The Manga Critic’s Year in Review: 2017


When I put The Manga Critic on hold in 2012, the Internet was changing: Facebook and Twitter were replacing forums, Live Journals, and personal blogs as the primary way in which Internet users shared opinions. The manga industry, too, was in flux, recovering from the collapse of brick-and-mortar retailers such as Borders, the scourge of One Manga, and the demise of power players such as Tokyopop. Looking back on that transitional moment, I feel pangs of nostalgia for the old blogosphere — where each blog functioned like a virtual water cooler, providing a place for manga lovers to gather and discuss what they were reading — and for the days when teenagers clogged the graphic novel aisles at bookstores as they pored over the latest installments of Naruto.

At the same time, however, I recognize how necessary many of these adjustments were. The introduction of digital manga and the increased emphasis on day-and-date releases have had a positive effect on the market, creating a viable alternative to scanlations (at least for licensed titles). Manga publishers have also gotten bolder with licensing choices: who’d have thought that Seven Seas — the company that brought us Aoi House and Monster Girls — would play such an instrumental role in bringing classic manga to the US, raising the possibility that 2018 might be the first time two manga by Ryoko Ikeda were available in English?

Finding my voice in this new environment has been my biggest challenge this year. I often found myself struggling to say anything insightful about the books I was reviewing, not because they were offensive or poorly executed, but because they were too obvious, too familiar, too… focus grouped. These are occupational hazards for anyone who reviews popular media, to be sure, but I felt that weight more fully this year, in part because I felt a stronger responsibility to myself and to my readers not to treat middle-of-the-road titles with contempt — a goal I didn’t always achieve.

On a more personal note, 2017 was the year I said goodbye to Grendel, my canine sidekick for the last thirteen years. She’d been with me through graduate school, divorce, moving, and job changes — the low points — but also with me for wonderful adventures: climbing Mount Washington and kayaking in the Finger Lakes. I learned a lot from her, from the importance of routine to the importance of being in the moment. Most of all, however, she taught me the importance of boundaries; she was tough, sweet, willful, and not above nipping my ankles when she wanted me to do something. I’d never lived with a dog who was as feisty or independent as Grendel, two qualities that made her a pain in the ass sometimes, but also made our relationship richer and more rewarding. R.I.P., Woozums — I miss you.

What I’ve compiled below is an index of sorts, an attempt to document in numbers and links what I accomplished here at The Manga Critic in 2017. The format owes a debt to — OK, shamelessly copies — the Harper’s Index, but the contents are a lot less stodgy. So without further ado, here is a guide to my first year back in the saddle as a manga reviewer.




* Denotes a digital-only or digital-first release

13 thoughts on “The Manga Critic’s Year in Review: 2017”

  1. LG says:

    I’m very sorry about the loss of your dog. It’s always hard.

    I’ve enjoyed seeing you get back into manga reviewing. Several of your reviews put titles on my radar that might not have ended up on there otherwise. 🙂

    1. Katherine Dacey says:

      Thanks, LG. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about getting back into writing again was the opportunity to reconnect with other long-time bloggers. Honestly, you deserve a medal for making sense of Land of the Lustrous; your review made me realize that I didn’t give it a fair shot!

      1. LG says:

        I have volume 2 waiting for me at home, so we’ll see how I manage with that one. First, though, I need to read the second part of Orange – the library due date’s coming up soon.

  2. Aaron says:

    I’m happy you’re back doing reviews most of the rules for reviewing I try to follow are ones I learned on this blog all the way back in the long ago time of the early 2000s. Hard to believe I’ll be 32 tomorrow, online interactions to a large extent have changed for good and ill as well. I don’t, however, share the nostalgia for circa 2012 era Manga Fandom but that’s me just being a loner so I digress.

    1. Katherine Dacey says:

      Most of what I miss are the lively discussions that used to happen in the comment threads. I certainly don’t miss being harassed by people who disagreed with me about piracy, or sexual violence, or crummy art, though; it’s a relief not to have people emailing me and calling me names because I didn’t like Highschool of the Dead!

      1. Aaron says:

        Or rember that time when somebody implied you had a “double standard” involving the relationship between Kuroe and Misaki in Blood Alone with no proof I may add. Or use the fact that you’re Feminist against you like it’s an actual argument point. Of course, a lot of the dumb stuff I ended up doing was out of ignorance I’d like to think I matured a little.

        I don’t miss those days either, of course, seeing that Daisuke Satō died on March 22, 2017, of ischemic heart disease I don’t think you will have to worry about High School Of The Dead fans for the foreseeable future.

        1. Katherine Dacey says:

          It’s funny that you mentioned Blood Alone. For YEARS after I’d written that essay, that review drew steady traffic from a forum where outraged fans fumed about what I’d said! The irony is that I have zero influence over the average manga reader’s buying decisions, so one negative review wasn’t going to hurt the book’s sales. Oh well. I don’t miss those kind of fire fights in the comments.

          1. Aaron says:

            What can I say some people just have the way too personal investment in the media they consume. I always try to keep the thought that at the end of the day to loosely paraphrase a quote from Kingyo Used Books. Manga is just paper and a work of fiction only has as much power as you choose to give to it.

            I can also as a person who bought every volume of the English release of Blood Alone it ended up not being that good and the first three volumes were the strongest fo the series questionable content notwithstanding.

  3. Krystallina says:

    Sorry about Grendel. Sounds like you two had some amazing adventures together.

    1. Katherine Dacey says:

      Thanks, Krystallina–we did!

  4. Justin says:

    Sorry to hear about Grendel. My condolences.

    I’m glad you are back blogging, and I also appreciate you taking time to collect reviews involving manga around the internet. It’s something you don’t have to do, but you do it, and that’s really great.

    It’s a really fascinating time for manga. Not just classics potentially being brought over, but manga that seemed unlikely to ever see the light of day in America (To Love Ru, Silver Spoon, Chihayafuru) being licensed makes me think the best is yet to come, somehow. And also new publishers trying to carve their own niche (Media Do, Cross Infinite World). Looking forward to how the year will go regarding this, and will look forward to you covering what you can.

    1. Katherine Dacey says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Justin! It’s been great to see The OASG find its own niche and attract such a devoted readership! You’ve got a great reviewing team, and a great podcast. Looking forward to seeing what you and your crew do in 2018!

      1. Justin says:

        Thank you Kate 🙂

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