Manga Before Flowers -- Manga Licensing Wish List 3/18/08

The manga nominees of 12th Tezuka Cultural Awards were just announced and in honor of Fumi Yoshinaga's Ooku making the list, I've decided to devote this week's column to works I'd probably maim -- maybe even kill -- to see licensed for the U.S. market.

There are no doubt a gazillion awesome titles that haven't made it over to the states yet....These titles merely reflect my current manga obsessions -- a month from now, maybe even a week from now this list would probably look very different. But isn't that what list-making is all about?

1. Fumi Yoshinaga, Ooku. Fumi Yoshinaga remains my favorite mangaka of all time -- her Antique Bakery and Flower of Life are as highly recommended as they come. Baka updates tells me that Ooku is a historical tale, set in a world in which the male population has been practically eliminated due to disease. The Shogun, then, is a matrilineal position and young men attend to her in the hopes of creating an heir. How bloody awesome does this sound? Particuarly since this appears to be a culturally shared tale in Japan (sort of like Saiyuki: Journey to the West) and wouldn't it be wonderful to see Yoshinaga's rendition of it?

I have no doubt DMP could make this title work beautifully (and might eventually publish the final volume of Flower of Life, please?)

2. Moyoko Anno, Hataraki Man. Anno is the author of Flowers and Bees, Happy Mania and Sugar Sugar Rune. I watched the wonderful anime adaption of this title and could only dream of hearing that some smart English publisher would pick up the rights. On the surface, the plot doesn't appear to be that different from Mari Okazaki's Suppli (currently being published by Tokyopop), the difference being the heroine of Hataraki Man is balsy as all get out, as she refuses to compromise her very demanding professional life in spite of the fact it often leads to an impoverished social life. As a woman in a male dominated profession -- she is a magazine editor for a weekly magazine -- she is often criticized for her "masculinity" (hence the manga's title) but there is something incredibly inspiring in the representation of a professional woman that doesn't back down just because her colleagues might find her to be a "bitch." She's not perfect by any means but she's damned likeable.

Del Rey would be a good publisher for this title I think...maybe even Tokyopop.

3. Asa Higuchi, Ookiku Furikabutte. This is a sports title with a most unlikely hero -- a shy and timid young man, who once was given the position of pitcher on his middle school's baseball team due to family connections finds he now must prove to himself -- and to his new team in high school -- that he can make it on his own merits. The art is wispy and not very shonen-esque (the title is classified as seinen since it is published in Afternoon), and the various friendships that develop on the team are quite touching. I could seriously give a crap about sports titles in general, so there really is something here for both men and women, as there always are in comics that are just plain good. Also please see randomly awesome pimping post created by Prillalar on livejournal.

Once again, I think Del Rey would be a good home for this title, maybe even Viz Signature considering the high esteem with which manga fans hold this title in Japan (I can't see it in Shonen Jump Advanced, to be honest).

4. Wataru Yoshizumi, Spicy Pink. Yoshizumi is well known in the U.S. as the author of Marmelade Boy and Ultra Maniac. While both are fine shojo titles -- if not particularly deep or meaningful -- Spicy Pink is her one of her more interesting offers in realm of Josei. The title follows a hard working mangaka who keeps crossing paths with an arrogant doctor who just happens to brighten up her rather Sahara-like social life. And, since this is Yoshizumi, the doctor has a painul past our heroine must deal with, while also surprising herself by falling in love with him. Yoshizumi is just so damn good are giving us titles that are enjoyable and fun, while also making us feel right at home with her character's emotional lives.

Aurora might be a good fit for this title, since while it deals with adult relationships and emotions, it isn't particularly explicit (and doesn't really need to be).

5. Akimi Yoshida, Umimachi Diary. Another title up for the Tezuka Cultural Award, I actually have no idea what the story is about. But it is also by the author of Banana Fish and therefore I want it. Seriously, I haven't a clue what this is about -- it doesn't matter. Author. of. Banana. Fish. What else do we need to know?

As for publisher...your guess is as good as mine.

6. Yayoi Ogawa, Kiss and Never Cry. The latest from the author of Tramps Like Us, this story is about an emotionally damaged figure skater and her childhood friend, who grew up to be a dancer. This series seems to be a bit heavier in tone than Tramps Like Us but I have great faith in the author and would love to see this published in English. Also, a josei series about sports? Sold!

Since Tokyopop did such a nice job with TLU, wouldn't they want to pick up this gem? One would hope so....

7. Fuyumi Soroyo, Cesare. A historical tale about Cesare Borgia told through the eyes of a young impressionable student and created by the accomplished artist and storyteller of MARS and ES: Eternal Sabbath? Sold!

Dark Horse might like to pick up this seinen work....at least I would hope so.

8. Shigeru Takao, Golden Days. I'm not very familiar with this author -- currently her Teru Teru x Shonen is being published by CMX -- but this title looks more interesting to me, and the art much more accomplished. A talented young violinist, struggling under the weight of his mother's expectations, is sent back in time via earthquake, to his grandfather's time, the Taisho Era (1921). It appears there is a bit of shonen-ai in the title as well, which probably can't hurt matters as far as I'm concerned....

Tokyopop could do well with this title, which is complete at 7 volumes in Japan.

9. Kozueko Morimoto, Gokusen. This title is an absolute BLAST -- the main character is the heiress to a yakuza group who has always dreamed of being a school teacher. In order to make her dream come true, she must essentially "go undercover" as a normal human being -- instead of a woman who could beat the crap out of grown men and make them cry she must pretend to be an average twenty-something woman for her students and superiors. Watching her try to balance her two identities is hysterical as she will often slip and the "real" yakuza-raised hellion is released (at times in front of her very impressionable students).

Dark Horse or Del Rey, I think. Or frankly, ANYBODY, because this title is just too awesome not to be released in English.

10. Yoko Kamio, Cat Street. Kamio is very well know in the English manga community for her overly-long series Hana Yori Dango / Boys Over Flowers. Kamio takes all the lessons she learned over that course of producing that series -- how to tell a story, how to explore the inner emotional lives of her characters, how to *draw* well -- and applies them expertly to Cat Street. Cat Street is a show-biz story in reverse, in that actually begins at the end of of the show biz narrative, after the character made her meteoric rise to (& even more abrupt fall from) fame. Now that the main character has failed to survive the harsh light of celebrity she has to pick up the pieces of her life and try to figure out where she might fit comfortably in this world. It is a wonderful title about recovery, friendship and even a little romance, and is complete at 8 volumes (a bit of a relief since HYD stretches on for 36 volumes).

This would be a great title for Viz's Shojo Beat, but Tokyopop might do nicely by it as well.

11. Shouko Hamada, Yume No Kodomo. Although the premise of this title sounds similar to Blu's Junjo Romantica - young man left by sibling in the care of an older, more experienced male caretaker - the titles couldn't be more different in tone and art style. I don't think this will ever be published in English but it is actually a very moving tale about two people discovering who they are and giving themselves permission to love each other. It isn't impossible that a boy's love title from the 90's could be picked up but it seems unlikely, particularly since Hamada isn't a huge name in English manga publishing (Aurora publishes her Flock of Angels, and the reception to that title has been luke-warm at best.)

Blu would probably be best for this 7 volume series, since I don't think its tone really fits well into DMP's line-up.

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