Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Emotional Power of Manga

I’ve been having a bit of a bad week and I’m not  able to do much about it. It’s times like these I REALLY really want some good manga to cheer me up and entertain me so I’m not caught up in worrying about myself.

Despite having a large stack of manga to read through and plenty of little things I could work on instead, I find myself wishing my copies of From Far Away (VIZ) weren’t at my mom’s house.

From Far Away

I guess my love for this series explains a lot of my tastes as manga fan, but From Far Away remains the best romance I have seen put to paper in manga and in novels. I never fail to get re-enraptured whenever I re-read the series and it always manages to make me calm down a bit.

That’s just one of the great things about manga -their power to make you feel different after you finish a volume. There’s manga that’s meant to cheer you up, meant to make you squeal with girlish delight, meant to make you sad and meant to make think ‘THAT WAS SO AWESOME.’ It’s what gets fans hooked and what someone who has never read manga will never been able to understand why it’s so well-liked. All those naysayers probably just haven’t found that series that they cannot connect to on a deeper level. I’m pretty sure there’s one out there for everyone.

With all this manga out there, inspiring all sorts of emotions, which manga inspires the most emotions from you?

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Review: Stolen Hearts

Ever since February or so, I’ve gotten a lot better at spotting editorial changes in manga that I’m reading outside of work. Often it’s something little, sometimes it’s a bit bigger, so I’ve decided to include my notes on where I find the editorial decisions to be a bit lacking along with a review. Sure, I’m only a beginner at this whole editor business, but I figure my two cents can’t hurt and it gives me a little practice on the side! All I really want is to assess a different side of manga in the U.S., so I hope you readers enjoy this little extra perspective and my new take on reviewing manga.

Stolen HeartsStolen Hearts volume 1 by Miku Sakamoto

Shinobu Oguma is a regular high school girl until she spills milk onto one of her classmate’s bags. Unfortunately for her, the classmate just happens to be the scariest dude in class, Miharu Koguma. Koguma then ropes her into helping his grandmother advertise her kimono shop by walking around in kimono and handing out flyers. Shinobu quickly learns that her terrifying classmate is actually a big softie and the two fall in love. The rest of the volume follows their relationship working at kimono shop together, on their first date, at their school festival and in similar situations.

I have to say that this manga has one of the cutest couple-getting-together scenes I have ever EVER seen. It might be a little too contrived for real life, but you can really tell how Koguma feels about Shinobu as well as what Shinobu’s feelings are leading up to this scene. In that sense, it feels very very real. It definitely goes down in my book as one of my favorite shojo manga scenes ever.

The rest of the book progresses nicely with the couple going about their usual business and getting involved with Grandma’s schemes. I find it so adorable that they are just happy to spend most of their time together outside of school that they don’t even noticed they haven’t been on a proper date yet. I also enjoy Shinobu’s little schemes to show her friends how charming Koguma can be, which is something I think every girlfriend who is really in love with her boyfriend kind of does automatically. Fujiko, the grandmother, is also a treat as she is fiesty and a little bit of a slavedriver/obstacle, but is still considerate of the young lovers. I really hope to see her get fleshed out more in the next volume.

What I liked best about this story is how it used common cliches (a grand scheme to push the main couple together, school festivals, first date mishaps, etc.) but didn’t make a big fuss about them unlike some shojo manga. (ahem, ahem Love*Com) I also enjoyed the fact that it didn’t take Shinobu and Koguma very long to get together. I have to say I am starting to get a little bit sick of shojo that takes forever for the leads to hook up! Hopefully this will not make their romance go through one big cliched hurdle after another or that, at least, those hurdles will seem more original.

Another fun part of the story is the emphasis on kimonos, and kitsuke, the process of dressing oneself in kimono. It was great fun to see all the inventive ways you can wear kimono, especially since most shojo heroines don’t bother with kimono save for a yukata during a summer festival. While the manga is definitely a romance, it’s great to get a little bit of cultural education in the same package.

I love the cover, but was a little disappointed by the inside art. Most of my disappointment has to do with Shinobu’s face, which seems a bit off balance too me with her long bangs and super-big eyes. I felt a little bit of the same thing with Koguma, although I feel like Sakamoto will be able to draw him looking handsome more often in upcoming volumes instead of portraying him as scary with those lines across his face. Perhaps Sakamoto just needs time to feel comfortable drawing the characters. Other than that, I was delighted by the rest of the art, especially the attention paid to the kimono, and although the faces bothered me, I wouldn’t say no to this manga just because of that.

On the editorial side, I noticed a lot of little mistakes that I would have changed.  There was an aside that hit the edge of the art, blending it in with a black background. Another page had part of a letter cut off, although there was plenty of space where the entire word could have been moved to. And finally, on one page I noticed that there was an ‘Uwaaaa’ before a line where a side character was teasing Shinobu. The ‘Uwaaaa’ made no sense there, as the line should have been said straight with a sense of slight disgust,and took me out of the book, as did the other incidences despite their insignificance to enjoying the rest of the book. It says something to me that the editors weren’t able to catch the first two errors, although the last one isn’t an error so much as a stylistic choice.

Overall I am really really really looking forward to the next volume where we apparently get to deal with Koguma’s own brother trying to steal Shinobu away! If anything, I am looking forward to excellent way Sakamoto makes such cliches seem original. I would definitely recommend this book to girls who love shojo and anyone who’s open to the idea of shojo, but turned off by the idea of a cliched romance story.

Review copy provided by the reviewer.

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Tezuka Month: Ode to Kirihito vol. 1

So far my blog has been limited in it’s review power because I have to fund my review stack with my rather empty wallet. BUT, for the first time, a publisher has been kind enough to give a review copy! Hurrah! A small manga critic milestone achieved!

That being said, this is not the first time I’ve read Ode to Kirihito vol. 1. In fact, the first time I read it was when I borrowed it from a friend in college. It blew my mind. I’d NEVER read anything like it at all. I pretty much thought that all manga was shojo or shonen and that there was little beyond Tezuka than Astro Boy. Yeah, this was only a few years ago. See how far I’ve come?

Ode to Kirihito is about Kirihito Osanai, a young doctor working to cure a mysterious disease called Monmow. In order to help solve the puzzle behind the disease’s origins, he is sent to Doggodale by the director of his hospital. Once there, however, he is forced into a relationship with a local woman and contracts Monmow disease himself after a number of incidences of suspicious behavior involving the village people.

Convinced he has found the cause of the disease, Osanai attempts to return to the hospital only to meet with unfortunate circumstances and be kidnapped before he gets there. His colleague Urabe and Osanai’s fiancee Izumi attempt to locate the missing doctor, but their attempts are thwarted by Tatsugaura’s campaign to become the president of the Japanese Medical Assosciation.

The first thing I noticed while reading Ode to Kirihito was that a fair number of panels had very very sketchy art, but then the art would revert back to normal. I don’t know if this means anything, as I did try and work out if Tezuka was trying for something here, but it doesn’t seem too inappropriate considering the nature of Monmow disease. Still, I wasn’t very fond of the sketchiness. It wasn’t often in scenes that were highly intense (the whole book is intense, but there are varying degrees,)  and were often followed by panels with art as clean as day. So whatever Tezuka’s intentions were, they are lost on me.

Another thing that bothered me a little was the choice to change the format from left-t0-right instead of keeping it right-to-left. Before this starts sounding like a case of fan entitlement, I’ll mention that I read two languages right-to-left often enough that I’ve been subconsciously opening English-language books the wrong way for about nine years now. It truly threw me for a loop to see that a manga I was expecting to read right-to-left was not be that way. Since this is the only “grave sin” that Vertical commited with Ode to Kirihito as far as I can see, I think I can say it’s not that big a deal unless you’ve got your panties in a bunch. If you do, there’s a note at the beginning to explain why it’s flipped. (edit: I have been since told that the decision to flip this manga is not their decision to make, however.)

I’m sure everyone’s heard more than enough praise about Tezuka, but I still have to admire him for what he manages to do. Since I’m not a shounen/seinen fan by nature, I prefer particularly well-written shounen & seinen material as well as stuff that seems to defy the gender-based lines that a lot of Japanese manga are written around nowadays. Tezuka manages to jump over that and write and draw something that is truly easy to read no matter what your primary interest in manga is. I say this because I was able to eat it up the first time I’d read this manga despite very very little experience with manga of this depth or nature. I think this explains why Tezuka is called a god and why his work is so revered.

One other thing I particularly enjoyed were the scenes of extreme mental states, which happens most often when the story switches to Dr. Urabe’s point of view. Since Urabe is at the same time villainous and very much on the side of good, it is helpful to the reader to see his mental state before he does something truly despicable. You might not understand exactly what Tezuka’s drawing, but the message is clear that the break in sanity starts here. At first you want to despise Urabe, but as the book progresses and he throws himself into researching Monmow in Africa, saves Sister Helen and returns to Japan, you find yourself needing to re-think him. The best part is when he re-thinks himself and decides understand what he’s doing wrong and correct it. Since I don’t have volume 2, I can’t say where this character ends up, but I think he ended on a good note in this volume.

I think, in a way, Urabe is my favorite character because we get to see his emotional growth a lot more than Osanai’s. Unfortunately, the title character is rather stuck in a rut due to his disease. As readers we pity him, want him to escape his many fates and be cured, but we spend too much time seeing him put in horrible situations and having to escape them than seeing what this does to him mentally and emotionally. Further blocking this development is his resilience of will. Osanai is the good guy who cannot do much wrong. We come to understand when he must resort to acts of violence because he defends himself or another in doing so. That part of him never changes throughout volume one, although the last portions of the book did not involve any of his narrative. I rather hope he drastically changes in the next volume because I’m sick of Osanai being used and abused with little consequence for those that hurt him. Considering how the net is beginning to close around Dr. Tatsugaura, I’m sure we will see something downright vengeful in the next volume.

If you haven’t read Ode to Kirihito yet, I highly suggest you do. If you suspect it is not your thing, read it anyway. Think of it as a good education in how entertainment should be: captivating and leaving you craving for the next part.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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Manga/Anime Blogger Letter Exchange!

Letter BeeYesterday I got a letter in the mail from a college friend and excitedly tweeted about it. Gia Manry of Anime Vice, hit with sudden inspiration, responded and suggested an anime/mangablogosphere postcard exchange.

Playing with the idea a bit, I suggested a manga trade, which might or might not be the best/easiest idea. Still, a letter/postcard exchange with other bloggers sounds like loads of fun to me.

So here’s the deal:

If you have an anime or manga-based blog, e-mail me at dorihuelagruber@gmail.com with your address, any random/crazy manga requests you might like to see fulfilled and maybe a blogger you’d most like to be put in contact with.

If we get enough participants by March 31st, I’ll pick out partners and send each participant their companion’s address and “wishlist.”

Participants will be asked to write and send their letters and, if they receive something from their wishlist, blog about what they have received during the month of April.

Obviously, if anyone has any concerns about their address getting out or creepy stalkers and whatnot, they are free to contact me with any questions they might have. I will not be sharing addresses with anyone other than the person picked out to write to you, but I understand if anyone has any sort of trepidations about participating.

If you want to write to more than one person, let me know!

I can’t wait to start some letter-writing!

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TOKYOPOP Memories

So today marks my last day as an editorial intern at TOKYOPOP.

It sounds a little sad, but if you don’t already know, I’ve been hired as a freelance editor. It’s my first job post-college. I feel incredibly lucky to have it.

While I’m super excited to finally get paid for what I’ve been doing for free (For 40 hours/week, for 6 months last summer and this winter), freelancing means I won’t be here in the office as much and talking to the editors. I won’t be able to have lunch with my other interns at the food trucks outside our building. I won’t get to participate in some fun stuff like acquisitions meetings and writing for the newsletter. (If you’re wondering why I was moaning about noodles on twitter on Wednesday.) It just won’t be quite the same.

But I feel so happy to have broken into this industry. Towards the end of my college years I realized that straight journalism wasn’t for me. Blogging works for me, but standard newspaper style writing? Interviewing a set number of sources? Calling and emailing and practically stalking people just to get them to talk to you? Not anymore, thanks.

But manga… manga, I really do love. I love being able to read it, even if it means I have to read a certain manga about 10 times in one month. I love being able to say: “I read manga for a living.” or “I work with manga.” I’ve been in love with manga for almost a decade now. I’ve loved comics for untold years before that.

It’s actually kind of funny. When I first got into manga, I didn’t even realize that there was such a thing as a manga editor. Don’t ask me how I thought manga got licensed, translated, adapted, lettered, etc. from Japanese to English, but that’s what I thought. Now, obviously, I’m a bit more knowledgeable. So much so that it surprises my superiors sometimes, even if I don’t think I’m THAT knowledgeable. XD

I first got the idea to even try for an internship from my good friend Annaliese, who was a design intern for Viz and now freelances for them. I didn’t even know you could do that until she told me about it! Where the hell had I been?!

So thank you Annaliese, for putting the idea in my head and telling me to go make TOKYOPOP better with my awesomeness. Thank you Christy and some other gals from Go!Comi for putting up with me at Yaoi-Con ’08 for talking to you ALL CON LONG about manga, wanting to break into the industry and a million other things. Thank you, Stu Levy, for randomly finding my whiny tweets about not hearing back from TP and getting Tom’s email for me. Thank you, Tom, for not dismissing me when I accidentally made a typo in an e-mail when I was still an intern applicant. Thank you, Marco and Lillian, for liking me enough to hire me before I’d even managed to get out of L.A. immediately after our interview. Thank you, Cindy, for taking me under your wing when you realized that I wanted a job with TP. Thank you to everyone else at TP who I worked with closely for your patience with me and giving me feedback when it was necessary. (I love feedback!)

You guys made me feel really really loved. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, believe me, but at the end of the day, I can say I get paid for doing something I really really love: reading manga. That’s pretty damn awesome and it makes me pretty damn happy.

So, anyone need a freelance manga editor/writer?

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Fandom Hierarchy: Should We Be Allowed to Hate?

On Tuesday I managed to start a very wild discussion about Twilight & hating Twilight fans on Twitter. It’s actually caused a bit of a stir and started to make me think. (Especially with the reaction of fellow manga bloggers.)

(Please be patient with me, this post is going to be my train of thoughts.)

I’ve been a fan of manga (and by extension, anime) for almost 10 full years now. For the past eight years, I’ve been attending cons, usually more than one a year, and interacting with other fans on a person-to-person basis regularly. For the past five years, that regular basis increased to weekly basis. I’m around fans a LOT and although a lot of them are fans of a certain stripe, I still get along with most fans I meet quite well.

But there are still fans that annoy me. You may say that I’m jaded and cranky because I’ve (likely) seen all the horrors of fandom by now, you’d probably be right. And worse yet, I try to be a pacifist. So why do I still hate on fans? Why do I feel like I have the right?

Simply put, I don’t. I shouldn’t hate on Twilight fans, Narutards or any other obsessive fan just because I don’t like what they like. I shouldn’t call them crazy or freaky because obviously their definition of those words is way different than mine and they don’t fit themselves into those words. But I still hate on them. Why?

I’d have to say a lot of it stems from multiple negative incidences I have had with such fans. I don’t even care if Narutards wear those metal headbands that got banned in high school anymore, (Although I still make a snarky comment about how real ninjas wouldn’t wear shiny metal objects when they’re trying to be stealthy.) but more than a few Naruto fans have been rude to me after I said I really dislike Naruto. Which has lead me to say I not only dislike Naruto, but the way the fans behave as well.

My experiences with Twilight fans have been similar. When I answer a Twilight fan’s questions about whether I’ve read the book (I tried, I couldn’t finish it because it was so abhorant to me) or seen the movies (not wasting money and time when I didn’t like the book), I get a lot of peer pressure to “change my ways.” When I start to explain that I am not going to pick up the novels again and why, I get hated on myself. I get told that the reasons why I don’t like it are not what Twilight is about, that I’m missing the point. Even though those words aren’t necessarily insulting on their own, the tone used often is.

It’s totally demeaning to hear someone imply that you’re stupid not to like something. I don’t really take well to being insulted. (I’m trying to work on that.) The little kid that used to get teased so often fights back. The conversation escalates, nasty words are exchanged and we both leave with a bad impression of each other. While I have many valid reasons for not liking the book, my reasons for not liking the more enthusiastic fans are largely my own fault (and, honestly, the fault of the obsessive fans too. Both of us should stop being so petty.)

Then on top of the horrible experiences, I hear that someone’s made a felted fetus from one of the books, someone else has made sex toys (and is selling them), someone else has started a group to “appreciate the values” of Twilight, etc., etc., etc. Well, there goes my faith in humanity. This fandom is going to last just like Star Trek and Star Wars fans have lasted (and so has the merchandising), I’m pretty sure of it. People are going to worship this book all their lives long and raise their kids on it.

So when I can’t stand the book, the fans are downright insulting and they keep doing stuff that’s toe-ing the line of cultish behavior, I feel a little bit justified when I call them crazy. But I’m still not right, mostly because not all Twilight fans are this crazy (I know this, I know many many fairly normal fans of Twilight too. They’re separate groups of fans to me.), and even some of the more enthusiastic fans aren’t participating in the creation of sex toys or knitted reproductive organs or are even deep into the appreciation of Twilight’s “values.” I’m still lumping them together as crazy and generalizing the group as a whole. That’s not fair either, even though I can’t stand screaming ninnies from any fandom.

Melinda Beasi brought up that Twilight fans get a lot of hate because they’re women and that fans who hate on Twilight are basically hating on teenage girls, being girls. This is true, but I don’t feel like I hate Twilight fans because they’re being girls. I hate them for thinking stalking is a plausible lead to a romantic relationship, not because they think Edward or Jacob or whoever is hot. If it was JUST them thinking Edward was hot, THAT I can understand. I do that too, albeit not with characters who are creepy stalkers. I hate them for thinking this book is the greatest thing ever and being annoyingly obsessive and rude to me when I don’t agree.

Do I still have the right to hate on them? No. I’m totally in the wrong no matter how much I explain my feelings about it.

Today’s lesson: Don’t hate on people. You don’t have the right  and it’s of no real benefit to you. You’re not better than them. No one’s better than anyone else, especially in fandom. Remember kids, superiority complexes start fan wars. Take it a little bit further and you can say superiority complexes kill.

Don’t be a jerk and start a fan war. DON’T follow my example.

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Do Want: Peepo Choo

You all remember my little rant about the Twilight graphic novel a few months back?

Well, there are definitely two sides of the coin as I am more than happy to write about titles I AM looking forward to. So here’s the first: Peepo Choo.

Peepo ChooSome of you guys might remember the creator, Felipe Smith, as a runner up in TOKYOPOP‘s Rising Stars of Manga and the creator of MBQ. What many of you might not know is that after MBQ was ended, Mr. Smith made his manga debut IN JAPAN. No small feat for an out-of-towner. (Literally.)

Luckily for Smith, Peepo Choo has been wildly successful and Vertical will be putting it out this year.

Peepo Choo is a story about Milton, an otaku obsessed with anime figures and a very popular  (fictional) anime called Peepo Choo. He lives in the projects of Chicago and works in a comic book shop in exchange for figures. His boss, Gill, happens to be an assassin and takes Milton and Judy, another shop assistant, to Japan as a cover up fo his next job of offing some yakuza. What comes out of this already sort of weird story is a wild commentary about American and Japanese perceptions of each others’ cultures and the misunderstandings that usually crop up between those perceptions.

According to this Anime News Network article about his journey from OEL manga to the Japanese industry, Smith has worked incredibly hard on this manga and I am *super*-excited to read it.

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