Sporadic Sequential
Friday, March 30, 2007
Sale Ends Soon! (Series Goes On Forever)

Forget cancelled or completed manga! Jeff Lester considers never-ending series, specifically asking: Has Sgt. Frog overstayed its welcome?

And speaking of bargain-shopping, I just noticed that Barnes & Noble is offering $10 off $40 if you pay via PayPal. But the offer expires 3/31, so act soon!

UPDATE: Here's another PayPal coupon that expires tomorrow: it's good for $15 back on a $30 purchase and can be used at any store that accepts PayPal, including BN.com or Buy.com.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Beating a Dark Horse

I know I've written about this topic too much already, but I'm genuinely curious why it is that Dark Horse has such trouble meeting the schedules they set for their books. Looking over this list tracking Dark Horse's manga releases (updated 3/14/2007 as I write this), I calculate that 43% of Dark Horse's manga have come out late since December 2005. Granted, many times the delay is only a week or two, but I count 30 titles (out of 135 listed) that were late by a month or more. Why is Dark Horse unable to meet its own release dates, especially when other manga publishers seem to hit theirs like clockwork? (In fact, Viz seems to be consistently ahead of their release dates, at least for the titles I follow.)

One thought that occurred to me was that perhaps Dark Horse was experiencing delays because it was printing its books in China (as it does with 300, which has contributed to delays in getting reorders for that book into shops in a timely manner), but checking the publication info for a couple of their manga titles (Oh My Goddess, Mail, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service) it says they're all printed in Canada, and I don't think that would account for the delays. (Incidentally, all of the Viz and Tokyopop titles I checked were printed in the U.S.A.)

Does anyone else have any ideas? Is Dark Horse simply taking on too much work? Are they really, really bad at using Microsoft Project? Am I simply thinking about this way too much?

* This was all brought on by news today that Akira Club — which I had preordered through B&N and was supposed to ship today — was now listed as "Out of Stock" at B&N.com. According to ComicList, Akira Club has been re-re-re-rescheduled for release April 4th (although it's not on Diamond's list for 4/4). Plus, volume 3 of Mail, which was originally supposed to come out back in February, has apparenly gone missing entirely. It had been on Diamond's "Shipping Next Week" list last week, which means it should have come out today, but now it's not on this week's list or next week's list.

UPDATE: Almost immediately after posting this, I received an email from B&N saying that
Akira Club has been rescheduled for shipment on April 27th. So apparently B&N knows something Diamond doesn't.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I'm NOT Going To Pay A Lot For This Mushishi

David Welsh's post about booksellers' various rewards/loyalty programs got me to wondering: How do others generally buy their comics, particularly their manga? Since I gave up pre-ordering through Previews, I've primarily been buying my manga through Barnes & Noble. I signed up for a membership about a year ago when I was making a large purchase in one of their stores and realized the additional 10% discount would almost cover the cost of the membership. Plus, by signing up for the B&N MasterCard, I got a $25 gift card and an additional 5% back for B&N purchases made on the MasterCard. Overall I've been happy with the membership, but now I find myself wondering: Am I really getting the best deal on manga that I could be?

I know Amazon's prices are generally lower than those listed on B&N's site, but
  • B&N members frequently receive coupons for an additional 15% or 25% off an item (or occasionally an entire order)
  • The 10% member discount applies to all items, even ones Amazon never discounts, like your standard $10 manga volumes
so many times it's cheaper to buy my manga through B&N than Amazon.

Plus, B&N's free shipping is much faster than Amazon's. (I've had orders from B&N ship the same day I place them and arrive only two or three days later. With Amazon, you're lucky to receive an order confirmation within three days if you choose free shipping.) And for those occasions where I simply have to have the manga right now, I do like the flexibility of being able to waltz into a local shop and walk out with the latest volume of the freshest manga in a matter of mere minutes.

But I'm also a notorious cheapskate, so if I could be saving a couple bucks, I'd be open to other options, too. So let me know below: Am I paying too much for my manga???
Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Now, I always enjoy Bleach*, even without lesbian ninjas, but gosh darn it, I WAS PROMISED LESBIAN NINJAS.

* Yes, I even enjoy Bleach throughout the interminable Soul Society fights that seem to drive everyone else batty.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Cultural Relativism

I was re-reading Usamaru Furuya's Short Cuts over the weekend and I came across an interview with Furuya at the end of volume one that I don't remember reading before. It's a short interview, but it provides an interesting insight into the realities of manga publishing in Japan. Furuya was first published in Garo, an avant-garde manga magazine, and then went on to do work for more popular/commercial manga anthologies, such as Young Sunday. In the interview, Furuya discusses the difficulties of making the transition from working more-or-less on his own to having a very hands-on editor:
Chikao Shiratori: After making your debut in Garo, which in a certain sense was a peculiar magazine, you began drawing Short Cuts for a very major magazine, Young Sunday, which is published by Shogakukan. Let's begin our discussion from that point.

Usamaru Furuya: Yes, I'd like to discuss the circumstances of manga in Japan. At the same time, I'd also like to make this discussion as accessible as possible to an American audience. Garo really focused on the personality of the artist. In other words, they emphasized letting artists create whatever they wanted to create. On the down side, you didn't get paid. Those were the merits and demerits of Garo. With a major Japanese manga magazine, where magazines are a business, the artist doesn't create by himself. You work together with your editor. At first, this put me at something of a loss.

CS: When I was your editor at Garo, I used to make comments on your finished work, like, "You should do this," or "Next time, you should head in this direction." But I never told you to specifically "draw this" before you actually started drawing. I guess you can't really say such things if you aren't paying for the work, [laughs] You don't get a break with the major magazines. They start rejecting things even when you're just doing rough sketches.

UF: Right, they don't just accept or reject what you draw. Your editor feels that you're creating in cooperation with him. He'll force you to make slight changes in this direction or...With Short Cuts, I originally intended to create a manga in the vein of Palepoli, but with a lighter touch. Inevitably, though, black humor came up, or the subject matter was discriminatory or touched on religion. These kinds of elements were cut at the stage of the rough sketches. When it came time to actually draw it, they weren't even considered.

CS: That can be frustrating.

UF: It is frustrating. On the other hand, I also admire people who can persevere through such situations. Business-minded manga artists have their special strengths, and I find that strength incredible. I think that those who hold onto their integrity while still remaining business-minded are "stronger" than those that draw whatever they like. You have to be able to create things that will be accepted without weakening your own integrity, or you won't be able to survive in the Japanese manga industry. Or you have to gradually create more and more of what you want without giving in to such pressures. That's why I think that you have to first put your efforts into getting recognized.

CS: I think that's the major stumbling block for people coming from Garo. Or rather, it's a step they have to overcome.

UF: Yes, because Garo is almost exactly the same as a dojinshi [self-published comic].

CS: A dojinshi with a magazine code. [laughs]

I thought it was an interesting reminder that the tension between art and commerce exists in probably every culture. And just because we American readers look at manga like a breath of fresh air when it comes to sequential art, it doesn't mean that Japanese creators don't have their own complaints about structural issues within their industry.

Also, I had just read this thread on The Engine, so after reading the interview with Furuya I had this strange daydream of manga-ka complaining about not being able to do the superhero comics they long to do. "FUCK MANGA! All my editor ever does is tell me to focus on things like 'character' and making my composition clearer. Why won't he just get out of my way and let me tell the stories I really want to tell — big superhero slugfests with shocking retcons and arcane references to stories that happened decades ago. Doesn't he understand that intricately interconnected shared universes are where it's at, man?"
Friday, March 16, 2007
An Incomplete List of Completed Manga

Well, that wasn't as easy as I thought. Following up on an idea from an earlier post, I was trying to compile a list of my recommendations for the top ten completed manga series. Several people offered suggestions in the comments (see list below) but I had trouble putting together my own list, unable to quite reach ten series. I suppose it could be taken as a sign that I don't read as much manga as I thought, or perhaps I'm forgetting something and I'll remember right after I post this. In any case, here's my list of recommended completed manga series. [I limited my picks to series that run between two to ten volumes (no Lone Wolf and Cub mega-series here), mainly because I thought this list could be a useful reference for those who want to start reading manga but worry about having to invest in series with 20-plus books released and no end in sight.]

Akira (6 volumes) - A classic. Six thick volumes of psychic snot-nosed punks blowing the #$@% out of Japan. I'm not as enamored with the plot as some die-hard fans, but I do think creator Katsuhiro Otomo does truly astounding work in terms of visual storytelling here: his pacing, panel transitions, and detailed backgrounds that always hang together are unmatched in Western comics. And as unlikeable as I find the main character Kaneda, I absolutely adore several of the supporting characters Otomo has created for this story, especially Kei.

Love Roma (5 volumes) - This series was a wonderfully quirky little book. How many romantic comedies start with the couple getting together and then get their mileage from watching the characters grow closer throughout their relationship? From the way most romantic comedies work, you'd think it was impossible to make a relationship interesting without inane misunderstandings and nonsensical fights. But Love Roma avoids all those clichés and is all the better for it. I don't ever think I've seen a better portrayal of what relationships (especially first relationships in high school) can be like. And Love Roma manages to be laugh-out-loud funny and truthful and honest at the same time. Simply delightful, this book puts a smile on my face every time I read it.

Mail (3 volumes) - I'm going out on a limb here because the third and final volume hasn't been released yet, so I could be tempting fate by listing it a week before Dark Horse says the last book comes out, but assuming this series does reach its end, it's definitely one worth picking up. Creator Housui Yamazaki puts together a great collection of short, smart horror stories in each volume. And I like the device of the main character, excorcist Reiji Akiba, addressing the reader directly in many of the intros — reminds me of old horror comics like House of Mystery and House of Secrets where the host greeted the reader.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (7 volumes) - Another classic, and yet another one that I appreciate more in terms of world-building and artistic vision that actual plot. Still, the characters and settings (not to mention the stunning artwork by creator Hayao Miyazaki) are engaging enough to engross me every time I pick up this series.

Planetes (5 books) - I think I'll always remember this series as the original critical darling (manga division) of the comics blogosphere. Back when I was blogging at Grotesque Anatomy, it seemed like everyone was reading and loving this series. For many, I think it served as a gateway book into manga. And while I thought the quality dropped off a bit towards the end, it was still an excellent series overall.

Short Cuts (2 volumes) - Sick, twisted comic strips centering around cute Japanese schoolgirls. All done with a perverse sense of humor by creator Usamaru Furuya. (If you scroll down on this page, you can see one of my favorite strips from volume 2.)

Uzumaki (3 volumes) - How can a simple shape be frightening? Well, when the shape in question is a spiral that's driving an entire town mad, and the person depicting these events is Junji Ito, you might start looking at springs and coils differently. I actually read this series out-of-order, starting with book two, so that's the one that made the strongest impression on me, but the whole series is full of Ito's trademark weirdness. The ending disappointed me when I first read it, but now I think it fits well with the overall theme/motif of spirals. Soon to be reissued in unflipped format as part of Viz's "Signature" line.

Series marked with ** aren't technically one-shots — they're really just the first volume of longer series that will probably never see subsequent volumes published.

Anywhere But Here**- A delightful collection of surreal silent comic strips by Tori Miki. (I believe this may be out-of-print, but Shaenon Garrity found it available directly through Fantagraphics' online store. Shaenon also has more info on the book, including several great scans.) [According to the description on Fantagraphics' site, this is a selection of strips from the first two volumes of the series, which apparently has had five volumes published so far in Japan. So yet another manga series for The List!]

Domu - More psychic sci-fi action from Katsuhiro Otomo, only on a much smaller scale. (Only one apartment building is damaged as opposed to all of Japan in Akira.)

Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga** - Hey, wait a second! This isn't really a one-shot; it's just another series abandoned by Viz! Oh well, since we'll probably never see the second and final volume translated, I'm listing this here. A vicious takedown of all the manga clichés you've noticed (and many you probably never even stopped to think about), Monkey is a hilarious primer on how to succeed in the fast-paced world of manga publishing. (Hint: provide plenty of fanservice.) Shaenon Garrity has some representative samples here.

Sand Land - I read this when it was first serialized in Shonen Jump and I don't really remember much about it other than I enjoyed it at the time, but it's a nice single-volume introduction to manga legend Akira Toriyama.

Suggestions from others (see comments on earlier post for more details on many of these manga; entries marked with * are one-shots)
  • Adolf
  • Angelic Layer
  • Anne Freaks
  • The Antique Bakery
  • Apocalypse Meow
  • Baby Birth
  • Bakune Young
  • Banana Fish [will be complete 4/10/2007]
  • Battle Royale
  • The Big O
  • Black & White
  • Blue Spring*
  • Buddha
  • Chikyu Misaki
  • Chobits
  • Cowboy Bebop
  • Crying Freeman
  • Cyborg 009
  • Dance till Tomorrow
  • Dead End
  • Duklyon: CLAMP School Defenders
  • Genshiken [still two more volumes to go]
  • Great Teacher Onizuka
  • Gyo
  • Haunted House
  • Ikebukuro West Gate Park
  • Island
  • Lady Snowblood
  • Lament of the Lamb
  • Maison Ikkoku
  • Mermaid Saga
  • Ode to Kirihito*
  • Ohikkoshi*
  • Paradise Kiss
  • Planetes
  • Pure Trance
  • Redrum 327
  • SaiKano
  • Samurai Champloo
  • Samurai Legend*
  • Sanctuary
  • Sexy Voice and Robo* [I think there's a second volume not yet released in the U.S.?] [Apparently the single English edition collects the two tankoubon released in Japan]
  • Shirahime-Syo*
  • Short Program
  • The Skull Man
  • Smuggler*
  • Spirit Of Wonder*
  • Strain
  • Suki: A Like Story
  • Sword of the Dark Ones
  • Telepathic Wanderers
  • Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms*
  • Uzumaki
  • Who Fighter With Heart of Darkness*
  • X-day
Additional resources for researching completed manga series:
Manga Updates list of manga, filtered to show only completed licensed series. [Note: the 'completed' filter seems to refer to series that are completed in Japan, so this list does show licensed series that aren't complete in the U.S.]

Manga Updates list of manga one-shots

Anime on DVD list of manga, which has a column indicating volumes released in the U.S. and whether the U.S. release has been completed. [This info doesn't always seem to be accurate. For example, Club 9 is listed as complete in the U.S. with all five volumes published.]

Wikipedia's list of manga
If I've missed any completed series that should be listed, please let me know in the comments.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Manga MIA

Over at MangaCast, Ed Chavez has compiled a handy list of manga that have vanished off the face of the earth. There are several series that I'd love to see start up again on that list:

Yotsuba&! - I'll just get in line along with everyone else in the blogosphere waiting for this wonderful series to return...

Club 9 - Oh, how I'd love to see this series completed! Ed noted that four volumes were published by Dark Horse but I believe only three actually saw print. I wonder what the chances are of Dark Horse ever putting out the final two books? Otherwise I'll have to start a back issue search for those later issues of Super Manga Blast!, where Club 9 did reach its conclusion.

Museum of Terror - A recent cancellation, this is one that puzzles me. Dark Horse released the first three volumes of this series so closely together (July, September, and November of 2006) that it may have been a little too much for fans to pick up all at once, so I'm wondering how Dark Horse gauged sales on this series. Over on the Dark Horse boards, fans are wondering if price killed the series. I doubt that this was the case, since more expensive manga from Dark Horse and other publishers manage to find an audience. Plus, the Museum of Terror books were actually quite the bargain as they were about twice the length of a "standard" manga for only $4 more. Like others, I think Dark Horse didn't do much to promote these books. Many fans (myself included) were confused about what was contained in these collections; it would have been nice if Dark Horse had listed out the actual story contents so that customers would know if they'd read the material elsewhere before. (Personally, I think another part of the problem was the dull covers. I'm assuming Dark Horse was working with the covers from the Japanese editions, but the artwork on these books didn't do much to sell the books at all, and they hardly conveyed the notion that these books contained some of the most disturbing horror stories ever done in comics.) So, yeah, like others, I'm disappointed that we won't be getting any future volumes from this series, especially now that I find out that there were seven other volumes out there!

And this is beyond the purview of Ed's list (he was only considering manga on hiatus from active publishers, not dead manga from defunct publishers), but where in the hell is my Slam Dunk, goddammit? I thought I'd read a rumor somewhere that Viz was picking up the license from Gutsoon. Anyone know anything about this? Anyone? OK, OK, I can google it myself I suppose. According to Anime News Network,
The editorial section of Viz's first issue of Shojo Beat states that the Slam Dunk manga, previously published by Gutsoon! will be coming soon. The magazine does not explicitly state what company will be releasing Slam Dunk.
And sure enough, right there on page 282 of the first issue of Shojo Beat (July 2005), is this bit of frustratingly vague news:
These days, you can take your pick of sports in shonen manga, including Tennis (The Prince of Tennis), soccer (Whistle!), football (Eyeshield 21), and — coming soon — basketball (Slamdunk [sic]).
As Anime News Network noted, there is no explicit word on who the publisher will be, but I'm assuming it must be Viz since (1) all the other sports manga in that example are from Viz and (2) Viz would only know if a given manga title were coming out soon if they were the ones who had the rights to it. Still, that announcement was almost two years ago now and there's still no Slam Dunk out! I hardly call that "coming soon," Viz. When will I be able to read about Sakuragi's delightful antics again?

Following up on a rumor reported by Heidi MacDonald that Borders is cutting back on the amount of manga they carry now that Kurt Hassler is no longer their graphic novels buyer, commenters at MangaBlog give their impressions on how well-stocked the manga sections are at their local Borders and Barnes & Nobles. (Back in the comments at Heidi's blog, commenters seem to be reveling in the idea that manga publishers might be "feeling the pinch" lately.)

The general consensus seems to be that while Barnes & Noble might have more shelf space dedicated to manga, Borders still carries a deeper selection of smaller, quirkier titles. I generally buy my comics online, but when I have browsed through the graphic novels sections of my local bookstores, I have noticed that Borders tends to offer a wider variety of harder-to-find manga books, including several "art of" books. I also know that if I really want to find a particular volume of a manga series, my best bet is to hit the Barnes & Noble at the Mall of America, which seems to fit the observation over at Precocious Curmudgeon that stores in areas frequented by teens are more likely to have larger manga offerings.

Finally, in his latest Flipped column, David Welsh is moved by the end of Love Roma to reflect on ongoing manga series that he's still enjoying a great deal. To make things more challenging, he only considers series that have at least two volumes under their belt (thus eliminating new manga like Mushishi and To Terra) but not more than five (thereby ruling out favorites of mine like Sgt. Frog, Death Note, and Bleach). It's a tricky exercise. Of course David — manga omnivore that he is — easily comes up with a list of ten favorites, but I could only come up with one that meets his criteria: Dragon Head, which is on David's list as well. (I suppose The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service — also on David's list — could fit the bill, but I haven't read the second volume yet.)

Perhaps I've been growing a bit complacent in my manga reading, then, and it's time to broaden my horizons. And David's list looks like a good place to start. I've certainly been hearing a lot of good things about Emma, so I'll plan on checking that out. Heck, I might even flip through another volume of The Drifting Classroom (from the library, of course). Now that I know what I'm in for, perhaps the camp appeal of the book will outweigh its distracting storytelling tics.

One thing is for sure, though: Man, am I going to miss Love Roma. It's a strange thing, having grown up reading superhero comics and being conditioned to expect them to go on forever, finding out that one of your favorite series is ending just like that (and so relatively young!) Still, it's certainly preferable to having some other creator come in and force his take upon the book. Love Roma ended on a high note (and a bit of a bittersweet one at that), but it was perfectly consistent with everything that came beforehand. (In an embarrassing bit of nerd over-involvement, after finishing the final volume I found myself second-guessing a character's actions. "How could X do that without consulting Y???" I fumed. But then I calmed down and thought about it a bit more and realized that X's actions were entirely in keeping with X's character, and that there had been mentions in earlier volumes of X planning what X ended up doing, so I was probably just dealing with my disappointment over the series ending poorly. And, having moved past the other stages of grief, I realized that the final volume of Love Roma had managed to surprise me with its ending despite the apparent spoiler of the cover, all while remaining true to its characters. And in an age where almost everything is spoiled online months before it comes out, and characters are made to do out-of-character things simply to hammer home "shocking" plot points, that's a pretty impressive achievement. So hats off to you, Love Roma! You went out in style!!)

Hmm... now all of this has me thinking: I wonder if I could come up with a top ten list of completed manga? Love Roma, Akira, Nausicaa... What other completed manga (that don't span too many volumes) are worth recommending?
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
And, Yes, I Noticed They Misspelled 'Spider-Man' Throughout

My favorite take so far on the "shocking" comic news of the day (yes, there are spoilers if you click the link), if only for this quote:
The embarrassing press conference featured a glassy-eyed Captain clearly wearing a fake muscle suit to prop up his flabby frame and Rumsfeld staring intently at Spiderman’s penis — it was all so weird that Spiderman’s very public turn to fascism was hardly noted.
Much more in the link.