Monday, September 01, 2008

Rachelle Reads Manga Part 2: Romanace Manga!

Since some of the action manga I read last time left a bad taste in my mouth, I decided to switch gears this week and try some manga aimed at teen girls (that's called Shojo manga, n00bs).

So let's see how that went.

Nana #1 by Ai Yazawa
(Shojo Beat - Viz)

Why I picked it up: This is definitely one of the more popular Manga series that we sell, especially among female readers. We also sell a DVD of a live action Nana movie. Plus, Faith Erin Hicks recommended it highly to me as a guilty pleasure, so that really sold me.

What it's about: The story follows two 20-year-old girls in Japan, both named Nana, who are very different. One is a recent high school graduate who has recently come out of an unhealthy relationship with a much older married man. She is boy-crazy, but determined to make some male friends who are just friends for the first time. The other Nana is a high school drop-out who sings in a punk band. She is dating the bass player in the band, but he gets offered a spot in a more popular band in Tokyo. Both Nanas want to move to Tokyo for basically the same reason: love. So it's like, even though they have little in common on the surface, they really do have some things in common.

And what did I think about it?: I really liked it. The characters are instantly likable, the writing is very charming and funny, and it's a compelling story. It's like reading a romance novel that has some balls, because it's got some edgy elements. Plus I feel that I got a good idea of what life is somewhat like for young people in Japan living in smaller cities.

I have a hard time telling the guys apart from the girls, but that's just manga for ya.

Do I want to read the next volume?: Yeah, I really do actually. I think there are like 11 volumes of this out now. I'd be into reading the whole series.

Red String #1 by Gina Biggs (Dark Horse)

Why I picked it up: The cover is really cute. Plus it's one of those forward-reading manga books I like so much. And the author is American, so I wanted to see what that was like. Do hardcore manga fans frown upon books like this? Are American-authored Manga books regarded in the same way as, like, American beer is regarded in Canada? (For those of you who don't know, it's regarded with a certain level of disgust...if you're going to order a Coors, you may as well order a dead baby).

What it's about: This series is actually a web comic, part of the Strawberry Comics group of American-based female romance manga authors. Girl power!

The story is a high school-based tale of young love and angst. The main character, Miharu, is shocked to find out that her parents have arranged a marriage for her. She is to marry the husband they selected after she graduates. Young Miharu has never even kissed a boy, so this is naturally quite traumatic for her. Things get more complicated when she meets the boy of her dreams the day she finds out about the arranged marriage...or do they?

And what did I think about it?: It was a light read with cute art. It's a coming-of-age high school story, which I always enjoy. There's a bad boy character who is kind of intriguing. He clearly has his own crush on Miharu. I'd be interested in seeing where that goes.

Do I want to read the next volume?: I wouldn't say that the story is gripping enough to leave me wanting more, but it certainly isn't bad. If I were younger I'd probably be really into it. And there was nothing weird or gross or annoying about this book, so that's a plus.

Fever #1 by Hee Jung Park (Tokyopop)

Why I picked it up: It's Korean so, again, it's got the forward-reading thing going for it. The cover sort of made me think that I wouldn't like it at all, and that's kinda why I picked it up. It's important to try things you wouldn't normally, right? Unlike Nana, I'd never really noticed anyone buying this one, so I guess I wanted to try something that wasn't a giant smash hit and compare it to something that was. Plus, now I have three romance manga books: one Japanese, one American, and one Korean. Diversity!

What it's about: Basically it's about a very sad girl who is messed up after her friend commits suicide and she ends up dropping out of her school. She meets a messed up guy on the bus after she leaves the school. She ends up going to a strange place called Fever with this guy, which is kinda hard to explain. And I wasn't really paying enough attention.

And what did I think about it?: Honestly, I had a really hard time finishing this. I just could not get into it. It's very emo and slow and I just didn't care about the characters or the story.

Do I want to read the next volume?: No.

So that's my first foray into romance manga. Next up...rock and roll manga!


Anonymous said...

About the American Manga thing: I'm sure there are people out there who hate it. As one who enjoys a lot of anime and manga, I don't mind it as long as they aren't just abusing the style because it's popular (you can tell if that's the case).
I highly recommend Angelic Layer. It's mainstream enough that you can find it in any bookstore. It's about battling dolls (that are drawn respectfully. Actually, all the main characters are in elementary school so the inhumanly big bust thing isn't a problem) and the first volume in particular is extremely funny.

Brad said...

I'd actually go further. I had a slight idea from some conversations I had had with a couple of Tokyopop OEM (original english Manga) authors that their work was often subject to some debate (Svetlana Chmakova has a scene in Dramacon #2 based on some actual convention abuse she incurred) but I was horrified, *horrified* to see what comments some so-called "manga fans" left about OEM manga authors during the TokyoPop rising stars contest fracas.

Seriously, it was some of the stupidest "reverse racism" I think I've ever seen, and I've been on the internet for a *long* time.

I can understand not liking an author because of they storytelling style, art ability, pacing, action - any of the things that effect how a story is interpreted by a reader. I can understand getting overly invested in a hobby and losing some perspective. But to out and out *despise* an author/artist, to publicly wish that terrible things happen to them because they are "not Japanese" is completely beyond my comprehension.

I have no idea (nor do I want to know) what it is that drew these people to act in such a manner, but it sure wasn't comics.

Brad said...

They storytelling = their storytelling. Dang.

Faith said...

Oh yeah, Nana completely sucks you in, even if you're the type of person to normally avoid content like that. Case in point: me! Keep reading, it gets even better (and sexier). And sell some more volumes to the library! I need to read past volume 10.

None of the other romance mangas have grabbed me like Nana did... if you find something special, lemee know!

I think the whole American manga Vs. Japanese manga thing is pretty silly, but I do find the majority of Tokyopop's OEL offerings to be extremely bland and derivative. What few that rise above the flotsam seem to be not quite manga, perhaps taking a little from the art form to create something a bit more original.

Anthony said...

rock'n'roll!! beck and bremen, right?

Johnathan said...

You know, that's pretty much exactly how I felt when my friend told me he had stocked up on Coors for a camping trip. Way to encapsulate a national opinion, Rachelle!

Dave said...

I might be in the minority, but I think Antarctic Press has some pretty good western manga creations. Antarctic Press publishes the likes of "Ninja High School" and "Gold Digger". "Gold Digger" is hard to recommend because it has a ton of cheesecake and it is kind of hard to follow the narrative at times. Having said that, I highly recommend anything by Rod Espinosa. Check out the "Courageous Princess" or "Neotopia".

Adam said...

"Red String #1 by Gina Biggs (Dark Horse)"

I met Gina at the Atlanta Press Expo in... Atlanta. I think she is from around there. I really liked her art and table setup. That's what grabbed my attention about her. She was really sweet and also had a calendar and buttons with her characters. I picked up Red String, but haven't read it yet. I also got some buttons.

Who is to say an American girl can't write Manga if she wants? Not me. Good book = Good book.

Eddie said...

I tried reading Red String online, and I found it very bland. It very much felt like someone was trying to tell a Japanese romance story, and I don't know, I suppose I've read enough of them that they need to really grip me off the bat for me to continue reading them. Perhaps it gets better after the first 32 or so pages?

For Shoujo manga I recommend "High School Debut," which has an extremely likable main character. Her enthusiasm always leaves me with a smile after reading it.

I would also like to warn everyone away from "romance" written for a male audience; most "boy" romance (not to be confused with "boy(s) romance") is basically a 13 year olds wet dream, with often 3 or more big breasted women fawning over the main character, forgiving him as he spends 2 or more years not picking any of them.

- Eddie

Alan said...

I'm pretty sure Coors is the top-selling light beer in Canada. That's the type of disgust that American Manga creators should be happy to live with.

Ralph Mathieu said...

Kare Kano is my favorite romance manga. It's 21 volumes long, has great characters, fantastic art, high seas drama without being cliched, and has a wonderful ending. I don't think TokyoPop has all of the volumes in print, but they're worth the search.

First said...

Rock and Roll manga? If it turns out Guitar Wolf has their own comic series my head will explode.