Upcoming 10/20/2010

October 19, 2010

Goodness, but it’s a dense ComicList this week!

Dark Horse continues to work its way through some of CLAMP’s most-loved back catalog. This week, it’s the first omnibus volume of Cardcaptor Sakura, originally published in English by Tokyopop and with an associated, legendarily butchered anime dub, if I remember correctly.

I liked the first volume of Chigusa Kawwai’s Alice the 101st (DMP) quite a bit. It’s about kids at a music school in Epcot Europe, and the second volume arrives Wednesday.

I’m also very fond of Konami Kanata’s Chi’s Sweet Home (Vertical), a slice-of-life tale about an orphaned kitten settling in with her new family. The third volume is due, and I’m working on a review of the series for later this week.

March Story (Viz), written by Hyung Min Kim and illustrated by Kyung-il Yang, is more interesting to me conceptually than it is for its individual merits. It originally ran in Shogakukan’s Sunday GX, and it’s by Korean creators, so that’s kind of unusual. Other than that, it’s very well-drawn but kind of average comeuppance theatre. It’s a big week for Viz’s Signature imprint with new volumes of 20th Century Boys, Kingyo Used Books, and Vagabond.

Yen Press is releasing a lot of product this week, but my clear favorite is the fourth volume of Svetlana Chmakova’s Nightschool, a complex, polished supernatural adventure about a school for mystical types.

What looks good to you?

From the stack: Grand Guignol Orchestra

October 18, 2010

“I like an anything goes approach,” Kaori Yuki assets in one of her creator’s notes in the first volume of Grand Guignol Orchestra (Viz.) This statement is about as close as Yuki comes to understatement anywhere in this paperback. And that’s fine.

Given that Grand Guignol Orchestra is a sort-of period piece about a group of musicians who fight zombies, one should only expect so much restraint, and given that it’s by Yuki, one would be lucky to find any restraint at all. It’s not one of her defining characteristics, and I can’t imagine that it would really be one of her strengths.

I say this as someone who hasn’t read a ton of Yuki’s work. I found the first couple of her Godchild to be visually impressive but so clumsily translated and adapted that I couldn’t bear to read any more. Camellia Neigh’s work on Grand Guignol Orchestra is much more fluid and lucid, though still tinged with that special brand of Yuki madness. Her stories will probably only ever be mostly lucid, I suspect, because she’s very invested in atmosphere and, as she confesses, “anything goes.”

There’s an undeniable charm in the idea of musicians being the only thing that can destroy zombies (zombies that look like dolls, no less). It’s sort of like Mars Attacks!, but much more sincere, and the music isn’t just a gag at the end. The orchestra itself is more of a combo, starting with three members and adding a fourth by the end of their first adventure. Membership seems limited to the androgynous and the thuggish, though only half the regular cast is properly developed in this first volume.

Yuki is fond of twists, and things are seldom entirely what they seem. She has mixed success with the reveals; sometimes they’ve got a creepy jolt, sometimes they’re just mildly confusing. But it’s nice to see some narrative punch mixed in with the faux-European aesthetic (which you cannot deny is lovingly, sometimes ravishingly rendered) and the sly-cool cast of characters.

As is usually the case with Yuki’s work (in my admittedly limited experience), the real successes come in the form of smartly conceptualized horror. In this case, it’s the guignols themselves, disease-stricken innocents who’ve become a kind of cracked-porcelain zombie. Yuki adds a layer of sweetness and powder to the decay, which always makes it more unsettling, at least in my opinion.

But while Yuki’s work always has its points of appeal, I’m never entirely sold. She strikes me as having the potential to become a more commercial Junko Mizuno if she could just strike that balance between creative focus and intellectual abandon and emotional shamelessness. Yuki seems to be always on the verge and never quite there, at least yet. But I do love to see a reliably popular creator in any comics category who also seems at least a little bit deranged.

(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher. Grand Guignol Orchestra was originally serialized in Hakusensha’s Bessatsu Hana to Yume.)

Random Saturday question: voluminous

October 16, 2010

It’s Saturday, and I’m unmotivated, but I feel like I should do one small, concrete thing. So welcome to the first installment of the random Saturday question!

Today, I ask you: of which manga series have you read the most volumes or the largest number of pages?

My answer is after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Watase branches out

October 15, 2010

Sometimes information comes your way that forces you to set aside your best-laid plans, you know? I had thought about doing a Friday piece rounding up feedback from last week’s call-out for Kodansha requests, but a comment from JennyN (or “the French Connection,” as I like to think of her) has put that on hold:

“Three volumes in French translation so far, and quite unlike anything else she’s ever done. For one thing it’s straight-out yaoi, and for another it has a historical rather than fantasy setting – Japan immediately after WWI i.e. the Taisho period which is also the setting for the “real-world” episodes of FUSHIGI YUGI LEGEND OF GEMBU. (I’d guess that this is something of a personal fascination for Watase, just as 19th-century Germany and Austria seem to be for Yuu Higuri).”

The “she” in this case is Yuu Watase, the wildly popular shôjo manga-ka who has also dabbled in shônen. But seriously, Watase is doing yaoi? Watase, who always seems to include some unnerving psycho-sexual undertones in even her fluffiest romantic comedies? Who wouldn’t at least be curious about that?

So what do we know about Sakura-Gari? Its three volumes were serialized in Shogakukan’s josei magazine, Rinka, and it’s being published in French by Tonkam. Here’s my attempt at a translation of the French volume descriptions. Volume one:

“Masataka Tagami goes up to the capital to succeed, he enters into the service of the Saiki family to finance his studies. While becoming the family’s majordomo, Masataka will plunge in the middle of the schemes of this strange family whose beautiful eldest son exerts an irresistible attraction on all those around him!”

Volume two:

“Since the incident of the library, Masakata is tortured and reluctant to leave the Saiki residence. But he learns that his brother is involved in debt to gangsters. He reluctantly accepts the bargain that Soma proposes to him: if Masakata remains near him and agrees to become his plaything, Soma will give him the money Masakata needs.”

Volume three:

“After the tragic events visited upon Masataka, Soma is gripped with remorse. He will do anything to avenge his friend and to try to make Masataka forget his painful past. Of course, the pile of bodies around the Saiki family sparking suspicions among the police force, but that matters little to Sora…”

Okay, so it sounds like fairly standard, coercion-friendly period smut, but it’s Watase doing full-on same-sex romance. Someone needs to get on this right away.

Chiming in

October 14, 2010

Melinda (Manga Bookshelf) Beasi comes up with a fun feature, “3 Things Thursday.” The inaugural focuses on a category near and dear to my heart, shôjo manga. Melinda asks for folks to contribute their three favorite current shôjo series and three of their all-time favorites. Easy as pie!

Here are my current favorites (as of this moment, mind you, and depending at least partly on what I’ve been reading lately):

Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You (Viz), written and illustrated by Karuho Shiina: very funny look at an outwardly ominous young woman coming out of her shell without sacrificing her individuality.

Natsume’s Book of Friends (Viz), written and illustrated by Yuki Midorikawa: really charming supernatural, episodic storytelling about a kid who sees demons and tries to help them.

V.B. Rose (Tokyopop), written and illustrated by Banri Hidaka: great character interaction and romance set in a high-end wedding-dress salon.

And now for the “classics.”

Fruits Basket (Tokyopop), written and illustrated by Natsuki Takaya: this was a best-seller for the simple reason that it was brilliantly written and really plumbed some serious emotional depths.

Imadoki! Nowadays (Viz), written and illustrated by Yuu Watase: a fun, frisky, fish-out-of water story that’s probably my favorite work by the prolific, uneven Watase.

Paradise Kiss (Tokyopop), written and illustrated by Ai Yazawa: it’s criminal that this tale of first love and high fashion is out of print. Criminal.

I can sing any note higher than you

October 13, 2010

I put this theory out on Twitter this morning, and I’ll mention it again here, because I enjoy writing about Glee for some reason. Anyway, it struck me as I was watching last night’s episode, “Duets,” that continuity on Glee is kind of like the DC universe just after “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” By that, I mean that it’s intermittent, sometimes functional, and dependent on who’s writing at any given moment.

“Duets” is one of the good-continuity Glee episodes, in that characters remember things that have happened and behave in ways that indicate they learned something from those experiences. That’s a good thing, because Glee is rarely more frustrating than when it ignores character continuity for a passing joke or punchy scene. But, as I’ve mentioned before, Ryan Murphy’s attention span is a fleeting thing. (The celebrity-centric episodes like “Britney/Brittany” are sort of like line-wide crossovers where every character [or comic] gets wedged into a storyline or tone that doesn’t necessarily make sense for them.) So we really should just enjoy the good bits of episodes like “Duets” and tolerate the rest.

Some more specific thoughts after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

Upcoming 10/13/2010

October 12, 2010

It’s not a wildly inspiring ComicList this week, so I’ll focus on one title that earned #mangamonday tweets from both Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey and Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney.

That would be Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game from Viz’s Shonen Sunday imprint. It’s about baseball, and there are few sports I find duller, but Kate assures me that she shares my view of America’s pastime and still found the comic to be a lot of fun. And it wouldn’t be the first time I enjoyed a manga in spite of not sharing any of the interests or obsessions of the characters.

Here’s what Viz has to say:

“The series centers around a boy named Ko, the family of four sisters who live down the street and the game of baseball. This poignant coming-of-age story will change your perception of what shonen manga can be.”

And speaking of Shonen Sunday, several other titles from that imprint are due to arrive in comic shops Wednesday. You can sample big chunks of all of them at Viz’s online anthology site.

Happy National Coming Out Day!

October 11, 2010

I love National Coming Out Day, because it gives me an excuse to run this panel from Fumi Yoshinaga’s Antique Bakery. (I rarely, if ever, actually feel the need to justify running a Yoshinaga panel, but it’s extra nice when it’s thematically appropriate.)

So, for those of you who are new or haven’t been paying attention, hi! I’m gay, in addition to being an obsessive nerd.

I have to say, I didn’t really need to begin National Coming Out Day by watching The Today Show’s Matt Lauer giving New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino the opportunity to talk about gay men in Speedos grinding on parade floats and how this brainwashes children by way of defending his unequivocally anti-gay statements to an orthodox religious group over the weekend, but I’m hoping it will motivate even the most disenchanted liberal and moderate voters to go to the polls and make a statement against the kind of bigoted crazies who seem to be gaining perfectly alarming amounts of momentum in the current election cycle as we simultaneously become aware of perfectly horrifying acts of anti-gay violence and young people being driven to suicide.

Updated: And by the way, the major disappointment of not attending this year’s New York Comic-Con and Anime Festival was missing out on the Gay for You? Yaoi and Yuri Manga for GBLTQ Readers panel. Fortunately, Erica (Okazu) Friedman has a round-up of the panel’s highlights and recommended titles.

Open thread: Kodansha requests

October 8, 2010

Count me among those who were disappointed that Kodansha canceled its panel at this year’s New York Comic-Con and Anime Festival. It offered a bit of hope that the publisher’s torturously slow U.S. rollout might pick up some momentum and that we might get some concrete indications of what would happen next.

I’ve devoted a number of these license requests to Kodansha titles. They’ve featured demon kids, magic girls, economists, Vikings, foodies, sommeliers, Borgias, supreme beings, salarywomen, eggplants, Tezuka, post-apocalyptic diners, and many other types and topics.

This Friday, I thought I’d open it up to your Kodansha wishes. What as-yet-unpublished titles would you like to see licensed? What previously published titles would you like to see rescued from out-of-print limbo?

The Seinen Alphabet: L

October 7, 2010

“L” is for…

Well, we have to start with Lone Wolf and Cub (Dark Horse), written by last week’s poster boy, Kazuo Koike, and illustrated by Goseki Kojima. It was one of the first manga series to be published in English, and it’s one of those series that many comics fans who don’t normally read manga might have read. It originally ran in Futubasha’s Weekly Manga Action and is 28 volumes long.

Koike collaborated with Kazuo Kamimura on Lady Snowblood (Dark Horse), a dark, sexy and violent revenge fantasy. The four-volume series originally ran in Shueisha’s Weekly Playboy.

Lots of people probably have some fond memories of Lupin III, written and illustrated by Monkey Punch and originally serialized in Weekly Manga Action. Tokyopop has published all 14 volumes of the series, and Cartoon Network used to broadcast episodes of the very likable anime adaptation of the capers.

I’m not sure how many people have fond memories of Lament of the Lamb, written and illustrated by Kei Toume. It’s a seven-volume vampire series that was originally serialized in Gentosha’s Comic Birz and was published in English by Tokyopop.

Sadly, Minoru Toyoda’s funny, sweet and quirky Love Roma is one of those series that may be in limbo thanks to the recent shifts between Del Rey and Kodansha. The five-volume series originally ran in Kodansha’s Afternoon.

Last Gasp publishes a lot of interesting prose and comics, some of them from Japan, and Junko Mizuno’s Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu was probably my favorite debut of 2009. The series originally ran in Enterbrain’s glorious Comic Beam. I would like the second volume now, please, thank you.

What starts with “L” in your seinen alphabet?