Thanks to everyone who voted in this month’s Previews poll. A Devil and Her Love Song (Viz) and Durarara!! (Yen Press) pretty much tied, and plenty of people suggested that Devil is something I should read even without the prompting of democracy, so I’ll just go for both. I love it when a plan comes together, and when a plan falls apart in interesting and useful ways.

Speaking of plans, Alexander (Manga Widget) Hoffman is gearing up for the next Manga Moveable Feast. This installment focuses on the work of Natsume Ono. I believe I may have expressed a fondness for her work once or twice. I’ll have to check my files.

And, on the subject of Manga Moveable Feasts, I like it when the events cast a spotlight on a specific creator like Rumiko Takahashi and Fumi Yoshinaga. So, for this week’s random question, I’ll ask which mangaka you’d like to see at the center of a future feast?

Osamu Tezuka seems like an ideal candidate, because so much of his work has been licensed and translated and lots of it comes in affordable, one-volume chunks. I kind of suspect that his individual works are so different and dense that it might take a month-long feast to cover everything. Yuu Watase would offer a reasonable amount of variety, but some of her series are so very, very long that it might pose a barrier to participation. I’d actually really enjoy a Junko Mizuno feast, since she’s such a distinctive artist, and it might poke Last Gasp into publishing another volume of Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu, because I loved the first volume like I would my own emotionally disturbed child.



Previews poll for November 2011

It’s been a while since a new edition of the Previews comics catalog has offered enough dubious manga debuts for me to run a poll, but the latest has three! Here they are:

GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, written and illustrated by Tohru Fujisawa, Vertical:

The sequel to the groundbreaking manga Great Teacher Onizuka takes its titular lead back home to the rough and tough surfing heaven of Shonan. One of the most important manga in American history returns with a brand new mini-series.

I know a lot of people enjoy this franchise, but it’s consistently failed to interest me enough to ever read a page of it. This series is currently running in Kodansha’s Weekly Shônen Magazine.

A Devil and Her Love Song, written and illustrated by Miyoshi Tomori, Viz:

Meet Maria Kawai—she’s gorgeous and whip-smart, a girl who seems to have it all. But when she unleashes her sharp tongue, it’s no wonder some consider her to be the very devil! Maria’s difficult ways even get her kicked out of an elite school, but this particular fall may actually turn out to be her saving grace…

Maria’s frank nature gains her more enemies at her new school, but her angelic singing voice inadvertently catches the attention of Yusuke Kanda and Shin Meguro. Can these boys mend her hardened heart, or will they just end up getting scorched?

This actually sounds like I’d enjoy it a lot, so I might track it down even if it doesn’t win the poll. It ran for 13 volumes in Shueisha’s Margaret.

Durarara!!, written by Ryohgo Narita, characters by Suzuhito Yasuda, and art by Akiyo Satorigi, Yen Press:

At the invitation of an old school friend, introverted high school student Mikado Ryuugamine, yearning for a life less ordinary, makes his way to Tokyo. His destination: Ikebukuro, a hotbed of madmen living most unusual lives. On his first day there, Mikado encounters a cast of characters so colorful, the rich hues of his rural hometown pale in comparison! And as if the naïve stalker chick, the high school senior obsessed with the rather creepy object of his affections, the hikikomori genius doctor, the hedonistic information dealer, the strongest man in all of Ikebukuro weren’t enough…Mikado also chances upon a sight that leaves him rubbing his eyes and scratching his head — the Black Biker, who is black as night from bodysuit to license plate, soundlessly weaving through the streets like a figure out of an urban legend. Who is this “Headless Rider” on the jet-black metal steed!? And why does it seem like Mikado’s already gotten himself neck-deep in the insanity that is the norm in his new home!?

The cover’s really appealing, but the plot sounds like junior hipster hogwash to me. It’s running in Square Enix’s GFantasy.

So which do you think I should pre-order? You can use any standard you prefer, whether it’s to connect me to something I might enjoy or to drive me to the brink of madness. Cast your vote by the end of the day Friday.


A Bride’s Story, Vol. 2

For those who note that very little happens in Kaoru Mori manga, I must inform you that there is a pitched battle in the second volume of A Bride’s Story (Yen Press). Normally, this would be confined to Mori’s bonus comics and consist of a hyperactive, hilarious difference of opinion with her editor, but it actually happens in the narrative here.

Amir’s relatives try to reclaim the young woman, hoping to offer her in marriage for a more valuable alliance. But Amir is very taken with her young husband, as he is with her. The lesson here is to never underestimate a group of determined villagers with a big pile of bricks. The lesson is also that Mori can really stage an action sequence when she puts her mind to it. In addition to being exciting, these sequences shine with character-driven moments and really give you a sense of Amir’s new community.

Of course, me being me, I’m equally taken with the very long sequence where Amir’s sister-in-law teaches her daughter about embroidery and the family’s traditional designs. What can I say? I’m probably even more partial to scenes where next to nothing happens as I am to ones where lots does.

It’s a little hard to come up with anything new to say about a given volumes of Mori’s manga, because she’s so consistent. Her art is lovely, her attention to detail verges on hypnotic, and her clear fondness for her subject matter is infectious. I just love A Bride’s Story, maybe even as much as I loved Emma (CMX).


Upcoming 10/26/2011

Thank goodness Viz is taking the week off on the ComicList, because a couple of other publishers are really bringing it.

The first volume of Drops of God, written by Tadashi Agi and illustrated by Shu Okimoto, arrives courtesy of Vertical. This series has the interesting distinction of having been covered by dozens of newspapers prior to ever being licensed. (And those articles were subsequently picked up via service by hundreds of other newspapers.) This phenomenon occurred because the manga has boosted the wine industry wherever it’s been published. Will that occur here? Will Wine Spectator feature it in the next issue? Hard to say, but I’m really looking forward to reading this tale of a race to find a roster of legendary vintages. (I’ll probably stick with Three-Buck Chuck myself, but at least I’ll know what I’m missing.)

Vertical also unleashes the seventh volume of Kanata Konami’s Chi’s Sweet Home, so you can balance rare wine with adorable pets.

Not to be outdone in the cute and funny department, Yen Press delivers the tenth volume of Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&! I predict low-key, identifiable antics will ensue, and that I will probably giggle.

I also predict that my jaw will drop at the quantity and quality of pretty contained within the second volume of Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Story. I discussed this in more detail last week at Manga Bookshelf, though I couldn’t muster a Midtown-dependent pick this week. I did manage to provide a couple of Bookshelf Briefs.

Kodansha isn’t quite as impressive in its generosity, but it does offer the 11th volume of Koji Kumeta’s very funny Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, which is not to be overlooked. (In other Kodansha news, I thought the first volume of Mardock Scramble was fairly promising, and I barely escaped the first volume of the unbearably shrill Animal Land with my sanity intact, but more on that later.)

So, 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.


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.


Upcoming 7/20/2011

There isn’t a ton of material shipping via Diamond this week. Highlights are Natsume Ono’s professional debut, La Quinta Camera (Viz), which I reviewed here, and my current Pick of the Week, the sixth volume of Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ôoku: The Inner Chambers (also from Viz).

Another book on my radar is the third volume of Natsumi (Kitchen Princess) Ando’s Arisa from Kodansha. I quite enjoyed the first volume of this mystery series back when Del Rey released it, and it’s always been my intention to continue with it, but I haven’t had any luck finding it on bookstore shelves, so I guess I’m just going to have to buck up and order the second and third online. (I sometimes get fixated on the notion that I should be able to find a given series in a brick-and-mortar shop. I should probably never assume that about anything, should I?)

Speaking of books that aren’t all that easy to find, this week also sees release of the sixth and final volume of Time and Again by JiUn Yun (Yen Press). I really wish Yen would add this series to its iPad application, as I would happily pay to read it by those means.

I did read the ninth volume of Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&! via the app, and I found the experience entirely equivalent in terms of delight to the dead-tree approach, with the slight advantage that I didn’t have to kill any trees to do so. I wrote a (belated) blurb about the book for this week’s Bookshelf Briefs, also discussing the fourth book in Viz’s release of Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game, which collects the eighth and ninth volumes of the series. Someone else sharing the Adachi love this week is Christopher (Comics212) Butcher for Robot 6’s latest round of What Are You Reading?

Elsewhere in the world, The Japan Times unveils a rich vein of Osamu Tezuka manga made available to iPad users.

And for those of you wondering what Bryan Lee O’Malley would do next now that Scott Pilgrim (Oni) has reached its conclusion, we at least know (courtesy of Publishers Weekly Comics Week) that he’ll be publishing it through Villard.

Previews review July 2011

I know it’s probably inappropriate to rob you of your right to vote during the week if Independence Day, but there just isn’t enough new material to run either dubious manga or BL polls. There are a couple of new titles that look perfectly awful, but I can’t bring myself to run the risk of ever having to read either of them. And there’s only one new BL title due. As if to compensate for this, Previews is packed with tempting debuts and new volumes of beloved series.

The madness begins with Kodansha Comics providing all of the Sailor Scouts you can handle. There’s the first volume of Koji Kumeta Naoko Takeuchi’s Codename: Sailor V (order number JUL11 1144, $10.99), the prequel to Sailor Moon that has never been published in English, and there’s the first volume of Kumeta Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon itself (order number JUL11 1150, $10.99). Kodansha rather cheekily describes this as “the biggest manga launch of 2011 from any publisher.” I can’t really argue with the truth of that. Of course, if it’s so big, you might get the details on your web site.

I’ve never heard of this book, but I trust NBM, so I’m on board for Takashi Murakami’s Stargazing Dog (order number JUL11 1174, $11.99). This two-volume series originally ran in Futubasha’s Manga Action. It’s about a depressed loner whose life is vastly improved by the adoption of a dog.

Not content with one amazing debut, Vertical doubles up, first with Uumaru Furuya’ No Longer Human, an adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Osamu Dazai (order number JUL11 1258, $10.95). Furuya updated Dazai’s tale of an emotionally troubled man for his three-volume adaptation, which ran in Shinchosha’s Comic Bunch. Side note: Dazai’s novel played a key role in Mizuki Nomura’s excellent light novel, Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime (Yen Press).

If there’s been a manga series that received more attention from mainstream media than Tadashi Agi’s The Drop of God (order number JUL11 1259, $14.95), I can’t think of it. This wine-soaked seinen title follows the rivalry between a wine critic and his brother as they compete for the right to inherit the contents of their father’s legendary cellar.

Viz has a ton of new volume of great series, but the only noteworthy debut is a 3-in-1 release of X by CLAMP (order number JUL2011 1279, $19.99). I can’t find a link for it anywhere, but Viz promises a deluxe collector’s edition restored to its original orientation. As for the story itself, the end of the world is near, and super-powered people are taking sides in Tokyo. The series ran for 18 volumes in Kadokawa Shoten’s Monthly Asuka.

New volumes of ongoing series:

  • xxxHOLic vol. 17, by CLAMP, Del Rey, order number: JUL11 0986, $10.99
  • The Summit of the Gods vol. 3, by Yumemakura Baku and Jiro Taniguchi, Fanfare/Ponent Mon, order number JUL11 1106, $25.00
  • Black Metal vol. 2, by Rick Spears and Chuck BB, Oni Press, order number JUL11 1195, $11.99
  • Twin Spica vol. 9, by Kou Yaginuma, Vertical, Inc., order number JUL11 1260, $10.95
  • One Piece vol. 58, by Eiichiro Oda, Viz Media, order number JUL11 1271, $9.99
  • Cross Game vol. 5, by Mitsuru Adachi, Viz Media, order number JUL11 1286, $14.99
  • Kamisama Kiss vol. 5, by Julietta Suzuki, order number JUL11 1261, $9.99
  • Bunny Drop vol. 4, by Yumi Unita, order number JUL11 1300, $12.99

That’s kind of hefty! Start filling your change jars now!


Upcoming 6/1/2011

I love to travel, but I hate just about everything related to airports. Let’s just leave it at that and move on to this week’s ComicList, which is made bountiful by the presence of a single book.

It’s the English-language debut of Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Story from Yen Press. Many people, myself included, expressed an obsessive love for Mori’s Emma (CMX), and I think it’s safe to say that all of those people have been chomping at the bit to read Mori’s new series. I know I featured it in a license request seconds after I learned it existed, and early word seems to confirm that our anticipation will be rewarded. The sure-to-be beautiful period piece about an arranged marriage is currently running in Enterbrain’s fellows!


Making 2011 Eisner book

There’s just under a month left for eligible voters to cast their ballots for the 2011 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, so I thought I’d take another stab at evaluating the odds of this year’s nominees in the Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Asia. First, here’s a list of winners in this category from the last few years:

  • 2010: A Drifting Life, written and illustrated by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Drawn & Quarterly
  • 2009: Dororo, written and illustrated by Osamu Tezuka, Vertical
  • 2008: Tekkonkinkreet, written and illustrated by Taiyo Matsumoto, Viz
  • 2007: Old Boy, written by Garon Tsuchiya and illustrated by Nobuaki Minegishi, Dark Horse

And here are some manga titles that have won the Best U.S. of International Material before it split into two categories:

  • 2005: Buddha, written and illustrated by Tezuka, Vertical
  • 2004: Buddha
  • 2002: Akira, written and illustrated by Katsuhiro Otomo, Dark Horse
  • 2001: Lone Wolf and Cub, written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Goseki Kojima, Dark Horse
  • 2000: Blade of the Immortal, written and illustrated by Hiroaki Samura, Dark Horse
  • 1998: Gon Swimmin’, written and illustrated by Masashi Tanaka, Paradox Press

The last three years indicate a leaning towards stand-alone or shorter series, but looking at the history of the category shows that lengthy, sprawling series aren’t necessarily at a disadvantage. Voters have a perfectly understandable appreciation of the work of Tezuka. Given that all of the honored comics are by men and were originally published in magazines that targeted a male demographic, one might also indicate a certain leaning in that direction. One can also detect a leaning toward series that have loyal readerships in comic shops. It seems less true in recent years, perhaps partly because of a seeming contraction of manga sales in those venues.

Now, on to this year’s contenders:

Ayako, written and illustrated by Tezuka, Vertical: If we add the fondness for Tezuka with the recent leaning toward done-in-one titles, we would be very foolish indeed to discount the odds on Ayako. That said I don’t consider it one of Tezuka’s best works. I found it too bleak and too literal, but bleakness and literalism has never discouraged Eisner voters in the past, and the automatic (and deserved) prestige of a Tezuka title is considerable. Even voters who don’t read any comics from Asia likely know who Tezuka is, and name recognition is sometimes the voter’s best friend. Odds: 2 to 1.

Bunny Drop, written and illustrated by Yumi Unita, Yen Press: Marvelous as it is to see a josei title garner a nomination, I think the outcome here will be that it’s an honor just to be nominated. That’s in no way a qualitative evaluation of Bunny Drop, which is easily one of my favorite ongoing series currently in release. I just doubt that it has much of a crossover audience between readers who primarily enjoy comics from Japan or Asia and the Eisner voting pool at large. If the nomination has encouraged more people to read the series, then that’s as good as a win, in my opinion. Odds: 25 to 1.

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, written and illustrated by Moto Hagio, Fantagraphics: Ask a pool of manga pundits which mangaka suffers most from a shortage of work in translation, and I would wager that Hagio would be very close to the top of the list that emerges from that discussion. Like Tezuka, I think there’s a general level of awareness of and reverence for Hagio, even among people who may not have read her work. She’s a quality brand, in other words, and that standing has a certain force. Fantagraphics is also a quality brand, even among people who don’t read much that they produce, so an endorsement of Hagio in the form of publishing a handsome collection of her work, combined with Hagio’s own qualities as a creator and her well-received 2010 visit to the home convention of the Eisners may well work in her favor. Odds: 5 to 1.

House of Five Leaves, written and illustrated by Natsume Ono, Viz: I’m never quite sure how much my assessment of Ono as an emerging presence among the comic cognoscenti is accurate and how much is an experiment in the power of positive thinking, but I’m very pleased to see her nominated in this category, even if I don’t think she’ll win. House of Five Leaves is one of those titles that are intriguing at their beginnings but really gain in strength and force as they go along. If a voter was basing his or her choice on the first volume, I don’t know how that sampling would hold up against the other nominees. It’s not a flashy or immediately arresting series, lovely as it is. As noted above, ongoing series shouldn’t be discounted, but ongoing series that rely on cumulative artistic effect may not fare as well. Odds: 20 to 1.

20th Century Boys, written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa, Viz: Urasawa has three nominations this year (the others being in the Writer/Artist category and Best Ongoing Series for this title), which is about standard for him since Viz started releasing his work through its Signature imprint. He has yet to win. Perhaps the multiple nominations split the sentiment in his favor. Perhaps voters don’t like his work as much as nominating committees do. Given the sheer volume of nominations he’s received over the last five years or so, he should clearly have cemented standing as a quality brand by now, and his smart thrillers are as comic-shop friendly as anything in this year’s slate. I personally like 20th Century Boys best of any of Urasawa’s licensed works, so I would have no objection whatsoever to its winning. History suggests to me that it probably won’t. Odds: 10 to 1.

What do you think? If you could vote, which title would you choose? (In my perfect world, A Drunken Dream and Other Stories and Bunny Drop would tie.)