My Week in Manga: September 18-September 24, 2017

My News and Reviews

I was running a little behind my intended schedule last week (and today for that matter–this seems to be somewhat par for the course lately), but over the weekend I was finally able to post my review of the ninth omnibus of Vinland Saga, an award-winning historical manga by Makoto Yukimura which has become one of my favorite series currently being released in English. Last week I also attend a talk by Hiroshi Yoshioka, a professor at Kyoto University’s Kokoro Research Center, called Hiroshima, Fukushima, and Beyond: Borders and Transgressions in Nuclear Imagination. Yoshioka’s research addresses the portrayal of nuclear power within popular culture, whether that be manga like Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen, Sunao Katabuchi’s In This Corner of the World anime adaptation, other visual arts, or even Giant Baba’s “atomic drop” in professional wrestling. I won’t be doing a full write-up of the talk (although perhaps I should), but I did find it to be fascinating. A couple of other interesting things that I’ve come across recently include Ryan Holmberg’s two part article “Yokoyama Yuichi and Audiovisual Abstraction in Comics” as well as an edited version of a talk by Tyran Grillo, the translator working on the Legend of the Galactic Heroes novels, about the series and its author Yoshiki Tanaka.

Quick Takes

Frau Faust, Volume 1Frau Faust, Volume 1 by Kore Yamazaki. The German legend of Faust, a scholar who sells his soul to the Devil in order to gain great knowledge and worldly delights, has had numerous interpretations over the centuries. (Considering my background in music, I’m personally most familiar with the various operatic and symphonic renditions of the tale.) Faust being the subject of a manga would be enough for me to take an immediate interest, but the fact that Frau Faust is by Yamazaki, the creator of The Ancient Magus’ Bride which I greatly enjoy, made it a series that I absolutely knew I needed to read. One volume in, not only am I intrigued, I am completely on board with Yamazaki’s reimagining of the classic tale. As can be gathered from the title, Faust in this case is a woman. Johanna is strikingly enigmatic, the complexity of her true nature slowly revealed over the course of the first volume of the manga. The pacing of Frau Faust is excellent. Plenty of mystery remains by the first volume’s end, but rather than the story feeling like it’s being unnecessarily drawn out, it simply makes me want to read more. The only real complaint I have about the manga, and it’s a relatively minor one at that, is Johanna’s eyeglasses which tend to inexplicably appear and disappear from one panel to the next and I can’t tell if it’s meant to be intentional or not.

Kiss of the Rose Princess, Volume 1Kiss of the Rose Princess, Volumes 1-2 by Aya Shouoto. Since I’ve been enjoying The Demon Prince of Momochi House I’ve been making a point to try some of the other manga by Shouoto available in English. Sadly, I haven’t been nearly as taken with Kiss of the Rose Princess, one of Shouoto’s earlier series. I think that part of my lack of interest in the series stems from the fact that there’s not much of a plot even hinted at until the second volume. It’s almost as if the first volume, and much of the second, is devoted to a side quest before really getting to the meat of the story. Anise is a high school student who quite unexpectedly finds herself in command of a quartet of knights (who are also her classmates) that she can magically summon, a situation that hasn’t been fully explained. More than anything else, the setup comes across as a convenient excuse for the series’ heroine have a number of young men who are in some way bound to her if not vying for her attention. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but at this point most of the characters come across as “types” and any convincing romantic tension is nearly nonexistent. Everyone is very prettily drawn, however. Shouoto seems to be favoring silliness over seriousness in Kiss of the Rose Princess, which again isn’t necessarily bad, but a satisfying balance between the tones hasn’t been reached yet.

Queen Emeraldas, Volume 2Queen Emeraldas, Volume 2 by Leiji Matsumoto. In addition to being a classic manga, which I’m always happy to see more of in translation, I found the first half of Queen Emeraldas to be wonderfully engrossing, so I was looking forward to reading the conclusion of the series. One of the things that particularly appeals to me about the Queen Emeraldas is the mood that Matsumoto is able to create–the melancholic atmosphere of the manga as well as the portrayal of the great expanse and loneliness of the universe. (I also adore Matsumoto’s illustrations of space.) Emeraldas is a woman traveling the stars, her ship her only constant companion. However, her destiny still frequently crosses paths with those of others. Hiroshi Umino repeatedly finds himself drawn into her orbit as he tries to establish a life of freedom in space. The chapters of Queen Emeraldas are loosely-connected stories with the presence of Emeraldas as the uniting factor. She herself is frequently the narrator of the tales, but the focus is often on the follies and arrogance of the men she meets. I was actually hoping to learn more about Emeraldas and her personal story, but by the end of the series very little has been explicitly stated about her past. Even so, Emeraldas is a marvelously charismatic character, capable of great empathy and compassion but dedicated to justice.

My Week in Manga: February 20-February 26, 2017

My News and Reviews

In a few more days and March will be here and in a few more days the winner of the Tokyo ESP manga giveaway will be announced. Never fear though, there’s still a little time left to enter for a chance to win the first omnibus in the series! Simply tell me a little about a favorite psychic/esper from a manga. (A quick note: Normally I announce giveaway winners on Wednesday mornings but, because I have an all-day job interview on the 1st, this time the announcement will likely be made sometime on Wednesday evening instead.)

As for some interesting things I came across last week: The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo has created an online archive of early Japanese animation. An English-language version of the site is currently in the works, but even if you can’t read Japanese if you click around enough you’ll find the some of the videos available for viewing. The University of Michigan’s Center for Japanese Studies recently hosted two master rakugo artists–Yanagiya Sankyo and Yanagiya Kyonosuke–and has posted a video of one of their events. The video includes a brief introduction to rakugo, a demonstration and performance, and a question and answer session.

There are also a few podcasts worth mentioning (though I haven’t actually had the opportunity to listen to most of them yet): The most recent episode of Comic Books Are Burning in Hell is devoted to the late Jiro Taniguchi. Tofugu started a podcast not too long ago and recently talked with Alexander O. Smith about What Makes a Good Japanese Translator? (Smith does a fair amount of video game translation but translates novels and manga as well. He’s also one of the founders of Bento Books.) Vertical Comics recently started a podcast, too, and the first episode of the Mangocast is now available for listening.

As for crowdfunding efforts for queer comics, the end of February has seen quite a few Kickstarter projects launch: The Husband & Husband campaign is hoping to publish the first volume of the cute and funny webcomic in print. The Dates anthology, which focuses on queer historical fiction, is back for a second volume. (Though I haven’t written a quick take for it yet, I have the first volume and it’s great.) The Go Get a Roomie! project is raising funds to print the second volume and reprint the first volume of the webcomic. And finally, Digital Manga’s most recent Kickstarter has launched–Juné Manga is working with Velvet Toucher, a Japanese artist living in the United States, to release Eden’s Mercy.

Quick Takes

Guardians of the LouvreGuardians of the Louvre by Jiro Taniguchi. I’ve read most but not quite all of Taniguchi’s manga that has been released in English, but his recent passing reminded me that I hadn’t yet read Guardians of the Louvre, the latest one to have been released. One of the most remarkable things about Guardians of the Louvre is its full-color artwork. The volume is actually part of the “Louvre Collection,” a series of comics commissioned by the Louvre that feature the museum and its collections. (Hirohiko Araki’s Rohan at the Louvre is part of the same series.) Taniguchi is an extremely versatile creator; while some of his manga are action-packed, others are more introspective. Guardians of the Louvre is definitely one of the latter. The story is a quiet and contemplative exploration of art and inspiration, following a manga creator who is visiting Paris on his own for a few days. He falls ill soon after he arrives but pushes through in order to visit the Louvre. And so when he seems to start slipping through time, meeting artists and historical figures associated with the museum, not to mention the embodiments of some of the works housed there, he’s never quite sure how much of his visit is based in reality and how much is a fever dream.

He's My Only Vampire, Volume 1He’s My Only Vampire, Volumes 1-3 by Aya Shouoto. While I don’t actively avoid vampire manga, I also don’t actively seek it out. Usually there has to be something a little “extra” to catch my attention. In the case of He’s My Only Vampire, I had decided to seek out more of Shouoto’s work available in English while waiting for more of The Demon Prince of Momochi House to be released. He’s My Only Vampire is kind of an odd series and at this point the manga doesn’t seem to have a clear direction. It’s as if Shouoto is either trying to do too much at once with the story or hasn’t quite decided where it should go yet. It can still be pretty entertaining from time to time, though. Shouoto’s artwork, even though anatomy seems to occasionally go out the window, can be lovely and sensual, too. So far the best part of the manga is the three main characters–Kana, the strong and spunky heroine, Aki, the titular vampire and Kana’s long-lost childhood friend, and Jin, a high-school delinquent who has recently discovered that he is at least part werewolf. Personality-wise and the relationship-wise they’re all sort of goofy and their interactions can be quite amusing. The story is taking some darker turns, but I think I prefer its humor.

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Volume 1Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Volumes 1-4 by Shinobu Ohtaka. I know quite a few people who love Magi and have heard plenty of great things about the series but despite those facts it’s still taken me this long to finally get around to reading the manga. Magi more or less starts out as a dungeon crawl which, while highly entertaining, isn’t exactly the most compelling narrative for a series that’s already over thirty volumes and still ongoing. But after the first dungeon crawl (and I suspect that there will likely be more of those in the future) Ohtaka begins delving into the characters and their motivations while exploring the vast world in which the live. In part Magi is inspired by One Thousand and One Nights but Ohtaka does not strictly adhere to those stories and characters, instead creating a complex world that is reminiscent of but distinct from that work. Magi really is a great series, with plenty of magic, mystery, and adventure; I can easily understand why it’s so well-loved. The artwork is clear and attractive, the settings and characters are interesting and well-realized, and the story, worldbuilding, and action are engaging. I also particularly appreciate that the women can be just as badass as the men in the series and in some cases are even more so.

NewsPrintsNewsPrints by Ru Xu. My introduction to Xu’s work was through the beautifully illustrated webcomic Saint for Rent. However, NewsPrints is her debut graphic novel. Published by Scholastic the comic is aimed towards middle grade readers but it can be appreciated by older readers, too. NewsPrints, while still being very approachable, actually tackles some pretty weighty subject matter–war, propaganda, identity, and so on. The comic is about Blue, an orphan who is hiding the fact that she is a girl so that she can work as a newsboy for the Bugle, one of the only newspapers that actually reports the truth. The Bugle has taken in and cares for other orphans as well, but Blue is afraid that she won’t be able to hide her secret much longer and may lose her newfound family because of it. The city she lives in has very firmly entrenched ideas about what is and is not appropriate for girls to do. Blue is embroiled in an extremely dangerous situation when she meets and becomes friends with Crow who is also hiding a secret, one that could greatly influence the course of the war. Though NewsPrints tells a complete story the ending is left fairly open. Apparently a sequel is currently in the works; I’m very curious to see where Xu takes the comic next.

My Week in Manga: December 19-December 25, 2016

My News and Reviews

Nothing other than the usual My Week in Manga feature was posted last week at Experiments in Manga. However, I still have a few things in store before the year is through. Later this week you’ll want to be on the lookout for the monthly manga giveaway for December. I’ve also been hard at work on my list of notable manga, comics, and other books that I’ve read that were released in 2016. That list should be ready to post in the very near future as well!

Quick Takes

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Volume 2The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Volumes 2-6 by Aya Shouoto. It was the beautiful artwork and yokai that first drew The Demon Prince of Momochi House to my attention and that continues to be a large part of the series’ appeal for me. I’m also enjoying the story’s melancholic atmosphere as the manga explores themes of loneliness and the desire to belong. Himari, who is an incredibly sweet and caring person, is steadily building her relationships and friendships with the locals, ayakashi and humans alike. However, more the romantic elements of the series are admittedly less convincing. Although there is an underlying story about the mysteries surrounding Aoi and Himari’s efforts to free him from his tragic fate, The Demon Prince of Momochi House frequently almost seems episodic in nature as Himari is introduced to a variety of supernatural wonders and dangers. The seemingly directionless and less-than-cohesive storytelling can be frustrating and sometimes even feels a little shallow, but overall I find the series to be alluring and provocative and look forward to reading more.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 9What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volumes 9-11 by Fumi Yoshinaga. I am incredibly happy that What Did You Eat Yesterday? is being released in English, so it makes me sad that the series doesn’t seem to be doing especially well in translation. It’s a shame, because it really is a wonderful manga. While I certainly appreciate the food aspects of What Did You Eat Yesterday?, I particularly love the realistic and nuanced characterizations found in the series. The food is all well and good, not to mention beautifully illustrated, but it’s the characters and their relationships that really make the series work. Shiro’s character development has probably been the most interesting and satisfying. I’m very glad to see his relationship with his parents improving even after some significant setbacks. While he’s still not out in his professional life, it is clear that he is becoming more comfortable publicly expressing his sexuality. Fortunately, Shiro and his long-term boyfriend Kenji have the love, support, and acceptance of others which makes that easier. More recently, rather than their homosexuality, what they’ve had to worry about are Shiro’s aging parents and the rising cost of living.

Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 3Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibuses 3-4 (equivalent to Volumes 5-8) by Wataru Watanabe. Out of the recent spate of new sports manga being released in North America, Yowamushi Pedal is currently one of my favorites. I have seen a fair amount of the anime adaptation so at this point I am very familiar with where the plot is heading, but even so I still find the original manga to be immensely engaging. Before Yowamushi Pedal, I actually didn’t realize how much of a team effort cycling could be; it’s interesting to learn about the various strategies that can be used to win a race. These couple of omnibuses largely focus on Sohoku’s intensive training camp and also introduce some of the major competition. The characters are fun, some of them are frankly pretty cool, too, and they all have distinctive personalities. The Sohoku team especially is made up of a group of quirky but likeable and talented young cyclists. Art-wise Yowamushi Pedal could almost be described as ugly, but I really like its highly dramatic and energetic style. Watanabe probably uses more speedlines than any other artist I’ve seen, but the effect is great.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Volume 2: AmbitionLegend of the Galactic Heroes, Volumes 2-3 by Yoshiki Tanaka. Despite the nearly constant war and political upheaval present in the Legend of the Galactic Heroes novels, the series isn’t really that action-oriented. I suspect some people will actually find it to be rather dry and perhaps even textbook-like. With only the occasional bout of melodrama, the series quickly moves from one event or venue to the next and the cast of characters only continues to grow. (Granted, as this is war, not all of them survive very long after being introduced.) Because the scope is so sprawling sometimes it feels as though Legend of the Galactic Heroes lacks depth of story and characters, instead opting for a wider view and summary of major events. However, Tanaka does show how the complexities of societal, political, economic, and militaristic influences can impact one another. The books frequently read like a popular history, and the series actually reminds me a bit of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, too. So far I’m really enjoying the series and find its story and characters interesting. I like the focus on tactics and strategy as well as the influence that real-life history has had on the series.

My Week in Manga: July 6-July 12, 2015

My News and Reviews

So, apparently last week was Shark Week, an annual event on the Discovery Channel. I don’t watch much television or pay attention to programming schedules, therefore it was a complete coincidence that both of the manga that I reviewed last week happened to include sharks! First up was my review of the deluxe hardcover omnibus of Junji Ito’s (comedy?) horror manga Gyo: The Death-Stench Creeps. It’s an incredibly gross and absurd manga and will certainly not be to everyone’s taste. I was entertained by its outrageousness, but overall much prefer his earlier work Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror. The second review last week was of The Legend of Kamui, Volume 1, an influential historical drama by Sanpei Shirota. The manga was actually one of the earliest series to be released in English back in the 1980s. Fortunately, it’s still relatively easy to find even though it’s long been out-of-print. I really wish that more of the series had been translated, though; The Legend of Kamui is excellent.

A couple of interesting things that I came across last week: Shojo Beat’s tenth anniversary celebration continues with five questions for Julietta Suzuki and Haikasoru posted a translation of a conversation between authors Paolo Bacigalupi and Taiyo Fujii from 2013. (I recently reviewed Fujii’s debut novel Gene Mapper, and reviewed Bacigalupi’s novel The Windup Girl, which has been very well received in Japan, at my old review blog Experiments in Reading several years ago.) Last week was the San Diego Comic-Con, but most of the news and announcements seemed to be repeats of Anime Expo. However, there was one newly announced license that was huge: Udon Entertainment will be releasing Riyoko Ikeda’s influential shoujo classic Rose of Versailles! Among other good news, Udon rescued Moyoco Anno’s marvelous shoujo series Sugar Sugar Rune, which makes me very happy. (I reviewed Del Rey’s edition of the first volume a couple of years back.) Udon will also be releasing Yomi Sarachi’s Steins;Gate manga. Kodansha has picked up Kousuke Fujishima’s manga series Paradise Residence. Dark Horse will be re-releasing Hiroaki Samura’s epic Blade of the Immortal in an omnibus edition which is great news since some of the individual volumes are out-of-print and hard to find. (The series is also a favorite of mine.) A couple of other interesting SDCC/manga-related posts: myths from the Manga Publisher Roundtable and a summary of 2015’s Best and Worst Manga panel. Oh, and Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa: A History of Japan won an Eisner Award!

Quick Takes

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Volume 1The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Volume 1 by Aya Shouoto. There were mainly two things that initially drew my attention to The Demon Prince of Momochi House, the beautiful and somewhat provocative cover illustration and the promise of beautiful and somewhat provocative yokai. Himari Momochi unexpectedly inherits a house when she turns sixteen. As an orphan, it’s the only connection that she has to a family that she has never known. But when she arrives, she discovers a couple of complicating factors: the house is a gateway between the human and supernatural realms, and it is already occupied. Honestly, the story’s setup feels a little forced and employs a few well-worn shoujo tropes; it remains to be seen whether or not Shouoto will do anything clever with them. However, the artwork is attractive and I actually really do like the underlying premise of the manga. Although I wasn’t blown away by the first volume of The Demon Prince of Momochi House, I did enjoy it. The series has great potential and the manga certainly delivers on its promise of beautiful spirits. While I’m not in a rush to read the next volume, I’ll likely continue with the series to see if it develops into something really special or if it will merely remain something that is enjoyable in passing.

Dengeki Daisy, Volume 13Dengeki Daisy, Volumes 13-16 by Kyousuke Motomi. It’s been awhile since I’ve read Dengeki Daisy, but it is a manga that I tend to enjoy. Since the final volume of the series was released in English relatively recently, I figured it was about time for me to catch up. Dengeki Daisy isn’t always the most realistic or believable series—frequently things will happen because they’re convenient for the sake of moving the story forward or are being used as a punchline rather than being a convincing development—but it’s still pretty great. The manga also handles the romance between Teru and Kurosaki very well, especially considering the eight-year gap in their ages. Interestingly, while the last volume quickly wraps up the main story, it’s actually mostly devoted to a small collection of side and bonus stories, generally of a humorous nature. The volume also includes Motomi’s debut manga, “No Good Cupid.” It’s kind of a fun send off for the series, especially as the final story arc is focused more on intense action and drama rather than the manga’s humor or the quirkiness of its characters. However, I always find Motomi’s author notes and commentary to be endlessly entertaining. I definitely plan on reading more of her work in the future.

NightSNightS by Kou Yoneda. Only a few of Yoneda’s boys’ love manga have been released in English, but I enjoy her work immensely and would love to see even more of it licensed. NightS is a collection of stories: “NightS,” about a transporter for the yakuza and an older man with whom he becomes entangled (in more ways than one); “Emotion Spectrum,” a high school romance with a bit of a twist on the usual sort of love triangle; and “Reply,” featuring the blossoming relationship between a car salesman and a mechanic. Although the anthology is called NightS, “Reply” is actually the longest and most involved work in the volume. But even the shorter manga feature well-developed stories and characters. They each come across as an individual with a distinctive personality. This is a particularly important aspect of Yoneda’s manga since the plots tend to be very character focused and driven—people and their relationships, romantic or otherwise, are key to her stories. There is a maturity to the storytelling, as well. And a great sense of humor. Though they aren’t comedies, at times the manga collected in NightS can be quite funny. Also, Yoneda’s artwork is excellent; especially impressive is her use of light and shadow to create drama, mood, and atmosphere.