Category Archives: Articles

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

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!



Viz Picks Up Moribito: Guardian of the Sacred Spirit

MoribitoI very rarely talk about amine here, since this is a manga blog, but there are times when I’ll make exceptions. Just recently, the return of an anime I love has been announced. Viz Media has rescued Moribito: Guardian of the Sacred Spirit. This 26 episode series first aired in 2007, and had a difficult time in licensing here. Geneon first licensed it, but then halted their US distribution, and the license went to Media Blasters. It showed on Cartoon Network during their late night Adult Swim block, but it took a while for a full run to show there. Now Viz Media is running it as part of their Neon Alley network.

Moribito: Guardian of the Sacred Spirit is based on the first volume from a fantasy novel series published in Japan in 1996. It is about a woman named Balsa, who, after saving the second prince to the Emperor, Chagum, is charged by the Queen to protect him. Chagum carries the egg of the water god. The Emperor sees him possessed by a spirit, and other spirit chase him to eat the egg he carries. Balsa takes the assignment. With her mad spear-wielding skills, and help from friends in the mountains, she protects the young boy until the egg can come to fruition.

There is practically nothing bad you can say about this series. Balsa is awesome as a character and a bodyguard. She is still my favorite female antagonist of any anime ever. The animation is beautiful and the writing and score it top-notch. I loved this series so much, that I not only bought the series on DVD, something I save for only my most favorite shows, but I also bought the novel it was based on, of which Scholastic released the first and second novels.

Do yourself a favor and watch this show. It is one of the best shows to come out of the last decade, and still stands up with its well told story and fluid animation. Just the fight scenes with Balsa makes it worth it. Oh, and the opening theme, Shine, by L’Arc en Ciel is one of the best songs you’ll ever hear too.

Hey Viz, can we get the manga to this is the series if the anime does well? It’s only 3 volumes! Read the full PR below.


San Francisco, CA, January 8, 2014 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), the largest distributor and licensor of anime and manga in North America, opens 2014 with the announcement of the mid-season Neon Alley debut of MORIBITO: GUARDIAN OF THE SPIRIT on Friday, January 17th at 10:30PM (PST). The 26-episode fantasy/action anime series is rated ‘TV-14’ and new installments will debut every Friday.

VIZ Media has also acquired the North American home video and web streaming rights for MORIBITO: GUARDIAN OF THE SPIRIT and plans to release the complete series on DVD and Blu-ray in 2014.

MORIBITO: GUARDIAN OF THE SPIRIT is based on a bestselling collection of Japanese fantasy novels by author Nahoko Uehashi. The anime series tells the story of Balsa, a nomadic warrior who has vowed to atone for eight deaths in her past by saving an equivalent number of lives. On her journey, she saves a fallen prince who carries the burden of a sacred spirit – one who has the power to save the world and bring new life to a broken empire.  But, she must first protect the Prince from those who would do him harm – including his own father, the Emperor, who has ordered his assassination!

Neon Alley is VIZ Media’s innovative 24-hour English-dubbed linear anime channel that is available for general web access as well as for the Xbox 360® and Xbox LIVE® and the PlayStation®3 (PS3™) gaming system and the PlayStation®Network. Fans can also take advantage of the platform’s Video-On Demand “Catch Up” option which offers the flexibility to watch shows such as MORIBITO anytime. The “Catch Up” option also allows viewers to search for specific content by individual series or by latest additions.

“MORIBITO: GUARDIAN OF THE SPIRIT is the latest addition to the Neon Alley anime roster and we are very excited to kick off 2014 with this critically acclaimed action packed adventure that was developed by the famed animation studio Production I.G.,” says Charlene Ingram, Senior Animation Marketing Manager. “Balsa and Prince Chagum embark on a dangerous quest to discover the Prince’s mysterious connection to a legendary water spirit with the power to destroy his kingdom, or save it. Tune in every week for new episodes and also look forward to the forthcoming release of the series on DVD and Blu-ray later this year!”

“Working with VIZ Media is truly a pleasure, and as the group continues to expand Neon Alley, we are pleased to look into our library and make more quality titles available,” comments Mr. Yuma Sakata, President and CEO, Dentsu Entertainment USA.

Neon Alley’s diverse programming schedule includes a mix of action, adventure, sci-fi, supernatural, fantasy, and horror anime, all uncut and dubbed into English and presented in HD (when available), for a low monthly subscription rate of only $6.99.

For more information on Neon Alley, please visit

For more information about other anime titles from VIZ Media, please visit:

For more information about Dentsu Entertainment, please visit

About Dentsu Entertainment USA, Inc.

Dentsu Entertainment USA, Inc. was formed in 2010 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Dentsu Inc. (Tokyo Stock Exchange, Code 4324).  Dentsu Inc. is the world’s largest advertising agency brand, and a leading producer of Japanese animation, with over 37,000 full-time employees and more than 700 subsidiaries and affiliates worldwide.  Dentsu Entertainment USA develops original animation programming and media content for domestic and international markets, and manages licensing programs for new and existing properties.  Current projects include Chub City®, featuring evolved vehicles and savvy young drivers, currently in development as an animated series; LBX™ (a.k.a. “The Little Battlers eXperience“), a highly successful animation, video game and toy franchise, based on miniature customizable robots;  Deltora Quest®, a 52-episode animated series airing globally, and based on the international top-selling fantasy-adventure book series of the same name; and Monsuno®, an innovative toy line and animated boys action adventure series currently airing on Nickelodeon, Nicktoons and free-to-air channels in more than 150 countries.  Dentsu Entertainment USA is headquartered in Santa Monica, CA.  For more information, please visit

About VIZ Media, LLC

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, VIZ Media distributes, markets and licenses the best anime and manga titles direct from Japan.  Owned by three of Japan’s largest manga and animation companies, Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, Co., Ltd., VIZ Media has the most extensive library of anime and manga for English speaking audiences in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. With its popular digital manga anthology WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP and blockbuster properties like NARUTO, BLEACH and INUYASHA, VIZ Media offers cutting-edge action, romance and family friendly properties for anime, manga, science fiction and fantasy fans of all ages.  VIZ Media properties are available as graphic novels, DVDs, animated television series, feature films, downloadable and streaming video and a variety of consumer products.  Learn more about VIZ Media, anime and manga at

Second Chance Manga

Going digital can be a big decision, especially if you are like me, and still like to hold paper in your hands. But there are times when buying digital is an advantage, as is when a publisher, like Viz, has a big backlist of titles that are lengthy or difficult to find. One thing you can say about Viz, they have been working hard to make their backlist titles available again in digital. With Viz having their 20% off holiday sale, now is a good time to catch up on some older titles you may have missed out on.

Dragon Ball 1 bigViz really made a name for itself with Shonen Jump and bringing over many of the well-known and loved titles from that magazine. Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z is probably the most beloved series to come out of Weekly Shonen Jump. The first half is action and comedy, while the second half all action that set the standard for fighting shonen manga for years to come. It is 42 volumes, but if you haven’t checked it out yet, what are you waiting? Rurouni Kenshin was another series that helped establish shonen manga in the US. This title brought both men and women, with it’s heavy action, historical backdrop and hints of romance that is realized in the end. It is 28 volumes over 3 story arcs. Yu Yu Hakusho came on the heels of Rurouni Kenshin in the world of anime on Cartoon Network, and was one of the debut titles in the US Shonen Jump. It is a mix of supernatural and action, with a punk lead and an ensemble cast to please any taste. It’s shorter at only 19 volumes. Shaman King was another debut title in Shonen Jump, and is also a supernatural action series. It veers more into the ghost and spirits side of the supernatural, and has a health dose of comedy to balance the more serious action. It’s a healthy 32 volumes.

Hikaru no Go 1Hikaru no Go is a very different kind of shonen, as it’s battles take place on the Go board instead of an arena. It’s smart and intense writing matched with beautiful art keeps is a must for any gaming manga fan. It’s 23 volumes and worth every one. Black Cat is an action title that skirts the supernatural, but is more about being true to yourself and following the path you’ve made despite where others think you should go. It’s the shortest, at only 20 volumes. Almost all of these titles are complete at, except for Black Cat, and Yu Yu Hakusho which has been coming out for past several weeks and making the top 5 titles every week.

Basara 1Viz isn’t one to ignore the lovers or drama and romance. Over the years they have brought out a lot of shojo titles. Basara is a historical title that thrusts a young woman into the role of her brother to protect the oppressed while gaining allies against her enemies. A late 90s-early 2000s title, volumes for this series are hard to come by, and later volumes can go for big bucks on eBay or Amazon. This digital release puts the series back in a more reasonable price range. It is 27 volumes. Boys Over Flowers is another early shojo title. It is a poor girl against the elite boys story, though the girl is no shrinking violet and stands up to the boys. It been made into live dramas all around Asia and even has an adaptation coming out in America. It is a whopping 37 volumes. From Far Away is a big hit with librarians, who like to recommend it for tween girls looking for action and romance. It features a girl from modern-day being swept away into a fantasy world of adventure. She is rescued by a boy who holds a great evil that she can unleash, binding the pair together. It is only 14 volumes. Fushigi Yugi is the title that started the girls swept to a fantasy world plot and is often the one most other titles are compared to. A teenage girls is pulled through a book to a world where she is believed to a priestess to one of the four gods and must find her seven warriors to save the kingdom before she can go home. It is available in the VizBIG edition in digital, which was a high quality three-in-one release. It only 6 volumes, but are double the price.

Here is Greenwood 1Hana Kimi is a girl disguises as a boy to get close to the boy of her dreams at an all boys school, and has to keep her gender a secret. It’s got lots of humor using the gender-bending a lot, though is more a romance than comedy. It is 23 volumes. Here is Greenwood is another cross dressing all boys school story, but this time, it’s a boy cross dressing as a girl. The boy lead is trying to escape heartache at home, and is thrown into the craziness that is Greenwood dormitory. It is another early aughts series that can be difficult to find volumes of, though it ended after only 9. Please Save My Earth is a rare sci-fi/romance story. A group of teenagers start having the same, recurring dreams of being alien scientists observing the Earth. It deals with love and fate and is another title that is difficult to get volumes of. It is 21 volumes. Red River is a historical romance for the older teen to young adult. It features another modern girl drawn to past to fulfill a destiny, but this time, the past is ancient Mesopotamia, which is in conflict with Egypt. It’s romance is more mature and throws plenty of action. It’s 28 volumes.

There are so many more titles available at, but these are taste of older titles that you might not have heard or known about. Many of these are from the 90s and the art might seem a little dated, but the stories are strong, with some of them being the basis for whole new sub-genres. There’s a lot her to take in, so take your time in checking them out. They all feature first full chapters to give you an idea what the stories and art is like. The 20% off sale lasts until December 31, 2013, so don’t take too long. But definitely give some of these titles a try.


Why I Don’t Read BL – Manga Movable Feast

I’ve never understood the whole Boys Love phenomenon. I’m not a shipper, so I don’t see the appeal of putting two characters together, let allow two characters of the same-sex. But to be honest, I’ve never read any BL either. I’m not someone who goes out of their comfort zone easily, and I was going to skip this month’s Manga Movable Feast. But then I remembered I had one volume of BL I had received as a review copy back from when Aurora was still around. I had kept it to try, and then it got buried in a box of half read/half unread manga. So I pulled it and decided to read it.

Two of HeartsTwo of Hearts is by Kano Miyamoto. It is one volume long and comes from Aurora’s Deux imprint. It is about Haruya Ito, a writer for an arts magazine who writes articles month to month, but doesn’t seem to have any ambition beyond that. One day, he meets a troubled teenager, Maki Hidaka on the beach near his home. Maki has issues; he’s a germaphobe, OCD about washing his hands, hates to be touched and is malnourished as his mother is an alcoholic and doesn’t provide meals or enough money for Maki to get his own. Haruya becomes interested in Maki, both professionally and personally. He has become a sort of muse for Haruya and he starts working on a novel. His partner and editor, Yasigawa, doesn’t care for the attention Haruya gives Maki which leads to some melodrama, but it’s too late. Haruya has chosen Maki, which Yasigawa finally accepts. The story ends happily with Maki turning his life around, and Haruya being able to write again.

At its most basic level, this is the story of two lost and broken people finding and healing each other. The gender of the characters aren’t really important. It would work just as well with a man and woman, or two women, because the basic relationships are the same. I didn’t have a problem with the story. It’s actually a kind of story I enjoy. But I can’t say I enjoyed this one. The problem for me was the characters. I really couldn’t connect with any of them. It’s not that they were badly written. On the contrary, the characters were portrayed very realistically. However, they felt very dull to me. For me to really enjoy a story, I like to feel some kind of connection to at least one character, but I really felt nothing for any of them. They were exactly as they appeared on the page; flat characters that didn’t speak to me. If they looked more in the  story as they did on the cover, I might have liked it more.

Now, this could just be this individual story. Maybe this one wasn’t the one for me. Maybe it didn’t have the right hook. But I have to be honest, I just don’t get it. I don’t see what’s so great about putting two guys together in bed. The descriptions on some many of the BL books I see usually has one character dominating and forcing himself on the other. This kind of thing is usually decried when it’s a heterosexual couple. What makes it better when it’s a homosexual couple?

I can now truthfully say I’ve tried BL, but it just isn’t my bag. I’m going to stick to my shojo and josei manga for my relationship drama. The closest I think I will ever get to BL is shonen-ai, with stories like Godchild by Kaori Yuki, where the relationship is implied and can be read either as BL, or bromance by the reader. I’m happier that way.

If you want to take home this manga, leave a comment on the post and I will pick one at random to win it. MUST BE 18 OR OLDER.



Manga Dome Podcast Episode 13: Too Many Alices!

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This week I’ve got a few short news stories, the goings on at and I look at the similarities of three Yen Press titles that are based on or inspired by Alice in Wonderland: Are You Alice?, Alice in the Country of Hearts and Pandora Hearts.

The podcast is on Facebook now too! Like it there too for new episodes and updates about what’s coming up!

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 13: Too Many Alices!

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 8: Jmanga A Final Farewell

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This week I look at the news from Anime Boston and Fanime, some new license announcements from Seven Seas Entertainment, the top 10, and bid a final farewell to Jmanga.

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 8: Jmanga A Final Farewell

The Best Sellers We Won’t See

Dragon Ball 1When publishers started to seriously bring manga over from Japan, they started with the creme-of-the-crop. For a lot of people that meant titles from Weekly Shonen Jump. Just in the last thirty years, that has included a lot of manga. But if we look at this article from Rocket News, which looks at the top 20 Shonen Jump best sellers of all time, there are a lot of familiar titles to American readers. Death Note (20), Rurouni Kenshin (12), One Piece (2), and Dragon Ball (1) are among the titles featured on the list. In fact  of the 20 best-of-the-best sellers 14 have been released in the US, and have (mostly) been completed. Of the Viz Media releases, only Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventure (7) did not get a full release. Only the third part of the story, “Stardust Crusaders”, which was 16 volumes on its own, was released. But at least the whole part was released.

City Hunter 1So that leaves 6 titles, but haven’t we see some of these non-Viz released titles? Sacrilege you say? How could anyone other than Viz have released Shonen Jump titles? Back when Shonen Jump was just starting, another manga magazine was starting as well; Raijin Comics. Backed by Sega Corp, this magazine was able to snag 3 Shonen Jump titles; City Hunter (17), Fist of the North Star (9), and Slam Dunk (5). City Hunter, a mid 80s title only got 5 volumes released. The same was released for Slam Dunk. Fist of the North Star fared better as wasn’t serialized in Raijin, so it could come out faster. Nine color “Master Editions” were released. Slam Dunk was able to find new life at Viz Media, with the company picking up the series, and is near completion in releasing it. But what about City Hunter and Fist of the North Star? Both have very dedicated fan bases in the US, though they are much smaller than say Naruto (4) or Bleach (6). It is probably highly unlikely that these titles will ever see print release, which I think is a real shame. Fist of the North Star is practically legendary for its blood and violence, while City Hunter combines fun and sexy comedy with action. I would so love to see both of these titles at least get digital releases. For more information about why I think these won’t be coming out, check out this ANNcast from 2011 with Jonathan Tarbox who worked at Raijin before moving to CMX. He’s got a lot of great insider information.

DragonquestTheAdventureOfDai_vol1_CoverSo that leaves 4 titles (technically) that we haven’t seen in US, and will most likely never see. Rokudenashi Blues (17) is a coming of age sports title. For some reason, in the US, sports title=no sales. This includes Prince of Tennis (15) as well as Slam Dunk, both popular sports in the US, but not on the bookshelf. Rokudensahi is also another mid 80s title, which gives it its second strike. No one, it seems, what to read “old” manga. This is a shame. Rokudensahi sounds like a fun title. It’s a comedy that uses famous musicians and athletes as character models and for many of the jokes in the stories. This probably makes the title “too Japanese” to market, giving it its third strike. Dragon Quest (11) is based on a popular series of video games of the same name in Japan, and to a lesser extent in the US. You’d think that would give it some traction here in the US, combined with the fact that Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame did the character designs for the game. But, again it’s a late 80s title and 37 volumes long, so no chance in print.

captain-tsubasaIf sports manga about basketball, football, baseball, or tennis doesn’t do well, you can well imagine a manga about a sport that isn’t very popular, like soccer, wouldn’t do well at all. Enter Captain Tsubasa (8). This title is a big hit all over world, even making into Arabic countries, where the main character can been seen on the side of delivery trucks. But, as another early 80s title and over 30 volumes long, you can bet it’s a no-go here. The last series, Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Koen Mae Hashutsujo (3), is not only the longest running series in Weekly Shonen Jump, it’s earned a Guinness Book of World Record for the longest running series in a youth magazine! And at 37 years and 184 volumes and counting, it certainly deserves such an honor. Kochikame is about a police office in stationed in downtown Tokyo. The series combines slapstick humor with pop culture references and a touch of drama. It also has a lot of strikes against licensing. Length and subject being the two biggest. Only a hardcore group of fans would be interested, or may even have heard of it before now. And then, at 184 volumes and counting, where do you start?

kochikameAll in all, that’s not too bad, to have only 4 titles total to have never been licensed in the US at some point. We’ve been lucky that Viz Media has been committed to publishing complete all the WSJ titles they license. With sometimes very different audiences on this side of the Pacific, some of Japan’s biggest hits haven’t fared as well here. Dr. Slump (16), Akira Toriyama’s title before Dragon Ball was never a popular title here. And One Piece, which is enjoying immense popularity in Japan, has only been a blip here in comparison. Yu-Gi-Oh! (19) and Yu Yu Hakusho (13) enjoyed some popularity here thanks to a boost from the anime showing on Cartoon Network first. Hunter x Hunter, by the same artist as Yu Yu Hakusho, Yoshihiro Togashi, might be more popular here is he could keep a consistent release schedule, and not disappear for months (or years) at a time. I’m really not too surprised that a title like Bastard (18) with its mix of dark fantasy and heavy metal music hasn’t been a big hit. It might have found greater appeal 15-20 years ago. But 21st century audiences aren’t going to get or appreciate it. But since it’s closer to a mature title for content, that would put it closer to the right audience, but it also a much smaller one.

With Shonen Jump here in the US going day and date with Japan, there will probably still be titles we won’t see here, either because of content or popularity. We’ve already see 2 titles in WSJA go down after a volume or two. But maybe we’ll at least get to see more than we would have before.





This Week In Manga: Goodbye Jmanga


Gundam Seed Destiny AstrayI have some good news and bad news…which do you want first? The good news? Okay! According to ANN, over in Japan, the official Gundam portal site has announced the return of the Gundam Seed Astray manga side stories. Gundam Seed Destiny Astray R and Gundam Seed Destiny Astray B will be returning and will feature the characters Lowe Gear, a member of the Junk Guild, and Gai Murakumo, a mercenary with their respective Astray suits. More details about the titles and their starting dates will be in the new issues of Hobby Japan and Dengeki Hobby Magazine later this month. The Gundam Seed Astray manga were published in the US by Tokyopop back in the mid 2000s. I have all of the Astray side stories and really enjoyed them. They fit very well within the Gundam Seed Universe and the characters are a lot of fun; at least in Frame A and B, with Lowe and Gai. They are definitely worth tracking down if you are a fan of the Gundam Seed Universe. They much better than the Del Rey Gundam Seed Destiny manga. It’s too bad though that Gundam doesn’t have the audience to warrant they being licensed here.

As my next story shows, getting any new niche manga at all will be even harder now. After almost two years, the digital only manga site, Jmanga will be shutting down for good in May. Their sister site Jmanga7 is already gone, and the purchasing of manga by member with existing points will continue until March 26. All access to the site will end by the end of May, so members have until then to read the manga they have purchased. No downloads of purchased manga will be provided, but Amazon gift cards will be given to members with balances.

jmanga_logoThis news came about suddenly, and was quite frankly a shock to me. I’ve been a big supporter of Jmanga. They not only made available titles that most publishers wouldn’t try to print, but also rescued a lot of titles from defunct publishers Tokyopop and Del Rey, and even translated new volumes that furthered or completed some of these canceled titles. While I wasn’t thrilled with the online-only reading they provided, their promise of apps with offline reading filled me with hope. They are the third publisher to put the manga on a 10″ Android tablet, but the only one that had a lot of titles I wanted to read. They brought over some fun cat manga with Edo Nekoe Jubei Otogizoshi and Poyopoyo’s Observation Diary. They continued tactics, a Tokyopop title I loved but was left incomplete, as well as licensing Mythical Detective Loki by the same creator.  They released Takao Saito classics that wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day like Japan Sinks, and some great otherwise unknown josei like Urameshiya. I admit I was angry when I heard the news. I didn’t want it to be true, because I didn’t want these wonderful titles, or the promise of more, to go away. I couldn’t wait for Thursdays to see when the next volume in one of my series’ was coming out, or to see what new titles they had. It really brought me down all day.

Edo Nekoe Jubei 1That isn’t to say Jmanga was perfect. I had my issues with them, such as being able to read their site on my tablet before and after the release of the app. Their price point at the beginning was rather high, especially when they were only giving 5 page previews, sometimes with no dialog at all! I didn’t care for the point system either, and as I said about the no-download option, this situation is exactly the reason I was wary at first. But I took the chance anyway, because I wouldn’t have been able to read any of these titles otherwise. I don’t regret any of the titles I’ve purchased, not even the poorly translated/localized ones. Jmanga  has such a diverse line of titles that could really appeal to just about anyone.

One of the things that make me sad about this has been some of the manga community’s reaction. There have been people gloating over the closing, with “I told you so”s and they deserved it. No, they did not deserve to be shut down like this. Not only are their people out of work now, but there is also less manga available to read legally. Whatever you thought about the site and their policies, they had some great service, both through the site and on social media. They were quick and responsive (unlike some publishers **Kodansha**), and they really tried to solve the issues, sometimes successfully, and sometimes not. But just having that feeling that someone is listening can really go a long with people.

Sherlock Holmes 1So what went wrong? I know this will be discussed for the next few days and weeks. We will probably never know for sure considering how tight-lipped Japanese companies can be about failures. One thing we know for sure from a tweet from the @Jmanga_official account, is that they ran out of money. Some will say scanlations were the cause, I’ll agree with that, up to a point. I don’t think it was the scanlations that killed it, but that a lot of people probably didn’t know about the site in the first place. There have been plenty of examples of people asking publishers to license things that are already licensed, or that they have been publishing themselves! Awareness of ways to obtain legal manga still seems to be low. It’s not too surprising when a search on Google for a manga will result in the first page being almost all scanlation sites, and no sign of the legal publisher until the 2nd or even 3rd page in. Studies show most people won’t go past the first page, so this really hurts discovery of the publishers.

Part of the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” is that the site should have either had mobile apps out and/or been a Netflix type of site with all manga available for a low subscription price. I’ve thought about this second option, and while it seems like a good idea, it occurs to me that sites like Netflix and even Viz being able to sell their digital manga at half print price is that, in both cases, the creators of the media have already gotten their initial investment back. The movies have already been made and shown in theaters, DVD/Blurays sold, and the manga has been translated, edited and published before going online digitally. Jmanga was trying to do this from scratch at the price of titles that were already funded. I’ll admit to being one of those who decried Jmanga’s price at the beginning. But with hindsight being 20/20, and more information coming out about how much really goes into releasing manga digitally, Jmanga was probably selling their manga for too little.

Japan SinksWill we see another site like Jmanga again? Not anytime in the near future. The manga market continues to be too unstable for experiments like Jmanga, and publishers too conservative to take that kind of risk. Right now, I would just be glad to have publishers make their titles available for ALL platforms and not just the few niches they have remained in, to give EVERYONE, REGARDLESS OF PLATFORM, the same reading options. Digital Manga Publishing has taken steps in this direction with their e-Manga site that allows you to download the titles in the reader format of your choice. Of course you pay for that privilege, but that may be the only way for DRM-free manga to thrive.

So, goodbye Jmanga. It was fun while it lasted, and know that you will be sorely missed.

Two More To Vertical

Vertical joined the licensing mania from last week when they announced two new titles at their panel at Katsucon. In Vertical’s typical style, they are not your average manga, but fit perfectly into the catalog they’ve been building for the last couple of years.

kakisenKaikisen, also known as Tropic of the Sea is by re-known anime director Satoshi Kon, who passed away in 2010. Kaikisen was Kon’s first manga. In a seaside town there is a legend of a “sea people” who exist nearby. The townspeople made a promise to these legendary people, but resort developers now threaten to force the town to break their promise. This title is just one volume long and is scheduled to come out in September. Several of Kon’s anime have been released in the US, but this is his first manga. I’m intrigued by the premise of this title, so it’s getting a “can’t wait!”

sickness-unto-deathSickness Unto Death is a two-volume series by the creative team Hikari Asada, writer, and Takahiro Seguchi. It is about a young man, Kazuma, who has come to room at a mansion as he attends school, where he is studying clinical psychology. Also living in the mansion is a woman, Emiru, who suffered from deep despair, and is killing her slowly. Kazuma tries to learn the reason for Emiru’s despair before it is too late. The first volume of this title will come out in October. This is another title that sounds fascinating. It gets a “can’t wait” too!

Summer WarsWhile not announced, Vertical also confirmed back at the end of January to also have received the license for the 3 volume manga adaptation of Summer Wars, by Iqura Sugimoto. Eleventh-grader and math genius Kenji Koiso is asked by Natsuki Junnouchi to join her at her family’s home for a summer job. Having a secret crush on Natsuki, the shy Kenji agrees. He comes to find out his job is to pretend to be her fiancée for her family at their celebration for the matriarch’s 90th birthday. While Kenji is running around trying to keep up with Natsuki and her story, he receives a text with a math problem. But his solving it causes a hijacking of the social network through which most of the world’s social and business traffic flows. The movie was very popular not long again, so this adaption, which Vertical will release in 2 300 page volumes in October, should be as well. I’ll definitely give the first volume a try, and give it a “can’t wait!”