My Week in Manga: July 16-July 22, 2012

My News and Reviews

Quite unintentionally, last week’s reviews were full of immortals. To start with, I posted my latest in-depth Blade of the Immortal manga review—Blade of the Immortal, Volume11: Beasts. It’s a pretty brutal volume, but it also includes some very important plot and character developments. I also posted a review of Fumi Nakamura’s debut novel Enma the Immortal. I enjoyed the book immensely and easily count it as one of my favorites of the year. Historical fantasy, immortality, demons, tattoos, Shinsengumi, and even shadows of Jack the Ripper—Enma the Immortal is some seriously great stuff.

Well, I honestly didn’t expect it to happen, but Digital Manga’s most recent Kickstarter project managed to exceed it’s final stretch goal. As a result, Digital Manga will be publishing three of Osamu Tezuka’s works in English: Unico, Atomcat, and Triton of the Sea. Granted, before the project closed Digital Manga announced that even if the goal was not met Triton would still be published. Digital Manga’s use of Kickstarter to fund publishing has been somewhat controversial in the manga blogging community. The most recent Manga Out Loud podcast episode takes another look at Digital Manga and Kickstarter (among other things). I haven’t had the chance to listen to it yet, but the featured guests include both critics and supporters. And speaking of Kickstarter, another project deserving of some attention is an alternative comics tribute anthology to the alternative and influential manga magazine Garo.

Today marks the beginning of CLAMP Manga Moveable Feast hosted by Manga Bookshelf! Melinda Beasi has written a phenomenal introductory post, so do check it out. In honor of the feast, my quick takes for this week all feature works by CLAMP. I’ll also be posting an in-depth manga review of the Clover omnibus later in the week.

Quick Takes

Cardcaptor Sakura, Omnibus 3 (equivalent to Volumes 7-9) by CLAMP. There is something about Cardcaptor Sakura that I find utterly delightful and charming. Despite it’s adorable surface, CLAMP somehow avoids making the series too sickeningly sweet. The artwork and characters are cute but are balanced by a story with ominous overtones. I was wondering where CLAMP would be taking the series since by the end of the second omnibus Sakura had found and gained mastery of all of the missing Clow cards. The story goes off in a slightly different direction, but the second half of the series continues to challenge Sakura and her skills while introducing new characters. I’m looking forward to the final omnibus.

Gate 7, Volumes 1-2 by CLAMP. Gate 7 is such a frustrating series for me. The artwork is simply gorgeous. However, the story (once CLAMP finally remembers to get around to it) isn’t able to stand up to it. The male lead, Chikahito, doesn’t seem to serve any purpose at this point in the manga despite the cryptic comments made by the other characters which would seem to imply otherwise. Underneath the narrative mess there are some cool elements that CLAMP is playing around with. I’m particularly interested in the reincarnations of historical figures from the Sengoku era (who, thanks to CLAMP, all have very attractive character designs) and the roles played by the oni. But, as badly as I want to like Gate 7,  it’s just not coming together yet.

X, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-3) by CLAMP. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy X as much as I did; a few years ago, I gave the first volume a try and wasn’t particularly impressed by it. I decided to give the series another chance when the omnibus editions began to be released. Although I had been warned, I was still surprised by how bloody and graphic the manga gets. X has its quirks: the dialogue is completely unrealistic; a lot of the esoteric imagery seems to be a stylistic choice rather than being used for actual symbolism; and although appropriate for an end-of-the-world scenario, the unfolding drama is very much over the top. But even considering all of this, I found the manga strangely addictive. I’ll definitely be reading more of X.

Chobits directed by Morio Asaka. My introduction to CLAMP’s work was through the Chobits manga series. If I hadn’t already read the manga, I might have enjoyed the anime adaptation more. As it was, I found the anime a chore to get through. The anime switched the story’s focus too much for my liking. Or maybe there was just too much filler and not enough attention given to the actual plot. The series now mostly seems to be about Chi being cute and doing cute things, which for me are the least interesting aspects of Chobits. I much prefer the more serious explorations of human-persocom relations and what it means to love someone. These elements still exist in the anime, but they aren’t emphasized as much as the romantic comedy is.

My Week in Manga: August 8-August 14, 2011

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted two reviews, neither one of which were for manga. I reviewed Book Girl and the Famished Spirit, the second volume in Mizuki Nomura’s Book Girl light novel series. I didn’t enjoy it quite as well as the first volume, but I still love the series’ premise of a literature eating yōkai. I also reviewed Christopher Ross’ memoir/travelogue/biography thingy (it’s a little difficult to classify) Mishima’s Sword: Travels in Search of a Samurai Legend. It’s an interesting read and I’d recommended it to anyone interested in Yukio Mishima or in Japanese swords and swordsmanship.

The Fumi Yoshinaga Manga Moveable Feast starts today! This month the Feast will be co-hosted by Kristin Bomba of Comic Attack and Linda Yau of Animemiz’s Scribblings. Yoshinaga is one of the darlings of the manga blogging community so there should be plenty of great submissions. As for me, I’ll be reviewing the third volume of Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, which may possibly be my favorite Yoshinaga series. At least at the moment. If I had at all been paying attention, I would have also read a bunch of Yoshinaga manga for this post’s quick takes section. Anyway, that was my original intention. The Feast somehow snuck up on me this time around. My bad. So, I’ll all make sure to do it for next week’s quick takes instead.

Also of note: Experiments in Manga’s one-year anniversary is coming up in a few days!

Quick Takes

Adamo Anthology, Volume 1: Strange Love by Various. 2010 saw the publication of several independent original-English boys’ love collections, Adamo Anthology among them. The first volume collects four stories and four pin-up illustrations with the theme of “strange love.” Each story has some sort of supernatural element or other oddity to the featured couple’s relationship—psychics and psychopaths, a kidnapped rookie cop, haunted guitars, a musician who’s shut himself away from the world. Each artist has a distinctive style and its nice to see the variety in the stories and illustrations. The pinups are fun, too. I haven’t heard anything about a second Adamo Anthology yet, but if there ever is one I’ll be picking it up.

Chi’s Sweet Home, Volume 4-6 by Konami Kanata. I’ll admit it, I love Chi’s Sweet Home. Admittedly, I like cats and people who like cats are probably the people who will find this series most appealing. Kanata seems to have anthropomorphized Chi a bit more in these volumes than in the previous ones, but she is still primarily very cat like. I was already familiar with some of these chapters since they were the basis of some of the Chi’s Sweet Home: Chi’s New Address anime episodes, but they were still delightfully charming. I am impressed that Kanata has been able to come up with so many adventures for Chi without becoming too repetitive. Although, if you’ve read any of Chi’s Sweet Home, you pretty much know what to expect by now.

Chobits, Omnibus 1-2 (equivalent to Volumes 1-8) by CLAMP. Chobits was my introduction to CLAMP and I’m quite fond of the series. Granted, I’m a sucker for android stories. To be honest, there’s a fair amount of pandering in Chobits, particularly early on in the series. The fanservice does show up throughout the series, though. To some extent, the fanservice actually serves to further the story as the characters struggle to understand concepts of love, desire, loneliness, and what it means to be human. I like Hideki, the protagonist of the series. As just about every character mentions (much to his dismay), he’s a good guy. Chobits has nice art, an engaging story, and likeable characters.

Color of Rage written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Seisaku Kano. Something just doesn’t sit right with me about Color of Rage. It’s as though a blaxploitation film has been crossed with a manga about feudal Japan. It’s not necessarily a bad combination, but Color of Rage just doesn’t quite pull it off. The characters frequently liken slavery in the United States to Japan’s caste system, but the comparison is oversimplified and therefore unconvincing. King, one of the escaped slaves, doesn’t really convince me, either. His motivations and actions seem inconsistent even though he is intended to be the more honorable of the two. Kano’s gekiga-style illustrations work well for the story, although the action sequences can be somewhat difficult to follow.

Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Black Rose Saga directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. The second of Nozomi’s Revolutionary Girl Utena box sets, The Black Rose Saga collects episodes thirteen through twenty-four of the series. This is my first time watching Revolutionary Girl Utena and I’m still loving it. Sure, the reuse of animation sequences is noticeable and the duels in The Black Rose Saga are somewhat repetitive because of it. Also, The Black Rose Saga introduces new characters and plot complications rather suddenly. But the psychological elements in the series are tremendous and frequently heartbreaking. The Ohtori Academy is one awfully strange place to go to school.

Samurai Champloo, Episodes 16-26 directed by Shinichirō Watanabe. I love this series so much. There’s not much filler in Samurai Champloo and every episode contains some plot or character developments. A few of the episodes are more silly than anything else, but even the silly episodes aren’t wasted. Although humor can be found in each installment, Samurai Champloo handles serious moments and plot arcs well, too. Sometimes the contrast between the serious and the silly can be a little odd, but it works for me. Occasionally the animation in Samurai Champloo can be a little shaky, but for the most part the quality is consistently high and visually appealing. I think Samurai Champloo is a great series. It’s got a great soundtrack, too.