Random Musings: Four Years of Experiments in Manga

I have been writing about manga, Japanese literature, and other related (and occasionally not-so-related) subjects here at Experiments in Manga for four years now. That’s…kind of incredible in its own small way. I don’t generally delve too deeply into my personal life on the blog, but this past year has been particularly momentous for me, and not just because I’ve managed to keep Experiments in Manga going for so long.

Over the last year or so, I’ve been doing all sorts of coming out both online and off. I’m very fortunate to be in a place in my life where I am able to be more open about who I am, and I’m probably the happiest that I have ever been because of it. My family, friends, and coworkers have all been amazingly supportive. I’m also currently a month into recovering from a major surgery that (without going into all of the gory details) has improved my quality of life tremendously. And a little less than a week ago I and my partners became parents. So, yeah, there have been some big changes in my life over the last year!

As for Experiments in Manga, there have been some changes here, too. Probably the most noteworthy is that Experiments in Manga joined the Manga Bookshelf family of blogs and has now been a part of that cohort for a year. In addition to keeping up with my writing at Experiments in Manga, I also regularly participate in Manga Bookshelf’s group posts. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of Manga Bookshelf and working more closely with other manga bloggers. It’s brought Experiments in Manga more readers and commenters, too, which for the most part has been a lot of fun.

After almost two years of effort, I was finally able to wrap up my Blade of the Immortal review project in November. It was a good and challenging experience for me, and one that I wanted to repeat. So I let Experiments in Manga’s readers pick which manga I would tackle next. In a few months I’ll be wrapping up my Year of Yuri monthly review project and once again I’ll be putting my next review project up for a vote. I also had a couple of smaller, informal review projects over the past year. Back in January I celebrated my very own “Usamaru Furuya Week” by reviewing everything of his available in English that I hadn’t already. And every weekend in March I reviewed a volume of Takehiko Inoue’s phenomenal manga Real. (Because March equals basketball, or something like that.)

Last year saw more queer content discussed at Experiments in Manga than ever before. It wasn’t entirely done intentionally (well, except for the Year of Yuri project), but I’ll admit that it did make me happy. Many of those posts, like my random musings on a lecture about queer theory, Japanese literature, and translation and my review of Jeffery Angles’ Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishōnen Culture in Modernist Japanese Literature, have been some of my most popular, or at least most frequently visited. Gengoroh Tagame also appears to be a perennial favorite; quite a bit of interest continues to be shown in my Two from Tagame post, which looks at two of his manga released relatively recently in English: Endless Game and Gunji.

Actually, one of the posts that I was personally very satisfied with from last year, a Spotlight on Kaita Murayama, was also somewhat queer-related. In general, I’ve been writing more of these Random Musings features. I’ve really enjoyed working on these posts. They allow me to be a little more freeform and talk about things that aren’t necessarily suited for the format that I currently use for my in-depth reviews. Other non-reviews that haven’t yet been mentioned that I was particularly happy with or that were otherwise well received include my thoughts on TCAF 2014, tips on finding manga in libraries, and a list of some of the notable releases of 2013. I had never done one of these end-of-the-year lists before, but it was surprisingly fun, so I’ll most likely do it again.

As for the in-depth reviews from the last year that seemed to be especially popular, I was a little surprised to see the amount of interest shown in some of the nonfiction titles that I read, such as The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan and The Way of Taiko (both of which were great). My review of the omnibus of the Mobile Suit Gundam trilogy of novels received a fair amount of attention, too. The five manga reviews from the past year that were the most frequently visited included Saki Nakagawa’s Attack on Titan: Junior High, Volume 1, Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro, Torajiro Kishi’s Maka-Maka: Sex, Life, and Communication, Volume 1, Yuma Ando and Yuki Sato’s Sherlock Bones, Volume 1, and Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga, Omnibus 1.

By this point I seem to have settled into a fairly predictable posting schedule at Experiments in Manga. Each week sees at least three or four posts, occasionally more if I have some sort of project going on or am feeling particularly inspired. I think I’ve said this every year so far, but I really would love to write more than I do. Sadly, my free time is very limited and from here on out (with the kidling and all) it will be even more so. Right now three to four posts a week still seems like it should be a reasonable and manageable pace for me, though.

I’ve said this every year, too, but as always I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to all of the readers of Experiments in Manga, both new and old. I mostly write for myself, but it is extremely satisfying to know that Experiments in Manga is at least occasionally interesting or helpful to other people as well. There certainly is plenty of room for improvement—I know there are some things that I don’t do very well and need to work on—but generally I’ve been very happy with the continued evolution of Experiments in Manga and the general direction the site has been taking. Thank you all for your support over the last year. Here’s hoping that the next one will be even better!


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Comments

  1. Congrats ! (on the blog and the kid). Sometimes it’s tough to keep going, but it’s great that you have managed to stay at and basically in the same place for as long as you have. I’m scattered, so my writing is literally and figuratively all over the place, so I’m a little envious that you’been able to keep pretty much on task. Thanx for always sharing and keep up the interesting work!

    • Ash Brown says:

      Thank you very much! I’m always happy to hear from my readers. It really can be tough to keep going at times, and those little boosts help. I tend to be more of a lurker, but I’ve enjoyed your work as well, even if is scattered around. ;)

  2. Oh my gosh, congrats on the kiddo! :)

    Congrats on four years. :) I hope I can make it there too; by now I’m sure you know you’re my inspiration.

    • Ash Brown says:

      Awww, thank you so much! I hope you make it to at least four years, too. I really like what you’re doing with Manga Connection. :)

  3. Sometimes I forget that you can’t hear us reading if we don’t comment.

    I value your reviews and your musings very much!

  4. Hi! Ash sorry to say have not been participating on your blog as much. I am certainly not a lurker but by now you probably know how much more attached I am to anime. Recently more so with music from Japan.

    I do tend to visit your manga blog because I feel you are doing something helpful for those very into manga with reviews.

    Congratulations on the blog like other have said. 4 years! Happy news indeed for you on being a parent. Also hope it is alright to ask since always wondered if you are a Mr. or Ms.

    P.S.: Never knew about the surgery. I am personally very scared of hospitals and surgery, so my thoughts for you.

    • Ash Brown says:

      Thank you for all of the kind words and for always stopping by, Cassandra! I enjoy anime and love Japanese music, too, so I don’t hold it against you. ;)

      I actually fall somewhere between Mr. and Ms., but am somewhat closer to Mr., so that’s generally what I use. And it was perfectly okay to ask, thanks! :)

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