Goodbye JManga

Well, I’ve been wondering why JManga seemed to be spinning its wheels a bit in terms of new releases, and I got my answer today when the notice was posted on the site that the service was going to be terminated. It is really too bad, because they were a unique outlet for niche manga, but as much as I would like to think that there are thousands upon thousands of North American manga fans wanting to read obscure josei manga and manga about train station bento boxes, maybe there are only about fifty or so people willing to pay for it.

Jmanga gave me review points, which I greatly appreciated. I did sign up and pay for the service at the beginning, but at launch time there wasn’t enough content on there to keep me busy. While I greatly enjoyed the few series from Jmanga I was able to read, it was only in more recent months that they started releasing more titles in the genres I enjoy from publishers like Ohzora and Shueisha. Some people have pointed to a lack of support for iPads as one reason why they didn’t subscribe more to JManga, and the titles I read on JManga I read because I was so interested in them that I was willing to read them in my browser, which isn’t really my preferred viewing methods for digital comics.

Jmanga was an ambitious effort, and it is unfortunate that it is shutting down. I imagine this will have a chilling effect on digital manga distribution in the future. I’ll always be delighted that JManga gave me a chance to read the last volume of a josei series that I thought I’d never get to finish, Walkin’ Butterfly. Jmanga had some fun Harlequin and romance manga, and it enabled me to read Est Em’s manga about Centaur Salarymen. Those were some great reading experiences, and I’ll miss Jmanga for what it was and what it had the potential to be. I’m going to be rereading some of my favorite titles before the site goes dark.

Clair Voyance Vol. 1


Clair Voyance Vol 1 by FSc
Available from

This is one of those unique non-commercial titles that makes me feel glad that exists in the current manga market. I decided to take a look at this title solely because of the cover image. I thought the art looked whimsical and quirky, and the inside of the volume matched with my initial impression of the cover. Clair Voyance doesn’t have much of a detailed plot, as it mostly deals with a relentless, classic science fiction novel quoting girl named Pi who fixates on a mysterious classmate named RueRune who goes around wearing a sarong and styles his hair in a bun anchored by random botanical specimens. Pi stalks RueRune, and sees him wander about, talking to the air, buying food, and getting violently ill. Eventually she realizes that his odd behavior is due to the fact that he’s talking to invisible creatures.

Where this title stands out from other monster of the week manga is the art and slice of life approach to the material. This title is published by Ohta Publishing Company, which I believe is the publisher of the magazine Manga Erotics F, home of beloved to manga bloggers authors like Natsume Ono, Usamaru Furuya, and Inio Asano. Fsc’s art reminds me a bit of a Natsume Ono, if Natsume Ono was inclined to draw spirits that look like odd hybrids between botanical illustrations and Where the Wild Things Are. Each chapter is basically a short episode where Pi indulges in her curiosity over RueRune by following him around and pestering him, and while RueRune is able to relate much easier to the creatures that surround him, Pi represents the potential for his first true human friend.

There were a few typos here and there in the translation for this book. Fans of Natsume Ono would likely appreciate the gentle atmosphere of Clair Voyance, and if you enjoy monster of the week manga but would like to try a title with a laid-back, unconventional sensibility, this is the manga for you.

Electronic access provided by the publisher.

Pride Vol. 3 and 4

Pride Volume 3 by Yukari Ichijo
Available on


Pride is rapidly becoming one of my favorite series on Jmanga. This story of two rival opera singers always manages to put an interesting twist on showbiz manga with some unexpected plot twists. The rivalry between classy yet suddenly broke Shio and crawling up from the gutter Moe was firmly established in the first two volumes, and they are thrown together when they both get work at the same nightclub. Something unexpected occurs when they sing together though, their different voices end up blending in a delightful way. Ran thinks that the two women combined are his perfect diva and he is inspired to write even more of his own music for them. They join together in an unlikely trio called SRM, with both singers challenging each other to grow while Ran feels free to explore his avant-garde impulses. After seeing the antagonistic relationship between Shio and Moe, it was interesting to see how their commitment to music made them want to work together.

One of the things that I enjoy about this series is the way that Shio and Moe are so forthright with each other about their mutual dislike. Moe basically states that she hates Shio, and Shio points out that Moe’s low character is also something that she despises. Moe announces that when they sing together she intends to use Shio as her foil to showcase her own voice, and Shio points out that if she intends to do that, Moe has to drastically elevate her technique. The fledgling trio actually starts to achieve a small amount of success when they get a chance to go on a variety show that has a singing and songwriting competition, but their chances of winning are derailed when a musical prodigy named Eiko also appears on the program as a surprise guest.

Pride Volume 4 by Yukari Ichijo
Available on


It turns out the Eiko is the illegitimate half-sister of Shio’s wealthy fiance Mr. Jinno. Shio gets a glimpse of Jinno’s family life when she’s introduced to his parents, and she sees that Eiko has to sneak around in order to see her father. Jinno’s character begins to be revealed a bit more, and he is slightly more sympathetic, but still with the potential to do something scary if Shio crosses him. Just as Shio’s future life as a music company begins to take shape, Ran suddenly seems to be looking at her in a new way. Shio’s been able to take care of herself on her own for a bit, and the new levels of maturity and self-assurance begin to attract Ran. Shio keeps her engagement a secret because she doesn’t want to distract from SRM’s potential.

As a character, Shio is still interesting after 4 volumes, because she just seems to sail through some difficult situations due to her strong sense of self. This is contradicted by her cold decision to become engaged to Jinno, but she’s also very pragmatic. When Shio sees the truth about Moe’s mother, she handles the situation with aplomb, and doesn’t use it as an excuse to strike back at her rival. Moe begins to recognize that her singing has been improved by being exposed to Ran’s music and Shio’s technique, but she still goes through life with raw emotional reactions. The contrast between the personalities and life situations of two protagonists in Pride really drives the series forward in a compelling way. The fourth volume ends in a bit of a cliffhanger, and I can’t wait for volume five.

Electronic access provided by the publisher

Romance Manga from The London Game and Forbidden Love With a Prince

I was hoping to kick off the new incarnation of Manga Report with a triumphant series of reviews this week. Unfortunately I have a horrible cold and am really only capable of communing with my roku box and knitting scarves. But! There is a certain type of manga that I can enjoy when I am too incoherent to actually follow a plot very well, and that is romance manga! Because the plots are so predictable that even someone loopy on cold medication can follow everything without getting lost and the art is often pretty enough to distract me from my kleenex-riddled misery. Romance manga from Ohzora are usually amusing, because they are very similar to Harlequin manga adaptations, but usually the art is much more consistent and well-executed. Both of these titles are available from

The London Game by Harumo Sanazaki

The London Game

This is the story of Maximilian Rochefort, a commoner with an impressive fortune and equally impressive eyebrows, and Eleanor, the unmarried only princess of a tiny European country that has fallen on hard times. He proposes a game to her – she’ll convince him that the royal family is worth saving and he’ll rescue her. Maximilian and Eleanor knew each other briefly several years ago, and a party at a country house provides an opportunity for them to spend some more time together despite Maximilian’s antagonistic attitude. Unfortunately there are groups of other rich social climbers hanging around. Maximilian quickly determines that Eleanor’s country is basically auctioning her off to the highest bidder, and she’s utterly unaware of what is happening around her. Maximilian asks if she’s ever watched the news or read a tabloid and Eleanor says that her only reading material is “the front page of the Financial Times” because her father has always encouraged her to make appearances at charity functions instead of learning about current events. Maximilian yells “Are you an idiot?! It should be a crime to grow up this naive and unsullied! Think a little bit about who you are!” I found this scene very amusing, because all too often heroines in romance manga are idiots and no one calls them on it. Eleanor grows up a little bit and Maximilian stops acting aggressively petulant. Sanazaki’s art is detailed, lush, and a little bit stylized which is exactly the type of illustration I tend to look for from romance manga. I enjoyed the backup story about a vengeful ex-boyfriend “Flames of Love in the Aegean Sea” much less because it was a bit too rapey (in the old 1980s romance novel sort of way) for me.

Forbidden Love With a Prince by Rikako Tsuji

Forbidden Love With a Prince

This was a fun single volume story about an aspiring actress named Sherry who is studying in a tiny European country (there are so many of those in romance manga) when she has an encounter with a handsome yet slightly weird young man named Ernest at her part-time job working in a cafe. He tries a slightly cheesy pickup line on her and she dismisses him. They meet in a park and Ernest woos Sherry in the undercover way commonly practiced by princes of tiny European countries who don’t wish to reveal their royal natures to their crush objects. Ernest and Sherry’s dating activities include foiling bank robberies and accidentally getting handcuffed together. Sherry’s career begins to take off and Ernest vanishes from her life. When Prince Ernest attends Sherry’s new play, she finally realizes who he is. Sherry then has to make a decision – should she continue with her career or become a queen? Tsuji is very good at portraying facial expressions and body language, and it was particularly interesting to see the way Ernest is open and enthusiastic when he’s undercover and then turns much more stiff and formal when he’s in his role as a Prince. The story took up the whole volume of the manga, and I was amused to see that there were little touches with character introductions which highlighted the possibility of a number of spin-off stories featuring Ernest’s friends and relatives.

Romance manga might not be great literature, but it is the perfect thing sometimes when one wants to be diverted and distracted by the spectacle of pretty people falling in love. Both of these volumes are good examples of the genre, and I’m glad that has stepped up to translate so much romance manga in recent months.

Electronic access provided by the publisher.

Pride Volumes 1 and 2 from

Pride was a series I snapped up immediately when I saw it show up as a new shojo title on This manga details the story of two competing opera singers, one from an elite background and one trying to struggle her way up from poverty. In a twist from what one might expect, the rich girl is sympathetic if reserved while the poor girl exhibits lying psychopath tendencies. I do enjoy manga stories set with show business as a background, as they tend to be a great shoujo or josei variation on the type of striving and competition that I usually expect from sports manga. Pride would appeal to fans of dramatic, slightly retro shojo stories like the Glass Mask anime or my beloved ballet classic Swan.

The first two volumes of Pride are available at a bargain price as part of Jmanga’s Shojo from Shueisha sale.

The first volume is also available for free on Jmanga7.

Pride Volume 1 by Yukari Ichijo

Shio Asami is a poor little rich girl opera diva in training when she has an odd encounter with another high school girl, Moe Midorikawa who is working for a housecleaning service. Shio finds out that her father isn’t going to attend the opera with her so she gives her extra ticket to Moe. The girls go to the opera, where Shio is greeted warmly by opera society since she’s the daughter of a famous dead opera singer. Two people take notice of both Shio and Moe. Natsuko runs a club in the Ginza, and thinks that Shio looks just like her mother. Record company executive Mr. Jinno thinks that it has been a long time since he’s met “such an upstanding mademoiselle” when he looks at Shio, but gives Moe the advice that if she wants to get to the top it “doesn’t matter what shameless tricks you have to play.” Moe makes a bunch of comments about about Shio’s privileged lifestyle, but Shio is bored with it all saying, “I’m not the type to gloat over other people’s jealously. Rather I find it unpleasant.”

When Shio gets home she abruptly finds out that her life is going to change when her father confesses to her that his company is bankrupt and he’s about to move to New Zealand to work on a friend’s sheep farm. Rather than cause a scene, Moe looks shocked, thinks a bit, tosses back a glass of champagne, and asks about her father’s plans. This was the moment where I decided I was on Team Shio for the rest of the manga! Shio has a little bit of money in savings which will allow her to get a job in Japan, but she’s going to have to go to work instead of continuing her music studies in college. Moe and Shio then meet again when they are both entered in the same singing competition. Moe wins due to some careful costume selection, acting ability, and her making a horrible reference to the death of Shio’s mother right before Shio goes onstage to sing her final song. Then after the competition there’s a DIVAFIGHT!

Ichijo’s art is clear and easy to follow, with a bit of an old-fashioned style. I wasn’t surprised to see that she’s been working in manga since the 1970s, with Pride originally coming out in Japan in the early 2000s. Pride seems a bit more josei than shojo, with both the girls out of school and facing difficulties as they enter adult life. Shio’s pride prevents her from asking anyone for help as she settles in to an apartment on her own. She goes out of her way to maintain a happy facade for her father so he will continue with his own plans to move away. Shio finds some unexpected support from Ran, a composer in the piano division at her school whose mother Natsuko wants Shio to work in her club. Shio ends up stumbling into an unlikely friendship with Ran and is relieved at the idea that she might actually have a job singing, even if she has to learn a repertoire of non-opera songs.

Pride Volume 2 by Yukari Ichijo

The slightly slimy Jinno ends up influencing the lives of both Moe and Natsuko. Moe’s relentless drive to exploit her one contact in the music industry has her working as Jinno’s maid, and later prostrating herself and asking for his help after a confrontation with her deranged mother. Moe’s behavior is a contrast to Shio’s inability to ask anyone for a favor. Jinno provides Moe with advice and music lessons, and Moe is determined to learn how to act like a more mature woman in order to attract him. She also gets a job at Natsuko’s club after demonstrating her ability to charm elderly men. By the end of the second volume a long-term rivalry between Shio and Moe is established, as Moe’s untrained and more expressive voice attracts Ran’s interest as the vehicle to express his original compositions. Jinno wants Shio to be his perfect society companion since she has no difficulty moving in music industry circles. Moe and Shio both have what the other most desperately wants, and it will be interesting to see if Shio is able to toughen up and become more streetwise in order to deal with her unscrupulous rival. While I have a clear favorite character to follow in this series in Shio, Moe’s background is filled in a bit and it is clear that she acts desperate because she comes from desperate circumstances. It’ll be interesting to see how everything plays out in future volumes.

My one criticism of the series is that with such a clear focus on the lives of the heroines, a chance to drop in some extra knowledge of opera and music got passed up. While it is true that sometimes I put down a volume of Swan with a feeling that I’d just read an encyclopedia article about the development of Russian Ballet, I enjoyed getting some random factoids to balance out the angst. I would have liked Pride even more if there were a few more details about vocal training or more background information about opera. There was plenty of drama packed into the first two volumes, and I am definitely on board with this series. As long as there’s a DIVAFIGHT every couple of issues I suspect that I will continue to be very entertained.

Electronic access provided by the publisher.