Bookmarked! 10/22/14

A few weeks ago, we promised that we’d be introducing some new features to complement our regular link-posts. Today we’re launching the first of those columns, Bookmarked! Every Wednesday, Brigid and I will discuss what’s sitting on our nightstands, and invite someone from the mangasphere to join the conversation. Our first guest is Deb Aoki, who’s been a force in manga journalism for almost a decade. Deb was the editor of About Manga from 2007 to 2013, and is currently a contributor to Publisher’s Weekly. She also runs her own website Manga Comics Manga, which offers a mixture of reviews and commentary.

all_need_killKate: First up for me is Takeshi Obata’s adaptation of All You Need Is Kill. The premise is equal parts Ground Hog Day and Stormship Troopers: a soldier dies on the battlefield, only to relive the same day over and over again. Naturally, he takes advantage of this time-loop to learn more about his alien foes, honing his hand-to-tentacle combat skills with each ill-fated mission. Though it’s a boffo premise for a story, the execution–in manga form, at least–is mediocre. The combat scenes are rendered with gory zest, but the aliens themselves aren’t terribly frightening; if anything, they look like irradiated dust mites. The manga also suffers from a bad case of Explanation-itis, with too many text boxes filling gaps in the story. My verdict: skip the manga and read Hiroshi Sakurazawa’s original novel instead.

I’m also reading My Love Story!! a new-ish shojo title that’s been getting good buzz around the web. The key to its success, I think, is the artwork. Though most of the characters conform to shojo norms—button-cute faces, artfully tousled hair—Takeo, the hero, looks like a graduate of Cromartie High, a big bruiser with a gorilla’s face. His size and fearsome appearance are, of course, played for laughs, but artist Kazune Kawahara also plays against type, revealing Takeo’s gentler (and nimbler) side through brief but hilarious vignettes involving treed cats, imperiled children, and falling i-beams.

What I like best about My Love Story!!, however, is the friendship between Takeo and Sunakawa, his impossibly handsome, cool friend. Sunakawa finds Takeo’s social cluelessness exasperating, but remains staunchly loyal to his buddy. As someone who’s had her fill of cocky shonen characters, I found it refreshing to see Takeo discuss his anxieties to Sunakawa so openly; younger female readers may be pleasantly happy to discover that boys worry about their looks and “it” factor as much as girls do, even if it isn’t socially acceptable to admit such fears. And if that last sentence made you say, “Holy Phil Donahue, Batman!” rest assured that Takeo and Sunakawa’s exchanges are blunt and funny, not touchy-feely; Sunakawa never sugar-coats his advice to Takeo. (He’s a big proponent of the “She’s just not that into you” school of keepin’ it real.)

Yoshino_Barakamon_V1_TP

Brigid: Barakamon is the story of an up-and-coming calligrapher, Seishuu Handa, who retreats to a remote island after putting his career in jeopardy by getting physical with an expert who calls his work “highly conformist.” There’s a lot of city-slicker-goes-to-the-country humor, with the locals invariably getting the better of Seishuu—especially the children, who have turned his rented house into their own clubhouse and have no intention of letting it go. The chief miscreant is a very young girl named Naru who is cute and inquisitive but suffers from the irritating habit of referring to herself in the third person. Manga-ka Satsuki Yoshino has a weak sense of anatomy—the characters often look like a pile of clothes with no structure underneath, and the parts of the body are frequently out of proportion—but she also does a good job of evoking the open, rural area and the playfulness of the children. This is a charming book with broad humor and a nice sense of atmosphere.

My Love Story 2

Deb Aoki
My Love Story!! Vol. 2: Spring has sprung, and now that cute, sweet and petite Yamato and huge, big-hearted hulk Takeo are officially GF/BF, things are headed toward their happily ever after, right? Well, KINDA. Now Yamato wants to introduce her super cool boyfriend to her friends via a group date, and has a bit of a rude awakening when her friends are less than impressed with his uh, “gorilla-like” appearance. Will their love survive when friendship gets in the way?

My Love Story!! was one of my picks for best new manga at San Diego Comic-Con this year, and that was based on only one volume! Now that the second volume is out, the question is, can Kawahara (the creator of another fave shojo romantic comedy, High School Debut) and Aruko keep the ball rolling on what basically seems like a one-joke-wonder? Based on what I’ve seen in volume 2, it looks like they’re just getting started.

I don’t want to spoil the laughs, but there are several scenes in My Love Story!! vol. 2 that made me genuinely guffaw. Seeing Takeo wearing a skimpy apron as he works at a “Bro Café” and listening to his matter-of-fact interactions with his mom (who unsurprisingly, was a former pro wrestler) reminded me that this ensemble of quirky characters still has lots of comedy left to mine, I hope they keep it comin’.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? Vols. 4 & 5 : I was down with the whole concept of What Did You Eat Yesterday? almost as soon as Vertical announced that they licensed it for publication in English—but somehow, volumes 4 and 5 really sealed the deal for me.

Written and drawn by Fumi Yoshinaga (Ooku, Antique Bakery, Flower of Life, All My Darling Daughters, and more BL than you can shake a stick at), What Did You Eat Yesterday? seems at first like just a foodie-centric slice of life story about couple in Tokyo who just happen to be gay. Kenji is a hairdresser, who’s basically out, while Shiro the lawyer keeps his sexual preferences under wraps for professional reasons. What they have in common (besides their love for each other) is their shared love of good food. And not super fancy food either—Yoshinaga focuses on simple recipes that are inexpensive and relatively easy to make.

While the first few volumes set up the basic premise for the series and introduces us to the characters, volumes 4 and 5 make it very clear that being gay in Japan is not as simple as boys love manga would have you believe.

Kenji and Shiro deal with the everyday issues that remind them that their lives, while happily domestic, can be somewhat complicated. There are little moments that bring this point home to the reader, particularly as we observe Shiro’s discomfort as he’s forced to consider his relationship with Kenji and his relationship with his gay-ness. Shiro feeling self-conscious while they’re dining out with another gay couple or purposely standing apart while riding the subway together. Shiro enduring being cheerfully greeted with “Hey, it’s the gay guy!” by his well-meaning neighbors. Getting a request from a gay friend to help arrange the adoption of his long time partner, so his estranged family won’t automatically inherit his estate. Talking about wanting or not wanting kids, and how it’s not so easy when you’re gay in Japan. Turning down an offer to be on a TV show because it would be too difficult to maintain one’s privacy. After years of seeing fantasized M/M manga romances in BL/yaoi manga, it’s eye-opening to see the realities of gay life in Japan depicted in such a matter-of-fact way.

Mind you, there’s still a lot of witty, gentle humor in these books, so it’s not preachy or dreary. Yoshinaga is too skillful a storyteller and too funny to let things get too heavy-handed. I hope that there’s still more volumes of this manga planned for publication—but that may depend on more people getting turned on to its subtle, quirky charms. So go pick it up, why don’t you? I’d love to read volume 6 and beyond, and every additional reader who buys this manga will certainly help ensure that this will happen.

Manga Dogs 1

Manga Dogs, vol. 1: Kanna Tezuka is a high school girl with a secret: She’s a published professional manga artist, albeit one whose first series is near the bottom of the popularity rankings in her magazines—but hey, it’s still better than the three hunky but clueless schlubs who are her classmates in her manga art class.

The trio, Fumio Akatsuka, Fujio Fuji, and Shota Ishinomori have big dreams of manga superstardom, but very little actual talent. When the trio discover that they have a pro in their midst, they beg Kanna to be their manga mentor. Can she keep making manga, hit her deadlines and not go nuts listening to her classmates’ delusions of comics grandeur?

A quirky satire of manga making by the creator of I Am Here! and Missions of Love, Manga Dogs is kind of like the goofy younger sister of Bakuman. It definitely doesn’t take comics creation as a career as seriously as Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s manga about making manga, but come on, does it have to?

Manga Dogs has loads of manga in-jokes for hardcore fans (for example, Shota Ishinomori’s name is a play on “shota”, a word used to refer to underage boys and Shotaro Ishinomori, the legendary comics creator of Cyborg 009 and Kamen Rider), and enough general-purpose slapstick to make it a fun read. A very nerdy read with filled with excruciating mishaps for the heroine, and several pages of translation notes to clue readers into its many in-jokes, but fun anyway. Not for everyone, but for the manga obsessed, this new shojo comedy delivers lots of light-hearted. goofy fun.

Brigid Talks to Takeshi Obata

I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interview Death Note manga-ka Takeshi Obata at New York Comic-Con. On our agenda: Bakuman, Hikaru no Go and, of course, Death Note.

Kodansha will be reissuing an oldie but goodie: Hitoshi Iwaaki’s body-snatching classic Parasyte.

In other licensing news, DMP will be launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of six Tezuka titles including Rainbow Parakeet, The Three-Eyed One, and The Vampires.

Justin Stroman of Organization Anti-Social Geniuses interviews Robert McGuire of GEN Manga, which started out publishing serialized manga in digital and print format and is now focusing on print graphic novels.

Spooky Pokemon designs by Junji Ito? Yes, please!

Over at Nagareboshi Reviews, Sarah examines the horror element in Tezuka’s beloved medical drama Black Jack.

Reviews: Shaenon Garrity sings the praises of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service in the latest House of 1,000 Manga column, while Adam Stephanides investigaes Shintaro Kago’s Superconducting Brain Parataxis. Here at Manga Bookshelf, Sean Gaffney and Michelle Smith post brief reviews of the latest VIZ volumes.

Lori Henderson on vols. 1-7 of Attack on Titan (Manga Xanadu)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 52 of Case Closed (Comic Book Bin)
Sean Gaffney on The Garden of Words (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of I Am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland (Anime News Network)
Matthew Warner on vol. 4 of Inu X Boku S.S. (The Fandom Post)
Matthew Warner on vol. 12 of Library Wars: Love & War (The Fandom Post)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Manga Dogs (Anime News Network)
John Rose on vol. 3 of Neon Genesis Evangelion Omnibus (The Fandom Post)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 21 of Pandora Hearts (The Fandom Post)
Sarah on vol. 22 of Soul Eater (Nagareboshi Reviews)
Anna N. on vol. 2 of Spell of Desire (Manga Report)
Jocilyn Wagner on vol. 1 of Sweet Blue Flowers (Experiments in Manga)

Attack on Titan Boosts US Manga Market

Sales of Attack on Titan have helped reinvigorate manga publishing in the US.

Over at Publisher’s Weekly, Deb Aoki files a lengthy report on the state of manga publishing. The good news: Attack on Titan has attracted thousands of new readers to manga, just as Naruto did ten years ago. As a result, manga publishers across the industry are reporting stronger sales for 2014 and licensing more titles for 2015.

Does Crunchyroll’s practice of “simulpublishing” harm print sales of series such as Ajin and Attack on Titan? Alexander Hoffman investigates.

Nike Taiwan will be launching a shoe line inspired by Takehiko Inoue’s Slam Dunk.

Dark Horse announced a smattering of new titles for 2015, including the final volume of Oh! My Goddess. (That would be number 47, in case you’ve lost track.)

The Japan Times explores the growth of digital manga magazines, from NHN PlayArt’s Comico to Shueisha’s Shonen Jump+.

Reviews: Butt-kicking heroines unite! Megan R. posts a lengthy appreciation of Sailor Moon, while Ash Brown reviews Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Adolescence of Utena.

Theron Martin on vol. 19 of Battle Angel Alita: Last Order (Anime News Network)
Jenny Ertel on vols. 1-4 of Blue Morning (No Flying No Tights)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 2 of Dengeki Daisy (Lesley’s Musings on Anime & Manga)
Seth Hahne on vols. 1-4 of From the New World (Good Ok Bad)
Seth Hahne on In Clothes Called Fat (Good Ok Bad)
Matthew Warner on vol. 8 of Is This a Zombie? (The Fandom Post)
Ken H. on vol. 1 of Kimagure Orange Road (Sequential Ink)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 8 of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic (Comic Book Bin)
Helen on vols. 1-3 of Paradise Kiss (Narrative Investigations)

One Piece Fever

OnePiece_163b_61The One Piece Podcast interviewed Japanese fans about their relationship with Eiichiro Oda’s long-running series. The result: a lively documentary about one of the world’s most popular comic book franchises.

Over at Manga Therapy, Tony Yao reflects on the important role that editors play in shaping your favorite manga series.

Melinda Beasi sings the praises of Yumi Tamura’s Basara.

TCJ’s Joe McCullough kicks off his This Week In Comics column with a brief appreciation of Manga Pachinko 777, a magazine dedicated to Japan’s favorite gambling machine.

Wondering what you might find in the current issue of Ribon? Heart of Manga offers a brief list of ongoing series.

Justin Stroman files a lengthy report on his experiences at NYCC 2014.

Ed Chavez shows off the spiffy new Vertical Comics logo, and explains why Vertical, Inc. decided to create a separate imprint for its extensive manga catalog.

You, too, can be the proud owner of a super-sized Pikachu, Doraemon, or Totoro bed for about $370.

LINE Corp. just announced that it will be teaming up with Kodansha and Shogakukan to offer manga in English and Chinese via their LINE Manga app. Although details are scarce, this appears to be a global initiative; no word on potential regional restrictions.

News from Japan: Yukito Kishiro will pen the final installment of his long-running Gunnm/Battle Angel Alita series in Evening magazine. The first chapter hits Japanese newsstands on October 28th.

Reviews: Make room for an another exhibit in the Manga Hall of Shame: Alice Vernon nominates Btooom! for Worst Manga of 2014.

Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 5 of Deadman Wonderland (Comic Book Bin)
Megan R. on vols. 1-2 of Gyo (Manga Test Drive)
Mad Manga on In Clothes Called Fat (Cartoon Geek Corner)
Megan R. on Kitaro (Manga Test Drive)
Al Sparrow on vol. 1 of Kokoro Connect (Comics Spectrum)
Helen on vol. 3 of My Little Monster (Narrative Investigations)
Danica Davidson on vol. 1 of My Love Story!! (Otaku USA)
Tony Yao on vol. 1 of My Love Story!! (Manga Therapy)
Alexander Hoffman on Pink (Sequential State)
Mad Manga on vol. 1 of Sweet Rein (Cartoon Geek Corner)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Witchcraft Works (A Case Suitable for Treatment)

Tezuka Takes Center Stage

If you like Osamu Tezuka and Ludwig van Beethoven — and really, who doesn’t like both? — you’ll be thrilled to hear that Tezuka’s Ludwig B. is being adapted for the stage. Now if only someone would license the manga…

The seventh volume of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin tops this week’s New York Times Manga Bestseller list, while the first volume of Attack on Titan drops to third place.

Contest alerts! Yen Press is giving away a copy of Satsuki Yoshino’s Barakamon, while VIZ Media is offering autographed copies of Takeshi Obata’s Death Note and All You Need Is Kill.

The Manga Bookshelf gang’s weekly recommendations run the gamut from Ajin to Whispered Words.

What would manga hair look like on a real person? Brian Ashcraft investigates.

Last Gasp Books, publisher of The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, is running a Kickstarter campaign to help fund its fall publication schedule. While there are no manga in the works, backers can snag some original artwork by Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu creator Junko Mizuno.

Japanese fans give (mostly) positive marks to Disney, which has been airing an Americanized version of the Doraemon anime.

Speaking of famous cats, the Japanese American National Museum has organized an exhibit commemorating the fortieth anniversary of Hello! Kitty. The show, which runs through April 26, 2015, examines the character’s history and impact on global pop culture.

News from Japan: Soul Eater Not! will finish its run in Monthly Shounen Gangan in November.

Reviews: Anna N. and Michelle Smith dedicate the latest Bookshelf Briefs to Honey Blood, My Love Story!! and other recent shojo releases.

Sarah on vol. 13 of Attack on Titan (Nagareboshi Reviews)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Happy Marriage?! (Anime News Network)
Erica Friedman on vol. 2 of Hourai Girls (Okazu)
Sarah on vol. 1 of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Nagareboshi Reviews)

Kodansha, CLAMP and NYCC Links

Fairy Tail: Blue Mistral will be published by Kodansha Comics USA.

Fairy Tail: Blue Mistral will be published by Kodansha Comics USA.

On Sunday, Kodansha revealed that it would be publishing CLAMP’s Tsubasa: WoRLD CHRoNiCLE and Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail: Blue Mistral. Also in the queue for 2015 are Inuyashiki by Hiroya Oya (Gantz) and L♥DK by Ayu Watanabe (Kimi ga Suki).

Publisher’s Weekly is reporting that Vertical, Inc. has created a separate imprint for its growing manga catalog. Vertical Comics will release “about 20 new manga titles” over the next twelve months, with a long-term goal of publishing “30 to 40 manga and anime-oriented titles a year.” The Vertical, Inc. name will be reserved for fantasy novels, cookbooks, thrillers, etc.

Justin Stroman roamed the Javits Center with a microphone and a question: why do you buy manga?

Sean Gaffney shares his impressions of Day Four of NYCC.

ICv2 reports that attendance at NYCC 2014 topped 150,000 people, surpassing San Diego Comic-Con’s previous record of 130,000.

Reviews: Ash Brown posts brief reviews of Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, My Love Story!!, and A New Season of Young Leaves.

Matthew Warner on vol. 12 of 07-Ghost (The Fandom Post)
Matthew Warner on vol. 7 of Happy Marriage?! (The Fandom Post)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 12 of Loveless (The Fandom Post)
Angela Sylvia on vol. 21 of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan (The Fandom Post)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 24 of Pokemon Adventures (Lesley’s Musings on Anime & Manga)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 1 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Lesley’s Musings on Anime & Manga)
Lori Henderson on vol. 1 of Sona-G: Heaven Is Not Needed (Manga Xanadu)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 24 of Toriko (Comic Book Bin)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 19 of Vampire Knight (Comic Book Bin)