The Manga Revue: Guardians of the Louvre

Whew–it’s been a while! Life got in the way of blogging for a few months, but the summer forecast looks good for manga reviewing. On the docket this week: Jiro Taniguchi’s Guardians of the Louvre, part of an ongoing graphic novel series published by NBM/Comics Lit that also includes Glacial Period, On the Odd Hours, and Rohan at the Louvre.

COVERLAYOUT.inddGuardians of the Louvre
By Jiro Taniguchi
No rating
NBM Graphic Novels, $24.99

One part Times of Botchan, one part Night at the Museum, Jiro Taniguchi’s Guardians of the Louvre is a stately, handsomely illustrated manga that never quite rises to the level of greatness.

The premise is simple: a Japanese artist lies ill in his Parisian hotel room, feverishly dreaming about the museum’s galleries. In each chapter, the hero is temporarily transported to a particular place and time in the Louvre’s history, rubbing shoulders with famous artists, witnessing famous events, and chatting with one of the museum’s most famous works–the Nike of Samothrace, who takes the form of a stone-faced tour guide. If the set-up sounds like The Times of Botchan, it is, though Guardians of the Louvre is less ambitious; Taniguchi’s primary objective is to celebrate the museum’s collection by highlighting a few of its most beloved works, rather than immersing the reader in a specific milieu.

The artist-as-time-traveler schtick is a little hackneyed, but provides Taniguchi with a nifty excuse to showcase the breadth of his artistry, offering the reader a visual feast of rural landscapes, gracious country manors, war-ravaged cities, and busy galleries. Using watercolor and ink, Taniguchi convincingly recreates iconic paintings by Van Gogh and Corot, effortlessly slipping into each artist’s style. Taniguchi’s characters are rendered with a similar degree of meticulousness, though their waxen facial expressions sometimes mar scenes calling for a meaningful display of emotion; everyone appears to have had a few Botox injections, the Nike of Samothrace included.

What prevents Guardians of the Louvre from taking flight is its relentlessly middlebrow sensibility. In one scene, for example, the Nike of Samothrace leads our unnamed hero through an empty Salle des États, home of the Mona Lisa. The artist examines the painting closely, musing about the tourist hordes that normally throng the gallery. “It’s not about art appreciation anymore. It’s wholly a popular tourist destination” he says wistfully–a comment that registers more as bourgeois snobbery than a meaningful meditation on the commercialization of fine art, or the outsized fame of Da Vinci’s canvas.

A similarly pedestrian spirit animates the chapters documenting the 1939 evacuation of the Louvre. To be sure, the mechanics of packing and transporting the art are fascinating; Taniguchi’s expert draftsmanship conveys the complexity and physical demands of the task in vivid detail, inviting us to ride along with Delacroix’s monumental Raft of the Medusa on its perilous journey from Paris to Versailles. The dialogue that frames these passages, however, is rife with cliches. “They were ready to risk everything to evacuate the paintings,” the Nike solemnly informs our hero before implying that this operation was a little-known episode in French history–a strange claim, given the story’s romantic treatment in popular culture: surely the Nike has read All the Light We Cannot See or watched The Monuments Men?

The manga’s most effective passages, by contrast, are wordless. We see our hero wander through a forest where Corot silently paints the undulating boughs, and a medieval town where Van Gogh sets up his easel in a sun-drenched hay field. In these fleeting moments, Taniguchi’s sensual imagery allows us to step into the artist’s shoes and relive the creative process that yielded Recollection of Mortefontaine and Daubigny’s Garden. If only the rest of the manga wasn’t so insistent on telling us how to appreciate these paintings.

Reviews: Sean Gaffney gives Rokudenashiko’s autobiographical manga What Is Obscenity? the thumbs-up. Over at The Fandom Post, Matthew Alexander jumps in the WABAC Machine for a look at Shaman Warrior, one of the first manhwa published by Dark Horse.

VIZ Has Banner Year, Kodansha Offers Humble Bundle

PokemonBrigid is wrapping up a busy stint TCAF, so I’ll be subbing for her this week. Here’s a quick round-up of new and noteworthy developments:

ICv2 buries the lede in this interview with Viz Media’s Beth Kawasaki, who tells them “This last fiscal year was our best ever, in the history of the company, and we do have some hit kids’ titles contributing greatly to that.” Emphasis ours. The most popular of those kids’ properties are Pokemon, Yo-kai Watch, and Legend of Zelda, and there’s a Pokemon cookbook on the way. [ICv2]

The latest volume of Akame ga Kill! tops the New York Times Manga Bestseller List, followed by the first volumes of I Am a Hero, Tokyo Ghoul, and One-Punch Man. [The New York Times]

Yen Press announced a new light novel license: Goblin Slayer! [Anime News Network]

There are just two days left to download Kodansha Comics’ Humble Bundle, which includes the first three volumes of Attack on Titan, the first two volumes of Ajin: Demi-Human and Inuyashiki, and the first volumes of The Seven Deadly Sins, Parasyte, and Space Brothers. Proceeds benefit The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. [Crunchyroll]

Should vendors and guests of Anime Expo be subject to background checks? The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SJPA) is considering such a policy; Christopher MacDonald, however, worries that this initiative may backfire. [Anime News Network]

In case you missed it: Ryan Holmberg posts a new installment of What Was Alternative Manga?, focusing on the work of Nakashima Kiyoshi. [The Comics Journal]

What’s arriving in your local bookstore this week? The Manga Bookshelf gang investigates. [Manga Bookshelf]

Despite the backlash against DreamWorks’ Ghost in the Shell film, Hollywood seems bullish on manga and anime properties. Among the projects currently in the pipeline are Death Note (courtesy of Netflix) and AKIRA (courtesy of Warner Brothers). [The Hollywood Reporter]

News from Japan: Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi will finish its run in Monthly Comic Gene on June 15th… This dedicated cosplayer trekked to Mongolia to recreate scenes from Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Story… Which Shonen Jump character is sexiest? Japanese readers recently voted, expressing a strong preference for villains… Yotsuba&! creator Kiyohiko Azuma will share the Tezuka Cultural Prize with Kei Ichinoseki, author of Hanagami Sharaku.

Reviews: Over at The Comics Journal, Robert Kirby reviews the provocatively titled What Is Obscenity? The Story of a Good-for-Nothing Artist and Her Pussy. Closer to home, Michelle Smith and Sean Gaffney offer a fresh batch of Bookshelf Briefs that include the latest installments of Barakamon, Maid-Sama!!, and What Did You Eat Yesterday?

Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Anne Happy: Unhappy Go Lucky! (Comics Worth Reading)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 4 of Emma (Comics Worth Reading)
Erica Friedman on vols. 1-2 of Futaribeya (Okazu)
Incendiary Lemon on The Gods Lie (Anime UK News)
Terry Hong on Guardians of the Louvre (Book Dragon)
Lori Henderson on The Infernal Devices Trilogy (Manga Xanadu)
Ian Wolf on vols. 1-2 of Maga-Tsuki (Anime UK News)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 1 of Midnight Stranger (Sequential Tart)
Megan R. on Mr. Flower Groom (The Manga Test Drive)
SKJAM! on vol. 1 of Mysterious Girlfriend X (SKJAM! Reviews)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 78 of One Piece (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of The Other Side of Secret (Anime News Network)
Mariko S. on vol. 2 of Otome no Teikoku (Okazu)
Megan R. on Passion (The Manga Test Drive)
Ken H. on vol. 1 of Princess Jellyfish (Sequential Ink)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Servant x Service (Comics Worth Reading)
Laura on vol. 1 of Shuriken and Pleats (Heart of Manga)
Megan R. on Three Wolves Mountain (The Manga Test Drive)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 10 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Comics Worth Reading)
Terry Hong on vol. 10 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Book Dragon)
Ash Brown on What Is Obscenity? The Story of a Good-for-Nothing Artist and Her Pussy (Experiments in Manga)
Matt on vol. 2 of Yowamushi Pedal (Ani-TAY)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 2 of Yowamushi Pedal (A Case Suitable for Treatment)

New Kousuke Fujishima Series to Be Simulpubbed Online

Toppu GP

Oh My Goddess creator Kousuke Fujishima’s new series, Toppū GP, which launches next month in Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon, will get a simultaneous digital release in English. No word yet on which services will carry it. [Anime News Network]

At Publishers Weekly, I took a look at the resurgence of manga and how the new blockbusters—first Attack on Titan, then Tokyo Ghoul and One-Punch Man—have helped sales. It turns out, when I talked to the publishers, that the backlist is doing pretty well too. [Publishers Weekly]

This year’s Eisner nominees in the manga category make a great reading list for manga veterans and newcomers alike. If you’re not reading all of these, you’re missing out! [Barnes and Noble Sci-Fi/Fantasy Blog]

Here are my picks for this month’s best new manga releases. [Barnes and Noble Sci-Fi/Fantasy Blog]

Good news for Junji Ito fans: Viz Media will publish Ito’s first manga, Tomie, in a single omnibus volume this winter. The manga was originally published in English by the now defunct ComicsOne and has been out of print for years. Viz also announced it will publish a print edition of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Platinum End, which they have been publishing digitally one chapter at a time. Ohba and Obata are the creators of Death Note and Bakuman. [ICv2]

Justin and Manjiorin discuss Goodnight Punpun. [The OASG]

Adrian Tomine talks about what it was like being Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s editor. [du9]

The Yomiuri Shinbun’s Sugoi Awards have been announced—these are readers’ picks for the manga, anime, and novels they think would do best abroad. The readers seem to be pretty good at this: The winners are One-Punch Man and Tokyo Ghoul, the top selling manga in the U.S. right now; Haikyu!!, the first volume of which is due out in North America in July; Twittering Birds Never Fly; and Monster Musume, which also makes the best-seller list whenever a new volume comes out. [RocketNews 24]

Tetsuya Kariya will return to Oishinbo, but only to finish it off: The series was serialized in Big Comic Spirit but went on hiatus right around the time a storyline involving the area around the Fukushima nuclear plant caused some controversy. Kariya said the hiatus was not related to that, and that 30 years is long enough, so he’s going to wind up the story with a special final episode that will include all the characters who have appeared during the manga’s long run. [Anime News Network]

Erica Friedman has a quick rundown of yuri news, including some upcoming manga panels and the announcement that Viz will simulcast the third season of Sailor Moon Crystal, in the latest edition of Yuri Network News. [Okazu]

Danica Davidson talks about her new book, Manga Art for Beginners. [Otaku USA]

Reviews

Matt Brady on vol. 7 of A Bride’s Story (Warren Peace Sings the Blues)
Helen on vol. 2 of Crown of Thorns (The OASG)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 6 of Demon From Afar (the Fandom Post)
G.B. Smith on vol. 9 of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan (The Fandom Post)
Gary Thompson on vol. 11 of Eden: It’s an Endless World (The Fandom Post)
G.B. Smith on vols. 10 and 11 of Food Wars (The Fandom Post)
Gabe Peralta on vol. 1 of Goodnight Punpun (The Fandom Post)
Krystallina on vol. 6 of He’s My Only Vampire (The OASG)
A Library Girl on vols. 5 and 6 of His Favorite (A Library Girl’s Familiar Diversions)
Matthew Alexander on vol. 1 of Kashimashi ~Girl Meets Girl~ (The Fandom Post)
Matt Brady on Kitaro (Warren Peace Sings the Blues)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 5 of Love Stage!! (Comics Worth Reading)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Nichijou (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 36 of Skip Beat! (The Comic Book Bin)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vols. 5 and 6 of So Cute It Hurts! (Comics Worth Reading)
Helen on Soredomo Machi wa Mawatteiru (The OASG)
Sakura Eries on vol. 4 of Sword Art Online Progressive (The Fandom Post)
Matthew Warner on vol. 10 of Terra Formars (The Fandom Post)

Kadokawa Buys Majority Stake in Yen Press, Partners with Crunchyroll

Yen LogoWow, the manga news is rolling in faster than I can keep up with it! The big story this morning is that the Japanese publisher Kadokawa has purchased a 51% stake in Yen Press. Yen Press will become Yen Press, LLC, a joint venture of Hachette and Kadokawa; previously, Yen was an imprint of Hachette in its Orbit Books division.

Kadokawa had another big announcement on the anime side: They are partnering with Crunchyroll, which will get exclusive distribution rights for all Kadokawa anime outside of Asia for the next year. And that’s not all:

To bolster KADOKAWA’s planned formation of a publishing joint venture with the major U.S. publisher Hachette Book Group, specializing in manga and light novels (scheduled for May), Crunchyroll and KADOKAWA will seek to strengthen their relationship through a marketing campaign with the book publishing and anime distribution businesses, as well as joint efforts to expand relevant merchandising businesses, in order to maximize the growth potential of Japanese content in the North American market.

What does this mean to you, the reader? Who knows, but Kadokawa does seem to be very interested in the light novel side of things, and Yen has really been making the light novel thing work, with its Yen On line. The Yen Press press release (according to ANN’s translation) says that the plan is to “establish light novels as a new content genre by using Hachette’s existing production and distribution infrastructure, with Kadokawa providing leadership.” Kadokawa publishes a lot of light novels, and they also own BookWalker, which carries digital manga and light novels; perhaps there will be some synergy there, with Yen and/or Crunchyroll.

The questions that remain unanswered are whether Yen Press will continue to license manga from other Japanese publishers (Square Enix in particular—they are the publisher of Black Butler and Pandora Hearts) and whether Kadokawa will license to other publishers.

Hold on to your hats! This promises to be an interesting ride.

ComiXology and Amazon Offer Kodansha Titles Same Day as Japan

Attack on Titan banner

ComiXology made a big announcement on Friday: They are getting in the simulpub business, releasing new chapters of Attack on Titan, Fairy Tail, and other Kodansha series the same day they come out in Japan. The chapters will be available on comiXology and Kindle, and each chapter will cost $1.99, although if you’re playing catch-up, you may want to check out the full volumes (also available on comiXology) as that’s usually the cheaper way to go.

This gives dedicated fans of these series an interesting choice, because Crunchyroll’s manga service also offers new chapters, many of which are simulpubbed—and the latest chapter is always free. Subscribers who pay $6.95 a month can read earlier chapters as well, but it’s all streaming—you don’t own the manga, and if you stop subscribing you lose access.

So which will readers prefer? Pay two bucks to own the chapter or read it for free but have it disappear in a week? Or maybe the third option—go for Crunchyroll’s all-you-can-eat model?

Here’s the full list of series that will be available on comiXology and Kindle the same day they come out in Japan:

Weekly:

As the Gods Will: The Second Series
Fairy Tail
Fuuka
GTO Paradise Lost
The Seven Deadly Sins
UQ Holder
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches

Bi-weekly:

Inuyashiki
Space Brothers

Monthly:

Ajin: Demi-Human
Attack on Titan
Kiss Him, Not Me
The Heroic Legend of Arslan
Magatsuki
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth Side: P4
Sweetness and Lightning

Semi-regularly:

Princess Jellyfish

Kodansha Announces 7 New Licenses

The Prince in His Dark Days

The Prince in His Dark Days

Monday was a big day for Kodansha Comics: They announced seven new print titles: Attack on Titan: Lost Girls, Cells at Work!, The Prince in His Dark Days, Welcome to the Ballroom, That Wolf-Boy Is Mine, In/Spectre, and Sweetness and Lightning. All will launch in the fall. [Kodansha Comics]

Here’s another new license: Dark Horse will publish the Psycho-Pass prequel Psycho-Pass: Inspector Shinya Kogami. [Dark Horse]

Speaking of Kodansha, they have posted the full first chapter of Princess Jellyfish for you to read for free. [Kodansha Comics]

ANN has posted a great interview with Inio Asano, done during the Salón del Manga in Barcelona last fall. Here’s a sample:

I’m kind of ashamed to say this, but for me to create convincing stories, I need to bring the characters as close to my own experiences as possible. So it’s true that many of my characters have things in common with me.

Anyway, I try to make stories that are not based on the experiences of one single character. They are choral stories that rely on several characters with important roles based on outside reference from people close to me. I need it to be that way, otherwise I couldn’t create stories that are able to breathe a sense of reality.

[Anime News Network]

Here’s a first look at the English-language version of Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Pink, which is based on the BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch. [io9]

Why are there no shoujo titles on the U.S. best-seller lists? Krystallina investigates. [The OASG]

The Manga Bookshelf team discusses their pick of the week… [Manga Bookshelf]

… and they look over this week’s new releases. [Manga Bookshelf]

Viz has signed a deal with United Talent Agency to develop its properties into live-action programming. [ICv2]

Reviews: In a hurry? Catch up with the latest releases with this week’s edition of Bookshelf Briefs at Manga Bookshelf. Ash Brown reviews a week’s worth of manga reading at Experiments in Manga.

Rebecca Silverman on vol. 13 of Deadman Wonderland (ANN)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Danganropa: The Animation (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Adrienne on Devil’s Game (Heart of Manga)
Ash Brown on A Girl on the Shore (Experiments in Manga)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 2 of Idol Dreams (WatchPlayRead)
Laura on Kiss of the Rose Princess (Heart of Manga)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Monster Hunter: Flash Hunter (ANN)
Helen on vols. 4 and 5 of The Morose Mononokean (The OASG)
Ash Brown on vols. 8-10 of Mushishi (Experiments in Manga)
Matthew Warner on vol. 13 of Nisekoi (The Fandom Post)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Paradise Residence (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Sean Gaffney on vols. 25 and 26 of Ranma 1/2 (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Anna N on vol. 1 of Shuriken and Pleats (Manga Report)
Anna N on vol. 36 of Skip Beat! (Manga Report)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 11 of Terraformars (WatchPlayRead)