Tag Archives: cmx

Power Books

No matter what the culture, knowledge has been equated with power. For centuries, this knowledge has been stored as words in books. Whether it’s a list of names or a wizard’s tome, books have been regarded as being magical. It’s no different in manga. There are several titles that feature books and the power of words with the ability to create, transport its readers to other worlds, and even kill.

Fushigi Yugi Big 1Fushigi Yugi and it’s prequel Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden, both feature a magical book, The Universe of the Four Gods, that pulls the main characters, Miaka and Yui in the original, and Takiko in the prequel, into its story. Each of the girls is found to be a Priestess of one of the four gods, and Miaka and Takiko are tasked with finding the celestial warriors after which they can summon their god and make a wish The book itself isn’t used much in the story, but is the catalyst for the girls to start their adventures. Fushigi Yugi is available in 6 omnibus editions and Genbu Kaiden just finished its print run at 12, and both titles are available at Vizmanga.com

rod_vol_1_coverRead or Die and the related Read or Dream, isn’t so much about books themselves having power, but what they are made of, paper as having the power. In Read or Die, Yomiko Readman, a papermaster who can control paper and shape it into anything she wants. Yomiko is a secret agent for the British Library, and uses her powers to keep the peace. She loves books and often spends her money on them rather than food. Read of Dream is a spin-off of read or Die and follows three sister papermasters in Hong Kong, who run a detective agency. The three sisters, Maggie, Michelle and Anita, are very different and control different elements of papermastry. Like Yomiko, Maggie and Michelle are big book lovers, but surprisingly Anita hates books. Both titles are four volumes each and are available in print.

Muhyo and Roji 01 In Muhyo and Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation, Muhyo is an executor, a graduate from the Magical Law School that allows him to be Judge, Jury and Executioner on supernatural beings found to be breaking the law. He does this through his Book of Magic Law, a thick tome that holds all the laws of magic and allows Muhyo to pass judgement on the wrong-doers and summon the envoys that take them to either heaven, hell or the river styx. The Book of Magic Law is Muhyo’s proof of being an executor and no one can use his book but him. The series went 18 volumes and is available in both print and digital.

Kiichi1In the world of Kiichi and the Magic Books, people known as Librarians travel the land bringing books that people can borrow and read. Mototaro, one such librarian is also special. He has the power to make images in books come to life. Part of the reason he travels is to find old books that have become unstable; the pictures come to life on their own. This series was published by CMX and is unfortunately out of print, but a great story if you can find all five volumes.

In Death Note, Death Note 1while the book, the Death Note has power, it’s what’s written inside that makes it work. The Death Note is a book used by Shinigami, Death Gods, to send people to the afterlife. One Death God, Ryuk, drops his death note into the human world to see what happens. It is found by high school boy Light Yagami. With the death note, he can write anyone’s name into and that person will die of a heart attack if no means of death is provided. Light uses the Death Note to go on his own personal killing spree, intent on cleaning the world or criminals, until only people he deems worthy live. Death Note was a big hit when it came out and had anime adaptation, though came under some criticism as kids around the world came up with their own “death notes”, writing names of people they wanted hurt or dead in them. There are 13 volumes in print, digital, box set, or omnibus editions.

Alice 19 1Books aren’t always necessary to hold power, sometimes just a word is all that is needed. Alice 19th is about Alice, a high school girl destined to become a Lotis Master. Lotis Masters use the power of words to reach the inner heart of others and banish the darkness from their hearts. Here, there are no books, just words used to find the darkness in people, and turn that darkness into words to be banished. There are also maram words, dark reflections of lotis words. Alice 19th was written by Yuu Watase, the creator of Fushigi Yugi and Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden. It went for 7 volumes and can be found in both print and digital.

Natsume's Book of Friends 1In Natsume’s Book of Friends, there is a book, but it’s what’s written in it that matters. Takashi Natsume has the ability to see spirits and yokai. He moves in with some relatives and finds his grandmother’s book of friends, a book filled with the names of yokai his grandmother fought and won the names of. With the book, Natsume has power over these spirits. While he doesn’t want this power, there are other spirits who do, and Natsume is hunted by them until he befriends Madara, a power ayakashi, who makes a deal with Natsume to protect him until he dies a natural death, at which point Madara can take the book. Here, names have the power, as it forms a contract between the spirit and the human, and only Natsume’s breath can release the name and end the contract. This series is still ongoing with 17 volumes available in print and digital.

Also available in audio and video.

Emma Volume 1: Manga Movable Feast

In Victorian England, a young girl named Emma is rescued from a life of destitution and raised to become a proper British maid. When she meets William, the eldest son of a wealthy family, their love seems destined. But in this world, even matters of the heart are ruled by class distinctions.

Emma 1By Kaoru Mori
Publsiher: CMX (OOP)
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Historical/Drama
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1132-5
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

I didn’t expect to like Emma. I have a split track record with Kaoru Mori’s work. I loved A Bride’s Story, but wasn’t impressed with her short story collection Say Something and Anything, especially the maid stories. But as I started reading, I couldn’t help being enchanted by the charming characters she populates the series with, and sets up so simple an obstacle, but it still seems just as insurmountable.

Emma starts with the unceremonious meeting of Emma and William, the former student of Kelly Stownar, who was William’s governess, and is Emma’s employer. William is immediately smitten with Emma, which Kelly picks up on, while Emma seems not to notice. But William is not the first or only man to be drawn to her, as the pile of love letters she receives shows. Even Prince Hakim, William’s friend from India is taken by her charms at first glance. This first volume introduces these main players, and gives a little insight into who they are.

I absolutely loved every character in this volume. There isn’t a single one that I found annoying or dislikable. William is wonderfully nervous around Kelly, and a little over-excitable when he’s around Emma. Emma herself comes off rather innocent, or naive. While she is able to turn down most of her would-be suitors, William elicits a blush from her. I loved Kelly, who seemed to take great joy in making William feel uncomfortable with her memories of his childhood, but didn’t discourage his interest in Emma. Hakim brought a lot of comedy, with his elephants marching through London, or his motorcar whizzing around the inside William’s house. I also loved his Indian women attendants. Their expressions never change, whether they are draped over Hakim or driving the motorcar, they are always straight-faced, almost bored-looking.

The introduction of William’s father, Mr. Smith, also introduces the main conflict of the story. In order for William and Emma to be together, they must not only overcome class distinctions, but also the attitudes of the people around them. Kelly doesn’t have a problem with Emma marrying up obviously. She seems to be encouraging their relationship. It’s William’s father, and his other family and friends that will be the biggest obstacle to their budding relationship. Mr. Smith makes his feelings very clear at the end of the volume about the relationships between classes, describing them like people from two different countries who just happen to speak the same language.

Because of Karou Mori’s obsession with Victorian England, this title is filled with historical details. From the fireplaces and wallpaper in the homes to the clothing of both the men and women, reading Emma is like watching a BBC historical drama. I’ve never been a fan of the Victorian era, but I love Mori’s depiction of it. The men in their suits and hats and the women with their hair done up and their long dresses and ball gowns, I love the look of them all. But most important was the attitudes and beliefs of the people at them. Mori really gets these, from the working class grocer who doesn’t see the worth in his daughter going to school and learning when she will just get married, to Mr. Smith’s constant harping on William about proper manners. Social etiquette was a big deal to the upper class, as they saw it as one of the things that separated themselves from the lower classes. Having good social graces was just as important as one’s family and blood line. Mori really seems to get this, and isn’t just using stereo types to portray the classes.

This first volume of Emma was an engrossing read that just makes me want to read more. I’m really glad this MMF gave me an excuse to read it. Of course, the problem with reading the first volume of a hard-to-find OOP series is that if you turn out enjoying it, that means finding  the rest of the series will be like pulling teeth. The volumes will tend to be difficult to find or worse, very expense. An incomplete set of the series just recently sold on eBay for $135.00! This is probably the only bad thing about the entire volume that I could find. And with Jmanga ending their service, the chances of seeing this series in print again is very unlikely. Unless Yen Press, who has published two of Mori’s other titles, sees some worth in. Though Yen Press has done some license rescues lately, I’m not holding breath for this one, which is really a shame.

Manga Wrap Up Week Ten: Kiichi and the Magic Books

Week 10 comes to an end, and I almost didn’t make it. Fortunately, I chose a short series this week and could easily catch up. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read this series, but my kids are on spring break, and it meant a week where I could go walking, and catch up on some podcasts, and not worry about their homework. Well, my youngest anyway. I don’t have to worry about my oldest.

The series I finished this week is Kiichi and the Magic Books. It is from the now-defunct CMX and is sadly out of print. It was part of the Flex Comics deal that CMX made in 2007. This same deal brought such titles as the all ages Suihelibe, the incomplete Deka Kyoushi and Break Blade (Broken Blade). Kiichi and the Magic Books is a five-volume series that’s rated for Teen, but is also appropriate for Tween readers.

Kiichi and the Magic Books is about teenage orphan Kiichi. He lost his mother to disease when he was young, and has live alone ever since. He is shunned by the villagers of his home for the horns growing out of his head, and called an Oni. One day, a Librarian comes to his village. Librarians are wanderers that bring books to villages for people to borrow and read. They only stay for a short time before moving on. This particular Librarian is known as Mototaro, and he has the ability to bring the pictures in books to life. He is traveling a young girl named Hana. Kiichi sees what Mototaro can do, but when he tries to tell the other villagers, no one believes him. As part of his journeying, Mototaro is searching for old books that become unstable; that is, the pictures in the books come out on their own. When a tiger escapes from one such book, Kiichi helps to catch it, and convinces Mototaro to let him join him and Hana on their journey to find out more about himself and why he has horns.

Being a bit of a bibliophile, this series got my attention by having the words “magic books” in the title. But the series isn’t really about books. It’s about Kiichi and how his journey helps the people he meets and travels with. At the beginning of their journey, Mototaro is cold and closed-hearted. He doesn’t want Kiichi to join him and Hana on their travels. He rarely smiles, and seems more annoyed with not just Kiichi joining them, but by having anyone traveling with him. By the end, Mototaro has warmed up to Kiichi and does everything in his power to save him. Even after learning a terrible secret about Hana, he worries about her and keeping her safe as well. Saame, an Amamori, is changed by Kiichi as well. He starts out seeing the boy as a means to an end to help his people, but by the end, he learns who Kiichi really is and also fights to keep him alive and safe. Kiichi’s ernest and caring nature affects those around him, even if they find his good-heartness naive or foolish.

The story itself is an exciting, coming-of-age adventure. As soon as Kiichi leaves his village, he is off on a journey of discovery, both about himself and the world. The horns growing out of his head mark him as an Oni, one who is destined to become a “tree” and save the world, though no one really knows what that means. Is it literal or symbolic? The people he meets, first Mototaro, and then Mori, the leader of the Amamori tribe, all have pieces of the puzzle, but they don’t know it, until they start to help Kiichi on his quest. Even though this is Kiichi’s quest, everyone grows from the knowledge that is gained along the way. While the story has its dark moments, especially in the last volume, it ends happily, with Kiichi not only finding his answers, but finding a family and place to truly call home.

The art is clean, and the characters designs are simple. They vary perfectly so that it’s not required to identify characters by their clothes or hair. Mototaro has a bit of a bishi look to him, when his hat is off. Mori looks like a bit of a buffoon, but that is really for show only. He is a strong, capable, and wise man, perfect to lead his people. The little bird living in the messy mass of hair on his head is a nice touch too.

Kiichi and the Magic Books was a fun read. Each volume moved at a quick pace, making it hard not to just pick up the next one and keep going. Tweens, and young teens will really enjoy this series. It’s a series I think will do well at the library. With a title like “magic books” and traveling librarians for characters, how can it not?

Next week I’m on vacation, and probably won’t have as much time for reading as I’d like. We have to find a new-used car and then we’re Wonder Con bound! But I’ll still try to squeeze in the one Jiro Taniguchi volume I have as well as my next series, Shiki Tsukai volume 1-4. I’m also going to finish the last print Shonen Jump. I’ve been waiting for it to end before I start on Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha. I’m a subscriber, so I’ve got a year to read them. Watch out for a separate post on that.

  • Kiichi and the Magic Books Volume 1-5

Best Kind of Rescue

It’s been a tough last few years for the manga industry. Companies have either stopped publishing manga or have disappeared altogether. For us fans, the thing we tend to lament most is the loss of titles, and the pleading to the remaining companies that they pick up them up so we can keep reading them. But there are other things lost when a company goes under, namely the people who worked there and put so much into their love and passion for manga. Most of the time, we don’t know who these people are, as they often go unnamed, just one of a number of people who have to find new employment now, in an industry that is shrinking. So, I think it’s worth pointing out when one of those people who reached out to the manga community then finds work again with a manga company.

I am of course speaking of Asako Suzuki, formerly of CMX Manga, and who has recently joined Tokyopop as a Manga Line Editor, according to ICv2. Essentially she will be handling the majority of Japanese licenses, including acquisitions. This really is fantastic news. Asako was very active on Twitter, engaging fans and finding out what they liked, and keep everyone up to date about releases and new titles. Tokyopop did good in snagging up Asako. At CMX, it was her choice of titles that turned me around about the imprint. Until then, CMX was a company I skipped over when looking at manga titles. But in its last few years, CMX came out with a lot of fun, quirky titles. They really appealed to me in ways many of the more popular, mainstream titles did not. And a lot of these titles were appropriate for tween/middle schoolers, which is a difficult age to find books for. I know from experience. It was nice to have a publisher that filled that gap with books that could appeal to them but to older audiences as well. I know Asako will do well at Tokyopop and will continue to find us good, fun books to read again.

ICv2 also spoke with Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, the Senior Editor at Tokyopop about rescuing some of the CMX licenses. She brought up the hit and miss record Tokyopop has had with license rescues and some of the issues associated with it, such as dealing with retailers and what to do about translations. While I can see these things being an issue with some of the incomplete, long running titles such as Swan and Eroica With Love, but CMX has a batch of licenses that had either just started coming out, or never got the chance. If Tokyopop wanted to look at rescues, this is the place to start. I’d love to see Tokyopop beef up its tween titles again, since so many of them went OOP when Kodansha took their licenses back. My Darling Mis Bancho and Stolen Hearts were fun and charming tween titles that only had 1-2 volumes released. I know this is my wishful thinking, but I’d love to see these continue.

Other titles that I think would fit in with Tokyopop’s catalog are 51 Ways to Save Her, Nadeshiko Club, and Nyankoi!. 51 Ways to Save Her has that disaster/post apocalyptic vibe that fits with some of their older titles. And it’s only 5 volumes complete, so it’s a small investment. Nadeshiko Club is a crafty title like VB Rose and is only 7 volumes. NyanKoi! is the title I think is most like Tokyopop’s catalog, being a harem title with cat gods,cat allergies and curses. It’s only 3 volumes so far and is ongoing, but would be a perfect fit.

While I would really love to see these titles rescued, I also can’t wait to see what Asako will be bringing us in the future. She has such a knack for picking the cute, quirky and fun titles, I know she’ll be finding some great hidden treasures. I might even start buying Tokyopop titles regularly again!

Canon Volumes 1-4

Canon is a story of revenge, regret, love and redemption. Canon Himura is the sole survivor of a vampire attack where 39 of her fellow students died and she herself was made into a vampire as well. Six months have passed, and now she is searching for the vampire she believes is responsible to avenge her friends and herself. She is accompanied by a vampiric crow, Fui, who helps her sniff out other vampires. At first, all they find are servants, humans infected with vampire blood, until Sakaki appears. He is half human/half vampire, and he has a grudge against the same vampire as Canon. His parents were killed and he left for dead for being a “half”. He offers to help her find and destroy their mutual enemy.

by Chika Shiomi
Publisher: CMX
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Horror/Suspense
Price: $9.99 (OOP)
Rating: ★★★★½
Buy All Four Books

This seemingly straightforward setup quickly starts taking twists and turns as Canon learns the truth about who killed her friends, her connection to the elder vampire Rod, and who holds the strings to her heart. As the truth comes out and the battles between Sakaki and the pure blood vampires continue, people change sides, enemies become allies, and all the way through Canon is the lynch pin that changes people’s hearts and lives.

Canon is the heart of this title. She is a great female lead. Strong-minded and determined, she chooses her course and can not be easily swayed from it. She doesn’t care about her odds of succeeding. She will still try her best, whether it’s facing powerful vampires or trying to save humans from becoming servants. She draws a lot of her strength from being able to hold on to her humanity. She is able to fight off the thirst for human blood and keeps a hold of her self, and in doing so also keeps much of her compassion. She argues with Sakaki about killing and even convinces him to spare the pure blood Machua. It’s this compassion, even in the face of her, enemy that makes Canon a force to be reckoned with. It helps her to overcome her desire for revenge, as she tries instead to break the cycle, and keep anyone else from dying. The lengths she will go for this impress even Glenn, a vampire elder determined to follow the laws of his clan.

The story is well written and moves at a good pace. Each volume can almost be said to have a theme running through it. Volume 1 is about revenge. Canon spends most of the volume going on about the desire for revenge, and we quickly learn Sakaki wants the same. In volume 2 we meet Rod, and learn the truth about what happened to both Canon and Sakaki. Rod shows his regret for what he had to do and it resonates with Canon. In Volume 3, Canon acknowledges her feelings for Sakaki, despite all the pain he has caused her. Volume 4 is about redemption, for Rod and especially for Sakaki, and only Canon can help him find it.

The world of Canon is laid out quickly and remains internally consistent to the end. One of the things I really appreciated about it was the focus remained on Canon and her goals, and not on getting her and Sakaki together. Canon doesn’t dwell on him and what he might think of her. She only thoughts are if she can trust him, and then if she can kill him. There are very few suggestive bite scenes and they are short at that. Most of the time, the biting is brutal, and there is a lot of blood flowing, just as you would expect in a vampire story. The romance is secondary to the story, which makes the suspense all the more thrilling.

Shiomi’s art is just beautiful. Set in modern Japan, Canon is dressed in smart but (mostly) sensible clothes. I have doubts about the spike heel boots, but as a vampire, she must have balance to do the high jumps and land on them just fine. In some scenes, she looks like she could be a professional working in an office. All of the characters had a professional look to them. No one was flamboyant or outlandish in style or dress.

Canon is a great series and at 4 volumes it shouldn’t be hard to track down. It’s more about action than romance and is character driven as many of Shiomi’s titles are. Not only does Canon grow and change over the course of the story, but so does Sakaki, Rod, and even Glenn. when you get to the end, you can not just see the changes, but feel them. It’s also a title that keeps you on your toes to the very end, and doesn’t romanticize vampires. They are the scary, blood sucking creatures of the night they were always meant to be, just a little more thoughtful for having met Canon.

This Week In Manga: 8/21-8/27/10

Open Mouth. Insert Foot

Get a bunch of creative people together for a gripe session, and sometimes magic happens! That’s what happened on Twitter recently as several manga creators through out their own two cents (yen) about not just illegal uploading, but the people doing it. When someone posted on twitter of having uploaded Rei Hiroe’s entire manga Black Lagoon, the mangaka, in jest, wished pancreatic cancer on the uploader. Fellow mangakas Kazuki Kotobuki and Kouta Hirano joined in, coming up with more imaginative forms of death on the uploader. Bet that guy is sorry he tweeted that. I still don’t get all this disrespect people want to show the creators of the books they claim to love. While I don’t think they need to be worshipped, how about just some common decency? Or is that to outmoded for the 21st century?

Not As Easy As It Looks

People are always complaining about the translations in manga, that it’s not literal enough, or that it’s too “Americanized”.  At SDCC, several translators in the industry got together for the panel Manga: Lost In Translation panel. It features many well known translastors and was moderated by William Flanagan, who is about as old school as manga translations can get. Deb Aoki of Manga.About.Com has a full transcription of the panel. They take on topics such as getting into the business, the above mentioned dreaded localization, and of course, piracy and scans. It’s an interesting read, especially about the advocacy many of the translators have for lesser known titles.

There Might Yet Be Hope

In a recent interview with ICv2, co-publishers Dan Dido and Jim Lee spoke about the recent changes at DC, and the subject of CMX and their licenses came up. Specifically, did either man know what was going to happen to them. Lee mentioned they’d had inquiries from “a couple of interested studios that were interested in taking over the role on a couple of books.” This then brings up the questions, “Who’s asking and for what titles?” I was little surprised that this didn’t start a discussion on twitter among manga bloggers. My top pick for doing a rescue would be Tokyopop, as we’ve seen them do it before. And some of CMX’s tween titles seem like they would be a good fit with the company’s catalog. Viz has too good of a pick of he crop to be interested in some second tier titles, and we already know Yen Press isn’t interested in rescues at all, despite already doing two. So that leaves an interesting quandary as to who else might be interested. DMP? Manga Factory? A completely new player? And what titles? CMX had several licenses that had just started to release or had planned to release such as 51 Ways to Save Her and Stolen Hearts. Are these the targets of the inquiries? Will any of the old school shojo like From Eroica, With Love or Swan get to see their ends? There is some much one can speculate from just a few sentences. The good thing about all this is that DC/Warner Bros is at least interested in getting some of their investment back, and for us fans that might be good news!

Cloud Manga

Dreams of manga on an e-reader are finally starting to come true. Comicloud is a new manga magazine with titles by Japanese artists and are available in both English and Japanese on the Kindle. It’s inaugural issue is $4.99 and is available for download now. It currently features four stories and you can download a preview before you buy. Summaries of the stories are available at the magazine’s official English website. This is an e-book to watch. If it does well, it might finally prove to publishers that not only is there a market for online manga, but that people will pay for it! And one of the best things about putting it on the Kindle, is that Amazon has enough versions of their Kindle software that just about anyone, with or without a Kindle can read it. It’s not the ideal solution, but it is the best we’ve got at the moment.

NYT Best Seller List

Another week, another best seller list. This week starts with Twilight holding on to #6 on the Hardback list. Over on the manga list, Maximum Ride returns with vol 3 debuting in the #1 spot. Rosario + Vampire Season II vol 2 moves back to #2 to accommodate.  Black Bird vol 5 moves back to #3 along with Naruto vol 48 to # 4. Negima! Magister Negi Magi vol 27 holds on to #5 for its third straight week, with Fullmetal Alchemist vol 23 also keeping its #6 spot. Bakuman vol 1 falls back 3 to #7 along with D. Gray-man vol 18 who moves back two to #8. Vampire Knight vol 10 keeps the #9 spot as does Black Butler vol 2 which keeps its #10. There not a lot of changes this week, the biggest being Skip Beat vol 21 falling off and Maximum Ride taking the top spot.

NYT List: Second Opinion

Now let’s take a look at the top ten titles according to Rocket Bomber’s Matt Blind:

1. Maximum Ride 3
2. Rosario+Vampire Season II 2
3. Black Bird 5
4. Naruto 48
5. Negima! 27
6. Bleach Color Bleach+: The Official Bootleg
7. Fullmetal Alchemist 23
8. Maximum Ride 1
9. Vampire Knight 10
10. Skip Beat! 21

The top 5 titles on both lists match spot on! I don’t know if this is a first, but it is an interesting result. Maybe the NYT list isn’t so off as a lot of people have suspected. This is by no means conclusive, but I do see it as being significant. All but three titles are the same between lists. Once again Matt’s list favors Maximum Ride over Black Butler, and the NYT tossed Skip Beat to keep Bakuman and D.Gray-man.

Manga For Your Ears

Sesho’s Anime and Manga Reviews

This Week at Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • MachGoGoGo: Speed Racer vol 1
  • MachGoGoGo: Speed Racer vol 2
  • Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass
  • Gente vol 1

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.

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.

My Darling! Miss Bancho Volume 1

Souka and her recently divorced mother are looking for a fresh start, so they move to a new place where no one knows them. Souka embraces the idea of starting over and takes it as an opportunity to leave her private school days behind and enroll in the local tech school. The first day of school is nothing quite like she imagined it would be — she is the only female around! Unfortunately, not everyone welcomes Souka with open arms, including the school leader who tries to ambush her. But when she takes him down in front of everyone, Souka becomes the new school leader!

mydarlingmissbanchoBy Mayu Fujikata
Publisher: CMX Manga
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★

My Darling! Miss Bancho is a romantic comedy where there’s more comedy than romance going on in this first volume. It’s got a lot going for it with a good cast of characters, cute art, and a just plain fun story.

Souka, the female protagonist, is trying to be a responsible daughter and help her recently divorced mother, by deciding to go to a public technical school, which will cost a lot less than the private high school she had been attending. Even though she researched the schools thoroughly, she didn’t check the student body. The school she choses, Tokugawa Tech turns out to be full of delinquents.

Souka is a strong female lead, just the way I like them to be. She isn’t easily intimidated. She returns to the school even after seeing the delinquent students, and classes ending early on her first day due to fighting. She can certainly hold her own somewhat with the boys, especially in her class, as she has some violent tendencies of her own, though, they only seem to come out when Katou is in trouble. Trying to help him is what gets her into her predicament in the first place.

Katou is a fun male lead and love interest for Souka. He is the leader of Sophomore class and is a tough fighter, even daring to take on the bigger seniors. He’s also very motherly to his fellow classmate. He’s constantly scolding them about their appearance, and fixing their uniforms. He even fixes Souka’s tie on her first real introduction to him. This dichotomy in his character comes across as very funny, as it’s easy to see.

The chapters in this first volume mostly document Souka’s gradual, and accidental take over Tokugawa Tech and then Toyotomi Agricultural. She never means to get involved with the fighting, but a simple iron plate in her book bag, given for her protection, becomes the vehicle to her rise in power. And it’s still funny the second time around, even when you see it coming. Souka is constantly trying to deny her position as bancho, but she does show an affinity for the position, especially in the chapter where they all go to the beach. One of the funnier moments in the title, is how it keeps track of Souka’s growing minions. I really enjoyed those.

The romance takes a backseat throughout the volume to all the comedy about Souka’s new title. There is an attraction between Souka and Katou, but neither of them see it. They both act as if they’re trying to protect each other out of duty or friendship, but the strange feelings Katou gets when Hideyoshi shows an interest in Souka are obviously not based on duty alone. I have to say, I prefer it this way. Their inability to see their romantic potential really suits the characters, and it keeps the romance from getting in the way of the comedy. It actually adds to it, as we the audience see in the Beach chapter that Katou is reacting to Hideyoshi’s advances towards her, while Souka thinks she’s don’t something to make him mad at her.

The art, like the story, is light and fun. All the characters have a cute appearance rather than anyone looking hot. And there are some ugly guys too so far. Some of the characters make funny faces, but it never goes so far as to going chibi.

This first volume of My Darling! Miss Bancho is a great start to what looks to be a fun series. Unfortunately, we will never know, as the second volume was scheduled to come out in July, AFTER DC’s publishing cut off date. It’s a real shame too, since this title was shaping up to be another great tween title, and CMX seemed to be the only publisher to find titles that really appealed to this demographic. This is a title definitely worth a license rescue. Check out volume 1, even if there might not be any hope of a second. The characters and story are a lot of fun, and since the final chapter ends neatly, it will still be a satisfying read.

Review: Broken Blade Volume 1

Rygart Arrow is the only one in his world who lacks the inherent abilityto power up quartz, the energy source that makes all of the machines run. Good thing the King and Queen of the country of Krisna happen to be old college friends! But so is Zess, the leader of the army of mechs invading Krisna. As usual, Aroow feels useless in the face of battle, until he comes across a powerful, ancient battle suit that no one else can run. His natural affinity for the suit’s operating mechanism may just turn Arrow into the most important player of all.

Broken Blade v1aBy Yunosuke Yoshinaga
Publisher: CMX Manga
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Action/Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★½☆☆
Buy This Book

It’s hard to be original in a genre like mecha, where stories of battling robots all seem to look the same. To make these titles appealing, they need interesting characters and/or compelling stories that make the use of the mecha seem necessary. Broken Blade is unable to do either unfortunately, as it presents a “by the numbers” plot and characters that are remarkable only by being unremarkable.

The plot for Broken Blade feels very much like it was created from a checklist of generic mecha plot points.  A mecha is found that it seems no one else is able to pilot except the protagonist because he has a special ability. Or in the case of this title, because he doesn’t. An old friend from school days is now the enemy, who has to prove his loyalty to his county and family. The protagonist doesn’t want to fight, but is thrown into a situation where he has to pilot the mech, and ends up saving the day.

The generic plot wouldn’t be so bad if the characters weren’t so bland. There is nothing about any of the characters that really make them stand out, or even seem interesting. The King and Queen of Krisna are more like scientists than royalty. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just that neither appear really commanding. Rygart is right out of “Mecha Heroes 101″ with his peaceful stance and his angst at not having any magic. It’s low-level angst, but angst all the same. Zess is too gung-ho to please his brother, so he is unwilling to talk or listen to anyone, just like any other antagonist. There is nothing introduced in this first volume to make want to care about these characters. There is an attempt to introduce a possible love triangle, and the question of why Zess is trying to please the brother he wanted to stop back in the Academy days, but it’s just not enough.

Like the story and characters, the art is fairly standard. The mecha are well drawn, and the action scene with them are actual pretty good. They are easy to follow. The characters have a good variety of appearance that you won’t be mistaking Rygart for Hodr, the King of Krisna as do the mecha. There’s no confusing the Zess’ and Arrow’s mechs. But there’s nothing outstanding about it.

I had high hopes for this title. I wanted it to be good, since there is so little mech/sci-fi manga licensed, but this title just fell short of the mark. If you’ve never read a mecha title, or seen any of the Gundam series, this title might seem fresh to you. The most fantasy setting might be more attractive than the harder sci-fi of most mecha, so if you’ve been curious about what’s so appealing about mecha titles, Broken Blade is a good place to start. Long time mecha fans will probably be disappointed by it though, as it feels like it’s just going through the motions, with no real life to the story and characters.

Review Rerun: Samurai Commando: Mission 1549 Volume 1

A military test accidentally sends a unit from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces back in time to their country’s feudal past.  When their actions begin to alter the present, a second unit is dispatched to retrieve them.  But Colonel Matoba, commander of the lost battalion, is determined to use his advanced technology to conquer Japan and change his country’s destiny.  It’s up to Kashima, Matoba’s former protégé, to stop him.  But he only has a narrow window of time, and it is rapidly closing.

Samurai Commando v1Samurai Commando:  Mission 1549
Creators:  Ark Performance & Harutoshi Fukui
Publisher:  CMX
Genre:  Action/Sci-Fi
Age Rating: Teen+
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆
Buy This Book

I love historical/time travel plots like The Final Countdown, and Zipang.  So, when I heard about this manga, I was definitely interested.  Based on a novel, for once we aren’t traveling back to WWII to try to not change the outcome.  No, this time, we’re going back to the Warring States Era of Japan, to just before the country was unified.

The volume opens with Matoba killing Nobunaga Oda, the man who was to conquer all of Japan.  Oops.  Well, not really.  Apparently Matoba’s got some sort of plan.  Hell if we know what it is though.  And that’s part of the problem with this volume.  It’s all set up; going to find Kashima, and recruiting him, making the preparations to repeat the experiment that sent the first battalion back.  And in the past, it’s basically the same, with Matoba preparing for future to come after him.  We get little hints here and there about what might be driving Matoba, but nobody, not even his own soldiers seem to know that he’s up to.

While this might be good in a 3-4 volume series, this title only has two.  So everything HAS to be resolved in the next volume, and that makes me think things will get rushed, and in a story like this, that’s not good.  This story is really about Matoba and Kashima, their relationship in the past, how they’ve changed since parting, and what are they going to do when they meet again.  The sci-fi elements of “the changing of the past will affect the future, and the world as we know will disappear” is just there to get them back together. But with what we’ve seen so far, we don’t know enough about either to really make any judgments yet.  And with only one volume to go, I don’t see how we really can.

The art in this volume is very clean-looking, but I was put off my the larger use of grey tones.  Being used to dark inks in other books, the lighter grey made is seem…unfinished, like the inker was just skipped.  I got used to it after a while, but it was really distracting at first.

I have to give CMX props for coming out with a manga like this.  It is very different from the shonen/shojo fare that we get inundated with.  So seeing a story with a more mature plot and real sci-fi elements is really refreshing.  And I do have to admit that I am intrigued to find out what Matoba’s plan is.  I’m just worried that with all that’s been set up in this volume, it won’t all be satisfactorily resolved in the next.  But, it’s piqued my curiosity enough want to see it through.