Monday, April 18, 2011

Manga Monday: Tokyopop

With Tokyopop closing its LA-based publishing division in North America (a nice article on the development here), I thought I would take the time to look back on some of my favorite titles over the years from the groundbreaking manga publisher.  They will be missed, as they put out many titles that readers love, such as Fruits Basket, Chibi Vampire and early printings of Sailor Moon.  Here are five of my favorites...

1. Paradise Kiss (Ai Yazawa) - Following an eclectic group of art students creating a fashion label, and the student who's drawn into their circle as a model, is this beautifully-illustrated shojo manga from Ai Yazawa, who would go on to enchant audiences with Nana.  After the first chapter of Nana was serialized in the very first issue of Shojo Beat in America, I ran out and purchased this series, as I was instantly enamored with Yazawa, and this earlier work from her is every bit as funny and engaging as her later work, and is easily my favorite manga from Tokyopop.

2. Dragon Head (Minetaro Mochizuki) - The dark post-apocalyptic fantasy Dragon Head seemed to come out of nowhere, but steadily built buzz before the English translations were nearly cancelled by Tokyopop (in book form, at least).  But enough fan support rallied around the book, which eventually saw the complete ten volumes released, bringing the psychological horror and crazy, brave new world to a satisfying conclusion.  Dragon Head is a unique, exciting manga read that more people should have experienced.

3. Battle Royale (Koushun Takami & Masayuki Taguchi) - Before Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games was this crazy, over-the-top fight to the death between high school students in a secluded, abandoned town.  This book dripped gore and offered up plenty of fan service in a violent, action-packed series based on the novel of the same name.  An unforgettable read.

4. Bizenghast (M. Alice LeGrow) - An OEL (Original English Language) manga, this title oozes Gothic atmosphere in a fantasy about a girl who solves riddles and works to release spirits trapped in the vaults of a mausoleum.  A great premise, rich surroundings, and just plain fun.

5. Planetes (Makoto Yukimura) - Kind of a quieter read than the others on my list, this book follows three debris collectors in Earth's orbit.  It's a science fiction book really grounded in science, and more focused on subtle characterization, but with edge-of-your-seat moments that keep you pining for more.

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