Editorial, Personal

Oishinbo vs. the American Food Market

The coolest thing (subjectively coolest, there’s a lot I haven’t experienced) to come out of  translated comic books in the past year and a half has got to be the foodie epic Oishinbo. Every episode I learn more about Japanese cuisine, sake, fried foods, soy beans, and all manner of delightful concoctions illustrated in immaculate detail. The scruffy protagonist, his cute-as-a-button co-worker/acquaintance/girlfriend/fiance/wife, overbearing know-it-all dad, and a delightful cast of other characters also make the comic one of the most entertaining comics currently published. Each story arc is about as subtle as an episode of Cheers, but interpersonal relationships are very nuanced, and that’s something that I’ve come to appreciate over the past two months of actually getting my hands on all the Oishinbo: a la carte collections published by Viz Media.

One of the things I find most interesting about the world of Oishinbo is its constant soap-box style lecture.  This is especially apparent in Oishinbo: Vegetables, where every subject the crew talks about is, of course, about vegetables, and why organic produce is amazing and other produce is bad. Not only is it terrible to not be Japanese, but woe unto you if you ever ate food that was non-organic, or grew it. As David Welsh so eloquently puts it:

… if you [grow vegetables] wrong, you will kill every living creature on the planet and blight the habitat for centuries to come, not even to mention how bad they’ll taste during your last, miserable hours of life.

Yes, for Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki, organic, free range, natural, and pesticide and herbicide free is the only way to eat foods. And while this is a noble goal to serve up to the Oishinbo reader’s platter, it doesn’t necessarily equate to what American’s call “organic.” Why talk about organic food instead of manga this week? Because, manga fans, sometimes you need to look outside the unflipped box.

Organic in Oishinbo is most likely referring to farming  that is a holistic, ecologically-balanced, pesticide and herbicide free manner of growing crops that is reminiscent of farming before synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides started gaining widespread use in the 1940s.  This, unfortunately, is not the way “organic” produce is grown in the USA.

Being “organic” means that a farmer has developed an organic plan and has received organic licensure from the state in which he or she operates. This license allows producers to label their products as “organic,” but doesn’t necessarily prevent these producers from using pesticides and herbicides. Chemicals derived from plants (it’s natural, it can’t harm people, can it?) are still allowed to be used on organic produce. These chemicals include pyrethrins, derived from chrysanthemum, and rotenone, which is derived from Florida fishpoison tree (no, I’m not making that name up). Both classes of chemicals are highly toxic to fish, annelids, and natural insect life (as well as insect pests that eat produce), and rotenone is a wonderful compound that causes Parkinson’s disease. Other organic chemicals that can be used for produce management include elemental copper and sulfur. This is not to suggest that synthetic pesticides are non-harmful, but rather, that “organic” doesn’t mean “pesticide-free.”

Now this is not a jab at Oishinbo, but rather a cautionary tale about the nature of American industry. It’s my opinion that many people are confused by what organic “should” mean and what it “actually” means in the USA and other developed nations that have an organic license program. Organic seems like it should mean “clean, safe, non-harmful, and tasty.”  The fact of the matter is, most organic producers are using pesticides, and many are using high quantities of manure to fertilize crops (which itself is an E. coli O157:H7 risk, even if the produce is washed).

If you want to make absolutely certain that your produce is “Oishinbo organic,” which is a noble and healthy goal, do yourself a favor and start your own garden. The hobby is something that gives back, is tasty, and can be a very rewarding experience. Just don’t expect to have the prettiest produce you’ve ever seen.


PS: Chicken cures dementia.


For the purpose of disclosure, I grew up on a farm that utilizes synthetic chemical pesticides and herbicides. I have attempted to give an unbiased, factual account of the state of organic foods in the USA.

Editorial, Personal

A Letter Back to Yen Press

I was going to write about literary manga this week, but I’ve got something else to gripe about instead.Literary comics will have to wait until next week.

Dear Yen Press,

Today, I received a lovely piece of mail from Yen Plus Subscriber Services informing me that my subscription to the Yen Plus anthology was coming to a close soon. Now, I know that this is not you hard working folks at Yen Press. It’s probably not even a part of your parent company Hatchette Book Group. Despite this fact, this letter was sent out by your representative in business for the handling of the Yen Plus subscription that I am a current owner of. Let me tell you, guys at Yen Press. This letter really grinds my gears.

The letter in question informs me that I have not responded to any of the previous attempts to renew my account. It even tells me that this is the **THIRD NOTICE** in big capital letters underneath the message, and on the account renewal slip, and that no more notices are going to be coming my way. It gives me all the information that I need to resubscribe, and that I should do so within the next two weeks if I want to keep my subscription active. It takes pains in explaining how awesome it is that I don’t have to be billed now. It has a lovely “hand stamped” message that lets me know that “DISCOUNTED RATES STILL APPLY.” It is condescending drivel.

I would like to let you all know that this is not the Third time your partner in business has contacted me. It’s the first time. I receive every copy of Yen Plus without fail, and I’m pretty satisfied with that. I also receive all of my mail without problems. There is no way that two pieces of correspondence from this Yen Plus Subscription Services got lost in the mail. Your associate didn’t try to contact me in any other way – they could have, you know. I had to give my email address when I subscribed online. No one has attempted to help me renew my subscription for me before this little notice. They also inform me that I have to renew now if I want your discounted rates, as if I don’t know that I could resubscribe in a month from now and get those same rates.

If you want to tell me that this type of correspondence is a standard in the magazine industry, shame on you. These standards are fucked up. Treat me like a person, hell, treat me like a customer, but do not some idiot who can’t respond to his mail.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to be able to renew my subscription at my current residence due to the nature of my 6th year of pharmacy school (I’m out on the job at different sites each month starting in June). I could have renewed it and had it sent to my home address instead of my school address though. That was my plan up until this afternoon. Unfortunately, I guess I’m too much of a dingbat to do something like that. That’s really a shame.

Sorry Yen Press. You’re out of a subscription. Get your subscription partner to stop treating me like an idiot, and I’ll subscribe to your magazine again.

Sincerest Regards,
Alex Hoffman


Fantagraphics Super Star

Welcome to the midweek update!

Personal news: I went to Dear John with my fiance and I have to say that it was pretty cavalier with both 9/11 and autism in ways that I did not appreciate. I’m a sucker for over-complicated short fiction though (aka shojo) so I guess I felt right at home. Can someone please pass the tissues?

The blog community is all atwitter (and the Twitter community is tweeting too) about Fantagraphics starting up their new manga imprint (does it have a name?). This is, of course, a big deal. Come back on Friday when I talk about the literary manga movement, and what I think it means for the comics community.

Other things of note:

  • Apparently a glitch on Amazon.com caused a bunch of  omnibuses (it’s omnibuses in this new-fangled English, apparently, not omnibi) to go on sale for 85% off MSRP. HEADS WILL ROLLLLLLLLLL. Also, Amazon’s put most comics on hold right now. Bleeding Cool has been reporting the entire incident, so check out their commentary at the link.
  • Kevin Church shows off a collected version of the web comic “The Loneliest Astronaut” that he writes. Grab yourself a copy in April.
  • To follow up on last week’s bar-barring, David Welsh explains why he doesn’t read scanlations.  He has excellent commentary about digital initiatives that might help stem the tide of piracy, and the comments on these sorts of things are interesting.
  • TokyoPop gave out a bunch of manga through twitter on #FollowFriday. Did anyone get a copy?
  • Twilight, the comic book, hits stores this week. Suffer not ye the long lines of frothy-mouthed fan girls at thy local Borders!

Have a great week, and I”ll see you on Friday!


Nick Simmons and the Entitlement Age

As I so eloquently stated on Wednesday, Nick Simmons is a moron. My prowess at verbalizing my distaste in this whole plagiarism business notwithstanding let’s look at the facts, or, what we can assume are facts.

1. Nick Simmons, on the back of his father’s popularity, develops a comic book called Incarnate. Published by Radical Comics, the book’s illustration style has a lot of similarities to the generally perceived manga style.

2. Nick putzes around for a while, doing his thing, and Radical gets ready for a release of the first part of the series as a trade.

3.  People start seeing similarities between Incarnate and scanlated Bleach chapters. Let’s take a look at some of Nick’s “talent”:

That looks awfully similar. Let’s have another go.

The plot thickens. Or rather, comes to a stop at the corner of Stupid Street and Now You Fucked Up Avenue. (Many thanks to the folks on livejournal compiling these images. I shamelessly borrowed them from this compilation entry by karenai.)

4. Radical responds to the accusations by putting a hold on the project and by putting out a blanket statement about making things right.

5. The INTERWEB starts to really freak out. I mean really.

6. Nick releases a statement via representative that takes no responsibility for copied work. Surprise! (Remember, Nick’s car is still parked at the corner of Stupid Street and Now You Fucked Up Avenue.)

7. The NY Times prints a story on the whole debacle.

8. Fans continue to freak out.

9. Alex writes about the issue at Manga Widget.

10. People cool off over the weekend, and generally get back to their own little lives.


My main thought about this entire business is: well, that really sucks for Radical. Nick can’t really be harmed here, because it is unlikely that Viz Media will sue over the plagiarism, and he’s already generated profit on content that wasn’t his. If the comic is canceled, well, that’s a shame on him. He probably won’t be able to do comic work again, or if he does, it will have to be drastically different, and he’ll have people breathing down his neck the entire time. Still, he’s lost something in the opportunity, but not in actual fiscal units. In short, his money is protected.

For Radical, though, the consequences are more severe. The publishing group was getting ready to release a hard copy of the first three books later this month (March 16th, to be precise). That means they’ve probably already gotten the books printed, which is no small expense, especially in hardback. Now they have content which they cannot sell, a series that cannot generate them funds, and a whole lot of cash sunk into what is now a dead project. I don’t think my fair reader needs an intricate understanding of rocket science to know that that’s an outcome that sucks big thrust engines.

Radical is a company that doesn’t necessarily get a lot of time in the sun, and especially when their main product lines compete with the Big Two (DC and Marvel), the room for error is slim. A mistake/grievous error that is not their fault could be the foot on the neck of the company. Radical’s only recourse is to sue the creator for the cost of producing a good that was supposed to be original, and was not. Let us hope that Radical can use this breach of contract to extract the cost of these books from the hide of the selfish, moronic Simmons. If you have a chance to stop by your local comic book store, take a look at some of the wares that Radical has to offer. Take a chance on a company that could use a little extra help right now. You might find something you like.

The other party that is damaged here is anyone that purchased Incarnate. These customers bought content that they expected to be original, and it was not. This is a huge breach of trust, and hopefully, Nick Simmons will no longer be able to find work in the comics industry.

According to the buzz around the internet (since I do not read Bleach, admittedly),  the plagiarized content was from chapters that have not been published in English. This means that Simmons is a thief in multiple ways. And to be honest, he’s just like many anime and manga fans here in the US.

Let me say that again. The idiot thief, Nick Simmons, is just like most anime and manga fans. Entitlement-minded. Granted, he may have been a little more extreme about it than other anime and manga fans, but his outlook is the same. I deserve, he says. I deserve to read Bleach scans without paying for them, he says. I love the comic! I am its fan! I love Bleach! Soon it becomes something more. I deserve comics for free. Again, it evolves. I deserve to have my own comic book. I’m a decent artist, I can make it in the comics industry. I deserve to have some fame in the comics industry. I deserve a mark of my own!  (And when he realizes he does not have the skill to make his wishes come true, he does the next best thing – he borrows someone else’s skill to make his own dream a reality.) It’s this (0r a version of this) entitlement mentality that plagues the anime/manga community.

Through my research for this post, I have become completely disheartened by the fans of manga and anime. This post especially shows the brazen arrogance and entitlement mentality of many anime and manga fans. As Matt Blind explains the basic concepts of entertainment, the author continues to claim a right to content he does not own or need. He merely wants it, and he’s going to get it. To hell with Gosho Aoyama, and the company that supports him.  The adaptation isn’t good enough, so instead of refusing to buy it, he just steals it instead. YEAH DUDE! STICK IT TO THE MAN!

Dear fanboy.  You do not have a right to entertainment. People have staked their lives on being able to get paid for creating original work that you enjoy. To steal from the authors and studios you love is to destroy them. By downloading this content, Aoyama-sensei and Tite Kubo don’t receive any compensation for their work, and your decision (in economic logic) tells these creators that their content cannot sell.  By stealing work, you promote the destruction of the things you love the most.

And please, do not come onto my blog to justify your theft. You are a shoplifter of entertainment, and there can be no justification for that. You do not need manga scans every week. You don’t need manga. You don’t need anime. What you need is a cold hard reality check.

That goes to you too, Nick.


Nick Simmons is a Moron

Hello blogosphere! Here’s the midweek update.

MangaWidget News: I’ve added pages that have been in limbo for a while now: Links, which gives links to all the manga publishers as well as some of the bloggers I admire, and Contact, which, of course, is my contact information. I contribute at Comics Village, Eye of the Vortex, and write here, so if you want internet exposure for reviews, well, you’ve come to the right nerd.

Nick Simmons, author/illustrator of the now infamous Incarnate, is a moron. This Friday, check out my thoughts on the illustrator’s scandal, and his response to public outcry (it’s adding to the pile, yes, but hopefully I have some unique points to bring to the table).

Other things to note this week:

Johanna Draper-Carlson gets quoted about the Nick Simmons scandal by the NY Times Beat blog
Kate Dacey is giving away 4 copies of the paperback edition of MW published by Vertical
Lissa Pattillo has news of TokyoPop’s latest license: Neko Ramen by Kenji Sonishi (the first volume will be available in June)
Rob at Panel Platter has a synopsis of TokyoPop’s webinar
Melinda Beasi is hosting a Banana Fish roundtable