MONKEY KING volume 2: a welcome addition to Katsuya Terada’s seldom-updated series; the book meets a Western vortex of manga fans allergic to narratively-whimsical violence and comics fans culturally unfamiliar with Journey to the West and prejudiced against manga to begin with. The result is complete oversight, critical and commercial limbo. Doesn’t stop me from digging it.
THERMAE ROMAE: an oasis in the desert of unlicensed manga which tackles Western history with an ideal blend of fascination and irreverence. Everyone with a modicum of good taste wants to see more of this kinda stuff, so why isn’t more getting licensed, damn it? Maybe I’d better shut up before I jinx Vinland Saga. Kodansha Comics is on that one, so we’ll probably be caught up to Japan and the near-instantaneous fanmade translations by the time I turn thirty-five. Better than nothing, I suppose.
Okay, fine, not really. But to be fair, 2012 was a pretty crappy year for manga. Oh, there’s plenty of decent stuff, serviceable stuff, time-killing stuff, but not enough of it was vital, is the problem. So let’s talk digital for a minute.
With a couple of exceptions, I read digital manga out of necessity. There isn’t anything pleasurable about using an Adobe Flash interface to read JPEG images, but until these dingbats stop selling it that way, I take the hit. You know what alleviates the inconvenience? Knowing I’m reading stuff that otherwise doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting licensed, or even scanlated. Comixology, go ahead and crash my web browser every fifteen minutes or so. Like I have a choice.
Look at that wonderful weird blue thing! It’s INAZUMAN, a creation straight out of the bug-obsessed imagination of Shotaro Ishinomori, now available alongside more predictable staples like Kamen Rider and Cyborg 009 on the Comixology website. It’ll be interesting to see how far we get into the Ishinomori Productions catalog, considering the entire freaking thing has been licensed for electronic distribution. I don’t care how overlooked Ishinomori is by manga shills: this distribution deal is a great opportunity to learn more about a prodigious creator who had an unquantifiable influence on Japanese pop culture. So far I’m most excited to see Inazuman, available in English for the first time in any format, on the site.
Maybe 2012 will be remembered as the year a bunch of TAKAO SAITO manga got released, maybe it won’t. (It probably won’t.) But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sheer amount of it now available on JManga, a platform for digital manga most potentially-interested people don’t even know exists. JManga never made the splash other digital manga portals have, largely because it’s a slowly-evolving conceptual mess. And to be fair, also because manga fans resisting the non-free digital arena are some of the whiniest, self-entitled twats I’ve ever seen. Still, there’s more to Takao Saito than the piles upon piles of Golgo 13 pages his production company has been pumping out since the late sixties. The dude plays fast and wild in plenty of genres. Black superheroes! French detectives! Ninjas!