My Week in Manga: October 10-October 16, 2011

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted a couple of reviews. One was for the third book in Kaoru Kurimoto’s The Guin Saga, The Battle of Nospherus. It’s certainly not perfect, but I’m liking this series more the more I read. I also posted a review for Love Hina, Omnibus 1 by Ken Akamatsu as part of the Love Hina Manga Moveable Feast. The Feast is usually a monthly occurrence, but this October we’ll be having two! Starting next week, the Horror Manga Moveable Feast will be hosted by Lori Henderson at Manga Xanadu.

This past weekend was the New York Comic Con/New York Anime Festival. I didn’t go, but I did keep an ear out for announcements. I was particularly excited to hear about the some of the manga that Vertical will be releasing next year. First off, they rescued Osamu Tezuka’s Adolf, which happens to be the first manga I ever read. It’s been long out of print and I don’t own it, so I’ll definitely be picking up Vertical’s new edition. I’m also really excited that Moyoco Anno’s Sakuran was licensed, too. Finally, I was happy to find out that Viz will be picking up Yun Kouga’s series Loveless with volume nine. Tokyopop published the first eight volumes. And speaking of Tokyopop…it looks like the company is trying to get back into the manga publishing game. I got to watch the drama unfold on Twitter. It will be interesting to see how things develop.

Oh, and one last thing. Many of you know that I like to make lists. Well, someone has made a great one for me (well, not really for me exactly). Paul Gravett, who edited the soon to be released 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die, has a mini companion site. You can browse by all sorts of things including country, so it’s easy to figure out all the awesome comics from Japan that made the list.

Quick Takes

Maoh: Juvenile Remix, Volumes 1-2 by Megumi Osuga. I’m not sure what I was expecting from Maoh: Juvenile Remix, but I think I was hoping for better. It’s not that the series is bad per se, there were some parts I really liked, but there was a huge plot hole in the first volume that threw me out of the story and made it hard for me to enjoy the rest of it. I wouldn’t turn away future volumes, but at this point I don’t think I’ll be seeking them out, either. The series is based on Maoh, a novel by Kotaro Isaka and I believe that Grasshopper, another of his novels, is also an influence. I’m actually more interested in reading these than I am the rest of the manga; unfortunately, they haven’t been translated.

MBQ, Volumes 1-3 by Felipe Smith. For the most part, MBQ didn’t work for me. For much of the series I found myself wondering what the point of it all was. The story lacks focus, particularly early on, and many of the scenes seem tangential. MBQ is chapter after chapter of over-the-top, in your face, unflinching absurdity. This is definitely not a comic for kiddies, folks. That being said, the series was frequently entertaining and Smith’s artwork is extremely well done. It’s very dynamic and bombastic and fits the story, if you can find it, very well. Occasionally, MBQ does come across as a bit self-indulgent. Personally, I prefer Smith’s later series Peepo Choo, which is just as graphic but more coherent.

Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture, Volumes 1-2 by Masayuki Ishikawa. I really hope that Kodansha will continue publishing Moyasimon in English, because it’s a great series. Moyasimon is both educational and entertaining, whether it’s exploring the usefulness of microbes or relating the antics of the students and professors at the agricultural university. Ishikawa draws great facial expressions and the microbes, which one of the characters can see with his naked eye, are adorable. I also love seeing the clouds of germs and the characters’ reactions. Moyasimon has a tendency to get a little text-heavy on occasion, easily explained away by Professor Itsuki’s inclination to launch into lectures, but it’s an enjoyably quirky series.

Teahouse, Chapters 1-2 by Emirain. I have been reading Teahouse ever since it started as a weekly webcomic the March of last year. I don’t remember where I first learned about it, but I eagerly await each page. The printed volumes include scenes (generally explicit) not found in the online version as well as additional bonus material. There’s a lot of sex, but there’s a story, too. The Teahouse is a brothel with both male and female courtesans serving both male and female clientele. But as a yaoi comic, Teahouse focuses on the male pairings. The art is great and looks even better on the printed page than it does online. I like seeing pretty guys with some actual muscle definition.

Giant Killing directed by Yuu Kou. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge sports fan, but I really enjoyed Giant Killing. Takeshi Tatsumi has been brought in to coach the league’s worst soccer team to victory. All the footballers have strong personalities both on and off the field. It’s fascinating to watch them try to find balance between themselves as individual players and as a team. As far as I know there are currently no plans for a second season, but the conclusion is fairly open and there are enough loose ends that there’s room for at least one more. I would certainly watch it! As a bonus, I absolutely love the opening music “My Story” by The Cherry Coke$.

My Week in Manga: March 21-March 27, 2011

My News and Reviews

I was on vacation for most of last week so I wasn’t around online much, but I did still mange to get a couple of reviews posted. I reviewed Kozue Amano’s Aqua, Volume 1 for the Aria Manga Moveable Feast. Amano’s artwork is lovely, and the story is relaxing. The second review was for Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide written by Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt and illustrated by Tatsuya Morino. It’s a fantastic and colorful introduction to traditional Japanese creepy crawlies and supernatural creatures.

And as for other fun stuff online: Jason Thompson’s House of a 1000 Manga recently featured Hinako Takanaga, one of his favorite boys’ love mangaka (who also happens to be one of my favorites as well). On a related note, Jennifer LeBlanc of The Yaoi Review has finished posting her three part interview with Takanaga (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Since I read both Sundome and Peepo Choo this past week, I’d also like to draw your attention to a couple episodes of Ed Sizemore’s Manga Out Loud podcasts featuring the series: Sundome with Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf and Peepo Choo w/ Erica Friedman, David Welsh, & Melinda Beasi. I really enjoy Manga Out Loud—it’s nice to see (well, hear) such candid conversations about manga, especially regarding potentially controversial series and materials.

Quick Takes

Peepo Choo, Volumes 1-3 by Felipe Smith. Take a few stereotypes to the extreme, add more than enough graphic violence and sex, and finish off by including a few stunningly over-the-top characters, and you might get close to understanding the mind-blowing insanity that is Peepo Choo. It’s not a type of insanity that everyone will be able to appreciate. The story, especially towards the beginning of the series, frequently comes across as cruel and there’s plenty of material at which to take offense. But Smith’s tough-love approach plays out nicely by the end. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with being a walking embodiment of a stereotype if that’s what someone wants to be.

Ristorante Paradiso by Natsume Ono. Older gentlemen, let alone sexy older gentlemen, are not often featured in manga licenses that make their way over to the United States. Fortunately, we’ve at least got Ristorante Paradiso. Ono’s artwork is distinctive and may take a little warming up to, but I’ve fallen in love with it. Nicoletta has traveled to Rome to track down and confront her mother who left her to be raised by her grandparents. In the process, she finds the Casetta dell’Orso, a restaurant owned by her mother’s new husband. Ristorante Paradiso is a charming and romantic glimpse into Nicoletta’s life as she works out her relationship with her mother and her crush on the head waiter, Claudio.

Sundome, Volumes 1-8 by Kazuto Okada. Another series that’s difficult to recommend to just anyone, Sundome is certainly deserving of it’s mature rating. I wasn’t actually that fond of the artwork overall, but it was effective in conveying certain elements of the story. Kurumi’s health problems, never fully explained, are certainly obvious from the beginning just by looking at her. The teens are portrayed as very sexual beings, which may bother some people, but I actually found the characters’ frankness regarding a wide variety of kinks and fetishes to be refreshing. There’s also a fair amount of humor. The exploration of Hideo and Kurumi’s relationship, something they both want and need, is fascinating and compelling.

Antique Bakery directed by Yoshiaki Okumura. It’s been a while since I’ve read Fumi Yoshinaga’s manga series Antique Bakery. I’d forgotten how much I adored the characters, and the anime and voice actors capture them perfectly. I’d also forgotten how funny the series can be. The anime is only twelve episodes, so the story has been condensed and focuses mostly on the four main characters. It may be missing some of the sidestories, but it’s a lovely adaptation. The CG used for background and buildings unfortunately clashes terribly with the hand drawn elements, but I really like the color palette used. The music, featuring plenty of string ensembles, was also a wonderful fit.

Guin Saga, Episodes 1-13 directed by Atsushi Wakabayashi. The Guin Saga anime adaptation is so incredibly epic and overly dramatic that it’s almost embarrassing, but I’m enjoying it immensely. The score is also suitably epic—but then I’d expect no less from Nobuo Uematsu. I’ve only read the first Guin Saga light novel, which takes up only three episodes of the anime, so I’m not sure how the adaptation compares to the original. But it it feels like the anime is only scratching the surface of a much deeper and more complex story. And there is an unfortunate tendency to pause in the middle of fight scenes to allow characters to make grand speeches. The animation is pretty, but perhaps too colorful for the story.

As Seen Online

As most people have probably heard by now, phenomenal director, writer, and animator Satoshi Kon passed away on August 24, 2010 from pancreatic cancer. I’ve only seen two of his films—Millennium Actress and his directorial debut Perfect Blue—both of which were frickin’ fantastic and I really need to see more of his work. He will be greatly missed. (Post from Anime News Network)

There are two posts from Deb Aoki over at Manga that I want to point out. First is the 2010 Comic-Con Best and Worst Manga Panel. It lists the manga mentioned during the panel and includes commentary and links. Fairly short, but definitely entertaining, you’ll find the best and worst manga from 2009-2010, the most anticipated releases, and manga that the panelists would like to see licensed in English. I recognized quite a few of the titles and learned about more. The second post is the transcript of her interview with Felipe Smith. Smith is the creator of Peepo Choo, perhaps one of the most contentious manga that I’ve seen released recently. People seem to either love it or hate it, but either way the interview is great.

Dave Walsh is running a cool series at The Manga Curmudgeon and is making his way through The Seinen Alphabet, commenting on magazines and individual seinen titles. He’s made it up to F so far.

Over at Manga Bookshelf, Melinda Beasi and Michelle Smithtake a quick look at some boys’ love/yaoi titles recently released by Blu and Digital Manga with BL Bookrack: August Mix, including the first volume of Mika Sadahiro’s Under Grand Hotel (which should be arriving in my mailbox soon).

I have been trying for quite some time now to get my hands on a copy of the first volume of AX: Alternative Manga, but it seems to be on backorder everywhere I look. In the meantime, TFWA has an interview with Sean Michael Wilson, the editor of the book: Sean Michael Wilson Introduces Us to AX Alternative Manga.