Since typing on an iPhone is so awful, I will simply say that it is ridiculous that the suprheroes are upset about Green Arrow killing supervillain Hitler. Superheroes have jumped the shark.

- Chris

I was at the Korean grocery store in my neighbourhood and found these neat snacks based on the anime (and manga I guess) Crayon Shinchan, by the recently departed Usui Yoshito. The writing on the bag is in fact Korean, as it looks like these are snacks based on the cartoon which has been licensed all over the world.

In addition to pasted-on English language ingredients, the back of each bag features different funny little scenarios featuring Shin-chan and his family. The contents of each bag are exactly the same, but I guess if you were a kid in Korea getting a different design in your lunch every day might be cool.

The snacks themselves are pretty good. They’re very lightly sweetened crackers… A little bit of sesame and ‘burnt’, a little sugar and cinnamon. They taste like Asian snack food. :)


- Chris

All of the most carefully embargoed secrets can be lain to waste by one unexpected early listing on, and that’s exactly what happened today. Early this afternoon Fantagraphics quickly announced that they would be publishing a new line of manga in partnership with Shogakukan, edited and curated by Matt Thorn and debuting with an anthology of work by acclaimed mangaka Moto Hagio. Thorn is well-known and respected for his long history of academic and popular writing on manga and anime, and particularly shoujo and queer material.

Reportedly four years in the making, the line is currently very vaguely defined as simply “a manga line” (no brand either), but the early titles and Thorn’s involvement with Fantagraphics seems to hint at a primarily shoujo-oriented line comprised of mature and sophisticated works, or at least early and groundbreaking ones. The four year date also hints that the development of this line began even before the release of Fantagraphics’ The Comics Journal #269 in 2007, the special shoujo issue which featured a short story by and interview with Hagio. Edit: I got the date wrong, TCJ #269 shipped in July 2005.

When Dirk Deppey broke the news at Journalista this afternoon, the confirmation drew immediate, elated results across the blogosphere… and this was before there was even an official press release. Even editor Matt Thorn seems to have found out about it from the online kerfuffle. But now that the cat is out of the bag, here are all the details I’ve been able to round up.

Cover to A Drunken Dream, by Moto Hagio. Fantagraphics Edition, September 2010.

According to the Press Release from Fantagraphics, the line will officially launch in September 2010 with Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream, a best-of collection featuring a number of short stories from across Hagio’s career. Fantagraphics also announced that Hagio would be a Guest of Honor at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con (coming in late July), so it seems likely that the book will actually debut there along with her appearance (though this is entirely supposition on my part). Over at his blog, Matt Thorn filled in a little more information about the line-up of the short stories in A Drunken Dream:

  • “Bianca” (1970, 16 pages)
  • “Girl on Porch with Puppy” (1971, 12 pages)
  • “Autumn Journey” (1971, 24 pages)
  • “Marié, Ten Years Later” (1977, 16 pages)
  • “A Drunken Dream” (1980, 21 pages)
  • “Hanshin” (1984, 16 pages) [previously published in The Comics Journal #269]
  • “Angel Mimic” (1984, 50 pages)
  • “Iguana Girl” (1991, 50 pages)
  • “The Child Who Comes Home” (1998, 24 pages)
  • “The Willow Tree” (2007, 20 pages)

The book is currently set at 228 pages, in a hardcover measuring 7″ x 9″ and in the original Japanese right-to-left orientation. No price has been announced. All of the stories seem to have been published by licensing partner Shogakukan, who as you may know is also one of the partner-owners of American manga publisher Viz LLC.

Hagio is an incredibly important manga creator though to date only a few pieces of her work have been released in English, including A,A’, They Were Eleven, and the short story “Hanshin”. As a founding member of “The Magnificent 24″ group of female creators, she revolutionized manga for girls and pioneered the shoujo manga genre in the 1970s, drawing from influences like the radical youth culture of the 60s, rock and roll music, and European cinema. Hagio is the winner of a number of prestigious manga prizes, including the Tezuka Cultural Prize. The interview with Hagio and career overview in TCJ #269 is really outstanding, and I strongly recommend tracking down an issue if you’re a manga fan.

Cover to Wandering Son Book One. Fantagraphics Edition, December 2010.

In December 2010, Fantagraphics will release the second work in the line, the transgender-centric manga Wandering Son by mangaka Shimura Takako. Originally called Hourou Musuko in the Japanese, the series follows two young friends; Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. Far from the comedy antics of gender-bending series like Ranma 1/2, the series is apparently a straight-forward exploration of the two characters as they struggle with puberty, gender identity, and growing up.

The first book is also in a 7″ x 9″ hardcover format, Japanese right-to-left orientation, with no announced price.

Interestingly, Wandering Son is currently ongoing in Japan with a tenth volume scheduled for release later this month, making it a radical departure for Fantagraphics and “art manga” publishing in general, which has yet to tackle an ongoing series. Even more interesting, the series is currently serialized in the magazine “Comic Beam”, a seinen (young men’s) manga magazine which runs all kinds of series–from Kaouru Mori’s Emma (published in the U.S. by CMX), to Junko Mizuno’s Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu (Last Gasp), to the dark/sexy adventure series King of Thorn by Yuji Iwahara (Tokyopop)–a far cry from straight-ahead shoujo. The strangest bit? While Dirk Deppey announced Matt Thorn’s manga line as a partnership with Shogakukan, Wandering Son and “Comic Beamare published by Japanese publisher Enterbrain, showing that the line will not be entirely populated with Shogakukan titles.

In conclusion: Great day to be a manga fan.

- Chris

Fantagraphics Official PR
Dirk Deppey’s Announcement at Journalista
Matt Thorn’s Announcement
Anime News Network Announcement
David Welsh, Manga Curmudgeon
Horo Musuko (Wandering Son) at Wikipedia
Anime Vice, the first site to spot the books at Amazon

Most of the Random Japan posts here are about food, because (more often than not) food was a sort of in-between thing when I was travelling. My visits to Akihabara were punctuated by a stop for Ramen, a stop for McDonalds, and a stop for Curry, but none of those three things really has much to offer by way of commentary on Akihabara… at least so far as the contents of this blog are concerned. But they’re a fascinating glimpse into day-to-day life in Japan, so I documented as much of that stuff as I could.

Case in point: Lotteria. One of Japan’s big fast-food chains, coming up alongside McDonalds, and Mos Burger. Where McDonald’s is all about its brand, and Mos Burger is all about ‘freshness’, Lotteria seems to be all about making as many random burgers as possible. Lotteria is a cross between food manufacturer “Lotte” (they make lots of kinds of candies and snack foods amongst other things) and “cafeteria”, which is a delightfully Japanese mash-up. Case-in-point on the weirdness front btw, that to the right is a burger with two patties, a fried egg, and teriyaki sauce. It was delicious.

I really dug Lotteria, their particular brand of fast food was just this side of obscene (seriously, check out their website – anything with melted cheese on it looks like a heart attack). But one of their best menu items is also one of their simplest and most straightforward: The Lotteria Potato. The potato comes inside this cute, branded box, alongside a rather generous helping of sea-salt in a little packet.

This particular Lotteria Potato was purchased from inside Sapporo JR Station, at the last possible minute before I’d miss my train and be stuck in Sapporo for another 12 hours. You can see it alongside our drink-of-choice on the trip, Kirin Lemon Chi-hi.

Opening the box reveals the potato. So far as we can tell, it’s a whole potato that’s been par-boiled and then sliced. It is then deep-fried to order, resulting in a very crispy skin and as the potato blooms in the friar, crispy and delicious insides. It sort of fans out, and is attached at the bottom. It’s sort of like a blooming-onion, but less unhealthy.

The delicious sea salt is then sprinkled in-and-on the potato. If the Potato is fresh enough, the salt will adhere to the bits where there’s still cooking oil on the exterior. At this point the potato is really, really hot, btw. So despite the fact that it looks and smells delicious and the salt is melting on top of it, consuming it at this point will burn your mouth.

Instead, you just take arty pictures of the potato, waiting for it to cool, wondering how you’re ever going to get a blog post out of pictures of a potato. And yet, here we are.

Andrew estimates he had three of these in three weeks, I think it was closer to five. For those of you travelling to Japan, I heartily recommend the Lotteria Potato.

Actually, we just learned something. I had my friend Dave translate this for me, the menu item listing for the Lotteria Potato. Apparently, in the lower-left corner there, it lists additional sauces for your potato for a small extra charge. They are “butter” and “caramel sauce”. Seriously. So in closing, I guess I’d like to apologize to all of you for not being able to tell you what a salty fried potato with caramel dipping sauce tastes like, as I wasn’t able to read the signage at the time. Should I have occasion to return to Japan, I promise you a full run-down.

- Chris