Archives for February 2010

Friday roundup

In the wake of the Christopher Handley case, Justin Norrie of the Brisbane Times contrasts the Japanese attitude toward drawn pornographic images with those of Australia and the U.S.

Lori Henderson looks at a site that uses manga to show how real Japanese people speak.

Continuing his look at early licensed manga, Ryan posts some scans from Keiichi Koike’s Landed at Same Hat.

News from Japan: Girls Bravo creator Mario Kaneda has a new series in the works, Hamidoru!, about a three-girl singing group. ANN also has the latest Japanese comics rankings.


Michelle Smith on vol. 2 of Alice in the Country of Hearts (Soliloquy in Blue)
Lissa Pattillo on vol. 1 of Biomega (Kuriousity)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 9 of Fairy Tail (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Erica Friedman on vol. 1 of Gakkou no Sensei (Okazu)
Martin Skidmore on Nana (FreakyTrigger) (Via When Fangirls Attack)
Rob on vol. 3 of Nana (Panel Patter)
Eva Volin on vol. 1 of Natsume’s Book of Friends (
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 5 of Phantom Dream (The Comic Book Bin)
Melinda Beasi on vol. 4 of Rasetsu (Manga Bookshelf)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 8 of Tactics (I Reads You)
Gia on vol. 1 of Ultimo (print review) (Anime Vice)
Gia on vol. 1 of Ultimo (video review) (Anime Vice)

Quick hits

David Welsh collects what others are saying about Ohikkoshi and spotlights shoujo and sunjeong books whose titles start with the letter R at The Manga Curmudgeon.

Jon Snyder takes a look at this week’s new releases at Japanator.

Good news: Otaku Champloo is back, with a spiffy new design, and Khursten kicks things off with a look at Vertical’s Tezuka covers. Welcome back!

Leroy Douresseaux talks to manga creator Sonia Leong about her webcomic Aya Takeo.

New York’s Center for Book Arts will feature the manga magazine Garo in an exhibit this spring. Same Hat has all the gory details.

Reviews: The Manga Recon checks in with short reviews in their latest On the Shojo Beat column.

Kate Dacey on vols. 1-5 of Bride of the Water God (The Manga Critic)
Jennifer LeBlanc on Living for Tomorrow (The Yaoi Review)
Susan S. on vol. 1 of Ludwig II (Manga Jouhou)
Lorena Nava Ruggero on vol. 3 of My Heavenly Hockey Club (i heart manga)
Leroy Douresseaux on Our Kingdom (The Comic Book Bin)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 2 of A Tale of an Unknown Country (A Case Suitable for Treatment)

Manga past, manga present, and manga yet to come

David Welsh looks at the best of this week’s new releases—and a few from last week as well—at The Manga Curmudgeon.

R.C. Harvey has a thoughtful (but NSFW) response to the prosecution and sentencing of Christopher Handley at The Comics Journal. Dru Pasagliotti brings up the question of whether some yaoi manga breaks the law; the conclusion seems to be probably not, but scanlations and imported material could be a problem. (Via Simon Jones.)

John Hogan talks to Benjamin, the creator of Remember and Orange, at Graphic Novel Reporter.

This is interesting: Ryan at Same Hat is compiling a chronology of early translated manga, with links to reference sources.

Michelle Smith is looking forward to some new Shojo Beat series.

Bandai has a new website just for their manga, and Lissa Pattillo has some comments.

Advise a beginner on how to get started in yaoi, and you may win a pair of Fumi Yoshinga manga from Manga Worth Reading!

Sean Gaffney looks at the works of Mitsuru Adachi, creator of Short Program and a lot of other works that haven’t been licensed here (yet).

Not manga, but kind of fun: I hunted up some gag comics that may actually make you laugh for my latest Unbound column at Robot 6, and I reviewed the kids’ comic Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker for Graphic Novel Reporter.

News from Japan: Shuuhou Satou’s online version of Say Hello to Black Jack brought in 500,000 yen in January, not bad for a manga that’s already out there in print. However, the price may be high:

According to Canned Dogs, Satou stated that he doesn’t expect to publish any more manga in traditional venues in the future- presumably because he doubts that manga anthologies will give him new contracts, now that they know he’ll be selling his back catalog himself. Even if Satou technically has the rights to do whatever he wants with Say Hello to Blackjack and other titles, selling the series online for a pittance could obviously affect tankouban sales, and the (relatively) lucrative tankouban market has been keeping the industry afloat.

Simon Jones puts it in perspective at the Icarus blog.


Snow Wildsmith on vol. 1 of Black Butler (Graphic Novel Reporter)
Matthew Brady on vol. 9 of The Drifting Classroom (Warren Peace Sings the Blues)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Excel Saga (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 5 of Gestalt (The Comic Book Bin)
Sean T. Collins on GoGo Monster (Attentiondeficitdisorderly Too Flat)
Tangognat on vol. 1 of Hanako and the Terror of Allegory (Tangognat)
Joy Kim on I Hate You More Than Anyone and V.B. Rose (Joy Kim)
Danielle Leigh on How to Capture a Martini (Comics Should Be Good!)
Connie on vol. 15 of Inubaka (Slightly Biased Manga)
Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane on vols. 5 and 6 of Magic Touch (Manga Life)
Park Cooper on MW (Manga Life)
Connie C. on vol. 1 of Night Head Genesis (Manga Recon)
Lori Henderson on the March issue of Shonen Jump (Manga Xanadu)
Julie on vol. 2 of Nabari no Ou (Manga Maniac Cafe)
Snow Wildsmith on vols. 1 and 2 of Nightschool (Graphic Novel Reporter)
Danica Davidson on vol. 1 of Operation Liberate Men (Graphic Novel Reporter)
Leroy Douresseaux on Remember (I Reads You)
Shaenon Garrity on vol. 1 of Summit of the Gods (
Emily on Tokyo Rock Shounen (Emily’s Random Shoujo Manga Page)
Danica Davidson on vols. 1 and 2 of Two Will Come (Graphic Novel Reporter)
Tiamat’s Disciple on vol. 2 of Welcome to Wakaba-soh (Tiamat’s Manga Reviews)
Greg McElhatton on vol. 7 of Yotsuba&! (Read About Comics)

This is not a lolicon manga

Tokyo Mew Mew: Not Porn

Tokyo Mew Mew: Not Porn

Reactions are still pouring in on the Christopher Handley sentencing; Handley received a six-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to possession of obscene manga. This local-paper coverage made me wince: The Iowa Independent did an OK job of summarizing the story, but the accompanying picture shows a couple of mainstream manga (Me and My Brothers, Shugo Chara, Tokyo Mew-Mew) with the caption “Similar although non-explicit graphic novels, like the three pictured above, are available at most public libraries.” I know they are just trying to show what “manga” is, but I’m afraid this casts a pall of suspicion on the whole medium.

Kate Dacey casts her critical eye on this week’s new releases at The Manga Critic.

Melinda Beasi rounds up the latest manhwa news in her latest Manhwa Monday post at Manga Bookshelf.

Boo! Someone pirated Helen McCarthy’s The Anime Encyclopedia, and she is faced with the inadequacy of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for fighting online plagiarism. Having been a victim of this myself (in a much more modest way), I sympathize! The system is so bad, it’s almost as if it were designed by the perpetrators.

There’s a new episode of the Jouhou Cast up at Manga Jouhou.

Reviews: The Manga Recon team has a new set of Manga Minis to start out the work week. At, Melinda Beasi takes a look at The Rough Guide to Manga, written by Otaku Ohana blogger (and Honolulu Star-Bulletin columnist) Jason Yadao.

Jaime Samms on The Aristocrat and the Devil Prince (Kuriousity)
Shaenon Garrity on vol. 1 of Black Butler (
Dave Ferraro on vol. 1 of Bokurano Ours (Comics-and-More)
Julie on vol. 13 of High School Debut (Manga Maniac Cafe)
Michelle Smith on vols. 9-11 of Kaze Hikaru (Soliloquy in Blue)
Julie on vol. 20 of Kekkaishi (Manga Maniac Cafe)
Tangognat on vol. 1 of Stolen Hearts (Tangognat)
Ai Kano on vol. 10 of Strawberry 100% (Animanga Nation)
Erica Friedman on vol. 4 of Sunshine Sketch (Okazu)
Kristin on vol. 1 of Tamaishin: The Red Spider Exorcist (Comic Attack)

Love and tigers

51E7Pfo0LeLIn celebration of Valentine’s day, the Good Comics for Kids bloggers came up with a list of our favorite romantic comics—including lots of manga. Deb Aoki goes a slightly different route with her list of 10 bizarre shoujo manga love stories at, and David Welsh has lots of romantic covers at The Manga Curmudgeon. Lori Henderson celebrates the Year of the Tiger with a list of manga in which tigers appear.

The week winds up with more reviews of Sexy Voice and Robo, from the Reverse Thieves, Matt Blind, Garret Albright and Ed Sizemore, who compares Sexy Voice to the gekiga manga of Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

Lori Henderson posts the week’s manga news at Manga Xanadu, and Erica Friedman covers her section of the mangaverse with the latest Yuri Network News at Okazu.

Naruto is once more at the helm of the New York Times manga best-seller list. ICv2 posts Diamond’s list of the top 300 graphic novels sold in comics stores in January, and they also have a brief analysis of comics and graphic novel sales.

Tangognat makes her picks from the February Previews.

Gia has a handy chart that explains how Shonen Jump series have evolved

Same Hat! has a new selection of Shintaro Kago gag strips, this one featuring toilet paper dispensers.

Reviews: Kate Dacey has short takes on vol. 1 of Biomega, not simple, and vol. 7 of 20th Century Boys at The Manga Critic. Other reviews of note:

Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 7 of 20th Century Boys (Comics Worth Reading)
Snow Wildsmith on Age Called Blue (Fujoshi Librarian)
Rob on vol. 4 of Antique Bakery (Panel Patter)
Tiamat’s Disciple on vol. 3 of Bamboo Blade (Tiamat’s Manga Reviews)
Jog on vol. 1 of Biomega and All My Darling Daughters (The Savage Critic(s))
Tiamat’s Disciple on vol. 3 of Cat Paradise (Tiamat’s Manga Reviews)
Shannon Fay on Crazy Star (Kuriousity)
Rob on vol. 1 of Il Gatto Sul G (Panel Patter)
D.M. Evans on vol. 2 of Jack Frost (Manga Jouhou)
Connie on vol. 3 of Kimi ni Todoke (Slightly Biased Manga)
AstroNerdBoy on vol. 5 of Love Hina (AstroNerdBoy’s Anime and Manga Blog)
Snow Wildsmith on Love Hurts (Fujoshi Librarian)
Jennifer Dunbar on vol. 1 of Mikansei No. 1 (Manga Recon)
Connie on vol. 34 of Oh My Goddess (Slightly Biased Manga)
Matthew Brady on vols. 3 and 4 of One Pound Gospel (Warren Peace Sings the Blues)
Connie on vols. 2 and 3 of Pig Bride (Slightly Biased Manga)
Connie on vol. 8 of Record of a Fallen Vampire (Slightly Biased Manga)
David Welsh on vol. 1 of Reversible (The Manga Curmudgeon)
Tangognat on vol. 7 of Sand Chronicles (Tangognat)
Melinda Beasi on vol. 1 of Shugo Chara! (Manga Bookshelf)
Danielle Leigh on vols. 1-3 of Sugarholic (Comics Should Be Good!)
Connie on vol. 2 of Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee (Slightly Biased Manga)
James Fleenor on vol. 1 of Ultimo (Anime Sentinel)

Review: Sexy Voice and Robo

Sexy Voice and RoboSexy Voice and Robo
By Iou Kuroda
Rated T+, for Older Teens
Viz, $19.99

There’s a lot to like about Iou Kuroda’s Sexy Voice and Robo. I like the basic idea—a perceptive teenager moonlights as a paid phone friend and uses what she has learned about human nature to solve mysteries. I like the art, most of the time. I like the characters. I like the oversize format, which shows off Kuroda’s art at its best—this book would feel cramped if it were published in the standard manga size.

And yet, I feel like it could be so much better. This manga has a half-baked feeling, as if Kuroda realized what a good idea he had and started running with it before he was completely ready.

The strongest evidence of this is the structure of the book, which begins with eight self-contained stories and then, a little more than halfway through, shifts to a longer, more complex storyline. At around that point, for the first time, the characters start to develop more self-awareness, and the story gets a lot more interesting. Then, a few chapters later, the book ends, leaving some threads dangling.

Even in the earlier stories, though, Kuroda seems to get carried away with how good his ideas are at the expense of execution. The first story, for instance, is about a kidnapper whose ransom demand is a strange one: Hold off on turning on the traditional Christmas lights in a Tokyo shopping district. Working with the thinnest of clues, and with a great deal of help from coincidence, Nico finds the kidnapper and frees the young boy, but the kidnapper’s true motivation is never revealed. It’s one of the conventions of the mystery genre that bizarre elements like that must ultimately be explained. Nico does come up with a possible reason, but it is never confirmed, and the story seems unfinished as a result.

Several of the self-contained stories seem to have missing pieces like that, and as a result they seem haphazard, as if Kuroda started out with an idea but hadn’t quite mapped the whole thing out. There is a freshness and spontaneity to the book, and Kuroda’s stories are imaginative—he sets one story in a circus and another in an open-air hair salon, and one of his best characters is an amnesiac hitman whose memory only goes back three days. But somehow, each of these stories left me thinking “Wait—that’s it?” Kuroda doesn’t always wrap up all the loose ends in a satisfying way.

Another problem is a lack of depth in his characters. Admittedly, that’s hard to develop in a short story, but what I see Kuroda doing is falling back on the same pattern over and over: Cold, beautiful women who use their looks and their sexuality to manipulate men, and hapless men who get themselves into bad situations and then flounder around helplessly, making things worse. These are all basically less likeable avatars of the lead couple. Nico may be charming, clever, and cute, but she makes her money by enticing men into lengthy, expensive phone calls, and she uses what she has learned about them in their vulnerable moments to manipulate them. She really isn’t that different from the selfish lover in the second story or the suicidal prostitute in the last one.

(Actually, there is one difference: Nico is not sexy. She looks like a little kid—a smart kid, but a kid nonetheless. Her mannerisms are childlike, and she is missing the usual markers of mature sexuality—her hair is short, her chest is flat, and she wears sensible, sturdy clothing. She’s the exact opposite of what her clients want, which is why she doesn’t have to feel threatened by them.)

Robo, for his part, is a clueless guy who is led on by desires he can’t really control. That describes most of the men in this comic as well. The aquarium worker so besotted by love that he is willing to kill all the fish to get his fiancé to marry him; the young man who impulsively steals from a gambling parlor and then has no idea what to do next; the hapless motorcyclist who is led by a woman (another scheming tele-club caller, like Nico only not so nice) into an escalating series of crimes—all these men lurch forward without thinking, careening into one disaster after another, unable to formulate any sort of plan to help themselves.

Like Nico, Robo is a likeable version of this caricature: He lets himself be led around, true, but he doesn’t go on and on about his obsessions, he has a real job (until he gets fired) and he connects with people, in his own way. So neither character is an extreme; they both feel like someone you might actually know, but with a few extra twists thrown in. The other characters, with a few exceptions, are much less nuanced.

That critique extends to the old man for whom Nico works. He is really more of a plot device than a character—an aging gangster, he gives Nico her assignments, sets the story in motion, and then conveniently disappears unless he is called upon to move the plot along. Although Nico suggests that she is his lover when it’s convenient for her work, there actually seems to be very little rapport between them until fairly late in the book. He is simply a cardboard cutout who is rolled onstage when necessary.

The last part of the book shows what Kuroda is capable of once he gets going. The story starts to branch out into something larger, a framing tale that encompasses Nico’s mystery-solving. But then it ends, and much of its potential goes unrealized.

Kuroda is a good storyteller, and his art is one of the reasons to pick up this book. He works with brush and ink, which is a bold and unforgiving medium. Most of the time it works, especially when he keeps his line simple; his older characters often dissolve into a formless mass of wrinkles, and I find it hard to see any underlying form in the old man. His figures sometimes sport a stiff pose or an awkwardly foreshortened limb, which is the risk of working in this medium—you can’t really go back and fix things. (You can try, but it just ends up getting fussier and fussier.)

One of the things I really like about Kuroda’s work is the composition of pages and panels. He constantly shifts his point of view as people talk, which keeps the pages dynamic, and his backgrounds are fully realized, drawing the reader into every panel. A lot of manga artists use stock backgrounds that are so geometrically perfect that they seem flat and unreal. Kuroda’s backgrounds are more organic; every line may not be perfectly straight, but the parts all work together to build a convincing atmosphere. As the book progresses, Kuroda relies less on hatching and more on areas of pure black and white to define his scenes, and as a result, his pages become easier to read at a single glance.

Finally, a word about format. This book is an early departure from the standard manga format, and as I mentioned earlier, Kuroda’s art really demands a larger page. The problem is that the book isn’t quite big enough (or, more likely, the proportions of the original were slightly different than the U.S. version), so it looks like some of the art is chopped off by the edge of the page. At the very least, the art often seems crowded at the edges.

If I were going to republish this in a new edition, I might consider flipping it so that it could reach a broader audience—I can see fans of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s work picking this up, when they are in the mood for a less depressing read. I would tweak the format so the art isn’t cropped. And I’d hire Kuroda to go over his earlier work, fill in the gaps, and then write another volume to wind his story up. Failing that, I’d like to see more of his manga translated into English, to see if his more mature work lives up to his earlier promise.