Tag Archives: DMP

DMP Goes for Shojo for Next Tezuka Kickstarter

Storm Fairy KickstarterIt’s been just over a month since DMP ended their last Tezuka Kickstarter project, the printing of Clockwork Apple, with the stretch goals of printing Brave Dan, and reprinting of Barbara and Swallowing the Earth. On June 16, they launched the next project, to print the shojo short story title Storm Fairy. After 4 days, the project is $823 shy of hitting its base goal of $14, 200.

Storm Fairy is a collection of the 3 short stories. “Storm Fairy,” or “Fairy of Storms,” is the main story that the collection is named after. An Empress fleeing her burning castle and meets a wood fairy. In exchange for the fairy’s favor, the must give up the face of her next born child. That is Princess Ruri, who must wear a mask to hide her disfigured face. Ruri is usurped when an unscrupulous man learns her secret and steal her mask for his daughter. On the run, Ruri meets the samurai Tonosuke who takes her in, and the fairy Hanoke, who unknowingly has Ruri’s face.

The second story, “Kokeshi Detective Agency,” is described as having a similar tone to the Encyclopedia Brown detective stories. Paco is not afraid of things that go bump in the night, so she not bothered by the spooky mysteries she solves with Waco, her dog friend protects her. In the “Pink Angel,” the fair Pink from the realm of beautiful sunsets tries to make people happy and in need by morphing into what it is they need while King Brown and Sepia, from the realm of Thunderstorms, try their best to make people miserable.

I think this is the first title DMP has kickstarted that has me tempted to back. While all three stories sound appealing, I’m really interested in “Kokeshi Detective Agency.” I have a fondness for detective stories and a nostalgia for Encyclopedia Brown, so getting a taste of both is a boon for me. The rewards structure is pretty sound, with the first tier to get the book digitally being at $10, a reasonable amount for a kickstarter, and $20 for in print. Some new rewards are t-shirts, a dress, and a tote bag, all actual useful items that let people show off their Tezuka love.

There are two stretch goals set on this project. At $26,000, Unico will get a reprint run, but for an addition $1000, it will get a reprint run with higher quality colors. For another $5,500, or a total of $32, 500, the previously digital-only title Crime and Punishment will get a print run. I’m not too big on the Unico reprint, but I’m always for giving a digital-only series a print run, even if it’s one I’m not interested in. Though considering the subject of this project, I think another shojo-y title would have been more appropriate.

Considering DMP still has 25 days to hit its goal, there is little doubt Storm Fairy will be funded. What it’s going to come down to once again is if the stretch goals are hit. Clockwork Apple went down to the wire to get all its stretch goals, but it did make it. It will be interesting to see if this, the first Tezuka shojo to kickstart will do as well as its shonen and seinen siblings.

Here We Go Again

Clockwork Apple KickstarterOn Thursday, Digital Manga Publishing announced their next Tezuka-in-Print kickstarter. They are being modest again, with a single series anthology, Clockwork Apple. It features 8 short stories of speculative fiction that were written between 1968 – 1973.  DMP describes the volume as such:

In this collection of speculative fiction a man finds a wonder drug, a robot has a baby, a town is subjected to control by substance, a robber runs away from murder, a man searches for his mysterious love, American school kids are kidnapped, an activist takes part in political intrigue, and space hippies defy peace conventions.

It is recommended to fans of the TV show The Twilight Zone and the comics Creepy and Eerie, due to similar tone and themes. Considering what a classic those titles are, that is high praise for this volume.

DMP is looking for $13,500 to publish the book with the digital tier hitting at $15, and the print tier at $20. The book will be a little thicker than most manga volumes, coming in at 284 pages, and DMP is saying they will use heavier stock paper, which is what probably puts the print book at the near MSRP of $19.99. There are of course plenty of rewards, including a digital companion, bookmarks, wooden coins, a cabby hat, moleskin journal, tote bag, and pins. They have also brought back their Library tier, were 5 volumes of the book will be sent to the library of your choice.

There are also stretch goals planned, with the first hitting at $18,200, what will put the currently digital only title Brave Dan into print. This is a good strategy for DMP to take. The work for Brave Dan has already been done. It was translated as a DMG title and is available on eManga. Kickstarting every Tezuka is untenable, but making them stretch goals for already available digital titles will put them much more into reach. There are five other titles available; Age of Adventure, Crime and Punishment, Mr. Cactus, New Treasure Island, and The Castle at Dawn.

As of this writing, the Kickstarter is at $12,096 with 328 backers with 25 days to go. It is nearly funded after 5 days with only $1404 left to go. Hitting that first stretch goal is very doable, and I rather hope it does make it. I would love to see the stretch goals include printing digital only titles. I think DMP’s goal to get Tezuka library in print is a good one and this is may be the way they were looking for to do it.

DMP Kickstarts Tezuka’s Alabaster

AlabasterDigital Manga Publishing has announced the next Osamu Tezuka Kickstarter. It’s been a month since the last Kickstarter for Ludwig B ended. It’s another two volume series, and was featured as a stretch goal in the failed Tezuka World Kickstater; Alabaster.

The story follows former athlete James Block, now a famous villain who is out for revenge against all things “beautiful.” While in prison, he learns of a weapon, the F-Laser, that can turn any carbon based organism invisible. When he gets out, he steals it, and tries it on himself. Instead of turning invisible, only his skin is affected. He then takes on the name Alabaster, and is joined by Ami, the granddaughter of the scientist who invented the laser, who is also completely invisible thanks to experiments her grandfather did on her mother while she was pregnant. They go on a vicious revenge spree, pulling off several heists, but Ami’s innocents could be Alabaster’s downfall.

This Kickstarter is a little more than Ludwig B. Digital copies of Alabaster are $8 each. For an additional $11 you can get the digital companion. To get print copies you need to pay $36, or $18 a volume. The reason of for this higher price seems to be for better paper quality. It sounds like this came up in the survey they did after the Tezuka World Kickstarter failed. What seems odd is that this puts the print books $6 above the reported MSRP, which for both volumes is only $29.90. If you look at this tier as a pre-order, it seems DMP is making you pay for the privilege of pre-ordering or their Free Shipping is built into it.

Once again there are plenty of incentives for the higher tiers with more Tezuka goodies, including Black Jack toilet paper, an Astro Boy tote bag, and wooden coins commemorating Alabaster‘s printing. The tiers I really like though, are the ones that donate sets to a library of the backers choice. If you’re going to spread the Tezuka love, there is no better way!

There is one stretch goal on this Kickstarter. For an additional $9,800 DMP is looking to reprint Swallowing the Earth on the same better stock paper. No rewards this haven’t been announced yet other than a color wallpaper for backers. I have doubts about this stretch goal being met. The number of people who want to see Swallowing the Earth on higher grade paper probably aren’t $9800 worth. Ludwig B didn’t go very far past its initial goal, and it took to the last 4 hours to get there. These Tezuka Kickstarters seem to be about Tezuka fans getting books, not subsidizing DMP’s print runs.

After only a day, the Kickstarter is already at $8,455, with 165 backers. Both pledges and backers are up from Ludwig’s start. Most of the backers are on the pre-order print tier. But it’s kind of surprising that two of the limited tiers over $100 are already gone, but they were very limited, only needing 6 backers to get them. Still, Alabaster seems to be off to a good start. Fans really do seem to be looking forward to this series. We’ll see how consistent the backers keep pouring in.


DMP’s Latest Tezuka Kickstarter Succeeds

Ludwig B kickstarterIt came down to the wire again. Digital Manga Publishing, after the failure of their ambitious Kickstarter to publish 31 volumes of Osamu Tezuka’s manga, tried again with a more traditional model of a complete two-volume series. It began at the end of November, just before Black Friday, and ended the day after Christmas. A difficult time to be asking for money to be sure, as people are out preparing for the holidays and buying gifts.

It started out well, hitting 20% of their goal after only a few days. They kept the pricing in line with what fans expected to pay for books, and had several digital and print options to satisfy most desires. To keep the campaign alive, they would add new tiers, and in the last week offered a special high-end tier that included a trip to Japan for $4000. This seemed to be the spur it needed to get over the lull it had fallen into that made some declare it would fail. As is usual for most Kickstarters, it came down to the wire on the last day, but it did make its goal with $1000 to spare.

When you look at how the pledges broke down, it’s easy to see what people want from Tezuka kickstarters. They want the books; physical books. The tier with the most backers, 189, was for both volumes in print. Print and digital only got 19, while digital only got 18. DMP threw up plenty of bells and whistles any Tezuka fan would love, and they got backs on nearly every tier, but it seems the meat and bones of the fans, the ones they really need to make this work just want the print books at what they consider a reasonable price, which in this case was an MSRP of $15.95.

If DMP and/or Tezuka Productions can be a little patient, I think they can get through this. Fans of these works want the books, but those that want them ALL I think is smaller than those who want certain titles. Breaking the titles up into smaller, more individual runs will make it easier for the more casual fans to get just the specific titles they are interested in while the super fan can get them all on a budget they can justify.

Congratulations to Digital Manga Publishing for a successful Kickstarter to end the year, and a wish for more in the coming new year.

Alive and Kicking

Ludwig B kickstarterIt’s been less than a week since Digital Manga Publishing’s Tezuka’s World Release kickstarter ended, failing to meet its $380K minimum funding goal. But, like the proverbial good man, DMP is not staying down. Six days later they are back with a smaller, more modest kickstarter, and a completely different series.

Ludwig B is a two-volume series, and one of the last three series’ Tezuka worked on before his death. It is about the famous composer, Ludwig Beethoven. It looks at his younger years, as he struggles with being used and abused by aristocrats and his pushy alcoholic father. Charged with watching his younger brothers during a French war, Ludwig deals with his conflicted thoughts the only way he knows how; through his music.

The goal for this kickstarter is back in line with previous DMP Tezuka kickstarters, at $21,600. The reward tiers are also more like previous kickstarters, with digital only copies of the books starting at $15, and print copies at $32. They are also offering tiers what allow backers to get two copies of the first volume to share. There are only 20 tiers, so multiple spreadsheet are not needed to track them this time. Also included is some hard to get merchandise like trading cards and bookmarks that were only published in Japan.

After only one day, they are at 93 backers and over $5200 in pledges. That’s ~20% of the goal after only one day. A much better statistic than the 7% they got at the end of the last one. With Black Friday this week and Christmas coming up, these may not skyrocket up, but as people finish shopping, extra money may end up here. It will be interesting to see how it does on the last day, December 26. Will Christmas money end up here?

It was good to see DMP admit to being too ambitious, and that they listened to the comment and suggestions from their backers on the last campaign. It was a lofty goal to want to publish the remaining Tezuka catalog in 5-6 years, but just not one backers could or would bear. And at least they are warning that these campaigns will come out more often with only a few weeks break in between, so keep that in mind as they start rolling out, especially if you are on a budget. Looking at the tiers people are pledging at, it’s obvious that backers do still want to support getting Tezuka manga published. Several of the higher end tiers, $89 and up, have backers, so it was never about people not wanting to support the initiative. It just needed to be done in a more reasonable and sustainable manner. Hopefully, DMP has struck that balance now.

No Such Thing as a Sure Thing

Tezuka World KickstarterIt seems like the impossible, but it happened. The Digital Manga Kickstarter campaign, Tezuka’s World Release failed to meet its goal of $380,000 in 30 days. It was an ambition project. The entire kickstarter consisted of 6 series’ totaling 31 volumes to be published all at once. But it was a little too ambitious. The $380,000 as the initial goal only covered 2 titles totaling 20 volumes. Two more titles totaling an additional 5 volumes would become available at $475,000 and the final two titles totaling the last 6 volumes would become available at $589,000. That’s a lot of money, over half a million dollars for fans to pony up for just six titles.

Controversy surrounded this project right from the start. The cost and the levels needed to pledge just to get print copies of books was the first and foremost concern of many supporters. At the beginning, backers had to pledge at the $750 level to get copies of the books. That’s a lot of money for 31 books. There was a lot of questions about the tiers, mostly filled with promotional items and why getting books, the reason most people were looking to support the project, were at such a high price. Alex Hoffman of Sequential State did a 3 part post analyzing the project and discussing the issues he saw with it.

Not everyone saw the project as a negative. The Tezuka in English tumblr posted a defense of the kickstarter, asking people to not look at the project as a way to preorder books, but as an investment in DMP and their vision. DMP president Hikaru Sasahara seemed to think the same as a message from him in video and text was posted to the kickstarter page as updates. In his message, he explained why the cost of the kickstarted needed to be so high and what were the company’s ultimate goals. His message still wasn’t enough for backers, and a FAQ page was posted to answer further questions.

Ultimately, all of these explanation weren’t enough. It really appeared that DMP was asking Tezuka fans to fund, not just the project, but the operating expenses of the company. This isn’t what Tezuka fans were used to being asked, or were expecting. Past kickstarters run by DMP were about getting a few books out and fans were happy to fund them. But what DMP tried to do with this project was an entirely different animal and the backers made it very clear that they weren’t interested. In the end, only 115 people backed the project which raised $26,971.00, or 7% of the first goal.

With the information that has come out of this project, I do wonder what DMP said to Tezuka Pro to get them to hand over the license of 500 volumes and what they expected. Was part of DMP’s pitch the numbers from their kickstarter, and other successfully funded Tezuka kickstarters? It does seem that Tezuka was the one creator that you could put up a kickstarter for and people would just throw money at it. But it’s now apparent that even die-hard fans have limits. In DMP’s follow-up answers, it was implied that kickstarter was integral to the success of the license. Possibly even in them getting it. DMP was vastly overestimating western fans means and desire for Tezuka titles if they were counting on them to fund the entire project.

The thing I found most troubling was the expectation that backers would pay for DMP’s operating expenses. They should have had that all planned out and funded before even taking on such a monumental project. Kickstarter has been and continues to be about funding a project. Backers fund projects. Investors fund companies. Maybe DMP should look into Patreon if it’s going to be that much of a hardship on them.

I do hope DMP does try another, more modest kickstarter. There are still plenty of Tezuka titles that western fans want and will fund. They just need to find that balance between what fans want and what they will pay for. As DMP found out the hard way, this wasn’t it. Osamu Tezuka may be the God of Manga, but even with a god, there’s no such thing as a sure thing.

Sona-G Series Volume 1: Heaven is Not Needed

Sona-G is one of the most popular bands on the scene with a strapping vocalist and a hunky guitarist! Masumi, on the other hand, has all the trust in the world with her technical skills on the guitar, but she’s just been dumped and the world looks grey indeed. Then one day, Masumi finds herself playing second guitar for Sona-G! What’s going to happen to her decision not to fall in love…? This volume also features another two wonderful stories!

Sona-G Series Volume 1: Heaven is Not Needed
Sona-G Series 1By Yuriko Matsukawa
Publisher: Digital Manga Guild
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $7.95/eBook only
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Sona-G Series is a one volume anthology featuring three stories by creator Yuriko Matsukawa. The stories are all romances featuring girls finding love when they aren’t looking for it. While all three stories are entertaining and even fun reads, none are really compelling.

“Heaven is Not Needed” is the main story of this anthology as well as giving it its name. It is about high school girl Masumi Murakami who is asked by the wildly popular duo Sona G to play acoustic for them on a big gig coming up. But because her crush left her because of her skills on the guitar, she has quit playing. She is tricked into agreeing and joins Ayase and Hiroshi for the concert. Masumi is a good female lead. She has a strong personality, and doesn’t put up with a lot of Ayase’s sharp tongue, as he likes to bait her and use her pride against her. Hiroshi isn’t as brash as Ayase, but he’ll resort to a trick or two to get Masumi to play. The story takes a turn for the dramatic when Ayase’s young niece is kidnapped with the ransom being that Sona G cancel the concert. While the kidnapping did make a nice change of pace for the drama to be external, it also felt tacked on and rushed. There is no explanation given for the kidnappers wanting to stop the concert. The resolution of the potential love triangle between Ayase, Hiroshi and Masumi didn’t work for me either. I didn’t feel the connection between Masumi and her chosen one. This story tried to do too much and ended up feeling lacking in the end.

“Flower Garden” is about high school student Karin who is studying for college entrance exams. Her distant cousin Toshisada has come to live with her family while he takes entrance exams as well. But there is something weird about Toshisada; he is up at all hours of the night in the family garden doing odd things. He eats flowers and he never seems to be studying. His activities become distracting to Karin who gets mad at Toshisada until he reveals to her what he’s been doing and why. The writing for this story was much tighter and made for a better read. It didn’t seem like a love story at first as it focused on Karin’s indecision about her future, and Toshisada’s strange behavior. Everything comes together at the end, even though the romance is left up in the air, which I think is a good thing.

“Onions, Onions Everywhere” has another high school student, Mariko, living in her aunt’s apartment complex while her parents are working overseas. After a misunderstanding with her neighbor Mr. Miwa, a strange man who is always wearing sunglasses, she become friends with him and they trade sweets in a friendly competition. Mr. Miwa works in a sweets shop and after learning that Mariko hates onions tries to convince her of otherwise. Onions are a kind of strange topic to use to bring two people together, and an even stranger ingredient for a cookie, but it ends up working somehow. Mariko is pretty unwavering in her dislike of onions, but not unreasonable. Miwa’s reason for always wearing the sunglasses is unexpected, but still humorous. I wouldn’t try it myself, but I would be interested to know if anyone tried the recipe for Onion Cookies used in the story.

The art of Sona-G Series is very 90s-2000s, in both style and in the character designs. I don’t consider this a fault for the series, but not everyone may appreciate the sharp lines and spiky hair.

Overall, Sona-G Series was an entertaining read, but not one I would call a must read. The stories are light, and the romance doesn’t always seem to be the focus, which is an element I enjoyed. It helps to set the volume apart from other teen shojo titles. The girls here aren’t mooning over the men in their stories, but also aren’t unwelcoming when the feelings come, and those are romances I can ultimate appreciate.

Moonlight Kreuz Volume 1

Gen Tsukiomi appears to be a normal high school student but there is more to him than meets the eye. So when his old caretaker asks him for help in protecting his current charge, Hikari Kuze, Gen wonders what is going on. Besides being a ditzy junior high school student, is Hikari like Gen, with a secret of her own? In what often feels like a comedy of errors, Gen tries to figure out who is after them while struggling to maintain his quickly dwindling control over the situation. As if that wasn’t enough, a new romantic rival appears! But which one of them is he actually after?

Moonlight Kreuz Volume 1
Moonlight Kreuz 1By Yasumi Hazaki
Publisher: Digital Manga Guild
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $7.95/eBook only
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Moonlight Kreuz had an interesting sounding premise with romance, comedy and werewolves. But the first warning was there, with the female leading being described as  “ditzy.” And though I keep trying romantic comedies, I’ve yet to find one I really enjoy. This volume wasn’t a bad read, but neither was there anything that made want to pick up more.

The lead characters, Gen and Hikari, needed first and foremost to be interesting to me. Unfortunately, Hikari is exactly the kind of female lead I dislike. She has two forms; her human form which is small, clumsy and ditzy, and her werewolf form which tall, hot and powerful. She is much more powerful than Gen and is always coming to his rescue even though he’s supposed to be protecting her. I actually don’t mind that so much, and it’s nice that he doesn’t seem to mind, but he ends up comes off as rather bland. I don’t feel any real personality from him, while Hikari has too much.

The supporting characters are just as hit and miss. Hikari’s grandfather and Gen’s old Master is the typical lecherous, old man. His grandson Shino is the quiet ninja type who is always dressing in female disguises to help protect Hikari. Gen’s father is a powerful corporate executive who has an eye for the ladies. Only Hikari’s mother, who works overseas teaching Japanese, seemed the most grounded.

The villains aren’t much better. The volume starts with a bunch of horny werewolves who want to mate with Hikari so they will stop turning into wolves and be more human like Gen and Hikaru. They are mostly bumbling misfits who Hikari defeats easily. The tables do get turned as Gen also becomes the target of both the Wolf Association, and of an English werewolf named Claude who doesn’t care which of them changes gender, as long as he can get with Gen.

I know these characters and situations are supposed to be funny, but none of them really got much of a laugh from me. Hardly even a smile escaped my lips. Hikari’s and Gen’s relationship fell as flat as the humor. I just didn’t buy it, especially with Hikari looking more like a little kid trying to get her big brother to notice her. The art has a 90s feel to it, which I don’t mind at all. The wolf-form werewolves were given a moment to look scary, but were quickly turned much more humorous. You can understand the female werewolves wanting to get a human form since their wolf form is far from flattering.

On the whole, Moonlight Kreuz Volume 1 just didn’t work for me, which is really a shame because I was hoping it would. It was nice to see a supernatural romance with some creature other than vampires. The series is only three volumes long, so I wouldn’t mind reading the other two volumes to see if it improves, but this is a series I’d rather borrow than buy.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 58: By Any Other Name

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This week I check out regular features the Weekly Wish List, stories In the News, Crunchyroll Corner, and the Top Ten Department. Then I rant a bit about translating names in manga.

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 58: By Any Other Name

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 9: Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Volume 1

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This week I check out some licensing news, the Vizmanga top 10 digital manga, and review the Vertical title Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Volume 1: Activation.

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 9: Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Volume 1

Angel Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digital review copy provided by publisher.

Flower of Life Volume 1-4: Manga Movable Feast

For some, high school represents the best days of their lives. For others, they would rather bury the memories in the deepest, darkest corner of their minds. For Harutaro Hanazono, the ball is still up in the air. Forced to enroll one month late after recovering from a serious illness, Harutaro does his best to remain optimistic about the whole situation. The other students try to make Haru feel welcome – especially his chubby, loveable pal, Shota – but Kai Majima, president of the manga club and all-around hard case, seems intent on making Harutaro’s high school life a living nightmare. Join Harutaro as he makes new friends, learns to draw mang and discovers surprising facts about his “kinda gay” teacher!

By: Fumi Yoshinaga
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Slice of Life
Price: $12.95
Rating: ★★★★★

While I enjoyed my first Yoshinaga series, Antique Bakery, I wasn’t wowed by it like I expected to be. Yoshinaga has gotten a lot of praise from the mangasphere, but I just didn’t see it in Antique Bakery. But I’m always willing to give a creator another try, and with Yoshinaga’s series Flower of Life, I’m really glad I did. This 4 volume series is filled with quirky characters, funny and dramatic scenes, and a story that offers a portrayal of high school life that feels real.

Flower of Life revolves around Harutaro Hanazono. He has just recovered from leukemia, after getting a bone marrow transplant, and is starting high school late. He is an honest and forthright person, sometimes too much so for his classmates, as when in his introduction to the class, he tells them about his illness. He is friendly and in general easy to get along with. He is also rather possessive of his first friend, Shota Mikuni. Shota is quiet and shy when he first meets Harutaro, but through their friendship he starts to be more assertive. Kai Majima, who is also Shota’s friend is a full-blown otaku who doesn’t get along with people very well, and is always looking to turn any situation to his advantage. He is oblivious to other people or their concerns, and really not a likable character for the entire series.

In contrast, Harutaro’s family and classmates are quirky and fun. His older sister Sakura, is a bit of a shut-in, living at home and doing all the domestic chores. She loves to cook and bake, and has a thing for khaki clothes. His father works two jobs, his main one being as a chicken sexer. He looks tough but is really just a big softy. His mother is also a chicken sexer who is working overseas teaching her craft. As a family, they care for each other, but also bicker like the dickens! And it’s Mom who wears the pants in the family. At school, Sumiko Takeda becomes part of Harutaro’s circle of friends despite not being his class, when she is outed when Majima learns she likes to draw manga. She seems timid at first, but turns out to be more than a match for Majima. Tsuki is one of Harutaro’s male friends who likes to party and has a crush on Sakura. Harutaro’s teacher, Shigeru Saito, is just a bundle of issues, much like the students. Yoshinaga did a great job with Shigeru, keeping the character’s sex ambiguous all the way through the series, even after it’s revealed.

All these characters would be wasted without a great story, and that’s where this series really shines. Since it’s a slice of life, it doesn’t have a plot like you would normally think a story would have. Instead, every chapter is a glimpse into the life of Hartaro and his friends as they go through their first year of high school. I have to say, this is the best slice of life series I have ever read. Yoshinaga does a great job of capturing both the good and the bad moments of high school life, as well as showing all the teenage insecurities. The characters and situations she creates feel real, and that makes them all the more interesting. Even tired clichés, like the Cultural Festival become interesting and fun in her hands. It doesn’t matter if it’s humor or drama, she portrays them both with the playfulness or power needed to make the right impact without falling into the trap of silly or melodramatic.

It was such a pleasure to read this series. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. The ending was just right as well. I felt satisfied at the end. While I enjoyed all of the characters, I didn’t feel I had to have more. The four volumes felt just right (not that I wouldn’t read more if given the chance). Even in this school life series, Yoshinaga’s love of food still comes through in the characters of Sakura and Isonashi, one of Harutaro’s classmates. There is even a bonus chapter about how to make one of the breads featured in a chapter!

Flower of Life is a series I not only high recommend to manga readers, but I think the casual comic reader would enjoy it as well. The realistic characters and story and lack of manga tropes should make it more appealing to a casual reader. Yoshinaga does have some funny faces, but these are used in obviously comic moments and enhance the effect rather than distract from it. If you get the chance to read this series, do not pass it up.