Manga Giveaway: The Royal Tutor Giveaway

It’s once again the final Wednesday of the month which means it’s once again time for the monthly manga giveaway here at Experiments in Manga! For this month’s giveaway, everyone participating will have a chance to win The Royal Tutor, Volume 1 by Higasa Akai as published in English by Yen Press. (The series started out as a digital-only release, so I was very happy when a print edition was announced, too.) As usual, the giveaway is open worldwide!

The Royal Tutor, Volume 1

While I have almost no interest whatsoever in the lives of contemporary royal or imperial families, I find that I actually do have a significant fondness for fictional stories, historical or otherwise, that deal with royal dynasties and their courts. Generally, what particularly captures my attention is the seemingly inevitable court intrigue–the intense relationships that develop between people and the resulting complicated, shifting web of power. Potentially, all of this drama can lead to a very serious story, but some manga like The Royal Tutor are also able to incorporate a fair amount of humor and levity into the narrative.

So, you may be wondering, how can you a copy The Royal Tutor, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little about one of your favorite members of royalty from a 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).

That’s really all there is to it. Participants in the giveaway have one week to submit comments and can earn up to two entries. Comments can also be sent to me directly via email using the address phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com if needed or desired. I will then post those entries here in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on August 2, 2017. Good luck, everyone!

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: July 17-July 23, 2017

My News and Reviews

Although I’ve started to include Quick Takes of novels as part of the weekly My Week in Manga feature, it’s been a little while since I’ve actually written and in-depth review of a novel here at Experiments in Manga. However, last week featured my review of Tomoyuki Hoshino’s ME, one of my most anticipated literary releases of 2017. Much like the rest of Hoshino’s work available in translation, ME is challenging and can demand quite a bit from the reader, but I found it to be worth the effort. The novel is an incredibly surreal but thought-provoking exploration of identity, self, and society. Hoshino’s fiction definitely isn’t for everyone, but I hope to see even more of it translated in the future.

Last week there were also some manga-related licensing announcements made at the San Diego Comic Con. Among other things, Udon Entertainment has picked up Virginia Nitōhei’s manga adaptation of Otherwordly Izakaya “Nobu,” will be adding Romeo & Juliet, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Adventures of Huckleberry Fin to its Manga Classics line, and will be releasing Mega Man MasterMix, a full-color edition of Hitoshi Ariga’s Mega Man Megamix. Vertical Comics will be publishing Kinoko Natsume’s Chi’s Sweet Adventure, a spin-off of Konami Kanata’s Chi’s Sweet Home. And finally, Viz Media announced that it would be releasing Tsuyoshi Takaki’s Black Torch, Inio Asano’s Dead Dead Demon’s Dededededestruction (I’m definitely interested in this), Aka Akasaka’s Kaguya-sama: Love is War, and Koyoharu Gotouge’s Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.

Elsewhere online, a recent episode of the Manga Mavericks podcast provides an overview of the licensing news from Anime Expo in addition to digging into Kabi Nagata’s My Lesbian Experience in Loneliness and Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband. Over at The OASG, Krystallina expresses some valid concerns and criticisms of Digital Manga’s most recent crowdfunding efforts. And speaking of crowdfunding campaigns, there have been several less dubious projects that have caught my eye recently: Deer Woman is an anthology featuring comics created by Native and Indigenous woman which are inspired by traditional Deer Woman stories; Gothic Tales of Haunted Love is a collection of full-color gothic romance comics; and then of course there’s Sparkler Monthly Magazine: Year 5 which is particularly important to me. With every year that passes Sparkler Monthly just keeps getting better and better. I’ve featured a small selection of some of the magazine’s content before, but there’s so much more that I’ve never even mentioned here and it’s all great stuff. Please consider contributing to the campaign if you’re able!

Quick Takes

After Hours, Volume 1After Hours, Volume 1 by Yuhta Nishio. Recently there has been a notable surge of yuri and other lesbian-themed manga being released in English, mostly by Seven Seas, although other publishers have been licensing some as well. After Hours, for example, is the first yuri title from Viz Media if not ever at least in a very long time. That certainly caught my attention, but even more so was the fact that After Hours is not a schoolgirl manga and is instead about adult women (although the cover art does make Emi in particular look fairly young). Emi is invited out to a club by her friend but is generally left to fend for herself once she’s there. That’s when Kei more or less comes to her rescue. The two women hit it off and Emi ends up going home with Kei that night, one thing leading to another. It’s incredibly refreshing that Emi and Kei’s mutual attraction isn’t treated like an aberration or made out to be like it’s a big deal simply because they’re both women. After that first night their relationship continues to naturally develop, largely without angst, as they get to know each other better, Kei introducing Emi to her friends, the local music scene, and her passion as a DJ. The release of second volume of After Hours hasn’t been publicly announced yet, but there is no question that I’ll be picking it up; I absolutely loved the first volume and look forward to reading more.

Blindsprings, Volume 1Blindsprings, Volume 1 by Kadi Fedoruk. Sadly, I was unable to contribute to the Blindsprings Kickstarter campagin which raised funds to release the first print volume of the webcomic, so I was thrilled when I had the chance to pick up an early copy and chat a little with Fedoruk at this year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival. In addition to first five chapters of the comic, the first volume also includes twenty-six pages of bonus content, artwork, and character profiles. Blindsprings is a beautifully illustrated, full-color comic with an engaging story, a diverse cast of characters, and an intriguing, complex, and well-developed world. (I especially appreciate how a variety of genders and sexualities are naturally and unobtrusively incorporated into the story.) Princess Tamaura is about to complete her 300-year agreement to serve the as an Orphic priestess for the sake of her sister, but her contract with the Spirits is broken when she is “rescued” against her will by a young man determined to prove a point. Tammy is torn from her sanctuary and thrust into a modern world in which Orphic traditions and their practitioners are harshly oppressed, the Academists and their magic now largely in control of what was her homeland. But there are still those who resist, and Tammy soon finds herself caught up in the conflict.

Tokyo Ghoul: PastTokyo Ghoul: Past written by Shin Towada Sui Ishida and illustrated by Sui Ishida. Viz Media doesn’t publish many novels outside of its Haikasoru imprint, but considering the popularity of Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul manga series, it’s not too surprising that Towada’s trilogy of light novels were released as well. Although Past is Towada’s third Tokyo Ghoul novel (well, technically it’s more of a collection of vaguely-related short stories), the volume serves as a prequel to Tokyo Ghoul as a whole, the six chapters delving into the backstories of many of the Tokyo Ghoul‘s prominent characters. Despite taking place before the main series, Past is definitely not an introduction. It is intended for readers who are already invested in the franchise–a few of the stories don’t absolutely require prior knowledge in order to follow them, but others are nearly incomprehensible without at least some basic familiarity with Tokyo Ghoul. The general premise of Past is great, the volume allowing fans of Tokyo Ghoul the chance to spend more time with and gain a better understanding of some of the characters, especially as Past is able to tell stories that wouldn’t have immediately fit in the primary series. It’s unfortunate then that the actual writing is frustratingly awful much of the time with drama and angst frequently favored over plot developments that make logical sense.

ME

MEAuthor: Tomoyuki Hoshino
Translator: Charles De Wolf
U.S. publisher: Akashic Books
ISBN: 9781617754487
Released: June 2017
Original release: 2010
Awards: Kenzaburō Ōe Prize

My introduction to the work of Tomoyuki Hoshino was through We, the Children of Cats, a volume containing a selection of his short stories and novellas which left a tremendous impression on me. Since encountering that collection, I’ve made a point to seek out and read everything of Hoshino’s that has been translated into English. (Sadly, there hasn’t been very much.) I was very excited to learn that Akashic Books would be publishing Charles De Wolf’s translation of ME, a book which quickly become one of my most anticipated literary releases of 2017. After Lonely Hearts Killer, ME is only the second of Hoshino’s novels to be released in English. Originally published in Japan in 2010 under the title Ore Ore (It’s Me, It’s Me, a reference to a common telephone scam), the novel would go on to win the 2011 Kenzaburō Ōe Prize and was later adapted as a live-action film directed by Satoshi Miki in 2013. In addition to the main text, the English-language edition of the novel also includes an afterword by Kenzaburō Ōe as well as a brief essay from the translator. Hoshino’s works can be challenging and demanding, but in my experience they can also be powerfully rewarding and meaningful; I was looking forward to reading ME a great deal.

When a stranger accidentally leaves his cellphone on the wrong food tray at a McDonald’s, the novel’s narrator Hitoshi Nagano makes an impulsive decision–he simply walks out of the restaurant with it. As a joke he calls the mother of the cell phone’s owner, pretending to be her son Daiki Hiyama. But he ends up taking the prank a little too far, not quite intentionally convincing her to transfer ¥900,000 into his bank account. Much to Hitoshi’s surprise, a few days later Daiki’s mother suddenly shows up at his apartment acting as though he is in fact her erstwhile son. Understandably and extraordinarily confused by this turn of events, Hitoshi makes a point to visit the home of his own mother only to discover that there’s already a Hitoshi Nagano there. And what’s more, he isn’t the only one to have recently visited claiming to be Hitoshi Nagano. With multiple people seeming to be posing as him, the only identity that remains available for Hitoshi to take appears to be that of Daiki Hiyama. And that’s when things start to get really strange.

Themes of identity and the fluidity of self can be found in many of Hoshino’s translated works, but they are particularly prominent in ME where they form the absolute core of the story being told. Both Hoshino’s long fiction and short stories can often be fairly surreal and ME is certainly no exception, although I do feel that the novel is probably one of his more readily accessible long-form works. Granted, none of the characters are especially likeable, but the basic premise of ME, while incredibly and increasingly strange, is still straightforward enough to follow at the surface level. However, to truly and fully appreciate the entirety of the novel and its depth not only demands but requires a particularly careful and close reading of the text. It would be very easy for readers to get lost if they don’t pay close attention to what is happening and how the novel and its language subtly shifts and changes along with the narrator’s identity. Even the genre isn’t fixed and transforms as the story progresses–ME begins as a peculiar comedy but by its end has dramatically evolved into dystopic horror. The narrative development of ME is both fascinating and perplexing.

Similar to other works by Hoshino, reading ME is an immensely thought-provoking but disorienting experience. The novel’s narrator, who is always himself but not always in the ways he expects to be, is enduring a fantastical identity crisis which, on occasion, still manages to be oddly relatable. He encounters more and more people who are him but not him, their backgrounds and personalities slowly blending together with less and less to differentiate among them. At first there is a sense of euphoria in finding like-minded people, but eventually a tremendous uneasiness begins to develop–hatred of others becomes hatred of self and vice versa, ultimately erupting in a violent confrontation which is part of a vicious cycle that is extremely difficult to escape or nullify. ME is intensely psychological and philosophical, the story using speculative fiction to outline a cerebral exploration of self, society, and the relationship between them. The novel can be simply read for entertainment, but if allowed it also prompts readers to examine the volatile nature and meaning of identity. Hoshino’s work tends to stick with me and I know I’ll be thinking about ME and the ideas it presents for quite some time.

Thank you to Akashic Books for providing a copy of ME for review.

My Week in Manga: July 10-July 16, 2017

My News and Reviews

Things are more or less back on regular schedule here at Experiments in Manga which means last week I posted the Bookshelf Overload for June. It was a relatively small month, especially when compared to other recent months, but I was still very excited about the various manga, comics, and other books that I picked up. Since I’m back on schedule, later this week I’ll be posting my long-overdue review of Tomoyuki Hoshino’s novel ME. Like the rest of Hoshino’s work available in English (I’ve also reviewed We, the Children of Cats and Lonely Hearts Killer in the past), the novel is challenging but I think worth the effort it takes to read.

Speaking of things that I’ve reviewed in the past, Yeon-sik Hong’s Uncomfortably Happily was a manhwa that I greatly enjoyed. The translator, Hellen Jo, was recently interviewed about her work on the comic and how she personally related to Hong’s story. Manga podcasts seem to be making a comeback these days, and I don’t see that as a bad thing. Last week saw the release of the first episode of Manga in Your Ears, a podcast featuring a few of the manga bloggers that I particularly admire, so I’m very excited to give it listen. Another interesting development that I caught wind of last week was Digital Manga’s most recent crowdfunding campaign. Juné Manga is attempting to raise funds to reprint some titles (A Promise of Romance by Kyoko Akitsu, Endless Comfort by Sakuya Sakura, and Secrecy of the Shivering Night by Muku Ogura) directly through its website rather than through Kickstarter.

Lately, I’ve been somewhat remiss in mentioning the Kickstarter projects that have caught my eye, so here’s a quick list of some of the comics campaigns that are currently running: Lucy Bellwood’s 100 Demon Dialogues is a collection of wonderful short comics exploring themes of anxiety and self-doubt; Elizabeth Beier’s autobiographical comics about bisexuality are being collected together in The Big Book of Bisexual Trials and Errors; the comics anthology Immortal Souls, which focuses on queer witches and dark magicis the followup to the excellent Power & Magic; the third and final volume of Speculative Relationships brings together a variety of science fiction romance comics; Tim’rous Beastie has a great lineup of creators whose comics take inspiration from works like RedwallThe Rats of NIHM, and Watership Down; and finally there’s We’re Still Here, an anthology bringing together fifty-five trans comic creators in what should be phenomenal collection.

Quick Takes

Land of the Lustrous, Volume 1Land of the Lustrous, Volume 1 by Haruko Ichikawa. Despite the frequently heavy-handed and detailed exposition present in the first volume of Land of the Lustrous, I can’t say that I necessarily understand everything that’s going in the series yet, but I am most definitely intrigued. If nothing else, Ichikawa’s illustrations are incredibly striking and I would be happy to read more of the manga for no other reason than the artwork. Twenty-eight crystalline lifeforms known as the Lustrous, each with their own unique qualities and abilities, battle for survival against the enigmatic Lunarians. Phosphophyllite wants nothing more than to fight but, being such a fragile gem, is instead given the task of writing a natural history. Though it’s said to be a vitally important job, Phos isn’t particularly pleased but comes to realize that many of the other gems aren’t wholly satisfied with their lots either. The first volume’s theme is “searching for purpose” which at this point seems to apply both to the series itself as well as to its characters. At first the narrative feels somewhat directionless, generally serving as a vehicle for stunning visuals and not much else, but once the peculiar world and characters have been thoroughly established, a tantalizing potential for greater drive and meaning begins to coalesce.

Sacred HeartSacred Heart by Liz Suburbia. Sacred Heart is Suburbia’s debut graphic novel, a completely redrawn version of her webcomic by the same name. When Ben Schiller comes across the dead body of someone she knows very early on in the comic–a moment that is acknowledged but passes with surprisingly little excitement or comment–it’s one of the first clues that something is off about the town of Alexandria. Eventually it’s revealed that all of the adults have left, supposedly to return, but no one knows when that will be. In the meantime the teenagers have the run of the place, waiting for their parents and distracting themselves from their predicament by spending their time partying and hooking up. But that can only last for so long–tensions are high and more and more people are dying under peculiar circumstances. While there is an underlying and marvelously ominous unease pervading the story, Suburbia also shows a great sense of humor in the comic. The very end of Sacred Heart was a bit abrupt and not everything is completely explained (which admittedly isn’t necessary), but for the most part I really enjoyed the comic and would be interested in reading more of Suburbia’s work. Fortunately, it seems that Suburbia has plans for three more volumes to follow Sacred Heart as sequels.

Whispered Words, Omnibus 2Whispered Words, Omnibuses 2-3 (equivalent to Volumes 4-9) by Takashi Ikeda. While I enjoyed Whispered Words from its very start, I do feel that it’s a series that gets even better as it progresses. Though there is still a fair amount of humor, Ikeda largely moves away from the over-the-top ridiculousness found in the early series in favor of a more mature exploration of Sumika and Ushio’s changing relationship. It’s extremely unfortunate then that the quality of One Peace Books’ edition somehow manages to get even worse as it goes along. Probably most problematic is that partway through the third and final omnibus a page was skipped. The series is still readable, but the flow of the manga and the two-page spreads are completely ruined as a result. Ikeda has a tendency to develop the story by simultaneously exploring the character’s feelings and experiences from multiple points in time. It’s a technique that can be quite effective, but the printing error can make the transitions between the flashforwards and flashbacks jarring. I do believe the publisher corrected the issue of the missing page in later printings, so it’s something to be aware of and look out for. Quality control aside, Whispered Words is generally a pretty great yuri series. (It also gets bonus points from me for being about karate, too.)

Bookshelf Overload: June 2017

After the ridiculousness of May’s Bookshelf Overload, the number of manga, comics, and other books that I picked up in June seems completely reasonable. But even though it was a small month, it was still a great month. First of all, one of the manga I was most looking forward to this year was released–Kabi Nagata’s My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. (Although the work is more than deserving of it, I won’t be doing a formal, in-depth review, but I did write a Quick Take of it a few weeks ago.) I was also particularly excited for the debut of Satoru Noda’s Golden Kamuy and the continuation of Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga in June. Hirohiko Araki’s Manga in Theory and Practice: The Craft of Creating Manga should also present an interesting read once I finally get the chance to get around to it. Currently, though, I’m reading Kazuki Sakuraba’s novel A Small Charred Face. It isn’t due to be released until September, but the folks at Haikasoru were kind enough to send me an advanced copy. I really enjoyed Sakuraba’s Red Girls: The Legend of the Akakuchibas and have been looking forward to the translation of A Small Charred Face for quite some time. So far, it’s been fantastic; look for a review to come soon!

Manga!
After Hours, Volume 1 by Yuhta Nishio
Dorohedoro, Volume 21 by Q Hayashida
Erased, Omnibus 2 by Kei Sanbe
Golden Kamuy, Volume 1 by Satoru Noda
Goodnight Punpun, Omnibus 6 by Inio Asano
Liselotte & Witch’s Forest, Volumes 1-3 by Natsuki Takaya
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata
Pet Shop of Horrors, Volume 9 by Matsuri Akino
Prison School, Omnibus 7 by Akira Hiramoto
The Royal Tutor, Volume 1 by Higasa Akai
Sweetness and Lightning, Volume 5 by Gido Amagakure
Ten Count, Volume 4 by Rihito Takarai
Vagabond, Omnibuses 10-12 by Takehiko Inoue
Vinland Saga, Omnibus 9 by Makoto Yukimura
The Water Dragon’s Bride, Volume 1 by Rei Toma

Comics!
Bara Emergency, Collection 1 by Nero O’Reilly
Boundless by Jillian Tamaki
Boy, I Love You edited by Kou Chen, Emily Forster, and Eric Alexander Arroyo.
Combed Clap of Thunder by Zach Hazard Vaupen
Cosmic Commandos by Chris Eliopoulos
Deanthology: Collected Works of Dechanique, 1995-2016 by Deanna Echanique
Destiny, NY, Volume 1 written by Pat Shand, illustrated by Manuel Preitano
Let’s Speak English by Mary Cagle
Not Drunk Enough, Volume 1 by Tessa Stone
Siegfried, Volume 3 by Alex Alice
Space Battle Lunchtime, Volume 2 by Natalie Riess
Steam Clean by Laura Kenins

Novels!
The Great Passage by Shion Miura
The Sacred Era by Aramaki Yoshio
Slow Boat by Hideo Furukawa
A Small Charred Face by Kazuki Sakuraba
Sound! Euphonium by Ayano Takeda

Nonfiction!
The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962―1976 by Frank Dikötter
Manga in Theory and Practice: The Craft of Creating Manga by Hirohiko Araki