Upcoming 10/20/2010

October 19, 2010

Goodness, but it’s a dense ComicList this week!

Dark Horse continues to work its way through some of CLAMP’s most-loved back catalog. This week, it’s the first omnibus volume of Cardcaptor Sakura, originally published in English by Tokyopop and with an associated, legendarily butchered anime dub, if I remember correctly.

I liked the first volume of Chigusa Kawwai’s Alice the 101st (DMP) quite a bit. It’s about kids at a music school in Epcot Europe, and the second volume arrives Wednesday.

I’m also very fond of Konami Kanata’s Chi’s Sweet Home (Vertical), a slice-of-life tale about an orphaned kitten settling in with her new family. The third volume is due, and I’m working on a review of the series for later this week.

March Story (Viz), written by Hyung Min Kim and illustrated by Kyung-il Yang, is more interesting to me conceptually than it is for its individual merits. It originally ran in Shogakukan’s Sunday GX, and it’s by Korean creators, so that’s kind of unusual. Other than that, it’s very well-drawn but kind of average comeuppance theatre. It’s a big week for Viz’s Signature imprint with new volumes of 20th Century Boys, Kingyo Used Books, and Vagabond.

Yen Press is releasing a lot of product this week, but my clear favorite is the fourth volume of Svetlana Chmakova’s Nightschool, a complex, polished supernatural adventure about a school for mystical types.

What looks good to you?

From the stack: Alice the 101st

July 26, 2010

Back when Digital Manga was switching from being an edgy, seinen-focused publisher to a purveyor of boys’-love and yaoi, one of their first Juné titles was Chigusa Kawai’s La Esperança. It’s seven volumes of exceedingly chaste romance between two of the moodiest boys you’re ever likely to find at a private school somewhere in the more scenic parts of Europe that’s kind of like a high-end Epcot. The lack of physicality to the romance may be explained by the fact that it was originally serialized in Shinshokan’s Wings magazine, which seems to traffic more in suggestion than explication. (It also traffics in awesome comics like Fumi Yoshinaga’s Antique Bakery and Flower of Life. And it traffics in cheese-cart casts of attractive men, offering varieties designed to maximize the chance of reader enchantment.)

Digital Manga’s new Kawai title, Alice the 101st, seems even less romantically inclined, but it gets off to a very nice start thanks to the creator’s engaging characters and gorgeous art.

It’s about an elite music school, also in one of the more scenic parts of Europe, because Kawai loves her grand arches and spires, and she draws the hell out of them. She also likes her youthful characters, and they end up looking even cuter against the imposing hallways and elegant chambers of scenic Europe. The most cherubic member of the student body is Aristide Lang, who lags far behind his classmates in terms of technique or fundamentals. He can’t even read music. (Kate Dacey, who knows from technique and classical repertoire, shares some thoughts on the title’s musicality in her review.)

So why is he here? Well, his father was a gifted violinist, and Aristide does seem to have some innate talent, though it only emerges on certain pieces of music. Some of his teachers are understandably frustrated, and his classmates are alternately intrigued and annoyed that this late-coming amateur made the cut, even motivating the school to make a special admission and add one to their usual 100-student limit. On the whole, even Aristide doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing there, just that important adults in his life wanted it for him. That’s a realistic note.

I like that Kawai isn’t particularly unkind to the people who find Aristide’s presence annoying. They’re kind of jerky as a rule, but it seems like Kawai understands their point. None of them turn from detractors to cheerleaders in the first volume, and there’s a nice sequence illustrating one of Aristide’s teachers progressing from derision to acceptance. It seems clear that the teacher more or less resigns himself to Aristide’s presence rather than entirely bowing to the boy’s hidden brilliance. It’s clever stuff.

And Aristide does have his advocates. There’s his nerdy room-mate (a four-eyes without the glasses), and an older student who takes a teasing interest in the kid he calls “Alice.” (One of the best jokes in the series, at least for me, was the fact that the older student gave up the violin for the viola. The horror!) The cadre of friends and foes will undoubtedly offer plenty of friend-maybe-more geometry, with various students taking sides and gazing with innocent longing at their peers.

Kawai also created a one-volume boys’-love vampire series, written by Isaya Takamori and published in English as I Want to Bite (DokiDoki). I’m not going to run out and track down vampire yaoi, but I’m sure it has its audience (which probably doesn’t include me), and I’m sure it at looks great.

Upcoming 7/8/2010

July 7, 2010

As we dive into this week’s ComicList, I’ll remind you that I’ve already named a pick of the week (the second volume of Kou Yuginami’s Twin Spica from Vertical), but there’s lots of other interesting material on its way.

I was a big fan of Chigusa Kawai’s dreamy, intense La Esperança (DMP), so I have high hopes for Kawai’s Alice the 101st (also DMP). It’s about an elite music school that admits an out-of-nowhere prodigy at the violin. Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey gave it a provisional thumbs-up, noting that it’s “haping up to be a very entertaining series about a young musician learning the hard truth: there’s only one way to get to Carnegie Hall.”

If Young Avengers had come out with any regularity, I might not have abandoned Marvel entirely after the systematic trashing of the character of the Scarlet Witch. Young Avengers creators Alan Heinberg and Jimmy Cheung reunite for Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, which features the teen super-team searching for the Scarlet Witch and teases the possibility that one of the company’s first major heroines might be repaired and redeemed. It’s nine issues long and will be released bi-monthly, which is kind of frustrating, but it’s not exactly onerous in terms of cost, just patience.

I’m always game for one of Rick Geary’s Treasury of XXth Century Murder offerings. This time around, he tells the undoubtedly gruesome tale of The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans, which promises “Nights of terror! A city awash in blood! New Orleans right after the First World War. The party returns to the Big Easy but someone looks to spoil it. Grocers are being murdered in the dead of night by someone grabbing their axe and hacking them right in their own cushy beds!” It sounds perfectly charming, doesn’t it?

It’s a big week for Viz, so I’ll focus on two books. My Viz shônen pick of the week would have to be the 54th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece. I’m a little behind on the recent volumes, but it won’t take me very long to catch up.

My Viz shôjo pick of the week would have to be the 21st volume of Ai Yazawa’s gorgeous NANA, sexy rock-and-roll soap opera that should appeal to anyone who might like that sort of thing, because it’s really one of the best examples. Speaking of Yazawa, her English-language debut, Paradise Kiss (Tokyopop), will be the next subject of the Manga Moveable Feast.

Last, but not least, I’m always up for a new volume of Time and Again (Yen Press), sly supernatural comeuppance theatre from JiUn Yun.

What looks good to you?

Upcoming 5/19/2010

May 18, 2010

Time for a perfunctory look at this week’s ComicList. Bleak industry tidings aside, there’s still cause for enthusiasm and better inducement than ever to actually buy the stuff.

DMP gets things off to a good start with the second volume of Itazura na Kiss, written and illustrated by Kaoru Tada. I was really charmed by the first volume of this series in spite of the fact that its dumb-girl-loves-prince-type dynamic has taken many a dark, gross turn in subsequent comics. It’s funny and charming, and it reminds me that I don’t really need to endorse the central potential couple to enjoy a romantic comedy.

Beyond shock at the news and sympathy for those affected, I was particularly disappointed to hear that Eric Searleman was among those who lost their jobs in the recent layoffs at Viz. Aside from being an enthusiastic, helpful guy, Eric has worked very hard on Viz’s SigIKKI initiative, which lets readers sample ambitious, diverse comics for free. Two comics from that initiative debut in print this week.

I’ve already written a bit about Hisae Iwaoka’s Saturn Apartments, so I’ll point you to Kate Dacey’s lovely review of the book:

Saturn Apartments is many things — a coming-of-age story, a set of character studies, a meditation on man’s place in the greater universe — but like all good space operas, its real purpose is to affirm the truth of T.S. Eliot’s words, ‘We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.’ Highly recommended.”

The other SigIKKI debut is Shunju Aono’s I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow, which I’ve also covered and also like, though for very different reasons. Sometimes your dreams don’t come true.

Previews review May 2010

May 2, 2010

There aren’t very many debuting titles in the May 2010 edition of the Previews catalog, but there are lots of new volumes of slow-to-arrive titles that are worth noting.

First up would have to be the omnibus collection of Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi (Del Rey), offering volumes eight through ten. (It seems appropriate, since this is the title’s week in the Manga Moveable Feast spotlight.) These volumes were fairly meaty individually, and getting three in one for $24.99 seems like a really good value. (Page 292.) Edit: The tenth volume is the final one of the series, so this will conclude Mushishi in English.

Also on the “good manga for relatively cheap” front is the third volume of Kaoru Tada’s Itazura Na Kiss (Digital Manga). What mishaps will befall our dumb heroine Kotoko in pursuit of the smart boy of her dreams? (Page 295.)

I’m just going to come out and say that A Distant Neighborhood was my second favorite Jiro Taniguchi title of 2009. Topping that category was The Summit of the Gods, written by Yumemakura Baku. The second volume is due from Fanfare/Ponent Mon. (Page 304.)

A new volume of Adam Warren’s super-smart, addictive satire, Empowered (Dark Horse), is always good news. It seems like Warren gets around to dealing with the rather loose definition of mortality among the spandex set, and I’d much rather read his take than something like Blackest Night. (Page 35.)

Is it ungrateful of me to be really eager to see what Bryan Lee O’Malley does next? It’s not that I’m indifferent to the conclusion of the Scott Pilgrim saga (which arrives in the form of the sixth volume, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour from Oni Press), which I’m sure I’ll love as much as the previous five. But O’Malley’s been working on Scott for a long time. (Page 233.)

Before we jump fully into the “all-new stuff” department, I’ll bypass quickly to Dark Horse’s release of an omnibus edition of CLAMP’s Magic Knight Rayearth. You can get all three volumes of this magic-girl shôjo classic from the manga superstars. (Page 53.)

CMX publishes a lot of excellent shôjo from Hakusensha, but they branch out this month with Rika Suzuki’s Tableau Gate. It originally ran in Akita Shoten’s Princess Gold, and it’s about a guy who must help a girl capture some escaped tarot cards. I’m sort of a sucker for comics with tarot imagery, and I trust CMX’s taste in shôjo. (Page 129.)

I’m always game for a new graphic novel drawn by Faith Erin Hicks, and First Second is kind enough to provide one. It’s called Brain Camp, and it’s about oddballs dealing with mysterious forces, which is right in Hicks’s wheelhouse. The script is by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan. (Page 305.)

It’s coming! It’s coming! Top Shelf’s 400-page collection of alternative manga, AX, finally hits the solicitation phase, and it should be very exciting to see. (Page 342.)

Vertical continues to branch out of classic manga mode with the English-language debut of Felibe Smith’s Peepo Choo. For those who’ve forgotten, Smith has been creating the series for Kodansha’s Morning Two magazine. It’s about a kid from Chicago who gets mixed up with a model from Tokyo and a lot of underworld mayhem. (Page 346.)

I don’t get a particularly good vibe off of Kaneyoshi Izumi’s Seiho Boys’ High School!, due out from Viz. It’s about the student body of an isolated, all-boys’ high school. Anyone who’s read more than one boys’-love title would know how these lads could deal with their isolation, but Izumi apparently decided to take a different approach. The series originally ran in Shogakukan’s Betsucomi.

More Tezuka is always good

March 3, 2010

I just wanted to officially note that I’ve forgiven Ayako for not being Princess Knight. ICv2 has an article on Vertical’s Fall 2010 release of Osamu Tezuka’s tale of “a formerly powerful family of landowners who find themselves caught up in the political, social, and economic changes in post-World War II Japan.” It’s been published in French by Manga Delcourt/Akata.

And since I’m nerd-interested in these kinds of things, I’ll note that Ayako was originally serialized in Shogakukan’s Big Comic from early 1972 to mid-1973 and was collected in three volumes. Big Comic has been home to a lot of Tezuka manga, including Ode to Kirihito (Vertical), MW (Vertical), and Swallowing the Earth (DMP). Other Tezuka-Big Comic titles included Gringo, which was a runner-up for this year’s Prix Asie award.

Speaking of Tezuka, I’ll remind you that Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey is giving away copies of the deeply crazy MW, and I’ll note that Vertical will be releasing Ode to Kirihito in two paperback volumes at the end of this month.

Previews review February 2010

February 6, 2010

There are some interesting arrivals and very welcome debuts in the February 2010 edition of Diamond’s Previews catalog. It’s also nice to think about what things will be like three months from now. Most of this snow might have melted by then.

I really enjoyed Seth Grahame-Smith’s undead mash-up of Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Chronicle Books). Del Rey has tapped writer Tony Lee and artist Cliff Richards to make the novel more graphic. It was only a matter of time. Here’s the listing at Amazon. (Page 230.)

Speaking of adaptations, the only thing I know about The Last Airbender is that a lot of people like the Disney Nickelodeon series and that a lot of people were upset when the makers of the live-action movie version cast a lot of white people as non-white characters. Del Rey Manga will offer a Movie Prequel, which is notable for the fact that it’s been written by Dave (Agnes Quill, X-Men: Misfits) Roman, with Alison Wilgus, and illustrated by Nina (Yôkaiden) Matsumoto. (I’m not having any luck finding a cover image. Sorry!) (Page 230.)

Chigusa Kawai’s La Esperança (Digital Manga) is quite a lovely series, full of semi-romantic schoolboy angst. DMP debuts another Kawai series, Alice the 101st, which features an elite group of musical students, one of whom is a complete novice who earns the contempt of his classmates. I’m guessing at least one classmate will probably revise his opinion in short order. (Page 245.)

Ever since reading A Drifting Life, I’ve been eager to see some of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s early gekiga, the hard-boiled crime dramas that helped him build his reputation. Drawn & Quarterly will slake my curiosity with Black Blizzard, the tale of two convicts, cuffed together and on the run. (Page 249.)

:01 First Second is sure to please fans of Gene Luen (American Born Chinese) Yang with the publication of his Prime Baby, which promises a “tale of mat, aliens, and sibling rivalry.” This was first serialized in The New York Times Magazine, but one can always expect nice packaging from First Second. (Page 255.)

Viz offers more IKKI goodness in the form of Shunju Aono’s I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow, the ruefully funny story of a schlub who tries to make a late-in-life decision to become a manga-ka, and Hisae Iwaoka’s slice of life in orbit, Saturn Apartments. You can sample hefty chunks of both over at Viz’s SIGIKKI site. They’re two of my favorite series in that rotation, so I’m really excited. (Page 301.)

It’s just the month for the arrival of eagerly anticipated manga, isn’t it? Vertical releases the first volume of Ken Yaginuma’s Twin Spica. It’s about kids who attend the Tokyo Space Academy in hopes of exploring the stars. (Page 306.)

Special guests

January 29, 2010

Deb Aoki has been running some great reviews by special guests over at About.Com:

  • Kevin (BeacoupKevin) Church on Jiro Taniguchi’s A Distant Neighborhood (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
  • Christopher (Comics212) Butcher on Natsume Ono’s not simple (Viz)
  • Erica (Okazu) Friedman on Stan Lee and Hiroyuki Takei’s Ultimo (Viz)
  • Danica Davidson on Mia Ikumi’s Only One Wish (Del Rey)
  • Shaenon K. Garrity on Inio Asano’s What a Wonderful World! (Viz)
  • Ed (Manga Worth Reading) Sizemore on Jin Zhou Huang and Hiromu Arakawa’s Hero Tales (Yen Press)
  • Melinda (Manga Bookshelf) Beasi on Jason Thompson and Victor Hao’s King of RPGs (Del Rey)
  • Garrity on Svetlana Chmakova’s Nightschool (Yen Press)
  • Garrity on You Higuri’s Ludwig II (Digital Manga)
  • Garrity on Rumiko Takahashi’s Rin-Ne (Viz)
  • Brad (Japanator) Rice on Mobile Suit Gundam 00 and Mobile Suit Gundam 00F (Bandai Entertainment)
  • Garrity on Yana Toboso’s Black Butler (Yen Press)
  • Beasi on Jason S. Yadao’s The Rough Guide to Manga
  • Garrity on Jiro Taniguchi’s Summit of the Gods (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
  • Eva Volin on Yuki Midorikawa Natsume’s Book of Friends (Viz)
  • Garrity on Atsushi Ohkubo’s Soul Eater (Yen Press)
  • Butcher on Hinako Takanaga’s Little Butterfly (DMP)
  • That should help you while away a Friday.

    He’s just not that into you

    January 25, 2010

    Dude… harsh. That’s Naoki Irie from Kaoru Tada’s Itazura Na Kiss (Digital Manga), which just happens to be the subject of this week’s Flipped. It’s a very enjoyable comic in its own right, and I think it’s interesting to consider it in context, particularly when that context is inspired by Shaenon K. Garrity.

    Previews review January 2010

    January 7, 2010

    I generally don’t read the text pieces in Diamond’s Previews catalog, but the latest issue reveals that the distributor has declared March 21-27 “Women in Comics Week.” I’ll need to collate my thoughts on how Diamond has chosen to celebrate this particular event, so that’s really just a note to me at the moment. Let’s move on to the highlights of this installment, shall we?

    The best news of the month is that Simon & Schuster is releasing a volume of new terrific comics by Jimmy Gownley, Amelia Rules! Tweenage Guide to Not Being Popular (page 290): “In Jimmy Gownley’s first original volume in two years, Amelia and company rise and fall through the ranks of nerd, geek – and cheerleader? – in a daring attempt to not be unpopular.”

    Should I be excited about Yumi Unita’s Bunny Drop from Yen Press (page 306)? It’s josei, so I feel like I should be. It’s about an immature bachelor who adopts his grandfather’s illegitimate little daughter. In a shônen context, that would probably be super gross, but I think we’re on much safer ground with a josei approach. It was originally published by Shodensha in Feel Young, and it’s been published in French by Delcourt.

    There’s no question as to whether or not I should be excited about the arrival of the first print volume of Natsume Ono’s House of Five Leaves (Page 301), one of the inaugural series from Viz’s SigIKKI initiative. It’s a wonderfully odd story of a down-on-his-luck samurai who finds himself mixed up with a gang of seedy but alluring kidnappers. You can sample it online here. If I’m going to be totally honest, the other SigIKKI launch, Seimu Yoshizaki’s Kingyo Used Books, lands somewhere in the middle of the pack in my list of SigIKKI favorites. It’s a strong pack, though, so that’s not really a criticism. It’s a funny, sentimental, episodic look at why and how people love comics. You can sample it online here. (Page 301.)

    And now for a quick sampling of new volumes of some terrific series:

  • 20th Century Boys vol. 8, written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa, Viz, page 301
  • Black Jack vol. 10, written and illustrated by Osamu Tezuka, Vertical, page 306
  • Fire Investigator Nanase vol. 4, written by Izo Hashimoto, illustrated by Tomoshige Ichikawa, CMX, page 131
  • Itazura na Kiss vol. 2, written and illustrated by Kaoru Tada, DMP, page 250
  • The Name of the Flower vol. 4, written and illustrated by Ken Saito, CMX, page 131
  • Ôoku: The Inner Chambers vol. 3, written and illustrated by Fumi Yoshinaga, Viz, page 301
  • Time and Again vol. 2, written and illustrated by JiUn Yun, Yen Press, page 307