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Friday, March 30, 2012

The JManga 13: The Publishers & Potential Manga Part 1

[2017 ADDENDUM: Since this list's creation, JManga had died out, making this list effectively pointless. Still, it shall stay here for posterity's sake, as well as for the sake of the manga I mentioned.]

I've already talked about online manga portal JManga before when I reviewed 60s manga Devil King by Takao Saito, and how the site's variety of titles that have never been brought over before is its greatest asset. This time, though, I'll be talking about the potential this portal has, because there are 39 different Japanese publishers involved with JManga. Now, I can't really talk about all 39 publishers, but I can at least bring up 13 of them, as well as mention a title or two (or three, in some cases) that I personally wouldn't mind seeing made available on JManga. Just like my "Twelve Animes" lists, this will be split up across two parts, so with all of that explained, let's take a look at what I call "The JManga 13".

Akita Shoten [Giant Robo: Chikyuu no Moetsukiru Hi & Giant Robo: Babel no Roujou]
When it comes to pushing boundaries, Akita Shoten is one of the most notorious. Weekly Shonen Champion magazine has been the home of titles like Baron Gong Battle, Kakugo no Susume (a.k.a. Apocalypse Zero), Eiken, and the Grappler Baki series, all of which have either enough violence or extreme fanservice (in Eiken's case) to make foreign manga fans think "This is for young boys?!" Akita Shoten's catalog is filled with all sorts of titles, but what I'd love to see on JManga is actually a reboot of a fairly beloved 90s mecha OVA: Giant Robo. I've brought up the Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still anime before on the site, and I personally can see why it's so well-loved: It's technically a mech anime, but the real stars are the crazy super-powered humans who are fighting on both sides. Unfortunately, Giant Robo took nearly the entire decade to be fully released, and we end up finding out that it was actually not the entire story. Well, in 2006, director Yasuhiro Imagawa decided to reboot Giant Robo in manga form by teaming up with artist Yasunari Toda (S-cry-ed [manga], Gundam Seed Astray R), creating Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Burned. The manga lasted 9 volumes, and with the end of that manga came the very interesting news that Giant Robo's story would finally be continued in manga form, as last year was the debut of sequel manga Giant Robo: The Siege of Babel, which is still being serialized. It seems no manga company will ever pick up these Giant Robo manga (Ed Chavez of Vertical outright told me that he'd never license it, even if they had access to Akita Shoten's catalog), so I can only hope that JManga will be the home for Giant Robo in English.

ASCII Media Works [Eat-Man]
Media Works' claim to fame is their Dengeki series of manga magazines: Dengeki Maoh, Dengeki Daioh, Dengeki Moeoh, & the now-defunct Dengeki GAO! were home to titles like Tales of the Abyss, Azumanga Daioh, Shakugan no Shana, & Those Who Hunt Elves, respectively. From Media Works' catalog, though, I am actually choosing a manga that I have read the entirety of: Akihito Yoshitomi's Eat-Man. Though Yoshitomi is now more well-known for his multitude of yuri manga, to me his magnum opus is his 19-volume series about the many adventures of the "World Greatest Mercenary" Bolt Crank. Utilizing a world that mixes together fantasy & sci-fi, Bolt's adventures were as varied as the many different items & weapons that Bolt would eat and then reproduce out of his right hand when the need arises. Viz had released the first two volumes back in the 90s, but never continued and though it is a favorite of a good few names in the industry (it's an all-time favorite of Ed Chavez & Jason Thompson admitted in Manga: The Complete Guide that Viz's release stopped before getting to the really good stuff), it's length & previous failed release looks to have killed any chance it has of ever being licensed again. JManga, I'd gladly pay for another chance to read all of Eat-Man, especially since the fan translations varied wildly in quality, due to the multitude of different people & groups who have translated different portions of it.

East Press [Manga de Dokuha Series]
This entry is a little different, as JManga already has some of this series of manga on the portal, but at the same time it's a series worth bringing up, since there's so much potential for what could be released. Translating as "Reading Through with Manga", East Press' Manga de Dokuha series is all about adapting classic literature into manga and making it available to those who would normally not read them. For example, I'm all for reading manga, but I'm not so big on reading novels, so this series appeals to me. Right now, JManga has manga adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Karl Marx's Das Kapital (Volume I), Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human (not to be confused with Usamaru Furuya's manga adaptation of the same novel, which Vertical has fully released), & most-recently Kanji Miyazawa's Night on the Galactic Railroad (which was adapted into a beloved anime movie back in 1985). But what JManga has in only a small portion of the Manga de Dokuha series, which includes titles like War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, King Lear, The Great Gatsby, & the Iliad and the Odyssey. But three titles that I would find neat to see on JManga would be, as pictured above, Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf (the manga adaptation actually made Germans think about possibly lifting the ban on the book their country has), Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, & Sun Tzu's The Art of War. This series of manga would obviously never be brought over normally, & it's great to see JManga make these available in English.

Kadokawa Shoten [Choukyuu! Kidou Butouden G Gundam]
When it comes to Gundam manga, Kadokawa Shoten is the company you look at. Gundam Ace magazine has been the home of all sorts of Gundam manga, from Gundam EXA (where a brand-new pilot & Gundam goes to the different Gundam universes and interacts/fights the stars of those universes) to Gundam Ecole du Ciel (the Haruhiko Mikimoto-drawn manga TokyoPop released a portion of) to Gundam Sousei (the 150% accurate story of how the original anime came to be, as told by the creator of mahjong epic Mudazumo Naki Kaikaku: The Legend of Koizumi). But the one I want to read more than anything is a manga re-telling of Mobile Fighter G Gundam, written by director Yasuhiro Imagawa and drawn by original character designer Kazuhiko Shimamoto! You really can't get more accurate to the original director's vision than by having him write it and having the man who created the characters draw it. Not only that, but the two are even doing a spin-off manga starring Tohou Fuhai/Master Asia! With Bandai Entertainment leaving the industry for the most part, the future of Gundam manga being brought over are in question, & JManga would be an awesome place for them to go, especially since the portal is becoming more global.

Futabasha [009 no 1]
If there's one company that has been supporting JManga like crazy, it's Futabasha. Titles like Gokudou Meshi (prison inmates share food stories), Ekiben Hitoritabi (traveling to different train stations to eat their bento boxes), Odds GP! (cycling manga), Lupin the 3rd Y (more adventures of Lupin & the gang, but not drawn by Monkey Punch), & Anesthesiologist Hana (self-explanatory) are all available at JManga, but Futabasha also has the original manga version of one of the most-underrated anime of the past decade created by one of the biggest names in manga: Shotaro Ishinomori. The 009-1 anime from 2006 was an excellent 13-episode TV series that ADV had licensed and released, but then lost to FUNimation after the whole Sojitz fiasco and can now be had for uber-cheap via FUNi's S.A.V.E. release label. It told to myriad adventures of Mylene Hoffman, a female cyborg who works for the West Block in an alternate world where the Cold War has been going on for 140 years. The anime was pretty recent (and I'll probably review it one day), but the original manga, whose title was a pun on the word "kunoichi/female ninja", debuted back in 1967 in Futabasha's Manga Action magazine (home to most of the titles I listed above). Even if the 009-1 anime adapted the entire manga, I would still love to see how Ishinomori originally drew it back in the 60s, especially since the changing times probably resulted in some stuff being changed for the anime adaptation.

Gakken [Explorer Woman Ray]
Anime fans who have been around since the 90s might remember a two-episode OVA released on VHS & LD by Central Park Media called Explorer Woman Ray, which I haven't seen but I wouldn't mind doing so one day. But I wonder how many knew that the OVA was based on a manga? Gakken's Comic NORA magazine was the home to titles like Ozanari Dungeon, Mgical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, Plastic Little, & Venus Wars, as well as Ray's original manga by Takeshi Okazaki. It's only two volumes long and I'm always up for a fun adventure story, and Explorer Woman Ray looks to fit the bill nicely.

Kodansha [Ashita no Joe]
Kodansha is one of the really big companies that's teaming with JManga, and they have a gigantic catalog of titles to consider. Naturally, since Kodansha USA is around I shouldn't really consider something recent, so I'm going to go old-school with a true legend: Ashita no Joe. Yeah, there is a fan translation going on for it, but it's really slow and I would easily pay money to legally read something like this. The story of how Joe Yabuki goes from a good-for-nothing delinquent to a professional boxer is just an amazing read and if we have absolutely no chance at getting the anime (outside of Tai Seng's release of the first compilation movie, which is still super-cheap, so you have no excuse to not buy it!) then I can at least hope that JManga can be the home to the original manga. Age is certainly not a problem when it comes to JManga, so I don't see what can stop it from happening.
And that's the first seven of "The JManga 13". In Part 2 we'll be taking a look at the other six that comprises this group... And, yes, this is a list that I want JManga to take a look at and try fulfilling.

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