Tag Archives: Manga

Shonen Jump August 2010

This month’s Shonen Jump is the thinnest issue I’ve received since the preview issue that came out at San Diego Comic Con back in 2002. 250 is quite a fall from the 400+ pages we were getting just a year ago. And yes, that is a $7.99 price on the picture. That not what showed up on the actual issue, and I think it’s kind of sloppy of Viz to have such a serious typo on the cover.  Anyway, on to the actual magazine.

It starts out with all the usual ads and anime on DVD/Streaming and video game promos. The manga to start out this month’s mag is One Piece. It’s all out war between White Beard’s pirates and the Navy. Luffy makes a grand entrance in his usual way of course. One of the things that makes Oda such a great mangaka, and One Piece a great manga is the way he incorporates back story scenes during a fight. I think his way of doing the flashbacks is what helps make these long fights so tolerable. The flashbacks aren’t long, but they are straight to the point, and make the impact of the outcome of each characters battle more poignant. Even when it’s a character you’ve only just meant, you care about him by the end. One Piece is still awesome.

Not so awesome is Ultimo.Yamato and Eco have a nice little talk as Eco presents his “third” option. It gets a little meta as Eco tries to help Musashi understand Yamato through manga, and Yamato then has a problem getting Ultimo back as Jealousy and his master Tomomitsu shows up. We learn a little more about who Musashi is and where he came from, but that’s about it for this chapter.

Naruto has Danzo and his men fighting Madara with lots of fancy jujitsu from the men that is completely ineffectual. We finally get to see what’s up with Danzo’s right arm, and then Sasuke appears to take on Danze himself. The angst is still running high, between Naruto agonizing over what to do about Sasuke, and Sasuke trying to get all his vengence. I’m ready to move on from the angst. If I were reading this in graphic novels only, I would have dropped it by now.

Bleach isn’t faring much better. The fight between Ichigo and Grimmjow is STILL going on, at least until espada #5, Noitora interrupts, deciding he wants to kill Ichigo now. The we get 2 pages of Renji and Uryu running in a circle and back to the espada they were fighting when Ichigo and Grimmjow’s battle first started. Bleach suffers from the same angst as Naruto it’s really killed the series for me.

Next issue Shaman King returns as a spotlight manga, but there are no new announcements for the magazine. This is the most disappointing issue so far. Viz had better do something. Their Naruto/Yu-Gi-Oh! card giveaways can only keep the magazine going so far. A price drop was announced at Anime Expo of $3.00 to make a year subscription $26.99 and the new title Genkaku Picasso will get a preview in September. But, I’m really hoping for a more permanent title. Kekkaishi might have been a  good addition, since the anime is showing on Cartoon Network right now, and that seems to be a prerequisite to be in the magazine anymore. Though, a new streaming anime they announced, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan does have potential of becoming a new addition. I’ll just have to wait to see what they announce at SDCC in two weeks.

Review: Itazura na Kiss Volume 1

High school senior Kotoko Aihara has had a crush on Naoki Irie since freshman year. Unfortunately, there a few things are discouraging her from to him: he’s a member of “Class A,” the top ranking class in school, whereas she’s in “Class F”; he gets the top score on every exam; and he’s so smart, popular and handsome that he’s been class president every year. When Kotoko finally musters up the courage to present him with a love letter, though, Naoki outright refuses it, telling her point blank–with a look of disgust and boredom—that he doesn’t like “stupid girls.” Poor Kotoko’s worst nightmare! Her heart is broken, but then a change in circumstance forces Naoki and Kotoko to be together every day…!?

By Kaoru Tada
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
Age Rating: 13+
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $16.95
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy This Book

Itazura na Kiss was originally published in the 1990’s and was very popular. It was never finished, however, due to the untimely death of the mangaka, Kaoru Tada, in an accident in 1999. Initially, I wasn’t going to read this title. But encouragement from other bloggers, particularly on Twitter, piqued my curiosity enough that I decided to give it a try anyway. When I’m reading a title, I can forgive a lot of things, but if I don’t like at least one of the main characters, it just isn’t going to work for me. And that’s the problem I have with this title.

I found nothing likable about either main character Kotoko Aihara and Naoki Irie. Kotoko, the female lead is portrayed as not only not very bright, but as just plain stupid. First, I’ve said many times before that I hate airhead female leads, which does fit Kotoko somewhat. But she showed she could do so much more if she’s instructed properly, as her reaching the top 100 at mid terms showed. She never cared enough to try until Naoki’s rejection, which I also find annoying, but I don’t find characters calling other characters stupid all the time funny. And it does happen constantly throughout this volume from both Naoki and his little brother Yuuki. I really don’t like how mean-spirited it feels. Naoki is no better. He’s obnoxious, rude and colder than the iceberg that sank the Titanic. He seems to enjoy looking down on others and feeling superior. I expect to see this in a rival or comedy relief character, not in the lead I’m supposed to be rooting for the female lead to get together with.

Tada does do a good job of capturing what teenagers are like in high school. Kotoko and her friends from F class are like average high school students. They’d rather go shopping rather than study. They wait until the last-minute to do their school work over summer break. They assume they will be going to college, but they just don’t know what they’ll major in yet. These elements of the story I liked. There aren’t many titles out there that really reflects a teenagers frame of mind. One element that she does capture, that I don’t like, yet is the corner-stone of the series, is that even through Kotoko knows what a complete jerk Naoki is, she still loves him. Her motives are rather shallow, as you’d expect from a teenage crush. She loves him for his looks and abilities, but there doesn’t seem to be anything underneath that is redeeming about him.

The art is very dated. The series was originally drawn in the early nineties, and it shows. But after a few chapters, you get used to it. In a lot of ways, her style reminds me of Rumiko Takahashi’s style, and Urusei Yatsura in particular. There were several scenes with Kotoko and her friends that brought up visions of Lum and Ataru and their friends.

Overall, Itazura na Kiss is an okay series. There are some nice moments with Kotoko and Naoki. Mostly they are when Naoki is forced to help Kotoko, through blackmail, to get through midterms and help most of F class get through finals through sheer numbers. Naoki really does help everyone out, even if it is done begrudgingly. Classic or not, this just isn’t a series for me. Unlikable leads keep me from really enjoying the series.

Review: Tena on S-String Volume 2

For all Kyousuke’s resistance to Tena and her bossy ways, he seems to have settled in quite nicely to being a sort of househusband to her and the other tuners. But while Mezzo and Sopra have agreed not to collect Kyousuke’s viral notes, there’s no telling what might happen if he meets yet another tuner! So when Kyousuke runs into Arun, an elite tuner at the top of her class, could this spell the end of his musical aspirations…and his life?!

by Sesuna Mikabe
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Romantic Comedy
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy This Book

I love stories that relate to music in some way, but hate stories with obnoxious, bossy female leads, so I picked up Tena on S-String with guarded curiosity. I was very intrigued by the idea of tuners and seeing the music of others, but Tena is a complete turn off, and practically ruins every scene that she is in.

The protagonist of this story is Tena, an obnoxious, haughty, pushy, violent girl with no social graces. This is the character we as readers are supposed to want to read about and follow through a potentially long series? Sorry, I don’t think so. These kinds of female leads make me want to just put the book down and move on to something else. There is absolutely nothing to like about her, and I would certainly hope no one would want to be like her! She pushes Kyousuke around like a servant, which I think is supposed to be funny, but it really isn’t. She’s supposed to be a great tuner, but we don’t see her doing it. All she does through this volume is berate Kyousuke, go shopping and eat. And since she’s the lead, she’s of course falling for Kyousuke, but her pride won’t even let her be nice to him once, let alone think such a think might be possible. I couldn’t stand Tena in any of the panels she was in, and just grew to dislike her with every turning page.

Kyousuke, the male lead, isn’t as bad. He has aspirations to become a composer. But he’s surrounded by these viral notes, that if any other tuner discovered were around him, they would try to take away his freedom, or even his life to retrieve them. Tena and her fellow tuners Mezzo and Sopra help him hide from other tuners. Kyousuke is a nice guy, and good with household chores, but he’s pretty clueless when it comes to women. He doesn’t know how to talk to them in general. And he doesn’t notice Tena’s growing feelings for him, which only makes things worse for him.

But get the to parts where there’s no Tena, and this title is actually pretty decent. All of the scenes where Kyousuke is with Arun, at the theater and sightseeing were fun to read. Even though Kyousuke is Japanese and Arun is French, they can still communicate through the language of music, which in this case is French. I really liked Arun and the scheduled life she leads. Everything neat and orderly, every moment of her day is set in advance, and she keeps to the schedule like clockwork. Until she meets Kyousuke. Their time together starts to change her. I want to see more of her and Kyousuke together.

All of the mysterious talk of the “grand play” performance and finale is intriguing too. Even though it didn’t get a lot of mention in the volume until the end, I found myself growing interested in finding out more about what this “great play” is, and how it relates to Kyousuke. This part of the story has the greatest potential. If the title could concentrate on it and drop Tena completely, it would be a story a I would be much more interested in reading.

The art is fairly standard for a romantic comedy. A lot of attention is given to Tena and her constantly changing wardrobe. Clothes are what she spends the majority of the volume shopping for, since she just can’t wear the same thing twice! The character designs are all similar too, especially with the girls, but there are enough differences in dress and temperament to be able to tell them apart.

Overall, Tena on S-String is well done, as long as you like titles where the female lead abuses the male lead. Definitely check this title out, you won’t be disappointed. If not, borrow or trade for it and just read the non-Tena parts, which is about half of this volume. It’s still worth it for all those other parts.

Manhwa Movable Feast: The Color Of… Trilogy

The Color of Earth, The Color of Water, and The Color of Heaven are the three books that make up this trilogy. The story is about two women, Ehwa, and her early widowed mother. The series follows Ehwa from age 7, when she first starts to realize her gender, through her growing sense of sexuality and first crushes, to her falling in love and getting married at age 18. Parallel to Ehwa’s story is her mother’s, who after 3 years of being alone, has her own feelings reawakened by the arrival of a traveling pictographer.

Color of Earth (2)The Color of… Trilogy
By Kim Dong Hwa
Publisher: First Second
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Drama
Price: $16.95/ea
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy These Books

The story is set in Turn-of-the-Century Korea, in the countryside. It is a time and place where most of the men are farmers and are valued more than women. A very chauvinistic attitude prevails throughout most of the series, which both Ehwa and her mother must endure. Ehwa is first introduced to this by the boys she see’s having a peeing contest, and who tell her that anyone who doesn’t have a gachoo (penis), is deformed. Ehwa’s mother has to deal with it more overtly, as she learns that the villagers think she sleeps around , and has to endure a lot of harassment as a single woman inn-keeper. But Ehwa’s mother holds her own pretty well with the men, and isn’t afraid to let them know when they’ve crossed a line.

Women of this time are also forced into arranged marriages, often sold off for money and land. Ehwa’s mother doesn’t agree with this though, and fights to save her daughter from it, refusing offers of money and land from Master Chou, an old, but well-off land owner. She encourages Ehwa to find a man that she loves, even as she herself finds her own in the traveling pictographer.

Color of WaterAn interesting aspect of this title was the relationship between Ehwa and her mother. They seemed more like sisters than mother and daughter. Ehwa’s mother shared a lot of her feelings with her daughter, leading to conversations that sounded more like competing sisters, especially as Ehwa matured and understood her mother’s feelings. This relationship does lead to some conflict between the two, though not seriously. Ehwa puts down the Picture Man to her mother after meeting Duksam, in a way that sisters arguing over who has the better looking boyfriend might. It’s obvious she likes the Picture Man, and wants her mother to be happy with him, but she just can’t help putting her own just a that mush higher. I think this relationship made Ehwa and her mother’s interactions more interesting, and gives Ehwa a more independent attitude, to the point that she contemplates going out on her own to find Duksam, something unheard of at the turn of the 20th century, in either Korea or America.

Nature is used a lot as metaphor in this series. Flowers are used to represent feelings, especially for women, and insects represent people. Ehwa expresses her first crushes on Chung-Myong and Master Sunoo with Tiger Lilies. For her mother, it is the gourd flower, that only blooms at night, and represents her longing for the Picture Man. Throughout the volumes, flowers are used to represent some emotion that a woman feels or expresses her lot in life. While I like the language of flowers, its use in this series went a little too far, diluting the meanings, and at some points becoming downright sappy. The use of flowers at the end of Heaven for the consummation scene between Ehwa and Duksam got especially tiring.

Color of HeavenThe use of insects wasn’t quite as overused, but it definitely got the point across. Earth starts with two boys comparing Ehwa’s mother with a beetle, in that she will sleep with anyone. Butterflies are used most often though, to go with the flower analogies. Ehwa favors the Fire Butterfly through the last two volumes. Like a moth, it is drawn to flames and will die in them. That is the kind of man Ehwa wants, one that will stay in her flame and not dance from flower to flower. I found this expression of monogamy more interesting than the Mountain Butterfly that mates for life.

Sexual maturity also plays a big role in this series, as part of Ehwa’s growing up. She learns most of this from her friend Bongsoon, who is quite promiscuous. The author is very upfront about things such as sex and masturbation, but I think he does it in a realistic way. Much of Ehwa’s “education” of these things comes in conversations between her and Bongsoon in way one could easily imagine happening. I find it refreshing to see it handled in a straightforward manner and as just another part of growing up. There’s already enough metaphor in this book.

Overall, I liked reading The Color Of… Trilogy. It’s an interesting coming of age story with characters and relationships that develop over the three volumes. But it’s not a series I would re-read. The heavy use of dialog and flowery language (no pun intended) was somewhat off-putting, and tedious to get through at times. I felt like I was back in 12th grade reading The Good Earth as an assignment. I read for entertainment, not to feel I’ll be tested on it later. I would recommend it be read at least one though. Young adults, both male and female, could get something useful from this series.

Shonen Jump July 2010

91_largeIt’s more of the same old, same old from Shonen Jump this month. I actually read this a few weeks ago, but just haven’t felt that push to write about it. With June’s end coming up closer than I thought, I figured it was time to get down to work and write this post. After once again wading through all the pretty color pages of SJ anime, CCG and video game “reviews”, we finally get to manga.

Once again, SJ starts with the preview of Bakuman, and it’s the last installment. Akito and Moritaka go to Moritaka’s Uncle’s studio/apartment, and Akito finally gets to see what a storyboard is. Even though they see how daunting the task they are taking on will be, they remain enthusiastic and even vow to get them manga made into an anime before they’re 18! There’s not much going on in this chapter unless you like strolls down memory lane. I’m still undecided on this title. The talk of Geniuses and the women in the previous chapter soured it some for me.  It will probably take at least a full volume to make a definite decision.

Bleach ‘s chapter is all about angst and background of Grimmjow. Orihime worries and wonders about Ichigo in his hollow state. We see how Grimmjow started on his road to become Arrancar, all the while Ichigo and Grimmjow keeps fighting. In other words, nothing interesting happened. I might have been interested in Grimmjow’s past at one point, but now, I’m just bored. Some real story would be nice.

Ultimo has Yamato back in the past, reliving the day he found Ultimo. He remembers the previous time line, and notices differences and Murayama, the boy from the future transfers into his class. We get some more background on Dunstan (shown in a kimono with a spider on it) and Yamato has to choose between saving the world and Ultimo. The info on Dunstan doesn’t help anything, though I’m interested in what Eco has to say to Yamato, but this series is still just a time passer.

One Piece remains on top of its game with Luffy and his band of escaped pirates all heading for Navy Headquarters to rescue Ace, where the truth of his past is revealed not just to the reader, but to the whole world, and man, is it an exciting reveal! This information tides the reader over until the moment everyone, including the navy has been waiting for; the arrival of White Beard. And he’s got some plans for the Navy for taking his son. These are some great chapters of One Piece. I love learning more about Ace’s background, and finally getting to meet White Beard, after hearing so much about him. And he’s got a pretty impressive Devil Fruit power too.

In Naruto, the battle between Bee and Kisame finally ends, and Naruto learns the truth behind Sakura’s less-than-convincing confession last issue. And Naruto’s not too thrilled about it. But news of what happened at the summit means Kakashi must return to Konoha, and Naruto has an new protector in Gaara, and the cliff hanger is Danzo revealing his right arm in a fight against Madara. Naruto has lost its punch and fallen into a hole of angst as Naruto fusses over Sasake and Sakura. Not even the ending battle between Bee and Kisame could save these chapters. I’m just not feeling it with Naruto right now. I know it’s set up for the next big battle, but it’s starting to wear.  Something needs to happen.

And…that’s it for the mag. No Spotlight chapters, and no news if there are any changes coming up in the issue. The last pages just pimp the battles coming up (or continuing) in the next issue. I guess maybe the Spotlight chapters weren’t so popular? Are they staying with just 4 manga titles so they can keep the chapter count up for Naruto and One Piece? Anyone else think there’s a Bleach speed up in the future? The anime just went streaming. Man though, has the page count dropped! They’re pushing 312 pages for $4.99? Really? Not so long ago it was over 400! Does SJ have a future as a print magazine, or will it go the way of Yen Plus? It’s loosing it’s worth to me with every issue like this. I’d rather just get the One Piece GNs and not bother with the mag if it’s gonna keep dropping like this.

Bunny Drop Volume 1

Going home for his grandfather’s funeral, thirty-year-old bachelor Daikichi is floored to discover that the old man had an illegitimate child with a younger lover! The rest of his family is equally shocked and embarrassed by this surprise development, and not one of them wants anything to do with the silent little girl, Rin. In a fit of angry spontaneity, Daikichi decides to take her in himself! But will living with this overgrown teenager of man help Rin come out of her shell? And hang on, won’t this turn of events spell doom for Daikichi’s love life?!

BUNNYDROP_1By Yumi Unita
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Drama
Price: $12.99
Rating: ★★★★★
Buy This Book

When I first heard about this title, I didn’t think it would appeal to me. But, after seeing so many comments recommending it, I decided to give it a chance, and I’m glad I did. Bunny Drop turned out to be a well written story with engaging characters that evolve over the course of this first volume.

Bunny Drop looks at the lives of two people. Daikichi is a 30-year-old bachelor. He is the section chief at a clothing manufacturer, so he works longs shifts and has no social life, or prospects of one anytime soon. Rin is a quiet 5-year-old girl. She is shy around other adults, and is the daughter of Daikichi’s 80-year-old grandfather, essentially making Rin Daikichi’s aunt. At Daikichi’s grandfather’s funeral, his family is arguing over who should take in Rin, as no one knows who the mother is. Daikichi, disgusted by their attempts to push the child off onto each other, impulsively decides to take her in himself. Here is where the story really starts.

In order to properly care for Rin, Daikichi’s whole life has to change. He can no long live the life of a bachelor, working until late into the night, and leaving his porn magazines around. He has to keep the apartment relatively clean, learn to shop for Rin, find her daycare, and even transfer to another department at his job to get lesser hours. But the changes he experiences aren’t just external. Internally, he is changing as well. In order to care for Rin, his whole way of thinking has to change. He needs to think more like a parent. Slowly, he begins to understand Rin and her needs, such as helping her deal with the concept of death, and that he’s not going to die so soon as her father/his grandfather did. Helping Rin also makes him look at his life and health, which starts him thinking about the future differently.

This was a fantastic story. I really enjoyed it a lot. It was very touching in a lot of ways, with the way Daikichi reaches out to Rin, not knowing what he is getting into, and really tries to care for her without overcompensating. The characters and story are rendered realistically, making the whole title believable. There’s nothing weird or disturbing about the way the situation is presented. The changes in the characters occur gradually, naturally. Watching Daikichi’s adjustments from bachelor to “Dad” are both amusing and touching. It’s hard to put into words, but the whole volume just felt good to read.

The art suits the story very well. It’s has a mostly realistic look to it, with some weird faces showing up, but these are just moments of exaggerated emotion and well within the range of reality.

I highly recommend Bunny Drop. It’s a title that both men and women can enjoy and relate to. The characters are great and the situations have humor mostly because they are so true. Anyone who has had to get daycare on a moment’s notice can really relate to Daikichi’s predicaments. It’s well written, well drawn, and just plain a pleasure to read.

Review copy provided by Publisher

This Week in Manga 6/5-6/11/10

TWiM

About Freakin’ Time!

The big news of the week was announced on Tuesday. Manga publishers in both the US and Japan have banded together to create a coalition to fight online piracy. They are starting with manga aggregator sites  with make it easy  for scanlators to put their titles up in one place and for readers to find and read them easily. 30 sites have been targeted, though no names have been mentioned. Though you can be sure Onemanga will be one of them, as they got a lot of press last week about making Google’s top 1000 websites. The Mangasphere had a lot to say about this, and you can find a lot of the reactions rounded up here. Bloggers have been going on about this for a while, and it’s about time publishers did something. For all we know, this might have been in the works for a while, to first get the Japanese publisher to band together, and then bring in the US publishers. While this initiative won’t complete wipe out piracy online, as long as gets the aggregator sites off as the first result in Google when searching for some titles, I’ll be happy.

Looking for Solutions

Stopping aggregator sites is a short-term and answer to a problem, it doesn’t really address the real issue that aggregator sites seemed to be an answer to. Readers want to be able to read more manga online. Once the current aggregators are gone, if manga publishers don’t address this problem, they will start appearing again, this time in places where the coalition doesn’t have as much sway. Jake Forbes, manga editor and writer of Return to Labyrinth has a very digital suggestion that would allow scanlators, creators and publishers to work together and address some of the issues scanlators say they have with licensed titles.  Scanlation site Manga Helpers, which was in the news last year for trying to reach out manga publishers, has simultaneously announced it will stop hosting scanlations and will start a new business model called Open Manga. Details are vague on the business model, and they might be premature in announcing it without any details. Without the scans though, Manga Helpers does appear it can be a useful site, if it returns to concentrating on helping translators improve their skills.

Meanwhile, Erica Friedman of Okazu has been working on the solution to scanlations for while and posts her article. It’s long but filled with a lot of good information about the history of scans, why they were a solution to a perceived problem, and what the solution to the solution should look like. Finding the right solution will not be easy, and I suspect publishers will not find it for a while. Apple and iPad are not the answer, nor totally is a web-based solution. It’s going to take technology, creators and publishers working together to get digital manga where it’s available for all, and that’s what really want, isn’t it?

Masters of Manga

Marc Bernabé, a professional translator and writer (mostly in spanish) has started work on a book, not just about manga, but it’s creators, the mangaka that come up with and drawn all our favorite titles. He has interviewed and filmed 30 mangaka, many of whom are well-known in the US, including Ken Akamatsu, Kaiji Kawaguchi, Umezu Kazuo, and Naoki Urasawa. He’s now putting up some of his filmed interviews, translated on his blog. If you’re interested in learning what goes on in the heads of mangaka, go check out this site.

NYT Best Sellers List

This week, Viz takes back its dominance of the list, but only just. It has a lot of new volumes to the list, but not all of them have the stamina to stick around long. First, over on the Hardback list, Twilight is spending its 12th week there at #1 again. Manga’s new #1 is no surprise. Naruto vol 48 jumps right into the top spot. Following behind it is Vampire Knight vol 10 debuting at #2. Also debuting at #3 is a series no stranger to the list, Bleach, with vol 31. Last week’s #1, Negima! Magister Negi Magi vol 26 falls three to #4, with Black Butler vol 2 holding right being at #5. Debuting at #6 is Yu-Gi-Oh! R vol 5 as does Dark Horse title Hellsing vol 10, coming in at #7, and is the final volume in that vampire series. Tokyopop returns to the list with vol 3 of Alice in the Country of Hearts at #8, and spots #9 and #10 are held by new volumes of One Piece, 50 and 49 respectively. Viz gets 6 of the 10 posts this week, with Del Rey, Yen Press, new comer Dark Horse and Tokyopop all getting just one. It’s hard to say which titles will make to next week, as most of the titles here have a history of hanging on. My guess would be that Hellsing and Negima will be the first to go, as could the two One Piece volumes. I don’t think Yen Press can stand to have just one title on the list for long.

News From Japan

Bunny Drop goes Live

Bunny Drop, a josei manga that has just started release here in the US through Yen Press, has just been given the green light for a live action movie adaptation in the Japan. The manga follows the story of Daikichi, a 30 year-old bachelor who takes in his deceased Grandfather’s illegitimate 5-year-old daughter. The first volume of this title was fantastic, so I have high hopes for both the film and it’s eventual US release. The story is funny and warm and well written. If an adaptation can keep all that, this will be film well worth getting.

Manga For Your Ears

Sesho’s Anime and Manga Reviews

This Week at Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • The Color of Water
  • The Color of Heaven

After the Party is Over

Stolen Hearts v1It’s been a few weeks since DC announced the end of CMX Manga, and the mangasphere has had something to say about it, including me. And then there’s been the inevitable analysis of why CMX failed. Some have said it was because they didn’t have a recognizable brand or specific line. Others have said it was because one person was choosing the licenses. Hindsight is 20/20, so it’s easy to try to come up with different reason but were they really the cause?

It’s been suggested that one of the reasons CMX failed was because they couldn’t find an audience. Their licenses were all over the place, from 70’s shojo to senien to horror. There was no focus to titles chosen, and therefore no audience to focus on. Is this really a bad thing though? I thought CMX has a great catalog because of all the variety. You could find something for everyone in it. Something for kids and tween, comedy romance, drama, horror, even historical. Variety is the spice of life! And putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea. Having a diverse catalog is just what a good manga publisher should have. And CMX diversified well. If manga were stocks, any financial advisor would be proud!

It’s also been suggested that because one person, Asako Suzuki, was chosing the licenses for the company, and that she was only choosing titles she liked  but didn’t necessarily sell well. I really can’t agree with this. One person chosing the licenses is probably more the norm than the except with manga publishers. And after one person making decisions, well, look at Kurt Hassler when he was at Borders. He is credited with creating the manga selection at Borders and was at one point called one of the most important/influential people in manga/comics. He chose the titles he liked and thought would sell well. Asako no doubt did the same, and I think she did a good job. I certainly found a lot of her choices good!

King of Card Volume 2So what was it that made CMX fail? It’s been said over and over before, but I’ll say it again. It’s parent company, DC didn’t do anything to market that line. Putting a solicitation in Previews is not marketing. DC claimed they would bridge the manga and comic store gap, yet did nothing to help retailers or promote the books to bloggers, bookstores or librarians, their three strongest avocates. You can’t buy or recommend books you don’t know about. While there were other factors that contributed to its ultimate end, the mishandling of the imprint in its first year, and then being completely ignored for the rest was the main factor in its lack of sales.

And it’s such a shame too, as they were on the verge of releases some really promising titles. Word was getting out to reviewers. They were one of the few active publishers on Twitter interacting with reviewers and fans. If no one can or will rescue these, here are the titles that will never see an official english translation:

  • Nyankoi
  • Shisso Holiday
  • The Phantom Guesthouse
  • Tableau Gate
  • 51 Ways to Save Her
  • Polyphonica: Cardinal Crimson
  • Nadeshiko Club

Even though we mourn the lost, there is still plenty alive to celebrate about. While I’m disappointed some titles may never get finished, I am glad for the ones I have been able to read and review, even for just the first volume. These are the titles I’ve been able to review for far, and will continue to review. As long as there are volumes available somewhere, I will continue to recommend the work, not for DC, but for the staff that really cared and put all their time and effort into getting these titles out for us.

Besides all these titles, some of which I still have volumes left to review, there are still more I haven’t gotten to yet. Key to the Kingdom, Fire Investigator Nanase, Two Flowers for the Dragon, Canon, Kiichi and the Magic Books, Recipe for Gertrude, VS, and Venus Capriccio are all yet to be reviewed. And there’s still more I want to pick up volumes of and read still:

  • Apothecarius Argentum
  • Astral Project – Tsuki no Hikari
  • Ballad of a Shinigami
  • Moon Child
  • Name of the Flower

Are there any other titles I should check out? I know there are. People on Twitter listed off their favorite titles and there were several I’d love to check out, but can’t remember! So, leave me a comment and tell me what other CMX titles I’m missing out on.

My Darling! Miss Bancho Volume 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer of Tokyopop

It’s been tough to be a manga fan lately, with one bad piece of bad news after another, and publishers being yanked out from under us. But there is one company that’s weathered the storm of fans and economy and is slowly, but surely making its way back. Back in 2008, when Tokyopop did their whole restructuring, many doom sayers didn’t they could return to be the company they once where. That part is try, but in a good way, that’s a good thing. Tokyopop before the restructuring was a mess, stretched out too far, and using the “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” method of licensing.

Pick of the Litter 5But after two years of streamlining, they have been coming back to life as it were, and bringing with it some titles some of the fans never thought we would see again. One of the titles I thought never be finished was Pick of the Litter, a B-grade comedy about cats and an alternate world. I really liked the comedy, but I’m sure it wasn’t a spectacular seller. Still, Tokyopop finished it last month by releasing the last two volumes in an omnibus edition.  Another title that I didn’t think would EVER be completed is B’TX, the title Masami Kurumada did after finishing Saint Seiya. It’s been sitting at 15 of 16 volumes for years! But now there is a solicitation for the final volume to be released in November. It is such a relief to see the light at the end of what was a dark tunnel for so long.

And the titles keep returning! On their twitter feed came this tweet, announcing that Genju no Seiza would be returning with volume 8, which Amazon has scheduled for August. This title by Matsuri Akino is such a good title, that it had to come back! I’m happy to see that Tokyopop agreed. And right behind it you can get Pet Shop of Horrors volume 7 which is scheduled for September. Another title that’s been in limbo but has been getting a lot of talk from bloggers is Gatcha Gacha, which has had its 8th volume scheduled for early November. To find out why, check out Sean Gaffney’s reviews at his blog A Case For Suitable Treatment. There are reviews of the first three volumes, but by November you can bet all 7 available will be there.

I think it is absolutely awesome that Tokyopop is doing its best to bring back these titles, even though most of them were not stellar sellers. Whatever else you say about Tokyopop, they really do care about the fans. The fact that they bringing these titles out really speaks volumes. But for Tokyopop to succeed, they need our help.

TOKYOPOP: @swanjun Yes, it is. However, retailers are lukewarm on supporting it, so please tell all your friends to order it early&often.

While this tweet was directed at Gatcha Gacha, I think it really applies for all these titles. They wouldn’t have been put on hiatus if they didn’t need more support. The best way to do this is by pre-ordering the titles and then telling all your manga friends to pre-order too.  With manga publishers dropping like flies (or so it seems), we as fans should support the ones that continue, especially when they show they are putting out the effort for us. We as fans of the titles should do the same. With all these titles reappearing, it’s like 2010 will be the summer of Tokyopop.

Now if we can just talk them into rescuing some CMX titles. I could see Stolen Hearts, My Darling! Miss Bancho and Nyankoi! fitting into their catalog really well.

Memorial Manga

eagle-v4-2Memorial Day is a national holiday in the US, the day when we remember all the people who gave their lives in the service of the country. If you look hard enough, you can find this theme in manga as well. Even though Memorial Day is celebrated with parades and ceremonies at cemetaries honoring the fallen, it can also be celebrated through the actions of the living, who carry on the memories of the dead.

In Eagle: The Making of an Asian American President, the protagonist, Yamaoka was a soldier in Vietnam, and decides to become the President of the United States when he returns. In volume 4 of the series, he attends a Remembrance Service at the Vietnam Vet wall, where he denounces war. This upsets a lot of people, but really, what better way is there to honor those who died in war, than to try to keep any more sons and daughters from dying in it?

Pluto 1Pluto: Tezuka x Urasawa is a retelling of the Astro Boy storyline “Greatest Robot in the World”. When Tezuka first wrote the story, he was writing of the Vietnam war as well. In Urasawa’s version, argument can be made that he is discussing the Iraq War, a much more recent, but no less violent conflict. In Pluto, the 39th Central Asia War was fought by robots, but that doesn’t make them any less worthy to be remembered. As the story opens, people are mourning the death of Mont Blanc, a soldier from that war who turned to helping people afterwards. Pluto‘s theme is also one of anti-war, where the memories of the conflict and those who were killed greatly affect the survivors.

Fullmetal 15Fullmetal Alchemist is another title that denounces war. Many of the characters in this title were soldiers in a terrible war against the Ishbalans. In volume 15, we hear the whole story. Roy Mustang was so profoundly affected by the war, that like Yamaoka in Eagle, he decides he must become the leader of Ametris so something like that can never happen again. Though, unlike Yamaoka, there is no democratic way to the top, and Mustang must still be soldier to make his way up. But the memories of what happened, and the vow he made have never been forgotten by him or his subordinates and friends who help him.

This Memorial Day, take some time to think about the men and women who have died to keep this country free, but also think about things we can do so no one else has to mourn a father, mother, sister, brother, son or daughter in such conflicts ever again.

This Week in Manga 5/22-5/28/10

TWiM

May Movable Manga Feast

This month’s movable manga feast featured the Vertical title To Terra… a sci-fi shonen from the 70’s. It was hosted by Kate Dacey of The Manga Critic blog. Reviews for the title were a lot more varied than on previous titles. People definitely had their opinion of this series and had no problem expressing it. You’ll find an introduction to the series and all the links to the participating reviews at the top link.

Well, That’s a Surprise

Here’s something that shouldn’t shock reader of Hunter x Hunter. It’s going on hiatus. Again.  What is this? Once a year at least, this title has to stop? Is this something in Togashi’s contract? If he hates writing this series so much, why doesn’t he just cancel it. Or hand it off to an assistant. At least do something to give fans closure. This is like a bad relationship, and someone’s gotta stop the vicious circle.

This Actually Is!

Dark Horse, which has started to feature titles on Facebook, recently had one entry on Ghost Talker’s Day Dream, which included the news that the series would be returning in September. The title was previously reported cancelled, so this is very good news for fans. It is a seinen horror action, so it’s written for adults. It can also be rather graphic, so be warned if you’re thinking of checking out this title.

Talkin’ ’bout a Solution

Over on Twitter, Erica Friedman of Okazu blog decided to take things into her own hands (sort of), and start crowd sourcing for a solution to the problem of illegal distribution of manga. After outlining the “Problem”, responses started to come in for a “Good Solution”. After the first session, the conclusion was:

To reiterate: The first wave of the Good Solution for Manga: Browser platform, pay and POD are a must, open-source on language and region…

…creator community, rewards to creators from user focus.

To see more of the responses, search Twitter for “yuricon”, “Problem”, “solution” and you’ll get most of the conversations.

Back to the Problem

Robot 6 helps to point out why illegal distribution is a problem, and why publishers need to implement their own “Good Solution”. Google recently released its list of the 1000 most visited websites based on their Double Click Ad Planner, and One Manga, the aggregator site that hosts illegal scans, placed at 935. It beat out many corporate sites such as NFL.com and ToyRus.com. If this doesn’t convince publishers that a “Hulu of manga” is needed, nothing will.

NYT Best Seller List

It’s all out war on the list this week, between Viz and Yen Press.  Starting with the Hardback books, Twilight has once again reclaimed the top spot from Kick Ass. Down on the manga list, Yen Press has also reclaimed the #1 spot with Black Butler vol 2 with Black Bird vol 4 falling back to #2. Pandora Hearts vol 2 debuts and takes the #3 spot, forcing Naruto vol 47 back to #4. Black Butler vol 1 holds on to #5, as D. Gray-man vol 17 falls three to #6. Kobato vol 1, the new CLAMP series, and debuts on the list at #7 followed by Rinne vol 3 at #8. Yotsuba&! vol 8 holds onto #9 and Rosario Vampire: Season II vol 1 falls four to #10. Interesting list, as Yen Press and Viz alternate up the list with Yen taking all the odd number and Viz getting all the evens. It’s also the start of the battle of the blacks. We’ll have to see if next week, the Butler can hold out, or if the Bird will take back it’s #1 spot.

News From Japan

More Manga We’ll Never See

ANN reports of a new manga launching in Japan that we’ll never see legally stateside. It’s a shojo title for the movie of the TV series Macross Frontier, the 25th anniversary TV series, and sequel to the original Macross, which was one of the three series’ that made up Robotech. This particular title is actually about one of the characters, Sheryl, who is the pop idol at the beginning of the series. This manga tells of her beginnings. Due to lawsuits over copyright issues, the US has never had an official release of a Macross series since Macross Plus, and it doesn’t look like things will be changing any time soon, which is a real shame, because is any series could popularize mecha titles in this country, it would be Macross.

Manga For Your Ears

Anime Today

ANNCast

Spiraken Manga Review

This Week at Manga Village

What I’ve Been Reading

  • Tena on a S-String vol 2
  • Yotsuba&! vol 8
  • Shonen Jump July 2010