Archives for August 2008

Tween manga, scanlation woes, bilingual Anno book

Over at my other blog, Good Comics For Kids, children’s librarian (and Eisner judge) Eva Volin wishes there was more manga for tweens—and explains why that’s different from manga for teens (of which there is plenty). (Image is of The Palette of 12 Secret Colors, which seems to be quite popular among the bubblegum set.)

I haven’t watched the whole thing, so I can’t wholeheartedly endorse it, but this documentary, Manga Mad Tokyo, has some interesting visuals. (Via Comics Worth Reading and Gia.)

Ed Chavez points to an interesting oddity at MangaCast: Moyoco Anno’s newest book, a collection of her newspaper strips presented simultaneously in Japanese and English.

Tangognat wonders whether libraries will subscribe to Yen+.

Tiamat’s Disciple reports on increased cease-and-desist activity against scanlation sites.

The BeBeautiful website has been MIA for some time, but observant Lissa Pattillo notices that it is now “temporarily closed for a redesign of the site,” and that a con presence is planned. Could BB be rising from its lengthy torpor? Color me skeptical, as I was at NYCC ’07, when the O’Donnells announced that all their books would be back on schedule.

Lori Henderson has come up with the perfect job: Manga consultant. Now if only someone were hiring…

The panel schedule for NYAF is up. (Via Gia.)

Manly Manga and More lists the German manga releases for September.

News from Japan: The manga Sukashikashipanman ~Manzara Demo Nai Daibōken~ will launch in the next issue of Dengeki Daioh, according to ANN. At Japanator, Dick McVengeance looks forward to Kyon-ko Sai, a very specialized doujinshi festival. (Image of Sukashikashipanman at right swiped from ANN.)

Reviews: They’re piling up at ANN, where Carl Kimlinger reads vol. 1 of Toto and Carlo Santos takes on vol. 8 of Hayate the Combat Butler and vol. 6 of Muhyo & Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation. Greg McElhatton has plenty of praise for vol. 1 of Real. Sabrina reviews fan favorite vol. 1 of Sgt. Frog at Comics Village. Connie reads vol. 2 of Dororo at Slightly Biased Manga. Jason Van Horn checks out vol. 5 of Love Hina at The Hachiko. Emily looks at two untranslated titles, Kimi wa Sakamichi no Tochuu de and Onegai Sensei, at Emily’s Random Shoujo Manga Page. Michelle reviews vol. 7 of Love*Com and vols. 4 and 5 of 7SEEDS at Soliloquy in Blue. Johanna Draper Carlson recommends With the Light at Comics Worth Reading. New reviews up at Manga Life: Ysabet Reinhard MacFarlane on vol. 2 of Haruka – Beyond the Stream of Time and vol. 22 of Red River, Joy Kim on vol. 4 of Mushishi, and Barb Lien-Cooper on vols. 6-18 of Hunter x Hunter. Lissa Pattillo reads vol. 1 of Skip Beat at Kuriousity. Julie gets a few chuckles from Happiness Recommended at the Manga Maniac Cafe. Tiamat’s Disciple reviews vol. 1 of TOKKO: Devil’s Awaken and vol. 1 of Rosario + Vampire. Erica Friedman reads vol. 1 of Kaprekar. Ferdinand reads vol. 1 of Faust and vol. 1 of Speed Grapher at Prospero’s Manga. Sandra Scholes reviews vol. 1 of Zombie Powder and Holly Ellingwood checks out vol. 2 of Fairy Cube at Active Anime.

Manga awards, dropped yaoi, NYAF updates

At Kuriousity, Lissa Pattillo rounds up some recent manga news, including a former DramaQueen staffer who is now not entirely discouraging reading scanlations and news that Blu has dropped two light novels. And look: A lengthy preview of Winter Demon! (Mature readers only, please—you know who you are!)

Japan’s Foreign Ministry has announced the results of their 2nd International Manga Award, and the winner is Hong Kong artist Lau Wan Kit’s 1992 title Feel 100%. Other awards went to Yin Chuan of China, Svetlana Chezhina of Russia, and Alice Picard of France.

Matt Blind looks at the top-ranked preorders (online sale) at Rocket Bomber, and the list should surprise no one: Naruto, Fruits Basket, Vampire Knight… and it’s interesting to see the second volume of Tokyopop’s Vampire Kisses making the top ten. He also takes a look at how the new releases are doing, and that list is more mixed, with Rosario+Vampire at the top.

Deb Aoki continues her account of her PopJapan tour with a visit to Comitia and a meetup with manga artist Kaimu Tachibana on Day 3 and trips to Shibuya and the Ghibli Museum on Day 4.

Melinda Beasi mulls over her reading life, and how she just couldn’t get interested in comics until she got hold of a copy of Hikaru No Go.

Jason Van Horn files his con report on Otakon at The Hachiko.

Planning ahead: The New York Anime Fest is slated for Sept. 26-28 in the Javits Center, and while it’s a bit hard to think past Labor Day at the moment, you might want to start making plans. The Japanator folks are here to help; they’re holding a contest to give away free tickets. And here’s an extra incentive: yesterday the organizers named Iron Chef star Masaharu Morimoto as their guest of honor. If you’re coming

News from Japan: Canned Dogs reports that Hunter x Hunter is returning to Shonen Jump, although perhaps just for ten weeks. Ed Chavez went to the Shogakukan offices and met the creators of Tetsuko no Tabi, a manga for Japanese railfans.

Reviews: Johanna Draper Carlson enjoys Yume Kira Dream Shoppe at Comics Worth Reading. Michelle Smith reads vol. 1 of Me and the Devil Blues and Phil Guie checks out vol. 1 of Mamoru the Shadow Protector at PopCultureShock’s Manga Recon blog. Connie goes for some light reading with vol. 1 of I Hate You More Than Anyone and vol. 15 of Iron Wok Jan at Slightly Biased Manga. Jason Van Horn reviews vol. 29 of Naruto at The Hachiko. This is sort of unusual: Charles Solomon looks at the series Bleach for the Los Angeles Times. Clive Owen enjoys vol. 1 of Black Lagoon at Animanga Nation. At Comics Village, Dan Polley reviews vol. 1 of I, Otaku, and John Thomas checks out vol. 1 of Barefoot Gen. Julie reviews vol. 12 of Claymore at the Manga Maniac Cafe. Lissa Pattillo reviews vol. 4 of +Anima and vol. 4 of Yotsuba&! at Kuriousity. David Welsh enjoys the long-awaited vol. 2 of Your and My Secret at Precocious Curmudgeon. James Fleenor takes a look at vol. 3 of xxxHoLiC at Anime Sentinel.

Special lit-crit edition

Some guy from the Washington Post reads Naruto, decides manga is stupid: John Jakala calls out Bob Thompson for judging manga based on a small sample size. Actually, Thompson’s article, the tale of a self-confessed “prose guy” investigating graphic novels, is worth a read, if only because he seeks out and talks to a lot of interesting people. But I would hate to think that he rushed to judgement on an entire category based on a glance at one or two volumes. (Or even that many—I know shoujo manga is all about popularity, but I can’t think of one in which shopping is a big focus.) Yes, manga can be stupid—so can prose novels, by the way—but it can also be pretty good. Someone should send this guy a copy of Real or Me and the Devil Blues so he can experience the full power of manga. (Photo originally from the WaPo article, but I let John Jakala do the cropping for me.)

Japanator posts this week’s new manga and anime releases.

In his latest Flipped column, David Welsh works through his obsession with Dororo.

School starts next week, if it hasn’t started already, and Danielle Leigh takes her mind off it by asking readers to suggest school-oriented manga. And once your brain is revved up again, check out Akemi’s notes on The Yaoi Hero, applying Joseph Campbell’s structure of the hero’s journey to the yaoi manga Wild Rock, at Myth and Manga.

More drama: Tiamat’s Disciple considers Lori Henderson’s sugggestion that anime companies produce audio manga dramas, but he thinks the missing ingredient is good voice actors.

ANN reports that the Japanese publishers Shogakukan and Shueisha are planning to start publishing manga in Spain, France, the UK, and other countries in Europe starting next fall.

News from Japan: ANN learns that Mushishi and Neo Angelique are winding up their runs in Japan. Sankaku Complex has heard that the Japanese government is considering setting up special “cyber-districts” where copyright laws are loosened up a bit. (Via Giapet.) Speaking of Gia, she has news of a Strike Witches doujinshi by members of the Strike Witches staff.

Reviews: Dave Ferraro enjoys Shirley but wishes creator Kaoru Mori would stretch her wings a bit more, at Comics-and-More. Lori Henderson’s daughter Jenny gives Warriors: The Rise of Scourge five stars at Manga Xanadu. Michelle is on a roll, with reviews of vols. 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 of Boys Over Flowers at Soliloquy in Blue. Johanna Draper Carlson reviews vols. 1 and 2 of Monkey High!, vol. 2 of B.O.D.Y., and vol. 9 of Nana at Comics Worth Reading. Lori Henderson checks out vol. 7 of Godchild at Comics Village. Emily takes a look at Kienai, Omoi at Emilys Random Shoujo Manga Page. Catching up with Tiamat’s Disciple, he recently posted reviews of issue 2 of Yen+, the manhwa and art anthology apple, vols. 1-8 of Marmalade Boy, and vol. 1 of King of Thorn. Julie reads Immoral Darkness at the Manga Maniac Cafe. Lissa Pattillo reviews vol. 18 of Tsubasa at Kuriousity. At Active Anime, Holly Ellingwood reads Wild Butterfly and vol. 3 of Sand Chronicles and Sandra Scholes checks out vol. 3 of Roureville. Gar Gar Stegosaurus posts a glowing review of After School Nightmare. (Via When Fangirls Attack.)

Middaugh interview, Pop Japan travelogue, and more!

ICv2 has a three-part interview with Del Rey editor Dallas Middaugh, in which he discusses the state of the manga market, Del Rey’s forays into global manga, and digital distribution, among other topics. Industry watchers know that the lion’s share of Del Rey titles are licensed from the Japanese publisher Kodansha, so the recent news that Kodansha is setting up its own manga branch in the U.S. naturally came up; Middaugh doesn’t seem to be worried, but he did say Del Rey has some deals in the works with other Japanese publishers. Part one deals with the overall market and the challenges of the book chains, including the shelf space squeeze; part two covers Del Rey’s global manga, digital distribution, and the effects of Kodansha’s move; and part three includes the Marvel titles and more discussion of global manga. (Image is of Kasumi, Del Rey’s newest global title.)

Erica Friedman rounds up the week in yuri and has the definitive last word on the kid who scandalized Multnomah County (or at least their Fox affiliate) by finding a copy of Battle Vixens in the library:

The father’s wrath completely ignores the fact that his kid is the *perfect* audience for that trash, since he hasn’t ever seen a woman’s crotch and this would all be very exciting and new to him.

Matt Blind presents the top 500 manga (online sales) and a summary of manga rankings at Rocket Bomber.’s Deb Aoki is in Japan as part of the Pop Japan Travel tours, and you can read about her adventures on day 1 and day 2 at her blog.

Math class is hard: Melinda Beasi is reading Bakuman, the new manga serial by Death Note creators Takeshi Obata and Tsugumi Ohba that just debuted in Japan, and she’s dismayed (but not terribly surprised) by some sexist comments.

At Manga Xanadu, Lori Henderson explains why the anime industry should be thinking about audio manga dramas.

News from Japan: Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys won a Seiun award, the Japanese analog of a Hugo. Afternoon magazine is launching a spinoff, perkily titled good! Afternoon, and ANN has the dope on some new and relaunched series, including Ice Blade.

Reviews: Erica Friedman gives her take on the first issue of Yen+, and her opinions are mostly the opposite of everyone else’s, so go, read! She also reviews the one-shot yuri manga Angel/Dust. Tangognat enjoys the first chapter of Honey Hunt, by Hot Gimmick creator Miki Ahara, which she found in the latest Shojo Beat. Kethylia posts a brief appreciation of Kusama Sakae’s Sakuranbo, from the September issue of BexBoy, as well as reviews of vols. 2 and 3 of Ai no Kusabi. Elizabeth Schweitzer reviews vol. 18 of Negima at PLAYBACK:stl, and it’s impressive that she finds so much to say about a series that’s up to volume 18. I am really enjoying Andrew Wheeler’s manga reviews, posted every Friday at ComicMix; this week he takes a look at vol. 1 of Koi Cupid, vol. 1 of Flock of Angels, and vol. 2 of Two Flowers for the Dragon. Australian anime blogger Sam has some reviews worth checking out: vol. 1 of Kon Kon Kokon, vols. 1, 3, and 4 of Rozen Maiden, and vol. 1 of the Pita-Ten light novel. (Via the Broccoli blog.) James Fleenor posts his impressions of vol. 1 of Switch, vol. 16 of Shaman King, and various Disgaea manga at Anime Sentinel. At Boys Next Door, Cynthia posts reviews of Wild Butterfly and vol. 2 of Dog Style. Connie has quite a stack of reviews at Slightly Biased Manga: vols. 40, 41, and 42 of Dragon Ball, vol. 8 of +Anima, vols. 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 of Angel Sanctuary, and vol. 3 of Battle Royale (Ultimate Edition). Julie reads vol. 8 of After School Nightmare, vol. 2 of Monkey High!, and vol. 1 of One-Pound Gospel at the Manga Maniac Cafe. Lissa Pattillo reviews vols. 1-23 of Hana-Kimi, the full run, at Manga Jouhou. Eva checks out an unusual light novel, nonfiction book, Picture Letters from the Commander in Chief, at the MangaCast. Charles Tan reviews vol. 1 of Gantz at Comics Village. Jason Van Horn takes a look at vol. 28 of Naruto at The Hachiko. At Animanga Nation, one of the best review sites around, Faith McAdams reviews vol. 1 of Bleach (Collectors Edition), Edward Zacharias takes on Tekkonkinkreet, and Ai Kano reads vol. 2 of One-Pound Gospel. Sesho reviews vol. 3 of Tetragrammaton Labyrinth.

Review: Song of the Hanging Sky, vol. 1

Song of the Hanging Sky, vol. 1
By Toriko Gin
Rated OT, Older Teen 16+
Go!Comi, $10.99

This is an odd little manga with lovely art and a story that goes beyond the usual genres. By the end of it I was not sure what to think, but I was definitely looking forward to the next volume.

The story is set in the mountains of some unspecified land, where Jack, a former field medic, has taken refuge from the wars that rage below. Gentle, bespectacled, skilled in medicine, Jack is a dreamy alternative to the usual sullen guys of shoujo manga. When we first meet him, he is hunkered down before the fire in his snow-covered cabin, writing a letter to his far-away sweetheart.

This cozy reverie is interrupted by frenzied barking from his dog Gustave, who senses something is not right outside. Sure enough, Gustave and Jack head out and soon find a strange child lying in the snow. By “strange,” I don’t just mean that Jack doesn’t know him; the child has feathers instead of hair and a huge set of wings growing out of his back. In fact, Gin explains in an excellent bit of pseudo-science, the child is one of the bird people, a living fossil whose ancestors branched off in some odd way from the evolutionary tree.

In this opening sequence, the child appears to be a wild animal. He speaks in screeches and tweets, not words, he reacts with fear to his first sight of Jack, and he refuses to eat the food Jack offers. Eventually, though, he does succumb a bit to Jack’s kindness and starts to settle in. Just as they start to get along, two mysterious figures appear from the night to claim the child, and Jack says goodbye.

Then the scene and point of view shift, and we see life from the child’s perspective. He and his companions speak in complete sentences, have complex customs and emotions, and generally act, well, civilized. Not like wild animals. The resemblance to Native Americans is obviously intentional; the Bird People wear feathers and beads and fringed capes, live in teepees, and are on the run from extinction. They eat pancakes. Suddenly the little boy (his name is Nuts) seems a lot less feral.

In addition to the feathers that grow on their heads, the Bird People are distinguished by their massive wings, which are feathered when they are children and lose their flesh and feathers as the characters grow to adulthood. Gin uses this as an indicator of age and shows different characters with their wings in various stages of health, but it also serves as a visual reminder of the tribe’s fate: The warriors look healthy and vigorous, but their creaking wing bones carry connotations of old age and weakness.

The Bird People are a closely-knit clan; most of them are related to each other in some way, and their relationships and tensions are revealed as the book goes on. Unfortunately, their names have a who’s-on-first quality that takes a bit of getting used to. The leader of the tribe is named Cave. Across the River is the tribe’s shaman and healer, and the warriors are Crazy Horn, Another Bear, and Fox. Nuts is eventually renamed Hello, at which point the dialogue started sounding quite odd in places.

One of the things that makes this book interesting is that the tribe is going through a time of transition. The Bird People are not timeless; they are evolving as they struggle on the edge of extinction. They have rituals and traditions, and they argue about the importance of keeping them. They do things they don’t like in order to conceal their existence from the rest of the world, and they debate whether that is necessary, too.

And when the point of view shifts from Jack to the Bird People, Jack becomes the threatening, unintelligible outsider. To me, this is one of the best parts of the book—the way it tells the story from both sides of the cultural divide. The reader knows that Jack is good-hearted, but the Bird People, across the linguistic and cultural divide, don’t get that. Jack is almost killed before Hello succeeds in bridging the gap and bringing him into the tribe. And when he does, Jack is in the subordinate position. It’s an interesting reversal of the usual Europeans-versus-native-peoples narrative, which this book is obviously set up to imitate.

There is one National Geographic moment, which probably serves to give the book its 16+ rating: The Bird People bathe topless, and Jack gets all flustered when he sees the lovely Fox doing her morning routine. It’s really more of an Adam and Eve moment, now that I think of it, because the Bird People are not ashamed of their bodies. The scene isn’t in the least bit salacious, and given the overall quality of this book, it would be a shame to keep it away from readers in their early teens.

Gin’s art is detailed and convincing. The characters’ wings look like they really could support them, the characters’ faces are expressive, and the backgrounds are just detailed enough to create a sense of place without being overwhelming. The one place where she overdoes it a bit is with hair and costumes, but that’s feature of manga in general, and it does give the book an interesting look.

This volume is a pretty minimal production by Go!Comi standards; the cover is lovely, but there are no color pages or translator’s notes, just a one-page omake by the artist. The paper is not high quality, but it is good enough to carry the art.

Song of the Hanging Sky goes far beyond standard shoujo manga, with an intriguing premise, complex characters, and a shifting point of view that not only entertains but also provides food for thought. If the quality stays this high in the next two volumes, it’s destined to be a classic.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

Black and white and read all over

Writer Peter Gutiérrez launches a new column, “Black and White in a Color World,” at ComiPress. The focus will be on the artistic side of manga and its cultural effects. Stay tuned!

At Rocket Bomber, Matt Blind takes a field trip to his local chain stores and does a little compare-and-contrast; he has a simple homework assignment for readers as well.

At Manga Life, Barb Lien-Cooper puts the spotlight on Hunter x Hunter.

Here’s a not entirely safe for work treat, courtesy of John Jakala: Killer panties.

Reviews: Lissa Pattillo wonders if she should add ratings to her reviews at Kuriousity and takes a look at vol. 1 of Silver Diamond and vol. 3 of Nightmare Inspector. Rob O’Nale makes the obvious comparison of vol. 1 of S.S. Astro to Azumanga Daioh and goes on to evaluate SSA on its own merits. Interesting reading. At, Deb Aoki reviews vol. 1 of Gantz. EvilOmar posts some brief manga reviews, starting off with a big spoiler for Dororo, at About Heroes. Ferdinand reads vol. 1 of Burst Angel and vol. 1 of Castlevania: Curse of Darkness at Prospero’s Manga. Connie is on an Angel Sanctuary binge at Slightly Biased Manga, reading vols. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13, and she still finds time to check out Love for Dessert and vol. 38 of Dragon Ball. D.M. Evans reads vol. 2 of Fairy Tail at Manga Jouhou. Matthew Brady finds vol. 1 of Black Lagoon a bit lacking at Warren Peace Sings the Blues. John Thomas reads the 18+ title Black Magic at Comics Village. Jason Van Horn reviews vol. 4 of Love Hina at The Hachiko. Michelle enjoys vol. 11 of Boys Over Flowers at Soliloquy in Blue. A fresh batch of reviews is up at Manga Life: Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane on vol. 3 of Monkey High!, Park Cooper on Uzumaki: The Art of Naruto and vol. 25 of Case Closed, and Barb Lien-Cooper on vol. 1 of Slam Dunk.