Manga Wrap Up Week Fifteen: The Wallflower Volume 11-15

The Wallflower got off to a rough start with me, but by the end of volume 10, I was starting to warm up to the series. I still had 5 volumes left to get through, and these were going to make-or-break the series for me.

I have to admit, this series is really starting to grow on me. The problems I had with the first five volumes are gone. The stories in these volume vary quite a bit, as the boys get their own spotlight instead of focusing solely on Sunako. Takenaga and Noi’s relationship takes some baby steps forward. Ranmaru continues to try to come to terms with his new fiancée Tamao. He continues his womanizing, but can be made to feel guilty about it by her honest and naive personality. There is definitely potential for them. Yuki’s younger siblings are introduced, and he is shown to be a good older brother. He also gets a boost of confidence, but of course, at the wrong time. Kyohei just keeps being Kyohei, and that’s just fine with me. Sunako starts to show some progress as well. She makes some friends at school outside of the boys and Noi. She’s able to move on from some of the past that has haunted her, and start to accept herself.

And the person most responsible for this change is Kyohei. Their relationship continues to be more combative, and in my opinion, the most fun. I love watching them battle, and the way they competed in the Sports Day competitions was great. Both continue to refuse to admit they have any interest in each other, but Kyohei continues to be there to help Sunako, either with his actions or blunt words.Sunako shows she cares for Kyohei in her own way, even if she still clings to the thought that she’s just biding time until his life is hers. Even though their relationship is progressing at a snail’s pace, I’m fine with it. At this point it would seem more out of character to see either of them even thinking any kind of romantic feels for the other. I actually think it would be out of character for them to do so at all, but I do want to seem them together, eventually. That’s probably where the series should end. Once you get them together I just don’t think there’ll be anything more left to say.

I want to also take a moment to mention the author’s comments at the end of the volume. Hayakawa likes to do long notes at the end, mostly about her favorite jpop musician, some of which she based the bishonen boys on. I really didn’t care for these, because I’m not that kind of fan girl, and don’t really care about reading other people’s obsession over celebrities. I usually just scanned this section, until Hayakawa got a kitten. A Scottish Fold, a breed that is popular in Japan for some reason. She added real photos as well as little tidbits about the kitten, names Ten. So, by the time I got to these volumes, I did want to read the notes, but only for those about Ten. Yes, I am destined to be a crazy cat lady.

I’ve definitely turned around from my feelings about The Wallflower at the beginning. It’s a series I would like to continue, if I could borrow it or get it digitally. I liked it, but not enough for it to keep taking up space on my bookshelf. So if Kodansha ever releases this title digitally and/or for a non-iOS device, I’ll be there. While I’m not interested in keeping it, I would recommend this title to anyone with my more twisted sense of humor and romance. Just push through the first five volumes because it does get better.

I’m moving on to Spiral: Bonds of Reasoning next. I think I will have to go back a volume or two for a refresher, since it seems to have been quite a while. I also want to get some pet manga read and reviewed, and then there’s the next MMF, which I plan on participating in. Where I’m going to find the time is anyone guess.

  • The Wallflower Volume 11-15
  • Yen Plus April 2012

Why Is It Always The Cat?

Continuing my ASPCA Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month coverage, I started to notice a pattern in some of the titles I’ve read. In manga, animals are often used to make a point about a character in the manga. They can help to define a character, be indicators from the past that explain the characters situations or used as plot devices. My big problem with some of these uses, is that I usually involves said animal being dead. And said animal is usually a cat.

This pattern started out rather innocently. In Fullmetal Alchemist volume 5, when Ed and Al go back to their teacher, Izumi, she is shown helping the kids in the village by fixing their toys using alchemy. But then, a little girl comes to her with a dead kitten, asking her to fix it. It’s a sad moment as Izumi has to explain why the kitten is not the same as a toy, but it works into the whole theme of the manga, so it fits in well. And we didn’t have to get to know the kitten first, so it’s more heartbreaking for the girl than the reader.

On the other hand, Karakuri Odette decides to get the reader involved. In volume 1, another inventor’s android, Asia, is staying with Odette and going to school with her. She seems to be more popular since she is more expressive with her emotions. Both she and Odette find a stray cat and start taking care of it. But it gets run over. The difference between Asia and Odette becomes clear when Asia starts playing with cat’s corpse while Odette is horrified, not just by the cat’s death, but by Asia’s behavior. I can’t blame her. I was too.

Sometimes, a character will have omens early on in life that things are going to go well for them, and for some reason, that means killing a cat. In O-Parts Hunter volume 1, when Jio was young, he had found a kitten to play with. The next day, he found it dead. It’s later revealed his alter ego, Satan, killed it because he wanted Jio to be lonely. In Jack Frost,  No-ah lived a cursed lived life with everyone she ever cared about getting killed, including stray animals she shows kindness to. Adding insult to injury, in volume 3, the stray dog gets an off-screen death with a tire screech and a whine, while the stray cat gets a horrific death for the reader to see! Why? What did the poor cat do to deserve that other than being cute?

You want to show how vile a villain is? Do what Daniel X volume 2 did, and show them eating cats. You want to prejudice your leader against a rival? Then steal her kitten, kill and burn it, and incriminate your rival like in Ooku: The Inner Chamber Volume 2. You need to show how uncaring your character has become? Have him feed a stray cat and then show that same cat dead in the street a short time later for him to see as in Sprial: Bonds of Reasoning Volume 5. I’m sure there are more examples, but I’m good stopping here. I don’t really need to know about the ways more cats are tragically ended for a story to advance. Really, can’t dogs get picked on more? Or hamsters even?

Manga Wrap Up Week Fourteen: The Wallflower Volume 1-10

I’ve had The Wallflower sitting on my bookshelf unread for 3-4 years now. I didn’t know anything about the manga until the anime was announced. Having watched and enjoyed the anime, I started to pick up the manga. I mistakenly picked up volume 7 first, and finding the first 6 took a little longer, so I put off reading it for while. Of course, after that, it was easy to continue to put it off. Even after collecting up to volume 15, I continued to put it off. But now, with space becoming a premium, a title that had 15 volumes of that I hadn’t even read the first volume of became an easy target for culling. Since I was also preparing for the MMF this week, I only got through the first 5 volumes.

The Wallflower is about 4 incredibly handsome boys, and their quest to live rent free in the mansion of an eccentric woman who is constantly traveling, and always with a new male companion. To reach this goal, all they have to do get their landlady’s niece to look an act like a proper lady. This is easier said than done, since said niece, Sunako looks like Sadako from The Ring, and wants to be by herself, in a dark room watching horror movies and talking to her anatomical dolls and skull, all of who she’s named. Repulsed at first, the boys learn that Sunako could be beautiful if she just tried. But after an incident with a boy she liked in middle school, Sunako rejects all things beautiful and doesn’t believe she can live in the with the other “creatures of light.” The manga follows the boys attempts to make Sunako a normal girl, or hide the fact that they have failed so far from the landlady.

I really didn’t care for the first 5 volumes of this series. I think part of it is because the anime was based on them. I’d already seen all of the stories before, so there was nothing new in them. Also, the stories focused mostly on how scary Sunako was, and what new scheme the boys had come up with to try to make her a lady. The anime took a much more comedic tack with this, I was expecting the manga to be like that. I liked volumes 6-10 a lot more. Not only were the stories not familiar, but they also started to focus on more of the characters. It wasn’t just “Sunako vs the Creatures of Light.” The other characters started to get some actual depth. Kyohei’s troubled past is investigated. Oda and Noi’s relationship gets to take a step forward. Ranmaru might have found love. Yuki’s powers of cuteness are further revealed. The characters started to be more than just cardboard cutouts, and I’m actually interested to read more about them.

One thing I’ve enjoyed throughout all 10 volumes is Sunako and Kyohei’s relationship. It’s the kind of advesarial relationship that I enjoy. Sunako is determined to live in darkness, and Kyohei is determined to live rent free. This put the two constantly at odds, sometimes with them coming to blows. These are some of the scenes I like the most, partly because it’s also most often when Sunako will be show as a person and not a chibi. I really got tired of her chibi form in the first 5 chapters, but it wasn’t so bad in the next 5. And for all their fighting, they do seem to care for each other. Kyohei is trying to help Sunako through his harsh words. And Sunako won’t let anyone else but her harm Kyohei, so that is something, right? I keep rooting for these them to get together. They are like two sides of the same coin. They are yin and yang; darkness and light.

I have mixed feelings about this title now. After the first 5 I was ready to chuck it. After the second 5, now I’m not so sure. The next 5, 11-15 will be the deciding factor I guess. I wish this series was available digitally. It would be a much easier decision then. At 15 volumes, I’m still only half way through the series, and 30 volumes is far too much space for a series I like, but don’t love. Kodansha, please put this on Jmanaga, so I at least have some hope of reading it.

I’ll finish up The Wallflower this week. I was going to start on Spiral: Bonds of Reasoning after, as it’s another 15 volumes, but I need to make a dent in my TBR pile. I’m running out of room on my desk as well. And I think I’ll start with some of the omnibuses I have; Black Gate, and the infamous Sasameke volume 2. Really, how bad can it be? I also have to catch up with the April issue of Yen Plus, since May starts Tuesday.

  • The Wallflower volumes 1-10
  • Dorohedoro volume 1
  • Bokurano Ours volume 1
  • Biomega volume 5

Bokurano Ours Volume 1 and Biomega Volume 5: Manga Movable Feast

As I looked through my piles of manga, I realized I had more unread Viz Signature titles than I thought. I actually have more, but these were single volumes and made for quick enough reads that I could get them in. While they are two different titles in tone, they do not differ very much when it comes to my reactions to them. I am a sci-fi fan, but can I be a fan of these two titles? Read on to find out.

Continue reading Bokurano Ours Volume 1 and Biomega Volume 5: Manga Movable Feast

Dorohedoro Volume 1: Manga Movable Feast

In a city so dismal it’s known only as “the Hole,” a clan of Sorcerers have been plucking people off the streets to use as guinea pigs for atrocious ‘experiments” in the black arts. In a dark alley, Nikaido found Caiman, a man with a reptile head and a bad case of amnesia. To undo the spell, they’re hunting and killing the Sorcerers in the Hole, hoping that eventually they’ll kill the right one. But when En, the head Sorcerer, gets word of a lizard-man slaughtering his people, he sends a crew of “cleaners” into the Hole, igniting a war between the two worlds.

By Q Hayashida
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Mature
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Price: $12.99
Rating: ★★★★★

I discovered Dorohedoro through the Sigikki.com site. I’m so glad it was put up there, because, based on the volume description, I would have completely bypassed this series, and that would have been a serious crime. While this volume does have violence and some gore, it also introduces some of the best characters I’ve read about in a long time.

The volume description makes Dorohedoro sound like a serious battle title, with Caiman and Nikaido hunting down and killing sorcerers and En and his sorcerers fighting back. It sounds like a slaughter fest, but that description is misleading. Caiman is searching for the sorcerer who changed him and killing any he finds. And En does call his best cleaners, Shin and Noi to put them on Caiman and Nikaido’s trail, but that’s all that’s happened so far. This volume is more about introducing the world, the characters, and what they are capable of in a fight.

Of course, even if this title had more fighting, it still would be meaningless unless it had a good cast of characters, and Dorohedoro has them in abundance! I loved Caiman from the first page. The volume starts with a sorcerer’s head in Caiman’s mouth. It’s a pretty dramatic way to introduce him, but it’s soon shown Caiman isn’t all about the drama. Unlike so many shonen characters seen nowadays, Caiman isn’t dark or depressed about his situation. He makes the best he can of it and keeps a good attitude. He also has a healthy appetite, so it’s a good thing Nikaido runs a restaurant. She’s not only Caiman’s meal ticket, she’s his friend and partner. While Caiman is the excitable type, Nikaido is more calm and cool. She keeps her head in any situation, and is capable of taking care of herself. They make a good team.

Even the bad guys in this series are likable. Fujita, the partner of the sorcerer who is first seen getting Caiman’s treatment is a lackey to En, the head sorcerer. Like all henchmen, he’s a bit of a bumbler and has bad luck. He tries to do his best, and you can help but feel sorry for him. He really looks up to Shin and Noi, En’s top cleaners. They are the efficient killers you expect them to be, but under their masks, look and act normal. I really enjoyed watching them at their dinner with En. Trying to read the menu, and looking for the expensive items since their boss was paying not only make them more human, but also entertaining.

What I really enjoy about Dorohedoro is the fact it doesn’t take itself too seriously. While we do see Caiman and Nikaido continue the search for one specific sorcerer, just as much of the book shows them at work, and taking it easy. It isn’t just about the fighting, it’s about all aspects of the characters lives, and for me, that differentiates it from so many of the other titles out there. Dorohedoro deserves its mature rating with graphic fights that send body parts and internal organs flying, and a bit of swearing, but if you can get past those two things, you will be rewarded. I’ve enjoyed this volume even after multiple reads, and look forward to reading more.

Giving Them A Voice

April is the ASPCA’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Human cruelty to animals is nothing new. Our faithful companions can become the focus of our anger and hate. So it’s not surprise that the problem has come up in manga. Matsuri Akino’s title Petshop of Horrors often has stories and themes of animals exacting their revenge on cruel and thoughtless humans. In the pages of Milkyway Hitchhiking, an online-only title in Yen Press’ Yen Plus, cats are often see enduring some torture at the hands of kids who view it as a fun past time.  Other titles get right to the heart of the matter and help to give the animals a voice.

Genju no Seiza – This is another title by Matsuri Akino that sadly was never finished in the US. It is about a boy, Fuuto, who lives in Tokyo, and also seems to be the reincarnation of the Holy King of Dhalashar. In volume 4, the first chapter is “A Wordless Voice.” There have been a rash of mutilations and killings of stray animals in Fuuto’s neighborhood. With the help of his guardian animal friends, he decides to find the culprit, and is surprised by the identity. This chapter doesn’t pull any punches about Akino’s opinion of people who abuse animals. Kurgahara at one point says “Only a coward would harm a defenseless animal that can’t even ask for help.” Amen to that sister.

Free Collar Kingdom – This title is a three-volume series from Del Rey Manga’s early days. I picked it up because it had otaku cats. Can you really get a better combination than that? While the story has plenty of humor as it pokes fun at otaku and has the requisite fan service to keep most males interested, it also has a more serious underlying theme. Cyan, the hero of the story, was owned by a boy named Kokoro, who gets sick and has to go to the hospital. His parents, not knowing what to do with the cat since Kokoro can’t keep it at the hospital, and aren’t even sure if he will pull through, just leave Cyan in the basement of their apartment complex. There he meets the Free Collars, a gang of former pets who were abandoned by their owners and have banded together to survive. The point of their name is made most poignantly, when Cyan, after staying with the Free Collars for a while, starts to feel his collar tighten. He has continued to grow, but his collar has not. He could be choked by it. The ring left by the too-tight collar becomes a symbol of their release from their former human’s abandonment.

Apollo’s Song – While this title by Osamu Tezuka isn’t about animals, it does show some graphically violent moments of animals being mutilated and killed. Shogo Chikaishi can’t stand to see any showing of affection. Whenever he sees animals doing it, he goes into a rage and kills them. Worried that his rage will be turned on humans, he is admitted into a mental hospital. While the other titles in this post only imply the abuse, or show before and after scenes, Tezuka shows the violence for what it is; cold and brutal. It was harsh enough that I couldn’t read these scenes for a second time. I had page past them. Leave it to the God of Manga to not pussy-foot around the issue.

Hell Girl – This manga, based on the anime, is about tweens and teens going to a website to get revenge for some betrayal done to them or someone close to them. Enma Ai, Hell Girl, gets the request and decides if the person is worthy of her help. There is a catch for getting her help though. The person asking for the revenge will be cursed to hell as well as the person they curse, they just get a longer life. In volume one, the fourth chapter called “The Inaudible Scream,” is about a veterinarian who only helps the pets of rich people. When the beloved dog of an orphaned girl dies because he doesn’t operate, she calls on Hell Girl for help. Enma Ai obliges, and gives the greedy, heartless vet a taste of his own medicine. It’s scary to think that there are people that we put our trust in to care for our pets that might betray us. This is an example of one or worse kinds of abuse an animal can endure.

I know this isn’t a fun or happy theme, but it is an important one to get out. Pets can become just as important as loved ones, often filling a void when one is lost, keeping us company, and bringing a little light to some of our darkest hours. It is really important that we return that favor and keep them from being abused and abandoned. We must give them a voice.

 

Manga Wrap Up Week Thirteen: Antique Gift Shop 1-10

Wow, how oddly appropriate that I not only have week 13 of my Manga Wrap Up happen during a week with a Friday the 13th in it, but the title I read also dealt with bad luck and curses. I didn’t think I would get through all ten volumes of Antique Gift Shop in one week. I thought I would have to break it up over two weeks. But it proved to be a hard title to put down, even if I didn’t enjoy it all that much.

The Antique Gift Shop is about a girl named Bun-Nyuh Cho. She is the owner of said shop. In order to escape her destiny of becoming a shaman, she must sell all the antiques from her grandmother. She has one employee, Mr. Yang, a bishie beyond belief. Bun-Nyuh doesn’t believe in the supernatural despite being good at telling fortunes and being able to see and hear spirits of the dead. She does believe in science and money. Because of her denial, she doesn’t realize that all of the antiques in her shop are haunted. Mr. Yang does seem to know this, as he is always ready with some cryptic words to help sell an item, and is always around to help those he’s sold items to, in order to help them out of whatever jam the spirit has caused.

While this series is supposed to be about Bun-Nyuh, she doesn’t actually do a lot, especially at the beginning. It is part-time employee Mr. Yang that does most of the sales and is involved with the antiques. Bun-Nyuh spends all of her time whining about having to sell the antiques, about how the store never makes any money and that the antiques always come back. She really is an annoying lead, and what probably makes the series readable is that she doesn’t appear all that often. But I can’t entirely blame her for her attitude. She has basically been deceived her entire life. Her grandmother, who essentially raised her since her own mother went insane never told her the truth of why she is destined to be a shaman, or why she has to sell all the antiques, or even who Mr. Yang is. After an incident when she was young, her grandmother basically deserts her in Seoul until three days later when a missionary friend of the grandmother tries to take her in.

This series has a bit in common with Petshop of Horrors, with stories that show the antiques either helping or avenging their owners. But it doesn’t pull off the irreverence that Petshop of Horrors had. It doesn’t have that “gotcha” feeling, and the humor falls flat for me more often than not. It did have some good chapters. “The Fox Lantern”, and “The Four Posts of Fate” are stories that I enjoyed. The final chapter “Door”, has some good drama as well as a nice resolution for the antique. Otherwise most of the other chapters were hit or miss for me. I’m glad I read this series, it’s just not a keeper.

Due to some damage to some of the books, I won’t be giving this series to the library, but will be trading them instead. This next week I’m going to start on The Wallflower from Del Rey Manga. I have the first 15 volumes and haven’t read a page of it yet. I am familiar with it since I’ve seen some of the anime, which is what prompted me to check out the series in the first place. I’ll decide after I read it as to its fate. I’ll also be preparing for the MMF next week, which is on the Viz Signature line. I’ve already read (and re-read) two volumes I will definitely review, and I hope to have time to squeeze a third.

  • The Antique Gift Shop Volume 1-10
  • Dorohedoro Volume 1
  • Bokurano Ours Volume 1

 

Manga Wrap Up Week Twelve: Honey and Clover Volume 9-10

I’m working to get back on schedule after my 2 week manga break. I decided to take it easy and finish up a couple of Shojo Beat titles that I’ve only have the last few volumes left to read. Honey and Clover and Sand Chronicles are two titles I associate together, since they started in Shojo Beat very close together. I enjoyed reading both in the magazine, and decided to continue getting the volumes after the Shojo Beat was canceled. They both went 10 volumes, but I only have the ones starting after the end of the magazine. I’m only going to talk about Honey and Clover here, and will give Sand Chronicles its own review, for reasons that should become clear.

I had previously reviewed Volume 8, which I really liked. The unicorns that stood guard over Yamada’s virginity were hilarious! And that was one of the things I really liked about Honey and Clover; it had its share of drama, punctuated with moments of humor. A lot of that light-heartedness disappears in these last two volumes. An event at the beginning of volume 9 really changes the tone, and most of the rest of the chapters revolve around resolving this one event. There is some tying up of loose ends. It’s finally revealed why Morita needed all that money. Hagu finally resolves the Morita and Takemoto triangle by turning it into a polygon, and like most of the characters, I didn’t see that turn coming.

I wouldn’t say the story ended with a happy ending, but it was satisfying enough. I didn’t feel cheated or that anything was left hanging. Relationships were resolved, or left unresolved as the case may be, as were the character’s personal stories. This is the end of the a chapter in this particular group’s life, and it made sense to end the series here as well. After following these characters for 8 volumes, you would think the coming end would elicit some sort of emotional response though the last two.

But to be honest, I didn’t really feel anything. As I read through these last two volumes, I felt kind of “So, this is the end.” After caring about these characters and following their stories for so long, I’m not sure why I felt so little about them going their separate ways. I think maybe it’s because so much of the last two volumes focused on Morita and Hagu and not so much on the others. It was the ensemble cast that I really liked about this series, and not the individuals so much. When that interaction was lost, so was my interest. It was a good closing chapter on the lives of these young people. It just didn’t affect me much. Would it also be heartless to say the whole situation with Hagu didn’t really upset me? The whole thing felt contrived, and may have contributed to my lack of feeling.

Sand Chronicles is a completely different story. For good or for ill, that story has stuck with me much more than Honey and Clover. It has made me cry on more than one occasion, and for all that I decry melodrama, this is one melodrama that I will read again. This is why the final three volumes need a post of their own.

My next series will be Antique Gift Shop, a manwha from Ice Kiun/Yen Press. It’s ten volumes and will free up a lot of space on my bookshelf, which I desperately need. I also have to find some time to read for the next MMF, which as just been decided to be on the SigIkki line from Viz. I have several volumes from that line that I’ve been meaning to read/review, and this is the perfect motivation to get me to do so.

  • Honey and Clover Volume 9-10
  • Sand Chronicles Volume 8-10
  • Yen Plus March 2012

Egg-Cellent Manga

Easter is just around the corner, so it’s time for some more marginally related manga! This time I’ll introduce some manga that features the Easter Bunny’s favorite treat; eggs!

In the first volume of Dr. Slump, inventor Senbei Norimaki invents the Time Slip, Which allows he and Arale to travel back to prehistoric times. Arale brings back an egg, which hatches to reveal a cherub-like being, with wings, antenna that can shoot laser beams, and curly green hair. Arale proceeds to name him/her (not sure which), Gatchan which is short for Gadzilla (Gojira). Gatchan becomes Arale’s constant companion, following her everywhere, eating most everything, especially liking metal but not rubber. Gatchan even clones itself to become twins!

In Dragon Ball, another Toriyama title, villain King Piccolo, the old version, has a particular ability, Pokopen, to create subordinates. He creates an egg in his body and spits it out, out of which the subordinates would hatch. They come out of the shell full formed and ready to do their master’s bidding. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and took a lot out of Piccolo. But these henchmen, who had names like Tambourine and Cymbol (keeping the musical instrument motif), proved to be a lot of trouble for Goku and his friends, even killing Kuririn.

Yusuke of Yu Yu Hakusho, in order to return back to life, is given a Spirit Beast egg to nurture. The egg feed off Yusuke’s aura and would determine what kind of creature hatched from it. It could either help him return to his body or gobble him up and take him to hell. Yusuke used that energy to rescue Keiko who was protecting his body from a fire in his apartment set by an arsonist. The egg was stored away in the underworld and later hatches during the Dark Tournament arc. It turns out to be a cute spirit beast with floppy ears who is named Pu. He, like Yusuke, is very attached to Keiko. Pu helps Yusuke during Genkai’s final disciplineship test, and in the last arc changes into a large blue bird, looking much like a phoenix.

Shugo Chara‘s Amu Hinamori makes a wish for the courage to be more like her “would be” self, the person she wants to be instead of the shy introvert she is. The next morning, she wakes up to find three colorful eggs – pink, blue, and green – in her bed. They hatch into Guardian Characters, each of which represents an aspect of Amu’s true self. Soon, other characters with Guardians begin appearing, and there is even a company, the Easter Company, who is searching for a special egg, the Embryo, that can grant any wish of the one who possesses it.

Are there more manga that feature eggs prominently? I’ll bet there are! These are just the first four that came to mind. Let me know what other titles I’m missing in the comments.

Have a Happy Easter!

Go Orange

If you’re any kind of reader of this blog, you’d notice by now that I like themes. I like creating posts based on some theme, and I like to feature posts on the blog based on a theme, usually from the current month. While I already have a few for April already, Easter and April Fools Day, I’m always on the look out for more. While clearing out my email, I discovered a new one. April is the ASPCA’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month. I’m a big animal lover, so this is something I take very seriously. Our last two rescues were dogs that were obviously abused. The are very submissive, and for a couple of months one of them would cower and roll ever when I just walked by him. So, to show my support, I have made what changes I can to both my blogs to incorporate the color orange into it.

I will also be writing a couple of posts here involving manga and the mistreatment of animals. Sadly, as in real life, it can and does happen in manga. Fortunately though, in manga, the perpetrators also usually get what they deserve. That’s not always true in real life.

There’s no Manga Wrap Up once again this week, but there will be the next week. I’ll be finishing up the last few volumes of Honey and Clover and Sand Chronicles. I had hoped to have Honey and Clover done this week, but no such luck.

Shonen Jump April 2012: The Final Issue

There is no Manga Wrap Up this week, as I didn’t read any manga. I’m still working on my prose book, so maybe next week. Instead I thought I would finally give my thoughts on the final print issue of Shonen Jump and the way Viz Media handled the move to digital from the perspective of a long time subscriber. The final issue is a 392 pages, and harkens back to the good old days.

The issue is mostly just like any other issue of Shonen Jump with the same monthly chapters of Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, Psyren and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, as well as the prerequisite Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card, this time from the new series, Zexel. What makes this issue so much bigger, is the inclusion of the three new titles that will be in Alpha; Toriko, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan and Bakuman. Psyren and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds will not be moving to the magazine, but Viz did announce that they would be available on Vizmanga.com. The chapters for the new manga, as well as for those moving the Alpha are part of the “Warp into SJ Alpha”. Basically, these are the chapters that precede the starting digital chapters in the first SJ Alpha issue and are accompanied by a short paragraph explaining that chapter.

Okay, I had mixed feelings about this particular move to digital. On the whole, I approve of most of Viz’s digital strategy so far. If they would just bring out an Android app and stop pushing all the iCrap, it would be great. I know a lot of people have been calling for Viz to catch up the Japanese releases, which we’ve seen with Naruto and One Piece. SJ Alpha is another jump, taking the Shonen Jump titles to within 2 weeks of Japan. And here’s where I have the problem. Shonen Jump was ahead of the volume releases in the US, but WAAAAYYYYY behind the Japanese. So, going from Shonen Jump to SJ Alpha means BIG jumps for loyal readers. Naruto and One Piece aren’t so bad. They are only a 38 chapter jump. But when you get the other titles, it’s not so pretty. Bleach is a 147 chapter jump; Bakuman is 83 chapters from the last digital volume; 129 chapters from Nura‘s last digital volume, and 92 chapters from Toriko‘s last digital volume. Some of these jumps in story are outrageous!

Yes, I’ve been through these jumps before, with Naruto twice and once with One Piece. But when Viz did these, they at least had the courtesy to include features in the magazine that gave the subscribers an idea of what was going on in the jump, so when the chapters resumed in the magazine, they wouldn’t be totally lost. Not this time. Now, we are dealing with enormous jumps in story, between 7-13 volumes worth, and several story arcs worth and what do we get in the last issue? One paragraph? Really??! This is how subscribers, many of whom have been with the magazine since the beginning and who DON’T read scans (like me), are rewarded for our loyalty? Viz can’t even be bothered to thow us a bone and just give us a list of volumes, what story are they fall in, and a brief synopsis of the arc? They managed it with 30 volumes of One Piece. The second Naruto wave had features for 2 or 3 issues giving the low down to subscribers about what was going on. Are readers of scans, who are still gonna complain about the lag (OMG! Two weeks?! I want it the same day!!), MORE important that the paying fans? It sure seems like it since the way this jump has been handled only rewards those who have been reading scans all this time, and punishes the legal readers.

And talk about missed opportunities! Viz did a special “Preview” issue before the first Alpha issue came out, and what did they put in that preview issue? The first chapter of each of the SJ titles! How completely useless is that? First, all of those chapters have been available on the Shonen Jump website, some for years! And reading the first chapters does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for someone starting with SJ Alpha. All of the titles are so far ahead of what happened in their first chapters, that it’s practically misleading to present them as representative of the titles now. Naruto and Bleach are nothing like how they started, and not in a good way. One Piece has changed greatly too, but it’s been for the better. This preview issue could have been better used to prepare readers for the jump instead of just rehashing old material.

I’m really disappointed in the way Viz handled this jump. It feels like there was little to no planning for it. It was announced publicly in October, and by being generous, we can say the next two issues were probably already set, but that still gave Viz 4 more issues to tell subscribers about what was coming up and prepare them. The online issue could have been done at any time. This is a fail on so many levels. And I’m not the only person to feel this way. The comments section of the first issue was filled with people just as surprised as I was by the jump. I don’t know if I’m going to keep my subscription beyond the 6 month committment I made after this. Apparently, I’m not a valued customer anymore. It would have taken so little make this right, and yet I’ve seen nothing from Viz to rectify it. The way it looks to me is that Viz threw their subscribers under the bus in favor of a phantom demographic. And in business, perception is everything.

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