My Week in Manga: November 17-November 23, 2014

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted last week at Experiments in Manga, and a little something else as well! The first review was for the second part of Boogiepop Returns: VS Imaginator, the third volume in Kouhei Kadono’s Boogiepop light novel series. Boogiepop is a rather peculiar series, but I’ve really been enjoying it. And speaking of series that I enjoy, I also reviewed the fifth omnibus of Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura. Vinland Saga is an epic work of historical fiction, and one of my favorite manga series currently being released in English. And, as promised, last week I also posted a poll so that readers of Experiments in Manga can help pick my next monthly manga review project. I’ve narrowed the choices down to five horror manga options, and now it’s up to you to vote. The poll will be open through the end of November.

A few things of note that I encountered online last week: It was brought to my attention that Akino Kondoh’s collection Nothing Whatsoever All Out in the Open is now available to order. Publishers Weekly has a great list of 12 Awesome Comics about Outer Space compiled by Matt White which includes Makoto Yukimura’s Planetes, Chūya Koyama’s Space Brothers, and Yukinobu Hoshino’s 2001 Nights, which are all excellent choices. Finally, Johanna Draper Carlson has a nice recap of the recent Digtial Manga Tezuka Kickstarter debacle/failure over at Manga Worth Reading.

Quick Takes

Angel Sanctuary, Volume 6Angel Sanctuary, Volumes 6-10 by Kaori Yuki. Halfway through the series, and I still find Angel Sanctuary a bit frustrating and confusing. It’s difficult to follow because there is so much going and and there are so many characters, with even more being introduced in these volumes Angel Sanctuary is incredibly ambitious, but I’m afraid that Yuki has bitten off too much to chew; the series would be stronger with a little more focus. Even though it seems like Yuki is making things up as she goes along, her author’s notes would seem to indicate that she actually does have a plan and even the major plot twists were developed well in advance. To the reader, though, it feels like they come out of nowhere. If anything, it should be very clear by this point in the series that you really can’t trust any of the characters. They all have their own ambitions and motivations, so it’s almost impossible for any of them to be considered allies for a long period of time. I can’t deny that Angel Sanctuary is extraordinarily dramatic, and a string of betrayals continues to up the stakes. And even though the story is all over the place, I do still really enjoy Yuki’s gothic artwork.

Barakamon, Volume 1Barakamon, Volume 1 by Satsuki Yoshino. Seishuu Handa is a young, award-winning calligrapher who, after handling a critique of his work quite poorly, has been encouraged by his father to at least temporarily retire to the remote Gotō Island. Thus begins Barakamon, a fairly low-key comedy that’s part slice of life and part gag manga. Much of the humor either revolves around Seishuu, a city boy, being so out-of-place in the countryside, or Naru, a young, energetic troublemaker who’s grown rather attached to “Sensei.” Though generally amusing, Barakamon is never quite as funny as I actually want it to be. I’ll admit though, since I grew up in a rural village myself, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit satisfied when Seishuu gets shown up by the island’s residents, especially because he thinks so little of them to begin with. I can appreciate Seishuu’s struggles as an artist, too, though I can’t say that I like him very much as a person, yet. But, I suspect that’s what Barakamon is in part about—Seishuu becoming a better person after some much-needed self-reflection. While no means exceptional in art or story, I did largely enjoy the first volume of Barakamon and plan on continuing the series for a least another few volumes.

Smut Peddler 2014Smut Peddler 2014 by Various. After being revived in 2012, Smut Peddler is back again in 2014 with a second collection of short, erotic comics. Some of the contributors are new to Smut Peddler while others are returning to the series. Smut Peddler 2014 includes twenty-five comics from thirty-two artists and writers. Although some of the individual comics are phenomenal, overall I think the first collection is the stronger of the two. Even so, Smut Peddler remains one of the best series for diverse, sex-positive, lady-friendly, queer-friendly, kink-friendly erotic comics. There’s straight sex, and queer sex. There’s modest sex and flamboyant sex. Sweet sex and spicy sex. Sex with humor and sex with solemnity. And there’s everything in between, too. With the inclusion of a few science fiction and fantasy tales, there’s also alien and inter-species sex, which is always fun. I was particularly pleased to see how many transgender and/or nonbinary narratives were included in the 2014 edition of Smut Peddler. The sheer variety of genres, styles, characters, and stories found in Smut Peddler is one of the highlights of the series. The fact that the creators are just as diverse as their comics makes it even better.

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  1. I’ve started reading my Angel Sanctuary set myself (that I got for really cheap) after seeing you start to read it. Definitely best read in large chunks, that’s for sure, lots of things going on. I am amazed at the amount of research that clearly went into this series though. Despite being the main religion in the US, I doubt many people know the angel hierarchy (heck, I only know it because I spent way too much time playing Persona 3 and 4) or much else about the mythology of abrahamic religions (I think in part because a lot of that got cut out of canon by the church centuries ago). I’ve noticed a few incorrect things (like Raphael is usually water, not Gabriel, but at least the switch it plot related). Knowing the mythology is only making me enjoy the series more though, it makes it seem not quite as random because I could see this series being massively confusing and it sure as hell starts that way. Though it does seem to like to put other mythology in there too (like Norse mythology, and the seven bladed sword is obviously Japanese), but as someone who enjoys mythology, there’s just so much here for me to chew on!
    Anyway, I also got the OVA DVD for $1 at some used store getting rid of stuff for cheap, so I’ll check it out afterwards.

    • I think you’re right that Angel Sanctuary is probably a series that a reader who already has a firm grounding in the various mythologies will find much easier to follow. Yuki definitely has her own take on it all, though; it’s really interesting to see what changes she’s made. And as confusing as Angel Sanctuary can be, especially towards the beginning, it does actually seem to be pulling together!

      • I’m a bit further than you are (v14), and yeah, the further it goes, the easier it seems to be to follow. And having some longer, distinct arcs helps that out too. I had to stop temporarily because I had to work the next few nights and, well Pokemon came out this past friday, but hopefully I can finish it tomorrow! Then move on to Slam Dunk or Higurashi.

        • Slam Dunk is always a good choice! (I actually still haven’t finished that one…) I’ve not read any of Higurashi, though I do know several people who really like the series. Maybe I should add it to my list?

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