Upcoming 11/11/2009

November 10, 2009

In her look at this week’s comics, Kate Dacey delivers a succinct takedown of the latest example of that just-won’t-die-or-evolve artifact, the list of recommendations to help comics fans convince the ladies in their lives to share their hobby. I don’t really have anything to add, but I will just note that most of the women I know online who read manga are omnivores. They greet new romantic shôjo and new blood-and-guts seinen with equal enthusiasm. To my way of thinking, this makes the frequent exclusion of manga from these chick-bait graphic novel guides even more baffling.

Anyway, here’s what looks good to me on the latest ComicList:

I read a review copy of Tamio Baba’s Deka Kyoshi (CMX), about a detective going undercover as a teacher, joining forces with a mildly psychic student, and helping kids with their often dangerous problems. My reaction to the book tracks pretty much exactly with Brigid Alverson’s: “The stories are nice little self-contained dramas, but they never veer far from the predictable.”

UltimateVenus5It seems to be a week where publishers who’ve had something of a low profile lately deliver some new goods. There are new volumes from DrMaster, Seven Seas, and Go! Comi. I’m most enthusiastic about the Go! Comi offering, the fifth volume of Takako Shigematsu’s Ultimate Venus. It’s about an orphan who learns that she’s the granddaughter of a very wealthy, very formidable woman, and must prove her worth to inherit the family fortune. I can’t say I yet love it in the way that I loved Shigematsu’s Tenshi Ja Nai!!, but I loved that series a lot and heartily recommend it to people who like wacky, mean-spirited romantic comedy. Ultimate Venus is a bit tamer, but it’s still very enjoyable.

Viz finally rolls out a VizBig version of Rumiko Takahashi’s long-running, much-loved InuYasha, which is a welcome development for people who might enjoy the anime but be a bit daunted by the 42 existing volumes of the manga.

ikigami3Of more specific interest to me is the third volume of Motoro Mase’s Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, from Viz’s Signature line. Though I’m ambivalent about the series overall, I’ve liked it enough to review the first and second volumes of this series about a draconian government program that targets random people for death to help the remainder of the citizenry better appreciate life. A government functionary must notify these unlucky learning tools of their fate, and readers get to watch the victims flip out during their last hours. I still feel like it needs to go somewhere beyond episodic individual drama, but I’m intrigued enough to stick around. And the third volume has an awesome tag line: “Sometimes people do shoot the messenger.”

What if you could bring your cat to school? What if you and your cat were given amazing powers, and all you had to do in exchange was keep horrible demons at bay? These are the central questions addressed by Yuji Iwahara’s Cat Paradise (Yen Press). The second volume is due out on Wednesday and promises more mystery and adventure at a purportedly feline-friendly institute of learning.


Upcoming 2/11/2009

February 10, 2009

A quick look at this week’s ComicList:

A panel from Lewis Trondheim's blog-comic, <i>Little Nothings</i>

A panel from Lewis Trondheim's blog-comic, Little Nothings

All due respect to the other fine items shipping on Wednesday, but the clear pick of the week is the second print collection of Lewis Trondheim’s excellent, observational blog-comic, Little Nothings, this one called “The Prisoner Syndrome.” The first collection was a real treat, one of the most entertaining books of 2008.

Here’s some good timing. DrMaster is releasing a set of two volumes of Yuki Fujisawa’s Metro Survive right on the heels of their inclusion on the 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list. It sounds like just the thing for people who enjoyed Minetaro Mochizuki’s tense survival drama Dragon Head (Tokyopop), which was everyone, right? Or at least everyone who read it?

Linda Medley’s gently fractured fairy tale Castle Waiting (Fantagraphics) is one of the few pamphlet comics I still buy. It’s a real charmer, though I always suspect I’d do better to buy it all in a big collected chunk. That’s probably because I was introduced to the series that way. If you haven’t had the pleasure, I strongly recommend you track down the hardcover collection of the first volume of stories.

I need to get on the stick and catch up with Park SoHee’s charming royal soap opera Goong (Yen Press), as I seem to be about a volume behind. The fourth shows up on Wednesday.

Upcoming 12/19/2007

December 18, 2007

Wow, there’s quite a few comics worth nothing coming out this week.

Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá have created quite the entertaining comic in The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite (Dark Horse). The fourth issue arrives Wednesday.

DrMaster gets on the omnibus… um… bus with a collection of the first three volumes of Gokurakuin Sakuraks’ bluntly creepy Category Freaks. (I’ll probably pass on the collection, but it does remind me that I still need to catch up with the third volume.)

Go! Comi releases two first volumes this week: Yuu Asami’s A.I. Revolution and Kyoko Hashimoto’s Love Master A.

The third issue of Andi Watson’s absolutely charming Glister arrives from Image. What bizarre and mildly irritating difficulties will our heroine’s bizarre family manse present this time? I can’t wait to find out. (And okay, is it just me, or should the ratio of frame and banner to actual content be a little higher than it is at Image’s web site? It’s like Watson’s poor comic is hiding down at the bottom of the page. There’s very much of a “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” vibe to it.)

A new issue of Otaku USA arrives, which means I need to swing by Barnes & Noble. Not that I ever need a specific reason.

Queenie Chan’s The Dreaming (Tokyopop) concludes with the third volume. And if you’re looking for the gift that may secretly be plotting world domination, there’s a three-volume collection of Sgt. Frog.

And Viz releases its intermittent avalanche of Signature material, with new volumes of The Drifting Classroom, Naoiki Urasawa’s Monster, and Uzumaki. In the more commercial (though no less artistically worthy) corner of Viz-ville, there’s a new volume of Fullmetal Alchemist due as well. Oh, and a new issue of Shojo Beat, which I have to buy because of Honey and Clover and The Sand Chronicles.

See? Something for everyone. Or lots of things for me.


June 28, 2007

Okay, I’ve finally gotten around to composing the list of manga series I’ve dumped after a fairly significant investment of volumes (inspired by John Jakala). Looking at them, the common thread seems to be novelty wearing off. And this doesn’t count the series where I tried a single volume and decided to give it a pass, because I’m terrified that any mention of them would lead to people swearing that things improved later and that I’m really cheating myself by not reading a little farther. Because I’m totally susceptible and would find my B&N member card and car keys and say, “D’or, okay!”

Absolute Boyfriend, by Yuu Watase (Viz – Shojo Beat): There’s just something depressing about the premise here. If the heroine had come out and said, “Listen, he’s hot, he’s devoted, and he’ll never cheat on me, you lowly human, and I don’t feel like working very hard on a relationship,” that might have been one thing. But the suggestion that there’s actually some kind of competition-fostering inner life to the robot guy is just something I don’t see.

Case Closed, by Gosho Aoyama (Viz): This is a perfectly pleasant mystery series with a cute premise and absolutely nothing in the way of forward momentum. What finally broke me was the knowledge that the series is still apparently going strong in Japan with some 60 volumes in print. I couldn’t see myself making that kind of commitment to something that was just reasonably entertaining.

Cromartie High School, by Eiji Nonaka (ADV): I’ll chalk this one up to too much of a good, weird thing. I just couldn’t quite keep up with the releases, as there was always something with an ongoing narrative that I wanted to read more. It’s funny and weird, and I’m fairly sure I might check in with the series again at some point when I need a disorienting laugh. But it doesn’t feel like something I need to “subscribe to,” per se. Am I spoiled? (On the bright side, it’s like the only opportunity I’ve ever had to link to ADV’s web site without it being in the context of not being able to find information on a series.)

Iron Wok Jan! by Shinji Saiyo (DrMaster): I’m really making a lot of you weep for my taste, aren’t I? I’m not doing it on purpose, I swear. And again, I like what I’ve read of the series. It just didn’t seem to be going anywhere, and I guess I need narrative momentum more than I thought. Like Cromartie, though, it’s always possible that I’ll pick up a couple of volumes on a rainy day when I need outrageous, over-the-top culinary action.

I’m trying to decide whether or not to count Shuri Shiozu’s Eerie Queerie (Tokyopop). It’s only four volumes long, and I made it through two of them. The first was really promising, the second was creepy in all the wrong ways, and I have no idea about the third and fourth and plan to keep it that way.

And just for bonus points and to give more people the opportunity to tell me how foolish I am for even considering such a reckless course of behavior, here are some series that are on the bubble:

Eden! It’s an Endless World, by Hiroki Endo (Dark Horse): Seriously, if I wanted to read about gangsters, prostitutes and illegal narcotics, there are approximately one billion choices out there in the world that didn’t bait-and-switch me with a thoughtful sci-fi introductory run. This is not what I was led to expect from the series, and I find myself irritated to a possibly unreasonable degree.

(Update: Myk speaks… from the FUTURE! Or in this case, Germany, where more Eden is available, and he confirms Huff’s assurance that the hookers-and-blow mini-arc comes to an end and things get back to abnormal. That’s good news, but I still think that wedging this story into a landscape where the vast majority of the population has been turned into crumbled Swarovsky figurines was a really, really bad, self-indulgent idea.)

Kindaichi Case Files, by Kanari Yozaburo and Sato Fumiya (Tokyopop): You know what could get me more invested in this series? A forward time-jump that gets Kindaichi out of high school and into a different setting with a different dynamic. He can still be a slacker, but I think moving him to a different stage of his life would revitalize things. I feel like there needs to be a sense of time passing that isn’t limited to references to previous cases.

(Still no Tokyopop links available, as 2.0 is still in limbo.)

Grab bag

February 6, 2007

Stop it, manga! I haven’t received my tax refund yet! And you, western comics publishers… you’re not helping! At all!

Tons of the stuff that was due out last week is actually arriving this week, along with a bunch of other stuff that I want. It’s going to be a bloodbath.

The first culprit is Dark Horse, which unleashes new volumes of Eden: It’s an Endless World!, Mail, and The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, any one of which could vie for “pick of the week” status. I’m also very curious about the first volume of Red String by Gina Biggs, the first volume of a collection of a shôjo-influenced webcomic.

I can’t remember the last time I was really excited by the prospect of a monthly from DC, but I’m really looking forward to Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil. My interest in the character probably peaked with the live-action Saturday-morning show that ran when I was about eight (and even then I preferred Isis), but it’s Jeff Smith doing a comic that doesn’t apparently require consumption of an anti-depressant to get through it. It sounds like exactly the kind of friendly-to-a-wider-audience treatment of an iconic character that some bloggers have been wanting.

And Dark Horse doesn’t own the helping-the-dead manga category this week. CMX has a new volume of Omukae Desu.

I remember reviewing the first two volumes of Category: Freaks (DrMaster) about a year ago, and the third volume is just coming out now? I’ll have to put it on the “check it out when time and disposable income permit” list.

Escape from “Special” by Miss Lasko-Gross (Fantagraphics) will also go on that list. It sounds intriguing, and who can resist exuberant, demographically sensitive solicitation text like this: “Miss Lasko-Gross, who has the sensibility of a love child of Linda Barry and David B. midwifed by Judy Blume, has created a graphic novel that should appeal not only to the growing readers of graphic novels, but to teens grappling with similar unresolved questions.” Not me, that’s for sure.

Oni releases the second issue of the very appealing Maintenance, a workplace comedy about custodians at a mad-scientist think tank.

Viz delivers the Shojo Beat titles that were initially scheduled for release last week, along with the final volume of Train Man: Densha Otoko, my favorite of the competing manga adaptations of the story.

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.


Works, by Eriko Tadeno


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


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


Unholy Kinship, by Naomi Nowak


In the Starlight, by Kyungok Kang


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

From the manga stack: IRON WOK JAN Vol. 2

July 5, 2004

In IRON WOK JAN Vol. 2, protagonist Jan Akiyama continues his efforts to be Japan’s finest creator of Chinese cuisine. It’s a common manga theme, tracing a young man’s battle to the top, but this title approaches it with a welcome level of psychological complexity.

In Vol. 1, readers saw glimpses of Jan’s apprenticeship under his sadistic, obsessive grandfather, the late Kaiichiro Akiyama. Before Kaiichiro’s death, he sent Jan to become an apprentice in the restaurant of kindly rival Mutsuju Gobancho, partly in hopes that Jan would destroy Gobancho during his ascension. Arrogant, ambitious, and abrasive, Jan quickly impressed the Gobancho crew with his skills even as he alienated them with his personality.

The set-up makes you wonder if Jan’s goal is really his. Does he want to achieve greatness for its own sake? Did his grandfather successfully overlay his own brutal ambition in his grandchild? Is there some undercurrent of spite against Kaiichiro that drives Jan? Will the more benevolent attitude of the Gobancho crew soften Jan? It gives complexity to a straightforward concept.

It also helps make Jan more sympathetic than he might be otherwise. It’s a tricky thing to successfully present an abusive childhood as an excuse for a character being a bastard, but creator Shinji Saijyo pulls it off. He also gives Jan some other saving graces. In his own brusque way, Jan’s supportive of hapless fellow apprentice Takao Okonogo. And Jan’s zeal for cooking is obviously sincere.

Vol. 2 puts Jan and his other fellow apprentice, Kiriko Gobancho, in a competition for young chefs specializing in Chinese cuisine. In the process, Saijyo introduces a wider cast of rivals for Jan and expands on his antagonistic relationship with Kiriko. The newcomers are all engaging and distinct in their own ways, but my favorite would have to be Kei Sawada, the cunning pretty-boy who uses cooking as a pick-up line.

But the core rivalry is still between Jan and Kiriko, and it’s more than a case of simple one-upping. Kiriko is a subtler, more contemplative student than Jan. In one chapter, she takes genuine pleasure and pride in mastering a new technique; it’s joy in learning for its own sake. Still, Jan knows how to push her buttons; he seems to have a special, infuriating smirk that he saves just for her.

It’s clear that Kiriko sees the potential in Jan, not simply in terms of skill but on a more personal level. When Jan does something unethical, she explodes with fury, and it’s surely not just because of how it reflects on her family’s restaurant. Even if she doesn’t like Jan (and who could?), she wants him to be worthy of their profession and thinks he can be.

The art is wonderfully polished and well-suited for the material. Saijyo renders the act of cooking so that it’s as visually exciting as any samurai battle. While the stories and dialogue are often melodramatic to giddy effect, Saijyo manages never to undermine the characters’ sincerity or the craft they’re trying to master. And honestly, I’d much rather read about young culinary Turks than cartoon cock-fighters or supernatural card sharps.