My Week in Manga: August 14-August 20, 2017

My News and Reviews

It’s been a while since there have been two features posted at Experiments in Manga within the same week in addition to the usual My Week in Manga, but that’s exactly what happened last week. First there was July’s Bookshelf Overload which, minus the replacement copies for some of my recently water-damaged books, provides a list of the manga and other media that I picked up last month. (Normally I post the Bookshelf Overload feature in the second week of the month, but I switched things up a little in order to post my review of Kazuki Sakuraba’s A Small Charred Face sooner rather than later.) Last week was also Experiments in Manga’s seven-year anniversary! I wrote a little about the past year and, with some amount of sadness, also announced my upcoming (semi)-retirement from manga blogging. I’ll continue to post here at Experiments in Manga for the rest of 2017, but once 2018 arrives most of my short ramblings on manga will be found over at Manga Bookshelf (and probably at my Twitter account, too).

Quick Takes

H. P. Lovecraft’s The Hound and Other StoriesH. P. Lovecraft’s The Hound and Other Stories by Gou Tanabe. While I am very aware of Lovecraft’s work and influence (the Cthulhu Mythos in particular was tremendously popular among a certain segment of my friends for quite some time), I’ve actually only ever read a single collection of his short horror stories. I largely enjoy their bizarre creepiness, and so I immediately took note when I learned that Dark Horse would be releasing a volume of some of Tanabe’s manga adaptations of Lovecraft stories. Plus, I was simply happy to see more mature horror manga being licensed. The Hound and Other Stories collects the adaptations of three of Lovecraft’s stories from the early 1920s: “The Temple,” “The Hound” (the only one of which I had read the original), and “The Nameless City.” Of the three, “The Temple” was the most successful for me, Tanbe’s deliberately disconcerting artwork perfectly conveying the narrative’s dark and increasingly claustrophobic sense of dread. The Hound and Other Stories is actually the first volume in a series. Nothing official has been announced regarding the translation of future volumes, but Dark Horse has indicated that the possibility is there. I know I’d certainly be interested in reading more of Tanabe’s work, Lovecraftian or otherwise.

Hana & Hina After School, Volume 2Hana & Hina After School, Volume 2 by Milk Morinaga. I’m not as interested in schoolgirl yuri manga as I am in those that feature adult women–which seem to be very few and far between in translation–but I will still happily read them. Which is probably a good thing seeing as most of the yuri manga that has been published in English tend to be set in either middle or high school. (To be fair, that can be said of numerous other genres as well.) Hana & Hina After School definitely falls into that category, and I certainly have been enjoying the manga. While it’s clear that Hina and Hana care for each other a great deal, the romance in the series is actually a little slow to develop, though it does feel more natural that way. Hina recognizes that she has a crush on Hana, and has known for some time, but Hana tends to be a little more oblivious. Hana & Hina After School concludes with the next volume; I would be incredibly surprised if the ending isn’t a happy one, but both Hina and Hana will need to fully come to terms with their feelings before that happens. In general, Hana & Hina After School is a cute and sweet series, but I do appreciate that Morinaga also incorporates some of the real-world concerns faced by people in non-heterosexual relationships.

Samurai Crusader: The Kumomaru Chronicles, Volume 1Samurai Crusader: The Kumomaru Chronicles, Volumes 1-3 written by Oji Hiroi and illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami. At this point I’ve read most of the manga available in English with which Ikegami has been involved, Samurai Crusader being one of the few exceptions up until now. Hiroi is probably best known as the creator of Sakura Wars, which I’m not particularly familiar with. (I believe Samurai Crusader is the only other manga of Hiroi’s to have been released in English.) Samurai Crusader is currently out-of-print and can be a little tricky to find, but the series can usually be found for a fairly reasonable price. (Note that the individual volumes aren’t numbered and after the first are given unique subtitles instead; Samurai Crusader is followed by Way of the Dragon and Sunrise Over Shanghai.) Taking place in the 1930s with the Second World War looming on the horizon, Samurai Crusader is an tale of action and adventure spanning the globe and featuring Ernest Hemingway as the a sidekick to the series’ protagonist Kumomaru, a noble young man who finds himself fighting against those intent on world domination. Samurai Crusader is admittedly outrageous and over-the-top, but that’s also a large part of why the series is so highly entertaining.

My Week in Manga: March 27-April 2, 2017

My News and Reviews

As regular readers of Experiments in Manga know, on the last Wednesday of every month I host a giveaway of some sort (usually manga-related) for which participants have a week to submit their entries. This time around the monthly giveaway is for the first volume of Coolkyousinnjya’s surprisingly delightful Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. The winner will be announced this coming Wednesday, so you can still enter for a chance to win if you haven’t already. Also later this week, look for another guest review by my friend and fellow yuri manga fan Jocilyn. Elsewhere in the Manga Bookshelf sphere of blogs, The Manga Critic has started a monthly manga review index. There have been similar features in the past, perhaps most notably at MangaBlog, and I’ve always found them incredibly useful and valuable, so I’m glad to see Kate Dacey taking it on. Also in general, I highly recommend the content at The Manga Critic–Kate’s actually one of my major inspirations when it comes to manga blogging.

As for other interesting things I’ve come across recently: Chic Pixel’s Anne Lee has posted a really fantastic list of bibliographic resources for those curious about the academic study of boys’ love. (I’ve read quite a few books and articles myself, and even reviewed Jeffery Angles’ Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishōnen Culture in Modernist Japanese Literature at Experiments in Manga a few years ago.) And if that’s not enough of BL studies for you, J. R. Brown has posted the slides from her Anime Boston panel “Boys’ Love, Otome Culture, and Gender” which covers everything from the origin of shoujo manga to gay comics and more. On their own the slides are fairly informative, but I’m looking forward to seeing the annotated version, too.

Also at Anime Boston, Viz Media made quite a few licensing announcements. Some were digital-only while others were digital-first or print-only. Here’s a quick list of the books that will eventually make their way into print: Kenta Shinohara’s Astra Lost in Space, Abi Umeda’s Children of Whales (I’m particularly curious about this series), an omnibus edition of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Death Note collecting the entire series and a bonus epilogue in a single volume, Nisioisin’s Hikaru Nakamura’s novel Juni Taisen: Zodiac Warriors (I’m not familiar with the novel, but the creators involved have certainly caught my attention), Kenji Taira’s Naruto: Chibi Sasuke’s Sharingan Legend, Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu’s The Promised Neverland (which is supposed to be fantastic), a collection of nine Junji Ito stories and accompanying material selected by Ito himself called Shiver (always glad to see more Ito being released in English), Maki Enjoji’s SP Baby, and Sui Ishida’s artbook Tokyo Ghoul Illustrations.

A couple of Kickstarter projects recently launched which may be of interest as well: All the Anime/Anime Limited is joining forces with Studio 4°C to create a home video release of Masaaki Yuasa’s directorial debut Mind Game. Digital Manga has entered the fray again with a campaign to release more of Osamu Tezuka’s manga in printAmbassador Magma, Dust 8, The Euphrates Tree, Metamorphose, Say Hello to Bookila, The Thief Inoue Akikazu, Wonder 3, and Yakeppachi’s Maria. It looks as though the print runs will be very limited and Kickstarter may be the only way to get a hold of some of the titles. (I have to admit, I certainly have my qualms about Digital Manga’s business practices in general and over-reliance on crowdfunding specifically. The quality of Digital Manga’s releases has really gone downhill over the last few years, too. Honestly, I’ve lost most of my confidence in the company as a publisher, but it’s managed not to completely go under yet.)

Quick Takes

Dawn of the Arcana, Volume 1Dawn of the Arcana, Volumes 1-6 by Rei Toma. I generally enjoy epic fantasy of the shoujo variety, so I’m not entirely sure why it’s taken me so long to finally get around to reading Dawn of the Arcana. So far, I’m enjoying the manga tremendously. Nakaba is a princess who has been married off to a prince of the neighboring kingdom despite her questionable ancestry in a half-hearted attempt to secure peace between the two countries. But instead, gifted with the ability to see both into the past and into the future, Nakaba may find herself in the unlikely position of leading a revolution. Dawn of the Arcana does come across as a rather typical example of high fantasy–all the way down to the heroine’s fiery red hair–but even though it hasn’t really made itself stand out yet, the manga is a solid series. I greatly enjoyed the manga’s mix of court and political intrigue, action, and complicated interpersonal relationships. Much like the story, the artwork tends to be somewhat standard although attractive. Toma’s backgrounds are generally fairly sparse, but the details put into things like the characters’ clothing is lovely. I definitely look forward to reading more of Dawn of the Arcana in the very near future.

Hana & Hina After School, Volume 1Hana & Hina After School, Volume 1 by Milk Morinaga. I believe that Morinaga is currently the most well-represented yuri manga creator available in English. So far, five of Morinaga’s manga have been translated, the most recent being Hana & Hina After School. Interestingly, in Japan the manga was serialized in a magazine aimed at a general audience rather than one specifically catering to yuri fans. The titular Hana and Hina are two young women working part time at a store specializing in cute character goods even though their high school forbids its students from holding jobs. The story follows their relationship as they become friends and slowly realize that their feelings may evolve into something else. Like most of Morinaga’s other manga that I’ve read, Hana & Hina After School tends to be rather cute and sweet. The series is enjoyable and pleasant even if it is at times a little silly and somewhat unbelievable. However, the end of the first volume does introduce some sobering concerns when Hina is confronted by a few of her classmates homophobia, an unfortunate reality that many yuri manga tend to gloss over or ignore entirely in favor of pure fantasy. (Granted, that fantasy is important to have, too.)

Scum's Wish, Volume 1Scum’s Wish, Volumes 1-2 by Mengo Yokoyari. I wasn’t initially planning to pick up Scum’s Wish, but after reading a few positive reviews of the series I decided to give it a try after all. The cover art of the first volume is deliberately provocative, but the manga isn’t nearly as salacious as it might imply. In fact, the series can actually be surprisingly contemplative. Scum’s Wish is a manga about unrequited love. Almost every character in the series is pining for someone with whom an involved romance would seem to be impossible or at least inadvisable, resulting in a complex web of personal relationships fraught with loneliness and anguish. (There is one heck of a love polygon going on in Scum’s Wish and nearly everyone who is introduced is connected to it somehow.) Hanabi is in love with Narumi, her childhood friend who now also happens to be her homeroom teacher. Mugi is in love with Akane, a music instructor who used to be his tutor. Recognizing that they are suffering under very similar circumstances and hoping to ease some of the pain, Hanabi and Mugi agree to find comfort in a relationship together. Neither one of them is in love with the other, but they are both aware of and take advantage of that fact.

Deep RedDeep Red by Hisashi Nozawa. Although perhaps best known as a screenwriter, Nozawa was also recognized as an accomplished novelist. Deep Red, which earned Nozawa an Eiji Yoshikawa Prize in 2001, is his first novel to be released in English. Kanako is the only survivor of the mass murder of her family, simply because she happened to be away on a school trip when her parents and two younger brothers were killed. Understandably, their deaths have left a great wound, but Kanako isn’t the only one left troubled and hurt–the life of Miho, the daughter of the murderer, has also been irrevocably changed. At times, Deep Red is uncomfortably voyeuristic and there’s a peculiar fixation on Kanako’s body and sex life with her boyfriend. I was never entirely convinced by Kanako as a character, either. However, Deep Red does provide an interesting psychological exploration of hate, anger, and misplaced revenge. The novel is instantly engaging. However, the middle portion of the narrative is repetitive and does drag a fair bit; I admittedly started to lose my interest and patience with the story. But once Kanako becomes obsessed with and decides to pursue Miho, Deep Red picks up speed again and the novel’s ending is very satisfying.