Manga Giveaway: Seven Seas Sampler Winner

A Centaur's Life, Volume 1Dictatorial Grimoire, Volume 1: Cinderella
Gakuen Polizi, Volume 1Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Omnibus 1

And the winner of the Seven Seas Sampler manga giveaway is…Karen Swartz!

As the winner, Karen will be receiving A Centaur’s Life, Volume 1 by Kei Murayama; Dictatorial Grimoire, Volume 1: Cinderella by Ayumi Kanou; Gakuen Polizi, Volume 1 by Milk Morinaga; and Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Omnibus 1 written by Satoru Akahori and illustrated by Yukimaru Katsura. Over the last couple of years, Seven Seas has really taken off, adding more licenses than ever before and diversifying its catalog. So, for this giveaway, I asked people tell me a little about some of their favorite manga released by Seven Seas. I’ve compiled a list below (those with an asterisk were mentioned by more than one person), but be sure to check out the Seven Seas Sampler comments for more details.

Some favorite Seven Seas titles:
Afro Samurai by Takashi Okazaki
Alice in the Country of created by Quin Rose
Amazing Agent Luna written by Nunzio DeFillippis, Christina Weir, illustrated by Shiei
Blood Alone by Masayuki Takano
Boogiepop created by Kouhei Kadono
A Centaur’s Life by Kei Murayama
A Certain Scientific Railgun written by Kazuma Kamachi, illustrated by Motoi Fuyukawa
Citrus by Saburouta
*D-Frag! by Tomoya Haruno
Dance in the Vampire Bund by Nozomu Tamaki
*Devils and Realist written by Utako Yukihiro, illustrated by Madoka Takadono
Dragonar Academy written by Ran, illustrated by Shiki Mizuchi
Freezing by Kwang-Huyn Kim
Gakuen Polizi by Milk Morinaga
*Girl Friends by Milk Morinaga
*Gunslinger Girl by Yu Aida
*Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends written by Yomi Hirasaka, illustrated by Itachi
Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto by Nami Sano
Hayate X Blade by Shizuru Hayashiya
Inukami! written by Mamizu Arisawa, illustrated by Mari Matsuzawa
Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink by Milk Morinaga
Kokoro Connect written by Sadanatsu Anda, illustrated by CUTEG
*Lizzie Newton: Victorian Mysteries written by Hey-jin Jeon, illustrated by Ki-ha Lee
Love in Hell by Reiji Suzumaru
*Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer by Satoshi Mizukami
Magical Girl Apocalypse by Kentaro Sato
Strawberry Panic written by Sakurako Kimino, illustrated by Takuminamuchi
*Toradora! written by Yuyuko Takemiya, illustrated by Zekkyou
Witch Buster by Jung-man Cho
*Young Miss Holmes by Kaoru Shintani
Zero’s Familiar written by Noboru Yamaguchi, illustrated by Nana Mochizuki

Thank you to everyone who participated in the giveaway and shared some of your favorites; I hope to see you all again for the next one!

Manga Giveaway: Seven Seas Sampler

The end of the month draws near, so it’s once again time for another manga giveaway at Experiments in Manga! As is tradition, November’s giveaway features multiple volumes. This month you will all have a chance to win a sampling of some of Seven Sea’s manga releases, both old and new: A Centaur’s Life, Volume 1 by Kei Murayama; Dictatorial Grimoire, Volume 1: Cinderella by Ayumi Kanou; Gakuen Polizi, Volume 1 by Milk Morinaga; and Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Omnibus 1 written by Satoru Akahori and illustrated by Yukimaru Katsura. And as always, the giveaway is open worldwide!

A Centaur's Life, Volume 1Dictatorial Grimoire, Volume 1: CinderellaGakuen Polizi, Volume 1Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Omnibus 1

It used to be that I didn’t pay much attention to Seven Seas. It had a smallish catalog and I wasn’t particularly interested in most of the series it was publishing at the time. But with the success of Monster Musume and the various Alice series, Seven Seas has really taken off in recent years. And increased sales mean even more manga licenses. Seven Seas has been making a particular point to diversify its offerings lately. It has helped revive interest in yuri manga in English. A range of genres are being released, including slice-of-life, comedy, fantasy, horror, mystery, and science fiction among others. There are otome manga as well as quirky shounen series.  Ecchi and fanservice manga features heavily, but there are more wholesome titles, too. Seven Seas really is trying to have a little something of everything and a little something for everyone. I might not personally be interested in every license the publisher picks up, but I do like seeing the variety of works. You’ve caught my attention, Seven Seas. Now show me what you can do.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a Seven Seas Sampler?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little about your favorite manga released or licensed by Seven Seas if you have one. (If you don’t have a favorite or haven’t read any of Seven Seas manga, just mention that.)
2) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting, or retweeting, about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

It’s as easy as that. Each person can earn up to two entries for this giveaway. As usual, participants will have one week to submit comments. Entries can also be sent via e-mail to phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com which I will then post in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on December 3, 2014. Happy feasting!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address in the comment form, a link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: Seven Seas Sampler Winner

My Week in Manga: May 12-May 18, 2014

My News and Reviews

Well, it was my intention to review the first omnibus of Whispered Words by Takashi Ikeda last week, but then Sean reviewed it the day before I was planning to post my review. So, to avoid making the Manga Bookshelf front page look a little strange, I decided to bump my Whispered Words review to later this week. But never fear, I had other posts in reserve! First up was my Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2014 recap, which is very, very long. If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, that’s fine, but I do want people to know that TCAF is an amazing festival. A month or so ago I had the opportunity to attend a presentation given by Natsuki Kikuya, a sake sommelier and from a centuries-old family of sake brewers in Tōhoku, about the brewing of sake, its history, and current trend in the industry, so I posted some random musings about that as well—Cultures of Japanese Sake. I was quite pleased to discover that I actually had already had a strong introduction to the subject from reading manga, specifically Oishinbo, A la Carte: Sake and Moyasimon.

Now, going back to TCAF for a moment: Heidi MacDonald has an excellent summary of the festival at Publishers Weekly; the Beat has audio for a selection of the panels available for listening; and Okazu’s Erica Friedman has a great recap of the est em panel, which she moderated. Unrelated to TCAF, but still worth reading: Marvel, Yen Caught in Amazon-Hachette Crossfire; an interview with Leyla Aker, the editor at Viz Media responsible for Kohske’s Gangsta series; and Tokyo Government Declares Imōto Paradise! 2 Manga Unhealthy. Also, Deb Aoki has started updating her site Manga Comics Manga with some interesting new material, including Japanese to Spanish Manga Translation: Readers Speak Out and What Would Make Manga More Appealing to Comics Fans? + 24 Manga for New Readers.

Quick Takes

Dictatorial Grimoire, Volume 3: Red Riding HoodDictatorial Grimoire, Volume 3: Red Riding Hood by Ayumi Kanou. The first volume of Dictatorial Grimoire, as ridiculous as it was, entertained me. The second volume was no less ridiculous, and it had some great moments, but I was frustrated by how trope-based it was. Fortunately, the series’ originality largely returns in the third volume and Dictatorial Grimoire once again becomes a glorious mess. The plot actually starts to make a little more sense and even becomes somewhat interesting, but just as things start to really get going the story is quickly brought to an end. It feels very abrupt and truncated, as if the series was initially supposed to be much longer. Still, I think the third volume of Dictatorial Grimoire was actually my favorite in the series. The demon from which the story Red Riding Hood comes is thoroughly introduced and he’s pretty great—a mix of the Wolf, Hunter, and Red. (He’s actually a decent guy once he gets his werewolf problem under control.) I also get a kick out of Snow White’s animal companions. Instead of the cute woodland critters that might traditionally be expected, he always has some poisonous creatures hanging about. Dictatorial Grimoire is far from the best manga out there, but it can be fun in all of its ridiculousness.

Dorohedoro, Volume 10Dorohedoro, Volumes 10-12 by Q Hayashida. I continue to enjoy Dorohedoro immensely. It’s a strange, weird manga, and one that I find difficult to coherently explain to people. Dorohedoro is bloody, violent, and grim and yet at the same time it is also incredibly endearing, charming, and funny. It can even be heartbreaking from time to time. Occasionally something feels a little bit off about Hayashida’s artwork in the series—body proportions don’t always seem to be quite right—but for the most part I really enjoy the gritty look and feel of Dorohedoro. I was particularly impressed by how effectively dizzying and disconcerting the artwork could be when Aikawa’s magic comes into play. There’s quite a bit of plot development in these volumes and several of the characters have their backstories filled out—more is learned about the pasts of Nikaido, Asu, and the various members of the Cross-Eyes. There’s plenty of action in this part of the series, too, including excellent fight sequences and brutal battles. There are some significant deaths, as well, though it’s never certain that someone will stay completely dead in Dorohedoro. There are seven more volumes to go in the series; I really hope that Viz will be able to stick with it through to the end.

Hotblood!: A Centaur in the Old West, Volume 1Hotblood!: A Centaur in the Old West, Volume 1 by Toril Orlesky. While at TCAF, I made the point to pick up a few things that I hadn’t heard about before or was otherwise unfamiliar with. One of those random splurges was Orlesky’s Hotblood!, a webcomic that currently updates twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I am absolutely loving it—the characters, the art, everything. The first print volume collects the series’ prologue and the entirety of its first chapter, as well as an exclusive appendix and other additional bonus material. Tremendous thought and care has been put into the worldbuilding of the comic—a sort of alternative history—especially in regards to the relationships and interactions between humans and centaurs and their cultures. The story begins in Wyoming in 1873 with James Rook, the titular centaur, and Asa Langley a steel magnate on the run as wanted men. It then jumps back two years in time to when they first met. In the prologue the two are obviously very close, but at the beginning of their relationship they didn’t get along much at all. Langley is a bit of a jerk, frequently making jokes in poor taste at Rook’s expense, but Rook needs a job so he puts up with it. He has been assigned to be Langley’s secretary; neither one of them is particularly happy about it, though.

Watamote2No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Volumes 2-3 by Nico Tanigawa. Overall, I do enjoy WataMote, but I will be the first to admit that it can be a harsh and uncomfortable read. (I get the feeling that the creators largely didn’t enjoy their high school years and that they don’t have many fond memories of that time in their lives.) WataMote can be very funny, but it’s not always very pleasant. So far the series has been fairly episodic, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage, but a few characters have been introduced in these volumes which may change that. I would like to see some actual character development in the series, though. Right now it seems as though Tomoko, her family, and classmates are stuck in a rut. This works in terms of the series’ premise—Tomoko is a misfit to put all other misfits to shame—but it’s a little painful and sad to not see her learn from her mistakes and experiences. Which, I suppose, is actually probably one of the points of the manga. Tomoko can be endearing in her extreme awkwardness, but that awkwardness can also be fairly alarming and embarrassing. WataMote is definitely not a series that everyone will be able to enjoy or even appreciate, but I do plan on following it further.

My Week in Manga: March 31-April 6, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week was one of Experiments in Manga’s slower weeks, but there was still some good stuff to be had, if I do say so myself. First up was the announcement of the Battle Angel Alita Giveaway Winner, which also includes a list of some of the cyborg manga available in English. Next came March’s Bookshelf Overload, which was not nearly as an absurd month for preorders as April will be for me. Finally, we get to the really good stuff. The honor of the first in-depth manga review for April goes to Inio Asano’s Nijigahara Holograph, one of my most highly anticipated releases for 2014. It’s a dark and disturbing work, but also very beautiful. Probably one of the best comics that I’ve read so far this year.

As for a few thing found online: Kim Hoang translated an interview of Kaoru Mori from the French site madmoiZelle. Sean Gaffney at A Case Suitable For Treatment investigates some of Japan’s recent manga bestsellers with an eye towards license requests. Akira Himekawa, the creative team behind the various The Legend of Zelda manga, will be featured guests at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in May. The most recent Mike Toole Show takes a look at the three incarnations of To Terra… (or Toward the Terra), originally a manga by Keiko Takemiya. And last but not least, I was very excited to see that the Manga Connection blog has been rebooted! (Which reminds me that I really need to do some cleanup and maintenance on my resources page…)

Quick Takes

Bad Teacher's Equation, Volume 2Bad Teacher’s Equation, Volumes 2-3 by Kazuma Kodaka. While I wasn’t blown away by it, I did enjoy the first volume of Bad Teacher’s Equation well enough to track down the rest of the boys’ love manga. I had heard that the series gets better as it goes along, but surprisingly enough, so far I think I actually prefer the slightly more absurd first volume. I seem to like Bad Teacher’s Equation best when it is being particularly ridiculous. The more obviously comedic aspects of the series work better for me than when the story takes a more serious turn. I was also happy to see the feelings that Masayoshi held for his brother Masami dealt with fairly quickly so that the series’ focus could turn elsewhere. The dynamics of that particular relationship were probably the least interesting in the entire series. One of the things that Bad Teacher’s Equation really has going for it is the manga’s large ensemble cast—their interactions can be very entertaining to watch. And as a result, there’s actually some legitimate character development to be seen, too.

Black Jack, Volume 10Black Jack, Volumes 10-13 by Osamu Tezuka. Because of Tezuka’s Star System, it’s not uncommon to encounter a character from another of his series in a different role. Due to that, I was particularly looking forward to the story “Ashes and Diamonds” collected in the tenth volume of Black Jack because it features Hyakkimaru in the role of Dr. Hyakki. (Hyakkimaru is from Dororo, one of my favorite Tezuka manga.) These volumes also reveal more about Black Jack’s unfortunate family situation. According to an editor’s note in the eleventh volume, the edition of Black Jack upon which Vertical’s release was based was initially intended to be a “best of” collection. However, it proved to be so popular that, excepting for a few stories which were deemed objectionable or inappropriate in some way, the edition became a complete collection. In the past I’ve mentioned that I generally prefer the more realistic scenarios in Black Jack, but I’ve come to really enjoy the more fantastical chapters as well. On occasion, aliens, ghosts, and the supernatural all have their own part to play in the series.

Dictatorial Grimoire, Volume 2: Snow WhiteDictatorial Grimoire, Volume 2: Snow White by Ayumi Kanou. I was intrigued by the first volume of Dictatorial Grimoire. It was a mess, but it was a fun mess. I was less enamored with the second volume, though I do still plan on reading the third and final installment in the series. The story in Snow White is still a mess. This time though, for whatever reason, I found it to be more frustrating than entertaining. So much of Dictatorial Grimoire makes very little sense and Kanou relies heavily on standard tropes and character types. Because of this, the story developments don’t really come as a surprise and readers are left to fill in the actual details themselves as Dictatorial Grimorie progresses from one expected plot point to the next. As might be assumed from the subtitle, Snow White features heavily in the second volume. Sadly, his bustier does not. He does, however, gain a pair of glasses for all of those megane fans out there. (Yes, that would include me.) I also do appreciate that Hiyori, though she’s portrayed as somewhat brainless, is very competent and dependable when it comes to a fight.

Shinobi Life, Volume 1Shinobi Life, Volumes 1-6 by Shoko Conami. Shinobi Life was originally created as a one-shot story but ended up being developed into a thirteen-volume series, seven of which were released in English by Tokyopop. The transition from what was supposed to be a standalone story into an ongoing series is awkward. Story elements are dropped or forgotten (in some cases actually for the better) as the plot is forced into something that wasn’t initially planned. In general, Shinobi Life is a manga that I like much better in concept than I do in execution, although it does improve greatly as the series progresses. I specifically like the time travel elements. However, I’m much fonder of the series when it’s dealing with the past than I am of its contemporary storyline. The art, though not especially original, is pretty, too. All of the adults in Shinobi Life are despicable, so it’s probably not too surprising that the teenage leads have significant personal issues to deal with; their parents don’t make particularly good role models.

My Week in Manga: February 3-February 9, 2014

My News and Review

Last week I announced the winner of the Vinland Saga manga giveaway. The post also includes a list of the manga with memorable snowy scenes that were mentioned during the contest. (Just in case you haven’t had enough snow where you are this winter.) And speaking of Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga, I also reviewed the second omnibus of the manga. I’m really loving the series and enjoyed the second volume even more than I did the first. Over the weekend I reviewed Mieko Kanai’s award-winning novel Oh, Tama! which I greatly enjoyed. I know quite a few people who find it to be a boring work, but I found it to be delightfully low-key with a quirky sense of humor.

As for news and interesting reading seen online this week: The fourth issue of the international edition of Monkey Business will be released later this month. I quite enjoy Monkey Business, so I’m looking forward to it. Seven Seas answered a question about some of the decisions that go into licensing manga for omnibus release over on its Tumblr. At Organization Anti-Social Geniuses, Justin posted a great List of Where You Can Buy Anime/Manga in 2014. Hooded Utilitarian’s Ng Suat Tong writes about some of the best online comics criticism of 2013, including some great articles on manga that I hadn’t previously come across.

Quick Takes

Dictatorial Grimoire, Volume 1: CinderellaDictatorial Grimoire, Volume 1: Cinderella by Ayumi Kanou. I have a feeling that Dictatorial Grimoire may very well be one of those manga that is so bad that it’s good. The story is admittedly a bit of a mess and sometimes doesn’t even make a whole lot of sense. However, I can’t deny that I had fun reading the manga. It’s all sorts of ridiculous. (I’m not sure that all of it is entirely intentional, though.) Otogi Grimm is the descendant of the Brothers Grimm which turns out to be a rather dangerous thing to be. The Brothers made a pact with demons offering up the lives of their descendants in exchange for the stories that formed the basis of their famous fairy tales. Many of those demons—such as the progenitor’s of Cinderella and Snow White—are now after Otogi in one way or another. He does seem to maintain some control over them, though it’s never explained how he learned, developed, or perhaps inherited this power. I did love that Cinderella is a complete masochist, although that fact is used mostly as a gag rather than for any meaningful characterization. I was, however, amused.

Fairy Tail, Volume 34Fairy Tail, Volume 34 by Hiro Mashima. The thirty-fourth volume of Fairy Tail gets off to a good start with the conclusion of Natsu’s confrontation with the Saber Tooth Guild. Then it’s back to the Grand Magic Games for the third day of competition. After a nice buildup to the day’s challenge event, called Pandemonium, Erza’s epic battle is largely reduced to a two-page spread. More time is spent on what basically amounts to target practice for the other teams than on what could have been a glorious combat sequence; it was extremely disappointing. Some of the other fights in this volume fare better, but others are completely rushed through. I’m more interested in the plots going on behind the scenes than I am in the tournament itself, but it seems that to some extent Mashima has given up on the Grand Magic Games. Even the event challenges, which were initially interesting because they required some actual thought and strategy to be put into them in addition to magic and martial skill, have become little more than all-out brawls in this volume. That, too, was a rather disappointing development.

Manic LoveManic Love by Satomi Yamagata. Manic Love is a prequel of sorts to Yamagata’s Fake Fur; it delves deeper into the back story of Maki Sonoda, an important side character. Yamagata jokes in the afterword that she had challenged herself to write a manga that was half nude scenes, so there’s quite a bit of sex in Manic Love. But it’s actually handled quite tastefully and the sex scenes are an important part of the manga and the themes with which Yamagata is working. As was the case with Fake Fur, Manic Love explores the relationship between romantic love and sexual desire and how they can influence each other. Sex is used as a form of communication and connection between the characters in addition to being something that they enjoy. One of the things that I particularly liked about Manic Love is that each chapter it told from a different characters’ point of view. Maki is in what is probably best described as a sort of love triangle, but it’s one without hard feelings or anger. It’s interesting to be able to see that unusual relationship from multiple perspectives, including one from someone who is outside of that triangle entirely.