We’re Moving to AllAboutManga.net!

Hi everyone!

You know how I said I wanted to bring All About Manga to its own domain this year? Well, tonight I finally took the plunge! (With the generous help of my super-awesome boyfriend.)

All About Manga is now only at allaboutmanga.net!

Actually, it was all quite sudden, so if you see any kinks that need sorting out, please let us know!

Don’t forget to update your RSS feeds and see you at the new site!

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Tokyopop Blog Discusses the FAQ of Manga on Hiatus

One of the questions publishers tend to hear the most (aside from, “when are you going to publish [insert name of manga here*]?”) is “when are you going to publish the next volume of [insert name of manga here**]?”

This tends to be one of the most aggravating for publishers to hear, actually. It’s not that publishers don’t WANT to answer it, it’s just that they’d prefer not to have to answer it 100+ times and have to disappoint fans over and over. (Not a very fun part of the job.) Sometimes there’s no answer to give people because the next volume just isn’t on the schedule yet. The typical vague and neutral statements issued in response satisfy no one because such questions are often asked in environments where a more detailed answer cannot be given.

But now, a Tokyopop blogger (presumably an employee, but I have no idea who it is, so it could be an intern) has taken to the time to give fans the lowdown on why series are put on hiatus and what you can do to pull them out of limbo.

The post is extremely thorough and well-written, answering not only why releases are put off, but how pubs get manga into bookstores, whether or not bookstores are bigger sellers than online retailers, why older titles are out-of-print, just why you SHOULD put your money where your mouth is and a lot of other insight into how book publishing works from a sales point-of-view.

Here’s a choice quote:

So sometimes we put a title on hiatus to see if fans manage to find what copies we have out there before we invest in producing more. How fast things come back from hiatus is heavily reliant on how existing stock performs, and whether we see an increased demand as people browse and pick up the early volumes and tell their friends about them, and then their friends go and pick them up. We’ve had some things reemerge from hiatus and perform well (Silver Diamond and Your & My Secret are good examples of this), and some things that in spite of their apparent popularity among the fans and buzz in the blogosphere, just don’t quite pick up enough steady business.

It’s worth checking out, which is why I’m posting about it. Bravo, TPHenshu, this is a great post.

*Quite possibly the name of something already published by another company. I’ve seen this happen.

**Quite possibly something that is already available for purchase, just had the next release date announced or is not even on hiatus.

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Life of A (Rookie) Editor: Success and Secrets

There’s been a lot of good happening in my professional career lately.

I’ve been pretty busy, so if you’ve noticed a drop in the number of posts, it’s mostly because it was what I like to call “copy-edit hell week”, which has stretched into 3 weeks now. Sooner or later (please, sooner, please!) that copy-edit hell will go away and break into a fresh new burst of busy!

But during all this hustle and bustle, I’ve gotten a raise from one client and been asked to work for another manga publisher. It’s amazing news and a huge relief to me. I was debating moving away from manga editing slightly by getting a part-time job. It’s not that this line-of-work is a deliberate money thing for me, but I just want to keep doing it AND pay my bills. Plus it’s great to re-affirm that I can do freelance manga editing as a career because it seems like such a crazy pipe dream at times.

On top of that, Hetalia Axis Powers vol. 2 has been on the New York Times bestselling manga list for a number of weeks now, bringing vol. 1 along for the ride and back into the top 10. That always makes me happy for the simple reason that it’s a title that I’ve worked on and the first manga I’ve worked on to make it to the list!

Speaking of Hetalia, I actually knew Tokyopop had licensed it before the rest of the general public did (even before TP’s not-so-subtle Twitter hints that they’d picked it up.) Of course, I found this out when I technically wasn’t working or interning for Tokyopop, but just happened to be visiting the office. When I put two and two together (there was a lot of Hetalia paraphernalia about), I was quickly and sternly warned not to mention it to anyone.

It was the first time I had known a publishing secret. It was a little scary, actually, because anyone who knew anything about popular manga knew that Hetalia was a huge phenomenon. I hadn’t gotten into the series yet because the only way to read it was obviously illegal, but I was pretty stoked that the company had snagged such a popular manga. It was big! It was exciting! Fangirls would scream! I couldn’t help but hope for it’s success considering that Tokyopop had drastically downsized the previous year. (This was in 2009.) It’s so cool to see it succeed like I hoped it would! A lot of people in the office were waiting with bated breath to see if Hetalia would be picked up by the American fandom.

To some, it might seem a little silly to keep a license announcement secret. After all, letting fans know sooner rather than later will only result in excited otaku and good press for the company, right? Wrong! It’d be one thing if it was a really minor leak, like when Deb Aoki recently spilled the beans on Kami no Shizuku being licensed by Vertical Inc. just before an episode of ANNCast was set to break the news. The result was pretty much only some grumbling and the release of that ANNCast a little earlier than expected because Vertical pretty much had the license set up already.

But a premature license announcement can have a lot of disastrous results. If the news got out too early, it could displease the Japanese rights holders and put negotiations on shaky ground. Or a publisher could be unprepared to release the information because publishing dates and technicalities aren’t set in stone. This has happened before, most recently when Vertical announced No Longer Human a little too early, had to retract the statement last October and couldn’t confirm the license again until last month. Obviously, no one but the folks at Vertical know what happened after their first, mistaken announcement, but I can’t imagine it was pleasant to deal with.

Lastly, retracting or losing a license due to an unintended, early announcement isn’t going to get any favorable reaction from fans. Over all, it looks terribly unprofessional for the company or whomever let the secret slip early. That’s really serious, since the loss of a reliable reputation can cost a publishing company future licenses they may want. For an individual worker, it means a not just loss of their reputation, but a potential blacklisting.

So there you go, manga publishing secrets are serious business. It’s always best to listen to official license announcements by the publishers themselves, since, as the manga blogging community has witnessed, sometimes a book popping up on Amazon doesn’t always mean a title is going to be release when the listing says.

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MMF: My Reaction to Barefoot Gen 1 & 2

This post is part of the February Manga Movable Feast on Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa, hosted by my good friend Sam Kusek at A Life In Panels. You can see more commentary on Barefoot Gen on his blog.

I feel like I had an atypical reaction to Barefoot Gen. Sure, it was a depressing read. So much so that my boyfriend noticed how down I was at our Valentine’s Day dinner. I was thinking of the way I wanted to approach Barefoot Gen and write this MMF post. (We did had a great time once I decided to banish all thought of Barefoot Gen for the evening.) Despite that, I wasn’t moved to tears by Barefoot Gen. I realized today, that’s because I’ve already seen it before.

This requires a bit of explanation:

I’ve mentioned before that members of my family are Holocaust survivors. That’s one thing, considering how one generation was too young to remember anything and the other generation was too scarred to speak about it. A lot of exactly what happened to my family is either buried along with the older generation or on a Shoah Foundation tape that my mother and I have felt too unprepared to watch yet. But I went to a private Jewish school for seven years for middle school and high school. I don’t know how the Holocaust was taught to the younger grades in my school, but they were pretty thorough with the older kids. As a result I’ve read a lot of literature on the Holocaust. All the well-known novels and some less-known ones. We were also treated to films, speakers, slide shows and extensive history lessons, especially around Yom Ha’Shoah, which is an Israeli/Jewish holiday mourning the victims.

The horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki aren’t the same as the Holocaust, but a different kind of genocide altogether. Oddly enough, I had already read John Hersey’s Hiroshima as part of a high school physics lesson that was probably supposed to teach us about how mighty nuclear power is. So the imagery of Barefoot Gen was not as surprising as it was for some. I already knew about the eyeless victims with their flesh melting right off them and the bodies floating down the river and the fires that killed thousands. That didn’t surprise me, although I was thankful for Keiji Nakazawa’s cartoon-y style of drawing. As often as his odd facial expressions bothered me (why were there so many awkward, winking faces?), I don’t think I could have stomached something more realistic and I cannot really imagine the true terrors that Keiji Nakazawa and the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saw in August, 1945. I don’t really want to because then I won’t be able to sleep well. I’ve had dreams about being in concentration camps before and they are pretty terrifying, let me tell you.

So I didn’t cry over Barefoot Gen. It’s not like I haven’t cried over manga before. The later volumes of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster made me cry. To be honest, if I were watching Keiji Nakazawa or another survivor talk about their experience, I would be crying uncontrollably. There’s something about seeing actual human emotion that definitely affects me more. I’ve cried in more movies than I can remember. I cried when Ongina revealed he had HIV on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I could see and hear those people. Much like horror manga, I guess sad manga doesn’t affect me as much as it’s moving counterparts. I should probably watch the movie versions of Barefoot Gen.

But  got me thinking that 1) large swaths of the world must have gone nuts in the 1930s and 40s to kill so many people so brutally and 2) the American government is definitely guilty of genocide, something I hadn’t really thought of before. I’m not a fan of a lot of typical American views and politics, but this goes beyond that. This country thought it was a great idea to end the war by replicating a lot of Nazi practices, everything from putting Japanese-Americans in camps to bombing Japanese civilians, then taking it to the next level with the atomic bomb. While America didn’t kill as many people through these methods as the Nazis did, they did unleash a different kind of horror upon the world as we know it. It disgusts me that this country, which has preached about peace and freedom for everyone, became so hypocritical as to copy their enemies’ techniques. I know, somewhere in my mind, that America probably didn’t make the decision to drop the bomb flippantly, but it strikes me  as odd that the American politicians involved couldn’t see this big, blinding, hypocritical mistake staring them in the face.

But I digress. What struck me throughout was that these were events that had happened to Nakazawa and other survivors. I think a fictional account of the bombings by someone who hadn’t survived it wouldn’t work at all. I’m grateful to the people who have spoken out about atrocities like this because, as heavy as the knowledge and hindsight of these events are, at least the world knows now. Barefoot Gen‘s existence in the world is only one of many survivor’s tales, but it teaches us things we never knew or realized before. It makes us think about who was killed, not just faceless bodies, but people who suffered. Even if it’s just a cartoon-y face that doesn’t quite hold the visual impact you want it to, those faces are someone’s.

To end this post, since it seems to be getting a little preachy and I didn’t really want to do that, I want to thank Sam Kusek for bringing Barefoot Gen to the Manga Movable Feast. Truly, it’s not a manga I would have gotten into easily without this reason to, mostly because it’s not widely available anymore, but also because it’s a tough read. Glancing at some of the other posts that have been written by other bloggers, Barefoot Gen has truly rocked a few people’s worlds. It’s not the best manga in a lot of senses, but it encompasses the idea often touted by Jews–“Never Forget.” People think that just applies to the Holocaust, but that’s not true. It’s important to learn about the Holocaust, the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and other atrocities so that we learn from past behavior and take to heart the goal of becoming better, less hateful people. It’s best to learn from primary sources like Keiji Nakazawa because they’ll drive that all-important message home.

Here’s a little something to cheer the MMF participants up: (Warning, link contains adorably catchy song.)

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Webcomics Wednesday: Awesome New Webcomic Discoveries

Wow! I’ve been so lazy about recommending new webcomics for you guys to check out! But then again, I’ve been reading a lot of webcomics so I have TONS of new discoveries to show you.

But first, some webcomics news:

Erika Moen has returned to webcomicking with Bucko, a webcomic drawn by Moen and written by Jeff Parker. It’s a murder mystery with dick and fart jokes, so I imagine it will be quite funny, much like DAR! was.

Michael Jonathan restarted Eros Inc. this past Valentines Day! I am rejoicing because I fell in love with his charming webcomic right as it went on a hiatus and was pretty sad it didn’t update regularly for a number of months. Welcome back, Eros Inc.!

Now onto the newer discoveries…

First of all, if you aren’t reading Faith Erin Hicks’ The Adventures of Superhero Girl, you are missing out! It’s a comical look at superheroes, where a superheroine can be a practical girl-next-door, a nemesis can be a cynical guy on the street and your archenemy tries to steal a job interview from right out under your nose. Hicks is a seasoned comic creator and got her start in webcomicking drawing Demonology 101, which was an early favorite of mine.

Dicebox is an interesting (in a good way) webcomic I stumbled upon. At first I wasn’t sure if it was recommending material, but it is actually quite interesting and beautifully drawn by Jenn Manley Lee. It follows two older female vagabonds who planet hop and get into all sorts of interesting misadventures. I really like the dynamic by the two main characters, they’re married and have that used-to-each-other married couple feel, but there’s still mysteries and secrets they keep from each other to make the story interesting.

Jonny Crossbones is an fun, mystery webcomic, very much in the vein of Hardy Boys novels, but a little more grownup. It’s cute, quirky and well-paced. The comic seems to have just come off a long hiatus, so I’m sure the extra traffic would help encourage creator Les McClaine to update more.

Heading into an old-time-y vein, Oyster War by Ben Towle, is a recently started webcomic about battling oyster pirating in mid-1800’s New England. I really like the way the comic is drawn for some reason. I’m glad it’s not realistic or wrought with super-detailed art. The cartoony look is appealing.

Finally, The Unsounded by Ashley Cope is the best fantasy webcomic I’ve read in ages. Right down to the beautiful art, comedic characters and the presentation. (As you are reading some of the later pages, watch the surrounding website.) I don’t think I can describe the story in a timely sentence or two, but the world-building is fantastic.

Happy webcomic reading, everybody!!

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Favorite New Manga-Feb. 2011

Hi everyone!

I had a big, blog-changing post set up to go out tonight, but I couldn’t quite do it just yet! But big changes are coming soon, no doubt about it. Keep your eyes open for them.

So I went on a little manga binge this month. It was very, very bad of me, I know, but I discovered some great stuff!

Sugar Sugar Rune by Moyoco Anno- I found two volumes of Sugar Sugar Rune at Kinokuniya and decided that since I had always heard such good things about it, I would pick up a few volumes. This manga did not disappoint. This is a well-written manga about two cute witches who come to the human world (the non-magical world) to compete for the throne of the magical world. Chocolat and Vanilla are best friends, but this competition is extremely important, so they must learn to capture hearts from boys they must get to fall in love with them. Chocolat, the main character, is faced with a lot of problems since her personality rubs human boys the wrong way, but makes her the belle of the ball back home. The first two volumes have Chocolat dealing with staying true to herself, a wizard out to steal her heart and fierce competition from Vanilla. Somehow Anno  makes this manga full of sugar-y references and over-the-top art plausible and not too saccharine. I can’t wait to buy the next volumes and complete Del Rey’s run. I hope Kodansha Comics brings it back into its new lineup! Whoops! Del Rey completed the series, but I hope Kodansha considers reprinting it. Only 8 volumes though, not too bad of a commitment for an OOP series.

Sundome by Kazuto Okada is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. It’s a manga about exploring teenage sexuality to the weirdest extremes. I picked this manga up at the suggest of Ed Sizemore after hearing his Manga Out Loud podcast on the title. There was something totally intriguing about how Ed and Melinda Beasi described what is essentially a loathsome, but very high-concept manga. It isn’t a manga for anyone who has moral scruples to get over, these teens do some deeply dirty stuff and it’s creepy on purpose. Despite that, there’s no intercourse. It’s mostly touching, watching, a nipple showing here, a nibble happening there. There’s a lot of what you’d call fanservice, but it’s mostly a vehicle for showing the desires of Hideo, who is being happily toyed with by the wily Kurumi. Hideo doesn’t mind doing the dirtiest and lowest acts he can possibly perform if it means Kurumi will give him a reward. He knows he’ll never get with Kurumi, but his very masochistic need for sexual excitement allows him to be satisfied with untying her side-tie panties or watching her pee. It sounds like a manga to avoid, but if you can handle the squick-factor, this is a manga that explores the psychology behind horny teenagers and not something that borders on kiddie porn.

Back to something sweet, Kamisama Kiss by Julietta Suzuki is out now and already laying on the charm that Suzuki does best. Kamisama Kiss is about a girl who suddenly finds herself homeless and abandoned by an irresponsible father. Just as quickly, Nanami meets a strange man who offers her the use of his home because he has abandoned it. Upon arriving, Nanami discovers that this home is a run-down shrine full of yokai (demon-like creatures) and that she is now the shrine’s resident god. She clashes with Tomoe, a fox demon who was running the shrine in his previous master’s place, tries to go home, nearly gets killed by an onibaba (a demon hag) and then finally accepts her role as a shrine god. The final chapters end on a high note as Nanami helps answer the prayer of a catfish yokai who wants to date a human boy. Clearly this manga is going into fairly episodic stuff, but the catfish yokai story was adorable and the character designs were spot on. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be as meaningful as Karakuri Odette, but I think Kamisama Kiss is going to shape up to be a fun shoujo manga.

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The Joy of OOP Manga

As I said in my New Year’s “resolution” post,  I’ve been enamored with reading manga from years ago that I missed when it came out. Last year I bought (or was given) and read a lot of now out-of-print manga. Luckily I’ve been able to keep up with that New  Year’s goal so far this year and out-of-print manga was a seriously significant chunk of the best material I read all year.

Here’s some of the OOP manga I’ve re-discovered, just for reference: Beck, Planetes, Princess Knight (the Kodansha bilingual version), Emma, Club 9, SOS, Nextworld, Walkin’ Butterfly, Eagle, Banana Fish, Two Flowers for the Dragon, Sugar Sugar Rune, The Queen’s Knight.

In my previous post about choosing a favorite manga, a lot of readers remarked that they couldn’t really love manga that they’d first read after the initial print run the same way as manga they picked out as it first came out in bookstores. Ironic, considering how manga often comes out in the United States and abroad much, much later than it’s Japanese print run. What does that mean for titles like Tezuka manga that embody a completely different zeitgeist that the time an English edition is produced?

But I’m getting off-topic here.

Reading manga that I missed the first time around has a different kind of thrill for me. There’s always a little bit of disappointment in knowing that the new (older) manga that you’ve just gotten into is out-of-print, but that’s definitely replaced by joy when you find the next volume you’re looking for and get to continue on with the series. There’s definitely the thrill of the chase before that, when I looking for hard-to-find gems, usually in someone’s ill-kept manga shelf or $5 bins under tables in a convention’s dealer’s hall. I’ve surprised more than a few people with the amount of manga I carry around after such a search, but it feels so good to get a volume of manga for close to cover price or lower when it’s going on eBay for over $100! Perhaps I just love a good deal.

Then there’s another aspect of older manga I love, discovering a lens into another time period. Club 9 is one such manga. It’s over the top in a lot of ways: curvaceous girls, thick accents, big spending and hostess clubs. It’s a manga that celebrates the ostentatious-ness of Japan’s bubble economy perfectly. Sure, it’s not the most flattering portrayal of women out there, but for all the bubbly, not bright personalities there’s a sweetness to the ladies and something of a sweetness from the men who pay to drink with them. In the end, it’s a manga that’s big, loud and enjoying itself just as much as its subjects do.

At the same time, some of the manga I’ve bought is much more contemporary. Sugar Sugar Rune is not that that old. Emma, although it’s set in Victorian-era England, is not that old either. But they’re technically out-of-print because their publishers are now non-existent. Actually, I picked up a lot of CMX titles right after their collapse, but I haven’t gotten to read quite a few of them because I couldn’t always get first volumes.

But truly, the joy is in discovering something you saw on the shelves a long time ago and never got the chance to read. Stuff like Beck, Planetes, Eagle and Banana Fish were all on the shelves during my beginning years as a manga fan, but I missed them because I didn’t realize they were awesome or because I didn’t have enough money at the time. It’s great to pick up a title that’s been staring you down on the shelves for a long time. It just makes you think: How did I miss this before?!

Have you fallen in love with out-of-print manga and which ones have you read so far?

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