Thank You for Reading Experiments in Manga

After a little over seven years of writing about manga, Japanese literature, and related items of interest here at Experiments in Manga, I am now largely retiring the blog. The content that’s here will remain for the foreseeable future, and I will continue to respond to any comments that are made, however I will no longer be regularly posting at the blog. It’s possible that I may very occasionally be inspired to write a long-form review or feature for Experiments in Manga, but in general my manga blogging will be moving to Manga Bookshelf proper. There I will continue participating in the Manga the Week of and Pick of the Week posts and will be contributing to the Bookshelf Briefs features as well. Another place that I will be found discussing manga and such is on Twitter, where I hope to be a little more active with my account going forward.

A huge thank you to everyone who has read and supported me and Experiments in Manga over the years! In part I started this blog as a way to connect with other people interested in manga. I am delighted that I can say I was successful in doing that. I have met so many wonderful people because of Experiments in Manga and it makes me tremendously happy to know that from time to time others found it useful, interesting, or even entertaining. To all of my friends–readers, fellow bloggers, creators, and more–thank you and thank you again. Writing at Experiments in Manga and getting to know you all has meant more to me than I can adequately express.

Manga Giveaway: Winner’s Choice!

The end of the year is almost here and I’ll soon be entering semi-retirement as a manga blogger, but there’s still time for one last giveaway here at Experiments in Manga. The winner of this final contest will have the opportunity to choose any single volume of manga released in 2017 as a prize. (Basically, no boxsets. Omnibuses are still fair game. The volume will likely still need to be in print.) And as usual, the giveaway is open worldwide!


2017 was a great year for manga. Publishers continued to expand their print and digital offerings. Genres and titles that at one point seemed untouchable in the past were licensed and released. There were deluxe editions, rescues and reissues, and so much more. I recently wrote about some of the debut manga published within the last year that to me were notable for one reason or another, but that post featured only a very small tip of a very large iceberg. This is a great time to be a manga fan.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win your choice of a manga released in 2017?

1) In the comments below, tell me which volume of manga released in 2017 you would like to win and why. (Need some help figuring out what was published? Check out non-preorders from pages 4-15 of RightStuf’s online manga catalog for some ideas.)
2) For a second entry, tell me a little about something that you read in 2017, manga or otherwise, that you particularly enjoyed. (It can be a release from any year.)
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting, or retweeting, about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

And there you have it! Participants have one week to submit comments and can earn up to three entries for this giveaway. Comments can also be sent directly to phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com if needed or preferred. I will then post the comments here in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and contacted on January 3, 2018.

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address in the comment form, a link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced–Congratulations, Nate E.!

My Week in Manga: December 18-December 24, 2017

My News and Reviews

Well, this is it! The final My Week in Manga feature here at Experiments in Manga before my semi-retirement. The fun isn’t quite over yet, though–later this week there will be one last giveaway. For anyone who wants a head start, I’ll be asking participants to tell me a little about some of the favorite things that they’ve read in the past year. And while the list doesn’t include all of my personal favorites, I recently posted my own random musings on some of the notable releases from 2017.

Quick Takes

Children of the Whales, Volume 1Children of the Whales, Volume 1 by Abi Umeda. With such a striking cover, and interior artwork to match, I couldn’t help but be curious about the first volume of Children of the Whales. It also doesn’t hurt that the manga is the start of shoujo fantasy series, a category of work that I generally tend to appreciate. And indeed, I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume of Children of the Whales. The setting is incredibly intriguing, the majority of the story taking place on the Mud Whale, a largely self-sustaining ship-like island that has been adrift on a sea of sand for nearly a century. Most of the people on the Mud Whale can work a kind of magic based on the power of emotions. However, they are very short-lived; only the few people who aren’t magically inclined reach old age. This has an interesting impact on their civilization. Control over one’s feelings is very important culturally and the community as a whole has a disconcerting lack of knowledge about their own history and the greater world. And so when they encounter a human from outside the Mud Whale she is greeted with excitement, but her arrival is also a harbinger of greater misfortune.

Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler, Volume 1Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler, Volume 1 written by Homura Kawamoto and illustrated by Tōru Naomura. The cover art of Kakegurui is fairly eye-catching as well. The series takes place at Hyakkaou Private Academy, a school for the wealthy elite in which the entire social structure is based on how well the students can gamble. In many cases, this translates directly to how much money they can throw around or how skilled they are at cheating the system. Yumeko Jabami is a new transfer student whose sweet demeanor makes her appear to be an easy mark. However, her classmates soon discover that her personality completely changes when presented with a risky enough proposition. That and she has the skill and luck needed take any one of them down. Despite the dramatic artwork and high stakes, I actually didn’t find Kakegurui nearly as engaging as I hoped or expected it to be. While entertaining, I didn’t feel particularly invested in the characters or their plights. The games played were interesting, with some clever twists, but as a whole the first volume didn’t seem to have much depth to it.

Random Musings: Notable in 2017

Towards the end of the year for the past few years here at Experiments in Manga, I have made a point to compile a list of some of the manga, comics, and other books that have been released during the previous twelve months that to me were particularly notable for one reason or another. It’s not a “best of” list, nor is it necessarily a list of my favorite releases from the past year (although admittedly some of them are). Instead, it’s a list of books which stood out to me for one reason or another that I both read and were released in 2017. I certainly haven’t read everything that was published in the last year, so the following titles have been taken from an already limited selection. For the sake of this list, I also decided to focus on debuts and one-shots rather than ongoing series. And while the list doesn’t include all of the noteworthy releases or even all of my favorites from the last year, I have tried to highlight one of the trends from 2017 that made me particularly happy–the continued growth and inclusion of queer representation and themes within the works being published.

The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún, Volume 1That being said, one of the manga that left the deepest and most lasting impressions on me in 2017 was The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún by Nagabe. Both the series’ haunting story and beautiful artwork are marvelously atmospheric. Nagabe delicately balances sweetness and charm with darkness and tragedy. It isn’t unusual for horror manga to explore the monstrosity of humans and the humanity of monsters, but The Girl from the Other Side does so with incredible nuance.

My Lesbian Experience with LonelinessManga tends to be a niche within the larger niche of comics, but every so often there is a work that gains recognition and acclaim outside of the usual audiences. Kabi Nagata ‘s autobiographical My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is one example of a manga from 2017 that found a wide readership; Nagata’s authentic, frank, and honest depiction of her struggles with depression, anxiety, sexuality, and feelings of isolation resonated deeply with others’ personal experiences.

My Brother's Husband, Omnibus 1Gengoroh Tagame is an important creator who is known worldwide, so it’s probably no surprise that his series My Brother’s Husband would garner a fair amount of attention as well. Quite different in tone from Tagame’s sadomasochistic and homoerotic manga, My Brother’s Husband is a wholesome work which tackles and refutes socially and culturally ingrained prejudices–such as homophobia–through the lens of family. The manga’s message is not subtle, but it is a good one.

I Hear the Sunspot I Hear the Sunspot by Yuki Fumino is a quieter and more understated work dealing with the impact of disabilities on relationships, romantic and otherwise. It’s a lovely and thoughtful manga which treats its naturally complex characters with respect, acceptance, and understanding. I Hear the Sunspot is actually the beginning of a series, something that I didn’t realize when I first read it. The volume stands very well on its own, but I certainly look forward to reading more.

Sweet Blue Flowers, Omnibus 1My introduction to the work of Takako Shimura was through Wandering Son, a manga which is tremendously meaningful to me. I was very happy then when her other major series, Sweet Blue Flowers, finally received a proper release in English in 2017. (It only took three different publishers.) On the surface, Sweet Blue Flowers can tend towards the melodramatic, but Shimura’s layered portrayals of young women who love other young women are still emotionally convincing and compelling.

After Hours, Volume 1Most of the yuri that has so far been translated into English generally falls into the category of schoolgirl manga, so it is wonderfully refreshing to see series featuring adult women, like Yuhta Nishio’s After Hours, being published as well. It’s also immensely satisfying to see a relationship develop between two women that, while not without its complications, is largely free of angst. After Hours, along with Sweet Blue Flowers, is also notable for being Viz Media’s first real foray into the yuri genre.

Murciélago, Volume 1Yoshimurakana’s Murciélago is likewise a manga that features adult women in adult situations. But in this case, the series makes no attempt at realism. Murciélago is ridiculously over-the-top top and extreme. The manga is lewd and crass, but it can also be massively entertaining in its outrageousness. However, due to the explicit sex, violence, and gore, Murciélago is definitely not a series that can be recommended to just anyone. Predatory lesbian assassins understandably have limited appeal.

The Backstagers, Volume 1: Rebels without ApplauseThere were a great number of wonderful queer-friendly comics released in 2017, but James Tynion IV and Rian Sygh’s The Backstagers  is particularly delightful. The comic is a tremendous amount of fun, featuring energetic artwork, an entertaining story, and a marvelously diverse cast. Especially noteworthy is the series’ challenging of gender stereotypes through the positive representations of a wide range of masculinities. The Backstagers even includes a transguy as a prominent character!

So Pretty / Very RottenAnother engaging work from 2017 that deals with gender, identity, and self-expression in interesting ways is So Pretty / Very Rotten: Comics and Essays on Lolita Fashion and Cute Culture by Jane Mai and An Nguyen. The individual pieces in the collaboration vary significantly in tone and style, ranging from accessibly academic to intensely personal, but the volume is an informative and fascinating examination of Lolita culture and its influence both inside and outside of Japan.

A Small Charred FaceI don’t tend to seek out vampire fiction, so was it not for the fact that A Small Charred Face was written by Kazuki Sakuraba, translated by Jocelyne Allen, and published by Haikasoru, I might not have gotten around to reading the novel. Hearing A Small Charred Face described as being BL-adjacent certainly caught my attention, too. The novel is an unexpectedly beautiful and heartbreaking work about outsiders, found family, and the intimate connections that tie people together.

Notes of a CrocodileMiaojin Qiu was an influential lesbian author whose work has made a lasting impact on Taiwanese culture; her acclaimed novel Notes of a Crocodile is considered to be a cult classic of queer literature. The work is both metaphorical and literal in its exploration of gender, sexuality, and identity, combining fantasy and reality in a way that is tremendously compelling and at times even devastating. While not always an easy read, Notes of a Crocodile is a rich and powerful work.

My Week in Manga: December 11-December 17, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted the Bookshelf Overload for November, which also happens to be the final Bookshelf Overload feature here at Experiments in Manga since I will be entering semi-retirement as a manga blogger very soon. Otherwise, it was a fairly quiet week, as has been the case for quite some time now. I’ve been very busy at work trying to get a bunch of stuff done before the end of the year, so I haven’t even been paying much attention to what’s going on online. However, last week I discovered (or perhaps re-discovered?) that The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi will be published in English next year! Uehashi is the creator of Moribito, which I adore along with its anime adaptation. (Moribito would  have made a great topic for an Adaptation Adventures feature.) Sadly, only the first two novels in the Moribito series were ever released in English–Guardian of the Spirit and Guardian of the Darkness–but I’m very happy to see more of her work in translation.

Quick Takes

In This Corner of the WorldIn This Corner of the World by Fumiyo Kouno. Both of the manga by Kouno that have been released in print in English–Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms and now In This Corner of the World–use the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II as a major touchstone. However, while the event is certainly important to In This Corner of the World, it’s not the central focus of the series. In This Corner of the World largely follows the everyday life of Suzu, a young woman from a small fishing village in Hiroshima who has recently married and moved in with her husband’s family in the nearby city of Kure. The three-volume series, collected into a single omnibus for its English-language release, isn’t a manga with a driving plot. Instead, the chapters read like a compilation of closely-related remembrances. The theme of memories is one that is echoed throughout the entire manga. Although the subject matter of In This Corner of the World is certainly serious, with an authentic portrayal of some of the tragedies and heartbreak associated with war, Kouno has also created a quiet and lovely work with significant charm.

The Promised Neverland, Volume 1The Promised Neverland, Volume 1 written by Kaiu Shirai and illustrated by Posuka Demizu. The beginning of The Promised Neverland is very bright, but it doesn’t take much time at all for the series to execute an exceptionally dark turn. Emma and the other orphans at Grace Field House lead happy lives. They are surprisingly well-cared-for, provided with delicious food and an idyllic environment in which to grow into young, healthy children. But when Emma discovers the horrifying truth behind the orphanage’s purpose, she becomes determined to find a way for all of the children to escape. However, running away will be an extremely difficult task to accomplish, especially when plans must be devised and executed in complete secrecy. The Promised Neverland features an intense battle of wits as Emma and the others are suddenly faced with securing their own survival in an unforgiving world that is unlike anything that they were previously led to believe. The story is deeply unsettling, and Demizu’s artwork is more than up to the task of creating a chilling atmosphere. I am incredibly interested to see how The Promised Neverland continues to develop from here.