Spice & Wolf (Manga) Volume 1

Spice & Wolf (Manga) Volume 1 arrived at my door step this week. Those in the Twitterverse might already know this as I tweeted about it when it arrived, but 140 characters is far from enough for a detailed run down and so here we are.

The 3rd iteration of the Spice & Wolf (狼と香辛料) franchise arrives. First there was the light novel written by Hasekura Isuna (支倉凍砂) and illustrated by Ayakura Jū (文倉 十), then there was the anime directed by Takahashi Takeo (高橋 丈夫) and produced by Imagin with character designs by Kuroda Kazuya (黒田 和也) and now we have the manga. I’m not sure who the writer is, it says Hasekura Isuna on the cover but deviates from his original story in the light novels, though only marginally. I’m curious if  Koume Keito (小梅けいと,) who illustrates the manga, or perhaps it’s ASCII Media Works who publishes it has any say in the changes or if Isuna has opted to change it up on his own.  Regardless, each iteration has a mildly differing story which makes for a bit of freshness when reading as you’re sometimes surprised.

Some of you may know Koume Keito’s name and the sort of illustrations he normally produces. Spice & Wolf doesn’t really follow with the pornographic nature of much of his work, but he hasn’t solely done porn in the past, he’s also done manga. While I don’t recognize anything listed on this wiki page other than Spice & Wolf, I’ll just make the wild assumption that they’re perverted or pornographic as it feels like a(n) (un)safe bet. Following with that natural pervy nature of his, Spice & Wolf does have some aspects that would appeal to him I suppose, such as Horo’s (ホロ) nudity, but that’s not too common throughout and that might make this his safest series yet. Despite that however, Yen Press, the North American publisher and distributor of the manga has opted to place a Parental Advisory on both the front and back covers for explicit content which I think is really misleading, but I can see why they’d do it.

The book itself is considerably smaller than I envisioned when ordering, measuring 13×19 cm, smaller even than the light novel series whose license Yen Press also holds. When ordering I had envisioned something akin to the American comic book form-factor, which has been standardized at 17×26 cm. However the book I received is very much like a pocket novel. Having purchased one of the magazines Spice & Wolf is serialized in, Dengeki Maoh (電撃「マ)王), I can tell you that in it’s original format it was indeed much closer to the American comic book form-factor I thought I’d be receiving, measuring 18×26 cm in size. While the page quality in both copies leaves much to be desired, the overall print quality of Dengeki Maoh’s does come out on top due to it’s smoother paper, and more solid tones despite an overall more faded appearance. Yen Press’s print appears to have a texture throughout all of it’s pages, noticeable in solid or gradient areas.

Some other observations, the book obviously opens back to front by western standards which I admit caught me off guard at first. I’m not sure why I thought it’d come reversed because that wouldn’t make any sense at all given the content. Though, because of this I noticed that at the end of the book it contains an excerpt from the light novel, 14 pages in fact. Nice for those who wouldn’t know about the light novels. A more odd observation however is how the margins of the printing press affected the location of text within bubbles near the edges of the pages. If the text bubble was too close to the edge, the text was forced off from the center of the bubble creating an unprofessional look that even scanlators can get right. I would suspect this is due to the use of a standard novel printing press where margins like this are to be expected.

I should add however, this is my first manga, I’ve never purchased one previously, unless an original run of Fred Gallagher & Rodney Caston’s Megatokyo Vol.1 counts, but I’d rather forget that I own that. So it could be that American manga does indeed come in this form factor and my complaint is a complaint against all American printed manga,  and not just Yen Press. So unlike the slip cover fiasco I wont hold this against Yen Press until further evidence is to be had.

-Aka

Related but not Related

Found via Twitter, I’m not sure who to credit and the original was removed. Full size (1600×1200). Original w/o Red Eyes. These of course aren’t the original original, there was a variant prior that was less photoshopped and more poorly done. Here it is, at least this version has a tail. Unfortunately I don’t have the credits for it either, but I do recall the picture coming from an entire set, though not an entire set of Horo. Enjoy!

Comments

  1. Fabrice says:

    Woa i must say that the thats a great cosplay? lol
    Photos look alike of Horo itself =) quite suprised.

    I think i should finally order the manga now, =)
    Thanks for letting me know about it, specially the width and all.

    • Aka says:

      Can one really cosplay a character in the nude? I sure hope so! haha

      No prob! I wish the dimensions were bigger though.

      • Rajura says:

        Yeah, I gotta get the GF (hopefully eventual wife) to be willing to do that for me once we get married… because I’d totally mess with that!

        TMI? Maybe… but still. It does very nicely capture her essence!

        I’ve seen that “with tail” version… in my opinion as far as her face… she doesn’t look quite as cute. But, the tail sticking up is cute. I would definitely like to put a little traction on that gentle sustained pull! Someone needs to add a tail to the better version!

  2. Chag says:

    That cover illustration is cute and all, but when I found out that the illustrator is Koume Keito, my mind can’t help but to deviate a little… Open mouth + blushing? That mangaka is no stranger with that particular combination, that’s for sure!

    (WARNING: WOLF TITS AHEAD)

  3. Rajura says:

    I said this before elsewhere, but it bears repeating…

    That blasted “WARNING” totally kills the cover!

    2 thumbs down for stupid warnings that ruin the cover and could be discreetl placed elsewhere!

    • Aka says:

      I agree, I’d asked Yen Press if it was a sticker prior to release but they ignored me haha.

      But the artwork is in that Mini Artbook in a larger format anyway, so I don’t mind anymore. If this was my only copy however I would be peeved. I also don’t like the English text chosen, the original Japanese looks great, but I can see how it would be hard to replicate that in English.

    • That1Gai says:

      The funniest thing about it is that on the cover for the one made in Japan doesn’t seem to have some box with writing that could say that there is nudity. (But then again, I can’t read Japanese)

      But what’s funny about THAT is that it really says something about the culture in Japan!

  4. Ashlotte says:

    As someone who owns several shelves worth of Manga…No Aka no the text should absofreakinglutely not look like that…Hell even the really old releases where they flipped the book to read the standard way in the west thus screwing up some of the images didn’t have print screw-ups like that.

    Frankly I’d send it the hell back if I got stuck with something like that, but then I always order in-store through B&N where I get to check the book after it arrives and decide whether I want to buy it or not…Meh either way smacks of shoddy quality control.

    Reminding me I wish I had more money for books…All I buy these days are Aria Manga. >_<

    • Aka says:

      Holy moly! Your comment wasn’t caught by the spam filter this time! It only took how many?

      Anyway, I’m glad someone chimed in with some first-hand experience. I didn’t think it should be considered normal but who knows when you don’t purchase the merchandise regularily.

      I don’t think sending it back is really going to accomplish much so I’ll keep it. But Yen Press really isn’t doing themselves any favours by continually messing up the brand.

      • Rajura says:

        I’m sure this problem hit every single book, but maybe is was that segment of the production run. If so, maybe you could get a replacement.

        I’ll let you know if mine suffers from the same problems after I get back to where I normally live next week (it should be waiting on me right now)!

        *Cue up Tom Petty’s “The Waiting”

  5. zone says:

    The girl “cosplaying” goes by the name Elena B, and yes, it belongs to a larger set called “Iuventas”. Took me a few months to track her down, so enjoy.

    • Aka says:

      Ah yes, that’s her. Thanks for pointing that out. Though with the modified versions above I’m not sure if they’ve photoshopped her face to be entirely different or photoshopped on an entire new face. But that’s definitely the first from the original.

      There’s an addition Horo-ified picture from that set as well. It’s much more NSFW and doesn’t really embody her as well as the image above I think.

    • Nyoro-kun says:

      Took me a while to track down the actual photo album, found a link to it!

      In addition to another Horo cosplayer :)!

      I’ll leave the link below for those who want to see the set:
      http://theotakukid.com/2011/06/sexy-nature-loving-horo/

  6. Kevin says:

    So that warning advisory will be on every book? Great … when will Yen press ever get it right.

    • Aka says:

      That aspect of it I can understand, Koume Keito draws Horo nude, and while he doesn’t draw the lower half of her in detail, he does draw her breasts. Since the world is full of prudes who can’t deal with the exposure of the human body and their children possibly seeing such, we’re forced to have stupid labels.

      However if I were Yen Press, I would have put the sticker on the packaging, keeping the other advisory on the back of the book as well. When the packaging was removed, the ugly warning for parents would be gone, but there’d still be a warning for those who picked up the book later and read the back for a summary.

      Anyway, I can understand that aspect of it, just not their execution.

  7. lovelyduckie says:

    I plan on experiencing the light novels and anime, but passing on the manga. Manga based on light novels rarely end up being as good as the original.

  8. Blowfish says:

    Parental Advisory?
    Explicit Content?
    Come On ! Just because theres some very,very mild nudity?

    I am amazed that this is your very first Manga ^^

    Well I can only talk from my experience but most Manga are rather small while theres some differenc between the different companies making the Manga.
    Theres no real sense behind the different format and I think its just that therye trying to save some cash on the size

    • Aka says:

      Yeah, a little nudity never hurt anyone! Except Americans. Where violence and murder is ok, but breasts are banned. At least where I live women are allowed to go topless, just like men. Do they? no, but they can.

      I wasn’t much of a collector of things in the past, beyond digital things. Now that I have some disposable income I can start buying the things I’ve wanted to. That mixed with the fact I was shy and didn’t want to be seen as the weird one. Then I bought a nude Horo figure and well, it all went down hill from there I guess.

      I think they should standardize the size like comic books have, and how I perceive Japan to have done as well.

  9. Blowfish says:

    Hehe I tend to forgot that I am already an old fart when it comes to Anime/Manga fandom and that not everyone has an income yet.
    Ive gotta say though that Manga were alsways seen as an affordable medium compared to Anime.Reading that stuff on a computer screen sucks aswell ^^

    Hmmm…I doubt youd be seen as the wierd one when buying Manga right? Maybe you should just add an issue of the playboy to your manga loot and everyone will think of you as an manly man that likes good old american girls instead of japanese cartoon porn.

    I wish theyd have a standardized format aswell but just check out this lame comparism shot I took ages ago:

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3645/3513248825_131172978d_b.jpg

    This is just the variation of th paperback format.A series like Ikki Tousen comes in a totally different bigger format.

    • Aka says:

      I’m an old fart when it comes to the fandom, but not in actual age, I hope anyway. Only mid 20s. Manga does appear to be affordable, but it’s not something I read frequently due to reading it on a screen/monitor. I would like an iPad like device for reading manga, comics and watching movies in bed though.

      The issue was more with how I perceived everyone’s view of me. When in reality I should have just not cared and bought whatever I wanted like I do now. I was self concious.

      Thanks for the comparison shot, I’m surprised how much they vary in size, though most of those appear to be the standard comic book format, but it’s hard to know for sure.

  10. That1Gai says:

    When my father went to Japan recently, he bought me the first three (and possibly only three, they were the only ones at the store) Japanese mangas of Spice and Wolf. They look exactly the same (unlike the light novels where the covers are completly different) except for languages. Size and all. But I really only asked for the Mangas just so I could carry a little piece of Japan since I can’t read the language.

    • Aka says:

      Really they’re the same size even? How’s the page quality?

      • That1Gai says:

        Define page quality.

        I haven’t gotten the english version yet, but from the pictures you showed and your description, they sound just about the same.

        The pages are a little rougher in texture compared to other books I have. But the text boxes run off the page, it reads right to left, you can see through the pages.

        However, the color pages near the begining are very nice. Beautiful quality!

        Does that answer your question?

        • That1Gai says:

          But I do have one question. That picture from the manga where Holo asks Lawrence to “be more gentle,” is that the entire square? or is that just the important part and the rest is cut off? I mean, some of the quote boxes do that just to give it sort of a special effect of some kind, but that specific text box isn’t cut off in the Japanese manga.

          • Aka says:

            The pages in the book I received are pretty much identical to that of the pages from a cheap novel you’d buy in North America. So I’m wondering if the quality exceeeds that, specifically with regards to picture quality as novel paper is not good for this.

            The “be more gentle” part may have the bubble cut off I’m not sure, however regardless, the text within it is not centered.

  11. That1Gai says:

    ***Introduction***

    Hey! I’m back!

    Sorry it took so long to get back to this topic, but I just bought the English version today. So now I can compare both the original Japanese version to the newer English version.

    So here’s my chance to post my own review on this website! Lets get started.

    ***First main difference: the size.***

    Contrary from what I thought earlier from your description, I noticed that the American Manga (Lets abbreviate it to “AM”) is slightly larger than the Japanese Manga (“JM”). The width is about the same; the JM is wider by about a millimeter or two; but the AM is about a centimeter taller and a few millimeters wider (Probably from the novel exerpt inside). The AM is still small compared to most other American books, but the saying “everything is bigger in America” still goes.

    ***Second main difference: the cover.***

    To start, I realized about a week ago that the JM has a dust jacket with the same design as the AM. The inside cover shows a close up on the apple that Holo is eating gone over with a light-tan color. The binding shows a strip of the part of the picture with Lawrence, and the back has a small picture of the pouch holding the wheat; both with that tan color.

    Allong with the dust jacket is a little strip that wraps allong the outside of the dust jacket. On it shows advertisements for Spice and Wolf related franchise including their TV show (Sorry, nothing about a third season), their next manga in the series, their DVDs and Nintendo DS games.

    The design on the dust jacket for the JM is the same used on the cover of the AM. That being the case, the cover is made from a different (and possibly more expensive) material than what is used for the dust jacket. From this, the AM’s cover has that nice, glossy sheen to it and the colors have a higher contrast than the dust cover.

    However, instead of doing the logical thing by expanding the size of the cover and showing more of the overall design, the publishers made the cover larger and zoom in on the picture. That cuts off about half a centimeter from the left side. On the JM you can see the cuff of Lawrence’s sleeve. No cuff on the AM.

    And then, of course, there’s that big, annoying, “WARNING! PARENTAL ADVISORY! EXPLICIT CONTENT!” in the lower, right-hand corner of the AM.

    ***Third main difference: the inside***

    Aka, this next part will answer most of the questions you’ve been asking me.

    “Page quality? Who needs it?” is what Yen Press probably said. Aka was right when the AM uses cheep novel paper. If Yen Press was trying to make the pictures look better, then they’re doin’ it wrong… like a lot of Spice and Wolf related things.

    Yes, the pages in the AM are at pretty poor quality compared to the JM. The AM’s pages are thicker, rougher, and the grain in the paper is easier to notice than the JM’s. The JM’s pictures look perfecly normal while it looks like the pages were printed on linen cloth in the AM. It has a criss-cross-like pattern that sticks out like a sore thumb where it shouldn’t be.

    Like the cover, the pictures of the AM are zoomed in slightly cutting off half a centimeter on the edges of both sides of te book. This cuts off some of the text boxes. In the JM, some of the text boxes are cut off; but instead of cutting off with the page, they cut off with the picture boxes for style rather than human/machine error.

    This cutting off also leads to another problem with the AM: the centering of text. You saw in that one example in the above review how the text isn’t exactly in the center of the text box. That is partially the result of the cut off text boxes as well as being an English dub manga. In the JM, the text is perfectly centered in each and every box.

    And also like the cover, the pictures in the AM are darker and have higher contrast. Overall, I don’t care for the incredibly dark pages that has twice as much ink compared to the JM, but it does define Holo a lot better (Giggidy).

    ***Closing***

    Overall, I wouldn’t say that it was a very good transition between the orignal JM and the new AM, but then again, this is my first manga and my first comparison between the two country’s editions. Personally, I only got the AM so I was able to read it and compare the two mangas for Aka, and I’m glad that’s all I expected from it.

    In this battle, and probably in all battles of its kind, the Japanese verion beats the American in almost every way. If you are a true fan of Spice and Wolf, I suggest you either go to Japan, or search up the original JM on eBay or something and get it. It doesn’t matter if you can’t read Japanese, you can get it for bragging rights or to treat it like a colector’s item.

    -That1Gai

    • Aka says:

      Thanks so much for that comparison That1Gai! I’m happy to have such a definitive answer. It seems I was wrong on my size comparions for the most part, but the biggest issues, the page quality and text seems were spot on. I really do wonder what Yen Press is thinking some times, but I keep getting told they’re working on a small budget in a niche segment of the market. So maybe a lot of decisions are based on budget constraints vs perceived profitability.

      Seems the only advantage to the AM version is the increased contrast.

      Thanks again!

    • Quazacolt says:

      and thats kinda why i have the Bluray. my understanding of raw is probably 40-60% at best, and in S&W with all the accented/wierd dialects, theres many parts where i understand totally nothing. yet i coughed up almost half a month’s worth of my salary for the LE first print BD box set.

      thanks for the review/comparison btw.

      • Aka says:

        That’s precisely why I wont buy the Bluray set. It’s far too expensive for what’s received.

        Buying the original novels and manga isn’t anywhere near as expensive and much more managable.

  12. Quazacolt says:

    thanks for the poison, that picture was the deciding factor. ordered them myself just for collection’s sake wwwwww