My Week in Manga: September 12-September 18, 2011

My News and Reviews

I’m pretty happy with my posts from last week. The first was the first in-depth manga review for September, Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Parasyte, Volume 1. I really like Parasyte and highly recommend it; I find it to be an engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking manga. You can find my quick take for the entire series from last year here. My second post last week was also manga related—Finding Manga: Akadot Retail. It’s part of a recurring feature here at Experiments in Manga where I focus and give suggestions on places to find and buy manga. If you don’t want to take the time to read the entire thing, just jump down to the bottom of the post and you’ll find some quick tips. Anyway, that’s it for now! I promise next week to start pointing out some interesting online reading again. I’ve gotten out of the habit of doing that.

Quick Takes

Black Lagoon, Volumes 6-9 by Rei Hiroe. With the publication of the ninth volume, the English edition has caught up with the Japanese releases. These four volumes include the longest story arc in Black Lagoon to date, “El Baile de la muerte,” which lasts for nearly three and a half volumes. I really enjoyed the first five books of Black Lagoon, but I found that this story arc tried my patience. The characters can never just come out and say what they’re trying to say, hiding everything in metaphors. I still like the manga, though. My favorite characters are the crew of the Black Lagoon. While they play an important role in this arc, they really aren’t seen that much which rather disappointed me. I want more Rock!

Bloody Monday, Volume 1 written by Ryou Ryumon and illustrated by Kouji Megumi. I really wanted to like Bloody Monday, but the first volume just didn’t work for me. It might be because I’m familiar with some of the capabilities of modern technology, but the bad guys come across as kind of stupid when they’re taken by surprise by what Takagi can do. (They’re like, “It cannot be!” while I’m like, “Well, duh.”) And they’re supposed to be the masterminds behind some nefarious plot. Even that plan isn’t clear yet, although it probably has to do with causing the deaths of a lot of people. But why, and who is involved, has still yet to be revealed. The creators also work in some inexplicable panty and cleavage shots without even really trying to make the fanservice a legitimate part of the story.

A Bride’s Story, Volume 1 by Kaoru Mori. The first thing I noticed about A Bride’s Story was its art. Each panel is stunning in the amount of detail that Mori puts into it. And unlike some artists I’ve seen, the detail feels natural and isn’t overwhelming. It’s simply the way it should be. Mori’s ability to tell a story with art alone is also impressive; many scenes have little or no dialogue at all. I am enjoying getting to know the Eihon family along with Amir, who has just married into the group. She’s considered an old bride at the age of twenty. With gorgeous artwork and gorgeous storytelling, I’m really looking forward to reading more of A Bride’s Story. Additionally, Yen Press’ hardcover releases are beautiful.

Cruel to Be Kind by Guilt | Pleasure. Guilt | Pleasure is Jo Chen’s boys’ love circle. Cruel to Be Kind is a companion volume to the web-novel of the same name (which can be read here). This yaoi dōjinshi collects the illustrations for the web-novel (some, but not all, of which are available to view online), an illustrated side story (which I actually like better than the primary story, although it doesn’t make as much sense without it), a sketch journal from the original incarnation of Cruel to Be Kind which is very different from the current version, a brief interview with the creators, and a few guest illustrations. The printing is of very high quality and, of course, Chen’s artwork is, too.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Season 1, Part 2 (Episodes 17-28) directed by Seiji Mizushima. If an anime series makes me want to cry when one of the character dies, it must be doing something right. The plot and characters in Fullmetal Alchemist continue to develop nicely as new twists and characters are introduced. I’m particularly fond of Sheska, once a clerk at the First Branch of the state library but now an indispensable member of the military’s intelligence division and an absolute bookworm. The already established characters also have some fine moments, Maes Hughes in particular, and more is revealed about Roy Mustang’s motivations. The Elric brothers, too, continue to grow.

My Week in Manga: August 29-September 4, 2011

My News and Reviews

So, I had a bit of an ordeal yesterday. I went on a canoe trip with a small group of people. We were having a great time until we somehow lost the river and ended up in the middle of a cedar bog. We have no idea how that happened or where we were. We ended up being lost in the wetlands for a good four hours where we weren’t so much canoeing as hauling ourselves and boats through extremely difficult terrain. And I was barefoot. And there was a rainstorm. And there was muck that we would sink into up to our thighs. And being northern Michigan it was on the cool side. Fortunately, there weren’t any mosquitoes. But I did bring home a pet leech. Understandably, I’m extremely tired and sore; my feet and legs are an absolute mess and my back hates me. But we did manage to make it out alive and home without having to be rescued. So, what does this have to do with manga? Absolutely nothing. But if I die from gangrene later on and can’t continue this blog, you’ll have a pretty good idea why.

Anyway, back to manga. Last week was one of the expected slow weeks at Experiments in Manga. I posted the August 2011 Bookshelf Overload. Since Borders is going out of business my manga buying habits will have to change significantly. Also, don’t forget about the Joy of Josei giveaway. The winner of a brand new copy of Yumi Unita’s Bunny Drop, Volume 1 will be selected and announced on Wednesday. As always, the contest is open world-wide, so please enter!

Quick Takes

Crown Royale: A Boys’ Love Fairy Tale Anthology by Various. I am so glad I picked up a copy of Crown Royale when it first came out in 2010. Only 250 copies were printed, profits going to the GLBT National Help Center, and they are long gone. And it is a fantastic collection. Crown Royale is an original-English anthology that takes its cue from Japanese dōjinshi. It collects eight comics and three pinups inspired by a variety of fairy tales that have been given a comedic boys’ love twist ranging from quirky, to goofy, to sarcastic. It’s a lot of fun and I highly recommend picking up Crown Royale if you ever see it. I absolutely loved the anthology. (Side note: The cover is much prettier with details in gold foil, my scanner is just crappy.)

Detroit Metal City, Volumes 1-4 by Kiminori Wakasugi. Soichi Negishi, a timid hipster wannabe with dreams of becoming a popstar instead finds himself the lead singer and guitarist for the much more successful evil-core death metal group Detroit Metal City. He tries to keep his alter ego, Johannes Krauser II, a secret when he’s not on stage. Detroit Metal City is an incredibly vulgar manga and I was highly entertained for the first volume or so. For me, Detroit Metal City is probably best in small doses. After reading four volumes straight, I wasn’t convinced that Wakasugi was going anywhere with the story and the humor was dependent on slight variations of the same jokes. They were funny, even hilarious, the first few times, but frankly I was actually starting to get a little bored.

Dojin Work, Volumes 1-4 by Hiroyuki. Dojin Work (man, it makes me cringe that the title’s not transliterated properly) is a four-panel manga focusing on a small group of dōjinshi creators, many of which specialize in hentai manga. Najimi’s mostly in it for the money, although she comes to enjoy the work; unfortunately she’s terrible at drawing. But that doesn’t stop her from gaining some fans. Her friends are much more successful and less concerned with profit. It’s such a delightfully dirty, dirty manga with near constant sexual innuendos and gags. I probably won’t need to read Dojin Work again (technically there were two more volumes released in Japanese), but I was greatly amused by the series.

Dororo, Volumes 1-3 by Osamu Tezuka. Every time I read a work by Osamu Tezuka, I am always struck by what a skilled storyteller he is. This was my first time to read Dororo but I liked it so well that I have a feeling I’ll be coming back to it again. It has a great story with likeable characters, plenty of demons, and exciting sword fights. Tezuka’s art style tends toward the cartoonish, but he still manages to pull off some genuinely creepy imagery. Hyakkimaru travels the countryside hunting demons in order to earn back the body his father sacrificed to them, in the process gaining the companionship of a young thief named Dororo. Dororo was originally published by Vertical in three volumes but there will be an omnibus edition released in 2012. Buy it!

Fullmetal Alchemist: Season 1, Part 1 (Episodes 1-16) directed by Seiji Mizushima. I really enjoy Fullmetal Alchemist. I haven’t read the manga series yet to know how it compares, but I hear it’s pretty great, too. What I like about the anime is that there are so many layers going on. There’s the Elric brothers’ personal journey, the clash between science and religion, the debate about what science should be used for and the perils associated with it, as well as a few things that haven’t been fully revealed yet. I like just about every character introduced. Although Alphonse does seem awfully mature for how old he is supposed to be, I appreciate his relationship with his brother.