May 26, 2006

Why Halo Thar!

Queenie Chan gets some well-deserved attention in an Australian news piece about financial situations faced by local artists.

Even the mainstream media is getting her name right, so all the critics and specialists who still think she's using some cutesy Japanese honorific, you have no excuse.

May 24, 2006

Play With the Numbers

Aoi and Mika.
Yes, I'll find any excuse to post pictures of Aoi Miyazaki.


On the back cover of Nana Vol. 3, Viz proudly trumpets the series as "The all-time best-selling shôjo title in Japan!"

... Except, it isn't.

Comipress has a mostly definitive all-time shôjo sales list, kindly compiled and translated from the research of various Japanese fans. Going by total overall sales, Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers) is the WINNAR! with 54 million copies sold.

Nana is close, but no cigar, in 4th place with 34.5 million copies sold.

If you go by average sales per volume, then Nana DOES win with 2.3 million per volume. But that's a rather shifty way of defining the "best-selling of all time" ...

Obviously, with a list like this, it's weighted towards series that are very long-running, complete, and old enough to have picked up cultural relevance. Something like Patalliro, a popular re-telling of The Journey to the West, gets in by virtue of being, oh, 76 volumes long.

Other interesting factoids from this list...

Fantasy epics Red River, Please Save My Earth and Basara all clock in very close to each other, coming in 12th, 13th and 16th. In between is the all-time classic The Rose of Versailles at No. 14.

In the Magical Girl wars, Cardcaptor Sakura narrowly beats Sailor Moon, both selling about 12 million total but with Sakura at No. 21 and Moon at No. 23.

North American favorite Fruits Basket is just a bit below, at No. 25.

Then you get down to the stuff that's more recent, and therefore has sold less because it's not finished yet, or ended up not having that many volumes. Two of Tokyopop's dropped licenses, Kodocha and Marmalade Boy, picking up No. 30 and 31. Yazawa's next most well-known series, the 5-volume Paradise Kiss, at No. 40. The currently very popular Honey and Clover is at No. 42. Other contemporary hits like Nodame Cantabile and Ouran High School Host Club aren't far behind, at Nos. 46 and 47 respectively. And by the time you've dug down far enough and don't care anymore ... there's Socrates in Love, the highest ranking single-volume work at No. 76.

And yeah, I've dug down far enough that I don't care anymore. :P

But Nana. Intensely popular? Yes. Best-selling of all-time in its field? Aaaaaalmost.

May 23, 2006

Baby Elephant Walk

So do they call it Thainimation? On May 18th, Studio Kantana released Thailand's first full 3D-CGI animated feature, Khan Kluay. In true Thai spirit, the film is about ... elephants. (Click the green elephant in the intro screen to see a trailer.) Says a quick summary at movieseer:
Khankluay is a young elephant who lives his carefree life in a forest, but he's always wondering of his lost father whom he's never met. Inspired by the intention to search for his father, Khankluay leaves the forest and sets his journey to the bigger world. His journey brings such an extraordinary adventure to him. He's experienced so many lessons of life, and finds real friends. Finally, Khankluay becomes a mature elephant who's so brave and powerful, but has a gentle heart. He fights for the king and country until his courage becomes a legend.

The Bangkok Post's review has mixed reactions:
...while our chests are certainly swelled with the pride and joy that Thai artists have produced an animation of startling technical achievement - one that's breathtakingly close to the flag-bearers like Pixar - the movie also force-feeds us Thais with the pride deeply associated with a primitive brand of patriotism. Considering that the film is supposed to be a children's treat, the 150-million-baht Khan Kluay presents a pretty yet profoundly odd package, especially when the young elephant of the title receives a pep-talk on how he should be proud to sacrifice his life for his country by battling, who else, the invading Burmese.
And somehow there's a Lord of the Rings homage in it too, because, y'know. Personally, I'd say it hews closer to the Dreamworks house style than Pixar, but now I'm just waffling. In any case, it's a big artistic step for a country more commonly associated with tourism and food.

May 22, 2006

My new manga technique is unstoppable

How to Draw Manga For Really Lazy People


Is there no God? Well, if there is, he must have one helluva sense of humor, as the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reviews a "Manga Clip Art" software package. Setting a new low in Draw Manga Quick schemes, this is perhaps the next step down for people who are even too lazy to draw a circle and two intersecting lines. Christpher Hart? Tadashi Ozawa? Get those guys outta here! This is the next evolution in human intellect! Manga clip art! In the future, when we transfer information by plugging it into our necks and all medical techniques involve nanomachines, we won't even need artists anymore, because Japan will be so advanced, manga will draw itself!

On the other hand, someone with a really good, ironic sense of humor, like the My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable guy, could get quite a lot of mileage out of this.

On a more interesting and positive note, the Shanghai Times covers Chinese ink art and animation and how this unique, classic artform struggles for survival in the modern age.

Shoko-licious.
Shoko Nakagawa


But enough tomfoolery. Check out the blog (and by "check out," I mean very cursorily, as it's in Japanese but the pictures are nice to look at) of professional fangirl Shoko Nakagawa -- that's Shoko-tan to those who wanna get familiar -- who has made herself a minor entertainment career out of (1) being reasonably good-looking, and (2) cosplaying.

Word has it that she can draw a little bit, too.

May 15, 2006

Honey and Brimstone

Now, what was I saying about the manga culture's influence on Southeast Asia yesterday? Thailand's first maid cafe has just opened, as part of the new Japan-entertainment store Akiba. Also interesting is the interchangable (or perhaps substitutional) use of "cartoon" where they probably mean "comic," although I guess this would be in the wider sense of "cartoon" being simplified representational drawings.

Interesting, those little nuances of English usage.

And here's some more listmania: Fresh off the latest Oricon Style is a ranking of Japan's most popular shoujo/josei series, as voted on by "hardcore shoujo manga fangirls." Full translation of the article can be found on NANA-NANA.net, which might just clue you in as to which series ranked No. 1 ...

Sailor Moon!

No, I'm kidding.

1. NANA
2. Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers)
3. Honey and Clover
4. Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai (I'm No Angel!)
5. Lovely Complex
6. Ren Ai Catalogue
7. Bokura ga Ita (anime adaptation just announced*)
8. Paradise Kiss
9. Ouran High School Host Club
10. Nodame Cantabile

Says Oricon:
Popular works by mangaka Ai Yazawa continue to leave deep impressions on the rankings. "Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai" took in 4th place, while "Paradise Kiss" stood proudly in 8th. It shows that Ai Yazawa can not only succeed with "NANA," but will continue to appeal to the female audience in the future.
I think we can safely crown Ms. Yazawa the shoujo queen. And holy crap you guys, when are they going to license Honey and Clover?! The series is just HUGE right now, with a live movie and 2nd season in the works, and practically everyone who's seen the anime loves it. Are we going to have to wait for the entire Fruits Basket generation to grow up (which might take another five years) before seeing this in English-speaking bookstores? Don't answer that; it's a rhetorical question. H&C's balance of mature, character-driven storytelling with delightful whimsy -- a lot like Nodame Cantabile, I guess -- could very well be the "killer app" that gets the North American josei audience going like everyone says it ought to be. Cute and accessible enough for teens, smart enough for grown women. It's right there, ready to break the market open, if Viz (most likely -- it's a Shueisha title) would just bring it over. Hell, you could even place it quite neatly under the Shôjo Beat umbrella!

Which I guess is my long way of saying I reeeeeally want to see Honey and Clover licensed.

*Oh, and there's a Death Note anime in planning, too, which is surely being met with a resounding hurrah.

Video Killed the Comicbook Star

Animedia May 2006


What new anime is Japan watching right now? Animedia magazine asks this question and prints up the poll results in their May 2006 issue. For some, they also take a measure of the male/female split among viewers.

Current, long-running series aren't included (so you won't see stuff like Bleach, which is still technically in its "first season") but sequels to series that completed their first run do count, like the new Ah/Oh/Ack My Goddess.

1. Tsubasa Chronicle 2nd season
The power of CLAMP holds strong.
2. Ouran High School Host Club
93% female viewership. This is not surprising, but all you guys are missing out on a seriously great comedy series.
3. Gintama
75% female viewership; Shonen Jump titles are pretty much gender-equal in Japan, but this is just wow.
4. xxxHOLiC
What I said earlier about CLAMP.
5. School Rumble 2nd Semester
More or less 50-50 gender split.
6. Princess Princess
It's got cross-dressing bishounen. Of COURSE 91% of the viewers are going to be female.
7. Air Gear
Another surprise with 71% women tuning in for some hi-tech sporty action.
8. ARIA the NATURAL
57% women, 43% men, 100% enjoyable.
9. Ah! My Goddess: Sorezore no Tsubasa
75% male viewership says guys still wish they were Keiichi after all these years.
10. Saiunkoku Monogatari
Haven't seen this one. I hear it's fantasy.
11. Juu Oh Sei
This tale of planetary survival looks like a guy thing, but its focus on character relationships and placement in the Noitamina programming block (the former home of Honey and Clover and Paradise Kiss) makes it a big draw for young women (88%).
12. NANA
Surprised it's this far down. I guess most people are content to read the manga.
13. Higurashi no Naka Koro ni
Haven't seen. Apparently has cute little girls though ... and a creepily high 81% male viewership.
14. Digimon Savers
Looks like the old franchise still has legs.
15. Inukami!
Secondary lead is a cute girl. Hence, 60% male viewers.
16. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Clearly, the English-speaking fandom is making this a bigger deal than it really is. (But MAN! That ending sequence!)
17. Disgaea
Videogame-based.
18. Kirarin Revolution
Formulaic young-skewing shoujo always finds its place.
19. .hack//Roots
But when it comes to game-based series, Dot Hack is the Energizer Bunny of them all.
20. The Good Witch of the West
Very traditional high fantasy.

NOTE: This poll was taken from a fan-oriented anime magazine, and thus reflects the tastes of people who take this stuff maybe a bit too seriously. It does not necessarily reflect mainstream taste, which probably isn't even aware of what's new right now.

On MangaBlog, an interesting conversation seems to be developing about other comics scenes around the world. Malaysia has it pretty hard for those who want to be a comicker, especially of the manga-inspired persuasion. And yet, Southeast Asia has a bustling market for Japan's illustrated arts. That troublesome gap between consumer and creator...

May 11, 2006

In Japan, they have fandom wank too

Fresh off the Viz PR wire, a new original title about the US soccer team's quest for the World Cup.
The new graphic novel, titled NEXT STOP: GERMANY / THE MANGA, is being written, illustrated, and published by VIZ Media and will be given away to fans as a special premium at the final three Men’s National Team games before the team departs for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The games, dubbed the Send-Off Series, will be held on May 23, 2006, in Nashville, TN, May 26 in Cleveland, OH, and May 28 in Hartford, CT. At this time, the only way fans may obtain this special manga is to attend the games.

The manga depicts a legendary game in September 2005 in which the USA earned the right to compete in the 2006 FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) World Cup in Germany with a 2-0 victory against Mexico in front of a sold-out crowd of 24,685 fans at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, OH. After a scoreless first half the USA scored two goals within a six-minute span to qualify for its fifth consecutive World Cup. This was the first time since 1934 that the U.S. was the first team from the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) region to qualify for the World Cup.
I like that they're not making much noise about what it's called; they're just saying that it's there.

OR IS IT?

Why no information on the creators? Is the book just going to magically materialize at the printing press? Is there some secret ghostwriter-artist who only appears to the rest of Viz's staff as a fuzzy letter L on a TV screen?

It will be "written, illustrated, and published by VIZ Media," but last I checked, VIZ Media was not, er, an actual person.

In fact, whatever happened to the 1 WORLD MANGA project that they announced last year?

Who are these invisible creators producing equally invisible original projects for Viz?

Elsewhere, a bitter manga-ka is ripping into the current "otaku" generation. Thus spake Mimei Sakamoto:
"This fetish you call 'moe' is a pedophiliac fetish and is nothing more than perversion. It's not really something you should be gushing over ... In other countries, they'd call what you're fantasizing over 'child pornography' and you'd all be arrested. I'm ashamed that these 'otaku' who are perpetual criminals have entered the mainstream and started an otaku boom."
Ouch!

Sakamoto goes on to elaborate:
"All the world is going around talking about maid cafes and stuff and making these so-called otaku look good. But people must realize that these guys are simply men incapable of recognizing reality and are incapable of being in a normal loving relationship. I can't stop crying over the fact that these people have been labeled as otaku..."
And what, then, is the "proper" way of the otaku?
"Real otaku should go back and shut yourselves off from the world again. The true value of being a real otaku lay in the belief that nobody else understands you."
Quick! Someone call a WAAAAHmbulance before she hurts herself bitching!

But, this was off the WaiWai pages, so take it with a massive grain of salt.

May 10, 2006

Five Easy Pieces

Now here's something! Some early Osamu Tezuka manga has been unearthed in the U.S. According to Asahi Shimbun:
Five missing works by manga legend Osamu Tezuka, creator of "Astro Boy," were discovered in a collection of Japanese publications gathered by a U.S. censorship unit after World War II.
Takeshi Tanikawa, an associate professor on cinema history at Waseda University, said he found the short pieces in the Gordon W. Prange Collection at the University of Maryland.
...
The Tezuka works were published in magazines in 1947 and 1948, following his debut as a manga artist in 1946.
See, that's why you future famous comickers have to archive your work carefully. Never know when stuff is going to go missing!

And, being an attention whore, I'm quite amused to find myself being compared to Light from Death Note. I suppose I could be like in that scene, early in Volume 3, where he's checking out that swimsuit centerfold...
but also, it's pretty cool to understand the awesomeness that is David Taylor.

May 2, 2006

Buy this, and get a free kitten too

The goodies take up more area than the magazine.
The May 2006 issue of Ciao manga magazine comes with no less than the following: a Kirarin Revolution clear tote bag, a Charm Angel mini plastic bottle holder, a Ciao Style plastic charm, and an "Osharemajo Love and Berry" collectible card.


And this is one of the second-tier, ho-hum anthologies aimed at grade-schoolers, mind you.

I suppose I should be used to it by now, but I never cease to marvel at the sheer amount of random crap that you can get with Japan's manga periodicals. And it's not just for the kids, either -- Dengeki Daioh, which appeals mostly to older male teens and young men, bundled their magazine with Ichigo Mashimaro figurines* at the end of 2005. (It should also be duly noted that Dengeki's offerings lean strongly towards the otaku/hardcore fan mindset, but I digress.)

*To the bastard who bought October 2005's issue: It's YOUR fault I'm missing the Chika figure!!

It really has nothing to do with the comic-making process, but it calls to mind Carl Horn's observation that manga is a a way of doing buisness, as opposed to more traditional outlooks based on the content of manga itself. Rather than just the comic being the end product, manga is marketed as a multimedia experience, where you still get the comic at the core, but then you get other trinkets and goodies that allow you to enjoy the characters and the story in ways outside of the reading experience. Oh, and don't forget to watch the currently airing anime, pick up the video game, etc. etc.

Right now, Viz Media is probably the US distributor closest to understanding that business approach, with their selling of not just "comics from Japan," but the very "coolness of Japan," and whatever trinkets that entails. Fullmetal Alchemist volumes packaged with action figures. A free travel bag if you subscribe to one of their magazines at a convention. Naruto everything.

However, the North American market being the way it is, they obviously don't have the advantage of economies of scale where you can just pound out magazines and giveaways and dump them at every street kiosk and book stall. I mean, I'm pretty impressed that Shôjo Beat shows up at everyday white-bread supermarkets, but it's still economically ways away from packaging fashion accessories and sparkly charms with every issue -- and will probably never reach that point. That, I understand.

I'm still a little disappointed, though, that SB's only in-magazine giveaway so far in their first year was the desk calendar.

I'm not wishing for US manga anthologies to be packaged with goodies as profuse as Japan's offerings, because that'd be silly, and failing to recognize impassable economic differences. Heck, you'd have to get more anthologies out there in the first place, along with a bigger readership, before mass-market effects can even begin to take place. But it's something to think about. We focus so much on the internals of the comic that it's easy to miss a key point of manga's appeal -- that an even bigger world of merchandising exists beyond the comic itself.