My Week in Manga: September 15-September 21, 2014

My News and Reviews

Two manga reviews were posted at Experiments in Manga last week, both with a bit of queer bent to them. First, I took a look at Wandering Son, Volume 7 by Takako Shimura. Wandering Son is a series that means a tremendous amount to me personally, so I’m always happy when a new volume is released. (And speaking of releases—Fantagraphics assured me that the eighth volume will be published sometime next year.) My second review from last week was of Fumi Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 4, which I continue to thoroughly enjoy (even though it can sometimes make me hungry when I’m reading it).

A while back I, and a handful of other people, were interviewed by Justin Stroman about why we buy manga. He turned it into a pretty great article, so I hope you’ll check out Why It’s Worth It to Buy Manga over on Manga Bookshelf. As a followup of sorts, Justin also posted Life As a Manga Fan in the United Arab Emirates at Organization Anti-Social Geniuses which was a fascinating read. Another interesting interview from last week was Tofugu’s conversation with translator and interpreter Jocelyne Allen who has translated a ton of manga among other things. Also of note: Breakdown Press recently announced its next alternative manga publication—Masahiko Matsumoto’s “The Man Next Door.”

Quick Takes

I've Seen It All, Volume 1I’ve Seen It All, Volumes 1-2 by Shoko Takaku. The featured guest of this year’s YaoiCon was Shoko Takaku. I realized that I hadn’t actually read any of her work, so I decided to pick up I’ve Seen It All. Dr. Saikawa is a specialist in men’s health, specifically addressing concerns dealing with genitals. By chance he meets and soon falls in love with Asano who is blessed with a “cock of peerless beauty.” I’ve Seen It All easily has the most references to penises that I’ve ever come across in a boys’ love manga. Saikawa is completely unfazed about it—it is his job after all—and no one else seems to be either which just makes the manga even funnier. Asano and Saikawa are adorable as a couple. It was also nice to see that they both try to make sure that the other enjoys their more intimate moments (of which there are plenty). The other characters are pretty great, too. Despite some of the more realistic elements of the series, I’ve Seen It All leans slightly more towards the silly and sweet. Happily, there is at least one more volume of I’ve Seen It All; I just hope that the rest of the series will be translated because I loved the first two volumes.

Monster Soul, Volume 2Monster Soul, Volume 2 by Hiro Mashima. I’ll admit, I did enjoy the second and final volume of Monster Soul slightly more than the first, but it’s still not a series that left much of an impression on me. Where the first volume was largely episodic, the majority of the second volume of Monster Soul focused on one story—the Black Airs’ efforts to rescue the souls of an entire kingdom of humans from the clutches of the Drei Kommandos. In the process, Mashima takes the opportunity to delve into the back stories of the individual members of the Black Airs. I personally appreciated that the characters were further developed, but the series is too short to really take advantage of it all. Although Monster Soul doesn’t stand out much, it is generally entertaining. The action sequences in particular are fairly well done. Admittedly, there are a few annoying character quirks that don’t make much sense within the context of the story as a whole, such as Mummy’s propensity for stripping for no particular reason. Overall, Monster Soul feels more like a prototype than anything else. It is very energetic, though.

Time KillersTime Killers by Kazue Kato. While I largely enjoyed Kato’s manga series Blue Exorcist, I never seemed to be quite as taken with the story as so many others were. However, I’ve always been fond of Kato’s artwork. And so, I was very interested in reading Kazuo’s short story collection Time Killers. The anthology collects eleven short manga selected from over a decade’s worth of Kazuo’s work, including some of her earliest and debut stories. Many of the manga included in Time Killers simply consist of whatever elements Kazuo felt like exploring and mashing together, completely disregarding what readers might be interested in. The manga ends up being a somewhat odd conglomeration with a strong indie feel to it, but I rather enjoyed its quirkiness. The collection also includes a story that is derived from the same source material as Blue Exorcist, which was interesting to see. It’s also worth noting that Time Killers is probably the nicest release that I’ve seen from Viz Media’s Shonen Jump imprint. It has a slightly larger trim size, includes beautiful color pages, and is printed on high-quality, glossy paper, too.

My Week in Manga: April 22-April 28, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week was rather busy here at Experiments in Manga. In addition to usual My Week in Manga feature, there were four other posts. (Normally, there are only two or three.) First off, you still have a couple more days to enter April’s manga giveaway. Tell me about your favorite English license rescue for a chance to win the first omnibus as well as the ninth volume of Yun Kouga’s Loveless.

About a month ago, I reviewed The Infernal Devices, Volume 1: Clockwork Angel, HyeKyung Baek’s graphic novel adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s novel by the same name. I hadn’t read the original novel, and so was thrilled when my good friend Traci (who has) agreed to share her thoughts on the adaptation. She made a video, a first for Experiments in Manga!

Last week was also the Kaori Yuki Manga Moveable Feast. For my contribution, I reviewed Grand Guignol Orchestra, Volume 1: Overture. I’ll admit, I think I like the series better in concept than in execution. And last but certainly not least, I posted some random musings on Tokyo Demons, one of my most recent obsessions. Not too long ago I reviewed the first novel in the series, but ended up with more that I wanted to say. And even now, I’m not sure that I said everything that I wanted to.

On to some interesting things found online! I recently reviewed and loved Toh EnJoe’s Self-Reference Engine. I thought Terry Gallagher’s work as the translator for the book was particularly remarkable. Haikasoru posted a Q/A with a translator: Terry Gallagher which I found very interesting. And speaking of Japanese literature in translation, translator Allison Markin Powell (who worked on Osamu Dazai’s Schoolgirl among other things) has created a searchable database of Japanese Literature in English. Entries are still being added but it’s already a fantastic resource.

Elsewhere online, The Comics Reporter interviewed Christopher Butcher, “the driving force behind the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.” Two of the featured guests this year will be mangaka Taiyo Matsumoto and Gengoroh Tagame. I mentioned last week that the 2013 Eisner Award nominees had been announced. Over at No Flying No Tights, the contributors shared their reactions to the list both good and bad, including their disappointment over the lack of manga in some of the categories. Finally, the Dark Horse manga zone takes a look at the release, and re-release, of Lone Wolf & Cub as part of the Dark Horse Manga Timeline.

Quick Takes

20th Century Boys, Volumes 20-22 by Naoki Urasawa. Don’t be fooled: these last three volumes in 20th Century Boys are not the end of the story, there are still two more volumes of 21st Century Boys to go. While it has been a long and convoluted journey, things are starting to fall together. The major players in the series have all returned and the final showdown has begun. And I’m thoroughly enjoying it now that it is here. Music has always been a part of the series and an important touchstone, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so crucial to the plot in the end. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised though since there were plenty of clues in the manga. As a musician, it makes me immensely happy.

Blue Exorcist, Volumes 5-8 by Kazue Kato. While I’m still enjoying Blue Exorcist to some extent, I did prefer the earlier volumes a bit more. Blue Exorcist works best for me when Kato finds a balance between the humor and the darker story elements. In these volumes, the balance was a little off and the more serious side of Blue Exorcist overwhelmed its goofier aspects. Personally, I like the series best when it’s being just a little sillier. To be honest, I was actually a little bored with this story arc. In part, I think it’s because the focus of the story shifts away from Rin. However, even if the pacing was slow, it was nice to see some of the other characters’ back stories filled in. Fortunately, the humor returns the action starts to ramp up again in the eighth volume.

Dorohedoro, Volumes 8-9 by Q Hayashida. I am still loving Dorohedoro. It’s just so delightfully weird and off-beat. Somehow the series manages to be incredibly gruesome and utterly charming all at the same time. In the past, Dorohedoro‘s story has been all over the place and hasn’t always been particularly cohesive, but at this point in the series the plot has developed some forward and almost linear momentum. It’s still wonderfully strange, though. The eighth and ninth volumes begin to delve further into the characters’ pasts and their connections to one another. The tone is rather ominous at the end of the ninth volume, so I’m anxious to see what developments Hayashida has in store next.

A Fallen Saint’s Kiss by You Higashino. A Fallen Saint’s Kiss is certainly one of the kinkiest yaoi I’ve come across in print in English. And because it is part of Digital Manga’s 801 imprint, it is also very explicit. A Fallen Saint’s Kiss is a one-shot featuring three interrelated couples in sadomasochistic relationships (which, as a heads up, includes student-teacher relations.) There’s bondage and humiliation and all sorts of sex toys (something I haven’t seen much of before.) Two chapters are devoted to each couple’s relationship. What works particularly well about the first two stories is that each chapter is told from a different partner’s perspective, allowing both sides of the relationship to be seen. Unfortunately, the third story breaks this pattern.

To directed by Fumihiko Sori. To is a collection of two short films (Elliptical Orbit and Symbiotic Planet) which are based on two standalone chapters of Yukinobu Hoshino’s science fiction manga 2001 Nights. I adore 2001 Nights. The films are very faithful adaptations of original stories and not many changes were made. Of the two films, I preferred Symbiotic Planet—overall, its pacing was better; Elliptical Orbit suffered from too many long, awkward, dramatic pauses. To is completely animated using CGI with mixed results. The ships and environments are absolutely gorgeous. Sadly, this makes the more stylized and less detailed humans feel flat and incomplete in comparison.

My Week in Manga: April 8-April 14, 2013

My News and Reviews

This past week I reviewed We, the Children of Cats, a volume collecting five short stories and three novellas by Tomoyuki Hoshino. It’s a difficult collection, troubling and even disturbing at times, but it’s also mesmerizing and very good. In the preface, Hoshino describes the desire for the stories to “lodge themselves within the bodies” of the readers; with me at least he was successful.

I also reviewed Demon Lair, the twentieth volume in the English-language release of Hiroaki Samura’s award-winning manga series Blade of the Immortal. There’s not much plot development in this volume, but there is plenty of action. Normally, my monthly Blade of the Immortal review would have been posted later this week, but I’ve been shifting my usual schedule around a bit in order to accommodate a guest post which should be ready to go soon.

If you haven’t come across it yet, Brigid Alverson’s article Manga 2013: A Smaller, More Sustainable Market for Publishers Weekly is a must read. Christopher Butcher also posted a followup to the article, The Manga Industry 2012-2013, which is also well worth reading. Curious as to what it’s like to work as a mangaka’s assistant? Jamie Lynn Lano has collected all of her assistant stories into one convenient list—Working as an Assistant on the Prince of Tennis.

Over the weekend, Lori Henderson of Manga Xanadu debuted the first episode of the Manga Dome Podcast. It’s a nice short episode focusing on recent manga news and a few brief reviews. There aren’t many podcasts out there that I know of that focus specifically on manga, so I’m very happy to see the start of a new one. I’ve added Manga Dome to podcast list on the Resources page. (I also removed Otaku USA’s Friday ACE podcast from the list, which is now defunct.)

I’ve written a couple of posts about podcasts in the past which still get quite a few page hits: Discovering Manga: Podcasts and Discovering Manga: Podcasts, Part 2. I’d love to do another podcast post in the future, so if you know of any manga related podcasts that I haven’t yet mentioned, please do let me know!

Quick Takes

Blue Exorcist, Volumes 1-4 by Kazue Kato. After a bit of a rough start (about which I had been warned), I’m starting to really enjoy Blue Exorcist. It’s not my favorite shounen series, but I can definitely understand its wide appeal. Blue Exorcist is a fun manga with likeable characters and solid artwork. Rin Okumura is the bastard son of Satan who decides to become an exorcist after his guardian dies protecting him. The series follows him and his fellow classmates as they begin their exorcist studies. The fact that he’s part demon is something that he tries, unsuccessfully, to keep hidden. Blue Exorcist has some nice, dynamic fights. There is also a good balance between the series’ humor and its darker elements.

Kiss Blue, Volumes 1-2 by Keiko Kinoshita. I absolutely loved this two volume series. It’s certainly more realistic than most of the boys’ love manga that’s out there. The character development in particular is exceptional. Tomosaka and Noda have been best friends for years, but recently Tomosaka has come to the realization that he’s actually in love with Noda. Tomosaka struggles with his feelings, wanting to preserve their friendship while at the same time being torn apart by it. Noda, too, is conflicted and unsure of how to deal with the situation. On top of all this, Tomosaka is being sexually harassed by his manager at work who, it turns out, is caught up in his own unhappy love story. The relationships are all handled very well. Kiss Blue really is excellent.

Saiyuki, Volumes 1-5 by Kazuya Minekura. Loosely based on The Journey to the West, Saiyuki gives the beloved folk heroes new personalities, motivations, and bad-boy attitudes. Quite a few of these earlier volumes are devoted to revealing Hakkai’s tragic backstory, which is substantially different from the original. Of the main characters Hakkai is probably my favorite, so I didn’t mind this too much. (Although if you want to be picky, Gojyo and Hakkai’s stories and personalities seem to be reversed from The Journey to the West.) Minekura incorporates strange anachronisms into the story and magic and mysticism are found alongside science and technology. Saiyuki is kind of ridiculous, but I’ll admit to enjoying it.

Unico by Osamu Tezuka. Unico is the second Tezuka manga to be licensed and produced by Digital Manga through a Kickstarter project. My initial interest in the manga was based on the fact that it was being released entirely in color and that its artwork extends beyond the edge of the page. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to like Unico as much as I did, but it’s really quite wonderful. The stories follow the titular Unico, a unicorn with the power to bring happiness and good luck to those who love him. In addition to using various historical, contemporary, and futuristic settings, the manga is influenced by legends, mythology, and fairy tales. Unico is in turn delightful, heartbreaking, charming, and bittersweet.

No. 6 directed by Kenji Nagasaki. No. 6 is an eleven-episode anime based on a series of novels by Atsuko Asano. I’m rather fond of utopian/dystopian fiction, so I was looking forward to No. 6. Shion is an elite member of the city No. 6 who loses his privileges and status when he saves the life of Nezumi, a young fugitive. The relationship between Shion and Nezumi is marvelous; the two grow and change as the series progresses and as Shion learns the truth about No. 6. Although there are some fantastic moments in the last episode, the ending is unfortunately rushed and therefore somewhat disappointing. Still, up until that point I was really enjoying the series. So much so that I plan on giving the manga a try.

Manga Giveaway: Blue Exorcist Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the Blue Exorcist Giveaway is…Sean Kleefeld!

As the winner, Sean (who can be found online at Kleefeld on Comics, among other places) will be receiving a brand new copy of Blue Exorcist, Volume 1 by Kazue Kato. Blue Exorcist was a series that I finally got around to picking up simply because it appeared on so many “best of the year” lists. I’ve never personally created one of these lists, but I do enjoy reading the lists that other people pull together. And so for this giveaway, I asked entrants to tell me about their favorite new manga (or new to them manga) from 2012. Check out the Blue Exorcist Giveaway comments for all of the responses, but here’s a list!

Some favorite manga from 2012:
Animal Land by Raiku Makoto
Bakuman written by Tsugumi Ohba, illustrated by Takeshi Obata
Bunny Drop by Yumi Unita
Crayon Shinchan by Yoshito Usui
A Devil and Her Love Song by Miyoshi Tomori
Message to Adolf by Osamu Tezuka
One-Punch Man written by ONE, illustrated by Yusuke Murata
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi
Sakura Hime by Arina Tanemura
Silver Spoon by Hiromu Arakawa
Spice & Wolf written by Isuna Hasekura, illustrated by Keito Koume
Sun-Ken Rock by Boichi
Thermae Romae by Mari Yamazaki
Wandering Son by Takako Shimura

I think it turned out to be a pretty nice selection of manga; there’s a good variety, too. (I’ll admit, though—I’m particularly pleased that more than one person mentioned Wandering Son as a favorite, a series that is near and dear to my heart.) Thank you to everyone who shared your favorite manga from 2012! I hope to see you all again for next month’s giveaway.

Manga Giveaway: Blue Exorcist Giveaway

Happy belated new year everyone, and welcome to the first monthly manga giveaway of the year at Experiments in Manga! To start us off in 2013, I’m giving away a brand new copy of Kazue Kato’s Blue Exorcist, Volume 1 as published by Viz Media. As always, the giveaway is open worldwide!

One of the things I like about the end/beginning of the year is seeing all of the lists of best (and in some cases worst) manga of the year. I’ve never written one of those posts at Experiments in Manga, but perhaps it’s something I should consider. After all, I do like reading other people’s lists—sometimes I learn about titles I haven’t heard about yet and other times a title is mentioned on several different lists which makes me take notice. Last year, Blue Exorcist won not one, but two Readers’ Choice Awards at Manga—Best New Manga and Best New Shonen Manga. I had been hearing buzz about the series for quite some time before that, but the results of the Readers’ Choice Awards is what finally drove me to give Blue Exorcist a try.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win Blue Exorcist, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little bit about your favorite manga newly released in 2012. (Kuriousity put together a list of most of the manga that was published in 2012 in English if, like me, you need a reminder. Note: Your favorite new manga of 2012 doesn’t necessarily need to be in English!)
2) For a second entry, simply tell me about your favorite “new to you” manga from last year—manga that you read for the first time regardless of when it was published.
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

There you have it! Each person can earn up to three entries for this giveaway. As usual, there is one week to submit comments. If you have trouble leaving comments, or if you would prefer, you can e-mail me your entries at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on February 6, 2013. Good luck!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: Blue Exorcist Giveaway Winner