Now that we’re getting into April, it seems natural to look back at the first three months of the year with a view towards understanding the year to come. And despite some real tragedy in the English-translated manga industry, I am surprised to note just how good things look from here. Brigid Alverson posted a great article on the state of the industry at Publishers Weekly—a must-read if any of you missed it—but as usual, I’m better equipped to offer a personal take.
When I looked back at the first quarter of the year, what I mainly notice is just how many new and continuing manga being currently released (and re-released!) are truly catering to my tastes. So with that in mind, let’s talk about…
3 beloved first quarter manga releases
1. The Heart of Thomas | By Moto Hagio | Fantagraphics – The Heart of Thomas was my most eagerly anticipated manga of the year, and while its January release date set the bar perhaps unfairly high for the year to come, I can’t bring myself to be sad about that. Michelle and I discussed the book at length in our first BL Bookrack column of the year, and every moment spent with it was a true pleasure. My concluding thoughts from that column: “In case it isn’t obvious to anyone reading this, I loved this manga with my whole heart. And I’ll admit that’s not exactly what I expected. I expected to find it visually beautiful and worthy as a classic, but I also expected it to be very dated and I thought the story might not appeal to my tastes as a modern fan. Instead, I found it to be both beautiful and emotionally resonant to an extent I’ve rarely experienced—especially in BL manga. This is a book I’d wholeheartedly recommend to any comics fan, without reservation. It’s an absolute treasure.” Yeah. That.
2. Tokyo Babylon | By CLAMP | Dark Horse Comics – 2013’s first quarter was incredibly strong for MJ-friendly re-releases, the most spectacular of these being Dark Horse’s new edition of CLAMP’s Tokyo Babylon, a long-time favorite now back in print with a fresh English adaptation and gorgeous print production. I previewed the first omnibus for Off the Shelf in March, and I couldn’t be happier. From that column: “… Dark Horse’s English adaptation is noticeably different, presumably thanks to the hand of its new editor, Carl Horn. Carl has a gift for making English dialogue really come alive, and his influence is apparent immediately … I really do recommend the new adaptation. Plus, if the trim size is as promised, it’s going to be gorgeous. I’m hoping they’ve used really nice paper, too.” And yeah, they have. It’s beautiful. Don’t miss it.
3. Knights of Sidonia | By Tsutomu Nihei | Vertical, Inc. – One new favorite that really snuck up on me is Tsutomu Nihei’s Knights of Sidonia, the first volume of which appeared in early February. Never having read the author’s well-known title Blame!, I didn’t know what to expect from this series. But apparently it’s just my thing! Michelle and I took at look at it for Off the Shelf, and it easily charmed us both with its intriguing characters and wonderfully detailed artwork. From that column: “… while there is still a lot of mystery still for readers (as well as for Nagate) at the end of the first volume, that sense of the unknown is far from overwhelming. I’ll admit that I had to read the book twice in order to feel that I really understood it, but I honestly don’t consider that a negative in any way. I’m a fast reader, but it’s not too often that a single volume captures me so easily that I’m really happy to re-read it immediately afterwards, just to catch more of its details.” I’ve re-read it again since, too. It’s that interesting.
Special shout-outs too, to Viz Media’s new digital re-release of From Far Away and Archie Comics’ charming OEL series Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Magic Within. It’s a great year so far, really.
Readers, any special favorites in the first quarter of 2013?