Regional specialties

October 31, 2006

The Mature Graphic Novel section has not yet reached north-central West Virginia. I swung by Books-A-Million last night to see. It did look like there were fewer Juné and Blu titles than usual, so maybe they’ve been sorted out and it’s in the works. (The manager, who’s an acquaintance, wasn’t on hand to ask.)

One thing did strike me as I was browsing. It’s too bad Viz didn’t put out a Bleach box set in time for the holidays, like Tokyopop did with Kingdom Hearts. A conveniently bundled, nicely packaged chunk of the early volumes might entice the curious.

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I’m kind of baffled by the ComicList for the week. The list itself says the only Del Rey offering for the week is the second volume of Basilisk. Jog seems to think that the fourth volume of Love Roma is arriving. The e-mailer from the local comic shop suggests that the seventh volume of Genshiken will arrive. Should I focus on the happiness of new Genshiken, or wallow in the bitterness of delayed Love Roma gratification?

There does seem to be general consensus that this week will see the arrival of the second volumes of Off*Beat and The Dreaming and the fourteenth of The Kindaichi Case Files from Tokyopop. Okay, so maybe it would be nice if these suspenseful stories had dropped the day before Halloween instead of the day after. But it’s close enough.

Not to be outdone in the second volume category, Seven Seas releases the sophomore installment of Inverloch, a web-to-print fantasy story from Sarah Ellerton. I liked the first a lot.

It seems like it’s been weeks since a new volume of a post-apocalyptic survival manga showed up. Dark Horse leaps into the breach with the fifth volume of Eden: It’s an Endless World! For more science fiction, you could always check out June from Netcomics.

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There seems to be a mad flurry of manga reviews of late, and MangaBlog’s Brigid has been staying on top of them.

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So I’m glancing at the Taiyosha Top Ten over at MangaCast, and I can’t help but notice that Nodame Cantabile has really parked itself there. Volume 16 debuted at number one, with a special taking eighth place the same week. And it’s still in the top 10.

No particular point to that observation, aside from the fact that I like the book and its success makes me happy.


Twice in a lifetime?

October 30, 2006

ICv2 compares the size of the bumps enjoyed by Naruto and Bleach after their Cartoon Network debuts:

“Comparing the first four weeks of Bookscan sales after the first appearance of the Cartoon Network effect, sales of Bleach Vol. 1 were 52.4% of the numbers attained by the first volume of Naruto in 2005.”

The piece goes on to analyze some of the factors that may have led to the slighter performance for Bleach, including the fact that it has more than twice as many volumes in print as Naruto did when it started airing in September of 2005.

Though the article doesn’t mention it, the performance of Fullmetal Alchemist would seem to bear this out. The anime’s debut preceded the release of the manga in that case, so there was no catching up needed.

Another factor that isn’t considered in the Naruto-Bleach comparison is the fact that Naruto has a much better time slot. Airing at 9 p.m. on Saturdays surrounded by similar programs, supported by lots of commercials, has to give it some kind of advantage over a show that runs at midnight. And I’m pretty sure Cartoon Network doesn’t advertise Adult Swim programs during its daytime programming.

And while it’s probably nowhere near as significant, it can’t hurt that Naruto is serialized in Shonen Jump, making it cheaper to sample if someone isn’t certain they want to make the jump from anime to manga.

Still, the Bleach bump isn’t exactly insignificant, even if it isn’t astronomical. As ICv2 notes:

Naruto gives every appearance of being a once in a lifetime phenomenon, at least in terms of manga sales in the U.S. market, and its brilliance shouldn’t blind retailers to the promise of Bleach (or Death Note, another Viz Media property with immense potential).”

Good point about Death Note, which has popped up on the BookScan charts and doesn’t even have an anime version available in English. (Yet… the anime just debuted at the beginning of this month in Japan.)


Meeting minutes

October 30, 2006

Marshall Democrat-News reporter Zach Sims covers the first meeting of the committee tasked to develop a materials selection policy for the public library. The group’s first step was to gather existing materials selection policies from other library systems to give them a starting point for their own:

“‘There’s no reason for us to re-invent the wheel if we don’t have to,’ said Ann Aulger, vice-president of the library board.”

And perhaps I’m overly cynical, but this quote from committee member Connie Grisier triggers my Community Standards Early Warning System:

“Grisier said that she did not want to ‘compare our policies to different-sized communities.'”

But I could just be over-reacting.


You can’t stop the music

October 29, 2006

Well, not that you’re actually trying to stop it, but I’m always happy to see positive reviews for Joann Sfar’s Klezmer (First Second). The latest come from Tom Spurgeon:

“[I]f the world he’s beginning to assemble ends up as deeply realized as it is obviously colorful, the remaining books should join this one as necessary additions to one’s comics library.”

And TangognaT:

“My only problem with the book was that closed with a ‘to be continued’ ending, and I wanted to see what happened next!”


Waiting for the trade?

October 28, 2006

Simon Jones notes a MangaNews translation of an article on the current state of the Japanese manga market: floppies down, trade paperbacks up. (Okay, maybe you can’t really call manga magazines “floppies” from a purely structural perspective, but you know what I mean.)

I always thought that the magazines were a loss leader — cheaply produced and designed as a driver for the profit-generating tankoubons. Still, that figure — a 70% decline in magazine sales since 1995 — is kind of heart-stopping, isn’t it? In addition to a resurgence of rental stores and used book shops, the article points to a couple of different forces:

“The reduction of the tendency of the manga magazine sales confirms that there is a flow of manga readers turning to tankobon. Whether it be to school or work, the manga magazine market may have been taken up by a more mobile content market. On the other hand, mobile phone manga delivery service has enlarged. The mobile phone market will probably be significant to the future manga markets.”

So are cell phones replacing the printed anthology? Is this another step towards the paperless society? Or at least the cheap-paperless society?

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Oh, and you have until 8 a.m. tomorrow to enter Tom Spurgeon’s Ode to Kirihito contest.


No-ruto

October 27, 2006

There isn’t much in the way of sequential art in the latest top 150 best sellers from USA Today. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories Vol. 1 (Tokyopop) drops from 112 to 134.

I had briefly hoped that the National Book Award nomination for Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese (First Second) might land it somewhere on the list, but no. Hell, a Nobel Prize for Literature doesn’t get you any higher than 94, and poor Orhan Pamuk is barely hanging on at 150, so I don’t know what good I thought a mere nomination would do.

And besides, Wired copy chief Tony Long insists that “the comic book does not deserve equal status with real novels, or short stories. It’s apples and oranges.” Long comes to this conclusion without having read American Born Chinese, and I find that depressing. I was sort of hoping that people would say, “How good must that graphic novel be to earn a National Book Award nomination?” and then perhaps read it to find out instead of dismissing it out of hand. (There’s no word as to where the copy chiefs of Cat Fancy, Town & Country Travel, and Cigar Aficionado will come down in the controversy. File it under “developing.”)

At least poor Captain Underpants hasn’t been unduly damaged by the recent unpleasantness. The Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People is nestled comfortably at #72. (Though it was at #66 last week.)


Kirihito contest

October 25, 2006

Tom Spurgeon is giving away copies of Vertical’s no-doubt peerlessly produced edition of Osamu Tezuka’s Ode to Kirihito. That is all.


Yuri flurry

October 25, 2006

Those crafty devils at Seven Seas never just rest on their laurels, do they? In the last couple of days, they’ve talked to Publishers Weekly Comics Week and ICv2 about their new yuri line, Strawberry.

Seven Seas publisher Jason DeAngelis summed up the line’s philosophy for PWCW’s Calvin Reid:

“DeAngelis says Seven Seas will focus on strong stories, ‘then the elements portrayed in the art become secondary. We’re dedicated to leaving the material we license uncensored, so we will be releasing a wide range of yuri aimed at different age groups. That said, we have no intention of releasing outright pornographic material.’”

(For those who are struggling with the distinction between yuri and hot, girl-on-girl action, Tina Anderson provides a concise, not entirely work-safe explanation.)

The ICv2 piece makes the interesting note that you’re much more likely to find a romantic relationship between two girls in mainstream manga (shôjo or shônen) than a male-male match-up:

“As a genre yuri is not nearly as big in Japan as yaoi, but lots of manga and anime series including Revolutionary Girl Utena, Rose of Versailles, My-Hime, Noir, .hack//SIGN, Read or Die, and Project A-ko feature central yuri relationships.”

At MangaCast, Ed Chavez takes exception to the classification of the new Seven Seas titles as yuri:

“I have said that here for a while, and obviously that was before this new imprint was announced. Strawberry Panic and Tetragrammaton Labyrinth (by Itou Ei) at least have girl-girl relationships throughout. I will say that neither one is really directly marketed to female readers (Tetra actually is in the same magazine as IkkiTousen and Mahoromatic…. so you might agree with me that those are Seinen titles for the seinen in your family). I am not a manga lord or magistrate to designate genres so your mileage with this will vary.”

But Ed notes that marketing is a fickle mistress:

“Ahh, so I guess my next question is who is 7S marketing this to. My gut feeling is = guys! To that I say whatever. I don’t see anything wrong with it. Books are marketed to the wrong audiences all the time here and outside of myself and maybe some industry people who wonder why their books aren’t moving, I don’t think people (in this case readers) care. And if the sales of these titles mean more titles like Boogiepop and some of the LightNovel imprint. Great! I want to see 7S take even more risks (Yanki/Zoku manga… HINT HINT).”

As Ed says, mileage varies.

ALC has been waving the yuri banner for a long time now, putting out both licensed work and original global yuri. (I’m particularly crazy about quirky, lo-fi Rica ‘tte Kanji!?) ALC’s Erica stops by the Anime News Network discussion thread to give a little background on the publisher’s philosophy:

“We also tend to focus on work by lesbians that identify as ‘yuri'” artists, instead of artsits who don’t like to think of themselves that way.”

In the same thread, harsh words are exchanged over category labeling and opposing fandoms. Shocking!


A shout from the wilderness

October 25, 2006

It was bound to happen sometime. The near-unanimity of blogger approval for The Drifting Classroom (Viz – Signature) has come to an end. John Jakala gives the book a second look and wishes someone would turn the volume down:

“That, in a nutshell, is my problem with Drifting Classroom, a book that dares to be the sequential art equivalent of THOSE ANNOYING EMAILS YOU GET WHERE THE SENDER FORGOT TO TURN OFF THE CAPS LOCK!!!!”

I love the camp quality of the book and the fact that I find it genuinely scary at the same time, but I can also see John’s point of view. And it’s just a brilliant and hilarious bit of persuasive writing, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise.


Links by daylight

October 24, 2006

Dirk Deppey offers a lovely review of Kaoru Mori’s Emma (CMX) over at The Comics Journal:

“Mori’s subdued manga style allows for nuanced changes in gesture and facial expressions to convey a great deal of information, and her enthusiasm for the period is genuine and infectious — her author’s-note omake at the end of this first volume is practically a giddy teenager’s love letter to Victorian trappings.”

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I’m still trying to figure out what to do with the Flipped Forum over at Comic World News. At the moment, I’m primarily using it as a repository for publisher press releases, but I’m thinking it might be fun to start threads that track reviews of books I’ve covered in the column, just as respite for people who read my opinions and think, “What the hell was he on when he wrote that?”

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Speaking of those publisher press releases, Naruto is headed towards its natural habitat: the mall! (And yes, I realize that, in addition to its undeniable sales power, people like Tom Spurgeon and Bill Sherman also think it’s a solidly entertaining comic. The snark was just sitting there!)

The featured events are a nice illustration of the property’s burgeoning, multi-media empire. I wonder if Viz will be taking the opportunity to cross-promote some other properties at the same time?

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I’m very intrigued by this announcement from Sweatdrop Studios, a UK-based original manga studio. While I’m not entirely convinced that there is a unifying style or approach to either shônen or shôjo manga, I love the idea of concurrent versions of the same stories told by different creators.

Plus, as Pata notes, you can’t go wrong with an introduction from Paul Gravett.

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You also can’t go wrong when Jake Forbes pops by to offer his two cents. He shows up in comments at Comics Worth Reading to discuss what power really means in the manga business.