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Friday, September 30, 2011

License Line: To The Rescue

What is License Line? Put simply, it's a bi-weekly feature on Nagareboshi Reviews in which yours truly posts about a certain anime/manga series that truly, desperately needs to be licensed and put on my shelves ASAP - from the obscure but well-deserving manga to the stream worthy but not yet DVD licensed anime. (It is also desperately late this week, and for this I apologize. Yes, aren't these usually published every other Tuesday? Bear with me, for this week is a little bit more interactive!)

Unless you habituate underneath a large boulder, you are keenly aware of the absence of a certain manga publishing giant this fall: Tokyopop, which closed its doors and ceased publication of all of its licenses as of May of this year. I'm not looking to make a bitter rant about Tokyopop's business practices and how it feels like Stu Levy failed manga readers, especially since they've now dangled the possible carrot of Axis Powers Hetalia's third volume availability in front of fans' noses; that can be another post all together (and what a post it will be, I'm sure). No, today I'd like to talk about something that has been running through the manga blogosphere since Tokyopop's closure of its publishing center was first introduced: what about the manga?

Once the licenses were returned to their original Japanese owners, the future of their English-language release returned to a state of confusion. Some titles, based on sales alone, seemed destined for rescue; others were not so clear, especially those whose run had just started with Tokyopop's publication. I followed and bought a lot of Tokyopop series, some of which only had a single volume released when TP shut down. I think it is time I started begging for some mercy on behalf of the remaining manga publishers in North America to bring some of my TP favorites back, don't you think?

One of the series I'd like to see rescued by another publisher is Pavane For A Dead Girl (亡き少女の為のパヴァーヌ) by Koge-Donbo* of Pita-Ten fame. Only the first volume of this quirky Gothic shoujo mystery series was published in English, but the promise within its pages was overwhelming to the point that I'm sure that the following volumes would have only amped up the quality of the storytelling and the fantastic artwork. Set at the end of the Meiji Era, Takenomaru has signed a contract to save his life, and in order to keep this contract fulfilled he must find the Tears of Maria to satisfy the Great Angel that brought him back to life.

It's a fantasy series catered towards older teens and manages to balance the darker elements with the humorous moments as Takenomaru goes on to find those whose hearts may hold the Tears he needs to live, and the cast pretty much hits all of the more moe tropes (adorable gothic Lolita with an eye patch! sullen amnesiac! mysterious girl with wing-like things on her back!) without getting overwhelmed. It was entertaining, it showed promise, and it should be rescued for a second chance at North American readers' hearts.

The next is a popular fan favorite for those who love easy-going slice of life series, especially when they are about adorable female gondoliers coming of age on Mars. Yes, I'm talking about Kozue Amano's Aria series, which has the atmosphere of the same slow moving gondola rides it illustrates so beautifully. It seems to get a handful of flak from fans for being so meandering and lacking in overall plot, but honestly, does it need one? It does well enough without all that kind of fuss, and moves along at a casual pace that perfectly fits the Neo-Venezian world it takes place in.

So – those are my picks for Tokyopop licenses screaming for rescues. And what are yours? Do you wish someone would pick up the yaoi their BLU line had handled previously? Are you a Fruits Basket fan who didn’t have a chance to buy the entire series? Did they start publishing a series that you fell in love with – only to close down only after the first volume? Tell me, I want to hear about it!

Who knows, maybe some kind manga publisher will hear you out and pick your favorite title up? Heck, we can dream, can’t we? I know I’d absolutely lose my mind if someone picked up Pavane or Aria for release in English again.