Indie Manga from the Tokyo Underground

Review of Kamen 1 & 2: Massacre Magic & a Fantastical Feudal Japan

Gen Manga—America’s premier indie manga company—brings another new seinen title in the form of Kamen, or “God Mask.”

In a fantasy world inspired by feudal Japan, Lord Simba is trying to defend her fortress from the invading army of neighboring Zoraiden—and the uncle she’s pushed out of the leadership circle—with inferior numbers but superior tactics.  But swords and wits aren’t the only things at play in this world. The castle is soon breached by magic users known as Nen Masters, who are capable of temporarily launching people’s spirits into another dimension known as “the forbidden world” in order to fight them one-on-one with magic. Any damage sustained in that world transfers to their real world bodies, and spiritual damage can lead to instant death upon return.  Just when it looks like the castle might fall to juggernauts of Zoraiden’s Nen power, a mysterious masked man in Simba’s jail cells breaks out, and runs right into their destruction with his own disastrous Nen power.

Something like Biomega, the book opens with a nearly silent protagonist taking direction from a mysterious female voice.  The Masked Man wakes up with the titular mask suddenly on him, unable to be removed, but seemingly granting him great Nen power.  A female voice emanates from it and guides him, wondering if he’s the reincarnation of Shisa, a deity that will guide the world away from its hellish state.  The book splits time between the masked man and the many other characters almost evenly; Simba, several of her high-ranking men, and leaders from both her uncle’s army and Zoraiden’s are likable, hate-able, and cool in turns, and offer a lot for readers to catch onto—so long as you can tell them apart.  A character chart in the back does wonders, but I still had to keep notes about who was who.

The story opens in the middle, with the reader thrown right into the thick of things, with only the smallest of foundations to go on, while new characters and world details introduced over time.  Like the book’s upside-down cover, the story in this book is somewhat disconcerting, but intricately detailed, and it expects the reader to put in the effort to keep up.  For some readers that will be prohibitive, so I’d say those who can jump right into hardcore sci fi and do just fine will adapt to this book swiftly as well.

The backgrounds are simple and unfortunately, often empty; but the layouts are easy to follow and the characters don’t lack.  The artwork has a high degree of realism: the outfits, body shapes, and fight scenes are all nearly true-to-life; the book doesn’t go out of its way to seem “anime-style”.  The paper of these books are nice and thick, creating a volume that feels weighty in the hand and which has none of the problems of accidental ink transparency that the company experienced earlier in its history, proving that once again Gen and its offerings are improving with time.

Several of the volumes of Kamen are out now, and the end of the second book is where it really started to hook me—where the magic starts to play a larger part and new locations away from Simba’s camp are involved.  To be sure, any boy that likes Dragonball Z will be entertained by this book well and readily, though it may take more time to get into for those expecting easy reading.

Awesome! A great father/son, family drama with themes of single parenting and father abandonment centred around a plot focused on boxing. I'm surprised that I read, nevermind loved so much, a sports manga! This was a wonderful story following a teen's search for the father who abandoned him and is mother when he was small, now with feelings of vengeance. It is a serious story with small bits of humour to lighten the mood. This is a large book at over 400 pages and it felt great to read a single story manga instead of a series for a change. There isn't a lot of character development and the characters are mostly stereotypical but the dramatic story plays itself out well and I was held fast to the pages of this one. The art is nothing special here though there's nothing to really mention about it either. The book seems aimed at teen boys and, therefore, would be shounen but with the father/family plot could also very well be classified as seinen which I'm more apt to label it. If there is a Japanese term for serious/dramatic manga then I am unenlightened as to that category. A great read!
It's All Comics to Me
Stones of Power by Isora Azumi. A few years ago I read and enjoyed the first quarter or so of Stones of Power when it was initially being serialized in the Gen anthology. The manga has since been collected into a single volume, including material that I believe hadn’t previously been released. Stones of Power is admittedly unpolished and its artwork fairly generic, but there are things I really like about the manga. It mixes the mundane with the supernatural in rather curious ways, especially in the beginning. Fujita is a young man with a passion for fish who ends up being hired to maintain the aquarium at a small cafe. That might not be a particularly strong hook for most readers, but I happen to really like fish and used to keep a tank of my own. It just so happens that the fish Fujita’s been put in charge of are actually dragon gods and the two siblings he works for are fox spirits. From there Stones of Power spins off into an increasingly strange and dangerous situation in which Fujita, who apparently has an unexpected affinity for the occult (or at least the dragons), is unwittingly dragged into a battle between the foxes and an ancient power that threatens the life of an innocent young girl.
Experiments in Manga

Lenni Reviews: Kamen volume 1 by Gunya Mihara

Set in ancient Japan, this intriguing fantasy by Gunya Mihara starts off with a lone warrior in a mask; who does not know how he came to wear it and cannot speak. The mask itself tells him if he were to remove it, they both would die. Thrown into a war between different kingdoms, the mysterious man and the sentient mask are trapped in the mix and try to save the innocent people around them.

This graphic novel surprised me. I was expecting a by the numbers battle manga but as more characters appeared and the world was revealed, I was treated to an engrossing world where the protagonist does more to keep me interested than some characters do with entire pages of words and facial expressions. Like him, the art is also simple yet powerful. It stinks that it ends on such a cliffhanger but that's what has me searching for volume 2! 

Otakus and Geeks

Salute to Stones of Power

Among the numerous amateur-created Japanese manga published within the 16 original issues of GEN Manga, Azumi Isora’s “Stones of Power” was debatably the most polished and professional. In fact, the refined and engaging story is actually superior to many commercially published professional manga. The collected Stones of Power is an excellent self-contained book and an intriguing introduction to characters and scenarios that demand new stories.

Stones of Power revolves around Harushige Fujita, a young man that coincidentally patronizes a mysterious café run by beautiful & mysterious siblings. Katanobu Ozaki, the elder brother, serves tea while his younger sister Youko runs a popular side-business crafting custom-made jewelry using “power stones” rumored to have mystical influences. The siblings hire tropical fish expert Fujita to oversee the spawning of their rare, endangered Arowana fish. As Fujita cares for the fish, the fish create an ethereal bond with him that proves to be more important than he could every guess. Following the successful birth of a new brood of Arowana fish, Katanobu is commissioned to exorcise a troublesome mystical stone. Katanobu brings along Youko and Fujita on the job. Fujita unknowingly brings along his own spiritual companions that have immense mystical power.


Stones of Power is a subtle, graceful supernatural drama that lays out plentiful narrative clues for readers to assemble. The manga’s cast is small, but each character is distinctive and unique. The story masterfully characterizes Fujita through his dialogue and actions in place of blunt exposition. The astute reader will easily realize that siblings Katanobu and Youko are much more than they seem, in both the mortal realm and the world of the supernatural. The volume’s two sequential stories unfold with a measured pace that feels deliberate and atmospheric. The story takes its time to allow events to unfold rather than rushing into plot developments. In effect, the storytelling feels rich and nuanced, involving and intriguing.


Azumi Isora’s graphic art is delicate and fine, stylish and attractive but never overpowering or distracting. The ethereal art deftly enhances the story’s mature pacing. The book’s layout is especially interesting. Panels vary in size and position but never interfere with a simple sense of linear flow. The creative panel layout gives the art a mature and stylish tone.


GEN Manga’s compilation of Stones of Power contains the chapters originally serialized in GEN Manga volumes 11 through 16 and 42 additional previously unpublished pages that finish the story’s second episode. The revealing concluding pages alone justify the collected volume for new readers and readers that enjoyed the story during its initial unfinished serialization. The print quality on this book is marginally inferior to GEN Manga’s typical high standards. The seeming digital transfer to printed page appears to have lost a minor degree of fidelity, and screentones have a subtle but noticeable moiré. However, the art reproduction flaws are minor enough that some readers may not apprehend anything wrong. A slightly more bothersome problem in this volume is word balloons in the first story arc appearing too close to the binding, meaning that on select pages reading all of the text is difficult without spreading the book open wide enough to nearly break the binding. Most readers will be able to easily interpret the obscured text, but slightly realigning the printing or changing the size of the page images would have been an optimal solution. The flaw only affects the book’s first third, and only periodic pages within that third.


Granting small flaws as a consequence of GEN Manga being a small indie publisher with limited resources, Azumi Isora’s Stones of Power is well worth readers’ investment. The two sequential stories contained in the book are complete and self-contained yet hint at fascinating back-stories and future potential. The tale, while grounded in everyday reality, skillfully transcends into breathtaking and even threatening supernatural suspense. Readers that have enjoyed manga such as CLAMP’s XXXHOLiC will find that Stones of Power has a similar aesthetic and tone while excluding the goofy slapstick humor that pervades XXXHOLiC. Stones of Power is a marvelous, cinematic and atmospheric supernatural drama that will please any reader that appreciates intelligently sublime comics, provided the reader is ready to pay close attention and pick up the numerous subtle characterization and storytelling breadcrumbs that the story provides.

Anime Nation

Kamen Volume 2 by Gunya Mihara

First off, I love the art in this series! Volume two is battle intensive, well, really one big battle from beginning to end. I must admit to being a bit confused at certain points not sure which side was which at various points, especially the beginning. It does take a long time for the main characters to appear, both Simba: the female general and the man with the mask. Once they appear in the story it was easier for me to follow, being that I myself am not all that military minded. However, this is great historical fantasy manga. Even though lots of war, no bloody violence, and the story keeps a fast pace and is exciting. No real character development is added in this volume but we do get to know more about the masters of the "Nen Arts" as several warriors from both sides enter into this dimension during the battle. As the book nears the end focus is once again on The Masked Man and the conclusion leads us to believe the next volume will contain more character focus. I love the masked man and his sentient mask and can't wait to find out more about them. 

It's All Comics To Me


GEN Manga is Indie Manga from the Tokyo Underground.
GEN Manga was made to give fans an exclusive look at real doujinshi, otherwise known as indie manga, that they had heard about, but until now, unable to get their hands on.
In its essence, doujinshi is manga traded among other manga artists. Manga for manga lovers!
Seemingly mundane events twist with an unusual presence of the unreal as the psyche of ordinary people is explored.
Depression, time, and thought are redefined.
Alive is a collection of melancholy love stories saturated with sadness.
Characters struggle to connect with one another but never quite succeed. They are essentially alone.
Enter a world that is dark and disturbing — suicide is constantly contemplated and feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and suppressed sexuality surface as identity itself becomes a terribly fragile thing.

I must confess that I had a hard time attributing a star rating to this book.
While reading the first few stories I felt really disconnected from the manga and whenever I put it down, I wasn’t that eager to pick it up back again. That usually isn’t much of a good sign.
However, this is the kind of book that grows on you and that you definitely must keep reading in order to fully apprehend the intention of the author. I mean, what at least I thought was his/her intention (I’m sorry but as I couldn’t find any information on the author, I’m not sure if they’re male or female, and as I’m not much familiar with Japanese I can’t figure that out from their name).
After that bumpy start, and as I kept reading, I started to see a pattern theme throughout the stories, even though the characters and plots were different (but with some similarities, which was a problem, but I’ll get to that in a bit). This manga is a compilation of stories of people who are lost, depressed and utterly alone in a world full of people and where time goes by ceaselessly. The extreme and desperate actions they make are a cry for help, a search for meaning, an intention to give their life a purpose, even if that means to walk towards death and self-imposed oblivion.
The art may seem simple, nothing noteworthy or “remember able”, but I believe that an artwork like that, in this context, is extremely helpful, because it translates the mundane in these people’s lives. It reiterates the fact that they’re common people, just like their neighbours, just like any other human, even though on their own world they’re crumbling slowly but without return.
All in all, it’s a really nice manga. Enjoyable because it will make you think about your own existence, it will make you reflect about your own daily life choices, it will make you look at other people and realise that what they look on the outside may not fully translate what they go through in their inner realities. It’s very cohesive and every story serves the purpose of translating the demise of human beings living in the midst of a postmodern society.
What made me subtract 1,5 stars to the rating was the fact that there were similar characters in different stories and that the artwork also translated those similarities. This fact can cause some confusion in the reader, especially when the reading isn’t made in a breath from cover to cover. The other little flaw is that none of the stories actually stands out or stays with the reader. The manga as a whole will make you think, but there isn’t a character that can be said to be “remember able”.

Read. Reflect. Review.

Cheers for Kamen

One of the highlights of the first ten issues of Gen Manga, published from June 2011 through April 2012, was author Mihara Gunya’s epic fantasy manga Kamen (“Mask”). The epic scale battle story captivated readers until its abrupt cliffhanger “to be continued” ending in Gen Manga issue 10. Now, thankfully, readers can revisit and read more of the intriguing action tale thanks to the publication of the series’ first two collected volumes.


Kamen begins with a mysterious mute warrior awakening with a sentient mask affixed to his face. The symbiotic mask warns the man that removing the mask will bring about both of their deaths, so an enigmatic truce forms. When the nameless man encounters a passing military convoy, he’s seized and taken to Jiguzah Fortress. After demonstrating his martial arts prowess, the compassionate general of the fortress, Lord Simba, decides to release the man, giving him free roam of the fortress while she prepares her troops for a more pressing threat. Opposed not only by her own uncle, Lord Simba’s small garrison faces an impending siege by the much larger conquering Zoraiden army. The entire 225 page second volume illustrates the tactical siege, focusing on both strategic troop movements and intense, bloody individual battles.


Mihara Gunya manages an impressive feat by making Kamen an engrossing and fascinating story all while keeping the protagonist completely silent. Surrounding characters are sufficiently fleshed out, and “Kamen,” himself expresses himself explicitly through his actions. Both collected manga volumes introduce intriguing story elements including pivotal characters that are referenced only in introductions and both superhuman and supernatural warriors with hidden abilities. The story presented in the first 450 pages of the manga promises a grand scale with countless characters, relationships, conflicts, and betrayals, most of which are only hinted at thus far.


The manga’s visual design seems, at first, sparse, particularly due to its relative lack of detailed background art. However, critical examination reveals that Mihara Gunya’s selective eye illustrates only whatever most effectively evokes the important aspects of each scene. The focused illustration narrows the reader’s attention onto character reactions, sudden movements, burst of violence, contemplative solitudes. The art actually pulls the reader into the scene by excluding everything that could distract the reader’s attention. Furthermore, the sparse art actually enhances the setting’s barren, war-torn atmosphere in which everyone is either a peasant or a soldier, or sometimes both. The art style evokes a traditional Japanese woodcut aesthetic somewhat comparable to Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal.


Gen Manga’s translation is fluid, natural, and easily comprehensible. Japanese sound effects are left unaltered. The printing is clean and crisp, obscuring no detail. Both print volumes include standard manga pulp paper with cardstock covers and a pleasant minimalist design inside and out that includes little overt branding and no supplemental advertising.


Readers that followed Kamen in the pages of Gen Manga will absolutely want to pick up at least the second graphic novel collection that contains an additional 203 pages of new story never before published anywhere. New readers that have enjoyed historical fantasy action stories such as Utawarerumono, Berserk, Blade of the Immortal, Bokko, and Claymore should find a lot of like in Kamen. In fact, the only significant negative aspect of Kamen is that there’s not enough of it.



If you’re into manga there’s a publisher that you may not have heard about called Gen Manga. If you have then you’re probably loving their comics since they’re unlike anything being brought over from Japan to the states. To put it in terms that average comic readers understand they’re the Image Comics of manga.

While at New York Comic Con I had the chance to stop by their booth and check out some titles that I haven’t read yet and one such title was VS Aliens. I had actually seen this series on their digital platform, but the opportunity to read the collected trade wasn’t something I could pass up.

The story kicks off with an average high school boy Kitaro being pull out into the hallway by Segawa, a girl he’s never talked to before. He finds it strange, but what’s even stranger is that Segawa tells him that the most popular girl in school Sana is an alien. Kitaro strangely agrees to help Segawa who is the only one that can see Sana’s “true form.” Eventually Kitaro approaches Sana about it and this sets off a course of events that cannot be undone.

This book is full of twists. It appears to be a cutesy high school love comedy, but then it gets dark and serious. It just never quite loses that cutesy love comedy as it twists back and forth. Our characters will share these really touching and cute moments, but that will be followed by something strange and dark. Is Sana an alien? And what are the consequences of her exposure? But the bigger questions is why Kitaro?

The writing is really good. The story defies genre labelling which is something people casually throw around, but I couldn’t label this as any one thing without it being mis-represented. The dialogue/translation is fantastic. The characters do not come across as typical manga/anime high students, but rather real high school students. The conversations in-between intense moments are candid and gripping. You’ll almost want to stay in their conversations, but the overall mystery of the story will keep you going. The small twist in the story are masterful.

The art is of course great and shows a lot of range. The style is perfect for the high school love comedy genre, but when the story twists it actually makes it eerie to look at. There’s this one scene in particular when Segawa and Sana are looking at Kitaro as he’s sleeping and it’s the most incredible page of the entire book. It tells you so much without either character saying a word. It will also drive your imagination wild as it furthers the mystery behind what’s really going on. Otherwise the line work is very clean and creator Suzuki Yu takes the story from day-to-night and really executes the transition wonderfully.

Because I love talking about the print quality of comics I have to say that this is a high quality printing. A lot of print manga I’ve read is on cheap paper and it feels like your thumb will smudge the ink if you leave it there too long, but not this book. The paper reminded me of the stock they use on American comic strip collections and that means no smudging. That and the size of the book is the perfect hand size. Gen did a great job with the design as well since the cover is simple, yet visually pleasing to look at. Overall I really liked the aesthetic of the presentation.

If you’ve never read manga before I would whole-heartily recommend this graphic novel. It’s a self-contained story with a satisfying conclusion which is a great thing in manga. Many of the stories are never-ending and so the task of knowing where to start becomes daunting; so much so that people skip it all together. VS Aliens gives you a nice taste of what’s out there without forcing you to stick around for more, but you will want to see more of creator Suzuki Yu.

Comic Bastards

GEN Manga Teams with Diamond

It wasn't just the "big boys" enjoying this rising tide. Robert McGuire, editor in chief at indie publisher GEN Manga observed, "Manga sales are definitely coming back. We are noticing that we're selling more at New York Comic-Con each year." McQuire said sales were great all weekend, noting that they arrived with 10 boxes of GEN titles and left Javits with only one.

GEN's titles are original series drawn by up-and-coming creators from Japan, so they don't get sales boosts from anime adaptations or exposure in manga magazines in Japan. What has helped is signing an exclusive distribution deal with Diamond Books Distribution. "Since we signed with Diamond last year, we've sold over twice as many books. We went from offering it online and hand-selling it at shows to getting international distribution. Diamond has a reach of 40,000 retailers, so that makes a huge difference for us."

Publishers Weekly
What a treat! An engrossing historical war story quite unique from the typical manga. A mysterious man with no voice appears on the scene wearing a sentient mask which continually speaks and guides him. While the man never speaks he too has his own will and does as he chooses. The main warrior in the story is a female general which is unusual in this type of manga story. We are not told of the location or time period but the warriors are dressed like and referred to as samurai and the location is similar to middle eastern desert climate. We've been introduced to characters who have powers of strength and dexterity that come from a mystical source, others are masters of the "Nen Arts" which harness the powers of thought dimensions. I fell into this story and read it in one sitting I found it so engrossing. The art is wonderful as well from the first page which is an impressive close up that pans out of the mask and the man wearing it. Even though it is a war story this first volume I'd easily rate T 13+. There is nothing I'd even slightly call objectionable and my 14yo loved it as well. 
It's All Comic to Me!

Manga Monday: Android Angels

Article by Mara Wood

Kosuke Kabaya’s collection of short stories, Android Angels, provides a brief look at what makes us human. Set in the near future, Android Angels tells stories about humans and their interactions with androids. In this world, androids ownership is limited to four years. An android’s memory of their owner is wiped at the end of the term, and the android is passed onto the next owner. This unique rule sets up Kabaya’s tales of human connection, loneliness, and what it means to be an object.

If you’ve read Alex + Ada, the current comic book series from Image, you may already be familiar with the idea of androids as romantic partners. While androids are encouraged to have that role in Alex + Ada, the androids of Androids Angels do not have the primary function of providing love and sex for their human. However, the owners of the androids can’t help but feel that connection to their companion.

Kabaya’s rules in this world set up humans for despair. After spending four years with an android (who could essentially pass as a person), their memories are wiped and they are passed onto a new owner. In one story, a previous owner sees a former android companion. The android has no clue who he is, yet the human is clearly distraught that he cannot connect to the android. It is evident that androids in Kabaya’s world are meant to be objects for human use. The humans see otherwise.

Themes of loneliness are woven into the short story collection as well. In one story, humans contemplate what it might be like to have memories wiped at the end of a four-year term. The android, never knowing their past, must surely be a lonely being. The humans, however, come to the conclusion that it is far worse to know an android intimately. The android will eventually have no recollection of you or your time together.

The artwork is crisp and clean, matching the subject matter perfectly. The publication is oversized, which in turn makes the artwork really burst from the page. Android Angels is from GEN Manga, a company that specializes in indie manga publications.

Talking Comics

Sorako is Stellar

Having grown up as a geek during the 1980s, the Hernandez brothers’ independent slice-of-life comic book series Love and Rocketsdefined the offbeat, alternative, independent comic book in my mind. Since I grew up with America’s independent comic boom, I was also aware that indie comics featured belligerent anthropomorphic animals, ninja (of the female, fat, turtle, and high school varieties), all manner of criminals, hardboiled detectives, and much more. But twenty years later I still find my core definition of “indie comics” falling back on slice of life stories about the small existential anxieties of everyday life. So no title from GEN Manga’s stable better illustrates the translator’s canon of imported Japanese indie comics than Fujimura Takayuki’s deceptively simple routine life drama manga Sorako.

Fujimura Takayuki’s charming slice-of-life anthology Sorako depicts the ordinary lives of a selection of contemporary Japanese young women, single and married, capturing their amorphous sense of ennui and aimlessness. The manga’s title character appears in three of the manga’s seven chapters. Sorako is a typical girl on the cusp of adulthood, still living at home but already feeling the pressure to begin supporting herself. Her thick rimmed-glasses, often sloppy attire, and slight hunch all reveal her comfort with herself and her usual disinclination to conform herself to her society’s expectations for bright, positive, ambitious young women. Sorako lounges around, feels alienated from her father, worries about her lost dog, and wonders with mild anxiety what her future will be like. In other words, she’s an ordinary girl concerned more with being comfortable from day to day than with keeping up with social obligations or familial expectations. She unconsciously expects the world to come to her; she unknowingly awaits the day when she’ll suddenly be an adult when a new world of possibilities and wonders spreads out before her. It’s through small, gradual moments that Sorako comes to realize that it’s her own perspective alone that will identify wonderful opportunities. Her beloved lost dog suddenly reappearing in her life represents the fact that the only things that come to us are the things that we’ve invested our own love and effort into.


The symbolism in the “Birdcage and the Bystander” short story is both more overt and more powerful. Hatoko lives a routine life with a dull job and periodic gatherings with friends that seem almost as much a distraction as a pleasure. A spontaneous decision to rescue a broken birdcage from the trash sparks a small sense of spontaneity within Hatoko. “There may actually be things you can’t see looking in from the outside,” she realizes as she consciously decides to become an active participant in her own life instead of continuing to be just a passenger watching life pass by outside her window and allowing her friends to make decisions for her.


The short story about Tono-san, a coffee shop waitress whose bigger plans for life seem dauntingly impossible, unfolds as a charming, encouraging story about having hope but not depending on it. Tono-san dreams of one day studying abroad, but her goal seems more like a distant dream than a genuine possibility. Tono clings to that dream like a light at the end of a tunnel, a promise of one day discovering a bigger, more fascinating world than the small, local one she’s familiar with. She buys lottery tickets, secretly hoping to herself that a sudden stroke of luck will answer all of her prayers. But she also has a back-up plan: gradually but diligently working toward fulfilling her dream herself through work and devotion.


“A Boring Breakfast” revolves around a bored housewife whose daily routine with her husband has fallen into a wordless cycle. When she spies a lonely teen boy, she sees an opportunity to spice up her life. But rather than descend into lurid storytelling, author Takayuki’s pleasant short story instead reminds readers that a simple smile and congenial pleasantries can brighten someone’s day, and simple considerate acknowledgement in an unfeeling society filled with negativity goes a long way toward cheering someone up.


Somewhat comparable to Inio Asano’s acclaimed 2005-2006 slice-of-life manga story Solanin, Fujimura Takayuki’s independently publishedSorako has a deliberately rougher, more natural art design than Inio Asano’s highly refined and precise line work. Takayuki’s spontaneous and looser art design compliments the manga story’s naturalistic, ordinary tone and belies the amount of subtle, revealing detail that fills the work. Small visual details like the objects that make up the clutter in Sorako’s room, passing traffic, and the expressions on the faces of bystanders all contribute to the theme of the manga that wonder and excitement aren’t distant, magical fantasies but rather potentials that lie hidden all around us. In order to strengthen the visual sense of ordinary daily realism, Takayuki breaks from typical manga conventions and excludes all visual sound effects, relying instead on character reactions and art design to evoke vibrancy and familiarity. Astute readers may also appreciate Takayuki’s amusing penchant for peppering the manga with playful background references to popular Western cult movies.

GEN Manga’s collection of Sorako includes the stories originally published in GEN Manga issues 4 and 7-10 along with an exclusive new chapter and a previously unpublished humorous two-page short story. The English language translations consistently sound natural and read fluidly. Japanese language text is left intact except when translation is necessary. In select cases Japanese text is translated via caption or overlay, selectively chosen to be the most effective and least obtrusive.

GEN Manga periodically sends me complimentary copies of its print books to review. I wasn’t sent a copy of the Sorako graphic novel. I purchased my own copy at retail price, and I’m very happy that I did so. Fujimura Takayuki’s Sorako is a quick read that seems simple and even superficial at first glance. But consideration and reflection reveal a substantial forethought and thematic substance to the book that makesSorako affecting, charming, and periodically worth re-reading. Sorako is a personal favorite manga series of mine; I highly recommend it to readers that can appreciate and enjoy a quiet, realistic manga that satisfies with strong characterization and affirming symbolism in place of sensational, frenetic action and spectacle.


Stand Up Comics: Manga, Komiks and Bande Dessinée

Nukuharu's stories borrow liberally from the more traditional shonen (boys) and shoujo(girls) manga genres--there's even a little yaoi (boys' love) thrown in for good measure--but they're much stranger. All the stories feature yokai (Japanese ghosts and demons). In fact, the many-eyed yokai on the cover is featured in the first story, "Kaeshi," about a blind artist who makes a deal to get his sight back. The other four stories feature man-eating demons, half-yokai humans, shape-changing aliens and eccentric detectives, and are at turns comedic and serious.

The collected stories have a twist to them that make them even stranger than is apparent at the beginning, but in a good way. Nukuharu's decision occasionally to forgo traditional storytelling techniques adds to an already eerie atmosphere. Be warned, though; this is not your usual manga. It's much weirder.

Handselling Opportunities: Manga enthusiasts ready to try something outside the established genres, and Western indie comics fans looking to sample something outside their cultural comfort zones.

Shelf Awareness

Praise for Android Angels

Numerous well-known manga and anime have wrestled with the hypothetical circumstances of human relationships with androids or artificial people, such as Ghost in the ShellAndroid Announcer Maico 2010, and Chobits. But it’s been largely left up to independent productions like The Time of Eve to penetrate beneath superficial comic relationships and stylized violence to examine the psychological effect that human and android relationships have on both parties. Amateur Japanese manga creator Kosuke Kabaya’s Android Angelsmanga follows in the footsteps of animator Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s Eve no Jikan to present its own thoughtful and affecting examination of human relationships in a world where not everyone that appears to be human actually is human.

The oversized 7×10 inch Android Angels graphic novel from GEN Manga compiles the complete story originally serialized from April to November 2012 in GEN Manga issues 11 to 16. The 158 page book contains three multi-chapter interconnected stories set in Metro City, a near-future metropolis in which consumers have the opportunity to rent companion androids for a span of four years. In order to discourage literally non-productive human/robot relationships and encourage human with human pairings that will bouy the declining birth rate, android memories are wiped clean every four years, a policy that introduces ethical questions about the rights of artificial humans and uncertainty about the jarring abrupt conclusion of intense, emotional relationships that humans establish with their artificial companions.

The first story, “Sakyu ni Houko,” introduces the setting of Android Angels and an initial, tentative tone. The two-chapter first story borrows a bit from the tone of “butler” manga series such as Hayate no Gotoku and Kuroshitsuji but adds a distinctive retro action feel, evoking the android battle action of Shotaro Ishinomori’s Cyborg 009. Kabaya’s art shows influence from anime and distinctly utilizes exaggerated perspective and cinematic panel layout reminiscent of classic anime.

The second single-chapter story, “Fruits Flavor,” turns to a more dramatic, subtle, introspective and mature tone to tell a story in the life of a professional woman that struggles to restrain her affection for her household android, knowing that the cute android girl will soon move on to a new owner and a new life. The bittersweet tale includes overt romantic sexual suggestion and takes deliberate care to present a balanced subjective and objective view on the rationality of humans developing romantic feelings for artificial beings, despite knowing that all relationships and connections that form will be arbitrarily severed in just four years.

The connected single chapter “Plastic Butterfly” and two-chapter “Metro City no Kaisen ni te” stories follow a single female android through multiple sets of owners, thereby subtly depicting the casual cruelty of giving androids free will so that they’re not helpless slaves, and making them indistinguishable from humans, yet robbing them of their identities and even their memories, all for the selfish sake of human convenience. Following a single android through multiple owners also allows the story to illustrate the devestating emotional toll that arbitrarily breaking up intimate relationships has on human beings that do remember their partners and the experiences they shared together.

As an amateur-produced manga, Android Angels isn’t without small flaws. While the art design is never bad, character designs and background art get tighter and more refined and detailed as the book and artist Kosuke Kabaya’s experience developed. Moreover, with only one volume, the manga only has opportunity to introduce its ethical and philosophical ideas. The stories are affecting and thought-provoking; readers can tell that Kabaya put considerable thought into the development of his ideas and stories. So it’s disappointing that there aren’t subsequent volumes of Android Angels to allow Kabaya to more opportunity to delve further into the philosophy, ethics, and humanity dynamic connections between humans and artificial humans.

The Android Angels graphic novel has been published from fresh master materials, resulting in the inclusion of three new chapter splash page introduction illustrations that were not included in the original GEN Manga serialization, and a small amount of incidental Japanese text that was translated in the original serialization slipping back into its original Japanese in the graphic novel – most noteably the title translation for the book’s final chapter. A single word typo from the original serialization, “grenadiine” spelled with an extra “i,” remains present in the graphic novel edition. A grammatical shift in verb agreement in the sentence, “They do not sell their products, rather leasing them out…” also remains uncorrected. Both are very minor and easily overlooked errors. The “Fruits Flavor” chapter has some slightly stilted dialogue translation, possibly due to the English translation adhering too closely to a literal translation, but many casual readers may not notice or mind the slightly clunky rhythm of the dialogue translation in one chapter.

Android Angels is one of the pleasant surprise gems that emerges periodically from the underground manga community. It’s a thoughtful and moving selection of inter-related speculative stories that remind readers that manga can be simultaneously cute, fun, intelligent, and just a little bit melancholy. Readers that have already acquired GEN Manga issues 11 to 16 may have little need of this collected edition, but readers that haven’t discovered Android Angels should find this a nuanced, touching, thought-provoking manga worth periodically re-reading.

Anime Nation

This One Is Plenty

Since its inception in 2011, GEN Manga has concentrated on licensing & translating a purposefully diverse array of manga genres and styles from amateur, grassroots Japanese artists. GEN Manga volumes 11 through 15, published from April through August 2012 included the first five chapters of the originalshounen ai manga story “One Is Enough” by artist “LOVE.” The brand new August 2014 One Is Enough graphic novel contains an archival reprinting of the first five chapters plus the concluding, never before published final 25 pages of the honest & affecting love story.

One Is Enough revolves around 16-year-old high school boy Yuu Matsumoto who suddenly becomes conscious of his sexuality and moreover discovers that he’s gay. At first sight, Yuu falls in love with his coy and enigmatic upperclassman Shizuku Mizushima. But whether Shizuku will accept Yuu’s affection, and whether Shizuku’s reciprocation of Yuu’s desperate advances is motivated by love, by guilt, or by a cruel intention to toy with Yuu’s fragile heart is a dense mystery that Yuu will have to explore along with his own turbulent emotions and anxieties. Making the relationship even more complicated are Shizuku’s girlfriend and his intimidating classmate who knows more about Shizuku than young Yuu does, and Yuu’s own best friend, who struggles with his own relationship to Yuu now that Yuu has suddenly emotionally changed.

Many manga readers may be repelled from reading a homosexual-themed romantic manga because of the unconventional subject matter. But One Is Enough provides greater accessiblity than many yaoimanga because it proceeds into the core of its romance gradually and depicts a seduction of a heterosexual young man who’s won over by the heartfelt and tender affections of a sweethearted, innocent lover. Unlike many conventional yaoi manga to leap from introduction to sex almost immediately, the first sex scene in One Is Enough doesn’t occur until half-way through the book, allowing plenty of time for readers to meet and get to know the characters and gradually accept the growing intensity of the relationships between them. One Is Enough is also commendable for spending a great deal of time and emphasis on psychology and character anxiety. Yuu struggles with his newly recognized sexuality, wondering if he’s “normal,” how his classmates will respond to his homosexuality, and even whether he can accept himself. The story’s willingness to address anxiety and potential alienation make this story feel more serious and accessible as a dramatic relationship manga accessible to mainstream readers than a typical streamlined yaoi manga targeted at established boy-love fanatics.

As this is a homosexual romance story, it does include a few sex scenes, but the graphic art is always tasteful and discrete, including no gratuitous graphic nudity. One Is Enough is far more a story about relationships and young men working through their psychological troubles than a story about gay sex. The language is occasionally risqué and contains a small amount of swearing. The translation flows naturally and uses American colloquailisms effectively to establish distinct character personalities. The only noticable flaw in the dialogue translation is the minor error of “Why” replacing “What” in the question, “Why are you suddenly acting like a crazy person for?!”

The graphic art has been cleaned up for the collected edition. Particularly in the print edition, details look crisper and sharper, and screentones appear less hazy or blurry than in the original GEN Manga serialization. English text that was hastily pasted on top of the original Japanese text in GEN Manga issue 15 is presented in the collected edition in a proper clean typeset. The inclusion of the story’s final, previously unpublished 25 pages is also a very welcome addition to the collected edition, bringing the story to a proper, complete and satisfying conclusion, unlike the original GEN Manga serialization’s abrupt windup.

LOVE’s visual art takes distinct cues from romantic shoujo manga, occasionally utilizing amusing deformed designs for emphasis. Background art is minimal and is frequently just substituted with screentone, as is frequently the case with doujin manga. But the art design is sufficient to distinguish characters and avoid being distracting awkward or ugly. Panel layout is clear enough to ease readers through the story without being confusing. The core feature of One Is Enough is its raw and tearful emotional intensity. The story makes an excellent introduction point for readers curious about the boy-love manga genre and a satisfying read for readers that appreciate a thoughtful, substantial independent manga story. One Is Enough may not have the slick, polished perfection of boy-love manga by celebrity artists like Shungiku Nakamura, but it’s exactly its raw, heartfelt intensity that gives One Is Enough its memorable charm.

Anime Nation


I first read One Is Enough from Gen’s monthly releases, issue 11. With the first scene of Mizushima Shizuku sticking his finger into the mouth of Matsumoto Yuu – I realized that this is a manga title for the bl-fan.

The premise of One is Enough is not an original new story, since it shows a story of a kohai falling for his sempai. Something to be aware about is themes of cutting and bullying. This is a book appropriate for older teens.

The cover is actually misleading, since it happens to be Matsu kisisng the blushing Mizushima-sempai. Matsumoto  becoming quite the needy lover, with stalking tendencies, though it wasn’t apparent at the beginning of the story.

With the length of this story is, there really isn’t any high level character development, it can be established that the story was bare bone developed to just touch upon the relationship of the two leads. If there was a follow up, seeing if there there was expansion or more development for the supporting cast that was included like Matsu’s friend Sora or Miya-sempai is favorable.

This is a cute story, and it reading it would be for people who want to read most if not all bl – manga available in English. At this time the story has ended and like many single stories from Gen, they have been publishing it in a paperback copy.

Below is a panel from the story, as the art is quite simply drawn.

Anime Diet

Demon Huggers and Alien Girlfriends: Anomal

Anomal is a collection of weird Manga stories about spirits, ghosts, and the bizarre. From murder mysteries to the story of a man who can only get ideas when punched in the head by their pseudo-alien girlfriend, Nukuharu’s Anomal is a great example of Manga for the American audience who likes the adorably weird.

Compiled by Gen Manga Entertainment, the book is a collection of stories rather than one continuous plotline. This is great for readers like myself who have short attention spans and makes the comic easy to pick back up again after being distracted by a shiny object. As with most Manga, the eyes are drawn wide and the facial expressions are over the top. The book reads from right to left in traditional Japanese fashion as well.

One of the cutest stories included is about Nene, a girl who desperately wants to hug all the demons and spirits she comes into contact with. She trains with Abe, a boy with a demon inside him, so that she can become a controller of spirits and hug all the creatures she wants.  The reader can’t help but find her adorably weird.

Anomal is a solid collection of bizarre anime and would be a great place for beginners with Manga to pick up and enjoy.

Anomal is available July 29, 2014.

Fangirl Nation

Explore EDEN

Occasionally interesting comic stories emerge from creators who aren’t fantastic visual artists but diligently self-produce their comic stories nonetheless. Often times the results of such efforts remain little seen. Sometimes, such as the case with the early work of animator Makoto Shinkai, the strength of the story demands attention in spite of the limitations of the visual design. The epic fantasy story Eden by amateur Japanese mangaka “BASH” clearly seems to fall within this category of one-man self-produced comic art. However, after three lengthy chapters, EDEN, serialized in English by GEN Manga, is still an intriguing enigma.

EDEN appears to be a complex medieval fantasy incorporating Christian doctrine, Japanese mysticism, science-fiction, and horror. The story revolves around Toru, a mysterious cursed young man of indistinct age who maintains a tense stalemated antagonism with Angels. In the story’s first three chapters, Toru wanders into then escapes a mysterious wooded village separated from the rest of the world by bizarre time manipulation, all without Toru ever realizing that he may have a personal connection to the village hidden in his own amnesiac past. The story employs a familiar “enemy of angels” trope and seems to coincidentally borrow Berserk’s concept of a wandering protagonist perpetually followed and tormented by minions of his enemy. But the implementation of the story concepts doesn’t feel directly indebted to particular other works. In fact, the inclusion of a multitude of additional concepts, including Toru’s mysterious and forgotten past, uncertainty about Toru’s physical nature, a shape-shifting female crow companion, the village of wolf gods, and the suggestion that the familiar Christian story of Eden is an inaccurate facade all contribute making Eden feel unique.

But nearly 150 pages of story and far more questions than answers or plot development leave the reader feeling intrigued but also confused. The manga story’s tendency to introduce so many mysteries, including several not even mentioned so far in this review, inspire the reader to wonder if EDEN is actually tremendously epic or if it’s merely floundering with an excess of anchorless ideas, ambition without a road map to success. Foreground art design is atmospheric and evocative, amply creating a sense of deep, dark, and dangerous forests and caves. Background art, however, is frequently missing, especially in conversation and dialogue shots. Extended action scenes, particularly a lengthy one in the second chapter, are difficult to discern due to the limitations of the art design. Likewise, dialogue is sometimes difficult to attribute to the speaking character. Visual sound effects are kept in Japanese and left untranslated.

Despite some weaknesses inherent in the amateur visual art, EDEN is off to an intriguing start with a complex, fantastical story that poses many provocative, engrossing questions but provides no answers. No on besides author BASH yet knows whether EDEN will fulfill its tremendous promise of rich, complex epic fantasy or turn out to be a lot of pretentious suggestion with no satisfying follow-through. But these first three chapters are strong and interesting enough to merit recommendation to fans of deep fantasy manga. Readers who have enjoyed action/fantasy titles like Berserk, Claymore, Trinity Blood, Spriggan, Shingeki no Kyojin, and fans of doujin manga with great potential should definitely check out EDEN.

Anime Nation

Applause for Alive GN

Unlike many gekiga manga that focus on topics and themes of autobiography, politics, history, or outre absurdism, author Taguchi Hajime’s independent manga Alive focuses on the melancholy existentialism of the human condition. Hajime’s stories vary in character and focus, from fantasy to tragedy to even occasional comedy. Focal characters range from children to high school girls to middle-aged working men. But the unifying theme among all of theAlive short stories is a fundamental wariness and weariness of the multitude of small disappointments, rejections, and failures of life that chip away at our self-confidence and happiness. Yet each short tale also contains a glimmer of hope, a ray of light within the dark clouds that encourages the manga’s protagonists to persevere. Sometimes the silver lining is ironically mundane; at times it’s even phantasmagorical, serving to underscore the simple and even foolish but effective motivations that we look toward to provide the emotional strength to go on living.

The hefty 284 page print edition of Alive collects all 19 short stories originally serialized in GEN Manga issues 5-16, with the odd exception that the graphic novel edition of the story “Wall” omits the story title that originally appeared in GEN Manga issue 14. The omission actually strengthens the story by leaving just a little bit more to the reader’s interpretative intuition. Hajime’s visual art has a rough, uneven design far removed from the stylized beauty of mainstream shounen & shoujo manga. The rough, almost dumpy art excellently reinforces the manga’s theme that life is warty and broken, and even the most attractive people have their own anxieties and regrets. Several of the stories contain non-explicit nudity and/or moderately graphic sex. Adult language is rare but does occasionally appear in the smooth, natural-sounding English translation. Sound effects appear infrequently and are retained in Japanese without translation. Rare instances of Japanese text are captioned with English translation.

Within the large American scope of translated manga, gekiga, adult-oriented, manga and independent manga are a rarity. Taguchi Hajime’s Alive is an exceptional offering in the regard that not only is it indie adult-drama manga, it’s also excellent reading: thought-provoking, haunting, and memorable. Alive is a series of short tales that remind us that alienation, sadness, aimlessness, loneliness, and anxiety are feelings that all humans suffer, and it’s exactly these pains that define us and give us the strength to persevere, not for anyone else’s sake but for our own. Alive is not a celebration of life; it’s an affirmation of life, that life is tough and sad and lonely, but experiencing and surviving these pains is what makes us “alive.” GEN Manga’s collected edition of Alive is not a book for superficial readers interested in cliché and style more than substance. But readers that want to be moved by manga, readers that want greater depth, emotion, and substance from their manga should definitely pick up and appreciate Alive.

Anime Nation

Yuri Manga: Plastic Blue in GEN Monthly (English)

I’ve mentioned GEN manga a few times in the past few years, but let’s start with a recap, shall we? GEN manga is a small independent manga that licenses doujinshi directly from artists for their GEN Monthly manga. TheFebruary issue of GEN Monthly includes a Yuri story, “Plastic Blue.”

The story is competently told by creator Aji-Ichi with an overall sense of sweetness, without any of the creepy faux “innocence,”  that is so popular now.

“Plastic Blue” is available with a GEN Monthly subscription and GEN has a few sample pages up for you to check out.

This is a not-too-stereotypical beginning for Yuri’s first appearance in GEN’s anthology – here’s hoping we’ll see more Yuri in GEN Monthly!


A solid, bizarre collection

I always enjoy a good supernatural story, andAnomal has its share of them.

The back of the book describes itself as "weird tales of horror and the bizarre," which could lead a reader to expect horror in terms of, well, horror. Blood and guts and gore and terror and all of that. Anomal's stories involve yokai and creatures you might find in horror stories, but most of the tales in here are quirky and funny. 

Anthology manga usually have stronger stories and weaker stories, but Anomal is solid as a whole. No story stuck out as a favorite, but at the same time no story felt worse than the others. They all felt fun. Sometimes stories will touch on melancholic issues, but mostly they go for just being entertaining.

What sort of stories are we talking about? There's the story of the exceptional detective who is so shy he needs to wear a mask in front of most people. However, he doesn't act so shy when he gets his assistant to do some yaoi scenes with him in order to solve a case. 

There's the boy who's friends with a man-eating yokai, and she (the yokai) has fallen in love with him and wants to get married. The fact she eats his brethren seems like a non-issue to her. 

There's the masochistic high school inventor who only comes up with good ideas if he gets punched first. When a beautiful girl floats down to earth saying she's looking for a cute boyfriend, he says she can stay with him if she hits him. That makes things getuncomfortable interesting fast, and the inventor can't understand why she's not interested. 

Most of the characters star in their own isolated story. However, a few stories carry the same characters, like the girl who thinks yokai are so cute she just has to hug them. She wants to become an ayakashi-nushi (master of spirits) so that they'll hug back. The fact that some yokai are exceptionally dangerous doesn't seem to concern her or even cross her mind. 

Anomal is a short but sturdy manga collection. Some of the stories I wished could go on a little longer, though I also understand the point of ending them where they did so some mystery and brevity could be left. While doujinshi may vary in terms of artistic skills, everything here looked solid and professional. This is definitely a must-read for people who like their supernatural manga to have a little quirk. 

Otaku USA

Following up the first two chapters of Nagumo’s understated domestic comedy Let’s Eat Manga that appeared in GEN Manga issue 8, the individually released chapter 3 is a more subdued narrative that focuses more heavily on narrative development than highlighting varieties of ramen. The 14 page story continues to revolve around high school girl Saeki’s obsession with ramen that conflicts with her anxiety over visiting ramen restaurants alone while simultaneously subtly emphasizing the still transforming relationship between her and her classmate and fellow ramen connoisseur Hozumi. Nagumo’s art has a soft, pleasing design that resembles monochrome anime, and panel lay-out is dynamic enough to keep the mundane story visually interesting without being distracting. GEN Manga’s translation keeps the visual sound effects and background text intact, providing unobtrusive English translations whenever they’re particularly relevant. While not a groundbreaking chapter of manga storytelling, Let’s Eat Ramen 3 is a nice, well-crafted little slice of ordinary Japanese life that international manga fans should find enjoyable.

Creator Aji-ichi’s short story Plastic Blue is a welcome addition to the English language’s underserved selection of yuri manga. The short manga tale is a bittersweet look at adolescent hesitation and love between two schoolgirls. The sweet and vulnerable ingénue and the taller, standoffish tomboy are genre tropes, but they’re unexpectedly addressed with a unique approach in this short story. Visual sound effects are relatively infrequent in this story. Since they’re largely ancillary to the storytelling, they’re left as untranslated background designs. The art design is characterized by sharp line work highlighted by sharply contrasting deep blacks and light traditional shoujo screentone, creating an interesting hybrid look that evokes shoujo manga without putting off readers that aren’t typically affected by the flowery look of shoujo romance manga. The obtrusive weakness of the presentation, however, is the scan resolution that looks much too faint, resulting in a grainy, pixilated look that allows too much detail to evaporate. Especially for typical mainstream manga readers, Plastic Blue is a pleasant change of pace that does a good job of introducing its characters and setting and telling a brief, relatable story about an unconventional teen topic.



Plastic Blue a LGBT Yuri tale continues the return of GEN Manga monthly!

Plastic Blue is a story of two high school girls. One has a crush on the other, but has been turned down. Minato loves Shizuki, but will they ever get together? Plastic Blue is part of an on going series of short stories included in the collection Flavor.

Flavor Tales of high-school girls who make friends with the unlikeliest outcasts—witches, ghosts, and living dolls, ostracized and bullied because of their gloomy appearance and introspective temperaments.  These hapless characters find companionship and acceptance though serendipitous encounters with their seemingly commonplace counterparts. Both cute and endearing, the psyche of high-school girls is explored in a cute fantasy world of ghosts and other ghastly misfits.

Stone Collector Book One (GN, 188 pages, paperback, $14.95, 978-1939012074) Pieces of a curse fall from the sky as if to mock the cruelty and evil of humanity. These stones create wretched beasts and the blood of these beasts turn human flesh into the undead. There is only one thing that can destroy these hellish fiends—Jade Stone. This is the story of a Stone Collector—one who wields Jade-forged blades. A man whose family was murdered by these evil abominations, he now has vowed to rid the world of the foul presence!

Zom-J, aka Red Ice, is also the artist on the very popular Space Dandy, currently being

serialized in Japan and currently airing to rave reviews as an Anime on Cartoon Network.

"Stone Collector is a godsend for fans of grim, violent action/horror manga like Hellsing and

Claymore." — AnimeNation

GEN Manga

NEW YORK, NY – GEN Manga Entertainment, Inc. announces the release of Let’s Eat Ramen 3 with the return of GEN Manga monthly(one full year of all new indie manga, $24.00) will begin Jan. 2014.

GEN Manga is Indie Manga from the Tokyo Underground. GEN Manga was made to give fans an exclusive look at real doujinshi, otherwise known as indie manga, that they had heard about, but until now, unable to get their hands on. In its essence, doujinshi is manga traded among other manga artists. GEN Manga monthly launched with much acclaim in 2011. I In 2013 GEN Manga introduced new Korean underground Manhwa stories to indie manga fans in the pages of its GEN Manhwa monthly magazine.  

Now, GEN Manga monthly has returned with an exciting new digital and print publishing schedule for 2014. Here's what you need to know:

All-new original stories can be read every month exclusively on!

Also available, GEN is now offering fans access to it’s complete back issues archive, over 2300 pages of real indie manga and manhwa, all in DRM free downloadable PDF format for only $24.00!

“Let's Eat Ramen” is showcased in the Jan 2014 issue of GEN Manga. Let’s Eat Ramen is the story of Saeki, a girl who loves ramen noodles. At last, she thinks that she has finally found the perfect ramen shop, but the problem is the shop is completely full of old regulars and she can’t get in. Will the timid Saeki ever summon the willpower to reach out and get the ramen that she desperately wants? An indie manga about the finer points of eating ramen noodles from Nagumo the creator of the radio manga Radio de Go!

Nagumo, the author of “Let's Eat Ramen,” is also the author of the popular series Radio de Go! Making his debut in Manga Time Kirakira Carat in 2007. He has since made waves in the Japanese doujin community with his smash hit Radio de Go! Now, Nagumo will be releasing the 3rd installment in his original new story for GEN Manga titled Let’s Eat Ramen.

Sorako, GEN Manga’s first print release in 2014 (GN, 152 pages, paperback, $9.95, 978-1939012067), is now in stores nationwide. Sorako lives an ordinary life. And this is an ordinary story. She has friends and family, loves her dog, thinks about life, and occasionally looks for work (kinda). These are the adventures into a typical girl's life. (Author: Fujimura Takayuki)

Sorako reviews:

“Unique and uncensored, to expect the unexpected.”
—Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

“A Beautiful Slice of Life Manga.”

GEN Manga Entertainment, Inc. is a New York based entertainment company with worldwide publishing and licensing divisions dedicated to its continually growing family of manga and manhwa characters and titles. GEN Manga’s properties include multiple stories and countless characters spanning all manga and manhwa genres, all created by underground artists.

GEN Manga’s titles are available to the book trade through Diamond Book Distributors. GEN Manga’s titles is available to fans through all major retail outlets, including and

Digitally, GEN Manga’s titles are available on Iverse’s Comic+ app, Apple itunes, kindle, and nook. For more information please visit:
GEN Manga

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions. If you haven’t considered it before, try expanding your manga horizons as one of yours. As it so happens, Anomal is a great place to start.

A series of shorts by author Nukuharu, Anomal is billed as “weird tales of horror and the bizarre” with “a peculiar vision of the world.” It’s not nearly as dark as that description sounds, though it is that visionary: It’s a book with stories that incorporates Japanese folk tales, especially those around yokai, from the author’s unique perspective. Two of the stories are dramas, three are comedies, and all have the thread of “the beautiful tragedy” to them.

The book is part of Gen Manga’s fall/winter offerings. The start-up company publishes underground, independent manga from Japan, with full artistic control going to author/illustrators. Their books also debut in the US, rather than Japan, or do so simultaneously.

This past year, Gen made the transition from monthly anthology publisher to publisher of full-length graphic novels, such as Anomal. The monthly anthology is still available online, while books such as Anomal are available in hardcopy through local book and comic stores. Gen plans to release one compiled graphic novel a month in the coming year and beyond, cycling through their various authors at intervals.

The translation for Anomal is solid; it leaves no room for want. It should be noted, however, that the book’s sound effects are not translated. Names of people and places are also not translated, though they are described off to the side when pertinent to comprehension, such as “Me-me-sama” being described as “Mr. Eyes” in a footnote. For the manga connoisseur, or those looking to increase their Japanese reading skill, Gen’s manga is the top tier before an actual Japanese version of a comic.

The lettering is done well — it has breathing room and is always legible. Yet, in the first two stories of the book, there are terms with asterisks — which marks them as to be translated elsewhere on the page — whose translations are missing. The book could use a few more page numbers and a table of contents listing each story, as well. The art is a simple but elegant style, with the printing lines sharp and the ink quality very high.

There are yokai-based five stories in the book, and each one is connected through themes of connection or wish-fulfillment. The first, Kaeshi or “Returner,” is a twist on an old folktale, focusing on a young artist as he deals with the gift of vision from a hundred-eyed yokai, and its subsequent responsibilities. Keiken Sosa, the second tale, is more lighthearted: It shows a day in the life of a detective and his assistant, Sherlock Holmes style, but with a twist: the detective must reenact everything with his assistant in order to solve cases! >i>Ayakashi no Kotodama is a period love story between a female yokai and a human boy who is able to sustain her life force with his words.

Ayakashi-Nushi, the fourth story, returns to a mix of humor and the dramatic by mixing the tale of a schoolgirl and a half-yokai boy as she, shonen-action style, gains the trust of yokai the world over through the power of hugs (and battles). The final tale, Kaguya, goes into sci-fi territory and plays with the tropes of schoolboy alien-girl fantasy (think Tenchi Muyo!) — Kaguya comes down from space to find a boyfriend — but only so that she can escape her arranged marriage! Kasane thinks he’s hit the shonen jackpot, until he discovers both Kaguya and her fabulous fiancé are as vain as his own desire for a girlfriend.

Anomal is a good book that plays with genres and keeps the reader interested because of it; here again Gen has preserved the artistry of manga for those who want an authentic, yet English-language, version. A gentle-heartedness pervades the book, sweetening the tragedies and bringing jubilance to the comedies. All in all, Anomal leaves one with the thought that the world is both beautiful and tragic — and it is he who holds himself back that loses out.

Gen Manga
I feel like I should also give Gen Manga an honorable mention, because I’m a big fan of their work.  Most of the above collections are taken from alternative Japanese anthologies Ax and Garo, and several of the artists are relatively well-known, as I’ve mentioned.  Gen is a contemporary anthology of Japanese artists that reads a bit like a doujinshi, or fan-produced comic.  Each issue contains a story segment from an ongoing series, and every couple issues a story will end and another will begin.  Both the art and story are very unpolished, and the artists are unknown, but it’s nice to see something like this underway in English.  The price is right, as you can purchase all 16 digital editions for $24, and there are also print editions and story compilations available.  Their current project is a manhwa, or Korean, comic anthology.

Ongoing Investigations: Case #231

hisui_icon_4040 Anomal by Nukuharu in an interesting little book from Gen Manga. As Kate had mentioned in the past, anthology books like this are hardly unheard of in Japan but we so rarely get them in English expect for extremely popular authors and usually only when demand for their work is not being sufficiently met by the number of titles currently on the market. This is from a generally unknown artist so it is more outside the box than most single author anthologies we get. Then again Gen Manga tends to do things that most manga publisher don’t do.

While we might not be in the grip of the Yokai Craze like in The Monstrous Turnabout case in Dual Destinies it is hard to ignore the number of Yokai related stories lately in anime and manga. Not all the stories have various Japanese monsters but the majority of the stories are focused around them. There is one story about a detective and his new partner that is a bit of a BL tease but other than that is all tales of spirits and demons. I guess the last story is about an alien but she feel more like a goddess or kami than an alien.

The stories about yokai tend to be on the lighter side of the spectrum. This is not the uber-dark tales of Requiem from the Darkness or even the moody heavyhearted feel of Mushishi. The best anime equivalent for the stories would be the Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Godsor Kamichu! anime. It is a little litter than Natsume Yuujincho, which can get fairly melancholy when it wants to, but the stories can have a bit of bite to them. That said is would say it is not more than a bit of an edge. They are at most the medium salsa of Yokai tales. They are a bit if zest to them but not the harsh burn of human critique like some spicier shows.

Other than maybe Ayakashi-nushi none of the stories here really felt like series that needed to be longer series. They came in, told their story, and then the closed the door on their way out. But with a short story book like this that is often for the best. Stories that overstay their welcome can be a real pain in book like these. Also in general Yokai tales lend themselves to one shots equally as well as long form stories. Even many long form yokai series are often small stories inside of a larger framework that mostly exists to tell those small stories.

Anomal is an interesting little curiosity. I can’t say that any of the stories were the strongest things I read this year but they are light, breezy,and fun. With only one book it is a pleasant one shot that can satisfy an itch for less than spooky stories with a nice bit of heart. They are more candy than a full meal. Sometimes that is exactly what you need.

narutaki_icon_4040 Anomal by Nukuharu was a rare treat I got in the mail, thanks Gen Manga! I liked the small format of this short story collection and it fit with the quiet but odd nature of the tales within. This collection features yokai or other supernatural elements in different settings and with very different main characters. Each also had various relationships as a focus. Even though it says horror on the back, none of the stories are super dire. In fact, some have a stronger comedy bent and I found these more successful.

The 3-part story Ayakashi-nushi made me laugh because their personalities were well realized. It is about a partnership between girl who finds yokai so cute she is always trying to hug them and a boy who has a demon in his blood. It had a bit of what we’ve come to expect from things like Natsume Yuujincho: a spirit has a problem and our lead helps resolve it while we get their little backstory in the process.

Reverse Theives

Surprisingly ambitious

Yuki's school days just went from average to bizarre. An animal killer is on the loose, mimicking a string of killings from seven years ago; a loner from her school is now filming her on the train; someone is molesting her each day she rides.

This isn't what she bargained for, and could it all be related?

That's the conflict going on in Good-bye Geist, a one-volume mystery title from the indie publisher Gen Manga. It's an ambitious title that looks to tackle a lot in only 176 pages. Does the manga deliver?

Good-bye Geist 
Writer: Ryo Hanada
Publisher: Gen Manga 
Release Date: Jan 1, 2013

Billed as a mystery, Good-bye Geist is really a romantic tale with a mystery hovering in the background. Our intrepid protagonist, Yuki, notices that another boy at her school, Matsubara, has been recording her while they're on the train together. She figures for him to be a weirdo, but the one groping her on the train is a much bigger concern.

Meanwhile at school, someone has started killing animals in the building -- mimicking an incident that happened seven years ago. Back then, someone kept killing animals and left some around the building, all while writing mysterious messages. The person was caught, of course, but only after stabbing a student in the gut. Nobody wants things to get that far out of hand, so teachers and students are all trying to find out the answer.

As we find out, Yuki and Matsubara are wrapped up in this investigation, whether they want to be or not. Matsubara is the creepy loner who everyone presumes is the culprit, and some are worried he's going to try and kill Yuki -- or that Yuki will be his accomplice since they started spending time together.

You know how kids are. They jump to the craziest conclusions.

The one-volume story progresses in fits and starts from there. We see what happens with the animal killer, as well as how Yuki and Matsubara's relationship progresses through the course of events. In writing the story, Hanada could have spent a bit more time smoothing out certain plot points -- there were times in which I had to go back and re-read sections in order to figure out what was going on. Some of that had to do with changes in which characters were in focus, as well as some characters looking a bit too similar in some scenes. 

What I liked most about Good-bye Geist was how Hanada handled the relationship between Yuki and Matsubara. In fact, if they had cut out the whole "mystery" aspect of the story, and focused more heavily on the relationship, I would've liked it a lot more. That was the author's clear strength. I understand the motivation behind the mystery, though: using it as a framework to force two characters to interact when they normally wouldn't. The story is ambitious with how much it tries to do -- it keeps you engaged throughout, but sometimes feels a little cluttered. 

It's a flawed work, something that I'm not surprised by considering that it comes from the doujin market. But Hanada shows potential, both in the way she handles the relationship between characters and in the way she draws them when they are in focus; some close-up shots are wonderfully done. I'm genuinely excited to see what else this author can put out.

One of the unfortunate things is that Good-bye Geist -- at least the print copy I had -- was marred by printing errors. Dialogue boxes were cut off at the top of the page, others hidden in the middle of the binding. I had a few pages where it looked like the quality dropped, too. Perhaps others are fine, or I just got a bad print run, but if you're interested in reading this you might want to stick to a digital copy.

Score: 6.5


GEN Manga Entertainment will be at the NY COMIC CON 2013 this weekend! Come by and say hi and receive a special offer on our PRINT titles, plus get a limited edition COLLECTOR POSTCARD, too!

GEN will be at the New York Comic Con! BOOTH #2323

Be sure to come to meet us during your visit to the show. We’re looking forward to meeting all of our fans at the show.

Come visit our booth. If you mention this e-mail, you’ll get a special offer on our PRINT titles, plus (while supplies last) a limited edition COLLECTOR POSTCARD, too!

MAP - Find GEN MANGA here @Booth #2323

GEN Manga
GEN Manga 
You might not think seinen and boys’ love go together... but why shouldn’t they? GEN Manga, a publisher of seinen doujinshi, also has some boys’ love for its readers. 
Otaku USA

GEN Manhwa Issue 4 Review

The post-apocalyptic adventures of monster hunter Nicholas transition into their second story arc in the fourth monthly issue of GEN Manhwa. The 37-page digital issue features a full-color cover and 32-pages of stylish monochrome art channeling the spirit of Japanese series including Trinity Blood, Vampire Hunter D, and Trigun.

The seventh chapter of writer Kevin Han & illustrator Zom-J’s Korean action/horror comic Stone Collector sees wandering Novum Stone monster hunter Nicholas, with his new companion Liz, venture away from Holy Town and into the Iron Desert to reunite with an old friend. The latest chapter is imbued with suspenseful tension but is entirely dialogue-based, introducing a new character and setting up a scenario for fresh action to come in the next chapter. Similar to the prior installments, the dialogue is occasionally a little bit clunky, as though it’s more concerned with evoking masculine intonation than sounding like natural speech. Furthermore, while Liz has never been an outspoken or independent-willed character, in the story’s seventh chapter she’s reduced to a mere narrative object not even worthy of a name. She’s only referred to as “little girl,” and her sole function is to look incredulous and serve as a MacGuffin. Where the first story arc at least attempted to make her sympathetic, as the second story arc begins, Liz has so little presence that she acquiescently accepts everything said and done to her without any evidence of objection or rebuttal. In effect, the testosterone-fueled story turns from feeling masculine to outright sexist.

But readers may be able to overlook the reductive treatment of a series’ supporting character by becoming engrossed with the series’ super stylish artwork. Zom-J’s crisp line-work and dynamic contrasts of white space with swaths of pitch black are captivating and impressive. Sound effects are subtle and integrated deftly into the artwork. They’re also left untranslated, which may or may not disappoint select readers.

The first six-chapter story arc of Stone Collector is now available from GEN in a complete “Book 1″ collection, allowing new readers to conveniently and quickly catch up to the story contained in this month’s issue. Fans of stylish action comics should definitely invest the minimal amount necessary to check out this exclusive new offering from GEN Manhwa.

GEN Manga has released the complete 156-page collected edition of Kosuke Kabaya’s mixture of charming and morose speculative romantic sci-fi mangaAndroid Angels. The “doujin” manga depicts a future world in which consumers can easily rent android companions, but only for a three-year span, leading to questions about the morality of erasing the memories of artificial humans and what happens to human relationships abruptly broken off every three years. The book is available to subscribers or available to non-subscribers for $2.99 as a permanent download.

GEN Manhwa issues 2 & 3 contain chapters 3-6 of writer Kevin Han & illustrator Zom-J’s sci-fi/horror/action/western comic story Stone Collector, finishing up the story’s action-packed first adventure. As established in the manhwa’s first two chapters, Nicolas, the wandering swordsman with a haunted, tragic past finds himself in a small, close-knit frontier town besieged by hideous monsters. Bringing a morality lesson closer to the forefront, the later chapters of the story reveal more of the townspeople’s true sentiments, evoking ambiguity about who the most ruthless monsters in town really are. Possibly as much to martyr himself and shame the inconsiderate villagers as achieve his conspicuous goal, Nicholas pushes himself virtually beyond his own human limitations to fight fire with fire, in a sense, and eradicate the monstrous threats.

As is typical of Korean manhwa, the art design in these chapters ofStone Collector is stylishly crisp and sharp, although particularly in issue 3, the art periodically becomes so frenetic that it becomes impressionistic because literally discerning what’s happening is practically impossible. Ultra-prominent speed lines and impressionistic rendering leave panels without enough clear detail to distinguish exactly what’s happening to whom. However, fans of action horror manga such as HellsingTrigun, and Vampire Hunter Dwill be familiar with this style of art design and enjoy this quite a bit. The dialogue and story forming the remainder of the first story arc are serviceable, if a bit predictable. Once again, fans of action/horror manga should have little to complain about. The English translation in issue 2 appears largely error free, although its tendency to avoid contractions makes the dialogue feel inappropriately formal and stilted. Although largely corrected in issue 3, the third issue does still include line translations like, “As you can see I am in no kind of state to drive,” that sound wordy and slightly unlike natural speech. The climax of issue 2 also concludes with Nicholas’ exclamation, “This novum host is going to be a force not to be reckoned with!!” followed by “This is really gonna suck…” which certainly suggests that Nicholas intended to say “a force to be reckoned with,” and not “a force not to be reckoned with.” The third issue’s translation feels a bit more natural but also includes more small but distracting errors. Overlooking the unclear antecedent for the pronoun “his,” the line, “And the king lamented and seeked out the immortal to offers all his wealth…” uses the made-up word “seeked” instead of “sought” and uses “offers” instead of the grammatically correct “offer.” The word “reign” is spelled incorrectly in “…continue her dark rein,” and a possessive apostrophe is missing in, “…but because of your stones size…” However, since the bloody, furious action is the manhwa’s raison d’être, most readers won’t notice or won’t be bothered by minor grammar errors in the dialogue translation. The dialogue in both issues includes occasional instances of harsh language, but considering the gruesome, grotesque context of the story, more gentile language would actually be more inappropriate. Original Korean sound effects are left intact in the panels.

Coming across nearly exactly like a hybrid of Hellsing and Trigun with a bit of Claymore mixed in, Stone Collector is a fast-paced, highly stylish enjoyable diversion for manga readers that appreciate gratuitous gruesome horror action.


Gen Manga, a digital and print publisher specializing in Japanese indie manga, has signed with Diamond Book Distributors for print distribution to the book trade. Gen Manga publishes monthly anthologies of manga titles as well as standalone tankobon (original graphic novels) featuring “doujinshi,” or original manga that have been self-published or independently published and are the equivalent of American indie or alternative comics.

DBD’s Gen Manga distribution will start in October 2013. Under the new distribution agreement, Gen Manga titles will be available to general trade book market worldwide. The company has 6 backlist titles and plan to publish 7 new titles in 2013 and 12 new titles in 2014 (one per month).

Gen Manga also recently launched Gen Manhwa, a monthly anthology of Korean Comics (manhwa is the Korean term for comics), as well as Sorako by Takayuki Fujimura, an original 154 page manhwa graphic novel for $2.99. Typically Gen Manga/Manhwa releases its anthologies and books in digital editions first and makes print editions available through B&N and other outlets. Gen Manga also publishes its English-language manga simultaneously with its Japanese language editions.
Publishers Weekly

Top 5 Digital Manga Websites: Feed Your Reader and Stay Legit

A few days ago, as Michael noted, JManga announced it is shutting down. The significance for many users was grave: Since JManga was a streaming site, most of the users will lose access to the manga that they paid for when the site goes dark on May 30. It’s unfortunate, as JManga offered a lot of quirky, interesting books that probably wouldn’t succeed in print.

There’s still plenty of manga out there for your e-reader, though, and unlike JManga’s selection, it’s downloadable.

Barnes & Noble has a robust selection of manga for the Nook. Viz, Yen Press, Digital Manga Publishing (DMP), Seven Seas, and Manga University all publish manga for the Nook. Check before you buy, though, because not every book is available on every platform; some are available only for certain devices or apps. Amazon and iBooks also carry manga, but Barnes & Noble seems to have the most robust selection.

Viz is the largest manga publisher in the U.S., so naturally they have the largest selection of titles available digitally: Action stories like Naruto and One Piece, romances such as Vampire Knight and Hot Gimmick, classics like Neon Genesis Evangelion, and arty titles like Natsume Ono’s Tesoro and Taiyo Matsumoto’s GoGo Monster. Most single volumes are priced at $4.99, and omnibuses are a good value at $8.99 to $9.99. Viz also publishes the digital magazine Shonen Jump, which carries new chapters of an assortment of manga released the same day they come out in Japan. The Viz app is available for the web, iOS, Kindle Fire, and Android. Yen Press and Kodansha Comics have their own iOS apps, and Dark Horse has web, iOS, and Android apps as well.

ComiXology doesn’t have a huge selection of manga, but what’s there is pretty good. Here’s their manga page; their most noteworthy titles are Hetalia: Axis Powers, the classic Cyborg 009, and a wide selection of volumes from Digital Manga Publishing (DMP). Prices vary widely; Hetalia is 99 cents per chapter (and the first chapter is free), Cyborg 009 is $4.99 per volume, and the DMP books are all over the place, from $2.99 for the shoujo manga Mizuki to $9.99 per volume for their yaoi titles and Vampire Hunter D. ComiXology has the advantage of being available on multiple platforms, including the web, iOS, and Android, so you can sync across different devices.

eManga (Warning: May not be safe for work) is DMP’s own website, and it carries a wide selection of Digital’s own titles (mostly yaoi manga, with a sprinkling of shoujo as well as the flagship title Vampire Hunter D). Digital gets singled out for special mention because unlike all the other apps mentioned, they offer DRM-free downloads in PDF or a variety of other formats. Digital offers a lot of titles at a wide variety of prices. However, the reason for the NSFW warning is that they also carry hentai (erotica) and photo magazines of models, which they mix indiscriminately among their other titles, many of which are teen-friendly. Plus their crowded site design is a little hard on the eyeballs.

GEN Manga offers alt-manga in a variety of genres at a very affordable price, and everything they publish is a downloadable PDF. Until recently, their flagship title was a monthly magazine, but that has been put on hiatus. They are still publishing single volumes of manga, and they now have a monthly manhwa (Korean comics) magazine.



Good-bye Geist

It's an unexpected love story. It's about a lunatic who kills cats. It's a bit of a mystery. It's about the perils of being a schoolgirl riding the train alone. All of these descriptions fit Gen Manga's most recent graphic novel, Good-bye Geist by Ryo Hanada, and while that can make for a story that tries to do too much, it also makes it difficult to put down.

The heroine of the piece, and the character who really pulls the whole thing together, is Yuki Okazaki, a third year high school student. Yuki rides the train to and from school by herself and has been getting groped lately. She's also noticed another student, Matsubara, on the train with her, but the fact that he always has his cellphone in his pocket with the record light on makes her suspect that he's just as creepy as the mystery groper. She confides in her close friends about both of these things, and they in turn bring up Spirit, the animal killer who stalked the school seven years ago. Spirit appears to be back, or at least have an imitator, and since his or her run ended with a student being stabbed last time, there's a lot of concern about what this means. (Plus, dead cats. That's never something you want left lying around.) Whether or not Spirit is related to Yuki's individual problems is uncertain, but Matsubara is just weird and off-putting enough that the kids are willing to believe he could be behind everything. At this point they enlist the aid of a teacher, which is a nice change in a school-based manga. Not only do the kids go to him, but he also proves to be utterly upstanding and concerned for his students' well-being, making him something of a rarity in a genre (the school story) where teachers are more likely to be portrayed as evil, useless, minions of the system or romantic interests. In fact it is Yuuki-sensei (presumably this was less confusing in the original Japanese) who inadvertently facilitates the solving of the mystery, in as much as it gets solved.

Good-bye Geist's problems stem from simply being too ambitious for a single volume story. Given another book to allow things to play out, Hanada could have drawn out Spirit's story so that it was much clearer and more easily understood, as well as resolved a few other plotlines which are left hanging. The relationship between Yuki and Matsubara is very interesting and rather different in terms of character appearances and the general thrust of the high school romance, and it feels safe to say that this is the most developed part of the book. However it, too, suffers from being condensed into the space of a single volume, making the earlier parts less compelling than they could have been. Simply put, as a longer series, Good-bye Geist could have been fascinating; as it stands, it is merely interesting.

Gen's production values are significantly higher with this volume than with their last graphic novelrelease, Wolf. Pages are far thicker and no longer resemble tracing paper, now being comparable to other manga volumes. The translation is smooth and the bubblegum pink cover, while somewhat misleading, is eye-catching without being of the stoplight brightness that plagued Wolf. Alignment is off on some of the text, however, with the tops of speech bubbles getting cut off and some edges near the binding being too close to read. While it is generally easy enough to piece together the dialogue, it is still an issue that one hopes Gen will remedy should a second edition go to press.

Hanada's art is an interesting combination of shoujo and the more grotesque character designs of ashounen manga. Yuki's triangular face is clearly intentional, as flashbacks to when she had longer hair give her a rounder face, and the fact that she looks like the same character in both situations speaks well of Hanada's talent. Panels flow easily and tones are used almost exclusively for shadows, with backgrounds kept to a minimum. The Spirit storyline is resolved in a series of flashbacks with black bordered pages (primarily in an epilogue), which works nicely with the ominous tone of that plot and also implies that while we as readers need to know what happened, the characters perhaps do not.

Good-bye Geist is an odd book, but one that is still quite enjoyable. It doesn't resolve everything, which is too bad, but it does take an unusual, ambitious angle on the basic high school story. Should Ryo Hanada be given more pages, it seems likely that the result would be well worth reading. Consider this a preview for a mangaka who, given the chance, could go places.

Anime News Network

BLOG Sorako: A Beautiful Slice Of Life In Manga

One of the things that has always fascinated me about comics is how easily the medium adapts to any kind of story, and how, at times, reluctant it is to do so. Don’t worry, I’m not going to bang the drum about how we should all stop buying superhero books because they’re not artistically worthy because I don’t believe that. Sequential art is sequential art and you find what you love where you find it, no one else.

But colour outside the lines a little and you get some really amazing work. The extraordinary bodies of work of Eddie Campbell and Marc Ellerby are great examples of this in the UK, as is the work of the late, great Harvey Pekar in the US. However, the idea of comics about ordinary life, and exploring how that ordinary life can be made extraordinary and beautiful is something that only manga publishers truly excel at.

Which brings us to Sorako, by Fujumura Takiyuki. Sorako is a normal twenty-something. She has a dog. She applies for jobs, and she gets through the days the same way we all do, one step at a time. The point here is not the plot itself but the commonality of experience. Sorako’s life is the same as ours; completely mundane and filled with moments of extraordinary beauty as a result. There’s no real sense of urgency, no driving plot, because there isn’t one in the real world, and that, fundamentally, is where the comic is set. The ebb and flow of conversation and the world Sorako makes her way through are all beautifully captured by Takiyuki’s subtle, expansive style, grounding the story and letting each moment breath.

This is beautifully observed work, funny without being forced and empathic without being manipulative. It’s also currently being financed through KickStarter by publisher GenManga. Their plan is to raise funds for a print run of the complete title and some of the pledge levels look excellent. Digital copies, wallpapers, print copies and sake cups are all up for grabs and most importantly, the book’s easily achievable.

Sorako is a beautiful series about life, dogs and occasional jobs. It’s a series about how life happens whilst everything else is going on. It’s a series that anyone who has hit the aimless period of their twenties will recognise and it’s a must if you’re a fan of slice-of -ife comics at their best. Sorako’s life is universal, Sorako’s life is unique and Sorako’s life makes for fascinating, familiar reading. This bsolutely deserves your attention.


GEN Launches GEN Manhwa, a New Korean Comics Anthology

GEN Manga Entertainment, which specializes in publishing Japanese independent comics simultaneously in English and Japanese and in print and digital formats, is launching GEN Manhwa, a new monthly anthology of Korean comics beginning this month. To launch the new anthology GEN is also offering Sorako by Takayuki Fujimura, an original 154 page manhwa graphic novel for $2.99. Manhwa is the Korean term for comics.

The GEN Manga business model, and now the GEN Manhwa model, offer fans access to monthly anthologies of Asian comics released first in digital (for $1.99 a month) and then in print editions available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon for $9.99. GEN Manga and GEN Manhwaare also available for digital downloads via iTunes and the Iverse Media Comics Plus app.

As an introductory offer for the new anthology, GEN Mangaeditor-in-chief Robert McQuire said that all subscribers toGEN Manga will receive free access to all GEN Manhwacontent, including “Stone Collector” by Kevin Han and Zom-J, the story of cursed stones that turn people into zombies, which will be serialized in the anthology, and Sorako, a standalone graphic novel about an young, typical Korean girl and her dog. Digital editions of GEN standalone original graphic manga/manhwa titles sell for either $1.99 or $2.99. The discount introductory offer will last for a month.

GEN Manga publishes “doujinshi” or comics akin to American independent or alternative comics. The publisher, which publishes in Japan and in the U.S., was among the first publishers of licensed Japanese manga to begin publishing simultaneously in Japanese and English. Simultaneous publication is considered critical at a time when North American manga fans demand to read the same popular manga titles that Japanese fans (and now Korean fans) are reading. Simultaneous publication, rather than waiting a year or more to license and republish in English, is also considered key to fighting manga online piracy.

While Japanese manga and Korean manhwa may look much the same to the casual or first time manga reader,GEN Manga editor-in-chief Robert McQuire explained that, “hard-core manga fans know there’s a difference, a big distinction between the two,” when asked why the company launched a second anthology. “The fans would be upset if we just published Korean manhwa and called it ‘manga,’” he said.

GEN Manga has released about 16 digital/print volumes and McGuire said the manhwa anthology will begin releasing print editions after it has published enough material. Print volumes are generally released about a month after the digital issue is published. GEN also plans to begin releasing more standalone graphic novels (called Tankoban in Japan) from Japan and Korea, as well.

Publishers Weekly

GEN Manga Offers Free E-Books, Prepares to Launch Korean Comics Magazine

If you’re a digital comics absolutist who wants to own all your comics in DRM-free format, and you like manga, GEN Manga has got you covered. The monthly manga magazine launched in April 2011 with a reader-friendly model: Each magazine includes chapters of four or more serials, and the first issue is free. You can buy individual issues for $1.99 or subscribe for $1.99 a month, which gives you access to all back issues as well as some of their collected graphic novels. And it’s all presented as DRM-free PDFs, which means you can download the comics to any device you like and read them with any PDF reader app—no proprietary app needed.

If, on the other hand, you like the convenience of a particular e-reader or app, GEN is happy to oblige: They offer their magazines for Kindle and iTunes and in the Comics Plus app, and on each of these platforms, the first four issues are free and the fifth is only 99 cents. I checked in with publisher Robert McGuire about this, and he told me that they are testing to see how GEN does on different platforms and that the prices may change in the future—so download your free issues now!—but that may include making later issues free as well.

I reviewed the magazine for MTV Geek a while ago; that post includes some images, so you can get an idea of what the comics look like, and here’s a preview of Kamen, one of their series. And McGuire explained the basic business model of the magazine in an interview with Otaku News around the time they launched. Basically, the magazine is digital first, and they release the early issues for free so new readers can get involved in the stories and then will be willing to pay for new installments.

An image from Kamen, one of the manga serialized in GEN Manga Magazine

With nearly two years of monthly magazines under their belt, the editors of GEN are changing their approach a bit this year: They will take a break from the monthly magazine, but they will continue to collect the series into graphic novels, and they are introducing something new: Manhwa, Korean comics. “We will start with one title at first at two chapters a month (around 50 pages) and go from there,” McGuire told me. “The genre of this title (Stone Collector) is best categorized as seinen as it is 16+. The creators are professionals that work for Japanese manga studios as well. This is one of their original manhwa. It’s a non-stop full of action title full of monsters and zombies! Very high grade stuff!” The first chapter, which McGuire describes as “pretty explosive in comparison to what you have been used to seeing from us so far,” will be released for free to the public, and the second and subsequent chapters will be for subscribers only.

Incidentally, while those free issues are free on every platform, the formatting is somewhat different. Most manga reads from right to left, which sounds a little daunting but is actually quite easy to get used to. (I was over 40 when I started reading manga, and I have no trouble switching back and forth.) However, the way the book is formatted can make it easier. The version in Comics Plus is the easiest to read, because the pages also flow from right to left, so you swipe from left to right (the opposite of most e-books) to turn the page. The Kindle version swipes the other way, which may feel more natural, but you’re reading the pages one way and turning them the other way. The worst of the three by far is iBooks, which always displays the book as a two-page spread, whether you are reading in landscape or portrait mode; the problem is that the pages are arranged left-to-right but they read right-to-left, which even I, a manga veteran of long standing, found confusing. The Kindle version will work on the Kindle Fire, Kindle Cloud Reader, and the Kindle apps for iPad and Android, so if you don’t want to use the Comics Plus app, Kindle is probably the way to go.


A fascinating doujinshi offering

Yuki is trying to live her life, but she’s unsettled by a young man on the train who seems to be filming her. Things get even worse when a creep uses an umbrella handle to push up her skirt. While many manga and anime will use groping and harassment in trains as a form of humor (something that tends not to translate well to foreign audiences, who find it offensive), Good-bye Geist shows this as upsetting and wrong. Yuki seeks out help from others, but finds there’s more to the guy filming her than she initially thought.

There are also cat murders in the book, and the manga opens with Ryo Hanada cautioning readers and assuring us this behavior is not condoned. This is an unnerving beginning for animal lovers, but thankfully it’s not as bad as the note makes it out to be. There are some suggestive scenes of animal violence—and, yes, they’re upsetting—but they’re kept to a minimum and no actual violence is shown. Mostly the killings are discussed by other people.  Something similar happened years before with violence against animals, and it led to violence against people. Now the characters in the book are trying to figure out if there’s a connection and who is hurting all these cats. 

So Good-bye Geist opens up in a very unusual way, introducing us to a world with a girl being harassed on a train and cats being killed by an unknown assailant. How are these things connected? This is definitely a very unusual manga, and one that doesn’t give away clear answers. It’s avant garde and curious; the kind of manga that makes the reader keep thinking about it afterward. 

GEN publishes doujinshi, and some people might expect the manga to therefore be amateurish and not as skilled as professionally-done manga. But anyone picking up Good-bye Geist can see that Hanada is a talented artist, and the story is interesting. The story has an “indie” feel since it doesn’t fall easily into a category or feel like other manga out there. There are some romantic elements in it, but it’s not a romance. There are some horrible things that happen in it, but it’s not a horror book, either. It’s tempting to say, “I wish some parts were more clear,” because I won’t pretend I understood everything in it. However, the purposeful enigma of the piece also has its appeal and keeps the book fascinating.

Otaku USA

Ryo Hanada's Good-bye Geist is the fourth manga tankōbon to be released by Gen Manga. It collects the entire story of Good-bye Geist which was initially published in volumes six through eleven of the Gen monthly manga magazine between 2011 and 2012. The collected volume of Good-bye Geist was released in 2012. I had followed Good-bye Geist as it was being serialized and was delighted when Gen Manga offered me a copy of the collected volume for review. Prior to reading Good-bye Geist, I was not familiar with Ryo Hanada or any of Hanada's work. However, this shouldn't be too much of a surprise--Gen Manga specializes in finding amateur, underground, and independently created manga to publish in both Japanese and English. Good-bye Geist is one of the first of these stories from Gen to be completed and collected in its entirety.

Seven years ago a series of animal killings ended tragically after a student was stabbed at a local high school. When another series of killings surrounded by circumstances bizarrely similar to the first occurs, the students and staff of Senkan High School are understandably worried. They're concerned that once again the perpetrator's actions may escalate from killing small animals to severely injuring, maybe even killing, another person. Somehow, Yuki Okazaki becomes embroiled in the incident, but the killings aren't the only things she has to be nervous about. College entrance exams are coming up soon, for one. She has also been repeatedly molested on the train during her commute to school and a fellow schoolmate, Sousuke Matsubara, has been secretly recording her with his cell phone. Yuki turns to her friends and a teacher for help, but the results of doing so are somewhat unexpected.

What I find the most compelling in Good-bye Geist is the development of the relationship between Matsubara and Yuki. Matsubara is extremely awkward socially; he makes other people feel uncomfortable and they are hesitant to approach him. At the beginning of the manga, Matsubara gives off a creepy vibe--he is recording Yuki without her consent after all. But Yuki is also carefully watching Matsubara. She doesn't write him off immediately and even reaches out to him. The act of looking, watching, and observing is very important in Good-bye Geist. This is particularly significant for Matsubara who has a difficult time making direct eye contact to being with. Hanada emphasizes eyes and gaze in the artwork. Many panels rely on the characters' glances to convey meaning.

Good-bye Geist has a marvelously ominous atmosphere to it. The storytelling is somewhat fragmented and Hanada employs flashbacks and flashforwards rather liberally. At times the ambiguity caused by this is an effective narrative technique, but at other times it makes the plot unnecessarily difficult to follow. The climax and final conflict in particularly seem messy and even a little forced. This is unfortunate as so much of Good-bye Geist develops organically. Who the culprit behind the killings is, although revealed, isn't explicitly stated or shown which may be confusing for readers who haven't picked up on all of the hints. And I'll admit that I'm still unclear of the significance and implications of a few of the scenes included. But even considering some of the difficulties with the storytelling, overall I really enjoyed Good-bye Geist. I'd certainly be interested in reading more of Hanada's work.

Experiments in Manga

Manga Review: Wolf

Title: Wolf
Genre: Shounen, Sports, Boxing, Drama
Publisher: Gen Manga
Artist: Shige Nakamura

Wolf is an odd ball manga, and I say that with tongue in cheek. It involves the sport of Boxing. If you have heard of Boxing or follow it devoutly, you know how some boxers generally study their opponent in the ring or likes to wait until his/her opponent fights so aggressively that he tires him/herself out, then in the later rounds that boxer stops avoiding and starts attacking with precision and power? That’s kind of how Wolfoperates. It started off sluggish and pretty mediocre, like a fighter who had little business being in the ring, then transformed into a moving, fast paced story that, unless you can’t deal with the old school type of art or you can’t deal with some of the contrivances early on, makes this manga an enjoyable, fun work to read again and again.

Shige Nakamura’s story is simple: we follow the main character Naoto Kurosaki, who travels to Tokyo to meet his father. Unfortunately, he doesn’t travel for pleasantries — he traveled to kill him. Naoto failed because his father, Kengo, is a professional boxer, and Naoto can’t come close to matching him in speed or power. So what does he decide to do? He of course decides to stay in Tokyo at the gym, and with his father’s encouragement, he takes up boxing. As he starts getting into the ring and into more matches, he soon realizes the opponents he has to face and the challenges they present, forcing Naoto to try and train harder to become a better boxer, until the fateful title match with his father.

As you can probably tell, the story can be considered kind of odd. Naoto claims he wants to kill his dad. The reason for this stems from Kengo leaving Naoto and his mother alone 12 years ago so he could box professionally. I’m certain in a realistic setting you wouldn’t travel to Tokyo just to decide to kill someone — you’d probably try and not associate with that person forever. His mom of course doesn’t suspect Naoto wants to kill anyone, which ultimately makes you question exactly if she was ever too unhappy in the first place: hint, she wasn’t. So immediately, in questioning a key part of the narrative in work, that’s generally a sign the story isn’t going to go anywhere.

But Wolf managed to mostly overcome this and broke through with me in the end because of two reasons: the Boxing and heart. The Boxing part of the series took over and made the manga endearing, as with the matches that took place, it was either heated, full of emotion, or entertaining to turn the page and find out what happens next. When it came to heart, it ultimately means seeing how Boxing changed Naoto’s mindset, from one desiring to kill a person to someone who ended up in love with Boxing. And while his mindset never wavered from his original intention, the chinks in the mindset were planted throughout many of the challenges he had to go through due to some tough opponents, and while it seems to get too light towards the end, I enjoyed this part of Wolf a lot, and can say as long as you can tolerate some of the story flaws, the manga will get you turning that page until you get to the conclusion.

But while it did still manage to be a solid read, that’s about its ceiling. It can’t get any higher than that unfortunately due to reasons aside from what I’ve already discussed is a problem in Wolf: the art and the other characters in the manga. The art feels like a throwback, as it harkens back to the past, giving the manga a classic, old-school style feel to it. If Nakamura intended to aim it to be this way, so be it. The only thing is that alienates potential readers since some probably reject that type of art. Of course, even those with interest in still reading something like this will notice some of the movements (especially early on) are pretty mediocre and poorly drawn. The art gets better as it goes on, so it doesn’t turn out to be a big deal. The real deal comes down to the characters. At least aside from a few of them, they are either not developed or pointless inclusions. I’m not certain why Shota, a big kid who aspires to be a Sumo Wrestler, was ever brought into this story (he appears in chapter 1) especially since he rarely appears in the manga, or contributes in a meaningful way.

So I don’t think Wolf can manage to be anything other than a solid read for some, a mediocre read for others. If you’re in need of sports manga and can deal with a flimsy premise, Wolf will not waste your time. If you’re in need of a moving drama, Wolf may also be worth a look. Otherwise, you may not want to check this out if some of the elements described above are a turnoff.

Organization Anti-Social Genuises

When we first meet Naoto Okami, he is slouched in a train seat, glaring at the world. His body language screams “angry young man” and when Shota, the boy through whose eyes we are introduced to our protagonist, asks him why he's going to Tokyo, Naoto's response is, “To kill a man.” This is hardly a promising start for a character we're going to follow for over 400 pages, and yet by the end, readers are cheering Naoto on. As far as ringing endorsements of an author's ability to develop a character go, this is a pretty good one. Even better is that Naoto's transformation from malcontent to up and coming athlete is so subtly done that you barely notice the switch. Nakamura works in small scenes of dog saving and calling home, quieter moments in the mad whirl of guys punching each other, that let us know that underneath the hard exterior, Naoto may just be a hurt kid.

With this pleasant subtlety, it seems a shame then that Nakamura included the character of Mayumi, or Yumi as she is more frequently known. The young manager of the Hirahara Gym, Yumi is the first to see that there may be motivation other than rage driving Naoto...and she keeps repeating it. Why does he save the dog? Obviously because he sees himself in the abandoned animal. Why is he so reliant on that one punch? Naturally because of something his father said before he left. Yumi frequently sounds like a pop psychology article in a parenting magazine, and her presence drags the story down by narrating what the reader should be coming to realize for himself. It doesn't help that Nakamura is not adept at drawing the female form – as the bustiest lady in the series, Yumi really just looks like a man with a couple of beanbags stuck under her shirt. High school girl Chisato, who cameos as the representative of Naoto's fangirls, doesn't fare much better in her depiction, coming off as aggressively stupid. Fortunately for the ladies, Nakamura does include one stronger woman – Naoto's mother. While it is easy to damn her for passively waiting for her husband to return, by the end of the volume, we can see a quiet strength in her that makes her arguably more powerful than either of her hard-hitting men. It isn't necessarily a strength that a western audience will immediately relate to, but it is fair to say that Mrs. Okami is in fact the heart of the story.

And Wolf does, for all of its boxing scenes of men pummeling each other, have a lot of heart. Naoto's determination to defeat his father becomes less about revenge as the book goes on, and even readers who aren't fans of boxing can appreciate his growing love of the sport. As his matches become more high stakes, the tension is palpable, and like all good sports stories, we can really get into rooting for the underdog. This is also a case where fight scene narration doesn't detract from the story, although for readers with more of a knowledge of the sport than this reviewer has, that may not be the case. Punches are named and explained by the match announcer and Naoto's coaches – a benefit of having a rookie boxer for a hero. Nakamura does a credible job of depicting movement, and while he doesn't show the brutality of the sport to the same degree as, for example, Baki The Grappler, he doesn't skimp on the bruises or flying spittle and mouth guards. One of his greatest strengths is the physiques of the fighters – the boxers are all leanly muscled and exude a wiry strength that serves to give them an air of tightly coiled power. At times the shirtless men can look a bit triangular with ludicrously little waists, but overall they work.

At $12.95 for the print edition or $4.99 for the digital, Wolf is a lot of book for your buck. Almost 450 pages, the volume contains the entire run as serialized in Gen's monthly magazine, plus a long bonus story taking place between the two final chapters that is only available here. The pages are very thin in the print edition, and the white paper shows some bleed through, although not enough to distract from the page you are reading. Nakamura's 1960s style art looks a bit nicer on paper than a screen, although what format you read this in will really come down to your personal preference. There are fewer type-os than in Gen's previous graphic novel release of VSAliens, and paper thickness aside, the spine is flexible and fairly crease-proof, making this a very nice book. But perhaps Wolf's greatest appeal should be in the fact that this is a sports manga in English, and not only that, but a good one. Even if boxing isn't your sport of choice, Wolf gives us a hero we can get behind in an interesting story with a mix of action an underlying emotions.

Anime News Network

Gen Manga's Publishing Program

EIC and President Explains

Published: 11/02/2012 01:34am
We had a chance to chat with Robert McGuire of Gen Manga recently, to discuss his company and its releases.
Describe your company and what you do.
We’re indie manga from the Tokyo underground.  We publish original indie manga from Japan. All of our artists are indie manga artists also known as doujinshi.  We publish them first anywhere in the world.  We publish in English and Japanese simultaneously digitally. 
We offer a digital subscription to a monthly magazine.  The monthly magazine has a variety of different artists in it, a variety of different stories each month.  We’re constantly introducing new ones.  We cover all genres.  Once the stories collect and become popular we release them as single one-shot graphic novels. 
How many print releases have you had?
Fifteen of the ongoing series, Gen, and then we have threetankobon, or three one-shots.  We plan to release about three times as much of that next year.
Three times as many tankoubon?
Yes, next year.  Nine to twelve next year.
Tell us about your recent releases
When we first started out we kept things not too edgy because we didn’t want to scare anyone off, but some of the recent issues, the last two, we’re introducing some edgier stories. Psycho is one of them—it’s about a post-apocalyptic Japan where once again Japan has become an isolated island and people have started growing mutations.  They change into inanimate objects; they change into animals, to monsters, but the monsters are man killing beasts so hunters roam the land and have to kill these beasts.  The story is about one particular hunter named Psycho.  That was just introduced recently in Gen.  It’s one of our new ones in digital and print.
And we just released a tankoubon called Good-bye Geist.  It’s a high school story about a girl being sexually violated on the train (felt up), which happens all the time in Japan, and somebody’s filming her.  Meanwhile at her class someone is brutally slaughtering cats and leaving messages on the board. It’s a mystery psycho thriller and you have to find out who did it and why the guy’s filming her.  We don’t have any more titles before the end of the year.
How are your titles distributed?
Diamond, Iverse, and Ingram.

NYCC 2012: Conversations with Gen Manga’s Nagumo

October 18, 2012 | by Linda and Monsieur LaMoe | 2 comments

Categories: Conventions

Filed under: 

Nagumo is a Japanese mangaka of Let’s Eat Ramen (ラ-メンを食べよう). This is a title that is included in Gen’s monthly magazine. The first two chapters are included in issue 8. Being a foodie manga fan, I fell for reading this slice of life story of a girl exploring her passion for a food outside her comfort zone.

Recently I had a meeting and conversation that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I am grateful for Robert McGuire of Gen Manga to allow Anime Diet and myself an opportunity to interview Nagumo who was present during NYCC’s weekend.

Nagumo-sensei that day was dressed in a blue yukata top and a black hakama bottom, with the interpretive assistance of Lily Cernak. Later I also consulted with Monsieur La Moe for translation assistance, so here is the conversation that took place.

Linda: What led you into this industry? How did you get started?

Nagumo: Oh, the first time? When I was a little, maybe four or five years old, I liked drawing. I liked it for a long time, so I continued to draw. After I graduated from high school, I thought I wanted to become an animator who drew televised anime. However, since I have drawn seriously from childhood, I noticed that I was already a manga artist.

L: What was your inspiration for writing Let’s Eat Ramen? Now the ending was pretty open ended, do you plan for a follow up? (Robert McGuire mentioned earlier to me, that there was a third issue, so there is going to be a follow up to Let’s Eat Ramen.)

N: Currently in Japan, a manga I am right now working on: Water Girls is serialized inManga Time Kirara Carat. I am friends with another artist from the same magazine. One time I was having a conversation with him, and he asked, “Hey Nagumo-san, you like eating, so why don’t you draw manga with an eating theme?” And that was the starting point.

The story of Let’s Eat Ramen will continue.

L: What inspired Saeki, in terms of drawing and personality? Any one individual did you base her of? Looking at her drawing at times, would it have been better if you done her hair shorter or without glasses?

N: Ummm. I didn’t base Saeki on a real person or at least of one person. One thing I had in mind, I thought a girl wearing a scarf was really cute, and maybe only that.

L: Were there any real life inspiration of experiencing ramen yourself that was reflected in this story?

N: Yes. A lot. My favorite ramen is miso.

L: Have you tried any ramen places in New York yet? Do they even compare to counterparts in Japan?

N: Not yet. Right now, only pizza. It’s just four days since I arrived in America, so I haven’t been able to try many foods yet, so I can’t compare.

(I mentioned Ippudo, Naruto Ramen as a possible ramen places for Nagumo-sensei to try out.)

N: Ippudou is everywhere in Japan. Naruto ramen, guruguruguru? (reference to the fish cake)

(A brief tangent ensues with me trying to explain where Naruto Ramen was located in New York City.)

L: What is the first thing that a person should look for when they’re trying out ramen places for themselves? Any customs/rituals should they be aware of? Or any interesting ritual you yourself practice when going to ramen places?

N: That’s a difficult question.

L: What are your thoughts on ramen being like an American version of burger or pizza?

N: Ramen is a Japanese version of hamburger? Well… a little different. American hamburger in Japanese way is more like nikuman (meat bun), gyuu-don (beef bowl). Ramen is a bit different. Come again? (So many kinds of American burger). This is a difficult question. Japan has a lot of hamburgers. In America, is noodle common? Oh, I see. But I think hamburger and ramen are difficult to compare.

L: Is your awkwardness for trying out French restaurants still the same as when you mentioned in your author column?

N: Yes, the same. It’s difficult to enter a luxurious high class restaurant by myself.

L: What is a typical day like for you when you are working on a project?

N: Personally? I work the whole day facing the desk. The entire time.

(I asked roughly how long, and threw in the example roughly about 12 hours?)

N: Is that Japanese?

(I mentioned that I heard it from Felipe Smith. Nagumo affirmed that it was the same and we moved on.)

L: There has been works like BakumanGA Geijutsuka Art Design Class, or Dojin Work, or even parts of Genshiken that speak about the process of creation for the manga business. Is your experience anything similar or different to what American readers can read about?

N: Well, it’s partly based on real life, not entirely, but it’s pretty true. There are parts thatBakuman and Genshiken draw true to life and partly not depicted. The part that is not depicted is probably where readers may find boring, and don’t want to know about.

L: For example?

N: Example? I think I better not say that, (laughs). Yet, how to make the boring part interesting is a manga artist’s skill. It’s hard to say in one sentence, but to sum it, ummm.Genshiken has its own theme they want to draw, and Bakuman has its own theme they want to write.

L: I wanted to see if there was a difference between Doujin writers and serialized manga.

N: The difference is that we don’t have editor for doujinshi.

L: What type of subject or genre do you usually prefer to draw?

N: Food and also romantic comedy.

L: What do you view as the most challenging manga/art subject or genre that you have worked on?

N: Is it about Ramen, or commercial publishing in general? I think is a challenge in general to work on something I have never written about before.

(I mentioned thoughts on the possibility of more of his works becoming available in English?)

N: My work? I don’t have any plan other than Ramen manga. But as for the doujin that I’m writing, I’m okay with asking if these be translated in English by Gen Manga. So it depends.

L: What is your research process like?

N: Well I search online, look at books. For example if it was Ramen, then I will go out to try Ramen. A few years ago, when I was writing Radio de Go, I went to visit a radio station for research.

L: What has been your favorite Anime or manga?

NAria by Kozue Amano for anime as well as manga. My favorite manga also is  GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class.

L: What do you want to be remembered as?

N: The only thing I want is for readers who can enjoy my work. Only that.

L: What is a message you would love to say to American fans?

N: What? I never imagined that I had fans in America, so this is very surprising to me.

Directly after my interview with Nagumo-sensei, he began his signing session with patiently waiting fans. Due to being camera shy, I was allowed to take a photo of his hands as he drew and signed Japanese copies for Let’s Eat Ramen.

Also be sure to check out Anime Diet’s Flickr for photos of Gen Manga’s booth at NYCC 2012.

Anime Diet

Let's Eat Ramen Manga Creator Nagumo to Attend NY Comic Con

posted on 2012-09-27 15:45 EDT
Radio de Go!, Water Girls creator to host autograph, Q&A sessions at October 11-14 event

Gen Manga Entertainment announced on Thursday that mangacreator Nagumo (Radio de Go!, Let's Eat Ramen) will attend New York Comic Con. Nagumo will hold autograph sessions and Q&A sessions daily at the convention at Gen Manga's booth.

Nagumo created Let's Eat Ramen (pictured at right) earlier this year exclusively for the eighth issue of the English manga anthology Gen.Gen Manga Entertainment describes the work as follows:

Let's Eat Ramen is the story of Saeki, a girl who loves ramen noodles. At last, she thinks that she has finally found the perfect ramen shop, but the problem is the shop is completely full of old regulars and she can't get in. Will the timid Saeki ever summon the willpower to reach out and get the ramen that she desperately wants?

Gen is a digital magazine with limited-edition print copies that features Japanese underground artists. The magazine launched last year.

Nagumo debuted with his three-volume Radio de Go! manga inHoubunsha's Manga Time Kirara Carat magazine in 2007. His Water Girls manga is currently running in the same magazine.

New York Comic Con will be held at the Javits Convention Center from October 11-14. The convention will also host actress/singer Yuu Asakawa, Blogger/TV host Danny Choo, Crypton Future Media, artistYoshitaka AmanoSunrise producer Kazuhiko TamuraYoung King Ours editor-in-chief Masahiro Ohno, and manga creators Moyoco AnnoMasakazu KatsuraToshio Maeda, and Masakazu Ishiguro.

Anime News Network

The 15th issue of doujin manga anthology GEN is now available. This month’s issue introduces Aji-ichi’s serial “Flavor” and includes the latest chapters of ongoing underground manga Psycho, Android Angels, One is Enough, Stones of Power, Anomal, and Alive. Read on for my review of the issue, and be sure to drop by GEN Manga’s booth at this year’sNew York Comic Con. Nagumo, author of the “Let’s Eat Ramen” story that appeared in GEN issue 8 will be on hand to sign autographs.

Issue 15 launches with the premiere chapter of Aji-ichi’s school dramedy serial “Flavor.” Veteran otaku may immediately notice that the attractive shoujo-style art resembles the work of artist Shinobu Ohtaka – particularly Aji-ichi’s tendency to switch between normally proportioned characters and super deformed characters for comedic effect. Readers may also immediately recognize a narrative lineage to stories like Kimi ni Todoke and Yamato Nadesico Shichihenge that revolve around schoolgirls ostracized because of their gloomy appearance and introspective temperament. However, sticking with the first chapter reveals that “Flavor” has some interesting narrative developments in mind, applying some unexpected plot turns to the familiar tropes. The art design is attractive, making good use of screen tones to add depth, fine line work to create attractive characters, and plenty of visual detail and creative incorporation of sound effects to jam pack a lot of visual impact into the panels. During its first few pages, “Flavor” seems to aim for mediocre redundancy, but by the end of the first chapter, the story does a lot to begin establishing its own identity and providing readers with a fun, unpredictable tale.

Lumo’s apocalyptic romantic tragedy Psycho has been an odd beast from the outset, but its third chapter is by far its most eclectic. This month’s lengthy installment of the story is a dizzying cornucopia of ostensibly conflicting themes and styles. The third chapter includes graphic nudity, non-graphic sexual assault, sly gay humor, extreme & horrific gore, provocative political intrigue, and practical fan-baiting parody. The visual art shifts from its normal design to elevated abstraction to recreation of highly stylized ancient ukiyoe. The dialogue likewise contains some strong profanity as well as highly formalized speech that sounds just as pretentious as it attempts to convey unique characterization. Conventional wisdom would be hard pressed to call this chapter “good,” but reminiscent of the wildest 1980s anime that included everything but the kitchen sink, this chapter of “Psycho” is so over-the-top, so sheerly bizarre that it manages to be a fascinating and memorable reading experience.

With humor and charm, Kosuke Kabaya’s sci-fi serial Android Angels continues to explore the practical & philosophical relationship between humans and artificial humans. The latest chapter introduces an intriguing contrast between a particularly robotic human being and an android trying her best to express humanity. The dichotomy is depicted subtly in an intelligent and amusing way, largely through dialogue. Regrettably, this chapter merely establishes the setting and characterizations before concluding for the month. Kabaya’s art design occasionally continues to reveal some odd perspective and noticeable absence of detail. But at the same time, this latest chapter demonstrates his developing artistic expertise with excellent panel layout, evocative background art, and lovely art design on the androids he’s now so experienced drawing.

The yaoi fans will adore the delicious drama ripe in the latest chapter of Love’s boy-love serial “One is Enough.” As one relationship seems to end, a new one appears to begin. The latest chapter introduces plenty of teen sexual identity angst, existential isolationsim, and subconscious homoeroticism. The chapter also includes some mild graphic homosexuality and a little bit of strong language. The art design retains its flowery shoujo-esque look, but character rendering stay more consistent as the artist’s skill seems to improve with experience.

n a regrettably short and very brisk new chapter, Isora Azumi’s supernatural drama “Stones of Power” reveals itself to be a more intriguing and complex story than previously suggested. The latest chapter also takes the story into territory much darker and morbid than previous chapters, despite the story’s progressive movement from lighthearted comedy toward a more serious, dramatic, and morose tone. This excellent chapter rouses excitement and leaves the reader eagerly anticipating more with its intense story, attractive art, and introduction of supernatural action scenes.

The latest chapter of Nukuharu’s supernatural comedy “Anomal” takes cues from stories including Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu, Nurarihyon no Mago, and Natsume Yujincho yet creates its own unique and very amusing tale about a school girl that wants to become a lord over yokai yet has no idea that such a power even exists. The narrative character introductions and development are energetic and fun, but the effect is slightly compromised by the chapter’s rather stilted art. Character movements are depicted stiffly, and narrative transition between panels feels hurried, as though the artist was too eager to tell his tale instead of letting it develop at its own, natural pace. However, provided the reader can overlook small weaknesses, the art design and narrative are both substantial enough to make the chapter rewarding and enjoyable to read.

In true underground manga fashion, the “Red Rice” chapter of Hajime Taguchi’s regularly powerful serial “Alive” is a highly evocative nostalgic budding love story that both looks and feels like a masterful manga from forty years ago, magically transposed into the present. Readers with a preference for conventional, commercial manga may find “Red Rice” offputting or uninteresting, but readers with an appreciation for excellent sequential art storytelling will immediately find themselves drawn into the story by its strong characterizations and phenomenally evocative design that captures all the right details and creates a totally immersive atmosphere. This fantastic endcap wraps up GEN issue 15 beautifully and justifies any investment in the issue by itself, even independent of the remainder of the issue’s excellent content.


GEN Manga News Flash

September 27, 2012 By 

While I haven’t always been crazy about the content of GEN Manga, I admire its underlying business model. Editor-in-chief Robert McGuire has done a terrific job of making the magazine accessible to readers, with free web content, inexpensive subscription models, and myriad options for buying print and digital editions of each issue. GEN has also been branching out into book publishing as well, offering inexpensive trade paperback editions of stories from the magazine.

The magazine’s fifteenth issue was just released this week. It features seven stories that run the gamut from horror tofantasyscience fiction, and boys’ love. Though many of the plotlines sound familiar, there’s enough variety in the issue to compensate for any staleness of conception. Moreover, the issue offers both brand-new series and ongoing ones, making it easy for new subscribers to pick up the magazine.

If you’re planning to attend New York Comic-Con, look for the GEN Manga booth (#1025). GEN will be hosting Nagumo, author of Let’s Eat Ramen, a story published in issue eight of GEN. GEN has promised more updates about its NYCC 2011 plans via its Twitter feed, so stay tuned!

The Manga Critic

Author of the Doujin Smash Hit Let’s Eat Ramen! at New York Comic Con 2012!

GEN Manga Announces the appearance of Nagumo at NYCC 2012!

Nagumo will be signing and talking with fans daily at NYCC (Oct. 11th-14th )

NEW YORK, NY – GEN Manga Entertainment, Inc. announces the appearance of Nagumo, the author of Let’s Eat Ramen at the official GEN Manga booth #1025. Nagumo will be conducting signings and Q&A’s daily with fans throughout this year’s NYCC. 

Nagumo is the author of the popular series Radio de Go! Making his debut in Manga Time Kirakira Carat in 2007 he has since made waves in the Japanese doujin community with his hit Radio de Go! Nagumo released an original story earlier this year exclusively for GEN Manga titled Let’s Eat Ramen.

Let's Eat Ramen is the story of Saeki, a girl who loves ramen noodles. At last, she thinks that she has finally found the perfect ramen shop, but the problem is the shop is completely full of old regulars and she can’t get in. Will the timid Saeki ever summon the willpower to reach out and get the ramen that she desperately wants? An indie manga about the finer points of eating ramen noodles from the creator of the radio manga Radio de Go!, brought to you by Available now in GEN 8  (162 pages, 1.99, available now)!

Flavor by Aji-chi, is GEN Manga’s latest edition to the exclusive underground anthology.

Tales of high-school girls who make friends with the unlikeliest outcasts—witches, ghosts, and living dolls, ostracized and bullied because of their gloomy appearance and introspective temperaments.  These hapless characters find companionship and acceptance though serendipitous encounters with their seemingly commonplace counterparts. Both cute and endearing, the psyche of high-school girls is explored in a cute fantasy world of ghosts and other ghastly misfits. NOW APPEARING IN GEN 15 (182 pages, 1.99, available now)!

GEN Manga

Although I have a keen interest in the martial and fighting arts, for some reason boxing has never really been my thing. So, I was a little surprised when Shige Nakamura's boxing manga Wolfquickly became one of my favorite stories to be included in Gen Manga's monthly independent manga anthology. Wolf was initially published in the first ten issues of Gen between 2011 and 2012. Gen Manga subsequently released the entire story, including the epilogue "The Wolf Who Came Home" (which didn't appear in serialization), in 2012. However, Nakamura had been working on Wolf for several years before its official publication. Wolf is the third collected volume that Gen has released, following VS Aliens and the first volume of Kamen. But, it was the manga from Gen that I was most excited to see collected and released in print. I was very happy that Wolf was published in a single volume, giving readers the chance to enjoy nearly five hundred pages of story in one shot.

Twelve years ago, Kengo Kurozaki abandoned his wife and child in Hokkaido in order to pursue a career in boxing. His wife Yuki has forgiven him and still loves her husband. His son, however, still holds a grudge. Naoto Okami has travelled alone to Tokyo in search of his father and revenge only to find Kurozaki has become the head coach at Hirahara Gym. There Okami discovers an opportunity to not only fight with his father, but to do it on Kurozaki's own turf--the boxing ring. Okami is quickly accepted by the other members of the gym and almost immediately begins training as a sanctioned boxer. He exhibits a great deal of potential and natural talent, not to mention one of the strongest right straight punches anyone has seen. But one exceptional skill won't be able to carry Okami all the way to a championship match. If he wants to take down and show up his father in the ring as a boxer, claiming the championship title for himself, Okami must be prepared to make the needed sacrifices.

Nakamura's art is a little rough in spots, but the fights tend to be well-done, quickly paced, and dynamic. The physical development and weight change brought about by Okami's training can also be seen. Backgrounds are kept fairly simple and are often nearly non-existent. Although slightly disorienting, it does emphasize the importance of the characters and what they are going through. As the protagonist, Okami is the mostly full-realized character in Wolf; his outlook is the one that develops the most as the story progresses. In the beginning he is a very brash, rough, violent, and angry young man. He never entirely loses those characteristics, frequently lashing out at those who would try to help him, but he slowly is able to come to terms with his father and their broken relationship. Boxing at first was merely a way for Okami to seek revenge, but it ends up becoming an important outlet for him for many other reasons. Eventually, he comes to love and enjoy the sport on its own merits.

Although it may not be particularly original, Wolf is a solid sports drama. The characters' relationships and personal struggles are just as important as the boxing, training, and fights. Nakamura is able to balance those two elements of the story; they enhance and play off of each other nicely. Occasionally the story was in danger of becoming overly sentimental, but Nakamura never quite crosses that line. I was happy to see that Shota, a secondary character introduced early on in the manga and one of Okami's first true friends, continued to make appearances throughout Wolf. I was also very glad that the collected edition of Wolf included "The Wolf Who Came Home." Although not entirely necessary to provide closure to the story, it does tie everything together better, including the opening sequence which is largely ignored for most of the main story. Wolf may not be the flashiest or most polished manga, but it is a very satisfying read. I enjoyed Wolf immensely.

Experiments in Manga

Naoto is a rising boxer determined to defeat his father, who abandons his family years earlier to become a boxer himself. He journeys to Tokyo, and begins the hard road of training for victory and success. This is a dry preview that you would get from me, otherwise I’ll spoil the reading experience.

Wolf has been a part of Gen Manga, since its first issue, so the story has finally concluded and gotten the same experience Kamen and VS Alien has enjoyed, all 10 chapters and a special epilogue bound into one convenient one volume read. This is either going to be in a pdf or a print format, a reader’s preference. Personally I have read both versions, and can say which version is better. The end questions is, whether or not a person wants the extra weight in their bag vs. losing a file if an e-accident happens.

At first glance or a flip through the pages, anyone can surmise that this is a sports manga with a human interest aspect. I am not into reading many team sports manga, but since this is a story on guts and glory.. (not mentioning the sweat).. then it should bring in some readers who would appreciate seeing an underdog rise, and a variety beyond other existing seinen titles in English.

In the world of manga, any subject can be represented. Wolf as a story is not as original, the ending is pretty predictable, with some surprises as to how certain situations played out. It joins other known manga boxing titles that anime and manga fans have already known about. Titles like Hajime no IppoOne Pound GospelAshita no Joe. Those all cover multiple volumes, but if you want a short read then Wolf at one volume is a good choice.

What stood out for me about Wolf was two things, hope in the fact that things would change with hard work (cues Rocky music) and the mention of a minor character who is a training sumo wrestler that Naoto met at the very beginning. There hasn’t been any sumo manga that has been translated into English, so on the rare occasions I get to see the mention of another type of sport, my interest perks up. I happened to read this book in one subway read, so then how fast would you read this book in order to know what happens?

Anime Diet

Demonstrating a very encouraging evolution, this month’s 14th issue of indie manga anthology magazine GEN is the best issue yet, featuring substantial, fascinating chapters of six ongoing Japanese doujinshimanga serials. Read on for an extensive issue review.

The second chapter of Lumo’s sci-fi/horror tale “Psycho” switches into dense expository mode, revealing a bit of a yaoi origin that’s been creeping into recent issues of GEN, and a tangled web of tragedy and tortured emotions that reveal the story as a more affecting tale than the action-oriented first chapter let on. Reaction to the chapter will certainly vary by reader, with some finding it too melodramatic while others will appreciate its precious manner. The ambition of the story, however, it unmistakable and commendable. Other technical aspects of the story are a similar compromise. The graphic art has a visual consistency that the first chapter somewhat lacked, but occasional designs look rough and incomplete. Furthermore, Psycho’s characterization and even visual design skews wildly from very masculine to extremely feminine to a medium hybrid. Ultimately, the chapter is a very interesting expansion of a rapidly evolving manga tale.

Kosuke Kabaya’s latest chapter of Android Angels is a loose continuation of the story from last issue. Unlike previous installments of “Android Angels,” however, the “Butterflies of Metro City” chapter is a highly enjoyable hybrid of otaku satire and gentle, heartwarming romance. The series’ art design, which began as a sort of homage to the vintage manga of Shotaro Ishinomori, in this chapter becomes very contemporary, resembling the comical designs of the “Mini-Pat” and Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu Utakoi anime. The story will certainly appeal to fans of humorous otaku-philosophy manga like Genshiken and Maniac Road while, at the same time, the story manages to work in serious analysis of the way humans naturally perceive relationships. As “Android Angels” has been consistently getting better with each passing month, this latest story is the most complete and affecting episode so far.

Love’s third chapter of One is Enough lays on the gay romantic angst thick and heavy. Although not graphically explicit, this chapter includes some strong language and intense events that could possibly offend the most sensitive readers. Just like this month’s chapter of “Psycho,” this chapter of “One is Enough” may polarize readers into either appreciating the story’s emotional wrangling or finding it all over-the-top. The very diversity of possible reaction, however, designates the work as a provocative one. The visual art is soft, warm, and very expressive, although proportions are sometimes just a little bit off or distorted.The latest chapter of Isora Azumi’s “Stones of Power” once again feels like a bit of an anomaly within GEN because the story simply doesn’t look or feel like an amateur manga. Especially like the previous month’s installment, the story has a graceful, refined look and a very confident, measured story that feels like a talented veteran manga creator’s creation rather than an amateur’s work. This month’s chapter reveals a bit more information about the current storyline and deepens its characterizations a bit, but doesn’t advance the action of the plot very much.

Nukuharu’s very short Anomal chapter seems like a bit of an odd hybrid between an art style reminiscent of Hiromu Arakawa and Sorachi Hideaki and a narrative reminiscent of CLAMP’s XXXHOLiC. The supernatural tone and vaguely anachronistic setting continue to evoke Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi. Although this month’s relatively short chapter revolves around serious and melancholy themes, its focus and its art design keep the story decidedly lighthearted.

Artist Hajime Taguchi’s “Alive” story this month is a single long story rather than the typical collection of shorts. As usual, the tale is a philosophical introspection on the nature of human ambition and the degrees at which people strive for more or simply accept the disappointment of “reality.” This month’s story may not have the most original narrative, but it compensates with unusually attractive background art and an especially strong depiction of sequential action through illustration. It makes for a good, satisfying conclusion to an especially strong issue of GEN.

GEN issue 14 feels like the publication’s strongest singular issue so far thanks to an eclectic variety of stories that all feel particularly substantial and memorable this month. GEN proves itself to be an essential primer on today’s underground and non-mainstream Japanese manga. Issue 14 is rewarding reading for regular readers, new readers interested in manga that’s a bit off-the-beaten-path, and aspiring artists that want to examine emerging and evolving brand new manga straight from the creative heart of Japanese comic culture.


"Wolf" is a one-shot manga from the folks who brought you "GEN Manga Magazine," and in fact it was serialized in "GEN." The main character was abandoned by his father, a professional boxer, as a young child, so of course he takes up boxing and hunts down the old man so he can kick his ass—and ends up being a member of his gym. It's a good shonen manga with a couple of twists and a lot of heart.

Otaku USA

We start off this week with a new collected edition from GEN Manga – Wolf. This is an all-in-one collection of a series they ran in their monthly anthology. It's one of my favorites from their unique assortment of independently created titles so I was happy to see it included on this week's shipping manifests. This book clocks in at a whopping 450 pages and sports a simple but bright and very eye-catching yellow cover so it won't be hard to spot!

The story follows a young man named Naoto who travels to Tokyo to find his Father who abandoned their family when Naoto was a child. When he finally finds his Father, he discovers he's a champion boxer. Naoto decides then and there that he will defeat his Father on his own field of pride and starts training to became an even greater boxer than he is.

Otaku USA

I’m still playing catch-up with Gen, the underground manga anthology that comes out monthly. It’s an interesting package, and worth checking out. They actually re-launched recently, so starting with issue 11, it’s a whole new ballgame. You can read these digitally for a $1.99 monthly subscription fee for the whole lot, which is super-cheap. They also recently released collected editions of some of the stories that ran in the first 10 issues, so those are worth checking out too, if you’re not into the whole serial thing. I’ll be looking at Wolf before too long, but check them out there if you are so inclined.

Kamen, Wolf, and Souls 2 hold down the fort again, much the same as they have been since issue one. Kamen enters a lengthy and very interesting fight scene in this issue, where it looks like another supernatural contender steps up that may be a match for the mystery mask. Wolf is in the middle of a boxing match, and that gets interesting as well when Okami figures out how to counter his opponent’s punches. Exciting stuff, and it looks like the story will move on to something else next issue. Souls 2 is still better than the first installment at this point, though I’m still a little confused about the situation. I get that the two main characters are living in a sort of brothel (which will dovetail nicely with my review of Sakuran today), and that the pigeon is a sort of bright spot for them. I get that the brothel is miserable. But apparently the boy has some sort of… psychic connection with the pigeon? And the pigeon’s owner enters the story from elsewhere, unconnected? Otherwise, there’s some more dwelling on the situation at hand. I’m hoping one more installment will make things more interesting here.

Sorako returns, last seen in issue 4. I like this story a lot, though it is little more than the mundane life of Sorako, who appears to be a NEET that is too lazy to get a job. But it’s easy to sympathize with her, and I’m curious to see where the story is going from here.

Alive continues, and it appears to be a series of one-shot stories about people losing, then finding value in life. It’s a little heavy-handed, and I liked the story last volume a bit better than this one, but it’s still good in its way, and I’m looking forward to more.

Again, these issues can be a little bit of a mixed bag, but they’re so different than other manga releases, and so cheap, that they’re worth taking a look at.

Slightly Biased Manga

Gen Manga has been around for a little over a year, producing a monthly anthology magazine of doujinshi (in the self-published sense rather than the fanfiction one) stories, and now their first collected volumes are hitting the virtual shelves. Available as both an ebook and in print,VS Aliens is a strange little tale of aliens, cute girls, and mixed motives that definitely requires some time to think it over, but overall introduces readers to a mangaka with the potential to craft some interesting stories.

The premise of Yu Suzuki's first work is fairly simple – Kitaro is an unremarkable high school boy who is suddenly approached by a cute girl he's never interacted with before. The girl, dark haired, bespectacled Aya Segawa, is afraid that another schoolmate is an alien. She claims to have seen Sana Sakuma's true form as her powers of transformation begin to wear off, and Aya's worried that an alien invasion is nigh. Kitaro's not quite sure what to make of this, especially since Sana is in the way of being the school idol – pretty, smart, and talented. Does that make it more or less likely that she's a visitor from outer space? Mostly, however, it feels as if Kitaro just feels a little sorry for Aya, possibly because he worries that she's deranged. So jokingly he talks to Sana and tells her that Aya thinks she's an alien. This has some unexpected consequences, and before Kitaro knows it, he's smack in the middle of something that he doesn't really understand.

That feeling of confusion also makes itself known to the reader, and the temptation is at first to simply write the book off as being immaturely written. While it's true that it is not as polished as the works of more seasoned mangaka, or those working more directly with the editors of a large publishing house, upon reflection after the book is finished, it becomes apparent that Suzuki did indeed have a clear path that he was following. The reader is kept just as confused as Kitaro as the story progresses, watching the genre jump around from “school days” to “sci fi” to “conspiracy story” and back again, giving us, perhaps, more sympathy for Kitaro than we might otherwise have had. It is a large risk to take, and while Suzuki isn't quite at the level where he can pull it off seamlessly yet, for the most part, if the reader is willing to go along with it, it does work.

Suzuki's art is light on both the tones and the backgrounds, mostly using gray spaces to denote nighttime scenes and giving us very few background details. In some cases this works well, such as the old bus/train station; when the scene is in someone's house, it is a little less effective. In general, however, it gives the story a positive otherworldly feel. His people, particularly the girls, have a slight K-ON! flavor to them in terms of faces and their overall shapes. Movement isn't a major part of the plot, but when we see a shot of Sana playing basketball, she does look as if she has been caught mid-jump.

Overall, VS Aliens is, while clearly the work of an unpolished author/artist, an enjoyable romp. Readers need to go into it prepared to be as manipulated and confused as the protagonist, but the result is a silly, entertaining tale that doesn't fit comfortably into any one genre. If you're looking for something a little different from the norm and just off the mainstream, VS Aliens is a good place to start exploring the underground world of indie manga.

Anime News Network
GEN Manga, a print and digital publishing venture specializing in doujinshi, or Japanese self-published and indie manga titles, announced an agreement with Editora Abril to distribute its titles in print in Brazil. Portuguese versions of GEN Manga titles will be available in Brazil beginning this summer.
GEN Manga is a New York-based publishing venture that distributes Japanese alternative or indie manga worldwide. The company also specializes in simultaneous publication of its books in English and Japanese, a critical strategy to both satisfy the global fans of manga and the best safeguard against digital piracy. The company has a small office in New York with two full-time employees and about 5 freelancers who work on translation and production.
GEN Manga publisher Jonathan Sirota said,  “Our worldwide publishing and licensing program is quickly expanding. It’s exciting to know our wide range of popular story genres and fun characters will now be distributed directly to manga fans via Editora Abril’s impressive distribution channels across Brazil.”
In an interview at the PW offices, Robert McGuire, editor-in-chief of GEN Manga, said the first specializes in manga aimed at adults that is out of the mainstream of commercial Japanese manga. Doujinshi is Japanese indie comics, although the category in Japan has a reputation for copyright infringement, since fans often create “fan fiction” versions of their favorite manga titles. However McGuire emphasized that GEN goes direct to professional manga creators in Japan to license the rights to “idiosyncratic works that these artists create on the side.” McGuire emphasized that GEN Manga is focused on publishing ligitimate original manga and not manga fan fiction.
“We only published original stories and independent manga titles,” McGuire said, emphasizing that while the works are often eccentric they “can be more mainstream.”
“We are thrilled to partner with Editora Abril to bring Portuguese translations of our stories to manga fans all over Brazil,” McGuire. “We’re always doing our best to get closer to our readers and deliver what they love most in the formats they enjoy.”
Publishers Weekly

GEN Manga has turned one year old! Robert McGuire began publishing monthly doujinshi collections last year and we spoke with him when he was just getting GEN up and running. Now that he’s reached the milestone of year two, we wanted to check back in and see what was happening. Hey, where else are we going to find a doujinshi publication like this? McGuire told us about his new stories, how we can get GEN to read and if manga creators can submit their work. 

* * *

How has the reception been to GEN’s offerings since you last spoke to Otaku USA?

It has been better than we could hope for. Over the past year we have steadily trended upward. Not only in terms of sales and fans, but also in the industry. I have received personal emails and even a handshake or two from other large publishers in both Japan and the US!

What can you tell us about your new stories?

We have four new stories out this month! Big doujin star Kosuke Kabaya's “Android Angels” is about androids living and getting intimate with us; a boys' love title; and some bizarre yokai and fantasy stuff! We also have a big tankobon coming out next month too: “Wolf”!

Before, you told us, “GEN stories are seinen and cover a variety of different sub-genres,” but now it looks as if you’re including stories that aren’t seinen. Why did you decide to make this change? Are there other genres you’d like to have in GEN in the future?

Well, we are still keeping the magazine geared towards adults rather than kids. So in that sense, we still are Seinen all the way. However, the subgenres of manga get a bit murky sometimes. For example, you could say that Boys' Love is not technically Seinen, but BL is still an adult-oriented genre. So in that sense we haven't changed. The core of GEN remains unchanged, and that is to offer three things: independent manga (doujinshi), contemporary adult-oriented manga, and a variety of different manga. Hopefully, we are doing that, and doing that well. We’re bringing more and better stuff out all the time!

There are now more ways to get GEN than before. What are they?

Digital editions are now available on Apple iTunes, on the Comics+ app, on Kindle for our tankobon, and like before, of course, direct PDFs from us. Which are the best because they are DRM free and readable on all devices!

Print editions are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and for our tankobon, lots of comic stores carry them throughout the country by way of Diamond Comics.

How often can we anticipate new stories from new talents?

Every couple months or so. That's been what we've been doing so far! We have four new stories out this month and some newer ones are coming out soon!

Do you get many submissions for GEN? Would you have any interest in publishing manga-inspired comics from Americans, or do you want to stick with work from Japanese talents? 

I get a lot of inquiries. And we are open to anyone who makes a good manga. Right now I am talking to a Korean artist who has worked for several publishers in Japan as well as an American artist too.

How did you first get into doujinshi? 

I have been into manga for a long time and American comics before that. Doujinshi for me encapsulated the spirit of manga and graphic work. It is the reason this wonderful genre exists. So it was a natural progression from popular manga to the wellspring of its creation

Otaku USA

Exactly a year ago GEN debuted as a new experimental effort to introduce original Japanese doujinshi to English speaking readers. Unlike earlier American publishing efforts that had published pornographic Japanese doujinshi or parodies of well-known anime, GEN published exclusive manga created by talented independent Japanese artists specifically for English translation and publication in GEN. A year and twelve issues in, GEN has steadily improved from its admirable debut, including select original manga from published professional Japanese manga authors, and elevating from an introductory anthology of amateur manga to a must-read primer of Japanese alternative, underground, and seinen drama manga for introspective and literate young adult readers. The twelth issue of GEN continues the unique and unconventional “Alive” manga story and debuts the second chapters of four stories introduced in last month’s issue.

The second chapter of Kosuke Kabaya’s “Android Angels” develops its story with situations and fresh character development but few answers. The story of an heiress protected by a handsome android with a mysterious past evokes better known manga tales includingKuroshitsuji and Inu x Boku SS, yet Android Angels is distinctly different from other familiar tales because of its combination of shoujo tone with vintage sci-fi manga style. As much as the look and tone of the story evoke the floral romance manga of Moto Hagio, the art design and development are also distinctly reminiscent of Shotaro Ishinomori’s Cyborg 009 and Noboru Kawasaki’s artwork in Kyojin no Hoshi. Unfortunately, while the art is crisp and attractive by doujin standards, character poses and action shots are a bit stiff. While the visual art wants to depict fluid motion, panels often look static.

While the first chapter of artist love’s “One is Enough” introduced seeming seme & uke boy-love romance characters, the story’s second chapter confirms beyond any doubt that “One is Enough” is a straightforward coming-of-age and coming-out story about a sixteen-year-old boy realizing that his first love is a boy one year older than himself. The story is an interesting addition to the GEN lineup, bringing yaoi into the increasing eclectic mix of genres the anthology represents. The story focuses heavily on its protagonist, and in this chapter doesn’t push its sexual activity very far, making the story engaging for fujoshi and easily accessible for readers not used to gay-love manga stories. The graphic art uses screentone and lots of visual enhancements effectively to fill the page and make the story lively, but inconsistency in character design reveals the artist’s inexperience.

The second chapter of Isora Azumi’s “Stones of Power” focuses primarily on narrative development, which leaves character insight a bit minimal and superficial. However, in only two chapters, some compromise is necessary and easily excusable. In its second chapter, the story fully reveals itself as a unique contemporary fantasy about a fish tank with cosmic significance. The visual art is sharp and crisp, effectively enhancing the atmosphere of hurried daily life overlooking slower-paced but far more important subtelties. The English translation likewise indulges and encourages astute, contemporary readers by keeping Japanese nuances like honorables (“ne-sama” & “-kun”), Japanese name order, and the managerial title “master” intact. The story requires a bit of reader interpretation, and allows readers to form indepenent opinions about the characters and their motivations, which makes the story engaging, and gives it a bit more of a mature tone than many conventional manga.

The “Keiken Sosa” chapter of Nukuhara’s ongoing manga “Anomal” is another self-contained story completely unrelated to the previous issue’s installment. The undercurrent of humor present in the first story comes to the forefront in the second tale, a comical story revolving around a genius police detective with a pronouned scopophobia and a unique yet highly effective method of solving crimes. The refined and attractive visual art is reminiscent of particularly Haruaki Kato’s Hyakko, as is the lighthearted tone. Carrying forward the theme introduced earlier in the “One is Enough” chapter, the “Keiken Sosa” story also includes a hint of yaoi, although this one used for comic rather than romantic ends. The oddball investigator Naegi and his new partner Okabu-kun are amusing characters that seem a shame to be relegated to a one-off story. Hopefully readers will be treated to more of their unusually “hands on” crime scene investigations in the future.

The latest installment of Hajime Taguchi’s “Alive” consists of three short stories. “I’ll Give You a Name” is a playful, disposable tale of a teen girl who gets committed to more than she expected after meeting a talking frog. In a pleasant irony, this man versus nature parable suggests that human nature isn’t always at odds with environmental nature. The visual art is a bit rough, but the breezy narrative doesn’t demand heavy duty line work. Japanese text is selectively translated, which creates a striking visual contrast, but the decision over which Japanese text to translate and which to leave unaltered is obviously thoughtful and done to heighten readability. The “Thus, We Are Dirtied” story evokes anime’s prominent theme of youth versus adulthood but ultimately has little to say about the conflict. “Will” resurrects the philosophical melancholy that typifies the “Alive” series, satirically condemning reality in the face of idealism. This short tale that concludes the first year of GEN is a perfect capstone, an unusual tale that turns convention upside down and forces readers to evaluate their ethical and philosophical beliefs, just as GEN itself encourages readers to expand and undo their conventional perception of Japanese manga.

The twelfth issue of GEN is more lighthearted and benign than usual of the anthology, but the issue pushes the anthology forward in a new direction by representing new narrative genres and themes previously unseen in the anthology. GEN is a rewarding and satisfying peek into the beating heart of contemporary Japanese manga culture, revealing creative and provocative stories from grassroots Japanese artists. These stories are well suited for typical American manga readers, but are also edifying for older readers and manga fans interested in expanding their appreciation of eclectic and unconventional manga.

GEN, now available in both print and digital format, is also available on Apple's itunes and the free Comics+ app on Apple’s itunes. GEN Manga Entertainment will give away a free preview version of the popular magazine this month on the official GEN Manga website ( to introduce four all new stories!

Android Angels: Wouldn’t it be great to live with the perfect woman or perfect man? Android butlers and babes are the future. These short stories are tales from a land beyond, where androids not only protect humans, but also live and get intimate with them. Author: Kosuke Kabaya

One is Enough: Matsumoto-kun is just about to turn sixteen when he accidentally bumps into and injures his mysterious high school senpai, Mizushima-kun. Now, he is bound to make it up to him, but the lines aren’t clear on just how far this new angst filled steamy relationship will go. Author: love

Stones of Power: Café Renard seems to be your run-of-the-mill establishment, but it is more than meets the eye. When strangers stumble upon the hidden secret within an average business front, they find a mysterious woman selling stones with magical properties. Before they know it they are transported on strange adventures of science fiction and fantasy. Author: Isora Azumi

Anomal: Weird tales of horror and the bizarre are part of a peculiar vision of the world in this collection of short stories. Author: Nukuharu
GEN Manga

Manga fans in the US (and other countries not Japan) generally have a slightly warped view of manga production. Logically they can conceive that it takes a long time to produce manga, but emotionally and habitually they are so used to getting only the crème of the crop consolidated in bulk that they think manga should come by the truckload and should all be of a quality beyond what most actually is in reality. It’s a problem of relativity. For example, if you have been drinking nothing but fine wines for years and then suddenly drink some cheap table wine you’ll think it tastes bad. Well, there is a reason why those wines are considered fine. Without the relative existence of the cheaper table wines there is no basis for the fine wines. And not all grapes make fine wines. Most actually make the “lesser” wines. But there is value in those lesser wines too.

The problem is for years manga companies filtered out all the stuff that didn’t make huge sales Japan. This is because they have to pay for licenses. So US publishers only chose from tankobon and only chose the crème of the crop. To make matters worse, since what they translated had already accumulated for years, there was a huge load of material of any given title. So manga fans here could read book after book and never run out, until now. What manga fans are running into is a change in society and technology. They can get manga much faster now. It’s not quite as satisfying as it once was. So even stealing on the internet doesn’t quite make up for that certain luster that they once received. The time has come for the manga reader to adjust to a more realistic approach to reading manga and a wider view of available material.

GEN Manga
Author of the Doujin Smash Hit Radio de Go!

Nagumo is the author of the popular series Radio de Go! Making his debut in Manga Time Kirakira Carat in 2007 he has since made waves in the Japanese doujin community with his smash hit Radio de Go! Now Nagumo will be releasing a new original story for GEN Manga titled Let’s Eat Ramen.

Let’s Eat Ramen is the story of Saeki, a girl who loves ramen noodles. At last, she thinks that she has finally found the perfect ramen shop, but the problem is the shop is completely full of old regulars and she can’t get in. Will the timid Saeki ever summon the willpower to reach out and get the ramen that she desperately wants? An indie manga about the finer points of eating ramen noodles from the creator of the radio manga Radio de Go!, brought to you by

GEN Manga
Shonen Manga

Junji Ohno made his debut at the age 19 in Weekly Shonen Magazine, and has been a regular contributor to numerous weeklies in Japan, such as Weekly Shonen FangComic Bonbon, and Shonen Comic Champion. Ohno’s work includes: Shiritsu Justice Gakuen (1998), HotshotAxel Rex, andSpider Riders. Junji Ohno is the newest edition to GEN, America’s number one source for authentic doujin manga, where Junji will be making his American debut as the new cover artist.

GEN Manga
GEN Manga, which debuted earlier this year, is carving out a niche in the publishing world for releasing doujinshi—Japanese Indie or self-published comics—via an anthology published in both print and digital form. While it has a huge audience in Japan, Doujinshi is mainly untapped by American publishing companies, and GEN publishes its authors in English at the same time the stories are released in Japan.

Robert McGuire, editor-in-chief of GEN, is looking at different ways he can publish the monthly collection. Most recently, he has turned to Graphicly, which “runs on your desktop, mobile phone, tablet and the web." GEN became available on Graphicly in November.

“You can download and read digital comics just about anywhere,” McGuire explained. “GEN issue 1 is available for free to kick off things, then it will be .99 cents per issue after that.” McGuire praises Graphicly’s panel-to-panel navigation system, wich he terms “awesome.”
But this is only the latest publication platform he’s trying. “We allow users to download multi-platform DRM-free PDFs onto their desktops,” he said. “We offer that through single purchase or subscription models with full access to everything. We want to allow users all over the world to just download the manga and read them.”
GEN is also available in print from Amazon and a select number of stores, including Forbidden Planet NYC, which McGuire called “one of the Meccas of the graphic world.”
“Graphicly will eventually host the collection,” McGuire said. “But right now, the first six-issue anthology has been collected and is available only on This volume includes extra full color illustrations, concept sketches, and first introductions to the creators. People can get background on the creators and see some new work.”
McGuire, who speaks Japanese and visits the country frequently, picks all the stories included in GEN himself, though he has other professionals to work on the translations.
“For the most part, they [the stories in GEN] are what is known as seinen in the manga world, or mature stories,” he described. “The plots tend to be a little more thoughtful. But, they are varied. VS Aliens is our first stand alone and it fits in a genre that is growing in popularity, ‘moe.’” Moe is a controversial manga genre  which deals with characters who appear to be very young and cute. “However, another story, Alive is very literary and thoughtful,” McGuire continues. “In its most recent installment, it starts to push the boundaries of what we generally tend to think of as graphic story telling. And then there is our new upcoming stand alone story, Kamen. This is an action fantasy story about a masked warrior with a mysterious past.”
The publication of GEN in Japan is a little different from the publication in America. “I am the same person publishing them in both languages,” he said. “But, I publish them only on the web [in Japan]. I do not have a Japanese edition print version yet. There is a ‘Japanese’ option on the site that allows you to view the entire site in Japanese. We presently have Japanese subscribers in addition to our English-speaking subscribers (not to mention several other countries).
While McGuire is often the face of GEN, he’s not the only one behind it. “On the creative end, I have two upcoming new artists who are well-published creators in Japan. They are now writing original stories for GEN. Keep an eye out for the December and particularly the January releases for more info. However, on the distribution side as well, we will be working with other channels. Coming very soon, we will be available on all the other major digital distribution networks.”
McGuire said that what he’s doing with GEN is revolutionary in the publishing industry. “First, and most importantly, is that we publish original stories first for our readers. No more licensing old content like the other guys. Two, we publish simultaneously in Japanese and English. And three, we let our readers keep their manga! Readers have full access anywhere in the world and they get to keep it on their machines!”
Publishers Weekly
Variety Pack

So why is it that Americans do not like weeklies and monthlies? In Japan, there are hundreds of them. Big thick phone book manga for around the equivalent of 5 to 10 bucks an issue! How can you beat that? The idea is that these monthlies run at a loss or make very little money, but they afford the readers a chance to sample lots of different manga. They also allow the publisher to see what people like. Great system.

Has anyone ever heard of Comic Beam? This was a alternative seinen anthology with a more thoughtful tone, that ran at a loss. It’s 25,000 copy circulation was only 1% of other more popular weeklies like Shonen Jump. Can you imagine? 25,000 is only 1% of the others, think of those ciculation numbers!

Maybe the reason is that American attention spans are too short. Americans buy only what they can be marketed to. When it’s a variety pack, you don’t know exactly what you are getting. But when you are marketed a character, for example Spider Man or Naruto, you know exactly what you are getting, without even reading any of the books. It’s too bad because it dampens the potential of possible work that could be released. It also dumbs down the work itself because the characters have to be rather one dimensional as to be consistently marketable.

GEN Manga

Kitaro must unravel a mystery between the two cutest girls in school. One claims the other is an alien! Is Sana Sakuma really a secret visitor from outer space or is this some elaborate prank? The mystery spirals in and out, back and forth, keeping you guessing unti the very end.  Do you want to believe?

GEN is on Graphicly

VS Aliens and GEN’s 1st Anthology, over 900 pages of real indie manga is now available!

GEN Manga
One Giant Nerd Love Fest

Yes, I am talking about the NY Comic Con, the best event of the year.

Looking down on the main floor from the second level Anime Fest, what you saw was a mad circus of delight. Too bad it only comes once a year. Better than Christmas. All us otaku and nerds revel in one giant geeky orgy. All our love is in one place and everyone accepts you for who you are, no matter how disturbingly weird you may be.

Talking with artists who make the work you love, trying out new games, getting discounts, free swag, fun, fun, fun. The best part is probably when you recognize a fellow cosplayer dressed as some obscure character you thought only you had an unhealthy obsession with, surprised, yet somewhat disappointed, that you are not alone.


GEN Manga
The fourth and fifth issue of Gen Manga continue to evolve and mature, further developing ongoing stories while more obviously stepping closer to becoming the cutting edge alternative manga showcase that the magazine promises to be.

Shige Nakamura’s “Wolf” continues to unfold as a good old-fashioned sports drama. But a variety of development emerges in the fourth installment. Nakamura’s graphic art is gradually evolving. Chapter four, especially, exhibits a decreased focus on background and more refinement in its character art, making the manga less of a throwback and more of a uniquely stylized contemporary manga influenced by 60′s and 70′s manga aesthetics. Chapter four introduces a new element of humor that does a great job of counterbalancing the dour tone of the drama. And the fourth chapter continues to peel back the psychology of protagonist Naoto’s estranged parents. Whether by accident or in respect for the readers’ intelligence, the fourth chapter alternates the use of “wolf” with “okami” without any translator note explanation. Both installments include some mildly salty language, but the occasionally strong dialogue enhances the narrative, giving it a sense of reality. The fifth chapter allows a typo in the dialogue to slip by: “bait” spelled “bate.” The dialogue translation in the fifth chapter also frequently feels a bit stilted. But the fifth chapter also introduces a prolonged boxing match that keeps the pace and tension of the story high.

The pacing of Yu Suzuki’s romantic melodrama “VS Aliens” picks up considerably in issue four before declining into a stew of absurd, rapid fire plot twists that feel as much like desparation as carefully plotted narrative. As this particular series has done repeatedly, the graphic art quality improves in the fourth chapter then receeds again in the fifth.

Mihara Gunya’s “Kamen” series likewise gains momentum in its fourth and fifth installments. While the art looks just a bit stiff in the early pages of issue four, the action picks up considerably throughout issues four and five. These two installments also begin to suggest some context for the story that may answer some reader questions.

Arisa Karino’s graphic art largely continues to impress in Souls. Fine detail, texture, and ample use of screentone give the visual art a sumptuous depth and tone. Unfortunately, Karino still seems challenged by natural, human looking facial proportions, and dialogue remains periodically difficult to attribute to a speaker, or even difficult to decipher, as though characters speak at each other instead of with each other. Unfortunately, typos and poorly translated lines like, “The saw beyond your the five senses,” and, “Then that’ll the end for us,” make following the dialogue even more difficult. While this new story arc presented in issues four and five seems a bit better developed than the first story arc, situations like a lengthy abstract philosophical debate between two prostitutes regarding their psychological acceptance of their roles and status, using a wounded pigeon as a metaphor, seems near laughably unbelievable.

Issue four concludes on a high note with Takayuki Fujimura’s self-contained short story “Sorako.” This nice story about young adult ennui and the way that small, routine events shape people’s perspective and personality is illustrated with a compact, stylized art that may be called contemporary gekiga. The concise art and storytelling do a fine job of focusing succinctly on expressing action through art & dialogue. This is far from shounen action/adventure, but it’s also not anime-esque iyashikei slice-of-life. This looks and feels like personal transformation presented through graphic storytelling. Not for readers that want tales of ninjas or aliens or even high school romance, this is a pleasant story for readers that appreciate manga as literal visual storytelling.
Taguchi Hajime’s “Alive” that ends Gen Manga issue five aims for a similar effect but succeeds just a little less successfully. This Kafka-esque gekiga drama about hopeless, despair-riddled people who rediscover self-respect and purpose in their lives is intriguing, but the pivotal epihanies that the characters have could be better illustrated, to make the turning point in these characters’ lives more evident to readers. Although not exploitative or sensationalistic, “Alive” does depict some provocative and adult subjects and images that elevate the story into respectable adult literature but may also surprise readers used to the typically all-ages friendly content that Gen Manga has published thus far.

Gen Manga was founded on a principle of being brand new, cutting-edge independent Japanese manga to English speaking readers. The publication’s first three issues have done a commendable job of introducing new Japanese talent and beinging new manga to American readers, but it’s issues four and five that first begin to fulfill the promise of publishing not just new indie manga but new cutting edge manga that aims for an older, more sophisticated audience. Issues four and five don’t eschew the popular genres of action, supernatural, romantic comedy, and fantasy manga; these two issues compliment conventional themes and genres with more provocative, literary, adult-oriented manga tales.

GEN manga are interesting, as they contact doujinshi artists directly and publish their titles in English and in Japanese in a monthly volume.

Intrigued by this different model of distributing digital manga in August 2011 we paid a visit GEN Manga's office in New York to catch up with the company's Editor-In-Chief Robert McGuire.

Robert started by explaining to us that GEN Manga publish their titles in English and in Japanese. We asked if GEN manga will be publishing their titles in other languages too?

Yes, due to several hits we've received on sites in Germany, France, and Italy, we are looking into it. It's just a matter of time.

What about the quality of translation? We tend to find that quality of translation varies from manga company to manga company.

We use professional translators. When you read manga anyone can see the difference between professional and amateur translation. A lot of amateur translators you'll see, they often use Google Translate.

Yes, it's a very literal translation, it's not very fluid is it?

Yeah, you need a human body that can understand Japanese, you can't just use a dictionary. You need to know what they're trying to say in Japanese, not just the literal translation of the word. I'm actually a translator as well, but because I'm the editor I don't translate the magazine. I manage the translators. 

The feedback we've got so far is that the translation is very fluid. We have to step it up a bit on the proof reading, we've missed a few typos, but again, we're just getting started. We have a dedicated proof reader as well now so hopefully the quality can only get better.

How do you deal with typos then? Do you leave them as is? Or go back and correct them in PDFs?

We found a few after publishing. The thing with proof reading is that it's a job in itself. You need a full time dedicated proof reader to look over everything and catch every little thing. We didn't have one for the first two issues, so going forward have a dedicated proof reader now.

What happens when we create the PDF, we create it in InDesign, but each single page is a PhotoShop file, so the actual English is in the Photoshop file, or sometimes creators use Illustrator, we leave that up to them. So we have to go into the individual page in PhotoShop or Illustrator and change the English then put it back into InDesign and output into PDF.

People don't realise with comic books while there's less text than your traditional novel the amount of time to create it is a lot longer. It's not like using a word file and you can go in there and change stuff and you're done. It's like changing a piece of artwork. You have to go into the actual file and change stuff. 

Like getting the spacing right in the speech bubbles? As the Japanese read vertically and we read horizontally in English?

Exactly! That's a big challenge. Sometimes you'll have a sentence that's vertical, and once it's translated you'll have to put one word on each line. I try to not edit the artwork as much as possible. Some manga publishers go in and they delete the Japanese sound words like "BLAM!" or whatever in Japanese, then they put it back in English. I try to leave the original artwork as untouched as possible. I don't like to edit that. I think the manga artist had a vision, they designed it that way. I don't think that it's fair to go in and edit it.

It's the lettering as well, even if you can't read the Japanese for swoooosh, it's the lettering they've chosen to express that. I imagine it would be a pain to go in and Photoshop that out and replace it. I would take a long time to do.

Time is an issue, but also the way they designed it looks so beautiful I don't want to touch it. Another thing is the manga fans. Manga was introduced, I would say 15 years or so ago to the American market, but it didn't take off until about 10 years, when Tokyo Pop started publishing unflipped manga where it was read in the traditional Japanese style. It was a novelty really. What is this stuff?! Now-a-days the people that first caught onto manga that were maybe teenagers at the time are in their twenties. These people have grown up with Japanese manga. They almost know a little bit of Japanese. I'm always surprised by the amount of Japanese your average manga fan knows. They know more than I would expect them to. It's almost like they want to read the Japanese. I started out translating all the sound words, putting in the SFX. I got criticised for that, so I scaled it back. Now I'm only putting in translations for things I think are important to the story.

Are you going to release the back issues only in English or are you going to release them in Japanese as well?

The Japanese back issues will also be free. Right now we have a lag time on our Japanese website. We update the English website first, then the Japanese second. Our number one traffic source is from America. Number two is Japan. Number three is the UK.

What about using it as a study aid as you can get the Japanese and English versions?

I think part of it is that the world is getting smaller. Japan didn't know how to reach the American market. So you had these few publishers that said we can meet the American market for you. Now with the internet you have all these possibilities for exchange. You don't need these go between people so much. That's why the scanlators are so popular. People in America are savvy, they know what's out in Japan. Even though it's in Japanese they want to read it. So I think the idea is just to release it as the same time. You can read it in Japanese or English, whatever your language is. We're not playing the middle man, here it is in both languages. It's making a direct bridge I think to Japan. We're giving them access to everything, we're not hiding anything.

At the moment you're working on a wide range of genres. In the future will you focus on one genre or direction?

We're on our fourth issue now. Part of the idea was to get different genres to find out what people gravitate to. I like the retro feel, the old retro manga. I think Wolf has a retro theme to it. One thing we will continue to do is to release more thoughtful manga. Manga that's considered seinen. It's for adults. The stories I think are a little bit more thoughtful. There's a ton of shonen manga out, with Shonen Jump, Naruto, One Piece, those are great, but I feel a lot of manga readers are getting older, when they read the shonen manga, they're wanting more. A little bit more story, something more thoughtful that relates to them. While there is some great seinen manga out now, it's still under developed in the English language. 

Have you had much feedback about which titles are popular? Have you had feedback about what people like and dislike?

Amazingly enough it's mixed. I've heard people say their favourite ones are Wolf, Vs Aliens and Kamen. People say the most developed one was Wolf. People really caught onto Vs Aliens because of it's cute factor, but I've also heard people say they liked Kamen the best. It's really hard to say. I put them in the magazine in the order I thought they were the strongest. It's hard to pick a favourite. Souls that one has been our most difficult, people are having a hard time understanding it. It's the deepest and most weirdest. You don't really have anything to compare it to.

That was another thing, a lot of people said, you're seinen, you're underground manga, you're indie manga, but your stories follow these classic themes, so it's not really underground. I think people are misinterpreting what underground and indie means. It doesn't mean gratuitous violence, it doesn't mean porn, or something so pretentious or weird you're like what is that?!?! It means they're made by independent creators, doujin artists, authentic real doujin artists. I purposely chose stories that follow classic themes, people in their mind that latch onto that classic theme. Then when something doesn't follow the classic theme like Souls for example, they don't really know how to deal with it, they don't understand it. Souls was an experiment to see what people would say about that. Due to that feedback the first chapter ended and we started a new story arc on Souls. The new story arc is a little be more controversial. It's about a boy who works in a Japanese brothel and he caters to the male customers who like boys. It's a yaoi or shounen-ai, boys love sort of story, which is also getting really popular.

Where do you see GEN Manga in three years time?

I think even sooner than that I think we'll be leading the industry. I'm not going to say that anytime soon we'll be a multi-million dollar company or anything like that. I don't see that happening. I see us as being one of those smaller companies that lead the industry with new ideas. We'll be getting the manga, the cutting edge stuff, what we're doing, people will try to emulate us. I even feel some of the bigger companies right now are riding our coat tails as far as the distribution methods are concerned and giving direct access to the manga.

I think three years from now the magazine will be continuing, but we'll have a huge list of standalone comics. The magazine itself works like it does in Japan, it's to introduce new stories. Then we'll have the tankobon with the standalone series stuff. That'll also be available.

So it's a taster, and if the titles become popular enough you'll branch them off?

Exactly. That's what Japan has been doing for years, they have tons of monthly magazines that do that. They're huge. They're massive. It takes time to accumulate that sort of page length. Then when manga gets popular it comes out as tankobon. So three years from now we'll have numerous tankobon as well as the continuation of the magazine. We might even release sub magazines for specific genres as we find our direction as well. 

Right now we're doing pretty good, we're growing quickly. I've seen the forecast that we'll be able to sustain ourselves for the long run already. 

Have you had issues with licensing? We know with anime companies they tend to buy the license and then after a few years that license has expired so they can't sell that title anymore.

Then they have conditions on the license so it can only be sold in this country or whatever? There's a lot of games in the publishing industry. A lot of times the people that work with the licensing and the publishing don't even read manga. They don't care. They're only concerned with pleasing their bosses. They have this contract that's restrictive. While the end user, the person at home just wants to read manga. He doesn't care. He just wants to read manga. All that is just getting in the way.

The thing is it's not necessary. With the new big sites I don't see them being successful. They're still bound by their pre-existing conditions. They're still doing the same thing, but it's in a digital format. That's not news. It's the way that the market is going, but it's been out already. People can get it in a digital format from other places. They're still not trying to solve the problem, because they're not really concerned about getting manga to the fans.

One of things we liked is that GEN is DRM free. We don't have to ask your permission to move it from one PC to a laptop or anything like that. We can move it to our phone without asking you first.

I feel manga should be for the fans. As far as the magazine is concerned it should be as accessible as possible. I'd love to make it free, but nobody likes ads and that'll be the only way we could get an income, through ads or charging for the newest issue. I try to make the price as low as possible just to cover our costs. So far people have been extremely supportive. They like it. We don' t want to put ads, popup things like that on our site. We want to keep it simple and straight forward. As we move forward we'll always be introducing new stuff. It's a place to keep coming back to find new artists and new stories. 

I'm always trying to look for cutting edge type stuff. They reason we're called indie or underground manga is that these people are called doujin, who work in their circles. These people are fans of manga, they're your biggest otaku. They're not bound by these large publishers who have full control over them. They don't decide by marketing committees what will sell and what will not and how long we'll keep it out of the international market. They just make it because they love manga. This is what they grew up with. Those are the kind of people that I think are going to be the innovators in manga. If I can find those guys, if they come to me when the big suits in Japan say your names not big enough, but if they come to me, I'll be hell yeah! Let's let everybody, let's let the world look at it!

So are you keen for Japanese manga artists to contact you?

Yeah. I worked in Japan for a long time in the publishing industry, so I have a lot of contacts. I know where to go and look for people, I've met a lot of people.

Thanks for your time Robert. It's been really interesting to hear about GEN Manga and the companies plans.

GEN Manga is available in on-line from their website or in print from There is no region locking or DRM. The current two issues cost $2.99 each to download, with back issues available for free.
Otaku News
It’s been a big, weird year for manga.

Viz Manga has been working on going digital for awhile, and J-Manga’s recent launch has continued to challenge long-held beliefs about the viability of digital distribution in the North American market too. While we’ve heard both praise and complaints, we at Ani.Me are big believers in the viability and importance of well-defined and accessible streaming services. No idea is more powerful than one whose time hath come and all that.

But what about the indie folk? Enter Gen Manga.

We caught up with Robert Mcguire from GM recently to dig into the particulars of being a service dedicated to bringing fresh and under-exposed Japanese talent to this side of the pond. Check out our questions (and his responses!) below and be sure to visit them at They’ll be giving away swag at this year’s New York Comic Con as well, should you happen to be in the area…

Evin: How did Gen manga get started? When and where did you launch?

Gen Manga: We launched in May of 2011. Our physical location is in New York City. But our virtual location is international with dual publication in the English and Japanese.

Evin: What’s your site about?

Gen Manga: We are now the number one source for original doujin manga in North America. We publish original manga simultaneously in English and Japanese. We offer digital subscriptions as well as limited print editions. We don’t recycle work by buying licenses and English publishing rights to preexisting content. We publish new work first. We publish new authentic original grass roots manga first. We have been very lucky to quickly become the premium source for Japanese independent manga.

Evin: You seem to have a focus that is split between seinen and doujin. Do you feel that you can effectively attract both audiences? How do you balance the two?

Gen Manga: I don’t think there needs to be a split. Doujin manga has it’s own definable world in Japan that has not been offered to the American public until now. Doujin is synonymous with independent. The doujin manga we tend towards has more mature plot lines and therefore it is mostly seinen.

Evin: What’s your criterion for choosing titles?

Gen Manga: We chose stories that can be enjoyed by a wide audience. Our stories are original and have proven and popular classic manga themes. They are underground because they come from authentic doujin artists. But they are new and accessible because of their universal appeal without being at all pretentious.

Evin: With the recent launch of J-manga and Viz’ online manga portal, a lot of people are finally seeing more mainstream manga go digital. Does that affect your game plan?

Gen Manga: Not at all. They aren’t trying anything new. We are. Going digital is only changing the format. They are still releasing the same old licensed preexisting work. We are bridging the gap by giving a direct line to new Japanese work. Not only that but we are much more affordable. Our back issues are free! We also have a very reasonable monthly subscription for 2.99 that gives you access to the very latest and previous issue. And we are offering a discount at only 1.99 a month for a limited time. (See 
Gen Manga for more info)

This is the place to get and see new manga artists. Readers can enjoy a quality manga fix at a appropriate price.

Also, it seems those other guys have back end control from old publishers bound by their preexisting relationships. We are free to change and develop for our readers.

Evin: How do you go about procuring your titles?

Gen Manga: I have been in the publishing business and I know there is a lot of good work out there for whatever reason doesn’t quite please the dinosaur publishing house’s old boy’s club. We don’t play by those rules. That’s not what graphic fiction is about. We find our own creators independently and give them a chance to shine. And we will continue to give you new stories and artists on a regular basis.

Evin: How did GEN come about? How were you established?

Gen Manga: It was an idea of mine when I became frustrated with all the red tape, middle managers, and corporate BS that gets in the way of fans and their manga. There shouldn’t be big lag times between when manga is released in Japan and when it comes out in the states. GEN cuts all that unnecessary stuff out of the equation.

Evin: Has overcoming this been a big issue for you?

Gen Manga: It’s not really an issue per se. It’s rather the simple solution to (the) future and evolution of manga.

Evin: Describe how you come to collaborate with Japanese creators; how are they found, etc?

Gen Manga: I find them in various ways. I lived in Japan a long time and travel there frequently. While working in the publishing industry in Japan I was able to meet a lot of great people over the years. My list of creators and contacts has just continued to grow.

Evin: Ever pick up somebody from the web?

Gen Manga: The web is an excellent place for communication. It helps me stay in touch with all the creators. I feel that any acquisition of a new creators is an organic process that can’t be pin pointed down to one outlet.

Evin: How is dual publication working for you? How is the Japanese response?

Gen Manga: It’s working out great. We are getting a lot of interest from Japan as well. Japan is number two in number of visitors to the site, just behind the US.

Evin: Are you seeing online chatter about it? If so what’s it like?

Gen Manga: Sure. It’s very positive. Our web stats also show Japanese readers frequent the site.

Evin: Why do you make your back issues free? Is this a problem for creators? Does anybody take issue with it?

Gen Manga: We make back issues free because we make new manga. We aren’t concerned with trying to nickel and dime fans to death. We want them to enjoy the experience. The present model in the manga industry doesn’t benefit the industry. It stagnates it. The publishers are just reselling the rights and reusing content that’s already been created. A Google search will show that’s why most manga is illegally free anyways. When you read GEN you are sending a direct message to the creators that are creating manga right now! GEN is giving you a direct line to the source (incidentally that actually is what the word GEN means, source or origin.)

Evin: But do you feel that it creates bad blood with your creators? Do people ever say “hey, you’re GIVING my work away!”?

Gen Manga: Absolutely not. I work closely with my creators. It’s community affair. Everything we do is in their benefit. Every reader in the US whether free or not is direct support.

Evin: What makes you go “hey, now there’s something we need to publish?”

Gen Manga: There are a lot of factors that come into play. But basically I am looking professional grade work that is thoughtful and without pretension.

Evin: Is there a staff that “pulls the trigger” on these decisions with you?

Gen Manga: There is a staff here at GEN manga and my door is always open for opinions. But it’s usually me making the final decisions.

Evin: Following up on an earlier question, I personally feel that doujin denotes “fan” works that are mostly derivative (gag manga, slash fiction, etc). Have you had a hard time re-contextualizing the term?

Gen Manga: That’s true. In fact a lot of doujin work is porn. So in the US we try to focus more on the word “indie” rather than “doujin.” But indie has it’s own connotations too. Indie or independent work is just that. It’s impossible to be independent and conform to a specific expectation at the same time. So, while there are some challenges involved with misunderstanding the words indie or underground or doujin, I think the majority of readers will be very satisfied with the work and that is what matters the most.

Evin: Do you think those kind of genre constraints may way-lay your intentions?

Gen Manga: I certainly don’t think so. Rather than “genre,” I am focused on quality and thoughtfulness. If a certain manga has potential I am interested. But I think overall there is a flood of great shonen and shojyo manga already out. I feel seinen is where I can help contribute something.

Evin: Do you focus on new titles exclusively? Have you considered digging back into older fan works, etc?

Gen Manga: I love old titles and maybe we’ll see if we can’t bring some of them back. That would be fun. But GEN’s first goal is to give readers new work that is being created in real time.

Evin: Where do you see the company in 6 months?

Gen Manga: I see the company leading the industry standard and changing the way manga is published. Other publishers are already looking at our model and trying to figure it out. We are just getting started but some of the other bigger guys can’t even catch up.

Evin: Do you think constantly moving forward is a key strategy in this regard?

Gen Manga: I think everyone has to move forward regardless of what your endeavors are, otherwise you are stagnate. That is exactly what GEN is about, invigorating manga and comics.

Evin: How about in a year?

Gen Manga: I see a definitive back list of titles with stand alone series making their way into the mix. We will be the go to source for new Japanese manga.
Gen Manga is a relatively new US publisher of Japanese comic books, describing themselves as publishing “Indie Manga from the Tokyo Underground.”

We’re talking doujinshi. Hard to come by in the US.

Indeed, so cutting edge are they, that rather than translate published manga for the US market som mnths later, they publish them in the US before Japan gets a chance, by working directly with indie creators.

The first three issues are free digitally, can be bought in print from Amazon and the two new issues are $2.99 digitally for 140 pages of content each.

The publisher will be appearing at the New York Comic Con, booth 2030. Until then, here are those three first issues free…

Bleeding Cool
It isn’t always easy to get your hands on doujinshi in America, especially doujinshi that’s been translated. Robert McGuire, who has a history in Japanese publishing, is taking a novel way of bringing doujinshi to readers. He’s begun publishing GEN Manga, a monthly doujinshi collection. Several issues are now out, all of which can be found  McGuire will soon be manning a booth at New York Comic-Con, but before hitting the convention, he told Otaku USA about GEN.

What can you tell us about GEN Manga? 

GEN Manga is now America's number one source for original doujin manga. GEN is a monthly publication that introduces new, never before published manga to American readers. It comes out in English and Japanese simultaneously. It can be downloaded, read, and kept on your computer or any digital device. GEN is also published in limited edition print form.

How do you get the talents for it? Do people submit, or do you find them? 

Talent comes from a collection of different things. I look for professional grade quality work that shows originality and confidence. I also look for work that tends to be a little more thoughtful and developed when it comes to the plot and story. The stories that find their way to GEN tend to follow classic and proven manga themes. 

How I get my talent? It's kind of complicated and simple at the same time. It's really the same way most editors find new work. Also, I speak Japanese, so of course that helps out a lot. Probably, the simple answer is, there is a lot of talent out there, it's really just about narrowing it down to the stuff that's good. And then cultivating it towards getting better. 

So, unfortunately, I can't really give an exact answer. I can tell you that I get both submissions from creators and scout for new talent myself. I take multiple trips to Japan per year and have contacts that live in Japan. They help to send me new talent. Some of our creators have been published before through other outlets and some have not. However, all the work we publish in GEN is new work that has never been published elsewhere.

How did it get started? What’s your inspiration for it? 

GEN came from a collection of thoughts I had over years working with manga and Japanese publishing. I wanted to give Americans access to what Japanese readers have been enjoying for years. But American publishers were limiting themselves by digging manga into a very specific niche. But more than that, manga in English always came out way after it was already old news in Japan. And if that wasn't enough, it was always over priced. I thought, why should it be this way? GEN attempts to solve all of these problems by making them irrelevant. English readers should also have access to the source, original grass roots manga straight from Japan. The inspiration for GEN came from my love and fandom for manga. 

What sort of doujinshi do you publish? 

GEN publishes serious doujinshi. No amateur work or porn. While that stuff has its place, GEN is dedicated to bringing readers quality independent work, free of market control. GEN stories are seinen and cover a variety of different sub-genres. GEN offers a sort of grab bag. Readers can enjoy a variety of different stories and hopefully find the ones they like. 

I think there is room for other stuff besides seinen. GEN will introduce a lot of different things as it moves forward. But I think that there is already plenty of shounen and shoujo. Other publishers have pretty much flooded the market with it. So I think one place where I can offer more variety and contribute more would be the more mature genre of seinen.

How can readers get GEN Manga? 

Subscriptions can be obtained through our website. Subscribers get unlimited access. That means to you can always read the latest edition and the previous edition as well. All older back issues are made free online. Also, if you like to collect or read it in print form, our print editions are available on Amazon. The links to those pages are also available on our website. 

What do you hope to accomplish with GEN? 

I hope to change the way we think about how we get and read manga. I think that the world is changing and there is no reason anymore to wait for the latest work. I also hope to introduce new manga stars to the world, not just Japan. Readers can expect our list to grow with a variety of exciting new work. There will also be tankobon available in the near future. 

What has fan reaction been? 

It has been overwhelmingly fantastic. I have been blown away by the amount of fan mail I have received. Not only from American readers, but from Japan, the UK, Italy, France and even Moscow! 

How did you get into manga?

I discovered manga, or rather anime, when I was about twelve or thirteen-years-old. I had just watched the filmAkira for the first time. It was so powerful that it influenced me for the rest of my life. Ever since then, I have had an interest in anime and manga and it has pretty much defined my life. It was pretty much a natural path to the source, the original creators in Japan.

Otaku USA
Going Digital

Does it make sense to charge the same price for an online manga as a printed manga? Manga and literature in general is about content rather than the format, true. And digital seems like a natural evolution in publishing. It allows for cheaper manga, because you don’t have the cost of printing and logistics. Also, like your I-POD it allows you to take large volumes of content everywhere you go. More mobile.

Of course, some people still want to own the printed versions. But having the digital version is an extra little bonus for the reader. So why on Earth would a publisher charge just as much for the digital as the printed version? That seems like it would make the average fan more frustrated with the industry. 

GEN Manga
The fourth issue of GEN, the online indy-manga magazine, is out, with four chapters of ongoing stories plus a new one debuting this month. Unlike Yen Plus, GEN keeps its back issues online, and issues 1 and 2 are free right now. The magazine bills itself as "underground" but the series follow very classic manga themes: VS Aliens is about a high-school girl who is convinced a classmate is an alien; Wolf is about a boxer; Souls is a ghost story; Kamen is a war story; and the new series, Sorako, looks like a slice-of-life story in the same vein as Inio Asano's solanin.
MTV Geek

Alternative manga. What does that mean? Why is Naruto, Bleach, Inuyasha, and the like mass consumed while the “alternative” is sometimes interesting, dark, delightfully offensive, or just teeters on the edge of pretentiousness? Regardless, an “alternative” almost always surprises and creates a debate. It seems that alternative stories are earnest efforts to express something that mass consumption would reject.

Artists of any nature, once brought to fame, are allowed to put out anything and it’s often called brilliant. While if the exact same material were to be created by someone with no name it would be called stupid. What is the precursor to brilliance? Mass consumption then a rejection of this into the incomprehensible? Can alternative manga be embraced, make sense, be a little different without making one shake his head at the obviously purposely naive intent? On the flip side does mass consumed stories need to predictable and watered down? 

This is an interesting paradox.

GEN Manga
Free Manga

No fan can resist free manga. And good news, there is a ton of it. Sure, we all want some free manga. But are we willing to pay for the new stuff if we get the old stuff for free? It’s a good theory. Will it past the test?

Manga on the bookshelf looks nice. But manga is traditionally throw away stuff. In Japan, walking around the streets on trash day you’ll see stacks of manga three feet high waiting to be picked up. It’s not like your typical comic book collection here in the US, individual issues kept in tightly sealed bags, only read once. But then again, maybe that’s just a cultural thing. Do manga fans in the US collect with just as much respect and admiration as traditional American comic book collectors? Do they keep them on the bookshelf? 

With so much free manga on the internet the quality is a bit sub-par. But even putting that aside, it’s mighty hard to “collect” a comic book if it’s digital. But in our new age, maybe it’s not. Think about that, collections of comics on a hard disk. Maybe in the future we will be trading our comics as copy protected digital files. Maybe we already are.

GEN Manga
Godzilla, Fetishes, and Weaboo

You don’t have to be a weaboo to read manga but it helps. Japan is a weird place, even for Japanese people. Because of the social pressure in Japan to conform to a standard embraced by the masses (to a far larger extent than that of the US), Japan has a tendency to breed a subversive nature in people. It also breeds interesting, as well as, repulsive perversions. These cultural oddities are fascinating to westerners who are encouraged to embrace their own personal differences and therefore are comparatively less suppressed than Japanese when it comes to being different. Suppression often leads to unhealthy ways of self expression. Those vents, however, often result in new mutations on cultural behavior. Observers of these mutations at first sight will most likely attack because they unconsciously feel threatened. However, once the shock has passed, usually by the younger generation, the mutation becomes a positive addition to society. Manga is exactly one of those side effects.

GEN Manga
Where did you get that swag?

Ever wonder where manga comes from?

Manga starts out as weekly or monthly magazines the size of phone books in Japan. Those are distributed all over to thousands of small shops and convenient stores and end up becoming pulp or landfill or whatever. Some of the stories in these weeklies and monthlies get picked up as tankobon, otherwise known as stand alone series. If those sell well then they become anime, t-shirts, live actions, and then foreign publishers buy the rights and publish them in various languages (usually English, French, and German). Then they are made into swag, etc. in the foreign countries as well. By that time, and a long time that has been, everyone is just jumping on the band wagon. A spring manifests itself into a mighty river. But where did all those weeklies and monthlies go?

GEN Manga
Okay guys, I’m pretty excited about this. Gen is a new digital anthology that publishes underground-type manga short stories from Japan. All of them are previously unpublished, I believe, so in a sense, it’s something like a doujinshi magazine in English. Check it out at There’s a generous sample available right now, the entire first issue, and you can subscribe and receive the monthly updates for issues 2 and further. The usual subscription price is $3 per issue, but you can get a discounted subscription by following this link, and get the second issue for only $2. That is a pretty sweet deal.

The issue I’m reviewing here is the one that’s available for free on their front page, so feel free to check it out if you’re at all interested. I’m going to do a follow-up next week with issue two, where all four of the stories are continued.

I think this is quite interesting, since this isn’t a format we often see in English. The underground manga that we normally see is usually from tried-and-true artists and their best stories. That’s fair, considering that printing is an investment and going off the beaten path is very risky. I’m glad that digital publication opens the way for more unusual, less proven work however, and I’m very thrilled that this collection exists.

This first issue has about 80 pages of content, and I’ll just go ahead and start with the first story, Wolf by Nakamura Shige. The art is very, very reminiscent of Yoshihiro Tatsumi and what I’ve seen of the late 60s gekiga/underground scene, too. The content isn’t that far off, either. The story starts with a young man boarding a train to the city. We find out that he’s traveling to become a professional sumo wrestler, and he meets another, very aggressive boy on the train. Naoto, the aggressive boy, picks some fights on the train, and later goes to a boxing dojo to engage more people in fights.

The storytelling technique is a little rough around the edges (some of the transitions are abrupt, and the flow of time is a little strange), but the narrative is sophisticated in the way that some of the best gekiga stories are. We aren’t shown the thoughts of the characters, and only know as much about them as they decide to tell others. It’s a technique I’m quite fond of, and it’s not often you get to see “show, don’t tell” in a manga. I also like that one of the boys was studying to become a sumo wrestler (though Naoto seems to be the focus of the story), and that the story seems to be moving in the direction of being about actual, professional training for sports.

The second story is VS Aliens, by Suzuki Yu. This is a bizarre story told in three chapters, about a group of three high school students. Aya approaches Kitaro out of the blue to help her with a problem: one of the students in their school is an alien. Of course, only Aya sees her that way. Kitaro approaches this student, Sana, and asks her point blank about it. Sana is confused, but approaches Kitaro the next day worried that she might really be an alien.

It’s less comedic than it sounds. As bizarre as the premise is, the focus of the story is on the character dynamics. Kitaro is a nice guy, and genuinely wants to help Aya out. Aya really, truly does think that Sana is an alien. Sana has a normal reaction to being asked if she is an alien, rather than over-the-top comedic. And, bizarrely, she takes it under advisement. These are all normal people being run through a weird situation. I’m not quite sure where it’s going, but it was my favorite in the magazine, and after the bizarre cliffhanger, I’m curious to see where it’s going.

Mask, by Mihara Gunya, is third in line. It’s set in pseudo-feudal Japan, and the chapter offers a very brief setup. A man wakes up with a talking mask on his face. An army that’s taking prisoners is on the march. Said army finds the man, and engage him in battle. The mask may… offer some sort of power, but it’s unclear whether the man will decide to take advantage of it. It’s interesting so far, but I need to read more to decide whether I like it or not. That it’s taking its time to set things up is promising.

The fourth and final story is Souls, by Karino Arisa. Of the four, this one was the most confusing. A woman invites a traveler out of the rain, only to be verbally abused by her mother. We then find out that the woman… may be dead, and that the traveler might have come to help the mother grieve, or to help the soul pass on? I was having a hard time understanding this one, but again, I’d like to read more before I pass judgment. The storytelling is a little rough around the edges (I had a hard time figuring out if the woman was dead or not, or whether we were seeing flashbacks, or whether there was some second sight involved, et cetera), but some of the confusion might be intentional, a mystery to be solved in a later installment.

Overall, I was very pleased with the content offered in the first issue. The stories were actually more polished than I thought they would be going into the collection, and all the art is very professional-looking. I was also very surprised by how much I liked VS Aliens, and I’m curious about the continuations of Wolf and Mask. I’m a big manga fan, obviously, and am probably more than a little biased, but I think there are plenty of people who would be interested in stories like these, stuff than comes from a non-commercial outlet. Again, you can check out the first issue for free, and if you like what you see, follow this link to get the next issue for $2.

This was a review copy provided by the publisher.

Slightly Biased Manga
Old is the New New

Anyone remember when Fist of the North Star was first released in the US? It was originally released as short serialized monthly issues that looked a lot like American comics. Does anyone remember when Akira, the classic of all classics, was first released? It may be surprising but Akira isn’t and wasn’t main stream in Japan. And, for quite a while it was pretty underground in the US too. A lot of Japanese people don’t even know Akira. A lot of Americans could have cared less a few years ago. Fist of the North Star, or as it is known in Japan, Hokuto no Ken, was pretty huge in Japan but a little ho-hum in America.

It seems impossible to predict what, or more importantly when, people may latch on to something. Something may seem unimportant because it’s not the talk of the town today, but tomorrow it’s the best thing since sliced bread. The real fans are the ones that can say honestly that they were there from the beginning when no one else had a clue.

GEN Manga
Lewd and Crude?

Indie is short for independence. Doujinshi properly translated means self-published work, i.e. indie.

Indie goods are produced outside the mainstream market. Indie is work, by definition, that you would normally not see otherwise in the market. Some of it may be too graphic or pornographic for the general public or it may not (pornographic work is often not indie at all).

The point of indie is that it shows what the name suggests, independence. This is what, incidentally, the “free world” is all about. It allows for a different opinion or viewpoint on the norm. Indie has nothing to do with a particular genre or style. It is simply work made and produced with independence from the market. If any preconceptions about what is indie influence the work then, in fact, it no longer becomes indie.

GEN Manga
A  new monthly digital manga magazine recently made its debut, with Gen Manga Entertainment as its publisher. Titled GEN, the magazine will be published on the Internet simultaneously in the U.S. and Japan, with a limited number of print copies available for interested readers as well.

Unlike traditional magazines, though, GEN will feature work by underground Japanese artists and doujin (indie) circles created specifically with an overseas audience in mind.

An important aspect of the magazine, says editor-in-chief, Robert McGuire, will be to monitor and incorporate feedback from fans. If readers gravitate toward certain kinds of stories or perhaps suggest that they’d like to see something different, the magazine will be able to adjust itself accordingly.

If you’re interested in giving GEN a look, you can download the first issue for freehere, and grab issue #2 at a discount here.

Looking over my twitter feed, I found a link from Anime News Network. It stated that a new New York based company had started a online/physical publication called Gen Manga. The purpose of this magazine would be to showcase seinen and doujinshi works. These are not what we would call top titles. Rather, that they are the stories that fall through the cracks and are forgotten. Mature works as well as self published works are covered in the magazine. The publication costs $9.99 for each physical copy, per issue but you can download the first issue as a free download from the Gen Manga website for a limited time. It is also available simultaneously in Japanese as well as English. Online subscribers will be charged $1.99 every month for each online issue. 

So what's the magazine like? In a word: promising. I don't want to get peoples interest too piqued. These stories will never win awards as the most popular manga. But then, I don't think they were intended to be that. They have heart, where the author is doing it purely for the act of storytelling. These are not raw Gekiga and neither are they fluff. They sit somewhere in between for people who still like manga but who want to discover what other kinds of stories are out there. At present there is the #1 free issue and if you subscribe the next issue is available for subscribers right now, separately, both in Japanese or English. Here's my brief overview of the titles in the first issue:

First up, Wolf by Shige Nakamura. This is the story, for the most part, of Naota, a young man travelling to Tokyo to kill a man. On the train ride there, he meets Shota. Shota is going to Tokyo to train to be a sumo wrestler. While initially feigning ignorance at Shota, Naota warms to him after the Sumo-to-be is picked on by some good for nothings on the train. Naota comes to his aid, and in return Shota's trainer offers to stand as his guarantor while he's in Tokyo. I'm not going any further but things pick up before the end of the chapter. 

Next, VS Aliens by Yu Suzuki. Aya Segawa runs into the next class at school and tells Kitaro Iguchi, a boy she's never spoken to before, that there's an alien in the school! Naturally, Kitaro doesn't really believe her but nevertheless goes to speak with the alien Aya identified, Sana Sakuma. But even if Kitaro doesn't believe that the prettiest girl in school could be an alien, there could be a twist here....

Gunya Mihara's Kamen (Japanese for Mask) is a weird one. A person awakes in a field in feudal Japan to find a sentient mask on his/her face. The mask informs the person if the mask is removed the person will die but seems to be helpful as if they are both stuck in the same predicament. At the same time, a feudal warrior and his squad are transporting some peasant prisoners along a dirt road and then they encounter the person with the mask.

Rounding off the first issue is Souls by Arisa Karino. It is a good ghost story but for some readers, being dropped right into the narrative without back story or context might be confusing. Having said that, the chapter on display here is very well done. 

(Just a little note here, these are ongoing titles so any missing parts in the first chapters presented in this first volume, might be addressed in volume 2. Just so you know.)

I cannot find any information on the authors online so finding out if these represent their first works or something down the line is a bit tricky. I hope the Gen Magazine will start an authors spotlight or something similar so we can keep an eye on these authors. In my mind if you are NOT reading certain manga because it doesn't look polished or "like Bleach" then you are reading, in my opinion, manga for aesthetic purposes. This only does yourself and the authors a disservice. Gen Manga is the antidote to this. I like the spirit the magazine's publishers have taken up as their calling. It's like they decided to be the indie version of SigIKKI but without the massive publishing house behind them. If they get enough like minded people subscribed we could have a new favourite, "underground" vibe going here. While I must stress that these stories range from all-ages friendly to some with more "colourful" metaphors, for those who can read this, please do. Another thing I must stress as well is that when Gen Manga state they are going to publish doujinshi, they are not talking about doujin based on existing copyrighted works, rather they mean more like self published works. In an interview, the editor in chief stated they were going to rely on feedback from the readers as to what titles they should go after. So, if you want something that's off the beaten path, here's a golden opportunity! The publishers have stated they are working on an all platforms version of the online magazine. For those of you who want to, there's still the physical copies to be read and most smart phones can understand the Adobe PDF version. Hey, we're starting to get what we want: manga that can be read anywhere, any time at our own pace.
Otaku News

A new monthly magazine namdGen has launched with original manga by Japanese underground artists, and the first issue available as a free download. Gen is a digital magazine with limited-edition print copies.

The Manga Maniac Cafe websiteinterviewed the magazine's editor-in-chief Robert McGuire. McGuire said that Gen will feature "seinenand dōjinshi manga" for the adult market, made by dōjin circles in Japan. "We aren't a traditional publisher that buys rights to already existing titles," McGuire said. "We find Japanese underground artists to create original manga for Americans. We translate the work as it is created and publish for our readers first."

McGuire also said that his company Gen Manga Entertainment was working on an online version of the magazine that would be readable on all devices."

Gen issue 1 contains 140 pages and four stories, in black and white. In addition to the download, a print copy is avaiable from Amazon for US$9.95.

Anime News Network

There a few things that still get me geeked about manga, and one thing is learning about new publishing ventures, especially one aimed at a mature audience.  Robert McGuire, Editor-in-Chief of GEN Manga Entertainment, dropped by the virtual offices to answer some questions that I had about the new manga magazine GEN. 

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your company?

[Robert McGuire] GEN is a monthly magazine featuring new seinen and doujinshi manga. We publish it simultaneously in America and Japan digitally. We offer limited addition printed copies as well. We aren’t a traditional publisher that buys rights to already existing titles. We find Japanese underground artists to create original manga for Americans. We translate the work as it is created and publish for our readers first.

[MMC] Historically, magazines have struggled in this market.  Why did you decide to produce one?

[RM] I think all books and magazines struggle at first unless, of course, they are backed by huge corporate funding. I decided to publish because I love manga. I feel many of my peers who grew up reading manga want to continue reading, but the traditional market isn’t keeping up with their demand. It’s a smaller and more digital world now than it was 10 years ago. Readers don’t want to wait for manga they know is already out in Japan.

[MMC] How are you going to ensure that GEN remains on the cutting edge of manga?

[RM] We hope to let the readers tell us what the cutting edge will be. The stories we offer are made by doujinshi circles in Japan. So it doesn’t get much more raw than that. If the readers gravitate towards certain story lines or want to see something else, we welcome feedback. We have a direct line to doujinshi in Japan so we will continue to introduce new stories. But it is up to the readers to help support independents like us. Otherwise we fall back into reading titles that are decided by large marketing board meetings and publishers trying to tell you, the reader, what you should read. We don’t believe in that and as long as we can stay afloat we will try to give the new uncut stuff.

[MMC] Was it difficult finding titles with strong market appeal for your magazine?

[RM] We are trying to tap into an under developed market. So we really have little to base our titles on.That is to say, it seems that a certain market in the US has been pretty under represented, the adult market. Many traditional publishers seem to think that comics should follow certain patterns and aren’t willing to take chances on less than proven material. We are. So I hope the readers out there will help support our adventurous endeavor. And, I hope I can continue to give readers what they are looking for while helping make new mangaka known in the US.

[MMC]What are some of the biggest challenges you have overcome while working on the magazine?

[RM] Technology. I am more of an editorial person. So my tech knowledge needs improvement. We are developing an online version right now that will be readable on all devices. We try to keep things simple. But it’s a constant challenge to meet the demands of a digitally connected world.

[MMC] Why did you decide to publish more mature titles, instead of shounen titles, which seem to have a broader market appeal?

[RM] The shounen market is flooded with titles. It’s hard to add anything that isn’t already out there. Besides, readers who first started reading manga ten years ago are now growing up. They may want to start moving to titles geared more to their age range.

[MMC] How has the early reception been for GEN?

So far so good. People are really enthusiastic. Everyone really loves the idea and after reading an issue they can’t wait for the next. So I am pretty positive about it.

[MMC] What did you enjoy most about getting the first issue ready for release?

Working with the creators in Japan. It’s their work that makes everything possible. So I get to read and see a lot of new ideas. That’s always a lot of fun.

[MMC] Thanks so much for answering my questions! 

GEN will be available nationwide June, 2011

Manga Maniac Cafe
Parental Advisory: Explicit Content

Before a discussion of the first amendment, does anyone ask, “does this make sense?” Okay, so there may be some material you wouldn’t want your kids reading, well, then don’t let them. But, can’t watch them all the time. Exactly, you can’t. A sticker or a regulation isn’t going to stop your teen from looking at naked breasts or vicariously experiencing violence (the entertainment industry’s prime objective).

Crayon Shin-chan was labeled parental advisory. Admittedly, some of the jokes are mature in the sense that kids may not “get them,” but other than that it’s little more than drawings of Shinchan’s wee-wee dressed up like and elephant. So are some comics for adults? Yes. But, Crayon Shinchan is loved by kids and adults alike in Japan. Comics don’t have to be translatable in Saturday morning cartoons or beefed up for extra violence either. They can simply be about life or this and that. And maybe even the kids, if not pandered to, might grow into well read human beings. 

GEN Manga
H is for Hentai

Everyone wants to know more about hentai. It’s one of the most popular and (often secretly) asked about genres. In Japan the word hentai isn’t necessarily a “genre” per se but often used to refer to sexual perversion in general.

Actually, the word hentai is translated as “pervert.” It comes from the word hentai-seiyoku meaning sexual perversion. However, in contemporary Japan, saying the word “hentai” in a less than accusatory tone does not necessarily always carry the same negative connotations as the word pervert in English. The intended meaning, of course, depends on whose saying it and in what context. It has even been theorized that a popular modern word for sex in Japanese, etchi, comes from the word hentai (the letter H in Japanese is sometimes pronounced “etchi”). 

So remember kids it is always important to know what you are talking about when preparing your dissertation on Japanese comic book porn…

GEN Manga
He, She, or It?

Speaking Japanese can be a tricky thing. There are significant differences in the structure of the Japanese language compared to English. For example, Japanese does not require personal pronouns. They exist, of course, but it’s perfectly acceptable to live your whole life without ever uttering one. Though going your whole life without one would be some trick, it actually sounds rather awkward to use them, except in certain situations.

Manga being told largely through a conversational format generally sees a significant absence of those little definers of person. However, once you get used to it, when speaking or reading Japanese, the personal pronoun becomes quite cumbersome. That is until it comes to translating to English. It can be sometimes confusing when fukudashi aren’t pointed clearly and there isn’t a single she, he, or I around for pages.

If the premise is accepted that language reflects culture, what does it indicate culturally when a language lacks the necessary use of personal pronouns? What does it say about the west’s necessity for them to make grammatically correct sentences?

GEN Manga
The Evolution of Storytelling

Manga’s range covers just about anything imaginable (probably more). But one of the most beautiful concepts about manga is that it is not limited to super heroes, but includes them among all other topics under the sun. 

Manga in Japan covers anything from non-fiction informative self-help guides to heroic battles between ramen chefs. Manga represents gripping tales, identifiable characters, and plots that are as intricate as most any western novel.

The concept of manga in Japan is really that it’s simply a medium for story telling. This is in contrast to the western view that comics represent a particular genre themselves. Manga, for the most part, is a beautiful way to tell stories as it combines the written word with visual appeal. One can think of reading manga as similar to watching a movie. A category can be chosen, whether it be drama or action or erotica, and the story is told through both a narrative element of words as well as pictures.

Could manga be the harbinger for the next evolutionary step in western literature?

GEN Manga
Breakin the Law! Breakin the Law!

So you scanlators out there, do you feel any remorse? Scanlation is becoming quite rampant on the internet. While some publishers are asking scanlators to stop others are taking more drastic measures.

Scanlators are both manga fans and dedicated marketers. They are the very fans for whom manga is made. Their following is also prime readership for the continuous flow of new manga.

But of course da manga-ka gotta eat too. And hardcore manga fans who dedicate their time to the spread of manga would be the last ones to want to take food from a lonely manga-ka’s mouth. So, the question arises, how does publishing keep up with reader demand and still make enough money to keep bringing out new manga the fans love? Advertising bucks only come after proven profit (and who likes advertising). Regardless of the answer, anyway it flows new work needs to prove itself in the market first. And to create new work, a manga-ka needs sustenance.

After all, scanalators, it’s important not to forget that manga comes from somewhere before it’s scanned (or before its even made for that matter).

GEN Manga

A basic understanding of the Japanese language can help a manga fan improve his or her experience. Cultural understanding is of course very useful as well. But linguistic knowledge can help fill in gaps were translation can’t. To clarify, this is often at no fault necessarily due to the translation. But due to the fact that the English language may lack where the Japanese language is prolific (vice-versa also applies, but more on that later).

One aspect especially relative to manga is Onomatopoeia. Of course, in American comics you have words like “blam,” “swish”, or “splat.” But how about a word that imitates the sound of “someone feeling let down” or “smooth skin?” Try to get your head around that!

GEN Manga
That’s GAY

Yaoi, shonen-ai, and boys love (boizu rabu) refer to manga that is about gay people. Well, gay boys in particular. Shonen-ai actually translates to boy’s love. And Yaoi, well, the etymology of that word is another post. But the most strikingly anti-intuitive aspect about this genre is that they are targeted to (and well read by) hetrosexual women. The plots are somewhat similar to your western romance novels, varying in all degrees of explicitness. And the art is often soft, making heavy use of the over exaggeration of desirable facial features (desirable most commonly by many Japanese people), such as large eyes, small heads, blond hair, and long eyelashes. 

This manga has been pretty wildly popular in Japan for quite some time and is gaining more and more traction in the US. A trip to your local comic book store might just prove a Yaoi section! Yaoi started as, and often still is, doujinshi. More evidence to point to American Manga fans and their thirst for the source of new manga. Also, interesting enough, shows how influential women are on comic books. Alas, if only American comics could have been more sensitive to women readership…

GEN Manga
Like a Drug

Does anyone have the tendency to cringe with each new comic book blockbuster that comes out? Comic books once were for underground introverts who found escapism from the harsh reality often referred to as life. Like a drug they provided vicarious experience into a ridiculous yet euphoric world. It seems that American comics have lost their edge. Manga, thankfully for the avid fan, has attempted to fill that hole. But now with recent movies like Thor it seems as if even unpopular characters are being made into blockbusters (sorry Thor fans). The movie industry is taking what once had been precious secrets to a select few and turning them into Old Navy t-shirts. You can call it purist but it seems something went awry when it's become nothing unusual to be a wolverine fan. Dare it be said that it's only a matter of time until "Hollow" cups are available at McDonalds. It's always a challenge to find those source springs that fuel the life of graphic fiction. Because it seems too many are being pumped downstream to a factory to be bottled and sold at the local Walmart.
GEN Manga

Manga first saw it's big boom about ten or twelve years ago. Actually, you'll find titles long before that. However, Tokyopop helped blaze the way for what we read as manga today when it started releasing traditional, read from right to left, manga in 2002. Boy, how far we've come. Dreamland Japan was published about fifteen years ago giving an introduction to the Japanese market. That was before anyone really had any idea what manga was and the American publishers saw it as a novelty that would make little impact. Dreamland Japan was just re-released as a gift edition at yet another pivotal period in manga history. With the downfall of Tokyopop's US offices we have seen a steady decline in sales for manga over the last ten years. With recent years being hit the hardest. Is manga popularity declining? From the looks of readership on the internet and comic-con attendances, it seems not. Where then are all the readers getting issues? What is the next step for the future of manga?
GEN Manga
Love and Sex

Jyosei Manga refers to manga created for women often created by women. While it seems there would not have to be a specific class ofcomics for women, on further inspection, Jyosei Manga will differ quite significantly from other manga. It almost always will be on the topic of love and sex. While being somewhat more mature than Shojyo Manga (shojyo means girl), Jyosei (jyosei means woman) manga tends to be similar in style, except with a lot more sex. This can be quite surprising sometimes to your average American. A typical American girl might tend to think only geeky girlfriendless men read comic book sex stories. The amazing part about these Jyosei Manga is that they tend to sell more than most other titles in all genres! And what is even more surprising sometimes is the amount of gay sex (meaning between two men or most often boys). This genre is growing in popularity in the US. But more on shonen-ai later.
GEN Manga

The word doujinshi is tied to the western idea of indie or underground. It is often confused with pornographic work. While a lot of doujinshi is just that, the word actually points to the meaning we have in the west for self-published work. Don't let google fool you. The amount of porn you'll find when doing a google search is unfortunate because a lot of doujinshi work has artistic merit. Of course pornographic work has its place and time. But in terms of finding new underground work, you'll have to sift through a lot of porn (whether you're in the mood for that stuff or not) to find it.
GEN Manga

Is this the end of manga? Tokyopop, one of the kickstarters of the manga revolution, closing is closing its doors (I know, old news). But, no, I doubt it is the end of manga. Rather, I think that manga is heading into a new phase. Sure, there are economic troubles. But people still want, no, they need their manga. So where is manga headed next? Fans want their manga fix and they want it now. They need new titles coming out raw. They want what Japan gets and they don't want to wait for the powers that be to stand in the way and decide for them and what they will get.
GEN Manga

Everyone knows Shounen Manga (for those who might not know shounen means boy). Who doesn't like Shonen Jump? The best selling manga of all time is Shounen Manga (even surpassing Dragon Ball-which is also shounen). Shounen is great. But what about Seinen Manga (seinen means young man)? Of course there are definitely some good series out there now. But the selection still seems pretty limited. In Japanese there is just as much Seinen, if not more, as there is Shounen. Note: More on Jyosei Manga later.
GEN Manga
A lot of Manga fans know about "sakuru" (circles) of "doujinshi" right? Well, if not, "circles" are a group (sometimes even a single person-which isn't really a circle in the strict sense-but more later on the Japanese language) that make manga on their own. In other words, doujinshi stories are originally self-published work in Japan. And just like this blog, when ever you make something public you publish it. However, because publishing houses can only publish a limited amount of work they can't possibly show you everything that's out there. And there is a lot. So how do you get a hold of some of this elusive "doujinshi" stuff? This is where we can help (somewhat). We bring you raw unedited previously unpublished Manga from Japanese indie mangaka. While our selection is still under development. We bring you new Manga that hasn't otherwise been seen before, other than by the circles of doujinshi in Japan to whom the manga was originally made. We are the first to make it available to you. When you read GEN Manga, you are the first readers to see and review it, let alone the first Americans. So your opinions really count. Take a look and please let us know.
GEN Manga