Category Archives: Articles

Stories and musing about specific manga titles or manga in general.

Neko Atsume Gets Web Manga and CDs

Neko AtsumeI’ve never denied it. I’m a crazy cat lady. I’ve grown up with cats and can barely remember a time when I didn’t have a little furball as a pet. So when tweets about the Japanese game Neko Atsume, or Cat Collecting, started appearing in my time line, I had to check it out. Calling it a game might give the wrong impression. It starts out with just a typical looking back yard, and using fish as currency, you can buy toys and better quality food to attract cats to come to your yard and play with your toys. The thing is though, you can’t be watching. You have to close or reduce the game for the cats to come. It’s sort of random who will come and when.

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Tokyopop: Rising from the Ashes or the Grave

TokyopoplogoTokyopop, the former manga publisher that ceased publication and closed its doors in 2011 has been slowly coming back to life. In the last few years it has begun showing signs it might want to return to the stage, starting with a newsletter soon after shutting down, publishing more Hetalia in conjunction with Rightstuf, and the bringing back their website and making the OEL titles they still held rights to available as eBooks. In June, the website made mention of Tokyopop “evolving”, and that evolution was revealed at their panel at Anime Expo.

The panel was headed by founder Stu Levy, who announced the company would start publishing manga again in 2016. They had no titles to announced, but claimed they were looking to license “hidden gems that are not yet noticed” from small and independent publishers. They also planned to publish art books and will consider light novels.

On the multimedia side, Levy said the company had 20 properties lined for both animation and live action, and highlighted Knockouts, a Ikkitousen knockoff with a live action concept trailer, and Riding Shotgun, one of their OEL properties that only got two volumes, which already attempted an indigogo crowd-sharing project to create an animated series. Also announced was a youtube series of anime reviews.

The final announcement was a comics app for iOS and Android called “POP Comics”. The app would be free to readers, and would allow users to upload their own comics to share, while retaining 100% of their copyright and creative control, and getting a 70/30 split of any ad-generated revenue.

tpop-rebornAd-opt3fIt all sounds reasonable. Sure, there are plenty of titles out there being ignored by the big publishers with ties to Japanese companies. Yes, there are fans who would love to see manga and/or manga inspired stories adapted to animation and/or live action. Yes, there are lots and lots of creators who want to get their works out to a wider audience. It appears that Tokyopop has learned from their past and are trying to make up for the bad reputation they got in the manga and comics community. Not a lot of people are buying it though.

As soon as the tweet went out about POP Comics and Tokyopop doing portfolio reviews, creators who had worked with Tokyopop previously came out and started tweeting warnings and telling their stories. Every single one had the same message. Don’t trust Tokyopop or Stu Levy. Blog posts and articles came out written by creators or that interviewed creators, mostly warning NOT to give up any of their rights. No one seemed to believe Stu when he said at the panel creators will keep their copyright and creative control. But when you read about what a lot of them went through, you can’t really blame them for their mistrust.

And with some of the statements Levy made, it’s easy to see why fans would feel the same way. For many people, Tokyopop was their introduction not just to manga, but to comics in general. Their website, before they went to that awful “3.0 update,” was where a lot of manga bloggers like Kate Dacey got their start, talking about manga and building an audience. They introduced a lot of creators that went on to do bigger and better things; Svenlana Chmakova, Amy Reader Hadley, Becky Clooney, and Sophie Campbell. They did do a lot of good things for the budding manga community, which I think is what made some of Levy’s statements feel like a betrayal. The most memorable for me was, after another round of layoffs were announced, Levy posted on his twitter feed:

Wow #GDC2011 is blowing my mind. Why have I been stuck in such an old-school, out-of-touch industry for so long?! (yes I mean books!)

Levy has always been his own worst enemy. He seemed to have ADD when it came to initiatives at Tokyopop. He would jump on one idea and stay with it for a while until a new shiny came along and he was jumping on that, leaving the previous unfinished. Everything Tokyopop did at the time seemed half-assed. If something seemed to be going somewhere, it would be left to its own devices, whether it could stand on it own yet or not to chase down the next, “big thing.” Always seemed to be about what ever Levy was excited about at the time, whether it was writing kids books, making movies, or social media, what really mattered, the books became less and less important to the company as Levy lost interest. He burned a lot of bridges with fans the closing of publishing in 2011. It’s going to take a lot to rebuild them, if they can be rebuilt at all.

With these new announcements, it seems that Tokyopop will try to balance their different interests instead of jumping from one to another haphazardly. They encompass everything that Levy tried to do previously, but not so ostentatiously. Manga, multimedia and social media. The next several months will be crucial for the company as they (hopefully) announce titles and launch their app.

san-diego-comic-conBut what I really wonder is, has Levy really learned from the past? Brigid Alverson talked with Levy at San Diego Comic Con for Comic Book Resources and some of the answers he gave really feels like the doesn’t think any *he* did was to blame for the company’s downfall. He admits mistakes were made, but not by him. He boils it down to too much too fast, creators weren’t ready, audience wasn’t ready. Not once does he address or even acknowledge the lack of editorial for many creators that no doubt led to books being created poorly and audiences not liking. He tried to spin the “too much too fast” as he was too big-hearted and wanted to help creators get published. Come on Stu, step up. It’s time for some personal accountability.

Another think I don’t like that he said was about the creators not being given their properties back. He claims it was purely business and that most didn’t make back their advances, but if they wanted to pay, they could have them back. Well as to why most didn’t sell, see above. Also marketing is usually required for books to sell, and that seemed to be missing too. It really looks like a lot of creators were set up to fail just so Tokyopop could get a bunch of properties cheap that they could sell the IP for. Though, if they didn’t sell, who would want to buy those IP, which makes Tokyopop holding on to them make no sense. I’m certainly not going to buy into an IP without the original creator, or that was a proven failure in the market.

So, is this new Tokyopop a phoenix rising from the ashes, or zombie shambling out of its grave? I’m really not sure yet. I want to be optimistic about the former, but the more hear about Tokyopop’s practices under Levy’s direction, the more I fear it will be the latter. The question that really needs to be asked, is, does Tokyopop in general, and Stu Levy specifically, deserve another chance? The old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me,” comes to mind. Tokyopop fooled fans once that they were serious about a come back after the 2008 restructuring. We do not intend to be fooled again.

Banned From My App

Viz DigitalI have really grown to like digital manga. Considering the lack of space I currently have, and the difficulty I have in letting things go, being able to stack digital files is a lot easier than physical books. And they’re a lot easier to carry. I can carry several different titles to suit what ever my mood is in just my tablet, and it’s a lot easier to eat and read on a tablet that can stand on its own and doesn’t need one of my hands to hold it open.

The Vizmanga app has been one of these platforms that I’ve been buying my manga on, though reluctantly lately. One of my problems with it is that there is no way to back up the titles I purchase. They can only be downloaded and viewed through the app. This isn’t so much a problem if something happens to my device. I can just download them again on the new one. But what if something happens to Viz and their servers go down? They say everything will still be available and working through the app.

happy marriageWell, that’s not entirely true. Viz’s mature titles are not available to download and read through the app. They can only be read online through a PC/Mac with flash. This is actually very limiting. The whole purpose of digital manga is to be able to read it anytime, anywhere, just like the print, but more conveniently. Limiting the ability to read manga I supposedly own is not convenient. I am more often in an environment where I can’t get online with my device and the available PC is not flash enabled. Yes, I can read something else, but that isn’t really the point. I love digital manga because it’s supposed to give more freedom in what I read and when. Viz banning their own titles from their own app is actually ludicrous to me. If you are going to sell Mature manga on your site that is supposed to be available through your app than make ALL OF IT available. Don’t say “You can read all of these titles you’ve bought anytime, anywhere, but don’t even think about those titles.”

I’ve partially solved this problem by not buying anymore Mature manga through the Vizmanga app or website. I should be able to read any title I’ve bought anytime I want, and should not be limited by whatever hangups a publisher has about their own titles. But this now means I have my digital manga divided up between apps, and even some series. I shouldn’t have to have multiple apps to get titles from the same publisher, but to make digital manga work for me, I just have to, and I really think that’s wrong.

Power Books

No matter what the culture, knowledge has been equated with power. For centuries, this knowledge has been stored as words in books. Whether it’s a list of names or a wizard’s tome, books have been regarded as being magical. It’s no different in manga. There are several titles that feature books and the power of words with the ability to create, transport its readers to other worlds, and even kill.

Fushigi Yugi Big 1Fushigi Yugi and it’s prequel Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden, both feature a magical book, The Universe of the Four Gods, that pulls the main characters, Miaka and Yui in the original, and Takiko in the prequel, into its story. Each of the girls is found to be a Priestess of one of the four gods, and Miaka and Takiko are tasked with finding the celestial warriors after which they can summon their god and make a wish The book itself isn’t used much in the story, but is the catalyst for the girls to start their adventures. Fushigi Yugi is available in 6 omnibus editions and Genbu Kaiden just finished its print run at 12, and both titles are available at Vizmanga.com

rod_vol_1_coverRead or Die and the related Read or Dream, isn’t so much about books themselves having power, but what they are made of, paper as having the power. In Read or Die, Yomiko Readman, a papermaster who can control paper and shape it into anything she wants. Yomiko is a secret agent for the British Library, and uses her powers to keep the peace. She loves books and often spends her money on them rather than food. Read of Dream is a spin-off of read or Die and follows three sister papermasters in Hong Kong, who run a detective agency. The three sisters, Maggie, Michelle and Anita, are very different and control different elements of papermastry. Like Yomiko, Maggie and Michelle are big book lovers, but surprisingly Anita hates books. Both titles are four volumes each and are available in print.

Muhyo and Roji 01 In Muhyo and Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation, Muhyo is an executor, a graduate from the Magical Law School that allows him to be Judge, Jury and Executioner on supernatural beings found to be breaking the law. He does this through his Book of Magic Law, a thick tome that holds all the laws of magic and allows Muhyo to pass judgement on the wrong-doers and summon the envoys that take them to either heaven, hell or the river styx. The Book of Magic Law is Muhyo’s proof of being an executor and no one can use his book but him. The series went 18 volumes and is available in both print and digital.

Kiichi1In the world of Kiichi and the Magic Books, people known as Librarians travel the land bringing books that people can borrow and read. Mototaro, one such librarian is also special. He has the power to make images in books come to life. Part of the reason he travels is to find old books that have become unstable; the pictures come to life on their own. This series was published by CMX and is unfortunately out of print, but a great story if you can find all five volumes.

In Death Note, Death Note 1while the book, the Death Note has power, it’s what’s written inside that makes it work. The Death Note is a book used by Shinigami, Death Gods, to send people to the afterlife. One Death God, Ryuk, drops his death note into the human world to see what happens. It is found by high school boy Light Yagami. With the death note, he can write anyone’s name into and that person will die of a heart attack if no means of death is provided. Light uses the Death Note to go on his own personal killing spree, intent on cleaning the world or criminals, until only people he deems worthy live. Death Note was a big hit when it came out and had anime adaptation, though came under some criticism as kids around the world came up with their own “death notes”, writing names of people they wanted hurt or dead in them. There are 13 volumes in print, digital, box set, or omnibus editions.

Alice 19 1Books aren’t always necessary to hold power, sometimes just a word is all that is needed. Alice 19th is about Alice, a high school girl destined to become a Lotis Master. Lotis Masters use the power of words to reach the inner heart of others and banish the darkness from their hearts. Here, there are no books, just words used to find the darkness in people, and turn that darkness into words to be banished. There are also maram words, dark reflections of lotis words. Alice 19th was written by Yuu Watase, the creator of Fushigi Yugi and Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden. It went for 7 volumes and can be found in both print and digital.

Natsume's Book of Friends 1In Natsume’s Book of Friends, there is a book, but it’s what’s written in it that matters. Takashi Natsume has the ability to see spirits and yokai. He moves in with some relatives and finds his grandmother’s book of friends, a book filled with the names of yokai his grandmother fought and won the names of. With the book, Natsume has power over these spirits. While he doesn’t want this power, there are other spirits who do, and Natsume is hunted by them until he befriends Madara, a power ayakashi, who makes a deal with Natsume to protect him until he dies a natural death, at which point Madara can take the book. Here, names have the power, as it forms a contract between the spirit and the human, and only Natsume’s breath can release the name and end the contract. This series is still ongoing with 17 volumes available in print and digital.

Also available in audio and video.

Super Hero Viz Manga League

Viz Media has been expanding its line of titles recently, reaching into the superhero genre that is usually reserved for American comics. While much of shonen manga features characters that could be seen as super-heroes, they aren’t quite like the superheroes Americans grew up with. With the growing popularity of superheroes in American mainstream media, it’s not too surprising that we’re seeing more superhero manga coming over.

Tiger and Bunny 1Tiger and Bunny – This series began as an anime which spawned the manga series. It follows the veteran hero Wild Tiger as he take on newbie partner Barnaby Brooks Jr. Both men are NEXTs, people born with super powers. They protect the city of Stern Bild and compete on the TV show HERO TV with several other heroes and have corporate sponsors. Wild Tiger takes being a hero seriously, including the secret identity and fight for Justice. Barnaby seems to be in it for her fame and fortune. These two very different personalities with the same power constantly clash, but not all masks are obvious. The first two volumes of this series were included on the YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teen list for 2014. There are six volumes out, and it is available in print only.

One Punch Man 01One-Punch Man – This series is a digital only exclusive for Viz Media and is serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump. Saitama has trained for years to become a superhero.  He trained so much that he lost all his hair. But his hard work paid off and he became so powerful that he could defeat any villain with a single punch. But it seems he’s too good, as there is no villain out there to challenge him and give his live meaning. The series follows his search for an arch-villain as takes on all kinds of monsters, joins the Hero’s Association and becomes involved in the battle to save the Earth! Just like any good superhero would. This series began as a web comic where it went viral and jumped to print in Japan, but not here yet. There are six volumes available.

MyHeroAcademia-Vol01-KeyArtMy Hero Academia – This series just started in Weekly Shonen Jump. It is a simultaneous release with the first chapter running during Weekly Shonen Jump‘s anniversary month. The series follows Izuku Midoriya an ordinary human in a world of the extraordinary. He is a rare mutation that has no superpowers, but wishes nothing more than to be a superhero. One day he meets All Might, the world’s most famous superhero. He ends up helping All Might, showing he has the most important quality for being a hero; heart. All Might decides to help Izuku and gets him into Yuhei High School, where heroes are cultivated. The mangaka of this series, Kohei Horikoshi, had another series serialized in WSJA. Barrage gained a following here, but only ran for 2 volumes. There are two volumes of My Hero Academia out in Japan, but it looks to have a much brighter future. Viz will release the first volume in print and digital in August.

Ultraman_2011Ultraman – This series is based on a Japanese TV superhero that originally ran in the 1960s. Ultraman is an alien from the Land of Light. He comes to Earth and takes over the body of a human pilot before he dies, giving him a second chance on life as well as a secret identity for Ultraman. Giant monsters called Kaiju have been attacking Earth, and Ultraman lends his strength to stop them. This manga is written as a direct sequel to the first TV series. Shinjiro is the son of Shin Hayata, the Scientific Special Search Party pilot that first joined with the Giant of Light. Many years have passed since there, and the world is at peace, but the darkness is growing again. Shinjiro, now a teenager, learns he has inherited the “Ultraman factor” from his father, and must take up the mantle of Ultraman to stop this new menace. The series is currently serialized in the online magazine Monthly Hero, and there are 5 volumes out so far. It will be published under the Viz Signature imprint and the first volume will be released in August.

Ratman1_500Ratman – This series was originally published by Tokyopop who only released 4 volumes. Viz has picked it up for their Viz Select line. It is about Shuto Kasuragi, a teenage boy who dreams of being a hero. He is kidnapped and tricked by the Jackal Society into using a watch that gives him super powers but also makes him a villain. Instead of giving in or giving up, Shuto uses his new-found powers to become Ratman, an anti-hero who will still fight on the side of justice. You can see a lot of elements from this earlier series in some of the newer ones. Corporate-sponsored heroes, a boys who wants nothing more than to become a hero, and a Hero Association to validate all heroic deeds. The series ended in 2013 and went for 12 volumes. Viz released the first digital volume on March 24th.

Ultimo 1Ultimo – This series isn’t a superhero series per say, but it originated from one of the fathers of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee. In collaboration with Hiroyuki Takei, the creator of Shaman King, the story has a lot of Stan Lee’s touches. Teenager Yamato has both money and girl problems, but his life is turned upside down when he finds Ultimo, a peculiar looking puppet. He awakens Ultimo and is drawn into the fight between him and his arch rival Vice, who are battling to see if good or evil is more powerful. The series not only has over-the-top battles, but also delves into reincarnation and time travel. There are currently 12 volumes available in Japan, while the US has 10. The series will reach its climax this July in the new Shonen Jump magazine spin-off. It is available in both print and digital.

Fool Me Twice

RentaWhen looking for legal manga to read, the selections in English is pretty slim. Readers are limited to eBooks of titles already available in English, the apps Manga Box and Comic Walker which are online only and/or available for a limited time, or Crunchyroll’s all-you-can-read manga which does have several titles not available legally anywhere else, but skews heavily toward the more shonen/senien crowd. If you want more titles directed at women, you need to look elsewhere. Right now, that best elsewhere is Renta!, a Japanese eBook seller that is pushing its English website.

Renta! isn’t a new site. It’s been around since the early 2000s, and has been making manga available in English since 2011. They have recently redesigned the site to attract more female readers by pushing romance, shojo, and ladies titles. At first glance, this looks like a really good site. Just a cursory glance over the site shows lots of titles that aren’t available in English, or would ever be on any publisher’s radar. The translations look well done and the lettering is clean. They even have a section on the site that shows the full translation process to reassure people who there is quality control.

I don’t have a problem with all that. It’s all great, and there are a few tempting titles I wouldn’t mind trying, but I just can’t get over the feeling of deja vu I get when I look at the site. It’s like Jmanga all over. The site doesn’t sell their manga, they rent viewing rights, either for 48 hours or unlimited. This is essentially what Jmanga did. You “bought” the manga, but could only read it online, or later, you could “download” it with their app for offline reading, but you never truly own the manga. This is all well and good until something like what happened with Jmanga, shutdown, takes away everything you’ve invested in.

Renta 2The other thing they do, just as Jmanga did, is to use “tickets”, essentially points. One point = $1 US, and you can buy tickets in 1, 3, 10, 30, 50, and 100 packages. Oh, did I mention they are also charging 8% tax on ever dollar? So you aren’t paying $1, you are paying $1.08 for each ticket. They seem to think that buying tickets makes buying manga easier. I don’t see the advantage other than to make things more confusing for renters, but that’s just me. Most of the manga is sold by chapter, though there are some full volumes available. I dislike the “selling-per-chapter”, since that can sometimes make a volume more costly. I guess this works for the impatient types, but I’m not one of them. I can wait for the full volume.

Renta! has been around for a while, so they probably won’t just up and disappear like Jmanga did. They already have an established business in Japan, so moving into the Western market is a growth strategy. Focusing on the still underrepresented female market is a smart move. They’ve even gotten a lot of title that were previously available on Jmanga, such as Crayon Shin-chan, the Saito Production titles, and Hirohita.

But, after being burned by Jmanga’s shutdown, and losing all the time and money I invested, I am really gun-shy about doing it again. Renta! has the titles I’m interested in, but not the platform I can get behind. I want and need to have some control over the titles I buy online. Either let me download and back them up like Kindle, Nook and even eManga does, or give me the all-you-can-eat model Crunchyroll has where I’m not investing in a single title but the platform. You can rent to me, but give me the option to rent-to-own. Renta! is the right idea, but on the wrong platform.

Resurrecting Detective Manga

kako to nise tanteiIt was announced in the first 2015 issue of Shueisha’s Weekly Young Jump that Yasunori Mitsunaga was launching a new detective series, Kako to Nise Tantei. This mystery series follows a genius boy detective with a shocking secret, and the first chapter featured a color opening page. It just came out on December 11, so not a lot of information is out about it but, I love boy detective stories and am always happy to see more of them. It would be great if Viz Media would consider it once it’s got some chapters under its belt. It’s too bad it’s not a Weekly Shonen Jump series, otherwise we could have gotten a Jump Start on the first three chapters.

Kantantei DWThis isn’t Mitsunaga’s first mystery series. Back in 2011, he launched another detective series, Kan Tantei D&W for Shonen Gahosha’s Monthly Young King. It features two characters, Juro, a man who is very sensitive to the smell of blood, and Hisato, who is a reclusive shut-in, for his own reasons. In the first story, Juro finds the body of an idol. After a run-in with the police, he goes to Hisato, who has his own mysterious powers, for help. This series is at two volumes and still ongoing. I would love to see this series brought over as well. According to Organization Anti-Social Geniuses‘ very helpful article “What Manga Publishers Can License in the US”, Seven Seas Entertainment would be the most likely company to bug—ask nicely to look into licensing.

Princess Resurrection 1Mitsunaga is no stranger to Western readers. His long running series, Princess Resurrection, Kaibutsu Oujo, was licensed by Del Rey Manga, who published the first 7 of the 20 volume series. I really liked the first three volumes, until things seemed to get a little weird at the end of the third, but I wonder if I should have checked out further volumes. Not that it seemed it would have mattered since Del Rey dropped it, and Kodansha doesn’t seem interested in continuing it. But I did like Mitsunaga’s art and writing, so seeing more of his work would be most welcome.

Almost Makes Me Wish I Read Shonen Jump

hi-fiViz Media’s Jump Start! has been busy lately. Several titles that have debuted in the Japanese Weekly Shonen Jump are getting their first three chapters published in the US digital magazine. Readers then get a chance to vote which ones they’d like to see serialized in the digital edition. One title has already gone through the process. Hi-Fi Cluster was previewed in September, and joined the magazine at the end of October, along with Food Wars. Hi-Fi Cluster is a sci-fi crime series. People can now download skills they don’t have to a patch. A black market has sprung up that deal in buying and selling of said abilities. The series follows Kosaku Kandera as he leads Special Unit Six of the Metropolitan Police Department to stop these crimes by any means necessary.

The next title to jump start was éIDLIVE, by Akira Amano, the creator of Hitman Reborn. It follows Chuta Kokonose, a boy who hears a voice in his head that gets him into a lot of trouble. He’s already thought to be an oddball, but when he meets a little blue alien, things start to get really weird. This series was originally serialized on Shueshia’s digital app Jump Live, and has already completed two “seasons”. The Jump Start will begin at with season 1. It ran back in September.

November saw three new titles get the Jump Start treatment. Takujo no Ageha: The Table Tennis of Ageha is a “high tension, ping-pong manga. It’s the second sports manga to get the Jump Start treatment. The series started as a one-shot that ran in Weekly Shonen Jump back in June. E-Robot also started as a one-shot that ran back in January. It follows the adventures of a sexy and powerful robot girl.

gakkyuGakkyu Hotei (School Investigation Court) started on the Jump Live digital app and is relaunching in print. This “shocking court mystery” follows the court trials of offenders in an elementary school. With increasing problems plaguing the elementary school system, a new solution is enacted; the School Judgement System. Students must stand trial and be defended by their peers in this new court system. Gakkyu Hotel is written by Enoki and illustrated by  Takeshi Obata. It has joined the digital Weekly Shonen Jump lineup this month.

While not a Jump Start series, RKD-EK9 is another title illustrated by Takeshi Obata. It is written by NishiOisen, writer of the Shonen Jump title Medaka Box. The one-shot originally ran in Jump Square back in November, and is running the US digital Weekly Shonen Jump as a special issue while all the regular titles take the week off for the holidays.

So, out of seven Jump Start! titles, we have two confirmed serializations. Both of these titles sound like things I’d like to read. Hi-Fi Cluster has some of the good elements from the Matrix and sounds like it’s full of action and some procedural elements, two things I like. Gakkyu Hotei is a mystery and court procedural series that I just don’t think we have enough of, so I gladly welcome it to the Shonen Jump ranks. Though, with Obata being the artist on the series, it’s of little surprise that it topped any fan polls.

Of the titles that didn’t make it, I’m not too surprised that Takujo no Ageha didn’t make the cut. Sports manga, even ping-pong it seems, just doesn’t appeal to WSJ readers. I’m glad E-Robot didn’t, not with a description that includes “Erotic Robot”, “advanced features”, and “full power”. I’m sure it’s meant to be a comedy, but I doubt it was very funny. éIDLIVE may just be too far on the weird side.

DMP’s Latest Tezuka Kickstarter Succeeds

Ludwig B kickstarterIt came down to the wire again. Digital Manga Publishing, after the failure of their ambitious Kickstarter to publish 31 volumes of Osamu Tezuka’s manga, tried again with a more traditional model of a complete two-volume series. It began at the end of November, just before Black Friday, and ended the day after Christmas. A difficult time to be asking for money to be sure, as people are out preparing for the holidays and buying gifts.

It started out well, hitting 20% of their goal after only a few days. They kept the pricing in line with what fans expected to pay for books, and had several digital and print options to satisfy most desires. To keep the campaign alive, they would add new tiers, and in the last week offered a special high-end tier that included a trip to Japan for $4000. This seemed to be the spur it needed to get over the lull it had fallen into that made some declare it would fail. As is usual for most Kickstarters, it came down to the wire on the last day, but it did make its goal with $1000 to spare.

When you look at how the pledges broke down, it’s easy to see what people want from Tezuka kickstarters. They want the books; physical books. The tier with the most backers, 189, was for both volumes in print. Print and digital only got 19, while digital only got 18. DMP threw up plenty of bells and whistles any Tezuka fan would love, and they got backs on nearly every tier, but it seems the meat and bones of the fans, the ones they really need to make this work just want the print books at what they consider a reasonable price, which in this case was an MSRP of $15.95.

If DMP and/or Tezuka Productions can be a little patient, I think they can get through this. Fans of these works want the books, but those that want them ALL I think is smaller than those who want certain titles. Breaking the titles up into smaller, more individual runs will make it easier for the more casual fans to get just the specific titles they are interested in while the super fan can get them all on a budget they can justify.

Congratulations to Digital Manga Publishing for a successful Kickstarter to end the year, and a wish for more in the coming new year.

Top Manga Rankings 2014

OriconOver in Japan, the top-selling manga series for 2014 has been published by Oricon. The list includes the top 30 titles and their sales numbers covering the dates from November 18, 2013 to November 16, 2014. Looking the list over, it’s pretty amazing how many of them have been licensed and are currently being released. Seventeen titles are current available, with the eighteenth, Tokyo Ghoul having just been announced by Viz Media at New York Comic Con in October:

Rank Sales Title US Publisher
1 11,885,957 One Piece Viz
2 11,728,368 Attack on Titan Kodansha
4 6,946,203 Tokyo Ghoul Viz
6 5,505,179 Naruto Viz
8 4,657,971 Magi Viz
9 4,633,246 The Seven Deadly Sins Kodansha
10 4,622,108 Assassination Classroom Viz
12 4,295,257 Terra Formars Viz
16 3,816,372 Nisekoi Viz
17 3,275,885 Fairy Tail Kodansha
18 2,986,968 Bleach Viz
19 2,644,122 Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma Viz
23 2,397,887 Kimi ni Todoke Viz
24 2,394,263 Gintama Viz
25 2,380,774 Detective Conan Viz
26 2,289,738 Black Butler Yen Press
27 2,231,805 Noragami Kodansha
28 2,173,339 One-Punch Man Viz

AoT 1We will then have three of the top five titles and, and seven out of the top ten. That’s really not too bad. Should be surprising that Viz has most of the titles as well? Almost half of the top titles come from Shueisha/Shogakukan, that Viz gets first choice/exclusive rights to. Kodansha only have four, but they are all NYT Bestseller charts. And Viz and Kodansha are in a race for the top title with only ~157,000 between One Piece and Attack on Titan. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them switch places in 2015.

Yen Press has only one title, Black Butler, which is also one of its strongest sellers here. Gintama, continues to do well in Japan, but was dropped by Viz here. One-Punch Man continues to be a digital only title. It hasn’t converted like Nisekoi did, so it may not do well enough to warrant a print run, even though it usually ranks on Vizmanga.com‘s top ten with every new volume. Almost the entire licensed list is shonen, with only one shojo, Kimi ni Todoke, charting.

Rank Sales Title Publisher
3 8,283,709 Haikyu!! Shueisha
5 6,729,439 Kuroko’s Basketball Shueisha
7 4,681,031 Ace of Diamond Kodansha
11 4,385,701 Hozuki no Reitetsu Kodansha
13 4,166,875 Blue Spring Ride Shueisha
14 4,098,510 Yowamushi Pedal (Yowapeda) Akita Shoten
15 3,957,991 Silver Spoon Shogakukan
20 2,588,791 Yōkai Watch Shogakukan
21 2,516,278 Kingdom Shueisha
22 2,472,101 Kyō wa Kaisha Yasumimasu. Shueisha
29 1,967,675 Gekkan Shōjo Nozaki-kun Square Enix
30 1,937,059 Chihayafuru Kodansha

Yokai WatchOf the titles that haven’t been licensed yet, there are several that make you wonder why. Silver Spoon, by the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist, Himoru Arakawa, remains unlicensed, leaving many fans scratching their heads. Yokai Watch, which has the potential to rival Pokèmon, hasn’t found a home in the west either. Sports titles Haikyu!!, Kuroko’s Basketball, Ace of Diamond and Yowamushi Pedal has the curse of not sports titles doing well in the west, despite Haikyu!! and Yowamushi Pedal having strong potential to attract female readers. Hozuki no Reitetsu should be a strong contender with a supernatural theme and bishonen lead, but it’s got the high volume count working against it.

Blue Spring Ride is by Io Sakisaka, the creator of Strobe Edge. Strobe Edge was an earlier work of  Sakisaka’s, and a really good on at that. Viz shouldn’t wait time on this one. It’s just over the 10-volume limit, but should be still close enough to warrant a lookover. Yen Press needs to get on Gekkan Shojo Nozaki-kun, and get that title licensed here! It’s a shojo that is also about creating manga. It’s anime was streamed here by Crunchyroll, and it was well received (at least it was in my Twitter TL). In fact, most of these titles have had anime that was streamed here. Popular anime does seem to play a role in manga being released. I do hope the streams will help some of  these.

ChihayafuruChihayafuru is the last title on the list, and one that I’ve seen fans ask for, but no one seems to want to touch. It’s a card game style manga, which shouldn’t be strike against it, except for its subject; Japanese poetry. I’m sure a lot of publishers look at that and think it would be a hard sell, but the same was probably thought about Hikaru no Go. Then again, that title probably only didi okay for Viz. Chihayafuru has an anime too, streaming on Crunchyroll, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to entice publishers. Add to the high volume count of 26, and it being a josei, and there’s the strikeout for this series. It sounds like a good candidate for a digital-only release, if only Kodansha did that.

Do you have a title on the list not licensed that you wish was? Drop me a note in the comments.

 

Manga Gift Guide 2014

It’s that time of the year again, where you have to go shopping for the manga readers in your life, but have no idea what to get them. No worries, here’s just one more gift guide to give you ideas of what to buy for who. For suggestions from previous years (some titles maybe out of print or digital only), check out my guides from 2013, 2010, and 2009.

Cardfight Vanguard 1Card Game Lover – The king of card game manga is Yu-Gi-Oh!, but it is far from the only title worth reading out there. Cardfight! Vanguard is from Vertical Comics and is about timid Aichi Sendou who knows all about the card game Vanguard, and even has a deck, but has never played. When his most prized card is stolen, he ventures into a card shop to battle for his card back. While some would call this series a derivative of Yu-Gi-Oh!, there are enough differences in character and plot to really veer it onto its own path. The emphasis on having fun and making friends eclipses the  more competitive aspects of playing games which I think is a good thing. There are currently 4 volumes available.

Another MangaMystery/Thriller Lover – Everyone loves a good mystery. Another from Yen Press is a great mystery with the right amounts of thrill and horror. It is the adaptation of the novel by the same name, which is also available from Yen Press. Middle school student Koichi Sakakibara has transferred into Yomiyama North Middle School, to live with his grandparents while his father goes off to work in India. Something is strange about his class though. It is cursed. On random years someone from the class how had died previously would come back, and everyone’s memories would be altered so no one suspected. Then at least one person connected with the class would die in mysterious and sometimes gruesome ways. Koichi is determined to find a way to end the curse, and is helped by Mei Misaki, a girl outcast from the class as a charm to ward off the curse. I loved this story. The mystery is elegantly built up, and the identity of the “Casuality was a complete surprise, but when you go back and read it again, all the clues are there, and make perfect scene. It’s a single volume omnibus. Also check out the novel, since some changes were made to the story for the manga.

AoT 1Action/Horror Lover – There are plenty of action/horror titles, but only one can stand at the top of the pile; Attack on Titan from Kodansha Comics. This story of humanity’s attempt to survive after the apocalypse brought on by the appearance of Titans, giants that have only one goal; eat humans. Humanity has been at peace for 100 years, hiding being their 50 meter tall walls, keeping the Titans at bay. Until, one day, a Colossal Titan appears and kicks open the door in Wall Maria, releasing the Titans, and forcing humanity back. The story follows Eren Yeager and his friends Mikasa and Arwin, as they train and join the Survey Corps, the group that fights Titans. This series took the west by storm last year, and hasn’t given an inch since. Its story and characters are well written enough that the poor art can be forgiven. There are currently 14 volumes of the main series, and three spin-off series, including a light novel from Vertical.

What did you eat yesterdayFood Lover – Food comics is a genre particular to manga. There are tons of about finding, making and eating food. What Did You Eat Yesterday? is from Vertical Comics and is created by well-known foodie mangaka Fumi Yoshinaga. It is about a gay couple, one is an outgoing hair stylist Kenji and the other is a more reserved lawyer Shiro. Each chapter is a slice of life about their jobs, family and friends, and a detailed description of the  meal Shiro prepares each night. You can almost use the chapters as a cook book with how detailed Yoshinaga gets. The relationship between Shiro and Kenji is just as interesting as it shows the realities of living gay in Japan. Some people might mistake this series for BL, especially considering the creator, but it is far from it. The only love going on in this series is for the food. There are currently 5 volumes available.

Insufficient DirectionUber Geek – Do you know someone who think they know everything about anime, manga, and tokusatsu? Then Insufficient Direction from Vertical Comics is the title for them. It is a sort-of autobiography by mangaka Moyoko Anno about her marriage to ultimate otaku Hideaki Anno, best known as the director of Neon Genesis Evangelion. The book is filled with references to old school anime and tokusatsu shows such as Super Sentai and Kamen Rider. It tells the story of the slow evolution of a (pseudo) normal wife into a full otaku-wife. It’s done in one volume.

Say I Love You 1My little Monster 1Teen Romance Lover – There are a lot of romances out there, but Kodansha Comics has managed to release two titles that sound similar, but take very different paths. My Little Monster and Say I Love You both are about a girl who was betrayed by “friends” when she was younger, and has grown up thinking she doesn’t need any. Then they meet a boy who gets to them and slowly peels away their armor to win their friendship and maybe even heart. The two titles verge from each other in their characters and the way they look at relationships among them. My Little Monster is more like a teeter-totter, with the two main characters see-sawing up and down about their feelings. Say I Love You takes a realistic look at teenage relationships as the main character’s slowly grow closer. There are four volumes of each series currently available.

happy marriageMature Romance Lover – There aren’t a lot of romance titles for readers ready to move up from the teen/high school romances, but that is slowly changing. Viz Media has started to license more of these. Happy Marriage?! is about Chiwa Takanashi, an office lady who is forced to marry the president of the company she works for, Hokuto Mamiya, in order to pay off her father’s debts. Their marriage starts off on a bumpy road, as they barely know each other, and have to keep their relationship a secret at work. They butt heads a lot, but Chiwa slowly starts to see Hokuto isn’t as bad as he may seem, and Hokuto stops being so much of a jerk. The office environment is  a nice change from school, and the problems faced by Chiwa are easier to relate to for older readers. There are nine volumes currently available. The series is complete at ten.

SparklerSamplerIssue_coverOEL Lover – With the demise of Yen Plus, there really haven’t been any publishers releasing original English language created works. Enter Sparkler Monthly, a digital monthly magazine published by Chromatic Press that features prose stories, audio, and comics created by western artists. The magazine is in its second year and has completed several of their debut titles. There are no limits on genre; the stories range from supernatural to science fiction and any kind of romance can be found in its pages. The magazine has strong female gaze leanings, but the stories are far from female exclusive. The magazine is subscriber supported, though new content is made available for free to read online for a few weeks each month. A gift subscription would make the perfect gift for the discerning reader that keeps giving all year, and more subscriptions guarantee more great content!

INUxBOKU_SSv1_TPYokai Lover – Yokai are monsters particular to Japan, and are a lot of fun to boot. Inu x Boku SS from Yen Press is about Ririchiyo Shirakiin, a girl from a family of old money who also has Ayakashi blood running through her. Wanting to live on her own, she moves into the apartment building Maison de Ayakashi, which is occupied by others like her, who have members of the building’s Secret Service protecting them. Ririchiyo is assigned Soushi Miketsukaim, who is very protective of her. Ririchiyo learns to open up to others and makes friends while something sinister haunts in the background. The series has a nice variety of yokai, and most of the characters are fun and interesting. Some you will either love or hate. There are currently five volumes available, with the sixth out in January.

Vinland Saga 1Non-Manga/History Lover – Vikings have been quite a hit lately, so it is perfect timing that Kodansha Comics has started releasing Vinland Saga. The series follows Thorfinn as he seeks revenge for his father’s death at the hands of mercenary Askeladd. The series portrays life in the Nordic lands with all the harsh realities and violence of the time. Nothing is sugar-coated, and it can be graphic at times, but it also tells a gripping story of war, survival, history and honor. Each volume is a 2-in-1 omnibus hardback, with its presentation as good as it’s content.The strong historical basis will appeal to the history buff, while the non-manga lover will enjoy the epic story and earthy art. There are currently five volumes available.