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.”

Shoujo Attack: Time traveling princess with a magic cane

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A recent addition to VIZ Media’s Shoujo Beat Manga lineup is “Time Stranger Kyoko” which is definitely aimed for the teen and pre-teen crowd.

It is now the 30th century and for some inexplicable reason, earth’s countries decided to band together and just become one kingdom called Earth Nation. It’s ruled by a king who keeps himself young thanks to the latest technology (plastic surgery, I suppose) and has a weird cat/android pet named Chocola.

His heirs are his twin daughters: Kyoko and Ui Suomi. But Ui has been asleep since she was a baby. She’s actually trapped in time.

Kyoko has been attending a local school incognito because she refuses to take the throne. She’s watched over by Sakataki Jin and his older brother, Hizuki Jin, who are the last members of the Dragon tribe. They’re dragon/human hybrids.

We meet Kyoko just before her 16th birthday bash which she refuses to attend because she thinks she won’t be able to go to school and mingle with the commoners anymore. This despite her father telling her people are rioting and want her to take over her responsibilities.

She comes off as very selfish in the first chapter of Volume 1 and I must say, Kyoko did not endear herself to me when her father offered her an out and she grabbed it. If she wakes up her sister Ui, the younger twin can take over the royal mantle and she would be free. In a side note, the author, Arina Tanemura, took the time to explain to readers Kyoko probably sounds selfish but she isn’t really. Uh huh, right.

To wake up her sister, Kyoko must start the giant clock underneath Ui’s bed. In order to do that, she must find the 12 God stones scattered around the planet along with the 12 telepaths who can use the stones. The first stone was easy since it and a pocket watch were hidden undernearth the clock.

When The Destroyers, a band of thieves led by a guy called Witzig, appears outside the school gates, Kyoko finally unveils who she is to protect her classmates. The time stone that she couldn’t activate then starts yakking at her and turns into the Scorpion Cane which can manipulate time. She whacks Witzig on the head and the smitten fool retreats.

Witzig would pop in and out of later chapters often riding his giant pet snake. He’s obviously the comedy relief.

Kyoko learns more of what the cane can do in other adventures and readers learn the history of the Dragon Tribe and why its last two surviving members ended up as bodyguards to this teenage princess.

Our heroine also adjusts her goal from fobbing off her duties to a younger sibling to waking up said sister who she believes is in distress.

The character designs are classic shoujo meaning huge eyes, small mouth and lots of long wavy hair. Except for the chapter about the Dragon Tribe’s demise, volume 1 is mostly light on drama and heavy on the comedy.

So if you’re looking for a soap opera-like manga, this is not the series for you.

The best things in life are FREE

This from VIZ Media. The company is producing a special issue of its Shonen Jump magazine and will be giving it away gratis during Free Comic Book Day which falls on May 3.

The special edition will be distributed for free at participating stores nationwide.

I’ve never heard of the event but then again I haven’t been haunting comic bookstores since I was in high school. I get my manga from the local bookstore and the anime shop.

According to the VIZ press release, the annual event was “developed by Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. and is designed for comic book retailers across North America and around the world to offer a range of select titles for free to further spread awareness of new and upcoming series and highlight the diversity of the comics and manga (graphic novel) genres.”

In my simple mind that just translates to FREE comics for one day. Drool. I wonder if a customer will be limited to one comic book only.

The special edition 32-page Shonen Jump will feature snippets from various series like
“Naruto”, “Bleach” , “One Piece” and “Slam Dunk.” There’s going to be a “Bleach” poster included as well.

www.freecomicbookday.com.

xxxHolic: Time Witches and Inevitability

I am happy to anounce that there will be a second season of “Sayonara Despair Teacher”, “Kekkaishi”, “D.Grayman” and “xxxHolic”. The latter refers to the adventures (he would say misadventures) of orphan Kimihiro Watanuki when he meets with the time witch Yuuko.

Watanuki can see spirits and they like to chase him around. Seems he’s downright delectable to the denizens of the spirit realm. He is working as the housekeeper/cook/gofer/etc. at Yuuko’s shop in order to earn enough credit to get his wish. Yuuko grants wishes for a price.

The show is ugly at times because what looks elegant on paper (the elongated style of the drawings) doesn’t translate that well to animation. But the characters’ quirks came through loud and clear though.

Here’s the opening song of the first season courtesy of a fan who posted it on YouTube.

Tomie: How to chop off an obsession

Blame it on anime withdrawal. At least that’s my excuse.

I wandered into the anime store but was told I would have to wait another week for new fansubs. So I borrowed some Japanese horror movies instead. I took a chance on something called “Tomie” and “Tomie Replay”.

Tomie (pronounced tow-mee-yeh) is a woman who every guy falls for. They love her so much they would do things for her and then also kill her out of jealous rage. For some reason, they feel the need to chop her up. But Tomie is a monster who doesn’t die. She regenerates from pieces of herself.

The sequel was a tad better than the 1999 original movie in terms of special effects, quality and acting but I was hardly scared. Midway through the movies, I realized why I had outgrown slash-and-gore pics. Everyone has to act stupid. In the sequel, the heroine breaks a leg and has to be confined to a wheelchair. Evil Tomie invites her to the hospital basement. What does our heroine do?

Like all horror heroines, she leaves logic and her brains behind. She can’t walk with her leg in a cast so she wheels herself to the creepy vacant hospital without any weapons or companions. Sure she later runs across an axe but she throws it at the glass case in front of Tomie thereby leaving herself defenseless. How smart.

I saw five Tomie movies on the store shelf. I’m not renting anymore of them.

I did buy a compilation of the manga that started this all. Issued by Dark Horse Comics under the Museum of Terror series, the first volume is all about Tomie. You get to see how the manga artist Junji Ito developed the character over the years and how his drawing style improved. I like the manga better since it reminded me of the 1970s horror comics I grew up on. Plus they’re more scary than the movie version of this femme fatale.