PR: Yen to publish Cirque du Freak manga

Yen announced this acquisition at SDCC and it caught my eye right away. It’s a Japanese manga based on a series of YA novels by an Irish writer. That really stretches the definition of global manga. And Yen is timing the U.S. release to coincide with the movie based on the books. Mr. Shan must be a happy guy. Read on for more details.

YEN PRESS TO PUBLISH MANGA ADAPTATION OF DARREN SHAN’S BESTSELLING SERIES –
CIRQUE DU FREAK

MANGA PUBLICATION TO COINCIDE WITH UNIVERSAL PICTURES’ 2009 MOVIE RELEASE OF THE SAME TITLE

NEW YORK, NY (July 31, 2008) — Yen Press, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, today announced that it will publish the first official English-language manga adaptations of the New York Times bestselling young adult series Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan. Jointly acquired from the Christopher Little Agency (UK) and Japanese publisher Shogakukan, the new editions will be adapted into English from the original versions created by Darren Shan and Takahiro Arai which have already sold over 7 million copies in the Japanese manga and prose forms. Brought to life in black and white illustrations, the compelling saga of a young boy’s journey into a dark world of vampires will be available at major bookstores and comic book retailers at $10.99 and is rated T (Teen).

Publication of the first three Cirque du Freak manga volumes will be coordinated around the release of the Cirque du Freak movie in 2009 by Universal Pictures. Directed by Paul Weitz, the film will star John C. Reilly, Salma Hayek, Willem Dafoe, and Ken Watanabe. Subsequent manga volumes will release every three months.

“I absolutely LOVE the manga adaptation of Cirque du Freak!” exclaimed Darren Shan, creator of the twelve original novels published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (sister imprint under Hachette Book Group). “[Takahiro Arai] brings freshness and vitality to the story that sweeps readers along in a happy blur…This is more than a worthy companion piece to the books – it’s a great piece of story-telling in its own right. It’s Shantastic!”

“This has been a great opportunity for us to publish a manga edition of Cirque du Freak not only in Japan, but also in the United States,” said Takahiro Arai. “We are honored that our manga editions will help readers discover the wonderful story of Cirque du Freak. We put our heart and soul into making this book. Enjoy!”

Kurt Hassler, Co-Publisher of Yen Press, added, “Yen Press is thrilled to bring Shogakukan’s manga adaptation of Darren Shan’s bestselling series to North America. Arai’s take on the story is sure to attract both manga fans and long-time fans of the novels alike. 2009 is definitely shaping up to be the Year of the Freak!”

Yen Press is an imprint of Hachette Book Group USA dedicated to publishing graphic novels for adults and young readers. Yen Press’ focus is primarily on licensed manga, but also publishes across the wide spectrum of the graphic novel market, including, but not limited to: original manga publications, original American comics/graphic novels, webcomics, licensed adaptations, and children’s graphic novels.

Hachette Book Group is a leading trade publisher based in New York and a division of Hachette Livre, the second largest publisher in the world. Hachette Book Group’s product lines include adult, illustrated, religious, children’s and audio books under the Little, Brown and Company, Little Brown Books for Young Readers, Grand Central Publishing, FaithWords, Center Street, Orbit, Yen Press and Hachette Book Group Digital Media imprints.

Thursday news and reviews

The crack MangaCast team picks the best of the best from this week’s new manga releases, and Ed Chavez lists the October/November releases from the August Previews, for those who like to plan ahead.

Matt Blind compiles a chart of July’s new manga releases and lists the top manga in online pre-orders at Rocket Bomber. And he takes a closer look at Del Rey, with charts and some info that may not be obvious to the casual reader.

I think I already reported this, but it was a while ago: The Phoenix Wright manga is coming in September.

News from Japan: ANN updates us on the fates of the manga serials that ran in Young Sunday, which ceased publication recently. Also, Makoto Kobayashi, the creator of What’s Michael, will be drawing a “true story” manga about his experiences working for Shonen Magazine 25 years ago. The manga version of Cafe Kichijouji de will restart in the fall; my kids discovered this one a few years ago and thought it was hilarious. Venus Versus Virus is ending its run in Monthly Dengeki Daioh. And there’s a manga adaptation of Kung Fu Panda running in Kerokero Ace. Meanwhile, Kyoto Seika University, which has long offered a manga program, now has a course in cell phone manga.

Reviews: Esther Keller gives her take on the first issue of Yen+ at Good Comics For Kids. Matthew Brady reviews Viz’s all-ages manga Cowa! at Warren Peace Sings the Blues. Shifting gears completely, Casey Brienza finds a lot to like about vol. 5 of MPD-Psycho at ANN. At Manga Life, Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane reviews Short-Tempered Melancholic and Park Cooper checks out Cowa! and vol. 2 of Dororo and pens short takes on a stack of other manga. Johanna Draper Carlson reviews vol. 2 of Dorothea and recommends all of Yotsuba&! at Comics Worth Reading. New reviews are up at Comics Village: John Thomas on Tokyo Zombie, Sabrina on The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry-Chan, Lori Henderson on vol. 11 of Nana, and Charles Tan on vol. 5 of Eyeshield 21. It takes a real man to read a shoujo manga, and Isaac Hale shows he has what it takes at PopCultureShock, where he gives an A+ to vols. 9-11 of Nana. Ed Chavez posts an audio review of vol. 1 of Toto! at MangaCast. Writer Rachel Manija Brown posts a brief review of Silver Diamond. Connie enjoyed Tokyo Zombie, to her surprise, at Slightly Biased Manga. D.M. Evans reads vol. 1 of Psycho Busters, the novel, at Manga Jouhou. Sesho has audio reviews up of vol. 1 of Elemental Gelade and vol. 7 of GTO. Lissa Pattillo checks out vol. 5 of Yotsuba&! and vol. 7 of Satisfaction Guaranteed at Kuriousity. Julie reads vol. 8 of Chibi Vampire and vol. 5 of I Hate You More Than Anyone! at the Manga Maniac Cafe.

Quick news roundup

The PWCW Dream Team of Kai-Ming Cha, Ed Chavez, and Erin Finnegan recap the manga news from SDCC, and they pick up on a few things I don’t think were noticed elsewhere: Last Gasp has licensed Junko Mizuno’s three-volume series Fancy Gigilo Pelu, and Drawn and Quarterly will be publishing the autobiography of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, creator of The Push Man.

At Kurioiusity, Lissa Pattillo has more news, including the fact that Digital has apparently picked up the BL manga Train*Train by Eiki Eiki.

Vol. 30 of Naruto drops from number 50 to 73 on the USA Today best-seller list, and vol. 20 of Fruits Basket slides from 79 to 132.

At the MangaCast, Ed Chavez delivers an audio con report on Tokyopop at Anime Expo.

David Welsh takes a look at this week’s new comics.

NPR has a nice story on the swarms of librarians at Comic-Con. (Via John Jakala.)

Deb Aoki picks the 11 best manga announced at SDCC at About.com.

Fixing the internet: John Jakala channels Stan Lee to improve the marketing copy for the September Shonen Jump. He also agonizes over which edition of Bat-Manga! to buy.

Reviews: Danielle Leigh gives her take on the first issue of Yen+ at Comic Book Resources. She’ll be reading the second issue, and so will I. David Welsh devotes his Flipped column to vol. 1 of Me and the Devil Blues at The Comics Reporter. At PopCultureShock, Chloe Ferguson reviews vol. 1 of Vassalord (“If the phrase “vampire playboy” doesn’t make you grimace, this is certainly the series for you”) and Ken Haley takes a look at vol. 1 of Tokko. I like Casey, who blogs as Kethylia, because she’s not afraid to criticize a manga that everyone else is raving about. Having made it safe for me to admit that I hated The Push Man, she reviews Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s Good-Bye and proclaims it much better (although still marred by the rearranged panels). Perhaps I’ll give it a try. On a completely different note, Emily finds a fun collection of short manga, Danshi x Joushi, at Emily’s Random Shoujo Manga Page. Erica Friedman reviews vol. 2 of Yuri Hime Wildrose, which fills an interesting niche in the market, at Okazu.

First look: Yen+

Yen+, August 2008
Published by Yen Press
Senior Editor JuYoun Lee
Rated OT, for Older Teen
About 450 pages, $8.99

Yen+ is good. It’s beautifully produced, with attractive covers and plenty of extras. The manga look really good on the larger pages, and the Yen folks have picked a wide variety of very readable manga for this debut issue. I do think the lineup is flawed, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Let’s get the inevitable comparisons to Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat over with right away. Yen+ has a slightly smaller trim size than the same trim size as those two, but it’s still big enough to make for a noticeably better read than the standard volume of manga. It’s thicker but also more expensive. It has no extra articles on fashion, music, or Japanese culture, as Shojo Beat does, but this first issue carries lots of pieces of congratulatory art by the manga creators.

Here is the big point of divergence, though: Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat carry manga with different storylines but a pretty consistent style and tone, and I have always imagined that Japanese manga magazines run along similar lines. Yen+ has a much wider variety of stories, and that is both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, the reader gets to sample a wide range of stories, but the downside is that the magazine seems unfocused, not aimed at any particular reader.

This first issue starts with two global manga that are guaranteed crowd-pleasers, Maximum Ride, based on the novels of James Patterson, and Nightschool, by Svetlana Chmakova, of Dramacon fame. Both have lovely art and show a lot of promise, but to be honest, one chapter isn’t enough of either one. Maximum Ride starts out by introducing us to a slew of characters who have some obvious peculiarities and tosses in some action right away, but by the end of the chapter I still wasn’t too sure of what was going on. The story revolves around some teenagers with various special powers, and some bad guys who are their enemies, but its not at all clear how it all fits together. (I like it that Patterson chose a strong woman, Max, as his main character, but I wasn’t crazy about the moe-esque little girl Angel.)

With Nightschool the problem is not so much the basic premise, which is pretty clear, but the sheer number of characters who are introduced all at once. Again, it’s hard to tie it all together and see where the story is going. This is the biggest limitation of the anthology format—there isn’t enough space to lay the whole story out in a single chapter. Still, the bottom line is that I want to know more about each story, and after all, I think that’s the point.

Next come a couple of very standard-issue manhwa. Pig Bride is a supernatural love story with mythic overtones, Sarasah starts out like unrequited-love shoujo manga but takes an odd turn right at the end. Both are worth a look, and I might not have picked them up on their own. Well played, Yen Press!

One Fine Day is a slice-of-life manhwa about a guy doing ordinary things with his three companions, a cat, a dog, and a mouse, all of whom morph into little kids in animal costumes. It’s a little odd, but Yen+ is actually a very good showcase for it, as the bigger pages allow creator Sirial’s spare layouts to really breathe.

So, we’re cruising along with lots of pretty manga and manhwa, and I’m feeling pretty good about Yen+ at this point, and then I turn the page and suddenly the whole tone changes with Jack Frost, a splatter manhwa that features pages and pages of a girl’s decapitated head looking at her kneeling body, panties on full display, while some sort of fight goes on in her classroom. This manhwa is all kinds of bad. It mainly centers on some sort of fight, but we don’t really know who’s fighting or why. The girl has just been decapitated and the lower part of her body arranged in a sexually suggestive position (we get several tight shots of that so we won’t miss it) but her biggest concern is that she can’t see one guy’s face. (You would think that the artist, having made that a plot point, would conceal the face from the reader, but he doesn’t.) It’s a little hard to imagine the reader who picked up Yen+ for Nightschool or Maximum Ride enjoying this story. It seems like it’s pitched to an entirely different reader, and I think a lot of readers will find it off-putting—just as the reader who buys Yen+ for Jack Frost may very well find Pig Bride a turnoff.

At this point the magazine flips, and the four manga stories are read right-to-left. The Yen folks do a nice job of making this a smooth transition. Of the four manga, Soul Eater pretty much matches Jack Frost in terms of gore and fanservice, but the other three manga are all pretty readable. They are all action-oriented but not incongruous in this setting. I was all set to hate Higurashi When They Cry, but I ended up liking it a lot—think Kindaichi Case Files meets Aoi House, with an extra sprinkling of weird. Again, I ended up liking a manga I wouldn’t have picked up on my own.

I know that an anthology is supposed to have variety, but I think the editors of Yen+ have cast the net a bit too wide. The differences in tone as well as content are likely to turn off some prospective readers. On the upside, this is a great choice for people who like to read a lot of different genres. The stories are strong overall, and the design and production are top-notch. Yen+ feels like a quality magazine, and I’m looking forward to the second issue already.

(Full disclosure: This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. The toner of Nightschool, Dee Dupuy, is a friend of mine, and I have socialized with Svet as well. They both collaborated on the Toning 101 primer I ran in MangaBlog recently. And I occasionally freelance for Shojo Beat.)

SDCC-free news roundup

Quote of the week: “You may not have won an Eisner, but you’re publishing the books that Viz Editors are buying.” (Told to publisher Stephen Robson at the Fanfare booth.)—Kai-Ming Cha

Jason Yadao explains the whole Galaxy Angel thing at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. I have often thought someone should do this, because I found the books rather confusing.

John Jakala distracts himself from thoughts of SDCC by finding a photo of Viz HQ and a preview of Takehiko Inoue’s REAL.

Johanna Draper Carlson comments on the ongoing discussion of rape as a story device in yaoi manga.

Bear with Matt Blind a bit this week, because although his post on why some manga sell well is kind of wordy, he makes some interesting points. We all know about the Cartoon Network effect, but frequent releases isn’t as obvious a factor. Also up at Rocket Bomber: The week’s top 500 manga (online sales) and some thoughts on diversifying into new media.

The Star of Malaysia profiles Kathryn Chong, who at 18 is a second-place winner in the Morning International Manga Competition.

According to this survey, the completed manga series that Japanese respondents were least likely to know the conclusion of is Dr. Slump. This is an interesting list, as a lot of the series mentioned are long and probably encompass more than one story arc, so the end of the overall series isn’t that important anyway.

Erica Friedman has a short post of this week’s yuri news up at Okazu.

News from Germany: Blogger Invaeon has word of three new German licenses at Manly Manga and More.

Reviews: Kethylia critiques a Fanfare title, Jiro Taniguchi’s The Ice Wanderer, and makes some interesting cultural observations. She also reads the yaoi novel Sweet Admiration, just for fun. At Read About Comics, Greg McElhatton finds vol. 1 of Me and the Devil Blues to be surprising, sometimes quite well done, but in the end not that memorable. Tiamat’s Disciple checks in with a detailed look at the new Yen Press anthology, issue 1 of Yen+, and also posts his thoughts on vol. 2 of Kaze no Hana, vol. 4 of Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning, and vol. 1 of Suzunari! Tom Baker reviews Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need at The Star of Malaysia. Salimbol reports on vols. 25-26 of Boys Over Flowers at The Chocolate Mud Wyvern Presents. Sesho gives vol. 1 of Eden: It’s an Endless World an A+ in his lates podcast. At Slightly Biased Manga, Connie reads vol. 34 of Dragon Ball, Galaxy Girl, Panda Boy, vol. 11 of Moon Child, vol. 3 of Oyayubihime Infinity, and vol. 2 of Two Flowers for the Dragon. Erica Friedman reviews the light novel vol. 2 of Strawberry Panic at Okazu. Michelle checks out vols. 1 and 2 of Tears of a Lamb at Soliloquy in Blue. Rachel Bentham reads vol. 1 of Dark Prince, Scott Campbell checks out vol. 18 of Zatch Bell, and Holly Ellingwood enjoys vol. 2 of Aventura at Active Anime. At Mania.com—I think this used to be Anime on DVD—Natalie Oxford reviews Death Note: How to Read. Lissa Pattillo checks out vol. 2 of Invisible Boy and vol. 1 of You’re So Cool at Kuriousity.

SDCC wrapup

Gia winds up SDCC with an account of the CMX panel. The new titles, Genghis Kahn and March on Earth, were announced earlier, but the Q and A sound good.

ICv2 has followup stories on the Tokyopop-Gentosha deal and Del Rey’s planned CLAMP in America book, to be penned by one of our favorite writers, Shaenon Garrity.

Translator Satsuma has the dope on Soryuden.

John Thomas has the press release on Yoshitaka Amano’s Shinjuku; unlike the official Dark Horse site, he has illustrations.

And Deb Aoki has more information about the new Yen Press acquisitions, some of which sound rather interesting, as well as a photo gallery of the con.

Gia has a video of Hiro Mashima drawing Natsu, and Suvudu, Random House’s new blog, also posted some video of his appearance (via Blog@Newsarama)

Head on over to ComiPress for a comprehensive list of posts by manga bloggers at SDCC and new title announcements.