This Week In Manga 3/6-3/12/10

One Piece Exceeds 3 Million

The print run for the newest volume of One Piece has been reported to be 3 MILLION copies.  That’s right, 3 million.  As the post points out, that’s even more copies than the Japanese edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which previous held the record for largest print run of a first edition.  That’s quite an accomplishment, especially for a comic.  American publishers can only dream of print runs like this.  What’s really sad though, is how under appreciated One Piece is in the US.  It should on the NYT list ever week with Naruto and Bleach!  Viz is doing a good job of making the manga available with their 3-in-1 for the early volumes and the catch-up to the Japanese releases.

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Digital Review: Rin-Ne Volume 3

This set of chapters starts out stumbling under the weight of more “been there, done that”, but manages to shake some of it off by the end, leaving a volume of work that is at least palatable.

By Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Comedy
Price: $9.99/Free Online (Chapters 19-28)
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy This Book

Chapter 19 starts out with another typical shtick of Takahashi’s; the rival love interest. Every one of her romantic comedies has one, all the way back to Urusei Yatsura, and Tsubasa Jumonji is right out of that boiler plate.  He tries to look cool and in control, but in reality he’s just a bumbling fool.  He’s ineffectual as a exorcist, his soul dust only causing people and spirits to cough, but not get rid of them.  Of course, he fell in love with Sakura when they were children.  Sakura was nice to him after he transferred to her school for a few days, and it was enough that now he’s declaring his love for her, and treating Rinne as his rival.

These chapters also introduce the damashigami.  They are rogue shinigami that take the life of a person who isn’t meant to die to fill their quota.  I found them to be an interesting development.  I prefer there to be some sort of antagonist outside the group rather than the infighting that usually runs through Takahashi’s romantic comedies, or a new random ghost-villain every few chapters.  It’s good to have a reason for all the rivals to come together and fight a common foe rather than each other all the time.

I still get a “meh” feeling about this series.  The introduction of the rival is another typical plot device that feels very tired to me.  Tsubasa just screams Mendo to me so much, it’s not even funny.  However, I did enjoy the stand alone stories in this volume, especially the final one with the “ghost” haunting the art students.  These chapters play out as a nice little mystery, with an ending you might not expect.  The quality of the stand alone stories are improving, and if a plot other than Rinne’s poorness is introduced, it could break up the “ghost of the week” feel the first two volumes had.  It’s enough for me have hope for further improvement of the series as a whole, and to keep reading.

Why Not?

I was reading the comments on this post at Anime Vice.  Most of the debate over justification for scanlations didn’t interest me, as I’ve seen them all before, but one comment did sort of bother me.  Fellow Manga Village reviewer and blogger John Thomas had joined the conversation and made a simple statement.  “Why not just learn to read Japanese?”  It was the response to this that made me go “Huh?”

I have to confess, that is the one answer I loathe seeing in scanlation debates, and it appears every time.

He goes on to give excuses of no time, too expensive, too difficult, etc., which then steers the conversation toward learning Japanese.

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This Week in Manga 2/27-3/5/10

And the Battle Rages On

The debate over scanlations continued this week, coming out of the brouhaha over Nick Simmon’s “homage” (his words) to Bleach.  It grew out of the post by Deb Aoki at, where comments exploded, with readers of scanlations coming to scans defense, while anti-scans tried to convince them otherwise.  This “debate” led to a post on Anime Vice by a guest writer who tried to defend his reason for reading scans.  More debate continues in the comments there as well.  Watching people’s reactions to the scanlation debate has been interesting to say the least.  It’s like discussing religion, politics, or “dubs vs subs” in the anime community.  There is no real debate going on, because there are two groups with a set of beliefs that they are a prepared to defend to the death it seems.  It’s become a shouting match with both sides making points and counterpoints to each other’s arguments.  So, it becomes like talking to a wall, with neither side gaining ground or able to claim victory.  While it does appear to be a wasted effort, these debates can be useful.  You don’t argue with a fanatic to change their mind, you argue in the hopes that a fence-sitter, or newbie who doesn’t know better will see your arguments and be persuaded by them.  That’s what makes all the frustration and sometimes anger you feel worth it.

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Tech Friday: Japanese E-Mags to come to US

logo_solmareE-books have been in the news a lot lately, what with the iPad, Amazon vs Publishers, and the Nintendo DSi XL all relating to e-books or e-readers in someway.  But none of this news has really had much of an impact on manga readers except to build up hope that we might one days see manga on these platforms.  Well, finally news comes from Japan through mobile manga provider NTT Solmare, that 3 publishers will not only be bringing out manga magazines for mobile devices in Japan, but that they plan to release these for the US as well.

These magazines won’t just be re-releases of previously printed material, as most mobile manga has been.  These will have new titles premiering on the mobile platform.  NTT Solmare has released some mobile manga already, but only on the Apple apps store for iPhone/iTouch users only.  This new inititive intends to reach out to other mobile platforms and to e-readers such as the Kindle.

True Forbidden FairytalesWhat really makes this announcement exciting is some of the creators that are being tapped for the debut.  One of the creators is Sakura Kinoshita.  I love her work even through it hasn’t done so well over here.  She’s only had two titles licensed so far, Mythical Detective Loki Ragnorok and tactics.  Both were licensed by ADV Manga and only had two volumes released before they stopped publishing.  tactics was picked up by Tokyopop, but has been a slow seller.  To get to read a new series from her would be totally awesome!  And the title of one of the proposed magazines, Takeshobo’s Shin Kindan Grimm Dowa (Grimm’s True Forbbiden Fairy Tales) sounds like it will be full of cool titles as well.  I love the Japanese take on fairy tales.

This is an announcement to really look forward to.

The Truth Is Out There…

conspiracy-theoristsYou know you’ve hit it being online when you’re thought to be part of some big conspiracy.  I’ve always wondered about conspiracy theorists.  Why do they feel the need to concoct some big, elaborate theory or have some big shadow corporation controlling everything?  There are people who believe NASA’s trips to the moon were hoaxes (Mythbusters disproved their theories).  And there are people who believe the US government was behind the 911 attacks (yeah, like our government could co-ordinate something so well planned and keep it a secret.)   And now, manga bloggers are in cahoots with publishers to bring down the scanalation community.

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Review: Nightschool: The Weirn Books Volume 1

Schools may lock up the the night, but class is in session for an entirely different set of students.  In the Nightschool, vampires, werewolves, and weirns (a particular breed of witches) learn the fundamentals of everything from calculus to spell casting.  Alex is a young weirn whose education has always been handled through homeschooling, but circumstances seem to be drawing her closer to the Nightschool.  Will Alex manage to weather the dark forces gathering?

Nightschool 1Nightschool: The Weirn Books Volume 1
By Svetlana Chmakova
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★★

[May Contain Spoilers]

Mystery, magic, and a little mayhem have always made for a good combination in a story.  Nightschool: The Weirn Books provides all of these elements in a way to make an intriguing world and a great cast of characters to live in it.

The world of Nightschool is one divided between the normal, human world of the day, and the magical, supernatural-filled world of the night.  As is usual for this type of world, the daytime world is unaware of the nighttime world, while the reverse is the opposite.  The Nighttime world is filled with the usual suspects as well.  Vampires, witches, demons and seers all roam the world of this first volume.  But there are some new creatures of the night as well.  Rippers are vampires that have become nothing but shells of their former selves and crave blood for the touch of life it gives.  And of course weirns, a witch with a different kind of familiar.  It’s the latter of these that is the focus of the story.

Alex Treveny is a weirn.  She lives with her older sister Sarah, who works as the Night Keeper at the Nightschool.  Alex, however, is home schooled, for reasons that are left unclear.  She works on her assignments while Sarah is at work with her Astral, a black and white smokey-like creature.  The Astral has no name, and acts like an extension of Alex, but is still an independent character.  She can be like a conscious to Alex, but also easily bribed.  The two work together to accomplish things such as getting Alex over a tall fence, and the Astral seems to be aware of things about Alex that even she herself isn’t.

Because there is something strange about Alex.  A hooded figure seems to be shadowing her.  This is just one of the mysteries this first volume presents.  Along with the shadowy figure come powers that Alex isn’t aware she possesses, and a prophecy of her and others like her bringing down disaster on the world.  There’s also the not just disappearance, but erasure, of her sister, seemingly from existence.  All traces of Sarah disappear both physically as well as from people’s minds, until it’s only Alex that has any memory of her.  Could these two events be tied together?

Part of the strength of Nightschool‘s story is the characters.  Alex is a strong female lead.  She is serious and determined, though for some reason there are attempts to make her seem tough, which I don’t really see as necessary.  Alex stands just fine on her own strengths.  We don’t need other characters tell us that she’s tough on the outside, but really a softie on the inside.  Sarah, Alex’s sister is more of a ditz, but obviously really cares for her.  She adds some humor in this first volume, with her inability to get up, running an anime/manga club at the school, and her encounter with Mr. Roi, one of the teachers.  Hunters, which the Night folk seem to fear, are humans that patrol the night and protect other humans from the Night.  A group of them are introduced as well as a seer, and they become connected to Alex and prophecy in more ways than one.

Nightschool: The Weirn Books is a shining example of what OEL can and should become.  It has a well written story that hooks the reader in right from the beginning and builds on it creating a strong foundation for the series.  The mix of silly and serious moments balance each other out to make an entertaining drama that doesn’t drag or feel overdone.  Svetlana’s art is that perfect style of feeling like manga but definitely being of her own design.  I especially enjoy the look of the Astrals.  They look so completely non-human, and yet are still very expressive. Definitely check this series out.  It’s a keeper.

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.

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