It is hard to for me to think about Tokyopop’s closure with any sense of finality, although their gigantic yard-sale has already come and gone. The company has been a part of the manga publishing market for as long as I have been reading comics on a weekly basis, so Tokyopop’s abrupt disappearance from the market is a bit unsettling. Tokyopop, for all its faults, was a champion of comics from some of the “mid-list majors,” manga publishers that don’t have an international imprint like Viz Media or Kodansha USA, but still publish plenty of manga in Japan. Another one of these “mid-list majors” champions was CMX (part of the parent company DC Comics), and now that both are gone, there are some excellent shojo titles that are both in limbo and deserving of continued publication.
When I originally started reading Tokyopop manga, I was reading harem comedy (aka Love Hina, Ai Yori Aoshi) which is essentially for guys, but once I stopped reading Tokyopop content in 2008, I stayed away from their shonen manga until picking up the first volume of Deadman Wonderland in December of 2010. I was disappointed with the series they were releasing, and wasn’t willing to pay money for the sleezy junk they were putting out for guys. What I did keep on reading was their shojo content, which, especially recently, has been quite a bit of fun. Here are some shojo and josei series that are currently unfinished from Tokyopop (and CMX) that I would love to see completed here in the USA.
1. Stolen Hearts
2. The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko
3. Skyshore Blue
4. The Ginkacho Stellar Six
5. Happy Café
6. Argentis Apothecarium
7. The Lapis Lazuli Crown
Each week, for the next eight weeks (or more if I come up with more entries to add to my list), I will feature the series, and talk about my experience with the title and why I think it deserves to see completion.
1. Stolen Hearts
Stolen Hearts has been on my reading list for a while, but I never managed to track down both volumes of the series until my silent month of April when they sprung up on eBay. Although I had to pay higher than retail price for the books, I was happy to get copies to read. The story of Stolen Hearts features two high-schoolers, one, a towering behemoth that everyone is afraid of (Koguma) and a petite 4’10” girl named Shinobu who accidentally spills milk on a kimono in his backpack. Koguma’s grandmother is a dealer in antique kimonos, and to pay back Koguma, Shinobu agrees to model the kimonos and pass out fliers to get more business.
Along the way, the two become a couple and go through the little missteps and awkwardness of a new relationship. Koguma’s brothers interfere with their relationship, which is a simple, sweet, and not too complex love affair that buds in these first two volumes, and appears as though it will bloom into the third or fourth volume. What makes Stolen Hearts stand out (since this is a fairly ordinary shojo story) is the setting in which the events take place – mostly, in a kimono shop. The historic and complex formal dress of the Japanese woman is drawn in beautiful detail, and make the comic, in its black and white dressing, look positively stunning with cute, fun patterns and well designed outfits. The kimonos and the detail about Japanese dress add flair to a well-worn path, and to be honest, it feels as though this addition makes the “first love” shojo cliche into a whole new story.
Additionally, Stolen Hearts is a great shojo comic because not only does it reuse the shojo cliche events like the school festival, it does so without pretension, and I would say celebrates the genre with solid writing, undeniable charm, and a bit of a kimono twist. Not many books can do that, and for that reason, I feel that everyone who likes shojo should be able to read Stolen Hearts.
One of the saddest things about Stolen Hearts is the second volume – not the story, but the back-page insert, advertising a third volume of the series in October of 2010 (CMX was shuttered in the summer of 2010). I was more than willing to pay a little extra to get both volume 1 and 2 together and in good condition, and I am glad I did – the series has stolen my heart.
At 6 volumes total, Stolen Hearts is an easy rescue. It is a nice, small series that has charm in spades, and its short length makes it less costly to pick up and release. Stolen Hearts has a lot going for it, and definitely needs to be completed here in the USA. A smaller company like Digital Manga Publishing (EDIT: or JManga!) could pick this up without much difficulty and finish it here in the USA. I would even be happy with a digital-only release. This is a great series! Someone please rescue Stolen Hearts!