My Week in Manga: January 14-January 20, 2013

My News and Reviews

The Moyoco Anno Manga Moveable Feast has begun! This month’s Feast is being hosted right here at Experiments in Manga, so expect to see more content than usual this week (including a guest post!) beginning with some quick takes of Anno’s manga available in English below. To start things off, I posted an introduction to the Feast on Sunday. For more information about how to contribute to the Feast, please check out the Call for Participation. I’m looking forward to the Feast and hope you all are, too! I will be doing my best as host, so please enjoy.

Although I was busy preparing for the Feast last week, I was still able to post a couple of reviews. The next review in my Blade of the Immortal review project was posted—Blade of the Immortal, Volume 17: On the Perfection of Anatomy. Hiroaki Samura doesn’t progress the plot much in this volume, but it features some very important character development. I also reviewed Miyuki Miyabe’s fantasy novel The Book of Heroes. I had previously read Brave Story and so was looking forward to reading The Book of Heroes. The novel actually frustrated me as a story, but I loved the ideas and concepts that Miyabe explored in it.

Elsewhere online, the Toronto Comics Art Festival announced the list of featured guests for 2013 which includes mangaka Gengoroh Tagame and Taiyo Matsumoto among some other fantastic creators. I finally have a passport, so I’m hoping that I can actually go to TCAF this year. Over at Narrative Investigations, Helen has a nice review of Saki Hiwatari’s Please Save My Earth, Volume 1 which she won during last month’s giveaway here at Experiments in Manga. (This month’s giveaway will be posted next week, so stay tuned!)

Quick Takes

Flowers & Bees, Volumes 1-7 by Moyoco Anno. Masao Komatsu desperately wants a girlfriend but is hopelessly unpopular. Believing his problems stem from his unattractiveness, he becomes a slave to beauty and improving himself. Flowers & Bees is frequently crass, rude, and raunchy, its humor often bordering on inappropriate. It’s not a series for the easily offended, but it is hilarious. I prefer Flowers & Bees when it is being manic and outrageous. The second half of the series calms down a little once Komatsu begins to settle into an real relationship. Granted, that relationship isn’t without its problems. There’s also actually some legitimate fashion and dating advice to be found in Flowers & Bees.

Happy Mania, Volumes 1-11 by Moyoco Anno. Happy Mania was the first manga by Anno to be released in English. It was also one of the first josei manga to be published in North America. The series follows Kayoko Shigeta and her crazed pursuit of true love, or at least the perfect boyfriend. Happy Mania is often ridiculous and absurd; I don’t think there’s a single healthy relationship in the entire series. Shigeta is an incredibly self-absorbed and selfish character, but I still ended up liking her. Unfortunately, every time she looks like she might get her life together, something gets in the way (usually herself.) In some ways, the ending might be a little disappointing, but it is very much in keeping with Shigeta’s character. And in that way, it’s perfect.

Sakuran: Blossoms Wild by Moyoco Anno. Taking place in the Yoshiwara pleasure district of Edo, Sakuran is one of the few period pieces that Anno has created. The manga is about Kiyoha, a girl who is sold to a brothel as a maid, eventually becoming one of the district’s highest ranking courtesans. The portrayal of sex work in Sakuran isn’t idealized or romanticized. Overall, I think the manga is one of Anno’s strongest works in English; it’s certainly her most serious, although it’s not without humor. Plus, Sakuran is the only manga of Anno’s available in English that features her gorgeous color artwork. Anno is currently working on a sequel to Sakuran; hopefully Vertical will be able to license it, too.

Sugar Sugar Rune, Volumes 1-8 by Moyoco Anno. In 2005, Anno won the Kodansha Manga Award for best children’s manga for her series Sugar Sugar Rune. Arguably, it is her most widely popular and well known series, appealing to both younger and older readers. One of the things that I like best about Sugar Sugar Rune is its huge cast. The wide range of characters all exhibit distinct personalities and stylish designs and each play their own role in the increasingly complex story. Chocolat and Vanilla are two young witches and best friends competing to become the next queen of the Magical World by collecting hearts in the Human World. Meanwhile, war is threatening to break out between two rival factions in the Magical World, putting everyone in danger.

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