Shinjuku Gyoen, Takeshita Street, Shiboya…

Tokyo is overwhelmingly cool. I don’t know how else to put it! We managed to stay out until 10:30 and slept like rocks to get on local time. We started the morning exploring and headed to Shinjuku Gyoen, a garden with beautiful cherry blossom trees. There were many families out sitting on tarps and eating their lunches. It’s a little muggy and slightly rainy, but the temperature is perfect.

   

      

  

Next we headed to Takeshita Street. It was so packed and music was blaring from every store…

 

  

  

this shirt says “gorgeous boobs”… couldn’t resist taking a pic

  

obama mask… 😨

   

Then we stopped at Meiji-jingu Shrine 

 

  

  

  

 

Shibuya! Someone back in ABQ told us NYC Times Square was based on this. I believe it

 

  

  

  

  

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Welcome to Japan

After a long flight and navigating the Narita airport, we are currently on the train headed to the Shinjuku neighborhood in Tokyo. It’s about 3 am in Albuquerque but we’re pushing on! Once we freshen up, we’ll head out to the Golden Gai area for some food and drinks!

 

my crappy sunset photo on the train… more to come!

 

tight quarters in Shinjuku

  

A dream coming true

I have not posted on my blog in forever… But I’m excited to announce that I will finally be heading to Japan at the end of March! My husband and I will spend 4 days in Tokyo, 2 days in Kyoto, and 2 days in Osaka. I’m beyond ecstatic!

We are using Airbnb for lodging (talk about a budget saver!) and staying in an onsen ryokan near Kyoto. Plenty of planning was done using Pinterest, watching documentaries, and of course perusing plenty of travel sites!

I am going to try my best to post some pictures and thoughts on this blog during my trip. If not then, I will after we get back!

Lovey Dovey: So sweet, you’ll puke

After a long hiatus, I’ve decided to pick this blog back up and start reviewing again! Graduation, job hunting, packing my life away and moving it 10 hours north all got in the way, but now that I’m settled I realized how much I missed reading and reviewing new titles.

While MangaLife is no more, I am working on projects for ComicsBulletin.com and am planning to sign up for Manga Fox’s reader forum so I can get more involved in discussion boards.

Thanks for checking out my blog and feel free to leave a comment, even if you disagree!

20111205-212013.jpg Romance manga that straddles the line between sweet shoujo and smoldering smut aren’t always the easiest to stomach… You’re either gagging at the corniness or cupping your face in embarrassment when things get dirty.

Unfortunately for Lovey Dovey, the manga never finds its balance and ends up dragging on page after page without a sense of purpose. It’s sugary sweet, so much so you’d have to be 12 years old to really enjoy it… until the off beat smut cues in, of course.

The story starts off with Saika, a student at a prestigious high school with a strict no-love policy she upholds as part of the discipline committee. But her composed demeanor is actually a mask worn to impress childhood-friend-turned-love-of-her-life, Keishi, who is also president of the discipline committee.

Saika thinks she’s on her way to confessing when she ends up in the “special section” of school and runs into renown playboy Shin. When he throws himself at her, however, Saika’s true, boisterous self emerges and she smacks him away, threatening to kill him if he ruins her shot with Keishi.

Rejection only turns Shin on more to Saika (surprise, surprise), and he instantly falls for her outspoken nature.

I will admit the beginning chapters were hilarious, a ring of His and Her Circumstances with a touch of MARS. But once Shin suddenly sheds his playboy persona, this manga becomes as dry and cliche as a bottle of $6 Merlot.

Much like a car accident you can’t help but stare at, Lovey Dovey twists on and on through goofy plot lines and maddening dialogue. There are some genuine moments, especially between Keishi and Saika, but the dramatic, “you’re mine” attitude between Saika and Shin had me skipping more pages and chapters than swooning and sighing.

20111205-212436.jpg I mean, when THE bishie everyone is supposed to fall for becomes laughable and cheesy, isn’t it time to end the series with a sweet kiss, ring exchange and a “let’s be together forever” embrace?

And don’t get me started on the other “guy” characters who always seem to fall for Saika–the development is so flat it’s hard to see them as more than cartoon characters. Saika is also the only girl in the manga, minus a few background characters drawn to fill the panels, which quickly becomes boring and surreal. She’s not a heroine and she even seems to lose her outgoing spirit the more caught up she becomes in her relationships.

This isn’t the worst I’ve read, but for a manga with such wonderful art and potential, the sweet taste lingers sour and you’ll end up wishing you’d spent those hours watching mindless TV instead.

If the title doesn’t warn you what you’re in for, I don’t know what else will.

Liz’s rating: β˜…

The end of an era?

I’m currently working on an article for Comics Bulletin about the US shutdown of mainstream manga publisher TOKYOPOP a few weeks ago. The whole mess has me asking a lot of questions about the future of the industry, especially since I’m supposed to be writing it as an investigative piece about what really happened. From what I found, there are multiple layers that contribute to TOKYOPOP’s decline, but one that really sticks out to me is the scanlation “industry.”

Scanlations are fan-translated computer scans of manga titles–many which haven’t been claimed by a US publisher. However, there are popular series like Nana, Death Note, Naruto, etc. that are still being illegally published online. When one site is forced to take the series down, it quickly pops up on another–a never-ending tug of war between publishers trying to recoup their losses and manga fans who want the series on demand for free.

I interviewed one fan who mercilessly blamed consumers of scanlations for the decline of TOKYOPOP and said he preferred owning paperback copies of his manga rather than read online. It made me reflect back on my love for Shojo Beat magazine, a subscription renewed every Christmas for me by mom for about 3 years. I loved flipping through the 300-page magazine all at once, devouring my favorite stories and anxiously guessing what would happen next with my sister.

When Shojo Beat folded and sent a said letter to me in the mail about my subscription, I read my first scanlation. I didn’t even know scanlations existed until a Facebook friend made a comment about reading Nana, my favorite comic in Shojo Beat, on OneManga.com. I immediately went to the site and drooled over all the titles available at the click of a mouse–entirely free. After romance title after title, I explored other genres and discovered my favorite: Death Note. I swear I did nothing that summer but read manga and go to work–I was hooked.

There’s a part of me that will always feel guilty for reading all that manga online for free. It wasn’t helping the mangaka any bit and it was screwing over publishers like TOKYOPOP. But at the same time, my love and interest in other genres wouldn’t have grown if not for OneManga. I’m sure I’m not the only person out there who feels like this, but it won’t make it stop. Just as people continue to download music through torrents, scanlation groups will continue to find new host sites to upload their projects.

I don’t think it’s the end of manga, but it’s definitely a threat.

Earthquake and Cultural Values

I’ve been terrible about keeping this blog up to date, especially after all of the devastation with the tsunami and earthquakes in Japan. It’s almost surreal watching the news videos of the tsunami swallowing whole cities and the earthquake destroying buildings and homes almost effortlessly. My dream has always been to travel to Japan, and it breaks my heart that it will never be the same again.

One story I found particularly interesting among all the coverage of the past few weeks was one of my fellow classmate’s observations about the cultural values of Japan, post-natural disaster (http://www.newsy.com/videos/why-is-there-no-looting-in-japan). Her story focuses on how despite all the destruction, the people were helping each other by sharing their food, cleaning up fallen stores and essentially not stealing or looting, despite how easy it would be. It touched my heart in one clip showing a Japanese man offering his meager pot of soup to one of the American reporters talking to him, smiling humbly and persistently offering a bowl.

It made me wonder if the New Madrid fault line here in Missouri were to suddenly trigger an earthquake, would Americans do the same? The culture of the Mid-West is much different from anywhere in the US, stereotypically portrayed as honest, down-to-earth people who will wave you through the intersection even if they clearly stopped first (I won’t even get into this story, since it drives the Southern girl in my insane!). But if we were to wake up tomorrow and everything was destroyed, what would happen? Sadly, I imagine a “everyone for themselves” type of attitude, especially in a college town like Columbia. I imagine chaos well before the City could restore order. I imagine nothing like what I saw in the Newsy video.

This realization makes me want to fight even harder to travel to Japan one day, to always keep this image in the back of my mind when I interact with people or when someone asks for help. I want to embody this miraculous part of their culture, if not to respect the tradition, but to carry on and hopefully even inspire a similar sense of camaraderie among American people. If there’s one thing we can learn from this tragedy, it’s that money isn’t the answer for quick recovery. It’s unity and tolerance that will help us immediately, and humbleness and strength of will that will carry us forward to the future.

Yen Press App: the future of manga

Source: Yen Press

I have yet to hear back from the Yen Press App developer I emailed with interview questions, but I might as well dabble out my thoughts while it’s still fresh for this post.

The iPad app was released mid-January and allows users to download popular manga titles for $8.99 a pop. I was surprised they cost only $1 cheaper than most paperback copies, but perhaps that will be something they change once more publishers release similar apps.

There’s also not a lot of variety in the number of titles to choose from, but they do have some of their newer titles on hand. The app is free to download and opens up to a pretty simple but interesting design. The top third of the page has three manga covers featured and bottom part consists of a list of titles. You can switch this bottom part between “new releases” and “fun stuff” pages, which list the manga title, cover image, description andΒ  price.

The “fun stuff” consists of free downloads mainly authored by Yen Press staff members about their office adventures. It’s pretty cute and offers an inside view of the staff. All of the “new release” titles can be previewed for free, which is a definite must if your expected to pay $8.99 per download.

You can also view your account information, downloads, and give the developers feedback on a separate page of the app, which is pretty handy if you want to go back and read one of the titles you previously downloaded.

I ended up buying “The Clique v1” (read my review below) and enjoyed the virtual experience. Every page was clear and easy to read, and you can switch between single and double page view by turning the iPad. I could scroll through the pages with ease, but had a hard time at first locating the “touch area” that would take me back to the main menu.

I’ve read manga scanlations on my laptop and iPhone plenty of times before, but the experience and portability of reading on an iPad is unmatchable. It’s fun, clear and an easy way to expand your manga collection without taking up room on your shelves.

Sadly enough, I had to return the iPad I checked out from the J-school last week. If I win the lottery or have a spare $500 in my pocket dreams, I would love to invest in an iPad of my own. I definitely see the Yen Press app as the manga reading experience of the future, and I’m excited to see what the publishers will bring next.

Ways to improve: cheaper manga titles/a monthly subscription fee to access as many titles as you want, more options and a review/comment forum for readers to leave their opinions of what they just read.

Liz’s rating: β˜…β˜…β˜…

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