My Week in Manga: July 25-July 31, 2016

My News and Reviews

A new review was posted at Experiments in Manga last week! The final review in my (at one point monthly) horror manga review project delves into Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare, Volume 10. I have mixed feelings about the series’ conclusion, but overall there was a lot that I really liked about the manga as a whole. I’m not exactly sure what my next in-depth feature will be (I have a few different ideas for it), but I do plan on writing a brief wrap-up for the horror manga review project. I’m also working on the post for Experiment in Manga’s (sixth!) anniversary which will be coming up later this month.

Also posted last week was Experiments in Manga’s most recent giveaway which offers a chance to win two Sparkler Monthly paperbacks, ebooks, or audio dramas of your choosing. The last few days of the giveaway coincides with the last few days of the Sparkler Monthly Year 4 Kickstarter. The winner of the giveaway will be announced on Wednesday, but the fate of Sparkler Monthly will be determined on Tuesday. There was a surge of support for the campaign over the weekend, but it still has a little ways to go if it’s going to succeed. I wrote a little bit on Twitter about the importance of Sparkler Monthly to me personally and in general; please consider contributing to the campaign in some way if you are at all able and haven’t already!

Speaking of Kickstarters, Czap Books recently launched a campaign to support it’s 2017 Collection. Last year Czap Books released the first volume of Laura Knetzger’s Bug Boys which I adored, and the books in the 2017 Collection all look as though they should be fantastic, too. Other interesting things found online last week include Deb Aoki’s writeup on manga at SDCC 2016 for Publishers Weekly. Audio recordings of some of the panels at SDCC are now available as well. (As are audio ecordings from TCAF 2016; I don’t remember if I previously mentioned those.) I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, but The OSAG introduced the first episode of Translator Tea Time, a podcast featuring two professional manga translators. Also last week, Yen Press slipped in a license announcement for Miyuki Nakayama’s Spirits & Cat Ears and Canno’s A Kiss and White Lily for Her.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail: Ice Trail, Volume 2Fairy Tail: Ice Trail, Volume 2 by Yuusuke Shirato. When I first started reading Ice Trail, a spinoff of Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail which follows Gray Fullbuster before he joins the guild, I had assumed that it would be a somewhat longer series. Gray is probably one of the most popular characters in Fairy Tail, but Ice Trail ends up only being two volumes long. It’s a fun and even cute series that introduces some original characters in addition to incorporating, either directly or indirectly, cast members from Fairy Tail. Readers already familiar with Fairy Tail will probably get the most out of Ice Trail, but the series doesn’t require much previous knowledge of the original story and characters to follow what is going on. The second volume concludes Gray’s search for the Fairy Tail guild, having heard that it was home to a number of great wizards. As Gray journeys to Magnolia, he more or less unintentionally forms a three-person adventure party with another boy named Pauz, a wizard whose magic is based on books and paper (a type of magic which unsurprisingly I loved) and the young thief Doronbo, who was probably my favorite character out of the entire mini-series. Although initially their relationships were somewhat antagonistic, by the end of Ice Trail the three have become close friends, keeping with the tradition and themes of Fairy Tail as a whole.

Genshiken: Second Season, Volume 7Genshiken: Second Season, Volumes 7-8 by Shimoku Kio. It’s admittedly been a little while since I’ve read the original Genshiken manga, but there do seem to be quite a few parallels between the two series. Granted, Second Season is probably much closer to being a continuation of Genshiken proper rather than an entirely separate series. One similarity that particularly struck me reading these two volumes is that both Genshiken and Second Season start as series about otaku and their hobbies but soon evolve into series that’s more about the relationships between the members of the club and inevitably romance. At this point in Second Season, Hato is coming to terms with his feelings for Madarame and is beginning to dress as a woman more frequently. (Just how closely those two things are related to each other is debatable.) As Hato starts making the moves on Madarame, the rest of Madarame’s real-life harem is thrown into turmoil. And of course everyone on the sidelines has their own pairings that they’re rooting for, treating it almost like a game which creates even more drama. Madarame himself isn’t really sure what to do with the situation and has his own conflicted feelings to work out. I won’t lie—I like Hato and Madarame together, so I’m very curious to see where this is all heading.

A Redtail's DreamA Redtail’s Dream by Minna Sundberg. I don’t remember exactly when the webcomic A Redtail’s Dream was first recommended to me, but never got around to reading it until now. Which is a complete and utter shame. I had actually forgotten about it but recently came across it again while looking for a different comic entirely. The collected edition of A Redtail’s Dream includes the entire series in a single, massive volume along with additional bonus content, commentary, and cultural notes not found online. A Redtail’s Dream is an absolutely gorgeous comic. Drawn over the course of two years, each chapter is illustrated using a different color palette and the results are simply beautiful. The comic is strongly influenced by Finnish mythology (Sundberg was born in Sweden, but was raised and lives in Finland), but familiarity with those stories and legends is not at all necessary to appreciate and enjoy Sundberg’s epic. A Redtail’s Dream follows Hannu and his beloved dog Ville who are given the responsibility of rescuing the souls of their friends, family, and neighbors when a young spirit fox accidentally causes their village to slip into a dream realm which is dangerously close the land of the dead. Hannu is actually fairly antisocial, so it’s interesting (and amusing) to see him crankily take on the role of the hero when he’d much rather just be left alone.

Seven StoriesSeven Stories by Hiroshi Mori. Outside of Japan, Mori is probably best known as the creator of The Sky Crawlers, which was adapted as an anime film directed by Mamoru Oshii in 2008, and his debut novel The Perfect Insider, which was even more recently adapted as an eleven-episode anime series. Inside of Japan, Mori is an extremely prolific, well-known, and popular author. (Apparently, Mori also wrote the novelization of Moto Hagio’s Heart of Thomas, which I didn’t even know existed; I’d love to read that.) It wasn’t until recently that any of Mori’s writing was translated into English, thanks to the efforts of Breakthrough Bandwagon Books. As can be safely assumed by the title, Seven Stories collects seven of Mori’s short works, some of which are representative of his earliest short stories and most of which can be generally categorized as mysteries with some interesting twists: “The Girl Who Was the Little Bird,” “A Pair of Hearts,” “I’m In Debt to Akiko,” “Silent Prayer In Empty,” “Kappa,” “The Rooftop Ornament of Stone Ratha,” and “Which Is the Witch?” (The last two stories are actually from Mori’s S&M series which is a continuation of sorts of The Perfect Insider.) The collection also includes an essay by the editor and translator, providing additional background information and context for the stories which I greatly appreciated. The translation tends to be more literal and academic than literary, but the dry humor present in some of the stories still comes through quite well.

My Week in Manga: April 6-April 12, 2015

My News and Reviews

I posted two reviews last week at Experiments in Manga that featured some of Kodansha Comics’ newest series: Masayuki Ishikawa’s Maria the Virgin Witch, Volume 1, released back in February, and Naoshi Arakawa’s Your Lie in April, Volume 1, which will be released later this month. The main reason I picked up Maria the Virgin Witch was because Ishikawa was the creator of Moyasimon. I really wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, but now I’m very interested in reading the rest of the series. Your Lie in April caught my attention because it’s a music manga. It has the potential to become rather melodramatic, but I did enjoy the first volume and plan on reading more.

Last week also saw the release of Gamon Sakurai’s Ajin: Demi-Human, Volume 4 from Vertical. I’m actually quoted on the back cover, a blurb taken from my review of the first volume. This is all very exciting, although my legacy will now probably be that of an ignorant reviewer who spouts nonsense about production values and the quality of paper. Although I thought it looked nice, it turns out Ajin is actually printed on one of the cheaper, thinner stocks used by Vertical. Anyway. Lesson learned! I also discovered that a much more flattering quote of mine from a quick take last year was used for the final volume of Tetsuya Tsutsui’s Prophecy, except that it was credited to Manga Bookshelf. So it goes!

Elsewhere online, Lori of Manga Xanadu has recently been putting together some interesting lists of manga. A few weeks ago she featured sewing and fashion manga and last week focused on manga which include books with great power. Organization of Anti-Social Geniuses posted the transcription of the panel with Abigail Blackman on manga editing, lettering, and Japanese nuance. from the Castle Point Anime Con. Geeks OUT! has an exclusive interview with Jiraiya (one of the creators featured in the Massive gay manga anthology) from his recent North American tour. And Zero Comprehension has a brief guide to the official releases of the Golgo 13 manga in English.

In licensing-ish news, Digital Manga has launched another Tezuka Kickstarter for Clockwork Apple and is making plans for its next yaoi Kickstarter. Unrelated, there’s also a Kickstarter project for an original-English boys’ love anthology that looks quite good—Boy, I Love You. Viz Media has licensed the Yo-Kai Watch manga series for its Perfect Square imprint. I don’t often mention anime licenses, but I was very excited to learn that Discotek Media will be releasing Library Wars and Dororo. Finally, Sparkler Monthly has added the reboot of Jennifer Doyle’s excellent webcomic Knights-Errant. (Also, the most recent Sparkler Podcast talks about josei manga and the differences between the Japanese manga industry and the North American comics industry, among other topics.)

Quick Takes

Genshiken: Second Season, Volume 4Genshiken: Second Season, Volumes 4-6 by Shimoku Kio. For some reason, I don’t find the second season of Genshiken to be as engaging as the original manga series. I haven’t quite been able to identify why yet, though I suspect it may be because most of the newer characters haven’t seen much development in the recent volumes and the characters from the first “season” feel like they’re invading the new series. I think Genshiken works best for me with an ensemble cast. While there are still plenty of characters in the manga as well as regular plot tangents, lately the story has primarily focused on just a few. Admittedly, the two characters who are getting the most attention, namely Madarame and Hato, happen to be my favorites in the series. Hato in particular is marvelous. He’s going through some significant personal turmoil over his cross-dressing and love of boys’ love, which has a tremendous impact on the rest of the story and characters. And apparently just about everyone is in love with Madarame. But as interesting as the increasingly convoluted relationships in the series are, at this point what I really want is to know more about the other club members.

Last Man, Volume 1: The StrangerLast Man, Volume 1: The Stranger by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville, and Balak. Despite France being one of the world powerhouses of comics creation, relatively few French comics have been translated into English, especially when compared to the number of manga available. Last Man, which is in part inspired and heavily influenced by shōnen battle manga, has been very well received in France. And now, thanks to First Second, it’s available in English. (I believe Last Man may actually the first comic in translation that has been released by First Second.) Adrian is a young boy who has been training hard for his first fighting tournament, but when his teammate gets sick, it looks like he won’t be able to compete. Enter Richard, the titular stranger and a physically imposing man, who also needs a partner in order to compete. They make a peculiar pair: Adrian hasn’t quite mastered the magic and special techniques of his martial style, and Richard relies completely on his fists and strength. He also doesn’t appear to actually know the rules of the tournament, which poses a bit of a problem. So far, Last Man is delightfully engaging; I’m really looking forward to reading more of the series.

Missing RoadMissing Road by Shushushu Sakurai. Before quietly disappearing, DramaQueen released two final manga by Sakurai, Junk! and Missing Road. What particularly caught my attention about these two manga was the fact that they were science fiction—a genre that I’ve rarely seen in translated boys’ love manga. Missing Road specifically was described as “an epic sci-fi adventure of love, loss, and redemption.” Sadly, although some of Sakurai’s ideas certainly had great potential and I did like the setting, Missing Road doesn’t quite live up to that promise. The manga would have been more successful from a narrative standpoint if Sakurai could have expanded the story over the course of multiple volumes. As it is, she tries to cover too much ground in a single installment and many of the manga’s elements feel underdeveloped or truncated as a result. There are important close and intimate relationships, but Missing Road isn’t really a love story and is instead more about brutal war and revenge. Most of the sex is of a violent nature and rape occurs on several different occasions. The English-language edition was actually censored (with permission from Sakurai) for fear of United States child pornography laws.

Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Omnibus 3Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Omnibus 3 by CLAMP. With this omnibus, I have entered into territory that I previously didn’t have the opportunity to read before Tsubasa originally went out-of-print in English. At this point, I’m still enjoying the series. It’s not always the most emotionally compelling manga (although admittedly it can sometimes be heart-wrenching), but Tsubasa is definitely a solid adventure tale. The manga’s premise allows CLAMP to very creative and develop world after world, each one different from the ones preceding and following it and each with its own challenges and dangers to be faced. Nods to other CLAMP manga and characters are still prevalent, and I assume this will likely be true for the entire series. This particular omnibus prominently features RG Veda, which I haven’t actually read, so I probably don’t appreciate the references as much as someone who has. It looks like the alternate version of Seishirō from Tokyo Babylon and X will be an important antagonist in Tsubasa as well. The series Tsubasa most directly crosses over with is xxxHolic. This connection actually works very well for Tsubasa, but I find it somewhat distracting when reading xxxHolic.

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.

My Week in Manga: April 1-April 7, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week was one of the slower weeks at Experiments in Manga. I announced the winner of the historical manga giveaway and took the opportunity to ramble on a bit about historical manga as well. I also posted the Bookshelf Overload for March, if you’re interested in seeing the embarrassing amounts of manga and such that I managed to acquire over the month. The honor of the first in-depth manga review for April goes to Baku Yumemakura and Jiro Taniguchi’s The Summit of the Gods, Volume 2. It’s a fantastic series with stunning artwork. It looks like the fourth and penultimate volume might be released in English this year; I’m really looking forward to it.

I believe I’ve mentioned in the past my love for Jen Lee Quick’s Off*Beat. The first two volumes were originally published by Tokyopop and the series was sadly never completed. Happily, the newly established Chromatic Press is bringing Off*Beat back into print and fans will finally see the third and final volume published. A pre-order Kickstarter has been launched for the new Chromatic Press editions, which include bonus material. Any extra funds raised will be going towards the launch of Sparkler Monthly, Chromatic Press’ digital anthology, and Jen Lee Quick will get a nice bonus, too.

I’m starting to really take notice of PictureBox and its planned manga releases. For starters, The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame is one of my most anticipated English manga releases of the year (it should be out later this month.) The publisher also recently confirmed that in addition to its new “Ten-Cent Manga” line, it will also start a “Masters of Alternative Manga” series. I’m very interested in seeing how PictureBox’s manga plans continue to develop.

As for other good stuff online: The newest of Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga columns, which is always worth a read, features Shin Mashiba’s Nightmare Inspector: Yumekui Kenbun. (I quite like the series and wrote a little about it myself a while back—Random Musings: Nightmare Inspector.) The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has a short documentary that’s well worth watching—Defending Manga: The Ryan Matheson Story. Over at Good E-Reader, Brigid Alverson posted an insightful interview with Ed Chavez on Vertical’s Digital Manga Strategy. And finally, the call for participation for April’s Manga Moveable Feast has been posted! The Feast, held from April 20 through 26, will feature Kaori Yuki and her work. The Beautiful World will be hosting for the first time.

Quick Takes

20th Century Boys, Volumes 17-19 by Naoki Urasawa. The series is nearing it’s conclusion, but that’s okay: 20th Century Boys is starting to feel rather drawn out. I’ll admit that I am still enjoying it, though. Urasawa employs a really interesting narrative technique in 20th Century Boys that I haven’t seen used very often. The manga has its cast of main characters, but the series frequently follows their story indirectly by following the secondary characters instead. The plot is often seen from their perspective. This can be a little messy at times though since it introduces even more characters that readers need to keep track of and 20th Century Boys is fairly complicated to begin with.

Boy Princess, Volumes 1-5 by Seyoung Kim. When the princess elopes with a stable boy two days before a crucial arranged marriage between two kingdoms the youngest prince is disguised and sent in her place. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take long for the switch to be discovered. Boy Princess starts out as a comedy but at the point where I stopped reading it seems to be veering off towards something more tragic. Personally, I think the series works best when it’s being a little silly. Boy Princess has a nice fantasy setting with a good if often confusing attempt at court intrigue. Kim’s artwork is unfortunately uneven, but improves immensely as the series progresses. Some panels are frankly gorgeous and the costume designs are consistently lovely.

Genshiken, Omnibus 3 (equivalent to Volumes 7-9) by Shimoku Kio. When I wasn’t paying close attention, Genshiken naturally developed into a full-fledged otaku love story. And it’s absolutely wonderful. Much of this third and final omnibus is devoted to Ogiue, her backstory and self-hatred, and her changing relationships with the other members of the Genshiken. There are plenty of serious and touching moments, but the humor and goofiness of the series are still there, too. I’ll admit, I’ve grown rather fond of the characters in Genshiken and all of their quirkiness; I think we’d probably get along pretty well in real life. I’ve really enjoyed this series and look forward to continuing it with Genshiken: Second Season.

I Kill Giants written by Joe Kelly and illustrated by J. M. Ken Niimura. Last year, I Kill Giants became the first comic from the United States to win the International Manga Award. With bullies at school and problems at home, Barbara is going through some very difficult times. A bit of misfit and an outsider, her fantasies give her a way to escape some very harsh realities. It’s easier to hunt and kill giants than it is to face the truth, but some things in life simply can’t be stopped or ignored. Niimura’s art and Kelly’s writing are great and mix Barbara’s fantasies together with her reality in very effective ways. Her confrontation and showdown with the Titan in particular is phenomenal. At times dark and disconcerting, I Kill Giants is a very powerful and personal work.

Blue Submarine No. 6 directed by Mahiro Maeda. Discotek announced earlier this year that it had rescued the license for Blue Submarine No. 6 (originally released by Bandai), so I was curious. The four-episode OVA adapts a manga by Satoru Ozawa from 1967. The series is a bit confusing and rushed in places, and almost none of the characters were as well developed as I wanted them to be, but it pulls itself together pretty nicely in the end. I particularly liked the series’ post-apocalyptic ocean setting. Despite the occasionally awkward computer graphics, there were still some very nice visuals and great character designs. I enjoyed Blue Submarine No. 6 well enough, but it’s not a series that I’ll need to own.

Shigurui: Death Frenzy directed by Hiroshi Hamasaki. Based on a manga by Takayuki Yamaguchi, which in turn adapts a novel by Norio Nanjō, Shigurui is an extremely brutal, graphic, and violent series. Nearly all of the characters are detestable and their actions are appalling. The series definitely isn’t for everyone and will offend many. To say it’s intense is to put it mildly. After the first episode, most of the anime is a long flashback; unfortunately, the bloody tale of power and revenge never quite comes full circle. Visually, the series is very distinctive in its style with creepy motifs and merciless fight scenes. I found Shigurui to be incredibly absorbing and even compelling. It’s been a while since an anime has left such a profound impression on me.

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

My News and Reviews

Last week the Blue Exorcist Giveaway Winner was announced. The post also includes a pretty great list of some favorite manga that was read in 2012 by those who entered the giveaway. I also managed to post two reviews last week. The first was for Yaya Sakuragi’s boys’ love manga Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 2. Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love isn’t my favorite Sakuragi manga, but I’m still amused and entertained by it. I also reviewed Isuna Hasekura’s Spice & Wolf, Volume 7: Side Colors, a collection of three side stories to the main series. It’s not essential reading, but still a nice addition to the series for fans of Spice & Wolf.

In other news, I finished reading Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima by Naoki Inose and Hiroaki Sato. (The book is enormous, so I consider it to be an accomplishment.) I’m planning on posting an in-depth review of Persona next week, but I wanted to mention a section included in the biography called “A Paean to Manga” which briefly explores Mishima’s thoughts and opinions on manga. Mishima actually really like manga. He wasn’t a fan of Shirato Sanpei, but he loved Hirata Hiroshi (which I previously knew) and Akatsuka Fujio and liked Mizuki Shigeru’s yokai stories. He is quoted as saying, “Compared with American comics, Japanese graphic tales are a shade more grim and dark both in eroticism and cruelty. To make up for it, though, they are avant-garde in nonsense.”I thought this was interesting and wanted to share.

Elsewhere, some very exciting developments in comics publishing were revealed last week! Kuriousity interviewed Jen Lee Quick, creator of Off*Beat (among other things) which I really enjoy. The first two volumes of Off*Beat were published by Tokyopop, but the series was left unfinished. Happily, Quick was able to get the rights to her work back. The series will be reprinted, and completed, by the newly established Chromatic Press. For more information about Chromatic Press, check out Brigid Alverson’s exclusive at MTV Geek—Chromatic Press Launches New Manga Magazine, Brings Back Off*Beat. I’m very excited about Chromatic Press and what its trying to do.

A couple more more manga publishing developments that I wanted to mention. At Good E-Reader, Brigid Alverson looks at Gen Manga’s plans for the year—GEN Manga Offers Free E-Books, Prepares to Launch Korean Comics Magazine. And on Twitter, Vertical mentioned in passing that its Keiko Takemiya licenses will be expiring this summer. This means that Andromeda Stories and To Terra… will be going out of print. I’m a huge fan of Takemiya’s work. To Terra… in particular is a fantastic space opera and is definitely worth picking up before it disappears.

Quick Takes

Eyeshield 21, Volumes 1-7 written by Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. Despite watching every single football game in high school and college (I was in the marching band), I’ve never really been a fan of American football. I picked up Eyeshield 21 mainly because it is illustrated by Murata who many of the artists I follow admire. Sena, a rather timid high school first year, has developed impressive running skills, mostly as a way to flee from bullies. But this also makes him an ideal candidate for the running back of the Deimon Devil Bats, his school’s football club. Eyeshield 21 turned out to be a surprisingly fun, entertaining, and slightly ridiculous series. And yes, Murata’s artwork is great.

Genshiken, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 4-6) by Shimoku Kio. I’m continuing to enjoy this otaku slice-of-life series. After nearly burning down one of the university’s buildings at the end of the last omnibus, this volume finds the Genshiken club homeless and assigned to community service as penance. New characters and proclivities are introduced which creates some conflict within the group. I love that most of the Genshiken members are completely comfortable with themselves as otaku. They might occasionally be embarrassed, but they aren’t ashamed. There is one notable exception: Ogiue claims to hate all otaku although she is one herself, but she seems to be coming around. I also am greatly amused by how often porn comes up as part the group’s discussions.

Samurai Legend written by Kan Furuyama and illustrated by by Jiro Taniguchi. Yagyū Jūbei is a famous swordsman who was active during the Tokugawa era in Japan. Although there are few confirmed facts about his life, he has become a popular legendary figure. Samurai Legend is more than two decades old now, but it’s still a great historical one-shot. It was actually the first historical manga on which Taniguchi worked as an artist. His efforts paid off—the manga is filled with dynamic action sequences and believable battles. The characters don’t need superpowers to have amazing and impressive martial skill. Taniguchi also deliberately strives to be as historically accurate as possible in Samurai Legend.

Sweet Revolution written by Serubo Suzuki and illustrated by Yukine Honami. Tatsuki and Ohta are two transfer students who aren’t nearly as human as they first appear and the young men’s relationship is more complicated than their classmates realize. The first two chapters of Sweet Revolution are told from the perspective of Kouhei, one of their classmates, and have a slightly different tone than the rest of the volume. But then the manga begins to explore the pair’s history and motivations more directly. The storytelling builds quite nicely from there. I particularly enjoyed the supernatural elements in Sweet Revolution. I didn’t realize when I began reading the manga that in part it would be a yokai tale. And, well, I happen to like yokai.

Fist of the North Star: The TV Series, Volume 1 (Episodes 1-36) directed by Toyoo Ashida. While at this point I can safely say that I prefer the Fist of the North Star manga, I’m still getting a kick out of the anime adaptation. Granted, a large part of this first box set is a bit of a grind and rather repetitive. The beginning of the manga started out in a similar way, so I wasn’t entirely surprised. However, the anime has a lot of filler at the beginning. But even so, I enjoyed myself. I can’t help but like Kenshiro, one of the most stoic badasses that I know of. Plus, there’s plenty of over-the-top martial arts in the series. I’m really looking forward to watching more of Fist of the North Star.