Upcoming 8/4/2010

August 3, 2010

We’ll take a focused look at Tokyopop’s contributions to this week’s ComicList, since they’re releasing new volumes of two of my favorite series.

First up is the ninth volume of V.B. Rose, written and illustrated by Banri Hidaka. It’s about a talented young woman who goes to work for a high-end bridal shop and enters into a tricky romance with the lead designer. I’m very taken with Hidaka’s illustrations, and I like the characters a lot. The book overall, with its appreciation of the transforming power of fashion, reminds me of a kinder, gentler Paradise Kiss, which was recently the subject of a Manga Moveable Feast. It’s not as deep or moody, but it’s got a lot of potent emotional content and some serious sparkle working in its favor. V.B. Rose originally ran in Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume. Hakusensha is a mighty font of shôjo joy.

Ai Morinaga’s funny, sneaky Your and My Secret just about catches up to Japanese release with its sixth volume, which is kind of strange, since this was a series that was originally licensed by ADV, then abandoned, then picked up by Tokyopop and put out at something of a trickle, and the creator took a break from the series for a while. Anyway, it’s about a timid boy and an obnoxious girl who trade bodies and find themselves surprisingly open to the new romantic possibilities. Morinaga has a twisted sense of humor, and I enjoy her comics (like My Heavenly Hockey Club from Del Rey) a lot. This series is running in Mag Garden’s Comic Blade line, which has generally escaped my scrutiny but looks like it runs some endearingly weird books.

It’s already out, but I always like to link to appreciative reviews of Mari Okazaki’s gorgeous Suppli, like this one by Johanna (Comics Worth Reading) Draper Carlson of the recent collection of the fourth and fifth volumes. If the josei category is under-appreciated in general, Suppli is massively and specifically under-appreciated. It was on hiatus for ages, and Tokyopop just resumed publication of this wonderful office-lady comedy-drama that originally ran in Shodensha’s Feel Young.

The Shôjo-Sunjeong Alphabet: Y

April 7, 2010

“Y” is for…

It’s technically shônen, but “Y” titles are thin on the ground, this one’s all about gender identity, and I love Ai Morinaga:

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

Derivations on a theme

March 4, 2010

Mayu Fujikata’s My Darling! Miss Bancho (CMX) immediately reminds me of other funny, well-done comics about a girl thrust into an all-boy milieu, titles like Ai Morinaga’s My Heavenly Hockey Club (Del Rey) and Bisco Hatori’s Ouran High School Host Club (Viz). When her parents get divorced, Souka transfers to a technical school so she can start working as soon as possible and help support her mother. The school is such a strife-ridden place that all of the other girls have transferred out, leaving Souka swimming alone in a sea of testosterone and goofy gang violence. Just as she starts adapting, circumstances push her into the role of the school’s bancho, leader of all of its warring forces.

Goofy as this sounds, Fujikata plays fair with the details of the plot. Souka isn’t aggressive, but she’ll stand up for herself and her friends, so her ascent in the school’s power structure is silly but not implausible. It doesn’t stretch suspension of belief to the breaking point any more than the general premise itself does. The characters are generally charming, from sweetly feisty Souka to her love interest, the formidable, strangely maternal Yuuji Katou. Fujikata gives her characters the right kind of quirks that allow them to interact in fresh, funny ways, and she comes up with sturdy, comedic scenarios to showcase them, just as Morinaga and Hatori do in their titles.

It’s a likeable, well-executed variation on a very common theme, and its clear-headed freshness keeps it from seeming derivative to the point of superfluous. Fujikata also gives good author’s notes in which she expresses pixilated amusement that her editor keeps letting her get away with this stuff.

Similarities to Yellow Tanabe’s splendid Kekkaishi (Viz) abound in Mika Kawamura’s Panic x Panic (Del Rey). Both follow the adventures of squabbling neighbor kids who also happen to be able to exorcise demons. One is reluctant and relies on intuition, and the other is more diligent and by-the-book. There’s a long-standing rivalry between their families, though you suspect they kind of like each other underneath the sniping. The key difference between the two books is that Tanabe’s Kekkaishi is really good and feels fresh, and Kawamura’s Panic x Panic isn’t and doesn’t.

I think it’s the relentless overlay of cuteness that Kawamura slathers on her pages. I’ve got no problem with cute in general, but there’s a certain kind of sugary adorability that I find completely resistible. Kawamura erects her very familiar framework with a style that’s (for me) too reminiscent of some of the work of Arina Tanemura – tons of bouncy hair, sheets of screen tone, hug-me-now character designs, and enough hair ribbon to fashion a sturdy noose. There’s never quite enough that’s interesting or specific to Panic x Panic to distract me from thoughts of other, better versions of the same story.

(These reviews are based on complimentary copies provided by the publisher.)

Upcoming 11/25/2009

November 24, 2009

Time for a look at this week’s ComicList:

CMX expands its line of endearing shôjo with the debut of Asuka Izumi’s The Lizard Prince. It’s about the complications that arise when a princess falls in love with a prince who occasionally turns into a lizard, and I really enjoyed the review copy that CMX sent. It’s one of those romantic series that’s more about sustaining a relationship in the face of obstacles than the advent of a romance. Strong-willed Princess Canary and softie Prince Sienna know they love each other; it’s just petty details like her reptile-averse mother, his mysterious background, and his not-entirely-controllable transformations that keep their happiness from being absolute. Part of the charm of the series is that Canary and Sienna really seem to enjoy tackling problems and working through them. Izumi’s art is very attractive, and she’s got a cheerful sense of humor that makes the stories breeze by.

This one’s been in bookstores for over a month, but if you confine your graphic novel purchases to specialty shops, this is the week you can pick up Masayuki Ishikawa’s Moyasimon (Del Rey). Country boys Tadayasu and Kei enroll in agricultural college in the big city, where weirdness awaits. Tadayasu can see and speak to bacteria (or at least hear their chirpy prattle), making him an object of particular interest to the professor and handful of fellow students who know of his ability. Hard science and low comedy combine as Tadayasu and Kei learn about the power of bacteria and their sometimes disastrous impact on the digestive system. The series gets off to a solid if not riotous start, and I’ll certainly stick around to see how it develops. [Update: Johanna Draper Carlson has a theory on why it took so long for this book to reach shelves, along with a review.]

Fanfare/Ponent Mon delivers two titles this week. There’s the second and final volume of Jiro Taniguchi’s A Distant Neighborhood, which I reviewed here. It’s very likable stuff, beautifully drawn by Taniguchi.

There’s also the English-language debut of Willy Linhout’s Years of the Elephant. It’s about the aftermath of a young man’s suicide and the devastating impact on his family. According to the publisher, “The book was initially intended as self therapy to help Linthout deal with the loss of his son however, the originally modest project unleashed a flood of reactions and therapists now use the book as a recognised aid for coping with grief.” I picked it up at SPX, and I will duly move it to the top of the pile of things to read.

Tokyopop makes me really happy by continuing its slow-but-appreciated roll-out of new volumes of Ai Morinaga’s Your and My Secret, in this case the fifth, a license originally held by ADV then left to limbo. It’s more mistaken-identity comedy about a horrible girl and a meek boy who switch bodies and alternately recoil at or revel in the consequences. For bonus points, this volume features a school trip to Hokkaido, one of my very favorite settings for manga and a place I hope to visit someday.

I’m intrigued by This Ugly Yet Beautiful World just based on its title. It’s a manga adaptation by Ashita Morimi of an apparently popular anime by Gainax/Konomini Project. It sounds like your standard “dweebs meet amnesiac space princess” fare, but it’s got a great title. (Seriously, does Japan have an agency that deals with amnesiac space princesses? They could use one.)

Previews review Sept. 2009

August 31, 2009

There’s a fair amount of interesting new stuff in the September 2009 edition of Diamond’s Previews catalog, along with a positively crippling number of new volumes of ongoing series that I simply must have. Let’s go in page order, shall we?

chobitsDark Horse continues its CLAMP collection project with the Chobits Omnibus Edition, a 720-page trade paperback priced at $24.95 (page 44).

It’s always unnerving when I read a quote from myself in something like this or on a book cover, because I sound even dorkier excerpted than I do in context, but I’m always happy to sing the praises of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Jousui Yamazaki (page 50). The tenth volume solicitation seems to hint at the participation of zombies, but you should all buy it anyway. It’s not like it’s vampires.

CMX should have put some kind of sad-face emoticon after “Final Volume!” in their solicitation for the tenth volume of Kaoru Mori’s Emma. It’s back to focusing on the leads for the big finish (page 123).

I really liked the first volume of Nina Matsumoto’s Yokaiden (Del Rey), so I’m glad to see the listing for the second installment (page 248).

Digital Manga Publishing busts out the old-school shôjo with the first volume of Kaoru Tada’s Itazura Na Kiss (page 251). As the heroine seems to be something of an academic underachiever, I’d put good money on there being a scene where she’s late for school and runs out the door with a piece of toast hanging out of her mouth. That is not a criticism.

yellowI’ve been meaning to read Makoto Tateno’s Yellow for ages, as it sometimes shows up on those lists of yaoi titles gay guys might like. DMP offers the first volume of an omnibus version of the series, just in time for the arrival of the first volume of Yellow 2 (page 253).

If I didn’t already own all of the single issues, I would probably buy The More Than Complete Action Philosophers trade paperback from Evil Twin, written by Fred Van Lente and illustrated by Ryan Dunlavey. Actually, I’ll probably buy it anyway, because those comics are great, and I’d love to have them all bundled up (page 257).

yourandmysecret5Oh, glorious day! Tokyopop finally releases the fifth volume of Ai Morinaga’s pointed and hilarious Your and My Secret. The body-switching, pansexual love quadrangle continues (page 292).

Vertical gets in on the act with the eighth volume of Osamu Tezuka’s addictive Black Jack (page 300). I want a “Pinoko’s Most Unnerving Moments” edition. Though honestly, that would be all of them.

childrenofthesea2Viz has been inching me towards financial ruin for ages now, but they really give it their best effort this time around. There are the second volumes of Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ôoku: The Inner Chambers and Daisuke Igarashi’s Children of the Sea, the third volume of Kiminori Wakasugi’s Detroit Metal City, and the sixth volume of Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, all on page 305.

Last, but certainly not least, Yen Press delivers the second volume of Yuji Iwahara’s Cat Paradise (page 310). For those of you who skipped the first installment, it’s about a school that lets you bring your cat. Charming as that sounds, many of the cats and their owners pursue extracurricular activities that involve fighting big, horrible demons. Fun stuff.

Upcoming 6/24/2009

June 23, 2009

Let’s take a quick spin through this week’s ComicList, shall we?

remakeI can’t remember if it was in Mad or Cracked or Crazy, but many years ago there was a great parody of Casper, the Friendly Ghost called “Casper Kaspar, the Dead Baby,” where Wendy convinces Casper to take revenge on the irresponsible parents who let him die. I swear this comic exists somewhere. It lingers with me because it was a punchy, successful attempt to insert some kind of logic into a beloved children’s property. (Updated: Tony Salvaggio points to the story from Crazy, which was written by Marv Wolfman and illustrated by Marie Severin, of all people. Thanks, Tony!) AdHouse sent me a copy of Remake by Lamar Abrams, which is a venture into roughly similar territory. Abrams applies certain realities to Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy, reimagining him as a powerful but otherwise average robot kid called Max Guy. Max is an average little boy in the vaguely unpleasant ways little boys can be average – easily bored, self-indulgent, prone to tantrums, and given to sadistic curiosity. It’s a nice conceit, and Abrams executes it with a notebook-in-study-hall style that suits it well. Unfortunately, I’ve never found average little boys to be very good company, even when I was one. Your mileage may vary.

Much more to my liking is the sly, sweet, smutty super-hero satire delivered by Adam Warren in his ongoing Empowered series, now in its fifth volume from Dark Horse. This time around, our heroine continues to face the disdain of her obnoxious heroic peers and some fractures in her relationship with best-friend Ninjette and boyfriend Thugboy.

I’m less likely to love but equally likely to buy the fifth volume of Hiroya Oku’s violent guilty pleasure, Gantz. I’m not proud.

Enthusiastic praise from folks like Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey has finally penetrated my thick skull and driven me to check out Taka Amano’s Kiichi and the Magic Books (CMX). Its fifth volume is due out tomorrow, and I have a couple of the earlier ones winging my way via standard delivery.

Del Rey has lots of manga on the way. My personal favorites are Ai Morinaga’s My Heavenly Hockey Club (now in its eighth volume) and Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi (which reaches volume seven).

hellcatUpdated: I almost never look at the Marvel section of the ComicList, so I missed the listing for the collection of the Patsy Walker: Hellcat mini-series, written by Kathryn Immonen and illustrated by David LaFuente Garcia. I liked the first issue and made a mental note to pick up the trade eventually, as the shop cut back on its orders after the first issue and there were never any shelf copies by the time I got there. Anyway, it looks to be a refreshingly fun take on one of my longtime favorite C-list characters. (Thanks to Tom Spurgeon for giving the list a more careful perusal than I did. And thanks to Marvel for passing on the hardcover collection of this series and going right to paperback.)

Upcoming 2/4/2009

February 3, 2009

Let’s take a quick look at this week’s ComicList, shall we?

The undisputed pick of the week is obviously the fifth volume of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series, Scott Pilgrim Versus the Universe. It just is. In this penultimate volume, “Scott’s band is in total turmoil, his own exes have all boarded the train to crazy town, and Ramona’s evil exes have started appearing in pairs!”

During last week’s trip to the comic shop, I found myself without much in the way of purchases, so I wandered around looking for something out of the ordinary (for me, at least). Having heard so many good things about Jeff Parker’s writing on super-hero comics, I decided it was safe to pick up the collection of his Agents of Atlas (Marvel) mini-series, and it was a lot of fun. (I’ll post a longer review in a couple of days.) This week, Marvel launches an ongoing series with the characters, also called Agents of Atlas, and while I’ll pass on the monthly version, I’d imagine that, next year at this time, I’ll probably pick up the first trade. These things work in cycles.

My manga pick of the week is the 14th volume of Hikaru No Go (Viz), written by Yumi Yotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. This series was included in the recent Great Graphic Novels for Teens list for any number of good reasons – engaging story, well-developed characters, and terrific art.

Viz also releases two promising-sounding titles in its Shojo Beat imprint. Having read complimentary copies provided by the publisher, I’m forced to conclude that one of them should be meaner and the other should be smuttier.

Aya Kanno’s Otomen is about a sturdy young man with a secret. Under his sports-champion façade, his heart that beats only for the feminine things in life. He cooks, he sews, he devours shôjo manga, but he feels the need to hide these hobbies and be more traditionally masculine. When he falls for a pretty classmate, his girlish inclinations stage an all-out assault. Complicating matters is a third party who may have designs on the girl and who knows his rival’s secret passions. It’s a smart premise, but the characters are bland, and the story begs for some of the nasty edge that a creator like Takako Shigematsu might bring to it.

How delightfully bizarre is the idea of a high-school massage club? Much more delightfully bizarre than the reality of Isumi Tsubaki’s The Magic Touch, unfortunately. Maybe I just have stereotypical western ideas, but shouldn’t there be a few dirty jokes in a comic about a roomful of high-school students giving each other rubdowns? Or at least a few jokes about the utter absence of dirty jokes? Alas, there are none. Worse still, the narrative is all over the place, like the publication schedule for the series rapidly outstripped Tsubaki’s plans for it. And while the art is competent for the most part, if one of your plot points hangs on identical twins, shouldn’t they resemble each other? Imagine if this series had been done by Ai Morinaga.

Upcoming and incoming for 1/28/2009

January 28, 2009

A few quick links before we get to new arrivals from this week’s ComicList:

  • Deb Aoki posts results from the 2008 Best New Shonen readers’ poll at About.Com.
  • Johanna Draper Carlson shares a preview of Mijeong (NBM), another book from Byun Byung-Jun, the gifted creator of Run, Bong-Gu, Run!
  • GLAAD appreciates people who like us, who really, really like us.
  • Now, onto the Wednesday haul.

    Del Rey has three books that catch my eye: the fifth volume of Hiro Mashima’s fun, lively Fairy Tail, the second of Miwa Ueda’s twisted-sister drama Papillion, and the sixth of Hitoshi Iwaaki’s enduringly awesome Parasyte.

    HarperCollins delivers a second printing of Paul Gravett’s excellent Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know. It’s a terrific overview of a medium that’s tricky to summarize. Gravett pulled off a similar trick with his essential Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics.

    In a similar vein, Netcomics offers Manhwa 100: The New Era for Illustrated Comics, promising a compilation that represents the Korean comic book industry.

    Tokyopop’s big offering for the week is Benjamin’s full-color manhua Orange. Brigid Alverson shared a preview at MangaBlog, and Paul Gravett recently posted an interview with the creator conducted by Rebeca Fernandez. The other highlight from Tokyopop is the fourth volume of Ai Morinaga’s Your and My Secret, gender-bending comedy at its very best.

    You thought you were done with voting for a while

    January 7, 2009

    Over at About.Com, Deb Aoki is running polls on 2008’s Best New Shonen Manga and Best New Shojo Manga series.

    In case you’re curious, I picked Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail (Del Rey) in the Shonen poll and Hinako Ashihara’s Sand Chronicles (Viz) in the Shojo run-off. Neither choice was particularly easy, as there are fun new series on both ballots. The Shojo pick was particularly tough, what with books like Ai Morinaga’s Your and My Secret and Kazune Kawahara’s High School Debut in the running.

    Upcoming 1/2/2009

    January 2, 2009

    A few items from this week’s ComicList:

    Most of the post-New Year’s love comes from Del Rey. There’s the second volume of Akira Hiramoto’s Me and the Devil Blues, an odd but successful blend of Faust and Behind the Music that extrapolates wildly on the murky biography of Robert Johnson. Then there’s the seventh volume of Ai Morinaga’s very funny My Heavenly Hockey Club, sports shôjo happily divorced of anything resembling athleticism or romance.

    But I feel like pointing a spotlight at the fourth volume of Ryotaro Iwanaga’s Pumpkin Scissors, because I think it’s a fine series that deserves a larger audience. It follows a quirky but good-hearted military group focused on relief and recovery, society’s and their own. The art is a little shaky and the script could be a bit more fluid, but the characters are great, particularly ass-kicking noblewoman Alice Malvin. She’s carrying the family’s military tradition in a thankless, never-ending job, and she’s doing it with a winning blend of idealism and pragmatism.

    I have a soft-spot for You Higuri, she of the tawdry, boys’-love flavored costume dramas, so I’m naturally inclined to give her new series, Crown (Go! Comi) a look. It looks like a contemporary take on her usual interests – slightly-too-close siblings and hunky bodyguards.