My Week in Manga: February 6-February 12, 2012

My News and Reviews

I posted two reviews last week. The first was for Isuna Hasekura’s light novel Spice & Wolf, Volume 5. I’m really enjoying this series, much more than I expected I would. I’m looking forward to the next volume’s release, currently scheduled for June. The second review I posted was for Haruki Murakami’s oral history of the 1995 Tokyo sarin gas attack, Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche. It’s an excellent volume that is an abridged translation of two of Murakami’s books, Underground and The Place That Was Promised.

Reverse Thieves has an great post about The Heroines of Princess Knight. It should help you get in the mood for February’s Manga Moveable Feast featuring “the god of manga” Osamu Tezuka and his works, hosted by Kate Dacey of The Manga Critic. The Feast will be held from February 19 to February 25. For more information, see Dacey’s call for participation. It should be a good time! I plan on reading a bunch of Tezuka manga and should have a couple reviews ready for the Feast.

Quick Takes

Bunny Drop, Volumes 3-4 by Yumi Unita. I really do enjoy Unita’s Bunny Drop. Daikichi is a sweet guy who has really gotten in over his head when he takes in his now deceased grandfather’s six-year-old illegitimate child Rin. The two of them make a cute little family, and Daikichi honestly cares for her well-being, but he is constantly reminded how little he actually knows about raising a kid. He very quickly realizes how difficult it actually is, especially as a single parent. Fortunately for him, Daikichi makes some “daddy friends” and Rin seems to be doing really well. Daikichi’s very lucky to have Rin as opposed some of other child terrors in Bunny Drop, but he manages to handle them pretty well, too.

Death: At Death’s Door by Jill Thompson. Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman was my introduction to comics and I still love the series. Death: At Death’s Door is a retelling of “Season of Mists,” an arc from The Sandman which happens to be one of my personal favorites. In Thompson’s version, the story is seen mostly from the perspective of Dream’s oldest sister Death, who I happen to adore. Thompson contributed to the original The Sandman (although I don’t believe she was involved with “Season of Mists”) and has created several spin-offs from the series. Death: At Death’s Door is a fun, quirky volume that is fairly accessible even to those not familiar with The Sandman. I do think that those who have read “Season of Mists” will get more out of it, though. Personally, I’m quite fond of it.

Love Machine by Amayo Tsuge. Shiro is an experimental android, a model known as an Etowa (Every Time Only With Affection). Designed as a companion and health monitor, the true extent of the capabilities of the new design is unknown. No one anticipated the intensity of the emotional bonds that the Etowa would develop for their masters. Kokuyo, after ending up in the hospital, is given Shiro as much for his own sake as for the android’s designers to have a chance to collect some data. Love Machine appeals to my love of android stories, but it doesn’t really do anything particularly new or unique with the subgenre. Love Machine also includes an unrelated story “My Boyfriend Is a Vampire,” which is cute.

A directed by Tatsuya Mori. A is a documentary over two hours long that takes a look into the inner workings of Aum Shinrikyo and the everyday lives of its members. In 1995 members of Aum, including its leader Shoko Asahara, were involved in the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. The documentary was filmed while the criminal trials against these members were being conducted. The film primarily follows Aum member Hiroshi Araki who became the organization’s chief spokesperson during this time. Very little background, context, or framing is given and so viewers are left to draw their own conclusions from the film. A, released in 1998, was followed up by another documentary on Aum directed by Mori, A2, in 2001.

The Cat Returns directed by Hiroyuki Morita. From Studio Ghibli comes a charming little tale about Haru, a high school girl with the forgotten ability to talk to cats. After she saves a cat from being hit by a truck, she finds herself the recipient of unwanted thanks from the Cat Kingdom. It turns out that the cat she saved, Lune, happens to be their prince. Haru is whisked away to the Cat Kingdom and will turn into a cat herself if she doesn’t find a way to return home. I enjoyed the variety of character designs for the cats; I particularly liked the secret service/bodyguards. The Cat Returns is an indirect sequel to Whisper of the Heart, which I haven’t seen yet. Both are based on manga by Aoi Hiiragi.

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion directed by Shunya Itō. Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion is a pink film, more or less softcore pornography intended for theatrical release. So, yes, there is plenty of female nudity as well as a fair amount of violence. The “women in prison” exploitation film was Itō’s debut directorial work and became the first in a series starring the beautiful Meiko Kaji as Sasori (“Scorpion”). After being betrayed during a sting operation by her boyfriend, a narcotics detective, Nami Matsushima is sent to prison. Abused by the guards and fellow convicts, she is determined to escape and seek revenge. The series is alluded to in Sion Sono’s film Love Exposure (one of the characters dresses as Sasori) which is how I learned about the movies.

My Week in Manga: January 31-February 6, 2011

My News and Reviews

Like most weeks that occur at the ending of one month and the beginning of another, last week was pretty slow at Experiments in Manga. No new reviews, but there will be plenty coming up in the next couple of weeks, I promise. I did post January’s Bookshelf Overload and announced the Gantz Giveaway Winner (which also includes some interesting lists regarding manga and live-action adaptations).

The February 2011 Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Sam Kusek at A Life in Panels, will begin on February 13 and features Keiji Nakazawa’s powerful manga series Barefoot Gen. I’ll be participating, reviewing Nakazawa’s autobiography as well as the first volume of Barefoot Gen. Otherwise, there’s not much news, either.

Quick Takes

Cute Beast by Amayo Tsuge. Cute Beast collects five of Tsuge’s boys’ love short stories, plus some extras. None of the stories are particularly outstanding, but they’re all pretty cute and most have some great moments of humor, except for the last story which features a skeazy English teacher. Fortunately, all of the uke exhibit a fair amount of backbone, confidence, and personality. My favorite story in the collection is probably the title story, particularly the bonus material that features its characters—I liked the goofy “tough-guy” who turns out to be an absolute sweetheart. The artwork is nice and clean but not particularly noteworthy except for some enormous eyes.

Fujoshi Rumi, Volume 1 by Natsumi Konjoh. I loved the first volume of Fujoshi Rumi so much that after finishing it I immediately put in an order for all of the other volumes currently available in English. There’s plenty of otaku humor and references, some that I didn’t always get on my own (granted, some of the characters didn’t always get it either), but the copious editor’s notes helped to keep everything straight. I thought it was hilarious. While Fujoshi Rumi pokes fun at otaku, it pokes fun at “normals,” too and Konjoh is never malicious. It’s a wonderful romantic comedy and I’m really looking forward to reading more of the series.

Gin Tama, Volumes 1-5 by Hideaki Sorachi. This is another new series for me with which I have fallen in love. I’m definitely going to be following it. Gin Tama is ridiculous, often absurd, and completely anachronistic—although I guess that is explained by the fact that aliens have invaded sometime during the Edo period. Obviously, technology will be more advanced. I mean, come on. The series is fairly episodic but there are plenty of recurring characters and running jokes that hold things together. I know there were references to other shōnen series that I probably missed, but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment one bit. The humor is very self-aware and strange, and I loved it.

Scandalous Seiryo University, Volume 1 by Kazuto Tatsukawa. I am not fond of rape being used as a comedic element. For the most part it is implied more than shown, but still; it’s an unfortunate choice, especially as it doesn’t really do anything to further the story. Scandalous Seiryo University collects three stories, one of which features a reversible couple which I am always a huge fan of. Occasionally, particularly in the final story, Tatsukawa’s artwork reminds me of Kazuya Minekura’s. I did like the couples and found most of the characters at least interesting, so I might try at least one more volume of the series. We shall see.