My Week in Manga: March 6-March 12, 2017

My News and Reviews

Every month I post a Bookshelf Overload feature which takes a quick look at some of the manga and other media that make their way onto my shelves at home. And so last week I published February’s Bookshelf Overload. As I mentioned in that post, I’m currently working on an in-depth review of Kazuto Tatsuta’s Ichi-F: A Worker’s Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. I expect that it should be ready to post later this week (that’s my intention anyway), but I’m also incredibly busy right now getting ready to change jobs. Taiko performance season is also steadily ramping up, and the Lion Dance troupe is still getting regular performance requests, so I’ve had a bunch of extra rehearsals and less downtime in general, too. Still, the writing is slowly but surely happening!

Despite being so busy and not being online as much as usual, I did come across a few interesting reads last week. Jennifer Robertson (who I’ve actually briefly met before) recently wrote for Salon about Japan’s long history of blurred sexualities and gender-bending. Brian Hibbs takes his annual look at the BookScan numbers for comics and graphic novels for The Beat. The analysis includes a section specifically devoted to the manga being released in English. Finally, in what I think is terrific news, more of Yen Press’ digital-only titles will now be getting print editions, too! Look out later this year for Homura Kawamoto and Toru Naomura’s Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler, Higasa Akai’s The Royal Tutor, and Sakurako Gokurakuin’s Sekirei. Finally, a Kickstarter campaign was launched to publish anime director Yasuhiro Irie’s manga Halloween Pajama in English.

Quick Takes

Ghost in the Shell, Volume 1The Ghost in the Shell, Volume 1 by Masamune Shirow. It’s been a long time since I’ve read Shirow’s The Ghost in the Shell. The series was actually among one of the first manga that I encountered. My introduction to the franchise was through Mamorou Oshii’s animated film Ghost in the Shell which probably remains my favorite interpretation of the story and characters. I actually often find the manga to be very difficult to follow. Shirow has some great, thought-provoking and intriguing ideas, but the flow of the story can be extremely disjointed at times. A live-action American Ghost in the Shell film will soon be hitting theaters, so it makes sense that Kodansha Comics would take advantage of the opportunity to re-release the original The Ghost in the Shell manga in a beautifully-produced deluxe hardcover edition. This “definitive” version is being presented in right-to-left format with Japanese sound effects for the first time. I’m fairly certain there are more color pages included, too, but the volume does lack some of the additional textual content found in previous English editions. The controversial lesbian sex scene has also been excluded at the creator’s request which does cause some slight narrative confusion.

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Volume 5Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, Volumes 5-6 by Izumi Tsubaki. I love Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun so incredibly much. This series, along with My Love Story!!, is something that I can always count on to make me happy. I find myself constantly smiling while reading Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun and on more than one occasion have even caught myself laughing out loud. At this point the manga series is far enough along that almost all of the content is new to me. (My introduction to Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun was through the anime adaptation which is likewise an absolutely wonderful series.) There are new scenarios and even new characters–Nozaki’s younger brother and his judo teammates have become more prominent as one example–but those that were previously established are never forgotten. The good-natured humor in Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun remains consistent throughout the manga. Most of the hilarity is the result of the fact that none of the characters quite manage to be on the same page as any of the others and the ridiculousness that ensues because of it. The quirky characters themselves are incredibly endearing, too, even if they’re not particularly nuanced.

Ten Count, Volume 2Ten Count, Volume 2-3 by Rihito Takarai. Well now, that escalated quickly. From the very first volume Ten Count presented itself as a dark psychological drama, but if anything its intensity only increases as the series progresses. The relationship between Shirotani and Kurose is an incredibly unhealthy one which only becomes more troubling as sexual elements are introduced to it. Kurose, whether or not he realizes it or intends to be, is abusive, manipulative, and controlling. He pushes Shirotani, often without consent or consideration, to his limits and beyond. Shirotani does have some personal breakthroughs but heartbreaking glimpses into his past and into his current emotional and mental states reveal a man who is conflicted and struggling with his own self-worth. Frankly, I find Ten Count to be disturbing and unsettling, verging on psychological horror rather than romance. At this point I can’t really envision things turning out well. (Honestly, I’d probably feel disappointed or even somewhat betrayed if Takarai manages some sort of romanticized happy ending.) To me Ten Count is still immensely engrossing, but I certainly can’t blame anyone who would want to avoid the series.

Dragnet GirlDragnet Girl by Yasujiro Ozu. I recently had the opportunity to see Ozu’s silent film Dragnet Girl in a theater narrated by a professional benshi and accompanied by music cued by a prominent local DJ. There was even a brief lecture beforehand which I wasn’t expecting but found interesting. I enjoyed the production as a whole immensely–it was one of those once-in-a-lifetime events–but I also specifically enjoyed the film itself. (I really ought to seek out more of Ozu’s work.) Dragnet Girl is a gangster film which largely follows Tokiko and her boyfriend Joji, a retired boxing champion and current small-time crime boss. Hiroshi, a promising young hoodlum, joins the boxing gym and their gang. His older sister Kazuko worries about him and so tries to convince Joji to make her brother leave. Some romantic entanglements and turmoil ensue, but eventually Tokiko and Joji decide to leave their life of crime together but only after they pull off one last heist for the sake of Kazuko. Dragnet Girl is available from Criterion, collected together with two more of Ozu’s silent crime films, Walk Cheerfully and That Night’s Wife. It won’t quite be the same as watching it “live,” but it’s wonderful that there’s a home release readily available at all.

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!)

Adaptation Adventures: Mushishi

Mushishi, Volume 1After revisiting and reviewing each volume of Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi for my horror manga review project, by now it’s probably readily clear that I greatly enjoy the series. I love the influence of traditional Japanese folklore on the stories. I love the manga’s subtle creepinesss. I love the exploration of the relationship between humans and the rest of nature. I love how the series delves into the connections that exist between people. I love the importance placed on the search for knowledge. The storytelling in Mushishi is atmospheric, beautiful, and frequently unsettling as individuals struggle with themselves and with the unknown. There is darkness and tragedy in Mushishi but there is also hope—one of the major themes in the manga is that for better or for worse, life will ultimately persevere.

Mushishi is a largely episodic series following Ginko, a mushishi, who travels the Japanese countryside studying mushi and trying to help people who have fallen under their influence. Mushi are described as creatures which are very close to the original form of life. Their presence is fundamental and necessary to the living world, but depending on the circumstances they may either be beneficial to or negatively impact humans. Mushi are frequently at the heart of unusual natural phenomenon or may cause otherwise unexplainable illnesses. Within the context of the series mushi can be taken literally, but they can also be read as metaphors for many conditions experienced in reality.

MushishiAnime1Urushibara’s ten-volume Mushishi, originally serialized in Japan between 1999 and 2008, was first released in print in English by Del Rey Manga between 2007 and 2010. Soon after, Del Rey’s manga imprint was closed and Mushishi subsequently went out of print. Unsurprisingly, the print edition of Mushishi has become increasingly difficult to find over time, but in 2014 Kodansha Comics released the entire series digitally. In addition to earning multiple awards and honors over the course of its publication, Mushishi was also the basis for multiple anime adaptations and a live-action film (most of which are available digitally if not physically in North America), as well as a variety of other media.

The first Mushishi anime series, directed by Hiroshi Nagahama, aired in Japan in 2005 and 2006. At twenty-six episodes, it only adapted a portion of the original manga. (Granted, the manga hadn’t yet been completed at that point.) Since I love the Mushishi manga, it probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that I love the anime as well. Although the first Mushishi anime adaptation isn’t necessarily my favorite series, or even the anime that means the most to me personally, it is the series that I’ve seen the most number of times; I return to it frequently. Eventually, nearly a decade after the first Mushishi anime series, an animated television special was released which was followed a few months later by a second anime series. This twenty-episode series, also directed Nagahama, aired in Japan between 2014 and 2015 and adapted most of the remaining stories found in the manga. (A second animated television special was released during this time as well.) Despite the number of years that passed between the first and the second anime series, they are both very similar in tone and style. Nagahama also directed the Mushishi animated film released in 2015 which adapted the manga’s final story arc. Since I loved both the original manga and the first anime series, I was very happy to see so much more Mushishi anime produced.

MushishiAnime2-17The various Mushishi anime are very faithful adaptations of the manga. Frequently the scenes in the anime follow the scenes in the manga frame by frame and panel by panel, though occasionally the order that events appear in the narrative is slightly altered. Where the anime distinguish themselves is in their color and sound, especially in the establishment of the backgrounds and settings. Urushibara’s color artwork is lovely, but except for the covers of the individual manga volumes, very few examples of it officially appeared in North America. (I imported Urushibara’s 2015 Mushishi artbook which is filled with color illustrations and I adore it.) The anime bring the world of Mushishi to life. While the actual animation can at times be fairly simple and limited, the environments are always absolutely gorgeous and beautiful in their detail. The sound design in the anime adaptations is great, too, adding spectacularly to the overall atmosphere. The music by Toshio Masuda (which I’m constantly listening to) makes extensive use of bells, chimes, and other percussion along with unobtrusive synthesized and acoustic instruments, creating a beautiful soundtrack that is in turns ethereal and dramatic. Much like the original, the Mushishi anime creates an experience that can be calming and soothing as well as unsettling and disturbing.

MushishiMovieUrushibara’s manga series was also the inspiration for Katsuhiro Otomo’s award-winning 2006 live-action film Mushishi. For the most part the film was received very well both inside and outside of Japan. Though overall it’s palette tends to be darker and more subdued than the anime adaptations, the visuals can be quite stunning; the special effects hold up surprisingly well even a decade after it was first released. I actually only very recently watched Otomo’s Mushishi for the first time. From the standpoint of someone who is very familiar with the original manga and its anime adaptations, the live-action movie is somewhat disorienting and perhaps even shocking. Though it begins much as one would expect, it ultimately deviates a fair amount from its source material even to the point of changing some of the underpinning mythologies and characterizations of the original. It’s clear that Urushibara’s manga provides the basis for the movie, but many details have been reimagined or remixed in some way. The narrative is still interesting, though. Otomo successfully weaves together several stories from the manga series and makes references to many others before taking the film in an entirely new and different direction. While the original Mushishi tends to be episodic, Otomo’s film is self-contained and provides a single cohesive story. In part this is accomplished placing a significant focus on Ginko’s past and what it means for his present and future, providing a framework for the film as a whole. Instead of simply wandering the countryside helping other people, Ginko has the additional motivation of trying to solve the mystery of who he really is and to reclaim his missing memories.

MushishiLiveActionWhile I would consider the Mushishi manga and anime to be horror, albeit fairly subtle and subdued horror, the film is much more obviously so. Many of the underlying elements are the same, but the film focuses more directly on the aspects of traditional, supernatural horror. However, this does mean some of the more nuanced themes found in the manga and anime are missing. Otomo’s film is a much darker incarnation of Mushishi. The movie, especially towards its end, is incredibly creepy and extraordinarily disconcerting in both imagery and story. It’s so different in tone and narrative that it might actually be better described as a portrayal of an alternate universe of Mushishi rather than being a strict adaptation. It certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, especially if viewers are expecting something more akin to the gentler (though still disquieting) anime adaptations, but I actually quite liked the movie. For me though, it’s really more of a horror film before it’s a Mushishi film. Still, I feel that the live-action film, the anime adaptations, and the original manga are all well worth checking out and are all fascinating in their own rights. And of course, although unlikely, I’d love to see more Mushishi media and merchandise released in North America.

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Mechademia, Volume 10: World Renewal

Mechademia, Volume 10: World RenewalEditor: Frenchy Lunning
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
ISBN: 9780816699155
Released: November 2015

Mechademia, one of the few academic journal’s in English specifically devoted to the study of manga and anime, began publication in 2006. Since then, under the editorial guidance of Frenchy Lunning, a new thematic volume has been released every year and the journal has grown to include research and analysis of other areas of Japanese popular culture, such as film, television, games, novels, and fandom. I’ve previously read individual articles published in Mechademia, and even own several of the volumes, but I’ve never actually read one of the annuals from cover to cover until now; I had the happy opportunity to receive a review copy of Mechademia, Volume 10: World Renewal from University of Minnesota Press. It’s an aptly themed volume, signalling the end of one era and ushering a in a new one for the journal—World Renewal, released in 2015, is the last volume with Lunning serving as editor-in-chief.

After Lunning’s acknowledgements and introduction, World Renewal is divided into four main sections which collect articles, essays, stories, and even a short manga. The first part of the volume, Passages of As Not, uses the March 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster as a touchstone. Akira Mizuta Lippit’s “Between Disaster, Medium 3.11” examines the experience of disaster, time, and space through Koreda Hirokazu’s film After Life. Similarly, “The Land of Hope: Planetary Cartographies of Fukushima, 2012” by Christophe Thouny uses Sion Sono’s film The Land of Hope to discuss fictionalized portrayals of disaster and changing landscapes. Sabu Kohso’s “Tokyo Apparatus (Version 1.0)” looks beyond the Tōhoku disaster towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The section concludes with a translation of Tomoyuki Hoshino’s “Good Morning: A Postdisaster Palm-of-the-Hand Story” which I was particularly happy to see as I find Hoshino’s works in general to be especially powerful.

While as a whole I found World Renewal to be interesting and rewarding, the second section, Positions of What If, dealing with alternate histories, presents, and futures, was perhaps my personal favorite. I especially liked Andrea Horbinski’s “Record of Dying Days: The Alternate History of Ōoku” which explores one of Fumi Yoshinaga’s most tremendous manga series. Susan W. Furukawa’s “Deconstructing the Taikō: The Problem of Hideyoshi as Postwar Business Model” is a fascinating analysis of the various interpretations of Hideyoshi Toyotomi in Japanese popular culture of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. (Eiji Yoshikawa’s Taiko from the 1940s is also mentioned in passing.) Matthew Penny presents a fictional essay outlining a future history of Japan based on the ideals of the political far right in “A Nation Restored: The Utopian Future of Japan’s Far Right” which was a remarkably effective technique. I was also extraordinarily pleased to discover that Moto Hagio’s short manga “Nanohana” was included in this section as well.

World Renewal continues with the third part, Worlds of As If, which collects three case studies investigating possible emerging worlds through an examination of evolving methods of creation, experience, and engagement. Satomi Saito uses Sword Art Online, Vampire Hunter D, and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya as examples of the varying and changing approaches used in the development of cross-media franchises in “Beyond the Horizon of the Possible Worlds: A Historical Overview of Japanese Media Franchises.” Sandra Annet’s “What Can a Vocaloid Do? The Kyara as Body without Organs” in part focuses on how fans use, reuse, and reimagine official characters and narratives to create their own media. The third section closes with “A World Without Pain: Therapeutic Robots and the Analgesic Imagination” by Steven R. Anderson which discusses Oriza Hirata’s dramatic play Sayonara and Katsuhiro Otomo’s Roujin Z anime among other works.

The final and fourth section of World Renewal, Loops of Just Then, largely deals with parallel narratives, worlds, and temporal loops. In “The Girl at the End of Time: Temporality, (P)remediation, and Narrative Freedom in Puella Magi Madoka Magica,” Forest Greenwood compares the anime’s narrative structure to those that are commonly used in visual novels. Pamela Gossin delves into the complexities and connections between Hayao Miyazaki’s life and work in “Animated Nature: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Empathy in Miyazaki Hayao’s Ecophilosophy.” The Higurashi franchise forms a platform for Brett Hack’s examination of Japanese news coverage and media commentary on youth violence in “Ominous Image of Youth: Worlds, Identities, and Violence in Japanese News Media and When They Cry.” Finally, World Renewal concludes with “Parallel Universes, Vertical Worlds, and the Nation as Palimpsest in Murakami Ryū’s The World Five Minutes from Now” by Kendall Heitzman, an analysis of Murakami’s dystopic alternate history novel which I would love to one day read in translation.

Overall, I found World Renewal to be a thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating volume. Some of the essays can be fairly dense—this especially seemed to be true of those included in the first section—so the volume is difficult to recommend to a casual reader in its entirety, but there are also essays that are more readily accessible. For most people, picking and choosing among the various submissions according to their own particular interests will likely be the most satisfying approach to take. Personally, while I enjoyed reading about some of my own favorite series and creators in World Renewal, I greatly appreciated the analysis of works that I was less familiar with. In fact, my curiosity has been piqued and I’m much more interested in experiencing first hand some of the media examined in World Renewal that I had previously passed over or was unaware of. I also particularly liked the thematic nature of the volume which allows for a wide variety of material to be explored while still retaining some focus and cohesiveness. World Renewal understandably tends towards the academic which will at times prove challenging for a general audience, but the topics and material discussed are fascinating and many of the ideas expressed are quite interesting.

Thank you to University of Minnesota Press for providing a copy of Mechademia, Volume 10 for review

My Week in Manga: May 26-June 1, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week was a slower week at Experiments in Manga, which is just as well because I spent a long weekend with my family in Ohio for my youngest sister’s high school graduation. I was pretty busy with things there, but I was still able to post a few things here. The most recent manga giveaway, for example. There are still a couple of days left to enter for a chance to win Oishinbo, A la Carte: Japanese Cuisine, too. All you have to do is tell me a little about your favorite food manga (if you have one). May’s Bookshelf Overload was also posted. Interestingly enough, I think I actually bought more comics last month  than manga. (I largely blame TCAF for that.) As for reviews, I took a look at Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Volume 5: Char & Sayla. Char happens to be one of my favorite Gundam characters, so it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that this volume is one of my favorites in the series thus far.

There were a few things that I found to read online last week that were particularly interesting, too: Manga Therapy is writing and hosting a series of posts for Mental Health Month, including Lauren Orsini’s article about Mushishi as a metaphor for mental illness. FanboyNation had an interview with Tokyopop. Brigid Alverson interviewed Akira Himekawa for Comic Book Resources. And finally, Revealing and Concealing Identities: Cross-Dressing in Anime and Manga, Part 3 was posted at The Lobster Dance. I’m sure there were plenty of other interesting articles and new to be found last week, but as I mentioned I was rather occupied with traveling, helping out at home, and visiting with family. If I missed anything major, please do let me know!

Quick Takes

Fujosports!Fujosports! by Various. The most recent anthology from the Love Love Hill collective, Fujosports! collects six sports-themed comics with a female-gaze. These aren’t necessarily the sports you might be expecting, though: logging competitions, roller derby, free-form rollerblading, Turkish oil wrestling, field hockey, and competitive dodge-ball. All of the stories tend to be generally upbeat and optimistic, but the artists’ styles are distinct. As might be expected from the “fujo” in the title, the anthology includes a bit of bromance and boys’ love potential, but there’s some girls’ love, too, and plenty of general team bonding. Each comic is followed by a short freetalk by the creators, which is a very nice addition and makes the stories even more personable Fujosports! is a cute, sweet, and humorous collection. Every contribution in the anthology left me with I huge grin on my face, or at least a smile. Simply put, Fujosports! is a lot of fun; I’m really glad that I picked it up.

Gangsta, Volume 2Gangsta, Volume 2 by Kohske. I enjoyed the first volume of Gangsta so much that I immediately went out and preordered the second. The series is quickly becoming one of my favorite manga currently being released. Gangsta has plenty of action in addition to a wide range of interesting characters (both women and men, young and old), many of whom have dark, tragic pasts. More characters are introduced in the second volume, some of them even manage to survive to the end of it, and the larger, overarching plot continues to develop. The Three Laws binding the Twilights (should they actually choose to follow them) are directly lifted from Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, nearly word-for-word. While this certainly emphasizes the inhuman characteristics of the Twilights, I did find it to be an odd choice. Still, the Three Laws provide excellent narrative frameworks for robot and android stories, so I’m willing to reserve my judgement and wait to see how Kohske uses them Gangsta.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Volume 1The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Volumes 1-2 by Akira Himekawa. After meeting Akira Himekawa at TCAF, I realized that although I was familiar with some of their work, I hadn’t actually read much of their manga. Granted, only The Legend of Zelda has been licensed for print release in English so far. I actually happen to be a fan of the Zelda video games, so I wasn’t surprised that I’m enjoying the manga series, too. Ocarina of Time was the game which inspired Himekawa to pursue The Legend of Zelda manga. The Ocarina of Time manga is accessible even to those who haven’t played the game, but those who have will be able to appreciate the nods to the original more. The manga follows the same basic plot as the video game, though Himekawa adds a few touches of their own. The Ocarina of Time manga is definitely an adventure story aimed at younger readers, there’s more action than there is nuanced character or plot development, but it’s fun.

K-20: The Fiend with Twenty FacesK-20: The Fiend with Twenty Faces directed by Shimako Satō. K-20 is a live-action film based on the novels of Soh Kitamura (which sadly haven’t been translated into English) which were in turn inspired by the works and characters of Edogawa Rampo, specifically his famous detective Akechi Kogorō and his nemesis “Twenty Faces.” Akechi’s young assistant Kobayashi also has a role to play. It was because of this Rampo connection that I decided to watch the film in the first place, but even those unfamiliar with the references will be able to enjoy the movie. Packed with action and stunts, a little bit of romance, a great cast, and a large dose of humor, K-20 was extremely entertaining. The film is set in the late 1940s in an alternate history in which the Second World War was never fought but in which a strict hierarchical class structure is enforced. The story follows Endo Heikichi, an acrobat who is arrested for being the master thief K-20 after being set up, and his attempts to prove his innocence, basically by becoming as skilled as K-20 himself.