Monday, December 31, 2012

Lovely Complex

About a month ago I asked, via tumblr, what people thought was the best shojō manga they had ever read to get some ideas for good older shojō to read for the shojō marathon I find myself currently going through. I, sadly, only received one response; which tells you how popular I am on tumblr. Anyway, the response I got was Lovely Complex, or Love Con, by Nakahara Aya. After I finished reading Kōkō Debut, which was also wonderful, I started reading Love Con, watched the anime, and then I reread it. I can't get enough of this story!

I've heard and read other readers say that both manga titles are what they would title "classics" in the shojō genre, so I decided that I would read both and see if I agreed or disagreed.

Well, here's what I thought. This won't be a long post, but I just wanted to throw my 2 cents in with the rest of the community.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Ouran High School and the Ideal Foreigner in Japan

The reverse harem has become almost ubiquitous in shojo manga in the last 10 years. After the whole manga and anime world was glutted with shonen harem plot lines, it was a refreshing change to see the guys act like school girls all trying to get the same girl. All that embarrassment and obliviousness by the heroine was just a joy to watch. I can't remember how much I giggled as a high schooler over those plots.

Do you guys remember this anime? I think it exploded in the US and I remember dozens of anime conventions that honored Ouran cosplayers. After the anime ended, I tried to stay up with the manga, as it wasn't finished when the anime was produced, but I lost interest (and forgot) in checking up with it every month. So I kinda knew how the ending was suppose to go, but I really didn't at the same time. Now that I've gone back and reread the series, there was one main thing that I noticed; Tamaki as the ideal foreigner experience in Japan.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Shojō Titles, Takano Ichigo and Orange

As most of you know, I don't usually write about manga that has not finished serialization. But I just cannot help up write about Takano Ichigo's newest manga Orange. Some of you may have seen her other successful shojō title, Yume Miru Taiyou (though it has yet to be finished scanlated), but it is Orange that I predict will be called her masterpiece. I can quite honestly say, I think it is the best shojō manga I have ever read. And it's not even 10 chapters in!

I've previously posted about other shojō titles such as, Strobe Edge, Kare Kano, Bokura Ga Ita, and 7 Seeds among others, but I am much more of an adamant fan of shōnen titles. As you can see from the other articles I've written, the shōnen titles overpower the shojō titles by a solid 2/3 to 1/3. Part of this might be because of that mini Jump marathon I did, but I would mostly blame it on my personal tastes. So, I am going to focus on some shojō titles to give this blog, and my brain, a little balance.

While I will be the first to tell you that I don't and haven't read many "classic" shojō titles, I can tell you that I have heard of them and usually know the general plot lines and tropes that they carry. I haven't read Nana and I've actually never read Hana Yori Dango, but I know almost everything about them because they are so popular and I just cannot stop hearing about them. Not even those, I can probably go into detail on the different tropes that shojō manga relies on. For example, Kimi ni Todoke, Suki itte Ii na Yo, and Hiyokoi all have the same trope of the popular guy in class, who is usually very "refreshing" and nice to everyone, getting together with the shy outsider. Of course, the trope is used differently between all three of them based on the intended readership. Kimi ni Todoke, which captured national attention with not only a 2 season anime, but also a live action adaptation, is easily one of Betsuma's most popular manga and the one aimed at the widest audience. Whereas Suki is aimed at mature audiences, as it is a josei title and Hiyokoi, published in Ribon, is for the middle school crowd.

So, without further ado, I shall get started on what my thoughts and feelings are on Takano Ichigo's manga Orange.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ookiku Furikabutte and Why it Might be the Best Baseball Manga

For those of you who don't know, baseball might actually be the all Japanese sport.

Let me explain that statement a little bit. If you have ever lived or traveled in Japan, you would be very aware of how popular baseball is in this country. Every major city has a major league team and with those teams come HUGE cheering sections who have songs for each player on the team. Indeed, in the last several years Japanese baseball players have been infiltrating the American Baseball League ranks and receiving MVP trophies; which was huge in Japan. Ask a young kid in Japan who their favorite baseball player is and they are very likely to tell you Matsui or Yuu Darvish, who both endorse everything from baseball equipment to socks. Those who make it into the MBL are huge stars in Japan and they are the players who legitimize Japanese success in the sport.

Now you might be asking yourself, 'Why is baseball so popular in Japan?' and the answer to that question would fall to the strategy, team yet individual play, and manga. Yeah, you read that right. I said manga is probably a major reason why boys want to play baseball and girls want to be managers. You only have to look so far as to Adachi Mitsuru and his baseball manga to understand this statement. Touch was a phenomena in Japan, and it still plays a part in Japanese high schools. The opening theme song for the Touch anime is still played at koshien (the baseball stadium that holds the high school baseball tournament) every year and all brass bands can play that song. There were even news segments that were titled, 'Looking for the Real Minami' because her character became the scale for the female ideal in this country. There is not a single person over the age of 30 who did not read the manga or watch the anime. Now that Adachi has serialized a semi-sequel to Touch, the manga is being republished with original covers and is undergoing a revival of sorts.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, this post is not about Adachi Mitsuru and how he can be claimed by some to be the best baseball mangaka. In fact, it is about and completely different type of baseball manga and my argument that it is the best baseball manga that has been produced in the last 20 years.

Ookiku Furikabutte.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Decline of Straight Battle Manga?

Has the end come for Jump battle manga? Or a better question, have the Jump battle mangas become too long? Have they been turned into cash cows for a publishing company that is first a business and second a gateway to one of, if not the, most influential and successful manga magazine? When has a manga gone on for too long for the backlash to set in?

These are all questions that I have seen floating around on the net and thought about personally from time to time when I contemplate what remains popular in certain manga magazines and why. Within Jump alone there has been a shift in what genres are gaining attention and popularity. Kuroko no Basuke, the relatively new Haikyuu and one of the latest manga that started serialization, Cross Manage, all indicate that sports manga are back on the raise. Where as the pushing of Nurarihyon no Mago and Bleach to finish indicates, to me, that the straight battle manga are losing popularity and fans are responding accordingly.

Of course, the continued success of Naruto and One Piece would lead others to believe that straight battle manga are still popular. While I would agree that they are still popular, we have finally reached market saturation. Very similar to the vampire boom in American pop culture, I think that Jump has seen that the straight battle manga are finally seeing a decline and a slight backlash. Just look through tumblr and twitter to see the mountainous amounts of negative comments each week for Naruto. Without fail I see a comment from a loyal reader that left the story because it was just getting nowhere and they felt slightly betrayed by Kishimoto for ruining a good plot/series.

The main reason why I started to feel this way was because of the recent addition of Cross Manage to the Jump magazine. Looking at the list of manga that has come out this year in Jump:

  • Haikyuu!!
  • Kurogane
  • Ansatsu Kyoshitsu
  • Takamagahara
  • Retsu Date Senpai
  • Cross Manage
  • Koisome Momiji
  • Sensei no Bulge
  • Nisekoi
Out of these titles, there are only 3 that I would name a straight battle manga and 1 of them has already been cancelled and the other 2 I haven't really seen much buzz about. This could also be do to the fact that they are all so very new and they have not gained a larger following at the moment. Yet there are 2-3 sports manga that have been serialized in this last year along with a surreal classroom fight and a romantic comedy. Haikyuu!! seems to be doing well as Jump is pushing it not only in the magazine but on it's website as well. With the recent addition of Cross Manage that semi subverts the standard female-manager theme, I would say that Jump themselves might be seeing less battle manga submissions, or they are being much more careful in what battle manga they find compatible with their audience. I believe this is Jump/Shueisha jumping on the rising success of Kuroko no Basuke; which just ended a very successful anime season. 

All of this being said, I know that battle manga are still going to rule the shōnen manga world. Shogakukan has Magi coming out this next week as an anime Conan still has a huge fan following. Kodansha has Fairy Tail and Code:Breaker, but Baby Steps, Area no Kishi, and Hajime no Ippo have a huge presence in their Shonen Magazine. I have seen a subtly growing shift in the amount of battle manga that is coming out. For example, Shogakukan jumped on Arakawa Hiromu's slice of life Silver Spoon for weekly publication to huge success. 

As you have probably been able to deduce from reading so far, I am extremely happy about this shift. As exciting and engaging as straight battle manga can be, there is just a point where they become redundant and too much. I have long been of the opinion that the big 4 (Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Reborn) have gone on for a little too long. After so many years, it becomes an issue of continued quality for me. The mangaka is allowed to throw anything that they want into the story (i.e. Prince of Tennis) and the whole story starts to deteriorate into a giant mess of characters, unfinished plot points, and fighting. In fact, I use Prince of Tennis as the measuring stick for when a manga has gone on for too long. 

And yet, there is now a Shin Prince of Tennis where the mangaka is again allowed to do whatever he wants, but now it's in Jump Square. Animate stores and the online shop are overflowing with merchandise girl fans can buy of their favorite character without really caring about the story that goes into it. This is when a great manga has been turned into a Shueisha cash-cow. 

Have the big 4 turned into cash-cows? I would have to say yes for Naruto and Once Piece. We could even add Gin Tama into this mix because it just never seems to end either. Walk into any souvenir shop in Japan and you will find city themed cell phone charmes with all of Naruto, Luffy, and Gintoki playing with deer in Nara, eating takoyaki in Osaka, and climbing the Tokyo Tower. One Piece has so much stuff that they have opened a whole store completely dedicated to it. Again, another cash-cow.

I have always been of the opinion of quality or quantity. I want my manga to be the best that it can be without any artificial flavors, colors, or dyes making the product less organic. Give me Death Note and Bakuman quality plot, drawings, and pacing over open-ended manga that take up more time than they should. I cannot be the only reader who feels this way. 

Review! Comment! I would love some discussion on this issue! 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Thoughts and Ideas on Kubo Tite's Bleach Manga

It has been well over 2 years since I last read this manga. I remember eagerly awaiting each chapter and marathoning the anime when I was a senior in college. I loved it. The characters, music, plot, designs, everything about this manga appealed to me and I just could not get enough of it. Of course, I am not a very patient person, so I marathoned the anime, streak read the manga, and then got tired of waiting for the next chapter to be released. It would slip out of my mind for a while, pop up, and then I would repeat the same process all over again.

And yet it still lives. Go to any anime convention in the US, and probably anywhere, and you will find a group of Bleach cosplayers who either planned it, or all came separately and found each other. The designs are simple, yet detailed enough that a good cosplayer can truly recreate that character. In a lot of ways, that reminds me of Kuroko no Basuke. Both Kubo and Fujimaki design their characters the same way; which denotes that Fujimaki was influenced by Kubo in some way. Though that is just conjecture and has no hard evidence behind it. 

The further into this JUMP manga marathon I get, the more I enjoy it. When you read a book or series that you liked when you were younger it usually makes you a little horrified at the person you used to be. Surprisingly, I've really enjoyed rereading this manga. It never made me feel nostalgic or shake my head at my past self and start questioning why I liked it. I was able to easily reenter that world and laugh at areas I had forgotten or hadn't read yet. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bakuman - The Non-Mainstream, Mainstream Battle Manga

I was living in Japan during the height of the Death Note boom. My students would come in imitating L in their seats during class and would pull out their copies of the manga in the lobby as they were waiting for class to start. A bilingual student and I often talked about manga, anime, and light novels in class because I openly talked about how I liked them to get my students to talk to me. One of the best decisions I ever made because the students didn't feel embarrassed telling me their favorite series and characters. Since most of their favorites were mainstream hits like Naruto, One Piece, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Bleach it was easy for me to jump, pun unintended, into a conversation with them. So when I confessed to never having read Death Note I got gasps and numerous remarks about how I HAD to read it. Needless to say I did, and that was where I was introduced to the glory that is the Obata-Oba mangaka duo.

It is always the sophomore effort that gets the most scrutiny from fans and critics. People can pull out an amazing work and get lucky with the popularity, but it actually takes skill to pull out that same popularity with a different idea and setting without failing to the hype and the inevitable comparison. Bakuman is a one series wonderland. I'm not sure how else to describe how amazingly wonderful and enjoyable this manga is. Not only was it a genius move by the veteran manga duo of Obata and Oba, it celebrates everything that fans enjoy about manga. This manga is compelling, funny, relatable, and with a large cast of entertaining and wonderful characters. A plot filled with suspense, comedy, tension, intrigue, and romance brings all of those characters and that world to life in a way that I have yet to see in a Weekly Jump manga series.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Eyeshield 21 - Shōnen Jump Manga Marathon #2

To continue with my Shōnen Jump Manga Marathon, I picked an older manga that is also related to the post that I made last week about Kuroko no Basuke when I quoted a forum post comparing the characters and their "super skills". Even before I made the last post, I knew that Eyeshield 21 was going to be the next Jump manga I read specifically because I wanted to weigh in on the comparison. The Eyeshield 21 anime came out while I was in college and the manga was serialized from 2002 - 2009 in Weekly Shōnen Jump. Spaning 37 volumes and 333 chapters all together, the manga focuses on Sena and how he becomes involved with his schools American Football Club; which consists of 3 members including himself. The manga-time for this story is only a year, or a little less than.

As an American, I was tickled pink by the fact that there was a manga that dealt with American Football. From what I understood American Football is like Aussie Rules Football, way more popular in their home countries and generally ignored by the rest of the sports loving world. Was I wrong about that? Soccer is still king my friends.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Shonen Sports Manga and Kuroko no Basuke

As you all saw for my last post, I read the Kenshin manga in anticipation for the live action Rurouni Kenshin movie coming out at the end of this month.  While I was reading the manga, I got to thinking, 'How long has it been since I read any Jump manga?' I stopped reading and thought about it for a while and I decided that it had been a solid couple of years since I had put Naruto on hold because I had caught up with all the scanlations I could get my eyes on. 

Then when I thought about it a little harder, I admitted to myself that I really hadn't read other Weekly Jump manga besides Naruto. Case and point is that it took me many years to actually read Rurouni Kenshin or Shaman King, I gave up on Prince of Tennis when I was in college, I never read Eyeshield 21, and when the anime for Nurarihyon no Mago was a flop I stopped reading. These titles are really the only Weekly Jump manga I've ever read. Prince of Tennis was probably the first one I got into and then Naruto followed, but I started those back in high school and that was almost 10 years ago now. 

Being a self-proclaimed manga scholar, I am actually a little disappointed in my own readership. A couple years ago, I was talking with a friend about how we both knew and could recognize One Piece cosplayers and knew of the manga, but we had no idea what it was about. Later that same friend told me she was going to watch the anime since, 'It's so popular that I feel I need to watch it to really understand why and have an opinion on it'. Weekly Jump manga have the most readership and usually the largest audience. Look at how Naruto and One Piece are all over Japan. Not just in manga and book stores, but there are Naruto, Gintama and One Piece goods in souvenir shops, Uniqlo makes branding deals and sells special graphic t-shirts, and travel agents book trips for families on a replica Lufy ship. They have become a central point in Japanese popular culture and not only for the original manga readers. 

Now that I have opened my eyes to this error in my read habits, I have decided that a marathon of Weekly Jump manga was in order. I will be looking at manga that has been or is currently being serialized in the Weekly Jump magazine. I will mostly be looking at the manga that is currently being serialized and also has scanlations out on the Internet. So, I started with the manga that had the most recent anime, Kuroko no Basuke.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rurouni Kenshin and Historical Redemption

At the end of this month, the long awaited live action Rurouni Kenshin movie will be hitting theaters in Japan. Never before have I seen such a large response from the anime and manga community over a live action adaption. Yet with Kenshin being such a beloved manga for the community and having hoards of fans not only in Japan but in America, it is unsurprising that this movie is getting people to sit up and take notice.

With the sheer amount of attention and anticipation this movie is receiving, it can only be concluded that this manga has keft a strong impression on the manga reading community. Since I actually hadn't read the manga before, it was pretty obvious that I wouldn't be able to jump into any type of discussion on it's merits and failings without actually reading it. At around 255 chapters, it was a lot of reading and I'll admit to gorging myself on it and then having to stop for a while to pick it up again.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Guilty Pleasure that is Shōnen Jump and Which Can You Still Not Get Enough Of?

I have a confession to make, I have a very large soft spot for Shōnen Jump manga. Now I know that I've made more than one mention about how I find it frustrating that manga like Naruto and One Piece continue on this slow decaying cycle of power-ups and never ending plots. But, I for one will never tell you that they are not entertaining and a joy to read. Kinda like romance and military trillers for the American publishing world. These genres are guilty reads for some people and it keeps bringing them back decade after decade.

The sheer evolution gold that comes out of Shōnen Jump and Shueisha is mind boggling when put into scale. Shōnen Jump itself has been published since 1968, of course to compete against Shōnen Sunday which was very popular and successful. I mean Naruto has been running a weekly serialization for 15 years come this November. 15 years. One Piece has been serialized for 17. Of course, neither One Piece or Naturo hold a candle to Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen-mae Hashutsujo, which has been running in Shōnen Jump for over 30 years. Guess what my friends, thats longer than I have been walking and breathing on this Earth. 

These manga then evolve into anime. Recently the animation world has been flooded with Kuroko no Basket, Medaka Box, Nurarihyon no Mago, Gintama and the return of HunterXHunter. Walk into your local, or website, animate and characters goods abound for these shows. I can find coasters, coasters for god sakes for Ao no Exorcist and Gintama, shirts, clear files, CDs, writing boards, cups, bowls, pencils, boxes, and just about anything else for them there. Why is this?

Of course, part of this is that there are always new little boys to catch in their plot depths, though maybe not if you look at the Japanese birth rate. We as older readers are also always sucked into them too. We've all seen the guy who still wears a Naruto headband, walks around with a Pikachu hat on, and proudly declares himself an Otaku. 

The reason I bring this up is fairly simple, I have been reading Kenshin in honor of the up coming movie. My friends are so happy about this movie and are going wild just thinking about it. I imagine that the online fansubing community has been conducting strategy meetings to be the fastest group to put it together in the best quality fansub. Hell, they probably have a random friend set up to record at the movie theater for them. I'm not even half way through Kenshin yet, but that's my plan for the next couple weeks. I gotta finish it before the movie comes out. 

While I was reading Kenshin, I was struck by how, for lack of a better term, different it was from normal Shōnen Jump titles. I mentioned this after I read Shaman King as well, how Yoh was not the stereotypical Shōnen Jump hero. Instead of putting all his energy and personality into defeating Hao and "becoming the best Shaman King ever", Yoh has got to be one of the most relaxed Shōnen Jump characters I have ever read. Kenshin, instead of being a young idealistic boy who is out to prove himself to the world, or within his own community, has already done so. He is much older, 28, and already possesses skills that put him at the top of the social ranking. 

Then I got to thinking about the whole Jump Universe, yes it deserves to be capitalized. All the Jump spin off magazines need to be involved in this discussion: Jump SQ, Saikyo Jump, V Jump, Grand Jump, and only slightly JumpX. When I look at a lot of the manga that comes out of these magazines, I just can't help but get a little nostalgic for their plot lines. I mean really, they are so entertaining and you are able to suspend your disbelief so well with these titles. I mean really, a world of ninja and pirates that are able to turn themselves into skeletons and giant rubber bands? What's not to love on a sheer ridiculous scale?

So my question is this: What Shōnen Jump or Jump Universe is your guilty pleasure? Do you have a secret bible to Naruto? Have you read and watched every episode of Reborn? Do you yearn for the days of Slam Dunk over Kuroko no Basket? You have a crush on Rukia that hasn't vanished? Are you actually happy that Shaman King now as a sequal? Have you seen the Prince of Tennis musical yet? Or are you still all about Goku and Dragon Ball? Tell me and share it with all and sundry! 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sprite with a Splash of Time

So yesterday in my culture class, we had an introduction to the theme we would be discussing until the end of the semester, Japanese literature that reflects post modernist themes and what they are trying to reflect on Japanese contemporary society. The professor, a older Japanese man, started throwing out names of Japanese authors that I hadn't heard of and then looked at me and asked me who my favorite mangaka was. I was slightly surprised since I thought we were only going to be dealing with "literature", as in novels and short stories, but when I told him that my favorite manga was 20th Centure Boys by Urasawa Naoki he got very excited and ran to the board to write it down in English and Japanese. He followed that up by stating names like EVA, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner, The Matrix, and 7 Seeds.

What do all of these titles have in common? Of course, they all deal with a post modern world, the end of the world, atomic energy and how humans react to these different themes. The real answer is that they are all sekai-kei, 世界系, or stories that revolve around saving the world. Over the last 20 years many Japanese contemporary authors have started using these themes as major issues in their works. What my professor wanted us to start thinking about was this; what could have brought a rise to these themes? And not only in "literature" but in popular culture as well? What kind of reflections to they make on Japanese society and the Japanese mindset?

As a reader and as a social scientist, I am very excited about this subject. I have spent a lot of time and money reading many books and manga that deal explicitly with these themes. In preparation for this class I went looking for new titles in my logically titled "Manga I want to read" folder in my bookmarks and pulled up Sprite.

Now before you ask, no I am not talking about the refreshing lemon-lime soda that was brought to us by the great soda capital of the world, the United States of America. I am talking about the very well thought out and interesting manga drawn and authored by Ishikawa Yugo. Currently on volume 8 in Japan, it has only been scanlated up to volume 4 in English and has yet to be picked up by an English publisher. Now I usually don't pull up and discuss manga that hasn't been finished or further along in plot on this blog since I like to have a full range of the plot and characters before I start making my theories and observations. I am making a good exception for this manga because I want it to be on people's radar.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

51 Ways to Save Your Girlfriend and Yourself

Disaster stories always walk a fine line between being poignant and being contrived. This comes from the fact that most of the plot points can really only run on the extreme side. Since the situation and setting are all an extreme, the rest of the story and characters must follow suit. What follows is usually the deterioration of humanity and a bleek outlook on the future. While they do make the audience or reader think, they usually leave a 'been there, read that' impression.

I thought all of this while I was reading 51 Ways to Protect Her written and drawn by Furuya Usamaru. He is the man who brought us Litchi no Hikari Club and it's sequel Bokura no Hikari Club, so it is not surprising that there would be more graphic depictions of rape and murder. This manga has obvious pros and cons with using such points as rape, post traumatic stress syndrome, and survival all rolled together to create a society on the edge. I'll be looking into how they are used throughout the manga, which is only 5 volumes long.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Shaman King and Racial Stereotypes

There are days where I miss a good old fashioned shounen manga. Not the new ones that are epic in length and are only continuing because the editors want to keep the money rolling in. As great as Naruto, One Piece, Conan, and HunterXHunter are, they really need an ending. I miss the shounen that actually have a well put together plot, characters that are not purposely made to be annoying, and new ideas. I attribute a lot of these changes to the fact that publishing companies are milking their money cow to the last drop and are forcing mangaka to keep a story going even when they want to end it.

Of course, being as shounen manga is aimed at a much younger audience than I, by 15 years, the reason why I could find some of them repetitive is unsurprising. Young boys don't care about seeing anything but cool moves and friendship until they get a little older and understand that in a lot of ways, nothing really happens in those manga till the ending finally comes around. The publishing giants know how to keep them coming back.

I was really excited by Shaman King. It wasn't ridiculously clique, I genuinely liked all the characters, and different races and cultures were actually active and important parts of the narrative. Yet the more I kept reading, the more stereotypical characters of different races and cultures got. Overall the manga was enjoyable, but those stereotypes were what really struck me about the manga.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Gag of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

Have you ever just found yourself needing to read something that doesn't really make you think? That lets you, the reader, just enjoy the words and text without having to be struck with an epiphany the size of a glaciar? Since I started school again, I get these cravings more and more often with each passing week and month. I don't know if anybody else knows this, but even academics need a break from the constant need to dissect and pry every little meaning out of the book we are read.

I will be the first to admit it, I don't usually read gag manga. The whole point of there not being any real story or continuation throughout a manga is still something that throws my head for a little spin. I need action, suspense, plot even ( I know that's a shocking concept for some people). Yet I gotta say, Zetsubou was a pretty enjoyable read. Much smarter than I was expecting from a gag manga. The jokes were a little smarter and the numerous references that is shoved into this manga is pretty impressive.

More gag manga like this black comedy might need to be found in my near future.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kare Kano and His and Her's

Get ready for a blast from the shōjo past. Put away your mp3 player, forget that Arashi was ever popular and take out your baggy white socks. It's time to relive a little 90's shōjo. 

Kare Kano, a classic. How could I even think of getting through this blog without reading and talking about it? Though to be honest, I hadn't even thought about this manga in years. I was at Book off a couple weeks ago with some friends when I saw this out of the corner or my eye and laughed. How nostalgic would it be to post about this manga? I bet a lot of people are going to be jumping on the nostalgia bandwagon after this. Since it had been numerous years since I last read, plus the fact that I never actually finished it either, made me have to do a little digging to find a reader that had it. I am sorry to all the manga publishers out there, but there is just too many good manga to read and not enough money in my back account to buy it all. I DO buy manga, I just didn't buy this one.

So here we go, a blast from the 90's shōjo past with Kare Kano, or His and Her Circumstances.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

NHK ni Yōkoso and Everything that's wrong with the Japanese

Along the social commentary vein that I was discussing in my last entry with science fiction, I have brought you another manga; which did become a very successful anime, that is full of social commentary under the witty pros and the deep reaches of character development.

It is rare that one comes across such a manga that can unapologetically discuss some of the biggest problems in Japanese culture without disclosing their direct opinion on the issues. Of course, there is nothing that is published that does not state an opinion. Even trashy romance novels, no matter what period of time they are set it, state opinions of the cultures that they take place in. What is rare is the mostly indirect way that Yōkoso states the opinions of the mangaka or writers, in this case Takimoto and Ōiwa.

What this manga does so well is dredge up some of the then deepest darkest secrets of Japanese society and displays them in an almost satirical enjoyment. The manga is funny but almost unapologetically deep and thought provoking.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Science Fiction and Planetes

2 years before his death Science Fiction writer Philip Dick stated

"I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards. Okay, so I should revise my standards; I'm out of step. I should yield to reality. I have never yielded to reality. That's what SF is all about. If you wish to yield to reality, go read Philip Roth; read the New York literary establishment mainstream bestselling writers….This is why I love SF. I love to read it; I love to write it. The SF writer sees not just possibilities but wild possibilities. It's not just 'What if' - it's 'My God; what if' - in frenzy and hysteria. The Martians are always coming"

His quote also captures why so many readers have embraced not only the science fiction genre but also fantasy as well. It is that yearning for escape and rempant freedom of the imagination that draws people away from their own world and into the authors. It allows them to create it in their minds until it is not really a fantasy, but a living breathing world for their imaginations. It's very similar to how so many fandoms turn into living and breathing communities that allows the fans to mold and play with a world and finally personalize it. They are all expressions of creativitiy. 

As I was reading Planetes from mangaka Yukimaru Makoto, I was struck by many different ideas and quotes as I was reading. I wrote them all down as I was reading this rather profoundly short 4 volume manga. Tokyo Pop, may them somehow rise from the ashes, released it in English and I strongly urge whoever reads this to invest in it. It is thought provoking and timeless as any true science fiction work should be. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Why the Manga World needs more Usawasa Naoki mangaka and more PLUTO

Now, I have not made it a secret that I love Urasawa Naoki and everything he has ever written and drawn. It is hardly surprising that with his complex characters and story lines he is harold as the next Tezuka Osamu. The sheer amount of complexity he put into Monster and 20th Century Boys is beyond what most mainstream mangaka have been putting out in the last couple of years. While all the genres have their good points and bad points, most manga geared for the adult crowd are riffled with hobby niches, porn, or sports. There have not been many good suspense manga in my opinion, which is where Urasawa comes into the picture and completely takes the crown as king. He doesn't need the beret to draw attention to himself. All he has to do is rely on his name and his amazing story telling skills.

I have just finished PLUTO, the Urasawa manga based on the most beloved character is Japanese popular culture, and I'm not talking about Doremon. I'm talking about the boy robot himself, Atom. Urasawa makes a masterpiece out of a masterpiece while still keeping the integrity of the original and Tezuka's memory. All I can say, is that Urasawa is a genius pure and simple.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tanemura Arina and Ribbon Magazine


So previously, I explained a little about the manga industry and how it is kinda failing on one side but also gaining ground on another. On the magazine side, there are numerous manga magazines that are aimed at certain age groups and genders. Those who read scanlations online might not know the complete workings, but they understand that Naruto and One Piece come out of Shōnen Jump magazine. While Jump is aimed at young kids from elementary school to middle school, any age can and does read it. I saw a middle aged man reading Jump on my train to Kyoto last week and I couldn't help but chuckle a little. It does look pretty funny.

The main publishers; Kodansha, Shogakukan and Shueisha have manga magazines for every age group and gender. Some are more popular than others, but they all compete against each other. In the shōjo scene there is Ribbon, Sho-comi and Nakayoshi. They all fight each other to the death over sparkly eyes, cool guys and slightly sensitive girls.

Today, I will be focusing on a mangaka that has only appeared in Ribbon, Tanemura Arina. Those of you may remember her from Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne and Full Moon Sagashite. They were both pretty popular in both the 90's and 2000's. I remember my friends and I huddling around the compter for the new episode of Full Moon when fansubs were just starting to take over the internet. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Thoughts on the Manga Industry

In the last couple weeks, I have been thinking about the manga industry and how publishers are trying to fight against illegal pirating of digital material. What follows are my thoughts and I would love to hear what others have to say.

I've got an actual mangaka update, but I'll post that later.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chrno Crusade and Slips in Time

Sophomore year of college I spent a lot of time in front of my laptop enjoying the massive amount of anime that was at my finger tips via the world wide web. One of those small treasures that landed in my harddrive was Chrno Crusade. I could expand on how slightly fan-girl I went on the show, but I'll just leave that to your imagination. At the time, I had no idea that there had been a manga until after I had finished the series.  Goggle opened my eyes to the fact that the anime and the manga have rather different endings.

Yet, the manga was not yet completely scanlated at the time, so I put it out of my mind. Except for the part that there were spaceships involved in the manga. That part stuck with me for a while. It IS very different from the anime in that regard.

I was at Junkudo a couple weeks ago when I saw the Chrno manga on a random shelf. Never mind that I have most likely walked down that same aisle numerous times before and never noticed it, but that time I did. I stopped and just started laughing. I'm sure the staff and any Japanese person around me stopped and edged away from the crazy foreigner laughing at the far end of the aisle. Needless to say, I went home and discovered that Chrno had finished being scanlated almost 5 years ago and that it was actually kinda short. I finished it in a day.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cross Game - The end of the Adachi Marathon

I have finished my Adachi marathon and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it. The mix of sports and comedy and romance is blended so well in all his works and it was entirely too easy to just keep hitting the next button on my computer until all hours of the morning. Cross Game is one of my favorites and I did stay up still morning to finish it. Then I moved on to the anime and found it just as satisfying even with some of the additions the producers and writers made.

Adachi continued balance of numerous genres in his works is always something that I am continuously impressed by. While one genre is always constantly in the foreground the others move sometimes silently but with purpose in the background. This leads to a slow build-up that doesn't seem rushed, but can also seem to be impossibly slow at the same time. It also leads to the quite importance that slowly builds until both parties are able to come to terms with it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Katsu's Boxing

Okay, I have just decided to marathon all the Adachi manga and get them out of the way. I'm almost finished, so I'll be getting back to something different soon. No worries!

So, next sport on the Adachi list is boxing! It is pretty refreshing that he focuses on a different sport between each of his baseball manga. I would get pretty bored reading nothing but baseball all the time. It also gives him a chance to actually bring in stronger female heroines in my opinion. Girls can't play baseball in Koshien, sadly.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

H2 vs. Touch

You know, I really only became a baseball fan while I was living in Japan. I'm not sure how to describe it, but you just cannot ignore the sport in Japan. It doesn't even matter what sport you're into, you will always hear somebody talking about it. Between their own major leagues and then Koshien and high school baseball, it's almost always on the news and most Japanese ask me if I like it or not. I usually end up disappointing them when I say that I am not such a big fan of the "Great American Past time". When I tell them that I'm a soccer fan, I usually win some respect points back.

So, I don't usually make marathons of certain mangaka, but after finishing ROUGH I decided to just start reading H2. H2 and Touch are considered 2 of Adachi's best manga and, since both of them are apart baseball, they are heavily compared. Now that I have read both of them, I shall weigh in my 2 cents on the topic. I know that Cross Game also deals with baseball, but I haven't gotten that far in the list, so I'll leave that comparison for later. It'll be fun to compare all 3 of them together.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

ROUGH times with Adachi Mitsuru

Who knew a swimming manga could be so good? Well, with Adachi Mitsuru as the mangaka, you can guarantee that I did. I have not even tried to hide my love for Adachi Mitsuru because I could never be embarrassed of loving such a quality mangaka with such a lasting career in the business. He is a true mangaka's mangaka. He has written successful manga for many genres and, as I have stated in an earlier post, he really is the King of Romantic Comedy and baseball manga. There just is no contest for me. He knows how to balance out the characters and the sport so well that it becomes too easy to turn the page and keep reading.

I actually finished this manga in about 6 hours. It's that easy to read and I really enjoyed the change in sport. I an honestly not able to pull up a swimming manga off the top of my head. I would have to goggle search to even come up with another title.

BECKs' Musicology

I will just come right out and say it. I LOVED this manga.

Trying to make music the main theme in a manga is a very tricky undertaking. The mangaka is trying to get the reader to utilize one of the 2 senses that you don't use when you're reading; hearing. Yet Sakuishi is able to portray the feeling that music gives you without having the reader hear a single note. He leaves is up to the reader to imagine how amazing Koyuki's voice actually is and he also leaves most of the lyrics out as well; which I actually really liked. Instead of being focused on the words that were being displayed, the reader could focus on the images that were playing out before them.

The problems that the boys have involving the band and the music industry are very well played and thought out. Sakuishi made himself a solid manga here and any music lover will love it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bokura Ga Ita

I had every intention of making Beck my next update, but I got distracted a little too easily, to my embarrassment, by Bokura ga Ita, or We Were There. I had seen the movie posters at the Junkudo in Oita for months now and had never really had the interest in reading the manga.

While I was out yesterday, I made my usual stop at Tsutaya and saw that the March edition of Betsucomi was showcasing that this was the last chapter of Bokura ga Ita and to celebrate they were giving away free tot bags. As a woman, I've always loved bags and as a manga reader, I just couldn't resist getting the finial chapter so it wasn't that much of a hardship to talk myself into buying it. It was only 440 yen anyway.

This manga is the "it" manga in shōjo right now. It's been running for years in betsucomi, already had an anime adaption and the live action movie is being released in theaters at the end of next month.

There are times that I feel that shōjo mangaka just don't know when to stop with the drama and most of the time the only people who have that much drama in their lives are soap opera stars. Yet Obata was able to inject the modern dysfunctional into a character and make his circumstances realistic and not over done.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

CLAMP and the tied worlds of xxxHolic

One of the things that I always love about manga is how much intertextual references are made between them. When you have that knowledge, or cultural capital, it makes the reading experience more interesting and it takes the reader to a new level of understanding. It is very easy to convey a feeling or importance through what could be a subtle reference. 

The whole intertextuality between xxxHolic and Tsubasa was a little confusing at times and I still don't feel like it was completely explained in Holic, but it was very interesting to follow it through till the end. I haven't read another manga that relies that heavily on intertextuality to establish a plot before.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Strobe Edge and the Shōjo

The Shōjo. She was, and still is, a fascination to Western academics in the 90s and the idyllic image of an otaku's dream women. Yet through all the in depth analysis of Utena, Miyazaki's young female protagonists and adorableness of CLAMPS Sakura there has always been something more important about these females. It is not only the sheer about of femininity that runs through Japanese women and young girls, it is the fact that they will always been able to connect with the characters.

Pictures trigger so many emotions and memories. Within seconds of seeing an old picture memories long forgotten are dragged to the front of your brain and sometimes played through before your very eyes. Yet the combination of both picture and words is a very quick highway to high school and the innocence of youth for these women.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Kishimoto Seishi's 666 Satan

Shonen manga, where heros: get introduced, train, face first opponent, train more, face opponent, opponent shows moves not seen before, hero retrains (for years), hero comes back much stronger, face other opponents, defeats them, trains more, and faces main opponent all over again and has happy ending (and gets the girl). A tried and true formula that manga publishers know will sell and pushes on its mangaka to produce.

Naruto, one of the most epic manga, shonen or shojo, ever created. Its name has almost become synonymous with otaku in certain circles (the "narutard"). It is one of the most stereotypical shonen manga and it follows the shonen doctrine down to the smallest detail, and it has made millions, if not billions, of dollars. 

With the success of shonen manga and anime like Naruto and One Piece, it is not surprising that publishers of shonen targeted manga magazines have not become more creative and diverse. What fix what they don't see as broke? That is for the realm of seinen manga and readers can find hundreds of niche genres represented there. 

But getting back on track. What most people don't realize is that there are 2 different Kishimoto mangaka publishing. I actually had no idea until I was at bookoff the other week and saw a manga thats artwork look exactly like Naruto. I pulled it down, saw the Kishimoto name on the label and automatically assumed that it was Kishimoto Masashi. I took a picture of the cover and looked for it when I got back to my place.

I was thrown for a loop when I saw that not only was it a different Kishimoto, it was his younger twin brother. Talk about lack of cultural capital on my part. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Baseball and Touch

It is without a doubt that Adachi Mitsuru is the ruler of romantic comedy and he also knows how to write a baseball manga. I will be the first to admit, I'm not usually one for baseball mangas unless it's Ookiku Furikabutte. I usually find the characters too one dimensional and all the "powering up" can get annoying after a while. 

Yet Touch doesn't get that way at all. It's a depiction of what baseball can bring out in people, but it's not an all encompassing theme; which I, as a reader, appreciate. 

This is not going to be a real essay, but just thoughts I had while reading. 

I should warn you, there are spoilers (as always) with this essay.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Triple Threat of Urasawas 20 Century Boys

There are manga. And then there are manga. Manga that are far superior in plot, drawing, and commercial success that I shall refer to them as the triple threat, much like what Broadway stars are seen for their singing, dancing and acting. This concept of a triple threat can be applied to all categories of art, and I shall be using it here to expand on Urasawas wonderful manga 20th Century Boys, or 20世紀少年.

20th Century Boys, which is a titled after the T. Rex song, has many different themes that mesh together to create a nostalgic but perpetual present kind of manga. By combining these two settings together, 20th Century Boys creates a kind of timeline balance that also reflects human development as well. We are who we were, but we aren't at the same time. The past builds who we become as we age and grow, yet we as humans are always in the present and pushing forward toward a different future. We are always in the present, but constantly reminded and brought back to the past. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Freestyle's "Best Manga 2012"

明けましておめてどう!Happy New Year everybody! I hope that everybody had a wonderful holiday and New Years filled with lots of rest and relaxation, I know I did.

I have something a little different for you guys today. While I was on vacation in Tokyo I ran into a Maruzen to check out manga titles and to see if I could find any books on manga essays and the like. I love bookstores, no matter what country I'm in and I tend to spend hours in them when left to my own devices. This Maruzen had a lot of posters for different manga and anime that are great for looking for new titles. (I've always wanted to work at those stores cause they always have first dibs on the posters)

I was actually on my way out when I spotted a poster on one of the shelves that proudly declared the title "The Top Manga of 2012!" This naturally made me what to read it to see what made it #1. I asked the slightly harassed clerk that I had been bothering the whole time I was there where it was. There proceeded to be phone calls made and within 5 minutes I had in my hands not the actual manga, but the magazine that claims it's the top. This was better than I had hoped for because when I opened up the magazine, Freestyle, there was not just a top 10 list, there was 152! 152 titles for me to look for and read and pretend like I have enough money to afford.

Freestyle is a pop-culture magazine in Japan and manga is heavily represented and discussed in it. I particularly enjoy it because they often have interviews with the mangaka themselves and those are always interesting. This list of the Top Manga 2012 was actually conducted through dozens of manga critics and who I believe are mangaka themselves. Not based on retail volumes sold or anything of the like as far as I can tell. I felt like you guys would be interested in hearing what the Top 10 titles are at least. I'll post up more a little later I think!