Tag Archives: dmp

Itazura Na Kiss

Itazura Na Kiss Volume 1 by Kaoru Tada

Itazura Na Kiss is an influential shoujo series. While some of the plot elements might seem cliched, that is because it was published in the 1990s and influenced many titles that came after it. I’m happy to see some old-fashioned shoujo get translated, so I selected this book as my first manga to read in the new year.

Kotoko Aihara’s school sorts people into classes by academic ability. She’s in the lowest category, Class F. While she doesn’t care much about academics, she has the misfortune of falling in love with a boy from the academically gifted Class A. Naoki Irie is a genius with a photographic memory and an acidic personality. When Kotoko tries to give Naoki a letter that confesses her feelings he refuses to read it! He comments that he doesn’t like “stupid women,” ensuring that Kotoko has the sympathy of her entire class. She’s crushed, but the situation gets even worse when her new house collapses in an earthquake and her father announces that they’re going to move in with his old friend Iri-chan, who just happens to have a son who goes to Kotoko’s school.

It isn’t a big surprise that Naoki and Kotoko are now sharing the same house! Naoki continues to be as off-putting as ever. Kotoko still has feelings for him, but one of the things that makes Itazura Na Kiss interesting is that she isn’t content to be a simple doormat. Kotoko’s personality type of an attractive, bumbling girl with a lot of heart is very familiar to anyone who reads a lot of shoujo manga. But Kotoko does take initiative to get what she wants. Naoki’s mother decides to show Kotoko pictures of Naoki as a young boy and armed with incriminating evidence, Kotoko blackmails Naoki into becoming her tutor. She’s determined to become the first person from class F to get her name on the list of top 100 students and with Naoki’s help she succeeds. Her pleasure in the achievement isn’t her own academic success but seeing her name included with Naoki’s on the same list even though they are separated by 98 other people.

Naoki’s cool mannerisms and occasional casual cruelty could make him be a bit hard to take. But it is interesting to see the thaw in his personality as he spends more time with Kotoko. While misfortune might trail in her wake it has an effect on him as Naoki begins to experience some unexpected emotions that shake up his world like test anxiety.

The supporting cast in Itazura Na Kiss is hilarious. Kotoko’s father is a hard-working chef. Naoki’s mother has longed for a daughter for so long, she greets Kotoko with a room that is decorated with enough pink ruffles to make a princess puke. Naoki’s little brother Yuuki wants to be as much like Naoki as possible and he resents the feminine interloper in his house. He channels his feelings by treating Kotoko like a lab experiment, observing her and documenting all her behavior in a notebook. Kotoko has another suitor in the form of Kin-chan, a fellow student from Class F whose main goal is to marry Kotoko at any cost despite her vigorous protests.

I’m glad DMP decided to take a chance in releasing some classic shoujo that might not fit with what most modern readers expect from manga. The art in Itazura Na Kiss might seem unattractive to a modern shoujo fan, but I liked the loose sketchbook quality of Tada’s illustrations. I hope this series does well enough for DMP for them to release all 12 oversized volumes as planned. This series is a must read for any serious shoujo fan who wants to appreciate the history of the genre.

Manga Gift Guide

Many manga bloggers are putting together gift guides to help people with their manga shopping this holiday season. Here’s my contribution, and I hope it helps you with some suggestions for different types of manga fans that might be on your shopping list!

1. For the younger set

It can be tricky to find good manga for younger readers. For younger girls I think the fantasy series from CMX Lapis Lazuli Crown is worth checking out. If they don’t like fantasy, they might enjoy the figure-skating antics in Sugar Princess: Skating to Win. For boys and girls, Hikaru No Go is a fun choice that just might pique their interest in a classic game of strategy.

2. For the comic fan who you want to convert to the manga fold

20th Century Boys is one of the best manga that I’ve read, and the gripping mystery plot combined with political and science fiction elements will pique the interest of many readers. If you have a fan of comics on your shopping list that strenuously avoids manga I think a title like 20th Century Boys will go a long way to convert them.

3. For the realistic comic/manga fan

The post-college malaise that settles on the group of friends in Solanin is something that everyone has gone through when growing up. The realistic setting combined with occasional panels with surreal images creates an interesting atmosphere and most people can relate to the quirky characters.

Ohikkoshi by Hiroaki Samura (author of Blade of the Immortal) follows similar territory in exploring the lives of a group of art students.

4. For the vampire fan

Someone in the grips of vampire mania may enjoy these two series that are complete in two volumes; Bloody Kiss is a lighthearted romance, and Millennium Snow is a cute series from the author of Ouran High School Host Club. Vampire Game might not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind since it came out a few years ago, but this series combines fantasy, a medieval setting, a headstrong princess, and a vampiric cat to create an entertaining and humorous series.

5) For the science fiction fan

Planetes is one of the best science fiction manga that I’ve read. This story about garbage men who have to clear up space debris focuses on the lives of the characters which is refreshing in a science fiction series. It looks like this is now out of print, but it is worth hunting e-bay for an auction to see if you can pick up the complete series.

For a series that is easier to track down, you might want to try Flat Earth Exchange. I enjoyed the first two volumes and have the next two on my shopping list.

Karakuri Odette is a charming new series from Tokyopop about the school adventures of a female android who wants to become more human.

6. For the fantasy fan

Whoever selects manga for CMX always does a great job finding under the radar fantasy series. Apothecarius Argentum is a well-executed fantasy series about an unconventional princess and her relationship with her poison taster, a former assassin named Argent. The series also incorporates some interesting political maneuvering between kingdoms and the combination of politics and medieval medicine makes the series a little different than what you might expect. The six volume Oyayubihime Infinity whips up reincarnation, butterfly tattoos, secret identities, and show business into a frothy shoujo confection.

7. For lovers of romance

My favorite romance series are Boys Over Flowers and Hana Kimi. I haven’t gotten my hands on Itazura Na Kiss yet, but I’m guessing that this classic series is sure to appeal to any serious shoujo fan.

Venus in Love is a series that has plenty of subtle charm, and the college setting sets it apart from the many high school romance manga being published today. The Name of the Flower is one of my favorite recently published romance manga and it has a melancholy tone produced by the unlikely romance between two psychologically damaged people. I also can’t overlook Shinobi Life, a romance manga about a rich girl and a time traveling ninja that just seems to get better with every volume.

8. For the manga fan who has everything

Why not get them some of the earliest manga put out by Viz? While Moto Haigo works are lamentably out of print, you can easily purchase Love Song: 4 Tales By Shojo Manga Artist Keiko Nishi on amazon. Or how about the post-apocalyptic tale Grey, Vol. 1: Perfect Collection, which has some very unique character designs.

For the shoujo fan, you might want to find some of the out of print works by Tomoko Taniguchi like Just a Girl or Call Me Princess. If your manga fan who has everything hasn’t experienced the wonderful strangeness that is Moon Child, that might be a good choice for someone who has become a bit jaded with the medium.

9. Epic series

Maybe you know someone who delights in long-running stories? You can’t go wrong with shoujo classics like Red River, Legend of Basara, or Swan, my favorite ballet saga.

10. The new trend: omnibus editions

I’m happy about the trend towards larger collected editions. I’m glad I procrastinated buying the single volumes of Vagabond because now I can collect the VizBig editions.

Even someone who might already have the single volumes of series like Fushigi Yugi, Dragonball, Ruroni Kenshin, or Hot Gimmick might like the larger collected editions for the extras included.

If you know someone who enjoys beautiful men suffering, historical fiction, and Wagner perhaps they would enjoy the two oversize volumes of Ludwig II by You Higuri.

Some people might find Clover annoying for too much bad poetry. I think it does feature some of the most beautiful layouts that I’ve seen in manga and Dark Horse’s new omnibus edition might be a nice holiday treat for someone who doesn’t have the older Tokyopop volumes.

I hope you’ve been able to get a few ideas for the manga fan on your holiday shopping list!

As to what’s on my wishlist, I’m enjoying Swan so much I am thinking of going back and collecting From Eroica With Love. I’ve only read stray volumes here and there of Red River, so that’s another series I’d like to fill in. Kekkaishi is another series that I wish I’d been collecting from the beginning. I also am sporadic about buying Black Jack, which is always delightful in its own gristly way.

Cafe Kichijouji De

Cafe Kichijouji De Volume 1 (v. 1) by Yuki Miyamoto

Cafe Kichijouji De is a cute ensemble comedy about a group of hot men with extremely quirky personalities working together at a cafe. Taro is the harried glasses-wearing supervisor who has a secret collection of cleaning products. Jun is the cute and slightly feminine looking waiter with a secret talent of super-strength. Maki is a womanizer, and Shuta is the “normal” one who lives in a horrible apartment. The waitstaff are often intimidated by chef Minagawa’s habit of playing with voodoo dolls.

The waiters deal with typical cafe events in their unique way. Preparing for a visit from a reporter results in wholesale destruction of the cafe with a boulder. A innocuous shopping trip ends up triggering bad luck and concludes with cow wrestling and catfish battling. A cursed scone batter emits an unearthly wail. There’s plenty of slapstick action as the waiters attempt to do their jobs. The main focus is on the relationships between the staff instead of on yummy recipes or serving customers. While I didn’t laugh out loud while reading Cafe Kichijouji De, I did smile often. There are mini-chibi episodes interspersed with the longer chapters.

I haven’t read anything from DMP in awhile, and I’d forgotten how nicely their volumes are produced. Cafe Kichijouji De is oversized, with high quality paper stock, and a funny color board game mini-poster featuring the staff of the cafe is included in the front of the volume. While this manga isn’t very substantial, it was a nice light read. I recommend this manga if you’d like to turn your brain off for a little while.

Flower of Life

Flower of Life by Fumi Yoshinaga 4.5/5 stars (amazon)

Antique Bakery was a gem, so I had high expectations when I picked up the first volume of Flower of Life. I wasn’t disappointed. Flower of Life uses a series of vignettes to showcase different aspects of friendship in high school. Hanazono is enrolling in school a month late, and he’s a year older than his new classmates. He spent the past year recovering from leukemia. Hanazono quickly makes friends with the roly-poly Mikuni but he’s annoyed by Mikuni’s other friend, an otaku named Majima who delights in lecturing people about his favorite anime and manga characters.
Yoshinaga is great at capturing small moments that define her characters – Mikuni notices Majima slamming manga down at his desk, Hanazono’s lunches evolve as his sister tries to fix him just the right meal, and observing an exchange between teachers leads to the revelation that they are having an affair. Hanazono’s boisterous outspoken personality meshes well with Mikuni’s more retiring nature, and it is nice to see their friendship develop. Hanazono’s family life is entertaining, as his sister reminds him that she’s his savior for giving him her bone marrow, and he calls her an old hag when she’s trying to coerce him into running errands for her.
So many manga series set in high school end up incorporating story lines where there’s bullying taking place or a sub group of students is really mean. So it is refreshing to read a manga set in high school where everyone is generally nice, working through the typical misunderstandings of teenagers while being supportive of each other. Yoshinaga’s deceptively simple drawing style excels at portraying her character’s emotions. After reading one of her books other manga looks crowded and overdone with too much screentone. I’m looking forward to reading the next volumes of Flower of Life.

Now I Want Some Melon Pan, Me Bambi!

Antique Bakery (amazon)

One of the things I loved about Japan was all the neighborhood bakeries. You can stop in and get a little piece of cake or some bread like melon pan. I don’t tend to read much yaoi manga, but I thought the idea of a series set in a bakery sounded quite charming.

Antique Bakery is a little shop run by the resolutely heterosexual Tachibana, the gay “fatally charming” pastry chef Ono, and a retired boxer turned apprentice baker named Eiji. The major weakness of Antique Bakery in the first volume is the plot. The first 2/3rds of the book features a series of “customer of the week” vingettes, where we get a glimpse into the lives of some of the people who stop by the shop to buy some cake. The last third of the book is much more interesting as it shows how Tachibana, Ono, and Eiji got together to start up their bakery. Ono’s over-the-top charm is pretty hilarious. I was expecting more boy-on-boy smooching since this was a yaoi title, but there wasn’t very much going on. Overall, it was a cute but uneven book. I’m not sure if I’m going to be picking up any more volumes of this, although if I hear that the plotting improves in later volumes I might give it another try.

Bambi and Her Pink Gun (amazon)

This is a mature readers title that is a bit hard to describe, but I’ll attempt to summarize it with the following words – “hyper-violent pink acid trip tinged with social criticism”. Bambi is a teenage girl with the aforementioned pink gun, and she’s very concerned with maintaining the purity of her beautiful body, so she always shops organic! She kidnapped the son of a deranged pop star and is on a mission to deliver the boy to the mysterious “Old Men”. She’s got a five million yen bounty on her head, but Bambi shoots first and doesn’t bother asking questions, leaving a trail of slaughtered assassins in her wake. Kaneko’s art uses thick lines and a cartoony style that I think should appeal to fans of American indie comics. Bambi is a bit of a cypher, as her primary vocabulary is “Me Bambi!” followed by a gunshot. How high will the body count be at the end of the series?

Both Antique Bakery and Bambi and Her Pink Gun are published by Digital Manga Publishing , the books are larger than the standard manga format, and both feature slipcovers. The slipcover for Antique Bakery is scratch-n-sniff (strawberries). Both of these titles were a bit out of my usual comfort zone for manga, and I’m glad that there are more options available for people than the standard fantasy, action, or teen romance story.