Secret secrets

There are plenty of reasons to be happy that Tokyopop has rescued Ai Morinaga’s Your and My Secret from the licensing limbo to which it was consigned after ADV published a single volume in 2004. Among them is a glorious new opportunity to nitpick. I can’t read Japanese, so I can’t comment on the quality of a translation, but now I can look at two English versions of the same script side by side and be a great big nerd about it.

On the whole, I marginally prefer Tokyopop’s version, translated by Yuya Otake and adapted by Jay Antani, edited by Paul Morrissey with assistance from Jessica Chavez and Shannon Watters. (ADV’s was translated by Kay Bertrand with supervision by Javier Lopez. I can’t really pick out any specific credits for editing and adaptation.) Both are solid, but Tokyopop’s script seems slightly more conversational; it flows just a little bit better.

Tokyopop’s reproduction of the art is cleaner on the whole, and I think the lighter paper helps as well. Tokyopop’s lettering is a bit easier on the eyes, though ADV’s use of varied type weights does a better job of communicating the emotional content of scenes. On the flip side, I prefer the simplicity of ADV’s cover and logo design. ADV also gets points for providing translation notes.

There are a couple of pages in particular where it’s really fascinating to look at them side by side and compare choices, tone, and other elements. ADV fairly consistently translates sound effects and keeps the kanji in place with a few exceptions. One example in particular helps to communicate a sight gag, and it looks like it would have been impossible to leave both kanji and English in place and still be able to read it. Tokyopop’s approach is inconsistent. Sometimes, they leave kanji untranslated, and thy replace it entirely with English at others. I appreciate the added nuance of ADV’s amendments, but I like the less cluttered visuals of the Tokyopop pages.

The sequence contains a fairly major plot development that communicates a lot about the characters, and it’s such a funny reversal that I’m reluctant to spoil it. But at some point, after my scanning skills improve, I’ll definitely try and post scans of both sets of pages, because I’m a big nerd and think it’s really interesting.

(As an aside, it would be great if publishers supplemental translation materials on cultural references and alternate readings on the web. If they don’t feel like popping for the extra pages in a print version, and many don’t, it would be a nice extra feature and would drive more traffic to their web sites.)

(As another aside, hey, who’s publishing Morinaga’s The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry Chan?)

The year in fun (2007)

From a fun comics standpoint, 2007 was absolutely awesome. You know how I know? I had a hard time keeping the list below to 26 items. Okay, it’s an arbitrary number, and I could have just listed everything, but I thought I would make a stab at some pretense of discernment.

I’m not saying these are the best comics of 2007, though I’d put several in that category. I’m never entirely comfortable with that label, because I haven’t read everything and worry that my tastes are too narrow to make a reasonable stab at such a project anyways. But I have no trouble telling which comics I had a lot of fun reading, so here they are.

(Doesn’t the jump create a breathtaking level of suspense? Well, doesn’t it?)

(Updated because I can’t keep my years straight.)

  • 10, 20, and 30, by Morim Kang (Netcomics): Korean josei, basically, following three women of different ages and temperaments as they manage romance (or the lack of it), work (or the lack of it) and family (or an excess of it).
  • Aya, by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie (Drawn & Quarterly): In my defense, this came out really early in 2007, so I must have been confused and thought it was on last year’s version of this list. Because seriously, it’s one of the best graphic novels of the year and delightfully fun to boot. A sensible, ambitious young woman in the prosperous Ivory Coast of late 1970s keeps her head as the people around her leap into amusing, romantic misalliances.
  • Azumanga Daioh Omnibus, by Kyohiko Azuma (ADV): It’s tough to pick which delights me more: the resumption of publication of Azuma’s Yotsuba&!, or this big fat bargain collection of his very funny comic strips about a group of high-school girls and their eccentric teachers.
  • Black Metal, by Rick Spears and Chuck BB (Oni): Antisocial metal-heads discover their secret destiny while playing old vinyl backwards. Very funny, with appropriately and appealingly crude visuals.
  • Bloody Benders, The, by Rick Geary (NBM): I should probably feel some kind of regret that Geary will never run out of gruesome tales to fuel his Treasury of Victorian Murder series. I don’t, because they’re consistently brilliant, informative, insightful, and unsettling. For the high-minded voyeur in all of us.
  • Empowered, by Adam Warren (Dark Horse): Warren is amazingly skilled at walking a thin, frayed tightrope between lurid spandex cheesecake and a witty repudiation of the same. Terrific characters and genuinely funny, imaginative takes on potentially repetitive scenarios make all the difference.
  • Flower of Life, by Fumi Yoshinaga (Digital Manga): When people bemoan the fact that so many manga titles center on the trials and tribulations of high school students, they can’t be talking about this one, can they? I’m just going to come right out and say it: it’s every bit as good as Antique Bakery, which means it’s absolutely great.
  • Gin Tama, by Hideaki Sorachi (Viz): This one’s all about attitude: coarse, goofy, hyperactive attitude. A fallen samurai takes odd jobs in a world that’s handed the keys to alien invaders. There’s enough canny satire to balance out the low-brow antics, making this book a very pleasant surprise.
  • Glister, by Andi Watson (Image): A really delightful combination of fantasy, manor-house comedy, and singularly British sensibility. This book manages to have a warm heart and a tounge planted firmly in its cheek.
  • Honey and Clover, by Chica Umino (Viz): Okay, so this goofy, romantic tale of students at an art college is still being serialized in Shojo Beat and hasn’t come out in individual volumes yet. It’s hilarious.
  • Johnny Hiro, by Fred Chao (AdHouse): In a year that offered more genre mash-up comics than I can count, this was probably my favorite for the underlying realism of the young couple at its center. Giant monsters and ninja sous-chefs are just part of the challenges urban life presents to Johnny and Mayumi.
  • Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Book Two, by Tove Jansson (Drawn & Quarterly): Everyone knows these strips are timeless, international treasures, right? And that Drawn & Quarterly deserves some kind of cultural prize for getting them back in print? Okay, just checking.
  • My Heavenly Hockey Club, by Ai Morinaga (Del Rey): Under the flimsiest pretext of sports manga lurks a goofy love letter to two of my favorite deadly sins, sloth and gluttony. Easily the best screwball comedy that came out last year.
  • Northwest Passage: The Annotated Collection, by Scott Chantler (Oni): A handsomely produced collection of one of my favorite comics of 2006, featuring treachery and adventure in colonial Canada.
  • Parasyte, by Hitoshi Iwaaki (Del Rey): Okay, so the art is dated and, well, frankly just plain bad in a lot of ways. (Many of the high-school girls in the cast look like they’re pushing 40.) But there’s just something about a boy and the shape-shifting parasite that’s taken over his hand that warms my heart.
  • The Professor’s Daughter, by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert (First Second): There are certainly better, beefier works by Sfar, but this is still charming, beautiful stuff, with Sfar’s endearingly cranky voice getting a lovely rendering from Guibert.
  • Re-Gifters, by Mike Carey, Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel (Minx): A snazzy little story of romance, martial arts and self-esteem that avoids every single Afterschool Special pitfall through solid characterization, tight storytelling and spiffy art.
  • Ride Home, The, by Joey Weiser (AdHouse): I have yet to find a gnome living in my car, but maybe it just knows I’m on to it thanks to this charming, all-ages adventure about embracing change.
  • Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Oni): This series of a young slacker in love just gets better and better, which hardly seems possible. Great characters, a spot-on kind of magical realism, and plenty of twists and turns to keep things fresh and moving.
  • Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil, by Jeff Smith (DC): The Mary Marvel sequences are enough to put this on a Decade in Fun list, but Smith’s re-imagining of the origin of Captain Marvel is delightful from top to bottom.
  • Shortcomings, by Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly): Not all comics about whiny losers who are unable to sustain interpersonal relationships are intolerable. Some, like this one, are absolutely delightful and have what may be the year’s best dialogue.
  • Suppli, by Mari Okazaki (Tokyopop): Damnation, how did this one slip under my radar for so long? In this beautifully drawn josei title, an advertising executive throws herself into work after the end of her seven-year relationship. It’s exactly the kind of book tons of people have been begging for: funny, intelligent, moving and grown up.
  • Umbrella Academy, The: Apocalypse Suite, by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse): It’s hardly the first comic to portray the super-team as a dysfunctional family, or maybe even the 50th, but it’s a clever, fast-paced, wonderfully illustrated example all the same.
  • Venus in Love, by Yuki Nakaji (CMX): Aside from the novelty of its college setting (as opposed to the shôjo standard, high school), this book has ample low-key charm. A straight girl and a gay guy become friendly rivals when they realize they have a crush on the same classmate.
  • Welcome to the N.H.K., by Tatsuhiko Takimoto (Tokyopop): I can take or leave the manga this novel inspired, but the source material is tremendously appealing reading. It’s like if David Sedaris wrote a novel about straight, dysfunctional Japanese people.
  • Wild Adapter, by Kazuya Minekura (Tokyopop): Charismatic, emotionally damaged boys pose their way through the stations of the noir cross. Mostly style, but what style, and a reasonable amount of substance to keep you from feeling entirely frivolous. (If frivolity isn’t a worry, you can easily ignore the substance.)
  • Previews review Dec. 2007

    It’s time again for a quick tour through the latest Previews catalog.

    In Andi Watson’s Princess at Midnight (page 140), a sheltered, home-schooled girl becomes a capricious, adorable despot when the lights go out. The story was one of the highlights of the first Mammoth Book of Best New Manga, and now Image is publishing a stand-alone version. I’m half-heartedly debating whether ten new pages merit buying it again, but I think I will for two reasons. One, if sales are strong, Watson might be more inclined to do a follow-up, and two, it seems like a reasonable enough way to thank Image for publishing Glister. (I’d thank them even more wholeheartedly if I could ever find anything on their website.)

    I try and resist mentioning new volumes of ongoing series when I do these things, but when the series is as good as Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&! (volume six on page 191, ADV), I weaken.

    The same flexible ethics apply to Fuyumi Soryo’s ES (volume 8 on page 250, Del Rey). This is great, character-driven science fiction. (Does anyone know if this is the last volume in the series?)

    Sometimes a premise sounds so delightfully idiotic and tacky that I’m unable to resist. That’s the case with Kei Azumaya’s All Nippon Airline (Juné, page 265):

    “ANAL – All Nippon Air Lines – is a unique airline company. All of its employees are beautiful gay men. On top of that, relationships between employees, or even between passengers and employees, are highly encouraged!”

    I’m not proud.

    It’s been running in Shojo Beat, and now the first collection of Chica Umino’s sweet, hilarious Honey and Clover (Viz, page 357) will be available for people who pass on the magazine.

    The premise sounds really familiar (Wild Adapter Junior, maybe), but the full-page ad for Saki Otoh and Nakamura Tomomi’s Switch (Viz, page 359) is really eye-catching and clever.

    Okay, and since I’m indulging in mentions for ongoing series, I’ll note that the second volume of Keiko Tobe’s With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child (Yen Press, page 363) is due. It’s a really admirable series, executed well, and it’s unlike pretty much anything else in the manga category, though I wish it weren’t.

    Upcoming 11/7/2007

    It’s nice when there’s a clear and present Pick of the Week to be found on the shipping list. This time around, it’s the Azumanga Daioh Omnibus from ADV. (I know!) It’s like ADV is trying to balance its karma by keeping a steady stream of Kiyohiko Azuma manga. And it’s working. Anyway, much as I love Azuma’s Yotsuba&! (also from ADV… see? See?), I’ve yet to sample this gag-strip series. It’s like I was waiting for just the right opportunity.

    There was a lot to like in the first Mammoth Book of Best New Manga (Carroll & Graf), and I’m sure I’ll find the same to be true the second volume. Even though it doesn’t seem to have a new chapter of Andi Watson’s “Princess at Midnight.” Which is just wrong. Though I did pick up Glister in Vegas, and that should prove an adequate substitute when I get around to reading it.

    On the “new volumes of ongoing series” front, we have Eden: It’s an Endless World! Vol. 9 from Dark Horse, Kindaichi Case Files Vol. 16 from Tokyopop, and Gin Tama Vol. 3 from Viz. Goodness aplenty, and I’m particularly pleased with the preview blurb for Eden, which doesn’t even mention drug kingpins or crack whores.

    In other news, Maintenance (Oni Press) takes on Starbucks. That should be fun.

    Upcoming 10/10

    Just because Jason Thompson’s Manga: The Complete Guide (Del Rey) is clearly the must-buy item on this week’s ComicList doesn’t mean it’s the only item worth mentioning.

    If it weren’t for the Guide, the pick of the week might be the fifth volume of Kiyohiko Azuma’s absolutely delightful Yotsuba&! (ADV). Cardboard robot battles! A trip to the beach! Grapes! What more do you need?

    Yes, they hunger for brains, but how do zombies really feel? Someone must have already asked this, but nothing comes to mind. This archly emo look at undead eaters of human flesh comes in the form of J. Marc Schmidt’s Eating Steve from Slave Labor Graphics. I’ve heard good things about Schmidt’s Egg Story, and the Eating Steve preview has some nice bits in it.)

    I’m curious about CMX’s new wave of titles aimed at mature readers, particularly Kanako Inuki’s Presents. The excerpt that ran in a CMX sampler over the summer wasn’t too inspiring, but John Jakala’s review convinces me that it’s definitely worth a look. (But I really love “comeuppance theater.” “Tonight on ‘When Bad Things Happen to People Who Totally Deserve Them…”)

    Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings (Drawn & Quarterly) has gotten great reviews all over the place, so I’m sure I’ll take a look at it at some point. I’m guessing it will be all over chain bookstores, and the right convergence of opportunity and discount will arise somewhere down the line.

    How have I managed to go this long without reading Lat’s Kampung Boy (First Second), even in the face of universal critical acclaim? And now the follow-up, Town Boy, is due. Must… catch… up! (Not with the help of Amazon, though. They have one of those “buy both” offers that actually allows you to pay about 75 cents more for the two titles than you would if you just added them to your cart individually, which leads me to believe that the buy-two pricing hasn’t caught up with the individual costs.)

    Beyond lots of Fruits Basket product (which I hasten to note that I heartily endorse, because the series is very moving and surprising), Tokyopop offers two books that I’m eagerly anticipating. The first is the debut volume of Kozue Amano’s Aqua, which sounds lovely. There’s also the second volume of Yuji Iwahara’s King of Thorn. The first installment didn’t quite reach the heights of Iwahara’s Chikyu Misaki (CMX), but it was very solid, and it’s Iwahara, so I’ll happily stick around on the assumption that it will reach those heights eventually.

    The excerpt from Yearbook Stories: 1976-78 that ran in Top Shelf’s Seasonal Sampler was extremely likable, so I’ll definitely look for it the next time I’m in a big city with a comic shop with a wide selection. It’s written by Top Shelf honcho Chris Staros and illustrated by Bo Hampton and Rich Tommaso.

    Even factoring out the extra volumes of Naruto, Viz sure has a heck of a lot of product moving this week. Some of it, like Strawberry 100%, is resolutely awful, in my opinion. Some offerings, like new volumes of Bleach and Nana, are as welcome as sweater weather.

    Yen Press rolls out three licensed titles, all of which sound like fairly standard bookstore fare, and none of which quite grab my attention the way With the Light did. I do like teen detective stories, so I’ll probably give Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning a look. Or maybe not, after reading Katherine Dacey-Tsuei’s take on the book. It’s not like I don’t have plenty of other options.

    Top five

    Here are five items that struck me as particularly noteworthy from the current Previews catalog, and since orders are due tomorrow, I thought I should get off the pot and mention them.

  • The Vinyl Underground #2 (Vertigo): I must have missed this last month, but this issue’s cover image has the word “detectives” spray-painted on it, so it caught my eye. Then I noticed that the art is being provided by the splendid Simon (Paris) Gane and Cameron (Catwoman) Stewart. I’m not familiar with writer Si Spencer, but the prospect of Gane and Stewart drawing “a red-hot group of occult detectives” would certainly be hard for me to pass up. And looking at Spencer’s Wikipedia entry, I notice that he wrote for Eastenders, one of the best soap operas ever. Sold. (Page 125.)
  • Azumanga Daioh Omnibus Edition (ADV): I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to catch up with this series by Kiyohiko (Yotsuba&!) Azuma, and 682 pages for $24.99 is certainly that opportunity. Yay! (Page 213.)
  • The Museum Vaults: Excerpts from the Journal of an Expert (NBM): I don’t have any prior knowledge of this work from Marc-Antoine Mathieu, but the cover image was striking, and the solicitation text pretty persuasive when it describes Mathieu as an artist “who marries the stylings of M.C. Escher with the paranoia of Franz Kafka.” Also, I just can’t resist it when NBM publishes a comic about the Louvre. The first, Glacial Period, is offered again, if you missed it. Oh, and if you’ve been longing to learn more about the assassination of James Garfield (just trust me that you have), NBM offers another crack at Rick Geary’s The Fatal Bullet. Oh, NBM, when did you slip me that love potion? (Page 328.)
  • The Annotated Northwest Passage (Oni): I believe I’ve mentioned (ad nauseum) how much I enjoyed this series when it was in paperback installments. This is a gorgeous collection of the historical adventure series, with lots of extras to supplement Scott Chantler’s terrific, wonderfully illustrated story. And for $19.95, the hardcover package is a steal. (Page 330.)
  • Andromeda Stories Vol. 2 (Vertical): More classic sci-fi from one of the Magnificent ‘49ers, Keiko Takemiya. To be honest, I found the third volume of To Terra… kind of rushed. It had a different kind of momentum than the first two, and I’m not sure it was entirely successful. But I admire Takemiya’s work enormously overall, and I love collections of short stories, so there’s really no down side. (Page 362.)
  • Previews review

    There’s plenty of joy in the latest Previews catalog, and while orders are due many places today, timeliness issues have never stopped me before.

    ADV delivers the fifth volume of Kiyohiko Azuma’s absolutely wonderful Yotsuba&! (Page 215, AUG07 2389). I would link to the information on ADV’s web site, if such a wondrous thing existed in this day and age, so you’ll just have to settle for Amazon’s listing.

    More Fumi Yoshinaga is always worth noting, and Digital Manga delivers with Garden of Dreams, a shôjo title set in Victorian England (Page 280, AUG07, 3580).

    The easy pick of the month is the second volume of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jannson Comic Strip from Drawn & Quarterly (Page 286, AUG07, 3600). It’s glorious, timeless stuff, and it’s been beautifully packaged.

    Lots of people loved Lat’s Kampung Boy, and :01 follows up with Town Boy (Page 289, AUG07 3662). If you missed out on Kampung Boy, that’s available for re-order as well (AUG07 3663).

    If you aren’t already delirious, there’s more Andy Runton with the fourth volume of Owly: Don’t Be Afraid (or A Time to Be Brave) from Top Shelf (Page 354, AUG07 4028).


    Okay, I’ve finally gotten around to composing the list of manga series I’ve dumped after a fairly significant investment of volumes (inspired by John Jakala). Looking at them, the common thread seems to be novelty wearing off. And this doesn’t count the series where I tried a single volume and decided to give it a pass, because I’m terrified that any mention of them would lead to people swearing that things improved later and that I’m really cheating myself by not reading a little farther. Because I’m totally susceptible and would find my B&N member card and car keys and say, “D’or, okay!”

    Absolute Boyfriend, by Yuu Watase (Viz – Shojo Beat): There’s just something depressing about the premise here. If the heroine had come out and said, “Listen, he’s hot, he’s devoted, and he’ll never cheat on me, you lowly human, and I don’t feel like working very hard on a relationship,” that might have been one thing. But the suggestion that there’s actually some kind of competition-fostering inner life to the robot guy is just something I don’t see.

    Case Closed, by Gosho Aoyama (Viz): This is a perfectly pleasant mystery series with a cute premise and absolutely nothing in the way of forward momentum. What finally broke me was the knowledge that the series is still apparently going strong in Japan with some 60 volumes in print. I couldn’t see myself making that kind of commitment to something that was just reasonably entertaining.

    Cromartie High School, by Eiji Nonaka (ADV): I’ll chalk this one up to too much of a good, weird thing. I just couldn’t quite keep up with the releases, as there was always something with an ongoing narrative that I wanted to read more. It’s funny and weird, and I’m fairly sure I might check in with the series again at some point when I need a disorienting laugh. But it doesn’t feel like something I need to “subscribe to,” per se. Am I spoiled? (On the bright side, it’s like the only opportunity I’ve ever had to link to ADV’s web site without it being in the context of not being able to find information on a series.)

    Iron Wok Jan! by Shinji Saiyo (DrMaster): I’m really making a lot of you weep for my taste, aren’t I? I’m not doing it on purpose, I swear. And again, I like what I’ve read of the series. It just didn’t seem to be going anywhere, and I guess I need narrative momentum more than I thought. Like Cromartie, though, it’s always possible that I’ll pick up a couple of volumes on a rainy day when I need outrageous, over-the-top culinary action.

    I’m trying to decide whether or not to count Shuri Shiozu’s Eerie Queerie (Tokyopop). It’s only four volumes long, and I made it through two of them. The first was really promising, the second was creepy in all the wrong ways, and I have no idea about the third and fourth and plan to keep it that way.

    And just for bonus points and to give more people the opportunity to tell me how foolish I am for even considering such a reckless course of behavior, here are some series that are on the bubble:

    Eden! It’s an Endless World, by Hiroki Endo (Dark Horse): Seriously, if I wanted to read about gangsters, prostitutes and illegal narcotics, there are approximately one billion choices out there in the world that didn’t bait-and-switch me with a thoughtful sci-fi introductory run. This is not what I was led to expect from the series, and I find myself irritated to a possibly unreasonable degree.

    (Update: Myk speaks… from the FUTURE! Or in this case, Germany, where more Eden is available, and he confirms Huff’s assurance that the hookers-and-blow mini-arc comes to an end and things get back to abnormal. That’s good news, but I still think that wedging this story into a landscape where the vast majority of the population has been turned into crumbled Swarovsky figurines was a really, really bad, self-indulgent idea.)

    Kindaichi Case Files, by Kanari Yozaburo and Sato Fumiya (Tokyopop): You know what could get me more invested in this series? A forward time-jump that gets Kindaichi out of high school and into a different setting with a different dynamic. He can still be a slacker, but I think moving him to a different stage of his life would revitalize things. I feel like there needs to be a sense of time passing that isn’t limited to references to previous cases.

    (Still no Tokyopop links available, as 2.0 is still in limbo.)


    Who’s the weird, green-haired tyke all the manga readers like? Yotsuba&! Yes, the fourth volume of Kyohiko Azuma’s much-loved, long-dormant series arrives Wednesday in better comic shops everywhere courtesy of ADV. I’ll let you absorb that for a moment, then distract you with the knowledge that Tokyopop has picked up Ai Morinaga’s delightful Your and My Secret, along with 37 other titles. ADV squeezed out a single volume of the series years ago, then left us all hanging.

    Fantagraphics releases Human Diastrophism, the second collection of Gilbert Hernandez’s richly entertaining Palomar stories. Information can be found by scrolling down this page, and while they’re a step up from ADV by having information on recent and upcoming releases at all, I’d really love it if they’d give a blogger a break and start building some pages that would let me link directly.

    Speaking of gender ambiguity, Go! Comi delivers the fourth volume of Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare. (And Go! Comi has updated its web sight to profile two upcoming releases, Ryo Takagi’s The Devil Within and Takeru Kirishima’s Kanna.)

    It had to happen sooner or later, and if I’m going to be entirely honest, I’ll admit that I’m happy it’s sooner. Can you imagine what Death Note (Viz – Shonen Jump Advanced) would have turned into if it had been one of those 20-plus-volume monstrosities? The very suspenseful series ends with the 12th volume this week, which seems just about right in terms of length.

    Suddenly next fall

    When I do these trawls through Diamond’s Previews catalog, I generally try and limit my focus to new series and graphic novels. Sometimes, that’s just impossible.

    After over a year and a half in limbo, ADV will release a new volume of Kiyohiko Azuma’s delightful Yotsuba&! I could stop right there and be perfectly happy. (Page 217.) I won’t, obviously.

    A new collection of Phil and Kaja Foglio’s funny fantasy adventure, Girl Genius (Airship), is always good news. The sixth trade paperback is listed on page 221, and I’ve reviewed previous volumes here, here and here.

    David Petersen’s beautiful Mouse Guard (Archaia) was one of the surprise hits of last year, which leads me to suppose that the sequel, Winter 1152, will also be a hit, but not a surprising one. (Page 230.)

    Aurora enters the Previews fray with two listings: Makoto Tateno’s Hate to Love You, described as “Romeo and Romeo,” and Chihiro Tamaki’s Walkin’ Butterfly, a shôjo series about an aspiring model. (Page 238.)

    I had expected more of a wait for the second volume of Adam Warren’s sweetly subversive, cheerfully shameless piece of cheesecake, Empowered. Apparently not, which is certainly good news. I reviewed the first volume here. (Page 45.)

    Dark Horse dabbles in shôjo with Kazuhiro Okamoto’s Translucent, about a girl who’s starting to turn invisible. My teen-angst metaphor sensors are pinging, but in a good way. (Page 47.)

    If Tokyopop’s Dragon Head and Viz’s The Drifting Classroom aren’t adequately feeding your need for student survivalist drama, Del Rey launches Tadashi Kawashima’s Alive. There goes that metaphor sensor again! (Page 272.)

    I must have been experiencing a shortage of serotonin last weekend, because I ordered a big box of Fumi Yoshinaga manga from Amazon. I read it all in a sitting, and I think my aura transformed from a dingy gray to a cloud of flowers that were sparkling in a slightly ironic fashion. I really recommend it, and manga publishers like Blu, 801 and Juné seem determined to keep these mood-elevating supplements in ample supply. Juné launches Don’t Say Anymore Darling (page 289) and releases the third volume of Flower of Life (page 290). I don’t know why DMP is publishing it in the Juné imprint [Edited to note that they actually aren’t, and I’m just blurring things in my feeble brain], because there doesn’t seem to be any ai among the shônen, but I don’t really care, because I love the series to a positively embarrassing extent.

    Fantagraphics releases the second volume of Gilbert Hernandez’s marvelous Palomar stories in Human Diastrophism. (Page 302.) I reviewed the first volume here.

    Go! Comi adds more shônen to its line up with the first volume of Yu Yagami’s Hikkatsu. (Page 308.) In it, the protagonist can use martial arts to repair appliances. Since the ice maker in my refrigerator has been on the fritz for weeks, this concept appeals to me.

    While the concept of Oni’s The Apocalipstix doesn’t really speak to me – post-apocalyptic rocker girls! – I’m crazy about Cameron Stewart’s art, and he’s teamed up with writer Ray Fawkes for this original graphic novel. (Page 335.)

    Back on Yoshinaga patrol, Tokyopop’s Blu imprint offers Truly Kindly, a collection of shorts from the mangaka. Let’s see… I love Yoshinaga, and I love manga shorts. We’ll mark that down as a “yes.” (Page 365.)