Tag Archives: manhwa

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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Exciting news! Magician iPhone App Released by iSeeToon

So, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been working with a Korean company named iSeeToon to re-write and edit webtoons (they’re a lot like webcomics) for the iPhone in English.

Well now you can get the first series from iSeeToon that I worked on, Magician by Kim Se Rae, on your iPhone! It’s free to download the app, the first two chapters are free and the subsequent chapters are only 99 cents! (The first five chapters are up, but there are lots more coming soon!)

Magician is about two kids, Eremi and Enze, whose adventures start when they challenge the infamous mage, Edermask. Just what kind of guy is he if he doesn’t mind taking two pre-teens along for the ride and just why is everyone out to get him? The mystery starts here!

(That, btw, is not the preview copy that I officially wrote. I totally made some new copy on the spot. Heheh.)

You can download the app here or search for “Magician” in the iTunes store and it will come right up!

Sorry for this shameless plug, guys, but since this is the first English language product from iSeeToon, they need all the love they can get right now! Even if you just download the app and give me or the company some constructive criticism, you’re helping us out a lot. Not to mention, if you buy any of the chapters, you’re keeping me gainfully employed.

Please let us know what you think about Magician!

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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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June Manhwa Moveable Feast: The Color Trilogy

Welcome to this month’s Manhwa Moveable Feast, the first time the MMF has featured on a Korean comic book instead of a Japanese one and also the first time I’ve been able to review a complete series for the MMF! Yay!

The Color Trilogy is about a young Korean girl and her mother in early 20th Century rural Korea. The story depicts the relationship between Ehwa and her single mother as Ehwa grows from a child to a married adult and her emotional and sexual development along the way. The Color of Earth focuses on Ehwa’s slow awareness of sexuality and the beginning of crushes on boys,  The Color of Water focuses on Ehwa’s budding relationship with Duksam and The Color of Heaven focuses on Ehwa’s tragic separation from Duksam and their eventual marriage upon his return.

The art of The Color Trilogy is quite beautiful. The characters are drawn simply, but their emotions are vibrant and Kim Dong Hwa clearly paid a lot of attention to them and the background details, which is important because so much of his writing is poetic lines about flowers or butterflies.

The writing and the overall story of The Color Trilogy is where I start seeing a lot of faults. This isn’t to say Kim Dong Hwa is a terrible writer and The Color Trilogy is devoid of moments that draw you into the story, but the whole manhwa is so goddamn poetic it started to get on my nerves. Now I know life was different back then and maybe they had a little bit more time to be philosophical, but does every single line in a comic book have to be some new (or continued) metaphor about a flower or a butterfly? I can barely even think about how many sappy lines The  Color Trilogy had without wanting to start cursing like a sailor just to reverse the effect. That isn’t to say it’s all bad or that some of those lines didn’t hold true, but I just wanted some more straightforward writing and normal conversations every once in awhile. Ehwa and her friend Bongsoon spoke in metaphors every single time they met up! The customers at Ehwa’s mother’s tavern pretty  much spoke in nothing but lewd euphemisms ALL THE TIME! No one in this whole trilogy was spared from this drippy, flowery (my apologies for the pun) language. It got to the point where I just wanted to scream “ALRIGHT ALREADY” at the characters.

The language, however, is not even my least favorite part of the series. There was one thing I couldn’t get out of my mind: “Geez, my  mom and I were never so poetic and open about sex and boys.” Let’s get some background in here: Much like Ehwa, I have a single working mother and my father had exited my life at a very early age. My mom’s been single ever since and pretty much focused her life on me and her business, again, much like Ehwa’s mother. I never got talks about sex and boys. I had to figure it all out on my own. I got warnings or awkward snippets of sex talks when I started dating like: “boys are not allowed in your room” and “are you having sex with [boyfriend’s name]?” My mom pretty much just trusted in sex ed to teach me what I needed to know in order to be safe and responsible. While I realize that Ehwa and I live in much different times, I cannot help but think Ehwa’s mother would have been too busy, just as my mother is/was, to spend so much time waxing poetically about men and what women need to do to get one. I mean… the most important thing I learned from my single, working mom is to always be able to take care of yourself (money-wise), not “give everything you’ve got into finding a man because that’s the only road to happiness.” I feel like that lesson is way more important than getting my boyfriend to put a ring on my finger even if I did want to get married right now!

Ehwa’s mother certainly isn’t a bad person for trying to school her daughter in such a way and getting married in such a time period was more vital to a woman than it is now, but just realize this: that’s ALL we ever see mother and daughter doing together. I may be taking the comparison between Ehwa and myself too far here, but whenever I spent time with my mom, it was usually doing something that needed doing. I helped her out in her office, I walked the dogs with her, I helped her fix dinner. Sure, I did fun stuff with her, but even on half of our vacations I was helping her lead a tour group most of the time or going with her to inspect hotels! (Clarification: my mom runs a travel business.) My mom certainly put me to work because she needed to and because I was there to do that. I find it surprising that Ehwa doesn’t even start learning how to cook until she’s almost marrying age or that we don’t see Ehwa helping out in her mother’s tavern at all. Ehwa doesn’t even help around the house that much (that we’re shown, really) until The Color of Heaven where we see her sweeping up leaves, doing the laundry and going to the market on her own to buy stuff for her mother. Considering how much Ehwa’s allowed to run around as a child, you would think she’d be given plenty of chores to do so her mother’s not constantly busy trying to run a tavern and sweep the porch and buy the groceries, all while raising a child. Perhaps there’s something I’m missing here between the early 20th Century Korean culture and late 20th Century American culture, but it seems like a more realistic Ehwa wouldn’t have gone out picking useless flowers so much!

I guess the biggest thing that makes me mad about The Color Trilogy is this relaxed relationship, which I didn’t get to have, is just so unrealistic to me. (I don’t feel that bitter, I just cannot suspend my belief long enough to truly think Ehwa would do nothing but chatter idly about guys and sex with her mom for years.) Perhaps I’m also jealous that Ehwa got so much freedom to explore relationships with boys. I don’t know. But I’m certainly more mad that Ehwa and her mom discuss nothing but. How one-sided and sexist is it to have a comic based entirely on grooming a girl for marriage and eschewing the importance of having a man in your life?

Aside from my mad rant, which I’m sure is full of flaws of its own, The Color Trilogy suffers from some more problematic issues. The characters spend a lot of time doing nothing but conversing, even when they’re out and about. Because of this the pacing of  the whole series is remarkably slow and when you do get a few moments of more exciting story development, they’re gone just as quickly as they came.

Out of the three, The Color of Earth is the most bearable in terms of all the metaphorical language and the story line. It also self-contains, so it’s the easiest to read without moving onto the other volumes, although The Color of Water and The Color of Heaven have more moments of dynamic storytelling.

I would recommend this book to people who are a bit older and have a bit of relationship experience under their belt. While this book has some discussion questions meant probably for teen-aged readers, I wouldn’t feel quite comfortable giving this to a girl of 15 or so because the story places so much importance in getting married and I feel like children, especially teenagers who are preparing to make serious life decisions, need to be shown that there are multiple paths open to them no matter what the convention is. For adults, however, The Color Trilogy can be a good read if you’re just the right kind of romantic and able to suspend your disbelief more than I was able to. I guess I just relate to the characters a little too well to believe them.

If you want to hear more opinions about The Color Trilogy, please check out this introduction and an archive of posts by this month’s MMF host Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf.

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Do Not Want: the Twilight graphic novel

There are a few kinds of manga that I cannot STAND reading, the most prominent being the kind of manga that teaches boys that it’s ok to fool around with the feelings of multiple girls who are willing to put out because they’ve got a crush. Oftentimes I can’t put those manga down because I’m editing it for Tokyopop so I just have to deal.

TwilightThe Twilight novels inspire the same sort of feelings in me. Luckily when I read it, it was of my own free will and I could put it down once I noticed a pattern of awful writing. Then I burnt my copy of the book. For that reason, I’d like to explain to you why I REALLY REALLY wish Yen Press hadn’t created the Twilight graphic novel.

1. The lessons of the books: Yes, Twilight does teach abstinence… sort of.  Bella really DOES want to get it on with Edward, but he won’t let her. That’s not abstinence, that’s cock-blocking. But before we even get to an established relationship between the two lovers, Edward STALKS Bella because the smell of her blood is so powerfully addicting or something along those lines. On top of that, Bella is extremely passive (except when it comes to wanting sex or wanting to die and be turned into a vampire), depressed and angry at her life for no real reason other than the fact that she’s a teenager. So basically Twilight is teaching girls to be moody bitches with suicidal tendencies who should pounce on the first hottie that shows interest in them. EVEN IF THE GUY IS STALKING THEM. And abstinence via cock-blocking.

That’s not even the really bad part in my opinion. I don’t even want to THINK about how the Breaking Dawn movie is going to visually illustrate the sex scene between Edward and Bella or the birth of their child. The ENTIRE WORLD would be too young to see material that graphic on a big silver screen.

2. The lettering: I saw the preview page online (no, I am not buying the magazine just to look at more pages) and cringed. What the HELL was up with that lettering? Those random word balloons and narration boxes? THE FONT CHOICES!?! Why did they go with serif fonts and a fancy, loopy script font? I hope to GOD that the whole book isn’t like that. I’m not THAT familiar with Yen Press, so I hope this is not their  style. Please tell me it isn’t.

In comparison, the art is BEAUTIFUL. Is this botched lettering job supposed to be easier for the droves of Twilight fans who have never seen a comic book before? If so, screw that. Just because you’re GUARANTEED good sales with this title, does not mean you can get away with doing a shitty job on the lettering, Yen Press. If anything you should be doing your best to make sure even the non-Twilight fans pick this up!

3. The fans: This is complete and utter prejudice and I apologize for not being able to help myself, but there are CRAZY Twilight fans out there and I do not want droves of them discovering comic books. I apologize to the fans who only like Twilight for it’s entertainment value. I’ve met numerous fans like this and I accept those kinds of fans because they prove to be nice when you get to know them.  It’s the crazy ones I have problems with.

I’ve been subjected to extreme acts of fan-crazy over the years. I’ve sat next to the girl who was dressed up as Misa Misa and could NOT stop talking about Light Yagami as if he was real. I have been asked to spend the evening with guys who have no idea what living outside their parents’ basement is like JUST BECAUSE I KNEW THE LUCKY STAR DANCE.  I could go on…

But my point is we have enough crazy fans already and I don’t want more Narutard-like fans in this world. I know there are going to be nice Twilight fans getting into comic books and then there are going to be THOSE fans. I’ll be a bitch if I have to be. Just act like a sane person and I won’t punch you in the face.

I understand why the Twilight graphic novel is being released and why it has a ginormous print run. The books made a lot of money, the movies made a lot of money, so a comic book will make a lot of money. Yeah, that makes sense. That’s cool. Good for Yen Press. Please do something better with the tons of cash you make. Release some good josei or something. HIRE A BETTER LETTERER. Lock up Stephanie Meyer while you’re on a roll and stick her some place where she can’t write another novel. (Look at it this way, you’ll probably be able to milk the Twilight cash cow for another 10 years.)

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EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Lillian Diaz-Przybyl

So, since this blog is for a multimedia class and all, I needed to do an audio project!
The local comic book store I originally intended to interview turned down my request for a short interview, so I asked my professor if I could put this part of my project off and potentially interview my former internship supervisor, Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, who you all know is Tokyopop’s senior editor.

Luckily, Lillian let me interview her quickly before she left on a trip to Japan, where she and Stu Levy did their Tokyopop Insider on Wednesday.

It’s just a short interview, nothing too special. I intended it to give some insight into Lillian’s job as an editor, so it doesn’t include anything on the whole scanlators v. pro translators debate that’s been going on. (I plan to post more about it later.) Regardless, I hope it is insightful as to what Lillian does.

http://www.zshare.net/audio/69397612c701a0c2

Also, if anyone is wondering, this is the last assignment for the aforementioned class. I could stop blogging after this if I wanted to, but I’ve had so much fun, I plan to continue blogging as long as I can. Again, I will post more on this later.

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The Great Manga Gift Guide- SHOJO STYLE!

So it’s that wonderful time of year again and it’s about time for me to shrink into a little ball and wait for Christmas to be done with.

Yeah, I don’t like this time of year, but DO I really like getting presents. Who doesn’t? I find giving presents to be a lot of fun too because you get to see the delight on someone’s face when you give them the right gift. But there is that problem of knowing WHAT gifts to get someone, especially if they’re into manga. There’s a Jewish saying about opinion that goes: for every five Jews there’s at least eight synagogues.  For manga fans, it’s for every five manga fans there’s probably about two dozen series they’re currently reading and about four dozen more they’d love to start reading!  While that kind of does help widen the search radius, it doesn’t make manga fans easy to shop for. ESPECIALLY shojo fans…

So you’ve got a girl (girls really like manga, what can I say?) that you need a gift for. There’s a TON of shojo titles on the shelves, then there’s josei series, even sunjeong manhwa titles and not to mention non-shojo series that girls also like to read. (But I’m not even going to touch non-shojo.) So I’ve compiled here a little list of good shojo manga to get for girls.

Kare KanoFor the budding fan: Sometimes it’s good to start someone off slow. Kare Kano is a good manga to start with because it doesn’t have a lot of complicated references to Japanese culture that could throw off a beginner. Plus, Kare Kano is a very simple, but very engaging romance. There’s plenty of comedy mixed in with drama and, most importantly, it’s very realistic and easy to relate to. Even better, it’s a pretty good manga for younger teens as well as older readers because it starts off light and by the time you get to the more mature later volumes, you’ll probably have a few years on you.  Tokyopop is re-releasing the series in omnibus editions, so you can pick up the first three volumes a lot cheaper than you could individually!

For the comedy-lover: There are plenty of shojo rom-coms out there, but never have I seen more love for Love*Com and its unique sense of character dynamics. Sure, the series is pretty typical when it comes to the cliches of shojo manga, but you will never see another couple quite like this. Also, Aya Nakahara has a fantastic sense of design which really shows in her art.

For the one who likes her shojo unusual: I picked up a copy of Love Attack! Junai Tokko Taicho! by Shizuru Seino yesterday and enjoyed it a lot. It’s basically about two kids who aren’t afraid to throw punch falling in love with each other, but what really gets me is the two of them acting like a bunch of thugs. Every once in awhile, one of them would pull a face or react to something and suddenly don a “yakuza” face. I couldn’t stop laughing. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Black Lagoon lately…

For the guy who LOVES shojo: What a small percentage of the manga-reading population! I wish more men read shojo, if only to be able to talk to guys about my favorite kind of manga more. Otomen by Aya Kanno has recently stolen my heart, especially since male protagonists are rare (the only other shojo mangaka I can think who uses male protagonists regularly is Ai Morinaga and another manga further down on the list.) Instead of going Morinaga’s usual route of hilarious character torture, Kanno makes Asuka Masamune pretty relatable. He tries really hard to be manly in order to fit in, but deep down he’s super-girly at heart. The series is hilarious and says a lot about self-acceptance and being comfortable in one’s own skin.

For the history lover: Does your giftee looooooooove history? Well, shojo manga usually tosses aside history in favor of romance and whatnot, but Red River by Chie Shinohara is still pretty damn cool. History fans will drool over the detail of her drawing, especially in jewelry and scenery, and be satisfied by the way her characters strategize and factor in the technology of the times. Plus, Shinohara pays some lip service to famous historical figures like Nefertiti and Ramses I (known as User Ramses in the manga.)  It’s not totally accurate historically, but it’ll get a history/shojo fan’s juices flowing.

For the fantasy lover: Technically, Red River falls under fantasy too, but since I’m a huge history nerd, I wanted to have two separate categories. For fantasy, I’m going with another pick from an older manga artist, Kyoko Hikawa’s From Far Away. I cannot even tell you how much I adore this story. The relationship between Noriko and Izark is so tender and enthralling to watch. You get totally swept up in their heart-wrenching story and it’s got pretty good action as well.  Unfortunately, this one might be hard to find because Viz finished publishing it a few years ago. BUT IT’S SO WORTH IT!!

For more mature reader: Please, Please Me by Kisun is a fantastic josei-style (is there a manhwa term for josei?) manhwa that’s pretty good for someone who is more mature in what they read. It follows the stories of two roommates looking for love in some odd places. Unlike some josei manga, which tends to follow the romantic exploits of office ladies, Please, Please Me‘s main characters don’t have typical office jobs, which is delightful and makes them a bit more relatable in my opinion. This manhwa, however, is online only. It’s extremely easy to get an account and buy some manga to read, but if you’re looking for a hard copy gift for a josei fan, go with Suppli by Mari Okazaki instead.

For a light-and-easy read: Land of the Blindfolded by Sakura Tsukuba is an excellent choice if you just want to give your shojo manga fan something to just plain enjoy reading. There’s a lot of drama involved with the different powers of the characters, but they are able to overcome it and learn to have more normal lives. I think what really makes the series a good read is the warm sense of community the characters have with each other. They really bond over their experiences and you can feel it as you read. Again, the series has ended, so it might be hard to find, but you’ve got plenty of time before most of the gift-giving holidays start.

For the manga fan who says they don’t like shojo: Are you shopping for someone who says they don’t like shojo,  but you think otherwise? Sometimes it takes the right series, but I think it also helps to ease them into it. Here’s where Mad Love Chase comes in. This new Tokyopop release about a demon prince trying to escape an arranged marriage by Kazusa Takashima, who is better known for her yaoi than her shojo. Mad Love Chase is undeniably funny and features a male protagonist to trick your giftee into thinking it’s not shojo. (But it is.) Anyway, the characters are fabulous and make up for the fairly weak storyline and all the times where the protagonist slips out from under his pursuers way too easily.

For the impossible giftee: Despite this list, you’re stuck on what to get as a gift. The solution? A gift card to their favorite bookstore or comic book store. No seriously. My friends apparently ALWAYS have trouble getting me gifts (I find this hard to believe) even though I’ve told a number of them to just get me a $20 gift card every time. Gift cards are impersonal, you say? Mm, maybe. I say they just give the giftee the choice to get what they want. You don’t always have to gift something that you’ve picked out for someone. If you still feel it’s too impersonal then get them a large sum gift card. That way you’re saying that YES, I may not have picked out something JUST FOR YOU, but I’ve given you enough to buy yourself something awesome. Any serious manga fan will dash straight for the graphic novel/manga section and stock up on their favorites.

I really hope you enjoyed reading this list and that it helps you give great gifts to shojo manga fans! I’d also like to thank David P. Welsh over at Precious Curmudgeon for suggesting this idea after both the NY Times and the Onion failed to deliver any manga suggestions on their own gift guides.

If you’d like to see more manga gift guides (in case you need more than just shojo) check out other Great Manga Gift Guide participants here and here.

Have a happy non-specific holiday season you guys!

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Manhwa Controversy!

So it seems people are pretty riled up about my post on manhwa thanks to Melinda Beasi mentioning it in her most recent Manhwa Monday post.

Understandable. I am not saying that ironically. I can see where everyone who found my post offensive is coming from. I was pretty off-the-mark on that one. Let me just say, I am really sorry for being so wrong.

This paragraph in particular got some people riled up.

Basically, I was kind of a purist when U.S. publishers began releasing manhwa. I read manga and only manga. […] Manhwa was, in my eyes, a cheap imitation.

But I want it to be clear that this was my former view of manhwa; my view of it when I was 15 and Tokyopop first put I.N.V.U. out on bookstore shelves. That was in 2003.  Now,  I’ve recently developed a strong interest in Korean culture after I was able to visit the country for the first time. I want to learn Korean soon and if anyone wants to show me where some good manhwa scanlations are, I will gladly go read as much as I can over my Thanksgiving break.

Another thing that was found offensive was my view that manhwa is kind of shallow.  I only find it to be shallow because, in what I’ve read, everyone bickers with each other. As I talked about in my post, I’ve got strong negative feelings about meaningless bickering. Therefore, manhwa with lots of bickering is shallow to me.  So is  any manga, manhua and any other form of comics with lots of bickering, but I’ve found it to be less prominent in those types of comics than in manhwa that I’ve read.  Again, I would love to read manhwa that shatters this narrow stereotype I’ve got.  I’m clearly missing out according to troisroyaumes’ post about my post.  Although troisroyaumes assumed some things about me that are wrong, they’ve got a REALLY strong point, especially about mostly sunjeong  and boys’ love titles being published here in the U.S.

I’d really like to apologize for how my thoughts on manhwa came off. My only excuses are that I’m young, pretty new to this blogging game (I started this blog in September for one of my classes) and that the post in question was pretty much me writing down what came spilling out of my mind at the time. I should have done more research and I will in the future. This has been a pretty valuable learning experience for me. I have to thank Melinda Beasi for that, since she’s the one who let everyone know about my post.

That being said, PLEASE let me know how you feel about my posts on this subject matter. Let me really have it if you feel like it. I want your criticism.

I would like to let you all know that in no way do I begrudge any of you who have said negative things about me. I think it would be detrimental to me to hold it against anyone since not only am I wrong, but everyone who’s talked about me is mostly right. (Other than what’s been assumed, but I won’t hold that against anyone because it’s not like we know each other.) This blog is really a learning experience for me and I’m learning a lot. All of my readers and my detractors should think of themselves as aiding me along with this. I’m grateful. Thank you.

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Why is Manhwa not as popular as Manga?

Today I spent a good deal of time reading some manhwa, or Korean comics., and began pondering why the form is not quite as popular as manga.

I.N.V.U. Vol. 1

I.N.V.U. by Kim Kang Won, one of the first manhwa published in the U.S.

I have to admit, I don’t read much manhwa. There’s something about it that doesn’t connect with me as much as manga does,  although there are certainly some series that I really really enjoy. I decided to think about it some more and realized that the source of my lack of interest was really childish.

Basically, I was kind of a purist when U.S. publishers began releasing manhwa. I read manga and only manga. I didn’t really get introduced to American comics other than Archie and Friends until a few years later and manga was what it was all about for me. Manhwa was, in my eyes, a cheap imitation.

I can imagine how a similar mindset amongst manga fans would prevent a fairly good number of people from purchasing manhwa, but U.S. publishers have still had fairly successful manhwa releases with titles like I.N.V.U. and Demon Diary.

I thought more about why I’m not as fond as manhwa. I decided that a lot of manhwa come off as a little shallow to me. I can honestly say that I wish the series I’ve read just went a little bit deeper, even though I’m a huge fan of most of them. I sort of feel like I’m generalizing here, so I hope in the future I can read more manhwa to prove myself wrong, but…

Manga can get pretty deep, even if the reader is not expecting it or does not realize it at the time. Manhwa, I’ve found, pretty much focuses on rather petty dramatic issues.

For example, in a typical high school romance manga, a girl will try to find a deeper connection with the boy she likes by spending time with him and going through various trials and tribulations together. We get to really know both of them in this way and it creates an atmosphere of closeness between the readers and the characters so that our emotions ride along with their’s as the story progresses.

The same high school romance in manhwa won’t really show you all those high and low points, but will extensively cover the lengths at which the girl pursues a guy. This includes all the craziness that goes on inside a girl’s head (admittedly, that part is spot on,) the drama being boy-crazy creates and the wacky hijinks that ensue. I’ve found, more often than not, that this results in the potential couple fighting.  If there’s anything I REALLY don’t like, it’s two people arguing with each other over very silly things.

Which actually leads me to a strange conclusion here that may have to do with my own personal issues than actual fact. I don’t like to deal with couples arguing extensively with each other because my parents do it all the time.  Their’s is pretty much my stereotype of a bad relationship.

I imagine that, in a country with such a high divorce rate, other American manga fans have also been subjected to parents fighting over stupid things.  Why would American kids want to relate to people who constantly fight like their parents do? They probably don’t, so they probably don’t spend their money on manhwa. (Divorce in Korea is still pretty taboo. I wouldn’t find it too surprising if husbands and wives put up with fighting with each other because getting divorced would make them lose face. Thus, Korean kids are probably less likely to associate such fighting with something as traumatic as divorce.)

That being said, it’s really just a theory. I don’ t really have a way to prove it, but it’s an interesting thought.

Also, I don’t want to discourage any one from reading manhwa. I personally like The Queen’s Knight, I.N.V.U. and Tarot Cafe quite a bit and I would love it if Tokyopop continued to publish them. The manhwa I was reading today, Please, Please Me was hilarious and reminded me of wacky josei manga aimed at young professional women. (I am a HUGE fan of josei manga.)  I do wish good manhwa would get more love…

But I also wish they’d stop fighting…

ETA: There’s been some internet discussion about this post, so if you’d like to continue the discussion about manhwa, here’s the next post!

Related Links:

An article about manhwa that was probably written by one of my old bosses at Tokyopop

Wikipedia article about manhwa and its origins

Please, Please Me by Kisun (There’s a free preview of the first chapter!)

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