Sporadic Sequential
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
RIN-NE On Hiatus Holiday

If, like me, you were eagerly waiting for today's installment of RIN-NE, you'll have to wait a little longer. According to editor Mike Montesa:
[D]ue to some holidays in Japan (Golden Week for those in the know), this week’s chapter will be live on Saturday, May 2, when the next issue of Shonen Sunday is released in Japan. Normally, each chapter will come out every Wednesday, but Chapter 3 will be released Wednesday, May 13. To help you keep track of the publication dates and Rumiko Takahashi news, sign up for TheRumicWorld.com newsletter.
So a late chapter this week and no chapter next week. Got that? (Seems like maybe it would have been better to postpone the launch until they could have lined up a couple consecutive weeks of material to build momentum, but I'm probably just being a second-guessing, snarky blogger. What, is Viz taking its scheduling cues from Marvel and DC now?) I'd like to sign up for the Rumic World newsletter, but I've found that Viz newsletters are impossible to unsubscribe from. Has anyone else signed up for the Rumic World newsletter and found it useful? Has anyone else had any luck unsubscribing from other Viz newsletters?

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Introducing Nick & Dent, The Hard-Hitting British Crimefighting Duo!

Just a reminder that TFAW's 60% off Nick & Dent special ends tomorrow, Thursday, April 30th! After that the discount reverts back to a mere 50% off. Click here for some great bargain recommendations and a couple coupon codes. And here are two more coupon codes to try:
  • WATCHOUT - $5 off $50+ (expires 5/1/09)
  • AFTERWATCH - Free domestic shipping on orders $25+ (expires 5/1/09)
Happy shopping!

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And The Winner For Best Blog About Manga in 2009 Goes To...

Kate Dacey, one of my all-time favorite writers about manga, is back with a new website, The Manga Critic. Kate kindly invited me to take part in a round-table discussion about good recent reads along with several of my other favorite manga bloggers. Go check out the site, and make sure to read Kate's hilariously honest bio about her origins as a manga fan and critic!

And to expand on what I said about Kekkaishi 16 on Kate's site, a good example of how creator Yellow Tanabe defies shonen expectations occurs in this volume: Tokine, the female kekkaishi, is trapped inside a mystical black box. Yoshimori, the younger, male kekkaishi who patrols the same area as Tokine, vows to rescue Tokine no matter what it takes. Just as Yoshimori is about to lose it die to worry, Tokine appears behind him. She was able to escape the trap on her own by stretching her supernatural abilities to new limits. So the stereotypical "damsel in distress" scenario wasn't used to motivate the hero; it was actually employed to show that the female protagonist was competent and capable of "powering up" when the situation demanded it. Imagine that!

This is one of the main reasons I love Yellow Tanabe's Kekkaishi. As much as I can get lost in a good, well-executed formulaic shonen series, it can still be frustrating when everything occurs in a rote, predictable pattern. By having things play out in unexpected ways (at least within the scope of shonen manga), Tanabe succeeds in keeping readers on their toes. (Another good example of this occurred last volume when a young child was abducted by the villain. Instead of just using the imperiled child as a cheap ploy to ratchet up reader anxiety, Tanabe had the young girl use her wits and abilities to outsmart the bad guy. Again, a clever subversion of genre expectations resulted in a surprisingly satisfying read.)

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Sunday, April 26, 2009
Rumiko Takahashi Appreciation Week: Now Entering Its Second Exciting Week!

And Akane Ranma has a message for any nitpickers who want to point out that a week typically ends after seven days:

Akane! I'm surprised at you! You're usually so lady-like! (Although Ranma always says you're manly...) As

Seriously, I was a little shocked to see this gesture in volume nine of Ranma, but I figured it was just a glitch. And then I ran across this panel in the following volume:

Does extending the middle finger not have the same connotation in Japan? UPDATE: Just ran across this in Appendix A of Jason Thompson's Manga: The Complete Guide: "'The finger' is considered a lighthearted, rascally gesture in Japan and is sometimes censored in English editions of manga." Case closed!

And if you'd like to try your hand at dialoging Akane Ranma when (s)he's angry or intense, here's that first panel again with all of the text blanked out:

Go wild! What do you think has Akane Ranma so worked up that (s)he's stooped to flipping the reader the bird?

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The New Yorker: Hipster or Not Hipster?

Is The New Yorker losing its hip, youthful cred? In the most recent issue (April 27, 2009), they had this photo and blurb in the "Goings On About Town" section:

Click the image to make it large enough for the caption to be legible. If you still can't make it out, the photo's caption reads:
"KRAZY!," an exhibit about anima, manga, and video games, at Japan Society. [Emphasis added]
Oops! I'm surprised that something as ubiquitous as anime tripped up The New Yorker's legendary fact-checking squad. If only they had consulted Wikipedia, whose page for "anima" specifically warns "Not to be confused with anime." (To their credit, The New Yorker did get the spelling correct online.)

In the "still got it!" column, though, this issue also includes a spiffy new illustration from Adrian Tomine accompanying an article about the illicit use of prescription medication for so-called “cosmetic neurology.”

It's an interesting article on a subject I personally find quite tempting given the number of times I abandon a post over writer's block or lack of focus.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009
Love Manga

Inspired by this post listing the (highly controversial and debatable) 25 greatest superhero romances (via Kevin Melrose), I wondered: What are the greatest romances in manga? Here is my short, not-at-all-thoroughly-researched-or-considered list:
  1. Hoshino & Negishi (Love Roma)
  2. Ichigo & Rukia (Bleach)
  3. Ichigo & Orihime (Bleach)
  4. Haruo & Kingoro (Club 9)
  5. Hanamichi & Haruko (Slam Dunk)
  6. Giroro & Natsumi (Sgt. Frog)
  7. Tamama & Keroro (Sgt. Frog)
  8. Momoka & Fuyuki (Sgt. Frog)
  9. Kaneda & Kei (Akira)
  10. Emma & William (Emma)
  11. Kelly & Doug Stowner (Emma)
  12. L & Light (Death Note)
  13. Ichigo & Uryu (Bleach)
  14. Rukawa & Hanamichi (Slam Dunk)
  15. Ranma & Akane (Ranma ½)
  16. Yoshimori & Tokine (Kekkaishi)
  17. Daigo & Ms. Ochiai (Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M)
  18. Tomie & the male half of the human population (Tomie)
  19. Keiichi & Belldandy (Oh My Goddess!)
  20. Sachiko & Masato Azuma (With the Light)
Who am I leaving off? Who are the greatest lovers in all of manga? I don't read much shojo, so obviously my list is going to look a little lopsided to fans of more explicitly romantic manga. And I haven't read any yaoi, so that's a huge blind spot on my list. Feel free to correct that omission in the comments!

UPDATE: David Welsh corrects an oversight on my (and Tite Kubo's) part by giving quiet hunk Chad of Bleach fame the ultimate cross-series companion. Go check it out; I think you'll agree it's perfect and that we need to convince David to start writing the tale of their epic romance immediately.

UPDATE #2: Valéria Fernandes comes up with her own list (Google-translated version), and it's a nice balance to my shonen-heavy list as hers focuses more on shojo and josei series.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Manga Elseworlds

WHAT IF... Ichigo had originally been the Soul Reaper, and Rukia was the student whose life was forever changed by meeting a Shinigami???

Yeah, still getting a big Bleach vibe from RIN-NE so far. (Then again, I know Bleach wasn't the first manga to feature Shingami, so it's not like Rumiko Takahashi is directly ripping off Tite Kubo.)

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Although If You Suffer From Cynophobia, I Suppose This Would Be Absolutely Terrifying

RIN-NE is now live! Also, The Rumic World has expanded content, including a blog, which has this exciting news:
As we unveil Rumiko Takahashi's newest manga series RIN-NE on this site, we're also pleased to announce some exciting news about her classic manga series Inuyasha. Starting with volume 38 (which will be released in July), we're publishing the series the way it was originally drawn, from right to left, and releasing the graphic novels monthly.

VIZ Media also has VIZBIG 3-in-1 editions ($17.99) of the entire series on the way starting in November, also in the original unflipped format!
Yay! Looks like that Amazon listing was inaccurate!! (And it looks like eagle-eyed Michelle Smith was right about the monthly release schedule!)

"Yo Quiero Taco Hell!"

OK, off to read RIN-NE now...

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I Have Angered The Manga Gods

Lately my kids have been really into the Disney version of Hercules, and my experiences the past two days remind me of a scene from that movie: Herc approaches Phil, former trainer of Greek heroes, and asks him to show him the ropes. Phil is about to decline the request with a two-word answer (presumably "No way!" given the expected rhyme) when he's suddenly struck by one of Zeus' lightning bolts, so instead he mutters, "O-kay."

That's kind of how I feel given my technical frustrations the past two days. First, Nvu crashed last night while I was composing a post on Ranma. Then today my cable modem was out for most of the day.

So... I apologize for joking that RIN-NE looks a lot like Bleach. And I'm sorry I've been complaining all day about RIN-NE not being up yet. Although I notice that, as of this writing (almost 5PM CST) it's still not up. (Oh crap, I just jinxed myself again, didn't I? There goes my motherboard...)

And I apologize once again for the lack of content for Rumiko Takahashi Appreciation Week. Hopefully, if there are no further technical disruptions, I'll have my post on Ranma up in the next 24 hours days.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I Would Totally Pay To See Tite Kubo Draw Ranma 1/2. Or To See Rumiko Takahashi Illustrate Bleach.

Even famous manga-ka are getting in the act for Rumiko Takahashi Appreciation Week! Here's Tite Kubo drawing the characters Ichigo and Rukia from his mega-hit Bleach in the style of Rumiko Takahashi:

Fun Soul Reaper Fact! "Rin-Ne" is Spanish for "Wheel? Not even!"

(Obviously that's really Rumiko Takahashi's art. It's a promotional image for her new series, RIN-NE, found via the absolutely fantastic fansite, Rumic World.

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Thankfully, Others Are Producing Actual Content In Honor Of Rumiko Takahashi Appreciation Week

David Welsh goes straight to the source and gets some answers from Viz's Senior Editorial Director, Elizabeth Kawasaki, about the details of the simultaneous release of RIN-NE online. He asks some of the questions I was wondering, including:
WELSH: Will the translated, online chapters be available free of charge? How long will a given chapter be available on the site?

KAWASAKI: The chapters will be available for a limited time for free at TheRumicWorld.com. We're still working out the schedule details.
So make sure to read the new chapters quickly each week, because they may not be available for long!

David also asks something many Rumiko Takahashi fans have been wondering about: Will any of Takahashi's series other than InuYasha be given the VIZBIG treatment?
WELSH: Takahashi's series are perennially popular, but a lot of them are really sprawling. Does VIZ Media have any plans to put any of her titles in VIZBIG format?

KAWASAKI: We don't have any news to announce as of yet. Fans should definitely keep checking TheRumicWorld.com for all Rumiko Takahashi updates!
Spoken like a true Senior Editorial Director!

I wish David had asked about the flipped vs. unflipped issue, or perhaps it was but Viz chose not to address it. In any event, looking forward to tomorrow's online debut to see how the material is presented!

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Monday, April 20, 2009
Pretty Picture Placeholder

Oops, it looks like Rumiko Takahashi Appreciation Week isn't getting off to the most auspicious start. I'd hoped to blog about why Ranma ½ is so wonderful today, but something came up that's preventing me from doing so.

...OK, volume seven of Ranma ½ finally came in at the library after weeks of waiting, so I'm going to spend tonight catching up on a couple more volumes of this absolutely delightful series. But hopefully I'll be back tomorrow with an actual post about the genius that is Ranma ½.

In the meantime, enjoy some beautiful color illustrations by that I found while Googling for info on Ranma ½:

I forget where I found these images, but chances are they're from here.

(Why do I have this nagging feeling that the rest of Rumiko Takahashi Appreciation Week is going to be dominated by image-heavy entries?)

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Sunday, April 19, 2009
Rumiko Takahashi Appreciation Week

Do you ever stop to think about how many amazing things are out there that you have no idea about, or that you might have some vague notion of but don't realize how much you'd love if you took the time to investigate them?

It's a question that's been floating around in my head ever since I "discovered" Rumiko Takahashi a couple weeks ago. How could I have been oblivious to the awesome, prolific output of this incredible manga creator for so long?

It all started back in February when David Welsh wrote a Flipped column recommending ten humorous manga series. I'd read all but two series (Maison Ikkoku and Your and My Secret) so I added those books to my "to read" list. I was able to track down the first volume of Maison Ikkoku via ILL, so that was my first exposure to Rumiko Takahashi. To be honest, I wasn't overly impressed, but there was something about her work that appealed to me.

Several weeks after that I was browsing through the manga section at the local library and stumbled upon a copy of Ranma ½ Volume 1. What the heck, I thought, I may as well give this a shot.

I was immediately hooked.

Since then, I've been adding subsequent volumes of Ranma to my request queue. (At the moment I have volumes 11 through 17 sitting on my nightstand, just waiting for volume 7 to finally arrive so I can continue consuming this delightful series.) I've also been investigating her other series available in English, but the turnaround time on ILL requests has been painfully slow. I've been hoping to do a "Rumiko Takahashi Appreciation Week" for a couple weeks now, but I was putting it off in hopes of having more of her work under my belt before beginning. However, I decided to launch the theme week today anyway for two main reasons:
  1. This week sees the launch of Takahashi's newest manga series, RIN-NE. And it's not just any old regular manga launch, either. This is a simultaneous release in both the U.S. and Japan, with the U.S. chapters being serialized online at Viz's new official Rumiko Takahashi site, The Rumic World. (Not to be confused with the wonderful old unofficial fan site, Rumic World (note the non-existent definite article).) So this week seems like a good week to celebrate Rumiko Takahashi.

  2. I realized that I have a bad habit of never getting around to once-exciting ideas that I put off too long. For example, sifting through my drafts folder, I found that I never published my "Best of 2008" post. So I decided that it would be better to forge ahead with this idea while I was still enthusiastic about it rather than risk it never happening.
So I honestly don't know what Rumiko Takahashi Appreciation Week will end up looking like in the end, especially if those copies of Return of Lum, One-Pound Gospel, and Mermaid Saga never show up. (How long can something be "in transit," fer crissakes???) But I do hope to spotlight what it is that I find so exciting about Takahashi's work. (I also hope that it's evident that I in no way consider myself an expert on Rumiko Takahashi. If you want expertise, please go read these guys, which is where I'm stealing most of my reference from anyway. I simply hope to share the enthusiasm I feel for a manga creator who is new to me as I am experiencing her work for the first time. Apologies in advance for anything I get wrong, and feel free to correct me where I misspeak, but please no outright insults for not knowing everything already.)

In the meantime, here are a couple links to get you started if you're similarly inexperienced when it comes to Takahashi:
  • Wikipedia page
  • Rumic World (Seriously, go visit this site and bookmark it now! I've barely even scratched the surface of this wonderful reference site. Check out their excellent timeline!)
Major works in English (all from Viz; dates and volumes listed are for Japanese publications):
NEXT: The perfect, Platonic ideal of a manga.

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Friday, April 17, 2009
Unexpected Announcement Excitement

Your buried-in-a-tiny-font-footnote-at-the-bottom-of-a-long-post news of the day week month year decade (blown up to a size befitting its importance):
[3] Although, for the record, I was the most excited about the possibility of an omnibus edition of Makoto Kobayashi's Club 9.
From Kristy Valenti's Sakura-Con report (via Brigid Alverson).

Kate, were you aware of this???

OMG, PLEASE let this happen. Dark Horse, how many copies of the omnibus do I have to promise to buy for this to become a reality? Kristy, can you provide any more context or details about this possibility? How likely is it? Is it just a theoretical possibility or something they're actively considering? WAUUUUGH! How do we make this happen???

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Thursday, April 16, 2009
The Sensational Character Find of 2009

Introducing... Lil' Ropey!

A young Blair Witch, before settling on
sticks and branches as her preferred media.

"Run, run as fast as you can!
You can't catch me, I'm the braided hemp man!!"

Ropey throws the penalty flag on the ayakashi team's flagrant foul.

Ropey may look all cute and cuddly,
but he will mess you up if you cross him.

Special BONUS sensational character find! And if you think Lil' Ropey is tough, wait til you get a load of his big brother, Lariat Lad!

"The rope that walked like a man!!"

Is it too early to hope for a volume of side stories devoted to the amazing Rope Brothers?

All images from the awesome Kekkaishi volume 15, which also features a creepy Medusa muppet, Dark Shogun Warrior, and nightmare-inducing black boxes.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009
8 Things I Loved About Emma 8

1. Seeing Eleanor recovering from her shabby treatment at the hands of William, and even possibly finding a new love interest. One of the hardest things about rooting for William and Emma to end up together was knowing that Eleanor would be hurt in the process. William's predicament wasn't in any way Eleanor's fault, and Eleanor never did anything to make William suffer or prolong his separation from Emma. Like William, Eleanor was mainly a victim of strict societal expectations and conniving familial machinations. Of course, I'm sure Kaoru Mori purposely made Eleanor sympathetic and likeable so the obstacles between William and Emma were that much more difficult and heartbreaking. So it was gratifying to see that the possibility of a "happily ever after" ending exists for Eleanor as well. (I also liked that one of Eleanor's last lines that I initially misread as "I'd like to become Mrs. Liebe" actually said "I'd like to become like Mr. Liebe" (emphasis added); to me, it showed that Eleanor has moved beyond the narrow goals set for her by her parents (marry someone of standing) and is now thinking of who and what she wants to be.)

2. Seeing Kelly Stowner's happy but tragically short-lived marriage to her husband Doug. I'd have to go back and re-read the series to see what was said about Mrs. Stowner's marriage, but the depiction of the relationship here was tender and romantic. It almost made me bawl my eyes out!

3. The visual tour of The Great Exhibition. It was a stunning, scrumptious, artistic tour de force. The whole time I could hear Mori saying, "Why did I ever decide to draw this? Why did I ever decide to draw this?"

4. Seeing newspapers being put to such good use. The newspaper industry should commission Mori to do a campaign about the rich, full life cycle of newspapers, detailing the 1001 things you can do with newsprint!

5. The naughty Frenchman. Say no more, squire! Say no more!

6. Seeing a young person who's going through life a little aimlessly, not sure what she wants to do, without it coming across as depressing or self-indulgent. It's also enlightening to know that young people in different time periods went through similar bouts of doubt and indecision.

7. More Mori omake!!! Oh, Kaoru Mori, I think I'm in love with your diminutive, self-deprecating caricature.

8. Knowing that there's an Emma 9 and an Emma 10 coming with even more side stories about the various characters from this delightful, enchanting series.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Gotta Get 'Em All!

My latest manga obsession has been Ranma ½ by Rumiko Takahashi. It's a fast-paced, hilarious, and completely addictive manga series. As soon as I finish one volume, I can't wait to pick up the next one. Luckily, there are two things in my favor: (1) the series is complete, so I don't have to wait for long publishing gaps between volumes; and (2) my local library has all thirty-six volumes "in stock," so getting the next volume is as easy as submitting a new request online. I've made it through the first six volumes so far and have requested through book seventeen so I have a large stack on hand to plow through.

The palpable excitement and impatience I experience between volumes of Ranma caused me to reflect on other manga series that were similarly addictive. For example, I distinctively remember buying the first four volumes of Death Note in one bunch and being unable to stop reading (and re-reading) them. And I remember buying a full set of Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M off eBay after I got hooked reading the first volume from the library. (And once I got the books I remember reading the whole series over a feverish weekend.)

All of which makes me wonder: What is the most compulsively addictive manga series? I've listed some of my top contenders for The Most Addictive Manga, EVER in the poll below, but feel free to write in your own vote.

*** UPDATE: If you're curious what series people are writing in for "other,"
I've exported the full results here and I'll update intermittently. ***

**** UPDATE 4/16: 64 votes so far, half of which are write-in suggestions.
here to see all the other series readers can't put down! ****

***** FINAL UPDATE 4/19: 75 votes, 37 for other series.
(Well, one write-in was for Akira, so 36 "other" votes.)
here to see the full list of suggested series.
One Piece was the most popular write-in, with 5 votes.*****

What qualities make a manga irresistibly addictive? Having the entire series available at your fingertips definitely helps fuel a relentless reading binge, but here are some other factors that help make a series helplessly habit-forming:
  1. Cliffhangers. The most addictive series know how to hook readers with great cliffhanger endings. For example, in the latest volume of Bleach, we're left with Orihime facing one of the most relentless Arrancars all by herself. How will she protect herself? How will she even manage to survive? Arrrrrrgh! It's going to be a long wait until June 2nd!!

  2. Exciting art. Compelling series also feature dramatic, energetic art propels you along as you read the story. Once again, look at Bleach as an example: Go back and look at how Tite Kubo ratchets up the tension and urgency of action scenes by tilting panels, layering on the speed lines, and zooming in on key aspects of the fights.

  3. Sprawling cast of characters. This might seem counterintuitive, but I believe that series with larger casts are actually more likely to engage readers' imaginations than those with smaller casts. I'm not sure why this would be, but here are several possible reasons:

    1. It's more immersive. Adding a large, well-defined cast of characters makes a series feel like it takes place in its own real world.

    2. It allows multiple entry points into the series. Having multiple characters gives you multiple perspectives on events in the manga, so you're not just stuck seeing everything from the grim loner's point of view.

    3. It allows the creator the flexibility to play around so he or she doesn't grow bored. If everything had to be from one character's perspective, that could get old fast, so having lots of characters allows the manga-ka to try different things and stretch his or her creative muscles every now and then (especially if said manga-ka is fond of coming up with crazy character designs).

    4. It keeps you reading for the next appearance of that obscure, single-appearance character you fell in love with back in volume four. When are we going to see more of Don Kanonji, huh?

    5. More pairings for your fanfic. Well, not necessarily just for fanfic, but having a large cast of characters allows for endless possible match-ups (in multiple senses of the term). For example, in Ranma, I was amused when all of Akane's wannabe suitors ganged up on Ranma. And it was fun to watch Shampoo's great-grandmother Cologne train Ryoga in order to defeat Ranma. Related to the first sub-point, it extends a series' believability/plausibility when you can imagine the various characters interacting with each other in various ways. (OK, get your minds out of the gutter! Sheesh!) Of course, the danger is that things can become too complicated, requiring a flowchart just to keep all the characters and their relationships with each other straight.

  4. Modulating moods. Many long-running manga series are able to successfully move from action to comedy to romance and other varied moods. Again, this might seem counterintuitive — won't the shift to comedy antics dilute the intensity of the action? — but I believe if done well, such variations in tone actually help a series prolong its appeal. After all, if a series is nothing but non-stop fighting, how do you continually up the ante? Stopping to engage in some romance or drama can help keep the action feeling fresh. If you never stop to catch your breath or focus on quiter character moments, you'll probably grow exhausted with endless battles.

  5. A great hook, plus plenty of satisfying subplots. All of the addictive manga have a great core concept that you can easily boil down to a single sentence or two. Boy genius finds magic notebook that kills anyone whose name you write in it and proceeds to eliminate evil from the world. Star martial artist is cursed to switch genders when doused with cold water, which leads to complications when living with his betrothed fiancee and her family. It also helps if the series mixes long-running storylines with shorter subplots to be developed and explored later. (Series that offer more stand-alone chapter-sized stories, such as Mail or Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, are great but generally not as addictive as manga that have long-running arcs threading through the entire series) Again, varying things up will likely hold reader interest longer over time.
What other attributes make a manga impossible to put down and cause you to count the days until the next release?

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Monday, April 13, 2009
The Fight Scenes in Bleach...

...are becoming increasingly abstract:

If this keeps up, pretty soon upcoming volumes will resemble this. (Do they have assistant editors' month in Japan?)

Image from Bleach Volume 26, which is an engaging installment despite the occasional confusing fight scene. Of particular interest: We finally see Kisuke Urahara unleashed, and it looks like Orihime's abilities may finally be extended beyond simply pining after Ichigo and healing him when he's battered and bruised.

Just one thing, Viz: Could you please pick a spelling for the Vizards and stick with it? Originally it was "Vizards," then it changed to "Visoreds" (which doesn't sound tough or threatening at all, since it conjures up images like this or this), but you're still referring to them as "Vizards" on the back cover. (And your website adds a third variation, "Visards." Arrrgh!!!)

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Friday, April 10, 2009
Feeling Frugal: Reader Response Edition

ITEM! Commenter Jason points out that Akadot is a great place to get your Project X and other DMP manga on the cheap. The Project X books are 69-85% off (just $9.90 for all three) and another Sporadic Sequential favorite, Fumi Yoshinaga's absolutely delightful Flower of Life, is available as a three-volume set for ONLY TEN BUCKS!!! (Individual volumes are 54-61% off.) (Akadot offers free shipping on orders over $100, but the bargain books don't qualify for that offer. When I added the Flower of Life bundle or the three Project X books to my cart, the cheapest shipping option was $11.90, so take shipping costs into consideration.)

To give you an idea of Half.com's money-saving potential: I recently purchased 13 different Yen Press & DMP releases, all listed as "Like New." I spent $14.36 on the items, and $29.37 on shipping, for a total of $43.73. The same items cost $64.91 on Amazon Marketplace, and $150.35 new. Happy times.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009
A Silly Manga Crossover in Three Panels

The setup: Kosaku Shima is tasting the bread made by his company's breadmaker for the first time.

The next day, a panel of experts is assembled to advise Kosaku Shima:

Hilarity ensues when it becomes apparent that Kazuma doesn't know the first thing about using an automatic breadmaker, or the most fundamental principles of business even, but he still manages to give Kosaku a culinary orgasm with his latest creation, pan #69, "The Salaryman Special"!:

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009
WARNING: Staring at This Post Too Long May Cause Seizures

If e-book readers like the Kindle ever get around to (officially) supporting manga, here's a feature I'd love to see implemented: Allow users to toggle between Japanese and English sound effects with the push of a button:

I think it'd be really cool to be able to see what particular panels or pages looked like when they were published in the original Japanese. And this might be overkill, but an option to enable a transition "fade" effect showing the various layers involved in retouching SFX from Japanese to English could be fun:

I'm not saying this would be enough to convince me to buy an e-reader device, but it would certainly make it more tempting. And it would be a nice use of the technology to do something that print simply can't (without veering into pointless tech-for-the-sake-of-tech territory like motion comics). What do others think? Is this something that would interest you, or would it be a feature you'd never actually use?

Apologies for the crappy animated GIFs; I was too lazy to align the images properly, so the transition is pretty shaky. And thanks to letterer extraordinaire Susie Lee for posting the images and explaining the process in the first place.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Salaryman

Is it just me or does anyone else hear the song "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham! playing when they look at this splash page from Young Kōsaku Shima?

OK, I admit: This does kind of make Kosaku Shima look like an insufferable asshole. But it looks like this must have taken place in the eighties, and weren't all businessmen insufferably smug assholes in the eighties?

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009
A 10% Cut is Even Worse in Japan

Another reason why everyone should be as excited to read Section Chief Kōsaku Shima as I am:

Japanese business is hardcore.

Image of yubitsume from Buchō Kōsaku Shima (AKA, "Manager Kōsaku Shima"); found on MangaHelpers, which also has raw files of Young Kōsaku Shima and Young Kōsaku Shima: Shuninhen.

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Monday, April 06, 2009
Big But Backwards

Well, if accurate, this will bum Lori Henderson out. From Amazon's product listing for Inuyasha VIZBIG Edition Volume 1:
Product Description
L to R (Western Style).
Of course, that could just be a leftover description from old releases of Inuyasha, especially since the blurb is almost identical to the one that accompanied volume 37. Personally, I'd prefer an unflipped edition as well, but it wouldn't surprise me if Viz attempted to keep costs down by reusing the same material it had already prepared before. Guess we'll find out in November when the book comes out. (Now where's the announcement for a VIZBIG edition of an unflipped and remastered Ranma 1/2)?

UPDATE: In the comments, Greg McElhatton shares a rumor that would explain why all of Rumiko Takahashi's manga series have always appeared in flipped format, even when subsequent, smaller editions were released: Apparently Viz's licenses were too specific and only granted the rights to publish Takahashi's work in the flipped format. So to publish new, unflipped editions, Viz would have to renegotiate their contracts, which would add additional costs they probably don't want to incur for a reprint project. So it looks like the VIZBIG edition of Inuyasha may be flipped after all, which just seems... odd. (Although Tekkon Kinkreet was reissued in a flipped format, so maybe it's not such a big deal.)

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And Now, The Most Pointless List in Blogging History

I had an odd meta-realization about my blog today: I've created more labels (366) than posts (360) so far. Most of the labels are one-off jokes that will never be reused (almost 70% of the labels (247) have been single-use), but there are some that pop up again and again. Here are this blog's top twenty-five labels by frequency:
  1. Manga (147)
  2. Shopping (35)
  3. Viz (29)
  4. Bleach (22)
  5. Marvel (19)
  6. Reviews (19)
  7. Bargains (15)
  8. Dark Horse (15)
  9. Superhero Comics (11)
  10. CMX (10)
  11. Fantasy Fanfic (10)
  12. Crossovers I'd Like To See (9)
  13. Takehiko Inoue (9)
  14. Coupons (8)
  15. DC (8)
  16. Shojo WW Watch (8)
  17. Slam Dunk (8)
  18. Kazuo Umezu (7)
  19. Kekkaishi (7)
  20. Lists (7)
  21. New Yorker (7)
  22. Reading Diary (7)
  23. Tintin Pantoja (7)
  24. Tokyopop (7)
  25. Sgt. Frog (6)
Are other bloggers this label-happy? Do others use labels in a similar punchline/annotation fashion? Are labels on this blog useful for readers? (I don't think I ever really click on the labels of blogs that I follow regularly, but I guess I have used labels on other blogs when I'm unfamiliar with them.)

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There's No Business Like Business Business

Man, Shaenon K. Garrity's Overlooked Manga Festival really is the gift that keeps on giving, isn't it? Further Googling for info on Section Chief Kōsaku Shima I ran across this link to one of Garrity's OMFs. Granted, there was only a tiny reference to Kōsaku Shima, but the rest of the entry was a goldmine. After pausing to note that Kekkaishi won the 2007 Shogakukan Manga Award for shonen manga (yay for Kekkaishi!), Garrity goes on to discuss an obscure, out-of-print book called Bringing Home the Sushi, which features samples from nine different business manga, including Kōsaku Shima. Garrity's description of Section Chief Kōsaku Shima only makes me want to read the series even more:
...the incomparable, incredibly long-running Section Chief Kosaku Shima, a sprawling white-collar epic that's partly a realistic overview of contemporary business issues, partly a naked wish-fulfillment fantasy rife with heroic boardroom deals and beautiful twenty-year-old women who can't wait to get into the pants of aging, workaholic businessmen, and partly an incredibly depressing concept of a way for a man to live his life.
Aaaaah! I have to have it!!!

Well, it's probably a long wait until someone licenses Section Chief Kōsaku Shima (and all the sequels and prequels), so I did the next best thing: I ordered a used copy of Bringing Home the Sushi from Amazon for only two bucks! (OK, six bucks with shipping, but still...) Based on the sample scans Garrity shared this book looks like it should be a great introduction to the world of business manga. If it's something that sounds intriguing, there are still a couple Amazon marketplace vendors offering the book used for $1.98.

In the meantime, what other business manga is already available in English? The only ones I can think of are the "Project X" one-shots from DMP. I've read Cup Noodle and 240Z but I just realized that I've never read Seven Eleven. It looks like it's out of print, although Buy.com offers it new for just $8.99. I placed an order for it but it's listed as "Temporarily Sold Out," so who knows if I'll ever actually see it. Any other good (and readily available) business manga I should be checking out to satisfy my salaryman jonesing? (Wait, that came out wrong...)

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Sunday, April 05, 2009
I'd Buy THAT For Dollar More

I'm not sure how widely known this is, but it looks like Tokyopop has recently raised the standard price of its manga from $9.99 to $10.99. Gia Manry mentioned this way back on Dec. 11, 2008 but I couldn't find any other coverage of this. Granted, the increase is only a dollar and many other companies already charge this much for their manga, so perhaps many fans simply don't care. I was surprised I didn't see any sites like ICv2 asking Tokyopop about the price jump, though. After all, Tokyopop used to tout the $9.99 price point as an important element in their formula for success. (Perhaps now that business isn't as good the psychologically appealing $10 price point is no longer so important to maintain.)

I'm not sure exactly when the price increase went into effect. Based on this listing on AAA Anime, it looks like the price hike started with titles released in late March and early April. Gia mentioned in her post that she thought Fruits Basket 22 (released 3/17/2009) would be unaffected by the price increase, but Amazon shows the list price as $10.99. I noticed the price increase when searching for Sgt. Frog 17 (release date 5/5/2009). Since Sgt. Frog is the only Tokyopop series I'm following, this doesn't impact me much, but I wonder how other fans feel? Is a dollar price increase in this economy enough to cause readers to reconsider purchasing one of their favorite manga series?

I'm assuming the price increase won't be accompanied by any additions to the manga volumes, like better paper stock or color inserts. It would be interesting if Tokyopop followed a page from DC's recent playbook and offset the price increase with backup features. Like DC, Tokyopop could use the price increase as an opportunity to publish fan favorites that don't sell well enough to justify individual publication. It'd be especially interesting if Tokyopop used such backups to complete the many OEL series stuck in publishing limbo. Of course, you'd run the risk of fans complaining about charging more for series they don't want to read, but if the prices were going to go up anyway, I assume most fans would rather get something additional rather than nothing at all. (So far this seems to be the general reaction from DC fans on message boards.) With manga fans there's the additional worry that some manga purists would object to mixing non-Japanese comics with "authentic" Japanese manga, but perhaps this concern could be lessened by (1) downplaying the "OEL manga" label, positioning the backups as bonus comics material that might appeal to fans of the main manga; and (2) making sure that the backup matched the main series in tone and themes. For example, I wouldn't mind seeing Brandon Scott Graham's King City as a backup for Sgt. Frog, and I think it would make a good fit given the shared sci-fi elements and exaggerated but detailed art styles.

How about you? If you were an editor at Tokyopop, which unfinished series would you give new life as backup strips, and what books would you run them in?

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Friday, April 03, 2009
Bargain Alert: 60% Off Nick & Dent @ TFAW!

During the month of April, TFAW's Nick & Dent merchandise is even cheaper at 60% off vs. the usual 50%! That makes is a great time to browse their selection for bargains on graphic novels. As of this writing, there are 1622 nick & dent graphic novels to sift through. Some recommendations:
  • Eden - If David Welsh's write-up of this series sounded intriguing, TFAW has the first ten volumes at 60% off each.
  • Mail - All three volumes are available for 60% off!
  • Museum of Terror - Ditto. Do yourself a favor and grab some excellent, unsettling horror manga at a great price.
  • Club 9 - Yes, I will keep pimping this series until all of you deplete Dark Horse's back stock, causing them to go back and finish the rest of the series. C'mon, it's only $3.20 apiece and I guarantee you it's one of the sweetest, quirkiest, funniest mangas you'll ever read.
  • Reiko the Zombie Shop - A great gonzo horror series with plenty of ridiculously over-the-top gore. Only one caveat: Dark Horse dropped this series mid-storyline, so if you start reading this addictive series, you'll reach a point where it simply stops right on a huge cliffhanger and you'll go crazy wondering how it all concluded. But other than that, it's a great read.
  • Astro Boy - Tezuka on the cheap! A confession: I haven't actually read any Astro Boy yet, but I did just order volume 3 since that has the "Greatest Robot on Earth" storyline, which served as the basis for Naoki Urasawa's Pluto. Should make for an interesting companion to the updated take, seeing what the original story was like.
I was going to recommend a couple other books, such as Brandon Scott Graham's King City, but it's already sold out! So hurry up and find the best bargains before someone else beats you to it!

DealTaker doesn't offer any current coupons for free shipping from TFAW, but you can always sign up for their newsletter to get some free shipping codes. After you sign up, you'll get a welcome email with two coupon codes. Or you can just try reusing the codes they sent me — I don't see anything that links the codes to a particular account:
  • NEWSLETTER - Free shipping on domestic orders $30+ (expires 4/30/09)
  • TFAWNEWS - $10 off any shipping method (domestic or international) on orders $50+ (expires 4/30/09)
I'll be curious to see if TFAW simply reactivates these codes each month or if they issue new ones. Searching through my emails, it looks like the codes were different back in 2008 and they're no longer active.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009
A Completely Different Kind of Corporate Comic

Yesterday's post was inspired by a recent revelation I experienced while reading With the Light vol. 4: I totally want to read some good salaryman manga, darn it!

I've enjoyed With the Light ever since I read the first volume, but I noticed that I was really getting into the latest volume as I was reading it. Then it hit me: My interest spiked whenever the focus shifted to the dad's work-related ordeals. It wasn't that I didn't find the rest of the book interesting (far from it: the fact that the book appeals to me on so many levels — parent, worker, spouse, former staff in a group home for autistic children — is one of the main reasons I'm so fond of the series), but I was especially captivated by the scenes of the dad struggling to succeed at work.

I think a big part of this is being able to relate with many of the things Masato deals with at his workplace. Not that my job is anywhere near as stressful as his, but the conflicts with coworkers and office politics are details that resonate as similar even if they're not exactly the same. I never thought I'd reach the point in my entertainment consumption where I was seeking out material that mirrors my own experiences, but this incident gives me greater appreciation for fans who desire to see their own interests reflected in fiction: There's something fulfilling about recognizing your experiences in the works you read.

It also reminded me of Eric Reynolds' commentary on the state of the American periodical comics industry. When did comics drift away from their audience? Why isn't there more material for adults? Why aren't there more options for types of story that have the potential to resonate with readers from diverse demographics?

All of which is my roundabout way of saying I suddenly realized I'm very interested in reading some salaryman manga and disappointed that there isn't any readily available. I realize it's probably a long shot for any publisher to license anything like Section Chief Kōsaku Shima but I'd love to see someone take a chance on something like this. (Maybe if Kodansha ever makes their move in the U.S. we'll get to see more offbeat titles like this?) Plus, look at how popular series set in the workplace have been in other media. If the public can accept and enjoy Dilbert and The Office, why not salaryman manga? (OK, granted those are comedies and they're rooted in American culture, but still...) And if manga creators can make series about board games and cooking exciting, is it really a stretch to imagine that a manga chronicling a worker's hard-fought rise through the corporate ranks is probably THE MOST GRIPPING TALE EVER?!?

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009
The Trials and Tribulations of A Salaryman

Apologies for not updating the blog more frequently, but, as you can guess, work has been brutal lately. I know I've complained about the office politics before, but things are getting even more cutthroat recently. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just being paranoid, but I swear some of the older workers have it in for me, and mainly as a means of protecting their own fragile positions. It's disheartening. I don't mind getting rough and dirty and fighting to prove my worth, but the politics is so petty. It would be one thing if people were fighting to protect their pet projects but many of the worst offenders don't even seem to produce anything of value for the company. How can these people get up and look at themselves in the mirror each morning? Don't they understand what it means to be a true SALARYMAN?

I remember when I first started working as a salaryman. I was so optimistic, so energetic, so naive. I truly thought I would rise to the top on talent alone and that my brilliant ideas would change the world while making my company a handsome profit. That was before the long nights, the endless weekends, the soul-crushing status reports. Now I'm happy if I can just make it through the day without being humiliated by a cruel co-worker, ending up crying in the farthest men's room stall once again.

Of course, the economy isn't making things any easier. Everyone seems to be working under a state of anxious panic, fearing that they will be the next to be let go. It's made some even more ruthless than I would have previously thought possible. I don't think anyone here will soon forget the tragic conference room 2B incident of February 3rd, nor will anyone be able to forgive the perpetrator (even though he not only got off scot-free but also received a promotion and "revulsion" bonus).

I'm trying to keep my spirits up, mainly by working on my side projects in my spare time. I doubt now is the proper time to reveal any of my daring ideas to upper management, but I'm biding my time. I know any one of these projects could be real money-makers for the company but I also know that no one's willing to take any risks on any crazy ideas from a mid-level employee in this financial environment. But some day... some day my poor, suffering wife and neglected children will understand all the sacrifices I made, all the time and energy I poured into this company. Some day everyone will witness my triumph and all then all the pain and suffering will have been worth it.

I have to remind myself that things haven't always been this bad. I have to think back on the things that I originally loved about this job -- the challenges, the camaraderie of coworkers, the chance to improve the lives of our customers. It's all still possible -- I just need to work past the distractions that have accumulated over the years, scrape off the bilious barnacles of negativity and resentment that poison my work attitude. I need to rediscover the passion I had for this job, this career, this vocation.

I need to remind myself why I became... a SALARYMAN.

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