My Week in Manga: August 4-August 10, 2014

My News and Reviews

There were two reviews at Experiments in Manga last week in addition to the announcement of the Mecha Manga Giveaway Winner, which also includes a list of some of the mecha manga that has been licensed in English at one point or another. (Considering how many have been released in English, it’s not a comprehensive list. Instead it focuses on some favorites.) As for the reviews, I recently read Fuyumi Ono’s The Twelve Kingdoms, Volume 4: Skies of Dawn. Sadly, this was the last volume in the series to be translated into English. The Twelve Kingdoms is a great series of fantasy novels, all of which are worth tracking down. Keeping with last week’s unintentional theme of reviewing fourth volumes of epic series, I also took a look at Vinland Saga, Omnibus 4 by Makoto Yukimura. Vinland Saga is one of my favorite manga series currently being released and this volume hasn’t changed that.

The phenomenal Sparkler Monthly is currently running a membership drive for its second year, and there are some fantastic incentives. I highly recommend checking the project out and contributing if you’re able. Lori at Manga Xanadu has a nice post looking back at the first year of Sparkler Monthly and looking forward to Sparkler Monthly Year Two. For some of my own reviews and random musings on the excellent content being released by Sparkler Monthly, check out the Chromatic Press tag. (Actually, I’ll be posting a review of Denise Schroeder’s Before You Go later this week, too.)

Elsewhere online, ICv2 has a two-part interview with Viz Media’s Leyla Aker and Kevin Hamric looking at What’s Selling, Where, and Why as well as focusing On Specific Products and Programs. Justin at Organization Anti-Social Geniuses has a fun post about The Curious Case of Last Pages For US Manga Editions. Also, Mangabrog has translated some of Takehiko Inoue’s interviews from back when Vagabond was on hiatus.

Quick Takes

Black Rose Alice, Volume 1Black Rose Alice, Volume 1 by Setona Mizushiro. I’ll admit, even though I have enjoyed the other manga by Mizushiro that I have read and despite the very good things that I’ve heard about Black Rose Alice, I was still a little hesitant to read the series. Mostly because I’ve become a little weary, and therefore wary, of vampire stories. But the vampires in Black Rose Alice are so different that I’m actually hesitant to even call them vampires. Either way, the first volume was phenomenal. It’s creepy and disconcerting, tragic and chilling. Dimitri is a rising star, an operatic tenor with a beautiful voice and a handsome face who is astounded when a stranger tells him he is to blame for a sudden wave of suicides. The deaths in the story have tremendous emotional impact, which is particularly impressive since the characters have just been introduced. The characterization in Black Rose Alice is excellent, especially that of Dimitri, and the artwork is lovely and atmospheric. I am a little sad to see early 20th-century Vienna already left behind as a setting in exchange for modern-day Tokyo, but I’m very curious to see where the story goes from here. I’ll definitely be picking up more of Black Rose Alice.

Blank Slate, Volume 1Blank Slate, Volumes 1-2 by Aya Kanno. I first read Blank Slate several years ago and recall really liking it. Upon rereading, it’s honestly not as good as I remember it being, though the art is pretty great. Even considering the flaws in its execution, I actually still really like the series. Apparently the story that Kanno originally planned was much longer and more complicated. Quite a few things changed plot-wise as well as character-wise when she shortened the series; the transition isn’t as smooth as it could have been. Blank Slate would have benefited from at least another volume or two so that all of the backstory that’s crammed into the second volume could have been more fully developed. Though in its way it is thrilling, there are so many plot twists and major reveals towards the series’ end that it’s almost absurd. Some of the characters are shown to be so different from who they were when they were first introduced that it’s almost difficult to believe the changes, but that does make their betrayals rather effective. And I do like that the completely amoral and nearly emotionless Zen, the series lead, remains a villain throughout despite a tragic past that is supposed to make him more sympathetic.

How to Be HappyHow to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis. I wasn’t previously familiar with Davis’ work, but after experiencing How to Be Happy I certainly want to read more of it. How to Be Happy is a collection of her short comics, some no longer than a page. Though her black and white illustrations are effective, Davis’ color work is especially striking. She exhibits a wide variety of styles in How to Be Happy, evoking a number of different moods. However, all of the comics come across as being at least a little surreal. Many, perhaps most, of the stories tend towards the melancholy and somber, but others have an underlying and almost hidden sense of humor and joy. As Davis points out in her author’s note, the book actually isn’t about how to be happy. And yet, I found reading the volume to be a wonderfully cathartic and thought-provoking experience. I would even go as far as to call it inspiring. Though she often employees fantastical elements, what Davis really seems to be doing in How to Be Happy is exploring the nature of life and reality through her short narratives. How to Be Happy is a beautiful, strange, and wondrous collection and one that I can definitely see myself returning to again.

Midaresomenishi: A Tale of Samurai LoveMidaresomenishi: A Tale of Samurai Love by Kazuma Kodaka. Although Midaresomenishi is self-described as a romantic epic, there’s not very much at all that is romantic about this boys’ love manga. Instead it’s an extremely dark tale with a focus on violence, sexual and otherwise. Truly terrible things happen in it. Blood, death, and sadism take precedence over affection and love. There is very little happiness to be found in Midaresomenishi, and what little there is is fleeting. Shirou is a young samurai who takes great pleasure in killing, but that is nothing in comparison to the joy that Sougetsu, a powerful and decadent master of bandits, takes in sexually dominating others. In order to protect the life of his younger brother Fujimura, Shirou allows himself to be subjugated by Sougetsu. What he doesn’t realize is that while Fujimura is alive, he has become a sexual plaything for Sougetsu’s underlings. There actually is some doomed love and strong familial bonds in Midaresomenishi, but for the most part the manga’s focus is on the more unpleasant relationships. Midaresomenishi doesn’t work for me as a love story, there’s simply too much force and coercion, but as a violent tragedy it is fairly successful.

My Week in Manga: July 7-July 13, 2014

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted at Experiments in Manga last week, though neither of them were actually for manga. First up was Yasutaka Tsutsui’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which collects two of his stories: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is one of Tsutsui’s most well-known and beloved novels and was the inspiration for Mamoru Hosoda’s 2006 anime by the same name, which happens to be one of my favorite animated films. I also reviewed Dan Mazur and Alexander Danner’s Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present. It’s an extremely informative volume and highly recommended for people who are interested in the history of comics, including manga. I wasn’t online much last week, but I did notice that Revealing and Concealing Identities: Cross-Dressing in Anime and Manga, Part 6 was posted at The Lobster Dance, focusing on Fumi Yoshinaga’s marvelous series Ōoku: The Inner Chambers. If there were any big announcements or other noteworthy news items that I missed, please do let me know!

Quick Takes

Andre the Giant: Life and LegendAndre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown. Growing up, I knew of Andre the Giant from his role as Fezzik in the film The Princess Bride, only later learning about his professional wrestling career. Andre Roussimoff was a literal giant of a man—at one point over seven feet tall and over six hundred pounds—who also suffered from acromegaly, though he wasn’t diagnosed with the condition until he reached his twenties. Brown’s thoroughly researched biographical comic captures Andre’s life and legacy, revealing just how human the legend really was. Like anyone else, he had his strengths and his flaws. Because of his size the life he led was an unusual one and he was treated differently, and not always kindly, by other people. Surprisingly, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend is actually one of the very few works devoted to Andre. It’s a collection of stories and anecdotes about the man beginning with his childhood in France and then following him through his globe-spanning career as a professional wrestler as well as his time on the set of The Princess Bride. The comic is very well done and includes a bibliography in addition to notes on the sources used.

Bokurano: Ours, Volume 1Bokurano: Ours, Volume 1 by Mohiro Kito. One summer, fourteen seventh graders and a fourth grader participating in a nature school program wander into a seaside cave where they discover a strange man holed away who invites them to play a game. They will be placed in charge of piloting a giant robot in order to fight massive alien invaders. Except that the game they’ve agreed to play turns out to be much more real than any of them counted on. This early in the series it’s a little difficult to get a good feel for all of the characters since there are so many of them, but it seems that as they each have their own opportunity to pilot the robot more will be revealed about them as individuals. It also looks like the series will have a fairly high death count, too, even when it comes to main, named characters. Bokurano: Ours has a dark ambiance as well strong psychological elements. Though there are grand battles, the real drama of the series revolves around how the children respond to being granted such enormous power. Some delight in the chance to wreak havoc while others are more hesitant, understandably concerned about the strange situation they’ve gotten themselves into.

Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls, Volume 2Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls, Volumes 2-3 by Okayado. At its heart, Monster Musume is an unapologetic, ecchi harem series. Readers looking for nuanced characters or plot from the manga will be sorely disappointed. And considering the amount of uninhibited fanservice, highly suggestive scenarios, partial nudity, and nipples on display, I continue to be surprised that Seven Seas is able to get away with calling Monster Musume a series for older teens. Initially, I wondered if monster boys existed in the manga since the series focuses almost entirely on monster girls. They actually do, but that fact isn’t confirmed until a bunch of otaku orcs appear in the third volume. In addition to the orcs, plenty of other liminal races have been introduced as well: slimes, mermaids, zombies, ogres, cyclops, shape-shifters, and so on. Not all of the liminal ladies become love interests for Kimihito, the series’ protagonist and host family for many of the visiting monster girls, which is a good thing. Monster Musume is an extraordinarily silly and trashy manga that can actually be a lot of fun for those who don’t mind its blatantly sexualized content. Its monster girl gimmick sets it apart from other harem manga, but probably won’t win anyone over who doesn’t already read the genre.

Soul Rescue, Volume 1Soul Rescue, Volumes 1-2 by Aya Kanno. I’ve really enjoyed Kanno’s other manga currently available in English (Blank Slate and Otomen), so when I discovered that Tokyopop had also published one of her series I made a point to track it down. I believe Soul Rescue was actually Kanno’s debut manga, too, which made me even more interested in reading it. Honestly, it’s a bit of a mess. The artwork is nice, even though the pages are very full, and I liked the characters and basic premise of the story, but it doesn’t quite pull together as a whole. Renji is an angel with a propensity towards being overly violent, and so he has been temporarily banished to Earth in order to mend his ways. Another angel, Kaito, has been sent along with Renji as his supervisor to keep him in check and prevent him from doing too much damage. Renji will be allowed to return to Heaven after rescuing the souls of 10,000 humans. (Kissing is somehow involved in all of this.) By the end of Soul Rescue, he’s only saved two, maybe three souls. Though there are recurring characters, the series is largely episodic with almost no overarching plot arc or real conclusion. Kanno doesn’t seem to be concerned with consistent time periods or settings in the manga, either. Modern cities, Medieval kingdoms, and fuedal Japan, all with their own anachronisms, exist simultaneously.

White GuardianWhite Guardian by Duo Brand. I’m fairly certain that White Guardian was Duo Brand’s first professional boys’ love manga; it was also their first manga to be released in English. White Guardian includes many elements found in the pair’s other manga that I’ve read, namely swords, sex, and fantasy. Granted, in the case of White Guardian, it seems to be more of a historical setting than it is strictly fantasy; there are no supernatural aspects or magic involved in the plot. The kingdom of Landa is suffering from internal conflict and corruption which the Crown Prince is determined to address with the aid of the famed General Sei. Prince Linth is a bit of an oddball, lighthearted and earnest if a bit naive. He’s also strangely accepting and forgiving of his own rape, which happens multiple times over the course of the short manga. Happily, there’s some consensual sex to be found in White Guardian, too. The manga has some actual plot to go along with its smut as well. I’ll admit to being fond of court intrigue, espionage, and battles, which are all present and play their own roles in the story. White Guardian is followed by its sequel Crimson Wind which was also released in English, though it’s a little more difficult to find at this point.

Knights of SidoniaKnights of Sidonia directed by Kobun Shizuno. I have been enjoying Tsutomu Nihei’s Knights of Sidonia manga a great deal, and so when the anime adaptation was announced I was immediately interested in watching it. Of all places, the series was exclusively made available for streaming in English through Netflix with both a dubbed version and a subbed version. Overall, the anime was a fantastic adaptation. It hits all the major plot points and highlights of the manga, and in some cases it was actually easier to follow what was going on. The anime is very faithful to the original without slavishly adapting the source material to a new medium. As should be expected, the pacing of the story is slightly changed and the visual impact of the anime is different from that of the manga. However, I was never completely sold on the 3D CG animation style. Though the backgrounds, environments, and many of the special effects looked great with it and were sometimes even stunning, the movements of the characters occasionally would feel just a little off. It did seem to improve as the series went along, but maybe it was just that I was finally getting used to it. I do look forward to seeing the second season.

My Week in Manga: June 2-June 8, 2014

My News and Reviews

Three posts last week! The first was the announcement of the Oi, Oishinbo! manga giveaway winner, which also includes a list of some of the food manga that has been licensed in English. And speaking of food manga, last week I reviewed Fumi Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 2. I’m really enjoying the series and am thrilled that it’s being released in English. I also reviewed Blade of the Immortal, Volume 29: Beyond Good and Evil by Hiroaki Samura, which is pretty much the beginning of the end of the series. I love Blade of the Immortal, so I’m interested to see how Samura will wrap everything up and who, if anyone, will survive its conclusion.

Things have been a bit hectic in my life lately, so I’ve not been able to pay attention to all of the news and announcements recently, but I did catch a few things on Vertical’s Twitter account. Apparently, its warehouse is down to the last 24 copies of Message to Adolf, Part 1 and it may or may not be reprinted. So, if you want a copy, you should probably grab it sooner rather than later. Adolf was my introduction to Osamu Tezuka, and it remains one of my favorite works by him. Also, Vertical was at AnimeNEXT and made a new license announcementDream Fossil: The Complete Short Stories of Satoshi Kon. Though it wasn’t perfect, I enjoyed Kon’s Tropic of the Sea a great deal, so am looking forward to this collection as well as the other Kon manga announced by Dark Horse a couple of months ago.

Quick Takes

Monster Soul, Volume 1Monster Soul, Volume 1 by Hiro Mashima. For readers intimidated by the length of Fairy Tail or Rave Master, Mashima’s two-volume Monster Soul sets a much lower bar for entry to his work. During the Human-Monster War, the Black Airs were an elite group of exceptionally powerful monsters. Now that the war is over, and the monsters have lost, they mostly try to keep to themselves. But with human poachers, a ghost with an agenda, and another monster picking a fight, trouble seems to find them anyway. Monster Soul is somewhat episodic, but Mashima does seem to be developing some sort of underlying plot. Since the series is only two volumes long though, it probably can’t be particularly convoluted or in-depth. That being said, I’m not entirely sure what direction Monster Soul will be taking. The story moves along very quickly, there are numerous fights, and the characters are boisterous. I wasn’t blown away, but the first volume of Monster Soul could be entertaining.

Otomen, Volume 16Otomen, Volumes 16-18 by Aya Kanno. I’m not sure that Otomen really needed to be eighteen volumes long, but I enjoyed every volume of it. The series just makes me so incredibly happy. It can be ridiculous and eyeroll-worthy at times, usually deliberately so, but I love it. The characters, while they don’t have much depth, are incredibly endearing. Kanno plays around with gender roles and expectations in Otomen, that’s one of the major points of the series, but never in a denigrating way. The not-so-subtle message of Otomen is that it is just fine to be whoever it is you are. These final three volumes find Asuka and many of the others in their last year of high school. They begin drifting apart for various reasons, the biggest being the influence of Asuka’s mother, and it is heartbreaking to see. Kanno has never hesitated to make use of well-worn tropes and plot developments in Otomen—frequently the series verges on parody because of that—but I was a little unsure about the memory loss arc. Ultimately though, the series ends in a very satisfying way.

The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 1The Seven Deadly Sins, Volumes 1-2 by Nakaba Suzuki. Back in my undergrad days I took a fantastic course that focused on the use and portrayal of the seven deadly sins in music and literature, and so Suzuki’s The Seven Deadly Sins manga immediately caught my attention. At first, I was a little uncertain about The Seven Deadly Sins. It took a few chapters to really grow on me, and when present Meliodas’ lecherous tendencies still seem more like a tired cliché rather than any sort of legitimate character development, but the series has great potential. The Seven Deadly Sins are a group of extremely talented warriors who may be the only ones capable of stopping the Holy Knights from destroying Britannia. It isn’t yet known why the group goes by “The Seven Deadly Sins,” or what sins the members have committed to earn their monikers, but I’m assuming that will be revealed sometime in the future. The Holy Knights are the ones being framed as the series’ villains, but the Sins aren’t entirely good, either, which I appreciate. With interesting characters and epic battles, I’m looking forward to reading more.

The Sleep of ReasonThe Sleep of Reason: An Anthology of Horror edited by C. Spike Trotman. Edited by the same person who has been coordinating the new Smut Peddler anthologies, The Sleep of Reason collects twenty-six short horror comics. Some of the creators (like Jason Thompson and Carla Speed McNeil, among others) I was already familiar with, but there were plenty of other contributors whose work I was encountering for the very first time. That’s one of the things I love about anthologies like The Sleep of Reason—they introduce me to new artists that I want to follow. I also love being exposed to so many different styles of art and storytelling. There is some blood, death, and gore in The Sleep of Reason, but the collection isn’t a splatter fest and relies much more heavily on the psychological aspects of horror rather than on violence. As with any anthology, some of the stories are stronger than others. I’m not sure that I even completely understood some of them, but they all were eerie, disconcerting, and creepy. The Sleep of Reason is a great collection; definitely recommended for fans of horror.

My Week in Manga: May 6-May 12, 2013

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted here at Experiments in Manga last week. I took a look at Monkey Business: New Writing from Japan, Volume 3, the most recent issue in the international edition of the Japanese literary journal Monkey Business. I think I preferred the second volume slightly more, but the third volume was a great collection, too. Earlier in the week I reviewed The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: The Master of Gay Erotic Manga. This volume is the first collection of bara manga to be published in print in English. Tagame’s work is amazing, but it certainly isn’t for everyone. I’m thrilled that he’s finally received a major release in English.

And what was even more exciting? I spent the entire weekend at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF)—I actually got to meet Tagame and Taiyo Matsumoto in person in addition to a ton of other fantastic creators. I’ll be posting about my TCAF experience later on this week, but I can tell you right now that I definitely plan on going again next year. It was amazing.

And speaking of Tagame, PictureBox has announced a new anthology scheduled to be published in 2014—Massive: Gay Erotic Manga And The Men Who Make It. It sounds like it will be a fantastic collection; I am ecstatic about its upcoming release! In other publishing news, Sublime Manga rescued the license for Ayano Yamane’s Crimson Spell for a print release. Media Blasters had previously published the first two volumes but they are now very out-of-print. Crimson Spell is my favorite of Yamane’s series, so I’m very excited about Sublime’s new editions; I’ll happily be double-dipping.

Elsewhere online, Heidi MacDonald article How Graphic Novels Became the Hottest Section in the Library at Publishers Weekly is a good read and touches on the role of manga in that evolution. It’s not very often that you see an article from Sports Illustrated talking about manga, but Ben Sin’s post Slam Dunk: How Japan’s Love of Basketball Can Be Traced Back to a Comic was republished on Sports Illustrated‘s culture blog. Finally, if you’ve not come across Ukiyo-e Search yet, it’s a phenomenal resource for Japanese woodblock prints.

Quick Takes

The Devil’s Trill by Sooyeon Won. The Devil’s Trill is the fourth and final volume in Netcomics’ manhwa novella collection, intended to feature prominent Korean creators. I haven’t read any of the other volumes in the series, but I picked up The Devil’s Trill because Won’s manhwa Let Dai left such an impression on me. For me, the highlight of The Devil’s Trill was Won’s lovely artwork. Lately I’ve found myself bored with vampire tales, and so the story of The Devil’s Trill didn’t really grab me. Plus, I prefer my vampires to be a little scarier and less romantic. However, I did like how the manhwa incorporates reincarnation and stretches across three time periods: 18th-century Germany, Berlin in the 1990s, and 2150.

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. I’ve been following Hicks for quite some time now, but her graphic novel Friends with Boys was the first of her long works that I read that wasn’t a collaboration. I loved it. The story follows Maggie as she enters a public high school, having previously only been home schooled. With three older brothers she grew up as somewhat of a tomboy. Oh, and she seems to be haunted by a ghost. The character designs and artwork in Friends with Boys are great; it’s also filled with all sorts of nerdy and geeky goodness. In part, I see the graphic novel as a celebration of being someone that society might call a freak, which made me very happy. The importance and strength of families (especially siblings) is also a prominent theme.

Kizuna, Volumes 4-6 by Kazuma Kodaka. The first half of Kizuna seemed to emphasize the drama and violence surrounding the characters’ yakuza connections. While this never completely disappears, the second half of the series shifts to addressing slightly more realistic issues and problems faced by the characters: homophobia, coming out to family, establishing lives together, and so on. Despite some inconsistencies in the quality of the art, especially early on, Kizuna has really grown on me. Kei and Ranmaru make a wonderful couple. They have their fights, misunderstandings, and disagreements, but they’re totally in love with each other and are physically very affectionate.

Otomen, Volumes 11-15 by Aya Kanno. I am still really enjoying Otomen although the series’ gimmick—”manly” men with “girly” interests—seems to be stretched a little too thin by this point. I think Otomen would have been more successful if Kanno kept the focus on the main cast instead of introducing so many side characters. Granted, I like the side characters, too, but the series may have benefited from a little more focus. Partly because there are so many characters, none of them have a lot of depth and tend to be fairly one-note even if they are endearing. I particularly enjoy how the series plays with gender expectations. Plus, Kanno includes plenty of nods and references to other series, like Utena and Golgo 13, which is fun. Otomen is a silly, lighthearted, and fluffy read for me.

My Week in Manga: September 24-September 30, 2012

My News and Reviews

Since it is the end of one month and the beginning of another, the most recent manga giveaway has been posted. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first volume of Mayu Shinjo’s Ai Ore!, Volume 1 as published by Viz Media. The most recent Library Love feature was also posted. Basically, it’s a bunch of quick takes of manga that I borrowed from my library.

Also posted last week was my review of Elements of Manga Style by João Henrique Lopes, a Brazilian artist. Lopes was kind enough to send me a copy of the book for review. I found the subject matter to be fascinating and now want to read more about the theory and design of comics and manga.

Finally, there’s one item of news that I want to mention: Hiroaki Samura’s manga Blade of the Immortal is coming to an end. He’s been working on the series for nineteen years. The English release of Blade of the Immortal (which I am slowly reviewing) is still several volumes behind the Japanese release, but the end is drawing near.

Quick Takes

Barbara by Osamu Tezuka. Barbara is a very odd manga, but I’m not convinced that Tezuka was deliberately trying to be strange; I think it just happened to turn out that way. The manga focuses on Yosuke Mikura, a novelist, who happens across Barbara, a young woman and a drunk destined to become his muse. It is reveled early on that Mikura isn’t a particularly reliable narrator, so there’s always a question of how much of Barbara is the truth and how much of it is his delusions. For me, this was the most fascinating aspect of the manga. The final “twist” to the story was heavily foreshadowed and therefore wasn’t at all surprising, but even though it was completely predictable I did like the ending.

Maka-Maka, Volumes 1-2 by Torajiro Kishi. I haven’t read much explicit, adult-oriented yuri manga, but in my limited experience Maka-Maka is one of the best out there. It’s also completely in color. Each chapter is only about eight pages long and centers around a moment in the lives of Jun and Nene. The two young women are best friends and in Maka-Maka are shown to be almost constantly in each others arms, teasing, fondling, and having sex with each other. Maka-Maka is very voyeuristic but not at all sleazy. It is abundantly clear that Jun and Nene enjoy being with each other. There’s a lot of giggling involved and they are incredibly affectionate. Both Jun and Nene have boyfriends, but their relationship with each other is incredibly important.

Makeshift Miracle, Book 1: The Girl from Nowhere written by Jim Zub and illustrated by Shun Hong Chan. Makeshift Miracle originally started as a webcomic written and illustrated entirely by Zub. The present incarnation has been rewritten and Chan has been brought in to handle the art. So far, the most striking thing about Makeshift Miracle is its gorgeous artwork. The color work in particular is beautiful and dreamy. Plot-wise, not much has happened yet, the first book mostly serves to set the mood and scenario, but I find myself intrigued. I’m particularly curious about and amused by Esurio. Current plans are for the next volume to be released in 2013. I’ll certainly be keeping my eye out for it.

Otomen, Volumes 6-10 by Aya Kanno. I am still really enjoying this series. Even though it has a serious and honest message, Otomen is frequently silly and even ridiculous. But that’s what makes it such a delightfully fun series for me. That and Asuka is absolutely adorable when he blushes, which is often. The characters face trials and tribulations, but for the most part Otomen is a fluffy, feel-good manga. Granted, the characters aren’t particularly complex or deep, but I do like them. Which is good, because more and more characters keep being introduced. Technically, Otomen is a romantic comedy so supposedly there’s an overarching story dealing with the romance between Asuka and Ryo, but that particular plot point is going nowhere fast.

Rurouni Kenshin, Omnibus 4 (equivalent to Volumes 10-12) by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The long Kyoto arc continues! I find that I generally prefer the longer more involved stories in Rurouni Kenshin over the shorter ones. This particular arc has taken a few detours along the way, but I’m glad to see that the main cast has finally been reunited. As much as I like Kenshin as a character, I think the manga works best when his “family” is around him. I was pleased to see more of Kenshin’s past and background revealed in this omnibus, specifically his younger years before he became the skilled swordsman that he now is. As part of this, the master swordsman he was raised by and studied under is also introduced, which was nice to see.

Slam Dunk, Episodes 1-23 directed by Nobutaka Nishizawa. I haven’t read much of Takehiko Inoue’s Slam Dunk manga yet, preferring his more serious works, but I was still excited to discover that the anime adaptation of the series was available in English. I’m not quite a quarter of the way through the anime and there’s only been one real basketball game so far, which surprised me. I was particularly impressed that almost an entire episode was able to devote itself to a single minute of game time without losing my interest or feeling too drawn out. While the comedic elements are definitely still there, it seems like Slam Dunk is becoming more dramatic and serious as the series progresses. I’m looking forward to watching more.