My Week in Manga: June 29-July 5, 2015

My News and Reviews

Once again, I was actually away for most of the week last week. The taiko ensemble I that primarily play with had a series of performances, a mini taiko tour of sorts, so I was traveling. We had a great time; I only wish I that could make my living in music! (Who knows, maybe in the future I’ll be able to make it work. You know, once the mountain of student loans has been paid back.) Although I fell behind in my reading and writing, I did have a few things in queue to post at Experiments in Manga. First, the Assassination Classroom Giveaway Winner was announced. The post also includes a list of manga available in English that feature teachers. I’m a couple of volumes behind in my reviews for the series, but the honor of the first in-depth manga review for July goes to Fumi Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 7. Kenji finally has the chance to meet Shiro’s parents and it’s great. Finally, over the weekend, I posted June’s Bookshelf Overload. Most notably, I found an entire set of the tragically out-of-print Banana Fish that I didn’t have to trade a kidney to obtain!

Because I was away from the Internet for so many days, I didn’t really stumble across any articles that I found particularly interesting. However, Anime Expo was held last week, and there were a ton of licensing announcements. (Manga Bookshelf cohort Sean has a nice roundup.) Kodansha has Akiko Higashimura’s Princess Jellyfish (I’m thrilled!), Shizumu Watanabe and Okushō’s Real Account, and Hoshino Taguchi’s Magatsuki. Haikasoru has the first three novels of Yoshiki Tanaka’s Legend of the Galactic Heroes (hooray!), and Sentai licensed the anime series. Shojo Beat picked up Matsuri Hino’s Shuriken and Pleats and Bisco Hatori’s Behind the Scenes. Seven Seas licensed Angel Beats!: Heaven’s Door. Tokyopop returns to manga publishing in 2016, but no specific titles have yet been mentioned. Vertical will be releasing Keiichi Arawi’s Nichijō, and Kanata Konami’s FukuFuku: Kitten Tales among other things. Yen Press announced a slew of manga and light novel acquisitions, too, including the mahjong manga Saki! (Sadly, it’s currently only a digital release.) I’m sure I’ve missed something, so please let me know what exciting news or reading I should be aware of!

Quick Takes

The Ancient Magus' Bride, Volume 1The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Volume 1 by Kore Yamazaki. Apparently, The Ancient Magus’ Bride started as a one-shot doujin before catching the eye of an editor. It’s a curious and atmospheric manga, mostly set in current-day England, albeit it’s a world in which magic and alchemy take their place alongside science. Although magic use seems to be fading away, fae are still very real and a few humans show rare talent for the craft. Chise is one of those humans. Sold into slavery, she is purchased and perhaps rescued by a Elias, a powerful mage who wants her to become his apprentice. He also mentions something about Chise becoming his bride, too, though she can’t quite tell if he’s being serious or not. Granted, it’s a little difficult to read a person with an animal skull for a head. Yokai exist in The Ancient Magus’ Bride as well (they can be seen in the background of some of Chise’s memories), but so far it appears as though the manga will be focusing on Europe’s fantastical and legendary creatures. I enjoyed the first volume of The Anceint Magus’ Bride a great deal and look forward to reading more of the series.

An Entity Observes All ThingsAn Entity Observes All Things by Box Brown. I was already curious about An Entity Observes All Things, but after briefly meeting Brown at TCAF I knew that I wanted to read it. The volume includes nine of Brown’s short, alternative comics, three of which were previously published elsewhere while I believe the other six are new for the collection. Though for the most part the comics are unrelated to each other—they don’t really share characters, plots, or settings and even their color palettes are different—in general, the short works fall into the category of science fiction and deal with themes of exploration, specifically of the world and of the self. They all tend to be fairly quirky, too, and can often be rather humorous without necessarily being comedies. I enjoyed An Entity Observes All Things quite a bit. As with most collections, some of the individual comics worked for me more than others, but overall I found the selections to be engaging. Sometimes funny and sometimes sad, the comics are all somewhat strange, and that’s something that I particularly appreciate about An Entity Observes All Things.

Man of Many Faces, Volume 1Man of Many Faces, Volumes 1-2 by CLAMP. I largely enjoy manga by CLAMP, but if I’m going to be honest, I was primarily interested in Man of Many Faces due to its loose connection to the works of Edogawa Rampo. For the most part, the Rampo references are limited to the characters’ names and roles. There’s the titular “Twenty Faces,” a skilled thief in both Rampo and CLAMP’s creations, a young man by the name of Kobayashi who chases after him, and even Akechi-sensei, although he’s a school doctor rather than a detective in the manga. Man of Many Faces is one of CLAMP’s earliest professional works and it is very, very silly, the more absurd elements being lampshaded and intentionally left unexplained. However, the manga ends up being rather sweet and charming, too. Twenty Faces is a third grader who has taken on the role of the gentleman thief in the absence of his father. Akira steals things according to the whims of his two eccentric mothers in addition to doing all of the cooking and housework. Although the story at first focuses on the various heists, ultimately Man of Many Faces is about romantic love.

Bookshelf Overload: June 2015

After the ridiculousness that was May, I was able to rein in my purchases somewhat for June. Somewhat. There were a few releases that I was particularly looking forward to, like Fragments of Horror, a new collection of short horror manga by Junji Ito, Taiyo Fujii’s debut novel Gene Mapper, which I recently reviewed, and Ping Pong: The Animation. And I’m happy to see Netcomics continue to release new series, such as Hyekyung Baek’s Chiro: The Star Project and Seyoung Kim’s Sweet Blood. But what I was really excited about in June was the fact that I was able to find a complete set of Akimi Yoshida’s Banana Fish for less than some of the individual volumes are going for these days. I’ve been wanting to reread the series, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to track down. Another out-of-print find was Shiho Inada’s Ghost Hunt, a manga based on a light novel series Fuyumi Ono who, among other things, is the creator of The Twelve Kingdoms, which I love.

Manga!
Ajin: Demi-Human, Volume 5 by Gamon Sakurai
Banana Fish, Volumes 1-19 by Akimi Yoshida
Duck Prince, Volumes 1-3 by Ai Morinaga
Eden, Volume 1 by Bash
Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito
Ghost Hunt, Volumes 1-11 by Shiho Inada
Master Keaton, Volume 3 written by Hokusei Katsushika, Takashi Nagasaki, illustrated by Naoki Urasawa
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Volume 10: Solomon by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
New Lone Wolf and Cub, Volume 5 written by Kazuo Koike, illustrated by Hideki Mori
Nyotai-ka!, Volume 4 by Ru-en Rouga
Passion, Volumes 2-3 written by Shinobu Goto, illustrated by Shoko Takaku
Servamp, Volume 2 by Strike Tanaka
Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 1 by Sui Ishida
Twittering Birds Never Fly, Volume 2 by Kou Yoneda
La Vie en Rose by Sakurako Yamada
Ze, Volume 10 by Yuki Shimizu
Zipang, Volumes 1-2 by Kaiji Kawaguchi

Manhwa!
Chiro: The Star Project, Volume 1 by Hyekyung Baek
Sweet Blood, Volume 1 by Seyoung Kim

Comics!
Bessatsu Rose Tear by Nozmo and Saicoink
Curvy, Volume 1 by M. Magdalene
Demon, Issues 1-14 by Jason Shiga
The Hues, Volume 1: Spectrum by Alex Heberling
In These Words, Chpater 13 by Guilt|Pleasure
Last Man, Volume 2: The Royal Cup by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville, and Balak
Shirtlifter #5 edited by Steve MacIsaac
The Usagi Yojimbo Saga, Omnibus 3 by Stan Sakai

Light Novels!
Attack on Titan: Kuklo Unbound by Ryo Suzukaze
The Doll by Guilt|Pleasure
Passion: Forbidden Lovers by Shinobu Gotoh

Novels!
Gene Mapper by Taiyo Fujii
The Sign of the Chrysanthemum by Katherine Paterson

Anthologies!
Drawn & Quarterly: Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels edited by Tom Devlin
A String of Flowers, Untied… : Love Poems from the Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
The Voice and Other Stories by Seicho Matsumoto

Nonfiction!
Tales from the Western Generation: Untold Stories and Firsthand History from Karate’s Golden Age by Matthew Apsokardu
A Year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson

Anime!
Ping Pong: The Animation directed by Masaaki Yuasa

Film!
The Mystery of Rampo directed by Rintaro Mayuzumi and Kazuyoshi Okuyama
Rampo Noir directed by Akio Jissoji, Atsushi Kaneko, Hisayasu Satō, Suguru Takeuchi

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 7

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 7Creator: Fumi Yoshinaga
U.S. publisher: Vertical
ISBN: 9781941220221
Released: March 2015
Original release: 2012

What Did You Eat Yesterday? incorporates so many things that I love—the work of Fumi Yoshinaga, food, queer life, and so on—that it’s really not too much of a surprise that I enjoy the manga series. Yoshinaga has had many of her manga released in English. I have always been particularly impressed by the subtle complexities of her characterizations. Her skill at writing people is especially important for a series like What Did You Eat Yesterday? in which a tremendous amount of focus is given to the characters themselves rather than to an intricate, overarching plot, at least when the manga’s not focusing on food. The characters in What Did You Eat Yesterday?, likeable or not, are all very realistically portrayed, which is one of the things that I appreciate most about the series. What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 7 was originally published in Japan in 2012. The English-language edition, released by Vertical, was published in 2015.

Shiro and Kenji have been living together for years, but it’s only recently that Shiro has managed to get up the courage to actually introduce his long-term boyfriend to his parents. It’s a momentous albeit awkward occasion, but Kenji at least is thrilled by the prospect. Shiro’s family has known he was gay for quite some time, however they are still coming to terms with exactly what that means. Happily, sharing a good meal can go a long way to help acceptance and understanding grow. Food has helped to improve and stabilize Kenji and Shiro’s relationship as well—Shiro enjoys cooking and Kenji is usually more than happy to accommodate his boyfriend, not to mention eat the fruits of his efforts—which is why when work interferes with their dinner dates at home it’s particularly vexing. The salon that Kenji works at is undergoing renovations and staffing changes while the law office where Shiro is employed is inundated with bankruptcy cases. Both men have been very busy of late, but they are still ready to support each other both inside the kitchen and outside of it.

What Did You Eat Yesterday, Volume 7, page 24Food, and the preparation and consumption of said food, is a major component of What Did You Eat Yesterday?. A majority of the seventh volume, if not the entire series, is spent either cooking in a kitchen or eating around a table. While other aspects of Yoshinaga’s artwork are rather simple, she puts a tremendous amount of detail into the various dishes that are featured in the manga—the food in What Did You Eat Yesterday? is beautifully illustrated. The recipes in the series tend to be fairly detailed as well. It is entirely possible for an experienced cook to successfully recreate many of the courses. I’ve even been tempted to try a few myself. (The tea sorbet from the seventh volume sounds especially appealing to me.) Occasionally, the focus on food in What Did You Eat Yesterday? can get in the way of the stories being told, but sometimes it’s expertly integrated.

As much as I enjoy all of the food and eating What Did You Eat Yesterday? (and I certainly do), what really makes the series work for me are its characters and the realistic portrayal of their lives. I have come to love and care for the characters in the series a great deal in spite of, or maybe because of, their very human flaws. They all come across as real people with both good traits and bad. I enjoy seeing their relationships evolve and change, and I enjoy seeing them continue to grow as people well into their adulthood. The individual chapters of What Did You Eat Yesterday? provide small snapshots of the characters’ everyday lives. Sometimes the events shown are fairly ordinary or mundane, such as grocery shopping followed by a quick stop at a cafe, while others are more momentous, like meeting the parents of an established partner for the first time. But even the seemingly small and quiet moments in What Did You Eat Yesterday? are important, carrying signficant meaning and impact, and showing just how skilled a writer Yoshinaga can be.

Manga Giveaway: Assassination Classroom Giveaway Winner

Assassination Classroom, Volume 1And the winner of the Assassination Classroom manga giveaway is… wandering-dreamer!

As the winner, wandering-dreamer (whose review blog Narrative Investigations I happen to really enjoy) will be receiving Assassination Classroom, Volume 1 by Yusei Matsui as published by Viz Media. Since Assassination Classroom features a rather unusual teacher, I was curious to hear about some of the other great teachers that other people have encountered while reading manga. Be sure to check out the giveaway comments for everyone’s detailed responses!

Some of the manga available in English featuring teachers:
Anything and Something by Kaoru Mori
Aqua by Kozue Amano
Aria by Kozue Amano
Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui
Blue Exorcist by Kazue Kato
Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP
Dr. Slump by Akira Toriyama
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
Future Lovers by Saika Kunieda
GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka by Toru Fujisawa
GTO: 14 Days in Shonan by Toru Fujisawa
Hana-Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo
Hikaru no Go written by Yumi Hotta, illustrated by Takeshi Obata
Kobato by CLAMP
Moon and Sandals by Fumi Yoshinaga
Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto
Negima! by Ken Akamatsu
Oresama Teacher by Izumi Tsubaki
The Royal Tutor by Higasa Akai
S.S. Astro: Asashio Sogo Teachers’ Room by Negi Banno
Sunshine Sketch by Ume Aoki
Ultras by est em

There are some really great teachers included in the manga listed above, but I’m sure that there are plenty more. Thank you to everybody who participated in the giveaway and shared your personal favorites with me. I hope to see you again for the next giveaway!

My Week in Manga: June 22-June 28, 2015

My News and Reviews

Last week, the most recent manga giveaway at Experiments in Manga was posted. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there are still a couple of days left to enter for a chance to win the first volume of Assassination Classroom. All you have to do is tell me about your favorite teacher from a manga. I also posted two reviews last week. The first review was of Yaya Sakuragi’s boys’ love manga Hide and Seek, Volume 2. The series continues to be one of her strongest; I’m really enjoying it. The second review was of Taiyo Fujii’s novel Gene Mapper, the most recent release from the Haikasoru. Gene Mapper is a great example of realistic near future science featuring thought-provoking information and bio-technologies.

Organization Anti-Social Geniuses has been posting some great manga-related content recently, including a conversation with manga translator Amanda Haley about Book Walker and the translation field. A new manga feature at OASG was announced for the summer as well: Shoujo You Should Know, the first column focusing on CLAMP’s short series Wish. And speaking of shoujo manga, Shojo Beat is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Among other thing, the imprint is posting brief interviews with some of its creators. First up was Maki Minami followed by Yun Kouga. Over at Things We Lost at Dusk, Alicia posted and interesting essay about gender, identity, and language, specifically in regards to Moto Hagio’s manga They Were Eleven.

Last but not least, I would like to draw everyone’s attention to Chromatic Press’ Kickstarter project to help support and fund Sparkler Monthly‘s third year. I am a huge fan of Sparkler Monthly and everything else that Chromatic Press is doing. (Experiments in Manga’s Chromatic Press tag is filled with my love, reviews, and features.) The content, creators, and everyone else involved are all fantastic. So, please check out Sparkler Monthly. Most of the comics, prose, and audio, is currently available for free online. And if you like what you see, please consider pledging to the Sparkler Monthly Kickstarter project if you can. Every little bit helps. The work being done at Chromatic Press is spectacular; I sincerely hope that Sparkler Monthly and the publisher’s other efforts are able to continue.

Quick Takes

Awkward Silence, Volume 4Awkward Silence, Volume 4 by Hinako Takanaga. Some of the very first boys’ love manga that I ever read we’re by Takanaga. I soon began counting her among my favorite creators working in the genre and so was quite pleased when Sublime licensed Awkward Silence. The fourth volume in the series was actually released in English quite a while ago, but I only recently realized that I hadn’t actually read it yet, probably because Awkward Silence isn’t particularly memorable. It’s not a bad manga, and there are plenty of things that I like about it—Takanaga’s artwork is great, for one, as are some of the characters—but overall, Awkward Silence somehow manages to come across as generic. For the most part it’s enjoyable and sometimes even sweet, but the series just doesn’t stand out. Initially, I was under the impression that the fourth volume was the end, but apparently it’s an ongoing series. Being something of a Takanaga completist I’ll likely read any subsequent volumes, but otherwise I don’t know that I would feel compelled to seek the series out.

Just So HappensJust So Happens by Fumio Obata. Originally published in the United Kingdom in 2014, Just So Happens was recently released in North America. Yumiko is a designer who left Japan to study and work in London. From time to time she returns to Japan to visit her family, but she is largely satisfied with her life in England. But Yumiko’s most recent trip to Japan is different. Her father unexpectedly died in a mountain climbing accident and she wants and needs to be there for his funeral. In part drawing inspiration from the imagery and symbolism of Noh theater, Just So Happens is a beautiful and subtle work about family, grief, identity, and coming to terms with past decisions. Obata’s watercolor illustrations are absolutely lovely and very effective in conveying the work’s quiet, introspective atmosphere. The story itself is fairly simple and is emotionally resonant without being overly dramatic. Much like Yumiko, Obata is himself a Japanese artist who has made England his home, so while the graphic novel isn’t necessarily autobiographical, Just So Happens still feels very personal.

Servamp, Volume 1Servamp, Volumes 1-2 by Strike Tanaka. From my admittedly limited exposure, my impression of manga originating from Comic Gene is that they tend to have a lot of style without necessarily making a lot of sense. So far, that seems to be the case with Servamp as well. The first two volumes are entertaining, even enjoyable, but I’d be hard pressed to actually explain everything that is going on in the manga. Granted, Mahiru, the series protagonist, doesn’t really know what’s going on either, and the characters who do aren’t being particularly forthcoming. Mahiru likes to keep things simple, which basically means that he ends up doing up anything and everything himself rather than involving other people. And so he’s more or less taken on the responsibility of saving the world, or at least saving humans from the vampires who would kill them all. Mahiru does have some help though, namely an exceptionally lazy but supposedly extremely powerful vampire known as Sleepy Ash, as well as a few other allies. Though it has yet to be seen just how far those allies can really be trusted.

Ubel Blatt, Omnibus 1Übel Blatt, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 2-3) by Etorouji Shiono. Although there was a fair amount that bothered me about the initial omnibus of Übel Blatt, the series still showed some potential and I was curious to see where it might go. I am happy to be able to say that the most recent omnibus is an improvement. There’s still gratuitous nudity and sexual content, but it doesn’t seem nearly as out-of-place as it was at the beginning of the series. The fact that many of women are dressed in ridiculously revealing and impractical clothing is even lampshaded at one point when Peepi celebrates the fact that she gets to wear “normal clothes.” In general, the female characters actually are treated a little better and are slightly more developed as individuals in Übel Blatt, Omnibus 1, but sadly not to the extent that I really want to see. To be fair, though, most of the characters seem to lack depth. The action sequences and artwork remain fairly strong, and I do largely like the lead, but for the most part Übel Blatt just isn’t connecting with me. This does surprise me somewhat as I usually really enjoy dark fantasy and tales of revenge.