Weekend doujinshi review, 2015/1/18

Happy New Year!
I just realized I haven’t done a doujinshi review post in about 2 months. Life has been busy, but as I wrote in my previous post, I did attend Comitia 110 in November, and as always I got a few really nice books which I would like to share with you.

The below books were purchased at Comitia 110.

1 Yuusha to Maou by Nano Atsumi (circle: Ochiba Gaitou)

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Comitia 110 Circle thumbnail:

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Yuusha to Maou is Nano’s take on the popular theme (some might say trope) of a “chosen” hero, born to rid the world of evil. The hero of the story, latest in a line of individuals tasked with vanquishing the demon king the gods failed to in ancient times, grows up in a village among humans, who pamper him because of his status, but treat him as a distinctly different being, not even giving him a proper name (instead simply refering to him as “Yuusha,” literally meaning”hero”).

The hero grows up feeling alone and an outsider, having a hard time accepting his sole purpose as the hero of legend. When he finally ventures out to fight the evil hordes under the demon king’s command, he is promptly captured and imprisoned in the dark lord’s castle.

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Once in the castle, the hero finds that while he is being experimented on leisurely by the demon king’s super-adorable evil scientist underlings, the evil forces make no serious attempt at killing him. Rather, the dark lord seems to simply be sizing him up, even deliberately creating opportunities to just talk, while of course making sure to mention as often as possible how despicable and weak human beings are.

Slowly, the hero notices that the demon king’s heart isn’t completely in the fight, and, just like himself, lacks a sense of purpose in life. Finally, he notices that everyone keeps referring to the evil one simply as “demon king,” just like himself growing up being referred to as “hero.” Maybe hero and demon king aren’t so different after all?

IMG_20150112_0003 Yuusha to Maou is a simple, self-contained (albeit open ended) tale, illustrated in a beautiful style reminiscent of Disgaea or Taira Akitsu’s work. The artist used a traditional 4-panel layout, but the story is told as one and not a series of 4-panel ones.
In a way, I feel like the layout limited the book somewhat, as sometimes the panels are too small to tell exactly what is going on. Similarly, sometimes it feels like there should be a “punchline” to a certain story bit, but it falls flat, possibly also because of the 4-panel layout, which is traditionally associated with more comical books.

Yuusha to Maou is a “copy book,” which is the simplest form of doujinshi, a bunch of copies or printouts stapled together. The book is 28 pages including 4-color covers, with b/w interiors.
I am curious about why the artist went for a copybook instead of having it printed, but at the end of the day it’s about the contents, and Yuusha to Maou is a charming little book that is accessible and fun to read.

The artist: Nano Atsumi on the web

2 Metasequoia by Rocou (circle: 2nd-function)

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Comitia 110 Circle thumbnail:

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On a pitch black sea, a gir is sailing towards an abandoned research facility, all the while conversing with a derelict robot. Humans are long extinct, and the two – the robot being the preserved mind of a scientist, while her nature isn’t explained in detail – are the only lifeforms to be seen.

We find out that the reason for their voyage is a search for food, since the girl has finally run out after being confined to her home for as long as she can remember. The robot points out the leaves protruding from her hair, but she explains that they are only capable of generating auxiliary energy reserves.

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The two enter the facility via an access elevator on the roof – demolishing the robot’s body in the process – leaving the girl to drag the barrel-shaped head part with her into the dark halls (“It’s ok – I designed the head to be light!”).

After a long walk, and endless bitching and moaning from the robot head (“I never should’ve wasted all that money on the brain preservation procedure..”) they reach a control center, where a derelict service android summons a food package, before bursting into flames.

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Metasequoia is the first book of a series, kind of a rare thing for doujinshi. As you can tell from the synopsis above, the story moves at a leisurely pace, without action pieces or a real resolution, but offers a lot of introspection about life in its (very very) post-apocalyptic world.

The book’s appeal lies in the witty dialogue between the pure-minded and optimistic girl, and the desolate and snarky robot. This contrast between the characters’ personalities creates an interesting dynamic that kept me intrigued through the book.
The artwork, a bit simplistic with lots of spot blacks and whites, and fairly rough brush strokes, sets the stage for it but doesn’t steal its attention. I am, however, quite partial to the storytelling when the service android collapses.

Metasequoia is A5, 32 story pages, and leaves the reader with more questions about its world than it answers. Good thing there’s a sequel!

The artist: Rocou on the web, Twitter. More samples from the Metasequoia series can be found at: http://mtsq.jimdo.com/

That’s it for today! Hope you enjoyed the read.
In for more? Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for books I have previously reviewed.

As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!

International Manga Festival 2014 & Publishing a doujinshi in Japan

As I mentioned last week, I helped out my friend Philip Tan in getting a book printed in time for International Manga Festival. I figured it might be interesting for doujinshi fans or aspiring creators to hear how it happened, so here’s a little writeup.

With thousands of publications being printed and sold, Comic Market and similar events are big business for printing agencies, and several of them have specialized in this type of book. There’s plenty of on-demand printers that will get the book to you within 4 business days, at extremely reasonable rates. We chose to go with Taiyou Shuppan, which offers packaged deals at set rates, each with a few different paper or finish options (matte or glossy, coated paper or newsprint, a few weight options, etc). Even if you don’t know anything about printing or paper material, going with the recommendations will produce a nice book unproblematically.

We opted for the “Sun Bazaar PP set”, with a 220kg matte coated 4-colour cover, and 90kg black&white interiors. The inside cover pages are usually blank in doujinshi. Possible page count runs from 12 to 300 pages (including covers), we went with 34 (9 story pages+21 sketch pages).
Printers generally accept almost every file format you’d normally use – in our case, they list Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Corel Painter, Comic Studio (Manga Studio), Comic Works, and PDF.
For illustrator data, I was required to create outlines for all text, flatten layers, embed images and save as eps… But I didn’t check the instructions well enough so I didn’t embed the pictures, left the layers in, and handed it in as ai files. Guess what, they accepted the data anyway. They also remarked that we should’ve numbered the pages as they would not be able to guarantee page order (remedied by writing the numbers on a printout), and helped us add a little bleed to the cover, since Philip had signed it to the far left, in the bleed area.

Philip works analog, so I had him scan the images at 600dpi at the intended print size, which we’d decided on B5 (182 × 257mm). Doujinshi are usually in B5 or A5, which is 148 × 210mm. Philip wanted the option to go edge-to-edge with his art, so we added 3mm each as bleed (188 × 263 mm in total).

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I decided to letter the book in illustrator, since it helps being able to edit and resize without making the lines fuzzy or screwing things up. Scott McCloud ‘s tutorial on lettering in illustrator gave me a great entry point into the process, and most of the balloons are done in the way Scott suggests (except the ones for the villain, which felt like they needed a different brush stroke). Unfortunately I couldn’t find good custom fonts in time, so that is definitely something to keep in mind for the next one.

Note that dialogue is usually lettered vertically in Japanese, and right to left. It helps to leave a bit of additional vertical space when laying out the page. Additionally, the art or dialogue should not go too close to the “throat” of the book, so I tried to keep at least 1cm free from the inside edges. We had the book square bound (no staples), so this was extra important. (I got very, very close to failing to do this)

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Doujinshi are also expected to have a section for the small print at the very end of the book, including contact info (twitter handles or websites are fine for this), copyright declaration, and (usually) the name of the printers. We included a line that says “do not reproduce without permission,” as well as a thank you message to the reader, Philip’s wife, and, well, me for helping get it done.

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The printers specialized in doujinshi are extremely accommodating to artists’ needs. The deadline for data was on Tuesday morning, or even afternoon if delivered in person. Books are then scheduled to be delivered directly to the event, an immense perk of using a doujinshi-specialized printer! Payment is usually done via bank transfer, but recently a lot of places have started accepting credit cards (the one we used accepts them if you show up in person, which was very practical).

When we arrived at the venue around 10am (about an hour before the event kicked off), the books had been safely delivered directly to our booth, and were waiting beneath our table. Amazingly efficient!

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If we’d opted for another printer, we would’ve had the options of carrying them ourselves (a lot of people do this with a simple wheel carrier, kind of like a suitcase without the shell), or having them sent to the temporary Yamato station at the venue – be warned, there is always a long line for this one.

For Comitia and Comiket, creators are required to hand in a sample of each book, and have it checked for content (mostly important for pornographic books). International Manga Festival does not have this requirement, so we were set to sell it right away.

Contrary to Comiket or Comitia, International Manga Festival is similar to a American or European convention. There’s plenty of publisher and retailer booths, a stage featuring panel discussions, and an “artist’s alley” area for individual artists. This area consists of plain tables for the artists to put their wares on, just like Comitia (which IMF is held in conjunction with).

Here’s a great video on International Manga Festival. I’m in there for about a second, see if you can spot me!

Our table was shared with a few other artists invited by Akihide Yanagi’s Amecomi Night, so there were some other products on the table, and signings scheduled (which enabled Philip to take some time off and wander the hall).

People started lining up to get Philip’s book right away, and there was a pretty impressive line as soon as they noticed he was also doing sketches for anyone buying the book. Setting rules for this might be a good idea before setting up.

Comitia/International Manga Festival wraps up at 4pm (yes, it’s only 5 hours), and teardown occurs incredibly fast and efficiently. You take your stuff off the table, move out, and an hour later, the hall is completely cleared out. We had a decent amount of books left, so I packed them back into one of the boxes and carried it out to the temporary Yamato station. They have shipping slips ready, but my advice would be to grab one in the morning and have it already filled out, which would enable you to skip the line for the slips after the event is over and EVERYONE needs one.

We still have some of these books left, so I am going to try to get them up for sale on Comic Zin and other doujinshi stores. I’ll make sure to put together another post about that once it’s done!
As always, make sure to let me know if you have questions, and make sure to hit the like or reblog button if you liked this post 🙂

Philip Tan doujinshi “Garan Guard” for Kaigai Manga Festa 2014

I just got done editing my friend Philip Tan’s first-ever doujinshi, Garan Guard, to be released at International Manga Festival (aka Kaigai Manga Festa) in Tokyo this weekend.
9 all-new story pages scripted and drawn by Philip, plus 21 old and new sketches and commissions, color cover, square bound, to be sold for 1,000 Yen!
If you’re in the area, make sure to stop by Tokyo Big Site, East Hall 4. Booth number is D-09!

いよいよ今週末開催の海外漫画フェスタ(Comitia110内、東京ビッグサイト東4ホールにて)に向けて、フィリップ・タン先生の同人誌を作りました。

タン先生初の完全オリジナル書き下ろし漫画が9ページ、その上スケッチや過去のコミッション絵が21枚と豪華な内容になりました!1,000円の予定です。 タン先生本人ももちろん手売りとサインします。
とてもフレンドリーな方なので遠慮せず話しかけてください!
海外漫画フェスタ、アーティスト・アレイ内のスペース番号D-09だそうです。
ご来場の方は是非お立ち寄りください!000表紙003004016019

Philip Tan doujinshi “Garan Guard” for Kaigai Manga Festa 2014

I just got done editing my friend Philip Tan’s first-ever doujinshi, Garan Guard, to be released at International Manga Festival (aka Kaigai Manga Festa) in Tokyo this weekend.
9 all-new story pages scripted and drawn by Philip, plus 21 old and new sketches and commissions, color cover, square bound, to be sold for 1,000 Yen! If you’re in the area, make sure to stop by Tokyo Big Site, East Hall 4. Booth number is D-09!

いよいよ今週末開催の海外漫画フェスタ(Comitia110内、東京ビッグサイト東4ホールにて)に向けて、フィリップ・タン先生の同人誌を作りました。

タン先生初の完全オリジナル書き下ろし漫画が9ページ、その上スケッチや過去のコミッション絵が21枚と豪華な内容になりました!1,000円の予定です。
タン先生本人ももちろん手売りとサインします。とてもフレンドリーな方なので遠慮せず話しかけてください!海外漫画フェスタ、アーティスト・アレイ内のスペース番号D-09だそうです。ご来場の方は是非お立ち寄りください!

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Weekend Doujinshi Review, 2014/11/9

Another weekend, another self-published manga review. Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for previous installments!

This time around, I am introducing one book from Comitia 109, plus one that I got at Comic Zin. I thought you might enjoy some relaxing reads to recover from last week’s Halloween special

1. That is not love by Juzo Kirisawa* (Circle: Kinokotou)

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After a brief break,this is another one of the doujinshi I got at Comitia 109. (Only two weeks til 110!!)
Comitia 109 circle thumbnail:

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That is not love (interesting, the thumbnail calls it “This is not love”)  is part of a series about a geek from the country making his way through art school in Tokyo, his unrequited love for his cousin, and the gap between otaku and regular people (?).

Art student Kiichi is back home in Hiroshima over the holidays. The book opens with Kiichi being quizzed about his life in Tokyo (love life in particular) by his uncle at a family gathering. His cousin Mokko (this is probably a nickname but the only reference to her in the book) interrupts the interrogation, but quickly gets her own share when the uncle starts plotting to find her a husband in turn.

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That is not love continues to depict Kiichi’s time in Hiroshima at a leisurely pace, including a skype call to a friend’s and a phone call with possible love interest Nakayama back in Tokyo, leading to the deduction that there’s not really much to do in the small town, except for the upcoming fireworks festival… Which gets canceled due to a rainstorm.

IMG_20141109_0003The book closes with Mokko coming to meet Kiichi at the train station, just as he is about to head back to Tokyo, and the romantic tension just keeps on coming…

That is not love is a 26 page A5 book with a glossy color cover. As the color illustration suggests, it is a very laid-back, slice-of-life story without any huge events or resolution, but does a good job of conveying the characters’ emotional states.
The art is just gorgeous and left in pencil uninked, giving it a raw quality that I felt really added to the slowlife atmosphere of the book.

The artist:  on Twitter, pixiv
Juzo Kirisawa’s works on Comic Zin
*note: I am using names in their native (family->given) order, unless the artist is specifically using a different one. In this case, the artist’s name is alphabetized in the given->family order on the book.
Some of Kirisawa’s books are available on Amazon, so I’m going to embed a product widget here too. In case it doesn’t show, try turning off any ad blockers you have installed, or just go to Amazon.co.jp and search for 桐沢十三 .

2 Tirol and the Dragon on Scary Mountain by Kurusu Tatsuya (circle: Ponz)

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In a village where humans and spirits live together harmoniously, little elf girl Tirol is leading a simple life with her grandfather. One day, he tasks her with finding and slaying a dreadful dragon that has been posting on elves and animals in the region.

As she proceeds on the path toward the mountain, Tirol meets several animals, all quivering in fear as soon as they year that she’s heading for the mountain, but she assures them she’ll be fine, as she has learned some magic from her grandfather.

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At long last, Tirol reaches the dragon’s lair, and finds that, while huge and fearsome, the beast is quite reasonable. Why is eating elves and animals such a horrible thing, he asks, after all you eat pigs and cattle, don’t you?
Tirol ends up learning a lesson about the circle of life, and returns home with a better understanding of the food on her table, and its value.

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Tirol and the Dragon is laid out like a children’s storybook, with a single image on each page, accompanied by a block of text with very little Kanji. It reads very much like a fairytale, especially when Tirol meets the talking animals and learns a little more about the dragon from each of them. The story’s resolution is also very reminiscent of any number of fairytales, and the whole package is not only suitable, but downright geared towards children – this would make a fantastic book to read with a small child.

That’s not to say it’s not an attractive book for grownups – after all I purchased it immediately when I saw it at Comic Zin. The art, with very precise and purposeful pen strokes, it’s absolutely gorgeous, and the cover is printed on fantastic textured canvas stock. I would’ve loved to see the cover in color, but I get the feeling the artist left it in black & white on purpose, almost like a coloring book for children.
Tirol and the Dragon is B5 sized, and 24 pages. It’s 300 Yen at Toranoana or Zin, and that’s an absolute steal for such a gorgeous package.

The artist: Kurusu Tatsuya on Twitter, the web.
Tirol and the Dragon from Scary Mountain on Toranoana and Comic Zin

That’s it for today! Hope you enjoyed the read.
In for more? Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for books I have previously reviewed.

As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!

Special Halloween Edition Doujinshi Review

I know, I know. I’m late to the party. Halloween is not usually a big thing for me, since I’m from central Europe. But I made a trip to Roppongi on Friday to see the lifesized Patlabor Ingram (which was super cool, but unfortunately already getting prepped for transport and I didn’t get a good look at it), and the streets were flooded with people in flashy Halloween costumes, so it gave me an idea. Why not do a Halloween-themed doujinshi review?

So I made a short trip to Melonbooks and Lashinbang in Omiya yesterday to specifically look for books with Halloween-ish content. I expected to find a lot of cute witches, ghosts, and possibly some horror content, although I wasn’t sure whether the big stores would be stocking the heavy stuff.
But lo and behold, the first thing I found was this:

IMG_20141103_00011. Kuwareru (being devoured) by Nagomiyasan (Suzuki Nago)

Kuwareru‘s protagonist is a regular Joe, down on his luck: on the very first page, his wife files for divorce, and her lawyer reads him the conditions for meeting their adorable daughter Yukari.
A few days later, he is spending some time with Yukari, and we get the feeling that her innocent smile just might be his salvation, when suddenly he passes out and awakes to…

IMG_20141103_0003Chained to the wall in a barren room, the protagonist finds himself face to face with a huge, savage-looking monster that looks like straight out of Attack on Titan.
Both of them are bound by chained linked to the wall by a timed lock, the last one holding the monster down being set to 15 minutes earlier than the protagonist’s. Next to where he’s sitting, he finds a rusty knife, and binoculars, while the beast on the other end seems to be surrounded by human body parts from multiple victims.

He remembers a similar scene in a horror film, where the main character ended up cutting off their own foot to survive, but quickly dismisses the idea since the knife doesn’t look nearly sharp or strong enough to amputate anything… So he does the understandable thing: He freaks the fuck out.

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Only afterwards does he remember that he was with his little daughter when he was apparently abducted… And things only go downhill from there.

Kuwareru is a classic locked room horror story, and while there is some gore in it, the main scare element is definitely psychological. The main character faces the realization that his life is over, not only because he is about to be dismembered by a hulking monstrosity with gigantic fangs, but because he has already lost everything – his career is stagnating, his wife dumped him, and his dearest daughter may well be dead already. It’s a no-way-out situation, and this being a Japanese story, it is safer not to hold your breath for a happy ending…

Kuwareru  is 28 pages in B5 format, with a matte 4-color cover (probably the scariest I’ve ever seen on a doujinshi). It’s a pretty standard production physically, and definitely more about the story than visuals. The art is reasonably professional, and purposefully comes apart at times when the protagonist loses it.
The original price was 400 Yen, I got it at Melon Books for 549.

The author: Suzuki Nago on Pixiv, Twitter
Kuwareru on Melonbooks

Surprisingly, I didn’t find anything else appropriate for the theme at Melonbooks. So I moved on to Lashinbang, which sells second hand doujinshi and character goods.
And there, at the opposite end of the Halloween doujinshi spectrum, I found:

2. Potoneko Halloween by Naru Nanao & KOKONOBI (circle: Ice & Choco)

IMG_20141103_0006Okay, this is something that would normally never pick up, but it was the only book I could find that actually said “Halloween” on the cover, so I just had to get it.

Poteneko Halloween is a book from 2002, and unlike the other books I have been introducing, it’s simply a collection of illustrations rather than a manga story. According to the introduction, the artists had produced a variety of goods to go with it, such as a clear file (a plastic sleeve/folder to protect loose sheets of paper) and a decorative plate.

The 6-page insides of the book are fairly similar to the cover: There is one illustration per page, with a small block of text describing the artist’s motivations for producing the respective images.

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From what I can find on the web Naru Nanao is a fairly well known games illustrator, and Kokonobi a frequent collaborator (and former assistant?). The book is full color, and printed on pretty thick stock. It was 100 Yen at Lashinbang, I assume that’s because there’s not too much content and it’s fairly old.
There’s a lot of Kancolle illustration on Kokonobi’s Pixiv profile, including one for this year’s Halloween:

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halloween! by ここのび on pixiv

The artists:

Naru Nanao on Wikipedia

Kokonobi on Pixiv, Circle profile

And finally…

3. Kaijuu Wakusei (Monster Planet) by duke

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What would Halloween be without a good Kaijuu movie?

The story is set on a distant planet inhabited by peaceful creatures. Humans invade, and start harvesting the “Kaijuu” as material for weapons and armor. When one of the beasts, a sort of plant-dragon, being herded into town for slaughter, fights back, it’s put into chains and thrown into a dungeon.

There, it encounters a young girl, who has been imprisoned for living together peacefully with the monsters.

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Soon, she is taken back outside to be crucified publicly.. Until the plant-dragon bursts out of the ground from underneath and starts attacking the soldiers torturing the girl.
The soldiers being powerless against the monster, the town’s “king” shows his true colors: He’s a Kaijuu himself, having feasted on the monsters for years.

From there on, it’s an honest-to-god monster brawl, in the vein of the best of the Godzilla movies.

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Since I got this book at Lashinbang, I didn’t get to look at the insides, and half expected it to be a collection of Kaijuu illustrations. Very pleasantly surprised that it was a proper manga, with great art and a good story. Very satisfying conclusion, too.

Monster Planet is a 44-page story in B5 format, square bound with a semi-glossy 4c wraparound cover. It was 300 Yen at Lashinbang, and well worth it I think!

The artist: duke on Pixiv, Twitter

edit: Forgot one! Here is another “illustration collection” type book by artist kr3:

4. kr+4 by kr3 (Shibano Kaito)

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A beautiful collection of witch-themed illustrations. The artist points out on the first page that he loves drawing witches, which have a fairly defined general theme. The book features 7 illustrations, including the cover, each covering a different color or element.

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There’s no text or anything, but the illustrations are gorgeous, so I feel it was a steal at 100 Yen.

The artist: Shibano Kaito on the web

That’s it for today! Hope you enjoyed this look at a few books a little different from what I usually read. Want more? Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for books I have previously reviewed.

As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!

Weekend Doujinshi Review, 2014/10/26

Another weekend, another self-published manga review. Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for previous installments!

The doujinshi in this week’s post are not from Comitia, but actually from a store! I stopped by Comic Zin in Akihabara with a friend visiting from Canada this week, and of course I couldn’t stop myself from getting a few for myself.
Zin is a great store, because they, unlike a lot of other stores, have the erotic, “adult” doujinshi  in a completely different section (read: floor) of the store. As others have pointed out, Akihabara is full of porn, mostly because it attracts more male otaku than female (which is not to say there aren’t boatloads of BL doujinshi to be had here too). We visited a few other shops too, but weren’t able to find such a good selection of original, non-adult books as Zin had. The West Shinjuku Zin store, by the way, is a fantastic shop as well, and has the adult- and all-ages books clearly separated (albeit next to each other).

On to the books.

1. Kuwagata by Higurashi Mikio

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Kuwagata, which translates into “stag beetle,” is a book about two boys, rambunctious Yusaku and quiet Takaya, spending their summer vacation in the countryside. In the opening scene, they race into one of the boys’ grandfather’s house with their catch of the day, a huge stag beetle.
Catching large beetles is a hugely popular pastime for young boys in Japan, where insects or all shapes and sizes are ever-present, and is a popular ingredient of the romanticized “perfect” boyhood summer.

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The beast clocks in at 10cm, beating the previous record of their friend Hana – at which point we start to notice there is a wheel missing from the tricycle. Hana has been away at the training camp of her tennis camp, a fact Yusaku laments vocally.

Hana finally returns the next day, surprising the duo at the creek where they have been hanging out. After she whacks Yusaku over the head with her racket for criticizing her tennis club activities, they get the chance to present their grand victory (the beetle), and she is… utterly unimpressed. Hana is portrayed as, physically as well as mentally, more mature than the boys, and it quickly becomes clear that the relationship between the friends is going to change in a big way…

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This book is from 2007, but personally I didn’t feel like it shows its age at all. It tells a universally recognizable story of the very beginnings of puberty. While the boys, particularly the taller one, are still quite noticeably still children, we get a hint of their development as well when Takaya clearly shows an interest in Hana that goes beyond friendship (and promptly gets heckled by Yusaku for it).

Kuwagata is 20 pages in A5 format, and sold at Zin for 324 Yen. The cover has a beautiful matted finish with a hint of a pearl shimmer that really brings out the blue of the sky and water. The art, while not likely to win any awards, is very fitting for this youthful slice-of-life story.

The artist: Higurashi Mikio (currently going by Ukiwa Yoruno) on Twitter, Pixiv
Kuwagata at Comics Zin

2. TUBB: 桶の狭間で (TUBB: In between the tubs) by Kasahara Tetsuro

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Unlike the other books I’ve been showcasing, this one is actually a side project from an established Manga creator. Kasahara Tetsuro is best known for the manga Rideback, and has been published pretty consistently since 2000.

Oda is a newcomer at a security outfit called “Cucumber” in the distant future, using robotic exoskeletons called “TUBB” (Technical Utility Body Build, nicknamed “tubs”) to protect their clients. It’s a fairly dystopic world, where desert abounds and global warming has triggered the evolution of gigantic insects. He has been there just short of a month, but is already thinking of quitting, largely due to his insufferable superior, Imagawa.

But not all of Oda’s colleagues are as horrible: There’s also Nohime, who despite her cute looks is by far the most capable of the TUBB operators due to her military background. True to form, Oda is smitten with her and trots along into hazardous situations obediently.

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Cucumber’s mission du jour is the escort of a team of engineers set to inspect a power plant (power transmission from space via microwaves, in case you were wondering. They encounter a gigantic beetle called a Rhinodon, and with Nohime preoccupied with subduing a panicked Imagawa, it’s up to Oda to cut the beast down to size with his trusty chainsaw gun.(!)

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As I said before, Kasahara is a published pro, and it definitely shows. The art in TUBB is fantastic, the pacing is just right, and the even with the limited space, every single character is relatable and likeable.

The story finishes with Oda looking down at the handily dispatched Imagawa, and the narration saying “I never imagined that I would be shedding tears over this guy only a few months later.” I have yet to find a sequel to this, I honestly don’t think there is one… Dammit Kasahara!

TUBB is 36 pages long, A5 size, with a matte, textured wraparound cover. Zin is selling it for 630 Yen.

The artist: Kasahara Tetsuro on the web, Blog
TUBB at Comic Zin

And that’s it for today! As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!

Moto 360 Impressions 2 (11 days and counting)

So, I’ve been using the Moto 360 smartwatch for 11 days now, so I thought I’d write a second post to let you know how I feel about it. I’ve been using it pretty consistently every day.

First off, I still have no problems with the battery life. I have had it on Ambient most days, mostly out of vanity – it just looks better with a face on it at all times. I have not had it die on me once. I even used it without charging for two days last weekend – ambient off, and fully powered down from 10pm til 8 am.
I’ve also had zero performance issues, so I’m guessing that the people reporting slowdowns either have a ton of apps or faces on it, or are simply comparing it to some of the other devices I haven’t seen. Either way, it’s a non-issue for me.

I have installed a few custom faces – Facer, Minimus, and Speeds – but most of the time I’m using the Motorola ones anyway. Such as these:

IMG_20141010_194321Still, it’s good to have the options. I do enjoy essentially wearing a different watch everyday!

One thing that was a huge deal for me – and I did add that to my original post – was when I found out that muting does not turn off notifications on the watch. It simply bans all cards off the home screen, and stops the watch from lighting up or vibrating. The cards are below the home screen, so if you swipe them up, everything – notifications and Google Now cards alike – is right there.

Why is this a big deal for me? Because I wanted a clean home screen, and because I didn’t like having to dismiss all cards, not knowing when they will return (which is something I dislike about Now).  So I re-activated the steps card (pedometer), and now have permanent access to the weather, travel time to work/home, notifications, and calendar appointments at all times. score. I don’t walk/run a lot on purpose, but it’s fun to check this stuff either way. Here’s my tweet from right after I found out about this, just to illustrate how much this mattered to me:

By the way, in case you’re wondering, Wear does not display Google Now’s story suggestions and TV-show stuff. Good decision, if you ask me.
I want it to display more things, but I’m not entirely sure what. Maybe restaurant options nearby or something like that? I’d also like to have a face that shows a little number for unread notifications, making it even more glanceable.

The voice activation is hit-and-miss… haven’t quite figured out how to have it consistently recognize the “OK Google” command. But once you tap it to start the voice input, recognization works great.

Also, I got a Pebble Steel band for it. I’d seen it on a few tech blogs, and they looked great on there… so I had to try it out.

IMG_20141019_211207Verdict: It looks really, really good and feels great too. It’s noticeably heavier, but that’s a tradeoff I’m more than willing to take. Even my wife agreed it looks great, and she doesn’t care about gadgets at all.
Swapping out the band was a pain in the ass. I didn’t get a specialized tool, so I did it with the little screw driver that came with the band. Plus, I have the fine motor skills of a 3 year old and about as much patience, so your mileage may vary… But it was really fidgety and I did scuff the edges of the plastic back plate a tiny bit trying to get the pins back in with the new band (particularly the second one).

I also noticed this when I was swapping out the bands:

IMG_20141019_144015I don’t recall snagging it on anything, or doing anything else that should have caused this, but the top layer of the leather band started to peel off. I’d gotten used to the thing, although it was still creaking, but that is a bit of a turn-off right there.

All things said, I’m still using it a lot pretty consistently. Obviously most of the time, I’ll check the time, see if there’s any notifications, maybe look at my steps for kicks or switch songs, and then put it away again. But I think that’s exactly what it’s for, to save me from having to get out my phone for the little stuff. Is that worth $250? Weeeell I think you need to be a special kind of geek for it to be (although there’s plenty of regular watches that cost more I guess).
But I am, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Android Wear goes from here!

Comitia 109 haul review 4

Another weekend, another batch of doujinshi I would like to introduce to you. Like the previous ones, all of these are completely original properties, not “fan fiction” type books. If you enjoy this, make sure to check out the previous reviews: 1, 2, 3

1. Remembrance by PLT (circle: i am nebula)

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Remembrance is a set of short stories about two angels and a god, all of whom are depicted as girls dressed in outfits resembling Japanese school uniforms. All of the stories are relatively light on dialogue, and do not delve too deeply into story- or philosophical elements. (also note that this has no religious context whatsoever, despite the subject matter)

For example, the first chapter opens with one of the angels, Koru, observing Saturn through a telescope. The other, Aru, approaches her and comments on why she doesn’t just fly up close, where it would be much easier to see. The first angel retorts that she sometimes prefers to experience things just as humans do, with all the limitations that entails.
After a bit of banter about humans and their shortcomings, the two accept each others’ points of view, and they head off to Saturn together.

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The 36-page book is drawn in a style usually reserved for light, comical material (reminiscent of Kill Me Baby), and while Remembrance doesn’t go for straight out slapstick, the stories are lighthearted and easy reads. The stories do not interconnect, however the creator suggests in the afterword that they are part of a continuity, albeit out of order.

The art relies heavily on screentones and large-area spot blacks, and is generally well executed, if at times a little loose.

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I picked this up mostly because I really liked the colors and composition of the cover (see the artist’s tumblr for a bigger and nicer version), and while I don’t usually read this sort of books it’s not something that I dislike.
It’s a very light read, and closes with a dark god telling the reader “See you!” as she prepares to smash the world to bits.
It’s a A5 book (I seem to have a thing for these), 40 pages, 400 Yen.

Bonus round: Here’s a lot at the artist’s table at Comitia.

The artist: PLT on Tumblr, Twitter

2. ROUCHE by Payo (circle: インコ(株) = Inko, Inc.)

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Rio lives in the underbelly of a big city. Feeding herself off scraps from a dumpster, she overhears some guys talk about a painting in some ruins, which they are planning to sell for a fortune.
Hopeful that she might get to it before them, she examines the ruins, but gets caught in the line of fire when a scuffle breaks out between a group of soldiers and some rebels, and hides behind a half-toppled wall in the ruins.

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There, Rio discovers a mural of a little girl smiling, labeled “Rouche. Immediately, she is ambushed by Ivan, a soldier who, like her, discovered the painting while trying to escape the armed conflict around them.
Over the following days, Rio and Ivan keep returning to the ruins, gradually getting to know each other and making a pact to clean up the painting. But just when they are started to get along, the war catches up to them…

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The story starts out bleak, and, perhaps realistically for a world in constant conflict, it doesn’t end well for the protagonists. The 40-page story wraps up with a flashback illustrating the story of the real-live Rouche, a girl adopted by her uncle when her father gets drafted into the military at the start of war. Her uncle, a painter, vows to protect her, but his promise slowly turns into an obsession that ultimately drives him mad.

The reader is left to draw their own conclusions about what happened to Rouche, where the painting came from, and whether it might have been the curse of her and her uncle’s fate that drew Rio and Ivan to the painting, and their demise.

Both art and storytelling are a bit unrefined,  but Rouche still delivers a gut punch or two that makes the book well worthwhile.
I might have actually skipped this book had it not been for the production values: The covers are rounded, and the blank page separating cover and content is a deep shade of blue, with a pattern of silver foil stars embossed on it. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the contents, but I really do appreciate when artists go to such lengths to make their books look apppealing. It’s an A5 book, 300 Yen.

The artist: Payo on Twitter, Pixiv

That’s it for today! I hope my reviews are helping illustrate how varied and fun Japanese self-published comics can be when you look outside the fan-fiction and porn sections. I will try to keep this on a roughly weekly schedule, so stop by again next week!
Also, I always welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!

Comitia 109 haul review 3

Continuing the series of reviews of books I got at Comitia 109, today I have another 2 doujinshi to introduce to you. Like the previous ones, all of these are completely original properties, not “fan fiction” type books.

1 Nikochuu Witch Kemuri by Totsuka Kodama (circle: Aramugi)

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This is an odd one. Circle thumbnail:

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The 40-page book contains two chapters of an ongoing story featuring Yanikura Kemuri, university sophomore and chain smoker. After some awkward social moments at school (such as being invited to a party that she actually wants to visit, but turning it down when she notices other peers watching the conversation), Kemuri steps outside for a smoke, and starts hearing voices calling her name.

Shortly after, she finds herself under attack by a monster named Mildzebub, an obvious riff on the cigarette brand Mild Seven. Instinctively, and with some help from the voices in her head, she gets out her cigarettes, and, after a short struggle, lights up. And in a burst of tobacco magic, the monster is vanquished.

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In the second chapter, Kemuri goes out for lunch with a friend who has fallen in with some kind of sect, and tries to persuade Kemuri to join. When Kemuri tells her about her encounter with Mildzebub, her friend rambles on about how tobacco was originally a way for Native Indians to connect with the spirit world, and repeatedly points out there are some Nicotine addicts in her sect as well, who would be able to help her.

When Kemuri blows her off, they are attacked by Kuraclown, a bird-shaped monster riffing on Lark cigarettes. To her surprise, Kemuri’s friend turns out to be a fellow nicotine addict witch, who deftly strikes down the monster with her own tobacco magic.

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My first impulse to get this book was the art, which distinctly reminded me of the short-lived Shounen Jump serial Hachi.  I don’t know whether that has been translated into English, but if you get a chance, do check it out.
Now obviously, the art in Nikochuu Witch Kemuri (Nicotine + chuu(doku 中毒) = Nicotine addict, btw) is not as consistent as Hachi’s, and the story is a bit hit-and-miss, but it does get points for originality. Tobacco Magic? WTF?

Production quality of the 500 Yen book is pretty standard, with a glossy cover and medium heavy, matte white pages. There is a 2-page sketch section in the back explaining the monsters and their (tobacco brand) inspiration, which is sort of cool.

The artist: Totsuka Kodama on the web, Pixiv, Twitter.
The first two chapters of Nikochuu Witch Kemuri are online here.

2  Usagi Samurai (Usagi Samurai boards a boat) by 天邪鬼 (Amanojaku)

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Completely unrelated to the great Usagi Yojimbo, Usagi Samurai takes a decidedly cute take to the world of leporidae swordsmen. The titular character finds himself in the country (Hyuga instead of Iyo), and tries to hire a ferryman to reach his destination. Unfortunately, the town is engulfed in a thick fog, making the voyage impossible.

Having overheard the conversation, a fox in a monk’s robe approaches the samurai, and offers to dispel the fog. The samurai wastes no time in agreeing to the deal, and the fox takes him into the mountains.

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After a long and treacherous path into the mountain, Usagi Samurai finds himself at a guesthouse being treated to great food and a bath in a hot spring. He enjoys himself, forgetting about the issue at hand… Until the fog lifts, and he makes his way back to the harbor town. There, he notices a change in the town’s appearance, and asks a few sailors what year it is, only to find that roughly 400 years have passed.

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This is a nice, compact take on the classic Japanese folklore theme of kamikakushi, an “abduction” by the gods, as famously depicted in Miyazaki Hayao’s Spirited Away.
The art is gorgeous, not to mention cute as hell, which is almost a requirement for books about bunny samurai. Most of the animals are actually quite carefully selected, a fox traditionally being a servant of the gods in Japanese folklore, and raccoons (such as the one serving the food in the page above) being shape-changing tricksters, but also very popular good-luck charms used by restaurants to pray for good business.

The book is gorgeously produced, with the cover having an almost Washi-like quality to it with a faint metallic shimmer. The artist apparently cranked out this 12-page story in just the 2 weeks between Comiket and Comitia, which is extremely impressive.
This seems to be a pretty long-running series, as I also got another issue from 2011, which says it’s already the 5th one.

The artist: 天邪鬼 on the web

Comitia time!

Last week, I wrote about Comiket, Japan’s largest doujinshi market.

Believe it or not, this week, a mere two weeks after Comiket, we’re having another similar event. It’s called Comitia, and unlike Comiket, this one is all about original books and items, no commercially available properties allowed!

This year is the 30th anniversary of the event, and this week’s is Comitia #109. It’s held in the same venue as Comiket, on a smaller scale, and of course there’s going to be a lot of the same people and even books, but it’s all original and that’s awesome! I actually like this more than I do Comiket.

I’m going to have very little time at Comitia this year, so I decided to actually get the catalog (“Tia Magazine”) in advance and try to prepare. Here’s what it looks like:

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It’s a flipbook, this side being a magazine-style layout with a few essays and introductions of a few notable books, and the other side being the actual catalog. By the way, the catalog actually acts as the ticket to the show, and unlike Comiket they do check for that.

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The first thing on the catalog side is the floor map, I’ve translated the categories so you can get an idea of what’s on display: (click to enlarge)

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(JUNE, by the way, is the “official” term for Boys’ Love, or male x male romance books)

After that, an introduction to the event (by way of a manga from artist Kumichou), an overwhelming index list of all participating circles and their booth no., an intro of which editors are available in the review area, ads for books and seminars being held at Comitia, intro to exhibiting companies (they get little booths at the outskirts of the hall), and then of course 150 pages of….

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Yep, that’s all circles get to try and grab your attention! I’m going to put a few hours into this and see if I can figure this out! I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’ll leave you with this gem I found in the catalog at lunch. Definitely going to have to check this book out.

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