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?


Upcoming 9/22/2010

September 21, 2010

Welcome to my ultra-lazy look at this week’s ComicList. I have a head cold. Sue me. Here’s what looks particularly good to me:

What looks good to you?


Manga Moveable Feast: Yotsuba & Ultra Maniac

September 5, 2010

It’s sometimes diverting to consider what comics a comic-book character might enjoy. Yotsuba, the titular heroine of Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&! (Yen Press), is pre-school aged and strikes me as more of a doer than a reader anyway. She might enjoy Masashi Tanaka’s wordless, hyperactive Gon (CMX), since it’s got lots of animals in it. But Gon is seinen (it ran in Kodansha’s Morning), and I’ve heard tales of some little kids being perfectly horrified by this story or that. Yotsuba’s pretty sturdy, but you never know what’s going to touch a nerve, as with real kids.

Given her various phases, she might also be really taken with Akira Amano’s Reborn, just because it features a toddler with a gun. Yotsuba seems like she enjoys a little more grit in her crime drama, so maybe Reborn might be too silly.

I don’t think she’d have much patience for her own comic. Thinking back on my tastes as a five-year-old, I can’t remember having much interest in slice-of-life narrative. I might have liked the fact that the protagonist seemed to interact exclusively with people older than herself, since those were also my companions of choice. Back then, I tended to read a lot of Casper and Richie Rich. It now strikes me that Casper was wasting his afterlife, and I think Yotsuba would click more with the Ghostly Trio. I was a child in the early 1970s, so I can’t possibly judge how any other kid dresses, but even I knew Richie looked like a tool, no matter how swank his mansion was. He was like Thurston Howell the Fourth.

I liked to read up, so my pre-super-hero drug of choice was Archie. More accurately, it was Betty and Veronica. Like the gay uncle I would someday become, I think I wanted to advise them both to trade up even then, and they cultivated a lifelong interest in unlikely female friendships. But gender politics aside, I always liked reading about their part-time jobs, their dates, and their various high-school woes. It didn’t do a thing to prepare me for actual high school, which was horrible, but it was a nice safe space in which to imagine what high school might be like, at its best.

There’s something of that to Wataru Yoshizumi’s Ultra Maniac (Viz), an all-ages, five volume shôjo series about a magic-school dropout who transfers to a regular human junior-high school in our world. (Junior high school was even more horrible than high school, but I can’t remember any specific pieces of fiction lying to me about that.)

Nina, the inept witch, meets Ayu, the pretty and poised seventh-grader who’s carefully cultivated a calm, cool and collected exterior because the boy she likes said that’s what he likes. Ayu helps Nina out with something minor, and Nina tries to return the favor with magic. Alas, Nina sucks at magic, so Ayu usually ends up in some humiliating state. Betty and Veronica cross over with Lucy and Ethel. There are some genuinely funny bits in the early going.

It might be disappointing when Yoshizumi turns her attention to romantic possibilities for the girls, but she does something unusual. Instead of romance driving a wedge between the girls via jealousy or feelings of abandonment, it brings them closer. Nina works hard to help Ayu be happy, and Ayu returns the favor. They’re prepared to make sacrifices for each other because they genuinely like each other and friendship comes first.

That’s an idealistic message, obviously, but it’s leavened by the fact that Yoshizumi’s female leads have great chemistry. Their various love interests aren’t really anything to write home about – nice boys, but nobody to lose sleep over, if you know what I mean. What they aren’t is domineering and jerky, as some shôjo princes can be. They respect girl power even before they realize how much of it Nina and Ayu can wield when they put their heads together.

Re-reading the series to write this, I see some flaws that weren’t evident the first time through, as it was released by Viz. There’s a long chunk in the later volumes with a rather generic rival rearing her pretty head. She’s nowhere near as vivid or internally consistent as the stars, so it’s hard to take her mischief seriously. There’s also something mawkish about her motives, and bits of her back story are a little on the bleak side. That’s not necessarily a fatal flaw, and Yoshizui has doled out disappointments and sadness prior to this, but it still seems tonally off.

But Yoshizumi corrects before she wraps things up, giving Nina a lovely and unexpected reward for her good intentions and occasionally successful good deeds. And Yoshizumia consistently rewards readers for sweet, well-drawn stories featuring a generally charming cast. It’s on the short side, it’s got magic and romance and comedy, and it gives younger readers a completely unrealistic glimpse into the terrifying world of junior high. What more could you want?


Previews review September 2010

August 30, 2010

There’s lots of desirable material in the September 2010 Previews catalog.

Before we get to that, I feel I should note that Del Rey manga is still launching new series. Its latest is Ema Toyama’s I Am Here! It’s about a young girl who overcomes her shyness through blogging. I fell asleep halfway through typing that sentence, but there you have it. It originally ran in Kodansha’s Nakayoshi magazine. (Page 267.)

It seems like it’s been forever since the gorgeous hardcover collection of the first set of Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting stories. Fantagraphics will release 384 more pages of charming comics about the family-of-choice residents of a falling-down castle along the way. (Page 278.)

Ever since I read Glacial Period (NBM), I’ve wanted someone to publish more comics by Nicolas De Crecy. NBM obliges again with the first volume of Salvatore: Transports of Love about a successful auto mechanic who happens to be a dog. Congratulations, NBM, on joining the elite circle of publishers who have fulfilled one of my license requests. You may join Vertical and Fantagraphics in the Silver Courtesy Lounge. (Page 290.)

I’m generally not the target audience for books from PictureBox, but I love Renée (The Ticking) French, so I’ll be all over H Day. It’s a no-doubt surreal look at how French copes with migraine headaches. (Page 300.)

It also feels like it’s been a long time since Top Shelf published the first volume of Lars Martinson’s Tōnoharu. The second volume examining the life of a North American English teacher in rural Japan can be found listed on page 310.

Bless Yen Press for digging and finding unlicensed Fumi Yoshinaga, specifically Not Love but Delicious Foods, about a hard-working, hard-eating lady and her foodie friends as they restaurant hop through Tokyo. It originally ran in Ohta Shuppan’s Manga Erotics F, which is one of those magazines that seems to run whatever the hell kind of comics it pleases. (Page 321.)


Upcoming 8/18/2010

August 17, 2010

It may not look like there’s any new manga of note on this week’s ComicList, but a lot of the stuff that I mentioned last week is actually shipping this week. Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey has a handy run-down, and she also has a timeless warning on Japanese comics to avoid. (How could I have forgotten Pretty Face?) And there are a couple of very promising items due for arrival on Wednesday.

Goldilocks and the Seven Squat Bears isn’t from Japan or Korea, the usual sources for books from Yen Press, but it’s been written and illustrated by Émile Bravo, so it’s likely to be very, very good. Bravo brilliantly illustrated My Mommy Is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill, written by Jean Regnaud and published in English by Fanfare/Ponent Mon.

I really enjoyed Aaron Renier’s Spiral-Bound (Top Shelf), and I sometimes find myself wondering when his next book will arrive. The answer is apparently “Wednesday,” thanks to First Second and in the form of The Unsinkable Walker Bean. Here are the details:

“Mild, meek, and a little geeky, Walker is always happiest in his grandfather’s workshop, messing around with his inventions. But when his beloved grandfather is struck by an ancient curse, it falls on Walker to return an accursed pearl skull to the witches who created it—and his path will be strewn with pirates, magical machines, ancient lore, and deadly peril.”

Update: I inexcusably missed this one, but I have to mention the new Vertigo graphic novel Dark Rain because it’s been drawn by the incredibly gifted Simon (Paris) Gane. It’s a thriller set in post-Katrina New Orleans, written by Mat (Incognegro) Johnson. There are some preview pages over at Techland.


Guest review: Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime

July 28, 2010

By Erica (Okazu) Friedman

Is there anything more delicious than a really juicy story?

Tohko Amano, self-styled “Book Girl,” doesn’t think so. And to indulge her passion for delicious snacks, she’s grabbed underclassman Konoha Ionue to write for her. Indulge she does, as she *actually* eats what she reads.

As a member of the Book Club, Konoha rapidly becomes used to Tohko’s idiosyncracies, foibles, habits and other words that mean “Tohko’s a strange bird.” But Konoha was totally unprepared to find himself writing love letters for a first-year student… or to find that the recipient of these love letters doesn’t actually exist.

Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime is a series of slightly too many plot twists strung together like beads, to form a complete, eccentric whole. Sketch-like illustrations add to the atmosphere of reading one of Konoha’s handwritten “snack” stories.

Fans of the Suzumiya Haruhi novel series are likely to find the combination of Konoha’s sarcastic, not-quite-milquetoast personality and Tohko’s overbearing weirdness (and the subtle tension between them) to be a familiar – and entertaining – formula. Fans of books about books, such as the Dante Club, or Name of The Rose and fans of the ROD series are also likely to find this series worth a read.

As a fan of all of the above, I personally found the novel engaging from the first word to the last – something I can honestly say about very, very few light novels – heck about very few *anything* these days.

The subject matter, as the title suggests, is grim in places, but I can’t think of too many teens for whom this would be a traumatic read… and the subtext of the story is about redemption and being weird yet functional, in a totally honest-to-yourself way. Although the age rating is 15+ because of the subject of suicide, I myself would have enjoyed it at a much earlier age.

Yen Press has given this series a fetching YA-novel look, and without the baggage of an a priori anime or manga fandom, this series has a good chance of just being appreciated for what it is – good teen lit.

I’d recommend this book highly to any book-y teen or precocious pre-teen or any adult that isn’t turned off by the idea of reading teen lit.

Bottom line – I enjoyed the heck out of this book and eagerly await the next one in the series.


The news so far

July 23, 2010

Updated: Awesome as the two titles below sound, Yen Press pulled into the lead of winning Comic Con International by announcing the following license:

Yes, they will be publishing Kaoru (Emma) Mori’s Otoyomegatari, which moves Yen into the august group of publishers who have fulfilled one of my license requests. Others include Vertical and NBM.

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Updated again: But the Mori book still holds the top spot. Brigid (Robot 6) Alverson reports on a couple of upcoming books by Shigeru (GeGeGe no Kitaro) Mizuki from Drawn & Quarterly. At least one has been published in French by Cornélius. With the other, I’m not sure what the original Japanese title might have been or how it might have been translated. Sounds dramatic, though. Updated: It was confirmed for me that the second book has also been published in French.

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They may not have been on my wish list, but Comic Con International has already yielded two really interesting-sounding licenses, so we’ll take the week off from requests in favor of pointing you towards more information on these announcements.

Vertical will be publishing Usumaru Furuya’s Lychee Light Club. Brigid Alverson has the details at Robot 6. Maybe this will do really well, and someone will decide to rescue Furuya’s 51 Ways to Save Her. Think of the headline puns!

Brigid also has details and some preview pages of Masahiko Matsumoto’s Cigarette Girl, due out from Top Shelf, who seems to want to give Drawn & Quarterly a run for their gekiga money. Competition is healthy!