Category: Shannon Hochman

Shiny Shoujo Versus Sporty Shounen— FIGHT!

By Shannon H.

Well, this week sure leaves me happy, since three of the six or so books that I’m actively collecting right now are making their appearance (anyone familiar with this column doesn’t need to guess that means that among our new arrivals is the new Fairy Tail, Blue Exorcist, and Bakuman). For the rest of you, there’s still Vampire Knight, the shoujo-horror book of the hour, as well as another one of those 3-in-1 collections for the mega-beast of a series, Bleach. Beyond all that, though, there are a few sleeper hits that maybe you guys should tune in on, just in case you’re out trolling for something new to read.

In the boys’ corner, we have Slam Dunk, by Takehiko Inoue, who maybe you’ve already read without realizing it; he is the genius behind the beautiful samurai epic, Vagabond. Bet you never thought that his other big titles were shounen basketball stories, did you (I know I didn’t quite expect it!)? Both Slam Dunk, which has a new volume out this week, and Real, are high school basketball dramas, but they couldn’t be more different! Slam Dunk is a more traditional shounen sports story; it follows a juvenile delinquent named Hanamichi who that gets recruited to his high school basketball team and, with a team of other misfits, helps bring the once-unknown team to stardom. Real, however, is a much grittier, darker, and kind of depressing tale about three men whose lives are touched by basketball and what the sport means to them. Buzzer Beater, a third Inoue basketball manga, is a bit more out of this world — quite literally!! This story chronicles a basketball team from Earth that competes on an intergalactic level, and though it has never been published in the States, it might be worth your time to hunt it down should you decide you are now a giant Inoue fan. Continue reading

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Blood, Guts, and Glory!

In case some of the people who are reading this happen to be superhero fans of the DC/Marvel persuasion, there is a series you should consider as your stepping stone into the world of Japanese manga. It’s called Berserk, and its 35th volume hits our shelves this week. People who are already addicted to this epic, Heavy Metal-esque fantasy story are probably going to snatch this bad boy up as fast as possible, but there will hopefully be a few rogue volumes left in their wake for curious newbies to peck at.

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Brothers, Homunculi & Alchemy, Oh My!

Obviously the book that is going to rush off the shelves this week is the second-to-last Full Metal Alchemist volume. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, but the excitement that’s building as the story dwindles to a close definitely will! Even if you are one of the new FMA fans that went hog wild over the rehashed anime, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, there is still a certain je ne sais quoi about reading the story as it was originally conceived in manga form (Frankly, it is for this reason that I’m not personally too crazy over Brotherhood. I was okay with accepting the old anime as something different; it at least forced people to read the book, whereas now I worry that having a cartoon version will just make everyone too lazy to do so).

Oh, no, wait; I’m sorry, what was that? You haven’t heard of FMA before? What, you live under a rock or something? Full Metal Alchemist blew up like crazy in the mid 2000’s when the original anime hit Adult Swim, and it’s only gained momentum since. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out; perhaps because you are wary of things that are stupidly popular; at least give FMA a chance, as it most definitely deserves nearly all the brouhaha.

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OMG TINY BABY DINOSAURS!

This nerd is still out, pretending like she’s a legit college student, going to university football games and stuff while out and about. No longer does she have the right to judge bros who come into Forbidden Planet in their plaid shorts and popped-collar polos. But just because she is watching some sports and pigging out on hotdogs doesn’t mean that she’s forgotten her manga faithful on the home front! If anything, she is more attached to y’all than ever before, so know that the rest of this article is written with extreme love for the otaku of FP!!

There’s a pretty giant array hitting our shelves this week, with a heavy emphasis on the action, thriller and generally shounen-type things, with new volumes of all three big guns (Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece) amongst them. Also worth noting is volume four of personal favourite, Grand Guignol Orchestra, and  a new manga called Bloody Monday, the first volume of which is coming to us from Kodansha. Though I don’t know much about the latter, it looks super promising. I mean, hackers and conspiracies and cults? Sounds like it’s just waiting to be a Hollywood flick, but a lot brainier. The art may not be the flashiest, but it has a certain retro feel to it that makes it unique and probably worth checking out. Continue reading

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Hello, Good Buy!

Still out on my crazy adventure. A rather bold party mix of manga this week, FP faithful, and certainly something for everyone! There’s some shoujo, some shounen, and I decent peppering of yaoi on top! In partiuclar, there are two relatively known titles coming out this week that don’t seem to get the limelight they deserve, so here I am to shine it upon them!

First, there’s a new volume of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, which is a rather clever black comedy that pokes fun at Japanese society, language, and everything in between! Meet Nozumu Itoshiki, who begins his first day as a new teacher underneath a sakura tree, attempting to hang himself. He’s stopped by a girl who turns out to be one of his future students, just one of many who seem to suffer from a myriad of specific and bizarre problems.

Perhaps the amusement in Zetsubou Sensei lies in one’s knowledge of Japanese culture, thus alienating people who aren’t… well… Japanese. It’s not enough to just be up on your anime to get the full scope of what this particular series encompasses, since a lot of the humour is really based on understanding the structure of Japanese language, with things that don’t always carry over into a perfect English translation. Still, there’s merit in being forced to learn more about real Japanese culture through such satire, and if anything, the art is really fun to look at. There is a great aesthetic of incredible pattern and restful, white space, yet another Japanese-ism we might not appreciate so much as Americans. (In Japan, many things are crafted to focus on the singular beauty of a thing, whereas the American aesthetic is that more is more.) Anyway, it’s a pretty fun romp if you want something a bit brainier to read.

The other title that comes out this week that is worth checking out is Eden: It’s An Endless World! If you like beautiful artwork and those after-the-apocalypse sort of stories, this is one you should definitely pick up. After a killer virus has wiped out a good portion of mankind, the world’s future is up in the air. There is political unrest everywhere, and young Elijah is caught up in the middle of it all. If you enjoyed the dystopian mess that occurs in the second half of the Akira manga, then you’ll find a lot of similarities. But definitely in a good way!! What’s also cool about Eden is that it has a kind of gnostic undertone to it, so people who love symbolism will have a lot to soak in.

Anyway, I hope these are fun new old titles for you to check out! It always makes me happy to hear that people are getting up on their anime roots. No sense in being into something if you’re only going to do it halfway, I say!

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Mellow Yellow? Hardly!

Hello FP otaku! You may have noticed me missing from my usual haunt upstairs in our super awesome anime loft, and that is because I am currently out on the road, dialing in news about what’s hot in manga as I experience the most un-Eastern thing there is: America. So don’t worry! I’m not dead yet (In fact, I think I’m getting better).

Anyway, there is but one, lonely omnibus coming out this week, and its target audience is our faithful fujoushi crowd. Still, for those of you who are interested in that kind of thing, you won’t be disappointed by the second Yellow collection to hit shelves this year. Yellow went out of print a while back, and it was definitely a fan favourite as far as yaoi was concerned, so it’s great to see one that was so well-received come back in such lovely packaging. Especially since, for once, the popularity it earned was well-deserved. Continue reading

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I’m Your Toy, Your Twentieth Century Boy

So you read Death Note and you loved the poop out of it. Now you’re thirsty for more and ready to graduate into the big leagues, but reading just some other shonen title isn’t enough for you: you want the real deal — something like Death Note, but on the next level, nine thousand times more intense than Light and his killer notebook could ever hope to be. “When will someone write this?” you beseech the heavens, falling to your knees as it begins to rain violently down upon you. “When will someone deliver a manga that is even more twisted and thought-provoking than the last?”

And then heaven will rumble with a thunderous chuckle at your piteousness, for it is well-aware that you are too busy chasing after current anime fads to take the time to look to the past for the classic manga that fits this bill perfectly. That manga is 20th Century Boys, by Naoki Urasawa, the renowned creator of Monster and Pluto. It’s too bad that newer anime fans seem to be afraid of older stuff like its kryptonite or something, and it’s a huge shame that they’re missing out on great anime and manga that isn’t always so shiny-shiny desu (TM), or engineered by science to garner as many followers as possible with the right fanservice and character types. But for those who can appreciate an aesthetic for what it is and journey to the manga of old, they will be in for a real treat… especially when they pick up 20th Century Boys and steamroller all the way through to Volume 16, which comes out this week.

Though it is named after the song, 20th Century Boys is not the rock band manga you’re probably envisioning. Instead, it is a bleak telling of a dystopian future and the events that laid the groundwork for such a dark society to emerge; much like the grim hierarchy that Light set up with the aid of his death note. But unlike Death Note, there’s no Shinigami lurking nearby, casting his shadow over everyone touched by the killer grimoire; instead, it is the machinations of a mere human, whose motives are both grandiose, twisted, and naive. In the Era of Friend, a mysterious, masked individual calling himself Friend plans to eradicate the majority of humanity, leaving behind only the three million he considers to be his true comrades. His methodology is particularly striking to Kenji, who begins to recognize Friend’s contrived apocalypse as the same hypothetical one he and his childhood playmates wrote into a story when they were young. More telling still is the fact that Friend and his followers are united under the emblem that one of Kenji’s friends made up to symbolize their youthful friendship in the early 1970’s. So who is Friend? And how does he know about Kenji and his childhood fantasies of being a hero? Continue reading

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Akuryo Taisen!

Because I’m secretly waiting for a talking black cat to appear and tell me that I’m actually Sailor Mars, I’ve been practicing my divination skills: the spirits tell me that the next big explosion in the land of manga is going to be a little series called Blue Exorcist. Maybe you’ve heard of it, but then again, maybe not. It’s not got the squealing fanbase some other super popular things have (I’m looking at you, Black Butler, Hetalia, and Full Metal Alchemist.) – or at least, not yet it doesn’t. But the formula is there, and if the speed at which the books have been flying off of our shelves is any indicator, the legions of nubile fanatics are on the way. Even now I can hear them stirring deep within this planet’s molten core…

The newest volume of Blue Exorcist came out last week and after drooling over the artwork for the past couple months, I decided it was time to try it out. Boy, did that work out well! First off, as I said, the artwork by Kazue Kato is incredible. It’s super clean, despite her somewhat loose style, but still bursting with detail. Her characters are attractive and distinctive—practically begging to be cosplayed when the fangirl legion strikes—and even within the first few pages, bursting with personality. Even just based on the artwork alone, what could have been a potentially overdone concept is jazzed with something fresh and invigorating. Continue reading

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The Cutting Edge of Anime

By Shannon H

It’s always going to be a big, fat mystery as to why the manga and anime publishers not only don’t keep more in step with what’s popular, but also why they don’t bring it over faster; most of the stuff to make it to our shelves is from at least two seasons ago in Japan. Obviously since fansubbers can get a new episode of an anime up within a few hours of its first air date, translation isn’t a problem. The issue of rights is probably the main snafu, but even then figuring out the worldwide anime market is apparently a giant business venture in Japan at the moment, so that’s not the problem. Really, it’s probably a question that will survive the end of all things, so I’ll quit expounding upon it, since my point is that there are plenty of new things happening in anime right now, and I’m here to help you keep ahead of the game. Here’s a quick run-through of fairly recent things I’ve watched and super enjoyed. Continue reading

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ROW ROW FIGHT DA POWAH!

By Shannon H

Touch the untouchable, break the unbreakable! Row row–

Ahem.

Suffice it to say that there is a new TENGEN TOPPEN GURREN LAGANN book out this week and I’m super-dooper excited about it! Why, you may ask? Well, obviously because TTGL is freaking awesome, and also because its manga adaptation, amazingly enough, doesn’t suck chunks, as most adaptations of pretty much anything tend to do. Really, that’s probably just an aspect of being made by GAINAX, as TTGL is one of the latest offerings from the studio of Evangelion and FLCL fame. For reasons that will quickly become obvious the second you start watching it, TTGL quickly moved into the winner’s circle of insta-classics, and definitely helped revitalize the then-sagging anime industry. Oh, what’s that? I’m sorry, you want me to tell you the reasons that TTGL is so great before you start it? What, you think my word isn’t good enough to send you dashing to the shelves? You worry you might be wasting your time with a show you might not like? Oh, ye of little faith, what am I going to do with you?

Well, reason number one is pretty obvious: hot, curvy babes in booty shorts and tiny tops that are bursting with the famous GAINAX jiggle. Also the fact that Kamina, King of the Bros (TM), is probably the coolest character to star in a show since Spike Spiegal, and that’s no lie. Considering that he’s really only there for the first eight episodes or so before making a dramatic exit, he still manages to dominate the TTGL fanbase, perhaps even more so than his red-haired, bikini-top wearing sidekick, Yoko. And she has boobs, man. BOOBS. I mean, TTGL is probably about the manliest, chest-bumpingest anime ever, so what else would you expect, I suppose. Continue reading

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There’s Indie Hipster Manga, Too!

By Shannon H

The manga release list this week has been culled back from the usual extravaganza we’ve been getting used to as of late. For me, the most exciting of the new books is without a doubt the newest volume of Fairy Tail, but I’ve already had a nerdgasm about that in this column, so you’re off the hook this week. At least as far as Fairy Tail is concerned. That doesn’t mean you are exempt from my elitist railing about what is a cut above the rest, though! This time you get to hear me talk about some under-the-radar manga-ka you probably should start paying attention to, so that you can like them before they’re cool. And be ironic about it, or whatever it is you hipster kids value these days.

The first flail-worthy artist to talk about is Natsume Ono, who is about as indie as manga can possibly get. Honestly, looking at her art you might not even recognize it as being Japanese, since the designs have a much more American underground look to them. But if you know a thing or two about the history and tradition of comics in Japan, you’ll know right away that Ono’s work is as manga as you can get. Her layouts and inking style are very indicative of a manga-ka, proving that manga isn’t made so much by shiny-shiny desu animu girls and giant eyes, but rather by the actual construction of the comic itself, with cinematic layouts, and traditionally inked and screen-toned images. Continue reading

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Hold On To That Dream!

By Shannon H

Death and pestilence kept me from the Weekly Planet last week, and it would figure that on such an occasion, the robot manga gods of Japan delivered a book I’ve been clawing after for no less than half a year. That book would be Dark Horse’s new printing of the first Magic Knight Rayearth story arc, another CLAMP title that had been abandoned by lame-o Tokyopop, forgotten and left to rot in the archives of our memories for almost eight years now. I had nearly lost my mind when I first found out that Dark Horse seemed to be on this CLAMP kick, but the Magic Knight book kept falling behind schedule, and it was making me a very sad panda. It’s definitely one of my favourite CLAMP titles, not only because it was the first one I ever read, or because it changed the way I looked at comics in general, but because it’s just so damn awesome as well! Continue reading

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Lalala Mango And Animu

Manga Explosion 2011 seems to have calmed down a little, at least for the time being. Still, there is a decent offering of things to choose from this week if you’re looking for something new to read, such as new Oh! My Goddess, Sergeant Frog, .hack/sign GU, or Negima Neo. Frankly, most of them seem to be the tail end of TokyoPop’s pre-slated releases, so be sure to whip out a hankie and shed a tear for horrible business models as that ship finally sets sail and heads out into the waning sunset. Done? Yeah, me too.

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Phantasmagorical Fantasy

June is really proving to be quite the month for manga collecting! Another really full week is ahead of us, fellow otaku, so loosen those purse strings and get ready for excitements such as new Soul Eater, Higurashi, 20th Century Boys, NGE: Campus Apocalypse, and of course, Full Metal Alchemist. There are even some great reprints in store, like the Phoenix Wright manga, or Tenjo Tenge, and the first omnibus version of Negima. Suffice to say that it seems like this week’s grand theme for manga is fantasy and the unreal. Well, more unreal than what’s standard for manga, anyway. Continue reading

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Flowers of Carnage

If there’s one thing that manga does best, it’s elegance. Whether it’s a high school romance or a rugged ninja fight, there is a certain grace to the style that gives even the grittiest stories a certain beauty. Fine examples of such can be found amongst this week’s selection of manga, most of which seem to be of the yakuza nature. Maybe it’s because the yakuza is still associated with a lot of the old ideals of Japan, left over from the Edo Period and the age of samurai, but there is always a certain mystique about the super-secretive underbelly of Japanese society. Continue reading

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