My Week in Manga: April 9-April 15, 2012

My News and Reviews

This past week I posted two reviews. My first in-depth manga review in April was for Rohan at the Louvre by Hirohiko Araki. It’s a handsome hardcover volume with pages in full color. Araki’s artwork is fantastic. I really enjoyed the manga. Fun fact: It was commissioned by the Louvre Museum. I also reviewed the original Welcome to the N.H.K. novel by Tatsuhiko Takimoto which has had both anime and manga versions made from it. I enjoyed the novel so much that I’ll definitely be tracking down the adaptations as well.

Heads up! April’s Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Kate Dacey at The Manga Critic, will begin on April 22nd. This month we’ll be focusing on Viz Media’s Signature imprint, home to some great series like Pluto and Vagabond just to name a couple. Also, voting started yesterday for the second Aniblog Tourney if you’re into that sort of thing. (Experiments in Manga has been included in the tournament this year.) Last week I mentioned that the nominees for this year’s Eisner Awards had been announced. Brigid Alverson, one of the judges, gives a sneak peek into the award process in Best Job Ever: My Six Months As An Eisner Judge.

Quick Takes

No Touching At All by Kou Yoneda. One thing that I’ve seen mentioned in most reviews for No Touching At All are problems with the translation; I’ll admit, it’s not the best that I’ve seen. But for me, the strength of the story and strength of the characters ultimately won out—I loved No Touching At All. Shima’s awkward introversion actually reminded me a lot of myself which was probably one of the reasons that I connected so well with the manga. He has difficulty accepting his own feelings and even more trouble accepting the feelings of others. Togawa on the other hand is more confident and straightforward. I found both of the lead characters to be realistic and their relationship believable.

Rumic World Trilogy, Volumes 1-3 by Rumiko Takahashi. Rumic World Trilogy is a collection of short manga of varying lengths by Rumiko Takahashi, mostly from early in her career. As with most short story collections, the stories tend to be hit-or-miss but Takahashi generally hits. Most of the stories in the Rumic World Trilogy tend towards the comedic although there are a few that are more serious, too. Rumic World Trilogy is not my favorite manga by Takahashi, but for the most part I enjoyed it. Probably my least favorite story was “Wasted Minds.” I found parts of it to be very amusing, but the five-part series seemed to drag on too long. I preferred the shorter stories which forced Takahashi to focus her storytelling a bit more.

Twin Spica, Volumes 5-8 by Kou Yaginuma. It makes me sad that the English release of Twin Spica hasn’t been more successful; I think it’s a wonderful series. From the very beginning of the newly established astronaut training program in Japan it has been made clear that only a few students will actually be given the opportunity to go to space. Asumi and her friends are mostly concentrating on their immediate coursework, but things will soon get more competitive—they all want a chance at space. Twin Spica primarily focuses on the feelings and relationships of its characters. Even with all of the science fiction elements (which I love), they feel like authentic people.

The Irresponsible Captain Tylor: OVA Series directed by Kōichi Mashimo and Naoyuki Yoshinaga. I had a lot of fun watching the initial anime series of The Irresponsible Captain Tylor and so made a point to seek out the OVA series as well. Unfortunately, the OVA series somehow lacks the charm of the original and I wasn’t as impressed by it. However, it was great to have the opportunity to spend more time with the characters. The OVA episodes, which take place not long after the original series ends, tend to focus on individual characters rather than the crew as a whole. I think this might be where the series goes astray—the characters seem to work better as a cast ensemble than on their own. Still, even if I didn’t like the OVA series as much as the original, I was entertained.

My Week in Manga: March 14-March 20, 2011

My News and Reviews

I mentioned this previously (Random Musings: Anime and Manga Bloggers for Japan), but if you haven’t checked out the Anime and Manga Boggers for Japan effort, please do. I’ll be keeping the banner at the top of this blog for a while and eventually will move it to the side bar. Our initial goal was to raise $1,000 ($2,000 total) for Shelter Box USA—Japan Disaster Relief and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. At the time of this posting, we’ve reached $3,170, which is simply fantastic.

Other posts this week included the first in-depth manga review for March—Blade of the Immortal, Volume 5: On Silent Wings II. Blade of the Immortal is one of my favorite manga series, and there’s some really great character development for Rin going on in the On Silent Wings arc. I also posted a review of the first volume of the Book Girl light novel series Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime, which I really enjoyed. I’ll definitely be following the series.

A couple of interesting things that I’ve recently found online: The Manga Readers Choice Awards have been announced as has the Graphic Novel Reporter’s Core List of Manga for Spring 2011. Also, since I read Qwan this week, I want to draw your attention to Kate Dacey’s much more coherent write up of the series at The Manga Critic—The Best Manga You’re Not Reading: Qwan.

Finally, the Aria Manga Moveable Feast has begun! I’ve included quick takes of both Aqua and Aria here, and later this week I’ll have an in-depth review of the first volume of Aqua.

Quick Takes

Aqua, Volumes 1-2 by Kozue Amano. There was no way I could pass up Amano’s manga Aqua—Mars has been turned into a water planet through terraforming. The art is probably my favorite part of the series. Pretty girls in a pretty setting. There are panels that I keep flipping back to look at again, happily absorbing myself staring at the illustrations. I love Aika’s frequent admonishments of Akari’s sappy lines. And the chapters focusing on the exploits of President Aria are always fun. I was happy to see a little more conflict introduced in the second volume, but overall the series is still has a very relaxed feeling about it. I like the characters, but they almost seem to be living separate from the society around them.

Aria, Volumes 1-6 by Kozue Amano. Aria is pretty much the same series as Aqua except for the magazine it was originally published in. It still has a calm, relaxing storyline and beautiful artwork (I would love to see some of Amano’s color prints). The manga continues to be fairly episodic but it’s nice to see the same characters showing up again and again. And there are quite a few more charming characters introduced as well. The first few volumes of Aria focus on the changing seasons. Autumn is featured in the first volume, a personal favorite of mine. It’s also interesting to see the preservation of various Manhome customs and traditions on Aqua. I still find it strange how little Akari actually knows about Aqua and Neo-Venezia.

Qwan, Volumes 1-4 by Aki Shimizu. Unfortunately, only the first four volumes of the seven volume series have been released in English. It’s unlikely that the remaining volumes will be published, but Qwan is still worth taking a look at. Shimizu’s artwork is marvelous and the characters fascinating. I’m particularly fond of the lowlife Chikei (and would really like to know what happened to him). The story is a great mix of Chinese court and political intrigue and supernatural battles. The actual action can be difficult to follow sometimes, but overall the fight sequences are great. The story, too, requires that the reader be paying attention, but I found effort needed to be satisfying.

Ze, Volumes 1-2 by Yuki Shimizu. I’ve frequently seen Ze referred to as a yaoi version of Fruits Basket, and there are certain similarities. Familial and romantic relationships and dynamics are certainly bizarre and intense. And Raizou, the primary character in the first two volumes, is extraordinarily kindhearted, self-sacrificing, and just a bit awkward. Adorably so. (I really like Raizou as a character.) I enjoyed watching him work out his relationship with Kon. The magic system used in Ze can be somewhat confusing at first if you try to think too hard about it. But, I’ve always liked the concept of words being inherently powerful, both literally and figuratively.

The Irresponsible Captain Tylor directed by Kōichi Mashimo. This series was recommended to me by a friend who was shocked that I had never even heard of it. It is so very terribly amusing. Justy Ueki Tylor joined the United Planets Space Force in search of an easy desk job, but unexpectedly finds himself promoted to a captain a destroyer after diffusing a hostage situation. The crew of the Soyokaze is made up of the worst troublemakers and misfits of the UPSF. Somehow, Tylor wins them over and they manage to survive repeat encounters against the enemy Raalgon Empire. No one can really tell if Tylor is simply a complete idiot or an absolute genius, but they can all agree that he is one lucky bastard.