My Week in Manga: December 2-December 8, 2013

My News and Reviews

I posted two reviews here at Experiments in Manga last week. The honor of the first in-depth manga review for December goes to Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Volume 3: Ramba Ral. The fourth volume in the series is scheduled to be released this month, so I wanted to make sure to catch up with my reviews. Though I wouldn’t call myself a Gundam fan, I’m still really enjoying The Origin manga. The second review was for Ivan Morris’ The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan. Originally published in 1975, the work was recently brought back into print by Kurodahan Press. It’s an extremely illuminating and fascinating volume. I also announced the Fairy Tail Feast Winner last week. In case you’re looking for some epic manga to read, the post also includes a list of series that have had at least thirty volumes published in English.

I’ve come across quite a few manga-related things online recently. Sadly, that includes the news that PictureBox will no longer be releasing any new titles. PictureBox had some fantastic manga releases this year, including the start of the Ten-Cent Manga and Masters of Alternative Manga series. It also released The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame. PictureBox’s closing means that the previously announced anthology Massive: Gay Erotic Manga And The Men Who Make It, originally scheduled for release in 2014, is now in limbo.

In happier news, Manga Bookshelf’s Melinda Beasi was interviewed at Diamond Bookshelf—Understanding Manga: Editor Melinda Beasi Discusses CBLDF Presents Manga. I thought that Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices was a great resource when I read it, so it was interesting to hear about some of the behind-the-scenes work that went into it.

And speaking of interesting interviews, Organization Anti-Social Geniuses has been Talkin’ Seven Seas and Manga Business With Conner Crooks. Crooks is the Social Media Manager at Seven Seas, which has been having a very good year. Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview series are currently available. Part 3 should be posted on Tuesday.

Continuing on with the Seven Seas theme, Sean Gaffney took a look at the publisher’s recently announced licenses over at A Case Suitable for Treatment. And if you’re interested in all of the anime, manga, artbook, and light novels that were licensed in 2013 (as well as related successful crowdfunding projects), Reverse Thieves has you covered with All the Titles Fit to License, 2013 Edition.

Quick Takes

Hero Heel, Volume 2Hero Heel, Volumes 2-3 by Makoto Tateno. Out of the boys’ love manga by Tateno that I have so far read, I think that Hero Heel is probably one of her better works. At least it has some of the most interesting and believable character development. Although that being said, I’m not sure that I’m entirely convinced by the ending, but that might just be because I feel bad for Katagiri. Minami in particular goes through a lot of change as the series progresses. In the first volume he’s almost the villain of the story, blackmailing and forcing his feelings on Sawada. By the end of Hero Heel he’s a much more sympathetic character and has matured significantly. As for Sawada, he comes across as rather harsh from the start, though how much of an asshole he really is isn’t revealed until later. The themes of hero and villain and what it means to be a good person are very prominent in Hero Heel. It’s interesting to see the parallels between the characters that Minami and Sawada play on the superhero show they costar in and their lives off the set.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Short Stories, Volume 2Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Short Stories, Volume 2 by Naoko Takeuchi. For the most part, I think I probably enjoyed the second (and final) volume of Sailor Moon short stories more than I did the first. In general, they don’t rely as heavily on knowledge of the main series; a basic understanding of the Sailor Moon universe is sufficient to follow the short manga in the second collection of stories. Well, at least that’s true for the first two stories. The third short manga “Parallel Sailor Moon” requires a bit more, and even then it’s a really strange, almost nonsensical piece. I much preferred the first two stories in the collection. “Princess Kaguya’s Lover” is the longest and most involved, basically amounting to a one-sided love story between Luna and Dr. Ohzora, an astronomy professor. It has space and astronauts, which I’ll admit to having a fondness for, so that made me happy. (Takeuchi even visited the Kennedy Space Center on a research trip for the story.) “Casa Blanca Memory” is a shorter work featuring Rei, which also made me pretty happy.

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends, Omnibus 2Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 3-4) by Yak Haibara. I get a huge kick out of the Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends manga. I’ve never played Sengoku Basara 2—the video game on which it is directly based (it hasn’t been released in North America)—nor have I seen any of the Sengoku Basara anime (though I may make a point to check it out now), but I do have some familiarity with the Warring States period. Because of the number of characters, battles, alliances, castles and such to keep track of in Samurai Legends, which are all based on historical figures and events, that familiarity has come in handy. Overall, I think the first omnibus of Samurai Legends was a little stronger than the second omnibus. The last half of the series has a few continuity problems in the artwork, and there are some characters who are introduced more because they are a part of the franchise than because they had an important role to play in the manga, but it was still a lot of fun. I really enjoy the series’ over-the-top fights, characters, and dialogue.

Sickness Unto Death, Volume 2Sickness Unto Death, Volume 2 written by Hikari Asada and illustrated by Takahiro Seguchi. Probably because it doesn’t employ nearly as many clichés, the second volume of Sickness Unto Death is much better than the first. Granted, the first volume was needed to set it up the whole scenario; I just think it could have been handled better. But the payoff is mostly satisfying. Even so, the manga still makes me vaguely uncomfortable, and not in the way I think it was intended to. The problem I have with the story of Sickness Unto Death stems from the way Emiru’s case is handled. That Kazuma wants to help and treat her I’m fine with. In fact, there’s some really interesting conflicts of interest and ethical and philosophical questions that arise because of it. At its best, Sickness Unto Death has some marvelously dark psychological elements to it. What particularly bothers me about the series is that Kazuma’s continued “treatment” of Emiru is actually encouraged by his professor, which is highly irresponsible not to mention unprofessional.

My Week in Manga: September 30-October 6, 2013

My News and Reviews

It’s the beginning of one month and the end of another, which means it’s one of the slower weeks here at Experiments in Manga. I announced the winner of the Arisa manga giveaway. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English that feature twins. For those of you who are interested in the absurd amount of manga and other related materials that make their way into my home, September’s Bookshelf Overload was also posted. Finally, the honor of the first in-depth manga review for October goes to Satoshi Kon’s Tropic of the Sea. I thought it was fantastic. Hopefully it does well and more of Kon’s manga will be able to be released in English.

For anyone looking for more anime and manga blogs to follow, CryMore.Net (formerly known as Whiners.Pro) has put together the most comprehensive list of active sites that I’ve seen. (And yes, Experiments in Manga is included.) If you’re interested in yokai, Matthew Meyer recently launched a Kickstarter project for his most recent artbook/guide The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits. It’s already met its goal (and I was one of the people to support it), but it’s still worth checking out if you like yokai. I reviewed Meyer’s previous book (also funded through Kickstarter) The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: A Field Guide to Japanese Yokai and really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to seeing more of his work in print.

Quick Takes

Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Volume 18Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Volume 18 by Yukito Kishiro. I could be wrong since I haven’t read the entire series, but I believe that the eighteenth volume of Battle Angel Alita: Last Order is the first volume to prominently feature Figure Four (the burly dude on the cover). A love interest in the original Battle Angel Alita manga, up until this point in Last Order he’s been mostly relegated brief references. The eighteenth volume concludes the fallout from the ZOTT combat tournament with the series’ titular chapter “Last Order” before jumping nearly a year back in time to follow Figure for the rest of the volume. He’s hard at work training in anti-cyber martial arts when he learns that Alita may be dead and so goes searching for both her and the truth. Sechs makes a brief, but important appearance in the volume, which made me happy since Sechs is one of my favorite characters in the series. And as a side note, Kishiro designs some really creepy cyborgs.

Dengeki Daisy, Volume 9Dengeki Daisy, Volumes 9-12 by Kyousuke Motomi. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Dengeki Daisy. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the series. Dengeki Daisy is kind of a strange manga, mixing rather mundane school life with hackers and cyber espionage, but I am consistently and highly entertained by it. I really like the quirkiness of characters in Dengeki Daisy. Motomi calls Dengeki Daisy a love comedy, which I suppose in the end it is, but in addition to being funny and occasionally romantic, the series also has a lot of action and drama. Kurosaki’s past and his guilt over it continues to be a major driving force behind the story. His disappearance is resolved fairly quickly, which surprised me, but that fact emphasizes how much he cares for Teru and how much Teru and the others care about him. Motomi has a tendency to use stereotypical shoujo plot devices but then completely turns them on their head. The fake-outs are both effective and refreshing.

Incubus, Volume 1Incubus, Volumes 1-3 by Yayoi Neko. The mythology in Incubus is fairly complex and the comic’s exposition can be somewhat long-winded, but I overall I’m liking this yaoi series. It has humor and drama, and I’m rather fond of the two leads—a college student named Judas and the surprisingly endearing half-demon Lennial. Judas’ dream sequences are great. In them, the different sides of his psyche try to make sense of what is going on around him as he is repeatedly confronted by demonic powers. The results are often amusing, but his emotional struggles can be heartbreaking. Judas has a very troubled past and what little good there was in it has been torn from him. Not everything has been revealed about his and Lenniel’s history together, but Neko seems to have a firm grasp on the series’ direction. Incubus is currently on hiatus due to the creator’s health—the first three volumes only cover the first half or so of the story—but I look forward to reading more of it if she is ever able to continue the series.

Sickness Unto Death, Volume 1Sickness Unto Death, Volume 1 written by Hikari Asada and illustrated by Takahiro Seguchi. I didn’t know much about Sickness Unto Death before picking it up, but I’m willing to give anything released by Vertical a try. Emiru is a frail young woman suffering from despair—a sickness of the spirit that is causing her body to fail. Kazuma has recently enrolled in college to pursue a career in clinical psychology. When he meets Emiru he not only wants to do all that he can to help her, but he falls in love with her as well. I found the manga’s basic premise intriguing, but in the end I was largely disappointed with the first volume of Sickness Unto Death, though I can’t seem to quite pinpoint why. However, I am still interested in reading the second half. The big reveal as to the cause of Emiru’s despair has been set up and I am very curious about it. I’ll admit that don’t have a lot of confidence, but I am hoping that it will be worth it and that it won’t be something too absurd or overblown.

FreeFree!: Iwatobi Swim Club directed by Hiroko Utsumi. I really enjoyed Free!, finding it to be both a fun and funny series. At times it even manages to be rather touching. The anime has a lot of self-aware goofiness in addition to a decent story and great animation. The swimming in particular is beautifully animated and, for the most part, realistically portrayed. (This also means that there are plenty of muscles to appreciate.) Although it is an important part of the series, Free! is actually less about swimming than it is about the relationships between its characters and their personal struggles and doubts. They all have their own reasons for swimming, but ultimately what brings them together is their desire to connect with one another—swimming just happens to be the way they go about doing it. A second season has been hinted at for the series; I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing more of Free! I’d also love to see it licensed for a physical release.