MJ: As BL discussions have cropped up in comments over the past couple of weeks, both in the 2012 fannish highlights thread and in this week’s Manga the Week of, Michelle and I thought we’d use this month’s BL Bookrack column to open up some official discussion on our favorite BL of the year. We’ve seen a wealth of new BL titles hitting the shelves in 2012, though our “shelves” have been largely virtual, thanks to new digital publishers like SuBLime, JManga, and the Digital Manga Guild. So before we get down to naming favorites, let’s talk a little about the genre’s move to digital.
Given the North American BL industry’s overall shift to digital distribution over the past year, I admit I was a bit surprised by the level of vitriol aimed at Hikaru Sasahara’s recent announcement regarding DMP’s print hiatus. Though comments run the gamut from reluctant understanding to pointed rage, at least half of the fans who took the time to weigh in specifically mentioned how little they like the company’s digital releases.
Part of my surprise, I think, is due to the largely positive feedback from BL fans regarding Viz’s SuBLime Manga—a mostly-digital imprint whose print releases make up a relatively small portion of their catalogue. In our “fannish highlights” thread, for example, a reader named Lee named DRM-free digital BL as her most significant fan experience of the year, crediting SuBLime as the leader of the pack. So does fan disappointment with DMP stem from the quality and delivery method of their digital releases, or digital in general?
I’m inclined to believe it’s a little of both, and I agree pretty strongly on the first bit. Though I haven’t been a fan of SuBLime’s licenses, they crush DMP so far in terms of both visual quality and ease of delivery. While manga delivered by way of DMP’s iPad app looks like a million bucks, their Kindle releases are far from it (see this article for an example), and eManga’s built-in reader is an incredibly limiting choice for those of us who don’t enjoy reading comics on our computers. I’ve been endlessly frustrated by the fact that I can’t read books from my eManga account in the iPad app (and vice-versa), and though downloadable PDFs wouldn’t be my first choice for delivery, they are at least transferrable from one device to the next. I have high hopes for the upcoming revamp of eManga—and I hope easing off their print schedule is helping to move that along more quickly—but for the moment, SuBLime is absolutely in the lead.
And then there’s JManga. Though not specifically (or even significantly) a BL publisher, JManga’s BL releases have been some of my favorites this year. They’re also behind in terms of delivery—their flash-based reader doesn’t work on my tablet, and though their Android app has been live for a month or so, their iOS release lags behind. And the potential for downloadable PDFs is not even on the table, to my knowledge.
As far as digital distribution in general… I never thought I’d be a convert. I love the look and feel of print books, and I really dislike reading comics on my computer. But I’m absolutely in love with my tablet. Reading on the iPad—both prose books and comics—is a real pleasure. I mentioned to someone at New York Comic Con—Robert Newman, maybe—that if I could read all the manga I wanted on my iPad, in high quality, I’d never buy a print book again. That’s probably not entirely true. High-end hardcover releases from companies like Vertical, Fantagraphics, and (recently) Yen Press would always have a place on my bookshelves. But my space for books is increasingly limited, and it would be relief to be able to just carry them all with me on one small device.
MICHELLE: My experience is pretty different, as I own neither smartphone nor tablet. All I have is a Kindle—which, as mentioned, is useless for manga—and a personal computer. Still, I am not peeved at all by the move toward digital distribution.
True, reading manga on my computer is not nearly as comfortable as curling up on the corner of the couch with a printed volume. However, when doing so gives me access to books I may like to read but not own permanently—as is largely the case with BL, I’m afraid—I have no complaints whatsoever. And when doing so has the additional bonus of giving me access to books that may never have seen the light of day in a printed edition—JManga’s licenses, some of the DMG ones, as well—I really have no complaints at all.
Honestly, what it boils down to for me is company survival. If this is what DMP thinks they need to do to stay afloat as a company, or to revamp their site, or whatever their aims are, then I am fine with it. Would fans rather have no BL at all if they can’t have printed copies?
MJ: So, let’s get to our favorite titles, shall we? I probably read fewer BL releases this year than last, but time constraints ensured that I was pickier about what I read, which means I liked more of them overall.
My greatest BL highlight of the year was absolutely JManga’s release of Setona Mizushiro’s Dousei Ai, an eleven-volume epic that has everything I want in a romance story—complicated, slow-building relationships, thoughtful characterization, and a multi-layered, soap-opera plot.
From my review: “This is no casual one-shot or simplistic BL romance. Setona Mizushiro has carefully crafted a complex emotional drama with some of the best-written characterization I’ve ever seen in this genre and a long game that is pretty obviously going to offer up significant payoff for the reader. I mean, going into this it’s clear that we’re in for a killer of a ride, along the lines of something like Sooyeon Won’s manhwa epic Let Dai, only better—much, much better.”
I’m four volumes in now, and just absolutely hooked. This is my kind of romance, for sure, and Mizushiro’s old-school shoujo artwork is just icing on the cake for me.
JManga was a particularly solid source of BL for me this year, also offering up the intensely charming series My Darling Kitten Hair (more, please, more!), the adorably awkward Doukyusei, est em’s awesome Apartments of Calle Feliz, the infectiously cute My Dear Prince, and Keiko Kinoshita’s fantastic set of short manga I Love You, Chief Clerk!
Speaking of Kinoshita, she’s been a favorite of mine since I read the first volume of Kiss Blue several years ago, but her work is suddenly all over the place here, thanks mainly to the Digital Manga Guild, who brought us (among others) You and Tonight and The Boyfriend Next Door—two of my very favorite BL reads this year. Elsewhere from DMP, their Juné imprint did me a solid by re-releasing the BL “classic” Only the Ring Finger Knows, which I honestly adored.
And if my biggest disappointment this year as a BL fan has been my lack of connection with SuBLime’s licenses in general (I talk about this a bit in our roundup this week, which has been continued in comments), books I did like from them include the sweet one-shot Honey Darling, and one of the only BL comedies I’ve ever been able to tolerate, Oku-San’s Daily Fantasies, which was a huge surprise for me.
What about you, Michelle?
MICHELLE: Despite buying several of JManga’s BL titles—mostly those you mentioned above—the only one I actually managed to read this year was The Apartments of Calle Feliz which, as usual for est em, was terrific. And thanks to DMP, I was also able to read another highly enjoyable est em short story collection, the sports-centric ULTRAS.
Like you, most of SuBLime’s licenses don’t really appeal to me, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been able to find titles to enjoy. The Bed of My Dear King was a quirky and memorable set of stories, The Scent of Apple Blossoms provided yet more proof that Toko Kawai writes my kind of BL, Honey Darling was absolutely flippin’ adorable, and Punch Up! was unexpectedly intriguing, given that it’s more explicit than my usual fare and not adorable at all.
DMP was also responsible for some of this year’s favorites, starting with the engrossing, yakuza-themed Men of Tattoos (which technically came out in 2011). Mangaka Yuiji Aniya does some clever things with this interconnected set of stories that make this a title I’d recommend to any manga fan. Another title I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend is Only Serious About You, whose second volume portrayed the evolving relationship between its main characters with sensitivity and realism.
But my favorite DMP offering, and my overall favorite BL release for the year, is Momoko Tenzen’s Flutter.
In my review, I wrote, “There are so many things to recommend this manga. The atmosphere is sort of… elegant and languid, which suits mysterious Mizuki well and makes an earnest everydude like Asada stand out all the more. The growing friendship between the men is believable—and they’re both completely professional adults, I might add—as is Mizuki’s wary reaction when Asada confesses his feelings.. It’s lovely and complicated, and when the guys do finally get together physically it’s wonderfully awkward.”
Looking back, it sure has been a good year for BL!
MJ: It really has!
Readers, we’d love to hear from you! What were your favorite BL titles this year? Where do you stand on digital distribution? Let us know in comments!
Disclosure: MJ is currently under contract with Digital Manga Publishing’s Digital Manga Guild, as necessitated for her ongoing report Inside the DMG. Any compensation earned by MJin her role as an editor with the DMG will be donated to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
Rij saysNovember 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm
Men of Tattoos was a wonderful, wonderful book. I read it this year so it counts (especially since it needs more love). Also agreed on Dousei Ai, My Darling Kitten Hair and Only Serious About You. I thoroughly enjoyed the volumes of Border that were published this year. And I’ll also mention Kizuna, the rerelease of which was completed in the spring.
Overall favourite series: Dousei Ai
Favourite book: Men of Tattoos
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 17, 2012 at 5:27 pm
I still have to delve further into Border!
Myrah saysNovember 17, 2012 at 10:11 pm
I love Border too, but what is going on with that series? Volume 3 was released ages ago and I’ve yet to hear a single peep from DMP about volume 4.
JRB saysNovember 17, 2012 at 6:23 pm
Not gonna lie, my favorite BL of 2012 was the three volumes of The Tyrant Falls In Love that were released this year. The series wrings every possible drop of emotional torque out of Souichi’s glacial and unwilling coming to grips with his feelings for Morinaga; the DMP hiatus is coming at the worst possible time, cliff-hanger-wise. I waited years for this series in English; if DMP folds without finishing it I may have a nervous breakdown (maybe I should get the last volume in French while it’s still in print, just in case).
I am kind of lukewarm on SuBLime’s lineup; they do have a bunch of good stuff (Awkward Silence, His Favorite, Oku-san’s Daily Fantasies – although I’m sad that that one was so clumsily censored for the collected edition; damn you, Japanese legislators!), but they also have a lot of things I don’t really care about (including anything by Shiuko Kano; she and Makoto Tateno consistently fall into the “not my thing” category). I am looking forward to the re-release of Embracing Love, and the later volumes of Love Pistols, whenever they get around to those.
Personally, I’m red hot on digital manga, although I much prefer downloadable formats over read-online (I have a lot of stuff on JManga that I’ve bought but not read, because it’s relatively inconvenient). PDF is my preferred format so far, and I have likewise heard that DMP plans to upgrade their PDFs, which would be fabulous. The DMP hiatus scares me silly because I’m afraid it means the company is in a bad way, not because I resent their digital offerings.
Something that was mentioned in the fannish highlights thread: Ike Reibun’s Hide and Seek (Digital Manga Guild), while not my thing at all, is as far as I know the only translated example of that subgenre of BL that is openly looking for a gay male crossover audience (almost entirely confined to a few magazines published by Ookura Shuppan); I know a lot of fans complain about the lack of masculine BL and there is a lot of interest in “bara” manga, so I’m kind of surprised that it hasn’t gotten more attention. I guess that the Digital Manga Guild release is just too low-profile.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm
You know, I think there have just been so many DMG releases, it’s hard for reviewers to stay on top of it all, and I expect it’s the same for fans. I didn’t even realize the title you mentioned here existed. I’ll have to check it out!
I will cross my fingers for Tyrant!
JRB saysNovember 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm
Here’s the eManga link for Hide and Seek, also available on Nook and Wowio but apparently not Kindle (too dirty, I’m sure). I’d be interested in what you & the gang think, if you have time to check it out. Be warned that it’s a collection of shorts. :)
Rebecca saysNovember 20, 2012 at 2:07 am
The Tyrant is by far one of my favs as well. I have volume 8 on pre-order and it is suppose to be the last volume. I have re-read it a few times. This series is very emotional.
Fin saysNovember 17, 2012 at 6:35 pm
I was not surprised to see the response to Hikaru Sasahara’s recent announcement. I think many fans who buy print BL struggles with the change to digital, especially since the method for a decent digital viewing of BL manga (before SuBLime’s pdfs) usually involve buying an iPad/Nook/Kindle….a very expensive luxury item—getting a luxury object for the sole purpose of getting more luxury objects is a difficult concept for me to wrap my head around. However, SuBLime’s pdf is incredibly flexible. It certainly won me over.
As a fan who buy mainly printed materials, I feel …isolated in the shift to digital, and the pushing back of print release dates only increase the feeling that the company does not care about fans who buy printed materials as fans who buy digital. I know that this is not the case, and the decision is primarily a financial one, but…still….
Now, I’m mostly concerned about the implication of the announcement. It’s very clear that printed BL are not selling well, and it might be even more difficult to see distribution of printed BL in the future. And to sound extremely selfish, I really really want Junko’s “Mr. Mini Mart” and Matsuo Maata’s “Lies Are a Gentleman’s Manners” and Shoko Hidaka’s “Does The Flower Bloom” really badly, and the pushing back of the release dates worries me.
Personally, “Only Serious About You,” “The Scent of Apple Blossoms,” and “Punch Up!” vol. 2 definitely made 2012 for me. “The Bed of My Dear King” and “Flutter” are also up there.
If I had to choose one, it would be “Only Serious About You.” I’ve recommended this to many people, and all the people I know who have read it enjoyed it. The fact that the manga can be enjoyed by a wide range of people is what does it for me. Family plus romance plus friendship equal a very happy Fin.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 18, 2012 at 12:08 pm
Like all companies, I’m sure DMP’s real priority is just staying afloat, which means finding a way to please their customers while controlling expenses. So, in that sense, they most certainly *care* whether their customers are happy, but I understand how you feel. It sucks to feel like you’re the acceptable loss in any situation. I hope for all our sakes that this print hiatus really is just a delay as they are claiming.
I agree wholeheartedly on Only Serious About You. I probably should have included it on my list as well, but I was sort of considering it a continuation of a 2011 release. It’s a lovely series.
I’m fortunate to have many, many uses for my iPad, including some that are work-related, so it’s easier to justify to myself. But I feel where you’re coming from.
Safetygirl saysNovember 17, 2012 at 11:07 pm
I’m dragging my feet on digital – I do have a JManga subscription but I don’t buy anything from DMP or Viz online – if possible, I want that physical copy. Mine. Mine to sit and enjoy on the bookshelf, and if it turns out to be not my flavor, to sell or donate. I’m glad it exists to bring things out that wouldn’t sell in paper, but I want my paper as long as possible. I was disappointed by DMP’s news, because it seems like the same old song we’ve been hearing for years and I fear we’re losing yet another publisher. And just as I had pre-ordered a bunch of Q1-2 2013 releases!
Every time we lose a publisher, some of the diversity in the market goes away. Maybe the market couldn’t handle that diversity, but I still mourn it.
My favorite this year has been About Love – I am enjoying seeing more releases with solidly adult protagonists. I did embrace the digital-ness and bought In The Bed of My Dear King, and I’m glad that SuBLime is giving its readers a chance to show that they can be adult and not pirate.
Michelle Smith saysNovember 18, 2012 at 11:26 am
I know what you mean re: mourning diversity. I actually really liked About Love too. I didn’t include it here ‘cos I read/reviewed it in late 2011. Maybe it came to eManga a bit before its official print release?
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 18, 2012 at 12:01 pm
Ditto on About Love! I reviewed it in March, but didn’t include it here because I though it’d come out in 2011. Now I wish I’d put it on the list after all!
I don’t know what to think about DMP’s longevity, based on this news, honestly. The fact that they’re still releasing books digitally, however, gives me hope that they aren’t actually dying.
Danielle Leigh saysNovember 18, 2012 at 9:37 am
Punch Up! is definitely where it was at for me this year. And I seem to be in the minority but damn I love that title. Most of SuBLime isn’t to my taste (although if I bought digital there are more titles, such as The Scent of Apple Blossoms, that I’m sure I’d love).
I just can’t seem to get on the digital bandwagon. I don’t want to read manga on my nook and I barely have the energy to read printed manga right now, so yeah. I really want to support Dousei Ai but I just don’t want to sit at my computer any more than necessary. Eventually I’ll have to get off my ass and try Jmanga, but I doubt I’ll ever pay for other digital releases.
So. This makes the DMP news very, very frustrating for me. They were FINALLY going to get around to publishing things I wanted next year, such as the rest of ZE, Does the Flower Bloom, which I believe both of you would love, more Alice 101st (not yaoi but a favorite shojo of mine), and probably something else I’m forgetting right now. I haven’t bought from them in a LONG while because they haven’t been licensing things I wanted. So. I’ll stick with SuBLime for the print releases I like.
Also, this was an awesome roundup discussion, glad you did it!
Michelle Smith saysNovember 18, 2012 at 11:29 am
I had actually forgotten that some of DMP’s shoujo titles would be affected by this. I wasn’t following Alice 101st in print, though I did read it on eManga, but I have faithfully been collecting Itazura Na Kiss. I see that volume 10 is now slated for June 2013, as well. I hope DMP is able to finish it someday.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 18, 2012 at 12:02 pm
That’s it. I’m going to have to actually read Punch Up! if both you *and* Michelle are recommending it.
Rebecca saysNovember 20, 2012 at 2:05 am
Punch up was by far one of my fav titles. When volume one came out I lived it, but volume two really saw some character development and I went back and re-read both again. I can’t wait for volume three.
Lee saysNovember 18, 2012 at 3:06 pm
My favorites for the year include Punch Up and Starting With a Kiss from SuBLime, and Beast and Feast and Ike Reibun’s Hide and Seek (DMG) from DMI. They all have the humor, emotional intensity and unabashed sex scenes that I love. (Even though censorship took an ugly toll on SWAK.)
I liked Flutter and The Scent of Apple Blossoms too, and I just got into Kinoshita Keiko this year, and really enjoyed the two Yuri Sensei volumes from DMG.
Ipad + downloadable PDFs is the combination that made digital acceptable to me, but I’m still buying print too. Reading for pleasure is a very personal, even ritualistic, experience, and there are myriad legitimate issues with digital, not just for reading BL or manga, but reading in general. I really hope both SuBLime and DMI can continue to give us a mix of options.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 18, 2012 at 4:35 pm
I’m so glad you enjoyed the Yuri Sensei books! I couldn’t really mention them in the post, since I edited them, but I loved them as well. I felt privileged to get to work on them.
I really should check out Flutter, I guess.
What app do you use for reading PDFs on your iPad? I have issues with it, myself, but I may not be using the best app.
Lee saysNovember 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm
Oh nice job on the Yuri Sensei books, they were great! I love her work so much.
I’ve been really happy with the Bookman app on ipad. I’ve had it for over a year and it’s the only reader I use so I can’t really compare it to anything else, but in my limited experience with other readers it seems like they scroll vertically which I just didn’t like. Bookman has different tap zones for page turning, zoom, and return to library, for example. There are a lot of features I never use, like bookmarking and taking notes on pages, but the display is very clean and simple, just briefly displaying page numbers as you read. The developer is Japanese and it seems like he specifically made it for manga reading.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm
I downloaded Bookman, and I love it! It works much better for my purposes than GoodReader (which was what I was using before). Thanks for the tip!!
Lee saysNovember 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm
Glad it’s working for you! I was kind of worried about Bookman because it hadn’t updated since May but I see it just updated. *relieved*
Yoko saysNovember 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm
My favorite this year has definitely been Punch Up! I re-read vol 2 immediately after finishing reading it. It’s just that good for me. I love the characters, I love the story, the art, everything. In general Shiuko Kano is one of my favorite BL mangaka. Punch Up has now become my second favorite series by her (Playboy Blues being the number one). It’s been such a fun read. I can’t wait for the next volumes!!
As to the whole digital vs print, I’ll admit I’m still one of those old schoolers holding back on digital. I want to own a physical copy of the work that I can just pull out from my bookshelf whenever i get the urge to read. I don’t own any of those reading devices or even a smartphone to read the digital releases and I don’t really plan to invest in one so digital is not that convenient for me.
However, because of all the good things I’ve heard about SuBLime and their pdf option, I’m ready to give it a try. I plan to pretty soon buy my first digital purchase from them.
As for DMP it sucked hearing that they were pushing back the release of the print titles, many of which I had pre-ordered. I hope that it really is just restructuring and not the beginning of the end for them. Despite some complaints I have of them, I don’t want them to be gone.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 20, 2012 at 8:37 am
I hope your SuBLime experience goes well!
lusi saysNovember 19, 2012 at 6:47 pm
I love digital, as Michelle said, it allows me to read bl manga that I’m curious about but I’m not interested in owning long term. Also, while I love collecting manga in print, I think print is a bit overrated. Personally, I find digital to be more comfortably to read and easier to store. I have a lot of books that I have no idea where to keep and just thinking about the time where I have to move fills me with trepidation. People also talk about reselling, and personally I have never had any luck selling any of my bl, and usually I just give it to my library(who probably aren’t interested in it).
I’m looking forward to a couple of 2013 print titles from DMI so I’m disappointed about the hiatus from print. I’m really hoping that DMI recovers soon, since while I don’t like a lot of their stuff, what I do like makes me love them a whole lot. I just wish they would learn how to be more consistent with their choices and that they would actually finish all the good series that they started.
My favorite digital titles from 2012 are The Scent of Apple Blossoms, The Bed of My Dear King, For My Cherry Blossom, Junai Eroki, Merry Men, Spirit of First Love, If The Wish is Fulfilled, Wild Rose,You and Tonight, A Night of a Thousand Nights, and Sentimental Garden. While my favortite print titles published this year that I actually bought are Castle Mango and Secrecy of the Shivering Night. There are more titles in print that I love but since I haven’t bought them yet, I’m not counting them yet.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 20, 2012 at 8:36 am
I’ve had luck selling BL on Amazon, but between shipping materials and fees there’s often little to no profit, which means it’s basically just getting it out of your house.
Rin saysNovember 19, 2012 at 7:08 pm
The recent “Sexy time” is a fun manga. I own the JP print. Though I think you can’t download it on your own device, which blows. I don’t like that there’s so many sites to keep track on. So I’d rather download my books to my own place so I can read them whenever I want instead of logging onto stuff… I AM accepting digital, just let me OWN them.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 20, 2012 at 8:33 am
I AM accepting digital, just let me OWN them.
Rebecca saysNovember 19, 2012 at 7:14 pm
I have subscriptons to JManga and DMP however, I can not get over the fact that I have to purchase points and then read them on-line. I go with SubLime because you can download to PDF and transfer them. Downloading to PDF is much better quality than kindle as well. I would love to get some of the titles that JManaga and DMP have but until I can download to pdf or not have to go online to read, I just won’t be getting them. Also, Kindle has way to much censoring for content that doesn not meet with the original story.
Sorry but SubLime wins hands down for me, even if they don’t have a lot of choice for titles that are far ahead in delivery options, and how well readble they are.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 20, 2012 at 8:32 am
I dislike the points systems as well, but I suspect it has something to do with how much it costs to process credit card (and paypal, for that matter) transactions online. I could be wrong, but that’s always been my assumption. Netcomics, for instance, charges chapter-to-chapter, but they’d loose all their profits if they had to process each 25 cent transaction separately. Companies selling by the volume have less excuse for it, but I suspect the reasoning may be the same.
Kris saysNovember 19, 2012 at 8:43 pm
As an avid and voracious yaoi reader I do read both digital and print. I do prefer them in print because I don’t have to spend a lot on a reader and have to upgrade it every few years, and charge it, etc. I left a comment at DMP venting my frustration at the news but I tried to be civil. It’s not that I have a fear of digital, I buy every SuBLime title both print and digital and have several JManga titles as well, it’s a problem with DMG’s quality. Some of the teams are horrific, some titles are missing pages (or even chunks of pages) here or there, or some pages are distorted. I also won’t buy a few titles because of personal feelings I have about certain localizers (which means several titles I was dying to get in English I can no longer buy because of the localizing team.) Plus they’ve flooded the market with mediocre titles and even though there are some good ones out there they’re harder to find. Lately I’ve been enjoying many of their print titles and was really looking forward to more. Let’s just hope that they’ll come out on the other side OK so we can get the titles that we were waiting for!
Fin saysNovember 19, 2012 at 8:53 pm
That’s interesting. I’ve also felt that they’ve been ‘flooding’ the market too much, putting out more than they can sell. I personally think that saturating the market is more expensive and harder to gain profit than being selective about the manga they put forth. Interestingly, these two approaches (saturation and being conservative) are opposing approaches that both DMP and SuBLime are going for respectively.
I’m crossing my fingers for the future of BL manga in the US.
Streetwalkersan saysNovember 20, 2012 at 11:40 am
Flooding the market is proving to be, I think, the poorer option. At least personally, I’ve found myself bying almost every title SuBLime has put out recently, whereas I rarely read digital manga by any other publisher. There are probably some gems among all that mediocracy, but the ones I’ve tried have been real let downs. I’d rather invest my money on something I know won’t disappoint me. With DMP and JManga every purchase feels like a gamble but I’m not the type that likes taking risks… The only title I was a little bit excited about was Hide and Seek by Ike Reibun and even that was one that I already knew and not my favorite of the mangaka. It gave me hope that someone might pick up something else from her though.
SuBLime seems to have good insight into what the public wants. The site is very user friendly and the PDFs are great. They might not have many titles under their belt yet, but the ones they do are well selected. I love the series Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love and Awkward Silence. The future looks bight too, especially with the titles they have lined up for next year such as Embracing Love and The Ravishing of the Crown Prince. I’m so excited to get BL manhua on the market!
Fin saysNovember 20, 2012 at 8:58 pm
First, speaking of bright future of BL: I’m definitely looking forward to SuBLime’s 2013 line-up. “Hide And Seek” by Sakuragi Yaya (same person who did Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love) and “Blue Morning” by Hidaka Shoko are must buys for me. “False Memories” and “The Match Seller” are definite digital purchases. The rest are all maybes. Many of SuBLime’s titles definitely cover a wide range of the fan base.
(I really want Ike Reibun’s Not Equal to be licensed. If it’s not, then I am forced to buy the French’s under Taifu comics.)
Interestingly, like you, I’ve also purchased a good chunk of SuBLime’s manga, in both digital and print. There is a consistency in SuBLime’s releases that I’ve very much enjoyed—something that probably comes from a small and centralized team (vs. DMG’s multiple and diverse teams, so the quality is a hit or miss). Inconsistency is difficult to deal with, like you’ve said, because it means taking more risks just to get good quality. I have to blame SuBLime for dragging me into digital manga: I was a print kind of person, but the convenient pdfs won me over.
I could understand the mentality of flooding the market—this means that capturing a large variety of readers would be easier. I know I’ve definitely purchased titles out of my comfort zone, and was pleasantly surprised by what I’ve bought. Also, it’s just my guess, but the company probably needs a minimum number of sales to sustain itself, so having more titles means having more probability of things selling. Unlike Viz, which have ‘safe’ series that definitely make sales (Naruto…many shonen and shojo series), DMG doesn’t have that. However, I agree, flooding market is not a sustainable tactic because the BL market in the US is very small. If the market is large, like, say Japan or China, flooding is very profitable. The fact that distribution companies and printers = expensive doesn’t help either.
I guess what I meant to say, out of that block of text, is that I understand the financial decisions that DMG made, but I don’t think they’re sustainable for the long term. Aka I agree with you. :D I’m very much not a risk taker when it comes to a luxury item like manga. so I like to be careful with my manga investments.
BL manhua would be interesting to see. I would love to try them out. I’m not familiar with any BL manhua, haha.
Yoko saysNovember 19, 2012 at 9:32 pm
Ah Kris, what you’re saying is one of my peeves with DMP. The quality of some of their licenses are pretty bad. Back when BL first started being released here I would impulse buy quite a bit to support the releases. Eventually I had to stop that because I started to notice the newer titles being pretty bad in terms of story/plot. It’s a problem with both their print and digital titles.
It’d be nice if they were a bit more selective. Though it’s subjective what is considered good versus bad but I think there’s still a way a company can be selective and provide quality stuff.
Mary S. saysNovember 19, 2012 at 8:50 pm
I’ve commented on the June blog regarding their hiatus and while I’m all for print, the publisher has my support. I can understand the decision, it’s just that it came out of the blue and caught me by surprise. While not completely on the digital band wagon, I’m of the mind that as long as I am able to get my hands on yaoi titles I’ll make the leap. I’m just hoping that they can make a vast improvement when it comes to the kindle titles since that’s what has been holding me back from purchasing most of their titles, because their prices are actually pretty good and it would actually allow me to buy even more. I wish them the best of luck and I look forward to the revamp of the emanga site and their upcoming titles.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 20, 2012 at 8:28 am
Yeah, I’d hope for an improvement on quality for Kindle titles as well. I’ve bought a few of them, since there are more available for Kindle than in DMP’s iPad app, but the quality is so poor—it’s been a desperate move for sure.
Fin saysNovember 19, 2012 at 9:04 pm
Out of curiosity, have any of you guys read A Night of A Thousand Nights by Kinoshita Keiko? I’ve recently found out that it had came out in digital format.
(I love it so much that it is one of the few that get stored in careful wrapping.)
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 19, 2012 at 9:10 pm
I bought it and read it in their iPad app. Loved it. The only reason I didn’t review it, is that I was afraid of saturating this column with Kinoshita. And since I bought it myself, I felt no obligation. :D Sometimes even critics just want to read purely for pleasure. And it *was*.
lore saysNovember 19, 2012 at 9:51 pm
I suppose I didn’t get the comments on that announcement started with the best tone, either, but I was just stating flat truths – I really AM sorry that DMP will not be getting money from me – that wasn’t sarcasm – and I really won’t be making the move to digital. I haven’t even bought SuBLime’s digital offerings, which are almost all right up my alley, because there’s no cart and I’m not spending an afternoon putting coins in a slot to purchase each one individually.
Time really is money in my case because as the print options have slowed down, instead of transitioning into digital I’ve picked up other pursuits. I have friends moving into the M/M press, for example, and while I wouldn’t say it’s an obsession, it’s certainly easier and quicker to read words on a tablet/reader/phone than a comic of any kind. They’re also cheaper than mangas, and there’s lots of freebies of whole works to be found. The M/M presses also have sales and discounts. If SuBLime were to have a sale, I just might find it worthwhile to spend time downloading 30 books one at a time. Also, people already complain about how you can’t quickly flip back to a page in an e-book. It’s even more frustrating and time-consuming with a manga, and I often need to flip back and forth between pages to fully comprehend the story. The person who made the point about not having to buy or upgrade devices just to read manga hit it home for me. When my reader battery dies, there’s a print book right next to it on the table.
I’m a little afraid that in 6 months, DMP is going to find that a significant chunk of its audience has moved on. I’ll be back because I tend to keep my toes in all my obsessions, even when they’ve died down to dull roars, but I don’t know if I’m the average reader/fan.
My faves of the year have been the ongoing “Bad Teacher’s Equation” and “The Betrayal Knows My Name”.
Thanks for the discussion!
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 19, 2012 at 10:06 pm
I have friends moving into the M/M press, for example, and while I wouldn’t say it’s an obsession, it’s certainly easier and quicker to read words on a tablet/reader/phone than a comic of any kind.
Hey, anything you’d recommend? I’m asking purely as a potential fan. :)
lore saysNovember 20, 2012 at 12:15 am
Right off the top, I’ll say that most sequels in M/M stories tend to go downhill, just by reading reviews. Some authors get better with time, but some that write long series lose steam. Always check reviews when you’re paying. Also, my personal taste runs toward high romance and happy endings in this genre, although I included a few here with some teeth. ^_^
“Taste of Love” by Andrew Grey. Contemporary romance with some tolerable melodrama. One issue resolved too easily, but countered by the other issue that’s solved much more realistically. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9294182-a-taste-of-love
“Carol of the Bellskis” by Astrid Amara – One of the first M/Ms I read, so I might have a soft spot for it. Novella set during December with a heavy seasonal theme, so it’s the perfect time to read it. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7326498-carol-of-the-bellskis
“Exposure” by Elizabeth Lister – At first I thought this was going to be a light sexytimes romp between a photographer and his subject, but it takes a very BL-like turn halfway through. The story ends up with more heft, but the author manages to sustain the romantic tone. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11823155-exposure
“Cut & Run” by Abigail Roux & Madeleine Urban – The above are mostly romantic, touching stories, and it was a real shock to my system when I read this one. These FBI men have a hate-hate relationship that slowly, slowly evolves into something more subtle and caring. It’s a longer book, so the relationship develops slowly as the characters are more thoroughly fleshed, and there’s a pretty good mystery for them to chase. The series continues and people seem enthusiastic about it, but I haven’t delved into the sequels yet. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5199022-cut-run
“Conquest” by S.J. Frost – Ok…how do I put this…I adore this entire series (there’s 7 books now), but the main characters are Gary Stus and many of characters can be whiny and yet lecture on social issues all at the same time. I read the first one because it was about rock stars coming together there’s just something about the fantasy that comes from two perfect men getting together in a perfect way that draws me in despite recognizing the book’s flaws. Actually, if you like “Gravitation”, this book could appeal to you. As perfect and preachy as the characters can be, they also have lovable, redeeming values, and I couldn’t help falling in love with them, which carried me through the series’ ups and downs. http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3009736.S_J_Frost
“Gatekeeper” by Rayne Auster might as well be labeled a BL novel. It’s set in a fantasy world that’s both well built and yet vague. A big, strong prince ends up bound to a slight slave boy who turns out to be much more than a mere slave. There’s lots of quiet jealousy, hurt/comfort and angst/misunderstandings to fill a good 4-book BL series! Only reading caveat – skip the intro text before chapters. They’re fairly useless and highly annoying, but easy enough to ignore. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7889411-gatekeeper
I use Goodreads links because there’s a large enough pool of readers to offer a good range of opinions. I’d consider an average of 3 stars at GR to be worth looking into more deeply.
FYI, Dreamspinner Press just finished a month of free book giveaways, but it’s celebrating 10k Facebook fans and has been holding twice-daily 30% off sales for two hours. It’s a good time to explore the site, make a wish list and watch the Facebook or Twitter for the sale. In the meantime, DS haa some substantial (re: Novel-length) free reads here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=56_647
Hope that helps!
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 20, 2012 at 8:24 am
Wow, this is awesome, thank you!!
Rebecca saysNovember 20, 2012 at 2:27 am
Future Lovers was one of my favorites for 2012.
For not really liking to read manga on a kindle I did purchase many title for my kindle, however, many I did return as well due to poor quality, or finding out after wards they were editing out for content due to amazon guide lines. Not to happy about that.
I purchased and read Sleepless Nights, For My Cherry Blossom, Flutter, Merry Men, Good Morning, Secretarys Job, and a few more titles. Sadly none of them really impressed me that much, and I don’t even really remember what any of them were about. SubLime had some of my favorites with The Scent of Apple Blossoms, Puch Up, Starting With a Kiss. By far the best was Future Lovers. I purchased this from SubLime but I believe you can purchase from Kindle as well. I also preferr SubLime as they have the paypal option, I do not shop with credit card on line. I buy all my print from Chapters/Indigo as I can use my bank card and/or paypal account there are well and do not have to use a credit card as with JManga or DMP or June.
I still prefer print over digital any day,and will buy print before digital, unless I can’t wait to read it then I will buy the digital to read while I am waiting for my print copy to arrive. Like Punch Up and Maiden Rose.
Another one is In These Words – this is a self published works by Guild Pleasure and is not necessarily just for the average BL fan, but would top my list for 2012.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 20, 2012 at 8:27 am
I bought Future Lovers back when it was first printed by the now-defunct Deux, and I’m so glad that digital distribution has brought it back to the world. I’ll definitely have to check out The Scent of Apple Blossoms, given all the recommendations for it in this thread!
Lee saysNovember 20, 2012 at 11:26 am
I had to comment again beause how could I forget the two — TWO — volumes of the Finder series that DMI released this year. Volume 5 in particular was awesome, IMO, definitely among my faves for the year. I think the series is getting a little cracky, but I still love it to death. Two volumes away from completion, this is among the series that would reallybe painful to not see completed in print.
Sarah saysNovember 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm
Coming late to the table (as usual!) I just wanted to say (as others have eloquently before me) that I really appreciate what you’re doing with BL Bookshelf in recommending and discussing titles in such a readable and interesting way. And to add that I really liked Castle Mango #1 from DMI this year (alas, when will we get the final part now, I wonder?) – with a script by Narise Konohara and pictures by Muku Ogura, it was probably my favourite this year (although I loved all the Keiko Kinoshita as well and wish that Yuri Sensei could be released in print.) As others before me here, I also adored The Scent of Apple Blossom from Sublime. I rely a lot now on Taifu Comics for print releases; their list is very strong (and, yes, it is in French, mais alors…) I just hope that DMI recover. Six months is a long time in publishing. I’d rather read titles in digital than not be able to read them at all, but I prefer to have old-fashioned paper-and-print.
Stellababe saysNovember 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm
I just wanted to drop a line to say: Sublime is doing everything right. In my experience, they are the BEST online eManga retailer I have ever purchased from and here’s why I think so:
Their site: Easy to navigate, beautiful esthetic, and a wide selection.
Purchasing: Being able to go through Viz’s Amazon hub, means seamless secure purchasing.
Price: Reflected in their price is the cost difference between printed hard copy and eManga. Their pricing is affordable and encourages multiple purchasing.
Download Options: Online viewing AND downloadable PDF. This is my favorite and will make me a repeat customer. PDF FORMATS TRANSCEND TECHNOLOGY TRENDS, and is (in my opinion) the only equivalent to actually having a physical copy. If I want to read my manga today or five years from today, a PDF will ensure I can do so. So thank you sUBLIME for that, and I sincerely hope they do not change this option. It really is a game changer against their competition.
A nice touch: A personal message on the PDF, “This copy is property of…” watermark.
despina saysNovember 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm
Flutter was possibly my favorite for this year. But I also adored the three volumes of The Scent of Apple Blossoms. Toko Kawai is one of my favorite author/artists. My favorite story ever is possibly Loveholic (probably neck-and-neck with Close the Last Door by Yugi Yamada). My dirty pleasure is The Tyrant Falls in Love, I do find the mind games a tad extreme in it, but I can’t help loving it.
Punch Up is a terrific title and Oku-san’s Daily Fantasies was a riot.
I have to say, until SuBLime came along, I didn’t think I’d be a digital girl. Early on, before print titles were easy to find, I did read a lot of scanlations because that’s all there was. I was over the moon when the flood of print BL hit and I did my best to support it. But digital left me cold. Scanlations tend to be very well cared for, they are pure labors of love, so when DMP/June started putting out their horrible versions of digital, I was pretty disgusted and turned away from those offerings. And then SuBlime showed up and Did It Right. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
As for DMP, I am angry with them. Furious. Not for the delay, if the company is in trouble, I will support them. However, what I find frustrating and honestly, a little disingenuous is that their newly launched hentai line is not being delayed. What does that say to me? New customers are more important than established customers and any money coming in is being used to fund Project-H and not the BL titles already promised. I get the need to expand, but at the cost of your current audience? Ouch.