Charts and graphs

February 7, 2007

Since Publishers Weekly Comics Week can’t seem to be bothered to offer commentary on their top ten comics for the month of January, I thought I’d take a stab at it.

1. Death Note, Volume 9. Tsugumi Ohba. (Viz Media, $7.99 ISBN 978-142150630-2) With so much attention paid to “the Cartoon Network Effect,” it’s a little surprising to see a manga title rise to the top of a sales chart without a concurrent anime release acting as a driver. It’s less surprising that said title is Death Note, which combines a perpetually twisting, suspenseful narrative with excellent art.

2. Fullmetal Alchemist, Volume 11. Hiromu Arakawa. (Viz Media, $9.99 ISBN 978-142150838-2) But it seems that the Cartoon Network Effect isn’t entirely irrelevant, even if airings of the Fullmetal Alchemist anime are sporadic and reserved for the wee hours of the morning.

3. Vampire Knight, Volume 1. Matsuri Hino. (Viz Media, $8.99 ISBN 978-142150822-1) While Fruits Basket (Tokyopop) generally holds the title for highest sales chart shôjo placement, this new addition to Viz’s Shojo Beat line is the first series to join the serialization roster of the line’s monthly anthology since its launch in 2005.

4. One Piece: It’s All Right!, Volume 13. Eiichiro Oda. (Viz Media, $7.95 ISBN 978-142150665-4) Is it the Saturday morning cartoon? The serialization in the Shonen Jump monthly anthology? Or do kids just love pirates?

5. Black Cat, Volume 16. Kentaro Yabuki. (Viz Media, $7.99 ISBN 978-142150610-4) The second entry from Viz’s Shonen Jump line, with its $8 price point and action-rich stories.

6. Ouran High School Host Club, Volume 8. Bisco Hatori. (Viz Media, $8.99 ISBN 978-142151161-0) Another Shojo Beat offering, though not one serialized in the anthology. The higher frequency of releases in Shojo Beat’s non-serialized titles (Yû Watase’s serialized Absolute Boyfriend only recently released its third volume) doesn’t seem to be hindering sales.

7. Shaman King, Volume 11. Hiroyuki Takei. (Viz Media, $7.95 ISBN 978-142150678-4) Okay, maybe they don’t all beg for individual commentary. See comments for One Piece.

8. Punch!, Volume 2. Rie Takada. (Viz Media, $8.99 ISBN 978-142150875-7) Um… ditto. See comments on Ouran High School Host Club.

9. Inuyasha, Volume 28. Rumiko Takahashi. (Viz Media, $7.95 978-1421504681) While many women have had success in shônen manga (like Hiromu Arakawa above), Rumiko Takahashi remains one of the best examples with long-running hits like Inuyasha and the recently concluded Ranma ½.

10. W Juliet, Volume 14. Emurai. (Viz Media, $9.99 ISBN 978-142150567-1) Shôjo releases don’t need to be new (or new-ish) to enjoy strong sales, as demonstrated by this long-running series.

Comics Worth Reading and MangaBlog have also weighed in on the list.

From the stack: Kitchen Princess

February 7, 2007

Kitchen Princess (Del Rey) is shôjo romantic comedy so formulaic you can practically read it with your eyes closed. A spirited country girl enrolls in a big-city private school, finding snooty rivals and romantic possibilities among the student body. Potential suitors include feuding relatives who are united only in their fondness for our heroine.

In other words, it’s Imadoki! without the smartly overturned expectations, or Fruits Basket without the supernatural pathos. The art is cute, the protagonist is spunky, the boys are dreamy, and the plot moves from point to point with lockstep familiarity.

Now would be the point to make a “cookie-cutter” joke, because the single distinguishing factor of Kitchen Princess is that it’s culinary manga. I’m a sucker for culinary manga. And while Kitchen Princess isn’t great culinary manga, recipes go a long way with me.

I like the book’s underlying food philosophy – that cooking is a way to express affection and to share something that matters with someone you care about. It’s corny, but it’s sweet. But I really do hope that the story and characters deepen along the way and that something even remotely unexpected happens.

Oh, and while I’m not entirely convinced that works of fiction lead to dangerous, imitative behavior, I’ve got to speak out on one subject. It would be great if reading manga motivated kids in the audience to learn to cook, but making caramel at home results in a substance roughly the temperature of molten lava and about as friendly to one’s epidermis. The story is perfectly safe for all ages, but the recipes require parental supervision.