My Week in Manga: January 6-January 12, 2014

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted at Experiments in Manga last week! The honor of the first in-depth manga review of the month (and of the year, for that matter) goes to Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki’s Oishinbo, A la Carte: Fish, Sushi & Sashimi. I love food, I love manga, and so I love Oishinbo, too. I happen to really like fish and sushi as well, so I particularly enjoyed this volume. I also posted a review for Edogawa Rampo’s mystery adventure The Fiend with Twenty Faces which is the first novel in his series The Boy Detectives. I’ve read some of his stories and essays written for adults, but this was his first work for younger audiences that I read. It’s a lot of fun.

As for news and other interesting things found online: The English translation of Toh EnJoe’s Self-Reference Engine (one of my most notable release of 2013) has been nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award. The University of Michigan will be hosting an international conference on Natsume Sōseki from April 18 through April 20. (If you happen to be in Michigan around then, it’s be free and open to the public!) After months of no news, it looks like those who supported the Kickstarter for Osamu Tezuka’s The Crater may actually receive their rewards. And finally, Joe McCulloch takes a look at some of Suehiro Maruo’s most recent work over at The Comics Journal. Now if only more of his manga would be licensed in English!

Quick Takes

Basara, Volume 6Basara, Volumes 6-10 by Yumi Tamura. I love this series so much! It really is a shame that Basara is going out-of-print in English, but at least Viz has begun to release it digitally as well. The story is epic and engaging and the characters are complex and multi-layered. These particular volumes of Basara include the Okinawa story arc, which I especially enjoyed. It’s very interesting to see how Tamura is using events and politics from throughout Japan’s history to inform her post-apocalyptic world and culture. There are definite echos from the Warring States period, World War Two, and so on. Just as it was historically, in Basara Okinawa is a separate country from Japan that maintains its own traditions, relies heavily on trade, is largely at the mercy of foreign military influence, and is beset by natural disasters. Also, it’s the homeland of karate, which plays a part in some of the battles. (As a karateka myself, I couldn’t help but appreciate this.) I’m really looking forward to reading more of the series.

Entangled CircumstancesEntangled Circumstances by Kikuko Kikuya. I ended up enjoying Entangled Circumstances much more than I thought I would. I found the first chapter or so to actually be a little boring, but by the end of the volume Entangled Circumstances had managed to turn itself into a rather funny, and even a little sweet, boys’ love story. Actually, bonus chapters after the main story were the funniest and probably the favorite part of the manga for me because of that. Shibui and Himeko were once college classmates, but now they work at the same advertising agency. Himeko’s been in love with Shibui for a while now, but after a past awkward love confession, things have been strained between the two men. Often they seem to act like high schoolers rather than full-grown adults, so it’s difficult to take Entangled Circumstances completely seriously. It’s a lighthearted and fluffy sort of manga. The manga is nothing extraordinary, and I don’t know that I will necessarily need to read it again, but it was quite enjoyable.

ZooZoo by Andy MacDonald. I haven’t read the original novel Zoo, a science fiction thriller written by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, but MacDonald’s graphic novel adaptation somehow came into my possession, so I figured I’d give it a try. Since I haven’t read the original, I can’t definitively say how the graphic novel works as an adaptation, but I get the impression that MacDonald has been very faithful to the source material. The Zoo graphic novel can be somewhat text-heavy and some of the plot lines are a little compressed (though not exactly rushed) but I was never confused as to what was going on. Even so, I may have rolled my eyes a bit at the plot’s development and some of the rather predictable “twists.” Unfortunately, Zoo just doesn’t have that original or great of a story to begin with and I had a difficult time suspending my incredulity. The ending in particular was rather disappointing. Zoo starts out as a fairly action-packed, and bloody, doomsday scenario, but its heavy-handed moral can be a bit much.

MeganebuMeganebu! directed by Soubi Yamamoto. I already knew that I enjoyed Yamamoto’s visual style from her previous work and so I wasn’t disappointed by Meganebu!‘s brightly colored and slightly eccentric animation. Even so, it took a few episodes for the series to really grow on me. There’s not really much of a plot to Meganebu!. There are the members of the Glasses Club and their continuing efforts to create a pair of glasses with X-Ray vision (with some very unexpected and explosive results) but mostly the series just follows their daily lives and the trouble they all get into. Once I got over the fact that Meganebu! is fairly pointless, I could sit back and enjoy its peculiar sense of fun. As a glasses wearer myself, I could particularly appreciate all of the humor surrounding eyeglasses. To the members of the Glasses Club, glasses are more than just a fashion accessory. Neither are they simply used to correct vision. Glasses have the power to change the world. Meganebu! is an absurd anime, but I’ll admit to enjoying it.