Monthly Archives: November 2010

November MMF: I didn’t read One Piece

That’s right. I didn’t. Yes, I know that sort of defeats the whole purpose of writing an MMF post, but I wanted to participate somehow. I haven’t been able to participate in a few of the past months because I was too busy or because I couldn’t find my copies of the manga. (Where the heck ARE you After School Nightmare?!)

There are a few reasons why I’ve shirked reading One Piece:

1. There were no copies of the first omnibus on the shelves of any bookstore that I went to in the months since the One Piece Manga Moveable Feast was scheduled. If there had been, I probably would have  guilted myself into buying it. I was too lazy to buy it online. (More specifically, I don’t really trust the postal system or delivery services after my college job.) I didn’t want to buy the first three volumes separately because what if I didn’t really like it? Then I have volumes I don’t want to read wasting precious apartment space. With an omnibus, it just felt easier to slide in.

2. Shounen manga isn’t my thing. At all. I am a shoujo manga person by heart. I get upset when I realize I’ve been ignoring my favorite shoujo series for other awesome stuff like Black Jack or Real or some gekiga manga. (No really, I have gotten upset that I haven’t read the latest volumes of Kimi ni Todoke because I’ve been focusing on reading other genres.) I haven’t read too many shounen manga that I’d even want to buy. Someone gave me a copy of Soul Eater not too long ago and I don’t want to continue the series on my own. The only shounen manga I’ve bought for myself recently is Cross Game (because I know there’s a romantic aspect) and a couple of copies of Shounen Jump (for research.)

3. Frankly, the idea of picking up a series that is already 60 volumes long, with no clear end in sight, is terrifying. I haven’t collected any series longer than about 35 volumes. Bookshelf space is precious to me because I live in a tiny apartment right now. One Piece just seems like the kind of thing I’d be more interested in if I had space to spare. I do not. Trying to smartly use the space that I have for non-manga stuff is hard enough already… I don’t even have enough room for my entire collection to boot! A sizable chunk is still at my mom’s place. Maybe when I have a bigger place and tons of shelves to call my own.

I know what the reaction to this post is going to be. Some people will probably berate me for being so stupid about not trying One Piece out. Others might offer to send me a copy (which is nice of you, but if we aren’t close, I won’t accept it. Thank you for the nice gesture, though.) Some people will be disappointed in me, either silently or openly and that is fine. I’ve expected all that. Some might suggest I face the series from a different vantage point (there’s been lots of talk about how later arcs of One Piece are more engaging than the beginning), but I’m a bit of a purist. I’d much rather get started from the beginning and be interested enough to continue collecting.

So I’m not reading One Piece right now.

I’ll still keep an eye out for that first omnibus though.

If you want to read more about the One Piece Manga Moveable Feast, however, I suggest looking elsewhere.

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The 2010 Great Shoujo Manga Gift Guide

A few days ago, as I was shopping at Borders, I heard my first Christmas music of the season. Now Christmas music usually makes me want to kill people, but instead of taking it out on the checkout clerk, I decided it would be a good time to start writing this gift guide instead.

Yes, I am a total scrooge when it comes to Christmas, but there are other holidays coming up and this gift guide will be useful for all of them. But before we get started, I would like to remind you that you can find out more about the 2010 Great Manga Gift Guide here and also view other 2010 gift guides.

Now onto something that makes me much less grumpy…shoujo manga! (And some josei too, of course.)

The Prettiest, Shiniest Thing You Can Buy For That Special Someone Who Likes Pretty, Shiny Things

You guessed it! I’m talking about Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. Oh yes, this is 288 pages of hardcover, gold embossed shoujo from a classic master of shoujo manga. Even better, while supplies last, you can get your giftee a copy with a signed plate from Hagio herself when you order the book from Fantagraphics directly. Filled with short stories that span Hagio’s career, this book isn’t for children, but anyone from your mature older teen (if you feel comfortable with them reading about issues like abortion and suicide attempts) to adults who still love a good shoujo fix, classical manga or just something different from the norm. It makes a fantastic read and an excellent coffee table book for someone who loves manga.

For The Naughty Girl

So maybe you’re looking for a manga for that special someone who just happens to be heavily into hilarious smut. If that’s the case, look no further than Butterflies, Flowers. There are very few raunchy shoujo or josei titles that get published in English and this is one of the few that does it successfully without turning the heroine into a pawn of the men vying for her. The relationship between the heroine, Choko, and her romantic interest, Masayuki, is very give and take. Choko used to be the daughter of a very rich family where Masayuki was a servant. Now their roles are reversed as she is a poor, lowly secretary at a real estate company and Masayuki is a high-class executive who likes to sexually harass her openly. But Choko doesn’t let him get away with jack squat if he embarrasses her and Masayuki’s teases are beyond humiliating sometimes. It’s like watching that really cute couple that always makes half-joking, but pointed comments at each other in manga form.

For Someone Who Likes The Cute (or Yotsuba&!)

The obvious choice for this category would be Otomen, but if you know your giftee is already collecting that series, what do you do? They’re going to get themselves the next volume anyway and you’d like to gift something they haven’t read so you can get that “OMG I LOVE THIS MANGA! Thanks for giving it to me! Is there more?” feeling. That’s why I suggest Bunny Drop, an adorable story about a 30-something office worker who decides to spontaneously adopt his 4-year-old aunt when his grandfather dies. (That’s where the Yotsuba&! part came from, if you were wondering.) Bunny Drop is mostly about Daikichi learning the ins and outs of caring for a young, emotional child, he also takes time to connect with her and learn about her mysterious past. Rin, however, steals the show with her cuteness. And, in my opinion, Bunny Drop is the best josei to come out this year.

For The Romantic Who Wants to Be Swept Away

Stepping on Roses by Rinko Ueda is classic romance novel fodder. Poor girl needs money, poor girl meets rich man who just  happens to need a stand-in wife that he doesn’t want to love, money exchanges hands and they wind up falling in love reluctantly. I seem to be one of the few bloggers who actually likes this series, most others think Sumi is a total limp noodle. When I first read it, I too was hesitant because of what other people had said. I was surprised that Sumi wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Sure, she’s clueless about the lifestyle of her rich husband, illiterate and much more, but she sticks to her guns and takes the opportunity to learn and do her job. I felt like Sumi was an English major suddenly stuck into an advanced engineering class. She has the pep and the ability to learn, but feels lost compared to the other characters who grew up in that environment. The important part is she never really loses her resolve. Perhaps I just really like Rinko Ueda’s manga, but she creates an awesome Meiji era/Victorian romance with lots of drama, a cheery heroine and awesome (albeit historically inaccurate) fashion.

For Your Future Astronaut

Twin Spica is like a dramatic space-age shoujo manga. That’s saying a lot because Twin Spica actually ran in a seinen magazine. Still, it reminds me a lot of the shoujo classic To Terra…, without the dramatic racial politics and the super-advanced civilization, of course. With the cute school girl heroine and the competitive astronaut school drama, it’s something any shoujo manga or scifi fan can enjoy. At the same time, it’s a great gift for someone who isn’t a fan of all the normal shoujo cliches and wants something a little bit more mature and original. It’s a little bit heavy and sad at times, but if your giftee isn’t the Arina Tanemura manga type, then a couple volumes of Twin Spica will make an excellent gift.

For The Graphic Novel Purist

Got someone in your life who you want to share your passion for manga with, but they’re more about the graphic novels? Perhaps you should pair Fumi Yoshinaga’s All My Darling Daughters with Natsume Ono’s Not Simple. Both are fantastic manga that focus more on the craft of storytelling than keeping the story going like many manga do. Any woman with a mother can relate to All My Darling Daughters and Not Simple’s tragic story is intriguing. They’re both great ways to show the reluctant reader that manga isn’t all just about ninjas and magical girls, but has a lot of titles to fit different tastes.

For The Fangirl

I know I shouldn’t do this because I worked on the series… I’ve been trying so hard not to, but…Hetalia: Axis Powers. There! I said it! If your giftee doesn’t already have it, then get it for them! If they didn’t like the anime, don’t take this as a bad sign. I’ve heard tons of people saying they liked the manga way more, but hated the anime and I can see why. The anime was fujoshi-fied in order to make more money, but the manga is a lot less overwhelmingly cutesy and more about the political/historical relationships. If all else fails, TOKYOPOP has a lot of charming shoujo manga in their catalog. But I shouldn’t say anymore! NRGH, THIS IS SO HARD!!!! Seriously, they’ve put out some great shoujo in the past few years. I just don’t feel right pimping more than one recent title.

For The Shoujo Fan Who’s Read Every Single Japanese Manga You Can Think Of

Have an extensive shoujo collector to shop for? Get her started on sunjeong manhwa! There’s plenty of cute titles out there like 10, 20, 30, X Diary and Please, Please Me from Netcomics. Yen Press has a pretty substantial sunjeong manhwa catalog and TOKYOPOP has a ton of out of print manhwa that were very under-appreciated, so you can probably find some in a bargain bin somewhere. (Sadly, but at least it’s cheap, right?)

For Your Shoujo Manga Fan/Foodie

There are actually a lot of manga that fit this category out there, but I love Mixed Vegetables the best. It’s about two kids in a culinary high school who have dreams to be a pasty chef and a sushi chef, but the one dreaming of being sushi chef is the daughter of a pastry chef and the one dreaming of being a pastry chef is a son of a sushi chef! Obviously, they team up to help each other achieve their dreams, but along the way there’s a lot of romance, drama and focus on delicious sushi and pastries! Nummers. It’s a typical shoujo manga in a lot of ways, but at the same time, a bit like a shounen manga where the protagonists are fighting to reach their dreams.

For The One Who Still Stumps You

I’ll always recommend this as long as I live: gift cards. If you truly have no clue, there is nothing better than a good chunk of money (at least $25) on a bookstore gift card. Or a local comic book store gift card (assuming they have a substantial manga section) or a Right Stuf gift card. That way, your giftee will get the money to spend on whatever manga they want and you will know they will be satisfied with that next volume or two of their favorite series.

In case you didn’t find what you were looking for with this list, you can also check out my Shoujo Manga Gift Guide from last year. Happy shopping!

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The 2010 Great Manga Gift Guide: Week 1 Reminder!

It’s been a week since I launched the 2010 Great Manga Gift Guide. Entries have been trickling in slowly, but I’m not too worried. If you still want to participate you still have until December 15th. That’s 20 days to get yours in! Plenty of time, I hope, but if you feel like you’re having trouble writing yours, please feel free to contact me through this blog or via Twitter and we can brainstorm together.

Here are some of the lovely gift guides I’ve gotten today:

Deb Aoki’s Best Continuing Manga of 2010– While it’s not specifically a gift guide, this list will definitely give you an idea of what the best (and worst) manga on the market are.

Rob McMonigal’s 2010 Manga Gift Guide– Rob’s list isn’t afraid to go out on a limb and suggest manga that you might not think to connect with your giftees, but will spark their interest for sure. He also has a Fantagraphics-specific gift guide in case you’re also shopping for some non-manga people.

Erica Friedman’s Great Yuri Manga Gift Guide-Once again, Erica graces us with fantastic suggestions for people who love yuri manga. Erica being the expert on the subject, I can’t imagine you’ll walk away from any of her suggestions unsatisfied.

As always, you can find out more about the Great Manga Gift Guide in the original announcement post and in the complete listing of 2010 manga gift guides. Happy manga shopping!

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Happy Thanksgiving, Don’t Read (Food) Manga

Later tonight there is no doubt that many of my readers will take to the comfort of their couches, beds or favorite chairs in a pleasant food coma. Many will spend an hour, maybe two, to curl up with manga before bedtime hits and successfully ignore relatives who want to pinch their cheeks or those dishes in the sink. Whiling away the last hours of this delicious holiday with manga is all well and good, but I have a warning for those unsuspecting readers who might find themselves in a dire situation later today…

DON’T READ FOOD MANGA!!!

 

Do not be alarmed. Simply look away from your volumes of Antique Bakery, Oishinbo and Mixed Vegetables. Don’t even get near Rasetsu unless you want to feel that big piece of pumpkin pie creep back up your throat when the titular character starts shoving cake down her gullet. Shun your copies of Happy Cafe and My Heavenly Hockey Club, at least until tomorrow when you don’t feel like a giant stuffed turkey. If possible, ignore any and all manga that show people eating, cooking or handling any kind of food. If that means all you have left to read is Black Lagoon or Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service…Well, I’m sure your stomach is strong if you already have those titles on your bookshelf. Have a happy, safe and food manga-free Thanksgiving everyone!

This message was sponsored by People Who Made This Mistake Last Year.

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A Humble License Request: Stolen Hearts

Earlier today Tanbishugi tweeted that Miku Sakamoto’s Toraware Gokko (published as Stolen Hearts by CMX before they were shuttered) would be ending in January at six volumes.

Six volumes, you say? That’s pretty short! And in terms of publishing biz risk, it’s pretty low. Six volumes could easily be fit into 2-3 omnibuses if a publisher really wanted to. Even more of a decreased risk!

Why should manga publishers even bother? Because Stolen Hearts is one of the most charming shoujo manga on the market right now and it needs a home. Only two volumes were published by CMX right before DC canceled the imprint. Here’s what I had to say in a previous review about the series’ first volume:

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.

Anyway, I feel like this manga would be a perfect fit for a publisher like TOKYOPOP*, that has a small collection of super-charming shoujo manga going, or DMP, that has a successful shoujo manga in omnibus format already (Itazura Na Kiss. Not to mention Stolen Hearts seems to have a slightly older style too, so it’d fit best with that title’s audience.) With their bookstore penetration being much better than CMX’s ever was, either company could bring the title to more readers than when it was previously published. And, even better, it’s not been scanlated so publishers would have a captive audience that isn’t being pulled away by free chapters online.

So what do you say, publishers? Pretty please?

Perhaps I should stick a copy under TOKYOPOP senior editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl’s nose. I know she likes kitsuke..**

*Just so you know, I only mention TOKYOPOP here because I think it’d be a good fit for them and I don’t get to sit in on licensing meetings as a freelancer. Thus I feel like I can request they license something when I have little impact on whether or not they do.

**OK, that’s a sneaky tactic that goes against my previous statement, but there’s a lot of pluses to knowing someone who could get the ball rolling for a manga I love so much!

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A Shoujo Sunday-What Are Your Favorite Cliches?

As I sit in my work chair, having survived my poorly-timed cold and a rush of work from a client, I look at the shoujo manga I’m copy editing and wonder: just why does manga get away with cliche after cliche?

Shoujo manga, in particular, is particularly fond of repeating the same ridiculous and blatant cliches to the point where people brush it off as subpar. But I love shoujo manga to the point where I get greedy for it if I ever go too many weeks without reading some. I don’t even care about a repeated formulaic storyline as long as the execution is something interesting or the characters are vibrant enough to make up for it.

Just why do shoujo manga readers put up with this? Is it the escape into a more romantic world that makes it worth it? Is it the beloved familiarity of the plot device? The answer to these questions are probably deeply personal and specific to each reader.

Instead, let me ask what cliches do you like the most? I’m personally fond of cross-dressing. Any manga with cross-dressing is easily made 10 times more hilarious or dramatic by this cliche. Some of my favorite examples include Basara, W Juliet, Kuragehime and Tenshi Ja Nai! Ah, man. All of those examples are out of print or not in English, but you CAN check out the Kuragehime anime over at FUNimation’s site. (HEEEEEY! Legal! Free!) :D

What are you favorite ridiculous shoujo cliches? Please share!

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Announcing the 2010 Great Manga Gift Guide

Last year, in response to the New York Times releasing a Graphic Novel Gift Guide that featured absolutely no manga at all, David Welsh of  The Manga Curmudgeon and Erica Friedman of Ozaku started the Great Manga Gift Guide in order to help out shoppers looking to buy gifts for manga fans. Tons of bloggers participated and shared their picks for the best manga gifts on the market. (Because, seriously, what is up with NOT including manga in your holiday gift guide?! Kids love it!)

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday around the corner, this is the perfect time to start preparing for the intense holiday shopping season. But just in case you find yourself busy with (American) Thanksgiving, Hanukah or a myriad of holiday parties and activities, the Great Manga Gift Guide will be running from now until December 15th, plenty of time to peruse the guides or post one of your own. Everyone is welcome to participate and post about the manga, anime and other otaku hobbies that don’t get mentioned in mainstream media gift guides!

This year, Erica Friedman starts us off with a Great Yuri Anime Gift Guide (a yuri manga gift guide is forthcoming).

2011 Great Manga Gift Guides

The Great Manga Gift Guide on Twitter (search for hashtag #gmgg)

2010 Great Manga Gift Guides

The Great Manga Gift Guide is open to everyone, so please feel free to make up your own gift guide! If you would like to see your gift guide included in the 2011 list or have any questions about the Great Manga Gift Guide, please contact Daniella Orihuela-Gruber either via e-mail or Twitter

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