Digital Review: Orange Crows Volume 1

orange-crows
Orange Crows Volume 1
By: James Perry II and Ryo Kawakami
Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: 13+
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

Five years ago, a young witch named Cierra broke the one unforgivable law of the witch society: attempting to create her own magic. Her unlawful tampering burned down a research room and injured the Mayor’s daughter, Cierra’s best friend. As punishment, she was exiled to the Wilderness, a barren wasteland crawling with witch-devouring Fairies and the bloodthirsty Forsaken…After surviving for five ruthless years, her exile has now ended, and she has been ushered back to civilization, only to discover that the world around her has changed greatly. Will Cierra be able to adjust back to a society that abandoned her? And if her freakish new ability that links her to the terrifying Fairies is discovered, she may not be let off with mere exile this time…

Orange Crows is a new OEL manga from Tokyopop.  I really knew nothing about it, and the cover didn’t intrigue me in anyway, but with a link to read the whole volume for free coming in my email, I decided to check it out.

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Previews Waffling

I haven’t done this for a while, and last month’s Previews had some tough choices for me, so I thought I’d talk about it a little.  There were a lot of titles I collect/want that were up for ordering last month.  It’s very hard to keep my numbers down when publishers do this to me.  (Yes, I do think they are all out to get me.)

It isn’t that publishers had a lot coming out.  There were just a lot of publishers that had titles I wanted.  Bandai, CMX, Del Rey, Tokyopop, Viz and Yen Press all had an average of 2 books.  Well, except Viz who always has at least 5-7 alone that I want.  Doing a quick tape of everything (less the Naruto wave I already said I would have to pass on), if I had ordered everything I read, it would have come to over $100, and that with my 30% discount!  Even in a good economy, that’s a lot for one month!  15 titles in all!

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The Pitfalls of Being a Reviewer

Being a reviewer isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Sure, anyone can write “That manga sucks”, or “This manga totally rules!”.  But to thoughtfully read a book and then put down into words not just your feelings about the book, but do it in an interesting and intelligent way that people will want to read is a lot harder than it sounds.

Being too subjective: Yes, I am writing a review and giving my personal opinion about the title.  But at the same time, I don’t want to go all “fan girl” either, and just go on and on about how much I like the title.  I want to give enough information for readers to have a basic idea what the title is about, while at the same time expressing my likes and dislikes.  If I really like a title, I will go on more about what I consider it’s good points, but it’s hard some times not to become a cheerleader for a title.  That’s appropriate for a blog post, not a review.

On the other side of the coin…

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Wonder(Con)ing

An announcement arrived in my inbox today saying that Viz was going to have a booth at Wondercon this weekend (2/27-3/1/09).  They will be pushing their Viz Signature and Vizkids line.

Now, I’m glad Viz is putting some time and effort behind these two lines.  They certainly can use them, being the newest and smallest of the Viz books.  Among titles mentioned for the Vizkids line were Pokemon, Legend of Zelda, and their new line of Chapter books for Naruto and Dragonball DEvolution.  I can’t be there, so if some one who reads this is, can you ask them something for me?

What happened to all the Pokemon manga?  There are like, only 6 or so volumes you can buy (we have them all).  But back in the early 2000’s, Viz had two floppies of Pokemon; Pokemon Adventure and Pokemon: Magical Journey.  Why haven’t we gotten volume releases of these?  Pokemon is still a hot property, at least if my kids are any indication!  They would both love to read more Pokemon!  My youngest would just devour the Pokemon Magical Journey!  We were able to find two floppies around the cover price, and she loved them.  What is wrong with Pokemon for girls?  And why can’t they put out more than just two volumes of Pokemon Adventure?  That thing has like over 30 volumes!  Viz has two hot sellers and they are just letting them languish!

Some people may bemoan media based properties, but they have their place.  And it’s not just to sell more toys/games.  Both my daughters love pokemon to the point that they draw their one and come up with stories about them.  If there is something that will stimulate their imagination like that, you can be sure, that as a parent, I will be buying more of the books.  We already get every Sonic the Hedgehog title because of that.  Pokemon would easily make that list too.

It just really, REALLY irks me that these titles get just the barest of coverage in manga, while TV and toystores blitz the kids.  If they are going to exposed to these things so much, at least make them read for some of it!

Crossing Over

I really enjoy Matsuri Akino’s manga.  Pet Shop of Horrors is what hooked me.  Then I checked out the other titles by her available from Tokyopop, and I got a wonderful surprise when I read Genju no Seiza.  In volume 4, Count D from Petshop of Horrors made a cameo appearance!  I loved the cross over.  It worked perfectly with Count D being friends with Sohki, the mythical Kirin.  I really enjoy stories with shared/extended universes, as long as I can read ALL of the stories.

So now, I’m reading Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo, and I get to volume 3.  The last story in the volume, Dalsegno, features a cat named Femto who comes to stay at Count D’s Pet Shop for a few days.  While there, he meets another cat, a Sphynx named Amon.  Count D explains to Amon who Femto is, and in that frame is the charactiture of Akino, a kappa, holding a sign saying “Please read the details in the Reisha manga series.”  AHHH!  There’s another Akino series in the PSoH universe?!

The full title of the series is Reikan Shouhou Kabushikigaisha, or Psychic Business Corporation.  It’s about Kanenari Tokiwa, a man that deals with the spirit world.  He exorcises spirits, convincing them to move on to the next world.  Femto is Tokiwa’s cat.

It sounds like a great series, and I can only hope that will be licensed eventually.  Perhaps when Genju no Seiza is complete, and if Tokyopopo is still around, we might see it.

Sometimes a Rose is Just a Rose

Anime News Network has an article about Viz Media having to restructure and layoff some employees in this difficult economy.  In the comments to that story, of course, someone has to drag out the dead horse of piracy.  Every economic problem that a manga or anime company has is not always related back to piracy.  Can we get over this please?

This is a tough economy right now, and things aren’t going to be getting any better any time soon.  Don’t fool yourself.  If Google, the giant of the online world has to lay off people, then you know this is a widespread problem.  And Viz, despite it’s hugely popular properties is not immune to it.  In fact, it may be hit harder than other companies.

Look at Viz’s releases and schedule.  They are about the only company that has several titles that come out every other month.  When money gets tight, you start looking for places to cut corners, and let’s be honest, manga is a luxury item.  If you have to cut down your manga order, you’re going to go for the titles you like most, and that’s not always going to fall in Viz’s favor.

This economy will weed out the men from the boys, both in companies and in titles.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of the “C-listers” start to get longer releases times, if not disappear completely.  Viz night not be able to afford Saint Seiya or Detective Conan, since Naruto and Bleach will have to cover themselves more.

Piracy and/or scanalations are not the cause of Viz’s problems here.  It’s people (me included), having to make choices about what they can continue to afford to buy, and what they truly want to keep reading.  Titles that people bought just for fun aren’t going to be making it onto ordering/shopping lists.  It’s just going to be those that they absolutely, positively have to have.  And it might be surprising to see that alot of Viz titles don’t always make it on the have to list.

Sometimes a rose is just a rose, and a drop in sales is a drop in sales, and not because of piracy.

Manga2SonyE-Reader

While looking around for links to add to my e-reading section, I stumbled upon these posts about putting manga on the Sony E-Reader.  They feature the PR-500, but the current, less expensive version, the PR-505, is essentially the same.  These include an extensive comparison of color comics, scanalated manga, and Tokyopop manga available through Sony’s store.  There are also links to a conversion guide to convert scans to a format optimal for reading, and Manga2Ebook, and RasterFarian, programs used in the conversion guide.

Here are some videos as well, showing manga on the E-Reader:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZyftzDmnwI

You won’t have to turn your head sideways for this one:

Fire Sale of Manga!

Well, I finally did it.  I have listed some of my complete series up on eBay.  I only put up a few that I’m selling, as eBay kept upping the fees with the more I listed.  It was starting to suck, so I stopped at 5.  I’ll be adding more as I see how these do.  You can find them here:

Read or Die

Read or Dream

Train Man: Densha Otoko (Viz Edition)

Densha Otoko (CMX Edition)

Treasure Hunter (CPM)

E-books of calibre

Being a wanna-be tech hound, I watch the tech news for interesting posts about the tech subjects I like.  I found one over at Channel Web that I’d thought I’d share with all my readers who are interested in E-books.  They have a slide show showing all the current and future/possible E-book Readers, with specs.  Check it out.

At the end they mention a few software programs as well.  But there is one that I think anyone considering purchasing an E-book Reader should look at.  I found out about it when I was exploring the MobileRead website and forums.  It’s an open source free program called Calibre.

Calibre is an ebook management program that works on all the major platforms (Windows, Linux and Mac OS X).  It works as a library, a format converter, and, best of all, convert news feeds to ebook format!  With this program, which hands all the major formats, including Kindle and Sony, it doesn’t matter which reader you get.  You can read any ebook on your reader.

What I like best about it, is that it can take RSS feeds and make them available to read on the e-reader.  The Kindle charges you for the feeds it makes available, and both Amazon and Sony only give you a limited number of feed to get.  With calibre, you can take any feed you want to read anywhere.  You don’t have to be tied to a computer to read them.  It’s not an automatic download, but you have the freedom to get what you want, and not just what’s popular.

I believe the Kindle has resparked the popularity for ebooks and readers.  The last year has seen a reported 235% jump in e-book reader sales.  I don’t know if I’ll stick by the claim that the Kindle is the “ipod of ebooks”, but it was definitely brought interest to a previously fringe technology.  The competition it has sparked can only be a boon to us, the consumers.

Kindle 2.0: Is It Worth It?

Today, Amazon.com had a big press event to unveil the newest generation of its e-book reader, the Kindle.  Speculation has been running about for while now that Amazon would release a new reader with leaked photos, increased orders of screens, and a long reorder wait at the Kindle store.

So, what’s new about it? Well, not much.  There were some cosmetic changes, which many people called for when it first came out in late 2007.  It’s lighter and thinner, has an estimated 25% increase in battery power, and more memory that will allow it to hold nearly 6 times more books.

What’s in it for manga readers?  Again, not much.  It does boast a new screen that is capable of showing 16 shades of gray, as opposed to the first generation that could only show 4.  This would definitely improve the quality of black and white pictures, which makes up most manga releases.

What hasn’t changed?  The two most important things that would make the Kindle relevant to manga readers; price and content.  The price hasn’t changed, so it’s still $359.  But in this economy, that prices the reader out of LOT of people’s range.  Prices under $200 seems to be the magical limit for most consumers.  The Kindle was designed to be and remains a tool for the affluent and/or business person on the go.  This is most reflected in the content available for it.  You can get  103 of 110 New York Times best sellers, 230,000 total e-books, and 250 blogs and 23 newspapers.  A search of the Kindle store will give you just three manga volumes; Maximum Rider and World of Quest from Yen Press, and Japan Ai from Go Comi, and zero blogs.

This upgrade of the Kindle is more of a 1.75 than a 2.0.  They fixed some little issues and made some cosmetic changes, but little else.  There’s still no graphic support without hacking, and although files can be converted, there’s no support for other formats than the Kindles mobibook.  The SD slot was also taken out, so your 2GB of memory is it.

Jeff Bezos says “Our [Amazon’s] vision for the Kindle is to have every book ever printed, in any language, all available in under 60 seconds.”   I would think that would include manga, manga publishers would have to get serious about the format, and not just scoff it.  And then there are issues of licensing and price to consider, with Amazon pushing for lower prices, and taking 65% of that price.  Like the Apple Apps store, maybe it’s just not worth it to publishers, which would truly be a shame.

Is the Kindle 2.0 worth it?  Unless you’re a tech hound, or travel a lot for business, no.  Stay with paper books for now.

Why I Hate Con Season

Even though most of the big Cons are in the summer, Con Season gets its official start now in February with the New York Comic Con, and I’m really getting to hate it.  Why?  Because of all the license announcements!  I am really, REALLY trying hard to cut down on the amount of manga I get.  I’ve done a brisk bit of trading at Mangatude (which I still highly endorse), and have caught up on several series, and I’ve got more complete series ready to go up on eBay.  I go through Previews, and am happy when I see titles completing.  Another couple of titles I don’t have to buy.  But then, con season rolls around, and the list of titles I have to get suddenly goes up again!

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Review: Zombie Powder Volume 2

Zombie Powder Volume 2
By Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media; Shonen Jump Advanced
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Genre: Action
Price: $7.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

We meet Wolfina Lalla Getto, a self-described “journalist of justice” who has been responsible for toppling various criminal organizations in her illustrious career.  She’s got a peculiar choice of weapons, a camera tripod, with which she is very effective.  However, when Gamma Akutabi rescues her from a camera-shoot gone wrong, he gets the idea that she might know where one of the Rings of the Dead might be, especially when he finds out that her younger brother Emilio lies in a coma, the sure sign, he thinks, of their knowlege of the rings.  Supposedly, the Rings of the Dead can turn innocent victims into mindless vegetables by feeding off their life force.

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