Petite holiday manga love, 2010 edition (part 1)

December 16th, 2010

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.


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.

2 Responses to “Petite holiday manga love, 2010 edition (part 1)”

  1. Wrap Up: The 2010 Great Manga Gift Guide is over! | All About Manga:

    [...] latest contribution is from Jason S. Yadao of Otaku Ohana in the Honolulu Star Advertiser. I have no idea what his gift [...]

  2. Tweets that mention Hawaii News - --

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Scott Yoshinaga and Jason S. Yadao, Jason S. Yadao. Jason S. Yadao said: Late-night (or early morning!) Otaku Ohana post: The Great Manga Gift Guide … and the tale of why it's a 2-parter. [...]

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