My Week in Manga: August 6-August 12, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted my first in-depth manga review for August, focusing on Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son, Volume 3. I am incredibly grateful that this series is being released in English. The story hits very close to home for me, which can sometimes make it difficult for me to review, but it’s a wonderful series. Now comes the long wait for the next volume, which will probably be released sometime in 2013. I also reviewed Losing Kei,  the debut novel by Suzanne Kamata, an American expatriate living in Japan. I didn’t always like the main character, but even still the novel was very engaging. Kamata’s own experiences living in Japan add to the authenticity of the story.

A few months ago, I reviewed Hirohiko Araki’s full-color manga Rohan at the Louvre, a spin-off story from his series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Only the third part of that series and Rohan at the Louvre have been licensed in English. Over at The Hooded Utilitarian, there is a great introduction to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Araki Hirohiko at the Louvre, Part 1) and Rohan at the Louvre (Araki Hirohiko at the Louvre, Part 2) that are worth checking out. And check out Rohan at the Louvre itself, too, for the artwork if nothing else.

Quick Takes

Kekkaishi, Omnibus 3 (equivalent to Volumes 7-9) by Yellow Tanabe. Kekkaishi has taken a serious turn. Although the comedic elements are still there, and the series still has a great sense of humor, the more lighthearted aspects of the series have been downplayed. Much of this omnibus focuses on Gen and his back story, which I was glad to see. It’s a tragic tale, but explains a lot about him as a person. Yoshimori, Tokine, and Gen make a great trio. The series’ well-developed and well-rounded characters are probably its greatest strength. But, as much as I’ve enjoyed Kekkaishi so far, I’m not quite ready to invest in the individual volumes. I really wish Viz would publish the rest of the series as omnibuses, too.

Polterguys, Volume 1 by Laurianne Uy and Nathan Go. The influence of reverse harem manga is readily clear, but Polterguys is definitely its own charming comic. Bree is a freshmen in college who can’t seem to get along with any of her roommates. She thinks renting a room in an old house will be the perfect solution, only to find out later that the house is already inhabited by a group of ghosts. Polterguys features a great cast of characters; each one of them has a distinct personality. I wasn’t surprised by any of the story’s twists, but I enjoyed them immensely nonetheless. The development of the characters’ relationships does feel a little rushed here or there, but for the most part this volume is an excellent start to the series. I can’t wait to read the second volume.

Twin Spica, Volumes 11-12 by Kou Yaginuma. If you didn’t enjoy the first few volumes of Twin Spica, there are no drastic changes in the manga that would make you reconsider. If, like me, you have been enjoying Twin Spica, the last two volumes are a satisfying ending to a great series. The manga’s tone has been the same from the very beginning—slightly melancholic but with a sense of hope as the characters pursue their dreams against the odds. The students training to become astronauts through Tokyo Space School’s newly established program have all been put to the test. Repeatedly pushed to their limits and beyond, they have become an inspiration to those around them.

The Tyrant Falls in Love, Volumes 3-4 by Hinako Takanaga. Isogai was one of my favorite characters in Challengers and so I was delighted to see him return in The Tyrant Falls in Love. And yes, he causes just as much trouble this time around as he did in the original series. The Tyrant Falls in Love is sort of a strange manga, each volume tends to vary wildly in tone from the next. The second volume was rather serious while the third volume (with a little help of Isogai) was substantially more comedic. The fourth volume returns to being serious in some ways but in other ways the narrative is completely ridiculous and unbelievable. But I am glad to see that Morinaga is slightly less of an ass and that Souichi is slowly coming to terms with their relationship.

The Book of Bantorra, Episodes 14-27 directed by Toshiya Shinohara. I am completely torn over The Book of Bantorra. I absolutely love the basic premise of the series. Unfortunately, most of the time I had no idea what the hell was going on. And frankly, the complete lack of consistent character design annoys me. But as much as the series frustrates me, The Book of Bantorra has some absolutely brilliant worldbuilding. I also appreciate the fact that the series is willing to kill off important characters when the story calls for it. Even when I just didn’t get the anime, I was consistently engaged and curious to learn more. And the ending is fantastic. I’ll probably give The Book of Bantorra another try at some point.

My Week in Manga: February 20-February 26, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Osamu Tezuka Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Kate Dacey at The Manga Critic. There was a good turn out this month. As for me, I managed to post two in-depth reviews related to the Feast. The first was Helen McCarthy’s Harvey Award-winning The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga. It’s a great introduction to Tezuka and his works, plus its a lot of fun to look at with hundreds of images. I also reviewed the first volume of Dororo, which is one of my favorite series by Tezuka.

I’ve added two new blogs that I enjoy to the Resources page, neither of which is specifically about manga but occasionally features a title: Nihon distractions: Readings in translated Japanese Literature and BookDragon, a part of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program. I’d also like to point out a list of Yuri Manga Titles Available Outside of Japan put together by Erica Friedman over at Okazu. The list focuses on manga that is currently or will soon be in print.

I should probably mention that Experiments in Manga has been selected to compete in the second Aniblog Tourney. (I have no idea how they found out about me.) The first tournament focused on anime blogs, but this year manga-oriented blogs will be included as well. I’m mostly interested in learning about blogs that I don’t already know about through the tournament.

And as a complete side note, the fact that all of my manga quick takes for this week have something to do with boxing and/or wrestling was completely unintentional. However, now I really want someone to license Ashita no Joe. I tend to be particularly interested in karate since that is what I study, but I do enjoy series about martial arts and combat sports in general as well.

Quick Takes

Gen, Issues 1-6 by Various. Gen is primarily touted as a digital manga magazine, but the issues are also eventually made available in print (which is how I read them). The magazine collects seinen indie and dōjinshi manga from Tokyo. There is a nice mix of stories: sports (boxing and sumo), comedy, drama, fantasy. I’ve never read a manga magazine before; I’ve always waited for a series to be collected. I am really enjoying Gen, though. I’ve been introduced to manga that I probably wouldn’t have thought to pick up otherwise. I only have one major complaint about Gen so far and that is that there is an overabundance of spelling errors in the translation. If I notice them, you know it’s bad.

Love Round!! by Hinako Takanaga. I am fond of Takanaga’s work, and Love Round!! is no exception. It’s a silly little boys’ love one-shot, but is quite amusing and has likeable leads. Kubo is a high school boxing champion with dreams of going pro. His classmate, the effeminate looking Kaoru, turns out to be a flyweight powerhouse with a punch that can even knock out Kubo (and does so repeatedly). Kubo does his best to convince Kaoru to join his gym and the two end up becoming friends (and eventually a bit more). Kubo is a endearingly dense and his big mouth gets him into trouble on more than one occasion. Kaoru on the other hand, while cute, is a little spitfire. It’s easy to forget that they’re both high school students since most of the story takes place in the gym.

Super Pro K.O.! by Jarrett Williams. For a comic about professional wrestling, and despite Williams’ fun artwork, I actually found Super Pro K.O.! to be rather boring. This makes me sad, because I really wanted to like it. Maybe it’s just because I don’t have a particular interest in pro wrestling. I think that Williams was a little too ambitious for the debut volume. So many plot elements and characters were introduced that there wasn’t enough time to thoroughly develop any of them. I did like Joe Somiano, the supposed lead (I say supposed since he doesn’t appear much). Once a track star, he gave track up in order to pursue professional wrestling. He’s inexperienced and guileless, but very enthusiastic.

InuYasha: Season 1, Episodes 20-27 directed by Masashi Ikeda and Yasunao Aoki. It’s been a while since I watched the first part of the first season of InuYasha, but there’s enough recapping in each episode that I caught up pretty quickly. In fact, I feel that in general there’s too much recycling. While I’m sure it was useful when the series was being broadcast, it makes marathoning a bit of a slog since it slows down the pacing of the narrative. By the end of the first season, all of the main protagonists have been introduced as well as Naraku, the primary antagonist. I’m enjoying InuYasha, but at the same time I don’t really feel compelled to pursue the series, especially considering it’s length. Still, I’ll probably give the second season a try at some point.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion directed by Hideaki Anno and Kazuya Tsurumaki. Long story short, The End of Evangelion is an alternate ending to the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series, “replacing” the controversial final two episodes. Although there were parts of Neon Genesis Evangelion I really enjoyed, I think that to some extent I’ve lost my patience with the franchise. The End of Evangelion does explain some things that were not made explicitly clear in the original series, which I was very grateful for, but at the same time there are still parts that are terribly perplexing and there are still plenty of questions that have answers that are left up to interpretation.

The Secret World of Arrietty directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Based on The Borrowers, a series of childrens’ fantasy novels by Mary Norton, The Secret World of Arrietty is the most recent film from Studio Ghibli to be released in the United States. The story focuses on a family of small people known as Borrowers and a human who wants to befriend them. While the animation is beautiful, the garden and plants are particularly lovely, the pacing of the film very slow. I found myself paying more attention to the visual details of the world that was created rather than the actual story. I loved seeing how the Borrowers repurposed and used the items they found. My favorite part of the film was how liquids (tea, water, etc.) were handled as large droplets as opposed free-flowing fluids.

My Week in Manga: April 4-April 10, 2011

My News and Reviews

There’s not much news from me this week, not that there ever really is, but I did announce the winner of the Omnivorous Old Boy manga giveaway. Not very many people entered this time ’round, which makes me sad, but there were some good entries. The other post from last week was my review of Royall Tyler’s translation of Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji. Reading The Tale of Genji has been a goal of mine for a while now and I am very proud of myself for completing it. It is a project, but I’d encourage others to give The Tale of Genji a try. However, while I was very happy with Tyler’s translation, it might not be the right one for you. I found a fantastic post at Kitsune’s Thoughts that is very helpful in deciding on a translation to pursue: How to Choose English Translation of The Tale of Genji.

As for other great things online, The Manga Critic posted about The 2011 Eisner Nominees for Manga and Manhwa. I read and enjoyed Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition by Stan Sakai, so a recently completed four-part interview with him at The Daily Cross Hatch caught my eye: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Also, coming up later this month is the Manga Moveable Feast for April 2011. Instead of focusing on a specific series, this time we’ll be focusing on a specific creator—Rumiko Takahashi. Rob McMonigal of Panel Patter will be hosting the Feast and has put out the First Call for Call for the Rumiko Takahashi Manga Moveable Feast! Also of note is Rob’s year long Takahashi spotlight: A Year of Rumiko Takahashi.

Quick Takes

The Tyrant Falls in Love, Volumes 1-2 by Hinako Takanaga. The Tyrant Falls in Love is a spin-off/continuation of Takanaga’s debut series Challengers. It is however, much more explicit than the first series. The tone, too, is much more serious, although some of the humor from the original series remains. The Tyrant Falls in Love follows two side characters from Challengers but happily Tomoe and Kurokawa have a brief guest appearance, too. Tatsumi is still an incredibly violent homophobe and Morinaga reveals just how much of a manipulative bastard he can be (sad, but true.) Morinaga’s character is further developed in volume two when we get to learn a bit more about his family and past. 

Utahime: The Songstress by Aki. I don’t remember where I first heard about Utahime, but this one-shot manga was a very pleasant surprise. I wasn’t blown away by it by any means, but it is a solid fantasy that I thoroughly enjoyed. I also liked the artwork and character designs. Their personalities and interactions were also very well done. Kain’s very existence as an unheard of male songstress calls into question the validity of his country’s policies regarding the treatment of songstresses. Finally, the assumptions and traditions begin to be challenged. In addition to the main story, there is unrelated short included in the volume called “Darika” that I also quite enjoyed.

Vassalord, Volume 4 by Nanae Chrono. So, Vassalord still doesn’t make a lot of sense, although it looks like a semi-coherent plot-line might actually be developing out of the bizarrely addicting mess. A few story elements are starting to pull together, but it really feels like Chono is just making things up as she goes. Though, I guess that’s probably not too surprising for a series that was based on a pinup illustration. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, her artwork and characters make for great eye candy with some pretty heavy boys’ love and yuri-ish overtones. So, yeah, I’ll probably keep reading it if Tokyopop keeps publishing it in English. The relationships between characters are certainly fascinating.

Wish, Volumes 1-4 by CLAMP. Wish is a delightful, lesser known short series from the immensely popular creative team CLAMP. I know quite a few people who absolutely hate the translation decisions made for this series, particularly the choice of pronouns (the demons and angels are technically genderless.) I didn’t find the translation to be too bad, but the lettering is absolutely terrible. It unfortunately distracts from what is otherwise a very nice series with a lovely story, endearing characters, and great art. CLAMP throws in some interesting red herrings but when the truth is finally revealed it all makes sense. I kind of hope Dark Horse picks up this series for one their fabulous CLAMP omnibus treatments.

Chi’s Sweet Home: Chi’s New Address, Episodes 53-104 directed by Mitsuyuki Masuhara. I love the Chi’s Sweet Home manga series so it’s probably not surprising that I really enjoy the anime adaptation, too. They are both so freakin’ adorable. Although the animation is fairly simple, sticking close to the charming artwork of the original, they don’t forget to include wonderful details like the flicking of Chi’s ears. Also, the anime’s theme song is marvelously catching; I’m willing to watch the opening for every episode, and it makes me giggle every single time. Each episode is only about three minutes long (including the opening), but the bite-sized installments seem somehow appropriate for the pint-sized Chi.

Spice & Wolf: Season One directed by Takeo Takahashi. The first season of the Spice & Wolf anime covers the first two volumes of the light novel series. The anime stays true to the heart of the original but also includes some nice changes, interpretations, and twists of its own. Overall, I wasn’t particularly taken with the primary animation and character designs although I really liked the backgrounds and landscapes. I did find the economic theories and strategies easier to follow in the anime than I did in the books, but that may have been because I already knew what was going on. The near constant bantering and teasing between Holo and Lawrence is still there; I really adore those two together.

My Week in Manga: September 6-September 12, 2010

My News and Reviews

I’ve more or less gotten back on schedule after my vacation. Not much news to speak of, although I have some fun things in store for all of you out there. An interesting story about my third volume of Challengers: I went to read it only to discover that it was volume two hiding in the dust jacket of volume three. I have never seen something like this happen before, but the folks at Akadot Retail (from whom I ordered the books several months ago) were marvelous to work with in fixing the situation.

I did review Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Slum Online this past week which I’m pretty sure was a light novel. If you like video games, you’ll probably enjoy it, and if you don’t, you might still enjoy it. There is also another As Seen Online post with links to all sorts of interesting things.

I’ve added a few more sites to the Resources page. I don’t remember how I stumbled across Kathryn Hemmann’s Contemporary Japanese Literature, but it was a very happy accident. The blog features book reviews for everything from nonfiction to manga. I’ve also added Manga Worth Reading, which is a part of Comics Worth Reading sites, A Feminist Otaku, which explores gender issues in manga and anime, and the news and review site Manga Xanadu.

Quick Takes

Challengers, Volumes 3-4 by Hinako Takanaga. The third volume is probably my favorite in the entire series. While there is still plenty of humor and goofiness going on—it is a romantic comedy after all—the last two books take a slightly more serious turn. Though, I do giggle every time I read the phrase “Satan’s rape demons.” Anyway—we get a showdown between Kurokawa’s mother and Souichi, Morinaga admits to Souichi that he’s gay, a female coworker is out to rehabilitate Kurokawa, and Tomoe is given the opportunity to work in America. Challengers is followed by the series The Tyrant Falls in Love which focuses on Morinaga and Souichi.

Dining Bar Akira by Tomoko Yamashita. The first thing I want to say is that I absolutely adore the cover of Dining Bar Akira; it really does a great job of capturing the feeling of the story. Despite having fallen for one another, Akria and Torihara piss each other off so much. They’re complete opposites and it’s hilarious in a very realistic way. Yamashita’s art reminds me a little of est em’s which is not at all a bad thing. In addition to the main story there are also two shorts, “Foggy Scene” and “Riverside Moonlight.” The dialogue is a little hard to follow at times, but I really enjoyed this one-shot.

GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, Volumes 15-20 by Tohru Fujisawa. I do like this series, I do, I do. At this point, most of the material is completely new to me and doesn’t show up in the anime. The craziness, inappropriateness, and well intentioned insanity continues. While Onizuka has won over most of his students by now, he still has plenty to work out with their parents, other teachers, and the school administration. Now my only problem is that I haven’t been able to track down affordable copies of the last five books in the series. I’ll be keeping my eyes open, though.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie The Cowboy Bebop series was one of the first anime that I ever saw and remains one of my favorites. I don’t think the movie is quite as good, but it’s still pretty fantastic. It’s hard to go wrong with awesome music and awesome characters. Apparently, the movie is rated R for violence, which I hadn’t realized until now. The movie doesn’t seem to have the same sense of urgency as the series does, but granted the creators have almost two hours to explore one plot arc as opposed to under a half hour. Still, the movie is pretty great and even if you haven’t seen the series you should still be able to follow everything.

My Week in Manga: August 30-September 5, 2010

My News and Reviews

I was away on an extra-long-weekend-mini-vacation this past week. I didn’t do much but read, play video games, and enjoy the outdoors of northern Michigan, including walking across the Mackinac Bridge—the third longest suspension bridge in the world. So, not really much news-wise other than my posting schedule is going to be a little off while I catch up.

Before I left, I did manage to get my review up for the first volume of Saemi Yorita’s Brilliant Blue. Also posted this past week was my first Bookshelf Overload, featuring my empty wallet and acquisitions for August.

Quick Takes

Challengers, Volume 1-2 by Hinako Takanaga. Challengers is Takanaga’s debut manga series. I am quite fond of Takanaga’s work, particularly her art, so it’s interesting to get to see her early style. Challengers is a cute, romantic, boys’ love comedy. I like the characters, and while the main couple (Tomoe and Kurokawa) is endearing, it’s really the secondary characters that make the series so much fun. My favorite is probably Isogai, Kurokawa’s meddling office-mate and best friend, although Tomoe’s violently homophobic brother Souichi is pretty fantastic as well.

GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, Volumes 8-14 by Tohru Fujisawa. I took a huge stack of GTO with me up north and it was pretty much all I read while I was up there. So far, the series and the anime have stuck pretty close together, but it’s nice that a few chapters and story arcs unique to the manga are starting showing up. I really do enjoy Onizuka’s crazy antics and enthusiasm for what he calls being a teacher. He may be a little unorthodox to say the least, but his students definitely learn something from him even if it’s not on the standard curriculum.

Brave Story: New Traveler (PSP) I recently read and enjoyed Miyuki Miyabe’s Brave Story so I figured I’d give one of the video games based on the story a try. Brave Story: New Traveler is your pretty standard random-encounter RPG. It has a nice fighting system with animations unique to each attack. However, the monsters can get repetitive (as can the battle music). The thing I really enjoyed is how the game incorporated elements and characters from the original story—you even have the opportunity to play Wataru and his friends at one point. The main quest is very similar to the book’s plot but different enough to be interesting.