This Week in Manga 4/24-4/30/10

TWiM

April’s Movable Manga Feast

The third edition of the Movable Manga Feast began this week, with Ed Sizemore of Manga Worth Reading taking over the hosting duties. The series this time is Mushishi published by Del Rey Manga. An introduction to the series can be found here, while the full list of participates can be found here. The Feast lasts until Sunday, so keep watching for more posts on the series.  I made my first contribution to the MMF with this series, which you can read here. If you have had any interest in this series, definitely check out some of the perspectives on it. You might be surprised.

How Much would you Pay?

Last week Yen Press announced they would be publishing Yen Plus as a digital magazine. This week Deb Aoki of Manga.About.Com has a poll asking how much would you pay for an online anthology. The results so far aren’t too surprising. I myself wouldn’t pay more than $5 for an online magazine the size of Yen Plus since I don’t enjoy reading manga online. I need it to be portable and an e-reader or tablet isn’t in my future anytime soon. What this poll does show is summed up pretty well by a comment made by David Welsh (@mangacur) on Twitter:

Just that manga purchasers seem kind of like public radio members these days. They opt to pay.

And just like public radio, it’s too bad more people don’t opt to pay as enjoy the content.

Chibi Vampire: Axis Powers

Tokyopop has been putting their Facebook page to use by announcing new licenses on it first.  Last week came word of a new Chibi Vampire (Karin) volume called Airmail, that is comprised of short stories published after the main series ended. It will include side stories about the main characters as well as stories about some that were never seen. This week finally comes the announcement every has suspected but hadn’t been able to confirm.  Tokyopop will be publishing the Hetalia: Axis Powers manga. Hints have been coming from the publisher for a while now, but it was made official on Friday.

Go Comi! Forums Down…But Are They Out?

Go Comi! is a publisher that a lot of people have worried about lately. They’ve been quiet, maybe too quiet. Kate Dacey of The Manga Critic caught on Twitter that their forums are down. This isn’t a good sign. Their blog has been silent since the fall, and their twitter account hasn’t seen an update since February. The forums was the last place we heard anything from the publisher and with it gone…maybe that ad a few weeks ago for a manga publisher for sale was Go Comi! I do hope it isn’t. They have some good titles that many would like to see finished.

NY Times Best Seller List

The balance of power shifts once more with new releases from Yen Press on this week’s list. First, let’s check on Twilight. Still #1 on the Hardback list? No?? The Hardback of Kick Ass, which debuted in theaters recently, has taken #1, relegating Twilight to #2. The Paperback list has another movie related title at #1 with Losers. Comics do benefit from movie tie-ins. We’ll see how long it lasts.  Over in manga land, #1 belongs to Rosario Vampire Season II vol 1 once again. Yotsuba& vol 8 debuts at #2, sending Naruto vol 47 back one to #3. Spice and Wolf  vol 1 also debuts at #4, and Black Butler vol 1 move up one to #5. Gentlemen’s Alliance Cross vol 11 falls three to #6 as does Yu-Gi-Oh! R vol 4 to #7. Nightschool vol 3 debuts at #8, Alice in the Country of Hearts vol 1 returns once again to #9 and Soul Eater vol 2 falls back one to #10. It’s quite a respectable showing for Yen Press, with 3 debuts, including an OEL title that not based on a novel series.  They dominate with 5/10, and three of those being in the top 5.

Manga For Your Ears

Sci-Guys Podcast

  • Episode 20 – 27:43 – Twin Spica/Vampire Hunter D on the PSP

This Week at Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • Black Bird vol 3
  • Black Bird vol 4
  • Goong vol 2
  • Goong vol 3

Japanese Journal: Change of Plan

SmartfmSome changes in RL has forced me to re-evaluate my Japanese studies. In other words, I have too many other things to keep up the pace I started last month. It hit me that had to come up with another plan when it was almost half way through the month and I hadn’t done anything to complete my kana studies.  So, I did what any other sane person would do. I went online to find something more structured, and joined Smart.fm. I’ve head about this site for while, but my lack of progress convinced me that it might not be a bad idea to check them out.  And, they’re actually not too bad. I’ve started my first goal, which is of course, Mastering Hiragana.  This goal is a better way to learn the kana, because it not only takes you through the hiragana, it has audio, shows you the proper strokes for writing it, and has a typing of the romanji on the keyboard.  And it doesn’t go in order, like I was doing with my memorizing. This has been really helpful in teaching me to identify characters faster. It quizzes with multiple choice and by having you type the romanji. If you mess up, it takes you back to study the kana and then throws it back into the mix, quizzing you again until you get it right. I recommend checking out this site and goal.

So what have I been doing instead? Well, you might notice some changes to the blog. This is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while, and I just sat down and did it finally.  I chose this theme so I could start to accommodate writing about more than just manga.  Manga will always be the focus of this blog, and will always be the featured article, but I wanted to be able to write about some of my other interested too, such as TV and books.  Manga updates and reviews will continue to be Mon-Wed-Fri-Wknd and and other interests will be on Tues-Thurs.  I just couldn’t keep up two blogs.  Right know you’ll notice a lot of Doctor Who posts.  I’m catching up and will then stay up-to-date through the end of the series. I hope if you share some of my other interests, you’ll enjoy these posts too.  But don’t worry, manga will stay my main focus. The pile of books next to my desk demand that it be so!

So, I’d love to hear what you think about the changes, the non-manga posts, and I’ll try to be more on the ball with the Japanese. Though, it might be more lucrative for me career-wise to start learning Mandarin Chinese.

This River Isn’t Flowing For Me

Doctor Who Time of Angels 2“Time of the Angels”, the 4th episode of the new series of Doctor Who brings back one of my personal favorites of the new monsters; the Weeping Angels.  In the episode “Blink” from the 3rd Series with the 10th Doctor and Martha Jones, Steven Moffat introduced these eerie beings that move in an instant, but quantum lock when they are looked at by a sentient being.  “Blink” was such an awesome episode, that we were all dying for their return.  And they do, but with some missteps.

The biggest misstep for me is the return of River Song.  In “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”, River was a great character.  She knew the Doctor and had a journal of her adventures with her even through he didn’t know her.  “Forest of the Dead” was her last.  In “Time of the Angels”, she’s back as a past incarnation of herself.  And this past River is really obnoxious.  She’s brash, and very forward with the Doctor.  Yes, I know they were married, and he’s trusted her some really important things (like his name), but seeing her in this episode really makes you wonder what he saw in her.

Doctor Who RiverI know Moffat has a plan for River and the Doctor, and we will no doubt she her again.  In SitL, River mentioned several adventures that it turns out Moffat has all planned out, and this story is the first of those mentioned.  I just hope it’s not this incarnation again.  It’s almost like she’s a Time Lord that doesn’t change appearance, only personality.  And it really bugged me that she had that journal.  Sometimes I don’t deal too well with all the “timey-wimey” stuff, and all this with River and her journal just makes my head hurt.  I could handle Blink because I could see the progression from beginning to end.  This whole thing with River having all the Doctor’s future in a journal that he can’t see while she gets to jump around his lives like nothing’s different from one to another?  I don’t like it.

I’m really looking forward to the next episode, and hope we get a lot more Weeping Angel action.  They’re who I really want to see more than River Song.  And Moffat better have something good set up with the “eyes aren’t the windows to the soul, they are the door” thing, or I’ll be really disappointed.

Review: The World I Create Volume 1

Being a “Projectionist” can bring lots of money and fame, but only if you are good at it. If you want o become one, first you need to have the power to cast a four-dimensional image. The it is really important to be able to hone and perfect you projecting abilities. The best place to do that, of course, is at a high school filled with other aspiring projectionists. Step into this multi-dimensional world with a very special student body and see how each student deals with his or her special gifts!

World I Create v1By Ayami Kazama
Publisher: CMX
Age Rating: Everyone
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy This Book

It’s an interesting world that is created in The World I Create, where completely realistic “projections” are created for entertainment.  It’s a lot of hard work, and can be very rewarding.  In this volume, we are introduced to 8 students, all attending school to learn to perfect their abilities.  The all have different reasons for wanting to be a projectionist, but in the end this title just doesn’t distinguish itself well enough from other rom-com titles.

The first volume is comprised of 4 stories that feature two characters each it. It’s usually a boy and girl, and they are all from different grades in the school.  All have different motivations (or none at all) to be Projectionists.  The first story is about a boy and girl who keep failing their first year final and must work together to get a passing grade. The second is about a boy who calibrates other student’s lanterns, and a prodigy girl who only has one projection left in her. The third story is about a boy of meager means who accidentally angers a girl with height issues, who then tries to sabotage his tests.  The last story is about a boy who hates projectionists, and must come to terms with his female best friend becoming one.  Each story is self-contained, though characters from the other stories can make cameo appearances.

Overall, I enjoyed this first volume.  The characters are well developed and each couple compliments each other.  They are different from one another, but not so much that they can’t get along. And none of the main characters are annoying or dumber than bricks. My favorite story of the four was the second one with Akitsu the lantern cleaner and upperclassman Kawanami, the prodigy with only one projection left in her.  Akitsu is quiet and reserved, while Kawanami is more outgoing.  Their story is touching, and while it’s kind of a sad ending, it’s a good kind of sad.

While there’s nothing really bad about this volume, the characters are well written and stories are competent enough, there’s really nothing great about them either.  Nothing about this title really inspired me or got me excited to read more.  It was entertaining and I don’t regret the time I spent with it, it just isn’t a memorable read.  There’s nothing remarkable about the art either.  It’s decent enough, but also very standard.

The World I Create is still a good title, and I would recommend it for the tween-to-teen crowd.  The stories aren’t too complex or overwrought with melodrama.  This title would make a great addition to an elementary and/or middle school library, where the readers may get more out of it that I did.  This isn’t a title that should be passed up.  It has some good stories to tell, just don’t expect to be wowed.

Review copy provided by publisher. Image © CMX Manga

She’s Got Some Guts!

Doctor Who Beast Below“The Beast Below”, the second episode of the new Doctor Who series is one that takes the Doctor and Amy to the far future, where humanity has been forced to leave the Earth, and whole countries become space ships searching for a new home.  Of course, they land on Britain’s ship, where the Doctor immediately pulls Amy into mystery and adventure in an underworld that is dark in more ways than one.

This episode is a good example of why I enjoy Steven Moffat’s writing style so much.  He throws the characters into an unknown situation, usually with a dark or menacing feel to it, but is able to turn it around at the end, and it doesn’t feel forced.  There is a dark secret on Starship UK, one that keeps the people in check with creepy Smiler enforcers, and in blissful ignorance.  I won’t say anymore, as I try to keep these impressions as spoiler free as possible, but suffice to say, it’s a national shame, all the more because it didn’t have to be that way.

Doctor Who SmilerAmy really shines in this episode, as she first tries to save the Doctor from the truth, and then later saves him from making the biggest mistake of his life.  Even though she’s good in the first episode, it’s in this episode that she proves she’ll be a great companion.  She’s smart and sassy, and is willing to stand up to the Doctor when necessary to tell him he’s wrong.  Or in this episode’s case, shows him since he won’t listen. She seems to have a knack for putting pieces of information together. Pieces the Doctor misses, mostly because they have to do with him, and only an outsider could put the pieces together. This episode is an affirmation as to why the Doctor needs a companion. And best of all, there’s not any “lovey-dovey” stuff developing between them! That’s the worse thing one can do to a companion.  They may feel something for the Doctor.  It’s hard not to love him for all his quirks and arrogance, but please spare us the meaningful looks.

Overall this was a strong second shot for the season, boding well for Moffat’s inaugural series.

Manga Movable Feast: Mushishi Volume 1

Some live in the deep darkness behind your eyelids. Some eat silence. Some thoughtlessly kill. Some simply drive men mad. Shortly after life emerged from the primordial ooze, these deadly creatures, mushi, came into terrifying being. And they still exist and wreak havoc in the world today. Ginko, a young man with a sardonic smile, has the knowledge and skill to save those plagued by mushi…perhaps.

Mushishi v1By Yuki Urushibara
Publsiher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Drama
Price: $12.95
Rating: ★★★★★
Buy This Book

The back cover text make this book sound more sinister than it actually is. This first volume introduces the concept of the mushi, and the man we will follow who has the arcane knowledge to deal with them, Ginko, the Mushishi. Through a series of episodic stories, we see how mushi and men can interact, and how Mushishi bridge the gap and try to foster understanding between them.

Ginko is a wandering Mushishi. He studies and tries to understand mushi. He is often called to a village that needs his expertise, but can also stumble upon people in need of help, even if they don’t realize it themselves. Strange and ancient, mushi are not actually malicious, but like so many other creatures, they can be parasitic. But because they are so strange and mysterious, their work is often mistaken as the supernatural. Mushishi know the signs and diagnose the problem, almost like a doctor. Ginko, like the mushi he studies, is also a bit of a mystery. Little is given away about him, except for the clues that wherever he goes, mushi react to his presence, and the cigarettes he smokes aren’t filled with nicotine, but a special mushi that can trap other mushi or drive them away. He’s also missing an eye, and perhaps has just a little too much knowledge about the source of life, something mushi are closer to than humans.

What makes Mushishi an interesting series is that the focus isn’t solely on Ginko. The mushi get quite a bit as well.  As Ginko identifies the mushi that is the cause of each problem, he also explains about them, though it never feels like a lecture. Mushi are so strange and different, it’s interesting to find out about them, both to the characters and to the reader.  While they are often portrayed as being parasytes that can take a person’s sight, hearing, or even their life, not all are like that.  In a few instances, mushi are shown to have a sentience, that can lure humans in to turn them into mushi, or can show emotion, as in the story of “The Traveling Bog.” A mushi that is making it’s last journey home to die, saves a girl who was sacrificed to a Water God to save the village.

Mushishi is a very well written series.  It’s easy to get drawn into the stories and it’s open world. We only see Ginko as he travels in the wild, going from village to village.  There are no big cities, and while everyone is dressed in traditional kimonos, Ginko has a more western style.  By keeping the setting of the series open, Urushibara gives herself a lot of leeway with her stories. The mushi are very diverse and interesting, though at times, their expulsion can be a little disturbing.  The enigma of Ginko is another draw. We know little of him beyond him being a Mushishi. An interesting story seems to be waiting behind that.

The art is drawn realistically, with none of the manga trappings.  No one makes goofy faces or goes chibi.  It’s an understated style without a lot of detail.  Like the stories, it is simple and straightforward, and at times rather dark.  Mushishi is a slow paced series.  There are no fights against the mushi, and no melodramatic relationships.  It’s more about thinking things through and solving the puzzle of the mushi.  Brains are more important than brawn, and at times it can be rather contemplative.  It’s a great change of pace.

This Week in Manga 4/17-4/23/10

TWiM

Who’s Going Down?

ICv2 reports that manga sales will drop to below 1000 volumes for 2010.  The drop in sales was seen more in bookstores than in the direct market, and they speculate that shojo fans getting older, distracted by other things (Twilight) and lack of hit shonen anime is hurting sales more than scanlations.  Some of these elements make sense.  I can see the drop in sales from bookstores being more, since ordering through the direct market through Previews can often net you a 30% discount on many titles.  It’s my preferred way to buy.  And fans, male or female, have priorities shifts as they get older, especially in the 20’s, where kids become adults and must establish themselves in the real world.  I know that’s where I stopped collecting comics and watching anime.  Work and starting a family became much more important.  I wonder though how much the “Cartoon Network” effect really drove sales.  I can see it driving the sales for first volumes, but like the anime that they are based on them, once a series hits a lather, rinse, repeat cycle, no amount of TV promotion will keep a series selling.  Personally, I’m not concerned about the drop in available volumes.  There was too much coming out in 2007, and most of it was mediocre.  We’re just seeing the reaction to that as fans put their money with the good series.  I am concerned about some of the mid-level publishers who have gone silent.  They provide a good alternative to all the mega long, mega his titles.  I hope they can weather this economic storm.

Don’t Hold Your Breath

C2E2, a new comics and entertaiment convention in Chicago was this last weekend.  There weren’t any manga panels, but Brigid Alverson caught up with Dark Horse comics and asked about the CLAMP Mangaettes that were announced at SDCC 2007, and have yet to materialize.  The word?  They are “on hold”, while Dark Horse builds up their association with CLAMP through reprints of several of their older titles.    So if you were hoping for some new CLAMP, you’ll have to go elsewhere.  You won’t find it at Dark Horse any time soon.

Yen Plus Goes Paperless

Found via Twitter.  Yen Press announced it first through its twitter feed.  Yen Plus, their anthology magazine would be going digital.  Details are still sketchy, but the gist of it is that the last print issue of the magazine will come out in July, and then go to a digital distribution.  Current subscriptions to the print will be refunded, but there’s speculation that digital version will require a subscription, and not be free like the Viz Signature line from Ikki Comix.  This is an understandable move by Yen Press.  Manga magazines are more about promotion than making money, and going digital takes out a lot of the risk.  But I’m with a lot of the commentors on the blog post.  I prefer to read on paper than digital.  Digital just isn’t portable enough yet.  I can pick up a magazine and take it anywhere to read.  A digital version will need a device to read it on, and could greatly limit the audience that can read it.  We’ll just have to wait for more details.

More Scanlations on the iPhone/iPad

With the release of the iPad, software like Manga Rock is getting more and more attention.  This software for the iPhone/iTouch (and by default, the iPad), let’s you not only read scanlations from Onemanga.com, it keeps track of what your reading, where you left off, and let’s you download it to read later.  This isn’t the first app to appear on the Apps store as both Jason Thompson and Brigid Alverson have pointed out, and probably won’t be the last.  Publishers (US and Japanese) have to come to terms about digital distribution and get their official work out at reasonable prices before these apps become too entrenched.  One interesting thing I noticed about this Manga Rock app though.  It doesn’t allow access to some of the bigger release titles.  Commentors on the iTunes store have mentioned that there’s no Naruto or Bleach or Shaman King.  That makes me wonder.  Are these guys blocking licensed manga, or are the more popular manga reserved for the paid, “full version” of the app?  Any one with an iPhone/iTouch/iPad wanna drop the $1.99 to find out?

NYT Best Seller List

I didn’t think it would last.  Last week the list was dominated by One PieceThis week, nary a sign of the Straw Hat Pirates. Not one volume survived.  Oh well.  Let’s check in on Twilight.  Still #1 on the Hardback Comics list?  Yup.  There’s at least one thing you can count on.  Another? That Viz will hold the top five, starting with Rosario Vampire Season II vol 1 at #1 again.  Naruto vol 47 retakes it’s #2 spot, and Gentleman’s Alliance Cross vol 11 moves up to #3, while Yu-Gi-Oh! R vol 4 falls back two to #4.  New Viz Signature title Dogs vol 3 debuts at #5, while Black Butler vol 1 moves back up to #6.  Inuyasha vol 47 debuts at #7, and Vampire Knight vol 9 returns at #8.  The only other non-Viz title, Soul Eater vol 2 returns at #9, and Bleach vol 30 rounds things out at #10.  Viz still dominates the list with 8/10 titles, but it’s not too surprising that it was a Yen Press title that helped keep them from taking the 9th again.  Yen doesn’t have the behemoth catalog that Viz does, but it’s got some titles with sticking power.

Manga For Your Ears

Sesho’s Anime and Manga Reviews

This Week At Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • Legend of the Five Rings: The Crane Scroll 3
  • Mushishi Vol 1

Review: Olympians: Zeus: King of the Gods

Zeus CoverHere’s where it all starts: the beginning of the everything–the world, the gods, and even humanity.  Mighty Kronos, the most terrifying of all the Titans, reigns as the unchallenged tyrant of the cosmos… until his son, the god Zeus, stands up and takes on his own father in a battle intense enough to shatter the universe! Who will emerge triumphant?

By George O’Connor
Publisher: First Second
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Action/Mythology
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★
Buy This Book

A recent re-watching of the classic Clash of the Titans has inspired me to write this review.  I’ve been in love with mythology since I was first introduced to the Greek myths in the 5th Grade.  They were my gateway to other mythologies, such as Norse and Egyptian.  Now, the Greek myths are getting a face lift of sorts.  They are being retold in the way they were meant to be told; as tales of action and adventure, with monsters to be fought and maidens to be rescued.  Zeus: King of the Gods tells the tale of not just Zeus’ beginnings, but also of the world and the Olympian gods themselves.

The Greek gods are like the original superheroes.  They possess super powers such as invulnerability and the ability to transform, and yet were just as fallible as the humans they ruled.  They suffer from all the same emotions and faults that humans do.  When he is first introduced, Zeus is shown to be just as active and full of energy as any youth in his prime would be.  He is impatient, reckless and a bit of a rake, as he chases the nymphs that watch over him and flirts with Metias.  These are not the traits one would usually associate with their supreme being, but Zeus was all this and more.  He was also brave and shows himself to be a born leader as he faced his father and freed his siblings.

There’s plenty of action in this volume, with Titans battling the Olympians, Zeus going on a quest to gain his birthright, and the final battle with Kronos, though most of it’s toward the end.  The beginning is just that; the beginnings of the universe and the world.  Gaea and Ouranos, and their children, the Titans Kronos and Rhea, and Kronos’ reign all have to be set up so that Zeus and his siblings have some to fight, and something to fight for.  It also sets up a cycle of father against son, and warns you don’t anger Mother Earth.

Zeus: King of the Gods is great retelling of the original myth.  It emphasizes the action and adventure that makes the myths thrilling, while still imparting it’s lessons. The other gods are introduced, with just the brothers Hades and Poseidon helping Zeus in the battle against Kronos and his brothers.  It’s good to see the women show some sense and let the men bash their brains out.  I liked how each sibling, when spit out, landed in an area that would become their domain; Poseidon in the sea, Hades under ground, Demeter in a field of grain.  I also really enjoyed the small seeds that were planted through out the story, hinting to connections to other myths.

The art was very well done.  O’Connor does a great job bringing the creatures of myth to life, especially the Cyclops and the Hekatonchieres, creatures with 50 heads and 100 hands.  The Titans are just otherworldly enough to make the transition from Earth and Sky to the human sized Olympians.

If you love Greek mythology or are just a fan a tales of adventure, then this book is definitely for you.  It’s definitely safe for a middle school library.  Kids will love not just the story, but the extras at the end that give the stats for key characters, like a trading card, and parents and teachers will like the study guide and bibliography.  There’s even included reading for younger readers.  I highly recommend this title.  It’s a great resource, and just plain great reading.

Check out the Good Comics for Kids Book Club for more on this title.

Review copy provided by publisher. Images © First Second

It’s NOT About The ‘Shipping!

BonesRecently the TV show Bones showed it’s 100th episode.  Usually these episodes are about fun, looking back and celebrating making it for 5 years, an accomplishment that a lot of shows don’t get.  The episode “The Parts in the Sum of the Whole” got only one of these right.  This episode retconned a whole case from before the first episode, where Booth and Brennan met and worked together.  It was nice to see Zac Addy again (yeah Zac!  How I’ve missed you!), and Brennan was her old “straight-forward, resort to violence” self, but the whole dynamic of the lab was off.  Zac and Hodges were at each others throat.  Angela was dragged in to do the reconstructions, and Booth and Brennan were trying to jump into each other pants.  So over the course of one year, Angela creates and becomes a compute graphics whiz, Zac and Hodges are the best of buddies (most likely, but still doesn’t feel right), and Booth and Brennan then take on 4+ years of cases without a hint of what happened in the first case?  I don’t think so.  It stretches my suspension of disbelief just a little too far.

What was the real deal breaker for me was the whole Booth confessing to Brennan thing at the end.  That whole scene just felt wrong.  Neither Booth nor Brennan seemed to be acting like themselves.  Not even the words felt right, and the episode ended with a down feeling instead of a feeling for hope for many more seasons to come.  I think want irked me the most was an article written on TV.com.  The writer wasn’t happy with the episode either, but for the wrong reasons.

Bones has never really been about the forensics (and neither was Brennan’s book in last week’s episode, “The Bones on the Blue Line”). In fact, this show could be a sitcom and it would still be watchable. As much as I hate Hart Hanson for keeping this ridiculously indulgent fantasy alive…

Brennan-ZacBones has ALWAYS been about the forensics.  It got through it ‘s first season no doubt because of David Boreanaz’s fangirl base.  The SDCC panel for it after it’s first year was filled with fangirls who just wanted to profess their love for David and kept other fans from asking any real questions.  One girl was nearly in tears asking David to accept a letter from her.  It was really pathetic.  And this writer just reflects that same attitude.  The show is not about the actors or the characters love lives.  It’s a police procedural show.  It’s the cases that come up and how Brennan and the team work together to find the clues and answers to the solve them.  Relationships are just part of the character building, but if they ever become the focus, than this show will have lost it’s magic and be done.  The episode before this, “Bones on the Blue Line” showed just how the producers felt about people’s emphasis on the relationships.  Brennan spends the whole episode protesting that her books are about the science and no one listens to her.  Mr. Hanson must feel the same way with so many fans demanding that Booth and Brennan get together, and the 100th episode was ruined by telling those fans it’s not going to happen.

I for one don’t want it to happen.  Booth and Brennan have a great relationship without being romantically involved.  It reminds me a lot of the 10th Doctor and Donna Noble’s relationship.  Donna was a better companion because she wasn’t always making googly-eyes at the Doctor and was an equal of sorts with him.  Booth and Brennan are the same way.  They are equals in their own fields.  Brennan is the scientist and find the answers while Booth is the intuition and sees the interpersonal relationships that fills in the blanks that science alone can’t.  That’s what makes this show great.  They can bicker and disagree all they want, but at the end of the day, they are equals in their own fields and sometimes even learn something from each other.  Quite frankly, Booth has been a disappointment to watch, with his mooning over Brennan.  I want them to get back to their old buddy, bickering selves and leave all this romance behind.  It’s all about the forensic and cases, and not about the ‘shipping.

Memories of a Comicbook Store Guy

Carl MacekOn Saturday, March 17, 2010, Carl Macek died of a heart attack.  Most people know and remember him as the man that brought the US anime through the creation of Robotech. But to me, he will always be the co-owner of a small comic shop in Orange, California called 21st Century Comics.  I think I may have met him once, but I almost never spoke to him.  I was far too shy.

It was in the early 80’s, about my freshman year in high school.  My older brother came home with this video tape that he’d bought.  It was in one of those black cases like video rental stores used for their VHS tapes, with what I think was a golden rod-colored xerox for a cover.  It was Macross, Carl Macek and Harmony Gold’s first attempt at bringing Macross over to the US.  That opening that is ridiculed in Bad English dubs that starts “Soldiers of Future from deep space…”?  Yeah, that where it came from.  My brother had bought it at Macek’s comic shop.

It was a small shop at that time, on the north end of Orange Circle, I believe.  The Orange Circle is a two way street going in and out of the circle, so there was no parking on the street.  It was in the back, and that where we always entered the shop from.  I went there a few times with my brother.  I was a casual comic collector, but loved to look at all the other merchandise the store would have.  My brother would go to talk with his friends and Macek.  Anime was almost always the topic.  C/FO was active at that time, and Southern California had at least 3 chapters, one of which was in Orange.  It was from these fans that Macek learned around anime and learned to love it.  My husband Brian was among the fans that helped turn him on to anime.

For all the hate that people pile on Macek, I think he was a real fan of the medium.  I’m sure the Southern California contingent was among his harshest critics, but that probably more because they new him before the Robotech phenomenon started.  I recall one story I was told about Macek speaking at a Creation Convention, with several of the fans who knew him in the back making shoveling motions as he spoke.  But there was never any animosity between anyone.  It was more like good-natured ribbing.

By the time I was getting involved with the anime fandom, Robotech was already a big success, and Macek was moving on to bigger and better things.  21 Century Comics reaped a bit of the benefits, as they moved from their small store front to a much larger one, still on the Circle, with 2 stories.  There was still plenty of anime merchandise.  It was in that store that I first saw a copy of Fred Schodt’s Manga! Manga! book.  It sat on the shelf for such a long time…  But Macek wasn’t around as much.  One could still get news about what he was doing through the store’s co-owner Barry Short.  Macek eventually sold his half of the store to Barry, and moved on to Streamline Pictures.  But I don’t think he ever forgot his fan roots.  SDCC, 1990 I think it was, the first year I went with my future husband, I remember running to the small movie theater near the Hotel San Diego, where the new dub of the Lensman Movie was being shown.  The reason I was rushing was because Brian had been asked to be at the premiere by Macek, and I was going to meet them.  I think that really says something that Macek wanted some of the people that got him into the fandom to be at one of his premieres.

I know none of these are really first hand stories, and I didn’t really know the man, but through all the stories I heard and just watching, I think Macek really loved anime, and was trying to bring it to the US not just for the fans, but for everyone to enjoy.  He truly was a pioneer, clearing the way for many of the companies to come after.  Just look at the movies he licensed through Streamline; Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro, Lupin: Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Dirty Pair: Project Eden, Akira, even Lensmen.  These weren’t just good movies, they were films shown at the C/FO and loved by the fans.  Loved by him.

He may have been a controversial figure, but that was never what he was trying to do.  He just wanted to bring over good shows for the fans.  Fans should try to remember more of the man than what he did or didn’t do.

Daleks, Now in Fruit Flavors!

d11s01e03_wallpaper_11It’s the third episode of the new season of Doctor Who.  In the first two episodes (reviews to follow), Matt Smith has proven himself to be the Doctor, and no one can dispute this taking the role.  Karen Gillian, his new companion of Amy Pond, proved herself a worthy companion in the second episode.  This episode hits it’s marks and follows the pattern first set up by Russell T. Davies with the revival of the series.  And I guess I’m alright with it.  Some consistency is good, but at the same time I’d hate for the series to get into a rut.

Just like every season before it, this season is following the patter of first taking the new companion to the future, and then they taking them to the past to meet some historical figure.  In this episode, it’s to meet Winston Churchill, during the blitz of London.  Now, I wasn’t bother with the Doctor already knowing Churchill.  It was a nice change to see him know a historical figure instead of always seeing him meeting them for the first time.  He’s traveled throughout Earth’s history for a good amount of 900 years.  You’d think he’d know some of the people of important.

Like most Doctor Who episode with the past, there is a bit of the fantastical.  This time it’s in the form of an old enemy that just won’t stay down. The Daleks.  While I knew it was inevitable that the Daleks would be back, they are in the promo wallpaper the BBC released for the new season, I have to say I wasn’t really looking forward to it. The Daleks have gotten rather tedious, as they have been the big bads for 3 of the last five seasons.  You can see them be destroyed only to come back again only so many times before you start rolling your eyes.  This episode was a lot like that for me.  The whole point of the episode was just bring the daleks back.

New DaleksAnd not only do they come back, they are back bigger, badder, and in fashion colors!  As I watched them roll out, I thought, “It’s a rainbow of fruity flavors!  The iDalek!”  I can’t say I blame Steven Moffatt for wanting to bring the Daleks back.  They are popular in Britain, and it is a British show.  And with all the other reboots, the Daleks were sure to get theirs.  What I do hope is that this is all we see of the Daleks for the rest of the season.  Let them go wherever in time, and start to rebuild their fleets.  There seems to already be an overarching story arc going, as the end of the episode showed.  Just please, don’t let it involve the Daleks.  Moffatt comes up with such great baddies on this own.  Every episode he wrote in the 9th-10th Doctor seasons were the best and always had original monsters.  The Weeping Angels, the Vashta Nerada, the Clockwork Men, all Moffatt’s creations and all fantastic.  Even this season with the Smilers.  Keep adding more great monsters to the Doctor Who pantheon, and let sleeping Daleks lie.

Stolen Hearts Volume 1

Everyone’s afraid of Koguma– the biggest, most intimidating guy at school.  So when Shinobu accidentally spills milk on his bag, you can bet she’s pretty scared about what’s going to happen next.  Turns out the bag contains an antique kimono, of all things.  It belongs to Koguma’s grandmother, who runs a kimono shop. To make up for ruining the outfit, Shinobu’s going to have to start modeling kimonos as part of grandma’s big plan to market her products to younger customers. Big, scary Koguma’s into kimonos? Turns out there’s a lot no one knew about this tall, quiet boy, and now Shinobu’s out ot change that. But in doin so, will she also end up with a new boyfriend?

Stolen Hearts v1By Miku Sakamoto
Publisher: CMX
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★
Buy This Book

I’ve never been interested in fashion much, not as a teenage, and certainly not now, so I was wary about Stolen Hearts.  The novelty of being set in a kimono shop did spark my curiosity, but I really wasn’t expecting much.  I was pleasantly surprised then by the very sweet romance and great characters that I found in it’s pages.

The title starts out like an average shojo manga with a gimmick.  A boy and girl work at a kimono shop, modeling the wares.  The boy is big, and intimidating looking.  He is the strong, silent type.  The girl is small and average.  There’s nothing really special about her.  Like everyone in her school, she is scared of him.  Turns out though, the boy is a gentle giant, and not really all that scary.  They develop feelings for each other.  Sounds likes like every other shojo ever written, right?  Don’t be so quick to judge!  It turns out this title isn’t so average.

While the setting of a kimono shop seems like a new gimmick, it really isn’t.  Koguma and Shinobu don’t actually work in the shop.  They actually model them.  Dressing in them and walking about in the streets outside the shop, they hand out flyers for the store.  I like this idea, as it gives more opportunities for interactions with different people other than just customers.  With customers you have to assume a certain kind of  person will come into the shop.  Walking around on the street gives a greater variety of people for the main characters to interact with.  It also gives them time alone (sort of) to get to know each other better. And trouble is easier to find out in the open, either from rivals or schoolmates, who can bring a whole other class of trouble.  It’s also a great excuse to show off all sorts of different outfits.  They are fashionable, and some of the themed designs are cute.  It’s also very cool to get to see styles of men’s kimonos as well.  Women always get featured in kimonos.  Men don’t get that as often, so it nice to see some equal treatment.

But it’s the characters that really make this title, and their interactions with each other.  Shinobu is the female protagonist.  She actually rather average as shojo protagonists go.  She doesn’t have some burning passion, or a crush on some boy in her class.  She’s just an average high school girl doing things with her friends and just being normal.  It’s kind of a nice change of pace.  Once she gets to know Koguma, and finds he’s not the scary monster every thinks he is, she gets this enthusiasm for everyone to know the nice side of him too.  This was a nice touch, and a realistic reaction, one I enjoyed a lot.

Koguma is big and looks scary.  He towers over everyone at school, being over 6ft. and rarely smiles, but he’s actually rather shy.  Most of the rumors that float around him are exaggerations of actually very tame stories.  But because everyone avoids him, he’s not every good in social situations.  He doesn’t really know how to act, even with Shinobu’s help.  In many ways, he reminds me of Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke.  Everyone’s afraid of him, until one person learns the truth and shows them they are really very nice.  I really started to enjoy the volume more when I came to this realization.

The last character is truly a character.  Granny Koguma, Koguma’s grandmother, is the 76-year-old owner of the kimono shop.  She is a very feisty woman who likes to get her way and usually does.  She’s very modern in her thinking, and wants to get more younger kids into wearing kimonos, and does so with more fashionable styles.  She’s happy to help out Koguma and Shinobu when they need it, as long as she can get some sort of a profit as well.  She often beats on Koguma, who submits to her smaller grandmother with barely a word.  It seems she may have some yakuza ties as well, as just the mention of her name gets Koguma and Shinobu special treatment at a festival.  She steals every scene she’s in.

Stolen Hearts starts out slow, but picks up the pace very quickly.  The art took a little while for me to get used to.  I thought it looked kind of funky looking at first, but really got to like it by the end of the volume.  This title is a great read, and it’s going into my must buy pile.  Make sure it’s in yours.

Review copy provided by publisher. Images © CMX Manga

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