November 30, 2009

This week’s Flipped is up. Just out of curiosity, is negatively reviewing a Tezuka comic a mortal sin or just a venal one? I’m guessing it’s mortal, but I also figure it probably doesn’t matter at this point in my distinguished career. I mean, I’d put Blankets and New Frontier on the list of the Best Books of the ’00s I Couldn’t Force Myself to Finish Reading, and I’ll never repent that, so I’ve probably got a one-way ticket straight to comics hell with my name on it.

As windy as this week’s column may seem, know that it’s the result of judicious editing on my part. I had this whole section mapped out about how, even though Swallowing has a lot of problems, you can see a lot of its ideas put to better use in Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, but then I realized that if one started writing about the ways Urasawa repurposes Tezuka (really, really well, I hasten to note), it would be a five-parter.

Quick requests

November 30, 2009

I know Friday is usually license request day, but when Matt Thorn stops by to list his five favorite manga of the current decade, you make an exception. Two are already being published in English and I’ve already made a plea for another, but that leaves two that sound amazing.

Wandering Son (Hourou musuko), by Takako Shimura, published by Enterbrain in Comic Beam: This one sounds very in the spirit of the Magnificent ‘49ers with its dramatic focus on gender identity and young love. According to Wikipedia, the series “depicts a young boy named Shūichi Nitori who wants to be a girl, and his friend Yoshino Takatsuki, a girl who wants to be a boy. The series deals with issues such as transsexuality, gender identity, and the beginning of puberty.” Comic Beam, as we all know, is a wellspring of terrific comics. Nine volumes have been produced so far.

With Or Without Me (Watashi ga itemo inakutemo), by Ryo Ikeumi, published by Shueisha in Margaret: Going by my awkward translations of the text on Amazon’s French site, this one’s about a young woman whose life changes forever when she runs into an old schoolmate, now a successful shôjo mangaka. From what I can discern, a very dramatic and complicated love triangle ensues over the three volumes of the series. It’s been published in French by Panini as Dites-moi que j’existe, which suggests a certain level of angst, you know?

In other Thorn-related news, the noted manga scholar examines the state of translation and… well… see for yourself.

Thanks in advance

November 27, 2009

If publishers would like to get a head start on making me thankful in 2010, here are five books that would go a really long way towards achieving that:

Fulfillment of any of my license requests would be appreciated, obviously, but these five are hovering at the top of my wish list at the moment.

Links to Great Manga Gift Guides

November 27, 2009

Lots of folks have posted their contributions to the Great Manga Gift Guide with varied approaches and a wide range of books. The easiest way to track them is to check the #gmgg hashtag over at Twitter, but I’ll post links here as often as post-Thanksgiving bloat permits. – Shojo – Shonen – Otaku – Gift Books

AICN Anime

All About Comics

animemiz’s sciribblings

A Radical Interpretation of the Text

Confessions of a Retconned Fangirl

Emily’s Random Shoujo Manga Page

Extremely Graphic

Extremely Graphic – The Adult Alternative



i ♥ manga


Joy Kim


Manga Bookshelf

Manga Maniac Cafe – Boys Love Edition

Manga Maniac Cafe – Fantasy Edition

Manga Maniac Cafe – For the Girls Edition

Manga Widget

Manga Worth Reading

Manga Xanadu


Otaku Ohana

Panel Patter

Poisoned Rationality

Precocious Curmudgeon

Sean Gaffney


The Manga Critic

yuri no boke

2009 Great Manga Gift Guide

November 26, 2009

With Black Friday just around the corner, you may be trying to think up gift ideas for greed season, and some people on your list may be open to receiving the gift of manga. Here are some possibilities for your consideration. I stress that friends don’t give friends comics unless that friend has expressed an interest in receiving them. If friends insist on doing that, they at least keep the receipt.

For the House fan in your life: Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack (Vertical). Decades before Hugh Laurie’s fictional physician was saving lives and alienating people, Tezuka’s outlaw surgeon was wrestling with bizarre maladies and guaranteeing that just about nobody liked him any better for it. You can pick up any volume of this series and not worry about being lost, since it’s all largely episodic. If you know someone with a taste for the medically gruesome and interpersonally abrasive, look no further.

For the foodie in your life: Oishinbo (Viz), written by Tetsu Kariya and illustrated by Hanasaki Akira. Aside from its microscopic attention to Japanese food and drink, this series lets you subdivide the recipient’s interests even further. Do they tipple? Try the Sake volume. Do they hold forth on buying locally and sustainably grown produce? There’s a volume for that. When you ask what they want for lunch, is their answer always “Sushi”? Do they blanch at the idea of a low-carbohydrate diet? Voila! As with Black Jack, there’s no real order to any of these volumes, so you can pick at random.

For the comic strip fan in your life: Kiyohiko Azuma’s Azumanga Daioh (Yen Press). I think I recommended this in a previous gift guide, but it’s still awesome, and Yen Press is coming out with a freshened translation and production in December, so I think I’m allowed to repeat myself. This massive tome collects Azuma’s very funny strips about a group of classmates making their way through high school, and it’s a great mix of the recognizable and the absurd.

For the autobiography buff/young artist/cultural historian in your life: Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life (Drawn & Quarterly). Tatsumi was one of the progenitors of gritty, grown-up comics in Japan, and the story of his evolution as an artist (and the associated evolution of comics publishing in Japan) is fascinating. For bonus points, Tatsumi opens a window on the economic and cultural evolution of postwar Japan as a whole.

For the fan of films in limited release in your life: Jiro Taniguchi’s A Distant Neighborhood (Fanfare/Ponent Mon). So you’re thinking of buying a graphic novel for someone you know who likes to read but isn’t entirely familiar with the whole “words and pictures” category. You know that Asterios Polyp is brilliant, but it’s so dense with visual reference that the recipient might not make it past the title page. Stitches is great, but it’s non-fiction and a big downer. But you’re determined. So why not try this beautifully drawn, undemanding tale of a middle-aged guy who gets the chance to relive his adolescence? It’s flipped, so there’s no barrier there, and the story should be very familiar from a number of similar examples. It’s smart but not too literary, it’s only two volumes long but still hefty enough to count as a decent gift, and the publisher deserves your money.

For the freak in your life: Junko Mizuno’s Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu (Last Gasp). Do you have a friend who’s forlornly waiting for the next installment of Prison Pit? Do you want to help them pass the time? Then really, anything by Mizuno qualifies for recommendation, but Pelu is her newest available-in-English work. I don’t know if this book is remotely appropriate for anyone not wholly conversant in alternative comics, but man, how could such people not love it? I certainly do. I think it’s my favorite comic of 2009.

For the Death Note fan in your life: Motoro Mase’s Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit (Viz). In her review of the series, Johanna Draper Carlson astutely noted the crossover potential between this series and the shônen mega-hit. Death Note has been over for a while, and many members of its audience may have reached the recommended age for this largely winning tale of government-sponsored murder. Try and keep it out of the hands of Glenn Beck fans, though, as they’ll turn it into a book of prophecy.

For the environmentalist in your life: Daisuke Igarashi’s Children of the Sea (Viz). Have you ever noticed how some pro-nature stories can be really preachy and shrill and have next to no attractive drawings in them? Do you know of someone who enjoys tales with this kind of message and want to support them in their interests, but you’re still scarred by Captain Planet and don’t know where to turn? Look no further than Igarashi’s gorgeous, seaside fable.

For the young fan of romantic fantasy in your life: Natsune Kawase’s The Lapis Lazuli Crown (CMX). If I had a teen-aged daughter (or son), I’d absolutely support them in just about whatever they chose to read. I’d probably voice my opinion about Black Bird, but I wouldn’t stop them from reading it. And my expression of that opinion might possibly spoil their fun in reading Black Bird, but I certainly couldn’t be held responsible for their overreaction to harmless, well-intended remarks that are entirely within my rights to state. And while they could spend their allowance on anything they wanted, they’d find this two-volume charmer in their stockings.

For the hardcore Japanophile in your life: Koji Kumeta’s Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei (Del Rey).This is one of the densest licensed comics from Japan you’re likely to find on a bookstore shelf. It’s packed with cultural references, scrupulously annotated in extensive end notes. It’s also very, very funny. I only get about a third of the jokes, and I still think it’s hilarious. Plus, I enjoy reading the annotations, so it’s really like getting two books in one. If you know someone who loves, loves, loves Japan and is still willing to giggle at its foibles, this is the gift for them.

Over at Okazu, Erica Friedman is tracking the various gift guides that will be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world over the next week or so.

The Shôjo-Sunjeong Alphabet: G

November 25, 2009

“G” is for…

What are some of your favorite shôjo and sunjeong titles that start with the letter “G”?

Pick five

November 24, 2009

Some people are surprised by the complete exclusion of comics from Japan from the A.V. Club’s list of the best comics of the ’00s. In the midst of all of the semantic discussion of when decades begin and end in the comments over at The Beat, the Club’s Noel Murray explains:

“There’s no manga largely because most of us only dabble in manga (at best), and if we even tried to acknowledge it we’d likely come off underinformed. (I did consider DRIFTING LIFE, though.)”

Moving on.

So for fun, why not pick five manga titles you think merit inclusion in such a list? Don’t overthink it. Just toss out the first five that pop into your head. I’ll start:

  • Sexy Voice and Robo by Iou Kuroda, Viz
  • MW by Osamu Tezuka, Vertical
  • Swan by Kyoko Ariyoshi, CMX
  • Antique Bakery by Fumi Yoshinaga, DMP
  • Planetes by Makoto Yukimura