My Week in Manga: September 12-September 18, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted the Bookshelf Overload for August. I picked up some great out-of-print (or soon to be out-of-print) manga and comics last month in addition to some highly-anticipated new releases. I was particularly busy with work and taiko last week so I wasn’t online much, but there is one thing that I’d like to draw attention to–the thirty-eighth and most recent issue of Sparkler Monthly. In it is the first part of a Skyglass side story written by Jenn Grunigen and illustrated by Mookie called “The Mud God” which, in addition to being adorably cute, is partly my fault as it’s related to another Skyglass commission that the author is working on for me. (Hopefully that one will be able to be shared soon, too!)

Quick Takes

Inuyashiki, Volume 4Inuyashiki, Volume 4 by Hiroya Oku. The fourth volume of Inuyashiki begins immediately where the third volume ends, with the devastating and gruesome aftermath of Inuyashiki’s confrontation with an powerful organized crime group. It then turns to follow Shishigami’s story again. One thing that I found to be particularly interesting about Inuyashiki, Volume 4 is the character development of the two main leads. Since the beginning of the series, Inuyashiki and Shishigami have been opposites, using their newly-granted powers in vastly different ways. Though they both are mechanical monsters with many of the same abilities, Inuyashiki has focused on helping others, whether that be by curing major illnesses or fighting on behalf of those who are weaker, while Shishigami has been going on killing sprees for his own selfish reasons. Inuyashiki abhors violence, even when he is a willing participant; Shishigami delights in it. But the fourth volume of Inuyashiki sees some of that change. Inuyashiki is learning to consciously use and control his more deadly powers, specifically in order to put an end to Shishigami. He still considers it to be a necessary evil, though. As for Shishigami, his mother’s illness inspires him to use his abilities for less destructive purposes, but it’s still difficult to sympathize with him since he shows very little regret or remorse for the suffering he has wrought in the recent past.

One-Punch Man, Volume 4One-Punch Man, Volumes 4-8 written by One and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. I continue to be greatly impressed by both the artwork and writing of One-Punch Man although the series is not without its flaws. The manga plays around with many of the tropes of the superhero genre and makes use of plenty of stereotypes in the process. Unfortunately, that means the introduction of an unquestionably gay hero and the perceived threat of his sexuality is intended to be comedic, resulting in an uncomfortable setup in which implied sexual assault is treated as a joke. Personally, I didn’t find this to be particularly funny. However, other than that glaring misstep, the humor in One-Punch Man is fantastic. A slew of new heroes and villains have been brought in; their powers are frequently over-the-top and frankly ridiculous, fitting the overall tone of the series perfectly. Murata’s artwork can be absolutely stunning and is incredibly dynamic, shifting from simplified illustrations to those that are nearly photo-realistic depending on the needs of the story and humor. The action sequences are great, filled with intense battles between absurdly powered opponents and accompanied by a suitably tremendous amount of destruction. It’s not at all surprising that One-Punch Man has been adapted into an anime series–the manga as a whole but especially the visual components seem to beg for it.

Queen Emeraldas, Volume 1 Queen Emeraldas, Volume 1 by Leiji Matsumoto. Older manga are not often released in English, so I was very excited to learn that Kodansha Comics would be publishing a classic series. I was even more interested when I found out that series would be Matsumoto’s space opera Queen Emeraldas which takes place in the same universe as his Captain Harlock stories. Although the hardcover English-language edition is based on a Japanese release from 2009, Queen Emeraldas was originally serialized in the late 1970s. The story largely follows a young man by the name of Hiroshi Umino, a runaway from Earth who crash lands on Mars in a spaceship he cobbled together himself. The titular Emeraldas is charismatic and enigmatic woman, a living legend who metes out justice as she wanders the stars. She takes a particular interest in the boy, repeatedly aiding him in his struggle to survive in space. Initially her concern seems to emerge from the fact that his story shares so many similarities with her own although later it is implied that she may have a deeper connection to him. However, like much of Queen Emeraldas, the nature of that connection is still a mystery. So far, I am thoroughly enjoying Queen Emeraldas. The manga is moody, atmospheric, and melancholic with a Western frontier flair. The characters are ambitious, seeking a life of freedom in a world that is harsh and unforgiving.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 9Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 9 by Miki Yoshikawa. It’s fairly common for bodyswap manga to incorporate a fair amount of fanservice, especially when different genders are involved, and Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is no exception to that trend. Generally, the fanservice in the series doesn’t bother me that much especially considering the context, but every once in a while it’s more of a distraction than anything else. A case in point is a completely inexplicable panty shot in the ninth volume which completely threw me out of the story; it served no purpose for either characterization or plot, and even how the scene was illustrated didn’t make any sense. Usually, Yoshikawa is much better than that. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the ninth volume of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. There are some interesting twists and revelations as Yamada tries to find a way to return everyone’s missing memories. I’m not always very fond of amnesia plotlines in stories simply because they can be a lazy way for creators to write themselves out of a corner or cause unnecessary drama, but in the case of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches it actually works really well. At it’s very heart the series about friendship and overcoming isolation. Yamada, intentionally or not, was the one who brought so many of the characters together in the first place and he will do everything that he can to bring them together again.

My Week in Manga: July 4-July 10, 2016

My News and Reviews

Okay! A couple of different although expected things were posted last week at Experiments in Manga in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. First up was the announcement of the Complex Age Giveaway Winner which also includes a list of manga which incorporates cosplay in one way or another. I also posted the Bookshelf Overload for June last week for those of you interested in what manga and such I’ve recently acquired.

Other interesting things found online: As Anime Expo wrapped up early last week, a few more licensing announcements were made. Viz Media announced that it plans on publishing the fourth part of Hirohiko Araki’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure as well as Araki’s How to Create Manga. Yen Press will release Erased by Kei Sanbe and Bungo Stray Dogs written by Kafka Asagiri and illustrated Sango Harukawa. Also announced last week was SuBLime’s partnership with Libre, outlining their plans to release Ayano Yamane’s Finder series as well as other titles in English. Ani-gamers posted an interview with Rei Hiroe from AnimeNext 2016. And over at the Lobster Dance, the sixth installment of “The Sparkling World of 1970s Shojo Manga” takes a look at the Rose of Versailles franchise.

Quick Takes

As Many As There Are StarsAs Many As There Are Stars by Miecohouse Matsumoto. As Many As There Are Stars starts as one thing but by the end of volume the manga has turned into something else entirely. Matsumoto may very well have had this planned out in advance—hints about Kousuke’s tragic past and proclivities are present from very early on—but the shift in tone is still a bit jarring. As Many As There Are Stars is a boys’ love one-shot about seven young men who are all in the same club at college. Supposedly it’s an astronomy club of some sort, but it might as well be a club for sexual tension as most of the members have feelings for one or more of the others. The notable exception is the first year who, despite being an important plot point in the first chapter, is largely forgotten for the rest of the volume. Initially, the manga is fairly sweet and lighthearted if somewhat cliché as it explores the relationships between the club members. Eventually As Many As There Are Stars turns its focus onto Kousuke, an art student who is both desperate to be and terrified of being loved. What starts as a somewhat goofy manga develops into something more melancholic, a story about an unfortunate young man confronted by friendship and love.

Inuyashiki, Volume 2Inuyashiki, Volumes 2-3 by Hiroya Oku. After reading the first volume of Inuyashiki, I was curious to see what direction Oku would take the series. At this point, I’m not entirely convinced that Oku actually has a cohesive overarching narrative in mind. Instead, the basic premise of the series creates a platform for Oku to tell some legitimately disturbing stories; I’m just not sure that there’s much of a point to them beyond their violence and depravity. Inuyashiki often feels like it’s being distasteful just to be distasteful in order to see just how far Oku can push the boundaries of acceptability. However, I will admit that it can be can oddly satisfying to see someone who looks like an elderly man protect others by beating the crap out of obvious wrongdoers. (Oku seems to go out of the way to make the bad guys as over-the-top and awful as possible, which is fitting for the series as a whole.) Inuyashiki—the previously mentioned old man—is starkly contrasted by Shishigami, the manga’s other, much younger, lead. Like Inuyashiki, Shishigami has been reborn as a cyborg. Unlike Inuyashiki, he has been using his newly-gained powers to cause death a mayhem at will. He is unyielding in his deliberate cruelty and absolutely terrifying.

Noragami: Stray God, Volume 8Noragami: Stray God, Volumes 8-14 by Adachitoka. I have been enjoying Noragami more and more as the series progresses, but I still managed to fall behind on the manga. I was actually intending to only read a few volumes this past week, but once I started I found myself devouring my entire backlog; Noragami continues to get better and better. More of Yato’s backstory has been revealed at this point and his past has become central to the plot. The narrative flow can be somewhat odd, though. In between the intensely dramatic and serious story arcs, Adachitoka has the tendency to introduce several chapters (or more) of what feels like playful filler material. However, I’m really enjoying Adachitoka’s modernized take on Japanese deities and mythologies. (I also appreciate the thorough translation and cultural notes included in the volumes.) The interplay between the gods, shinki, ayakashi, and humans is fascinating and the relationships and power dynamics between them all are marvelously complex and nuanced even if the characters’ actions aren’t always the most subtle. Adachitoka also isn’t afraid of killing off major characters, which heightens the tension of the series’ conflicts and it’s unlikely anyone will remain unscathed.



My Week in Manga: September 28-October 4, 2015

My News and Reviews

A few different things were posted at Experiments in Manga last week. First of all, it’s time for the most recent monthly giveaway. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so you all still have a chance to enter to win the first volume of Madoka Takadono and Utako Yukihiro’s Devils and Realist. The honor of the first in-depth review for October goes to Jim Zub and Steve Cummings’ Wayward, Volume 2: Ties That Bind, which continues to successfully meld the history and legends surrounding yokai with a brand new story. The series, which I’m thoroughly enjoying, would probably make a great entry point for manga fans who would be interested in exploring American-style comics. Finally, over the weekend I posted September’s Bookshelf Overload.

As for some of the interesting things that caught my attention elsewhere online last week: Foreign Policy has a nice piece about evolving LGBT rights in Japan and the role that manga like Wandering Son and boys’ love has played in it; Otaku USA has an interview with the (in)famous mangaka and tentacle master Toshio Maeda; it looks as though Masahiko Matsumoto’s long-awaited Cigarette Girl is currently scheduled for release in 2016 by Top Shelf; and Digital Manga, despite the trouble it seems to be having actually publishing anything in print these days, has launched its newest Tezuka Kickstarter aiming to release Wonder 3 and, as a stretch goal, The Film Lives On.

Quick Takes

The DivineThe Divine by written by Boaz Lavie and illustrated by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka. The striking color artwork of The Divine is what first caught my attention. (It looked vaguely familiar, and indeed, it turns out that Tomer created the cover art for Haikasoru’s recent Battle Royale releases.) The graphic novel follows Mark, an explosives expert, who travels to a remote Southeast Asian country on a military contract. The mission seems relatively straightforward—blowing up a mountain, supposedly to help the locals gain better access to its rich mineral resources—but Mark ends up caught up in the local civil war when he’s captured by a group of young rebels. Mixing mythology and modern warfare and the supernatural with man-made terrors, the comic is graphic in its blood and violence. The artwork is consistently great, but I found the narrative to be a little uneven and none of the characters are particularly likeable. The Divine was in part inspired by a photograph of the twelve-year-old Htoo twins from Burma, the leaders of the God’s Army guerrilla group in the 1990s. Although I did enjoy The Divine, I think I’d actually be even more interested in seeing a direct retelling of their story.

Inuyashiki, Volume 1Inuyashiki, Volume 1 by Hiroya Oku. It’s been a long while since I’ve read any of Gantz, the series that Oku is most well-known for, but I was still curious about Inuyashiki, his most recent series to be released in English. Almost unheard of in manga available in translation, which largely tends to be targeted at a younger audiences, one of lead characters, the titular Ichiro Inuyashiki, is nearly sixty years old. In fact, he looks even older than that. The first volume of Inuyashiki seems to mostly be a prologue for the rest of the series, establishing the premise of the manga and introducing the characters who will become the major players. Oku makes a point to emphasize just how sad and miserable Inuyashiki’s life is before killing him and another innocent bystander off in a freak accident. Granted, they are then both resurrected as extraordinarily powerful, weaponized cyborgs. In the case of Inuyashiki, he’s using his new-found abilities for good, and in spectacular fashion, too. As for the other victim, I don’t expect that he’ll be quite as magnanimous. Inuyashiki, as ridiculous as its setup is, has a promising start. I’m rather curious to see the direction Oku will be taking the series.

Suikoden III: The Successor of Fate, Volume 1Suikoden III: The Successor of Fate, Volumes 1-5 by Aki Shimizu. Although I am aware of the RPG series, I haven’t actually played any of the Suikoden video games. I was specifically interested in the Suikoden III manga adaptation for two reasons: the entire Suikoden series is loosely based on the Chinese classic Water Margin, and I generally enjoy Shimizu’s work (which also tends to have a Chinese influence). An overview of the previous two Suikoden stories is provided before the manga gets underway; it’s a nice, but largely unnecessary addition. The Successor of Fate seems to stand well on it own, so far. The manga doesn’t really feel like a video game adaptation, either, which I was happy to discover. References are made to past events (and past games, technically), but for the characters that history is shrouded in myth and legend. At this point The Successor of Fate hasn’t really made itself stand out from most other epic fantasy series, but its a solid beginning and, despite a few infodumps, there are plenty of things to like: a large cast of characters (including quite a few women in prominent roles), prophecies and magic, politics and intrigue, battles that rely on strategy as much as strength, and so on.

Manga Giveaway: Gantz Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the Gantz Giveaway is…Ferret205!

As winner the winner, Ferret205 will be receiving a copy of Gantz, Volume 1 by Hiroya Oku. The contest this time around was pretty simple—entrants just had to name a manga that currently has a live-action adaptation and declare a manga they would love or hate to see be made live-action. And because I like making lists, I’ve compiled the titles here. For further information, make sure to check out the Gantz Giveaway comments. Thank you again to everyone who participated!

Manga with a live-action adaptation (for better or for worse):
Cromartie High School by Eiji Nonaka
Death Note written by Tsugumi Ohba, illustrated by Takeshi Obata
Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama
Lone Wolf and Cub written by Kazuo Koike, illustrated by Goseki Kojima
Love★Com by Aya Nakahara
Nana by Ai Yazawa
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers by Fumi Yoshinaga
Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi
Tramps Like Us by Yayoi Ogawa
Uzumaki by Junji Ito

Please make a live-action adaptation of this manga:
Black Butler by Yana Toboso
Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura
Dengeki Daisy by Kyousuke Motomi
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
Hayate the Combat Butler by Kenjiro Hata
Jormungand by Keitarō Takahashi
Monster by Naoki Urasawa
Soul Eater by Atsushi Okubo

Keep your live-action adaptations away from this manga:
Bleach by Tite Kubo
Gravitation by Maki Murakami
Hayate the Combat Butler by Kenjiro Hata
One Piece by Eiichiro Oda

Manga Giveaway: Gantz Giveaway

It’s time for another manga giveaway! In honor of the recent premiere of the first of two Gantz live-action films, I am giving away a brand new copy of Hiroya Oku’s Gantz, Volume 1 from Dark Horse. The contest is open world-wide, but Gantz is most definitely a mature title so you must be over the age of eighteen to enter.

I was fortunate enough to be able to see the world premiere of Gantz at one of my local theaters. The manga series (still ongoing) is currently up to thirty volumes in Japan and the fifteenth volume was released in English by Dark Horse earlier this month. That’s a lot of material to fit into two films and obviously since the manga is still being published some things are going to be a bit different. It has its problems, but overall the first film was a fairly decent distillation of the manga; I’m interested in seeing how things are wrapped up in the second film.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a copy of Gantz, Volume 1?

1) In the comments section below, name a manga with a live-action adaptation (that hasn’t been mentioned yet).
2) Tell me about a manga that you would love (or hate) to see receive a live-action treatment.
3) If you’re on Twitter you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

One person can earn up to three entries for this giveaway. The winner will be randomly chosen and announced on February 2, 2011. You’ve only got one week to submit your entries. Good luck!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: Gantz Giveaway Winner