This is going to be the second big loss that my YA periodical collection has suffered this year. First EGM ceases publication (leaving me with a big hole to hopefully fill assuming we get refunded for the year- not a lot of neutral ground gaming mags) and now my ever-popular, always in circulation Anime Insider. In fact, Wizard has already unceremoniously pulled it from their website- so much for the listing on my guide to anime clubs. It’s not that it was entirely unexpected given the cuts that Wizard has been making recently. It’s just that they kind of owned the anime news mag market since the demise of Newtype. Yes, I get Shonen Jump, but that does not come close to filling the slot that Anime Insider served. Plus they had some of the greatest pictures to use for decoration by my manga rack once they were ready for discard! Grrrr. I hate seeing such a high use periodical go down in flames, but I guess the people just aren’t buying. I sincerely hope we get a refund for the balance of the year, but even if we do I don’t see many good replacements.
Archive for March, 2009
This is a newer manga (only 2 volumes released in NA so far with the third coming in May). In three basic words: just another shojo.
Ageha and Hana are twin sisters who were raised separately. Hana was raised in the city with her parents but Ageha was raised by her grandmother in a more rural setting. When Ageha was in the second grade, her grandmother became to ill to raise her and so she ended up living with her parents in the city. The two girls are totally different- Ageha is a more average tomboy and Hana is a beautiful social butterfly. Now that the girls are in high school together, Ageha finds herself excluded from almost all social
activities. When she is left alone to tend the classroom during the school’s fair, a somewhat mysterious man named Kyuu comes running into the class to try and hide from a group of girls (it turns out he’s the hot new young guidance counselor). He asks for coffee and flips through Ageha’s planner- finding a picture of Ageha with her long standing crush, Ryuusei. Kyuu tells Ageha to follow her heart, making her shout out that she’s Ryuusei’s girlfriend and that her life is great. Just after she does this, Ryuusei appears and recognizes Ageha from their childhood. A relationship begins to form between the two, but her beautiful sister decides to step in between them.
Miwa Ueda is best known for her work on the series Peach Girl, and to be frank I’ve seen little new in Papillon. It’s a very typical, tried-and-true (and tired) shojo storyline of the ugly duckling gaining confidence in herself and winning the guy. Appealing for those people who a) liked Peach Girl or b) like the stereotypical shojo fare. It’s not anything groundbreaking or new; this is the same storyline that has been done time and time again and it doesn’t seem like Ueda is going to really do it any differently. The one bonus to this is, as is typical with Ueda, the artwork. Her style is unique and beautiful. Unfortunately, this is a manga I’d rather look at than read unless I’m looking for a quick-and-trashy beach read. Moreover, it is exactly the type of shojo I *dislike*, reinforcing the “girl is no good until a guy is into her and she’ll be helpless when he’s gone” stereotype. A very superficial storyline.
I get a lot of questions from both coworkers and outside colleagues about where they can get information or resources on anime for running a club at their library. I know that it can be hard to navigate if you’re not into the scene (or worse, if you hate it!) so I wanted to put out an annotated list of killer resources for running your club.
First and foremost- anime club organizations
There used to be three. Now there are two- small but so very useful especially when you want screening permissions. ADV used to run ADVocates, which was a seriously awesome program. Unfortunately, much like everything else these days, the budget was cut. However, I’m still working with two really great program Operation Anime and Stuf for Clubs. Both of these are great programs that will not only help you get screening rights but send you various titles and publications. No school or library anime club should be without these wonderful corporate sponsors.
Secondly, the online resources for the non-otaku
In my experience, if you haven’t done your research and aren’t putting forth a significant effort your little otaku will, in fact, eat you alive. This may be in the form of showing you Yaoi without warning (yes, this actually happened) or this may result in you being dressed up as an unseemly or embarassing anime character bit by bit (fun fact: it takes less than 5 minutes for a group of teenagers to costume an unsuspecting person). I can’t recommend Anime for Libraries enough- this is a prime source of reviews targeted at school or public librarians. Manga Blog is an unending source of manga related goodness that will help you find out what’s happening as well as reviews. Familiar Diversions is another great source of reviews, especially since she posts watch-alikes. Anime News Network is always a great place to turn to for news, though if you’re non-otaku you may get lost in the sheer amount of articles about things you’ve never heard of or care about.
Third- the print resources
I am still deeply in mourning over the loss of Newtype. Simply put, it was the single most kickass anime mag ever published. But we must move forward and thankfully there are still some awesome publications in print. I like to call it my short list of periodicals that you need to have if you have a decently sized otaku population: Shonen Jump, Shojo Beat, and Anime Insider . (this was true when I posted this on Tuesday, but no more as Anime Insider is now belly-up- OL 3/27) The first two are going to give you teen level manga chapters (great for the library on a tight budget) as well as news- might I add they circ like crazy. Anime Insider is a larger source of anime and manga news- frankly it’s the primary news resource since Newtype left us. To a lesser extent, Otaku USA can be a good resource; it’s limited to a US viewpoint which is both positive and negative. Their website is well worth a look.
Finally- running a club!
Just some general tips for you from my experiences both in my branch and beyond.:
1. Don’t limit yourself! Anime club does not just have to be about anime and manga. Introduce elements of Japanese culture- this makes for great news events and cultural awareness.
2. Play up to otaku culture. Anime events are pretty universally high attendance once you have a group established. Things I’ve done with my club that are outside of the immediate realm of anime include suikawari, cosplay, and asian food events.
3. If you’re discussing a specific title, it is so important that you read through it fully first. The drawings are as important as the words, no less how the words are presented (as my supervisor once said, somehow “shit” is a lot worse when it’s 2 inches tall and outlined in a huge bubble). A 13+ title might not work for all 13 year olds- work with the group you have!
I’m sure I’m forgetting something, and if I remember anything else I’ll add on. Feel free to throw your own tips into the comments.
This is the first in what I hope will be a series of dual reviews of both the manga and anime counterpart of a particular title. Consider these reviews to stand individually, although I do compare one against the other to an extent.
Manga (volumes 1-12): This isn’t an all encompassing review because the end of the manga has not yet come; my NA reading is up to volume 12 and we are definitely approaching the end (hurry up, volume 13!!!). xXxHolic (frequently referred to simply as Holic) is categorized as a seinen manga, but as far as titles in my collection go this is way toward the tame side- a classic 13+.
Kimihiro Watanuki is plagued by spirits- he has been for as long as he can remember. One day, he happens upon a shop he never noticed before; it’s proprietor, Yuko, says that she can grant any wish. In exchange for handling his spirit burden, Watanuki agrees to work part time at her shop cleaning, preparing food, and other such odd jobs. He comes to find out that Yuko’s shop can only be seen by someone with a need for her services; needless to say he ends up meeting some very interesting characters, some of whom are from another dimension. From time to time Watanuki himself ends up helping the customers, frequently with assistance from his classmate, Doumeki (who Watanuki kind of hates but also needs). Watanuki learns a lot about himself, his spiritual burden, and the connection between him, Doumeki, and Himawari, his love interest who has issues of her own.
Although this is loosely classed a seinen, as bad as it gets is Yuko’s heavy drinking and major cleavage. It is frequently dialog heavy and may not hold the interest of very young readers who are not into the supernatural. The story also crosses over with Tsubasa, another long running manga series by CLAMP- however, you do not have to read Tsubasa to enjoy Holic. There is a ton of Japanese culture in this series, and the volumes are peppered with foot and end notes to explain things- this would make a great discussion title for an anime club that’s into Japanese culture. Thoroughly enjoyable with well-defined characters and a unique art style that I fell in love with.
Anime (season 1)- Again, somewhat incomplete! The second season of Holic aired in 2008 but has not yet been released in NA. This review encompases the first 24 episode season which wrapped up in 2006 in Japan but is more current in the US. The anime follows the same story as the manga, focusing on Watanuki and his work at Yuko’s shop. It roughly follows the same timeline as the manga, but skips over any mention of Tsubasa or Watanuki’s backstory. The only part of Watanuki’s individual story that is presented is one childhood memory and his supernatural love interest (who was also essential to several individual episodes). It is highly episodic with only one two-parter towards the end. As such, it doesn’t hold as much appeal as the manga (I am told that season 2 focuses on what was missed in these first 24 episodes and will be sure to review as soon as I can get a hold of it).
Nonetheless, this anime is well worth the viewing. Since it is episodic, it is easier to break up into small chunks (works well for multi sessions of an anime club!). The unique art style of the manga is preserved- you may not fully appreciate this if you haven’t read the manga (elongated limbs and super skinny Watanuki may come off as odd) but it really lends itself to the style and I love that they didn’t change it. Again, there is nothing over the top here- Yuko gets drunk a lot, and yes she is chesty, but in my opinion the drawings are far more mild than what we see in other popular shonen like Bleach. However, the lack of action does lend itself to a slightly older audience who can focus on the story. It’s a beautiful animation with a ton of folklore and culture to discuss!
My top searches for the week:
“sailor moon lesbian”
“sailor moon hentay”
“sailor moon lesbians” (ooh, plural)
What better way to follow up a post on manga that won’t freak your parents out than with one about manga that will? I sure can’t think of one!
I’ve mentioned previously that our system has a pretty set manga cataloging system- all ages is J, 13+ is YA, 16+ is adult. We previously had 16+ manga in YA before a huge controversy over Ken & Barbie nudity and moved things around because that was the safe bet. This is something that I don’t necessarily agree with but hey, I went to law school before I decided I hated it and I know all about the value of covering your own butt at the cost of customer convenience. (Point of fact- in a previous incarnation I worked very hard at doing just this for a certain controversial website that ranks faculty members)
But I can’t deny that even a year after I started at my current position, the cataloging of manga bothered me. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the choice or that my teens were somehow restricted from actually getting a hold of these materials; they were free to walk into adult fiction and check it out just like any other customer. What bothered me was the fact that they had no way of knowing that the manga was even there for them to take out. Like many small branches (and certainly the majority of the branches in my large system, barring the main branch) there is no adult manga section. We don’t have a huge budget and since we work in the center of a conglomerate of senior communities an extremely diminutive amount goes toward 16+ manga. We had several great titles (Ghost in the Shell, Paradise Kiss, Red Colored Elegy, amongst others), but they were lost in a sea of Jodi Picault, James Patterson, and Danielle Steele.
So last week, I decided to take that first bold step, the one that always comes right before a customer complaint- I asked my manager for permission to make an executive decision. With her blessing, I have now erected a sign on the YA manga rack listing which 16+ manga we have in our location and where they can be found. My manager is less
pessimistic than I am and sees it as simply a great opportunity to increase circulation of those titles (she absolutely agrees that the manga is lost and out of place mixed into adult fic but that there’s not much to be done about it). We are now finishing week 1 without a complaint, but I am biding my time waiting. The sign is nonoffensive with a brightly colored Oruchuban Ebichu background (who can find hamsters offensive… well at least if they haven’t seen that show) and specifically says that the titles are for older teens and adults. I’m not grabbing a thirteen year old by the hand and saying, “Hey! Look at these boobies!” but I do wonder if such an assertion will ever be made.
I’m keeping track of circ numbers on the adult manga to see if my sign is making any difference. If it does make a significant difference (and if I don’t catch a lot of heat in my location), this might just be an idea I move forward with for our other locations. I’ve done my research- the circ on 16+ is simply abysmal at interfiled locations as compared to the 13+ collection. If I can get those numbers up, I’ll feel a lot better about this little bit of censorship.
Being the resident system otaku, I was asked by one of my colleagues today for a list of titles for one of her preteens. She’s 12, and her parents are very conservative about what she reads. To this point, she has only been allowed to read J level manga unless her mother approves of a particular YA title. This isn’t uncommon with manga; a lot of parents think that they are all full of violence and nudity (to be fair, plenty of titles are). The librarian was looking for a more extensive list of titles that the mom would approve of, and I thought it would be useful to share my recommendations here:
Azumanga Daioh- Child prodigy Chiyo is skipped five grades and ends up in tenth grade. This manga follows Chiyo and her new-found friends through their high school experiences- lots of visual gags, lots of Japanese culture, no violence or sex to be found. A great slice of life, but will appeal more to a female audience.
Yotsuba &!- From the same author as Azumanga, this is actually a J level title but with broad appeal. Yotsuba is an odd little story about an odd little girl and her adoptive fathermoving to a new town. See the world through Yotsuba’s eyes- I guarantee you’ll laugh.
Shaman King- Your best bet for a boy whose reading allowance is limited. Shaman King follows the story of Yoh and Manta as they battle against evil spirits that are invading Tokyo. Fantasy violence, not graphic.
Miracle Girls-Toni and Mika are telepathic identical twins. They try to keep their special powers a secret but are rapidly coming under suspicion. Meanwhile, they face the same hurdles every teenage faces- especially relationships. A light-hearted fantasy read.
Gakuen Alice- When Hotaru leaves her best friend Mikan behind to attend a
school for geniuses in Tokyo, Mikan takes it on herself to track her down. She discovers that Hotaru is in “Alice Academy”, a school for kids with special powers. Additionally, it is discovered that Mikan has a power as well and she is accepted into the school. Another good fantasy choice starring a younger set.
+Anima- Four children who posess inate animal abilities travel together in search of a place to belong to. Their abilities cause them to be shunned by so-called normal people and chased by those who would abuse their abilities. Non-realistic violence. Another good choice for young males, though this has a greater cross-appeal than Shaman King.
Fruits Basket- The Sohma family is cursed; whenever they are hugged by a member of the opposite gender, they transform into a zodiac animal. Tohru discovers this by accident and finds herself bound to keep the families secret unless she wants her memory to be erased. Far too cute- the zodiac animals are super kawaii.
This is something that has been stewing in my mind for quite some time now. As a Young Adult librarian (who just happens to be an otaku herself), I have frequently witnessed what I refer to as the “otaku stigma”. That’s a slight misnomer because most of the people who exhibit symptoms of this have no idea what otaku means. In fact, in many cases they’ve never even seen anime or read a single volume of manga. What they do know for a fact is that anime kids are noisy, ill-behaved, and practically illiterate.
I just had a meeting with my YA supervisor this morning- just your general, run of the mill how are things going and what can we do update. She is also a big anime advocate despite not being even close to an otaku; she has worked in YA long enough to know the value in the literature and the simple fact that the teens love it. When you’re working in YA services, the fact that the kids will come in is enough of a reason to support it; so few topics will bring them to you in droves and anime certainly is one of them. In any case, we expressed a mutual lament that so many institutions simply don’t support anime or manga or just view them as worthless comics (I know there are several YA comic lovers out there who can express the true value of an ample graphic novel collection- it has many things in common with manga but just isn’t my passion). Throughout our library system, we have noted a very high correlation between our low level readers and our manga clubs. Ditto our generally troubled kids from all walks of life. For some reason, anime clubs tend to be extremely diverse as compared to other groups, be it sexuality, race, gender, or even home life. (This is the stuff journal articles of made of- too bad I’m so lazy sometimes!)
But that’s not what my coworkers see. My library assistants dread anime night. “There’s too many of them.” “They’re noisy.” “Those books are worthless.” “They aren’t very smart.” (yes, I’ve had people who work for the library system actually say that my anime teens aren’t smart). I have one mother whose daughter is in both my anime club and my teen advisory board who loathes the anime group and will come in early and ask if they’re even doing anything. They’re discussing different series, they’re watching clips online, they’re showing each other their drawings. Yeah, it looks like a disorganized hodge-podge, but I assure you they are doing something.
When I went to library school, I really thought that this antiquated way of thinking was gone. And while none of my system’s YA librarians echo this sentiment, I hear it from children’s and adult librarians and a whole lot of library assistants. I am actually blessed to be in a branch where most of the librarians see value in anime/manga, even if they don’t understand it. But I can’t understand why people don’t take the time to actually watch these kids and engage in a conversation with them. My anime club actually houses both my highest and lowest level readers. All of them can take out an entire series of 20 books and devour it in a week. If you can’t see value and merit in that, than you’re blind!
Chicks on Anime has again hit my sweet spot. They have an interview with Barbara Guttman from DC Comics talking about how women are potrayed in American comics versus Japanese manga. Although Barbara sees them as different in a lot of ways, I think they suffer from many of the same problems when it comes to female characters. As I have discussed previously there is a definite lack of strong women, no less those who are not insanely boob-uous or otherwise gorgeous. This is definitely a part of American comics as well- although Barbara doesn’t think that Wonder Woman is defined by her sexy outfit, there’s no doubt of what catches the reader’s attention first. Just like Matsumoto from Bleach could kill you five ways from yesterday, but you know the first thing you see is her insane cleavage.
Perhaps the biggest difference I see in Japanese versus American comments is how much attention is drawn to the actual physical beauty or other characteristics of the female. While the similarities are present in both mediums, it is repeatedly pointed out with both dialog and physical gags that Matsumoto is extremely well endowed. Ditto Haruhi Suzumiya, who on the surface seems to be much closer to the average image for a female heroine but is repeatedly pointed out to be “a surreal beauty” by the male characters.
There is definitely something to be said for the fact that male characters in both America and Japan are “allowed” to be dorks (and frequently are) but females aren’t. Haruhi is smart, but not a dork. Naruto is a hardcore dork. Ami from Sailor Moon is smart but attractive and social. Superman is stomped on as Clark Kent.
There’s a definite imbalance there and it’s interesting to hear about it from the American comic perspective. I think a lot of it stems from a still male-dominated profession (and that’s both the writers and the consumers) but I sincerely hope a market develops for female characters who are more down to earth and easy to relate to.