Doubling Down on Digital: A Week of Manga News

The biggest news of the week—heck of the fortnight!—was the U.S. rollout of the JManga web portal, an online manga site backed by 39 Japanese publishers. The publishers seem to envision it not just as a digital comics site but also as a way to connect overseas readers with Japanese publishers; that’s one explanation for some features that readers found a little odd, such as catalog listings with no previews or digital manga attached, or previews that were only in Japanese. I jotted down the details of the site in this space on Wednesday, and Anna, Johanna Draper Carlson, and Kate Dacey all gave their takes, Ed Sizemore wrote a detailed account of registering and buying a book, and Organization Anti Social Geniuses issued a whole report card.

But that isn’t all. Love Manhwa is another new site, featuring Korean comics, that launched in beta two weeks ago. It’s similar in some ways to JManga; for instance, some of the titles have been available in English translation for some time, while others are new to English-language readers. I haven’t had time to log in and see if there are full-length manhwa available, but they do have lots of previews. More good news for manhwa fans: Longtime manwha site Netcomics, which has very reasonable prices (25 cents per chapter, about a dollar a volume) is updating again with new material.

I noted three other digital manga updates and reviewed the Square Enix online manga site. In retrospect, I think I would tell the Square Enix folks to go look at JManga.

There were a few other bits of manga news. The Manga Moveable Feast, a roundtable for manga bloggers, was hosted at Comic Attack this week, and the topic was Fumi Yoshinaga, creator of Antique Bakery, Ooku, and a multitude of yaoi manga. All the posts are collected on a single archive page, so go there first to see what people are saying.

Read and Discuss

For a long time I think the principal manga publishers were riding on a number of hit properties that were somewhat the same year in and year out. Naruto still does very well for us, but Blue Exorcist has been a fantastic title. It’s launched very, very strongly. It’s joined a crop of a few other titles I can think of Black Bird, Rosario & Vampire, as well as Bakuman that are gaining momentum. In a sense they’re serving as a new generation of hit manga titles.

Viz senior editor and general manager Alvin Lu talking to the retailer website ICv2 in a wide-ranging interview that included a discussion of the effects of Borders closures and the directions Viz is taking with its online manga site and digital manga apps.

Eagle attempts to explain the weird world of American politics (particularly the confusing electoral system), and also to channel the excitement of an American political race, something with no real parallel in Japanese parliamentary politics. Armed with plenty of research and location photos, Kawaguchi takes his reader on a tour not just of American politics, but of America the country: Sakura Square in Denver, the statue of Nathan Hale on the Yale campus, Miami, Florida’s Little Havana, the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago. It’s an American travelogue, combined with a story of power and ambition, sex scandals and family secrets.

Jason Thompson’s appreciation of Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President, which appeared in 2000 and already seems dated.

But perhaps the most striking thing about the top vote-getters is how many of their creators embody the Great Man stereotype. Consider Osamu Tezuka, whose Buddha and Phoenix both made the cut. His role in the history of manga is analogous to Beethoven’s in orchestral music. No musicologist would reasonably claim Beethoven to be the first person to write symphonies, or even the first great innovator within the genre, but Beethoven’s distinctive compositional approach — particularly towards motivic development — had a profound impact on the musicians who came after him. Likewise, Tezuka didn’t invent shojo manga — as some critics have claimed — nor was the he the first person to pioneer the use of “cinematic” layouts. But the popularity and artistry of Tezuka’s work, and the uniqueness of his vision, cemented his reputation as one of the medium’s most important creators, someone who cast the same, anxiety-producing shadow over his successors that Beethoven did over his. (Small wonder that Tezuka’s last project was the bio-comic Ludwig B.)

Kate Dacey on the manga that made the top 100 in the Hooded Utilitarian’s Best Comics Poll.

Other reviews to check out:

Carlo Santos on vol. 3 of Itsuwaribito (Anime News Network)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 3 of K-ON! (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Lori Henderson on vol. 1 of Oresama Teacher (Manga Xanadu)
Rob McMonigal on vols. 22-24 of Ranma 1/2 (Panel Patter)

News from Japan

Sensual Phrase creator Maya Shinju is working on a one-chapter followup, Sensual Phrase Reincarnation, for the mobile comics website Comic Cmoa. The manga will include a soundtrack of the dialogue, and a drama CD will be released in October.

Attendance at summer Comiket was down by 20,000, although it was still a pretty big show; the organizers blamed the March earthquake for the drop. Japanator has some cosplay photos.

It looks like the Japanese publisher Yosensha has a magazine in the works that will focus on magical girl (mahou shoujo) manga.

Related Posts:
JManga Web Portal Opens To Connect Creators, Publishers And Readers
Manga On The Small Screen: Yen, Gen, And Neon Genesis Evangelion

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