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.

Manga Giveaway: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Giveaway

It’s the last Wednesday of March and you know what that means! It’s once again time for a giveaway at Experiments in Manga! This month you all have the opportunity to win the first volume in Coolkyousinnjya’s surprisingly sweet and charming manga series Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid as published in English by Seven Seas. And as usual, the giveaway is open worldwide.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, Volume 1

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved dragons. While I’m not quite as obsessed with them as I once was, I’ve never grown out of my affection for dragons. And so when there’s a manga series that features dragons in some way–like Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid–I can’t help but give it a try. I’ll admit, despite my established interest in dragons, I was initially a little wary of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid and was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first volume. The series has a few missteps, but overall it’s great fun and has some fantastic characters. And with the anime adaptation that’s currently airing, even more people are now aware of the charms of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. Hopefully as a result they’ll be encouraged to seek out the original, too!

So, you may be wondering, how can you a copy of the Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little about one of your favorite dragons from a manga. (If you don’t have a favorite or don’t know of any, simply mention that.)
2) 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).

It’s as easy as that! Participants in the giveaway have one week to submit comments and can earn up to two entries. If you have trouble with the comment form, or if preferred, entries can also be sent directly to phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. I will then post those comments here in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on April 5, 2017. Best of luck to you all!

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–Manga Giveaway: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Giveaway Winner

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.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Volume 1

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Volume 1Creator: Akira Himekawa
Translator: John Werry
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421593470
Released: March 2017
Original run: 2016

Akira Himekawa is the joint pen name of A. Honda and S. Nagano, two women who have been collaborators for over thirty years. The two-person creative team is probably best known for their work on the manga adaptations of The Legend of Zelda series of video games, although some North American readers may associate Himekawa with the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics as well. Despite being a fan of both franchises, I actually hadn’t made a point to read any of Himekawa’s work until after meeting the two women briefly at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in 2014. Twilight Princess is the most recent entry in Himekawa’s series of The Legend of Zelda adaptations. Initially Twilight Princess was intended to be a children’s series, but when the original 2006 video game it was to be based on became the first in the franchise to be rated for teens, plans for that manga were cancelled. It wasn’t until 2016 that Himekawa would begin serializing Twilight Princess digitally, the first volume subsequently being released in Japan in print later that year. Viz Media’s English-language edition of Twilight Princess debuted in print in 2017.

Link is a young man trying to outrun his past. A year and a half ago he wandered into the border village of Ordon, hiding his personal history in hopes of establishing a new life for himself. Ordon is idyllic, seemingly a perfect place for Link to retreat. The land is said to have been blessed by the spirits and the village is well-known for its bountiful harvests. Although Link arrived as a stranger, he was warmly welcomed by the villagers and has since become an integral part of the community. Link loves Ordon and its people, but there’s always a small part of him that feels like he doesn’t quite belong. He is still plagued by guilt over the tragedies of his past, dealing with a weighty feeling of responsibility which is impossible to ignore. Having experienced disaster before, Link may be one of the few who can prevent it from happening again. Most of the other people in the sacred kingdom of Hyrule are unaware of the looming threat that the long-forgotten Twilight Realm poses. It’s a danger that grows even greater when the ambitions of one man to rule both the light and the dark begin to come to fruition. As the shadows of darkness gather around Ordon, Link will have to face his past and his fears, confronting the possibility that he will once again lose everything that he holds most dear.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Volume 1, page 122Although I’ve played some of the original Twilight Princess, familiarity with the video game is not at all necessary to enjoy Himekawa’s adaptation. At least so far, the series can stand on its own as a work–the manga largely comes across as a freely-developed fantasy rather than a strict reimagining of a video game. Himekawa’s narrative in Twilight Princess is streamlined and quickly paced, incorporating elements of the original game in clever ways. Some of the wonder of having a world to leisurely explore and discover is lost as Twilight Princess is adapted into a different medium, but in exchange the manga emphasizes depth of characterization. As the protagonist, Link is generally the most fully-realized character. I really like Himkeawa’s multi-faceted interpretation of Link in Twilight Princess. While at heart Link is a troubled and brooding hero, he also exhibits happiness and joy and there are moments in the manga when his good-natured goofiness shines through. The Twilight Princess manga, much like the video game itself, is intended for a more mature audience than many of the previous incarnations of The Legend of Zelda. The story tends to be fairly dark and can be strikingly violent at times.

One of the things that I appreciate the most about Himekawa’s work on The Legend of Zelda manga is the creators’ ability to adjust their tone and style to fit the requirements of a given series. Himekawa’s skill and flexibility as artists can be seen as they move from one adaptation to the next, but can also be exhibited within a single manga. In Twilight Princess specifically there is a wonderful contrast between the serene, pastoral setting of Ordon and the ominous darkness and shadowy creatures encroaching upon it. The artwork in Twilight Princess is beautifully executed, ranging from the gorgeous to the grotesque as demanded by the story. In comparison, the storytelling itself isn’t nearly as strong. The first chapter of Twilight Princess in particular suffers from some awkward exposition and Link has a tendency to ask questions that he should already know the answers to having lived in Ordon for so long. Still, I do like the story, characters, and settings of Twilight Princess. In the past, Himekawa’s The Legend of Zelda manga have only been one or two volumes long. I would be surprised if Twilight Princess could end satisfactorily in such a short span, so I hope that the series will be longer to allow the story to unfold more naturally; I enjoyed the first volume of Twilight Princess a great deal and look forward to reading more.

Thank you to Viz Media for providing a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Volume 1 for review.

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.