CMX-cellence

Now that I’ve got the negativity out of my system, I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate some of my favorite CMX titles. I can pick ten with absolutely no difficulty at all. The difficulty is limiting myself to ten.

Astral Project, written by marginal, illustrated by Syuji Takeya: This series is very difficult to summarize, which is almost always indicative of a title I really like. It’s about a young man who is investigating his sister’s apparent suicide and learns the secrets of astral projection. He meets others who can do the same thing, finding romance, friendship, and mystery along the way. There’s some deeply cynical social commentary and a paranoid government subplot, plus a profound fixation on improvisational jazz. In short, it’s a funky, unpredictable series with a lot on its mind.

Chikyu Misaki, written and illustrated by Yuji Iwahara: Misaki and her father move back to the rural hometown of her late mother to learn that the community’s legendary lake monster is real and adorable. Also heading to the snowy hamlet are kidnappers, their vengeful victim, and a raft of stock types who transcend their formulaic origins over three frisky, sharply observed volumes. The art is gorgeous and surprising, and the characters and their interactions are absorbing.

Crayon Shinchan, written and illustrated by Yoshito Usui: This is one of those rare instances where I experienced the anime first. I still prefer the anime, but there’s a lot of crass, sneaky comedy in these comics. The formula is pretty basic but very productive: horrible little Shinchan shocks and mortifies the adults around him with his complete lack of anything resembling a filter. He’s curious about all of the things grown-ups dread discussing with each other, much less with kids.

Emma, written and illustrated by Kaoru Mori: If there’s a consistent caveat in the heaps of abuse DC is receiving for their handling of CMX, it’s gratitude that we got all of Mori’s gorgeous costume drama about a shy maid and the upper-middle-class guy who loves her. Mori ended up weaving a very rich tapestry that looked not just at class but at characters, the people who lived within the Victorian strictures that threatened to keep Emma and William apart. You can read a lot about the series in the Manga Moveable Feast dedicated to it.

Gon, written and illustrated by Masashi Tanaka: Gon’s structure is even simpler than Shinchan’s. A baby dinosaur wreaks anachronistic, wordless havoc on those creatures foolish enough to disturb his naps or disrupt his dinner. The series is beautifully drawn with positively eye-popping levels of detail, and it’s got terrific energy and emotional punch.

Monster Collection: The Girl Who Can Deal With Magical Monsters, illustrated by Sei Itoh, original concept by Hitoshi Yasuda/Group SNE: A comic book based on a card game that was never actually marketed in North America? Shouldn’t that have been just unbearably awful? This one defied all reasonable expectations by being sly, well-written and exciting, and maybe better for the fact that nobody had any idea what the original game was about. Even the frequent fan service is presented with winking good humor, and the characters are unfailingly likable.

Omukae Desu, written and illustrated by Meca Tanaka: I have a well-established fondness for entertainments about people who deal with dead people. This one folds in lots of stupid-funny bureaucracy and some endearing coming-of-age elements. Madoka can see dead people, and this ability lands him a part-time job with the astral agency that helps escort the recently deceased to their next incarnations. As you might expect, many of these spirits have unfinished business. As you might not expect, Madoka’s agency contact is a guy in a bunny suit who is a big believer in his employer’s ridiculous theme days. Fun stuff.

Penguin Revolution, written and illustrated by Sakura Tsukuba: Any shôjo series starring a girl who un-ironically declares her desire to become a civil servant is bound to get my attention. Alas, plucky Yukari must first make it through high school and work as a talent agent before she can settle into civil service. The talent agency focuses on young male idols, all of whom are forced to cross-dress during their down time to throw the press off their trails. That applies to their handlers, too. This is the kind of goofy, mildly romantic shôjo that’s very much to my taste. Warning: no actual penguins appear in this manga.

Presents, written and illustrated by Kanako Inuki: There isn’t enough shôjo horror, if you ask me, or at least enough shôjo horror that doesn’t involve obnoxious supernatural boys with lots of hair and patriarchal attitudes. Presents shows what happens when bad things happen to horrible people, which can be delightfully diverting. Mistress of Ceremonies Kurumi is probably supposed to look innocently adorable, but just looking at her gives me the shivers.

Swan, written and illustrated by Kyoko Ariyoshi: It’s probably impossible to calculate the good karma points that will go to whoever decided to try and publish this ballet masterpiece in English. We all know the conventional wisdom that classic shôjo doesn’t sell, and I don’t think Swan ever flew off of the shelves either, but wow, was it bliss. It follows the often brutal career trajectory of a gifted young ballerina and the troupe of dancers who try to put Japan on the global dance map.

There are at least five other titles that were serious squeakers for inclusion on this list, or would have been if more volumes had been published. I think just looking at these ten titles makes you realize what the folks behind CMX were able to accomplish during their too-short run. What were your favorite CMX titles? Feel free to mention them in the comments, or just heap abuse on DC, because that isn’t going to get old here for a while.

29 Responses to CMX-cellence

  1. Brack says:

    If you want an indication of why CMX failed – for years Presents has been on my list of books to pick up if I saw it in person. A casual purchase, rather than obsessively collecting like I do certain Viz titles.

    I never, ever, saw it in a comic shop, book shop or convention here in the UK. In fact the only CMX book I can really recall seeing in the “wild” was Emma.

  2. Heather says:

    Great list, I too was saddened by the news about CMX. I have really enjoyed the diverse bunch of titles compared to other American companies. All the ones you listed are my favorites of CMX, but I would also add Canon and GALS.

  3. Marla says:

    I think I am most upset that my sets of Apothecarius Argentum and Two Flowers for the Dragon are going to remain unfinished… that I will never know the end of ‘em (unless I manage to learn how to read Japanese).

  4. JRB says:

    The loss of From Eroica With Love is the one that makes me cry.

    Like Brack, the only CMX title I ever saw outside of my local comic book shop was Emma (my LCS, rather delusionally, stocked the entire CMX backlist when they opened. I think I’m the only person to ever buy a CMX book from them – hello insta-complete run of Eroica! – and they haven’t replaced the ones I bought…).

    • davidpwelsh says:

      My experience tracks with yours and Brack’s. I think… I stress think… I may also have seen a volume of Crayon Shinchan in a bookstore, but I could be wrong.

      • When I was first starting out as a manga fan, I remember seeing Land of the Blindfolded at Borders (my regular site for manga browsing/buying), but I don’t recall ever seeing a CMX title at either Barnes and Noble or Books a Million or my local comic book shop even. And Land of the Blindfolded is the only CMX title I can recall seeing in stores.

  5. I’m with JRB about From Eroica With Love: it’s ridiculous, trashy, over-the-top fun, and I’m going to miss it. To your list of great CMX titles that deserve some love, I’d add Kiichi and the Magic Books, The Name of the Flower and Shirley, all of which have the added virtue of being complete.

  6. [...] DC Comics' CMX manga imprint, courtesy of Deb Aoki, Matt Blind, Christopher Butcher, Simon Jones, David Welsh and the crew of Good Comics For [...]

  7. Shelly says:

    I love a lot of these titles, and would also include Cipher, Land of the Blindfolded, Shirley, The Name of the Flower, Eroica, and Seimaden (the first series I ever bought). I always appreciated that whatever series I tried from them, it would bring more than average to the table. My only disappointment in buying from them is that now some series I’m reading will never be finished.

  8. Danielle Leigh says:

    I’m dosing myself with episodes of Daria to deal with my grief over the end of CMX but it is going to get very, very ugly once I finish the DVD set. For multiple reasons. (Perhaps I should come up with a coping mechanism that itself does not require another coping mechanism.)

    Anyway, I wanted to make a plug for “Two Flowers for the Dragon” by Kusakawa. I, of course, adore Eroica and Swan but I suspected for a long time we’d never see those series completed. There’s really no excuse for not finishing and promoting a title like “Dragon,” which has a lot going for it. It’s contemporary, well-drawn and written, is very appropriate work for tweens and teens and is just plain good story-telling.

    I’ve collected a ridiculous amount of CMX manga over the past six years and I can’t seem to shake my depression over this announcement. However, it helps to come and commune with others who understand why we are so upset (and I will refrain from saying anything too nasty about individuals who seem proud they never *bought* a CMX title…even if they make it so, so easy). Anyway, thanks for this great post…the fact I could list 10 titles off the top of my head says a lot about the quality of CMX (which was a small-ish manga imprint compared to others).

    • davidpwelsh says:

      I think I find this particularly depressing because it seems so arbitrary. Things like this almost never have anything to do with the quality of the material, and that seems particularly true in this case, since it’s hard to think of a publisher with a better title-by-title quality ratio.

      It’s possible that I’m over-romanticizing things, of course.

    • Simon Jones says:

      May I suggest the Hey Arnold DVD sets? Have been enjoying Hey Arnold and Daria for the past couple of weeks myself…

      • davidpwelsh says:

        Oh, man, I haven’t thought about Hey Arnold in ages. What a great show.

      • Danielle Leigh says:

        I have no idea what “Hey Arnold” is but if it eases some of my pain I’m game!

      • Simon Jones says:

        >I have no idea what “Hey Arnold” is

        Mr. Welsh, we have a problem. @_@

        Hey Arnold is perhaps the greatest cartoon to emerge from one of Nickelodeon’s internal animation studios in the 90s.

        I mentioned it because it’s a bawww-tastic show, but it also has a curious tie with Daria… a proposed spin-off of Hey Arnold was not picked up by MTV (which, like Nick, is owned by Viacom). It was deemed too similar to Daria.

      • davidpwelsh says:

        You must introduce yourself to Hey Arnold, Danielle. It’s a great series about kids at an urban elementary school, really smart and observant and down to earth, for the most part.

  9. thirstygirl says:

    Eroica, I Hate You More Than Anyone, and The Young Magician are the current series I will miss- the later one is particularly hard as they stopped on the 13th vol of a 14 vol series. There was only One More To Go and I’d been waiting MONTHS for it.
    The Devil Does Exist was the first shoujo I bought from CMX and I still have a fondness for it.
    I’ve lucky in that between the two manga shops in town had most of the CMX titles, sometimes you need to go to both to pick a complete run but you could do it.
    So this weekend I’m on a mission to pick up Moonchild and Tears of a Lamb and the rest of I Hate You More Than Anyone, even though I know it’s unfinished. And now I have extra incentive for my Japanese classes.

  10. lys says:

    I Hate You More Than Anyone is still one of my very favourite manga, and that one I will be tracking down in Japanese because it would crush me not to know the end. But I was so hopeful and excited for many of CMX’s new shoujo titles—My Darling! Miss Bancho, Stolen Hearts, Nadeshiko Club, Tableau Gate, Oh! My Brother; I’m also much saddened by the loss of the longer titles I’ve either been following for some time or recently ventured to pick up—Teru Teru x Shonen, Venus in Love, Eroica and Swan…

    But I’m thankful for Emma and Shirley, for Moon Child, Cipher, Devil Does Exist and Oyayubihime Infinity (those two were my introduction to CMX), GALS, Tears of a Lamb and much more. It’s true, CMX managed to license and publish a ton of really great stuff.

  11. safetygirl0 says:

    Land of The Blindfolded was the first one I bought. It had one of those first volumes that blew me away. Its due for a re-read.
    I loved Canon, as Chika Shiomi makes her heroines kick ass and adds in the funny stuff as well. Not as strong as her later works, but it’s always interesting to see an artist evolve.
    Name of the Flower was lovely stuff, and in a strange way, reminded me of a very serious Fruits Basket – a emotionally damaged girl with a good heart helps to heal a man burdened by his past and the darkness within himself. Or maybe it was the writers in kimono aspect?
    The Natsuna Kawase works they brought over – Tale of an Unknown Country, Lapis Lazuli Crown – I love sweet Hakusensha fantasy shojo. Sweet and fluffy, it’s nice to balance out with some of the heavier stuff on my reading list. That sort of story really found its niche at CMX, and I don’t know who else will pick it up.
    And finally… Teru Teru x Shonen. I never thought it would be licensed, and I feared the weaker, earlier volumes would kill interest in what becomes a much deeper story. I mourn that this one will not be finished, because the best part (and the maturation of Shigeru Takao’s art style) was on its way.
    It’s just too much, and I think I loved them so much because so much of it matched perfectly with my tastes… I’m going to miss the titles that didn’t happen or only got a volume or two out, and the ones we never got to see. There seemed to be so much promise still left in the company, and again I’ve watched DC kill something I love.

  12. [...] I know I’m getting my Kübler-Ross all out of order. I started with anger, then moved on to depression, and now I’m going to backtrack to bargaining. These are confusing times. And while it seems kind [...]

  13. [...] off the market now. The Manga Curmudgeon gets angry at DC’s treatment of CMX, then talks about his favorite CMX titles. Kate at The Manga Critic throws out some facts and figures. Connie at Slightly Biased Manga gives [...]

  14. [...] retailers as well as fans. Simon Jones has some further thoughts on CMX and DC. David Welsh lists his ten favorite CMX series and starts looking for new homes for the orphans. Connie lists her favorites at Slightly Biased [...]

  15. Kim says:

    Land of the Blindfold and Swan were my favorite series from CMX… for their art style and storytelling techniques. I am sad to see such a vital part of the industry fold. Especially since I could find surprise favorites out of the licensed series. Unfortunately, I did not like how they edited some of the sound effects but at least the manga got past it. Now I will try to buy more manga to support the companies that are left…

  16. Josh says:

    I absolutely loved Monster Collection. There is also Steel Fist Riku which surprised me with how good it is, Go West! because Yu Yagami is a genius, and Testarotho even though it’s not quite as good as his other series Kamiyadori.

    I’ll really miss the series that hadn’t finished. I hope they at least plan to finish out great series like Fire Investigator Nanase and Diamond Girl which had only just started.

  17. Ahavah says:

    I am mourning Apothecarius Argentum the most. It is one of my favorite shojo series-the plot and characters are incredible!-and it has a great medical aspect, too, as it is written by a pharmacist who knows her stuff and informs the reader in a fun way. But most importantly for me, it is the first series that I managed to hook a non-otaku friend to, and I haven’t had the heart to tell her yet that…that…Man! :(

    This really, really sucks! Screw DC and there women-are-best-kept-in-the-fridge philosophy! Screw them for taking away some of the best manga to come out in English over the past 6 years! I wish I knew Japanese just so that I could scanulate all the titles they’re leaving out of print or in the cold. I want Revenge!!! Let the American masses stop buying Superman, Batman, and the Green Lantern. Show DC that you can’t have a good comics company unless you diversify with titles from all over the world! May DC never find themselves #1 on the NYT Graphic Books Hardcover bestseller list again! I’d rather Twilight–an international collaboration aimed squarely at GIRLS–stay on the list forever than see DC get any profits right now.

    I guess I’m still in the stage of grief that’s all rage…

  18. [...] series before all of the remaining copies are snapped up. David Welsh at the Manga Curmudgeon gives a great run down of titles he suggests collecting for all age ranges. For all of you Children’s and teen [...]

  19. I’m another one mourning Apothecarious Argentum, for all the reasons that Ahavah mentioned. I’ll also miss Musashi #9–which was only four volumes away from being completed! And some of the newer titles that I enjoyed the first volumes of, but will never know if I could have loved the whole series: Diamond Girl, Deka Kyoshi, Stolen Hearts.

  20. My list of loved titles is way too long. (You can see it at http://notanotakunao.blogspot.com/2010/05/requiem-for-cmx.html if you want.) I like seeing everyone’s choices, though, and am glad to find passionate fans of some of the more obscure titles, especially those I never had the chance to try but want to read now more than ever before it’s too late.

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