Thieves in Manga

Japan loves heroic thieves. This is one of the few cases I prefer the Japanese term, “kaitou,” as the English term “phantom thief” is a bit of a misnomer. I’m not actually certain what the genre encompasses in Japan, but for the purposes of this article, I’m going to go ahead and use the term “kaitou” to refer to any thief portrayed heroically.

Lupin III is the earliest example I’ve seen of this character type, and Lupin III is, interestingly, massively western-influenced. Monkey Punch’s style is informed heavily by the work of Sergio Aragones, a Spanish artist who gained popularity in the pages of Mad Magazine. The character of Lupin, however, is the grandson of the French thief Arsene Lupin, from the pages of a French novel series by Maurice Leblanc. The western roots are a little strange in this case because this type of character seems to come up a lot in manga, and nowhere else that I’ve read. There are examples, of course (Robin Hood, or maybe Han Solo at a stretch) but it seems like Japan loves this character a whole lot more than the rest of the world.

The kaitou is interesting to me as an example of a heroic villain, or maybe rooting for the underdog. In the case of Lupin, he’s not terribly heroic. He acts on whims, does as he pleases, and is constantly jumping in bed with women. He outwits police and criminals alike. He’s charming and goofy, which is why he’s fun to read about, but the key is that he’s not greedy. That’s true of all these characters. They aren’t actually thieves who steal for profit. And that’s the catch in manga, where a shoujo or shounen heroine would never be allowed to steal if it was actually for nefarious intent. Lupin is different than the others, but you’ll notice that many of the kaitou I list below only steal things if they are haunted or demonically possessed.

In particular though, I’m fond of the “gentlemen thief” archetype. I’ve listed all the kaitou I could think of here, but really, my heart belongs to the flashy gentlemen like Noir from Gorgeous Carat and Eroica in From Eroica With Love. And Lupin, in his way. There’s a bit more trickery in those types of stories, so they tend to lend themselves well to both good action and excellent humor. Plus, with an emphasis on the “gentlemen,” those usually have a touch of romance to them without actually being a love story. Except for Lupin III, which is totally about sweeping women off their feet.

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Brief Manhwa Update

For a long time, there was a lot of manhwa coming out in English. The flow has slowed to a trickle recently, but there is still life in the English-language manhwa market. However, the majority of titles are no longer being released by big English-language manga publishers, so you have to know where to look for new manhwa releases. Since things in the English-language manhwa market have been relatively quiet lately, I thought I’d write a little post that talks about what I’ve noticed over the past several months, and what to keep an eye on.

What brought this on? I ran across this volume of manhwa by Ji-Sang Shin and Geo. Now, I’m pretty familiar with nearly everything that gets released in English as far as manhwa and manga go. It’s kind of my hobby. So I was shocked to see that this was a Tokyopop manhwa title I hadn’t heard of before, and also that it was by Ji-Sang Shin and Geo, the same team that created Chocolat and Very! Very! Sweet. I love the latter. It’s a little crazy I missed this when it came out. And now my purchase doesn’t support the continuation of the series (but I still bought it). Don’t let the same thing happen to you!

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Comic Jun, October 1978

In the newest installment of Insane Things I Bought Off The Internet, I present to you Comic Jun, from October 1978. This is the anthology that went on to become June, the first regular BL magazine, as I understand. As far as I can tell, Comic Jun ran irregularly for a few issues before the title changed to June in 1979, and then it ran with one hiatus until it ceased publication in 1996.

I’m fairly interested in the history of the genre. There’s a lot of information in English about the roots of BL in the 70s, and then a few examples of series that came out when it looks like the genre experienced a modern resurgence in the early 90s. But there’s a big gap in the 80s where it seems like nothing but June and doujinshi were coming out, and I just can’t find any information about this. What’s most interesting is that the 90s series seem to have almost no relation to what was coming out in the 70s, so whatever happened in the 80s was quite transformative. Comic Jun doesn’t really answer my questions about this, but I do like it as a look at 70s shounen ai stories that aren’t by Keiko Takemiya and Moto Hagio. Not that those two aren’t great, and I would dearly love to read more by either of them, but they’re also all I know. And for the record, Keiko Takemiya is in here. She drew the cover, too.

Again, I can’t read Japanese. I’m doing my best with the content in here, though, so bear with me. I blew my Friday deadline for the first time since July because I spent so long trying to research and translate what I could of this, so I really did try hard.

Also, some of the images and content are NSFW.

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Guide to English Language Editions of Tezuka’s Work

The date of the Osamu Tezuka Manga Moveable Feast is fast approaching. I had to bump this article up a week when I realized the one I wanted to post today required more research on my part. So this is early. But the love for the MMF is still there.

In case it wasn’t extremely obvious, I am a huge book nerd. I work at a used bookstore, and I love spending my time researching titles and editions for customers, where to pick them up, and how much they cost. Reading the books are a big part of it, of course, but researching different editions, and which one is the best, is one of my favorite things. This extends to manga, of course, and Tezuka in particular. Tezuka has had around 6 English-language publishers, and a good number of his titles have more than one edition. This is a list of every title, and every edition of each, that has been published in English, along with search-friendly ISBNs and a little information about each. I’ll update this as more come out, but it’s pretty monstrous already.

I plan on adding photos at a later date, to give you an idea of the size and look of the different editions, and for comparison’s sake. Currently, my collection is split across two states, and I can’t take photos of everything for another month or so.

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The Spinal Column

When you have a ton of manga, you spend a lot of time staring at the spines. In addition to relevant information, most spines have a small or cropped version of the cover. Surprisingly, very few artists take the opportunity to make their series stand out on the shelf by doing something special on the spines. There might be a few good reasons for this, perhaps the best one is that bookstores usually stock multiple copies of recent volumes, so a continuous image would be spoiled in the best setting for it anyway. But still, I love it when collections take advantage of the fact I’m going to be staring at the spine, and not the cover, for a long time after I buy it. Plus, getting to add another piece to a continuous image appeals to obsessive-compulsive collector types like me.

Here’s a look at the handful of series I’ve spotted with something special running along the spine.

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Year’s Best 2011

On one hand, I dislike the flurry of best of lists that appear for all mediums this time of year. On the other hand, it is nice to see a shorthand list of stuff I may have missed, and it’s a good way to spotlight things that should’ve gotten more attention. I’ve never done one of these here before, and I prefer to contribute to other sites (that’s also forthcoming), but there’s a first time for everything. Plus, my manga is packed away in preparation for its twice-annual move to Ohio, so other topics are a little difficult to cover at the moment. So here’s a Best Of List for the Friday Feature!

I read a lot, and I have a hard time making lists like this. Saying, for instance, Lychee Light Club is better than Sakura Hime is hard, because I like both, and there’s no way to compare those two series. They’re just different. So for more fun, my categories are arbitrary. And since I wound up with so many categories, I’m just going to link my reviews rather than explaining again why I like them.

The only requirements are that the series had to have at least one volume out this year, and that I loved it for whatever reason. There’s a lot of latitude after that. And keep in mind I like some pretty terrible series. Also, I couldn’t think of a funny title, but Wandering Son is a pretty fantastic book, too.

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Medical Manga

I went to the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia about a month ago, where I got to see a real-life Pinoko.

Not really. But they did have… something along the lines of Pinoko, without the cute robot body, among the collection. They also had many other things that one finds in Black Jack and/or nightmares on display. So this has put me in the mood for medically-themed manga lately. And since I’ve got this blog and all, I thought I would make a list and share it.

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Seven-Year Anniversary

July 21st marks the seventh anniversary of the site. I usually let it pass without comment, but I felt like changing things up a bit, and I have a soft spot for anniversaries as a time of change.

As you might have noticed, I decided to change the layout. I enjoy plain and uncomplicated layouts quite a bit, and the old one was basically perfect for this site, but I’ve been thinking of changing it up here for quite some time. The only reason I kept the old layout as long as I did was because I could write with a font that used old-style numerals. Eventually, I decided that this was a terrible reason to keep a layout, thus you see this one (which uses old-style numerals in the headers, because I am fixated). The text is a little bigger, the sidebar is a little more streamlined (I moved the links to their own page, and the pages are tabbed at the top now), and… well, I had the old one up for seven years. It’s been long enough. Plus, a little color never hurt anyone. I do miss having the post counts next to the series names, though.

The biggest change is that I’m going to be posting regular content on Fridays (which is why I saved this change for today, rather than posting it yesterday on the right date). I’ve tried to commit to regular features several times over the years and failed, but I’ve done more than a month’s worth of content in advance, so I’m really going to stick to it this time. The features I’ve done in the past seem to be of limited interest, and what I have planned should be equally esoteric, but I like doing them, and that’s as good a reason as any to put something in a blog.

So. It’s been seven years, and there are 2,710 reviews on this site for 634 series. Well, “reviews.” I ramble for a while every time I read a volume of manga, and this is more like a reading journal for me. I’m more of a fan than a critic. But it’s old, and it’s big, and I’m fairly proud of it now.

Alas, Cheeky Angel 1 was the first review posted on this site, back on July 21st, 2004. Not a very memorable series, but I did think of it today while I was picturing possible outcomes for Your & My Secret (the eighth and final volume will be out in Japan in mid-October, and never in English now that Tokyopop is gone). Apparently my tastes in gender-swap comedies haven’t changed over the last seven years.

Seven years is an awful long time for any website to be around. Here’s hoping I can make it to the tenth anniversary without embarrassing myself too much.

Tokyopop Closes its Doors May 31st

Well, this happened. It’s been a year, and I still haven’t recovered from CMX closing. And as surprising as it was when CMX went down with no signs of flagging, in retrospect, as well-loved as they were it’s easy to see that their releases were overlooked. This year, Tokyopop was showing some warning signs, with employee layoffs and some admitted hardships concerning the Borders closing and the money they were owed. But they’ve pulled through tough times before. I figured we’d have to tighten our belts again and wait just a little longer for some series. Not this time. The closing of Borders really is devastating for manga, and especially a company the size of Tokyopop. When you can’t collect on a bill from one of your largest clients… well. It’s deadly.

This is devastating. Tokyopop certainly had its share of critics, but I can’t complain when a company is giving me what I want so consistently. I’ve been a reader of their books for twelve years, and am pleased with everything I’ve bought. I have a lot of memories. I started with Sailor Moon, of course, but picked up the Mixx editions of Magic Knight Rayearth not long after, and diving into the Chixx Comix version of Cardcaptor Sakura not long after that. I remember when they switched over to the monthly volumes, trying to decide if I wanted to buy Peach Girl, looking over their website (the old, old version, not the nice old version) over and over again, seeing the same handful of titles and trying to decide which ones I could afford. I remember when all the short CLAMP series started coming out, when they switched to 100% Authentic Manga, when GetBackers was licensed after I loved the anime so much, finding gems like Immortal Rain and Tramps Like Us and being just thrilled… getting a little worried when they stopped publishing a couple years ago and when all their Kodansha licenses got pulled, then happy when I saw that they had settled into a system that worked for them, and were putting out some really solid but low-profile series.

They were always right up there with Viz. It’s not the same sort of… I don’t know, personal loss for me that CMX was (because CMX was so overlooked, I tended to read more of their stuff and talk it up in an attempt to make more people more aware, whereas everyone knows Tokyopop), but it’s still a shock, and the English manga world is just a little sadder now that one of the major players has stepped down. I’ll miss Tokyopop, and my thoughts go out to all the employees.

In what is looking to be a sad tradition, I want to share some of my many favorites published by Tokyopop over the years. Just so you know, I’m, like, the only person on the internet that doesn’t like Fruits Basket. I’m sorry. Other than that, hold on, because this list is long. I’m digging deep and mostly obscure for this one.

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CMX Closing Its Doors July 1st

I figured I’d use it one more time, what the heck.  This time in a much sadder context.

You know, I’ve been a manga fan since 1998.  A lot of companies have come and gone.  Many carried titles that I enjoyed.  It’s always sad when that happens.  Terrible for the company, the employees, and the fans.

But I’ve never been as angry about it as I am right now.

I’m not angry with CMX.  In my opinion, they did no wrong.  I could rant and rave all night about things like CMX being an imprint of no less than DC EFFING COMICS and getting very little promotional support. But basically it comes down to the fact that no other company has gone under with some of the absolute best titles in print like CMX.  Also, no company that I can recall shuttered in what appeared to be good health.  CMX’s strategy has changed over the years, including the types of titles they publish and the schedules for some of their older and established series, but they still published titles on time every month.  Even the duds.  They still licensed new series.  There… there was just no sign that it was coming.

So, in my anger and frustration, a celebration.  Here’s to one of the companies with the finest taste for shoujo in the industry.

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