My Week in Manga: May 2-May 8, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I announced the winner of the superhero duo manga giveaway. As usual, the post also includes a list of manga, in this particular case a list of manga featuring superheros of one ilk or another. Last week I also posted my review of Rokudenashiko’s comic memoir What Is Obscenity?: The Story of a Good for Nothing Artist in Her Pussy which is a wonderfully engaging and important work. Rokudenashiko is one of the featured guests at the Toronto Comic Arts festival which is this upcoming weekend; I greatly admire her and her work, so I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to meet her in person.

Elsewhere online: Rokudenashiko was recently interviewed in preparation for her trip to Toronto. Massive Goods hints at an upcoming announcement regarding an English-language release of Gengoroh Tagame’s award-winning My Brother’s Husband, which I am super-excited about. And Ryan Holmberg wrote a about Katsumata Susumu’s Anti-Nuclear Manga for the Sainsbury Institute and, at the other end of the spectrum, about the Nuclear Literati: Nakashima Kiyoshi’s Furusato Goes to Hell for The Comics Journal.

Quick Takes

I Am a Hero, Omnibus 1I Am a Hero, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Kengo Hanazawa. By this point I’m fairly burned-out when it comes to zombies, but I had heard so many good things about the award-winning I Am a Hero that I had to give it a try. And, I must admit, the manga is one of the most interesting and best examples of the genre that I’ve come across in quite some time. For me what makes I Am a Hero stand out is the lead character, Hideo. After making his debut as a professional mangaka, he’s back to being an assistant when his career failed to take off. He has the tendency to talk to himself, hear voices, and hallucinate, so everything that he experiences has to be questioned. The zombie apocalypse doesn’t really come until the second half of the first I Am a Hero omnibus. Until that happens, most of the hints and clues of the impending disaster can be easily dismissed as part of Hideo’s delusions. When the apocalypse finally does happen the series suddenly becomes horrifyingly brutal and grotesque as the world descends into chaos. Hideo remains surprisingly calm in the face of it all, partially because he initially assumes that the end of the world is just another one of his hallucinations. By the end of the first omnibus there’s already an extraordinarily high body count (most the named characters are done for and even Hideo isn’t completely unscathed), so I am very curious to see where the series goes from here.

Maga-Tsuki, Volume 1Maga-Tsuki, Volume 1 by Hoshino Taguchi. Apparently the initial inspiration behind Maga-Tsuki was originally going to be worked into a shōnen battle manga, but in the end it turned into a harem-ish romantic comedy. Personally, in this case I probably would have been more interested in the action-oriented series, but Maga-Tsuki does offer some variations on the usual tropes that are amusing. It is, however, very trope-heavy and contains the expected levels of fanservice for this type of story. When he accidentally breaks the sacred mirror protected by his family’s shrine, Yasuke finds himself cursed by the goddess sealed within it. In order to lift the curse he must make Orihime, a goddess of calamity and misfortune, happy, which proves to be something of a challenge. In the meantime, his soul has been separated from his body and he must maintain constant physical contact with Orihime or else he will die. A kiss from Orihime will conveniently revive him, though. This obviously results in all sorts of complications and misunderstandings, especially when it comes to trying to confess his feelings to the girl that he likes. I like that Maga-Tsuki makes use of Japanese mythology, otherwise I’m not sure that it would have managed to hold my attention. However, I do have a hard time seeing the sweetly cute and seemingly innocent Orihime as an ancient, all-knowing goddess even if her divine powers are suitably impressive.

The Nameless CityThe Nameless City, Volume 1 by Faith Erin Hicks with colors by Jordie Bellaire. In general I tend to be fond of Hicks’ work, but I’ve been especially anticipating the debut of The Nameless City trilogy having followed its development and progress online. The titular Nameless City is a city that has been conquered and re-conquered countless times. Situated in a geographically advantageous location which allows the ruling kingdom immense control over the area’s economics and trade it makes a sought-after target. The city is currently under the domain of the Dao and has been for a few decades, but it’s likely only a matter of time before there’s another invasion or the residents rise up in revolt. Inspired in part by Chinese history, The Nameless City is about an unlikely friendship that develops over the backdrop of warfare, clashing cultures, and political intrigue. Kaidu is one of the Dao, sent to the Nameless City to participate in military education and training (though he’d much rather be reading than fighting), while Rat is one of the city’s many orphans whose parents were killed by the Dao. As Kaidu gets to know Rat he gets to know the city, and he learns more about his own people in the process, too. As for Rat, she initially hates Kaidu simply because he is Dao, but that slowly changes as she realizes that not all Dao are the same. I’m really enjoying seeing their relationship develop and look forward to the next volume, The Stone Heart, a great deal.

My Week in Manga: May 6-May 12, 2013

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted here at Experiments in Manga last week. I took a look at Monkey Business: New Writing from Japan, Volume 3, the most recent issue in the international edition of the Japanese literary journal Monkey Business. I think I preferred the second volume slightly more, but the third volume was a great collection, too. Earlier in the week I reviewed The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: The Master of Gay Erotic Manga. This volume is the first collection of bara manga to be published in print in English. Tagame’s work is amazing, but it certainly isn’t for everyone. I’m thrilled that he’s finally received a major release in English.

And what was even more exciting? I spent the entire weekend at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF)—I actually got to meet Tagame and Taiyo Matsumoto in person in addition to a ton of other fantastic creators. I’ll be posting about my TCAF experience later on this week, but I can tell you right now that I definitely plan on going again next year. It was amazing.

And speaking of Tagame, PictureBox has announced a new anthology scheduled to be published in 2014—Massive: Gay Erotic Manga And The Men Who Make It. It sounds like it will be a fantastic collection; I am ecstatic about its upcoming release! In other publishing news, Sublime Manga rescued the license for Ayano Yamane’s Crimson Spell for a print release. Media Blasters had previously published the first two volumes but they are now very out-of-print. Crimson Spell is my favorite of Yamane’s series, so I’m very excited about Sublime’s new editions; I’ll happily be double-dipping.

Elsewhere online, Heidi MacDonald article How Graphic Novels Became the Hottest Section in the Library at Publishers Weekly is a good read and touches on the role of manga in that evolution. It’s not very often that you see an article from Sports Illustrated talking about manga, but Ben Sin’s post Slam Dunk: How Japan’s Love of Basketball Can Be Traced Back to a Comic was republished on Sports Illustrated‘s culture blog. Finally, if you’ve not come across Ukiyo-e Search yet, it’s a phenomenal resource for Japanese woodblock prints.

Quick Takes

The Devil’s Trill by Sooyeon Won. The Devil’s Trill is the fourth and final volume in Netcomics’ manhwa novella collection, intended to feature prominent Korean creators. I haven’t read any of the other volumes in the series, but I picked up The Devil’s Trill because Won’s manhwa Let Dai left such an impression on me. For me, the highlight of The Devil’s Trill was Won’s lovely artwork. Lately I’ve found myself bored with vampire tales, and so the story of The Devil’s Trill didn’t really grab me. Plus, I prefer my vampires to be a little scarier and less romantic. However, I did like how the manhwa incorporates reincarnation and stretches across three time periods: 18th-century Germany, Berlin in the 1990s, and 2150.

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. I’ve been following Hicks for quite some time now, but her graphic novel Friends with Boys was the first of her long works that I read that wasn’t a collaboration. I loved it. The story follows Maggie as she enters a public high school, having previously only been home schooled. With three older brothers she grew up as somewhat of a tomboy. Oh, and she seems to be haunted by a ghost. The character designs and artwork in Friends with Boys are great; it’s also filled with all sorts of nerdy and geeky goodness. In part, I see the graphic novel as a celebration of being someone that society might call a freak, which made me very happy. The importance and strength of families (especially siblings) is also a prominent theme.

Kizuna, Volumes 4-6 by Kazuma Kodaka. The first half of Kizuna seemed to emphasize the drama and violence surrounding the characters’ yakuza connections. While this never completely disappears, the second half of the series shifts to addressing slightly more realistic issues and problems faced by the characters: homophobia, coming out to family, establishing lives together, and so on. Despite some inconsistencies in the quality of the art, especially early on, Kizuna has really grown on me. Kei and Ranmaru make a wonderful couple. They have their fights, misunderstandings, and disagreements, but they’re totally in love with each other and are physically very affectionate.

Otomen, Volumes 11-15 by Aya Kanno. I am still really enjoying Otomen although the series’ gimmick—”manly” men with “girly” interests—seems to be stretched a little too thin by this point. I think Otomen would have been more successful if Kanno kept the focus on the main cast instead of introducing so many side characters. Granted, I like the side characters, too, but the series may have benefited from a little more focus. Partly because there are so many characters, none of them have a lot of depth and tend to be fairly one-note even if they are endearing. I particularly enjoy how the series plays with gender expectations. Plus, Kanno includes plenty of nods and references to other series, like Utena and Golgo 13, which is fun. Otomen is a silly, lighthearted, and fluffy read for me.