Upcoming 9/28/2011

Before we delve into the current ComicList, I just have to reinforce my Midtown Comics Pick of the Week: Osamu Tezuka’s Book of Human Insects (Vertical) is amazingly good pulp. Of course, I’m rather fixated on two belated arrivals to comic shops.

When one uses a variety of retail streams to acquire their comics, one can lose all sense of the orderly progression of time. One can also feel like the very last person on earth to get his hands on fabulous, classic shôjo. This is my way of leading up to saying that I will finally, finally be able to purchase my pre-ordered copies of Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon and its prequel, Codename Sailor V, both from Kodansha. With these and Dark Horse’s re-release of CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura, I feel like all of my magical-girl manga needs are being gloriously met. (Not punctually met, but gloriously.)

I still shouldn’t allow all of this delightful sparkle to distract myself from Viz’s contributions to the week’s bounty. There’s the 26th volume of Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist, possibly my favorite shônen fantasy-adventure ever, and the fourth volume of Natsume Ono’s House of Five Leaves, certainly among my very favorite character-driven seinen series.

What looks good to you?


Upcoming 9/21/2011

Have you checked out the Manga Bookshelf Pick of the Week? Then we’re ready for a perusal of this week’s ComicList!

For me, the clear leader, at least in the Diamond-verse, is the fourth volume of Yumi Unita’s Bunny Drop (Yen Press). In this volume, single father Daikichi deals with the quirks of another member of his large family as he continues to learn to be a good parent to Rin, his late grandfather’s young daughter. It’s heartfelt and funny, and I highly recommend you try it if you haven’t already.

And I really must catch up on Yuu Watase’s very likeable shônen adventure, Arata: The Legend (Viz), though I’m nowhere near ready for the seventh volume, which arrives Wednesday. Fortunately, I can catch up via Viz’s iPad app. Now I can have menacing physical stacks of books and too many virtual ones in the queue.

For succinct assessments of some recent releases, check out the latest round of Bookshelf Briefs from the Battle Robot.


Upcoming 9/14/2011

You already know what I’d pick if I lived within shopping distance of Midtown Comics, but what if I was entirely dependent on the kindness of Diamond for my weekly comic fix? (Which I am!) Let’s take a look at the ComicList.

Leave it to Vertical to fill the relative void, even if it only takes the form of one book. But that one book is the ninth volume of Kou Yaginuma’s Twin Spica, so it does a lot of void filling.

The eighth volume was customarily enjoyable. As Yaginuma follows his group of young, would-be astronauts, he’s starting to fold some romantic elements into the narrative. There’s something very heartening about seeing Asumi confronted with the notion that there are some potentially wonderful things on Earth in addition to the promised wonders of the stars. Things we learn about brash, bossy Kei go a long way to soften that character’s rather stereotypical edges, which is a welcome development. Overall, this volume creates some additional spokes to the core cast’s shared dream, and they give added depth to that core dream by making it more complex and conflicted.

An interesting side effect of this shift in the content is how it reframes the relative success of Yaginuma’s illustrations. I very much enjoy the vulnerability he gives to his character designs, but that very vulnerability plays against their increasing emotional maturity. It’s not exactly a troubling counterpoint, but it does trigger a weirdly parental response to the notion of Asumi in love: “She’s too young for romance! She’ll always be too young!” I’m not sure if the counterpoint is entirely intentional, and I’m not sure if it will ultimately but successful, but it’s definitely an interestingly discordant note in a generally coherent presentation.

In other shopping choices, Viz offers the 58th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s Once Piece, which I covered in this week’s Bookshelf Briefs, along with the fourth volume of Kaori Yuki’s Grand Guignol Orchestra (also Viz) and the 13th volume of Hiroki Endo’s Eden: It’s an Endless World! (Dark Horse).


Where all the women are strong…

Yesterday brought a mini-wave of mainstream media paying attention to comics thanks to DC trying to reach beyond its core audience. That’s always interesting, but, for me, yesterday’s clear “comics in unexpected places” came from noted American humorist Garrison Keillor.

In addition to his well-known radio variety show, Keillor also produces a short weekday feature for National Public Radio, The Writer’s Almanac. It provides an interesting litany of cultural milestones, biographical sketches of authors and other creative types, and poetry. I generally kind of half-listen, since it airs when I’m driving home for lunch. Yesterday’s show offered the startling aural spectacle of Lake Wobegon’s official historian using the words “shôjo manga.”

One of yesterday’s notable birthdays belonged to Yumiko Ôshima, who Keillor described thusly:

She is a member of the Year 24 Flower Group, one of two Year 24 groups of women who are considered to have revolutionized shojo manga — comics for girls — and introduced many elements of the coming of age story in their work. Oshima and the other women of her group have brought to their art issues of philosophy, and sexuality and gender, and marked the first major entry of women artists into manga.

Now, it should never come as any surprise that nerds lurk in every corner, at every outlet of National Public Radio, but this was extra cool. Ôshima doesn’t seem to be as well known as some of her Year 24 peers – your Moto Hagio, your Keiko Takemiya, your Riyoko Ikeda – so the spotlight was especially nice.

So, if you need a break from hearing familiar media figures discuss the Justice League, go give the piece a listen and read the expanded text.

As for the Justice League, I managed to resist, because if there are two members of that team that do not merit any more of my attention, those members are Batman and Green Lantern.

Upcoming 8/31/2011

Hey, look up there! It’s the cover to my Pick of the Week! Haven’t seen one of those in a while, have we? Perhaps it bodes well for this week’s ComicList!

A week can’t be all bad when it features a new two-volume collection of Kaoru Tada’s quirky, funny Itazura na Kiss (Digital Manga), can it? Kotoko tries to hang on to the gains she’s made in her relationship with Naoki, and I think we can all guess how well that’s going to go for the poor dear.

Kodansha releases the 10th volume of Koji Kumeta’s sharp, satirical Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, promising lots of field trips and ultimately dispiriting life lessons!

And Viz rolls out a few Signature titles. The one I’m most eager to read is the fourth volume of Q Hayashida’s gritty yet strangely charming horror series, Dorohedoro. That book has really grown on me since its debut.

Sci-fi, romance, satire, and horror… a nice mix, in the end! What looks good to you?


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.


Personal best

Sorry for the radio silence, but the day job has been kicking my ass lately. It’s not bad, just busy. To stave off charges of neglect, I thought I would share my contribution to The Hooded Utilitarian International Best Comics Poll, all of the posts of which are listed here:

I clearly had no influence on the top ten, and I think I barely had any influence on the top 115, but I’ve still enjoyed reading all of the lists people submitted, and I stand by my choices, even though they lean as much to “favorite” as they do “best.” And really, if you’re going to be totally honest, aren’t your favorite things the best things at the end of the day? These are all comics that I can read over and over, so they win.



Upcoming 8/10/2011

I have no idea who sells this wonderfully horrifying thing, but they are doing the work of the angels. Kate Dacey very kindly tweeted this in my direction with her customary perfect timing, as my ComicList pick of the week — the 15th volume of Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack from Vertical — relies heavily on the participation of creepy little Pinoko for some of its spectacular highs. I discussed some of those heights in this week’s Bookshelf Briefs.

And that’s really the best that Diamond has to offer this week, so why not take a look at what some people think is the best the whole comics medium has to offer? The Hooded Utilitarian continues to populate its International Best Comics Poll index, and there’s a delightful piece by Shaenon Garrity on what she deems “The HU Lady List.” Over at the Manga Bookshelf, Melinda Beasi ponders the process and discusses her choices.


Here and there, mostly there

It’s Monday! More specifically, it’s the Monday following the conclusion of the Fruits Basket Manga Moveable Feast! I’m going to use that as an excuse to be a bit lazy and just point your attention elsewhere.

I did muster a couple of Bookshelf Briefs this week: Kikuko Kikuya’s Entangled Circumstances (Digital Manga) and the sixth volume of Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ôoku: The Inner Chambers (Viz). I won’t spoil the suspense by telling you which one I liked better, though I can’t imagine it will come as an earth-shattering surprise.

Nor will I rob you of the sense of discovery involved with clicking through to my Pick of the Week! Let’s just say that I was a little resentful that I couldn’t find it at Barnes & Noble this weekend and leave it at that.

So, since I’m abdicating any responsibility to provide original content here, where might you turn for such things? Well, The Hooded Utilitarian is unveiling the results of its ambitious International Best Comics Poll. It should make for interesting reading.

And I wasn’t surprised to see Tom Spurgeon be the first person I noticed draw the comparison between DC’s delayed reaction to bad PR for the paucity of female creators in its upcoming re-launch and the flack Fantagraphics got when it re-launched The Comics Journal with an apparent paucity of female contributors. I’m a little confused by Tom’s assertion that the latter issue has actually been entirely rectified. The Cartoonist’s Diary feature as certainly put women in the spotlight, but only one of the Journal’s 13 regular columns is written by a woman. The site does have women among their roster of reviewers, which is nice, and editorial coordinator Kristi Valenti is developing content in a variety of areas. Still, it’s not exactly parity. I can totally agree that it’s better than DC’s 1%, though.

Update: Seconds after I posted this, I noticed that Deb Aoki had posted a summary of the Best and Worst Manga Panel from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Go, look, and see how their picks track with yours!


Fruits Basket MMF: Sunday wrap-up

We have a couple more pieces before we officially close up this installment of the Manga Moveable Feast!

At Otaku Ohana, Jason Yadao takes a retrospective look at his relationship with Fruits Basket:

Readers loved Fruits Basket. So much so, in fact, that the hyperbole on the books’ covers gradually built over the series’ run.  Need to be reminded that Fruits Basket was “The #1 selling shojo manga in America!”? There was a blurb for that, starting from volume 5 …

And at All About Manga, Daniela Orihuela-Gruber admits that she came to Fruits Basket later than some of her peers, but she fell hard:

In short, I really could have used Fruits Basket and its complex drama about a number of well-meaning souls tormented by a restrictive and isolated society, then freed by great friendship and love. I would have loved to learn that I didn’t need to be trapped into being “friends” anyone in that school in order to have the life I wanted.

You can see a listing of all of the Feast posts here. Thanks so much to everyone who weighed in with such insightful posts. You made the week a treat!

Next up in Manga Moveable Feasts is an in-depth look at the gifted and awesome Fumi Yoshinaga, to be hosted by Kristin (Comic Attack!) Bomba an Linda (Animemiz) Yao. Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey has the full roster of upcoming events.