cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (woman with hamster)
On scanslations: Simon Jones always makes so much damn sense (that link goes to Icarus Comics, which as a rule is not safe for work). And I don't know what it is exactly that still tickles me about it, but I am always tickled that one of the most rational voices of the professional comics scene is that of an adult comics publisher.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (nana in the field)
More good manga criticism. (See the previous post on Pluto.)

The Hooded Utilitarian, which I have recently begun reading, and have come to love, has been having a roundtable discussion by its contributors on Hitoshi Ashishano's Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (Record of a Yokohama Shopping Trip) (aka YKK), a lovely, peaceful, pastoral manga about a coffee-house owner named Alpha who rides around on her motorcycle taking pictures of the gorgeous rural landscape, occasionally serves coffee to the odd visitor, and who, because this is manga, which is still heavily shaped by Tezuka, happens to be a robot. The setting is a future Japan, altered by, we think, global warming; the populace is thinning, but no one really seems all that stressed. The mood and the method are understated. It's a fan-favorite in my circle of the manga-reading interwebs, we who don't necessarily worry too hard about scanlations (YKK has never been licensed, and, sadly, probably never will be), and have excellent taste, and who read and love good stuff like Usamaru Furuya manga, and Ai Yazawa manga, and of course, Naruto.

Bill Randall, bless his heart, likes YKK, but calls it "reactionary" (he makes a coherent argument for that, but it cracks me up, if only for the pure shock value. This is why I love reading good criticism: only there will you see concepts like "pastoral" and "reactionary" discussed together and in a way that makes sense). Dirk Deppey, who, at present, authors The Comics Journal's blog, Journalista, and is a vocal fan of YKK, takes exception to the "reactionary" thing, which prompts more discussion on The Hooded Utilitarian, and Deppey saunters over at some point to weigh in some more. I realize this sounds like I'm dryly describing a wankfest, but all of these people appear to like and respect each other, and the entire discussion is polite, despite the fact that Deppey happens to be at political odds with I think the entire Utilitarian crew. It's a great sequence of critical exchanges, sort of what I think criticism is when it's working right and no one is ego-tripping. Informative, insightful, and yes, important. Gorgeous.

In sequence:
I: The Hooded Utilitarian: Warm Apocalypse
II: The Hooded Utilitarian: The Past Will Drown the Future
III: The Hooded Utilitarian: Quiet Inn Late in Day (A)
IV: The Hooded Utilitarian: Quiet Inn Late in Day (B)
V: The Hooded Utilitarian: Desire is Suffering
VI: Dirk Deppey at Journalista suggests chilling out to better get it (scroll down)
VII: The Hooded Utilitarian: YKK Fight! (1)
VIII: The Hooded Utilitarian: YKK Fight! (2)
IX: The Hooded Utilitarian: Reaction

My absolute, hands-down favorite in this whole thing, is when Berlatsky links to Deppey's initial commentary thusly: "[Dirk] thunders his fist down upon our placid roundtable and accuses us all of being insufficiently mellow."

If you don't feel like reading them all (none are terribly long), pick a Utilitarian column at random and read it; each is strong on its own merits.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (nana at the window)
I've whined before about the lack of good manga reviewing, which is tangentially related to a lack of serious criticism, so it behooves me to link to a few of the fantastic pieces of manga criticism I've read in the last week or so. This was originally one post with the YKK thing to follow, but it was getting long, so I split 'em.

The House Next Door: Comics Column #5: Pluto, Scott Pilgrim, Watchmen
Link from Journalista. The comments on Watchmen and Scott Pilgrim (one I've read, one I know only from reading snippets and the ravings of fans, although I've read other O'Malley work, and liked it) are definitely worth reading, but if you want, you can just scroll down for the Pluto segment. I really shouldn't have read it, because I still haven't been able to get my hands on a copy of Pluto yet, curses, but I couldn't help it.

A little tangential bit that made me smile, because the process and product of adaptation in fiction and media fascinates me (which I credit to having read a lot of mythology as a child--as in, multiple versions of the same story, and sometimes, I wondered why they weren't the same):

I've kept far away from "spoilers" for the volumes of Pluto to follow, something I rarely do when it comes to comics (Scott Pilgrim is another notable exception). For me, personally, it's one of the most exciting comics in ages. And part of that comes back to the reaction to seeing the human-looking Atom. I know how the story "ends," as I've read the original Astro Boy tale. And this is, of course, why people still get excited by film adaptations of comics, by remakes, by re-imaginings and retcons, dissections and distillations. We want to see what they're going to do with these ideas, what they're going to bring to the original.

Apropos of that, I've been dying to read Pluto for YEARS, ever since I first encountered it, as it combines four of my great loves in one--Tezuka, Urasawa, manga, and adapted work. I'd be in a tizzy over it being backordered, were I not also mostly unconcerned with spoilers.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
I know the internet's afire with this already, but I haven't seen this perspective anywhere else yet, so here goes:

Re: the recent deletion of [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily: it was inevitable. I'm not feeling entirely blase about its permanent suspension, because although a TOS on copyright issues was inevitable, it seems pretty clear that what triggered the TOS wasn't actually the copyright pigeon coming home to roost, but rather stupid, petty wank over bruised feelings, and I have no respect for that. And [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily was fucking awesome; I loved reading stuff there, and reading discussions. I followed it and commented there for years--since at least 2004, maybe even 2003--and have enjoyed it, through its many ups and downs and interesting wanks.

But a TOS over copyright would have happened eventually anyway, because from a legal vulnerability standpoint, it really does not matter whether a half-an-issue posting cap is set as a good faith effort to emphasize that the scans are about sampling, review, and discussion, not intended as substitution for supporting commercially available material: a community as big and old and well-known as [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily was gonna get a TOS sooner or later. The fact that it was later, and the open acknowledgment of it in so many industry-nigh comics circles, strongly suggests to me that it was left alone out of the correct belief that it did no actual harm, and was a lively, passionate venue for comics discussion. But the copyright thing--yeah, there was just no way someone wasn't going to be so generous about it, eventually.

More on copyright. )

Here's the heart of it: [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily was not about buying comics, and it wasn't about not buying comics. It was about reacting to comics, and it directly incorporated them into that process with scans. I'm sorry if some creator somewhere was disappointed that it wasn't a primo viral marketing tool for them, but it's not always about you, chickadee.

And it was good for comics. It wasn't good for comics because there was some kind of direct correlation between a post on [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily and a sales bump; it was good for comics because for its members, it strengthened their love of comics and let them explore their interests in the kind of freewheeling, informal, fannish environment that no commercial entity can create. I learned so much from [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily! Long before I got interested in manga, or comics blogs, before I ever read Journalista (which for my money is one of the best places on the internet to learn more about comics, and have chances to look at cool shit), the gradually broadening content at [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily was introducing me to new kinds of comics. My interest in superheroes has waned over the years, and as it exists at all, is mostly just nostalgia, but due in great part to the breath and volume of material posted at [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily in that time, other things have taken the place of superheroes. I own a ton of manga and alternative titles because [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily widened my horizons. Some of it I first found there, some not, but all of it owes a debt to [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily's place in my comics education.

I should point out, too, that even if people aren't necessarily buying things now, places like this can keep an interest alive while there's no money for the comics habit because they're student, or a kid, or had a medical emergency, or lost a job. Just like I'm leaning heavily on my local library to supply me with reading material while I get through grad school and can't afford books, I think people can and do rely on places like [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily to keep track of what's out there in the comics world while they are not able to purchase everything they're interested in.***** It's shortsighted and stupid for industry pros to think of this issue only in terms of, "will we see an immediate sales boost on some item if someone posts a sample of it on [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily?" What they should be thinking about is, "does a forum like [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily help to promote the healthy, diverse, passionate, comics-reading culture that we as an industry need in order to have a future?"

The answer, by the way, is yes.

Footnotes. )
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Link found via Journalista.

This article on the rise of manga around the world is absolutely the most interesting thing I've read all day--okay, it's neck in neck with the biography about Panizzi. It doesn't talk much in detail about American comics, only generally, but there's tons in there about French comics, and, of course, manga from Tezuka onwards. This is not your average "wow, manga sure is popular!" piece. Check it out; it's worth your time.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (first game)
Michael Gombos, the Director of Licensing at Dark Horse, commenting at NY Anime Festival '08 on scanlations:

"Most scanlators do it becase of love -- they love the series. But there's a point where there are legal measure that you have to abide by."

"It's kind of disappointing when you watch a fansub and it's better than the official version. You can see how their heart is in their work. We want to put as much love into what we do as fans do with their scanlations."

How cool is that? The man makes his living selling comics and manga; he's got a right to be uncomfortable with things that potentially undermine that. But instead of succumbing to the sort of hysterical evangelism that alienates the buying audience, he puts it like this: we get why this happens, we respect the effort you muster for it, and your level of effort represents the bar we have to match to create a product worth buying.

There's a middle ground between tra-la-la-ing about free love and free comics, there are no clouds in the sky, or going to cons and telling fans that if you watch a fansub, it's like coming into a voice actor's home, reaching down the gullet of his infant child, and stealing half-digested food from her stomach, then smashing her piggy bank and kicking the actor in the face besides, you fucking commies, you.

But let's face it, Dark Horse has always kind of been kind of cool.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
There is a thought I keep having, but not saying; this time, it was triggered by reading the second half of Chris Butcher's excellent pair of essays on the state of the manga industry in North American publishing. Butcher mentions, rightly, that if manga readers/booksellers etc want to see the current market of heavily teen-oriented manga titles evolve into a broader market that can support mature and literary manga, it's important for the manga sphere to help create the climate for it. Readers need to support titles they like by buying them, reviewers should actively talk about those kinds of titles, and booksellers should keep them on the shelves and not just make them available for pre-order. I agree absolutely on all points! Well-stocked stores with a diversity of material contribute immensely to book culture. Although I have limited discretionary spending money and could save a lot by restricting my purchases to the Barnes & Noble where I work, I make a lot of off-the-shelf purchases at wonderful indy comic book stores in my area, because I have poor impulse control because I want to reward them for having books I'd like to read right on the shelf.

But--hey, all you manga and graphic novel fans, who I so often see bemoaning the lack of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service or what-have-you, at the local chain bookstore, which is the only store within forty miles of you--you do realize you can order books into the store at major chains like B&N and Borders with no obligation to buy? Just because it's not on the shelf when you look doesn't mean that it's never been there, never will be there, or that they won't sell it to you. You can buy damn near anything that's in print from a large chain bookstore--they don't have all the books in print on the shelf because there are too many of them, and it costs too much, but not ordering for the shelf doesn't mean they won't order it for YOU.

Big bookstores make this option available because they can afford it, and it is not troublesome to them when customers exercise it. )
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
I've finally had a chance to witness firsthand the anime fan equivalent to the following scenario:

"Hi, my name is John, and I love comics. My girlfriend doesn't read them, but she loves manga, like Fruits Basket and stuff, and she's willing to try a few comics. Can you recommend some?"


"Ditto. Also, V for Vendetta. And Dark Knight Returns. Make sure she reads that one first."

"I'm a huge fan of Preacher! And uhhhh, jeez, did anybody say Watchmen?"

"Kingdom Come, I'm gonna go out on a limb here, but Marvels, Dark Knight Returns, definitely Watchman. So-and-so's run on X-Men is fucking awesome, but if she won't read regular comics, there's the latest Wolverine mini..."

Of course, I'm guilty of putting Usagi Yojimbo, Runaways, and Bone in the same headspace as Kitchen Princess ("these are all popular with kids, so thirteen-year-old girls will definitely like this!"), so I know how easy it is to do. Nevertheless, some people should probably not make recommendations to new readers, because their horribly inappropriate, blind rattling-off of fan-favorites that have nothing to do with the stated interests of the outside reader are actively counterproductive and may work to destroy the reader's willingness to sample, because after all, the cherry-picked titles they were given when they asked for a starting point at X turned out to be somewhere around the Ms.

Seriously, I see maybe one person actually answering her request for "epic fantasy anime titles" with epic fantasy anime titles. Other commentators manage a smattering (the same titles over and over again--old fan favorites like Vision of Escaflowne and Slayers, which are pretty on-target at least), but mostly just fall prey to the urge to list their favorites, regardless of how removed they are from the OP's stated interest.

On that note, I hereby declare Cowboy Bebop to be the Watchmen of anime fans (i.e. a fantastic genre deconstruction work with a moderate degree of independent appeal that really isn't as accessible to new audiences as fans think it is--the knee-jerk recommendation to the question "What do I read next?", assumed to be universal simply because it's good).

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