Secret secrets

March 15, 2008

There are plenty of reasons to be happy that Tokyopop has rescued Ai Morinaga’s Your and My Secret from the licensing limbo to which it was consigned after ADV published a single volume in 2004. Among them is a glorious new opportunity to nitpick. I can’t read Japanese, so I can’t comment on the quality of a translation, but now I can look at two English versions of the same script side by side and be a great big nerd about it.

On the whole, I marginally prefer Tokyopop’s version, translated by Yuya Otake and adapted by Jay Antani, edited by Paul Morrissey with assistance from Jessica Chavez and Shannon Watters. (ADV’s was translated by Kay Bertrand with supervision by Javier Lopez. I can’t really pick out any specific credits for editing and adaptation.) Both are solid, but Tokyopop’s script seems slightly more conversational; it flows just a little bit better.

Tokyopop’s reproduction of the art is cleaner on the whole, and I think the lighter paper helps as well. Tokyopop’s lettering is a bit easier on the eyes, though ADV’s use of varied type weights does a better job of communicating the emotional content of scenes. On the flip side, I prefer the simplicity of ADV’s cover and logo design. ADV also gets points for providing translation notes.

There are a couple of pages in particular where it’s really fascinating to look at them side by side and compare choices, tone, and other elements. ADV fairly consistently translates sound effects and keeps the kanji in place with a few exceptions. One example in particular helps to communicate a sight gag, and it looks like it would have been impossible to leave both kanji and English in place and still be able to read it. Tokyopop’s approach is inconsistent. Sometimes, they leave kanji untranslated, and thy replace it entirely with English at others. I appreciate the added nuance of ADV’s amendments, but I like the less cluttered visuals of the Tokyopop pages.

The sequence contains a fairly major plot development that communicates a lot about the characters, and it’s such a funny reversal that I’m reluctant to spoil it. But at some point, after my scanning skills improve, I’ll definitely try and post scans of both sets of pages, because I’m a big nerd and think it’s really interesting.

(As an aside, it would be great if publishers supplemental translation materials on cultural references and alternate readings on the web. If they don’t feel like popping for the extra pages in a print version, and many don’t, it would be a nice extra feature and would drive more traffic to their web sites.)

(As another aside, hey, who’s publishing Morinaga’s The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry Chan?)

The year in fun (2007)

January 1, 2008

From a fun comics standpoint, 2007 was absolutely awesome. You know how I know? I had a hard time keeping the list below to 26 items. Okay, it’s an arbitrary number, and I could have just listed everything, but I thought I would make a stab at some pretense of discernment.

I’m not saying these are the best comics of 2007, though I’d put several in that category. I’m never entirely comfortable with that label, because I haven’t read everything and worry that my tastes are too narrow to make a reasonable stab at such a project anyways. But I have no trouble telling which comics I had a lot of fun reading, so here they are.

(Doesn’t the jump create a breathtaking level of suspense? Well, doesn’t it?)

(Updated because I can’t keep my years straight.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Previews review Dec. 2007

December 7, 2007

It’s time again for a quick tour through the latest Previews catalog.

In Andi Watson’s Princess at Midnight (page 140), a sheltered, home-schooled girl becomes a capricious, adorable despot when the lights go out. The story was one of the highlights of the first Mammoth Book of Best New Manga, and now Image is publishing a stand-alone version. I’m half-heartedly debating whether ten new pages merit buying it again, but I think I will for two reasons. One, if sales are strong, Watson might be more inclined to do a follow-up, and two, it seems like a reasonable enough way to thank Image for publishing Glister. (I’d thank them even more wholeheartedly if I could ever find anything on their website.)

I try and resist mentioning new volumes of ongoing series when I do these things, but when the series is as good as Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&! (volume six on page 191, ADV), I weaken.

The same flexible ethics apply to Fuyumi Soryo’s ES (volume 8 on page 250, Del Rey). This is great, character-driven science fiction. (Does anyone know if this is the last volume in the series?)

Sometimes a premise sounds so delightfully idiotic and tacky that I’m unable to resist. That’s the case with Kei Azumaya’s All Nippon Airline (Juné, page 265):

“ANAL – All Nippon Air Lines – is a unique airline company. All of its employees are beautiful gay men. On top of that, relationships between employees, or even between passengers and employees, are highly encouraged!”

I’m not proud.

It’s been running in Shojo Beat, and now the first collection of Chica Umino’s sweet, hilarious Honey and Clover (Viz, page 357) will be available for people who pass on the magazine.

The premise sounds really familiar (Wild Adapter Junior, maybe), but the full-page ad for Saki Otoh and Nakamura Tomomi’s Switch (Viz, page 359) is really eye-catching and clever.

Okay, and since I’m indulging in mentions for ongoing series, I’ll note that the second volume of Keiko Tobe’s With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child (Yen Press, page 363) is due. It’s a really admirable series, executed well, and it’s unlike pretty much anything else in the manga category, though I wish it weren’t.

Upcoming 11/7/2007

November 6, 2007

It’s nice when there’s a clear and present Pick of the Week to be found on the shipping list. This time around, it’s the Azumanga Daioh Omnibus from ADV. (I know!) It’s like ADV is trying to balance its karma by keeping a steady stream of Kiyohiko Azuma manga. And it’s working. Anyway, much as I love Azuma’s Yotsuba&! (also from ADV… see? See?), I’ve yet to sample this gag-strip series. It’s like I was waiting for just the right opportunity.

There was a lot to like in the first Mammoth Book of Best New Manga (Carroll & Graf), and I’m sure I’ll find the same to be true the second volume. Even though it doesn’t seem to have a new chapter of Andi Watson’s “Princess at Midnight.” Which is just wrong. Though I did pick up Glister in Vegas, and that should prove an adequate substitute when I get around to reading it.

On the “new volumes of ongoing series” front, we have Eden: It’s an Endless World! Vol. 9 from Dark Horse, Kindaichi Case Files Vol. 16 from Tokyopop, and Gin Tama Vol. 3 from Viz. Goodness aplenty, and I’m particularly pleased with the preview blurb for Eden, which doesn’t even mention drug kingpins or crack whores.

In other news, Maintenance (Oni Press) takes on Starbucks. That should be fun.

Upcoming 10/10

October 10, 2007

Just because Jason Thompson’s Manga: The Complete Guide (Del Rey) is clearly the must-buy item on this week’s ComicList doesn’t mean it’s the only item worth mentioning.

If it weren’t for the Guide, the pick of the week might be the fifth volume of Kiyohiko Azuma’s absolutely delightful Yotsuba&! (ADV). Cardboard robot battles! A trip to the beach! Grapes! What more do you need?

Yes, they hunger for brains, but how do zombies really feel? Someone must have already asked this, but nothing comes to mind. This archly emo look at undead eaters of human flesh comes in the form of J. Marc Schmidt’s Eating Steve from Slave Labor Graphics. I’ve heard good things about Schmidt’s Egg Story, and the Eating Steve preview has some nice bits in it.)

I’m curious about CMX’s new wave of titles aimed at mature readers, particularly Kanako Inuki’s Presents. The excerpt that ran in a CMX sampler over the summer wasn’t too inspiring, but John Jakala’s review convinces me that it’s definitely worth a look. (But I really love “comeuppance theater.” “Tonight on ‘When Bad Things Happen to People Who Totally Deserve Them…”)

Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings (Drawn & Quarterly) has gotten great reviews all over the place, so I’m sure I’ll take a look at it at some point. I’m guessing it will be all over chain bookstores, and the right convergence of opportunity and discount will arise somewhere down the line.

How have I managed to go this long without reading Lat’s Kampung Boy (First Second), even in the face of universal critical acclaim? And now the follow-up, Town Boy, is due. Must… catch… up! (Not with the help of Amazon, though. They have one of those “buy both” offers that actually allows you to pay about 75 cents more for the two titles than you would if you just added them to your cart individually, which leads me to believe that the buy-two pricing hasn’t caught up with the individual costs.)

Beyond lots of Fruits Basket product (which I hasten to note that I heartily endorse, because the series is very moving and surprising), Tokyopop offers two books that I’m eagerly anticipating. The first is the debut volume of Kozue Amano’s Aqua, which sounds lovely. There’s also the second volume of Yuji Iwahara’s King of Thorn. The first installment didn’t quite reach the heights of Iwahara’s Chikyu Misaki (CMX), but it was very solid, and it’s Iwahara, so I’ll happily stick around on the assumption that it will reach those heights eventually.

The excerpt from Yearbook Stories: 1976-78 that ran in Top Shelf’s Seasonal Sampler was extremely likable, so I’ll definitely look for it the next time I’m in a big city with a comic shop with a wide selection. It’s written by Top Shelf honcho Chris Staros and illustrated by Bo Hampton and Rich Tommaso.

Even factoring out the extra volumes of Naruto, Viz sure has a heck of a lot of product moving this week. Some of it, like Strawberry 100%, is resolutely awful, in my opinion. Some offerings, like new volumes of Bleach and Nana, are as welcome as sweater weather.

Yen Press rolls out three licensed titles, all of which sound like fairly standard bookstore fare, and none of which quite grab my attention the way With the Light did. I do like teen detective stories, so I’ll probably give Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning a look. Or maybe not, after reading Katherine Dacey-Tsuei’s take on the book. It’s not like I don’t have plenty of other options.

Top five

September 14, 2007

Here are five items that struck me as particularly noteworthy from the current Previews catalog, and since orders are due tomorrow, I thought I should get off the pot and mention them.

  • The Vinyl Underground #2 (Vertigo): I must have missed this last month, but this issue’s cover image has the word “detectives” spray-painted on it, so it caught my eye. Then I noticed that the art is being provided by the splendid Simon (Paris) Gane and Cameron (Catwoman) Stewart. I’m not familiar with writer Si Spencer, but the prospect of Gane and Stewart drawing “a red-hot group of occult detectives” would certainly be hard for me to pass up. And looking at Spencer’s Wikipedia entry, I notice that he wrote for Eastenders, one of the best soap operas ever. Sold. (Page 125.)
  • Azumanga Daioh Omnibus Edition (ADV): I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to catch up with this series by Kiyohiko (Yotsuba&!) Azuma, and 682 pages for $24.99 is certainly that opportunity. Yay! (Page 213.)
  • The Museum Vaults: Excerpts from the Journal of an Expert (NBM): I don’t have any prior knowledge of this work from Marc-Antoine Mathieu, but the cover image was striking, and the solicitation text pretty persuasive when it describes Mathieu as an artist “who marries the stylings of M.C. Escher with the paranoia of Franz Kafka.” Also, I just can’t resist it when NBM publishes a comic about the Louvre. The first, Glacial Period, is offered again, if you missed it. Oh, and if you’ve been longing to learn more about the assassination of James Garfield (just trust me that you have), NBM offers another crack at Rick Geary’s The Fatal Bullet. Oh, NBM, when did you slip me that love potion? (Page 328.)
  • The Annotated Northwest Passage (Oni): I believe I’ve mentioned (ad nauseum) how much I enjoyed this series when it was in paperback installments. This is a gorgeous collection of the historical adventure series, with lots of extras to supplement Scott Chantler’s terrific, wonderfully illustrated story. And for $19.95, the hardcover package is a steal. (Page 330.)
  • Andromeda Stories Vol. 2 (Vertical): More classic sci-fi from one of the Magnificent ‘49ers, Keiko Takemiya. To be honest, I found the third volume of To Terra… kind of rushed. It had a different kind of momentum than the first two, and I’m not sure it was entirely successful. But I admire Takemiya’s work enormously overall, and I love collections of short stories, so there’s really no down side. (Page 362.)

  • Previews review

    August 11, 2007

    There’s plenty of joy in the latest Previews catalog, and while orders are due many places today, timeliness issues have never stopped me before.

    ADV delivers the fifth volume of Kiyohiko Azuma’s absolutely wonderful Yotsuba&! (Page 215, AUG07 2389). I would link to the information on ADV’s web site, if such a wondrous thing existed in this day and age, so you’ll just have to settle for Amazon’s listing.

    More Fumi Yoshinaga is always worth noting, and Digital Manga delivers with Garden of Dreams, a shôjo title set in Victorian England (Page 280, AUG07, 3580).

    The easy pick of the month is the second volume of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jannson Comic Strip from Drawn & Quarterly (Page 286, AUG07, 3600). It’s glorious, timeless stuff, and it’s been beautifully packaged.

    Lots of people loved Lat’s Kampung Boy, and :01 follows up with Town Boy (Page 289, AUG07 3662). If you missed out on Kampung Boy, that’s available for re-order as well (AUG07 3663).

    If you aren’t already delirious, there’s more Andy Runton with the fourth volume of Owly: Don’t Be Afraid (or A Time to Be Brave) from Top Shelf (Page 354, AUG07 4028).