OEL Manga, what is up with it

A few years back Tokyopop started advertising and promoting its own line of “Original English Language” or OEL Manga, and no one I know reads them. I’ve checked out a few here and there, but I feel something holding me back when I see a title in the stores. On the few occasions where I have picked one up to read, well, sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised and other times I’m not.

I liked Bizenghast overall, but the fluctuation in quality from page to page was very distracting. A well-done drawing would lead into a rush job into another nicely detailed drawing, and it seems like the product of someone with not enough time to really hone each panel.

Dramacon is another one I decided to take a look at, simply because Anime Jump and others had lauded it for being one of the better titles. I found myself unable to finish it, as it felt less like a heart-felt examination of the convention scene and the drama in it and more like wish-fulfillment on a level below Comic Party. What’s a mysterious love interest with a scarred face doing in a story where the focus seems to be Normal Anime Fans Doing Their Normal Anime Things? Maybe I’ll come back to it at some point, but it was like the pieces of the puzzle did not fit together properly.

I’m probably giving them a harder time than I should, but at the same time I’m really not, as it was Tokyopop’s desire to showcase these talents on a level on par with work from Japan. If there’s any OEL titles of merit that I’m overlooking, I’d like to know about them.

11 thoughts on “OEL Manga, what is up with it

  1. The Other Side of the Mirror (TOKYOPOP), while probably a little melodramatic for some, has a pretty good first book, I think– never checked out the rest. And Madeleine Rosca’s award-winning Hollow Fields (Seven Seas) is also a pretty fun read.

    Frankly? Seven Seas has listings of several global manga I’d like to check out based on the art– Arkham Woods (http://gomanga.com/manga/arkhamwoods.php), It Takes a Wizard (http://gomanga.com/manga/ittakesawizard.php), and Free Runners (http://gomanga.com/manga/freerunners.php). Unfortunately the first two haven’t been released, so who knows if/when we’ll see them, and I’ve never stumbled upon a copy of the third…

    And of course, they could have terrible writing. But at least the art looks like it’ll be decent, so I’d like to give ’em a shot.

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  2. There is great OEL manga, but nothing that Tokyopop’s had it’s hand in.

    Like Dan Kim (http://manga.clone-army.org) or Adam Warren (Empowered is good, but only if you have a bondage fetish…it’s extremely fanservice-oriented. I haven’t read his Dirty Pair stuff, but a lot of other people like it).

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  3. People always, always, ALWAYS hold up Dramacon as the torchbearer for this stuff. My response is always “but Dramacon is about the types of anime fans I despise more than anything in this world.” Perhaps they’re evaluating it purely from the sense of how the artwork looks compared to the others? I don’t know.

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  4. I just read the first chapter of Dramacon and it’s well-intentioned, I guess, but my god, does it bleed wish-fulfillment.

    HELLO, YOUNG LADY. I’M A SHOUJO MANGA ARCHETYPE, AND I HAPPEN TO BE VISITING AT THIS ANIME CONVENTION. BASK IN MY UNHEARD-OF-AMONG-MY-DEMOGRAPHIC SOCIAL SKILLS.

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  5. I flipped through the first volume of Dramacon a year or two ago, I don’t remember. It seemed like a cheesy romance novel and I don’t care for those, no matter what language it’s in/originated from.

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  6. SCOTT PILGRIM, which goes beyond the crap that is OEL… maybe that’s why it’s considered to be a an indie comics more then anything?

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