My Week in Manga: January 30-February 5, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga the winner of the Please Tell! Me Galko-chan manga giveaway was announced. The post also includes a fairly comprehensive list of the full-color manga and manhwa that have been released in print in English. (However, I just now realized that I neglected to include manga like Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira and Buronson and Tetsuo Hara’s Fist of the North Star which, while not originally illustrated in full-color, had some full-color editions released in English.) Otherwise it was fairly quiet week, but I am well on my way to completing an in-depth review for February. Happily, my goal to write at least one long-form feature every month so far seems achievable.

I wasn’t actually online much at all last week (things were pretty hectic at work and there are always a fair number of taiko and lion dance performances I’m involved in around Chinese New Year) but there were still a few things that caught my attention: Vic James wrote an essay for about Yukio Mishima and Forbidden ColorsThe One Book That Made Me Move to Japan. (Mishima fascinates me and was actually my introduction to Japanese literature; I’ve reviewed quite a few books by and about him.) The most recent issue of Words without Borders is devoted to international graphic novels. Also, Digital Manga’s Juné imprint announced two new print licenses (Psyche Delico’s Even a Dog Won’t Eat It and Choco Strawberry Vanilla) as well as its upcoming Kickstarter project to publish the first volume of Velvet Toucher’s Eden’s Mercy.

Quick Takes

Bloom into You, Volume 1Bloom into You, Volume 1 by Nakatani Nio. I’ll have to admit, recently I’ve grown a little weary of high school romances. Even so, I was still very interested in reading Bloom into You, one of Seven Seas most recent yuri series. Specifically, I was curious about the manga’s treatment of aromanticism, something which I haven’t seen many series address. Yuu has never fallen in love and so she is glad to meet Nanami, an upperclassmen who likewise has never felt that way about anyone before. Finally Yuu has someone she feels comfortable confiding in about it except that Nanami is now falling in love with her. One of the things that I really appreciate about Bloom into You is how considerate and respectful Nanami is of Yuu’s feelings (an exception being a stolen kiss). It’s also obvious that they both care about each other, even if Yuu hasn’t yet experienced the romantic spark that Nanami has only recently found for herself. The two of them actually communicate, too, so there’s none of the silly misunderstandings that plague so many other series that would easily be solved if the characters would simply talk to each other. I would definitely like so see how Yuu and Nanami’s relationship continues to develop from here.

Franken Fran, Omnibus 3Franken Fran, Omnibus 3-4 (equivalent to Volumes 5-8) by Katsuhisa Kigitsu. Despite what the cover illustrations would seem to imply, Franken Fran isn’t particularly heavy on fanservice. Granted, there is some nudity in the series, but it’s generally more discomfiting than it is titillating. Franken Fran is a manga that delights in making its readers uncomfortable. But although it is frequently gruesome and grotesque, the quirky horror is accompanied by a great deal of humor as well. Kigitsu uses actual medical and scientific phenomenon as inspiration but takes them to such logical and illogical extremes that they become almost unrecognizable. The horror in Franken Fran works as well as it does because there are these little kernels of truth underneath it all. For the most part Franken Fran tends to be episodic although the stories can largely be categorized by recurring types, settings, and characters. For example, there are numerous chapters based in Fran’s school as well as a set of quickly escalating stories about the supposedly superheroic Senitals. More characters are introduced as the series progresses, too, including Fran’s incredibly crass, vulgar, and homicidal older sister Gavril.

Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Omnibus 5Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Omnibus 5 (equivalent to Volumes 9-10) by Satoshi Mizukami. It’s been quite a while since the last omnibus of Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer was released. I’m not entirely sure why it took me so long to finally get around to reading it though since there was so much about the series that I enjoyed. The ending of the series was pretty great. It was immensely satisfying to see the Beast Knights pull together for the final battle against Animus as a tightly knit team, surpassing everything that they’d previously accomplished. They are a group of troubled outsiders who have established a tremendous and lasting bond with one another despite, or maybe because of, their differences. As weird a manga as Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer can be–and it can be very weird (which is admittedly something that I like about the series)–it still manages to have a surprisingly deeply resonant core. If it wasn’t already clear, the conclusion of the series’ makes its theme explicit. Underneath the psychic powers and supernatural battles is a story about growing up regardless of how old someone actually is, about survival in the face of the worst that life can throw at somebody, and about forming meaningful connections with others.

My Week in Manga: February 22-February 28, 2016

My News and Reviews

It’s the end of the month, so there were a couple of different things posted at Experiments in Manga last week, such as the launch of the most recent manga giveaway. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, but until then there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first two volumes of Daisuke Ashihara’s World Trigger. The most recent review in my monthly horror manga review project was posted last week as well (technically it’s a week late). This month I took a look at After School Nightmare, Volume 8 by Setona Mizushiro. It’s a fairly momentous installment in the series, with several major developments and revelations.

Elsewhere online: Ryan Holmberg examines pro-nuclear manga of the seventies and eighties; Kodansha Comics has a two part interview with Hiroya Oku, the creator of Gantz and the more recent Inuyashiki; Justin of The Organization of Anti-Social Geniuses contacted Robert McGuire to determine the status of Gen Manga since the publisher has been rather quiet of late; finally, in an interesting move, Funimation has launched a Kickstarter for a newly dubbed blu-ray release of The Vision of Escaflowne; Anime News Network also interviewed some of Funimation’s staff members about the project.

Quick Takes

Aldnoah.Zero: Season One, Volume 1Aldnoah.Zero: Season One, Volumes 1-2 written by Olympus Knights and illustrated by Pinakes. I haven’t seen any of the original Aldnoah.Zero anime series, though I have been meaning to give at least a few episodes a try. The series mostly caught my attention for two reasons: the underlying story about interplanetary warfare between the humans on Earth and Mars (as I’ve mentioned in the past, I have particular interest in Mars), and the fact that Wandering Son‘s Takako Shimura was responsible for the character designs. Seeing as I generally have more opportunities to read manga than I do to watch anime, I figured I’d give the Aldnoah.Zero manga adaptation a try. Sadly, parts of the manga are somewhat difficult to understand if one isn’t familiar with the original. Pinakes makes heavy use of screentone, which obscures the artwork and action and gives the pages a cluttered feel. I do like the basic premise of the series, but the motivations behind the war, while cursorily explained, remain frustratingly unclear and many of the Martians come across as villainous caricatures rather than well-rounded characters.

Franken Fran, Omnibus 1Franken Fran, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Katsuhisa Kigitsu. I tend to enjoy horror manga and I had heard great things about Franken Fran, so I was very much looking forward to giving the series a try. The manga and its characters are delightfully quirky, in turns disturbingly cute and skin-crawlingly creepy. Fran is a charming young woman who, due to her nearly irrational reverence for life, is more or less an unintentional sadist. She, along with her cadre of assistants and monsters, saves lives through extreme surgeries and bizarre experiments often with gruesome results. Although there are recurring characters, the manga is generally episodic without much of a continuing story, but the chapters all have at least one deliberately shocking twist to them. Franken Fran, with its incredibly dark sense of humor, quickly and repeatedly swings from the surprisingly heartwarming to the magnificently grotesque and back. It’s definitely not a series for everyone, but I’ll certainly be picking up the rest of the manga.

Purity: The "Post-Yaoi" AnthologyPurity: The “Post-Yaoi” Anthology edited by Anne Notation and A. E. Green. I was previously unfamiliar with most of the contributors to Purity; I learned about the anthology due to the participation of two creators whose work I currently follow—Kori Michele Handwerker and Starlock. (I was happy to discover that a comic by Alexis Cooke, one of Sparkler Monthly‘s creators, was also included.) Purity is a collection of forty-two homoerotic illustrations and short comics by forty-eight creators from around the world who have been influenced by yaoi manga. Although it’s clear that some of the artwork was originally in color, the anthology has been printed in grayscale. There’s a nice variety in the tone and style of the contributions in Purity; some are sweet while others are unapologetically smutty (and there’s nothing wrong with that). Genre-wise, the anthology tends towards the paranormal, fantastic, and futuristic, but there are contributions firmly based in reality, too. Although all of the stories stand on their own, a few do tie in with some of the creators’ existing works.