Category Archives: Articles

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

And We’re Off…

To the San Diego Comic Con.  It’s our annual summer vacation trip that we share with 40,000+ other fans.  Unfortunately is always feels like ALL 40,000 are in the Exhibit room at the same time…  Oh well.  Hopefully this year there will be better crowd control.  And we go for the panels just as much as the shopping.  At least Brian and I do.  The girls have DSes to keep them busy.  So Doctor Who, Stargate, and an MST3K reunion!  Whoo Hoo!  (Yes, I’ve been an MiSTie since CC’s second season.)  And of course the manga.  There’s certainly plenty of it spread around the Exhibit room.  Panels are sparcer this year than I remember last year.

Anyway, if we can get the WiFi in our hotel room working, I’ll post some thoughts Thursday and Friday night.  I know there’s going to be Wifi at the con, but I’m not lugging my laptop around in addition to all my purchases.  It’s not like there won’t be plenty of others giving you the scoops.  I’ll just do the commentary afterwards.  I can’t wait to see what Tokyopop’s “viral marketing” is going to be.  They were looking for volunteers who were going to the con…

See you soon!

Good Ideas, Bad Ideas, and Some Ranting

From the Great Ideas Dept:

John Thomas over at Mecha Mecha Media takes another look at Light Novels in the US and comes up with a GREAT new name for them:  J-Pulp.  I think this is a perfect name for them!  It describes them exactly as they are meant to be.  Short prose books meant to kill a few hours.  And it’s a term book retailers and publishers can understand.  They aren’t meant to be high literature, nor shoved into the foreign books section (is that really a category in bookstores?)  It’s all about the genre.  Get the light novels with the other novels they fit into best; Ghost in the Shell and Vampire Hunter D in the Sci Fi/Fantasy section.  Then at the end of the novel, mention that the manga series is available for more stories, etc.  If you’re not going to tell anyone about these book except the people who already know about them (don’t get me started on the incestuous relationship manga and anime keep cultivating), then at least get them into places where non-manga fans might stumble on them and decide to find out more.

Continue reading Good Ideas, Bad Ideas, and Some Ranting

Kindaichi Case Files: A Lament

What I’ve been dreading has finally become official: Kindaichi Case Files has been canceled.  As part of Tokyopop’s slashing, the January 2009 solicitation of volume 18, Burial Francs, is on the list.  I was hoping against hope that this title would some how survive, since it was one of the few good titles Tokyopop had to offer.  Even though it’s a shonen title, it’s mysteries could keep an adult guessing.  Engaging characters and intriguing mysteries made this a series a must for mystery aficionados.

Even though I love mysteries, I didn’t pick up Kindaichi immediately.  Wanna know why?  Because Tokyopop can’t market a title properly to save their life!  When this series first came out, they advertised it as a Japanese “Scooby Doo”, emphasizing the supernatural parts over the mystery.  That was a failure on so many levels.  Kids looking for short, quick mysteries with goofy characters would be disappointed, and people looking for a good murder mystery series (like me) would avoid it like the plague.  I’m not quite sure what made me pick up the series.  I think I just kept seeing it in our local Waldens Books, and finally gave it a real look over.  I bought the first volume and was sold!  If this title had been marketed as a proper mystery series, and/or put closer to the mystery section, it could have had a chance of selling.  But that’s not Tokyopop’s way of marketing it seems.  They seem to prefer the “throw it at the wall, and see what sticks” method, which is probably why they are in the position they are in today.

So, Kindaichi, I must bid you a fond farewell.  I loved following you on your many adventures with Miyuki and Detective Kenmochi.  I’ll miss your lecherous, yet foiled ways, and your swearing by your grandfather’s name to solve the mystery.  Reading your adventures was like getting together with old friends, as I had come to know you all so well.  I am glad to have been able to know you even for the short time we’ve shared.  I will miss you and your 10 remaining volumes.  Perhaps we can meet again, if I ever learn to read Japanese.

Or ever better.  Kodancha USA picks you up.  (Please, Please PLEASE!!  ONEGAI!!!!)

Tokyopop Online Watch: Bizenghast

Bizenghast Vol 1Tokyopop, being one of the few companies to embrace the potential of online manga is doing it again.  Starting this week, and until Wed. 7/2/08, you can read all of Bizenghast Volume 1 on their website.  And for every week after, you can read another volume leading up to Volume 5, which will be available to read on 7/15/08 only.

I got hooked on this series through reading it online.  Last year Tokyopop did this for the first two volumes, for the release of the third.  If you want to check out a series, reading it online is a great way to sample it.  And if you do like it, buy the volumes.  Online manga lets you taste the series, but having the book in your hand gives you the real experience.

It is Armageddon!

The apocalypse is nigh, the end of the world is near, the impossible has happened. My local Barnes and Noble actually had a decently stocked manga section! (Cue dramatic chords).

This weekend I decided to go out and see if I could find a physical copy of King of Cards Volume 2. I’m not getting this one again sight unseen. My youngest was going to a birthday party, so I thought after dropping her off, we could drive down to the nearest Borders, which is about 20 minutes away. A check of their stock online said they might have it in stock. I had already written off Barnes and Noble. The one by us always has really lousy selection and the shelves are badly maintained. But, on a whim, I checked out the B&N website, and they said our local one might have it as well.

Well, B&N was on the way home, and a whole lot closer than Borders, so I decided to take the chance. (And, I had a gift card for B&N, just in case.) So, we stopped and went to the back of the store, and to my utter surprise, the shelves were full! OMG! (as my kids would say) I was stunned for a moment that not only were the shelves stocked, but I could see them! No manga-cows were blocking the shelves! I could’t believe my eyes.

I immediately went to the other side (our manga section is a single four shelf, standing alone in the back) to the K’s. Shock again! Not only did they have some CMX titles in stock, but they had King of Cards Volume 2! And, it didn’t have printing error that I had already been hit with twice! There was something wrong. Things never go this right for me. It had to be a sign. A sign that the end was coming.

I now have my working volume, and am working at getting a credit for my printing error copy from the store I bought it from. I want to thank Johanna Draper Carlson of Comics Worth Reading, for trying to get the word out about my problem. But, apparently I AM the only person who will admit to reading this series.

I will be posting a review of this second book. Before the world ends.

Good Dragons, Bad Dragons

I’m gonna take a short break from my manga rantings to rant about another subject near and dear to my heart. Dragons. Yes, ever since my brother introduced me to the Dragonriders of Pern series (the Harper Hall Trilogy to be exact), I’ve been in love with the flying reptiles. I have stuffed dragons on top of my monitor, all the McFarlane’s toys so far, just about any other toy that strikes my fancy and sculptures scattered around the house. So, of course, I like movies with dragons in them too. Just recently, two movies have been released that feature dragons. One I will warn you about, and one I will thoroughly endorse.

Dragon Wars aka D-War – This is a Korean movie that was filmed in Los Angeles, and completely in English. It is about the Korean legend of how dragons come to be. They start out as Imugi, serpent-like creatures, that receive the light of heaven, born in the form of a human girl, to become a Celestial Dragon. 500 years ago, the dark imugi Buraki, tried to steal the girl, and she died before the light could be passed on. In the present, in LA, the light is reborn, as is the warrior that died with her. The battle for the light starts again, as both the good imugi and Buraki fight for possession of her.

It’s a fun action/romance story that does keep you on the edge of your seat at times. But, the best part of this movie is when the Celestial Dragon makes it’s appearance at the end. It is one of the best oriental dragons I’ve ever seen rendered! The Imugi and dragon are all done in CGI, but it is GOOD CGI. The interaction between actors and the CGI is smooth, and they don’t stand out. They are rendered very believably. And the Celestial Dragon is so beautiful. My only disappointment with it was that it wasn’t on screen long enough! I wanted more!! Get this movie. It is totally worth it.

Rating: ★★★★★

Dragonlance: The Dragons of Autumn Twilight – This is an animated film, made in India, with well known voice actors; Michael Rosenbaum, Keifer Sutherland, and Lucy Lawless. It’s based on the book by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman of the same name, and is set in the Dragonlance universe of Dungeons & Dragons. The gods of light have deserted men, elves and dwarves and left them at the mercy of the dark god Takhisis. But a group of friends still believe, and meet a woman with a staff that can heal. They go off in search of the possibility of the gods return.

This movie is one of the biggest turkeys I’ve seen *without a rifftrack* in a long time! The animation was absolutely horrendous! It was like being transported back to the 80’s and watching an episode of He-man. It was jumpy, and just plain bad. The dragons were rendered in CGI in this movie as well, only these were awful. It was soooo obvious that the dragons were CGI. They stood out like a sore thumb. The CGI and 2-D did not mix well at all. Most of the acting wasn’t any better, with very wooden performances coming from the actors, but I blame this on the director more than the actors. This movie is a travesty and a total waste of DVD. Avoid this movie at all costs. Even, or especially if, you are a fan of the book. You WILL be sorely disappointed. Just do yourself a favor and don’t bother. Your money is better spend on D-Wars.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Take Down List = Wish List?

Wandering around the web yesterday, I stumbled upon a Livejournal group for an unlicensed manga called 07-Ghost. It’s a shonen sci-fi that I read a few chapters of a few years ago and liked. No new chapters came out after the initial few, so I figured it was dropped as happens so often in scanalations. But, on the community, there was a message about the possible licensing of this manga based on a Take Down notice Tokyopop had sent to this manga trading website. The list of manga Tokyopop asked to be taken down can be found here. The Take Down notice was sent in January of this year.

I found this list rather odd though. Yes, all of Tokyopop’s titles were there, as well as 07-Ghost. There were also a couple of other titles on the list that were not announced licenses such as Saiunkoko Monotagari, Sayuki Gaiden, and Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam. These are all series I would love to have, and Sayuki Gaiden just makes sense since Tokyopop has published Saiyuki and Saiyuki Reload.

But, what made me wonder about the reliability of this list is that there were several series’ on this list that were licensed, but not by Tokyopop. Mamotte! Lollipop, MPD Psycho, Shugo Chara, Star Wars, and Togari have all been licensed and released by Del Rey, Dark Horse and Viz. So, is Tokyopop looking out for the well being of their competitors as well as themselves? I hardly think so. It seems to me that the list, beyond the Tokyopop titles that have been released, is just a wish list of titles they wanted to get.

So, how serious should a list like this be taken? Not very I would think. Tokyopop has a right to demand that titles that are licensed and in print be taken down from sites that offer them for download. But, I think it’s going too far to demand a laundry list is really just a working print of titles they wanted but couldn’t always get. At the very least, they could take off the titles licensed by other publishers.

Keeping the Stars Blazing

The current issue of Otaku USA, as well as featuring stories about the anime Space Battleship Yamato and Star Blazers, also had an insert on the Star Blazers webcomic, Star Blazers: Rebirth. This is a web comic written by THE authority on Star Blazers, Tim Eldred. It is a continuation of the Star Blazers saga, taking place after the Final Yamato movie, and features a new generation of characters. But, did you know there were other comics based on the Star Blazers series?

StarBlazers.com, the place for all things Star Blazers, has a section on the history of Spacefront-page.jpg Battleship Yamato and Star Blazers in comics. Being a Leiji Matsumoto fan, I found the entries on the manga version of Yamato very interesting, since all that I’ve ever seen of them are the covers. (I had a chance waaaayyyyyy back in the eighties to buy them from the LA store Books Nippon. I really wish I had…) The article goes into some detail about the history of the comic, even showing covers of the magazines they were serialized in. It also includes a really cool bonus: a translation of a rarely seen side story, Eternal Story of Jura. Yamato/Star Blazers fans should really check it out.

Also check out Tim Eldred’s chronology of Star Blazer’s comics in the US. It’s history is justcomico1a.JPG as interesting as the manga’s. I still have my copies of the first two mini-series’ from Comico comics, and remember then fondly. Since we never got the Bolar Wars in the LA area, the comics became the third season for me. It was really good for continuation of the series, as it was written and drawn. If you’re a fan and can find them, definitely check them out. It’s probably also what kept me on my road for collecting comics based on TV/Movie properties (not retelling of the properties, new stories).

Revisiting My Otaku Roots

otaku-usa-3.gifThe latest issue of Otaku USA has a couple of features on the anime classic series Space Battleship Yamato. While reading these features and the writers talking about their first times seeing the series, it got me thinking about how I was introduced to it.

Like most other people my age, my first exposure to Japanese animation was through the cartoons that were brought over and re-written for a US audience. Kimba the White Lion, Speed Racer, and Battle of the Planets (Gatchaman) were all shows I remember watching and liking, but they never differentiated them from the other cartoons I watched. That honor goes to another show; Star Blazers.

It was 1978, I’m almost certain. KTLA, channel 5, a local television station in the Los Angeles area. It had a show on the weekends that showed movies for kids; The Family Film Festival. It ran in the afternoons, after the morning cartoons were over, and there was only sports on the local channels (there was no cable at the time). So, the Family Film Festival was the best thing on. It was hosted by Tom Hatten, a well-known local personality. He sat in a director’s chair, a clipboard in his lap, next to a movie reel projector. He would introduce the movie to be shown and would give facts and trivia about tn_starsha_argo_jpg.jpgthe movie in before and after commercial breaks. It was here that on one Saturday, a new movie was shown Space Cruiser Yamato. That was the title as I remember it. It was the dub of the compilation movie of the series Space Battleship Yamato, and it was the coolest thing I had ever seen! The music was awesome, the plot was great and the characters were interesting. It was unlike any cartoon I’d seen before, and I’d seen quite a bit on the Film Festival. They had shown animated movies from all over the world. But Yamato had no talking animals or slapstick. It was real-looking people, with real problems, facing real peril. You saw people die! I liked it so much that I watched it again on the Sunday morning replay! Both my older brother and I fell for this movie. I was confused by one thing though. The movie was call Space Cruiser Yamato, but the ship was called the Argo. For the first part of the movie, I was wondering where they got this Argo, and where was the Yamato? I didn’t dwell on it long though. Such things aren’t of great concern when you’re 9-10 years old.

The next summer, I spent searching through the TV Guide to see if the Yamato movie would be on again. I don’t think it was shown again, on KTLA, but for the fall, we got a star-blazers-logo.jpgbetter surprise; the TV series would be coming! It was called Star Blazers now, and it was on a different independent station, KCOP, channel 13. But there was no mistaking the 1/3 page ad in the TV Guide, or the familiar chords of the opening. The voices were the same as from the movie, as were the names. We didn’t get it in the afternoons like everyone else it seems. Star Blazers was shown in the morning, at like 7 or 7:30 AM. I remember my brother would set up an audio tape recorder next to this old black and white 13″ TV and record the audio. There wouldn’t be a VCR in our house for another 5 years at least. We would play back the tapes and just listen to the episodes we couldn’t watch. So now, everytime I watch an episode of Star Blazers, after the opening credits, in my head I hear the narration for the episode of the Argo preparing to leave the solar system…

Star Blazers was a big deal for my generation. It was the first time we saw animation do something so different. After a steady diet of Looney Toons and Hana-Barbera shows, it was a breath of fresh air to get something without talking animals or the zany sound effects. Instead, we got orchestra music with that marching band-sounding opening. Characters that looked and felt real; that got hurt, sacrificed themselves, and even died. There was no reset button with everyone back in the next episode.

We only got 1 3/4 of the Star Blazer series shown in the LA area. The show got moved right at the end of the second season with the Comet Empire. But I have a lasting memory from that as well, and it’s the one that set me up to becoming an anime/manga fan. Near the end, Desslock and Wildstar are dueling on Desslock’s damaged battle ship. During the fight, Wildstar is wounded, and Nova runs to his side. She’s prepared to sacrifice herself to stay with Wildstar. Desslock stares at them together, and lowers his gun and walks away. Nova’s love for Wildstar reached his heart, and rather than break up the lovers, he gives up on his revenge against Wildstar and the Star Force. And it was, with that moment, that I would become an anime fan. Never in American animation did you see the villain have a change of heart, or that you might think that the villain wasn’t just pure evil incarnate. With that great ambiguity, I was, and still am, hooked.

For more information than you ever wanted to know about Star Blazers, check out the official site, Star Blazers.com or Issue 4 of Otaku USA, and read about others introductions to the series.

Tokyopop.com Goes to the Darkside

Avatar to Support Sixxx

A situation has arisen at Tokyopop.com that I don’t think should be kept only there. As many of you may know from Brigid’s posts on the Mangablog, people have been frustrated about the condition of the Tokyopop.com website. Namely, since the “upgrade” to 2.0, it has been buggy and not well managed. One of the users of the site, an artist known as Sixxx, has been very vocal about the bad code and poor management on her blog. Last weekend, she was banned from the site and her profile was wiped from the system.

Sixxx was a popular person around the site. She was on the front page every day as a “Most Popped” user. Her art was used as avatars, and was often featured in other blog posts. She also spoke her mind about the problems on the site. Her posts weren’t mean or nasty. They were written by someone who obviously cared about the site and was frustrated at what it had become. Apparently, after another venting on her blog, which Sixxx had the comments set for moderation before posting, the webmaster of Tokyopop.com, Matt Paladino, aka MP (who was also on Sixxx’s ignore list) left a comment on the blog that appeared without Sixxx’s approval. The only way he could have done this is by using his power as a webmaster. This was a blatant abuse of power, and Sixxx called him on it. A few days later, while Sixxx was logged in, she was kicked from the site and banned. Her account was removed and not a word has come from Tokyopop.com to Sixxx or to anyone inquiring about it. For more information, check out this Live Journal.

I don’t normally get involved with these kind of situations, especially since I don’t even know Sixxx except by repuation. But what Matt Paladino did, and Tokyopop.com approved of my their inaction really gets me riled. It was completely wrong for MP to abuse his power like that and flaunt it so blatantly. His actions are more like a petty tyrant than a webmaster. But then, we all know what happens when the wrong people get power. If MP didn’t like what Sixxx was saying about the site, he should have just fixed it and not played little games. Users should not be afraid to speak their minds, especially when they have been violated. It’s one of the basic freedoms in the Bill of Rights, and part of what this country was founded on.

Some might contend that Tokyopop.com was in their right to ban Sixxx, as it is their site. And honestly, in their Terms of Service, it does say:

“TOKYOPOP reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to reject, refuse to post or remove any posting (including email) by you, or to restrict, suspend, or terminate your access to all or any part of the Website or Services at any time, or to terminate your Membership for any or no reason, with or without prior notice. “

Employers can terminate employees as well if they are “at will”. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have to have a good, justifiable reason for termination. Employers who don’t end up paying for it. I see no reason not to hold Tokyopop to the same standards. From the evidence I’ve seen so far, there is no good justifiable reason. A bruised ego is NOT a reason for banning. Not if you truly want to build a site for users to come together. But with the way the site “upgrade” has been handled, I am really beginning to wonder if that’s what they want.

Tokyopop can continue to ignore this, and try to pretend that Sixxx never existed. But to continue to do so will only hurt their reputation more and more. How can you trust a publisher that censors it’s fans? Businesses that treat they customers badly will find that they have no more customers. And with more and more competition out there, I don’t think Tokyopop can afford to be pushing away it’s customers. If they want to keep on good relations with their users, then Tokyopop should issue some sort of statement. Whether it’s to Sixxx directly or on their site, it doesn’t matter. My personal opinion is that they should lift the ban immediately and issue a public apology. But, I think there’s too much pride at Tokyopop.com to do such a thing. They should say something. The longer they stay silent, with their heads in the sand, the worse they are going to look. There is no “innocent until proven guilty” in the court of public opinion, and there is no greater proof of guilt than silence.

Tokyopop Drops the Ball…Again

I really shouldn’t be surprised. This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve been disappointed with Tokyopop. But this really shouldn’t have been *that* hard. What am I talking about? The touted “12 days of Manga Holiday”, they were doing on the website. They just couldn’t finish it, with just two days left to go. Did they not have this planned out? Did all the programmers go and vacation and no one told the interns what to do? Do they just don’t care? More and more I’m feeling it’s the last. Either that or they just keep trying to do *too* much and everything gets dropped.

Oh well. Merry Christmas anyway.

Edit:  Well, Tokyopop did finally manage to update their page, not that they told anyone…  The eleventh day was an mp3 of some sort.  Couldn’t find out from what.  Some imanga no doubt.  And the twevlth day was the first volume of Dramacon.