6 Dead Frankensteins in the Manga World

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My story began with a search inside the famous Google, its grey strip begging me to ask my question, to give it a task. I did so with two words: “Frankenstein manga.” What was to follow only betrayed my expectations. I found fewer than 10 titles–only 6 titles–that involved the moody fictional character, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and the monster he created now called Frankenstein. From these 6 measly titles, I thought half of them would be in English being that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was in English, and so, many Western readers would also enjoy them in their origins’ native language. To my dismay, all 6 Frankenstein titles were unlicensed manga. “How could I ever wish to write about these without guiding readers to scanlations and pirated websites?” Of course, I found no answer waiting at my fingertips.

“How could these manga creators do this to me, to other faithful followers?” I complained, but a thought struck me as devastatingly as lightning. Manga creators simply make the stories, not publish and translate them into other languages. Editors, letterers, and translators only followed their duties. So who, if anyone, could be to blame for allowing these 6 titles to remain on the lab table, only to be viewed by 125 million Japanese speakers when there are 360 million English speakers? Surely readers can’t be to blame. Complaints aside, I felt that manga lovers were done a great injustice when titles that have been poked, prodded, and even robbed by many go unnoticed by manga publishers.

I am certain many people have looked for Franken Fran, Embalming: Another Tale of Frankenstein, Noblesse, Frankenstein, Mondlicht: Tsuki no Tsubasa, and Wagatomo Frankenstein in the darker realms of the internet. Even I, an advocate of licensed manga and a resident within the Japanese language, have ventured there for such reasons. But I must say, when sub-par titles about vampires, werewolves, demons, and zombies are tramping through English bookshelves while these little bolts of genius float in obscurity, it makes me ponder, “Can I not go forward and talk about these unlicensed manga?”

“‘Live, and be happy, and make others so,'” Justine Mortiz in a dying whisper.

The first of the Frankenstein children to stay in Japan’s lab is Wagatomo Frankenstein. Born in 1972 in Shueisha, Wagatomo Frankenstein is an elusive child. Even in the smokiest alleys of the cyber world, its real story is hidden from English speakers, thus we move to its  siblings.

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Wagatomo Frankenstein‘s sisters, Franken Fran (fathered by Kigitsu Katsuhisa) and Mondlicht: Tsuki no Tsubasa (fathered by Juichi Iogi), are still housed under Akita Shoten’s label, but they have gained a cult outside their imprisonments. Franken Fran uses a female version of Frankenstein to grant the wishes of hapless humans in rather unwishful, Pet Shop of Horrors ways. The junior of the sisters, Mondlicht: Tsuki no Tsubasa, bears little resemblance to Mark Shelley’s Frankenstein–it’s simply a battle waged between lonesome vampires and Dr. Frankenstein’s monsters who take the form of pretty schoolgirls.

*As of 4/29/2015, Franken Fran has been licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment and is slated for release in February 2016 in omnibus editions. Thank you, Leslie!

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Along with Franken Fran and Mondlicht, three brothers have joined the Frankenstein manga family. Similar to most human families, the eldest brother takes its name from the father: Frankenstein. Despite being younger than Wagatomo Frankenstein, Junji Ito’s creation is the closest to their mother’s children, Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his monster’s awakening. The second brother, Embalming: Another Tale of Frankenstein, comes from the 2007 Jump SQ generation, born from Rurouni Kenshin creator, Nobuhiro Watsuki. If Dr. Frankenstein truly lived and he assembled his grotesque monsters, Embalming shows how these undead beings run amuck in Europe 150 years after Dr. Frankenstein’s original creation.

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I must say, though the baby of the brothers is a Korean webcomic, it mimics its elder siblings, right down to the typical high school premise. Noblesse from Son Jae-Ho has Frankenstein, a devoted scientist who follows a vampire lord, operating a prestigious academy. Though this Frankenstein offspring has his scientist father’s brain, its history is completely warped. He has made himself into a monster and granted himself immortality in completely following his master’s wishes.

However much I seem to know about these 6 titles, I have yet to read their copies within legitimate terms. I had hoped that several publishers would need these titles in English to appease the cults who follow them. With my confession now in front of the whole world, I can find solace. I and these manga creators have re-told Mary Shelley’s story. I hope English manga publishers would like to hear them.

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This Week at Jade’s Escape: Godzilla, Big Hero 6 Manga

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I watched the new Godzilla movie.

It gets Razzie of the Year in my book.

  • Unused talent: Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston do not work together. It’s not even a Bryan Cranston movie.
  • One-dimensional actor takes the boring lead: Aaron Taylor-Johnson keeps looking at the camera, adding to his unconvincing role as Bryan Cranston’s military son.
  • Too many kids: This is not a family movie! When did throwing kids into the mix equal “human element”? True Lies, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, and Back to the Future had kids in them, but they actually served some role other than “Let’s make this a family movie.”
  • Gun/nuclear-happy Americans: I would have to say that this pro-military movie portrays Americans’ top specialty–using their guns first and coming up with sound answers later.
  • Horrible villain monsters: In the Godzilla franchise, there are tons of interesting and badass monsters to choose from. I would’ve gone with King Shisa (I’m impartial to the Okinawan shisa) or King Gydra (the Hydra).

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    Picture from the best Godzilla books ever in Japan, ゴジラ人間 series, printed in 1984 by Shogakukan Publishing.

  • Friendly Godzilla: When was Godzilla on our side? OK, so he crushed a few buildings, but he’s nothing like the Godzilla from the past franchise.
  • Movie should’ve ended in the beginning: If you’re a foreign who gets arrested in Japan, unless you’re married to a Japanese person, you’ll get deported, not sent back to your apartment. Godzilla would’ve easily ended in the first 20 minutes of the movie.
  • Japanese people don’t speak English: Sorry, English teachers, but I know this as an English teacher here in Japan. Few Japanese people speak English, especially fluent English, and most freak out when they see a foreigner, even if it’s in a convenience store.
  • Japanese people don’t take orders from Americans: How many foreign executives have you seen in Japan?

I started watching the 1998 Godzilla: The Series TV show just to wash the taste out of my mouth.

 

Big Hero 6 Manga

This is a first: before Disney’s Big Hero 6 release, Disney is releasing the manga for free through Amazon.co.jp, Boollive!, and Yahoo! Bookstores etc. from August 20th (limited time only). You can read the manga in Japanese here.

7 Useful Websites to Survive in Japan

 

Imagine getting an invitation to your welcome party and a co-worker hands you a map to the location. You don’t think to ask about the place or what do all the squiggly lines mean–not like you can if you don’t know Japanese–so when the time comes to go to the welcome party, you realize that you don’t know the way. But that’s only one worry from living in Japan. Japanese language resources, English books, organic products, and even emoticons are different in the Land of the Rising Sun. Thanks to the internet, you can simplify your needs while living in Japan.

 googlemapsGoogle Maps: In Japan, you can easily get lost. There are no street names, and multiple routes with the same number make finding a certain business nearly impossible. Good thing all businesses must print their ads with a map to their shop…right? If everyone relied on those 5-centimeter sized maps, no one in Japan would use Google Maps. My advice: stick to landmarks!

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Japanese Emoticons: Western emoticons are great, but Japanese ones are easier to read and have more pizzazz. Plus, each emoticon conveys the exact emotion I’m looking for in a tweet or email. \(^▽^)/

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Japanese Fonts: If you’re learning Japanese or you make anything with text in Japan, this website is the best! You can download and install the fonts that actually write Japanese, not the gibberish you find on Fontspace. Just be on the look out for the fine print. Some fonts are licensed for non-commercial uses, which means you can only use them for unpaid projects.

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Book Depository: Japan has a severe lack of English books that aren’t condensed readers for English exam takers. Some Japanese English-reading residents are fine with the scant choices of English literature at Toda Books and Book Off (they mostly have YA and best sellers). For those who want books without the expensive shipping fee from Ebay, Amazon, Abebooks, Book Depository is the best. They ship books worldwide for free. Are the books cheaper than Ebay or Amazon? No, they’re full price, but they’re brand new books.

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iHerb: If you’re missing your beloved African soap bars or certain organic cookie mixes and you can’t get them from home, iHerb is the next best option. They have a flat $4 shipping rate to Japan and they sell organic and vegan household products.

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Weblio: Japanese is hard. Even Google Translate has a hard time making Japanese understandable. Weblio is another translation website that offers a literal translation of the English and example sentences using the main verb.

Wunderground: Between June and October, Japan is plagued with typhoons and stormy weather. Reliable English-language weather forecast sites like Wunderground are few in total, considering that many are in Japanese. Still, Wunderground is a good place to watch any severe weather changes in the Western-Pacific region.

Manga Assistant’s Dream Realized: The Princess of Tennis Review

Manga Assistant’s Dream Realized: The Princess of Tennis Review

When I was 13, I wanted to be a manga creator. Between college and Japan, I forgot that dream. After reading Jamie Lynn Lano’s The Princess of Tennis, that 15-year-old dream cried out and I realized why: Lano never forgot her dream and became a manga assistant for Takeshi Konomi’s The Prince of Tennis, or TeniPuri by some fans.

Lano’s journey starts with already living in Japan for 4 years as an English teacher before applying to Konomi’s call for manga assistants. Throughout the book, Lano not only talks about how manga is made (it’s less technical than I thought) but also the ups and downs of being a 6-foot-1 foreign woman in Japan.

The Princess of Tennis is an easy and fun read. Lano keeps the tone light and friendly, and when she turns to darker themes–the invisible red tape for foreigners, real Japanese customs, and women’s 1950’s role in Japanese culture–Lano always remembers that this true story is a happy one, minus the tinted glasses.

While Lano makes her book accessible for all readers, The Princess of Tennis best fits otaku and aspiring manga creators and editors. She uses Japanese words and emoticons that anyone can find in a manga. For readers outside of the manga-reading audience, this book comes off as a borderline Young Adult novel or fanfiction, especially when the grammatical errors are considered. Because Lano’s voice and amiable nature is consistent, readers can forgive the missing words, incorrect punctuation marks, and passive sentences.

As with many books about Japan, The Princess of Tennis uses many Japanese words. Some might find it charming, but I believe that if a book is for the English-reading community, it should stay in English. I wouldn’t say, “Konomi Teacher”. Even “Mr. Konomi” is passable. Still, I’d just omit the word. In the West, using someone’s last name is also a sign of respect. Untranslated Japanese words with simple English meanings–“ohayo” (“Good morning”), “hajimemashite” (“Nice to meet you”), and “ganbare” (“Good luck” or “Do your best”)–are still in the book. I think I removed every romanized word with corrector ink just to polish the text.

Aside from the mistakes, The Princess of Tennis was entertaining and inspirational for me. Remember my dream of becoming a manga creator? Maybe my TeniPuri call is waiting for me to answer.

The Princess of Tennis: The True Story of an American Manga Assistant

I finally got my copy of The Princess of Tennis from Jamie Lynn Lano!

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There aren’t many stories (if any) about Western manga assistants working in Japan. Jamie Lynn Lano tells all in this book and on her blog, Jamieism.com. You can buy  The Princess of Tennis: The true story of working as a mangaka’s assistant in Japanon Amazon.

Also, you can help Jamie get to San Diego Comic Con through http://www.gofundme.com/9v7x64.

Super Saiyin Level 4: My 4 Years Living and Blogging in Japan

I’m at Super Saiyin status! Yup, I’ve reached 4 complete years of living and blogging in Japan!

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I know, I know. Some Americans have reached city-stomping, moon-transforming monkey status in their tenth, twentieth, or even thirtieth years in Japan. Good for them! For me, it’s an awesome thing: I’m still living my dream! And I’ve learned a few things along the way.

Anime and manga does and doesn’t equal culture.

Just as any media doesn’t fully capture a single culture, it also says a lot about that culture. The Japanese population is mostly Japanese. From the time Japanese people are born until they die, there are certain things that’re taught to them. Did you know that Japanese students take Ethics and Morals in junior high school? And did you know Japanese students are punished more for not following the rules than their grades? No, maybe not. In reality, Japanese people aren’t allowed to stand out. Japan is a collective society, and in a country the size of California housing millions, the population can’t afford to be individualistic. But in anime and manga, you’ll see students who are totally different because of their natural talents or super abilities. In a way, these media are reflections of a country where the hammer strikes down the standing nail.

Design and marketing is on a whole different level in Japan.

Wherever you walk in Japan, you’re bound to find billboards upon billboards, posters behind posters, signs above signs of ads, ads, ads. Even if you can’t read them, these ads are successful at embedding colorful and creative images into your brain. Everything has a mascot (ever hear of Hello Kitty, Kumamon, Pikachu, or Luffy?). When I think of American ads, they don’t compare. Then again, the States has it good with creating recognizable brands. Hmm, maybe I’m wrong… Still, Japanese advertising makes me laugh!

Quality of (Insert a Noun) is cities above the American sense of quality

I’m absolutely in love with Japan’s sense of quality. It shows in mundane things: merchandise at thrift stores are clean and cared for; lunches are freshly prepared by mothers and lunchbox pros same day; fast food actually matches the pictures. So, yeah, quality of life is awesome in Japan. There’s the national healthcare that every working person can receive (OMG, Japan is Socialistic ::gasp::), and the older you are, the cheaper your optional car insurance becomes. Don’t get me wrong, I do miss the States, but some things–the crappy secondhand buys, the fat-salt-sugar-saturated processed food, and the bombardment of unhealthy lifestyles–aren’t living up to my quality of life anymore.

I miss the straightforwardness of the West

Japan is the land of beating around the bush. You can’t say anything directly because it’s seen as unfriendly. Instead of saying, “Why aren’t you wearing an undershirt?” you have to opt for a round-about way of saying things. “Aren’t you cold?” The real meaning: you’re not dressed properly for work! Then again, no one will tell you at the very beginning how to dress for work in Japan like in the States. “Do I have to wear suits? What color? How long?” You have to become a really great observer in Japan and answer the questions yourself. In a way, I find it refreshing. As Haruki Murakami wrote in 1Q84, “If you can’t understand it without an explanation, you can’t understand it with an explanation.” 

Give Me My (Free) Digital Manga!

Looking to read manga without going to the bookstore? Get your digital manga here! 

Provider Cost E-Reader Source Genre Notes
Comicloud.net/eng Purchase per manga Kindle, Google Play Directly from Japan, Korea Indie, bizarre, grotesque
CrunchyRoll.com and ComiPo! $6.95/month (limited access), $11.95/month (full access) Apple, Google Play Directly from Japan, international Indie, shonen, seinen Gift memberships: $34.95/3 months, $99.95/1 year
GENmanga.com $24/year Barnes & Noble, Amazon Directly from Japan Seinen, indie, manhwa
Inkblazers.com Free Apple International All, indie formerly Manga Magazine
en.MangaReborn.jp $10/1000 coins Directly from Japan Indie  Has a specific search engine for preferences
Weekly Shonen Jump (shonenjump.viz.com) $25/year Apple, Kobo, Nook, Kindle, Google Play Same day direct from Japan Shounen, seinen
ComiXology.com Purchase per manga, comic  Apple OEL manga, former Tokyopop titles Free comics available
SparklerMonthly.com(Serviced by Chromatic Press) $5/month  Depends on format (audio, visual)  From English-speaking creators OEL shoujo and josei manga, prose, and audio First chapters and prologues available for free

You can also check out some apps that give you free or cheap access to licensed and new manga.

Manga Box App – This English and Japanese app provides popular manga like Nisekoi and Kindaichi Case Files along with lesser known titles such as Spoof on Titan, Chubby Cinderella, and Shinjuku DxD. This app is a free download for Android and iPhone.