- Posted by Johanna on November 4, 2013 at 8:12 am
- Category: Books and Prose
- CREDITS: edited by Melinda Beasi
- PUBLISHER: Dark Horse; $15.99 US
CBLDF Presents Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices could have been used by the industry six or seven years ago, during the first rise of the manga trend, but better late than never, right? In this case, it’s definitely worthwhile to have waited to gather a more balanced, knowledgeable perspective.
Anyone who needs to know the basics of manga — the sub-categories, the speciality terms, the genre expectations, the pitfalls — will find this book, sponsored by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, essential. Each chapter explains a particular type of manga, including shonen, shoji, seinen, josei, yuri, and boys’ love. Specific target audience segments include librarians and booksellers who want to understand how to serve their customers interested in manga.
CBLDF Presents Manga is edited by Melinda Beasi, owner of Manga Bookshelf (although that isn’t mentioned — an “about the contributors” section would have been a useful addition). Several of the contributors also write for that site, including Katherine Dacey (who wrote the history chapter), Sean Gaffney (shojo), and Erica Friedman (yuri, dojinshi). Also contributing are Shaenon Garrity, former Viz editor (shonen, josei, boys’ love), and Ed Chavez, marketing director of manga publisher Vertical (seinen). All obviously know their subject matter and write informatively and clearly, with plenty of examples cited of genres, popular titles, and key artists within the age and gender groupings. I learned a lot.
The book begins with a history of the form, its connections with anime, and explanations of manhua/manhwa/OEL manga. Although it’s important information to know and an obvious starting point, it’s going to be of less immediate use to those seeking to put the material in the book to use in deciding how to stock shelves, for example.
In Chavez’s chapter, I found the praise for Dark Horse (this book’s publisher) and Vertical (his employer) a tad unseemly, since there were no disclaimers as to the associations included. His chapter also discusses key artists without indication of which of their works are available in English, an omission that makes it difficult to follow up. (Why would you talk about Naoki Urasawa without a single title of his listed when the books are readily available? The suspicious might wonder if the same choice would have been made if his titles were published in English by Vertical, since several of their releases are noted by name.) In contrast, Garrity’s josei chapter lists plenty of titles and imprints but doesn’t note that they’ve all ceased publishing.
Friedman’s yuri chapter takes yet another tack, discussing the concept more generally without reference to artists or representative works. Given the wide-ranging associations for that term, it’s a useful and valid approach. Her later section on scanlations, though, I found too short. It states bluntly how they’re all illegal, which is true, but a more nuanced discussion of why customers flock to them, the debate over timeliness and authenticity that often goes along with them, and suggestions on how to convert users would have made for a more thorough treatment of the topic.
Librarian Robin Brenner co-writes the final “Challenges” chapter with Garrity, and this lengthy section is the real meat of the book, discussing potentially troublesome manga subject matter (cross-dressing, sexuality, ethnicity, Christian imagery) in the context of being prepared for objections. It’s a useful catalogue to prepare decision-makers against potential outcry, putting works in the context of their country of original publication. The chapter concludes with an overview of legal cases involving manga.
CBLDF Presents Manga is a unique work. Its target readers will find it essential, while any others interested in the topic, no matter their background, will likely learn more about history and perceptions of the format. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)
- Posted by Johanna on August 10, 2013 at 3:33 pm
- Category: Manga News
Viz has announced at Otakon this weekend that they will be bringing Naoki Urasawa’s Monster (originally released in English from 2006-2008) back into print as 2-in-1 deluxe omnibus volumes. (If there’s clarification on what that means, I’ll update when I get an official announcement, which will likely be coming next week.) That takes the series from 18 to 9 books, a more reasonable number to collect and read.
With the conclusion earlier this year of Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, it’s a great time to make his suspense series, about a doctor who sacrifices his career to stop a mass murdering child, available again. Urasawa is immensely skilled at both character development and cinematic pacing, all told through gorgeously detailed artwork, and Monster, with its pulpy premise, is a better starting point for some readers than series like Pluto (although that’s my favorite of his work).
Also announced at the show, now that the series has just concluded, was a Bakuman box set that will include a minicomic and a double-sided poster.
Update: Anime News Network says that the Monster re-releases will be titled Monster: The Perfect Edition, priced at $19.99 US each, and debut in July 2014 with others following every three months.
- Posted by Johanna on January 5, 2013 at 6:50 pm
- Category: Manga Reviews
- CREDITS: by Naoki Urasawa
- PUBLISHER: Viz; $12.99 US
For those of you who, like me, were left a little confused by the conclusion of 20th Century Boys, you want this book, the first of a two-volume sequel series.
The first chapter summarizes the events we should remember (which I found immensely helpful). Everyone’s at the music festival, there’s a UFO attack masterminded by the Friend, who’s decided, screw it, he’s just going to destroy the world. Again. (At this point, I’m adopting a very Buddhist cyclical view of events, because that’s the best way to cope with the recurring plot structures of this series. There is nothing new under the sun, and we’re doomed to repeat even things we remember. More on that later.) The attack is stopped, at the cost of a few lives, and one character is redeemed at the end and given his fondest desire: to be one of the group.
It’s at that point that I began realizing that I might have been evaluating this story the wrong way all along. It’s one of the classic differences between Japanese and American society, the importance of fitting in vs. rampant individualism. Kenji isn’t the hero here, although to an American reader, he seems closest, having gone on a traditional solo quest — most of which we don’t see. The book is about protecting society, and how culture reinvents itself in the midst of tragedy and chaos, and how someone can become a world-changing villain just because they felt left out of the gang when they were all kids together. The Friend succeeds for so long because so many people want a group to belong to, after all.
Another of the deaths demonstrates the obvious — someone assumes that they’re known, that they’re important, when they’re really not. Still, his passing is something to be sad about, in my mind, because the death of one member diminishes us all.
So, I had lots of big thoughts, and that was only the first chapter, so I was already liking this a lot. I wasn’t caring as much about what happened as how the characters were affected. Although there’s another big threat to stop, this time an “anti-proton bomb”. Before that, many of the cast members, now gathered together, tell each other what happened, which helps either remind or clarify things for readers like me.
Much of the book involves flashbacks to when the cast were all kids together, which is the part Naoki Urasawa truly excels at. He gets right how children think and act and what they care about. If you want mind-blowing, an adult version of one character loops around and meets his kid version. There’s some kind of SF explanation for this, set up a while back, but the real point is that we have to face the people we thought we’d be against who we really became.
I blanch at the idea of even trying to describe how great Urasawa’s art is. It’s incredibly cinematic, not in the “I really wish I was making movies” sense or even in the “if I draw bigger pictures I can draw few of them” way. It’s like a movie in that the scope is immense, yet we’re skillfully drawn along by virtue of the artist’s framing choices to follow the emotional high points and feel the dread and fear and exhilaration and concern of the characters.
We don’t see a lot of Kanna this go-round, but she has one key scene where two significant (at least to me) things happen. The first is the quintessential crisis of spirit expressed by someone who had been caught up in big events for most of their lives: What now? What should she do now that her purpose is no longer necessary? The second is sillier — she brings a sick friend a comic book, which she reviews:
“These aren’t all that good… I like Japanese manga a lot better myself. I bet you do too.”
The most important lesson comes two-thirds of the way in, when we learn about the success, as a rule, of “the copy of the copy”, or the third person to try something. (Remember the theme of repetition?) I kept remembering Lewis Carroll’s promise, as I learnt it from Robert Heinlein, “What I tell you three times is true.” Or “third time’s the charm.” In the case of this story, that may end up referring to the number of times I have to reread it to understand all the nuances! (The publisher provided a review copy.)
- Posted by Johanna on January 2, 2013 at 7:25 am
- Category: Shopping Guide
A small week, but a good one, as we welcome the new year.
Top of my list is the Heart of Thomas omnibus volume from Fantagraphics ($39.99) that I had a chance to read last year. This solid hardcover contains the entire classic shojo series, and it’s a must-read for anyone interested in the development of the genre. It’s also surprisingly gripping in its own right.
Also of interest to fans of historic manga is the second, concluding volume of Message to Adolf (Vertical, $26.95). My copy should be coming soon, and I’m eager to see it, since I enjoyed the first book. This is the first Osamu Tezuka series I can recommend without a “ok, but you have to ignore …” caveat for bizarre plot choices or sexism. It’s a great starting point for those who want to try Tezuka.
If you’re interested in American comic history instead, you might want to check out The Complete Funky Winkerbean: Volume 1 (1972-1974) (Kent State University Press, $45), reprinting the still-going high school comic strip. It’s as dated as you’d expect, but that’s part of the charm, checking out 40-year-old gags, and there’s an informative piece about Tom Batiuk’s work by R.C. Harvey. Batiuk also includes his own lengthy autobiographical introduction, explaining how the strip came to be, based on his work as a junior high school art teacher. Nice presentation, although the Sunday strips aren’t in color. I enjoyed the flashback and learning more about the strip’s beginnings.
Fantagraphics also releases the paperback edition of Castle Waiting Volume 1 ($24.99), which reprints everything from the hardcover except for Jane Yolen’s introduction (and the ribbon book marker). The original hardcover was one of my best of 2006; it’s a gorgeous twist on fairy tales, concentrating on daily life instead of big events, which makes it charming.
I’ve already reviewed Glitter Kiss (Oni Press, $15.99), which is flawed but entertaining and very well drawn, and the manga Strobe Edge Volume 2 (Viz, $9.99). Manga fans will definitely want to note that today also brings the first volume of Naoki Urasawa’s 21st Century Boys (Viz, $12.99), the two-book sequel to 20th Century Boys. My review is coming soon, but a sneak peek reveals that things are explained a little more clearly, for those of us who were thoroughly confused by the end of the previous series, and much of the volume focuses on flashback stories to the characters as kids. That’s one of Urasawa’s strengths, the way he captures their behavior so clearly.
What are you looking for today?
- Posted by Johanna on October 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm
- Category: Manga Reviews
- CREDITS: by Naoki Urasawa; adapted by Akemi Wegmuller
- PUBLISHER: Viz; $12.99 US
It’s been a long time since I’ve followed a manga series to this length, and honestly, I probably need to reread the whole thing in bigger chunks to appreciate the subtleties before talking about it in depth. (But who has the time?) And although the series concludes with these two books, it’s not really over — that will happen in the two-volume followup 21st Century Boys.
Even when I’m not so sure how far we are along in the story, or what the status is of the various conspiracies, the art is amazing, as I’d expect from Naoki Urasawa. His flow, pacing, and character expressions are so cinematic, but not in the sense that he wants to be working in some other medium than comics. It’s that he thinks through how to guide the reader’s emotional reactions and portrays what’s needed to accomplish it, beautifully.
I will say that Book 21 really encapsulates the theme that began the series, the idea that the right, rebellious music can change the world. It opens with a crazy DJ, left broadcasting over the radio without even knowing if anyone can hear him. He encounters another character we haven’t seen for a long while, all under an atmosphere of looming dread made all the more creepy by being set in an abandoned cookie factory. What could go wrong in a sweet place? A lot, it turns out, since evil comes from people. However, the DJ also demonstrates that in some cases, it’s not too late for a second chance.
Since we are getting near the end, many former cast members reappear, including one of my favorites, the former gangster priest we met in Book 15. At first glance, this interlude is frustrating, since it doesn’t directly relate to the core group we think we’re following, but at this point, the story is really about what life would be like in a totalitarian regime and how different character types would react.
One immensely important scene (I think) happens a third of the way through this volume, as the returned Kenji, now a modern post-apocalyptic take on the wandering troubadour, reacts to the news that the Friend has announced that the new Expo will be held forever. Kenji says,
You can’t hold an Expo forever, jeez. [...]
Our future awaited us there… our 21st century…
Only thing is… I didn’t get to go…
It was almost like I’d gone, I got to know it so well…
I practically lived there in my imagination.
For Expo, I read future, and his statements also relate to the problem of growing up. You can’t keep anticipating it, and you can’t keep living in your fantasy of what you’re going to be. At some point, you have to cope with where you really are, no matter how well it matches (or fails to match) your dreams. It’s also fascinating to see how many different people remember events differently, focusing on what caused most pain to them, even to the extent of coming up with conflicting stories for the same situation.
20th Century Boys is like the world’s biggest action movie, one that extends a lot longer than two hours but keeps ramping up the suspense the whole time. Just like one of those, there are all kinds of people we keep checking in with, until we finally can’t wait to see the final confrontation.
In Book 22, it’s Kenji’s song that prevents fear in the populace and rallies them to a place where they might be safe. Music is what brings people together and what takes people back to their most authentic selves. I’m not entirely sure what happens at the end, although I do like the way an honest representation of understanding your own mistakes short-circuits those who want a more dramatic confrontation of good and evil.
- Posted by Johanna on October 6, 2012 at 9:47 pm
- Category: Shopping Guide
Books I Recommend You Consider
|The Adventures of Superhero Girl||Resident Alien Volume 1: Welcome to Earth!|
|by Faith Erin Hicks||by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse|
|Dark Horse, $16.99||Dark Horse, $14.99|
|OCT12 0042, due February||OCT12 0046, due February|
|As reported last month, Faith Erin Hicks’ charming webcomic is coming to print … and unlike the self-published edition, this time in color. It’s funny, in how it looks at how a young woman with superheroic powers would really act. She can do amazing things, but she still worries about boys and looks and what to do with her life.||I enjoyed the comics, issues #0-3, reprinted in this slim volume. Not sure I need to buy it again, but if you haven’t read it yet, it’s a nice little mystery with some sharp small-town observations.|
|Global Frequency||House of Secrets Omnibus|
|by Warren Ellis and various artists||by Steven T. Seagle, Teddy Kristiansen, and others|
|Vertigo/DC Comics, $19.99||Vertigo/DC Comics, $75|
|OCT12 0299, due January||OCT12 0297, due February|
|Now that the two previous collections of the 2002 anthology science fiction series are out of print, DC is sensibly bringing the series back into print as one big volume. Some of it is terribly dated, but some of it is still insightful. I’d read more — wish the comic would come back.||I guess printing technology has progressed to the point that you can do a 750-page hardcover collecting over 27 comics without it falling apart. I’d forgotten about this odd offshoot, titled to maintain a brand but with some unusual characters and distinctive art. Odd what books are being made these days — it’s a real “clean out the file cabinet” approach sometimes.|
|The Perhapanauts: Treasure Obscura||Naoki Urasawa’s 21st Century Boys Volume 2|
|by Todd DeZago & Craig Rousseau||by Naoki Urasawa|
|Image Comics, $9.99||Viz, $12.99|
|OCT12 0490, due December||OCT12 1259, due January|
|Image calls it Volume 2, I call it Volume 4, but the first two trades from Dark Horse are now Image’s V0, so whatever. I’m still glad to see more Perhapanauts stories, including the ones previously online-only.||I’m ready for the final final volume, since 20th Century Boys is over but there are still many questions to answer. This book promises to explore how the Friend became evil, the core of the story.|
Two months ago, Bluewater decided they would no longer work with Diamond. Their right, of course, although it makes them even more irrelevant than they already were. This month, in their cancellation list, Diamond lists the remaining orders for Bluewater titles as code 10, which means “Supplier Out of Business”. Advance notice of Bluewater’s fate, or just a last jab by the distributor?
I have figured out what Marvel Now! means, now that I see it took 38 pages of the Marvel Previews to get to an issue numbered over #4. (Journey Into Mystery #647 — when they jumped, they jumped big.) They are restarting most series, but they didn’t want to make that obvious, probably for fear they’d be accused of using DC’s tactics.
My, those weren’t very many recommendations, and all from big publishers. I’d feel discouraged about things if it weren’t the end of the year, past the holiday selling season.
- Posted by Johanna on April 24, 2012 at 9:09 am
- Category: Manga News
It’s time for the Manga Moveable Feast again! This month, the topic is manga published by the Viz Signature line, hosted by Kate Dacey at The Manga Critic (and bless her for doing it, since she just served as host in February for the Osamu Tezuka MMF). There are a huge number of possible titles to cover, as Kate has listed them in her call for participation. Kate has also posted an insightful history of the imprint.
Here are some of the titles we’ve previously reviewed here at MangaWorthReading.com:
- Afterschool Charisma
- All My Darling Daughters
- Bokurano: Ours
- Children of the Sea
- Detroit Metal City
- House of Five Leaves
- I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow
- Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit
- Kingyo Used Books
- Maison Ikkoku
- Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys
- Naoki Urasawa’s Monster
- Oishinbo: A La Carte
- Ooku: The Inner Chambers
- Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka
- Ristorante Paradiso
- Saturn Apartments
- What a Wonderful World!
- Posted by Johanna on March 23, 2012 at 3:41 pm
- Category: Manga Reviews
- CREDITS: by Naoki Urasawa; adapted by Akemi Wegmuller
- PUBLISHER: Viz; $12.99 US
We’re either four or six (depending on how you count the two-volume 21st Century Boys, or whether Viz intends to include it as part of this series) books out from the finale of the now-longest manga series I’ve stuck with, and I’m feeling new excitement catching up on events.
The brief opening sequence reminds us of just how mindlessly lethal the Friend is, as well as establishing uncertainty about his identity (again!) and reminding us of the directness of Kanna’s mission to kill the world leader. It’s all conversation, among old men (and a girl) in boring business rooms, but somehow it’s strikingly dramatic. That’s what keeps me coming back to Naoki Urasawa’s work: his artistic skill. Even when I’m crazy ready for events to reveal themselves and frustrated with the length of the story, his detail and character expression are masterful and worth studying.
His digressions are often striking in themselves. For example, an old man, who might be Kenji, and the cop Chono are fishing. I’m not sure why, or how exactly this connects up with the main story, but it’s a great excuse for a conversation that encompasses the value of family memory and the need for vacation and how much more kindly we think of people after they pass.
This volume provides a number of short scenes catching up with characters from various points in the series. Usasawa is assembling his pieces across the board, ready for the final sweep. Except a board game isn’t the right metaphor, since that assumes a known set of rules and a certain mechanical progression. That’s far from what we get with Urasawa. Just when you think you know what’s coming, he’ll digress into bowling or the nature of reproduction in creating art or a new character introduction. I’m never sure who’s truly new and whom I’ve just forgotten about, but in this case, there are at least two: a shady cowboy-looking border smuggler and a tin-pot tiny dictator who fancies himself evil.
The major plot thread contained in this volume involves Chono and his companion trying to get back into Tokyo, which involves obtaining a transit permit in some fashion in a criminal-infested border town. (I just recently rewatched Casablanca, with its story involving missing letters of transit to eventually get the bearers to America, so I couldn’t help but notice the similarities. There’s also an aspect to the scary border fortress that reminded me of Labyrinth, but to say more would spoil a secret.) This segment is another example of how Urasawa takes an aspect of life under wartime occupation (or perhaps more accurate to say life under a tyrant) and spins it out into a vivid portrait, making it clear to the reader what it would be like to live in such devastated circumstances.
There are also surprising connections revealed in flashback, causing me to marvel at how elegantly certain strands come together. I was reminded of the power of the group, seeing true democracy in action as various strangers rallied together with their unique abilities and, more importantly, a willingness to fight for what they wanted. I get the feeling we get Urasawa’s summary of the story late in this volume, in the midst of a thrilling showdown, when one character tells another, “It’s hard being evil. It’s a lot easier being a good guy.” (The publisher provided a review copy.)