My Week in Manga: September 5-September 11, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week was a relatively quiet week at Experiments in Manga (granted, that’s true of most weeks these days), but the winner of to Tokyo Ghoul giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English which feature half-humans of one type or another. Elsewhere online, there were plenty of interesting things posted: Massive and gay manga were featured at Edge Media Network, and it sounds like we should be seeing more of Jiraya’s work in English later this fall; Alice Nicolov wrote an article on queer representation in manga for Dazed and Confused Magazine; Nami Sato, the creator of Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto was interviewed for the first time in either English or Japanese; and Publishing Perspectives posted some of the highlights of a conversation with Allison Markin Powell and Hiromi Kawakami about Japanese literature translation. Also, the Kickstarter project for Power & Magic, a queer fantasy comics anthology about witches of color (which looks like it should be fantastic), was recently launched.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 8Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 8 written by Ryo Suzukaze and illustrated by Satoshi Shiki. It’s been a while since I’ve read Suzukaze’s Before the Fall light novels so I may be misremembering, but the novel adaptation seems to include characters and storylines not found in the original. It also expands on some of worldbuilding and characterizations of the franchise as a whole, so readers interested in the most comprehensive Attack on Titan experience will want to read the manga even if they’ve already read Suzukaze’s novels. Sharle, while still managing to come across as a stereotypical maiden in distress at times, is a more well-rounded and independent character in the manga. Her brother plays a more prominent and slightly more sympathetic role as well although he’s still one of the main human antagonists (and an ass). The Titans actually don’t even make an appearance in this volume and are barely mentioned as the manga focuses on the conflict and intrigue among the military, political, and religious factions. Overall, it’s an exciting volume with some interesting twists. Unfortunately it suffers some from Shiki prioritizing cool-looking panels and scenes over continuity and logical plot developments. (I’m sorry, if someone is going to daringly scale a wall to sneak into a city, they really shouldn’t be attempting the maneuver above the few guards that are present unless there’s a good reason for it.)

Devil Survivor, Volume 6Devil Survivor, Volume 6 by Satoru Matsuba. I wasn’t especially enamored with the first volume of Devil Survivor and so haven’t really been following the manga very closely. However, the series had potential, and I’m glad to see that the sixth volume delivers on that promise. The Devil Survivor manga is based on a video game in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, one of many adaptations from the megaseries to have recently been translated in English. Probably my biggest criticism of the first volume of Devil Survivor was that it read too much like a video game and not enough like a manga. If the sixth volume is anything to judge by, the series has greatly improved in that regard. While the video game elements are still readily clear, the manga seems to be focusing more on plot and characters. I actually really like the underlying story and find some of the characters to be interesting as well. The artwork is serviceable, understandably keeping close to the designs of the video games, but the way Matsuda draws the more well-endowed women can be a bit awkward to say the least. Many of the demons invading Tokyo look pretty good, though. The sixth volume is a turning point in the story as the series enters its final arc. Important revelations are made, a major boss battle is fought, and already dangerous situations become even more dangerous as the characters prepare to do all that they can to survive and save Tokyo from destruction.

The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and AnimeThe Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime by Toshio Ban. While I certainly understand why Stone Bridge Press chose to release the entirety of The Osamu Tezuka Story in a single volume, the book is huge, amounting to over nine hundred pages of material. Most of the volume consists of Ban’s manga, but it also includes an excellent introduction by the translator (and friend of Tezuka) Frederick L. Schodt and one of the most exhaustive lists of Tezuka’s work that I’ve seen in one place. I’ve read my fair share of works examining the life and career of Tezuka so I wasn’t especially surprised by anything in the manga, but The Osamu Tezuka Story provides one of the most comprehensive, engaging, and accessible biographies. The manga, which is largely chronological, is divided into three parts which delve into Tezuka’s childhood, his entry into manga, and the expansion of his career into anime. Commissioned following Tezuka’s death in 1989, the biography incorporates many of Tezuka’s own words taken from his essays and earlier interviews. Ban, who was one of Tezuka’s sub-chiefs in the manga department, adopts an illustration style very similar to that of Tezuka and excerpts from some of Tezuka’s manga and anime are also used. The Osamu Tezuka Story reveals just how remarkable and influential a creator Tezuka was and is highly recommended for anyone interested in the history of Japan’s manga and anime industries.

Our Little SisterOur Little Sister directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. I’m not sure when (or if) Our Little Sister will receive a home video release, but I recently had the opportunity to see the film in a theater. Our Little Sister is actually a live-action adaptation of Umimachi Diary (the title more literally translates to “Seaside Town Diary”), an award-winning ongoing manga series by Akimi Yoshida who some will likely recognize as the creator of Banana Fish. I’ve seen one other film by Kore-eda (Like Father, Like Son) which is similar in both theme and tone to Our Little Sister. Both films, despite intense interpersonal drama, are fairly quiet and gentle without becoming saccharine and focus on the complexities of familial relationships. In the case of Our Little Sister, the story primarily follows three sisters whose father left their mother for another woman more than fifteen years ago and whose mother largely left them behind to be raised by their grandmother. After their father dies they meet their half-sister, the daughter of his second wife (out of three), for the first time while at the funeral. For a variety of reasons, they invite her to live with them. While this does cause some raised eyebrows and strain in the family, both immediate and extended, the decision is ultimately a healing one as all four sisters grow closer as they pull together their fragmented lives. Our Little Sister is simply a lovely film. (And I’d certainly be interested in reading the original manga, too!)

My Week in Manga: October 5-October 11, 2015

My News and Reviews

Last week was a slower week at Experiments in Manga, but I am steadily coming to terms with the fact that I’m leading an increasingly busy life and that it’s okay to have slow blogging weeks. (Though I still wish I had the time to read and write more.) Anyway, last week I announced the Devils and Realist Giveaway Winner. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English that feature demons and devils. I also reviewed Project Itoh’s debut novel Genocidal Organ which is an excellent, intelligent work of near future science fiction. I’ve now read almost everything of Itoh’s that has been translated (I still need to pick up his Metal Gear Solid novel) which makes me a little sad since it’s all so good and I want more.

New York Comic Con was last week and there were some exciting license announcements to come out of that. Kodansha Comics will be releasing an Attack on Titan anthology collecting Western creator’s takes on the franchise (considering some of the artists and writers involved, this should be great) and has licensed Hounori’s Spoof on Titan and Hiroki Katsumata’s I Am Space Dandy. Viz Media announced a slew of new print titles: Mitsu Izumi’s 7th Garden, Yūki Tabata’s Black Clover, Izumi Miyazono’s Everyone’s Getting Married, Haruichi Furudate’s Haikyu!!, Tadatoshi Fujimaki’s Kuroko’s Basketball, Keiichi Hikami and Shin Yamamoto’s Monster Hunter, and Mizuho Kusanagi’s Yona of the Dawn. (I was very happy to see more sports manga and josei in that mix!) And Yen Press will be releasing Mikoto Yamaguchi’s Scumbag Loser, Makoto Kedōin and Toshimi Shinomiya’s Corpse Party: Blood Covered, Masafumi Harada, Sung-woo Park, and Red Ice’s Space Dandy, Yuji Iwahara’s Dimension W, and Cotoji’s Unhappy Go Lucky! as well as several new light novels.

Unrelated to NYCC (but still very interesting), manga-translator and yokai expert Zack Davisson was a guest on That Girl with the Curls podcast talking about all sort of things Japan-related. Actually, Davisson has been making the podcast rounds and was recently interviewed at Kaijucast, too, which happens to be featuring yokai all this month. Also of note, Connie at Slightly Biased Manga has posted a nice introduction/guide to all the various Alice in the Country of manga and light novels for anyone who may be intimidated the sheer number of titles involved.

Quick Takes

Devil Survivor, Volume 1Devil Survivor, Volume 1by Satoru Matsuba. Shin Megami Tensei is a huge and popular franchise of video games spanning multiple series and spinoffs which has spawned numerous anime and manga adaptations. Matsuba’s Devil Survivor is one of those, based on a 2009 tactical RPG for the Nintendo DS system. I’m always a little wary of manga adaptations of video games but was still interested in Devil Survivor. Unfortunately, it’s painfully obvious that the manga originated from a game. Although the story has some great mystery and action elements, as well as religious cults, demons, and so on, the original game mechanics are blatant in the story, made even more obvious by the characters’ use of handheld consoles. I’m not completely writing off the Devil Survivor manga, but honestly, I was disappointed with the first volume. I’m hoping that in the future the series will focus more on the story and characters, which have some great potential, and develop into something that takes advantage of the manga medium and feels less like watching someone else play a video game.

No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Volume 4No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Volumes 4-6 by Nico Tanigawa. In general Watamote tends to be fairly episodic, but time does slowly pass; the rhythm of school life drives the series along even if there isn’t much plot or character development per se. However, more and more recurring characters and running jokes are introduced and smaller story arcs form. The basic premise of Watamote is unchanging—Tomoko is an extremely awkward young woman whose social skills (or really the lack thereof) are entirely informed by the video games and manga that she’s interested in, many of which are rather raunchy. Occasionally she makes an effort to fit in with her classmates, but more often than not it backfires in terribly embarrassing ways. Watamote can be very funny in a painful and incredibly crass sort of way. Some but not all of the humor requires the reader to be at least vaguely familiar with Japanese pop culture, especially anime, manga, and video games. But there are copious translation notes available and the manga is usually fairly successful in conveying the basic gist of any given joke.

The Sky Over My SpectaclesThe Sky Over My Spectacles by Mio Tennohji. I will readily admit that I have a thing for glasses; in addition to having to wear them myself, I really like how they look on other people. One of the leads in titular story of The Sky Over My Spectacles has a similar fetish, which is what initially drew the collection of boys’ love manga to my attention. (The Sky Over My Spectacles was actually one of the first boys’ love manga that I ever read.) The four main manga collected in the volume—”The Sky Over My Spectacles,” “Let’s Fall in Love,” “Let’s Meet at 1 p.m.,” and “Tell Me You Love Me with Earnest Eyes”—all tend to be fairly upbeat and even surprisingly cute and sweet. Although there’s a bit of drama to be found, nothing ends in tragedy, which I appreciate. I also enjoy the light sense of humor present throughout the stories in the collection. The titular, and longest, manga is probably my favorite, though. In it, Azuma, whose glasses fetish is infamous, has developed a crush on one of his male, glasses-wearing classmates but then discovers that his feelings remain unchanged even when the glasses come off.