My Week in Manga: November 7-November 13, 2011

My News and Reviews

Okay, here we go! I posted a couple of reviews last week. The first was Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Yashakiden: The Demon Princess, Volume 1 courtesy of Digital Manga. I had some problems with the first volume, but I do plan on reading more of the series. The second review I posted was the first in-depth manga review for November, Death Note, Volume 10: Deletion. After a few bumpy middle volumes, the series is starting to get really good again.

Ed Sizemore of Manga Worth Reading and my favorite podcast Manga Out Loud is saying goodbye to reviewing manga to the same extent that he’s doing now. I understand his decision but am still sad and will definitely miss his voice. My best wished go out to Ed and his future pursuits.

Over on Tor.com, Ron Hogan has an interesting essay about Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 and why those who read speculative fiction might get more out of it than those who don’t–Genre in the Mainstream: Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. I’m currently reading 1Q84 and should have a review of my own posted within the next couple of weeks.

Once upon a time, June 2009 to be exact, Digital Manga published Osamu Tezuka’s Swallowing the Earth. Since then, the book has gone out of print. However! Digital Manga has created a Kickstarter project to bring the manga back. I’m particularly excited about this venture because if it succeeds it could establish a workable publishing model to bring niche manga to English-reading audiences.

And finally, this week is the Natsume Ono Manga Moveable Feast! I’ve got a bunch of quick takes here for you featuring some of Ono’s works (plus a couple that are completely unrelated). Later this week I’ll also be posting an in-depth manga review of House of Five Leaves, Volume 1. I am quite fond of Ono’s manga, so I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone’s contributions to the Feast.

Quick Takes

The Drops of God, Volume 1 written by Tadashi Agi and illustrated by Shu Okimoto. While I like the drink, I am not by any means a wine connoisseur. Still, I enjoyed The Drops of God probably even more than I expected to. I will admit, I’m actually a little jealous of the characters and their passion for wine. For them, it’s not just a drink but a way to express themselves. The characters’ experiences and the mental images elicited while drinking are brilliantly captured in Okimoto’s artwork. It makes me envious that I’ve never had such visceral and emotional reactions to wine. The Drops of God reminds me a lot of Oishinbo, which I don’t think is a bad thing. I’m looking forward to reading more.

Gente: The People of Ristorante Paradiso, Volumes 1-3 by Natsume Ono. Ono has a superb talent for drawing marvelously sexy…pardon me, distinguished…older gentlemen. I don’t think that Gente always stands very well on its own, but as a companion series to Ono’s one-shot Ristorante Paradiso, it’s wonderful. The manga is a series of short stories and vignettes featuring characters from Ristorante Paradiso. It’s really nice to be able to get to spend more time with them and learn a little bit more about their pasts and personalities. The first two volumes take place before for the events of Ristorante Paradiso while the final volume takes place during the same time period and perhaps a little bit after.

House of Five Leaves, Volumes 2-4 by Natsume Ono. As much as I enjoy all of Ono’s work, House of Five Leaves is my favorite series by her. I saw the anime adaptation before the manga was available in English, so it’s difficult for me not to compare the two. The fourth volume is the first volume with a significant amount of unique content, including a character that doesn’t even appear in the anime. However, the heart of the story remains the same. The manga reveals some of the characters’ backstories in greater depth and explores their personal turmoils in more detail. In particular, the vicious side of Yaichi’s nature is shown more than it is implied. I’m greatly anticipating the release of the rest of the series.

La Quinta Camera: The Fifth Room by Natsume Ono. La Quinta Camera was Ono’s breakthrough work. It was originally published as a webcomic before being picked up by a publisher. The manga is a slice of life story focusing on the lives of four men who share an apartment in Italy and their relationships with the constantly changing tenant of the fifth room which is rented out to exchange students. Each chapter, six in all, brings a new student and reveals just a little bit more of the residents’ lives. Some of the tenants are only there briefly while others stick around even after they’ve moved out, but they all leave a lasting impression on the men. I prefer Ono’s later work but I did enjoy La Quinta Camera. Although it’s fiction, the manga has a charming sense of authenticity to it.

Dragon Head directed by George Iida. While I can safely say that I, for the most part, prefer the Dragon Head manga, the live-action film is not that bad of an adaptation. It just doesn’t translate the character’s struggles with fear quite as well. Nobuo’s descent into madness seems a bit rushed at the beginning (granted, it happens pretty quickly in the manga, too), but that is somewhat understandable since there was a lot of material to fit into a two hour movie. Certain plot details of the story have been changed, some for the better, and an excellent job was done making the whole film coherent. The special effects are pretty decent and the devastated Tokyo landscape was particularly well done.

House of Five Leaves directed by Tomomi Mochizuki. House of Five Leaves may very well be my favorite anime series; I am absolutely crushed that a Region 1 DVD set hasn’t been licensed. I’m glad that I can at least stream the series, but watching the show on my laptop is less than ideal. It’s a story that profoundly resonates with me for some reason and I continue to think about the series long after I’ve finished watching it. It’s not a anime that will work for everyone. It has a sort of art house feel to it, retaining much of Ono’s style, and the drama relies entirely on the characters. The music also creates an odd, but I think effective, sort of atmosphere, mixing traditional Japanese instruments with modern beats and what sounds a lot like a French tango.


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