Tag Archives: online manga

Hetalia: You Should Read This Manga Even If You Don’t Want To

I’ve been dying to get this post out for a little while now. I was hoping to do it sometime this month as the print version of Hetalia Axis Powers isn’t out until late September, but since TOKYOPOP has announced that the digital version is already available, I’m going to go for it.

Disclaimer: I’m not going to lie to anyone, I worked on this manga as a script editor. In case you don’t already know, I work as an independent contractor (read: freelance editor) for TOKYOPOP. The fact that I’m breaking my own personal ethical standards to write this post? That’s how much I want you to read Hetalia Axis Powers. (The OFFICIAL versions, please.)

So you’re kind of skeptical about picking up Hetalia Axis Powers. I understand. There’s a lot of screaming fangirls, you hear a lot about pairings between the different (male) characters, it doesn’t seem like your cup of tea. Here’s why you should read it anyway.

1. This manga is funny even if your least favorite subject was history: It really is. It’s all about humor, whether that be humor about the historical behavior of the countries (i.e. wars, alliances, random incidences), humor about the stereotypical behaviors of the country and humor about the interactions between countries. That’s why the countries are drawn so cutely. YOU CAN’T HELP BUT LAUGH WHEN THEY LOOK SO SILLY AND CUTE!! (Ahem. You see why the fangirls act the way they do?)

2. It’s not a boys love manga, I promise: I can understand why people don’t want to read BL or yaoi. It’s not for everyone. But this manga is NOT about little gay countries. There are less instances of the characters “acting gay” to each other than fingers on your left hand and there are even boob jokes. Everything else is implied. Sure, you can look at the manga that way, but if you don’t HAVE to. (If you want to, by all means.)

3. It’s really not that offensive: If you’re adamant about getting hurt by the stereotypes perpetuated in Hetalia, fine. There are a million bad traits that Himaruya could have touched upon with any country in his manga, but he generally avoids going into dark territory. Hetalia is a yonkoma (gag strip) manga with light-hearted humor, which is pretty typical for most yonkoma manga. Having worked on the first two volumes already, I can only think of one really dark moment in the manga and it has NOTHING to do with stereotypes. Actually, I think America gets the worst jabs out of all the countries in the book for being weirdos. (My opinion is that Americans kinda deserve it. This country can be totally backwards sometimes.)

4. You’ll learn stuff you’ve never known before: Hetalia isn’t going to help you pass your history classes, it’s more like a Wikipedia page than a historical tome, but it’s still pretty fun. Let me tell you: fact checking this manga was super fun. I love history left, right and sideways, but I’m not a super-serious historical scholar. Still, Himaruya’s notes throughout the manga help clarify the strips as well as give you an excuse to go explore the history behind Sealand (and many other things). Many hours will be spent with multiple tabs of Wikipedia open and you will find yourself enjoying it. (Unless you are the type that is so turned off by learning anything new, you just can’t bring yourself to find out what the hell Sealand is.)

5. It really is funny, you guys, just try it: I understand why people don’t want to get into over-hyped series. I understand that Hetalia may not be your type of humor or your type of manga in the end. But it’s still worth a shot, even if you only flip through a friend’s copy or check one out from the library. Don’t pass something off you haven’t even read, especially something that’s really popular because it certainly has to be popular for one good reason or another. You don’t have to be a fangirl if that crowd turns you off, that’s fine. Just take the time to try it out. I promise that a lot of you will be happily surprised. (Cute and funny, it’s like the most powerful combo ever.)

I know I would love to hear your feedback on Hetalia and so would TOKYOPOP. Let me know, let TOKYOPOP know on their facebook page, twitter or anywhere else you can get a hold of them. Have you read it yet? Do you like it? Why do you like or dislike it? I want to hear it all!

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Ten REALLY GOOD Ways to Buy and Not Steal Manga

There’s been a lot of debate going on lately about plagiarism, piracy and scanlations in the manga world. No doubt you’ve heard of the recent trouble Nick Simmons has gotten himself into. With everyone up in arms and the conversations starting to turn to the feelings of entitlement amongst fans who feel it is right to steal, I came up with a few ideas on how to not steal manga and ruin things for the rest of us who actually do buy manga.

1. Go to the library:
Some people have some misguided ideas about how libraries work and think that it’s akin to reading scanlations. WRONG. At some point the library either had to buy the book or it was donated by someone else who had bought the book. Also, if a book is worn out from frequent use, the library will (more likely than not) buy a new copy to replace the old one. Most, if not all, libraries are free. All you have to do is sign up and you can borrow manga for free! FREE!!!!!!!

2. Make Friends, Borrow Their Manga:

Again, unless your friends are kleptos, they bought the manga at some point, so it’s not like scanlations either. Not only does this method allow you to read manga for free (FREE, YOU GUYS!!!), but it encourages you to read manga that you may not have read before because your friends suggested it or something. And it’s always good to have friends, especially ones with similar interests. If you’re still not convinced, look at your mom. Does she lend and borrow books from her friend? If so, you see anyone getting upset over it? Nope. Why’s that? Because this method of sharing allows word of mouth to spread and word of mouth is a GOOD thing for publishers.

3. Watch for deals and sales at retailers that stock manga:

I buy a LOT of manga. I have to save money somewhere, right? Right. So I sign up for every reward benefit thing at every store I go to that sells manga. Barnes & Noble gives members a little bit off each purchase and coupons; Borders often has coupons or buy 4, get 1 free deals; the local comic book shop in my hometown takes $1 off every $10 spent; RightStuf has amazing deals every single week and a well-stocked bargain bin. Those are only a few examples, but most every retailer uses such tactics because they know you’re more likely to come and buy one or two books from them if you have a coupon in your hand.

4. Contests and giveaways:

Let’s start with TOKYOPOP because I know them best. They keep giving away free copies of their new releases if you follow them closely on twitter. There’s plenty of other contests through their website. DMP also gives away free previews online manga to their followers on a regular basis. I’ve seen a number of manga blogs do the same thing. I’ve already gotten a few manga this way myself. VERY USEFUL. Even if I don’t enjoy the manga, I’ve read something and kept myself from being bored for awhile. Again: FREEEEEEEEEEEE!

5. Publisher-endorsed online manga:

Publishers are getting the hang of the whole online manga thing. Viz has it’s SigIkki website, as well as Rin-ne and Arata: the Legend. I know TOKYOPOP is already releasing a few chapters of manga here and there (most notably Re:Play) and is looking interestedly into getting digital rights to put more online. Netcomics has everything online for pretty low prices. So does DMP. Vertical has previews up (the glory of their print editions really demand that you purchase the hard copies, however.) Even Marvel is putting more comics online. Not all of these online manga are free, but most of the prices are pretty reasonable in my opinion.

6. Used Book Stores:

There are a number of used manga book stores in my area, but I’m lucky because there are large populations of Asians in Los Angeles and Orange County. Still, when I lived in my small college town, I was able to find used manga every once in awhile in the many used bookstores the town held. You might have to be pretty diligent, but I think it’s worth it for cheap manga.

7. Go to Cons:

Cons are great places to buy manga because retailers always have great deals going on so you’ll buy THEIR manga. In fact, I just went to Long Beach Comic Expo a few Saturdays ago and got some manga for $1. That’s an AMAZINGLY GOOD DEAL. Sure, it was a little hard to find something I was interested in, but my friends who got there before me kind of cleaned the place out of stuff I really wanted. I also got 40% some hardcover graphic novels! At Anime Los Angeles, I bought so much manga, the retailer gave me an even better discount than posted and gave me a box to carry it all in. Any manga fan who knows where their towel is will be walking out of a con with armfuls of deeply discounted manga.

8. Learn Japanese:

This is the most expensive and time-consuming way to buy and not steal manga, but it has other non-manga related benefits. If you are around the average age of manga and anime fans (high school- or college-age), then you could actually do with a foreign language in your repertoire. A lot of colleges and certain jobs really really like bi- or multi-lingual people, so it’ll increase the chances of you getting hired in the recession. Hey! You could even get a job in the manga publishing industry. Wouldn’t that be a dream?

9. Turn off your computer:

Being on the computer a lot is actually really bad for your health. It deteriorates your eyes and causes a lot of joint problems in your hands. I know so many people who are slowly going blind or have carpal tunnel from too much computer time. These are pretty young people too. So you might as well save a little bit on your health care bills by turning off the computer and reading a print edition of something.

10. Feed me:

By buying manga you are essentially allowing me to eat. Since you’re reading this blog, I assume that you might care whether or not I live or die. Since I’m currently working in the American manga publishing industry, buying manga (TOKYOPOP manga, but I won’t judge if you buy Viz) inevitably puts food on my table. Now just think of all the hundreds of other employees like me who publish  manga in order to buy their daily bread. If all of  you keep reading scanlations all the time instead of buying the manga, the companies we work for will STOP PUBLISHING MANGA. Sure you may think that’s a good thing, but just wait until you want to read your favorite series and the scanlation group has decided to disband, leaving you in the dark. And what if no other groups take it up? Huh? Well, guess what: publishers (YES, EVEN TOKYOPOP) try REALLY REALLY hard not to do that to you. Yeah.

I’m not going to lie: I don’t really have problems with anyone reading scanlations of unlicensed series. That’s one of the very few nice things about scanlations, you can read some manga that aren’t licensed yet or might never be licensed in the U.S. BUT IT’S NOT COOL TO STEAL FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE JUST TRYING TO MAKE A LIVING. (Trust me, very few people in the industry are raking in the dough.) If you insist on doing so, I’m going to haunt you when I die from starvation. Just so you know. No high horse here. I don’t think I’ve ever read a licensed scanlation, except for one time when I read one in order potentially promote the legit licensed version because I was short on time. I felt so dirty afterward, I definitely don’t want to do THAT again.

If anyone has any other suggestions on how to buy and not steal manga, let’s hear them!

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The Rise of Online Manga

This blog post won’t exactly be news, persay, but more of a discussion on an emerging trend in the U.S. manga market.

I saw this tweet this evening as I was trying to think of what to write:

manga_critic New blog post: Rin-Ne, Vol. 1 http://mangacritic.com/?p=2187

Rumiko Takahashi's Rin-Ne (copyright of Viz)

Rumiko Takahashi's Rin-Ne (property of Viz)

The link is a review of the first volume of Rin-Ne, a manga by the famous supernatural manga creator, Rumiko Takahashi. Rin-Ne is a part of a very new movement in the American manga publishing industry, a fight to battle scanlations, fan-made translations that are posted online and completely free, by putting content online.

Obviously, free material is a huge problem for any industry and many fans of manga don’t feel the need to pay for what they can get for free. Cease and desist orders are able to stop scanlators, as the creators of these translations are called, but publishing companies don’t have the means to police all the scanlation sites. Some scanlators are polite enough to take down a manga when it is licensed by U.S. publishers, but this does little to stop others from keeping content online through other means and even then thousands of people have read it already.

So how do publishers battle a scourge like this?

By posting these manga online before they’re even released in stores.

But how is this different than scanlations? How can the publisher make money?

It’s not much different than scanlations, which is the point. The publishers want their manga to be read online. That’s where their readership is right now. Then, right before the book is released at bookstores nationwide, the manga is taken off the internet and if manga fans want to read it, they’ll have to buy it.

Pretty ingenious in my opinion.

Rin-Ne and Viz, its American publisher, are at the forefront of this battle against scanlations. Rin-Ne is released chapter-by-chapter each week simultaneous with the Japanese release. This prevents scanlators from getting their hands on it before American publishers can, allows fans to read manga online for free and allows the company to control the profits by keeping the content on their site and taking it down when it’s time to sell it in stores.  Everybody wins.

Although Rin-Ne is currently the only manga Viz is releasing simultaneously with Japan, the company is putting out large quantities of online content for their Ikki and Shonen Sunday lines.  It seems to me that Viz is really just testing the waters here. If sales and advertising bring in enough, then Viz has cornered the market and given scanlators a real run for their money. Then again, there are some series, such as Bleach, where the Japanese version is way ahead of the U.S. releases, allowing scanlators to put up chapters that the U.S. publishers haven’t gotten to  yet.

Viz isn’t the only publisher with similar plans in the works or already online, but so far they are the only one to have done so to such an extent. Will such control revolutionize the industry and prevent scanlators from taking away valuable profits? Not completely.

In the end, the manga industry in America isn’t nearly the same size as Japan’s. This is a great solution for some series that are just being released like Rin-Ne or are relatively unheard of like  most everything from Ikki, but not for others that have already been released or extremely popular such as Bleach. At the same time, some of the manga that scanlators pick up will probably NEVER be published in the U.S. for lack of popularity, for their content being offensive or controversial or for just being old and scanlations bring about the only way for them to be read by non-Japanese speakers. But sometimes, it’s just a matter of not knowing whether a series will be picked up by U.S. publishers.

What’s your take on the rise of online content from manga publishers?

An article on Rin-Ne from Deb Aoki.

An article on Ikki’s U.S. debut.

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