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


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

Manga Out Loud

  • Episode 07 – Mechamedia with the Reverse Theives

Sci-Guys Podcast

Spiraken Manga Reviews

This Week at Manga Village

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


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, 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


[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 for a shelter or rescue near you.

Shonen Jump June 2010

90_largeIt’s a new month and that means a new issue of Shonen Jump, the soon to be last bastion of manga magazine’s in print. This month continues the preview of Bakuman, spotlights Claymore, and gives a lot more of the same battle manga that has dominated the magazine for the year. Yeah, I can’t say I was all the enthusiastic to pick it up. But let’s start at the beginning. Once you get past all the ads and more ads disguised as “news” you get to some actual manga.

First up is the second chapter of Bakuman. At the beginning there is a short blurb on how kanji can be pronounced in different ways and have different meanings. This will be interesting if you enjoy word games or plays on words. The actual chapter has Akito and Moritaka still debating about becoming manga artists. While the first chapter did pique my interest, this second chapter manages to squash it. Akito gives a lengthy lecture about how the love of Moritaka’s life, Miho, is smart because she doesn’t act too smart, and is just passing time until she gets a husband. Yeah. The whole thing nearly bordered on offensive as far as I’m concerned, and does not impress me in any way.

Naruto was on the less-than-impressive side this month as well. The fight between Killer Bee and the Akatsuki Kisame begins, while Sakura goes to Naruto to confess her love for him, because she thinks that will stop Naruto from chasing after Sasuke. Apparently she thinks Naruto will just give up because she tells him too. And her confession is light on any real feeling. I wasn’t buying what she was saying, and I’m glad Naruto didn’t either. I’ve never cared for Sakura, and this just reinforces my feelings.

The one bright moment in the magazine continues to be One Piece. Luffy’s and Buggy’s groups back out of Impel Down, only to have the ships sailing away. It’s up to Jimbei, Crocodile and Daz to secure a ship while Luffy keeps Magellan at bay. He figures out a way to fight Magellan with Mr. 3’s help. Jimbei shows some of his power as he hits the sea to help everyone. More good action here. And I like that Luffy uses his brain instead of just brawn to keep Magellan back. But it’s Bon’s sacrifice at the end that proves his friendship with Luffy and makes for a great ending.

Bleach starts the actual fight between Ichigo and Grimmjow. It’s 57 pages of one-upping. Ichigo only fights as much as he has to, and Grimmjow just keeps upping the ante, that is until he threatens Orihime and Nel, and of course that’s when the hollow mask comes out. Grimmjow takes on a panther like shape, and battle goes on.

Ultimo continues into territory I don’t care for, with all the evil karakuri doji killing all the good karakuri doji, forcing Yamato to play exactly into their hands. I HATE that good always has to be shown as weak and lose against evil. It’s become a plot device that I’ve really grown to hate, just as I have this series.

The showcase manga this week is Claymore. The chapter shown in this issue is from the upcoming volume 16. If it’s meant to draw me into the manga and check it out, this chapter doesn’t do a very good job of it. I spent more time scratching my head, wondering what was going on that being drawn in. There’s a seven-year jump in the manga, which is where volume 16 starts. This chapter starts with Clare (the protagonist) and a few other Claymores taking to a bald guy, and then it switches to two more Claymores, watching three fight off a huge Yoma. The two spend all their time commenting on he abilities of the other three. There’s nothing to really latch onto in this showcase. It shows the action, but I get more than enough action as it is, and often done better.

No news in this volume about any up coming changes to the magazine, and there no Showcase manga next week.  There will be Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s card though. Look forward to that. As it stand now, I read Shonen Jump just to have post to write, not because I look forward to the titles anymore (other than One Piece). With the end of the Bakuman preview next month, I’m hoping once again, for some kind of good announcement about some new title being added to the magazine. I would seriously consider canceling and switching to Yen Plus, but not with it stopping its print edition (my prefered method of reading). It’s starting to look like manga magazines are going to the way of the dinosaur, which is a shame.

This Week in Manga 5/1-5/7/10


Shopping Alert!

Deep is having a sale on some manga titles in their book section. As well as discounting the books, they are doing a “buy 3, get 1″ free promotion on certain titles. This is a comparable deal as Amazon, and better than Borders “buy 4, get 1 free”. Their shipping is free, and the books are discounted as well. The best discounted deals are on D. Gray-man from Viz, Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi from Yen Press, and later volumes of Black Jack from Vertical. Also included in the sale are several of the VizKids titles such as Pokemon; Adventures and Diamond and Pearl, Leave It to PET, and Legend of Zelda, as well as Udon’s Big Adventures of Majoko. Vampire fans can pick up most of Vampire Knight, you can catch up on the latest volumes of Skip Beat!, or pick up most of Record of a Fallen Vampire which just finished this month. BL fans can get Junjo Romantica and Loveless. If you’ve got some spare cash, definitely check out this sale.

How Bad Is It?

Via Twitter. Builder, a ZDNet Japan blog, has posted the second part of an interview with Misaaki Hagino, President and CEO of Voyager, a e-book developer.  Hagino talkes abou the problems with DRM and getting manga on Apple devices, because of the strict restrictions Jobs and Apple has put on content, and the arbitrary way in which it’s enforced. The interview talked mainly with Hataraki Man (Working Man), a senien manga about a woman working in the publishing industry, which was rejected because of some nudity, but it also mentions that up to 30% of the titles submitted to Apple is rejected. ANN discusses the article, and added more info about iTunes from Twitter comments. This is precisely why I have a problem with Apple and Steve Jobs. I don’t believe they, or anyone else has the right to decide what anyone else can read or watch on their own personal hardware. I don’t care how pretty the hardware or software is. There are some lines that just can not and should not be crossed for any reason. Censorship is one of them.

The End is Near!

While there hasn’t been any official word from Arakawa or Square Enix, the director of the Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime has stated on his twitter account that Arakawa has an ending for FMA ready to go and that he and his staff are in the process of animating it. This is both good and bad news. It’s good that the anime ending will match the manga ending, as FMA:B has (for the most part) been following the manga really well up until now. But it’s sad that FMA will be ending. It’s been quite a 5 year ride with this manga, and I’m going to miss Ed and Al dearly. Since Irie has spilled the beans, I wonder how long it will be until there’s a confirmation/announcement from the publisher? I’m sure they don’t want to the series to end either. UPDATE: Sighting on Twitter of confirmation.

We Need More Of This…

And not necessarily for the reason you’re thinking. US comic publishers got together, and with the FBI’s co-operation, got a pirate comics site shut down. What’s probably the most amazing thing about this is that comic publishers got together and made something happen. On twitter there was some buzz about it and how manga publishers should get together and do the same thing to manga aggregator sites that feature licensed titles. Simon Jones of Icarus Publishing (NSFW) has some suggestions for scanlators who want to avoid this fate. While I do believe sites that host licensed titles should be forced to take them down, what I would really like to see, and I’m sure many others would too, is comics and manga publishers coming together to create aggregator sites where people can legally go to get their fix. But that’s probably not going to happen any time soon, is it? It’s easier to destroy than create.

The End is Here!

The dog manga, Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs, has ended it run in the May issue of Young Jump this last week. It will complete at 22 volumes, and was one of the few dedicated dog manga available in the US. Inubaka isn’t a bad title, and might have taken off better if it wasn’t for the fan service that pushed its rating up to a Teen+. Dog lovers will need to go somewhere else not for their fix of cute dogs and girls taking care of them. Viz will have published 16 of the volumes in July, and will hopefully complete it’s run for US fans.

NYT Best Seller List

It’s a serious shift on the list this week! First, Twilight continues to hold on at #2 on the Hardback Comics list. Then over in manga, Yen Press dominates the list while Del Rey takes back the top spot. At #1 is Tsubasa vol 26. One of the few Viz titles (wow, I don’t think I’ve EVER said that!) is Naruto vol 47 at #2. Yotsuba&! vol 8 falls back one to #3 while last week’s #1 Rosario Vampire Season II vol 1 falls back three to #4 . Black Butler vol 1 stays in the top 5 at #5 while Tokyopop returns with Fruits Basket: Banquet, a primer for the series at #6. Yu-Gi-Oh! R vol 4 stays at #7 while Spice and Wolf vol 1 falls 4 to #8. Nightschool vol 3 falls back one to #9 and Soul Eater vol 2 hold on to #10. All the big players make it this week.  Yen Press and Viz continue to show they have the strongest catalog while Tokyopop and Del Rey stick to one-hit-title-wonders. Just like in investing, it’s diversify or die, guys.

Manga For Your Ears

Manga Out Loud

This Week at Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • Shonen Jump June 2010
  • Pig Bride vol 1-3

Tech Friday: An eReader For Mom?

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, all the ads lately have been about what to get Mom. One common element I’ve seen (beyond the usual of appliances, jewelry, and gardening) is e-readers. has the Kindle on their front page again, touting how it’s the perfect gift for Mom. It’s $259 for the 6″ screen, and includes a wireless connection to Amazon for instant downloading (and gratification).

Sony, maker of the e-Reader, has been pushing it’s low end reader, the Pocket Edition, which has the least number of features. You can find this device at Office Depot, Staples and Best Buy going for $149 through Mother’s Day. You have to connect it to a computer to get the e-books on it, but it also now comes in a “special” pink edition. Ooooo…. Yeah, I’m not impressed by that either. I’ve looked over the Pocket Edition, and wasn’t really impressed with it compared to it’s price. But it’s the least expensive e-ink device out right now.

Aluratech ebookThen, I found out about a new device. The Aluratek Libre e-Reader. It’s a low tech e-reader, that’s also low priced. Online it can be found for around $150, but K-Mart will have it for only $120 through this weekend. It has all the basic function of an e-reader, but the big difference on this device is that it doesn’t use e-ink. It’s actually a black & white LCD screen they call e-paper. The plus about this is that there isn’t the flash that e-ink devices have on page turns, and it’s still fairly quick. It also can view images and play mp3s, even while you’re reading, something the other don’t do. It comes with a 2Gig SD card with 100 public domain books on it to start. It’s rather stripped down like the Sony Pocket Edition. What makes this a better device (to me) is the SD card slot, and lower price. With the Libre, you can have different SD cards for different reading material. One for e-books, one for images (or comics), and one for audio books (or mp3 if you perfer. That makes this a more versatile device, even if it can’t go online.

For someone that just wants to read ebooks and doesn’t need a backlit screen, dictionary, make annotations, or go online, you know like the experience a paper book gives you, this actually looks like a pretty good deal. It’s not difficult to use, so non-tech savvy moms that want to get in on the e-book revolution can with little work. Aluratek also has a step-by-step guide to getting books from, and comments on product reviews of this device suggest that it will read ebooks borrowed through libraries. Here’s a fairly thorough review of the device:

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Think carefully about what your Mother would want and/or could handle. Don’t buy what you think she would want. An e-Reader is a personal device, much like a book. It needs to be tailored to the reader’s needs. Don’t go for all the bells and whistles just because that’s what YOU would want. You want what you give Mom to be used and appreciated, and not left in the box, stuffed in a corner of the closet because she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings by returning it or giving it away. It’s Mother’s Day for a reason. Make sure it’s something she wants.

More Stone Than Flesh

[Contains Spoilers]

dw_forest_7_with_pp024_v3“Flesh and Stone”, the second part of the two-part story by Steven Moffat featuring his Weeping Angels wasn’t all I was hoping it would be. I do believe this is the first time that I wasn’t excited about a Steven Moffat two-parter. Some setups from the first part just didn’t pan out, and while we did finally get some Weeping Angel action, it wasn’t enough to save the episode. And the ending, that was just wrong. But I am really starting to like Matt Smith’s interpretation of the Doctor with this incarnation.

First, let’s get the not-so-good stuff out of the way. I was really hoping for more from the whole “eyes are not a window, but a door” set-up from the first part, but it just turned out to be a way to torture Amy and get the Doctor really mad, because Amy is being tortured. Another I really didn’t like was the retconning of the Angels to make this “eyes are a door” thing work. Amy wasn’t supposed to look in the eyes of an Angel, or else it gets stuck in there visual cortex, giving the angel the power to take her over and kill her. So, what about Sally Sparrow and all the times she stared at an Angel? Are they just going to say it was never in the eyes? Right…cause that’s not the first place you’re drawn too, espcially with pupil-less eyes. I know torturing the companion is right for writers on Doctor Who, it just didn’t pan out this time for me.

d11s01e05_wallpaper_30The Angels started on the move, and started to look more like their old selves, but it wasn’t until at least the middle, maybe more into the third act before they really started acting like the angels from Blink. Their best moment was when Amy had to walk past them and make them think she could see. The moments of the camera hitting the Angel, then away, then back to the angel, then away, and then the angel’s head moved, that was what I wanted to see more of. That’s what makes the Weeping Angels scary, the fact that you never know when they are going to move. There were some flashing lights with them moving in the darkness as well, but forest scenes were the best.

Even though we’ve seen glimpses of the Doctor’s temper in “The Beast Below”,  this episode shows just how angry he can get. It’s not the “I’m superior to you, so why are you all so stupid?!” kind of anger as the 6th Doctor portrayed. It’s more of a rage that runs underneath and then bubbles to the surface. It’s his most human quality in this regeneration. He gets angry, not when people are doing stupid things (he expects that I think from humans), but when he is stuck in a situation that he can’t immediately find an answer to. In this episode, it’s trying to save Amy from the Weeping Angels. The more impossible it seems, the more angry he gets. I think this is a very interesting aspect to the Doctor we haven’t seen. We’ve seen him as crotchety, as in the 1st and 5th Doctors, the 3rd and 6th were more superiority complexes, but for the 11th, there are some real anger management issues that may need to be addressed.

And the end of this episode, was just so unnecessary. I had more respect for Amy before she tried to jump the Doctor’s bones. While she’s not as bad as Rose or Martha, and I can see where Moffat is coming from in writing the scene, I just really didn’t care for it. I’d really like for the Doctor and Amy to stay as platonic friends, and not become a one-night stand just because Amy had a bad day or is on a time-traveling bachelorette party. Good reaction from the Doctor though.

Next episode is a location shot on Venice, with a new monster to face. While vampires aren’t new, hopefully this version will be.

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