At the Best and Worst Manga Panel at San Diego Comic-Con, manga critics Carlo Santos (Anime News Network), Jason Thompson (Otaku USA), Shaenon Garrity (ComiXology and The Comics Journal), Christopher Butcher (The Beguiling and Comics212.net) and Deb Aoki (About.com) shared their picks for the past year's best, worst, with moderator Tom Spurgeon (The Comics Reporter).
See their picks for the best new and continuing manga for all-ages/teens, for grown-ups and the most annoying manga that was published in 2009-2010. Also, check out the 7 most-anticipated Fall 2010 releases and 5 most-wanted but not-yet-licensed titles.
Christopher Butcher: "It’s a coming of age story that's set in a space academy. It’s about a girl as she overcomes adversity, but it’s also about the mundane everyday things that happen in her life, with some little touches of magical realism that permeate this story. You can’t quite tell if she's going crazy or if she is crazy because she’s got an invisible friend. It's got sci-fi elements, with some high school comedy hi-jinks."
"It’s a fantastic series and there’s no upper or lower age limit on it its appeal either, which is so rare in manga. You can give it to somebody and they can read it and appreciate it on a lot of different levels."
Carlo Santos: "There's something about it that really gets you in the heart."
Shaenon Garrity: "Card Captor Sakura is just one of your quintessential shojo manga. It’s very, very good. Especially when you get to the second half of the series, when it goes into a much more mature and interesting direction than what you would expect from a manga about a collectible card game!"
Christopher Butcher: "Card Captor Sakura, that was one series that, as a retailer, it was so frustrating to have it out of print. It's a title that everyone needs to read, that everyone needs to know about just to understand the rest of manga. If you just want to just enjoy manga just as entertainment, it’s fine. But if you want to have like critical works in print, Card Captor Sakura is definitely one of them."
Shaenon Garrity: "When I was writing CLAMP in America, I was surprised and sad to find out that many of the CLAMP titles I was researching were out of print and really hard to find. So I’m really excited about Dark Horse's CLAMP reprint project. They've reprinted Clover and Chobits, and re-publishing Card Captor Sakura and Magic Knight Rayearth too."
Christopher Butcher: "I feel that these books should always be in print in English. Everything CLAMP does should be in print because even Clover, which I thought was kind of a failure, was really fascinating as a failure, in the way it failed."
Shaenon Garrity: "When CLAMP comics fail, they're at least interesting failures; as opposed to boring failures like most manga."
Jason Thompson: "I love this artist. He did Chikyu Misaki, King of Thorn. He’s got like really awesome, very smooth art style. He does great monsters."
Christopher Butcher: "He’s kind of like Mike Mignola (Hellboy), where he uses those like really heavy chunky blacks and he can draw people moving really well."
Deb Aoki: "I’ve been trying to describe Cat Paradise as kind of like X-Men with cats. You’ve got this private school where every student can bring a cat with them. But there's this elite group of students who have these secret super powers that involve their cats. They have to fight a group of evil monsters. It’s got a Dark Phoenix-like arc. It's appealing for male and female readers alike, once you overlook the cutesy title."
Christopher Butcher: "You know the surprise of this book is, it’s dark. It’s the darkest kids manga I’ve ever read. everyone focuses on how cute it is. But then I'm reading the first volume and it's about a kitten learning to forget the face of its mother. And then there’s hi-jinks! It’s really good. It’s like confoundedly affective."
Deb Aoki: "I’m a big cat lover so what I liked about Chi is that Konami explains how cats behave in a way that makes sense for cats. When Chi kneads like how cats do, Chi remembers cuddling up to her mother -- that’s very true to life. It’s not an anthropomorphized version of a cat. For example, Bugs Bunny does not act like a bunny -- Bugs Bunny acts like a Borscht Belt comedian. Chi acts like a cat."
Best Teen/All-Ages Manga: Karakuri Odette by Julietta Suzuki (TokyoPop)
Deb Aoki: "Odette is a robot, but she wants to go to high school and learn how to be human. This series, it could have been so tacky. There could have been exploding bras and all kinds of fanservice, but it's actually very nice. It's got a smart sci-fi edge to it with a real slice-of-life vibe."
"As Odette learns about human nature, there’s some really dark aspects about what discovers about people, about life and death, love and friendship. It's not saccharine. I found Karakuri Odette to be really touching, and much more interesting and thought-provoking than most shojo manga."
Carlo Santos: "This is truly manga for manga nerds. It is all about a bookstore that has this huge selection of manga. In each story, there's a person who has a problem, and somehow there’s always a certain manga series something that will help this person overcome this crisis in their life."
"While there are these touching stories, you also end up learning a lot about manga that you may not have ever heard of. I know I did."
Christopher Butcher: "You get to see if your favorite manga is the thing that saves that person’s life. The stakes are unreasonably high, in every chapter. I've never seen this in manga, except for maybe Pluto; a series that is so fixated on nostalgia as an overwhelming emotion."
Jason Thompson: "This is basically just a really good Mega Man comic. I love this artist -- he did The Big O manga for VIZ a couple of years ago. If you want to see a manga where a bunch of robots from an 8-bit video game kick each other’s asses, this is the one!"
Christopher Butcher: "You know what? Licensed comics are not always awful. Jason wrote my favorite article about about licensed comics called Manga Hell, about the absolute worst manga that had ever been published ever. It was an awesome article in Pulp Magazine. There is special place in hell for most licensed comics, but this one is really good. If you’ve ever liked Mega Man, this comic will remind you why."
Shaenon Garrity: "Kekkaishi is a great title, it’s really unfairly overlooked. The premise of this story is not all that unusual. Basically it’s about some kids who fight demons in their school at night because their school just happens to be built over this place that makes demons very powerful."
"What I like about Kekkaishi is that it does have episodic stories, but the main storyline unfolds slowly, and I think, very impressively. The storyline gets more elaborate as it goes on; you learn more about the characters and the world that the characters live in. Also, this creator draws some great monsters. I really love the monster design here."
Christopher Butcher: "Actually, you know who loves Kekkaishi in Japan? Friggin' everybody."
Jason Thompson: "Every single panelist here voted for Oishinbo. Every single one of us."
Shaenon Garrity: "We all love food manga!"
Carlo Santos: "With the volume about sake in particular, I learned all about sake fermentation and processing!"
Christopher Butcher: "I liked the chapter where they were pro-whaling. That was awesome. If you haven't read Oishinbo yet, go and read it."