My Week in Manga: January 7-January 13, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted the most recent edition of Library Love, a recurring feature in which I take a quick look at the manga that I’ve been reading from my local library. I also reviewed Frederik L. Schodt’s newest work Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe. It’s a fantastic book and very easy to recommend, especially if you’re interested in Japanese history and/or 19th-century popular culture. And speaking of Frederik L. Schodt, The Japan Times Online recently posted a great interview with him—Frederik Schodt: Japan’s pop culture ambassador to the world.

This week I’ll be gearing up for the Moyoco Anno Manga Moveable Feast which will be hosted here at Experiments in Manga. The Feast will begin on Sunday, January 20. If you haven’t seen the Call for Participation, please do check it out. I’d love to see as many people as possible contribute to the Feast. I hosted the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast last year which I think was fairly successful. I hope that I can manage to pull it off again! I really appreciate everyone who has helped to get the word out about the upcoming Feast.

Quick Takes

Danza by Natsume Ono. I’m a fan of Ono and so was very excited to see Danza licensed. Danza is a collection of six of her short manga, originally serialized in Morning Two. I quite enjoyed the volume. Thematically, all of the stories in Danza feature male-bonding and relationships of one sort or another (fathers and sons, coworkers, brothers, and so on.) I didn’t find Danza to be particularly stunning, profound, or life-changing, but it was a very satisfying collection overall. The stories range from the delightfully charming to the melancholic and bittersweet. Ono also tries her hand at science fiction (specifically time travel), a genre I haven’t seen her work in before, which was interesting to see.

Garden Dreams by Fumi Yoshinaga. Garden Dreams was the only work by Yoshinaga currently available in English that I hadn’t read yet. It’s a collection of four closely connected stories (although they might not appear to be related at first) surrounding the life and tragic loves of Baron Victor Bianni as well as the young man who becomes his personal bard. The artwork in Garden Dreams is fairly sparse, with very little use of backgrounds. This was a little disappointing since the manga takes place in a historical setting which I would have loved to have actually seen. But her characters are all attractive and their designs are all easily distinguished. Garden Dreams isn’t Yoshinaga’s strongest work, but it was still enjoyable. I particularly liked the manga’s trick ending.

Rurouni Kenshin, Omnibus 5 (equivalent to Volumes 13-15) by Nobuhiro Watsuki. A continuation of the long Kyoto story arc, the fifth omnibus of Rurouni Kenshin begins a sequence of duels as Kenshin and his allies begin to face Shishio and his underlings head on. These volumes are fairly action-packed and battle heavy, which I enjoyed. Granted, some of the fights can be rather ridiculous and over the top, but they’re exciting, too. Occasionally Watsuki’s action sequences can be difficult to follow, but many of the duels feature some very cool moves and techniques. I was very pleased to see Okinawan kobudō (which I study) show up. There’s also a fight in a library and even a cross-dresser in this omnibus for good measure.

Umineko: When They Cry, Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch, Volume 1 written by Ryukishi07, illustrated by Kei Natsumi. The first volume of Yen Press’ edition of Umineko collects the first two volumes of the original Japanese release. The manga is based on a series of visual novels (none of which I have played). Perhaps I would have a better opinion of the manga if I was more familiar with the franchise, but Umineko just isn’t working for me. Eighteen characters stuck on an island bickering over inheritance issues and I don’t care about or like a single one of them. Nearly 400 pages pass before anything even remotely interesting happens in the manga. Granted, the big revel is suitably and effectively shocking, but I’m not sure that the buildup was worth it.

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