Requiem of the Rose King, Volume 3

Requiem of the Rose King, Volume 3Creator: Aya Kanno
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421582597
Released: January 2016
Original release: 2015

Aya Kanno’s manga series Requiem of the Rose King has quickly become one of the releases that I most look forward to from one volume to the next. I’m not particularly surprised by this, though—I’ve enjoyed many of Kanno’s past works, and she has proven to be quite versatile when it comes to genre and style. In the case of Requiem of the Rose King, Kanno has taken direct inspiration from the historical plays of William Shakespeare, more specifically the Wars of the Roses cycle consisting of Henry VI and Richard III. Even if Kanno hadn’t been involved with the manga, this would have been more than enough to catch my attention. But Kanno is involved and she brings her own touches to the story, giving it a dark fantasy-tinged atmosphere in addition to exploring gender and identity in an interesting and engaging way. With all of that and more, I have been completely taken with Requiem of the Rose King, and so was glad when the third volume of the series, originally released in Japan in 2015, was published in English by Viz Media in 2016.

The battle has been won and the House of York reigns victorious, but the struggle for the English crown continues; the war is far from being over. The deposed King Henry seems content to wander the countryside, the weight of rulership lifted from his shoulders, but the rest of the Lancasters are plotting to return their family to power and reclaim the throne. The hold that the newly established King Edward has on the England is in more peril than he realizes. In addition to the threat that the Lancasters pose, there are others among the nobility who are againt the House of York’s usurption of the throne. The widowed Elizabeth Woodville is prepared to take advantage of Edward’s womanizing ways in order to bring about his and his family’s downfall; besotted with Elizabeth, he puts his own desires before the security of the kingdom, risking the loss of the support of France. His younger brother Richard is one of the few people to recognize the danger, but Richard isn’t yet in a position to avert the potentially calamitous outcome.

Requiem of the Rose King, Volume 3, page 68I continue to be fascinated by Kanno’s interpretation of Richard, a young man who has been irrevocably harmed by the the rejection and hatred of his mother who sees him and his body as imperfect and demonic. He has a difficult time connecting with people because of the anxiety surrounding his self-identity, an issue made even worse by the recent death of his father on the battlefield. Henry is a perfect foil for Richard and is in many ways his opposite, which throws Richard’s perception of himself and of the world into confusion. Richard has resigned himself to loneliness and darkness, even while Henry seeks his company. The two men spend a fair amount of time together in Requiem of the Rose King, Volume 3, neither of them knowing who the other truly is and that their families are enemies. Much as Edward and Elizabeth’s relationship may doom the kingdom, Richard and Henry’s awkward friendship can only result in tragedy with far-reaching consequences.

Personal strife is mixed with political turmoil in Requiem of the Rose King, each feeding into the other as events unfold. With multiple people expressing interest in obtaining the crown, whether in jest or in all seriousness, the social structures and relationships among the English nobility have become extraordinarily precarious during a time of tenuous peace. This underlying chaos is also reflected in how Kanno approaches the story of Requiem of the Rose King. Many times several scenes overlap with one another, tied together thematically rather than chronologically. Pasts, presents, and possible futures all intertwine and are simultaneous revealed. This can be somewhat disconcerting at first and at times challenging to follow, but I do like the overall effect and drama that it brings to the series, emphasizing the individual characters’ experiences as memories, reality, and visions merge together. Requiem of the Rose King has an almost dreamlike quality to it and I find that I fall more deeply under its thrall with each passing volume.

My Week in Manga: February 1-February 7, 2016

My News and Reviews

I posted a few different things at Experiments in Manga last week. For starters, the Love at Fourteen Giveaway Winner was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English which feature a bit of romance. Last week I also reviewed Tokyo Decadence: 15 Stories by Ryu Murakami which in some ways is about love, or at least lust. Due to be published later this year, the collection is engaging but definitely not for everyone as some of the stories are quite disturbing. Over the weekend January’s Bookshelf Overload was posted for those of you curious about what made it onto my shelves last month. I also had a taiko gig over the weekend that took up a fair amount of time. As a result of that and other some other life stress, I’ve fallen a bit behind on my writing (just when I thought I’d finally gotten ahead!), so there’ll likely only be one review coming this week instead of the two that were originally planned.

Quick Takes

Orange, Omnibus 1Orange, Omnibus 1 by Ichigo Takano. I had heard very good things about Orange and so was greatly looking forward to reading the manga, but I honestly didn’t anticipate that the series might become one of my favorite releases of the year. (It all depends on exactly how the story plays out in the second and final omnibus.) Orange sensitively deals with some fairly heavy subject matter, including suicide and crippling regret, but at the same time the manga also has a lighter sweetness to it. The manga is both heartwrenching and heartwarming, a melancholic story about close relationships and human connection. Admittedly, Naho is incredibly dense when it comes to recognizing other people’s feelings for her, even when they basically come right out and tell her, which can be a bit exasperating. But overall, the feelings and emotions in Orange ring true, especially as the series progresses and it’s revealed just why everyone is behaving in the ways that they are. I can see Orange ending either in tragedy or in happiness and I’m very curious to see which it will be.

Prison School, Omnibus 2Prison School, Omnibus 2 by Akira Hiramoto. The first omnibus of Prison School established the manga as a series that is simultaneously appalling and strangely engaging. This of course assumes that readers aren’t immediately offended by its highly sexualized and incredibly vulgar nature to begin with. Prison School is definitely not a series for everyone even if, surprisingly, it has its sweet moments. The second omnibus very much continues in the same vein, so the initial shock caused by the manga’s obscenity, over-the-top fanservice, and ridiculous premise has diminished some. Even so, Prison School is a page-turner. The series has been building up to Kiyoshi’s escape attempt, resulting in a situation that gets progressively worse as time goes by. Seeing just how bad things can possibly get (which is pretty bad) is one of Prison School‘s major draws. That and Hiramoto’s impressive skills as an artist. The manga’s content will certainly not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s hard to deny Hiramoto’s talent.

SuperMutant Magic AcademySuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki. Originally a webcomic, the best of SuperMutant Magic Academy has now been collected into a single volume along with newly-created content. I hadn’t actually read any of the comic while it was being released online, but I was obviously missing out—SuperMutant Magic Academy is great stuff. The comic takes place in a high school where students study magic and learn to control their superpowers (sort of an odd mix between Harry Potter and X-Men that bizarrely works), all while dealing with the more normal sorts of teenage angst and anxiety. Except for the series’ lengthy finale, created specifically for the collected volume, most of SuperMutant Magic Academy consists of single-page, and in some cases single-panel, gag comics.There’s no real overarching plot, but there are recurring characters and running jokes. Some of the social commentary can be fairly biting, but SuperMutant Magic Academy is very funny, frequently absurd, and wholly enjoyable.

Bookshelf Overload: January 2016

Another month has passed and my manga collection continues to grow and evolve. The nice thing about December and January is that I usually end up with at least a few gift cards (and gifts), so I can splurge a bit even though I’m actively reducing the number of manga and books I’m buying at the moment. There are a few things that I definitely didn’t want to miss out on though, such as  Requiem of the Rose King, Volume 3 by Aya Kanno (review to come soon!) and Orange, Omnibus 1 by Ichigo Takano, which at the moment is a strong candidate for becoming one of my favorite series of the year. Also released in January, though I’m not sure when I’ll be able to actually get around to reading it, was Casey Brienza’s Manga in America: Transnational Book Publishing and the Domestication of Japanese Comics, one of the very few works about the North American manga industry. I also managed to snag an early copy of Tokyo Decadence, a “best of” collection of short stories by Ryu Murakami due to be released in March. (I recently posted my review of the volume which, though engaging, definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste.) Also arriving in January, though technically I believe it was released in December, was one of Chromatic Press’ most recent paperbacks, KaiJu’s delightful Mahou Josei Chimaka . (Unsurprisingly, I reviewed that one, too!)

Manga!

Aldnoah.Zero: Season One, Volume 1 by Olympus Knights
Brave Dan by Osamu Tezuka
Clockwork Apple by Osamu Tezuka
Even So, I Will Love You Tenderly by Kou Yoneda
A Girl on the Shore by Inio Asano
Kamisama Kiss, Volumes 2-4 by Julietta Suzuki
Kaze Hikaru, Volumes 8-11 by Taeko Watanabe
My Love Story!!, Volume 7 written by Kazune Kawahara, illustrated by Aruko
Natsume’s Book of Friends, Volumes 4-8 by Yuki Midorikawa
Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, Volume 1 written by HaccaWorks*, illustrated by Nanao
Orange, Omnibus 1 by Ichigo Takano
Requiem of the Rose King, Volume 3 by Aya Kanno
The Tyrant Falls In Love, Volume 9 by Hinako Takanaga

Comics!
Bug Boys, Volume 1: Welcome to Bug Village by Laura Knetzger
Mahou Josei Chimaka by KaiJu
Shades After by T. A. Kimpton
The Tipping Point edited by Various

Anthologies!
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Anthologies!
Biogenesis by Tatsuaki Ishiguro
Tokyo Decadence: 15 Stories by Ryu Murakami

Nonfiction!
Manga in America by Casey Brienza
Sake Confidential by John Gauntner

Anime!
Ouran High School Host Club directed by Takuya Igarashi

Tokyo Decadence: 15 Stories

Tokyo Decadence: 15 StoriesAuthor: Ryu Murakami
Translator: Ralph McCarthy
U.S. publisher: Kurodahan Press
ISBN: 9784902075786
Released: March 2016
Original release: 1986-2003

Ryu Murakami is a fairly prolific and multi-talented creator. In addition to being an author, he is also a filmmaker and has been involved in the music industry as well. Several of Murakami’s novels have been translated into English, many of them by Ralph McCarthy, including Audition and Popular Hits of the Showa Era which were my introduction to Murakami’s work. McCarthy is also responsible for compiling and translating Tokyo Decadence: 15 Stories, a sort of best-of collection bringing together fifteen of Murakami’s short stories originally published in Japan between 1986 and 2003. Nine of the stories had previously been translated and released in a variety of different periodicals, but the translations have been revised for their inclusion in Tokyo Decadence. The remaining six are being published in English for the first time. Published by Kurodahan Press in 2016, I was fortunate enough to be selected to receive an advanced copy through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.

The fifteen stories included in Tokyo Decadence are selected from five of Murakami’s short story collections and are presented chronologically. “Whenever I Sit At a Bar Drinking Like This,” “I Am a Novelist,” “It All Started Just About a Year and a Half Ago,” and “Each Time I read Your Confession” are from Run, Takahashi! and are all at least tangentially related to the baseball player Takahashi Yoshihiko. (It was this collection that seems to have ignited McCarthy’s passion for Murakami’s work.) The stories from Topaz—”Topaz,” “Lullaby,” and “Penlight”—are about call girls while the stories from Ryumiko’s Cinematheque—”The Last Picture Show,” “The Wild Animals” and “La Dolce Vita”—would appear to be at least semi-autobiographical. “Swans,” “Historia de un Amor.” “Se Fué,” and “All of Me” are taken from Swan, and most have something to do with Cuban dance and music and even share a few characters. Tokyo Decadence closes with the titular story from the collection At the Airport.

Having previously read some of Murakami’s work, I was rightfully prepared for Tokyo Decadence to be engaging while revealing a viciously dark sense of humor and dealing in gut-churning blood and gore. What I didn’t expect was that some of the stories, or at least parts of those stories, would be legitimately charming, compelling, and even occasionally heartwarming. Among the tales of gruesome murder, insanity, lust, obsession, and a myriad types of abuse are moments of love and humanity. That being said, Tokyo Decadence is very much a graphic and explicit collection of mature short stories, often disturbing and dark with very few characters who are anything but self-absorbed or self-indulgent. The stories are well-written, but the warped depravity and intensely twisted psychology exhibited will certainly not be to every reader’s taste and will likely offend or be found off-putting by many.

Surprisingly, Tokyo Decadence starts in a fairly lighthearted vein before delving into its more devastating and grotesque aspects. The portrayals of the various characters in the collection aren’t particularly flattering. Many of them are rather disturbed individuals, making Murakami’s use of first-person narration especially discomfiting. Interestingly, quite a few of the stories are actually seen from a woman’s perspective. This of course doesn’t soften the seedier nature of Tokyo Decadence which is quite frank in its exploration of sex and violence, the two subjects often closely intertwined with each other. Although some of the stories arguably lose some of their impact out of context from their original collections, overall I found Tokyo Decadence to be an interesting, engaging, and varied anthology; I would be very curious to read more of Murakami’s short fiction in translation.

Thank you Kurodahan Press for providing a copy of Tokyo Decadence for review.

Manga Giveaway: Love at Fourteen Giveaway Winner

Love at Fourteen, Volume 1And the winner of the Love at Fourteen Giveaway is… wandering-dreamer!

As the winner, wandering-dreamer (whose writing I happen to follow at both Narrative Investigations and TheOASG) will be receiving a copy of Fuka Mizutani’s Love at Fourteen, Volume 1 as published in English by Yen Press. Love at Fourteen features a sweet story of first love, so for this giveaway I asked participants to tell me a little about some of their favorite romantic manga. Be sure to check out the giveaway comments for the detailed responses!

Some favorite manga love stories released in English:
Apothecarius Argentum by Tomomi Yamashita
Black-Winged Love by Tomoko Yamashita
A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori
Emma by Kaoru Mori
Hide & Seek by Yaya Sakuragi
Horimiya written by HERO, illustrated by Daisuke Hagiwara
Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances by Masami Tsuda
Kamisama Kiss by Julietta Suzuki
Love at Fourteen by Fuka Mizutani
My Love Story written by Kazune Kawahara, illustrated by Aruko
Nana by Ai Yazawa
Orange by Ichigo Takano
Sand Chronicles Hinako Ashihara
Strobe Edge by Io Sakisaka
Tramps Like Us by Yayoi Ogawa

So, if you’re looking for something a little romantic to read, the above manga may give you a good place to start. Thank you to everyone who shared your favorites with me; I hope to see you all around again for the next giveaway!