My Week in Manga: September 29-October 5, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga there were three posts in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. To start with, the winner of the Triton of the Sea manga giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English that feature mermaids and/or mermen. Next was my review of Ryo Suzukaze’s novel Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, which is a prequel to Hajime Isayama’s original Attack on Titan manga series. I liked the premise of the novel much more than I did its execution, but it should still be pretty interesting for Attack on Titan fans. And finally, over the weekend, September’s Bookshelf Overload was posted. As for other interesting things online…I’ve been so busy at work lately that I’ve not really been able to keep up with all that’s going on. However, I do know that Seven Seas is currently in the process of revealing seven new licenses via Twitter. I’m pretty sure that Sean will be doing a wrap-up at A Case Suitable for Treatment soon which I’ll link to, but in the meantime you can always check out Seven Seas’ Twitter timeline. (There have been some really interesting choices so far!)

Quick Takes

My Little Monster, Volume 3My Little Monster, Volume 3 by Robico. I have been thoroughly enjoying My Little Monster and its cast of rather quirky characters. However, the third volume doesn’t seem to really move the plot along much, nor does it really develop the characters further. If anything, the series has lost its forward momentum and undoes some of the progress that has been made. After the various confessions of love from the previous volumes, Haru and Shizuku spend most of the third going through it all again. Shizuku has once more decided that she doesn’t have time for friendships or romantic relationships and wants to focus on her studies. Haru is fitting in a little better at school and is actually able to put the fact that everyone except Shizuku is terrified of him to good use, although he’s still fairly volatile and his behavior and obliviousness of others occasionally causes some real problems. So overall, not much has really changed in My Little Monster except that a few more hints have been dropped about Haru’s brother, whom I’m very curious about. I’m still enjoying the series and find its deadpan humor amusing, but I do hope to see more plot and character development in future volumes.

The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 3The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 3 by Nakaba Suzuki. As can be safely assumed from the cover, the third volume of The Seven Deadly Sins heavily features the newly introduced Ban, the Fox Sin of Greed. I’m okay with this because, well, I actually like Ban as a character. Despite being one of the Seven Deadly Sins and therefore being one of the series’ heroes (or at least one of its protagonists), Ban’s really not that nice of a guy. Frankly, he’s an unapologetic jerk (with a very nice set of abs and a fondness for alcohol, though he really can’t hold his drink). But, like the other Sins, Ban has a tragic past to go along with his arrogant personality. He’s also kind of a goofball. One of the things that I particularly enjoy about The Seven Deadly Sins is the ridiculously overpowered battles between the ridiculously overpowered characters. The action can sometimes be a little difficult to follow, but the resulting destruction is quite obvious. I’m also rather impressed by how well Suzuki visually handles Diane, the giantess of the Seven Deadly Sins. She’s huge, but her presence always seems very natural on the page and Suzuki does a nice job of incorporating her into the artwork.

The Shadow HeroThe Shadow Hero written by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Sonny Liew. Initially I wasn’t planning on picking up The Shadow Hero, most likely because I’m generally not that interested in superheroes. Fortunately I realized that was a very silly reason not to read the comic, especially considering that Yang is a fantastic writer and I really like Liew’s artwork and use of color. Long story short, I absolutely loved The Shadow Hero. The story of The Shadow Hero was inspired by an obscure superhero from the 1940s called the Green Turtle which was created by Chu Hing, one of the first Asian Americans to work in American comics. (The volume also contains a reproduction of the first Green Turtle comic, which was a nice addition.) The Shadow Hero serves as the Green Turtle’s origin story. Hank Chu is the son of a Chinatown grocer who looks forward to taking over his father’s store. His mother, however, has much bigger plans for her son and has decided that he will become a superhero, despite the complete lack of any superpowers. With a great story and great art, and plenty of humor to balance the more serious aspects of the comic, The Shadow Hero is definitely recommended.

Sleeping Moon, Volume 1Sleeping Moon, Volumes 1-2 by Kano Miyamoto. I tend to really enjoy Miyamoto’s work, so I was pretty excited when SuBLime licensed her short boys’ love series Sleeping Moon. I was particularly looking forward to it due to its supernatural elements, but in the end I didn’t find it as compelling as some of her other manga which are more firmly based in reality. Part of that is probably because much of the romantic relationship between two of the leads felt as though it was tacked on simply because the series was supposed to be boys’ love. Still, there were parts of Sleeping Moon that I enjoyed, and Miyamoto’s artwork is as lovely as ever. Akihiko’s family is cursed—the male heirs all die young, never making it past their thirties. And since his thirtieth birthday is fast approaching, Akihiko has a vested interest in discovering the truth behind the curse in order to prevent his own death and the death of his cousin. And that’s when the time slips begin—Akihiko finds himself spontaneously traveling to the Meiji era where one of his distant relatives is trying to unravel the same mystery. The moody supernatural and horror elements work better than the manga’s romance and the time traveling is handled quite well, too.

My Week in Manga: April 2-April 8, 2012

My News and Reviews

It’s the beginning of the month which means the usual couple of posts. First, the winner of the monthly manga giveaway was announced—Manga Giveaway: Cross Game Giveaway Winner. Check out the post for a list of sports and game themed manga licensed in English. I also posted the Bookshelf Overload for March. I had a pretty good month finding out of print manga on ebay. On top of these two posts, I also reviewed The Moon Over the Mountain and Other Stories, a collection of short works by Atsushi Nakajima. I really enjoyed the volume and wish more of his work was available.

An update on the Aniblog Tourney II: The final bracket for the tournament has been announced. The tournament will begin on April 15th (all of the dates can be found here.) Experiments in Manga has been seeded in the second round of the green bracket and will be facing off with either Shameful Otaku Secret! or O-New on May 1st. There are a lot of really interesting blogs in the tournament that are worth taking a look at. And if it’s your thing, make sure to vote.

Elswhere online: Over at Okazu Eriaca Friedman has a fantastic and illuminating post about the licensing, translating, and editing of manga—Invisible Layers of Manga. The 2012 Manga Readers’ Choice Award Winners have been announced as have the nominees for the Eisner Awards. Brigid Alverson of MangaBlog (among other places) is one of the Eisner jurors this year. Also, Viz has licensed the new Berserk film trilogy!

Quick Takes

Black Butler, Volumes 1-4 by Yana Toboso. Black Butler takes its time to settle in. It starts off as a rather goofy series before introducing the more serious aspects of the story. Although I am greatly amused by the comedic elements, I actually prefer the darker atmosphere. Some of the supporting characters, while initially endearing, can be somewhat annoying. The story takes place in Victorian England but includes plenty of fun anachronistic details. The attention Toboso gives to the characters’ clothing is fantastic. I also love Sebastian’s bishōnen design. I’m not completely sold on Black Butler yet, but there’s still enough to the series that interests me that I’ll probably give a few more volumes a try.

The Drops of God, Volumes 2-3 written by Tadashi Agi and illustrated by Shu Okimoto. The characters in The Drops of God all have very strong and very distinct personalities. Their utter passion and devotion to wine can be a little hard to take sometimes but I do like them as people. The series can be a rather absurd and ridiculous from time to time—wine apparently can cure all ills and fix any problem. Still, I am enjoying the books and learning quite a bit about wine in the process of reading them. One of my favorite things about the series is the art. Although there are a lot of panels which consist primarily of talking heads, the visual interpretations of the characters’ experiences drinking wine are marvelous.

Two of Hearts by Kano Miyamoto. Like the other works by Miyamoto available in English, Two of Hearts has a certain sadness to it. Haruya is an aspiring writer who has given up completing his novel and now makes his living writing for a magazine. By chance, he meets Maki, a troubled young man from difficult family circumstances. As the story progresses it becomes clear that Haruya genuinely cares for Maki but early on it almost seems like he is taking advantage of the young man. While ultimately it is a good relationship for both Haruya and Maki, which makes me happy, Miyamoto really skirts the uncomfortable with the characters and their situations. Ultimately though, I think it’s handled fairly well.

Pom Poko directed by Isao Takahata. At nearly two hours long, Pom Poko is a little too lengthy and somewhat tiresome but the film does have its moments. As a fan of yokai, I am glad that I watched it. The film features tanuki, including their infamous testicles and multi-purpose scrotum (innocently called a “pouch” in the English dub, but there’s really no question what they’re actually talking about if you’re paying attention.) Other yokai, such as kitsune, also make appearances. And the yokai parade is wonderful. In order to protect their forest from encroaching human development, the racoons (tanuki) of Tama Hills must master the art of transformation in an attempt to scare the humans away from their lands.

My Week in Manga: March 26-April 1, 2012

My News and Reviews

All right, so what sorts of fun things did we have here at Experiments in Manga last week? Well, the monthly manga giveaway has started. You have through Tuesday to enter for a chance two win a copy of the first volume of Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game and to tell me about your favorite sports manga. I also reviewed Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Demon City Shinjuku: The Complete Edition which  collects his debut novel Demon City Shinjuku and its sequel Demon Palace Babylon. If you’re a fan of Kikuchi or the Demon City setting, you probably won’t want to miss out on the omnibus.

I came across an interesting article at CNN’s Geek Out! blog by Christian Sager who looks at manga from the perspective of an American comics fan—What’s up with manga? A comics fan’s deep dive. Although he mentions some of the series that he read in the article, I would have liked to have seen a complete list of the titles he gave a try. While reading Manga Bookshelf I discovered that a Wild Adapter OVA had been announced. I’m a big fan of Wild Adapter so this makes me happy, even if we’ll probably never see it or the rest of the manga licensed. Also at Manga Bookshelf this past week was a great post about Claiming our BL biases.

Quick Takes

Absolute Boyfriend, Volumes 1-6 by Yuu Watase. I’ve mentioned before that I have a soft spot for android stories, so it probably isn’t too surprising that I’m fond of Watase’s Absolute Boyfriend. Sure the series tends to be rather silly and is fairly unrealistic, but that’s what makes it fun. Night is a love figure (yes, that is exactly what it sounds like) created by Kronos Heaven that Riiko accidentally purchased, except that she doesn’t actually have the money to cover the cost. She discovers that she likes having him around though and is determined to pay the company back. The series is mostly escapist fantasy, but its funny and endearing. Night is constantly taking off his clothes which amused me to no end.

Golgo 13, Volume 1: Supergun by Takao Saito. Viz’s thirteen volume release of Golgo 13 selects the “greatest hits” from throughout the series’ original (still ongoing) Japanese run. Supergun collects two stories, “The Gun at Am Shara” from May 1997 and “Hit and Run” from April 1979. The volume also includes a nice section for Golgo 13’s profile and history information. Duke Togo, one of the many pseudonyms for the man also known as Golgo 13, is highly skilled and feared assassin-for-hire. In case there was any doubt how much of a badass he is, Togo doesn’t even actually make an appearance in “Hit and Run” but the mere thought of him has a crime boss scared shitless. Even in “The Gun at Am Shara” he keeps to the shadows, which is certainly appropriate for his character.

Say Please by Kano Miyamoto. Say Please, like Miyamoto’s earlier work Lovers and Souls, has a bit of a melancholic air to it. I didn’t like it quite as well, though. Ryouichi works at a brothel which is how he met Sakura. He becomes captivated with the man and their relationship begins to evolve into something more complicated than client and escort. Sakura is somewhat of an enigma, generally quiet and reserved but more than capable of violence. I like that Miyamoto’s characters have histories and problems outside of the primary romance. In Sakura’s case, he’s a high school teacher that has to keep the fact that he’s gay hidden in order to keep his job. This secret impacts the rest of his life and relationships as well.

In Praise of Shadows: Japanese Avant-Garde Films of the 1990s & 2000s. I will readily admit that I’m not very knowledgeable about film, let alone avant-garde film. I’m pretty sure that a lot of In Praise of Shadows (a screening at the 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival of nine films ranging from three minutes to twenty minutes in length) went way over my head. Still, I was impressed by the amount of time, effort, and skill needed and involved in the creation of these short films. This particular selection featured films that made use of light, shadow, and exposure. While I may not have been able to appreciate them fully due to my lack of expertise, I am still very glad that I had the opportunity to see the films.

SPACE / TIME: Japanese Avant-Garde Films of the 1970s & 1980s. SPACE / TIME was another screening at the 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival, this time featuring ten short films ranging from two minutes to twelve minutes in length exploring the useage of space through movement and the passage of time. Quite a few of the selected films are very rarely seen. There was a Japanese film expert at the theater who was absolutely thrilled by the program; even he had only ever seen about half of the films before. While I enjoyed In Praise of Shadows, I think I liked SPACE / TIME even more. I was amazed by some of the filming techniques used and have no idea how some of the resulting effects were even created.

My Week in Manga: March 5-March 11, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week I announced the King of Thorn for Keeps Winner. Also included in the post is a list of some manga with survival themes that have been licensed in English. There are some great titles on the list and I now have some more reading to do. I also posted a review of The Journey to the West, Volume 4, the final volume in Anthony C. Yu’s complete translation of the Chinese classic. Written in the 1500s, it’s a marvelous tale that continues to inspire creators centuries of later. And don’t forget! March’s Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Manga Worth Reading and featuring the work of Jiro Taniguchi, will be held next week!

In other news (and the reason this section is so short this week), I spent most of my weekend with the members of Hanayui, a small performance group out of Kodo, and Yoshikazu Fujimoto, one of the preeminent o-daiko players in the world. They joined us on Saturday for a joint concert with Raion Taiko and students from the Great Lakes Taiko Center (of which I am one). In addition to the pieces I was playing, I also worked as part of the stage crew for Hanayui’s performance. On Sunday, they held a couple of workshops for us, including an intensive o-daiko practice with Fujimoto-san. I’ve been playing taiko for just under a year, so it was a wonderful opportunity to meet and to learn from some amazing artists. Even though it was a long and exhausting weekend, I had a fabulous time and it was a fantastic experience.

Quick Takes

Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga, Volume 1 by Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma. I am so incredibly glad that I tracked down a copy of the now out of print Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga because it is a magnificent piece of work. Although a parody of “how to” instructional art books, Aihara and Takekuma provide some legitimate lessons as well. Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga can be rather vulgar, with plenty of sexual and scatological humor, and is definitely aimed at adults. The creators take a look at the various genres and demographics, noting the stereotypes in each (but presenting them in all seriousness). It is absolutely hilarious. Plus, there’s an entire chapter devoted to mahjong manga!

Neko Ramen, Volumes 2-3 by Kenji Sonishi. Although I wasn’t overwhelmed by the first volume of Neko Ramen, I have become quite fond of the series. It’s a solidly funny yonkoma manga featuring Taisho, a cat that makes ramen who, it is revealed, also attempts to make curry on occasion. He’s not particularly successful at either, but for some reason Tanaka is always showing up at the shop to eat. Sonishi has introduced a new character, the pretty boy Akkun, who can apparently eat, and enjoy, anything (and a lot of it). Taisho makes sure to take advantage of this fact. Taisho’s mother also makes a few appearances and she’s marvelous. Only one more volume of the series was published in English by Tokyopop; I’ll probably try to find a copy at some point.

Lovers and Souls by Kano Miyamoto. I was surprised to learn that Lovers and Souls was Miyamoto’s first published work. I found her storytelling to be quite mature with complex characters. From time to time the plot borders on the melodramatic, but Miyamoto never quite crosses that line. Lovers and Souls tends to be serious, and perhaps a bit angsty, but it’s well done. Miyamoto’s artwork, too, is very good. She is particularly skilled in capturing subtle, and not so subtle, changes in facial expressions. Lovers and Souls is also probably the first boys’ love manga that I’ve come across that honestly acknowledges the existence of biphobia, and not in a way that sensationalizes or perpetuates it.

House of Five Leaves directed by Tomomi Mochizuki. Finally, House of Five Leaves has received a Region 1 DVD release! NIS America has done a wonderful job. Unfortunately, there isn’t much extra content on the DVDs, only a trailer and a clean opening and beginning, but the set comes with a beautiful (if all to brief) full-color artbook. The box itself is also lovely and begs to be displayed. I am simply thrilled and delighted to finally be able to watch House of Five Leaves on something other than my crappy laptop with an Internet connection that leaves something to be desired. House of Five Leaves is my favorite anime series and I am extremely happy that I can now say I that own it.