August is usually a slow time in the publishing world, because everyone goes away on vacation, but this month is a bit different: Viz and Digital Manga expand their digital initiatives, Bleach skips a chapter because creator Tite Kubo is under the weather, and several series come to an end in Japan. Read on for all the details!

Mayu Shinjo speaks! Viz has set up a Shojo Beat Facebook page, and in addition to providing a space for fans to chat about their favorite books, they are also posting some interesting articles. The latest is an interview with Ai Ore creator Mayu Shinjo, who says she does plan to continue the series beyond volume 8 and talked a bit about Akira and her characters in general:

I had never drawn a cute boy—a boy with a cute face—before as a main character, so I wanted to give it a try. And I get bored if I keep drawing the same kind of character over and over again. But there are some things that you mustn’t change. He still has to be cool... Inside he’s the same as my other men: he’s rather aggressive and manly, a strong fighter, and sexy too. Those things I don’t want to change. In that sense, the only thing I changed was his appearance.

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With Anime Expo, San Diego, and Otakon behind us, and everyone in publishing taking a well-deserved vacation, the flurry of digital news and new-license announcements is behind us, and this is a good week to chill out and read some new manga.

For CLAMP fans, Viz has the third volume of their omnibus edition of X. Here's what Kate Dacey, a.k.a. The Manga Critic, has to say about it:

One of the things I like best about the new VIZ 3-in-1 edition is the trim size. CLAMP’s gorgeous, swirling linework and epic battles finally have enough room to breathe, allowing readers to appreciate just how detailed (and gory!) it really is. I’m also enjoying the omnibus format; with an enormous cast and a profusion of subplots, X is the kind of story that’s best read in large installments.

Also new from Viz, on the digital side: Vol. 8 of Blue Exorcist, which is coming out digitally a couple of months ahead of print because it will start running in Shonen Jump Alpha pretty soon, so they need to catch up with the Japanese releases.

Kodansha Comics had two new releases this week, vol. 5 of Negima! (the omnibus edition) and vol. 7 of Deltora Quest. Read More...

Fans flocked to Baltimore last weekend for Otakon to enjoy anime, cosplay, appearances by voice actors and directors—and there was also a bit of manga news, in the form of two new licenses and an app.

Small but mighty manga publisher Vertical, Inc., announced two new manga licenses at last weekend's Otakon in Baltimore. The first is not new to U.S. readers: Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin was previously licensed by Viz, which a portion of the series in 12 volumes. The other new license, Wolfsmund, is a historical manga set in 14th-century Switzerland, about a tyrant who wields his power to threaten travelers who must go through the St. Gotthard Pass, which he controls.

Kodansha Comics rep David Yoo, an editor at Random House, had no new titles to announce at the Kodansha panel, but he did have one piece of news: Kodansha launched an iPhone app this week to complement the iPad app that was introduced last fall at New York Comic-Con. The new app launches with six series, Arisa, Cage of Eden, Fairy Tail, Mardock Scramble, Until the Full Moon, Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, and Ninja Girls, all of which are also available on the iPad app, and Kodansha is running a special introductory sale on the iPhone app, with all volume 1's marked down to $2.99. Read More...

A small but stable field of manga publishers brought their A game to San Diego Comic-Con this year, and if there wasn't the rush of new license announcements that we have seen in previous years, well, there was still plenty to talk about.

Yen Press editorial director Kurt Hassler at the Yen booth

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Viz has a bumper crop of summer reading for us from their Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat lines, but the other publishers only have a handful of new releases.

So let's roll with Viz. My pick of the week is vol. 1 of Jiu Jiu, the shoujo-est shoujo manga to come down the pike in a long time. It's moody and funny and has a couple of hot guys who turn into super-cute wolves.

Viz has a good stack of shoujo manga this week: The scheming continues in vol. 10 of Dengeki Daisy, the yokai are still at it in vol. 12 of Natsume's Book of Friends, it's school festival time in vol. 9 of Oresama Teacher, and Ren is going through some troubled times in vol. 28 of Skip Beat!. For those who are trying to catch up, the third omnibus volumes of Skip Beat! and Hana-Kimi are out this week as well. That's a lot of shoujo. Any of these is a good choice for a lazy summer day.

On the shonen side, Viz kicks it off with a quartet of non-Naruto Shonen Jump titles: Vol. 12 of Bakuman, vols. 42 and 43 of Bleach, vol. 63 of One Piece, and vol. 5 of Psyren. There's more in the Shonen Jump Advanced line: Vol. 20 of Claymore, vol. 22 of D.Gray-man, and vol. 9 of Rosario + Vampire, Season II. Read More...

Remember when Tokyopop announced that it was closing its North American manga division? CEO Stu Levy made a statement, they sold off all their books and office equipment, and their website dwindled down to a Facebook page.

Well, psyche! They're back! Fans packed the panel room at Anime Expo, and Levy had announced that they will publish the third volume of Psy-Comm, an OEL (original English language) manga. In addition, he said that the Japanese publisher Gentosha has confirmed that vols. 4 and 5 of Hetalia: Axis Powers will be published in North America. By Tokyopop? "We are talking to Gentosha," Levy said, but there are no more details yet. Tokyopop published the first two volumes of Hetalia before it closed down, and it is publishing the third (and bringing back the first two) in a print-on-demand partnership with the retail site RightStuf. Read More...

This weekend brings the first major manga and anime con of the season, Anime Expo, at the Lost Angeles Convention Center. Charles has already covered the first big anime story, Viz Media's announcement of their Neon Alley anime streaming service, but here's a look at the manga highlights.

Panels

eigoMANGA in 2012: It looks like this, Viz, and Tokyopop are the only publisher panels. eigoMANGA publishes Original English Language manga. Here's the blurb from their website: "Colleagues from eigoMANGA will announce and showcase releases of the company's mass-market publications, games, and animation titles since 2012." (Saturday at 10 a.m., Room 502AB) Read More...

Adolescence is a time of contradictory emotions, of simultaneously pushing away from the world around you and longing to be loved. This tension between rebelliousness and loneliness is often at the emotional core of shoujo manga, and the first volume of Viz's newest Shojo Beat series, Jiu Jiu, really nails it.

The push-pull is expressed most clearly by the heroine, Takamichi, who is the heir of a family of demon hunters. Like many shoujo heroines, she has a tendency toward melancholy; on the very first page, we see her meditating on the pointlessness of life. Her twin brother comforts her. Then he gets killed. Read More...

The digital manga site JManga has a lot going for it: Quirky manga you can't find anywhere else, backing from Japanese publishers (who presumably have huge vaults of even more quirky manga to add to the site), and a pretty good relationship with their fans, thanks to their active Twitter and Facebook presence.

Unlike a lot of publishers, the JManga folks don't just talk to the audience ("Hey, check out this awesome manga we posted today!"), they listen and occasionally make changes based on what they hear: They have lowered prices and made the site available worldwide, and when I spoke to their business manager, Robert Newman, recently, he said more changes were on the way. Read More...

The list is short, but it's all good: We have the debut of a hot new series from Kodansha and later volumes in a couple of other solid series from Viz and Vertical—series you may want to catch up on now that summer is here.

This week sees the debut of the much-awaited new series Attack on Titan, a post-apocalpytic tale about a world in which giants hunt down humans and eat them—and one valiant boy's struggle against them. The series was a sleeper hit in Japan and won the 2011 Kodansha Award as well as being nominated for a 2012 Osamu Tezuka Award. There aren't a lot of reviews out yet, but Melinda Beasi liked it quite a bit: Read More...

Barrage is a fresh new shonen series that just took the place of Bakuman in Shonen Jump Alpha. It's the story of Astro, a plucky kid from the slums who is suddenly whisked off to the palace to take the place of the prince. This isn't just a retelling of the old Prince and the Pauper story, though. With cool character designs and plenty of action, this is a shonen battle story that's a cut above the rest.

Warning: Spoilers ahead! But since chapter 3 of the manga runs in this week's Shonen Jump Alpha, you'll need this backstory to jump into this week's episode.

The planet of Industria is going through a period of war, with the human-like inhabitants under attack from dog-faced aliens. Only the capital city is safe, and life isn't all that good there for poor kids like Astro. But Astro works hard, because he has taken in a gaggle of abandoned children and he needs to support them. When he loses his job after defending his boss from an alien attack, things look grim. Read More...

For the past 100 years, marauding giants, some 60 feet tall, have roamed the earth, hunting humans and devouring them for sport. The giants are nearly invulnerable, so the humans have only two choices: Fight an unbeatable enemy, or live their lives inside a walled city.

That's the setting of Kodansha Comics' newest series, Attack on Titan. "It's kind of like The Walking Dead, only with giants," Kodansha's director of publishing services Dallas Middaugh said when he unveiled it at New York Comic-Con last October. The series was a sleeper hit in Japan, where over 5.5 million copies have been sold, and there is a live-action film in the works. Kodansha Comics is releasing the first volume on June 19, but you don't have to wait to get started—we have an 11-page preview right here so you can jump right into the story. Read More...

Viz is the only traditional manga publisher with new releases this week, but they have a nice selection of fan-favorite Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat titles, as well as some Pokemon. The digital manga site JManga also has some new humor releases to round out the week.

My pick from the Viz batch is vol. 7 of The Story of Saiunkoku. This shoujo manga is set in an imaginary country in some imaginary past, allowing for lots of traditional-looking costumes and settings without the bother of historical accuracy. It's the story of the impossibly clever and nice Shurei, a poor woman of noble blood who was initially sent into the palace to be a consort for the emperor. That wrapped up in volume 2, leaving Sainkoku free to pursue her destiny—she wants to be a civil servant—and the emperor hopelessly smitten with her. This series puts a fresh spin on the manga cliche of the spirited girl who tries hard to overcome adversity, much to the admiration of the gaggle of handsome males that surrounds her. Also on the Shojo Beat list: Vol. 14 of We Were There. Read More...

On Tuesday, the online retailer RightStuf announced that they would be publishing the first three volumes of Hetalia: Axis Powers, which was formerly a Tokyopop property, in a print-on-demand format; the first two volumes are available now and the third will be out in June.

That's a savvy move on RightStuf's part, as Hetalia was probably Tokyopop's top-selling manga, and it has a huge fandom—it's a goldmine for cosplayers. And the good news is that, as you will read below, if this works out, RightStuf would consider bringing back more unfinished series. We talked to Alison Roberts, director of marketing and communications for RightStuf, to find out a bit more about how the Hetalia license rescue came about and what may come next.

MTV Geek: First of all, why did you choose Hetalia out of all the manga Tokyopop has licensed?

Alison Roberts: As a retailer, Hetalia is one of the manga series we get asked about most often. In addition to inquiries about the potential publication of future volumes, many fans also asked about the availability of affordable copies for the first two volumes of Hetalia... especially once they were no longer available on the wholesale level and the prices started to climb on the secondary market. Read More...

In an unusual three-way partnership, the American publisher Tokyopop, the Japanese publisher Gentosha, and the retailer RightStuf are working together to publish volume 3 of Hetalia: Axis Powers and bring back the first two volumes as well.

When Tokyopop closed its doors a year ago, it left numerous series unfinished. Hetalia: Axis Powers was probably the most popular one, so it's not too surprising that someone would pick it up. What's surprising is that it's the retailer RightStuf, rather than a more traditional publisher such as Yen Press, that has picked up the license.

RightStuf announced yesterday that it would be publishing Hetalia mostly as a print-on-demand product. The first two volumes are available now for $15.99 each; if that sounds like a lot, consider that the going price for used copies on Amazon is almost $33 for vol. 1 and $23 for vol. 2, and that two-volume sets are going for $50 to $90 on eBay. For those who don't mind reading it digitally, comiXology offers the first two volumes for 99 cents a chapter (or less than $6 per volume).

Volume 3 will be a bit different. The first run will include eight color pages, and readers who pre-order are guaranteed to get those copies. After the first printing is sold out, the book will go to POD and the color pages will be in black and white. Read More...

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