In Japan, Tomo Maeda is known as the creator of a number of manga series in a variety of different genres, but only two of her manga have been published in English: Black Sun, Silver Moon, a seven-volume supernatural tale about a priest and his assistant who must fight zombies each night, and Beyond My Touch, a book of short boys-love manga. Black Sun, Silver Moon was originally published by Go! Comi in 2007 (I reviewed the first volume), but the company folded and the series is out of print. However, vol. 1 is available on the digital comics site JManga. Read More...

For those who don't like to read manga on their computer, and can't afford an iPad or iPhone, Viz has a third way to read manga digitally: On Barnes and Noble's Nook Color and Nook Tablet e-readers. The Nook is smaller than the iPad, but it is also less expensive: The Nook Color is currently on sale for $199, and the Nook Tablet is $249. If you don't mind the smaller page size and the lack of free samples, this is a pleasant way to read manga digitally without breaking the bank. Read More...

The news broke at Katsucon over the weekend that the classic Shonen Jump manga Kimagure Orange Road, which has never before been translated into English, will be published digitally in English starting in April, via NTT Solmare's ComicFriends Facebook App and eventually in the Kindle and iBook stores as well.

The manga, which is 18 volumes long, is a love triangle with a supernatural twist, because the main character, Ky?suke, is an esper, and he and his family have had to leave their hometown because of their supernatural powers, which they do their best to conceal. The other two corners of the triangle are Madoka and Hikaru, who are also best friends with one another; in the beginning, at least, Madoka comes off as "whimsical" and sweet, while Hikaru is rougher, although she warms up over time—a classic "tsundere" character. The original series ended rather abruptly, but Matsumoto expanded the ending for the wideban edition. Read More...

It's another slow week for manga, with the big Viz release week behind us and Yen Press books coming out next week. We have some solid choices, though, as CLAMP's xxxHOLiC wraps up and a number of solid series keep chugging along.

The big news of the week is the vol. 19 of xxxHOLiC, the final volume in the series. If it seems like xxxHOLiC has been running forever, well, the first volume came out in the U.S. in 2004, so it has had a good run. Interestingly, this manga is still published under the Del Rey imprint; it's the only Japanese Del Rey title I know of that didn't transition over to Kodansha Comics (and yes, it is published by Kodansha in Japan). For those who are new to the series, it's about a high school student who is surrounded by spirits but just wants to be left alone; like many manga characters, he finds a shop that grants wishes, but the owner, a witch, forces him to complete a series of tasks for her as the price of granting his wish. CLAMP's beautiful, stylized art makes this a manga worth checking out. Read More...

Last week, Digital Manga Publishing announced that it was re-licensing Erementar Gerad, which was originally published in North America by Tokyopop under the name Elemental Gelade. This move took manga fans by surprise, but as you will read below, Digital would like to re-license more older works—and they want to hear suggestions from fans.

No matter what you call it, this series is a fine fantasy story about a sky pirate, Cou, and an Edel Raid (a supernatural creature that can unite with a human to become a living weapon) named Ren. Together with three companions, they set out on a journey to a fabled land of gold, but kidnappers and other obstacles spring up along their way. The series ran to 18 volumes in Japan, but Tokyopop only released 12 in English. There is also an anime and a sequel, Erementar Gerad -Flag of Blue Sky-.

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After last week's bounty, the pickings are a little thinner this week, and that gives us time to look at an older series that's worth checking out.

Kodansha has vol. 22 of Air Gear and vol. 4 of Gon. It's a good week if you're an Air Gear fan, and if you're not, grab the opportunity to check out Gon. This wordless manga about a feisty little dinosaur who travels the world and gets into all sorts of trouble is a collection of short stories, so the fourth volume is as easy to pick up as the first. Don't be fooled by the cute covers—Gon about nature, so it is filled with action and violence, as well as a bit of humor. Creator Masashi Tanaka is an amazing draftsman, and his muscular, realistic drawings of animals are what makes this series special. Read More...

What's the latest news from the Japanese newsstands? We have word of a couple of series that are coming to an end, plus Black Jack will return with a different format, and Shonen Jump has two new series on deck.

Is the end in sight for Tite Kubo's long-running series Bleach? A teaser ad in Shonen Jump announced a new story arc and suggested that this could be the last arc in the series. Crunchyroll picked up on some cynical commentary from the Japanese message board 2chan, where people aren't really buying that the story will end (sure, it's the last arc, but that arc could be infinitely long); perhaps that's just wishful thinking, though. Read More...

There seems to have been a glitch in the Viz website when I compiled this week's list of new manga, so I missed a lot of their releases for this week—and Viz always puts out a boatload of manga the first week or so of the month. So today we have a bonus new-manga post, this one dedicated to Viz and Viz alone.

With the exception of the Arrietty books, most of this week's releases are in the Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat imprints. The Shonen Jump titles include four that are now being serialized in Shonen Jump Alpha: vol. 9 of Bakuman, vol. 38 of Bleach, vol. 7 of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, and vol. 8 of Toriko. Any of these is a good pick—I'm partial to Bakuman and Toriko myself—but I see two more good bets in this stack: Vol. 20 of Slam Dunk and vol. 19 of Hayate the Combat Butler. Both are series that aren't too hard to pick up in the middle. Takehiko Inoue's Slam Dunk features blazing basketball action; if you're a sports fan, that's the one to check out. Hayate is a light comedy about a young man who is sort of an indentured servant to a wealthy girl, after she ransoms him from the yakuza. There's a cute cast of characters, and the stories seem to be self-contained; this was the first volume of the series I have read, and I could jump right in. At The Fandom Post John Rose commented about this volume: "The latest volume of Hayate the Combat Butler does what the series does best- it pokes its cast with) sticks(metaphorically…usually) and sees what happens." Unlike the other titles mentioned, Hayate is a Shonen Sunday title. Read More...

This week brings a shoujo debut, the return of GTO, the beautiful Arrietty books, and a couple of new volumes in action-packed series. It's a good week to be a manga reader.

Viz has a new shoujo series starting this week, vol. 1 of A Devil and Her Love Song. Maria Kawai has been expelled from Catholic school after a violent incident with a teacher, and now she is starting fresh in a public school. She has a keen ability to read people but a blunt nature that pushes them away, and she is bullied in school. Her beautiful singing voice, though, draws two boys to her, making for some interesting plot possibilities. In her review at Comic Attack, Kristin Bomba says, "I know this is only the first volume, but I already feel I can say that Maria may become one of my favorite female characters, up there with Tohru Honda, Kyoko Mogami, Haruhi Fujioka, Shurei Hong, Revy, Tsukasa Kozuki, Amir Halgal, and Mafuyu Kurosaki. She’s a strong, no nonsense kind of girl who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, but at the same time, she just wants to be liked for who she is." If you're a shoujo fan, this is definitely the pick of the week. Read More...

It was big news last year when Yen Press announced that it had signed a deal to create a graphic novel based on Anne Rice's novel Interview with the Vampire. Now MTV Geek has an exclusive first look at the cover of the graphic novel, Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story, which is illustrated by newcomer Ashley Marie Witter.

Yen's adaptation changes the point of view of the story: Rice's original novel was narrated by a vampire named Louis, but the graphic novel is told from the point of view of Claudia, a young girl whom Louis makes into a vampire. Rice was totally on board with the change when I interviewed her for Publishers Weekly:

"I have gone all through The Vampire Chronicles writing from the point of view of different characters, so it is completely legitimate to do that," Rice said. "Lestat [another vampire] tells you a completely different version of events than Louis. Who do you believe?"

Rice also said she felt Witter had captured the essence of the book, with her richly detailed costumes and settings:

What I look for in a movie or a book like this is the essence—baroque detail, sensuality, luxurious hair, faces that are intriguing and deep—and they got it here.

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Yen Press will make manga history on Friday by launching the first worldwide simultaneous release of a manga in English and Japanese.

Subscribers to the digital magazine Yen Plus will be able to read each new chapter of Atsushi Ohkubo's Soul Eater NOT the same day it appears in Square Enix's print magazine Monthly Sh?nen Gangan.

Like the original Soul Eater manga, Soul Eater NOT is set at the Death Weapon Meister Academy, where the students learn to transform into weapons or into the "meisters" who wield them. The "NOT" in the title stands for "Normally Overcome Target," and it refers to the students who are at the academy to learn how to control their power so they can lead a normal life, rather than using them in battle.

Although Soul Eater NOT is a spinoff of Soul Eater, Yen Press publishing director Kurt Hassler said that readers can enjoy it without reading the original. "It's a school comedy in this wacky, fantastical setting of the Soul Eater world," he said. "Soul Eater is comedic enough in and of itself, but this is a great departure from that. It's more character oriented—not that Soul Eater isn’t character oriented, but it is more a slice of life of these characters than pursuing a hard-core plot." Read More...

The Secret World of Arrietty, the new film from Studio Ghibli, will open later this month; we posted a trailer a while ago, and Disney just released a new trailer two weeks ago. But if you can't wait for the movie, here's good news: Viz Media has just released three new books (one a two-volume set) that showcase the gorgeous art and charming story of Arrietty.

First, a bit of background: The movie, which was released in Japan last year, is written by Hayao Miyazaki, the legendary creator of My Neighbor Totoro, Howl's Moving Castle, and Spirited Away, and Keiko Niwa, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, and produced by Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli. The story is based on Mary Norton's children's series The Borrowers, about tiny people who live beneath the floorboards of houses and "borrow" small items to live on. Read More...

Do you think you have what it takes to be a translator? Or maybe you just like fooling around with kana and kanji? Here's your chance to test your skills: The online manga site JManga is running a translation contest, and it's pretty straightforward: Download the yon-koma (4-panel) gag manga at the site, translate it into English, and e-mail your translation to JManga by February 14. The winners will get a free digital copy of the book Young-kun, from which the contest comic was drawn.

I asked JManga's Robert Newman how many winners there would be, and he said, "We will be announcing multiple winners based an varying criteria such as accuracy, humor, tone of voice, etc." I also asked him to clarify whether winners would have to have a paid JManga account to claim their digital book, and he said no, a free account was fine.

To accompany the contest, JManga interviewed veteran translator William Flanagan, whose credits include xxxHoLiC, Fairy Tail, and Fushigi Yuugi, about the challenges of the job. He talks about giving each character a different voice, preserving the humor, and a challenge that is unique to manga translation:

One of the hard parts has to do with foreshadowing. As translator/rewriter/editor, you have as little advance knowledge of the future events in the plot as any Japanese reader. So you have to be aware of lines of dialog that might foreshadow future events in the manga to preserve the author's foreshadowing. Not an easy task, let me tell you!

It's clear from Flanagan's comments that there is a lot more to translating manga than just moving the words from Japanese to English. Read More...

This is the week that Viz joined the digital battle in earnest, with the debut of Shonen Jump Alpha, their online shonen manga magazine. While the monthly print version of Shonen Jump still has a few issues to go before it disappears entirely, SJ Alpha is a weekly that carries fresh chapters of six different manga—Bakuman, Bleach, Naruto, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, One Piece, and Toriko—just two weeks after they run in Japan. The magazine is priced at $25.99 for 52 weeks of access to 48 issues, or you can get four weeks' access to a single issue for 99 cents.

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Two princesses, each forced to marry against their will. Two haughty princes, skilled in many ways but denied the throne because of a twist of fate.

Rei Toma's Dawn of the Arcana and Arina Tanemura's Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura, have essentially the same plot, but the two different creators shape it into two completely different books.

Dawn of the Arcana has a severe, simple feeling to it, with featureless backgrounds and uncluttered panels. That doesn't mean it's not sophisticated; Toma's intricate costume and character design add visual interest, and the compositions are reminiscent of works like Fumi Yoshinaga's Antique Bakery, with a single character dominating each panel.

The story is straight out of a Harlequin romance. Two kingdoms share a tiny island, and to keep the peace, red-haired Princess Nakaba of Senan must marry haughty Prince Caesar of Belquat. Nakaba is in shaky ground from the start, because on this island, all royalty has black hair, so as a red-haired princess, she is not only an anomaly but probably doomed to an early death.

Fortunately for her, and for the reader, she's also pretty badass, and she comes with a devoted servant, Loki, who is an ajin—part human, part animal. No sooner does Prince Caesar announce that Princess Nakaba is his property than the knives come out and the punches start getting thrown. As is so often the case in shoujo manga, the prince is a cold-hearted jerk—and at times he crosses over into being abusive—but by the end of the first volume you can't help but feel sorry for the guy, because he has definitely met his match in Nakaba and Loki. Also, Toma is throwing out some strong hints of romantic feelings between mistress and servant. Read More...

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