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Chromatic Press

Sleep is for the Weak debuted in the summer of 2002. Thank you for all your support over the last decade, despite the horrible, horrible updating schedule and general sloppiness of this place. For the last 18 months, we’ve taken everything we’ve learned here and applied it toward something delicious.

Along with Lillian Diaz-Przybyl (formerly of TOKYOPOP) and Jill Astley, Sleep is for the Weak has opened a publishing house: Chromatic Press. NotHayama (Rebecca Scoble) and I are the head editors of audio and prose, respectively, Amethist is a designer, and Bad Jew is a consultant. We just announced our first comic: the completion and re-release of Jen Quick’s Off*Beat.

Hey now.

Little Red Riding Back

Bad Jew did a very involved Mini Review of RideBack several months ago, but I’m only posting it now because I’m a terrible person. Enjoy.

For those of you following Tokyo Demons, I’m almost done with Book 1. My God, I’m tired. And NotHayama’s dramatized audio book of it is coming along and is surprisingly awesome. She’s going to release a soundtrack at the end because of the mountain of music she’s composing. I’ve set half of her songs as my ringtones because I love them times a million.

Hope all is well on your respective corners of the interwebs.

Maybe I shouldn’t be linking to this, but the older I get, the less shame I have. It’s a terrible trend.

I was a guest on this week’s /report, a podcast run (in part) by Moonklutz, the actress who plays Ayase in the Tokyo Demons audio book. The topic this week was manga for women, yaoi, etc. NOTE: /report is intended for an adult (18+) audience as it focuses on various fandoms. We discussed Japanese smut for women and made terrible puns about it for 90 minutes, all while cursing. If you’re still down with that–cool. Download here.

After years of battling widespread scanning piracy, adapting for digital media, and proving Cease & Desist letters are only slightly more successful at stopping scanlators than the common cold, we’re finally seeing a model that can absolutely work: Shounen Jump Alpha.

In case you didn’t get the full press release, Viz’s new digital Shounen Jump Alpha (starting Jan 30, 2012) will serialize the newest chapters of the big sellers–Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, and others–two weeks after they’re published in Japan. TWO WEEKS. Viz will be behind the Japanese One Piece chapters by two weeks.

There’s no perfect competition for overseas scanlators who replace sleep with Red Bull,* but two weeks is pretty damn close. There’s no perfect competition for illegal and free, but what are standard Viz prices for a subscription to Shounen Jump these days? A few bucks an issue? There’s no price for an Alpha subscription yet, but it’ll probably be similar. So let’s say $1 a chapter, which is pretty damn competitive with free.

And you’ll be able to read these chapters, among other places, on your iPod Touch. The one expensive digital toy a teenager may own, since it makes a damn fine Bar Mitzvah present but isn’t overpowered/overpriced/oversized (iPad) or has monthly upkeep costs (iPhone).

Viz, good on you. You finally did what needed to be done. I’m not exaggerating when I say I think this will change the entire industry.

UPDATE: And Yen Press is going to use a similar digital model (that will be, apparently, simultaneous with the Japanese release) to publish a branch of Soul Eater. I’d like to add that the digital version of Yen+ magazine is already quite awesome and worth the $3 I pay for it every month. I already liked Yen because its editors are hella cool and they employ both Svetlana and Priscilla, but now? This is objectively awesome. What an excellent week for the English-language manga industry.

*=Except for Crunchyroll, the legit subbers who work at the lightning speed and quality of hardcore fandom. I love those guys.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m super excited about the new models for legal reading of manga online. There’s vizmanga.com (currently on my iPod), the promising JManga (YOUNG MAGICIAN IS ON THERE YOU GUYS), and now DMP’s emanga.com is featuring the new Digital Manga Guild (DMG) titles. I wrote a mini review of DMG’s first title, a story I’d read before but paid the genuine seven bucks to read again: Tired of Waiting for Love.

With the exception of maybe the Viz system, none of these models is strong enough to effectively compete with the piracy that’s tearing our industry apart, but they’re definitely on the right track. I think DMG is super close, considering the fandom it’s specifically going after (BL), and if JManga can bring their prices down, they’re on the cusp of something great. I’m looking forward to watching the manga industry use Science to push us toward the Manga of Tomorrow. Maybe I can just hook up comics to my bloodstream via an I.V. in a few years. Think of the time I’d save!

(P.S.–I’ve always loved the netcomics.com system, and they’ve gotten the most of my business so far. But you know how I feel about some of their titles.)

In case you haven’t heard, go here: http://comics212.net/2011/06/24/bravo-cbldf-enters-the-fight-against-canada-customs-bad-laws

(For good measure, also read this: http://sociologicalimagination.org/posts/caseybrienza/comics-and-censorship-is-it-really-about-you/)

I love Canada, but our free speech has restrictions I’m not entirely comfortable with, and the stakes are way too high here. This is a time when we HAVE to set precedent: a drawing of something should not be against the law. I don’t care how screwed-up the drawing is. Maybe you have a drawing that will make me instantly lose all respect for you, never give you business, and encourage as many people as possible to never give you business. It would have to be a pretty screwed-up drawing, but I’m sure it’s possible. But that drawing should never, EVER be the sole reason that you are in jail. Ever. That is thought crime. That is a mentality that would send fans of violent movies to jail, since liking violent movies clearly means you might someday be violent so let’s arrest you now just in case.

Donate to the CBLDF. This is really important, guys. Really, really important. The Christopher Handley case had a very disappointing conclusion; I just hope freedom of thought and speech can be the victors this time.

This has been a tough spring. I had several long posts about Tokyopop’s demise that I revised over and over and eventually decided not to publish, just because they were too emotional. I worked freelance for that company for 12 years, and it only existed for about 15. They hired me when I was still in high school. It’s hard for me to talk about this and not get all choked up.

Anyway, since I no longer have any professional conflict of interest to keep me from telling the truth, here it is: I f*cking loved working for them. I was always treated well, I think some of the employees there were the smartest and most passionate fans in the business, I’ll always defend Stu Levy for being an honest, stand-up boss even if I didn’t always agree with his business decisions, and I think the people who decided to twist the knife for us ex-employees by posting long rants that equated to “good riddance Tokyopop is gone” are assholes. Manga companies have been dropping like flies the last few years, and the online communities have been almost unconditionally sympathetic in light of the jobs lost and the titles lost…until Tokyopop died, at which point the vitriol came out.

What the hell is it with people and Tokyopop? Why did every business decision they made cause screaming and outrage, when those same business decisions are made by pretty much every other manga company with nary a peep? They even responded to criticism, changing or even reversing their policies if they were too unpopular (remember Dragon Head going “online only”?). The bad contracts were their own monster, and Tokyopop did some bad there and paid for that one, but I was never convinced they deserved that amount of anger and boycotting for protecting their own interests while hiring unknown artists no one else would take a second look at. And I’m pretty sure Tokyopop didn’t go around shooting people’s dogs, so I’ve been mulling on this deep-seeded Tokyopop hate for a while now.

My best guess is that Tokyopop was a “teenager” company. It mostly published books for teenagers, it included a fair number of teenagers in its staff, and the changes and/or mistakes that drew criticism – paper changes, printing/typing errors, wacky editorial decisions – were things teenagers mostly don’t care about. They cut corners and were less concerned with pissing off older fans and/or critics than they were with keeping their young fanbase. Hell, older fans and/or critics were constantly pissed off at the company, anyway, even when they tried to be up-front or change policies, so I’m surprised they didn’t blow off the critical community entirely. (I certainly gave up trying to defend Tokyopop to particular critics because it was too exhausting.) Tokyopop was IN YOUR FACE and ZANY and WHEE! most of the time. Considering how much of the manga industry taps into the desires of IN YOUR FACE and WHEE to sell books every day, I never would’ve thought that the company whose mission statement explicitly centered on that would rub so many older fans the wrong way. But you know? I kinda think that’s what it is. Or that’s a strong underlying current, anyway.

So to those of you who were complete and utter assholes celebrating the end of Tokyopop, let me ask you more directly: Do you hate the fact that young people worked for Tokyopop and were catered to by Tokyopop? Are these kids actively clogging up your lawn with their loud friends and their “crappy” comics? If I have to hear another person frame their opinions of Tokyopop as a company based on their incomplete publishing of Aria, I’m going to start smacking people with copies of Bizenghast and Chibi Vampire. You’re not seeing the big picture. The manga industry isn’t just about you. Teenagers are people too, and in many facets of the industry, they outnumber you by about a billion. Their opinions are not invalid just because you don’t agree with them. (See also: Twilight, which says so much about young women in the West but people refuse to analyze it because it’s “stupid” and who cares about teenage girls.) Stop pretending like you and your ilk can keep the manga industry afloat alone, because you can’t. This is a group effort. If you actually want manga to succeed in English, you have to stop hating on the teenagers and their cheap, “crappy” comics. The kids don’t hate you. Hell, they don’t even know who you are! But the only reason you get manga for adults in English is because manga for teenagers sells enough to fund manga with limited appeal (see: almost every seinen and josei that exists). Tokyopop going under is going to hurt our industry as a whole because they were an important chunk of it. By celebrating their demise, you’re celebrating the manga ship sinking deeper into the recession waters. Good for you.

The end of Tokyopop really opened my eyes in a lot of ways. All the work on Tokyo Demons lately caused me to consider leaving the manga critique/blogosphere/comment community/whatever entirely so I can focus on writing, since I have trouble keeping up with the English industry and I’ve always felt bad for commenting when I so rarely update this site. But now? I didn’t realize things could get so nasty. I want to stay just so I can bitch from time to time. Sleep is for the Week is hitting its ninth anniversary next month, so I want to see if I can keep it going (even intermittently) for a solid decade.

To all you teenagers out there: don’t worry, some of us still have your back. Just like Tokyopop did.

And to Viz, and Yen, and DMP: Keep up the good fight, I know you care about fans of all ages, too.

And to Tokyopop: RIP. You made your mistakes, but you did good, and I’ll always love you for that.

Also, since we haven’t put up anything in a while, I did an overly long Mini Review of Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi/World’s Greatest First Love, which is about how manga is a cruel mistress and working in publishing is only for nutcases, anyway. For what that’s worth.

Sigh.

Tokyo Demons

I think I’m finally ready to announce something…NotHayama and I have been working on a secret project for a while, an original online serial (prose) with illustrations by Priscilla Hamby/rem. Although I’m going to be fiddling with the website and format for months (and it technically went online a few weeks ago), I think it’s good enough for human eyes now. It’s called Tokyo Demons and it originated as a book proposal almost a decade ago. We decided to put it online about 6 months ago, so it’s been sucking up much of my free time in 2011. And it will continue to do so. I’ll still update this site from time to time, though…it’s not like we have a strict/regular/reasonable updating schedule for this place, anyway.

This has been a very tumultuous spring. I had a long post about Tokyopop’s demise that I revised over and over and eventually decided not to publish, just because it was too emotional. I’ll post a version of it soon…I just want to sleep on it one last time.

Also–thanks to everyone who made TCAF and Anime North especially excellent this year. I love talking with industry members, critics, and fans all smooshed against each other. It’s exhausting, but it’s usually fun and it’s ultimately rewarding–I don’t care about differing opinions as long as the discourse as civil. Everyone was super friendly and happy to debate this year! Thank you. We don’t have civil discourse in American politics anymore, but at least it hasn’t disappeared from the comics industry.

Josei showcase

I figure we can only offer crazy excuses once we’ve successfully updated this webpage more than once. So I’ll be quiet and simply offer up two Mini Reviews for now: one for Butterflies, Flowers and the other for Princess Jellyfish. I hope you’ve all been well the past, ahem, six months.

Hello Moon Children,

I know I’ve been annoying you with my constant chattering about Scott Pilgrim. But all of that is over. I present to you….the ultimate Scott Pilgrim Map!

Now, you’d be correct in asking why me and my friends would spend hours up hours mapping out almost every single location in the comics. No real reason why, besides the fact that I was avoiding actually reviewing actual anime and manga. But the closest thing to a reason is that the Scott Pilgrim comics are more tied to an actual place than any other comic. It actually takes place somewhere. 

So, enjoy the map. We’ll get back to our irregularly scheduled content at some point.

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