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.

Winding paths to wanting

October 22, 2010

This week’s requests were both born of… well… getting off the subject, basically.

In this week’s installment of the seinen alphabet, someone mentioned Reiko Shimizu’s Moon Child (CMX), which… isn’t seinen, but hey, I never want to stop people from talking about comics they love. This reference came in service to a passionate endorsement of Shimizu’s Himitsu – The Top Secret, which is… also not seinen, and doesn’t start with the letter “M,” but it sounds interesting, and Moto Hagio likes it a lot. Here’s Hagio’s description:

“It’s a story about an organization that examines the brains of dead people to find out everything they’ve experienced, everything that they’ve done. Because their brains are full of all kinds of secrets. [laughs]”

The series is running in Hakusensha’s Melody magazine, which I believe straddles the shôjo-josei age line and is home to Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ôoku: The Inner Chambers (Viz), so it’s obviously a nice neighborhood with good schools. I can’t quite tell if Hakusensha has collected it in its older-skewing Jets imprint or not. [Update: Michelle Smith informs me that it is in the Jets imprint.] It’s been nominated for awards at the Japan Media Arts Festival at least twice. It’s being published in French by Tonkam.

When I was trying to figure out how I feel about March Story (Viz), I was trying to get a handle on the kind of manga published by Shogakukan’s Sunday GX. I’m not really a whole lot further down that road, because I got totally distracted by the fact that the magazine was home to a series called Rubbers 7. Because, all forensic evidence to the contrary aside, I am nine years old. Here’s the Baka-Updates summary:

“Welcome to Rubbers 7, a small Japanese convenience store with a reputation for some odd owners. Rumors of mob connections and one rather eccentric boss with a passion for Ping-pong tend to keep business low. But when a young, quiet girl is framed for shoplifting and ends up working for the store. Can her touch, with the help of her unusual coworkers, including a shy boy and a drag queen, turn the fortune of the store around?”

It ran for seven volumes, and was written and illustrated by Sukune Inugami. I like the premise, and I think there’s always room for goofy seinen created by women.

Watase branches out

October 15, 2010

Sometimes information comes your way that forces you to set aside your best-laid plans, you know? I had thought about doing a Friday piece rounding up feedback from last week’s call-out for Kodansha requests, but a comment from JennyN (or “the French Connection,” as I like to think of her) has put that on hold:

“Three volumes in French translation so far, and quite unlike anything else she’s ever done. For one thing it’s straight-out yaoi, and for another it has a historical rather than fantasy setting – Japan immediately after WWI i.e. the Taisho period which is also the setting for the “real-world” episodes of FUSHIGI YUGI LEGEND OF GEMBU. (I’d guess that this is something of a personal fascination for Watase, just as 19th-century Germany and Austria seem to be for Yuu Higuri).”

The “she” in this case is Yuu Watase, the wildly popular shôjo manga-ka who has also dabbled in shônen. But seriously, Watase is doing yaoi? Watase, who always seems to include some unnerving psycho-sexual undertones in even her fluffiest romantic comedies? Who wouldn’t at least be curious about that?

So what do we know about Sakura-Gari? Its three volumes were serialized in Shogakukan’s josei magazine, Rinka, and it’s being published in French by Tonkam. Here’s my attempt at a translation of the French volume descriptions. Volume one:

“Masataka Tagami goes up to the capital to succeed, he enters into the service of the Saiki family to finance his studies. While becoming the family’s majordomo, Masataka will plunge in the middle of the schemes of this strange family whose beautiful eldest son exerts an irresistible attraction on all those around him!”

Volume two:

“Since the incident of the library, Masakata is tortured and reluctant to leave the Saiki residence. But he learns that his brother is involved in debt to gangsters. He reluctantly accepts the bargain that Soma proposes to him: if Masakata remains near him and agrees to become his plaything, Soma will give him the money Masakata needs.”

Volume three:

“After the tragic events visited upon Masataka, Soma is gripped with remorse. He will do anything to avenge his friend and to try to make Masataka forget his painful past. Of course, the pile of bodies around the Saiki family sparking suspicions among the police force, but that matters little to Sora…”

Okay, so it sounds like fairly standard, coercion-friendly period smut, but it’s Watase doing full-on same-sex romance. Someone needs to get on this right away.

Open thread: Kodansha requests

October 8, 2010

Count me among those who were disappointed that Kodansha canceled its panel at this year’s New York Comic-Con and Anime Festival. It offered a bit of hope that the publisher’s torturously slow U.S. rollout might pick up some momentum and that we might get some concrete indications of what would happen next.

I’ve devoted a number of these license requests to Kodansha titles. They’ve featured demon kids, magic girls, economists, Vikings, foodies, sommeliers, Borgias, supreme beings, salarywomen, eggplants, Tezuka, post-apocalyptic diners, and many other types and topics.

This Friday, I thought I’d open it up to your Kodansha wishes. What as-yet-unpublished titles would you like to see licensed? What previously published titles would you like to see rescued from out-of-print limbo?

License Request Day: The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese

October 1, 2010

When a Manga Moveable Feast comes around, I sometimes like to request another title from the creator of the featured book, and I have no compunctions about asking for more work by Setona (After School Nightmare, X-Day) Mizushiro. I’ve asked for another of her unlicensed works (Diamond Head), and I would also love for someone to publish The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese.

Here’s what a commenter had to say about the book:

“It’s a pity no one licensed Mizushiro-sensei’s josei/BL work, Kyūso wa Cheese no Yume wo Miru (The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese) and its sequel… it is easily her masterwork; truly the mangaka at her storytelling and characterization best.”

I think Mizushiro’s licensed work is pretty impressive, so this is quite a thing to say. I mean… After School Nightmare isn’t Mizushiro at her best? Bring it.

The story was originally serialized in Shogakukan’s apparently defunct Judy josei magazine. It’s about a serial adulterer who gets blackmailed into sex by the male private investigator hired by his wife, which sounds potentially creepy, but Mizushiro has a way with creepy, so I’m totally game for it.

It’s been published in French in two volumes by Asuka as Le jeu du chat et de la souris. It’s also been published in German and Italian, so we’re just about last in line again. Viz is partly owned by Shogakukan, but Viz has displayed a general disinterest in books with a pronouncedly yaoi characteristic. Fantagraphics has formed a partnership with Shogakukan, and this sounds like it could be up Matt Thorn’s alley, so perhaps they’d be the better home for the story.