cover of Sakura Hime Kaden mangaWhat do you get when you mix traditional Japanese folklorewith 21stCentury shojo manga glamour? Thanks to Arina Tanemura's newestcreation Sakura Hime kaden, we can all find out.

Fans of girls' manga may remember Tanemura from her earlierwork, Ion, a sci-fi love story thatjust so happens to have been reviewed by Publishers Weekly.Her storytelling matured throughout the 2000's with titles like Full Moon woSagashite and The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross, the former alsoenjoying success as a popular TV Tokyo anime. With the conclusion of the lattercomic in June of 2008, Tanemura moved on to rework one of Japan's most belovedfolktales.

Taketori Mongatari, also known as "The Bamboo Cutter," is the10th century legend of magical princess Kaguya. Born from a bamboostalk with hair that glows the color of moonlight, her tale is a standard ofJapanese folklore, and has been referenced in numerous popular manga, includingInuYasha and Sailor Moon.In Tanemura's work, Sakura is princessKaguya's granddaughter. She shares her grandmother's mystical nature asevidenced by her glowing hair and unique ability to see spirits and demons. The21st century twist is that this spunky fourteen year-old battlesmonsters with an enchanted katana named "Blood Cherry Blossom." The narrativealso demonstrates Tanemura's knack for romantic drama, as the young heroineabandons an arranged marriage with a king and master of disguise namedOrashino.

It looks to be an exciting and accessible take on the typicalhistorical drama. Given the successes of Tanemura's prior releases at home andabroad, it seems unlikely that Sakura will stay confined to Shueisha's Ribon magazine. With a German releasealready planned for March, it is likely only a matter of time before Tanemura'sEnglish-speaking fans can enjoy her latest.

cover of Outlaw Star mangaIf enchanted princesses aren't your cup of tea, then perhaps Ican interest you in a classic space opera. Takehiko Ito's sci-fi western OutlawStar is one of the most inexcusable cases of untranslated Japanese manga inrecent history. The smash hit TV adaptation is a household name to western fansof anime. Even the spinoff series Angel Links was licensed for Englishdistribution by Bandai Entertainment. Why then the lack of appreciation for aretro-sci-fi standard?

Ito's Star universe has a rich history beginning withthe 1988 serialization of Retro Future Hero, the work that establishedthe universe of Outlaw Star. This first work was more parody than hardscience fiction, and it winked at and satirized earlier sci-fi standards like StarWars and Captain Future. With Outlaw Star Ito went for a moreaction-adventure mainstream approach, and the result was commercial success.

Much of that success can be attributed to Gene Starwindhimself, the series' super cool protagonist. He makes a gutsy career move fromerrand boy to space outlaw early in the story, when a mysterious client mixeshim up with a stolen super-advanced space ship and android. On the run fromcops and assassins, Gene ventures across the galaxy assembling a motley crew ofcatgirls and samurai along the way.

Readers can expect the requisite amounts of camp and suggestivehumor. The original western broadcast of the animation notoriously censoredseveral scenes and even cut whole episodes due to graphic content. Still, OutlawStar deserves more than the one German-language release by Planet Manga itended up getting. English-speakers ought to have their chance to ride with Geneand his crew too.