Comic Picks By The Glick

Dark Horse Manga at Sakura-Con

April 22, 2014

Wondercon wasn’t the only con being held this past weekend as Sakura-Con was also going on way up north of me in Washington.   Even though I’ve never been to the con or even in the state itself, it’s of importance to me for one key reason:  It’s the con where Dark Horse announces the latest manga they’ve licensed for release here in the U.S.  Given what I’ve been observing and writing about in regards to my perception of their state of affairs, I was hoping that we’d get some indication as to the imprint’s future from this panel.  While Anime News Network’s report on the panel at the convention didn’t provide total reassurance, it did lessen some of my fears.

I’m sure that the biggest news for most fans was the fact that Dark Horse is license-rescuing CLAMP’s “Legal Drug” series from the remains of Tokyopop and will also be publishing its sequel “Drug & Drop” as well.  The former will get an omnibus for release later this year while the latter will be arriving in 2015.  I’ve never been that much into CLAMP as I can respect the collective’s talents as storytellers and artists, but they’ve never created a title that I’ve felt truly passionate about.  That said, this is also a sign that CLAMP’s partnership with Dark Horse is still solid even though their latest series, “Gate 7,” hasn’t been nearly as big as a success here or in Japan as their previous titles like “Cardcaptor Sakura” and “Tsubasa” were.

In another sign that manga with a significant media tie-in continue to do well for the company, it was also announced that the three-volume “Oreimo:  Kuroneko” will be published as well.  This is a spinoff of the popular “I Can’t Believe My Little Sister is This Cute!” series, of which “Oreimo” is the colloquialization of its Japanese title which I honestly can’t be bothered to look up and re-type here.

With those out of the way, let’s get to the titles that I’m actually going to buy.  Dark Horse has apparently jumped on the Satoshi Kon bandwagon as they’ve acquired two more series with art from the late mangaka turned internationally-renowned anime director.  “Opus” is a two-volume series also written by him, and from what I can glean from the results of a Google search it appears to be about a manga artist with writer’s block who winds up falling into his own work.  The other is “Seraphim: 266613336 Wings,” and if you’re wondering about that title, you should know that it’s written by Mamoru Oshii.  Best known as the director of the first “Ghost in the Shell” movie (and most appreciated by me for his work on “Patlabor” and “Urusei Yatsura 2:  Beautiful Dreamer), it’s about three wise men and a girl who go off on a journey to solve the mystery of the fatal “angel disease.”  The title and the brief story synopsis provided by ANN has me anxious as it sounds like this may have more in common with Oshii’s utterly incomprehensible “Angel’s Egg” film than his more accessible and entertaining commercial work.  Still, I’m intrigued by what a collaboration between these two creators might produce even if it doesn’t turn out to be to my liking.

If you’ll recall, I wasn’t blown away by the last Satoshi Kon manga we got over here as “Tropic of the Sea” happened to be his first major work as a mangaka.  (Looking at that post, it appears that I was mistaken about it being his longest manga.)  I went into that with the expectation that we were getting the last major work of a great artist and this expectation led to great disappointment on my part.  Though Kon’s career as a mangaka was brief, these two works came at the end of it.  So even if he found his calling as an anime director, I’m expecting “Opus” and “Seraphim” to at least be a little more polished as they came five years after “Tropic’s” publication.

The fact that Dark Horse is publishing these particular titles in the first place is also something to be encouraged about.  Not only do they sound interesting in their own ways, they’re also works targeted to a mature audience who want something more than what they get from mainstream manga.  Most important is the fact that these titles will be released in one-volume editions so there’s no fear that the company will put their serialization on “hiatus” if they don’t sell well enough.  Dark Horse has long made a habit of picking up worthwhile titles that are decidedly to the left of mainstream tastes and have either wound up putting them on hiatuses either “lengthy” or “permanent.”  By bringing out these titles, the company apparently wants to show that it is committed to bringing out strange new titles that may not be loved by everyone and only appreciated by a passionate few, but is also being realistic about what can be released “completely” out here.

If this is their plan, we’ll likely find out for sure at next year’s Sakura-Con (unless they’ve got some other surprises they’re holding back for later this year).  Though I’d have liked to hear news about how the latest volume of “Eden” sold or if we’ll ever get that volume of “The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service” that was supposed to come out last year, the news we got was still better than nothing.  I’ll look forward to picking up “Opus” and “Seraphim” next year, along with announcements that Dark Horse will be bringing over more titles like them in the future.

… Along with more CLAMP titles and anime spinoffs of dubious quality.

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