Archive for September, 2008

the New York Anime Festival so far

This is going to be blogging-lite since I was tired going into the event, and exhausted half way through the first day.  Attendance was a slow trickle so the show really picked up speed around 5pm and after the dealers room closed.

Some fun news is that Vertical is launching a line of cookbooks in the spring!  Just straight Japanese cookbooks – donburi, noodles, bento, and two others including one from Chef Chen Kenichi’s iron kitchen.  Chen Kenichi was the Iron Chef of Chinese food, and my favorite battle that he did back in the day, was the one where he battled some French chef in Kitchen Stadium – and the chosen ingredient was fois gras.

Other news from Vertical – sad news – is that sexpert Adam Tokunaga, author of Slow Sex Secrets, has cancelled his New York visit due to illness.  Or, as Yanni succinctly put it, “He almost died.”  Which is a shame since I was looking forward to interviewing Tokunaga and seeing a demonstration of his technique.  I should make it clear that Vertical IS NOT marketing Slow Sex at this show given the demographic.  Although I think it’s a shame since this post-adolescent audience is kinda the perfect audience for the book.

More sexy news is that MediaBlasters’ yuri mook (magazine/book) Maka Maka is full-color sexy.  Frank Panone was on hand to give a little preview of the detail that has gone into it.  The book has a bellybelt and a dustcover, and with each unwrapping, it gets racier and racier.  Suprisingly, Maka Maka was getting quite a bit of enthusiastic murmurrings from the girls in the audience.  When Frank showed the book again at the yaoi panel, there were all-out cheers.

I would have never thought, but is yuri the next niche in manga?

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Not just boys fun

Back when I first started with Publisher’s Weekly and was covering indie comics, I was assigned to review one of Brian Wood’s earlier books, Pounded.  It was one of my first reviews, and I still have the book.

Needless to say, I had high hopes for Wood and looked forward to seeing more punk rock tales of Heavy Parker.  Instead, he graduated to scripting the long-running, mature series DMZ, and random chick stuff.  For a while, I fought back by stopping by his booth at shows and reminding him that Pounded rules.  And he resisted by pushing his chick stuff on me which I ignored.  It went on like this for a while.

Finally, he managed to shove a copy of his tome, Local, into my hands.  That said, I read Local, and I finally have to admit it: Heavy Parker is gone.  But maybe, just maybe, that ain’t a bad thing.

Here’s my review of Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly’s pride and joy, on Playboy.com

And if you’re in Brooklyn, or willing to trek out there, meet the boys of Local at the launch party tonight at Rocketship.

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So much news…

The comics blogosphere is abuzz with news and commentary on the demise of DC’s Minx imprint, a line of comics aimed at teen girls/young women.  Although it had been years in the making, Minx was launched just under a year ago.  So far, it looks like it’s the brand that’s leaving the market, not necessarily the books.

Truth be told, there were a few of us hating on Minx right from the get, wondering what DC was thinking, trying to lure the girls away from manga.  “You wanna piece of the Sho-Shu-Ko action?  Bring it.  Let’s see what you got.”  Or maybe it was just me, posturing as some bosozaku chick.

But acting like a smug delinquent and wanting something to fail are two different things, and personally, I’m surprised that Minx folded.  This isn’t a perfect analogy, but nonetheless I’m reminded of the struggling local comics markets in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Vietnam, which are smothered in manga and fighting for a readership.

Minx was developed as an alternative to manga, and any alternative goes through phases of growth and development.  It’s easy to define something as what it’s not, harder to say what it actually is.  Minx is not manga.  Minx is ________ (fill in the blank).

The fact that Minx didn’t really have a chance to really fill in the blank is what troubles me.  Sure, as Dr. Seuss said, “Business is business and business must grow” – but you can’t force growth.  This kind of thing takes time.  It’s not a matter of translating pages and putting a label on the spine and feeding it to kids who watch the same thing on tv or read the scans on the internet.  It’s growing something new.  Can that kind of growth really happen in under a year?

My editor twittered me about a few local retailers who said that Minx books were, for the most part, well received.  So far, it looks as though at least a few of the books will still be around, despite the imprint crumbling under the pressures and expectations. In a way, the fall of Minx may be the best thing that could have happened – the imprint essentially getting out of it’s own way, out of the way of the books so that the books can just be books instead of part of a mission.

Because when that happens, we can look forward to this: girls who read Hot Gimmick and Hana Nori Dango while passing along their dog-eared copies of Waterbaby and Burnout.

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New York Anime Festival

Get your UCC canned coffee on, your bottle of Pocari Sweat, your Meiji BLACK chocolate bars, and your karaoke playlist, and go!

The second annual New York Anime Festival kicks off on Friday like Christmas in September (as opposed to Christmas in December when it was held last year) and runs all weekend long.  There will be movies, anime, fan discussion, and a massive afterparty at Iron Chef Morimoto’s restaurant in the meatpacking district, Morimoto.  Morimoto will be there, publishers Yen Press, Dark Horse, Vertical and Del Rey Manga will be there, Squishable plushies will be there – even a tea party with designers from Lolita house, Baby, the Stars Shine Bright where I secured a spot.  Not sure, but my read on this lolita tea party is that it’s either going to be a super cute event, very dainty and elegant, or it’s going to be the biggest bonnet ripping, corset tearing, catfight you could ever imagine.  Either way, as long as I have front row seats, I’m happy.

Incidentally, this year’s NYAF is being held the same weekend as Yaoicon, (the oldest and biggest yaoi/boys love conventionin the U.S.) which had me combing twitter to find out who’d be posting tweets or blogging about yaoi news.  Anyone?  It sounds like quite a few regulars of the manga/anime blogosphere are coming to NYAF which is great, but we certainly want to know what’s going on with boys love.  DMP, Deux, Kitty Media, Tokyopop/BLU, Yaoi Press, and a new publisher, Yaoi Generation, will be there.  DMP is bringing guest Tatsumi Kaiya (Party, Love Training, Hot Steamy Glasses, Physical Attraction) while Kitty Media hosts local BL creator Yayoi Neko (Incubus, Herc&Thor pub’d by Antarctic Press).  As for Yaoi Generation, they’ve got a skeletal site up and nothing published yet that I see.  Maybe Yaoicon will be their coming out party?  Tina Anderson guesses that it’s Dr. Master behind it all – probably because both are based in Freemont – but I haven’t followed up yet.

We’ll be going over our plans for NYAF coverage at the PW offices today – as well as locking down our karaoke playlist. (I’m proposing that we start off with something like Peaches n Herb and save the Def Leppard for later – but that’s just me).  Here’s my interview with vp of NYAF Lance Fensterman and programming coordinator Peter Tartara in case you missed it.

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PWCW is three-years-old!

And to celebrate, Calvin rounded up the troops for a meeting.  But any meeting that includes an agenda of wings and beer and topics like “What the heck does Calvin do anyway?” or “What the heck does Heidi do anyway?” and my favorite “Douglas Wolk isn’t here but he’s very important” is a good meeting.

Other subject matter that weighed heavily in our discussion was Calvin’s new campaign to get us all twittering.  Because really, following random people’s tweets is not stalking, it’s us, as journalists, keeping tabs on our sources.  That said, after a weekend of stalking total strangers in Bangkok, here’s my round-up (thank you, Twitter!):

Japanese artist Masakatsu Sashie celebrated his opening at Giant Robot’s GR2 gallery in LA.  The show goes from now until October 15th.  See more photos on Eric Nakamura’s GR blog. Sashie’s city-like orbs remind me of Taiyo Matsumoto’s Tekkon Kinkreet and Jiro Matsumoto’s neo-authoritarian urban backdrop in Freesia – as well as architect-gone-mangaka Nihei Tsutomu’s vertical worlds in BLAME! and Abara.

(Image from Sashie‘s website, copyright Masakatsu Sashie, 2002)

If only LA were closer.

True to Ed’s Tweet: Giant Killing is on the cover of this week’s/last week’s Morning Magazine!

And Cartoon Network cancels Toonami.  Toonami was CN’s anime programming which essentially put all the anime shows into one block that aired Saturday nights.  No word yet on Naruto, a mainstay on CN that boosted the sales of Naruto manga.  Viewers can still watch Toonami programming on their computers via Toonami Jetstream.  It’s only speculation, but I do wonder how CN’s decision will affect future manga sales.

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Spitting venom: Alan Moore (still) hates Hollywood

Geoff Boucher talks to Alan Moore for this article on the LA Times blog, Hero Complex.  As per Hollywood’s neo-love affair with comics, Moore has this to say:

“There are three or four companies now that exist for the sole purpose of creating not comics, but storyboards for films. It may be true that the only reason the comic book industry now exists is for this purpose, to create characters for movies, board games and other types of merchandise. Comics are just a sort of pumpkin patch growing franchises that might be profitable for the ailing movie industry.”
Meanwhile, back at the Beguiling, Chris Butcher has a review of Hideo Azuma’s Disappearance Diary, published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon and released in the U.S. over the summer.

It’s a very thorough review and Chris makes some astute observations.  But in terms of it finding it’s audience here in the U.S., I agree with him that “Disappearance Diary has traded in too much of what mainstream audiences want from their memoir for a gentle, knowing humour and a refusal to find a conclusion in an ongoing life.”  But there’s a tradition of meandering in Japanese narrative – something that Eddie Campbell attributes to the 1970’s in an entry he posted about Seiichi Hayashi’s Red Colored Elegy on his blog over the summer.

“today’s reader has a more linear brain than 1970’s reader. It [Red Colored Elegy] reminds me of ‘world cinema’ in the ’60s and of that noble movement in which cinema viewers were expected to be viewing at a somewhat higher level than tv comsumers in their sitting rooms. There was an idea abroad in the world that cinema was the art of our times, absurd in these times now that the whole medium appears to have descended to the level of comic books.”

I would say that it’s not uncommon for Japanese fiction to wander, to be much less plot oriented than western narratives.  It’s a theme that can be found in Yasunari Kawabata’s novel from 1954, Sound of the Mountain, (about a family’s dynamics and the father’s relationship with his daughter-in-law as his son is having an affair) as well as Kenzo Kitakata’s Ashes (published by Vertical a few years ago) which is about a middle-aged gangster.  It’s certainly a tradition that allows mainstream manga to expand from volume to volume.  But for titles like Disappearance Diary as well as Kazuichi Hanawa’s Doing Time (also Fanfare/Ponent Mon) where Hanawa visually documents his time in prison for gun posession, it’s not the best fit for the mainstream American audience.  There’s no real narrative in either Diary or Doing Time, just snippets of life, small adventures, observations.  It’s definitely thinking person’s manga – not because it’s smarter or anything pretentious like that, but because the lay-out and structure of the book allows for the mind to relax and open.

Hopefully the artcrowd that picked up Hayashi’s Elegy from Drawn&Quarterly will find Doing Time – and Disappearance Diary.  Maybe they’re Alan Moore fans, too.

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Nix Manga Cafe

Over the summer, I got a message in my inbox from Bryan Yu, a business-minded fellow who just opened Nix Manga Cafe in LA with his partner, Woojae Kim.  There are all sorts of manga cafes that dot the sprawling city of angels – but Bryan’s approach is to set up a manga cafe of all the licensed and translated manga currently available in the American market.

Which prompts the question: if you build it, will they come?

Manga cafes, popular in Japan and South Korea, are a hybridization of video/dvd rental shops here in the U.S., and bookstore/coffeeshops.  For a small, hourly fee, you’re welcome to sit and read however much you want for however long you want, so long as you have the time and the money.  You also have the option of “renting” books to take home to read and return later.

But with free outlets for manga and graphic novels everywhere you look (ne: libraries, B&N, Borders) a venture like this is high risk – something that Yu is aware of.  Nix Manga plans on charging patrons $2/hour to chillax and read, $3/book for a 3 day rental.  The cafe is located in the UCLA and Santa Monica College area so Yu plans on targeting the college and high-school aged kids along with the jr. high schoolers.

So far, the hurdles he’s faced with is explaining to patrons how the cafe works, and the two competing B&N and Borders.  “There are not one but two major bookstore within 3 miles diameter of our store.”  Yu told me via email.  “It’ll be interesting to see how things turn out.”

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