My Week in Manga: March 21-March 27, 2016

My News and Reviews

I only posted one in-depth manga review at Experiments in Manga last week, taking a look at Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, Volume 1 by Nanao, which is an adaptation of a visual novel by the doujin group HaccaWorks*. I was actually a little surprised by how much I enjoyed the manga. Though I can imagine the series getting tiresome if at least some answers to story’s many mysteries aren’t given soon, at the moment I’m intensely intrigued. I think I’m finally starting to come to terms with the fact that much of the time I can only manage one review per week right now, though I’d honestly love to do more reading and writing. I also want to quickly follow-up on a statement that I made in the Bookshelf Overload for February—I mentioned that I wasn’t sure if Keigo Higashino’s novel Under the Midnight Sun would be released in the United States or not, but it turns out that it will be! The United Kingdom simply got it first, which is sometimes what happens with works in translation.

In other licensing news, several manga publishers made announcements over the course of last week and the weekend. Kodansha Comics will be releasing twelve new titles in print, some of which I find to be particularly exciting or intriguing (the Parasyte shoujo anthology, shounen ballroom dancing, single fathers learning to cook, and more!). Among other things Viz Media will be publishing a new deluxe edition of Junji Ito’s Tomie (which has gone out of print at least twice before from two other publishers) and will continue releasing more of the fancy JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure hardcovers. Yen Press announce seven print manga licenses, two of which were previously part of its digital manga catalog. (This gives me hope that one day, however unlikely, it could be possible to see Saki in print.) Finally, Sekai Project, is expanding its manga efforts by licensing Suzunone Rena’s Sakura Spirit manga adaptation. (Also, the first two volumes of the publisher’s debut manga, Gate, are now available for preorder.) I also came across a couple of interviews last week that were interesting: the Shojo Beat tumblr posted the second part of its interview with Arina Tanemura and Anime News Network has an interview with Inio Asano.

Quick Takes

Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz, Volume 5Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz, Volumes 5-7 by Mamenosuke Fujimaru. Overall, I must say that I rather enjoyed Cheshire Cat Waltz. It’s only the second followup to the original Alice in the Country of Hearts manga that I’ve read, but I liked how it expanded the story, characters, and world of the franchise. Cheshire Cat Waltz features two tangentially related storylines. The first is the romance between Alice and Boris which by now is well established even though she’s still working through some self-doubt. Their relationship actually ends up being rather sweet. One of the running themes in the various Alice in the Country of manga is that Alice’s very presence changes the others in Wonderland; Boris certainly has become a better person over time. The second major storyline in Cheshire Cat Waltz has to do with the mob war in which Alice unwittingly becomes embroiled in due to her association with the Hatter’s mafia family. These last few volumes of Cheshire Cat Waltz also include an Alice in the Country of Hearts story which features Boris as Alice’s romantic interest as well.

Ichigenme... The First Class is Civil Law, Volume 1Ichigenme… The First Class is Civil Law, Volumes 1-2 by Fumi Yoshinaga. Out of all of Yoshinaga’s boys’ love manga that have been released in English, I believe that Ichigenme may very well be one of the most explicit. Like many of her other two-volume series, it does take its time getting there, though. The first volume of Ichigenme is mostly focused on introducing the various characters and their evolving relationships. The leads of the manga are two law students who happen to join the same seminar—the particularly bright and honest Tamiya, who’s in the process of coming to terms with his homosexuality, and the openly gay Tohdou, a seemingly carefree son of a politician. The second volume, which is actually set seven years later after the first, more fully explores the developments in their physical relationship. What I particularly appreciate about all of the sex in Ichigenme is that it isn’t just sex for sex’s sake—Yoshinaga uses it to delve into the character’s themselves, revealing parts of their thoughts, feelings, and personalities through their intimacy with each other.

Tomodachi x Monster, Volume 1Tomodachi x Monster, Volume 1 by Yoshihiko Inui. I’ve heard Tomodachi x Monster described as a dark parody, but after reading the first volume, I’m not sure how accurate that really is. The humor that I would expect seems to be missing (granted, parody doesn’t necessarily mean comedy), but the darkness is certainly there—Tomodachi x Monster is what you get when you take a series like Pokémon and turn it into a bizarre horror manga accompanied by heavy doses of violence and gore. Confrontations between middle school students become much more dangerous and deadly when their little monster pals inflict extraordinary amounts of damage and pain. Characters start dying off surprisingly quickly in Tomodachi x Monster, generally in some sort of gruesome fashion. The series can be pretty ridiculous and over-the-top with its violence. While the art style tends towards creepy-cute designs, some of the most effective imagery in the manga is legitimately disturbing. The mental states of most of the characters are perhaps even more terrifying, though.

My Week in Manga: March 7-March 13, 2016

My News and Reviews

I was finally able to post February’s Bookshelf Overload at Experiments in Manga last week, a few days later than I originally intended, but at least it’s up. I’ve been intentionally decreasing the number of new manga and other things that I’m buying at the moment, which means that I’ll be happily digging into my backlog and catching up on older series. I also posted an in-depth review last week, though perhaps it’s more of a summary. Either way, Mechademia, Volume 10: World Renewal contains some interesting material for those looking for a more scholarly approach to the study of manga, anime, and other Japanese popular culture. The volume also includes “Nanohana,” a short manga by Moto Hagio, and a story by Tomoyuki Hoshino called “Good Morning.” I am very fond of both creators’ work, so that made me especially happy to see.

Interesting things found online last week: Viz Media will apparently be releasing a new volume of Haikyu every month after it’s debut in July until the English edition catches up with the Japan’s releases, which is rather impressive. Yokai scholar and manga translator Zack Davisson wrote a great piece for The Comics Journal called Confessions of a Manga Translator. (Some of the comments are worth reading, too.) VICE has an interview with Gengoroh Tagame, who will also be participating in the Queer Japan documentary. (The Kickstarter campaign for the project ends very soon and could use some additional support; if it at all interests you, please consider contributing!) Graham Kolbeins, the filmmaker behind the documentary was recently interviewed as well.

Quick Takes

Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz, Volume 1Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz, Volumes 1-4 by Mamenosuke Fujimaru. With the extraordinary number of retellings, spinoffs, and sequels to Alice in the Country of Hearts, it can be somewhat daunting to know where to start. Fortunately, I have people looking out for me; Cheshire Cat Waltz was one of the series that was repeatedly recommended by multiple individuals. Although it still has the same vaguely ominous atmosphere (which I like), the Country of Clover is actually a slightly different setting than the Country of Hearts. Even the personalities of the characters that are shared between the two are somewhat changed as they adapt to their modified roles. I found Boris, the Cheshire Cat, an especially interesting character in the first manga series, so it probably makes sense that I would enjoy a series where he plays a leading role. Admittedly, the pairings in the various Alice in the Country of manga that I’ve read certainly shouldn’t be lauded as examples of healthy relationships. Boris, as sweet and considerate as he can sometimes be, is also very possessive. The story is engaging, though, and Cheshire Cat Waltz is surprisingly steamy as well.

Behind Story, Volume 2Behind Story, Volumes 2-3 by Narae Ahn. I enjoyed the first volume of Behind Story more than I thought I would, so I wanted to be sure to read more of the boys’ love manhwa. At the time, I didn’t even know how long the series was, and I wasn’t able to find out much about the creator, either. It turns out Behind Story is only three volumes, was Ahn’s debut series, and was originally published online. The final two volumes of Behind Story take place three years after the first. Johann has survived his teacher’s attempted murder-suicide, but his life is still a complicated mess; he’s more or less forced transfer out of school, leaving Taehee—one of the very few people who legitimately cared for him and his well-being—behind with no way to contact him. Eventually the two of them do reunite, but they’ve both changed over the years and neither are sure what direction their relationship will take in the future. Behind Story is a fairly solid debut with interesting characters and a story that, for the most part, moves beyond the genre’s standard tropes. The series’ ending does perhaps wrap up a little too quickly and nicely and could have used a little more development, but overall the manhwa is enjoyable.

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Volume 1Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, Volume 1 by Izumi Tsubaki. I absolutely loved the anime adaptation of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, so I was very happy when Yen Press announced that it would be releasing the original manga series. The success of four-panel manga can be rather hit-or-miss in the North American market as their comedy is often firmly situated within a Japanese sense of humor and context. A few of the jokes in the first volume of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun I may not have immediately understood if I hadn’t already seen the anime (which was able to more fully expound on things due to its format) but overall the manga and its gags are largely accessible and very funny. The series revolves around Nozaki—a relatively successful shoujo mangaka who has a difficult time convincing many of his high school classmates of that fact due to his large stature and seemingly stoic nature—and the various students who become his assistants or the inspiration for his characters. The manga is good-natured fun, much of the humor the result of the differences between the characters’ personalities and how most other people actually perceive them. I especially appreciate the series’ willingness to play with gender roles and expectations.

My Week in Manga: July 13-July 19, 2015

My News and Reviews

Two in-depth reviews were posted at Experiments in Manga last week. The first took a look at Mushishi, Volume 4 by Yuki Urushibara. The review is part of my monthly horror manga review project; next month I’ll be bouncing back to Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare. Mushishi continues to be one of my favorite manga series. The second review was of A Sky Longing for Memories: The Art of Makoto Shinkai, the most recent artbook to be released by Vertical. It’s a gorgeous volume to simply look at, but I also learned a little about art design and digital illustration while reading it, too. Also of note, over at Organization Anti-Social Geniuses, I and six other manga and anime enthusiasts weighed in on the question “What Was the Biggest Announcement at Anime Expo/SDCC?”

There were a few other manga-related posts at OASG last week, too, including some great tips on getting manga for cheap, advice from manga letterers, and an interview with Kodansha’s Ben Applegate from San Diego Comic-Con. A couple of other convention-related articles that I came across: Brigid Alverson talked to Tokyopop’s Stu Levy and Deb Aoki summarizes some of the recent manga news. Also, the audio recordings of some of the SDCC panels, including the Best and Worst Manga panel, have been posted.

In licensing news, Seven Seas announced The Other Side of Secret manga series by Hideaki Yoshikawa. Seven Seas will also be releasing a newly-illustrated omnibus of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz & The Marvelous Land of Oz. (This will be similar to Seven Seas’ edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass which was quite charming.) Finally, a couple of interesting reads I happened upon: Léopold Dahan wrote about studying the magazine Garo and Kevin Frane discussed gender in Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner. (Frane is the translator of the series in English, and I really enjoyed the first volume, but I’m looking forward to the following volumes even more now.)

Quick Takes

After I WinAfter I Win by Kaname Itsuki. Out of all the boys’ love manga that I’ve so far read, I think After I Win is the one that is the quickest to reach the all-important love confession. Only three pages into the manga and the leads—the beautiful Hiyori and his underclassman and roommate Kasumi—have admitted their feelings for each other. Granted, it takes most of the rest of the volume for them each to realize that the other young man actually meant what he said. After I Win is probably also the boys’ love manga with the most masturbation scenes that I’ve come across. (In the afterword, Itsuki mentions that it was her intention to feature at least one such scene in every chapter.) Hiyori and Kasumi spend so much time getting it on on their own rather than getting it on together for two main reasons: the aforementioned confusion regarding how seriously they should take each other’s confession, and the fact that Hiyori gets so nervous with anticipation and excitement that he tends to get nauseous. But even considering this, and despite his angelic appearance, Hiyori is very dirty-minded and looks forward to the opportunity to cement his relationship with Kasumi physically. After I Win, perhaps surprisingly, is actually pretty cute.

Alice in the Country of Hearts: My Fanatic Rabbit, Volume 1Alice in the Country of Hearts: My Fanatic Rabbit, Volumes 1-2 by Psyche Delico. After reading and enjoying the first Alice in the Country of Hearts manga series, I asked fellow enthusiasts to recommend which among the multitude of Alice manga I should follow-up with. My Fanatic Rabbit wasn’t mentioned a single time. So why did I tackle it next? Mostly because Psyche Delico was involved. (I loved her other manga released in English, Love Full of Scars.) My Fanatic Rabbit is more or less a retelling of Alice in the Country of Hearts, except that Alice has decided to stay with the Hatter mafia rather than Julius, ultimately falling in love with the March Hare. There are some cute romantic parts scattered throughout the series, especially towards the end, as well as some genuinely funny moments, but overall the manga really isn’t especially strong. It doesn’t stand well on its own and those who have read the first series won’t find much new, either. Maybe in part because it’s a shorter series, neither the characters nor the world have much of chance to develop and simply must be taken as is. My Fanatic Rabbit will likely appeal most to those who want to see Elliot and Alice together.

Aquarion Evol. Volume 1Aquarion Evol, Volumes 1-3 written by Shoji Kawamori, illustrated by Aogiri. Despite taking place twelve thousand years after Genesis of Aquarion, its sequel Aquarion Evol doesn’t make much sense at all to those who aren’t already familiar with the franchise. At least that’s the case for the ongoing manga series; perhaps the anime does a better job of initiating newcomers. Having seen neither of the anime series, I can only say that the story of the Aquarion Evol is a mess and nearly impenetrable at first. By the third volume things begin to be explained a little more coherently, but the manga seems to be taking a lot of shortcuts with the plot and character development. Probably because of my confusion, I generally wasn’t overly impressed with the Aquarion Evol, but there were still some things that I liked about it. The various supernatural powers are interesting (there’s even a music-based one!) as are the somewhat bizarre gender dynamics and curious sexual overtones. The artwork is attractive, too, with exciting action sequences and nice character designs. The mecha are difficult to tell apart at first glance, though. I wonder if I might actually enjoy the Aquarion Evol anime, but I find the manga to be frustrating.

Fantasy Sports, Volume 1Fantasy Sports, Volume 1 by Sam Bosma. Before stumbling upon Fantasy Sports, I hadn’t previously read any of Bosma’s work. I definitely want to read more now because Fantasy Sports was fantastic. It apparently started out as a self-published, black-and-white comic called Fantasy Basketball, but it was later expanded and colored for release by Nobrow and made the first installment in an ongoing series. I absolutely loved the comic and can’t wait to read future volumes of Fantasy Sports. The story follows Wiz, a young magic user and intern at The United and Ancient Order of Mages. Her mentor in the guild is Mug, a hulk of a man who usually solves his problems through brute strength and who doesn’t know a thing about magic. They don’t really get along very well, making their job raiding and searching for treasure even more difficult. During their most recent expedition, they encounter an ancient mummy who they must defeat in a game of basketball if they hope to escape with the fortune and their lives intact. It’s a slim volume, but with great art, great colors, and great characters, not to mention just enough silliness and adventure, the first volume of Fantasy Sports is a tremendous amount of fun.

My Week in Manga: January 5-January 11, 2015

My News and Reviews

Well, last week unintentionally became a week filled with gay-themed manga here at Experiments in Manga, not that that’s something I’m going to complain about. But, first things first, the WataMote manga giveaway winner was announced. The post also includes a list of otaku manga available in English for anyone looking for something to read in that sub-genre. And now, back to the gay manga! I posted two in-depth manga reviews last week. The first review was of Takeshi Matsu’s English-debut More and More of You and Other Stories, a collection of gay erotic doujinshi. It’s both a fun and funny volume, so I hope to see more of Matsu’s work translated in the future. Over the weekend, I also posted a review of What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 5 by Fumi Yoshinaga. I continue to really enjoy the series’ mix of food and contemporary gay life. The sixth volume was actually released last week, so I’m a little behind in my reviews, but it’s still a great series.

Elsewhere online, Digital Manga launched its first non-Tezuka Kickstarter project, an effort to reprint and restock the first six volumes of Ayano Yamane’s Finder boys’ love series. (Like many of Digital Manga’s recent Kickstarter projects, I have mixed feelings about this one.) In licensing news, Seven Seas and Yen Press announced quite a few new titles on social media. Sean has a nice roundup of the licenses over at A Case Suitable for Treatment. For those who are interested in the history of manga or are more academically inclined, be sure to check out Ryan Holmberg’s most recent What Was Alternative Manga? column, “The Fukui Ei’ichi Incident and the Prehistory of Komaga-Gekiga” at The Comics Journal and the second part of Nicholas Theisen’s manga studies essay “Takeuchi Osamu and Manga Expression” at Comics Forum.

Quick Takes

Alice in the Country of Hearts, Omnibus 2Alice in the Country of Hearts, Omnibuses 2-3 (equivalent to Volumes 3-6) by Soumei Hoshino. I was taken by surprise by how much I enjoyed the first omnibus of Alice in the Country of Hearts and so soon found myself tracking down the rest of the series. I became a little less enamored with the manga the more I read, but in the end I still thoroughly enjoyed the series and I definitely plan on picking up some of the spinoffs. Because Alice in the Country of Hearts is based on a romance adventure game, it’s not too surprising that Alice is eventually paired off with one of the multitude of people who have expressed intense interest in her. However, I didn’t really like who it was she ended up with in Alice in the Country of Hearts because he’s a violent jerk. Granted, I can say that and not really spoil too much since so many of the guys in the series are violent jerks—they feel so strongly for Alice that more than one of them actually wants to, or even tries to, kill her. This certainly adds to the ominous atmosphere of Alice in the Country of Hearts, which is one of the things I particularly like about the series. What I was hoping to see and what the manga doesn’t quite deliver on was more explanation about the world itself and about the “game” that is being played. I suspect some of the other Alice series may expand on this, though.

Citrus, Volume 1Citrus, Volume 1 by Saburouta. I know quite a few people who were very excited for Citrus, Seven Seas’ most recent yuri acquisition. I didn’t know much about the series, but I’m always interested in seeing, and reading, more yuri in English. Yuzu is boisterous young woman whose life has been thrown into turmoil after her mother remarries. She has a new name, a new high school, and even a new sister. Mei and Yuzu don’t really get along that well and their relationship gets even more complicated when Mei suddenly kisses Yuzu, but not out of any sort of true affection. Yuzu’s not entirely sure what’s going on with her new sibling, but after the kiss she can’t get her out of her mind and begins to develop non-sisterly feelings for Mei. Quite a few things in the first volume of Citrus strained my suspension of disbelief—I cannot and will never be convinced that Yuzu’s mother completely failed to mention before they all actually moved into the same household together that as part of her remarriage Yuzu would be gaining a stepsister—but it is an intriguing start to the series. The manga has great potential for melodrama. Mei is somewhat of a mystery at this point, and I’m curious to learn more about her. She puts up a good front for most people, but she’s incredibly manipulative and Yuzu’s one of very few people who knows about and has seen that side of her.

Orphan BladeOrphan Blade written by M. Nicholas Almand and illustrated by Jake Myler. After previewing some of Myler’s work in progress for Orphan Blade, I was really looking forward to reading the graphic novel. Unfortunately, while there were some aspects of the comic that I really appreciated (it’s nice to see a gay protagonist), overall I was disappointed with Orphan Blade, especially since it had such great potential. The setting is an alternate-universe, 17th-century Japan in which the world was overrun with kaijū. But now that most of the monsters have been destroyed, humans are once again at war with each other. Particularly coveted are Artifacts, weapons of immense power fashioned out of the bodies and bones of the defeated kaijū. Hadashi is a young man who comes into possession of one of those Artifacts, but it possesses him in return. For the most part, Myler’s artwork is excellent. The monster and character designs, while lacking cohesiveness, are great and I love the colors. Orphan Blade is surprisingly violent, bloody, and gruesome. There are plenty of dynamic battles, however the action is frequently confusing and difficult to follow which is particularly problematic since a large part of the graphic novel is devoted to fight sequences. I like the world and basic premise of Orphan Blade, but the story feels inexpertly cobbled together in places, which may be explained by the fact that Almand sadly passed away before the comic’s completion.

My Week in Manga: November 24-November 30, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week was a busy week for me as I was traveling and such for the Thanksgiving holiday, but Experiments in Manga had quite a few things going on, too. The most recent manga giveaway was posted and there’s still time to enter for a chance to win a Seven Seas Sampler—four first volumes of some of Seven Seas’ manga series. I also posted two reviews last week. First up was Yu Godai’s novel Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner, Volume 1 which I loved. It’s based on the same story as Digital Devil Saga, a spinoff of the Shin Megami Tensei video game series. I also reviewed Ryosuke Takeuchi and Takeshi Obata’s All You Need Is Kill manga adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s original All You Need Is Kill novel. I think the novel is the stronger of the two, but I enjoyed the manga as well. Last week I also joined in with the other Manga Bookshelf bloggers for a roundtable on food manga over at MangaBlog.

I should also probably mention that the votes have been tallied for my next monthly manga review project. After School Nightmare took an early lead, but it ended up being a very close contest between it and Dorohedoro and Mushishi. And in the end, After School Nightmare and Mushishi actually tied with each other! So, I’ve decided to review both manga. There are a few different ways to approach this, but beginning with After School Nightmare, each month I’ll alternate between the two series. If everything goes according to schedule, it should take me a year and a half to complete the review project. Thank you to everyone who participated in the poll! I was very glad to see interest expressed in all of the series to which I had narrowed down the vote. I’ll be sure to keep in mind the other series that were strongly supported and try to feature them as best as I can, too. I wish that I had more time to read and write!

Elsewhere online, Organization Anti-Social Geniuses had a couple of posts that I found particularly interesting last week—an interview with Abigail Blackman, one of Yen Press’ editors and letterers, and a discussion of some of the fears of buying manga from U.S. publishers. Digital Manga has launched yet another Osamu Tezuka manga Kickstarter, though one that seems much more reasonable than the last failed project. This time, Digital Manga is trying to raise funding for the publication of Tezuka’s Ludwig B, an unfinished manga series about Beethoven. (In part because of my background in music, I’m actually really interested in Ludwig B.) I’d also like to bring a little attention to an effort started by Becca Hillburn—a group for Western Shoujo Comic Artists. More about it and the endeavor to create a network of support for manga-influenced artists can be read at Hillburn’s website Nattosoup: Solidarity and the American Shoujo/Josei Comic Scene.

Quick Takes

Alice in the Country of Hearts, Omnibus 1Alice in the Country of Hearts, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Soumei Hoshino. Based on an otome game by Quin Rose, Hoshino’s Alice in the Country of Hearts is one of many manga adaptations and spinoffs. Originally the series was partially released in English by Tokyopop, but the license was later rescued by Yen Press. Despite hearing good things about Alice in the Country of Hears, one of the reasons it took me so long to give the manga a try was the sheer number of volumes associated with the franchise. I’m glad that I finally got around to reading the first omnibus, though, because I loved it. At first, Alice in the Country of Hearts seems like a fairly straightforward re-imagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (Granted, many of the characters are now bishōnen of various types.) But it soon becomes clear that something very ominous and disconcerting is brewing under the story’s surface. Alice has been transported to Wonderland and if she ever wants to return home she will have to get to know its residents better. Although they are participating in some sort of game to win her affections, those who live in Wonderland are prone to violence and have a very different sense of what is normal.

Milkyway Hitchhiking, Omnibus 1Milkyway Hitchhiking, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Sirial. Although occasionally the same characters make an appearance in multiple stories, Milkyway Hitchhiking is generally an episodic manhwa. The only thing that really ties the volume together is the presence of Milkyway, a beautiful cat who can apparently travel through space and time. She may or may not actually play an active role in the stories being told. Sometimes she’s just an observer and sometimes she’s a participant. Sometimes she’s a focal point of a tale and sometimes she simply happens to be present while events unfold around her. The most striking thing about Milkyway Hitchhiking is its beautiful, full-color artwork. Some of the individual illustrations are simply stunningly gorgeous. A variety of color palettes are used to lovely effect. While I particularly appreciate Milkyway Hitchhiking for Sirial’s art, I also enjoyed the individual episodes, too. The stories range from the fantastical to those grounded in reality. Some feel very much like something out of a fairy tale while others are contemporary slice-of-life or historical in nature. At times heartwarming and at times heartbreaking, I very much enjoyed Milkyway Hitchhiking and look forward to reading more of the series.

Tale of the Waning Moon, Volume 1Tale of the Waning Moon, Volume 1 by Hyouta Fujiyama. I have a tendency to forget that Yen Press releases boys’ love series. Tale of the Waning Moon is one of those manga. Fujiyama has had quite a few of her works released in English, but I haven’t read any until now. Tale of the Waning Moon is pretty ridiculous. Ryuka is a young man whose girlfriend recently left him for another man. While drowning his sorrows Ryuka accidentally calls upon Ixto, the spirit of the last quarter moon, to grant him true love. The twist is that all of the eligible candidates that Ixto comes up with are men, which doesn’t particularly appeal to Ryuka. The real problem is that when Ryuka rejects those options, he comes under Ixto’s spell and is therefore compelled to leave his village on a quest to reunite with the spirit. From there, Ryuka sets of on his journey, unintentionally amassing an adventuring party of sorts in the process. Tale of the Waning Moon has sex (not all of it consensual) and silliness, magic and mayhem. Inspired and heavily influenced by fantasy RPGs, the manga is definitely more of a comedy than it is a romance. Tale of the Waning Moon is a short series—only four volumes—and the first installment entertained me well enough, so I’ll probably get around to picking up the rest at some point.

Ubel Blatt, Omnibus 0Übel Blatt, Omnibus 0 (equivalent to Volumes 0-1) by Etorouji Shiono. Übel Blatt, which translates as “evil blade,” has a lot going for it that generally appeals to me—a dark fantasy setting, a tale of revenge, epic battles, and so on—but for some reason, the first omnibus (the zeroth omnibus?) didn’t quite grab me as much as I expected it to. I’m not really sure why, since it seems like a series that should interest me. In fact, overall I actually did like the story. I even like many of the characters, especially its lead. But there were a few little (and big) things here and there that just didn’t work for me. For one, the sexual content and rape in the volume seems entirely unnecessary. It comes across as a superfluous attempt to add more edginess as opposed to being important to the story. Most of the female characters don’t fare particularly well, either. Occasionally there’s a little bit of hope that they’ll overcome their scantily clad fantasy tropes, but it never quite seems to happen. At this point, many of the antagonists in Übel Blatt seem fairly one-dimensional, too, though I suspect that this will change as the series progresses. All that being said, Übel Blatt does feature some excellent fight sequences and scenes of destruction. And while I’m not desperate to read the next volume, the series does show potential.