So You Wanna Read Japanese Manga?

Sanen KimengumiWith a long list of wish lists and license requests, and not too good a prospect on getting a lot of those titles in English for whatever reason (too long, too old, too niche, etc), it makes a manga fan seriously consider learning to read Japanese.  Why go through a middleman when you can go straight to the source?  And Japanese tankoban are cheaper, even with the exchange rate, to buy.  But learning a new language can be intimidating, especially when the letters that look nothing like you’re used to.  Fortunately the internet is filled with resources to help you buy and read your Japanese manga.

One really good resource is Rainbow Hill Language Lab which features entries about Japanese language and culture.  Recently the blog has been featuring several entries about reading manga as an aid to learning Japanese.  One such entry was a list of tools to help you start reading manga.  This list featured both resources that could be found online as well as books and study aids, all with links. He gives resources to the basics of the alphabet, basic grammar and vocabulary and kanji.

If you’re serious about your manga, and don’t want to wait for a license that might never come, then learning to read Japanese is the way to go.  And if you don’t have a lot of time to take a class, this is a good way to start.  I know I’m sorely tempted to pull out the Highschool Kimengumi manga we have and try this out!

This Week in Manga 2/20-2/26/10

Coded Licenses

After the debut of their new website for manga, Bandai Entertainment puts up some license news.  They’ve announced two new titles to add to their Code Geass line.  Code Geass: Knights and Code Geass: Queens are both anthologies each with a slant toward a demographic.  Knights is written to appeal to the girls, and Queens is for the boys.  There are several short stories that are written by different mangaka.  This is good news to me, since I love the Code Geass franchise, both anime and the manga.  I really like that these are anthologies, giving us not just a lot of different stories with our favorite characters, but a lot of different looks as well.  I’ve grown quite fond of anthologies, and getting more narrow ones like this would be great.

Continue reading This Week in Manga 2/20-2/26/10

Tech Friday: XL e-Reader

DSiLL_01-580x435In a previous post I spoke of the Nintendo DS as a possible e-reader.  With their latest announcement, it seems that Nintendo is finally answering that call in the US.  The DSi XL, originally launched in Japan in November 2009 as the DSi LL, will be coming to the US in March.  Along with the new gaming device, which has bigger screens, will be the 100 Classics e-book cartridge that I spoke of in the previous post.

While the e-book cartridge itself isn’t that big of news, public domain books are a dime a dozen on the web, it’s the fact that Nintendo is finally stepping into the e-book market in the US that’s exciting.  Over in Japan, the DS has been getting manga and books on the platform for at least 2 years.  It would be nice to see some manga come to this side of the Pacific.  With the larger screen and cartridge format, manga on the DS would be more difficult to pirate.  Not impossible, just more work.

Some blogs are trying to set this move by Nintendo as a play against Apple.  However, if they had been watching Nintendo’s gradual climb up to  e-books on the DS, they would see this is actually a natural progression.  Nintendo isn’t trying to push their way into the e-reader market (which, by the way, isn’t owned by Apple).  It’s Apple that’s been trying to muscle in on Nintendo’s handheld gaming market.  Nintendo has been slowly but surely expanding the DS to be more than just a gaming platform with wifi connection and browser.  Fans have been creating homebrewed applications to put comics and books on the DS for several years now.  This is just Nintendo making it official.  It’s not a declaration of war on the iPad.  Anyone that thinks that is just trying to make a straw man they think they can knock down then the iPad finally comes out.

As a casual gamer, and an older one at that, I have to say I’m looking forward to the DS XL.  Larger screens appeal to me in general.  And while the DS is still not the perfect solution to the e-reader problem, it’s one that I think can be a strong contender.  The Nintendo brand is known and trusted here in the US.  The devices are durable.  They even take all the abuse my kids give theirs!  Both kids and adults enjoy both the platform and the games.  Adding comics and manga, especially those already based on games that are being played on the device should be a no-brainer.  So comics and manga publishers shouldn’t be getting excited about the iPad.  They should be looking at what they already have and reaching out to an audience that’s already there, instead of gambling a on one they hope will be there.

Wish List: Blood Hound

Since I started the week with a Kaori Yuki title, let’s stay with that theme.  And since vampires are all the rage this year, let’s make it a vampire manga.  Yorugata Aijin Senmonten – DX aka Blood Hound is a one shot volume that was serialized in Hana to Yume from January 2003 to June 2004.

BloodHound(manga)_CoverBlood Hound is about Rion, a loudmouthed teenager who goes to a host club full of vampires looking for her best friend.  She believes the vampires are behind her friend’s disappearance, as well as of those around the neighborhood.  During her investigation, she begins to befriend them, including their leader, Suou.  He believes that Rion is the re-incarnation of Ellone, “the one with the purest blood”, and a woman he once loved.  A romantic relationship starts to develop between the pair.  The volume ends with Rion discovering who is behind the disappearances.

This title was made into a J-Drama as well, called Vampire Host, that ran on TV Tokyo from April to June, 2004.  It went for 12 1/2 hour episodes, which made 6 1 hour stories.  It’s loosely based on the manga, and has a much more humorous vibe to it.  Suou isn’t the angsty vampire type.  He seems satisfied to work at the host club.  Rion is strong-willed and their relationship revolves around him trying to threaten her with being bitten, and she smacking him.  I’ve only seen a few episode of this series, but it was really fun.  It was licensed by Bandai Entertainment in 2007 and is available under the name Blood Hound: Vampire Gigolo.

While this is only a single volume and a lot of things remain unresolved (namely Rion and Suou’s relationship), it still looks to be a good title.  The lack of vampire angst and having a mystery to solve definitely raises my interest level.  It’s been licensed in France and Germany.  So why not us too?  At one volume there isn’t a lot of risk.  And the more non-angsty vampire manga we can get to balance out against what’s already out, so much the better.

Super-size Me!: Angel Sanctuary


I was late in discovering Kaori Yuki’s work.  It wasn’t until Shojo Beat and Godchild, which was one of the debut titles, that I learned how great her work was.  But before Godchild and it’s prequel The Cain Saga, another series by Kaori Yuki was released in the US.  That was Angel Sanctuary.  This 20 volume series was first released by Viz in 2004 and completed it’s run in 2007.  The story is about Setsuna Mudo, the re-incarnation of the Organic Angel Alexiel.  Alexiel rebelled against heaven and as punishment was sentenced to be re-incarnated as a mortal and to live a life filled with pain and suffering.  Setsuna is discovered to be the latest re-incarnation and is pulled into the war between heaven and hell.

I’ve only read the first volume, and wasn’t quite ready for her style of writing then.  But after reading her other titles that are available in English, I would like to try this series again.  I was bothered by the incest introduced in the first volume of Angel Sanctuary, but now realize that is a common theme in her titles.  My only problem now is, the series is 20 volumes long!  20 volumes is a lot to track down, and take up a lot of space.  This is what makes Angel Sanctuary the perfect candidate for the VizBIG format.  It’s complete and it’s been so for a while, like several of the other titles we’ve seen come out.  It’s length makes it difficult to find in the individual volume format and will take up a lot of space.  9 volumes are a lot easier to handle and collect than 20.  And with several other of her titles out, it’s the perfect time to reintroduce her most influential work to a new audience, as well as the growing interest in titles for older readers.  While it’s rated Older Teen, it’s rating could go up, as other of her titles have.

Angel Sanctuary has all the making of a great addition to the VizBIG line.  Hopefully Viz realizes this and will re-release this series soon.

This Week in Manga 2/13-2/19/10

A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words

You hear that phrase all the time, but then you get hit with something that proves the truth of it.  GodLen of Anime Vice shows how some of the long running titles in Shonen Jump have changed over the 8 years it’s been around.  IE, not much.  The eternal cycle of shonen titles didn’t used to bother me that much, but they have started to get to me of late.  At least they have in Bleach.  GodLen totally got that one right.  I might argue with him over Naruto.  I don’t know that Naruto has gotten quite as emo as he portrays.  Ichigo is MUCH more emo.  At least Kishimoto showed Naruto’s change slowly over 40 volumes.  Ichigo goes emo at the drop of a hat.  One Piece…yeah, there’s not a lot of change except for the addition of more pirates.  But for that series I say, “If if ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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Tech Friday: You Won't Find These in Any Textbook

Anime-manga

Learning Japanese from popular culture such as anime and manga is nothing new.  Mangajin, a magazine from the early 90’s used manga to teach lessons.  In fact, it’s exactly these things that inspire westerners to want to learn to read and speak Japanese.  The Japanese have recognized this and have created a website to help learners of their language.  But it’s not exactly what you’d expect.

The website, anime-manga.jp doesn’t show you manga panels with translations.  No, the purpose of the site is to help teach learners about colloquial expressions that often show up in anime and manga, but not in textbooks.  Languages are fluid, they are always changing.  Anime and manga, which are all about popular culture reflect these changes, which often stump new readers who don’t live in the culture and see and hear these changes. On the site, you can see and hear expressions from typical characters from anime and manga such as school age boys and girls, butlers, and samurai.  You can even hear an Osaka dialect from an old man!

I’ve heard people try to discourage others from using anime and manga as a resource for learning Japanese precisely because of the colloquialisms.  But in order to sound like a real native speaker, you should know them, and I think it’s great that the Japanese recognize this and are reaching out to foreign learners to help them.  Of course, I’m sure all the raw manga and anime these learners will buy to help their studies won’t hurt either.

Manga Drive By: Shonen Jump March 2010

87_largeThere’s no real news in this month’s Shonen Jump, which is kind of surprising.  You’d think they would want to start hyping any new titles coming soon now.  But not this month.  So what do we learn in this issue of SJ?  I learned that Bleach has entered the endless “lather, rinse, repeat” mode of shonen manga.  I still don’t find Gin Tama funny, and the magazine is going to get boring real fast if they don’t add something that isn’t just about fighting.

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Year of the Tiger

This week begins the Chinese New Year.  This traditional Chinese holiday is based on a lunar calendar and is associated with an animal in the Chinese Zodiac.  This year’s animal is the Tiger.  So, I went looking for manga with tigers in them.  Surprisingly, I couldn’t find a lot.  I extended it to any of the big cats, and that make the list grow some, but it’s really surprising how few manga have tigers in them.

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This Week in Manga 2/6-2/12/10

Moveable Manga Feast Moves Out

In a massive collaboration, several blogs have gotten together to review the same book on the same week, as suggested by David Welsh of the Manga Curmudgeon blog.  It kicked off this week, with Sexy Voice and Robo, with new reviews going up every day.  You can find an introduction to the book and all the reviews posted here.  From the long list of reviews, this turned out to be a big success with such a wide breadth of reviews, both good and bad.  This is a shining example of the power of social media.  An idea on Twitter became a week long celebration (or panning) of a title, bringing together the mangasphere.  I just think that’s cool.

Continue reading This Week in Manga 2/6-2/12/10

Tech Friday: Like Falling Dominoes

falling_dominos_smallJust days after Amazon conceded to MacMillian’s demands for an agency model for e-book pricing (ie, variable pricing), Robert Murdoch’s Harper Collins started rattling it’s saber that it wanted the same deal.  By the end of the week Hachette had joined Harper Collins.  So like dominoes, the major publishers are falling in line to continue their old publishing strategy of initial high price (hardback), price drop 1 (trade paperback) and price drop 2 (mass market paperback for digital books.  Since Amazon capitulated to MacMillian, they will have to do the same with the publishers.

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