Manga Giveaway: Superhero Duo Winner

Batmanga, Volume 1Ultraman, Volume 1And the winner of the Superhero Duo manga giveaway is… Cody Kemp!

As the winner, Cody will be receiving a copy of Batmanga, Volume 1 by Jiro Kuwata as well as a copy of Ultraman, Volume 1 by Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi, two superhero manga that were released relatively recently in English. I don’t really consider myself to be a huge fan of the superhero genre, but when I do finally get around to reading manga featuring superheros of one ilk or another, I generally do enjoy them. So, for this giveaway, I asked that participants tell me a little about some of their favorite superhero manga. For everyone’s detailed responses, be sure to check out the Superhero Duo giveaway comments. (The lesson learned from the responses? If you’re not already reading One-Punch Man, you should be!)

Some of the superhero manga available in English:
Apocalypse Zero by Takayuki Yamaguchi
Batmanga by Jiro Kuwata
Big Hero 6 by Haruki Ueno
Dead End by Shohei Manabe
Duklyon: Clamp School Defenders by CLAMP
Hero Heel by Makoto Tateno
Hero’s Are Extinct by Ryoji Hido
Heroman written by Stan Lee, illustrated by Tamon Ohta
Junk: Record of the Last Hero by Kia Asamiya
Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer by Satoshi Mizukami
My Hero Academia by Kōhei Horikoshi
No. 5 by Taiyō Matsumoto
One-Punch Man written by One, illustrated by Yusuke Murata
Ratman by Sekihiko Inui
Tiger & Bunny by Mizuki Sakakibara
Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning by Tsutomu Ono
Tiger & Bunny: Comic Anthology edited by Asuka Henshubu
Tokyo ESP by Hajime Segawa
Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy by Yudetamago
Ultraman by Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi

Depending on your definition of “superhero,” the above list could be much longer (or much shorter, for that matter) but it’s probably not a bad place to start for someone interested in reading super-heroic manga. Thank you to everyone who participated in the giveaway and took the time to share your favorite superhero manga with me. Until next time!

My Week in Manga: April 25-May 1, 2016

My News and Reviews

April has come to a close and May has begun, but there’s still a little time left to enter April’s manga giveaway for a chance to win a duo of superhero manga: Jiro Kuwata’s Batmanga, Volume 1 and Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi’s Ultraman, Volume 1. In addition to the manga giveaway, I also snuck in my review of Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare, Volume 9 last week. It’s a particularly dramatic volume in the series with some major twists and reveals. I’m very curious to see how Mizushiro will bring things to a close in the tenth and final volume. The review was part of my monthly horror manga review project, and I just barely got it written and posted before April ended. I’ve been super busy and stressed out lately, which makes writing even more difficult for me than it usually is. There are plenty of great and wonderful things going on right now in my life, but sadly the busyness and stress probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail: Ice Trail, Volume 1Fairy Tail: Ice Trail, Volume 1 by Yuuskuke Shirato. There have recently been several manga spin-offs of Hiro Mashima’s series Fairy Tail released, but Ice Trail is the first that I’ve read. (For that matter, I’ll have to admit that I’ve not actually read most of Fairy Tail proper.) What primarily interested me in Ice Trail is that it serves as an origin story for Gray Fullbuster, one of Fairy Tail‘s most popular characters (as well as one of my personal favorites). Gray is a badass ice mage with a tragic past and the propensity for walking around without a shirt. Ice Trail shows Gray’s childhood in the brief time between when his home village was destroyed and when he joined the Fairy Tail guild. Despite the cuteness of seeing Gray as a kid, Ice Trail is very reminiscent of Fairy Tail in both style and tone. Apparently the series is only two volumes long, which may partially explain why the manga moves along at a break-neck pace with one action-packed battle after another. Ice Trail can mostly stand on its own, but will likely be most appreciated by readers who are already familiar with Gray and with Fairy Tail as a whole—though not absolutely necessary, that additional context can be helpful.

Kiss Him, Not Me, Volume 2Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volume 2 by Junko. I do get a kick out of Kiss Him, Not Me! I was a little worried at first since the series’ plot essentially hinges on the heroine’s sudden and drastic weight loss to bring her to the romantic attention of four of the hottest guys at her school. However, the manga quickly moves on from that premise and I don’t think it was even referenced at all in the second volume. Instead, Kiss Him, Not Me! revels in its humor and the comedic situation of a fujoshi finding herself on the opposite side of her usual fantasies. Basically, Serinuma’s life has become an otome game in which numerous young men are vying for her favor. The second volume of Kiss Him, Not Me! primarily focuses on two events: the school festival, during which each of the guys has the opportunity to have a mini-date with Serinuma (with varying degrees of success), and the Winter Comiket, which they all attend together although Serinuma is by far the most enthusiastic about it. One of the things that I particularly appreciate about Kiss Him, Not Me! is that no one asks Serinuma to change who she is at heart—she still gets to be an otaku. The second volume also introduces a new character who greatly intrigues me.

A Silent Voice, Volume 4A Silent Voice, Volumes 4-6 by Yoshitoki Oima. One of the manga to debut last year that I found to be particularly notable was Oima’s A Silent Voice and it continues to be a series that greatly impresses me. It’s not necessarily an especially happy read, though. The manga realistically portrays teenage angst compounded by issues of disability and bullying and explores the accompanying relationships which are extraordinarily messy and complicated. Emotional and physical violence takes its toll not only on the people who are being directly targeted, but also on the people who surround them. For better and for worse, the characters are all trying to deal with the repercussions of their past mistakes as best as they can, and even those who come across as antagonistic generally have their own problems they are working through. Just how deep a wound bullying can leave and how it can literally change a person’s life is more fully expressed in these volumes, and frankly it’s devastating. Thankfully, there are still moments of hope and redemption so A Silent Voice, while very serious and at times emotionally wrenching, never seems to become overwhelmingly bleak, but sometimes it does get close.

After School Nightmare, Volume 9

After School Nightmare, Volume 9Creator: Setona Mizushiro
U.S. publisher: Go! Comi
ISBN: 9781933617701
Released: November 2008
Original release: 2007

After School Nightmare is a ten-volume manga series by Setona Mizushiro. Darkly psychological with elements of horror as well as social commentary, After School Nightmare can at times be a deeply troubling and challenging read while still being engrossing and oddly compelling. I first started reading the series several years ago, but have only recently been able to bring myself to read beyond the first few volumes of the manga, largely because I did find it so disconcerting and hard-hitting. Granted, the dark, anxiety-ridden atmosphere which makes the After School Nightmare so intimidating to approach is also what makes the story particularly effective and is an aspect to the manga that I can appreciate. After School Nightmare, Volume 9 was first published in Japan in 2007. The English-language edition of the volume was released in 2008 by Go! Comi. Sadly, the entire series has now gone out of print and is becoming more difficult to find.

One by one the students participating in the special after school class which forces them to share their literal nightmares with one another are graduating and disappearing, leaving only a vague memory of their existence behind. Though at times vicious and cruel, the dreams are intended to allow the students to work through their personal traumas, crises, and fears so that they can let go and move on from their troubled pasts. However, the violence and turmoil they experience within the dreams frequently spills over into their waking lives and graduating doesn’t necessarily guarantee a peaceful resolution. Koichiro in particular has reached his breaking point. He is ruthless in his determination to graduate and leave his overbearing and abusive father behind along with his carefully crafted public persona. Triggered by outside events, the nightmare Koichiro brings down upon the other students as he tries to free himself turns into a shockingly brutal and bloody rampage, signalling the beginning of the end for himself and for those who still remain.

After School Nightmare, Volume 9, page 29A few questions still remain, but for the most part Koichiro’s character arc is resolved in After School Nightmare, Volume 9. Like so many of the other characters’ stories, Koichiro’s is a tragic one and it is heartwrenching to see it play out. The culmination of his anger, pain, and suffering has a direct and devastating impact on the others, ending with a violent attack on Mashiro, the portrayal of which has blatant parallels to a sexual assault. Koichiro was at one point the most stable and seemingly well-adjusted character in the series, so to see such a drastic shift in his outward attitude and behavior is especially startling. He isn’t the only character to have significantly changed over the course of After School Nightmare, though. However, for some the process, while still being extraordinarily difficult, has ultimately been more positive. Just as the dreams have led Koichiro to abandon his self-restraint, they have also allowed Mashiro the freedom to begin to come to terms with his fluid gender identity and the fact that he may feel more comfortable as a girl. Compared to the beginning of the series, Mashiro has greatly matured.

After School Nightmare, Volume 9 has a fair number of major plot twists, surprising reveals, and crucial story developments, many of which call into question everything that has come before in the manga. Some of these things have been foreshadowed and are not entirely surprising but there is still some disorientation as they are revealed to be not quite what they initially seemed. Koichiro dominates the first few chapters of the ninth volume but from there the focus of the manga turns toward Sou as more of his backstory is explored. An explanation of a past that he has not entirely dealt with yet and that has been incredibly damaging both emotionally and psychologically is finally given. After School Nightmare was never a light series, but the ninth volume is a particularly heavy and dramatic one. Considering the very final scene which challenges many of the assumptions that I had made regarding the series, I am very curious to see where Mizushiro takes the story in the final volume. After School Nightmare has been a dark and twisting journey and I have no idea how it will end; I’m almost a little frightened to find out.

Manga Giveaway: Superhero Duo (Batmanga and Ultraman)

The end of the month once more draws near which means it’s once more time for a manga giveaway at Experiments in Manga! For this month’s giveaway you all have the chance to win not one, but two manga of the superheroic nature, a mix of the old and the new as well as the East and the West: Batmanga, Volume 1 by Jiro Kuwata from DC Comics and Ultraman, Volume 1 by Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi from Viz Media. And, as always, the giveaway is open worldwide, too!

Batmanga, Volume 1Ultraman, Volume 1

It’s a little strange: I would never really go out of my way to describe myself as a fan of superhero comics, nor is it a genre that I specifically seek out. And yet, when I do end up reading about superheroes, I often find that I enjoy myself. Over the last few years, manga featuring superheros seem to have become increasingly common in English, whether it’s a classic like Jiro Kuwata’s Batmanga inspired by American comics or a modern take on a well-established Japanese franchise like Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi’s Ultraman. Some superhero manga are fairly serious, but there have been quite a few with a comedic bent of late as well, such as One-Punch Man by One and Yusuke Murata and My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi. And I have to admit, I’ve enjoyed them all.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a duo of superhero manga?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little about one of your favorite manga featuring superheroes and why you like it. (If you don’t have a favorite, or haven’t read any superhero manga, simply mention that.)
2) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting, or retweeting, about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

And there you have it! Everyone participating in the giveaway can earn up to two entries and has one week to submit comments. If preferred or needed, entries can also be emailed to me directly at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. Those comments will then be posted here in your name. The winner of the giveaway will be randomly selected and announced on May 4, 2016. Good luck to you all!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address in the comment form, a link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced–Superhero Duo Winner

My Week in Manga: April 18-April 24, 2016

My News and Reviews

As I recently mentioned, for a while here I’ll be down to one review a week or so at Experiments in Manga. And so, last week’s review was of The Inugami Clan by Seishi Yokomizo, a popular Japanese murder mystery from the early 1950s that has sadly gone out of print in English. Currently, the novel is the only work by Yokomizo that has been translated, but I enjoyed it a great deal. It vaguely reminded me a bit of Edogawa Rampo’s work, which I don’t at all consider to be a bad thing.

Elsewhere online: YALSA’s 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teen was recently announced, which includes a fair number of manga, as were the 2016 Eisner Award Nominees. Forbes interviewed Yoshiki Tanaka, the author of The Legend of the Galactic Heroes (a series I hope to find time to actually read sooner rather than later). At du9, Adrian Tomine was interviewed about editing Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s manga for Drawn & Quarterly. And in licensing news, Dark Horse will be releasing Ontama’s Hatsune Miku: Mikubon.

Quick Takes

Forget Me Not, Volume 1Forget Me Not, Volume 1 written by Mag Hsu and illustrated by Nao Emoto. I knew very little about Forget Me Not before reading the first volume. In fact, I didn’t even recall that it had been licensed until the release was in my hands. Forget Me Not is about Yusuke Serizawa, a young man who seems to have terrible luck when it comes to romance, but it’s the sort of bad luck that he’s partly responsible for. The first volume alone features his attempts at three different relationships with three different loves that he had between middle school and high school. Most of them have their sweet moments, but there are also moments that Serizawa will intensely regret for years. He blames himself for the relationships ending in ruin, and in some cases rightly so. The reason that Forget Me Not focuses on Serizawa’s past and the women in it is that one of them recently helped to save his life after he was in a motorcycle accident. Except that he isn’t sure exactly who it is. He’d like to meet her, but he’s also certain that whoever it is he’s done her some great harm, which may explain why it seems like she’s toying with him by keeping her identity secret.

SnackiesSnackies by Nick Sumida. I had a fairly good idea that I would enjoy Snackies, but I don’t think I anticipated just how much I would end up enjoying it. Snackies is a slim volume containing short comics which are at least semi-autobiographically inspired. Many of the comics stand on their own or aren’t necessarily connected to one another, but others are part of short series which become increasingly ridiculous and bizarre, such as the set of comics in which Sumida spies fellow passengers on mass transit who initially seem attractive, but who then turn out to have a really bad haircut or just so happen to be an alien that would aesthetically belong in something like Parasyte. And then there are the comics that seem to come completely out of nowhere. Though at times fairly cynical, playing on the angst and self-deprecation of a young artist, Snackies is very funny. It also has a queer bent to it which I especially enjoyed and appreciated. Snackies doesn’t take long to read, but it gives enough of a taste that I hope to see more of Sumida’s work in the future.

Tramps Like Us, Volume 1Tramps Like Us, Volumes 1-5 by Yayoi Ogawa. I’ve been meaning to read Tramps Like Us for quite some time. It really is a shame that it took me so long to get around to it, because so far I’m absolutely loving the manga. Sumire is highly accomplished, attractive, and well-educated career woman, which unfortunately intimidates her fiancé who feels inadequate in comparison and leaves her for someone else. As a result, Sumire is determined to only date men who are paid more, are better educated, and are taller than she is. Around the same time, Sumire gains a “pet,” a homeless twenty-something ballet dancer that she takes in off of the street and calls Momo. Sumire’s peculiar but earnest relationship with Momo is marvelous. Though they have their disagreements and their communication isn’t always the best, both of them find great comfort in the other. He’s the only person she feels truly at ease with. But then Sumire is reunited with an old flame who she still loves and who happens to meet all of her dating requirements, but their relationship is strained. It’s a strange sort of set up and love-triangle, but all of the varied emotions are convincingly real.