Things are beginning to slow down a bit as the holidays approach, but Viz has just launched a holiday sale, Seven Seas is adding more Alice manga to its lineup, and Mitsukazu Mihara is back at work on her episodic series "The Embalmer."
Viz Redesigns Website, Cuts Prices for the Holidays
Viz Media quietly redesigned its website over the weekend, going from a fairly busy site that put a list of new print releases front and center to a quieter design that puts almost equal emphasis on print and digital manga and anime.
Meanwhile, Viz is offering 20% off every volume in its digital manga service, both the website and the iOS and Android apps, which means that most volumes have been marked down to $3.99. The sale will run through January 8.
And the digital magazine "Shonen Jump Alpha" will run a new, two-chapter "Hunter x Hunter" flashback story, which debuted in the Japanese "Shonen Jump" last week.
More Alice at Seven Seas
It seems that readers can't get enough of the "Alice in the Country of Hearts" books, based on the visual novel of the same name and its spinoffs. Tokyopop originally published the Alice books, but they didn't finish the series; Yen Press picked up the license and completed it in three beautiful omnibus volumes. Then Seven Seas licensed several "Alice in the Country of Clover" stories, and this week it confirmed two more: "Alice in the Country of Clover: Ace of Hearts" and "Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Clockmaker's Story." Both are one-shot stories that can be read on their own, apart from the rest of the stories, and feature art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru, who illustrated the other "Alice in the Country of Clover" books.
Making Manga Outside Japan
About.com blogger Deb Aoki posted the latest installment in her series on Original English Language (OEL) manga, in which she considers why the Japanese business model just doesn't translate to other countries (executive summary: The Japanse market is a lot bigger). She does look at five different ways in which aspiring manga creators and publishers can market their works and perhaps make a decent living, and her suggestions make sense: Publishers and creators should look to digital distribution, publishers should be willing to take a chance on new creators, art schools should teach business as well as art skills, artists should not lean too heavily on manga tropes but look for something that is inspired by manga but not limited by it, and creators should focus on drawing full stories, not pin-ups and character designs.
"The Embalmer" Is Back
Meanwhile, in Japan, Mitsukazu Mihara's "The Embalmer" is coming back to Shodensha's "Feel Young" magazine after a three-year break. The series was once licensed in the U.S. by Tokyopop; in my review of volume 1, I described it this way:
It’s a bit like Pet Shop of Horrors, five self-contained stories with a narrative thread running through all of them, each a tale of human nature taken to extremes. The embalmer sees those extremes because he negotiates the last encounter between the dead and those left behind. Like all borderlands, this is fertile ground for storytellers.
Since Tokyopop is no more, it would be nice to see someone else pick up the license again—it would be a good fit for the digital manga service JManga, as it's an episodic story with niche appeal.
"Fist of the North Star" creator Buronson talked to a small group in a Tottori library recently and admitted that he did a lot of improvising in the early days of the series:
"Because it was running in a weekly magazine, I was working in a hit-or-miss manner without thinking what would happen later," Buronson said. "If the creator doesn't know what comes next, there is no way for the readers too. That's why everybody went crazy."
He also talked about how he came up with his characters' dying exclamations, and the importance of lightening a harsh story with a bit of humor.
Universities Offer Manga Degree Programs
Manga is big business in Japan, so it's not surprising that colleges and universities are getting into the act with courses in both the theory and the practice of manga. While a number of eminent manga creators teach in these programs, and students come from all over the world to study in them, it's not clear that having a university degree gives incoming creators much of an edge in the Japanese manga industry.