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  • Brigid Alverson 8:45 pm on 2016/07/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , pokemon, pokemon tcg, pokemongo   

    Gift Ideas for Every Pokémon Trainer 

    It’s the 20th anniversary of Pokémon, and the franchise has never been more popular. The trading card game is hotter than ever, the video game series is going strong, and you’ve likely already bumped into someone on the street (literally) trying to catch ’em all on their phone. As part of Get Pop-Cultured, Barnes & Noble is getting in on the fun with a day celebrating your favorite gotta-catch-’em’all creatures. Come to your local B&N to snap a photo with a Pikachu and Charizard standee and learn trading card game strategies to aid you on your quest to become a Pokémaster. Plus, in stores only from July 16-29, get a bonus online code with purchase of a Pokémon Trading Card Game Product for $11.95 or more.

    Got PokéFever? Here are great gift ideas for every Pokémon Trainer.

    Deluxe Essential Handbook (Pokémon) (B&N Exclusive Edition)
    Gotta catch ’em all—but how will you know if you have? This comprehensive guide includes facts and statistics on over 700 Pokémon. Updated and expanded from the 2012 edition, the new Deluxe Essential Handbook includes 64 pages of new information about the Kalos characters from thePokémon X & Y videogames, plus everything you need to know about the new Mega EvolvedPokémon. Twenty years on, the world of Pokémon is more complicated than ever before; this book is an indispensable tool for any Pokemon trainer.

    Mythical Shaymin Pin Box
    Shaymin is one of the elusive Mythical Pokémon. Its back is covered with green fur that looks like grass with pink flowers, so it blends in with the scenery—but when it transforms into its Sky Forme, it looks like a graceful reindeer. Shaymin are rare and seldom seen, but you can capture one for yourself with this special box, which includes a collector’s pin and a brand-new foil promo card, both featuring Shaymin, as well as two special Pokémon TCG: Generations booster packs and a code card for the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online.

    Pokémon Break Evolution Box
    Pokemon BREAK is a new way to boost your Pokémon by evolving in a new direction. Make a BREAK for it and power up your Pokémon with this box, which includes three brand-new promo cards featuring Pokémon BREAK, an oversize BREAK card, five booster packs, and a code card for the online game.

    Pokémon TCG: Red & Blue Collection
    Celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pokémon with an old favorite Pokéfriend: Charizard. This collection includes a brand-new foil promo card featuring Charizard-EX, four booster packs, a Charizard figure, a card holder and a code for the online trading card game.

  • Brigid Alverson 9:00 pm on 2016/07/05 Permalink
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    Stay On-Trend in Tokyo with Essential Manga and Exclusive Tokidoki Products 

    On July 16, Barnes & Noble celebrates Japanese comics, or manga, and the hottest Tokyo trends with Manga Day, part of Get Pop-Cultured, our month-long celebration of the books, comics, and films that have consumed our cultural consciousness.

    We’re hosting an evening of draw and color manga events with artist Camilla d’Errico, along with cosplay and giveaways—plus, a great opportunity to build your library with a buy two, get one free offer on all manga from July 6-19, and add splash of adorableness to your desk with a collection of accessories and paper goods featuring the popular tokidoki characters, exclusive to Barnes & Noble.

    Here are just a few gift ideas for the manga-lover in your life.

    Tokyo Ghoul, Vol. 1, by Sui Ishida
    College student Ken Kaneki was content to read literary novels and admire girls from afar—until an unexpected attack and an accident left him with the organs of a ghoul, a creature who must eat human flesh to survive. Ghouls haunt the dark corners of Tokyo, looking for victims to attack; now Ken is plagued by a strange new hunger, but he’s still human enough to be repelled by the idea. His dilemma plunges him into a whole new life, as he finds a haven in a coffeehouse run by ghouls who are looking for ways to coexist peacefully with humans. But no one is ever safe, as there are humans who also prey on the ghouls. Tokyo Ghoul mixes spectacular battles and heart-stopping action with quieter moments and features an unforgettable cast of unusual characters.

    Attack on Titan, Vol. 1, by Hajime Isayama
    In the world of Attack on Titan, humans have retreated into a walled city to escape the Titans, giants who shamble about, snatching up people and eating them like snacks. When the Titans breach the wall, it’s up to the Survey Corps to secure the city and try to get the territory back. Young Eren and his friend Mikasa have just completed their training when the city is plunged into chaos. For Eren, it’s an opportunity to do what he has always wanted to do—kill the Titans. It’s not that easy, though: Cool technology lets the Survey Corps soar through the air as if they were flying, but the Titans are bigger and faster, and they can swat a human away like a fly. The story revolves around the intense, passionately driven Eren; the cooler Mikasa, who is a skilled fighter; and the quite Armin, who is the brainy one of the trio. Together they must fight mankind’s most deadly enemy—and the rules keep changing as they go.

    One-Punch Man, Vol. 1, by ONE and Yusuke Murata
    Saitama was a bored salaryman until an encounter with the monster Crablante (who turned into a giant crustacean after eating too much crab) reminds him of his childhood dream of becoming a superhero. Since he doesn’t have any superpowers, he goes into training and works out so hard that all his hair falls out—and he becomes so strong that he can defeat any super-villain with a single punch. And that’s the problem: He’s bored again. On the one hand, One-Punch Man makes fun of superhero comics, with over-the-top villains and sly little nudges (like a crying child with a t-shirt that says “School Child”). On the other hand, thanks to Yusuke Murata’s excellent art, it’s also a really good superhero comic, with spectacular fights and plenty of action.

    tokidoki Mozzarella and Friends Premium Lined Notebook 6″x8″
    Why use a regular notebook when you could be advertising your love all off things tokidoki? This one is as sturdy as it is eye-catching, with a colorful image of cow-spotted Mozzarella surrounded by her pals and covered in a soft protective sleeve. Every one of the 80 lines pages features another cute illustration.

    tokidoki Multi Characters Zip Around Pencil Case
    Be prepared for a sudden burst of inspiration! Keep a writing utensil handy without sacrificing your signature style with this character-covered zip pencil case, with an interior pocket to store your favorite colored pencils or sharpeners and enough room to pack all the colors in the tokidoki rainbow.

    tokidoki Diamante Coin Purse 5″
    Don’t fish in your pocket for loose change—dazzle everyone in line behind you with this diamond-shaped Diamante zippered coin purse? It’s even blinged out with a glittery finish, because why not?

    tokidoki Mozzarella and Friends Vinyl Messenger Bag
    Make the ultimate statement with this mesmerizing messenger bag, covered with more tokidoki characters that we can count! It’s roomy enough to fit all of your books and notebooks while offering padded protection for your laptop or tablet. Interior pockets keep your organized and the shoulder strap is adjustable to fit tokidoki fanatics of all ages.

  • Brigid Alverson 9:00 pm on 2016/07/05 Permalink
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    Manga 101: A Beginner’s Guide 

    From marauding giants to magical girls, manga has some of the best stories in comics, but it can be a bit intimidating to the newcomer. The books run “backwards,” and the conventions and visual “language” are different from American and European comics (although more and more non-Japanese creators are picking up on manga’s storytelling techniques). On the other hand, they are in some ways more accessible than American superhero comics: following a series is pretty straightforward, as they all begin with a volume 1; most of them end after a finite number of books; and crossovers are rare. What’s more, older series not only stay in print, but often become more affordable as publishers re-release them in omnibus or digital formats.

    As a public service to those who want to dive into the world of manga but don’t know where to start, here’s a ten-cent tour of the medium, along with some suggestions for first-time readers—even those who are wary of reading right to left.

    English-language readers usually read manga in book form, but in Japan, most series are published a chapter at a time in weekly or monthly magazines, then collected into bound volumes (called tankoubon). That’s why you’ll often see a summary of previous events at the beginning of a chapter or volume, especially early in a series. These magazines are usually geared toward specific audiences, although the readership may be very different outside Japan. Even though these groupings are not as important in other countries, it’s useful to know about them, and manga readers often talk about them as a shorthand description for different types of manga. Here are the four most common types:


    Manga aimed at teen and tween boys, they often features an unlikely hero whose true talents come to the fore in a series of battles or adventures (as in Naruto, one of the most popular manga of all time) or contests of a skill such as cooking (Food Wars) or the game of Go (Hikaru no Go). Teamwork is often part of the story, and the popularity of series like Attack on Titan and One Piece lies partly with their ensemble casts. As can be seen from these examples, the tone can vary quite a bit, from serious to goofy, and there are also shonen romances, such as Nisekoi: False Love and Your Lie in April. Some good starter series:

    Fullmetal Alchemist, by Hiromu Arakawa
    Brothers Edward and Alphonse Alric try to bring their mother back to life using alchemy, but the attempt goes horribly awry, destroying their bodies in the process. The 27-volume series follows their quest for the philosopher’s stone that will make them whole again.

    Death Note, by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
    When a bored demon decides to mess with humans by dropping his notebook, teenager Light Yagami takes the bait. The owner of the notebook can bring instant death to anyone by writing down their name, and Light uses it to rid the world of criminals—but when the police bring in a quirky investigator to track down the source of the killings, the story turns into a cat-and-mouse game.

    Attack on Titan, by Hajime Isayama
    I’m recommending this with a caveat: the story is great, but the art is a bit rough, especially in the early volumes. It gets better as the series goes on, and as I explained in an earlier post, this fast-paced story about teenagers fighting man-eating giants has strong characters and plenty of twists, making it a gripping read.

    Nisekoi: False Love, by Naoshi Komi
    Shonen romances usually surround a nebbishy guy with cute girls. That’s how Nisekoi works, with the son and daughter of two warring yakuza (organized crime) families forced to pretend they are boyfriend and girlfriend to keep the peace, and various other girls complicating the scenario. There’s some business with keys and lockets and a childhood promise that keeps the story churning, but it’s broken into short stories so there’s not a lot of complicated backstory to remember.


    Shoujo manga is written for teen and tween girls. The most popular genre for shoujo in English is romance, but the best-selling shoujo manga in North America is Sailor Moon, a magical-girl adventure story in which the characters transform from ordinary schoolgirls into superheroes. Almost all shoujo manga focus on a single female protagonist, who is frequently the center of a love triangle, often torn between the cool guy and the nice guy. Some good choices for first-timers:

    Kitchen Princess, by Natsumi Ando
    This series is like a short course in shoujo manga, wrapping up a lot of the standard story twists in a very entertaining tale of a girl with a knack for cooking who attends a special elite academy for talented students—because she is looking for the boy who was kind to her as a child, a very common shoujo trope. Our heroine, Najika, is a sweet-tempered orphan who can solve almost any problem by fixing something to eat (recipes are included!). The whole series has been collected into four omnibus volumes, and if you like it, check out Ando’s school-mystery series Arisa.

    A Devil and Her Love Song, by Miyoshi Tomori
    This story is a bit more complex and subtle than your standard shoujo romance. Maria Kowai comes to a new high school with plenty of baggage, including the fact that she was expelled from her previous school, but the thing that really sets her apart is her sharp tongue and her willingness to say what she is really thinking. That includes calling out the first guy who tries to be nice to her and defying the school bullies. Although first-time readers may find the pages a bit crowded, this is a smart and very enjoyable manga that turns the standard teen-comics conventions on their heads.

    The Limit, by Keiko Suenobu
    Dark and compelling, The Limit is a survivor story that picks up on the social structures of high school students and amplifies them by putting the characters into an extreme situation. Mizuki Konno is one of the popular girls, and she sees herself as a fish swimming along in the stream, getting along without attracting too much notice. That comfortable existence is shattered when the class goes on a trip and their bus crashes, killing almost everyone. Konno and a handful of others—including a girl she once bullied—are stranded in the wilderness, forced to depend on one another and face the consequences of their thoughtless actions.

    Alice in the Country of Hearts, by QuinRose
    Alice is swept off to a strange alternate Wonderland that’s filled with cute guys and power struggles in this fantasy tale that’s based on a romance game in which the player chooses from an array of possible boyfriends. The original story is complete in three omnibus volumes, but the franchise is so popular that there are a lot of spinoffs.


    Seinen manga are created for young men, and this is the most varied category, embracing adventure stories, samurai manga, and battle stories but also romances and more literary tales, such as Kaoru Mori’s Emma, mysteries and thrillers such as Naoki Urasawa’s Monster and 20th Century Boys, foodie manga such as Oishinbo and The Drops of God, science fiction, and even the charming little-kid comedy Yotsuba&! Here’s a sampling that shows the wide range of stories published in seinen magazines:

    Vinland Saga, by Makoko Yukimura
    Have I mentioned how much I love this sprawling Viking series? Oh yes, I have. With its clear-lined style and mix of human drama and high adventure, this is a satisfying read filled with intrigue and action. Volume 6 is out next month, so this is a good time to start reading.

    Emma, by Kaoru Mori
    For the non-Japanese reader, the only real clue to the seinen origins of this romance between a man and a maid in Victorian England is the loving detail lavished on his clothes, cuff links, fountain pens, and other manly accoutrements. Otherwise it’s a straight-up romance/adventure with tea parties, a kidnapping, and lively scenes of daily life both upstairs and downstairs, as well as a truly engaging heroine.

    Monsterby Naoki Urasawa
    Naoki Urasawa’s work is a great read for manga first-timers because his art is clear and expressive—especially his characters’ faces—and his stories grab you by the throat and drag you in. Monster is the story of Dr. Kenzo Tenma, a surgeon on a quest to get to the bottom of a series of murders for which he feels he bears some (indirect) responsibility. Urasawa layers all sorts of side trips and subplots into this 18-volume story, making for a complex and fascinating read.

    Saturn Apartments, by Hisae Iwaoka
    Humankind has moved from the surface of the earth to a giant ring-shaped complex that orbits it like the rings of Saturn. Up here, as it was down below, life is stratified, with the rich living in the upper levels, where the sunlight keeps them healthy, and the poor living in darkness below. Mitsu, a window cleaner, is one of the few who can move between levels. His job gives him a birds-eye view of some fascinating drama—and he has a mystery of his own.

    The Drops of God, by Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto
    A famous wine critic dies, and his valuable wine collection will go to either his protege or his estranged son—who has never drunk wine—depending on who prevails in an elaborate wine-tasting competition. What ensues is an enjoyable soap opera with a lot of wine talk, and even non-drinkers will find plenty to like about this series. The first four volumes are a single story arc, and there’s a fifth, stand-alone volume, The Drops of God: New World, which focuses on American and Australian wines.


    Young women are the target audience for josei manga, and most examples available in English are romances of one sort or another, such as Ai Yazawa’s Nana and Tomu Ohmi’s adult take on the vampire genre, Midnight Secretary. There’s only a handful of josei manga available in English, but what’s out there is pretty interesting. Here are three that go outside the standard romance lines:

    Paradise Kiss, by Ai Yazawa
    Yukari is an obedient high school senior who is doing what the adults expect of her, without feeling any real joy, until she encounters a quirky group of fashion designers and becomes their model. There’s a romance plot, but this story is really about that moment where you start living for yourself rather than the expectations of others, and the fashion-school setting makes for a fascinating read.

    Helter Skelter: Fashion Unfriendly, by Kyoko Okazaki
    Helter Skelter is a harsh, twisted story of the ugliness behind the beauty industry. Liliko is a top model, but her beauty comes at a high price—special treatments that will ultimately destroy her body. As she becomes more and more desperate, lashing out at those around her, her whole world starts to fall apart. This story is complete in one volume and is drawn in an unusual loose style that fits the subject matter very well.

    In Clothes Called Fat, by Moyoco Anno
    Noko is the opposite of Helter Skelter‘s Liliko: She’s an ordinary young woman working in an office, she’s chubby, and while she’s not happy about that, she does have a good relationship with her boyfriend (or so she thinks). It all starts to fall apart when a co-worker starts bullying her, and she decides that losing weight will solve her problems. Anno uses weight and body image as a lens to view her characters’ actions and motivations, something that will resonate with many non-Japanese readers.

    Tricks of the Trade

    No matter what you’re reading, manga has its own set of conventions, visual and otherwise, and while they aren’t that hard to pick up as you go along, it’s helpful to know what they are before you start.

    Reading right to left: Most manga that is published in the U.S. is printed in its original Japanese format, which is the reverse of most English-language books: The front cover is where you would expect the back to be. There’s usually a reading guide to explain how to follow the flow of the panels, but basically, it’s right to left, top to bottom. While this takes a little getting used to, it helps that good manga artists also compose the page carefully to draw the eye naturally to the next panel. If reading “backwards” is a deal-killer for you, though, there are a handful of manga that are printed in left-to-right format:

    Chi’s Sweet Home, by Konami Kanata
    This charming all-ages story of a lost cat taken in by a family in a pet-free apartment complex is published left-to-right and in color.

    Blade of the Immortal, by Hiroaki Samura
    This tale of a ronin (masterless samurai) on a quest to slay 1,000 evil men reads left-to-right, but only the order of the panels has been changed—at the request of creator Hiroaki Samura, the art itself has not been flipped.

    The Push Manby Yoshihiro Tatsumi
    Tatsumi’s collection of short, dark stories about life in Tokyo is one of the premier examples of gekiga, or alternative manga, close in spirit and style to the underground comics movements in other countries.

    Look! Who’s talking? Word balloons work the same way in manga as in English-language comics, with the tail always pointing toward the speaker, but sometimes that means the tail points into the bubble—it’s like an “innie,” as opposed to the more common “outie.” Another often-used device is to present the character’s thoughts as lettering over the background, without any balloon or text box, and sometimes two different inner monologues will appear on the same page, with different sizes of lettering to distinguish between the two.

    Honorifics: Honorifics, the suffixes that come after a name, denote the relationship between the speaker and the person being addressed or spoken about; for instance, the suffixes –kun and –chan are used among friends, while –senpai refers to a student in a higher grade, and –sensei refers to a teacher or someone for whom the speaker has great respect. It used to be common for manga to include an explanation of honorifics in the front or back, but I’m seeing less of that these days; fortunately, Wikipedia has a handy list of the most common ones.

    Translator’s notes: Not every manga includes translator’s notes, but it’s always a good idea to check the back of the book before you start. Some notes are very basic, while others provide cultural information that may help you understand the story.

    Flashbacks: If the background of the page is black, you’re probably reading a flashback—this is often the only signal the creator will give that the story has shifted to the past.

    Sound effects: Japanese comics use a lot more sound effects than American comics, and they are often an integral part of the art. That makes translating them into other languages problematic. Some publishers keep the originals and translate them in smaller lettering nearby, while others completely re-draw them for English speakers.

    Iconography: Manga artists have a lot of different ways of expressing emotion. A perfectly normal looking character might suddenly turn into a rounded, child-like chibi when he or she is upset or angry. Sweatdrops express nervousness, logically enough, and if you see something that looks like a hashtag on someone’s head, they are angry (it’s supposed to look like a throbbing vein). A nosebleed is never just a nosebleed in manga, it’s a sign of sexual arousal, and a snot bubble coming out of someone’s nose means they are sleeping. (For a really fun book that brings a manga character, complete with all these conventions, into the world of Western comics, check out Barry Lyga and Colleen Doran’s Mangaman.)

    Glossary of terms

    You already know what the major genres of manga are; here are a few more terms that fans use when they are talking about it.

    Chibi: A small, rounded form that characters take when they are undergoing extreme emotions. Also called super-deformed, or SD.

    Doujinshi: Fan comics, often featuring characters from popular commercial manga. A popular medium in Japan, doujinshi are often self-published in small editions to be traded with or sold to other fans. Fun fact: The largest comic con in the world, Comic Market (Comiket), is a doujinshi event.

    Fanservice: Gratuitous sexual content such as panty shots and shower scenes.

    Gekiga: Alternative or underground manga. Yoshihiro Tatsumi is generally credited with inventing the term, which literally means “dramatic pictures,” as opposed to manga, “whimsical pictures.”

    Manga-ka: A manga creator.

    Omake: Literally “extras,” omake are little notes to the reader, often presented as short gag comics, that appear at the end of chapters or volumes. They may talk about the manga-ka’s everyday life or offer some insights into the creation of the manga.

    Otaku: An obsessive fan, of manga or anything else.

    Ronin: In historical stories, a wandering samurai with no master or steady employment; in modern stories, it often refers to someone who is unemployed or unable to get into college.

    Tankoubon: A collected edition of manga. In Japan, most manga are serialized in weekly or monthly magazines (sometimes referred to as “phonebooks” because they are so thick) and then collected into tankoubon.

    Yaoi: Romances between two male characters, usually written by women for women. Sometimes called shonen-ai, or “boys love.”

    Yokai: Spirits that often take very specific forms, such as the kappa, a lizard-like creature that has a depression in the top of its head that must be kept filled with water, or karakasa, umbrellas that come to life when they reach 100 years of age. Also known as ayakashi, mononoke, or obake (shapeshifters), they can be good or evil but usually cause trouble.

    Yon-koma manga: Four-panel gag manga that usually run vertically down the page. Azumanga Daioh and K-On! are two popular examples that have been translated into English.

    Yuri: Romances between two women.

    Phew! That’s all you need to know to get started. Now go forth, young manga reader, and enjoy.

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