We’ve got some sad news to share. After over a decade online, our parent site PopCultureShock will be shutting down and as a result, Manga Recon will also be disbanding. No new content will be posted after June 2010, but archived content will remain accessible at this address for the foreseeable future.

Manga Recon has been a big part of my life these last two years. I know that goes for our team of reviewers too, so, in order to give it a fitting sendoff, we participated in one final roundtable, sharing our gratitude, memories, and directions on how to find us elsewhere online. Thank you for reading, now and at all times past and future.

MICHELLE: While I’m obviously saddened by the news of PCS’ closure, I’m still extremely grateful for the opportunity to spend two years working with talented writers and honing my reviewing skills. Before getting tapped by Kate Dacey to join the Manga Recon team I was toiling away in obscurity on my own modest blog, and the idea that someone as well-respected as she (for, yes, I knew her name already) was reading my reviews was pretty mind-boggling. In a very real way, Manga Recon changed my life.

MELINDA: My experience was very similar, Michelle, at least in terms of Manga Recon’s impact on my life, though I did not even consider myself a reviewer when you and Kate brought me on. I learned how to write reviews from the two of you and that was key in expanding my world and introducing me to the many wonderful minds in the manga blogosphere, something that has enriched my offline life as well. Without Manga Recon, it’s difficult to imagine what the last year and a half of my life might have looked like.

SAM: My experiences with Manga Recon are very close to Melinda’s: this website was really my start, my jumping-off point for becoming a reviewer. I never once thought that I would meet anyone so significant in a comic book shop and I am very fortunate to have met Kate that day in Comicopia.

Manga Recon overall has helped me become a better writer in general (I wasn’t great when I started out) and that is largely due to the wonderful editors I have had. Doing reviews and roundtables has fueled my creative interests, pushing me to go out and research series, authors and industry news. Manga Recon even helped me to increase my online and convention presence, driving me to start actively using Twitter, as well as taking part in panels. This has really been the best experience that I could’ve had; it has opened the door to countless opportunities and I hope to continue to take what I have learned here and carry it on into the future.

Thanks to all the readers over the years, especially my close friends who’ve supported my writing, and thanks to the wonderful staff of writers that I have had the pleasure of getting to know. You will be missed.

KATE: Thanks for the kind words, guys!

Like everyone else who’s chimed in so far, Manga Recon was the place where I cut my teeth as a reviewer, where I learned the difference between snark and criticism, where I learned how to write for an audience instead of myself, and where I learned just how passionate fans are about their favorite series— woe to her that pan Vampire Knight! I’d never been to a comics convention before contributing to PCS, so Manga Recon provided me with a crash course on the manga publishing industry, not to mention the various subcultures within the fandom. And Manga Recon gave me a place to let down my hair and experiment with my writing, something that’s a lot harder to do within the narrow confines of academia. Put simply: Manga Recon was an educational experience for me.

None of this would have been possible without Jon Haehnle, who originally invited me to join PCS back in September 2006. Lord knows what Jon saw in my writing—it was pretty uninformed—but reviewing turned out to be an exciting way to explore what was then a new interest for me. Jon was patient with me in the early going, and an indispensable collaborator when Manga Recon blossomed from column to blog to full-fledged website. I owe Jon a big debt of gratitude for his support.

I also wanted to thank Michelle for her excellent stewardship of Manga Recon. She’s raised the editorial standards well above the benchmark I established, she’s developed some exciting new features, and she’s recruited some great talent for the site. Michelle is a natural-born editor; not only does she have a keen eye for detail and a good ear for language, she is one of the most organized people I know. (This from a woman who alphabetizes her spice rack—I know organizational skillz when I see ‘em.) Michelle also has a terrific, dry wit that I really came to appreciate when we worked together in 2008: who but Michelle could work in a Robert Goulet reference to a review of Slam Dunk?

MICHELLE: Thank you, Kate. You and Jon know how hesitant I was to attempt to fill your shoes, but it ended up being a lot more fun than I had expected! Sometimes you have to take risks to realize that you’re capable of doing something, I guess.

Sadly, I think you’re the only person who ever really appreciated the Goulet!

CHLOE: I, too, tip my hat to Kate on this one—you’re an excellent curator of talent, and I feel exceedingly privileged to have been scooped out of the big pond and dropped in the lovely little enclave that is Manga Recon. Reviewing has been one of the most fun, exhausting and thrilling things to do and pushed both my creative and analytical skills to new areas, not to mention getting my hands on some cool books in in the process. I’m going to miss the reviews, the community and, of course, these roundtables!

ERIN: My friend and Dungeon Master Hal Johnson, a clerk at Midtown Comics, asked me if I’d like to earn some free manga by writing reviews back in 2006. I enthusiastically and foolishly agreed. Free comics! Oh boy! A crate of yaoi from DMP arrived and promptly took up a lot of space in my living room. (My boyfriend complained about it and tripped over it a lot.) I was quickly overwhelmed and buried in books.

Jon Haehnle and I worked together to come up with the ninja-themed name “Manga Recon” to go with my podcast persona. I started the “Ninja Consultant” podcast in 2005. It was always my intention to tie Manga Recon into the podcast, or give it its own podcast. I commissioned a logo from E.K. Weaver but only ever produced a few shows.

In the early days I picked manga randomly from the shelves of Midtown Comics and reviewed it in “monthly” columns, with no regard to publication dates. Without an editor to reign me in I rambled on and on for hundreds of words. I couldn’t meet my self-set goals and only ever produced a few columns.

I was surprised and a little territorial when Kate was hired on as Chief Editor or Head Manga Reviewer or whatever. When did I get demoted? Worse still, Kate’s reviews were all very polished and much smarter than mine, and she was able to write on a near-daily basis. When I met her in real life it was even more upsetting: she’s gorgeous and doesn’t look nerdy at all, outside of a classy CLAMP bag. I was slouching around conventions in black T-shirts with frizzy pink hair and a Katamari hat.

When I first starting writing the column I figured the readers were probably the same high school-aged manga fans who crowded the aisles at Barnes and Noble. Then I met Brigid Alverson at New York Comic Con, and she really opened my eyes. Traffic was going through Manga Blog to PCS, and it wasn’t a bunch of Fruits Basket fourteen-year-olds at all—it was librarians, the publishers themselves, and other literary manga fans like Kate! I had to re-think how I was writing my reviews.

My most-viewed review is undoubtedly the Kare Kano comic I drew. I was unemployed in early 2007, and it took a couple days to put together the comic when I should’ve been job hunting. I also painstakingly reviewed individual volumes of the series with the idiotic idea that fans could save money by not buying the unimportant volumes. Nowadays I realize that’s ludicrous; even the most casual of manga fans can’t stand to miss a single volume. I wasted months writing those things, and the comic was a last-minute addition to the much-longer piece.

A horrifying thought occurred to me later: what if Masami Tsuda sees my comic? It’s been passed around the internet a lot, and even linked to from The Comics Journal website! After all, Rivkah herself commented on my review of her OEL manga Steady Beat. That really freaked me out! What if I ran into Rivkah at a convention (very likely)? Would I have said those things to her face? Tsuda probably can’t read English, but I drew myself slapping her…!

Through a combination of podcasting and writing for PCS I got a lot of press passes and went to a lot of conventions. I loved the ICv2 conferences and learned a lot about publishing. I met Ed Chavez of the Manga Cast, who hooked me up reviewing manga for Publishers Weekly. I used my Manga Recon reviews as writing samples for the job. When an opportunity came up to write about the Tekkonkinkreet movie for the second issue of Otaku USA Magazine, I pointed to my writing samples and got the job. Earlier I had reviewed the first issue of Otaku USA on Manga Recon with some harsh design notes. Ironically, I quickly became a staff anime reviewer for the magazine.

Paying gigs took up more of my time and I couldn’t contribute as much to Manga Recon (not that I ever contributed all that much per year). Fortunately, Jon and Kate kept adding more staff. I feel lucky to have met (almost) everyone on the incredible staff, and to have done some great panels with a few of you at conventions.

Last October I was approached to take over Bamboo Dong’s Shelf Life column on Anime News Network. It never would have happened without Manga Recon. In the last nine months, my writing has improved more than it has in five years of Manga Recon, thanks to tight deadlines, a tremendous volume of work, and extra editorial oversight. Obviously the paychecks also help. It bothers me that the readers there treat me like a n00b, even though I’ve been a reviewer for years!

In 2006 I worried that no one was reading my reviews, but now, thanks to Manga Recon, I have a tremendous number of readers. Otaku USA has a circulation of about 100,000 and Shelf Life has about 35,000 readers. I’m not sure how many readers my Publishers Weekly reviews have reached, but some of them turn up in Amazon’s database under “Editorial Content.” I have no idea of how many readers Manga Recon has reached over the years, but oddly enough I have found my Manga Recon reviews quoted in Wikipedia as “Critical Reception.”

MICHELLE: That’s an awesome glimpse into Manga Recon’s early days! I know that I had the Kare Kano review bookmarked for a long time before joining the staff myself. I’m not sure of Manga Recon’s readership levels myself, but I’ve seen some things I’ve written here turn up on Amazon, too, so they definitely get around.

Your account of your reviewing journey reminds me to encourage everyone to let readers know where you can be found! Just because PCS is closing down doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop writing about the manga that we love! Personally, I still have my original blog, Soliloquy in Blue, and also intend to ramp up my contributions to the Comics Should Be Good blog at Comic Book Resources.

Where will y’all be?

KEN: I had been writing long, rambling reviews for movies, comics, novels and more since ‘05, but those were mostly only read by friends and folks who stumbled across my livejournal. It wasn’t until I joined the TOKYOPOP site that Kate found me and brought me into the MR fold, which in turn served to introduce me to the larger online manga community. Thanks to that I’ve not only learned a little self-control in my reviews, but I’ve also met a number of interesting people, both online and off, that I probably never would have encountered otherwise.

Thanks to Kate, Jon, Michelle, the rest of the MR team and the readers. It’s been a fun and interesting few years.

ERIN: Oh yeah, I’m tagging my livejournal entries with “manga” if I put up an odd scrap:

erinfinnegan.livejournal.com/tag/manga

I believe you can subscribe to an RSS feed for a specific tag.

KATE: Jeez, Erin, you’re embarrassing me—without you, there’d be no Manga Recon at all! You were the person who puts PCS on the map as far as manga is concerned, and your reviews of Kare Kano and the Death Note movies were among the site’s all-time most-viewed articles during my tenure. I know we had some awkward moments, but I will always regard our Definitive Guide to Fumi Yoshinaga one of my proudest moments at PCS; I’m particularly fond of your Flower of Life cartoon review, and might even like it better than your legendary Kare Kano piece. Heresy, I know.

As for where to find me, I have my own website, The Manga Critic, and I’m also a contributor to Good Comics for Kids, a blog at the School Library Journal.

SAM: In terms of future projects, I am moving aside from reviewing content and am currently working on a podcast project that explores the comics community as whole; who the people are who love comics, who shell out money week after week, why they attend cons, the relationships they’ve built through comics etc.

I really want to explore why people are so passionate about the artform in general and I want to do this through a series of themed interviews and stories. Think of it as a much nerdier approach to This American Life.

So I will be keeping people posted through my Twitter, @SamKusek, and hopefully you all will be able to hear the first episode within a week or so!

MELINDA: Sam, that sounds great. I think you are just the person to undertake a project like that. I really look forward to it!

As always, you can all find me at Manga Bookshelf, which also serves as the home for Off the Shelf, a new weekly discussion column that is a collaborative project with Michelle. We’ve got a couple of other such projects in the works as well. I’ve also just started a new manhwa-specific blog as a companion site, Manhwa Bookshelf, where I’ve been hosting this month’s Manhwa Moveable Feast.

Speaking of Twitter, I’ve put together a Manga Recon Twitter list to make it easy to keep up with everyone’s future exploits!

GRANT: I was both shocked and thrilled when I was recruited to write for Manga Recon last January. I knew that there were review sites for manga, but never imagined I’d ever find myself writing for one (let alone being quoted on Wikipedia or landing a blurb for the Cirque du Freak manga series in a Yen Press promotional flyer). In a lot of ways, this was a huge learning experience, from poring over the MR article style guide to coming up with new ways to write reviews without falling into a pattern. I also found myself revising my reviews several times before submitting them: there was a standard of quality that all of you established and I had to make sure my work was always at that level.

Being able to write for Manga Recon truly helped me show other people what it is I see in graphic novels. Our review site was full of insightful breakdowns of what makes manga worth reading. Even better, it served as a reminder that there are plenty of other people out there who read manga with a critical eye. My students often tell me that their parents refuse to consider manga to be proper reading. I think our site proves that it is a legitimate story-telling form a thousand times over.

It has been a dream to write for MR. Just like many of you, I plan on continuing to write reviews. I look forward to commenting on your blogs and websites.

CONNIE: Manga Recon was one of the most fun projects I’ve been involved with, and I’m very sorry to have to say goodbye. I’ve been involved with other review sites before, and have had my own blog at Slightly Biased Manga for almost six years, but it had been a few years since I’d written real reviews for a site that was not my own when Michelle asked me to join the Manga Recon crew. I enjoyed the guidelines and deadlines I worked with at Manga Recon. Most of my writing is informal, off-the-cuff responses after I finish a book, so writing with purpose and coherency for Manga Recon was both fun and very good for me.

Most of all, though, I think I’ll miss the roundtables and the sense of community. I’m naturally very shy, so it’s hard for me to jump into a conversation or comment on things, even on the internet. But watching Twitter conversation and participating in roundtables has been an experience I haven’t had at any of the other sites I’ve worked at, and it’s what I’ll miss the most.

I’ve only been here a year and a half, and it’s felt like no time at all. I feel sorry that I couldn’t contribute more, but I am very, very happy with the time I’ve spent here. Thanks a million.

MICHELLE: Thanks again to all of you for being part of Manga Recon. It was a lot of fun working with each of you and, like Melinda mentioned, becoming part of a warm and welcoming manga blogging community. Although we won’t be writing here, I hope we still continue to follow each other’s endeavors in the future.

Posted in: Commentary,

18 Responses to "Farewell Roundtable"

1 | lanugo

June 28th, 2010 at 1:57 am

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I’m sorry to hear the news that you’ll be closing down Manga Recon, I’ve always enjoyed your Manga Minis, in particular, but your reviews are always so thorough and really guided my manga reading! I’ll be sure to follow through the various split channels…
Thanks for all your hard work!

2 | Danielle Leigh

June 28th, 2010 at 10:40 am

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Reviews at Manga Recon have always been a lot of fun to read and I’m going to miss the site….you guys seemed have every area of manga covered and it worked out just perfectly.

Of course, I’ll be following you all at your respective blogs / websites / corners of the net!! :-)

3 | Michelle Smith

June 28th, 2010 at 10:43 am

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Thank you both! That’s definitely an advantage of reviewing as a team because there’s usually someone to whom a certain genre will appeal or at least have a chance of appealing. :)

4 | Herron

June 28th, 2010 at 10:49 am

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Man that sucks to read that the site is closing down. This is the only place I came to read reviews. I liked the layout and how things were done… guess I’ll have to find somewhere else to keep up with manga reviews. Been a great time reading the reviews and articles. I’d only started visiting perhaps a year and a half ago.

5 | Michelle Smith

June 28th, 2010 at 11:27 am

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Hi, Herron! Thanks for your loyalty! Most of us have blogs where we’ll be continuing to write manga reviews; you can find those links in this roundtable.

6 | jon

June 28th, 2010 at 11:48 am

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I just want to say, while I appreciate the mention, I feel a little undeserving to be included in this farewell post — I mean, me hosting the site and inviting a few writers pales in comparison to anything Erin, Kate, Michelle and Melinda have done (you know, actually writing, editing and scheduling and everything).

In fact all of you guys (MR crew as whole) have done more for Manga Recon than I have. You all made it what it was — the little piece of PCS with the biggest community and best fans.

7 | Melinda Beasi

June 28th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

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Michelle, this is totally random, but I just had to say that I love the fact that you actually included a photo of Robert Goulet. :D

8 | Lady

June 28th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

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Hmm, I guess this is the fault of scanlations also?

Damn those evil scanlations, damn them to hell.

9 | Michelle Smith

June 28th, 2010 at 2:57 pm

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@Melinda: The absurdity of it appealed to me. :)

@Lady: I think scanlations are probably not at fault in this instance. But we can blame them anyway. :)

10 | Serdar

June 28th, 2010 at 3:48 pm

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Erin, et al, I’m sorry to see you guys go. Good luck in the future, and I hope this is simply a sign that you’re about to be involved in even bigger and better things!

11 | Estara

July 2nd, 2010 at 5:44 pm

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Thank you from a longtime lurker, rarely commenter on this site. I enjoyed the reviews and found the Manga Mini columns especially informative for the short length each volume had to be given to make the format work.
I knew some of the reviewers from their own sites before that and I’ll continue to visit and lurk on those ^^.

12 | Michelle Smith

July 2nd, 2010 at 7:04 pm

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Thank you, Serdar and Estara! I’m glad the Minis were loved; it was pretty difficult sometimes keeping ourselves within some fairly strict length guidelines.

13 | jan klump

July 3rd, 2010 at 11:23 am

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I loved reading the history of this site and all that has made you a community. Thanks.

14 | Jura

July 3rd, 2010 at 4:52 pm

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Sounds like this blog partied too hard.

15 | neil

July 19th, 2010 at 8:50 am

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Oh. Sad news. Thanks for the hardworked articles.

After some months of reading your posts, this is the first and last time I’ll post.

16 | Venus

September 5th, 2010 at 4:41 am

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And the award for being late goes to… Me!
Damn it! I just discovered this site… And I loved it.

17 | Michelle Smith

September 5th, 2010 at 6:17 pm

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Thanks, Venus. A lot of us are still writing elsewhere. :)

18 | manga dog

February 25th, 2011 at 10:20 am

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I recently find a new manga website,there you can read free manga,mobile manga

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