My Week in Manga: November 6-November 12, 2017

My News and Reviews

The Bookshelf Overload for October was posted at Experiments in Manga last week, giving a quick summary of some of the interesting manga, anime, and other media that made their way into my home last month. Otherwise, it was a fairly quiet week at the blog, and it’s going to be even quieter this week. I’m currently work on my next in-depth review, but I suspect that it won’t be ready to reveal to the world until sometime next week. (Hopefully it will be worth the wait.) As for other interesting things recently found online: Brigid Alverson wrote up a recap of an interview with Fairy Tail creator Hiro Mashima from this year’s New York Comic Con for Barnes & Noble and over at Crunchyroll Evan Minto interviewed Frederik L. Schodt, a manga translator, scholar, and personal friend of Osamu Tezuka.

Quick Takes

Shirley, Volume 1Shirley, Volume 1 by Kaoru Mori. Only the first volume of Shirley was ever released in English. It’s now well out-of-print, but it’s also well-worth picking up. I would love to see Yen Press release the entire series in a handsome omnibus that would be at home next to the new edition of Mori’s Emma. I believe that most if not all of the short manga in the first volume of Shirley precede Emma, but the collection was only published after the first volume of Emma was released. The artwork is simpler than that found in Mori’s most recent series in translation, A Bride’s Story, but it is still quite lovely and evocative. As a whole, Shirley is a charming work. Mori’s love of maids is quite evident. The first volume collects five episodic chapters which follow Bennett Cranley and the titular Shirley Madison, a young maid that Bennett hires, in addition to two other stories unrelated by plot although they both also feature Edwardian-era maids. Shirley is only thirteen when she starts working for Bennett and they develop a close, if somewhat unusual, relationship as a result. While Shirley is a very capable maid she is still young–at times its as though she’s more like Bennett’s ward rather than her employee. She’s a sweet, likeable girl, so it’s easy to see why Bennett would be so taken with her.

The Witch BoyThe Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag. I first learned about The Witch Boy while at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival earlier this year. Ostertag was on the panel “LGBTQ Comics Abroad” along with several other creators when she mentioned the upcoming publication of the graphic novel; I immediately added it to my list of comics to pick up when it was released. Ostertag is probably best known as the artist of the ongoing webcomic Strong Female Protagonist and has collaborated as an illustrator on several other comics projects as well. However, The Witch Boy is her debut work as both author and artist. The graphic novel is aimed at middle grade readers, but the comic will be able to be appreciated by adult audiences as well. Aster comes from a family of magic users–the women are taught the secrets of witchery while the men are expected to learn how to shapeshift, a tradition which is strictly adhered to. Much to his family’s dismay, Aster would much rather study with the girls than roughhouse with the boys. Forbidden from learning the women’s magic despite his talent for it, Aster longs for his family to accept his true self. The Witch Boy is a beautiful story with a wonderful message; I hope to read more of Ostertag’s writing in the future.

Attack on Titan: The Anime GuideAttack on Titan: The Anime Guide by Ryosuke Sakuma and Munehiko Inagaki. Kodansha Comics almost exclusively publishes manga, although over time a few other things have been released as well, most of which are in some way a part of the massively successful Attack on Titan franchise. One of the more recent non-manga offerings is Attack on Titan: The Anime Guide, a full-color volume consisting of artwork, character designs, process overviews, and other background information relating to the first season of the Attack on Titan anime. The Anime Guide will mostly appeal to readers who are already devoted fans of Attack on Titan. What interested me most were the numerous interviews included in the book. The most notable is the lengthy interview with and conversation between Hajime Isayama and Tetsuro Araki, the original creator of Attack on Titan and the series director of the anime respectively. (Isayama saw the anime as an opportunity to improve upon or even correct aspects of the manga with which he wasn’t completely satisfied.) The interviews with the anime’s chief animation directors, Titan designer, action animation directors, scriptwriter, voice actors, and theme song musicians were also interesting to read.

My Week in Manga: February 29-March 6, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga, I announced the World Trigger Giveaway Winner. As usual for such announcements, the post also includes a thematic list of manga. In this case, I’ve put together a list of some of the manga licensed in English that feature parallel worlds, dimensions, and universes. Speaking of which, last week I also reviewed the first volume of a series that was included on that list–Shuji Sogabe’s Persona 4, Volume 1. I haven’t played any of the Persona 4 video games yet, but the manga adaptation is off to an intriguing start. I’m looking forward to reading more, and I’ll likely give the anime a try as well.

I found quite a few interesting things to read last week. Frederik L. Schodt (whose work I greatly admire) wrote about translating manga for World Literature Today. ICv2 has been busy interviewing folks from the North American manga industry, including a twopart interview with Viz’s Kevin Hamric and another twopart interview with Dark Horse’s Michael Gombos and Carl Horn.

There have been a few interviews with manga creators posted recently, as well. Manga Brog translated an interview with Tsutomu Nihei from earlier this year. Kazuo Koike participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything. And Kodansha Comics has a new creator interview with Chuya Koyama, the mangaka of Space Brothers. Related to that interview is an autograph sweepstakes and survey about Space Brothers which is a great opportunity to let Kodansha know if, like me, you’d be interested in seeing a print release of the series.

In licensing news, Seven Seas slipped in an announcement for Kanekiru Kogitsune and Kobayakawa Haruyoshi’s Re:Monster manga adaptation. There’s also currently an Indiegogo campaign to add an English dub to and generally improve the quality of the upcoming North American DVD and Blu-ray release of the Skip Beat! anime adaptation.

Quick Takes

A Bride's Story, Volume 6A Bride’s Story, Volumes 6-7 by Kaoru Mori. Every time I pick up A Bride’s Story I can’t help but be impressed by Mori’s stunningly detailed and beautiful artwork. The manga is gorgeous to look at, but the storytelling is lovely as well. These two volumes fall at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to tone, but they’re both still wonderfully engaging. Though it has its quiet moments, the sixth volume is dominated by exciting action sequences and battles as Amir’s original clan struggles to find a way to survive now that it has lost access to grazing lands. The intensity of the sixth volume isn’t found in the seventh, but there’s still plenty of drama as the series shifts to follow more of Mr. Smith’s journey. The story itself focuses Anis, a young Persian woman whose husband is quite wealthy. Because of this she leads a somewhat lonely and secluded life until, at the urging of her maid, she starts going to the public baths where she can spend more time with other women. (Much of the volume takes place at the baths, so there is a fair amount of tasteful nudity.)

TokyoESP1Tokyo ESP, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Hajime Segawa. It took me a couple of chapters to completely warm up to Tokyo ESP, but by the end of the first omnibus I was completely engaged. Segawa’s artwork doesn’t particularly grab me, but I’m immensely enjoying the quirkiness of the manga’s characters and the weirdness of its story. Tokyo ESP is ridiculous in a good sort of way. One morning, Rinka wakes up to discover that she has the ability to pass through physical objects. She’s not the only Tokyoite to have suddenly gained strange superpowers, but Rinka does appear to be one of the few to try to use her newfound skills for justice rather than personal gain. Though reluctant at first, wishing that she could just go back to normal, Rinka is quite capable and soon finds herself caught up in gang war fighting other espers. Tokyo ESP is a violent, action-packed series with a goofy sense of humor. Rinka can literally kick ass, but she also gets her fair share of beatings. The manga can actually be surprisingly brutal at times.

The World's Greatest First Love: The Case of Ritsu Onodera, Volume 1The World’s Greatest First Love: The Case of Ritsu Onodera, Volumes 1-3 by Shungiku Nakamura. I know quite a few people who we extraordinarily pleased when SuBLime announced that it would be releasing The World’s Greatest First Love. It was their enthusiasm that led me to giving the manga a try–I had read and even enjoyed parts of Nakamura’s earlier series boys’ love series Junjo Romantica, but overall I wasn’t especially enamored with it so I wasn’t necessarily intentionally seeking out more of the creator’s work. But I will admit, so far I am consistently amused and entertained by The World’s Greatest First Love even if I am more interested in the series’ hilarious (and I’m told accurate) portrayal of the inner workings a shoujo magazine than I am in any of the manga’s dubious romances. The World’s Greatest First Love works best for me when it’s a bit over-the-top and not trying to be taken too seriously. Though the anatomy of the characters can occasionally be rather awkward, Nakamura excels at reaction shots and the artwork is well-suited for a comedy.

My Week in Manga: December 30, 2013-January 5, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week I announced the 4-Koma for You Winner. In case you’re looking for something to read, the post includes a list of yonkoma manga that have been released in print in English, too. I also posted December’s Bookshelf Overload last week, for those of you interested in following my adventures in buying way too much manga and other media. Finally, over the weekend I posted a review of Delavier’s Mixed Martial Arts Anatomy. This is one of the most tangentially related reviews I’ve written at Experiments in Manga. Why is it here? Simply because I’m a karateka and found it to be a useful book. It’s a great strength training resource for any martial artist. Plus, it has lots of illustrations.

I’ve more or less been on vacation for the last two weeks, so I haven’t been online much except to make sure that things were updated here at Experiments in Manga. Even so, there were two things in particular that caught my eye recently. First and foremost, the Massive anthology of gay manga originally scheduled to be published by PictureBox has been picked up by Fantagraphics! Right now, it looks like we should see the release sometime in October 2014. The other news that I was excited to hear about is that we’ll be getting a second season of the Mushishi anime nearly ten years after the first season aired. I loved Yuki Urushibara’s original manga (which is now unfortunately out-of-print in English) and I loved the first anime series so I’m looking forward to the second season a great deal.

Quick Takes

A Bride's Story, Volume 5A Bride’s Story, Volume 5 by Kaoru Mori. The art in A Bride’s Story always blows me away. Mori’s illustrations are so beautiful and detailed that it’s no surprise that there’s such a long wait in between each volume’s release. Most of the fifth volume of the series is devoted to the wedding between the twins and their husbands-to-be. The best word that I can think of to describe this volume is “joyous.” Mori shows the preparations that both families make for the happy occasion—a celebration that lasts an entire week. There’s dance and song, levity, plenty of food, and numerous guests. It’s extremely satisfying to see the entire community’s participation in the event. The manga as a whole is a gorgeous work, but the wedding itself is quite lovely. I enjoyed seeing the twins’ story develop. Their outgoing personalities might be annoying for some readers, but in the end I found the two of them to be quite endearing. Now begins the long wait for the next volume of A Bride’s Story.

Castle Mango, Volume 1Castle Mango, Volume 1 written by Narise Konohara and illustrated by Muku Ogura. Despite what the cover and title page of Digital Manga’s release indicate, Konohara wrote Castle Mango while Ogura was responsible for the artwork. Konohara is the same author who wrote About Love, which I quite enjoyed, so I was interested in reading Castle Mango. Both manga are slightly atypical boys’ love stories. Instead of being straightforward man-meets-man romances, the stories are more layered. There is an emphasis on well-developed characters and actual plot; it’s not just about getting guys into bed with each other. The leads of Castle Mango are rather unusual as well. Yorozu’s family owns and runs a love hotel while Tagame is a well-known porn director. Yorozu more or less blackmail’s Tagame into a relationship in order to keep him away from his brother, but he doesn’t even really like the older man. Their story is concluded in the second and final volume of Castle Mango. I’m very curious to see how things unfold, so I’ll definitely be picking it up.

A Centaur's Life, Volume 1A Centaur’s Life, Volume 1 by Kei Murayama. One of several “monster girl” manga recently released by Seven Seas, A Centaur’s Life is far less ecchi than the other titles. Plus, this one includes plenty of monster boys in addition to the monster girls, which I greatly appreciate. The manga is definitely centered around the series’ young women, though. The titular centaur is Kimihara Himeno; the manga is mostly a slice-of-life story which follows her and her other high school friends. (As a side note, I adore Himeno’s wild mass of hair on the cover.) Some people might find reading the first chapter a little uncomfortable as the story revolves around the girls’ privates, but following chapters are much less questionable. Overall, the manga was rather charming. And I am interested in learning more about the world that Murayama has imagined; it seems that some significant thought has been put into it. Although not the focus of the series, politics, law, cultural differences, disputes between races, and history have all been taken into consideration.

Ranma 1/2, Volume 15Ranma 1/2, Volumes 15-20 by Rumiko Takahashi. It’s been so long since I’ve read any of Ranma 1/2 that I had forgotten how much I love the series. After the main characters and basic premise are established, the manga becomes fairly episodic so it’s easy to pick up part way through the series and still know what’s going on. I find Ranma 1/2 to be hilarious and particularly enjoy the absurd martial arts that Takahashi comes up with. These particular volumes feature martial arts based around eating food extremely quickly and cheerleading, just to give two examples. I like the characters and I like the story, as silly and superfluous as it can be. Akane and Ranma seem to be no closer to getting married than they were at the beginning of the series. They argue quite a bit, but there are moments of genuine affection, too. Granted, those moments are frequently interrupted and don’t tend to last very long. The series’ off-the-wall comedy won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for me Ranma 1/2 is highly entertaining and a lot of fun.

Otome Yokai ZakuroOtome Yokai Zakuro directed by Chiaki Kon. The Otome Yokai Zakuro anime is based on an ongoing manga series by Lily Hoshino (which hasn’t been licensed in English.) The story takes place in an alternate version of Japan’s Meiji Era in which yokai and humans coexist. The office of Spirit Affairs is created in order to improve relations between the two groups. It’s made up of a small contingent of military officers and half-spirit girls who team up to work together. I’ll admit, I liked the first part of the series which explored the concerns over Japan’s Westernization and loss of traditions through the conflicts between humans and yokai much more than I did its end. Seeing as the opening has a bit of a spoiler in it, the series’ major plot twist was clearly planned well in advance, but it just didn’t seem to flow well as a whole as the narrative suddenly changes direction. The romantic subplots are broadcast from the very first episode—it’s obvious who will be falling in love with who—so none of those developments were particularly surprising or unexpected, either.

My Week in Manga: February 25-March 3, 2013

My News and Reviews

February seemed to pass by quickly. Granted, it is the shortest month of the year. But because it is the end of one month and the beginning of another, it does mean it’s time for another manga giveaway! The winner will be announced this coming Wednesday, so there is still time to enter for a chance to win the hardcover edition of Osamu Tezuka’s Ayako.

For those of you who are interested in my absurd manga-buying habits, February’s Bookshelf Overload was also posted last week. The most recent Library Love feature—basically a bunch of quick takes of manga that I’ve borrowed and read from my local library—is now available, too.

A few things that I came across online this past week: Brigid Alverson has a lengthy interview with Stu Levy, the CEO of Tokyopop, at MangaBlog. Vertical announced two new manga licenses at Genericon—From the New World and Pink. And speaking of Vertical, keep an eye on the publisher’s tumblr for a new questions and answers column.

Quick Takes

A Bride’s Story, Volume 4 by Kaoru Mori. I absolutely love Mori’s artwork. The attention she gives to detail and historical accuracy is superb. If nothing else, A Bride’s Story is gorgeous. But I also enjoy Mori’s storytelling. The fourth volume in the series is a little more lighthearted and comedic than previous volumes. The story turns its focus to Laila and Leyli, twins with very outgoing personalities who are in search of husbands. Personally, I prefer the earlier volumes, but this was a fun one, too. The English release of A Bride’s Story has now almost caught up with the Japanese release. I have no idea when the next volume will be published, but I’m looking forward to it immensely.

Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Omnibus 1 written by Satoru Akahori and illustrated by Yukimaru Katsura. Kashimashi is a very odd yuri series. Hazumu is an effeminate high school boy who has been brought back to life by aliens after they crash land their spaceship on him. Only now Hazumu is female all the way down to her DNA. The series follows Hazumu as she adjusts to being a girl and the new relationship dynamics that brings. The girl she had a crush on and was rejected by as a guy is now interested in her, and her best friends are conflicted over the romantic feelings they have developed for Hazumu. As for Hazumu’s parents and teachers: the adults in Kashimashi are much more immature and annoying than the teenagers. Fortunately, they’re not around all that much.

Tekkon Kinkreet: Black & White by Taiyo Matsumoto. Dark, surreal, and compelling are characteristics that I’ve come to expect from Matsumoto’s manga. His award-winning Tekkon Kinkreet is a fantastic example of this. It’s one of his more approachable works, as well. But as a warning, Tekkon Kinkreet can also be disturbingly violent. Black and White are two orphans living on the streets of Treasure Town who come into direct conflict with the yakuza who are trying to take control of the city. Black is tough and streetwise while White is childlike in his innocence. But they both need each other. The manga is about balance. Balance between good and evil, right and wrong, darkness and light, Black and White.

Library Love, Part 14

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Emma, Volumes 7-10 by Kaoru Mori. I didn’t realize that the main story of Emma concludes in the seventh volume of the series and so was taken a little by surprise when the ending seemed to come along so suddenly. I like that Mori didn’t go for a trite “happily ever after”; the ending is much more complicated than that and realistically addresses the challenges that Emma and William will face due to their class differences. The final three volumes are actually a collection of short side stories, mostly featuring established characters although some simply feature the established locale and time period. Emma is a wonderful series; I really hope to see its license rescued. Thankfully, my library had a complete set.

Nana, Volume 5-8 by Ai Yazawa. I continue to be greatly impressed by Nana and Yazawa’s work in general. Her characters are marvelously complex and multi-faceted. In Nana, the assholes aren’t complete assholes and the angels aren’t complete angels, either. Yazawa eschews stereotypes and the results are naturally unpredictable. The readers and the characters might expect one thing only to be proven wrong. Because the characters are so complex their relationships are just as complicated if not more so. Selfishness and possessiveness create believable and often heartbreaking situations that the characters have to deal with either together or on their own. Life and relationships are messy and Yazawa doesn’t allow her characters to take the easy way out.

Ode to Kirihito by Osamu Tezuka. Ode to Kirihito is probably one of the stranger Tezuka manga that I have read. It’s a mix of medical drama and some sort of horror, with a bit of a revenge tale thrown in for good measure. Kirihito Osanai is a young doctor investigating Monmow, an incurable disease that causes a person’s body to take on dog-like characteristics. His theory is that it is an endemic condition while his superior is adamant that the disease is both viral and contagious. Osanai’s life is changed forever when he himself contracts Monmow. Ode to Kirihito is an engaging read with some real-life parallels to how people with various medical problems are treated and even shunned by others.

Stargazing Dog by Takashi Murakami. I did enjoy Stargazing Dog but I don’t seem to be quite as taken with it as so many other people are, although I can certainly understand its appeal. What impresses me the most about the manga is how Murakami captures the importance and significance that human-canine relationships can have. Stargazing Dog is about people and the dogs who love them. The manga collects two loosely related stories together, both of which are rather bittersweet. Because Stargazing Dog stands so well on its own and feels satisfyingly complete I was surprised to discover that there is actually a second volume. NBM only released the first volume of the series in print, but both volumes are available digitally from JManga under the title Star Protector Dog.