Monthly Archives: September 2010

Happy 1st Blogoversary, All About Manga!

Woohoo! One year! :D

Last summer I decided to take a blogging class. I figured that since most of my journalism professors were crying over the upcoming death of print media, I should become more familiar with this blogging stuff that was going to pretty much take over print media. When the class started, the professor told us to make a blog. I made this one.

In one year I’ve managed to write over 100 posts, get over 700 comments (OK, half of those are probably mine, but still not too shabby!), been on more than a few podcasts, people who know me and my blog when we meet  and more hits that I could have ever dreamed of when I first started this blog.

Here are some highlights of the past year…

The top 20 posts:

  1. Ten REALLY GOOD Ways to Buy and Not Steal Manga (It’s fitting that this is the top post. ^_^)
  2. Why is Manhwa not as popular as Manga? (I really wish this post wasn’t so popular…I’ve since changed my views on manhwa A LOT)
  3. Comics & Girls: We want to kick ass (One of two posts with the most comments for this blog! Also my first troll!)
  4. Interning in the Manga Industry: My Advice (So happy this one is in the top five! I’m so proud of this post.)
  5. The Great Manga Gift Guide: SHOJO STYLE! (One of the posts that started getting me recognized by others.)
  6. Anime Expo: Day One (Admittedly, this post is probably only popular because it was posted on the AX forums…)
  7. Causing the Death of an Industry (Yes, this post is alarmist, but it’s a good way to imagine the what ifs.)
  8. Jews in Anime and Manga (What happened when I answered one of my own questions…)
  9. Layoffs for Viz; Death Rattle for Go!Comi (One of the saddest posts I’ve written after the one on CMX’s demise.)
  10. Scott Pilgrim/Mighty Fine T-Shirt Contest (My first contest! It was so much fun and I can’t wait to do more!)
  11. The Manga Cliche Review: Musical Talent Part 2 (An old review concept… I’m not sure why this one is so popular. o_0)
  12. Gakuen Alice on the Fast Track (Thank you to Marco for giving me this inside tip.)
  13. Osaka Considering the Regulation of Female-Oriented Manga (I still don’t fully understand why Osaka didn’t target ecchi manga too, a real headshaker.)
  14. Hetalia: You Should Read This Manga Even If You Don’t Want To (Yes, I am not above shameless self-promotion. I worked hard on that manga!)
  15. Fandom Hierarchy: Should We Be Allowed to Hate? (Sparked by an intense Twitter discussion.)
  16. 10 Years of Lovin’ Manga (My 10th anniversary as a manga fan, followed by everyone sharing their own manga stories.)
  17. Prostitution in Manga (Probably one of the hardest posts I’ve had to write. I wish I could develop this into a real research project.)
  18. Discussion: Why Do Readers Shun Shoujo? (I was beginning to realize how I could create more discussion on the blog. It worked!)
  19. Comic Book Movies: Astro Boy (Another old post that’s popular for reasons I don’t understand. I guess it’s not a bad post, but I wish this post was more popular. I never saw the movie in the end.)
  20. Manhwa Controversy (My response to the outrage at my first post on manhwa… Yeah, I was totally wrong.)

I’ve pretty much figured out that opinion, not reviews, is my strong point, but maybe in the future I can work on that a little more or bring someone on with me to do reviews. (Anyone interested?)  I’d also like to make a little money off of ads or book referrals, but I haven’t figured out the best way to do that yet. There’s still so much I don’t know about blogging!  (There’s still so much I don’t know about other stuff either…)

After I finished my first internship at TOKYOPOP and started this blog, I realized something that had been stirring in the back of my mind– I really did not want to be a journalist. At the time, it was an enormous problem for me. If I didn’t want to do journalism and if this whole manga editing thing didn’t work out, what was I going to do for a living? And while this blog doesn’t make me any money, it’s certainly helped me build my reputation up more and allowed me to make so many friends. This blog kept my head above water when I was drowning in uncertainty and lead me to a island that I might be able to call paradise.

In the mean time, I’m going to continue doing this blog, continue editing manga for a living and maybe some day in the future I hope to open up my own business. Maybe a publishing company, maybe a bookstore, I’m not sure yet.

Thank you, everyone, for what you’ve given me over the past year. You’re the ones who’ve made me and this blog a success.

So much love,

Daniella Orihuela-Gruber


Filed under manga, Uncategorized

The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography

The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography is an educational manga by Tetsu Saiwai being published by Penguin Paperbacks, available in stores Sept. 28th. While it covers what you’d expect from a biography, it doesn’t give readers a montage of important events throughtout the long, eventful life the current Dalai Lama has lived so far using a distant third-party voice. Instead, it focuses what made Tenzin Gyatso a world-renown leader in the first place, China’s invasion of Tibet, using the Dalai Lama himself as a narrator. The manga starts with the death of the 13th Dalai Lama and proceeds quickly through finding Tenzin as a boy, his childhood and his quick rise to power in the face of adversity. Then it gets down to the nitty gritty of what went down with the Chinese  government, the Dalai Lama’s exile from the government and wraps up with a quick look on how he’s tried to run a nation from outside its borders.

First of all, I was really excited to read this manga. I love learning about history and I think Asian history is some of the most fascinating stuff out there that we rarely get to study in school. Clearly, I am the right audience for this manga, just to let you know because it affects my opinion a little.

But regardless of that, I feel like the approach that Saiwai took with this manga is interesting. A lot of biographies in illustrated form that I’ve seen tend to gloss over the details in favor of packing an entire life in a certain amount of pages. Reading history via a highlight reel is a bit boring to me and I can imagine it’s worse for people less interested in history. Instead, Saiwai uses the Dalai Lama’s voice and thoughts to narrate his biography. The focus is placed not on dozens of separate events, but what was probably the most dramatic period of the Dalai Lama’s life,  turning this into a story, not history. There’s war, drama, betrayal, torture and tears to prove it.

Things do go a little quickly at times, but Saiwai really only rushes through Gyatso’s childhood, pausing to show us how he was found to be the 14th Dalai Lama, and what he does after his exile in India.  But do we really need to see page after page of the young spiritual leader learning the intricacies of Buddhism? I really don’t think so. While I would have liked to see a bit more of what the Dalai Lama did after his exile, that might get a bit complicated and boring at times too and would up the page count significantly. So we are treated to a semi-happy ending, showing the prosperity and freedom from persecution of the Tibetan people in India instead. I should mention that the Tibetan people play a considerable role as a group character that affects the Dalai Lama’s decision making, which I found appropriate to include. It certainly makes the decisions made throughout the book a lot easier to understand and history is made just as much by the people as it is by the world’s leaders.

The reader hopefully comes away with a better idea of what happened (although admittedly, it is quite one-sided) and why it was wrong. I am still quite fond of the way Saiwai has written this educational manga and it is noted that Saiwai worked together with the Dalai Lama’s liason office for Japan/ East Asia in order to create the 1st person tone of this manga on top of using numerous films, speeches and source material about and from the Dalai Lama. The result is quite good. It doesn’t sound like PR schlock, which I’m sure the liason’s office might have wanted to force unto Saiwai, or any sort of Buddhist evangelism. Saiwai specializes in educational manga on human rights issues and reading The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography made me want to look at the other issues he has covered via manga. I imagine that is the best sort of reaction an educational/historical manga could hope for.

The art is pretty functional. It doesn’t really fit neatly into any one genre’s typical style, so it feels easy to read, which is a good fit for a biographical manga. My one big complaint is that everyone has bug eyes. While this may just be a style quirk, it hinders being able to see the characters emotions. More than once, a character would cry and it would take me a second to realize what they were doing exactly. It also made some characters a bit hard to distinguish because there were very few other features to set them apart from one another. In the end, the art’s nothing to get excited about, but it’s certainly not bad. I rather liked the way Saiwai drew the detailed embroidery on Tibetan clothing. It certainly isn’t super-intricate Kaoru Mori style, but it’s cute and gets the idea of embroidery across. The art does seem a little bit old-fashioned, which might turn off some readers, who prefer super-slick styles, but anyone who loves an old Tezuka manga won’t be turned off.

In conclusion, I’d say this manga is worth buying for anyone who loves history, Buddhism, Asian politics or is just plain interested in what happened, but doesn’t want to read a long string of Wikipedia pages. This manga will give you what happened to the Dalai Lama a nice linear fashion from his own perspective. By historical research standards, yes, it is one-sided, but this could be easily solved by a bit of  side research by the reader if they care to see it. By biography standards, the one-sidedness is fine.

While I was writing this review, Jason Thompson tweeted about a Buddhist commenter on another blog (he didn’t share the link, so sorry for not providing it), that said this biography was a Chinese government plot to discredit Buddhism. I want to let you readers know that this is false. The entire book is about the single most important Buddhist leader in the whole entire world, and while the focus isn’t on Buddhism itself, the manga clearly shows why this man is considered the reincarnation of Buddha himself. If discrediting Buddhism was the intent of the manga, it sure failed spectacularly at that! (And it doesn’t make the Chinese government look that great either.) Later tweets from Jason suggested that the commenter may just dislike comics or something. Oh well!

Review copy provided by the publisher.


Filed under manga, reviews

Prostitution in Manga

This is going to be a little bit of an odd post. See, a few years ago, I took a seminar on the history of prostitution. It was a fascinating class, about the different kinds of prostitution that were created by  cultures throughout history and how these societies treated these women and men.  Japan is no exception with it’s history of Edo-era oiran to comfort women in Japan-occupied territories to modern day host and hostess clubs.

For the sake of this discussion, we’ll define prostitution as the act of a person selling their physical bodies for a period of time to another person for reasons that involve sexual fantasies, whether they end in sexual relations or not. I’m including this caveat because there is a practice in Japan of enjo kosai, or compensated dating, which doesn’t always result in sexual relationships, but still involve some degree of sexual desire or fantasy from the buyer. Because it technically does fit the conditions, we’ll include the host(ess) clubs. I decided to take phone sex out because there’s not a physical aspect, just a vocal one.

I would like to ask that you put aside your feelings about prostitution for the sake of  this discussion. Yes, there are people forced into prostitution and  used and abused by pimps and johns around the world. Yes, that is wrong. But there are many people who go into this trade willingly, for their own reasons, and there is clearly a demand for their services. Is prostitution really so bad or are your feelings just a mirror of current society’s views on sex and its taboos? For that matter, why does society view sex as so bad?  All these questions are relevant to this discussion and you should take a moment to think about them and why you may also agree with societal taboos about sex and prostitution.

Prostitutes in their many forms are usually depicted as unsavory characters in Japanese manga. In many stereotypical portrayals, prostitution is something that characters are rescued from, a tool to paint the prostitutes in a tragic light or a tool to cause jealousy in their lovers. These tropes have been played out in all sorts of manga, be it shounen, shojo, seinen, josei or BL. Very few have portrayed prostitution as a more than a societal taboo, something that normal, decent people don’t do. Considering the fact that host(ess) clubs are prominent and enjo kosai is considered a societal problem, however, Japan has no lack of people who aren’t able to put aside their feelings about societal taboos and indulge in some form of prostitution.

Here are some of the most common tropes of prostitution in manga:

-Being lured into prostitution (or more commonly, enjo kosai): Characters are pushed into prostitution or compensated dating either by enemies looking to make a character look bad, drunken strangers soliciting people on the street, peer pressure from friends looking to make an easy buck and even the lure of easy money itself. This has been seen in manga such as Gals! (CMX), Confidential Confessions and Initial D (TOKYOPOP.) According to a Twitter response by former Viz Editor-in-Chief William Flanagan, there were many 90’s manga that included this trope after it became a hot topic in Japan.

-The tragic prostitute that must be saved:  This trope is a little sneakier than you think. There’s a lot of manga that feature prostitutes leaving the profession for many, many reasons. In Deep Love- Ayu no Monogatari, the main character is able to justify her bleak  existence until she meets a “kind-hearted old lady.” While seemingly innocent, this storyline suggests that contact with a decent, upstanding member of society will make the less decent member change their ways, a common, yet unfair depiction to the prostitute that assumes they are not a contributing member of society to the best of their ability.

-The gold-digging host(ess): While host(esse)s are just slightly outside the traditional definition of prostitutes, they are technically selling time with themselves (and lots and lots of alcoholic beverages) in order to entertain a customer who finds them attractive. They are a bit more like geisha, who also do not sell sex to clients regularly, but entertain them with conversation and wit. Unlike these other examples, however, Club 9 (Dark Horse) is a title from the age of the bubble economy in Japan that actually portrays hostesses in a positive light. While one particular girl joins the club at the suggestion of her friends, they all see it as a form of empowerment, using the money to help them succeed in life, being flattered by the compliments of their customers and generally not feeling bad about what they’re doing at the end of the day. Why should they? They aren’t doing anything really illegal or indecent, they are making their own decisions and supporting themselves. It’s a refreshing take on an industry that is always portrayed as super-seedy and full of men and women who are just looking to feed their egos and their wallets. Ouran High School Host Club (Viz) and The Wallflower (Del Rey) are other manga that frequently parody or tease this trope, but in a more positive manner. Many other manga, like 30 Kon Miso-com by Rika Yonezawa, show hosts as willing to take advantage of people.

-The noble whore: Unlike the tragic prostitute who must be saved, these prostitutes are not saved, but are on the side of good none the less. If it weren’t for the fact that they were prostitutes, they’d probably be saints.  Kouchou of Saiunkoku Monogatari (Viz) is one such noble whore. She runs the pleasure house that she works in, is the most sought-after courtesan in the capital and is a strong leader in the local underground, but obviously the stain of prostitution affects her status as shown by scenes where she persuades Shuurei (the main character) to stop working as an accountant for her, lest Shuurei’s reputation be tainted.  Karen from X/1999 is also a noble whore as she’s on the side of good in the series. While it’s a nicer portrayal than most, there’s still an aspect of “tsk tsk” when dealing with these characters.

-Prostitute, badass: There are a number of prostitutes in manga that are prostitutes/assassins or some other form of “badass.” Considering that some think kunoichi used their feminine wiles to get closer to their targets, this idea isn’t such a surprise. Makie  and Makoto from Blade of the Immortal (Dark Horse) are such characters, being a geisha and a male prostitute who engage in fighting or espionage. Respect for these characters is mixed. Often they’re the bad guys, but at the same time their skills are usually respected. How their status as prostitutes is treated varies from “it’s just how things are” to “that just makes them even worse baddies.”

-Bitch don’t care: Probably one of the saddest portrayals out there is the prostitute that thinks so lowly of themself or is so intent on money, drugs or a need for attention that they don’t mind engaging in prostitution. Either they are hiding some sad past or are just out to spite someone close, but either way they’ve thrown any virtue to the wind. Arima’s mother Ryoko in Kare Kano is one such person, as is number of characters (usually in shoujo or BL) who are using prostitution to make themselves feel better or make someone else feel jealous. Unlike the character who is lured into prostitution, who is usually nervous about it, these characters are using prostitution for their own means. At the same time, they aren’t quite the same as the gold-digger because of possible emotional issues and because they don’t mind doing anything unsavory to get what they want. (Usually the gold-digging host(esse)s draw the line at trying to kill someone.)

If I had more time and a more comprehensive collection of manga to read through and study, I could probably find more tropes to share with you. In the mean time, here’s a few manga listed on that feature prostitutes and brothels. I’d also like to include a list, which I will post below, of manga that readers and Twitter followers gave to me. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed! I hope all of you have given a thought to how much prostitution we see in manga and how these people are portrayed.


Hana no Asuka-gumi, Papaya Gundan, Sweet Guilty Love Bites, Club 9, Ouran High School Host Club, Nodame Cantabile, The Wallflower, 30 Kon Miso-com, Kare Kano, Happy Mania, B.O.D.Y., Gintama


Astral Project, Gunsmith Cats, Sundome, Ghost Talker’s Daydream, X/1999 , Delivery, Monster, 20th Century Boys, Oldboy, Eden: It’s an Endless World, Ciguatera, The Other Side of the Mirror, Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden, Kaze Hikaru, Oyayubihime Infinity, Samurai Champloo, House of Five Leaves, I’ll Give it My All…Tomorrow, Sarasah, Peach Girl Change of Heart, The Push Man & Other Stories

Male Prostitutes

Lovers and Souls , RULES, Not Simple, Gerard and Jacques, Games with Me, Nana, Banana Fish, Blue Sheep Reverie, Ooku, Love Mode, Alone in My King’s Harem, Blade of the Immortal, Yellow

Enjo Kosai

Initial D, Gals!, Great Teacher Onizuka, Bokurano, My-Hime, Peach Girl, Confidential Confessions


Sakuran, Rurouni Kenshin, Peacemaker Kurogane, Hell Girl (Hone Onna), Bakumatsu Kikansestus Irohanihoheto (anime), Oedo wa Nemuranai!


Filed under manga, opinion

Webcomics Wednesday: Naughty & NSFW

There are all sorts of webcomics out there and while there are plenty of kid-safe ones, there are also plenty to keep adults entertained.

Naughty illustrations are probably as old as history itself and there are plenty of sexy comics out there in other mediums, so it’s really no surprise that webcomics began to show off it’s kink.

I’ve already mentioned DAR! by Erika Moen, but here’s some more of my favorite NSFW reads and a few NSFW webcomic collectives:

Jess Fink’s Chester 5000 XYV is probably one of the first naughty webcomics I read. It’s about a Victorian-era housewife who discovers that she really likes sex…but her husband doesn’t. So he makes her a sexy male robot and hijinks under the sheets ensue. It’s a great webcomic because, unlike a lot of pornos, there’s a well-written back story! The graphic novel version is being published by Top Shelf in 2011.

Oglaf is a bit more tongue in cheek, featuring mostly sexual humor, but with gross-out moments every now and then. Some of those gross out moments might be too much for some, but if you’ve got an open mind and you’re not afraid of some nasty jokes, I suggest it highly.

I’ve been following the artist of Menage a 3 over the course of a few different webcomics, but I think this one is my favorite. The story revolves around a sexually-inexperienced guy, his sexy new roommates and his sexy old roommates! I like this one because it includes all sorts of sexuality, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, crossdressers, drag queens, porn stars, etc. A lot of the webcomic is about breaking sexual taboos and running with it.

On the not so straight side is Curvy, which is a delightful webcomic about a human girl who is taken to Candy World by her new friend and lover (a princess of Candy World.) The princess is running away from an arranged marriage, and of course she has some thugs running after her, trying to bring her back to the prince she’s supposed to marry. As these girls run, they explore a world that is interestingly free of sexual restraint. Plus the art is pretty cute.

I Was Kidnapped By Lesbian Pirates From Outer Space by Megan Rose Gedris doesn’t need much of an explanation with a title like that. It’s a fun lesbian space drama with an interesting art style. This isn’t Megan’s first lesbian-oriented webcomic, so you should definitely check out her other work.

I personally haven’t come across any webcomics made for gay men that I can remember, but for the fujoshi set, I’d like to recommend Starfighter. While the comic seems to be just starting out, it’s well drawn and I’m liking the story so far. There’s not too much sexy yet, but my boyfriend did accidentally stumble upon one sexy scene. (Which turned me onto the comic. Thanks, sweetie!)

Comic book blogger Johanna Draper Carlson announced earlier today that she and other webcomic artists are re-starting Smut Peddler after a long hiatus. They plan to publish in 2012, submissions are due June 2011.

Slipshine is a pay-site  that’s long graced the internet with it’s smut. They’ve got a variety of stuff for all kinds of over 18 readers by many well-known artists (even one I’ve already mentioned already!)

Filthy Figments is another pay-site that’s recently graced the webcomics scene with erotic comics created by women. I like the idea, but now that I think about it, most of the webcomics I’ve mentioned are created (or co-created) by women. I guess the ladies of webcomics are kinkier than the guys?

Honorable Mention:

Danielle Corsetto’s Girls With Slingshots used to be a lot more about sex jokes and exploring relationship quirks, but nowadays, it’s mostly the latter. Not that it isn’t a good webcomic, but it’s not very naughty anymore.

The ones I forgot:

Sexy Losers: One of the oldest naughty webcomics out there. Mostly gross-out humor again.

Do you read naughty webcomics? If so, have I left any of your favorite steamy webcomic offerings out? Let me know!


Filed under opinion, webcomics

Poll: How do you like Webcomic Wednesdays?

Hey everyone!

Nothing special, but I wanted to know how everyone liked my Webcomics Wednesdays posts. In terms of views, comments and discussion, the results have been a little mixed.  To be honest, it can be a little tough between work, looking for new webcomics to review or touch upon and life in general.

If you have anything to add about how to I could improve Webcomic Wednesdays posts, please leave a comment.

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Filed under opinion, webcomics

Discussion: Why do readers shun shojo?

Flowers, sparkles and pretty boys. Is this all shojo is about?

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about people’s dismissive and insulting attitude towards shojo manga in the past few weeks. I can honestly say, I sort of understand why shojo gets dissed a lot. While there’s plenty of really awesome shojo out there, there’s also a lot of it that just repeats the same story with other characters and variations of theme. When you compare them to older, more experimental shojo manga like that by Moto Hagio and her peers, the difference is rather vast.

Despite all this, I love shojo manga. In fact, lately I’ve been feeling a little starved lately for it. It’s not that other types of manga are bad, but shojo is the reason I got into manga in the first place. Perhaps this makes me girly…but I am a woman, aren’t I? Why do I have to prove that I’m manly when I’m not a man in the first place? I’m OK with being swept away by romance and a few tired cliches every once in awhile. And there’s plenty of great shojo in English out there that avoids a lot of the cliches AND goes unappreciated.

So readers, I’d really like to know how YOU feel about shojo. Do you love it? Hate it? Why do you feel that way about it and what shojo manga do you enjoy? Why do you think some readers shun shojo for other types of manga?


Filed under manga, opinion

Webcomics Wednesdays: Inside Lumia’s Kingdom Pt. 1

As I have mentioned before, my boyfriend Tamar Curry makes a webcomic called Lumia’s Kingdom, which I edit. This isn’t Tamar’s first webcomic and he also minored in Sequential Art at the Savannah College of Art and Design, so you can imagine he’s had a lot of time to learn the ropes of comic-making.

The following is a post he wrote on some of the obscure references he writes into his comic for his blog, Knaddian, and is cross posted here with his permission. While this certainly isn’t a deep introspection on his writing process, it does explain some of his place naming process and how that’s shaped some of his characters. It’s a post that, if you read between the lines a bit, reveals a lot about a webcomic creator’s thought process.  This is the first in a series of posts on the obscure references and hopefully I will be able to post the rest of them in the coming weeks.

Take it away, boyfriend!


In the first on a series of obscure references in Lumia’s Kingdom I’m going to focus on something that might not be quite so obscure to some of you. Surely you’ve noticed the most obvious joke; it was the very first implied joke in the comic.

That’s right.

“The greatly hung king of Knadds.” Lumiere XI’s grandeur was not a freak accident; each and ever single one of his forefathers were equally endowed (more so, in the case of Lumiere VII).

Enter Lumia, his tiny daughter who, up until now, was trying her best to live a quiet, normal life. She’s the first queen to ever rule without the company of a male counterpart.

Already this implies that she’s going to have a lot of difficulties trying to get ahead in what is obviously a male dominated profession. Not only that, but she has to do it when her ancestors pride themselves on their masculinity so much that they never bothered to wear any clothes.

So we know about Lumia’s disposition. But what about her peers? What do the names of the countries say about them and their upbringings?

Let’s start with the boisterous Queen Camilla.

Camilla, bless her heart, hails from the country of Mastodia. Mastodia is named after the word “masticate” which is essentially the process of chewing food. Mastodians are known for living it up; they are an extravagant people who have a reputation for doing anything and everything excessively. If you’re going to throw a party and you want to go over the top, then have a Mastodian plan it for you. This is the very reason why Camilla has taken it upon herself to plan out Lumia’s inauguration ceremony and suggest some of the skankiest dresses for her to wear from a rather questionable publication.

Next up is Pectoralonga, homeland of the very sweet (and horrendously strong) Lady Kara.

Derived from the word “pectoral”, Pectoralongans are an incredibly powerful race of humanoids with pointy ears (which only the most ignorant and masochistic of observers dare to point out.) In addition to their strength, Pectoralongans also tend to be very short-tempered; even the most reserved of them are known to undergo a complete personality switch once they are involved in a battle for more than five minutes. They are also notorious for underestimating their own power. This detail alone has made their nation’s carpentry and construction profession extremely profitable for centuries.

The last nation we’ll talk about today is Lobest, birthplace of the tentacled queen Madam Uupa.

The name Lobest is a mutation of the word “lobe”, in reference to several parts of the brain. Lobest has built a reputation for being one of the most efficient and industrious nations in the region. They have very skilled artisans, engineers, architects, philosophers and scientists. Their competitiveness stems from the fact that they are at a bit of a disadvantage; they are an underwater nation having to compete with land-bound countries for trade and business. In fact, there is a famous saying in Lobest: “Get wise fast or die even faster.” Unfortunately, their isolation has made them a bit weary of others. They often overthink things and are quick to jump to assumptions and become paranoid about the actions of outsiders. It’s not all mistrust of others, though. Growing exposure to foreigners have led to an increase in curiosity of other species, what they have to offer and, unfortunately, has given way to a rise in marital infidelity.

I’m afraid we’ll have to end it there for today. Rest assured there will be other nations (and quirky monarches) to learn about in the future.

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Filed under opinion, webcomics

Dear Readers: Help Me Find Some Manga Prostitutes!

Hello there, my dear readers!

For the sake of a post that I’m trying to write on prostitution in manga, I would like to tap into your collective mind.

If any one can think of manga that has elements of prostitution in it, whether it be instances of compensated dating or characters who work as prostitutes, please give me as many details you can in the comments section. (If we’ve already talked on Twitter, you don’t have to share with me unless you have something new to add.)

If you can think of a manga that seriously explores prostitution and the people who participate in the sex industry, I would be especially interested in information about it.

Even if you can only provide me names of manga that mention prostitution or compensating dating, I’d greatly appreciate it!

And now, a poll!


Filed under manga, opinion

Webcomics Wednesday: Skin Horse vol. 1

Skin Horse vol. 1 is the print edition of the webcomic by Shaenon K. Garrity and Jeffrey C. Wells. (Volume 2 recently completed it’s Kickstarter funding project and should be out fairly soon.)  The comic is about a government agency called Skin Horse that deals with nonhuman sapients and features quite a number of oddballs on its staff, from Tip the cross-dressing ladies’ man to Unity the multi-ethnic zombie to Sweetheart the talking dog. The volume begins with Tip’s first field assignment, talking down a lion with a chunk of human DNA and ends in a mission involving an attack helicopter that’s had a human brain implanted in it. Just to give you an idea about what their work environment is like, the field agents of Skin Horse have a swarm of bees for their boss and a robot that tried to destroy the London Exposition of 1851 as the receptionist. Sounds like a fun place!

The print edition presents the daily strip webcomic at three strips a page, resulting in a lot of work (Wells says the volume collects one year of the webcomic) into about 150 pages for $13.99.  Not bad a bad price at all. Garrity’s art isn’t my favorite, it’s a decidedly rough style, but I’ve gotten over any initial dislikes and moved onto what I do like about her style. She draws some adorable cobras, for one, and I like the way she handles Unity’s different skin colors with cross-hatching instead of a different color entirely. A gray tone wouldn’t have fit in with the rest of the black and white color scheme! Anyway, Garrity’s art might not be clean and smooth, but her characters are still cute and expressive. That’s all that matters to me in the end.

Admittedly, the beginning storyline of Skin Horse, the one with the lion, happens to be my least favorite. While it is to be a decent introduction to the main characters, it lacks spark and I found it hard to read through when I first got into the webcomic. The next storyline, one that involves difficult conflict management situation between separate colonies of government agency basement dwellers, is much better and really allows the readers to get to know Tip, what he does and how frustrating his job is. From there on out, Garrity and Wells’ writing begins to take on a unique humor all its  own and becomes a very enjoyable read. While the strip’s a little slow online (especially when you catch up to the new updates), the condensed format of the book really helps eliminate those feelings.

Book extras include a comical take on employee training videos, but that’s pretty much it except for the introduction by Jeffrey C. Wells. While I personally liked the introduction because it gave a good amount of information on the world of Skin Horse and its creation, it doesn’t make for much of an extra when you’re looking for serious incentives to buy this book instead of reading it online for free.  Even I bought it as a gift for my boyfriend, who’s also a fan and turned me onto the webcomic in the first place. Plus I wanted to meet Garrity, who is also a freelance manga editor.

If you love Skin Horse already, I’d say buy the book and do good by these two creative and funny people. If you’re not 100% sold yet, then I wouldn’t rush out to buy it until you read the webcomic and make the decision whether you love it or not.

You can find Skin Horse vol. 1 at the Couscous Collective, an artists’ collective site that sells both Skin Horse and Narbonic volumes as well as a few mini-comics, prints and shirts.

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Filed under reviews, webcomics

The Evolution of Manga Editing

My friend Dave threw me a behemoth of an idea my way last night as I was searching for a blog idea that would strike my fancy.  He suggested that I explore the evolution of manga editing, which honestly sounds more like a research paper than a blog post. It would cost me a lot of time and money in order to fully explore the evolution of manga editing, but here’s my go at the idea with only a few series as examples and my own experience under my belt.

So far I have been an editor on little over a dozen manga. As far as manga editors go, I am pretty sure this is a pretty paltry number, but I kind of, sort of just hit the one year mark of working in the manga industry (if you count internships.)

These days, manga editing is really streamlined. Each major company has its own style book and rules to follow and more likely than not, more than one editor reads a manga before it goes to print. Then again, most of the manga publishers these days have been around for years or have other publishers backing them with expectations, rules and editorial talent. There aren’t too many start-up companies around either.

Less than ten years ago, however, it was a bit of a different story. It was only seven years ago that TOKYOPOP first published Kare Kano (His and Her Circumstances) by Masami Tsuda. Since there are only two names I recognize on the credits page (the COO and the CEO), I hope no one takes offense to me picking one of my employer’s titles or that the company doesn’t take offense to my criticism of an old series. (Although senior editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl tells me that all the mistakes I pointed out were corrected to the best of TOKYOPOP’s ability in the omnibus editions.)

I’ve been slowly re-reading Kare Kano over the past few weeks and the first few volumes were utterly painful. There are many things where I’m surely one of the very few who noticed, but there are numerous instances where Japanese text wasn’t erased before the English text was put over it, where the artwork or tones were erased and never replaced properly (or at all) and text intruding awkwardly on artwork, amongst other things. Sure, the editing improved after the first few volumes and I’m more than sure many things were corrected for the omnibus edition of the manga, but I have to say-no wonder legally published manga had/has a reputation of lower quality when compared to scanlated manga! Not that I think it’s true anymore…That was seven years ago, when TOKYOPOP hadn’t even been around for seven years yet! And now, I know for a fact that TOKYOPOP editors are aware of these past mistakes and know what to look out for. You won’t easily see any garish use of photoshop to replace screentones that were erased in the lettering process or an aside comment that never got translated. The company has sharper editors and sharper touch-up artists these days, but back then they were still learning the ropes.

Viz, however, had nearly 20 years to perfect it’s editing craft when it made (what I think) is a fairly big mistake of a different kind. In the first volume of From Far Away by Kyoko Hikawa, someone left the word “hella,” a Northern California slang word, in a line. When I first read From Far Away, it struck me more because I really dislike the word (being from Southern CA and all), but now it just seems like an amateurish error that they left it in there when the character never ever uses similar slang past the first chapter. (There is an instance of “omigod” in the first chapter, but I feel that it’s more forgivable because it’s just a slight variation on a very common phrase.)

Is this “hella,” however, as grave a manga-editing offense as messing up the artwork and forgetting to remove Japanese text under the English? Yes, because editing manga in the U.S. isn’t just about making things look just as shiny as the Japanese edition, it’s also about creating an ease of reading for the audience. Editors don’t want readers to be caught up in trying to understand a phrase and it’s important to keep a character’s voice sounding consistent to the readers, so using a fairly local slang word is likely to bother them and create confusion when the character does not continue to speak that way. Is it worse that they didn’t continue to use slang to make the character sound like a young girl through out the volume or worse they left in this one inconsistency? I don’t know, but either way it’s an error.

What I watch for in my editing process is a long list. Basically, I look for mistakes that have been made in the art after the manga has been lettered, I look for all the grammatical and spelling errors you would expect, I look for ways to re-write lines so that they sound smoother in keeping with the manga and the character saying them and I look for other things such as making sure the text doesn’t stray too far out into the bleed zones, making sure the size and format of the text conveys the mood and feel of original and making sure words are hyphenated properly. If there are lines that have not been translated into English, I translate them myself or get the help of someone more fluent than I am. If the translators or re-writers have left multiple choices for me to use in the script, I choose which one is the best and/or write in an explanation of some kind. I never catch every mistake that’s been made whenever I edit, but I figure that will improve with time and, in the mean time, I have other editors supporting me and finding what I missed. It’s a tough process and I’m 100% sure that other manga editors have let mistakes slip through and go to print. For example, Del Rey’s version of Mushishi regularly has text cut off. Either half a sentence will disappear at the ends of a page or you’ll have to seriously crack open your manga’s spine to get at it.

Even so, the way manga is published in the U.S. has improved greatly. There is little or no fear of reading a book right-to-left, which not only makes things more authentic to the reader, but easier for everyone who’s ever had to face changing dialogue because a character is now on the left side instead of the right! While there is major censorship around at some companies (and by censorship, I mean someone has a pair of pants on that they didn’t have before),  no one is re-writing entire manga with American names and American references anymore.  I’ve no doubt in my mind that what I’ve learned as an editor is based on years and years of figuring out what works, what doesn’t and finding the little things that no one caught before. I believe that the editorial process will only continue t0 improve the quality of manga as we editors work on more and more titles. The mistakes that I found, made long ago, are already obsolete in the manga made by those companies as it is!

Geez, Dave. Thanks for the great topic.


Filed under manga