There are often clear and understandable reasons as to why aparticular Japanese manga never gets translated. Concerns about profitability,audience, and localization being the most common, often western fans simplyhave to put up with unfavorable market realities that keep sought after worksfrom crossing the pacific. However there exists another category ofuntranslated manga-a group I think of as the 'inexcusables.' These are mangathat, by all measures, could have been tremendously successful franchises hadthey been localized, yet mysteriously never were. Tsukasa Hojo's 1982 classic Cat'sEye is just such a work.
The story centers around three lovely sisters, Rui, Hitomi,and Ai, who manage a cafe by day and operate as the "Cat's Eye" cat burglars bynight. The trio steals famous works of art from the Nazi era in hopes ofreuniting with their collector father. The manga, as well as the over 70 episode-longanimation that followed, related the sisters' numerous adventures along withthe romantic subplot involving Hitomi and her police detective fiancé Toshio, aman who also just so happens to be on the trail of the Cat's Eye burglars.
Both the manga and anime were exceedingly popular amongJapanese girls growing up in the 1980's, the latter being broadcast in eightdifferent countries. Two live action films eventually popped up, one in 1988featuring Pink Lady band member Mie, and another in 1997 starring Yuki Uchidaand Norika Fujiwara. The iconic sisters and the Cat's Eye calling card theyleft at the scene of their crimes have been referenced in numerous manga andanime over the years, including Ghost in the Shell, and are householdnames throughout not only Japan,but much of East Asia and Europe thanks tovarious Chinese, French, and Italian distributors.
So why did North America miss out? I cannot even begin toconjecture when I consider the possibilities for American adaptation. Thesuccess of works like Charlie's Angels and Totally Spies, shouldmore than evidence the western appetite for 'grrrl' power. An English versionof the original Jump comic would be a big hit with collectors and fans ofHojo's signature style.
On the new school front we turn to Toshiaki Iwashiro's latestwork, Psyren. Serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump since December of 2007,this dark fantasy tells the story of Ageha Yoshina, the high school tough guywho goes on a quest to save the Earth from a seemingly inevitable apocalypticfate ten years in the future.
To do this, Ageha must travel to the mysterious world Psyren,for which the series is named, and battle monsters using psychic powers.Readers can also expect an irreverent band of supporting characters in the formof other super-powered high school kids, as well as a marvelously menacing teamof villains known as W.I.S.E. It is typical shonen fantasy fare and has beenjustifiably criticized for an art style that mirrors Tite Kubo's Bleach tooobviously. Nevertheless, the dramatic and unconventionally crafted psychicbattles give the action a flavor all its own.
Having read much of both series, I can say that Psyren definitelyhas a more intriguing story and is far better paced. Even if it does appearsuperficially similar to Bleach, it would hardly be an insult; Bleachis easily one of the most successful manga franchises of all time and iswell-known to the point of being passé even among western otaku. Why then woulda western publisher not want to jump on Psyren?
Shueisha came out with the tenth collection of Psyren chaptersthis month; over three years of serial releases. As for how much longerEnglish-speakers will have to wait, I can only guess. I am no psychic, afterall.