The Biggest Frustration of Being a Manga Reader in the US

Anime is very easy to come across in recent times. Whether through Crunchyroll, Hulu, Funimation, Netflix, Amazon or illegal torrents, anime can be found anywhere and everywhere, as long as you know where to find it. You can complain about certain companies behaving a certain way with their shows (like Netflix not simulcasting, or Amazon being extremely late with their show’s releases), but overall anime is a much bigger thing nowadays and therefore much easier to find and watch.

What has suffered a major hit in America, at least, has been manga. Sure, you can do an easy search online and find illegal sites of fan-translated manga, but that comes with it’s own risks and potential frustrations. The translations might be both great or terrible in quality, most times maintaining very little of the nuance in the original text, the chapters might be months apart, some series might be abandoned completely and most times than not, the actual act of reading an online manga is tiresome and deeply annoying. There’s nothing quite like picking up a book with your hands, flipping the slightly rough pages, sitting down with a good drink, and experiencing the entire act of reading manga.

There are, once again, some options. Dark Horse comics have excellent omnibus releases (like the stellar Cardcaptor Sakura omnibuses), you have Seven Seas releasing a constant stream of yuri and shoujo titles (the likes of Bloom into You, Citrus, Netsuzou TRap, Oshiete! Galko-chan, and Strawberry Panic) and Yen Press with their Konosuba releases and their upcoming Youjo Senki light novels and eventual manga publishing in 2018. These, and many other companies are publishing excellently edited manga here in the United States, and the fact that it is sold in stores like Barnes and Nobles makes the buying and selling of manga, and therefore it’s propagation, a much easier progress.

Sadly, though, this isn’t the case with every manga series.

Where as you can load up KissAnime or Gogoanime and watch an entire, obscure show from 1987 at any time, many, many manga series are being left in the dust completely, with no way of ever being retranslated or rereleased. I mentioned Youjo Senki, but the actual manga came out in 2013 yet the translation has yet to come here at all, left for a 2018 release from questionable purchasing options in Amazon. I recently got very into Gunslinger Girl, and while the 1st volume of the Seven Seas omnibuses is in heavy supply for a great price, after that, it becomes almost undesirable to purchase, with most online stores not having them at all, and those that do, having them for at least $64 in price. The very same Cardcaptor Sakura omnibus release by Dark Horse is also increasingly harder to find, volumes 3 and 4 having almost exclusively 3rd party sellers in websites like Amazon, for much higher prices and astoundingly less physical quality.

Manga simply isn’t the big popular punch that anime is, and while that medium is growing more and more each season, manga seems like it’s becoming more and more of a niche, inviting a supremely low and unloyal fanbase and becoming harder and harder to find good quality prints and releases in North America. It’s honestly frustrating.

This wouldn’t be a problem if I read Japanese, of course, but most manga readers don’t have the drive, time, or money to heavily learn the language, leaving hundreds of potentially excellent manga untouched for the english reader, and that’s the biggest bummer ever.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – EPISODE 2

So we begin this episode with the description of the two opposing factions, the autocratic Galactic Empire and the democratic Free Planets Alliance, our dear friend Reinhard being part of the former. We are also, later introduced to the previous battles that have taken place in the history of this 150+ year war that has been raging between both of them, as well as the neutral planet Phezzan, which “watches the war from afar”.

One thing to note are the 4 major battles that took place in Tiamat, making up for the majority of the battles that have waged so far. Perhaps Tiamat is a position of strategic importance, but to an incredibly large extent, because for a location to be the home of 4 battles, that location has to have some incredible impact on the state of the war.

Also, Phezzan says they remain autonomous and neutral, but during the episode we are shown that they do indeed benefit from one side winning over the other. This might mean that they might play a major part in changing the course of the war for their own benefit, especially if their reliance on the either power becomes stronger.

As the battle progresses, Reinhard prepares for close engagement, in which these small, highly maneuverable and flexible fighter pods are released, adding to the strategy in the battle, since we are seeing new varieties of weaponry used aside from huge battleships.

As the Alliance gets further attacked, a crashing ship strikes against their flagship, the Commander gets injured, and we get introduced to a new face, Commodore Yang. He takes immediate control of the fleet.

From this moment, the tides of war flip again, as Reinhard’s new tactic is swiftly countered by Yang, resulting in more of a stalemate than it was previously assumed to end in. Yang here has now proven himself to Reinhard, as possibly his main rival and future nemesis. Their tactical prowess seems to be equal at least, since Yang accurately predicted Reinhard’s intentions and came up with a plan that turned the tables of the battle.

Then we get teased about what is by far my favorite thing in this show so far: Iserlohn Fortress. This massive, super compressed (60 billion ton mass!), liquid metal fortress that has the capacity to wipe hundreds of thousands of ships almost immediately with it’s weapon, the Thor Hammer. It’s demonstrated to us in some sort of flashback, since it’s god-like destructive power has already been used in the past.

The position of this fortress is also interesting, since it serves as the last point of divide between the Alliance and the Empire, so communication and trade between them cannot happen. It is along this stretch appropriately called Iserlohn Corridor that the battles have taken part, as this stretch is the only one in which it is possible to cross from one side to the other. This confuses me slightly, since in the vast infiniteness of space, it would make sense that ships could just cross from one side to the other from any other direction. It’s told to us that “navigation is impossible” through any area aside from the Iserlohn stretch, so for now we’ll just have to take their word for it.

Watching this thing power up, sparks of blue energy swirling in a spiral (Yes!), and unleashing what could only be called the Finger of God, disintegrating a hole armada, was honestly orgasmic. The mere existence of such a weapon has raised the stakes of this conflict to massive quantities, and will no doubt be used to it’s full potential eventually. I cannot wait to see it destroy planets as well, since something of this capacity has to be a major plot impact at some point.

So, now that the Battle of Astate has ended, we finally get some numbers regarding the sheer destruction that occurred, and these numbers are (mind the pun) astronomical. A total of 1,650,000 casualties between both factions (Empire – 150,000 / Alliance – 1,500,000), which truly speaks lengths about the nature of the war being fought. When in a single battle more than 1.5 million lives were lost, and where there will inevitably be many, many more lives lost, it starts to seep into me the idea if this is at all worth the trouble. What is the true purpose of those in commanding positions? Simply to conquer and control? Or is there some deeper, more sinister purpose behind these massacres? It’s all very fascinating.

Later into the episode we get one of the best scenes as of yet, where Jessica Edwards learns of the death of her fiance Jean Robert Jap, who we say brutally crushed to death in the previous episode. The true terror of the situation hit us like a truck, when, in pure despair, she falls onto her piano, a dark, terrible noise exploding from it, as we see Jean’s face of happiness and honor, before his untimely demise. The way the scene progresses, as it starts with whimsical piano music, then silence, then a single, harsh, and painful noise, demonstrates that same sense of nihilism I was talking about in he previous episode, and how entire lives can be destroyed by the millions, in mere instants. A marvelous moment.

Later, in the endless, corpseless cemetery, Jessica delivers a powerful message, the fact that even if Yang isn’t at fault for Jean’s death, that war is still their job, and regardless of how bestial in may be, they have to keep moving forward.

So, that was episode two. More of what I liked from the first one, and more twists and turns along the way. No way I’m stopping now.