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

Anime Expo Con’t

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

AX’s Manga Evolution

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

THE Manga Database

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

Another Home Run for Manga

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

NYT Best Seller List

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

Manga For Your Ears

Spiraken Manga Reviews

This Week at Manga Village

What I’m Reading

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

Shonen Jump August 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Itazura na Kiss Volume 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gangly Gallifreyan

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

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

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

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

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

Images © BBC

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

From Aurora’s Ashes

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

Tokyopop + Zinio = ??

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

The Recon is Over

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

Rational Response to Irrational Request

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

Anime Expo Begins

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

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

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

NYT Best Seller List

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

Manga For Your Ears

Manga Out Loud

Sesho’s Anime and Manga Reviews

Spiraken Manga Review

This Week at Manga Village

What I’m reading

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

Japanese Journal: Mastering Hiragana & Katakana

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

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

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

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

Review: Tena on S-String Volume 2

For all Kyousuke’s resistance to Tena and her bossy ways, he seems to have settled in quite nicely to being a sort of househusband to her and the other tuners. But while Mezzo and Sopra have agreed not to collect Kyousuke’s viral notes, there’s no telling what might happen if he meets yet another tuner! So when Kyousuke runs into Arun, an elite tuner at the top of her class, could this spell the end of his musical aspirations…and his life?!

by Sesuna Mikabe
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Romantic Comedy
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy This Book

I love stories that relate to music in some way, but hate stories with obnoxious, bossy female leads, so I picked up Tena on S-String with guarded curiosity. I was very intrigued by the idea of tuners and seeing the music of others, but Tena is a complete turn off, and practically ruins every scene that she is in.

The protagonist of this story is Tena, an obnoxious, haughty, pushy, violent girl with no social graces. This is the character we as readers are supposed to want to read about and follow through a potentially long series? Sorry, I don’t think so. These kinds of female leads make me want to just put the book down and move on to something else. There is absolutely nothing to like about her, and I would certainly hope no one would want to be like her! She pushes Kyousuke around like a servant, which I think is supposed to be funny, but it really isn’t. She’s supposed to be a great tuner, but we don’t see her doing it. All she does through this volume is berate Kyousuke, go shopping and eat. And since she’s the lead, she’s of course falling for Kyousuke, but her pride won’t even let her be nice to him once, let alone think such a think might be possible. I couldn’t stand Tena in any of the panels she was in, and just grew to dislike her with every turning page.

Kyousuke, the male lead, isn’t as bad. He has aspirations to become a composer. But he’s surrounded by these viral notes, that if any other tuner discovered were around him, they would try to take away his freedom, or even his life to retrieve them. Tena and her fellow tuners Mezzo and Sopra help him hide from other tuners. Kyousuke is a nice guy, and good with household chores, but he’s pretty clueless when it comes to women. He doesn’t know how to talk to them in general. And he doesn’t notice Tena’s growing feelings for him, which only makes things worse for him.

But get the to parts where there’s no Tena, and this title is actually pretty decent. All of the scenes where Kyousuke is with Arun, at the theater and sightseeing were fun to read. Even though Kyousuke is Japanese and Arun is French, they can still communicate through the language of music, which in this case is French. I really liked Arun and the scheduled life she leads. Everything neat and orderly, every moment of her day is set in advance, and she keeps to the schedule like clockwork. Until she meets Kyousuke. Their time together starts to change her. I want to see more of her and Kyousuke together.

All of the mysterious talk of the “grand play” performance and finale is intriguing too. Even though it didn’t get a lot of mention in the volume until the end, I found myself growing interested in finding out more about what this “great play” is, and how it relates to Kyousuke. This part of the story has the greatest potential. If the title could concentrate on it and drop Tena completely, it would be a story a I would be much more interested in reading.

The art is fairly standard for a romantic comedy. A lot of attention is given to Tena and her constantly changing wardrobe. Clothes are what she spends the majority of the volume shopping for, since she just can’t wear the same thing twice! The character designs are all similar too, especially with the girls, but there are enough differences in dress and temperament to be able to tell them apart.

Overall, Tena on S-String is well done, as long as you like titles where the female lead abuses the male lead. Definitely check this title out, you won’t be disappointed. If not, borrow or trade for it and just read the non-Tena parts, which is about half of this volume. It’s still worth it for all those other parts.

Sunflowers and a Starry Night

[Contains Spoilers]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images © BBC

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


Movable MANHWA Feast

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

The Games Aggegators Play

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

Another Manga Publisher Blasted?

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

Beginnings and Endings

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

NYT Best Sellers List

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

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Spiraken Manga Review

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What I’ve Read

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

Manhwa Movable Feast: The Color Of… Trilogy

The Color of Earth, The Color of Water, and The Color of Heaven are the three books that make up this trilogy. The story is about two women, Ehwa, and her early widowed mother. The series follows Ehwa from age 7, when she first starts to realize her gender, through her growing sense of sexuality and first crushes, to her falling in love and getting married at age 18. Parallel to Ehwa’s story is her mother’s, who after 3 years of being alone, has her own feelings reawakened by the arrival of a traveling pictographer.

Color of Earth (2)The Color of… Trilogy
By Kim Dong Hwa
Publisher: First Second
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Drama
Price: $16.95/ea
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy These Books

The story is set in Turn-of-the-Century Korea, in the countryside. It is a time and place where most of the men are farmers and are valued more than women. A very chauvinistic attitude prevails throughout most of the series, which both Ehwa and her mother must endure. Ehwa is first introduced to this by the boys she see’s having a peeing contest, and who tell her that anyone who doesn’t have a gachoo (penis), is deformed. Ehwa’s mother has to deal with it more overtly, as she learns that the villagers think she sleeps around , and has to endure a lot of harassment as a single woman inn-keeper. But Ehwa’s mother holds her own pretty well with the men, and isn’t afraid to let them know when they’ve crossed a line.

Women of this time are also forced into arranged marriages, often sold off for money and land. Ehwa’s mother doesn’t agree with this though, and fights to save her daughter from it, refusing offers of money and land from Master Chou, an old, but well-off land owner. She encourages Ehwa to find a man that she loves, even as she herself finds her own in the traveling pictographer.

Color of WaterAn interesting aspect of this title was the relationship between Ehwa and her mother. They seemed more like sisters than mother and daughter. Ehwa’s mother shared a lot of her feelings with her daughter, leading to conversations that sounded more like competing sisters, especially as Ehwa matured and understood her mother’s feelings. This relationship does lead to some conflict between the two, though not seriously. Ehwa puts down the Picture Man to her mother after meeting Duksam, in a way that sisters arguing over who has the better looking boyfriend might. It’s obvious she likes the Picture Man, and wants her mother to be happy with him, but she just can’t help putting her own just a that mush higher. I think this relationship made Ehwa and her mother’s interactions more interesting, and gives Ehwa a more independent attitude, to the point that she contemplates going out on her own to find Duksam, something unheard of at the turn of the 20th century, in either Korea or America.

Nature is used a lot as metaphor in this series. Flowers are used to represent feelings, especially for women, and insects represent people. Ehwa expresses her first crushes on Chung-Myong and Master Sunoo with Tiger Lilies. For her mother, it is the gourd flower, that only blooms at night, and represents her longing for the Picture Man. Throughout the volumes, flowers are used to represent some emotion that a woman feels or expresses her lot in life. While I like the language of flowers, its use in this series went a little too far, diluting the meanings, and at some points becoming downright sappy. The use of flowers at the end of Heaven for the consummation scene between Ehwa and Duksam got especially tiring.

Color of HeavenThe use of insects wasn’t quite as overused, but it definitely got the point across. Earth starts with two boys comparing Ehwa’s mother with a beetle, in that she will sleep with anyone. Butterflies are used most often though, to go with the flower analogies. Ehwa favors the Fire Butterfly through the last two volumes. Like a moth, it is drawn to flames and will die in them. That is the kind of man Ehwa wants, one that will stay in her flame and not dance from flower to flower. I found this expression of monogamy more interesting than the Mountain Butterfly that mates for life.

Sexual maturity also plays a big role in this series, as part of Ehwa’s growing up. She learns most of this from her friend Bongsoon, who is quite promiscuous. The author is very upfront about things such as sex and masturbation, but I think he does it in a realistic way. Much of Ehwa’s “education” of these things comes in conversations between her and Bongsoon in way one could easily imagine happening. I find it refreshing to see it handled in a straightforward manner and as just another part of growing up. There’s already enough metaphor in this book.

Overall, I liked reading The Color Of… Trilogy. It’s an interesting coming of age story with characters and relationships that develop over the three volumes. But it’s not a series I would re-read. The heavy use of dialog and flowery language (no pun intended) was somewhat off-putting, and tedious to get through at times. I felt like I was back in 12th grade reading The Good Earth as an assignment. I read for entertainment, not to feel I’ll be tested on it later. I would recommend it be read at least one though. Young adults, both male and female, could get something useful from this series.

There Is No Time


[Contains Spoilers]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Continuing to Live Up to Their Name

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

Manga Roll

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

Still Talking Scanlations

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

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

Shonen Jump Price Hike?

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

NYT Best Seller List

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

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