Cute Pups

Cute Pups: Canine Friends and Accessories
By Chie Hayano
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Craft
Price: $14.95
Rating: ★★★★★

Even…More…Puppies!!!  It’s like “The Littlest Pet Shop” for adults!

Even though by nature I’m a cat person, I can’t resist a puppy.  They are just so cute and cuddly!  Vertical must know how irresistable puppies are, as they release their second craft book of little dog making: Cute Pups.

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Review: Yokaiden Volume 1

Yokai…Japanese spirits.  Most people fear them, and a few people even hunt them, thinking they are horrible monsters to be destroyed at all costs.  But young Hamachi wants to be friends with them!  He sees them as mischievous creatures that could co-exist peacefully with humans if only given a chance.  When his grandmother dies under mysterious circumstances, Hamachi journeys into the Yokai realm.  Along the way, he encounters an ogre who punishes truant children, and angry water spirit, and a talking lantern.  Will Hamachi be able to find his grandmother’s killer, or will he be lost forever in another world?

Yokaiden Volume 1
By Nina Matsumoto
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: 13+
Genre: Supernatural/Humor
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★★½☆

The plot of Yokaiden sounds very generic.  Orphaned hero goes off to another realm filled with monsters to avenge his grandmother’s death.  But Yokaiden turns out to be much more than it’s basic plot.  It’s a showcase for many of the strange and sometimes playful, sometimes dangerous creatures that make up Japanese folklore.  The interplay with these beings often overshadows the plot, and its clueless main character.

Hamachi is your typical happy, often oblivious protagonist.  Despite losing his parents at  young age, and being cared for by his harsh grandmother, he’s a good-natured and obedient boy.  He has a bit of a temper, but his anger is very short lived.  He gets angry at a Ronin Samurai who comes to the village to offer his services as a yokai killer, but just as quickly asks for forgiveness.  And I guess it could be determination to find his grandmother’s killer that he doesn’t really grieve for her death, other than a single outburst.  He really doesn’t have much of a personality outside of his yokai obsession.  I didn’t find him interesting at all, especially when compared to all the yokai he encounters.

It’s in his search to find the kappa he thinks could have killed his grandmother and the yokai realm that we get to see the wide range of yokai.  It’s these encounters that make up the high points of this volume.  Right after finding his grandmother dead, Hamachi runs in a Grime Licker and a Bean Washer.  Upon entering the forest where the entrance to the yokai realm is believed to be, he encounters all kinds of smaller yokai, such as the Shin-Rubber which trips people, and the Namahage, an ogre that skins the feet of delinquent children.  Inside, Hamachi first befriends a Tsukumo Gami, in the form of a paper lantern, is chased by a Chimera and meets another Tsukumo Gami, this time, a one-legged, one-eyed paper umbrella that has just come to life, and was once the property of Hamachi’s grandfather.  All of these encounters, and the short facts about them at the end of each chapter are what kept me interested in this volume.  Hamachi’s quest was just the vehicle to meeting all these interesting creatures.

Yokaiden isn’t a serious title.  There are touches of humor all through the volume, usually from Hamachi and his interactions with yokai. The kappa that he rescues at the beginning has some great sarcastic barbs that seem to go right over Hamachi’s head.  Many of the yokai he meets and tries to be friends with think he’s weird.  Little jokes are thrown in all over, such as Hamachi talking back to the narrator, or King Enma rising up with a portal to hell when Hamachi is looking for the portal to the yokai realm.  The villagers have their laughs too, such as the gossiping women who sound sympathetic to Hamachi’s hardships, but really don’t care, or the discussion the villagers get into about what kind of irony it is that Hamachi’s grandmother was killed by a yokai.

I liked Nina Matsumoto’s art.  It uses all the best elements from manga without going overboard.  There aren’t any chibis or sweat drops, but there are some starry looks, which aren’t so bad.  And the yokai all look great.  With so much variety, Matsumoto does a great job making them look different, not just from each other, but also from what we as westerners expect monsters to look like.

Overall, Yokaiden was a good time killer.  I loved seeing and reading about all the yokai, but the overall story of Hamachi and his quest to avenge his grandmother, not so much.  I didn’t really like the grandmother, and didn’t feel bad when she had died.  If you like yokai and enjoy a chuckle or two, then Yokaiden is worth the time.  If you’re looking for more than a light read, then this title isn’t for you.

Handcrafting Manga

I’m a very crafty person.  Starting when I was young, my mother taught me to embroider in order to keep me busy when I had to go with her to help by Great, Great Aunt who was blind and lived in a retirement home.  From there, I moved to knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, sewing and finally cross stitch.  I also love to cross my interests, so when Katherine Farmar asked on Twitter if anyone knew of a manga about knitting, it got me thinking.  Were there any crafty manga out there?

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This Week in Manga 10/24-10/30/09

It Sounded Like A Good Idea…

The announcement of Shojo Berry got a lot of people talking, and last week Deb Aoki of the Manga blog tried to get more info on it with an interview with Garett Boast.  Chris Butcher of the Comics 212 blog wasn’t impressed with what he heard.  Mainly he takes issue with the apparent lack of a business plan, or even any real forethought on the project.  Simon Jones of Icarus Publishing (NSFW) weighs in in the comments section, where there are some interesting comments about small publishing and licensing.  Personally, I still think it’s a worthy idea to per sue, but as a fan publication.  By fans, for fans.  Any thoughts of replacing Shojo Beat as a manga magazine a little too lofty I think.  But a homegrown mag with the articles and info that Shojo Beat provided with original manga by doujin/domestic creators would be worth the time and effort.  There’s nothing wrong with thinking big, as long as you start small.

Continue reading This Week in Manga 10/24-10/30/09

Wish List: Bloody Monday

I learned about this title from a review on a podcast of the live action j-drama tv series.  My husband and I watched the j-drama and enjoyed it a lot.  It’s 11 episodes and was filled with great action and dramatic scenes, and lots of unexpected twists to keep the story moving.  Having enjoyed the j-drama, I had to find out about the manga.

Bloody_Monday_mangaThe manga, complete at 11 volumes, is about Fujimaru Takagi, a second year high school student and member of the Newspaper Club.  Unknown to everyone but his father, the PSIA (Public Security Intelligence Agency) and the newspaper club, Fujimaru is also known as Falcon, a prodigy hacker who exposes corrupt people’s crimes to make them pay.  The series starts with Fujimaru being recruited by the PSIA to help them decode a memory stick that may have information on an incident in Russia where a segment of the population was killed off by a possible poison gas.  And that gas may be now in Japan.

The story follows Fujimaru as he gets pulled further into the investigation and conspiracy.  His father is accused of murdering his superior.  A teacher at his school is trying to stop him from finding out what’s on the chip.  His sister and friends are put in harms way to try and stop him from finding the truth and ending the threat.  There are conspiracies and religious fanatics, and plot twists to make any good mystery thriller proud.  Fujimaru is a great character, who gets pulled in even though he wants nothing to do with it, and just be a normal high school kid.  Both he and his friends react to the threats, the way any normal kid would.  They freak.

This title was published in Weekly Shonen Magazine by Kodansha and ended it’s run in December 2008.  But just recently, a second series was announced and it started again in Weekly Shonen Magazine last week under the name Bloody Monday Season 2: Pandora’s Box.  With the success of titles such as Monster and Death Note, Bloody Monday would be a great addition to Viz Media’s line up, and help bolster the sadly lacking mystery-thriller genre.

Read It If You Want It

Viz’s SigIkki website isn’t just an experiment in manga for mature readers.  Going to the site does more than let you read some great manga.  You, the reader, can make a difference in which manga will get published.  Your clicks and reviews can make all the difference in the world for a title seeing print.

In Japan, the fate of a manga is decided not just by circulation, but also by what the readers say.  Survey cards are checked and titles can live or die by what readers say in these.  Viz has taken this idea and applied it to the web.  The titles at SigIkki are not guaranteed to see a print edition unless enough people show interest through page views and reviews that readers can leave.  While this is a good idea for a small market as these Ikki titles will attract, that also means that your favorite title manga get a print edition unless YOU do something.

Just like pre-ordering, this is putting your money were your mouth is, just without so much of the risk.  Going to the site and reading chapters is easy, but if you really love a title, so much so that you want to see it in print, then put in a good word.  The editors give a lot of weight to reviews and comments left for titles.

And, just because a title gets a future solicitation, as many of the SigIkki titles seem to have at Amazon, that’s not really a guarantee of publication.  Ask Tokyopop about that.

This Week in Manga 10/17-10/23/09

Manga Publishers Go APE!

Even though APE, the Alternate Press Expo, is mostly for comics and graphic novels, a couple of manga publishers showed up to pawn some of their less mainstream wares.  Vertical, Inc. had a table there, with Ed Chavez hocking their books, and selling out titles left and right.  By the end of Sunday, the last report from him was Guin Saga manga and Black Jack v2-7 were all that was left.  Not bad!  Viz was there too, with titles from their Signature line, and reports from the floor sounded favorable to them.  They also had a panel on Sunday for their Ikki line.  Deb Aoki was on the floor both days reporting, so check out her twitter page if you don’t follow her already.

Continue reading This Week in Manga 10/17-10/23/09

I Can Has My Cat Loki?

Recently over at Anime News Network, artist Bettina Kurkoski was featured in their The Gallery column.  I read this, as I like Bettina’s work.  I really enjoyed her OEL manga, My Cat Loki, buying the volumes after reading the first volume on line.  Yes, I like it that much.  In the article was of course links to Bettina’s home page and Deviant Art page.  Of course I had to check those out.  In the updates of the Deviant Art page at the time, Bettina was asking about KA-BLAM, a printer that specializes in comic books.  She is doing this so her fans can finally get the rest of My Cat Loki.

I think this is so awesome, that Bettina is looking for ways to finish My Cat Loki for the fans.  Even though Tokyopop is giving some fans a chance to read the end of their favorite titles with their Wednesday online comics, it’s even cooler when the creator does this.  She’s already put out some MCL works with sketchbooks for sale at cons (that I can’t go to), but seeing this title complete would be the best.  It’s such a wonderful and touching story that it really deserves a proper ending.  It’s too bad that Tokyopop didn’t give it the time and attention it deserved.

I do hope the final volume of My Cat Loki sees the light of day somehow.  Bettina has at least one guaranteed sale right here.

Browser Manga

I found this link while searching for an item for my This Week in Manga column.  I was looking for manga subscription services, when I came upon a link for an extension to Firefox that watches OneManga for new updates of manga.  Now, I’m not endorsing either this extension or OneManga.  Instead, I want to suggest that manga publishers, such as Viz and Tokyopop, who put up online manga chapters, maybe look at doing something similar.

I have a hard time keeping up with the online manga, often forgetting about them until someone on twitter mentions one went up.  Having something in the browser that could check and tell me when a new chapter is out, AND what the last chapter I read was would be sooooo awesome! I sometimes spend more time trying to figure out where I left off as I do reading the actual chapters.  It would make a great promotional tool if it was made into a Shonen Sunday or Ikki toolbar and could be used in more browsers.

And since scanlators are always “borrowing” from publishers, I think some turn around is fair play.

Let Your Earthlight Shine

Earthlight 3If you’ve been following Tokyopop’s Boys of Summer online releases, you’ll notice there hasn’t been an update for a couple of weeks.  No, I don’t know why.  All Tokyopop has said is that it “won’t be back up for several weeks.” What I want to bring attention to though is the title they’ve moved up to fill in.  Earthlight.  This wasn’t supposed to be going up until January 2010, but now it’s been pushed up to this Wednesday, October 21.  So, if you’re one of those rare sci-fi manga fans, and had given up on this series (like a friend of mine), take heart!  You’ll finally get the finish of your series!

This Week in Manga 10/10-10/16/09

Inside Scanlation

ComiPress, one of the first manga new reporting sites is hanging up it’s news hat and has moved over to a more timely topic:  Scanlations.  There has been a lot of talk about scanlations, especially since the economy took a dive, but do you really understand what scanlations are or how they came to be?  Inside Scanlation seeks to answers these questions and more.  The site looks at the history of scanlations, interviews scanlators and publishers for their takes and even explains some of the nuances of the community.  I think this is an interesting project.  And while people don’t agree with what the scanlators do, I think it’s worth the time to find out why they do it.  It’s the anthropologist in me.

Continue reading This Week in Manga 10/10-10/16/09

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