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Random Musings: Notable in 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Random Musings: Notable in 2016

The end of 2016 has come and, as promised, I have compiled my annual list of notable releases of some of the works published within the last twelve months. All of the caveats from previous years still apply–to qualify a book must have been released in 2016 and I must have read it in 2016. (And I certainly haven’t read everything that’s been published this year.) Additionally, this year I’ve specifically decided to focus on debuts rather than continuing series (with one exception) and am limiting the list to one book per publisher in order to make it more manageable for myself. This is not a “best of” list or a list of favorites (that would be a much longer feature). It’s not even a list of all of the noteworthy releases from the past year, otherwise I’d probably never finish writing (2016 was an excellent year for manga in particular). What this list is is a subset of releases from the last year that, for one reason or another, left the most significant impressions on me.

Orange, Omnibus 1The first manga published in English in 2016 which really made me take note was Ichigo Takano’s Orange. It’s a heartwarming but bittersweet story which deals with some very heavy topics including crippling guilt, regret, depression, and suicide. Orange resonated very strongly with my own personal experiences as someone who is both challenged by and knows others who struggle with similar issues. The manga can be heartbreaking, but Takano’s approach is immensely compassionate and life-affirming.

Goodnight Punpun, Omnibus 1Inio Asano’s Goodnight Punpun is likewise a heartwrenching manga that deals with very serious and troubling subject matter. However, in the case of Goodnight Punpun, that exploration ends up being incredibly dark and surreal. I find the series to be remarkably compelling and the artwork is spectacular, but it’s certainly not what I would call light reading. The tragic coming-of-age story that Asano presents is deliberately uncomfortable and even the humor tends to be extremely bleak.

The Gods LieDevastating coming-of-age stories were apparently a theme for me in 2016 because The Gods Lie by Kaori Ozaki fits into that category as well. The Gods Lie was actually one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I was not disappointed. The manga is a beautiful, emotionally resonate work with a story that is both skillfully told and drawn. Ozaki addresses themes of abandonment, desperation, and death, recognizing that solutions to bad situations aren’t always easy or clear.

What Is Obscenity?Although the subject matter of Rokudenashiko’s autobiographical manga What Is Obscenity?: The Story of a Good for Nothing Artist and Her Pussy is also quite serious—a portrayal of the circumstances surrounding her multiple arrests on obscenity charges—the volume itself is charmingly funny, sweet, and surprisingly upbeat. Rokudenashiko’s work as an artist and activist is both inspiring and empowering. I personally feel that What Is Obscenity? was one of the most important releases from 2016.

Kitaro, Volume 1: The Birth of KitaroA few years ago, Drawn & Quarterly released a collection of Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro manga which I loved, so I was thrilled when a multi-volume Kitaro series was announced. Beginning with The Birth of Kitaro, the series has been specifically curated to appeal to younger readers although the manga is still a tremendous amount of fun regardless of age. Not very many classic manga are licensed in English these days, but with my particular interest in yokai, I’m glad that the influential Kitaro is one of them.

Attack on Titan AnthologyKodansha Comics was the manga publisher that impressed me most overall in 2016 with the expansion of the range of its offerings. One of the most interesting releases actually wasn’t a manga but an original collection of Western comics inspired by Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan. Like any anthology, some of the contributions to Attack on Titan Anthology are stronger than others, but some are incredible. As a whole, the volume is a fantastic collection compiling a wide variety of styles and genres.

Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu KanekoAnother remarkable multinational effort from 2016 was Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko from Chin Music Press. The children’s book, beautifully illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri, combines a biography written by David Jacobson with a selection of Kaneko’s poetry translated by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi. Kaneko is relatively unknown in English but her work is utterly delightful, charming, and compassionate. Are You an Echo? is a lovely book and a treasure.

Human ActsTechnically, Han Kang’s Human Acts won’t be released in North America until 2017, but the English translation was first published in 2016. The novel was honestly one of the best books that I read all year. It was also one of the most devastating and haunting. Beautifully written by Kang and elegantly translated by Deborah Smith, Human Acts shows how past tragedies have long-lasting and far-reaching effects on the present and future. The novel is intensely personal, political, and powerful.

The Paper Menagerie and Other StoriesThe Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is the second book by Ken Liu to have been published. (Liu’s first book, The Grace of Kings, was actually on last year’s list of notable releases.) The collection brings together fifteen of Liu’s short stories and novellas, a combination of award-winning works and the author’s personal favorites. The volume is consistently compelling and thought-provoking—as good speculative fiction should be—each story providing a distinctive and meaningful perspective.

Tokyo Demons: Know What You WantAs many people know, Lianne Sentar’s Tokyo Demons is one of my obsessions, so I would be remiss to not mention it here. 2016 was a great year for fans of the series: Know What You Want, a provocative collection of mature side stories, was released in print, the third book finished its serialization online with an extremely satisfying conclusion, and the beginnings of the sequel series Tokyo Ghosts began to make its appearance. I’m very glad for the opportunity to see the story and characters continue to change and evolve.

Random Musings: Notable in 2015

For the last couple of years, I have made a point to compile an end-of-year list of works that, for me, were particularly notable. In general I tend to like making lists, but I particularly enjoy working on this one because it specifically provides me the opportunity to reflect back on the year. The notable list isn’t exactly a “best of” list or even a list of favorites. To be included, a work must simply have been released in 2015, read in 2015, and stood out to me in one way or another. (That being said, I didn’t get to read as much this past year as I have in previous years. I’m sure that, had I had the chance to read them, there would be other works represented here, too.)

Blade of the Immortal, Volume 31: Final Curtain2015 was a year in which many series came to an end. Final Curtain, the last volume in the English-language edition of Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal, was especially meaningful to me since the series was one of the first manga that I ever read and continues to be a personal favorite. Dark Horse began releasing the series in individual issues back in 1996; nearly two decades later it is now available in its entirety. All in all, it was a great ending to a great series.

The Summit of the Gods, Volume 5Another series that concluded in English in 2015 was The Summit of the Gods, written by Baku Yumemakura and illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi. Fanfare/Ponent Mon is one of the smaller, more niche manga and comics publishers and has infrequent releases. Multiple years passed between the publication of some of the volumes in the series, so I was honestly afraid I’d never have the opportunity to read the conclusion of such an impressively drawn and written manga.

Wandering Son, Volume 8 2015 also saw what may be the premature end to a few manga in English. Tragically, for a variety of reasons, Fantagraphic’s release of Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son hasn’t been doing well and the publisher might have to cancel the series if sales don’t improve. Only a single volume, with one heck of a cliffhanger, was able to be released in 2015. The series is incredibly important to me on a very personal level—it was literally life-changing—so I’ll heartbroken if this is truly the end.

Vinland Saga, Omnibus 6Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga is another series that might come to a close before its time in English. After a temporary hiatus, the sixth and seventh omnibuses, the last that are guaranteed to be published, were released in 2015. Even if the rest of the series isn’t translated (and I hope that it is), the first two major story arcs are complete and the manga is well-worth seeking out. The character development in the series is fantastic, the artwork is excellent, and the story is marvelous.

A Silent Voice, Volume 1One of the manga to debut in 2015 that stood out to me the most was A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima. A realistic portrayal of bullying and the consequences of such cruelty, the series can be a difficult but ultimately worthwhile read. The subject matter is heartwrenching but handled extremely well, skillfully showing the nuanced complexity of human nature and relationships while exploring themes of forgiveness, empathy, and redemption.

Requiem of the Rose King, Volume 1Aya Kanno’s Requiem of the Rose King was one of my most anticipated manga series to be released in 2015. A combination of historical fact and historical fantasy inspired by the plays of William Shakespeare, Kanno’s research into the Wars of the Roses, and her own imagination, the manga hasn’t yet disappointed me and gets better with each volume. The storytelling can be somewhat cryptic and chaotic at times, but its dark, dreamlike nature can also be wonderfully effective.

HenshinKen Niimura is an award-winning Spanish comics creator of Japanese heritage who has worked in the European, North American, and Asian markets. Henshin is a delightfully quirky collection of thirteen short manga originally released online by Ikki, making it Niimura’s first major Japanese publication. While the stories range from semi-autobiographical to the absolute fantastic, they all tend to have surprising twists to them with great emotional impact.

The Ancient Magus' Bride, Volume 1Seven Seas has recently shown a remarkable increase in the number and variety of titles it has licensed. Kore Yamazaki’s The Ancient Magus’ Bride is perhaps one of Seven Sea’s more atypical series, but it seems to be doing well for itself. I’m glad, because I enjoy the manga and its strangeness immensely. A peculiar romance incorporating horror and fantasy, magic and science, the series is heavily influenced by European legends, fairy tales, and folklore.

Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon & MuJunji Ito had a pretty good showing in English in 2015 with several new releases and re-releases. Of those, it was Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu that made the strongest impression on me. (I admittedly find it difficult to resist cat comics.) The manga is drawn in Ito’s signature style but is undoubtedly a comedy, granted one about the horrors and anxieties of pet ownership. The disconnect between the artwork and the story makes it even funnier.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Volume 1I never expected to see the beginning of Hirohiko Araki’s exceptionally weird yet iconic manga series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure released in English. The third story arc was published years ago but only garnered a relatively small following. Thankfully, the manga’s recent anime adaptation revitalized interest in the series, leading Viz Media to release the first two arcs of the epic—Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency—and in a beautiful hardcover edition no less.

Prison School, Omnibus 1Probably one of the most divisive debuts of 2015 was Prison School by Akira Hiramoto, but Yen Press had the guts to license it. With its highly sexualized content, over-the-top fanservice verging on the grotesque, and preponderance despicable characters, it’s definitely not a series for everyone. The manga revels in its salaciousness to the point of parody, making it a strangely engrossing and humorous work for readers who aren’t immediately offended by it.

NimonaNimona had its beginnings as an award-winning webcomic, ultimately becoming Noelle Stevenson’s debut graphic novel; the print edition also includes additional material not found online. I absolutely loved this comic. It starts out rather lighthearted, but as the graphic novel progresses it becomes more serious. However, it never loses its sense of humor. Stevenson combines colorful characters, settings, and artwork to create a comic that is both entertaining and meaningful.

Fantasy Sports, Volume 1Sometimes all I want from a comic is something fun, and Fantasy Sports by Sam Bosma is certainly that and then some. The comic started as a short, self-published, black-and-white work but it has been expanded into an ongoing, full-color series being released by Nobrow Press. The marvelous first volume, featuring a life-and-death game of basketball between an ancient mummy and a young magic user interning at the United Order of Mages, is filled with silliness and adventure.

TowerkindAlso originally self-published, Towerkind by Kat Verhoeven was a comic that I came across by chance more than anything else; I picked up the book on an impulse after seeing it at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival and finding myself oddly drawn towards it. The comic is surreal, about a group of children with supernatural abilities who may or may not be facing the end of the world. It’s both a strangely compelling and darkly ominous work.

Red Girls: The Legend of the AkakuchibasOut of all of the novels released in 2015 that I read, Red Girls: The Legend of the Akakuchibas by Kazuki Sakuraba was perhaps the most curious, peculiar, and enthralling. A multi-generational family epic, the story follows the lives and legends of three women, each powerful in their own way. (One of them even becomes a successful mangaka after retiring from being the leader of a girl gang.) Part history, part mystery, and part fantasy, I enjoyed the novel a great deal.

The Grace of KingsKen Liu is probably best known for his short fiction, but in 2015 he made his debut as a novelist with The Grace of Kings, the first book in The Dandelion Dynasty which is a sort of retelling or reimagining of China’s historical legends and mythologies. The novel is a massive and expansive work with incredible worldbuilding. Though contemporary fantasy fiction, stylistically Liu also pays tribute to the narrative structure of the Chinese classics and not just their stories.

Random Musings: Notable in 2014

Last December, for the very first time at Experiments in Manga, I made an end-of-the-year list of titles that were, for me, particularly notable in 2013. I enjoyed pulling the list together (which probably isn’t too surprising given my propensity for making lists), and so I’ve decided to make it an ongoing feature. It’s not exactly a “best of” list, and it’s not exactly a list of favorites either, but out of everything that I read over the last year, the following releases from 2014 particularly stood out for me in some way:

Nijigahara HolographInio Asano’s Nijigahara Holograph was the first work to really floor me in 2014. It’s a dark and disturbing manga that is both brutal and beautiful. Nijigahara Holograph isn’t an easy read, not just because of its heavy thematic content, but also because its ambiguous narrative structure is challenging and can be confusing. The manga is complex and layered. Open to multiple interpretations, Nijigahara Holograph is a work that holds up well to repeated readings.

In Clothes Called FatIt’s not a secret that I’m a fan of Moyoco Anno’s work but even if I wasn’t I still would have been hugely impressed by In Clothes Called Fat. In many ways the manga is an uncomfortable read, but it is also an extremely powerful examination of physical and psychological ugliness and beauty. While there is dark humor in In Clothes Called Fat, Anno doesn’t pull her punches, showing the obsessive extremes to which society and individuals subject themselves in order to obtain an arbitrary ideal.

Massive: Gay Japanese Manga and the Men Who Make ItOne of my most anticipated releases for 2014 was Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It and I was not at all disappointed by the work. The groundbreaking collection is spectacular, introducing nine of the most influential creators of gay erotic manga through photography, essays, interviews, manga, and more. Anyone at all interested in the genre, its creators, or its history needs to read Massive. Fantagraphics and the team of editors did a fantastic job with the volume.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 1When it comes to 2014 manga with gay themes, I was also particularly pleased to see the release of the first five volumes of What Did You Eat Yesterday? by Fumi Yoshinaga which has one of the most realistic portrayals of an established contemporary queer relationship that I’ve come across in fiction. It’s also a food manga, which I love. Not everyone will appreciate the amount of attention the series devotes to very detailed food preparation, though; even I’m much more invested in the characters’ lives.

My Love Story!!, Volume 12014 was very a good year for interesting new shoujo. One of the most delightful was Kazune Kawahara and Aruko’s My Love Story!!. The series plays around with shoujo tropes and expectations and is both funny and endearing. The characters, too, are lovely and charming. I’m still not certain how long the series’ basic premise will be able to be sustained, but I’ll be following My Love Story!! until its end. Just reading the two volumes that have so far been released makes me incredibly happy.

Black Rose Alice, Volume 1Another shoujo that caught my attention was Setona Mizushiro’s Black Rose Alice. Now, vampires aren’t generally my thing, especially since they’ve been so overdone recently, but the vampires in Black Rose Alice really are very different from any other vampire that I’ve encountered before. After only two volumes I don’t understand everything that’s going on yet, but there is no question that the series is marvelously unsettling, creepy, and atmospheric. I desperately need to read more.

Prophecy, Volume 1Tetsuya Tsutsui’s Prophecy was a manga that seemed to come out of nowhere for me, and I don’t think it’s on many people’s radars yet. It should be though. One volume was released in 2014, but I’m already very impressed by the series. Maybe because I work so heavily with electronic resources, I especially appreciate Prophecy‘s realistic take on information and cyber crime. The series deals with the implications of online anonymity and contemporary social issues in a very engaging way.

Vinland Saga, Omnibus 2I have been thoroughly enjoy Makoto Yukimura’s epic Vinland Saga ever since its debut in 2013, but it wasn’t until the second omnibus was released early in 2014 that I absolutely fell in love with the manga. The second through fifth omnibuses were published over the past year which amounts to well over 1700 pages of content. Yukimura’s artwork seems to get more detailed with each passing volume and the attention given to historical detail in both the series’ art and its story is superb.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Volume 5: Char & SaylaYoshikazu Yasuhiko’s Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin is one of two manga that appeared both on last year’s and this year’s notable list. While I don’t have a particular interest in Gundam as a whole, The Origin continues to demand my attention. And not just because it’s one of the best-looking manga releases in English. The scope of The Origin is epic, but the attention given to characterization makes it all feel very personal. Volumes five through eight were released in 2014 and its good stuff.

Wandering Son, Volume 6Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son is the second manga to make my notable list two years in a row. To be perfectly honest, it will probably appear on every list of notable manga that I make. The series is incredibly important to me on a very personal level. Only two volumes were published in 2014, the sixth and the seventh. I wish the wait between each volume coming out wasn’t as long, but really I’m just extraordinarily happy that Wandering Son is being released in English at all.

Hotblood!: A Centaur in the Old West, Volume 1I discovered Toril Orlesky’s Hotblood!: A Centaur in the Old West while at TCAF. It was a splurge purchase of a comic I hadn’t even heard of before, but it quickly became one of my favorites. Great artwork, great characters, great worldbuilding, just a great comic. I don’t follow many webcomics as they are released online. Hotblood! is one of the few exceptions—I read each update as soon as I possibly can. So far, the first two volumes have been completed and the third is currently being serialized.

The Shadow HeroAt this point, I should probably just give anything written by Gene Luen Yang a try. Boxers & Saints was included on last year’s notable list and this year his collaboration with Sonny Liew, The Shadow Hero, made the cut. I wasn’t initially even going to read The Shadow Hero since I’m not especially interested in superheros, but that would have been a mistake. It’s an excellent comic with humor, heart, and history, inspired by an obscure superhero from the 1940s.

Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner, Volume 1Yu Godai’s Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner, Volume 1 was another surprise. I didn’t initially know much about the series except that it was related to the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. But then I read it and was immediately hooked, fascinated by its setting and atmosphere as well as the philosophical and psychological development of its characters. An absorbing work of science fiction, I’ll definitely be picking up the second volume of Quantum Devil Saga as soon as I can.

Tokyo Demons, Book 2: Add a Little ChaosAfter two years of online serialization, 2014 saw the publication of Add a Little Chaos, the second volume of Tokyo Demons, a series of novels written by Lianne Sentar and illustrated by Rem. My obsession with all things Tokyo Demons is well-known, but the second book was phenomenal. Things get pretty dark and heavy, so the stakes for the third and final volume are incredibly high. I can’t even bring myself to wait for the last volume to be completed; I’m following the serialization this time.

Random Musings: Notable in 2013

Despite having written at Experiments in Manga for over three years, I have never once attempted to create a “best of the year” list and I’m not about to start. However, I thought it would be interesting to write a post reflecting on what I have read in the past year. This isn’t a best of list. It’s not even necessarily a list of my favorite releases of the year (although, some of them certainly are). Instead, it’s a collection of manga, comics, and fiction from 2013 that, for one reason or another, were particularly notable for me.

The Heart of ThomasI’ll start out with Moto Hagio’s The Heart of Thomas. Fantagraphics released the entire series in a beautiful, hardcover omnibus. Technically, I think it was published at the end of 2012, but I wasn’t able to get my hands on one until 2013. I adore Hagio’s manga and wish more of it was available in English. The Heart of Thomas in particular is a historically significant work and one of the precursors to the boys’ love genre. Plus, it’s a wonderful work in its own right.

The Passion of Gengoroh TagameThe Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: The Master of Gay Erotic Manga probably couldn’t be more different from The Heart of Thomas, but I anticipated its release just as much. Tagame is an incredibly influential gay comics artist. The volume was not only the first collection of his work to be released in English, it was also the first collection of bara manga to be released in print. Happily, it won’t be the last. More of Tagame’s manga is already scheduled to be published.

KitaroI have become increasingly interested in yokai over the last few years. And so I was thrilled when Drawn & Quarterly released Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki. The volume collects stories from the first few volumes of Mizuki’s GeGeGe no Kitaro which is the yokai manga that started it all and which continues to influence creators to this day. I found Kitaro to be utterly delightful and can understand why it’s so well-loved. I hope more of the series will be translated.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Volume 1I picked up Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin for one reason—it was written and drawn by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. I’m not at all a Gundam fan, but I am a fan of Yasuhiko’s work. Even so, I didn’t anticipate how much I would enjoy The Origin. The manga ended up being an extremely well done space opera. It doesn’t hurt that Vertical’s edition of the series is one of the highest quality manga releases available in English, either. I’m still not a Gundam fan, but I am a fan of The Origin.

UnicoAnother manga that I was pleasantly surprised by was Osamu Tezuka’s Unico. As much as I appreciate Tezuka’s work, I will admit to have grown a little tired of it. (I wish that other classic manga received the same amount of attention in English.) I approached Unico more as a curiosity than anything else; the full-color artwork and unusual page layouts had caught my attention. It turned out to be an endearing manga that is both heartbreaking and charming.

The Strange Tale of PanoramaAfter years of delay, Suehiro Maruo’s The Strange Tale of Panorama Island was finally released by Last Gasp in 2013. The manga is an adaptation of Edogawa Rampo’s novella Strange Tale of Panorama Island which, coincidentally, was also released in English in 2013. I cannot think of a more perfect artist to adapt Rampo’s work; Maruo’s exquisite, sensual, and erotically charged illustrations with hints of the macabre are an ideal fit. The Strange Tale of Panorama Island was worth the wait.

Wandering Son, Volume 4As for continuing series in 2013, Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son remains a manga that is incredibly important to me on a very personal level. I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned it before, but Wandering Son has quite literally been life-changing for me. In addition to that, I simply think it’s a wonderfully sensitive and sincere look at personal identity. Fantagraphics released both the fourth and fifth volumes of Wandering Son in 2013; I’m looking forward to reading more of the series great deal.

Paradise Kiss, Part 32013 also saw the release of Ai Yazawa’s Paradise Kiss, Part 3—the third and final volume in Vertical’s edition of the series. I missed out on the manga when it was originally licensed by Tokyopop and I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to read it. Over the last year, I have been extremely impressed by Yazawa’s work. I don’t have a particular interest in fashion, but the complex characters and complicated relationships in Paradise Kiss were extraordinary.

The One Trick Rip-Off + Deep CutsThe One Trick Rip-Off + Deep Cuts is a fantastic anthology which collects fifteen comics by Paul Pope, including those he created for Kodansha while in Japan. The volume makes a great introduction to Pope’s comics, exhibiting a nice range of styles and stories selected from nearly a decade of his work. The influence of manga can be seen in the collection, but Pope definitely has his own approach to comics. I’ve become very fond of his work and the quirkiness of his stories and characters.

BoxersWritten and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang with colors by Lark Pien, the Boxers & Saints duology is honestly one of the best comics that I read in the past year. It’s a powerful retelling of the Boxer Rebellion—a violent uprising in China that began in the late 1800s—from two different sides of the conflict, neither of which were entirely in the right. Yang put a tremendous amount of research into the work, making it historically accurate while still maintaining a very human element to the story.

Self-Reference EngineI already knew that I enjoyed Toh EnJoe’s short stories and essays and so I was excited for the release of Self-Reference Engine, the first book-length work of his to be translated into English. It’s not quite a novel, and it’s not quite a collection of short stories, but whatever it is it’s good stuff. I expected Self-Reference Engine to be intellectually stimulating as well as entertaining, and it was, but I wasn’t prepared for how funny and mind-bending it would be.