License request day: 7 Seeds

While composing this week’s final installment of The Josei Alphabet, I was shocked to realize that I’ve never formally requested Yumi Tamura’s 7 Seeds. This is one of those situations that must be rectified as quickly as possible.

The series launched in Shogakukan’s Betsucomi, a shôjo magazine, before moving to josei anthology Flowers at some point during its still-ongoing run. Betsucomi has always seemed like it skews a little older than the average shôjo magazine, so this was probably a fairly easy transition. Flowers is one of those anthologies that seems positively fecund with license-request fodder. It’s home to the much-loved Kaze Hikaru (in glacial current release courtesy of Viz’s Shojo Beat line), and it had the privilege of publishing Moto Hagio’s “Iguana Girl,” one of the many highlights of A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. It was also the serialization home of Hagio’s much-praised, much-wanted Otherworld Barbara. So basically, if psychologically complex fantasy is published in Flowers, chances are good that the I-want-now factor will be high.

And 7 Seeds certainly sounds like Tamura isn’t stinting on the psychological complexity. It’s about Japanese youth who were placed in cryogenic suspension by the government as they prepared for the imminent, potentially apocalyptic collision of a meteor. Groups of teen-sicles were planted up and down Japan to ensure that the population would be able to rebuilt when the Earth’s environment was once again fit for habitation.

But, you know, humans in general and teens in particular rarely behave in ways we might expect, especially when we leave them a to-do list that we aren’t around to enforce. Our survivors, or “seeds,” have dramatically new circumstances to manage and old baggage to tote, which is bound to make survival and repopulation fairly complicated, wouldn’t you think? (The series is at the 20-volume point, so I’d hope things would be complicated.) The cast seems fairly huge, which is always a good sign, and the general nature of the series seems to be dramatic-episodic, combining lots of emotional nuance with neat, speculative world-building.

You knew without me having to tell you that it’s being published in French, right? Pika has slowly made its way to the 10th volume, and while a slow release schedule isn’t ideal, I always feel it’s better than not getting a series at all, which is where we are right now. And Pika allows you to see gorgeous sample pages from the first eight volumes.

Tamura is hardly unknown to English-reading audiences. Viz published her 27-volume Basara. That series is frequently described with dreamy fondness by its partisans, and I’m sure 7 Seeds would engender the same kind of fondness and loyalty if someone is kind enough to publish it already.


License request day: Dragon Zakura

I’ve taken a shine to this week’s license request precisely because it doesn’t really resemble any of my recent wish-list items. It’s also part of an under-a-cloud subcategory, manga that explores the life of the delinquent. A wee handful of the 25 volumes of Hiroshi Takahashi’s Worst ever saw publication in English from Digital Manga. Beloved though it may be by tastemakers, Eiji Nonaka’s Cromartie High School still hasn’t found a new home since the shuttering of ADV.

So what makes me think the commercial prospects are any better for Norifusa Mita’s Dragon Zakura? I actually don’t think it would sell like gangbusters, and I can’t even clearly articulate why I’m eager to read it. All I can say is that I like its magazine provenance – Kodansha’s Morning – and that I find the covers ugly in kind of a mesmerizing way.

But what’s this 21-volume series about? It follows a former motorcycle gang leader turned lawyer decide to turn teacher. He joins the faculty at an on-the-brink-of-bankruptcy school and declares that he will lead at least five of its students to the academic Promised Land: admission to Tokyo University. That the kids are kind of stupid and downtrodden apparently doesn’t bother this academically inclined opportunist.

I can’t quite tell if this is a comedy or a drama, though it seems to lean on the serious side. This is probably a good thing, as the comedic stories of this stripe tend to be things like School of Rock, while the dramas are more like To Sir, with Love, and I can tell you which one I’d rather watch without even a soupcon of hesitation. And Dragon Zakura has won a couple of major manga awards: the Kodansha and the Japan Media Arts Festival Excellence Prize, both in 2005.


Fruits Basket MMF: Takaya et cetera

While I like throwing a license request into the mix with every Manga Moveable Feast, it does occasionally feel like preaching to the choir. I mean, nobody needs me to remind them that, hey, it might be a good idea to publish more of Natsuki Takaya’s work because, hey, that crazy kid really seems to be on to something.

Since Fruits Basket, Takaya completed an 11-volume series called Hoshi wa Utau, which ran in Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume. It’s about a lonely orphan who finds solace in stargazing. Her life is complicated by the new boy in town. That doesn’t sound especially complicated, but brief descriptions of Takaya’s works rarely do them justice, so I think it’s safe to assume that she makes time to break readers’ hearts over and over again in the course of the story.

Takaya’s current series is also in Hana to Yume, and it’s called Liselotte to Majo no Mori. It’s about a girl who moves to a forest full of witches. She apparently does this on purpose. You can look at some sample pages here.

So that’s what’s lurking out there. I have to admit that I continue to wonder why Hakusensha doesn’t stake its own claim to the English-language market rather than relying on other licensors. I think we’re pretty much down to Viz in terms of Hakusensha publishing partners, what with CMX and Tokyopop gone.  Given how many popular-in-English series the publisher has generated over the years, you’d think they’d be interested in taking the commercial wheel.


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.)



License request day: Onmyôji

[Update: Ed Chavez informs me that the source material isn’t a light novel, but a novel that was serialized in one of Japan’s premiere literary magazines. There’s just not enough strike-through in the world to tidy up the post below, so I’ll let it stand, but I wanted to note the correction in a prominent way. Apologies all around!]

You all know how much I love The Story of Saiunkoku (Viz), Kairi Yura’s spirited adaptation of Sai Yukino’s light novels. You all probably also know that I never let a body of experience get in the way of a recent enthusiasm, so I’m on the lookout for other excellent manga adaptations of light novel series, even though I’m sure they vary wildly in terms of quality. I think I’ve found a winner, though.

It’s actually a literal winner, having won the grand prize for manga at the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prizes in 2001. I’m referring to Reiko Okano’s adaptation of Baku Yumemakura’s Onmyôji, which ran for 13 volumes in Hakusensha’s Melody. This creates a sort of compound endorsement. The roster of Tezuka Prize winners could also substitute for a list of some of my favorite manga to be published in English with a subset of series I desperately want to see licensed. Melody runs Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ôoku: The Inner Chambers (Viz), another Tezuka Prize winner, so I’m naturally inclined in favor of anything they publish.

The series is currently being published in French by Delcourt’s Akata line. The covers for the volumes released so far are insanely gorgeous. The story follows the work of an imperial magician in the Heian Era who deals with pesky supernatural phenomena like demons and possessed objects. Frankly, it sounds right up my alley: sophisticated supernatural storytelling rich with lots of period detail, plus loads of pretty.

What are some of your favorite light novels? Or manga adaptations of light novels? Or light novel adaptations of manga?

License request day: Crest of the Royal Family

You’ve all asked yourself this question, don’t deny it. “What,” you’ve wondered, “would happen if a blond-haired, blue-eyed American teen-ager was inadvertently sent back in time to Ancient Egypt?” As with so many unanswered questions in this life, manga can help you. Specifically, Chieko Hosokawa can help you with Crest of the Royal Family, which has been in serialization in Akita Shoten’s Princess Magazine since 1976.

“Tell me more!” you plead. Well, I’ll let Wikipedia do the initial heavy lifting, because if anyone’s going to be accused of making crazy stuff up, at least Wikipedia is used to those charges:

The main character is Carol, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed American teenager from a wealthy family with an interest in Egyptology studying in Cairo. When her mentor discovers the tomb of a young pharaoh, a curse is put on the excavation team and Carol. The curse sends her back in time to ancient Egypt, where she becomes embroiled in the affairs of Egypt and other ancient countries such as Assyria and Babylonia. Carol meets Memphis, a handsome young pharaoh whose tomb she excavated in modern times. Despite his headstrong and at first violent nature, they fall deeply in love. This angers Memphis’s half-sister, the Priestess Isis, who has longed to marry him. Carol, due to her exotic looks and curious ability to tell the future, becomes a major player in ancient history.

Now I ask you, what sane person could resist thousands of pages of glittery political intrigue set in the cradle of civilization? (Don’t answer that. Seriously. If you’ve started to type a rueful, knowing comment to the effect that there’s simply no market for this kind of thing, I beg you to stop, because that is decidedly not in The Spirit of the Thing.)

From what I can gather, Carol gets kidnapped a lot. Blond hair and a knack for Egyptology only carry one so far in this life, or past lives, and her seemingly eerie prescience gets her in a lot of trouble.

This may be the longest shôjo series I’ve ever seen. The 55th volume was published a little over a year ago, and most sources indicate that it’s ongoing, but I’m not sure. As near as I can tell, it’s never been adapted into an anime series, which makes its enduring presence in Princess even more intriguing. I’m sure things slog along the way, and most sources indicate that Carol can be a victim with a capital “V,” not to mention the fact that the whole “Let’s listen to the white lady, she must know things” notion could get deeply offensive.

But really, over 50 volumes of ancient Egyptian faux-history glazed over with shôjo sparkle? I know it will probably never happen, but I’d totally read it if it did.

Kiss me

I can’t quite get the topic of the week, josei manga, out of my head. Kodansha Comics has made a solid (if painfully protracted) start, and they scored about a zillion points for announcing Sailor Moon. That said, English-language manga publishers are thin on the ground, and if I’m going to nag one or two publishers about their shortage of josei offerings, fairness demands I nag them all. So here are two titles from Kodansha’s Kiss that intrigue me.

I’ve never made it all the way through Mrs. Doubtfire, but this doesn’t mean that I’ve got anything against nannies in drag. In fact, it’s safe to say that I would probably enthusiastically read Waki Yamato’s Babysitter Gin! It ran for nine volumes in Kiss starting in 1998, and it features a caregiver named Gin who fixated on Mary Poppins as a child and has wanted to bring joy to little ones ever since. As an added inducement, I would really love to see this kind of manga created by the woman who adapted The Tale of Genji into manga.

I know I’m not alone in my limited resistance to manga about people who see dead people, and I feel like I deserve the opportunity to confirm that I’d enjoy a josei take on the subject. This draws my beady eye to Madoka Kawagushi’s Shi to Kanojo to Boku. It’s a ten-volume series about a girl who can see the dead and a boy with supernatural hearing. They encounter mysterious forces and grow up along the way.

As an aside, it would also be awesome if Kodansha resumed publication of Nodame Cantabile. Just saying.


MMF: More Minekura

There isn’t really a shortage of Kazuya Minekura manga available in English. In addition to the six existing volumes of Wild Adapter, Tokyopop also published the one-volume Bus Gamer, the nine-volume Saiyuki and nine of the ten volumes of Saiyuki Reload. While everyone’s first concern for Minekura is obviously a complete recovery from what sounds like a terrifying illness, greed is part and parcel of fandom, especially when you find out things like this exist.

That is the cover from the first volume of Shiritsu Araiso Koutou Gakkou Seitokai Shikkoubu, or Araiso Private School Student Council Executive Committee, a two-volume series published in Tokuma Shoten’s Chara. Fans of Wild Adapter will recognize the twosome on the cover.

Yes, this series features an alternate-universe version of the boys who keep the peace at their school by what sound like any means necessary. It cannot possibly be as good as Wild Adapter, I don’t think, but seeing Kubota and Tokito under any circumstances would be a total delight. And they’re pretty damned funny in Wild Adapter, so seeing them play pure comedy is a very enticing prospect.

And these covers rock hard.



License request day: Sakuna Hitona

Looking at the major French awards programs that honor comics from Japan, it’s not hard to conclude that there’s a bit of bias in favor of male creators. All of the current Prix Asie nominees were created by men, as were this year’s manga honorees at Angoulême.

On the plus side, the actual commercial market for comics in France seems just as enthusiastic for Japanese comics by women as you’d expect. As you also might predict, they’re well ahead of us in terms of josei offerings. Just look at Sakka’s selection. Since I’m still in the throes of The Josei Alphabet, I thought I’d pick among Sakka’s josei titles for this week’s license request.

I’m quite taken with the description of Mlle Ôishi, titled Sukana Hitona by original publisher Shodensha for its four-volume run in Feel Young. It’s about a 30-ish woman who becomes engaged to a divorced man and the various difficulties that relationship presents. It follows protagonist Kon from 28 to 32 years old and considers the plight of the Japanese woman in search of her soul mate.

Minami has quite a body of work, a fair amount of which explores yuri themes. She also recently launched a series (Hirake Koma!) in Kodansha’s always-reliable Morning. I’d be very interested to see some of her work in English.


License request day: Prix Asie 2011

This week, we have less of a license request than a round-up of likely candidates. Tom (The Comics Reporter) Spurgeon shared this year’s nominees for the Association des Critiques et Journalistes de Bande Dessinée’s Prix Asie award, so let’s learn more!

We’ll start in the Philippines with Gerry Alanguilan’s Elmer, published in French by Editions Çà et Là. This is a family drama set in a world where chickens have achieved (or downgraded to) a human-equivalent level of sentience and emotional complexity. That’s a really neat premise, and the preview pages at the publisher’s site are gorgeous and odd. Alanguilan has worked on some high-profile franchise properties in the U.S., but I’d much rather read about the neurotic chickens.

Sanpei Shirato’s Kamui-Den, published in French by Kana, offers more from the gekiga category. This time, it’s a period piece about a young ninja fighting against dehumanizing caste systems during the Edo period. I think Viz published at least some of this a while back as The Legend of Kamui. It ran for 21 volumes in Garo. I love the cover designs, which is kind of an emerging theme.

I’m already kind of in love with Kazuo Kamimura’s La plaine du Kantô (published in French by Kana), based almost entirely on the covers, but I always thought Kamimura’s art was always the most interesting thing about Lady Snowblood (Dark Horse). This seems to be an autobiographically informed story of cross-cultural understanding set in Japan just after the end of World War II.  I have no idea who originally published it, but it sounds interesting.

Shotaro Ishinomori’s Le voyage de Ryu (published in French by Glénat) features a young man who travels a bit father in space and time than he’d intended. He wakes from suspended animation to find that his ship has crashed onto a bizarre and hostile planet. It seems like there should be more of Ishinomori’s work in print, though some publishers have made stabs in the past. I mean, he did kind of help define the super-hero for Japanese comics fans, didn’t he?

Last, but certainly not least, is Makoto (Planetes) Yukimura’s Vinland Saga, published in French by Kurokawa, which has been lurking near the top of my license wish list for years. YEARS.

Which of these do you find most enticing?