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San Diego Comic-Con 2010
The Best and Worst Manga of 2010

by Gia Manry,

ANN columnist and manga writer Jason Thompson lead a panel featuring ANN columnist/reviewer Carlo Santos, writer/cartoonist Shaenon Garrity, Comics212 blogger Christopher Butcher, and manga.about.com' Deb Aoki. The panel was moderated by a late-arriving Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter.

After introductions, the panel went on a Powerpoint journey through manga releases from throughout the year, starting with Vertical, Inc.'s Twin Spica. Santos remarked that his own educational background was in aerospace engineering, and the title particularly resonated with him. Butcher compared it to a cross between Planetes and Moyashimon while recommending it.

Two CLAMP titles, the omnibus editions of Clover and Cardcaptor Sakura from Dark Horse, were presented next; Garrity plugged her upcoming book CLAMP in America due out this fall, and promoted the new Dark Horse releases, which Aoki also lauded for being multiple volumes in one. Butcher offered that he thought Clover was a much weaker manga than Cardcaptor Sakura and was harder to follow. Garrity responded that CLAMP at least has interesting failures.

Yuji Iwahara's Cat Paradise, published by Yen Press, came up next, and it was pointed out that Iwahara also drew King of Thorn. Thompson pointed out that Iwahara doesn't use screentones in the way that most mangaka do, and Aoki compared it to "X-Men with cats." Butcher opined that he likes Iwahara's art but has not been captured by any of his stories, while Thompson added that people who like cats and monsters will enjoy Cat Paradise.

Following a cat with a cat, Chi's Sweet Home, published by Vertical Inc, which Butcher opened up by pointing out the darkness of the manga: the first 3/4ths of the book is all about a kitten forgetting about its mother in favor of her new human masters. But it is also "so good" and "so cute," Butcher concluded.

Spurgeon noted that frequent objections to the book are the "cuteness overload," which Butcher said bothered him at first but that the thread of the story started to keep it more sedate. Aoki liked that Chi helps to explain a cat's needs and thoughts in a way that was very true to life. Santos felt "ehh" about Chi, disliking the episodic nature of the manga. Butcher agreed that it wasn't for everyone.

TOKYOPOP's Karakuri Odette, by Julietta Suzuki, came next, about a cyborg who wants to go to school and be human. When Butcher, who hadn't read the manga, asked if it was like Chobits, Santos suggested that it was the anti-Chobits, and Aoki found the manga touching and complex for the genre.

VIZ Media's Kingyo Used Books, which Garrity edited, was nominated by Carlo Santos, who suggested it was "manga for manga nerds." The series is about customers and employees at a book store which always has a manga series that helps the customers improve their lives - and features trivia of many obscure manga. Butcher felt that it was about nostalgia for manga that will probably never be released in the U.S., and had expected it to be released online-only (it was released on VIZ's Sig-Ikki website prior to its print release). Garrity noted that later in the series there's a Sailor Moon chapter, and that she feels many fans in the U.S. can relate to the sense of nostalgia if not always the specific titles.

The Mega Man Megamix, released by Udon Entertainment, was presented by Jason Thompson, who noted that its artist Hitoshi Ariga did a Big O manga for VIZ some years back, offers the book as simply a really good Megaman manga, and Butcher concurred.

Kekkaishi, by Yellow Tanabe and published by VIZ, was extolled by Garrity as underappreciated, while Butcher noted that everyone in Japan loves the series. Butcher compared it to Bleach, earning groans from the audience and some of his fellow panelists. Garrity said she had been following Kekkaishi from the beginning and that while its premise is "not all that unusual," it's less episodic and more focused on an ongoing plot, which she felt was in keeping with its Shonen Sunday roots (in comparison to Shonen Jump titles like Bleach).

Moving into a lightning-round version of the Best Manga aimed at adults: Oishinbo (VIZ Media) was voted for unanimously. Naoki Urasawa's Pluto and 20th Century Boys (VIZ Media) are both Eisner nominees; Butcher suggested that Pluto was the darkest "Christopher Nolan-ish" manga available. Jiro Taniguchi's A Distant Neighborhood and The Summit of the Gods, with the latter favored by Garrity and Thompson and the former by Butcher, were published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon.

VIZ Media's release of Fumi Yoshinaga's Ooku was voted for next, and although Butcher loves Yoshinaga and has wanted the series forever, he declared that he hates the translation, which has the characters speaking in pseudo-medieval speech. Detroit Metal City and Yoshihiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life came next, and Garrity noted the history of the book and of Tatsumi himself before promoting it to anyone who has any interest in the origins of manga. Thompson suggested that it was "like Bakuman, for your parents."

Boys Love title Age Called Blue by est em and released by Deux Press came next, a "matador yaoi" title that also featured a "soccer hooligan yaoi" tale after it. Santos recommended Natsume Ono's Not Simple (VIZ Media), and Garrity liked it "the best" of Ono's works, but Thompson declared that he didn't like it. Deb Aoki then compared VIZ Media's Black Lagoon to John Woo and other action film genres.

The next category was "Best Manga: International," which launched with Svetlana Chmakova's Nightschool, published by Yen Press. Felipe Smith's Peepo Choo, which was released last week by Vertical, Inc., came up next, and Butcher said the manga was "so so good" but brutal in its depiction of manga fans. Santos called it the "ultimate rant against weeaboos," and Garrity called it the "anti-Megatokyo." Butcher followed up saying that it was the meanest manga he'd ever seen.

The Color of Earth and its follow-ups, The Color of Water and The Color of Heaven, published by First Second and created by Kim Dong Hwa, got adulation from Butcher and distaste from Aoki, leading Butcher to agree again that it wasn't for everybody. Twilight: The Graphic Novel appeared on the screen next, met with boos and groans from the audience and panelists, although Aoki noted that it was books like this that made publishing other manga possible.

Twilight, it turned out, was meant to be the first title under the Worst Manga, followed by Del Rey Manga's Orange Planet, about a girl who is "too pretty" and has two boys fighting over her. Aoki said called it boring before Thompson moved on to Togainu no Chi, who suggested that manga based on visual novels and dating sims are generally bad regardless of whether the game was originally created for men or women. He also decried the manga's "boys love" label because the men never had romantic relations.

Yoshitsugu Katagiri's Red Hot Chili Samurai, published by Tokyopop, features a strong cover but nothing else, said Thompson. Santos requested that Tokyopop stop licensing "every title with the word '.hack' in the name" in response to hack//4koma, and Garrity expressed distaste for Maximum Ride.

The panel's most anticipated manga started with Top Shelf's AX: Alternative Manga, which Santos called "totally different" and Aoki declared to be "diverse." VIZ Media's Genkaku Picasso by Usamaru Furuya came next, and Butcher noted that he buys anything by Furuya in Japanese because of the mangaka's artistic talents. Garrity opined that he has a gorgeous sense of style and a sick sense of humor.

Moto Hagio's A Drunken Dream, by Fantagraphics Books, came next and Butcher exhorted the audience to attend Hagio's panel at Comic-Con. Fumi Yoshinaga's Not Love but Delicious Foods, due out from Yen Press, was next, and the panelists concluded that it was favored because it was Yoshinaga and a food manga. Mitsuru Adachi's Cross Game, a baseball romance manga, is "sweet" according to Santos.

Vertical Inc.'s release of Osamu Tezuka's dark horror Ayako came next, followed by Last Gasp's The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, which Butcher called "shockingly good."

A wish list came next: the wine manga Kami no Shizuku (Drops of God), Kodansha title Saint Oniisan (Saint Young Men), about Jesus and Buddha as roommates in modern-day Japan, Otoyome Gatari by Emma creator Kaoru Mori set in central Asia in the 20th century, Usamaru Furuya's The Music of Marie, which Santos called "Miyazaki on LSD," Hiroshi Masumura's "Ghibliesque" (said Garrity) manga Atagoul, and finally, Riyoko Ikeda's The Rose of Versailles.

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