Category Archives: Articles

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

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.

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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.

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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.

Why Not?

I was reading the comments on this post at Anime Vice.  Most of the debate over justification for scanlations didn’t interest me, as I’ve seen them all before, but one comment did sort of bother me.  Fellow Manga Village reviewer and blogger John Thomas had joined the conversation and made a simple statement.  “Why not just learn to read Japanese?”  It was the response to this that made me go “Huh?”

I have to confess, that is the one answer I loathe seeing in scanlation debates, and it appears every time.

He goes on to give excuses of no time, too expensive, too difficult, etc., which then steers the conversation toward learning Japanese.

Continue reading Why Not?

The Truth Is Out There…

conspiracy-theoristsYou know you’ve hit it being online when you’re thought to be part of some big conspiracy.  I’ve always wondered about conspiracy theorists.  Why do they feel the need to concoct some big, elaborate theory or have some big shadow corporation controlling everything?  There are people who believe NASA’s trips to the moon were hoaxes (Mythbusters disproved their theories).  And there are people who believe the US government was behind the 911 attacks (yeah, like our government could co-ordinate something so well planned and keep it a secret.)   And now, manga bloggers are in cahoots with publishers to bring down the scanalation community.

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So You Wanna Read Japanese Manga?

Sanen KimengumiWith a long list of wish lists and license requests, and not too good a prospect on getting a lot of those titles in English for whatever reason (too long, too old, too niche, etc), it makes a manga fan seriously consider learning to read Japanese.  Why go through a middleman when you can go straight to the source?  And Japanese tankoban are cheaper, even with the exchange rate, to buy.  But learning a new language can be intimidating, especially when the letters that look nothing like you’re used to.  Fortunately the internet is filled with resources to help you buy and read your Japanese manga.

One really good resource is Rainbow Hill Language Lab which features entries about Japanese language and culture.  Recently the blog has been featuring several entries about reading manga as an aid to learning Japanese.  One such entry was a list of tools to help you start reading manga.  This list featured both resources that could be found online as well as books and study aids, all with links. He gives resources to the basics of the alphabet, basic grammar and vocabulary and kanji.

If you’re serious about your manga, and don’t want to wait for a license that might never come, then learning to read Japanese is the way to go.  And if you don’t have a lot of time to take a class, this is a good way to start.  I know I’m sorely tempted to pull out the Highschool Kimengumi manga we have and try this out!

Super-size Me!: Angel Sanctuary


I was late in discovering Kaori Yuki’s work.  It wasn’t until Shojo Beat and Godchild, which was one of the debut titles, that I learned how great her work was.  But before Godchild and it’s prequel The Cain Saga, another series by Kaori Yuki was released in the US.  That was Angel Sanctuary.  This 20 volume series was first released by Viz in 2004 and completed it’s run in 2007.  The story is about Setsuna Mudo, the re-incarnation of the Organic Angel Alexiel.  Alexiel rebelled against heaven and as punishment was sentenced to be re-incarnated as a mortal and to live a life filled with pain and suffering.  Setsuna is discovered to be the latest re-incarnation and is pulled into the war between heaven and hell.

I’ve only read the first volume, and wasn’t quite ready for her style of writing then.  But after reading her other titles that are available in English, I would like to try this series again.  I was bothered by the incest introduced in the first volume of Angel Sanctuary, but now realize that is a common theme in her titles.  My only problem now is, the series is 20 volumes long!  20 volumes is a lot to track down, and take up a lot of space.  This is what makes Angel Sanctuary the perfect candidate for the VizBIG format.  It’s complete and it’s been so for a while, like several of the other titles we’ve seen come out.  It’s length makes it difficult to find in the individual volume format and will take up a lot of space.  9 volumes are a lot easier to handle and collect than 20.  And with several other of her titles out, it’s the perfect time to reintroduce her most influential work to a new audience, as well as the growing interest in titles for older readers.  While it’s rated Older Teen, it’s rating could go up, as other of her titles have.

Angel Sanctuary has all the making of a great addition to the VizBIG line.  Hopefully Viz realizes this and will re-release this series soon.

Manga: A Decade in Review

Even though the decade isn’t technically over, the years that we call the “aughts” are, so this review is my look back at the aught years, 2000-2009.  And if you had to say anything about manga in these years is that it found itself on the rise.

When the new millennium began, manga was in the same place it had been in the last century.  It was a niche of a niche.  Trying to appeal to comics fans, most titles were published as floppies, their content flipped.  Titles such as Ranma 1/2, Inuyasha, Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z, Ceres: Celestial Legend, and Pokemon started this way, and then were collected into trade paperback sized books and priced around $15.  Comics fans treated manga as the red-headed step child and manga fans  didn’t like the price or format.  I know I didn’t.  As much as I wanted to read the Galaxy Express 999 volumes Viz had brought out, the $16.99 price tag was too much for me.  But that all changed in 2002, when Tokyopop literally started off a revolution.

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Christmas Haul

Well, the most stressful part of the holiday season is over!  Christmas has come and gone, and all that’s left are wads of wrapping paper, stray bows and lots and lots of manga!  At least that’s how my Christmas turned out.  Check it out!

Christmas Manga

How’s that for a good haul?  In fact, I missed a few!  Pig Bride Volume 2 as well as Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 20-21 should have been included in that picture too.  12 volumes in all.  Woo Hoo!

Now, while manga is nice and all, and I do appreciate getting the books I did, what I really loved wasn’t something that was purchased but that was made.  My husband works with wood, and he made me these four wooden scroll puzzles, all from oak in different finishes.  Aren’t they awesome?

Puzzles

So, what’s you get for Christmas?