these stories, you’ll see another layer underneath, one that seems to be meant for an older audience.  Gon is not as altruistic as the back cover seems to imply.  Even though he does help out other animals, usually weaker ones, it’s usually to his benefit as well.  Is Gon a hero for protecting a nest of baby eagles?  Or is he doing it because he gets to sleep in the nest and eat with chicks?  And when he decides to build a dam like a beaver, he ends up flooding the valley, and making all the other animals lose their homes for his own.  There is no black and white in this series, even though Gon doesn’t seem to like to see the little guy get put down.

The art in this series is absolutely fantastic.  It is very realistic and detailed, down to the veins in Gon’s legs when he jumps.  All of the animals are very expressive, making it easy to tell what they are thinking or feeling without a single word. Though, at times it felt a little too realistic, as Gon beat up the Bobcat. Even though he was the villain of the chapter, I couldn’t help feeling for him after all the damage he took.

Gon is an example of a title for all ages, as opposed to an all ages title. Some of the scenes can be disturbing to younger readers or the squeamish, but only in the same way as Animal Planet shows or Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom can be. Younger readers can handle this book, especially since there are no words, and its all up to the reader and their imagination to decide how severe the stories can be.

I gave this volume to my daughter to read when she was 8, and here’s what she said about it:

I liked Gon a lot.  It is about a dinosaur who beats up on the big guys so he can get what he pleases.  The funny storyline has cute animals that make the manga come to life.  In general, it is a good manga.

It confused me at first.  It was hard to understand what was going on without speech bubbles.  The book got less confusing the more I got through.  I felt dumb not knowing how to read the manga correctly.  Never the less, it was enjoyable.

Gon is a title and series that definitely worth your time and attention. Tanaka brings up some interesting issues that adults will enjoy, and that kids can grow to appreciate. And its got a dinosaur and other wild animals. How can anyone resist?

Review: 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_1Written by Stephenie Meyer; Art and Adaptation by Young Kim
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Supernatural Romance
Price: $19.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy This Book

I don’t care for the Twilight franchise. I didn’t read the books. I watched the movie, only because Rifftrax did such a great riff on it, but hated it in general. But surprisingly, I wasn’t repulsed by the graphic novel. It read like an average young adult romance, and the characters were typical of a shojo title. To quote my oldest daughter when I asked her why Twilight was popular with her friends, “Bella is a blank slate so anyone can be her, and the guys are all hot.” It was filled with lots of wish-fulfillment and angst, but it wasn’t the worse thing I’ve ever read.

This first volume covers the first half of the first book, Twilight.  It starts with Bella moving to Forks, WA, and ends with Edward’s sparkly-secret reveal. Everything else in between, was filled with days of Bella at school, being with her new friends, and, most of all, angsting over Edward.

I don’t have much to say about the story so far. Most of this first half had Bella and Edward thinking that the one hates the other. I can’t really complain about this too much. People tend to think like this when judging by action alone, and as awkward teenagers, of course neither would think to ask. Though, considering Edward’s age, I would have thought he’d be more mature, but then, the story might not appeal as much if he did. The other half is spent with Bella trying to figure out Edward’s secret, while Edward is just rying to figure Bella out. Of course she has to be different from all the other girls. While Edward is about as average as a modern-day vampire can get. He and his “family” only drink animal blood, want to live in peace with humans, and are angsty about their eternal life.

The art, on the other hand, I really enjoyed. Seeing Young Kim’s work made it easier to get through the story. The characters are drawn realistically. One of the things I really appreciate is how they DON’T look like the actors from the movie. I would have been easy to just cop-out and use their likenesses. I can’t say if their likenesses are anything like their described in the books, but they aren’t anywhere as hard on the eyes as the movie was. I also didn’t have a problem with font or unusual word balloon placement used in the book. It actually flowed fairly well once you understood it. And the font did add to the atmosphere of the book. I guess it also helps that I’m partial to flowing text.

Overall, I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading Twilight, but it’s not something I would go looking for either.  It’s not a bad way to kill an hour or so if you’re curious to see what all the fuss is about. You can skip all the long-winded text and get straight to the story, and have lots of pretty pictures to boot!