This week's new manga releases include some nice volumes to chase away the winter blues: A new series about the zany characters of Ikebukuro, a fresh volume of CLAMP's Cardcaptor Sakura, and some new Cross Game action to remind us that baseball season is just around the corner!

Yen Press is in the spotlight this week, with a nice slate of new releases. On top of the stack is the first volume of DURARARA!!, a series that promises to be as manic as its title: Based on a series of light novels, which were then made into an anime, it is the story of a shy student who moves to the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo and encounters the crazy denizens of the city's quirkiest neighborhood. Sounds like fun! Read More...

Viz has a sweet deal for new digital users, and more Yu-Gi-Oh! for everybody, and in Japan, nominees have just been announced for the influential Manga Taishou Awards. Here's a quick roundup of the latest manga news.

Viz offers freebies for newbies: Viz Manga is offering a free volume of digital manga to new users who download their iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch app for the first time. Since Viz has been putting their newest volumes of many manga on their digital app before the books are released in print, this could be a great opportunity to read some new manga—or find an old friend. The offer is valid through January 30.

Blue ribbon manga: Nominations for the Manga Taishou Awards have been announced in Japan, and Khursten Santos has an excellent rundown of the manga that are in the running. Only a few titles will be familiar to English-language readers: Drifters, by Hellsing creator Kouta Hirano, and Flowers of Evil, which has been licensed by Vertical but hasn't been published in English yet. So why should we care? The Manga Taishou Awards tend to pick the cream of the crop of Japanese manga, and many of the winners will make their way into English; recent examples are A Bride's Story and Bakuman. So you can look at the awards as being something of a wish list. Read More...

This week brings new volumes of Sailor Moon, Fairy Tail, and some lesser known but still solid manga.

Kodansha has volume 3 of Sailor Moon for us this week, and they plan to release a new volume every two months until the series is complete. Just in time for this week's release, Erin Elizabeth Fraser has a comprehensive article on Sailor Moon at Sequential Tart that takes a look at this new edition compared to Tokyopop's earlier version and puts Sailor Moon into historical context. It's a great read, especially for those new to the series. Read More...

Just two weeks in, 2012 is looking like a good year for manga, with interesting new titles coming that should satisfy every taste. Here's a peek at ten that look promising.

Arietty film books: The latest film from Hayao Miyazake and his Studio Ghibli is Arrietty the Borrower (Kari-gurashi no Arietti), which finally makes its U.S. debut this month. Last June, Viz announced four Arrietty books: The Art of Arrietty, an Arrietty picture book, and a two-volume set of Arrietty Film Comics. All are due out on Feb. 7, just in time to catch the eye of fans of the movie. But even if you never see it, these books—particularly the art book—are beautiful and well worth a look. Read More...

It's almost time for Shonen Jump Alpha, Viz's experiment with digital manga, to launch, and they are offering some free manga this week so readers can get acquainted with the new magazine.

Viz is changing its monthly print magazine Shonen Jump into a weekly digital magazine, Shonen Jump Alpha paring it down to six stories, and speeding up the story lines so that each chapter is released in the new magazine just two weeks after it appears in Japan.

Shonen Jump Alpha launches on January 30, but right now, Viz is offering a 124-page "Issue 0" that is basically a full free issue. It includes a chapter each of the six series that will be carried in the new magazine: Bakuman, Bleach, Naruto, Nura; Rise of the Yokai Clan, One Piece and Toriko. These are recent chapters and are a few weeks behind the Japanese releases, but there's a synopsis page with each one to bring readers up to date. This Shonen Jump page also collects all the first chapters. Read More...

This week brings some good reading as several series near their close—and one last volume of a series that is about to disappear abruptly.

My top pick is vol. 11 of Twin Spica, the story of a plucky girl who wants to be an astronaut. This is the next-to-last volume of one of the best series in print right now. Creator Kou Yaginuma has a wonderful way of creating a whole world—the art in this series is clean but filled with telling little details—and the characters seem very real, as opposed to many manga characters who act in stereotyped ways. Asumi, the heroine of Twin Spica, isn't the smartest or the coolest kid in her class at the space academy, but she tries harder, and that makes for interesting reading. Read More...

Here's an update on what's going on in the Japanese manga scene, with special attention to creators and series that are likely to be licensed in English and other languages.

Rurouni Kenshin, Nobuhiro Watsuki's tale of a Meiji-era assassin who renounces his former ways is one of the most popular manga of all time, both in the U.S. and Japan. The series ended with volume 28, which was published in 1999 in Japan, so it was big news when an ad in Shueisha's Jump Square magazine announced that Watsuki is bringing Kenshin back for a short series. The story launches in May, and the ad describes it as a "reboot," which may not mean the same thing to Japanese audiences as to the rest of us. Coincidentally (or not!), the live-action Rurouni Kenshin film will premiere in Japan in August. Since Shueisha is one of Viz's parent companies, and Viz published the original run of Rurouni Kenshin in English, they are a good bet to license this series as well.

Manga creator est em, who is best known in English-language circles for her lovely yaoi manga Seduce Me After the Show and Red Blinds the Foolish, has a new series in the works: Ippo. The outlines are a bit vague, but the main character is a maker of hand-crafted shoes who has recently returned home from a trip to Florence, Italy. This sounds like something Natsume Ono would write; I'd love to see those two collaborate on something. This series will run in Shueisha's Jump Kai magazine, and est em's other current series, Golondrina, runs in another Shueisha publication, Monthly Ikki. Est em's previous work was licensed in North America by Deux (the yaoi imprint of the now-defunct Aurora) and Netcomics, but Viz would be the most likely publisher for her work now. Read More...

A terse e-mail landed in the boxes of many manga and anime bloggers yesterday from Robert Napton, the marketing director of Bandai Entertainment. Briefly, it said that Bandai will stop releasing new manga and anime as of next month. "The company will continue to sell catalog titles and shift its operation to licensing which will include digital distribution, broadcast and merchandising," the press release continued.

Bandai has distributed some pretty well known anime, including Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Cowboy Bebop, Code Geass, Eureka Seven, and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. Most of their manga are anime tie-ins, and they include Lucky Star, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens. The good news is that titles that are currently in print will continue to be available for some time, until their licenses expire, and the company will print new books and discs if needed; the bad news is that no new titles are on the way, and several that were previously announced have been cancelled. Here's the cancellation list:

Anime

  • Turn-A Gundam
  • Nichijou
  • Gosick

Manga

  • Kannagi, vols. 4-6
  • Code Geass: Renya
  • Gurren Lagann, vol. 7
  • Gundam 001
  • Lucky Star Boo Boo Kagaboo
  • Nichijou
  • Code Geass R2 Novels
  • Tales of the Abyss: Jade, vols. 1 and 2

The rights to these series will revert to the licensors, which means it is possible that some other publisher or distributor will pick them up. The final releases of Star Driver, Tales of the Abyss, The Girl Who Leapt Through Space, and Mobile Suit Gundam will just make the cut, so fans of those series will achieve closure. The Bandai Entertainment Store has closed down, but they still have an Amazon storefront that's open for business.

In an interview with Anime News Network, Bandai Entertainment President and CEO Ken Iyadomi said that the decision to shift tactics was made back in October, and not by him but by the Strategic Business Unit of Bandai Entertainment's Japanese parent company, Namco Bandai. Iyadomi lays the blame squarely on the parent company, blaming them for keeping prices higher than U.S. customers would tolerate:

"The pricing range for our products kept dropping in Western countries, and people tended only to buy sets with very reasonable prices, which we understand is what fans want, but it lead us to a different strategy than what Japanese licensors wanted," he remarked. "So we always had a problem [with licensors wanting something different than what consumers wanted]."

Of course, no one can know for sure—the anime market in the U.S. has been slumping for years, but with the number of streaming and bootleg alternatives available, high prices don't seem to be the answer to any company's woes.

Related Posts:
A Very Viz Week: New Manga for the Week of January 4
2011: The Year Manga Went Digital

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The first week of the year is a quiet one for manga, with most of the action coming from Viz, but we have a few interesting volumes from other publishers, including a mystery about Mount Everest. Read More...

2011 was a big year for manga, with a new publisher (Kodansha Comics), the return of Sailor Moon, the demise of Tokyopop, and a host of other events. But the biggest story of the year, one that stretched across almost all publishers, was the adoption of digital platforms for manga.

Manga publishers have been slower than others to make the move from paper to pixels, in part because Japanese licensors tightly control the way manga was published and until recently, they weren't interested in digital rights. That situation has been changing over the past few years, and 2011 was the year that manga went digital in a big way.

Viz launches new platforms and digital Shonen Jump: Viz Media led the way with its iPad app, which was announced in late 2010. Right from the start, they put flagship series such as Naruto on the app and charged $4.99 per volume, about half the price of a current print volume. They continued to add both new volumes and new platforms throughout 2011, making their digital manga available via the iPhone/iPod Touch, their own web store, and the Nook (Barnes & Noble's e-reader). Read More...

The return of Sailor Moon, the demise of Tokyopop, and a huge move toward digital manga: 2011 was a year of big changes for the manga scene. Let's take a look at some of the main events.

The coming of Kodansha Comics: Kodansha, the largest publisher in Japan, decided to bypass the middleman and publish its manga directly in the U.S. in late 2010, and the line launched this past summer with a mix of old and new titles, including Gon, Until the Full Moon, Mardock Scramble, and Cage of Eden. Previously, Kodansha licensed its manga to Del Rey, which is an imprint of Random House. Del Rey has pretty much closed up shop (they still publish xxxHOLiC and a few OEL manga), but Kodansha has picked up many of their series, including Negima and Fairy Tail, and they are also publishing older series such as Love Hina in omnibus editions.

Sailor Moon returns: Kodansha's first announcement was big news for longtime shoujo manga fans. Sailor Moon was one of the first manga and anime series to catch on outside of Japan, and its success was largely fan-driven. Tokyopop published the original manga series, first in its magazines Mixxzine and Smile and then as small-format paperbacks, with the comic flipped to read from left to right. Tokyopop lost the license for the series sometime in the mid-2000s, and both the manga and the anime were long out of print when Kodansha Comics announced, earlier this year, that it was bringing the series back, in standard manga format and with a new translation. Not only that, but they licensed the two-volume companion series Codename Sailor V as well. Fans responded enthusiastically, and the first volume of Sailor Moon quickly sold through its 50,000 copy first printing—a phenomenal number for any manga not titled "Naruto." Read More...

It's a slow week for new manga, but there is one standout volume coming out this Wednesday and a couple of others that are worth a look.

Let's start with the good stuff: Volume 2 of Wandering Son, a coming-of-age story about a boy who wants to dress like a girl and a girl who wants to live as a boy. Both protagonists must deal not only with their own conflicted feelings but with the reactions of those around them. This is a quiet story that focuses on the emotional life of the characters—unlike most gender-bender manga, the situation is not played for laughs, although the story does have its lighter moments. I picked volume 1 of this series as one of my best manga of 2011, and I'm really looking forward to volume 2. Read More...

The sixth volume of Vampire Hunter D is due out on December 28, and publisher Digital Manga wants to make sure that we're all up to speed on the story by then, so starting on December 24, they are making the first five volumes available for free on their eManga digital manga site.

Read More...

NBM, which just published its first manga (Stargazing Dog) earlier this year, has a new book in the works, Rohan at the Louvre, by Hirohiko Araki, the creator of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. The title character, Rohan, appears in JoJo, but not in the volumes published by Viz Media in the U.S.

The manga is part of a series of books that were commissioned by the Louvre as part of a 2009 exhibit titled "Le Louvre invite la bande dessinée" ("Cartoons - The Louvre Invites Comic-Strip Art"). All five books feature the museum and its artworks, and NBM has already published four volumes, all by French creators. Here's the publisher's summary of Araki's work:

Rohan, a young mangaka, meets a beautiful mysterious young woman with a dramatic story. Seeing him draw, she tells him of a cursed 200 year old painting using the blackest ink ever known from a 1000 year old tree the painter had brought down without approval from the Emperor who had him executed for doing so. The painting meanwhile had been saved from destruction by a curator of the Louvre. Rohan forgets this story as he becomes famous but ten years later, visiting Paris, he takes the occasion to try and locate the painting. Little does he know how violently powerful the curse of it is until he has the museum unearth it from deep within its archival bowels…

Read More...

The Japanese Weekly Shonen Jump, home to Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece, has its own English-language page that features games, updates, and a small amount of online manga—just a few first chapters.

This week they have posted the first chapter of a new comedy series, Nisekoi (Fake Lovers), which debuted in Weekly Shonen Jump last month. The manga is by Double Arts creator Naoshi Komi and here's their summary:

Raku Ichijou may be the heir to a yakuza group, but he's a normal high school kid who dreams of peace and quiet. However, when he meets super-hot but violent transfer student Chitoge Kirisaki, his life takes a sharp turn for the worse!

In order to read the manga, you must download their special manga reader software—which, unfortunately for Mac users like me, only works on computers that run Windows. But hey, if you have a PC, enjoy! And let us know what you think—will this be one of the SJ stories that makes it into English? Read More...

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