And we shall rename your land “Narutopia”

April 26, 2007

From a Viz press release:

“VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media)… has announced the launch of NARUTO NATION™, a broad campaign that will bring an unprecedented increase in the frequency of publication of its wildly popular NARUTO™ manga series. In order to catch up to the present Japanese release schedule and to prepare readers for upcoming notable changes in the main character and story arc, VIZ Media will offer three new volumes of NARUTO per-month from September through December 2007 – a first for any U.S. manga publisher.”

Okay, this could mean one of two things:

  • Best-seller lists are going to be very, very boring during the third quarter of 2007, or
  • we’re about to find out just how much people like Naruto.
  • (I’ve posted the full press release at the Flipped Forum, but be warned that it seems to contain some SPOILERS for future volumes. Here’s the link.)

    I’m still considering the possible ramifications of this kind of accelerated publishing schedule, but damn… that’s a lot of Naruto in a very short span. Will audience appetite and disposable income support it?


    From the stack: Escape from “Special”

    April 26, 2007

    Melissa, the protagonist of Escape from “Special” (Fantagraphics), is an odd sort of fusion of Dawn Wiener from Welcome to the Dollhouse and Daria Morgendorffer. If Daria is the acerbic iconoclast one wishes one had been, and Dawn is the needy abuse-magnet one fears one was, Melissa is probably closer to the reality.

    She’s ill-equipped for the average school environment, outspoken and bright but miles behind other students because of time spent at an experimental school too respectful of self-esteem and self-directed learning to actually teach anyone anything. Placed first in her new public school’s remedial group, then pegged as brilliant thanks to the wonders of standardized testing, Melissa has seen the various disadvantages of being “special,” and she’d much rather be normal.

    She’s alternately repulsed by convention and frustrated by her inability to adhere to it; her disapproval isn’t a mask for jealousy so much as its uncomfortable companion. Her contempt for schoolyard social norms is genuine, but so is her sometimes scorching need to adopt them, or at least pass.

    Miss Lasko-Gross tells her story in a string of short vignettes, not all of which dwell on Melissa’s social struggles. We meet Melissa’s permissive, relentlessly positive parents, Jacqui and Tod, who take her to ashrams and on folk-band tours. There encounters with her child therapist, among my favorite scenes in the book, that Melissa views with all of the enthusiasm of a captured member of La Résistance. The diversions give Melissa some very welcome roundness as a character.

    At the same time, it seems like Lasko-Gross is more of an observer than a storyteller. Appealing and effective as the vignettes are, they don’t accumulate into an entirely solid narrative. In a sense, that feels right, as the kind of messy, everyday life Lasko-Gross is portraying doesn’t lend itself to measured narrative momentum. But I still don’t think the book entirely overcomes its casual structure.

    It does leave you with a vivid, indelible, ultimately sympathetic character in Melissa, though. Her blunt observations, rebelliousness and frustrations are presented with frank intelligence and rueful humor, and Lasko-Gross has a real knack for rendering pre-teen miseries (real and perceived) without a trace of condescension.


    Shôjo shortage

    April 25, 2007

    I’m detecting a localized deficiency in my regular manga reading. There’s no want for quasi-supernatural episodic series, ass-kicking heroines, Fumi Yoshinaga, shônen adventures or tense dramas, but I don’t feel like I’ve got sufficient ridiculous shôjo comedies in the rotation. Sure, there’s Penguin Revolution and Beauty Pop, and I love them both, but new volumes only come out so often.

    I had high hopes for Kitchen Princess, but it turned out to be too saccharine even for me. The first volume of Millennium Snow seems promising, and it’s got a talking bat with an absurd accent, but I suspect that the life-and-death stuff will gradually overwhelm the madcap elements. I liked the first volume of Skip Beat!, and Shaenon Garrity’s hilarious review in the Overlooked Manga Festival has placed it firmly on my watch list. My fondness for Meca Tanaka’s Omukae Desu suggests I’ll like Pearl Pink.

    I’m not looking for sensitive meditations on growing up and first love. I want nonsense – extreme personalities in patently ludicrous situations, playing out stories so implausible that they actually cause mild disorientation. Any suggestions?


    From the Eisner-nominated creator of…

    April 24, 2007

    This is turning out to be one of those weeks where I wishfully assume more days have already elapsed than actually have. I currently seem to be telling myself it’s Thursday, and the disappointing realization that it isn’t is mitigated by the fact that a ton of great comics are coming out on Wednesday. In fact, it’s sort of an Eisner Nominee Showcase New Comic Book Day!

    The sixth issue of the second volume of Linda Medley’s wonderful revisionist fairy tale, Castle Waiting, arrives courtesy of Fantagraphics. (The collection of the first volume of Castle Waiting has been nominated for Best Graphic Album – Reprint and earned a nod for Adam Grano for Best Publication Design.)

    Joann Sfar, writer of The Professor’s Daughter (due out in paperback and hardcover from First Second) was nominated in the Best Writer/Artist category for his work on Vampire Loves and Klezmer. Artist Emmanuel Guibert didn’t get a nod this year, but give him time. John Jakala has reviewed The Professor’s Daughter at Sporadic Sequential, confirming my suspicions that I’ll enjoy it very much.

    Joining Sfar on the Best Writer/Artist slate is Renée French for her unsettling yet strangely uplifting The Ticking (Top Shelf). The book also earned a spot in the Best Graphic Album – New category, and Jordan Crane was recognized with a Best Publication Design nod. So, yes, The Ticking is superb, which raises my hopes very high for French’s Micrographica, also from Top Shelf. (Reading Tom Spurgeon’s review didn’t hurt either.)

    Vertical’s lovely productions of classic manga have been a regular presence in the Eisner nominations, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their release of Keiko Takemiya’s To Terra… made its presence known next year. The second volume of To Terra… shows up in comic shops this week.

    When Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare (Go! Comi) earned a nomination for Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Japan, some of the reaction was “After What Who?” Consider the arrival of the third volume of this creepy, psychologically nuanced shôjo thriller incentive to find out just why it deserves the nod. Sure, plenty of manga series focus on extracurricular activities, but Mizushiro’s take is disturbing and unique.

    But really, a book doesn’t need an award nomination to be worth picking up, does it? This is my way of saying that I’m stupid-happy over the imminent arrival of a new volume of Sakura Tsukuba’s Penguin Revolution (CMX). So far, this romantic comedy has leaned heavily on the “com” and largely neglected the “rom,” which is partly due to the fact that the heroine is far too focused on professional concerns to consider the possibility that the world of teen idol management could pose romantic complications, on top of all of the secrecy and backstabbing. Things shift a bit towards the “rom” side in the third volume, but the book is still an awful lot of fluffy fun.


    Who are you wearing?

    April 24, 2007

    This is a question that will best be reserved for the actual Eisner ceremonies, but a bunch of people were kind enough to respond to a number of other inquiries for this week’s Flipped.


    Politics, religion and so on

    April 23, 2007

    Team Manga is everywhere. According to this article in The Japan Times, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso finds front-running French presidential candidate Ségolène Royal’s view of manga to be painfully narrow. Rumors that Minister Aso was assembling a diplomatic pouch filled with volumes of The Rose of Versaille are as yet unconfirmed.

    Vertical, much loved for its releases of classic manga like Eisner-nominated Ode to Kirihito and To Terra…, will be launching a line of contemporary titles, according to this article in Publishers Weekly:

    “The imprint will focus broadly on shojo manga for teen readers. [Vertical editorial director Ioannis] Mentzas acknowledged that acquiring licenses for these titles has become very competitive. ‘It’s nearly impossible to get good licenses now, but we’ll do it,’ he said. Three of the new staffers will run the new imprint. The house will continue to publish classic manga under the Vertical imprint.”

    There’s an interesting piece on global manga in The Austin Statesman, featuring interviews with creators like Rivkah (Steady Beat), Tony (PSY-COMM) Salvaggio, and Paul (Pantheon High) Benjamin. Memorable quotes abound, like this one from Benjamin:

    “I know I’m going to be dead and bones and Batman is still going to be dealing with his issues over his parents dying by beating up bad guys. That’s never going to change. That’s just the nature of a property owned by a big company. But with manga, anything goes, anything can happen, and that’s very exciting.”

    Lots of people enjoy priests as characters in manga, and the Catholic Church’s Vocations Office for England and Wales hopes that there’s an overlap between people who enjoy manga and actually want to be priests:

    “‘Cartoons, particularly Manga-styled ones, are a good way of reaching young people, even up to the age of 25,’ says Father [Paul] Embery. ‘We want more young people to consider the call to priesthood and religious life, whilst at the same time acknowledging that many more people are making commitments later in life. We have a “both-and” rather than “either-or” policy, as we recognise that older candidates bring different life experiences with them.’”

    The piece I wrote for Print on manhwa has been picked up by BusinessWeek.Com, and is available online, for anyone who’s curious.


    Another Hall of Fame?

    April 22, 2007

    I’ve been trying to think of something else to say about this year’s Eisner nominations other than “Wow, that’s a really nice list of nominations, filled with books I like.” Since I’m at a loss to find much reason to nitpick, I’ll ask a question instead.

    Wouldn’t it be kind of neat if there was a companion category for the Hall of Fame of creators that recognized really great individual works from the medium? Since the awards have only been around for about two decades, and since not everything is going to get a spiffy new archival treatment to qualify for a contemporary award, I think it might be a nice addition.