Democracy in action

Deb Aoki has launched the 2011 Manga Readers’ Choice Awards:

The nominees were selected by readers in January 2011. The top five nominees in 10 categories were chosen as finalists, and now it’s your turn to vote for the winner. The voting period runs from Friday, February 11 through Tuesday, March 8, 2011.

You can probably guess where my votes went. Go cast yours!

Canada is just plain cooler

The Toronto Comics Art Festival has scored a coup:

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) is excited to announce that internationally renowned manga creator Natsume Ono will make her first-ever North American public appearance as a Featured Guest at TCAF 2011. Hailing from Japan, Ono is one of the most exciting and unique women working in the medium today, and she will appear on panels and sign books in support of her English language works at Toronto Reference Library, May 7 and 8, 2011. Ono appears with the support of her English-language publisher VIZ Media.

Since I can’t resist praising Ono whenever her name comes up, I will happily repeat another paragraph from the press release:

“Ono’s fantastic work fits squarely into the ‘art comix’ idiom that’s at the core of the Festival,” enthuses Festival Director Christopher Butcher. “It’s the type of work we try to encourage. She’s a true auteur, working in a variety of styles and on different subjects, and her work is sure to find favour with fans of our other Featured Guests including Chris Ware, Jillian Tamaki, Mawil, and Adrian Tomine.”

You may recognize Mr. Butcher from his awesome blog or his work as manager of The Beguiling.

The cruelties of the calendar generally mean I can’t travel during the Festival, but I’m sure Ono’s appearances will be packed. I would certainly be elbowing people out of the way to get floor space, believe me. This is because I uniformly adore Ono’s work, going so far as to theoretically adore work that has yet to be published in English.

Other people who are excited by this news include Brigid (Robot 6) Alverson, Deb (About.Com) Aoki, and Heidi (The Beat) MacDonald. Erica (Okazu) Friedman and I were yammering on Twitter the other day about her concept of a “fifth genre” of manga that extends beyond, fuses, or ignores traditional demographic categories, and I only half jokingly suggested that you can identify a fifth-genre anthology by its serialization of work by Natsume Ono. Sure, she hasn’t had work run in Comic Beam, to my knowledge, but she’s all over IKKI, Manga Erotics F and Morning Two.

A look at the Shogakukan winners

Anime News Network lists the winners of the 56th Shogakukan Manga Awards. Only one of the slate is available in English, Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ôoku: The Inner Chambers (Viz), which won in the Girls’ Category and has also previously shared the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize with Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life (Drawn & Quarteroy), won the Tiptree Award, and made the top 10 in 2010’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens list.

Natsumi Matsumoto’s Yumeiro Pâtissière won in the Children’s Category. It’s about an enthusiastic young baker who enters an elite pastry school in spite of her clumsiness. She meets cute boys and is helped by a magical spirit named Vanilla. You can’t make a good dessert without a little Vanilla. It’s running in Shueisha’s Ribon. Viz has published Matsumoto’s St. Dragon Girl.

Takeshi Sasaki’s King Golf won in the Boys’ Category. It’s about a delinquent whose life changes when he takes up golf. I’m now picturing its chances for commercial success in the United States, which conjures images of middle-aged white men discussing the latest volume over highballs at the country club. Yeah. It’s being serialized in Shogakukan’s Shonen Sunday.

The General Category is split between two titles, the first being Shohei Manabe’s Ushijima the Loan Shark. Unsurprisingly, it’s a manga about the seedy criminal underbelly of loan sharks, the black market, and other unsavory activities, and I’d guess that it’s somewhat episodic in nature. It’s running in Shogakukan’s Big Comic Spirits. Tokyopop published some of Manabe’s Smuggler and all of Dead End, though it lost the licenses when Kodansha reclaimed their properties.

It tied with Chûya Koyama’s Uchû Kyôdai, which was nominated for a Manga Taisho Award last year. It looks very promising.

But which of the unlicensed titles look good to you?

Previews review January 2011

There isn’t a wealth of exciting new product in the current edition of the Previews catalog from Diamond Comics Distributors, so I thought I would try a little experiment. I’ll put forward three (uninspiring sounding) debuting titles and let you vote on which one I should try.

First up, from Digital Manga, we have the potentially odious The Beautiful Skies of Hou Ou High, written and illustrated by Arata Aki. When Kei’s mom finds out her daughter likes girls, she sends Kei to an all-boys’ high school to presumably de-gay her or something. Will it be charmingly subversive, or just gross? It originally ran in Mag Garden’s Comic Avarus, which doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. (Page 281.)

Are you perverse enough to subject me to the sparkly incoherence of Arina Tanemura? Is that even a question? Anyway, her new title from Viz is Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura, and it’s about “the granddaughter of a mysterious moon princess who slew demons with her Blood Cherry Blossom sword.” Please don’t do this to me. It originally ran in Shueisha’s Ribon. (Page 321.)

There’s something about Kazue Kato’s Blue Exorcist (also Viz) that looks like trouble, and not the fun kind of trouble. It’s about an orphaned boy raised by a priest who learns that he’s one of Satan’s bastard children. (The orphan, not the priest, at least as far as I know.) So the orphan decides to become an exorcist so he can fight his dad. Manga plus Catholicism is always… awkward. It originally ran in Shueisha’s Jump Square. (Page 322.)

Please vote for one of the above in the comments before January 15, 2011, and I will dutifully order the title that garners the highest number of votes through my local comic shop.

Mercifully, there are tons of new volumes of great ongoing series, which I will now dutifully list:

  • Itazura na Kiss vol. 5, written and illustrated by Kaoru Tada, Digital Manga, page 280
  • Salt Water Taffy vol. 4: Caldera’s Revenge, written and illustrated by Matthew Loux, Oni Press, page 302
  • V.B. Rose vol. 12, written and illustrated by Banri Hiaka, Tokyopop, page 313
  • Cross Game vol. 3, written and illustrated by Mitsuru Adachi, Viz, page 324
  • Twin Spica vol. 6, written and illustrated by Kou Yaginuma, Vertical, page 327
  • Bunny Drop vol. 3, written and illustrated by Yumi Unita, Yen Press, page 329

By the way, Viz’s new web site is terrible. Terrible, terrible, terrible.

Update: Lissa (Kuriousity) Pattillo has some thoughts on Viz’s terrible new web site.

This year, next year

The indefatigable Deb (About.Com) Aoki has rounded up and ranked critics’ choices for the Best Manga of 2010, and it’s a fine and varied list. I’d also like to point you to Deb’s picks for Best Continuing Manga of 2010, since there’s a lot of overlap between her favorites and mine. I’m particularly pleased by her inclusion of Kaoru Tada’s Itazura na Kiss (Digital Manga); I did some catch-up reading on that one over the weekend, and it just gets better as it goes along.

Looking at Deb’s previews of promising manga due in 2011, I can’t help but pick the five that sound best to me, even if some of them counted as my most anticipated in 2010:

and one that wasn’t on Deb’s list, but I’m very eager to read:

Did some of your favorites from this year not make the critics’ round-up or Deb’s list of ongoing series? What about exciting books due in 2011?