My Week in Manga: March 12-March 18, 2012

My News and Reviews

So, I finally got around to my follow-up post about podcasts—Discovering Manga: Podcasts, Part 2. In it I talk about three podcasts that have regular manga content. If you’re interested, please check out the original podcast post, too—Discovering Manga: Podcasts. Also this past week, I posted my first in-depth manga review for the month, Blade of the Immortal, Volume 7: Heart of Darkness by Hiroaki Samura.

And speaking of Blade of the Immortal! Several people have mentioned interest in my reviews for the series, and so I’ve given myself a new goal. Beginning in April, I plan on reviewing one volume of Blade of the Immortal each month. Ideally this will be in addition to my regular in-depth manga reviews which, hopefully, means there will be three manga reviews each month! This will also allow me to catch up to current volume more quickly. It should take me about a year and a half. We’ll see how it goes, so fingers crossed!

There has been some exciting news this past week. The criminal charges have been dropped in the Canada customs case dealing with Ryan Matheson attempting to cross the border with manga on his laptop. His personal statement can be read on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund website. Charles Brownstein, executive director of the CBLDF, also made some comments on lessons learned from the case. This past Thursday, Digital Manga announced on their blog that their account for Kindle publishing had been suspended. Thankfully, after an outpouring of support for the publisher, Amazon reversed their decision and Digital Manga’s Kindle account was restored on Friday.

On to slightly less vexing issues! Booklist has posted a core collection list for Japanese Manga for Adults. It’s a pretty great list with some fantastic selections that I can easily get behind. Also, this week is the Jiro Taniguchi Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Manga Worth Reading. Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading, and mostly enjoying, a bunch of Taniguchi manga. I’ll have a review of A Zoo in Winter and a slew of Taniguchi manga quick takes later this week.

Quick Takes

Blame!, Volume 1 by Tsutomu Nihei. If you have read and enjoyed Nihei’s more recent manga Biomega, you should probably check out Blame! as well. The two series are quite similar in many ways. The artwork and setting is dark, character designs are appropriately creepy, and action and environment take precedence over dialogue. Killy is a loner with a big gun, making his way up from the depths of the The City searching for anyone possessing Net Terminal Genes. Humans are just barely surviving, fighting amongst themselves and against terrifying creatures. No explanation is given as to what happened to bring humanity to its current state, but that’s not particularly important to the story at the moment.

Dengeki Daisy, Volume 4 by Kyousuke Motomi. Dengeki Daisy can be absolutely ridiculous at times, but I’m still enjoying the series. Probably because that even with all the potential for melodrama, it never takes itself too seriously. Teru is now aware that Kurosaki is Daisy, something that she had suspected, but decides to hide that fact from him because she’s afraid he’ll leave if he knows. More is revealed about the mystery surrounding her brother and his death in this volume as well as some of Daisy’s darker past (at which had previously been hinted). Motomi is very slowly doling out tidbits of information. I want to learn more, but I’m not frustrated yet by how little I actually do know. The character dynamics and interactions are also very interesting to watch.

Kekkaishi, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 4-6) by Yellow Tanabe. In the earlier volumes of Kekkaishi it seemed like Tanabe was just making things up as the series went along, but the manga seems to have a settled down somewhat. Granted, there are still some major plot developments and characters that are introduced out of nowhere. I am enjoying Kekkaishi quite a bit. I appreciate that brute strength is not seen to be the ultimate expression of power, but that knowledge and tactics are also extremely important. I also enjoy seeing the innovative ways that Tanabe comes up with to use the kekkai barriers. I certainly never expected them to be used for what amounts to aerial combat; that was pretty cool.

Samurai Deeper Kyo, Volumes 1-2 by Akimine Kamijyo. I had high hopes for Samurai Deeper Kyo. I enjoy stories set in the Tokugawa era. I also thought the series conceit—two souls with vastly different personalities trapped in the same body—sounded interesting. Mibu Kyoshiro, a traveling medicine peddler and a bit of a goofball, fights for control over his body with Demon Eyes Kyo, a vicious killer. And there’s a bounty out for each of them. Despite their potential, I actually found the first couple of volumes Samurai Deeper Kyo to be a bit bland. Like the lead character’s split personality, it seems like the series hasn’t quite decided what it wants to be yet. The humor isn’t quite funny enough for it to be straight comedy, but the drama isn’t quite dramatic enough, either.

V. B. Rose, Volume 1 by Banri Hidaka. As I’m not particularly interested in weddings or wedding dresses, I wasn’t particularly expecting to enjoy the first volume of V. B. Rose. I was surprised by how much I ended up liking it. Ageha’s older sister is getting married which ultimately leads to Ageha helping out at the bridal shop Velvet Blue Rose when one of her sister’s dress designers injures his hand. The story in the first volume is fairly self-contained, which makes me wonder how Hidaka manages to stretch it out for fourteen volumes. Also, Yukari and Mitsuya (the designers) are totally a couple and are absolutely adorable together; no one will be able to convince me otherwise. Even if it is all in my imagination. Which it is.

Whisper of the Heart directed by Yoshifumi Kondō. Whisper of the Heart is a predecessor of sorts to The Cat Returns; both are based on manga by Aoi Hiiragi. As a librarian, I enjoyed seeing an old school library complete with card catalog and check out cards. The story simply couldn’t have happened in the same way with today’s computerized libraries and privacy concerns. Shizuku is a bookworm, so I couldn’t help but to feel some affinity with her. Her love of books and the library was endearing to me. However, I did find that I had little patience for all of the junior high school love drama. They’re all just so terribly earnest. I think it was supposed to be nostalgic, but it mostly made me roll my eyes. Still, the film did make me smile and even laugh on a few occasions.

My Week in Manga: October 31-November 6, 2011

My News and Reviews

This is the time of month my entries on Experiments in Manga probably tend to be a little boring for most people. I announced the winner of the Sugar Sugar Rune giveaway (Manga Giveaway: Happy Hollowe’en! Winner) and posted the October 2011 Bookshelf Overload. To help make things a little more interesting, I’m starting up my Library Love feature again. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted one. Basically, it’s similar to my weekly quick takes except that it focuses specifically on manga that I’ve borrowed and read from the library. I think I’ll try to make it a monthly feature. Anyway, here’s Part 7!

I know that some of my readers were excited to hear about Viz Media’s entry into the boys’ love genre with their new imprint SuBLime. Deb Aoki has posted further information about the venture over at Manga. Part 1 is a transcript of the SuBLime panel and question and answer session that was held at Yaoicon. Part 2 features interviews with two of SuBLime’s editors: Leyla Aker (who is also vice-president of publishing at Viz) and Jennifer LeBlanc (whose blog The Yaoi Review may be familiar to some of you).

Also, completely unrelated, Takehiko Inoue has started work on Vagabond again! The series had been put on hold due to his health concerns among other factors. I’m very happy to see he’s working on the series again and hope this means he’s feeling better, too.—Takehiko Inoue Now Drafting Return of Vagabond Manga.

And as a heads up! The Natsume Ono Manga Moveable Feast will be held from November 13 to November 20. The Feast is being hosted by Alexander Hoffman of Manga Widget. I thought it was going to be later this month, so I was caught a little off guard. Still, I’ll should have a small bunch of Ono quick takes ready for next week as well as an in-depth review of the first volume of House of Five Leaves (my introduction to and favorite series by Ono).

Quick Takes

Cage of Eden, Volume 1 by Yoshinobu Yamada. Part of the problem that I have with Cage of Eden is probably the result of having just recently read a couple of very good survival manga. I may have enjoyed the series a little more if I hadn’t. But then again, there are plenty of things that would annoy me about Cage of Eden regardless. The worst offense is probably the dialogue. This is manga, the text should be working to enhance the artwork, not describing every single detail that I can obviously see right there on the page. I don’t care about any of the characters at this point. They can just go ahead and get eaten by dinosaurs for all I’m concerned. Actually, the dinosaurs and other creatures are kinda cool. Go, team dinosaurs!

Close the Last Door, Volumes 1-2 by Yugi Yamada. One of the things that I like best about the works by Yamada that I’ve read so far is that the characters’ relationships are complicated and messy. There are no simple solutions and they all have to face the problems that they create for themselves in their lives. Nagai has been in love with his younger coworker Saitou for years. After acting as the best man at Saitou’s wedding, Nagai finds himself drowning his sorrows at a bar along with Honda, an ex-boyfriend of the bride. Things get more complicated from there. I liked Close the Last Door quite a bit. I also found it extremely amusing that Nagai’s moments of fantasizing/agonizing while in the office break room were constantly being interrupted.

Code:Breaker, Volumes 1-2 by Akimine Kamijyo. Only the first two volumes of this series have been published; I’m not sure if Kodansha plans on continuing it where Del Rey left off or not. I thought the first volume was significantly better than the second, but I would still really like to see where this series is going. Sakurakouji is one of the better female characters I’ve come across recently in a shōnen series. For starters, she’s not stupid or there just to be ogled (although there is some inexplicable boob gropage in volume two). I particularly like the fact that she is an accomplished martial artist. She is also definitely her own person. The story is told from her perspective, but the focus is really on Ogami at this point.

Dengeki Daisy, Volumes 1-3 by Kyousuke Motomi. I had heard good things about Dengeki Daisy, but I was still pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the first few volumes of the series. Sure, there is some silliness and a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is needed, particularly in the first volume. But, there are also some really interesting elements. The series seems to be less about the potential romance between Kurosaki and Teru, although that is certainly an important aspect, and more about the mystery surrounding the death of Teru’s brother Souchirou and his work. Many of the characters in Dengeki Daisy have some sort of connection to Souchirou. I want to know what happened and why Kurosaki feels so conflicted and guilty.

Guin Saga, Episodes 14-26 directed by Atsushi Wakabayashi. The English dub of the Guin Saga anime was never its strong point but it’s especially uneven in the second half. Malius in particular is simply terrible. (And for a minstrel, he really can’t sing.) However, ignoring that, I have been enjoying Guin Saga in all its epic glory. Although there is still some fighting, the second half moves away from the battlefield and deals more with court politics. The series still feels like a watered down version of a more complex narrative, but I’m just happy to have any version of such an influential story available in English. They did find a decent stopping place, but it’s obvious that there is plenty more story to go.