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

My News and Reviews

Last week was a very quiet one here at Experiments in Manga with nothing posted other than the usual My Week in Manga feature. However, I did manage to make some progress with my next in-depth review, so that should (hopefully!) be posted later this week. While not much was happening here at the blog, the North American manga publishers were all keeping pretty busy last week with a variety of license announcements, made either online or while at Anime NYC.

Starting with the online licensing spree from Seven Seas: The Bride & the Exorcist Knight manga by Keiko Ishihara; The Bride Was a Boy manga by Chii (an autobio comic by a transwoman–I’ll definitely be picking this up!); the Claudine manga by Riyoko Ikeda (I am absolutely thrilled by this license); teh Fairy Tale Battle Royale manga by Soraho Ina; the Harukana Receive manga by Nyoijizai; the How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom light novels by Dojyomaru and Fuyuyuki (previously released digitally by J-Novel Club); the My Solo Exchange Diary manga by Nagata Kabi (a follow-up to My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness); the Ojojojo manga by coolkyousinnjya; the Plus-Sized Elf manga by Synecdoche; the Space Battleship Yamato manga by Leiji Matsumoto (I’m so happy more influential classic manga is being translated); the True Tenchi Muyo! light novels is written by Masaki Kajishima and Yousuke Kuroda; the Versailles of the Dead manga by Kumiko Suekane; and the Wonderland manga by Yugo Ishikawa.

At Anime NYC, Kodansha Comics announced that it would be releasing Yasushi Baba’s Golosseum manga and Vertical Comics revealed that it would be publishing Tsutomu Nihei’s Aposimz. As for Viz Media, the publisher announced that it would be releasing a print edition of Hideyuki Furuhashi and Betten Court’s My Hero Academia: Vigilantes manga (currently being released digitally) in addition to a brand new license, Okura and Coma Hashii’s That Blue Sky Feeling manga (I’m really looking forward to this one).

Yen Press has picked up quite a few things as well: Sanzo’s Caterpillar Girl and Bad Texter Boy manga; Tsukikage and Bob’s Defeating the Demon Lord’s a Cinch (If You Have a Ringer) light novels; Kazushige Nojima’s Final Fantasy VII short story collection; Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket Another manga; Yoh Yoshinari’s Little Witch Academia manga; Hiroumi Aoi’s Shibuya Goldfish manga; Yusaku Komiyama’s Star Wars: Lost Stars manga; Gao Yuzuki’s The Strange Creature at Kuroyuri Apartments manga; Keiichi Sigsawa’s Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Online light novels; Soichiro Yamamoto’s Teasing Master Takagi-san manga; Mito Aoi’s Tsuno no Gakuen manga; and Akira Kareno’s WorldEnd light novels.

 Quick Takes

Land of the Lustrous, Volume 2Land of the Lustrous, Volumes 2-3 by Haruko Ichikawa. I found the first volume of Land of the Lustrous to be pretty, but perplexing; Ichikawa’s artwork can be absolutely stunning even while the plot remains somewhat impenetrable. Even so, I was and remain intrigued by Land of the Lustrous and its peculiar charm. The second and third volumes continue to explore the world that Ichikawa has created. Largely following Phos, who has been charged with writing a natural history (providing an excellent excuse to show readers around), more is slowly revealed about the Lustrous, the Lunarians with whom they battle, and the larger environment in which they live. The manga still seems to be primarily concerned about finding opportunities to display exquisite visuals–and there are certainly plenty of those–but the series’ underlying symbolism, themes, and mythologies are starting to coalesce and crystallize as well. Land of the Lustrous can be surprisingly philosophical even while being strange and surreal. I may not always understand exactly what’s going on, but I am captivated by the manga’s allure.

Void's Enigmatic Mansion, Volume 1Void’s Enigmatic Mansion, Volumes 1-2 by HeeEun Kim. It seems as though there are fewer manhwa being translated into English these days, but Yen Press still publishes some. The fifth and final volume of Void’s Enigmatic Mansion was released earlier this year which made me realize that I hadn’t actually gotten around to reading any of the series yet. JiEun Ha is credited as the creator of the original, but I haven’t been able to determine if that means there’s another version of the story out there in a different medium or if Ha simply developed the basic manhwa’s premise. In either case, Kim is the series’ adapter and artist. The titular mansion is a seven-story building, most of which the owner rents out. The mysterious Mr. Void hasn’t been seen yet (as far as readers know), but a number of his tenants have, none of whom live particularly happy lives. Void’s Enigmatic Mansion tends to be fairly episodic although there are also threads tying all of the characters and their unsettling stories together. Kim’s full-color illustrations can be quite beautiful, but they are also punctuated by shocking moments of blood and gore befitting the series’ horror.

My Week in Manga: November 6-November 12, 2017

My News and Reviews

The Bookshelf Overload for October was posted at Experiments in Manga last week, giving a quick summary of some of the interesting manga, anime, and other media that made their way into my home last month. Otherwise, it was a fairly quiet week at the blog, and it’s going to be even quieter this week. I’m currently work on my next in-depth review, but I suspect that it won’t be ready to reveal to the world until sometime next week. (Hopefully it will be worth the wait.) As for other interesting things recently found online: Brigid Alverson wrote up a recap of an interview with Fairy Tail creator Hiro Mashima from this year’s New York Comic Con for Barnes & Noble and over at Crunchyroll Evan Minto interviewed Frederik L. Schodt, a manga translator, scholar, and personal friend of Osamu Tezuka.

Quick Takes

Shirley, Volume 1Shirley, Volume 1 by Kaoru Mori. Only the first volume of Shirley was ever released in English. It’s now well out-of-print, but it’s also well-worth picking up. I would love to see Yen Press release the entire series in a handsome omnibus that would be at home next to the new edition of Mori’s Emma. I believe that most if not all of the short manga in the first volume of Shirley precede Emma, but the collection was only published after the first volume of Emma was released. The artwork is simpler than that found in Mori’s most recent series in translation, A Bride’s Story, but it is still quite lovely and evocative. As a whole, Shirley is a charming work. Mori’s love of maids is quite evident. The first volume collects five episodic chapters which follow Bennett Cranley and the titular Shirley Madison, a young maid that Bennett hires, in addition to two other stories unrelated by plot although they both also feature Edwardian-era maids. Shirley is only thirteen when she starts working for Bennett and they develop a close, if somewhat unusual, relationship as a result. While Shirley is a very capable maid she is still young–at times its as though she’s more like Bennett’s ward rather than her employee. She’s a sweet, likeable girl, so it’s easy to see why Bennett would be so taken with her.

The Witch BoyThe Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag. I first learned about The Witch Boy while at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival earlier this year. Ostertag was on the panel “LGBTQ Comics Abroad” along with several other creators when she mentioned the upcoming publication of the graphic novel; I immediately added it to my list of comics to pick up when it was released. Ostertag is probably best known as the artist of the ongoing webcomic Strong Female Protagonist and has collaborated as an illustrator on several other comics projects as well. However, The Witch Boy is her debut work as both author and artist. The graphic novel is aimed at middle grade readers, but the comic will be able to be appreciated by adult audiences as well. Aster comes from a family of magic users–the women are taught the secrets of witchery while the men are expected to learn how to shapeshift, a tradition which is strictly adhered to. Much to his family’s dismay, Aster would much rather study with the girls than roughhouse with the boys. Forbidden from learning the women’s magic despite his talent for it, Aster longs for his family to accept his true self. The Witch Boy is a beautiful story with a wonderful message; I hope to read more of Ostertag’s writing in the future.

Attack on Titan: The Anime GuideAttack on Titan: The Anime Guide by Ryosuke Sakuma and Munehiko Inagaki. Kodansha Comics almost exclusively publishes manga, although over time a few other things have been released as well, most of which are in some way a part of the massively successful Attack on Titan franchise. One of the more recent non-manga offerings is Attack on Titan: The Anime Guide, a full-color volume consisting of artwork, character designs, process overviews, and other background information relating to the first season of the Attack on Titan anime. The Anime Guide will mostly appeal to readers who are already devoted fans of Attack on Titan. What interested me most were the numerous interviews included in the book. The most notable is the lengthy interview with and conversation between Hajime Isayama and Tetsuro Araki, the original creator of Attack on Titan and the series director of the anime respectively. (Isayama saw the anime as an opportunity to improve upon or even correct aspects of the manga with which he wasn’t completely satisfied.) The interviews with the anime’s chief animation directors, Titan designer, action animation directors, scriptwriter, voice actors, and theme song musicians were also interesting to read.

My Week in Manga: October 30-November 5, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I announced the winner of the Oresama Teacher giveaway. The post also includes a select list of some of the manga released in English that have notable delinquents (and in some cases ex-delinquents) in them. In licensing news, Dark Horse recently announced that it will be releasing The Flame Dragon Knight, a novel by Makoto Fukami which is based on Kentaro Miura’s manga series Berserk. Also, Yen Press is adding more yuri to its catalog: the manga anthology Eclair and the light novel adaptation of Napping Princess will both be released in English in 2018.

Quick Takes

Yokai Rental Shop, Volume 1Yokai Rental Shop, Volume 1 by Shin Mashiba. I greatly enjoyed Mashiba’s earlier manga series Nightmare Inspector: Yumekui Kenbun and so was very excited when Yokai Rental Shop was licensed. I have been looking forward to giving the manga a try not only because of Mashiba’s involvement but also because yokai play a prominent role. Hiiragi is a public servant who recently learned, on his mother’s deathbed, that he has a half-brother. Initially he’s thrilled, but then he actually meets Karasu, a man who doesn’t hesitate to help his customers realize their darkest desires. So far, Yokai Rental Shop has yet to really distinguish itself from any number of other horror series featuring a supernatural boutique. Additionally, one of the things that made Nightmare Inspector so engaging–the use of a wide variety of illustration styles–is largely missing from Yokai Rental Shop. The major exception to this is how most of the yokai in the spirit district are drawn to be more reminiscent of traditional ink drawings, an artistic touch that I particularly appreciated. While at this point Nightmare Inspector would seem to be the stronger manga of the two, there’s enough about Yokai Rental Shop that interests me that I plan on continuing the short series.

Otomo: A Global Tribute to the Mind Behind AkiraOtomo: A Global Tribute to the Mind Behind Akira edited by Julien Brugeas and Ben Applegate. In 2015, Katsuhiro Otomo won the Angoulême International Comics Festival’s Grand Prix, a prestigious award recognizing comics creators for their lifetime achievements. As part of the celebration, an art exhibition showing work by creators from around the world in a tribute to Otomo was held. A limited-edition catalog of illustrations was also produced at that time, becoming the basis for the Otomo artbook. The English-language edition expands upon the original and includes contributions from more than eighty creatives, resulting in an attractive, oversized, 168-paged hardcover volume. Otomo is probably best known as the creator of Akira, so it isn’t too surprising that most of the artwork in Otomo make reference to either the anime or manga version of that story, but other works like Domu also provide a source of inspiration. There is a fantastic variety and a great range of styles represented in Otomo; some of the individual pieces are truly stunning. Accompanying each illustration is a short biography of the artist. Some also include a section in which the contributors write about their encounters with Otomo and his work. (I wish there were more of these.)

Juni Taisen: Zodiac WarJuni Taisen: Zodiac War written by Nisiosin, illustrated by Hikaru Nakamura. My interest in the Juni Taisen novel largely stemmed from creators associated with it. Nisiosin seems to be something of a cult favorite and has had a fair number of stories translated recently (Juni Taisen is actually the first that I’ve read, however) and Nakamura is the creator of Saint Young Men and Arakawa Under the Bridge (it turns out Nakamura’s contributions to the novel are fairly limited). On top of having notable creators, the physical production and design of Viz Media’s release of Juni Taisen is beautiful. I have also been known to enjoy battle royale-type stories. Sadly, Juni Taisen is rather unsatisfactory as a novel and comes across as superficial, though I suspect the related manga and anime will be more successful. Twelve characters, none of them particularly likeable, are brought together in a battle to the death known as the Zodiac War. The winner will be granted a single wish, although there’s an even greater purpose to the contest. Juni Taisen has potential. The various super powers and abilities of the characters result in tactics and strategies that are interesting and even clever. Unfortunately, the coolness factor is undermined by inconsistent logic, repetitiveness, predictable narrative developments, and a sore lack of worldbuilding and a meaningful context.

My Week in Manga: October 23-October 29, 2017

My News and Reviews

In addition to the usual My Week in Manga, two other features were posted at Experiments in Manga last week. First up was the most recent monthly giveaway. The winner won’t be announced until Wednesday, so there’s still a little time left to enter for a chance to win the first volume of Oresama Teacher by Izumi Tsubaki. (I finally got around to reading Oresama Teacher because I love Tusbaki’s other manga series Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun so much. I am delighted to report that Oresama Teacher is great, too.) I also posted my review of the first omnibus of Sweet Blue Flowers by Takako Shimura last week. The manga was one of the debuts that I was most excited for this year and I was not at all disappointed. Like Shimura’s earlier series Wandering Son (which is an extremely important manga to me personally), Sweet Blue Flowers is a beautiful work. I’m so glad that it’s finally getting the print release it deserves and look forward to reading the rest of the series. (Now if only the rest of Wandering Son could be published, too! My fantasy is that Sweet Blue Flowers will be so successful that more of Shimura’s work will be translated.) Once again, I wasn’t actually online much last week and I worked on Sunday so I’m sure there’s plenty of news that I’ve missed. However, I did catch that Thomas Baudinette posted a translation of “Painting the essence of gay erotic art”an interview with Gengoroh Tagame from a 2014 issue of the art magazine Bijutsu Techo.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail: RhodoniteFairy Tail: Rhodonite by Kyouta Shibano. At first I was a little confused by the “2” emblazoned upon the cover of Rhodonite since it’s not in fact the second volume of Rhodonite. Instead, it’s the second volume in Shibano’s Fairy Tail Gaiden manga, one of a multitude of series spinning off from Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail that have recently been translated into English. Despite retaining the volume designations, the Fairy Tail Gaiden manga are being released as independent works by Kodansha Comics. Shibano’s three spinoff volumes, while relying very heavily on the original series, largely stand alone from one another. Rhodonite collects two side stories featuring Gajeel Redfox, one of the Dragon Slayers associated with the Fairy Tail Guild. Since I’m not especially well-versed in the Fairy Tail franchise, I’m not exactly sure where the first story, from which the volume gains its name, fits in. However, it does reveal more of Gajeel’s past and backstory as the guild is investigating the magic drug trade. The second story takes place while Gajeel is a member of the Magic Council during Fairy Tail’s disbandment. In this story he temporarily teams up with Cobra to rescue a group of children who were kidnapped to be sold as slaves. Already intended for those already familiar with Fairy Tail, Rhodonite will even more specifically appeal to those who are fans of Gajeel.

Spirit Circle, Volume 1Spirit Circle, Volume 1 by Satoshi Mizukami. I rather enjoyed Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, currently the only other manga series by Mizukami to be licensed in English. I would have been interested in Spirit Circle for that reason alone, but I’ve also been hearing great (and well-deserved) things about the manga beyond that. Like it’s predecessor in English (which is actually briefly referenced in passing), Spirit Circle is a manga that’s a little strange and quirky but that also has a great deal of heart and soul. Fuuta Okeya has the ability to see ghosts. That by itself would generally be enough to form the basic premise of a series, but thanks to a new transfer student, Fuuta must now also confront his past lives. Though meeting Fuuta for the first time in this life, Kouko Ishigami is very familiar with his previous incarnations. Historically, their encounters haven’t always gone so well, though. In the first volume of Spirit Circle, Fuuta is made to relive two of his pasts to the point of his deaths and parts of a third life are revealed as well. So far, I’m loving Spirit Circle. Fuuta and Kouko’s past lives are filled with heartbreaks and joys, echoes of which are apparent in the teenagers’ current existences. Taken separately, the stories are interesting, but together they’re marvelous. I’m very curious to see where Mizukami takes the series next.

Sweet Bean PasteSweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa. The 2015 film adaptation of Sukegawa’s novel An has been released internationally under several different titles–Sweet Red Bean Paste, An, and Sweet Bean–and now the original work has been translated into English with yet another title variation, Sweet Bean Paste. I’ve not seen Naomi Kawase’s film, but it seems to have been generally well-received. As for Sukegawa’s original novel, it makes for a fairly quick and light read despite some of the story’s more tragic undercurrents and philosophical musings. Sentaro is a man with a criminal past, out of prison but still working off his debt by making and selling dorayaki in a confectionery shop owned by the widow of his boss. He’s not particularly invested in the job, but that begins to change when an elderly woman named Tokue, her hands disfigured from a childhood illness, convinces him to let her join him at the shop. Bringing a unique perspective on life along with a recipe for sweet bean paste more delicious than any other Sentaro has tasted, Tokue has a huge influence upon the younger man as their unexpected friendship blossoms. Although much about Tokue’s past is unfortunate and she continues to deal with the stigma associated with leprosy, she has still found a way to live on in the face of prejudice and discontent. Sentaro has much to learn from Tokue, even if the lessons are bittersweet.

My Week in Manga: October 16-October 22, 2017

My News and Reviews

Well, it was a very quiet week at Experiments in Manga last week. I was hoping to post my review of the first omnibus of Takako Shimura’s Sweet Blue Flowers, but a variety of things came up–little dude’s preschool open house, helping family members with their cross-country move, spending most of a day on the road for an out-of-state taiko performance, to name just a few. But never fear! I’ll almost certainly be posting the review later this week instead. I haven’t been online much recently either, but I did catch a couple of thing of interest last week. The first was an announcement from Dark Horse, which will be releasing Kentaro Miura’s official Berserk guidebook in March of next year. The second was Brigid Alverson’s discussion with Akira Himekawa, the two-person creative team behind most of the manga adaptations of The Legend of Zelda.

Quick Takes

Goodnight Punpun, Omnibus 6Goodnight Punpun, Omnibus 6-7 (equivalent to Volumes 11-13) by Inio Asano. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve read the fifth omnibus of Goodnight Punpun, but in reality it’s only been a few months. Perhaps it seems so long since Goodnight Punpun can be such a hard-hitting, exhausting experience which requires time to fully recover between volumes. (At least, that tends to be the case for me.) Goodnight Punpun is a surreal and extremely dark coming-of-age story. The series is intense, easily earning its explicit content warning with the manga’s portrayal of emotional, psychological, and physical violence. But while much of Goodnight Punpun is incredibly bleak, there are also moments of hope. Granted, that hope can also be extremely painful. Goodnight Punpun worked best for me when it was exploring the inner turmoil of its titular protagonist. I was actually frequently reminded of Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human as the series approached its conclusion. The manga’s second major plot involving the cult wasn’t nearly as compelling or convincing, coming across as superfluous and tangential to me. But having now reached the end of Goodnight Punpun, I find that I want to read it again. The manga has multiple layers to it and I’m fairly certain there are elements that I either missed entirely or didn’t fully appreciate my first time through the series.

Waiting for Spring, Volume 1Waiting for Spring, Volume 1 by Anashin. Although the basic premise of Waiting for Spring makes it seem like the manga’s setup could easily slip into a reverse harem territory, after reading the first volume I don’t think that’s the direction Anashin will be taking with the series. However, it does still look like there will be at least some romantic rivalry involved. If there’s one thing that Mitsuki wants from high school, it’s to finally make some friends. She’s having a difficult time of it, though. The other young women in her class aren’t really hostile towards her, but she hasn’t been able to really connect with them, either. But things start to change when she gets mixed up with and is unexpectedly befriended by the four stars of the men’s basketball team. In general, most of the relationships in Waiting for Spring are very well done. The blossoming romance between Mitsuki and one of the basketball players is very sweet, but I’m particularly enjoying the friendships in the first volume. Mitsuki treats all of the guys like they’re real people. She isn’t blinded by their good looks and athletic talent (though she can still appreciate them) and doesn’t hesitate to give them what for when needed. This is actually something of a novelty for them, but it’s what allows their friendships with her to naturally develop. The already well-established relationships between the four young men are also very entertaining.

Attack on Titan Adventure: Year 850: Last Stand at Wall RoseAttack on Titan Adventure: Year 850: Last Stand at Wall Rose written by Tomoyuki Fujinami and illustrated by Ryosuke Fuji and Toru Yoshii. Growing up, I was a huge fan of the Choose Your Own Adventure series and other types of gamebooks. (I’ve even held onto a few particularly well-loved volumes from my youth.) And so I was very curious about Last Stand at Wall Rose, an interactive novel set during the Battle of Trost which takes place early on in Hajime Isayama’s original Attack on Titan manga. The mechanics of Last Stand at Wall Rose are interesting, incorporating elements of roleplaying games. Since I’m used to standard branching-plot stories, the book wasn’t as linear as I was expecting and in some ways was even more interactive than I thought it would be. Keeping pencil and paper nearby while reading can be very useful. Last Stand at Wall Rose was fun, but I did find some of the formatting and gameplay to be annoying. The most egregious issue was the amount of unnecessary flipping of pages which made the narrative more disjointed than it otherwise would have been. I also almost wish that page numbers hadn’t been included since the novel’s navigation is based on a system of independently numbered story sections rather than pages. (Also of note: Readers of the first printing of Last Stand at Wall Rose will want to refer to the errata posted online.)