This Week in Manga: 7/17-7/23/10

Twitter This

The week started out with a bang, and just kept on going! Seven Seas started it off with license announcements on Twitter in anagram form with one clue. All three were guessed correctly by ANN and confirmed by Tuesday, the day of the last announcement. The three titles are ToraDora, Amnesia Labyrinth, and A Certain Scientific Railgun. Two of these titles have anime tie-ins, with ToraDora having already released its first disc earlier this month, and Funimation just announcing the license of A Certain Scientific Railgun at this past Anime Expo. Amnesia Labyrinth also has ties to a previously published work. Nagaru Tanigawa, who is the author of the Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi light novels, is also the author of this series. Most of these titles came from ASCII Media Works, which Seven Seas seems to be mining. I’m definitely interested in Amnesia Labyrinth, and not just because it’s by the author of the Haruhi books, which I’ve enjoyed the manga of, but it’s also a mystery. And we can’t get enough of those!

One Manga Down, 1000 Manga To Go

Wednesday, One Manga, the top scanlation aggregator site on the web announced it would be taking down ALL manga, not just titles licensed/owned by coalition members. This was quite a surprise as visitors were greeted with a pop-up message explaining the situation before they even got to any titles. They intend to keep their forums up and running, but it remains to be seen if anyone will still come around with all the manga gone. Reactions to the shut down have been varied and quite frankly extreme in some cases, as a perusal of the comments section of the article shows:

I have not stopped crying since i heard about this yesterday.. what am i going to do from now on?.. my reason to live from one Friday to the next is now gone.. i am deeply saddened.

What am i gonna do with the 36 series’ that I’m curetly reading right now? Im addicted. At 13 I fail to see anything more important than manga right now.. I seriously feel like someone close to me has a fatal disease, and that person is slowly crawling to their death.

Yeah…okay. I love manga too, but it’s not the be all, end all of my life. I was disappointed when some of my favorite titles were cancelled thanks to Kodansha yanking them from Tokyopop, but the world didn’t end because of it. And the world won’t end now without One Manga or 1000 Manga, or any of the other aggregators that may go down. I know teens like to be melodramatic and all, but sheesh! It’s just manga guys!

What Goes Down Must Come Up

The same day that One Manga announces its demise, Square Enix announces a new digital manga store for NA and France.  The site will go live in the Fall, but a preview with the first chapters of Fullmetal Alchemist, Black Butler, Soul Eater and O-Parts Hunter (666 Satan) are available right now for download. They are also running demos at their booth at SDCC. This is an interesting development, since Square Enix doesn’t license to just one company here in the US. The four titles mentioned are split between Yen Press and Viz, but both manga publishers have said they are working with Square Enix in this endeavour. No price has been set yet, but it is nice to another publisher not only making titles available online, but to also be portable.

SDCC is Here!

That right, the San Diego Comic Con started this week. And it started off at a run. Wednesday is dubbed Preview Night, where the exhibit hall is open in the evening, and Vertical wasted no time in announcing a license and the first official one of the con. They will be releasing Lychee Light Club, by Usamaru Furuya, who is also the author of the highly anticipated 51 Ways to Save Her, which was announced at last SDCC by CMX, and cancelled before the first volume could be released. It’s a single volume and is about some students at an all boys school who create a robot to find beautiful women but run into a problem when the robot become sentient.

The first official day of the con brought more licenses. At the Bandai Entertainment panel, Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens was announced. Not too surprising, since it was a cult hit on the internet and the anime has already been released. Top Shelf, a comics publisher announced it would be releasing Cigarette Girl, a collection of short stories from an early artist of the gekiga movement, Masahiko Matsumoto. There were several manga related panels that ANN covered; Manga For Grown Ups, Best and Worst Manga 2010, and Manga: Lost in Translation.

Friday brought the Yen Press Panel, which had more new licenses to announce. Aron’s Absurd Armada, High School of the Dead, Higurashi: When They Cry: Demon Exposing Arc, and Otoyome-Gatari: The Bride’s Story. High School of the Dead is another no brainer as its anime was licensed and announced at Anime Expo. Fans were happy to hear about Otoyome-Gatari. It’s the new title from Kaoru Mori, the mangaka of Emma. It sounds like it with get the Twilight treatment with a hardback, larger size treatment.

Yen also finally revealed the fate of Yen Plus. It has its own website which has gone live with a beta. Most of the titles up right now are Yen’s original titles; Maximum Ride, Nightschool, Gossip Girl, and the first 2 chapters of Daniel X. Two Korean titles from the print magazine are there now, Time and Again and Jack Frost, and a special short story, Haunted House Call from the creator of Hollow Fields, Madeleine Rosca. There are no Japanese titles at the moment, but if you go back up one story you may see why for at least two of them. The cost will be $2.99 a month, paid by Paypal subscription, and will keep the last two recent issues available.  This is looking like a good deal and the reader on the computer isn’t bad. It’s not flash-based, so the reader may be friendly for mobile devices. Some have said that teens will be left out because of the online payment, but any parents who refuse their kids a $2.99 investment for them to read is doing them a great disservice.

Manga related panels included The Future of Manga with Jason Thompson and Dallas Middaugh was on Publishing Comics representing Del Rey. Del Rey didn’t have a panel at the show this year and with the news of Ali Kokmen, the marketing manager who did a lot of to get Del Rey Manga going being laid off, makes more real the speculation that Del Rey is winding down their manga division. Sony held a panel on their adaptation of the Tokyopop published manhwa Priest, and Moto Hagio had a focus panel where she was also presented CCI’s Inkpot award.

NYT Best Seller List

It’s that time again, so let’s look at what’s going on with this week’s list of  best sellers. And a check of the Hardback list shows…What?! No Twilight at #1? Who’s this green dude that’s taken the first three spots, leaving Twilight to come in at #4? Bahhhh.  Over on the manga list, Naruto vol 48 retakes it’s #1 spot from Ouran High School Host Club vol 14, which falls to #2. Vampire Knight vol 10 moves back up to #3 with Black Butler vol 2 right behind at #4. New comer Black Lagoon vol 9 debuts at #5 while The Last AirBender falls another 2 to #6. Black Butler vol 1 moves back up one to #7 while another debut, Inuyasha vol 50 arrivals at #8. Soul Eater vol 3 is another newbie arriving at #9 while One Piece vol 54 holds on but falls 7 to #10. Viz hold a majority of 6/10 on the list with Yen Press’ strongest titles holding 3/10. Black Lagoon is a surprise as a more adult title, but is very welcome addition. It would be nice to see more adult titles taking on the massive teen machines of Naruto and Vampire Knight.

NYT Best Sellers: Second Opinion

A lot of people question the New York Times Best Seller List for its accuracy. They never full explain where they get their numbers from, so there’s plenty of doubt about how real they are. One person to not only feel that way, but does something about it Matt Blind of Rocket Bomber. He compiles his own list and explains exactly where the numbers come from. So, here’s a comparison of the this week’s lists:

  1. Naruto vol 48                                                                                              1.  Naruto vol 48
  2. Ouran High School Host Club vol 14                                                    2. Ouran High School Host Club vol 14
  3. Vampire Knight vol 10                                                                              3. Vampire Knight vol 10
  4. Black Butler vol 2                                                                                       4.  Hellsing vol 10
  5. Black Lagoon vol 9                                                                                    5. Maximum Ride vol 1
  6. Last Air Bender                                                                                          6. Naruto vol 47
  7. Black Butler vol 1                                                                                       7. Maximum Ride vol 2
  8. Inuyasha vol 50                                                                                          8. Bleach vol 31
  9. Soul Eater vol 3                                                                                          9. One Piece vol 54
  10. One Piece vol 54                                                                                      10. Negima! vol 26

It’s an interesting comparison when seen side by side. The top three are the same, but Maximum Ride is missing from the NYT, and Black Butler is missing from RB. Interesting exchange, but from same company. Viz still holds 6 spots, while Yen is down to 2. Adult comics still get their representation on th RB with Hellsing, but there’s no Last Air Bender. It will be interesting to continue to do these comparison and see if/how things change between them.

This Week At Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • Black Butler vol 2
  • Fairy Nagivator Runa vol 1
  • Dramacon vol 3

Review: Gestalt Volume 6

Ouri and Father Olivier are together again, but they’re not about to live happily ever after quite yet. Olivier’s nemesis Ender is back, and even the deadliest dark magic may not be enough to slow him down. he’s determined to bring Olivier back to his Order and force him to face up to the crimes of his past, but Olivier himself has another plan in mind. his best chance at redemption may be hidden somewhere in the forbidden realm of G.

By Yun Kouga
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen +
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★½☆☆
Buy This Book

Gestalt is an average fantasy/D&D-esque story complete with a group of adventurers that include a priest, a sorcerer, a dark elf and a knight. They are on a quest to find the realm of G. They are being chased by their nemesis and have to fight monsters along the way. It’s a very generic plot that did make it easy to jump into the series at volume 6, but doesn’t do much to make for an overly interesting story.

Fortunately, the characters make up for it. I got to like most of them. Like the plot, the characters aren’t very complex but definitely entertaining. The interactions between Ouri, the hero/heroine and Suzu the dark elf were fun. Ouri was angsty for about half of the volume, but it was a tolerable angst, since he wasn’t totally bemoaning his fate and trying to do something about it. Father Olivier is the very generic kind, gentle priest with a dark side, but I found I liked both sides, though Dark Olivier does win out slightly.

It’s mainly these three characters for two-thirds of the volume. Shazan, the knight, goes on a side quest and makes the jump suddenly in the middle of a fight between Ouri, Suzu and Dark Olivier against Ender. Shazan is searching for the Book of P and goes to a dungeon to face the Wings of Death to try to get the book. For two chapters we go through the whole story of Wings and Shazan helps the ghost Mifa to save Wings and retrieves the book. While I really enjoyed these two chapters, almost more than the main story, the transition to it and then back to the battle were not done well at all. They are very abrupt, especially interrupting a fight just as Dark Olivier comes out, and they are just as abrupt coming back, not even picking up where the battle left off, and just starting in a completely different place, with new characters just wandering in from the street (literally)! I also didn’t care for the gender-bending/BL aspect of the title. I don’t care for either and to have both thrown out at the same time, made for some less than appealing moments.

The art isn’t bad. Everyone is bishie, especially Father Olivier. Everyone, male and female has long, flowing hair, but it isn’t difficult to tell the boys from the girls, as the women are all dressed in skimpy outfits and have ample breasts. This is of course part of the fan service that this volume serves up, but it’s not as blatant as it could be, so I can take it or leave it. I did like some of the monsters. Kouga came up with some fairly cool designs for them. I especially liked Wings, with the large eyes on her head.

Overall, Gestalt is an average title. There’s nothing new in the story or characters, but they are entertaining enough to kill some time, and you won’t feel it’s been wasted. This isn’t a must have title, unless you are a fan of Kouga’s work and/or a completest.

Syfy Summer: First Look

Syfy recently premiered three of their original TV shows. Warehouse 13 and Eureka are returning series’, while Haven is new for this year. First impressions can always be important, but they can also be deceiving. Let’s look at the premieres of each of the shows and see what the season seems to have in store.

Warehouse 13 survived its freshman year to get a second season. Like most Syfy shows, last season ended with a cliffhanger of Artie being incinerated in the entrance to the warehouse. This is the first thing resolved before the actual episode starts. The resolution shouldn’t be a surprise either, as it was set up not just in the last episode of last season, but the “previously” at the beginning of this episode showed the same key scenes. This episode then proceeds to tie up a few of the loose ends from last season, including getting rid of MacPherson as the season’s arc’s villain though not without him leaving a cryptic message to Artie, and then sets up this current season’s arc and villain.

This season opener was okay. It’s nice to get some closure, and I won’t be missing MacPherson. His reasons for going rouge were never satisfactorily explained, though I think his last words are related, and hopefully we will see more about it. It also set up H.G. Wells well enough that I’m intrigued enough to keep watching to see what she has in mind. Knowing Syfy shows, this season will probably more of the same, but with some of the twists they put on history and historical figures, that might not be a bad thing. But, it will take a few more episodes to know for sure if the writers are still up to the challenge.

Eureka is the oldest of all the shows as it starts its 4th season. Eureka didn’t end on a cliffhanger this year. We had some characters leave, but no one in the main cast, the show could start off with a fresh story arc this season. The town is getting ready to celebrate Founder’s Day, but in a fluke accident that involves solar flares and a machine built by Albert Einstein, five of the characters, Carter, Allison, Jo, Henry and Fargo are transported to just before the towns founding and meet one of its founders, Dr. Trevor Grant. As usual, this little jaunt back in time changes history, but only just slightly. Mainly it seems in the lives of our five main characters. So the season will seem to concentrate on the usual strangeness of Eureka, and dealing with the new reality, as well as what to do unintended time traveler Grant.

As much as I enjoy the quirkiness of Eureka, these constant time shifts that have happened every season so far are getting tiring. The writers might think it’s cool or fun to be able to hit the Big Reset Button so they can change things and/or take characters in new and different directions, but to me it just feels like cheating. It’s the waking up and finding Patrick Ewing in the shower, Or finding Jean Grey coccooned at the bottom of the ocean. Any character development that was shown in the last season can just be wiped away in favor of a new version. You can’t have any real character development this way, since you can’t trust what you saw last season will be true for next. They should stop calling this show Eureka, and change it to “Multiverse”, because it seems the writers are more interested in seeing what could be instead of what is. I’ll still the show this season, but my hopes aren’t up so high.

Haven is the freshman series this year. It is loosely based on the Stephen King novel “The Colorado Kid”. FBI Agent Audrey Parker is sent to Haven, Maine to find a federal criminal that on the loose. Haven is his hometown. The criminal is found dead, but there are mysterious circumstances around his death that Audrey stays to investigate with Detective Nathan Wuornos and finds a supernatural reason behind it. During the investigation, Audrey is shown a picture from the towns past that may connect her to it, giving her reason to stay awhile.

On the whole, I enjoyed this first episode the most. It’s not without its problems of course. It has some plot holes that might make you shake your head, such as Audrey’s matter-of-fact reaction to a woman who can control the weather, but for a series with supernatural overtones, you do need to allow for some suspension of disbelief. Hopefully not too much though. The plot of this episode was very basic, but it’s purpose was more to establish characters and the town than solve a crime, so it gets a pass this time. Speaking of the characters, I liked are main characters right off the bat. Audrey and Nathan have a good rapport, and the supporting characters of the local paper reporters and Duke, Nathan’s arch nemesis it seems, add some humor to balance against the drama. So for the moment, the good outweighs the bad in this series, and it’s one I’ll be looking forward to seeing more of.

Review: Black Butler Volume 1

Just a stone’s throw from London lies the manor house of the illustrious Phantomhive earldom and its master, one Ciel Phantomhive. Earl Phantomhive is giant in the world of commerce, Queen Victoria’s faithful servant…and a slip of a twelve-year-old boy. Fortunately, his loyal butler, Sebastian, is ever at his side, ready to carry out the young master’s wishes. And whether Sebastian is called to save a dinner party gone awry or probe the dark secrets of London’s underbelly, there apparently is nothing Sebastian cannot do. In fact, one might even say Sebastian is too good to be true…or at least, too good to be human…

By Yana Toboso
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★★
Buy This Book

Black Butler had a strong fanbase on the internet before it was licensed by Yen Press, and a reading of the first chapter makes it easy to see why. Well developed characters, good humor punctuated by moments of drama, and an intriguing story draws you into Black Butler’s world, so that you are eager to stay.

The focus of this title is on Ciel Phantomhive, the 12-year-old Earl and his butler, Sebastian Michaelis.  Ciel is cool and aloof with a touch of smugness in his attitude, especially when dealing with adults. Even though he tries to act older, he is still a child, and would prefer to play games instead of studying. He is also not at all interested in girls, especially his betrothed, Elizabeth. As heir of the Phantomhive estate, he is not only Earl, but also the head of Funtom Corp, the biggest maker of toys and candy in Britain. It’s little surprise that the company has been booming since he took over. Sebastian comes off as very laid back. Not a slacker, just someone who doesn’t let anything get to him. He’s very efficient and takes his job as butler to the Phantomhive family very seriously. He sees to Ciel’s welfare, education, and when needed acts as a bodyguard. And he always wears a smile, that can seem warm, or smug, or even demonic.

Ciel and Sebastian play off each very well. Like a child testing the boundaries of a parent, Ciel likes to play with Sebastian, such as searching the ends of the earth to find someone who can defeat him in combat, or having him drink some poorly made lemonade. By the same token, Sebastian seems to enjoy needling Ciel a little, such as reminding him of the studying he would do if he won said combat, which of course, he does. But there is so much more to their relationship than just trading barbs. Sebastian sometimes acts the parent, as he teaches Ciel to dance properly, and Ciel does crave that attention, as when he asks Sebastian to stay with him until he is asleep. There is an underlying sadness to Ciel that we only get glimpses of, that is most likely related to the lost of his parents, even though it’s never mentioned. Later we learn that there is more to their relationship, and both are just their playing parts, like in some play. At least Sebastian is. For Ciel, despite what he knows about Sebastian, there may be some real feelings there.

While there are comedic moments between Ciel and Sebastian, it’s the staff of the manor that play up the laughs. They have no other job than comedy. They certainly can’t do what they were hired to do. Finnian is the gardener with a brown thumb. Mey-Rin is the clumsy housemaid. Baldroy is the Chef that can’t cook and Tanaka is the House Stewart who does nothing but drink tea all day. They mess up everything, and Sebastian then gets to come in and magically fix everything. Of course, none of them are too bright either, so don’t really notice that a lot of the things Sebastian does isn’t humanly possible.

Black Butler is just plain fun to read. It’s setting in the steampunk-ish world of 19th century England where there are video games, cell phones and cars allows for all the trappings of the 21st century in the Victorian era and attire. Toboso drops several intriguing hints throughout this introduction volume. Sebastian himself is a mystery as is how he came into Ciel’s service. But there is so much than that. What happened to Ciel’s family/parents? What is the “Covenant” between Ciel and Sebastian, and are the two events related? And what is the role of the Phantomhive as “watchdogs for the Queen”? That brings to mind elements of Hellsing another excellent, though not as pretty, title.

The art of Black Butler brings to mind Kaori Yuki, creator of The Cain Saga and Godchild. It may be that both have Victorian settings and bishonen leads, but I mean the comparison in a good way. I really enjoy Yuki’s work, so that made enjoying Toboso’s even easier. Sebastian’s shaggy mane works perfectly with the butler uniform, and Ciel’s eye patch, which changes with his outfit adds a sense of mystery to his already cute form.

Overall, this first volume of Black Butler is an excellent start to the series. It introduces all the pertinent characters and gives glimpses of what they can do, and some of what they are dealing with. It’s spent 19 weeks (as of this writing) on the NYT best seller list, several of those weeks at number 1, and is deserving of doing so. This is a volume to be read and re-read.

Beginning of the End

The twelfth episode of the fifth series of Doctor Who, “The Pandorica Opens” is not only the penultimate episode, it also seems to portent the end of the universe as well. It all seems pretty grim as the truth behind the cracks in the universe is revealed, and our heroes are left in dire situations with no apparent way out. It’s a cliffhanger reminiscent of the classic series. But like many of the episodes in this series, it ends up being rather uneven in its consistency.

The episode starts with Van Gough in another depression after having just painted a picture that we can’t see. Jump 50 years to World War II and Professor Bracewell, who is talking to Churchill about the same painting. This prompts a call to the Doctor, but gets routed instead to River Song, who is once again in prison. She escapes and goes to the Spaceship Britain to retrieve the painting, but not before running into Liz X. Then it’s another improbably message from River to the Doctor that sends him and Amy back to Earth, England, circa 102 AD to search for the legendary Pandorica.

It doesn’t take long for the Pandorica to be found. Considering where they are, it’s not too surprising where it’s found either. Stonehenge has been everything from a map of ancient sites, or a machine of the apocalypse, so it can’t be too surprising have a giant mythic box under it. The majority of the episode is taken up with the mystery of the Pandorica. The Doctor recounts the legends of who is supposed to be inside,and it turns out to have a connection to Amy (again), as she states the myth of Pandora’s Box was a favorite of hers. Moffat pulls off another twist though, as it becomes not an issue of who is inside, but who is going inside. If you listen to the Doctor’s description of who’s supposed to be inside, it not that much of a surprise. Though I like my interpretation. In the myth, Pandora’s box was closed before hope could escape, therefore, despite all the other problems, humanity would always have hope.

The Pandorica’s opening also attracts a lot of unwanted visitors, as Earth’s skies are filled with spaceships belonging to many of the Doctor’s enemies. He gives a “you don’t want to mess with me” speech, filled again with all the arrogance that only the Doctor can espouse and get away with. And it seems he does again too, but we finally see this arrogance become his downfall. He lets his guard down and falls right into his enemies trap. I had a real problem with the scene with the enemies. Every race in the universe does not have the ability to time travel like the Doctor. The Daleks do, yes, but the Sontarans, Cybermen (from alternate universe) and Nestene do not. And what were the Silurians doing there? That clan won’t have a beef with the Doctor until 2020, so what are they doing in 101 BC? They are advanced, but not that advanced, otherwise they wouldn’t need to be in suspended animation. It was a cool concept, to have the Doctor walked past his enemies, but it just wasn’t realistic. And the Daleks working together, with anyone without their own agenda? Doesn’t happen, period.

This episode brings up a lot more questions than it answers. Why Amy? Why her wall? Why her memories? Why is the TARDIS going to explode? Absolutely nothing is done to explain, or even explore why the TARDIS might be unstable or on the verge of exploding. We see the TARDIS having problems here and there throughout the series, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary for the old girl. She’s always had her eccentricities, just like the Doctor. But I really think if something was really wrong with her, the Doctor could have and should have noticed. He is psychically linked with the TARDIS. It’s not just a space ship, and especially not to him. That’s what makes the scene when she takes River back to Amy’s house so troubling. A voice is heard again saying “Silence will fall”, just before the console monitor cracks. But what does that really mean? Is it the silence at the end of the universe? Or is it something else? And who or what could affect the TARDIS like that, or worse, make her explode?

As cliffhangers go, this one is a good one. A character from previous episodes returns, and there are some good shocks. Amy being menaced by the damaged Cyberman was especially good, and the final scene before the credits was visually stunning if not disheartening. You really wonder after that, how can there be an episode thirteen? Moffat will need to pull some really big rabbits from his hat to tie this up into a happy ending and/or lead in to the Christmas Special.

This Week in Manga: 7/9-7/16/10

Manga Factory Direct

Anime News Network was able to talk to company representative Mika Ogata and get some more details about Manga Factory and their prior relationship with Aurora. Despite having been former employees and having volumes of the defunct publishers books for sale, there is no connection between Manga Factory and Aurora. They are completely new company. The books are just a way to get some funds in. They won’t be making any announcements for licenses for the summer, but considering they’ve just started, that’s understandable. And I think it makes total sense for former employees to band together like this and create their own company. They no doubt have the contacts and the knowledge of the US manga market, that executives back in Japan that were calling the shots didn’t. This is like a manga fan’s dream come true, and I hope they succeed, just to prove that dreams like this can still come true.

Manga at the Harveys

The Harveys are awards nominated by and chosen for people in the comics industry. Since this is for the US comics industry, manga doesn’t make a big splash except in the “American Edition of Foreign Material” category. Two manga got nominations this year, and they are the two most likely to be read by comics fans; 20th Century Boys and Pluto, both by Naoki Urasawa. No one can deny the strength of these stories. Urasawa knows how to tell a tale and tell it well. On the surface it might seem hard to choose between the two, but not for me. I’m going for Pluto all the way. Winners will be announced at the San Diego Comic Con next weekend.

Is the Pressure working?

Found via Twitter. Another site that hosted scanlations has bowed to legal pressures and taken down all of the manga from members in the coalition. Manga Toshokan announced last night on their forums that:

we have been advised to remove all series serialized by the publishers in the coalition.

That doesn’t mean they have taken down everything. There is still manga from publishers not in the coalition, as well as manhwa and manhua. Needless to saw (but I’ll say it anyway), this has led to a lengthy thread that was at 77 pages as of this writing. Manga Toshokan realizes that they will lose a lot of their members because of this, and have a created a survey that they intend to send to publishers in the coalition. The questions seem worded mostly to say that sites like theirs are wanted and needed. While I don’t doubt that a digital solution is needed, I don’t think their survey will do much to sway anyone. It’s a different tactic though. Better than screaming obscenities at the publishers or crying for a boycott.

Planning for SDCC

If you’re going to the San Diego Comic Con this year, you’d better have a plan. With so many people and so many panels, there’s no way to just “wing it”. You’ll never get to see anything but the backs of the people in line ahead of you who DID have a plan. Kate Dacey at the Manga Critic helps you get started with information on some of the smaller publishers with panel times and special signing they’ll be hosting. Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf has some of the activities for Viz and Tokyopop as well, which covers most of the publishers that will be there. I’d say it’s sad to have a year without CMX, except they never got a far shake at the DC booth. They have one of the larger booths just for the comics (not counting the Warner Bros booth which is usually next door) and they couldn’t even be bothered to give CMX their own table or put out samplers to promote them. It’s been said before, but I have to say it again. Screw you, DC.

NYT Best Seller List

It’s a new week, so that means a new best seller list. Starting from the top, we have Twilight in its usual spot of #1 of the Hardback list. It seems to be getting comfortable there, doesn’t it? Kicking off the manga list, we have not only a debut title, but it comes right in at #1. Ouran High School Host Club vol 14 kicks Naruto vol 48 back to #2. The newest One Piece vol 54 also debuts at #3, officially ending the massive manga wave, which leaves last week’s #1, The Last Airbender to fall to #4. Vampire Knight vol 10 takes a dive as well, from #2 to #5, and drops Soul Eater for Black Butler vol 2. I think they’re better suited for each other anyway. The third debut is Shaman King vol 29 coming in at #7 while Black Butler vol 1 moves back up to #8. Gotta keep an eye on those vampires.  Fourth and Fifth debuts are both shojo. Nana vol 21 takes the #9 spot while Stepping on Roses vol 1 takes #10. This is quite a week as the girls rock the list and show the guys who’s really in charge. Viz comes off the winner too, with 7/10 and 4 of the top 5 spots. I wonder what they’ll have to announce at SDCC that will be appearing here soon (no doubt).

News From Japan

New Crayon Shin-chan Manga

Japanese publisher Futabasha has announced that a new series of Crayon Shin-chan will launch in the Sept. issue of Monthly Manga Town, where the original ran until the untimely death of its mangaka Yoshito Usui in a climbing accident last year. This new series will be done by Usui’s assistants, and the series will be officially credited at “Yoshito Usui and UY Studio”. It will be called Shin Crayon Shin-chan (New Crayon Shin-chan) and will continue to follow the madcap adventures of kindergartener Shin and his family and friends. I think this is a nice way to give tribute to the mangaka. Though I’m starting to think the series itself is cursed in the US. It was first licensed by Comics One, and then picked up by CMX, neither company even got close to completing its run. Maybe this is a series best left unlicensed.

Manga For Your Ears

Manga Out Loud

Sesho’s Anime and Manga Reviews

This Week at Manga Village

What I’ve been Reading

  • Paradise Kiss vol 1
  • Chi’s Sweet Home vol 1-2
  • Neko Raman vol 1
  • Bakuman vol 1

Antique Bakery Volumes 1-4

Fumi Yoshinaga is a mangaka that I’ve heard a lot about but didn’t have a lot of opportunity to read her non-BL work. When the opportunity did present itself, I decided to take the chance and started with this short series.

By Fumi Yoshinaga
Publsiher: Digital Manga Publishing
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Drama
Price: $12.95
Rating: ★★★★½
Buy These Books Now

Antique Bakery is a slice of life story that follows the lives and relationships of the four men who work in a bakery called Antique. Keisuke Tachibana is the owner. He’s a success in every career he tries, except he can’t keep a girlfriend. Yusuke Ono is the pâtissier and a former classmate of Tachibana. He is gay,and is cursed with a “Demonic Charm” that can make any man, straight or gay, fall for him. Except Tachibana. Eiji Kanada is Ono’s assistant and student. He’s a former delinquent and boxer with a sweet tooth. Chikage Kobayaka is a waiter and childhood friend of Tachibana. He’s clumsy, and not very bright. Tachibana has to look after him. Over the four volumes, we see glimpses of not only their present lives, but also flashback of their past, showing how they became who they are now, as well as how they change by working at Antique.

One of the strengths of this series is the interaction between the characters. Even though they are all co-workers, and Tachibana is the boss, there’s a real bond of friendship between them. They can bicker with each other, as Tachibana and Eiji often do, with Eiji calling Tachibana “old man” (he’s only 32), but it rarely escalates beyond that. Tachibana is constantly complaining about the lack of respect he gets, and how difficult it to run the business, but he still shows he cares as both an employer and a friend. Ono is set in the role of peacemaker, always trying to keep Eiji and Tachibana calm and from getting into any more verbal fights. Everyone has to help Chikage because he is so clueless about everything. He doesn’t even realize that Ono is attracted to him. It’s fun to watch these characters. Each has an interesting back story in their own right, but bringing them together and seeing them interact is really entertaining.

Another strength of this series was seeing the characters grow. From volume 1 to volume 4, all of the characters slowly change and develop further into slightly different people. A couple even find some closure to issues that affected them deeply. Ono is able to not only get over his paralyzing fear of women, but he’s able to go home and face his family, and mother. Tachibana helps a boy who was kidnapped in a similar manner as he was when he was 5. Even though he is unable to face (or remember) his own kidnapper, helping the boy helps him move on. Eiji grows both as a pâtissier and as a person, and by the end is able to go off on his own some. Even Chikage makes a try of living on his own. It was very satisfying to see these characters develop and move on. Most shojo and shonen doesn’t do this.

The only thing I didn’t care for, and this is a personal thing only, was all the long and detailed descriptions of the pastries served at the bakery. I’m not interested in knowing what’s in a cake or pastry. It’s really boring to me, and I often just skimmed over the descriptions. I just don’t see this title being about the food, but about the characters. The bakery is just the reason to bring them together, not to expound the greatness of some pastry.

The art is wonderful to look at. All of the men are bishonen, but varied not only between each other, but also between their professional and personal lives. Ono the pâtissier looks very different from Ono the playboy. And Tachibana and his facial stubble is just plain funny. No one seems able to recognize him with it. Yoshinaga’s drawing is delicate, with fine lines and very detailed, something I think you could truly call art.

Ultimately, Antique Bakery hits all the right buttons for a good relaxing read. It’s a bit like it’s subject. It’s fun to read, but you wouldn’t want to gobble it down. It’s satisfying from the first bite, but it’s something to savored rather than shoveled in and looking for seconds. If you’re looking for a title with well written characters that develop and grow, definitely check this title out. The story will pull you in and the characters will leave you satisfied, like a good dessert.

Ask Manga Mom: The Raw Edition

Labo asks:

I’ve been wondering for a while now, but you say that you are learning Japanese characters to read more Japanese manga not yet translated for the public audience and I was wondering, that is you achieve that goal exactly how or where would you get the Japanese manga to put your skills to use. Seeing as few internet sites like offer a limited selection that are usually popular series, that have their own animes already.

Well Labo, I’m fortunate to live in an area of the US where I’m 45 minutes more or less to several Japanese bookstores, including, but not limited to, Kinokuniya and used bookstore Book Off. But as you note, their selection will be mostly for newer titles, and used bookstores inventory is always fluctuating. So to find some specific titles, I will have to go online.

There are several online bookstores, the most obvious being, the Japanese arm of A query of the hive mind that is Twitter got me several other suggestions. Kinokuniya also has an online book store. It has stores in both the US and Japan. The Japanese store probably has a better selection.  BK1 is an online store that sells manga, cds and dvds and is located in Japan.  Yesasia came up as an option as well, as did Yahoo Actions using a proxy, but those can get expensive. I used one once, and that was just to replace a CD that had been stolen from my brother, and I couldn’t get it anywhere else. I wouldn’t recommend those. Ebay can also be a source, but like used bookstores, the selection is hit or miss. beNippon seems to be a new online store that has lots of Japanese manga, though I don’t know anyone who’s tried it.

Another option that will be growing (hopefully) is reading manga online, in Japanese. CDJapan has an e-book rental section that allows you to read manga online, all in Japanese. I think this would be the ideal version for me. I just don’t have room for more manga! They already have quite a selection in all demographics, and even one title I really want to read! And it’s just a $1.00 for 48 hours for 1 volume. Now that’s a deal!

This Week in Manga: 7/3-7/8/10

Anime Expo Con’t

Anime Expo continued on Saturday and Sunday, but there was only one panel the rest of the weekend of interest to manga readers. Viz Media held their panel on Saturday. Most of their news was just reiterations of previously confirmed titles through sightings on Amazon, but they did have some new titles, all from already known and published mangaka here in the US. Deb Aoki has the run down about the panel and new licenses.  She also takes a closer look at DMP’s new titles. Also announced at Viz’s panel was the streaming of a new anime series, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan. It’s published in Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan. Any bets on this being a new license to be announced at SDCC? Maybe it will be serialized in Shonen Jump magazine, and there will be something worth reading other than just One Piece! Am I just dreaming now? Probably.

AX’s Manga Evolution

Over at Robot6, Brigid Alverson takes a look at the evolution of manga publishers and their announcements at AX over the last 5-6 years. It’s an interesting bell curve, as you can see publisher attendance and announcements seem to wax and wane with the market. It’s a good history lesson, so go check it out.  I’ll wait.  What would be really interesting is to look at this trend and compare it to manga publishers at San Diego Comic Con. Does SDCC follow the same trend? Or would it show a different kind of graph? I think the announcements line would go up for SDCC, but publishers attending would go down. It takes money to exhibit at SDCC, and not everyone can make it every year.

THE Manga Database

Matt Blind, the Charles Schwab of the manga world, spent the holiday weekend putting together what must the definitive list of manga published in english since 2000. If you followed him on twitter, you would know of his trials of updating the list, and having enough beer. But what he created is truly wonderous. You won’t find a more comprehensive list anywhere else. And, being the generous man that he is, he has made it available for free in several different formats. If you’ve ever wondered just how many titles and/or volumes of manga have been published in english, this where you start. And it will make an AWESOME checklist, for those of us OCD enough to keep one.

Another Home Run for Manga

UK manga blogger Kimi-chan has an endorsement for manga as an aid for getting reluctant readers to pick up a book. Her son is lot like my youngest daughter. She would sit and read the video game manuals, but getting her to read prose books could be a chore. Kimi-chan’s manga of choice was Ninja Baseball Kyuma, an all ages title from Udon Entertainment. If you’re a teacher, librarian or parent, definitely read about her experience with her son and manga. One thing I found rather humorous, was her worrying about her son knowing about baseball. It’s obviously not as popular in the UK as it is in the US and Japan. Is there a cricket manga, do you think?

NYT Best Seller List

And now, on to the 10 manga list. Twilight on top of the Hardback Graphic Books? Check. Naurto #1 on the Manga list? Vol 48 Check! Vampire Knight vol 10 at #2? NO! WHAT?! The #2 spot is held by The Last Airbender, the graphic adaptation of the movie now out in theaters. This is probably better, shorter, and cheaper than the movie. Vampire Knight vol 10 has to settle for #3 with its new best friend Soul Eater vol 3 at #4. Can manga from two different publisher mingle like this? Black Butler vol 2 might have something to say about this as it leaps two to come in at #5. And what’s a butler without a maid? Maid-Sama vol 5 debuts at #6 to use some of that Bleach vol 31 which falls to #7. Proving that not all vampires are angsty is Hellsing vol 10 falls two to # 8, but hanging on for its 5th week. Who says manga is just for kids?! Naruto vol 47 reappears at #9, as does Yen Press’ most impressive butler, Black Butler vol 1, serving #10. Wow. All of Del Rey’s titles from last week got kicked, which in Fairy Tail‘s case is a crime. And speaking of crimes, two repeat offenders are two-timing the list! Can a butler beat a ninja? Stay tuned to find out.

Manga For Your Ears

Spiraken Manga Reviews

This Week at Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • One Piece vol 41
  • One Piece vol 42
  • Vampire Hunter D vol 4
  • Culdcept vol 1
  • Gestalt vol 6

Shonen Jump August 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Itazura na Kiss Volume 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gangly Gallifreyan

Every series there is an episode where either the Doctor or companion isn’t featured much because they are needed for filming elsewhere. Multiple episodes are filmed at the same time and this usually happens near the end of the series. This 11th episode, “The Lodger” seems to be this series’ Doctor heavy/Amy light episode. The Doctor gets tossed from the TARDIS, leaving Amy alone to try to fly it while the Doctor tries to figure out what on Earth (literally) is keeping the TARDIS materializing fully. Meanwhile, ordinary human Craig Owens is trying to tell his female friend, not girlfriend yet, how he feels about her so they can reach that next step. He’s got an ugly stain on his ceiling from the flat upstairs and is looking for a roommate. While the neighbor upstairs keeps luring passersby up to never be seen again, the Doctor comes knocking to be Owens’ new roomie.

This episode is basically just fluff, but it’s good fluff. It was originally a comic story written for Doctor Who Monthly, that was reworked to be a TV episode. The Doctor figures he can find and solve the problem, as long as he can pretend to be human. His first real test comes fast. Craig’s pub’s football (soccer) team is down a player, and they need someone to stand in. The Doctor volunteers immediately, as playing football is one of the things Amy told him human guys do. While first feigning knowledge the game, he turns out to be a great player. This isn’t just acting on Matt Smith’s part. He is actually an excellent football player, and was nearly scouted when he was younger. It was really cool of the writers to work this skill of Smith’s in, and it worked out so well in the episode. Watching Smith play and really enjoy the himself doing it really made a difference in the enjoyment of the episode.   You were almost cheering the Doctor on, and laughing as she stole Craig’s kick, as he was having so much fun.

Another really funny moment is when Craig discovers the scanner the Doctor has built-in his room. When he goes to confront him, Craig finds the Doctor talking to a cat. He shares a psychic connection with the cat, because, like bow ties, cats are cool. When Craig then tries to kick the Doctor out, the only way he can think to do to explain is to psychically reveal the truth to Craig. With a head butt. That whole scene was just TOO FUNNY. It’s so worth watching the episode just for that scene!

This episode also shows the Doctor playing matchmaker. He seems to enjoy this, meddling in other people’s lives, but then, meddling is what he does best. While still working on what is keeping the TARDIS from materializing, he definitely meddles in Craig’s life. He tells Craig’s “friend” Sophie that she can do anything. He does Craig’s job better than him. He just generally drives Craig nuts! But in the end, he gets both Craig and Sophie to finally express their feelings, which also helps with stopping the problem. I really enjoy these moments of happiness when they come up. It’s one of my few “chick” vices.

Overall, this was a really fun episode, and good pick-me-up after the slightly depressing “Vincent and the Doctor”. It also starts the set up for the final two episodes of the series. The crack does make an appearance. But of much greater significance, Amy finds her engagement ring from Rory in the Doctor’s jacket pocket, while searching for a pen. You can almost see the wheels of memory turning in her head as she stares at it. She knows it should mean something. The big question is, will she remember?

Images © BBC

Manga News, Reviews and Commentary