A cheap shot I couldn’t resist

July 26, 2006

My favorite typo from the latest edition of Publishers Weekly Comics Week is in the article, “Manga, NPR and Direct Market Crossovers.”

It’s in one of the later paragraphs, and it’s minor, but it’s just so snark-able:

“Even more unusual is what Liang calls direct market crossovers— usually superhero titles—that sell in bookstores in far greater number than anyone expected. Liang says books like House of Men and X-Men: Apocalypse are selling extremely well in the bookstore market.”

What is this intriguing new Marvel book, House of Men? Has Marvel reconsidered its policy of not making gay characters leads in its mainstream books? Or, after Joe Quesada’s remarks on women creators, has Marvel just revised “House of Ideas” to reflect current staffing?

What? I warned you it was cheap.


Stealth Wednesday

July 26, 2006

Clearly I just wasn’t paying attention when I was looking at the list of this week’s releases, because I thought this was going to be a slow (and relatively inexpensive) Wednesday. Then David Taylor sifted through the list for the manga, and I realize that I shouldn’t have splurged on that mocha frappuccino this morning.

A new volume of Fruits Basket (Tokyopop) is always welcome, because who doesn’t need a little emotionally wrenching manga in their lives?

Shout Out Loud (Blu) has yet to traffic in the yaoi tropes that make me feel dirty and ill-used, so I’m looking forward to the second volume. (I hope this isn’t some kind of variant of Mely’s Law and that the book will now be filled with non-con and other unpleasantness.)

David shows Air Gear as the only Del Rey release, but my local comic shop seems to think we’re due for a new volume of Genshiken as well. Hooray!

I feel completely foolish for not noticing the new Castle Waiting collection (Fantagraphics) when I went through Previews months ago, but I’m going to be in a city with a really excellent comic shop next week, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that they’ll have a copy.


Air quality

July 25, 2006

It’s always fun to compare reactions to an event in the comics realm. Take the imminent arrival of Oh! Great’s Air Gear (Del Rey).

Brigid at MangaBlog makes an interesting distinction:

“As much as I deplore censoring a book like Tenjho Tenge, which is a mature story to begin with, I don’t think I’d have a problem with removing some of the gratuitous fanservice in books for younger kids, like Narue and Et Cetera.

“I’m not even talking about nudity. A bare breast or a guy climbing out of the swimming pool naked (The Walking Man) is natural and inoffensive. Looking up women’s skirts is icky.”

I tend to agree that it’s a matter of how the eye is being led. From what I remember of Tenjho Tenge and other fan-service books I’ve sampled, the pervasive visual implication is that the reader is seeing something they shouldn’t, getting away with voyeurism. The artist is drilling a hole in the shower wall. I do find that extremely icky, but I’m not the target audience.

David Taylor at Love Manga has a different perspective:

“As more and more titles get licensed I think the chances of us hitting this problem again and again is only going to occur with greater frequency, is it not time that you know, just maybe we could let a little thong get through? … [I]s a thong really going to destroy the moral fabric of society as we see it?”

I always find it hard to enter into these debates, because I’m always stopped short by the fact that I’ve found the little Oh! Great manga I’ve read to be terrible, censored or not. I mean, I find the cover in question just hideously unsexy, and while I think dealing with issues of content and censorship is important, I wish these conversations would center around works that are really complex and mature and interesting instead of… well… this stuff.

Chris Butcher at Comics.212.net seems cautiously optimistic. Okay, he actually seems deeply cynical:

“Finally, a book for everyone! If by everyone, I meant underage porn fans. You see, Air Gear is the newest series by manga creator Oh! Great. O!G has done lots and lots of porn, which is readily available here in North America from the fine folks at Eros, but you’ve gotta be 18 to buy those. Two years ago there WAS a ray of hope for those who appreciated O!Gs remarkable ability to draw voluptuous camel toe when his series Tenjo Tenge was released by DC’s CMX imprint. We all know how well THAT worked out.”

Hee. “Camel toe.” That phrase always makes me laugh.

Anyway, Air Gear isn’t the only book coming out this week, and there are some great alternatives if you’re too conflicted over the thong issue.

For instance, were you one of the people who decided to wait for the trade of Ted Naifeh’s splendid Polly and the Pirates (Oni)? Now’s your chance! (Please feel free to insert your own “Avast, matey!” or “Raise the mainsail!” amendments if that wasn’t sufficiently nautical for you.)

Dark Horse rolls out Junji Ito’s Tomie in its Museum of Terror series. It’s great, creepy stuff. I bought it cheap during one of ComicsOne’s big on-line sales of old.


Monday manga miscellany

July 24, 2006

I’ve never had much luck with manga shopping at Half Price Books. The closest one to where I live usually has a tragic little rolling cart with a handful of titles like Yu-Gi-Oh. This weekend’s impulse visit was happily different. The cart was still tiny and sad, but there were some books from Cocoro’s Hino Horror series and, even better, Japan, Inc.

After reading Hideshi Hino’s Black Cat, I wish I’d grabbed more titles from the series. I like Hino’s spooky, moody style. I’ll just have to content myself with Black Cat and Ghost School for now.

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What’s this? More manga from Fumi Yoshinaga, creator of Antique Bakery? Yes, please! (Found via MangaBlog.) Hasn’t someone licensed Gerard & Jacques too? There have been so many announcements lately that I can’t keep track.

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I really need to take the plunge and try some more manhwa. Does anyone have any recommendations? (And please, I beg of you, don’t suggest Honey Mustard or I’ll think you’re just being cruel.)

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The worst Manga 101 article lead I’ve seen lately? “Holy sushi!” from The Orlando Sentinel.

No article of this type can be all bad if it features an interview with Dawn Rutherford of the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee, and this one’s not bad at all. I find “Bambi-eyed” a nice variation on the customary comment on ocular gigantism. Maybe it’s a meta-comment on the influences Osamu Tezuka drew from Walt Disney?

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In this week’s Flipped, I take a look at some titles from Seven Seas Entertainment. Speaking of Seven Seas and global manga, there’s some interesting conversation on both subjects over at Love Manga.


Another quick creep note

July 22, 2006

Anne Freaks (ADV) is reviewed in the latest Entertainment Weekly. My memory of EW isn’t exactly encyclopedic, but I think this is the first time they’ve ever profiled a manga title. That’s always struck me as kind of odd for a magazine about popular entertainment.

If you’d asked me which manga title would be the first to land on EW‘s pages, I probably wouldn’t have picked Anne Freaks, no matter how much I like it. It gets a B+, described as “a frantic page-turner,” which is fair enough. The blurb is by Jennifer M. Contino.

Also reviewed is Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda, which inexplicably gets a B-. Reviewer Whitney Pastorek says the book is “beautifully illustrated” but “lacks subtlety.”

Oh, and EW gets an exclusive from Warner Brothers, which is a huge scoop, seeing as they’re owned by the same company. Anyway, WB is putting together an animated Justice League feature that might be an adaptation of Identity Crisis. Wasn’t it gross enough when the pictures didn’t move?

Perhaps reporter Jeff Jensen’s plea for “No Gleek, please” is really based on fear of precisely what could happen to that poor monkey.


Yomi thoughts

July 22, 2006

MangaCast has announced the winners of the inaugural Yomi awards. Brigid at MangaBlog and David at Love Manga have given their reactions, and, well, these are a lot more interesting to me than the Eisners, so I’ll throw in my two cents.

I think these awards are such a great idea and long overdue, so thanks to MangaCast for taking the initiative. It will be fun watching them expand over the years. (I’d love to see a category for “Most Improved Publisher,” for example.)

I’ve got no argument with the choices for Best Manga and Best Short. I sometimes feel like Fullmetal Alchemist’s popularity obscures the fact that it’s really, really excellent. It’s got great characters, an engaging and suspenseful story, and a richly realized fantasy landscape that’s full of surprises. In the eight volumes that have been published in English so far, Hiromu Arakawa has yet to miss a beat or hit a lull; the consistency and quality is startling.

I never felt like Sexy Voice and Robo got as much attention as it deserved. Iou Kuroda’s created an imaginative, quirky, complex story that featured the perfect blend of cynicism and warmth. Someone really needs to license more of Kuroda’s work, and soon, but it will probably never happen.

I’m disappointed that Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators didn’t take Best Global Manga. Svetlana Chmakova is undeniably talented, but the ambition and artistry in Fanfare/Ponent Mon’s collection make it one of the best graphic novels of the year, period.

The tough thing about the Best Publisher category is that one could make a case for any of the three winning. Viz clearly has the scope of product to make it a contender (and a lot of that product is excellent). Del Rey shows more care in selecting and producing titles than any other manga publisher. And Dark Horse, despite its roots in the Direct Market, consistently generates a lot of buzz with interesting title choices, including a new emphasis on classic and cutting-edge horror, their not entirely successful but laudable Harlequin initiative, and their standing as the leading purveyor of works by Kazuo Koike.

But Viz is, among many other things, a juggernaut. They’ve built on their existing line with Shojo Beat and Signature, reaching out (or at least more energetically targeting) different audiences. And a lot of their books are great entertainment.

Again, thanks to all the folks at MangaCast for launching this great program, and additional thanks to Ed Chavez for his splendid coverage of the San Diego Comic-Con.


Quick creep note

July 21, 2006

I’m probably over-reacting, but there’s an interesting reference to manga in the review of Azumi by Manohla Dargis in The New York Times (free registration required).

“Adapted from the manga of the same title, this 2003 action flick tracks the blood-spurting adventures of its title character, a young female assassin who wields a lethally mean sword.”

What’s interesting to me is that Dargis and her editors don’t feel the need to trot out a definition of manga, which strikes me unusual. Maybe it’s because manga is in the dictionary now? Or because it has sufficient cultural currency in general?


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