Archive for the ‘manga’ Category

Ask the Vegetable Garden

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Viz only released seven volumes of Oishinbo A la Carte in the United States, despite there being about twenty volumes to draw from (as well as over 100 volumes of the unabridged manga, but it’s understandable that no one wants to go through the massive undertaking of translating and releasing the entire series). The A la Carte volumes draw from the entire back catalog of Oishinbo adventures, and thus can be read in any order, which is how “Vegetables” came to be the final volume that I read. And it’s a personal shame, because the vegetable volume is probably the weakest of the entire series as released in English.

Many of the stories presented in Oishinbo have a very technical minded focus—how to cut, season, boil, grill, and so forth—with the stated intent to bring the best flavor out of the ingredients. With a lot of the food presented, the flavor and texture were often dependent on well each dish was prepared. This was especially prominent in the volumes on fish (including sushi and sashimi), rice, and sake. But with vegetables, the emphasis switches more to the quality of the ingredients. It’s not that the quality didn’t matter before, but here it is paramount and almost a given. As long as the vegetables are native to the area and not treated with pesticides and herbicides—a point hammered forth repeatedly in this volume—the vegetables will be delicious, and the characters must learn to appreciate that. Most of the stories are about how the goodness and purity of vegetables will bring people together and solve their problems. That’s fine in small doses, but in succession it can get boring.

The best story in A la Carte Vegetables is an installment of the ongoing Ultimate Menu vs. Supreme Menu battle, where Yamaoka and Kaibara Yūzan do battle with cabbages and turnips. The battles are some of the most exciting  parts of Oishinbo, so it’s good that they included one here. But even that story comes down to the goodness and purity of vegetables, and the way Yamaoka is always missing or misunderstanding some key ingredient has become rather formulaic after reading seven (much less a hundred) volumes.

Even with that repetition I still find the series an enjoyable read, and am sad to see the English-speaking world denied any further volumes of this addictive and mouthwatering manga.

Oishinbo A la Carte: Vegetables
story by Tetsu Kariya
art by Akira Hanasaki
translated by Tetsuchiro Miyaki
edited by Leyla Aker and Jonathan Tarbox
published by Viz Signature (San Francisco, 2009)
ISBN 978-1-4215-2143-5

Drops of the Gods Fall on US Shores

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Well, that certainly took long enough. Drops of the Gods, the wine manga that’s spurred wine culture in the Far East and been spotlighted in various major news outlets like the Japan Times, the Daily Mail, the New York Times and this very blog, is finally coming to the United States.

Vertical announced the news this morning on the ANNcast (part of Anime News Network). They also announced that they’ve acquired the rights to Osamu Tezuka’s Princess Knight, one of the very first shōjo manga in history. This too is a big deal, though not as relevant to nonfiction comics.

Each English Vertical volume of Drops of the Gods will carry the equivalent of two Japanese volumes, for a total of about 400 pages, selling for $14.95 each.

(via Robot 6 and Anime News Network)

Out and About: New York Comic Con 2010

Monday, September 27th, 2010

The New York Comic Con schedule is up, and while it’s a little light on events dealing specifically with nonfiction comics this year, there are a few points of interest:

Rationalizing Comics and Sequential Art in the Classroom
Friday, October 8
3:15 pm – 4:15 pm

This workshop will feature educators discussing their reasons for bringing comics/sequential art into the classroom, focusing on both reading and generating comics. Practical suggestions, along with evidence illustrating student learning, is discussed. Participants will be encouraged to bring ideas for discussion in small groups.

Extending Conversations about Graphic Novels
Friday, October 8
4:15 pm – 5:15 pm

Educators will discuss how to use graphic novels to extend learning beyond literal comprehension, including engaging in critical literacy activities. Social studies, art, and English/language arts educators will be paired to discuss how to make cross-curricular conversations and move students’ understandings beyond the classroom. Participants will engage in an activity which pushes them to think beyond the confines of the classroom walls.

Remembering Harvey Pekar
Friday, October 8
4:30 pm – 5:30 pm

After 35 years of innovating in—having virtually invented—the personal comics genre with his American Splendor series, Cleveland’s Harvey Pekar died this past July, in the middle of several projects finished and unfinished. This panel celebrates Pekar’s life and work. It includes Harvey’s editor on The Pekar Project, Jeff Newelt; artist on Harvey’s The Quitter and other works, Dean Haspiel; Peter Kuper, who not only has drawn for Harvey, but as a comics-loving kid in Cleveland, spent much time hanging out and learning from him; and Rick Parker, an artist on The Pekar Project. The panel is moderated by Danny Fingeroth, who memorably interviewed Harvey at The YIVO Institute in 2009, and wrote of Harvey’s importance in The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels. Some surprise last minute guests may appear on the panel, as well.

Comics and Graphic Novels in the Secondary English/Language Arts Classroom
Saturday, October 9
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Educators who utilize texts in the secondary English/language arts curriculum will discuss practical ideas for including particular graphic novels in the classroom. In particular, educators will discuss how to embed graphic novels in the traditional curriculum by connecting graphic novels/comics with canonical texts and helping students create their own texts. Educators will think through criteria they can create to evaluate appropriate gns for curricular adoption.

Political Cartoonists
Saturday, October 9
5:15 pm – 6:15 pm

Join some of the best, current political cartoonists!

Unusual Manga Genres
Saturday, October 9
8:45 pm – 9:45 pm

Thanks to the importing of manga you can read veterinarian manga, salaryman manga, fishing manga, and manga about baking bread! Erin and Noah from the Ninja Consultant podcast present the absolutely most insane manga titles available in English – and a few titles which won’t be translated anytime soon.

The Sons of Liberty, a Graphic Novel: The New World of Historical Fiction
Sunday, October 10
11:00 am – 12:00 pm

The Sons of Liberty, a new graphic-novel quartet for middle grade readers and beyond tells the story of two young slaves in the wake of the Revolutionary War. History is brought to life in full color by the illustration of Marvel Comics veteran Steve Walker and Oren Kramek. Join authors Alexander Lagos and Joseph Lagos and illustrators Steve Walker and Oren Kramek in conversation about the creation of this new series.

Culinary Manga
Sunday, October 10
1:45 pm – 2:45 pm

Competitive bread baking manga Yakitate!! Japan is just the tip of the culinary manga iceberg in Japan! Join Erin and Noah of the Ninja Consultant podcast as they discuss manga about gourmet food critics (Oishinbo), pastry chef manga (Antique Bakery), and several series about wine (Drops of God, La Sommelier).

In addition, you’ll be able to see Ian (and his friends) talk about podcasting and blogging at the…podcasting and blogging panel. Check it:

A Geek’s Guide to Podcasting and Blogging
Friday, October 8
6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Room 1A17

This panel is designed to show how to start and promote your very own podcast. The world of podcasting has grown by leaps and bounds over the last five years and many people do not have a clear guide on how to podcast. This panel will walk you steps of podcasting and give advice on all aspects of having your own show.

You’ll find Ian at the Comic Timing booth (table 524) in Podcast Alley on Friday and Saturday (near the events stage), while I’ll be mostly wandering the floor and panels for those two days. We’ll both be absent on Sunday due to a prior personal engagement.

In Manhwa We Trust

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

The Korean government has a bit of a problem—its own people don’t trust what it has to say. That might not seem unusual to you, but we’re not talking about the North Korean dictatorship of Kim Jong-il here; this trust problem is in South Korea, the one that’s a democracy and has a somewhat peaceful relationship with the rest of the world. South Korea was  a dictatorship itself a little over twenty years ago, and its people have long memories.

The issue at hand is that the people don’t believe the official government report regarding the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan. Despite an investigation conducted by a team of experts from South Korea, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Sweden, a poll found that over half of the respondents in their twenties didn’t trust the findings, and only 57% of all the respondents, regardless of age, believed the  report (margin of error ±3.7).

What is a beleaguered government to do? Well, as they’re targeting a young audience, they used a medium that young people respond to, creating a comic to be distributed to schools, libraries, and government offices. The 32-page comic is also available to read online.

Whether this effort will work, only time will tell; it may in fact increase skepticism of the government by making it appear insecure about itself. But perhaps there is hope for the South Korean government; a soon-to-be-released study by the Journal of Consumer Research found that people were more likely to divulge embarrassing or unethical behavior to an unprofessional-looking site (using Comic Sans, no less) than they would a cleanly designed “professional” site. If this is true, maybe the people of South Korea will take the word of a comic where they won’t trust an official government report.

(via Bloomberg)

Brooklyn Book Festival: Nonfiction or Nuthin’

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

This past Sunday was the Brooklyn Book Festival, an annual gathering of book publishers and authors held at Brooklyn Borough Hall. Out of all the events taking place on this rainy Sunday, one stood out as a panel of interest for us, “The International Graphic Novel: Drawing from Life.”

The panel consisted of (left to right) Jessica Abel (La Perdida), Matt Madden (Drawing Words and Writing Pictures), Josh Neufeld (A.D.), and Nick Abadzis (Laika); we arrived at the festival in time to catch the last half-hour of the panel. Matt Madden was listed as moderator, but they appear to have chosen to let the conversation flow free-form instead. This may have been a mistake, as the panel wound up bringing up opinions on manga and fiction comics that may have come off differently than they intended. When asked about manga and whether or not it influenced any of their works, the panel as a whole decided to classify manga as a separate, though parallel medium to American comics. Bringing my own opinion into the matter, I think this is a very narrow way of looking at manga. There are tons of manga in Japan, many of which are based on nonfiction events or an author’s life story. Similarly, art styles vary depending on the story; not every manga is going to have big eyes and round heads. The only thing that makes manga different from American comics is that it is Japanese, and American comics are American. If we were to go along with this line of thinking, European comics would be separate but parallel as well, even if they do share similar references and style to what we have here. And yes, manga is usually presented in chapters in magazines before being collected in bigger volumes at a later date, but that is a distribution decision more than a style choice.

Then, there were Josh’s comments about fiction comics. When asked if any of the panel had a desire to do fiction comics, he replied that his imagination doesn’t really mesh with the ability to dream up the kind of science fiction you find in fiction comics. Yet again, genres are ignored here, accidentally or not. Romance comics have been published for years, most of which without any science fiction elements. Crime comics are the same as reading a good Sherlock Holmes novel, only there happens to be art to engage you along with the words. Workplace comedies, slice-of-life books; the list goes on. To group fiction comics simply as the realm of superheroes and science fiction is narrow and belittling. Would Josh be upset if his nonfiction books were to be written off as for children because they are comics? I assume he would be.

As a concession, it is very possible that due to the weather conditions and my overall mood at the time, I took these responses to mean a lot more than they were intended to be. Still, I feel that a panel of creators might want to choose their words a bit better in the future, to avoid any difficulties.

Don’t Bunko Your Career

Friday, September 10th, 2010

One thing that higher education doesn’t seem to be very good at is telling you what to do next. Oh, you can visit the career counselor and they’ll give you tips on your resume and interviewing; if you’re lucky they’ll point you in a general direction, though that direction might not always be the right one.

As a result, it’s really easy to get stuck in a job you don’t particularly enjoy, or aren’t particularly good at, like the titular hero of The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, by author Daniel H. Pink and illustrated by Rob Ten Pas. Johnny majored in accounting because his father told him it was a good “fallback,” a way to always be employed if his dreams didn’t work out. Unfortunately, Johnny is nowhere near where he really wants to be, and he’s gained a reputation around the office as the guy who makes mistakes—to the point where a screw up is called a “Bunko.”

Everything changes when Johnny gets his hands on a bundle of enchanted chopsticks; splitting a pair summons a magical being named Diana. Diana offers to help Johnny by showing him the keys to a successful career, all he needs to do is snap a new pair of chopsticks and she’ll come and impart some useful advice. He only has six pairs, but it’s okay because Diana has six lessons to impart, each told through an amusing vignette at his company.

Rather than fall into the usual cliché of having Johnny attempt to tell his coworkers about Diana and fail miserably, thus looking like a delusional fool, Johnny Bunko instead bucks the trend by letting the coworkers in on the secret and having them benefit from the knowledge Diana imparts. In this manner the book follows its own advice: “The most valuable people in any job bring out the best in others. They make their boss look good. They help their teammates succeed.” We watch as Johnny switches departments and works on a major advertising campaign whose success will be a major boon for the company—and for Johnny, of course. He makes mistakes, but as the book explains, this is all part of the process.

The art by Rob Ten Pas is clean and energetic, making it easy to forget that you’re reading a career guide, much less “the last career guide you’ll ever need.” That’s the tagline, but I can’t say I completely agree. This book is only so long, and can only cover so much; it doesn’t tell you how to deal with troublesome coworkers, or how to get yourself the job in the first place. But for such a quick read, it’s pretty packed full of useful advice that had me wondering where my own career decisions fit into Diana’s six lessons.

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko
written by Daniel H. Pink
illustrated by Rob Ten Pas
published by Riverhead Books (New York, 2008)
ISBN 978-1-59448-291-5

All the News That’s Fit to Draw

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Given that Japan is losing its fourth Prime Minister in four years, now seems like a good time to talk about Manga no Shimbun, the manga newspaper. Young people just aren’t reading the news these days, and this is an attempt to draw young Japanese back into the world of current events with something they definitely do still read: comics. Each comic posted on the site is an actual news story, depicting the major events of the day in topics such as politics, economics, sports, entertainment, and leisure.

For example, Honda is increasing production in China:

With over one hundred manga artists at their disposal, the site updates several times a day to bring you the latest developments, like what’s going on with that aforementioned Prime Minster, Yukio Hatoyama. Previously, they posted a whole series on “regime change.” But you know you’d rather just read the latest on Lindsay Lohan.

The site is currently only available in Japanese, though the creators have previously mentioned wanting to translate it into English, French, and Korean.

(via Wired)


Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

What’s this, another computer post? Purely a coincidence, I assure you.


Ubunchu is a manga detailing the trials and tribulations of three members of a high school sys-admin club as they attempt to install and use the Ubuntu operating system. Written and illustrated by Hiroshi Seo, the comic first appeared in ASCII Magazine “Kantan Ubuntu!”

That would be the end of it for us English-speakers, but for the intervention of Martin Owens. While browsing the web for Ubuntu-based artwork, he came across Ubunchu, and a few weeks later had worked out the rights to translate the comic into English with the help of Fumihito Yoshida and Hajime Mizuno. Not only has it been translated, but even the artwork has been flipped for those who prefer to read comics western-style, from left-to-right. Those who would like the art untouched have no need to worry: right-to-left is available in English, too.

Two chapters of the manga are available in English right now, as well as Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Vietnamese and a few other languages. Chapter 1 has more languages available (at the time of this post) than Chapter 2.

I can't play games

There are three main characters: Akane, the club president and an aficionado of Linux; vice president Masato, a Windows user, and Risa, a Mac person. Akane is a strong believer in the command line and thrives on complexity, while Masato seems to prefer Windows for what it lets him do, namely surf YouTube and play porn games. Risa is the one who brings Ubuntu to the club in the first place, mispronouncing it as “Ubunchu” repeatedly.

Though the comic bills itself as a “Ubuntu romantic school comedy,” there’s little romance to be found. Instead there’s plenty of hijinks and Ubuntu usage. The first chapter covers the installation of Ubuntu on their computers, while the second chapter focuses on the Command Line Inferface. And that’s fine, because it achieves exactly what it should do—get people interested in Ubuntu.


Drops of the Gods

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Food-themed manga is not new to Japan, but talking about wine? Certainly a new thing in a country known for its sake and beer. That all changed with the publication of Kami no Shizuku (Les Gouttes de Dieu, “The Drops of the Gods”). It follows the trials of a young man tasked with finding 12 legendary wines so he can inherit his father’s collection of rare vintages.

The comic has become so popular that restaurants and wine sellers adjust their stocks according to whatever wine is featured in the latest installment of the manga, because those are the ones sure to sell out. Kami no Shizuku has helped raise the profile of wine in the Far East, spurring sales in Korea, China, and Taiwan. The manga has been spotlighted in the Japan Times, the Daily Mail, and today, a feature in the Dining & Wine section of the New York Times.

Unfortunately, though a French translation has been produced, the same can’t be said for English no release is planned (yet).

Wired Gets It Backwards

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Maybe this is a bit old, but quick! Before the manga craze dies down like so many people have predicted time-and-time-again over the past seven years let’s take a look at the feature Wired magazine did on manga last year.

Maybe it’s a little late to the party after all, as we pointed out, manga has been big for a while, consistently taking prime slots on the USA Today booklists and earning its own section in large chain bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders but to their credit, they don’t do a half-assed job of it, showing a comprehensive understanding of Japan, comics, and manga itself.

There’s a great article about manga culture in Japan, explaining the ubiquity of manga and how it feeds into other industries like film and television. But it’s the complimentary manga that we’re going to take a look at, since that’s our expertise here.

You have a choice of reading the manga in Flash, or downloading it directly from their site, but the latter is not recommended, because true-to-format, the manga reads from right-to-left, a fact that was not taken into account when the PDF was assembled. So you have to scroll to the bottom and work your way up, which makes the whole thing almost unreadable. The Flash application is marginally better, where you use your mouse to “turn the page,” but you have to literally drag the page over just like a real comic, which is pretentious and annoying (and sometimes buggy). If we wanted the feel of paper, we could have bought the actual issue of the magazine.

As for the comic itself, it’s actually pretty good. The writer shows a thorough understanding of the manga market in both Japan and the United States, even taking the time to interview various industry figures, giving the whole piece a credibility that even many major news outlets who report on manga lack. There’s also a good understanding of the American comic market, which means the piece avoids the usual finger-pointing and conceit that plagues articles written by insiders (usually fans) who think of the American market as “crappy superhero books.”

Maybe they need their own special online manga to explain American comics. Now wouldn’t that be the ultimate cultural exchange?