Yokai, the ghosts and monsters of Japanese folklore, appear alot in manga, but how often do they get to be one of the main characters? This list features titles where they yokai is the protagonist of the manga, and not just a monster to be beat up before the hero moves on.
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.
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.
Forget Godzilla. Forget the giant beasties karate-chopped into oblivion by endless incarnations of Ultraman, Kamen Rider, and the Power Rangers. Forget the Pocket Monsters. Forget Sadako from The Ring and that creepy all-white kid from The Grudge. Forget everything you know about Japanese tales of terror. The yokai are the spookiest Japanese creatures you’ve never heard of, and it’s high time they got their due.
As high sciety’s social calendar opens up and the Season draws to a close, London is gripped by fear. Someone has taken to stalking women of the night and painting the town red…in their blood. But while the name on everyone’s lips is “Jack the Ripper,” the name on Queen Vitoria’s lips is Phantomhive. Summoned to London to clean up the mess created by this madman, young earl Ciel Phantomhive arrives with his extraordinary butler Sebastian, at his side to pour him tea, polish his silver, and …investigate a serial killer!
By Yana Tosobo
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
The second volume of Black Butler starts off as light-hearted as the first. It opens by showing us a day in the life of Sebastian, as he deals with idiotic servants and a caprious master who off-handedly mentions that several orphans will be visiting…the next day. Sebastian’s internal dialog throughout this chapter is just hilarious as he tries to keep his cool with each new catastrophe interrupting his attempts to prepare for the visit. And his stress-reliever at like this is just awesome. Cats. He loves them, and where he comes from, they don’t have pets like cats. I love the image of the pets they do have. Even though I enjoyed the first volume, this chapter cemented Black Butler as a must have title.
Things start to get more serious after this chapter, as Ciel is called by “her” to look into the murders that have been happening in the East End of London, Jack the Ripper. It’s a slow build up as the search for him starts. Ciel’s aunt, known as Madame Red is introduced as is her friend, Lau, the British Branch Manager of the Chinese trading company Kong Rong. We also meet one of Ciel’s underworld contacts, a very odd man known as the Undertaker, a rather appropriate contact considering the case. Sebastian gets some payback here, as he engages in some misdirection that leads to Ciel being forced to attend a ball dressed as a girl as part of the investigation. He is a devil after all. The volume ends with Jack’s identity being revealed, and it’s quite a twist. There is more to the killings that just being random murders.
I’m still really enjoying Black Butler. There is still a good amount of humor, even without the comedy relief servants. The wicked humor between Sebastian and Ciel balances well with the darker drama that is growing in the series. And Sebastian’s moments with cats really make me smile. But when it get serious, it doesn’t hold anything back. Even though we don’t get to see the scene of the last murder, we can tell from Ciel’s reaction that it is truely horrifying.
There are some nice extras that round out the volume, including a bonus scene that shows Ciel’s “training” to act like a proper lady, a look behind the scene of making the manga with Toboso, and a picture of the cast as in a medical drama. And doctor just might be needed with the promise of a serious fight coming up in the next volume. I look forward to seeing Sebastian in action after the small glimpses we’ve gotten so far.
Ordinary high school student Mai Taniyama is drawn into the world of ghosts and spirits when her school hires Kazuya Shibuya of Shibuya Psychic Research to investigate alleged haunting of an old school building. After accidentally breaking a very expensive camera and injuring Shibuya’s assistant Linn, Mai becomes his assistant. They are soon joined by a Shinto Miko, a Buddhist monk, a psychic medium and a Catholic priest. The school wants to be very sure there are no spirits to interrupt the buildings demolition.
Ghost Hunt is based on a series of light novels originally published in the late 80s to mid 90’s. It follows the cases of Shibuya Psychic Research as they investigate alleged hauntings and find the cause, whether it is natural or otherwise. Of course, more often than not, the hauntings will be real.
The first volume introduces all the characters that will become the ensemble cast for the rest of the series. The case of the supposedly haunted school building is really secondary to the characters introductions. We first meet Mai, a seemingly normal high school girl who is blackmailed into being Shibuya’s assistant. She gets pushed around by him, but she doesn’t take it meekly. She happily pushes back. She fairly smart and makes a good, strong female lead. She does find Shibuya handsome, as do all the females in the series, but his less than friendly personality and narcissistic behavior mostly cancels that out. She even gives him the nickname of Naru-chan, which is quickly picked up by the rest of the cast. Despite that, she does seem to develop feelings for him.
Shibuya, the aforementioned Naru-chan, is the president of SPR, Shibuya Psychic Research. He is only 16 years-old, yet is very learned about the supernatural and can read and writing several languages, including English. His personality is rather cold and indifferent, and he seems more concerned about getting the job done than other people’s feelings. Though, he does show to be surprisingly compassionate at the resolution of both these first two cases. He tends to look down at people, and has a very high opinion of himself, though he does seem to like Mai, as he asks her to work for him part-time. He is a ghost hunter, using technology to find and confirm spirit activity, though again, he surprises everyone again with another skill.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by four exorcists. Ayako Matsuzaki is a self-proclaimed miko with a bit of an attitude. Takigawa Houshou is a monk from Koya Mountain with long hair and pieced ears who is “taking a break”. John Brown is a Catholic priest from Australia with a Kansai accent who is also an exorcist, a Masako Hara is a psychic medium who also has her own TV show. They all start out competing with each other, and especially with Shibuya, and egos are checked as they go through the first case. By the second case though, they are working together more as a team. The second case is much more serious, and everyone’s skills are needed to keep the ghosts at bay and protect a little girl and her aunt from harm.
The stories are more psychological horror than gore. No one is killed, though characters do get hurt, especially Mai. In both stories, Mai is knocked out and has a dream about the current case and that features a kinder, gentler Naru-chan. This Dream-Naru-chan helps her with these dreams which end up contributing to the case, suggesting there might be more to Mai than we, or even she, knows.
While the stories are fun ghost tales, the real heart of this title is the characters. It’s a really good ensemble cast that works well together. There isn’t a shirking violet among them, and they are all ready to take up the challenge, whether it’s Naru-chan’s sharp tongue, or facing a vengeful spirit. Even Mai, without any power or knowledge, is ready to jump into the fray, usually without thinking of the consequences. There is also a sort-of love triangle being set up between her, Naru-chan and Masako. There are hints of feelings between them, but it’s keep to the background. It never becomes the focus of the story, which is as it should be.
Ghost Hunt has started out as a good title with strong, entertaining characters, and some eerie ghost stories. While ghosts or spirits aren’t always the culprits, there is usually some sort of paranormal explanation for the phenomena they encounter. I definitely recommend this title if you like some mystery, ghost tales, and lots of good character interaction.
We’ve all heard urban legends–stories that we tell one another late at night., Just to make us cringe and freak ourselves out. WE dismiss these stories as just plain old creepy. But what happens when they become real…? Enter Detective Aso Daisuke. When he isn’t dealing with cheating spouses, con artists or his ero-manga collection, he dives deep into the intense fear of these horrors. With his first case–the man under the bed–can he stop a disturbed killer with a blood axe?
I’ve always loved stories about myths and legends, and urban legends are the mythology of modern-day. We don’t believe in witches, vampires or werewolves. Instead we have axe murders, men with hook-hands, and ladies with slit-mouths. So, I was intrigued by the premise of Hanako and the Terror of Allegory which looks at what happens when these legends become real, and fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed.
In Hanako and the Terror of Allegory, urban legends are just that, legends that get passed around by word of mouth. But every once in a while, a person can hear a story and start to believe it. As they believe it more, it becomes more real. The person is then possessed by the allegory. To be honest, the stories aren’t really spine tinglers, but I still found them to be entertaining. The first chapter with the man under the bed was pretty cliché, but the second with slit-mouthed woman had a nice twist at the end, as did the final story with the human-faced fish. I liked seeing each legend in action. The stories written for them were competently done. While it was fun to see the monsters in action, it’s the humanity in the stories that really make them work. As Hanako says, the allegories can’t exist without humans, and it’s the human elements of the stories, and their resolutions that I found to be the most interesting.
The same goes for most of the characters. I didn’t really care for Kanae. Just as the cover shows, her only purpose seems to be someone for Aso to rescue. She is useless for most of the volume, and even though she acknowledges her uselessness, I still didn’t really like her. Hopefully things will improve for her in the next volume. Aso on the other hand, really drew my attention, especially in the last story, where we learned more about him. He became more than just a porn-reading loser. And Hanako’s thoughts at the end of the Human-faced fish really stirred my curiosity. Hanako herself had her moments. Her talk with Kanae about the nature of allegories made her fascination with technology all the more interesting. Though, the use of that same technology against the allegories somehow lessen the effect of the endings of the stories. I don’t know, but it felt like a crutch to use computers to stop the allegories.
The art is serviceable. It’s fairly average in the portrayal of the humans, but the monsters are the show of this title. Every one of them is creepy and sometimes downright disturbing, particularly the human-faced fish. I also really liked the man under the bed. He was really creepy with the one eye staring out of the darkness. There is also some mild fanservice, porn magazine covers not withstanding. But it’s kept to a minimum, and I think I missed a panel or two of them the first read through.
I’m going to keep reading Hanako and the Terror of Allegory despite, or perhaps because it isn’t really a horror title like say Hellsing. It’s more of the psychological horror that I prefer, and I just can’t get enough of its folktales, yokai and urban legends. If you’re looking for a light read with just a touch of the shiver factor, then check this title out.
Comic Con East Con’t
Saturday at NYCC/NYAF brought more manga panels. First was Yen Press. They didn’t have any confirmations of Japanese licenses that they could announce, but then did have two new OEL titles. Staying with the Young Adult titles, they will be releasing adaptations of Soulless: An Alexa Tarabotti Novel and Wizard and Witch, another James Patterson novel. The latter will have Sveltlana Chmakova of Nightschool doing the art. They also announced they would be publishing the final volume of With the Light, which includes material by Keiko Tobe from before she passed away. Yen also announced they would be releasing manga digitally on the iPad exclusively. I wasn’t impressed with that bit of news. Attendees’ questions included license rescues and slow release times. Kuri-ousity has full coverage and manga.about.com has details.
Vertical was next with Marketing Director Ed Chavez leading the panel. They had two license announcements with a third in the works but not confirmed yet. The first was Book of Human Insects, a Osamu Tezuka title and the other is No Longer Human, another Furuya Usamaru title. Both deal with characters who try not to be themselves and have some pretty heavy themes. I agree with one twitter comment I saw. How about some lighthearted titles? Adult drama is nice and all, but how about something to make me smile instead of put down to find a smile? Veritcal is also going to start releasing books for children. I guess Chi is doing well by them. Of course the perennial question of a Princess Knight license came up in the question session. Vertical had no digital announcements, though they mentioned Astro Boy app for iPhone which features several Tezuka titles and is completely pointless for the non-apple fanboy. You can get full coverage of the panel at Kuri-ousity, and more details at manga.about.com.
He Giveth and He Taketh Away
A few days after NYCC/NYAF, Vertical had the sad task of announcing that one of their license announcements at the con was premature. Due to a miscommunication, the Furuya Usamaru title No Longer Human is actually still in negotiations and not slated for publication. I certainly hope this error doesn’t affect Vertical’s negotiation with the licensor. While No Longer Human isn’t a title I’m looking forward to, I don’t want to see a good, well-meaning company like Vertical to be punished for it.
Knows No Bounds
Tokyopop continues its own digital strategy by getting its titles on other publisher’s platforms. First it was Sony and it’s e-reader, then it was Zinio, Overdrive and Comixology. Now, you can get some Tokyopop titles on DMP’s eManga.com. 12 of their BL titles from their BLU line are now available for purchase for less than half their cover price. Of course these aren’t available for download. You have to read them online and it won’t work with any device that can’t use flash (ie iPhone/iPad/smart phones, etc). I have to say I do like that Tokyopop is getting their titles spread around on lots of different platforms. And it seems that they are thinking about the audience as they choose the platform. BLU titles on eManga is perfect, since most of DMP titles are BL titles as well.
NYT Best Seller List
More changes abound on this week’s list. First, Twilight continues to hang on to the Hardback list, falling to the bottom at #10. And there’s a new entry on the Paperback list. Del Rey’s adaptation of Dean Kootz’s Odd Is On Our Side, illustrated by OEL manga creator Queenie Chan jumps in at #1. Over on the Manga list, the orange-clad ninja takes back his crown from the pretty boy countries as Naruto vol 49 debuts at #1. The yokai take over #2 with Black Bird vol 6. It’s futuristic card games with Yu-Gi-Oh GX vol 5 at #3 and those pretty boy countries in Hetalia Axis Powers vol 1 fall back to #4. Pirates run wild at #5 with One Piece vol 55, and it’s flowery love at #6 with Dengeki Daisy vol 2. The winged-friends of Maximum Ride vol 3 fall back 2 to #7, while flower stoppers debut at #8 with Stepping On Roses vol 3. It’s not dancing vampire pastries, but Dance in the Vampire Bund vol 8 falling 7 to #9 and the crazy ninjas of Berserk vol 34 also fall 7 to #10. One half of the list is Viz debut releases with all the usual suspects taking their usual spots. It’s good though to see Tokyopop, Seven Seas, and Dark Horse hold on to spots after the Viz invasion. With a small release list this week we’ll have to see if any of the non-Viz titles can climb back up, or if any of the usual one-week wonders can hold on longer.
This Week at Manga Village
Ignoring the digital world has finally become impossible for the comics world. Over the last several months, mostly after the debut of the Apple iPad, comic publishers have been announcing their digital plans for the future. The big two, Marvel and DC have put their faith in Apple and Comixology. releasing apps and titles through these platforms. At the New York Comic Con, two more publishers, more relevent to manga readers, have announced more of their digital plans.
Dark Horse Comics announced their digital strategy at their panel on Friday. Instead of going through Comixology, they are creating their own platform for selling their books. This strategy is supposed to be available across all platforms and on the web. For the iPad/iPhone, they will have an app that will connect to their platform, and therefore bypass the Apple censors. For the most part, I agree with Dark Horse’s strategy. Making their titles available on any device, be it a smart phone, computer or tablet is the smart way to go. With most American comics being in color, I can understand skipping the e-book readers such as the Kindle or the Nook. I think it’s funny though, that Dark Horse has turned around so fast. It was only a year or so ago that Michael Gombos, Asian director of licensing for Dark Horse was ridiculing the Kindle and requests for digital comics. As of now, they have no plans for their manga/manhwa titles to go digital. While I can understand the difficulty with manga, I wonder why they aren’t at least trying with their manhwa. Yen Press doesn’t seem to have any difficulty with their manhwa licenses in getting them online. And it could really help their manhwa books to make them available to a wider audience.
Yen Press also had some new digital announcements. At SDCC, they announced Yen Plus, their manga magazine was going online and would be available on the web, so any web-enabled device could read it, but it wasn’t available for download. This is understandable. The magazine is supposed to give people a chance to try out titles so they will be the collected books later. At NYCC, they announced their intention to release an iPad app and online storefront for the downloading of entire volumes of manga and manhwa. It is a completely proprietary platform, with the app being an iPad exclusive. For now, they are starting with their OEL and some manhwa titles (probably the ones already available in Yen Plus). Volumes will be priced at $8.99 which averages out to $1.49 a chapter. Kurt Hassler is said to have emphasised the importance of buying from the Yen Press store, to get leverage with Japanese publishers to show the value of digital distribution.
As much as I would like to support Yen Press and their digital distribution, I do subscribe to Yen Plus digital, I can’t say I agree with this new strategy. Both Dark Horse comics and Yen Press are using proprietary platforms, which I think is completely the wrong direction to go. An open platform that can accommodate as many readers as possible is the way to build an audience. Dark Horse is at least promising to be cross-platform so PC, Mac, and any smart phone running Android, iOS, or Windows Mobile that is web enabled will all be able to read their comics. And I thought Yen Press understood that, as Yen Plus can be read across platforms as well. Making their first download app, not just iOS, but aniPad exclusive is a big mistake. Walling the manga up in Apple’s dungeon isn’t going to get people reading it. The iPad may be selling well now, but it’s not going to be well enough to make Japanese Publishers sit up. A look at the way things are going with iOS and Android seems to be a repeat of the Windows/Mac wars of 1990’s, and we all know who won that. With Apple trying to be more and more like Big Brother, it won’t be long before the shiny newness wears off, especially with Android tablets starting to come out, the first of which is the Galaxy Tab. Really, how can going with a platform that rejected more than 30% of manga submitted be a good thing.
Don’t lock manga up in the dark, dank dungeon of Apple. Let it flourish in the light of open platforms, or at least platforms that don’t care about controlling everything you see and do.
Halloween is a favorite time of the year for kids, not only because they get to dress up in costumes and wear masks and makeup, but also because of their second favorite activity of the year (right behind Christmas), Trick or Treating! So, in anticipation of that big day at the end of the month, here are some manga that might try to trick or treat you.
Hellsing, a secret organization also known as the Royal Order of Protestant Knights, has protected the United Kingdom and the English crown since ancient days from supernatural threats. Whether it is vampires or the mindless ghouls they create, the Hellsing Agency is ready to take on the fight local police are unable to handle.
It was a slow news week for manga, as companies and bloggers alike prepared for NYCC/NYAF. But there was still a few items that flew across the internet, including news about Del Rey, Kodansha, license announcements and of course, the first day of NYCC/NYAF.