Upcoming 4/28/2010

It’s always handy when a theme emerges in the items that catch my eye from the current ComicList. And it’s nice that this week’s theme centers on great female protagonists.

Okay, so it’s not so nice that there’s such a long wait between new issues of Stumptown (Oni Press), written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Matthew Southworth, and colored by Rico Renzi. It’s about a hard-living Portland private investigator trying to figure out why the daughter of a casino owner disappeared, and trying to stay alive until she finds the answer. The third issue arrives Wednesday.

If you like suspense but prefer your protagonists a little less seedy, I’d recommend the fourth volume of Fire Investigator Nanase (CMX), written by Izo Hashimoto and illustrated by Tomoshige Ichikawa. Nanase is a plucky arson investigator who shares a complex relationship with the Firebug, whose name says it all. It’s a fun procedural with likeable leads.

Moving to the awesome shôjo front, we’ll start with the eighth volume of V.B. Rose (Tokyopop), written and illustrated by Banri Hidaka. Heroine Ageha is a budding handbag designer who goes to work for a bridal shop, then falls in love with the shop’s lead designer. Ageha is impulsive and talented, and Arisaka is bristly and businesslike. They have great chemistry, and the bridal-shop sparkle is undeniably eye-catching.

There’s also the fourth volume of Kimi Ni Todoke (Viz), written and illustrated by Karuho Shiina. Good-hearted, socially inept Sawako continues her campaign to win friends and influence people after years of being dismissed and avoided as the class creepy girl. This time around, she throws down with a romantic rival, though it’s entirely likely that Sawako won’t realize that she’s throwing down.

Those two titles alone make this one of the best shôjo Wednesdays imaginable. If a new volume of Itazura Na Kiss came out, I would burst into a cloud of sparkly chrysanthemum petals.

Upcoming 4/14/2010

It’s time for another perusal of the week’s ComicList, which has a decidedly all-ages flair.

Yes, I know that Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&! was originally published in a magazine for adult men, Dengeki Daioh. I’d still display no reluctance in recommending the series, now up to its eighth volume, to children and their caregivers, as it’s adorable and hilarious. This time around, Azuma will bring fresh mirth and charm to those old manga standbys, the school and community festivals.

On the home-grown front, there are two original graphic novels from Simon & Schuster’s Atheneum imprint for young adults. First, there’s a new collection of Jimmy Gownley’s terrific Amelia Rules! The Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular is available in hardcover and paperback. I suspect this will be a nice comic-book follow up to the return of Glee. You can check out a preview trailer here.

A new graphic novel from Hope Larson is always cause for celebration. This time around, Mercury (also available in hardcover and paperback) offers a multi-generational mystery set in a family estate in Nova Scotia. Simon & Schuster informs me that the book “weaves together history, romance, and a touch of her trademark magical realism in this remarkable graphic novel of how the past haunts a teenage girl’s present.” I can believe that with no difficulty.

Ken Saito’s moody, moving The Name of the Flower (CMX) concludes with its fourth volume. I’ll be lazy and quote Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey, who says that “Saito’s elegant, understated art is the perfect complement to this delicate drama, making good use of floral imagery to underscore the heroine’s emotional state. For my money, the best new shojo manga of 2009.” In case you’re curious, the series originally ran in Hakusensha’s LaLaDX. Hakusensha rules.

And swinging back to Yen Press, we have the third volume of Svetlana Chmakova’s Nightschool: The Weirn Books, which I’ve enjoyed a whole lot. It’s a supernatural mystery about a powerful girl who must enroll in a school for magic-users and monsters to figure out why her sister disappeared. There are tons of subplots and a big cast of adversarial forces, but Chmakova handles them well and keeps things moving at an appealing clip without neglecting character development or humor.

Previews review April 2010

The first thing I’d like to note about the current edition of Diamond’s Previews catalog is that the addition of new “premier publishers” to the front makes the midsection look even sadder and slimmer. That said, there are still many promising items contained there.

CMX offers a one-shot, The Phantom Guesthouse, written and illustrated by Nari Kusakawa, creator of the well-liked Recipe for Gertrude, Palette of Twelve Secret Colors, and Two Flowers for the Dragon. It’s a supernatural mystery that was originally published by that stalwart purveyor of quality shôjo, Hakusensha, though I can’t tell which magazine serialized it. (Page 127.)

It’s been some time since the last collection of Tyler Page’s Nothing Better (Dementian Comics), the story of college roommates with very different backgrounds and personal philosophies. I’m glad to see more of the web-serialized comic see print. (Page 279.)

It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that we got the fourth volume of Drawn & Quarterly’s lovely collection of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, but here comes the fifth. According to the blurb, “this volume features the final strips drawn by Tove Jansson and written by her brother Lars for the London Evening News.” It’s utterly charming stuff. (Page 280.)

Speaking of utterly charming stuff, how can you possibly resist a book subtitled The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans? Well, okay, knowing nothing else, that’s pretty resistible. But what if I told you it was the new installment of Rick Geary’s outstanding A Treasury of XXth Century Murder? Singing a different tune, aren’t you? (Page 298.)

Netcomics busts out what seems to be the manhwa equivalent of josei with the first volume of Youngran Lee’s There’s Something About Sunyool. It’s about a pastry chef who gets dumped just after her trip to the altar and, rebuilds her life, and then is faced with her “lawyer ex-husband and her gay would-be lover.” I hate when that happens. (Page 299.)

In other josei news, Tokyopop spreads joy throughout the land (or at least the corner of it that I occupy) by listing the fourth volume of Mari Okazaki’s glorious office-lady drama Suppli. (Page 317.)

Vertical really brings the joy, though, offering not only the first volume of Kanata Konami’s eagerly anticipated Chi’s Sweet Home but also the second of Kou Yaginuma’s Twin Spica. I’ve already discussed Chi’s Sweet Home at perhaps monotonous length, but you should really consider this the eye of the storm, because I’m sure I’ll natter even more as we approach its summer release. I read the first volume of Twin Spica and liked it very, very much. It’s the kind of low-key, serious, slice-of-life science fiction that will probably appeal to fans of Planetes and Saturn Apartments. (Page 324.)

Did you enjoy Natsume Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso (Viz)? I did. If you did, you can learn more about the mysteriously handsome, bespectacled restaurant staff in Ono’s Gente and “follow these dashing men home and witness their romances, heartaches, hopes and dreams.” (Page 325.)

That’s a good month right there.

Upcoming 3/17/10

I assumed that Natsume Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso (Viz) would be the pick of the week, and I think it’s very good, but I have to say that Bunny Drop (Yen Press) took me by very pleasant surprise. Let’s see what else will arrive on Wednesday.

Of course, Bunny Drop could just be the debut pick of the week, leaving room for me to single out an ongoing option and rejoice over the arrival of the second volume of Time and Again (Yen Press), written and illustrated by JiUn Yun. I found the first volume to be absolutely delightful, and I can’t wait to learn more about the woman with the positively menacing bouffant who provided that installment’s cliffhanger.

If you’re interested in the perspectives of sorcerers who navigate landscapes filled with monsters, you’ have no shortage of choices. But what if you’re more interested the monster’s point of view? Look to Q. Hayashida’s Dorhedoro (Viz) for this neglected perspective. In it, “a clan of sorcerers have been plucking people off the streets to use as guinea pigs for atrocious ‘experiments’ in the black arts.” One of those experiments is looking for payback, and he’s just the lizard-headed amnesiac to… well… okay, maybe he isn’t. I can’t say that this is my favorite series in the SigIKKI roster, but it’s got some gorgeously gritty art and an amusingly brutal sense of humor.

I’m so crazy about Banri Hidaka’s V.B. Rose (Tokyopop), so I’ll have to make a concerted effort to catch up with her I Hate You More Than Anyone (CMX), which hits the nine-volume mark. (I think there are a total of 13 in the series, which was originally serialized in Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume, which is kind of a gold mine of terrific shôjo.) Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney has been reviewing the series.

Emma MMF: Untidy endings

I don’t know if this is exactly in the spirit of the Manga Moveable Feast, which I suspect is more to introduce people to great manga than to discuss it among the converted, but I feel like exploring the tenth and final volume of Kaoru Mori’s Emma (CMX) in depth, so this will require a bit of a spoiler warning. So click for more if you’re in a place where discussing how things end won’t have deleterious influence! If not, just enjoy this little bit of adorable nonsense from Mori.

Emma concludes with the wedding of upper-class William and former maid Emma, and in many ways it captures all of the essential ingredients of a wedding.

Familial awkwardness…

Competitive finery…

Impulsive hook-ups…

First-time tippling…

And bad dancing…

In other words, it feels true to the nuptial experience, at least as I know it. More importantly, it feels true to the kind of wedding Emma and William would have. Because while it is a happy ending, Mori is not so blinded by romanticism that she portrays it as an unblemished happy ending.

There are lots of little grace notes that let you know that the union of Emma and William has been accepted as an inevitability rather than viewed as a cause for celebration. Someone notes that the event wasn’t announced in the papers, and William’s acquaintances aren’t even sure who it is that he’s marrying. (They’re more keenly aware of who the girl is that William isn’t marrying, the pretty aristocrat who got her heart stomped. It’s generous of Mori to give Eleanor Campbell a less complicated happy ending than her titular heroine receives.)

William’s sister barely manages civility to Emma. William’s brother bluntly states that he’s only at the wedding out of family obligation. I can’t even quite bring myself to mention what William’s father does, and it doesn’t escape Emma’s notice. But, then, very little about her new, privileged world does.

Of course, it’s not a new world for Emma. Her place in it has just changed, and would that she could adapt to the new point of view without difficulty. But her nature doesn’t allow her to slip comfortably into the posture of an aristocrat. She seems at times petrified of the prospect of navigating the social world of William’s family, and nobody is callous enough to suggest that love will see them through. (You only have to look at William’s mother, wounded by her own brushes with society, to know that it’s an unforgiving milieu.) The people with whom Emma was once most at ease are now in a class below her, though nothing about Emma has changed. She still wants to be useful, to be busy, and these aren’t qualities that distinguish a woman of the upper classes.

Of course, William and Emma do love each other, and it’s difficult to imagine their fate being similar to that of William’s parents. And prim, disapproving Queen Victoria is dead, and the world is changing bit by bit. Maybe Mori is suggesting that the union of William and Emma is symbolic of that change. It’s maybe a little naïve, but it’s sweet, and when you consider the hard time she’s given her protagonists, a little sweetness isn’t a bad thing.

And overall, it’s the bittersweet quality that elevates Emma. The knowledge that the maid and the rich boy have traded one set of challenges for another helps readers savor their milestone. Their future happiness may not be assured, but they’ve overcome all obstacles so far. They also seem aware of the obstacles ahead, Emma maybe more than William, and perhaps that awareness will protect what happiness they can afford in a disapproving world.

Upcoming 3/10/2010

Let me just clear a little paperwork out of the way before we delve into this week’s ComicList. I’m keeping a running list of reactions and coverage of yesterday’s grand and glorious news from Fantagraphics, so feel free to drop me a line if you’ve shared some thoughts that I might have missed. Also, the second iteration of the Manga Moveable Feast is in full swing, with Matt (Rocket Bomber) Blind keeping track of everyone’s thoughts on Kaoru Mori’s Emma (CMX), which was originally serialized in Enterbrain’s Comic Beam, the same magazine that hosted Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son. It all comes together.

Back to the ComicList and sticking with CMX, DC’s manga imprint has some fine comics shipping on Wednesday. I posted a review of the first volume of Mayu Fujikata’s My Darling! Miss Bancho last week, and Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey rounds up some other early word of mouth in her look at this week’s arrivals.

But, as exuberant pitch persons remind us, that’s not all! There’s also the second (and final) volume of Asuka Izumi’s adorable The Lizard Prince. And in a timely arrival, CMX reminds us that they’ve been putting out classic shôjo for ages. This week’s reminder comes in the form of the 15th volume of Yasuko Aoike’s From Eroica with Love.

If for some inexplicable reason you missed Scott Chantler’s Northwest Passage in its original, three-volume form or in its hardcover annotated version, Oni Press gives you yet another opportunity to enjoy this terrific period action yarn in the form of a softcover edition of the annotated collection. Chantler does an amazing job combining history and adventure, so treat yourself.

As with Miss Bancho, I’ve already reviewed the first volume of Yuu Watase’s Arata: The Legend (Viz), and so has Danielle (Comics Should Be Good) Leigh. I’ll quote Danielle so as not to bore you by repeating myself:

“In the end, the categorization of ‘shonen’ really only tells us that this was published in a shonen magazine and I suppose that makes it useful in some ways. What is more important, though, is the name of the creator attached to the work and in this instance, that name is a tried and trusted ‘brand’ in the world of fantasy manga aimed at a teen audience. Yet in spite of the Watase brand, I want to stress that nothing feels formulaic or stale here — somehow this work feels fresh and energetic and I’m quite looking forward to seeing how the two Aratas’ journeys progress in upcoming volumes.”

In a very different corner of the Viz catalog, there’s the fourth volume of Kiminori Wakasugi’s Detroit Metal City, a distasteful and hilarious tale of an acoustic kind of guy thrust into the death metal limelight. It’s in the middle of its first multi-part epic, so you might want to pick up the third volume before you read this one. Of course, you probably already own all of the available volumes, right?

And this is less a recommendation than an inquiry: I remember thinking the first volume of naked ape’s switch was kind of pallid Wild Adapter fan fiction, but I recently got a random later volume in a batch of review copies, and at some point it seems to have become very readable Wild Adapter fan fiction. So my question is this: when did that happen, and is it worth rounding up the previous volumes? Or was the 12th volume just an aberrant quality spike?

Oh, and in case you were wondering what would top the next Graphic Book Best Seller List at The New York Times, Yen Press is releasing the first volume of the graphic-novel version of Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight, adapted by Young Kim. The only question is whether it will topple Crumb in the hardcover section or Akamatsu in the manga list. I’m sure I’ll read it eventually. I don’t see any reason to rush, though.

Emma MMF: Flashback review

Here’s my Flipped column on Kaoru Mori’s Emma, originally published at The Comics Reporter on April 3, 2008. It was written before the conclusion of the main narrative, so I’ll follow up later in the week with a proper review of the final volume, but I thought I’d pull it out for this second round of the Manga Moveable Feast. For a running roster of contributions, please visit Rocket Bomber.

Anyone who follows comic link aggregators has seen pieces on the “maid cafe,” a Japanese phenomenon featuring waitresses dressed up in domestic finery who provide assiduous service to patrons who like that sort of thing. At least partly responsible for the enduring popularity of these venues is Kaoru Mori, a gifted manga creator and dedicated Anglophile. Both of these qualities are on handsome display in Emma, a seven-volume manga series published in English by CMX, DC’s manga imprint.

Devotees of public television should feel right at home with the Upstairs, Downstairs romance that unfolds. William Jones, the son of upper-class English merchants, is instantly smitten with the title character, who is working as a maid for William’s former governess. Love at first sight is difficult to portray persuasively, and Mori doesn’t entirely succeed, but there’s certainly something about Emma that inspires intrigue and sympathy. Characters refer to her beauty, though her charms seem more driven by personality than physicality.

The first to be drawn to Emma is Kelly Stownar, the retired governess, who rescues the child from a life of poverty. Over the years that follow, Kelly teaches Emma the ins and outs of a life in service, and she also teaches Emma to read. Their relationship blurs, blending elements of mistress and servant with parent and child, and it’s evident that Kelly wants better for her intelligent, devoted ward. (Part of this probably stems from independent, educated Kelly’s bemused disdain for social order.)

Whether rigid class structures will allow that kind of advancement is Emma‘s principle interest. Beyond William and Emma’s fraught, tentative romance, relative status informs everything. William’s stern father is keenly aware of his stance in the societal pecking order; he has money but not the certainty of a title. His fragile mother learned the difference between country elegance and city society to her sorrow. Old money sneers at new, city servants condescend to their rural counterparts, and foreigners view the whole morass with bemused contempt.

One of the marvels of Mori’s work is that she manages to convey this without lapsing into anything resembling a social studies lesson. Her finest moments are silent and subdued, as when Emma allows herself a bashful smile as examines a gift from her suitor. At the same time, she can deliver the kind of gossipy banter that feels authentic. The complex class conflicts emerge in the below-stairs chatter among servants and pointed observations of the wealthy.

Mori has been cited for the meticulous research she conducted as a part of the manga’s creation, and the results show. The settings are rendered with lush attention to detail, and so are the mundane activities of the servants. Readers get an organic sense of the amount of work it was to maintain a household and the carefully managed division of labor that made it possible. The untroubled ease of the gentry becomes more decadent as a result, so it’s smart of Mori to give the servants pride in their accomplishments and the leisure to talk trash about their employers.

Looking back on what I’ve written so far, I may have given the false impression that Emma is a humorless affair, and it isn’t. It’s true that Emma and William’s arc is incremental and restrained, but Mori can go over the top hen the mood strikes. Beyond the barbed wit of many of the exchanges, there’s a fair sprinkling of comic supporting characters. None of them can quite compete with William’s childhood friend Hakim, a wealthy Indian who travels with an entourage straight out of a Bollywood musical. And any lingering doubts about Mori’s sense of humor are demolished by her autobiographical afterwords, where she elaborates on her creative process and personal passions with hilarious abandon.

Ultimately, the effect of Emma is one of feverish romanticism under a leisurely, measured facade. The effect is conveyed more through Mori’s passion for the period and setting she’s evoking than the specific interplay of characters and their fates. But if Mori’s love for the dramatized nuances of a different period is more engrossing than a rich boy’s love for a maid, Mori’s love is more than enough to result in a richly entertaining comic.

Derivations on a theme

Mayu Fujikata’s My Darling! Miss Bancho (CMX) immediately reminds me of other funny, well-done comics about a girl thrust into an all-boy milieu, titles like Ai Morinaga’s My Heavenly Hockey Club (Del Rey) and Bisco Hatori’s Ouran High School Host Club (Viz). When her parents get divorced, Souka transfers to a technical school so she can start working as soon as possible and help support her mother. The school is such a strife-ridden place that all of the other girls have transferred out, leaving Souka swimming alone in a sea of testosterone and goofy gang violence. Just as she starts adapting, circumstances push her into the role of the school’s bancho, leader of all of its warring forces.

Goofy as this sounds, Fujikata plays fair with the details of the plot. Souka isn’t aggressive, but she’ll stand up for herself and her friends, so her ascent in the school’s power structure is silly but not implausible. It doesn’t stretch suspension of belief to the breaking point any more than the general premise itself does. The characters are generally charming, from sweetly feisty Souka to her love interest, the formidable, strangely maternal Yuuji Katou. Fujikata gives her characters the right kind of quirks that allow them to interact in fresh, funny ways, and she comes up with sturdy, comedic scenarios to showcase them, just as Morinaga and Hatori do in their titles.

It’s a likeable, well-executed variation on a very common theme, and its clear-headed freshness keeps it from seeming derivative to the point of superfluous. Fujikata also gives good author’s notes in which she expresses pixilated amusement that her editor keeps letting her get away with this stuff.

Similarities to Yellow Tanabe’s splendid Kekkaishi (Viz) abound in Mika Kawamura’s Panic x Panic (Del Rey). Both follow the adventures of squabbling neighbor kids who also happen to be able to exorcise demons. One is reluctant and relies on intuition, and the other is more diligent and by-the-book. There’s a long-standing rivalry between their families, though you suspect they kind of like each other underneath the sniping. The key difference between the two books is that Tanabe’s Kekkaishi is really good and feels fresh, and Kawamura’s Panic x Panic isn’t and doesn’t.

I think it’s the relentless overlay of cuteness that Kawamura slathers on her pages. I’ve got no problem with cute in general, but there’s a certain kind of sugary adorability that I find completely resistible. Kawamura erects her very familiar framework with a style that’s (for me) too reminiscent of some of the work of Arina Tanemura – tons of bouncy hair, sheets of screen tone, hug-me-now character designs, and enough hair ribbon to fashion a sturdy noose. There’s never quite enough that’s interesting or specific to Panic x Panic to distract me from thoughts of other, better versions of the same story.

(These reviews are based on complimentary copies provided by the publisher.)

Upcoming 3/3/2010

An interesting mix of books will be arriving at comic shops this week.

First and foremost is Vertical’s soft-cover version of Osamu Tezuka’s MW. This is one of my favorite comics by Tezuka, as you could probably guess from my really long discussion of it with Tom Spurgeon. Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey is giving away four copies of the book, and she takes the opportunity to revisit her review.

Staying with the classics, CMX releases the 15th volume of Kyoko Ariyoshi’s peerless ballet drama, Swan. In a weird coincidence, I’ve also written about this one at length.

Underground (Image), a nifty mini-series written by Jeff Parker and illustrated by Steve Lieber with colors by Ron Chan, concludes with its fifth issue. I can’t seem to find a cover image, but you can go visit the title’s site and see some sample pages. I’ve enjoyed this cave-bound tale of rangers versus no-good developers quite a bit.

Marvel gathers a whole lot of talent for its three-issue Girl Comics mini-series, which debuts Wednesday. It’s got a kind of unfortunate name, but what’s new about that? The participation of Colleen Coover will probably meet the price of admission, at least for me. You can take a look at several preview pages over at Comics Alliance.

Or you could just dump all of your comics budget on new volumes of Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece from Viz, specifically the 34th, 35th, 36th, 37th, and 38th. I won’t lie; I’d almost entirely support that decision, because I’ve developed a seriously unhealthy addiction to this tale of dimwitted pirates and the out-there friends and foes they meet as they pursue big dreams.

But if you did that, you’d be denying yourself the pleasure of the ninth volume of Chica Umino’s Honey and Clover, so my support for an Oda-centric purchasing strategy must be at least partly qualified. And really, after five volumes of nutty high-seas adventure, won’t it feel nice to decompress with some quirky, art-school drama?

Previews review March 2010

There’s plenty of interest in the new Previews catalog, as befits that Hallmark Holiday known as “Manga Month,” so let’s dive right in.

Dark Horse celebrates the month in style, though it passes on the Manga Month logo. Still, they’re releasing the first volume of their omnibus treatment of CLAMP’s beloved Cardcaptor Sakura, and this excites me immoderately. I thought Dark Horse did an absolutely beautiful job with their Clover omnibus, so this qualifies as the month’s “must buy.” (Page 51.)

CMX will release Miku Sakamoto’s Nadeshiko Club, a shôjo series from Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume, which is a well-known crack mine. (Personally, I find series from Hakusensha’s LaLa slightly crack-ier, but that’s just a matter of personal preference.) This one spins out of the possibly sexist premise of a girl getting dumped for being insufficiently feminine and joining her school’s home economics club to girl up. CMX has demonstrated excellent taste in shôjo, so this one goes right on the “to buy” list. Rando thought: Hakusensha’s trade dress is really boring. (Page 126.)

Hey, you like Adam Warren’s Empowered, right? He’s writing a one-shot for Marvel, Galacta: Daughter of Galactus, with interior art by Hector Sevilla Lujan and a cover by Warren. I’ll buy anything from Warren, but this does raise the question: who’s this girl’s mother? I really love Warren’s renderings of Marvel stalwarts from the cover image. (Marvel’s insert, page 31.)

Okay, so maybe Cardcaptor Sakura has some competition for book of the month, as Fanfare/Ponent Mon finally releases Korea as Viewed by 12 Creators. “Twelve insightful short graphic stories into the ‘Hermit Kingdom,’ six by European and six by indigenous creators,” the publisher notes. They’re also offering Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators again, so if you’re sick of hearing people recommend it and not being able to find a copy, now’s your chance. (Page 251.)

I’ve liked some comics written by Kathryn Immonen, and I think Stuart Immonen is a terrific artist. They collaborate to explore a potentially fascinating story in Moving Pictures (Top Shelf): “During World War II the Nazis pillaged much of Europe’s great art collections. Museum curator Ila Gardner and SS officer Rolf Hauptmann are forced by circumstances to play out an awkward and dangerous relationship in a public power struggle.” Sounds like a winner to me. (Page 292.)

Cats and comfort food sound like an extremely promising combination, so I’ll take a chance on the first volume of Kenji Sonishi’s Neko Ramen: Hey! Order Up! (Tokyopop). It’s about a “former kitten model” (an actual kitten, apparently, so be at ease) who leaves celebrity behind to become a ramen cook. The only possible down side to this is that it’s a manga based on an anime, which sometimes has mixed results. (Page 297.)

I don’t actually think Kumiko Suekane’s Afterschool Charisma is a good comic, but I find it addictively ridiculous. Viz has been serializing the tale of clones of famous historical figures on its SigIKKI site, and now it’s releasing a print version. It’s probably worth the price of purchase just for the thrill of watching the clone of Sigmund Freud torment his classmates. “Daddy. Daddy. Daddy!” (Page 303.)

You all already known how awesome librarians are, right? But did you know that there’s an action-packed shôjo manga that celebrates that awesomeness? It’s Kiiro Yumi’s Library Wars: Love and War, original concept by Hiro Arikawa, and Viz will release the first volume: “In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves – the Library Forces!” SOLD. This is an example of the crack-iness of Hakusensha’s LaLa anthology. See what I mean about the trade dress? (Page 305.)

If Cardcaptor Sakura isn’t quite enough CLAMP for you, Yen Press accommodates with the first two volumes of the super-group’s Kobato. It’s about a girl who tries to have a wish granted by mending the wounded hearts of people she meets and “fill a magical bottle with the suffering she has relieved.” This sounds like the kind of CLAMP manga that can be injected directly into a vein. (Page 308.)

Oh, and that Twilight graphic novel is due. (Page 309.)

And there are plenty of new volumes of noteworthy series:

  • 20th Century Boys vol. 9, written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa, Viz, page 303
  • Black Jack vol. 11, written and illustrated by Osamu Tezuka, Vertical, page 300
  • Children of the Sea vol. 3, written and illustrated by Daisuke Igarashi, Viz, page 303
  • Detroit Metal City vol. 5, written and illustrated by Kiminori Wakasugi, page 303
  • The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol. 11, written by Eiji Otsuka, illustrated by Housui Yamazaki, Dark Horse, page 53
  • Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture vol. 2, written and illustrated by Masayuki Ishikawa, Del Rey, page 244
  • One Piece vols. 49-53, written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda, Viz, page 305