Manga Giveaway: Yona of the Dawn Giveaway

The end of September is almost here, which means it’s once again time for Experiments in Manga’s monthly giveaway. This month everyone participating has the opportunity to enter for a chance to win the first volume in Mizuho Kusanagi’s manga series Yona of the Dawn as published in English by Viz Media. And as always, the giveaway is open worldwide!

Yona of the Dawn, Volume 1

I generally appreciate a good epic fantasy, but I seem to particularly enjoy those with compelling female leads. Some of the Japanese novels, manga, and anime that I love the most fall into this category, such as Nahoko Uehashi’s Moribito, Fuyumi Ono’s The Twelve Kingdoms, and Yumi Tamura’s Basara to name just a few. One of the most recent manga of this type to be released in English is Mizuho Kusanagi’s Yona of the Dawn which, like Basara, is even more specifically a shoujo fantasy epic. And so, it’s probably not too surprising that I’m looking forward to reading the manga series, and there’s an anime adaptation to watch, too!

So, you may be wondering, how can you win Yona of the Dawn, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little about one of your favorite shoujo fantasy manga with a great female lead. (Haven’t read one? 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 all there is to it. Those participating can earn up to two entries for the giveaway and have one week to submit comments. Comments can be sent directly to phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com if you have trouble using the comment form or if you would prefer. I will then post those comments here in your name. The winner of the giveaway will be randomly selected and announced on October 5, 2016. Good luck!

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: September 19-September 25, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted an in-depth review of Human Acts, an incredibly beautiful, tremendously powerful, and absolutely devastating novel by South Korean author Han Kang. (Some may recognize Kang as the author of The Vegetarian which has earned her a fair amount of international attention and acclaim.) Human Acts is one of the best books that I’ve read in quite some time, but it’s a chilling and challenging read due to its subject matter. The book focuses on the violent Gwanju Uprising and its long-lasting aftermath, however it’s not at all necessary to be familiar with that particular incident to understand and appreciate the novel.

Elsewhere online, there was some very exciting licensing news: Pantheon Books will be releasing Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband! The impending English-language release has been hinted at, but now it’s official and I’m absolutely thrilled. Digital Manga’s Juné imprint also had a few licensing announcements from Yaoicon: Velvet Toucher’s Eden’s Mercy, the third volume of Yoneda Kou’s Twittering Birds Never Fly, and Junko’s The Prince’s Time. And over the weekend Yen Press slipped in an announcement for the acquisition of Tsukumizu’s Shojo Shumatsu Ryoko. A few other interesting things that I came across last include a video of Viz Media’s SDCC 2016 Panel, the Comic Book Resources feature “20 Years Ago, Dragon Ball Z Came to America to Stay,” and Otaku Champloo’s BL Manga Starter Kit. Also, a couple of recent queer comics Kickstarters caught my eye: Ngozi Ukazu’s already massively successful campaign to release Check Please!, Year Two and a project to raise funds for the final volume and omnibus edition of Jennie Wood’s Flutter.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan, Volume 19Attack on Titan, Volume 19 by Hajime Isayama. For a while there I was starting to become a little weary of the sheer number of plot twists in Attack on Titan. Instead of renewing my interest in the story, I started to lose confidence in it. However, the more recent volumes of the series have regained some focus. The story developments and turns in the story are more exciting because of it, even if there are still a few major mysteries which have yet to be fully explained. The nineteenth volume of Attack on Titan is an exciting one as a massive confrontation between a contingent of intelligent Titans and the decimated Survey Corps begins. Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and the rest will have to directly face off against the Armored Titan and the Colossus Titan, knowing that the humans controlling them were once their comrades. It’s a kill-or-be-killed situation with very little room for negotiation. The action sequences in the nineteenth volume are dramatic and well-done, but the most notable aspect of the manga is probably the psychological impact that the battle for survival against one-time friends has on the characters. Also, for Attack on Titan fans who are interested in Levi and Erwin, the special edition of the nineteenth volume comes along with the second and final part of the No Regrets OVA anime adaptation. I haven’t had a chance to watch it myself yet, but I am glad that it’s available and am looking forward to seeing it.

CurveballCurveball by Jeremy Sorese. Although I’m only now finally getting around to reading Curveball, I’ve actually been meaning to for a while now. The comic was first brought to my attention when it became a finalist for the 2016 Lambda Literary Award for best LGBT Graphic Novel. And then at TCAF 2016 I had the opportunity to hear Sorese talk about Curveball specifically and queer science fiction in general. There are two things in particular that I especially love about Curveball. The first is the inherent queerness of the characters and worldbuilding. Numerous genders are represented in the comic and relationships, romantic and otherwise, occur in a multitude of combinations. The main character, Avery, is non-binary and there are a fair number of others who are genderqueer or genderfluid as well. This isn’t at all a big deal in the comic, it’s simply a natural and unobtrusive part of the setting. The second thing that I particularly enjoyed about the comic is Sorese’s use of color. The illustrations in Curveball are primarily grayscale except for the use of an extraordinarily vibrant and literally fluorescent orange to represent technology, and more specifically energy. The effect is very striking. Curveball is mostly about relationships, but the characters are also dealing with a developing energy crisis. The fluorescent orange and the occasional lack thereof is a constant visual reminder of this.

Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 15The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 15 by Nakaba Suzuki. The stakes can’t get much higher than they are at the moment in The Seven Deadly Sins seeing as the fate of the entire world is in grave peril now that the extraordinarily powerful demons known as the Ten Commandments have been released. Granted, just about everyone and everything in The Seven Deadly Sins is extraordinarily powerful, so it’s sometimes difficult to get a good feel for the grand scale of the series; the shock and awe is frequently lost. Despite the tremendous abilities that everyone has and despite the massive amounts of damage dealt to both people and property, it ends up coming across as common rather than impressive. Recently Suzuki has resorted to having Hawk actually announce the combat classes and magic levels of the various characters are, but that just seems superfluous when there is effectively no difference between a class level of 3,370 and 5,500 on the page. Even so, the fight scenes and battle sequences somehow still manage to be engaging and entertaining and are honestly one of the best things about the series. The fifteen volume of the manga sees the Seven Deadly Sins starting to fight off the Ten Commandments on two separate fronts. First they must try to fend off the Commandment’s minions and are largely successful, but eventually one of the demons appears to confront them directly. By the end, things aren’t looking good for the Deadly Sins.

Yona of the Dawn, Volume 1Yona of the Dawn, Volume 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi. Even if it wasn’t for the fact that I tend to enjoy epic fantasy series with strong female leads, the amount of excitement surrounding the anime adaptation and the licensing announcement for the original manga series in English would have been enough for Yona of the Dawn to catch my attention and interest. Admittedly, Yona spends a large part of the series’ first volume in shock and barely able to function. The reason is understandable–she has witnessed the murder of her beloved father the king at the hands of one of the people she most loved and trusted in the world. The unexpected betrayal leaves her stunned; the only reason she avoids a similar fate is that her personal guard whisks her away from the palace. However, the very beginning of the volume implies that Yona will take control of her own destiny. That’s the story that I really want to read. I want to see Yona overcome her tragic circumstances, to find the strength to protect herself and those she loves. If the manga is able to deliver its promise (and I suspect that it will), Yona of the Dawn will indeed be a series well-worth following. While Yona comes across as weak and helpless for a significant portion of the first volume of Yona of the Dawn, showing Yona at her lowest does provide the necessary setup required for dramatic story and character developments. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of Yona of the Dawn.

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Human Acts

Human ActsAuthor: Han Kang
Translator: Deborah Smith
U.S. Publisher: Hogarth Press
ISBN: 9781101906729
Released: January 2017
Original release: 2014
Awards: Manhae Literary Prize

Over the last few years South Korean novelist Han Kang has gained a fair amount of international attention. Of particular recent note, her second novel to be translated into English, The Vegetarian (which I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time now), was awarded the Man Booker International Prize in 2016 after being met with great acclaim. Kang isn’t a stranger to awards–her work, while at times controversial, is well-regarded and has earned her many honors and accolades both in South Korea and abroad. Human Acts is Kang’s third novel to receive an English translation. The book was originally published in Korea in 2014 (under a title that more closely translates as The Boy Is Coming) and won Kang the Manhae Literary Prize. Deborah Smith’s English translation of and accompanying introduction to Human Acts was first published in Great Britain in 2016 and is scheduled to be released in the United States in early 2017.

After the assassination of South Korean president Park Chung-hee in 1979, the political climate of the country became increasingly perilous. The student demonstrations calling for democracy and the protests against the government which began during Park’s rule when he implemented authoritarian policies and martial law continued even after his death. In 1980, in the southern city of Gwanju, one such demonstration was engulfed in violence when a group of citizens supporting the students’ efforts was attacked and killed by government forces. The protest in Gwanju quickly escalated into an uprising involving thousands. The incident only lasted a few days–ultimately the civil militias were defeated by the government troops–but the uprising and accompanying massacre would deeply impact South Korea and its people for decades to come, leaving a wound that has yet to completely heal.

Human Acts focuses on the aftermath of the Gwanju Uprising and the personal costs, pain, and suffering of the people involved. The novel unfolds in seven parts told from seven different perspectives. It begins in the midst of the uprising itself in 1980 and ends in 2013 with its lingering influence. Human Acts opens with the story Dong-ho, a middle school student working in a gymnasium which had been hastily converted into a temporary morgue in order to accommodate the tremendous number of casualties. There he helps to care for and identify the bodies. After he himself is killed during the uprising, Dong-ho becomes the touchstone which ties the disparate parts of the novel together. In addition to Dong-ho, Human Acts contains the accounts of the soul of his friend who also lost his life, two of the women who worked in the morgue with him, a protestor who witnessed his death and who was later arrested, imprisoned, and tortured, his mother, and the writer who retells their stories.

Human Acts is a beautifully written novel, the translation is elegant and at times even poetic, but the subject matter is horrific and tragic and Kang doesn’t shy away from that fact. The story, based on truth, is filled with death, brutality, and violence. Human Acts is extraordinary though it certainly isn’t light reading; it can be a very difficult, affecting, and haunting read. The text slips in and out of a second-person narrative which draws the reader directly into the story. The technique is surprisingly effective and disconcerting, helping to turn the novel into something that’s akin to both a eulogy and a denunciation. While Human Acts focuses on a specific historical event, its themes are universal, exploring the lasting changes that the past has on the present and how people as individuals cope with the trauma that has been experienced. Human Acts is an intensely personal, political, powerful, and devastating work and is honestly one of best novels that I have read in a long while.

Thank you to Hogarth Press for providing a copy of Human Acts for review.

My Week in Manga: September 12-September 18, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted the Bookshelf Overload for August. I picked up some great out-of-print (or soon to be out-of-print) manga and comics last month in addition to some highly-anticipated new releases. I was particularly busy with work and taiko last week so I wasn’t online much, but there is one thing that I’d like to draw attention to–the thirty-eighth and most recent issue of Sparkler Monthly. In it is the first part of a Skyglass side story written by Jenn Grunigen and illustrated by Mookie called “The Mud God” which, in addition to being adorably cute, is partly my fault as it’s related to another Skyglass commission that the author is working on for me. (Hopefully that one will be able to be shared soon, too!)

Quick Takes

Inuyashiki, Volume 4Inuyashiki, Volume 4 by Hiroya Oku. The fourth volume of Inuyashiki begins immediately where the third volume ends, with the devastating and gruesome aftermath of Inuyashiki’s confrontation with an powerful organized crime group. It then turns to follow Shishigami’s story again. One thing that I found to be particularly interesting about Inuyashiki, Volume 4 is the character development of the two main leads. Since the beginning of the series, Inuyashiki and Shishigami have been opposites, using their newly-granted powers in vastly different ways. Though they both are mechanical monsters with many of the same abilities, Inuyashiki has focused on helping others, whether that be by curing major illnesses or fighting on behalf of those who are weaker, while Shishigami has been going on killing sprees for his own selfish reasons. Inuyashiki abhors violence, even when he is a willing participant; Shishigami delights in it. But the fourth volume of Inuyashiki sees some of that change. Inuyashiki is learning to consciously use and control his more deadly powers, specifically in order to put an end to Shishigami. He still considers it to be a necessary evil, though. As for Shishigami, his mother’s illness inspires him to use his abilities for less destructive purposes, but it’s still difficult to sympathize with him since he shows very little regret or remorse for the suffering he has wrought in the recent past.

One-Punch Man, Volume 4One-Punch Man, Volumes 4-8 written by One and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. I continue to be greatly impressed by both the artwork and writing of One-Punch Man although the series is not without its flaws. The manga plays around with many of the tropes of the superhero genre and makes use of plenty of stereotypes in the process. Unfortunately, that means the introduction of an unquestionably gay hero and the perceived threat of his sexuality is intended to be comedic, resulting in an uncomfortable setup in which implied sexual assault is treated as a joke. Personally, I didn’t find this to be particularly funny. However, other than that glaring misstep, the humor in One-Punch Man is fantastic. A slew of new heroes and villains have been brought in; their powers are frequently over-the-top and frankly ridiculous, fitting the overall tone of the series perfectly. Murata’s artwork can be absolutely stunning and is incredibly dynamic, shifting from simplified illustrations to those that are nearly photo-realistic depending on the needs of the story and humor. The action sequences are great, filled with intense battles between absurdly powered opponents and accompanied by a suitably tremendous amount of destruction. It’s not at all surprising that One-Punch Man has been adapted into an anime series–the manga as a whole but especially the visual components seem to beg for it.

Queen Emeraldas, Volume 1 Queen Emeraldas, Volume 1 by Leiji Matsumoto. Older manga are not often released in English, so I was very excited to learn that Kodansha Comics would be publishing a classic series. I was even more interested when I found out that series would be Matsumoto’s space opera Queen Emeraldas which takes place in the same universe as his Captain Harlock stories. Although the hardcover English-language edition is based on a Japanese release from 2009, Queen Emeraldas was originally serialized in the late 1970s. The story largely follows a young man by the name of Hiroshi Umino, a runaway from Earth who crash lands on Mars in a spaceship he cobbled together himself. The titular Emeraldas is charismatic and enigmatic woman, a living legend who metes out justice as she wanders the stars. She takes a particular interest in the boy, repeatedly aiding him in his struggle to survive in space. Initially her concern seems to emerge from the fact that his story shares so many similarities with her own although later it is implied that she may have a deeper connection to him. However, like much of Queen Emeraldas, the nature of that connection is still a mystery. So far, I am thoroughly enjoying Queen Emeraldas. The manga is moody, atmospheric, and melancholic with a Western frontier flair. The characters are ambitious, seeking a life of freedom in a world that is harsh and unforgiving.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 9Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 9 by Miki Yoshikawa. It’s fairly common for bodyswap manga to incorporate a fair amount of fanservice, especially when different genders are involved, and Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is no exception to that trend. Generally, the fanservice in the series doesn’t bother me that much especially considering the context, but every once in a while it’s more of a distraction than anything else. A case in point is a completely inexplicable panty shot in the ninth volume which completely threw me out of the story; it served no purpose for either characterization or plot, and even how the scene was illustrated didn’t make any sense. Usually, Yoshikawa is much better than that. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the ninth volume of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. There are some interesting twists and revelations as Yamada tries to find a way to return everyone’s missing memories. I’m not always very fond of amnesia plotlines in stories simply because they can be a lazy way for creators to write themselves out of a corner or cause unnecessary drama, but in the case of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches it actually works really well. At it’s very heart the series about friendship and overcoming isolation. Yamada, intentionally or not, was the one who brought so many of the characters together in the first place and he will do everything that he can to bring them together again.

Bookshelf Overload: August 2016

I’m slowly slipping back into my old buying habits; I should probably be a bit more stringent before things get ridiculously out of hand again. Granted, I stayed within my budget in August more than it would initially appear by the list below. The last of my Barnes & Noble orders from the recent manga super sale arrived which were already paid for; a bunch of Kickstarter rewards arrived; I somehow received not one, but two boxes of review copies from Kodansha Comics; and I made judicious use of coupons and gift cards. I also received some pretty phenomenal gifts like the out-of-print limited edition hardcover of Minna Sundberg’s A Redtail’s Dream. (A huge thank you to Narrative Investigation‘s Helen! You can read my quick take of A Redtail’s Dream here, and Helen’s thoughts about the webcomic here.) My biggest unplanned splurge in August was picking up an entire set of Firefighter!: Daigo of Company M by Masahito Soda which I liberated from the shelves of my Manga Bookshelf cohort Kate Dacey. (The series seems to be on its way out of print, but is still available digitally.) As for the August manga release that I was most excited for, I’m absolutely thrilled that Moto Hagio’s first Otherworld Barbara omnibus from Fantagraphics is now available. I love Hagio’s work, and am especially happy to see more of her science fiction in translation. I’d like to review or otherwise feature Otherworld Barbara at some point, but am not sure when that will be. However, I do have a review of South Korean author Han Kang’s novel Human Acts to post soon! Human Acts has already been released in the United Kingdom, but it won’t be released in the United States until January; I was fortunate enough to receive an early review copy. It’s honestly one of the best novels that I’ve read recently.

Manga!
Attack on Titan, Volume 19 by Hajime Isayama
Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 8 written by Ryo Suzukaze, illustrated by Satoshi Shiki
Complex Age, Volume 2 by Yui Sakuma
The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Volumes 3-5 by Aya Shouoto
Devil Survivor, Volume 6 by Satoru Matsuba
Dimension W, Volumes 1-2 by Yuji Iwahara
Dorohedoro, Volume 19 by Q Hayashida
The Earl & The Fairy, Volumes 1-4 by Ayuko
Fairy Tail, Volume 55 by Hiro Mashima
Fairy Tail: Blue Mistral, Volume 3 by Rui Watanabe
Firefighter!: Daigo of Company M, Volumes 1-20 by Masahito Soda
Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, Volumes 9, 13 written by Yuto Tsukuda, illustrated by Shun Saeki
Forget Me Not, Volumes 3-4 written by Mag Hsu, illustrated by Nao Emoto
The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Volume 5 by Hiromu Arakawa
Horimiya, Volumes 3-4 by Hero
Inuyashiki, Volume 4 by Hiroya Oku
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 2: Battle Tendency, Volume 4 by Hirohiko Araki
Kiss Him, Not Me, Volumes 5-6 by Junko
Kuroko’s Basketball, Omnibus 1 by Tadatoshi Fujimaki
Livingstone, Volume 3 by written Tomohiro Maekawa, illustrated by Jinsei Kataoka
Lone Wolf and Cub, Omnibuses 11-12 written by Kazuo Koike, illustrated by Goseki Kojima
Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Omnibus 5 by Satoshi Mizukami
Noragami: Stray God, Volumes 15-16 by Adachitoka
Otherworld Barbara, Omnibus 1 by Moto Hagio
Ouran High School Host Club, Volume 18 by Bisco Hatori
Paradise Residence, Volume 3 by Kosuke Fujishima
Persona 4, Volume 3 by Shuji Sogabe
Real Account, Volume 3 written by Okushou, illustrated by Shizumu Watanabe
Say I Love You, Volumes 14-15 by Kanae Hazuki
The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 15 by Nakaba Suzuki
Spoof on Titan, Volume 1 by Hounori
Ten Count, Volume 1 by Rihito Takarai
That Wolf-Boy is Mine!, Volume 1 by Yoko Nogiri
Wolfsmund, Volume 7 by Mitsuhisa Kuji
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 9 by Miki Yoshikawa
Your Lie in April, Volumes 8-9 by Naoshi Arakawa

Comics!
Baggywrinkles: A Lubber’s Guide to Life at Sea by Lucy Bellwood
Breaks: Prologue by Malin Ryden and Emma Vieceli
Chester 5000 XYV, Book 2: Isabelle & George by Jess Fink
Dragon Heir: Reborn by Emma Vieceli
Fresh Romance, Volume 1 by Various
Gaijin Mangaka by Various
Gatesmith, Volume 1 by Jen Lee Quick
Libby’s Dad by Eleanor Davis
The Other Side edited by Melanie Gillman and Kori Michele Handwerker
Our Mother by Luke Howard
QuickSilver, Volume 1 by Emily Smith
Rainflowers by Ash Heimerl
A Redtail’s Dream by Minna Sundberg
The Usagi Yojimbo Saga, Omnibus 6 by Stan Sakai

Novels!
Human Acts by Han Kang
Dusk in Kalevia by Emily Compton, illustrated by Onorobo

Nonfiction!
Hi! My Name Is Loco and I Am A Racist by Baye McNeil
Loco in Yokohama by Baye McNeil
Mah Jong for Beginners by Shozo Kanai