In his “Know Your Publishers” segment, Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney describes Hakusensha as “the largest Japanese publisher that does not have a strong relationship with any one publisher over here, preferring to sell its shoujo (and occasional seinen) titles to whoever wants to license them the most.” This makes Hakusensha an extremely viable source of license requests, as does the fact that they publish really good shôjo in magazines like Hana to Yume (the source of series like Fruits Basket, Skip Beat!, and V.B. Rose) and LaLa (which gave us books like Jyu-Oh-Sei, Vampire Knight, and Venus in Love). (Hakusensha isn’t all shôjo; they’ve also given the world Detroit Metal City and Ôoku: The Inner Chambers.)
Recent conversations have alerted me to two titles from Hakusensha’s LaLa line that I’d love to see licensed, as they’re by creators who already have very appealing work available in English.
First up is Yoroshiku Master, written and illustrated by Sakura Tsukuba. Tsukuba is the creator of the very charming Land of the Blindfolded and the very funny Penguin Revolution, both from the LaLa line and published in English by CMX. Beyond Tsukuba’s credentials, Yoroshiku Master has the additional advantage of focusing on Japan’s endearingly fluid take on the Christmas holiday.
It’s about a young girl who is suddenly thrust into the role of Santa Claus, accompanied by a young boy who turns into a reindeer and calls the girl “Master.” It may be a little too soon after Snow-a-thon 2010 to start thinking about stories built around a winter holiday, but this series sounds too endearingly bizarre to wait. Plus, if someone starts working on the license now, perhaps we could have it in our hands by November when we’re in more of a mood for it. Click here to view some preview pages of the first volume.
Next is Faster than a Kiss, written and illustrated by Meca Tanaka. Tanaka, one of a tiny handful of male shôjo creators to be published in English, if not the only one to date, is responsible for Omukae Desu (another LaLa title from CMX) and Pearl Pink (a LaLa title from Tokyopop, just to mix it up a bit). I like the quirky sense of humor and low-key sentiment that Tanaka brings to his work.
Faster’s premise is a little worrying for those of us who have been burned before by “hot for teacher” subplots in our shôjo, but I’ve been reassured that Tanaka’s take isn’t icky in the slightest. The comic is about a pair of orphans who are shuttling from unwilling relative to unwilling relative. The sister contemplates dropping out of school to provide for her brother. When her teacher tries to dissuade her, she says she’ll stay in school if he marries her. She’s kidding, but he agrees, and the secret-relationship shenanigans commence. Click here to view some preview pages from the first volume.
Neither of these titles is likely to blaze new and innovative trails in the shôjo category, but both creators have a track record for charming work, and that’s good enough for me.