My Week in Manga: June 26-July 2, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted the most recent monthly giveaway. This time around participants have the opportunity to win both the first volume of Seiju Natsumegu’s Ghost Diary and the first volume of Chasiba Katase’s In/Spectre, two of the more recent manga series debuting in English translation that deal with Japanese folklore and legends. The winner of the giveaway will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter the contest. And as usual, the giveaway is open worldwide. Last month I switched around my posting schedule a little bit, but July will go back to the usual order. Unless something unexpected comes up, next week’s feature will be a Bookshelf Overload and the following week’s will be an in-depth review of Tomoyuki Hoshino’s award-winning novel ME. I’m currently reading and greatly enjoying an advance copy of Kazuki Sakuraba’s A Small Charred Face, scheduled to be released by Haikasoru later this year, so expect an in-depth review of that in the near future as well.

As for other interesting things that I’ve recently come across online to read and listen to: Ollie Barder interviewed the creative team Akira Himekawa for Forbes and Casey Lee Mitchem had the the chance to ask Hirohiko Araki a few questions for Anime News Network. As announced by Publishers Weekly, Chris Butcher, one of the main driving forces behind the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, is now also an editor-at-large for Viz Media. (This should turn out to be a very good thing.) I’d actually forgotten that Publishers Weekly has a podcast called More to Come, but one of the most recent episodes focused on Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Some other recent podcasts of note include one of Wave Motion Cannon’s weekly podcasts which featured Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband and Kabi Nagata’s My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness as well as an episode of Manga Machination’s which also featured My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness along with the manga’s translator Jocelyne Allen as a special guest. And of course, The OASG’s Translator Tea Time podcast is still going strong, too.

Anime Expo started last week and as usual there have been plenty of new licenses and announcements to come out of the event. First of all, Netcomics debuted its most recent print release, Dreams of the Days by Kyungha Yi the creator of Intense. Viz Media announced a handful of things, inculding the manga series Fire Punch by Tatsuki Fujimoto, a fancy new hardcover edition of Hiromu Arakawa’s manga Fullmetal Alchemist, the Kenka Bancho Otome: Girl Beats Boys manga series by Chie Shimada, two Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector books–Haiku and Where Am I Meow?–and Dempow Torishima’s award-winning collection of short stories Sisyphean (which is closely related to Torishima’s award-winning and incredibly strange illustrated novella Sisyphean which was previously translated in the speculative fiction anthology Phantasm Japan).

Yen Press also made a number of announcements including but not limited to the following manga titles in print: Baccano! by Shinta Fujimoto, The Demon Who Became My Sister by Pochi Iida, Hatsu*Haru by Shizuki Fujisawa, Kemono Friends: Welcome to Japari Park by Furai, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Days of Goddess by Masaya Takamura, Mermaid Boys by Yomi Sarachi, Oh, My Sweet Alien by Kōji Miyata, Pandora Box–a deluxe, limited edition box set of Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki–Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts by Yu Tomofuji, Silver Spoon by Hiromu Arakawa (I am extremely excited about this announcement!!!), Stupid Love Comedy by Shushushu Sakurai, Tales of Wedding Rings by Maybe, and Zo-Zo-Zombie-kun by Yasunari Nagatoshi.

Quick Takes

BoundlessBoundless by Jillian Tamaki. I’ve read several of Tamaki’s comics over the years, including her collaborations with her cousin Mariko Tamaki. SuperMutant Magic Academy, one of Tamaki’s solo works, is a personal favorite of mine and so I was especially looking forward to the release of Boundless, a collection of nine of Tamaki’s short comics (eleven if you count one of the end pages and the back cover). Most of the comics collected had previously been released elsewhere, either online or in print, however there is newly-published content included in the volume as well. I had already read some of the selections before (and actually even own one of them), but reading them together provides a more immediate and interesting contrast between the works. None of the comics are directly related to each other and even Tamaki’s color palettes, illustration styles, and methods of storytelling change throughout the volume, but they all have a well-defined, emotional core. While some of the comics in Boundless are fairly straightforward,  at times Tamaki’s approach is rather experimental. Overall, Boundless is a beautiful collection of comics exploring contemporary life, showing how talented and versatile a creator Tamaki can be.

Golden Kamuy, Volume 1Golden Kamuy, Volume 1 by Satoru Noda. The manga wasn’t on my radar until Viz Media announced that it had licensed the series, but as soon as I learned about Golden Kamuy I knew that I needed to check it out. The majority of series takes place in the early twentieth century soon after the end of the Russo-Japanese War. Saichi Sugimoto is a veteran of the war carrying the nickname of “Immortal” since he somehow managed to famously survive numerous battles and injuries that otherwise really should have left him dead. Instead of returning home a hero, Sugimoto is now living in the wilds of Hokkaido searching rather unsuccessfully for gold. But then he happens across a bizarre story that seems to be more than just a rumor–a massive amount of wealth was stolen from the indigenous Ainu people and hidden, its location secretly recorded in a code tattooed onto the bodies of convicted criminals. In addition to Sugimoto, the other lead character of Golden Kamuy is Asirpa, an Ainu girl who surprisingly agrees to aid him in his search. Despite being Sugimoto being “immortal” she proves to be critical to his survival, teaching him how to face off against bears and hunt for food among other things. It can be gruesome and violent, but I enjoyed the beginning of Golden Kamuy a great deal.

The High School Life of a Fudanshi, Volume 1The High School Life of a Fudanshi, Volume 1 by Atami Michinoku. I actually didn’t realize that most of The High School Life of a Fudanshi was a four-panel manga before reading it; I think that I would have enjoyed it more if that was not the case. The majority of Michinoku’s work generally falls into the category of boys’ love. While The High School Life of a Fudanshi itself isn’t boys’ love, in a roundabout sort of way Michinoku’s first series is still about boys’ love. The titular fudanshi–basically a male fujoshi–is Sakaguchi. He’s a guy, and most likely straight, but he has a keen fixation on boys’ love media. (Despite that, he can still occasionally come across as a bit homophobic; it’s an unfortunate but realistic portrayal of a particular segment of the boys’ love fandom which is comfortable with gay men as long as they are fictional.) The High School Life of a Fudanshi largely follows Sakaguchi and his small group of friends. None of them seem to really mind that he has an interest in boys’ love, and some of them even encourage it. Eventually he even becomes close with some fellow fujoshi and fudanshi, but they all have the bad habit of shipping any men they see together, including their classmates. The High School Life of a Fudanshi ends up with a lot of innuendo and tease as a result. In general it’s pretty harmless, but it can be frustrating, too.

The Royal Tutor, Volume 1The Royal Tutor, Volume 1 by Higasa Akai. When Yen Press first released The Royal Tutor, the manga was a digital-only title. The series interested me, but I don’t usually read or buy ebooks, so I was very happy when it did well enough to warrant a physical release. (The recent anime adaptation probably helped matters some, too.) The kingdom of Granzreich has five princes, the first of whom is destined to inherit the throne. However, the other four must be ready to take his place should they need to, which is where the new royal tutor Heine comes in. The first volume of The Royal Tutor is often very silly, especially when it comes to the running gags about Heine’s small, childlike stature, but at its core is an story about an ideal teacher–someone who is willing to engage, work with, and inspire students wherever they’re at and on their own terms. By the end of the first volume Heine has already made a tremendous amount of progress in winning the princes over which leads me to wonder how much room is left for the manga to continue to develop. Currently though, the series is eight volumes long and still ongoing, so Akai must have found a way to keep the story and characters fresh and interesting. If nothing else, the hints that Heine and his background aren’t everything that they appear to be is something left to be explored.

My Week in Manga: February 1-February 7, 2016

My News and Reviews

I posted a few different things at Experiments in Manga last week. For starters, the Love at Fourteen Giveaway Winner was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English which feature a bit of romance. Last week I also reviewed Tokyo Decadence: 15 Stories by Ryu Murakami which in some ways is about love, or at least lust. Due to be published later this year, the collection is engaging but definitely not for everyone as some of the stories are quite disturbing. Over the weekend January’s Bookshelf Overload was posted for those of you curious about what made it onto my shelves last month. I also had a taiko gig over the weekend that took up a fair amount of time. As a result of that and other some other life stress, I’ve fallen a bit behind on my writing (just when I thought I’d finally gotten ahead!), so there’ll likely only be one review coming this week instead of the two that were originally planned.

Quick Takes

Orange, Omnibus 1Orange, Omnibus 1 by Ichigo Takano. I had heard very good things about Orange and so was greatly looking forward to reading the manga, but I honestly didn’t anticipate that the series might become one of my favorite releases of the year. (It all depends on exactly how the story plays out in the second and final omnibus.) Orange sensitively deals with some fairly heavy subject matter, including suicide and crippling regret, but at the same time the manga also has a lighter sweetness to it. The manga is both heartwrenching and heartwarming, a melancholic story about close relationships and human connection. Admittedly, Naho is incredibly dense when it comes to recognizing other people’s feelings for her, even when they basically come right out and tell her, which can be a bit exasperating. But overall, the feelings and emotions in Orange ring true, especially as the series progresses and it’s revealed just why everyone is behaving in the ways that they are. I can see Orange ending either in tragedy or in happiness and I’m very curious to see which it will be.

Prison School, Omnibus 2Prison School, Omnibus 2 by Akira Hiramoto. The first omnibus of Prison School established the manga as a series that is simultaneously appalling and strangely engaging. This of course assumes that readers aren’t immediately offended by its highly sexualized and incredibly vulgar nature to begin with. Prison School is definitely not a series for everyone even if, surprisingly, it has its sweet moments. The second omnibus very much continues in the same vein, so the initial shock caused by the manga’s obscenity, over-the-top fanservice, and ridiculous premise has diminished some. Even so, Prison School is a page-turner. The series has been building up to Kiyoshi’s escape attempt, resulting in a situation that gets progressively worse as time goes by. Seeing just how bad things can possibly get (which is pretty bad) is one of Prison School‘s major draws. That and Hiramoto’s impressive skills as an artist. The manga’s content will certainly not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s hard to deny Hiramoto’s talent.

SuperMutant Magic AcademySuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki. Originally a webcomic, the best of SuperMutant Magic Academy has now been collected into a single volume along with newly-created content. I hadn’t actually read any of the comic while it was being released online, but I was obviously missing out—SuperMutant Magic Academy is great stuff. The comic takes place in a high school where students study magic and learn to control their superpowers (sort of an odd mix between Harry Potter and X-Men that bizarrely works), all while dealing with the more normal sorts of teenage angst and anxiety. Except for the series’ lengthy finale, created specifically for the collected volume, most of SuperMutant Magic Academy consists of single-page, and in some cases single-panel, gag comics.There’s no real overarching plot, but there are recurring characters and running jokes. Some of the social commentary can be fairly biting, but SuperMutant Magic Academy is very funny, frequently absurd, and wholly enjoyable.

My Week in Manga: June 30-July 6, 2014

My News and Reviews

The first week of the month tends to be a little slow at Experiments in Manga (at least it feels slow to me). Granted, there were still three posts last week. The Juné Manga Giveaway Winner was announced, which also includes a list of some favorite Juné manga. June’s Bookshelf Overload was posted. (My wallet thanks me that June was a little less ridiculous than the last few month have been.) And finally, the first in-depth manga review of July goes to Battle Royale: Angels’ Border. Written by the author of the original Battle Royale novel, the volume collects two side stories about the girls who try to survive the death match by banding together at a lighthouse. Angels’ Border is surprisingly romantic, but if you know anything about Battle Royale, you know that things don’t end very well for almost anyone involved.

There were plenty of things that I found to read online last week. Here’s a quick list of a few of the posts that I thought were particularly interesting: Ryan Holmberg takes a look at Hayashi Seiichi’s pop music manga, specifically focusing on “Flowering Harbour” (which is now available in English!) Moyoco Anno was interviewed by Publishers Weekly. The Beautiful World has created a Transgender Manga Masterpost. J. R. Brown has a fascinating article about what can be gleaned by paying attention to the details of ukiyo-e prints. And Justin has a rant about the state of manga in translation that is worth reading. Also, Anime Expo was last week and there were a ton of announcements. Sean has a good roundup of the licenses at A Case Suitable for Treatment.

Quick Takes

Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star, Volume 1Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star by Cain Kuga. Of the two Cowboy Bebop manga, Shooting Star was actually the first to be released in Japan although it was the second series to be published in English. Technically, it also preceded the Cowboy Bebop anime series, which I hadn’t previously realized. However, it’s still based on the anime. Kuga was given free rein with the characters and story, which makes Shooting Star not exactly a retelling but more like an alternate version or universe. The manga isn’t as dark as the anime (though there’s humor to be found there as well), and the story is somewhat different, but the basic premise of near-future bounty hunters in space remains. Frankly, though vaguely entertaining in places, Shooting Star just isn’t as good as the anime, the action can be difficult to follow, and the slapstick is a little too silly for my taste. Shooting Star will most likely be of interest to established fans of the Cowboy Bebop anime as a curiosity more than anything else. Even though Shooting Star mostly stands on its own, people who haven’t seen the anime probably won’t get much out of it.

I Shall Never Return, Volume 1I Shall Never Return, Volumes 1-5 by Kazuna Uchida. Although the first volume of I Shall Never Return is a little shaky at the start (and parts of Ken’s stepfather’s backstory seem to be unnecessary and superfluous), overall I was actually rather impressed with this short boys’ love series. Ken comes from a broken home and is a high school dropout. His best friend Ritsuro was the only stable thing in his life but now they’re having problems, too. I Shall Never Return is filled with drama and deals with some very mature themes, such as abuse, drug use, prostitution, and rape. Terrible things happen and I was constantly waiting for something even worse. But there are also some wonderful moments of support, love, and acceptance. One of the things that I found particularly interesting about I Shall Never Return is that while it’s definitely a romance, the two leads actually spend much of the series apart from each other. Ritsuro remains in Japan while Ken travels to Singapore and then to India, trying to find a new start and become a better person. They have to deal with a long-distance relationship at the same time they’re coming to terms with their feelings for each another. It’s a believable and difficult process.

Knights of Sidonia, Volume 8Knights of Sidonia, Volumes 8-9 by Tsutomu Nihei. Maybe it’s because the manga’s such a bizarrely quirky series—a strange mix of science fiction, horror, and romantic comedy—but I can’t help but love Knights of Sidonia a little more with each passing volume. Nagate, Tsumugi, and Izana make a marvelous and frequently awkward family unit. And even considering that Tsumugi is a monstrous human-Gauna hybrid, she manages to be endearingly charming, sweet, and adorable. Nagate continues to be socially inept, though certainly less so, and Izana has fallen more in love with him, which has triggered physical changes. The three of them together are simply delightful, forming a not quite love triangle. In direct contrast to the humor and cheerfulness surrounding the trio, humanity’s fight for survival against the Gauna remains terrifyingly intense and death tolls continue to rise. Sometimes the battles can be a little difficult to follow, but they’re always exhilarating. There are some definite sexual overtones to Knights of Sidonia in these two volumes, which are especially apparent in the artwork, but this appropriately adds to the series’ more disconcerting atmosphere.

This One SummerThis One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. The Tamakis are a pair of cousins who previously worked together on the award-winning graphic novel Skim. This One Summer is their second collaboration. The story follows Rose over the course of her family’s summer vacation at Awago Beach where they have always rented a cottage. Rose’s mother has become more distant over the last year and can’t seem to relax, creating a significant amount of tension. There are reasons for that, though, and Rose is more perceptive than her parents might realize. But because communication has broken down between them all, it may be a while before everything will be okay again. Meanwhile, Rose spends time with her friend Windy, enjoying the beach and bingeing on horror films that they probably shouldn’t be watching at their age. In the background another drama is unfolding among the local teenagers when one of the young women discovers that she might be pregnant. It’s heartbreaking to see how insidious sexism can be. In addition to the strong and effectively layered storytelling in This One Summer, the artwork is beautiful as well.

YowamushiPedalYowamushi Pedal, Episodes 15-26 directed by Osamu Nabeshima. This set of episodes finishes up the Sohoku racing club’s grueling training camp and then launches almost directly into the Inter-High race, following the competition up through the first section of the first day and ending with one heck of a dramatic plot development. Yowamushi Pedal manages to be incredibly exciting, mostly due the intensity and passion of the characters and because it includes just a touch of the ridiculous. More characters and teams are introduced, and more backstories and rivalries are revealed in this part of the series, too. The animation is sadly a bit inconsistent, sometimes impressively good while at other times lacking in finesse. Although I enjoy cycling, I’ve never really followed road racing closely. I was surprised to learn just how much teamwork can go into it; I’d always assumed it was more of an individual event. I’ve also enjoyed learning more about some of the strategies involved in racing. (And I’ll admit, now that the weather is finally decent where I live I really want to get my bike out again and hit the road! Who says watching anime can’t be good for you?)