Monthly Archives: April 2010

Manga Moveable Feast: Mushishi vol. 1-4

The first time I came across Mushishi was when my really awesome college anime club watched it about two years ago. I picked up the manga in bookstores to take a peek, but it wasn’t high on my list of things to buy. So I never did. UNTIL NOW. -cue dramatic music-

Said club having really terrific taste in anime, I rather loved watching Mushishi although it usually hit me as kind of slow. (It showed right before our dinner break, so I guess I was just anxious for some grub or something.) That was awhile ago so picking up the first four volumes of the Mushishi manga felt familiar, but still rather fresh.

Mushishi is about a “doctor” of sorts named Ginko who researches and deals with cases of mushi, semi-mystical and bug-like primordial beings that coexist alongside plants and animals, but act in many different ways, be they parasitic, otherwise harmful or completely docile. The manga chronicles Ginko’s adventures in no particular order with self-contained plots in each chapter. While some might say it would be easy to start at a random volume, I still feel like it’s best to start at the beginning where Yuki Urushibara is making the effort to explain the mushi and what Ginko does.

Urushibara is specifically unclear as she states in her postscript that there isn’t a particular time attached to Mushishi, although she suspects it is sometime between the Edo and Meiji periods. I’m glad she made this choice because it would be a lot more difficult to do this story in a modern setting, like some manga might which always strikes me as a little B-rated fantasy flick-ish. Thanks to this, Mushishi retains a mystical and timeless quality as it really should be.

Ginko is a really cool protagonist. He seems like a real person despite his strange surroundings who tries very hard at his job and really likes mushi a lot. He regularly attempts to make all the right decision for everybody, but isn’t totally against doing something that will benefit himself or something that technically breaks a taboo. My favorite chapters throughout the first four volumes (I’m planning on picking up the rest on Saturday, so perhaps I can do a second post right before the Manga Moveable Feast ends) are “The Sea of Brushstrokes” (vol. 2) about a girl born with a mushi sealed inside her right leg who must write about killing mushi in order to expel it, “The Fish Gaze” (vol.3) which is about Ginko’s past and how he got his strange features, “Picking the Empty Cocoon” (vol. 4) about a girl who takes care of a certain kind of mushi and the loss of her sister to this mushi and “In the Cage” (vol. 4) about a family that is trapped inside a bamboo grove by a white bamboo mushi.

This manga reminds me a lot of Natsume’s Book of Friends mixed with Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (in a sort of action-packed with interesting characters way) so if you like either of those manga you’ll probably be interested in Mushishi.

The art starts out a bit on the difficult side of sketchy at first, but eventually comes into it’s own as the manga moves on.  While I’m perfectly content with the style, if you really really like super clean artwork, then this manga isn’t for you.  All in all, I think it really suits the story and it’s mysterious subjects, but I won’t lie that a few years ago I probably would have frowned a little at this style. I used to really admire clean lines.

While I rather like the art and the story, I have some complaints from a editor’s perspective. From volume 1 I was extremely annoyed by the choice of font for the narratives. I was really hoping it would go away after the first volume, but no such luck. It also had some spiky strokes (usually white  lines around the font to make it show up against darker panels, etc.)  that just looked so unnatural to me. I know this is kind of a really picky thing to complain about, but font choice is pretty important and this particular font pretty much reminded me of the way Papyrus is misused for every single “ancient”-looking thing out there. I hate Papyrus with a passion if you can’t tell. I personally would have chosen something that looked more handwritten and similar to the wavy brushstrokes that are used to draw the mushi.

Another problem I had with the book was that Del Rey seemed completely unaware that some of the dialogue was in the bleed zone. (The bleed zone is some buffer space given so nothing important, like dialogue, will be cut off in printing.) This happened consistently through four volumes and it just REALLY pisses me off to have to practically crack the book’s spine just to get at some text in the middle or to see half of a line of text disappear at the bottom of a page. To me this says: SOMEONE WASN’T PAYING ATTENTION, takes me out of the book and makes the whole thing a lot harder to read. They also advertised “special extras” on the back of every volume, but if the special extras were the inclusion of a few pages of the next volume, I could have done without the anticipation. Sure, it’s not in the original Japanese version, but extra pages (in Japanese) of the next volume are NOT that special to me. Am I jaded? Perhaps, but it’s not like I was buying Mushishi for these “special extras” anyway. Overall, the packaging is nice and I like the paper they used for the covers, which isn’t glossy and makes the watercolored cover art to look really awesome. All the covers are pretty, but volume 4 (pictured above) is my favorite so far.

Finally, and this is probably an artistic or editorial decision on the Japanese side to let some of the tones slip over into the word balloons. I don’t know why it bothers me so much because it does seem to fit the whole feel of Mushishi, but it just seems so lazy to me. It’s not that consistent either, although I noticed it usually happens to balloons in landscape scenes. In the end, I guess this is all just stuff I would correct as an editor, if I was the editor.

As whole, I wouldn’t skip Mushishi just because of my little editorial nitpicking. It says something about this series that even after I’ve seen the anime (which is basically a verbatim adaption of the manga), I’ve been more than happy to buy the manga. (Not just for the Feast, but it was an excellent excuse.) I’d even be willing, in a few months time, to pick it up for a casual re-read.

If you would like to read more about Mushishi, check out the other Manga Moveable Feast entries at Manga Worth Reading! Thank you to Ed Sizemore for hosting this month’s event!

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Jews in Manga and Anime

I’m Jewish. I’m not religious, but I like being Jewish. It’s an interesting culture to be around and there’s always food. It’s always fun to share Judaism with others because most Jewish people don’t care about converting anyone, but non-Jewish people don’t know that much about the religion or the culture.

Look familiar?

There are Jews all around the world, from Europe to Africa, the Americas and even Asia, but it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of Jews in Japan. In fact, I’m pretty damn sure there’s almost no Jews. Probably just a few tiny pocket communities and an Israeli consulate somewhere. As a result, Jews and Jewish culture don’t get much attention in manga or anime unless some mangaka decides that the Kabbalistic tree of life looks pretty spiffy and mystical and sticks it in as a background illustration. (*COUGHCOUGHCOUGH*CLAMP*COUGHCOUGH*) Considering how Kabbalah is supposed to be for married men over the age of 40, it doesn’t exactly count as an accurate portrayal of anything Jewish.

That being said: Jews are (somehow) present in a few manga and anime.

The most prevalent of these manga has to be Adolf by Osamu Tezuka, which makes a lot of sense considering the topic is World War II-era Japan and Europe. Although I have not read the series (yet, mostly because when it came out I couldn’t get it for fear my mom would see it and not be happy), I do know that it deals with Jewish children and families and even with Adolf Hilter’s Jewish heritage.

Adolf, in fact, seems to set the trend for Jews being portrayed in anime and manga because there are at least two different anime adaptions of Anne Frank’s Diary. Understandable, since Anne Frank’s Diary is famous all around the world. I can see why people would like Anne Frank’s Diary in anime form. It is very dramatic and very true to her age. I first read it when I was close to her age, how she felt about her situation was very relatable.

The third manga/anime, and probably the most popular one at the moment is Black Lagoon which has Benny, a lax American Jew, as a side character. Unlike the previous examples, Benny is a modern Jew with different feelings about things like the Holocaust than the Jews in Adolf and Anne Frank’s Diary had. He even talks about this in a certain story arc involving some nutty neo-Nazi’s looking for sunken WWII treasure in a U-Boat. I can relate to Benny a lot, actually. He feels pretty much the same way about the Holocaust as I do.  That threw me for a loop when I first saw the aforementioned story arc.

It’s not that I wish for more Jews in manga; we’ve got plenty of other representations in various media. I know why there aren’t very many, but I do like to ponder if there are more Jews in manga or anime that we don’t know about. Are there any fictional manga Jews out there that I’m missing?

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My Life as a (Rookie) Editor: New Books!

With all the craziness happening in my life as of late, I forgot to mention that I found three new books with my name on them! Yaaaay!

So if you’d like to indirectly support me, or at least let Tokyopop know that the stuff I work on is awesome, please buy these books!

April:

Songs to Make You Smile by Natsuki Takaya (4/27)

Karakuri Odette vol 3 by Julietta Suzuki (4/27)

NG Life vol 5 by Mizuho Kusanagi (4/27)

My bookshelf is growing!

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My Life as a (Rookie) Editor: My deadlines are killing me AND my computer

Word of Advice: Don’t get into publishing if you don’t do well with deadlines.

I’m not saying you can’t be a procrastinator or something, but if deadlines make your head swirl until you start crying in a corner, don’t get into any kind of writing or publishing job. Or any job that deals with deadlines on a regular basis.

That being said I’ve had a lot of “bad” deadlines. I had two script edits to finish this week ASAP and luckily for me I made both deadlines alright. They were only bad deadlines in the sense that I’ve been having a terrible and unfortunately busy week and I wound up getting very stressed out.

That being said, I might have to take some kind of short hiatus. The number one reason being that my computer, for some inexplicable reason, has decided to crap out on me and not allow me to access certain sites or parts of certain sites. As you can imagine, one of those sites is WordPress. (UGH.)
The second reason being is that I’m currently at my mother’s house taking care of her after she had a nasty spill and badly sprained both her ankles.

I don’t even know what’s wrong with my computer at the moment or where the best place to take it to be fixed is. Nor am I sure if I can afford it, so until then, posts from me will be short, sweet and a little bit few and far between.

That said, if anyone can offer any advice as to good, relatively cheap places to take computers in for repair in Orange County, CA, I would appreciate it.

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My Life as a (Rookie) Editor: So What Do You Do Again?

Since I officially became a freelance manga editor only a few weeks ago, there’s been a holiday season (think Christmas-style.)  A few of the parties or dinners I’ve gone to since involved perfect strangers and relatives who haven’t seen me in awhile. A lot of people were asking what I did for a living or what I was up to these days. Had I graduated college yet?

When I told them that I edit manga, I was met with: “That’s the coolest job ever!” and/or “So what exactly do you do?”

While the process of editing comic books and manga might seem obvious to some, it clearly isn’t so obvious to others. Considering how I didn’t even know what it entailed a year ago, I figure there might be some people out there who could benefit from a little divulging.

1.Research- There’s a lot of manga out there. The industry has been going on for so long and is so much bigger in Japan and other countries, but the U.S. has only just started paying attention to manga. So the first step is to get  look up, read and decide which  manga an editor most wants to publish, keeping in mind popularity, tastes, ability to acquire and so on. Once it’s decided by a larger group of people which manga a publisher really really wants, it’s really up to the Japanese publisher to grant them a license. (With some persuasion, of course.)

2. Translation, adaption, editing- Once a manga is on the calendar and it’s a certain number of months ahead of the release date, the manga is translated and adapted, usually by outside sources, and the final script is looked over by editor. This usually involves making decisions like which phrasing to go with if the adapter or translator leaves multiple versions of a line, carefully placing the right fonts at the right places, making sure there isn’t anything missing in the translation and generally correcting errors. Editors also do a pagination so that people involved in laying out the actual comic know what goes where in terms of credits pages, advertisements, illustrations and the like.

3. Copy-editing- After the lettering is done and the English language script and the comic are finally joined together as one, an editor has to make sure that the spelling and grammar is correct as well as making sure that the art is decent and making sure that things are consistent overall. There’s also a bit of re-writing involved just in case something sounds a little awkward or jarring.  This gets done at least 5-6 times and may have many different guises such as quality-checking or “going over the proofs.” It’s the most time-consuming part of the work.

4. Writing copy- Every manga has copy on it’s back cover and, if it’s a continuing series, some preview copy of the next volume. The editors write that and any other related promo copy for the book. (I’ve written promo copy for book trailers and press releases.) There’s also a lot of writing for other things such as newsletters, although that kind of thing is not always tied to a book.

5. Covers- While the designers make the covers, the editors have to sign off on them before they go to the licensor for approval or go to print. Editors make sure they like the concept of the cover art and that all the super-important stuff is in place such as ISBN numbers, age ratings and trademark symbols.

6. Brand managing- While I don’t do this personally as a freelance editor, other editors at TOKYOPOP are in charge of managing the “brands” of the series they work on. I’m actually not entirely sure what their duties are as brand managers, but I imagine that they involve keeping the titles looking consistent and pretty, making sure fans hear about the titles and generally getting them out there.

7. Managing original titles- Most of  the titles put by manga publishers come from other publishers, so they’ve already been through that stage of “this is good, this is not good” stage of editing. Still, there are titles out there that are original to a U.S. manga publishing house, like Bizenghast. Editors who are assigned such titles are supposed to monitor and guide the creators as they work on the title in order to create a better product.

All in all, it’s a super fun job if you like this sort of thing. You have to really not mind looking at the same books at least 2 million times in a short period of time and have good writing skills to like it, but if you don’t, I imagine it gets boring pretty quickly.

I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

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Osaka Considering Regulation of Female-Oriented Manga

When I first saw Anime News Network’s clip on how Osaka is reviewing josei and boys’ love manga and other related materials for content that objectifies youth under the age of 18, I didn’t really notice it. After all, Tokyo’s been considering something similar so I figured Osaka just jumped on the bandwagon.

…Until I read Anime Vice’s post on the same subject when I realized something —Osaka is ONLY going after stuff targeted at women.

…WHAT THE HELL, OSAKA?

Imagine a world where josei did not exist for exploring female sexuality.

Now, I can understand the importance of regulating material that objectifies minors as well as the next person, whether it be shojo, josei or hentai. That’s not what I have a problem with. My problem is the fact that the Osaka Prefectural Government is ONLY going after materials that women read and NOTHING that’s marketed at guys. (Oh yes! There is a history of them ONLY going after female-oriented material!)

Excuse me, dudes, I do not think that is fair. I won’t say that the fairer sex isn’t past questionable Harlequin romances and even more questionable yaoi cliches, but I do think that dudes are a little more into objectifying minors than women are. Or, at least, most men do it with a little more frequency than most women do. If I am wrong, then I guess I’m going to hell for over-generalizing and will have to forever apologize to every guy who’s ever masturbated.

Moritheil of Anime Diet reminded me of Japan’s not-so-secretive sexism, how politicians don’t think realistically and how concerned Japan is with being able to sell anime and manga overseas, but I still have to say SHAME ON OSAKA.

I am so royally pissed at Osaka for not going after guy-oriented manga too. I know there HAS to be SOME ecchi, harem, moe-blob or hentai manga being sold in Osaka that’s objectifying minors!! Don’t tell me it doesn’t exist!

I SO wish I lived in Osaka so I could give the prefectural government there a little piece of my mind, but I am stuck with meaningless fan rage. I sincerely hope that Osaka’s government either includes scrutiny of male-oriented manga and related materials in their study or drops it all together in the sake of total free speech.

Ladies and Gents, what are you thoughts about this focus on regulating ONLY female-oriented manga?

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My Life as a (Rookie) Editor: My Collected Works

Manga blogger Ed Sizemore of Manga Worth Reading recently suggested that I re-do my banner to include manga that I’m credited for.

There’s only one problem…

It would look like this:

Red Hot Chili Samurai

"ALL BY MYSEEEEEEELLLLLFFFFF~~~~~~"

See, there’s only two three manga out there (so far) with my name on it. This is the only one I own.

The other manga is Gakuen Alice vol. 9 and Your & My Secret vol. 5 if you’re wondering.

The reason for this is actually quite simple. People at TOKYOPOP kept handing me BLU stuff and asking: “You like boys’ love, don’t you?” (Answer: “I don’t mind it.”; Translation: “I am lowly intern scum, so I’m going to say yes regardless of whatever I REALLY think about it.”) So I kept editing BLU titles and the thing about BLU titles is that NO ONE LIKES TO ADMIT THEY WORKED ON THEM. Don’t believe me? Grab the closest BLU title, flip to the back of the book, find the credits page and look for the names of the English-language staff.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to admit to being responsible some of the shounen-ai and yaoi that’s been put out (whether from BLU or other companies), but I kind of sort of feel like I should get some credit for copy-editing Madness. (I worked on both volumes of the series, actually.) That title came back from the letterers so full of errors that I went back multiple times just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. On top of that, the art style is very tone-heavy, so it was pain to mark all of the really really darkened panels. As hard as I worked on it though, there’s no way I want to be associated with some of the funky stuff that goes down in Madness, so I guess that I’ll stop whining about it.

If you’re interested here are some of the volumes that should have my name somewhere in them:

April-

Fruits Basket Fanbook: Banquet (4/27)

Battle Vixens 15 (4/27)

June-

Gravitation Collection 5 (6/1)

Fruits Basket Ultimate Edition 5 (6/1)

Sgt. Frog 19 (6/29)

July-

Zone-00 4

August-

Genju no Seiza 8

I hope you enjoy them all and I hope I get to fill my bookshelf with awesome titles that I’ve worked on someday!

P.S. I don’t REALLY hate working on yaoi or shonen-ai, I just dislike the assumption that because I’m a female manga fan, I must be an obsessive yaoi fangirl. All that really happened was that I got asked “you like boys’ love, right?” a lot while interning at TOKYOPOP and it kind of became something I privately giggled about. Plus, through editing so much yaoi manga, I became that much more familiar with it’s tropes and whatnot. I can speak about it with a lot more confidence now and that’s good for a lot of things! Also, in comparison to Madness, copy-editing the Fruits Basket Fanbook was a lot harder!

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