My Week in Manga: July 1-July 7, 2013

My News and Reviews

Well, I made it back from the American Library Association conference in Chicago and then promptly left to visit my family in Chicago for a few days. I was busy for most of June and the first part of July traveling from one place to another, so I’m looking forward to staying put for a little while. Even though I was all over the place last week, I did post a few things here at Experiments in Manga. First up was the announcement of the Dystopian Duo Winner. The post also includes a select list of dystopian manga that has been licensed in English. Next up was the Bookshelf Overload for June. And finally, I reviewed Sankarea: Undying Love, Volume 1 by Mitsuru Hattori, which is a weird romantic comedy and a rather unusual take on zombies. Coming next week is July’s Manga Moveable Feast which will feature the works of Yun Kouga. Melinda has posted the call for participation with more information over at Manga Bookshelf. For my contribution to the Feast, I plan on reviewing the first omnibus volume in Viz Media’s new release of Loveless.

Because I’ve been traveling I’m sure that I’ve missed all sorts of news, but I did manage to catch a few things. Sparkler Monthly, the digital multimedia magazine from Chromatic Press, has launched its website. Tokyopop and Rightstuf will be releasing the fourth and fifth volumes of Hidekaz Himaruya’s Hetalia manga this year. Digital Manga is teaming up with Tezuka Pro to publish all of Osamu Tezuka’s manga in English, focusing on digital releases with the possibility of some print releases. Vertical announced its licensing of Moyoco Anno’s autobiographical manga Insufficient Direction, which focuses on the mangaka’s relationship with her husband Hideaki Anno (of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame.) Earlier this year I hosted the Moyoco Anno Manga Moveable Feast, so I’m particularly excited for this license. Also, Viz made quite a few announcements, including the fact that it will be bringing Rumiko Takahashi’s manga Ranma 1/2 back into print in an unflipped, omnibus edition. I already own the entire series and probably won’t be double-dipping, but it’s exciting nonetheless. If I’ve missed any other recent manga news that you think I shouldn’t overlook, please do let me know!

Quick Takes

Junjo Romantica, Volume 7-12 by Shungiku Nakamura. In Japan, Junjo Romantica is currently an ongoing series. However, only the first twelve volumes were released in English. My opinion of the series hasn’t really changed much since the first six volumes. My favorite couple/story by far is still Egoist. Unfortunately, they don’t make as many appearances as I would like in these volumes. I’ve grown weary of the Romantica pairing—despite the progression in the plot, the characters barely see any development and I frequently feel that I’m reading the same material over and over. I do find Junjo Romantica amusing from time to time, but I’m not nearly as enamored with the series as many other people seem to be.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volumes 3-4 by Naoko Takeuchi. These two volumes of Sailor Moon close one story arc (The Dark Kingdom Arc) and begin another (The Black Moon Arc). Takeuchi tends to move things along pretty quickly. As a result, it can occasionally be a little difficult to follow the story. Often, things just happen because they need to happen and they aren’t always fully explained. Sometimes, the story elements don’t even make much sense. But even so, I do find Sailor Moon to be an enjoyable manga. I particularly like that it’s the young women in the series who are so powerful and that while they’re strong they’re not perfect. I’ve seen the story of the prince saving the princess so many times that it’s wonderfully refreshing to see their positions switched.

Utsubora: The Story of a Novelist by Asumiko Nakamura. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Utsubora, but the manga is marvelous. Both the artwork and the story are just a little disconcerting and unsettling. Utsubora is layered, dark, arresting, and sensual. I loved it. The manga begins with a young woman plummeting from a building to her death. Only two people are in her cell phone’s contact list: the famed author Shun Mizorogi and a woman claiming to be her twin sister. From there the story twists and turns, the apparent suicide somehow connected to Mizorogi’s most recent work. I sincerely hope that Utsubora does well; I would love to see more of Nakamura’s manga available in English.

Paradise Kiss directed by Osamu Kobayashi. The Paradise Kiss anime is a fairly straightforward and trimmed adaptation of Ai Yazawa’s original manga. Some of the story’s depth is missing and some of the details have been glossed over, but all of the most important aspects of the plot and character development are successfully included within twelve episodes. Although I do prefer the manga and found it to be more emotionally persuasive, overall the anime is really quite excellent. Unfortunately, the Region 1 DVDs are currently out of print and a little difficult to track down, but they’re definitely worth keeping an eye out for. The animation in Paradise Kiss is consistently great and the character designs are lovely—the eyes in particular are captivating.

My Week in Manga: June 17-June 23, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Skip Beat! Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Laura at the wonderful shoujo manga blog Heart of Manga. For my contribution to the Feast, I reviewed the first omnibus volume of Yoshiki Nakamura’s Skip Beat! I had read the beginning of Skip Beat! before, but had forgotten how much I had enjoyed the series. It’s a tremendous amount of fun. Earlier in the week I reviewed Sakyo Komatsu’s award-winning earthquake disaster novel Japan Sinks. It’s been forty years since the volume was first released in Japan and it is still a chilling account.

As somewhat of a bonus, over the weekend I also reviewed Dale Lazarov’s and Amy Colburn’s short collection of gay erotic comics, Manly. Out of all of Lazarov’s collaborations, Manly happens to be my personal favorite. It’s not manga, but I do think it would appeal to readers and fans of hard yaoi and bara and erotic comics in general.

While working on my review of Manly, I discovered that Bruno Gmünder, its publisher, will be releasing Gengoroh Tagame’s Endless Game in December. Earlier this year PictureBox published The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame, which was incredible, so I’m pretty excited that more of Tagame’s work is being released in English. In other licensing news, Sublime Manga has announced the acquisition of Kou Yoneda’s collection NightS, which I’m looking forward to reading, as well as additional volumes in previously acquired series.

Elsewhere online, Manga Bookshelf has published the results from its recent reader survey. I find this sort of data fascinating, so I was very glad that they decided to share it! Finally, over at Books from Japan, Matt Alt contributed the article A wild monster chase: yokai and Haruki Murakami. Alt is one of the co-creators of the marvelous Attack! series, which I love. Surprisingly enough, I actually haven’t read much Murakami, but I still found Alt’s article to be fascinating.

Quick Takes

Atomcat by Osamu Tezuka. I was completely unaware of Atomcat until it and Triton of the Sea were tacked on to Digital Manga’s Kickstarter project for Unico. Of the three works I was least interested in Atomcat, but the volume turned out to be a fun and fluffy read. (Pun entirely intended.) Atomcat is a remake of sorts of Tezuka’s Astro Boy. The basic premise is that, in a bizarre twist of fate involving space aliens, a small kitten is granted the same powers as Astro Boy. He also faces some of the same personal dilemmas that Astro Boy had to deal with. Atom, the kitten, uses his new powers to protect his human family and to foil the evil schemes of other cats. It’s really quite cute.

Attack on Titan, Volume 5 by Hajime Isayama. While the artwork in Attack on Titan is improving very slowly, it’s still easily the weakest element in the manga. But as bad as the art can be, I continue to find the manga as a whole to be oddly engaging and at times even compelling. In addition to introducing more characters, the fifth volume reveals a little bit more about the titans and a little bit more about the society in which the humans are living. I didn’t find this volume to be quite as dark or oppressive as some of the volumes that came before it. The fear and terror caused by the titans is still there and very real, but the story has left the battlefield and turned to focus more on the societal changes and political maneuverings that have been brought about as a result.

Brave Story: A Retelling of a Classic, Volumes 1-5 by Yoichiro Ono. The Brave Story manga is a very loose adaptation of Miyuki Miyabe’s fantasy novel of the same name. The manga series reached twenty volumes in Japan before its conclusion, but only five volumes were ever released in English. While many of the major story elements and characters are the same as those found in the novel, the manga is actually quite different. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it to be quite as good, either. Although Brave Story is a seinen series, Ono makes excellent use of shonen tropes which is very appropriate for the story. Brave Story in all of its incarnations is also heavily influenced by fantasy role-playing video games.

Junjo Romantica, Volumes 1-6 by Shungiku Nakamura. I’m torn over Junjo Romantica. The boys’ love series features four related storylines/couples: Junjo Romantica, Junjo Egoist, Junjo Minimum, and Junjo Terrorist. I like the narrative structure and how the stories intertwine with each other. I also like how almost everyone is somehow involved with the publishing industry or studies literature. But the only pairing that I really like and the reason I read Junjo Romantica is Egoist. (Although Minimum is admittedly adorable.) The relationship of Junjo Romantica‘s main couple is not at all a healthy one. Usagi is abusive and extremely controlling. It makes me uncomfortable how this has been romanticized. Fortunately after the first couple of volumes this does improve.