My Week in Manga: September 29-October 5, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga there were three posts in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. To start with, the winner of the Triton of the Sea manga giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English that feature mermaids and/or mermen. Next was my review of Ryo Suzukaze’s novel Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, which is a prequel to Hajime Isayama’s original Attack on Titan manga series. I liked the premise of the novel much more than I did its execution, but it should still be pretty interesting for Attack on Titan fans. And finally, over the weekend, September’s Bookshelf Overload was posted. As for other interesting things online…I’ve been so busy at work lately that I’ve not really been able to keep up with all that’s going on. However, I do know that Seven Seas is currently in the process of revealing seven new licenses via Twitter. I’m pretty sure that Sean will be doing a wrap-up at A Case Suitable for Treatment soon which I’ll link to, but in the meantime you can always check out Seven Seas’ Twitter timeline. (There have been some really interesting choices so far!)

Quick Takes

My Little Monster, Volume 3My Little Monster, Volume 3 by Robico. I have been thoroughly enjoying My Little Monster and its cast of rather quirky characters. However, the third volume doesn’t seem to really move the plot along much, nor does it really develop the characters further. If anything, the series has lost its forward momentum and undoes some of the progress that has been made. After the various confessions of love from the previous volumes, Haru and Shizuku spend most of the third going through it all again. Shizuku has once more decided that she doesn’t have time for friendships or romantic relationships and wants to focus on her studies. Haru is fitting in a little better at school and is actually able to put the fact that everyone except Shizuku is terrified of him to good use, although he’s still fairly volatile and his behavior and obliviousness of others occasionally causes some real problems. So overall, not much has really changed in My Little Monster except that a few more hints have been dropped about Haru’s brother, whom I’m very curious about. I’m still enjoying the series and find its deadpan humor amusing, but I do hope to see more plot and character development in future volumes.

The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 3The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 3 by Nakaba Suzuki. As can be safely assumed from the cover, the third volume of The Seven Deadly Sins heavily features the newly introduced Ban, the Fox Sin of Greed. I’m okay with this because, well, I actually like Ban as a character. Despite being one of the Seven Deadly Sins and therefore being one of the series’ heroes (or at least one of its protagonists), Ban’s really not that nice of a guy. Frankly, he’s an unapologetic jerk (with a very nice set of abs and a fondness for alcohol, though he really can’t hold his drink). But, like the other Sins, Ban has a tragic past to go along with his arrogant personality. He’s also kind of a goofball. One of the things that I particularly enjoy about The Seven Deadly Sins is the ridiculously overpowered battles between the ridiculously overpowered characters. The action can sometimes be a little difficult to follow, but the resulting destruction is quite obvious. I’m also rather impressed by how well Suzuki visually handles Diane, the giantess of the Seven Deadly Sins. She’s huge, but her presence always seems very natural on the page and Suzuki does a nice job of incorporating her into the artwork.

The Shadow HeroThe Shadow Hero written by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Sonny Liew. Initially I wasn’t planning on picking up The Shadow Hero, most likely because I’m generally not that interested in superheroes. Fortunately I realized that was a very silly reason not to read the comic, especially considering that Yang is a fantastic writer and I really like Liew’s artwork and use of color. Long story short, I absolutely loved The Shadow Hero. The story of The Shadow Hero was inspired by an obscure superhero from the 1940s called the Green Turtle which was created by Chu Hing, one of the first Asian Americans to work in American comics. (The volume also contains a reproduction of the first Green Turtle comic, which was a nice addition.) The Shadow Hero serves as the Green Turtle’s origin story. Hank Chu is the son of a Chinatown grocer who looks forward to taking over his father’s store. His mother, however, has much bigger plans for her son and has decided that he will become a superhero, despite the complete lack of any superpowers. With a great story and great art, and plenty of humor to balance the more serious aspects of the comic, The Shadow Hero is definitely recommended.

Sleeping Moon, Volume 1Sleeping Moon, Volumes 1-2 by Kano Miyamoto. I tend to really enjoy Miyamoto’s work, so I was pretty excited when SuBLime licensed her short boys’ love series Sleeping Moon. I was particularly looking forward to it due to its supernatural elements, but in the end I didn’t find it as compelling as some of her other manga which are more firmly based in reality. Part of that is probably because much of the romantic relationship between two of the leads felt as though it was tacked on simply because the series was supposed to be boys’ love. Still, there were parts of Sleeping Moon that I enjoyed, and Miyamoto’s artwork is as lovely as ever. Akihiko’s family is cursed—the male heirs all die young, never making it past their thirties. And since his thirtieth birthday is fast approaching, Akihiko has a vested interest in discovering the truth behind the curse in order to prevent his own death and the death of his cousin. And that’s when the time slips begin—Akihiko finds himself spontaneously traveling to the Meiji era where one of his distant relatives is trying to unravel the same mystery. The moody supernatural and horror elements work better than the manga’s romance and the time traveling is handled quite well, too.

My Week in Manga: September 16-September 22, 2013

My News and Reviews

Well, I somehow managed to post three reviews last week. This is a little unusual for me as normally I only have one or two ready to go. The first review was for Hinoki Kino’s No. 6, Volume 2. The pacing, characterization, and world-building improves on the first volume, which I was very glad to see. (I’m really hoping that the manga will have a better ending than the anime.) The second review was for Yoshiyuki Tomino’s Mobile Suit Gundam: Awakening, Escalation, Confrontation, an omnibus of a trilogy of early Gundam novels—the first part of the Gundam franchise to be officially released in English. (To be honest, though, I much prefer Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s manga series Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin.) I also reviewed Sherlock Bones, Volume 1 by Yuma Ando and Yuki Sato. I was very skeptical going into the series, but found the first volume of the manga to be surprisingly entertaining.

As for a few interesting things found online: Comic Natalie has announced the winners of its first annual manga awards. If you don’t read Japanese and can’t identify manga by their covers, Vertical compiled a list of the winners currently avilable in English (in addition to posting a hint for an as of yet unannounced Vertical license.) As reported by the Business Standard, Viz Media is apparently entering the market in India—Top Manga publisher set to make India entry. And if the relationship between Kodansha Comics, Del Rey/Del Rey Manga, and Random House has you confused, Kodansha posted a brief explanation/clarification of the situation on its Tumblr account.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan, Volume 7Attack on Titan, Volume 7 by Hajime Isayama. The terror in Attack on Titan has started to shift. At the beginning of the series the fear was much more about the unknown—the titans were these terrifying creatures beyond comprehension. But now the fear is coming from the knowledge that other humans may very well have a hand in what is happening. There have been plenty of deaths in Attack on Titan, but when those deaths involve characters who you’ve gotten a chance to know instead of just being nameless faces, suddenly the casualties carry even more weight. It makes the terror, frustration, and utter despair experienced by the characters even more palpable. Attack on Titan is dark, and it has been from the start, but the developments in the seventh volume pack quite a punch. I’ve had my doubts about the series in the past, and the artwork is still terribly inconsistent and occasionally difficult to follow, but I am hooked on it.

BoxersBoxers & Saints written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang, colors by Lark Pien. Boxers & Saints is easily one of the best comics that I’ve read this year. The two graphic novels that make up the duology can be read separately, but together they are even more powerful. The work is a retelling of the Boxer Rebellion—a violent uprising against foreign and Christian influence in northern China that took place at the turn of the 20th century. Boxers follows the life of a young man who becomes one of the leaders of the rebellion while Saints shows the conflict from the perspective of a young Chinese woman who converted to Christianity. Although very different in their details and narrative style, the two volumes follow a similar story arc as the characters come of age and find something to believe in, but are then challenged by those beliefs and conflicted over their decisions and actions. The Boxer Rebellion was a complicated and tragic event for both sides of the dispute. Boxers & Saints is a fictional account, but Yang put in a tremendous amount of research into the work. Highly, highly recommended.

Genshiken: Second Season, Volume 1Genshiken: Second Season, Volumes 1-3 by Shimoku Kio. The Genshiken has turned into a fujoshi club. This doesn’t really bother me (I also enjoy BL and yaoi), but to an extent I do miss the greater variety of otaku that were represented in the original series. Still, even the fujoshi have their quirks and differences—the Genshiken has always attracted weirdos. And then there’s the cross-dressing Hato-kun, who for me is really stealing the show in the second season of Genshiken. The only male first-year to join the club, he’s created a very complete and convincing female persona. I find him to be the most interesting new character in the new series and he seems to be the focal point for much of the drama. I’m also particularly enjoying Yajima’s character development. She is uncomfortable with Hato’s cross-dressing but becomes very protective of him. As for the older characters, I was very happy to see Madarame return as he remains one of my favorites. Put him and Hato together in a scene and it’s just perfect.

Library Wars, Volume 9Library Wars: Love & War, Volumes 9-10 by Kiiro Yumi. Perhaps it’s because I’m a librarian, but I can’t help but be fond of Library Wars even when it’s not always the strongest series. Sometimes the characters and their interactions are fantastic, and sometimes it seems as if they’re all acting like a bunch of high school students when they’re supposed to be mature, capable adults. Granted, there are some delightfully awkward scenes now that Iku has come to the realization that Dojo is her “prince.” He’s known for quite a while, but he doesn’t know that she knows, yet. It’s all rather amusing. I am very glad that Iku seems to be more competent now than she was at the beginning of the series. I don’t care how enthusiastic a person is, if they don’t have the needed skills for the job there’s not much hope for them. Library Wars is a fantasy, but it actually does address some real issues encountered in the library world. Censorship is the biggest one and at the core of the series, but things like sexual harassment and dealing with inappropriate patron behavior come up, too.

Totally Peeking Under the Sheets, Volume 1Totally Peeking Under the Sheets, Volumes 1-2 by Hajin Yoo. Totally Peeking Under the Sheets is a collection of side stories relating to Yoo’s boys’ love manwha Totally Captivated. It’s definitely intended for those who have read and enjoyed the original series. The first volume contains quite a few short manhwa, some of them only a few pages long. Many of these stories emphasize the more humorous aspects of Totally Captivated and its characters. And as might be expected from the title Totally Peeking Under the Sheets, several stories are also rather racy—what little plot there is is used to get Ewon and Mookyul into bed with each other. (Not that that’s very difficult.) The focus of the second volume is a much longer sequel manhwa called “The Final Chapter.” Although there were some great character moments, the story felt forced to me. Ewon suddenly has to deal with his family, particularly the mother who abandoned him. I’m not sure the situation would have really played out in the way that Yoo presents it. Overall, I much preferred the first volume.

Fist of the North Star, Collection 2Fist of the North Star: The TV Series, Volume 2 (Episodes 37-72) directed by Toyoo Ashida. While the first collection of the Fist of the North Star anime series had quite a bit of filler, the second collection starts to really dig into the plot and characters. The series is much better for it. Plus, the anime has now reached a point in the story beyond the manga that was released in English. Some of the fights do still get to be a little repetitive, especially when the protagonists face off against large groups of unnamed bad guys and minions, but there’s always something about each battle that makes it stand out from the rest. The best fights, though, are those that occur between two martial arts masters. But Fist of the North Star isn’t just about power, skill, and strength (although that’s certainly an important part of it). The series is also about destiny, loyalty, friendship, and love. Kenshiro is a tragic hero who continues to lose those who are close to him. Fist of the North Star is a post-apocalyptic martial arts epic, and I’m loving it.