The Manga Lover’s Guide to SDCC 2015

sdcc_logoAre you headed to San Diego this week? If so, this column is for you! We’ve compiled a handy list of the major manga events, from VIZ’s Ultraman spectacular to Tokyopop’s Don’t-Call-It-a-Comeback panel. Our own Brigid Alverson will be joining an all-star line-up of bloggers for the Best and Worst Manga of 2015 panel, which will be held on Saturday, July 11th at 7:00 pm. We’ll also be updating the blog throughout the week with the latest licensing announcements.

A final note about the programs listed below: our list focuses on manga, but there are also a wealth of anime programs including cosplay panels, voice acting workshops, and screenings of Spirited Away. A comprehensive schedule of anime events is now live on the SDCC website, and available through the Comic-Con app (iOS and Android).

THURSDAY, JULY 9th

Shonen Jump: Past, Present, and Future
10:00 – 11:00 am, Room 5AB
From the program: “Hang out with the English language editors of the world’s most popular manga, plus special surprise guests! Come hear some exciting news about the latest new series, all-time fan favorites, and everything in between. Plus a chance to win amazing prizes by showing off your SJ trivia skills.”

What Do Women Want? Female Gaze in Manga
3:00 – 4:00 pm, Room 29AB
From the program: “From shojo manga to boys love manga to reverse harem ‘otome’ video games and anime filled with delectable guys, these media have been catering to the tastes of female fans in Japan. These stories are reaching readers and inspiring comics creators worldwide more than ever. See what manga publishing pros Leyla Aker (senior vice president, publishing, VIZ Media), JuYoun Lee (editor-in-chief, Yen Press), Lillian Diaz-Pryzbyl (head of comics, Sparkler Monthly), and manga creator Jamie Lynn Lano (The Princess of Tennis, Denkiki) have to say about ‘female gaze’ in manga, why it sells, and why it matters. They’ll also share their picks for your next must-read manga that’ll make you swoon. Moderated by Deb Aoki (Publishers Weekly, Manga Comics Manga).”

VIZ Media
4:00 – 5:00 pm, Room 7AB
From the program: “Come party with VIZ Media! And by party, they mean sit in a chair and listen to thrilling tales of upcoming releases and other Earth-shattering announcements from North America’s largest distributor of manga and anime… Hosted by Urian Brown, Charlene Ingram and VIZ Media staff, with special guests.”

Making a Living in Manga: Japan Creators, Editors Talk
5:00 – 6:00 pm, Room 29AB
From the program: “What’s it like to work as a comics creator in Japan? What does it take to sell your self- published manga at Tokyo’s Comic Market (Comiket), the world’s largest comics show? How do Japanese manga editors work with creators to craft addictive stories that keep readers coming back for more? Hear what it’s really like to work in the motherland of manga from Japan- and U.S.-based pros who have done all of this and more. Akihide Yanagi (writer, agent), Kamome Shirahama (manga artist, Eniale & Dewiel), Philip S. Y. Tan (Heaven, Uncanny X-Men), Makoto Nishi (manga editor), and Philip Knall (translator, salaryman) offer a rare look behind the scenes of Japan’s manga biz, followed a Q&A session moderated by Deb Aoki (Publishers Weekly, Manga Comics Manga).”

Dark Horse Manga
6:00 – 7:00 pm, Room 9
From the program: “Dark Horse’s history with Japanese comics can be traced back to the company’s earliest years… Dark Horse continues to publish some of the industry’s bestselling titles… Be on hand for a look at the past, present, and future of manga at Dark Horse.”

Manga: Lost In Translation
7:00 – 8:00 pm, Room 9
From the program: “It seems that manga is charging back from its late ’00s slump, and anime simulcasts have become the norm. So what is it like to work in the industry? Here’s your chance to ask some of the top professionals in the manga and anime industry about their jobs and the titles they’ve worked on. Join William Flanagan (Fairy Tail), Jonathan “Jake” Tarbox (Fist of the North Star), Mari Morimoto (Naruto), Stephen Paul (One Piece), Ed Chavez (director, Vertical Comics), and Lillian Diaz-Przybyl (head of comics, Chromatic Press Inc.) for this panel.”

FRIDAY, JULY 10th

Get Your Comic Published in Japan: Silent Manga Audition
1:30 – 2:30 pm, Room 5AB
From the program: “Jonathan Tarbox (CEO, Arashi Productions) explains how manga artists from any nation can submit their work to a contest run by a major Japanese publisher. Winners will have their submission published in Japan and be considered for the opportunity to work in the manga industry…”

VIZ Media: Ultraman
3:00 – 4:00 pm, Room 23ABC
From the program: “For their first international appearance, Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi, creators of the new VIZ Media manga series Ultraman, inspired by the original Japanese TV show, are joined onstage by special guests from Legendary Comics to discuss Japan’s quintessential superhero and the influence of kaiju in today’s pop culture…”

Manga Publishing Industry Roundtable
5:00 – 6:00 pm, Room 4
From the program: “Manga publishing in North America has definitely seen its shares of highs and low, from the manga boom in the early 2000s to the crash ten years later, caused by a perfect storm of the U.S. recession, Borders bookstores closures, and the growth of online piracy. So how are things now? Get a taste of what’s hot, what’s not, and what’s next for manga in North America and Japan, from top publishing pros including Leyla Aker (senior VP, publishing, VIZ Media), Kurt Hassler (VP, publishing director, Yen Press), Michael Gombos (director of licensing Asia, Dark Horse Comics), Ben Applegate (associate director, publishing services, Penguin Random House), and Erik Ko (chief of operations, Udon Entertainment). Moderated by Deb Aoki (Publishers Weekly, Manga Comics Manga).”

Showcasing the Best in Korean Comics
7:30 – 8:30 pm, Room 26AB
From the program: “A team of Korea’s prolific artists and animation studios, represented by Jongmin Shin (CEO of EGA Studios), showcases the latest and greatest trends in Korean comics and animation. They will also showcase their recent and upcoming productions on some of today’s hottest comics. Join Jongmin and crew for this Q&A session moderated by Austin Osueke (publisher of eigoMANGA).”

SATURDAY, JULY 11th

Kodansha Comics
11:30 am – 12:30 pm, Room 8
From the program: “The publisher of the manga megahit Attack on Titan… reveals exciting upcoming titles. General manager Kana Koide and senior editor Ben Applegate will answer your questions about Kodansha’s books and the manga industry.”

Spotlight on Yu-Gi-Oh! and Creator Kazuki Takahasi
2:00 – 3:00 pm, Room 7AB
From the program: “Get a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the Yu-Gi-Oh! phenomenon and a sneak peek at the third Yu-Gi-Oh! feature film through the eyes of world-renowned manga artist and Yu-Gi-Oh! creator Kazuki Takahashi, and other distinguished panelists…”

Tokyopop: The Robofish Rises
6:00 – 7:00 pm, Room 28DE
From the program: “Big News, TOKYOPOP is coming back! Meet Stu Levy (founder, CEO), Clay Bohle, and the TOKYOPOP team to get the scoop firsthand. Giveaways for all attendees. If you’re an artist, bring your portfolio for review, and if you’re a fan, bring all your questions.” [Editor’s note: for more information about Tokyopop’s past and future, check out Brigid’s recent article at Comic Book Resources. If you’re planning to bring your portfolio, be sure to read Alex De Campi’s blog post about her complicated–and sometimes exploitative–relationship with Tokyopop.]

Best and Worst Manga of 2015
7:00 – 8:00 pm, Room 23ABC
From the program: “A panel of opinionated bloggers, retailers, librarians, manga mavens, and comics curmudgeons spotlight the best new manga that hit the shelves in the past year. See them rave about their favorite continuing series. Watch them rant about the excruciatingly mediocre manga that they were forced to read. Find out what Brigid Alverson (Robot 6, Good Comics for Kids), David Brothers (4thletter!), Christopher Butcher (The Beguiling, Toronto Comic Arts Festival), Eva Volin (Alameda Free Library, No Flying No Tights), and Deb Aoki (Manga Comics Manga, Publishers Weekly) loved and loathed to read in the past year. Hear about their picks for the most anticipated upcoming releases for fall 2015 and beyond, and discover their favorite underappreciated manga gems that are worth picking up.”

The Manga Revue: A Silent Voice and Your Lie in April

It’s been a while since I checked in with Kodansha, so this week’s column explores two recent additions to the KC catalog: A Silent Voice, which explores the complex relationship between a bully and his victim, and Your Lie in April, which focuses on a piano prodigy who flamed out at an early age.

A Silent VoiceA Silent Voice, Vol. 1
By Yoshitoki Oima
Rated T, for Teens
Kodansha Comics, $10.99

Thirteen-year-old Shouya Ishida is at loose ends: he’s a mediocre student, a latch-key kid, and a thrill-seeker who goads his friends into dangerous stunts. When deaf girl Shoko Nishimiya joins Ishida’s class, however, Ishida’s recklessness shades into cruelty. He orchestrates a systematic campaign of harassment against her, mocking her speech, stealing her hearing aides, and blaming her for “ruining” the class.

What distinguishes A Silent Voice from dozens of other issue-of-the-week manga is its perspective: author Yoshitoki Oima tells the story from the bully’s point of view rather than the victim’s, thus avoiding the temptation to paint Ishida as a monster. As Oima capably shows, Ishida’s inability to control his worst impulses is not a sign of depravity, but of loneliness, frustration, and immaturity. Similarly, Oima resists the urge to blame Ishida’s mother for her son’s behavior, portraying her as a hard-working, decent woman who’s struggling to run a business and raise two children on her own. Instead, Oima zeroes in the complex dynamic between Ishida and his classmates, acknowledging the degree to which their own hostility towards Nishimiya validates–and encourages–Ishida’s cruelty.

In one scene, for example, the teacher calls on Nishimiya to read a passage out loud. Her words are labored and difficult to understand, prompting uncomfortable stares from the class. When Ishida is asked to do the same, he’s emboldened by his peers’ response. “Uwah! Uwoh! Argle! Bargle!” he declares, feasting on the giggles and snickers his impression generates. Though the teacher issues Ishida a stern warning, Mr. Takeuchi’s own contempt for Nishimiya seeps into their conversation, granting Ishida further license to harass his classmate.

I’d be the first to admit that A Silent Voice is a difficult read, not least for the scenes in which Ishida torments Nishimiya; Oima captures Nishimiya’s reactions with heart-breaking specificity, even though her character seldom utters a word. It’s a worthwhile series, however, for the truthful way in which it explores the role of passivity and group-think in creating an environment ripe for harassment.

your_lie_april_EnglishYour Lie in April, Vol. 1
By Naoshi Arakawa
Rated T, for Teens
Kodansha Comics, $10.99

Your Lie in April follows the budding relationship between Kosei Arima, a piano prodigy, and Kaori Miyazono, a violinist who plays by her own rules. When Arima first meets Miyazono, he’s crippled by his own perfectionism. Miyazono, on the other hand, is fearless, giving emotionally authentic–if messy–performances that irk judges and wow audiences. Miyazono has an equally messy personality–she’s impetuous, petulant, and bossy–but captivates Arima with the sheer force of her enthusiasm.

I’ll be honest: I’d like Your Lie in April a lot more if it focused on a drama troupe or a sports team. That may seem like an odd admission from a musicologist, but Miyazono’s character embodies what I dislike most about popular depictions of classical music. Her eclectic performances are offered as evidence of her “true” musical ability, while the judges’ disapproval is portrayed as a failure of imagination. Yet a score isn’t a loose set of guidelines to be followed at the musician’s whim, it’s an explicit representation of the composer’s intentions; willfully ignoring tempo markings, dynamics, and phrasing misses the entire point of musical notation. Miyazono may make Beethoven’s Kreutzer sonata “unequivocally her own,” but is she really capturing the spirit of the piece in taking so many liberties with it?

Given my own prejudices, I don’t know if I can give Your Lie in April a fair shake. I found the artwork clean and expressive, and the dynamic between Arima and his non-musical friend Tsubaki Sawabe true to life. (In contrast to Miyazono, Sawabe is not simply a vehicle for the hero’s self-actualization, but a character in her own right.) I also enjoyed the program notes at the end of every chapter–a nice touch for readers who recognize Saint-Saens’ name, but can’t quite tie him to a specific composition or stylistic period. I’m not sure these small pleasures are enough inducement for me to pick up volume two, but a less fussy music lover might well enjoy this coming-of-age drama.

Reviews: Bust out your handkerchief–the final installment of House of 1000 Manga has been posted! Jason Thompson takes a few minutes to reflect on the column, list his ten favorite manga, and discuss what he’ll be doing next. Like many of ANN’s regular readers, I will miss House of 1000 Manga dearly; Shaenon and Jason did a terrific job of sharing their knowledge of and enthusiasm for manga with readers in a consummately effortless style.

Courtney Sanders on vol. 16 of 07-Ghost (Three If By Space)
Connie on vol. 2 of Alice in the Country of Clover: Knight’s Knowledge (Slightly Biased Manga)
Connie on vol. 3 of Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz (Slightly Biased Manga)
Al Sparrow on vol. 1 of The Ancient Magus’ Bride (ComicSpectrum)
Ken H. on vol. 4 of Attack on Titan: Before the Fall (Sequential Ink)
Erica Friedman on Awajime Hyakkei (Okazu)
Connie on vol. 18 of Black Bird (Slightly Biased Manga)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 10 of Black Lagoon (The Fandom Post)
Connie on vol. 28 of Blade of the Immortal (Slightly Biased Manga)
Helen on Cardcaptor Sakura (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses)
Connie on vol. 1 of Citrus (Slightly Biased Manga)
TSOTE on vol. 29 of C.M.B. (Three Steps Over Japan)
Connie on vol. 2 of Demon Love Spell (Slightly Biased Manga)
Rebecca Silverman on Dream Fossil (ANN)
Holly Saiki on Fragments of Horror (Examiner)
Courtney Sanders on Fragments of Horror (Three If By Space)
Ken H. on In Clothes Called Fat (Sequential Ink)
Luke Halliday on vol. 2 of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood (Snap 30)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 18 on Kamisama Kiss (ANN)
Sakura Eries on vol. 4 of Kiss of the Rose Princess (The Fandom Post)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 14 of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery System (Comics Worth Reading)
Connie on vol. 5 of Love Pistols (Slightly Biased Manga)
Kristin on vol. 3 of Master Keaton (Comic Attack)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 3 of Master Keaton (WatchPlayRead)
Anna N. on vol. 2 of Meteor Prince (The Manga Report)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Non Non Biyori (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Al Sparrow on Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt (ComicSpectrum)
TSOTE on vol. 1 of Q.E.D. iff (Three Steps Over Japan)
Matthew Alexander on vol. 9 of Sankarea (The Fandom Post)
Megan R. on Seraph of the End (The Manga Test Drive)
Al Sparrow on vol. 1 of A Silent Voice (ComicSpectrum)
Connie on vol. 34 of Skip Beat! (Slightly Biased Manga)
L.B. Bryant on vol. 1 of So Cute It Hurts! (ICv2)
Matthew Alexander on vol. 9 of Triage X (The Fandom Post)
Connie on vol. 16 of We Were There (Slightly Biased Manga)
Ash Brown on vol. 7 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Experiments in Manga)

The True Meaning of ‘Attack on Titan’

attack_titan1What is Attack on Titan really about? Vernieda Vergara puts it in context and discusses the social and political issues that Japanese readers might pick up on.

The folks at Sparkler Monthly are launching a Kickstarter to fund their third year. They have a lot of great premiums, and if you don’t want to be part of the Kickstarter, you can just get a plain ol’ membership instead. If you want to support global manga, this is the way to do it!

Taiyo Matsumoto will bring Sunny to an end in the July 27 issue of Monthly Spirits magazine; the fifth volume is due out on July 7 in North America.

The first volume of Tokyo Ghoul tops this week’s New York Times manga best-seller list, with vol. 70 of Naruto and vol. 5 of Seraph of the End in the number two and three spots. It’s worth noting that the first volume of Seraph is also on the list, which means new readers are still discovering it.

Erica Friedman has a special rainbows-and-weddings-infused edition of Yuri Network News at Okazu.

Reviews

Sakura Eries on vol. 8 of Are You Alice? (The Fandom Post)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 13 of Blue Exorcist (WatchPlayRead)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 15 of Dorohedoro (The Fandom Post)
Marissa Lieberman on vol. 1 of Dragon Ball (3-in-1 edition) (No Flying, No Tights)
Kory Cerjak on vol. 45 of Fairy Tail (The Fandom Post)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 6 of Food Wars (WatchPlayRead)
Manjiorin on Gyo (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses)
Richard Gutierrez on vol. 1 of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (The Fandom Post)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 6 of Judge (Comics Worth Reading)
Sarah on vol. 18 of Kamisama Kiss (nagareboshi reviews)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 14 of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 5 of LBX (The Comic Book Bin)
Kristin on vol. 2 of Master Keaton (Comic Attack)
Trisha on My Neighbor Seki (Guys Lit Wire)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Secret (Comics Worth Reading)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 5 of Seraph of the End (WatchPlayRead)
Erica Friedman on Strawberry Shake (Okazu)
Lesley Aeschiliman on vol. 11 of Voice Over: Seiyu Academy (WatchPlayRead)
Helen on Wish (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses)

The Manga Revue: Alice in Murderland and Demon From Afar

Reading Kaori Yuki is a little bit like eating a bag of Pop Rocks and washing it down with a can of Tab: the rush is undeniable, but the aftertaste is pretty gnarly. I swore off her manga years ago–too much stimulation for my taste–but her two latest series looked so snazzy I couldn’t resist giving her work a second chance.

AliceinMurderlandv1Alice in Murderland, Vol. 1
By Kaori Yuki
Rated OT, for Older Teens
Yen Press, $17.00

Nine Is Enough might be a better title for Alice in Murderland, as it neatly summarizes the main plot: per their mother’s orders, the nine Kuonji children must fight to the death to determine who will inherit the family fortune. Of course, if you’ve read Godchild or Angel Sanctuary, you know that even Kaori Yuki’s most basic story ideas are complicated by a profusion of subplots and supporting characters. Alice in Murderland is no exception: Yuki introduces over thirty people in volume one, each of whom has a stake in the outcome of the Kuonji Battle Royale.

The characters are so hastily conceived, however, that their behavior makes no sense; when they turn on each other, those reversals register not as betrayals but as speed bumps on the road to the next gruesome showdown. Even the revelation that the Kuonji matriarch is a bandersnatch–no, really–barely makes an impression, as her breathless monologue about demonic powers is no more shocking or ridiculous than the violent melodrama that precedes it. (On the plus side, it does explain her rotten parenting skills.) The artwork, though attractive, barely hangs together; small wonder that Yuki relies so heavily on dialogue to plug the holes in her storytelling.

The verdict: No amount of Lewis Carroll references can disguise the fact the Alice in Murderland is a flaming hot mess.

Yuki_DemonFromAfarV1_HCDemon From Afar, Vol. 1
By Kaori Yuki
Rated T, for Teens
Yen Press, $18.00

In contrast to Alice in Murderland, Demon From Afar has a discernible storyline and real characters. Three teens–Sorath, Garan, and Kiyora–live on the estate of the wealthy, ruthless Baron Kamichika. As children, they found solace in each others’ company, as the Baron was a cruel guardian; as young adults, however, they unwittingly become pawns in his elaborate scheme to achieve immortality.

Though Kaori Yuki can’t help but populate the fringes of the story with beautiful, inscrutable figures, the main narrative never loses it focus on Sorath, Garan, and Kiyora’s increasingly tenuous allegiance. The supernatural elements–another potential distraction–prove organic to the story as well; from the very first pages, it’s clear that Sorath possesses unusual powers, though we don’t see them fully manifested in volume one. Only Yuki’s decision to invoke Walpurgisnacht raises a few eyebrows: surely there was a Japanese festival or tradition that would have made more sense in the context of the Taisho-era setting. (The story takes place shortly after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.) Faust tributes aside, Demon From Afar manages the difficult feat of juggling many stylistic sensibilities–horror, romance, teen angst–without sacrificing coherence or pacing.

The verdict: Demon From Afar won’t win the Tezuka Prize, but it scores points for readability and visual flair.

Reviews: Sad news for fans of ANN’s House of 1000 Manga: Jason Thompson and Shaenon Garrity have announced that their final column will run next week. To mark the occasion, Shaenon counts down her ten favorite manga from the House archives.

Deionte Coates on vol. 5 of Cardfight!! Vanguard (BentoByte)
Megan R. on City Hunter (The Manga Test Drive)
Lori Henderson on vol. 1 of Demon From Afar (Manga Xanadu)
Adam Caps on Dream Fossil (BentoByte)
Holly Saiki on Dream Fossil (Examiner)
Leroy Douresseaux on Fragments of Horror (Comic Book Bin)
Sean Gaffney on Fragments of Horror (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Orrin Gray on Fragments of Horror (Innsmouth Free Press)
Vernieda Vergara on vols. 1-3 of The Heroic Legend of Arslan (Women Write About Comics)
Ash Brown on vol. 2 of Hide and Seek (Experiments in Manga)
Alice Vernon on Judge (Girls Like Comics)
Nic Wilcox on Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink: The Complete Collection (No Flying No Tights)
Sarah on vol. 1 of Love Stage! (Anime UK News)
Wolfen Moondaughter on vol. 5 of Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign (Sequential Tart)
Ken H. on vols. 5-8 of The Seven Deadly Sins (Sequential Ink)
Paige Sammartino on vol. 1 of A Silent Voice (Women Write About Comics)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of So Cute It Hurts! (Comics Worth Reading)
Richard Eisenbeis on vols. 1-2 of Sword Art Online: Girls’ Ops (Kotaku)
Thomas Maluck on vol. 1 of Sword Art Online: Progressive (No Flying No Tights)
Karen Maeda on vol. 6 of Terraformars (Sequential Tart)
Ian Wolf on Tony Takezaki’s Neon Genesis Evangelion (Anime UK News)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 7 of Toradora! (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 28 of Toriko (Sequential Tart)
Rob Clough on Trash Market (High-Low)
James Hadfield on Trash Market (The Japan Times)
L.B. Bryant on vol. 1 of Trinity Seven: The Seven Magicians (ICv2)

Summer Reading and a Tokyopop Teaser

The next volume of Attack on Titan isn’t out till August—what do you read in the meantime? At the Barnes & Noble blog I suggest some manga that offer many of the same pleasures as Attack on Titan as well as a roundup of June releases.

Tokyopop is “evolving,” although it’s not clear what that means. In a blog post on the Tokyopop site, CEO Stu Levy writes cryptically about “rebuilding” Tokyopop in a different form; more concretely, they will have panels at Anime Expo and San Diego, so something may be afoot.

Udon has licensed the manga adaptation of the Persona4 game.

Shonen Jump will publish a short story by American creators Bikkuri and rem in this week’s issue; the story, “Folie À Deux,” was published on the Shonen Jump + app in Japan. Bikkuri and rem were the winners of the 2007 Morning International Manga Competition, and rem is the illustrator of Yen Press’s adaptation of Gail Carriger’s Soulless.

Vol. 70 of Naruto tops the New York Times manga best-seller list, with the latest volume of Deadman Wonderland coming in at number two.

The Seven Seas folks explain why it’s not a good idea to wait till the end of a series to buy all the volumes:

Due to reader attrition, sales drop off after each volume is released–this is a natural thing for almost any series. Unfortunately, due to smaller sales with each passing volume, vendors/retailers order less. When they order less, we print less. It’s a classic case of supply-and-demand.

At Contemporary Japanese Literature, Kathryn Hemmann writes about how shoujo manga has changed the American comics scene, in terms of both the comics we read and the way we read them.

Tony Yao writes about fandom and shipping in the context of Kiss Him, Not Me.

Scott Green rounds up some artists’ tributes to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Memories, including a CLAMP doujinshi.

News from Japan: Kodasha’s Shonen Magazine will run a one-shot prequel to the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie in its 31st issue. Moviegoers who see Boruto: Naruto the Movie in theaters in August will get a special booklet with a new one-shot story by Masashi Kishimoto, as well as the final chapter of Naruto in full color. Inio Asano is taking a break from his current series, Dead Dead Demon’s Dededededestruction, which runs in Big Comic Spirits; it will be back at the end of August. Shueisha has posted an entire issue of Shonen Jump for free on its app: Issue #34 from 1997, which launched One Piece. Unfortunately, it seems to be only available in Japan. It looks like Hiromu Arakawa’s Silver Spoon will be coming to an end shortly.

Reviews: Ash Brown recounts a week’s worth of manga reading at Experiments in Manga.

Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 4 of Black Rose Alice (The Comic Book Bin)
A Library Girl on Cold Sleep (A Library Girl’s Familiar Diversions)
AstroNerdBoy on vol. 46 of Fairy Tail (AstroNerdBoy’s Anime and Manga Blog)
Ken H on Fragments of Horror (Sequential Ink)
Sakura Eries on vol. 18 of Goong (The Fandom Post)
Matthew Warner on vol. 7 of Inu x Boku SS (The Fandom Post)
Sakura Eries on vol. 3 of My Love Story!! (The Fandom Post)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 9 of Nisekoi: False Love (The Comic Book Bin)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Tokyo Ghoul (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 9 of Until Death Do Us Part (The Fandom Post)

The Manga Revue: Dream Fossil

The last two years have been kind to Satoshi Kon fans: Dark Horse and Vertical Comics have each released two volumes of Kon’s manga, from Tropic of the Sea, a supernatural mystery, to Seraphim 266613336 Wings, an unfinished collaboration with Ghost in the Shell director Mamoru Oshii. This week, I investigate Dream Fossil, which collects all of Kon’s published short stories into a single volume.

dream_fossilDream Fossil: The Complete Stories of Satoshi Kon
By Satoshi Kon
No rating
Vertical Comics, $24.95

Dream Fossil is a window into a crucial stage in Satoshi Kon’s development: the six-year period between the publication of his first short story (1984) and his first long-form manga (1990). Readers may be astonished by Kon’s undisguised homage to Katsuhiro Otomo, and the flaws in his storytelling technique. Yet Dream Fossil is not simply a collection of juvenilia; these stories represent Kon’s first meaningful attempt to grapple with the themes that define his mature work, from Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers to Paranoia Agent and Paprika.

Consider “Carve” and “Toriko,” two of Kon’s earliest works. Both take place in dystopian societies that stress conformity and obedience over individualism and free will–an ideal set-up for exploring the boundaries between reality and illusion. Though Kon delineates these boundaries more baldly in “Carve” and “Toriko” than in his later films, all of Kon’s characters exist in a false state of consciousness; only shattering acts of violence force them to question what they think is real. These early stories also suggest Otomo’s strong influence on Kon; “Carve,” in particular, feels like a compressed retelling of Akira, as both feature a young male protagonist whose extrasensory powers turn him into God-like being.

“Beyond the Sun” and “Joyful Bell” are another instructive pairing. Both stories evoke the humanist spirit of Tokyo Godfathers in their fond, funny depictions of two city-dwellers who temporarily escape the confines of their daily routines. As in Tokyo Godfathers, the urban landscape proves an essential component of both stories; Kon treats the city as a playground where adults can shed the burdens of age, failure, and loneliness to recover their optimism and youthful wonder.

Other stories work well on their own terms. “Guests,” a cautionary tale about real estate, skillfully blends humor and horror, while “Picnic,” one of Dream Fossil‘s briefest selections, depicts the sepulchral beauty of a submerged metropolis. At the other end of the spectrum are Kon’s coming-of-age stories “Horseplay,” “Summer of Anxiety,” and “Day Has Dawned,” all of which suffer from tonal schizophrenia, see-sawing between wacky hijinks and meaningful lessons about adulthood. This combination might have worked in a longer format, but Kon’s characters are so underdeveloped that they never register as distinct individuals who are motivated by their own beliefs, fears, and desires.

If pressed to say whether I “liked” Dream Fossil, I’d be reluctant to give a simple yes-or-no answer. It’s difficult to overlook the rubbery faces and clumsy internal transitions in the volume’s weakest stories, or Kon’s flagrant efforts to cop Otomo’s style. Yet many of the stories feature the kind of arresting sequences, amusing plot twists, and flashes of genuine imagination that are hallmarks of Kon’s best films, making it difficult to dismiss this uneven body of work as “good,” “bad,” or “okay.”

Reviews: Jason Thompson makes a strong case that Kekkaishi is the best shonen manga you haven’t read. At Anime UK News, Sarah reviews Servamp, a supernatural adventure about–what else?–vampires. Closer to home, TCJ columnist Joe McCulloch sings the praises of Professor Layton, an untranslated manga in which “a top-hatted archeologist and his adolescent weed carrier solve extremely unlikely and sentimental mysteries” by means of word games, puzzles, and riddles.

Ash Brown on vol. 4 of After School Nightmare (Experiments in Manga)
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