The Favorites Alphabet: E

Welcome to another installment of the Favorites Alphabet, where the Manga Bookshelf battle robot cast our loving gaze upon the titles in our respective collections to pick the manga title (or… ahem… titles) from each letter of the alphabet that stands (or… ahem… stand) above the rest, whenever possible. We’re trying to stick with books that have been licensed and published in English, but we recognize that the alphabet is long, so we’re keeping a little wiggle room in reserve.

“E” is for…

Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President | By Kaiji Kawaguchi | VIZ – As we prepare for another presidential election cycle, I find myself wishing, once again, that fictional New York Senator Kenneth Yamaoka would finally run for office. Yamaoka is, of course, the hero of Kaiji Kawaguchi’s Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President, and, unlike most American politicians, Yamaoka is unapologetically liberal, thoroughly persuasive on controversial issues, and seemingly atheist. It’s a swell fantasy for older readers like me, who feel a twinge of nostalgia for the days when a presidential candidate could actually use the “L” word (that’s “liberal,” kids, for those of you who’ve only heard it used in a pejorative fashion) without embarrassment. At the same time, however, it’s a great, pulpy manly-man manga in which an ambitious character uses wit and integrity to defeat his rivals. Eagle is long out of print, but well worth the time and effort to track down. – Katherine Dacey

Emma | By Kaoru Mori | Published by CMX Okay, okay, I sometimes pick titles that are out of print, but come on. How can I not include Mori’s beautifully subdued tale of a maid who falls in love well out of her class? For those who are just discovering her work through A Bride’s Story (Yen Press), this is the series where many English-language readers discovered Mori’s ability to turn tiny, mundane moments into arias of subtle emotion. To be honest, the plot here is secondary to the meticulous slices of period life that Mori serves up. Of course, those slices would probably have less impact without the acute observations about social constraints, not just between domestics and their employers but between old money and new and country and city and British and everyone else. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Mori does the hands-down funniest, most witheringly self-deprecating autobiographical strips I’ve ever seen in the back of a Japanese comic. – David Welsh

ES: Eternal Sabbath | By Fuyumi Soryo | Published by Del Rey I have a particular fondness for creators who defy categorical constraints, so when I learned that shôjo manga-ka Fuyumi Soryo had done a sci-fi series for Kodansha’s Morning and that Del Rey was publishing it, I had to read it. I find that this partiality to fence hoppers is almost always rewarding, and that’s certainly the case with ES. It’s about a hot clone with amazing psychic powers who casts off the shackles of his scientist overlords to go see what life is like in the real world. His primary prism in that effort is a brilliant but emotionally remote scientist who senses something unusual in her new acquaintance but can’t quite figure out what it is. At least she can’t until a second, much less benevolent clone surfaces and starts exacting horrible and violent revenge on humanity. ES offers a great combination of thoughtful romance, scientific philosophy, and creepy horror. What more could you want? – David Welsh

Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga | By Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma | VIZ – Profane, raunchy, and thoroughly on the mark, this blistering satire pokes fun at every conceivable niche of mangadom, from ladies’ comics to salaryman manga. Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma gleefully skewer narrative cliches and overused tropes, all while offering solid (if sarcastically delivered) advice on how to produce a commercially successful manga. The highpoint (lowpoint?) of volume one is a table comparing sex scenes in different genres, with helpful suggestions for choosing appropriate sound effects. Yes, it’s rude, but it’s also a virtuoso display of artistic skill; Aihara and Takekuma are equally adept at drawing for mature female audiences and hormonal teenage boys. – Katherine Dacey

Excel Saga | By Rikdo Koshi | VIZ – Oh come on, you can’t pretend to be surprised that this is my pick. My pet series for the last 8 years, ever since Viz started to publish it in North America, Excel Saga has had a rough ride ever since folks realized that the anime it was based off of was telling the truth – Rikdo was giving permission for the anime to do whatever it wanted, while he made the manga into his own thing. After readers realized it wasn’t simply the anime on the page, sales dropped sharply – this is why Volumes 7 and 8 are so hard to find today. But the hardcore fans who stayed with it were rewarded with a satire of sentai shows and the collapse of the economic bubble, and characters who were no less insane than their anime counterparts. They get a deeper backstory, though, and there are touching and dramatic moments sprinkled through this comedic story. Carl Horn’s translation is also a classic example of a loose adaptation that’s handled correctly – it’s not word for word from the Japanese, but conveys the same spirit. And his end notes are the best in the business, bar none. There are only 5 volumes to go till its conclusion now, so maybe Viz can speed it up a bit from its one-per-year schedule – but if not, it makes a rare but delightful treat. – Sean Gaffney

Eyeshield 21 | By Riichiro Inagaki and Yusuke Murata| VIZ Media – As mentioned back on letter C, I love sports manga, even when it’s kind of juvenile like Eyeshield 21. But even though the overuse of bathroom humor makes me sigh heavily, there are still many reasons to recommend Eyeshield 21. For one, it’s delightfully over-the-top, with the (possibly literally) demonic Hiruma, captain of the Deimon Devil Bats football team, doing everything possible to ensure the success of his team, including and not limited to blackmail. Secondly, it’s got some wonderful characters. My personal favorite is Komusubi, a small but fierce defensive lineman who looks like a muppet, but I also have a soft spot for “the Hah?! Brothers,” who started off as juvenile delinquents but have begun to experience what it’s like to actually be good at something and receive positive feedback for it. Growth like that will get me every time. – Michelle Smith

What starts with “E” in your favorites alphabet?


The Favorites Alphabet: D

Welcome to another installment of the Favorites Alphabet, where the Manga Bookshelf battle robot ruthlessly assess the titles in our respective collections to pick the manga title from each letter of the alphabet that makes us feel all floaty, whenever possible. We’re trying to stick with books that have been licensed and published in English, but we recognize that the alphabet is long, so we’re keeping a little wiggle room in reserve.

“D” is for…

Dominion | By Masamune Shirow | Published by Dark Horse Appleseed is the most ambitious, and Ghost in the Shell the most popular, but I have to admit that I find Dominion and its alternate universe sequel Dominion Conflict One to be my favorite Shirow manga, and one I keep going back and rereading.  It’s the funniest of his works, particularly Conflict, and the Puma Sisters were a major influence on “catgirls” in the Western fandom.  The environmental message is also strongest in these works, with the plotting devoted to ecoterrorism, and set in a future so miserable that if you go out without an oxygen mask, you die.  Most of all, though, Dominion revels in its property damage, and it may rival the Dirty Pair in sheer amount of destruction seen in a series.  Leona is a hothead who does not know the meaning of the words “Stand down”, and in Conflict, where her love interest and morality chain Al is missing, she’s even worse.  Dominion is just sheer fun, and a title I hope that Shirow eventually returns and wraps up some day.  – Sean Gaffney

Dororo | By Osamu Tezuka | Published by Vertical, Inc. – I could very easily have given this slot to Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories (Fantagraphics), but if I’m going to be completely honest, the title for this letter that I can read over and over again and take near-complete delight in is this truncated bit of action-fantasy lunacy from Tezuka. It’s about a guy whose greedy father sold all of his body parts to demons to get power, and now the kid has to use his prosthetic body and mad swordsman skills to go get his limbs and organs back. He’s also got a spunky kid thief tagging along, as one does in these circumstances. I could have read about a dozen volumes of this story, but there are unfortunately only three, probably because Tezuka was always doing a million things at once and one must prioritize. It’s hardly Tezuka’s most ambitious work, but, for my money, it’s a prime rendering of his defining qualities: passionate social critique and eye-popping entertainment. – David Welsh

Dororo | By Osamu Tezuka | Published by Vertical, Inc. – Once upon a time, when I was a brand new reader of manga, I was terrified of Osamu Tezuka. I found his status as a master so intimidating, I was actually afraid to read his work lest I be forced to face my own incompetency as a reader. Then, in a moment of madness, I bought Dororo, and less than a chapter in, I realized what it actually meant to be a master. Not only were my fears unfounded—Dororo was a truly thrilling and emotionally affecting manga—but it was Tezuka’s mastery of the craft that made the work so accessible, even today.  Dororo may not be my very favorite of Tezuka’s works, but it will always be special. – Melinda Beasi

DVD | By Kye Young Chon | Published by DramaQueen – Even though DramaQueen has only managed to release two of DVD’s eight volumes so far, I’ve seen enough to deem this my favorite manga/manhwa starting with the letter “D.”  When Ddam’s boyfriend dumps her, sick of her quirky attributes like the ability to see illusions, her suicidal plans are thwarted by a bizarre pair of fellows, boob fetishist Venu and punk DD, who proceed to attempt to cheer her up in their own inept way. The story is playfully told, with various amusing excursions, and the mystery of Ddam’s gradually solidifying illusions is tantalizing. I continue to buy DramaQueen’s new releases, in hopes that this will help fund more DVD, but really, I am not very hopeful. Thankfully, TOKYOPOP Germany finished the series, so there’s always the Google Translate route. – Michelle Smith

What starts with “D” in your favorites alphabet?

The Favorites Alphabet: C

Welcome to another installment of the Favorites Alphabet, where the Manga Bookshelf battle robot sift through our towering stacks of dog-eared paperbacks to pick a favorite manga title from each letter of the alphabet, whenever possible. We’re trying to stick with books that have been licensed and published in English, but we recognize that the alphabet is long, so we’re keeping a little wiggle room in reserve.

“C” is for…

City Hunter | By Tsukasa Hojo | Gutsoon — One of the saddest parts of the collapse of Raijin Comics and Gutsoon for me was the loss of one of my favorite Shônen Jump titles, City Hunter, which ran in Shueisha’s flagship magazine from 1985 – 1991. A classic action comedy, it focuses on “sweeper” Ryo Saeba, a handsome gun-for-hire who lives in Shinjuku and acts as a private detective for people (invariably young ladies) who need his services, assisted by his spunky young partner Kaori, who is also his love interest. They aren’t together, though, because Ryo is a complete and utter horndog – he will try to sex up any pretty girl he sees (which are many – Hojo draws beautiful women) and his huge erections are not only a running gag, but almost omnipresent – the term “mokkori” is used by City Hunter fans like “baka” or “hai” by other Japanese anime fans, referring to Ryo’s visible manhood (as well as his term for girl hunting). As for Kaori, her anger at Ryo’s antics, short tomboyish persona and use of huge mallets to flatten Ryo into the ground may sound familiar to some fans of Ranma 1/2 – the series ran in rival magazines. The combination of comedy, action and romance was a huge hit in Japan, but less so here, and no one has been able to restart the series. I believe that Hojo has the rights himself. As he’s currently with Shinchosha, perhaps we could ask them if they want to try it as a JManga title? Or even the semi-sequel, Angel Heart? — Sean Gaffney

Club 9 | By Makoto Kobayashi | Dark Horse — If you told me that one of my favorite manga would focus on a country girl-cum-hostess, my inner feminist would have scoffed at you: how could I possibly enjoy a series that celebrated one of the seamier aspects of Japanese business culture? Yet Club 9 is totally, thoroughly winsome, even if it isn’t very progressive. The story focuses on Haruo, a teenager who leaves her backwoods town to attend college in the big city. Through a series of improbable circumstances, she lands a job at a hostess club, disarming salarymen, tycoons, and manga-ka with her direct, down-home manner. Haruo’s innocence is the source of many comic misunderstandings, but Makoto Kobayashi never makes his heroine the butt of cruel jokes; Haruo always gets the last laugh, no matter how outrageous the circumstances. Fabulous caricatures and an imaginative re-write are the frosting on this very tasty cake. – Kate Dacey

Cross Game | By Mitsuru Adachi | Viz Media – I really love sports manga. I love it when it’s kind of juvenile (Eyeshield 21) and I love it when it’s kind of ridiculous (The Prince of Tennis), but mostly I love it when it’s kind of bittersweet, which is where Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game comes in. The depiction of the baseball games themselves are a lot of fun, but there is also strong character drama, as lead characters Ko Kitamura and Aoba Tsukushima, united in tragedy by the loss of Aoba’s sister some years ago, butt heads due to their similar personalities but gradually grow closer as they mature and develop a greater appreciation of the other’s worth. Reading this series always makes me sniffle (in a good way), and I am grateful that VIZ has licensed it. Not so grateful that I won’t take this opportunity to beg for more Adachi, however. Might I suggest Rough? — Michelle Smith

Cross Game | By Mitsuru Adachi | Viz Media — There’s a Japanese phrase, mono no aware, that I suspect I probably overuse to the point that I end up sounding pretentious. I actually don’t care, because that phrase, which is often translated as “the pity of things,” frequently pops to mind when I’m really, really loving a given manga. It may seem unlikely to link that phrase, defining a wistful awareness that everything ends eventually, to Adachi’s baseball comedy, but Adachi is about as good at embodying this haunting, preemptive kind of nostalgia as just about any of his peers. So, yes, Cross Game is hilarious, and, yes, it’s about baseball, but it’s also about youth in all of its awful glory, from the off-the-diamond losses you never quite figure out how to endure to the grand possibilities the future presents, even though they scare you a little because you’re not sure you’ll be able to realize them. And there’s a really cute cat. I don’t know what else you could reasonably expect. – David Welsh

Crown of Love | Yun Kouga | Viz Media — Unlike the first two letters we’ve explored here, “C” is a tough one for me. While there are a number of “C” manga I’m very fond of (Cardcaptor Sakura, Chi’s Sweet Home, and Children of the Sea all spring immediately to mind), I don’t have a deeply personal favorite—that kind of manga that just really gets me regardless of its more objectively-measurable qualities.  Except that I totally do. I don’t generally believe in “guilty pleasures” (why feel guilty over taking pleasure in storytelling?), but if I did, this would be at the top of the list. It’s a twisted josei love story that isn’t afraid to explore the possibility that its male protagonist may be genuinely creepy—made even more twisted by the fact that he’s got nothing on the people around him. Though its final chapters are a bit too romantic to suit the story as a whole, at four volumes total, it’s an addictive whirlwind of a series. And sometimes, honestly, that’s “favorite” enough for me. – Melinda Beasi

What starts with “C” in your favorites alphabet?


The Favorites Alphabet: B

Welcome to another installment of the Favorites Alphabet, where the Manga Bookshelf battle robot gingerly approaches our meticulously organized collections to pick a favorite manga title from each letter of the alphabet, whenever possible. We’re trying to stick with books that have been licensed and published in English, but we recognize that the alphabet is long, so we’re keeping a little wiggle room in reserve. And sometimes you can’t pick just one.

“B” is for…

Banana Fish | By Akimi Yoshida | VIZ Media — Given my frequent posts on the subject, this choice likely comes as no surprise. Yet even after all that verbiage, I think I’ve talked very little about one of the main reasons I so love this series. Yes, it’s got fast-paced action, well-developed characters, and an almost-BL vibe to die for, and watching Yoshida’s artistry develop over the course of 19 volumes is truly a pleasure. But one of the series’ greatest draws for me is very simply its sincerity. I recently described another manga as reading like “a bad teen-penned novel,” and while Banana Fish shares some of the same over-the-top sentimentality and naive fancy that tends to characterize stories written by teens, like S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, Banana Fish reads like a great one. Yoshida offers up genuine intrigue and compelling action sequences, but her most winning quality as a writer is how sincerely she loves her characters, even when she’s putting them through hell.  This is a series I’ve read and re-read, and will likely read many times more before my eyes finally give out on me. Melodrama and all, it’s one of my favorite manga of all time. – Melinda Beasi

Basara | By Yumi Tamura | VIZ Media — I hardly know where to start in extolling the virtues of Basara, Yumi Tamura’s epic 27-volume shôjo manga about a girl named Sarasa who assumes the identity of her twin brother Tatara (the so-called “child of destiny”) after his death and leads her people in revolt against a tyrannical king. Sarasa is highly competent and inspires the admiration and loyalty of people from all walks of life, but Tamura never lets us forget that this strong leader is also just a girl who experiences feelings she doesn’t understand and who denies herself a lot in order to be who the people need her to be. Just thinking about the reveal that it’s actually Sarasa who’s been the “child of destiny” all along literally gives me goosebumps. I’d urge everyone to read Basara, even though some volumes are notoriously hard to come by. It really is worth the effort. — Michelle Smith

Black Blizzard | By Yoshihiro Tatsumi | Drawn & Quarterly — I’ve found most of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s work too bleak, too macho, or too bleakly macho to appeal to my own sensibilities, but Black Blizzard is a notable exception. Dating from the late 1950s, it’s thoroughly enjoyable pulp: a young murder suspect and a jaded criminal escape from custody into a raging snowstorm, police hot (cold?) on their heels. The story’s weaknesses are easy to catalog: the plot developments can be seen coming from a mile away, the characters are little more than types, and the ending is too compressed to be truly satisfactory. Black Blizzard leaves a fresh impression nonetheless, thanks to Tatsumi’s rough, energetic artwork; with all the slashing lines and images of trains in motion, you’d be forgiven for thinking that an Italian futurist had taken a stab at writing a comic book. — Kate Dacey

Black Jack | Osamu Tezuka | Vertical, Inc. — Part House MD, part globe-trotting adventure, Black Jack is easily Osamu Tezuka’s most accessible work. The stories often flirt with the outrageous: Black Jack performs a brain transplant, treats an extraterrestrial, and operates on himself while fending off dingoes in the outback. Yet the human dimensions of every story are never overwhelmed by the questionable medical diagnoses; at their best, the stories are parables about the importance of humility, responsibility, patience, and loyalty, using illness and injury to show us the best — and worst — of human nature. (Also: to show us that Black Jack is a complete bad-ass with a scalpel.) The series’ popularity meant that Tezuka cranked out more Black Jack tales than he probably should have (see “treats an extraterrestrial,” above), but even the weakest entries in the collection are still a lot of fun. — Kate Dacey

Black Jack | Osamu Tezuka | Vertical, Inc. — I’m going to second Kate’s endorsement of Black Jack for a very specific, possibly irrational reason. Sometimes a title becomes a favorite simply by virtue of the presence of a supporting character. In the case of this series, that character is Pinoko. She’s surly old Black Jack’s adorable kid assistant, except she’s actually a parasitic tumor that gestated for years in her twin sister’s abdomen until the good-bad doctor cut her out and gave her a twee little plastic body and took her in as his ward. Pinoko is wrong on every conceivable level – an 18-year-old woman with no meaningful life experience trapped in the body of an artificial child. On some subliminal level, I think every adorable kid sidekick is creepy, but Tezuka just goes there, and Pinoko’s every appearance is an unsettling, mildly heartbreaking, inappropriately funny treat. There are certainly Tezuka titles I like better than Black Jack, but there’s probably no Tezuka character who haunts me quite like Pinoko. – David Welsh

Bleach | By Tite Kubo | VIZ Media In general, I enjoy talking about manga because I love it. I love finding underrated series I can promote the hell out of, I love reading the romantic ups and downs of a couple that grow and learn at a snail’s pace because it’s funnier that way, and I enjoy watching big guys hit each other. But sometimes you get obsessed with manga that you like… and hate as well.  It can be so good…  and so frustrating. No title currently being released over here does this to me more than Bleach, the second of Viz’s ‘Big Three’ Shonen Jump titles. Bleach has a fantastic cast of characters… who it abandons for years at a time to focus on other new characters. It has emotional resonance… which can sometimes get incredibly ham-fisted.  And while some manga work better in weekly installments, or in volumes, Bleach is one that works best by reading 5 volumes at a time then ignoring it for 6 months. Oh, and the shipping. God, the shipping. Love it or hate it, folks can’t stop talking about Bleach. Which, honestly, is even more valuable in a manga than a title that’s merely liked by everyone. — Sean Gaffney

What starts with “B” in your Favorites Alphabet?


The Favorites Alphabet: A

Welcome to the first installment of the Favorites Alphabet, where the Manga Bookshelf battle robot glances through our respective libraries to pick a favorite manga title from each letter of the alphabet, whenever possible. We’re trying to stick with books that have been licensed and published in English, but we recognize that the alphabet is long, so we’re keeping a little wiggle room in reserve.

“A” is for…

After School Nightmare | By Setona Mizushiro | Go!Comi — Gender-bending is not unusual in manga, but actual exploration of gender is, and that’s just one of several refreshing aspects of this unfortunately out-of-print manga. It’s also a story about teenagers that uses school-mandated shared nightmares as a way of forcing students to display and face their own worst fears right in front of each other. Is it creepy? Yes. It also serves as a pretty accurate metaphor for my own thankfully-distant teenage hell, and I expect I’m not alone there. Though the series’ dream setting places it soundly in the realm of the surreal, that doesn’t make it any less resonant. After all, where do our own fears feel more real than in our fevered dreams? For more about this series from smarter writers than I, look to Jason Thompson  and (of course) David Welsh. – Melinda Beasi

Antique Bakery | By Fumi Yoshinaga | Digital Manga Publishing — Ostensibly a slice-of-life tale about four men working together in a bakery, Antique Bakery offers more dramatic surprises than one might expect. Early on, charismatic gay pastry chef Ono and cluelessly lovable Chikage emerge as favorites, but as we learn more about the bakery’s proprietor, Tachibana, the more fascinating he becomes. An ordeal suffered in his past has profoundly informed the man he is in the present, and when readers realize the truth of what’s been going on all along, Yoshinaga’s mastery suddenly becomes even more apparent. Yes, there are lighthearted moments in this series. Yes, there is a fun cast of characters who grow and change from working together. But most of all, there is Tachibana’s unforgettable story. – Michelle Smith

Apocalypse Meow | By Motofumi Kobayashi | ADV Manga — Apocalypse Meow does for the Vietnam War what Maus does for World War II, using animal surrogates to re-enact period conflict. In this case, rabbits stand in for American soldiers, and cats stand in for the Vietnamese, while the Chinese (pandas) and Russians (bears) observe from the sidelines. Author Motofumi Kobayashi is clearly a military enthusiast: every volume is studded with sidebars describing combat tactics and weaponry, as well as lovingly drawn maps of troop movement. Yet Kobayashi doesn’t lose sight of the human cost of war; watching a trio of bunnies caught in a brutal fire fight makes the horror of combat fresh and unsettling, especially for readers who have been desensitized to the conflict through years of watching movies and documentaries about Vietnam. The series is long out of print, but enterprising (and patient) readers can find inexpensive copies on eBay. – Katherine Dacey

Aria (and its prequel Aqua) | By Kozue Amano | ADV Manga/Tokyopop — A cynical person might say that what Aria really shows is that slice-of-life, look at the scenery manga with no moe schoolgirls in it will die a financial death here in North America.  But what we saw of this series just made me love it all the more.  For a science-fiction utopia fantasy world, Aria is so relaxed and sedate.  It’s not afraid to devote 30 pages to simply walking to a store in the rain, or visiting a friend.  And as the series goes on, the cast of characters that form the core group grow and change, some more startlingly than others.  It’s a classic example of the sort of series you read and feel a smile on your face and a warmth in your heart.  It ran for a total of 14 volumes between both series in Japan, of which 8 saw publication here (both of Aqua and 6 of Aria’s 12).  Sadly, if you want more, I suspect you’ll have to learn Japanese.  It’s now failed to sell with two different North American publishers, and its Japanese company, Mag Garden, is the *only* major manga publisher with no digital initiative – even Square Enix is striking out on its own, separate from JManga.  It’s a shame, as I’d love everyone to see the end of this. – Sean Gaffney

Astral Project | By Garon Tsuchiya and Syuji Takeya | CMX — Being able to describe this series as “a slice-of-life supernatural mystery” makes me enormously pleased, even though it isn’t by any means comprehensive. A young man’s sister has committed suicide, and he tries to make sense of her death. Along the way, he learns to project his spirit out of his body and encounters other astral travelers who change his perspective on life. Beyond his emotional trauma, we also learn of a decidedly odd government conspiracy that gives Tsuchiya a platform for all kinds of extremely pointed satire aimed at contemporary culture. Astral Project is really, really odd, though it’s ultimately very involving and likeable. It’s further proof that Enterbrain’s Comic Beam publishes some of the most unusual, interesting comics Japan has to offer. It may be difficult to find copies of this four-volume series, as CMX didn’t exactly flood the market with copies the first time, but it’s worth the hunt. – David Welsh

What starts with “A” in your Favorites Alphabet?


The Josei Alphabet: Miscellaneous

Not everything starts with a letter…

#000000 – Ultra Black, written and illustrated by Yoshinori Kisaragi, serialized in Ichijinsha’s Comic Zero-Sum: An orphan is adopted by a mysterious millionaire who employs the boy in finding mysterious and dangerous objects.

&, written and illustrated by Mari (Suppli) Okazaki, serialized in Shodensha’s Feel Young: An inexperienced young woman opens up a nail salon in her spare time and meets a man who may force her to get over to her aversion to being touched.

1/4×1/2®, written and illustrated by Udou Shinohara, serialized in Asahi Sonorama’s Nemuki: A mediocre medium tries to carry on the family tradition with the help of his cat, who remembers a past life of being a dog. They help animals cope with their issues. WANT.

14-sai no Koi, written and illustrated by Fuka Mizutani, serialized in Hakusensha’s Rakuen le Paradis: Two precocious teenagers fall in love; their maturity complicates their sweet, teen-aged relationship. The magazine provenance of this is enough to have me really interested in reading it.

7 Seeds, written and illustrated by Yumi Tamura, originally serialized in Shogakukan’s Betsucomi before moving to Flowers: This one is on a lot of people’s wish list. It’s award-winning science fiction about five young people who are released from cryogenic storage to repopulate the world after catastrophe.

Licensed josei:

  • 07-Ghost, written by Yuki Amemiya and illustrated by Yukino Ichihara, originally serialized in Ichijinsha’s Comic Zero-Sum, partly published in English by Go! Comi.

What start with something other than a letter in your josei alphabet?

Reader recommendations and reminders:

  • 30-kon Miso-com, written and illustrated by Rika Yonezawa, serialized in Kodansha’s Kiss.

Previews review August 2011

Okay, I normally don’t dwell on this sort of thing, but I just have to make an observation about the covers in the DC section of the current Previews catalog. These are mostly the second issues of the publisher’s big re-launch of its super-hero line presumably to make it more accessible to people who wouldn’t normally pick up a comic about Superman or Batman or Green Lantern. Here’s my observation: the covers of these comics look exactly like these comics have looked for the last twenty years, possibly pinpoint-able right to the late 1990s. So this should be interesting, since it really does seem like an example of the scientific method. If all other things are equal, and DC changes one thing – the volume of back story in play to theoretically confuse or bar a casual reader from entry – will people who did not previously care about the Justice League suddenly start caring about the justice league? Time will tell! Let’s move on to things I will actually purchase!

Princess Knight vol. 1, written and illustrated by Osamu Tezuka, Vertical, Inc., AUG11 1232: The most actually exciting thing in the catalog is the English-language debut of Tezuka’s game-changing shôjo classic. Some of us have been waiting years for this to happen. Years.

Hark! A Vagrant, written and illustrated by Kate Beaton, Drawn & Quarterly, AUG11 1018: Beaton’s super-smart comics “takes readers on a romp through history and literature — with dignity for few and cookies for all — with comic strips about famous authors, their characters, and political and historical figures, all drawn in Beaton’s pared-down, excitable style. This collection features favourite stories as well as new, previously unpublished content. Whether she’s writing about Nikola Tesla, Napoleon, or Nancy Drew, Beaton brings a refined sense of the absurd to every situation.”

Two Generals, written and illustrated by Scott Chantler, Emblem Editions, AUG11 1060: This is the soft-cover edition of Chantler’s acclaimed historical graphic novel.

Tesoro: Short Stories 1998-2008, written and illustrated by Natsume Ono, Viz Media, AUG11 1256: This volume collections some of the earliest professional work by the gifted creator of series like Gente and The House of Five Leaves. So you should probably buy it.

There’s also the 2011 edition of The Best American Comics from Houghton Mifflin. I’ve made it this long without reading one of these, so I doubt my streak will be broken, though the guest editorial duties of Alison Bechdel may make me waver.

And here are new volumes of ongoing series that you should seriously consider buying:

That’s… like… a lot.


Uncontested races

I’m sad to announce that there won’t be any Previews-related polls this month. The boys’-love category offered a clear winner, and there weren’t enough dubious debuts to populate that slate. But here are the two books that might have “won” those contests, both of which will be dutifully pre-ordered and reviewed.

About Love, written by Narise Konohara, illustrated by Tomo Ootake, Digital Manga Publishing, originally published as Koi ni Tsuiete by Souryuusha, one volume:

Wedding co-ordinator Asaka could never forget his very first clients. When he meets up once more with that very same client, the man who spends his life arranging weddings for others unexpectedly learns a few things about love himself. Heartwarmingly bittersweet, this is the eagerly awaited English-language debut of mangaka Tomo Ootake!

I know nothing about how eagerly anticipated Ootake’s debut is or isn’t, but that cover is so pretty and expressive that it almost makes me cry. Plus, wedding planner manga! A dream fulfilled!

Love Hina Omnibus Volume 1, written and illustrated by Ken Akamatsu, Kodansha Comics, originally serialized in Kodansha’s Weekly Shounen Magazine, originally published in English by Tokyopop:

When Keitaro Urashima fails his entrance exams to get into Tokyo University for the second time, he’s officially an unemployed and uneducated slacker. To make things worse, his parents have kicked him out of his house. Fortunately, his grandmother owns the fabulous Hinata Lodge and has agreed to take Keitaro in as caretaker. What he doesn’t know is that the lodge is actually a girl’s dorm and he’s the only guy around! Most guys would kill to live with five sexy ladies, but if Keitaro’s not careful, this job will kill him.

I know this series probably counts as a classic in terms of licensed manga, but I just never bothered with it. Now, Kodansha gives me a cheap-ish chance to introduce myself to this well-liked harem comedy. And I seriously didn’t want to run the risk of having to read the Tokyo Mew Mew omnibus. Cat-ears give me hives, unless they’re on an actual cat.

I’ll go through the rest of the month’s highlights tomorrow.


The Josei Alphabet: Z

“Z” is for…

Zanbara! Written and illustrated by Ikumi Katagiri, serialized in Ichijinsha’s Comic Zero-Sum and Zero-Sum Ward: A period piece about two kids who learn martial arts during turbulent times. I like that cover.

Zankoku na Hatsukoi, adapted from Anne Mather’s novel by Kei Kousaki, originally published by Harlequin, one volume: A difficult reunion ensues when a former husband and wife cross paths in the woman’s home town.

Zankoku na Kami ga Shihaisuru, written and illustrated by Moto (A Drunken Dream and Other Stories) Hagio, serialized in Shogakukan’s Petit Flower, 17 volumes: I’m totally cheating, since I listed this as A Cruel God Reigns back in “C,” but it’s Hagio, so I feel justified.

Zombieya Reiko, written and illustrated by Rei Mikamoto, originally serialized in Bunkasha’s Horror M, 11 volumes, partially published in English as Reiko’s Zombie Shop by Dark Horse: I felt bad that I missed this one back in “R,” so I’m rectifying that.

Josei magazines:

What starts with “Z” in your josei alphabet?


Upcoming 8/3/2011

Given the vagaries of comic distribution timing, I’ve already read two of the titles I’m most eagerly anticipating off of the current ComicList. So I guess I’m not eagerly anticipating them so much as fondly remembering them. Anyway, you might still be undecided, so…

First up was the fourth volume of The Story of Saiunkoku (Viz), Kairi Yura’s lovely adaptation of Sai Yukino’s light novels. It’s entirely possible that I love this series so much that I can no longer see its flaws, but I think it equally likely that there are no meaningful flaws to be seen. This arrival was particularly welcome during the debate over the debt ceiling, as it suggested a world where people go into governance for the right reasons, and the best and brightest are rewarded with responsibility and authority. So, yes, clearly it’s a fantasy, but it’s a lovely and reassuring one, and the creators reinforce its ultimately feminist message by moving their heroine closer to her dream, even if it damages the romantic prospects of the man who loves her. That’s not the kind of conundrum you see every day in entertainment, which makes this series just about priceless.

Less rewarding was the fourth volume of Julietta Suzuki’s Kamisama Kiss (Viz). I generally like this series very much for the evenhanded approach Suzuki takes with her male and female protagonists. She treats them with equal respect, and she gives each specific strengths which make their relationship much more interesting than some victim-rescuer dynamic would be. That balance slips a bit this time around, which is disappointing, though hardly fatal. I still like the characters a lot, but certain complications screw up their dynamic and make it depressingly… conventional. (Misunderstanding! Secrecy! Alienation!) I count on Suzuki’s quirky good sense to reassert itself next time around.

In other Viz news, this week sees the delivery of the third volume of Kazue Kato’s very promising Blue Exorcist, the eighth volume of Yuki Midorikawa’s lovely Natsume’s Book of Friends, and the second volume of Mayu Shinjo’s sure-to-be-repulsive Ai Ore!

Oh, and in the category of things I’m still eagerly anticipating, there’s the second volume of CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura (Dark Horse). I can’t believe I’ve yet to see this series in a Barnes & Noble.

What looks good to you?