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.

Random Sunday question

If you could just pick one title for Kodansha to announce this afternoon, what would it be? My choice indicates a propensity for gluttony about a certain kind of manga. Perhaps two kinds of manga.

Random Saturday question: top Potter?

So, assuming you’ve seen more than one of the movie adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, which one is your favorite? I think mine is probably The Prisoner of Azkaban, directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

That said, I thought part one of The Deathly Hallows was a vast improvement over The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince, both directed by David Yates, who I think kind of sucks. In my opinion, both of his previous films would be confusing to people who hadn’t read the books and unsatisfying to people who had. This one did a nice job of capturing the important plot elements while still being sort of a movie.

Anecdote: a tween-aged girl sitting next to us started sobbing before a really sad thing happened, because she knew it was coming from the book, and, fortunately for her dignity, the movie actually managed to pull the really sad thing off rather nicely. So she wasn’t just crying at something she’d read months ago and could actually have legitimately reacted the same way to the movie’s interpretation.

By women for men

For some reason, it came to mind that some of my very favorite Japanese comics were made by women for a male audience, in that they ran in seinen anthologies. I don’t know precisely what that means, and most of them were serialized in magazines that I suspect have more of a mixed audience than is average, but I’m feeling lazy, so I thought I’d turn the observation into a poll.

Did I forget any? What women-created seinen would you like to see licensed? Hataraki Man? What Did You Eat Yesterday? Cesare?

Update: Okay, anything else I may have forgotten should be considered a write-in for the comments.

Pick five

You know how the voting experience is usually one of holding your nose and trying to figure out who’s going to do the least damage? Well, Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey offers a welcome change of pace with her “Half-Time Poll: The Best New Manga of 2010.” There may be a blog post in this.

Updated just to have a reminder of how I voted, as it was almost impossible to pick only five, and I may possibly write a self-justifying follow-up post:

  • All My Darling Daughters (Viz), written and illustrated by Fumi Yoshinaga
  • Bunny Drop (Yen Press), written and illustrated by Yumi Unita
  • I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow (Viz), written and illustrated by Shunju Aono
  • Natsume’s Book of Friends (Viz), written and illustrated by Yuki Midorikawa
  • Twin Spica (Vertical, written and illustrated by Kou Yaginuma
  • For your further consideration

    Harvey Award nominations are due tomorrow, and as Heidi (The Beat) MacDonald notes, “Only WE can save the Harveys.” Last year’s nominees in the Best American Edition of Foreign Material were slightly better than those of the year before, though they’d almost have to be. I doubt that my whining had anything to do with that, but I will toss out a few suggestions, just in case someone is staring at an uncompleted ballot.

    First of all, I think any of the titles listed here would be fine nominees. Here are a few more:

    And since I’m on the subject of awards, I should note that online voting is underway for the Eisners. I predicted at least one winner last year, and let’s see if I can repeat the feat by suggesting you cast your vote for…

    Beyond being very entertaining and informative, this was a really ambitious project on Viz’s part, to offer a taste of a massive, commercially counter-intuitive series, and I would love to see them get some bling for their efforts. But I’m always curious as to which way the winds are blowing, so here’s a poll on the subject of Best U.S. Edition of International Material-Asia:

    Updated: Aaron Costain suggested a second poll, asking which title should win, and I admit I forgot the distinction. So here you go:

    Feel free to mention another, un-nominated title in the comments.

    Free to a good home: two by Ono

    When a creative type is sufficiently prolific, he or she is bound to have highs and lows in his or her body of work. Heck, sometimes results can vary wildly when a creative type just has two major credits in his or her portfolio. Sometimes you may get Leave it to Chance and then Justice League: Cry for Justice, or Imadoki! may sit on the same resume as Absolute Boyfriend.

    We ponder this uncomfortable juxtaposition of credits in this installment of “Free to a Good Home,” my intermittent manga give-away contest. Our specific subject is the prolific Natsume Ono, who currently has two works available in print and translation. And let’s just say that opinion has been divided on one of them.

    That would be her family melodrama not simple (Viz). Now, I liked this book quite a bit, and so did some other folks, but critical responses have been undeniably mixed:

    Leroy Derousseaux at Comic Book Bin:

    “It is unfortunate that much of not simple reads like one of those somnambulant alt-comix dramas (like Alex Robinson’s Tricked).”

    Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey:

    “As a result, not simple reads like a medieval martyr play, a grim catalog of one saintly individual’s bodily and emotional suffering. In a phrase: not recommended.”

    Tucker (The Factual Opinion) Stone:

    “While it ultimately achieves a bunch of specific objectives—most of them manipulative family horror tricks—it mixes those with a terrible framing story, an unwillingness to portray its main character as anything more than a brainless victim, and a nice chunk of ineptitude when it comes to dealing with its gaping plot holes.”

    On the bright side, Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso (Viz) (which I also liked) has received a somewhat gentler reception:

    Deb (About.Com) Aoki:

    Ristorante Paradiso has a simple story that provides a basic framework for Ono to showcase her memorable characters and allow them to interact in a way that feels natural and unhurried.”

    Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey:

    “Put simply, Ms. Ono, you won my heart back. I found Ristorante Paradiso an engaging story filled with complicated, true-to-life characters who I enjoyed getting to know.”

    Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney:

    “This is nothing at all like what’s coming out in the Jump or Beat lines, and pretty much exactly what I want to see from Viz’s Signature line. Manga I had no idea I wanted, but now suddenly want to see more of.”

    So here’s the drill: to enter, simply send me an e-mail mentioning two works by the same creative type, one that you liked a lot, one that disappointed you to some significant degree. You don’t need to limit yourself to the comics medium. Novels, movies, plays, TV series, songs, paintings, poems, whatever… if they hinge on the same artistic soul (say, Meryl Streep) and had decidedly mixed outcomes (say, Sophie’s Choice and She-Devil), they are fair game.

    You must be 18 or older to enter. I’m perfectly willing to ship internationally, though it will be cheap and it will be slow, so I’m just warning you right now. Deadline for entries is 12 noon Eastern Standard Time Sunday, April 11, 2010, and entries should be sent to DavidPWelsh at Yahoo dot Com. The winner will be chosen at random and receive copies of not simple and Ristorante Paradiso.

    Also, if you’re among the Ono early adopters and have a moment and an opinion, please cast your vote in the poll below!

    And the losers are…

    I’ve already fished through this year’s nominees for the Manga Taisho Award, and, like any sensible person, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the winner will be licensed by some generous publisher. But looking at the results, I found my sympathies extending to the losers. Surely it’s an honor just to be nominated, and there’s no shame in losing an award like this, but to have your exact ranking revealed? That’s… kind of harsh. So I thought I’d see what I could dig up about the bottom rung of Taisho candidates.

    Kazuhiko Shimamoto’s Aoi Honoo launched in Shogakukan’s defunct Weekly Young Sunday, then moved to Monthly Shonen Sunday. It’s about a young man who dreams of becoming a manga-ka. I have to admit that portraits of the feckless youth of struggling artists are not always for me, unless those portraits are contained in Chica Umino’s Honey and Clover (Viz). Still, there must have been a good reason to nominate it, right?

    Eriko Mishima’s Koukou Kyuji Zawa-san is being serialized in Shogakukan’s Big Comic Spirits and is about a girl who loves baseball, though I get the impression that it’s more for guys who like looking at girls who love baseball. Can anyone clarify this impression for me? (Speaking of manga about baseball, there was a flurry of excitement about this news from Viz.)

    Mitsurou Kubo’s Moteki is being serialized in Kodansha’s Evening. It’s about a 28-year-old who, after a lifetime of indifference from the opposite sex, suddenly becomes popular and determines to date all comers. I can’t tell you how many times that’s happened to late-twenty-somethings of my acquaintance.

    Akiko Higashimura’s Kuragehime is being serialized in Kodansha’s Kiss. It’s about a woman who moves to Tokyo to become a manga-ka and moves into a house full of hardcore fujoshi. It’s being adapted into an animated series.

    Okay, so I’m not left in a fever of anticipation for any of the above to be licensed, and my initial wish list is still intact. But just because I’m always interested in this kind of thing, I thought I’d run a poll to see which Manga Taisho nominees interest you the most. (Yes, I know that Viz has Bakuman.)

    License request day: Tezuka talk

    The folks over at ani-gamers have declared March to be Tezuka Month, so it seems appropriate to devote this week’s license request to the God of Manga. But, with so prolific an artist, where should one start?

    Okay, with me, that answer is always the same, but I won’t gripe if another title cuts in line. And the French have continued to lavish praise on Tezuka, with Gringo recognized as a finalist for the Prix Asie and Sarutobi honored at Angoulême. Over at The Comics Journal, Anne Ishi just wrote about a two-volume collection of Tezuka’s erotica, for heaven’s sake. And there’s so much more!

    What about Tezuka’s adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, published in one volume by Kodansha? Graphic adaptations of classic literature have always had a solid place in comics publishing.

    Akata, the French publishers of Tezuka’s Ayako, have also published the two-volume Barbara, which is about a messed-up novelist and the homeless girl who inspires him. (I think Akata’s cover designs are gorgeous, don’t you? Vertical’s are too, obviously, so I can’t wait to see what they come up with for Ayako.)

    Akata also published La Légende de Songoku, telling the tale of that foundational mythological monkey, and I’m as crazy about Tezuka’s comics for kids as I am of his out-there gekiga.

    Back on the twisted seinen front, isn’t that cover enough to make you curious about La Femme Insecte, published in French by Casterman’s Sakka imprint?

    Okay, enough muddying of the waters: what Tezuka titles would you like to see in English?

    Update: Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey is running a poll on this very topic. Go vote for your most desired, as-yet-unlicensed Tezuka titles.

    Update II: Daniella (All About Manga) Orihuela-Gruber offers her own wish list.

    And the winners are…

    Deb Aoki reveals the results of her 2009 Manga Readers Polls over at About.Com. Only one book that I voted for actually won its category, though one won in a different poll. I am clearly bad luck and extend my apologies to all of these fine books, and I also extend my congratulations to the winners.