From the stack: RUMIC THEATER

September 6, 2006

Much as I love sprawling, multi-volume manga, I have a real fondness for short stories as well. Instead of finding it off-putting to find that a volume of a favorite series has an unrelated short in the back, I’m usually delighted because it shows the creator’s abilities in a different light.

That’s one of the reasons I’m so fond of Rumiko Takahashi’s Rumic Theater (Viz), a charming collection of short stories from the creator of hits like Maison Ikkoku. The main reason, though, is the opportunity it provides to see Takahashi tell small, sweet, stand-alone tales.

Don’t get me wrong. Maison Ikkoku is wonderful. But my favorite parts are when it seems like a small, self-contained tale has been placed in the larger context, almost independent of the ongoing will-they-won’t-they comedy. That’s all Rumic Theater is.

Apartment dwellers try and conceal the presence of a penguin from their pet-averse neighbors. A family is plagued by the misconception that their house is a garbage pick-up location. An elderly woman returns from the brink of death with remarkable powers. Wackiness often ensues, but misunderstandings are cleared away, and the characters find honest, warm ways to connect.

It’s vintage Takahashi, in other words. The shorts are a great showcase for her trademark wit and warmth. As always, her characters are stylized but look real and human, even in the extremities of comic distress.

So if you’re mourning the conclusion of Maison Ikkoku and need a Takahashi fix, consider Rumic Theater. It’s a great way to enjoy her work in small but satisfying doses.

(I ordered this book directly from Viz during a sale at their on-line shop. It’s still available and still discounted. The Viz rep I spoke to said it’s also still in print.)

Pop talk

September 6, 2006

So what does everyone think about Publishers Weekly Comics Week’s coverage of retailer reaction to Tokyopop’s on-line exclusives?

As for myself, I think Calvin Reid did as well as can be expected. Short of developing telepathic powers or placing a mole inside Tokyopop, these seem to be the answers that the publisher is going to provide no matter who asks them or how often.

I do tend to agree with everyone who suggested that avoiding discounts isn’t a good way to get a realistic picture of what on-line sales will be. I’ve hardly ever purchased a graphic novel at full price from an on-line outlet, unless I didn’t have any other… HEY!

And I think that this quote from Mike Kiley…

“’It’s interesting that people are so fascinated in about 20 books out of the 500 we publish each year,’ says Kiley. ‘It’s not like we’re talking about Fruits Basket or Kingdom Hearts.”

… is not especially helpful. My first reaction to it was, “500 titles? No wonder there’s a problem with shelf space!” Because seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a retail outlet, direct market or chain bookstore, that had room for 500 titles total, much less 500 titles from Tokyopop. And when you factor in the books that always seem to have a complete run available (the really popular ones), the problem compounds. (I vote for “Less is more” as the next big publishing theme.)

No direct quotes or attribution were available for this paragraph:

“While general trade bookstores are not quite as adamant as the direct market, several trade book retailers contacted by PWCW are nevertheless critical of any publisher selling direct to consumers.”

But I did get an anonymous comment from someone claiming to be a Borders employee who’s far from overjoyed.