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20 Must Have CMX Manga
CMX Essential Bookshelf
By Julie Rosato, Patricia Beard, Kate O'Neil, and Thomas Zoth
May 25, 2010
20 Must Have CMX Manga
© Bob Trate
What began as an attempt to catalogue the CMX Essential Bookshelf has sadly become a eulogy. CMX, DC Comics' manga imprint, started out on the wrong foot with most manga fans. It had acquired the rights to mangaka Oh! Great's Tenjho Tenge, a violent, hyper-sexualized action series, but had decided to censor it to appeal to a larger "demographic". A former ero-mangaka, Oh! Great was known for his detailed, vibrant, and sexualized art, so many fans felt that CMX was changing what gave the title its appeal. Its attempt to water down TenTen into a mass-market Naruto clone seemed a cynical, opportunistic move, for which a segment of fandom never forgave them. But, however cynical the move may have been, by chance or by design, CMX had gathered a talented staff that would end up creating the most unique, diverse manga lines in America.
It would now be difficult to create a list of essential titles for CMX. First, it's rather cruel to insist a title is "essential" if it's either long out of print, or doomed to never reach completion in America. Secondly, CMX's strength was in the personal taste of its staff, bringing to print those titles that appealed to a manga audience underserved by what other publishers were offering. In viewing the reactions to CMX's closure around the Internet, we have yet to see any title unmentioned or unmourned. Each of CMX's series had a following, because their charm and their joy remind us of why we love not just certain manga series, but the art form of manga itself. CMX was able to find true gems that might have had a greater chance of success with more publicity and support from their parent company. Below, our writers have each selected series that they loved, those that they were fascinated by, and upcoming titles they wanted to read. We hope this discussion allows you to discover some of these gems yourself.
20. Diamond Girl
Thomas: As a sports manga with a female lead, this is a brand new series that will probably never get a fair shake. Endearing and funny manga about a girl who's a natural and the scheming of the baseball team to get her to play for them.
19. My Darling! Miss Bancho
Julie: A new release we barely got the chance to love, and I’m already missing it! This high-energy story of a studious girl accidentally in charge of a school of delinquents was only just getting started. Part young love, part pure ridiculousness, but all candy - volume one offered the promise of a fun series, and it gets Honorable Mention.
Thomas: A shoujo vampire romance with a strong heroine should easily stand alongside Vampire Knight and Nightschool for genre fans. I love the clean, stylized art from 1990’s manga.
17. Monster Collection
Thomas: Easily the best manga spinoff for a collectible card game ever. Incredibly sexy artwork with detailed and imaginative monsters. Reads like an R-rated Slayers. Mangaka Itoh Sei should be a much bigger name.
16. Sword of the Dark Ones
Julie: This is a solid dark fantasy most appropriate for older readers. A war between humankind and the supernatural is nothing new in manga, but a surprisingly satisfying three volumes presented readers with nice art, good pacing, lots of action, and surprises enough to elevate this series a step above the regular crop of short action manga.
15. Fire Investigator Nanase
Thomas: An incredibly unique shonen mystery series about a rookie firefighter and her pyromaniac partner. Indisputably the most entertaining way to learn to identify signs of arson.
14. The Devil Does Exist
Julie: This good girl-bad boy romance between step-siblings is an edgier, punk-styled, more mature version of Marmalade Boy. Though running the gamut of shoujo hooks and the angst of young love, this story features strong characters that develop through tough choices, honest emotions, and best of all, a romance worth rooting for.
13. Empty Empire, Pieces of a Spiral, The Key to the Kingdom, Kiichi and the Magic Books
Pat: CMX fantasy titles with emphasis on memorable character and lovely, gentle art, the kind of which we don't often see from other publishers. The lack of aggressive tone makes these titles, especially in The Key to the Kingdom, suitable for younger readers as well as adults.
Kate: These two fantasy coming-of-age stories aimed at younger teens found a place on my shelf: “Kiichi” with its magical realm of oni and magical librarians, and “Key” and its knights and dragons. Both took me by surprise for their quick moving and well-crafted stories. Kiichi’s soft watercolor art and “Key’s” early ‘90s shoujo style give both series a dreamy, otherworldly feel.
12. Musashi #9
Pat: This series about a 16-year-old agent for a secret world organization presents a sober and resolute main character whose demeanor often confused friend and foe as to her intentions - and her gender! Presented in a more realistic and serious style than often seen in shoujo manga, the initial episodic chapters yielded to a more complex storyline that not only shows how Shinozuka Kon can affect the world around her, it shows how events change her. There's a surprising amount of character development here in the struggling romance between Kou and Shingo Tachibana. Her fight to keep him safe amid secret agendas and assassination plots often puts her at odds with what her heart really wants. This is a great "action" romance title.
11. Tower of the Future
Pat: This tale of a young man with a slightly unusual family situation and a pretty normal life takes on operatic proportions when he meets a young boy called Zen who will involve him in a battle between supernatural families and a mysterious parasite. A personal favorite in spite of its flaws, this tale, which reaches out to mythology for its underpinnings, doesn't get to where it wants to go easily. For those who can enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
10. Moon Child
Pat: A classic ‘80s shoujo romance with a story line that seems to have had its elements picked out of a hat - hermaphrodite fish, gender changes, New York City, ballet, Chernobyl, water pollution. Yet, Reiku Shimizu makes it all work in this well told but very odd take on The Little Mermaid. The weirdest manga one will ever read.
Thomas: A little tyrannosaur that should be underestimated at your own peril. With incredibly detailed art, Gon showcases the hilarious adventures of this brave defender of innocent wildlife.
8. The World I Create
Thomas: An undeniably sweet one volume manga about school kids who can visually project their emotions to share them with others. Guaranteed to make you smile.
7. Astral Project
Kate: A young man attends the funeral of his sister and discovers a CD of jazz music she left behind. Its song literally lifts his spirit from his body and into the night sky. He’s not the only one soaring the skies without his body, and his sister might be among the other travelers. A four-volume mystery which frequently wanders off on tangents, with fluctuating art to match. It was one of the more unique series to come out of CMX.
6. Young Magician
Kate: Two modern day young men from very different backgrounds find themselves pawns in a clandestine war of priests and sorcerers, gods and devils. Brutal and heavy, the series doesn’t take the easy way out and plunges deep into the realm of dark fantasy laced with occult references. Sticking with it beyond the first few volumes revealed a rich world of characters and plots. It’s a story for which, it appears, we’ll sadly never see the conclusion.
Pat: Yuri Narushima's lack of linear storytelling will challenge readers, but this story of two powerful young men allied in a war of magic disciplines is worth the effort. Sadly, on hiatus in Japan after 13 volumes released in English, but still worth the read.
5 Two Flowers for the Dragon, The Palette of 12 Secret Colors, The Recipe for Gertrude
Julie: Nari Kusakawa crafts unique stories of surprising depth featuring clever, endearing characters and fantastical premises. Sweet and straightforward romances develop nicely but never overwhelm the story – something not many shoujo titles outside of CMX's catalog can say. Equally at home with comedy and drama, Kusakawa has a knack for plot twists and her jokes are always at the ready. Each of these works will make you laugh, cry, and gasp in surprise. Two Flowers for the Dragon, already nearly complete, is a title I MUST see finished.
4. Chikyu Misaki
Kate: A teenage girl moves back to the town where her mother lived and discovers a lake monster who turns into a little boy. That’s only the beginning of this satisfying, fast paced, three volume series. For a long time this was Yuji Iwahara’s best known work, and it remains his strongest. He has an attractive, playful art style, a flair for action and knack for cute characters.
Pat: An early CMX issue about a legendary creature and the little girl who protects him. Notable for great art, a complex plot, and pacing that never flags. An exemplary three volume series.
Kate: A wealthy young man falls in love with a maid in Victorian England. An ‘Austen’ style story of a different era, Emma pulled me in to a genre that I usually don’t read much of. Romantic and funny, featuring richly detailed backgrounds and wonderful side characters, each with a story to tell. It makes me sad that Emma will likely soon be out of print.
Thomas: Like the woman herself, Emma may seem rather plain but the manga has the ability to capture the hearts of everyone. A gentle, sweet story of forbidden love between the classes that feels much like reading a Victorian novel. This beautiful evocation of an idealized England is a reflection of the love that Kaoru Mori has not only for England but for Emma and her fellow maids. Fortunately, Emma has been completed by CMX and is well worth the journey.
Julie: Swan is a series so packed with drama, beauty, pain, and art that you'll wonder why today's shoujo stories feel so bare. Full of the blood, sweat, and tears of both success and failure, it's a sports manga dressed in a tutu and draped in glittering, syrupy romance. The theatrics are big, but so is life. Swan is more than just ballet; it's a rich narrative that defines classic shoujo. An unfinished run is a devastating hit to my bookshelves.
1. From Eroica With Love
Julie: Eroica is the sitcom that stays on-air forever. Following the trials and tribulations of a fantastically gay socialite art thief and his prim and rigid NATO-officer nemesis, the adventures are grand, the intrigue is plentiful, and the innuendo is hilarious. The Earl and the Major are nothing less than perfection in antagonistic chemistry. Translation work is top notch and the gags just get better with time. Age and assumptions undoubtedly limited this title's audience, and there is no bigger shame because this is terribly funny stuff.
The beauty of CMX's catalog is that one could never say, "If you've read one series, you've read them all." Rather than turn to so much boilerplate after a few boom years like the bigger, flashier publishers, CMX offered something different with nearly every license. We liked so much of their catalog that it's very difficult to say what we liked best about it. If you find we've missed one of your favorites, please share it in the comments.
Be sure to read 15 Most Essential Del Rey Manga, 15 Most Essential Dark Horse Manga and 5 Manga That Need an Anime. If Anime is more your flavor, check out 5 Anime That Should Be Brought Into the Mainstream. While we are thinking about it, check out 10 Great Out of Print Anime We Want Back.
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