License request day: Hime-Chan’s Ribbon

October 30, 2009

I don’t necessarily apply this rule in my own life, but it’s often said that accessories make the outfit. And this credo is rarely as true elsewhere as it is in shôjo manga. Those little touches that can add polish and sparkle to an otherwise drab ensemble also sometimes contain tremendous (and potentially disastrous) power. So as many of us contemplate how we’ll dress up for Halloween, I’ll devote today’s license request to that versatile wardrobe enhancer, the ribbon.

hcrcover1I’m speaking specifically of Hime-chan’s Ribbon, a ten-volume series written and illustrated by Megumi Mizusawa for Shueisha’s Ribon magazine (appropriately enough). It stars teen-aged tomboy Himeko Nonohara, who aspires to be more ladylike. She accesses a shortcut to achieving this goal when she meets her counterpart from a parallel Magical Kingdom, Princess Erika.

hcrcoverold1The princess must prove her royal worth by creating a magical object, giving it to a human, and proving that the object is useful. Erika’s creation is a ribbon that allows Hime to transform into anyone she likes for an hour. There are rules and pitfalls to the transformation, as there must be if you’re heading down the path of wacky, supernatural comedy. There’s also a talking stuffed animal that’s got Hime’s back, and may I just say that talking stuffed animals almost always make things better.

hcrcover2This all sounds like fairly standard magic-girl fare, but all indications that it’s really well-executed standard magic-girl fare. This likelihood is boosted by the company Mizusawa keeps: she’s apparently close friends with the gifted Ai (Paradise Kiss, Nana) Yazawa and Wataru (the desperately-in-need-of-license-rescue Marmalade Boy, Ultra Maniac) Yoshizumi. If you can at least superficially judge people by the company they keep, Mizusawa is at least superficially awesome.

hcrcoverold2Supplementing the evidence in the title’s favor is the fact that it’s been adapted into a stage musical. I think that there should be some kind of gentleperson’s agreement that every comic book that gets adapted in this fashion must be licensed and translated for English-language release just because. The Hime-chan musical apparently featured pop-idol group SMAP. I admit that I find Japan’s idol-manufacture industry positively terrifying, even scarier than Disney’s, and SMAP does nothing to reassure me, but I’m asking for the comic, not the original cast album.

So in the spirit of lighthearted disguise that Halloween engenders, I submit Hime-chan’s Ribbon for publisher consideration. If someone starts now, we could have a couple of volumes in print by next Halloween. Shueisha has a sample chapter posted here, and it looks really, really cute.


Seconds

October 29, 2009

I thought I’d take a quick look at second volumes whose first installments I basically praised to the skies. Let’s see how they hold up, shall we?

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kiminitodoke2The second volume of Karuho Shiina’s Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You (Viz) is as good as the first but in a somewhat different way. I could have been perfectly happy to read several volumes that were nothing but Shiina’s sly comedy of overturned expectations, watching spooky sweetheart Sawako try and win friends and influence people. That undercurrent remains, but Shiina focuses mainly on two of Sawako’s early converts. Rumors are circulating that Yano is a tramp and Yoshida’s a juvenile delinquent, and fingers are pointed to Sawako as the source. Yano and Yoshida rightly spot the absurdity in the notion of Sawako as a malicious gossip, but questions arise all the same. And they’re interesting questions about the nature of the girls’ friendship, if friendship indeed it is.

I can’t lie. The volume basically consists of the reader waiting for goodness to triumph and our heroines to recognize the truth of what’s in their hearts, but it’s a good kind of waiting. It’s anticipation rather than impatience, and the payoff is lovely, endearing and funny. Kimi ni Todoke is a quirky comedy, certainly, but it’s got heart. This is one of the most enjoyable new shôjo titles of the year.

detroitmetalcity2The second volume of Kiminori Wakasugi’s Detroit Metal City (also Viz) is slightly more problematic, only because I had to factor out the revelatory experience of reading the first. Beyond being shockingly profane and subversively hilarious, there was the shock that someone actually licensed this thing. Add to that the shock that Viz – Viz! – licensed this wildly vulgar manga and translated it with apparent faithfulness, and that ups the ante even more. So a certain amount of letdown between the first and second installments seems inevitable.

But after factoring that out, and even though I missed the “I can’t believe I just read that” shocks from the first time around, it’s still very, very funny stuff. It’s still cruelly amusing to watch sweet, chic Soichi Negishi fail in all the things that actually matter to him and thrive in ways he finds repulsive. It’s like if Clark Kent hated Superman. Negishi’s death-metal alter ego Lord Krauser continues his ascent (descent?) into shock-rock stardom as Negishi’s dreams of Swedish pop stardom recede further and further. Add take-downs of rap, punk, and magical-realist independent film, and I’m a very happy reader. Nothing will ever match the first time, but that’s no reason to stop.

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The Shôjo-Sunjeong Alphabet: C

October 28, 2009

“C” is for…

canon1

cantarella1

cardcaptorsakura1

ceres1

clovercover

crimsonhero1

crown1

I have to say that “C” is a pretty impressive letter. Lots of variety here. What are some of your favorite shôjo and sunjeong titles that start with the letter “C”?


Upcoming 10/28/2009

October 27, 2009

I’m not crazy about Diamond’s “and the rest” listing format, but the usual sources are being a little wonky, so let’s pop over to its roster of the week’s releases.

redsnowDrawn & Quarterly returns to the gekiga well for Susumu Katsumata’s Red Snow, a collection of short stories set in “the pre-modern Japanese countryside of the author’s youth, a slightly magical world where ancestral traditions hold sway over a people in the full vigor of life, struggling to survive the harsh seasons and the difficult life of manual laborers and farmers.” The setting alone is enough to intrigue me, as is the fact that Red Snow sounds like it explores gekiga’s softer side. The stories were originally published in the late but legendary Garo, published from 1964 to 2002.

It was published in French as Neige Rouge in 2008 by Editions Cornélius, whose web site is adorable but virtually impossible to navigate if you want to do anything so prosaic as find information about their books, so I’ll simply point you to the Amazon.Fr listing for the title. I was hoping to find some sample pages, but none seem to be available. It doesn’t even seem to have been pirated yet, but please don’t feel compelled to disabuse me of that happy notion.

marveldivas4In an entirely different category altogether, Marvel releases the fourth and final issues of its Marvel Divas mini-series, which I’ve enjoyed. Here’s the summary: Firestar’s got cancer, the Black Cat can’t get a start-up loan, Photon is being wooed by a booty call who won’t take the hint, and Hellcat is chronicling it all for her next book when not fending off unwelcome visits from her ex-husband, the Son of Satan. The series isn’t everything it could be, but it takes its cast more seriously than they might have reasonably expected, and the chances of any last-act evisceration seem promisingly slim.

aria5And in a belated but welcome development, Tokyopop releases the fifth volume of Kozue Amano’s elegant fantasy travelogue, Aria. (They published the fourth volume last December.) So either rail at the delay or revel in the return, your choice. I’m inclined toward cautious revelry, just because it seems like another small sign of Tokyopop’s stabilization after a very, very bad year or so.

Update: In the comments, Travis McGee notes that one can find the catalog of Editions Cornélius “by clicking on the pig in the doghouse in the bottom right corner.”


Boo

October 26, 2009

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You have to love a candy-driven holiday, so this week’s Flipped has a Halloween theme. In short, I turned to a bunch of smart people to find out what their favorite scary and/or supernatural manga are. Not to give too much away, but you know what really scares people?

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I am so with them. What are your favorite frightening series? And what series do you find frightening that probably weren’t intended to give you the chills?


Birthday book: Tekkoninkreet

October 25, 2009

tekkonkinkreetThe Comics Reporter notes that it’s Taiyo Matsumoto’s birthday. Matsumoto’s GoGo Monster won’t be available for a couple of weeks, and it’s certainly on my must-buy list, but I can happily recommend his Tekkonkinkreet: Black and White to tide you over. It’s a gorgeous, absorbing book that I like even more now than I did when I first reviewed it. (The animated movie is a snooze, to be honest, but the book is a joy.) The manga won the 2008 Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Japan over some very stiff competition, and it’s a legitimate win. I’d have been equally happy if Osamu Tezuka’s MW or Fumiyo Kouno’s Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms had taken the price, but I think that just illustrates how good Tekkonkinkreet is that it can sit comfortably in company with those excellent, excellent comics.


Another IKKI update

October 24, 2009

whatstheanswer

Viz has added another series to its SIGIKKI site: Tondabayashi’s What’s the Answer? It’s short, bizarre, and (so far) very funny, so you should go take a look. It reminds me a bit of Usumaru Furuya’s Palepoli cartoons.

Deb Aoki was tweeting some updates on which titles are on Viz’s publishing schedule. Many of them seem to be due for print versions, which is good to hear. I’m also really glad that Viz has added a number of other Natsume Ono titles to its Signature line-up (Gente, not simple, Ristorante Paradiso), because House of Five Leaves has left me with ridiculously high expectations of her work. Seriously, it’s totally unfair that I’m expecting her to be the second coming of Fumi Yoshinaga, but it’s nice to be excited.

And now, a quick poll:


License request day: Doraemon

October 23, 2009

(I’m always happy to hand over the license request reins to an enthusiastic guest, so this week we’ll hand the proceedings over to Ed Sizemore, manga reviewer for Comics Worth Reading. Ed casts his gaze upon “Fujiko F. Fujio’s” much-loved robotic feline.)

By Ed Sizemore

DoraemonCoverFor this week’s License Request Day, our revered Curmudgeon has been generous enough (and saintly in patience) to let me discuss one of my biggest wishes, Doraemon. Spend enough time around manga or anime and you find numerous references to this robot cat from the future. Like Peanuts, Doraemon has become part of the air of Japan and all the main characters have been iconic symbols in their own right.

The original manga ran from 1969 until 1996 and has 45 collected volumes. The first Doraemon anime ran briefly in 1973. The second Doraemon anime series first went on air in 1979 and is still running today. In fact, the five main characters had the same voice actors for 25 years. They retired as a group in 2005, when the anime changed production companies.

The setup is pretty basic. Nobita Nobi is a good-for-nothing, lay about. One of his great-great-grandsons, Sewashi, travels back in time to give Nobita Doraemon. Turns out Nobita grows up to be an extremely irresponsible adult, piling up enough debt that his great-grandchildren are still trying to pay it back. Sewashi hopes Doraemon will help Nobita avoid such a mistake. I have to give credit to the creators, they do quickly address the classic time travel paradox this might cause, even if the solution isn’t very convincing. Here are some pages from the first Doraemon story.

DoraemonScan1

The manga is very episodic and formulaic. Doraemon’s greatest ability is him being able to pull an endless array of gadgets from the pouch on his stomach. It’s called a fourth dimension pouch and it appears to be limitless inside. Nobita has either gotten in some trouble or is trying to avoid some chore. He requests Doraemon manifest a gadget that gets him out of his current predicament without any effort on his part. Of course, Nobita begins to use the device beyond its intended design and this creates new problems. Below are two pages showing the typical results of Nobita’s adventures.

The stories I’ve read are very universal in nature and I can’t imagine American children having any difficulties comprehending and enjoying them. Nobita deals with bullies, homework, school trips, household chores, etc. So I’ve never understood why this series still is unlicensed. Won’t someone please think of the children and bring Doraemon to the US? We want to love that dorayaki scarfing robot cat too.

Kodansha has released 11 volumes of the manga in a bilingual format. You can buy them either from jbox.com or Kinokuniya bookstores as import books, but they’re a little pricey for kids books. You get about 150 pages for $12.50. I’d like to see the series offered at the same price point as most kids manga, which is about 200 pages for $7.99.

Wikipedia has an excellent Doraemon webpage with tons of detailed information on both the manga and anime series.

Thanks to David for letting me share this amazing series with you.

(And thanks to Ed for making this eloquent pitch. Would you like to sing the praises of an as-yet-unlicensed comic? Contact me, and we’ll see what we can work out.)


Recent reading

October 22, 2009

Interesting things I’ve read lately:

A roundtable on digital piracy of comics featuring representatives of Fantagraphics, Dark Horse and Top Shelf: It kind of surprises me that Aaron Colter from Dark Horse never mentions the impact of piracy on the publisher’s licensed products, though it doesn’t surprise me that Fantagraphics experiences more piracy in its Eros line, a lot of which is translated product from Japan. I sometimes suspect that respect for a creator’s rights doesn’t always extend beyond one’s continent of residence, or it at least loses some of its ideological vigor.

Musings on the National Book Award categorization of David Small’s Stitches over at NPR’s Monkey See blog: This is a curious turn of events. I admire the book a lot, but I don’t think the hubbub over its nomination does it any favors, though it obviously doesn’t diminish Small’s achievement. As Tom Spurgeon has said so often, book publishing is gross. (And I also wanted to note that the Monkey See blog is generally a lively, entertaining read. I’ve been enjoying its comics content, though I hope Glen Weldon writes about manga at some point.)

The Robot 6 coverage of the Big Apple-New York Comic-Con situation by Sean Collins: The actual outcome of this is really only interesting to me in the abstract, because I’m unlikely to attend either event, much less both, but Collins approaches the subject with wry thoroughness.

A story at Publishers Weekly that provides some clarification on those Federal Trade Commission guidelines for blogger disclosure: Well, “clarification” is probably as optimistic a term as “guidelines,” but the story makes the guidelines seem less draconian. Or at least it presents the comforting notion that the FTC has no idea how to enforce the guidelines, if and when they figure out what those guidelines actually are.


Birthday book: Shirtlifter

October 21, 2009

shirtlifterYou know, this has been kind of a bishie-heavy day. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a balanced diet never hurt anyone. Fortunately, a birthday notice at The Comics Reporter gives me the excuse to point you toward an artist who renders menfolk with actual secondary sex characteristics beyond the vague suggestion of an Adam’s apple.

The creator in question would be Steve MacIsaac, who writes and draws about men who definitively left puberty behind ages ago and never looked back. In the twink-heavy world that guy-on-guy comics can be, this is a welcome addition to the eye-candy landscape. At least I find it welcome, I can’t speak for everyone.

So if you like this sort of thing (i.e., grown-up gay men doing what grown-up gay men do), I’d recommend as a starting point MacIsaac’s Shirtlifter, the first issue of which “concerns an expatriate gay couple stationed in Japan and the strain this cross-cultural adjustment place on their relationship.”