Review: Daisuki 11/2011-01/2012

Language: German (translated from Japanese)
Authors: various
Publisher: Carlsen (originally Hakusensha)
Pages: 256
Price: €5.95 (D)

Despite the importance of the anthology magazine format for the Japanese manga industry, it failed to catch on in Germany. Banzai (published by Carlsen) was cancelled in 2005 (although it had carried both Naruto and One Piece), Manga Power (which was able to feature a considerable variety of manga genres, due to its “telephone book” size) and Manga Twister (both published by EMA) ran until 2004 and 2006, respectively. So Daisuki remains as the sole survivor (apart from Paper Theatre) in the German scene, even though it’s a shōjo magazine and thus caters to a niche market. Granted, that’s still quite a large niche, and apparently that market is sizeable enough to keep the title running since it was launched in 2003 as a sister title to Banzai. Due to a licensing deal between Carlsen and the Japanese publisher Hakusensha, almost all series in Daisuki were first published by this venerable company (which apparently belongs to the same publishing group as Shogakukan and Shueisha). Starting from its very first issue, I read Daisuki for a year or two, but for some reason (maybe the cancellation of Kare Kano?) I stopped reading it for years until I recently thought I’d give it another try.

Daisuki 11/2011-01/2012 still look very much like the issues from eight years ago. Each issue contains 1-2 episodes (of about 30 pages) from 6 series. The main difference is that one episode in each issue is printed in monochrome colour, e.g. magenta on white instead of black on white. Whatever. The series currently featured in Daisuki are, roughly from best to worst (in my opinion): Twinkle Stars (Hoshi wa Utau, by Natsuki Takaya, the author of Fruits Basket which also ran in Daisuki), in which the initial premise of a highschool stargazing club is all but neglected in favour of a straightforward tale of friendship and romance. Not the worst thing that can happen. Maid-Sama (Kaichō wa Maid-sama!, by Hiro Fujiwara) exploits the maid café phenomenon quite cleverly by having the tough and feisty protagonist lead a double life as a submissive waitress. But, again, by Act 46 (Daisuki 11/2011) this premise doesn’t play much of a role. Mishonen Produce (by Kaoru Ichinose) is the most accessible series, due to its overall shortness (4 volumes) and the fact that we’re starting at “Produce 4” (i.e. episode 4) here. There’s also a nice, almost metafictional element in the references to the fictitious shōjo manga series the heroine is inspired by. Skip Beat! (by Yoshiki Nakamura) seems to have been running since forever – we’re at Act 128 now. I still remember it from when I first read Daisuki, years ago. I didn’t like this superficial breaking-into-showbusiness tale then, and I don’t like it much now. The tankōbons of Vampire Knight (by Matsuri Hino) have been quite successful in Germany, but I guess reading only episodes 62-64 is not the best way to grasp an epic mystery tale. Alice Academy (Gakuen Alice, by Tachibana Higuchi) is another mystery series that I don’t really get, and the fact that it’s centered around pre-teens doesn’t make it more appealing to me.

So what to make of Daisuki? Do people read it to select the series they’re going to buy, or do they enjoy and collect it for its own sake? Does it have enough influence to twist the German-language market in favour of Hakusensha titles, or do similar publisher deals have this effect anyway? Is Daisuki a representative showcase of the Japanese shōjo scene, or even of all the titles that get translated into German? Is the German manga anthology magazine an endangered species that needs to be protected, or is it just a dinosaur, a relic from a bygone age that doesn’t really fit in today’s market? Anyway, I think I’m going to read the next issue too.

Rating: ● ● ● ○ ○