This Week in Manga: 11/13-11/19/10

It’s been awfully slow in the news department lately. Maybe everyone is busy with holiday preparations. But fear not! All is not lost as the news this week features unexpected licenses as well as confirmations of some found in the wild. Half confirmations of rumors, and trying to reach out to the casual manga fan join regular features of best sellers, podcasts and roundups.

Continue reading This Week in Manga: 11/13-11/19/10

Gestalt Volume 8

So what’s a girl to do with the power of an immortal god? it’s a tough decision, especially with the fate of Ouri’s homeland at stake. She and Father Olivier are going to fight an ancient battle all over again. And if they win? It just might mean that everyone–from the gods all the way down to Olivier himself– will find what they’ve been searching for. If they don’t… well, one way of the other, their journey is coming to a spectactular conclusion.

Buy This Book

by Yun Kouga
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Buy This Book

[Contains Spoilers]

It’s been a while since I read a volume that was a total let down, especially with being the final volume, but Gestalt managed to do just that. With the world doomed to end and powerful gods descending to earth to battle it out over said doom, you’d expect more exciting fight scene, and really, just more fighting! Instead we are treated to a lot of selfish talk and inward reflections, and a instead of ending with a bang, the titles goes out in a whimper.

Ouri, Olivier and friends have reached Gestalt, the island where the great beast is said to lay. It is also Ouri’s homeland. He goes in search of his father to tell him he has the great beast inside him, and has for years. But, it seems Ouri was mistaken, as his father informs him, and reveals to him the truth. Meanwhile, everyone else is fighting a seemingly resurrected Father Messiah. Black Olivier is in charge, while Olivier is buried deal in his subconscious, facing the truth of his past and coming to accept Father Messiah’s death. Everyone tries to fight Messiah and fails until Ouri arrives, in sexy underwear to save the day. True identities are revealed, and the world is saved. Yup. Pretty much just like that.

I was really hoping for more from this final volume. But all anyone does in this supposed action-fantasy is talk. The battle scene that takes up about half of the volume is mostly Olivier, as either himself or Black Olivier talking to Messiah, telling him he’s going to stop him. There is some magic thrown around that stops Shazan, but the most exciting part of the battle is when Ouri’s father joys the fray and gets thrown across the room and makes an imprint in the wall. And the final confrontation between Gestalt and Salsaroa? Non-existent. Well, that’s not completely true. They do confront one another, but the best Salsaroa can manage is to threaten the body he inhabits, which is already did. And then poof, they’re gone. And no one cared. It was just “huh, they’re gone,” and move on to the end. I couldn’t believe this seemingly big build up to the confrontation would just go **poof**.

The characters that I had liked in volume 6 weren’t so great in this volume. Ouri showed himself to be selfish and self-centered, something that I probably would have gotten if I had read the series from the beginning, but seeing it now, when the end of the world is nigh doesn’t work so well for me. It was probably completely in character for his whole problem with letting Gelstalt in was that he didn’t want to lose himself, and he still had things he wanted to do. Well, if the world ends, you won’t get to do those things anyway. And it went on for pages, his whining like a kid. Any of the good I saw in volume 6 was sucked out in this one.

The ending of Gestalt seems to at least be consistent with the rest of the series. The scene cuts are badly done, especially with the fight scenes. If Kouga didn’t want to draw fights, she shouldn’t have done a fantasy series with a lot of confrontations. It seems every time she has a fight, she flashes over to some else for a while, and then returns to the fight, mostly at the pauses in the action. I can’t really see anyone other than fans of Kouga really enjoying this title. I think the initial premise was good, but the execution was not.

Ask Manga Mom: The “Are These Safe?” Edition

A Mom writes:

Hello, I have learned that my daughter is getting on a site and reading manga when she is on the computer. She is almost 13, and I need to please know that the manga that she is reading is not sexually explicit. I just really want to know how far they go and I have a list for you. Legendary Kang Do Gekkano Kimi Innocent World Kindai Renai Mahou Sensei Wegima! The Prince Who Fell In Love Full Contact Psychic Academy Mucha Kucha Daisuki Prism Palette She was on some of these for many pages, and others just for one or two. Please let me know if there are specific ones she should not be reading. Thanks so very much. Mom.

Thanks for the question Mom! A cursory glance at the list of titles says that most of these are not officially licensed, but that these are scanlations, fan created scans that your daughter is reading. These have been a gray-area for a long time, but are not technically legal in the US. But, information about these titles can be found online.

Legendary Kang Do-Young – This is a Korean manhwa. It’s a romantic comedy about a boy and girl who both want to be the leader of their school, where for the boy, it’s love at first sight, but not for the girl.

Gekka no Kimi – This is a seven volume romantic comedy with supernatural and historical elements. The son of an Emperor want his father’s newest wife. He searches for a woman to replace her, ends up committing a terrible sin and is reborn 1000 years later, now afraid of women.

Innocent World – This is a one volume slice of life. All the students in a classroom are dealing with issues such as divorce, complexes and kissing, but they still manage to shine.

Kindai Renai – This is a collection of short stories that touch on romance, drama and the supernatural. These stories are on the older teen to mature side.

Mahou Sensei Negima! – This series is available in the US from Del Rey Manga/Kodansha. It’s a fantasy, action-adventure harem (one boy surrounded by lots of girls). Negi is the youngest graduate from magic academy and is sent to Japan to teach at an all-girls school. Much hilarity ensues.

The Prince Who Fell In Love – This is another collection of short stories. These are mostly drama and romance.

Full Contact – This is a six volume sports manga. A fifteen-year-old boy decides to train in karate after a girl who says she likes strong guys dumps him.

Psychic Academy – This is an eleven volume series that ha been licensed by Tokyopop, but is also out of print.  It is a supernatural action-adventure title. Ai Shiomi is the younger brother of Zero, “The Man Who Stopped the Demon Lord”. Now attending Psychic Academy, it is believed that he too is destined for greatness, a belief he doesn’t really share.

Mucha Kucha Daisuke – This is a 4 volume high school romance. Aoi’s parents are moving to Tokyo, and she has to got with them. A chance meeting with playboy-type Tokyoite Tsuyoshi results in a kiss that carries unexpected meaning for both of them.

Prism Palette – This is the first publication of popular mangaka Peach Pitt and is based on a ero-game. It’s a harem comedy about a boy who spends his days at school surrounded by beautiful girls.

Most of these titles are appropriate for a 13-year-old girl. There is no explicit content from what I can tell from the descriptions. A few of the titles might be a little old for her though. Gekka no Kimi might have some questionable content at the beginning. Kindai Renai was written for young adults and might be too mature for her, and Prism Palette was based on a dating sim game, so the manga probably reflects that in the art and characters. Mahou Sensei Negima! is a border line title with an Older Teen rating from Del Rey, but it’s more suggestive than anything actually happening. This is typical of harem manga, as much of the humor comes from the uncomfortable situations. The rest of the titles I think are fine. Keep in mind, I haven’t read any of them, and my standards as a parent might be different from yours. I wouldn’t object to my daughter reading most of these titles, only to the ones I mentioned here.

Depending on which titles your daughter spent a lot of time on, which she only gave a few pages should give you an idea of her reading habits. I see a definite trend toward the drama and romance that are found in most stories written for girls, with some action thrown in for variety. I would suggest discouraging the reading of licensed manga online from a questionable source, such as sites like Mangafox, which has continued to put up scanlations even after promising to take them all down. There are places online where manga can be read legally or for a modest price, such as Shonen Sunday from Viz. The manga there is free. NetComics has Korean manhwa of different genres and chapters only cost .10-.25 each. There is also promise of more on the way with Square Enix launching a new site soon as well a manga portal from 37 different publishers in the Spring of next year.

I hope this helps!

Pocky Day!

Ah, Pocky, that tasty treat, the preferred snack of otaku everywhere! November 11th, or 11-11 is Pocky Day! Can you guess why? This “holiday” was started in South Korea, with their version of pocky, Pepero, where it is similar to Valentine’s Day. Pocky Day hasn’t taken off in Japan like Pepero has in Korea. I heard about it from the SciGuys podcast. I like the idea, so here are some manga titles that give a heads up to that biscuit cookie dipped in chocolate (or an assortment of other flavors), Pocky!

There are a lot of manga titles where characters are seen nomming on a stick of pocky. Card Captor Sakura, Gravitation, Tramps Like Us (Kimi Wa Pet), Harlem Beat, Nodame Cantabile and The Wallflower (Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge) all feature scenes of characters loving their pocky! But here are five titles I’d like to focus on where pocky gets more of a spotlight.

Onegai Teacher – This was originally an anime that was adapted to a manga and light novel series. Mizuho is half-alien, half-human. She has been sent to Earth by the Federation to watch over it and keep humans from making the same mistakes. Mizuho is seen eating pocky a lot. Her father died when she was young, and her only memory of him is related to a pocky box, so she eats pocky to be reminded of him. There are two volumes of this manga available, that were published by the now-defunt ComicOne, but you can probably find copies on trading sites or at used bookstores.

Zatch Bell (Kojiki no Gash) – In this shonen battle manga, every 1000 years, 100 Mamodo come to Earth to battle out for the title of King of the Mamodo. To do battle, Mamodo need a human partner to read the spells they use. Zatch Bell is one such Mamodo, and is the hero of the series, with his human partner Kiyo Takamine. Volcan 300 is Zatch’s cardboard toy robot friend, made out of an empty box of pocky and some disposible chopsticks. There have been several versions of the Volcan 300, but you’ve got to empty though boxes first, before you can make a new one! Viz Media released 25 of the 33 volumes of Zatch Bell before discontinuing the series.

Buy This Book

Dramacon – This is a 3 volume OEL series created by Sveltana Chmakova. The series is about fledgling writer Christie Leroux and her first experiences at a big anime convention. In this series, we see pocky used as comfort food. Christie celebrates being at the con by buying lots of pocky, as well as drowns her sorrows by buying lots of pocky. This is the best, and probably most realistic portrayal of the use of pocky by most anime and manga fans in the US. Dramacon was released by Tokyopop and is among the few celebrated titles of OEL manga. You can get the whole series in one omnibus volume.

Lucky Star – This title is a 4-koma, or 4 panel series, much like the comic strips in American newspapers. It follows 4 Japanese girls as they go through high school. There is no real ongoing plot and the strips are mostly about the girls daily lives. The leader of the group is Konata Izumi, a smart and athletic girl, but who would rather play video games and read manga than study or compete. But for this article, we want to look at Kagami Hiiragi, the older of the Hiiragi fraternal twins. Like Konata, Kagami likes to play video games, and she reads light novels. She also indulges in that more favorite to Otaku treats, pocky! She can often be seen munching on pocky sticks. Lucky Star has eight volumes, and is being released by Bandai Entertainment.

Buy This Book

Vampire Knight – When I asked for suggestions on Twitter for titles with Pocky in it, this series kept coming up, so I’ll include it. Vampire Knight is about Yuki Cross, the adopted daughter of the Headmaster of Cross Academy and her run-ins/relationships with the Night Class, a special class for Vampires to learn how to co-exist with humans. Shiki Senri is a member of the Night Class and is apparently “Pocky mad”. He is seen eating it several times throughout the manga. Vampires eating pocky. I wonder, does he stick the pocky in his mouth and pretends he has reaaalllllyyyy long fangs? Just kidding. Viz Media releases Vampire Knight and there are currently 10 volumes out. Thanks to @ShroudDancer, @aicnanime, @girlg33k_Kris and @PhoenixTerran for their suggestions and help!

These are just a few examples of pocky in manga. For more, and/or to find pocky in anime, check out these sites, which were I also used for several references:

Know of a series with scene I missed? Leave a comment about it!

Best Kind of Rescue

It’s been a tough last few years for the manga industry. Companies have either stopped publishing manga or have disappeared altogether. For us fans, the thing we tend to lament most is the loss of titles, and the pleading to the remaining companies that they pick up them up so we can keep reading them. But there are other things lost when a company goes under, namely the people who worked there and put so much into their love and passion for manga. Most of the time, we don’t know who these people are, as they often go unnamed, just one of a number of people who have to find new employment now, in an industry that is shrinking. So, I think it’s worth pointing out when one of those people who reached out to the manga community then finds work again with a manga company.

I am of course speaking of Asako Suzuki, formerly of CMX Manga, and who has recently joined Tokyopop as a Manga Line Editor, according to ICv2. Essentially she will be handling the majority of Japanese licenses, including acquisitions. This really is fantastic news. Asako was very active on Twitter, engaging fans and finding out what they liked, and keep everyone up to date about releases and new titles. Tokyopop did good in snagging up Asako. At CMX, it was her choice of titles that turned me around about the imprint. Until then, CMX was a company I skipped over when looking at manga titles. But in its last few years, CMX came out with a lot of fun, quirky titles. They really appealed to me in ways many of the more popular, mainstream titles did not. And a lot of these titles were appropriate for tween/middle schoolers, which is a difficult age to find books for. I know from experience. It was nice to have a publisher that filled that gap with books that could appeal to them but to older audiences as well. I know Asako will do well at Tokyopop and will continue to find us good, fun books to read again.

ICv2 also spoke with Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, the Senior Editor at Tokyopop about rescuing some of the CMX licenses. She brought up the hit and miss record Tokyopop has had with license rescues and some of the issues associated with it, such as dealing with retailers and what to do about translations. While I can see these things being an issue with some of the incomplete, long running titles such as Swan and Eroica With Love, but CMX has a batch of licenses that had either just started coming out, or never got the chance. If Tokyopop wanted to look at rescues, this is the place to start. I’d love to see Tokyopop beef up its tween titles again, since so many of them went OOP when Kodansha took their licenses back. My Darling Mis Bancho and Stolen Hearts were fun and charming tween titles that only had 1-2 volumes released. I know this is my wishful thinking, but I’d love to see these continue.

Other titles that I think would fit in with Tokyopop’s catalog are 51 Ways to Save Her, Nadeshiko Club, and Nyankoi!. 51 Ways to Save Her has that disaster/post apocalyptic vibe that fits with some of their older titles. And it’s only 5 volumes complete, so it’s a small investment. Nadeshiko Club is a crafty title like VB Rose and is only 7 volumes. NyanKoi! is the title I think is most like Tokyopop’s catalog, being a harem title with cat gods,cat allergies and curses. It’s only 3 volumes so far and is ongoing, but would be a perfect fit.

While I would really love to see these titles rescued, I also can’t wait to see what Asako will be bringing us in the future. She has such a knack for picking the cute, quirky and fun titles, I know she’ll be finding some great hidden treasures. I might even start buying Tokyopop titles regularly again!

Tech Friday: Nothing Changes

Viz has been hyping changes lately. Back in July, at SDCC, they promised big changes for Shonen Jump. Two weeks ago, they started hinting at “big changes” coming “soon”. Those “big changes” have finally been revealed. Shonen Jump will have some exclusive online manga that only subscribers can access, and they will be selling manga through an iPad app.  Whoo. Big changes. Yeah….uh, no. There is nothing really big about these announcements, nor are they any real changes.

Continue reading Tech Friday: Nothing Changes

Shonen Jump November 2010

The countdown continues to the “big changes” promised for Shonen Jump. This issue is more of the same. At only 280 pages, it was a fast read, especially with most the titles being in big action scenes without a lot of reading necessary. The magazine has settled in to have all the TV and video game tie-in updates at the beginning before getting into the manga, which starts with the preview title.

It’s the second chapter of Genkaku Picasso. When last we left Picasso, he was just told by his guardian angel Chiaki that in order to stay alive he had to help people, but he has no idea how. A glance at a classmate reveals a dark aura that translates into a surreal scene under Piccaso’s pencil. He starts following this classmate, Sugiura, to try and find the meaning of the picture. Trying to figure it out, he and Chiaki get sucked into the picture, where they start to learn the truth. I’m starting to enjoy this title more. I wasn’t sure I was going to at the beginning, but this chapter really intrigued me. I’m now even more interested in seeing how it’s resolved. It will make or break if I buy the first volume.

Bleach is next, continuing the fight between Nelliel and Nnoitora and Szayelaporro and Renji and Uryu. The truth about what happened between Nel and Nnoitora is revealed, and Pesche and Dondochakka show themselves to not necessarily to be the goofballs that they first played at being. They take on Szayelaporro themselves as Renji and Uryu are getting walked all over. I hope Szayelaporro finds out how much of a bitch payback can be. I wasn’t too thrilled about the way the last chapter ended, however, if the reason for Nel changing back to a little kid is because of what I think it is, and not just to get Ichigo back in the fight, then I can forgive it. I’m almost interested in Bleach again. I loved Nel’s second transformation, but you might call me biased, being a Capricorn myself. If things go as I hope they will, Bleach might be able to win back some love from me.

Ultimo is up next with its single chapter. Yamato, trying to understand Iruda better has gotten himself stabbed by Jealousy, but gets some surprising help from the very person he is trying to stop. Dunstan appears and promises to help Yamato anytime he’s in trouble. He is looking forward to their final confrontation, or at least Ultimo’s. If there was any doubt about the inspiration for Dunstan, those doubts are dispelled in this chapter. I don’t care much for the meddling from Dunstan, but the shadow of doubt that his actions cast on Ultimo’s loyalty, actually all of the karakuris might be interesting. Or it might lead to a bad plot twist. Only time will tell.

The battle continues in One Piece,and the tide seems to be turning against the pirates. Sengoku prepared well, but no one is giving up. Whitebeard still has a suprise up his sleave that gets the pirates out of the water and into the plaza where Ace is, but there are still the Three Admirals in their way, and Garp who finally steps in. Luffy is getting the crap beat out of him, as he has no where near the power he needs to face off against the Three Admirals, but he absolutely refuses to give up. Here we are seeing where Luffy’s greatest strength is becoming his weakness as well. His devotion to family and friends has served him well up to now, but his determination to save Ace is making him make reckless decisions. He keeps getting back into the fight even though there’s no way he can win. He has always scraped by before, but I don’t see it happening this time. It’s going to take more than spirit, determination and talk to save Ace, and Luffy just doesn’t have what it takes. I also find myself wondering if Ace can be saved. For some reason, this battle feels different than the others. I think it would be shame though. I don’t think the world of One Piece should be without a decendant of Gold Roger.

Naruto finishes off the issue, with Sasuke and Kakashi preparing to go at it before Naruto interrupts. It’s the meeting that we’ve been waiting volumes for. Both words and blows are exchanged and what’s said isn’t surprising. Naruto and Sasuke must fight to resolve their friendship and save Konoha from Sasuke, who believes its distruction is the only way to redeem the Uchiha. Sasuke talks big, but you have to wonder if any of Naruto’s words got through to him. It was nice to see him thinking about what everyone has said to him about dealing with Sasuke before he arrives. But enough with the Sakura trying to kill Sasuke. Not only does she not have the power, she doesn’t have the will. In a way, you can see that her friendship and feelings for Sasuke aren’t strong enough to do what must be done. Just killing Sasuke isn’t the answer. It doesn’t stop the cycle of hatred, which is Naruto’s ultimate goal.

Well, that’s it for this issue. Next issue should have the “big announcement” that Viz touted at SDCC earlier this year. Is it the same one that was touted on Twitter only a week or two ago? I’m of that opinion. Otherwise why put it off? The only other things that would cause an announcement to be put off would be a license or online announcement, and neither of those are the “game changers” they claimed it would be. The only real game changing announcement they could make would be a legal aggregator site of say, all Viz titles to be read online for a fee (ex. subscription), but I doubt they could pull that off. We should know soon enough though.

Manga News, Reviews and Commentary