My Week in Manga: February 27-March 5, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga the winner of the Tokyo ESP manga giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English about psychics and/or espers. That was it for the blog, but as I previously mentioned, I had an all-day job interview last week which took up a fair amount of my time and attentions. Well, it turns out that they liked me, and I liked them, so it looks like I’ll be starting in a new position at a different library in May. It’s both very exciting and very nerve-wracking, but I think (hope!) it’s a good move for me. My day job will still have absolutely nothing to do with manga, though.

Elsewhere online last week there was ICv2’s annual Manga Week. A number of interesting manga-focused articles and interviews were posted, including a mention of some of Vertical Comics’ most recent licensing announcements: Arakawa Under the Bridge by Hikari Nakamura (the one I’m most excited for), Gundam Wing: The Glory of Losers by Tomofumi Ogasawara, Helvetica Standard by Keiichi Arawi, and Voices of a Distant Star by Makoto Shinkai and Mizu Sahara (technically a rescue as the manga was originally published in English by TokyoPop back in the day). Kodansha Comics recently made some announcements at ECCC. In addition to adding even more fantastic series to its digital initiative, Kodansha Comics is working on a Ghost in the Shell anthology similar to the Attack on Titan Anthology released last year. Should be interesting!

Quick Takes

Anonymous Noise, Volume 1Anonymous Noise, Volume 1 by Ryoko Fukuyama. I will pretty much give any manga a try if it’s even tangentially related to music, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I would be interested in Anonymous Noise. The series follows Nino Arisugawa (called Alice, by some) who loves to sing. Expressing herself through music is an important part of who she is, but perhaps more importantly it’s how she connects to the people who mean the most to her. First there was Momo, Nino’s close childhood friend with a proclivity for making bad puns, and then there was Yuzu, who helped soothe Nino’s heartbreak with his own music when Momo’s family unexpectedly moves away. But after developing feelings for Nino, Yuzu suddenly disappears from her life, too. Fast forward a few years and the three of them are attending the same high school, although initially they don’t realize it. Most of the first volume feels like a prologue more than anything else, so I’m curious to see the direction the story proper will take from here. In addition to music, it seems that unrequited love will also be a major theme of Anonymous Noise. Complicated feelings of love, longing, loss, and loneliness set the tone for the series.

Big KidsBig Kids by Michael DeForge. Due to my interest in alternative and independent comics, I’ve been aware of DeForge’s work for quite some time. However, I’ve never actually read any of DeForge’s comics until picking up Big Kids. To be honest, I think I was probably a little intimidated since DeForge is such a highly acclaimed and well-regarded artist. I recently came across Big Kids on display at my local comic book shop where flipped through a few pages before putting it back. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it and so ultimately brought a copy home with me. The small volume’s bright yellow cover burned itself onto my retinas, and it’s content has burned itself onto my soul. I’ve read through the comic several times now and I still can’t stop thinking about it. I don’t know that I completely understand everything about it, but Big Kids is a work that is both surreal, verging on abstract, and powerful. In part, the comic about growing up. After being dumped by his boyfriend, Adam wakes up one day to discover that he has become a tree. The world itself is still the same, it’s just that Adam now views it from a vastly different perspective. But while being a tree has its benefits, there’s also a sense of sadness and loss associated with it.

Haikyu!!, Volume 6Haikyu!!, Volumes 6-9 by Haruichi Furudate. Out of all of the sports manga currently being released in print in English, Haikyu!! is definitely one of my favorites. Admittedly, I was a little worried that as the series entered its first tournament arc and became more focused on the games themselves I would lose some of my enthusiasm (I’m not especially interested in volleyball), but my fears appear to have been mostly unfounded. Occasionally Haikyu!! will get a little bogged down in the particulars of volleyball, but this is usually completely offset by the series’ incredibly engaging characters. I’m immensely enjoying seeing them grow and evolve not just as players, but as people. I absolutely love the manga’s approach to and emphasis on teamwork. Some of the characters are prodigies, but it is made very clear that a single person cannot win on their own. Often it’s the unassuming, “ordinary” players who dramatically shift the course and tone of a game. Everyone has their own talents and abilities and everyone has an important role to play. Haikyu!! may be a series about volleyball, but its themes and message are much more universal than that. The manga has great positivity and energy which makes it fun to read, too.

My Week in Manga: October 31-November 6, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga the winner of the Sweetness & Lightning manga giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English that feature notable fathers or father figures. As for more in-depth features, I’m (still) currently working on some random, but rather personal, musings about Ichigo Takano’s manga series Orange. Progress on that post is a little slower than I would like it to be, but hopefully I’ll have something to share in the relatively near future.

As for interesting things that I’ve recently found online: The Honolulu Museum of Art recently hosted a series of lectures and discussions called Manga in Japan, Hawai‘i, and Throughout the World; many of the recordings can now be watched online. The proceedings of the Manga at a Crossroads symposia are available to read or download from The Ohio State University. Anna Madill has also posted the slides from her 2016 Comics Forum keynote address–Genre, genealogy, and gender: Reflecting on Boys’ Love manga–which includes some interesting results from her BL Fandom Survey. And speaking of boys’ love, Digital Manga’s Juné imprint is seeking the print rights for Asumiko Nakamura’s Classmates (Doukyusei).

Quick Takes

Haikyu!!, Volume 3Haikyu!!, Volumes 3-5 by Haruichi Furudate. The new Karasuno team has made it through its first game, but the members still have some practicing to do before they can completely shed the nickname of the fallen champions. But considering their tremendous talent and potential, that might not take them too long. With these volumes, a few more Karasuno veterans are introduced, as are their rivals, before the series quickly moves from training to tournaments. Although there are some very exciting moments, I actually find the games to be the least interesting part of Haikyu!!, which may (but not necessarily) present a problem in the long run for what is primarily a sports manga.  Some of the action was a little difficult for me to follow until I got used to Furudate’s visual language, probably because I’m not actually all that familiar with volleyball gameplay. Growing up, my family’s anything-goes backyard games followed vastly different rules; Haikyu!! is actually teaching me how volleyball as a sport is really played. However, I am still enjoying Haikyu!! immensely. I particularly love the series’ focus on teamwork and even more so its unflagging positivity. Haikyu!! manages to be competitive without being mean. I also really like the distinctive personalities of the characters, and Furudate’s sense of humor and comedic timing is great. The manga continues to be great fun.

Neo-Parasyte fNeo-Parasyte F by Various. Hitoshi Iwaaki’s series Parasyte happens to be not only one of my favorite horror manga, but one of my favorite manga in general. That’s probably the main reason I was so excited that the Parasyte shoujo tribute anthology Neo-Parasyte F was licensed, but the list of contributors is exciting in and of itself, too. I was especially happy to have the chance to read more of Asumiko Nakamura’s work, but there are other creators that English-reading fans will likely recognize as well, such as Ema Toyama, Kaori Yuki, and  Yuri Narushima among others. Neo-Parasyte F collects fifteen short manga that in one way or another pay tribute to Parasyte. Some of the stories take place within the same world as Parasyte–Shinichi and Migi, the main characters of the original series, even make a few appearances–while others are set completely apart. Many of the manga are still horror-themed, but there are a surprising number that actually take a more humorous approach. Ever wonder what Parasyte would be like as an otome game? Neo-Parasyte F presents one possible interpretation of just that. Overall, the volume is a great anthology containing an excellent variety of genres and styles. Neo-Parasyte F will likely appeal most to readers who are fans of or at least familiar with Parasyte, although a few of the contributions can stand completely on their own.

The Prince in His Dark Days, Volume 1The Prince in His Dark Days, Volume 1 by Hico Yamanaka. In Japan, Yamanaka is probably better known for her boys’ love manga, but that’s not all that she’s done. For example, The Prince in His Dark Days, Yamanaka’s English-language debut, does not fall into that particular genre. However, it is poised to explore gender and sexuality in interesting ways, which is what first brought the series to my attention. The story follows Atsuko, a high school student from a broken and abusive family who is struggling to make ends meet. She is more or less coerced into becoming the stand-in for Itaru, the wealthy heir to a major corporation who has gone missing. Very possibly he ran away due to some of his own unfortunate circumstances. Until Itaru is found, Atsuko will be taking them on in his place. Although she’s not exactly leading a life of luxury–parts of Itaru’s own life are less than ideal–at least she’s no longer quite as miserable as she once was. The initial setup of The Prince in His Dark Days is a little rough and feels a somewhat forced, but it does establish understandable reasons for everything that follows. Admittedly, the whole situation is rather strange, but once Atsuko has adopted her new role she devotes herself completely to it. In the process, she begins to create meaningful if somewhat peculiar relationships with the people around her. I’m not entirely sure where The Prince in His Dark Days is heading, but I do know that I want to find out.

Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 3Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 3 (equivalent to Volumes 5-6) by Akiko Higashimura. I am still incredibly pleased that Princess Jellyfish manga series is being released in print. I thoroughly enjoyed the anime adaptation and was left wanting more after it ended, so I’m thrilled to finally have the chance to read the original manga. The anime began around the same time that the sixth volume was originally being released in Japan, so from this point on more and more of what is seen in the manga will either be new or significantly different. It has been a while since I’ve watched the anime so I may be misremembering parts of it, but already I can identify where notably different choices were made as to plot and characters. However, the heart of both the manga and the anime are definitely the same. Despite the various romantic and relationship dramas, Princess Jellyfish is largely a comedy. Serious matters like familial and social expectations are addressed and explored in the series, but Higashimura primarily does so through humor, sometimes more successfully and sometimes less so. Princess Jellyfish is an energetic manga that can be over-the-top and ridiculous, but it can also be very touching. As the women of Amamizukan search for a way to save their beloved home they are finding new ways to express themselves through skills and talents that they never realized they had, slowly coming out of their shells in ways they never expected.

My Week in Manga: August 1-August 7, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week brought some very good news! Sparkler Monthly‘s Kickstarter campaign for its fourth year was successfully funded, so we’ll all be getting another twelve months of phenomenal new content in addition to all of marvelous the Sparkler Monthly content that already exists, most of which is freely available online. Somewhat related to that, last week the winner of Experiments in Manga’s Sparkler Monthly Year 4 giveaway was announced. I was hoping to post the wrap up to my horror manga review project last week, too, but it looks like that should be going up sometime this week, instead.

Speaking of Kickstarters, there were two recently launched projects that specifically caught my attention last week. The first is a project to publish the second volume of Moonshot, a comics anthology featuring indigenous creators. The first volume was very impressive and earned multiple awards and honors, so I expect the second volume will be great, too. The other campaign is for the first print volume of Der-shing Helmer’s webcomic The Meek. I haven’t actually read The Meek myself yet, but I’ve heard very good things about the series.

Elsewhere online (well, I guess specifically at Anime News Network), it was a Seven Seas sort of week: Deb Aoki interviewed Okayado, the creator of the massively successful Monster Musume, at Anime Expo, the transcript of which has now been posted. I haven’t had time to listen to it yet, but the most recent ANNCast featured Jason DeAngelis, Adam Arnold and Lissa Patillo from Seven Seas. And in licensing news, Seven Seas will be releasing Atami Michinoku’s The High School Life of a Fudanshi.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail, Volume 52Fairy Tail, Volumes 52-54 by Hiro Mashima. Despite its immense popularity, for me Fairy Tail fairly tends to be fairly hit-or-miss. Mashima readily admits that he doesn’t always know where he’s going with the story and characters, but every once in a while he manages to pull it all together to form something truly grand and epic. I have to admit, I’m really liking the most recent story arc of Fairy Tail. Once again, the members of the Fairy Tail guild are responsible for trying to save the world, but the enemies that they face this time are so strong that it’s not something that they will be able to do alone. To me, this showdown feels more personal than some of the previous world-altering battles. Granted, that impression may in part be because my reading of Fairy Tail has been somewhat fragmented. However, I greatly appreciate the more character-driven arcs of Fairy Tail. These three volumes explore the past of Fairy Tail and the guild’s connection to Zeref, the dark wizard cursed to live forever who is trying to find a way to end it all. (This I believe is all explored in greater depth in the Fairy Tail Zero spinoff, which I suspect I would likely enjoy.) The battles in this story arc are well-paced in addition to being suitably dramatic and over-the-top, fitting for a conflict that will determine the fate of the world.

Haikyu!, Volume 1Haikyu!!, Volumes 1-2 by Haruichi Furudate. Due to my increasingly busy schedule, I’ve only managed to watch the first few episodes of the Haikyu!! anime adaptation, but that was more than enough to determine that I wanted to read the original manga when it was released in English. I find that even though I’m not especially interested in sports, I really enjoy sports manga, and so far Haikyu!!, about a boys’ high school volleyball team, doesn’t disappoint. Like many other sports-oriented manga, Haikyu!! features characters who are in one way or another exceptionally skilled or naturally talented athletes. What makes Haikyu!! stand out from other sports manga that I’ve read is that it emphasizes teamwork in a way that I’ve not usually seenthe manga’s not just about great players who are simply part of the same team, it’s about teammates bringing out the best in one another, finding ways to effectively complement their strengths and weaknesses to form a group that’s more capable than any one individual. The characterization is pretty great in Haikyu!!, too, which is particularly important for a series which will likely have a fair number of characters to keep track of. I really like the characters in Haikyu!!; they all have very distinctive personalities. If Haikyu!! continues as strongly as it begins, I’m definitely in for the long haul with this series.

UQ Holder!, Volume 7UQ Holder!, Volumes 7-8 by Ken Akamatsu. There’s something about UQ Holder! that rubs me the wrong way. Frustratingly, I haven’t been able to identify exactly what it is about the series, especially as there are parts of the manga that I actually like. I do wonder if part of this dissonance is caused by the fact that I’ve never read Negima! Magister Negi Magi. Although UQ Holder! initially seemed to be a stand-alone spinoff, lately it seems to be tying itself back to the original to a greater extent; I feel like I’m missing some important context. Much of the humor in UQ Holder! seems to fall flat for me, too, even when I can tell that what I’m reading is intended to be funny. The series also seems to have a bit of an identity crisis, as though Akamatsu can’t quite decide what type of story it’s supposed to be. At this point, UQ Holder! has now suddenly veered into becoming a martial arts tournament; previous incarnations of the series included a murder mystery, among other things. The martial arts tournament was a good choice, thoughthe battles in UQ Holder! are generally the most entertaining aspect of the series. The tournament also gives the characters an actual, definitive goal to focus on rather than their more ambiguous ambitions. These volumes also delve more into Evangeline’s backstory, which was good to see.