Alas, I’m more than a week early, but today is the day I’m going to talk about the Manga Moveable Feast topic for this month. Hosted by Kate over at the Manga Critic, this month’s discussion focuses on the Viz Signature imprint.

Kate posted a helpful list at the link above, but there’s another over at the Viz website. Interestingly, I noticed that some of those titles are from the old Editor’s Choice imprint. Editor’s Choice was simply the precursor to Signature, but the theme of the imprints are probably about the same. They both encompass the most awesome manga titles you can find in English. Take it from someone who knows. I just now realized I own every manga title on that list except Biomega. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it does mean I know my way around the titles rather intimately. And I can say they really are that good.

So, what makes a Viz Signature book? In general, it seems like it’s simply the best of the best. In reality, it’s probably more like… titles that are not Shounen Sunday, Shounen Jump, or shoujo titles. But if Viz sees fit to license a title that does not fit into one of those three safe categories, chances are it’s worth reading. They tend to be for an older audience, seinen or josei-flavored, and somewhat more literary than your usual manga title. But not always! For every Phoenix, there’s a Detroit Metal City. Ooku is balanced out with Black Lagoon. All of them are well-written and entertaining, in their way, though some take more convincing than others. There’s also a lot of genres represented. Horror, action, romance, sci-fi, historical, high school, professionals, sports, music… if you like it, there’s probably a manga title for you in the Viz Signature imprint. And odds are, it’s actually going to be pretty great.

So let me talk about some of my favorites! I didn’t realize until I began writing the article how essential the Viz Signature line was to my reading habits, nor that I actually had all of them, so it turns out I’m fond of quite a few of them. So… how about a top ten of my favorites? Not the best ones, mind you, but my favorites. Keep in mind I sometimes like some pretty awful manga, and what I like isn’t always the best. But I do like all these to pieces, and I can vouch for the fact the Signature imprint has never printed an awful book, so all of these are at least worth some of your time.

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So, as I mentioned last week, the Manga Moveable Feast is currently on over at The Manga Critic, hosted by Kate. I posted a longer article last week, a guide to all the English-language editions of Tezuka titles, which is my more meaningful contribution. But I like Tezuka a lot, and I’ve written about him frequently. I’ve reviewed just about every volume published in English, save for Buddha and a couple of the most recent releases. I’ve also written a couple other articles on other topics, too, and I thought that it might be a good idea to collect all of it in one place.

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This month’s Manga Moveable Feast can only be horror manga. It’s hosted over at Manga Xanadu by Lori Henderson, and I would advise you to check out all the awesome content over there. There’s no party like a Halloween party, and horror manga is literally one of my favorite topics ever.

I had a hard time coming up with something to talk about this year. I talk about horror manga all the time, especially around Halloween, and I’ve been doing this for seven or whatever years now. I’ve already talked about Hideshi Hino, Kazuo Umezu, Junji Ito, psychological horror, over-the-top grotesque horror, and all sorts of good and awful horror manga over the years.

I thought about discussing shoujo horror manga in general, by time period and the anthologies they came out in, but very few have been released in English. And while I’m familiar with anthologies like Bonita, Suspiria, Halloween, and Nemuki, I haven’t read enough to make any comparisons.

My roommate, who has probably read every horror comic published in America between 1940-1980, suggested I do a comparison between American and Japanese 70s horror comics for girls. I thought that was a fine idea. He provided me with much of the info for the American side of the equation and gave me a lot of good ideas about comparing and contrasting the two.

In the interest of international balance, I also tried to get issues of Misty, a British horror comic for girls published in the 70s, but the issues are extremely rare and expensive, at least on eBay. I believe some of the stories are written by Pat Mills, who is comparable to Kazuo Umezu in terms of influence and utterly insane stories. Everything he writes is solid gold.

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This month’s Manga Moveable Feast is a celebration of all things Fumi Yoshinaga, as hosted by Kristin over at Comic Attack. Go check out the other content, because there is A LOT to say about Fumi Yoshinaga. I feel a little bad I didn’t write a real article instead of an overview, because there are dozens of topics that are worth covering related to her. But instead, here’s a little walk through all her work published in English.

This is a long one, so I’m going to put the rest of this behind a cut.

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Hmm… when going through my drafts, I found this roundtable link that I never posted for the Fruits Basket Manga Moveable Feast.  This MMF was hosted by David at Manga Curmudgeon, which is no longer online, so I can’t link the other content.  Lori Henderson hosted a roundtable about Fruits Basket at Manga Village that I participated in.  I cannot figure out why I didn’t post this at the time, unless this was right when Manga Village moved? Anyway, I spent a long time puzzling over this tonight, so here’s a blast from the past for you. I’m back-dating this so it doesn’t show up on the front of my site since it’s 4 years old and involves stuff that’s no longer online. But it may show up on feeds! Sorry about that.


Fruits Basket Roundtable at Manga Village – 7-30-2011

This month’s Moveable Manga Feast, hosted by David Welsh over at Manga Curmudgeon, is focused on Fruits Basket. There’s lots of other wonderful content about the series over there, all of it worth checking out.

First, let me start off by saying I did not have the pleasure of re-reading the series for the MMF this month. Unfortunately, my volumes are stored in another state at the moment, so I couldn’t lay hands on them. Thus, my thoughts are mostly still of my initial read-through of the series, though I have read the first 10 or so volumes twice through once upon a time. My opinions might also be a little stale since I finished the series a couple years ago at this point (and also light or hazy on detail), but hopefully I can convey some of my thoughts here.

I did review the series as it was coming out right here, so you may feel like following along with my fresh impressions as I read the volumes over the course of several years.

One thing I do remember: it was hard for me to put the volumes down. Once I started in on them, I tore through every single one. It’s an absolutely charming series. I compared it to Oh My Goddess early on, as the first volumes of Fruits Basket are loosely connected short stories that are all about the warm, fuzzy feeling you get from good deeds, earnest relationship-building, and the motherly aura that Tohru Honda radiates in general. As each member of the Sohma family is introduced initially, all the stories are a little funny, a little sweet, and well-written enough to break out of the usual shoujo mold. This is true all the way through, actually, though it does start to get much darker after the first five volumes.

The characters are all easy to like. Homeless Tohru Honda, so eager to please and feeling unworthy of the roof over he head, has no idea just how much the three Sohma men grow to rely on her in such a short time, and how easily both Yuki and Kyo begin to fall for her. Yuki’s princely aura, and Kyo’s mild troublemaking all fit the usual character types, but Takaya manages to still make them far more likable than they ought to be. And this continues to be true all the way through the series, from Tohru’s eccentric friends that stick with her to the end, to every single member of the Sohma household, even the tertiary characters on the student council that are introduced much later manage to support their own stories and make them interesting.

The themes of belonging are also easy to relate to. We may not all be poor orphans with a heart of gold, but the metaphor of the children’s game of fruits basket, where all the other children pretend to be fruit while Tohru is a rice ball, destined to forever be set apart from them, is something almost everybody can relate to, and Takaya does a good job of summing it up in that scene and throughout the stories in all 23 volumes. As for the drama… well, we all have the dark places too, and a lot of the character hang-ups are easy to sympathize with.

And yet.

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To celebrate the Rumiko Takahashi-centric Manga Moveable Feast this month, hosted by Rob over at Panel Patter, we took the opportunity to do a roundtable over at Manga Village that looks at Takahashi as a gateway into manga fandom for us. Check it out over at Manga Village.

I talked about it a little bit here already, but I go into more detail during the roundtable, plus I get to talk about Mermaid Saga some more, which is never a bad thing. Also, Rin-ne makes for a good point of contention.