Archive for December, 2009

Favorable responses and all that jazz

December 31st, 2009
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I'm also beating -- and losing to -- Marsalis' book. Yay paradoxes!You could say that I’m no stranger to odd things happening regarding The Rough Guide to Manga, considering I’ve already been called a manga by Amazon’s official bio blurb and seen my book actually sell for a premium — used, no less — on the same site. This listing, though has to take the prize for the oddest association to date.

Submitted for your perusal is a screen grab taken from Borders.com’s Australian branch this morning. At the third spot on their list of top five jazz books? A certain manga guide, of course. (You can click through to see the full image.) Let me just offer this formal statement: As the author of The Rough Guide to Manga – or, as our friends Down Under apparently call it, simply Manga (hey! Guess I’m manga again!) — I’m pleased as punch to be held in such high regard as some of the greats in jazz: Wynton Marsalis. Leonard Bernstein. George Frideric Handel (who I thought was born, composed such works as Messiah and Water Music, and died a few hundred years before jazz ever came into its own as a unique musical style, but hey, I’m an otaku columnist, not a music scholar).

Seriously, though, I have to wonder: What kind of process is at work here that I’d be listed in the jazz category? I realize that Cowboy Bebop was mentioned in the “Beyond Manga: Anime, Live Action, Videogames” chapter, but that’s a bit of a stretch. (And besides, the Cowboy Bebop manga were awful. Even if you popped in one of the soundtracks from the Cowboy Bebop anime and listened to that while you were reading them, they still were awful … but at least you were listening to good music. But I digress.)

Ahh well. It’s nice to know that my book is appreciated, and that there have been several favorable reviews posted.

Happy new year, everyone.

Manga in 2009: The digital difference

December 27th, 2009
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In Sunday’s Drawn & Quartered column, I discuss where the manga industry stands at theĀ  end of 2009. That discussion — as seems to be the norm for pretty much anything I write these days — took up more space than I thought it would. (I didn’t even have enough room to mention Fanfare/Ponent Mon. D’oh! Here’s a capsule summary of their year: Bit difficult to find their books — at least in bookstores in Hawaii, anyway; your experience may vary in your corner of the world — but totally worth it when you do; see Summit of the Gods and A Distant Neighborhood. There. I feel complete now.)

But the digital realm also played a vital role in manga in 2009. Yes, you could say that the Internet has always been a vital part of building the U.S. manga industry into what it is today — we have online communities and blogs where we can talk about our favorite manga with one another, and we have more outlets to find said manga thanks to the establishment and growth of online retailers. 2009 was all about more choice and communication, though, as we saw in two different areas: free online manga and the growth of Twitter.

The digital buffet expands

Children of the Sea. As first seen on the Intarwebz!The concept of reading free, officially licensed manga online has been around for a while now but it was used mostly as a promotional tool for upcoming books. Need something to promote your must-read hit of the season, Magical Bubbly Kawaii Yoko-chan? Post a chapter or two, then pray it gets readers interested enough to buy the rest.

Viz tried something different this year, and so far — knock on wood — it seems to be working. Starting with Rumiko Takahashi’s new series, Rin-ne, in April, the publisher began serializing manga online, eventually expanding into two full-featured Web sites: Shonen Sunday (www.shonensunday.com) for teens and Signature Ikki (www.sigikki.com) for older readers. Sure, a good chunk of the Shonen Sunday series are single-chapter previews meant to drive readers to the print editions, but other series — three on Shonen Sunday, 11 on Signature Ikki — have yet to see any plans materialize for print editions.

It’s a win-win situation for both sides: Readers get to sample series they might not have otherwise, and Viz has a way to gauge which series end up being the most popular and adjusting print publishing schedules accordingly. It was probably a foregone conclusion that “Rin-ne” would get a print edition; since then, Signature Ikki’s “Children of the Sea” and the upcoming “not simple” have followed suit.

The power of 140

Ahh, Twitter … the microblogging site where brevity is wit and opinions matter only if they can fit into 140 characters or fewer. Aside from people writing about fragments of their everyday lives, the site has also become quite the tool for marketers, and most manga publishers have jumped right on board. Del Rey may not have an official presence — an omission which always struck me as a bit odd — but pretty much every other major industry player does, including Viz, Tokyopop, Go!Comi and Yen Press. The very best — CMX, DMP and Vertical — actively communicate with readers and respond to feedback via the service.

Twitter’s had another effect as well: It’s helped to make networking among manga bloggers easier than ever. At the outset of manga’s explosive growth in the early part of this decade, the Internet made it easier for fans in different corners of the country to come together and discuss their common interests, sharing what they liked and didn’t like. The instant communicative nature of Twitter sped up the process even more. So if one person laments how the New York Times left manga off its graphic novel gift guide and wants to encourage other bloggers to offer their own gift ideas to make up for it, that can happen.

It’s virtually instantaneous feedback and communication … and in this, the era of the ever-shrinking attention span, it’s an ideal tool for an ideal time. (Except, of course, when it “fail-whales.” But let’s not think about that.)

Kawaii Kon’s first guests for 2010

December 25th, 2009
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Merry Christmas! As announced at Kawaii Kon’s official Web site this morning, here are the first guest announcements for next year’s edition of Hawaii’s own anime convention:

  • Robert and Emily DeJesus, fan-favorite artists returning after an unfortunate absence last year (fifth Kawaii Kon appearance)
  • Samantha Inoue Harte, voice actress and founder of Saiko Studios, an animation studio based in Austin, Texas (Kawaii Kon debut)
  • Vic Mignogna, beloved by screaming Fullmetal Alchemist and Ouran High School Host Club fangirls everywhere (fifth Kawaii Kon appearance)
  • Wendy Powell, voice actress who voiced Envy in Fullmetal Alchemist (Kawaii Kon debut)
  • David Williams, anime dub producer formerly with ADV Films (sixth Kawaii Kon appearance)
  • Johnny Yong Bosch, former Power Ranger and voice actor whose roles include Bleach’s Ichigo, Code Geass’ Lelouch and Trigun’s Vash (Kawaii Kon debut)

More details — as well as a new registration discount code! — to come in Tuesday’s Cel Shaded. Otanoshimi ni!