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.

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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.

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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.

This Week in Manga: 10/16-10/29/10

Another weekend sick meant missing a week of news. Whatever is going around really sucks. My whole department at work was coughing and sneezing all week. Hopefully this post will make up for my absence. We’ve got new licenses, movie plans, the return of aggregators, “big” changes, more NYCC/NYAF, and some trick or treating from around the mangasphere.

Continue reading This Week in Manga: 10/16-10/29/10

Tech Friday: E-Reader Roundup

With the holidays rushing towards us (I saw Christmas trees at K-mart across from the Halloween costumes!!), retailers are pushing out their announcements for the coming shopping season.

Amazon started with the announcement that they would be adding a lending feature to the Kindle. Kindle owners will now be able to lend their books out to other Kindle owners for a two-week period. During that time, the book will not be available to the original purchaser, and the book can only be to one person at a time, one time only. Not all books will have this feature enabled as it’s up to the publisher to enable it, just like the audio feature on the Kindle. Of course, the Kindle is only playing catch-up by adding this feature. The Barnes and Noble Nook has had it from day one. But with the e-reader market getting more competitive, the Kindle will have to do everything possible to keep itself at the top.

Especially with announcements like the Nook Color. Earlier this week, Barnes and Noble announced they would be releasing a reader tablet for the holidays. It has a full color, android-based touch screen e-reader. It’s 8.1 inches tall with a 7 inch touch screen, 8GB storage with a micro SD slot expanding it to 32GB, built-in WiFi and a promised 8 hours of battery time. It will also include a full web browser, free word and chess games, Pandora music streamed over WiFi and Quick Office to create, edit, and view Microsoft Office documents. It will retail at $249.00

Barnes & Noble will also release Nook Developer, which will allow developers to create android apps for the Nook Color. They are asking for apps that are “reader-centric” and have “engaging content”. Apps will start to become available next year. The Nook Color will also feature in store exclusives, and has some kid-friendly features that includes expanding text, zooming pictures and the device can read the story out loud.

Of the two announcements, the Nook Color is definitely the more exciting. It expands the e-reader into a more versatile device without losing sight of what its primary purpose is; to read e-books. The Nook Color fills a gap people have been feeling since the iPad came out. This device could be the bridge that a lot of people are looking for, that don’t want a big, unwieldy device that comes with a lot of baggage like the iPad, but is more than just a scaled down computer like a netbook or limited like the current generation e-readers. Of course, nothing’s for sure until it’s in the wild, but, if I were to put my money on an e-reader device right now, I would go with the Nook Color. It has the greatest potential. I hope publishers, especially manga publishers will see that potential too.

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