Cover, More Details Released for Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus Volume 1 cover

Dark Horse has now revealed the cover for the upcoming first Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus. Out in August, the $19.99, 640-page volume will reprint the first two books of the series. (Previously, it was thought to be 3.) If you’re familiar with the series, this cover should look very familiar — it’s the cover to volume 1 with the tagline “your body is their business!” replaced by a banner that says “omnibus edition”.

Although it can be gory, I enjoy the series by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki. It’s a very dark comedy about a mis-matched gang of five kids with vague supernatural abilities who get involved with bringing rest to the spirits of corpses. The situations are often pointed in commentary on the modern condition.

 

Digital Manga Starts Overlapping Kickstarters

Digital Manga continues to ride the Kickstarter wagon. Although their effort to reprint the Finder series is currently struggling, they announced a new Kickstarter, making two they currently have in progress with more to come.

Finder yaoi promo

Finder (not the excellent SF graphic novel series) is a title by Ayano Yamane that Digital Manga calls “undeniably one of the best yaoi manga series in BL existence!” I’ve never heard of or read it, so I can’t speak to that. What I can say is that

  • they want $45,000;
  • they’re effectively charging $15 a book (when many of them are $12 or so on Amazon;
  • they titled the effort “Finder Vol. 1-6 Restock” when they list seven books as offerings, confusing the casual reader;
  • with 13 days to go, they’re less than 60% funded, with over $25,000 pledged

Kicktraq has them expected to only get 85% of goal, based on current patterns, but they also predicted that the Tezuka Ludwig B wouldn’t succeed, and that managed to pull together success at the last minute. The Finder books are due out in April.

Digital Manga promises that if their Finder effort succeeds, “we’ll immediately start working on the next yaoi kickstarter.”

Alabaster Kickstarter

The new Kickstarter is for another Tezuka project, Alabaster. It’s a two-volume series about a vengeful guy with invisible skin described as “darker than Tezuka’s usual fare… a thriller suspense revenge story that touches on the dark side of humanity and the extent one would go to get even.” This one will ship in September, if they get the $29,200 they’re looking for by the end of the month. (Phrased that way, it starts looking like publishing as extortion. “You want this series, hunh? Better pay up!”)

They’re a good 40% of the way there in the first week, so the forecast for this one looks much more promising. That’s in spite of them asking $36 for the two books in print, $6 more than the expected cover retail price. It’s another $4 if you also want the digital companion “filled with data on Japanese culture, history, and Tezuka-style references.” That’s a new twist, paying extra for the endnotes.

They’re also launching “Kickstarter collectibles” to encourage fans to pledge for all their campaigns going forward. It’s a “collector’s edition” laser-printed wooden coin. That’s deviously smart, and it’s available at pledges of $72 and up. If this makes it to $39,000, they’ll also reprint Swallowing the Earth with better paper.

Digital Manga, on the Alabaster Kickstarter page, acknowledge that they’re running multiple efforts at once:

As you may know, we at DMI have another Kickstarter campaign running along with Alabaster. We’re aware that it may seem like a lot of work to fulfill everyone’s expectations and publish the series out in time. There are separate teams in the office working on different campaigns but we are in close communication with each other to monitor each other’s progress. Since this is a publishing house, the production team is used to working on various projects at once while maintaining quality control, checking and rechecking each other’s work.

I’m glad that they remember they’re a publisher. Sometimes it seems like they aren’t sure.

 

Has Manga Become a Niche Category?

Ed Chavez, Marketing Director at manga publisher Vertical, has been answering a bunch of questions online recently, and his comments are quite informative.

One that particularly struck me was this answer to the question as to whether manga is becoming more niche.

Knowing that seinen still lacks, even though vocal fans ask for it, kinda tells me that readers either grow out of manga or only stick with a specific type of it… Essentially pigeonholing it (turning it into a niche).

Having talked to some comic/media critics I think it is becoming harder for them to get into manga also.

Will kids still consume the stuff? Sure. I mean, most manga pubs are seeing growth while stores are cutting manga shelves. But unlike the 00s, where a shojo boom introduced a whole new demographic to manga, there hasn’t been a culture-shifting movement recently to break manga out of this current position it has settled into.

I love manga. It kept me excited about comics at a time when I was ready to give up by giving me stories I was more interested in, particularly those starring young women.

However, I agree with what Ed is saying here. I find myself working harder to find series I want to follow. Many new releases seem to fall into pre-existing categories that have already demonstrated success: vampire romance, harem fantasy, adventure quests, and so on. It’s harder to find the kind of female-oriented story that so appealed to me (although Vertical is one of the few still releasing josei manga), or work aimed at adults.

There’s nothing wrong with being a niche — many products, such as superhero comics, have succeeded quite well for decades targeting a specific audience looking for more of the same they already follow. But with so much manga out there still untranslated, I’d like to see support for a wider age range of material. Why does the audience “grow out of it”? Is manga only selling now to customers who already like it?

 

Read Shonen Jump for Free for a Month

To celebrate the three-year anniversary of the launch of the English-language digital Weekly Shonen Jump, Viz Media is giving away four issues online.

Weekly Shonen Jump

Starting with the January 19 issue (today!) through February 9, you can read the magazine containing manga chapters for free at shonenjump.com or through these methods:

In addition to the U.S. and Canada, Weekly Shonen Jump and the special limited time promotion are available to readers in the U.K., Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand at ShonenJump.viz.com and through the Weekly Shonen Jump App for iOS and Android devices. Additionally in North America, the free Weekly Shonen Jump issues also will be available via the VIZ Manga App and Weekly Shonen Jump App for iOS and Android devices….

Each issue includes top titles One Piece, Naruto, Bleach; comedies One-Punch Man, Nisekoi, Toriko, and Food Wars; the supernatural action of Blue Exorcist and Seraph; sci-fi World Trigger; and the cardtastic action of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal!

The English translation is available same-day as Japan, and a year’s subscription is only $19.99 US.

 

*What Did You Eat Yesterday? Book 6 — Recommended

It’s so entertaining reading more about Kenji and Shiro’s relationship as it continues, with key moments involving food. Meals are such important family moments, and I love the emphasis on preparation and sharing of home cooking as a carrier of deep feeling, as well as the conversations the two men have over dinner.

My favorite scene of the entire series so far occurs in this volume, as the two spend time with another gay couple at a pickup baseball game. Shiro doesn’t have other gay friends, since his career as a lawyer (and his restrained personality) has kept him mostly closeted. He’s beginning to get to know this other couple, and to be more comfortable with being himself in public, although one of the friends is terribly rude when it comes to his bento choices.

The other, overly emotional man thinks “gay bentos have to look good!” so he’s made a cute, decorative lunch. Although Shiro’s bento is all brown, it’s much tastier — with fewer unusable leftovers and less work, demonstrating his cooking philosophy.

But first, Shiro and Kenji have an important showdown. Some readers have asked for more emphasis on the relationship, and they’ll love this chapter, as Kenji blatantly presents his jealousy of Shiro spending time alone with another guy. The two work it out, good to see, but more importantly, this scene allows Fumi Yoshinaga to demonstrate how beautifully she draws emotional reactions.

That isn’t the only compromise the couple makes, as we get to see Shiro celebrate his birthday in a way that will also make Kenji happy. Shiro also spends time with his housewife friend, who makes a key observation about how the two men handle money. It’s practical and yet touching, which sums up the series.

The food in the next-to-last chapter will give US readers an interesting perspective, as Shiro is gifted some amazing-looking steaks, but he says he’s “never cooked any” before, so he has to look up how to handle it. What he comes up with, with side dishes of potatoes, string beans, pickled vegetables, and cabbage-bacon soup, is a fascinating Japanese twist on a classic American meal.

I continue to recommend that Vertical get a knowledgeable cook to polish the translation when it comes to the recipes, since it’s laughable to read about “balls of pepper” (which I assume means peppercorns) and “a laurel leaf”, which we call a bay leaf. It is very cute, though, when Shiro, thinking through instructions to himself, punctuates several of them with “yum”. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

 

*Monster: The Perfect Edition Books 1 and 2 — Recommended

Monster originally ran from 1994-2001 in Japan, and Viz serialized it in English from 2006-2008. Those volumes, out of print, have been in demand for two reasons. First, author Naoki Urasawa is now better known in the US, winning a couple of Eisner Awards for 20th Century Boys and gathering a great deal of critical praise for Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka. Plus, Monster may become an HBO TV series.

So Viz has done the smart thing. They’re reprinting Monster in an upscale edition. The books are larger, matching the size of his other works in English; they have remastered pages and a new translation; and the volumes include color pages. Each contains the equivalent of two of the previous books, making for bigger reading chunks. They’re lovely.

The story is as involving as ever. Dr. Tenma is a promising young surgeon in Germany with a career on the rise. He’s also engaged to the daughter of the hospital director, who encourages him to think of his soon-to-improve position, because she likes the status. As part of playing the game, he’s asked to give up his research, work that might save lives, so he can ghost-write papers to make the director look better.

An early scene sums up the couple’s relationship, as Tenma tries to rationalize away his guilt at participating, unknowingly, in hospital politics, leading to the death of a poor man so a famous one could be saved, by saying, “I was following the director’s orders”. His fiancee responds, bluntly, “Some lives are worth more than others,” a chilling statement that haunts him.

That’s one reason, when ordered to leave a challenging operation on a young boy to save the life of a mayor whose funding is important to the hospital, he refuses — which ends up ruining his life. His promotion is rescinded, and his fiancee leaves him because his career has ended. However, nine years later, things have turned around for him, after the unexpected death of the director who blocked him.

He soon finds out why. The boy he saved turns out to be a serial killer. Tenma’s choice, while appearing morally preferable, has resulted in a number of other deaths. He gives up his work to search for this anonymous killer, trying to prevent more murders. He travels across Germany, looking for the now-young man and his twin sister. He wants to stop him to make up for saving the monster years ago.

Urasawa’s work is cinematic in its pacing, with excellent linework establishing the strong characters. His expressions of his characters are particularly revealing. Monster isn’t my favorite of his work — that would be Pluto, which is more tightly developed and with themes that resonate more with me. Monster is more of a thriller, and it spins out long for my taste, with some exaggerated plot developments. It’s not as thoughtful, but it’s more adrenaline-paced. Still, it’s worth a read.

I also have qualms with the base premise. Tenma does the right thing, and his life is ruined for it. I suppose the message is that no one can predict who’s going to turn out to be a psychopath, but it’s a bit random for my taste, attesting to an uncaring universe. Going back to the fiancee’s statement, the reader can’t help but think that Tenma’s life, with his ability to save others, IS worth more than that of Johan’s, since all he’s done is murder the undeserved. I don’t think we’re supposed to agree with her, though, since that privileged attitude is also what allows murderers to kill others.

Then again, the entire premise of a high-level doctor is that he can save lives, playing God by holding other’s fates in his hands. It’s certainly thought-provoking. Let’s see how I feel once I re-read the remaining reprints.

By book 2, Tenma is on the run. His asking questions about the various murders has tagged him as a suspect, and his Japanese identity in Germany makes him stand out. Johan is toying with him while Tenma tries to piece together what happened and where he was going, including investigating his childhood in an East German orphanage.

It’s fascinating to see how quickly everything Tenma valued, everything that made up his self-identity, can be replaced when he becomes a lone vigilante. He wanders, meeting a child whose most desired wish is simply a soccer ball and a country doctor trying to do what he can for the village patients. He’s not the only one after Johan; a white-supremacist organization is also looking for him to be the next Hitler.

Meanwhile, a police inspector who has sacrificed everything else in his life to solving murderers is on his trail, egged on by Tenma’s now-dissolute ex-fiancee. It’s rather like a 70s action show, with the big premise — Tenma hunts a murderer — allowing for smaller stories within the larger plot. (The publisher provided a review copy.)