I would like to take a moment to tell you about something I aim to do. This is to save me from having to say, over and over, what this little segment is about.
This will be a series of book reviews you will most likely not care about. Okay, you might care about it, but chances are, you won’t be bothered to go buy the books because of any one of the following reasons.
- It’s not available in English
- It’s out of print everywhere
- It’s terribly niché
- It’s just downright terrible
- It’s illegal to own where you live
To be fair, all the books I review here will be bought by me, or at least legally borrowed from friends without calling P.R. and asking them to send me a copy. A lot of them are comics I just pick out from the sale bin, others are from smaller publishers, others are things I just read and would like to share. This frees me from any conflict of interest, as any complaint I make is because I spent X dollars to read said manga.
I’ve written a lot of book reviews for the Nichi Bei Weekly’s Anime/Manga special issue, and before that, I wrote more for the Nichi Bei Times. I learned one thing while writing reviews for manga and anime. Don’t piss off the publisher (too much).
The unfortunate part about writing book reviews for a smaller company is that they can ignore you. I’m not under the impression that I’m some “Roger Ebert of manga,” and so I know people can cut me off if I’m too onerous to their brand. The people who still answer my calls and e-mails in industry are mostly people I give good reviews for.
To air out some dirty laundry, I’ll tell you why TokyoPop no longer takes my calls:
TokyoPop, back in 2006, started a partnership with The Jim Henson Company to bring us Return to the Labyrynth, the story of Toby (the kid Jennifer Connelly desperately tried to save from David Bowie’s codpiece) and his journey back to, you guessed it, the Labyrinth. The story, as I recall, wasn’t bad. It was a typical Jim Henson story, except no songs could erupt since it was a comic book.
What really put me off was the cover. The cover was drawn by Kouyu Shurei. The insides were drawn by someone else. The difference was bordering false advertising because the artwork inside was just so… messy. But that was just one review. It’s not that big a deal right?
It wasn’t. TokyoPop kept sending me stuff.
A while later, Wes Abbot was releasing his second volume of Dogby Walks Alone, one of the finest Original English Language manga TokyoPop released. I asked for it but instead received a copy of Avalon High: Coronation, another derivative work — this time based off of teen girl lit author Meg Cabot’s Avalon High (which I hear is really good, like the Princess Diaries).
There was no saving Avalon High: Coronation. To a young 20-year-old with a disdain for teenage romance dramas, this was absolutely vapid. Looking back, it was slightly childish.
Anyway, TokyoPop never sent me a copy of Dogby Walks Alone Vol. 2, nor did they ever bother to call me back ever again.
So this is why I usually leave the really professional commentary to cohorts who really know what they’re doing, like Deb Aoki, and why I write about inconsequential books in frank and entertaining ways.
“But Tomo, does that mean you didn’t take it seriously before?”
Tomo Hirai is a Shin-Nisei Japanese American lesbian trans woman born in San Francisco and raised in Walnut Creek, Calif., where she continues to reside. She attended the San Francisco Japanese Hoshuko (supplementary school) through high school and graduated from the University of California, Davis with degrees in Communications and Japanese, along with a minor in writing. She serves as a diversity consultant for table top games and comic books in her spare time.