Sunday, November 25, 2012

Amazon Japan is your lifeline to English-language comics in country where a lot of people love comic books

To make a very broad statement, Japanese people like comic books.  Comics are mainstream here.  People of all ages and genders read them openly much more so than back home where even if you read the artsy stuff you have to use awkward terms like "graphic novel" to differentiate your refined tastes from those of the stereotypical geek who obsesses over how many stripes there are on Captain America's mighty shield.  Comic books are available in massive quantities in convenience stores and bookstores all over the place.  Then you have your comic superstores like Mandarake.  The catch is they're Japanese comics.  If you love manga and you can read Japanese, Japan is the place to be!

Unless you want English-language comics.  In which case, your best bet is to order from Amazon Japan.  Amazon Japan carries everything from BOOM! Studios to Viz and all that's in between.  You can also order some out-of-print books from international sources.

I do a lot of business with Amazon Japan.  When Fantagraphics puts out their latest Love and Rockets volume from Los Bros Hernandez, I order it from Amazon Japan.  When a new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comes out, that's where I buy it.  I've now got a nice collection of Dark Horse archive books like Nexus, Creepy and Eerie, plus some DC Showcase volumes and two of their Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus softcovers, Hate! and a lot of other stuff the names of which escape me.  This past weekend I got It's Tokyo, Charlie Brown from KaBOOM! Studios and Tales of the Batman:  Gene Colan Volume One from DC.  I paid for the latter at a convenience store Tuesday evening and delivered by a letter carrier early Friday morning; I would have gotten it sooner, but the first delivery attempt failed because I wasn't at home.  I also order English-language editions of the homegrown stuff, like Lady Snowblood, Wandering Son and Nana.

You can even buy a very few mainstream monthly titles-- Superman, Batman, Star Wars and Archie.  They're not cheap, but neither is a trip to Tokyo.  Even in the States, new monthlies are ridiculously overpriced, but here in Japan, they're even more so.  You have to be really desperate for a fix to pay these import prices.    If you're willing to wait, it's much more economical to wait for the inevitable paperback collection.  If the exchange rates break your way, you can pick up some bargains via Amazon.

You don't have to have a credit card, either.  You can use one, of course, but as I wrote, you can pay at a convenience store-- the process involves using a digital kiosk (it also allows you to buy concert and airline tickets plus pay your bills), entering a few numbers, printing out a little slip and having the cashier handle the rest.  My favorite option is COD, or cash-on-delivery.  You get your books faster this way.  The delivery person shows up, you give them the money and everyone is happy.

Especially you, because you now have something fun to read.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Very nice Battle Royale art!

Can you believe how amazingly cool (and cute even) this Battle Royale fan art is?  It's by some talented person named Jununy (or jenny, according to her Tumblr) and I found it while looking for the names Mitsuko Souma, Takako Chigusa and Noriko Nakagawa.  That's right-- my favorite characters from the movie and novel Battle Royale.  This art is obviously novel-based, as Jununy included the little details of Chigusa's love for accessorizing, a detail which I'm pretty sure didn't really make the film.  But this drawing definitely made my morning!

Zoom in on it to see it in all its gestural loveliness!  Lots of personality in each character.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blister is where I buy my monthly comics in Japan...

Majority of patrons that Saturday were women.
I usually buy my American comics at Blister in Hamacho (in Tokyo).  It's a straight shot on the subway from Shinjuku, then a very short walk in a quiet, mostly commercial neighborhood near the river.  Which river?  What am I, a geographer?

Blister is a very American-style shop and once you're inside it's easy to imagine you're back in the States.  Their stock is heavy on the mainstream-- mostly DC and Marvel, with some Image and Dark Horse.  This is the popular stuff and it no doubt sells the best here in this tiny outpost of Western sequentialism.  Blister has some bargain boxes where you can find back issues for about 100 yen or so, an incredible bargain when a new issue will set you back anywhere from 560 yen to 790 yen or so.  Those figures are also inexact; I'm posting this from work and I can't do the research I'd like.  Sorry!

They sell a lot of toys, too.  If a comic book-related movie is coming out, you can bet Blister has the toy lines.  Their store hours are limited (as far as I can tell from their all-Japanese language website) and most of their sales seem to be online.  I believe you can set up a pull-list here, or order from the Diamond catalog, but these are things I haven't done because I live approximately 200 miles to the west of Blister.  And even when I'm in Tokyo I'm usually in Shibuya or Harajuku rather than Hamacho.

They do Free Comic Book Day, though.  I just missed 2012's, but I attended one a few years ago when Blister had their slightly larger, hipper store in Harajuku, in a small alley just behind where the Gap used to be, across from Laforet.  The store was packed that day.

The Avengers were hanging out in Shibuya.
I last went to Blister in August 2012, when I had to go to Tokyo to visit the American embassy (wonderful experience, by the way, and I'm not being sarcastic at all) and once there, I bought the very last copy of Batgirl: Fists of Fury found in the wild here in Japan, so don't look for that.  It cost 1800 yen (22.83 USD, quite a mark-up from the 14.95 US SRP), but it was worth it to reaffirm my position as her #1 fan in Japan.  It seems the other Cass trades like Silent Running and Death Wish are slipping out of print and going for mega-yen on  While Fists seems to be hanging in there and I could have paid 500 yen less for it online, the trouble I've had getting things like Showcase Presents Batman and the Outsiders 1 and New Mutants Classic Volume 1 means "snap it up if you see it."

Besides the Cass book, I also bought Astonishing X-Men #52 (because of its neat Xi'an Coy Manh cover), Conan #32 (a random choice because it was 100 yen and I still enjoy Kurt Busiek's run on that title), Conan the Barbarian #2 and 3 (more Dark Horse, love Becky Cloonan's art), Minutemen #1 and 2 (the pull of Darwyn Cooke proved too strong to resist), New Mutants #46 (more Xi'an, but this time with Dani Moonstar, also irresistable) and Walking Dead #100 (Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard-- this is the second time you've scarred me with a single horrific image!  I nearly barfed!).  No Dark Horse Presents, so no new Nexus.

Last summer, Blister was stocked deep with Before Watchmen titles.  I only wanted a sample, so I didn't catalog everything they had, but I think I could have bought the entire run up to current if I'd been so inclined.  Good runs of the New 52, if you're into that.  Heavy on the Marvel mutant stuff.  They also had  a lot of trades and collections, plus just about every Avengers movie action figure you could want, along with The Dark Knight Rises merchandise.  The guy working the cash register was friendly enough, but we didn't chat due to the language barrier.  I think he recognized me from my last visit there, way back in 2010.  Now that I know an easier way to get there I could see myself patronizing Blister a bit more if I lived in Tokyo.  Maybe they could order more Fantagraphics and Dark Horse books for me, too.

Probably jet-lag, but Hulk really wanted to punch Thor.
My other comics-related activities in Tokyo always include visits to Tower Records in Shibuya and Kinokuniya in Shinjuku.  That August, Tower Records was having a major sale in their English-language book department so I snapped up a few bargains.  Now, Tower Records stocks a lot of Fantagraphics titles, but they seemed kind of depleted at the time.  Coupled with the close-out type prices on other books, I'm wondering if they're overhauling things or getting out of the business.  That would truly be tragic because Tower Records has been a Tokyo destination if you want groovy things by Los Bros Hernandez, Peter Bagge and the like.

At Tower Records, I bought Lone Wolf and Cub volumes 4 (783 yen, marked down from 1565, or 9.93/19.85 USD), 19, 20, 22, 23, 25 and 26 (290 yen each, 3.68 USD).  I was tempted to go back and clean them out entirely.  I also found and bought a shelf-worn copy of Showcase Presents Batman and the Outsiders 1 (2573/32.64).  Now Japan is out of them, possibly forever.  See what I mean about "snap it up?"

Kinokuniya has a very small section for Western comics, but it was there I managed to find and buy the elusive Perla La Loca (receipt lost, price unknown, a pearl of great value to me) to complete my Locas collection.  I'd ordered it months ago from, but kept getting messages that it was delayed.  This was the only Love and Rockets book they had in stock, so apparently it was meant for me.  And now we are together at last and all is right in the comic book world.

I plan to visit Blister again over the Christmas holidays if they're open while we're in Tokyo.