Tag Archives: manga

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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Filed under manga, opinion, reviews

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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2010 Great Manga Gift Guides

Here is a list of all the Great Manga Gift Guides that have been posted by anime and manga bloggers in 2010. If you would like to find out more about the Great Manga Gift Guide, check out this post. There are also gift guides from 2009. This post will be updated every day, as needed, until December 15th, 2010. If you have a gift guide, but do not see it here, please leave a comment with a link to your Great Manga Gift Guide post.

About.com- Best New Manga of 2010

About.com- Best Continuing Manga of 2010

All About Manga- The 2010 Great Shoujo Manga Gift Guide

Anime Diet- 2010 Great Manga Gift Guide Take Two!

Bookworm’s Corner- The Great Manga Gift Guide

Comic Attack- Bento Bako Weekly: (Mostly) Manga Gift Guide

Comics Reporter- Black Friday Holiday Shopping Guide ’10 (Not purely a manga gift guide, but manga is included!)

Manga Bookshelf-2010 Manga Bookshelf Gift Guide

Manga Critic- The Manga Critic’s 2010 Holiday Gift Guide (Great if you’re shopping for younger readers!)

Manga Curmudgeon- MMF: The Great Shounen Manga Gift Guide for 2010

Manga Report- 2010 Manga Gift Guide

Manga Widget- The 2010 Manga Widget Gift Guide

Manga Xanadu 2010 Manga Gift Guide

Otaku Ohana

Ozaku- Great Yuri Anime Gift Guide

Ozaku- Great Yuri Manga Gift Guide

Panel Patter- 2010 Manga Gift Guide

The Red Queen- Guide of Yaoi Beginners: Subtle Introduction to Boy’s Love for Different Tastes

Happy manga shopping! :D

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Is There Adequate Manga Marketing for the Everyday Fan?

Last weekend, I went to visit my alma mater and hang out with some good friends. At brunch with two friends from my old anime club, we wound up talking about manga in depth. One friend was just a casual fan, picking up stuff that interested him here and there. He has a full-time job and the disposable income to pick up whatever he wanted regularly. The other friend was a scanlation reader largely by necessity as she doesn’t have a job and is a full-time student.

But as we discussed the manga industry in the local Barnes & Noble and I suggested manga they’d both like left and right, it became really clear to me that neither of them knew much about what the industry was offering. Neither of them had heard of SigIkki, Viz’s fantastic online serialization site for more mature titles. Neither of them knew about many great titles out in English, other digital offerings or even about the existence some of the smaller manga publishers. They were casual manga fans to a T.

It struck me, mostly because I think I’ve been living in an intense manga industry-focused bubble for the past year and a half or so, but also because it seems like such a spectacular failure on the industry’s part. Why the hell aren’t we doing more to tell these kinds of readers know what’s going on?

Some could argue that the industry is already doing all that it can. They’re reaching out to fans on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. There are in-book ads, company newsletters, even TV shows dedicated to reaching out to the fans. The only problem? I think they’re reaching out to only the hardcore fans, the otaku.

To be a hardcore fan of manga and anime means that you’re probably more than a little obsessed with the stuff. While these kinds of fans may know a lot about manga, there is certainly a focus on extremely popular manga and scanlations because both are easily accessible. There are lots of sites dedicated to both, lots of marketing put out (at least on the legal side of things) that’s devoted to Naruto (or Bleach or Vampire Knight, etc.) and almost no energy allotted for telling fans about the countless number of less popular manga out there. No wonder most fans don’t know they exist! (And sales are low.) Where’s the tweet reminding everyone that the next Butterflies, Flowers or Maid Sama is on sale? I really can’t recall much promotional information on such titles during the time I’ve been focusing on the manga industry. In fact, I think smaller pubs like DMP and Vertical Inc. are the only ones who really bother trying to give attention to each and every new volume of manga that comes out. But sometimes, for publishers like Vertical, the fans don’t even know they exist either because no one’s passed them an ANN article or because bookstore distribution for those publishers isn’t as heavy as it is for Viz, Yen Press or Tokyopop. I certainly knew nothing about tiny pubs like Fanfare/Ponent Mon before 2009, so it doesn’t surprise me almost no one else does either.

So how do we get back to the casual fan? Heavy distribution in large chain bookstores is a start. Certainly, the big American publishers take up most of the room, leaving the smaller pubs to fight for space or take their merchandise elsewhere. The problem with this is that I think a ton of casual manga readers find what they buy here in these Borders and Barnes & Nobles. So that leaves the responsibility of marketing to whatever is on the shelves. One thing that I always thought Viz did right is the in-book ads printed on the inside of the front cover listing the newest releases and when they’d hit the streets. They may have only done this with the Shojo Beat line, but hot damn it was effective when I wasn’t hyper-connected to manga news. What’s this? New volumes of Sand Chronicles, Love*Com, SA and Otomen are out? I WANT THEM ALL! Oh, and what’s this new series they have listed? I’ll see if they have it here and flip through it. A great, REALLY SIMPLE way to keep someone interested in buying your manga. It might be slightly more expensive because of where it’s printed, but at least the information has reached the fans right away.

Unfortunately, Viz doesn’t do this for some of the titles that probably need the most help selling– it’s Signature and SigIkki lines. Out of all the ones in my collection that I looked at, only one or two titles had these little inside front cover ads. More titles had ads in the very last pages. Many more had no ads at all, especially the SigIkki titles. The biggest shame is that the only places you could find the SigIkki URL were the places you were LEAST likely to look for pme, like underneath a barcode. Who looks there? Seriously?! Knowing Tokyopop’s process through my freelance work for them, I can tell you that the number of in-book ads depends on how many pages you have left over (page numbers go by increments of 16 unless you want to pay serious cash to do otherwise.)

If there are in-book ads, a lot of space is dedicated to showing off the shiniest new series that the publisher has with the shiniest art they can find that looks good in black and white and lots and lots of copy. As far as I can tell, pretty much every manga publisher is guilty of this. What I think would be more effective, an overall look at the new releases of the line or the company listed on one page with effective information like dates and websites, never actually happens. What the readers see is only what the publisher feels like pushing at the time. Again, energy is focused on the popular titles instead of showing off titles that readers might not even know about. No wonder there’s so much unloved manga out there. There’s not even any real marketing done for the shiny new digital venues that pubs are beginning to put out left and right. At least, not any that reaches all the fans!

I’m pretty sure I’ve only rambled on about part of the manga marketing process and so much more could be done. But for the sake of the length of this post and a fast-approaching bedtime, I’ll stop here with a few questions.

Imagine, if you will, that you don’t read up on the manga industry on a regular basis, that you don’t read any manga-related blogs and that you’re not following Viz or whomever on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. You get your news from your friends, maybe some livejournal communities and, most importantly, what you see in stores. What would be the most effective way of letting you know about other titles you’d be interested in? Do you even read the in-book ads at the end of manga you buy? Do you notice the websites and other information listed in odd places throughout the book? What, if anything, informs you about what else is out there? What do you think could be done to better impart that kind of information to you?

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Filed under manga, opinion

Discussion: Where’s your anime and manga community?

When I first got into manga ten whole years ago, there was no one around me who liked the stuff. My last year of middle school was the first year of torment as no one at my (very small) school had any interest in it and most thought Pokemon was for little kids and losers. I gained friends interested in manga outside of my school (it was a K-12 school) during high school, but it was a rather small community that mostly consisted of me, my best friend and our crappy taste.

That all changed when I reached higher education. I was looking for a school where I could get a fresh start and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo gave me the opportunity to ditch my immature high school classmates and gain a surprisingly awesome anime club.

I found Minna no Anime (their name, in case you’re looking for a university solely based on their anime club) instantly and was so excited by the idea that my school had an anime club that I started attending right away. It was a bit off-putting at first because I wasn’t a huge anime watcher and I didn’t know anyone. Then they announced their weekly Minna no Manga meeting, that consisted mostly of hanging out and reading manga. Minna no Manga gave me the chance to actually meet some people in the club and make friends. (And read manga.) It was such a great atmosphere that I attended both club meetings religiously right away. Over my 4+ years attending the school, I loathed to miss any of the meetings. I still long for my friends there now that I’m way too far away to drive up there every Thursday and Saturday evening.

Through my friends there I learned a lot about anime, manga and the world of fans. I had so much fun, it’s kind of tempting to go back to Cal Poly for graduate studies or another bachelor’s degree or just live in the area so I can keep going. Yeah, that’s how much I love this group of crazy kids. I even made a slide show and a video about the club before I graduated.

Since I’m feeling a bit lonely with my friends, I’ve even started thinking about starting a similar club in Los Angeles, since my area suffers from lack of a nearby college with an anime club. I’m still dreaming it up, but it’d be a fun regular even for a local comic book shop or a library if either was willing to host one. (So, if you live in the Los Angeles/Hollywood/West Hollywood area, let me know if you’re interested!)

What’s your anime and manga community like? Are they a group of friends or an organized club? Where you guys hang out and what do you usually do? Let me hear about all your fun times with your anime and manga friends!

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Life of a (Rookie) Editor: It’s Not Easy Being Green

Just as a preface, there might not be another Webcomics Wednesday for awhile as I’ve run out of general ideas. Perhaps going to Alternative Press Expo in a few weeks will help me pick up some new material, but the Wednesday after the convention I’m having my gall bladder removed. It’ll be a fairly minor surgical procedure, but I will be staying at the hospital overnight and might be too loopy to blog for a few days afterward. I’ll try to coordinate some guest posts to keep you folks entertained.

Meanwhile, it’s been ages since I posted about how my life as a manga editor is going. As a warning, this post is going to sound a little dismal, but do not think I’m giving up. That is absolutely not the case.

I love being a manga editor. I really really love that part. The difficult part is being a freelancer. I don’t make a lot of money yet and when I talked to another freelancer friend who works in manga (albeit a different, more labor-intensive position), I got super-jealous to find out what she made. I basically realized then that I’m probably never going to make enough money to survive off freelance editing alone, at least not in the long run. If I were to get a full-time position, that would be another story.

It’s really tough being in my position, especially in this economy. Like most people my age, I’ve graduated college at a horrible time and jobs are hard to come by. Most of my friends who aren’t still in college or  have already managed to wrangle themselves something cannot not find a better job than pouring coffee at Starbucks most of the time. Very few of us have been able to build enough experience to easily get jobs and many jobs want lots of experience these days.

Making things worse for myself, specifically, the manga industry is a really niche industry that’s been hit hard recently. Go!Comi and Aurora have folded, CMX shut down, Viz had massive layoffs and Del Rey Manga just kind of folded and passed the baton to Kodansha USA. There aren’t a lot of places left for me to find work, even on a freelance basis. There are so many things I’d like to do, start my own publishing business or my own comic book store. But with horror stories happening left and right, this doesn’t feel like the right time. Not to mention, I’m not experienced enough to handle either at the moment.

That’s one of the reasons why I’d love a full time job. I want to experience how a publisher works more before I start a business. Either that or I’d love to get a job at a bookstore in order to better understand how they work. (But I can’t do that until after my surgery… maybe bookstores will be hiring for the Christmas rush then!)

I’ll stop complaining now. I’m still working on ways to make a better living, it’ll just take a little time and doing, like most things do, and I’ve got the rest of my life to do it!

On a more positive note, I’d like to introduce my second client, who will be debuting their first line this month, iSeeToon. They are based in Seoul, Korea and will be publishing webtoons for the iPhone and iPad (manwha/webcomics that are run through a sort of flash player is the best way I can describe it.) Their first webtoon will be Magician, which I did the English adaption for and edited. I hope you guys will check out their blog (just click the link on their name) and try out the webtoons when they come online.

On that note, I should probably get back to doing some other iSeeToon work so I will leave you with a link to the ANNCast I was on last week. Thanks to Zac Bertschy for having me.

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Del Rey Folds; Kodansha USA to Take on Their Titles

If you pay attention to manga news at all, you’ve probably heard that the Del Rey Manga imprint has folded and Kodansha USA will be taking over on a title-by-title basis. The manga blogging community has been sharing the news as fast as it possibly can. Melinda Beasi was the first to post after Deb Aoki broke the news over Twitter.

Some are saying this is no surprise after it was revealed that Del Rey had no new volumes being released after November 2010.

While it certainly feels a bit upsetting, there is hope for the future of your favorite manga being published by Del Rey. For one, it seems like Kodansha might be getting serious. But at the same time, Kodansha USA has an awful publishing track record, having only done re-releases of Akira that were no different from the old Dark Horse version.

No doubt that right now Kodansha is looking to get their shit in order and isn’t thinking like an American fan who might be grieving at what they see as a loss. Here are some suggestions for them to transition a little bit more smoothly and ease the minds of fans…

1. Do a Q&A panel at NYAF– It seems Kodansha has pulled their panel at NYAF this weekend, which has caused more panic in fans than understanding. Most likely, the people at Kodansha USA feel like they just don’t have anything to tell their fans yet. Forget that. Turn off the PR speak and turn it into a Q&A panel and beginning sharing the details behind this move. If it’s possible, tell the fans when they can start to expect new Kodansha releases, even if specific titles aren’t set in stone yet. It’ll assuage manga fans fears that Kodansha is just a giant corporation toying with their feelings. I’m sure that NYAF will be more than happy to prioritize getting a Kodansha panel back up, so do it ASAP! (And if NYAF is no longer a possibility, I suggest finding the next large anime con and setting up a panel immediately.)

2. Actually publish something new- I’m pretty sure that most manga fans would breathe a sigh of relief if they heard Kodansha was releasing a new volume of an old series or a new title at all. This one is pretty simple, so my suggestion to Kodansha is that you work on this first. Just name one new, never-before-published-in-America volume of manga and when it will be published. If Kodansha wants to keep all the attention it’s getting right now, try and do this before the end of October. The end of the year at the most. Once we get into 2011 and we STILL haven’t heard a single peep from the company, fans will not think well of Kodansha USA at all. My guess is that this change has been relatively long in coming, so Kodansha must have an idea what’s going to be published first and foremost by now.

3. Make a big splash- Ever since Kodansha started pulling the licenses of their titles from American manga publishers, Kodansha has been much like Cuba–everyone else can get the cigars, but Americans can’t. There are many fantastic titles hidden in the Kodansha vaults, so please, Kodansha, don’t keep all the top notch Cohibas locked away in a drawer. Publish Sailor Moon or another popular title that fans have been clamoring for and our attention will be solidly fixed on Kodansha. I know this goes against the previous suggestion, but if it’s done in tandem, I think it could really work well for Kodansha.

There are, no doubt, more things Kodansha could do at this point, but these are what the company needs to do in order to show us it’s not just for show.

Here’s some titles I think Kodansha should publish as soon as possible…

Sailor Moon Omnibus– Omnibi are a great way to get a re-release out to the masses. Plus Sailor Moon is old enough that while many fans think of it fondly, there are plenty more fans who have NEVER gotten the chance to read it, but have probably heard so much about it. Really a no brainer.

Hataraki Man Well, Kodansha (or at least the English-language site for the Japanese side of things) thinks this manga is good enough to be profiled on the site! I personally love this manga, so this suggestion is a tad bit biased, but the shoujo manga that Del Rey published was usually well-received and this is just a tad bit more mature…

Hajime no Ippo or Ashita no Joe– Kodansha, this is your chance to show us the classics that we always hear about in manga. These two get referenced left and right in manga. I know sports manga doesn’t have the best track record, but perhaps these two are good enough to change the minds of US manga fans everywhere. I know I’d certainly be curious since I can think of about 10 different manga that have mentioned Ashita no Joe off the top of my head. (There are more, I just know it.)

Saint Young Men I can tell you right now that a number of people think this manga is too controversial for the US just because it portrays Jesus (despite the fact that it’s pretty tame, I know.) Controversy tends to be a great bookseller, so surprise us all and take a leap of faith. I’m sure your company will get tons of exposure and I’m sure that’s something Kodansha could use right now.

One last bit of advice, Kodansha. Just blow our minds RIGHT NOW and we will be your manga-buying slaves for a long, long time. Right now you’ve nothing to lose by being quick, but you’ll lose a lot by being lazy or paranoid about what you can tell us yet. This is the time for a fast and loose game.

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Filed under manga, opinion

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

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Filed under manga, Uncategorized

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 mangaupdates.com 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.

Hostesses

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

Prostitutes

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

Oiran

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

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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?

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