Monthly Archives: November 2009

Will popular manga EVER end?

This confession is probably not going to win me too many fans, but I hate Naruto. This post was originally going to be a rant about how much I dislike it, but as I was thinking it over and I came unto a conclusion: I feel really sorry for Masashi Kishimoto.

Why’s that, you ask? Kishimoto has been working on Naruto for 10 straight years now and says that while he has the ending planned, it’s going to take awhile to get there.

Similarly, One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda, who has been working on the series for more than 12 years, is also way behind on getting to the end. Asahi Shimbun quoted him as saying that he’d planned to end the series in five years, but is really only half way through the series at this point. (Here’s an ANN post about it in English)

Tite Kubo, the creator of Bleach, also stated that he’d planned for a manga that ended in about five years, but doesn’t seem to have an end in sight either.

All three of these men haven’t been able to publish any other work during this period of time. (Not including Oda’s Dragon Ball x One Piece Cross Epoch collab with Akira Toriyama since that’s still One Piece-related work.)

I feel sorry for these men (Akira Toriyama included since he quit making Dragon Ball due to exhaustion after 11 years working on that series and other short works) because they’re stuck with these series for goodness knows how long.

Sure, they have extremely successful manga, probably 20 assistants each and are rolling in dough, but it must be such a drag to have to focus one behemoth creation constantly. It seems like Oda and Kishimoto have let their stories get ahead of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kubo is in the same boat. It must be more than a little frustrating to be completely devoted to one work for so long. I mean, at least J.K. Rowling has been able to finish the Harry Potter series.

Of course, they aren’t the only mangaka to have long-running series, nor do any of them have the longest running serialized comics ever. I feel sorry for whoever does and as well as anyone who has been making one comic for anywhere near as long as these men have.  It’s tough work.

So even though I still don’t like the series (or its fans,) I can appreciate the work Kishimoto’s put into it for this long.  (and Oda’s and Kubo’s and Toriyama’s and you get the picture.) It must take incredible effort to think up a series that can run so long. The money they must be making and the endless love of their fans is probably the only consolations they have for being a bit caged in with their respective works. In the end, those aren’t bad consolations at all.

I hope Oda, Kubo and Kishimoto get to finish their series and take some well-deserved breaks (or at least get to work on something new) soon.

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The Great Manga Gift Guide- SHOJO STYLE!

So it’s that wonderful time of year again and it’s about time for me to shrink into a little ball and wait for Christmas to be done with.

Yeah, I don’t like this time of year, but DO I really like getting presents. Who doesn’t? I find giving presents to be a lot of fun too because you get to see the delight on someone’s face when you give them the right gift. But there is that problem of knowing WHAT gifts to get someone, especially if they’re into manga. There’s a Jewish saying about opinion that goes: for every five Jews there’s at least eight synagogues.  For manga fans, it’s for every five manga fans there’s probably about two dozen series they’re currently reading and about four dozen more they’d love to start reading!  While that kind of does help widen the search radius, it doesn’t make manga fans easy to shop for. ESPECIALLY shojo fans…

So you’ve got a girl (girls really like manga, what can I say?) that you need a gift for. There’s a TON of shojo titles on the shelves, then there’s josei series, even sunjeong manhwa titles and not to mention non-shojo series that girls also like to read. (But I’m not even going to touch non-shojo.) So I’ve compiled here a little list of good shojo manga to get for girls.

Kare KanoFor the budding fan: Sometimes it’s good to start someone off slow. Kare Kano is a good manga to start with because it doesn’t have a lot of complicated references to Japanese culture that could throw off a beginner. Plus, Kare Kano is a very simple, but very engaging romance. There’s plenty of comedy mixed in with drama and, most importantly, it’s very realistic and easy to relate to. Even better, it’s a pretty good manga for younger teens as well as older readers because it starts off light and by the time you get to the more mature later volumes, you’ll probably have a few years on you.  Tokyopop is re-releasing the series in omnibus editions, so you can pick up the first three volumes a lot cheaper than you could individually!

For the comedy-lover: There are plenty of shojo rom-coms out there, but never have I seen more love for Love*Com and its unique sense of character dynamics. Sure, the series is pretty typical when it comes to the cliches of shojo manga, but you will never see another couple quite like this. Also, Aya Nakahara has a fantastic sense of design which really shows in her art.

For the one who likes her shojo unusual: I picked up a copy of Love Attack! Junai Tokko Taicho! by Shizuru Seino yesterday and enjoyed it a lot. It’s basically about two kids who aren’t afraid to throw punch falling in love with each other, but what really gets me is the two of them acting like a bunch of thugs. Every once in awhile, one of them would pull a face or react to something and suddenly don a “yakuza” face. I couldn’t stop laughing. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Black Lagoon lately…

For the guy who LOVES shojo: What a small percentage of the manga-reading population! I wish more men read shojo, if only to be able to talk to guys about my favorite kind of manga more. Otomen by Aya Kanno has recently stolen my heart, especially since male protagonists are rare (the only other shojo mangaka I can think who uses male protagonists regularly is Ai Morinaga and another manga further down on the list.) Instead of going Morinaga’s usual route of hilarious character torture, Kanno makes Asuka Masamune pretty relatable. He tries really hard to be manly in order to fit in, but deep down he’s super-girly at heart. The series is hilarious and says a lot about self-acceptance and being comfortable in one’s own skin.

For the history lover: Does your giftee looooooooove history? Well, shojo manga usually tosses aside history in favor of romance and whatnot, but Red River by Chie Shinohara is still pretty damn cool. History fans will drool over the detail of her drawing, especially in jewelry and scenery, and be satisfied by the way her characters strategize and factor in the technology of the times. Plus, Shinohara pays some lip service to famous historical figures like Nefertiti and Ramses I (known as User Ramses in the manga.)  It’s not totally accurate historically, but it’ll get a history/shojo fan’s juices flowing.

For the fantasy lover: Technically, Red River falls under fantasy too, but since I’m a huge history nerd, I wanted to have two separate categories. For fantasy, I’m going with another pick from an older manga artist, Kyoko Hikawa’s From Far Away. I cannot even tell you how much I adore this story. The relationship between Noriko and Izark is so tender and enthralling to watch. You get totally swept up in their heart-wrenching story and it’s got pretty good action as well.  Unfortunately, this one might be hard to find because Viz finished publishing it a few years ago. BUT IT’S SO WORTH IT!!

For more mature reader: Please, Please Me by Kisun is a fantastic josei-style (is there a manhwa term for josei?) manhwa that’s pretty good for someone who is more mature in what they read. It follows the stories of two roommates looking for love in some odd places. Unlike some josei manga, which tends to follow the romantic exploits of office ladies, Please, Please Me‘s main characters don’t have typical office jobs, which is delightful and makes them a bit more relatable in my opinion. This manhwa, however, is online only. It’s extremely easy to get an account and buy some manga to read, but if you’re looking for a hard copy gift for a josei fan, go with Suppli by Mari Okazaki instead.

For a light-and-easy read: Land of the Blindfolded by Sakura Tsukuba is an excellent choice if you just want to give your shojo manga fan something to just plain enjoy reading. There’s a lot of drama involved with the different powers of the characters, but they are able to overcome it and learn to have more normal lives. I think what really makes the series a good read is the warm sense of community the characters have with each other. They really bond over their experiences and you can feel it as you read. Again, the series has ended, so it might be hard to find, but you’ve got plenty of time before most of the gift-giving holidays start.

For the manga fan who says they don’t like shojo: Are you shopping for someone who says they don’t like shojo,  but you think otherwise? Sometimes it takes the right series, but I think it also helps to ease them into it. Here’s where Mad Love Chase comes in. This new Tokyopop release about a demon prince trying to escape an arranged marriage by Kazusa Takashima, who is better known for her yaoi than her shojo. Mad Love Chase is undeniably funny and features a male protagonist to trick your giftee into thinking it’s not shojo. (But it is.) Anyway, the characters are fabulous and make up for the fairly weak storyline and all the times where the protagonist slips out from under his pursuers way too easily.

For the impossible giftee: Despite this list, you’re stuck on what to get as a gift. The solution? A gift card to their favorite bookstore or comic book store. No seriously. My friends apparently ALWAYS have trouble getting me gifts (I find this hard to believe) even though I’ve told a number of them to just get me a $20 gift card every time. Gift cards are impersonal, you say? Mm, maybe. I say they just give the giftee the choice to get what they want. You don’t always have to gift something that you’ve picked out for someone. If you still feel it’s too impersonal then get them a large sum gift card. That way you’re saying that YES, I may not have picked out something JUST FOR YOU, but I’ve given you enough to buy yourself something awesome. Any serious manga fan will dash straight for the graphic novel/manga section and stock up on their favorites.

I really hope you enjoyed reading this list and that it helps you give great gifts to shojo manga fans! I’d also like to thank David P. Welsh over at Precious Curmudgeon for suggesting this idea after both the NY Times and the Onion failed to deliver any manga suggestions on their own gift guides.

If you’d like to see more manga gift guides (in case you need more than just shojo) check out other Great Manga Gift Guide participants here and here.

Have a happy non-specific holiday season you guys!

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Manhwa Controversy!

So it seems people are pretty riled up about my post on manhwa thanks to Melinda Beasi mentioning it in her most recent Manhwa Monday post.

Understandable. I am not saying that ironically. I can see where everyone who found my post offensive is coming from. I was pretty off-the-mark on that one. Let me just say, I am really sorry for being so wrong.

This paragraph in particular got some people riled up.

Basically, I was kind of a purist when U.S. publishers began releasing manhwa. I read manga and only manga. […] Manhwa was, in my eyes, a cheap imitation.

But I want it to be clear that this was my former view of manhwa; my view of it when I was 15 and Tokyopop first put I.N.V.U. out on bookstore shelves. That was in 2003.  Now,  I’ve recently developed a strong interest in Korean culture after I was able to visit the country for the first time. I want to learn Korean soon and if anyone wants to show me where some good manhwa scanlations are, I will gladly go read as much as I can over my Thanksgiving break.

Another thing that was found offensive was my view that manhwa is kind of shallow.  I only find it to be shallow because, in what I’ve read, everyone bickers with each other. As I talked about in my post, I’ve got strong negative feelings about meaningless bickering. Therefore, manhwa with lots of bickering is shallow to me.  So is  any manga, manhua and any other form of comics with lots of bickering, but I’ve found it to be less prominent in those types of comics than in manhwa that I’ve read.  Again, I would love to read manhwa that shatters this narrow stereotype I’ve got.  I’m clearly missing out according to troisroyaumes’ post about my post.  Although troisroyaumes assumed some things about me that are wrong, they’ve got a REALLY strong point, especially about mostly sunjeong  and boys’ love titles being published here in the U.S.

I’d really like to apologize for how my thoughts on manhwa came off. My only excuses are that I’m young, pretty new to this blogging game (I started this blog in September for one of my classes) and that the post in question was pretty much me writing down what came spilling out of my mind at the time. I should have done more research and I will in the future. This has been a pretty valuable learning experience for me. I have to thank Melinda Beasi for that, since she’s the one who let everyone know about my post.

That being said, PLEASE let me know how you feel about my posts on this subject matter. Let me really have it if you feel like it. I want your criticism.

I would like to let you all know that in no way do I begrudge any of you who have said negative things about me. I think it would be detrimental to me to hold it against anyone since not only am I wrong, but everyone who’s talked about me is mostly right. (Other than what’s been assumed, but I won’t hold that against anyone because it’s not like we know each other.) This blog is really a learning experience for me and I’m learning a lot. All of my readers and my detractors should think of themselves as aiding me along with this. I’m grateful. Thank you.

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Why not be gender-neutral? Publishers and gender-genres

There’s a phrase I’ve been hearing a lot in the manga industry that actually bothers me quite a bit.

It goes: Girls will read stuff for guys, but guys won’t read stuff for girls.

There’s actually a fair amount of financial proof that not a lot of guys read stuff written for girls and girls read stuff originally written for a male audience, but I don’t have direct access to that kind of information and that’s not my point.

My point is that there’s some stuff that is “meant for girls” that could have a much wider appeal if marketed properly, so why don’t comic book  publishing companies take that route?

I’ll explain further: Sure, there are plenty of comics (especially manga) that are clearly of no interest to most guys. A lot of shojo and josei manga are really just about light-fluffy romance and girls obsessing over stuff that most guys wouldn’t want to understand, let alone enjoy reading about. That said, there’s plenty of really awesome titles that are billed as shojo or josei, but could almost be gender-neutral.

Example one: Basara by Yumi Tamura, published by Viz under their shojo line.

Basara by Yumi Tamura

Basara by Yumi Tamura

I’m up to volume 12 of the series and while it’s got a female protangonist and one of the major plot points is a romance between two of the main characters, the story is about a people’s rebellion under a brutral post-apocalyptic tyranny. While there is the romance, overcoming the big problem comes first, which is more of a shounen trope. Sure, the art does lean towards a shojo style, but other works by Yumi Tamura, like Chicago, remind me more of Naoki Urasawa than Arina Tanemura. (Ha, wow, comparing Arina Tanemura and Yumi Tamura is like comparing Danielle Steel to Stephen King!)

Why didn’t Viz bother to publish under a more universal line if Basara had the potential to sell well with girls AND boys?

To be honest, Shogakukan billed Basara as shojo, serialized it in Betsucomi (a shojo manga magazine) and Viz probably just rode that wave. If I was a Viz editor or someone else involved in that decision-making process, I would have shoved it into their signature line because Basara has that potential to sell well to both genders. After all, it was pretty well-received by critics when it was released. Since I decided to pick it up, I haven’t heard a fan, male or female, say a bad thing about it either. But while some fans are less discerning about their picks, most male fans are just going to see the shojo logo on the spine of the books and turn the other direction.

It’s probably very easy to point the finger at Japanese publishers sticking to their slightly more sexist, but more accepted societal norms, but that does not mean U.S. publishers have to blindly follow them.

Karakuri Odette by Julietta Suzuki

Karakuri Odette by Julietta Suzuki

Going from Basara to something more recent, a Tokyopop release by Julietta Suzuki called Karakuri Odette, which I copy-edited as an intern for them. While it’s more likely to be categorized as shojo for many reasons, Karakuri Odette also doesn’t focus on typical shojo plots. Tokyopop even labeled it as a comedy series and it was billed as an a-typical shojo by critics. Yet, the cover design is hot pink and accented with hearts. Not to stereotype, but most male manga fans aren’t going to pick that up at a bookstore unless they’re shopping for their girlfriend’s Christmas gift. If the cover had been mostly green, which is an accent color on Tokyopop’s cover design, it would have faired much better with dudes just picking it up and seeing if it was anything they wanted to read.

I’m no expert at marketing (although I find it and advertising to be really fun, I almost wish I’d gone into PR instead of journalism,) but I feel like such niche targeting is detrimental to some series. I know when I was younger, I wouldn’t have touched shounen or seinen series because I totally thought they were all like Naruto, which I dislike, and not very good. Still, I was curious and if someone had put something out there without making it look like it was shojo or shounen, I would have probably gone for it and tried to read more series like it.  I probably would have been more willing to pick up something different than pure shojo fluff.

I’m not saying the industry has to change how they categorize everything, I’m just saying that we could make SOME series gender-neutral where it fits and start lifting the stereotypes of shojo being JUST for girls and vice-versa.

Baka-Updates Manga’s genre site -This site goes into how they define each genre, which includes shojo, shounen, etc as well as regular genres.

Why Can’t Female Leads Be Happy Without A Boyfriend? -An article about the difference between comics and manga as well as shojo and shounen.

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The Manga Cliche Review: Musical Talent, Part 3

So last time I talked about La Corda d’Oro, which is the kind of much too cliched shojo manga I wish people had the foresight not to publish in Japan, let alone the U.S. Media tie-ins make a lot of money for publishers so I can see why someone did.

Still, I respect classical music a lot and I feel that manga about it must have a certain kind of intensity to it. There’s just something about the way classical music is written that, to me, feels like there is serious passion in it at all times. It’s like tasting the blood, sweat and tears of the composer. The composer worked damn hard to make that music sound like springtime for you.

That’s where my next pick comes in. It shows you that world and just how much work goes into the creation of classical music. The blood, the sweat, the tears, etc.

The Classic (al Music): Nodame Cantabile by  Tomoko Ninomiya

Nodame Cantabile

So full of passion, you can see the awesome.

Nodame is about two students at Momogaoka College of Music, Megumi Noda (Nodame herself) and Shinichi Chiaki. Both are excellent pianists, but they couldn’t be more different. Chiaki is the school’s top student, extremely well-organized and successful and Nodame is messy, lazy and extremely disorganized. Chiaki strives to perfect his music and Nodame likes to literally play it by ear.

The story starts out with Chiaki having a rough time attempting to switch majors from piano to conducting. Not only are his advisors trying to stop him, but he has a serious fear of flying, which makes it extremely tough for him to take on a new career. On top of that, he’s trying to get out of a relationship and the creepy Nodame is kind of stalking him. Chiaki winds up getting stuck helping out Nodame in class and caring for her on occasion, which begins their funny little relationship.

What I really love is about Nodame Cantabile is that it feels just like being around my school friends, particularly my anime club. Everyone has different specialties, different goals, different personalities, but we can band together around one thing and work to make it great. In my club’s case, it’s being a great anime community. In the case of Nodame, Chiaki and their friends, it’s making music.

Not to overgeneralize, but Nodame Cantabile is manga as it should be. It’s carefully paced and finely crafted to make the reader perfectly at home with the characters, even if they’re not into classical music at all. It’s just smooth like piano music. (How fitting…) The characters aren’t overly dramatic and they usually don’t stick to the usual shojo/josei cliches as they move through their lives, which is refreshing. At the same time, they have enough spice in them to keep them interesting. You want to know what makes Chiaki and Nodame tick (I am half-convinced that Nodame has a very mild case of high-functioning autism,) you want to see Mine and Masumi reach their goals (and everyone else too!) It’s just that kind of story. No one really comes close to being truly evil, lending to the human quality of the characters.

Nodame Cantabile could be read by almost anyone, unless they’re a total action junkie and doesn’t read manga without any battles.

If nothing else, it should be clear that this manga is worth reading because there’s also an anime series and two live-action movies based on the series. You don’t put down that kind of money on a series if it isn’t at least decent or the next Naruto.

That ends the first installment of The Manga Cliche Review on All About Comics! What am I writing about next time? I haven’t decided yet. I should take a trip to the bookstore…

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SPECIAL VIDEO REVIEW!

Um, so. I don’t really know how to do videos and I’m a horrible speaker. It is more obvious when I do a recording of myself. You can tell how nervous I sound in this… o_o

But we had to do a video for one of my classes and this is what happened. I didn’t really know it was going to be so poor in quality though, I am kind of disappointed in that. (And in iMovie for not letting me do various things.) My apologies for that… I still have to get the hang of this taking video thing.

Um… Enjoy and remember that I didn’t go into broadcast journalism for VERY GOOD REASONS.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “SPECIAL VIDEO REVIEW!“, posted with vodpod

 

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Webcomics: Making comics a social medium

Webcomics are a wonderful thing.

I’m sure many many people agree with me, but I have my own personal story to share first.

I started reading webcomics around 2001 or 2002. One of the first webcomics I read was Blue Zombie and I started talking to its creators, especially the artist. He and I remained friends throughout the years, even collaborating on a short-lived webcomic named Silent Journey, and helping me publish my own pathetic attempts at webcomics before I realized I much preferred writing them. In 2008, he moved to Los Angeles and started a new webcomic called Lumia’s Kingdom. We started hanging out and, eventually, dating. Now we’ve been together 10 months and I never tire of telling people about how we met through webcomics. (I would swear that I’m not just trying to plug his work here, but I AM his biggest fan.)

Comics in general have been bringing people together for a very long time, when you think about it. Political cartoons have given the people a wide-spread way to voice their opinions on political and social issues. Back in the early days of yellow journalism, Little Nemo and The Katzenjammer Kids were such reader favorites that people still only read the paper for the funnies section. During the Golden Age of Comics (late 1930s to late 1940s,) comic books became a mainstream medium that started the culture of comic books that had kids and geeks obsessed over superheroes of all sorts.

Now, comic books have become cool again and entered the digital age. Webcomics are becoming an industry, one which even my boyfriend is beginning to look into in order to make money. Now, not only do my friends and I talk about our favorite comics, but our favorite webcomics and how much time we “waste” reading them. Webcomics are accesible, entertaining and able to bring people together.

The creators of webcomics use a wide variety of tools to bring in readers and help keep their current readers close to them. A large number of webcomic artists, at least the ones I read, use Twitter or have a blog I can follow. Only a few of them are at the level where they can support themselves with the webcomic’s income alone, but clearly they are able to do it.

Multiplex, a webcomic I’m currently following, recently started a donation drive to cover the printing costs of a book edition. Gordon McAlpin, the creator, navigated the process gracefully by offering some very nice incentives in order to get people to donate. When the project started, he was a little wary that it wouldn’t make his goal in time, but now he’s almost $3,000 over the original goal with 23 days to go. And get this: so far less than 250 people have donated over $10,000.

There are a number of other webcomics that do similar things, although most just have stores hawking t-shirts or advertisements on the site. Girls With Slingshots creator Danielle Corsetto used Twitter to get help from her readers and friends on design decisions for her new book releases. (She’s already onto publishing books 3 and 4 of her webcomic, so she already knows her readers will buy her books, unlike McAlpin.)

More importantly, it’s just fun to see what the artists are doing via Twitter and being there when they post the next day’s webcomic up. It makes them accessible in a way I would have never thought possible when I was 14 and just starting my obsession with comic books in general. Now, it’s like second nature to find and follow my favorite webcomic creators on Twitter. It gets me, the reader, much closer to the comic without the creators making much more content.

Webcomic Overlook’s Top Ten Webcomics of the Decade -A great place to get started reading some great webcomics that I haven’t mentioned here.

xkcd – A witty comics for intelligent nerds, which has a nice L.A. Times blog story written about its first book’s success.

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