Shoujo titles this year from VIZ Media

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VIZ Media announced it will be releasing the following shojo manga series during the first quarter of 2009.

Published under the company’s Shojo Beat imprint, the new series will include “Heaven’s Will,” The Magic Touch” and “Otomen” as well as VIZBIG editions of “Fushigi Yugi” and “Hot Gimmick.”

The VIZBIG titles is bigger than a regular manga and has new cover art and added content such as author interviews, updated text and character art.

“FUSHIGI YUGI VIZBIG Rated “T+” for older teens. $17.99. Available now. The fantasy series is from Yu Watase, one of Japan’s top manga creators. It is a tale of a normal junior-high-school girl who is transported into a fictional version of ancient China after reading a strange book called “The Universe of the Four Gods”. While there she becomes a High Priestess and encounters an array of villains and dashing heroes but yet she still manages to worry about her grades and her next school banquet. Each VIZBIG edition contains three volumes, bonus color content, and updated text.

HOT GIMMICK VIZBIG Rated “T+” for older teens. $17.99. Available March 17, 2009
In tiny, company-owned rabbit-hutch apartments live tenants who can’t afford to live anywhere else. This apartment complex, in which high-school girl Hatsumi Narita lives, is ruled over by the rumor-mongering, self-righteous Mrs. Tachibana. Get on her bad side and life becomes hell. One day Hatsumi buys a pregnancy test for her popular but flirty sister Akane. Mrs. Tachibana’s son, Ryoki, who used to bully Hatsumi as a kid, promises not to tell the world about Hatsumi’s secret, only if she will become his slave. Soon after a boy named Azusa, who was Hatsumi’s protector in their youth, reappears to save her again! He’s moving back into the neighborhood, and despite a budding romance between Hatsumi and Azusa, Ryoki continues to have control over her through the secret pact that could ruin the lives of everyone in Hatsumi’s family. Usually a sensible and mild-mannered young girl, Hatsumi suddenly finds herself in a swirl of drama that threatens to drive her totally crazy.

Miki Aihara, who created “Hot Gimmick”, made her debut in 1991 with Lip Conscious!, which was published in the Bessatsu Shojo Comic anthology and she remains a major contributor to the magazine.

HEAVEN’S WILL Rated “T” for Teens. $8.99. Available now
Sudou Mikuzu has a very special talent/power – she can see ghosts. And because of this, she’s become a magnet for all sorts of unwelcome spirits and monsters. Lucky for her she’s just met Seto, a friendly, cross-dressing young exorcist. Sudou needs protection from all the creepy phantoms bugging her and Seto needs to practice his exorcism skills. Consequently, the pair decides to team up and help each other. In return for Seto’s help, Sudou promises to bake him a cake every time a ghost gets zapped!

Created by Satoru Takamiya, HEAVEN’S WILL first appeared as a short story in Chu Chu magazine, a Japanese shojo manga anthology for teen girls published by Shogakukan.

THE MAGIC TOUCH Rated “T+” for Older teens. $8.99. Available February 3, 2009.
Aside from being the star of her high school’s Massage Research Society club, Chiaki Togu is a normal, quiet girl–until she falls head over heels in love with a gorgeous back, which happens to belong to Yosuke, the hottest guy at her school! Unfortunately, Chiaki’s attraction to Yosuke is thwarted by her own insecurity and the scheming of other girls, especially those of her twin sister Sayaka! Although Yosuke seems out of Chiaki’s league, she will do almost anything to give him a massage. The two eventually strike a deal where she will be allowed to touch his back if she can make him fall in love with her. What Chiaki doesn’t know is the real reason Yosuke wants to hang around her: to avenge his younger brother, who was allegedly deceived and dumped by somebody named Chiaki Togu! Is this a simple case of mistaken identity or the beginning of a tragedy?

THE MAGIC TOUCH was created by Izumi Tsubaki, who began drawing manga during her first year of high school. She was soon selected to be among the Top 10 artists selected by manga anthology Hana to Yume and went on to win the publication’s Big Challenge manga contest. THE MAGIC TOUCH was a best seller in Japan.

OTOMEN Rated “T” for teens. $8.99 US. Available February 3, 2009
Asuka Masamune is a guy who loves girly things-sewing, knitting, making cute stuffed animals and reading shojo manga. But in a world where boys are expected to act manly, Asuka must hide his beloved hobbies and instead play the part of a masculine jock. Ryo Miyakozuka, on the other hand, is a girl who can’t sew or bake a cake to save her life. Asuka finds himself attracted to Ryo, but she likes only the manliest of men! Can Asuka ever show his true self to anyone, much less to the girl that he’s falling for?

OTOMEN, created by Aya Kanno, is currently being serialized in Japan’s BetsuHana magazine. OTOMEN is a best seller in Japan, with each new volume appearing in the Top 15 of Japan’s Tohan rankings that chart manga popularity and sales.”

VIZ and new partner launch line of anime and manga-related goods

Here’s the latest news from VIZ Media which could mean less money in the pockets of the anime and manga addicts out there.

“VIZ Media announced a partnership with Zazzle to launch a new line of J-Pop, manga and anime-inspired apparel, stationery, and other items. VIZ Media’s J-Pop Style Stop at Zazzle is located at www.zazzle.com/vizmedia and offers a variety of visually compelling and original designs inspired by a love of Japanese pop culture available on an on-demand basis with most products produced within 24 hours of ordering.

The Zazzle partnership represents VIZ Media’s first foray into the ‘on-demand’ arena and is focused initially on several original (non-licensed) designs. The result will allow fans and the general public to show their enthusiasm for Japanese pop culture in a unique way with fun designs. The partnership is the initial phase of a larger projected product rollout with Zazzle that will tentatively include shojo (female)-focused fashion designs and other special designs to come in 2009.

The first VIZ Media design phase offers graphics that are available through Zazzle.com on T-shirts, note cards, real US postage, bags, and other fun items. The program allows fans and the general public alike to show their adoration for manga and anime by being able to choose from some great designs and customize them to their liking. This first phase of designs will include graphics with wording such as a manga panel that says ‘I Love Manga’ and a similar one that says ‘I love Anime’, available on T-shirts, note cards, stamps, bags and more.

Digital printing is considered the leading technology for on-demand apparel customization. It provides literally millions of colors and makes it affordable to manufacture even a single item, as opposed to other more cumbersome processes, which offer a limited color palette and often require the customer to order in bulk quantities because of high setup costs.

This partnership is just the first step for VIZ Media into the original design and the ‘on demand’ world – both of which will better serve fans old and new. This launch is the beginning of a projected ‘bigger picture’ rolls out with Zazzle, which ultimately may include more shojo-focused fashion designs, bigger statement ‘otaku’ (fan of anime and manga) designs and additional popular designs

Some of the new J-Pop designs were also included in the official gift bags that were distributed to the talent that presented and performed at the 2008 SPIKE TV Video Game Awards in December, where the VIZ Media-licensed video game, Ubisoft’s Naruto: The Broken Bond, was one of the nominees for Best Game Based on a Movie or TV Show.”

One tough cookie

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“Yakushiji Ryouko no Kaiki Jikenbo” or “Ryoko Yakushiji’s Strange Case Files” is an anime which started life as a light novel. The 13-episode show aired in Japan last summer.

Ryoko, who comes from a rich family, is a cop with the Tokyo Metropolitan Department. But she’s not just any cop. At 27, she is a superintendent who heads a department, can speak several languages, is universally feared by the bureaucrats and can solve the weird cases that often come her way. She is also a crack shot and can take on the baddies with her fists and feet if need be.

She’s also imperious toward her underlings, thinks nothing of going shopping in the middle of her shift, wears skimpy suits and shamelessly uses her family’s influence.
Her dad heads JACES, one of the major security firms in the country where many police bureaucrats apply to after retirement. She holds this over their heads in order to get her way. Thankfully, she is on the side of the little guy and hates fat cats who abuse the system.

She also likes her much put upon assistant/shopping bag holder. This Watson-wanna-be to her Sherlock is Junichiro Izumida, 33, who narrates the series. He fears and respects her but doesn’t get the massive hints she gives him that she really, really likes him. What a doof.

Called Izumida by everyone, he is a decent and hard-working cop whose wits are not as sharp as Ryoko’s. But he can fight as well as her. He is not a career police officer so he does his job whether it annoys a bureaucrat or not.

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The show is reminiscent of “X Files” because the cases Ryoko tackles include man-made horrors and regular creatures with an unfortunate effect on humans. Case in point. One episode deals with a cricket whose chirping drives people to kill themselves.

Ryoko is also aided by her French maids, Lucienne and Marianne. Fellow superintendent and rival, Yukiko Muromachi, often trades insults with Ryoko but once or twice helps her. Not that she’d ever admit it.