Aurora borealis

There’s a new Flipped up over at The Comics Reporter. Michael Perry of Aurora was kind enough to subject himself to my “interview technique” and tell me all about the multifaceted new publisher.

Upcoming 8/29

What evil lurks in the heart of the current ComicList? Well, none to speak of. I’m just trying to keep things fresh.

Aurora releases the first volume of Chihiro Tamaki’s Walkin’ Butterfly. In it, a girl confronts her body image issues by trying to become a model. (I thought models caused body image issues. Help me out here.)

There’s a lot of Del Rey product shipping this week. Depending on my mood, I’d peg either the sixth volume of Fuyumi Soryo’s ES or the second of Ai Morinaga’s My Heavenly Hockey Club as the highlight. I’ve already read this installment of MHHC, and it’s as delightful as the first. There are fewer deranged encounters with wildlife, but there’s a chapter where the elite titular team meats a plucky group of paupers out in the sticks that’s just a riot, even by this book’s standards.

On the down side, I found the first volume of Shiki Tsukai just too packed with inscrutable rules to be very engaging, kind of like Shakugan no Shana (Viz). As Katherine Dacey-Tsuei puts it:

“Even with the generous assortment of charts, appendices, and sidebars clarifying the nuances of its underlying “power to control the seasons” premise, however, I found this book fiendishly hard to follow, thanks to the characters’ jargon-heavy dialogue.”

A new release from Fanfare/Ponent Mon is always worth a look. This time around, it’s Tokyo is My Garden, by Frédéric Boilet and Benoît Peeters, with back-up from demi-god of manga Jiro Taniguchi. It’s about a cognac salesman living large in the title city. Having just read Ed Chavez’s enticing Otaku USA column on booze manga, this is a timely arrival.

As others have noticed, Viz begins its Naruto onslaught this week. Stock in dry goods and bottled water and pre-order those poor books that might get buried in the ninjalanche.

Two that shouldn’t be overlooked, also from Viz, are Kiyoko Arai’s pricelessly silly Beauty Pop (now in its fifth volume) and the second volume of Hideaki Sorachi’s quirky, action-packed Gin Tama (discussed here already). I wouldn’t go so far as to say all of the same people would like both, but they share an off-kilter sense of humor that serves each really well.

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.)

Experience the under-construction allure

New manga publisher Aurora has the bones of a web site up and running. So far, it’s hot pink and fairly rudimentary, but they’re young yet. The starter Deux web site is in place as well, inviting readers to… okay, this kind of hurts… “Just Deux it!”

Multimedia linkblogging

Did I miss this? Apparently, both live-action Death Note movies will be debuting at this year’s Newport Beach International Film Festival, according to a piece at Associated Content. A quick look at the festival’s schedule confirms it. I wonder who’s handling the U.S. distribution?

Dirk Deppey is an early adopter of Chika Umino’s Honey and Clover, so he’s understandably excited that Viz will preview the anime version at an event in Cannes:

“So what does this have to do with comics news? Well, there’s the little matter of anime/manga synergy; if Viz has acquired the animated version of this series, it may well be an indication that they have designs on the manga, as well. Could we be set to start reading one of the most entertaining soap-opera comics this side of Ai Yazawa’s Nana before the year’s out? If so, I can’t wait.”

The full release on Viz’s plans for Cannes can be found at ComiPress.

Speaking of josei, Publishers Weekly Comics Week’s Kai-Ming Cha interviews Mikako Ogata about new manga pub Aurora and its yaoi imprint, Deux. (How did they resist calling it Boyrealis?) The interview leads Simon Jones (whose blog is probably not safe for work) to ponder something that’s crossed my mind as well:

“Wouldn’t it be crazy if it turned out that yaoi is the anchor, the perennial tentpole product supporting the entire manga market?”

It certainly seems to be the most consistent performer of any of the various categories of manga, faring extremely well in the monthly Diamond figures and making its presence known in places like the Amazon bestsellers list.

What about shôjo? Well, MangaBlog’s Brigid Alverson makes her PWCW debut with an article on the second anniversary of Viz’s Shojo Beat anthology, and it’s packed with plenty of interesting tidbits. The one that really catches my eye is news that the magazine will climb on the Osamu Tezuka Love Train, if only briefly:

Shojo Beat, Viz Media’s monthly shojo anthology magazine, will celebrate its second birthday in July with a special present for its readers: an excerpt from legendary manga-ka Osamu Tezuka’s 1954 manga Princess Knight, which has never been available in the U.S. before.”

I’ve been dying for someone to translate even a little of this series. I don’t know if a full licensing effort would be commercially viable, but most available sources cite it as an inspiration for the creators who would go on to revolutionize shôjo manga.

Oh, and speaking of girls and magazines, scholar Matt Thorn stopped by Anime News Network to comment on that Oricon survey of girls who read manga and their apparent love for shônen.

On the bright side…

At MangaCast, Ed Chavez looks at the imminent arrival of josei-centric manga publisher Aurora and wonders:

“Why? Well, honestly who has been successful with josei. Whether you call it ladies or shoujo or Passion Fruit or whatever this has not hit its audience in the US. Yen Press is going to give it a shot (we will talk about that later) but what makes Aurora unique is that their parent company Ohzora is basically a josei manga publisher.”

At The Beat, Heidi MacDonald shares Chavez’s skepticism on the category’s track record:

“Josei manga is the long-lost ‘missing link’ between ‘Harlequin romance comics’ and ‘Sex in the CIty comics’ for women. Understandably, the genre has had little success in the US, despite entries by such important manga-ka as Erica Sakurazawa and Moyocco Anno.”

I’m a little puzzled by the level of wariness. Nobody’s really made a concerted effort to focus on josei lately. It’s not like there’s a graveyard filled with the corpses of failed initiatives, and given the paucity of josei in print, it’s hard for me to be anything but enthusiastic at the prospect. Tokyopop’s done well with Tramps Like Us, and people greeted Antique Bakery with great enthusiasm (though that probably owed more to Fumi Yoshinaga’s reputation in yaoi).

It’s largely unexplored territory, and I’ve been waiting for someone to really give it a go, so I’m going to side with Dirk Deppey’s somewhat more optimistic appraisal in today’s Journalista entry:

“At this point, readers from those days [when Tokyopop tried unsuccessfully to sell the josei work of Erica Sakurazawa during the period when shôjo was still finding its footing — dpw] are starting to hit college-age, and might very well provide something resembling a stable market from which to grow over the long term.”

I’d add to that the often-repeated notion that kids, and girls in particular, read upwards of what’s targeted at their age group. I think it’s high time that someone started thinking about what the audience for shôjo might be looking to read next and actually start providing it, instead of ceding readers to other entertainments that might address their interests and attitudes more directly.

Deppey goes on to wonder if a replication of the Cartoon Network Effect might be helpful in heralding josei’s commercial arrival:

“I suspect that you won’t see the sort of stampede effect that other manga demographics have experienced until a good anime geared toward adult women shows up on afternoon/evening television and pushes readers toward an equally good manga series — Ai Yazawa’s Nana, Chika Umino’s Honey and Clover and Moyoco Anno’s Hataraki Man would each fit the bill nicely — but we shall see.”

It certainly couldn’t hurt. I don’t expect Oxygen or WE or Lifetime to announce a programming block any time soon, but stranger things have happened.