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Inside Good Comics For Kids

The GC4K Guide to CMX Manga

Katherine Dacey

The demise of CMX was a real blow to librarians who work with pre-teen and young teen readers, as CMX published a lot of terrific series for kids in this underserved 8-to-13 age group. As my colleague Robin Brenner noted last week, other companies may be publishing material for teens, but series like Black Bird and Vampire Knight aren’t really appropriate for the middle school crowd. And that’s where CMX came in:

"I will sorely miss the excellent tween and teen titles, like Two Flowers for the Dragon and The Name of the Flower, especially in a world where a lot of shojo manga is distinctly older teen or josei disguised as shojo (Nana, I’m looking at you, however much I love you.)  My twelve and thirteen year old girls just aren’t quite ready for Nana, but they embraced my CMX selections."

Below is a list of all the CMX titles we’ve reviewed here at GC4K, as well as some external links to reviews done by GC4K staff at other websites. We hope this is a useful tool for helping you decide what titles might be worth adding to your collection before they go out of print for good.

FOR TWEENS

lapis1 The GC4K Guide to CMX MangaTHE LAPIS LAZULI CROWN (Natsuna Kawase • 2 volumes, complete)
Reviewed by Katherine Dacey, 8/30/09
Summary: Miel is a young magician who just wants to be normal; Radian is the crown prince. The two meet cute in the streets of the kingdom’s city, where Radian falls for the plucky commoner and invites her to come visit him at the castle. Can Miel embrace her destiny as a sorcerer, or will she settle for blending in with the crowd?

What Makes It a Worthy Acquisition: "Radian may sound like a standard-issue shojo prince, but he’s a fresh and appealing departure from the bad boys and blandly handsome class presidents that usually set manga heroines’ hearts aflutter. Yes, he’s cute, but he’s also smart, funny, and frank about his feelings, making it easy for the reader to understand why Miel falls for him. Miel, too, is a winning character; any girl who’s ever felt singled out for being smart, talented, or athletic will identify with Miel’s desire to be more like her peers, and will root for her to win Radian’s heart."

lizardprince2 The GC4K Guide to CMX MangaTHE LIZARD PRINCE (2 volumes, complete)
Reviewed by Katherine Dacey, 5/6/10
Summary: A spunky princess meets a handsome prince who’s under a curse: he transforms into a lizard whenever he’s under duress. Will he maintain his true human form long enough for them to form a lasting relationship?

What Makes It a Worthy Acquisition: "Each self-contained story begins with a recap of the first chapter, making The Lizard Prince a good choice for readers with short attention spans. Boys might find the tough, empowered Canary [the princess] appealing, but the sparkly screentones, fancy costumes, and fairy-tale trappings are much more likely to appeal to tween girls who haven’t quite outgrown their interest in princesses."

SUIHELIBE! (Naomi Azuma • 2 volumes, complete)
Volume one reviewed by Katherine Dacey, 10/11/08
suihelibe1 The GC4K Guide to CMX MangaVolumes one and two reviewed by Snow Wildsmith, 3/2/09
Summary: "SUIHELIBE!… might best be described as an intergalactic screwball comedy—Bringing Up Baby for the under-twelve crowd. The straight man is Tetsu Kobayashi, a middle school student with a passion for plants and animals. He joins the Biology Club, only to learn that the student council plans to scrap it for lack of members. Frustrated, Tetsu strikes a deal with the council: if he can recruit three new members within three months, the Biology Club will be saved. Tetsu is simultaneously hindered and helped by the arrival of the energetic Lan Toriumi, a seemingly normal tween who is, in fact, a researcher-in-training from the planet Noid." –Katherine Dacey

What Makes It a Worthy Acquisition: "This is a strong, if sugary cute, selection for girls who have liked series such as Ultra Maniac. While it occasionally borrows a little heavily from that magical-girl manga series (and at times from Harry Potter), readers should like Azuma’s mix of silliness, science, fantasy, and romance. And at two volumes, this is a great way to add to a manga collection without having to add a lot of volumes." –Snow Wildsmith

FOR TEENS

deka2 The GC4K Guide to CMX MangaDEKA KYOSHI (Tamio Baba • 3 volumes, complete*)
Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith, 1/13/10
Summary: "Police detective Toyama has been given a tough new undercover assignment: teaching a fifth-grade class! Their teacher was killed under mysterious circumstances and the police believe that the students are in danger as well. Toyama soon discovers that one boy, Makoto, has the ability to see what others cannot and his horrific visions may be the key to the problems haunting Toyama’s students."

What Makes It a Worthy Acquisition
: "If your school library allows T+/16+ titles, then Deka Kyoshi volume one is a strong start to the series. It addresses problems faced by middle school and high school students everywhere, without being preachy or too babyish for teens. Baba is obviously aware of and sensitive to the problems of adolescence. Teens should identify with at least one of the characters and the horror elements should make the story popular."

emma8 The GC4K Guide to CMX MangaEMMA (Kaoru Mori • 10 volumes, complete)
Reviewed by Robin Brenner and Eva Volin, 3/20/10
Summary: In Victorian London, William, the son of a wealthy merchant, falls in love with Emma, a beautiful maid. William’s parents have different plans for him, however: they want him to marry Eleanor, the high-strung daughter of a peer. Class and distance conspire to keep William and Emma apart.

What Makes It a Worthy Acquisition: "Emma may be my new go-to book for why the artist in a comic is as important as the writer and why a book isn’t as successful when the words and the art don’t work together. Her artwork is so fluid. The scene where Emma and William embrace and slide to the floor works like film, and the lending library is so detailed, as a reader I can almost hear the swishing of skirts as the patrons move across the floor." –Eva Volin

"Emma is a wonderful series for readers graduating from the stereotypical fare — the time it takes to absorb and appreciate Emma fully certainly exemplifies the strengths of the format and the diversity that manga has. I love startling people when they realize that such an intense, detailed Victorian romance was actually created in Japan.

Another comment that I think librarians in particular might want to be aware of — one of the most exciting things about Emma, in terms of purchasing, is that one, it’s only ten volumes long, and two, it is complete! As an investment for a whole series, it’s a winning one, and it  showcases the strong serial nature of manga and yet wraps up quickly enough to not break the bank. Mori knew the story she wanted to tell, she told it, added some asides, and was done." –Robin Brenner

bancho1 The GC4K Guide to CMX MangaMY DARLING! MISS BANCHO (Mayu Fujikata • 1 volume, incomplete)
Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith, 3/24/10
Summary: "Souka’s parents have gotten divorced, so she’s decided to save money and focus on her future career by transferring from an expensive private school to a technical school. But when she gets to Tokugawa Tech, she finds out that it’s a place full of delinquents who spent all of their time fighting. And, to make things even worse, she’s the only girl in the whole school! Souka is determined to tough it out, though, and she shows back up to school each day. But when she accidentally defeats the Bancho (gang leader) of the school, Souka is named the new Bancho and that’s where her troubles really begin!"

What Makes It a Worthy Acquisition: "Fujikata slowly allows us to see the different personalities of the other boys, so we learn about them as Souka does. It’s a nice technique that draws the reader into the story. Though nothing in this first volume is deep, readers will laugh at the antics in this amusing school. A good choice for readers who like their romance a little wacky."

SHIRLEY (Kaoru Mori • 1 volume, complete)
Reviewed by Sabrina Fritz, 2/21/09
Summary: A collection of short stories about maids in Victorian London, the longest of which explores the relationship between thirteen-year-old maid Shirley Madison and her employer, the free-spirited Miss Cranley. Billed as a companion volume to Kaoru Mori’s Emma.

What Makes It a Worthy Acquisition: "[Kaoru Mori's] stories, including her 10-volume translated work Emma, are relaxed, character-driven, and quiet reflections on everyday life in a Victorian-esque era."

stolenhearts2 The GC4K Guide to CMX MangaSTOLEN HEARTS (Miku Sakamoto • 2 volumes, incomplete*)
Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith, 3/24/10
Summary: "Koguma is the most feared boy at school. He’s 6’2" and has an intimidating face, so everyone believes the stories about him being a tough guy. So when tiny Shinobu–who is only 4’10"–accidentally spills milk on Koguma’s bag, she expects the worst, especially after finding out that it contains an antique kimono. But all that Koguma asks in return is that she help out at his grandmother’s kimono shop. Soon Shinobu realizes that Koguma is really a softie, but how can she get the other students at school to see what she sees?"

What Makes It a Worthy Acquisition: "Shinobu is as adorable as she should be and Koguma is gently handsome, once people see past his height. Adult readers will appreciate that Fujiko is depicted as being pretty, not drawn as a crone like too many grandmothers are. The real stars of the show, though, are the kimonos. A story set in a kimono shop is naturally going to have many kimonos in the story and this one is candy for the eyes in that respect."

* volume count includes volumes projected for May and June 2010

OTHER CMX REVIEWS BY GC4K CONTRIBUTORS (Brigid Alverson, Robin Brenner, Katherine Dacey, and Lori Henderson)

For Tweens:
Kiichi and the Magic Books, Vols. 1-2**
King of Cards, Vol. 1
The Palette of 12 Secret Colors, Vol. 1**
Time Guardian, Vols. 1-2**
The World I Create, Vol. 1**

For Teens:
Apothecarius Argentum, Vol. 1
Broken Blade, Vol. 1
Canon, Vols. 1-4**
Chikyu Misaki, Vols. 1-3**
Densha Otoko: The Story of the Train Man Who Fell in Love With a Girl**
Diamond Girl, Vol. 1
From Eroica With Love, Vol. 1
Gon, Vol. 1**
Two Flowers for the Dragon, Vol. 1
Venus Capriccio, Vol. 1

** denotes a completed series or one-shot; review may focus on a subset of the entire series

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Katherine Dacey About Katherine Dacey

Katherine Dacey has been reviewing comics since 2006. From 2007 to 2008, she was the Senior Manga Editor at PopCultureShock, a site covering all aspects of the entertainment industry from comics to video games. In 2009, she launched The Manga Critic, where she focuses primarily on Japanese comics and novels in translation. Katherine lives and works in the Greater Boston area, and is a musicologist by training.

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