My Week in Manga: October 27-November 2, 2014

My News and Reviews

October is finally over, and I somehow managed to survive! I’ve been extremely busy at work which bled over into the rest of my life and has interfered with a lot of things that I would otherwise rather be doing. I’m really hoping that my stress levels and schedule settle down a bit in November, but my immediate supervisor is retiring in December and I’ll be taking on some more responsibilities in my unit (at least temporarily), so we’ll see how that goes! Anyway, I was somehow able to keep on top of my posts here at Experiments in Manga. The most recent manga giveaway is currently in progress and there’s still time to enter for a chance to win Sherlock Bones, Volume 1. Since this past Friday was Hallowe’en, I decided it would be appropriate to review Junji Ito’s manga Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror. It’s been deservedly called a masterpiece, and the deluxe omnibus edition is especially nice. And over the weekend, I posted October’s Bookshelf Overload for those of you interested in what made it onto my bookshelves last month. I’m sure there was plenty of interesting reading to be found online, but I’m afraid I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to pay much attention recently. Let me know if I missed something particularly good!

Quick Takes

Angel Sanctuary, Volume 1Angel Sanctuary, Volumes 1-5 by Kaori Yuki. It’s pretty clear after reading the first few volumes of Angel Sanctuary that this manga is going to be epic, for better or for worse. Angel Sanctuary has a huge cast (most with multiple names and multiple identities) and easily enough material for several completely different and unrelated series. So much is crammed into the early volumes that I’m afraid that Yuki might be trying to do too much at once with the manga. Though he is initially unaware of it, Setsuna is the reincarnation of the angel Alexiel, fated to suffer for her past deeds life after life. This causes significant problems for him—other angels and demons are searching for Alexiel,  some to reawaken her soul and some to completely destroy her. But even more problematic is Setsuna’s incestuous love for his younger sister Sara. So far the story is somewhat confusing and difficult to follow, albeit with moments of brilliance. However, I do consistently enjoy Yuki’s gothic artwork, tragic melodrama, and gender play. Many of Yuki’s angels also happen to be sexist assholes, completely capable of murder, deception, and greed, which is certainly an interesting take on the celestial beings.

The Flowers of Evil, Volume 10The Flowers of Evil, Volumes 10-11 by Shuzo Oshimi. Several years have passed since the incident in Kasuga’s hometown and his tumultuous relationship with Nakamura. The time has now come for him to face everything that he has done in his past and to confront how his actions have affected the people in his life—his family, his former classmates, his girlfriend, and most importantly himself. Up until now, he has been unable to move on with his life. His past, though he tries to hide it or run away from it, still defines who he is. The finale of The Flowers of Evil is a very effective exploration of personal identity and responsibility. Oshimi’s artwork, while never awful, has improved tremendously since the beginning of the series. This is particularly important for the last two volumes of The Flowers of Evil since large portions of the manga are completely without dialogue or narration; the art must be strong enough to carry the story entirely on its own, and it succeeds in that. The Flowers of Evil is a surprising series, ending with a very different tone and in a very different place than where it first began. It was quite a journey and it was worth every page.

Free!: Eternal SummerFree!: Eternal Summer directed by Hiroko Utsumi. I rather enjoyed the first season of Free! and was pleasantly surprised to discover that in addition to its goofiness the anime series actually had some substance to it. And so I was looking forward to watching its second season, Eternal Summer. A lot of the humor and drama in the second season comes from the introduction of several new characters. It was a little strange to have best friends suddenly appear when I’m pretty sure they weren’t even hinted at in the first season, but I ended up really liking the additions to the cast. Although most of the characters see some development, most striking is how much Rin has changed from the first season. His anger and angst is mostly gone and he’s become fairly chill, although he’s still very passionate about swimming. It’s a passion that he shares with the other swimmers in the anime, but each has his own approach and way of expressing it. They really don’t always make the best, wisest, or most mature decisions, though. (Not that I would expect that teenagers would.) Driving the narrative of Eternal Summer is the characters’ struggles and searches for their dreams and futures. The season provided a very satisfying conclusion to Free!.

My Week in Manga: April 28-May 4, 2014

My News and Reviews

I was in Texas for much of last week, attending a conference for work, but I was still able post a few things here at Experiments in Manga. The most recent manga giveaway is underway, for one. This month you all have a chance to win the first omnibus of Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist. All you have to do is tell me a little about some of your favorite women mangaka. April’s Bookshelf Overload was also posted; there were all sorts of great releases last month. And finally, the first in-depth manga review of May goes to the very recently released Vinland Saga, Omnibus 3 by Makoto Yukimura. Vinland Saga is one of my favorite series currently being published in English. The entire series is epic and third omnibus is awesome.

Because I was traveling and caught up in conference goings-on, I may have missed some news. (If there’s something that caught your interest last week, do let me know!) However, I did come across a few things that made for good reading. I particularly enjoyed Tony Yao’s post at Manga Therapy, The Ambiguously Amazing Hange Zoe which discusses things like Attack on Titan, gender, and ambiguity. I recently reviewed Jen Lee Quick’s Off*Beat, Volume 2 in preparation for the release of the third and final volume. The series’ editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl offers some Editorial Thoughts on the End of Off*Beat, one of Chromatic Press’ flagship titles. RocketNews24 offers a list of the twenty most popular manga in Japan, based on publication numbers. Justin Stroman interviews Eric Eberhardt (Viz Media’s Director of Digital Publishing) about Viz’s new digital imprint VIZ Select.

And for those of you in the Toronto area next week and weekend, do be sure to check out the Toronto Comic Arts Festival! There will be some phenomenal programming and incredible creators in attendance (including Moyoco Anno, Est Em, and Akira Himekawa among many, many more), and it’s free! TCAF is the only comic festival/conference that I go to and I highly, highly recommend it.

Quick Takes

Constellations in My PalmConstellations in My Palm written by Chisako Sakuragi and illustrated by Yukine Honami. I happen to really enjoy Honami’s artwork—a somewhat softer style with light but expressive lines—so I’ve slowly been getting around to reading the various boys’ love manga that she’s worked on. As far as I know, Constellations in My Palm is the only manga that Sakuragi has written. It’s a fairly realistic romance and tends to be somewhat quiet and subdued. It’s narrated by Mizuho, a college student, whose younger cousin Enji moves in with his family as he is about to start college, too. When they were younger they were very close, but it’s been seven years since they’ve been in contact with or seen each other. Mizuho and Enji both care about each other, but their relationship has become awkward and strained. Constellations in My Palm has some wonderful moments in it, but I was largely frustrated by the manga. So much of the story is driven by misunderstandings, and many of them aren’t even the result of miss-communication. Generally, it’s Mizuho who’s the culprit—even when he’s told something straight to his face, repeatedly, he simply can’t or chooses not to believe it. As Mizuho has some self-esteem issues this does fit his character, but it doesn’t make it any less exasperating.

The Flowers of Evil, Volume 7The Flowers of Evil, Volumes 7-9 by Shuzo Oshimi. I’ve been waiting for the entirety of the third arc of The Flowers of Evil to be released before reading it. I’m glad that I did, because once I started I didn’t want to put the manga down. After the resolution of the incident at the summer festival, there is a timeskip of three years. Kasuga and his family have moved to a different town in order to start over, but he is still haunted by his past. His relationship with his parents is broken and almost nonexistent. His new classmates tolerate him, but he remains distant and disconnected (and understandably so). But then he meets and, despite his weirdness and strange behavior, is befriended by Tokiwa—a popular and attractive girl whom all of the boys have a crush on. Like Kasuga, she’s hiding parts of herself from others, too. On the surface, the third arc is almost tame when compared to what came before it, but it is still extremely effective. It has a very different sort of intensity than the previous arcs. The story has become more subtle but retains a constant undercurrent of dread. Even when good things happen it seems as though they could only possibly be a prelude to some sort of disaster. The Flowers of Evil is an incredibly engaging series and just keeps getting better and better.

Say I Love You, Volume 1Say I Love You, Volume 1 by Kanae Hazuki. I didn’t really know much about Say I Love You before reading the first volume; I was vaguely aware of the series because of its recent anime adaptation (which I haven’t seen yet), but that’s about it. There’s not really much of a “hook” per se in Say I Love You. The characters are fairly normal. The story isn’t particularly unusual. The the two leads are Mei Tachibana—who although she avoids making friends is very aware of others and their feelings—and Yamato Kurosawa—whose popularity stems from his good looks but who otherwise is extremely average. So far the manga is simply about a group of teenagers living out their high school years. This includes all of the cliques and the bullying, the stress caused by interpersonal relationships, the self-consciousness and the issues of self-esteem. But that realism is probably the series’ strength. Say I Love You has some humorous moments, but I wouldn’t really describe it as a comedy at this point since in general Hazuki takes a more serious approach with the series. I’m actually very curious to see how Mei and Yamato’s relationship continues to develop, as well as how the relationships between the other characters evolve as well.

Wolfsmund, Volume 3Wolfsmund, Volumes 3-4 by Mitsuhisa Kuji. At first Wolfsmund seemed to me as though it was going to be an episodic series, but with the third and fourth volumes the manga has focused in on an overarching narrative. However, the bleakness and brutality that has been present from the very start of Wolfsmund remains constant. These volumes see the beginning of the Swiss rebellion against the Austrian occupation and all of the violence and death that entails, including the incredible siege of the Wolf’s Maw at Sankt Gotthard Pass. The uprising has been in the planning stages for quite some time, but now the rebels finally have the opportunity to take action. 14th-century warfare is not pretty. There are very good reasons why attacking an overtaking a fortress are difficult tasks to accomplish—they are built to withstand assault and are designed to allow defenders to wreak havoc on invading forces and to cause tremendous amounts of damage. The rebels must face skilled soldiers, traps, fire, molten lead, boiling water, and more. And on top of that Wolfram, the bailiff of the Wolf’s Maw, is a vicious and sadistic leader who is not above torture. In fact, he seems to delight in it. Wolfsmund continues to be a dark and intense manga that is definitely meant for maturer audiences.

My Week in Manga: November 4-November 10, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week I announced the winner of the Sankarea manga giveaway. The post also includes a list of zombie manga that has been licensed in English, for those who might be interested. Considering the recent popularity of zombies, I was actually a little surprised to discover there weren’t more. I also posted two reviews last week. The first was for Makoto Kobayashi’s What’s Michael, Book Two, a fantastic cat manga sent to me by a Manga Bookshelf reader for review. My second review from last week was for Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician by Shinmon Aoki, which was the inspiration for Yōjirō Takita’s award-winning film Departures.

And now for a few things that I’ve come across online over the last couple of weeks. Crunchyroll Manga is now up and running. Deb Aoki wrote a good article about it for Publishers Weekly—Kodansha, Crunchyroll Talk Global ‘Simulpub’ Manga . At A Case Suitable for Treatment, Sean took a quick look at the manga series currently being offered through the platform—Kodansha and Crunchyroll Partnership: What Are We Getting?. Mostly unrelated, Kodansha posted on its Tumblr account a great summary of why some manga may never be licensed in North America, even if it’s really good. Rob Vollmar’s essay for World Literature Today “Dark Side of the Manga: Tezuka Osamu’s Dark Period” is actually from last year, but was recently brought to my attention again. And finally, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund focused on Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints (which I think is one of the best comics to be released this year) as part of its Using Graphic Novels in Education column.

Quick Takes

Animal Land, Volume 5Animal Land, Volumes 5-8 by Makoto Raiku. It took a few volumes for Animal Land to really grow on me, but now that it has I find that I quite like the series. The occasional focus on scatological humor feels a bit out-of-place to me, though it seems to have become less common as the series progresses. The artwork in Animal Land is a little strange—a combination of realism and anthropomorphism—but generally engaging. The characters, particularly Taroza, are very likeable. I have enjoyed watching him grow up. A newborn at the beginning of the series, by the end of the eighth volume he has become a young man who has had to face the hard truths about his idealism. Taroza wants to put an end to the cycle of killing and eating, but to do so will require him to throw all of Animal Land into turmoil. He is not the only one who has an interest in shifting the power dynamics of the world—four other humans have made themselves known and have their own ideas about how things should be. I was a little surprised to see a bit of science fiction and time travel work its way into Animal Land, but I am very curious to see how things continue to develop.

Battle Vixens, Volume 1Battle Vixens, Volume 1 by Yuji Shiozaki. Supposedly, Battle Vixens (aka Ikki Tousen) is somehow based on, or at least inspired by the classic Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Had I not known this going into the series, I’m not sure I really would have picked it up from reading the first volume. As far as I can tell, the references are barely there. (Which reminds me, I really do need to get around to finishing Romance of the Three Kingdoms.) What is readily apparent from the first page of the manga is that the English title, Battle Vixens was aptly chosen. The series is all about the fights and the fan service. There might be some sort of plot, too, but after only one volume I am still incredibly confused as to what is actually supposed to be going on. Basically there’s this girl, Hakufu Sonsaku, with a sizable chest and the penchant for getting into brawls. Towards what end? I am unsure. She simply seems predisposed to violence and having her clothes ripped off of her in the process. For a series based on fights the action unfortunately tends to be somewhat difficult to follow, but some of the panels have great composition.

Watamote, Volume 1No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Volume 1 by Nico Tanigawa. Okay, I’m just going to refer to this series by its Japanese abbreviation WataMote because I can never seem to remember the title in its entirety. (Plus, it’s really long.) WataMote is simultaneously one of the most funny and depressing manga that I’ve read recently. The story follows Tomoko Kuroki, an extraordinarily awkward and socially inept young woman who has just started high school. Most of her “life experience” has come from reading manga and playing video games, which may explain why she has difficulty interacting with her classmates. They mostly just ignore her or at least tolerate her existence. Occasionally she tries to be more than the weirdo in the corner, but it doesn’t often turn out well for her. I care about Tomoko and find her to be a sympathetic character which is why her trials and errors, though humorous, can also be a bit painful to watch. WataMote isn’t exactly mean-spirited, but it’s not particularly pleasant either. Her interactions with her younger brother are fantastically awkward (granted, all of Tomoko’s relationships are awkward), but there are some glimpses of familial love, too.

Flowers of EvilFlowers of Evil directed by Hiroshi Nagahama. Based on the manga series by Shuzo Oshimi, the Flowers of Evil anime series is a phenomenal adaptation. It’s one of the rare cases where I might actually prefer the anime over the original manga. That being said, the anime is definitely not a series that everyone will be able to enjoy. First of all, the pacing is excruciatingly slow. It worked for me and I think it creates marvelous tension, but someone who needs a bit more action and forward movement from their anime will be very frustrated. Not much actually happens from episode to episode; the focus is more on the inner turmoil and crises of the characters. The animation also relies heavily on rotoscoping techniques, resulting in a style that doesn’t personally bother me, but I know plenty of people who can’t stand it. I think it was suitable for Flowers of Evil, creating a slightly disconcerting and surreal mood that fits the unsettling atmosphere and darker nature of the series. The use of music and silence in the series is also quite remarkable. The twisted triangle of a relationship between Kasuga, Nakamura, and Saeki is intense. The Flowers of Evil anime captures it perfectly using art film-like sensibilities.

My Week in Manga: July 22-July 28, 2013

My News and Reviews

I recently watched and enjoyed Kids on the Slope which inspired me to learn more about jazz in Japan. To that end, I decided to read one of the very few books on the subject, Jazz Journeys to Japan: The Heart Within by jazz writer and journalist William Minor. It’s part travelogue and part music criticism and history. Personally, I found Minor’s writing style to be annoying, but the information was great. Last week I also posted the most recent Library Love feature, which is now back on its regular bimonthly schedule.

Deb Aoki, the former editor of, has launched a new website of her own—Manga Comics Manga. She’s already posted some great content, including the list of manga from the Best & Worst Manga panel at the San Diego Comic-Con and the accompanying audio. Last week I mentioned some of the news from SDCC that I was particularly interested in, but Brigid Alverson has a nice roundup of most of the manga news from SDCC at MTV Geek and at A Case Suitable for Treatment Sean Gaffney takes a closer look at the licenses that were announced.

A few more interesting items that I’ve recently come across online: Toh EnJoe was interviewed at SFFWorld. Special attention is given to Self-Reference Engine, which remains one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. Also, the winners of the Silent Manga Audition competition have been announced and the winning entries have all been made available for download. Later this week, the Boys’ Love Manga Moveable will begin! Khursten of Otaku Champloo will be hosting and has already posted a couple of great giveaways: We want new webcomics! and Name your kinks.

Quick Takes

Flowers of Evil, Volumes 4-6 by Shuzo Oshimi. I have no idea where Oshimi is going with Flowers of Evil but the series seems to be getting better and better. Kasuga has changed considerably from who he was at the beginning of the manga. Nakamura has forced him to realize things about himself that he had tried to keep hidden or that he wasn’t aware of to begin with. And then there’s Saeki, who he once idolized but who isn’t the embodiment of purity he thought or wanted her to be. The relationship between the three is a dangerous and twisted triangle of love, power, and submission. Flowers of Evil is intense. It’s dark. It’s perverted. I’m looking forward to the next arc a great deal.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volume 11 by Naoko Takeuchi. The eleventh and penultimate volume of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon is the beginning of the final major story arc in the series. After an all too brief time of peace, the Sailor Guardians once again must face a powerful enemy. And this time the entire galaxy may be at stake. The last volume I read of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon was actually the fourth one, but I was still able to fall into the story of the eleventh fairly easily. I love how Takeuchi plays around with gender roles and expectations in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. The series continues to be frantically paced and occasionally difficult to follow, but its mix of silliness and seriousness is charming. I can understand why the manga is so well loved.

Yokai’s Hunger by Bohra Naono. I really wanted to like Yokai’s Hunger, and there were parts of it that I did enjoy, but for the most part the manga frustrated me. In particular, the legends and mythologies in this boys’ love one-shot were a complete mess. Koma is described as a tengu, but he’s depicted as a dog spirit rather than the usual avian-inspired yokai. Later the manga tries to merge Mesopotamian myths with the story; it doesn’t end up working very well. I didn’t realize when I first picked up Yokai’s Hunger that it was largely a comedy. The humorous moments in the manga are certainly much more successful than those attempting to be more serious. Yokai’s Hunger was actually quite funny in places.

Dear Brother, Episodes 21-39 directed by Osamu Dezaki. The second half of the Dear Brother anime adaptation picks up the pace from the first and I found myself consistently engaged. There is so much drama in the Dear Brother and it’s marvelous (even when it’s not particularly believable.) The story unfolds within the social dynamics of Seiran Academy and within the personal lives of the students. What happens at the academy pales in comparison to the tragedies outside of it. Some of the plot twists seem to come out of nowhere and some of the revelations are shocking, but it makes for an absorbing tale. The very last scene is a bit of a cop-out, but otherwise I found the ending of the series to be satisfying. I really enjoyed Dear Brother.

My Week in Manga: October 22-October 28, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Vampire Manga Moveable Feast. As part of my contribution, I reviewed Vampire Hunter D, Volume 1—Saiko Takaki’s manga adaptation of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s novel of the same name. I still haven’t read the original Vampire Hunter D novels, but the manga adaptation of the series is starting to grow on me. Keeping with the vampire theme, I also reviewed Hideyuki Kikuchi’s vampire novel Yashakiden: The Demon Princess, Volume 3. There are parts of Yashakiden that I really enjoy but there are just as many parts that frustrate me immensely. Since there are only two more volumes in the English release, and I’ve already come this far, I’ll probably end up finishing the series at some point. Completely unrelated to vampires, but because it’s a graphic novel I wanted to mention it here: Over at my other blog, Experiments in Reading, I’ve posted a review of Mark Siegel’s Sailor Twain: Or, The Mermaid on the Hudson, which I quite enjoyed.

Quick Takes

Apocalypse Zero, Volumes 1-6 by Takayuki Yamaguchi. Unfortunately, only six of the eleven volumes of Apocalypse Zero were released in English. I can’t say that I’m surprised and I don’t expect that the license will ever be rescued—the series will appeal only to those with a strong constitution and who aren’t offended easily. It’s extremely graphic, bloody and violent. The imagery is deliberately repulsive, gloriously grotesque, and highly sexualized. Honestly, I feel a little dirty admitting that I loved Apocalypse Zero in all of its outrageousness, but I did. Yamaguchi does make use of a lot of standard tropes and cliches, but he takes them to such ridiculous, over-the-top extremes that they are almost unrecognizable.

Bunny Drop, Volumes 5-6 by Yumi Unita. With a ten year time skip, Bunny Drop has become an entirely different series. It’s not bad, but it has lost much of charm that made the first four volumes stand out. However, the character interactions are still great. The “new” Bunny Drop probably wouldn’t be a series that I would follow had I not already been invested its characters. It seems to have turned into a pretty typical high school drama. I did enjoy seeing the kids all grown up though, Rin and Kouki especially. Unfortunately, Daikichi, who has always been my favorite, has almost become a secondary character in these volumes (although, a very important one). I do still like Unita’s artwork and plan on finishing the last few volumes in the series.

The Drops of God: New World written by Tadashi Agi and illustrated by Shu Okimoto. It’s sad to say, but New World may very well be the last volume of The Drops of God to be published in English. At the request of the author, this omnibus (collecting volumes 22 and 23 of the original release) jumps ahead in the story to a point which features New World wines. As Shizuku heads to Australia and Issei heads to America in search of the seventh apostle, they both manage to get into some serious trouble. The plot might be a little ridiculous at times, but I still find The Drops of God to be entertaining and informative. Who knew the world of wine could be so dangerous?

The Flowers of Evil, Volumes 2-3 by Shuzo Oshimi. I really thought that I was through with middle school dramas, but then I started reading The Flowers of Evil. The series is exceedingly dark and ominous. I have a hard time looking away as the events unfold. I have no idea where Oshimi is going with this series and I’m almost afraid to find out. It’s intense, to say the least. The characters in The Flowers of Evil are so incredibly messed up. Even those who at first appear “normal” have some serious issues; it’s hard to tell what’s really going on in their heads. Kasuga is caught in this agonizing relationship between Saeki, the girl he idolizes, and Nakamura, the girl who torments him but from whom he can’t seem to break away.

Tonight’s Take-Out Night! by Akira Minazuki. A collection of three boys’ love stories, Tonight’s Take-Out Night is the first manga that I’ve read by Minazuki. While I enjoyed the stories, the high-contrast art style is what really caught my attention. The stories are short, so the development of the couples’ relationships has to happen fairly quickly. However, Minazuki’s characterizations are strong enough that they carry the stories fairly well. I liked the pairings and I liked their relationships which were mostly free of non-consensual elements. The first and third story are both good-natured and a little quirky. But the second story, with it’s period setting and supernatural twist, was my personal favorite.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Volumes 1-6 produced by Studio APPP. Technically, the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure anime adaptation is two series. The last six episodes were released between 1993 and 1994 while the first seven were released between 2000 and 2002. I do prefer the manga over the anime, but the OVA series is an excellent adaptation. The anime strips the story down to it’s core. The humor and the horror elements of the original tend to be downplayed; the anime focuses mostly on the action and battles. This does mean that some of my favorite moments from the manga were cut, but all of the fights that are particularly important to plot and character development are included. No matter what the medium, I love JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.