My Week in Manga: March 14-March 20, 2011

My News and Reviews

I mentioned this previously (Random Musings: Anime and Manga Bloggers for Japan), but if you haven’t checked out the Anime and Manga Boggers for Japan effort, please do. I’ll be keeping the banner at the top of this blog for a while and eventually will move it to the side bar. Our initial goal was to raise $1,000 ($2,000 total) for Shelter Box USA—Japan Disaster Relief and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. At the time of this posting, we’ve reached $3,170, which is simply fantastic.

Other posts this week included the first in-depth manga review for March—Blade of the Immortal, Volume 5: On Silent Wings II. Blade of the Immortal is one of my favorite manga series, and there’s some really great character development for Rin going on in the On Silent Wings arc. I also posted a review of the first volume of the Book Girl light novel series Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime, which I really enjoyed. I’ll definitely be following the series.

A couple of interesting things that I’ve recently found online: The Manga Readers Choice Awards have been announced as has the Graphic Novel Reporter’s Core List of Manga for Spring 2011. Also, since I read Qwan this week, I want to draw your attention to Kate Dacey’s much more coherent write up of the series at The Manga Critic—The Best Manga You’re Not Reading: Qwan.

Finally, the Aria Manga Moveable Feast has begun! I’ve included quick takes of both Aqua and Aria here, and later this week I’ll have an in-depth review of the first volume of Aqua.

Quick Takes

Aqua, Volumes 1-2 by Kozue Amano. There was no way I could pass up Amano’s manga Aqua—Mars has been turned into a water planet through terraforming. The art is probably my favorite part of the series. Pretty girls in a pretty setting. There are panels that I keep flipping back to look at again, happily absorbing myself staring at the illustrations. I love Aika’s frequent admonishments of Akari’s sappy lines. And the chapters focusing on the exploits of President Aria are always fun. I was happy to see a little more conflict introduced in the second volume, but overall the series is still has a very relaxed feeling about it. I like the characters, but they almost seem to be living separate from the society around them.

Aria, Volumes 1-6 by Kozue Amano. Aria is pretty much the same series as Aqua except for the magazine it was originally published in. It still has a calm, relaxing storyline and beautiful artwork (I would love to see some of Amano’s color prints). The manga continues to be fairly episodic but it’s nice to see the same characters showing up again and again. And there are quite a few more charming characters introduced as well. The first few volumes of Aria focus on the changing seasons. Autumn is featured in the first volume, a personal favorite of mine. It’s also interesting to see the preservation of various Manhome customs and traditions on Aqua. I still find it strange how little Akari actually knows about Aqua and Neo-Venezia.

Qwan, Volumes 1-4 by Aki Shimizu. Unfortunately, only the first four volumes of the seven volume series have been released in English. It’s unlikely that the remaining volumes will be published, but Qwan is still worth taking a look at. Shimizu’s artwork is marvelous and the characters fascinating. I’m particularly fond of the lowlife Chikei (and would really like to know what happened to him). The story is a great mix of Chinese court and political intrigue and supernatural battles. The actual action can be difficult to follow sometimes, but overall the fight sequences are great. The story, too, requires that the reader be paying attention, but I found effort needed to be satisfying.

Ze, Volumes 1-2 by Yuki Shimizu. I’ve frequently seen Ze referred to as a yaoi version of Fruits Basket, and there are certain similarities. Familial and romantic relationships and dynamics are certainly bizarre and intense. And Raizou, the primary character in the first two volumes, is extraordinarily kindhearted, self-sacrificing, and just a bit awkward. Adorably so. (I really like Raizou as a character.) I enjoyed watching him work out his relationship with Kon. The magic system used in Ze can be somewhat confusing at first if you try to think too hard about it. But, I’ve always liked the concept of words being inherently powerful, both literally and figuratively.

The Irresponsible Captain Tylor directed by Kōichi Mashimo. This series was recommended to me by a friend who was shocked that I had never even heard of it. It is so very terribly amusing. Justy Ueki Tylor joined the United Planets Space Force in search of an easy desk job, but unexpectedly finds himself promoted to a captain a destroyer after diffusing a hostage situation. The crew of the Soyokaze is made up of the worst troublemakers and misfits of the UPSF. Somehow, Tylor wins them over and they manage to survive repeat encounters against the enemy Raalgon Empire. No one can really tell if Tylor is simply a complete idiot or an absolute genius, but they can all agree that he is one lucky bastard.

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