Yokaiden Vol. 1

By Nina Matsumoto
192 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

There are a lot of different terms being used for when a publisher known for their manga line decides to produce (instead of just translate) some comics of their own. American manga, amerimanga, western manga, world manga, global manga, neo-manga, original English-language manga (or OEL manga), the names appear almost as fast as the comics themselves. Sometimes the attempts are merely formatted the same but in no other ways different. Sometimes the comics ape many of the hallmarks of Japanese comics. And sometimes it has more to do with going for the same sort of undefinable feel that the creator gets when reading manga. With all of that in mind, Nina Matsumoto has one of Del Rey’s early attempts at adding Western-produced comics into their manga line, in the form of Yokaiden.

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Official Casebook Vol. 1

304 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

One of my favorite games for the Nintendo DS is the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series. In it, you control a flamboyantly goofy lawyer named Phoenix Wright, who always seems to be defending people whose case is nothing sort of hopeless. The game has a great sense of humor, as well lots of fun little character interactions. So the idea of a manga Phoenix Wright? This sounded right up my alleyway.

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Toto!: The Wonderful Adventure Vol. 1

By Yuko Osada
208 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

I think it was the cover of Toto!: The Wonderful Adventure that instantly grabbed my attention. It’s simple enough, a young boy pulling a pair of goggles on, with a dog on his shoulder, a map on his back, and the background being a map as well. But I have to give Yuko Osada credit, that was just enough that made me want to see more, promising some sort of rollicking adventure within its pages. And happily, that’s exactly what you find here.

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Me and the Devil Blues Vol. 1

By Akira Hiramoto
544 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

Robert Johnson was probably one of the greatest blues musicians of all time, his skills like no other and his influence continuing to musicians today. For that alone, I was interested in reading Akira Hiramoto’s Me and the Devil Blues, his story of the life of this amazing artist. What I probably should have done before I started reading the book, though, was pay a little more attention to the back cover copy. Had I looked at that a little more closely, maybe then I wouldn’t have been quite so surprised by its contents.

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Le Chevalier d’Eon Vol. 1

Story by Tou Ubukata
Adaptation by Kiriko Yumeji
208 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

Comics in any country often have a large number of similar plot points or genres that get repeated from one work to the next, regardless of creator. From the evil sibling to the secret identity, seeing these ideas crop up over and over again becomes less and less of a surprise the more you read. In the case of Le Chevalier d’Eon, though, I must admit that Tou Ubukata and Kiriko Yumeji managed to sneak up on me with a well-known trope in Japanese manga. After my surprise faded, it hit me as to why they’d managed to get me—I’d never have expected it in a historical horror saga.

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Fairy Tail Vol. 1-2

By Hiro Mashima
208 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

Towards the end of 2007, Viz unleashed “Naruto Nation” on stores, releasing three volumes of the manga a month for several months. Naruto sales stayed strong, showing that if people want a series enough it doesn’t matter how quickly another installment hits shelves. Now Del Rey is kicking off Hiro Mashima’s latest series Fairy Tail with the first two volumes being simultaneously released. Now that I’ve sat down and read them both, I have to say that Del Rey made a really smart move, here.

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Hell Girl Vol. 1

By Miyuki Eto
208 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

Sometimes you read a book because the initial hook sounds too good to ignore. That was certainly the case in Hell Girl, where the idea of people using a website to send other people to hell (but at the cost of their own soul) seemed like a fun take on an old chestnut, and seemed to promise at least a slight exploration at the idea of, “How much are you willing to pay to change your life?” What I found, though, was anything but that.

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Alive: The Final Evolution Vol. 1

Written by Tadashi Kawashima
Art by Adachitoka
208 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

Have you ever read a back cover blurb so enticing that you absolutely had to read the book? That’s the sign of at least one of two things: a great story concept, or a great copy/advertising writer. The question is, though, just which have you encountered? That’s what I asked myself when I picked up the first volume of Alive: The Final Evolution by Tadashi Kawashima and Adachitoka. And of course, being the first volume in a series, your guess was as good as mine.

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Parasyte Vol. 1

By Hitoshi Iwaaki
288 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

I remember reading early volumes of Parasyte almost a full decade ago, when TokyoPop published its first English-language edition. It was a fun if slightly forgettable series, with ideas about invasive shapeshifting aliens and inventive visuals. With Del Rey bringing the series back into print in an eight-volume edition (TokyoPop’s version was 12 volumes and reversed to read left-to-right), though, it’s surprising what a difference the series has when read in today’s political climate. What was once amusing is now much more compelling with the idea of a world full of people that may be undercover killers.

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Mushishi Vol. 1

By Yuki Urushibara
240 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

There’s nothing quite like the discovery of something that was both an unknown and something you were looking for. It’s rather apt that Mushishi is just that on two different levels. The lead character of Ginko is forever searching for the mysterious mushi, even if he doesn’t know exactly what he’s trying to find at times. And as a reader, Mushishi‘s strange mix of cryptozoology, horror novel, thriller, and crazy biology is in many ways just what the doctor ordered.

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