Category Archives: reviews

Reviews of manga, comics, books and movies related to comics.

MMF: My Reaction to Barefoot Gen 1 & 2

This post is part of the February Manga Movable Feast on Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa, hosted by my good friend Sam Kusek at A Life In Panels. You can see more commentary on Barefoot Gen on his blog.

I feel like I had an atypical reaction to Barefoot Gen. Sure, it was a depressing read. So much so that my boyfriend noticed how down I was at our Valentine’s Day dinner. I was thinking of the way I wanted to approach Barefoot Gen and write this MMF post. (We did had a great time once I decided to banish all thought of Barefoot Gen for the evening.) Despite that, I wasn’t moved to tears by Barefoot Gen. I realized today, that’s because I’ve already seen it before.

This requires a bit of explanation:

I’ve mentioned before that members of my family are Holocaust survivors. That’s one thing, considering how one generation was too young to remember anything and the other generation was too scarred to speak about it. A lot of exactly what happened to my family is either buried along with the older generation or on a Shoah Foundation tape that my mother and I have felt too unprepared to watch yet. But I went to a private Jewish school for seven years for middle school and high school. I don’t know how the Holocaust was taught to the younger grades in my school, but they were pretty thorough with the older kids. As a result I’ve read a lot of literature on the Holocaust. All the well-known novels and some less-known ones. We were also treated to films, speakers, slide shows and extensive history lessons, especially around Yom Ha’Shoah, which is an Israeli/Jewish holiday mourning the victims.

The horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki aren’t the same as the Holocaust, but a different kind of genocide altogether. Oddly enough, I had already read John Hersey’s Hiroshima as part of a high school physics lesson that was probably supposed to teach us about how mighty nuclear power is. So the imagery of Barefoot Gen was not as surprising as it was for some. I already knew about the eyeless victims with their flesh melting right off them and the bodies floating down the river and the fires that killed thousands. That didn’t surprise me, although I was thankful for Keiji Nakazawa’s cartoon-y style of drawing. As often as his odd facial expressions bothered me (why were there so many awkward, winking faces?), I don’t think I could have stomached something more realistic and I cannot really imagine the true terrors that Keiji Nakazawa and the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saw in August, 1945. I don’t really want to because then I won’t be able to sleep well. I’ve had dreams about being in concentration camps before and they are pretty terrifying, let me tell you.

So I didn’t cry over Barefoot Gen. It’s not like I haven’t cried over manga before. The later volumes of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster made me cry. To be honest, if I were watching Keiji Nakazawa or another survivor talk about their experience, I would be crying uncontrollably. There’s something about seeing actual human emotion that definitely affects me more. I’ve cried in more movies than I can remember. I cried when Ongina revealed he had HIV on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I could see and hear those people. Much like horror manga, I guess sad manga doesn’t affect me as much as it’s moving counterparts. I should probably watch the movie versions of Barefoot Gen.

But  got me thinking that 1) large swaths of the world must have gone nuts in the 1930s and 40s to kill so many people so brutally and 2) the American government is definitely guilty of genocide, something I hadn’t really thought of before. I’m not a fan of a lot of typical American views and politics, but this goes beyond that. This country thought it was a great idea to end the war by replicating a lot of Nazi practices, everything from putting Japanese-Americans in camps to bombing Japanese civilians, then taking it to the next level with the atomic bomb. While America didn’t kill as many people through these methods as the Nazis did, they did unleash a different kind of horror upon the world as we know it. It disgusts me that this country, which has preached about peace and freedom for everyone, became so hypocritical as to copy their enemies’ techniques. I know, somewhere in my mind, that America probably didn’t make the decision to drop the bomb flippantly, but it strikes me  as odd that the American politicians involved couldn’t see this big, blinding, hypocritical mistake staring them in the face.

But I digress. What struck me throughout was that these were events that had happened to Nakazawa and other survivors. I think a fictional account of the bombings by someone who hadn’t survived it wouldn’t work at all. I’m grateful to the people who have spoken out about atrocities like this because, as heavy as the knowledge and hindsight of these events are, at least the world knows now. Barefoot Gen‘s existence in the world is only one of many survivor’s tales, but it teaches us things we never knew or realized before. It makes us think about who was killed, not just faceless bodies, but people who suffered. Even if it’s just a cartoon-y face that doesn’t quite hold the visual impact you want it to, those faces are someone’s.

To end this post, since it seems to be getting a little preachy and I didn’t really want to do that, I want to thank Sam Kusek for bringing Barefoot Gen to the Manga Movable Feast. Truly, it’s not a manga I would have gotten into easily without this reason to, mostly because it’s not widely available anymore, but also because it’s a tough read. Glancing at some of the other posts that have been written by other bloggers, Barefoot Gen has truly rocked a few people’s worlds. It’s not the best manga in a lot of senses, but it encompasses the idea often touted by Jews–“Never Forget.” People think that just applies to the Holocaust, but that’s not true. It’s important to learn about the Holocaust, the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and other atrocities so that we learn from past behavior and take to heart the goal of becoming better, less hateful people. It’s best to learn from primary sources like Keiji Nakazawa because they’ll drive that all-important message home.

Here’s a little something to cheer the MMF participants up: (Warning, link contains adorably catchy song.)

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Favorite New Manga-Feb. 2011

Hi everyone!

I had a big, blog-changing post set up to go out tonight, but I couldn’t quite do it just yet! But big changes are coming soon, no doubt about it. Keep your eyes open for them.

So I went on a little manga binge this month. It was very, very bad of me, I know, but I discovered some great stuff!

Sugar Sugar Rune by Moyoco Anno- I found two volumes of Sugar Sugar Rune at Kinokuniya and decided that since I had always heard such good things about it, I would pick up a few volumes. This manga did not disappoint. This is a well-written manga about two cute witches who come to the human world (the non-magical world) to compete for the throne of the magical world. Chocolat and Vanilla are best friends, but this competition is extremely important, so they must learn to capture hearts from boys they must get to fall in love with them. Chocolat, the main character, is faced with a lot of problems since her personality rubs human boys the wrong way, but makes her the belle of the ball back home. The first two volumes have Chocolat dealing with staying true to herself, a wizard out to steal her heart and fierce competition from Vanilla. Somehow Anno  makes this manga full of sugar-y references and over-the-top art plausible and not too saccharine. I can’t wait to buy the next volumes and complete Del Rey’s run. I hope Kodansha Comics brings it back into its new lineup! Whoops! Del Rey completed the series, but I hope Kodansha considers reprinting it. Only 8 volumes though, not too bad of a commitment for an OOP series.

Sundome by Kazuto Okada is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. It’s a manga about exploring teenage sexuality to the weirdest extremes. I picked this manga up at the suggest of Ed Sizemore after hearing his Manga Out Loud podcast on the title. There was something totally intriguing about how Ed and Melinda Beasi described what is essentially a loathsome, but very high-concept manga. It isn’t a manga for anyone who has moral scruples to get over, these teens do some deeply dirty stuff and it’s creepy on purpose. Despite that, there’s no intercourse. It’s mostly touching, watching, a nipple showing here, a nibble happening there. There’s a lot of what you’d call fanservice, but it’s mostly a vehicle for showing the desires of Hideo, who is being happily toyed with by the wily Kurumi. Hideo doesn’t mind doing the dirtiest and lowest acts he can possibly perform if it means Kurumi will give him a reward. He knows he’ll never get with Kurumi, but his very masochistic need for sexual excitement allows him to be satisfied with untying her side-tie panties or watching her pee. It sounds like a manga to avoid, but if you can handle the squick-factor, this is a manga that explores the psychology behind horny teenagers and not something that borders on kiddie porn.

Back to something sweet, Kamisama Kiss by Julietta Suzuki is out now and already laying on the charm that Suzuki does best. Kamisama Kiss is about a girl who suddenly finds herself homeless and abandoned by an irresponsible father. Just as quickly, Nanami meets a strange man who offers her the use of his home because he has abandoned it. Upon arriving, Nanami discovers that this home is a run-down shrine full of yokai (demon-like creatures) and that she is now the shrine’s resident god. She clashes with Tomoe, a fox demon who was running the shrine in his previous master’s place, tries to go home, nearly gets killed by an onibaba (a demon hag) and then finally accepts her role as a shrine god. The final chapters end on a high note as Nanami helps answer the prayer of a catfish yokai who wants to date a human boy. Clearly this manga is going into fairly episodic stuff, but the catfish yokai story was adorable and the character designs were spot on. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be as meaningful as Karakuri Odette, but I think Kamisama Kiss is going to shape up to be a fun shoujo manga.

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Review: Ayn Rand’s Anthem

tl;dr-don't waste your $$

EDIT: This review has now been slightly redacted and changed because my blogging peers tell me I took my criticism of New American Library, Charles Santino and Joe Staton too far. I hope anyone who read the previous version didn’t get terribly offended at my mentioning of money changing hands or speculation of how this graphic novel came to be, but I have commented on editorial style before, which was my justification for the original post. The rest of my opinions still stand.

Sometimes life brings you surprises. You hope that they are good surprises.

Then you open the package and realize that someone decided to make a comic-book version of Ayn Rand’s famous novella, Anthem, and your heart sinks a little.

A lot of people don’t like Anthem, but I’m not one of them. I think the book illustrates a good point about not forgetting individuality and ambition, especially in her post-technological apocalypse, communal world. Of course, Anthem was written during a time when Communism, and anything similar, was still widely feared. I liked it a lot better than Brave New World, which I read around the same time and felt totally uncomfortable with.

Anthem is about a man, Equality 7-2521, who doesn’t feel quite right in his communal society where he works as a Sweeper. One day, while out sweeping, he finds a tunnel filled with old technology, the existence of which was nearly wiped out in an ancient battle. Since then, the individual has been systematically cleansed from society and everyone does as they are told, down to when they have sex. Intrigued by science and equipped with a bright mind, Equality 7-2521 re-invents the light bulb, woos the pretty Liberty 5-3000, tries to re-introduce electricity to society to make life easier and becomes a total pariah, taking Liberty 5-3000 with him. The pair then finds an old house and re-builds an individual-driven society after discovering the word “I” and the existence of ego.

Back to the graphic novel adaptation, apparently done by Charles Santino and Joe Staton, both of whom I’ve never heard of. The press release included in the package tells me Joe Staton won an Eisner award at some point. Is that so? I certainly expected more from an Eisner winner because…

The first thing you’ll notice about this adaptation of Anthem is that the art on the cover looks awful and the interior art isn’t even inked, which might have made the style slightly more bearable. The art seems to be in that awful style of 70s and 80s cartooning that assumes everyone in the Middle Ages wore a tunic and boots. The men are manly and bodily thick, unless they are villainous or a wimpy side character thrown in for laughs, and the women are gorgeous, blonde and full-lipped. But despite all this, the art is really blockish and square-like, even when things should be more curvaceous. Everything just oozes of cheesy Saturday morning cartoon. (Did I mention this adaptation felt a bit scrubbed clean to me?)

On top of that, every page only has three panels each, meaning that the comic’s pacing feels more like a 4-koma manga that you quickly zip through instead of a deeply thoughtful narrative about a man’s fight against a society who oppresses him. I’ve never fervently wished for wide open spaces on the pages of a comic book in ages, but here I was wishing for something, ANYTHING, other than three rectangles a page. You think someone could have fit it in somewhere, it would have made for a great visual metaphor if Equality 7-2521 broke through a panel somewhere. (And then the panel structure completely changed afterward.)

My biggest complaint however, is that there’s no art to it at all, just characters doing stuff. If I were drawing this, I’d go all out and draw art deco motifs and Mucha-inspired characters when the narration turns away from action and goes into exposé. Does that happen? Nope, nope, nope. It’s not that Staton isn’t capable, I’ve taken a look at some of his other artwork for the purposes of this review, it’s just that someone (or someones) didn’t try very hard as they worked on this comic. It’s pretty obvious to me that Staton is definitely a culprit here.

But let’s not forget the story! This is where things get tricky. Anthem is almost completely narrated by Equality 7-2521 referring to himself in the royal we (because “I” doesn’t exist for him during most of the story). This could make for a very un-dynamic comic in the hands of someone unimaginative. Unfortunately, Charles Santino was definitely not feeling creative when he wrote the script for this book. Like I said, it’s just page after page of Equality 7-2521 doing stuff. There’s about 35-45% of the comic that is actually Equality doing things in tandem with the narrative where it makes sense. The other 55-65% is where Rand gets eloquent and Santino just keeps writing Equality doing super-boring stuff. So we wind up getting a lot of boxes of narration that sort of conflict with whatever is happening in the art and completely fail to fit the mood of the words and the art. Something tells me Santino just copy-pasted the important lines of the book and scribbled in some basic action in order to give Staton a minimal amount of direction.

And that’s just it, this work is minimal. Santino did the least amount of work necessary on the script and Staton did the same with the art. Is this because they weren’t passionate about the work? Probably, I am sad to say. Anthem does a lot of showing and a lot of telling, but somehow the two don’t ever seem to touch each other meaningfully and show readers what makes Anthem a good book. There is no love for the material in this adaptation. What a waste of the potential of a good book.

Don’t buy this graphic novel. If you’re interested in Ayn Rand, go buy the prose version of Anthem, because she is a good author despite the complete failure to re-capture her work here.

Where the heck is Steve Ditko when you need him?

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Hollywood Gantz Premiere Report

Ughhhh, I don’t want to start off another post by apologizing for my absence, but I’m sure all of you understand that I have gainful employment matters to take care of before I can post sometimes. Making my car payments and being able to pay for groceries is unfortunately more important than blogging. There WILL be more posts very, very soon and that is a PROMISE.

Last week I went to the Gantz movie premiere in Hollywood, which was also broadcast live across the country to other theaters. There isn’t much to say about the Hollywood premiere other than that Patrick Macias of Otaku USA hosted the event, there were tons of screaming fans for the stars of the movie, no one upheld the no photos policy and that Deb Aoki’s About.com article has much better coverage of the witty banter between the stars during the Q&A.

So now that it’s been almost a full week since the Gantz one night event and lots of people have already had their say, here’s what I think about the movie:

It shouldn’t have had Kazunari Ninomiya in it. For one, I’m not a fan of his acting. He was horrible in the live-action movie adaptation of Ooku: The Inner Chambers, where he had the emotional variations of a stone.(Seriously, half the charm of a Fumi Yoshinaga manga is the way she draws people’s emotions. Acting fail.) Gantz was better, but only because Ninomiya could smile like a creepster at the appropriate moments. Second, I’m pretty sure the fact that Ninomiya is a popular idol, singer and actor under the management of Johnny’s Entertainment is the reason why Gantz became a PG-13 summer action flick instead of the gory NC-17 mess it was supposed to be. Idols have carefully crafted images to maintain after all.

Admittedly, I haven’t read the Gantz manga yet and I didn’t go to the premiere expecting to care about the movie, but talking to Deb Aoki of About.com and flipping through a copy she had, I wanted the movie to have tits, gore and a dog in it. A dog. Who left out the dog? That was a bad choice and I am mad at them.

Which brings me to the point that watching the movie did make me interested in the manga. I managed to get past the bad dubbing, where the leads sounded like ESL students and all the background characters sounded like they were from the Bronx, and see the enjoyable movie that lay beneath. I probably would have been creeped out to death by guts flying everywhere in movie form, but in manga, I find that kind of stuff bearable. There were also some really great aliens that the people under the control of Gantz (that big black ball, in case you didn’t know) had to face. The first set, ugly looking aliens with green hair weren’t all that great, but the second alien was a smiling plastic robot with a boom box who made great faces despite the whole plastic face thing. The third was a set of possessed Buddhist statues that had the essence of the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who at first, sneaking up on enemies while they weren’t looking. Also the idea of a giant Nio or thousand-armed Avalokiteshvara statues as villains is just cool to me.

In essence, Gantz really just committed the same error a lot of action films have–not leaving enough time for the audience to care about the characters, why they’re fighting and how they die. I’m not entirely sure why this happens, since I’m pretty sure a normal scene developing the characters must cost a lot less than a CGI-ed action scene, but the attractive actors will spur movie-goers into shelling out the cash anyway.

So in other words, Gantz is an entertaining movie. But if you’re a die hard fan of the manga, you’re going to be disappointed by the cheesy idol flick. If you’re an idol fan, then you’ll be just fine. Everyone, wait for the DVD release because the subtitled version should be better than the dubbed premiere for sure.

And sorry idol fans, but Kenichi Matsuyama, the other star of the film, is so much more fine than Ninomiya.

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Wrap Up: The 2010 Great Manga Gift Guide is over!

Wow, isn’t this time of year busy? Everywhere I turn, people are preparing for various holiday festivities. It almost makes me happy to have gotten Hanukkah and my own gift guide out of the way earlier this month.

Still, a lot of manga bloggers worked long and hard on gift guides for a wide variety of manga lovers (or anime lovers, or comic book lovers, etc.) and we had a great turn out this year. You can check out the complete list of participants here. There might be some gift guides popping up, so if there are a significant amount, I’ll add a late-comers section.

Here are some of the gift guides that have been added to the list in the past week and a half:

Our latest contribution is from Jason S. Yadao of Otaku Ohana in the Honolulu Star Advertiser. I have no idea what his gift guide is like because he passed me a preliminary link for when the post goes up later tonight. Someone PLEASE tell me if the link doesn’t work. Knowing Jason, it’ll be a fun gift guide.

Next up is a gift guide for yaoi beginners from the Red Queen. I’m not sure I’d want to try and sneakily get someone into yaoi like that,  but I’d recommend reading a good number of manga on this list for sheer literary value and because I love them dearly myself.

Linda over at Anime Diet has a fun gift guide focusing on the recipients’ interests. Got a foodie or a pet lover? She’s got a few recommendations for you based on what your friends like reading.

Over at ComicAttack.net, Kristin has a gift guide that includes some of my favorite new manga of the year, including Twin Spica, The Story of Saiunkoku and Grand Guignol Orchestra.

Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf focused on only on manga and manhwa that debuted in 2010, but her list is also full of great choices for the manga-loving ladies on your list. In case you were totally stumped on what you should get your gal pals.

On the other hand, Alex Hoffman of Manga Widget has a list full of selections good for manga-loving guys, but he doesn’t leave out some of the year’s top shoujo manga either.

Got someone who disses manhwa or OEL manga? Lori Henderson of Manga Xanadu has just the gifts to change their minds on her list as well as a few other choices that your recipients might have missed on the bookstore shelves.

That’s it! It’s only minutes until 12/16/10 and no one’s passed me a new link to share with you in a few hours.

The reason I volunteered to host and organize the 2010 Great Manga Gift Guides this year was because last year it was such a fantastic boost for my newbie little blog that no one knew about yet. I hope that in addition to getting great suggestions for your holiday manga shopping, everyone has found a new blog to read and love or felt the holiday spirit while participating in the Great Manga Gift Guide!

Happy holidays and here’s to another year full of great new manga to read!

Additional links:

Announcing the 2010 Great Manga Gift Guide

Week 1

Week 2

Complete Archives

My Shoujo Manga Gift Guide for 2010

 

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2010 Great Manga Gift Guide: Week 2

Hey everyone! Luckily this week was a bit more exciting than the because the Great Manga Gift Guides came rolling in steadily all week!

If you’re still looking to do a Great Manga Gift Guide or if you just want to read them all, you can check out the announcement post, the complete archive and the week 1 reminder. We still have until December 15th, so keep coming back for more Gift Guides and remember that you still have plenty of time to work on your own!

This morning started out with David Welsh of Manga Curmudgeon posting his One Piece MMF/Great Manga Gift guide crossover, the MMF: The Great Shounen Manga Gift Guide for 2010. For his gift guide, David kept in mind One Piece lovers, but recommended different shounen manga that would satisfy similar tastes. (And then added a few recommendations that didn’t have much to do with One Piece at all.) For more MMF goodness happening this month, check out his blog.

Anna over at Manga Report has one of the most well-rounded gift guides I’ve seen this year, covering everything from classic shoujo to seinen, alternative manga, box sets and a few things in between.

Keeping in the spirit of my favorite genre, I wrote another Great Shoujo Manga Gift Guide this year. It was a challenge as I kept venturing into manga that were shoujo or josei-like, but not actually of either genre. It’s very much a reflection of how my tastes have changed this past year to include more seinen and other mature titles, but hopefully it will please recipients who are beginning to mature in their tastes as well.

Angela Eastman wrote a great gift guide over at Bookworm’s Corner which includes something for just about everyone, including herself! Most of her picks were of the shoujo variety, but she also spiced it up with some seinen, biographical manga and shounen picks.

Reminding us that gift guides shouldn’t always be lists of manga that would please us bloggers, Katherine Dacey of The Manga Critic has a wonderful gift guide for the little ones, including elementary school readers as well as tweens and young teens. Just in case you wanted to expose a few of your younger relatives to manga or just spoil them with something they already love.

That’s all for the gift  guides posted this week, but don’t worry because I expect there will be plenty more to help you fill up those Christmas stockings (or just in case you need to cover a few more nights of Hanukkah.) Happy Manga Shopping!

If I’ve forgotten your Great Manga Gift Guide somewhere, please let me know!

 

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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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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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Hereville Review on ComicAttack.net

As a favor to Kristin, who wrote a wonderful guest post for me while I was recovering from surgery, I wrote her a review of Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword for ComicAttack.net.

Obviously, you must check out the link to read my full review, but here’s a little bit about Hereville and what I talked about:

Hereville is a story about a young ultra-Orthodox Jewish girl who would rather be slaying dragons than learning how to knit. When she meets a local witch and rescues her pet pig, Mirka’s reward is the location of a sword that will allow her to carry out her dreams. But what will Mirka have to face along the way?

What I found interesting about Hereville was it’s focus on the ultra-Orthodox way of life. I understand that other people, especially non-Jews, may need the introduction to the super-pious lifestyle and customs, but found that the focus on religious life prevented Hereville from becoming the girl-kicking-ass-despite-everything story that I wanted. So much so that I have decided I am anxiously awaiting a Hereville 2 so it can fix the flaws of its first volume.

Of course there was much more to talk about in the review, so please check it out here. (And I promise there will be a nice, shiny, new blog post filled with an in-depth look at something manga-related that has been floating around in my mind as soon as I get all my work done!)

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