Monday, February 28, 2022

"But It Was Cancelled!": The Short-Run Jump Manga That Deserve English Release

Two weeks ago, Viz Media made a variety of new manga release announcements on Twitter, both for physical & digital-only. One that was interesting in both the announcement itself & the reaction to it was that The Hunters Guild: Red Hood by Yuki Kawaguchi would be receiving a physical release starting in the Fall. What makes this announcement interesting is the fact that Red Hood only ran for a scant 18 chapters in Weekly Shonen Jump throughout late 2021 (not including the original one-shot), and will only total three volumes in length. However, while Red Hood seemingly failed to find an audience in its own home country of Japan, it looked to have found a bit of a rabid cult following with English-speaking readers, due to its initial simulpublishing. Viz looks to feel that Red Hood's fandom was enough to give the manga a physical release in North America, despite it getting canned quickly in Japan.

However, if you look at the responses to that announcement tweet, you'll also see a decent amount of people questioning the decision to give Red Hood this treatment. Aside from those who simply would have preferred other titles instead, a common complaint basically boils down to this thought: "But It Was Cancelled! Why Would Anyone Want to Buy a Cancelled Manga?".

(Also, please don't go sassing companies about the stuff they choose to release to the point of the publisher actually calling you out on such behavior. That's just messed up.)

Every single manga magazine has its own history of cancelled series, but there might not be one as notoriously cutthroat as Weekly Shonen Jump. On the one hand, one can argue that Shueisha's infamously strict cut-off point does result in (for the most part) only the strongest overall manga being allowed to survive or even thrive in Jump, which in turn helps create a long history of extremely strong and/or memorable titles. On the other hand, almost anyone who's followed Jump manga for any length of time can name at least a couple of series that they feel were unfairly cut short way too early & weren't allowed to truly live up to their potential, and there have been very few that were allowed second chances in some way (Rising ImpactHareluya [II BØY], iShojo[+], Otoko Zaka [which took ~30 years to happen!], etc.). However, I'd argue that there is still merit in reading these kinds of short-run manga, & in turn there's value in manga publishers licensing these series for release outside of Japan.

In particular, I'd like to focus mostly on short-lived manga by successful mangaka, whether they came before their respective hit series, or if they were what had to follow-up what they're most iconic for, and since this piece was inspired by a Jump manga, let's focus on that magazine for now. We'll be splitting this up across five decades, so let's start at the most logical spot: The Beginning.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Hatsukoi Limited: They'd Do Anything For Love (But They Won't Do That)

In the 11+ years of doing The Land of Obscusion, I have never once written something for Valentine's Day, at least not intentionally so. A big part of that simply comes down to the fact that this day has no real relevance to me, as I'm possibly what one might call a hapless/hopeless romantic. As of this piece I have no girlfriend or paramour, & I've never even been on a date (hence the "hapless/hopeless" moniker), but I definitely have an appreciation for the concept of love. When at its purest it seems like the greatest feeling one can have, to just know that there's someone out there that cares so deeply about you the same way you care about them. But enough romanticizing about romance, let's finally celebrate Valentine's Day on this blog properly with a review for an anime that's all about that early stage of ardent adulation & appreciation: "First Love".

While not exactly the magazine's forte, there have been numerous manga about love & romance in the history of Weekly Shonen Jump. However, they almost exclusively focus on seeing things primarily though the lens of a male perspective, which isn't exactly surprising, since the magazine is mainly intended to be read by young males, ideally in their early teens, i.e. when puberty starts to hit & those initial feelings towards others start to bloom ("traditionally", of course). Also not surprising is that most manga in Jump are done by men, which makes the creator of our subject here a unique outlier. Originally debuting in the 90s under the pen name Mikan Momokuri (used solely for shojo titles), Mizuki Kawashita made her debut with Shonen Jump in 2000 with the short-lived Lilim Kiss, before hitting it (relatively) big in 2002 with Strawberry 100%, a romantic harem comedy series that would run until 2005 & last 19 volumes, becoming possibly the longest-running romance manga in Jump history for about a good decade, until the likes of Yuuna & the Haunted Springs and We Never Learn debuted in the mid-2010s.

Kawashita would follow up Strawberry 100% with late 2007's Hatsukoi/First Love Limited, which flipped the script for a Jump romance manga & showed things from the perspective of young ladies. In the end, Hatsukoi Limited would only last four volumes & end in early 2008 after 32 chapters (still Kawashita's second longest series in Jump), yet managed to find itself a post-manga life, somewhat. In the Spring of 2009, following both a drama CD & light novel adaptation, a 12-episode anime adaptation aired as a part of satellite network BS-11's ANIME+ late-night time slot. While the anime initially missed being simulcasted in any way, as this aired right as that was only really starting to become a thing, it would later get licensed by Sentai Filmworks, which released a sub-only DVD boxset in July of 2012, & it is still currently streaming over at Hidive, while the DVD boxset is apparently now out of print & actually getting expensive. So let's honor Saint Valentine himself by taking a look at how the concept of "First Love" affects the minds of young ladies (& "gentlemen"), as originally explained by a lady herself!