License Request Day: Another Look At Medaka Box

By NisiOisiN and Akira Akatsuki. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump.

Back in 2010, I did a License Request post regarding a Shonen Jump manga called Medaka Box, and explained why I thought it was a great series, and also why I thought it was unlikely to get picked up. Well, it’s now almost two and a half years later, and the series is still running in Weekly Jump, and gotten two anime seasons (which, sadly, animated the least interesting part of the manga) and has more reasons I’d love to see it licensed… as well as even more reasons it won’t. So let’s discuss.


Since my original post, the manga has kept going, and gotten even more ludicrous. It now projects to be over 20 volumes, and just began a new arc after faking readers into thinking it was ending – the 2nd time the authors have done that! It’s introduced even more overpowered characters, including Najimi Ajimu, who can seemingly control the narrative and utilizes her 12,858,051,967,633,865 skills to waltz around the story being smug. And it still has a small core of hardcore fans who enjoy discussing what it’s really trying to say – even if they all disagree with each other, and half of them are fans of the series but despise the lead.

So, why do I want to see this series over here? Let’s see…

1) Tons of strong female characters, including many leads, several of which have no romances whatsoever. Medaka Box sails through the Bechdel test, honestly. Medaka herself is currently one of two Jump series with a female lead (and the other, Novice Policewoman Kiruko-san, may not last long). We also meet characters such as the aforementioned Najimi Ajimu, Youka Naze (a genius mad scientist with a knife sticking out of her bandaged head), Hansode Shiranui (who is primarily comic relief in the anime-adapted shows, but proves to be far more dangerous – and far more broken – than everyone expected), and Mukae Emukae (who makes anything she touch rot and die, including animals and, presumably, people. )

Each arc has at least one or two major female antagonists or protagonists, and some are entirely female, such as the Jet Black Bride arc. Now yes, there is some romance, with some characters falling in love or obsessing over a person. But it’s not a requirement. More to the point, almost every single female in this series beyond about chapter 26 can kick anyone’s ass right ways from Sunday. I have never seen such a larger group of BAMFs. It’s pretty amazing.

2) Examination, parody, and deconstruction of shonen themes. Many series do this subtextually, but Medaka Box goes right ahead and makes this text. Misogi Kumagawa, who is easily the most popular character among Western fans of the series (and probably Japanese fans as well – the anime did a final episode just devoted to him as if to make up for its likely cancellation), often refers to events by saying “If this were in Weekly Shonen Jump”. Ajimu takes it one step further, and seems entirely aware that this is a serial – it’s made into a plot point, and once led to one of the greatest lines in the entire series, “Manga that go longer than 10 volumes just coast on their success, and this has already gone three volumes over that. So just watch… I’ll end this manga before the anime begins.” (Spoiler: she didn’t.)

But it’s not just pointing out the series is fictional. Medaka Box goes to great pains to mock and undercut many of Shonen Jump’s most treasured values, with several monologues noting that while Jump is supposedly about “Friendship, Training, Victory”, the reality is that the stronger characters defeat the weak ones, so more power always wins. And indeed that is the case throughout Medaka Box. Medaka is insanely powerful, so she wins despite everything. The only exceptions are characters who are (temporarily) stronger than she is. Kumagawa is set up to rebel against this – his entire purpose in life is to be the one representing the weak, loser characters whose only purpose is to fail.

But with all that said, the beauty of a series like Medaka Box – and something that a few of its fans don’t quite get – is that for all that it’s deconstructing Jump series, it also IS a Jump series, and thus in the end it serves what Jump strives for after all. This is not a series that will end with our heroes broken and Medaka humiliated and tarnished – that’s not its goal. Its goal is to show the wonders of humanity in all its forms, even when humans are equipped with various types of superhuman abilities. (Medaka Box sometimes seems like X-Men there’s so many people with insane superpowers.) It may say Jump is all about who is most powerful, but Medaka succeeds because of the bonds she has with Zenkichi – and his bonds with all the others.

3) It’s simply fun. Everyone acts gloriously over the top, almost in a Higurashi sort of way. The series is peopled with larger than life superheroes, so it’s only natural that they are larger than life. Kumagawa can be terrifying or hysterically funny, often in the same chapter, and his juvenile pursuit of seeing girls’ panties, girls in naked aprons, and girls in “hand-bra jeans” (don’t ask) is a nice reminder that all these superhuman geniuses really are teenagers after all. There’s fun wordplay, and later volumes introduce Nienami, who seems determined to be the ultimate boke just to have everyone scream at her. You’re never quite sure if the manga is a parody or not – which is the point, of course.

Now, I mentioned I don’t think this will be licensed. Why? I already discussed in my prior post that it starts off very slowly. In fact, it’s quite mediocre for the first few volumes. (You know, the ones they chose to animate). But let’s update things.

1) It’s now over 20 volumes and counting, and is not a huge hit the way Toriko or Bakuman were. This is reason #1 with a bullet.

2) It would make the translators cry. There is an entire ARC given over to battles using kanji and wordplay, culminating in a final confrontation involving the Japanese game where the next person starts a word with a syllable that the previous person ended with. Oh yes, and there’s a chapter where Ajimu tries to inspire Zenkichi by recalling about 25 old Shonen Jump heroes, many of whom never appeared over here and would require extensive translation notes – something which Viz has never used in its shonen series.

3) One character, Shori Wanizuka, walks around at times with a revolver sticking out of her mouth, sucking on the barrel. Oh, Viz would just LOVE that.

4) Medaka herself. Not since Ichigo Kurosaki has there been a more polarizing lead character in Shonen Jump. Medaka is meant to be a deconstruction of the “Mary Sue” sort of character – she is perfect at anything she tries, has a killer body, is genius level IQ, a physical powerhouse, etc. Despite this, Medaka throughout the series is shown to have difficulty with basic humanity. This is a thread that exists in a lot of NisiOisiN’s works, where he shows the basic disconnects anyone that far ahead of/in front of us would have with average people.

As such, a lot of the time, Medaka is unlikeable, particularly when dealing with Zenkichi, her childhood friend. Now, one of the main plots in the series is showing that she is gradually improving at human interaction, and is not a superhuman freak but merely a teenage girl like everyone else. Of course, character development is frequently not welcome by some fans, who form their opinions and then refuse to change them ever. I’d argue that a majority of the fans support Zenkichi or (especially) Kumagawa as a “main character”, seeing Medaka as an antagonist. In addition, a small minority of fans seem to suffer from “nice guy syndrome”, demanding that Medaka treat Zenkichi nicer because, well, he’s the male love interest and why won’t she learn her place?

5) For those who like Jump for its BL elements, you’ll find some of that here as well. (There’s a couple of yuri teases too.) That said, Medaka’s figure and habit of exhibitionism can also put off female readers who might see the title as pure fanservice.

With all that said, I remain fascinated by this series, one of the most addictive I’ve seen in Jump in years. Even with all the pitfalls, I’d still love to see someone take a chance on it. Hey, it’s licensed in France! Can North America be that far away?

License Request: Additional Higurashi Manga

Higurashi When They Cry is, let’s face it, a franchise by now. And as such, it’s not the sort of series that was going to stop merely because the story ended. Heck, even the author of the original visual novels released an extra one with several stories after Matsuribayashi-hen was completed. The anime did two series of OAVs. Indeed, Yen Press has already released an extra side-story as an omnibus volume. So even though they still have over a year of Higurashi still to release, I thought I’d take a look at what’s out in Japan and see what, in my ideal Higurashi world, I would want licensed.

First, I’ll cull off things that can be skipped or are expendable. There are a giant PILE of Higurashi anthology books by various artists, with the vague tacit approval of 7th Expansion. Some are terrifying, some are hilarious, but all are basically one step removed from the ‘official product’. They’d be nice, but not necessary. The same goes for the Higurashi 4-koma volumes, which go under the title All You Need Is Love. There is a one-volume manga starring Shion, who is investigating a murder at the private school we see her attend at the very start of Eye-Opening; it got cancelled/cut short by the publisher, but is only one volume, so might be looked at. There’s also a one-volume manga that revolves around mahjong that was also cut short; due to the subject matter, it won’t be looked at.

So that basically leaves us with four books. All are done in one, though one may be continuing, I’m not sure. Publishers like single-volume books.

1) Dice-Killing Chapter. This is probably the closest the series will get to a genuine, actual post-series sequel. And, unlike most of the post-series stuff that’s come out, it’s mainly serious. The premise has Rika, overdosing on having escaped her unhappy fate and free of the endless June, not looking where she’s going and getting hit by a truck. Aheh. She wakes up in a different Hinamizawa, where no one was ever killed, the dam project is going through, and everyone’s happy and content. Well, everyone except Rika. This was taken from one of the post-series VNs, and I find a lot of its basic themes very disquieting. But then, that’s what makes a Higurashi series.

2) Daybreak Chapter. For all that I call Higurashi a game, it’s actually a series of Visual Novels. You don’t do anything but hit enter a lot. So naturally, one of the first things fans did was to make the series into a third-person shooter. This was a big success, and they even got Ryukishi07 to do the scenario, which involved a magatama that forced people into love confessions. This was then adapted into several manga. I prefer Mion with Keiichi, and there is a version of that which Kadokawa put out, but it’s not as good. This is the best of the lot, and is about as Keiichi/Rena shippy as you can get.

3) Heart-Healing Chapter. This was one of the titles that Kadokawa Shoten taunted us with by sticking the synopsis up on JManga’s site, before we realized they had no plans to actually release any of these. As such, it’s a good fit with Yen. Note it is the only non-Square Enix title on the list – it ran in Kadokawa’s Comp Ace. It’s the most heartwarming of these choices, dealing expressly with Rika’s feeling after the end of the series about having to finally move on and think about life. I like heartwarming fluff a lot.

4) Hinamizawa Bus Stop. Sorry for the tinier image, but this one only had its cover image released a few days ago -it’s not out in Japan yet! The latest of the Higurashi tie-ins, this one is supposedly based off the original scenario that Ryukishi07 had in mind before he moved away from it to make Higurashi proper. It stars a 17-year-old Rika, with her goofy friend Mion, so definitely falls into the ‘alternate universe’ category – and not in the usual Higurashi way. But the plot still revolves around that pesky dam, there’s still the threat of Oyashiro-sama, and there’s still scary faces galore. I’m not sure if this is complete as of this volume or still ongoing – guess we’ll have to wait and find out.

As you can see, it’s a Higurashi world out there. Any of these four volumes coming out over here would make me very happy indeed.

License Requesting the Fall 2012 Anime Season – Manga Edition

So you’ve decided you really like that hot new 2012 anime property – so much so that you want to support it by actually buying the manga instead of just reading it on a scan site! First of all, congratulations, you are a very rare individual. But it’s not as easy as walking up to a publisher at New York Comic Con and saying “Hey, you guys should get _____!” After all, what if they don’t deal with that publisher? What if it doesn’t have a manga? What if it’s already licensed and you didn’t realize it?

So, for the anime fan who wants to try a bit of manga, a quick guide to how to beg for Fall 2012 titles. (Note: if I don’t mention a title here, it doesn’t have a manga as far as I can tell.)

First off, let’s eliminate series that are already licensed and actively coming out here. That takes care of Bakuman (Viz), Hayate the Combat Butler (Viz), Hidamari Sketch (Yen), Jormungand (Viz), Kamisama Hajimemashita (Viz) and Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal (Viz). (It’s a Viz world, kids, we just live in it.) I’m also including BTOOOM! (Yen), which is licensed but doesn’t debut till next year.

Secondly, there’s a couple of series which were licensed, but are now, putting it politely, “On hiatus”. Asking about them will likely get you a pained look and a ‘We have no plans at this time’ response. So that takes out Code: Breaker (Del Rey), JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Viz), and Gintama (Viz). The one exception to this is Code: Breaker – JManga has picked up the two volumes Del Rey released, and there is a definite possibility for more in that online-only direction. And technically, JoJo’s finished the arc that it was putting out, so I suppose it’s more ‘didn’t pick up further arcs’ than ‘on hiatus’.

Lastly, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo is based off a light novel that has no manga yet, as far as I can tell. Asking about light novel licenses is a great way to get publishers to cry.

So, which publisher can you nag for which books?

SEVEN SEAS: Well, they aren’t at NYCC (they don’t do the East Coast), so a politely worded tweet might do the trick. The anime Onii-chan Dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankei Nai yo ne, aka ‘As Long As There’s Love, I Don’t Care If He’s My Brother!’ is the latest in a theme of faux-incest titles. And runs in Comic Alive. Both of which are very similar to things Seven Seas has recently picked up.

TOKYOPOP: OK, so technically they don’t put out much these days. But honestly, there’s really no better fit for Seitokai no Ichizon, a Kadokawa title that runs in Dragon Age. See if you can sweet-talk Stu.

KODANSHA COMICS: There are two really obvious titles here and one less so. The non-obvious one is Shin Sekai Yori, based on an award-winning SF novel. Its manga adaptation does indeed run in Kodansha’s Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. It began… about 2 weeks ago. So ask them to keep it in mind for NYCC 2013. So that leaves the two big contenders: Sukitte Ii na yo and Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, both of which run in Kodansha’s shoujo magazine Dessert. They’re both terrific, but they are in a magazine that is generally ignored when it comes to shoujo NA licenses (honestly, Kodansha Comics tends to avoid anything but Nakayoshi these days), and they’re both still running (series that haven’t already ended in Japan worry publishers).

VERTICAL, INC.: See the two previous titles. If Kodansha says no, maybe Vertical wants to try it out? They are putting out Limit this fall, after all…

JMANGA: Aside from Code: Breaker, which I mentioned above, the one that jumps out at me is Teekyū, a school tennis comedy from Earth Star Entertainment’s Comic Earth Star. JManga recently put out four of their titles, so there’s always a possibility of more.

YEN PRESS: The only one that really leaps out at me is Zetsuen no Tempest, a fantasy manga that runs in Square Exin’s Shonen Gangan. Being a Gangan title, Yen seems the most likely player there. It’s also possible they might look at Little Busters, the latest from the Air/Kanon/Clannad folks, which runs in Kadokawa’s Comp Ace, but that seems less likely.

VIZ MEDIA: There’s a whole host of properties Viz *could* license here, but I’m not sure how many are genuinely *possible* licenses. Magi – The Labyrinth of Magic has a lot of potential, and is probably the most likely title on this list, but it’s 14 volumes and still running, and it also runs in Shonen Sunday, whose success in North America has been poor in the post-Inu Yasha age. Dangerous Jii-san Ja is a comedy 4-koma manga for kids about a goofy grandpa that runs in Corocoro. I can’t see it coming out here. At all. Medaka Box I have discussed many times before, and the same points still apply. And as for To-Love-Ru Darkness, even if the prequel had come out via Viz, this new sequel is simply too M-rated for their usual Jump line.

I HAVE NO IDEA: Two titles simply don’t leap out as going to any publisher. Aoi Sekai no Chūshin de is a fantasy manga that seems to anthropomorphize the console wars, and is written by a Russian woman. It is put out by Micro Magazine. I don’t know who they are either. Judging by the name, I’m guessing they focus on gaming. Lastly, there’s Chiisai Oyaji Nikki, from Ohzora Shuppan, which is about a very small old man.

Anything in that list take your fancy? You know I’ll be uselessly beating the Medaka Box drum…