My Week in Manga: January 2-January 8, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga the winner of the Kuroko’s Basketball giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the tournament and competition manga that has been licensed in English. As per usual these days, there wasn’t much else from me, but there is some other very exciting Manga Bookshelf news: The Manga Critic is back! Be on the lookout for some great content from Kate Dacey. Last week I also read Makoto Yukimura’s eighth Vinland Saga omnibus which was, as expected, excellent. (I highly recommend the series as a whole.) However, you won’t find a quick take of it below because I’m going to try to write up a full-length review of it instead. We’ll see how it goes!

Elsewhere online, The OASG has started a new series called How Fans Can Help the Anime & Manga Industries Grow in which industry folk share their experiences an thoughts on the subject. So far, the responses from Charlene Ingram, Viz Media’s senior manager of marketing, and Charis Messier, lead translator at Cross Infinite World, have been shared. Another interesting read courtesy of Sakuga Blog is a translation of a roundtable with three manga editors (Tatsuya Kusunoki, Katsuyuki Sasaki, and Ryouji Takamatsu) discussing the growth of the yuri genre. As for boys’ love, Khursten at Otaku Champloo takes a closer look at the Dangerous BL Manga list for 2017.

Quick Takes

Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Volume 2Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Volumes 2-10 by Masahito Soda. I enjoyed the first volume of Firefighter! well enough to seek out the rest of the manga (while the entire series is now available digitally, most of the individual volumes are well out-of-print) and I am so incredibly glad that I did. I’m only halfway through, but Firefighter! is fantastic. It has exciting action, compelling drama, and engaging characters. The titular Daigo is a rookie firefighter who, although he seems to have good instincts, has a lot to learn. Each rescue he’s a part of is more audacious than the last and he frequently ends up in the hospital as a result. Daigo hasn’t lost anyone yet, but his unorthodox ways, disregard for direct orders, and tendency to go overboard puts his own life and the lives of other rescue workers at risk. It seems like it’s only a matter of time before tragedy will strike, but no one can deny that he has saved people who would have otherwise died. Firefighter! is intense and thrilling, but it actually has a fair amount of humor as well. (For all his bravery, Daigo is kind of a goofball.) I’m definitely looking forward to reading the series’ second half.

Horimiya, Volumes 2-4 written by Hero, illustrated by Daisuke Hagiwara. While I wasn’t quite as taken with these few volumes as I was with the first, I am still enjoying Horimiya a great deal. After accidentally discovering each other’s secrets, Miyamura and Hori have developed a close friendship which is slowly evolving into something more. It takes some time, but eventually they’re able to recognize their feelings and actually act on them. In large part, Horimiya is a manga about relationships of all types. Friendship and family are just as important, and are sometimes even more important, than the series’ romance. It’s also a manga which excels in depicting the characters’ multifaceted natures, showing how they behave differently depending on who is present. As more characters are introduced (including Hori’s father and some of Miyamura’s friends from middle school), the social dynamics in the series naturally change. Horimiya isn’t a manga that has me on edge desperate to know what will happen next, but the characters are tremendously endearing and I do want to see things work out for all of them.

Warning! Whispers of LoveWarning! Whispers of Love by Puku Okuyama. So far, only two of Okuyama’s boys’ love manga have been released in print. I had previously read and wasn’t overly impressed by the more recent Caramel despite liking some of the manga’s individual elements (in fact, overall I can’t really say that I enjoyed it much) but I already had a copy of Warning! so I figured I should at least give it a try. I’m happy to say that I enjoyed Warning! much more than I did Caramel. It’s a collection of rather silly boys’ love stories ranging from the subtly amusing to the overtly goofy. They tend to be fairly cute as well and generally any physical intimacy that is shown is limited to a few kisses and chaste embraces. Most of Warning! is devoted to the story of Hajime, a first year at an all-boys school, and the incredibly awkward relationship that develops between him and an upperclassman who seems to want nothing more than to clean the wax from Hajime’s ears. It’s easily the most ridiculous setup in the entire volume but it can be legitimately funny–all the boys’ love tropes and jokes that would typically be applied to sex are applied to ear cleaning instead and it’s surprisingly effective.

Wandering SonWandering Son directed by Ei Aoki. Takako Shimura’s manga Wandering Son is an incredibly important series to me personally, so I was greatly saddened when Fantagraphics stopped releasing it in English. Initially I wanted to read the entire manga before watching the anime adaptation but, seeing as the rest likely won’t be available any time soon, I finally gave in. The Wandering Son anime is a lovely series. It’s not an exact adaptation of the manga, but it is faithful to the original story and characters. In general, the narrative style of the anime tends to be a little more linear than that of the manga. However, both series provide an empathetic exploration of gender identity, following a group of middle school students who are learning who they are. It’s a fairly realistic portrayal, meaning that society isn’t always the most accepting which can be absolutely heartbreaking. However, seeing the characters become more confident in their selves even when that goes against what is expected of them is exceptionally validating. The anime only adapts a portion of the manga and doesn’t provide much of a resolution (though it does go beyond where Fantagraphics left off), but it is still very well done and well-worth watching.

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My Week in Manga: December 26, 2016-January 1, 2017

My News and Reviews

Happy New Year, everyone! 2016 may now be over, but there’s still a little time left to enter Experiments in Manga’s December giveaway. Tell me a little about your favorite tournament manga or tournament story arc by Wednesday for a chance to win the first omnibus of Tadatoshi Fujimaki’s Kuroko’s Basketball. Also posted at Experiments in Manga last week were my random musings about some of the notable manga, comics, and other books that debuted in 2016. Despite there being three posts last week (which hasn’t happened in a very long time!) I actually wasn’t online much at all. As a result, I probably missed out on some interesting reading and announcements, so do let me know if there was anything particularly cool. One thing that I did see though was an interview with Kabi Nagata, creator of My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness which is scheduled to be released in English by Seven Seas later this year (and which I’m really looking forward to).

Quick Takes
Bungo Stray Dogs, Volume 1Bungo Stray Dogs, Volume 1 written by Kafka Asagiri and illustrated by Sango Harukawa. The Armed Detective Agency specializes in the dangerous cases that the Japanese police and military either won’t or can’t handle. It’s a team of uniquely skilled individuals who have abilities that seem to come right out of fiction, but the “good guys” aren’t the only ones with formidable powers. While there are names that a more casual reader might recognize—Osamu Dazai, Edogawa Rampo, Junichiro Tanazaki, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and so on—others, like the lead Atsushi Nakajima, are less well-known in English. (I actually happen to be a pretty big fan of Nakajima’s work.) Their supernatural talents and personality quirks are all based on their namesakes. For example, Dazai’s power is named No Longer Human and he has a penchant for attempting suicide. It’s off to an intriguing start, but I’m not sure if Bungo Stray Dogs will appeal quite as much to someone not as familiar with the literary references being made. It’s not necessary to understand them to enjoy the manga, though. So far, I am getting a kick out of the series and look forward to seeing how it develops.

Hunter x Hunter, Volume 1Hunter x Hunter, Volumes 1-8 by Yoshihiro Togashi. I’ve been somewhat reluctant to start reading Hunter x Hunter (it might have something to do with the manga already being over thirty volumes long), but I’ve seen so much excitement and fan art for the series recently that I finally gave in. And I’ll admit, there’s a tremendous amount that I found appealing about the beginning of Hunter x Hunter. The setting is interesting, too, especially the concept of Hunters. These are people who, after putting their lives at risk to pass a grueling series of tests, are granted access to resources and information that others can only dream of. The manga largely follows Gon, a boy who wants to become a Hunter in order to find his father Ging, himself a hunter of great renown, as well as the friends and enemies Gon makes along the way. I really enjoyed the first story arc in which the candidates are trying to pass the Hunter exam. The second arc, while it serves an important purpose, I found to be a bit tedious as some of the world’s metaphysics are overexplained. However, the series quickly recovers its momentum again with clever action, intriguing characters, and drama.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, Volume 1Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Volume 1 by Coolkyousinnjya. Out of Seven Seas more recent monster girl manga, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is the one that I was most interested in. For one, I happen to really like dragons. It also doesn’t hurt that the series is yuri-esque and that the titular Miss Kobayashi is an adult woman working as a systems engineer. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid features some nudity and bawdiness but for the most part it doesn’t tend to be overly-sexualized which is also refreshing. The manga can actually be surprisingly cute,  charming, and sweet. Hotaru is a dragon who has taken it upon herself to act as Kobayashi’s maid after Kobayashi saves her life. For her part, Kobayashi thought it was all an alcohol-induced dream and so is very surprised to discover that a dragon girl has made herself at home in her apartment. Why a maid specifically? It turns out that Kobayashi is a bit of a maid otaku (which becomes very clear when she goes off on drunken rants on the subject). Hotaru, who loves Kobayashi dearly, wants to do anything to make Kobayashi happy even if her efforts are somewhat awkward and frequently miss the mark.

Reindeer BoyReindeer Boy by Cassandra Jean. I am a fan of Jean’s illustration work, and so I was very excited to learn that an original graphic novel was in the making. Reindeer Boy is based on a series of character drawings that Jean has been creating (and that I’ve been following) since 2013. The comic follows Quincy, a young woman whose life takes an unexpected turn when a group of students, all of whom have antlers, transfer into her high school. They seem to take particular interest in her, especially the flirtatious Cupid who claims they are Santa’s reindeer. Quincy’s not sure what to make of it all, but the more she gets to know them the more she likes them. Admittedly, the story of Reindeer Boy does feel like it was made to fit the characters rather than the other way around. It’s kind of a strange comic, but it’s fun, goofy fluff with a bit of romance, delightful characters, and beautiful, sensual artwork. Reindeer Boy, while telling a complete story, does seem to end rather abruptly. I’m not sure if there are plans to release any additional reindeer comics, but I’d love the opportunity to spend more time with the characters and learn more about the mythology that Jean has created.

Yuri!!! on IceYuri!!! on Ice directed by Sayo Yamamoto. It’s been a long while since I’ve had the time and opportunity to marathon an entire anime series, but I knew that once I started Yuri!!! on Ice that I wouldn’t want to stop. And I was right; I love this series so much and hope that there will be a nice physical release that I can purchase in the future. The underlying story is fairly straightforward and simple: After a miserable performance at the Grand Prix, the career of Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki is falling apart when his idol Victor Nikiforov unexpectedly quits competing to become his coach. Yuri!!! on Ice is a series about love, passion, and inspiration in many forms. It’s also about people struggling against their selves, fighting through failure and realizing their self-worth. Yuri!!! on Ice is a tightly written and immensely satisfying show, but I do think it would have been even better if there were just a few more episodes to allow the characters and story more room to breathe. That being said, there is still some impressive character development with the series’ short span and the psychological elements are handled particularly well. Understandably, the leads receive the most attention, but I’d really like to know more about the supporting cast, too.

Adaptation Adventures: Mushishi

Mushishi, Volume 1After revisiting and reviewing each volume of Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi for my horror manga review project, by now it’s probably readily clear that I greatly enjoy the series. I love the influence of traditional Japanese folklore on the stories. I love the manga’s subtle creepinesss. I love the exploration of the relationship between humans and the rest of nature. I love how the series delves into the connections that exist between people. I love the importance placed on the search for knowledge. The storytelling in Mushishi is atmospheric, beautiful, and frequently unsettling as individuals struggle with themselves and with the unknown. There is darkness and tragedy in Mushishi but there is also hope—one of the major themes in the manga is that for better or for worse, life will ultimately persevere.

Mushishi is a largely episodic series following Ginko, a mushishi, who travels the Japanese countryside studying mushi and trying to help people who have fallen under their influence. Mushi are described as creatures which are very close to the original form of life. Their presence is fundamental and necessary to the living world, but depending on the circumstances they may either be beneficial to or negatively impact humans. Mushi are frequently at the heart of unusual natural phenomenon or may cause otherwise unexplainable illnesses. Within the context of the series mushi can be taken literally, but they can also be read as metaphors for many conditions experienced in reality.

MushishiAnime1Urushibara’s ten-volume Mushishi, originally serialized in Japan between 1999 and 2008, was first released in print in English by Del Rey Manga between 2007 and 2010. Soon after, Del Rey’s manga imprint was closed and Mushishi subsequently went out of print. Unsurprisingly, the print edition of Mushishi has become increasingly difficult to find over time, but in 2014 Kodansha Comics released the entire series digitally. In addition to earning multiple awards and honors over the course of its publication, Mushishi was also the basis for multiple anime adaptations and a live-action film (most of which are available digitally if not physically in North America), as well as a variety of other media.

The first Mushishi anime series, directed by Hiroshi Nagahama, aired in Japan in 2005 and 2006. At twenty-six episodes, it only adapted a portion of the original manga. (Granted, the manga hadn’t yet been completed at that point.) Since I love the Mushishi manga, it probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that I love the anime as well. Although the first Mushishi anime adaptation isn’t necessarily my favorite series, or even the anime that means the most to me personally, it is the series that I’ve seen the most number of times; I return to it frequently. Eventually, nearly a decade after the first Mushishi anime series, an animated television special was released which was followed a few months later by a second anime series. This twenty-episode series, also directed Nagahama, aired in Japan between 2014 and 2015 and adapted most of the remaining stories found in the manga. (A second animated television special was released during this time as well.) Despite the number of years that passed between the first and the second anime series, they are both very similar in tone and style. Nagahama also directed the Mushishi animated film released in 2015 which adapted the manga’s final story arc. Since I loved both the original manga and the first anime series, I was very happy to see so much more Mushishi anime produced.

MushishiAnime2-17The various Mushishi anime are very faithful adaptations of the manga. Frequently the scenes in the anime follow the scenes in the manga frame by frame and panel by panel, though occasionally the order that events appear in the narrative is slightly altered. Where the anime distinguish themselves is in their color and sound, especially in the establishment of the backgrounds and settings. Urushibara’s color artwork is lovely, but except for the covers of the individual manga volumes, very few examples of it officially appeared in North America. (I imported Urushibara’s 2015 Mushishi artbook which is filled with color illustrations and I adore it.) The anime bring the world of Mushishi to life. While the actual animation can at times be fairly simple and limited, the environments are always absolutely gorgeous and beautiful in their detail. The sound design in the anime adaptations is great, too, adding spectacularly to the overall atmosphere. The music by Toshio Masuda (which I’m constantly listening to) makes extensive use of bells, chimes, and other percussion along with unobtrusive synthesized and acoustic instruments, creating a beautiful soundtrack that is in turns ethereal and dramatic. Much like the original, the Mushishi anime creates an experience that can be calming and soothing as well as unsettling and disturbing.

MushishiMovieUrushibara’s manga series was also the inspiration for Katsuhiro Otomo’s award-winning 2006 live-action film Mushishi. For the most part the film was received very well both inside and outside of Japan. Though overall it’s palette tends to be darker and more subdued than the anime adaptations, the visuals can be quite stunning; the special effects hold up surprisingly well even a decade after it was first released. I actually only very recently watched Otomo’s Mushishi for the first time. From the standpoint of someone who is very familiar with the original manga and its anime adaptations, the live-action movie is somewhat disorienting and perhaps even shocking. Though it begins much as one would expect, it ultimately deviates a fair amount from its source material even to the point of changing some of the underpinning mythologies and characterizations of the original. It’s clear that Urushibara’s manga provides the basis for the movie, but many details have been reimagined or remixed in some way. The narrative is still interesting, though. Otomo successfully weaves together several stories from the manga series and makes references to many others before taking the film in an entirely new and different direction. While the original Mushishi tends to be episodic, Otomo’s film is self-contained and provides a single cohesive story. In part this is accomplished placing a significant focus on Ginko’s past and what it means for his present and future, providing a framework for the film as a whole. Instead of simply wandering the countryside helping other people, Ginko has the additional motivation of trying to solve the mystery of who he really is and to reclaim his missing memories.

MushishiLiveActionWhile I would consider the Mushishi manga and anime to be horror, albeit fairly subtle and subdued horror, the film is much more obviously so. Many of the underlying elements are the same, but the film focuses more directly on the aspects of traditional, supernatural horror. However, this does mean some of the more nuanced themes found in the manga and anime are missing. Otomo’s film is a much darker incarnation of Mushishi. The movie, especially towards its end, is incredibly creepy and extraordinarily disconcerting in both imagery and story. It’s so different in tone and narrative that it might actually be better described as a portrayal of an alternate universe of Mushishi rather than being a strict adaptation. It certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, especially if viewers are expecting something more akin to the gentler (though still disquieting) anime adaptations, but I actually quite liked the movie. For me though, it’s really more of a horror film before it’s a Mushishi film. Still, I feel that the live-action film, the anime adaptations, and the original manga are all well worth checking out and are all fascinating in their own rights. And of course, although unlikely, I’d love to see more Mushishi media and merchandise released in North America.

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Mechademia, Volume 10: World Renewal

Mechademia, Volume 10: World RenewalEditor: Frenchy Lunning
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
ISBN: 9780816699155
Released: November 2015

Mechademia, one of the few academic journal’s in English specifically devoted to the study of manga and anime, began publication in 2006. Since then, under the editorial guidance of Frenchy Lunning, a new thematic volume has been released every year and the journal has grown to include research and analysis of other areas of Japanese popular culture, such as film, television, games, novels, and fandom. I’ve previously read individual articles published in Mechademia, and even own several of the volumes, but I’ve never actually read one of the annuals from cover to cover until now; I had the happy opportunity to receive a review copy of Mechademia, Volume 10: World Renewal from University of Minnesota Press. It’s an aptly themed volume, signalling the end of one era and ushering a in a new one for the journal—World Renewal, released in 2015, is the last volume with Lunning serving as editor-in-chief.

After Lunning’s acknowledgements and introduction, World Renewal is divided into four main sections which collect articles, essays, stories, and even a short manga. The first part of the volume, Passages of As Not, uses the March 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster as a touchstone. Akira Mizuta Lippit’s “Between Disaster, Medium 3.11” examines the experience of disaster, time, and space through Koreda Hirokazu’s film After Life. Similarly, “The Land of Hope: Planetary Cartographies of Fukushima, 2012” by Christophe Thouny uses Sion Sono’s film The Land of Hope to discuss fictionalized portrayals of disaster and changing landscapes. Sabu Kohso’s “Tokyo Apparatus (Version 1.0)” looks beyond the Tōhoku disaster towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The section concludes with a translation of Tomoyuki Hoshino’s “Good Morning: A Postdisaster Palm-of-the-Hand Story” which I was particularly happy to see as I find Hoshino’s works in general to be especially powerful.

While as a whole I found World Renewal to be interesting and rewarding, the second section, Positions of What If, dealing with alternate histories, presents, and futures, was perhaps my personal favorite. I especially liked Andrea Horbinski’s “Record of Dying Days: The Alternate History of Ōoku” which explores one of Fumi Yoshinaga’s most tremendous manga series. Susan W. Furukawa’s “Deconstructing the Taikō: The Problem of Hideyoshi as Postwar Business Model” is a fascinating analysis of the various interpretations of Hideyoshi Toyotomi in Japanese popular culture of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. (Eiji Yoshikawa’s Taiko from the 1940s is also mentioned in passing.) Matthew Penny presents a fictional essay outlining a future history of Japan based on the ideals of the political far right in “A Nation Restored: The Utopian Future of Japan’s Far Right” which was a remarkably effective technique. I was also extraordinarily pleased to discover that Moto Hagio’s short manga “Nanohana” was included in this section as well.

World Renewal continues with the third part, Worlds of As If, which collects three case studies investigating possible emerging worlds through an examination of evolving methods of creation, experience, and engagement. Satomi Saito uses Sword Art Online, Vampire Hunter D, and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya as examples of the varying and changing approaches used in the development of cross-media franchises in “Beyond the Horizon of the Possible Worlds: A Historical Overview of Japanese Media Franchises.” Sandra Annet’s “What Can a Vocaloid Do? The Kyara as Body without Organs” in part focuses on how fans use, reuse, and reimagine official characters and narratives to create their own media. The third section closes with “A World Without Pain: Therapeutic Robots and the Analgesic Imagination” by Steven R. Anderson which discusses Oriza Hirata’s dramatic play Sayonara and Katsuhiro Otomo’s Roujin Z anime among other works.

The final and fourth section of World Renewal, Loops of Just Then, largely deals with parallel narratives, worlds, and temporal loops. In “The Girl at the End of Time: Temporality, (P)remediation, and Narrative Freedom in Puella Magi Madoka Magica,” Forest Greenwood compares the anime’s narrative structure to those that are commonly used in visual novels. Pamela Gossin delves into the complexities and connections between Hayao Miyazaki’s life and work in “Animated Nature: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Empathy in Miyazaki Hayao’s Ecophilosophy.” The Higurashi franchise forms a platform for Brett Hack’s examination of Japanese news coverage and media commentary on youth violence in “Ominous Image of Youth: Worlds, Identities, and Violence in Japanese News Media and When They Cry.” Finally, World Renewal concludes with “Parallel Universes, Vertical Worlds, and the Nation as Palimpsest in Murakami Ryū’s The World Five Minutes from Now” by Kendall Heitzman, an analysis of Murakami’s dystopic alternate history novel which I would love to one day read in translation.

Overall, I found World Renewal to be a thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating volume. Some of the essays can be fairly dense—this especially seemed to be true of those included in the first section—so the volume is difficult to recommend to a casual reader in its entirety, but there are also essays that are more readily accessible. For most people, picking and choosing among the various submissions according to their own particular interests will likely be the most satisfying approach to take. Personally, while I enjoyed reading about some of my own favorite series and creators in World Renewal, I greatly appreciated the analysis of works that I was less familiar with. In fact, my curiosity has been piqued and I’m much more interested in experiencing first hand some of the media examined in World Renewal that I had previously passed over or was unaware of. I also particularly liked the thematic nature of the volume which allows for a wide variety of material to be explored while still retaining some focus and cohesiveness. World Renewal understandably tends towards the academic which will at times prove challenging for a general audience, but the topics and material discussed are fascinating and many of the ideas expressed are quite interesting.

Thank you to University of Minnesota Press for providing a copy of Mechademia, Volume 10 for review

A Sky Longing for Memories: The Art of Makoto Shinkai

A Sky Longing for MemoriesCreator: Makoto Shinkai
Translator: Maya Rosewood
U.S. publisher: Vertical
ISBN: 9781941220436
Released: June 2015
Original release: 2008

I was introduced to the work of Makoto Shinkai through his animated film 5 Centimeters per Second, which left a huge impression on me. The beautifully melancholic story about lost and unrequited love was simple enough, but the visuals were stunningly gorgeous. A Sky Longing for Memories: The Art of Makoto Shinkai is an artbook that was originally released in Japan in 2008, the year after 5 Centimeters per Second debuted. I was very pleased when Vertical Comics announced its intention to publish an English-language edition. That volume was ultimately released in 2015 with a translation by Maya Rosewood. Vertical hasn’t released very many artbooks, but A Sky Longing for Memories is a good fit for the publisher. Not only has Vertical published other nonfiction works about Japanese film, it has also released two Shinkai manga: 5 Centimeters per Second and The Garden of Words.

A Sky Longing for Memories primarily consists of stills and background artwork from four of Shinkai’s projects initially released between 2002 and 2007. Prominently featured are three of his animated films—5 Centimeters Per Second, The Place Promised in Our Early Days, and Voices of a Distant Star—as is the television commercial he created for Shinano Mainichi Shimbun, “Say Something Important.” More than half of A Sky Longing for Memories is devoted to 5 Centimeters Per Second, the volume opening with some of Shinkai’s most visually refined and impressive work. The three sections that follow are dedicated to each of the earlier films and “Say Something Important.” Also included in the volume is a glossary—useful for readers who are unfamiliar with some of the technical terms used in the animation industry—as well as “Makoto Shikai’s Colors,” a section exploring the methods and techniques used by Shinkai, and “Testimonials of Makoto Shinkai’s World,” a collection of brief interviews with Shinkai and ten other members of Shinkai Works.

Although A Sky Longing for Memories can simply be appreciated and enjoyed as a collection of stunning artwork, the volume also provides insight into the creative processes and artistic direction required to achieve such impressive images. Many of the individual pieces are accompanied by brief descriptions of the decisions that were made in their overall design in addition to the specific considerations and techniques used in their creation. It’s unclear who actually wrote much of the text in A Sky Longing for Memories, but from the context it would seem to either be one (or several) of Shikai’s staff members or someone else who was close to the work being done. Either way, I was glad for the inclusion of the various descriptions and explanations; I don’t have a strong background in visual art or design and so found A Sky Longing for Memories to be illuminating and intellectually stimulating as well as beautiful to look at.

One of the key components of Shinkai’s style is his use of color. With this in mind, Vertical has taken great care to faithfully reproduce Shinkai’s artwork in A Sky Longing for Memories; the volume uses thick, glossy paper on which the colors in particular are beautifully presented. Simply put, it’s a gorgeous book of gorgeous illustrations. A Sky Longing for Memories reveals Shinkai not only as a talented artist but also as a skilled director. While he solely handled almost every aspect of Voices of a Distant Star except for the film’s music, by the time 5 Centimeters per Second was produced Shinkai was guiding and coordinating the work of an entire staff. Interestingly, most of the team members were traditionally trained artists from outside of the animation industry who had to learn digital techniques and illustration methods on the job. As can be seen from A Sky Longing for Memories, the result of their combined efforts is spectacular.