One of the advantages to digital manga is exactly this; being able to quickly and easily sample titles. Sampler packs were one of the things I really looked forward to picking up at SDCC. All the manga publishers would have them, though supplies could be limited, so it was best to get them on the first or second day. Even my kids, who really are manga readers would grab one for the ride on the shuttle back to the car or hotel. This new pack from Viz only features shonen titles, but not only do they offer the first chapters of some of their most popular titles, it previews the next big chapters in the stories, such as after time jumps in One Piece and Naruto, and a new story arc in Bleach. While I do like this sampler pack, I hope Viz will do one for Shojo as well.
For the past two weeks Seven Seas Entertainment has been raining down manga license announcements. Four titles have been announced. Some were surprising not just for Seven Seas to get, but just to plain see in print in the US. The collection does have a little something for everyone.
The first title announced was Franken Fran. This dark parody series is about Fran Madaraki, the “daughter” of a highly skilled surgeon who has disappeared. Fran, takes up the family profession by performing surgeries in her secluded gothic home with her “sister” Veronica and a monstrous entourage. If you are willing to pay her price, Fran will perform any operation, including bringing back the dead. Her creed, “Lives must be saved, no matter the cost,” means the end justifies the means when fulfilling her duties. The title will be released in 4 2-in-1 omnibuses and will include color inserts. This title has gotten a lot of good word of mouth recommendations, so I’m looking forward to checking out the first volume at least. It will be coming out February 16, 2016.
Their next pickup was Not Lives, a “virtual gender-bender” manga. It is about game designer genius and high school student Mikami whose next big project is a romance game. Among the materials he received for research was a game he didn’t remember getting. Curiosity gets the better of him and his plays it, only to find himself thrust into a survival game and transformed into a girl. And in this game, it isn’t just his character on the line, but also his own life. This series sounds a like BTOOOM! meets Sword Art Online meets any generic gender-bender series. None of these titles really interest me so this looks like a series will pass up on. There are currently 7 volumes and the series is ongoing. The first volume will be released with color inserts on March 29, 2016.
The third license announced was Orange, a time-travel shojo. In this series, 16-year-old Naho Takamiya receives a letter from herself 10 years in the future. In the letter, she tells of an incoming transfer student named Kakeru Naruse, and that her biggest regret was that Kakeru was no long with them. She asks her past self to look after him. Naho didn’t believe the letter at first, but as things in the letter start to come true, including Kakeru’s transfer, she has to decide what the letter means for herself and Kakeru’s future. The series will be printed as 2 omnibus volumes with wraparound covers and color inserts. They will each be 380 pages long, or the equivalent of 2.5 Japanese manga, confirming the length of the series at 5 volumes. There are currently 4 in print. I was intrigued by this series when Crunchyroll announced it would stream it digitally. But now that it’s coming out in print, I will definitely be checking it out. The first volume will be released January 26 and the second in May, 2016.
The final series announced was Hour of the Zombie. Guess what genre this title is from. The story is about Akira, a typical high school student who has dreams and aspirations like everyone else, an unrequited crush on his childhood friend Kurumi, who seems to be more interesting in his best friend Umezawa. Their love triangle is trival in comparison to the drama that hits their school. Students start to turn into zombie, eating their friends and fellow students alike, and just as quickly, stop. Soon the school is divided between the turned and the unbitten, with unanswered question looming; how long will this peace last, and why did the students turn in the first place? I’m not normally interested in Zombie manga. Much like vampires, I feel they’ve run their course, but this series has some intriguing aspects that I might just want to check out. There are two volumes out and it is ongoing. The first volume will be released with color inserts April 5, 2016.
Of the new titles Viz is adding this month, two were already published by them in print: Cheeky Angel and Honey Blood Tale Zero. Flower of the Deep Sleep and Glass Wings are license rescues from the Tokyopop days while Eureka Seven is a Bandai Manga rescue. We haven’t seen one of those in a while. The bundles this month are a continuation of their big Shonen titles, with the Shaman King bundle completing the series while the One Piece bundle covers the “Baroque Works” and “Alabasta” arcs, both good arcs. I’d also recommend the Yu-Gi-Oh! bundle. I thought the first arc was the best of the series.
With Con Season is full swing, the license announcement are coming at a fairly steady rate. Whether in between cons, or publishers not planning on panels, the word of new licenses and rescues still make the steady rounds of news sites, and especially social media like Twitter and Tumblr.
One Peace Books is a boutique publisher that has been dabbling in manga with such titles as Whispered Words, Aquarion Evol, and Crayon Shin Chan. This time, the publisher picked up a light novel series and its manga companion. The Rising of the Shield Hero is a light novel series that is currently at 10 volumes and ongoing. It is about Naofumi Iwatani, an otaku who is whisked away to a parallel dimension where he discovers is he one of four heroes equipped with a legendary weapon and tasked with saving the world from its prophesied destruction. Naofumi starts out as the Shield Hero, the weakest of the four, and soon finds himself alone, penniless and betrayed. He must now start his journey to become the legendary Shield Hero the world needs. The first volume will be out September 15 with the second being released October 20. The first volume of the manga, which is at 3 volumes and ongoing, will be out in November. This plot is very standard for fantasy novels, so unless it does something really interesting, I will probably skip it. I would be more inclined to check out the manga first, since I wouldn’t be as much as a time suck for me.
Dark Horse isn’t know for making license rescues, until it’s a CLAMP title. So their announcement that they picked up Planetes came as a bit of a surprise. Planetes was originally published by Tokyopop back in 2004, and even back that it was a difficult title to collect. It’s by Makoto Yukimura who is also the mangaka of Vinland Saga, which Kodansha is currently publishing in 2-in-1 deluxe hardback editions. Dark Horse will publish Planetes as 2 omnibus editions complete with bonus color pages. The story centers around Hachimaki, a member of a space-garbage crew, who collects everything from satellites to screws, anything that could damage a spacecraft when traveling at high speeds. Hachimaki dreams of owning his own spaceship, and decides there’s better money in joining the first manned mission to Jupiter. It’s been a long time since I last read Planetes, but it was a fun short series and very good sci-fi. The first omnibus will be out in December, just in time to put under the Christmas tree.
Yen Press just popped up with two new licenses on their Twitter feed, both of which fit right into the publisher’s catalog. School-Live! is a horror/slice of life series. It follows four girls, Yuki Takeya, Kurumi Ebisuzawa, Yuri “Riisan” Wakasa, and Miki “Miikun” Naoki, who camp out at their school and end up the only survives of a zombie attack. They decide to stay at the school and make it their home. Yen has really embraced the zombie/school survival titles, starting back with Highschool of the Dead. This series appears to feature cute little girls, but the premise may have a darker edge to it. There are currently five volumes and the series is ongoing. It might be interesting to check out the first volume, which will be released in November.
The second series is Of the Red, the Light and the Ayakashi. It’s based on a doujin game released in Japan back in 2011. The manga adaptation started in 2012. It is about Yue, a boy born and raised in a certain shrine on the outskirts of Utsuwa City. His close childhood friend, Kurogitsune takes him to the winter festival, where he experiences the outside world for the first time, and meets a mysterious boy. Seven volumes have been released so far. Yen Press also loves their visual novel stories, from Higurashi and Umineko. This series is a must read. I had it on my wish list at Baka-Updates Manga for who knows how long, but I enjoy titles with spiriting away themes and supernatural mysteries. This first volume will debut in December.
With titles leaving Weekly Shonen Jump, it’s time for a new round of Jump Start! titles to run and see if they can make the cut here and as well as in Japan. Viz is starting out with just two titles so far. Welcome to Shika High Competitive Dance Club will start on May 11, while the second series, Devily Man will start two Mondays after, May 25. These titles are being simulpubed with the Japanese Weekly Shonen Jump, so there is precious little information about them.
Welcome to Shika High’s Competitive Dance Club is obviously about competitive dancing. This seems like a surprising subject to put into a shonen magazine. It seems more like a shojo title like Kodansha’s Let’s Dance a Waltz. But knowing what I do know about the serialization meetings at WSJ (thanks to Bakuman), this series must have something interesting about it to make it into the magazine. I’m curious to hear what it’s about. Devily Man has an old school/retro feel to it, based only on the glimpse of the art from Weekly Shonen Jump. Like a Toriyama and/or comedic feel to it. I can’t even begin to guess that this title is about, but the alien/demon looking guy looks rather happy, hence the comedic vibe.
I’ve got my hopes up that Welcome to Shika High’s Competitive Dance Club with be something good and clever. Dance manga can certainly use a boost. I’ll have to wait and see on Devily Man. The field of possibilities are just too wide for it. The issues will be available for $.99 if you don’t have a subscription but still want to read them.
Back in March, the winner of the 8th annual Manga Taisho award was announced. Of the 14 titles nominated, Kakukaku Shikajika by Akiko Higashimura was chosen to take the prize this year. Higashimura is mostly a josei artist, so her work isn’t widely known in the US, but she does have one that his constantly being requested in publisher surveys; the josei Kuragehime–Jellyfish Princess.
Kakukaku Shikajika, which can be translated as Such and Such, is a semi-autobiographical series about Higashimura when she was in her third year in high school. Through a friend, she starts going to an art class where the art teacher, Kenzo Hidaka, who intimidates his students by yelling at them and using a bamboo sword to force them to focus on their art work. The series is complete in 5 volumes, and was published in Shueisha’s women’s magazine, Chorus.
Manga about manga titles have been doing pretty well in the west, so I think this one would too. It’s a short series, only 5 volumes, and since Viz Media has been experimenting with josei-as-shojo titles, I think this series would really do well. The subject is something both men and women would be interested in reading, and the setting makes it more fitting for the 16+ shojo age range. I hope Viz Media takes a serious look at this series, especially now that it has won an award. Maybe if it does well enough, we could be one step closer to Jellyfish Princess.
Viz Media’s Weekly Shonen Jump has been seeing plenty of changes, just as the Japanese magazine does with titles coming and going. Lately, Viz’s WSJ has added two new regular titles to their line-up; Black Clover and the Naruto spin-off Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring.
Black Clover is about a boy named Astra. He and another boy named Yuna were abandoned at the same time at the same place as babies and have since become best friends both with the same goal; to become the next Wizard King. The only problem with their plan is while Yuna his highly skilled at using magic, Astra can’t. Astra isn’t discouraged, even at a coming-of-age ceremony, where Yuna receives a magic book with the legendary four leaf clover while Astra receives nothing. Sometime later, when Yuna is nearly defeated in battle, Astra’s true power is revealed as he is able to call on a book with a black five-leaved clover and wield powerful anti-magic. Astra never sees the book, but the pair head out into the world together to continue to compete for their goal.
Black Clover started as a three chapter preview for Viz’s Jump Start program back in February and became a regular at the end of March. It’s not too surprising with the superficial similarities to Naruto. A boy who can’t use the power everyone else can who wants to be the strongest, and a best friend who is better than him who is also his rival. Yeah, doesn’t sound like the setup for Naruto at all. /sarcasm. I haven’t read any of Black Clover yet, but it does sound like it has the makings of a hit for Viz.
Naruto recently ended its serialization after 15 years, but it seems you can’t keep an orange ninja down. The new spin-off, Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring picks up where the original manga left off. Naruto is now Hokage, with his image on the mountain side like he always dreamed. But in a karmic twist, he has a son, Boruto, who is just as bratty and stubborn as he was. The series features not just Naruto’s son, but all the other children of the heroes of Konoha.
Naruto was one of Viz’s biggest hits, so it’s no surprise that it would continue the franchise along with the Japanese Weekly Shonen Jump. Long time Naruto fans can stave off withdrawal for a little while longer, at least until summer, according to an interview with Kishimoto back in November.
But with these additions, at least one title will be leaving. Gakkyu Hotei: School Judgement, the court drama set in an elementary school, is ending serialization in the issue out May 11. The series started as a Jump Start! series last summer and was added to the magazine in December. It was about Abaku Inugami, a student defense lawyer at his elementary school where students can take their fellow students court in the government sanctioned School Judgement System. The series is drawn by Takeshi Obata, and written by Nobuaki Enoki. I really enjoyed the chapters I was able read in the free issues Shonen Jump made available in January for their anniversary. I’m definitely going to be picking up the collected volumes no matter what format they are released in.
If you liked the Jump Start! of Cyborg Roggy, don’t hold your breath for it to join the magazine. It is ending in the same issue as Gakkyu Hotei. The Japanese Weekly Shonen Jump is debuting three new titles with these endings, so we will have to see if there will be another round of Jump Start! for them.
TCAF is the premiere comics festival in North America. Other shows aspire to be like them, so it isn’t so surprising that they can get such great artists to attend. It’s a great place to meet artists and talk about comics in an open and friendly atmosphere. If you ever get a chance to go, take it.
Manga publishers have been hit or miss with the Free Comic Book Day promotion. Dark Horse sometimes has had a preview of a title or two included with their regular comics and Yen Press has made previews of their original books available in the past. Kodansha is joining in this year with a preview of Attack on Titan as well as some of their other high performing titles Fairy Tail, Seven Deadly Sins and Noragami, but Viz Media has been the most consistent publisher to participate, and this year is no different. They have titles in both the Gold and Silver categories ranging from all ages to older teen. If you have time and comic shop or library participating near you this year, you should definitely go check it out. It can be a lot of fun, and you never know, you might find a new book to read for you and/or your kids!
This week the Wil Eisner Comic Industry Awards panel of judges announced their nominees this week. Manga essentially gets its own category in the US Edition of International Material – Asia. The category was created to keep manga from dominating the US Edition of International Material category. Five titles and six volumes received nods.
All You Need Is Kill has been getting a lot of attention this year. It is from Viz Media and was one of the 8 manga titles to make the YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens list this year. It is an adaptation of the Japanese sci-fi novel what was also the basis of the Hollywood film Edge of Tomorrow. Keiji Kiriya is a new recruit thrown into a suit of battle armor called a jacket and sent to fight the invading alien race, the Mimics. He dies on the battle field only to be revived every day to relieve the day and die again. On his 158th return, he is contacted by another soldier, known as the Full Metal Bitch. Is she his friend or foe. The art is by Takeshi Obata, a popular artist here in the US. With the art and story being so well-known, it probably has a good chance of winning.
In Clothes Called Fat from Vertical Comics. It is about Noko, a young woman with a good job and loving boyfriend. Beneath this seemingly happy veneer, Noko is struggling with issues of self-image and self-confidence as she fights to keep her weight down. A gain of a mere 5 pounds can send Noko miles away from happiness in her love life and work place. This single volume story was created by Moyoco Anno, who is well-known name in Japanese women comics. This title is closer in spirit to many US indie comics with its searing look at women with self-image problems. It also has a good chance of with Eisner voters.
Master Keaton Vol 1 is another title from Viz Media. It follows the adventures of half-Japanese, half-English insurance investigator Taichi Hiraga-Keaton. Keaton is a man of many talents. He graduated from Cambridge with a degree in archaeology, joined the British SAS for several years, and now teaches at a Japanese college. He uses his many talents and experience to investigate insurance claims and help people along the way. I loved this volume of Master Keaton, both for the problems Keaton takes on and for the Cold War era feel of the manga. I don’t know how well this title will go over with voters. It’s by Naoki Urasawa, who has been nominated several times and even one once. Either way, it’s got my vote!
One Punch Man is the third Viz Media title to be nominated. It is about Saitama, a superhero who is so strong, he can knock out most villains with just a single punch. He trained so hard to hone his skills that he lost all his hair, but now, he is so strong, he can’t find a worthy opponent, and fears he will be doomed to superhero boredom. This is a digital only title and has a lot of human. It was the start of the superhero boom that Viz seems to have going on right now. This title is rather light and filled with plenty of human, at least at the beginning. Being a more tradition superhero comic Eisner voters may favor it.
Showa 1939-1944 A History of Japan and Showa 1944-1953: A History of Japan are two separate titles in the same series from Drawn and Quarterly. They are an auto biographical and historical account of Japan by creator Shigeru Mizuki. These two volumes cover the Japan of World War II and the subsequent occupation afterward. On a personal level, it shows Mizuki’s struggles with the strict disciple of the Japanese officers on the island of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea and whether or not to return to Japan after the war to follow his dream of becoming a cartoonist despite losing an arm. The first volume in this series was nominated last year, but didn’t win. The story in these two volumes are no doubt more compelling as it deals with the devastation of war and its aftermath. Maybe this year will be its lucky year.
Wolf Children: Ame and Yuki is published by Yen Press and was also on the YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens list. It is based on the animated movie of the same name. Hana is a young woman who falls in love with a man who is part wolf. They start a family with two children, but Hana’s husband is tragically killed, leaving Hana as a single mother to raise her two children who stand on the fine line between man and beast. This is a story that is both heartwarming and melancholy as it shows the exploration of identity and balancing being from multiple cultures. Eisner voters will find a lot to love here.
The winners will be announced Friday, July 10 during the San Diego Comic-Con at a gala ceremony.
I’ve only read one of the four Viz Media titles that have been nominated for this year’s Eisners, Master Keaton, and to be honest, it’s the one I hope wins. I plan on reading All You Need Is Kill because it was on the YALSA GGNT list, and this just adds another reason. I know a lot of people like One-Punch Man, but the chapters I read of it back in January just didn’t do much for me. But it’s a superhero title, so that might make it more appealing to Eisner voters. The Hello Kitty graphic novels Viz’s Perfect Square imprint have done have been good for early readers, so the tribute Hello 40 is no doubt done just as well. I might have to check that one out too.
Viz’s Select line adds 2 former Tokyopop titles that I’m familiar with, but met with two different ends. Grenadier is a five-volume series I picked up because a friend has seen the anime, and told us about the most intriguing element of the story. The lead, a buxom blond, kept her bullets in said bosom and would reload her gun with some jiggling. Not joking. I picked up Red Hot Chili Samurai because it was a historical detective series. In the end, I gave Grenadier to said friend, and chased down the last two volumes of Red Hot Chili Samurai I could find. Tokyopop published 5 of the 8 volumes, but only four were easily found. I guess I’ll be finishing up the series with Viz.