Elsewhere update

The daily-life mayhem continues to prevent me from being a productive blogger. (We just had a very mild earthquake. In West Virginia. Seriously. This is getting ridiculous.) But I am still holding forth in other venues!

I joined the Manga Bookshelf crew to discuss Fumi Yoshinaga’s ceaselessly wonderful Flower of Life (DMP) for the recently concluded Manga Moveable Feast.

I also make my pitch for the jManga title that interests me most… at the moment. I may soon be distracted by something sparklier.

I contribute a review of a smart and suspenseful horror comic for the latest Not By Manga Alone column, too.

And, if you’re curious as to what I like the look of from the current ComicList, you need only look to last week’s Pick of the Week.


Talk amongst yourselves

Between a rather frenzied real life and preparations for the upcoming Manga Moveable Feast — Sunday, July 24, to Saturday, July 30, featuring Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket (Tokyopop) — I need to excuse myself from this week’s regularly scheduled license request.


So Viz has thrown off the shackles of platform to launch VizManga.Com. Which treasures from Viz’s relatively vast catalog would you be interested in reading digitally? (Legally digitally, obviously. You can probably read all of them digitally at this point, but that’s not what I’m talking about in these circumstances.)




Thanks to my partner, who is never quite as much of a cautious adopter as I am, we’re now proud caregivers of a couple of iPads. I’m still figuring out what exactly to do with it aside from coo over the fact that it’s really neat, but I’m sure I’ll be able to incorporate it into my time-wasting infrastructure without too much difficulty.

So far, I’ve only dabbled with a few comics apps and downloaded a few freebies, mostly from Archie, to see how they read. They’ve all looked fine, and my protests of being a dead-tree partisan will undoubtedly abate as more material becomes available. I won’t be quite so cautious when it comes to making unreasonable requests about just what kind of material I’d like to see.

In that direction, it’s very convenient that Kate posted the latest i-nnouncement from Viz Media over at The Manga Critic. My first reaction to the content available on the Viz app was that it was extremely cautious. That’s a sensible enough decision to make from a business standpoint, but it doesn’t exactly set my consumer’s heart racing. Their initial offerings were exactly the kind of titles I’d have absolutely no difficulty finding in any chain bookstore just about anywhere in the continental United States.

The recent round of additions is a bit exciting in that three of my very favorite current Viz titles – Children of the Sea, Cross Game and The Story of Saiunkoku – have been added to the roster, but that’s the excitement of a partisan seeing increased availability of and exposure for products he enjoys and admires. So while it’s rewarding to see Viz add more shôjo and seinen, they have a ways to go before my personal needs will be served.

One of Kate’s suggestions for Viz particularly resonated for me:

“(3) dig into their archives and resurrect out-of-print gems such as A A’, Banana Fish, Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President, Firefighter! Daigo of Company M, From Far Away, Please Save My Earth, and Urusei Yatsura.”

And since I can never resist the urge to list things, I thought I’d throw out five Viz properties that should be made available on the iPad:

Sexy Voice and Robo, written and illustrated by Iou Kuroda: Part of my love for this comic is the physical production of it, with its phone-book dimensions and appropriately pulpy paper. It’s hard to find, though, and if we can assume that the average iPad user might be a little older, I think this book might find a new audience through this device.

Phoenix, written and illustrated by Osamu Tezuka: Until Vertical works out contractual agreements and unveils its own app, this is seems like a reasonable opportunity to get one of Tezuka’s masterworks available in digital form. You’re in great shape if you can read Japanese, but English-only readers are out of luck so far.

Four Shôjo Stories, featuring works by Moto Hagio, Keiko Nishi, and Shio Satô: This one is a result of pure selfishness, as the available copies of this out-of-print collection are just too damned expensive. From a more self-righteous place, I think every manga publisher should devote at least some effort to publishing challenging, off-the-beaten-path works by women for women. The iPad seems like a natural habitat for that kind of material.

The Drifting Classroom, written and illustrated by Kazuo Umezu: Seriously, is there any mass transit experience that couldn’t be improved by the ability to read deranged Umezu manga? Sure, you risk strange looks from fellow travelers as you giggle at the over-the-top violence and total disregard for the well-being of children, but come on. Tell me this wouldn’t rock. I dare you.

Monster, written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa: In spite of near-universal critical acclaim, Urasawa’s works don’t seem to have earned matching commercial success, which has always struck me as odd. He writes the kind of genre-bending, sort-of-intellectual thrillers that a lot of prose readers really love. Maybe digital availability would give those prose readers incentive to give a graphic version of their genre of choice a shot.

So what Viz titles would you like to see on one of their digital platforms?


Lean week linkblogging

The ComicList is sufficiently lean that I don’t really have anything to add beyond what was covered in the Pick of the Week over at Manga Bookshelf. If you’re still hankering for something new to try, why not check out the Manga Monday hashtag over on Twitter?

If you’d like to focus your attention on a single title, keep your eyes on the link archive for the current Manga Moveable Feast, featuring Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen (Last Gasp). It’s being hosted by Sam (A Life in Panels) Kusek.

And if you feel like throwing your favorite titles some love, you’ve got plenty of time to vote in the 2011 About.com Manga Readers’ Choice Awards. Genial host Deb Aoki provides a breakdown of the nominees.

And if you just feel like reading comics instead of reading about them, there’s always Viz’s SigIKKI site with new chapters of a wide range of titles. The most recent chapter of Seimu Yoshizaki’s Kingyo Used Books is all about a series that also inspired a license request.

Update: Just missed this one, but I always enjoy Erica (Okazu) Friedman’s looks at various Japanese magazines for MangaCast. This time around, she considers Shogakukan’s Big Comic and its confidently mature pursuits.

Apple of their eyes

With all the recent talk of new digital initiatives and anti-piracy efforts, I was interested to see this piece by Caleb Goellner at Comics Alliance:

“The consortium [of Japanese publishers and publishing trade organizations] basically says that Apple isn’t doing enough to defend against their material being pirated and sold through various apps for the iPhone and iPad. Apple says it’s impossible to check for all copyrighted material as it screens each submitted app, but the group says it’s unconvinced.”

If you do an app search, you’re almost certain to find an app that trades in pirated content at or near the top of your search results, just like pirated versions of popular manga will top results of any Google search you conduct. These apps usually aren’t free, so the app creators are making at least some marginal profit off of pirated works, which I think just about everyone not actively doing that sort of thing agrees is uncool. So it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me for these publishers to ask for Apple to step up, at least in the case of aggregation apps, particularly when some of the apps undoubtedly in question trade in nothing but pirated material.

Your thoughts?

Stooping to conquer?

It seems distasteful to ask publishers to license additional titles when so many people are worried that the currently licensed properties will see completion, so I think I’ll put the license requests on hiatus for a while. As we all ponder the future of the manga industry, I thought I’d share an email entitled “Fighting back against manga piracy” pointing to an approach that I find unsettling:

“It’s written by somebody who decided to attack the manga aggregator sites by going directly to their ‘sponsors’ and complaining about child p__n. This one action caused a chain reaction that got several piracy sites black listed from AdSense. Without ad money these sites can’t support themselves. The readers won’t donate or buy memberships. Most sites mentioned in the above link have found alternative sources of ad revenue.

“It’s important to note that going directly to Google would have done nothing. Only those who actually pay for the ads can make the ad software providers act. Those paying for the ads don’t care about piracy per se, but the notion that their money is supporting content that sexualizes teenagers and children and bankrupting the youth of America will motivate them to demand changes in a hurry. They simply don’t know where their ads are appearing but they should be informed, repeatedly.

“I just wanted you to know that there is a way for people who care about the manga industry to fight back. And win. This is the only way.

“But you didn’t hear it from me…”

I’m not going to link to the site, as the URL is a positive mine field for unwanted attention and comment spam, but you’re all bright enough to do a search and find it on your own.

Now, you all know that I find these aggregator sites revolting. They attempt to turn a profit without compensating the original creators, and they do so with a sheen of artificial legitimacy that too often goes unchallenged by uncritical journalists. But this approach – demonizing the content in an effort to hinder its unethical purveyors – strikes me as counterproductive in the extreme. Instead of pushing Google to respect copyright and intellectual property and vet its advertisers, it pokes at Google’s worst and most reactionary impulses while fostering the kind of lurid suspicion that has always plagued manga to some degree.

I don’t doubt that the approach works, just as charging mobsters with tax evasion works, but it seems like there’s a concomitant level of damage to the product and the industry you’re trying to protect. You’re smearing the comics in an effort to keep people from pirating them, and while that probably keeps aggregators on their toes, it gives manga the kind of black eye that lasts longer than the inconvenience created for aggregators.

And as I said, I’d love for these aggregators to sweat. But I want them to sweat because they’re illegally profiting off of the work of others and damaging a legitimate enterprise through their selfishness and greed.

The sun may not come out

At least nine times out of ten, comics from Japan tend to be about winning. Characters win the person of their dreams or the national championship or the right to be called King of the Pirates, or what have you. So it’s always fun to see a little failure in manga form. It’s always possible that the schlub who stars in Shunju Aono’s I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow (Viz) will eventually succeed, or at least that he’ll stop quitting halfway through whatever he happens to be trying, but in the meantime, we can revel in the crushing disappointment. I should also note that the series is really funny and that Aono seems to be trying to eschew the “But isn’t this loser secretly really awesome?” undertones that inform similar schlub-centric comics. Viz has announced the print edition, and the press release is after the jump.

This also gives me a chance to remind you that you can read a whole bunch of IKKI series for free and that the folks at Viz who manage the initiative have a really nice blog where they cover an appealingly wide range of topics. Recent entries have featured an upcoming release from Vertical, excitement over the return of Lady Sif, and an appreciation of the ongoing Free Comic Book Day that is the webcomic.



Story Of A Salaryman Who Embarks On A Quest To Become A Manga Artist Offers A Unique Journey Of Self-Discovery

San Francisco, CA, May 6, 2010 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), one of the entertainment industry’s most innovative and comprehensive publishing, animation and licensing companies, has announced the release of I’LL GIVE IT MY ALL… TOMORROW. The series, created by Shunju Aono, will debut on May 18th under the VIZ Signature imprint, is rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens, and will carry an MSRP of $12.99 U.S. / $16.99 CAN.

This is the story of a hapless forty year-old salaryman who quits his job to pursue his dream of becoming a manga artist – and the family that has to put up with him. While not terribly unhappy, Shizuo Oguro can’t fight the feeling that something in his life just isn’t right, so he walks away from his stable (yet boring) day job to embark on a journey of self-discovery. Unfortunately for his family, this journey also involves playing video games all day while his teenage daughter and elderly father support him. Will Shizuo succeed in creating a true manga masterpiece, or will he be just another dropout living a life of slack?

In the opening volume, Shizuo Oguro is living his dream… sort of. Feeling like his life has been a complete waste Shizuo breaks free from the corporate rat race and charts a new and fairly random career course to become a published manga artist. Sure, he lacks the talent, discipline, or any of the other skills necessary to become a success in the manga industry, but that won’t stop Shizuo from achieving his dream!

“It’s a long way to the top in the manga business, but Shizuo’s endearing journey reminds us that life is filled with endless challenges, and that resilience and humor can give Shizuo (or any budding manga artist) the fortitude to pursue their dreams despite his family’s consternation,” says Kit Fox, Editor, VIZ Media. “I’LL GIVE IT MY ALL… TOMORROW is one of the flagship titles featured in Japan’s IKKI magazine and is a great example of the kind of high quality manga series aimed at older readers. We look forward to fans discovering this great new story.”

Creator Shunju Aono won Young Magazine’s 45th Chiba Tetsuya Award in 2001 and also won the 17th Ikkiman IKKI Newcomers Award in 2005 for his manga series KALEIDOSCOPE. His current series, I’LL GIVE IT MY ALL… TOMORROW, is currently featured in IKKI magazine.

VIZ Media’s innovative partnership with Japan’s IKKI magazine brings a diverse collection of exceptional manga series to audiences in North America. From action to comedy to drama, slice-of-life stories to surrealist fantasies, the uniting themes these works share are an uncommon emphasis on creative quality and on pushing the boundaries of the manga norm.

I’LL GIVE IT MY ALL… TOMORROW is currently featured online at SigIKKI.com, the groundbreaking web destination for a broad range of unique manga for mature audiences.

For more information on other VIZ Signature titles and to check out a sneak peek of Chapter one through five of I’LL GIVE IT MY ALL… TOMORROW please visit www.SigIKKI.com.

Yen Plus goes digital

Yen Press just dropped a bomb on Twitter, with a pointer to the publisher’s weblog:

“As the magazine industry changes and old models are eclipsed by new, so, too, must YEN PLUS change, and it is with that in mind that I can announce officially that the July 2010 issue of YEN PLUS will be its last in print.

“Now before you despair too much, take a deep breath and focus on those last two words: ‘in print.’ Yes, the print magazine will be no more, but YEN PLUS will live on as an online manga anthology! As such, it will have the ability to reach more readers than ever before while giving those same readers an option to peruse manga (and maybe some light novels?) legitimately online.”

More details are to come, obviously, but it’s certainly an interesting development. In my opinion, the more digital anthologies, the better.

Update: Gia (Anime Vice) Manry gets some more details from Yen Press co-founder Kurt Hassler.

Role-playing exercise

One theme that’s come up a lot in recent discussion of scanlations is that publishers need to do something to concoct a widespread alternative that provides similar access to the material but with the consent of creators and, one assumes, the potential to turn the portion of the scanlation audience that aren’t currently paying customers into buyers, at least to some degree. One potential obstacle to that that particularly interests me are the creators themselves. I’ve heard that there’s a fair amount of resistance to digital distribution among manga-ka, either because they conceived their comics to be read on paper or because they’re concerned about unlimited reproduction of digital versions of their work. (Who left this barn door open?)

Now, I’ve only heard about this reluctance from a few people, but they strike me as people who are in a position to know. Still, it’s anecdotal, and I recognize that. But, running with the premise that this resistance exists to varying degrees, I’d like to ask you to engage in a little role playing. What argument (preferably diplomatic) would you make to a manga-ka to convince them of the benefits of more timely, less immediately profitable, digital delivery of their work? The obvious one is that it’s already happening without their participation or consent, and they might as well control it to whatever degree possible, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Updated: Simon Jones of the possibly not-safe-for-work Icarus Publishing blog cuts to the chase and asks “Why should publishers pay for digital rights?”

Updated: Jake Forbes, manga author, adapter and aficionado, stops by MangaBlog and takes everybody to the woodshed.


I’m so much more of a manga fan than an anime partisan, but I do like to track publisher efforts to minimize the allure of pirated content, so I’m running this press release on the new Viz Anime portal after the jump. One thing does strike me, and that’s how un-sexy the adjectives are for this kind of initiative. I mean, “official” and “licensed” and “legitimate” just don’t set the pulse racing, you know? Of course, I’m also opposed to stupid lingo development, so I’m not about to suggest “hipper” alternatives. It’s just something that occurred to me.



Optimized Technology Allows Fans To Connect And Interact And Spend Less Time Looking For The Latest Anime Episodes And More Time Enjoying Them

San Francisco, CA, March 15, 2010 – In a significant news announcement, VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), one of the entertainment industry’s most innovative and comprehensive publishing, animation and licensing companies, has detailed the launch of VIZ Anime – a brand new, free-to-use interactive web destination that will become a permanent home to some of the company’s best-loved animated series as well as new content which will be added on a weekly basis. VIZ Anime is accessible at: www.VIZAnime.com.

VIZ Anime kicks off with more than 400 episodes from hit series such as BLEACH, BUSO RENKIN, DEATH NOTE (complete series), HIKARU NO GO, HONEY & CLOVER, INUYASHA (complete series) and INUYASHA: THE FINAL ACT, NANA, NARUTO (complete series) and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN as well as THE PRINCE OF TENNIS. The site will also be the future web home for many other eagerly anticipated anime series set to launch later this year

Episodes can be streamed for free with new ones being added weekly. A variety of interactive social networking tools and features also help foster an official online home and community for VIZ Media anime fans allowing them to connect on and discuss favorite shows, and offer ratings and opinions of various episodes. New functionalities will be added regularly.

  • Users can “follow” as many series as they like and choose to be notified each time a new episode is released, as well as keep track of the last episode they’ve watched. This makes it easy to stay current on series like INUYASHA or NARUTO, which feature more than 100 episodes.
  • Users can comment on individual episodes and also meet and interact with other fans, invite friends to join, ask questions and debate plot twists and characters, voice their opinion on what’s happening in a particular series, and also find out what else is going on across the anime and manga spectrums.
  • Users can rate their favorite episodes by using a “Like” button on each episode page. They can quickly access a list of all the episodes they’ve similarly liked to compare how other users have liked an episode.
  • Users can make a personalized profile page to keep track of the episodes they’ve watched and enjoyed, the series they’re currently following, and comments they’ve made. Mail tools can also be used to send private messages between individual users. Privacy controls let users decide what information is shared publicly and who is able to send them messages.
  • “We’re committed to developing VIZ Anime as a premiere online destination, and hope to offer a real community for VIZ Media fans to interact with each other and share their love of anime,” says Ken Sasaki, Senior Vice President & General Manager of VIZ Media. “We will also utilize the site as a means of two-way communication to better understand what our fans enjoy most and want, and how they engage with anime and manga online. With a lot of content to select from, VIZ Anime will become a favorite site to visit again and again!”

    For more information on VIZ Media or VIZ Anime, please visit www.VIZAnime.com.