My Week in Manga: June 15-June 21, 2015

 My News and Reviews

I was on vacation last week, much of which was spent in the middle of the woods in the middle of Ohio camping with my family. This meant I had very little Internet access. But even so, I did manage to post two reviews last week. My monthly horror manga review project continued with a review of After School Nightmare, Volume 4 by Setona Mizushiro. This was the first volume in the series that I hadn’t previously read before embarking on the review project. The second review was of Satoshi Wagahara’s prize-winning light novel The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, Volume 1 which is very amusing and silly. But, having watched the anime series last year, I already knew that.

As previously mentioned, I was occupied with other things last week, so I probably missed out on all sorts of interesting reading, news, and announcements. However, there were a few things that came across my radar before I left for Ohio. Kathryn Hemmann at Contemporary Japanese Literature wrote about The Cultural Cross Pollination of Shōjo Manga. And speaking of shōjo manga, Digital Manga’s most recent Tezuka Kickstarter is aiming to publish Storm Fairy. (The project also aims to reprint Unico with better image and color quality, which makes me wonder why Digital Manga didn’t do that for the first printing, but I’ve given up trying to understand Digital Manga’s decision making.) Finally, Udon Entertainment announced a new manga license: Shuji Sogabe’s adaptation of Persona 4.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan: Junior High, Omnibus 3Attack on Titan: Junior High, Omnibus 3 (equivalent to Volumes 5-6) by Saki Nakagawa. Out of all the various Attack on Titan spinoffs, Junior High is the one that probably has the smallest audience overall and is the one that is the most uneven for me specifically. Sometimes the manga can be a slog to get through, but sometimes it’s absolutely hilarious. At its best, Junior High can actually make me laugh out loud; I keep reading the series for those moments because when Junior High is funny, it is very funny. The manga continues to be a very weird mix of Attack on Titan and a generic school setting with all of the standard tropes that that entails. Sometimes the combination works better than others. This particular omnibus features the school culture festival, a battle of the bands, eating contests and cooking competitions, club activities, lots of cleaning, and school rivalries among other things. I was very pleased to see that characters and storylines from other Attack on Titan spinoffs like No Regrets are now being incorporated into Junior High as well.

Lies Are a Gentleman's Manners, Volume 1Lies Are a Gentleman’s Manners by Marta Matsuo. Since for whatever reason Digital Manga often seems to be hesitant to include “Volume 1” in the title of a new manga, I didn’t initially realize that Lies Are a Gentleman’s Manners is actually an ongoing series in Japan. The first volume stands well enough on its own, but I do hope that any subsequent volumes will be licensed as well. Despite the fact that neither of the leads in this boys’ love manga are particularly likeable—Jonathan, an unscrupulous medical student selling drugs to his fellow classmates, and Paul, his equally unscrupulous (and married) college professor who uses that fact to blackmail him into a relationship—I actually do want to read more. Though some of the situations are unquestionably unsavory, the manga can also be very funny and even sexy on occasion. One of the most interesting things about Lies Are a Gentleman’s Manners is its setting. The manga takes place on America’s modern East Coast among the country’s wealthy, aristocratic upper class. While certainly a fictional representation, some of the social dynamics ring true.

TowerkindTowerkind by Kat Verhoeven. Originally self-published as a series of mini-comics, Towerkind was recently collected and released by Conundrum Press in a single volume. I was not previously familiar with Verhoeven’s work; Towerkind was a TCAF-inspired impulse buy. I’m very glad that I picked it up though because I’m loving this comic to pieces. Towerkind certainly won’t be to everyone’s liking, but there’s just something about the comic that I find oddly compelling. It’s surreal, strange, chilling, and ominous. Verhoeven effectively uses a small format to create a claustrophobic atmosphere that emphasizes the feeling of impending doom experienced by the characters. The volume opens with a foreword by Georgia Webber explaining the importance of the backdrop of Towerkind—Toronto’s first vertical neighborhood of high-rise apartments St. James Town—which helps to set the stage and tone for the comic itself. Towerkind follows a group of children gifted with unexplainable supernatural abilities who live in the towers of St. James Town while what may be the end of the world approaches.

Welcome to the N.H.K., Volume 5Welcome to the N.H.K., Volumes 5-8 by Kendi Oiwa. Having already read the original Welcome to the N.H.K. novel by Tatsuhiko Takimoto and having already seen the Welcome to the N.H.K. anime series (which, it turns out, was based on both the novel and Oiwa’s manga adaptation), I am already quite familiar with the story and characters Welcome to the N.H.K., but I somehow managed to forget just how dark and hard-hitting it can be. Ostensibly Welcome to the N.H.K. is a comedy, and it can be quite funny in a painful sort of way, but it deals with some pretty heavy subject matter including (but not limited to) drug use, self-harm, suicide, and mental illness. The second half of the series, while at times outrageous, tends to fall on the more serious side of things. Although I’ve always considered Welcome to the N.H.K. to be Satou’s story, the manga also places particular emphasis on Misaki’s story. It’s been a while since I’ve read or watched them, but I believe the manga actually has a unique ending that’s different from both the novel and the anime. All three version of Welcome to the N.H.K. are very good.

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  1. I’m glad Unico’s potentially get a reprint just because I would like a copy, but… fatigued with the Tezuka Kickstarters, yanno? Tezeka’s great and all, but it seems like every time I turn around there’s another KS. Would really love to see some other stuff from them, or just more of a focus on their current print catalog.

    • Ash Brown says

      So much agreement with what you said! I like Tezuka and everything, and I understand his importance, but I would really love to see Digital Manga diversify its offerings and Kickstarters and to create a more sustainable catalog. (Some of Digital Manga’s titles seem to go out-of-print almost as soon as they are released.) Unico is pretty great, though.

  2. In Welcome to the NHK, what is your favorite, the crazy first half or the sadder more serious second half?

    • Ash Brown says

      Oh, that’s a good question and difficult to answer! Both aspects of Welcome to the N.H.K. are important and help to create a well-balanced story. The humor keeps it from becoming too depressing while the weightiness keeps it from completely going off the rails. I don’t think that Welcome to the N.H.K. would work nearly as well if it didn’t include comedy alongside its misery, and it’s hard to untangle the two. So, I would say that the first half is perhaps the more enjoyable to read, but the second half is what gives the series purpose and direction.

      • Yeah, that sounds right. I kinda hoped at the end the series would sort of loop back to the situation of the first half for some sort of “happy ending”. But the depressing second half really did feel a logical progression and I guess even a proper outcome.
        I really do wish the writer had done more manga since because this one made an impression on me in the way few do.

        • Ash Brown says

          I’d be interested in reading more of Tatsuhiko Takimoto’s work, too. Kendi Oiwa has one other manga available in English which is also quite good if you enjoy horror, the adaptation of Otsuichi’s Goth. (I believe it was also his first published work.)

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