Monthly Archives: February 2010

Gakuen Alice on the Fast Track

I was in the TOKYOPOP offices today doing my normal thing, a copy of Gakuen Alice vol. 7 on my desk to take home later, when Associate Publisher Marco Pavia strolled by and started chatting with me about it. (I’ve been reading the series over the course of the last week. It was also my #mangamonday pick this week on Twitter.)

Then Marco let me know that because Gakuen Alice is the most popular manga on the scanlation conglomeration site, Mangafox. As you can imagine that’s quite a problem for TOKYOPOP as the licensors of Gakuen Alice. So, according to Marco, the company is speeding up the release of the manga in order to catch up with the 21 volumes already available in Japan. (For reference, TOKYOPOP is releasing vol. 10 in two weeks time.)

I’m sure I don’t need to tell most of the readers of my blog that reading scanlations of licensed series is wrong and you really should be buying or borrowing from friends or your local library, but remember that scanlations steal money from the publishers who try to bring you quality manga.

Gakuen Alice is about a girl named Mikan who follows her best friend to the mysterious Alice Academy. After discovering that the Academy is a place to educate children with special powers called Alices, Mikan goes through a strange entrance test to discover her own Alice and gets a crash course in some of school’s weirder charms.  Mikan has a particularly rare Alice and now must face the difficult task of fitting in with her classmates. Along the way, she strives to learn more about the strange workings and going-ons at the Alice Academy.

It’s a very cute manga with elementary school children in most of the main roles, but it has some dark undertones in it, so I wouldn’t pass it off as too young for older readers. Please, please, PLEASE support this manga by buying it. If you need a better reason than that, then I implore you to consider the fact that I want a job at TOKYOPOP. By buying this manga, you are supporting the chance for me to get the job I want and love!

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Black Jack Vol. 3 – Medical Anomalies and Coincidences!

I picked up a copy of Black Jack vol. 3 on Friday and I just finished reading the chapter “The Boy Who Came From the Sky.”

The chapter is about a Russian (Uran) military family who defects from their country in a top secret jet in order to save their son, Andrei.  Andrei has a very serious heart condition known as Eisenmenger’s syndrome, which puts an extreme amount of pressure on the heart and causes a wide number of side effects, such as blue baby syndrome, which is almost exactly like it sounds. Eisenmenger’s syndrome is often caused by a ventricular septal defect (VSD) where there is nothing separating the left and right ventricles and blood flows in between them.

It’s a very very serious congenital heart defect and I’ve been living with it for more than 22 years.

Well, sort of… I actually had surgery when I was a year old to correct my VSD. I now have something there, keeping my ventricles nicely separated, but I did have Eisenmenger’s and blue baby syndrome before my surgery. As if that weren’t enough, my VSD is actually one of four heart problems I have, a part of another heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot (which Andrei did not seem to have, lucky him.)

As I read this chapter and realized that it was written about my heart condition, I realized it was written a few years before or around the time that the surgical procedures needed to save my life were perfected. (I was born a few years later when these techniques were commonplace.) Unlike Andrei, I didn’t have to be surgically attached to my mother’s lungs just to survive while they waited for fresh lung transplants. They operated on my heart before the pressure became that critical.

I’ve been chugging along for 21 years with no more surgeries since and no more needed for at least another five to ten years! My surgeon certainly had some skills akin to the miraculous Black Jack’s!

Although the story didn’t have a totally happy ending, the important thing is that Andrei was saved and in the real world medical technology has advanced far enough that people with the same VSD can be easily treated. They’re even developing minimally invasive surgical techniques in order to reduce the risk of correcting these delicate problems. It definitely eases my mind knowing that these techniques should be standard practice by the time I need surgery again.

Forgive me for all the medical jargon and all that. I just had to share this little coincidence with you. I never imagined that the great Osamu Tezuka wrote about a condition that I have –it just makes me so excited and kind of happy! I can relate to this chapter so much…

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GoComi! Mini-reviews

In October 2008, I attended Yaoi-Con. I was pretty bored because I had figured out that I was not a hardcore yaoi fan, let alone a fan at all.

So I spent most of the con talking to the wonderful ladies who were staffing the GoComi! booth. They were sweet and taught me that the manga industry was pretty warm and friendly when you got to know the people behind it. A great boon for me because it was just as I was thinking seriously about getting into a manga-related career.

I have also enjoyed a fair number of their titles from Japan Ai to Ultimate Venus and so I bought a few titles over the course of their Black Friday sale in 2009.

That was a mistake. Mostly because I was moving out of my school dormitories a few weeks later. Luckily for me, my old co-workers at the campus mail distribution center sent me the package.  My mom got it at her house and I JUST got it from her on Feb. 7th. FINALLY.

I was REALLY pleased that GoComi! had sent me a free volume of manga with my order, so we’ll start there:

Kamisama  Kazoku by Yoshikazu Kuwashima and Tapari

The story follows a young high school student named Samataro Kamiyama who has the unique blessing of being (a?) god’s only son. Along with his guardian angel, Tenko, he attends school and tries to learn what it is to be human in order to become a god. Meanwhile, his family gets in the way of all his attempts at a normal life.

That pleased feeling of getting a free manga didn’t last very long. It felt VERY rushed, like we were supposed to know who these people were already and so all their character traits were squeezed into one page as an introduction before moving on to the next character. Then came the main character’s family. God, or a god, it is not explained, is a lazy bum interested only in some wifely eye candy and pleasing his son. If his father trying to constantly spoil him rotten with little miracles wasn’t bad enough, his mother, a goddess, continuously attempts an incestuous relationship with Samataro. His sisters seem normal, but they’re warped too. They like to meddle in their brother’s life with no regard as to consequences. It’s hard to believe these people could actually exist, even with the “theological” themes of the manga.

The  rest of the story itself isn’t bad, but it isn’t anything to get excited about. However, this is the first time I’ve read a manga where I said “This manga is FUCKED UP” every time I looked up from my reading.

The generic, but pleasant art from Tapari (who is actually Korean) is the only thing that prevents me from giving this manga a big solid F, instead of a D-.

Bogle by Shino Taira and Yuko Ichiju

Bogle is about a girl who transfers to a new school and is suddenly recruited for a secret group of thieves called Bogle. A bit of an amateur thief herself, Asuka Hamuro quickly fits in and begins to participate in the group’s commissions, which consists of stealing items that are important to people in one way or another.

I bought this series because the art reminded me of some kind of cross between Chika Shiomi and You Higuri. I like both artists a lot, so I was pretty pleased the art turned out like I’d hoped. The story’s not half bad. It’s episodic nature keeps things from getting too deep, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on how you look at it. There’s a lot of focus on teamwork, and while the characters aren’t spectacular, they do their job nicely.

The only thing that REALLY bothered me was that every once in awhile, someone would say something along the lines of “You’re so mysterious, Asuka. You make friends with everyone.” It was pretty dumb considering that Asuka had never uttered  an ounce of mystery or unfriendliness in anyone’s direction. B- for Bogle. It’s not exemplary, but it’s nice.

Crown by Shinji Wada and You Higuri

Crown is the story of Mahiro Shinomiya, who is the long-lost princess of Regalia. The story starts out with her utterly down on her luck, but cheerful despite it all. Then her brother Ren and his friend Jake swoop in to save her from destitution and protect her from all the sudden attempts on her life.

Apparently Shinji Wada is a fairly prolific and well-known mangaka in Japan, which was surprising news to me. I found out this was because a lot of his other works are drawn in the 1970s’ and 80’s and anything much later than 1995 seems to be a collaboration between him and another artist. I pretty much bought this series because I do like You Higuri and she can create magnificent manga… when she has full control of the wheel.

Much like Kamisama Kazoku, Crown’s beginning starts off fast. The introductions aren’t so bad, but once Ren and Jake swoop in to save Mahiro, it takes no time at all for Mahiro to regain all her long-forgotten memories, such as not being related to her deceased “parents” at all. No time is spent in confusion about the sudden re-appearance of her brother or her identity. This is pretty much Mahiro to a T, she’s about as deep as a puddle. She smiles for everyone. She hugs everyone. She does not doubt Jake and her brother when they suddenly strip off their tuxes to reveal full combat uniforms and start shooting guns at the enemies despite the fact that she did not know they used to be mercenaries or that she’s a princess. Mahiro doesn’t have a bad bone in her body and that is really a problem. She’s supposed to be the main character. Instead, she doesn’t ever know why she’s being protected and Ren and Jake take over as the driving force of the manga. Thank goodness because they are better written.

But do they, some other interesting characters and the pretty art make up for a rather flimsy female lead and a really poorly written story? No. C- for Crown. It was only gets a better grade than Kamisama Kazoku because it didn’t gross me out every few pages.

I’m really disappointed in these series because I love so many other GoComi! series a lot more. I know every company has their hits and misses and some titles are pretty much meant for the backburners, but I’m kind of wondering what the hell went wrong here.

I’m sorry, GoComi! I want to love you, but I can’t love these series. Except maybe Bogle if you ever release the next volume. I’ll continue to love Ultimate Venus, Bound Beauty, Song of the Hanging Sky and A Wise Man Sleeps as much as you’d like though!

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Guest Post: Sam Kusek’s V-Day Gift Guide for Comic-Loving Lovers

Whether you are in a romantic relationship or are just single and loving it, Valentines Day can be an important day for all of us. It’s good to let people know how to you feel about them, showing them that you care deeply. Heck, I still get a card from my grandma every year! For those of us who are heavily invested in comics and manga though, we’d like to add our own personal touch to our gifts and good wishes! I know that I love introducing my friends to manga & comics, helping them understand the art form and I can’t think of a better opportunity to give out some good books!

1. Red Snow by Susumu Katsumata; Published Drawn & Quarterly – This anthology of short stories about life in rural Japan and its mythical folklore is sure to impress any history buff you may have in your circle!

2. Pluto by Naoki Urasawa; Published by Viz – I can’t recommend this series enough. Not only is it a stunning reinterpretation of a great sci-fi tale, it is emotionally touching! A must read for anyone with a soft spot for robots!

3. Swallowing the Earth by Osamu Tezuka; Published by Digital Manga Publishing – Even with all the crime dramas on television, you can’t beat a classic noir story! Tezuka keeps us on our toes at every turn as he explores the complex relationships between men, money, woman and gold!

4. GoGo Monster by Taiyo Matsumoto; Published by Viz – Gogo Monster may not be the most straightforward story (it really makes you think and rethink your opinions), but its certainly got its charm! If you have any artsy friends or someone looking for a “deeper” meaning in life, pass this along to them.

5. Cyborg 009 by Shotaro Ishinomori; Published by Tokyopop – Thought hard to find, this series really is worth searching for. Starting its original run in the 60’s, Cyborg 009 deals a lot with race relations and unity, as nine strangers from around the globe have their lives changed forever as they are changed into machines of war!

6. Nana by Ai Yazawa; Published by Viz – The quintessential girls comic. The story of two utterly different girls who share the same name and pretty soon, the same apartment. It’s an amazing series and a great read for any girl who is going through some big life changes.

7. Cat Eyed Boy by Kazuo Umezu; Published by Viz – If you are a horror fan or know someone who likes a good scare, look no further. CEB is a great example of all Japanese horror, getting under and into the skin of the reader. Not only that, but the main character is cute enough to hit a warm spot with anyone.

8. Earth X by Jim Kreuger and Alex Ross; Published by Marvel – Marvel has some great characters under their belt, but how great can they be when they are put to the ultimate test of just being a face in the crowd? Check out this exciting first of 4 books that makes you question everything you thought you knew about Marvel.

9. Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez; Published by DC – In a similar vein to Earth X, this book changed the DC universe forever, giving birth to some new great heroes and eras but bringing death to some of the most beloved. It’s an essential read for understanding the DC universe today.

10. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud; Published by Harper Perennial – Finally, this is for anyone who truly wants to make comics a profession, whether as an artist, marketer or whatever. McCloud is a visionary, touching upon perception and the way the human mind works to explain everything you could ever think of (and not think of) about comics all across the world!

Thanks and I hope that you and your loved ones find some good things to read!

~Sam Kusek


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Love Via Comics

It was just a little over a year ago that my boyfriend and I started dating. The romance started off  slowly for me and we’d already gone through some tough personal issues before Valentine’s Day rolled around. Seeing as we’d only been dating for a little over a month, I didn’t get him much — just  a little toy. I gave him my gift at midnight and then he pulled out Scott Pilgrim volumes 1-5.

I was floored. Not only was it an awesome gift and something that I had wanted to read for years, but I had mentioned  wanting it once in conversation to him weeks before. So in reality, it was not just the gift of a terrific series, it was thoughtful. It was totally romantic, he earned tons of brownie points and really made me think: I sure picked The Right Guy. He clearly came out way ahead.

So guys, here’s my one and only Valentine’s Day tip:  be thoughtful and pay attention. Johanna Draper-Carlson of Comics Worth Reading shared with me that her husband drew in their first date into an issue of Legion of Superheroes and then gave her the original art on Valentine’s Day. How amazing and thoughtful is that? It really shows how much Mr. Carlson still thinks about that first date. Totally romantic! What woman wouldn’t feel happy after such a gift? It really says a lot about the strength of couples who nerd together too.

For more Valentine’s Day gift giving ideas, you can either check out my article on “What to Get Your Special Otaku” at Tokyopop.com or our VERY FIRST guest post by Sam Kusek of Manga ReCon “V-Day Gift Guide for Comic-Loving Lovers” right here on All About Manga.  A BIG thank you to Sam for that!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

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Name change and Twitter hash tags!

As you can probably tell, I’ve changed the name of this blog from All About Comics to All About Manga. Thank you to David P. Welsh over at The Manga Curmudgeon for the idea. I totally stole it from him.

It was a necessary change. I know a great deal more about manga than I do about comics, even though I enjoy both immensely. I’m not going to stop blogging about comics, but I’m going to focus on manga with a side of other stuff. I actually enjoy all sorts of comics, the various people and lifestyles that come with comics, so don’t expect me to really truly stop. I like manga and I like people. Both are fascinating.

While the name and the twitter account of this blog have changed, the URL has not. I couldn’t get the URL I wanted and I couldn’t think of anything better to replace it with. I’ve had a long, relatively shitty day. Onto the next subject, please!

…I would really love it if my fellow tweeps joined me in a bit of fun.

I’ve gotten into twittering while I’m copy-editing manga at Tokyopop. Not just normal twittering like “OMG I’M WORKING ON V.B. ROSE!!11,” but twittering about really terrible manga cliches and habits under the hash tag #badmangahabits.

At first, I was doing it at my personal twitter account, but then I decided to switch to @allaboutmanga so all of you could enjoy it.

I don’t just stick to #badMANGAhabits. If I happen to be reading a manga and the cliche has to do with a genre, I totally bust out the #badyaoihabits or the #badharemmangahabits. Shojo, shonen, josei… ANYTHING is game as long as it’s about manga you’re reading right then and there.

So, in the hopes that you’ll join my amusing twitter habit, please let me know what #badmangahabits the manga you’re reading holds!

If you don’t have twitter, that’s OK. Just share with us in the comments below!

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