Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New Project: Future-Retro Hero Story

All right, new project time. This series has been on my to-do list since the very beginning: Takehito Ito's Future-Retro Hero Story. It's the precursor to Outlaw Star, and as such might be characterized as a juvenile fantasy, versus an adolescent one. In other words, they both have spell guns and spaceships, but FRHS tends more to slapstick than it does toward violence.

Why do I find FRHS intriguing? Ito has a gift for world-building, for universe-building. As much as I love Star Wars and Star Trek, we need more sci-fi universes, ones that are full of their creator's inspirations and idiosyncrasies. Though Ito borrows a lot of elements from American pulp sci-fi (Edmond Hamilton's Captain Future stories being perhaps the wellspring), there's an original universe here. And the pulpiness, the pulpiness. I love it whenever one culture's innovation is viewed through the lens of another, entirely different culture. (I feel compelled to mention Yuichi Hasegawa's Maps, which is earlier and arguably more pulp than FRHS, with absolutely tremendous scale. I would probably never have discovered it if not for ebookjapan promotions. Anyway, another great series that will never be translated.) That said, FRHS does appear to suffer from pacing issues. It may very well have been meant to be a 20-volume epic, but as it turned out, fortune was not so kind to the project.

FRHS was first serialized in Kadokawa Shoten's Monthly Comic Comp magazine, an outgrowth of their computer gaming mag Comptiq. It seems likely that it was one of the inaugural serializations, starting in 1988, though I haven't been able to find confirmation of whether or not that's true. But in 1992 there was a shakeup at Kadokawa Shoten: Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, apparently passed over for the throne, quit and formed his own company, Media Works, where he was joined by many of the Kadokawa artists and creators. As if that weren't enough, in 1993 Haruki Kadokawa, the big cheese, was arrested and later convicted on drug charges. It would seem that FRHS was caught up in the drama -- the obi on volume 5 proudly proclaims the greenlighting of an OVA, one that never came to fruition.

That fifth and final volume of FRHS published under the Comic Comp imprint covered chapters through early 1991. No further volumes appeared until the entire series was released under Shueisha's Home imprint over the course of 1996. Where were the chapters published in the meantime? Unlike most collected tanks, which give the date and magazine of initial publication, these volumes are strangely silent. Japanese Wikipedia claims that FRHS restarted serialization in Ultra Jump come 1995. This is reasonable given that the Outlaw Star manga appeared in Ultra Jump, but then why would they publish the tanks under the Home imprint? Mysteries, I tell you.

Anyway, as far as I know, there are three editions of FRHS out there: 1) 5 volumes, Comp Comics (Kadokawa), incomplete 2) 8 volumes, Home Comics (Shueisha), complete, 3) 5 volumes, Home Bunko (Shueisha), complete. We'll be working from the latter edition, which is dubbed the "Director's Cut". I thought at first the Director's Cut was distinguished by the little scribbles in the margins -- yes, those are from the author and not from the scanlator -- but it seems to have more to do with the reformatting of 8 volumes into 5: additional intro and outro pages have been added. By the way, these volumes are published without chapter numbers, so the release chapter splitting may be arbitrary and capricious.

This is a joint with You're Welcome Scans. Without them I'd probably end up sitting on stuff a lot longer than necessary. Next up is a quick, stopgap TL check of the old Jinmen-Juushin material, then we're into unexplored territory. Should be a fun ride.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Suddenly, Poncho.

Finally got my grubby mitts on this rare bird. Thanks to the anon who posted a thread all those years ago. That feel when you will never get chocolate from Tomekichi

Monday, February 10, 2014

New project: HoneyComb

So I was reading this series (in moon) and I thought it was pretty good, with zany characters and lots of laugh-out-loud moments. And gosh, the Rabbits are dead and no other challengers have appeared, so I guess it's up to me to take up the torch. HoneyComb is made up of nice, bite-sized bits of comedy that should hopefully mean a minimum of time investment on my part. And did I mention that it's funny? And cute? (Well, the last volume kinda goes off the rails but there's plenty of good stuff in the meantime.)

Technical apologetics: I'm releasing higher-res files than I normally do because I can't figure out how to shrink them without moire rearing its ugly head. The public raws are breddy nice though; I'm not bothering to level or clean any further. Probably going to cheap out on redraws, fonts, and other bling too. So deal with it.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Manga eBook Interlude: JManga and Crunchyroll Manga

When JManga shut down earlier this year, I had half a mind to write a postmortem about it. Their approach was flawed on several fronts: cost, accessibility, library, quality. With the sudden appearance of Crunchyroll Manga, though, I'm pleasantly surprised that the publishers seem to have learned some lessons from that fiasco.

So what did they do wrong the first time around? The a la carte system certainly made things too expensive. They essentially tried to emulate the model of ebookstores in Japan, which sell mostly at price parity with physical books. This is not such a big deal in Japan, since volumes are about five bucks apiece. But when JManga started, they went for price parity with US releases, which is just insane. Discounts gradually rolled in, but even then, their catalog wasn't all that compelling. They also made a mistake with the region restrictions, although they did open it up worldwide later on. The lack of mobile apps was also a big issue. And of course the quality was rather uneven.

Consumers in the U.S., at least, have gotten used to services like Netflix and Spotify, where it's all-you-can-eat at one low price. And you would think that Crunchyroll, given their pricing model and their involvement in the JManga project, would've spoken up about it.

And so we come to Crunchyroll Manga, which we should probably think of as "JManga 2.0", or perhaps even 3.0. The latest chapters are free to read, and a low-cost subscription opens up the back catalog. It's available worldwide (mostly) and there are mobile apps. There are not so many titles at the moment, but most of the ones available are A-listers. It's almost too good to be true, and if you consume enough stuff across all of Crunchyroll's departments, it's a downright steal.

Of course, there are some details. It seems that some of the titles Kodansha already has in print are not going to have their back volumes online, just current chapters. That makes sense from a business standpoint, and it reflects what Kodansha has going over at their Japanese-language moae/moai.jp site.

The site lists the translator for each series, and immediately the big names stand out, like William Flanagan. There are a few where no translation credits are listed, though. (I'll probably review some of the translations in more detail later, but so far there's nothing glaringly off about them.) Apparently the goal is 50 titles by the end of the year (there is some background in this article, but the quotations are largely the same corporate boilerplate we've seen before), which seems doable, although I'm betting most of those will be recycled from JManga.

It's interesting to reflect on how Crunchyroll started out as a site that hosted (or 'stole', depending on your view) fansubs, and somehow parlayed that into becoming a legit streaming site. (They say that it's often easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission, but CR seems to have pulled off both at once.) And now, strangely enough, they have enough brand recognition to anchor a legal manga service. Time will tell whether CR Manga is ultimately successful, but given's CR's momentum, it seems likely.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Honto finally added "TO" and "FROM" to its shipping labels!

Why is this a momentous occasion, you might ask? Because this.


I think that one's from December. I guess the change actually happened sometime before August but I didn't notice at the time. (Why yes, I do have a lot of cardboard boxes I need to get rid of.) Now my packages don't need to cross the Pacific three times before they reach the proper destination.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Manga eBook World Tour: eBookJapan

The first stop on our tour is eBookJapan. The good: massive selection, including major publishers' crown jewels. Not so good: volumes generally cost the same as physical manga, with maybe a 20% discount for older releases (like, really old). The bad: the Android app has terrible ratings. Personally I haven't had that much trouble with it, but it's rather bare-bones in functionality compared to competitors' apps.

This is going to be a lazy review because I'm just going to complain. When I try to make a purchase on the tablet, the website just gives up. When I try to purchase on PC instead, it tells me that I need to install the PC app. Maybe I'm being hardheaded, but I think this is really stupid because every other eBook store I've tried is perfectly happy to let me pay on the PC and read elsewhere.

Anyway, I'll probably come back to these guys at some point.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Manga eBook World Tour

I got an Android tablet recently, so I've been exploring the various manga eBook options in a bit more depth. Before that, I did play with the various PC eBook apps, but now I can say for certain that the reading experience on a desktop or laptop is inferior to that on a tablet. Since I've dipped my toes into various eBook systems on both sides of the Pacific, I'm going to get up on my soapbox to say a little about each one.

But first, I'll talk about the general state of things. The biggest problem with eBooks for manga is image quality. Tone moire is a huge downer, and most of the stuff I've bought exhibits moire to some degree. Some are just plain bad scans though, and it's the lack of attention to detail that keeps me from enthusiastically going digital.

The second issue is DRM. The failure of JManga shows that the DRM zealots are absolutely right: you have little control over the content you've purchased. If the store goes belly-up or the licensing server goes down, you're SOL. So you have to ask yourself, is this store/service going to be around in five years? With the bigger players, there's less of a risk (you would hope), but some of the little guys might be questionable in that regard.

A few years ago I wouldn't have even considered eBooks, but after moving house a couple of times, I'm starting to come around. Books are light individually, but heavy in aggregate. And since manga tends to multiply like rabbits, it's a particularly painful situation. While I'm not really sure what I'm going to do in the long run, I'm exploring my options. This eBook tour is part of it.