My Week in Manga: September 26-October 2, 2011

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted my review for Yoshitoki Oima’s Mardock Scramble, Volume 1 which begins the manga adaptation of Tow Ubukata’s SF Taisho award-winning series Mardock Scramble. Having read Haikasoru’s omnibus edition when it was released earlier this year, I can safely say that Oima’s version is a pretty good adaptation of the original so far. And because it was the end of the month, I also posted the most recent manga giveaway: Hikaru no Go Giveaway. The winner will be announced this Wednesday, so there’s still time to get your entries in!

And now onto the good stuff I’ve found online recently. To start off with, Deb Aoki has a great article/rant from a manga fan’s perspective responding to the DC Comics kerfuffle surrounding the portrayal of women in some of their recent reboots—Femme Fan Fury at DC 52: Confessions of a Former Superhero Comics Fan. Jason Thompson’s most recent House of 1000 Manga post features Oishinbo. I always enjoy this column, but I was particularly pleased to see Thompson write about Oishinbo since I happen to really like the series. (So far, I’ve reviewed the A la Carte volumes for Japanese Cuisine and Sake.) Oishinbo and food manga in general is currently scheduled for the Manga Moveable Feast to be held in February.

And speaking of the Manga Moveable Feast! September’s Feast, featuring Ken Akamatsu’s Love Hina, will actually be taking place beginning this week on October 5 and will run until October 12. This change in scheduling is in part due to  Kodansha Comics pushing back the release for the new edition of the series. Jason Green will be hosting at PLAYBACK:stl; more information can be found here. Don’t worry, October’s Feast is still happening, too! Lori Henderson at Manga Xanadu will be hosting the Horror Manga Moveable Feast from October 24 to October 31. I haven’t quite yet decided on what I’ll be doing, but I’ll definitely be participating.

Quick Takes

In These Words, Chapters 1-4 by Guilt | Pleasure. In These Words has actually been picked up by Libre Publishing in Japan and will be premiering in the October 2011 issue of BeBoy Gold. The story begins with a prose prologue (an extra scene that follows immediately after can be found online here) before the manga picks it up. It’s dark, and disturbing, and very well done. Katsuya has helped the police to profile and capture Shinohara, a sadist and serial murderer. The dialogue occasionally feels a bit awkward, but I absolutely adore Jo Chen’s artwork. She has a gorgeous sense of aesthetic. Her figure work and tones are marvelous. Warning: In These Words includes both torture and rape.

Yōkaiden, Volumes 1-2 by Nina Matsumoto. Yōkaiden was one of Del Rey’s ventures into original English-language manga. Only two volumes have been published, but they’re worth picking up. The series is delightfully charming and funny. The humor often breaks the fourth wall or introduces unexpected references or anachronistic elements. The story follows Hamachi, a nine-year-old boy who loves and is obsessed with yōkai. He’s a guileless and likeable protagonist who humans and yōkai alike think is just a little weird. The series is a fun introduction to yōkai and kami for audiences that aren’t well versed in the lore and it’s still a lot of fun for readers that are. I enjoyed the second volume even more than the first, so I certainly hope to see more of Yōkaiden published in the future.

Your & My Secret, Volumes 4-7 by Ai Morinaga. I believe Your & My Secret was completed at eight volumes, but only the first seven are available in English. I’d like to see how it ends, but I’m still torn as to whether or not I actually like the series. The character interactions are interesting and fortunately slightly less cruel than they were earlier. I still feel terrible for Akira, but was happy to see him start to stand up for himself a bit. The seventh volume has a flashback chapter where Akira and Nanako are in their original, “mismatched” bodies—maybe that’s the story that I really wanted to read. One thing that does impress me is how Morinaga takes the same character designs and makes the personalities so obviously different.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo directed by Mahiro Maeda. I have never seen anything like Gankutsuou. The unusual animation style won’t suit everyone; it’s disconcerting at first, and occasionally a bit overwhelming, but I loved it. It’s hard for me to describe, but it’s almost like a collage mixed with the paintings Gustav Klimt (I’m particularly thinking of “The Kiss”). The atmosphere of the series is ominous and intense; appropriate for a revenge tale. I’ll admit, I even cried at times. At first Albert is so naive and trusting that it’s almost painful, but he’s forced to change as his world falls apart around him. The twenty-four episodes are incredibly engaging and each and every one of them counts. Gankutsuou is easily one of my top anime series.

Tiger & Bunny, Episodes 21-25 directed by Keiichi Satou. The main reason I watch Tiger & Bunny is because I like Kotetsu so much. It’s a fun show with a great visual style, even if the CGI doesn’t always mesh very well with the hand drawn material. Unfortunately, the series seems to be plagued with lazy writing, inconsistencies in the NEXT powers and how exactly they work, villains with ambiguous motivations that make stupid mistakes, and missed opportunities to let the support cast shine. Okay, that just made it sound terrible, but it’s not all bad; the series has good stuff going for it, too. Even with its problems, I like Tiger & Bunny well enough that I’d seriously consider picking up the DVDs if we get them.

My Week in Manga: September 12-September 18, 2011

My News and Reviews

I’m pretty happy with my posts from last week. The first was the first in-depth manga review for September, Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Parasyte, Volume 1. I really like Parasyte and highly recommend it; I find it to be an engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking manga. You can find my quick take for the entire series from last year here. My second post last week was also manga related—Finding Manga: Akadot Retail. It’s part of a recurring feature here at Experiments in Manga where I focus and give suggestions on places to find and buy manga. If you don’t want to take the time to read the entire thing, just jump down to the bottom of the post and you’ll find some quick tips. Anyway, that’s it for now! I promise next week to start pointing out some interesting online reading again. I’ve gotten out of the habit of doing that.

Quick Takes

Black Lagoon, Volumes 6-9 by Rei Hiroe. With the publication of the ninth volume, the English edition has caught up with the Japanese releases. These four volumes include the longest story arc in Black Lagoon to date, “El Baile de la muerte,” which lasts for nearly three and a half volumes. I really enjoyed the first five books of Black Lagoon, but I found that this story arc tried my patience. The characters can never just come out and say what they’re trying to say, hiding everything in metaphors. I still like the manga, though. My favorite characters are the crew of the Black Lagoon. While they play an important role in this arc, they really aren’t seen that much which rather disappointed me. I want more Rock!

Bloody Monday, Volume 1 written by Ryou Ryumon and illustrated by Kouji Megumi. I really wanted to like Bloody Monday, but the first volume just didn’t work for me. It might be because I’m familiar with some of the capabilities of modern technology, but the bad guys come across as kind of stupid when they’re taken by surprise by what Takagi can do. (They’re like, “It cannot be!” while I’m like, “Well, duh.”) And they’re supposed to be the masterminds behind some nefarious plot. Even that plan isn’t clear yet, although it probably has to do with causing the deaths of a lot of people. But why, and who is involved, has still yet to be revealed. The creators also work in some inexplicable panty and cleavage shots without even really trying to make the fanservice a legitimate part of the story.

A Bride’s Story, Volume 1 by Kaoru Mori. The first thing I noticed about A Bride’s Story was its art. Each panel is stunning in the amount of detail that Mori puts into it. And unlike some artists I’ve seen, the detail feels natural and isn’t overwhelming. It’s simply the way it should be. Mori’s ability to tell a story with art alone is also impressive; many scenes have little or no dialogue at all. I am enjoying getting to know the Eihon family along with Amir, who has just married into the group. She’s considered an old bride at the age of twenty. With gorgeous artwork and gorgeous storytelling, I’m really looking forward to reading more of A Bride’s Story. Additionally, Yen Press’ hardcover releases are beautiful.

Cruel to Be Kind by Guilt | Pleasure. Guilt | Pleasure is Jo Chen’s boys’ love circle. Cruel to Be Kind is a companion volume to the web-novel of the same name (which can be read here). This yaoi dōjinshi collects the illustrations for the web-novel (some, but not all, of which are available to view online), an illustrated side story (which I actually like better than the primary story, although it doesn’t make as much sense without it), a sketch journal from the original incarnation of Cruel to Be Kind which is very different from the current version, a brief interview with the creators, and a few guest illustrations. The printing is of very high quality and, of course, Chen’s artwork is, too.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Season 1, Part 2 (Episodes 17-28) directed by Seiji Mizushima. If an anime series makes me want to cry when one of the character dies, it must be doing something right. The plot and characters in Fullmetal Alchemist continue to develop nicely as new twists and characters are introduced. I’m particularly fond of Sheska, once a clerk at the First Branch of the state library but now an indispensable member of the military’s intelligence division and an absolute bookworm. The already established characters also have some fine moments, Maes Hughes in particular, and more is revealed about Roy Mustang’s motivations. The Elric brothers, too, continue to grow.

My Week in Manga: June 13-June 19, 2011

My News and Reviews

I don’t have much to say news-wise about this past week, but I did post a couple of reviews. Oishinbo, A la Carte: Sake happens to be my first in-depth manga review for June. I love food and I love manga, so Oishinbo is a great match for me. The second review I wrote in part for the Japanese Literature Book Group—Kōbō Abe’s novel The Woman in the Dunes is a rather strange, but still compelling, story.

This week starts the Wild Adapter Manga Moveable Feast! I’ve been looking forward to this Feast since I love Kazuya Minekura’s Wild Adapter. Below, I have a few quick comments on the series as a whole. Later this week I’ll be talking a little bit about mahjong (it’s related, I promise) and will be reviewing the first volume in the series.

And one last thing! The dates and location for the next MangaNEXT manga convention have been announced: February 24-26, 2012 at the Sheraton Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. MangaNEXT is the only manga specific convention that I know of, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to get there in February. Believe it or not, I’ve never actually been to any sort of convention before.

Quick Takes

Jazz, Volumes 1-4 written by Tamotsu Takamure and illustrated by Sakae Maeda. The relationship between Naoki and Narusawa is extraordinarily unhealthy and abusive. While this certainly makes for intense drama, it is not at all romantic. I wouldn’t even call it a love story, even though the manga presents itself as such. The first two volumes handle the situation in an interesting way, focusing on the turmoil of the characters’ emotions. Unfortunately, the last two volumes don’t seem to work as well once they’ve fallen in “love” with each other. Things don’t work perfectly for them, and they certainly still have their ups and downs, but I have a hard time believing in their relationship.

Ohikkoshi by Hiroaki Samura. Blade of the Immortal is one of my favorite manga series and so I was interested in reading other manga by Hiroaki Samura. Ohikkoshi is the only other of his works currently available in English and I’m very glad that Dark Horse published it. It’s a delightfully quirky, absurd, and odd manga. The titular “Ohikkoshi,” a peculiar romantic comedy with over-the-top tendencies, is followed by two unrelated short stories: the bizarrely ludicrous “Luncheon of Tears Diary” and the autobiographical “Kyoto Super Barhopping Journal.” Samura has no problem with breaking the fourth wall, often to hilarious effect. While this collection doesn’t really present opportunities for epic battles, Samura’s artwork remains wonderfully kinetic.

The Other Side of the Mirror, Volumes 1-2 by Jo Chen. While marketed as and often called manga, technically The Other Side of the Mirror is a manhua from Taiwan. I am a huge fan of Jo Chen’s artwork and so when I learned that she wrote a comic, I decided to pick it up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as I was hoping it would be. While the artwork is quite nice, the narrative is a mess. The story has potential and there are some lovely moments, but overall it’s fairly muddled. I much preferred the short stories included in the two volumes. Maybe Chen just wasn’t ready yet for a longer, more involved work (“The Other Side of the Mirror” was one of her first comics.) I do like the illustrations, though.

Wild Adapter, Volumes 1-6 by Kazuya Minekura. Although Kubota and Tokito are the series main characters, each volume of this manga features a secondary character around whom the story is framed. It’s an interesting narrative technique and it actually works quite well. The character and personalities of the young men are slowly revealed through the others’ perspectives. And while the exact nature of their relationship is never explicitly stated or revealed and is the subject of much speculation, it is obvious that it is a very close and intimate one. Wild Adapter is unfinished at six volumes (and a few chapters), the series having been put on hiatus due to Minekura’s health. I really do hope to see more in English, but now that Tokyopop is no more it is unfortunately unlikely.

Bullet Ballet directed by Shinya Tsukamoto. Goda, a successful commercial director, is completely taken aback by the suicide of his girlfriend of ten years. He can’t comprehend why she killed herself and has no idea where she even got the gun. He becomes obsessed with obtaining a gun of the same make and model—a desire that consumes him. But after reaching his goal his life becomes more complicated. In the process, he becomes entangled with a local gang and things can’t possibly end well for any of them. Filmed in black and white, Bullet Ballet is a visually interesting film even if it can be difficult to follow at times. I also happened to really like Chu Ishikawa’s industrial styled soundtrack

Tiger & Bunny, Episodes 8-12 directed by Keiichi Satou. The animation quality seems to be a little inconsistent in these later episodes, and the plot as well, but it is still a very fun series. I am very much enjoying Tiger & Bunny and I like the characters immensely. While the main plot is developing nicely, I particularly enjoy the side stories that feature a particular hero. In these episodes, we get a chance to learn a bit more about Origami Cyclone and Dragon Kid. I do wish Lunatic wasn’t pushed into the background so soon, though. There will be at least fifteen episodes to the series, but I hope to see more than that. I have a hard time believing everything will be able to be wrapped up satisfactorily in such a short period of time.