This year, next year

December 30, 2010

The indefatigable Deb (About.Com) Aoki has rounded up and ranked critics’ choices for the Best Manga of 2010, and it’s a fine and varied list. I’d also like to point you to Deb’s picks for Best Continuing Manga of 2010, since there’s a lot of overlap between her favorites and mine. I’m particularly pleased by her inclusion of Kaoru Tada’s Itazura na Kiss (Digital Manga); I did some catch-up reading on that one over the weekend, and it just gets better as it goes along.

Looking at Deb’s previews of promising manga due in 2011, I can’t help but pick the five that sound best to me, even if some of them counted as my most anticipated in 2010:

and one that wasn’t on Deb’s list, but I’m very eager to read:

Did some of your favorites from this year not make the critics’ round-up or Deb’s list of ongoing series? What about exciting books due in 2011?

Upcoming 12/29/2010

December 28, 2010

I’m still decompressing upon reentry to normal world as opposed to holiday sparkle world, and, to be honest, looking at this week’s ComicList is roughly akin to trying to read something written in ancient possum. My brain just isn’t there yet. I’ll rely instead on two trustworthy souls, and take their recommendation to seek out a copy of The Secret Notes of Lady Kanako (Tokyopop), written and illustrated by Ririko Tsujita. I’ve been excited about this since Melinda (Manga Bookshelf) Beasi discussed it with Michelle Smith in a recent Off the Shelf column. And Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney points out that it’s from Hakusensha’s LaLa DX, which is a fine font of manga even by Hakusensha’s generally excellent standards.

I’m coherent enough to enjoy the writing of other bloggers, even if I can’t yet conjure the mental acuity to formulate a shopping list. First up are the new inductees to Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey’s Manga Hall of Shame. And, as usual, there’s a lot of overlap between my favorites and the Best Manga of 2010 list at Manga Worth Reading.

For your 2011 Eisner consideration

December 16, 2010

Submissions are being accepted for the 2011 Eisner Awards! I enjoyed cobbling a list of suggested manga nominations last year, so I thought I’d try again.

There could be a number of Japanese works that make it into the Best Short Story category, as both Fantagraphics and Top Shelf published highly regarded collections of short manga. If forced to pick just one story from Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, I think it would have to be “Hanshin/Half-God.” There’s a lot of terrific work in Top Shelf’s AX anthology, but the one that keeps coming to mind would have to be Akino Kondo’s “The Rainy Day Blouse & the First Umbrella.”

Whether or not any Japanese titles show up in the Best Continuing Comic Book Series category is always kind of a crap shoot. If one shows up, there’s a good chance it’s probably by Naoki Urasawa, so I wouldn’t be surprised or at all displeased if we saw 20th Century Boys or Pluto (Viz) in this roster. I would be surprised and delighted if we saw that stalwart, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Dark Horse), written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Housui Yamazaki, take a slot. The same goes for Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece (Viz), which experienced a big push this year and put Oda’s multifaceted gifts on flattering display.

The Best New Series category is tricky for similar reasons. You never know how they’ll define the category, and, hey, it’s not like the rest of the comics industry is hurting for good new titles. But if they want to mix it up with some newly launched (here, at least) manga series, here are four they might consider:

  • Twin Spica (Vertical), Kou Yaginuma’s heartfelt examination of a school for astronauts
  • Bunny Drop (Yen Press), Yumi Unita’s observant take on single fatherhood
  • House of Five Leaves (Viz), Natsume Ono’s alluring tale of an unemployed samurai who falls in with the right/wrong crowd
  • Cross Game (Viz), Mitsuru Adachi’s coming-of-age baseball drama.
  • Technically speaking, neither of the following titles was originally conceived of for kids, but I have no problem putting them forward as likely candidates for the Best Publication for Kids category. Konami Kanata’s Chi’s Sweet Home (Vertical) is charming and funny, and it offers a point-by-point run-through of the responsibilities of pet ownership, which is a great thing to hand a kid. Very few people don’t like Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&! (Yen Press) for the simple reasons that it’s hysterically funny and wide open to just about anyone who cares to read it. It’s the kind of book that I think people want to read with the kids in their lives, which is certainly an enticement for voters.

    If there’s a category that’s hard to pin down, it would probably be Best Publication for Teens, partly because I don’t think teens really like being told “We know you’ll like this.” So I’ll go with two that are rated “Teen,” because I’m lazy like that. Cross Game has pretty much everything you could ask for from a coming-of-age novel: joy, sorry, confusion, comedy, great characters, and completely recognizable slices of life. Yuki Midorikawa slices up a more supernatural life with Natsume’s Book of Friends (Viz), but it has hearts and smarts in common with Adachi’s baseball comic.

    Not much has changed as far as my Best Humor Publication recommendations go, at least in relation to Koji Kumeta’s Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei (Del Rey). The aforementioned Yotsuba&! is routinely one of the funniest comics I read, and Kiminori Wakasugi’s Detroit Metal City (Viz) has a lot of vulgar high points.

    Unless there’s some utterly arcane bit of rules of which I’m unaware, there’s no reason on Earth for AX not to snag a Best Anthology nomination. It’s everything an anthology or collection is supposed to be, isn’t it? Purposeful, varied, significant, with bonus points for being frequently entertaining and nicely produced.

    Nominees in the Best Archival Collection apparently need to focus on work that’s at least 20 years old, so I suspect that might disqualify A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, but there’s plenty of material to choose from. Osamu Tezuka’s Ayako (Vertical) is perhaps not my favorite of his works, but there’s always Black Jack from the same publisher. There’s also Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s Black Blizzard (Drawn & Quarterly), which offers a worthwhile glimpse into his earlier, long-form works.

    Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material — Asia opens its own can of worms for me in terms of recommendation, because what I’d suggest would depend on what’s nominated elsewhere. I’m always for spreading the wealth, if possible. Assuming there’s an absence of comics from Japan in the other categories, I’d say these five are essential, though: A Drunken Dream an Other Stories (Fantgraphics), AX (Top Shelf), Bunny Drop (Yen Press), Twin Spica (Vertical), and Cross Game (Viz).

    It’s unfortunate that the Best Writer/Artist categories are divided into Humor and Drama, because the greats balance both. I would love to see Fumi Yoshinaga nominated, possibly in the humor side of the equation. Still, her year included All My Darling Daughters (Viz), new volumes of Ôoku: The Inner Chambers (Viz), and Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy (Yen Press), which seems like a perfectly reasonable excuse to nominate her for an award she’s deserved for years. I’d feel fairly secure in placing Moto Hagio in the Drama category, since that is the essential nature of the short stories collected in A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. They aren’t entirely void of humor, but…

    Chi’s Sweet Home’s qualifications for Best Publication Design may not be immediately obvious, but the care with which its reading orientation was flipped and color was added to each page are worth noting, especially in the ways that they opened the book up to a larger audience. There seem to be a lot of gorgeous, immense package jobs this year, slip-cased volumes that you could use as an ottoman, and there’s some snazzy design for books that doesn’t really enhance the actual comic in question, but the design for Chi’s Sweet Home served the product and was subtly beautiful at the same time. [Update: I’m reliably informed that the book was in color before it was flipped and translated.] The cover designs for 7 Billion Needles were perhaps less cumulative work, but their style and texture are real winners.

    What did I miss? What books and creators would you recommend for Eisner consideration?

    Upcoming 12/8/2010

    December 7, 2010

    After a shônen-heavy week, rewarding as it was, it will be nice to spare a little attention for shôjo and even josei in this week’s ComicList:

    Viz debuts Julietta Suzuki’s Kamisama Kiss, about a girl who unwittingly becomes a local goddess. It happens. The series originally ran in Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume, which is a good sign, and Suzuki also created Karakuri Odette (Tokyopop), a well-liked series that will be the subject of the next Manga Moveable Feast, to be hosted at Manga Report.

    On the josei front, there’s the fifth volume of Yuki Yoshihara’s smutty, ridiculous, and endearing Butterflies, Flowers (Viz). In this volume, our completely insane protagonists go furniture shopping, which will surely devolve into madness. The series originally ran in Shogakukan’s Petit Comic.

    That’s not a very substantial shopping list, but other bloggers are willing and able to help you part ways with your discretionary income:

  • First up is Melinda (Manga Bookshelf) Beasi, who offers this excellent gift guide with many useful categories.
  • And if I were to write a Best of 2010 list, it would look very much like Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey’s, except mine wouldn’t be written as well. Still, book for book, I can’t find many points of disagreement. Maybe the order of a couple of items?

  • Besties

    December 1, 2010

    The folks at Flashlight Worthy asked me to contribute a title to their “Best Graphic Novels of 2010” list, and I was happy to do so, as I was in 2009. As always, reading these lists makes my shopping list a little bit longer, but that’s a good thing.


    November 25, 2010

    To celebrate Thanksgiving in the laziest way possible, I thought I would mention some ongoing comics that debuted (if only in print and in English) in 2010 so far for which I am grateful. And there’s still more than a month left.

    And here are some stand-alone works that made the year sparkle.

    The manga industry may be correcting itself, but we’re still getting great books, don’t you think? The images above are all linked to commentary of varying lengths. And added thanks to everyone who makes the comics blogosphere and twitterverse such a delightful place to visit.

    This year’s sélections

    November 18, 2010

    I thought I’d pull together a little information on the Angoulême Sélection titles that have yet to be published in English.

    La Chenille, by Suehiro Maruo and Ranpo Edogawa, published by Le Lezard Noir. This is erotic-grotesque manga about a gravely wounded war veteran and his bride, with Maruo adapting Rampo’s 1929 novel, censored at the time of its publication. It was originally published as Imo-mushi (The Caterpillar) in Enterbrain’s Comic Beam. Another Maruo adaptation of a Edogawa novel, The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, is due from Last Gasp sometime in the near future.

    Sabu & Ichi, by Shotaro Ishinomori, published by Kana. This is a 17-volume series about a detective and a master swordsman traveling the land, solving crimes, and righting wrongs. It ran in Shogakukan’s Big Comic and Shônen Sunday. Kana is apparently publishing it in four big bricks.

    La fille du bureau de tabac et autres nouvelles, by Masahiko Matsumoto, published by Cambourakis. Slice-of-life gekiga stories originally created in the 1970s that feature everyday people making sometimes difficult transitions into a more modern era. Top Shelf, who gave us the first volume of a fascinating collection of stories from AX this year, has announced that it will publish Matsumoto’s Cigarette Girl in English, though I’m not sure if there’s any overlap between the stories in that collection and the ones in La fille.

    Ashita no Joe, by Asao Takamori and Tetsuya Chiba, published by Glénat. One of the best-loved sports manga of all time, this one follows a troubled but determined young man as he enters the world of professional boxing. It ran for 25 volumes in Kodansha’s Weekly Shônen, and I remember reading a great story about a well-attended public funeral that was held after the series concluded.

    Which of these would you most like to see published in English?

    Mangoulême 2011

    November 17, 2010

    It doesn’t feel like there are as many Japanese titles nominated as usual in the various categories for the upcoming Festival International de la Bande Dessinée in Angoulême, but it’s always worth a look:

    Sélection Officielle:

  • Pluto, by Naoki Urasawa, inspired by Osamu Tezuka, published by Kana
  • La Chenille, by Suehiro Mauro and Edogawa Rampo, published by Le Lezard Noir
  • Sélection Patrimoine:

  • Sabu & Ichi, by Shotaro Ishinomori, published by Kana
  • La fille du bureau de tabac et autres nouvelles, by Masahiko Matsumoto, published by Cambourakis
  • Ashita no Joe, by Asao Takamori and Tetsuya Chiba, published by Glénat
  • Sélection Jeunesse:

  • Naruto, by Masashi Kishimoto, published by Kana
  • Détective Conan, by Gosho Aoyama, published by Kana
  • (Links courtesy of The Comics Reporter, found via Deb Aoki, who just posted her own Best Manga of 2010 list.)

    Prix Asie, belatedly

    November 15, 2010

    I was completely obsessed with this awards program last year, and I completely overlooked the 2010 finalists for the Prix Asie of the Association des Critique et Journalistes de Bande Dessinée (ACBD), in spite of the fact that Tom (The Comics Reporter) Spurgeon posted the list months ago. Here they are:

  • Deux expressos de Kan Takahama, Casterman
  • Folles passions de Kazuo Kamimura, Kana
  • L’Île Panorama de Maruo Suehiro d’après Edogawa Ranpo, Casterman
  • Le Juge Bao de Chongrui Nie et Patrick Marty, Fei
  • Pluto de Naoki Urasawa d’après Osamu Tezuka, Kana
  • ACBD has also posted a list of what you might call runners-up, other worthy work from the period under consideration. You can find it on this page if you scroll down a bit.

    Early voting

    November 8, 2010

    In last week’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, NPR’s Monkey See crew discussed (among other things) the advent of “Best of” season and greeted it with the weary resignation of people who will be writing and editing at least a few before December comes to a close. And, as if they uttered “Candyman” three times as they faced the mirror, the first few graphic novel lists have arrived:

  • Amazon’s manga-free Best Books of 2010: Comics
  • Publishers Weekly‘s Best Comics List
  • Like Christmas advertising, these things seem to arrive earlier and earlier each year. I’d guess this means we’ll probably see the companion Best Manga list in this week’s edition of Publishers Weekly Comics List.

    I was chatting with people about these lists on Twitter, and some trends emerged:

  • Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories (Fantagraphics) didn’t seem to make much of an impression outside of dedicated manga readers, which is disappointing to me as a dedicated manga reader.
  • While many fine comics from established talents arrived in 2010 (or at least in the ten months of the year so far), there were fewer big, splashy debuts or career-redefining turns by known quantities than there were in 2009.
  • Your thoughts? Any particular Japanese comics you would have liked to see on these more general lists?