Tag Archives: Ed Sizemore

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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A Rare Review: Planetes vol.1

I got this volume of Planetes by Makoto Yukimura through Ed Sizemore of Comics Worth Reading via my Anime and Manga Blogger Letter Exchange. It actually wasn’t the first time I’d come across Planetes as my (really ridiculously awesome) college anime club showed the anime last year. I’d also gotten a chance to read vol. 1 while at TOKYOPOP, which is probably the one of the few remaining places to have a complete set. Sadly this manga will not be returning to print as it is an old Kodansha title and the two companies don’t do business together anymore.

Planetes (the manga) is about a team of debris collectors working in space 58 years into the future. Their job is to be the space-age garbage guys, except it can get pretty dangerous. The debris can ruin space ships and kill people, which we learn right at the beginning of the manga, as well as make it difficult for ships to pass between Earth and space.

This first volume shows us the lives, ambitions and motivations of the three main characters, Hachimaki, Fee and Yuri. Each chapter and arc carefully shows us each character’s normal lives in the most authentic way possible, despite the (relatively) unrealistic setting. Hachimaki has big plans for himself, but keeps getting hurt on the job, Yuri has deep emotional reasons for being a debris collector and Fee just wants a smoke every once in awhile in order to help her relax after a stressful day.

This attempt at showing us how life is in space is my favorite part of this manga. There is no pioneering some ridiculous new space mission, just what life would be like if you had a job as a debris collector in a time when humans were living in space like it was not a big deal. Drama comes from real issues like eco-terrorism,space-related diseases, families separated by jobs in space and the serious damage that space debris can do if left unchecked. If this isn’t what real life would be like up in space in the future, I don’t really know what life WOULD be like because Yukimura has done such a good job in painting a realistic scenario. He also uses the current history of space exploration as a means of creating this world, which is a nice touch. It certainly shows to me that Yukimura loves the idea of living in space and knows his stuff.

Planetes is all about the story-telling for me because the art just doesn’t really do it for me. That isn’t to say that the art isn’t serviceable or doesn’t have it’s good points, but overall, I cannot get very excited about it.  It’s plain old seinen art that has decent-looking characters and incredible technical detail and way too much dark tone. I don’t know if this is JUST me, but a page filled with various shades of super dark tones make things a little hard to read for me. I applaud the skill it takes to draw this well, but it’s not the most eye-appealing art out there either.

Now for the comparisons to the anime!

I have to say that I like the anime a little better. It starts off from the perspective of Ai Tanabe, a character who we don’t see in vol. 1 of the manga, but I am certain joins the cast in later volumes. She plays an important role in the anime of introducing the rest of the debris team to us through the eyes of someone completely new to life in space and to the main characters. Because of this, we get to learn as she learns instead of just being thrown into this new society in space at a very dramatic flashback in the manga.

While Ai’s importance as a main character lessens in the anime over time, she also provides us with a bit of levity when it’s needed. In comparison, the manga is just a huge chunk of heaviness. I missed Ai even though the first volume was chock with some of my favorite stories, because Ai would come in with her cluelessness and cheerfulness, the audience has something to smile about. There’s no character in this first volume like her that allows us to do that. She makes the pacing a bit better in the anime and does wonders for people who aren’t that into seinen,or serious moods as well. She’s the reason why a girl like me has no problems sitting down to watch or read this series in the first place.

I can see why this manga wasn’t as popular as it should have been. It’s hard to digest, the art isn’t that terrific and it came out at a time when the majority of Americans as manga consumers weren’t quite ready to accept something with ridiculous depth and not much else. It makes me sad, but I can’t help it.

I would like to recommend this manga, but I feel that it’s a little hard to recommend it ALONE and JUST after this first volume. This volume alone isn’t enough to hook me on the series (assuming I was reading it before I’d seen the anime, that is)  so I would give it another few volumes.  If you’re able to get your hands on copies of Planetes, go find a store that sells the anime too.  Watch the anime first and THEN dive into this manga. You will enjoy the anime a lot better, but you will also enjoy the manga little bit better than if you would alone or before watching the anime. I would most certainly recommend the anime ANYTIME because it is quite fun and is of a higher quality than your average futuristic space anime out right now.

Thank you again to Ed Sizemore for giving me this copy of Planetes. I certainly enjoyed it IMMENSELY, but for the sake of this review I had to be truthful. I do rather hope that all of you buy both the anime and manga because I feel it’s worth it.

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Podcasts!

I have to say,  I’ve been a little bit shy about doing podcasts because I’ve never thought of myself as a great speaker, but the opportunity was brought before me and now I’ve been in two anime and manga-related podcasts!

Here are the links so you can check them out:

The most recent is the April MMF podcast for Mushishi at Ed Sizemore’s Manga Out Loud, in which I don’t talk very much because the other participants totally out-shined me! That’s ok, they’re all great reviewers and had a lot more to say about Mushishi’s art, story and depth than I did.  I still had a great time though! Thanks for letting me join, Ed!

The second (which is actually my first podcast ever), hosted by Joseph Medina’s Jammer’s Animovie Blog, is A LOT sillier. But I did talk a lot more about what I know about the manga industry. Either way, we got way off tangent many, many times. There is also a fair amount of off-key singing. I tried…!

I hope you listen to and enjoy these podcasts. Let me know what you think because I’m still a little gun-shy, but I want to do more podcasts now. I’d love some criticism!

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Manga Moveable Feast: Mushishi vol. 1-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s only one problem…

It would look like this:

Red Hot Chili Samurai

"ALL BY MYSEEEEEEELLLLLFFFFF~~~~~~"

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

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

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

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

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

April-

Fruits Basket Fanbook: Banquet (4/27)

Battle Vixens 15 (4/27)

June-

Gravitation Collection 5 (6/1)

Fruits Basket Ultimate Edition 5 (6/1)

Sgt. Frog 19 (6/29)

July-

Zone-00 4

August-

Genju no Seiza 8

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

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

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