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Manga Mania

By Allen Divers     June 24, 2003

Before I sit down to write a column, I plan out what I'm going to do. Because I'm still getting a feel for this, I decided that I would stick to the basics this week with a few quick reviews. Well, first off, a bit of news from last week.



Follow-up on Pretty Face



It seems that I may have guessed wrong about what lead to the demise of Pretty Face. Thanks to the help of a few intrepid readers, more information has come out about what lead to the ending of this particular series. This bit of gossip seems to indicate that Yasuhiro Kano, the artist and writer behind the series wasn't quite up to the challenge of a popular weekly series. It was his decision to pull the plug on the series, and then head off on an extended vacation. Information like this is always hard to confirm, so sometimes you just have to go with the consensus.



Raijin Week



For many of us, last week marked a major blow to manga in North America. Gutsoon announced that Raijin Comics, their weekly anthology, will be switching to a monthly format. They also announced that the magazine will have a price increase of one dollar and that the content may increase by 16 pages. The spin on this coming straight from Gutsoon is this is what the fans wanted. After extensive research and polls, it seems the fans wanted a more expensive, less frequent magazine. While I'm being a bit extreme, I think the problem may lie in Gutsoon misinterpreting the data at hand, but being forced into a corner due to lagging sales.



Raijin Comics faced a major hurdle: attracting the right number of readers needed to sustain a weekly magazine. With any magazine, comic or not, maintaining the right set of numbers is difficult. Add to this that Raijin did not have the number one source of income in any magazine, ad space, and it's easy to see why it was important to have the readers. The real problem here was that many readers could not see the value of Raijin. At $4.95, Raijin seemed fairly expensive for only seven series. At that price each week, the average reader decided it would be far more economical to wait for the graphic novel of any series they enjoyed. There were groups of fans that paid the price each week in the hopes that Raijin would grow to a point where, for the same price, the magazine could include more titles each week. Unfortunately, we've seen the opposite affect.



Raijin going monthly will prove to be a major set back for the entire manga market. Without major competition, a magazine such as Shonen Jump has no real incentive to go to a more frequent format. This also helps to discourage other manga distributors from considering similar anthologies. From a stand point of success, the audience in North America is showing that the only way manga is digestible is in the graphic novel format. Manga in anthology and comic book format just don't seem to work with the regular buyers of manga. There are a few small successes, but the trends seem to prove that graphic novels are king.



Weekly Review Round-up



Reacting to feedback, I've decided to put up a bit of warning for this next section. While I do my best to keep my reviews spoiler free, due to the nature of manga reviews, occasionally I do mention the content of the book. So, for those who are really sensitive to any comments of any nature, skip down to the section highlighted as Shoujo Survey. For those brave enough to continue, I dare you to read on!



Chobits - Volume 6

By CLAMP

A TOKYOPOP release



If you want to know what the fans are reading and watching, the best thing to do is go look at the cosplay galleries from recent conventions. Something you'll notice this year is a large number of Chi's running around. For those questioning why, you simply have to thumb through the Chobits manga, and maybe you'll get a hint. It seems, a lot of the appeal in Chobits is the wardrobe. CLAMP goes all out to create some magnificent outfits for Chi and the other girls to wear in this series. Flowing dresses, covered with lace and ribbon and more fan service type panels than the average Joe can shake a stick at simply fill the book up. While much of that can be distracting, CLAMP even manages to fit a story behind all of that glamour that moves smoothly from scene to scene. Well into the story, Chobits volume 6 delves deeper into the lives of many of the side characters while the mystery of Chi's origin continues to swell. The story is punctuated by strong emotional scenes that allow more depth into many of the supporting cast. The artwork rolls well from those emotional moments, to more familiar comedic moments with ease. CLAMP has created a beautiful world for Chobits to play in, weaving a story that is both fun and emotionally charged.



GTO - Volume 12

By Tohru Fujisawa

A TOKYOPOP release



When it comes to GTO, I just can't help myself. This series continues to reign as one of the best titles of all-time. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, GTO is a guilty pleasure. Volume 12 continues the exploits of Onizuka after he managed to clutch victory from his sure defeat in the last volume. He and the kids are off to Okinawa and you can be sure he won't give the vice-principal an easy time. The chapters this time around manage to explore the lives of a few of the other teachers, with a fun story with Azusa preparing for the trip. Much like Volume 11, Volume 12 is half Onizuka and half Tomoko. The world of GTO has created quite a few memorable characters, so having half the volume dedicated to someone other than Onizuka makes for a fun change. Tomoko continues her quest to become an Idol and manages to make life miserable for her manager. For those who have seen the Anime, the manga tells quite a different story for all these events. Overall, it's a nice chance to see more of the world inspired by Onizuka.



Love Hina - Volume 11

By Ken Akamatsu

A TOKYOPOP release



It's been said that when you find yourself in a rut story wise, you should introduce a new character. Well, this seems to be more of an unwritten rule for series about to be canceled, but occasionally popular series do it to bring more chaos to the world. Such is the case with Volume 11 of Love Hina. Keitaro is off to America to study with Seta, and the girls are left alone at Hinata. Of course, life can never be that easy as Naru begins to act strange, interrogating all the other girls about Keitaro. Volume 11 manages to provide some of the best comic moments of the series as Naru and the girls are forced to re-think their treatment of Keitaro and work with the new chaos that has entered the Inn. Love Hina continues to be a strong romantic comedy with major emphasis on the comedy this volume.



Onegai Teacher - Volume 2

Art: Shizuru Hayashiya

Author: Please!

A ComicsOne release



Life continues to be a challenge for Kei and Mizuho as they continue to keep their relationship hidden from Kei's friends as well as coming to terms of what their relationship means to each other. As Kei's circle of friends grow ever more suspicious, things take a dramatic leap as one of them confesses to Kei. Also, it seems that Kei and one of the girls have more in common than originally thought. As an interpretation of the Anime, Onegai Teacher concentrates on the relationship dynamics of the Anime, getting right to the core of the entire series. It questions the emotional ties that bring people together as well as tries to explore what love means. By the end of this final volume in the series, everything comes to order making the journey enjoyable for the reader.



Shoujo Survey



In my planning ahead, I've decided to do a cover story on the world of Shoujo manga. To help out the column, I wanted to include some information from the readers at large. Here's how you can help: I'm looking for your top five lists of Shoujo manga. If you have a moment, click on the email link below and send me an email with your top five domestic Shoujo manga list as well as your top five import Shoujo manga list. Domestic titles are anything that have been officially announced, while import titles are anything that haven't been officially announced. I'll gather the results and include them in my big Shoujo special. Send the lists to boxie@azraelproductions.com with a subject of Shoujo Lists.



That's it for this week! As always, if you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to email me at boxie@azraelproductions.com.



Thanks!



Allen Divers

Freelance Adventurer

boxie @ azraelproductions.com

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