Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee Vol. 1

By Hiroyuki Asada
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

There’s no official creed of the United States Postal Service, but you often hear the following attributed as such: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." (Turns out it’s actually based off of Herodotus’ Histories.) I like to think that Hiroyuki Asada was inspired by something along those lines, though, when creating Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee. Of course, Tegami Bachi‘s postal carriers have bigger foes to worry about than snow or rain or heat, thanks to gigantic killer insects and worse.

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Saturn Apartments Chapter 1

By Hisae Iwaoka
32 pages, black and white (with color pages)
Published by Viz

It’s fun watching Viz fully embrace the power of online comics. After all, it’s letting them release Rumiko Takahashi’s Rin-Ne simultaneously with Japan. With the launch of their version of IKKI magazine, we’re getting a wide collection of off-beat and different comics and (presumably) letting them build up an audience and good word-of-mouth as people check out the stories for free. Now that IKKI is full of all sorts of different comics, I have to say that I’m glad all these new series are available. If nothing else, it means that I now know that I’ll buy any Saturn Apartments books that are eventually released.

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Detroit Metal City Vol. 1

By Kiminori Wakasugi
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

This may sound strange, but comics like Detroit Metal City are, I think, an argument for why a collected edition is not always better. Don’t get me wrong, I like this first volume of heavy metal silliness. But this is definitely an example how when it comes to just from a pure reading standpoint, I wish I’d been reading it as a serialized comic every week.

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Rin-ne Chapters 1-5

By Rumiko Takahashi
black and white
Published by Viz; available online at The Rumic World

I remember when, back in the day, if you got a foreign comic or television show within six months of its release elsewhere, you were doing pretty good. Now all sorts of media are getting legitimate releases on different continents closer and closer together, and I couldn’t be more pleased about that. One title to add to the list of simultaneous releases is Rin-ne, the new manga from powerhouse and superstar Rumiko Takahashi, which has new chapters go live online in English the same day they hit the stands in Japan—and for free. Who said you can’t get something for nothing these days?

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20th Century Boys Vol. 1

By Naoki Urasawa
216 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Every now and then I hear from someone from my childhood. Even before social networking sites like Facebook, Friendster, or MySpace rolled out and made it so much easier for people to connect, I’d get e-mails out of the blue, often from people that I went to school with. (Having your own website, occasional pull quotes on books, and a very uncommon last name helps matters.) Sometimes I’d know who the person was instantly and be delighted to hear from them. Sometimes the name would ring a bell and it would take a while to turn the hazy memory into a picture in my head.

But every now and then, I’d have no idea who the person was. I’d pull out my high school yearbooks, look at the person’s face, and think, "I have no memory of you at all." We had classes together, sometimes even mutual friends, and the person had still entirely slipped out of my memory. With Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, then, I found myself appreciating the fact that this is a story about a group of adults whose past is coming back to haunt them—but most of them don’t remember some or all of the details. It’s just the tip of the iceberg, needless to say, but still the perfect place to begin.

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Oishinbo: A la carte: Sake

Written by Tetsu Kariya
Art by Akira Hanasaki
272 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

When I read Oishinbo: A la carte: Japanese Cuisine earlier this year, I enjoyed it. A series all about different foods, going for the generic theme of Japanese cuisine for the first volume seemed like a good way to kick off these specially themed, best-of compilations from this series that’s run for over 25 years now. Now that I’ve read the second volume, Sake, I’m starting to really see just what Oishinbo is really capable of—and how much better the second volume really is.

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Oishinbo: A la Carte: Japanese Cuisine

Written by Tetsu Kariya
Art by Akira Hanasaki
272 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

I love that in Japan, it’s nothing out of the ordinary to have a comic centered around cooking. In the case of Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki’s Oishinbo, though, it’s all the more impressive when you consider that the comic has run since 1983, with over 100 collections to date in Japan. What to do to try and hook new readers who perhaps don’t have the time or attention span to plow through over 20,000 pages of manga? Enter the Oishinbo: A la Carte series, where each volume is a "best-of" compilation around a specific type of food. Now that Viz has translated the first volume, Oishinbo: A la Carte: Japanese Cuisine, I’m quite happy to say that creating that sort of collection was absolutely the way to go.

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Solanin

By Inio Asano
432 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Sometimes, it’s just the cover image that sells you on a book. With a comic like Solanin, it’s easy to see how that would happen. With the lead character’s face staring out at the reader, band-aid under one eye, cap on head, it’s hard to not feel your heart soften a bit at even a glance. And from there, it’s not far to looking at the insides and discovering that it looks even more enchanting, with its group of recent college graduates and their interactions. But the reality is that despite all the cuteness, this is a book that’s a lot tougher than you might initially think—and it’s that toughness that makes Solanin that much more memorable.

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Black Lagoon Vol. 1-2

By Rei Hiroe
208 pages, black and white or color
Published by Viz

Don’t judge a book by its cover. We’ve all heard that adage before, but sometimes it’s hard to not do just that anyway. Well, I freely admit that sometimes I fall into that trap, too. In the case of Black Lagoon from Viz, I looked at its covers with a hot woman holding a gun on both volumes and thought to myself, "Ugh, another violent titillation comic." But a little while later my curiosity got the better of me—and boy, was I glad I gave this series a chance.

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Real Vol. 1

By Takehiko Inoue
224 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

It’s hard to miss that I’m a big fan of Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond, his re-telling of the life of Miyamato Musashi. As a result, there was no doubt in my mind that his other ongoing series, Real, would also be on my to-buy list. It’s not the first time Inoue tackled basketball—before Vagabond his series Slam Dunk was a huge hit in Japan (and is set to be reissued in English from Viz later this year)—so the fact that he was coming back to the subject immediately grabbed my attention. And now that I’ve read the first volume? It simultaneously is and isn’t what I had expected.

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