CMX Manga: From Eroica With Love, Madara, Land of the Blindfolded, Swan, The Devil Does Exist

CMX Manga debuted in October 2004 from American comic behemoth DC Comics. The following are quick takes on five of their titles.

From Eroica With Love

I barely remember the 70s, but this art took me right back. Big feathered hair, Dorothy Hamill cuts, turtlenecks, rock star scarves, leisure suits, tight blue jeans, gold chains … it’s all here. Apparently, this is classic manga styling, affecting the looks of girls’ comics for decades. I found it lush but dated; the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack would be the perfect background music for this glam-inspired flashback.

From Eroica With Love Book 1 cover
From Eroica With Love
Book 1
by Aoike Yasuko
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The book starts as the story of a trio of teens with ESP, but art thief and aristocrat Eroica quickly takes over. He’s flamboyant, gorgeous (as we’re told often, in case we missed it), self-centered, and overall larger than life. In the second chapter, we meet his eventual rival, a German officer who cares about the military instead of art. The two end up, for various contrived reasons, pursuing the same items around the world.

Eroica also collects beautiful men, which makes all the other characters very nervous. I was curious, given the age of this work, how the homosexual aspects would be handled. There’s a certain amount of “gay panic”, where one character passes out after being kissed by another man (only to later pine after him once seduced). Another is repulsed by the idea, shown in such a way that the reader thinks “he protests too much” while waiting for them to end up together.

This almost strikes me as a shonen-ai starter book. Due to its age, the boy-love aspects are downplayed or used for humor. The pictures are pretty, but I lost interest before the end.

Madara

Madara Book 1 cover
Madara Book 1
by Otsuka Eiji
and Tajima Sho-u
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There’s a note on this book that explains that the creators were experimenting with Western-style formatting, so the book reads left-to-right even though it’s “authentic manga”. This is the most traditional of the CMX launch titles, including such elements as the child destined from birth for great things, the mysterious elderly mentor, magical gadgets and creatures, and the fan service panty shot.

Madara is a blacksmith’s apprentice with artificial limbs who discovers his fighting potential when his village is attacked. As his mentor passes away, he tells Madara that the eight pieces of his true body can be recovered by defeating the eight villainous generals of Emperor Miroku, establishing his quest.

The art is standard, although the extent of the violence and a few nude scenes give this book a Mature rating. Most of the villains getting killed are humanoid animals, not humans, which helps maintain a fantasy feel. With the predictable story formula, it’s more like a video game than a comic.

Land of the Blindfolded

Land of the Blindfolded Book 1 cover
Land of the Blindfolded
Book 1
by Tsukuba Sakura
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Kanade is afraid to touch people because sometimes when she does, she sees their futures. A new boy at school reveals to her that he can see people’s pasts, and the two debate whether she should try and change the future. She wants to prevent people she cares about from being hurt while protecting herself.

The various incidents are heavy on emotion, emphasizing courage and the importance of trying to make friends feel better. As the two become closer, the stories also deal with the significance of touch.

The book contains three chapters of the main story and two stand-alone short stories, which I preferred. The shorter length means they’re more focused, less smoke-like, easier to get one’s hands around. One is completely realistic, without the fantasy elements of psychic powers, while the other has more in common with the main story.

At first, I thought not enough happened in this book to justify continuing with it, but after rereading it in a more contemplative mood, I better appreciated its leisurely pacing and thoughtful emphasis on the characters. It’s almost dream-like, but with philosophical questions to keep it grounded.

Swan

Swan Book 1 cover
Swan Book 1
by Ariyoshi Kyoko
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Another time capsule from the 70s, this time focusing on ballet competition, with much less kitsch and more glamor. Young dancer Matsumi is invited to a prestigious national contest of historical importance. It’s her first competition, so she’s overwhelmed but tries to do her best.

Many little girls dream of being ballerinas, and this is a wonderful, idealized story for them. The more modern Forbidden Dance, in comparison, has dirty tricks and emotional instability amongst the contestants. Here, all the more experienced dancers help Matsumi with no thoughts of backstabbing. It’s all about the art and about representing Japan well internationally.

The graceful lines beautifully capture the elongated dancers’ figures, while the classic costumes give the story a timeless air.

The Devil Does Exist

The Devil Does Exist Book 1 cover
The Devil Does Exist
Book 1
by Takanashi Mitsuba
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This comedy shôjo, a high school romance, vaguely reminded me of Hot Gimmick, but without as much complexity or interest for me.

Kayano has a crush on basketball captain Yuichi. When she tries to give him a love letter, her shyness causes it to be intercepted by Takeru, the school bully. Then her mother announces her engagement to Takeru’s father, making the two kids siblings. Since his father is the school principal, Takeru is used to getting everything he wants, and even the teachers are afraid of him.

Both boys pressure and confuse Kayano, and at times, she seems more like a prize than a character. As you’ve likely guessed, Takeru and Kayano say they hate each other, but that’s only to camouflage their attraction.

Thin crossing lines on characters’ cheeks, used to indicate embarrassment, reminded me of pick-up sticks. The artists draws youthful faces on everyone, so the parents appear to be the same age as their children. The art is typical for the genre, full of closeups to show mood and emotion.

If there weren’t so many other good shôjo series out there, I’d be more interested in following in this series, but given the amount of quality manga available now, a new series faces a high bar. This one doesn’t reach it.

The Line as a Whole

This is a minor point, but the books don’t feel as pleasant to read as those from other companies. The paper stock seems old-fashioned in a way I’m having trouble pinning down; the closest I can come is that it reminds me of coloring books. Instead of feeling sleek and modern, the books feel chunky. Also, the tight bindings make the books hard to hold comfortably, especially in one hand.

Like many of their parent company’s superhero books, these books aren’t bad, just mediocre, doomed to lose out to flashier, more attractive competition.

10 Comments

  1. Ed Sizemore

    Johanna, I’m glad that you gave “Land of the Blindfolded” a second chance. I really like the slow character driven pacing. I also like that way the characters keep discussing the ethics of their psychic powers. As the series develops we get to see deeper into the personalities of these characters and I find them utterly fascinating. This series has really resonated with me. There just aren’t enough thought filled and thought provoking comics out there.

  2. I probably should have updated this piece a bit more — I did try Land of the Blindfolded Book 2, but I gave up after that. There just wasn’t enough happening, and there are so many other things I want to read more.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying it so much!

  3. Re: “From Eroica with Love”

    I wasn’t even around in the 70’s (or just barely, by one year), but I really like some of those old shoujo styles. I have to say, “Eroica” is one of my favorite manga at the moment. It’s just that hilarious and not serious at all. Least of all the story takes itself serious. It’s an action-comedy first and proto-shonen-ai only secondly (or at least the two core themes are presented equally enough to be interpreted either way). I won’t pretend it’s for everyone… it is a rather acquired taste, I’d suspect, but it’s definitely not boring.

    BTW, Johanna, although you probably know already: what happens in the first volume is just the series finding its final concept. The trio of teens (and the ESP) gets ditched right after vol.1 and the series then focuses exclusively on Eroica and the Major (and their underlings). On the other hand the tone of the series probably doesn’t change enough to make it interesting to you again, if you didn’t like anything of vol.1.

    Re: “Land of the Blindfolded”

    That’s the only other title of CMX’ starting line-up that I’ve been buying regularly. It’s just a nice quiet shoujo-mystery/romance. I like the art, too.

    Other titles I’ve been buying from CMX are “Monster Collection”, “Chikyu Misaki” and “Musashi #9″. I’ve been thinking about “The Devil Does Exist”, but I’ve just not gotten around to sampling it yet. The rest of their titles just don’t seem to be up my alley, though, or I already own them in other languages, like “Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne” (german) or “Gals!” (french).

    ~Sebastian

  4. Sebastian, I was told that the book changed after V1, but I haven’t had a cheap way to check it out for myself yet. (CMX titles don’t get carried much in the bookstores around here.) Re 70s flashback style: I’d still like to see someone translate and publish Rose of Versailles, which I understand is one of the founding titles of shôjo.

    There are 2 CMX books I like more than these, Musashi #9 and Gals!, so I’m planning to do individual writeups on them later. Thanks for your comments!

  5. hmmm i think im juss gonna comment saying that the graphic novel “the devil does exist” is awesome ahah lol (^_^) o yah n then the tawainese drama made based on it was pretty good too n i reccomen ppl to watch it =p mhmm thats all love u peeps =]

  6. [...] The author of Land of the Blindfolded has another story about a girl who sees things others can’t. In this case, Yukari sees wings on people who have the talent to be stars. [...]

  7. i’m very happy that you gave Lnadof the blindfoled book i love the story very touching!

  8. [...] comics. DC put out a Batman comic in that style called Death Mask a couple of years ago, and Madara, one of the CMX launch titles, was done with Western (left-to-right) formatting. Marvel tried [...]

  9. [...] manga is facing in the American marketplace”. CMX launched in October 2004, and while their early title list was uneven, lately, they had been releasing a number of enjoyable titles, [...]

  10. […] about a vampire who discovers he has a young human daughter. Sakura Tsukuba previously created Land of the Blindfolded and Penguin Revolution. (The publisher provided a review […]

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