My Week in Manga: February 7-February 13, 2011

My News and Reviews

All right! I posted two in-depth reviews last week. Granted, they were for novels and not manga, but the books are still worth checking out. The first review is for Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness by Nahoko Uehashi. It’s the second book in her ten volume Guardian fantasy series. Only the first two volumes are available in English, but I adore them both. The second review is for Project Itoh’s multiple award winning science fiction novel Harmony; particularly recommended for fans of utopia and dystopia fiction.

The February 2011 Manga Moveable Feast, featuring Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen, began yesterday. In addition to the quick takes below of the entire manga series and the two Barefoot Gen anime films, I will also be posting a couple of reviews this week. Sam Kusek at A Life in Panels is hosting the event.

Quick Takes

Barefoot Gen, Volumes 1-10 by Keiji Nakazawa. I finally got around to reading the entire series since Barefoot Gen was selected for February 2011’s Manga Moveable Feast. Barefoot Gen isn’t an easy read due to its subject matter, but that is also what makes it such an important read. Despite all of the terrible things that happen, Barefoot Gen is ultimately an optimistic and inspiring series and carries a heartening anti-war message. Some of the characters come across as much more articulate, capable, and mature than one would expect from people their age, but this can be fairly easily ignored for the sake of the story. Barefoot Gen is a powerful semi-autobiographical work.

Hetalia: Axis Powers, Volumes 1-2 by Hidekaz Himaruya. Hetalia started as a webcomic and quickly became a worldwide phenomenon. Perhaps because of its start online, the image quality varies, especially in the first volume. The manga improves in writing as the series progresses; I frequently found myself laughing out loud. The humor often but not always relies on stereotypes, but I didn’t find it to be offensive. I even learned a thing or to about world history. Much of the manga is presented as yonkoma, but that format is not used exclusively. Ultimately, I think I prefer the anime adaptation of Hetalia, but I still really enjoyed the manga and will be picking up more of the volumes as they are published.

Immortal Rain, Volumes 1-2 by Kaori Ozaki. This is a series I probably wouldn’t have come across except that was featured in Jason Thompson’s House of 1,000 Manga column. I was inspired to pick it up, and I’m so very glad I did; three chapters in and I knew I wanted to invest in the entire series. Immortal Rain (known as Meteor Methuselah in Japan) has wonderful art and fantastic, complex, characters. And the ladies kick ass. Rain, the titular immortal, is still mostly a mystery at this point in the story. The plot, too, is in its beginning stages and there are more questions than answers, but I’m really looking forward to seeing where it goes. The frequently melancholy mood is balanced nicely with plenty of action sequences.

J-Boy by Biblos by Various. According to Digital Manga, J-Boy was the first yaoi anthology to be released in the United States. It collects nineteen short one-shots, spin-offs, and side-stories by sixteen contributors, totaling over 340 pages of manga. Most of the stories are simply okay, but there are a few gems hidden in the volume. One favorite was the absolutely ridiculous story “Neko Samurai – Ocean of Barrier” by Kyushu Danji. The stories are pretty varied, some are goofy while others are more heartfelt. However, some plots were too complicated to be effectively captured in short form. There’s very little sex in the book, and many stories don’t even to get to the point of kissing.

Barefoot Gen: The Movies 1 & 2 produced by Keiji Nakazawa. Barefoot Gen has been the subject of several adaptations, including two anime films released in the 1980s. The first, directed by Mori Masaki, is probably the most well known—particularly for it’s depiction of the dropping of the bomb. The second, directed by Toshio Hirata, takes place three years after the first. It deviates somewhat from the manga in its details, but it’s heart is unquestionably the same. While I think everyone should read the manga, I think the anime is definitely worth watching as well and it may even be more accessible overall.

Late Bloomer directed by Go Shibata. I first learned about this film because it features music by World’s End Girlfriend. Late Bloomer is probably best described as an arthouse horror film. It follows Sumida, whose cerebral palsy forces him to lead a very lonely life. Eventually his anger and frustration drives him to commit a series of murders. The cinematography is very interesting and movie is filmed in a grainy black and white. The music meshes with the film incredibly well and is integral to many shots. I can’t really say I enjoyed Late Bloomer, it’s an unusual film and definitely not for everyone, but I am glad that I took time to watch it.