This week I look at the news from Anime Boston and Fanime, some new license announcements from Seven Seas Entertainment, the Vizmanga.com top 10, and bid a final farewell to Jmanga.
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.
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.
This week I check out the going-ons at Vizmanga.com and review the Yen Press title Spice and Wolf.
This week I review the digital-only Jmanga title Japan Sinks Volumes 1-4.
Well, what do you know? I’ve managed to record a podcast two weeks in a row, and get them posted! This week I look at some of the manga that is available in digital legally. This will most likely be a weekly segment, or mostly weekly at least. I also review the sci-fi title Knights of Sidonia from Vertical, Inc. Disclaimer-Review copy provided by publisher.
Music courtesy of Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech
I’ve finally done it. I’ve thrown the idea around for several years, but with help and encouragement from my husband, I have recorded my first podcast. In this first episode I talk about several recent news stories as well as a few manga I’ve read recently. In the future I will have more extensive reviews, and maybe even a guest or two! Have a listen. Comments and suggestions are strongly encouraged.
The First Episode!
Manga I’m Reading:
- Until Death Due Us Part Volume 2
- Umineko: When They Cry Volume 1
- Knights of Sidonia volume 1
- Paradise Kiss Volume 3
Music courtesy of Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech
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.
At the beginning of 2012 I decided I needed to do some catch-up reading. I had so many series’ sitting on my bookshelves unread, many of which I never read more than the first few volumes. I decided in 2012 I would try to weed some of them out. Well, that lasted about 6 months. And actually, I didn’t do too bad. I got through 100 volumes of manga covering 18 series’. I even resolved to give away 11 of these, though I haven’t quite done so yet. I’m still debating if it’s worth trying to sell them, or if I should just give them to my local library. This also constituted about 1/2 of all the books I read this year. I’ve still got less than a week, but my tally at the moment is 215 of a commitment to read 200 books. Not to shabby, I think.
I got distracted from my Manga Wrap-Up due to a growing review pile. Another distraction I discovered this year is Homestuck. I know a lot of people dismiss this webcomic as dumb or silly, but it’s actually a very good comic. It’s deeper than it appears, and gets longer with each new act. I am currently reviewing each act at Good Comics for Kids. Check it out if you haven’t read Homestuck yet. You might discover something fun like I did. I also found online manga to be rather distracting. Once Jmanga.com got their Android reader app up and I could read manga on my tablet, it was way too easy to start goofing around with the app, and end up reading a volume or two. For 2013, I’m going to continue to work down the review pile and catch-up on Homestuck, but then I’m going to return to the wrap-up. I found I had a better feel for a series reading it in bigger chunks that a few volumes at a time. I discovered I liked some more than I remembered, and others that were better off as digital than taking up space.
One thing I’m not going to continue in 2013 is Shonen Jump Alpha. I could not keep up with the weekly format, and trying to catch-up to it (I just got to October) has become more of a chore than it’s worth. There really aren’t enough titles in the magazine anymore to warrant me continuing my subscription. I’m just waiting for Bleach and Naruto to end, Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal is better in volume chuncks than weekly, and I don’t care for Toriko, or any of the other new series I’ve seen so far; Barrage and Taka-Ga-Hara. I also don’t care for the new Rurouni Kenshin. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it guys. And Blue Exorcist… I’m too far behind to care if I keep reading or not. Going day and date is meaningless to me, so I’ll put my sub money toward something else. I’m thinking may be Gen Manga. I can at least download the issues to read on my tablet, something I can’t do with Viz’s “read anytime, anywhere, except for Android 10″ tablets” app.
There were quite a few titles I enjoyed that debuted in 2012. Top on my list is Thermae Roma from Yen Press. I didn’t think this comedy series about a Roman who can travel between Ancient Rome and Modern Japan could ever get any legs, but the first volume really surprised me. For the all ages group, I would highly recommend Young Miss Holmes from Seven Seas Entertainment. Christie is a fun and smart character, and the support she has around her is just great. Kaoru Shintani makes great use of the Sherlock Holmes stories and fits Christie into the works marvelously. Another title I fell in love with from Yen Press was Soulless, the manga adaptation of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. Alexia has a sharp wit and sharp tongue to match, and her courtship with Lord Maccon in the first volume was priceless! Rem’s artwork is just beautiful.
Yen Press actually surprised me with all the titles of theirs that I ended up liking that I didn’t think I would. Durarara!, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Olympos, and ever the picture book Kitty and Dino were all surprises that came out of nowhere. Vertical hit me with some titles I was sure I wouldn’t enjoy too. Book of Human Insects, Princess Knight, No Longer Human and The Drops of God made me reconsider my “no classics” policy. Viz couldn’t get me with a lot of their new shonen, but I did discover some good shojo. The Earl and the Fairy was good, as was Strobe Edge and through their 3-in-1 editions I discovered the classic series Hana Kimi.
Jmanga.com did a good job of filling in gaps left by the other publishers. They have been keeping me happy with cat manga such as Poyopoyo Observation Diary and Edo Nekoe Jubei. Their license rescues have made me very happy such as the return of tactics, a title left unfinished by Tokyopop, and many of the older Del Rey/Kodansha titles. Hopefully there will be more of those. They’ve also had some great, quirky titles that never would have come out here otherwise, such as Urameshiya and the aforementioned cat manga.
All in all, 2012 was a good year in manga for me. While I have cleared some shelf space I have a whole lot more to go. It’s been fun rediscovering old titles while discovering new ones. Digital manga is still working to come into its own. It’s made some positive strides this year, but it won’t be complete until it can be read on any device, regardless of platform or connection. I look forward to what 2013 will bring and hope you will continue on the journey with me.
Viz announced it at the party at San Diego Comic Con and on their twitter feed. Their digital manga is no longer held hostage in the i* world. You can now buy and read Viz’s digital manga online! Yes, you heard me! Everything they’ve been announcing that I’ve been ignoring because it’s only been for iOS users is now free to be enjoyed by everyone with access to a browser, so that includes mobile devices as well as PCs. As long as your device can run Adobe Flash Player, you’ve got manga in your pocket!
This is the equality and freedom that manga needs to be really be successful in the digital realm. And Viz is doing it right. This month, all number 1 volumes are 40% off, which puts them at $2.99 a piece, and newer volumes are $4.99-$5.99. This is about half the price of print manga which puts it in just the right range, especially since it can be accessed from anywhere, making it about as portable as you can get.
What really makes this appealing though is the space issue. It’s one that’s been seriously on my mind for a while now. I NEED to let go of a lot of titles, because I really just don’t have the space anymore. Especially as I catch up on older titles and try to keep up on newer ones. The problem of course is, which titles do I love enough to keep in paper, and which do I let go of to take up digitally? And it’s a problem that will take some thought. But finally having a real option to make those decisions makes it easier to do.
So, where should I start? Beast Master and Backstage Prince are short titles I’ve been thinking about. Children of the Sea is really tempting too. I’ve never read Ouran High School Host Club, but Alex of Manga Widget keeps trying to get me to read Cross Game. Where should I start?
This week Digital Manga Publishing announced that their manga, starting with Vampire Hunter D, would be available on the digital comics site, Comixology. At first this sounded like good news, until I saw the pricing. Each volume on Comixology will cost $9.99. This is only about $3, or 23%, off the print pricing. That didn’t seem like a very good deal to me, so I went looking around at other sites DMP has put VHD up on and checked the pricing.
It’s been another quiet week, with just a few stories, all being digital related. I almost think I should have just done a Digital Friday post with these stories. Of course, I almost didn’t get this posted at all. I just want to say, that migraine headaches SUCK! But, please do still enjoy stories on digital guilds, advice, revamps, and some Japan news, and of course, all the regulars you’ve come to expect; podcasts and the Manga Village roundup. More after the break.
In this week’s news: September’s Movable Manga Feast, digital manga vs print, Twitter on AX, Del Rey’s future, manhwa, banned books week, New York Times best sellers, podcasts, and the Manga Village roundup.