For your 2011 Eisner consideration

December 16, 2010

Submissions are being accepted for the 2011 Eisner Awards! I enjoyed cobbling a list of suggested manga nominations last year, so I thought I’d try again.

There could be a number of Japanese works that make it into the Best Short Story category, as both Fantagraphics and Top Shelf published highly regarded collections of short manga. If forced to pick just one story from Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, I think it would have to be “Hanshin/Half-God.” There’s a lot of terrific work in Top Shelf’s AX anthology, but the one that keeps coming to mind would have to be Akino Kondo’s “The Rainy Day Blouse & the First Umbrella.”

Whether or not any Japanese titles show up in the Best Continuing Comic Book Series category is always kind of a crap shoot. If one shows up, there’s a good chance it’s probably by Naoki Urasawa, so I wouldn’t be surprised or at all displeased if we saw 20th Century Boys or Pluto (Viz) in this roster. I would be surprised and delighted if we saw that stalwart, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Dark Horse), written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Housui Yamazaki, take a slot. The same goes for Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece (Viz), which experienced a big push this year and put Oda’s multifaceted gifts on flattering display.

The Best New Series category is tricky for similar reasons. You never know how they’ll define the category, and, hey, it’s not like the rest of the comics industry is hurting for good new titles. But if they want to mix it up with some newly launched (here, at least) manga series, here are four they might consider:

  • Twin Spica (Vertical), Kou Yaginuma’s heartfelt examination of a school for astronauts
  • Bunny Drop (Yen Press), Yumi Unita’s observant take on single fatherhood
  • House of Five Leaves (Viz), Natsume Ono’s alluring tale of an unemployed samurai who falls in with the right/wrong crowd
  • Cross Game (Viz), Mitsuru Adachi’s coming-of-age baseball drama.
  • Technically speaking, neither of the following titles was originally conceived of for kids, but I have no problem putting them forward as likely candidates for the Best Publication for Kids category. Konami Kanata’s Chi’s Sweet Home (Vertical) is charming and funny, and it offers a point-by-point run-through of the responsibilities of pet ownership, which is a great thing to hand a kid. Very few people don’t like Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&! (Yen Press) for the simple reasons that it’s hysterically funny and wide open to just about anyone who cares to read it. It’s the kind of book that I think people want to read with the kids in their lives, which is certainly an enticement for voters.

    If there’s a category that’s hard to pin down, it would probably be Best Publication for Teens, partly because I don’t think teens really like being told “We know you’ll like this.” So I’ll go with two that are rated “Teen,” because I’m lazy like that. Cross Game has pretty much everything you could ask for from a coming-of-age novel: joy, sorry, confusion, comedy, great characters, and completely recognizable slices of life. Yuki Midorikawa slices up a more supernatural life with Natsume’s Book of Friends (Viz), but it has hearts and smarts in common with Adachi’s baseball comic.

    Not much has changed as far as my Best Humor Publication recommendations go, at least in relation to Koji Kumeta’s Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei (Del Rey). The aforementioned Yotsuba&! is routinely one of the funniest comics I read, and Kiminori Wakasugi’s Detroit Metal City (Viz) has a lot of vulgar high points.

    Unless there’s some utterly arcane bit of rules of which I’m unaware, there’s no reason on Earth for AX not to snag a Best Anthology nomination. It’s everything an anthology or collection is supposed to be, isn’t it? Purposeful, varied, significant, with bonus points for being frequently entertaining and nicely produced.

    Nominees in the Best Archival Collection apparently need to focus on work that’s at least 20 years old, so I suspect that might disqualify A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, but there’s plenty of material to choose from. Osamu Tezuka’s Ayako (Vertical) is perhaps not my favorite of his works, but there’s always Black Jack from the same publisher. There’s also Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s Black Blizzard (Drawn & Quarterly), which offers a worthwhile glimpse into his earlier, long-form works.

    Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material — Asia opens its own can of worms for me in terms of recommendation, because what I’d suggest would depend on what’s nominated elsewhere. I’m always for spreading the wealth, if possible. Assuming there’s an absence of comics from Japan in the other categories, I’d say these five are essential, though: A Drunken Dream an Other Stories (Fantgraphics), AX (Top Shelf), Bunny Drop (Yen Press), Twin Spica (Vertical), and Cross Game (Viz).

    It’s unfortunate that the Best Writer/Artist categories are divided into Humor and Drama, because the greats balance both. I would love to see Fumi Yoshinaga nominated, possibly in the humor side of the equation. Still, her year included All My Darling Daughters (Viz), new volumes of Ôoku: The Inner Chambers (Viz), and Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy (Yen Press), which seems like a perfectly reasonable excuse to nominate her for an award she’s deserved for years. I’d feel fairly secure in placing Moto Hagio in the Drama category, since that is the essential nature of the short stories collected in A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. They aren’t entirely void of humor, but…

    Chi’s Sweet Home’s qualifications for Best Publication Design may not be immediately obvious, but the care with which its reading orientation was flipped and color was added to each page are worth noting, especially in the ways that they opened the book up to a larger audience. There seem to be a lot of gorgeous, immense package jobs this year, slip-cased volumes that you could use as an ottoman, and there’s some snazzy design for books that doesn’t really enhance the actual comic in question, but the design for Chi’s Sweet Home served the product and was subtly beautiful at the same time. [Update: I’m reliably informed that the book was in color before it was flipped and translated.] The cover designs for 7 Billion Needles were perhaps less cumulative work, but their style and texture are real winners.

    What did I miss? What books and creators would you recommend for Eisner consideration?


    Upcoming 10/27/2010

    October 26, 2010

    It’s time for another look at the week’s ComicList!

    Tokyopop has a bunch of titles coming out, and my pick of that lot would be the tenth volume of Banri Hidaka’s V.B. Rose, a romantic comedy about a budding designer of accessories working in a high-end bridal shop.

    Random House’s Del Rey manga imprint may be on its last legs, but it’s releasing a healthy volume of titles all the same. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first volume of Akimine Kamijo’s Code Breaker, so I’ll be looking for the second.

    I’ve also been surprised by how much I’ve been enjoying Marvel’s Secret Avengers series, so I’ll also grab a copy of the sixth issue, which features a visit from the Master of Kung Fu.

    I have no excuse for not yet sampling Beasts of Burden from Dark Horse, and perhaps the Beasts of Burden/Hellboy One-Shot isn’t the best introduction to the series, but I think I’ll grab it all the same, just because I know my comic shop will probably have a copy handy.

    What looks good to you?


    Two years later

    October 5, 2010

    Lots of people have posted interesting and valuable reactions to yesterday’s news about Kodansha and Del Rey, particularly Christopher (Comics212) Butcher and Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey, and I only have a couple of things to add.

    First, I’d like to thank Del Rey for publishing some really interesting manga and doing a very nice job of it. I always appreciated the level of care they took with translation, adaptation and annotation of their translation choices. All of those elements really added value to the reading experience, and I hope that Kodansha continues to uphold those production values.

    Some of my favorite manga came from the Del Rey imprint: Minoru Toyoda’s Love Roma, Fuyumi Soryo’s ES: Eternal Sabbath, Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi, Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken, Natsumi Ando and Miyuki Kobayashi’s Kitchen Princess, and Satomi Ikezawa’s Othello, among many others. I hope that this excellent back catalog stays in print, regardless of how things ultimately shake out between Kodansha and Random House. We have enough excellent, orphaned series already.

    Some of my current favorite series and titles I’ve hoped to catch up on were also on Del Rey’s slate: Clamp’s xxxHOLic, Tomoko Ninomiya’s Nodame Cantabile, Koji Kumeta’s Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, and Ishikawa Masayuki’s Moyasimon. I hope that Kodansha doesn’t dawdle in the continued publication of these interesting and satisfying works.

    But I would be lying if I said I was optimistic. It’s been over two years since word first leaked that Kodansha was taking its English-language distribution into its own hands, and the results have been rather pathetic. The net result has been that significantly less of Kodansha’s catalog is available in print than before. I understand that the economy isn’t friendly to new initiatives, but results thus far have been miserable, especially for a publisher of Kodansha’s size and stature. I hope that this development indicates that Kodansha is going to finally get in gear in terms of shoring up its existing catalog and increasing the number of titles licensed for English publication and that we aren’t asking the same rueful questions in 2012.


    Previews review September 2010

    August 30, 2010

    There’s lots of desirable material in the September 2010 Previews catalog.

    Before we get to that, I feel I should note that Del Rey manga is still launching new series. Its latest is Ema Toyama’s I Am Here! It’s about a young girl who overcomes her shyness through blogging. I fell asleep halfway through typing that sentence, but there you have it. It originally ran in Kodansha’s Nakayoshi magazine. (Page 267.)

    It seems like it’s been forever since the gorgeous hardcover collection of the first set of Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting stories. Fantagraphics will release 384 more pages of charming comics about the family-of-choice residents of a falling-down castle along the way. (Page 278.)

    Ever since I read Glacial Period (NBM), I’ve wanted someone to publish more comics by Nicolas De Crecy. NBM obliges again with the first volume of Salvatore: Transports of Love about a successful auto mechanic who happens to be a dog. Congratulations, NBM, on joining the elite circle of publishers who have fulfilled one of my license requests. You may join Vertical and Fantagraphics in the Silver Courtesy Lounge. (Page 290.)

    I’m generally not the target audience for books from PictureBox, but I love Renée (The Ticking) French, so I’ll be all over H Day. It’s a no-doubt surreal look at how French copes with migraine headaches. (Page 300.)

    It also feels like it’s been a long time since Top Shelf published the first volume of Lars Martinson’s Tōnoharu. The second volume examining the life of a North American English teacher in rural Japan can be found listed on page 310.

    Bless Yen Press for digging and finding unlicensed Fumi Yoshinaga, specifically Not Love but Delicious Foods, about a hard-working, hard-eating lady and her foodie friends as they restaurant hop through Tokyo. It originally ran in Ohta Shuppan’s Manga Erotics F, which is one of those magazines that seems to run whatever the hell kind of comics it pleases. (Page 321.)


    Upcoming 7/28/2010

    July 27, 2010

    There’s a perfectly mammoth volume to this week’s ComicList, and a lot of it looks really good. I’ll just take things as they come in alphabetical order.

    It’s a big week for Del Rey, which has revised its web site and is now seemingly impossible to navigate in terms of finding information about specific books. Let’s head over to the Random House site instead. There you can find details on the omnibus collection of the last three volumes of Mushishi, written and illustrated by Yuki Urushibara. I love this episodic series of environmental folklore stories. It’s been the subject of a Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Ed Sizemore at Manga Worth Reading. I’m a little bit behind on Koji Kumeta’s very enjoyable satire, Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, which sees its seventh volume released on Wednesday. And I was pleasantly surprised by the oh-so-formulaic-sounding Code: Breaker, written and illustrated by Akimine Kamijyo.

    You can call pretty much any book from Fanfare/Ponent Mon either “eagerly awaited” or “long-awaited.” Korea as Viewed by 12 Creators has been in the pipeline for years, and it’s finally due in comic shops, which is very exciting. It features “[twelve] insightful short graphic stories into the “Hermit Kingdom”, six by European and six by indigenous creators, including award winning Park Heung-yong and “Best Manga 2006” artist Vanyda.” I’m equally excited about the second volume of The Summit of the Gods, written by Baku Yumemakura and illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi. It’s about mysteries and manly mountain climbers circling around Mt. Everest, and it’s very beautifully drawn. (I know I pre-ordered both of these, yet they don’t seem to be arriving at my local comic shop, which I hope is just a function of warehouse weirdness at Diamond and not something… ahem… local.)

    I’m surprised by how much I’m liking Marvel’s Secret Avengers, written by Ed Brubaker and illustrated by Mike Deodato. It’s always nice to see super-heroes behaving like well-intentioned professionals, and this may be the first time that the “proactive super-team” concept has actually worked. I’m not entirely sold on Deodato’s mildly cheesecake-y art, and Valkyrie’s braids are completely insane, but it’s a minor quibble.

    Comics by Osamu Tezuka are always a welcome pleasure, and that certainly includes his episodic medical melodrama, Black Jack, about a mercenary surgeon dealing with more bizarre maladies than House could ever have imagined. The 12th volume arrives Wednesday.

    Viz offers quite the mixture of titles from along the quality spectrum, so I’ll focus on the good and/or promising. Personal highlights include the 20th volume of Hikaru no Go, written by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, and the fifth volume of Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, written and illustrated by Karuho Shiina. On the confirmed debut front is Bakuman, written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by the aforementioned Obata. This one’s by the creators of Death Note, which is still selling tons of copies ages after the series concluded. That series was about using a notebook to rule the world. This one’s about using a sketch pad to make lots of money: “verage student Moritaka Mashiro enjoys drawing for fun. When his classmate and aspiring writer Akito Takagi discovers his talent, he begs Moritaka to team up with him as a manga-creating duo. But what exactly does it take to make it in the manga-publishing world?” If anyone should know, it’s these two.


    Misjudging books by their cover blurbs

    July 15, 2010

    Library Wars: Love and War: In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves–the Library Forces! (Viz)

    Doesn’t that sound awesome? A tough heroine fighting the forces of censorship! It could still become awesome, but the first volume trades in some plot devices that put it at a distinct disadvantage, at least with me. Kasahara, a young trainee in the Library Forces, has decided to join that august body in part because one of its members “stepped in to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore when she was younger.” That’s still not problematic, as there’s nothing wrong with pursuing a career because of the inspiration of someone you admire. Unfortunately, Kasahara refers to that mysterious figure as a “prince” and layers dippy, ill-conceived romantic notions on her otherwise totally admirable ambition.

    I’ve got to tell you that this kind of thing – a person falling madly in love with someone they don’t know anything about based on a brief, largely forgotten encounter during their formative years – gets on my nerves. I can get over it, as I did with Kitchen Princess (Del Rey), but the first volume of Library Wars doesn’t fill me with confidence. Kasahara isn’t very bright, and she doesn’t work very hard at her training. I’m inclined to side with her bright, hard-working rival when he suggests that she doesn’t really deserve the preferential treatment and opportunities for advancement she receives. (She hasn’t even bothered to learn the shelving system!)

    Maybe future volumes will focus less on dumb mooning and more on information specialists promoting the free exchange of information and ideas by any means necessary. I’ll give Library Wars another volume, but Kasahara needs to get her dopey act together. Good intentions only go so far.

    (Library Wars: Love and War was based on a novel by Hiro Arikawa and adapted by Kiiro Yumi.)

    Code:Breaker: Rei seems like an affable transfer student to everyone around him, but quirky high school beauty Sakura sees his true face as a terrifying vigilante—a “nonexistent” Code:Breaker who cannot be touched by the law. And since Sakura has just witnessed the effects of his deadly blue flame, she’s slated to be the next to burn! (Del Rey)

    Doesn’t that sound just too generic for words? It’s not, largely because high school beauty Sakura is actually quirky, and she’s tougher and smarter than Kasahara by a wide margin. All of the boys in Sakura’s school view her as a delicate flower they’d love to protect, in spite of the fact that she’s better versed in the martial arts than all of them combined. She’s too busy thinking about things that matter to be offended by their condescending entreaties, which makes for some pretty funny moments.

    One of the things that matter, at least in Sakura’s considered opinion, is an apparent mass murder that she witnesses while riding the bus home from school. She goes to investigate, but there’s no evidence. When a new boy, Rei, shows up in class, she recognizes him from the massacre and looks into the mystery, putting herself in danger in the process.

    Sakura’s tough, principled approach to life pretty much carries the book. She never cringes, and she has a really firm grasp on right and wrong. Rei’s vigilantism offends her notions of order and justice, and I’m looking forward to seeing their philosophical back-and-forth. Code:Breaker could become as bland as its premise suggests, as much more promising manga has gone off the rails by the second volume, but I think I’ll enjoy this one as long as Sakura’s spine endures.

    (Code:Breakers was written and illustrated by Akimine Kamijyo and debuts from Del Rey in late July. These remarks are based on a review copy.)


    Upcoming 6/23/2010

    June 22, 2010

    The current ComicList might be described as the “Not Dead Yet Edition.”

    Cherish these last few CMX releases while you can. This week sees the arrival of the 17th volume (of 19) of Musashi #9, the sixth volume (of seven) of Two Flowers for the Dragon, and the fourth volume (of five) of Venus Capriccio. So close, and yet so far. And the web site is gone, as has been noted previously. Screw you, DC.

    Del Rey publishes more than one licensed comic this week, including one that it rescued from another publisher. They continue to wrap up Samurai Deeper Kyo with a collection of the 37th and 38th volumes, and we finally see the second volume of Moyasimon, plus the 11th volume of Fairy Tail.

    Eight months after publishing the first volume, which had been in print for ages, Kodansha re-releases the second volume of Akira. They still don’t have a web site.


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