Manga Before Flowers -- Previews, Previews, Previews!!

Nothing gets me more excited about manga than working on my previews order -- the excitement of anticipation (i.e. "Is that new title going to kick as much ass as I think it will?" or "How much more can NANA break my heart?") is really what makes previews so much fun and occasionally nerve-wracking ("dear god, how many titles am I ordering this month?").

And so, on to June Previews, the manga edition!

Aurora / Deux offers one of my favorite yaoi titles by one of my favorite mangaka -- Future Lovers by Saika Kunieda. This is a wonderful and mature tale about two adults falling in love. Kunieda's art-style isn't your usual yaoi pretty-boy stuff and her stories are generally warm, wise, funny and thoughtful. There is a sequel, Kaze no Yukue, which I truly hope Deux also releases at some point.

Fanfare will release Disappearance Diary by Hideo Azuma through Diamond although review copies have already reached the blog-o-sphere -- please to be seeing wonderful reviews by Casy Brienza here and David Welsh here. As David notes, the comic "is a detailed account of the manga-ka€™s bouts with homelessness, abandonment of all responsibility, and alcoholism." And the biggest surprise of all? The story isn't even a downer! I think half my interest in this title is to witness how one can chronicle those horrors and not devolve the story to pure torture (for the reader).

Go! Comi is already soliciting volume 9 of After School Nightmare (meep! that means only one more volume until we reach the finish to this trippy tale of high school gender confusion!). I've talked at length about ASN in this forum (it still remains my favorite shojo manga published in English) so I'll just comment about the fact that Go! Comi might be soliciting this title quite early or perhaps they are catching up on their publishing schedule and we might ASN 8 and/or 9 a little earlier than expected (hey, a girl can dream!).

I'm scared to discuss Tokyopop in a column about previews considering no one really knows how their manga publishing schedule will shake out in the end (including, one assumes, Tokyopop itself) but I suspect they will continue to release Gakuen Alice and Junjo Romantica (both of which make it on my previews order this month). I'm more worried about BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad which is kind of the anti-NANA in its representation of the music biz and is quite excellent in its own right. BECK is probably an underperformer in terms of sales (although it is almost always reviewed positively) so we'll see if the title makes it off the TP chopping block. I certainly hope so.

Meanwhile, Viz is killing (killing. me.) with a deluge of releases this month -- the first volume of Viz's Slam Dunk finally reaches us (what, no product page for this, Viz?), along with fan favorites like Bleach 24, Gin Tama 8, High School Debut 5, NANA 12, Skip Beat 14 and Vampire Knight 5. All of which make my list. And that still leaves the wonderful all-ages title about soccer and friendship, Whistle!, the third volume of the very moving coming-of-age tale Sand Chronicles, the romance comedy Love Com 8, and the art school student mania of Honey & Clover 3 (all of which I can recommend but won't be on my order since I get Sand Chronicles and H&C from the Shojo Beat mag which is enough for me). And we can't forget VIPs (Very-important-properties) like One Piece, Naruto, Prince of Tennis and Yakitate! Japan as well. And, oh yeah, Vagabond VIZBIG is also arriving, for those of us (like me) who didn't follow Vagabond from the start.

Seriously, this is exhausting but also revealing. I can honestly recommend almost every single title Viz is releasing this month and certainly every single title I've mentioned above (although I would recommend those of you over the age of 14 -- either in body or mind -- to steer clear of Vampire Knight. Luckily I've got arrested development so I can happily enjoy my ridiculous shojo melodrama. With only a little shame). Anyway, my point here is that those are 16 titles I think are worth buying, reading, collecting what have you. Not every reader is going to want ALL those titles but I would argue the majority of comic book readers could find at least 5 or 6 titles there that would interest them (me, I'm crazy enough to think 16 of Viz's September releases are pretty damn cool. And I don't even have a clue about the premieres of Wanted and Mixed Vegetables, but I'm guessing they aren't half-bad).

Maybe once upon a time Tokyopop might have had a month like this but I've never seen it. And now we can see fairly clearly from a *product* level how much trouble TP is in and has been in for a fairly long time.

Last, but not least, we have Yen Press, which solicits the first and second issue of its manga anthology magazine Yen +. As I've said before and I'll probably say again, I love me some manga magazines. I'm cautiously excited about this since Yen Press tends to skew towards otaku-heavy titles that generally aren't my thing (Del Rey's Genshiken is probably the notable exception). But I'm more than willing to give the mangazine a chance. In addition, Yen Press also releases the third volume of With the Light (which I recommended here). I can't wait to see how our young friend Hikaru Azuma is maturing with help from his family and community. Finally, a quick plug for the romance title You're So Cool, which begs the question, what happens if your prince charming is really the devil in disguise?

The latest scandals have made manga -- formerly my happy place -- my "blerg" place right now. Talking about previews helps alleviate a little bit of that blerg since we can see that some companies are doing a lot of exciting work in the English-language manga market. But I want to be clear -- Tokyopop has treated its own people terribly for that the higher ups should be ashamed. I never got a chance to send my best wishes to the 39 folks who were laid off but I want to do so now. TP won't be the same without you and I'm sure your experience at the company will send you in many wonderful and surprising directions.

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