Thank you to everyone who participated in my latest giveaway – there were plenty of great responses, and they have all made me very excited for 2013.
However, there can only be so many winners – so onward to the results!
Thank you to everyone who participated in my latest giveaway – there were plenty of great responses, and they have all made me very excited for 2013.
However, there can only be so many winners – so onward to the results!
Earlier this month, I gave away two copies of Osamu Tezuka’s Barbara, a fantastic geikiga manga from Digital Manga Inc.’s Kickstarter initiative. This time I’m stepping it up by giving away copies of books from three separate series, all from indie/small press publisher Vertical Inc.
Vertical has published a lot of interesting manga this year, with plenty to come in the 2013 publishing year. I am looking forward to quite of few of their 2013 titles. But I liked a lot of their 2012 titles, including 5 Centimeters per Second, Limit, and Message to Adolf With that in mind, here’s the giveaway:
I’m giving away three separate prize packages:
A) 5 Centimeters per Second, by Makoto Shinkai and Yukiko Seike
B) Heroman vol. 1, by Taimon Ohta, Stan Lee, and Bones
C) Limit, vols. 1-2, by Keiko Suenobu
1. In order to enter the contest, please leave a comment in this post telling me which of the three you want to enter for (you can enter for more than one or all if you choose), and then tell me what Veritcal Inc. manga you are looking forward to most next year. This can be a new release, something you’re already enjoying, or something they’ve already released and you are planning on getting, so think about it!
2. Non-North American readers are welcome to participate. Winners will be asked to verify their address via Twitter or email after the contest has ended. Participants have 3 days to respond to my request, or another participant will be drawn.
3. You can enter for a second chance to win by tweeting about the contest! Just make sure to mention my twitter handle, @mangawidget, when you do, so that I can see your entries.
4. Winners will be announced on December 27th! All entries must be sent in by 12 PM December 27th.
When you are a manga reader always looking forward to the next big license, summer is one of the best times of the year. This is the time of San Diego Comic Con and Otakon, big events in the manga and anime world. Many licenses are announced (or sometimes confirmed, depending on if Amazon gets too frisky) and this oftentimes has readers searching for information on the latest announcements. With that in mind, this week’s post is in regards to one of Vertical Inc.‘s latest announcements - Wolfsmund, a seinen series written by Kuji Mitsuhisa.
Wolfsmund (狼の口: ヴォルフスムント or Ookami no Kuchi: Wolfsmund) is a seinen series set in 14th century Switzerland and centered around a massive checkpoint between one land and the next. The gate, Wolfsmund (the wolf’s maw) is the location of most of the action in the series, and guards St. Gotthard’s Pass, a key travel site in the Dark Ages – it connected two regions of Switzerland, Uri and Ticino, and was also one of the most direct routes to the Germanic states or to Italy.
The entire story appears to be about rebels fighting against some invading force- possibly Austrian or Germanic. In this manga, chapters seem to be centered around commoners or knights attempting to seek refuge or escape capture through St. Gotthard’s Pass as they try to move towards Italy; but the antagonist of this series, Governor Wolfram, seems to capture all who would attempt to evade him.
From what I can tell, Wolfsmund is a fairly dark manga – brutal and unflinching in the face of what admittedly was a dark period of human history. There is nudity and decapitation; there is violence and plenty of sword fighting. The series is not a warm and fuzzy read by any stretch of the imagination.
Wolfsmund is currently being published in Enterbrain‘s Fellows! anthology, of which there is not a whole lot of data that I can find published – it appears that this month’s release marks their 24th volume of the anthology, so potentially about 2 years old at this point. What is more well known is that Wolfsmund is currently at 3 collected volumes and is currently ongoing. While I think this is a great license for Vertical, I continue to be surprised by the lack of licensure of Vinland Saga, another historic seinen manga – this license may be a concession by Vertical that this type of manga is in demand by the fan base, but seems alltogether more dark and sinister than Vinland Saga, a title published by Kodansha. (Vinland Saga’s length, ongoing at 11 volumes, may also have something to do with it).
There were plenty of other announcements this summer that I hope to explore at some point – if you have favorites, let me know, and I will see what I can find!
Earlier this week, Digital Manga Publishing (@digitalmanga)’s UNICO Kickstarter fund hit its $20,500 publishing goal. This means, without snags or any unforeseen problems along the way, DMP will be publishing UNICO at the end of 2012, and will likely be publishing Tezuka’s A•TOMCAT in March of 2013 if the project meets its $26,000 funding goal.
As it was last time, voices have come out from the blogging community (Chris Butcher, Comics212, Johanna DC, Comics Worth Reading) questioning the use of the crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter. Last time we discussed the use of the Kickstarter platform, it was about the use of Kickstarter and its emotional heft, the use of guilt and marketing, my thoughts on the fan’s ability to commission work, and it eventually led to a fantastic discussion on Manga Out Loud with Digital Manga’s own Ben Applegate.
Christopher Butcher made some very pointed remarks in regards to the use of the platform for publishing that Johanna echoed:
- The basic acts of publishing are printing and promotion. If you are a publisher but you can’t print or promote, are you still a publisher? Some very smart people say yes, and I’m honestly not sure, because you’re unable to fulfill your basic roles and are counting on others to do that, and that’s where my conflict is.
As I, and many other more eloquent people of mentioned, the act of publishing a Japanese comic is not merely printing and promotion. the act of licensing the book, translating the original language into English, lettering and cleaning the art, quality control, and project management are all a large part of what a publisher does with a manga project: this is just the stuff that is apparent to me, someone who is not a part of the industry.
The question again comes back to what was originally posed in our original debates – if the “publisher” does not accept any of the risk associated with the printing of material, are they actually a publisher? To get to my answer, we need some background information.
Kickstarter plays by a completely different set of economic rules that the regular capital market. In the “old” publishing world, a publisher takes a risk on a property and decides to publishing it. Depending on the format, the author might get an advance on royalties and the publisher has to print the book; in the case of manga, there is an upfront licensing fee, all the costs to adapt the work for an English-speaking audience, and a printing fee. The publisher fronts the risk on this property and hopes/expects to get their money back from sales on that property.
Kickstarter changes the math significantly by changing the initiating question. In business, we ask the question, “Will this sell?” Kickstarter has no qualms about selling or not selling. Kickstarter’s question is, “Do enough people want this to happen?” This difference impacts the entire process of publishing. The change in question manipulates the model in such a way that we are moving from a supply and demand style economic system to a commission-based system.
I think that any person who is focused on “what a publisher is” or “publisher’s responsibility” or who has said anything like, “I don’t think DMP should be using Kickstarter because they are an actual publisher,” misunderstands the basis from which Kickstarter is working from and the fundamental change in monetary need. If you are working on Kickstarter, you are no longer working in the direct market model. You can pull books back into that model later, but once you are in a Kickstarter, you are operating outside of that model for as long as you have pledges to fulfill.
I’ve had my words about commission-based systems before, but for publishing, I will put it simply – while the Kickstarter system isn’t the most ideal (there is a lack of consumer protections, for example) it is a form of commerce that has existed for thousands of years. Consumers are still purchasing books; the publisher is still printing books. The format of how money exchanges hands changes, and how risk is applied changes, but that direct relationship, where the publisher creates a bound book, and I buy it, does not change. As long as that relationship is intact, and with the other duties that a publisher must perform (as previously mentioned) I feel it is downright silly to say that a publisher isn’t “real” because they are using Kickstarter.
TL;DR – a publisher using Kickstarter as its funding source? Still a publisher.
This is not even mentioning Kickstarter’s other potential uses for a large company, such as potential for publicity/marketing, research, community outreach, etc., which I don’t have the space to get into today.
However, this isn’t the only content bouncing around the web right now.
To complicate things, some publishers have also voiced their opinions about the Kickstarter platform:
While Manga University’s opinion originally seemed to be just a bunch of sour grapes, after a bit of thinking, the line of thought is very valid. Twitter right now is a veritable tweet-storm of content regarding DMP’s efforts to get UNICO published and all the fans ticking down the dollar count. Certainly there is no storm of attention surrounding the release of one of Manga University’s “How to Draw Manga” books.
I think that the reason for this is the way fans currently interact with properties and artists that they love. Fans of a specific manga (say Negima! for example) have the ability to interact with other readers via chat boards or forums online, interact with the writer in some cases by sending letters or fan mail; they can manipulate the content by writing or drawing fan fiction; they can meet up with other fans at conventions to discuss the series. They can buy merchandise, buy the manga, buy anime spin-offs, and even buy a second manga spin off if they so choose. They can try to interact with the publisher by sending letters or meeting them at big comic conventions.
Something that is missing from this list that Kickstarter allows fans access to? The ability to impact the publication of the final manga. This allows fans to get into a whole new level. They have the ability now to pledge to help their favorite (or even not so favorite publisher) get a book they want from concept to the printer. They have the ability to get cool backers-only rewards. There is a feeling of direct involvement in the project even without having a say in the production values or images or anything of that nature.
DMP has actually stepped it up by allowing a select number of people to be on the UNICO and A•TOMCAT Steering Committees, which, for all intents and purposes, allow fans to become even more entrenched in the workings of the publisher. This is hands-on in a way that most fans can only dream of, and it stands to reason why some people are very excited about these Kickstarter projects.
Ed Chavez, from Vertical, pointed out that his issue stemmed not from the Kickstarter platform itself, but rather from the content:
One could easily argue here that DMP has essentially been exploiting the hard work that Vertical has done for the past 7+ years bringing quality Tezuka products to an English speaking audience. Indeed, Tezuka’s works are generally thought to be good enough sellers that they could be sold using the regular publishing model.
But this brings up the differences between two publishers, and an area of speculation I don’t really care to walk into; the way that Vertical does business compared to the way DMP does business is fascinating, but ultimately, the decisions they make are theirs.
Ed seems to be making the point that Kickstarter is a fine platform for works that are tenuous, risky, or have the potential to fail, but Tezuka is none of those things. I tend to agree, although DMP may differ based on their financials or printing estimates. That being said, Tezuka is a powerful brand. His work commands an amount of attention only held by three or four other mangaka in English-speaking countries right now. It seems to me that any book published with the Tezuka name would sell a decent number of copies. What is less clear is whether most companies would take a “traditional risk” on a majority of these titles. Ed has gone on record saying Vertical would only like to publish another “half-a-dozen Tezuka titles,” meaning that something like a Kickstarter campaign from DMP might be the only way to get a Tezuka fix in the near future.
I think that what DMP is doing with Tezuka titles here is great. But, as some have mentioned, DMP runs the risk of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs if they continue to run Kickstarter campaigns focused only on Tezuka material. I would love to see DMP utilize Kickstarter for josei and seinen projects outside the scope of Tezuka, and hope to see that in the next Kickstarter campaign.
Kickstarter is a fantastic tool; but as a tool for publishers, it is one that if not used properly, could fall by the wayside. I think that the newness of Kickstarter campaigning and the strength of the Tezuka brand have a lot to do with the recent successes of current Kickstarter programs. It is certainly not something that will fix all the ills of the manga publishing industry, nor will it be the tool that revives all of the long lost licenses still stuck in limbo. It may offer a solution to some publishers in order to print a select number of products, and it hopefully will allow publishers to explore less traditional content. I am looking forward to a less well known manga series being presented in a Kickstarter campaign before I make any longer-term prognostications about its use long term in the industry.
Continuing in the tradition of holiday gift giving, especially since some folks have already started to share gifts with friends and family, I have another addition to the list of manga gift guides that have been published this holiday season. Much like last year, I’m keeping most of my categories and picking out some new books for manga fans to try out.
But first – I will not be doing a “Best of” list this season – that list is this gift guide. The books I liked the best are the ones I will encourage you to buy. If you aren’t prepared to gift them, buy yourself a present with the gift card Aunt Sue got you. A good book is better than a Christmas sweater.
Manga Widget Notice: Please note that my list is inclusive of all series, books, and other media currently in and out of print – I did not want to limit myself to this year’s releases. Also know that this list represents my opinion, and not the golden guide to purchasing this season.
You’ve got someone on your list who loves The Fantastic Four or Watchmen, but hasn’t gotten into manga yet. Help them figure out what the manga craze is all about with a few of these seinen comics.
#1) Biomega, Vol. 1; Viz Media Sig IKKI: MSRP $12.99 – From the writer of the acclaimed action-thriller BLAME! comes Biomega, a series featuring a deadly virus that threatens to consume humanity, badass motorcycle stunts, a talking sniper bear, and some pretty spectacular graphics. Part of Viz Media’s Sig IKKI line, this book has an oversized format that is more akin to a normal comic book page size.
#2) DEMO; Vertigo Comics: MSRP $19.99 – Technically not manga, DEMO is what I like to give people before giving them a volume of manga. DEMO is a beautiful collection of short stories written by Brian Wood and illustrated by the extremely talented Becky Cloonan. One of the highlights to this series, besides the fact that it is awesome, is that it comes in black and white. Some comics readers need a transition, and DEMO can be an excellent one. Plus, it’s just good comics.
#3) Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service; Dark Horse Comics: MSRP $10.95 - Sometimes the dead need help to move on to the afterlife, and that’s the job of the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. Part Sooby Doo, part gristle, part Buddhist comedy, this is a series that defies traditional explanation and is a great book for those who like their humor a little dark.
#4) Gantz, Vol. 1; Dark Horse Comics: MSRP $10.95 – This made my list last year, and for good reason. This dark thriller combines super-human strength, erotic visuals, and some pretty fucked up imagery into an entertaining comics smash-fest. If Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is the filet of manga, Gantz is certainly the junk food. Not for little kids, but if you’re buying for a 18+ friend, this is worth a shot.
While plenty of indie manga is published in Japan each year, not much of it makes it across the Pacific to be translated and published in the USA. The stuff that does eventually make it is a bit of a grab-bag, but there’s a lot out there to love.
#1) AX, Vol. 1, A Collection of Alternative Manga; Top Shelf MSRP $29.95 – From the obscure to the obscene, AX defies all conventions. As a collection, it has both the sublime and the bizarre contained between its covers, sometimes in the same stories. As a collection, it is almost 400 pages of indie manga, and it’s a pretty quick read.
#2) A Drifting Life; Drawn & Quarterly: MSRP $29.95 -The manga-style autobiography of one of the most influential manga writers, Yoshihiro Tatsumi. The man revolutionized manga in the 1950s by developing the gekiga style of manga – blunt, sometimes traumatic slice-of-life stories that explored the real lives of Japanese citizens after WWII, and the dark underbelly of the booming industrial power that it would become. A repeat from last year, but still a powerful book that deserves to be on every comics lover’s shelf.
#3) The Quest for the Missing Girl; Fanfare/Ponent Mon: MSRP $25.00 – Jiro Taniguchi is one of Japan’s best writers, known for his powerful stories and well-developed characters. Recent releases include A Distant Neighborhood, which has been released in two volumes. The Quest For The Missing Girl is a powerful, 300+ page one-shot that examines the power of guilt and pride on a backdrop of mountain climbing, and it’s perfect for anyone who likes a gripping suspense story.
These could be powerful manga from years past, or new work breaking out of the comics scene in Japan; either way, these comics are breathtaking and a must read for any manga fan.
#1) Pluto Vol. 1; Viz Media Sig IKKI: MSRP $12.99 – A repeat from last year’s gift guide, the last volume of Pluto, volume 8, was published at the beginning of 2010. Last year I said that Pluto was the series of 2009. Pluto, throughout its run, delivered a powerful and consistent message filled with excellent characterization and suspense, and may well be one of the best series published in 2010. The series is a true wonder, and a great gift for anyone who appreciates Astro Boy, or for anyone who likes a good
#2) Chobits Omnibus, Vol. 1; Dark Horse Comics: MSRP $24.95 – CLAMP is the one supergroup that has had its manga published by almost every publisher in the USA, but its recent releases have tended to be from Dark Horse. A reprint of the series that made its first Enlgish debut in 2002, this omnibus is a great chance to introduce fans of xxxHolic and Tsubasa to an older CLAMP title.
#3) Ayako; Vertical Publishing: MSRP $26.95 – Tezuka, the God of Manga, does it again with this creepy, realistic portrait of post-war Japan and the perversion of the Japanese family and its values. A beautiful book, and one of my favorite manga of 2010, Vertical has printed another of Tezuka’s powerful symbolic manga in a format that is both beautiful on the shelf, and while reading.
Everyone loves food, and mangaka love to write about it. Check out these picks for fun food-based manga.
#1) Not Love But Delicious Foods; Yen Press: MSRP $10.99 – Fumi Yoshinaga’s love letter to the Tokyo food scene, this manga gives readers a glimpse into the various places to eat around Tokyo. An excellent gift for someone looking to do a little overseas travelling this season, but also just a good read.
#2) Toriko; Viz Media: MSRP $9.99 – Viz loves to print its food manga, and this book is no exception. Toriko, unlike other food manga, is not just about the meals, but rather, what it takes to get the ingredients to make masterful cuisine. Zany with just the right amount of Pokemon-like “gotta catch ‘em all” to keep you entertained, this is the shonen food comic of the season.
#3) The Antique Bakery, Vol. 1; Digital Manga Publishing: MSRP $12.95 – A repeat from last year, Antique Bakery is a fun comic with a lot of spirit from the great Fumi Yoshinaga. Yoshinaga-sensei loves food, and this, along with Featuring some of the best looking sweets ever illustrated, Fumi Yoshinaga’s Antique Bakery is part (gay) love triangle, part baking manga.
Whether you’re into ninjas, love triangles, magic swords, or space travel, these manga are sure to please. I’ve picked a wide variety of books this year, so try something new this Christmas!
#1) Bunny Drop; Yen Press: MSRP $12.99 – Other reviewers have called this the humor-less Yotsuba&!, but it actually is a cute, realistic drama that watches a new adoptive father take over the care of his grandfather’s illegitimate daughter. Unlike Yotsuba&!, also published by Yen Press, this series is more suited to the serious reader, but its charm will win over even those just looking for a laugh.
#2) Arata The Legend; Viz Media Shonen Sunday: MSRP $9.99 – There are plenty of good shonen titles available for purchase this holiday season, but the best new shonen series in my opinion is from the famed Yuu Watase. It follows two different boys named Arata from different dimensions who have been transported in space and time, and now must face the problems the other had in their own dimension. A great fantasy series with a hint of The Labyrinth.
#3) Itazura na Kiss, Vol. 1; Digital Manga Publishing: MSRP $16.95 Itazura na Kiss is probably one of my favorite series in print right now, for multiple reasons. Seen as a sort of genesis for some of the shojo tropes that we’ve become accustomed to here in the US, Itazura na Kiss finally has made it to Western shores in an omnibus format, which is competitively priced and great reading.
#4) Twin Spica, Vol. 1; Vertical Inc: MSRP $10.95 – Of all the titles any manga fan should read this year, Twin Spica should be the one. It is both poignant and fun, and it manages to be heartfelt and interesting at the same time. Bonus points for being about space travel. Vertical has done a great job with the translation and the books look great.
#5) Cross Game, Vol. 1; Viz Media Shonen Sunday: MSRP $19.99 – While normally I’m not a huge fan of sports manga, Cross Game really won my heart this year with its slice of life storytelling and excellent character development. A story about high-school baseball, Cross Game also examines the lives of a few young students as they grow and mature. Written by Mitsuru Adachi, one of the masters of manga, this 3-volume omnibus is both a good deal and a good read.
Well, that’s it for this year. Hope you find your friends (or yourself) some new manga this holiday season. Happy hunting!
EDIT: Apparently some of the links were not going to the right books. This has (hopefully) been fixed.
In the past few days, the only thing that’s been squishing about in the manga rumor and gossip mills besides Chip Kidd and his poorly worded arguement about why he’s the author of Bat-Manga is the future of manga translator and publisher Vertical Inc.
Vertical Inc. is the publisher of many influential and ground breaking manga, with works like Black Jack, and Dororo written by the famous “god of manga” Osamu Tezuka and Andromeda Stories and To Terra… by Keiko Takemiya. Having just gotten a copy of the first volume of Dororo, I can do nothing but shower praise upon Vertical. The production values, translation, and overall goodness of this manga reminds me of why I started reading the stuff in the first place.
Let’s not lie to ourselves. The economy is pretty tight right now. Vertical had to let someone go, although managment says that they’re doing just fine. That being said, according to Brigid, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if they got a few more sales off of Black Jack. And, if Black Jack is anything like the preview (which you can view here), it’s worth buying.
Rewarding good publishers is something that must continue in order to keep getting high-quality, well produced manga such as Dororo and Black Jack. Brigid has been kind enough to offer deluxe editions of Black Jack to a few lucky winners, and if I’m not one of them, I’ll be buying the book, not only because I want to make sure Vertical continues to publish, but also because Black Jack is an amazing book.
As readers, we have the choice to support creators and localizers by buying the manga we love, or to get our manga through more illicit means. If the fate of this little obsession of mine is on the line, the choice, for me at least, is clear.
(To purchase Black Jack, check out Amazon.com)