This Week In Manga: 6/26-7/02/10

From Aurora’s Ashes

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the people behind the company have banded together to create a new manga publisher. Calling themselves Manga Factory, former staffers from Aurora have created a new independent company instead of being a subsidiary of a Japanese company, as Aurora was. They have already announced one title, Teen Apocolypse: Guilstein for the Kindle and promises to do more electronic books in the same genre’s as Aurora; shojo, fantasy, josei and yaoi. This seems to tell me that Aurora wasn’t doing too bad, but maybe they just weren’t doing good enough to please the exec back in Japan. For these former employees to come together and create their own company, in this economic environment must mean they seen a reason to keep plugging at it. I look forward to see what they offer, especially in the digital format.

Tokyopop + Zinio = ??

Tokyopop has been a pioneer of digital manga. They were the first to put their OEL manga on an e-reader, they feature sample chapters of new manga, and whole volumes on their website, and now they are teaming up with digital magazine and book publisher Zinio to make their OEL manga available for download for both PCs and Macs. Jenkei of the Apurikotto Waffle blog took the Tokyopop manga on Zinio for a test drive. She does a very thorough review of the features and ease of use. If you are thinking about checking out Zinio, read her review first. I like that Tokyopop is stretching out and looking at more ways to get their titles out digitally, I just wish they would stop with going with so much of the proprietary formats. That isn’t going to be the way to success in the digital world. Didn’t work for music, so why does anyone think it will work for books, a format that is more highly traded in the analog world than music ever was?

The Recon is Over

More bad news hits the manga world, though this time it affects the mangasphere directly. Manga Recon, one of the blogs at Popcultureshock is being shut down along with the rest of the site. The current reviewers hold a roundtable to say their farewells and share their memories of the site. Manga Recon was one of the first review sites I started reading regularly, before I started writing my own. I met Kate Dacey through the Tokyopop site, but remember her starting as the editor for Manga Recon. I even got a manga from her, Samurai Commando, for suggesting ideas for columns. It’s been bad enough to be hit with all the news lately of publishers struggling, but it’s worse when it’s people you’ve come to know and read regularly. But it’s not all bad news, as many of the reviewers have their own blogs and/or other columns where they will continue to write and review. I still wish them all the best of luck. It was fun while it lasted.

Rational Response to Irrational Request

Found via Twitter. Usually, a new article about some crazy mom starting up a petition and going to the city council to get manga removed from the public library will raise my hackles. But this news article from Crestview, Florida shows that there are rational people out there to face off against the irrational.  Basically, a mother blames a manga that her son took (not checked out) from the adult section of the local public library for his mental illness. The article doesn’t go into specifics about the boy’s condition, or even mention which title is in question. Instead it shows how both the city council and public library dealt with the irrational claim. Brigid Alverson has more details at Robot 6, but I think it’s refreshing to see a calm and sensible response, especially from local politicians. It’s usually everyone takes the allegations very seriously, and promises to get the bottom of it. Instead, in Crestview, a city councilman goes to the library and looks at their selection and how adult are handled as opposed to the YA, and finds no problem. Instead of going for the manga defense, she should be looking in her own home, or even the mirror for the source of her son’s problems.

Anime Expo Begins

Anime Expo started on Thursday, and while it’s a con devoted to Anime, some of the manga publishers make an appearance here. On Thursday, DMP held a panel and announced 10 new titles over their three lines. They also announced a new, original manga for the online site emanga drawn by Nao Yazawa, the creator of Wedding Peach. Lissa at Kuriousity has more information, color-coded by imprint and with covers of DMP’s licenses. I like the expansion of the Hideyuki Kikuchi library. His horror manga are titles I’m coming to enjoy. Don’t know about novels yet.

Friday, Tokyopop took the stage and announced 4 new titles, 2 new Blu titles, and a OEL based on a film by Joss Whedon. Tokyopop is doing something unusual. They don’t have a booth in the exhibit hall. Instead, they have a bus parked outside as part of their search for “America’s Greatest Otaku.” It’ll be interesting to hear how it worked out, especially from the fans.

Since this is an anime con, the manga news will be light, but watch the anime licenses. They can be clues of what publishers have working in the wings, and are waiting to announce as SDCC and NYAF.

NYT Best Seller List

Viz loses some of its dominance on the list this week, going from 5 to 4, though they still keep a tight rein on the top 5. First, Twilight reaches its 15th week on the Hardback list, most of which it spent at #1, where it still rests. Over on the manga list, Naruto vol 48 remains at #1, followed by it best vampire friend, Vampire Knight vol 10 at #2. Soul Eater vol 3 holds at #3 for second week in a row as does Bleach vol 31 at #4.  The first change to the list is also a debut, with Fairy Tail vol 11, a woefully underrated manga materializing at #5, which pushes back Hellsing vol 10 to #6. Black Butler vol 2 moves back on to #7 and the only other debut on the list, Ninja Girls vol 3 comes in at #8. Yu-Gi-Oh! R vol 5 falls back two to #9, while Alice in the Country of Hearts vol 3 holds on to #10. Good shows for Del Rey with had the only debuts on the list. Otherwise there wasn’t much change, not even in position. Dark Horse is doing really well with its last volume of Hellsing. Too bad it is the last.

Manga For Your Ears

Manga Out Loud

Sesho’s Anime and Manga Reviews

Spiraken Manga Review

This Week at Manga Village

What I’m reading

  • Children of the Sea vol 3
  • Twin Spica vol 2
  • Shonen Jump  Aug 2010
  • One Piece vol 40

Japanese Journal: Mastering Hiragana & Katakana

RL kept me busy in May, so it wasn’t until this month that I got back to my studies on Smart.fm. I’ve settled into a schedule now of taking two lunches a week (that 1 1/2 hours a week) to continue my studies. Considering my RL schedule, this is the best that I can do at the moment, and it’s actually working out for me!

I started with Smart.fm’s Master Hiragana program. I was still studying hiragana when I started, but as of last Friday, I had all 104 hiragana studied, and had mastered 84. The program takes you through the symbol pretty thoroughly, making sure you can recognize them both in Japanese, and romanized. It uses multiple choice, and times how long it takes you to choose the right character. It also does a spelling quiz by showing you the symbol and then you have to type the correct letters. Any mistakes takes you back to the study screen. And as you get closer to completing all the characters, it starts stretching out the amount of time before you can study again. After I hit 84 last Friday, it stopped letting me study and test, and told me to come back next Friday. So I’m now 40 hours and counting to completing my first goal!

Well, since my lunch hour wasn’t over at the time, I started up the Master Katakana. I was going to work on it anyway. After only about an hour of working on it, I’m at 59 characters studied. I can keep going on this goal, since I’m still studying. Also recently added to help with the studying are two programs, Drill Beta and Brain Speed. Drill Beta is just is just want it sound like. It drills you on characters you’ve studied, and adapts to you to improving learning. Brain Speed is like an arcade game. I do okay on this, until it starts to speed up. I get flustered easily and lose more because of hitting the wrong key and not knowing the answer. This is why I don’t do well with a lot of video games.

I’ve also already decided what my next goal will be after I’ve mastered Hiragana and Katakana. I will be moving on to vocabulary with Core2000: Master the Top 2,000 Words in Japanese. I anticipate this goal will take a little longer than Hiragana and Katakana. There are 10 separate, smaller goals that make up the full Core2000. Mastering these words and making sentences will hopefully get me closer to my goal of reading Japanese. One of the things I really like about this program, is that I can see the progress I’m making, and I can feel I’m actually accomplishing something, even if the rest of my day doesn’t seem that way.

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.

Sunflowers and a Starry Night

[Contains Spoilers]

In the 10th episode of series 5,”Vincent and the Doctor”, the Doctor has been taking Amy where ever she wants to go, to basically make up for the last episode (even though she doesn’t remember). One of those things is to see an exhibit of the work of Vincent Van Gogh at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. While looking at the paintings, the Doctor notices in one of them, a painting of a church, there is a scary face looking out the window at them. The Doctor then interrupts a curator, Dr. Black, who is talking about the paintings, and asks, after complimenting him on his bow tie, when the church painting was painted. He then whisks Amy off to find Vincent Van Gogh and find out what’s going on.

On the whole, this was a much better episode than the last  4 or so, in both the writing and the acting. This episode featured another famous person, but unlike other “famous people” episodes, it really focus’ on his life and work, and not on the monster that inevitably shows up. While Van Gogh is a well-known and acclaimed painter now, he wasn’t during his lifetime. This episode really shows how unappreciated he was as a painter and as a person. He couldn’t trade a painting for a bottle of wine, and his whole body of work wasn’t worth more than the cost of a some furniture at his death. Even Van Gogh himself didn’t see the worth of his work, as he causally puts a cup of coffee on one and paints over another when the Doctor asks for a drawing of the invisible Krafayis. It was funny to see the Doctor’s and Amy’s reactions to Van Gogh’s carelessness with his work. In the village, he is not only laughed at, he is also cursed at, and blamed for the strange deaths that are happening there. It also explores the motivations of Van Gogh himself. How he saw the world differently, sees beyond the normal eye, and that he can hear color speak to him. This part of the story was very engaging in both writing and acting.

The other half of the story, with the Krafayis, the entire reason for the Doctor and Amy to be there, feels like it was forcibly wrenched into the story.  It’s more like an afterthought. There aren’t a lot of scenes with the monster, mainly at the beginning when it is first introduced, and at the end with the fight at the church. The race is described by the Doctor as a brutal one, and that this one left behind will kill without mercy until killed. But when they finally face off against it, the Doctor realizes the creature is blind, and suddenly it doesn’t seem so villainous. That revelation really took the wind out of the sails of the fight. It became more of a mercy killing that a battle to save the village. But then, the monster really wasn’t the point of the episode.

At the end of the BBC broadcast of this episode, a message came up for the BBC action line for anyone who wanted more information on the issues brought up the program. That made my husband and I go “Huh?” The Confidential better explained it. This episode had a lot of references to Van Gogh’s depression and suicide. One of the scenes in the episode showed one of his depressed episodes, and his suicide is mentioned twice. What I was really impressed about this episode, is that the theme of depression wasn’t pounded into the audience’s head. This didn’t have “very special episode” feel to it. It was just excellently written, and acted. The actor who portrayed Vincent, Tony Curran, not only did a fantastic job portraying Van Gogh, he really did look like him! That’s his real beard and mustache that he grew for the part. The writer, Richard Curtis, did a lot of research into Van Gogh, and went to Steven Moffat with the episode idea. This might explain why the monster part didn’t fit as well.

But the best scene of the episode, and one of the most memorable of the season, is at the end. The Doctor decides to give Van Gogh a gift before leaving, and takes him to the future, to the Musee d’Orlay, to the exhibit that the Doctor were at the beginning of the episode. He then asks Dr. Black what he thinks of Van Gogh’s work. Dr. Black then goes into a whole explanation of how the thinks Van Gogh was not just one of the greatest painters, but one of the greatest men of all time, all without knowing that Van Gogh himself is standing right behind him, listening. Van Gogh is truly grateful to the Doctor for his kindness, and Amy thinks their act will have changed Van Gogh, and that there will be more works by him at the museum. But a return to the present shows nothing has changed. Minor things have, such as the face in the church is gone, and now the painting of Sunflowers is dedicated to Amy, but knowing what the future will think of his work couldn’t keep Van Gogh from killing himself.

This was an excellent character driven story, which was a good reprieve after all the plot driven/crack in time/doom and gloom stories we’ve had recently. Even though it isn’t a completely happy ending, it’s not a surprise either. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker, but not in a cheap way.

Images © BBC

This Week in Manga: 6/19-6/25/10

TWiM

Movable MANHWA Feast

This week started the June edition of the Movable Manga Feast, with one slight change. The manga is actually a manhwa, or Korean comic. The title chosen was The Color of… Trilogy. These three books are about a young girl growing up in turn of the century Korea. This edition’s host is Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf. This Feast has turned out to be different, and not just because the books are from Korea. There were a lot more unfavorable reviews this time compared to other feasts. Most participants had more things they didn’t like about the trilogy than did, and were more than happy to express them. Some of the conversations spilled over onto Twitter. While I had my own problems with the trilogy, I just didn’t see the sexism that many other bloggers did. At least, not in the way that they did. Many had strong feelings about the books, but I didn’t. I didn’t see anything to really get worked up about. And even though the book is about the daughter, I found myself relating more to the mother. But that’s probably because I’m a mother of 2 daughters myself. If you haven’t checked out a MMF, this is one you definitely should. It’s a very diverse range of opinions, well worth checking out.

The Games Aggegators Play

It seemed the like good guys had won. After the formation of the manga publishers coalition, scan aggregator sites seemed to be taking down licensed titles. On popular sites Onemanga and Mangafox, titles such as Naruto and Bleach were gone from the front page, but were they really gone from the site? Deb Aoki looked into it off of a tip from UK Blogger Kimi-chan and found that not only was manga not being taken off the site, a savvy user could find these titles and still read them. Not cool. As Deb’s article goes on, it’s not just translated scans that are still going up, it’s also complete scans of the english published books that are going up on these sites. While I think one can argue that scanlations of unlicensed manga can exit as a grey area, putting up straight scans of not just licensed works, but works that were created in english (OEL) IS wrong. And it seems to be the fans who are responsible for a lot of these works appearing on the site, as Kimi-chan again reveals. This isn’t going to be an easy battle.

Another Manga Publisher Blasted?

Lissa Pattillo of Kuri-ousity picked up the “indefinite” removal of three manga titles by publisher Media Blasters from online retailers. The titles are two BL, and Akihabara@Deep. Lissa also notes the distinct lack of information from the publisher, and these are two signs that in the past have spelled doom for a publisher. Media Blasters isn’t exclusively a manga publisher, and they don’t have a lot of books, but the ones they did license ran the gambit of genres. If it’s a sales issue, maybe part of their problem is similar to CMX’s. You gotta get the books into stores. I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a Media Blasters title in any Barnes and Noble or Borders I’ve visited. That’ can’t be good for sales. What’s really sad, it that the Akihabara@Deep volume, #6, is the final volume in the series. Not only might we lose another publisher, but it’ll be another title left unfinished.

Beginnings and Endings

From Japan: Two manga currently licensed here will be ending their runs in Japan. Ouran High School Host Club, a popular shojo manga here will be starting its “final arc” in the July issue of Lala. Of course, that could mean another 2-3 volumes before the series ends. But we do know now that it will end. House of Five Leaves, which is published in Ikki will be ending its run in July, setting the volume count at 9. Viz publishers both of these titles. House of Five Leaves can be read at their Sigikki site, though the first volume has been delayed and will be released in September. On this side of the Pacific, Del Rey has announced 2 more “Odd” Thomas adaptations. The first volume got mixed reviews, but they must has sold well enough for Del Rey to commission two more.

NYT Best Sellers List

There’s still some variety on the list this week. Viz still holds 5 of the 10 spots, but some of the other publishers are still hanging on, and that’s a good sign! First, Twilight is still at the top of the Hardback list. Yen Press must be thrilled with this one. In manga, Naruto vol 48 holds the top spot again at #1, and is still followed by Vampire Knight vol 10 at #2. Soul Eater vol 3 from Yen Press debuts at #3, pushing Bleach vol 31 back to #4. Hellsing vol 10 and Black Butler vol 2 both take a step back to spots #5 and #6, with Yu-Gi-Oh! R vol 5 staying with them at #7. Negima! Magister Negi Magi vol 26 gets a third week in a row on the list, and a second week at #8. Naruto vol 47 holds on to the #9 spot while Alice in the Country of Hearts vol 3 falls 2 to #10. Yen Press has the only new entry to the list this week, and is the only publisher to have more than one title, other than Viz of course. I’m happy to see Hellsing sticking around. Guess a lot of people wanted to read the end.

Manga For Your Ears

Manga Out Loud

Spiraken Manga Review

This Week at Manga Village

What I’ve Read

  • One Fine Day vol 2
  • 20th Century Boys vol 9
  • Time and Again vol 2-3

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.

There Is No Time

d11s01e09_wallpaper_06

[Contains Spoilers]

You know things aren’t going to go well when an episode starts off with opening narration that includes “the Doctor” , and “terrible losses he suffered”. As “Cold Blood”, the second of a two-part story and the 9th episode of the new Doctor Who series started, I got a sinking feeling. Picking up where the last episode left off, the Doctor and Nasreen have been pulled down to the Silurian city in the TARDIS, and are seeking a peaceful end to the attacks on the surface and to trade Alaya for Mo, Amy and Elliot. Instead, they are taken prisoner by Restac, a military commander. Malokeh, a scientist tries to stop Restac’s plans to wage war on the surface and awakens Eldane, the Silurian leader. The Doctor get Eldane and Amy and Nasreen into talks, still believing in humanity.

d11s01e09_wallpaper_08Overall, this was a good episode, though Restac and Alaya were a little too stereo-typical with their “destroy the apes” stance. The humanity vs Silurians (homo-reptilia as the Doctor calls them) has been a staple in the Silurian stories, with the military always wanting to destroy while the scientific just wants to study and learn. Malokeh, once we got to know him wasn’t such a bad guy. It was nice to see he had some respect for the children, not that you would ever see children being dissected on a children’s program. But this is the second time we’ve seen something like this, this season. In “The Beast Below”, the Star Whale refused to harm the children as well. I think this is some of Moffat’s influence seeping through. He has children that watch Doctor Who, and he really wants the show to be fun for them, and not just a fanboy romp as Davies’ vision could sometimes be.

Eldane is the leader we really want in power when the Silurians finally come to the surface. He listens and is fair. He hears the Doctor out and is willing to take a chance on his enthusiasm for humanity’s potential. Nasreen turned out to be a good nd realistic negotiator with Eldane. Though why it took so long to get to the obvious trade-off, land for technological advances, I’m not sure. But, just as things are going well humanity fails again (as was inevitable). Ambrose betrays the Doctor’s trust and nearly ruins everything. I’m ambivalent about Ambrose. She does some completely stupid things, and while she has her reasons, I don’t think I can completely sympathize with her, even as a mother myself. She comes off more of the ignorant, violent ape Restac goes on about hunting in the past. But while she nearly does start war with the Silurians, Eldane’s reason does prevail, though it’s not without its price.

Remember what I said about the sinking feeling from the opening animation? It’s justified at the end, as the Doctor, Amy, and Rory are about to enter the TARDIS before the toxic gas is released. The crack in Amy’s wall is there, and much bigger. The Doctor pauses to get a closer look and pulls something out. It’s delay enough for Restac, weakened from gas already released in other section of the city, to fire at the Doctor before collapsing. Guess who jumps in the way to save the Doctor? That’s right, Rory. The man who lectured the Doctor on dragging Amy away and how he put people in danger. He become a total convert and gave his life for the Doctor. And is then consumed by the crack and erased from history. Well, there goes the multi-companion TARDIS I was so hoping for.

But what really riled me, was when Moffat said Rory had to die. That it was time for a sacrifice on the TARDIS. What? Excuse me?? Since when has it become necessary to have sacrifices among the TARDIS crew? What it too much for Amy to be happy and the Doctor safe from any more “jumping incidents”? Offing companions is not the norm on Doctor Who. They usually leave of their own free will. Sometimes they don’t get a choice, like Sarah Jane Smith with the 4th Doctor, or Jamie and Victoria with the 2nd, but killing them is a rare occurrence. Only twice in the classic series did that happen. Sara Kingdom during the 1st Doctor (and she was only a companion for an episode or two) and Adric. There is no “time” for killing a companion, and Moffat should know. He’s the one who wrote the episode “The Doctor Dances” where he declares “Everybody Lives!”

The epilogue to this episode has some ominous tones as the Doctor looks at what he pulled from the Crack, and it doesn’t bode well for him. The next episode, “Vincent and the Doctor”, has The Doctor and Amy going to meet Vincent Van Gogh. Two past, famous person episodes in one series. Hopefully it’s a better, and happier, episode than the last few.

This Week in Manga: 6/12-6/18/10

TWiM

Continuing to Live Up to Their Name

It was first announced over the weekend at  The Yaoi Review and then found further confirmation by the end of the week. Digital Manga Publishing is looking into an online manga plan that would allow scanlators to do their work legally. President and CEO of DMP Hikaru Sasahara made it official by talked with ANN more about the online venture that would allow fans to translate manga legally, with payment coming after the book shows a profit. They have “1000s” of titles lined up, but no details beyond that. Scanlators are skeptical, many calling it spec work, and thinking DMP is looking to rip them off. What is there to rip off though? They are already doing the same work for free, only this time it will be with the blessing of the creators who work they are taking, and if they do a good enough job, they’ll get more than online kudos. I just hope it won’t be mostly BL titles.

Manga Roll

Crunchyroll, the streaming site that went legit, is getting some more funding, this time from a book publisher. Bitway, an e-book publisher in Japan, is looking to extend it reach and use it’s know-how to get manga into the US. It has invested $750,000 in Cruchyroll, and will reportedly build a comic distribution platform within the site’s framework. This idea definitely has potential. There certainly is a market for online manga, and with both cellphone and tablet technology continuing to improve, now is the time to get a platform in place. Just as long as it’s not’ platform specific, and is open to all OSes and hardware. No DRM would be nice, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon, with publishers demanding the books be hobbled, so it takes pirates 25 hours instead of 24 to crack it, just to show they can.

Still Talking Scanlations

The coalition of manga publishers that was announced last week is still in the news. Debates about scanlations are still going on in comments of blogs and on forums. Manga Fox, one of the big scanlation sites (usually in the top ten of a google search for a manga title) has started pulling titles. They started with the Viz titles, but it soon snowballed as individual scanlation groups began asking for their own titles to be pulled as well, irrespect of whether it was licensed or not. Kind of like rats leaving the sinking ship, it seems no one wants to be around when the boom falls, if indeed it does. It’s been rumored that the owners of Manga Fox, a Chinese company, is looking to negotiate with the coalition.

Of course there are plenty of cries of “Foul!” from readers of these sites. Not surprisingly, many of the commentors were well aware that what they were doing was illegal, proving education isn’t the issue. Any they see the free ride is coming to an end. Others seem to think they are fighting the good fight and still shout out their sound bites for justifying scanlations. Lissa Pattillo of Kuriousity takes on many of these, and gives her own rebuttal. It’s a long post that she obviously put a lot of time and thought into. It’s worth the time check out. Personally, I think the topic is starting to run in circles. We know why scanlations exist and why sites like Onemanga and Manga Fox exist. What we need now is for publishers to deliver a solution, that greatly reduces the need for these. I’m hoping that is what eventually comes from this coalition. Not just cooperation to get the aggregators, but to work together to create something that will make everyone happy. A happy internet is a profitable internet.

Shonen Jump Price Hike?

This story comes from the comments of my own blog. If you’re a regular reader, then you know I’m a subscriber to Shonen Jump magazine. I’ve made it a regular feature to talk about the latest monthly issue. A comment by John on my latest post pointed out something on the next issue; a price hike. It seems that Shonen Jump will be going from $4.99 to $7.99. With these difficult times, especially for publishing, something like may seem inevitable. But what makes this worse, is that along with the price hike, the page count is going down, from an average of around over 300 down to 250. There hasn’t been anything on the net about this (that I could find), but then I’m sure this is something Viz doesn’t want to advertise either. A look at future issues does show the price still at $4.99, but then they were still advertising for Shojo Beat after announcing it’s end, so I don’t put as much stock in pre-order pricing. Personally, if Viz does this, then my current subscription will be my last. If they were adding something like another series along with the price hike, it would be easier to swallow. But if it stays at the titles it’s currently running now, no way. They should just go digital like Yen Plus.

NYT Best Seller List

This week’s list looks a lot like last week’s.Viz continues their dominance with 5 of the 10 spots belong to their books. But first, hitting its 13th week at #1 is Twilight: The Graphic Novel over on the Hardback lists. Those Twilight legions are strong! Over on the manga list, the top three spots still belong to Naruto vol 48, Vampire Knight vol 10, and Bleach vol 31 respectively. Hellsing vol 10 moves up 3 spots to #4, quite a showing for a Dark Horse title. Black Butler vol 2 continues to hold the #5 spot and is Yen’s only title on the list. Yu-Gi-Oh! R vol 5 holds on to #6 as well, while Alice in the Country of Hearts vol 3 moves up one to #7 and is Tokyopop’s only title. Del Rey’s Negima! Magister Negi Magi vol 26 falls another four to #8. Naruto vol 47 returns to the list at #9 and the only debut title, Battle Angel Alita: Last Order vol 13 comes in at #10. Not surprisingly, the One Piece titles from last week have fallen off again. I just don’t get why this series can get any traction. It’s easily better than Naruto or Vampire Knight! I don’t expect much change in the list for the next few weeks, as there hasn’t been a lot of titles coming out. I think we’ll see some old friends return as the shiny-ness of new release wears off on some of these titles.

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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

Chew on This

d11s01e08_wallpapers_03

[Contains Spoilers]

The Doctor’s wonky piloting of the TARDIS once again lands him some place he don’t intend to be, but needs to be in this 8th episode of the new series, “The Hungry Earth”. I’ve come under the distinct impression that the TARDIS has a mind of its own, and makes some of the side trips herself. Anyway, instead of landing to Rio de Janeiro, as promised, the TARDIS lands in the near future in a Welsh village, where a drill is set to pass the 21km mark, the furthest anyone has drilled before. But the Earth doesn’t seem to happy about this, as it first takes a night watchman, and then Amy, sucking them down underground. A barrier then surrounds the village, blocking out the sun, and allowing something to lurk in the ensuing darkness.

This episode is the first of a two parter, so it’s all about set-up. No one really knows what is going on, as strange minerals seep to the surface, and graves are emptied seemingly from underneath. The Doctor, Rory and Amy arrive just as it appears that the ground is fighting back. It’s a good atmospheric episode. There is a lot of suspense as the enemy goes unseen for most of it. The sticking door of the church, while cliché for this kind of episode is put to good use. And no, the sonic screwdriver still doesn’t work on wood.

d11s01e08_wallpapers_13The reboot of the Silurians aren’t bad so far. Their introduction harkens back to their original appearance back in the 70’s with the 3rd Doctor, as we see things from their perspective, through a mask with an electronic display. Their appearance immediately brought to mind the Narn from Babylon 5, mostly in the shape of the head. The scales and coloring was well done, giving them a very reptilian look. The first Silurian we meet is Alaya, a member of the Warrior class, she spends all of her time (after getting a good verbal smack from the Doctor), taunting the humans, predicting one of them will kill her and start a war between them.

One of the things I really enjoyed was the Doctor’s endless faith in the human race. He sees the encounter with Alaya as an opportunity for humanity to be their best and show the Silurians they are ready for live together in peace. All that has to happen for this is Rory, Ambrose and Tony to keep Alaya safe and unharmed. Is it jaded of me to have spent the entire time thinking that as never going to happen?

Overall this was a good set up for action in the next episode. Rory is really showing himself to be a good companion. Please let us keep a multi-companion TARDIS! Please!!

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.

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