Category Archives: Digital Manga

Stories on new tech and digital distribution as related to manga.

Wish List: Shonen Jump+

Shuiesha, the publisher of all the Shonen Jump titles released an app in Japan that allows 30 manga to be read for free. Some of these titles first run in Weekly Shonen Jump, and some in their mobile app Jump Live. This is all well and good for people living in Japan, but no so much for us here in the west. But that doesn’t mean we can’t wish. Going through the list, there are 5 titles that I would like to be able to read, or at least check out a few chapters or volumes.

Rough Diamonds Rough Diamond: Manga Gakko ni Yokoso (Welcome to Manga School) – This series follows Yuuto Takatsuki, a high school boy who has already had a series published. Just as his series is ending, and he is looking forward to a normal high school, he helps out a fellow mangaka, and ends up missing one day of school too many, and isn’t able to pass his grade. Luckily, he’s offered a teaching position at a manga school. The principal will help me make his absenses disappear for teaching the class, but the only problem for Yuuto is that he has to teach students older than him, and he’s still in the world of manga. On top of all that, he is being haunted by the ghost of a mangaka Akira Tennouji! I’ve become addicted to manga about making manga ever since Bakuman, but this one looks just plain fun!

NekotabiyoriNekota Biyori – Being a cat lover makes this series a no-brainer. It is about a cat named Nekota. It follows his daily life with the family he lives with; daughter Ami, house wife mother and salaryman father. I’m happy just watching cats laze around, so a manga of a cat doing the same thing is a must have for me.

ShonenJump TamashiiShonen Jump no Tadashii Tsukurikata! (How to Make Shonen Jump the Right Way) – Billed “the shocking documentary manga”, this series is about a manga artist and his editor infiltrating the Shonen Jump offices. Considering how well Bakuman did, another series about the behind the scenes workings at Shonen Jump would no doubt do well as well.

iShojoiShojo – This is an anthology series about a magic app that helps people’s dreams of love come true. I might not be big on romantic comedies, but the formula for the series appeals to me, and I do have a soft spot for stories that get couples together. As an anthology, I think I would enjoy it much more that trying to follow a series.

Seiyu MashimashiSeiyu Mashimashi Club – This series is a 4 koma manga about girls who want to be voice actresses. 4 komas have been hit and miss with me, much like romantic comedies, but I do enjoy titles about aspiring voice actresses, much like I enjoy titles about aspiring mangaka, so I would like to give this one a try.

I wouldn’t mind having these be digital only, just as long as they are titles that can be downloaded/don’t expire. It’s so easy to get distracted and fall behind on titles (Hello Mangabox, my old friend). Hopefully our friends at Viz Media are giving some these titles a nice look over.

 

 

Urameshiya Volume 1-3

In Edo, there is a woman with incredible supernatural powers known as Oyou, the Urameshiya. She is able to banish spirits haunting humans. But her power is a double-edged sword as she is feared by the same people who ask for her help, except for the outcast pickpocket, Saji. After a chance meeting, Saji is attracted to both her beauty and ability, and together they take on the supernatural in Edo.

Urameshiya Volume 1-3
34 ur1By Makiko
Publisher: Jmanga.com/Futabasha Publishers
Age Rating: Mature
Genre: Supernatural/Mystery
Price: $4.99/OOP
Rating: ★★★★½

Urameshiya was among the first selections available when Jmanga went live. I had seen it recommended by fellow bloggers, but its mature rating left me with some trepidation. I put off reading it until Jmanga released their Android reader app. My misgivings were completely unfounded, as I started reading the first volume, and worked obsessively through to the third, with little desire to put my tablet down. This title combines complex characters in realistic relationships with well told tales of the supernatural to create a very entertaining manga.

Oyou, the protagonist of this title, is an outcast from society. Her strong powers make her someone people fear to anger, but at the same time do not want around. She has no family and few if any friends to speak of. Because of her circumstances, she has little use of the niceties of society. She direct, and often blunt when dealing with people, wielding her sharp tongue will little what other will think. No one will want her around or stay with her, so why bother trying to make friends? Even with this attitude, Oyou still helps when she is asked, and sometimes even when she isn’t. She doesn’t tend to take payment for her services, as she doesn’t want to profit from her powers. She believes she will always be alone until she meets Saji.

Urameshiya 2 Saji is also an outcast. He works as a pickpocket at the beginning, which is how he first meets Oyou. He tries to steal her purse, but she catches him. They end up spending the night together. Afterwards, he seeks her help avenging his friend who was killed by a ghost. While Saji is spooked by Oyou at first, he is able to see Oyou for who she is, not what she can do, and promptly moves in with her. Over the three volumes, Saji shows himself to actually be a good-hearted man, taking on more legitimate work, and even takes over a food stand to help out a friend when he gets sick. His devotion to Oyou is unquestioning, though he does get frustrated with her attitude and secrets about her past.

I enjoyed the relationship between Oyou and Saji. It came off feeling very realistic. After a lifetime of being rejected because of her powers, it is difficult for Oyou to let Saji in. Why bother when he is just going to end up leaving her. But Saji is persistent, and doesn’t let her push him away. His frustration with her is understandable, since she can be inscrutable at times, leaving him in the dark about her feelings for him. This forces him into some bad situations, such as trying to make Oyou jealous by sleeping with a promiscuous daughter of a well-off business owner, but he really is devoted to her. Oyou shows her feeling for him too, in her own way, though she is still loathed to admit them.

Urameshiya 3The supernatural side of the series is just as interesting as the characters. Most of the stories feature someone coming to Oyou for her help, or Oyou and Saji stumbling on a problem that Oyou’s powers can solve. They confront ghosts, yokai, and curses that coast the edgy side, such as the girl who is curse with vagina dentata. That was a hard chapter to forget. While some of the hauntings were by spirits wronged in life, not all of them were ghosts looking to be avenged. Some, like the fallen God of Spring were just plain malicious, and maybe the scariest of them all. By the second volume they are joined by Touka, a fox spirit, who wishes to win Oyou away from Saji by hook or by crook. He becomes a sort of sidekick, helping Oyou out when he can. While I enjoyed all of the chapters in these volumes, I most enjoyed the stories based in more traditional Japanese horror, such as the Yuki-Onna, and the 100 Ghost Stories chapter.

The art of Urameshiya isn’t perfect, but it’s serviceable. Because I love the characters and enjoy the stories so much, I can forgive most of its imperfections. The title is rated mature and for good reason. There are plenty of sexual situations, but they aren’t gratuitous or graphic. They are what you would expect to appeal to older women, which makes me the ideal audience.

The biggest problem I have with Urameshiya is that we only got 3 volumes. The series is currently at 19, and unless Crunchyroll decides to pick it up, There is probably very little chance we will ever see this series again, print or digital. But if Crunchyroll wanted a way to get my money, licensing Urameshiya is one sure way to get it.

 

Koetama Volume 1

High school junior Wakaba Sakimoto is a normal girl, no matter how you look at her. Everyone around her is thinking about the future, but Wakaba still doesn’t know what she wants to do. Then one day, she meets voice actress Touko Hosaka by accident, and Wakaba’s future changes in a big way…

Koetama 1By Tatsunari Sakuraba
Publisher: Jmanga
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Shonen
Price: $4.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

Koetama was another impulse buy from Jmanga. I’ve always been intrigued with voice acting, and after reading the scenes in Bakuman, I wanted to read more. Then Jmanga licensed this series. The characters are fun, and the premise isn’t bad, even though the whole thing comes off as feeling very generic. But being only the first volume where all the set up takes place, this is to be expected.

Wakaba Sakimoto is a high school junior who doesn’t know what to do about her future goals. Her two best friends, Tomo and Serina already have goals that they are working for; Tomo is practicing karate and Serina wants to be an author. But Wakaba doesn’t have anything she feels passionate about. When Tomo, Serina and Wakaba go to an amusement park, Wakaba finds a lost girl and tries to help her by reading a book the girl is carrying. She starts to reach the girl, but then gets nervous. She is rescued by well-known voice actress Touko Hosaka, and then Wakaba knows what she wants to do; be a voice actress. She has a bit of a rocky start, but then she meets Kuu Sonozaki, another aspiring voice actress, and the two apply to Voice Connect voice acting school.

I had a hard time getting into this title at first. I started reading it three times before I finally got through the first chapter. It wasn’t that the story was bad, it was just so generic. The girl with an untapped special talent, supported by her two best friends, gets dropped into a situation where her talent is needed and noticed by someone important. Even after I finally got through the first chapter, things didn’t really change. The rival, the country bumpkin with dreams in the big city, and the stuck up snob who looks down everyone all make their appearance in this first volume.

Despite all the tropes, I actually liked Koetama. Wakaba, the main protagonist of the series was quite likable. Once she decided she wanted to be a voice actress, she didn’t hesitate getting down to work. She bought books about voice acting and breathing, and practiced on the roof of her school everyday. I liked that his was a decision she made on her own, and didn’t have to be told and pushed by friends into doing it. Even when she seems to have a change of heart, her friends, Tomo and Serina never pressure her, but just support her from the background. Throughout the volume there are hints that Wakaba has a special talent for voice acting, the “soul of the voice”, and a flashback with Tomo shows the idea of voice acting was planted in her at a young age.

I liked all of the supporting characters as well. Tomo is the male childhood friend who seems to have a crush on Wakaba, but never comes out and says anything. Serina is the best friend that has no problem with beating up on Tomo. She is constantly running him over with her bike. Kuu is the spunky girl from eastern Japan and an accent. She has her quirks, such as speaking her mind and getting lost, but her accent was kept in check, so she wasn’t as annoying as she could have been. Amane is the spoiled rich girl who goes into the audition expecting the wow the judges, and does. She is of course prejudice against Kuu just because of her accent and tries to woo Wakaba away from her. I’m sure she’d be won over by Wakabe by the second or third volume. Runa is the seasoned pro who is tough on others but really means well. She is the one the other girls will be chasing to become a star voice actress. She is more talked about than really seen but she doesn’t appear to be haughty star.

Koetama, had a lot of potential. The character conceptualizations were down by four seiyuu: Nakahara Mai, Ueda Kana, Hayami Saori and Yahagi Sayuri, all of whom are credited in the title. We’ve been getting titles about the inside workings of manga lately, so it’s not a stretch for voice acting, since these actors will not only work on anime, but also drama cds. I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to read more of this title. I was starting to look forward to see what happened with these girls next. I don’t hold out hope for Jmanga titles to be rescued, since they were rescuing titles from defunct publishers themselves. I can only hope someone will see the worth of this series and license it on its merits.

Hanagatari Tenshion Atsuhime

Chaos reigns as the curtain descends on the age of the samurai. Atsuhime, born to the Satsuma branch of the Shimazu clan is to wed Iesada Tokugawa, the 13th shogun. However, soon after their marriage, Atsuhime’s beloved husband dies, leaving her to defend the clan as she is tossed about by the waves of history. Watch as this exceptional woman from Satsuma lives out a trouble-filled life while resolutely moving forward no matter what in this moving historical comic!

Hanagatari Tenshion AtsuhimeBy Riho Sachimi
Publisher: Jmanga
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Historical
Price: $5.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

Well, what do you know, another historical title. What a surprise. Yes, I do love my historical titles. The last one I reviewed, King’s Moon, dealt with Japan just before the start of the Tokugawa Shogunate. This title, Hanagatari Tenshion Atsuhime, deals with the last years of the Shogunate, as told though the eyes of Atsuhime, the wife of the 13th Shogun.

Hanagatari Tenshion Atsuhime begins with the girl Okatsu playing in the fields behind her home in Satsuma. It is decided that she is to become the next wife of the Shogun, Iesada. After a few years and several name changes, she arrives as Atsuhime. She makes a not-so-good impression with the palace staff when she arrives and worse with Iesada himself when she slaps him and basically tells him off. This leads to a real relationship between Atsuhime and Iesada to the point that she turns against the Satsuma Clan in support of her husband, which seems to turn the Satsuma against the Tokugawa, leading into the Bakumatsu. Atsuhime, who becomes Tenshion sees two more Shoguns before the final fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

I really like Atsuhime. When she is first introduced, she seems to be a more timid woman, there to do as her clan wishes. That all changed when she faced Iesada, who sounded more like a whiny child. Her outburst breaks him out of his apathy, and she truly challenges him to rise up beyond his physical problems. She shows a strength that not only did no one truly see, but then gives some of that strength to Iesada, who despite his health problems becomes more active in living. She becomes the strength of the Tokugawa as she becomes mother to the next shogun, finds a way to relate to her daughter-in-law, the younger sister of the emperor, holds the palace together through a rebellion led by her own former clan, the Satsuma, and sees the last Shogun to his surrender, and then end of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

There is a bit of introspection toward the end as Atsuhime thinks about the decisions she made  and if things could have gone differently. In the end though, she stands by her choices, being as resolute as the mountain her mother told her would always watch over her from her home in Satsume. Even after the Tokugawa fell, and she is given the option to return to Satsume, she chooses to remain with the family she created with the Tokugawa. She may be sad at the path her life took, but she never regretted it.

Hanagatari Tenshion Atsuhime was presented in the way I like my historical manga. It just tells the story without having to resort to long narrations to bridge scenes or time changes. It did have a few narration bridges, but they were brief, and the story carried the narrative most of the time. It made it feel more like a story and less like a documentary. I really enjoyed this title and am glad I got to read it before Jmanga closed.

The Town of Evening Calm, The Country of Cherry Blossoms

Hiroshima, 1955. Ten years after the city was consumed by a scorching flash of light, the soul of Minami Hirano is still deeply shaken by the earth-shattering explosion that devastated her home and changed her life forever. To the weak, the victims, what did the war mean? What pieces of certainty changed and broke that morning, when the sky lit up with a fire like a thousand suns? A controversial story of the aftermath of disaster, long after conflict is over and the dead are long buried.

Town of Evening CalmBy Fumiyo Kouno
Publisher: Jmanga
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Slice of Life
Price: $4.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

This isn’t the first time The Town of Evening Calm, The Country of Cherry Blossoms has been published in English. Last Gasp first published it in print in 2007. Jmanga then got a hold of it and used it as one of its launch titles. It was well received originally, but it took me until the last days to get it and read it. It is a story that deserves every once of praise it received.

The Town of Evening Calm, The Country of Cherry Blossoms, is essentially the story of one family over 3 generations. It follows the Hirano family, starting 10 years after the bombs fell with older sister Minami. She and her mother are survivors of the bomb, and live in a shanty town in Hiroshima. Minami works and takes care of her mother. Uchikoshi is a boy who works in the same office and comes to check on her when she doesn’t come in one day. He likes Minami, but she chases him away. Minami has memories of that day the bomb were dropped, and they haunt her. Survivor’s guilt gnaws at her, and just as she seems to ask forgiveness for living, she succumbs to radiation sickness.

This first chapter, The Town of Evening Calm, was incredibly powerful. Minami seems okay as she goes to her job and helps out her mother at home. But the memories that haunt her, of the burnt bodies everywhere, the desperation to find family members, it was all burned into her mind, making her think the world after, the one where she lived wasn’t the one where she belonged. But more powerful than that was her slow death from radiation poisoning. Much of it is shown from Minami’s perspective, as she loses her energy, coughs up black blood and then loses her sight. All of her observations from this point are heart-wrenching, and it gave me a cold feeling in my stomach when she asked if the people who had dropped the bomb were glad she was dying. If there was ever needed a short story about why atomic bombs should never be used again, this is it.

The Country of Cherry Blossoms follows Minami’s younger brother Asahi, who wasn’t in Hiroshima at the time and was spared the devastation. It starts 30 years later, with Asahi’s children, Nanami and Nagio, and their next door neighbor Toko. Nagio is in the hospital with asthma and Nanami and Toko bring cherry blossoms to cheer him up. The second chapter is another 20 years after the first with Nanami and Toko following Nanami’s father as he visits people around Hiroshima, and how he and Nanami’s mother met.

This second half of the volume didn’t have the punch the first half did. The memory of the bomb is faint now for Nanami and Nagio. But the stigma of being a survivor or related to a survivor remains. Asahi, who after being adopted by his Aunt and Uncle, returns to help his mother, and meets Kyo, a girl who lives nearby and helps out his mother. Asahi watches Kyo grow up and eventually falls in love with her. Kyo, as a survivor, suffers some prejudice at school as her slow learning is blamed on it. His mother, a survivor herself, is against Asahi marrying her at first, because she doesn’t want to see anymore loved ones taken because of the bomb. Later in a letter to Toko from Nagio, Nagio implies that his asthma might be because his mother was an atomic bomb victim, and gives it as a reason why they can’t be together. Nanami has a good answer to that.

Taken as a whole, The Town of Evening Calm, The Country of Cherry Blossoms is a wonderful generational story of a very dark moment in human history. Toko’s reaction to seeing the Peace Museum for the first time is a very real and visceral feeling, even 60 years later. Kouno’s art is simple and cute, contrasting against the darker, heavier story. Minami’s story is a reason why it should never happen again, and Nanami and Toko’s story reminds us why we should never forget.  I highly recommend it.

King’s Moon: The Life of Akechi Mitsuhide

The Life of Akechi Mitsuhide ― Oda Nobunaga ruled the nation with a scorching force like that of the Sun. In his shadow was his faithful retainer, Akechi, who continued his unwavering service to him. Once sharing the same vision for the future, a change of heart sets their paths forever apart. What conclusion did Mitsuhide reach following the events at Hongan-ji? From a great author, comes a beautifully illustrated historical drama full of intensity!

Kings MoonBy Hiroki Kusumoto
Publisher: Jmanga
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Historical Drama
Price: $4.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I love historical dramas, so when Jmanga announced this title, that not only took place in the Warring States Era, but also featured bishonen historical figures in a historical setting without any fantasy elements, I bought it sight unseen. While I enjoyed the title in general, it didn’t really fulfill the “full of intensity” part promised in the description.

King’s Moon details the life of Akechi Mitsuhide, a loyal retainer to the famous warlord Oda Nobunaga. The story begins with Mitsuhide already a retainer to Asakura Yoshikage. The retainer to Ashikaga, Hosokawa Fuijtaka, has come to Asakura to ask him to champion Ashikaga in his bid to be Shogun, but Asakura waivers. Mitsuhide, who had spent many years on reconnaissance, believes another man would be a better champion; Oda Nobunaga. Being a cousin to Nobunaga’s wife, Mitsuhide gets an audience with him. Nobunaga agrees to the request, and with Mitsuhide as his retainer begins his quest to conquer Japan.

King’s Moon is described as a historical drama, but it felt more like a docudrama. The drama was interspersed with historical facts. Nobunaga will be talking about a strategy, and then there will be a couple of pages of “And then this battle happened, these people were killed/committed suicide, and Nobunaga took over this area.” Now, I don’t think this is a bad thing necessarily, but it did reduce the “intensity.” The dramatic scenes themselves weren’t all that “intense” either. They were mostly of Nobunaga and Mitsuhide, or Mitsuhide and Fujitaka talking. There were nearly no battle scenes shown. While I do enjoy documentaries like this, even I found this title to be rather dry.

There isn’t any character development to speak of. You are expected to know who most of the people are, but since it was written for a Japanese audience about historical Japanese figures, I really can’t fault the title for that assumption. While the title is “The Life of Akechi Mitsuhide”, it really only covers his time with Nobunaga. The two men are compared as the sun and the moon, hence the title. Nobunage is fiery and direct with his ambitions. Mitsuhide is more subtle, using Asakura, Ashikaga and even Nobunaga to see his ambitions. It’s here that the story seems to drift into the realm of speculation. Kusumoto portrays Mitsuhide as a man looking for someone to bring peace to Japan, and he believes Nobunaga is that man. But the more Nobunaga expands, the more he is shown to be someone who enjoys the killing. Mitsuhide calls him the “God of Death” at one point in the story. It’s at this point that Mitsuhide starts to have his doubts about Nobunaga bringing peace, but what tips him over into betrayal is when Nobunaga gives his castle, Sakamoto to another retainer. There is a definite disconnect between what Mitsuhide expected from Nobunaga and visa versa.

The art is very well done. All the men, and it is all men shown in volume, are bishonen. Nobunaga has a devilish look to him with his wispy mustache and goatee and piercing eyes. Mitsuhide is much more the hero-type, with the long hair and rounder, more reflective eyes. I must admit, all the pretty boys is one of the reasons I chose to check this title out.

King’s Moon is an interesting title if you’re a history buff like me. It gives a quick run through of the Nobunaga years leading up to the beginning of the Tokugawa period. It is all military victories and defeats broken up by bits of personal reflection. For the historical information, this title was great. As entertainment, not so much. There was drama, mostly with Mitsuhide, as he struggles with his choices and following Nobunaga, and the chapters had some nice closing, but overall it was too dry to really be called intense. The history geek in me loved it.

This Week In Manga: Goodbye Jmanga

TWIM2

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.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Over at Good E-Reader, Brigid Alverson recently conducted an interview with Kevin Hamric, the director of publishing, marketing and sales about Viz Media’s digital strategy. We learn that Viz’s digital titles are selling strong on all the platforms it is available on, that digital rights are now just as important as print rights, and that recent WSJ title Nisekoi was digital only, but Viz is now going back for print rights. It was good to see that Viz recognizes that DRM is only harmful to consumers and that just making titles available in the format people want will fight piracy better than just trying to stamp out scanlation site. On the whole is a good informative article, and I was with it all the way until this quote from Kevin:

The more you make it easy for everybody, the more you are going to sell stuff. We want to make our product available in any format [readers] want. Whatever way they want it, we are going to give it to them.

Okay Kevin, I and a lot of other people judging from the comments on the Google Play site for the Viz Manga app, want it available on 10″ Android tablets. When is that going to happen? Why would you make it available first on Android devices with screens 7″ and smaller first when you did the exact opposite for iOS devices? You talk in the Good E-Reader article about getting manga on black and white devices. How about finishing the job for color Android devices? Put your money where your mouth is.Viz Manga

Angel Heart

Peace Pet Rental’s Lag is a robotic dog. He can be pretty slow at times and can’t perform tasks aside from those written in his program, but despite all this, he’s everyone’s favorite dog. Soon, however, he is tackling people’s problems in ways not included in his program, and it seems almost miraculous… Something mysterious has awakened within his heart even though he’s supposed to be a machine with no emotions. What is Lag’s true nature? For those lost in despair and sorrow and those with wounded hearts comes this healing tale of love, kindness, and sacrifice.

By Udou Shinohara
Publisher: Digital Manga Guild
Localized: Cynical Pink
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Shojo/Slice of Life
Price: $6.95 eManga/$7.95 Kindle/Nook/Wowio
Rating: ★★★★½

While I am a big cat lover (crazy cat lady in training), I’m really a sucker for all animals, including dogs. So it should come as no surprise that when given the chance, I would read a manga featuring a dog, even if it is a robot dog. While the basic premise is far from original, Shinohara still creates an entertaining story with some quirky characters, an interesting world for them to live in, and a charming pooch to bring them all together.

Angel Heart takes place in an unspecified future, where phone calls are made with holographs, and robots can be made and programmed to act like animals. The Peace Pet Rentals creates dogs, and Shiki is in charge of gathering data and programming Lag, a medium-sized dog that looks like a Sheltie. He does this by taking the dog to a hospital (whose director is also the Chief’s sister) and letting Lag interact with the patients, which has the added benefit of helping the patients. Over the course of the volume, Shiki gets to know many of the patients and watches Lag as he seems to grow beyond his programming, and like Pinocchio become thought of as a “real” dog.

I really enjoyed this title. Shiki is the reluctant programmer, who isn’t very good with people, but through working with Lag, starts to learn how to better interact with them. His big rival is Rena, the youngest sister of the Chief Rin and Director Kira. She also has a robot dog that she brings, a small Pomeranian named Nikita, whose programming is simpler, and therefore is more energetic, but not as authentic as Lag. She is always calling Lag dumb, because of his slow reactions, and comparing Shiki to his creation. The Rin, Shiki’s boss, is very stoic, but believes in his work, while Kira is more friendly, always smiling and encouraging Shiki, even if she is a little blunt about Lag’s lagging.

And then’s the star of the book, Lag. He is often shown with a blank stare, one I often associate with dogs anyway. When ever he does a dog action, like wag his tail, or lick someone’s face, the programming why he’s doing it is explained off to the side. This might seem annoying after a while, but I think it’s actually cute. It makes the times Lag isn’t following his programming stand out more. Throughout the story, it’s Lag’s unexplained actions that show how he’s changing and growing into something more than his programming. Doing a handstand and wagging his tail for a girl scared of her upcoming operation, or going to comfort a former soccer player depressed after an accident that affected his legs, show how he is becoming more empathetic toward people. I really liked it when his “brain” was put into a larger, scarier-looking dog, Lag’s personality still shone through. It was so cute seeing his stubby tail wag!

Angel Heart is a fun, light one-shot, though I wouldn’t object to reading more about Shiki and Lag,  or another robot animal in this universe. Shinohara has created a cast of characters I enjoyed with stories that warm the heart. The localizer, Cynical Pink, did a really good job with this title as well. The writing was fluid and read very naturally. It’s great that DMP/DMG has made this title available on several different platforms, though it’s obvious by the price which one they want you to buy from. Definitely check out Angel Heart if you enjoy titles about dogs or just want a light, quick read. It’s worth it.

Digital review copy provided by publisher.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan Volume 5

Rikuo has successfully defended his classmates from the vicious Inugami’s mad-dog attack. But that battle is just a hint of what’s to come. The sinister Tamazuki has remained in his human form so far, but now he’s unleashing his true form: a ferocious yokai leading the 88 Demons of Shikoku, a disciplined demon horde hell-bent on taking the Nura clan out. With Nurarihyon missing, Rikuo must step up as a warrior and a leader.

By Hiroshi Shiibashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Action
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

Rikuo really starts to step up as under-boss in this volume. With his grandfather, the Nurarihyon, gone, it’s up to him to defend the Nura territory. He finally shows some initiative when he sends Gozumaru and Mezomaru to infiltrate a Shikoku yokai gathering to gather intelligence. And he acts on that intelligence by taking the fight to Tamazuki rather than waiting for him and his forces to attack the Nura Main house. He’s pretty impressive in his night form during this fight until he gets blindsided, literally.

This battle with Tamazuki really shows the cycle of the generations within the Yokai clans. Tamazuki is ambitious and hungers for power, just as his father, Inugamigyobu once was, reaching out into Nura territory, while Rikuo considers creating a new 100 demon parade rather than working so hard to keep his Grandfather’s retainers together. Both young yokai can be seen as walking in their predecessor’s footsteps, while still making their own mark.

This volume of Nura was better in terms of moving the plot forward. It isn’t just about Rikuo having to deal with some threat and having his Night Form save the day. There is a confrontation between Tamazuki and Rikuo, but it and the events that lead up to it carry some weight. Yukki-Onna might even prove to be worth something more than a maiden-in-distress, though I don’t’ think I’ll hold my breath on that one.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan continues to be a series that I don’t mind reading online for free (as part of a Shonen Jump subscription), but it still hasn’t shown itself to be a series worth keeping on the shelf.

Yen Plus September 2011

It’s been a year since Yen Plus went digital and things don’t seem to have changed much, at least not for the Japanese side of the magazine. It’s still meager at best, and is losing another title this month with the final chapter of The Innocent appearing. We can hope Yen Press will be able to announce something soon, otherwise having the two sides of the magazine is going to be pretty pointless.

Continue reading Yen Plus September 2011

Tech Friday: Second Class Citizen

A few weeks ago I gave Viz kudos for finally realizing there was a market for digital manga beyond the iOS platform. Their announcement of Vizmanga.com and tagline of “Buy It Once Read It Anywhere” seemed like a dream come true. Finally, I could start reading and owning digital manga. I thought Viz had really gotten the idea of “manga for all.” But after working with it, and seeing new announcements, I have come to realize the equality I thought I was getting didn’t really exist.

Continue reading Tech Friday: Second Class Citizen