Making Eisner book

July 22, 2010

The Eisner Awards will be presented tomorrow night, and I thought it would be fun to handicap the chances of the manga and manhwa nominees in various categories:

Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys (Viz) is nominated for Best Continuing Series. This is quite a feather in Urasawa’s cap (which, come to think of it, is more of a headdress at this point), and this is my favorite of his series that are available in English, but I don’t think it will win. There are some Eisner favorites in this category, and Urasawa has a bunch of other nominations in other categories.

Urasawa’s Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka (Viz) is nominated for Best Limited Series or Story Arc. I suspect Pluto will win another award, so it likely won’t claim this one. It’s also kind of strange that the series is nominated in this category. When a manga series concludes, is it put in the Limited Series or Story Arc category and nominated in the Continuing Series category when more volumes are on the way after the end of the nomination period?

Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life (Drawn & Quarterly) is nominated for Best Reality-Based Work. Tatsumi certainly deserves the nod, but more recent and widely acclaimed books like Footnotes in Gaza and The Photographer will probably take the prize.

Jiro Taniguchi’s two-volume A Distant Neighborhood (Fanfare/Ponent Mon) is nominated for the Best Graphic Album – New prize. This is another nomination that seems a little off to me, as the category seems best suited for stand-alone work rather than something in two volumes. The competition is also rather fierce here, and this isn’t even my favorite Taniguchi work that came out during the nominating period (though he only drew Summit of the Gods, also from Fanfare/Ponent Mon). I would love to see My Mommy Is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill take this one, but again, this category features some serious heavy hitters.

I think Urasawa’s Pluto will claim the Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Asia prize, and voters in a poll that I ran agree. They also think it should win, though I disagree. It’s a very strong series, but I found it a little overly serious on the whole. But it’s a lot like Watchmen in its dramatic, revisionist take on a property for children, and those are apparently very hard for people to resist. Of the remaining nominees, I’d rather see Oishinbo a la Carte (Viz), written by Tetsu Kariya and illustrated by Akira Hanasaki, win, because it would boost sales for the existing volumes of this fascinating series and increase the possibility that we might see more. I don’t think it stands much of a chance, as it cherry picks stories from the series’ very long run rather than offering a contained narrative. There’s an okay chance that Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life might take this prize, but I still think Eisner voters have been looking for a chance to honor Urasawa for a while now. I hope to heaven that The Color Trilogy (First Second) doesn’t win, but the last time I mentioned my dislike of that series, I was subjected to condescending psychoanalysis, so I’ll just move on. If you’d like to see my dream Eisner ballot in this category, click here.

Urasawa is nominated again in the Best Writer/Artist category. Given the number of nominations he’s received this year, you’d think he would be a lock, but he’s up against stalwarts like Darwyn Cooke, R. Crumb and David Mazzucchelli. This might be one of those “honor just be nominated” moments.

Adrian Tomine is nominated for Best Lettering for A Drifting Life. I don’t remember the lettering being particularly noteworthy on that book, especially in comparison to Mazzucchelli’s on Asterios Polyp.

What are your thoughts on the chances of the various manga and manhwa nominees?


Vive la France!

July 14, 2010

It’s Bastille Day, so I thought I’d put together a quick list of some of my favorite comics by French creators and some of my favorite comics set in France. It’s tough, because so many of them are so great, but I’ll try not to go overboard. Off the top of my head, here are some of my favorite comics by French writers and artists:

  • Aya, written by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clément Oubrerie (Drawn & Quarterly): Wonderfully funny and thoughtful multigenerational soap opera about coming of age in the Ivory Coast of the 1970s.
  • Little Nothings, written and illustrated by Lewis Trondheim (NBM): Really terrific slice-of-life and observational humor from a wonderful cartoonist.
  • The Rabbi’s Cat, written and illustrated by Joann Sfar (Pantheon): A rabbi in Algeria finds his cat can talk, and the cat has no shortage of distressing philosophical opinions.
  • Klezmer, written and illustrated by Joann Sfar (First Second): I really like Sfar, what can I say? I even liked Vampire Loves, and I usually hate vampire comics. When are we going to get more of this wonderful tale of Jewish musicians in Eastern Europe?
  • Get a Life, written and illustrated by Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian: Why haven’t there been more collections of Monsieur Jean stories published in English? This one’s a treasure.
  • Glacial Period, written and illustrated by Nicolas de Crécy (NBM): Still my favorite of the comics created in conjunction with the Louvre. (Holy crap, NBM is going to publish Salvatore this winter! My wish came true!)
  • My Mommy Is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill, written by Jean Regnaud and illustrated by Émille Bravo (Fanfare/Ponent Mon): Deservedly nominated for a few Eisner Awards this year,
  • Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators, written and illustrated by various creators (Fanfare/Ponent Mon): Half of this book constitutes an invasion of Japan by various wonderful French comic artists. The other half is wonderful Japanese comic artists telling stories about their hometowns. There is no losing in this book. I’d love to see the same group take on France as Viewed by 17 Creators.
  • And here are a couple of comics set in France that I really like:

  • Paris, written by Andi Watson and illustrated by Simon Gane (SLG): This tale of young women in love in the Paris of the 1920s is so gorgeous it almost hurts.
  • Gerard and Jacques, written and illustrated by Fumi Yoshinaga (Blu): Over time, I’ve willfully forgotten the fact that this series opens with coercive sex, because I love watching the characters natter at each other in between bouts of steamy, consensual congress.
  • What did I forget? Or what should I look into? What about comics from or set in France that have yet to be translated? Between their indigenous talent and the volume of licensed manga they enjoy, the French are sick with awesome comics.


    Prizes and polls

    July 12, 2010

    The Harvey Award nominations have been announced, and the Best American Edition of Foreign Material shouldn’t make people feel ashamed of themselves. That’s a nice change of pace.

    Speaking of upcoming comics awards programs, it’s almost Eisner time. Back when the nominees were announced, I ran will win/should win polls for the Best U.S. Edition of International Material-Asia. I thought I’d check back and see how those panned out, and the clear winner of both is Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka (Viz), written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa and inspired by the work of Osamu Tezuka. This seems likely enough, as Eisner voters have always appreciated Tezuka, and they’ve come this close to giving Urasawa a prize several times. (Monster was nominated repeatedly, and Urasawa is also nominated in the Best Writer/Artist category.) Now they can honor both at the same time.

    If I had my way, the Asia prize would go to Oishinbo and Urasawa would get the Writer/Artist nod, and if I really had my way, voters would have had the chance to honor Kaoru Mori’s Emma (CMX), but…


    Playing favorites

    July 8, 2010

    Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey is running a Half-Time Poll: The Best New Manga of 2010, and it’s illustrative of how much good manga has launched this year, in spite of the various woes the industry has faced. Just about every candidate has at least a couple of votes, which is nice to see. I wanted to post a few more thoughts on my five choices and cite a couple of runners-up, since some of my picks were very close shaves indeed.

    All My Darling Daughters, written and illustrated by Fumi Yoshinaga (Viz): This book has garnered a lot of critical acclaim since its release, some of it from me:

    “Everything is more complicated than it seems in Yoshinaga’s narrative universe. People are both nicer and meaner than they initially seem, and relationships are more quietly satisfying and functional than an observer might assume. Yoshinaga is deeply interested in the grace notes of interpersonal interaction, even in her slighter works. That’s the source of a lot of the pleasure for me – the apparently minor, digressive moments that get to the heart of her characters.”

    I always at least like Yoshinaga’s work, and I usually love it. This book is no exception, and it’s one that I’d recommend to non-manga readers without hesitation, especially if they like slice-of-life stories with complex women characters.

    My runner-up for this slot would be Natsume Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso, which I reviewed here. When Ono’s House of Five Leaves is released in print, it will certainly be in my top five if Kate does a similar poll for the second half of 2010.

    Bunny Drop, written and illustrated by Yumi Yunita (Yen Press): I’m so delighted to see that this book is tied for the lead in Kate’s poll, as I hope its critical acclaim results in solid sales. It’s from the often-neglected josei category for adult women, so I’m automatically inclined in its favor, and it’s also really, really good:

    “Under another creator, this might be fodder for wacky domestic comedy, with the bachelor dad screwing up in ostensibly hilarious ways. (The back-cover text tries to imply that this is the case. Only one sentence ends with a humble period, with the rest sporting exclamation and question marks.) Unita’s approach is in a much lower key, and I think the results are distinctly satisfying.”

    I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow, written and illustrated by Shunjo Aono (Viz): I haven’t properly reviewed this series yet, but I’ve written about it fairly often, usually to note that it’s one of my favorite series in Viz’s SigIKKI initiative. This should also lead you to conclude that it’s one of my favorite current manga series, period, as I love a lot of those books:

    “It’s always possible that the schlub who stars in Shunju Aono’s I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow (Viz) will eventually succeed, or at least that he’ll stop quitting halfway through whatever he happens to be trying, but in the meantime, we can revel in the crushing disappointment. I should also note that the series is really funny and that Aono seems to be trying to eschew the “But isn’t this loser secretly really awesome?” undertones that inform similar schlub-centric comics.”

    Natsume’s Book of Friends, written and illustrated by Yuki Midorikawa (Viz): You only have to look at the poll to conclude that a lot of great shôjo launched this year, so picking a single favorite is tough. It’s not impossible, though, especially with this supernatural, episodic charmer from Midorikawa in the running:

    “I like the variety that Midorikawa finds in the premise and the mix of comedy and sentiment in the individual episodes. Her view of the relationship between humans and yôkai is complex, and I particularly love the counterpoint between grandmother and grandson. Reiko turned her isolation and otherness into hostility and control. Takashi turns his into generosity of a sort, or at least into enlightened self-interest. And young Reiko is a sly hoot, even if she is nasty, or maybe because she’s nasty.”

    I’m not generally interested in anime, but I have watched a couple of episodes of this book’s adaptation, and they are glorious, just what you’d hope the comic would become if given motion and sound. As for the other exemplary shôjo arrivals so far this year, it saddens me to note that both only got one volume out before their publisher, CMX, got its plug pulled by DC. I’ll talk more about Miku Sakamoto’s Stolen Hearts and Mayu Fujikata’s My Darling! Miss Bancho tomorrow when I beg another publisher to rescue them.

    Twin Spica, written and illustrated by Kou Yaginuma (Vertical): Are you sick of me writing about this book? Too bad. It’s too good to neglect:

    “Yaginuma renders all of Asumi’s difficulties with admirably straightforward delicacy and attention to detail. There’s plausibility to the process Asumi pursues and the examination system itself. There’s also a wonderful earnestness to Asumi’s dreams and her desire to reach out to the people who share them. Factor in the aching sadness that provides underpinnings for Asumi’s quest and you have a moving, unusual finished product.”

    Much as I love it, it was locked in a death struggle with runner-up Saturn Apartments (Viz) written and illustrated by Hisae Iwaoka, which offers another gentle and unexpected take on science fiction.

    On the subject of excellent manga, take a few moments to go read some great pieces on the best manga you aren’t reading by Brigid Alverson, Robin Brenner and the aforementioned Kate.


    Manga for Maddow

    June 17, 2010

    I really admire Rachel Maddow and think she’s brilliant, and I’m thrilled to learn that she loves comic books and graphic novels. But her list of favorites? The usual suspects.

    So this has me wondering what manga I’d recommend she read. She seems to like stories with political underpinnings (no surprise there), so here are some starting points:

  • 20th Century Boys, written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa. You could basically recommend anything by Urasawa, but I like this series best.
  • Real, written and illustrated by Takehiko Inoue. It’s not especially political, but it’s really good, and I just like recommending it to people, especially if there’s a chance they might mention it in a YouTube video.
  • Ooku: The Inner Chambers, written and illustrated by Fumi Yoshinaga. It doesn’t get more political than this, really, Fakespeare aside.
  • Tekkonkinkreet, written and illustrated by Taiyo Matsumoto. GoGo Monster is actually better, but I think this title’s urban underpinnings might appeal to Maddow.
  • Thoughts?


    Statuettes

    May 13, 2010

    The industry may be in turmoil, but prizes must be awarded, want must be sparked, and the cycle of enthusiasm begins anew. Whether there’s still enough of an industry to actually license, translate and publish any of these comics remains to be seen, but hey, I’m sure you’ll be able to download pirated versions via some fabulous app.

    Anime News Network has the details on the 39th Japan Cartoonists Awards offered by the Japan Cartoonist Association.

    ANN also has the rundown on the 34th Kodansha Manga Awards. One of the winners, Kuragehime, was a finalist for the latest Manga Taisho Award, and there seems to be a healthy amount of interest in it, at least based on my unscientific poll.

    Asahi Shimbun covers the 14th Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize winners. Top honors went to Hyouge Mono, written and illustrated by Yoshihiro Yamada. Ed Chavez wrote an appreciation of Yamada’s work for Otaku USA. This year’s Manga Taisho winner, Mari Yamazaki’s awesome-sounding Thermae Romae, won the short story prize.


    Done in one

    May 4, 2010

    The good folks at Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations asked if I’d like to contribute a list, and after some routine indecisiveness and procrastination, I decided to focus on single-volume manga. I tried to list books that are widely available (“In Stock” being the magic phrase) and that covered a lot of ground in terms of style and content and might have some good hooks for prose readers.

    So that’s probably why I ruthlessly ignored your favorite stand-alone manga.


    For your further consideration

    April 22, 2010

    Harvey Award nominations are due tomorrow, and as Heidi (The Beat) MacDonald notes, “Only WE can save the Harveys.” Last year’s nominees in the Best American Edition of Foreign Material were slightly better than those of the year before, though they’d almost have to be. I doubt that my whining had anything to do with that, but I will toss out a few suggestions, just in case someone is staring at an uncompleted ballot.

    First of all, I think any of the titles listed here would be fine nominees. Here are a few more:

    And since I’m on the subject of awards, I should note that online voting is underway for the Eisners. I predicted at least one winner last year, and let’s see if I can repeat the feat by suggesting you cast your vote for…

    Beyond being very entertaining and informative, this was a really ambitious project on Viz’s part, to offer a taste of a massive, commercially counter-intuitive series, and I would love to see them get some bling for their efforts. But I’m always curious as to which way the winds are blowing, so here’s a poll on the subject of Best U.S. Edition of International Material-Asia:

    Updated: Aaron Costain suggested a second poll, asking which title should win, and I admit I forgot the distinction. So here you go:

    Feel free to mention another, un-nominated title in the comments.


    Fanfare Eisner fanfare

    April 15, 2010

    Our next press release comes from Fanfare/Ponent Mon, and I have a sturdy tradition of shameless favoritism towards press releases from this fine publisher. This time around, it’s a run-down of their well-deserved Eisner nominations, which provides an opportunity for me to remind you that My Mommy Is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill is just grand in every conceivable way and should really win at least one of the awards for which it’s nominated.

    Here’s hoping that Summit of the Gods (written by Baku Yumemakura and illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi) gets nominated for something next year. I actually liked it better than Taniguchi’s A Distant Neighborhood and am looking forward to the next volume.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    Teen scene

    April 11, 2010

    One more thought exercise for the weekend, still linked to the Eisner Award nominations, but this time I’m thinking about the Best Publication for Teens category. There was some lively conversation on Twitter on the subject, specifically why there’s never any manga in this category when so much of the category is aimed at teens and a lot of it is really, really good.

    Again, this isn’t meant to take anything away from the nominees. In fact, I seriously need to get around to reading more of them, as some received widespread critical acclaim. (I was about to say that there are too many good comics, but that’s not true. There’s just not enough time to read them all.)

    I am curious as to your thoughts on why shônen and shôjo titles are left at home on nerd prom night watching anime marathons instead of spending some time in the Eisner spotlight. As the Great Graphic Novels for Teens list reminds us, there are plenty of spectacular Japanese comics targeted at that audience. (Interesting digression: of the three manga titles that made the top ten list, only one of them was serialized in a magazine with a teen demographic, namely Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, which ran in Hakusensha’s Melody magazine, though I believe it’s branded older in collection.)

    Of course, teen-targeted manga has received Eisner nominations before, just not in the teen category. Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare (Go! Comi) got a nod in the main manga category in 2007, and Fumi Yoshinaga was nominated for Best Writer/Artist in 2008 partly for Flower of Life (DMP). Takeshi Obata received a 2008 Best Penciler/Inker nomination for Death Note and Hikaru No Go (Viz), and Osamu Tezuka’s Dororo (Vertical) won the main manga award in 2009. (Of course, with Tezuka, demographic origins go out the window in the face of the fact that his works are classics.)

    But why do you suppose manga is ignored on this front? Could it be that the judges would rather favor works created during the nomination period rather than translated reprints of comics from various vintages? Could they want to shine the spotlight on titles with less of a market presence? Or is manga just discounted when it’s targeted at teens?

    Also, what are some worthy shônen and shôjo works that you’d like to see get a nod in this category? The window is now closed on Natsuki Takaya’s glorious Fruits Basket (Tokyopop) getting some Eisner love, but there’s still 2011 for Hinako Ashihara’s sublime Sand Chronicles (Viz). What about mega-popular titles that also happen to be really, really good?