I finally got around to watching the 2005 movie adaptation of Ai Yazawa's enormously popular shojo manga series Nana over the weekend:
Yazawa's story follows the adventures of two young women, both named Nana. Nana Osaki is a punk singer who dreams of making it big in the music industry (and surpassing the success of her ex-boyfriend, Ren), and Nana Komatsu is a simple-minded, sweet-tempered girl with bad luck in love. The two Nanas meet on a train to Tokyo, end up sharing an apartment, and, despite their very different personalities, become devoted friends.
Die-hard fans of the manga are almost certain to enjoy this film, seeing as it mimics its source material with remarkable accuracy. Locations, plot twists, and characters—piercings, wrist cuffs, emo hairstyles and all—are faithfully copied from the manga. The actors have undeniable chemistry, and they're instantly recognizable matches for their manga counterparts. (Mika Nakashima, who plays Nana O., and Ryuhei Matsuda, who plays Ren, are particularly well cast—they look exactly Yazawa's visions of their characters.)
Nana is very much a soap opera, and viewers unfamiliar with the story would be well-advised to adjust their expectations accordingly before watching the movie. The film feels like a very long, big-budget episode of an ongoing story—which is basically what it is. (The film script only covers a small portion of Yazawa's storyline.) The characters spend most of their time brooding about their problems, and very few of those problems are resolved by the movie's end*. Rent this movie if you're already a fan of the original manga (or you just like watching pretty, melancholy people in Sid and Nancy-style outfits sit around and play guitars), but skip it if you're a newbie looking for a complete and satisfying storyline.
*They haven't been resolved in the manga, either, and it's twenty volumes long (and still ongoing).
Variety is reporting that actress Rose McGowan is going to star in a remake of the atrociously bad eighties film Red Sonja.
For those of you who haven't seen the original, Red Sonja was a nearly unwatchable 1985 fantasy movie starring Brigitte Nielsen, Sandahl Bergman, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The character of Red Sonja is a red-haired, skimply-dressed swordswoman with a trauma-filled past and a monster chip on her shoulder. She was based on a minor character from the Conan the Barbarian comic book series, who was in turn based on a character from a short story written by pulp fiction author Robert E. Howard. According to Wikipedia, Red Sonja now appears in her own monthly series: Red Sonja: She-Devil With a Sword.
Wow. I don't think I've ever seen the whole Red Sonja movie, but I know I've caught snippets of it on TV, and its awe-inspiring awfulness really stands out in my mind. I wonder if McGowan is hoping this will work as a half highbrow/half lowbrow Kill Bill-style revenge movie?
Barnes and Noble currently has a lovely boxed set of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell available for $3.99. The book has been broken down into three volumes (each bound in a different color: cranberry, black, and white), and originally cost a whopping $26, so this is quite the deal.
MangaBlog's Brigid Alverson recently interviewed ADV sales account manager Chris Oarr (the guy in charge of ADV's manga line) for Publishers Weekly, and NewsARama's Benjamin Ong Pang Kean just posted a two-part article about the fallout from TokyoPop's recent restructuring. There aren't many "When will manga X come out in stores?"-style answers in these articles, but they do say that Yotsuba&! and My Dead Girlfriend aren't totally dead, and Meg Cabot's Avalon High series will be finished.
The thought that Avalon High will be finished while far better series languish in licensing purgatory--including my beloved I Wish, a series that #Korean-Manhwa dropped from their scanlation schedule when TokyoPop licensed it, and which has now been removed from TokyoPop's fall schedule--is totally depressing.
I've recently started watching the anime version of the bread-baking shounen manga Yakitate!! Japan. The series is pretty good (although some of the jokes feel a little overstretched to me), but my favorite part of the show has become the closing credits, which feature the bakery manager character doing an elaborate disco routine. I watch it every time:
I can't tear my eyes away. The first several episodes of the show don't end with this brilliant sequence, but if you hang in there until episode 11 or so you can watch this to your heart's content.
The licensing opportunities alone boggle the mind.
Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Studios have acquired the film rights to The 39 Clues, a mystery series/online game that Scholastic Books is debuting in September.
The 39 Clues is a planned 10-book series about a powerful, mysterious family living in upstate New York. The first installment, The Maze of Bones, was written by Rick Riordan, author of the best-selling The Lightning Thief, and Jude Watson and Gordon Korman have signed on to write future volumes. The series will also feature a set of 355 collectible cards, and Spielberg himself says says he's hoping to direct the film adaptation.
Man convicted of killing 'Curious George' co-author
A jury convicted Vincent Puglisi on Tuesday of killing Alan Shalleck, the writer and director of dozens of short episodes of the Disney TV show Curious George and co-writer (with original creator Margret Rey) of several Curious George books. Shalleck was killed in a murder/robbery in February 2006. Puglisi was convicted of first-degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon, while his co-defendant, Rex Ditto, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and robbery with a weapon in 2007 and was sentenced to life in prison.
Hopefully this news brings some closure to members of Mr. Shalleck's family....
After what feels like months of nothing watchable coming out in video stores, there are two very different Wordcandy-approved film adaptations out on DVD today: The Spiderwick Chronicles and Persepolis.
Children's Book Illustrator Tasha Tudor dies at 92
The New York Times has an obituary up for Tasha Tudor, a well-known children's book illustrator who died last Wednesday at age 92. Tudor was a famously colorful character who chose to live as though she had been transported back to the 19th century. (She claimed to be the reincarnation of a sea captain’s wife who died in the 1840s, and that her old-fashioned lifestyle was an effort to replicate her earlier life.)
Tasha Tudor is best remembered for her illustrations for Clement C. Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and several titles by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Sherri Rifkin’s debut novel Lovehampton is a rare beast: a non-irritating book about a thirtysomething professional woman in New York*. As the story opens, TV producer Tori Miller has just signed up for a shared vacation rental in the Hamptons. Tori has spent the past two years recovering from a bad breakup and the loss of her dream job, but (thanks to an intervention from her best friends that included a starring turn on a makeover reality show) she is finally ready and willing to experience three months’ worth of glamorous parties, new friends, and summer flings.
Fish-out-of-water romances like Lovehampton usually follow a very specific pattern: the heroine ventures into new territory, gets in over her head, lies about something, has her lie exposed in a hideously embarrassing way, and learns a salutary lesson. Rifkin makes some welcome changes to this formula—Tori does venture into new territory, and she does lie about (or at least conceal) her reality-show-tainted past, and it is exposed in a embarrassing way, but Rifkin doesn’t subject her to any stupid salutary lessons. Instead, she presents Tori as an ordinary woman who makes a few bad decisions, but a more-than-equal number of perfectly reasonable ones—and the combination of an intelligent, sensible heroine with the requisite romantic-comedy hijinks makes Lovehampton one of the most satisfying beach reads we’ve come across in ages.
*I don't think it features a single Sex in the City reference! Not one!
Hot Mess: Summer in the City, by Julie Kraut and Shallon Lester
In honor of the first Monday of summer, we’re devoting today’s posts to beach reads. Sure, it might be cloudy where you are, or raining, or hotter than the ninth circle of Hell, but any one of these titles will help you pretend it’s a lovely, leisurely, ice-cream-worthy early summer day. Check back later for reviews of Sherri Rifkin’s Lovehampton (on the blog) and Karen Abbot’s Sin in the Second City (on the main site). We’re kicking things off with a review of Julie Kraut and Shallon Lester’s Hot Mess: Summer in the City.
Thanks to her mother’s finagling, 18-year-old Emma Freeman has landed a summer internship in New York City, and she has big dreams of spending her days at a glamorous job and her nights partying like a socialite. Unfortunately, Emma’s reality is a lot closer to an episode of The Office than Gossip Girl: her boss is creepy, her roommate is insane, and her best friend has abandoned her in favor of an online-dating spree.
Hot Mess is Kraut and Lester’s first book for young readers, and—to give them their due—it’s cute. The heroine is flawed but likable, the secondary characters are enjoyably flamboyant, and the story’s moral (lying is bad) is delivered with laid-back good humor. It’s a fine YA beach read... but, thanks to Kraut and Lester’s misguided attempts to mimic contemporary teen-girl-speak, it’s not exactly pop fiction for the ages. The characters in Hot Mess spew out a constant stream of pop-culture references, name-dropping everyone from the Hills stars to Perez Hilton. I’m all for fun, quip-y, Gilmore Girls-style patter, but jokes about the L.C./Heidi catfight or CW sitcoms have a seriously limited shelf life. Pick up a copy of Hot Mess to enjoy this summer, because half of the book’s humor is going to feel dated by next summer, and make no sense the year after that.
Remember how I was hoping for a Skip Beat! anime? Well, I whined, and the anime gods delivered. According to Anime News Network, an anime version of Yoshiki Nakamura's story will be coming out this fall!
The publishers of Catherine Banner’s The Eyes of a King have talked a lot about the fact that its author was only 14 when she started writing her book. Unlike the books of fellow wunderkinder Christopher Paolini and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, however, Banner’s novel doesn’t actually need the additional hype. The Eyes of a King is far from perfect, but it would have been worthy of publication regardless of its author’s age.
Banner’s protagonist is Leo North, a fifteen-year-old boy who lives with his grandmother and little brother in the miserable, war-torn country of Malonia. Leo is glumly convinced he will be forced to join the army as soon as he comes of age, but his life changes when he finds a magical book in the snow—a book that tells him closely-guarded secrets about his country’s history, and shows him images of another world....
The Eyes of a King is poorly balanced and overly ambitious. Banner’s dual storylines tie together awkwardly, several subplots should have been either cut or better developed, and too many of her characters meet unhappy ends*. Happily, these are faults of editing, not creativity, and while Banner's book has its fair share of problems, it's plenty creative—inventive, interesting, and well-told. Time will undoubtedly improve Ms. Banner’s editing skills, and The Eyes of a King makes it obvious that she has raw talent to burn.
*Plus, a disproportionate ratio of the book’s female characters end up pregnant by fifteen. Like, three out of four.
The English bookseller Waterstones has posted a lovely interview with Terry Pratchett on their website. The article was written by Neil Gaiman (who co-authored Good Omens with Pratchett) and features illustrations by Paul Kidby, who has illustrated the English editions of Pratchett's book covers for more than ten years. In addition to being generally funny, articulate, and amazing, Pratchett talks about everything from his struggle with early-onset Alzheimer's to being made an honorary Brownie for "writing a proper girl in a book".
Rowling justifies several Harvard tuition payments
NPR has an article up about J.K. Rowling's recent commencement address for Harvard graduates. According to report, everything went extremely well--Rowling was funny, the graduates were touched, and (for once) the crowd of guests probably didn't spend the entire time discreetly checking watches.
However, not everyone thought listening to a speech by one of the world's best-selling authors was worth their time. The NPR article includes a quote from computer science major Kevin Bombino: "I think we could have done better... You know, we're Harvard. We're like the most prominent national institution. And I think we should be entitled to... we should be able to get anyone. And in my opinion, we're settling here."
Senior Andy Vaz found Rowling wanting, too: "It's definitely the 'A' list, and I wouldn't ever associate J.K. Rowling with the people on that list.... From the moment we walk through the gates of Harvard Yard, they constantly emphasize that we are the leaders of tomorrow. They should have picked a leader to speak at commencement. Not a children's writer. What does that say to the class of 2008? Are we the joke class?"
You'd think all that Ivy League education would have taught these people when it would be smart to keep their mouths shut to avoid coming off like self-satisfied tools with vastly overinflated senses of entitlement... but apparently you'd be wrong.
In 2006, a French publisher released the first edition of Out of Picture, a graphic novel anthology of 11 short stories written and illustrated by a group of animators from Blue Sky Studios. The American publisher Villard released an expanded edition of the first volume of Out of Picture in 2007, and Out of Picture: Volume Two, which features additional contributing artists, has just come out in stores.
“Out of picture” is a film-making term used to refer to anything cut from a movie, and some of the most intriguing stories featured in the Out of Picture volumes feel like they might have come from larger, more fully-realized works. (I’d love to see more of the world featured in Greg Couch’s nursery rhyme/noir hybrid Four & Twenty Blackbirds.) Other contributors created the literary equivalent of 30-second short cartoons, including Jason Sadler’s existentialism-on-speed quickie Sub Plotter and Lizette Vega’s lively Crawdaddyo, both from volume two. The least successful stories tended to be the wordiest and most thematically ambitious, like Nash Dunningham’s Night School (volume one) or David Gordon’s The Rupture (volume two). Both of these stories looked great, but neither was strong enough to carry off its high-minded subject matter. The rest of the contributions were simply lovely, strange little vignettes, about as coherent as your average dream.
Both volumes of Out of Picture are visually dazzling, and—at about twenty-five dollars per volume—a remarkable value. Sticklers for precisely-structured storytelling might want to look elsewhere, but these gorgeously illustrated anthologies are sure to be appreciated by any fan of modern animation.
I don't have cable, and even if I DID have cable, I probably wouldn't be watching ABC Family... but now I might have to start. In addition to those upcoming Meg Cabot adaptations*, ABC Family's adaptation of Javier Grillo-Marxuach's The Middleman graphic novels started Monday:
According to The Middleman's wiki page, Grillo-Marxuach originally wanted his series to be a TV pilot, but decided that the cost of realizing his vision would be prohibitively expensive and made it into a comic book instead. (Apparently, producing a villain described as a "tentacled ass monster" doesn't come cheap on TV.)
The show has been getting some great reviews, and I hear you can watch the first episode for free on iTunes.
*I've decided to force Megan to watch these first, like a canary in the TV mineshaft...
If you're a fan of the two scanlated series we host, we are happy to inform you that we just posted new chapters of both Banhonsa and Absolute Witch on our Scanlations page. And if you're not following these series, why not? C'mon: they're A) awesome, and B) free. What's not to love?
Sourcebooks has announced that they're planning to release several of Georgette Heyer's mysteries next spring, starting with Behold, Here's Poison, Why Shoot a Butler?, and The Unfinished Clue. All three of these classic British mysteries are awesome, and they're very hard to find in American bookstores, so this is extremely welcome news.
Somehow I missed the fact that Brendan Fraser is going to be starring in the adaption of Jules Verne's novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. I really thought we'd seen the end of his career after the second Mummy movie, but (sadly) that is not the case. Just looking at the trailer tells me that this movie is going to going to be one of those really loose adaptations, so literary purists might want to keep that in mind. But the best part is that in select theaters you can go and watch it in 3D!
P.S. And now I'm told that there is actually going to be a third movie in the Mummy series: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.
I keep hearing that NPR commentator and librarian-at-large Nancy Pearl is going to be featuring Georgette Heyer's novel An Infamous Army: A Novel of Wellington, Waterloo, Love and War on her highly anticipated summer reading list. (The full list will be released sometime this month.) An Infamous Army isn't my favorite Heyer--although any Heyer press is good press, as far as I'm concerned--so I was even more excited to discover that Pearl has already recommended Heyer's The Grand Sophy, which proves she's capable of appreciating Heyer's less intense titles, too. Anyway, this means it's time for her to feature a book that truly needs the exposure: Cotillion. It's currently out in stores, Ms. Pearl! Send it a little love!
The NPR feature The Writer's Almanac informs me that today is Heidi author Johanna Spyri's birthday.
I haven't read Heidi in 15 years, but it's been lurking around in the background of my mind lately. My Austrian film student cousin mentioned that she's working on a show about the Austrian mountains, which--in a roundabout way--reminded me of Spyri's book. (I realize Heidi is set in Switzerland, but mountains are mountains, right?) I have vague memories of being irritated by the movie versions, but thinking the book was actually pretty good. I'll have to pick up a copy and see how the story has aged...
If you like your romance novels high on action, low on plausibility, and full of darkly tormented heroes and heroines, check out Laura Kinsale’s books: they’re imaginative, they’re well-written, and every one of ‘em features a full soap opera’s worth of hardcore drama.
The Prince of Midnight
Once a legendary highwayman, S.T. Maitland is now a recluse living in a crumbling French castle. Once a sheltered noblewoman, Lady Leigh Strachan is now a would-be vigilante. When Leigh asks for Maitland’s help, he turns her down flat—but he can’t seem to forget her, and eventually returns with her to England, determined to avenge her family’s deaths.
The Prince of Midnight is enjoyably over-the-top, complete with cross-dressing, tame wolves, and evil cultists. The main couple is a refreshing change from the usual cold-hearted male/gentle female dynamic, and the storyline features several thrilling action sequences. The story’s climax is rushed, and too many plot points are resolved ‘off-screen’, but the inevitable happy ending feels both satisfying and hard-won.
Seize the Fire
Captain Sheridan Drake may have won awards for his valor in battle, but he’s no hero. When lonely, naïve Princess Olympia, heir to the tiny nation of Oriens, decides Drake would make an ideal knight in shining armor, he agrees to become her protector—but only for a hefty price. Drake assures himself that he’s only interested in Olympia’s wealth, but he soon finds himself risking far more than he wants to in order to protect her....
Seize the Fire is the weakest of the three reprints. Over the book’s nearly 600 pages, Kinsale marches Drake and Olympia through an inventive list of trials and tribulations, including being:
1. Captured by pirates, 2. Sold into slavery, 3. Attacked by an angry mob, and 4. Shipwrecked in Antarctica (where they rescue an orphaned penguin).
In addition to the calamities listed above, Olympia is forced to flee an arranged marriage (with her uncle!), and Drake suffers from some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. The constant dramatics rapidly lost all emotional impact (although I did enjoy wondering what ludicrously dreadful scenario the couple would end up in next), and the story eventually collapses under its own weight.
Miss Merlin Lambourne and Lord Ransom Falconer have nothing in common: Merlin is an absentminded eccentric bent on inventing a flying machine, while Ransom is a powerful aristocrat with a serious fear of heights. While they’re obviously attracted to one another, little can come of such a mismatched union—but when Ransom discovers that Merlin’s inventions have made her a target for Napoleon’s advancing forces, he decides that she absolutely must move in with him....
Midsummer Moon is the most plausible of the three reprints, with dramatic tension that springs from conflicting personalities, rather than a mustache-twirling villain. It is also the only book to feature any humor. (Weird humor, seeing as most of it is based on the behavior of a woman who seems borderline certifiable, but still a welcome addition.) Any of the Kinsale novels featured above will provide readers with several hours’ worth of entertainment, but Midsummer Moon handles its material with the lightest touch.
The fine people at Sourcebooks will soon be releasing three reprints of Laura Kinsale's historical romances from the '80s and '90s. Kinsale has only written one new book in the past decade (2004's Shadowheart), and her epic tales of tortured romance have grown increasingly difficult to find in used bookstores, so these reprints are particularly welcome--and they're even more welcome when you compare their elegantly restrained cover art with that of the originals, which ranged from generic to gloriously cheesy:
Love curtains! Fabio! Teal! Compare the above with...
While I love a good bodice-ripper as much as the next girl, there's no denying that the Sourcebooks reprints would be about 1000% less embarrassing to be seen reading on the bus.
Check back later in the day for our reviews of the above titles!
The Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) has a wonderful new section of their website—an area dedicated to works published for their Annual General Meetings (AGM). These pieces are the crème de la crème of Austen fanfiction, dear readers. The first title is His Cunning or Hers, a Persuasion fic written by June Menzies and featuring illustrations by Juliet McMaster. His Cunning or Hers was first published for the 1993 AGM on Persuasion in Lake Louise.
Note: In Menzies's world, the Eliot family motto is Semper Formosus, which I'm pretty sure translates as "Forever good-looking". Heh.
The manga blogs have been abuzz with news of Tokyopop's recent "restructuring". According to severalsources, the Los Angeles-based manga publisher will divide itself into two separate divisions: the Tokyopop Inc. publishing side, and 'Tokyopop Media', which will focus on digital media and film-related stuff. The changes will result in the layoffs of 39 of Tokyopop's roughly 100 staff members, and many of Tokyopop's titles will be delayed or dropped.
My first reaction to this was sympathy for the laid-off employees. (Good luck, guys! If any of you worked on Tramps Like Us, I really appreciate it!) My second reaction was to wonder if any of my favorite series were on the chopping block. Unfortunately, I probably have the proverbial snowball's chance in hell of finding out.
For some obscure reason, the manga industry is incredibly reluctant to be up-front with its customers regarding release dates and financial issues. I know I've already complained about this issue this month, but I'm truly baffled--what is up with all the secrecy? Why can't we know that the third volume of [insert manga title here] is going to be delayed by six months? I'm not being sarcastic--all this obfuscation seems like a sure-fire way to alienate customers, so I would love to know what the appeal is for manga publishers. I understand that they don't want to look bad by failing to deliver a product on schedule, but refusing to commit to a schedule doesn't seem like a great answer, either.
After 12 action-packed years, comic goddess Rumiko Takahashi is ending Inuyasha. According to the Rumic World website:
"Inuyasha is set to end after two more chapters with #558 wrapping up volume 56. An official announcement is expected in this week's issue of Shonen Sunday (vol. 28), with the final chapter being released in Shonen Sunday vol. 29, on sale June 18th."
This announcement seems a little abrupt--I hope nothing is wrong in Ms. Takahashi's personal life...
I am a wee bit late to this, but Jenny Crusie recently posted* the first chapter of Dogs and Goddesses, her upcoming collaboration with Anne Stuart and Lani Diane Rich, and I am happy to inform you that it is super-cute.
*And by "recently posted" I mean "posted at the beginning of last month". Sorry!
Rumors, the sequel to Luxe, Anna Godbersen's 2007 novel about Manhattan debutantes at the turn of the previous century, is now out in stores:
I loved the cover art for Luxe, but I couldn't get past the book's official summary, which suggested the book had a lot more in common with Gossip Girl than The Age of Innocence:
"Pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn. Irresistible boys with mischievous smiles and dangerous intentions. White lies, dark secrets, and scandalous hookups. This is Manhattan, 1899."
Riiiiight. Look, I don't mind suspending a little disbelief, but I suspect it was easier and less dangerous for rich boys in the 19th century to direct any "dangerous intentions" at lower-class girls. Plus, even if debutantes were allowed the freedom to experience a few "scandalous hookups", which I doubt, they probably would have hesitated out of fear of little things like, oh, pregnancy, social ostracism, or disease. Godbersen's idea is solid, but you'd get more social realism from reading Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Marvel's Runaways series will be getting its very own film adaptation sometime in the (probably very distant) future. Series creator Brian K. Vaughn is writing the adaptation.
As everyone who's ever encountered me in a comic shop knows, I have sworn off Runaways until they bring back Gert. That better happen before the movie comes out, Marvel, or you can kiss my $9.50 good-bye....
Poor Rosamund Bookchild. Orphaned and odd, he just can’t catch a break. He's scrawny and curious in a world where neither is desirable. Kids pick on him, potential employers pass him over, and all but a few of his caretakers would just as soon he simply vanished. Still, he is about to have greatness thrust upon him.
D. M. Cornish’s novel The Foundling—the first book in his "Monster Blood Tattoo" trilogy—is structured as a Dickens-esque slice-of-life novel. Our poor orphan is robbed of his innocence by a parade of seedy characters, and upstanding members of society are quickly juxtaposed with the grifters in the underbelly.
Writers and children will love this book. Children won’t care about the book’s clichés, while writers will appreciate the way Cornish refashions Victorian archetypes with subtle fantasy touches. His craft is not fully developed, but is still well done. There’s a lengthy travelogue section that’s reminiscent of China Miéville, the current master of socially-conscious steampunk.
A great book, though, is more than the sum of its parts. I first read The Foundling four months ago, and writing this review has almost convinced me to read it again. While I originally considered the book to be no more than mediocre, many of the images stuck with me so vividly that I want to revisit them and place them into context. Cornish’s sparks of originality and creativity continue to smolder within my mind, and I’ll keep the book close for a slow afternoon.
Before I end this review, though, I should mention the book’s most irritating affectation: Cornish devotes a full third of The Foundling to a glossary and dramatis, and starts every chapter with a dictionary definition. He obviously feels words are very important, but much of this proved unnecessary—I only found myself resorting to the dictionary twice. The glossary fleshes out Cornish’s world, but is not essential for simply enjoying his story.
David Levithan writes about teenagers so well that I originally thought he must not be too far divorced from his own teen years. As it turns out, he’s thirty-eight—but his writing does an excellent job of conveying the confidence and self-assurance of kids hovering on the cusp of adulthood, as well as their naïveté.
Extended adolescence is the central motif in both the novel Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, which was co-written with Cupcake author Rachel Cohn, and the short-story collection How They Met. Leviathan’s characters are mostly above the age of consent, often gay, occasionally drunk, usually big-city kids. They also carry a lot of freight: youth, sexuality, gender roles, parental divorce, starting college. Throughout, Mr. Levithan manages to write their stories in a simple, straight-forward fashion.
Both books are sprints of perspective. I expected this from How They Met, a collection of 18 short stories written over several years, but it is also true of Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, which channels seven different teenagers over two hundred and twenty pages. Team writing helps here, and not only with the different gender perspectives. Rachel Cohn breathes levity and diversity into Naomi and Ely without seriously changing the tone of How They Met. Despite the authors’ juggling act, each of the characters has a distinct voice and defining symbols. Literally, in Naomi’s case—she thinks in Wingdings. At first this quirk was a little annoying, but it became very effective as the book progressed. More than a simple affectation, it became Naomi. Many of the other characters took such simple, often obvious, starting points and developed into fully dimensional people.
Leviathan and Cohn manage all of these stories and personalities almost without dialogue. Even the small-talk is presented in summarized, recollected form rather than the word-for-word transcripts of other novels. The style allows the characters to develop themselves through rich internal monologues—think Claire Danes’s character in My So-Called Life. Characters burn with self-absorbed curiosity about the minutiae of relationships: What significance a kiss? How many subtleties in a text message?
Eventually, the magic of reliving my teen years wore thin. Writers are like balloon artists: they start with flat, formless items, breathe into them until they become people, and twist them into a variety of (hopefully fascinating and original) shapes. Mr. Levithan has a remarkable gift for breathing life into his teenage creations, but his balloon-twisting skills are limited.
AintItCoolNews has posted some Yotsuba&! news--nothing about a definitive release date for volume 6, but they're featuring a Q-and-A session with Chris Oarr, the sales and marketing representative of ADV. To my intense irritation, the interviewer and Mr. Oarr piously discuss "manga piracy" and its impact on book sales:
SG: I knew comics and manga were pirated online, but my sense was that it was to a lesser degree than anime or other media. I also thought Cromartie High School, Yotsuba and Gunslinger Girl were not as extensively pirated as other manga.
My gage for testing the extent of the issue for a particular title is to run a few obvious Google searches. In this case, I didn't even have to execute the search because the autocomplete suggesting search queries included:
"yotsuba read online"
By your estimation, what is the effect of this piracy on your ability to release these titles? Similarly, if this piracy went away, how much of that would convert into sales versus people who would simply do something else and not read Yotsuba&! if they had to make the effort and investment to obtain a physical copy?
CO: Anime piracy is higher profile, because the material is easily digitized and essentially you just have to hit some buttons to put it online. But you’re right: Comics and manga piracy is growing along with screen sizes. I wish that weren’t the case, but I don’t have the solution. I’d hate to speculate how exactly piracy [impacts] book sales.
Well, I hate to speculate about how INCOMPETENT PUBLISHERS impact book sales.
I would totally pay for the next volume of Yotsuba&!--if ADV would publish it. Manga is EXPENSIVE, and I have already invested fifty dollars in this series, but I am perfectly willing to buy the rest of the volumes as soon as they become available. However, I will continue to read the new chapters online in the meanwhile, because I don't like getting emotionally and financially invested in a series and then being cut off without warning because the publisher puts it on indefinite hiatus.
You can buy the original Japanese and Korean manga/manhwa volumes for about five dollars. The English translations cost twice that amount. I understand that translation and licensing costs money, and I don't begrudge English-language publishers a decent profit (well, not much, anyway), but they have to understand that readers--frequently young, poor readers--are investing a LOT of their hard-earned spare cash into these series, and the market can only bear so many dead-end projects.
According to Variety, Disney's plans for Kingdom Comics are progressing nicely. This new division will develop graphic novels for film adaptation (and turn past live-action films into comics). It will be headed up by actor/producer/writer Ahmet Zappa, former chief executive of Twentieth Television Harris Katleman, and writer/editor Christian Beranek. Naturally, Disney Publishing Worldwide will have the first opportunity to distribute all titles created by this line.
We're seeing early images from Hayao Miyazaki's upcoming film Ponyo on the Cliff:
Ponyo is a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's classic fairytale The Little Mermaid. The plot centers on a goldfish princess named Ponyo who dreams of becoming a human, and her friendship with a five-year-old human boy.
I've always found The Little Mermaid to be brutally depressing (actually, I find most of HCA's stories to be brutally depressing), but Miyazaki hasn't failed me yet. I don't know when this movie will be released in the States, but I'll be there with bells on.
Kendra Leigh Castle’s debut novel Call of the Highland Moon kicks off with a supernatural twist on the meet cute device: When werewolf Gideon MacInnes is attacked by his cousin’s minions during a visit to Upstate New York, he collapses behind Carly Silver’s tiny romance novel bookstore. Carly can tell there is something off about the huge dog bleeding on her doorstep, but snow is falling fast, and the poor thing looks so pathetic she can’t resist taking it home and treating its wounds. She even allows the injured beast to sleep on her bed... only to wake up and find that her new pet has transformed into an extremely handsome—and totally naked—Scottish guy.
Most of Call of the Highland Moon focuses on Carly and Gideon’s developing relationship. The book features its fair share of violence, but its villains are clearly 100% evil (which makes all the butt-kicking pleasantly uncomplicated), and the characters devote just as much angst to wondering if small, delicate Carly could survive a werewolf transformation as they do to Gideon’s epic battle with his cousin. Fans of Laurell K. Hamilton’s kinky, blood-soaked books would be well advised to look elsewhere, but Call of the Highland Moon is a great pick for readers who like their supernatural romances funny, seductive, and light on gore.