Archive for December, 2010

An art contest reminder (and other random thoughts)

December 27th, 2010
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Okay. Yeah. So. Umm. Manga gift guide part 2. That … probably isn’t happening, given how I was somewhat swamped with work again over the past week or so and I had to prepare to give a short speech at my grandpa’s funeral, to boot. Sorry about that … I’ll try to make up for it with more formal reviews of the titles I left out sometime down the line.

Yet time — and news — marches on. And Cel Shaded’s been pretty packed with info as of late. So much so, in fact, that I haven’t been able to get in everything I’d like to get in. (Thursday’s column, for instance, is the last column of 2010, so I think you can guess what I’ll be writing about.) So here are a few notes that I’ve been sitting on for a while, as well as some other notes that I just felt like adding while typing this up on a Sunday night after Christmas…

Public service announcement #1: Attention, Hawaii-based kids between the sixth and 12th grades or anyone who knows kids of that description: Counting today, there are four days left to enter Liliha Public Library’s Anime Art Contest, which I wrote about in Cel Shaded earlier this month. As a quick review, here’s the deal: Draw something anime-, manga- or video game-related, turn it in at the library by Thursday, get a chance to win fabulous prizes, including a set of Copic markers. The judges — whom I may or may not know personally, I can neither confirm nor deny — are looking forward to seeing the creativity that abounds in local youth.

Public service announcement #2: Gantz — otherwise known to me as “that anime where the big black ball orders people around in a game of sorts, and people die in horrifically horrible ways, and OH HEY NAKED WOMEN” — is getting a two-part live-action theatrical adaptation (without nudity, as far as I know, ya pervs). The first part is debuting in the U.S. on Jan. 20, and two theaters are screening it in Hawaii: the Regal Dole Cannery 18 in Honolulu and the Hollywood Prince Kuhio Theatres in Hilo. Order your Honolulu tickets at this link for $12.50 each and your Hilo tickets at this link (disclaimer: the Hilo link was down when I tried clicking through; your mileage may vary). Showtimes are 8:30 p.m. in Honolulu, 8 p.m. in Hilo.

Public service announcement #3: The Nintendo 3DS is now officially available for preorder at GameStop. You’re going to have to go to a store to reserve one — and it’s going to cost $50 for the privilege of paying for a chunk of a system that won’t have an official retail price or release date until a media event next month — but come on, it’s a handheld portable system that displays 3-D without the use of special glasses! And Professor Layton’s going to be on it! And not only will he be on it, he’ll also be matching wits with Phoenix Wright! This is what we in the industry refer to as, as the formal technical jargon goes, “an epic win.”

Not a public service announcement, but still something I wanted to share: I recently had a chance to watch the first episode of Toradora!, based on the recommendation of my 11-year-old cousin who’s already seen the whole thing and couldn’t stop raving about it.  After watching a few minutes, I could see why. Sure, it’s shaping up to be one of those passive-aggressive guy-meets-tsundere girl shows, where the former is put through the wringer by the latter. In this case, it’s Ryuji Takasu, the guy who looks like he should be a tough delinquent but actually has a marshmallowy personality, who crosses paths with Taiga Aisaka, the tsundere “tora” (tiger) of Toradora! who’d rather whack him with her wooden sword than associate with him.

But I also realized that my cousin could totally relate to Taiga. She’s the epitome of tsundere, those outwardly hostile girls who have a hidden tender side to them. Matter of fact, when I went to visit the other day, she at first ran up and glomped me. And then she proceeded to beat me up for the rest of the night. I only wish I was exaggerating about that.

If Wilma or I don’t get around to updating this blog before the end of the year, on behalf of both of us, best wishes for the new year.

Petite holiday manga love, 2010 edition (part 1)

December 16th, 2010
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Back around mid-November, Daniella Orihela-Gruber of All About Manga put out the second annual invitation to manga bloggers to contribute entries to a comprehensive Great Manga Gift Guide, highlighting the stuff we love to read and our reasons why they’d make great gifts under the tree for other manga fans as well.

I saw her tweet while sitting in the waiting area for a flight to Kahului, the formal start to my vacation getaway for a few days. I had about a month to write a guide, and last year’s was pretty fun to churn out, to boot. So I tweeted her back that I’d be happy to join in on the fun … because seriously, what could possibly go wrong in the meantime?

One vacation, a bout with the flu soon after that vacation (that lingers to this day), some car trouble and heavy workloads at the office later, capped off on Tuesday by the death of my grandfather (rest in peace, Grandpa Kuranishi, I love you and I’ll miss you), I had my answer: pretty much everything. In the end, I was left with six hours to craft something by my self-imposed deadline of 10 p.m. Wednesday.

So I plowed on through, determined to get something posted to give you, dear Otaku Ohana readers, a chance to look for some of the books and series that I enjoyed this year while there’s still a Christmas shopping season left (and there’s still a chance to find a parking space at one of the major shopping hubs). But after those six hours, I still didn’t feel like I got everything down that I wanted to say. So as former Chicago Cub Ernie Banks famously said once, “Let’s play two!”

I’ll be using the same format as last year, picking series that currently have 10 volumes or fewer. Pretty much all my recommendations from last year’s guide remain good suggestions this year (unless, of course, you like to have the assurance that the manga you start reading today will come to a satisfying conclusion sometime down the road, in which case I’d steer clear of Moyasimon, which has yet to be formally resurrected by Kodansha Comics, or anyone else, for that matter).

Without further ado, here are the first of this year’s picks:

The Dark Horse CLAMP omnibuses: Clover (1 vol., $19.95, older teen 16+), Chobits (2 vols., $24.99 ea., older teen 16+) and Cardcaptor Sakura (1 of 2 vols. available now, $19.99, all ages): It’s been an odd year as far as long-delayed projects has been concerned, where the video game Duke Nukem Forever (in development since 1997) made more progress in being nudged out the door to an eager fan base than Gate 7 (in development since 2007), the 80-page “mangettes” that were put on indefinite hold earlier this year.  (Also, anyone want to place bets on which one comes out first, Duke Nukem or CLAMP in America?)

But when Dark Horse is reissuing such thick, juicy slabs of CLAMP-y goodness — and with multiple pages of luscious full-color art, to boot — it’s difficult to linger on the whole mangette issue for too long. All three series helped establish Tokyopop as an industry leader back in earlier days as the “leader of the manga revolution” — Cardcaptor Sakura, perhaps the most well known of the group for its heavily edited anime run on Kids WB, and its appealing-to-all-ages story of a girl tasked with hunting down a series of magical cards and finding love in the process; Chobits, CLAMP’s meditation on the role of technology in modern society, explored through the tale of a student struggling to get into college and his growing love for a female android; and Clover, notable for being … umm … something by CLAMP. Nah, seriously, Clover is really good, too, with its simple, spare art and the adventure of a child with powerful psychic abilities venturing into the outside world for the first time. It’s a package that’s at turns starkly beautiful and violent, and I’d definitely read it, too … even though it doesn’t have an ending.

The special Vertical corner: Chi’s Sweet Home (3 vols., $13.95 ea., all ages), Twin Spica (4 vols., $10.95 ea., teen 13+), Peepo Choo (3 vols., $12.95 ea., mature 18+), 7 Billion Needles (2 vols., $10.95 ea., teen 16+), Ayako (1 vol., $26.95, mature 18+): A few years ago, Vertical was known largely as the house of classic Osamu Tezuka and Keiko Takemiya manga, with Tezuka’s Black Jack and Takemiya’s To Terra leading the way. Over the past year or so, though, Vertical’s come into its own as a publisher of contemporary manga as well. Their formula for success: Pick a few high-quality series and produce them with the utmost care.

And so you get the cute kitten antics of Chi’s Sweet Home, one of the 5 Things We Love from earlier this year. You also get Twin Spica, another book I reviewed earlier this year and one that’s gotten better as the series has progressed. Then there’s 7 Billion Needles, about a girl who isolates herself from the world, only to be forced into socializing with others to save the world from an invading organism. (I’ve been meaning to do a “From the Pile” feature on that and still hope to someday. As for Peepo Choo … well, I must confess, it’s not entirely my cup of tea from what I’ve read so far. The fact that the front cover illustration on the first volume virtually screams “BREASTS!!!” and the back cover virtually screams “BUTT IN REALLY SHORT SHORTS!!!” would indicate that it probably would take a certain mentality, one that appreciates Smith’s fusion of Western urban grit and sensibility with manga.

But the house of Tezuka will always be the house of Tezuka, and this year’s new release is a doozy: Ayako, the manga so mature that Tezuka’s whimsical side, known to pop up even in his more serious works like Phoenix and Buddha, has been largely hidden. The subject is certainly one that lends itself to such treatment: life in postwar Japan and how the American occupation adversely affected the traditional Japanese family. It’s a nice, thick volume that will surely keep you occupied into the new year.

The Manga Cookbook (Manga University, 1 vol., $14.95, all ages): There’s an interview sitting on a digital recorder in my laptop bag. It’s a wonderful interview with Glenn Kardy, founder and president of Manga University, the Japan-based publisher that uses manga as a teaching tool and a cultural bridge to English-speaking markets. Took about 90 minutes or so, recorded at HEXXP last month.

I’ve also yet to transcribe a single word of it. Remember that litany of events I recited earlier, talking about why this gift guide is so late this year? For those reasons, I haven’t gotten around to doing that transcription. And it’s a shame, because I’d really like you, the few readers left who haven’t given up on our erratic posting schedule yet, to read that interview and see where exactly Manga U.’s positioning itself in the manga industry.

One of the things I asked Glenn, though, was which of his products he would choose if he were only allowed to sell one or two. I can’t remember what the second one was at the moment, but I do remember that he loved The Manga Cookbook. It’s not a traditional manga with a story, but it does feature recipes for 29 Japanese dishes (and tips for assembling cute bento box lunches included among them) from supplemented with illustrations by Chihiro Hattori. Manga that educates and serves up a nice little recipe for teriyaki chicken, to boot … that’s why I love this hobby so much.

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Check back tomorrow for part 2 … or if you want to go out and buy them now without my commentary, just go out and pick up Itazura na Kiss, A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, Neko Ramen and Kingyo Used Books. Perhaps a few other surprises will pop up, depending on how much time I have to write.

Want more suggestions? Check out the gift guide archive Daniella’s assembled here.

A party, some pirates and philanthropy

December 3rd, 2010
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First off, thanks to tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. for tossing up a quick post a few days ago with an update on our whereabouts. I’m happy to say that I’m on the mend and should be back at full speed eventually, just as soon i can get over these … excuse me … *HACKCHOKECOUGHWHEEZECOUGHCOUGHGAGSNORT* … coughing fits that I’m plagued with every now and then.

My gradual recovery, sadly, wasn’t in time to write a proper Cel Shaded this week. But while I’ll be holding on to what was supposed to be the central topic of this week’s column for next week (helpful tip: if you’re artistically inclined and in the sixth through 12th grade, you’ll want to read next week’s column), there were a few other items I wanted to highlight that are definitely worth sharing now, as they would be useless next week:

  • The Oahu Anime Explorer annual Christmas party is on Saturday, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the club’s second home: GS Studios, at 320 Lewers St. in Waikiki. The last cost I’ve heard is $12 for dinner, catered by Tanioka’s, and two soft drinks. Naturally, there will be karaoke, and it’s free to all members in good standing. RSVP to info@oahuanimeexplorer.com.
  • The November Manga Movable Feast is proceeding apace this week, with David Welsh of Manga Curmudgeon hosting discussions of the month’s subject, One Piece. Alas, since I’ve been some combination of busy and sick, I won’t be able to contribute anything new. Sigh. To atone, here’s the series overview I wrote for the Star-Bulletin earlier this year (which, like many of the pieces we’ve written between 2008 and 2010, have become rather difficult to find via straight Googling, and we apologize for that).
  • Finally, I’ve noticed the newsletter for Borders Books & Music has been touting a neat promotion: On Saturday and Sunday, any purchase you make at the store will net you a $15 gift card … not for yourself, mind you, but for use in funding projects on DonorsChoose.org. (Buying the book Waiting for Superman also gets you another $15 card.) Regular readers of this blog know that we’re all for funding DonorsChoose.org projects, and this is another way you can do so.

Next week, God and health willing: The Great Manga Gift Guide 2010!