Category Archives: Articles

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

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.

 

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 VizAnime.com 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.