Viz Media is releasing a new title through their Shojo Beat line up next week; Jiu Jiu is a 5 volume series serialized in Hana to Yume, the same anthology as Fruits Basket, and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it. The two posing in front are werewolves who have been adopted by the sword-wielding main character;. It sounds like a lot of fun. Check out Brigid Alverson’s advance review at MTV Geek.
A few weeks ago, I talked about the way that Shonen Jump was changing in a review of the first five volumes of Blue Exorcist, one of the latest series from Viz Media‘s Shonen Jump line. Now that the transition to Shonen Jump Alpha has had a bit of a rocky start it has been an interesting reading experience for me (as a reader who has never read the anthology before in my life). I find myself a little out of sorts with all of the stories running in the magazine currently – they are either far ahead of where I am reading, or I gave them up after a few volumes, meaning that while I can enjoy the moment, I have to play a lot of catch up. This is not a bad thing, but I already have quite a bit of reading to do!
In the interest of beginning new things, another new Shonen Jump title has recently crossed my review stack – the first volume of Psyren. This manga focuses around a punk Ageha Yoshina who “helps people out” to the tune of 10,000 yen ($100). This generally involves kicking the crap out of some gang of losers or roughnecks. Ageha is a good guy with a Robin Hood personality, but he’s rough around the edges. After a run-in with a local stalker, Ageha hangs out with some friends and has a strange hallucination which leads him to a pay phone and a red Psyren phone card. While at first, he doesn’t think much of it, he soon discovers there is a lot more to this phone card than he initially thought. Ageha learns of the Psyren secret society and that people are willing to pay any amount of money to get their hands on the cards. But this isn’t fun and games. The first volume of Psyren shows Ageha exactly how dangerous this Psyren phone card is. Strangely, one of his friends from school, Sakurako Amamiya, also has a Psyren card, and I won’t spoil the big first twist of the volume, but it’s a whopper. Let’s be brief and say that Ageha gets to put his fighting skills to good use as he fights for his life, and the lives of a few other unlucky souls who have entered the Psyren game.
Psyren has the advantage of coming out of left field in a number of ways – it develops in a very unexpected way, and it has some really stellar art for the style of story it is trying to tell. The art is rough, sometimes sketchy, and it is very telling that this is only the second work for Toshiaki Iwashiro, (his original was another Jump comic, Mieru Hito) but he commands his style in a way that is either indicative of a sure author or a skilled editor, or some combination of the two.
My initial impressions were that Psyren was going to be a very odd conspiracy manga, something like Maoh: Juvenile Remix, a comic I originally gave high marks to, but I fell out of reading after a lull between the third and fourth volumes. The idea of a secret Psyren society and these magical red phone cards was a very interesting setup for a conspiracy thriller. But what Psyren actually delivered was something about as high energy, high violence as shonen manga can get while still being cerebral. The first volume of Psyren is a complete 360° that feels neither ratings-inspired or editor forced.
I really enjoyed this volume of Psyren, and am looking forward to reading more of the series. Having recently ended in Japan at 16 volumes, I hope that future volumes will be just as entertaining.
2011 was a fantastic year for me. I effectively doubled the content on my blog, and managed to do so while earning my Doctor of Pharmacy degree, starting a post-graduate residency, getting married, and conducting a large scale research project focused on patient compliance. It has been a busy year. It has also been a great year for me in terms of my hobbies. I have read quite a few volumes of good manga, have expanded my beer brewing setup and have done all of this while blogging and doing other writing that I love. As we reach the end of the old year, and the beginning of the new, it seems customary for bloggers to wrap up their years with a “Best of 2011″ list, and I was going to write one of these yesterday.
As I worked over my list, I came upon a sort of realization: blogging in general has a sort of perverse relationship with top 10 lists. Blogging is by its nature very quick and unseasoned. It can be excellent journalism, but more often than not is an assortment of opinions and a few pictures. Top 10 lists do this excellently. There are plenty of pictures, plenty of opinions, and it all turns into one quick article very nicely. Badda bing, badda boom. But this seems to have generated a sort of “need to make a top 10 list” mentality that many people are so quick to mention or notice, and some people have broken down the general formula of the list post and displayed it for all to see in a sort of “dissected-frog” sort of way.
I appreciate the idea of a backwards glance at the year as much as the next person, but there are plenty of great Top 10 lists already on the internet. (Your local flavor may vary) So instead of a Top Ten list, I just want instead to talk about things that I thought were important in 2011, along with a few thoughts for 2012.
1. Digital manga becomes mainstream:
The biggest change to manga in 2011, in my opinion, is the push towards the digital medium. We have been seeing a bit of this for some time, but with the advent of the iPad and the B&N nook, Viz Media, Yen Press, and Kodansha have started releasing a quantity of their manga into the digital realm for download. Viz shuttered Shonen Jump magazine, and announced the start of Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, a weekly digital anthology offering the weekly releases of the newest shonen manga in Japan. Yen Press also moved Yen Plus online in 2010 and has continued to publish the magazine with seeming success.
Gen Manga, an online anthology of seinen manga written by independent mangaka in Japan, has also jumped into the fray this year and has released an impressive lineup of seinen manga available monthly in a very accessible format. The content delivered by Gen Manga is easily accessible on most devices, and its relatively low price has made it a great investment as far as entertainment/dollars spent goes. I have been extremely impressed with the latest releases, and hope that great content continues to grow and increase. Gen Manga is one of the first digital hybrid models, where content is released first digitally and then can be printed on demand once the content has been collected.
The other big digital player this year was JManga, which opened its doors this summer. While I feel JManga had an okay starting platform, it is clear that there is a lot of work that needs to be done this year if they are going to survive as a digital content provider. Digital content has a price ceiling, and it seems as though JManga has realized that. Still, the major problem with the platform right now is a lack of continuation of content already on the service, and hopefully that will change in 2012. Additionally, JManga can only do itself good if it releases apps for the Apple and Android devices in 2012.
2. DMP utilizes Kickstarter to reprint Swallowing the Earth:
While this may not seem like much on the surface, I feel like microniche publishing has now found a unique and powerful tool to publish what would normally be considered unpublishable manga in the United States and all across the world. Microniche publishing through crowd-sourced funding can be the source of some really off-beat and fantastic comics, and I hope that DMP and other publishers try to use the Kickstarter model to their own advantage.
Think about Kickstarter as the method to get josei manga published in English. Just think about that for a second. Or, if you would prefer, how about obscure horror manga, classic shojo, or yuri? Kickstarter has proven to be a successful market for comics, and if Swallowing the Earth is any indication, DMP will be using the service again to fund future projects.
3. TOKYOPOP shuttered, Stu Levy sells TOKYOPOP brand to GeekChicDaily:
TOKYOPOP, the publisher I loved to hate, and sometimes loved, shut down after being one of the longest-lived companies in the business. While financial woes were certainly caused by the 2011 Borders closing, it also seemed as though Stu Levy was tired of publishing books. He is now off in Japan shooting a documentary of the hurricane disaster from this year.
I can understand not wanting to stick with something for your entire life. People’s interests change over time, and I can’t blame someone for wanting to stop doing what they have been doing. However, I do think that TOKYOPOP didn’t need Stu Levy at the helm to publish books, and I think shutting down the company instead of selling it or transitioning it to another CEO or publisher would have been more pleasant for the community.
The real nail in the coffin is the GeekChicDaily newsletter, which it appears Levy has sold the TOKYOPOP name to, utilizing what I am sure is the last ounce of public goodwill towards Levy for either a license or a lump sum payment for the name. Additionally, TOKYOPOP has promised to return to publishing comics, however nothing has really come of this except promises for more work and pleas for purchases of old content from current retailers. Hmmmmmmm.
4. Kodansha prints money with Sailor Moon:
This is a series that many people have been waiting on for quite some time, and Kodansha took advantage of its reverted TOKYOPOP rights to republish a new set of reprints of the books, which quickly sold out and went to second printing. It appears that a lot of people who liked the Sailor Moon anime as kids (me being one of those kids) wanted to read the manga and didn’t want to fiddle with the old versions that TOKYOPOP printed in the early 2000′s.
5. Less content was published in 2011:
This is mostly a function of a stagnant economy, the shuttering of TOKYOPOP, and the closure of Borders Booksellers, but it bears repeating that manga publishing is down from where it was in its peak days and even down from two years ago. As a function of this publishing environment, it seems as though more risky titles are not getting an opportunity in the USA, at least from larger publishers. New shonen releases have been fairly formulaic, which is fine, but some of the diversity of previous years is sorely lacking this year.
6. But even though less was published, there was still some fantastic new content published in 2011:
New series or one-shots include: A Bride’s Story, Drops of God, Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths, A Zoo in Winter, Wandering Son
Continuing series of note include 20th Century Boys, Bunny Drop, Chi’s Sweet Home, Cross Game, and Twin Spica
7. And I am looking forward to some fantastic comics in 2012:
Books that have been announced that are sure to please: Heart of Thomas, Sakuran, 5 Centimeters Per Second, A Message to Adolf, Fallen Words, Cigarette Girl
Continuing Series I’ll be reading in in 2012 not already mentioned: Sailor Moon, Blue Exorcist, The Story Saiunkoku, Kimi ni Todoke, Itazura na Kiss
I hope that everyone has a fantastic new year, and that this year is a great year for manga. I am looking forward to reading more great comics in 2012!
Well, here we are. It’s been an entire week of Natsume Ono, her comics, and a discussion of her work. This weekend has given the MMF a final burst of content, so let’s get started. I will keep the MMF call up until Monday evening, so if you have any content you want me to feature, please contact me using my twitter handle @mangawidget, my Contacts page, or by using the Manga Moveable Feast Google Groups page. Now, onward to the reviews!
First, Connie at Slightly Biased Manga has a review of House of Leaves, Vol. 3 and finds a lot to like. Still, she mentions Ono’s sketchy artwork as a source of some reader’s confusion, and I can understand that. Ono is hardly the only mangaka out there who has similar looking characters, but it’s a valid complaint, especially when volume 3 features face-0nly closeups more frequently than in previous volumes. I will be interested to see how Connie likes volume 4.
Next, Johanna Draper Carlson reviews Tesoro from the standpoint of someone who isn’t an unabashed fan of Ono (that would be my standpoint, obviously) and finds quite a bit to like despite her distaste of Ono’s longer works like House of Five Leaves. Johanna’s critique of Ono is that her writing style allows her to focus on incidents and moments, and that this style doesn’t mesh well with a longer running series, but works great for a collection of short stories. This is a very interesting review, since many of the people writing for the Manga Moveable Feast are fans of Ono, so I invite you all to check it out.
Given the reputation of both Ono in general and the book in particular, I went into not simple with high hopes. I finished it feeling not only disappointed but, honestly, kind of gross. Withholding spoilers, the story takes several turns that feel exploitative, even more so in the context of Ian’s mercilessly downtrodden existence.
Certainly this isn’t my experience with the comic, but I can see Jason’s perspective. not simple is a miserable- the subject matter demands it be so. Still, exploitative isn’t a word I would use to describe not simple, and I don’t think it was the experience of many other reviewers in this MMF – which is a perfect example of why this digital monthly book club is so fascinating. To get another take on not simple, Jason Green is your man.
There is certainly more content out there to be found, so I will close this post tonight and look for more tomorrow. One more day until the Natsume Ono Manga Moveable Feast is on the books. Let’s finish strong, folks!
Welcome to the Natsume Ono Manga Moveable Feast. I am proud to be hosting this month – Natsume Ono is one of my favorite mangaka, and her distinct style and narrative tone are what draw me to so much of her work.
As I have been reading House of Five Leaves, I have noticed a certain cinematography that many manga lack – Natsume Ono’s staging and scene creation are a unique feature of her work.
One of the most pronounced cinematic cues that Ono uses throughout House of Five Leaves is a “cut on motion,” where Ono breaks up the actions of characters in multiple panels. For example, this image (volume 2, chapter 11, pg 102) shows Goinkyo setting down his tea cup. While the action here is fragmented based upon the medium of comics itself, the act of putting down a cup could have been incorporated into the last panel. The “cut on motion” here adds tension and allows us to focus on the silent, thoughtful stare of Goinkyo in the upper panel.
We also see this technique used in the first fight scene of the first volume, which shows us very specific portions of the fight between Masa and the hired samurai. While on first glance, the action seems almost incomprehensible, the distinct “shots” of the action show quite a bit – a determination and fighting spirit that Masa has, the results of the fight, the fluid motion and skill Masa has with a sword.
These shots also do something important in what they don’t show us – which of the two samurai does Masa wound? How did he manage to chase them off? Ono decides that this information isn’t necessary – rather, the most necessary portion of the fight is Yaichi’s look of disbelief and gaping jaw as Masa quickly and soundly defeats his enemies. This decision-making shows that Ono is not an ordinary mangaka. For many, the focus of the fight would be an interesting way to bring action to a fairly peaceful and laid-back story – but focusing on the fight actually detracts from the content and the emotion displayed.
Stepping back to the page above, it has another trait that I find unique for its use of the inanimate object – in this case, a cup. Ono will use panels like this to create a somber mood for House of Five Leaves, where her less “serious” works, like La Quinta Camera, focus more on the characters as they say and do things throughout the book. In a book like La Quinta Camera, the story is especially told by the reactions and various emotions of the characters, but in House of Five Leaves, the emotions of the various characters are a bit more muted because of the setting. Whether the panel’s focus image is candy, a snapping turtle, money, or radishes, these steps away from the characters allow us as readers to focus on either what is being said, or the lack of words – in this case, the thoughtful silence and judgment of Masa by Goinkyo.
One of the other techniques Natsume Ono uses throughout House of Five Leaves is the downwards shot. Masa is described as being a very tall man, and Ono chooses to display this information by basing her panel composition around it. We often get the viewpoint of the main character, Masa, which often involves looking down on the other characters. As a illustration and composition standpoint, I love these scenes, because they generally contrast Masa’s strong and downward-looking glance with a weak and non-confrontational main character.
On the page to the left (volume 2, chapter 13, pg 162) we see another of Ono’s favorite cinematic shots – a series of close, personal, and stark images of each of the characters, involving their conversation and getting close and personal to each. Then, a distancing shot, which shows the world around them, and broadens the scope of the conversation (and sometimes, willfully distracts from it). Then, the distance shot followed by closer feature panels. Again, what isn’t said here is far more important that what is.
Ono’s panel construction reminds me of Japanese film, in some ways. Her dedication to composition and meaningful editing, the use of cut on motion and her incorporation of the ordinary into her most impressive scenes make House of Five Leaves a unique experience, and a read that bears repeating.
I have read some comics that have been melancholy, sometimes even downright depressing. They are generally stories that show how people act towards personal tragedy or how they deal with atrocities. Comic books like Maus and Years of the Elephant show us personal pain and tragedy, and do it in a very unique fashion. Sand Chronicles may not be the most unique setting (the first volume focuses on school age Japanese students, like so much other shojo), but it is remarkably poignant and oftentimes saddening piece of fiction.
The story focuses on Ann, who starts the manga as a 12-year old who has just moved back to her mother’s rural Japanese hometown after her father and mother divorce. Ann meets other neighborhood kids, Daigo, Fuji, and Shika, and things seem to be going well for her, until the unthinkable happens – Ann’s mother commits suicide.
I feel torn by this turn of events. In one hand, the possibility of her suicide is hinted at, and her breakdown is a slow, gradual process in the beginning chapters of the book that makes it believable. But it is unequivocally the most depressing moment I have yet to read in a shojo comic. I think that this is the general point of Sand Chronicles – it is a sad book, and it intrinsically deals with how people deal with sadness. Ann is dealt a pretty terrible hand in this first volume, and I think that she makes some very understandable mistakes, especially regarding her relationships, because of how her mother’s death overshadows her thoughts. It seems apparent that the relationships built in the first volume of Sand Chronicles cannot last, at least not in the forms in which they exist at the end of this volume. That would be making something very complicated far too simple.
The drama of these events, their effects on the human psyche, and the way that people deal with them, is a core feature of Sand Chronicles. Another is the way that Ashihara defrays her most serious situations with one-note jokes. And trust me, while I have dismissed other writers in the past for this same tendency, it works much better here, thanks to a well written adaptation, and for the sole fact that Sand Chronicles DESPERATELY needs these jokes. They are what keep the story from wallowing in the murk of despair and self-pity.
The art in Sand Chronicles is pretty standard fare, but it conveys all of the necessary emotion. I am reminded of We Were There and Monkey High!, but maybe with a little less fish-eye than We Were There and not quite the fluidity and bounce of Monkey High (all three series were/are published in Shogakukan’s Betsucomi, so this similarity may be on purpose).
Sand Chronicles is dramatic, and marked by sadness and worldliness that other shojo manga from Viz Media’s Shojo Beat line don’t manage to achieve. This is both a blessing and a curse; the series has the emotional gravitas to work out a mother’s death by suicide, but this gravitas also keeps the reading experience somber and heavy. Whether or not Sand Chronicles can stand out as a series past the first volume depends on its ability to develop a meaningful and reflective story that continues to acknowledge the drama and gravitas of the first volume. It will be interesting to see how volume two plays out.
My first review of Otomen was also sort of a look at the digital manga content on Viz’s manga app for iPad. I am talking quite a bit about digital comics these past few weeks, but I wanted to go back to Otomen on the iPad and reexamine the series. I have been really enjoying the volumes between 1 and 7, but I think now is an appropriate time to follow up.
Otomen, for those who don’t follow this series, is a comic about a boy named Asuka who appears to be the manliest of men, but secretly loves shojo manga, cooking, sewing, and other “girly” activities. He is paired up with a “manly” girl named Ryo, and manga author named Juta who uses the relationship between the two as the basis of his best-selling manga series “Love Chick.” This pairing is sometimes interrupted by other people, such as a girly-looking boy who admires Asuka’s manliness, a flower-obsessed hunk, and one of Asuka’s rival martial artists who loves makeup. This diverse group all has one thing in common – they appear to be something, but deep inside they are the opposite of what everyone thinks they represent.
I think that there is a lot of truth in this seemingly little message, but I feel like that now that we have reached the 7th volume of the series, the same old plot constructs are getting a little stale. It seems as though the same plot point is used in every major arc in the series. Otomen uses this character technique again and again, and by the time we meet the hard rocker playboy in book 6, it’s almost guaranteed that he is going to be a giant softie. Not that this is bad – it’s actually quite fun to read. Still, I am looking for the series to develop a bit and it has instead stayed mostly the same.
There are some interesting things that happen in this volume despite its overuse of the “don’t judge a book by its cover” thing Otomen loves. We see Juta get into drag once again in order to do an autograph session for “Love Chick,” and meets his first high school sweetheart (the girl who got him into shojo manga in the first place) and a ghost story that Asuka solves despite his reluctance and fear of the supernatural. There is a huge cliffhanger based out of the last chapter that I won’t spoil here, but threatens to change the entire dynamic of Otomen. I doubt that this event will actually happen, because if it does, Otomen would have to be about something more serious. Otomen is mostly just a one-note comedy, so I would imagine whatever happens resolves in a status quo sort of way, but I’ve been wrong about this sort of thing before.
The art in volume 7 is not the best we’ve seen in the series, but it does plenty of good for the stories in this volume. Kanno definitely has the chops for the emotions, the rough action, and the cutesy bento, arts and crafts, and anything else that Asuka gets his hands on. Kanno is especially good at inserting little touches into her art – a good example is when Juta is busy writing manga – he likes to clip back his hair to keep it out of his eyes. This adds to what you know and understand about the character with very minimal talk, and some artists would miss opportunities like this.
While I’ve griped about Otomen in this review a bit, I truly love it to death. The formula, despite being present in essentially every volume, is a good one – Otomen has proven it can be a mine of comedy silver and gold. If you haven’t gotten your hands (or your mouse) on a copy of Otomen yet, do yourself a favor and get it. You won’t regret it. Just make sure you check your normal “this has to happen in shojo manga” expectations at the door.
Since I’ve been thinking about digital comics recently (you can hear me talk about digital at Manga Out Loud with a whole host of excellent manga bloggers), I thought it would be good to give my more formal thoughts on the JManga. I don’t really need to write a long essay, since that sort of thing has already been done, so I think a list should suffice:
1. The title selection – JManga has a large number of series that have not yet been translated into English in any format, and have been given the full workup by JManga. Series like Edo Nekoe Jubei Otogizoshi and Anesthesiologist Hana prove that digital opens doors to manga that is basically not going to be profitable in print form but can make it in a digital world. JManga is also using original trade dress and it seems like translations from series from defunct publishers like CMX, which gives me hope that series published by Tokyopop, Go! Comi, CMX, and other defunct publishers will make reentrance into the world of digital.
2. Website Usability – I have not had any problems with the site. It is cleanly constructed, easily navigated, and generally a pleasant experience to use. The Flash reader that they have put in place to read comics with is uncluttered and works well for its purpose. The digital files are high quality, and are generally easy to read.
1. Price– JManga is essentially charging what amounts to print price for their books. Some books are going for even more – a good example is Hawking, a Takao Saito manga which is retailing for about $20 for 400 pages of comics. That’s absolutely insane for digital items, which have already shown a huge price sensitivity. You are not going to convince me to try vintage digital manga at this price, JManga. Viz’s pricing structure is much more reasonable, and I suggest it to J Manga in the future.
2. Translations/Editing – While most of the time this isn’t a problem, there are some issues with the readability of the site (the manga explanation blurbs that show up on each series’ individual page is a good area to reference) because the translation is a little stilted. There have been some comics where the text runs outside of word bubbles, etc. There is plenty of freelance talent in the USA that does work in manga, JManga, and you would do yourself well to tap into this talent.
3. Unavailable content – there are quite a few series that are showing up in the JManga store that you cannot actually purchase. This is a problem. I want to be able to buy a book if it is in your store. Please let me do this. I understand that with Viz, you are redirecting to the Vizmanga.com website. That’s fine. But some series are just plain unavailable, and that is an irritation.
4. No apps?? – JManga is not on iPad or iPod. This should be addressed as soon as possible.
1. Subscription model – First, it seems ridiculous that users can not just buy a la carte points. Signing up for a subscription for points and then being able to buy a la carte is ridiculous and not that intuitive. If you want to encourage subscriptions, make users pay for multiple months at a time and give them a better deal on points or some other bonuses, but don’t make having a subscription mandatory to get points.
2. Points expiration – this is pretty sleezy. Dollars don’t expire. Forcing your users to use up points within the calendar year that they were purchased is just absolutely poor form. There is no other good explanation. I am sure it make sense in some lovely corporate world, but it doesn’t make sense for regular users, and it shouldn’t be a part of any digital company’s platform.
I honestly think that JManga will have a hard time with the American market until they fix some of the problems I have mentioned here. Granted, the site has worked well for me, and this is only a few weeks into their opening, so much of this could change. The issue is that JManga needs to change in order to make itself into a really profitable venture. For now, I will be keeping a close eye on the site. I really have liked the content I have bought, but I am holding out until the site gets more of its act together.
Natsume Ono is one of my favorite creators in comics today. Her distinct style and charismatic writing have filled many of my evenings with beautiful imagery of Italy and feudal Japan, and her characters have sparked my imagination and wanderlust. When Ono’s first works were brought to the USA, we started somewhere in the middle – Ristorante Paradiso and not simple were a progression of sorts from La Quinta Camera, which is some of Ono’s earliest work. The series started as a webcomic, and was brought to print in one volume through Viz Media’s IKKI COMIX imprint. Of all the creators popularized by the IKKI format from Viz, Natsume Ono is the most complex, and most wonderful. La Quinta Camera is certainly an expression of that – but Ono has learned much between her initial comics debut in 2003 and her currently running series House of Five Leaves.
La Quinta Camera is a series of vignettes focusing on four men who live in a five-bed apartment in Rome, and how they use that fifth room; or rather, who they rent it to. The book opens with a female Danish foreign exchange student named Charlotte and the strange circumstances by which she meets all the men who live in her apartment. Ono drops the girl in the middle of town, and she finds that each of the interactions she has ends up being with one of the four men who live at the apartment: Al gives her a ride, Cele insults her in a crowd, Luca plays music and sings with her, and Massimo cooks her dinner at his café. It is a fairly natural progression, and Ono lets the scene do a lot of talking.
Throughout the rest of the book, the short stories fall around with the men (and ladies) of the fifth room. Screenwriters and American students stay in the fifth room, and the four men learn, live, and grow. These characters are unique and easily identifiable, and Ono does a good job differentiating between the four in looks and attitudes. The cast is likable and interesting, which in turn creates an excellent reading experience, because character studies that Natsume Ono is so fond of often live or die by how well their characters interact and attract the reader.
Another attractive feature of La Quinta Camera is its unique art style, which, if I gather from other conversation on the internet, has not been very well received. I suppose that some readers are put off by the illustration style of La Quinta Camera because of how different it is than the style Ono uses for Ristorante Paradiso and House of Five Leaves. The art in La Quinta Camera is sketchy, some might even say “cartoony,” as if it were an insult, because they don’t like the style comparative to her other work in English. Certainly La Quinta Camera does not use complex illustration like Natsume Ono’s other work – but it honestly doesn’t need it. The book breathes and lives through these sketches, and it’s obvious that the style is not a lack in cartooning skill, but rather a conscious choice.
Natsume Ono is not for every manga reader – people who don’t like slice of life will find La Quinta Camera insufferably boring, because honestly, not much happens. If you need someone to shout out the name of a hidden move or punch a guy in the face every chapter, this is probably not a series you are going to like. You won’t find action or true suspense with La Quinta Camera. What you will find is an excellent character study and a lovely set of stories based on some of Ono’s experiences in Italy. That’s the joy of the series, in my mind, and certainly those who love films like Lost in Translation or The Kids are Alright will love Ono’s quirky and gentle peek at the lives of four Italian men and their varied houseguests.
If you haven’t already read Lori Henderson’s fantastic essay at Manga Xanadu regarding Viz Media’s digital comics initiative and her assertions that users not using the iOS platform are second class citizens, I encourage you to do so, since this essay is a response to her article. I respect Lori quite a deal more than most manga bloggers on the net (we both write for the manga review flagship Manga Village) and I understand (and somewhat agree with) her arguments, but I have a few points that I would like to bring up here in regards to that recent post.
Essentially, Lori brings Viz Media to task for treating those who would use their non-iOS digital services as second class citizens, stating that it isn’t fair that Android users and PC users don’t have the same download capacity that iPod/iPad users have.
One part of me agrees. I think that buyers should be able to OWN their content, so as much as I am excited about JManga bringing new material to the USA, I am also not that thrilled that I don’t have the ability to download it to my computer. At the same time, there are certain risks that are inherent in this delivery system. Giving someone a professionally translated pack of manga images on a PC where file manipulation is rampant and easy just seems like a losing bet when some 2-bit wanker can just get on the web and upload it to a scanlation site. It isn’t “fair” in the sense that iOS users can download their content, but iOS doesn’t have a way to easily pirate these images onto the web from an iWhatever. I think it is a matter of feasibility in that regard. Is it the best? No. But Viz has delivered the service to a platform rife with the problems they have to fight as an industry in order to survive.
And, although a very dedicated person could possibly capture the images from the iPad or iPod and deliver them to a MangaFox or OneManga, just like anyone could use screen captures to grab images off of the web-only portal, the amount of time and dedication to perform such an act would probably require more wherewithal than your average bear has. On PC, where downloading a file to your computer is pretty much an open door for instant sublimation to the various seedy and illegal aggregators, I can understand (even if I don’t approve of) Viz’s position in the PC market.
The bigger issue I want to get at here is that despite the fact that Viz has tried to accommodate as many digital markets as it can (I would bet that a Viz Manga app for Android will soon appear on the Android Market) it really didn’t have to. The fact that they have created this web interface is a step in the right direction, and for some people, that is certainly going to be enough. For me, since I am an iUser, I have no issues with the iWhatever experience or the website.But I understand those who don’t like the service of the Viz Manga site.
If you don’t like their current offerings, I invite you to NOT BUY. Don’t buy something you don’t want to support. You aren’t a citizen of MANGA OF VIZLAND, and nor should you consider yourself one. Don’t consider yourself a citizen, let alone a “second class citizen“ – you are a customer, a much more powerful position. I don’t think it is reasonable or expected for customers to support a business model that goes against their beliefs on financial transactions. and their disagreement with paying for what is essentially a license to read a book without actually owning the book.
Still, I think that this service, while not perfect, is a far cry better than the alternative, which is theft and non-support of great artists who deserve to get paid if people consume their work. Kept in perspective, the web-only service Viz provides is similar to DMP’s eManga and the new collaborative site JManga and at a price point that is comparable or better than these other services.
If you don’t like the pay-to-read service of these web-only sites, the final story on them is that you shouldn’t be paying for them. Use your “citizenry” (AKA money) to vote yes or no for these services.
Frankly, I am fine with voting yes.