Tag Archives: Tokyopop

Saiyuki Volumes 1-3: Manga Movable Feast

Saiyuki is among the first few manga I started to read. Having been a fan of the original Dragon Ball manga and knowing how it was based on the Chinese story Journey to the West, I was interested in seeing other takes on the story. While I came to Saiyuki for the story, I definitely stayed for hot guys. This title is a perfect blend of action, bishonen and angst, that it’s no wonder is was such a big hit with the ladies when it was released.

By Kazuya Minekura
Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Action/Fantasy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★

The basic premise of Saiyuki is simple. In the land of Shangri-la, humans and demons known as youkai live together in peace. But the peace is threatened when someone attempts to resurrect Gyumaoh, a youkai known as the Ox King using a combination of demon magic and human science. The forbidden practice causes a Minus Wave of negative energy to spread across Shangri-la, and causing the youkai to lose their minds and attack humans. The gods summon a monk, Genjyo Sanzo, to travel to India in the west to find out who is attempting the revival and stop them. Accompaning him are former traveling companions Son Goku, Sha Gojyo and Cho Hakkai, three youkai that seem to be immune to the minus wave.

But getting to India isn’t the point of this series. It’s just an excuse to get these four traveling together because it’s the characters and their interactions that really make this a fun title to read. Sanzo, the defacto leader, is not what you would expect a Buddhist monk to be like. He doesn’t shave his head. He drinks, smokes, and gambles. He carries a gun to use against enemy youkai, and a paper fan for Gojyo and Goku. Gojyo is the bad boy of the group with a cigarette in one hand and an eye on the hottest girl in sight. He likes the act like he’s grown up, but always ends up in childish arguments with Goku. The youngest looking of the group, he’s really over 500 years old. He’s also the most powerful, but is kept in check with the power limiter headband he can never take off. He thinks more with his stomach, and looks up to Sanzo. Hakkai is the quiet one, always ready with a gentle smile and a helping hand. The smile can also be quite menacing, especially when he has a ball of his chi ready to fire at an enemy or make into a force field to protect friends and innocents alike.

For the most part, this odd quartet gets along like old friends, or almost a family. Gyojo and Goku are the siblings, constantly bickering and teasing each other. Sanzo is the father constantly getting angry at their bickering and issuing threats of “I’ll kill you”, while Hakkai tries to keep the peace. But for all the light-hearted moments, the boys have some tragic pasts that not only influence who they are now, but also come back to haunt them on the journey. Sanzo’s almost takes his life, and Gyojo’s comes back in a most unexpected way. Their tragic back stories are wrought with emotion, but never quite tip into melodramatic territory. Hakkai’s back story is just starting as volume 3 ends, but portents in the final chapter doesn’t bode well for him.

Their enemy, Kougaiji, the son of Gyumaoh, and his trio of subordinates are almost a mirror image of the group. Youkai with tragic pasts of their own, they drum up an almost friendly rivalry with Sanzo’s group. They even end up working together at the end of volume 3, and actually make a good team. But Kougaiji’s own past keeps the groups enemies, though he isn’t happy about who he has to work with, or even really trusts she’ll keep her promise to him.

The is a lot of action in these first three volumes, as Sanzo’s group has to fight off youkai attacks and assassins sent by Kougaiji. They give the boys lots of opportunities to be glib and toss off one liners. In one chapter, they even rate a youkai assassin on his laugh and even how he falls down. Minekura is also not afraid to be graphic in these scenes. Heads get cut off, or sliced in two, and intestines are seen as torsos are sliced and youkai eat.

Whether they are in the middle of a fight, or relaxing in an inn after a long ride, they always look good. And I happily admit this is one of the reason I enjoy this series. All of the guys, good or bad are hot. There is lots of long, flowing hair, and bangs that fall over and/or cover eyes. They are all tall, thin, and lithe (mostly), and Minekura dresses them in a modern-ish fantasy style, combining jeans with tunics and sashes. Even Sanzo with his traditional garb looks good when he lets his robes down.

Tokyopop did a really job with this release. The dialog is very readable and catches the personalities of the characters perfectly. The cover is a nice heavy paper stock, and they presevered the original Japanese wraparound cover, and put the back text on the inside of the front. Volume one also features color plates of the four main characters. A lot of time and effort went into these volumes and it really shows.

Saiyuki isn’t just one of the first manga I read, it’s one of my top favorite titles of all time. The action, comedy, drama and hot guys makes this a title I read and gladly re-read again and again. It’s really just a lot of fun, which is exactly how I want my manga to be.

Lost the Battles but Won the War?

Manga has had a tough go of it lately. Publishers have been cutting back on titles and people, and now, we’ve seen the first casualty of 2011.  Tokyopop, one of the three biggest publishers of manga in the US is closing down its publishing division. I’m not going to go into the details about why this may have happened. I’ve already given some of my thoughts in this post, and other people have dissected Tokyopop’s 14 year history already. No, I’m looking at the final message from Stu Levy, president of Tokyopop. After the announcement was made, he put up a message at Tokyopop.com, now long gone, but other people posted copies on their own sites. He talks about the history of Tokyopop and it’s accomplishments, and then gives himself a pat on the back with this:

Fourteen years later, I’m laying down my guns. Together, our community has fought the good fight, and, as a result, the Manga Revolution has been won –manga has become a ubiquitous part of global pop culture. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished – and the incredible group of passionate fans we’ve served along the way (my fellow revolutionaries!).

“Won” the revolution? Really? And how do you come to that conclusion? Tokyopop can definitely claim starting the “manga revolution”. Comics for girls were practically unheard of in the late 90s and early 2000s. Manga has been responsible for creating more readers of comics, some that even jump over to floppies. But Tokyopop isn’t responsible for that. They had some hits early on with Sailor Moon and Fruits Basket, but if anyone was responsible for bringing manga out of shadows and into light of mainstream, that has to go to Viz Media, and their mega hits with Dragonball, Rurouni Kenshin, Naruto and Bleach. It’s these titles that really sold and made the mainstream really take manga seriously, not Tokyopop’s catalog of mostly ‘B’ and ‘C’ list titles.

Survived the revolution, maybe I could see. But how is it a win when you start-up something only to drop it before it has a chance to go anywhere? Where would the US and Europe be right now if Patton had had the same follow-through as Stu did at Tokyopop? How is it a win when the company had to go into reorganization in 2008, putting several titles on “hiatus” and putting even more on a once-a-year release schedule? With all these lost battles, how can anyone claim to have “won?”

I really hate this excuse to get out of Doge. I’ve heard the same thing from old-time, former anime fans who want to give an excuse for no longer being interested in anime, and need to justify all the time they spent promoting anime through clubs. If Levy was so “proud” of what was done, why was he so anxious to pull the plug, especially when Tokyopop was starting to become relevent again? They had some good titles coming out that was making people (like me) take them serious again.

Please, Stu, just spare us the lip-service and tell us the truth. You weren’t getting the attention you wanted anymore as a publisher and wanted the spotlight again as a “director”, so you’ve left thousands of “fellow revolutionaries” out in the street and killed lots of titles that will probably never see the light of day. Good job Stu.

Aria Volumes 1-2: Manga Movable Feast

One-hundred and fifty years after its terraforming, Aqua, the planet formerly known as Mars, is now almost completely covered in water. A young girl named Akari Mizunashi lives in the city of Neo-Venezia, an exact replica of the old Italian city of Venice, where she works as a gondolier tour guide. While giving people tours of her beautiful city, Akari learns to appreciate her city when she helps an elderly tourist find his daughter, teaches a friend some history about ancient Venice and discovers the secret behind Aqua’s unusual sun showers.

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Aqua Volumes 1-2: Manga Movable Feast

Akari Mizunashi is a new arrival in the gorgeous Martian city of Neo-Venezia. She becomes a gondolier tour guide and begins her training to become a Undine, the most coveted job on Aqua. Follow Akari’s adventures as she discovers the wonders of Aria in this prequel to the popular anime and manga series.

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Tokyopop: A Lament?

The news broke Tuesday that Tokyopop had gone through another round of layoffs, which this time included long-time editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, another editor Troy Lewter, and Line editor Asako Suzuki. The Manga tweet-verse was abuzz about the news mostly with sympathy for the folks laid off, and a lot of wonderment of what Tokyopop was thinking to let go of some great people. Most of the speculation for the lay-offs was that is was a desperate cost-cutting measure. With Borders going under, Tokyopop seems to be losing a big outlet, that also owes them money. But a lot of people

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Karakuri Odette Volume 1: Manga Movable Feast

Odette is an android created by the young talented scientist Dr. Yoshizawa. Wanting to find the ultimate difference between humans and his android, Odette decides to persuade Dr. Yoshizawa to enroll her in a local high school. Follow Odette’s adventures as she ventures through high school, in search of the true meaning of being a human.

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This Week in Manga: 11/13-11/19/10

It’s been awfully slow in the news department lately. Maybe everyone is busy with holiday preparations. But fear not! All is not lost as the news this week features unexpected licenses as well as confirmations of some found in the wild. Half confirmations of rumors, and trying to reach out to the casual manga fan join regular features of best sellers, podcasts and roundups.

Continue reading This Week in Manga: 11/13-11/19/10

Pocky Day!

Ah, Pocky, that tasty treat, the preferred snack of otaku everywhere! November 11th, or 11-11 is Pocky Day! Can you guess why? This “holiday” was started in South Korea, with their version of pocky, Pepero, where it is similar to Valentine’s Day. Pocky Day hasn’t taken off in Japan like Pepero has in Korea. I heard about it from the SciGuys podcast. I like the idea, so here are some manga titles that give a heads up to that biscuit cookie dipped in chocolate (or an assortment of other flavors), Pocky!

There are a lot of manga titles where characters are seen nomming on a stick of pocky. Card Captor Sakura, Gravitation, Tramps Like Us (Kimi Wa Pet), Harlem Beat, Nodame Cantabile and The Wallflower (Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge) all feature scenes of characters loving their pocky! But here are five titles I’d like to focus on where pocky gets more of a spotlight.

Onegai Teacher – This was originally an anime that was adapted to a manga and light novel series. Mizuho is half-alien, half-human. She has been sent to Earth by the Federation to watch over it and keep humans from making the same mistakes. Mizuho is seen eating pocky a lot. Her father died when she was young, and her only memory of him is related to a pocky box, so she eats pocky to be reminded of him. There are two volumes of this manga available, that were published by the now-defunt ComicOne, but you can probably find copies on trading sites or at used bookstores.

Zatch Bell (Kojiki no Gash) – In this shonen battle manga, every 1000 years, 100 Mamodo come to Earth to battle out for the title of King of the Mamodo. To do battle, Mamodo need a human partner to read the spells they use. Zatch Bell is one such Mamodo, and is the hero of the series, with his human partner Kiyo Takamine. Volcan 300 is Zatch’s cardboard toy robot friend, made out of an empty box of pocky and some disposible chopsticks. There have been several versions of the Volcan 300, but you’ve got to empty though boxes first, before you can make a new one! Viz Media released 25 of the 33 volumes of Zatch Bell before discontinuing the series.

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Dramacon – This is a 3 volume OEL series created by Sveltana Chmakova. The series is about fledgling writer Christie Leroux and her first experiences at a big anime convention. In this series, we see pocky used as comfort food. Christie celebrates being at the con by buying lots of pocky, as well as drowns her sorrows by buying lots of pocky. This is the best, and probably most realistic portrayal of the use of pocky by most anime and manga fans in the US. Dramacon was released by Tokyopop and is among the few celebrated titles of OEL manga. You can get the whole series in one omnibus volume.

Lucky Star – This title is a 4-koma, or 4 panel series, much like the comic strips in American newspapers. It follows 4 Japanese girls as they go through high school. There is no real ongoing plot and the strips are mostly about the girls daily lives. The leader of the group is Konata Izumi, a smart and athletic girl, but who would rather play video games and read manga than study or compete. But for this article, we want to look at Kagami Hiiragi, the older of the Hiiragi fraternal twins. Like Konata, Kagami likes to play video games, and she reads light novels. She also indulges in that more favorite to Otaku treats, pocky! She can often be seen munching on pocky sticks. Lucky Star has eight volumes, and is being released by Bandai Entertainment.

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Vampire Knight – When I asked for suggestions on Twitter for titles with Pocky in it, this series kept coming up, so I’ll include it. Vampire Knight is about Yuki Cross, the adopted daughter of the Headmaster of Cross Academy and her run-ins/relationships with the Night Class, a special class for Vampires to learn how to co-exist with humans. Shiki Senri is a member of the Night Class and is apparently “Pocky mad”. He is seen eating it several times throughout the manga. Vampires eating pocky. I wonder, does he stick the pocky in his mouth and pretends he has reaaalllllyyyy long fangs? Just kidding. Viz Media releases Vampire Knight and there are currently 10 volumes out. Thanks to @ShroudDancer, @aicnanime, @girlg33k_Kris and @PhoenixTerran for their suggestions and help!

These are just a few examples of pocky in manga. For more, and/or to find pocky in anime, check out these sites, which were I also used for several references:

Know of a series with scene I missed? Leave a comment about it!

Best Kind of Rescue

It’s been a tough last few years for the manga industry. Companies have either stopped publishing manga or have disappeared altogether. For us fans, the thing we tend to lament most is the loss of titles, and the pleading to the remaining companies that they pick up them up so we can keep reading them. But there are other things lost when a company goes under, namely the people who worked there and put so much into their love and passion for manga. Most of the time, we don’t know who these people are, as they often go unnamed, just one of a number of people who have to find new employment now, in an industry that is shrinking. So, I think it’s worth pointing out when one of those people who reached out to the manga community then finds work again with a manga company.

I am of course speaking of Asako Suzuki, formerly of CMX Manga, and who has recently joined Tokyopop as a Manga Line Editor, according to ICv2. Essentially she will be handling the majority of Japanese licenses, including acquisitions. This really is fantastic news. Asako was very active on Twitter, engaging fans and finding out what they liked, and keep everyone up to date about releases and new titles. Tokyopop did good in snagging up Asako. At CMX, it was her choice of titles that turned me around about the imprint. Until then, CMX was a company I skipped over when looking at manga titles. But in its last few years, CMX came out with a lot of fun, quirky titles. They really appealed to me in ways many of the more popular, mainstream titles did not. And a lot of these titles were appropriate for tween/middle schoolers, which is a difficult age to find books for. I know from experience. It was nice to have a publisher that filled that gap with books that could appeal to them but to older audiences as well. I know Asako will do well at Tokyopop and will continue to find us good, fun books to read again.

ICv2 also spoke with Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, the Senior Editor at Tokyopop about rescuing some of the CMX licenses. She brought up the hit and miss record Tokyopop has had with license rescues and some of the issues associated with it, such as dealing with retailers and what to do about translations. While I can see these things being an issue with some of the incomplete, long running titles such as Swan and Eroica With Love, but CMX has a batch of licenses that had either just started coming out, or never got the chance. If Tokyopop wanted to look at rescues, this is the place to start. I’d love to see Tokyopop beef up its tween titles again, since so many of them went OOP when Kodansha took their licenses back. My Darling Mis Bancho and Stolen Hearts were fun and charming tween titles that only had 1-2 volumes released. I know this is my wishful thinking, but I’d love to see these continue.

Other titles that I think would fit in with Tokyopop’s catalog are 51 Ways to Save Her, Nadeshiko Club, and Nyankoi!. 51 Ways to Save Her has that disaster/post apocalyptic vibe that fits with some of their older titles. And it’s only 5 volumes complete, so it’s a small investment. Nadeshiko Club is a crafty title like VB Rose and is only 7 volumes. NyanKoi! is the title I think is most like Tokyopop’s catalog, being a harem title with cat gods,cat allergies and curses. It’s only 3 volumes so far and is ongoing, but would be a perfect fit.

While I would really love to see these titles rescued, I also can’t wait to see what Asako will be bringing us in the future. She has such a knack for picking the cute, quirky and fun titles, I know she’ll be finding some great hidden treasures. I might even start buying Tokyopop titles regularly again!