Upcoming 10/21/2009

October 20, 2009

Last Wednesday’s lean times are over, so check under your sofa cushions and empty the ash tray in your car, because it’s time for a look at the current ComicList:

real6It’s tough to pick a book of the week, as there’s interesting material in varied formats, but I ultimately have to settle on the sixth volume of Takehiko Inoue’s Real from Viz Signature. This excellent drama looks at the lives of wheelchair basketball players so vividly and with such specificity that you don’t need to have the slightest interest in sports to become engrossed. I certainly don’t have any interest in sports, and I think the book is terrific and deeply underappreciated. So please give it a try.

whatawonderfulworld1Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of the books in Viz’s Signature line and an admirer of the imprint in general. I honestly can’t think of one I don’t at least enjoy. That said I do question the wisdom of unleashing quite this much product on the market at once. In addition to the aforementioned volume of Real, there’s the fifth volume of Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, the fifth omnibus installment of Inoue’s Vagabond, and both volumes of Inio (solanin) Asano’s What a Wonderful World! That’s $71.95 worth of comics, retail before taxes. It’s a lot. But perhaps strong sales of books like the first volume of Rumiko Takahashi’s RIN-NE (which arrives Wednesday) will help carry Viz’s less commercial titles. And RIN-NE is a lot of fun, as you would expect from Takahashi. Kate Dacey has an enthsuiastic review of the first volume at The Manga Critic, and you can sample the title at The RumicWorld.

Noted just for the novelty of it, Del Rey launches its floppy comics line this week with The Talisman: The Road of Trials, based on a Stephen King/Peter Straub property, written by Robin Furth and illustrated by Tony Shasteen. Del Rey Comics doesn’t seem to have a web site yet, but you can see a preview at Entertainment Weekly’s site.

bookaboutmoominThe New York Times ran a Reuters story pondering the potential international appeal of Tove Jansson’s Moomin properties without ever mentioning the fact that Drawn & Quarterly has been releasing beautiful hardcover collections of Jansson’s comic strips for a few years now. Whether Reuters notices or not, Drawn & Quarterly continues to earn excellent karma by releasing Jansson’s The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My. (Scroll down on to the bottom of this page for more details and a preview.)

underground2I enjoyed the first issue of Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber’s Underground (Image), a five-part mini-series about socioeconomic machinations and spelunking peril in a mountain town in Kentucky. I fully expect to enjoy the second issue as well.

I also enjoyed the first volume of Svetlana Chmakova’s Nightschool (Yen Press), collected after serialization in Yen Plus. It’s a complicated supernatural adventure about various factions of night creatures and the humans who oppose them. It’s got terrific art and a promisingly chunky plot. The second volume arrives Wednesday.

Checking in with IKKI

September 17, 2009

You’re still reading the free manga at Viz’s SIGIKKI site, right? A lot of it’s really good, and it’s free, and that kind of thing doesn’t happen very often, so you should take advantage of it. Here’s a lightly annotated list of the series, from least liked to favorite. (I passed over Daisuke Igarashi’s Children of the Sea, as that’s already on the print schedule and I prefer reading it that way, since it’s an option. It’s unquestionably one of 2009’s best books, though.)

Tokyo Flow Chart by Eiji Miruno: Well, they’ve only posted one chapter since the site’s launch, so I guess my initial opinion stands – a neat idea that I found almost impossible to read on a computer screen, so I have no idea if it’s any good.

Bokurano: Ours by Mohiro Kitoh: There’s nothing really wrong with this series. I can’t honestly say that any of the series are bad. But I feel like I’m already reading a much better version of this kind of thing with Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys.

Dorohedoro by Q. Yahashida: It’s got nicely gory and detailed art, and the plot feels like it could go interesting and lively places, but I feel like I’ve read this before. Not necessarily a better version of it, but something really similar and at least as good, which renders Dorohedoro somewhat superfluous.

I Am a Turtle by Temari Tamura: I’m probably under-ranking this one due to the fact there’s only one chapter available, but I’m already quite taken with this four-panel look at… well… a turtle. Great art.

Kingyo Used Books by Seimu Yoshizaki: I love the richly detailed illustrations, but I already find the stories a little heavy on sentimental nostalgia. I’ve enjoyed them, but I’m having a hard time imagining reading a bunch of them in a paperback chunk. Of course, no one’s saying I have to read the collected version beginning to end in a sitting.

I’ll Give it My All… Tomorrow by Shunji Aono: These last four are tough to rank, as I like them all almost equally and for very different reasons. I like this one for its merciless but still kind of sweet mockery of its loser protagonist. American comics about losers are never merciless enough.

Afterschool Charisma by Kumiko Suekane: At some point along the road of life, you have to admit to yourself that you can enjoy something just as much for its outrageous badness as you can for its compelling artistry, and that’s the case here (I think). Suekane is either a brilliant satirist or a lucky hack with moments of lunatic inspiration. Either way, I’m having great fun with this series about dimwitted teen clones of the famous and accomplished.

Saturn Apartments by Hisae Iwaoka: I’ll always favor slice-of-life science fiction over the kind with lots of bombastic plot, and this is terrific so far. I love the vulnerability of the character design, the melancholy tone, and the overall concept.

House of Five Leaves by Natsume Ono: Who’d have thought? I mean, seriously? But I’m crazy about this series, largely for its alluring ambiguity. Ono is a bit of a tease in terms of where the story is actually going, and she doesn’t seem to be in any tremendous rush to reveal that, but that’s the appeal for me. It travels really well-trodden narrative territory in unexpectedly delicate ways. I think it will still be my favorite even if the two main characters never actually make out.

According to Viz’s Signature listings, there are two other Natsume Ono books in the pipeline: not simple (January 2010) and Ristorante Paradiso (March 2010).

Oh, and there’s fun stuff to be found on the site’s blog.

Point and click

August 3, 2009

This week’s Flipped is up. I take a look at Viz’s SIGIKKI site and the many interesting titles previewed there. Over at Manga Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson has taken a two-part look at various titles and is running a poll on readers’ early favorites.


July 24, 2009

I’m taking a week off from the license requests. Sometimes you just have to try and catch up with what’s actually available, and Viz isn’t making it easy with all of the freebies on its SIGIKKI and Shonen Sunday sites. It’s the end of the week, and I’m kind of fried, so I’ll take a look at the presumably more lighthearted shônen fare of the latter.

First of all, I have to say that I like the way Viz is assembling these animated trailers. They look nice; Kate Dacey used the one for Daisuke Igarashi’s Children of the Sea in a recent post, and it’s very effective. Second, I don’t really have anything to add to what I’ve already said about Rumiko Takahashi’s Rin-Ne; it’s solid entertainment, but it has yet to change my life. Third, I still don’t like reading comics on a computer, but Viz’s platform is simple enough to use and readable in scale and resolution, at least on my screen.

Now, on to the new series:

ssarataArata: The Legend, by Yuu Watase: Here’s how smart I am. My eyes passeded over the creator credit not once but twice before I started reading this, and one of my reactions to the comic was, “That’s kind of weird to have a Yuu Watase knock-off in a shônen magazine.” Of course, it is Watase, and it does seem kind of weird for her work to be in a shônen magazine, but weird in a nice way. I always like it when women branch into shônen and the less frequent phenomenon of men creating shôjo (though the only one I can think of who’s been licensed and published is Meca Tanaka), and Watase is very popular and has always been able to spin solid fantasy-adventure tales.

In this one, a young man must pretend to be a young woman to fulfill his clan’s obligation to provide princess-protectors to his nation. The ruse goes badly wrong in some unexpected ways, and, judging by the series description, further drastic twists are pending. There’s not much else I can say about it at the moment, other than it’s wonderfully drawn, like all Watase series, and that I already like it loads better than her last licensed outing, Absolute Boyfriend (Viz). That’s good enough for a start.

sshydeandcloserHyde and Closer, by Haro Aso: This one reminded me a lot of Akira Amano’s Reborn! (Viz), though I’m much more favorably inclined to a magical legacy than someone being destined to a life of organized crime. Lead character Shunpei Closer devotes a lot more energy to avoiding conflict and embarrassment than he’d ever expend just sucking it up and facing what life throws at him. His aversion techniques won’t be of much use when sorcerers around the globe learn that they can gain enormous power by killing him. Fortunately, his missing grandfather left Shunpei some protection in the form of a cigar-smoking, bourbon-drinking teddy bear. You read that correctly. Stuffed-animal mayhem ensues, which is both adorable and disturbing. I’m not sure how well the premise will hold up, but it’s hard to resist the stuffing-soaked action.

sskekkaishiKekkaishi, by Yellow Tanabe: This series has been around for a while, and it’s much admired by various people with excellent taste (most notably John Jakala). So what we have here is an under-appreciated title that’s already got a lot of volumes in circulation; it’s a smart move of Viz to give potential readers a low-risk entry point to the series. The whole concept of free chapters on line is smart, but especially for books with an imbalance of critical regard and sales. I very much liked the first chapter about dueling families of demon hunters. Young Yoshimori Sumimura is destined to be his family’s leader, but he’s got no love for their traditional profession. He’ll have to come around and live up to his potential. Tanabe has assembled a clear, concise mythology and a solid emotional foundation for the characters. The art is terrific, particularly the action sequences, and there are lots of fun, funny touches. I particularly liked the cranky grandparents of the warring clans, and I immediately started ‘shipping them, which is always a good sign. This is definitely the hit of the site for me.

ssmaohjuvenileremixMaoh: Juvenile Remix, original story by Kotaro Isaka, story and art by Megumi Osuga. I got a bit of a Death Note (Viz) vibe from this one, in that it seems intent on providing thrills with an added layer of moral complexity. It stars Ando, a high-school student who’s gone to some pains to conceal his psychic ability. He can make people around him say things he’s thinking. That’s an odd and narrow enough super-power to make me suspect that the creators have something interesting in mind. Ando meets Inukai, the oddly charismatic leader of a local vigilante group that’s trying to restore order to the rather raucous streets of the city. Ando is intrigued by Inukai’s desire to change the world for the better, but vigilantism has a dark side. As Death Note proved, you’re unlikely to go broke telling morally ambiguous tales starring hot guys. Count me as intrigued.

Left behind, but not neglected

July 23, 2009

Are you feeling envious of all the folks assembled at Nerd Ground Zero? One way you can pass the time not spent obsessively watching blogs and Twitter for updates is to check out the now-live Viz portals for Shonen Sunday and SIGIKKI, reading free manga and pitying the poor souls at the convention center with their limited wireless and hand-held devices. (And yes, SIGIKKI had already posted a hefty quantity of Children of the Sea, but they’ve added chapters of four more series.)

Peeking at IKKI

July 16, 2009

IKKIViz sent out more information on its SIGIKKI imprint yesterday, and I thought I’d try and track down some additional information on the titles. I think that Viz’s approach – gauging and building demand before committing to print and physical distribution costs – is interesting, and I hope it works out for them. I also think a lot of the imprint’s possible titles sound really intriguing, so part of that hope is selfish. I just want to read the books.

Here’s the link to Shogakukan’s IKKI site, and here’s the Wikipedia entry on the magazine. Below are covers of the titles listed in Viz’s release. You can click on any of them to see their pages at Shogakukan’s web site; once there, you can click on the button with the magnifying glass and you can browse some sample pages, or click on the hyperlink in the lower table to the right of the cover image to see additional volumes of the series.

Afterschool Charisma By Kumiko Suekane

Afterschool Charisma By Kumiko Suekane

Bokurano: OURS By Mohiro Kitoh

Bokurano: OURS By Mohiro Kitoh

Dorohedoro By Q Hayashida

Dorohedoro By Q Hayashida

House of Five Leaves By Natsume Ono

House of Five Leaves By Natsume Ono

I’ll Give it My All…Tomorrow By Shunju Aono

I’ll Give it My All…Tomorrow By Shunju Aono

Kingyo Used Books By Seimu Yoshizaki

Kingyo Used Books By Seimu Yoshizaki

Saturn Apartments By Hisae Iwaoka

Saturn Apartments By Hisae Iwaoka

Tokyo Flow Chart By Eiji Miruno

Tokyo Flow Chart By Eiji Miruno

Because I’m always curious to see just how envious I should be of the French, here’s the rundown on which titles are already available there, and from whom:

  • Bokurano from Asuka
  • Dorohedoro from Soleil
  • House of Five Leaves published as Goyô by Kana
  • Only three… we’re not as far behind as usual! Last but not least, I’ll post a quick poll:

    Feel free to pick as many as interest you. And this is one of those HTML hell posts for me, so if anything looks funky or goes the wrong place, please mention it in the comments so I can clean it up.

    Sunday on the web with Viz

    July 9, 2009

    shosuncoverI’m guessing that the recent flurry of press releases from Viz is some kind of pre-San Diego warm-up routine to prevent cramping during panels. The one that’s really caught my eye is the announcement of another imprint, Shonen Sunday. The full release is below, but here’s the nut paragraph:

    “[Viz] has announced the launch of a brand new imprint, SHONEN SUNDAY. Featuring the works of some of the top shonen manga creators in the world today, the Shonen Sunday magazine in Japan provides the content for this imprint. The magazine recently celebrated its 50th anniversary since its first issue arrived on newsstands in March of 1959.”

    Here’s the Wikipedia entry on the parent magazine from Shogakukan, and here’s the magazine’s Japanese web site. It joins Viz’s Shonen Jump imprint, which features manga from Shueisha, which co-owns Viz with Shogakukan and probably wanted its own brand. It also allows Viz to brand some of its homeless shônen titles.

    With the demise of Viz’s Shojo Beat magazine, speculation and wishful thinking have turned once again towards the possibility of Viz creating an online presence or anthology featuring manga for girls. I think that would be great, and while Viz still as the Shojo Beat imprint, the prospect motivated me to throw together a quick poll.

    Edited: Posted too early, as I meant to add links to the listed magazines: Ribon (official), Margaret (official), Cookie (official), Betsucomi (official), Ciao (official). If you have another choice, please note it in the comments, and I’ll add related links.

    Edited again to add other anthologies of choice, without regard to whether or not they’re published by either of Viz’s co-owners: Hana to Yume from Hakusensha (official), LaLa from Hakusensha (official), Princess from Akita Shoten (official), flowers from Shogakukan…

    And, as promised, here’s the release:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    They stab at thee

    April 27, 2009

    This is what I get for dawdling in checking my Google news feeds. Big news from UPI, but what exactly does it mean?

    “Shogakukan Inc. said by offering an authorized version of the Japanese language comics online, it hopes to limit the spread of illegal copies of its comic books in Europe and the United States, Japan Today said Sunday.”

    Is Rin-Ne just the beginning?

    Other takes:

  • Japan Today
  • The Japan Times

  • The Eisner ballot… of the FUTURE!

    April 12, 2009

    Okay, the order forms from the current issue of Diamond’s Previews catalog were due yesterday. I apologize for the tardiness, but the day job has been rather distracting lately. (Not bad, just busy.) And there’s abundant genius being solicited, so maybe it’s not too late for you to nag your local comics shop, or at least pre-order online from some other vendor.

    Eden: It’s an Endless World! Vol. 12 (Dark Horse): Hiroki Endo’s dense, absorbing science-fiction series continues. (Page 44.)

    Emma, Vol. 9 (CMX): More glorious period soap opera from Kaoru Mori. (Page 124.)

    Johnny Hiro Vol. 1 (AdHouse): The first three issues of Fred Chao’s very funny genre mash-up are collected here. (Page 186.)

    Swallowing the Earth Vol. 1 (Digital Manga Publishing): It’s by Osamu Tezuka, which is really all you need to know. It’s also about a mysterious demigoddess “wielding her mysterious power over all men to exact revenge for their crimes against women since the beginning of time,” which sounds ceaselessly awesome. (Page 245.)

    Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Vol. 4 (Drawn & Quarterly): So funny, so quirky, so sweet. It’s one of the few perfect things in the world. (Page 249.)

    The Summit of the Gods Vol. 1 (Fanfare/Ponent Mon): Jiro Taniguchi heads back to the mountains, accompanied by Yumemakura Baku. The slope in question this time around is Mount Everest. (Page 251.)

    A Treasury of 20th Century Murder Vol. 2: Famous Players (NBM): Rick Geary applies his unique and abundant cartooning skills to the case of Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor. (Page 275.)

    Salt Water Taffy Vol. 3: The Truth About Dr. True (Oni): More delightful adventures for all ages from Matthew Loux as the Putnam brothers discover weirdness in Chowder Bay. (Page 279.)

    Fruits Basket Vol. 23 (Tokyopop): The mega-popular series from Natsuki Takaya comes to what will undoubtedly be an amazingly moving conclusion. (Page 288.)

    Oishinbo: Fish, Sushi and Sashimi (Viz): Viz continues to offer highlights from Tetsu Kariya’s culinary manga masterpiece. (Page 298.)

    Cirque du Freak Vol. 1 (Yen Press): I can’t honestly remember the context or the content, but I swear I heard something really extreme about Cirque du Freak, which makes me curious. (Page 302.)

    Upward mobility

    July 11, 2008

    It isn’t a very long piece, but there are some interesting nuggets in an article on Japan’s e-book market in The Japan Times:

    “Although [a spokesperson for comic-viewing software developer Celsys Inc.] said more content is available for other generations, the main buyers of mobile phone ‘manga,’ which cost about ¥300 to ¥700 per book, are women in their 20s.”

    So that’s about $3 to $7 a pop.


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