My Week in Manga: April 10-April 16, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga was relatively quiet, but I did post the Bookshelf Overload for March. As mentioned in that post (and I think sometime prior to that as well), I’m currently in the process of changing jobs, so I’ve been a bit preoccupied to say the least. (If you follow me on Twitter, this largely explains my sporadic appearances there.) This week is my last week in my current position, so I’m understandably pretty busy with meetings and tying up loose ends and such. I still plan on finishing up and posting my review of the first volume of Nagabe’s The Girl from the Other Side sometime this week, but it will probably be towards the end.

Over the last week, Seven sees announced a couple more new licenses: Yoshikazu Takeuchi’s Perfect Blue novels (which were the basis for Satoshi Kon’s anime film of the same name) as well as Jin and Sayuki’s manga series Nirvana. Yen Press also had a slew of announcements: Natsume Ono’s ACCA 13 (probably the one I’m most excited about), Kudan Naduka and Nakoto Sanada’s Angel of Slaughter, Matoba’s As Miss Beelzebub Likes, Rihito Takarai’s Graineliers, Afro’s Laid-Back Camp?, Mufirushi Shimazaki’s The Monster Tamer Girls, Koromo’s A Polar Bear in Love, Matcha Hazuki’s One Week Friends, Fuse’s Regarding Reincarnating as Slime light novel (Kodansha Comics has licensed the manga), both the light novel and manga of Carlo Zen’s The Saga of Evil Tanya, Okina Baba’s light novel So I’m a Spider, So What?, Keiichi Shigusawa and Tadadi Tamori’s Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Online, Abec’s Sword Art Online Artworks artbook, Reki Kawahara and Shii Kiya’s Sword Art Online: Calibur, Mai Tanaka’s Terrified Teacher at Ghoul School, Kakashi Oniyazu’s Though You May Burn to Ash, and Ryousuke Asakura’s Val X Love.

As for crowdfunding efforts, Digital Manga will be launching its most recent Juné Kickstarter sometime later today in an effort to publish print editions of some of Psyche Delico’s manga which were previously only released digitally. (This is in addition to recently announced print licenses of Psyche Delico’s Even a Dog Won’t Eat It and Choco Strawberry Vanilla.) Another Kickstarter project to keep an eye on is Retrofit Comic’s Spring 2017 collection which includes Yuichi Yokoyama’s Iceland. (In general Retrofit Comics releases some great books, but this will be the publisher’s first manga to be translated.) Finally, the wonderful people behind Queer Japan are currently raising funds for the film’s post-production as well as some of the non-profit organizations featured in the documentary.

Quick Takes

Dawn of the Arcana, Volume 7Dawn of the Arcana, Volumes 7-13 by Rei Toma. I enjoyed the first part of Dawn of the Arcana a great deal and so was looking forward to reading the rest of the series. As the manga progresses it becomes less reliant on the standard fantasy tropes that form its base, although it never escapes them entirely. However, even considering this, Dawn of the Arcana is still a satisfying and enjoyable series. The story’s most dramatic plot twist I guessed at long before it was actually revealed, but there were still developments and directions that the story took that managed to surprise me. At times it felt like Dawn of the Arcana was only scratching the surface, as if the manga was only providing a summary version of a much more complicated narrative. The characters and story have depth to them, but not everything is thoroughly and completely explored, much of the more nuanced interpretations being left to the readers to form. I really liked Dawn of the Arcana. It can be heartbreaking–the characters’ struggling with circumstances that have no easy resolutions–but also thrilling as they find ways to take control of their own fates.

Murciélago, Volume 1Murciélago, Volume 1 by Yoshimurakana. I was forewarned about the violence, gore, and otherwise explicit nature of Murciélago, so I was well aware of what I was getting myself into by picking up the manga. Murciélago is ridiculous, absurd, extreme, over-the-top, and a great deal of fun if someone doesn’t have a problem with the series’ aforementioned blood and brutality. Interestingly, the risqué lesbian sex scenes which both open and close the first volume, while being deliberately lewd, scandalous, and outrageous are also entirely consensual and in a way are bizarrely one of the more wholesome aspects of the manga. The lead of Murciélago is Kuroko Koumori, a dangerous, murderous, and lecherous woman who has been sentenced to death for her crimes. Kuroko is a monster and is portrayed as such. (She’s an awful person, but I really like her as a character.) The only reason that she’s still alive is that the police have indefinitely postponed her execution in order to take advantage of her impressive skills as an assassin. So, yeah, Murciélago definitely isn’t a series for everyone, but I certainly plan on reading more of it.

Triton of the Sea, Omnibus 2Triton of the Sea, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 3-4) by Osamu Tezuka. It has been a very long time since I read the first half of Triton of the Sea. So long ago in fact that I had forgot that I hadn’t actually finished the series yet. Fortunately, the manga was pretty easy to pick up again. I seem to like Triton of the Sea best when the story centers its focus on family. In the first omnibus, it was Triton’s relationships with his human family that really captured my attention and in the second it was his experiences as a new father that most delighted me. (It probably didn’t hurt that the baby merfolk were super cute.) Triton of the Sea is also a story of revenge. Triton is determined destroy the Poseidon clan for the sake of his people who have been nearly driven to extinction, his desire for retribution blinding him from seeing other courses of action that might allow the two clans to establish a lasting peace. This of course only serves to continue the cycle of violence that puts him and his loved ones in danger. Triton of the Sea isn’t Tezuka’s strongest or most notable work, but I did appreciate the themes that Tezuka was exploring with the series.

Wandering Island, Volume 1Wandering Island, Volume 1 by Kenji Tsuruta. The premise of Wandering Island is fairly simple: Mikura Amelia is a pilot for an air delivery service based in the Izu Islands that she and her grandfather established together. When he unexpectedly passes away, she understandably takes it pretty hard. While in mourning she discovers package among her grandfather’s belongings with an address on it that shouldn’t exist, leading Mikura to become obsessed with a search for a mysterious, disappearing island. Although there are some wonderful scenes of Mikura in flight, there’s not really much action in Wandering Island. Instead, the manga is rather leisurely paced with a contemplative and melancholic feel to it. Wandering Island is also beautifully illustrated, Tsuruta’s artwork being one of the series’ highlights. I love how Tsuruta is able to capture a sense of place and the people who live there. I’m not sure when or if the second volume of Wandering Island will be published in English (the Japanese edition itself isn’t even scheduled to be released until next month), but I would definitely like to see it translated.

Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains PureHorses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure: A Tale That Begins with Fukushima by Hideo Furukawa. Fukushima has been on my mind lately which reminded me of the fact that I had yet to read Furukawa’s Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure, one of the first major literary responses to the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters associated with March 11, 2011. The work is rather curious, but it’s also worthwhile and powerful. In part it’s a sequel of sorts to Furukawa’s novel Seikazoku (The Holy Family), which hasn’t actually been released in English. However, familiarity with that earlier work isn’t at all necessary. Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure also delves into the history of Fukushima as a whole, both before and after 2011. But perhaps most importantly, it’s an incredibly personal memoir. Though he was away at the time, Furukawa was originally from Fukushima. Soon after the disasters struck, he traveled back to the area in order to witness the aftermath of the events himself. A fair amount of the volume is devoted to Furukawa’s profound experiences while on that trip, combining fiction, history, and biography in a compelling way.

My Week in Manga: April 3-April 9, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga the winner of the Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid manga giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in print in English which feature dragons. Also posted last week was a guest review by my friend Jocilyn. She was inspired to write about Canno’s Kiss & White Lily for My Dearest Girl, Volume 1, the most recent yuri manga to be released by Yen Press. As mentioned previously, I’m currently working on my own in-depth review of the first volume of The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, A Rún by Nagabe. It looks like I should be on track to post it sometime next week.

Elsewhere online, Seven Seas has completely revamped its website, adding new features like browsing by genre, launching a newsletter, and so on. It looks great and what’s more, there will be a regular survey which provides readers an opportunity to give feedback and submit license requests. As part of the launch of the new website, Seven Seas also announced a few new licenses: Touki Yanagimi and Youhei Yasumura’s Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon, Shin Mashiba’s Yokai Rental Shop (I loved Mashiba’s Nightmare Inspector, so I’m really looking forward this one), and an omnibus of Fumiyo Kouno’s In This Corner of the World (Kouno is the creator of Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms which is also excellent).

In other publishing news, some of Kodansha Comics digital-only titles were recently called digital-first, so there may yet be hope for print editions of some of the manga. I missed (or maybe forgot about) the initial announcement, but Titan Comics will be releasing Ravina the Witch? by Junko Mizuno in English later this year. (Ravina the Witch? was originally released in French in 2014.) In sadder news, Bruno Gmünder recently announced its bankruptcy (again). I’m not entirely sure what this will mean for the publisher’s past and future comics releases, including the Gay Manga line, but they might not stay in print long. (I’ve featured some of Bruno Gmünder’s releases here before; I’ll be sad to see them go if the publisher folds.)

As for a few of the interesting Kickstarters that I’ve discovered lately: Emily Cheeseman is raising funds to release the print edition of Gawain and the Green Knight, a beautiful webcomic that she’s been working on since 2015. I wasn’t previously familiar with the work of Elise Schuenke, but Living Space looks like it should be another great queer-themed comic. And speaking of queer-themed comics, the initial campaign for the Tabula Idem tarot anthology wasn’t successful but the creative team has revised and relaunched the project. Finally, anyone interested in Weird Al may be curious about Kelly Phillips’ comic memoir Weird Me about her experiences as the webmaster of a Weird Al fan site in her teens. (Weird Al’s music was a major touchstone for me growing up.)

Quick Takes

Dissolving ClassroomDissolving Classroom by Junji Ito. Lately there has been a resurgence in manga by Ito being released in English. In many cases they’ve actually been re-releases, but there have been a few newly-translated manga being published as well, Dissolving Classroom from Vertical Comics being the most recent example. I love Ito’s brand of horror manga and Dissolving Classroom was originally serialized in a josei magazine, so the volume was an obvious candidate for one of my most anticipated releases of the year. As expected, I thoroughly enjoyed the manga, but Dissolving Classroom didn’t end up leaving as strong of an impression on me as some of Ito’s earlier works. The loosely connected stories in Dissolving Classroom follow the demise of the people who meet Yuuma, a young man whose constant apologizing will literally make a person’s brain melt, and his incredibly creepy little sister Chizumi. Neither of the siblings are quite what they initially seem. Yuuma in particular comes across as a troubled but largely benign individual; very few people actually realize what’s going wrong before it’s too late. Dissolving Classroom is bizarre but certainly not the strangest manga that Ito has created. The visuals aren’t as shockingly memorable as some of Ito’s other series either, but they are still successfully disconcerting.

Everyone's Getting Married, Volume 1Everyone’s Getting Married, Volume 1 by Izumi Miyazono. While josei manga have recently become more common in translation (a trend that I would love to see continue), there still aren’t all that many to be found. I’ve generally enjoyed the josei manga that I’ve read in the past and I like to show my support for new releases, so I made a point to try Everyone’s Getting Married. Asuka is well-admired for her successful career, but what she really wants in life is to get married and become a housewife. When her boyfriend of five years unexpectedly dumps her, she suddenly finds herself looking for a new long-term relationship. That proves to be more difficult than she expected and unfortunately for her most likely candidate is Ryu, a man who has made it very clear that he has no interest in marriage. I’ve growing a little weary of high school romances, so I found Everyone’s Getting Married to be a wonderfully refreshing change of pace; I enjoyed reading about adults and their lives and relationships for once. I also like Asuka a great deal. She’s independent, knows what she wants out of life, and is willing to work hard for what is important to her. I’m looking forward to reading more about her and reading more of Everyone’s Getting Married.

Ghost in the Shell, Volume 1.5: Human-Error ProcessorGhost in the Shell, Volume 1.5: Human-Error Processor by Masamune Shirow. While I had previously read the first and second volumes of Ghost in the Shell, I had never actually read the manga’s third volume, something that I didn’t realize until Kodansha Comics recently re-released the entire series in a deluxe, hardcover edition. Even though it was the third volume of Ghost in the Shell to be collected and released, the events of Human-Error Processor take place between the first and second volumes (thus being numbered 1.5). The episodic chapters focus almost entirely Section 9 and the cases that group is investigating. A few intriguing new characters are introduced, but sadly the Major only makes the occasional guest appearance. Out of the three Ghost in the Shell volumes, Human-Error Processor is the most straightforward and easy to follow. While that’s something that I would generally welcome, the volume was somehow less interesting as a result even if it was more readable. As with the previous volumes in the series, some of the most interesting parts of the world-building in Human-Error Processor are actually only found in the footnotes instead of being directly incorporated into the manga.

NightlightsNightlights by Lorena Alvarez. It was the bold, vibrant colors and gorgeous illustrations of Nightlights that initially caught my attention. Alvarez is a Columbian illustrator; Nightlights is her first comic and my introduction to her work. Nightlights is about a little girl, Sandy, whose imagination takes flight at night. She gathers together small, mysterious, glowing lights and uses them to create anything that she can dream of. Come the day, she spends her time alone drawing what she has seen. It’s an innocent enough premise, but Nightlights can actually be pretty dark and some of the comic’s themes are fairly heavy. Nightlights could be described as an all-ages comic, but some younger readers might find it scary in places. There is also a depth and nuance to the comic and its narrative that only more mature readers will likely pick up on. Although the stories are notably different, Nightlights actually reminded me a little bit of the animated film The Secret of Kells which I likewise greatly enjoyed. Each in their own way the works are fairytale-like, telling stories about imagination, creation, and the unknown. Nightlights was a beautiful comic and I sincerely hope to see more work from Alvarez in the future.

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life UnstrungGone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym. In 2010, Kym’s Stradivarius was stolen from her in a London cafe. The violin was an integral part of her identity, not just as a musician but as a person, and its loss was devastating. Her burgeoning career as a soloist came to a sudden halt. The violin was recovered three years later, but circumstances didn’t allow Kym to reclaim the instrument as her own. Ultimately she had to put it up for auction, losing it once again. In part, Kym’s memoir Gone was written in an attempt to process these traumatic events, rediscover who she is, and move forward with her life. Telling her side of the story she recounts growing up as a child prodigy–as the youngest daughter, her family’s devotion to her talent as a violinist was at odds with their South Korean heritage–her development as a musician, and her relationships with the Stradivarius and the people around her. Gone is an incredibly heartfelt and personal memoir but it can be somewhat discursive; Kym’s style of writing is very informal and at times even chaotic. Her voice as an author isn’t as clear as her voice as a violinist, but her passion and pain resonates throughout Gone. Complementing the release of Kym’s memoir is a companion album available from Warner Classics.

My Week in Manga: March 27-April 2, 2017

My News and Reviews

As regular readers of Experiments in Manga know, on the last Wednesday of every month I host a giveaway of some sort (usually manga-related) for which participants have a week to submit their entries. This time around the monthly giveaway is for the first volume of Coolkyousinnjya’s surprisingly delightful Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. The winner will be announced this coming Wednesday, so you can still enter for a chance to win if you haven’t already. Also later this week, look for another guest review by my friend and fellow yuri manga fan Jocilyn. Elsewhere in the Manga Bookshelf sphere of blogs, The Manga Critic has started a monthly manga review index. There have been similar features in the past, perhaps most notably at MangaBlog, and I’ve always found them incredibly useful and valuable, so I’m glad to see Kate Dacey taking it on. Also in general, I highly recommend the content at The Manga Critic–Kate’s actually one of my major inspirations when it comes to manga blogging.

As for other interesting things I’ve come across recently: Chic Pixel’s Anne Lee has posted a really fantastic list of bibliographic resources for those curious about the academic study of boys’ love. (I’ve read quite a few books and articles myself, and even reviewed Jeffery Angles’ Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishōnen Culture in Modernist Japanese Literature at Experiments in Manga a few years ago.) And if that’s not enough of BL studies for you, J. R. Brown has posted the slides from her Anime Boston panel “Boys’ Love, Otome Culture, and Gender” which covers everything from the origin of shoujo manga to gay comics and more. On their own the slides are fairly informative, but I’m looking forward to seeing the annotated version, too.

Also at Anime Boston, Viz Media made quite a few licensing announcements. Some were digital-only while others were digital-first or print-only. Here’s a quick list of the books that will eventually make their way into print: Kenta Shinohara’s Astra Lost in Space, Abi Umeda’s Children of Whales (I’m particularly curious about this series), an omnibus edition of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Death Note collecting the entire series and a bonus epilogue in a single volume, Nisioisin’s Hikaru Nakamura’s novel Juni Taisen: Zodiac Warriors (I’m not familiar with the novel, but the creators involved have certainly caught my attention), Kenji Taira’s Naruto: Chibi Sasuke’s Sharingan Legend, Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu’s The Promised Neverland (which is supposed to be fantastic), a collection of nine Junji Ito stories and accompanying material selected by Ito himself called Shiver (always glad to see more Ito being released in English), Maki Enjoji’s SP Baby, and Sui Ishida’s artbook Tokyo Ghoul Illustrations.

A couple of Kickstarter projects recently launched which may be of interest as well: All the Anime/Anime Limited is joining forces with Studio 4°C to create a home video release of Masaaki Yuasa’s directorial debut Mind Game. Digital Manga has entered the fray again with a campaign to release more of Osamu Tezuka’s manga in printAmbassador Magma, Dust 8, The Euphrates Tree, Metamorphose, Say Hello to Bookila, The Thief Inoue Akikazu, Wonder 3, and Yakeppachi’s Maria. It looks as though the print runs will be very limited and Kickstarter may be the only way to get a hold of some of the titles. (I have to admit, I certainly have my qualms about Digital Manga’s business practices in general and over-reliance on crowdfunding specifically. The quality of Digital Manga’s releases has really gone downhill over the last few years, too. Honestly, I’ve lost most of my confidence in the company as a publisher, but it’s managed not to completely go under yet.)

Quick Takes

Dawn of the Arcana, Volume 1Dawn of the Arcana, Volumes 1-6 by Rei Toma. I generally enjoy epic fantasy of the shoujo variety, so I’m not entirely sure why it’s taken me so long to finally get around to reading Dawn of the Arcana. So far, I’m enjoying the manga tremendously. Nakaba is a princess who has been married off to a prince of the neighboring kingdom despite her questionable ancestry in a half-hearted attempt to secure peace between the two countries. But instead, gifted with the ability to see both into the past and into the future, Nakaba may find herself in the unlikely position of leading a revolution. Dawn of the Arcana does come across as a rather typical example of high fantasy–all the way down to the heroine’s fiery red hair–but even though it hasn’t really made itself stand out yet, the manga is a solid series. I greatly enjoyed the manga’s mix of court and political intrigue, action, and complicated interpersonal relationships. Much like the story, the artwork tends to be somewhat standard although attractive. Toma’s backgrounds are generally fairly sparse, but the details put into things like the characters’ clothing is lovely. I definitely look forward to reading more of Dawn of the Arcana in the very near future.

Hana & Hina After School, Volume 1Hana & Hina After School, Volume 1 by Milk Morinaga. I believe that Morinaga is currently the most well-represented yuri manga creator available in English. So far, five of Morinaga’s manga have been translated, the most recent being Hana & Hina After School. Interestingly, in Japan the manga was serialized in a magazine aimed at a general audience rather than one specifically catering to yuri fans. The titular Hana and Hina are two young women working part time at a store specializing in cute character goods even though their high school forbids its students from holding jobs. The story follows their relationship as they become friends and slowly realize that their feelings may evolve into something else. Like most of Morinaga’s other manga that I’ve read, Hana & Hina After School tends to be rather cute and sweet. The series is enjoyable and pleasant even if it is at times a little silly and somewhat unbelievable. However, the end of the first volume does introduce some sobering concerns when Hina is confronted by a few of her classmates homophobia, an unfortunate reality that many yuri manga tend to gloss over or ignore entirely in favor of pure fantasy. (Granted, that fantasy is important to have, too.)

Scum's Wish, Volume 1Scum’s Wish, Volumes 1-2 by Mengo Yokoyari. I wasn’t initially planning to pick up Scum’s Wish, but after reading a few positive reviews of the series I decided to give it a try after all. The cover art of the first volume is deliberately provocative, but the manga isn’t nearly as salacious as it might imply. In fact, the series can actually be surprisingly contemplative. Scum’s Wish is a manga about unrequited love. Almost every character in the series is pining for someone with whom an involved romance would seem to be impossible or at least inadvisable, resulting in a complex web of personal relationships fraught with loneliness and anguish. (There is one heck of a love polygon going on in Scum’s Wish and nearly everyone who is introduced is connected to it somehow.) Hanabi is in love with Narumi, her childhood friend who now also happens to be her homeroom teacher. Mugi is in love with Akane, a music instructor who used to be his tutor. Recognizing that they are suffering under very similar circumstances and hoping to ease some of the pain, Hanabi and Mugi agree to find comfort in a relationship together. Neither one of them is in love with the other, but they are both aware of and take advantage of that fact.

Deep RedDeep Red by Hisashi Nozawa. Although perhaps best known as a screenwriter, Nozawa was also recognized as an accomplished novelist. Deep Red, which earned Nozawa an Eiji Yoshikawa Prize in 2001, is his first novel to be released in English. Kanako is the only survivor of the mass murder of her family, simply because she happened to be away on a school trip when her parents and two younger brothers were killed. Understandably, their deaths have left a great wound, but Kanako isn’t the only one left troubled and hurt–the life of Miho, the daughter of the murderer, has also been irrevocably changed. At times, Deep Red is uncomfortably voyeuristic and there’s a peculiar fixation on Kanako’s body and sex life with her boyfriend. I was never entirely convinced by Kanako as a character, either. However, Deep Red does provide an interesting psychological exploration of hate, anger, and misplaced revenge. The novel is instantly engaging. However, the middle portion of the narrative is repetitive and does drag a fair bit; I admittedly started to lose my interest and patience with the story. But once Kanako becomes obsessed with and decides to pursue Miho, Deep Red picks up speed again and the novel’s ending is very satisfying.

My Week in Manga: March 20-March 26, 2017

My News and Reviews

I actually managed to post another review at Experiments in Manga last week! That makes two weeks in a row, which hasn’t happened in a very long time. My goal of writing one review every month still remains, but when a month with five Wednesdays (like March this year) comes along, I’m going to try to do a second in-depth review or feature. That way, every week will have at least two posts, the usual My Week in Manga along with another feature of some sort. Anyway, as for the review that was posted last week, I took a look at Akira Himekawa’s The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Volume 1 which I enjoyed a great deal. The manga stands well on its own so someone doesn’t have to be familiar with the original video game it’s based on to enjoy it. The manga series is also notably darker than Himekawa’s previous all-ages adaptations of The Legend of Zelda video games.

Elsewhere online, I came across a few interesting interviews to read. Over at Viz Media’s blog, speculative fiction author Taiyo Fujii talks a little about Orbital Cloud, his most recent novel to be translated into English. (I previously read and reviewed Gene Mapper, Fujii’s debut work of fiction which I rather enjoyed, so I’m looking forward to reading the award-winning Orbital Cloud.) Through the Painting is in the process of translating a 2013 Tokyo Manga Lab interview with Haruko Kumota, creator of the manga series Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju. (Kodansha Comics is releasing the series in English; it’s one of my most anticipated debuts of the year.) Finally, on the occasion of Yen Press’ recent release of Canno’s Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl, Brigid Alverson interviewed Erica Friedman about yuri manga for Barnes & Noble. And speaking of Yen Press, the publisher announced a few manga licenses last week: Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World, Chapter 3: Truth of Zero by Tappei Nagatsuki, Shinichirou Otsuka, Daichi Matsuse; Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Sword Oratoria by Fujino Omori, Takashi Yagi; Hybrid x Heart by Masamune Kuji, Riku Ayakawa; and Gabriel Dropout by Ukami.

Quick Takes

The Ghost in the Shell, Volume 2: Man-Machine InterfaceThe Ghost in the Shell, Volume 2: Man-Machine Interface by Masamune Shirow. It’s been well over a decade since I first read Masamune’s The Ghost in the Shell manga. While I had vague memories of the first volume, I remembered virtually nothing about the second. Kodansha Comics’ recent re-release of the series in a deluxe, hardcover edition provided an ideal opportunity for me to revisit the manga. (The deluxe edition presents the manga in right-to-left format with the original Japanese sound effects for the first time; it’s also supposed to have bonus content, but I’m not exactly sure what that additional material is supposed to be in second volume.) Upon rereading the second volume of The Ghost in the Shell, I think I know why I had trouble recalling anything about it–the manga seems to be more show than substance. At times I would find that I had stopped reading the seemingly nonsensical text entirely and was just turning pages and looking the artwork, much of which is in color. There is a story in there somewhere, as well as some interesting worldbuilding and philosophizing, but most of that seems to be happening in the copious footnotes rather than in the manga proper.

A Land Called TarotA Land Called Tarot by Gael Bertrand. Originally serialized in the Island comics anthology, A Land Called Tarot was recently released in a standalone hardcover collection with additional content. Except for a few sound effects, A Land Called Tarot is actually a wordless comic. There is no dialogue or narration, so readers must rely entirely on Bertrand’s artwork to interpret the characters, story, and setting. Fortunately, Bertrand is more than up to the task. The artwork in A Land Called Tarot is absolutely gorgeous. The cover design is actually somewhat misleading–the interior illustrations are marvelously detailed and beautifully colorful. The lack of words in the comic invites readers to pay even more attention to the artwork and to explore the nuances of the fantastic world that Bertrand has created. The comic follows an adventurous hero, the Knight of Swords, as he travels across the land and meeting its people, his journey taking him through both time and space. There are moments of action and battle, but there are also moments that are peaceful and serene and sometimes even little lonely. A Land Called Tarot is a wondrous delight. I unequivocally loved the comic hope to see more work by Bertrand in the future.

My Neighbor Seki, Volume 5My Neighbor Seki, Volumes 5-7 by Takuma Morishige. I’m not really sure why I’ve fallen behind reading of My Neighbor Seki because I enjoy the series a great deal. The manga remains consistently delightful and is wonderfully charming. My introduction to the series was through its anime adaptation; the chapters in these three volumes happen to be released or serialized around the same time that the anime was being produced. The author’s notes seem to imply that the manga wasn’t initially anticipated to become as long as it now has (the series is actually still ongoing, as far as I can tell) but the anime understandably revitalized interest in My Neighbor Seki. I like both versions of My Neighbor Seki, but there’s more in the manga that was never adapted. I continue to be impressed by Morishige’s inventiveness and imagination in creating new and clever scenarios for the series’ characters. Not much has changed from the beginning of My Neighbor Seki, although occasionally Seki isn’t the only one actively participating in the games he plays instead of paying attention in class. His mother has been introduced, too. I hope to see her again as one of the recurring characters.

Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, Volume 2Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, Volumes 2-3 by Nanao. While I enjoyed the first volume of Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, especially its ominous atmosphere and the sense of foreboding it inspired, it’s taken me quite a while to finally get around to reading more of the series. Now I’m regretting my delay, because the next two volumes are just as enticing as the first, if not more so, and if anything the series is getting stronger as a whole. Granted, there’s still some annoying awkwardness surrounding some of the characters’ conversations in which they seem to talk around important topics and information simply because the reader isn’t supposed to know the details about them yet. But even with this fault, Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi manages to remain engaging. Part of this is due to the series’ air of mystery and the way in which Nanao is able to stretch out the story without being manipulative. For example, an important reveal in the second volume which in many other stories would have been the major plot twist is simply one in a longer string of steady developments. Several more questions are raised for every one that is answered in the series; I am incredibly curious to learn more.

My Week in Manga: March 13-March 19, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted an in-depth review of Ichi-F: A Worker’s Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant by Kazuto Tatsuta. It’s an important and fascinating manga which reveals the day-to-day lives and work of the people who are directly involved with the ongoing cleanup following the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters in Japan. On a related note, a while back I also reviewed Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill’s Strong in the Rain: Surviving Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster which provides a fairly comprehensive and approachable overview of the disasters themselves as well as some of the initial recovery efforts. As for future in-depth reviews, I’m currently working on one for Akira Himekawa’s The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Volume 1 which I hope to post sometime later this week. (That would mean two reviews from me this month!) Initially I was planning to write a quick take on Nagabe’s The Girl from the Other Side, Volume 1 for today’s post, but I loved it so much that I want to delve into it more deeply, so expect to see a more comprehensive review for that manga in the relatively near future as well.

Quick Takes

Erased, Omnibus 1Erased, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Kei Sanbe. Although I haven’t actually watched it yet, Sanbe’s Erased manga was first brought to my attention due to its recent anime adaptation. I’ve heard very good things about it and so when Yen Press started releasing the original manga in a hardcover, omnibus edition it immediately caught my attention. Satoru Fujinuma has a peculiar ability which causes him to spontaneously travel back in time. Usually it happens just before some tragedy is about to occur, allowing him to try to prevent it, although doing so can sometimes cause problems for him personally. When a particularly traumatic event occurs, Satoru unexpectedly finds himself nearly two decades in his past, giving him the opportunity to try to stop a series of kidnappings and murders that haunted his childhood. While I found the story’s premise intriguing from the very start, it actually took me a little while to get into Erased. But by the end of the first volume I was hooked and by the end of the first omnibus I couldn’t wait to read more. (Also, fun fact!: Sanbe was one of Hirohiko Araki’s assistants and worked on JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.)

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of AgesThe Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages by Akira Himekawa. Despite being a fan of The Legend of Zelda, I haven’t actually read very many of the video games’ manga adaptations. However, the Legendary Edition of Himekawa’s The Legend of Zelda manga that Viz Media has recently begun releasing may very well change that. With the handsome book designs, larger trim, color pages, and previously unreleased material, the new edition of the series is tremendously appealing. Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages is the second volume in the Legendary Edition to be released, adapting the two linked video games of the same name. I haven’t actually played the Oracle games so I can’t comment on the adaptation itself, but the manga is fun and energetic. The series is aimed at younger readers which isn’t inherently a bad thing, but the story and characters can occasionally come across as somewhat simplistic as a result. The antagonists in particular seem to lack nuance and tend to be evil for evil’s sake. But as a whole the Oracle manga are enjoyable adventures, following a young Link, a warrior of destiny but still a knight-in-training, as he tries to figure out what he wants to do with his life even while he’s saving the kingdom.

Samejima-kun and Sasahara-kunSamejima-kun and Sasahara-kun by Koshino. Currently, Samejima-kun and Sasahara-kun is the only boys’ love manga by Koshino to have been released in English in print, but I enjoyed it so much that I hope there will one day be more translated. For a while there Samejima-kun and Sasahara-kun had gone out-of-print, but it’s more-or-less available again. (Digital Manga seems to be using some sort of print-on-demand service to restock titles lately; sadly, though adequate, the production quality isn’t quite as good.) Samejima and Sasahara are both college classmates and coworkers at a convenience store. Everything seemed to be going along fine  between them until Samejima confesses that he has fallen in love with Sasahara, thereby putting their friendship in danger. At first Sasahara tries to ignore the development, wanting to just remain friends, but he comes to realize he enjoys the attention, if only he could get Samejima to believe him. Their relationship (as well as the eventual sex they have together) is endearingly awkward–Samejima obviously cares about Sasahara and vice versa, but they also annoy the hell out of each other in a way that only the closest friends can do. They’re an argumentative couple, but the manga’s humor makes it work.

Now with Kung Fu Grip!: How Bodybuilders, Soldiers and a Hairdresser Reinvented Martial Arts for AmericaNow with Kung Fu Grip!: How Bodybuilders, Soldiers and a Hairdresser Reinvented Martial Arts for America by Jared Miracle. It would be understandable, if inaccurate, to assume from its title and description that Miracle’s Now with Kung Fu Grip! is a work of popular history. I personally found the subject matter to be interesting and learned quite a bit, however the book is difficult to recommend to a casual reader. While Miracle’s style of writing isn’t overly academic, it is incredibly dense and as a whole the volume seems unfocused. Most people will do well to simply read the book’s conclusion which provides an adequate summary, foregoing the rest of the content unless more explicit detail is desired. The cover image, taken from the Chinese martial arts film Fearless, is somewhat misleading as well as the book is almost exclusively devoted to Japanese martial arts and the ways in which they’ve been incorporated into American culture. Now with Kung Fu Grip! is less about martial arts themselves and more about their social and historical contexts and the mythologies and stories that practitioners construct around them. In particular, Miracle ties the evolution of Japanese martial arts traditions in America to their commercialization and to the changing interpretations and expectations of idealized American masculinity over time.