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.

Manga Giveaway: Oresama Teacher Giveaway Winner

Oresama Teacher, Volume 1And the winner of the Oresama Teacher manga giveaway is… Candy Ha!

As the winner, Candy will be receiving the first volume of Izumi Tsubaki’s manga series Oresama Teacher as released in English by Viz Media’s Shojo Beat imprint. I’m behind the times and only recently started reading Oresama Teacher but I’ve been enjoying it tremendously. In particular, the series reminded me of how much I enjoy manga about delinquents, so for this giveaway I asked participants to tell me a little about their favorite delinquents from manga. As usual, I’ve gathered together a list of manga below, but be sure to check out the giveaway comments for everyone’s individual responses.

Some of the manga released in English with notable delinquents:
Arisa by Natsumi Ando
Banana Fish by Akimi Yoshida
Blue Spring by Taiyo Matsumoto
Cromartie High School by Eiji Nonaka
Dengeki Daisy by Kyousuke Motomi
Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
Great Teacher Onizuka by Tohru Fujisawa
Great Teacher Onizuka: 14 Day in Shonan by Tohru Fujisawa
Great Teacher Onizuka: The Early Years by Tohru Fujisawa
Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto by Nami Sano
Hey, Sensei? by Yaya Sakuragi
Kamikaze Girls by Yukio Kanesada
Karakuri Odette by Julietta Suzuki
Love Attack by Shizuru Seino
Love Full of Scars by Psyche Delico
Mars by Fuyumi Soryo
Midori Days by Kazurou Inoue
My Little Monster by Robico
Oresama Teacher by Izumi Tsubaki
Persona 4 by Shuji Sogabe
Real by Takehiko Inoue
Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima
Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue
Tekkon Kinkreet by Taiyo Matsumoto
Yamada and the Seven Witches by Miki Yoshikawa
Yu Yu Hakusho by Yoshihiro Togashi
Worst by Hiroshi Takahashi

Once again, the above list isn’t at all comprehensive, but it does include a variety of different types of manga. Delinquents show up in sports manga, speculative fiction, boys’ love, romance, comedy, drama, and more. Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate in the giveaway by sharing your favorite manga delinquents with me. I’m already thinking ahead to the next monthly giveaway and hope that you’ll all join me in the fun again!

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.

Sweet Blue Flowers, Omnibus 1

Sweet Blue Flowers, Omnibus 1Creator: Takako Shimura
Translator: John Werry
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421592985
Released: September 2017
Original release: 2005-2006

Takako Shimura is probably best known for two manga series. The first, and my introduction to her work, is Wandering Son, a series which sympathetically explores some of the challenges faced by transgender and gender non-conforming youth. (Wandering Son is an incredibly important manga to me personally and I will forever lament the fact that it will likely never be released in English in its entirety.) The second manga is Sweet Blue Flowers, another series with queer themes, this time focusing on bisexual young woman and lesbian teenagers. While the anime adaptation of Sweet Blue Flowers has been readily available in English for years, the publication history of Shimura’s original manga has been more fraught. Originally translated in 2012 as part of the failed JManga digital initiative, the first volume was subsequently released by Digital Manga in a less than stellar ebook version after which the series languished unfinished. Surprisingly, Sweet Blue Flowers would be rescued by Viz Media, making it one of the first yuri manga to ever be released by the publisher. The first print omnibus of the Viz Signature edition of Sweet Blue Flowers, collecting the first and second volumes of the series originally published in Japan in 2005 and 2006, was easily one of my most anticipated debuts of 2017.

Fumi Manjome and Akira Okudaira were very close as children but the two girls fell out of touch after Fumi’s family moved away. Many years later they meet again by chance while commuting by train on the way to their first day of high school. They don’t actually realize who the other one is at first, but soon Fumi and Akira’s friendship is rekindled and their relationship blossoms once more. Since they attend different all-girls schools they don’t get a chance to see each other as much as they might like, though. Even so, both Akira and Fumi are faced with some similar trials which bring them together–making friends at their new schools and finding an extracurricular club to join that interests them among other things–but not everything is the same for them. Although complimentary, the two young women have strikingly different personalities, resulting in drastically different experiences and interactions. And while Akira doesn’t seem to have put much thought into romance, Fumi has recently had her heart broken. But now Fumi has fallen for an older student at her school, Yasuko Sugimoto, a young woman who is interested in Fumi but who is also dealing with an unrequited love of her own.

Sweet Blue Flowers, Omnibus 1, page 92Shimura’s artwork in Sweet Blue Flowers is simple and refined, but is still able to carry the emotional weight and expressiveness of the story. The focus of the manga’s illustrations is almost entirely on the characters themselves. Except for when the actual setting is intended to make an impact, such as the hallowed halls of a prestigious school or the imposing home of a distinguished family, backgrounds are minimalistic and sometimes even non-existent. Just enough is implied to give readers an impression of place and location. This technique, along with Shimura’s use of light and shadow, is reminiscent of intentionally minimal set design used in some theatrical performances which in turn nicely echoes the high school stage production of Wuthering Heights featured prominently in the first omnibus of Sweet Blue Flowers. The characters’ involvement with the play is an important part of the series both aesthetically and thematically. The connections to theater and creative performance arts present in Sweet Blue Flowers can also be found in Shimura’s other work, including but not limited to Wandering Son.

Sweet Blue Flowers is a wonderful series. The manga is emotionally resonate, with a realistic portrayal of the experiences of young women who love other young women. The characterizations and character development in Sweet Blue Flowers in particular are marvelous. Shimura effectively captures the nuances of a multitude of personalities and how they interact with one another, showing both individuals and their relationships as believably layered and convincingly complex. Sweet Blue Flowers is a relatively quiet story, but the emotional drama is powerful and the manga conveys a compelling sense of authenticity and honesty. I am loving the series and find that I am completely invested in the lives and well-being of Fumi, Akira, and the other characters as they navigate their adolescence. Life and relationships can be challenging and messy, something that Shimura does not shy away from in the manga. The young women in Sweet Blue Flowers grow and change, gaining maturity through their mistakes and missteps as well as personal clarity as they slowly discover their own identities. Sweet Blue Flowers is a worthwhile and lovely work; I’m so glad that it’s finally receiving a proper release in English.

Manga Giveaway: Oresama Teacher Giveaway

The end of October is quickly approaching which means it’s time for another monthly giveaway at Experiments in Manga! For this month’s giveaway, everyone participating will have the chance to win Oresama Teacher, Volume 1 by Izumi Tsubaki as published in English by Viz Media. Oresama Teacher isn’t the newest series, but it is one that I recently started reading and quickly fell in love with. Since these giveaways are in part meant to help me spread my love of manga, it made since to me to include Oresama Teacher in the fun, too. Oh, and as usual, the giveaway is open worldwide!

Oresama Teacher, Volume 1

I’m not sure exactly why it is, but I really enjoy manga about delinquents. There’s just something about ruffians with hearts of gold that warms my own heart. Granted, not all delinquents in manga are so benevolent, and some series can be quite brutal, but I tend to enjoy those as well. Whether a manga takes a more comedic or more dramatic approach the the pervasive delinquent character type there’s usually some sort of well-deserved ass-kicking involved which, in general, is something that I can appreciate. All that being said, I’m a little uncertain why it took me so long to give Oresama Teacher a try considering the prominence of delinquents and ex-delinquents in the story, but now that I have I am completely hooked. And I am completely okay with that.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a copy of Oresama Teacher, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little about your favorite manga delinquent. (If you don’t have a favorite, or haven’t encountered any, simply mention that instead.)
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. Giveaway participants can earn up to two entries and have one week to submit comments. If needed or preferred, comments can also be sent to phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com which I will then post here in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on November 1, 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: Oresama Teacher Giveaway Winner