My Week in Manga: March 7-March 13, 2011

My News and Reviews

Most everyone is probably aware by now of the terrible earthquake, tsunami, and resulting (and ongoing) disasters that struck Japan on March 11. Yokoso News, which normally focuses on Japanese culture and such, has been providing live English coverage of Japanese news sources for the last few days. They’ve been doing a great job and I’ve pretty much been listening to the broadcast whenever I get a chance.

My posts for this past week included two reviews. The first was for The Guin Saga, Book One: The Leopard Mask by Kaoru Kurimoto. I didn’t enjoy as much as I hoped I would, but I will still be reading the rest of The Guin Saga volumes available in English. The second review was for Tow Ubukata’s award-winning Mardock Scramble, which I mostly enjoyed. Just don’t talk to me about Blackjack. Animemiz’s Scribblings has made the announcement for this month’s Manga Moveable Feast which starts next week: Announcing March 2011’s Manga Movable Feast and a Call for Contribution. The feast will featuring Aria by Kozue Amano. My contribution will be an in-depth review of the first volume of the prequel, Aqua, Volume 1.

Since I read Offered this week, I thought I’d mention a few recent posts made about other manga created by Kazuo Koike and Ryoichi Ikegami: Kate Dacey at The Manga Critic takes a look at Wounded Man as part of her Manga Hall of Shame feature, and Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga focused on Crying Freeman a few weeks ago.

Comics Should Be Good at Comic Books Resources is featuring LGBT comics this month. The entire archive of posts can be found here, but I specifically wanted to mention Brian Cronin’s brief review and preview of Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son. The first volume of this manga is to be released by Fantagraphics in June; I’ve really been looking forward to this series ever since it was announced.

And finally, a few more websites have been added to the Resources page: Anime Research, Manga Widget, Masters of Manga, and Same Hat!

Quick Takes

Immortal Rain, Volumes 3-8 by Kaori Ozaki. I am in love with this series. The characters are great, the artwork is wonderful, the plot is both heartfelt and exciting. The more melancholy aspects of the story (of which there are plenty) are balanced nicely with moments of humor and quickly paced action. Rain is one of my favorite manga characters that I’ve come across recently. He’s adorable. Even after more than six hundred years of life, he has somehow managed to retain his humanity. I believe the eleventh and final volume is currently scheduled for release in Japan in May. Tokyopop has published the first eight volumes; I’m not sure what the plans are for the last few volumes, but I really hope they will be released, too.

Love Mode, Volumes 1-2 by Yuki Shimizu. Love Mode is one of the longest boys’ love series currently available in English. The first two volumes rely a little too heavily on rape and the threat of rape to move the plot along, for me. Some people might also be bothered by the age differences between the couples. Fortunately, Takamiya is actually a really decent person. There is also a fair amount of humor, particularly in the first volume. In fact, there are moments that are absolutely hilarious and had me laughing out loud. I’m not particularly fond of Shimizu’s art style in this series; the first two volumes look a bit dated. Love Mode hasn’t really grabbed me yet, though I’ve been told it becomes quite addicting later on.

Nightmare Inspector: Yumekui Kenbun, Volumes 1-2 by Shin Mashiba. Nightmare Inspector is surprisingly dark for as innocent looking as the artwork first appears. The character designs are appealing although it’s difficult to tell the relative ages of the different characters, they all look young. Hiruko is a baku, a creature that eats nightmares, the more bloody and painful the better. It’s mostly only been hinted up to this point, but there is something ominous about Hiruko’s existence and backstory. People come to him for help interpreting and dispelling their nightmares. The story is fairly episodic so far as each dream is explored, but it is genuinely creepy. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

Offered, Volumes 1-2 written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami. I haven’t quite been able to decide whether Offered is so bad it’s good, or if it’s just simply bad. There’s a lot going on: Olympic athletes, drug cartels, Nazis, mummies, underground kingdoms, hypnotism, ancient sperm, nudist colonies, cults, animal sacrifices…did I mention ancient sperm? The manga is ridiculous and absurd and it’s played absolutely straight. The story is ludicrous, but the it presents itself completely seriously. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole thing. I am, however, a sucker for Ikegami’s artwork. His figure work is gorgeous and I can’t help but love it. I’m not sure I can recommend Offered, but it’s certainly an experience.

The Great Yokai War directed by Takashi Miike. The Great Yokai War is the first film that Miike directed for children; he’s probably better known in the United States for his more controversial and extreme works. However, The Great Yokai War is a family-friendly romp featuring a delightful cornucopia of colorful yokai, a summer adventure, and quirky humor and visuals. I recently read Yokai Attack! and was thrilled to be able to pick out and identify many of the creatures in the movie. If a particular yokai happens to catch your eye, make sure to check out the gallery on the DVD which includes their names and usual locals. It’s really the yokai that make this movie for me, but the lead kid is freaking cute, too.

My Week in Manga: February 7-February 13, 2011

My News and Reviews

All right! I posted two in-depth reviews last week. Granted, they were for novels and not manga, but the books are still worth checking out. The first review is for Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness by Nahoko Uehashi. It’s the second book in her ten volume Guardian fantasy series. Only the first two volumes are available in English, but I adore them both. The second review is for Project Itoh’s multiple award winning science fiction novel Harmony; particularly recommended for fans of utopia and dystopia fiction.

The February 2011 Manga Moveable Feast, featuring Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen, began yesterday. In addition to the quick takes below of the entire manga series and the two Barefoot Gen anime films, I will also be posting a couple of reviews this week. Sam Kusek at A Life in Panels is hosting the event.

Quick Takes

Barefoot Gen, Volumes 1-10 by Keiji Nakazawa. I finally got around to reading the entire series since Barefoot Gen was selected for February 2011’s Manga Moveable Feast. Barefoot Gen isn’t an easy read due to its subject matter, but that is also what makes it such an important read. Despite all of the terrible things that happen, Barefoot Gen is ultimately an optimistic and inspiring series and carries a heartening anti-war message. Some of the characters come across as much more articulate, capable, and mature than one would expect from people their age, but this can be fairly easily ignored for the sake of the story. Barefoot Gen is a powerful semi-autobiographical work.

Hetalia: Axis Powers, Volumes 1-2 by Hidekaz Himaruya. Hetalia started as a webcomic and quickly became a worldwide phenomenon. Perhaps because of its start online, the image quality varies, especially in the first volume. The manga improves in writing as the series progresses; I frequently found myself laughing out loud. The humor often but not always relies on stereotypes, but I didn’t find it to be offensive. I even learned a thing or to about world history. Much of the manga is presented as yonkoma, but that format is not used exclusively. Ultimately, I think I prefer the anime adaptation of Hetalia, but I still really enjoyed the manga and will be picking up more of the volumes as they are published.

Immortal Rain, Volumes 1-2 by Kaori Ozaki. This is a series I probably wouldn’t have come across except that was featured in Jason Thompson’s House of 1,000 Manga column. I was inspired to pick it up, and I’m so very glad I did; three chapters in and I knew I wanted to invest in the entire series. Immortal Rain (known as Meteor Methuselah in Japan) has wonderful art and fantastic, complex, characters. And the ladies kick ass. Rain, the titular immortal, is still mostly a mystery at this point in the story. The plot, too, is in its beginning stages and there are more questions than answers, but I’m really looking forward to seeing where it goes. The frequently melancholy mood is balanced nicely with plenty of action sequences.

J-Boy by Biblos by Various. According to Digital Manga, J-Boy was the first yaoi anthology to be released in the United States. It collects nineteen short one-shots, spin-offs, and side-stories by sixteen contributors, totaling over 340 pages of manga. Most of the stories are simply okay, but there are a few gems hidden in the volume. One favorite was the absolutely ridiculous story “Neko Samurai – Ocean of Barrier” by Kyushu Danji. The stories are pretty varied, some are goofy while others are more heartfelt. However, some plots were too complicated to be effectively captured in short form. There’s very little sex in the book, and many stories don’t even to get to the point of kissing.

Barefoot Gen: The Movies 1 & 2 produced by Keiji Nakazawa. Barefoot Gen has been the subject of several adaptations, including two anime films released in the 1980s. The first, directed by Mori Masaki, is probably the most well known—particularly for it’s depiction of the dropping of the bomb. The second, directed by Toshio Hirata, takes place three years after the first. It deviates somewhat from the manga in its details, but it’s heart is unquestionably the same. While I think everyone should read the manga, I think the anime is definitely worth watching as well and it may even be more accessible overall.

Late Bloomer directed by Go Shibata. I first learned about this film because it features music by World’s End Girlfriend. Late Bloomer is probably best described as an arthouse horror film. It follows Sumida, whose cerebral palsy forces him to lead a very lonely life. Eventually his anger and frustration drives him to commit a series of murders. The cinematography is very interesting and movie is filmed in a grainy black and white. The music meshes with the film incredibly well and is integral to many shots. I can’t really say I enjoyed Late Bloomer, it’s an unusual film and definitely not for everyone, but I am glad that I took time to watch it.