From Makoto Shinkai's Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below

Tokyo, like New York, can be a dreary place, but anime director Makoto Shinkai looks for moments of beauty and grace and then brings them into his films, which have been compared to the work of Hayao Miyazaki.

Shinkai, whose visit to New York Comic Con was co-sponsored by the anime site Crunchyroll, discussed his work and inspirations in a spotlight panel, and his latest film, Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below, had its North American premiere at the con.

Shinkai is not your run-of-the-mill anime director. He started his career as a graphic designer and worked in the gaming industry before he began making anime, and he broke into the field with short film, She and Her Cat. His films, which include Voices of a Distant Star and Five Centimeters Per Second, often center on themes of loneliness and lost love, and are visually very beautiful. And he does much of the work himself. As Japanamerica author Roland Kelts, who interviewed Shinkai for the panel, pointed out, “Shinkai-san is a triple threat. He basically writes illustrates, animates, directs, he does the whole thing. He is an anime auteur of the highest order.”

Kelts began by asking Shinkai how his background affected his work.

“First of all, like we said, my background is in digital whereas in traditional places like Ghibli they do everything hand drawn,” Shinkai answered, speaking through a translator. “When I first started making these videos I was an amateur. I was working in a gaming company, but I really wanted to make animation. I didn’t really have anything special, no special tools at my disposal so I used what I had on hand like Photoshop, and that's really how I started.” Read More...

CLAMP's Gate 7, from Dark Horse, is in bookstores now!

This week brings the first volume of the long-awaited new manga from CLAMP, Gate 7. It's the story of a modern-day college student, Chikahito Takamoto, who visits an ancient shrine in Kyoto and quickly becomes entangled with a trio of magical beings. There are battles, naturally, and also scenes of everyday life as his new friends introduce Chikahito to the other denizens of this alternate Kyoto. The story is a bit confusing at first, both because of the storytelling and because it weaves in a great deal of Japanese history, but Dark Horse has added extensive translator's notes that should prove helpful to American readers. And as always with CLAMP, the art is beautiful.

This is Yen Press's new release week, and they have something for everyone. Volume 7 of Black Butler brings more shenanigans from Sebastian and the rest of the Phantomhive household; check out the free preview to see what this volume has in store. If you yearn for something a bit more artistic, check out vol. 2 of A Bride's Story, the beautifully drawn slice-of-life manga about a newlywed couple in Central Asia in the 19th century, by Emma creator Kaoru Mori. Vol. 10 of Yotsuba&! brings the laughs, as the little green-haired five-year-old continues to confuse and amuse the grownups around her. And we also get vol. 5 of Hero Tales, by Fullmetal Alchemist creator Hiromu Arakawa. It's a nice, cleanly drawn story of a young man learning to control his supernatural powers; there's a preview up of this one as well, and it's worth checking out. Take a look at Yen's October page to see all their new releases. Read More...

Moyoco Anno's Sakuran will be released by Vertical

Vertical, Inc., announced three new additions to its growing list of interesting, often literary, manga at New York Comic Con this past weekend: Osamu Tezuka's Message to Adolf, Moyoco Anno's Sakuran, and a manga adaptation of Makoto Shinkai's anime 5 Centimeters Per Second.

Message to Adolf (Adolf ni Tsugu) was previously published by Viz under the title Adolf: A Tale of the Twentieth Century. The story is a murder mystery set in 1936, the year of the Berlin Olympics, that involves three young men named Adolf, one of whom is the infamous Adolf Hitler. Read More...

Hiro Mashima draws Fairy Tail's Natsu at New York Comic Con

Over 300 fans of Hiro Mashima's Fairy Tail packed the panel room at New York Comic Con evening to hear an interview with the manga creator—and watch him draw.

The crowd was testimony to Mashima's popularity in the U.S.: The line to get into the panel stretched along an entire hallway of the Javits, doubled over, and continued down another concourse. Mashima, who is also the creator of Rave Master and Monster Hunter Orage, greeted the crowd with a brief message in English, saying, "As you know, Japan was hit by one of the worst natural disasters in history. I would like this opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you to Americans for all the support and generosity during that difficult time we had. I still believe that the world is connected."

After that, he settled down with pens to draw Natsu, the main character in Fairy Tail, beginning with Natsu's hair and working his way downward as the crowd shouted encouragement. Read More...

Viz Media is the second manga publisher to rescue a license dropped by Tokyopop: They announced in their Sunday morning panel at New York Comic Con that they had picked up the license for the last two volumes of Yun Kouga's Loveless. The first eight volumes were published by Tokyopop before that publisher closed its doors last May. Viz Media marketing rep Candace Uyloan said "We have picked up volumes 9 and 10 for now," leaving open the possibility that they might republish the earlier volumes as well.

Uyloan also announced another manga license, Toya Tobina's Jiu Jiu, from Hakusensha's Hana to Yume magazine (also the home of Fruits Basket and Gakuen Alice). Jiu Jiu is the story of a girl who is born into a family of demon hunters and is given two shape-shifting dogs to protect her. Read More...

Yen Press has picked up the license for Alice in the Country of Hearts and will publish the complete series in three omnibus volumes at the same time.

The series was originally published in the U.S. by Tokyopop, which closed down its U.S. division before the sixth and final volume could be published. "We are releasing it in omnibus editions, so instead of six volumes you get three, and the full series will be published in its entirety in June of next year," said publishing director Kurt Hassler.

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Virtual idol Hatsune Miku packed the house (or at least, Panel Room 1A24) at New York Anime Fest/New York Comic Con on Saturday afternoon, as hundreds of fans lined up for a chance to see the blue-haired cartoon girl sing—and were treated to the premiere of a new Miku video that hasn't even been shown in Japan yet.

Hatsune Miku sings using Vocaloid, a computer voice synthesizer based on a real singer's voice, and she dances with the help of Miku Miku Dance CGI animation software. Fans can use MMD to make their own Miku videos; you can see a sampling on Niconico's Vocaloid page.

Toshihiro Fukuoka and Masataka P at New York Anime Fest

Chief Executive Editor of ASCII Media Magazine Toshihiro Fukuoka began the panel by showing some early Hatsune Miku concepts. "At the beginning, it was not so much music as voice and sounds," he said, and then he played a video of trains entering and leaving Shinjuku station. A set of bell-like tones heralded the arrival and departure of the trains. "Those sounds are used in the Hatsune Miku software," he said, and sure enough, he played a clip of Miku, and you could hear the bells along with her voice. Read More...

Kodansha Comics joined the digital age yesterday with its own iPad app, and it kicked it off with a special deal, offering all 16 volumes of Fairy Tail at a discounted price of $2.99 per volume.

Dallas Middaugh, director of publishing services for Kodansha Comics, announced the app to a standing-room-only crowd that had come to see Fairy Tail creator Hiro Mashima at the Kodansha panel at New York Comic Con on Friday evening. The app launched at midnight on Friday with four series: Fairy Tail, Arisa, Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei, and Until the Full Moon, and Middaugh promised that more are on the way. The standard price for a volume of manga will be $4.99, and the special discount on Fairy Tail will last for two weeks, until October 28. Read More...

Starting next spring, fans will be able to read new chapters of Naruto, Bleach, Bakuman, and other Shonen Jump manga digitally just two weeks after their Japanese release!

Via Media announced today at New York Comic Con that it will take its Shonen Jump magazine digital after the April 2012 issue. The new magazine, Shonen Jump Alpha, will be released weekly and will be available at for $25.99 per year; readers can also rent a single issue for 99 cents for four weeks' access. Each weekly issue will feature fresh chapters of Naruto, Bleach, Bakuman, Naruto, One Piece, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, and Toriko and will be available via the Vizmanga.com website and Viz's iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch apps.

Hisahi Sasaki, the editor-in-chief of the Japanese magazine Weekly Shonen Jump, which publishes all six series, was present at the panel along with Viz senior vice president Alvin Lu to make the announcement. Read More...

Over on the Tokyopop Facebook page, where disappointed fans are still getting the news that the manga publisher shut down its U.S. operations last May, Alexa TheSpider Norman asked yesterday,

Do you have any magic manga power left to resurrect yourselves? :C

That sort of question gets asked a lot, but yesterday, Tokyopop responded:

@Alexa Yes we do!

What's going on? Only Tokyopop CEO Stu Levy knows for sure, but over the past few days the publisher has been dangling some tantalizing hints that have fans puzzled and skeptical—and even wondering if Tokyopop's Twitter and Facebook accounts have been hacked.

On Tuesday, GeekChicDaily announced that Tokyopop would be coming back, not as a manga publisher but as an Asian culture newsletter. In a message on the website, Tokyopop CEO Stu Levy reminded readers that Tokyopop got its start as a magazine (then known as Mixxzine) that serialized Sailor Moon and Parasyte, among others, before the company went into the book business.

This got fans all riled up, so Tokyopop (no staffer is ever identified) posted on their Facebook:

Loyal Fans, we're very thrilled by your excitement but need to clarify: unfortunately we are not re-launching the manga - those properties have reverted to their owners and are amazingly difficult to get back. We’re launching an all new editorial TOKYOPOP newsletter about all things otaku and Asian pop-culture, powered by our friends at GeekChicDaily. We think you’ll really enjoy the news we’ll be bringing and apologize for the initial misunderstanding.

Got that? It's a newsletter. Not manga.

Read More...

It's a bit of a slow week for new manga, with a fresh batch of titles from Viz but just one each from everyone else.

Last week, Viz released a stack of new volumes, mostly in their Shojo Beat and Shonen Jump lines. The second week of the month brings a smaller but more varied selection, mostly from Shonen Sunday. The pick of this month's litter is definitely vol. 17 of 20th Century Boys, Naoki Urasawa's sprawling tale of a cult whose plans for global domination are based on a childhood game. Johanna Draper Carlson admits to some frustration with the suspense in this series in her short review (scroll down) at Comics Worth Reading, but even so, Urasawa's skill as a storyteller is undeniable.

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Online bargains: As I noted earlier this week, the online manga site JManga.com has cut prices for the month of October. You still have to sign up in order to get points ($10 for 1,000 points, plus a bonus, each month), but your points will go farther since they have cut prices from 899 to 499 points for most books. And they have three new ones up there: The first two volumes of Hitohira, a high-school romantic comedy about a shy girl who joins the drama club, which was originally published by Aurora in the U.S.; Sherlock Holmes, a manga take on the classic detective that has two hot guys chasing shadowy, supernatural creatures; and Nogi, an action series. Read More...

The first week of the month always brings a wave of new manga from Viz, and this month is no exception. And at the leading edge is vol. 1 of Psyren, Viz's newest Shonen Jump series. Psyren is the story of a high school boy who tries to rescue a friend from the shadowy Psyren Secret Society and ends up in the middle of a survival game. It mashes together a lot of different elements—the faux-utopian cult of 20th Century Boys, with the deadly game of Battle Royale and a million other manga—but it's a good yarn and it moves fast.

Also up from Viz this week is vol. 13 of Vampire Knight, in which Yuki is injured and more secrets are revealed. This first week of the month tends to be heavy on Shojo Beat and Shonen Jump titles, and that means plenty of fan favorites: vol. 7 of Bakuman, vol. 4 of Blue Exorcist, vol. 37 of Eyeshield 21, vol. 5 of Kamisama Kiss, vol. 9 of Natsume's Book of Friends, vol. 5 of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, vol. 6 of Rosario + Vampire: Season II, vol. 4 of Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura, vol. 8 of Seiho Boys' High School, vol. 25 of Skip Beat!, and vol. 18 of Slam Dunk. If you like your manga in big doses, there are the third volumes of the Bleach and Fullmetal Alchemist omnibuses, and for kiddies and gamers, there's vol. 3 of Pokemon Adventures: Diamond and Pearl Platinum. So really, Viz alone could keep you occupied for the whole long weekend. Read More...

When the online manga service JManga launched last August, our biggest criticism was price. The website offered a lot of interesting manga titles, but they were charging print prices for digital manga—$8.99 and up for most volumes.

Brocken Blood
Brocken Blood

Well, now they are fixing that, at least for this month by marking down prices by 45% to 60% for the month of October. Manga that cost $8.99 is now priced at $4.99, and the most expensive titles will go from $19.99 to $7.99. Individual chapters have been marked down as well. And in a particularly nice twist, JManga is giving a partial refund to people who bought their manga before the sale started.

Manga on the JManga site are priced in points, not dollars. The points cost about a penny each, but you can't just buy 899 points. You have to subscribe, to the tune of $10 per month, which actually gets you 1,500 points the first month and 1,050 each month thereafter. Additional points are sold in increments of $5, $10, or $25. Read More...

Vertical, Inc., marketing director Ed Chavez had a surprise announcement for fans at the Vertical panel at Anime Weekend Atlanta this past Friday: The company has licensed Flowers of Evil, which is currently running in Kodansha's Bessatsu Sh?nen Magazine. If you're curious to see what it looks like, Kodansha published the first chapter online for free, as part of the magazine's launch two years ago.

The story, titled Aku no Hana in Japanese, is a high-school romance with a blackmail twist: Takao Kasuga, a high school student who is more comfortable reading the poems of Baudelaire (the title refers to Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal) than making small talk, steals the gym clothes of the girl he likes; another girl catches him in the act and uses the incident to blackmail him. It's a plot we have seen before, although more often in shoujo manga.

Sean Gaffney has some comments on Flowers of Evil at A Case Suitable for Treatment, where he notes that Flowers of Evil is ongoing, and five volumes have been released so far in Japan. He adds,

This is another ‘mainstream’ release after they announced GTO Shonan 14 Days earlier in the year. Although it does seem somewhat eccentric for a shonen title, and I suspect may be more along the lines of what Genkaku Picasso was for Jump Square. Let’s see what it does to try and grab us!

Vertical will release the first volume in May 2012 and plans to release a new volume every other month.

Related Posts:
A Week of Manga News: Special Sailor Moon Edition
Manga Review: GEN, the Online Manga Magazine

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