Manga Giveaway: Sweetness & Lightning Giveaway

It’s the last Wednesday in October, so it’s yet again time for another monthly giveaway at Experiments in Manga! This time you’ll all have the chance to win both the first and second volumes of Gido Amagakure’s food and family manga Sweetness & Lightning as released in English by Kodansha Comics. Why two volumes? Mostly because I feel like it! And also because I ended up with extra copies of both. But I also wanted to share the cuteness and food. Anyway, as always, this month’s giveaway is open worldwide!

Sweetness & Lightning, Volume 1Sweetness & Lightning, Volume 2

It’s not really a secret that I enjoy food manga and will basically give any series a try if food is somehow prominently featured. That’s what initially drew me to Amagakure’s Sweetness & Lightning, but what I find particularly endearing about the series is the loving father-daughter relationship that it portrays. (Kōhei Inuzuka is great, and his daughter is pretty darn adorable.) Maybe it’s because I’ve become a parent relatively recently myself (okay… it’s been two years now), but I find parent-child relationships in manga to be particularly interesting, especially when they are a core element to the story being told. And that’s certainly the case with Sweetness & Lightning. While it’s still early on in the manga’s English-language release, so far I find the mix of food and family in Sweetness & Lightning to be immensely appealing.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win the first two volumes of Sweetness & Lightning?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little about your favorite dad or father figure from manga. (Don’t have a favorite? Simply mention that instead.)
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).

Not too difficult, right? Everyone can earn up to two entries each and has one week to submit comments for the giveaway. If the comment form gives you trouble, or if you prefer, responses can also be submitted directly to phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. The comments will then be posted here in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on November 2, 2016. Best of 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.


My Week in Manga: October 17-October 23, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week was yet another week during which I wasn’t online much, though this time it was because I was on a short family vacation in Ohio to visit my folks. I did however still manage to post my review of the absolutely wonderful children’s book Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko. The book, fully illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri, combines a biographical narrative of Kaneko’s work and life written by David Jacobson along with a selection of Kaneko’s poems presented in both the original Japanese and in English translation. Are You an Echo? is a beautiful book that adults will be able to appreciate, too; I wasn’t previously familiar with Kaneko’s poetry and am incredibly glad to have been introduced to it.

Although I was busy with family last week, a few things did catch my eye online: Vertical’s Fall 2016 manga licensing survey is now live for those interested in suggesting titles that they’d like to see the company publish in English; The Mystery Writers of Japan have released a very useful website in English which includes great information such as an outline of the group’s history and a list of recent English translations of the members’ works; As for cool queer comics Kickstarters, there is a newly launched campaign to collect Tab Kimpton’s delightful Minority Monsters comics in a single volume along with additional bonus content.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail, Volume 55Fairy Tail, Volume 55 by Hiro Mashima. With all of the recent developments in Fairy Tail it seems like the series might in fact be reaching its final story arcs. Granted, Mashima could just as easily stretch things out for quite a bit longer as he has repeatedly done in the past. Often Fairy Tail feels rather directionless to me, as though the creator is making things up as he goes (which he has admitted to) or isn’t sure exactly what he wants to do with the series. That being said, when Mashima actually manages to bring together disparate storylines and plot developments together in a way that makes sense and seems planned from the beginning (even if it actually wasn’t) the results can be thrilling. The fifty-fifth volume of Fairy Tail opens with one of the biggest game-changing reveals in the series as Natsu and Zeref face each other down. It’s a dramatic encounter and works tremendously well. Sadly, the rest of the volume isn’t quite as strong as its opening and many of the other plot twists and backstories feel forced at best. Still, this most recent story arc is probably my favorite out of those that I’ve so far read. (I started reading Fairy Tail part way through, so there are several arcs that I’ve missed.) I especially appreciate how it gives the tournament arc, which grew increasingly tedious, a greater purpose in the series as a whole. The action sequences and battles continue to be an exciting part of the manga as well, and there are plenty of those to be found in this volume.

intense1Intense, Volume 1: Night on the Red Road by Kyungha Yi. I’ve deliberately been keeping a lookout for new print releases from Netcomics, but even if I wasn’t Yi’s Intense would have caught my attention. The series’ cover artwork is stunning and the manhwa’s production values and quality is some of the best that I’ve seen from Netcomics. Intense was originally released in six digital volumes, but the print edition has been collected into four. The interior artwork, though it’s not in color, is just as beautiful, striking, and moody as Yi’s cover illustrations. The story is likewise very moody and at times can be extremely dark and violent. The series follows Jiwoon, an assassin and bodyguard for a crime syndicate who has been temporarily assigned to a red-light district. There he encounters and is drawn to the mysterious Soohan who works there as a sort of handyman. With their melancholic, slightly detached personalities, it seems as though the two young men likely share a fair amount in common, so much so that the tragic backstory revealed in the flashbacks interspersed throughout the first volume could easily belong to either of them. If nothing else, Intense is certainly well named. The manhwa is heavy and intense both emotionally and psychologically, moreso than many other boys’ love stories I’ve read. I definitely plan on reading the rest of the series and I’m very curious to see how the relationship between Jiwoon and Soohan develops.

Paradise Residence, Volume 3Paradise Residence, Volume 3 by Kosuke Fujishima. Admittedly, it has been quite some time since I’ve read the first two volumes of Paradise Residence, but I really don’t remember the characters being especially infatuated with motorbikes and motorcycles which is something that is quite prominent in the third and final volume. Maybe I just completely missed it before and that’s why it seemed to suddenly come out of nowhere, but the resulting story is nice. However, it’s another sudden development that becomes the dramatic focus of the rest of the volume–due to some unfortunate circumstances, the dorm is scheduled for demolition rather than renovation and the young women living there must do all that they can to save their beloved home. They come up with a rather creative solution to their problem that, while it strains believability, is impressively audacious and clever. Paradise Residence is a series that I enjoyed much more than I thought or expected I would. It doesn’t really have a lot of substance or depth to it, but it’s a pleasant slice-of-life manga set in an all-girls high school. Though not particularly nuanced, most of the characters are generally likeable. Even with the occasional bit of drama, Paradise Residence tends to be a fairly quiet and low-key series. The artwork is attractive, too, although Fujishima seems fond of drawing characters with one eye closed; I’m not sure if they’re supposed to be winking or what.

Spoof on Titan, Volume 1Spoof on Titan, Volume 1 by Hounori. In general the manga spinoffs of Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan depend on readers having at least some familiarity with the original series, although to varying degrees. Spoof on Titan perhaps requires a little more than many of the others as the humor relies heavily on knowledge of the characters and their personalities. Unlike Attack on Titan: Junior High, the other Attack on Titan comedy series, Spoof on Titan is firmly set in the world of the original manga. Granted, it’s a much more friendly version of that world–the Titans, though mentioned frequently, barely make an appearance and the death, destruction, and violence has been greatly toned down. The gore and darkness of Attack on Titan aren’t really to be found in Spoof on Titan. Hounori’s illustrations and character redesigns are pretty cute, too. Spoof on Titan is a four-panel comedy manga which is a format that I tend to really like when it’s done well, but the comics in Spoof on Titan tended to be fairly hit-or-miss for me. Some of them legitimately made me laugh while I barely cracked a smile at others. Overall, though, I am largely enjoying the series and find it amusing. I’m not sure that I would necessarily want to binge-read Spoof on Titan, but the series can be fun in small doses. The first volume reads like a collection of comedic Attack on Titan bonus manga, which is essentially what it is even if Isayama himself isn’t directly working on the series.


Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko

Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu KanekoAuthor: Misuzu Kaneko, David Jacobson
Illustrator: Toshikado Hajiri

Translator: Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi
Publisher: Chin Music Press
ISBN: 9781634059626
Released: September 2016

Misuzu Kaneko, who in the 1920s was a well-known author of poetry for children, almost faded into obscurity after her early death at the age of twenty-six only to have her work rediscovered in 1982. Since then her poetry has been met with great admiration and acclaim. Despite having her work translated into nearly a dozen different languages, Kaneko is relatively unknown in English. Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko, published by Chin Music Press in 2016, is a beautifully illustrated and crafted children’s book created by a multi-national team with members hailing from Japan, the United States, and Canada in an effort to bring Kaneko’s work to a larger audience. Before reading Are You an Echo? I was unaware of both Kaneko and her poetry. After reading the volume I can only hope that more of her work will be translated in the future–the book is a marvelous introduction.

Are You an Echo? consists of two main parts. The first is a biographical narrative written by David Jacobson, a journalist and editorial consultant at Chin Music Press, which outlines both the life of Kaneko and the history of her work and its rediscovery by Setsuo Yazaki, another poet who also provides the foreword to the book. Although Are You an Echo? is meant for a young audience, Jacobson is honest and touches upon some of the sadder aspects of Kaneko’s story such as her unhappy marriage, unfortunate illness, and eventual decision to end her own life. However, the topics are handled with gentleness and sensitivity. Several of Kaneko’s poems are incorporated directly into the narrative while the second part of Are You an Echo? is specifically devoted to a selection of her work. The poems are presented in both their original Japanese and in an English translation jointly composed by Michiko Tsuboi and the poet Sally Ito.

Are You an Echo?, page 5The format is somewhat unusual for a children’s book, but I feel the decision to include a biography along with a selection of Kaneko’s work in a single volume is ultimately a good one. Are You an Echo? not only introduces Kaneko’s poetry, it also places it within a greater context. Jacobson’ s narrative is easily accessible and the story of how Kaneko and her work have come to positively influence the lives of so many people is a wonderful one. Hajiri’s illustrations are likewise captivating. The artwork is colorful without being garish and has a gentle softness to it that complements both Jacobson’s text and Kaneko’s poetry. Hajiri depicts scenes from Kaneko’s life and imagination and provides a lovely visual accompaniment to and interpretation of her work.

Twenty-five of Kaneko’s surviving five-hundred-twelve poems are included in Are You an Echo?. The translators have taken obvious care in rendering Kaneko’s work into English. Kaneko wrote in a feminine form of Japanese which doesn’t have a direct equivalent in English, but Ito and Tsuboi have successfully crafted a translation that reads well and captures the feelings and intentions of the originals. The poems collected in Are You an Echo? are utterly delightful. One of the things that I found most striking about Are You an Echo? is the tremendous empathy that Kaneko exhibits through her work. Though a touch of melancholy can frequently be found, the poems embody the natural curiosity, wonder, and earnestness of the children for whom she was writing. Kaneko’s poetry is immensely charming and deeply compassionate; I am so incredibly glad to have encountered it. While the book may be intended and suited for younger readers, there is still plenty for adults to enjoy and appreciate about it, too. Are You an Echo? is a treasure.

Thank you to Chin Music Press for providing a copy of Are You an Echo? for review.

My Week in Manga: October 10-October 16, 2016

My News and Reviews

I was a little preoccupied last week, dealing with some unexpected developments at work and home, so I wasn’t online much at all. However, I did still manage to post September’s Bookshelf Overload in which I reveal the manga, comics, books, and anime that I picked up last month. Also, a few weeks ago I mentioned the short story “The Mud God” which is tangentially related to a commission that Jenn Grunigen wrote for me. Well, it’s now freely available to read online!

Quick Takes

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Volume 2Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, Volumes 2-4 by Izumi Tsubaki. My introduction to Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun was through the anime series which I adored. Because I loved the anime, it only made sense for me to seek out the original manga as well. Unsurprisingly, I enjoyed the first volume immensely. Despite that, it’s actually been quite a while since I’ve read any of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, which just means that I had the chance to fall in love with the series all over again. And I did, wholeheartedly. The series’ comedy is largely based on the characters and their personalities. The characters themselves are all a little odd but they are also incredibly endearing. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun plays around with expectations, so the personality quirks of the characters intentionally defy stereotypes and are deliberately unexpected. In part, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is also a romantic comedy. The cast is fairly large and there could be any number of couples among the members except for the fact that most of the characters are completely oblivious of or misinterpret their own feelings. No one is actually together in the sense that they are dating in Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun (at least not yet), but in many cases they might as well be. The various relationships in Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun are close ones and are yet another major source of the manga’s good-natured humor.

The Prince and the Swan, Volume 2The Prince and the Swan, Volumes 1-2 by April Pierce and Gareth C.J. Wee. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake, itself based on Russian folklore, has been the inspiration and basis for countless other works. One of the more recent retellings that I’m aware of is the webcomic The Prince and the Swan which began in 2013. I discovered the comic while at the 2016 Toronto Comics Arts Festival where the second print volume was making its debut; I couldn’t pass up Swan Lake reimagined as a queer fairytale. Knowledge of the ballet’s story isn’t at all necessary to enjoy The Prince and the Swan although readers who are familiar with it will be in a better position to appreciate the changes made for the comic. The basic premise of the story remains the same, but in the case of The Prince and the Swan Odette is now Odet, a prince who suffers from a curse that transforms him into a swan during the day. The other lead character in the comic is Prince Siegfried who is reluctantly preparing for his coronation and marriage as king. A chance encounter between the two men will change the course of both of their lives. The pacing of The Prince and the Swan seems a little slow at first, but the artwork, characterization, and storytelling quickly improve and gain confidence as the comic progresses. I look forward to seeing how The Prince and the Swan continues to develop.

Say I Love You, Volume 15Say I Love You, Volume 15 by Kanae Hazuki. One would think that after fifteen volumes Say I Love You would no longer surprise me, but I continue to be impressed by its honesty and authenticity. I do wonder if the recently introduced Aoi twins will continue to play a role in the series as most of the main characters are graduating high school in pursuit of their individual futures. While I was initially a little unsure of the addition of prominent new characters so late in the series, I ended up really liking them and their story arcsI’d now hate to see them discarded so soon. (Granted, Kai still has another year to go before he graduates, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the twins will continue to make appearances.) The fifteenth volume of Say I Love You would have been a natural ending point for the series. As many of the characters are preparing to go their separate ways, either by immediately entering the workforce or by continuing their education, a fair amount of time is devoted to introspection and reflection on the past. Mei in particular has changed significantly since the beginning of the series, but all of the characters have grown and matured as individuals. The characterization in Say I Love You has always been one of the series’ strong points. It will be interesting to see where the manga goes from here as both the story and characters move beyond high school.

Run, Melos! and Other StoriesRun, Melos! and Other Stories by Osamu Dazai. I forget exactly when it was that I first learned of Dazai’s short story “Run, Melos!” but it’s more or less a staple of the Japanese education system so references to the work are fairly common in Japanese popular culture. I’ve been wanting to read to story for quite some time but was under the mistaken impression that it wasn’t actually available in English. However, I recently discovered that it had indeed been translated as part of the Kodansha English Library series… which was only ever released in Japan. Thanks to the power of inter-library loan, I was finally able to read “Run, Melos!” along with six of Dazai’s other works of short fiction: “A Promise Fulfilled,” “One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji,” “Schoolgirl,””Cherry Leaves and the Whistler,” “Eight Scenes of Tokyo,” and “One Snowy Night.” I had previously read another translation of Schoolgirl but the other stories were all new to me. Normally when I think about Dazai it’s his tragic novel No Longer Human that immediately comes to mind; I had actually forgotten how humorous some of his stories can be. Even though there is still a fair amount of melancholy to be found, this humor is much more apparent in Run, Melos! and Other Stories. Overall, the volumes a charming collection of stories mostly set in early twentieth-century Japan (the exception to that being “Run, Melos!” itself) with surprisingly relatable characters.



Bookshelf Overload: September 2016

Normally manga far outweigh the other types of comics that I acquire in any given month, but in September there wasn’t much of a difference between the two. I also picked up more anime than I usually do and my artbook collection continues to steadily increase. Anyway, probably the most exciting thing that I’ve read so far from September was the  Attack on Titan Anthology, an excellent collection of Western comics inspired by Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan. (Granted, the anthology’s official release date was in October, but I was fortunate to get my hands on an early copy.) It was also a good month for omnibuses such as the final volume of Kaoru Mori’s Emma (technically released at the very end of August, but I picked up my copy late), the most recent volume of Inio Asano’s Goodnight Punpun, and Wataru Watanabe’s third Yowamushi Pedal omnibus among others. As for series that debuted in September, I’m particularly interested in and looking forward to reading the first volumes of The Prince in His Dark Days by Hico Yamanaka and Welcome to the Ballroom by Tomo Takeuchi.

Blame!, Omnibus 1 by Tsutomu Nihei
Boyfriend in Heat by Sakria
The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Volume 6 by Aya Shouoto
Don’t Rub Yourself Against My Ass by Sakira
Emma, Omnibus 5 by Kaoru Mori
Franken Fran, Omnibus 3 by Katsuhisa Kigitsu
Goodnight Punpun, Omnibus 3 by Inio Asano
Haikyu!!, Volume 3 by Haruichi Furudate
Happiness, Volume 1 by Shuzo Oshimi
The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Volume 4 by Hiromu Arakawa
Hey, Class President!, Volumes 2-3 by Kaori Monchi
Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear, Volume 1 by Masume Yoshimoto
Mr. Mini Mart by Junko
One-Punch Man, Volume 8 written by One, illustrated by Yusuke Murata
Persona 3, Volume 1 by Shuji Sogabe
The Prince in His Dark Days, Volume 1 by Hico Yamanaka
Sailor Men by Sakira
Welcome to the Ballroom, Volume 1 by Tomo Takeuchi
Wild Boyfriend by Sakira
Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 3 by Wataru Watanabe

Acid Monday by Lucid
Agents of the Realm: Semester 1, Volume 1 by Mildred Louis
Attack on Titan Anthology edited by Ben Applegate and Jeanine Schaefer
Avialae, Chapter 2 by Lucid
From Under Mountains written by Claire Gibson and Marian Churchland, illustrated by Sloane Leong
Mirror: The Mountain written by Emma Ríos, illustrated by Hwei Lim
Mooncop by Tom Gauld
My Car’s a Spaceship, and My Spaceship’s a Boy! by Kris Mukai
Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill
Someone Please Have Sex With Me by Gina Wynbrandt
Soulless, Volumes 1-3 written by Gail Carriger, illustrated by Rem
Spider-Man/Deadpool, Volume 1: Isn’t it Bromantic written by Joe Kelly, illustrated by Ed McGuinness
Trying Not to Notice by Will Dinski
Turning Japanese by MariNaomi
The Usagi Yojimbo Saga, Omnibus 5 by Stan Sakai
Virus Tropical by Powerpaola
Vixen by Danielle Keller

10: Illustrations, 2006-2016 by Tomoko Yamashita
The Art of Jo Chen Illustration Collection by Jo Chen
Space Beside: Selected Illustrations, 2014-2016 by Loika
Yoshitaka Amano: Illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano

The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu
A Riot of Goldfish by Kanoko Okamoto

Red Roofs and Other Stories by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

Black Jack directed by Osamu Dezaki
Black Jack: The Movie directed by Osamu Dezaki
Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie directed by Morio Asaka
Doukyusei directed by Shouko Nakamura
The Eccentric Family directed by Masayuki Yoshihara
Otogi Zoshi directed by Mizuho Nishikubo