My Week in Manga: October 14-October 20, 2013

My News and Reviews

It was another two-review week last week. My Blade of the Immortal review project continues with Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal, Volume 26: Blizzard. The volume includes the conclusion to the battle between Manji and Shira and it does not disappoint. The second review posted last week was for Tomoyuki Hoshino’s novel Lonely Hearts Killer. It’s not easy reading, and I didn’t like it quite as well as Hoshino’s collection of short fiction We, the Children of Cats, but I found it to be an intriguing work.

Last week I also had the opportunity to attend a fascinating lecture on queer theory, Japanese literature, and translation. I decided to share some of my random musings on the topics. So far the post seems to have been well received, which makes me pretty happy.

There were a couple of particularly interesting posts by Erica Friedman over at Yuricon last week. Her New York Comic Con report includes more information about One Peace Books’ licensing of Takashi Ikeda’s yuri manga Whispered Words. (I’m looking forward to the release of Whispered Words a great deal.) Also interesting was her post A Very Important Thing About Licensing Manga Fans Don’t Really Understand which explains a few of the complexities involved in licensing manga for English-reading audiences.

Quick Takes

Children of the Sea, Volume 5Children of the Sea, Volume 5 by Daisuke Igarashi. In Japan, the fifth and final volume of Children of the Sea was released three years after the fourth volume was published. The English-language edition of the series likewise followed suit. But the end is finally here! I was actually surprised that the fifth volume was the conclusion of the series. To me it felt as though Igarashi had much more in store for Children of the Sea. I don’t know the circumstances surrounding the series’ end, but I am a little sad that he wasn’t able to develop it further. However, almost everything is tied up satisfactorily plot-wise and the series’ sense of mystery and awe remains intact. Children of the Sea is like modern myth. There is relatively little dialogue and narration in the fifth volume; Igarashi’s artwork really carries the manga at this point. And that artwork is absolutely beautiful. The attention given to the realistic details of the water and sea-life is stunning.

Devil's InfirmaryDevil’s Infirmary by Aco Oumi. Asakura is a physician at an all boys’ school who is not above accepting sexual advances from the students. Things get a little more complicated when Higurashi walks in on Asakura getting a blow job, but Asakura has a few compromising photographs with which to blackmail Higurashi into keeping quiet about it. Supposedly Asakura is in love with Higurashi, but I’m really not convinced. Their relationship is a very inappropriate one and Asakura, though he has a few redeeming qualities, is actually kind of creepy. (But Higurashi’s pretty cute.) At the same time, there are some legitimately funny and occasionally even hilarious moments in Devil’s Infirmary, too. One of Higurashi’s closest friends has a “sparkle problem” that unfortunately brings him unwanted attention from a few of the other students. It’s rather entertaining to see Higurashi try to pose as his boyfriend to deflect some of that interest. And then there’s Asakura’s mother who bribes her gay son into buying her yaoi manga.

Eyeshield 21, Volume 24Eyeshield 21, Volumes 24-27 written by Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. By this point I am no longer surprised that I enjoy Eyeshield 21. I still don’t have a particular interest in American football (and I doubt I ever will even considering the number of years I spent in marching band), but the characters, comedy, and art in the series are great. These four volumes are devoted to the Kanto Tournament game between the Deimon Devil Bats and the Ojo White Knights, both teams fighting to advance one step closer to the Christmas Bowl. The Devil Bats are considered to have one of the best offenses in the tournament but the White Knights are considered to have the best defense. The White Knights also have Seijuro Shin—as perfect a player as there can be. The game ends up being very close, and therefore very exciting; Inagaki keeps the readers guessing right up to the very last second. Murata’s dynamic artwork continues to be one of the highlights of the series. His creative imagery is a little more restrained in these volumes, focusing more on the action of the game and slightly less on its psychological impact, but it’s definitely still there.

Fairy Tail, Volume 30Fairy Tail, Volume 30 by Hiro Mashima. With these volumes, Fairy Tail launches into a new story arc. The technique that Mashima uses—a time skip—isn’t all that unusual for a lengthy shounen manga series. What makes it different, and something that I personally haven’t encountered before, is that only part of the cast jumps ahead while most of the main characters are stuck in time. It makes it a little more interesting when returning after seven years that they have to come to terms with the fact that so many of their friends (and enemies) have changed and grown more powerful. The time skip also serves the purpose of “resetting” the story—Fairy Tail is once again one of the weakest guilds and has to fight its way back to the top. But instead of facing off with evil wizards and guilds, this time they’ll be competing in the Grand Magic Games. Honestly, I’m not quite as interested in this particular turn of events, but at least there should be some entertaining trials and competitions as a result.

The Spectral EngineThe Spectral Engine by Ray Fawkes. I am not especially familiar with Ray Fawkes—an award-winning and frequently award-nominated Canadian creator—and so I was unaware of the upcoming release of The Spectral Engine. Happily, a review copy unexpectedly showed up in the mail. Otherwise, I would probably have completely missed it and that would have been a shame. The Spectral Engine is a great graphic novel and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it. The artwork in particular is excellent, using dark, dripping lines and ink spatter reminiscent of the smoke and grime of the titular engine to effectively create an unnerving atmosphere appropriate for the ghost stories being told. The Spectral Engine weaves together thirteen tragic historic events from many different time periods and locations across Canada. These retellings are paired with their related modern-day hauntings and reports of unexplained phenomena. In many cases the names and lives of the dead have been forgotten, but their stories and legends live on.

AkagiAkagi, Episodes 14-26 directed by Yuzo Sato. While the first half of Akagi had several different mahjong matches, the second half focuses on one: Akagi Shigeru versus Washizu Iwao. It also features a very special and slightly terrifying version of mahjong in which three-quarters of the tiles are transparent (which are beautifully animated). This reveals more of the players’ hands and greatly changing the dynamics of the game. (Though initially a fictional game, Washizu Mahjong sets now really do exist.) The game with Washizu also provides Akagi with something that he’s been looking for—a literal death match. Instead of money, he’s gambling with his blood and therefore his life. Akagi is a fearless and fearsome player and the game is ridiculously intense as a result. There’s skill, and there’s luck, but even more important are the psychological attacks used to provoke and manipulate the other players. Even when most of the tiles can been seen there’s still plenty of room for bluffing . I love mahjong and unsurprisingly I loved Akagi, too.

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

My News and Reviews

Another week, another couple of reviews. I had the opportunity to review an advanced copy of Patrick W. Galbraith and Androniki Christodoulou’s Otaku Spaces from Chin Music Press. It’s a great volume that lets otaku speak for themselves. The book is easy to recommend. I also reviewed Blade of the Immortal, Volume 8: The Gathering by Hiroaki Samura. This is part of my project to review the entire series, so expect to see another Blade of the Immortal post sometime next month. I’m still loving the Blade of the Immortal.

A quick Aniblog Tourney update: Shameful Otaku Secret! won its first round match which means that it and Experiments in Manga will be facing off in the second round next week. The poll will open on May 1st. If you enjoy participating and voting in these sorts of things, make sure to check out Shameful Otaku Secret!—there’s some great stuff going on over there. I’ve been getting a kick out of discovering new writers to follow from the tournament. I do get the impression that the anime blogging community is larger than the manga blogging community though, so I’m wondering how the manga blogs will fair considering that. There are certainly fewer manga-centric blogs in the tournament.

This week is April’s Manga Moveable Feast! This month we’re focusing on the Viz Signature imprint. The Manga Critic is kind enough to host. My quick takes this week feature manga from the SigIKKI line (basically, titles from Ikki magazine published under the Signature imprint). Wednesday is the start of Experiments in Manga’s monthly giveaway; you’ll have a chance to win the first volume of I’ll Give It My All…Tomorrow (also from Viz Signature). Finally, I’ll be posting an in-depth review of the Dorohedoro, Volume 1 on Friday. Happy Feasting, everyone!

Quick Takes

Children of the Sea, Volumes 1-4 by Daisuke Igarashi. I once gave Children of the Sea a cursory glance in a bookstore and then put it back on the shelf when it didn’t immediately grab my attention. That was a mistake. I’m glad I gave the series another chance because I’ve fallen in love with it. While Igarashi’s artwork is excellent from the very beginning, the story of Children of the Sea develops very slowly and deliberately (with the occasional infodump). I love how Igarashi mixes mythology and legend with reality to create an intriguing and almost mystical tale. The series is still ongoing in Japan. I’m not sure if or when we’ll see more volumes in English, but I really hope that we do.

Dorohedoro, Volumes 1-3 by Q Hayashida. I’m not sure why it took me this long to finally give Dorohedoro a try. I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of this series. Hayashida is a phenomenal artist. Her work is highly detailed and very graphic, perfect for the story’s violence. Dorohedoro is a rather strange manga. It’s goofy in a lot of ways, too, without really being a comedy. The series has a dark sense of humor with great dialogue and memorable characters. Caiman’s head has been transformed by a sorcerer into a lizard’s. With the help of his companion Nikaido, he’s searching for whoever cast the spell on him, killing plenty of other sorcerers along the way. Understandably, the sorcerers aren’t happy about this and so a pair of assassins are sent to take care of him.

House of Five Leaves, Volumes 5-6 by Natsume Ono. My introduction to House of Five Leaves was through the anime adaptation, but my love for the anime easily carries over to the manga. The series is actually my favorite manga created by Ono. I am enjoying seeing a slightly different perspective on the story. Most notable is the addition and development of characters outside of the core members of the Five Leaves. The characters and their relationships with one another are still the most important elements in House of Five Leaves. The plot is almost non-existent but becomes more apparent as characters’ motivations are slowly revealed. I’m really looking forward to the release of final two volumes.

Kingyo Used Books, Volumes 1-4 Seimu Yoshizaki. As a book lover, and a manga lover, I can’t help but be fond of Yoshizaki’s Kingyo Used Books. While one of my life’s dreams is to own a bookstore; reading Kingyo Used Books makes me want to own a manga shop or cafe. The chapters are fairly episodic (although they do frequently feature recurring characters) but they all celebrate the love and importance of reading and manga in people’s lives. Yes, these tales can be a little over dramatic from time to time, but I generally found them to be delightful. The volumes also include extensive notes on the specific titles that are featured in the stories. The only real “problem” is that many of the manga highlighted aren’t available in English and now I want to read them.

Norwegian Wood directed by Tran Anh Hung. I haven’t actually read Haruki Murakami’s breakthrough novel Norwegian Wood (shocking, I know), so I can’t really compare it with the film’s interpretation of the story. Kenichi Matsuyama, who I happen to enjoy watching, is cast well as the lead in a tale of love, loss, and sexuality set in 1960s Japan. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the soundtrack is quite good. The narrative is somewhat fragmented but the cinematography is lovely and has a slight art house feel to it. Large portions of the film have little dialogue or story development but simply sit with the characters. Overall, it’s a beautiful film although some of the more emotionally climactic scenes are overwrought.