Elsewhere

May 17, 2007

Via Reuters:

“An AIDS awareness group in male-dominated India is touting a new, colourful way to dispel chauvinistic notions about sex: comic books.

“Population Council, an international voluntary group, is distributing 250,000 copies of comics among residents of shanty towns in four cities to help change social attitudes and stress the dangers of unsafe sexual practices.”


What’s in a name?

May 16, 2007

It didn’t take me long to realize that some manga titles sometimes have very little to do with their contents. Some are perfectly literal, obviously – Bambi and Her Pink Gun, Antique Bakery, Nana, etc. But some not only have little bearing on the series they represent, they actually suggest entirely different, perhaps equally or surpassingly entertaining alternatives.

Penguin Revolution: This one’s obvious. I love the series as it is, but I think the world is crying out for a comic that actually lives up to the promise of the title. I’m thinking something about a group of penguins who finally get sick of the research scientists and eco-tourists and cross-country para-skiers and decide to take back Antarctica… by any means necessary!

Ultra Maniac: Again, it’s a perfectly adorable story, but what the title has to do with the friendship between a popular schoolgirl and a magical exchange student is entirely beyond me. The title itself is versatile (or generic) enough to suggest any number of stories that practically write themselves, but I keep thinking “genetically modified, possibly bionic serial killer.”

Bleach: Slice-of-life drama set in an industrial laundry company. Or something about a private investigator with a really obvious dye-job. Or a combination of the two.


Looking forward

May 15, 2007

DC’s Minx imprint hits comics shops this week with the arrival of The Plain Janes, written by popular young-adult novelist Cecil Castellucci and illustrated by Jim (Street Angel) Rugg. Early critical reaction has been generally positive, if not rapturous, but I’m looking forward to it. The recent wave of young-adult novelists entering the graphic novel arena is starting to make me feel like I should read more novels for young adults. I mean, I love to read younger than my demographic in comics, so why not prose?

And while some of Minx honcho Karen Berger’s early interviews on the imprint indicated that she might not realize that DC published manga, the CMX imprint adds another appealing title to its roster with Apothecarius Argentum by Tomomi Yamashita. MangaCast’s Ed Chavez previewed it recently, and I reviewed it for CWN a while ago.

I fear that we are nearing the end of Takako Shigematsu’s Tenshi Ja Nai!! (Go! Comi). The seventh volume ships this week, and I think there’s only one more after this. But hey, it’s not like there’s a shortage of somewhat mean-spirited, showbiz-set romantic comedies to fill the void.


Monday links

May 14, 2007

ComiPress provides a fascinating look at the uncomfortable position faced by some Chinese fans of Japanese manga and anime:

“The question of ‘Is enjoying Japanese manga and anime an unpatriotic act?’ has been a great point of debate in China. The topic has caused many problems, and many young Chinese people are torn between their anti-Japan feelings and their love for Japanese manga.”

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I’m always glad to see Fanfare/Ponent Mon’s books get the attention they deserve, so this piece in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (found via MangaBlog) was much appreciated. I like this introductory analogy, too:

“But it’s a bit like wine in a sense: Sure, there are products for the masses, but there are also products that true connoisseurs can enjoy even more.”

I do think the pleasures of Kan Takahama’s Kinderbook are much more readily apparent than these reviewers did, though.

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At Kate no Komento, Katherine Dacey-Tsue casts an understandably wary eye upon the next evolution of Tokyopop’s web presence:

“What I don’t like about the site are the gimmicky labels that Tokyopop has assigned to the buttons on the navigation bar. They seem like the handiwork of a marketing consultant, rather than someone who actually uses websites.”

Glancing at the image, I tend to agree that the tags aren’t immediately useful in terms of navigation. I’ll readily admit that this might be a generational thing for me.

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At the Manga Recon blog, Dacey-Tsuei increases my anticipation for Morim Kang’s 10, 20, and 30 from NETCOMICS:

“Those deformations, oversized sweat drops, and flapping arms capture the way we really experience embarrassment, fear, betrayal, and attraction: in the moment, one’s own sense of self is grossly—even cartoonishly—exaggerated, even if that moment seems trivial in hindsight.”

This reminds me very much of my reaction to Rica Takashima’s charming, low-fi Rica ‘tte Kanji!? (ALC), which is a definite inducement to give the book a shot.

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For this week’s Flipped, I talked (via e-mail) to Simon Jones about ero-manga imprint Icarus. So you know at least one smart person was involved in the creation of this week’s installment.


Bake day

May 13, 2007

I don’t usually get inspired to cook by Giada De Laurentiis’s dessert recipes. She’s too fond of combining chocolate and orange for my tastes, and I’m not keen on mascarpone or amaretti cookies. But I had to try these almond blueberry cookies, and they’re good to the point of evil.

I went with dried blueberries instead of fresh or thawed frozen ones. It’s a stiff batter, so I’m glad I did, because I’m not a patient or gentle folder. Softer blueberries would have been mush. I used skim instead of whole milk, and vanilla instead of almond extract. I also found that they didn’t need as much cooking time as the recipe suggests. I would start checking them at around ten minutes, particularly if you’re using a convection oven.

And hey, blueberries and almonds are nutritionally packed, so they must surely overcome butter and sugar.


Pleasant diversions

May 12, 2007

I love Joann Sfar’s solo comics – The Rabbi’s Cat (Pantheon), Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East, Vampire Loves (First Second). The Professor’s Daughter provides an appealing introduction to his collaborative work. Emmanuel Guibert illustrates Sfar’s grumpy, fanciful script with elegant watercolors that are both lively and lovely.

In the book, a pair of unlikely lovers (a less-proper-than-she-seems Victorian maiden and a 3,000-year-old royal mummy) struggle to keep their romance alive as forces conspire to drive them apart. If Sfar never lets seriousness of subject matter overwhelm his comedic instincts in books like Klezmer, he’s also too crusty to let the diverting fluff of The Professor’s Daughter prevent him from dosing the story with a thread of fatalism either. Guibert’s watercolors, which range from sweet and swirly to cheerfully antic, suit the script while providing just the right notes of counterpoint.

In other words, all of the pieces fit, but they do so in slightly unexpected ways. The Professor’s Daughter doesn’t offer the depth of pleasure of some of Sfar’s other works, but as imaginative trifles go, it’s tough to beat.

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Christian Slade’s Korgi (Top Shelf) reads a bit to me like a gorgeous, polished sketch book. Without words, Slade tracks the misadventures of a cute, woodland sprite and her full-on adorable canine companion, a helpful but excessively inquisitive young korgi named Sprout. Slade’s sketches are richly detailed and tremendously effective in conveying the simple story. If I were a kid, I’d probably immediately set about scripting it, and if I were a teacher, I’d be sorely tempted to turn it into a class project.

Since I’m neither, I occasionally found myself wishing that the tightly paneled illustrations had a little more room to breathe. There’s something about Slade’s style that makes me want to see it float in a bit of white space. Slade’s so adept at creating a lush fantasy landscape that I wanted more of a storybook presentation.

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Bisco Hatori’s Millennium Snow (Viz – Shojo Beat) is one of the more easygoing comics about mortality that you’re likely to find. Chronically, probably terminally ill Chiyuki is trying to make the most of whatever is left of her tenuous existence. She finds diversion aplenty when she meets moody vampire Toya, who’s averse to drinking blood and unwilling to select a human partner to provide sustenance for a thousand years.

There isn’t a whisper of predation in Hatori’s approach to vampirism, which lies squarely in the land of the parasitic-romantic, depending on how you view it. Toya doesn’t want to subject an innocent to centuries as a food source. Chiyuki, entirely aside from not wanting to die young, doesn’t want Toya to have to spend his long, long life alone and unfulfilled. She likes him and says so; he likes her and doesn’t. It’s not the most novel of conundrums, but Hatori’s sincerity and quirky charms as a storyteller sell it.

The dying young person as inspirational life force usually results in the worst kind of sickly sentimentality, but Hatori manages to pull even that old saw off. There’s no treacle to Chiyuki’s optimism, and she’s funny and brave enough to carry the weight of the story on her own. She’s a winning combination of pragmatism and romantic fantasies, setting the tone for an endearing story that strikes a nice balance of light and dark.

(Review based on a complimentary copy provided by Viz.)


Women cleaning refrigerators

May 11, 2007

This collectible… object almost leaves me speechless. It gives me horrible visions of an entire line of anatomically deformed girlfriends and wives of super-heroes cheerfully completing routine household tasks. Sue Richards washing the Fantasticar… Lois Lane mopping the Fortress of Solitude…

(Found via kadymae.)