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The New Mags on the Block
By Adam Arnold
The sights and sounds of Los Angeles can be an interesting experience for
any non-local, but when it comes down to things, Anime Expo is
not much different from most other conventions. Fans gather to check
out a lot of new shows and to take tons of pictures of their favorite
cosplayers. Companies come out in droves to talk with the press and
Internet junkies about their latest projects. Dealers push tons of
books, videos, action figures, dolls, radio controlled cars and countless
other things onto fans with money to burn.
What does make Anime Expo different is the almost complete industry
representation. Anime Expo has become the E3 of anime in the eyes of fans,
and what better place to announce the arrival of not one, but three new
magazines that could very well bring anime and manga fully into the
mainstream. These latest magazines are VIZ Communications' Shonen
Jump, Kadokawa's Newtype USA, and GUTSOON! Entertainment's
Raijin Comics and Fujin Magazine - and each of them have
something new and interesting to contribute to the market.
The Japanese magazine Newtype has been one of the most
oft-read anime magazines in Japan for almost twenty years now. Competing
against the likes of Animage and other well-established magazines of its
kind, this magazine is one of the first books to break the news of an
upcoming series. Within hours of a new issue's publication, hot news spreads
like wildfire along the Internet, making its way to news sites around the
world. Now, that famous magazine that takes its name from the psychically
advanced humans from Mobile Suit Gundam is making its way to North
America in English.
The magazine, dubbed Newtype USA: The Moving Pictures Magazine, made
its grand debut at Anime Expo 2002, with thousands of free copies of the
full-length preview issue going out to anyone who took a few seconds to fill
out a simple survey card. The magazine cover featured Evangelion's
newest rival RahXephon and came shrink-wrapped with an ADV catalogue
DVD, an Excel Saga poster, and a centerfold of Kei from Dirty Pair
Here's a fun fact: The entire preview issue of Newtype USA took
only a week of pure hell for everyone involved to put together! The final
product consists of 148 pages of translations, rewrites, new material, and
ads, and is one of the sharpest looking magazines out there.
Still, all this attractiveness comes at a price, and that price is
content. Some sections and pages are very sparse, with double-page spreads
and larger fonts being employed to pad some of these problems. Although this
is a preview issue, these problems should be addressed before this magazine
hits newsstands, or it could likely get labeled with a reputation that many
of the video game magazines that offer demo discs get labeled with.
That aside, Newtype USA is something different. It's a magazine
that is printed in traditional Japanese-style right to left format, with all
the text appearing in left to right on the pages themselves. The exception
to this rule comes when the reader gets to the manga in the center of the
magazine. Wait, did I hear you say manga?!
Yes, that's right. Newtype USA has manga! The manga included is Full
Metal Panic, which is written by Syouji Gatoh with art
done by Retsu Tateo and characters created by Doji Shiki. Full Metal
Panic is the story of Chidori Kaname, an attractive young high school
girl who is somehow wanted by some insidious organization and has to be
protected by Sagara Sousuke, an exchange student who has to go undercover in
order to protect her. In just the opening chapter, Sagara breaks through
Chidori's window as she stands there screaming her head off for stepping on
a cockroach. Sagara ends up getting pelted for seeing her almost naked.
Stranger yet, he realizes that Chidori's shoe cabinet has been tampered with
and proceeds to blow it up!
Obviously, Newtype USA's audience is like a lot of magazines in
that it is geared towards an older demographic. Still, some of
the strong language used in Full Metal Panic would definitely piss off some
overprotective parents if they found their kids reading it. Violence and panty flashing aside,
the extreme vulgarity, though alright in terms of the narrative, could be toned down a bit.
The one annoying thing is the fact that there are numbers on each panel
of the manga. It seems that this is a new trend for some reason, because
Raijin Comics has these numbers also. It's rather distracting for
any person that actually knows how to read right to left already, and doesn't
actually help the uninitiated figure out which word balloons to read in which order.
For anyone who has ever picked up or thumbed through a copy of
Newtype in a Japanese bookstore, the first things that
undoubtedly captures the readers fancy are the enormous full page spreads
that just cry out "Scan me, Scan me!" Newtype USA's crowning achievement is
its ability to fully rehash all of its counterpart's first 50 pages in
an exacting manner. This first section of the magazine is devoted solely to current and upcoming anime series in both Japan and North America. Unlike it's Japanese counterpart, however, Newtype USA's version is now under a 'Spotlight' banner.
In the spotlight section, shows such as RahXephon, Noir,
and Steel Angel Kurumi all have a short info byte, character
information, series information, and various quotes in some occasions. What
is interesting to note are the various fonts that are sprinkled about
the pages to help compliment the pictures.
Later sections both before and after the manga focus more on culture,
consisting of stories ranging from anime on the web to how to make
miso soup. For comparison's sake , the Japanese version has in this space the
'Newtype Express,' 'Newtype Press,' more anime spotlights and then a ton of
ads before even getting to the manga in the center of the magazine. For
anyone expecting a total rehash of the Japanese version, that's one thing
you won't get.
The last half of the preview has a section devoted to interviews, anime
reviews, domestic music (a section that the Japanese version also has for
stuff on the other side of the Pacific), and some more spotlights. What
will make people happy is that some of the more culturally based stuff
happening in Japan has been retained and is presented in Newtype's famous
"break out your reading glasses" style. Yes, the text is tiny and fills
virtually every last square inch of white, which is a good thing because this
section is where you can learn the techniques that companies use to make anime,
and also learn about what's hot in the East.
I'll leave you with another fun fact: Turn to page 098 in your copy of
Newtype USA and try to guess what that rare Hello Kitty item is on
the right hand side. I'll give you a hint; it's not a pen.
RAIJIN COMICS & FUJIN MAGAZINE
To start up a new English monthly manga anthology is hard enough for the
existing companies in the American comic industry. But, a Japanese
manga company trying to break into the business with a weekly manga
anthology seemed like little more than a pipe dream for GUTSOON!
Entertainment as they approached their unveiling at Anime Expo.
It could be said that GUTSOON!, a division of Coamix, didn't do their
research - or at least didn't listen to their researchers. Maybe they are
just hopeful that that can survive. But, one thing is for certain; GUTSOON!
sure put their money where their mouth is.
Convention attendees who braved the nauseatingly long lines to get
their badges were treated with a bag full of interesting treats. Along
with the Anime Expo convention guide and some other stuff came a rather
curious looking zero issue of a right-to-left, square bound manga anthology
called Raijin Comics (Raijin meaning "Thunder God" in Japanese).
Think of it like the free issue of Mixx-Zine that was given out at
Anime Expo in 1998, just without the convention brochure printed within the
magazine. This curiosity was a bit of a shock considering Newtype
USA was meant to be the big magazine to get at the con.
Moving into the Dealers Room, it became quickly apparent that GUTSOON!
Entertainment had spared no expense in making sure their presence would not
be over looked. Their huge walk-through booth was filled with comic racks
and tables for people to sign up for a contest to win a trip to Japan or go
ahead and subscribe to the forthcoming weekly anthology. There were also
some interesting trinkets to pick up, such as a preview issue of Fujin
Magazine that had a flip side detailing what Raijin Comics
was all about. There were also some buttons, a mini-CD-Rom containing a
calendar and a planner, and a cool T-shirt for anyone who subscribed.
First of all, a single issue of Raijin Comics costs a whopping
$6.95, but the only way not to miss an issue of this weekly book
is to subscribe (or be lucky enough to find a place that stocks it every
week). Subscription rates at the moment consist of a three different rates
comprised of a 3 month, 12 issue subscription for $77.40; a 6 month, 24
issue plan for $142.80; and a pocket book crunching $237.60 subscription
that'll net you not only 48 issues, but also the choice of a Fist of the
North Star Kenshiro action figure or, get this, a double-sided region 1
DVD containing the first subbed episode of the anime series Fist of the
Blue Sky, the movie Baki The Grappler, and two "How to Draw
It seems GUTSOON! isn't wasting any time in making its way into the anime
market. If Raijin succeeds, chances are very good that the rest of the
Fist of the Blue Sky anime will pop onto store shelves and maybe even
usher in some new anime-inspired video games as well. And yes, Fist of the
Blue Sky is in Raijin Comics. In fact, it's the first title you'll
come to after cracking open your nice shiny Issue 0.
Fist of the Blue Sky is the prequel series to Hara Tetsuo's insanely
popular Fist of the North Star and revolves around Kasumi Kenshiro's return
to Japan after dispatching a large gang in China that was controlling the
opium trade. Kasumi has returned to lead a normal life as a teacher, but
arouses the suspicions of some very dangerous people in the military who
know him as Yan Wang, the Kind of Death.
The main cover series for Issue 0 is City Hunter, which is a
series that needs very little introduction. The manga starts with Saeba Ryo, who
by day is a lecherous young man and by night prowls the city, solving
problems as the notorious "City Hunter." Needless to say, the popularity of
City Hunter spawned a few anime TV series, a full-length movie, two
OVAs, two TV specials, and a Chinese live action movie starring Jackie Chan
that features one of the funniest spoofs of Street Fighter II ever
put to film.
Baki the Grappler may sound more familiar to anime fans by Central
Park Media's title Grappler Baki: The Ultimate Fighter. Baki is a
series by Itagaki Keisuke that tales of an unknown boy who enters the
National Karate Championships and turns a few heads. But, it's not just the
story of this wide-eyed young kid, it's also the tale of these huge bulking
guys who think that showing off makes you a martial arts expert (but
doesn't it?). There are even some sports tips sprinkled in for good measure,
like drinking flat soda before a big match.
Sadly, shoujo fans are a bit left out with Raijin Comics' initial
allotment of manga. The only series that will assuredly peak the interests
of more than just action fans is the series Guardian Angel Getten by
Sakurano Minene. If the title Guardian Angel Getten doesn't sound
familiar, maybe the title Mamotte Shugogetten will. That's right,
this series has also been made into an anime series, which is still
unlicensed at this point (so grab those fansubs while you can).
Guardian Angel at first glance may seem like just another Ah!
My Goddess since Shao Lin is a guardian angel who ends up living with
her master Shichiri Tasuke, but similarities end there. Shao Lin comes
from a mysterious jeweled ring called the 'Shintenrin' that Shichiri's dad
found while traveling in China. Ironically, Shao Lin has been in that ring
for a very long time and she isn't quite up to speed with all the new stuff
in the world, so misadventures are bound to happen often.
Raijin also comes complete with the original series color pages,
and the preview issue has articles devoted to detailing what the series are
about and who the main characters in each of them are. There are even
some special messages from all of the manga-ka, as well.
Interestingly enough, if you turn to the back of the issue, you will find the
table of contents, which is set up just like every manga anthology in Japan.
Simply put, it's a table of contents done in the
Japanese style, if that means anything.
So, four titles, is that all they will have? Not by a long shot . In fact,
issue 1 will see the English-language debut of Inoue
Takehiko's Slam Dunk, and future issues will premiere the likes of
Revenge of Mouflon, The First President of Japan, Bomber
Girl, Encounter, Keiji, Bow Wow Wata, and Wild
Leaguer. And best of all, if one series out of the entire 240-page book
totally sucks, GUTSOON! said that they will judge the fan reaction to the
series and replace any series that slips behind. The way they will do this
is through a fan poll that will be conducted in the same way their Japanese
counterparts do it.
Ok, so Raijin Comics is your average manga anthology, but what
about Fujin Magazine? What's that all about?
Well, Fujin is what you would call a supplemental magazine that
covers the latest stuff happening in the land of the rising sun. When I say
"latest," I mean it. According to the intro on the inside cover of Raijin
"FUJIN is published separately from RAIJIN, so that we can hold off printing
until the very last minute, allowing us to bring you the most up-to-date,
freshest news possible."
That's all well and good, but how is this any different from Newtype
USA? Well, aside from the fact that Fujin Magazine is weekly, the
supplement is more of a byte-sized info book covering the happening around
Japan, such as toy shows and the latest anime announcements. Unlike
Newtype USA, Fujin will be fresh news that was written and
then translated, like, the other day. The best comparison out there is to
think of Fujin as the anime equivalent of what Wizard: The Comics
Magazine does in their 'News & Notes' column.
Interestingly enough, GUTSOON! Entertainment's hour-long panel at
Anime Expo served to reinforce Coamix's vision for the magazine. They
brought in five big guns, including the CEO and company president as a show
of commitment to the press and otaku in the audience. Coamix is the company
behind the runaway hit Weekly Comic Bunch in Japan, as well as a
number of other spin-offs. So, getting big name creators to lend their
works wouldn't be a problem. In fact, it came out that people were actually
excited to join in on the project and wanted their works to be included.
In the limited time remaining, Animefringe posed some unique questions to
the team, including "How will the magazine be protected from getting torn up
in the postal service?" and "When can we expect to see tankoubon of the series
in Raijin Comics?" These answers came from some of the staff
stationed around the audience. It was announced that each issue of Raijin
would come polybagged and if it didn't arrive "in pristine condition" that
they would guarantee to replace it. Strong guarantee there, the only catch
is you have to contact them and send your current copy back. As for
tankoubon, aka trade paper backs of the titles - some of the titles will be
released as graphic novels, but it's too early to guess when they will be
out and what their price point will be.
How will Raijin Comics fare when it launches in November 2002?
That's anyone's guess, but with the sheer raw talent that they have behind
them, they are sure to leave an impact on more than a few people.
VIZ kept a tight lid on their newest manga anthology, called Shonen Jump, in order to wow audiences at the San Diego Comic-Con International in August. What little info was revealed about the magazine over the course of the weekend was enough to peak the interest of fans. The two key titles in the 250+ page magazine are none other than Dragon Ball Z and Yu-Gi-Oh! Which saga Dragon Ball Z would start at was not made clear. The magazine would take a cue from VIZ's concluded anthology PULP and would be released square-bound.
Other tidbits that are known include the fact that the titles that will appear in the magazine will be from Japan's entire 30-year run of the Shonen Jump, and that the book will be sold through both subscription and through a number of retail outlets for $4.95 an issue. Also, expect some editorial content similar to Animerica Extra when the magazine finally launches.
Animefringe did get one thing out of VIZ, and that was that the promo sticker that was given out at VIZ's booth was a revised promotion item. It seems that an alternate image was created that had a number of characters from all the titles that would be appearing in Shonen Jump on it. However, the sticker was changed at the last minute because fans would have instantly known what series would be in the magazine.
Towards the end of July, the big push for the official unveiling of Shonen Jump became VIZ's main focus. As we go to print, visitors to Comic-Con are being wowed with a 56-page abridged preview edition of the U.S. version of Shonen Jump. The big name titles to join prestious ranks of the anthology are none other than YuYu Hakusho, Naruto, Shaman King, the insanely popular One Piece, and Sandland which is another series by DBZ's Bird Studio. And yes, the magazine is printed in the original right-to-left format.
So, want a copy of the preview magazine, but can't get to Comic-Con? VIZ has formed a partnership with the Musicland Group (Sam Goody, Suncoast, and Media Play) and Diamond Comic Book Distributors to offer customers the same Issue 0 that con goers will receive. Animefringe will have more on Shonen Jump next month.
|NORTH AMERICAN ANIME MAGAZINES
|NORTH AMERICAN MANGA ANTHOLOGIES
City Hunter, Fist of the Blue Sky, Baki The Grappler, Guardian Angel Getten, Slam Dunk, etc.
Fushigi Yuugi, Video Girl Ai, Marionette Generation, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Steam Detectives, Chicago, etc.
Dragon Ball, Yu-Gi-Oh!, YuYu Hakusho, One Piece, Naruto, Shaman King, Sandland
|Super Manga Blast!
Shadow Star, Seraphic Feather, 3x3 Eyes, Club 9, What's Michael?
Animerica - http://www.animerica-mag.com/
Anime Invasion - http://store.yahoo.com/wizardworld/animeinvasion.html
ProtoCulture Addicts - http://www.protoculture.qc.ca/
Newtype USA - http://www.newtype-usa.com/
Fujin Magazine - http://www.fujin.jp/
Play Magazine - http://www.play-magazine.com/
Service ^2 - http://www.ServiceServiceMagazine.com/
Animerica Extra - http://www.animerica-extra.com/
Raijin Comics - http://www.raijincomics.com/
Shonen Jump - http://www.shonenjump.com/
Super Manga Blast - http://www.darkhorse.com/
Play Magazine - http://www.play-magazine.com/
Raijin G&A - http://www.raijin-ga.jp/
Images Copyright GUTSOON! Entertainmnet, VIZ Communications, and Newtype. All rights reserved.