Tag Archives: Osamu Tezuka

What Manga Do You Want The Most?

Manga licensing is a tricky business. There are companies that won’t work with other companies, titles that are too expensive to reasonably bring over the U.S., mangaka who are wary about having their work brought to an English-speaking audience and many other things to consider before licensing a title for the finicky U.S. market. It’s especially hard to judge demand when there are so many people reading scanlations. Is this title popular enough despite all those people who’ve already read it for free? Will fans devote their money to a manga regardless? It’s hard to judge a risky market like manga publishing sometimes. The best that can be done sometimes is to listen to their demands, but that might not always be the easiest thing to do because of all the restrictions mentioned above.

But what if we pretended to wipe the slate clean and have our own publishing companies for a moment? You’re given the opportunity to license any two manga titles that you wanted to, regardless of price, publisher politics or the relative lack of demand for the titles you pick. What would you license?

Rose of Versailles? Sailor Moon? Jungle Emperor Leo? What are you dying to publish the most?

I’ve tried to give the subject matter a lot of thought. It’s really hard to pick just two titles because there’s probably two dozen on my mental shortlist. Do I really want this one over this other one? I’m not sure, because I’d probably buy either in an instant.

But I’ve decided. I would want to bring over Osamu Tezuka’s Nana-iro Inko (Rainbow Parakeet), which I’ve mentioned wanting before, and Saint Oniisan (Saint Young Men) by Hikaru Nakamura.

Had I a chance to bring over a third title, I would have probably picked Moto Hagio’s A Cruel God Reigns, but I think the above two titles would have to be my first two picks. Nana-iro Inko because it sounds like a fun, under-estimated Tezuka title and Saint Oniisan because I read it (when I felt less guilty about scanlations) and loved it so much. (I would buy for myself in an instant and recommend it to all my friends who have a good sense of humor about religion.) It would break my heart to never ever see either title in English, in my lifetime. (Whereas I just want to see more of Moto Hagio’s work and had a hard time picking between A Cruel God Reigns and Poe no Ichizoku.)

So I’ll ask again: If you could have any two titles published in your language, regardless of any extenuating circumstances, what would those two titles be?

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Vertical Licenses Princess Knight, Drops of God and No Longer Human Manga

So Deb Aoki, the manga guide for About.com, accidentally let slip tonight that Vertical Inc. licensed Kami no Shizuku (Drops of God) on Twitter after recording a session of ANNCast. Unfortunately she deleted the tweet after realizing the official announcement hadn’t been made yet. Fortunately this spurred Zac Bertschy, Anime News Network’s executive editor, to post the announcement sooner, sending manga fans all over Twitter into a joyous frenzy when they realized Princess Knight was also picked up.

 

And now we can expect the first volumes of Osamu Tezuka’s Princess Knight, Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimito’s Kami no Shizuku and Usumaru Furuya’s No Longer Human to be on shelves this fall.

Twitter is delirious with joy and mentions of the now-infamous Princess Knight Guy from the live ANNCast at Anime Expo 2010.

I was lucky enough to win a bid for the first two Kodansha bilingual editions of Princess Knight last year off of eBay. Despite the fact that the purchase set me back $50, I felt it was well worth my money. No doubt I’ll be dropping more cash for the Vertical edition later this year.

Commence squeeing now.

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Tezuka Month: Ode to Kirihito vol. 1

So far my blog has been limited in it’s review power because I have to fund my review stack with my rather empty wallet. BUT, for the first time, a publisher has been kind enough to give a review copy! Hurrah! A small manga critic milestone achieved!

That being said, this is not the first time I’ve read Ode to Kirihito vol. 1. In fact, the first time I read it was when I borrowed it from a friend in college. It blew my mind. I’d NEVER read anything like it at all. I pretty much thought that all manga was shojo or shonen and that there was little beyond Tezuka than Astro Boy. Yeah, this was only a few years ago. See how far I’ve come?

Ode to Kirihito is about Kirihito Osanai, a young doctor working to cure a mysterious disease called Monmow. In order to help solve the puzzle behind the disease’s origins, he is sent to Doggodale by the director of his hospital. Once there, however, he is forced into a relationship with a local woman and contracts Monmow disease himself after a number of incidences of suspicious behavior involving the village people.

Convinced he has found the cause of the disease, Osanai attempts to return to the hospital only to meet with unfortunate circumstances and be kidnapped before he gets there. His colleague Urabe and Osanai’s fiancee Izumi attempt to locate the missing doctor, but their attempts are thwarted by Tatsugaura’s campaign to become the president of the Japanese Medical Assosciation.

The first thing I noticed while reading Ode to Kirihito was that a fair number of panels had very very sketchy art, but then the art would revert back to normal. I don’t know if this means anything, as I did try and work out if Tezuka was trying for something here, but it doesn’t seem too inappropriate considering the nature of Monmow disease. Still, I wasn’t very fond of the sketchiness. It wasn’t often in scenes that were highly intense (the whole book is intense, but there are varying degrees,)  and were often followed by panels with art as clean as day. So whatever Tezuka’s intentions were, they are lost on me.

Another thing that bothered me a little was the choice to change the format from left-t0-right instead of keeping it right-to-left. Before this starts sounding like a case of fan entitlement, I’ll mention that I read two languages right-to-left often enough that I’ve been subconsciously opening English-language books the wrong way for about nine years now. It truly threw me for a loop to see that a manga I was expecting to read right-to-left was not be that way. Since this is the only “grave sin” that Vertical commited with Ode to Kirihito as far as I can see, I think I can say it’s not that big a deal unless you’ve got your panties in a bunch. If you do, there’s a note at the beginning to explain why it’s flipped. (edit: I have been since told that the decision to flip this manga is not their decision to make, however.)

I’m sure everyone’s heard more than enough praise about Tezuka, but I still have to admire him for what he manages to do. Since I’m not a shounen/seinen fan by nature, I prefer particularly well-written shounen & seinen material as well as stuff that seems to defy the gender-based lines that a lot of Japanese manga are written around nowadays. Tezuka manages to jump over that and write and draw something that is truly easy to read no matter what your primary interest in manga is. I say this because I was able to eat it up the first time I’d read this manga despite very very little experience with manga of this depth or nature. I think this explains why Tezuka is called a god and why his work is so revered.

One other thing I particularly enjoyed were the scenes of extreme mental states, which happens most often when the story switches to Dr. Urabe’s point of view. Since Urabe is at the same time villainous and very much on the side of good, it is helpful to the reader to see his mental state before he does something truly despicable. You might not understand exactly what Tezuka’s drawing, but the message is clear that the break in sanity starts here. At first you want to despise Urabe, but as the book progresses and he throws himself into researching Monmow in Africa, saves Sister Helen and returns to Japan, you find yourself needing to re-think him. The best part is when he re-thinks himself and decides understand what he’s doing wrong and correct it. Since I don’t have volume 2, I can’t say where this character ends up, but I think he ended on a good note in this volume.

I think, in a way, Urabe is my favorite character because we get to see his emotional growth a lot more than Osanai’s. Unfortunately, the title character is rather stuck in a rut due to his disease. As readers we pity him, want him to escape his many fates and be cured, but we spend too much time seeing him put in horrible situations and having to escape them than seeing what this does to him mentally and emotionally. Further blocking this development is his resilience of will. Osanai is the good guy who cannot do much wrong. We come to understand when he must resort to acts of violence because he defends himself or another in doing so. That part of him never changes throughout volume one, although the last portions of the book did not involve any of his narrative. I rather hope he drastically changes in the next volume because I’m sick of Osanai being used and abused with little consequence for those that hurt him. Considering how the net is beginning to close around Dr. Tatsugaura, I’m sure we will see something downright vengeful in the next volume.

If you haven’t read Ode to Kirihito yet, I highly suggest you do. If you suspect it is not your thing, read it anyway. Think of it as a good education in how entertainment should be: captivating and leaving you craving for the next part.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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If you’re going to license a Tezuka manga, I have some requests

I don’t often do license requests so I was quite excited to do a Tezuka request post. But it seems the Manga Curmudgeon David Welsh has stolen my idea, although, knowing him, it might be stolen from elsewhere! (heh.) Still, I did a lot of research on Tezuka recently and I got to learn a lot about many of his amazing works.

But with all the Tezuka love being spread, I noticed that only a few of Tezuka’s titles really got any attention from fans. I’m pretty sure every publisher already knows that serious manga fans all want Princess Knight and Jungle Emperor Leo, so I put a lot of thought into which titles would be appealing to publishers AND readers. Here are my picks:

Rainbow Parakeet

So colorful, it hurts.

Rainbow Parakeet (Nanairo Inko):

This title was suggested to me by my senpai (for lack of a better word.) Since she was the one to first lend me Ode to Kirihito, change how I thought about manga and get me into Tezuka, I trust her taste quite a bit, at least enough to look into it. I did and this series sounds DELIGHTFUL.

Basically, it’s about an actor so masterful that he can pickpocket wealthy audience members during his performances under the guise of Rainbow Parakeet. There is, of course, a pair of bumbling detectives on his case, and a sidekick– a dog who is able to transform into Parakeet.

It sounds so wonderfully zany. A bit like From Eroica with Love, except less weird crazy gay man action. (Don’t get me wrong, Eroica is fabulous, but his personality seems so out of place to me. He would probably be better written as a woman.) This manga simply exudes color to me and I’m not just talking about the title name or this cover!

Mid Night:

This manga is a lot like Black Jack with its titular mysterious unlicensed taxi driver and episodic story lines. That isn’t to say that they’re exactly alike. Mid Night is more altruistic than Black Jack usually is and there’s no Pinoko-like character that I know of.

Still, much like Black Jack, Mid Night helps the needy and kicks the unworthy out of his cab on their sorry behinds. There’s a bit more action because he often gets into tumbles or various kinds of races. He’s a lot more talkative than Black Jack because cabbies naturally have a lot more chances to talk to their customers than surgeons do, so he comes across as more personable too. But Mid Night is still a mysterious dude and a well-written one at that.  Who doesn’t love a good mysterious dude? This would be an excellent followup to Vertical’s wonderful adaption of Black Jack and fans of the series would eat this one up.

Rainbow PreludeRainbow Prelude:

This one is actually a short story anthology, which I think would be good for many reasons. One it has a lot of different kinds of short stories, from historical fiction in Rainbow Prelude itself to an adaptation of classic lit in The Merchant of Venice. Two I think it might be a good testing ground for a publisher who doesn’t want to take a huge risk, but wants to gauge sales. There’s a little bit of personal bias here because I love me some historical fiction manga, but I know a lot of people have also been itching for Tezuka’s version of Crime and Punishment too. Why not see if people buy this?

Rainbow Prelude is about a girl who falls in love with Chopin while the Russian troops occupy Poland and I’m sure I don’t have tell you what The Merchant of Venice is about. I can’t tell you much about the other three stories, but it does seem like two of them are connected.

Vampires by Osamu Tezuka

How can you look at this and not see awesome?

Vampires (Vampire, The Vampires):

Everyone loves vampires nowadays, right? I mean, what with Twilight and all its knock-offs. Vampires = pretty damn hot. I know they’re something most publishers are probably looking out for. Vampires sell like hotcakes.

Tezuka’s vampires, however, aren’t actually vampires. They’re a lot more like shape-shifters or werewolves (which will also sell to the whole Team Jacob camp of Twihards), but please don’t let that stop you. This manga will sell to all sorts- vampire-lovers, werewolf-lovers, classic manga lovers, Tezuka lovers, etc.

This manga is actually the beginning of Tezuka’s transition into darker storylines, which seems to be the kind of Tezuka manga that U.S. publishers seem to like publishing. Not only that but readers would also get a taste of the “Tezuka Universe.” Much like super-hero comics, Tezuka re-uses his characters in his manga. In Vampires, not only do we get to see Makube Rokuro (Rock Holmes in earlier, more light-hearted manga), but Tezuka himself as himself. Based on everything I’ve heard about Vampires, it seems pretty epic. It would be an interesting addition to U.S. manga publishing.

What other not-so-run-of-the-mill Tezuka manga you’d like to hit stateside? With so many works under his belt, I’ve surely missed a few…

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Black Jack Vol. 3 – Medical Anomalies and Coincidences!

I picked up a copy of Black Jack vol. 3 on Friday and I just finished reading the chapter “The Boy Who Came From the Sky.”

The chapter is about a Russian (Uran) military family who defects from their country in a top secret jet in order to save their son, Andrei.  Andrei has a very serious heart condition known as Eisenmenger’s syndrome, which puts an extreme amount of pressure on the heart and causes a wide number of side effects, such as blue baby syndrome, which is almost exactly like it sounds. Eisenmenger’s syndrome is often caused by a ventricular septal defect (VSD) where there is nothing separating the left and right ventricles and blood flows in between them.

It’s a very very serious congenital heart defect and I’ve been living with it for more than 22 years.

Well, sort of… I actually had surgery when I was a year old to correct my VSD. I now have something there, keeping my ventricles nicely separated, but I did have Eisenmenger’s and blue baby syndrome before my surgery. As if that weren’t enough, my VSD is actually one of four heart problems I have, a part of another heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot (which Andrei did not seem to have, lucky him.)

As I read this chapter and realized that it was written about my heart condition, I realized it was written a few years before or around the time that the surgical procedures needed to save my life were perfected. (I was born a few years later when these techniques were commonplace.) Unlike Andrei, I didn’t have to be surgically attached to my mother’s lungs just to survive while they waited for fresh lung transplants. They operated on my heart before the pressure became that critical.

I’ve been chugging along for 21 years with no more surgeries since and no more needed for at least another five to ten years! My surgeon certainly had some skills akin to the miraculous Black Jack’s!

Although the story didn’t have a totally happy ending, the important thing is that Andrei was saved and in the real world medical technology has advanced far enough that people with the same VSD can be easily treated. They’re even developing minimally invasive surgical techniques in order to reduce the risk of correcting these delicate problems. It definitely eases my mind knowing that these techniques should be standard practice by the time I need surgery again.

Forgive me for all the medical jargon and all that. I just had to share this little coincidence with you. I never imagined that the great Osamu Tezuka wrote about a condition that I have –it just makes me so excited and kind of happy! I can relate to this chapter so much…

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Guest Post: Sam Kusek’s V-Day Gift Guide for Comic-Loving Lovers

Whether you are in a romantic relationship or are just single and loving it, Valentines Day can be an important day for all of us. It’s good to let people know how to you feel about them, showing them that you care deeply. Heck, I still get a card from my grandma every year! For those of us who are heavily invested in comics and manga though, we’d like to add our own personal touch to our gifts and good wishes! I know that I love introducing my friends to manga & comics, helping them understand the art form and I can’t think of a better opportunity to give out some good books!

1. Red Snow by Susumu Katsumata; Published Drawn & Quarterly – This anthology of short stories about life in rural Japan and its mythical folklore is sure to impress any history buff you may have in your circle!

2. Pluto by Naoki Urasawa; Published by Viz – I can’t recommend this series enough. Not only is it a stunning reinterpretation of a great sci-fi tale, it is emotionally touching! A must read for anyone with a soft spot for robots!

3. Swallowing the Earth by Osamu Tezuka; Published by Digital Manga Publishing – Even with all the crime dramas on television, you can’t beat a classic noir story! Tezuka keeps us on our toes at every turn as he explores the complex relationships between men, money, woman and gold!

4. GoGo Monster by Taiyo Matsumoto; Published by Viz – Gogo Monster may not be the most straightforward story (it really makes you think and rethink your opinions), but its certainly got its charm! If you have any artsy friends or someone looking for a “deeper” meaning in life, pass this along to them.

5. Cyborg 009 by Shotaro Ishinomori; Published by Tokyopop – Thought hard to find, this series really is worth searching for. Starting its original run in the 60’s, Cyborg 009 deals a lot with race relations and unity, as nine strangers from around the globe have their lives changed forever as they are changed into machines of war!

6. Nana by Ai Yazawa; Published by Viz – The quintessential girls comic. The story of two utterly different girls who share the same name and pretty soon, the same apartment. It’s an amazing series and a great read for any girl who is going through some big life changes.

7. Cat Eyed Boy by Kazuo Umezu; Published by Viz – If you are a horror fan or know someone who likes a good scare, look no further. CEB is a great example of all Japanese horror, getting under and into the skin of the reader. Not only that, but the main character is cute enough to hit a warm spot with anyone.

8. Earth X by Jim Kreuger and Alex Ross; Published by Marvel – Marvel has some great characters under their belt, but how great can they be when they are put to the ultimate test of just being a face in the crowd? Check out this exciting first of 4 books that makes you question everything you thought you knew about Marvel.

9. Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez; Published by DC – In a similar vein to Earth X, this book changed the DC universe forever, giving birth to some new great heroes and eras but bringing death to some of the most beloved. It’s an essential read for understanding the DC universe today.

10. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud; Published by Harper Perennial – Finally, this is for anyone who truly wants to make comics a profession, whether as an artist, marketer or whatever. McCloud is a visionary, touching upon perception and the way the human mind works to explain everything you could ever think of (and not think of) about comics all across the world!

Thanks and I hope that you and your loved ones find some good things to read!

~Sam Kusek


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Comic Book Movies: Astro Boy

If you were an American child in the 1960’s, you probably watched “Astro Boy” on T.V. and I’d call you lucky because I grew up in the late 1980’s and didn’t know “Astro Boy” existed until I did a small history project on anime in middle school.

But now I know and the new “Astro Boy”  movie is coming out in theaters on Oct. 23rd and, boy oh boy, am I excited!

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Originally called “Tetsuwan Atom” in Japan, the comic-book-turned-anime-turned-film has captured the heart of many kids and adults alike ever since it was released. It tells the story of a robot implanted with human memories created by Dr. Tenma to help him get over the death of his son. When that goes awry, Astro becomes a crime-fighter, particularly focusing on human-robot conflicts, out of control robots and evil doers looking to exploit robot powers.

The movie follows a similar origin story, but also focuses on self-discovery and a typical good-v.-evil energy conflict, which makes me happy since various filmmakers worldwide now feel the need to address ecological issues. I’m sure  the legendary Osamu Tezuka,  the creator of  “Astro Boy” would have approved of the eco-friendly message too.

Speaking of Osamu Tezuka, Dark Horse Comics publishes the U.S. version of “Astro Boy” and still has 23 volumes and a few other Tezuka titles for sale. Nozomi Entertainment/Right Stuf International publishes and sells the anime version.

Vertical sells a number of Tezuka’s darker and deeper works including “Buddha”, “Ode to Kirihito” and “Black Jack” amongst others.

Also, “Astro Boy”-related comic book is “Pluto” which is a post-mortem collaboration between (the very much alive) Naoki Urasawa and Tezuka. “Pluto” is like a darker version of “Astro Boy”, but instead of focusing on Astro, it focuses on Gesicht, a German robot working as a detective. Astro (called by his original name, Atom) and Gesicht are two of the world’s seven great robots and the mysterious Pluto is murdering these  robots and their creators for their involvment in the 39th Central Asian War.

You may remember Naoki Urasawa since I mentioned him yesterday in my post about the debut of “Monster” on Syfy, and he is half the reason why I really love “Pluto” too. More importantly, it’s a really gripping read. Urasawa really took Tezuka’s idea and ran with it until the readers are left on the edge of a cliff trying to see who’s dead on the ground below.

But just because the new movie and “Pluto” are modern takes on Tezuka originals doesn’t mean that Tezuka’s genius won’t shine through. I’m looking forward to seeing it next week.

See some exclusive pictures of the film on Comic Book Resources.

Some more stills from the movie and pictures of some of the cast from Comic Book Movies.

A Wikipedia article on the film.

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