Shojo Beat

I won’t bore you with the details of how I spent Free Comic Book Day. Let’s just say it was a disappointment and leave it at that. Its one highlight was the completely unexpected appearance of a pile of Shojo Beat previews at my local comic shop.

That’s a pretty good highlight.

I wish I could frame this discussion in a suspenseful way. “After looking at the preview, will David pick up Shojo Beat? Stay tuned!” But that wouldn’t fool anyone, as my shôjo partisanship is documented too well. Even if it weren’t, the participation of Yû Watase (Absolute Boyfriend) and Ai Yazawa (Nana) would have me reaching for my wallet. Frankly, the anthology would have to be seeping toxic chemicals for me to even consider skipping it.

The preview features seven samples of Shojo Beat’s six serialized titles. (Yazawa’s Nana gets two, one for each of its very distinct protagonists.) The material all looks solid, even in brief glimpses. Absolute Boyfriend pulls off the best tease, clipping out a funny, tense scene where protagonist Riiko activates her android paramour for the first time. Looking at Yazawa’s sweet, stylish illustrations is always a treat, and the sample passages from Nana make me eager to see dorky, boy-crazy Nana Komatsu and hard-rocking Nana Osaki cross paths.

Mitsuba Takanashi’s Crimson Hero treads familiar ground (tradition versus independence), but it seems to do it with verve. The sample from Marimo Ragawa’s Baby & Me demonstrates a sure hand for realistically bittersweet moments. (I’m guessing I’ll need tissues handy with this one.) Kaori Yuki’s Godchild changes things up nicely with its Victorian horror and creepy, storybook vibe. Period sword opera Kaze Hikaru (by Taeko Watanabe) doesn’t immediately jump off the page at me, but it looks competent enough, if pretty predictable.

The supplementary material is a bit mixed, with the expected bits of information, promotion, and a survey, of course. Editor Jenifer Morgan provides a nice primer on shôjo manga to start things off, but some of the other blurbs are trying too hard. (From the survey/contest promotion: “Get a napkin before reading about these prizes, because they are sure to make you drool.”)

I do hope Shojo Beat doesn’t adopt with Shonen Jump’s page-bottom crawl. It only shows up in Baby & Me, but that seems like the title least able to comfortably host it. As I’m watching a child recall the moment when he learned about the death of his mother, I really don’t need to be asked, “Why stare into space when you can stare into Shojo Beat? Pick up Issue 1 at a newsstand near you June 2!” The kid’s mom just died! Show some class!

But it’s very promising overall. The manga choices seem varied, accomplished, and even inspired. And if I’m not the target audience for the text pieces, I suspect even they’ll have unintentional entertainment value. And really… Watase? Yazawa? I have no defense against them.

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Will nothing stop manga’s relentless onslaught on innocent demographic groups? First they demolish the fiction that girls don’t like comics. Now, they’ve targeted children. Viz and Tokyopop have both announced that they would be releasing material suitable for the preschool crowd.

Viz has partnered with Simon & Schuster to “create a wide array of books for preschoolers to immerse themselves in the enchanting world of Deko Boko Friends.” Viz describes Deko Boko Friends as “a delightful and refreshing preschool property” featuring “unique characters that help teach children about diversity and tolerance.” For more details, check out the press release here.

Not to be outdone, Tokyopop will launch a new line of children’s books called Jr. Cine-Manga. The line will “bring the beloved characters and storylines kids know and cherish straight from the screen to an original exciting visual format.” Some of those beloved characters include the gang from Sesame Street, so it’s fairly clear Tokyopop isn’t messing around. The full press release is here.

I could joke some more about manga publishers and their insidious efforts to foment early addiction, but this just seems too smart.

Of course, some things seem smart initially and turn out badly.

Take the sad case of DC’s CMX line. The latest (or “other”) twist in the saga is the resignation of CMX group editor Jake Tarbox. (Newsarama reported the story here.) When I saw this article, my immediate fear was that a wave of unseemly schadenfreude would ensue. I needn’t have worried. As with all things CMX, the announcement was too oblique to lend itself to that kind of response.

Since no one outside of DC really knows the circumstances or motivations behind Tarbox’s resignation, it’s impossible to discern precisely what it means for CMX. And while industry speculation is a favorite sport of web-based fandom, that speculation isn’t any more informed now than it was when Tarbox was at the helm and DC wasn’t saying anything about its editorial policies. And DC still isn’t saying anything about its editorial policies.

Perhaps someday soon DC will introduce us to a dynamic new group editor for CMX. Or perhaps they’ll announce that the line is being phased out. Or perhaps they won’t say anything either way, or anything in between, and somewhere down the line, CMX solicitations will just disappear from Previews. All those possibilities seem equally likely.