LaLa DX license requests

December 31, 2010

Hakusensha’s LaLa DX has given the world some charming comics: Natsume’s Book of Friends (Viz), The Lapis Lazuli Crown (CMX), The Palette of 12 Secret Colors (CMX), The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko (Tokyopop), etc. How about some more from that menu?

We could start with Akane Ogura’s Zettai Heiwa Daisakusen. It’s about the engagement of the children of two warring kings, brought together to secure peace between their nations. And they apparently hate each other. It’s up to three volumes and is currently running in the magazine.

All I know about Junai Station is that it’s the debut work of Kei Tanaka and that it’s one volume long, but the cover is adorable.

How many comics about royals going undercover to investigate their arranged betrothed does one magazine need? LaLa DX already had A Tale of an Unknown Country (CMX), and it also had Himitsu no Himegimi Uwasa no Ouji, written and illustrated by Mato Kauta. In this instance, the princess disguises herself as a boy to see just how horrible her intended really is.

And lest we overdose on the lighthearted cuteness, I’ll throw Yuki Midorikawa’s Hiiro no Isu into the mix. Midorikawa is rightly admired for Natsume’s Book of Friends, so it seems like barely a risk to pick up another of her titles. This one’s about a young martial artist trying to solve a royal mystery.

Do you have any particular LaLa DX titles on your wish list?

License Request Day: Cooking Papa

December 24, 2010

One of the many important things I’ve learned from the entertainment industry is that Christmas is the time of year to make unreasonable demands of higher powers that they are obligated to fulfill if they want people to keep believing in them. We’ve basically got them in a corner, so why not go for the big ask? Why not say, “Hey, someone should throw caution and logic to the wind and publish a 100-plus-volume cooking manga”?

While working on this week’s letter of the Seinen Alphabet, I ran across a mangaka named Tochi Ueyama, who basically only has one title to his credit. This isn’t due to laziness, as he’s been working on it since 1984. 112 volumes have been published to date. It’s called Cooking Papa, and it runs in Kodansha’s Morning.

As near as I can tell, it’s about an average family where the father, a white-collar worker, does the cooking. (The mother, a journalist, isn’t very good at it.) Papa helps their son learn his way around the kitchen. Every chapter includes recipes.

Now, I can hear all the “buts” to the point that they sound like an outboard motor. But it’s way too long! But cooking manga doesn’t have a great commercial track record! But we should pester Viz to publish more Oishinbo instead! But Kodansha isn’t taking that many risks yet!

All of those things are true. But if we all adopt our best Cindy Lou Who miens, perhaps manga’s heart will grow several sizes. It’s Christmas. We’re entitled to expect miracles. TV said so.

What are some of your Christmas Miracle license requests?

License Request Day: Tezuka Appreciation Week edition

December 17, 2010

In observation of Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey’s Tezuka Appreciation Week, I thought I’d devote this week’s license request to a round-up of enticing, as-yet-unpublished-in-English works by the man in the beret.

This is certainly not the first time Osamu Tezuka has been the focus of this feature. Sick as you may be of hearing me say it, I won’t be fully satisfied as a nerd until someone publishes Princess Knight in English.

Among the many wonderful things we can learn from the French is just how much great Tezuka manga there still is to be licensed. Among the horrible things we can learn from the French is how far behind them we are.

Gringo was a finalist for the 2009 Prix Asie.

Sarutobi has been recognized at Angoulême in 2010.

And earlier this year, I was motivated to cherry-pick four other unlicensed Tezuka titles for discussion and pining, including La Femme Insecte, which I love for its cover alone. [Update: Kindly folks on Twitter reminded me that this has been licensed by Vertical and will be published as The Book of Human Insects.]

The comments of that last post drew my attention to one of Tezuka’s works for a younger audience, which I tend to neglect in favor of his deranged and sordid tales for adults. I’m talking about the seven-volume, awesomely titled Rainbow Parakeet.

It’s about a brilliant actor who uses his talents for thievery. The invaluable Tezuka in English summarizes the series as follows:

“In addition to being a cops-and-robbers action manga, the series Rainbow Parakeet is also a thorough examination of theater and film on the part of Osamu Tezuka, who was fascinated by both.”

Our anti-hero is pursued by a determined woman detective, which sounds like a refreshing change of pace. And if all of that hasn’t convinced you, let’s head back to Tezuka in English for this persuasive fact:

“Each story in the manga is based upon a famous play or movie, with a wide range of source material, including Shakespeare, Noh drama, Greek tragedy, Kabuki comedy, film, theater of the absurd, and others. Tezuka was an expert in various types of drama, and therefore wove tremendous amounts of knowledge and thought on the subject into each issue of Rainbow Parakeet.”

It originally ran in Akita Shoten’s Shônen Champion.

License Request Day: Soil

December 10, 2010

What’s that great old definition of madness again? Repeating unproductive behaviors with the expectation of a different outcome? Fair enough, but nobody ever said that madness didn’t overlap with fandom in the Venn Diagram of Nerd, did they?

So, yes, it would be foolish, probably, to think it too likely that some publisher would snatch up the work of a creator whose other major title has already bombed in translation. And if no one has listed to my pleas for someone to rescue Atsushi Kaneko’s Bambi and Her Pink Gun (two of six volumes published by Digital Manga), why would they rush out to publish Kaneko’s Soil?

A commenter mentioned this title earlier this week, and, all factors to its detriment aside, I would like for someone to license and publish it because of all of the factors in its favor.

  • First of all is the sheer pleasure of those two volumes of Bambi. Lots of creators try to transcend juvenile, exploitative material and turn it into something more interesting and purposeful, but very few of them succeed, and I felt like Kaneko achieved that.
  • Secondly, there is the fact that Soil originally ran in Enterbrain’s Comic Beam, which was also the home to Bambi, and Astral Project, and Emma, and Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu, and The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, and Wandering Son, and Thermae Romae, and a bunch of other glorious things that give life joy and meaning. Here’s the link to Comic Beam’s web site.
  • Lastly, it’s a mystery. I don’t think there are enough mysteries in comic-book form, and I almost always enjoy reading them. Admittedly, it’s an odd-sounding mystery about the disappearance of a seemingly normal from a seemingly perfect rural town, but that sounds like it’s right in Kaneko’s wheelhouse.
  • On the down side, it’s already at ten volumes. That’s also an up side for people who cherish the idea of ten volumes of Kaneko comics. I have no idea who might publish the series, to be honest. CMX is gone. DMP doesn’t seem like it’s interested in this kind of manga any more. Tokyopop has published a bit of Comic Beam manga in the past, but they’ve had to scale back. Vertical would be a good choice, but they’re already making good choices, and their slate might be as full as they can allow it to be at the moment. Maybe Dark Horse might provide a good home for the series? But Dark Horse is not without its own history of putting series on hiatus, so we might just be setting ourselves up for a case of Bambi II: Abandonment Boogaloo.

    Discussion of lamented publishers and unfinished series leads me to conclude with a question. What series would you like to see liberated from the limbo of either a publisher-induced hiatus or the unfortunate and total conclusion of that publisher’s efforts? Well, two questions, really: just out of curiosity, do you have a manga magazine that’s sort of your fantasy subscription? You’re crazy about a lot of the manga that comes from it and you’d totally subscribe if you could read Japanese? Comic Beam is one of mine.

    MMF: Wanted: WANTED!

    December 3, 2010

    You’d think a manga-ka as successful as Eiichiro Oda would have more of a back catalog of works that predate his mega-hit, One Piece, but, as near as I can determine, his only other book is a collection of short stories called WANTED!, originally published by Shueisha. I’m a big fan of collections of shorter works by manga-ka who are best known for their longer-form work, so I feel fairly comfortable asking someone (Viz) to publish this retroactively introductory tome.

    The stories included and their years of publication are as follows:

  • Wanted! (1992)
  • God’s Present for the Future (1993)
  • Ikki Yakou (1993)
  • Monsters (1994)
  • Romance Dawn (Version 2, 1996)
  • “Romance Dawn” is the story that served as the template for One Piece, where young Luffy is inspired by local pirates to begin his own career of seafaring adventure.

    The title story, which Oda created at the cadaverous age of 17, apparently won some awards and came in second for an Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize, which is not even a little bit shabby.

    WANTED! has been published in German by Carlsen Verlag.

    License request day: Rainbow

    November 26, 2010

    I stumbled across this title while putting together this week’s letter in The Seinen Alphabet, and I felt the need to beg further, since it sounds really interesting. It’s called Rainbow: Risha Nokubo no Shichinin, written by George Abe and illustrated by Masasumi Kakizaki. Quoth Wikipedia:

    “The story is set in the 1950s and focuses on six junior delinquents aged sixteen to seventeen that are sent to the Shōnan Special Reform School. They learn to cope with the atrocities and unfairness they encounter there.”

    “The manga follows the boys’ lives during their time in the school and the years after they leave.”

    A period piece that takes an unflinching look at the juvenile justice system and its consequences? It would be like printing money! Or maybe not, but why not dream big?

    For another disadvantage, it’s 22 volumes long, having run for about 7 years in Shogakukan’s Young Sunday, until it was canceled, and then in Big Comic Spirits.

    Blog of the North Star thought very highly of the anime, though it may not have garnered a massive audience. Still, there is an anime, and it was legally available on FUNimation, so that’s a point in its favor.

    It shared 2006 Shogakukan Manga Award honors with Kaiiji Kawaguchi’s A Spirit in the Sun (Shogakukan), which sounds kind of like Forrest Gump with earthquakes. I could be wrong about that.

    The French sélection

    November 19, 2010

    For a change of pace, I thought I’d look to Europe for this week’s license requests, scanning through the various Sélection of the Festival International de la Bande Dessinnee for some appealing-sounding graphic novels.

    I like a good period mystery as much as the next person, so I find myself drawn to Les derniers jours d’Ellis Cutting, by Thomas Vielle. Set at the end of the 19th century, it’s about a crook on the run from the Pinkerton Agency who tries to hide out in a gold mining camp. It was published by Gallimard Jeunesse.

    I’d like to read Trois Christs mostly because one of the creators involved is Fabrice (Journal) Neaud. The other two are Valérie Mangin and Denis Bajram. The book contains three concurrent stories happening during an Easter celebration in the 1300s. It was published by Soleil.

    Sometimes it only takes a look at the cover, and I’m very taken with the style indicated on Cadavre Exquis by Pénélope Bagieu, even though I suspect vampires might be involved. It’s about a lonely young woman who becomes fascinated with an author who never leaves his home.

    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?

    Open portal thread

    November 12, 2010

    Brigid (MangaBlog) Alverson points to this report at Anime News Network, announcing that “37 Japanese publishers are collaborating to set up a joint portal site” for their manga. It seems like the kind of thing that could be so monumental as to drive me to use otherwise loathed phrases like “game changer” and “paradigm shift.”

    So instead of the usual Friday license request, I thought I’d throw open a discussion of what kinds of comics you’d like to see included in the initiative, which publishers you’re most eager to see participate, and whatever other responses you have to this news.

    License request day: Piece

    November 5, 2010

    Have you read Hinako Ashihara’s Sand Chronicles (Viz)? I think it’s really terrific and would recommend it if you like moving coming-of-age stories. The main plot takes eight volumes to complete, and what’s really interesting about it is that the story matures with the protagonist, Ann. It starts with Ann as a moody pre-teen moving to her mother’s childhood home, a rural village, and follows Ann as she grows into a young woman with a job, responsibilities, and a complicated emotional life. Basically, it grows from a shôjo series into a josei title, which is a kind of amazing conceit as much as it is just an excellent comic. Viz is publishing two additional volumes of side stories about the well-developed and sympathetic cast of characters, but we’re just about done.

    So when I overheard Danielle Leigh tweet about Ashihara’s current series, I had to leap into license request action. It’s called Piece, runs in Shogakukan’s Betsucomi (also home to Sand Chronicles), and sounds very promising. It also sounds like it uses time, though in a different way than Ashihara did with Sand Chronicles.

    It’s about a young woman who hears of the death of a classmate who apparently viewed their relationship as being much closer than our heroine did. Mizuho looks into the sad, short life of Origuchi, trying to fill in the blanks and understand her connection to Origuchi. (I think that’s what it’s about, at least, though it’s partly guesswork.) Four volumes have been published so far, and Shogakukan seems to be branding it in its Flower josei imprint, for whatever that’s worth.

    I sometimes forget that I also enjoyed Ashihara’s fun, one-volume SOS (Viz), which is about a secret dating agency in a high school. I’m almost entirely unfamiliar with her Forbidden Dance (Tokyopop), a four-volume series about a ballerina, aside from that I’ve heard some mixed responses to it. Please feel free to let me know if I should track it down.

    And, for another approach to license requests, please check out Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney’s run-down of the potential license-ability of the books that made a recent best-seller list in Japan.