Category Archives: Articles

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

Please Stop Trying to Save My Children

This week is Banned Books Week. On this blog I have spoken against any attempts at censorship of manga. I strongly believe in the freedom of making any book available to be read, and that it should be responsibility of the individual, and in the case of children, the parents, to decide if the book is appropriate. What that means basically is that if you don’t like a book in the library, then don’t read it. If you don’t want your child to read a book at the library, don’t let them check it out. What you DON’T get to do is decide that a book can not be made available for me or my child read because YOU have objections to its subject matter.

Over the past year, two manga titles were challenged in public school libraries, because some parent thought the material in it was “inappropriate” for children. What they really meant was that they didn’t like it and didn’t want their children reading it. Therefore,if their children couldn’t read it, then no other child could read it either. They made the challenges “for the children.” You know, that wonderful phrase politicians and other leaders like to pull out when there’s something they don’t like and want to get control of or get rid of, so they hid behind the shield of “the children” so no one can object without sounding like they are against children. The truth is THEY don’t want to be branded as censors, since censorship is considered bad as well.

The first challenge was to Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball. The parent of a 9-year-old claimed it “depicts nudity, sexual contact between children, and sexual innuendo among adults and children.” The fact that this is what the parent said proves they didn’t bother to actually read the volume and only looked at the most damning of pictures. What Dragon Ball really depicts is a boy living in the wild, and not worried about covering himself for some fish, an older girl acting like a sister and bathing said boy, boy, having never met a girl wondering what makes them different, and a perverted hermit getting more than either he or the girl thought. In an adult mindset, the last one could be construed badly, but this title wasn’t written for an adult, and it wasn’t meant in the context that some people will put it in. There are always going to be people who are offended by things, and if we let them rule the world, there would be no humor at all. I think Dragon Ball is perfectly appropriate for a tween boy or girl. Really, what am I supposed to be saving my child from if I keep them from reading it? What is in this book that isn’t already talked about, and laughed at, by kids in schools all over the country?

The other book challenged was Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Death Note. The parent in this case stated “killing is just not something we should put out there for our kids to read in this way.” Yeah, because giving kids a title that makes them think about morality and the consequences of their decisions is a bad thing. While the actual merits of Death Note as a series may be up for debate (and possibly a good choice for a Movable Manga Feast), the kinds of dialog that the subject inspires isn’t. It asks some serious questions about who gets to decide who lives and who dies, and the morality that goes with such decisions. It can lead to debates over the death penalty, which continues to be a controversial topic. There is nothing wrong with asking teens to start thinking about these things, as in only a few years, they will be asked to start voting and sitting on juries where they may have to make such a decision.

While manga hasn’t been targeted much lately, looking at the list of books that have been challenged and many removed from libraries over the last year is depressing, and doesn’t speak well for our supposed tolerate society. while the list contains numerous challenges due to the standard sexual innuendo/content and language, it also contains books challenged due to Occult themes and homosexuality. so, someone explain to me why these two topic are so harmful to children? Not every was or is a christian, so why is it so offensive for children to know that there were and are other religions in the world? Are our children so impressionable that after reading “The Egypt Game” we should fear that they will start worshipping Osiris? How is And Tango Makes Three, a story about two male penguins who adopt an orphaned baby, which is based on true event, going to destroy family life in America? Honestly?? You really think kids need to be protected from penguins?

It’s not these kinds of books that are leading to the “ruin of the moral fiber of the youth of this country”, it’s the people that object to having rival ideas heard. Children are not delicate little tea cups that need to be protected from the horrors of the world. They are a lot stronger and a lot smarter than many people and parents want to give them credit for. Books that bring up sex, drugs, “alternate family units” aren’t going lead children down the path of ruin. Denying that these things exist or are problems that our kids can and sometimes do face in the lives will. So, the next time you think you need to challenge a book “to save the children”, do me and the world a favor, and DON’T!

Pirating Dragon Balls

Over the last year, One Piece has been burning up the book charts in Japan. Every succeeding volume has not only out sold the previous, they have been breaking sales records, and hitting print runs in millions for the first edition. This is pretty amazing for any book series, but it’s even more amazing since One Piece is a manga written for teenage boys. This means more than just the kids are buying these books. A recent discussion of shonen manga brought up influences, and of course, Dragon Ball was mentioned. First published in 1984, most of the creators working today would have read it, if not been influenced by it. Eiichiro Oda and Masashi Kishimoto have stated that their popular titles, One Piece and Naruto were inspired by Dragon Ball’s protagonist, Son Goku, as well as series structure. So why is One Piece selling so much more than Naruto now?

I think the key to One Piece‘s success can be found in the way Eiichiro Oda utilized his inspiration from Dragon Ball to create a series that similar in feel, but still very much stands on its own. First, look at the protagonists in both titles. Son Goku of Dragon Ball is portrayed as a nice guy, not too bright, but knows right from wrong and isn’t afraid to fight for it. He has a small group of close friends that he will fight to protect, and has a way of making friends of enemies. One Piece‘s Luffy has many of these same traits. He’s the same kind of happy, go lucky guy, and you certainly wouldn’t call him smart. He spends half of the “Water Seven” arc with Usopp in an obvious disguise, and never realizes it is him. He has a definite sense of right and wrong, and would gladly die fighting to save those he considers his friend.

But Luffy is no clone of Goku. Goku has a kind of cluelessness that borders on innocence. It’s a trait that makes him cute. Luffy is just dense. Nothing he does is cute. He’s much more about the comedy, especially the frustration he caused his shipmates. Goku was all about the fight. It was about the only thing he could do really well. When he got serious, it was always about the fight. He didn’t have a lot of emotional range. Goku was either confused or angry. Luffy has a much wider emotional range. He cries when he’s happy and/or sad. He fights with his own crew, though more often than not they support him in the end. It’s a range better suited for the longer adventure story that One Piece is, compared to the more comedy-centric story Dragon Ball was.

The most important trait that both Goku and Luffy share, and that you don’t see in some of the other shonen protagonists such as Naruto or Ichigo of Bleach is that they never sink into self-doubt. No matter how tough things get, or how big the enemy is, both Goku and Luffy would face that enemy head-on and keep fighting until they won. And even if they would lose, it would only be temporary, as they work and train to become stronger and get past that defeat. If you look at Naruto and Ichigo, they get weighed down by their self-doubt, becoming very emo. Now, this might make them more popular among female fans, who seem to like a character the more emo they are, but it ends up hurting the story. This might be fine in shojo stories, where the conflicts tend to be more internal than external. But in an action story, it slows things down, as parts or even whole chapters get become about the protagonist’s internal conflict. They end up going in circles, much like their fights and never really moving forward. They might get stronger as per the Shonen fighting formula, but their characters get stuck in a rut emotionally, and that gets real tiring real fast.

What I really love about both Goku and Luffy is that they never lose sight of what’s important. They know who they are and are confident in the decisions they make, for good or for ill. They don’t try to hide their feelings from their friends, and they don’t try to do everything by themselves. They may be the first in a fight because of their diving into things head first, but there is never any doubt that their friends will come to support them. They are always moving forward, taking on the next big bad, and not constantly looking over their shoulder and worrying about the past.

In the end, while One Piece does owe a lot to Dragon Ball, it’s Oda’s strong story and characters that really carry the title. Seven years after the story was supposed to end (Oda envisioned it as a 5 year story), One Piece is not only going on strong, it just keeps getting stronger. He can do emotional and poignant scenes with the characters without having them dwell on their dark and difficult pasts. A meeting with Luffy means finding a path for going forward, and with so many dark and stagnant stories out there, it’s refreshing to have one that keeps things positive. That’s what Goku always did, and that’s what Luffy does now.

How Do You Say Good-bye?

[Warning: Contains spoilers for One Piece volume 44]

It’s hard to lose a character you love in a series. It’s even harder when you don’t realize how much you’ll miss that character until you see them go. Creators kill off characters all the time, sometimes it’s because they don’t know what to do with them anymore, sometimes it’s just for the shock it creates in readers, and sometimes, though rarely,  it’s even to move the story along.

In volume 44 of One Piece, a very important character is lost. A companion and shipmate that has been with the crew since the 3rd volume; the Merry Go. That’s right, the Straw Pirate’s ship is lost forever. You normally wouldn’t think of a ship as a character. There didn’t seem to be anything special about the Merry Go. It was a small ship compared to many of the other pirate and marine ships. Its figurehead looks like a smiling ram. There’s nothing magical about it except that it kept surviving all the punishment the Luffy and his crew put it through. It was just a ship, right? Not in the hands of Eiichiro Oda.

At the start of the “Water Seven Arc”, the Straw Hats take the Merry Go to the Shipwrights of Water Seven to have her repaired. There they find out the Merry Go is no longer seaworthy, and it is thought lost in the Aqua Laguna. But before the crew can do anything about her, they are distracted by having to save Robin from CP9. It’s an epic battle that levels Enies Lobby, and by the end, Luffy is unable to move after his battle with Lucci, the leader of CP9, and the rest of the crew is surrounded by Marines with no way out.

And then the Straw Hats seem to hear a voice that calls out to them. A voice from the sea that beacons to them. It is their way out, with their last shipmate. It is the Merry Go. She has appeared, as if out of nowhere to help with the rescue. And with Nami navigating, their escape is complete. But all is not well, as the front of the Merry Go breaks away just as they meet up with a ship from Galley-La. It is here that we learn how the Merry Go was able to reach and help her shipmates on her final voyage.

All of this happens in only the last few chapters at the end of the volume. But what’s really amazing about the whole thing is the range of emotions that Oda-sensei is able to evoke throughout them. There’s the joy the whole crew feels when they are not just rescued from certain doom, but rescued by the Merry Go. Then there’s relief and comfort after they are safe from the navy and Luffy takes his “seat” on the Merry Go’s figurehead. Then it is shock and finally acceptance that it’s time to let her go. And then there are the final heart-breaking moments of the Merry Go before she is sent to her final rest.

Oda-sensei uses the visuals to great effect to really bring these emotions home. He interjects panels showing the Merry Go’s figurehead, essentially the face of the ship, in the scenes where it’s prominent or when someone is talking about the ship. It’s amazing how a single expression, a gentle smile, can be used to inspire hope, joy and sadness. It really hits you at the end, as the ship is burning, and the panels alternate between memories from the crew of their time with her and the ship in flames. If you don’t have at least a tear in your eye during these last pages, you ARE NOT HUMAN!

Another thing that really makes these scenes believable is how sparingly Oda-sensei uses the Merry Go talking. The ship doesn’t come alive, it’s more of a disembodied voice that speaks only when she needs to be heard. Before the crew realizes the Merry Go has come for them, they all hear a voice calling to them, telling them to look down, but it’s not shown. Only the crew’s reactions to the voice is shown. She was only shown speaking when she begged Iceberg to fix her, once during the rescue and at the end when she said her final farewell to the crew, her shipmates, her friends.

The final chapter of this volume is heart-breaking, but not in a melodramatic way. You don’t expect to have cared so much for the Merry Go. It was just the Straw Hat Pirate’s ship. It’s after you see her going that you realize how much she really meant to both them and the reader. As Usopp says, “We must all part someday,” but there’s nothing unnatural or forced about this parting. The Merry Go had a good life with shipmates who cared about her. And she was able to get her final wish, to sail the seas one last time with them. It was a fitting end to a well-lived life.

As sad as it is to see The Merry Go go, it is a satisfying closure to a character’s story. How do you say goodbye?  Just like this.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Even though CMX was taken from us so swiftly, they still live on through the many titles they released for the last four years. If you missed out on CMX when it was around, now is a good time to catch up with Rightstuf having a sale on their titles from now until Thursday. Some of the titles I would personally recommend are Canon, Kiichi and the Magic Books, King of Cards, Lizard Prince, Two Flowers for the Dragon,  and one-volume-wonders My Darling! Miss Bancho and Stolen Hearts.

But a sale like this is a good time to check out new titles and get a taste of some of the titles people have been talking about. For me, that would be these titles:

CMX titles ran the gambit of all different genres and age ratings. Just in that list there’s fantasy, sci-fi, romance, historical, and action all with age ratings ranging from Everyone to Mature. CMX had so much potential once it was put into the hands of people who knew what to do with it. Too bad DC and many fans didn’t realize it soon enough.

The sad thing about this sale is the low availability of titles. Since DC has discontinued the CMX line, there are no new stock coming in to replace the old, so order now, or else they’ll all be gone. Already you can see on the list that there are volumes missing within some series’ such as Emma Moon Child and Name of the Flower, and even some of those that do show up aren’t in stock and have to be hunted down. You can get 6-8 titles for around $50 and then get free shipping (US), and with some of these series’ that could be a couple of them complete! Don’t let these fun and entertaining books pass you by.

Straight Up Great Titles

I was sorely tempted by the last Rightstuf sale of Viz titles, but RL is kicking my checkbook with back-to-school stuff for the kids. Their newest sale is on Vertical titles, and even though I can’t really dive into this sale either, that doesn’t mean I can’t try to convince the rest of you to spend YOUR hard-earned money!

Veritcal has really been doing a good job of building a quality and diverse selection of titles. Sci-fi, action, horror, drama and even cuteness can be found in their growing selection. Here are just a few of my favorites that I would gladly recommend.

Andromeda Stories – I really enjoyed this sci-fi story, that one the surface appears to be a story of man vs. machine, but by the end becomes something different. The first volume can seem a little slow and without direction, but once you get into volume 2, the ride really starts bringing you to a satisfactory end in volume 3.

Black Jack – You hear people say how great this series is (including me) but you really don’t get it until you read it. There’s just something about the rogue doctor that’s really appealing. Whether it’s the comeuppance that he likes to deal the legitimate medical community, the rights he wrongs or the hard-as-steel surgeon with a heart of gold, Black Jack is a great character and the stories Tezuka puts him in makes any volume of this series a great read.

Dororo – Staying with the Tezuka theme, Dororo is an action series that is criminally short at 3 volumes. It easily could have gone 10.  Hyakkimaru’s and Dororo’s adventures in feudal Japan are filled with action as Hyakkimaru battles demons to regain his stolen body parts and some of the usual Tezuka examination of the human condition.

Chi’s Sweet Home – One of Vertical’s newest titles, Chi is one of the funnest titles you will read, all the more if you’re a cat lover. Flipped and in color, watch as Chi first wins the hearts of the Yohei and the Yamada family and then as she wins yours! The stories are short, but can be laugh out loud funny. Kanata’s art is cute without being cutesy. One of the best new titles of the year.

Cute Dogs/Cute Pups – These are part of Vertical’s craft line. Both books feature cute dogs and puppies, and even accessories for them that you can make on your own. The designs are fairly simple and everything is hand-sewn. Kids 10 and up can enjoy making these as well as the crafty dog lover.

Guin Saga/The Seven Magi – If you miss fantasy stories with big burly men with leopard heads than the Guin Saga is for you! The original novels tell a sweeping story of Guin and the two twins he is protecting from the evil Mongauli empire. The manga, a side story set sometime after the first five novels has some great art, and a fast-moving story that can feel a little daunting without knowing much about the world, but still enjoyable none the less.

Twin Spica – This coming of age space story has some strong characters and great drama. It looks at the realities of becoming an astronaut with Asumi, and upbeat and earnest girl who has dreamt of going to the stars ever since she was little. The first volume really draws you in and a great story and some flashback short stories that have tragic elements without become melodramatic. I can’t NOT recommend this title highly.

These are just a few of the titles from Vertical that I’ve read and have enjoyed. What are some of your favorites, or are you looking forward to buying?

A Year With Out a Comic-Con

This is probably the first time in 12 years straight that we didn’t attend Comic Con. It had been a tradition with us. Every year we would find a way, even if it was just for a day, even just Sunday, to get down to the Con and see things. But not this year. It was a decision we made early, and we didn’t even register for the con. The costs in time and money vs the benefits turned out to be far too much. Last year over the 3 days we saw 6 panels, which is only about 1/2 of what we wanted to see and sat through at least 3 we didn’t just to make sure we got to see the ones we DID want to see. When a con becomes all work and almost no play is when it’s time to call it quits. This is my vacation time I’m taking to do things I enjoy. I already get enough stress at work. I don’t need it following me on my vacation. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it.

As Comic Con approached, I did find I felt a small twang of regret of not being able to wander the exhibit hall and catch sight of some new item, or find some toy or book I’ve been looking for at a great discount. Yes, I know you can surf the internet and find some cool things at low prices, but it the joy of discovery and being able to get right there and then that makes a con so much fun. And the panels. There is such synergy that happens at them, that hearing about them or even seeing them later online just doesn’t compare to see the things live. But, what’s done is done, and I was stuck at work Thursday and Friday, and home on the weekend.  Thank goodness for Twitter and live blogging.

Thursday, when I should have been writing or doing my Japanese course at smart.fm, I was instead watching the Twitter updates on Google (my work has Twitter blocked). I got to hear about the Tron: Legacy panel and ADR at the end the paintball challenge from the Burn Notice writers to the White Collar writers, and Bruce Campbell handing out money again this year. Friday was back to work, but as I started checking things out online, I wasn’t seeing anything to really get excited about.

In manga, there were some license announcement. Tokyopop and Yen Press had the most with 3 and 5 respectively. Viz had some announcements for their Vizkids line, but no one really covered it, and they sure aren’t excited about it. I was really expecting to hear that Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan would be licensed, since Viz announced the streaming of the anime, and that a prerequisite to be a licensed Shonen Jump title, right? I thought for sure all the signs pointed to it, but instead, all Viz announced was a new edition of Death Note, in black.  Whoo. The Yen Press announcement about Yen Plus going online did sound cool, but then the thought of dueling online services who will all want me to subscribe to read chapters of their manga damped the excitement. I’m not as thrilled as a lot of people about The Bride’s Story, but then, I have not read Emma, so I’m not already a fan of Kaoru Mori. Tokyopop’s announcement of Sakura no Ichiban by Chibi Vampire/Karin mangaka Yuna Kagesaki was good news though. I enjoyed Chibi Vampire, and the cover of Sakura no Ichiban looks interesting. I’m not a big fan of alternative/gekiga manga, so the small press announcements didn’t excite me either. And Del Rey didn’t even bother with a panel, and laying off Ali Kokmen to boot doesn’t fill me with a lot of hope for them as a manga publisher. It was pretty much a low-key con this year.

On the TV side, there wasn’t much either. One of the reasons we had for going to SDCC is now gone; Stargate. The SG-1 and Atlantis teams always had great rapport and it was fun to watch them. From reports of the Universe panel, it was no fun at all. And it doesn’t sound like SGU will be improving anytime soon. Just more of its Battlestar Galactica cloning. Burn Notice it sounds like is only worth going to to see Bruce Campbell. Now granted that is reason enough, but when no one else from the show’s cast shows up? I guess either they don’t like each other or the fans. Or both. The panels that sounded like the most fun were Psych, Bones and Castle. We just started watching Psych, and now I really regret not staying around for their panel last year. That’s a cast to see live! They have a lot of fun on the set, and that usually translates to the panel. Bones and Castle have two veteran fandom stars, David Boreanaz and Nathan Fillion, both of whom know how to please the crowd. I was happy to hear on Bones, Booth would be returning to season 6 with a love interest, and not happy that Bones and Booth will eventually end up together; unless it was the last scene of the series finale. Then I would be fine with it. Though nothing of great interest came out about season 3 of Castle, I would have liked to have seen the panel. It sounds like it was just as much fun as Psych.

This year was the first time that all 5 Mythbusters appeared on stage at the same time at SDCC.  While the clips reel is tantalizing, the reason to go these guys is for the Q & A session. They are just a blast to listen and talk to. Rifftrax did another live reading at their panel, but no new riffs were announced. It was fun nominating movies to be riffed by the team. This year it seems like you can try to get a line in a new riffing of Reefer Madness. I was disappointed that I couldn’t find anyone who really covered those panels. Youtube has a video of their live riffing, and the twitter feed for Mythbusters had pictures of their panel, but no one really reporting on them, which is sad. These guys really deserve more attention.

I might have reconsidered braving the crowds if I had none Danny Elfman was going to be there as a guest and have his own panel. I’ve been a fan of Elfman’s since his Oingo Boingo days, and it would have been cool to see him when he’s not performing. Shocktillyoudrop.com had a live blogging of that panel at least.

I read somewhere though all my clicking for SDCC that they could just change the name of Comic Con to Movie Con and no one would notice. And that is sadly true. Genre TV has always been a part of the con. Before Stargate, the panel to go to was the Babylon 5 panel for the blooper reel and the stories on set from JMS. Now, TV and movie trailer/hype have taken over the show. It’s all Dog and Pony and very little con. More companies are going to SDCC to try to get optioned for a Hollywood blockbuster than talk with fans or show off their latest wares. And while it’s cool that some of the businesses are finally getting into the spirit of the con, Syfy themed restaurants and Hooter girls dressing up as super heroes, the businesses that really matter, the hotels, still don’t see con-goers as an asset, but as someone they can drain for money. The city has been fighting with hotels to get more rooms at better rates, and it’s only with the threat of the city loosing millions of dollars that they started to give in. But when I hear one con-goers say that the hotel she is staying at is still charging her $30 at day to park her car, that tells me that the SD hotels don’t really want comic con anymore.

I know there’s no really good option for leaving San Diego. Anaheim provides some additional space, and has Disney pushing for that move, while the rest of Hollywood wants to see the con in Los Angeles while Las Vegas is probably the only place on the West Coast that could really handle the crowds, but no one wants to got there, and Vegas doesn’t need Comic Con. So what does this mean? That we probably won’t be going to SDCC anymore or until things improve. I hear Wondercon has promise…

After the Party is Over

Stolen Hearts v1It’s been a few weeks since DC announced the end of CMX Manga, and the mangasphere has had something to say about it, including me. And then there’s been the inevitable analysis of why CMX failed. Some have said it was because they didn’t have a recognizable brand or specific line. Others have said it was because one person was choosing the licenses. Hindsight is 20/20, so it’s easy to try to come up with different reason but were they really the cause?

It’s been suggested that one of the reasons CMX failed was because they couldn’t find an audience. Their licenses were all over the place, from 70’s shojo to senien to horror. There was no focus to titles chosen, and therefore no audience to focus on. Is this really a bad thing though? I thought CMX has a great catalog because of all the variety. You could find something for everyone in it. Something for kids and tween, comedy romance, drama, horror, even historical. Variety is the spice of life! And putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea. Having a diverse catalog is just what a good manga publisher should have. And CMX diversified well. If manga were stocks, any financial advisor would be proud!

It’s also been suggested that because one person, Asako Suzuki, was chosing the licenses for the company, and that she was only choosing titles she liked  but didn’t necessarily sell well. I really can’t agree with this. One person chosing the licenses is probably more the norm than the except with manga publishers. And after one person making decisions, well, look at Kurt Hassler when he was at Borders. He is credited with creating the manga selection at Borders and was at one point called one of the most important/influential people in manga/comics. He chose the titles he liked and thought would sell well. Asako no doubt did the same, and I think she did a good job. I certainly found a lot of her choices good!

King of Card Volume 2So what was it that made CMX fail? It’s been said over and over before, but I’ll say it again. It’s parent company, DC didn’t do anything to market that line. Putting a solicitation in Previews is not marketing. DC claimed they would bridge the manga and comic store gap, yet did nothing to help retailers or promote the books to bloggers, bookstores or librarians, their three strongest avocates. You can’t buy or recommend books you don’t know about. While there were other factors that contributed to its ultimate end, the mishandling of the imprint in its first year, and then being completely ignored for the rest was the main factor in its lack of sales.

And it’s such a shame too, as they were on the verge of releases some really promising titles. Word was getting out to reviewers. They were one of the few active publishers on Twitter interacting with reviewers and fans. If no one can or will rescue these, here are the titles that will never see an official english translation:

  • Nyankoi
  • Shisso Holiday
  • The Phantom Guesthouse
  • Tableau Gate
  • 51 Ways to Save Her
  • Polyphonica: Cardinal Crimson
  • Nadeshiko Club

Even though we mourn the lost, there is still plenty alive to celebrate about. While I’m disappointed some titles may never get finished, I am glad for the ones I have been able to read and review, even for just the first volume. These are the titles I’ve been able to review for far, and will continue to review. As long as there are volumes available somewhere, I will continue to recommend the work, not for DC, but for the staff that really cared and put all their time and effort into getting these titles out for us.

Besides all these titles, some of which I still have volumes left to review, there are still more I haven’t gotten to yet. Key to the Kingdom, Fire Investigator Nanase, Two Flowers for the Dragon, Canon, Kiichi and the Magic Books, Recipe for Gertrude, VS, and Venus Capriccio are all yet to be reviewed. And there’s still more I want to pick up volumes of and read still:

  • Apothecarius Argentum
  • Astral Project – Tsuki no Hikari
  • Ballad of a Shinigami
  • Moon Child
  • Name of the Flower

Are there any other titles I should check out? I know there are. People on Twitter listed off their favorite titles and there were several I’d love to check out, but can’t remember! So, leave me a comment and tell me what other CMX titles I’m missing out on.

Summer of Tokyopop

It’s been tough to be a manga fan lately, with one bad piece of bad news after another, and publishers being yanked out from under us. But there is one company that’s weathered the storm of fans and economy and is slowly, but surely making its way back. Back in 2008, when Tokyopop did their whole restructuring, many doom sayers didn’t they could return to be the company they once where. That part is try, but in a good way, that’s a good thing. Tokyopop before the restructuring was a mess, stretched out too far, and using the “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” method of licensing.

Pick of the Litter 5But after two years of streamlining, they have been coming back to life as it were, and bringing with it some titles some of the fans never thought we would see again. One of the titles I thought never be finished was Pick of the Litter, a B-grade comedy about cats and an alternate world. I really liked the comedy, but I’m sure it wasn’t a spectacular seller. Still, Tokyopop finished it last month by releasing the last two volumes in an omnibus edition.  Another title that I didn’t think would EVER be completed is B’TX, the title Masami Kurumada did after finishing Saint Seiya. It’s been sitting at 15 of 16 volumes for years! But now there is a solicitation for the final volume to be released in November. It is such a relief to see the light at the end of what was a dark tunnel for so long.

And the titles keep returning! On their twitter feed came this tweet, announcing that Genju no Seiza would be returning with volume 8, which Amazon has scheduled for August. This title by Matsuri Akino is such a good title, that it had to come back! I’m happy to see that Tokyopop agreed. And right behind it you can get Pet Shop of Horrors volume 7 which is scheduled for September. Another title that’s been in limbo but has been getting a lot of talk from bloggers is Gatcha Gacha, which has had its 8th volume scheduled for early November. To find out why, check out Sean Gaffney’s reviews at his blog A Case For Suitable Treatment. There are reviews of the first three volumes, but by November you can bet all 7 available will be there.

I think it is absolutely awesome that Tokyopop is doing its best to bring back these titles, even though most of them were not stellar sellers. Whatever else you say about Tokyopop, they really do care about the fans. The fact that they bringing these titles out really speaks volumes. But for Tokyopop to succeed, they need our help.

TOKYOPOP: @swanjun Yes, it is. However, retailers are lukewarm on supporting it, so please tell all your friends to order it early&often.

While this tweet was directed at Gatcha Gacha, I think it really applies for all these titles. They wouldn’t have been put on hiatus if they didn’t need more support. The best way to do this is by pre-ordering the titles and then telling all your manga friends to pre-order too.  With manga publishers dropping like flies (or so it seems), we as fans should support the ones that continue, especially when they show they are putting out the effort for us. We as fans of the titles should do the same. With all these titles reappearing, it’s like 2010 will be the summer of Tokyopop.

Now if we can just talk them into rescuing some CMX titles. I could see Stolen Hearts, My Darling! Miss Bancho and Nyankoi! fitting into their catalog really well.

Memories of a Comicbook Store Guy

Carl MacekOn Saturday, March 17, 2010, Carl Macek died of a heart attack.  Most people know and remember him as the man that brought the US anime through the creation of Robotech. But to me, he will always be the co-owner of a small comic shop in Orange, California called 21st Century Comics.  I think I may have met him once, but I almost never spoke to him.  I was far too shy.

It was in the early 80’s, about my freshman year in high school.  My older brother came home with this video tape that he’d bought.  It was in one of those black cases like video rental stores used for their VHS tapes, with what I think was a golden rod-colored xerox for a cover.  It was Macross, Carl Macek and Harmony Gold’s first attempt at bringing Macross over to the US.  That opening that is ridiculed in Bad English dubs that starts “Soldiers of Future from deep space…”?  Yeah, that where it came from.  My brother had bought it at Macek’s comic shop.

It was a small shop at that time, on the north end of Orange Circle, I believe.  The Orange Circle is a two way street going in and out of the circle, so there was no parking on the street.  It was in the back, and that where we always entered the shop from.  I went there a few times with my brother.  I was a casual comic collector, but loved to look at all the other merchandise the store would have.  My brother would go to talk with his friends and Macek.  Anime was almost always the topic.  C/FO was active at that time, and Southern California had at least 3 chapters, one of which was in Orange.  It was from these fans that Macek learned around anime and learned to love it.  My husband Brian was among the fans that helped turn him on to anime.

For all the hate that people pile on Macek, I think he was a real fan of the medium.  I’m sure the Southern California contingent was among his harshest critics, but that probably more because they new him before the Robotech phenomenon started.  I recall one story I was told about Macek speaking at a Creation Convention, with several of the fans who knew him in the back making shoveling motions as he spoke.  But there was never any animosity between anyone.  It was more like good-natured ribbing.

By the time I was getting involved with the anime fandom, Robotech was already a big success, and Macek was moving on to bigger and better things.  21 Century Comics reaped a bit of the benefits, as they moved from their small store front to a much larger one, still on the Circle, with 2 stories.  There was still plenty of anime merchandise.  It was in that store that I first saw a copy of Fred Schodt’s Manga! Manga! book.  It sat on the shelf for such a long time…  But Macek wasn’t around as much.  One could still get news about what he was doing through the store’s co-owner Barry Short.  Macek eventually sold his half of the store to Barry, and moved on to Streamline Pictures.  But I don’t think he ever forgot his fan roots.  SDCC, 1990 I think it was, the first year I went with my future husband, I remember running to the small movie theater near the Hotel San Diego, where the new dub of the Lensman Movie was being shown.  The reason I was rushing was because Brian had been asked to be at the premiere by Macek, and I was going to meet them.  I think that really says something that Macek wanted some of the people that got him into the fandom to be at one of his premieres.

I know none of these are really first hand stories, and I didn’t really know the man, but through all the stories I heard and just watching, I think Macek really loved anime, and was trying to bring it to the US not just for the fans, but for everyone to enjoy.  He truly was a pioneer, clearing the way for many of the companies to come after.  Just look at the movies he licensed through Streamline; Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro, Lupin: Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Dirty Pair: Project Eden, Akira, even Lensmen.  These weren’t just good movies, they were films shown at the C/FO and loved by the fans.  Loved by him.

He may have been a controversial figure, but that was never what he was trying to do.  He just wanted to bring over good shows for the fans.  Fans should try to remember more of the man than what he did or didn’t do.

What’s Up with Del Rey Manga?

X-Men Misfits 1This is something that’s been wondering around in the back of my mind for a while now, but found a voice on Twitter this week.  With the news of Del Rey’s cancellation of their X-Men manga reboots, the question came up asking if Del Rey was having problems.  That seems a very valid question.  A look at Del Rey’s sporadic release schedule and the fact that they’ve gone to releasing omnibuses to complete some series’ does suggest problems.  But that wasn’t my take.  Del Rey is a division of Random House, one of the power house publishers, so I don’t think it’s a financial problem.  I think it’s more of an attention span issue.

Continue reading What’s Up with Del Rey Manga?

Japanese Journal: The Basics

hiraganaFor the good part of 25 years, the thought of learning Japanese has flitted in and out of my mind.  For most of that time, either inaccessibility of resources and/or time has kept me from putting any serious effort into it.  In the last three years, I’ve made two abortive attempts, both ending after collecting resources, but never taking it anywhere.

They say three’s a charm, so with this third attempt, I’m going to write about my experience, which I’m hoping will keep me on track.  That’s the problem with self-study sometimes, motivation.  I’ve set a goal of trying to reach an elementary level of reading that will allow me to read manga.  Speaking is going to be secondary, but since it’s helpful to learning the letters, I will be working on it somewhat along side the reading and writing.

Continue reading Japanese Journal: The Basics

Bone to Pick

Last night, on my way home from work, I was listening to the ANNcast podcast, episode 28, the one with the interview with Kurt Hassler of Yen Press.  Near the end of the episode, they read off some questions take from fans on Twitter.  One of the questions was about license rescues.  Kurt’s response to it really bugged me.  He started going off about why fans think they (Yen Press) would go “trolling” for titles from other publishers.  The hosts of the show weren’t much better, basically likening license rescues to dumpster diving.

Really?  This is what Kurt Hassler and Yen Press think of fan requests and the titles they love and want to see completed legally?  Does he really think that fans consider Yen Press to be a dumping ground for lost titles?  Or could it possibly be, that fans respect what Yen Press does with their titles and are hoping to see a title they love, but wasn’t completed because the original publisher went out of business or cut back to their cash cow titles, completed with a publisher they know will do it justice?  Do they  really think everything published by other companies is just trash, and not even worthy of their consideration?  Because that is exactly how Kurt came off with his mini rant.  If he had just limited his answer to the statement he made AFTER the rant, I would wouldn’t have been upset.

We all have titles we love that weren’t completed for one reason or another, and wish for some knight in shining armor to riding in and save them.  That’s why they’re called license RESCUES, and not license trolls.  Try being a little more considerate of fans that are trying to do the right thing in seeing the titles they love completed in English legally, and not just resorting to the scanlations that were scorned earlier in the interview.