Summer of Tokyopop

It’s been tough to be a manga fan lately, with one bad piece of bad news after another, and publishers being yanked out from under us. But there is one company that’s weathered the storm of fans and economy and is slowly, but surely making its way back. Back in 2008, when Tokyopop did their whole restructuring, many doom sayers didn’t they could return to be the company they once where. That part is try, but in a good way, that’s a good thing. Tokyopop before the restructuring was a mess, stretched out too far, and using the “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” method of licensing.

Pick of the Litter 5But after two years of streamlining, they have been coming back to life as it were, and bringing with it some titles some of the fans never thought we would see again. One of the titles I thought never be finished was Pick of the Litter, a B-grade comedy about cats and an alternate world. I really liked the comedy, but I’m sure it wasn’t a spectacular seller. Still, Tokyopop finished it last month by releasing the last two volumes in an omnibus edition.  Another title that I didn’t think would EVER be completed is B’TX, the title Masami Kurumada did after finishing Saint Seiya. It’s been sitting at 15 of 16 volumes for years! But now there is a solicitation for the final volume to be released in November. It is such a relief to see the light at the end of what was a dark tunnel for so long.

And the titles keep returning! On their twitter feed came this tweet, announcing that Genju no Seiza would be returning with volume 8, which Amazon has scheduled for August. This title by Matsuri Akino is such a good title, that it had to come back! I’m happy to see that Tokyopop agreed. And right behind it you can get Pet Shop of Horrors volume 7 which is scheduled for September. Another title that’s been in limbo but has been getting a lot of talk from bloggers is Gatcha Gacha, which has had its 8th volume scheduled for early November. To find out why, check out Sean Gaffney’s reviews at his blog A Case For Suitable Treatment. There are reviews of the first three volumes, but by November you can bet all 7 available will be there.

I think it is absolutely awesome that Tokyopop is doing its best to bring back these titles, even though most of them were not stellar sellers. Whatever else you say about Tokyopop, they really do care about the fans. The fact that they bringing these titles out really speaks volumes. But for Tokyopop to succeed, they need our help.

TOKYOPOP: @swanjun Yes, it is. However, retailers are lukewarm on supporting it, so please tell all your friends to order it early&often.

While this tweet was directed at Gatcha Gacha, I think it really applies for all these titles. They wouldn’t have been put on hiatus if they didn’t need more support. The best way to do this is by pre-ordering the titles and then telling all your manga friends to pre-order too.  With manga publishers dropping like flies (or so it seems), we as fans should support the ones that continue, especially when they show they are putting out the effort for us. We as fans of the titles should do the same. With all these titles reappearing, it’s like 2010 will be the summer of Tokyopop.

Now if we can just talk them into rescuing some CMX titles. I could see Stolen Hearts, My Darling! Miss Bancho and Nyankoi! fitting into their catalog really well.

Memorial Manga

eagle-v4-2Memorial Day is a national holiday in the US, the day when we remember all the people who gave their lives in the service of the country. If you look hard enough, you can find this theme in manga as well. Even though Memorial Day is celebrated with parades and ceremonies at cemetaries honoring the fallen, it can also be celebrated through the actions of the living, who carry on the memories of the dead.

In Eagle: The Making of an Asian American President, the protagonist, Yamaoka was a soldier in Vietnam, and decides to become the President of the United States when he returns. In volume 4 of the series, he attends a Remembrance Service at the Vietnam Vet wall, where he denounces war. This upsets a lot of people, but really, what better way is there to honor those who died in war, than to try to keep any more sons and daughters from dying in it?

Pluto 1Pluto: Tezuka x Urasawa is a retelling of the Astro Boy storyline “Greatest Robot in the World”. When Tezuka first wrote the story, he was writing of the Vietnam war as well. In Urasawa’s version, argument can be made that he is discussing the Iraq War, a much more recent, but no less violent conflict. In Pluto, the 39th Central Asia War was fought by robots, but that doesn’t make them any less worthy to be remembered. As the story opens, people are mourning the death of Mont Blanc, a soldier from that war who turned to helping people afterwards. Pluto‘s theme is also one of anti-war, where the memories of the conflict and those who were killed greatly affect the survivors.

Fullmetal 15Fullmetal Alchemist is another title that denounces war. Many of the characters in this title were soldiers in a terrible war against the Ishbalans. In volume 15, we hear the whole story. Roy Mustang was so profoundly affected by the war, that like Yamaoka in Eagle, he decides he must become the leader of Ametris so something like that can never happen again. Though, unlike Yamaoka, there is no democratic way to the top, and Mustang must still be soldier to make his way up. But the memories of what happened, and the vow he made have never been forgotten by him or his subordinates and friends who help him.

This Memorial Day, take some time to think about the men and women who have died to keep this country free, but also think about things we can do so no one else has to mourn a father, mother, sister, brother, son or daughter in such conflicts ever again.

This Week in Manga 5/22-5/28/10

TWiM

May Movable Manga Feast

This month’s movable manga feast featured the Vertical title To Terra… a sci-fi shonen from the 70’s. It was hosted by Kate Dacey of The Manga Critic blog. Reviews for the title were a lot more varied than on previous titles. People definitely had their opinion of this series and had no problem expressing it. You’ll find an introduction to the series and all the links to the participating reviews at the top link.

Well, That’s a Surprise

Here’s something that shouldn’t shock reader of Hunter x Hunter. It’s going on hiatus. Again.  What is this? Once a year at least, this title has to stop? Is this something in Togashi’s contract? If he hates writing this series so much, why doesn’t he just cancel it. Or hand it off to an assistant. At least do something to give fans closure. This is like a bad relationship, and someone’s gotta stop the vicious circle.

This Actually Is!

Dark Horse, which has started to feature titles on Facebook, recently had one entry on Ghost Talker’s Day Dream, which included the news that the series would be returning in September. The title was previously reported cancelled, so this is very good news for fans. It is a seinen horror action, so it’s written for adults. It can also be rather graphic, so be warned if you’re thinking of checking out this title.

Talkin’ ’bout a Solution

Over on Twitter, Erica Friedman of Okazu blog decided to take things into her own hands (sort of), and start crowd sourcing for a solution to the problem of illegal distribution of manga. After outlining the “Problem”, responses started to come in for a “Good Solution”. After the first session, the conclusion was:

To reiterate: The first wave of the Good Solution for Manga: Browser platform, pay and POD are a must, open-source on language and region…

…creator community, rewards to creators from user focus.

To see more of the responses, search Twitter for “yuricon”, “Problem”, “solution” and you’ll get most of the conversations.

Back to the Problem

Robot 6 helps to point out why illegal distribution is a problem, and why publishers need to implement their own “Good Solution”. Google recently released its list of the 1000 most visited websites based on their Double Click Ad Planner, and One Manga, the aggregator site that hosts illegal scans, placed at 935. It beat out many corporate sites such as NFL.com and ToyRus.com. If this doesn’t convince publishers that a “Hulu of manga” is needed, nothing will.

NYT Best Seller List

It’s all out war on the list this week, between Viz and Yen Press.  Starting with the Hardback books, Twilight has once again reclaimed the top spot from Kick Ass. Down on the manga list, Yen Press has also reclaimed the #1 spot with Black Butler vol 2 with Black Bird vol 4 falling back to #2. Pandora Hearts vol 2 debuts and takes the #3 spot, forcing Naruto vol 47 back to #4. Black Butler vol 1 holds on to #5, as D. Gray-man vol 17 falls three to #6. Kobato vol 1, the new CLAMP series, and debuts on the list at #7 followed by Rinne vol 3 at #8. Yotsuba&! vol 8 holds onto #9 and Rosario Vampire: Season II vol 1 falls four to #10. Interesting list, as Yen Press and Viz alternate up the list with Yen taking all the odd number and Viz getting all the evens. It’s also the start of the battle of the blacks. We’ll have to see if next week, the Butler can hold out, or if the Bird will take back it’s #1 spot.

News From Japan

More Manga We’ll Never See

ANN reports of a new manga launching in Japan that we’ll never see legally stateside. It’s a shojo title for the movie of the TV series Macross Frontier, the 25th anniversary TV series, and sequel to the original Macross, which was one of the three series’ that made up Robotech. This particular title is actually about one of the characters, Sheryl, who is the pop idol at the beginning of the series. This manga tells of her beginnings. Due to lawsuits over copyright issues, the US has never had an official release of a Macross series since Macross Plus, and it doesn’t look like things will be changing any time soon, which is a real shame, because is any series could popularize mecha titles in this country, it would be Macross.

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What I’ve Been Reading

  • Tena on a S-String vol 2
  • Yotsuba&! vol 8
  • Shonen Jump July 2010

Review: Broken Blade Volume 1

Rygart Arrow is the only one in his world who lacks the inherent abilityto power up quartz, the energy source that makes all of the machines run. Good thing the King and Queen of the country of Krisna happen to be old college friends! But so is Zess, the leader of the army of mechs invading Krisna. As usual, Aroow feels useless in the face of battle, until he comes across a powerful, ancient battle suit that no one else can run. His natural affinity for the suit’s operating mechanism may just turn Arrow into the most important player of all.

Broken Blade v1aBy Yunosuke Yoshinaga
Publisher: CMX Manga
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Action/Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★½☆☆
Buy This Book

It’s hard to be original in a genre like mecha, where stories of battling robots all seem to look the same. To make these titles appealing, they need interesting characters and/or compelling stories that make the use of the mecha seem necessary. Broken Blade is unable to do either unfortunately, as it presents a “by the numbers” plot and characters that are remarkable only by being unremarkable.

The plot for Broken Blade feels very much like it was created from a checklist of generic mecha plot points.  A mecha is found that it seems no one else is able to pilot except the protagonist because he has a special ability. Or in the case of this title, because he doesn’t. An old friend from school days is now the enemy, who has to prove his loyalty to his county and family. The protagonist doesn’t want to fight, but is thrown into a situation where he has to pilot the mech, and ends up saving the day.

The generic plot wouldn’t be so bad if the characters weren’t so bland. There is nothing about any of the characters that really make them stand out, or even seem interesting. The King and Queen of Krisna are more like scientists than royalty. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just that neither appear really commanding. Rygart is right out of “Mecha Heroes 101″ with his peaceful stance and his angst at not having any magic. It’s low-level angst, but angst all the same. Zess is too gung-ho to please his brother, so he is unwilling to talk or listen to anyone, just like any other antagonist. There is nothing introduced in this first volume to make want to care about these characters. There is an attempt to introduce a possible love triangle, and the question of why Zess is trying to please the brother he wanted to stop back in the Academy days, but it’s just not enough.

Like the story and characters, the art is fairly standard. The mecha are well drawn, and the action scene with them are actual pretty good. They are easy to follow. The characters have a good variety of appearance that you won’t be mistaking Rygart for Hodr, the King of Krisna as do the mecha. There’s no confusing the Zess’ and Arrow’s mechs. But there’s nothing outstanding about it.

I had high hopes for this title. I wanted it to be good, since there is so little mech/sci-fi manga licensed, but this title just fell short of the mark. If you’ve never read a mecha title, or seen any of the Gundam series, this title might seem fresh to you. The most fantasy setting might be more attractive than the harder sci-fi of most mecha, so if you’ve been curious about what’s so appealing about mecha titles, Broken Blade is a good place to start. Long time mecha fans will probably be disappointed by it though, as it feels like it’s just going through the motions, with no real life to the story and characters.

Review Rerun: Samurai Commando: Mission 1549 Volume 1

A military test accidentally sends a unit from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces back in time to their country’s feudal past.  When their actions begin to alter the present, a second unit is dispatched to retrieve them.  But Colonel Matoba, commander of the lost battalion, is determined to use his advanced technology to conquer Japan and change his country’s destiny.  It’s up to Kashima, Matoba’s former protégé, to stop him.  But he only has a narrow window of time, and it is rapidly closing.

Samurai Commando v1Samurai Commando:  Mission 1549
Creators:  Ark Performance & Harutoshi Fukui
Publisher:  CMX
Genre:  Action/Sci-Fi
Age Rating: Teen+
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆
Buy This Book

I love historical/time travel plots like The Final Countdown, and Zipang.  So, when I heard about this manga, I was definitely interested.  Based on a novel, for once we aren’t traveling back to WWII to try to not change the outcome.  No, this time, we’re going back to the Warring States Era of Japan, to just before the country was unified.

The volume opens with Matoba killing Nobunaga Oda, the man who was to conquer all of Japan.  Oops.  Well, not really.  Apparently Matoba’s got some sort of plan.  Hell if we know what it is though.  And that’s part of the problem with this volume.  It’s all set up; going to find Kashima, and recruiting him, making the preparations to repeat the experiment that sent the first battalion back.  And in the past, it’s basically the same, with Matoba preparing for future to come after him.  We get little hints here and there about what might be driving Matoba, but nobody, not even his own soldiers seem to know that he’s up to.

While this might be good in a 3-4 volume series, this title only has two.  So everything HAS to be resolved in the next volume, and that makes me think things will get rushed, and in a story like this, that’s not good.  This story is really about Matoba and Kashima, their relationship in the past, how they’ve changed since parting, and what are they going to do when they meet again.  The sci-fi elements of “the changing of the past will affect the future, and the world as we know will disappear” is just there to get them back together. But with what we’ve seen so far, we don’t know enough about either to really make any judgments yet.  And with only one volume to go, I don’t see how we really can.

The art in this volume is very clean-looking, but I was put off my the larger use of grey tones.  Being used to dark inks in other books, the lighter grey made is seem…unfinished, like the inker was just skipped.  I got used to it after a while, but it was really distracting at first.

I have to give CMX props for coming out with a manga like this.  It is very different from the shonen/shojo fare that we get inundated with.  So seeing a story with a more mature plot and real sci-fi elements is really refreshing.  And I do have to admit that I am intrigued to find out what Matoba’s plan is.  I’m just worried that with all that’s been set up in this volume, it won’t all be satisfactorily resolved in the next.  But, it’s piqued my curiosity enough want to see it through.

This Week in Manga 5/15-5/21/10

TWiM

Do you “Size” Up?

Inspired by a conversation on Twitter about what it means to be a fan, Ed Sizemore of the Manga Worth Reading blog tries to clarify his position. I bring this up because there has been a lot of talk about digital piracy and it’s effects on manga publishers. Ed’s view is basically that you can only call yourself a fan if you invest yourself, time and money, in the thing that you love. While I can see where he’s coming from, I can’t say I completely agree with his position. I don’t think there should be parameters put on what makes someone a fan of something. Being a fan of something, whether it’s TV, movies, or manga, shouldn’t be contingent on how much time you spend talking up a show or buying everything sight that branded with it. I’m a fan of Castle, but I don’t feel a burning need to buy the book or DVDs. I’m fine with watching the show every week. Does that make me less of a fan than someone who makes Lego Castle and Beckett figures? I don’t think so. By the same token, people or borrow manga from a friend or the library can still be fans of manga without actually buying the books, or obsessing over them. I would say you could start to draw the line at people who read licensed material at illegal aggregator sites, but I would still be reluctant to do so. Stealing the material doesn’t mean you’re still not a fan.  You’re just a bad fan. Trying to put up walls about what makes someone a fan will only keep more people out than what should be the desired effect, to get more people in.

When It Rains, It Pours

What a depressing way to come home from work. The news about DC pulling the plug on CMX not only shocked me, it completely ruined my week. Yes, the news of other publishers going under was sad, but most of them hadn’t released a title in at least 6 months, some longer. CMX was not only continuing to release titles, they were putting up new titles.  They were active on Twitter. There was nothing, no sign to indicate that there was a problem. The way it looks is that DC is run by a bunch of asshats who don’t like anything that doesn’t appeal to the male 13-21 demographic, and if anything like that still exists at the company, it must be stamped out immediately.  But don’t just take my word for it. Check out the many articles and blog posts people have written about it, expressing their feelings as well. DC really struck a nerve with this one, and not in a good way. But that’s “business as usual” for them, isn’t it?

Cross Game Online

On Monday, Viz started the serialization of Cross Game, a coming of age story and the game of baseball. The first two chapters are up and can be read for free online. I guess Viz’s experiment with online manga is working for them, or else we wouldn’t keep seeing new titles being introduced. I’m curious to see how successful this title turns out to be. Sports manga hasn’t traditionally done well in the US, despite us being a very sports oriented culture.

Peer Pressure

Manga companies and fans alike would do well to listen to the words of Audrey Taylor, former creative director of Go! Comi. She delves out some advice from her experience at Go! Comi, much of which has been said before, but perhaps coming from a fellow publisher, the words won’t go unheeded. While most of the advice is directed at publishers, readers can take something away from her words too. Once a book has been licensed and published, you don’t need to “build an audience” for it anymore. Posting legal copies online DOES hurt the company you are supposedly trying to help. If you want to “build an audience” then promote the publisher. Don’t scan their book to put online, and don’t continue to scanlate them. I know some people will claim they have to keep scanlating since there’s no guarantee the publisher will complete the series, but that’s just a self-fulfilling prophesy. By continuing to make illegal copies available, less people will buy the books, which makes it harder for the publisher to stay in business, so that when they go out of business you can justify your illegal acts.

Tokyopop-ing Up

Finally we are seeing some progress from Tokyopop’s restructuring from 2 years ago. First TP announced a film based on the manhwa Priest, and now they have plans in the works for The Dreaming, an OEL manga by Queenie-Chan, to become a film.  It will be interesting to see if this venture pans out. The Priest production has gone through a lot to get to a release date. Hopefully, The Dreaming won’t have the same problems.

Two possible new licenses were also sighted on Amazon this week, purported to be coming from Tokyopop. Both are shojo titles from Hakusensha. Sorairo Kaigen is a high school romance about a girl who is rescued on a bus by a boy who may be from her past. It’s complete at 6 volumes. Kirameki Gingachou Shoutengai is a little long at 10 volumes and is a romantic comedy about 6 friends who grew up in the Galaxy Street Shopping Center. Both look interesting, and with the loss of CMX, we need a new source of Hakusensha titles.

NYT Best Seller List

Viz holds 8 of the 10 titles on this week’s list again, and it’s back to business as usual. First, over in the hardback comics list, Kick-Ass and Twilight have switched places again, with Twilight falling back to #2.  Over on the manga list, Black Bird vol 4 keeps hold of the #1 spot for a second week, while Naruto vol 47 returns after a brief stint off last week at #2. D.Gray-man vol 17 holds on to #3 and Inuyasha vol 48 debuts at #4. Black Butler vol 1, one of the two non-Viz titles, returns at #5 as does Rosario Vampire: Season II vol 1 at #6. Falling 5 spots to #7 is Otomen vol 6, while Viz Signature title Biomega vol 2 debuts at #8. Yotsuba&! vol 8, the othe non-Viz title falls back 4 to #9, and only one One Piece, vol 46, hangs onto the list at #10. So Viz continues to dominate with Yen Press being the only other publisher able to hold their own against them week to week. Most of the changes are in which Viz titles will make it to the list, and while not a lot of changes are surprises, it’s nice to see some of the older titles like Inuyasha charting, as well as a Signature title.

Manga For Your Ears

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  • Episode 07 – Mechamedia with the Reverse Theives

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Spiraken Manga Reviews

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What I’m Reading

  • Otodama v1
  • Antique Bakery v1-2
  • Dinosaur King 1-2

Review Rerun: Gon Volume 1

65 million years ago, dinosaurs experienced a catastrophic extinction that ended their dominance on Earth except for ONE!  Now Gon marches across the wilderness, defending the friendly and furry from the mean and hungry.  Follow the journey as he encounters creatures big and small along the way and learns new things about himself from each of them.

Gon 1By Masashi Tanaka
Publisher: CMX
Genre: Action/Adventure
Age Rating: Teen
Price: $5.99
Rating: ★★★★☆
Buy This Book

Gon is a unique series, as it is told complete without words.  But the wordlessness gives the mangaka an opportunity to write to a wide audience with multiple levels of meaning.  Originally published by DC Comics in the 1990s, Gon is being given another chance, printed this time in its original, unflipped format.

Gon is a small orange dinosaur that looks like a t-rex and lives in the post dinosaur-pre human world, interacting with other animals.  The opening pages show how tough Gon as, as first a leopard breaks his teeth on Gon’s head, and then he’s rammed by a Rhinoceros, sent flying, hits a tree and then a rock, before landing on his back.  And he sleeps through the whole thing, until a leaf floats down from the tree and lands on his head.  It’s this kind of physical humor that makes Gon appealing to the younger audience.  And there’s plenty of it as Gon takes on a Grizzly Bear, a lion and a Bobcat, showing them all who’s boss.

But if you take a close look at these stories, you’ll see another layer underneath, one that seems to be meant for an older audience.  Gon is not as altruistic as the back cover seems to imply.  Even though he does help out other animals, usually weaker ones, it’s usually to his benefit as well.  Is Gon a hero for protecting a nest of baby eagles?  Or is he doing it because he gets to sleep in the nest and eat with chicks?  And when he decides to build a dam like a beaver, he ends up flooding the valley, and making all the other animals lose their homes for his own.  There is no black and white in this series, even though Gon doesn’t seem to like to see the little guy get put down.

The art in this series is absolutely fantastic.  It is very realistic and detailed, down to the veins in Gon’s legs when he jumps.  All of the animals are very expressive, making it easy to tell what they are thinking or feeling without a single word. Though, at times it felt a little too realistic, as Gon beat up the Bobcat. Even though he was the villain of the chapter, I couldn’t help feeling for him after all the damage he took.

Gon is an example of a title for all ages, as opposed to an all ages title. Some of the scenes can be disturbing to younger readers or the squeamish, but only in the same way as Animal Planet shows or Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom can be. Younger readers can handle this book, especially since there are no words, and its all up to the reader and their imagination to decide how severe the stories can be.

I gave this volume to my daughter to read when she was 8, and here’s what she said about it:

I liked Gon a lot.  It is about a dinosaur who beats up on the big guys so he can get what he pleases.  The funny storyline has cute animals that make the manga come to life.  In general, it is a good manga.

It confused me at first.  It was hard to understand what was going on without speech bubbles.  The book got less confusing the more I got through.  I felt dumb not knowing how to read the manga correctly.  Never the less, it was enjoyable.

Gon is a title and series that definitely worth your time and attention. Tanaka brings up some interesting issues that adults will enjoy, and that kids can grow to appreciate. And its got a dinosaur and other wild animals. How can anyone resist?

Review: Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1

When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret…

TWILIGHT_1Written by Stephenie Meyer; Art and Adaptation by Young Kim
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Supernatural Romance
Price: $19.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy This Book

I don’t care for the Twilight franchise. I didn’t read the books. I watched the movie, only because Rifftrax did such a great riff on it, but hated it in general. But surprisingly, I wasn’t repulsed by the graphic novel. It read like an average young adult romance, and the characters were typical of a shojo title. To quote my oldest daughter when I asked her why Twilight was popular with her friends, “Bella is a blank slate so anyone can be her, and the guys are all hot.” It was filled with lots of wish-fulfillment and angst, but it wasn’t the worse thing I’ve ever read.

This first volume covers the first half of the first book, Twilight.  It starts with Bella moving to Forks, WA, and ends with Edward’s sparkly-secret reveal. Everything else in between, was filled with days of Bella at school, being with her new friends, and, most of all, angsting over Edward.

I don’t have much to say about the story so far. Most of this first half had Bella and Edward thinking that the one hates the other. I can’t really complain about this too much. People tend to think like this when judging by action alone, and as awkward teenagers, of course neither would think to ask. Though, considering Edward’s age, I would have thought he’d be more mature, but then, the story might not appeal as much if he did. The other half is spent with Bella trying to figure out Edward’s secret, while Edward is just rying to figure Bella out. Of course she has to be different from all the other girls. While Edward is about as average as a modern-day vampire can get. He and his “family” only drink animal blood, want to live in peace with humans, and are angsty about their eternal life.

The art, on the other hand, I really enjoyed. Seeing Young Kim’s work made it easier to get through the story. The characters are drawn realistically. One of the things I really appreciate is how they DON’T look like the actors from the movie. I would have been easy to just cop-out and use their likenesses. I can’t say if their likenesses are anything like their described in the books, but they aren’t anywhere as hard on the eyes as the movie was. I also didn’t have a problem with font or unusual word balloon placement used in the book. It actually flowed fairly well once you understood it. And the font did add to the atmosphere of the book. I guess it also helps that I’m partial to flowing text.

Overall, I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading Twilight, but it’s not something I would go looking for either.  It’s not a bad way to kill an hour or so if you’re curious to see what all the fuss is about. You can skip all the long-winded text and get straight to the story, and have lots of pretty pictures to boot!

This Week In Manga 5/8-5/14/10

TWiM

Have We Lost Our Soul?

Monday started out with a bang as new spread quickly on twitter and then the blogs that Go! Comi’s website had expired. Gia Manry of Anime Briefs caught the expiration first, and attempted to contact someone through voice, but couldn’t get ahold of anyone. No official word has come back from any reps of the company, which doesn’t bode well for its future. The speculation that the manga company for sale in Southern California was Go! Comi gets stronger by the minute. Even though this news wasn’t all that surprising, it is still a bit of a shock, and I hope there are some publishers out there willing to “troll” the Go! Comi licenses and give us some hope of seeing them through to the end. Jus don’t look to Yen Press for that.

Another Tremor in the Manga Market

And the news didn’t improve any on Tuesday, as Publishers Weekly broke the news that Viz Media had laid off 60 employees, or 40% of their total. The Doomsayers didn’t come out for this, but there was a lot of worry for the Signature/Ikki line, since it’s not a cash cow in regards to sales. Viz later posted on their blog that the layoffs were a part of a company restructuring, and that no titles were in danger of being cancelled. They must have gotten a lot of worried inquiries in order to post a message like that. It’s good to hear that none of our favorite titles will be going away anytime soon, but also sad that so many people had to lose their jobs. Here’s wishing them well and that they find new work soon.

The Path to Hell…

David Welsh of The Manga Curmudgeon writes about an email he received advocating a “new” way to get manga piracy sites shut down; tell the site advertisers that the site has child p_rn on it. While I’m sure the person/persons who came up with this approach had good intentions in wanting to stop the pirates and help manga publishers, I have to say it’s a terrible idea. I’m in complete agreement with David when he says this approach will demonize the content, which is the last thing we need. Manga and anime are still fighting the perception that is filled things bad for children to read (see next story), so we don’t need actual “fans” adding to that bad image. Publishers need to do the work to stop these sites from putting up their rightful content, and they don’t need this kind of “help” which would very likely backfire and make their product nearly impossible to shelf and sell since the perception will be that manga is for child p_orn.

Death Note:1 Book Banners:0

ANN reports on the results of an attempt to ban the manga Death Note from high schools in the Albuquerque Public School District. In short, a parent complained about the death in Death Note, going so far as to compare it to the Columbine shooting. This is a clear example of a parent either not reading or understanding what the title is about.  There is not comparison between the two. Death Note is about justice and morality. Just who should get to decide who lives and who dies. Columbine was revenge. Death Note can get a kid thinking about things they probably never thought about before with respect to justice, and the death penalty, which as an adult they will have to deal with as a voter and juror. These are things that can’t be taught. But if presented properly can get the wheels turning so one can come to their own decision. That is the value of a series like Death Note.

Did You Remember to Call?

Sunday was Mother’s Day. Did you remember to call your mother and wish her a happy day? She could be lying on the floor of the kitchen right now, unable to get help and you would never know… Jason Yadao remembered Mother’s Day by giving a list of mothers in manga. While I didn’t do it this year, the previous two years I did posts about moms in manga as well. Jason hits a lot of moms I didn’t so check out all the lists for some great moms in manga. And for goodness sake, call your Mother. She’s worried about you.

NYT Best Seller List

Despite of, or maybe because of, Viz holds the 8 of the 10 slots again this week, and the biggest shock of it, Naruto is nowhere to be found on it! Let’s start off with checking in on Twilight in the Hardcover list. Is it back at #1? You betcha! Over in manga, Black Bird vol 4 holds the #1 slot, a book I wouldn’t have thought would make or deserve it, but it does, on both counts. Otomen vol 6 takes the #2 slot with D. Gray-man vol 17 coming in at #3. One Piece vol 44 takes the #4 position, with the only Yen Press title, Yotsuba&! vol 8 taking #5. One Piece cuts its way through again with vols 46 and 45 at #6 and #7 respectively while last week’s #1, Tsubasa vol 26, falls back to #8.  One Piece then finishes out the list with vols 47 and 48 taking #9 and #10 spots. It’s another list of debuts, with Yotsuba&! and Tsubasa being the only titles to hold over from last week. All of the Viz titles are debuts. We’ll see how long this will last though. One Piece never seems to last past the first release week, though it is good to see all five making the cut again. But with Yen Press’ Black Butler coming out this week, I’m sure the #1 title next week will have Black in the title, it just won’t be a bird.

This Week at Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • Black Jack vol 7

Review: Maoh: Juvenile Remix Volume 1

In the city of Nekota, where rapid modernization threatens everything the longtime residents hold dear, one young man has stood up to oppose progress. Inukai and his team of vigilantes, known as Grasshopper, protect the citizens from the rising crime wave and the greedy hands of businessmen bent on turning every block into a modern strip mall. But what is this public hero’s true motive? Is this angelic man actually a devil in disguise?

High school student Ando has the special ability to make others say out loud what he’s thinking. But will this be enough to uncover Inukai’s secrets and stop the plot to control the city?

Maoh JR 1By Megumi Osuga
Publisher: Viz Media/Shonen Sunday
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Mystery/Drama
Price: $9.99/Free Online
Rating: ★★★★☆
Buy This Book

Change is unavoidable. It’s a contradictory constant. But the forces for change can be either good or bad. This first volume of Maoh: Juvenile Remix shows how words can bring about change, but leaves the question of its benefit open to interpretation.

The volume starts by introducing the protagonist, Ando, a high school student in the 11th grade. Because of an incident when he was young, he tries not to stand out.  He has the ability to make people say what he’s thinking and was ridiculed by his classmates for it. Now, he likes to blend in with the crowd, and not get involved with other people’s business. He is a bystander to the world around him.

Enter Mr. Inukai, the leader of a vigilante group known as Grasshopper. His is good-looking, confident and charismatic. He always has a benign expression and gentle smile on his lips. He and his followers patrol Nekota City, protecting the people from harm. Inukai’s greatest weapon in this fight seems to be his words. He can sway a crowd to his way of thinking or inspire individuals to action. Even Ando, who sees him in action one day. Inukai’s claim that anyone can change the world if they believe it enough, stirs Ando from his inaction. Using his ability, he helps a girl being groped on a train, and tries to help a classmate who is being bullied.

Ando’s fascination with Inukai gives him a glimpse in a darkness that seems to exist in Inukai and the Grasshoppers. Instead of being scared away by this revelation, Ando becomes more interested in Inukai and determined to find out what his real motives are.

When I first started reading this title online at Shonensunday.com, I didn’t think much of it. Reading the first volume however, has really changed my opinion. There is a lot going on here, between And’s ability and Inukai’s true intentions.  Inukai seems helpful, and to have good intentions toward the people of Nekota City. But like other charismatic leaders from the past, he may have more sinister motives. Ando says it as he’s talking to his classmate Kaname and asks what if Inukai is the devil? It’s a powerful question and gives the reader a lot to think about.

The panel layout is easy to follow, and the art is decently done. It was difficult at first to figure out Inukai’s gender, and he has several female qualities, but I found the ambiguity about his gender added to the mystique of his character.

Maoh: Juvenile Remix isn’t an action title but neither is it boring. There is a bit of talking, both in internal dialog and in discussions between characters, but it’s not just exposition. There is a real story going on here, one that’s definitely worth checking out.

Review copy provided by publsher. Images © Viz Media

No Sparkling Here

d11s01e06_wallpaper_11

[Contains Spoilers]

“The Vampires of Venice”, while an overall decent episodes, still has some issues.  In the aftermath of last week’s attempted “mating”, the Doctor drags Amy’s fiancée, Rory out of his stag party and into the TARDIS, to give the couple a romantic date, just to keep their fires burning. He takes them to Venice, Italy, to 1580. Venice is closed off though, do to fears of the return of the Black Plague. Of course, it’s just an alien race there, plotting to take over the city and run off with the women, and the Doctor must stop them.

On the plus side, this episode showcases the one of the Doctor’s strengths. His ability to verbally spar with his adversaries. It was particularly d11s01e06_wallpaper_14agood in this episode, as the Doctor breaks in to Signora Rosanna Calvierri’s palazzo and confronts her. The following “question-for-a-question” scene as the Doctor and Rosanna, bat questions and answers at each other. The Doctor is really in his element here, as the verbal barrage of questions goes back and forth. It’s in scenes like this that the Doctor really shines.

Then there are the not so shiny scenes. It mostly has to do with the writing that’s been going on with the Doctor. It started back at the end of Series 4, with Russell T. Davies, and the whole idea that the Doctor is dangerous because he makes people want to impress him and do dangerous things. I really hate this idea, that Davies even forwarded it, and even more that other writers are continuing with it. The Doctor has always been about bringing out the best in people, helping them to do the right thing, not make them into dare-devils or weapons. Rory goes off on the Doctor about this, but by the end, he’s no better. He’s just as enthusiastic to continue traveling in the TARDIS as Amy, but it has nothing to do with impressing the Doctor.

The other thing that really annoyed me was the Rosanna, the Saturnynian leader. She wanted to save her people. That’s fine and all, but she was doing it at the expense of humans. Not something the Doctor is going to take kindly to. Instead of trying to get the Doctor’s help, she tries to enlist him in her plan to “save both their races”, and when he refuses, sends all the females to kill him. Instead the females are killed, and she then gives up, dooming her race and blaming the Doctor for it. Huh? What did the Doctor have to do with her race’s extinction. She’s the one who chose to send all the precious females to try to kill the Doctor. It’s her fault for using poor judgement, underestimating the Doctor and humans in general, and overestimating the females. I really hate this guilt trip the writers keep trying to take the Doctor on. Enough already! The Time Lords got what they deserved, and it’s not the Doctor’s responsibility to save ever single species in the universe that is going extinct, and it’s certainly not his fault if he doesn’t! This was evolution in action for the Saturnynians. Get over it, move on!

Next week’s episode has Rory staying on in the TARDIS for another adventure. I hope this is for more than just an episode or two. It’s been far too long since we have a multi-companion TARDIS, and anything that will keep Amy from trying to jump the Doctor again is a good thing.

National Pet Month Manga

What's MichaelMay, among other things, is National Pet Month. It’s goal is to promote the benefits of pet ownership and support pet adoption. I know these benefits very well, and support them, as every dog and cat in our house was either from a shelter or a stray we took in. Manga is no stranger to pets either. Here are just a few titles that feature either the benefits of pet ownership, or shows strays finding a home, with humans or otherwise.

Inubaka 1In manga, there are two ways to typically find a pet. The first is the obvious one; a pet shop. Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs is a Teen+ title from Viz Media. It’s about a girl, Suguri Miyauchi, who has an amazing affinity for dogs and gets a part-time job at the pet store “Woofles”. The stories often feature different dog breeds available at the pet store, and matching the right people to the right dog. Petshop of Horrors, another Teen+ title from Tokyopop also matches people to the most appropriate pet, but in a “comeuppance theater” sort of way. Count D has the perfect pet for every customer, and sees that everyone gets the pet they deserve, which doesn’t always end well for the for the people.

One Fine Day 1But can you really blame the animals for wanting some payback? More often than not, pets such as dogs and cats are shown being dumped in deserted areas or left in boxes with signs saying “Please take me home.” Many pets in manga start out as strays and find a home this way. In Kimi ni Todoke a Teen title from Viz Media, Kazehaya and Sawako find a puppy in the rain. Kazehaya takes the dog in, and he and Sawako share in its care. Rin, from the Teen title Dragon Voice from Tokyopop, gets adopted by a stray cat that he feeds once and then keeps coming back for more. My mother has acquired more than a few cats this way. In One Fine Day, the All Ages title from Yen Press, the cat Guru is lonely until he is befriended by Nanai the dog and Rang the mouse, and finds a home with them and No-ah.

Free Collars Kingdom 1Not all animals want to be adopted by humans though. Free Collars Kingdom, a Teen+ title from Del Rey Manga, portrays the world of stray cats, showing how they have to find food, shelter, and fight and defend their territory. While this title is more light-hearted in the way it shows this world, making all the cats otaku of some sort, there is a more serious theme at its core. Many of the Free Collar cats don’t want to ge back to being a pet to a human. They were abandoned by their humans, even the protagonist Cyan, though he is the only one that holds onto his faith in humans. The rest are jaded and disillusioned, a feeling you can’t help getting sometimes when looking at some of the animals at the shelter.

Peach Fuzz 1If you’re willing to take the time and care, the benefits of pet ownership can be very rewarding. Don’t think it’s going to be a walk in the park though. The All Ages OEL title Peach Fuzz from Tokyopop that shows some of the trials and triumphs of owning a pet. Amanda and Peach the ferret both have to learn to how to get along with each other, but once they do, they are like the best of friends.  The same goes for Ryusei and Mr. Ken, the human-cat pair of Viz Media‘s Teen+ title Backstage Prince. Ryusei doesn’t like people, so it’s up to Mr. Ken to find him a friend. Akari, a girl from his school, becomes first a friend and then becomes his girlfriend. Cats can be really smart when they want.

For an as-close-to-real-as-it-gets look at pet ownership in manga, look no further than What’s Michael?, an All Ages title from Dark Horse Comics. Michael, the title character, is a large, orange-striped cat, who is portrayed as doing all the cats are want to do; eating, sleeping, playing, and generally causing trouble for his owners. What’s Michael? is truly a comedy, for most of the things Michael is seen doing are the EXACT SAME THINGS cat owners see everyday. It’s funny because it’s true. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find volumes of this series. Here’s hoping Dark Horse releases an omnibus very soon.

Chis Sweet Home 1While cats are cute, kittens are cuter, and that exactly what you get in Chi’s Sweet Home, Vertical, Inc.’s first All Ages title, which will be released in June. It’s about a kitten that gets separated from her mother and siblings, and is adopted by a young family. Chi is really cute, but not in a saccharine sense, and the family has a lot to learn about taking care of a kitten, and most importantly, how much a part of the family a pet can become. Just like its title, it’s sweet and funny and heartwarming.

Like all good things, owning a pet isn’t always easy, but it’s always satisfying. If you are considering getting a pet, please consider adopting one from a local shelter rather than a pet store or breeder. Some of the best cats I have ever had never came with papers, and finding a purebred at a shelter is unfortunately just as likely as a mutt. You can also check out Adopt-a-pet.com for a shelter or rescue near you.

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