Category Archives: Articles

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

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‘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.


No Such Thing as a Sure Thing

Tezuka World KickstarterIt seems like the impossible, but it happened. The Digital Manga Kickstarter campaign, Tezuka’s World Release failed to meet its goal of $380,000 in 30 days. It was an ambition project. The entire kickstarter consisted of 6 series’ totaling 31 volumes to be published all at once. But it was a little too ambitious. The $380,000 as the initial goal only covered 2 titles totaling 20 volumes. Two more titles totaling an additional 5 volumes would become available at $475,000 and the final two titles totaling the last 6 volumes would become available at $589,000. That’s a lot of money, over half a million dollars for fans to pony up for just six titles.

Controversy surrounded this project right from the start. The cost and the levels needed to pledge just to get print copies of books was the first and foremost concern of many supporters. At the beginning, backers had to pledge at the $750 level to get copies of the books. That’s a lot of money for 31 books. There was a lot of questions about the tiers, mostly filled with promotional items and why getting books, the reason most people were looking to support the project, were at such a high price. Alex Hoffman of Sequential State did a 3 part post analyzing the project and discussing the issues he saw with it.

Not everyone saw the project as a negative. The Tezuka in English tumblr posted a defense of the kickstarter, asking people to not look at the project as a way to preorder books, but as an investment in DMP and their vision. DMP president Hikaru Sasahara seemed to think the same as a message from him in video and text was posted to the kickstarter page as updates. In his message, he explained why the cost of the kickstarted needed to be so high and what were the company’s ultimate goals. His message still wasn’t enough for backers, and a FAQ page was posted to answer further questions.

Ultimately, all of these explanation weren’t enough. It really appeared that DMP was asking Tezuka fans to fund, not just the project, but the operating expenses of the company. This isn’t what Tezuka fans were used to being asked, or were expecting. Past kickstarters run by DMP were about getting a few books out and fans were happy to fund them. But what DMP tried to do with this project was an entirely different animal and the backers made it very clear that they weren’t interested. In the end, only 115 people backed the project which raised $26,971.00, or 7% of the first goal.

With the information that has come out of this project, I do wonder what DMP said to Tezuka Pro to get them to hand over the license of 500 volumes and what they expected. Was part of DMP’s pitch the numbers from their kickstarter, and other successfully funded Tezuka kickstarters? It does seem that Tezuka was the one creator that you could put up a kickstarter for and people would just throw money at it. But it’s now apparent that even die-hard fans have limits. In DMP’s follow-up answers, it was implied that kickstarter was integral to the success of the license. Possibly even in them getting it. DMP was vastly overestimating western fans means and desire for Tezuka titles if they were counting on them to fund the entire project.

The thing I found most troubling was the expectation that backers would pay for DMP’s operating expenses. They should have had that all planned out and funded before even taking on such a monumental project. Kickstarter has been and continues to be about funding a project. Backers fund projects. Investors fund companies. Maybe DMP should look into Patreon if it’s going to be that much of a hardship on them.

I do hope DMP does try another, more modest kickstarter. There are still plenty of Tezuka titles that western fans want and will fund. They just need to find that balance between what fans want and what they will pay for. As DMP found out the hard way, this wasn’t it. Osamu Tezuka may be the God of Manga, but even with a god, there’s no such thing as a sure thing.

Amazon and Hachette Bury Hatchet For Now

YenPress_logoIt’s been going on for a while now. Amazon, the mega online book seller, and Hachette, the fifth largest publisher in the US, and parent company of Yen Press, got into a bit of a disagreement last May. The publisher had been in talks to renew contracts the book seller. A sticking point was that Hachette wanted to set their own e-Book prices, while Amazon wanted that power. When an impasse had been reached, Amazon did the only thing a mega book seller with 60% of the online market could do; they crippled sales of Hachette books on their site.

Amazon stopped taking pre-orders, increased shipping times, dropped discounts for all Hachette titles. This included Yen Press. The batter became bitter as both sides pointed fingers at the other being the problem. Authors jumped in as well, feeling the pressure as sales of their books dropped. They didn’t pressure their publisher to back down though, they put the pressure on Amazon for being the bully in all this. They even formed a group, Authors United, to help in the fight. Amazon tried some tactics to turn the authors against their publisher, but it really didn’t work.

Finally, as of last Thursday, Amazon and Hachette came to terms and signed a new agreement. In it, Hachette gets to set their own e-Book prices, though they get an incentive from Amazon to set them lower, and pay Amazon less when they do. A lot of people see this as a win for Hachette, but I have my doubts. If Amazon hadn’t taken a loss the quarter before, and had to show better earning for the holiday season, would they really have given in? I find the timing highly suspicious, but am glad it is over just the same.

Yen Press is probably just as relieved, though, they didn’t just take Amazon’s strong arming sitting down. They did a lot of promotion with Barnes and Noble, offering sales through the retailer’s website, and reminding people Amazon wasn’t the only place to order books. I know I linked to the Barnes and Noble site when I needed a Yen Press purchase link during this. Fans can also breathe a sigh of relief for now. Yen Press titles have returned for purchase in time for the holidays and for the all important pre-orders. Kindle users will also be able to start downloading their favorites again.

AmazonBut can we really feel relieved? Amazon has shown its true nature. They don’t care who they hurt to get their way. Publishers, writers, and readers are all ripe to be thrown under the bus when Amazon goes scrambling for what it wants. Before they could position themselves as the “champion” of the consumer against the greedy publishers who want to keep e-Books from diminishing print sales, but their suit of armor is tarnished now. You can be sure they will do this again. Simon & Schuster just penned a similar with Amazon, no doubt not wanting to incur the retailer’s ire. If you’ve ever wondered where the saying “throwing one’s weight around” came from, here is a perfect case study. It’s also not too bad a case for the beginnings of a monopoly.

The big question we as readers and fans need to ask, are we willing to sacrifice price for availability? It seems that is just what Amazon is banking on us doing.

Viz Media at NYCC

West Coast publisher Viz Media was the only publisher from this coast to attend NYCC and hold a panel. While their panels this late in the year usually consist of reiterating want was licensed at the beginning, this year they had two new licenses to announce. Tokyo Ghoul will be a Viz Signature title and So Cute It Hurts will be a Shojo Beat title.

Tokyo Ghoul Tokyo Ghoul comes from Shueisha’s Weekly Young Jump magazine. There are currently 14 volumes out in Japan. The series follows Ken Kaneki, an ordinary college student. Tokyo is being haunted by “ghouls,” who devour humans and whose identities are shrouded in mystery, leaving people in the grip of panic. While at a coffee shop he likes to frequent, Kaneki meets Rize, an avid reader just like him. But his life is changed forever when he becomes the first half-human, half-ghoul hybrid. Straddling both worlds, he must survive Ghoul turf wars, learn about Ghoul society and master his new powers. Tokyo Ghoul recently had an anime that was streamed by Funimation, and has been on fans radars for a while. For me to enjoy a good action/horror title, it really has to be something really good. I just not sure Tokyo Ghoul will have the appeal I’m looking for. But there are plenty of fans out there it no doubt will. The first volume will be out in June of 2015.

So Cute It HurtsSo Cute It Hurts comes out of the gate not being something I’m too interested in. This title runs in Shogakukan’s ShoComi magazine and there are currently 8 volumes available in Japan. This series revolves around twins Mitsuru and Megumu Kobayashi. Megumu is good at history, Mitsuru not so much. In order to keep from loosing his weekends to extra history classes, Mitsuru convinces his sister to switch places with him, and help him pass his tests. What Megumu doesn’t know, is that Mitsuru has been going to a school for delinquents, and when confronted by a gang of bullies, she meets a mysterious boy with an eye patch. I really don’t care for gender swapping in titles, and this one doubles the whammy by it being twins doing the swap as well. This series will have to get a big wait and see from me. It might have potential. The first volume will be out in June of 2015.

Also discussed at their panel was the two initiatives started for Weekly Shonen Jump digital magazine. Jump Start and Jump Back. Cute names, huh? Jump Start is a way to bring over and preview new titles simultaneously with Japan. Several chapters of a new series will run as well as one-shots. Jump Back is a way to bring back older popular titles from their catalog. The first of these Jump Backs will be Death Note. Besides having cute names, I think these initiatives are great for readers of WSJ. They give new titles a wider reach, and could possibly lead to new licenses as well as introduce older titles to a new generation of fans who may have missed them the first time around.

Vertical At NYCC

At New York Comic Con which occurred recently, Vertical, Inc. announced some new licenses, as well as a new imprint. Continuing with the roots of the company they announced two light novels, based on the wildly popular Attack on Titan property; Attack on Titan Before the Fall: Kyklo Arc and Attack on Titan: Harsh Mistress of the City.

AoT Before the Fall LN 2Attack on Titan Before the Fall: Kyklo Arc makes up the last two light novels of the Before the Fall series. Vertical has already published the first novel, which follows talented smith Angel Aaltonen as he develops the maneuvering gear for the Survey Corps. The new license is for story that follows Kyklo, the “son of a Titan.” This second part takes place at around the same time as the first volume and follows Kyklo, a boy who was in the womb when his mother eaten by a Titan and survived, and became dubbed “Son of a Titan.” Kodansha Comics is releasing the manga based on the novel. Vertical will release the Kyklo Arc as one 2-in-1 omnibus. It will be available next summer. I’m currently reading the first volume and have liked it so far. Even with Kodansha releasing the manga, I may still read the light novels of Kyklo.

AOT Harsh MistressAttack on Titan: Harsh Mistress of the City takes place just after the beginning of the Attack on Titan manga. After Wall Maria was breached, Titans began streaming in, reaching even far off Quinta District. The story follows Mathias and his allies and Rita, a soldier in the brigade of occupying troops. Rita wants to protect the town which has fallen into chaos with the appearance of the Titans, but due to forceful tactics used by the brigade, the town becomes afraid. Mathias must use whatever he can to meet up with Rita, including the “helping hands” of a band of thieves. This single volume will be available in the Fall of next year. This time period in Attack on Titan has not been explored much, so it will be interesting to see what happened to some of the areas affected by the fall of Wall Maria.

Vertical Comics logoWhile not announced at NYCC, Publisher’s Weekly made the exclusive announcement during the con that Vertical was creating a new imprint for the company. Vertical Comics will be the place for all Vertical manga and anime-related titles. With this new imprint, Vertical will be expanding its manga offerings to 20 volumes this year, including 7 new properties. Eventually, the line will expand to 30-40 titles a year. Vertical decided to start this imprint to keep the manga separate from their core business of publishing Japanese prose novels. I think this is a great move by  Vertical, especially the expansion. They always pick up unusual and gripping titles that many other publishers won’t touch. While I’m not always comfortable reading some of their titles, I’ve never regretted reading one.

Chics Dig Yokai

Since it is now officially October, it’s time to start breaking out the spooktacular stories! I have long proclaimed by love of Yokai, so I couldn’t pass up this story about a poll asking Japanese women to vote for their favorite anime and manga yokai. There are a lot of familiar names on the list. All but one title were manga before becoming anime. What’s really cool about the list, is that of those manga titles, we have access to all but three!

HellTeacherNube_vol1_CoverJigoku Sensei Nube, which placed 4th in the poll, is a Shonen Jump title from the 1990s, the same era as Yu Yu Hakusho, Slam Dunk, and Ruroni Kenshin. Jigoku Sensi Nube follows elementary school teacher Meisuke Nueno, aka Nube, who not only teaches his students, he also is a skilled exorcist. He protects the town of Domori from supernatural threats with the help of a powerful demon sealed in his left hand, a technique he calls the Demon’s Hand. This horror comedy ran for 31 volumes and had an anime made of it. It’s returned to the limelight recently with a live action drama set to debut this month. I would live to read this title, but it has a lot of strikes against it. It’s pre-2000s and is over 10 volumes long. It does have one very big plus going for it. It was drawn by Takeshi Obata. His name could balance out against one of the strikes, and maybe going digital could balance the other? With Obata being Viz’s guest at NYCC this year, wouldn’t it be awesome if they announced this title too?

Yokai WatchYokai Watch, which placed 6th in the poll, is a title that been getting a lot of buzz in the anime community lately. Starting out as a video game, it has been heralded as the next Pokemon. It follows Keita Amano, a boy who discovers a capsule machine in the forest next to a sacred tree. When he opens on of the capsules, a yokai pops out. The yokai, Whisper, gives Keita a special watch that lets him see other yokai that are haunting people. He and his friendly yokai fight off the ill-intentioned yokai.There are currently two manga running for it, a shonen that runs in CoroCoro Comic and a shojo in Ciao, both from Shogakukan. The shojo follows the female protagonist from the game. The shonen series was nominated and won the 38th Kodansha Manga Award in the Best Children’s Category. It might seem strange that a children’s manga placed in a poll for Japanese women, but with lots of cute yokai, including a two-tailed cat yokai, how could it not be loved. What is also strange, is that this series hasn’t been brought over; not the manga, anime or video game. Well, maybe the manga, since it’s just started and won’t have a lot of volumes for a while since both magazines it runs in are monthly.

Hozuki no ReitsuHozuki no Reitetsu, which placed 10th,  is a Kodansha title and runs in Weekly Morning. It is a supernatural slice of life comedy about a demon ogre, Hozuki, who works with King Yama and other demons in the afterlife. He tries to manage and troubleshoot problems there with calm demeanor and super-sarcastic tongue while his free time is spent fawning over cute animals and raising “goldfish flowers.” The series is currently 15 volumes long and was nominated for the Manga Taisho in 2012 as well as the 38th Kodansha Manga Award in the Best General Manga category. It just received an anime adaptation in January which was streamed by Crunchyroll, and is still available to watch. This is a title I would love to see picked up anyone that can license from Kodansha. The series is too long for Vertical which is a shame, since it seems quirky enough to fit into their eclectic catalog, so maybe Kodansha Comics or Yen Press would be interested.

The rest of the list, available in English, broke down as follows:

1. GeGeGe no Kitaro
2. Yu Yu Hakusho
3. Inuyasha
5. Natsume’s Book of Friends
7. xxxHolic
9. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan

One thing I noticed about this list, is that. other than GeGeGe no Kitaro, all of the male protagonists are drawn for the female gaze. They are very appealing to women, some even crossing into bishonen territory. Yusuke, Inuyasha, Natsume, Watanuki, and Rikuo are all drawn to appeal to a female audience, and by the looks of this poll, succeeded.  There might even be some nostalgia at work, with the top four titles being at least 20 years old or more.

I would add Majin Tantei Neuro, or Neuro: Supernatural Detective. We’ve only gotten the anime in English so far. It passes the post-2000 test, but went 23 volumes. I was so hoping when Viz announced the anime for their site, they would accompany it with the manga.  It was not to be, so I can again only hope for a digital release from Viz. Being a Weekly Shonen Jump title, no one else will get the chance.

Banned Books Week: The Manga Edition

This week was Banned Books Week, a yearly reminder of the importance of protecting our right to read what we want. This year focused on comics, graphic novels and yes, manga. You might think with manga not being so well know it would fly under people’s radars, but as manga has grown in popularity over the last decade or so, it has come increasingly under fire. Some of the titles challenged are also among the most popular.

Dragon Ball 1 bigDragon Ball, the first series, wasn’t just challenged, it was straight out removed from Wicomico County Public School libraries in Maryland in October of 2009. Based on a complaint by the mother of a 9-year-old, the series was removed from elementary, middle-school and high school libraries for depicting “nudity, sexual contact between children, and sexual innuendo between adults and children.” If you just looked at some of the panels in Dragon Ball with no context, you might agree. But in context, most of the claims made against the series are for comedic purposes and are closer to what you would see on “America’s Funniest Videos” than you would the Playboy Channel.

Death Note 1In May of 2010, Death Note was challenged by the mother a student in a high school in Albuquerque, NM. She tried to get the series removed by saying “killing is just not something we should put out for our kids to read this way.” The city’s public schools committee met to discuss it, but rightfully denied the request. Death Note has it’s faults, but none of them warrant a ban. If anything, the moral questions it brings up are probably explored more deeply that anything kids will get at school or at home.

Color of EarthIn 2011 the manhwa, The Color of Earth, was not only challenged, it got the dubious honor of reaching #2 on the ALA’s Top Ten most challenged books for the year, the only manga/manhwa to make it to the list to date. The reasons for the challenges stated were: nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. The volume is the first of three about a young girl coming to age in mid-twentieth century Korea. Publisher First Second also included discussion questions for educations and book clubs to discuss the topics in the book. Yeah, it’s sooo bad for a book to have some sex education when so many kids don’t get it. And it’s veeerrry unsuitable for an age group that is starting to explore the same things as the protagonist in the book.

Vampire Knight 1And just this year, our newest addition to the manga challenge list is Vampire Knight. It was included with several other YA novels that featured vampires that was challenged by a Reverend in Cleveland TX. Reverend Phillip Missick of the King of the Saints Tabernacle Church has petitioned the Austin Memorial Library to remove the series’ for perpetuating the “theme of vampires in relationships with young teens,” as well as being demonic. Once again reason prevailed as the city council sided with the Library Director, Mary Merrell Cohn, who addressed the Reverend’s concerns in a 123 page rebuttal. I never cared for Vampire Knight, but I would never say one of its faults was that it was demonic.

Library Wars 1There is never a good reason to ban a book. If you don’t like something, then don’t read it, but you do not have the right to tell others what they can read, or by extension, think. Most of the challenges listed here are from people who don’t understand or even try to understand the media. They are from people who want to force their own beliefs on others and control what others can read under the pretense of “protecting the children.” If any of these people took a step back they would see that not only are their arguments ridiculous, but that their kids are a lot smarter than they think, and don’t need that kind of “protection.” What really needs protecting are books and our freedom of speech from these kinds of people. And if you think there isn’t any harm in letting one or two books get taken down, then just read Library Wars: Love and War, and see a worse case scenario if the censors ever did win.

Manga Dome Podcast on Hiatus

Manga Dome headerI know I did an episode already about how much it sucks for something you like to go on hiatus. I’m making a big assumption that people like my podcast, but this is something I need to do. It’s been starting to weigh on me for a while. Coming up with topics, doing the research, the recording and editing and video; I’ve been coming to dread it. It’s become more of a chore than something fun. I’ve been putting it off more and more each week, a sure sign that I’m not enjoying it anymore. Added to this is stress from RL, and doing the podcast just seemed to add to my frustration instead of taking away from it.

So, as of this weekend, I am putting the podcast on hiatus. If and when things settle down I may come back to it. One of the things I’ve come to realize is that I want to work more on my writing, and I’ve found that working on the podcast has been eating up those precious hours I have on the weekend. I will continue to write and review manga. I may even bring some of my podcast segments to written form and try to post more often. I’ll see how things work out.

In the meantime, thank you to all who have listened to my gravelly voice as I have ranted and reported about manga over the past year and a half. It can’t have been easy. I truly appreciate any and all who have listened and maybe found something I said interesting, or completely disagreed with everything I said. I hope that you will continue to follow my blogs and enjoy my silly ramblings.

Sparkler Monthly Year Two

sparklermag 01It was one year ago that I first spoke about Sparkler Magazine, mentioning it as one of the stories on my podcast. It was just one of the news stories, but I used the cover of the premiere issue as my featured image and got the attention of the editors, which got me a  review copy, and the issue an in-depth look on my next podcast.

I really enjoyed that first issue. Back then, the issue was broken down into 6 features; two manga, Dire Hearts and Off Beat, two prose novels Gauntlet and Tokyo Demons Book 2, an audio, Awake, and a subscriber only feature. Dire Hearts was very intriguing. Gauntlet was heart-pounding. Awake set up a great sci-fi thriller. I enjoyed the magazine and digital format so much that I dropped my subscription to Yen Plus, and picked up Sparkler, even though Sparkler cost more. But I was getting more of what I wanted and enjoyed with it.

sparklermag-aug2014Twelve months of updates later, a lot has changed. Dire Hearts sadly has to go on hiatus due to health issue for its creator Christy Lijewski. Off Beat, then Gauntlet and Tokyo Demons Book 2 ended. Plenty of new titles have taken their place. Dead Endings, Dusk in Kalevia and Skyglass joined as regular prose titles. We started to see short stories as well with The Maiden and the Fish in prose, and Dinner Ditz, Before You Go and Rings of Saturn in Comics. With the start of Year 2, new titles Windrose and Gatesmith have joined as well. The have forums on the site where readers could not only talk about their favorite series’, but subscribers had access to the editors who would answer questions about writing and drawing, and they would post articles to help creators improve in areas they saw as weak in the submissions they got. Because they openly accepted submissions. Certain months were dedicated to a different form, comics, prose, and audio.

SparklerSamplerIssue_coverThe key to this venture succeeding though, is dependent on its readers; getting subscribers. As the magazine moves into year 2, the editors have laid things out for us. They need 2,000 people subscribing at least $5 a month to keep the magazine going past this second year, so their running a membership drive. That’s really not a lot of money. What’s the comparison that always gets thrown out? The same as a cup of Starbucks coffee? It should be easy to skip on cup a month to give these women who are working to provide us with something few other publishers are; a magazine focused on the female gaze. They’ve done some great work so far, and really deserve the chance to keep doing more. Not so sure about that? There is a sampler issue available for download for free that features the first chapter of every series available so far.

And they are making it worth your subscribing while. They have dropped the full year price to $50 and thrown in a free eBook from their shop, and added a new tier, VIP that can download every chapter of every series anytime for a yearly price of $125. And like a kickstarter, for every subscriber goal met, new perks open up, such as raffles, dropping the paywall, adding more title slots and even a video game!

But even with all the perks, really, you should just subscribe for the content. It really is great and there is so much variety that just about anyone will find something they enjoy. And with support there can be even more.

Play with Mistress Fortune and Princess Sakura!

Shojo Beat, Viz Media’s romance and drama imprint has a fun surprise for fans of Arina Tanemura. They have available quick flash games based on the manga Mistress Fortune and The Legend of Princess Sakura.

Mistress Fortune GameThe Mistress Fortune game is a Whack-a-mole style game where you have to hit the EBE’s popping out of holes, but you don’t want to hit the bunnies! There is also a special attack when you fill up a status bar which can be used to hit all the EBEs on the screen. You get a rank at the end. I made Standard Angel on my first try.

Princess Sakura GameThe Princess Sakura game is a basic platformer. You control Princess Sakura with the left and right arrows, up to jump and space bar to strike the enemy monsters that inhabit the level. There is a spell, Thunder Strike that will freeze the monsters for a few minutes and a piece to pick up. I generally suck at platformers so after a few tries I could only get to level two. But it’s simple enough for any one to play and if you have more skill or patience, you can see how high the levels go.

I don’t know if these are temporary or if they’re going to be around for a while, so check them out while you can!