Ruerune, a high school boy with the ability to sense alien creatures, and Pi, a girl science geek, set up an ”X-file”-ish club to help the inhabitants of an alien world. A wonderful work from Singapore’s acclaimed manga artist FSc!!
Looking back over 2011, I realize it didn’t quite turn out as I had intended it. RL seriously intruded on my blogging and reviewing, though I have tried to at least update once a week. My company’s move to a new computer system not only took up a lot of time, but sucked a lot of life out of me. (BTW, if you ever hear the word ‘Oracle’ at your company, run away. Very fast. Or stock up on alcohol. I’ve heard that helps a lot.) I even missed this blog turning 4 in November! That’s how out of it I was!
With all of that behind me, I know look ahead to 2012, and my plans for the new year. In my last anniversary post, I said I was going to donate some of the manga I wasn’t reading anymore to my local library. In the last week of 2011, I finally did it. I took 71 volumes to the children/teen librarian after communicating my wishes. A look at the library’s graphic novel collection showed that it really needed some help. I took over mostly completed series’ or one shots, so that there wouldn’t be gaps of hangings. The only exceptions to this were Detective Conan/Case Closed and Ranma 1/2, of which I had the first 5 volumes of, and the first volume of Twilight. If Twilight proves popular (yeah, if), I’ll try to see about getting the second volume for them. It was still hard for me to do this, even after I had made up my mind, put the books in a separate book and even put the box by my desk. Even now, I feel pangs of regret, even though I know the title I gave away are things I won’t read again. It’s hard to be a packrat/collector.
In order to continue to reduce my manga collection, I have to really start to read more. I have several completed titles that I’ve read most, half, a few volumes or even none of! I’m making it a goal this year to get through these titles and see more of them go to the library. It should come as no surprise that most of these are shonen titles. I finding I’m not as enthusiastic about shonen as I was 10 years ago. There are exceptions of course, such as One Piece, but reading the latest Shonen Jump made me realize how much I didn’t care about the story or characters in most of them. I’m kind of glad Viz went digital with Shonen Jump. Now I can read them with out having piles of magazines cluttering up my house. In order to help me keep up on this, I’m going to keep track of the titles I read here, and maybe even do a short review consisting of a couple of lines if the mood hits me.
And speaking of digital, I will be trying to get more manga that way, at least as much as the publishers will allow me. I’m going to rant now for a few lines (paragraphs). I want to support publishers and their move to the digital realm. Digital manga is great, doesn’t take up shelf space and on the right devices, can actually look as good as print. The problem is that publishers AREN’T making their digital manga as available as their print. Viz, Yen, and new comer Kodansha are keeping their manga on mostly proprietary devices. iOS devices still get the preferential treatment, and recently both Viz and Yen put manga on Barnes and Nobles Nook tablets. Yet they continue to ignore Android. Just over Christmas, 1.3 million android devices were activated. Do they really think it’s a good business plan to continue to ignore this market? Yes, they give lip service to Android, saying they’re “working on it”, but I’m really tired of that excuse. Just as I’m tired of “Android is difficult to program for.” Sorry, that doesn’t cut it any more. Nook tablets and readers are Android based. If they can make their manga for those devices, they can make it regular Android devices. I want to be a legal buyer of manga, but right now, the aggregators and scanlators hold the Android market. How is that helping their cause? And if they give the excuse of the Japanese publishers are keeping them from going it, and then Jmanga gets an Android app out before them, then they should just hang their heads in shame. Both the US and Japanese publishers who are limiting the readership.
And before anyone says I should vote with wallet and not support the publishers, let me say I AM. I will not buckle under and buy the hardware they are putting their manga on. Content should never be limited to a hardware platform, and yet that is EXACTLY what all the manga publishers are doing. If you don’t buy this other company’s hardware, you can’t have our books. That’s not the way to expand readership. That’s how you limit it to an elite few, and I don’t believe books should ever be limited to one group over another.
And while I’m ranting, Jmanga, GET SOME VOLUME 2s OR MORE UP! It’s nice that you are getting titles up, but there have been hardly any second volumes go up since the site started. I’m not going just keep getting the first volumes of titles if there is no hope of the titles continuing! Yen Press, even if you do finally put your manga out on a platform I can read, I’M NOT PAYING $8.99 FOR THEM! I wouldn’t pay Jmanga that much, what makes you think I’ll pay you that? And Square Enix…just get over yourself. Did anyone notice your site was down and unavailable? No? That should tell you something. Alright, I’m done.
I’m looking forward to a more productive year here at Manga Xanadu. And while I do feel a little prideful at the size of manga collection, logistically it’s not feasible for me to have over 1000 volumes (which I probably had at one point this year). I’m hoping for more manageable shelves, and to fill more digital shelves. This will also hopefully mean more content for this blog. I hope you’ll continue to follow me into the new year.
BTW, little known fact. 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar wasn’t originally meant to mean the end of the world. It was supposed to be when the Maya, who are actually beings from the star Arcturus in the Pleiades cluster, will return to earth via their “galactic synchronization beams” and transform reality. So, no worries about the world ending. (Source: Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries; Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology by Kenneth L. Feder, 1990 edition.)
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.
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.
Two weeks I posted a status on Twitter expressing my displeasure with the fact that Inuyasha was being made available digitally only for the iPad. I directed my tweet at @Vizmedia, one of Viz’s Twitter accounts. The person manning the account replied back that she would look into it. Usually I don’t get responses from publishers on Twitter, so I was glad that someone heard me, even if I didn’t think I would hear back from them, and if I did, it would just be a generic response on Twitter.
Say what you will about scanlations, there is one thing they do really well, and that is to be an eye catcher. Just like the billboards along the sides of freeways, the right title or group name can draw a potential reader in. Case in point: I was over at Baka-Updates Manga when I found the title Pet Diary. Always being interested in titles about pets and looked at the description. There wasn’t much to it. There is a school where they only way to be accepted into the dormitory is to adopt a pet. This title follows four students who adopt different pets in order to stay in the dormitory.
Looking over the first few chapters, it looks to be a pretty fun title. In the first four chapters, we are introduced to the four main characters and their animals of choice, a hamster, a rabbit, an older dog and a cat. How they came to choose their particular animal (or human) is funny in and of itself, and the pairings are very appropriate. The series is from Korea and is a webcomic, or webtoon as they are known there.
I really liked what I saw in the first few chapters and would love to see this title brought over officially. A glance at some of the other titles on the site looked interesting too, such as Welcome to the Convienence Store and Supernatural Investigation Department. Since they are already digital and made for the medium, it would be great to see them on Yen Press’ Yen Plus digital magazine. Their selection for the Korean/OGN side has always impressed me more, and seeming more color titles like this would be a great way to take advantage of the digital format. And they could be easily made into apps too! (And PLEASE, not just i* devices!)
Just days after Amazon conceded to MacMillian’s demands for an agency model for e-book pricing (ie, variable pricing), Robert Murdoch’s Harper Collins started rattling it’s saber that it wanted the same deal. By the end of the week Hachette had joined Harper Collins. So like dominoes, the major publishers are falling in line to continue their old publishing strategy of initial high price (hardback), price drop 1 (trade paperback) and price drop 2 (mass market paperback for digital books. Since Amazon capitulated to MacMillian, they will have to do the same with the publishers.
Anime News Network featured a news story about Voice Bank, a software company based in Japan, that wants to put manga at your fingertips. Back in July, Voice Bank demonstrated software to convert digital manga to fit the iphone screen, and was seeking partners to deliver content in the US. Then just a few days ago in Hong Kong, showed off digital manga available through Safari (the iphone web browser), as the Digital Manga Project. Right now, it is still just an experiment, as they are continuing to research the best way to deliver the content over a WiFi connection as well as new hardware and software.
Now, I’m not a big iphone/ipod fan. I don’t care for Steve Jobs and his totalitarian attitudes towards his customers, ie. limiting iphones to AT&T, not allowing phones to be unlocked or have third party apps and brick the phones of people who do with itunes updates. But I do have to admit what Voice Bank and the Digital Manga Project have done actually looks pretty good.
The image is clean and is easily seen on the screen, unlike the conversions Tokyopop did of their OEL manga for the Sony E-Reader.
Despite the size difference between screens (Sony is 6 in, iphone is 3.5 in), the iphone just looks better with it’s brighter white screen that really makes the art stand out. This is more like the printed page. I may change my mind once dialog is added to the iphone. But for right now, it’s way more impressive than the Sony E-Reader. I still won’t buy an iphone/itouch though.
The e-ink technology of the Sony E-Reader may be fine for just the written word, but for pictures, and manga especially, it needs to look as good as a printed book to be successful. Manga sells just as much on it’s images as it does story and characters. For e-manga to really take off, portable readers need to be able to duplicate the printed experience. If Voice Bank could do what it did on the iphone, for the Sony E-Reader, Amazon Kindle, or even portable devices like the palm, I think there could be a real market for digital manga.