Couples, cute and otherwise

August 5, 2010

In celebration of the overturning of Proposition 8, I thought I’d throw out a question: what are some of your favorite same-sex couples in comics? I’ll start.

The thing that I love best about straight-laced Kento and sly, cynical Akira in Future Lovers, beyond their opposites-attract charm, is the fact that their romance doesn’t exist in a void. They deal with work and family as a part of the nuts and bolts of their relationship. They’re adorable together, but they also feel very real thanks to the rounded lives creator Saika Kunieda has given them.

There really isn’t anything I don’t like about bubbly Rica and worldly Miho in Rica Takashima’s Rica ‘tte Kanji!? It’s an unabashedly happy story of young love and emerging identity, which still seems all too rare a specimen in any medium.

So, which pairings make you happy?


Rom com

February 13, 2008

One of the things that was confirmed for me when I started reading manga in earnest was that I’m a big sucker for romance in the comic form. I’d always been more inclined to the soap operatic elements of super-hero comics than the adventure end of things, and many manga series allowed me to forego the flying fists entirely. With the imminent arrival of Valentine’s Day, here are some of my favorites:

Antique Bakery, by Fumi Yoshinaga (DMP): Okay, it’s more about coping with the challenges of adulthood in general than romance in particular, but I think Yoshinaga is at her funniest, sharpest, and most generous when she examines the bittersweet qualities of interpersonal relationships. It’s almost all sighs instead of swoons, but a story doesn’t have to offer anything resembling “happily ever after” to be romantic in its own way. All four volumes are available.

Emma, by Kaoru Mori (CMX): On the other hand, this one is all swoons, all the time, and it is glorious. It follows the fraught-with-obstacles romance of a housemaid and a member of the upper class (though tellingly, not the aristocracy), rendered with breathtaking emotional precision and lush, detailed illustrations. Only one more volume is due from this series.

Fake, by Sanami Matoh (Tokyopop): You’ve got to either embrace or ignore the wooly-headed stupidity of the police procedural aspects of this tale of detectives in lust, but it’s worth it. It’s a seven-volume pas de deux between bisexual Dee and undecided Ryo, fighting (snicker) crime and finding their way towards each other. Don’t think; just read.

Genshiken, by Kio Shimoku (Del Rey): Like Antique Bakery, this one isn’t a romance, per se, but some of the undercurrents kill me. Shimoku plays me like a fiddle with a will-they-won’t-they-probably-not subplot that runs throughout the nine volumes of the series.

Love Roma, by Minoru Toyoda (Del Rey): This one presents high-school romance in all of its goofy glory. This review at Sleep is for the Weak tells you everything you need to know about the book’s considerable virtues. All five volumes of its run are available.

Maison Ikkoku, by Rumiko Takahashi (Viz): Fifteen (thanks, Jun) volumes of romantic misunderstandings and near-misses should be exhausting, but it isn’t. Takahashi keeps her options open and populates her fictional boarding house with a likeable (and likeably awful) cast of characters that keeps things hopping. It’s heartfelt and funny in equal measure, a real classic.

Paradise Kiss, by Ai Yazawa (Tokyopop): Creative passion and young lust clash in this sexy soap about student designers and their muse, a gawky grind who discovers her inner supermodel (and lots of other stuff). If you’ve been enjoying Yazawa’s Nana (Viz), you owe it to yourself to give this one a look. (And if there was ever a series that begged for a glamorous, done-in-one omnibus treatment, it’s this one. Or maybe Antique Bakery. Or both.)

So what are your swoon-worthy choices?

Edited to add one more, because I can’t believe I forgot it:

Rica ‘tte Kanji!?, by Rica Takashima (ALC): This is perhaps the most adorable backlash comic ever. After growing seriously weary of the often tragic outcomes of most manga tales of lesbian love, Takashima decided to take a more lighthearted, positive approach. The result is this charming story of the budding romance between a young innocent and the not-much-older-but-certainly-wiser woman she meets in Tokyo’s gay district.


Monday links

May 14, 2007

ComiPress provides a fascinating look at the uncomfortable position faced by some Chinese fans of Japanese manga and anime:

“The question of ‘Is enjoying Japanese manga and anime an unpatriotic act?’ has been a great point of debate in China. The topic has caused many problems, and many young Chinese people are torn between their anti-Japan feelings and their love for Japanese manga.”

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I’m always glad to see Fanfare/Ponent Mon’s books get the attention they deserve, so this piece in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (found via MangaBlog) was much appreciated. I like this introductory analogy, too:

“But it’s a bit like wine in a sense: Sure, there are products for the masses, but there are also products that true connoisseurs can enjoy even more.”

I do think the pleasures of Kan Takahama’s Kinderbook are much more readily apparent than these reviewers did, though.

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At Kate no Komento, Katherine Dacey-Tsue casts an understandably wary eye upon the next evolution of Tokyopop’s web presence:

“What I don’t like about the site are the gimmicky labels that Tokyopop has assigned to the buttons on the navigation bar. They seem like the handiwork of a marketing consultant, rather than someone who actually uses websites.”

Glancing at the image, I tend to agree that the tags aren’t immediately useful in terms of navigation. I’ll readily admit that this might be a generational thing for me.

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At the Manga Recon blog, Dacey-Tsuei increases my anticipation for Morim Kang’s 10, 20, and 30 from NETCOMICS:

“Those deformations, oversized sweat drops, and flapping arms capture the way we really experience embarrassment, fear, betrayal, and attraction: in the moment, one’s own sense of self is grossly—even cartoonishly—exaggerated, even if that moment seems trivial in hindsight.”

This reminds me very much of my reaction to Rica Takashima’s charming, low-fi Rica ‘tte Kanji!? (ALC), which is a definite inducement to give the book a shot.

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For this week’s Flipped, I talked (via e-mail) to Simon Jones about ero-manga imprint Icarus. So you know at least one smart person was involved in the creation of this week’s installment.


February debuts

December 3, 2006

Here are the manga, manhwa, and global manga debuts from the latest Previews, covering titles shipping in February. Whenever possible, I’ve linked directly to title information. As always, if I’ve missed something, let me know.

ALC

Works, by Eriko Tadeno

CMX

The Time Guardian, written by Daimuro Kishi and illustrated by Tamao Ichinose
Go Go Heaven!!, by Keiko Yamada

Dark Horse

Appleseed Book 1: The Promethean Challenge, by Shirow Masamune

Del Rey

Mamotte Lollipop, by Michiyo Kikuta

Digital Manga Publishing/Juné

The Moon and the Sandals, by Fumi Yoshinaga
Wagamama Kitchen, by Kaori Monchi

Drmaster

Chinese Hero, by Wing Shing Ma

Icarus Publishing

Taboo District

Ice Kunion

You’re So Cool, by Young Hee Lee

Kitty Press

Thunderbolt Boys Excite

NBM

Unholy Kinship, by Naomi Nowak

Netcomics

In the Starlight, by Kyungok Kang

Tokyopop

Divalicious, written by T. Campbell and illustrated by Amy Mebberson
Kedamono Damono, by Haruka Fukushima
Metamo Kiss, by Sora Omote
The Twelve Kingdoms, by Fuyumi Ono

Tokyopop Blu

Innocent Bird by Hirotaka Kisaragi

Viz Shojo Beat

Backstage Prince, by Kanoko Sakurakoji
Gentlemen’s Alliance, by Arina Tanemura

Yaoi Press

Yaoi Volume 1: Anthology of Boy’s Love, by Izanaki, Wilson, and Studio Kosaru
Desire of the Gods, by Insanity Team


Quality dark chocolate is also always a good choice

December 1, 2006

There’s a special feature in this month’s Previews: a Valentine’s Day Merchandise Checklist, compiling “a host of titles that are perfect to share with a loved one.” Okay, there’s more than a whisper of Team Comix to it, and some of the choices are a little odd, but many of them do provide extra exposure for some great books up at the front of the catalog, so I won’t complain.

The one that makes me happiest is the inclusion of Rebecca Kraatz’s House of Sugar from Tulip Tree Press (p. 344). I guess when Diamond reconsiders a rejection, they go all the way. That’s a good thing, as I like this book a lot.

ALC’s books (Yuri Monogatari 3 and 4 and Works, p. 208) make the cut. I thought the third YM book was kind of a mixed bag, but I do find the work of Rica Takashima hard to resist, and she brings her characters from the charming Rica ‘tte Kanji back in the fourth, so I might have to cave. Works, a collection of romantic shorts by Eriko Tadeno, sounds appealing as well.

If you missed it the first time, Diamond humbly suggests you consider the one-volume edition of Jeff Smith’s Bone (Cartoon Books) as a Valentine’s Day gift. Heck, just keep it, because you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.

Moving on to the romantically unsanctioned, I’m taken with the premise of Keiko Yamada’s Go Go Heaven!! (CMX, p. 98). After her untimely death, an unhappy teen gets “49 days to relive her life and resolve unfinished business.” Sounds morbid, but fun!

What’s this I see on the Featured Items page? A collection of the intriguing Elk’s Run from Villard Books (p. 347)? It started out self-published, got picked up by a publisher who went bust, and never got to finish its run as a mini-series, despite general critical acclaim. Now, Villard’s offering the whole shebang, and high time, I think.

Juné lures me with the promise of more Fumi Yoshinaga in the form of The Moon and the Sandals (p. 264).

Marguerite Abouet and Clément Ouberie’s Aya (Drawn & Quarterly, p. 270) offers intriguing subject matter (the everyday life of young women in the Ivory Coast) and an excellent pedigree (the 2006 Best New Album award from Angoulême).

The Comics Journal devotes #281 to the best of 2006 (Fantagraphics, p. 275). I’m a sucker for lists.

My favorite bit of solicitation text in the catalog is found in the blurb for Cantarella Vol. 6 (Go! Comi, p. 280). Young Chiaro “finds comfort and warmth within the confines of a monastery.” Oh, I’ll just bet he does.

It’s nice to see a full-page ad for Viz’s Signature line, especially one that focuses on Osamu Tezuka’s Phoenix. Given the well-deserved attention Vertical’s production of Ode to Kirihito has received, it’s smart, too.

So what looks good to you?


Yuri flurry

October 25, 2006

Those crafty devils at Seven Seas never just rest on their laurels, do they? In the last couple of days, they’ve talked to Publishers Weekly Comics Week and ICv2 about their new yuri line, Strawberry.

Seven Seas publisher Jason DeAngelis summed up the line’s philosophy for PWCW’s Calvin Reid:

“DeAngelis says Seven Seas will focus on strong stories, ‘then the elements portrayed in the art become secondary. We’re dedicated to leaving the material we license uncensored, so we will be releasing a wide range of yuri aimed at different age groups. That said, we have no intention of releasing outright pornographic material.’”

(For those who are struggling with the distinction between yuri and hot, girl-on-girl action, Tina Anderson provides a concise, not entirely work-safe explanation.)

The ICv2 piece makes the interesting note that you’re much more likely to find a romantic relationship between two girls in mainstream manga (shôjo or shônen) than a male-male match-up:

“As a genre yuri is not nearly as big in Japan as yaoi, but lots of manga and anime series including Revolutionary Girl Utena, Rose of Versailles, My-Hime, Noir, .hack//SIGN, Read or Die, and Project A-ko feature central yuri relationships.”

At MangaCast, Ed Chavez takes exception to the classification of the new Seven Seas titles as yuri:

“I have said that here for a while, and obviously that was before this new imprint was announced. Strawberry Panic and Tetragrammaton Labyrinth (by Itou Ei) at least have girl-girl relationships throughout. I will say that neither one is really directly marketed to female readers (Tetra actually is in the same magazine as IkkiTousen and Mahoromatic…. so you might agree with me that those are Seinen titles for the seinen in your family). I am not a manga lord or magistrate to designate genres so your mileage with this will vary.”

But Ed notes that marketing is a fickle mistress:

“Ahh, so I guess my next question is who is 7S marketing this to. My gut feeling is = guys! To that I say whatever. I don’t see anything wrong with it. Books are marketed to the wrong audiences all the time here and outside of myself and maybe some industry people who wonder why their books aren’t moving, I don’t think people (in this case readers) care. And if the sales of these titles mean more titles like Boogiepop and some of the LightNovel imprint. Great! I want to see 7S take even more risks (Yanki/Zoku manga… HINT HINT).”

As Ed says, mileage varies.

ALC has been waving the yuri banner for a long time now, putting out both licensed work and original global yuri. (I’m particularly crazy about quirky, lo-fi Rica ‘tte Kanji!?) ALC’s Erica stops by the Anime News Network discussion thread to give a little background on the publisher’s philosophy:

“We also tend to focus on work by lesbians that identify as ‘yuri'” artists, instead of artsits who don’t like to think of themselves that way.”

In the same thread, harsh words are exchanged over category labeling and opposing fandoms. Shocking!


From the stack: YURI MONOGATARI Vol. 3

January 25, 2006

While yaoi is making considerable headway in the manga market, yuri is taking a bit longer to make its mark. ALC Publishing specializes in the category. I really enjoyed ALC’s release of Rica ‘tte Kanji!?, a charming romantic comedy.

Their latest anthology, Yuri Monogatari Vol. 3, is hit and miss. A collection of stories from Japan, America, and Europe, it features some promising talent. As a whole, it gives off a vaguely amateurish vibe, and while the enthusiasm is infectious, the actual work is of mixed quality.

It opens with Hiromi Nishizaka’s “Hydrangea.” I’ve heard that a lot of yuri is kind of a bummer, with tortured love ending badly for all parties. Nishizaka does interesting work constructing a complex love triangle, and she resist the urge to tie things up neatly. But it’s a depressing way to launch the book, with tears, selfishness, and cynicism.

Things lighten up considerably with Beth Malone’s “It Takes All Sorts.” A longtime couple, who happen to be space pirates, are determined to get the spice back in their relationship. They set off in search of a third party to perk things up, and run-ins with a tentacle monster, a kinky telepath, and an androgynous space cop ensue. It sounds like the worst kind of porn, but Malone’s light touch turns it into light parody. Unfortunately, her illustrations are pretty crude and feature some weird anatomy and odd perspectives.

Another couple is the focus of “Flights of Fancy” by Sergio Aviles. Regan and Angela are taking turns framing their relationship through classic movie genres. Aviles puts his protagonists in an action flick, a detective noir, a western, and a swashbuckling adventure. It’s visually impressive, and the idea is a lot of fun, but the reader never knows enough about the protagonists to get much out of their fantasy versions. There are also some lettering problems in the piece, with dialogue breaking oddly over word balloons without attention to phrasing.

Akiko Morishima provides a cute illustrated report on Yuricon ’05. It’s a nice intermission for the fiction pieces, and Morishima has a charming style.

In Kristina’s “Overboard,” sullen Missy is trapped on vacation with her older sisters. They’re taking the tacky tourist approach to the trip, while Missy wonders aloud if humans are naturally evil. (Don’t ask me why.) A misunderstanding brings Missy in closer contact with one of the locals, and she gets the transformative travel experience she was hoping for. It’s nicely drawn, and the quiet moments work best. The pacing is a little odd, though, and the dialogue is stilted.

Things conclude with Althea Keaton’s “Marked.” In it, a young punk looks back on her first days of independence, hanging out with other punks and learning that people aren’t quite what they appear. The story is drawn in a loose, art-comix style that suits it perfectly. While the grungy aesthetic is distinct and the material is at times harsh, the underlying themes of discovery, anxiety, and unexpected kindness are nicely universal. It’s the strongest piece in the collection.

I think just about any anthology is going to have its highs and lows, and Yuri Monogatari 3 is no exception. There’s considerable dedication to the genre on display, but it doesn’t always manifest itself in good storytelling. It’s an interesting read, but it doesn’t leave me wanting to pick up the other two installments.