Tag Archives: Manga

Swallowing the Earth

Amidst the chaos of World War II, two Japanese soldiers hear of Zephyrus, an utterly captivating woman rumored to exist on an island in the South Pacific. The tales of this bold enchantress seducing men to their dooms are both chilling and fascinating. Over twenty years pass, and Zephyrus resurfaces in Japan, seemingly unchanged, to wield her mysterious power over men once more.

By Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: Teen+ (16+)
Genre: Action/Mystery
Price: $24.95
Rating: ★★★★☆

The one man immune to Zephyrus’ charms is simple drunkard, Gohonmatsu Seki, son of one of the wartime soldiers. Employed to spy on Zephyrus, what will Gohonmatsu uncover about her ultimate plot to create international discord and consume the world of men? What brought this woman to conspire for decades against patriarchal society-against an entire gender-and can anything be done to stop her plans?

Swallowing the Earth is a strange tale of revenge as a few women start a war against the entire male gender for the wrongs done to the female gender. It takes a long and meandering path to come to a simple conclusion; true happiness is only attainable if one is free of lust, power and greed. Or, as the Beatles would say, “All You Need is Love.”

A woman, Zephyrus, is betrayed by her husband during World War II because of his desire for money and power. She runs away with her 6 daughters and finds peace on a South Pacific island, away from the world of men. Her dying wish to her daughters is for them to take revenge on all men for what happened to her by making all money worthless and creating anarchy, and to scorn all men. The daughters plot and prepare, and 20 years later, set their plan in motion. One man stands in their way; Gohomatsu Seki. He is a simple dock worker who doesn’t care about anything but alcohol. He is immune to Zephyrus’ charms and travels to the South Seas and the United States to try to stop her plans.

In between chapters of the main plot line there are short side stories. These stories relate back to what is happening in the main plot, often illustrating the effects of Zephyrus’ plans on ordinary people. With the introduction of the synthetic skin, 5 strangers in the US south become a family. And in another, after the economic collapse, a doctor tries to help a young woman with no memory of voice.

I’m not really sure what to make of this title. On the surface, it appears to be about women using their intelligence and other tools to turn the tables on men. They are shown to be strong and taking the initiative by showing men the folly of their ways for last few decades. Zephyrus is portrayed as taking revenge on men for the way women have been treated and men are shown getting their just desserts.

A closer look at the work however, shows the opposite. It portrays women as petty and vindictive. The whole plot is concocted because one woman was betrayed by one man. She wasn’t the first, nor would she be the last. The sisters aren’t working against man for the good of women. They are doing it for one person, their mother. Zephyrus created a look that men would find irresistible, exploiting their desire for lust, but woman as seductress are always shown as a negative. This is a pattern I’ve noticed in Tezuka’s other work Black Jack. Beautiful women are greedy and will betray the men attracted to them. And even though the sisters are working take down men, they are making women suffer as well. The side story of the Doctor and female patient illustrates this. There is nothing good or noble in their acts. In many ways, they are no different from the men they wish to punish.

Gohonmatsu is an unusual protagonist. He is an alcoholic, and doesn’t care about anything but drinking. While this would normally keep him from being the good role model most protagonists are usually portrayed as, his lack of desire for power, money and sex keeps him from falling under Zephyrus’ spell and thus the only man capable of standing up to her plans. So, he’s got something good going for him. Even as the world falls apart over greed and vanity, Gohomatsu remains unaffected as long as he can get, or make, alcohol. Material things have no hold on him as he can easily barter a drink of his alcohol for them, and they trade them all for a wedding ring for Milda. It’s the intangible that matters most to him, whether it’s the taste of alcohol, or the happiness of the woman he loves, he can throw all material things away for the things he loves. In many ways this makes him a noble character.

Swallowing the Earth is an intriguing title if you are a fan of Tezuka or older gekiga manga. It isn’t as dark as MW, and does have some interesting things to say about men and women. I don’t regret reading this title, but it’s not one I would pick up again. I enjoyed reading the vignette stories more than the main narrative, which often felt disjointed. By the end though it feels like little has changed. Zephyrus’ plans had succeeded, and the world returned to a simpler way of life before technology and to a barter economic system, but not people. The cycle of revenge tries to start again, and while it is stopped, this time by Gohomatsu’s son, it makes me wonder what was the point of this title. But then again, maybe that was the point. Fundamentally, people don’t change.

Digital review copy provided by publisher.

Jack Frost Volume 3

Noh-A watches in fear as Omu strikes down Maru, the last offspring of the Unicorn. With the last obstacle removed and Jack fighting elsewhere in the forest, Omu seizes the Antler of the Unicorn. In an effort to snatch Noh-A’s immortality for himself, Omu plunges the antler deep into her chest. But as the sharp horn pierces her heart, Noh-A is greeted not by Death, but by life. Her real life–the life she had before she found herself in Amityville. Though she has longed to uncover the mystery of her forgotten past, nothing could have prepared Noh-A for what she sees…

By JinHo Ko
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Horror
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy This Book

In a reverse of the first volume, there is more plot and less decapitation in this latest volume of Jack Frost. Noh-A finally learns the truth of her past. There are also glimpses shown of Jack’s inner turmoil. Is he unable or unwilling to go to his rest? Then it’s back to mindless destruction as the South District renews its attack on the North.

This volume picks up a battle left off in the last volume. During it, the purpose of the mirror image, or at least one of them, it is implied that there may be more, is revealed. But Omu thought would happen with his victory, doesn’t so much. Instead Noh-A’s power starts to awaken, releasing her past memories. She was followed by death since she was a child. Everyone around her, her family, friends, and even animals that she just interacts with end up dying. And just as an aside, why do cats always get the gruesome, on-screen deaths while dogs get the more merciful off-screen ones? Does this mean manga artists don’t like cats or that they do? Either way, I’d really prefer not see either. Anyway, Noh-A’s first awakening, again it’s implied there will be more, restores balance between Amityville and the real world. This disaster is averted.

Jack is in his own battle with Ji Hoon, the former wearer of Jack’s coat, which is made of the Devil Thread, and is what gives Jack so much of his power. During the battle Jack meets the Tailor of the Devil Thread, and seems so impressed by Jacks’ blood lust that he gives Jack a power up so he can end the battle with Ji Hoon. During the encounter it’s implied by the Tailor that it’s Jack’s blood lust that keeps him from resting, though after three volumes there is no indication where that blood lust comes from. I find the lack of motive bothersome. If there’s no reason, then Jack becomes a very dull character.

With the resolution of Noh-A’s awakening, the story moves on to introduce a new enemy from the South District. Siegfried is a computer genius. He attacks through others, and takes over Jin, who appears to be an android. Jin and Siegfried have a history. Jin left the South District and joined the North in order to kill him. Siegfried wants to kill Helmina, but then, who in Amityville’s other districts doesn’t? The volume ends with a cliffhanger and more mindless destruction to the North District.

I was hoping for an improvement with this volume, but unfortunately was denied. The revelations made throughout don’t really explain anything. There are still far more questions than answers about Amityville and the Mirror Image, but unlike other titles, like from say Urasawa, there’s no incentive to keep reading to get there. You might be curious about these things, but there’s no burning need to know. Maybe because the characters are average. There’s still nothing interesting about them, even after the glimpses at Noh-A and Jack’s past. There is still plenty of fanservice with Noh-A and Helima though. Even in her dying moments in the real word, Noh-A can’t get any dignity.

After two volumes, nothing has changed or improved in Jack Frost. It’s still a barely average title with no discernible direction. The fighting is still just for the sake of fighting and give the manga creator a chance to draw some exciting action. The potential that the story may have had is getting washed away in all the fighting.

Pirating Dragon Balls

Over the last year, One Piece has been burning up the book charts in Japan. Every succeeding volume has not only out sold the previous, they have been breaking sales records, and hitting print runs in millions for the first edition. This is pretty amazing for any book series, but it’s even more amazing since One Piece is a manga written for teenage boys. This means more than just the kids are buying these books. A recent discussion of shonen manga brought up influences, and of course, Dragon Ball was mentioned. First published in 1984, most of the creators working today would have read it, if not been influenced by it. Eiichiro Oda and Masashi Kishimoto have stated that their popular titles, One Piece and Naruto were inspired by Dragon Ball’s protagonist, Son Goku, as well as series structure. So why is One Piece selling so much more than Naruto now?

I think the key to One Piece‘s success can be found in the way Eiichiro Oda utilized his inspiration from Dragon Ball to create a series that similar in feel, but still very much stands on its own. First, look at the protagonists in both titles. Son Goku of Dragon Ball is portrayed as a nice guy, not too bright, but knows right from wrong and isn’t afraid to fight for it. He has a small group of close friends that he will fight to protect, and has a way of making friends of enemies. One Piece‘s Luffy has many of these same traits. He’s the same kind of happy, go lucky guy, and you certainly wouldn’t call him smart. He spends half of the “Water Seven” arc with Usopp in an obvious disguise, and never realizes it is him. He has a definite sense of right and wrong, and would gladly die fighting to save those he considers his friend.

But Luffy is no clone of Goku. Goku has a kind of cluelessness that borders on innocence. It’s a trait that makes him cute. Luffy is just dense. Nothing he does is cute. He’s much more about the comedy, especially the frustration he caused his shipmates. Goku was all about the fight. It was about the only thing he could do really well. When he got serious, it was always about the fight. He didn’t have a lot of emotional range. Goku was either confused or angry. Luffy has a much wider emotional range. He cries when he’s happy and/or sad. He fights with his own crew, though more often than not they support him in the end. It’s a range better suited for the longer adventure story that One Piece is, compared to the more comedy-centric story Dragon Ball was.

The most important trait that both Goku and Luffy share, and that you don’t see in some of the other shonen protagonists such as Naruto or Ichigo of Bleach is that they never sink into self-doubt. No matter how tough things get, or how big the enemy is, both Goku and Luffy would face that enemy head-on and keep fighting until they won. And even if they would lose, it would only be temporary, as they work and train to become stronger and get past that defeat. If you look at Naruto and Ichigo, they get weighed down by their self-doubt, becoming very emo. Now, this might make them more popular among female fans, who seem to like a character the more emo they are, but it ends up hurting the story. This might be fine in shojo stories, where the conflicts tend to be more internal than external. But in an action story, it slows things down, as parts or even whole chapters get become about the protagonist’s internal conflict. They end up going in circles, much like their fights and never really moving forward. They might get stronger as per the Shonen fighting formula, but their characters get stuck in a rut emotionally, and that gets real tiring real fast.

What I really love about both Goku and Luffy is that they never lose sight of what’s important. They know who they are and are confident in the decisions they make, for good or for ill. They don’t try to hide their feelings from their friends, and they don’t try to do everything by themselves. They may be the first in a fight because of their diving into things head first, but there is never any doubt that their friends will come to support them. They are always moving forward, taking on the next big bad, and not constantly looking over their shoulder and worrying about the past.

In the end, while One Piece does owe a lot to Dragon Ball, it’s Oda’s strong story and characters that really carry the title. Seven years after the story was supposed to end (Oda envisioned it as a 5 year story), One Piece is not only going on strong, it just keeps getting stronger. He can do emotional and poignant scenes with the characters without having them dwell on their dark and difficult pasts. A meeting with Luffy means finding a path for going forward, and with so many dark and stagnant stories out there, it’s refreshing to have one that keeps things positive. That’s what Goku always did, and that’s what Luffy does now.

Chi’s Sweet Home Volumes 1-2

Chi’s Sweet Home is the tale of a lost kitten finding a home with a young family. Despite not being able to keep pets in their apartment, they take the lost kitten in and try to find a home for her. Like most people who take in cats “temporarily” the kitten, who names herself Chi, wiggles her way into the house and hearts of the Yamada family.

by Konami Kanata
Publisher: Veritcal, Inc.
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Pet
Price: $13.99
Rating: ★★★★★
Buy These Books

I’ll say this upfront; I love cats. So this title already had a head start before I even cracked it open. Fortunately, I was not disappointed once I did started reading it. Chi, the main character, draws you in immediately. She is cute, but not the sugary-sweet, Hello Kitty kind of cute. She is cute the same way that a baby is. She is a baby cat after all, and acts like one. She is easily distracted (which is what gets her separated from her mother and siblings in the first place), trying new things, making mistakes, and learning from them. She and Yohei, the little boy who finds Chi, are very much a like in that way. Both being young children, they end up learning things together. Both Chi and Yohei learn to use the potty correctly.

Over the two volumes, Chi and the Yamadas learn to get along and live with each other. Chi slowly accepts the Yamadas as his new family, and she and Yohei get along very much like siblings. They play together and even compete for toys and food. It’s not all fun and games though, especially with Mom and Dad. Mom tortures Chi with a bath, and scolds her when Chi tries out her claws on the couch. Dad is worse, taking Chi to the vet, which earns him her scorn for several days after. It is sweet to see how the parents come to accept Chi as well. Dad is saddened by Chi avoiding him after the vet visit, and Mom takes Yohei to search for Chi when she gets out and can’t find her way home.

There is a lot of humor in this title, and much of it comes from Chi being a kitten and doing kitten-y things. From her liking the plastic bag more than the toys that came in it to chasing super bouncy balls, to playing with crumbled paper, Chi’s sheer joy is infectious and hard not to smile at. Of course, the not so nice things that happen to her can be funny as well. Her reaction to her introduction to dogs, cars and the hair dryer made me laugh out loud. A lot of this has to do with Kanata-sensei’s art. She puts so much expression into Chi, that even without the translation, one could figure out whether she was happy, sad, scared or angry.

I can’t speak for the accuracy of Vertical’s translations, but I think the localization is done very well. Chi’s speaking is portrayed with a little bit of baby speak, often making her sound like Tweety Bird, as she says things like “Fwuffy” and “gowing”. Fortunately, it’s used sparingly, so it doesn’t distract the reader as much as it could. I also like how Chi’s cat speech is also varied. She doesn’t just say “meow”. Her cat vocabulary also includes “miya”, “mew”, and “meowr” among others, giving the impression of different inflections, depending on her mood.

The art for this title is rather toonish, with the characters being drawn simply and without a lot of detail. Chi’s cuteness can not be denied whether it’s her usual wide-eyed expression as she goes exploring or it’s her narrowed-eyed, fluffed out fur when she’s upset. The simplicity of the art makes it easier to appeal to a non-manga audience, much like it’s subject matter should. Vertical’s editions are in color, done in a watercolor style, giving the books a gentle feel.

While Chi’s Sweet Home was originally serialized in a men’s magazine in Japan, it really feels like an all ages title. Chi is just so cute, it’s hard to imagine a child, male or female being able to resister her charms. The chapters are simple and short, but also fun and sweet. Cat lovers will melt for this title too, as Chi reminds them how much fun kittens are, even if they do eventually grow up to be cats. Even non-cat people can get something out of this series. They can see why cat lovers love their cats so much, even if they don’t get it.

Funny, and heart-warming, Chi’s Sweet Home is a title the whole family can enjoy,and is easily one of the best titles to come out this year.

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

Bakuman Volume 1

Average student Moritaka Mashiro enjoys drawing for fun. When his classmate and aspiring writer Akito Takagi discovers his talent, he begs Moirtaka to team up with him as a manga-creating duo. But what exactly does it take to make it in the manga-publishing world?

Moritaka is hesitant to seriously consider Akitos proposal because he knows how difficult reaching the professional level can be. Still, encouragement from persisitent Akito and movitvation from his crush push Moritaka to test his limits!

Stoy by Tsugumi Ohba; Art by Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Viz Media – Shonen Jump
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy This Book

Moritaka knows it isn’t easy to become a successful manga creator. He watched his uncle try to die from overwork in the attempt. Akito, his classmate, knows next to nothing about creating manga, but thinks he’s smart enough to learn and succeed. Miho is another classmate that Moritaka has a crush on, and who wants to become a voice actor. The three of them make a pact. If Moritaka and Akito make their dream of becoming successful manga creators come true before Miho becomes a voice actor, Miho will marry Moritaka. This starts the two boys down a whirlwind journey to learn how to create a story and final draft for presentation to Weekly Shonen Jump magazine.

The concept of Bakuman, with its manga meta elements is fairy interesting. It gives a lot of details, facts and even figures about how many manga creators are really successful, what goes into creating a manga, and even the process of going from first to final draft for submission. It almost feels like the creators are giving a lecture on how to create a manga through Moritaka and Akito. These parts of the story are well done and very interesting. I really enjoyed learning about the beginning process of creating a manga. I also liked the touch of romance that was added to the story, with Moritaka and Miho’s relationship mirroring that of Moritaka’s uncle and his first love from middle school. It was a cute touch, and creates a romantic element without getting all lovey-dovey. It can draw in girls with out driving away the boys.

I only had one problem with this title, and unfortunately it’s a big one. In the second chapter, Akito, who claims to be smart, explains to Moritaka what he thinks is the difference between “smart” and “dumb” people, especially women. Miho is smart because she doesn’t act too smart with her nose in a book, and is graceful “like a woman should be.” This whole chapter really turned me off from the series. It felt like the author was espousing his views on women in a monologue rather than it be Akito talking, came really close to offending me, a difficult thing to do in general. I don’t mind if a mangaka decides to lecture his audience through his characters about somethings, but don’t try to tell me “what a woman should be like”. If the romantic elements were supposed to lure female readers in, this chapter could easily stop them from even getting to them.

Takeshi Obata’s art is spot on. I like how he gets in a lot of the tropes of shonen manga such as speed lines for emphasis without there being any real action. Another cool thing was seeing how pages went from storyboard to finished piece in between chapters. It really helped to illustrate what Moritaka was trying to explain to Akito about storyboards and drafts.

Overall, I did enjoy Bakuman. All the talk about creating a manga was interesting. I really liked the analogy of aspiring mangaka to gamblers. Working to become popular is a big gamble. There is no guarantee and a lot of luck as well as work is needed to make it. I even liked all the exposition Moritaka kept spouting off about being a mangaka and creating a manga that didn’t seem natural for a middle school boy to say. But the second chapter keeps me from recommending this title. If you can get past it, then there is a good story forming. If it could be less misogynist and little more meta, then I would like a lot more.

Wish List: Ai Yazawa’s Shared Universe + 1

Finally getting to read another Ai Yazawa series and seeing how connected her characters are in her world, really makes me crave more! There are at least 3 of her previous titles that I would love to see licensed, two in her shared universe and one with a supernatural twist.

Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai – This series was originally serialized in Ribon magazine starting in 1991 and was the beginning of the shared universe that would soon grow. It’s a high school slice of life/romance about Midori Saejima and Akira Sudo that chonicles their four years in school, both their relationship and adventures with friends. Seeing how addicting Nana is with young adults as the leads, I would love to see what she does with teens.  This title kicks off what becomes a series of connected titles through its characters without being a sequel or focusing on the characters. It’s 8 volumes and in 1994 got an anime OVA adaptation. It’s the start of Yazawa’s world, where characters get to roam and mess with each other in and out of the stories.

Gokinjo MonogatariDavid Welsh of Manga Curmudgeon has already made a plea for this series, but I’d like to do it in the context of its relationship to both Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai and Paradise Kiss. This series also ran in Ribon and went from 1995 to 1998. It ran for 7 volumes. Even though this series is about a whole new cast of characters with Mikako Koda and Tsutomu Yamaguchi as the leads, the main characters from Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai make an appearance, and the lead vocalist Tsutomu is supposed to resemble, Ken Nakagawa, was Midori’s friend. It’s another slice of life/romance which Yazawa has shown to have a such a good grasp of. It got a 50 episode anime series in 1995.

Kagen no Tsuki – This series doesn’t connect to the universe of the other two. It’s just a 3 volume series that ran in Ribon between Gokinjo Monogatari and Paradise Kiss from 1998-1999. It’s a supernatural romance that straddles the line between dream and reality. Only read the wikipedia entry if you want to be spoiled about this series, but even so it sounds to be an intriguing read even before meeting Yazawa’s characters. It got a live action movie made out of it, which was licensed here by Geneon. It seems to be out of print unfortunately.  A search for used DVDs in the usual places should bring it up.

I really hope publishers give these titles some serious consideration (I’m looking at you Viz!) Ai Yazawa has a real gift for creating engaging characters and interesting situations. It would be so cool to see her shared universe all in English, so an omnibus of Paradise Kiss would be in order, so they all look so nice lined up on a bookshelf. With Nana doing so well, and Paradise Kiss getting so much love recently, it’s hard to believe that more of Ai Yazawa’s work hasn’t been licensed yet. That really needs to be fixed.

This Week in Manga: 8/14-8/20/10

Hetalia: Axis Powers Does Digital

Tokyopop, who has tried to be a leader in digital manga, takes a step to try to reclaim that title. Hetalia: Axis Powers is a title that been highly anticipated by fans, but the print copy won’t be out until Sept 21. But if you don’t mind reading manga on a computer screen, you can get it now through the Zinio service. Tokyopop has made this title available early through the download service and for about half the price, $5.99. But that not all! Hetalia will also be available through the Overdrive, the digital checkout service for libraries. If you’re library uses Overdrive, but doesn’t have Hetalia, tell Tokyopop. They get a digital copy to them for free! I was going to pass on this title initially, but if I can check out a digital copy from my library, yeah, that would be worth it. It would be nice if publishers made more titles available digitally through Overdrive. With libraries budgets getting slashed by cities, online will be about the only way 9-5 workers can get library books. I know I can’t get to my local library now with their hours slashed to closing at 5PM most days.

Where Do They All Keep Disappearing To?

With digital rights being a big deal, not just with books and publishers now, but with music and movies for over 10 years now, you would think a publisher like PC World would know a copyright infringing site when it saw it. Apparently, even the tech industry has no respect for manga. I guess that makes them no different from most other manga fans. On their website they ran a review of an android app, Manga Browser. Now, normally I wouldn’t expect a tech journalist to know everything about the manga world, but this guy sounds like a manga fan. He’s familiar with what manga is, where to find it online, and what some of the most popular titles are. And what’s his biggest complaint of the software? It relies on scanlation sites. And he’s not upset that it’s scanlation sites it’s linking to, he upset because sites go down and are “unreliable”. Yeah, good sense of reporting there, guy. No mention that the titles he’s mentioning and reading are illegally posted, just that it’s a lot more work to get to them. And if he’s been reading on OneManga (which he bemoans the loss of at the beginning of the review), he surely knows why OneManga went down. But like so many other fans, he just doesn’t care, and gives the scan sites just that much more legitimacy to the rest of the world who doesn’t know better.

Bad Manga Fans!

Black Butler is a popular manga and anime series in both the US and Japan. And for good reason; it’s a fun title. But when mangaka Yana Toboso calls foul on fans that send her letters saying how much they enjoyed reading and/or watching her series for free on streaming/scan sites, what is the reaction from fans in the US on the ANN Forums? To completely diss the mangaka and call her things like “Overly dramatic”, a “complete idiot” and my personal favorite “…insane catlady.” Yeah, good job US manga fandom. You have succeeded in making me ashamed to even be associated with you. Really? You are going to diss on a creator who makes something you like just because she wants to defend her work? How absolutely self-centered and entitled can you be? Honestly? She has to be crazy to want to make money from her hard work? And you call yourself fans? The thread for this story went 28 pages before being locked. But one commenter went through the trouble to translate the original blog post, which you can see here. There’s nothing there that makes me think she’s an idiot or insane. Just very upset. And I certainly don’t blame her.

Called It!

Spotted on Twitter first. Entries for Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan have been spotted on both Simon and Schuster’s website as well as Amazon.com. Tentative release date is set for February 2011 from Viz Media. I’ve been saying since they announced the streaming of the anime at SDCC, that there had to be an announcement of the licensing of the manga. There is no way Viz would release an anime and not have the rights to the manga as well. These entries pretty much prove I was right. But with a release of the first volume in February kills my hopes that it would be added to Shonen Jump. It’s a WSJ title with an anime showing in the US. It just screams SJ material. I was really hoping it would give me another reason to keep subscribing to SJ. Oh well.

NYT Best Seller List

Both of Tokyopop’s gains from last week are gone this week. Twilight is still hanging on the Hardback list. It moves up 2 to #6. With the Scott Pilgram craze slowing down, Twilight seems to be move slowly back up. Guess who rules the manga roost. No, it’s not Naruto. Last week’s #2, Rosario + Vampire: Season II vol 2, moves into the #1 spot vacated by Warriors: Ravenpaw’s Path vol 3. Black Bird vol 5 stays right behind its fellow blood sucker to #2. Naruto vol 48 moves up 4 to #3 and Bakuman vol 1 moves to #4, also just vacated by Return to Labyrinth vol 4Negima! Magister Negi Magi vol 27 holds on to #5 while Fullmetal Alchemist vol 23 moves back up 3 to #6. D. Gray-Man vol 18 moves up 1 to #7 and Skip Beat vol 21 moves up 2 to #8. Returning to the list are two titles never far away, Vampire Knight vol 10 comes in at #9 and Black Butler vol 2 at #10. Once again Viz Completely dominates the list taking 8/10 spots. Tokyopop is removed completely and Yen Press and Del Rey just hold on with their biggest sellers.

NYT List: Second Opinion

What’s Matt Blind’s list got to say about all that? Not too much. The top two are the same and one the list only three titles are different. His list still favors Maximum Ride over Black Butler from Yen, and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle seems to do better in his numbers than the NYT’s.

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

And if you’re interested in how Yen Press is doing over all, check out Matt’s breakout of that publisher by manga, manhwa and OEL.

This Week At Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • One Piece vol 45

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.

This Week in Manga: 8/7-8/13/10

Too Much Good Stuff!

Deb Aoki of Manga.About.com continues posting her coverage of panels from SDCC. This week she adds an entry for the Best and Worst Manga panel including comments from the panelists. There are more Best and Worst and a whole page dedicated to Most Anticipated. It’s interesting that Twilight made the Best list, but Maximum Ride got put in the Worst. Both make tons of money for Yen Press, so yah there. And the cat manga Chi’s Sweet Home and Cat Paradise both definitely deserve to be in the Best list. I don’t know what I would add to this list. I have hard time saying something is the Best or Worst. Except One Piece. That’s definitely a Best!

Also added to her coverage is a complete transcript of the Online Piracy Panel. It’s NINE PAGES. The front page to it give the topics covered in the discussion, but getting the full transcript is almost the same as being there! Definitely thank Deb for her hard work in getting this up for everyone to read. This is a very relevant topic right now as fans and publishers bash heads over the best way to get comics and manga online. It’s going to continue to be a bumpy road for a while.

Del Rey: Will They or Won’t They?

News of more cancellations of books has people once again questioning Del Rey’s commitment to publish manga. Brigid Alverson over at Robot 6 put the question to Associate Publisher Dallas Middaugh. Middaugh’s response sounds a lot like a non-denial denial. He defends Del Rey by say they are publishing the same number of pages a year, but at the same time pushes their OEL titles, which isn’t what most fans want to here. They are supposed to have a panel NYCC, so we’ll have to wait and see if they make any announcements then.

Pet Peeves #1: Publisher Web Sites

As a blogger, fan and parent, trying to get information on publisher websites can sometimes feel like pulling teeth, when there is anything to find in the first place. Apparently, I’m not the only one to feel this way. Brigid Alverson expresses her own displeasure over at Robot 6 in a wonderfully worded rant that hits all the problems I and from the comments others have with publishers. The big question is, will it do any good. We can hope, but I’m not holding my breath. I’d like to add one more problem I have, mainly with Marvel and relates to the search and links. When I finally do find the link for the comic I’m looking for, usually a new release on the front page, it should send me to a page with information and age rating on the issue and not A BLANK PAGE! For heavens sake, you’ve had months to get the page ready, or worse, if it’s a coding issue (which is probably more likely considering how convoluted that page is already), then you’ve got some major problems.  FIX THEM! I want to read your comics, but if you can’t get me the information I need easily, then I don’t need to read your stuff!

Pet Peeves #2: Scanlations Sites ≠ Libraries

With the demise of OneManga, people are still whining about it being gone and trying to justify that reading manga there is the same as checking out a manga from the library. Librarian Robin Brenner has something to say about that. Four somethings actually, as she explains why libraries are not just relevent, but also why they are legal for reading manga for free, and Scanlations sites are not. Most of the commentors to the post are in answer to Deb’s request for a list of 10 manga every library should carry, but one (#21) argues:

The manga world is changing. We can keep up with it or fall behind trying to desperately keep the copyright alive.

While there is an argument for digital manga, it shouldn’t, and doesn’t have to be at the cost of copyright.

NYT Best Seller List

Wow! What a change in the list this week! Two OEL’s make it to the list this week, including one to take the top spot! Ravenpaw’s Path vol 3, an original story in the popular Warriors series takes the #1 spot. Never underestimate the power of cats! Rosario Vampire Season II vol 2 debuts at #2. Never underestimate the power of cute vampire girls either. Black Bird vol 5 debuts as well at #3 and the OEL series Return to Labyrinth vol 4 debuts at #4 and finishes the series as well. At #5 is Negima! Magister Negi Magi vol 27, hanging one through its second week, and Bakuman vol 1 charts at #6 on its first week. Naruto vol 48 finally makes its appearance at #7 while D.Gray-Man vol 18 debuts at #8. Fullmetal Alchemist vol 23 sadly falls back to #9 and the rare shojo title sans vampires makes its appearance with Skip Beat vol 23 coming in at #10. This is quite a turmultuous week with 7 debut titles. Tokyopop takes 2 of the top 5 spots with its debuts with Viz sandwiching 2 more debuts in between. Del Rey keeps a space on the spot, but Yen Press has been ousted completely. It’s nice to see some OEL chart though, especially an adaptation. I would like to see more adaptations, but for the older crowd. Cozy mysteries anyone?

NYT List: Second Opinion

Matt Blind’s chart for the top 10 sellers from Rocket Bomber looks very different from the NYT, but not so much so from last week:

1. Negima! 27
2. Naruto 48
3. Fullmetal Alchemist 23
4. Vampire Knight 10
5. Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle 27
6. Black Bird 5
7. Ouran High School Host Club 14
8. Maximum Ride 1
9. Rosario+Vampire Season II 2
10. Shugo Chara! 9

Only four titles changed hands on Matt’s list from last week; Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Black Bird, Rosario+Vampire Season II and Shugo Chara! replaced Hellsing, Bleach, and second volumes of Maximum Ride and Naruto. But compared to the NYT list, only two of the debuting titles match up; Black Bird and Rosario+Vampire Season II. Check out his full post for all the specifics.

Broader Best Sellers

Matt is now taking requests for analysis on titles as he compiles his weekly lists. Follow him on Twitter at ProfessorBlind to make your request. This week he got a request for Viz’s Signature line, which he provided, and went ahead and did a few other popular genre: manhwa and global manga. Check them out to see what are the best sellers in these categories.

Manga For Your Ears

Sci-Guys Podcast

Sesho’s Anime and Manga Reviews

This Week At Manga Village

What I’ve Been Reading

  • Tena on S-String vol 3
  • Mixed Vegetables vol 7
  • Black Jack vol 8
  • Gentleman’s Alliance Cross vol 11
  • Alice the 101st

Shonen Jump September 2010

It’s a new month, so that means a new Shonen Jump. Too bad there’s nothing new inside the pages of this mag. There was nothing new announced at SDCC, which was disappointing to say the least. I was so sure Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan would have been announced as a new title. Oh well, maybe at NYCC. It was hinted that changes may be coming at the end of the year. I sure hope so. The page count is slightly up this month with a Spotlight chapter on Shaman King, a graduate from these very pages.

The issue starts off with a better organization of their promotion of all the anime titles playing of the SJ properties. It’s now divided up by Streaming, TV Broadcast and DVDs. The Naruto TCG and video game info-ads are at the beginning as well, so you don’t just skip them after reading the manga. No, if you’re like me, you skip them to get to the manga.

This issue starts out with Naruto, and continues the battle between Sasuke and Danzo. It’s a lot of sharingan one-upmanship,right up to the very end. Sasuke takes his jutsu to the next level of Susano’o during the battle, and shows his dark side at the end. Honestly, there wasn’t anything interesting in this battle as Sasuke and Danzo keep trying to outdo each other. This is the very thing I hate about battle tournament manga. It’s also what keeps Naruto on it’s downward spiral.

Bleach then steps up with even more prolonged battles. Renji and Uryu are still fighting Szayelaporro. Only now they have to fight duplicates of themselves. Yeah. That’s original. Ichigo continues his fight Nnoitora, which is basically him being a punching bag again. This is so Nel can return to her old espada self. While I’m interested in finding about Nel’s past, I can’t say I have hope it will help the series as a whole.

The shining light in this mostly dark magazine is One Piece, and it really shines this time! Luffy and the escapees from Impel Down interrupt the battle momentarily as they every one regroups and takes on new opponents. The exchange between Luffy and Whitebeard is especially fun, with Luffy being himself as he stands next to the most powerful pirate in the world and telling him not ot get in HIS way. It’s just great! There is just too much going on to even explain. You have to read it to believe it! It all ends with Luffy facing off against Hawkeye, a Warlord of the Sea.

Ultimo surprisingly didn’t disappoint me this time. Ultimo awakens in time to save Yamato, which turns into a battle between him and Jealousy. Murayama appears to hold them off so that Yamato and Ultimo can go back in time, to the 12th Century to find out what really happened back in that time. Finding out about everyone’s backstory has me more interested in the title now. I don’t really care about their current reincarnations, but the glimpses to the past have been the most interesting parts of this title so far, so I’m hoping a marked improvement with this jump back in time.

The spotlight title this month is Shaman King. The chapter comes from volume 30, which is nearing the end of the title. It only went 32 total, so hopefully the fight gets resovled before the title does. Though, with talk of a second round starting, that’s probably not going to happen. This is a typical hot spring chapter, with everyone wandering about in just towels (no girls in this chapter, btw), including Hao, who pops in to enjoy the spring as well. Yoh, in his typical, laidback fashion, isn’t bothered by his rival’s appearance. It’s a nice filler chapter, and makes me want to catch up on Shaman King.

The issue ends with it’s usual Yu-Gi-Oh! free card and strategy article, video game article and brain teaser. For next issue, the spotlight will be on new series Genkaku Picasso, a title some in the mangasphere has been looking forward to. It’s drawn by the same mangaka as the ill-fated 51 Ways to Save Her that people were also looking forward to from CMX. That’s at least something to look forward to, other than just One Piece.

Yen Plus: 2 Years Later

It was starting to become a tradition for me. Going to San Diego Comic Con and by Saturday afternoon, stopping by the Yen Press booth and picking up the anniversary issue of Yen Plus. I didn’t go to SDCC this year, and by the same token, Yen Plus wasn’t given out this year. It had gone digital, with a free preview available until September 9th, so I am still able to do my annual One Year Later post.

So, what’s changed in the move from print to digital? First off, the August/Preview issue has no Japanese-licensed titles in it. It’s all Korean/OEL manga. Compared to the last two years, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I didn’t care for the Japanese offerings in the premiere issue, but there was definite improvement by the 1st anniversary (namely Black Butler and Hero Tales). But the Korean/OEL side still held sway over me, so having this issue be mostly that didn’t bother me.

One of the things about going digital that might not be as Yen Press planned is how much easier it is for me to skip over the titles I don’t want to read. In print form, I would generally start at the beginning and read through all the chapters, whether I really liked them or not. I’m going through every page, whether I’m actually reading them or not. I’ll skim the things I’m not all that interested in, but that usually ended up with me reading the whole chapters anyway. This meant I gave titles I wasn’t too interested in more of a chance, because I’d at least read them. With the digital version, I had no problem just skipping past Maximum Ride, a title I have read chapters from and didn’t really care for, and Gossip Girl, one I haven’t even tried to give a chance.

Actually, my reading of the this issue had me skipping all around, something I don’t think I’m going to do again. The way the digital magazine is set up is identical to the print version, with articles and ads interspersed between chapters, and as I prefer to read print, this made the flow of the digital version much easier to get into. It felt like the print magazine on the screen which is an experience I prefer. So, let’s take a look at the chapters I did read.

This title continues to be a strong anchor for the magazine. Even though I haven’t read vol 3 yet, reading this chapter made me want to go out and get it. The sohrem and their hosts, Alex and Ronee had been captured and nearly had the power sucked from them by Night Lords, but they are rescued by Marina also a sohrem host, and some of the Hunters. The person responsible their capture is also responsible for breaking their seal. He is caught when things don’t go according to plan and turns out to have an interesting connection to Mr. Roi, who had sealed the sohrem away in the first place. Very good chapter that kept the action and story going.

This is a new title based on another series by James Patterson. It’s got a sci-fi feel to it. As this was the debut of the series, we get to chapters to introduce Daniel and his special powers. He can change his shape as well as create people and things out of thin air. And not just holograms, real, flesh and blood people with independent thought and memories. The story has Daniel going after Most Wanted #6, Ergent Seth, who is currently in Malibu, CA, working in the film industry. Daniel enrolls in a local high school as a cover and is distracted by a girl, Phoebe. Meanwhile Ergent Seth strikes, and there’s a cat in his house. The story has me intrigued, so I’ll keep reading it. The characters are interesting too, and the art is really nice. I’m taking to this one much better than Maximum Ride.

This story is a one shot by Madeliene Rosca, the creator of Hollow Fields, a OEL series published by Seven Seas. It’s about a young girl, Catherine, who is learning to be a Ghost Hunter, like her father. One night when he goes out to work, the police come looking for her father, but Catherine decides to take on the haunting herself. With her book, lantern and bell, she pieces together what’s really going on. It’s a cute story with a funny ending. I don’t know that I’d want to see more of these characters, but more from Rosca would most certainly be welcome!

This is a color 4-koma, or comic strip, series. It’s about a rich, spoiled young man who decides to become a pirate. His only crew is Robin, a guard from Aron’s estate that will do anything for money. He is a good fighter, and quickly increases the crew after a show of force when another pirate ship tries to take them over. It’s cute and funny, in the way that clueless leads who beleaguer their smarter subordinates can. It’s good for a quick read, but it’s not anything I would want to keep for the long run.

I’ve read the first three volumes of this title and it’s still just as awesome. This is the best of the manhwa titles. Baek-On Ju is a traveling exorcist who is accompanied by Ho-Yeon Won, his bodyguard. The tales in this title are mostly episodic, with Baek-On being presented with a problem, and him solving it without making a bit of trouble for Ho-Yeon along the way. The overarching stories in this title have to do with the main characters past. This chapter relates to a past wrong Baek-On committed and can’t forgive himself for. It’s an emotional chapter as are most of the chapters dealing with him. It’s an excellent read, and a series that is easy to jump into at any time.

Not a great title, but one of the originals from the magazine’s beginning. Jack Frost is a horror title that likes lots of gore and panty shots, but not so much on plot. This chapter has the North side recouping from an attack from the South Side and Helmina and Jack scheming for more fighting. And a new character Avid decides to going to battle to take on Jack Frost for title of most powerful in Amityville. I’m not sure why I keep reading Jack Frost, for all the lackluster writing and characters and fanservice, but I think I’m being hopelessly optimistic for a real story to come out. Well, since it comes with the magazine, I guess I’ll keep following it. Just on the off-chance it surprises me.

The reading experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I’ve tried Yen Plus out on three different monitors. My 19″ LCD at home, 17″ CRT at work and my 4.3″ HTC HD2 phone. All the regular manga chapters looked good on all three screens. Yes, surprisingly, even the HD2 was readable. The popout window made everything crystal clear, and zooming on the HD2 worked well. The only problem I had was with Aron’s Absurd Armada. The only way to be able to clearly read this title was by going Full Size in the popout window, and even then I was scrolling up and down and back and forth on the screen, especially on the 17″ monitor at work. It’s enough to give one carpel tunnel! So Yen, even if it’s on a desktop computer, Zoom is a necessary option, especially with a 4-koma where the windows are smaller and the text gets lost in the background. The reading experience needs to be at least as good as the print, in that it shouldn’t feel like work for me to read the pages. If I have to get closer because of my eyesight, that’s one thing, but if it’s blurry even then, then the problem is on your end.

Other issues I had were also minor, such as a page “sticking” in Daniel X. The previous page appeared twice, but after going out and going back it fixed itself. And some screentone just doesn’t work online. If you want to go blind, just view the Jack Frost chapter. The plaid screentone used through most of it is painful.

I like the navigation bar on the side for chapters and the pulldown menu at the top that also lists the articles. The side bar is only available in main browser window. If you go to the popout window, you will have to use the pulldown menu. There is a minor page turn animation as you flip through the magazine which you can do with a click on the page. It will take you back and forth through the magazine, though jumping chapters was easiest with the side bar. There are arrows at the top that will also control page turns, but the most ideal would be arrow keys on the keyboard.

And as for archiving, I don’t think that’s necessary. The digital magazine is for marketing. To make an archive available would be the same as saying “Don’t buy the books, just read your manga here for super cheap”, and I don’t think that is Yen Press’ intention. Now, I could see them selling digital copies of the books when they come out at a discount for Yen Plus subscribers. Maybe as a bonus for being a subscriber. But I don’t see a reason for Yen archiving the issues themselves. I did once, but with years of Shonen Jump and the thought of digging them out to read One Piece doesn’t make it worth it. I would rather buy the collected books than try to read a series through the mags.

Overall, this first version of a digital Yen Plus isn’t bad. Neither is the price. At $2.99 a month, I don’t mind paying to read even just the three titles I enjoyed the most.  It’s still a good deal as far as I’m concerned.  And with more on the way, Yotsuba!& has been hinted at, there is a lot of potential here. I think I’m going to stick it out this time and see how it progresses.