The Shôjo-Sunjeong Alphabet: S

February 24, 2010

“S” is for…

Plus a little josei:

And some deeply awesome yaoi:

And a “why isn’t this in print” addendum:

What are some of your favorite shôjo and sunjeong titles that start with the letter “S”? Do I even dare to ask?

Future feasts

February 24, 2010

Matt (Rocket Bomber) Blind announces the second Manga Moveable Feast, this time focusing on Kaoru Mori’s lovely costume drama Emma (CMX).

Professor Blind is also seeking suggestions for the subject of the third Manga Moveable Feast. Suggestions seem to be running in a science-fiction/fantasy direction, which would be a nice change of pace.

Upcoming 2/24/2010

February 23, 2010

It’s kind of a dead week for manga in terms of new arrivals at comic shops, so what better way to spend it than by focusing on a book that deals with dead bodies? Conveniently enough, the highlight of this week’s arrivals is the 10th volume of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Dark Horse), written by Eiji (MPD-Psycho) Otsuka and illustrated by Housui (Mail) Yamazaki. In another bit of fortuitous timing, Johanna (Manga Worth Reading) Draper Carlson has just added this series to her roster of Recommended Series:

“The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, it was well-recommended, but I wasn’t sure it was for me, given that it was classified as horror and the premise involved lovingly depicted dead bodies. I’m glad I went ahead and tried it, because I very much enjoyed it. It reminded me of Pushing Daisies, if that show was more laconic and Japanese.”

Kristen Chenoweth could totally play Makino, the embalmer. And musical numbers are just about the only thing that could actually improve this title, though I think musical numbers improve just about everything.
Johanna points to this entry from Shaenon K. Garrity’s Overlooked Manga Festival. Tremble before the force of her persuasive writing:

“Anyway, Kurosagi is a horror comic, in kind of the same way ‘Scream’ was a horror movie, or ‘Buffy’ was a horror TV show. That is, it’s smart and self-aware and full of pop-cult references and weird little factoids. Writer Eiji Otsuka likes to show off just how damn clever he is by mixing two offbeat elements no other manga writer would think of into a single story. A story about crop circles and mummified chimpanzees. Professional mourners and a serial killer who targets depressing blogs. The urban legend about the bride kidnapped from a dressing room and turned into a circus freak and the Japanese version of the ‘Bodyworlds’ corpse-art exhibition. The Rape of Nanking and soap people. And so on.”

What, you need more persuasion? Or maybe you’re worried about not being able to find the volumes in order? Let Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey put your mind at ease:

“A final tip: you don’t need to read the volumes in order — or even all of them, for that matter — to enjoy The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, though I highly recommend all nine volumes.”

That about covers it, don’t you think?

Awards update

February 22, 2010

2009 is only over on our calendars, not in our hearts. At least that’s true until awards season is over, and that won’t wrap up until the Eisners this summer. Here are two nomination announcements:

First up are the nominations for the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, which includes a first-ever graphic novel category:

  • Gilbert Hernandez, Luba (A Love and Rockets Book) (Fantagraphics Books)
  • Taiyo Matsumoto, GoGo Monster (VIZ Media)
  • David Mazzucchelli, Asterios Polyp (Pantheon)
  • Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe (Oni Press)
  • Joe Sacco, Footnotes in Gaza (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Co., LLC)
  • That’s a good launch list. The Times is understandably pleased with itself:

    “With the Graphic Novel Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes becomes the first major book prize in the United States to honor publications in this category, which is an expanding part of the book landscape, both aesthetically and commercially.”

    On the other side of the planet, Japan Expo announces its 2010 nominees for manga (via The Comics Reporter).

    Of all my reactions to that list, I’m most distracted by the bitter reminder that France has Vinland Saga and we don’t.

    Letter head

    February 22, 2010

    I can’t really say that I’m a huge fan of Yun Kouga’s comics. Earthian (Blu) was one of the comics that cemented my opinion that love stories between angels are relentlessly dull, and Loveless (Tokyopop) struck me as too melodramatic and confusing. I do find her art lovely in an odd way, so I keep trying.

    I might have liked Crown of Love (Viz), a tale of romantically entangled pop idols, but there’s an obstacle. The font choices don’t make any sense to me.

    As you can see in the image above, all of the dialogue is printed in upper-case italics. Internal monologues and asides use sentence-case italics. There’s no distinction between present-moment font choices and flashback font choices, so it can be a little confusing to determine when the story shifts to explore past events.

    So my biggest issue with Crown of Love is with the way the words are presented. In my experience, upper-case italics are the font of meaningful flashbacks. Italicized text seems best applied to either shouting or internal musings as opposed to run-of-the-mill dialogue. So the consistent use of upper-case italics puts too much import on moments that should read as breezy and conversational. For contrast, here’s a page from the third volume of Ken Saito’s The Name of the Flower (CMX) that I think uses varied lettering extremely well:

    Gradations of emotion seem important in Crown of Love, as the story shifts from classroom banter to industry scheming to intense and sudden feelings of romance. But the lettering bleeds the dialogue of visual nuance. It renders it in monotone. You can read it into the dialogue, but, frankly, there’s not that much nuance to be mined, and it seems like an awful lot of work to invest in a fairly slight outing.

    There is promise here. Kouga’s illustrations are as attractive as always, and they’re cleaner and clearer than I remember them being in other titles. I like the agent character, Ikeshiba, who uses his charges’ intense emotions to get his way and move them forward in their careers. He’s so forthright in his manipulation, which is refreshing in contrast to the scheming, capricious old pervs agents often are in idol stories. And Kumi, the boy Ikeshiba is trying to sign by dangling a female starlet in front of him, has a domestic situation that’s grippingly unpleasant.

    But the sameness of the lettering, its artificial, often misplaced urgency, flattens so many of the little peaks and valleys that could have been more meaningful. Dave (Comics-and-More) Ferraro notes that “Equal weight is put on everything as the book progresses,” though he doesn’t specifically mention the lettering. So it’s entirely possible that I’m the only person who has this problem, which suggests that I’m nitpicking. Here are a couple of links to reviews by other people:

  • Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey
  • Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney
  • There’s always the possibility that my deeply ingrained association of italicized all-caps comes from another source:

    Birthday book: Lost at Sea

    February 21, 2010

    It’s Bryan Lee O’Malley’s birthday. I can always happily recommend his Scott Pilgrim books, which Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey puts in the number one slot of her list of ten great global manga. (That’s a great list, by the way. I can’t think of a thing I’d add.) But chances are good you’ve already read all of the Scott Pilgrim books at least once.

    Fortunately, there’s a pre-Pilgrim book I can recommend without reservation, Lost at Sea (Oni). Here’s the publisher’s description:

    “Raleigh doesn’t have a soul. A cat stole it – or at least that’s what she tells people – or at least that’s what she would tell people if she told people anything. But that would mean talking to people, and the mere thought of social interaction is terrifying. How did such a shy teenage girl end up in a car with three of her hooligan classmates on a cross-country road trip? Being forced to interact with kids her own age is a new and alarming proposition for Raleigh, but maybe it’s just what she needs – or maybe it can help her find what she needs – or maybe it can help her to realize that what she needs has been with her all along.”

    And here’s a bit from my review of the book:

    “It’s a fairly universal state of mind, but O’Malley portrays it [in] articulate, sensitive ways that are entirely specific to his protagonist. He gives Raleigh a barbed, revealing stream-of-consciousness narration that never becomes tiresome. It’s not some dreary poetry journal; it’s the often jumbled thinking of a smart young woman who doesn’t know if she’s actually in crisis or is really just like everyone else, or which of those states would be less comforting.”

    If you haven’t read Lost at Sea, celebrate O’Malley’s birthday by picking up a copy. I think you’ll really enjoy it.

    License request day: Mint na Bokura

    February 19, 2010

    After a few weeks of relentless gray skies, I feel the need to ask for something sunny and sparkly this week. In my experience, Wataru Yoshizumi is a reliable purveyor of sunny and sparkly. She’s had two series published in English: Marmalade Boy (Tokyopop), which is out of print, and Ultra Maniac (Viz), which is adorable in a really good way. It seems fairly safe to assume that her other unlicensed work might help lift the serotonin levels of snowbound shôjo fans.

    So let’s take a look at the six-volume Mint na Bokura, originally serialized in Shueisha’s Ribon anthology. It’s got inappropriate sibling closeness, boarding-school antics, and cross-dressing, and none of the covers seem to suggest domestic abuse, so I think it sounds like a winner.

    It’s been published in French by Glénat, which describes the plot thusly:

    “Twins Maria and Noeru have always been very close. When Maria decides to enter to the Morinomiya School to get a closer look at the beautiful eyes of the coach of its tennis club, Noeru, who refuses to be apart from his sister, decides to enroll in the same establishment. Unfortunately, there aren’t any more places for boys. He decides to pass as a girl!

    “But school life isn’t easy when one must constantly play the fool! Especially when Noeru quickly falls in love with Miyu, a classmate, then is courted by another pupil… Wataru Yoshizumi concocts a deliciously funny story, with the talent and the sensitivity which has already made her famous throughout the world.”

    You know, I don’t think Yoshizumi is famous enough. If she was really as famous as she should be, Marmalade Boy wouldn’t be out of print. Perhaps a step towards that would be getting Marmalade Boy back in print. If only the Japanese publisher of the series co-owned a major stateside manga publisher with a big shôjo imprint. Oh, wait… they do.

    Surely a gender-bending twin comedy set in a boarding school could also help push Yoshizumi to the next tier of creator fame. Here are some preview pages from the first volume of Mint na Bokura at Shueisha’s site.