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Viz Media Launches Manga App for iPad Users

Viz Media announced the launch of their new iPad application earlier in the week – a digital shop downloadable on iPads where users can purchase volumes of their manga.

Volumes in this digital format will cost $4.99 each and Viz Media is currently offering the first volume of Death Note for free so readers can test out the program. Currently they’re offering the company’s big-name titles such as One Piece, Naruto and Dragonball. iTunes lists volumes of One Piece as being the top sellers on the app since its debut.

Personally this news doesn’t interest me much because, well, I don’t own an iPad. Even if I did, I prefer books in paper-format – personal preferable. For those who have an iPad and enjoy reading comics digitally, however, I can of course see the more jump-for-joy reasoning here.

Looking at from sheerly from an audience perspective, those who own an iPad have proven themselves already the type more apt to pay money for their hobbies and entertainment. It’s a perfect environment to find manga fans and create new ones on those grounds alone. Still, I have to wonder – those who own the iPad, are they the 12-16 year old audience that thebooks Viz Media is offering are aimed for? Highly doubtful. That Viz Media wouldn’t come out of the gate with more mature titles such as their Sig Ikki series, most of which already have at least some kind of digital rights as they’re posted to the imprint’s website on a weekly basis, boggles my mind and is a bit disappointing.

I’m not saying that readers of any age can’t or don’t enjoy the Shonen Jump big-guns, and there’s certainly value in putting out the big-sellers, but they hardly seem strong titles to use in reaching out to the vast majority of iPad owners who likely don’t read manga in the first place. It feels a mix-match of audiences.

Then again, the app has only been out since November 2nd, so who knows how many or how potentially diverse their manga offerings could be in the future.


Yen Press Seeks Fresh Talent for Yen Plus Serialization

Early September  marked the first issue of Yen Plus in its digital format for subscribers. For only $2.99 a month – which is set up via PayPal – readers now have access to that month’s issue, which also now includes new chapters of K-on and Yotsuba&! (which was reason enough for me to subscribe right off the bat).

In their first issue they also officially launched their search for new talent to be potential new additions to the monthly magazine. At their request, information was kept off other sites to give subscribers the early-bird advantage. As of today however, the information for their New Talent Search has been posted publicly on Yen Press’s site so now all interested and qualifying artists can read the details.

Read more…


13 Days of Halloween: Uzumaki

Shannon, here – Halloween is my favourite holiday and to honour it I’m counting down 13 manga throughout the month that I think best capture the Halloween spirit. They aren’t all horror manga, as to me Halloween is about more than scares: it’s about a sense of fun and wonder. It’s about discovering that there may be more to this world than meets the eye. So with that in mind, there’s everything on this list from action-packed shounen to romantic-comedy to children’s manga to some lock-the-doors-and-leave-the-lights-on horror. (See all 13 Days of Halloween so far…)

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1. Uzumaki

There’s a game I like to play with Uzumaki. The rules are simple: open up any volume to any page and see if it shows you something horribly grotesque, unnatural, gory or just plain creepy. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, it will. And you never know what it will be: vampires who use drills instead of teeth, human beings maiming and contorting their bodies into unnatural shapes, giant snail people. And that’s just some of the weird stuff that goes on in this series.

Uzumaki is the tale of a small town called Kurôzu-cho, a seaside town that becomes plagued by spirals. It starts off slowly, with one resident of the town becoming obsessed with the shape. He starts collecting every example he can find and eating only food that have spirals in them (i.e. spiral patterned fish cakes). But what starts out as a weird quirk soon turns into something more deadly when spirals start turning up all over town. The smoke from the crematorium swirls sinisterly over the town, whirlwinds spring up out of nowhere, eddies appear randomly in streams. And then things get really weird. One resident, in her fear of spirals, snips the skin off of her fingertips. A girl’s tiny cresent-shaped scar twists and becomes a huge gaping vortex that sucks in everyone around her. People start turning into giant snails.

Kirie and Shuichi, two teenagers living in the town, seem to be the only ones who notice how Kurôzu-cho it slowly going crazy. But eventually (around the time people start turning into giant snail creatures) the other citizens start to take notice as well. But by then it’s too late, as the town is already in the grip of the spiral.

Uzumaki is the most inventive horror story I’ve ever seen in any medium. The wealth of ideas present and their fantastic execution makes this not only one of my favourite horror manga, but one of my favourite manga ever. If you only read one horror series this Halloween, it should be Uzumaki.


13 Days of Halloween: Haunted House

Shannon, here – Halloween is my favourite holiday and to honour it I’m counting down 13 manga throughout the month that I think best capture the Halloween spirit. They aren’t all horror manga, as to me Halloween is about more than scares: it’s about a sense of fun and wonder. It’s about discovering that there may be more to this world than meets the eye. So with that in mind, there’s everything on this list from action-packed shounen to romantic-comedy to children’s manga to some lock-the-doors-and-leave-the-lights-on horror. (See all 13 Days of Halloween so far…)

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2. Haunted House

Another manga with no supernatural aspects to it on the list, the first being Kindaichi Case Files, Haunted House is a comedy by Mitsukazu Mihara. The main character is a high school guy named Sabato, a perfectly normal guy whose only goal in life is to get a girlfriend. Each chapter he meets a girl, falls for her, starts to think that maybe things could work out between the two of them…and then he takes her home to meet his family. Sabato may be as normal as can be, but his family is insane. His mother and sisters all dress to the nines in gothic Lolita type outfits, while his father has practically stolen Dracula’s look wholesale. That wouldn’t be so bad, except that on top of that they seem to purposely set out to embarrass Sabato, pulling crazy, morbid stunts every time one of Sabato’s ladyfriends come to visit.

Haunted House is a funny manga in that it takes something simple (the embarrassment most teens feel when it comes to their family) and put a crazy, wacky spin on it. There are so many gags on each page, and pretty much all of them work. It’s an especially fun manga to read if you’re a horror fan, as there are lots of jokes relating to classic horror stories and movies.

What’s really impressive is that the manga isn’t just an episodic comedy series. While each chapter stands alone to a certain extent, over the course of the book Sabato goes from being a frantic, shallow girl chaser to being a more thoughtful and accepting young man. It’s a nice bit of characterization that works without bringing the comedy down. By the end of the manga it’s also revealed that Sabato’s family, for all their harassment and teasing, really do love him and just want what’s best for him.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention Mitsukazu Mihara’s beautiful art. While she can draw some very pretty characters, she also has great comedic timing and knows when to go for a more cartoony style.

Haunted House may not be a horror manga, but it is probably one of the few manga that you can see being actually influenced by Halloween. If you love creepy things as much as Sabato’s family does, then you should check out this manga.


13 Days of Halloween: Cat Eyed Boy

Shannon, here – Halloween is my favourite holiday and to honour it I’m counting down 13 manga throughout the month that I think best capture the Halloween spirit. They aren’t all horror manga, as to me Halloween is about more than scares: it’s about a sense of fun and wonder. It’s about discovering that there may be more to this world than meets the eye. So with that in mind, there’s everything on this list from action-packed shounen to romantic-comedy to children’s manga to some lock-the-doors-and-leave-the-lights-on horror. (See all 13 Days of Halloween so far…)

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3. Cat Eyed Boy

Kazuo Umezu is the creator of classic horror manga such as A Drifting Classroom, a stark story of survival in a post-apocalyptic world. While Drifting Classroom is certainly scary enough to be a Halloween manga, that’s not the only criteria for this list. The manga also need a sense of fun, even campy, to really make it feel like it’s something best read in October and not June or January. With that in mind, number three on this list is Cat Eyed Boy, another horror manga from Umezu.

The titular cat eyed boy is actually a demon who wanders around Japan, living in people’s attics and watching their lives unfold below. Wherever Cat Eyed Boy goes, strange things are sure to happen. In one story Cat Eyed Boy meets a family haunted by a disgusting monster made of bulbous, decaying flesh. In another story, a boy’s love for collecting insects turns out to be his undoing when the insects rise up against him.

The stories vary in length, tone and quality, but overall Cat Eyed Boy is a pretty campy horror anthology. The series is grounded in Japanese mythology, with many of the stories being new tellings of ancient myths.

Umezu’s art has a certain old-fashioned stiffness to it (I’ve seen someone compare his characters to mannequins). But his character designs for the monsters are much more lively and eye-catching, and since there are more demons and monsters in the series than normal people it works out pretty well.

You can read my review of the second volume of Cat Eyed Boy.


13 Days of Halloween: Hollow Fields

Hollow Fields

Shannon, here – Halloween is my favourite holiday and to honour it I’m counting down 13 manga throughout the month that I think best capture the Halloween spirit. They aren’t all horror manga, as to me Halloween is about more than scares: it’s about a sense of fun and wonder. It’s about discovering that there may be more to this world than meets the eye. So with that in mind, there’s everything on this list from action-packed shounen to romantic-comedy to children’s manga to some lock-the-doors-and-leave-the-lights-on horror. (See all 13 Days of Halloween so far…)

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4. Hollow Fields

There are a ton of OEL manga that have Halloween trappings, such as My Dead Girlfriend or I Luv Halloween. Weirdly enough, it’s a work by an Australian creator that really manages to capture the spirit of this very North American holiday. Madeline Rosca’s Hollow Fields doesn’t take place on Halloween, but the creepy setting and child protagonists still makes it a good manga to read in October.

Lucy Snow is nervous about going away to boarding school, especially when she accidently ends up at a school for young mad scientists. Instead of gym, math and English, at Hollow Fields the kids practice corpse robbing and building giant robots. This is all new to Lucy, who lacks not only the know-how but also the ruthlessness her fellow students posses. But she had better learn fast, as the every week the student with the lowest grade is sent off to the windmill, a lonely place where the teachers conduct their experiments and no student has ever returned.

Madeline Rosca’s art is a nice mix of cuteness and steampunk. Her character designs are fun and manage to be cute while still unsettling. The best example of this is the school faculty – the teachers no longer have human bodies but reside in giant wind-up dolls. The story also walks a fine line between sweet and scary, especially as the series progresses and it becomes clearer what exactly is going on at the school.

In the name of transparency, I want to note that I do freelance work for Seven Seas, the publisher behind Hollow Fields. I also want to note that Blood Alone omnibus comes out in April 2011, and is also good Halloween time reading!


13 Days of Halloween: Kurosagi Delivery Service


Shannon, here – Halloween is my favourite holiday and to honour it I’m counting down 13 manga throughout the month that I think best capture the Halloween spirit. They aren’t all horror manga, as to me Halloween is about more than scares: it’s about a sense of fun and wonder. It’s about discovering that there may be more to this world than meets the eye. So with that in mind, there’s everything on this list from action-packed shounen to romantic-comedy to children’s manga to some lock-the-doors-and-leave-the-lights-on horror. (See all 13 Days of Halloween so far…)

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5. Kurosagi Delivery Service

Everyone has their own personal squick buttons. Kurosagi Delivery Service manages to push all of mine. If there’s one kind of horror that gets under my skin more than any other, it’s body horror. Body horror is known for being gross as much as it is for being scary. Bodily fluid and functions are often at the forefront of the scares, earning EWW!s as well as AHHH!s from the audience. But once you get past the disgusting surface, body horror is about something much deeper than humans’ gut reaction to grossness. Body horror forces us to confront the fact that, for all our dazzling intellect and capabilities to reason, we are still stuck in these hulking, often gross physical forms, which will eventually perish and rot away.

Aside from the works of David Cronenberg, Kurosagi Delivery Service is the best example of body horror out there. The series follows a group of students at a Buddhist university. All of them have different talents (embalming, dowsing, communicating with the dead, etc) but quickly realize it’s hard to find work using these skills. The most ambitious among them, a computer-savy woman named Sasaki, decides that what they need to do is start a company of their own. And so the Kurosagi Delivery Service is born.  The way it works is that the group finds a corpse and promises the dead spirit they will carry out its last wish in return for payment. While it sounds like a straight forward premise, practically every case becomes a lot more complicated very fast, becoming more and more twisted (in every sense of the word) with each horrifying revelation.

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is not only unnerving, it’s also very smart, with constant of commentary on society and its customs for both the living and the dead. Despite how dark and gory the stories can get, the cast manages to keep things light with their bickering and banter. Dark Horse is doing an amazing job with the series, including a ton of adaptation notes in the back which help highlight some of the manga’s themes and references.

Lissa has reviewed quite a few volumes of the manga right here.


13 Days of Halloween: Petshop of Horrors

Shannon, here – Halloween is my favourite holiday and to honour it I’m counting down 13 manga throughout the month that I think best capture the Halloween spirit. They aren’t all horror manga, as to me Halloween is about more than scares: it’s about a sense of fun and wonder. It’s about discovering that there may be more to this world than meets the eye. So with that in mind, there’s everything on this list from action-packed shounen to romantic-comedy to children’s manga to some lock-the-doors-and-leave-the-lights-on horror. (See all 13 Days of Halloween so far…)

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6. Petshop of Horrors
… + XXXHolic

I was torn about which manga to spotlight here. I knew I wanted to showcase some kind of horror story anthology, but up until the last minute I couldn’t decide between Pet Shop of Horrors or CLAMP’s xxxHolic. Even now as I type this I have to resist the urge to switch back yet again.

What makes it hard is that the two are both extremely similar and at the same time very different. Both share a basic central plot: a mysterious store owner (Count D in Pet Shop of Horrors, Yuko in xxxHolic) gives customers magical items/creatures, often with a cryptic ‘be careful what you wish for’ kind of warning. But do the customers listen? Is a mecha a mecha if it doesn’t have a human pilot controlling it from within? No, of course not.

The stories in both series are basically morality plays. While there are often monsters and ghosts in the stories, the danger to the characters isn’t from some outer force but from within: it’s their own bad habits that lead to their downfall. The characters who survive are the ones who manage to finally become self-aware and see the flaws in their character (though even that isn’t always enough if it comes to late). In xxxHolic especially a lot of customers never even make the connection between their own bad behaviour and all the things wrong in their life, and suffer all the more for it.

Both series have their strong points: I love the art in xxxHolic and think that it’s one of CLAMP’s most striking series style-wise, but Pet shop of Horrors’ old-fashioned shojo art style has its own charms. In the end I’m going with Pet Shop of Horrors, though like I said before xxxHolic could also easily fit into this slot.


Big Changes Coming to Viz Media? Let the Theories Fly!

Staffers at Viz Media used Twitter for some teasing today, posting the following on their different imprint accounts:

“Keep your eyes peeled, HUGE news from VIZ coming next week. This changes everything! Any guesses?”

And guesses there were, as Twitter was quickly full of theories and ideas of what this could be all for good fun and curiousity. For a fairly good overview of who’s saying what and the various ideas brought to the table, I recommend a Viz_Media Twitter search.

A move to digital distribution of some kind was and remains the most seriously presumed of the theories. Will Viz Media be following the recent wave of digital distribution for comics on the iPad/iPhone? Will they begin to offer some multi-device eBook options? Will they reveal an online portal site to read their series via browsers? Old series? New series? All series?

Then there was the thoughts of more simultaneous releases such as what Viz Media has been doing with Rumiko Takahashi’s Rinne. Will we be seeing more simultaneous releases? Single series or multiple magazine-style? Could their existing Shonen Jump start accommodating such releases via subscription service online? Could Shonen Jump go completely digital all together such as Yen Press’s Yen Plus has?

Other theories, hopeful-wishes and amusing-WTFeries included new license announcements, a speed-up of another popular series such as what was done with One Piece and Naruto or Viz Media announcing it’s first boys’ love title (couldn’t help but toss this one in the ring myself).

So what do you think it could be? (Or think would be the most entertaining but improbable!)


13 Days of Halloween: Arkham Woods

Shannon, here – Halloween is my favourite holiday and to honour it I’m counting down 13 manga throughout the month that I think best capture the Halloween spirit. They aren’t all horror manga, as to me Halloween is about more than scares: it’s about a sense of fun and wonder. It’s about discovering that there may be more to this world than meets the eye. So with that in mind, there’s everything on this list from action-packed shounen to romantic-comedy to children’s manga to some lock-the-doors-and-leave-the-lights-on horror. (See all 13 Days of Halloween so far…)

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7. Arkham Woods

Seven Seas has a lot of titles that would fit on this list, but one that stands out is the lovecraftian OEL manga Arkham Woods. Kirsti’s mom recently found out that she is losing her sight. In order to pay for the operation, they need to sell Kirsti’s great-uncle’s creepy home. However, that may be hard to do since the house sits on a portal to an ancient and unspeakable evil, a feature likely to scare away potential buyers.

Arkham Woods is a nicely paced horror story. The tension and the weirdness just keep mounting until the climax, where the cast must stop Cthulu himself from taking over our world. The series plays pretty fast and lose with the Cthulu mythos, but it still manages to share its atmosphere of weird, otherworldly horror. If you’re not familiar with H.P. Lovecraft’s works, don’t worry, the manga tells you everything you need to know.

If you want to check out Arkham Woods yourself, Seven Seas has put the entire thing online here.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I want to note that I’ve worked for Seven Seas as a freelance editor. In the interest of self-promotion, I want to note that anyone who likes dark and twisted manga should buy Amnesia Labyrinth as soon as it comes out.)


Take me back to the top!