Tag Archives: Vertical

August MMF: Yotsuba&! and Chi’s Sweet Home

Hello everyone, this is my entry for the Manga Moveable Feast this month. You can view more reviews and essays on Yotsuba&! and other kid-appropriate manga over at Good Comics For Kids.

Summaries:

Yotsuba&! volume 1 by Kiyohiko Azuma is about a young girl, Yotsuba, and her father, who have just moved to a new neighborhood. As they get adjusted to their new location, they quickly become friends with the girls who live in the house next door, especially Fuuka, the middle daughter. The volume consists of short stories and adventures involving Yotsuba and either her father, her father’s ridiculously tall friend Jumbo or the girls next door.

Chi’s Sweet Home volume 1 by Konami Kanata is the story of a lost little kitten who gets rescued by a young family, despite the fact that they can’t have pets in their apartment. Chi and the family adjust to each other and the readers are treated to short stories about being housebroken, wanting to claw the furniture, running away and various other things that pets do.

My opinions:

I have no problems with the stories or the art in either Chi’s Sweet Home or Yotsuba&! In both manga, the art is clean and simple, yet detailed enough to interest the reader in the backgrounds and not just the characters. In Chi’s Sweet Home, the manga is in color, giving it a neat, but watercolor-like feel. (Oh, the magic of a skilled hand with Copic markers.) Both manga feature succinct storytelling that allows for those little moments that convey simple actions and emotions effectively while not getting too hung up on those moments either. And, most importantly, these manga are both perfectly appropriate for kids. The raunchiest it gets is in Yotsuba&! when Jumbo tries to flirt a little with Asagi, the eldest daughter, makes some light joke about being comfortable “in the buff” and calls her attractive.

Despite both these manga being appropriate for children, I feel like Yotsuba&! isn’t a manga for children at all. Instead it is a manga for adults who want to read about children being cute. Basically it’s like a Japanese version of Kids Say the Darnest Things. While this is all perfectly fine for anyone who’s got a few years between them and being a kid, I’m just not convinced most kids would be entertained long enough to keep reading. For one, I can see older kids reading this and going, “Why’s this girl so weird/stupid/dumb?” and walking away. Younger kids (kids around her age) won’t keep reading because they don’t understand or because Yotsuba just isn’t that funny when you’re that age. They won’t get the jokes about global warming or why it’s funny that Yotsuba cannot pronounce it. In the end, Yotsuba is a comic that is meant for adults to laugh at the cute things that young children do, specifically this little oddling that Azuma has created. I’m not claiming to be an expert on what kid’s will understand, relate to and want to read, but the intended audience of this manga is really clear to me. It just also happens to be a manga that you can safely give to kids.

Chi’s Sweet Home, on the other hand, is definitely more intended for kids despite having run in a seinen manga magazine. It is nothing but the funny, simple moments of a kitten and it’s adopted family. It’s meant for anyone to enjoy so any kid who likes animals will love it. Plus there are enough visual cues for children to laugh at or relate to than in Yotsuba&!, which is one of the charm points in this manga: Chi’s hilarious and cute expressions. Even if you read this manga to a three year-old, I’d bet they’d giggle at Chi’s teary-eyed faces and cute kitten antics.

At the same time, I’m a little bit dissatisfied with editorial decisions both manga. Yen Press has a habit of subtitling in sound effects with both the romanization of the text and the English-language sound effect. It’s nit-picky, I know. But it’s bothered me in every single Yen Press book I’ve read and will probably continue to bother me in the future.

As for Chi’s Sweet Home, there’s heavy use of “baby talk” in the form of the letters ‘r’ or ‘l’ being turned into ‘w’, amongst other things. While this would work if you were reading aloud to your kid, wouldn’t a young reader get tripped up by the misspelling? Also, the “baby talk” is inconsistent and rather jarring when it appears. I found myself getting yoinked out of my reading experience and frowning every time the “baby talk” came back again. The manga would have been perfectly fine without it. Also bothersome to me was the price for Chi’s Sweet Home. While I understand why it’s priced higher than regular manga with the beautiful color pages, if someone less familiar with manga came along, they might find it too prohibitive for such a small book. Or worse, a parent shopping in a children’s section would probably pass it over for a higher quantity of less expensive children’s books. These are hard economic times and I imagine parents are some of the people who are the most worried about how they spend their money. Surely there might have been a way to bring the cost down a few dollars? I know Vertical’s not been having any problems selling the book, so maybe a lower price could have been possible without hurting the publisher too much.

Either way, I recommend both manga for anyone who wants a good laugh. Chi’s Sweet Home is great for kids, adults and cat lovers of all ages and the quality of the color pages is fantastic. Yotsuba&! is a fun read for the adults in the house and although it may or may not capture your child’s interest, you could put it in the kids’ reach without any worries.

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My San Diego Comic-Con 2010: Part 2

My this is late. Sorry everyone, I had to take care of a loopy boyfriend on Monday, Tuesday was just non-stop for me and last night I just forgot. (He had a medical procedure done that involved anesthesia. It was sort of fantastic to see him all wobbly and slurring his words. Best of all, he forgot a sock at the doctor’s office. Never mind the fact that he didn’t take his socks off during the procedure.)

Onward!

Friday: I started my day off with the Moto Hagio spotlight panel. (Horrendously under-attended, might I add.) Before I launch into an explanation of the panel, however, let me explain this: Moto Hagio is pretty much why I was at Comic-Con this year. I am not kidding. I was SO DEVASTATED to hear that she was coming and I wasn’t. And then I realized I could get a professional badge! Oh joyous day! I adore older manga and I was quite looking forward to seeing one of the Magnificent Forty Niners and a great mangaka talk about her career.

That being said, the spotlight panel was everything I could have ever hoped for!

Hagio-sensei launched into a short overview of her career, starting with her short stories and then with The Poe Clan, which was her first longer narrative about boys who are stuck as teenagers after being turned into vampires. The Poe Clan‘s first collected volume sold out on the first day, which allowed her to continue working on Heart of Thomas, which was considered unpopular by editors at the time. After that, she began working on They Were Eleven and Marginal, both scifi manga influenced by her love of Western scifi, a genre she read passionately as a child.

My favorite part of the panel, however, had to be Hagio-sensei’s discussion of the various issues surround her stories. Many of them were very personal, including her mother’s strong dislike of manga and criticism of her career. She also spoke about her interest in psychology and child abuse and how this lead to short stories such as Iguana Girl and Hanshin as well as longer narratives such as A Cruel God Reigns in Heaven. For her to share such personal details about her career takes a lot of courage, but it made everyone in the audience feel ten times closer to her than someone who feels the need to talk only about their stories and not the personal influences behind them. It made the panel much more interesting than any canned answer from a Hollywood exec in Hall H. (I will never venture there as long as I live, I think.)

Hagio-sensei was presented an Inkpot Award at the start of the panel and I believe she more than earned it by the time the panel was over when she generously donated all the manga she spoke about to Comic-Con for posterity. For more about Moto Hagio, check out Shaenon Garrity’s excellent interview.

A little while later, Yen Press had their industry panel, which was the only straight industry panel I was able to attend. (I skipped Bandai and FUNimation because I had heard most of their announcements at Anime Expo. Other panels I missed because I had to attend a wedding in Los Angeles on Saturday.) There, Yen Press announced new licenses including The Betrayal Knows My Name by Hotaru Odagiri, High School of the Dead by Daisuke Sato and Shoji Sato, Aron’s Absurd Armada by MiSun Kim and The Bride’s Stories by Kaoru Mori. They also licensed another arc of Higurashi When They Cry, but I don’t seem to have the exact title in my notes.

I am looking forward to The Bride’s Stories (Otoyome-Gatari) the most because I once pitched it (as a long shot) to TOKYOPOP. I was afraid the title would never come stateside due to the nature of the main couple (she is 18 or 20 and he is about 13, despite the fact that nothing happens between them and the manga is set over 100 years ago.)

Yen Press also gave us more information about the online edition of Yen Plus, their manga magazine that was recently taken out of print circulation. The viewer is not flash-based, which gives readers the ability to view it on their iPhone or iPad, and is region-free, which means readers around the world will be able to legally view the magazine’s contents. The month-to-month paypal payments cost $2.99 and also get you access to the previous month’s copy, in case you missed it. Not a bad deal!

My exhibit hall antics on Friday consisted of me and Gia Manry of Anime News Network storming around the exhibit hall looking for hard-to-find manga publishers after a nice chat with freelance translator William Flanagan. We met up with Ed Chavez of Vertical Inc. and met Felipe Smith, the creator of MBQ and Peepo Choo. Also, to our delight, Viz Kids had announced the licensing of an original Mameshiba graphic novel and there were Mameshiba toys for sale at the Toynami booth. There’s nothing like grown women plotting how to steal all the awesome Mameshiba products Toynami had on display, but not for sale. (Later on in the day, we met up with more grown women excited about the Mameshiba toys and we had a *moment* together. Good times.) I am overjoyed to hear that now I will be able to gorge myself on adorable dog/bean toys that make people uncomfortable with random trivia. Somewhere in there, I also managed to get Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu signed by Junko Mizuno.

In the evening, Jason Thompson held his Future of Manga panel. While there was plenty of interesting factoids about manga magazine circulation and such in Jason’s presentation, I feel like he got a little side-tracked by the past and the present of manga. He failed to speak about the future except for a few rushed minutes of speaking about online manga distribution in Japan, denying panel attendees any really meaty discussion. I feel like Jason could have spoken for hours and hours on end about manga and still not have touched upon the future of it, so I will blame time constraints and the vast depth of his knowledge. Nothing that can’t be fixed by more careful presentation next year. I still enjoyed it because it gave me a lesson on a good chunk of manga history, but I wonder if other attendees might have found it boring.

Saturday: I didn’t attend any panels, so I’m afraid I don’t have many personal experiences that were interesting to recount. I tried to get a robot signed by Tom Siddell of Gunnerkrigg Court (a webcomic with a print version by Archaia) and failed because I had to return to L.A. I succeeded, however, in getting autographs from the creators of Avatar: the Last Airbender and two of the artists who have worked on Vertigo’s Madame Xanadu, Marley Zarcone and Amy Reeder. Then I meandered around the con and wound up having an excited discussion about Oishinbo: A La Carte (amongst other things) with freelance Viz editor Shaenon Garrity at her booth. (She is also the creator of two webcomics, Narbonic and Skin Horse.)

I, sadly, just missed a signing for Felipe Smith (but made up for that one on Monday as he had a signing at my local comic book store), the infamous Hall H stabbing and the TOKYOPOP panel where the company announced the licensing of Mr. Clean: Fully Equipped by Toya Tobina, Pavane for a Dead Girl by Koge Donbo and Sakura no Ichiban by Chibi Vampire creator Yuna Kagesaki. Drawn & Quarterly, fresh from their double Eisner win for Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life, announced that they will be releasing Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths and NonNonBa by Shigeru Mizuki (of GeGeGe no Kitaro fame.)

Sunday: I wasn’t there. I totally just lazed around on my ass all day. (Except for writing my first SDCC 2010 post!)

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My San Diego Comic-Con 2010: Part 1

Wow, Comic-Con was a blast! I was trying to think of any complaints, but I honestly could not think of any that were actually con-related other than my poor aching feet, which I rested today. I only got to stay through part of Saturday, but I got a lot packed in. Here’s the highlights of what I did:

Preview Night: My night was a little relaxed. I met up with friends at the hotel, got our badges, headed into the dealers hall and bought things that people wanted me to buy before heading out to dinner. In more exciting news than what I ate for dinner, Vertical Inc. announced their license of Lychee Light Club by Usamaru Furuya. If you remember that name, CMX was set to license Furuya’s 51 Ways to Save Her before their sad and sudden closure and Viz has licensed Furuya’s Genkaku Picasso.

Thursday: I started my day with Top Shelf’s Manga For Grownups: Gekiga, Garo, Ax and the alternative manga revolution panel. Comic book writer Sean Michael Wilson and manga scholar Ryan Holmberg led the panel along with Top Shelf’s Leigh Walton. They talked about the beginnings of gekiga back in the 1950’s as an alternative to manga (in other words, the word gekiga replaces the word manga) and how this lead to the famous alternative manga mag Garo and it’s replacement Ax, an English version of which is out this month by Top Shelf. (Here’s my review.) They were also pleased to announce Cigarette Girl by Masahiko Matsumoto will be released by Top Shelf sometime in 2011.

A little while later, I stopped by the Fantagraphics booth to get my copy of A Drunken Dream signed by Moto Hagio. It has to be the most beautiful book I’ve bought in the last few years and I haven’t even gotten a chance to really read it yet. Please, please, please buy this book and let it be known to publishers that we want this kind of quality and these kinds of amazing mangaka on our bookshelves!

Next came the Best and Worst of Manga panel, led by Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter. The panel was a fantastic splash of excellent manga, god-awful manga (including one I worked on, Red Hot Chili Samurai *sob*) and a wishlist of manga the panelists would love to see. (And later in the con, there was wish fulfillment!)+ Unfortunately I was too busy being a fan girl to remember everyone on the panel or take notes, but the panelists included Deb Aoki of About.com, editor Shaenon Garrity of Viz and Jason Thompson of Suvudu.com. It was an excellent panel that filled the room instantly, so if you plan to go next year (which I recommend) make sure you get their early and hopefully it will be in a much larger room. EDIT: Here’s the list of the best and worst manga of this year in it’s entirety.

Right afterward was the Lost in Translation panel run by freelance translator and former Viz editor-in-chief William Flanagan. Panelists included Shaenon Garrity and Jason Thompson again, as well as many other manga industry freelancers. They opened up the floor to questions and gave a lot of helpful advice to people looking to break into the industry and opinions on the future of the industry, translating and scanlations.

That night I attended an anime and manga blogger meet-up at Analog Bar where I did way too much karaoke with Gia Manry of ANN and met awesome people such as Vertical Inc.’s Ed Chavez. If you want to get up close and personal with manga industry people, being a blogger helps a lot!

For brevity, I’m going to stop here and continue on my experiences at SDCC tomorrow. There’s just too much to put in one post!

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My Manga Birthday Wishlist

As I’m sure none of you know, my birthday is fast approaching and I looooove getting presents. (I can be so spoiled, I know.) But instead of getting me things I’m just going to get myself eventually like a nice, long massage or a puppy, I’d rather get people get me something both easily obtainable and relatively cheap: MANGA!

Now, this July is shaping up to be an excellent month of fantastic manga releases, so why don’t we start with some of the hottest titles about to hit shelves?

First we’ll start off with the manga-influenced Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, which hits stores July 20th. Actually, I’m just going to pin this one on my boyfriend since he so lovingly got me the first five volumes as my Valentine’s Day gift two years ago. Tamar, I’m expecting a copy of Scott Pilgrim and a pair of tickets for the movie adaption with a nice dinner to accompany it. (Don’t ever say I don’t tell you what I want!)

Next up on the list is a bunch of stuff from Vertical, which has a whole BUNCH of awesome manga, including the ones coming out this month. Peepo Choo comes out this month, but I’m probably going to get it for myself so Felipe Smith can sign it at Comic-Con, so skip that and head onto Chi’s Sweet Home and Twin Spica (vol. 1 & 2 because I haven’t gotten to pick up volume 1 yet!) If you really love me, then you’ll throw in a copy Buddha vol. 2 as well.

The next manga publisher that will automatically get me to love your birthday present to me is CMX. I spent a whole day at Anime Expo looking for From Eroica With Love volumes 12 and 13, despite the fact that I had 14 and 15. I’d also love a copy of Stolen Hearts vol. 2, My Darling, Miss Bancho and the first two volumes of The Name of the Flower. There are some other titles that I’d love certain volumes of, but that would make the list too  complicated! (Apothecarius Argentum volume 9!)

Other than that, I’ve been into collecting old TOKYOPOP series like Beck, Planetes and Queen’s Knight (volumes 2, 2 and 11, respectively.) I’ve also been collecting copies of Nextworld (Dark Horse Manga, volume 3, please), Club 9 (Also Dark Horse Manga, volume 2) and Chicago (Viz, volume 2 as well.)

If that doesn’t give you an idea what to get me, then just go find a Borders and hook me up with a nice gift card.

Giving me a birthday gift really is as simple as that.

Oops! I forgot about Mushishi vol. 8! Definitely looking forward to that one!

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May MMF: To Terra, A Space Holocaust

There was something chilling about reading To Terra from Vertical for the first time this weekend. I couldn’t really put my finger on it until I started thinking about how I wanted to write up the series for this month’s MMF.  It reminded me of the Holocaust in different skin.

The obvious comparison, is the on-going oppression of the Mu. The Mu are killed when found before or after the Maturity Checks (think eugenics) and any Mu hiding in human society is likely to be killed on the spot as well. There’s no death camps or labor camps for Mu, but they are discriminated against for their telepathic abilities and weaker bodies despite the fact that they are still human. While the Jews didn’t exactly have telepathy, there were plenty of other “qualities” that the Jews “possessed” that made them so reviled by other Europeans.

On top of that, human society uses the Mu as lab rats, much like the infamous Josef Mengele. Much like the Jews, the Mu go into hiding and must use the most desperate measures in order to stay hidden, moving from place to place and hoping they are safe there. My grandmother did the same thing after Kristallnacht, moving from Austria to Hungary and then into the Hungarian countryside when the Nazis came for the Jewish men and took my grandfather away. (He later was freed from Auschwitz-Birkenau by American troops while waiting in line for the gas chambers.) That intense journey to find a safe place to call home reminds me of the Mu in so many ways. Much like the Jews, the Mu have their own resistance and there are even a few humans who are against the Super Domination regime like Seki Ray Shiroe.

Even the human side of things reminds me very much of Nazi Germany and the anti-Semetic attitude of the rest of Europe at the time. All the humans listen blindly to the super computer, Mother, while she dictates every detail of their lives, from the level of the education to whether they get to marry or not. That may not be totally Hitler-like, but it certainly matches certain aspects of the Nazi regime. Educational Station E-1077 isn’t that far from the Hitler Youth, weeding out the elites of society from the inferior chaff, preparing new leaders and also new soldiers. Keith Anyan is the perfect example of this. He’s breed right down to the very last gene to be Mother’s perfect child. The foster parent system on Ataraxia and other planets in To Terra are similar to Nazi eugenics that attempted to promote Aryan dominance through careful marriage choices and create the perfect genetic and mental environment. There are even some hints that Mother is not what she seems or promotes,  much like Hitler’s supposed Jewish ancestry.

Of course, the comparison isn’t perfect. There’s no real equivalent to Jomy Marcus Shin, Physis or Soldier Blue as the Jewish resistance was scattered at best and the Jews in hiding certainly did not have one leader.  However, if I were to make a comparison on a smaller scale, you could equate them to being like the rabbi of a shtetl, many of whom kept their communities together after being taken to concentration camps. Such people were pillars of their communities no matter what happened to the people and Jomy and Solider Blue are similarly exalted by the Mu.

A quick edit: I forgot to add that the Mu’s spirit and drive to return to Terra is never extinguished, much like the Jewish spirit was never truly trampled no matter what indignities they faced.

Don’t get me wrong, To Terra isn’t about the Nazi regime or the Holocaust, but the similarities struck me so hard when I realized it that I can’t help but wonder if Keiko Takemiya researched the time period as an example for her totalitarian society and it’s victims. All of this is making me so eager to read the third volume and see if this similarity continues.

As for the the quality of the story and the art, both are amazing. Like I said before, I’m kicking myself for not finding volume three a little sooner before the MMF started. Takemiya’s writing kind of smooth in that way that I keep reading without noticing how far I’ve gotten or really noticing the craftsmanship of it. I think that’s the best kind of writing, where you just sit down, finish and go WOAH because you’re suddenly hit with awesome. The art is just what I want out of a scifi story. A lot of scifi manga decide to do something I like to call “detail porn” where every little technical aspect of a device is drawn. I’ve always thought that kind of art was overdone. Instead, Takemiya uses her shojo stylings and some of the aspects of the story to make the background art not just about the machines behind the people, which is great because this manga is very much about the people. Another thing I noticed was the way she differentiated between the soft, ethereal Mu and the somewhat harsher humans. The Mu all have light hair, clear eyes and slightly pointy but delicate features whereas the humans are either sharper or fleshier. I like how the Mu are sort of fairy-like while the humans are very real and kind of pudgy or something.

As for the editorial side, the translation is excellent and I noticed only a few mistakes like not erasing the Japanese text behind the English text. The biggest recurring problem I saw was with word flow that occasionally split out into the art. I kind of come from the school where art is top priority in manga and we’d best not interfere with it.

Overall? I’d recommend it. It’s a masterpiece of a different kind and it’s wonderful to see different kinds of classics released in English.

If you’d like to check out other Manga Moveable Feast entries on To Terra…, please check out Kate Dacey’s roundups at The Manga Critic.

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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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Do Want: Peepo Choo

You all remember my little rant about the Twilight graphic novel a few months back?

Well, there are definitely two sides of the coin as I am more than happy to write about titles I AM looking forward to. So here’s the first: Peepo Choo.

Peepo ChooSome of you guys might remember the creator, Felipe Smith, as a runner up in TOKYOPOP‘s Rising Stars of Manga and the creator of MBQ. What many of you might not know is that after MBQ was ended, Mr. Smith made his manga debut IN JAPAN. No small feat for an out-of-towner. (Literally.)

Luckily for Smith, Peepo Choo has been wildly successful and Vertical will be putting it out this year.

Peepo Choo is a story about Milton, an otaku obsessed with anime figures and a very popular  (fictional) anime called Peepo Choo. He lives in the projects of Chicago and works in a comic book shop in exchange for figures. His boss, Gill, happens to be an assassin and takes Milton and Judy, another shop assistant, to Japan as a cover up fo his next job of offing some yakuza. What comes out of this already sort of weird story is a wild commentary about American and Japanese perceptions of each others’ cultures and the misunderstandings that usually crop up between those perceptions.

According to this Anime News Network article about his journey from OEL manga to the Japanese industry, Smith has worked incredibly hard on this manga and I am *super*-excited to read it.

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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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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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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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