My Week in Manga: January 9-January 15, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted the Bookshelf Overload for December. It includes a pretty big list of things, in part due to massive holiday sales, so hopefully future months won’t be quite as ridiculous. Another thing that happened last week that was kind of cool was related to a post that I wrote back in 2014. My Spotlight on Masaichi Mukaide is probably one of the most noteworthy things that I’ve ever written and it actually got quite a bit of attention when I posted it. Well, Masaichi Mukaide himself apparently came across it recently and even left a comment.

Probably the biggest manga news from last week was the slew of licenses and other announcements made by Seven Seas. Here’s the list of manga:

Absolute Duo by Takumi Hiiragiboshi and Shinichirou Nariie
Alice & Zouroku by Tetsuya Imai
Captain Harlock: Dimensional Voyage by Leiji Matsumoto and Kouichi Shimahoshi
The Count of Monte Cristo by Moriyama Ena
Cutie Honey a Go Go! by Hideaki Anno and Shinpei Itou
Devilman G by Go Nagai and Rui Takatou
Dragon Half by Ryusuke Mita
Hatsune Miku: Bad End Night by Hitoshizuku-P x Yama and Tsubata Nozaki
Hatsune Miku Presents: Hachune Miku’s Everyday Vocaloid Paradise by Ontama
Magical Girl Special Ops Asuka by Makoto Fukami and Seigo Tokiya
Sleeping Beauty by Yumi Unita
Spirit Circle by Satoshi Mizukami
The Testament of Sister New Devil Storm by Tetsuto Uesu and Fumihiro Kiso
Unmagical Girl by Ryuichi Yokoyama and Manmaru Kamitsuki
Wadanohara and the Great Blue Sea by Mogeko

Seven Seas is getting back into translating novels and has a deluxe edition of Ryo Mizuno’s Record of the Lodoss War: The Grey Witch with illustrations by illustrations by Yutaka Izubuchi in the works, too. Also announced was a full-color edition of Madeleine Rosca’s Hollow Fields and five more illustrated literary classics. (I found Seven Seas release of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass to be quite enjoyable.)

It’s a pretty interesting group of announcements with a fairly wide range of titles to choose from. There’s even a manga from the late ’80s (Dragon Half), and not many of those are licensed any more. I’m particularly curious about Moriyama Ena’s adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo (the cover art is gorgeous), the josei manga Sleeping Beauty by Yumi Unita (whose Bunny Drop left me with extremely conflicted feelings), as well as the number of titles which are part of classic franchises.

Quick Takes

Devils' Line, Volume 1Devils’ Line, Volumes 1-2 by Ryo Hanada. I actually didn’t realize it at first, but Devils’ Line is the second work by Hanada to be released in English. The first was the doujinshi Good-bye Geist which overall I enjoyed. However, Devils’ Line is Hanada’s first professional series. In general, I’m liking it, too, except that the artwork is terribly inconsistent. At times it’s absolutely spectacular (the cover illustrations are especially great) but within a few panels it may have lost all sense of scale an anatomy. I can’t quite tell if this is mean to be deliberate or not; if so, the execution is unconvincing. The story isn’t as tight as it could be, but it does have a nice blend of genres, including romance, horror, action, crime, and thriller. And, like Good-bye Geist, the series has a marvelously ominous atmosphere. The plot centers around Tsukasa, who unfortunately seems to be a magnet for both vampires (or “devils”) and sexual assault, and Anzai, a half-vampire working for the police in a unit specializing in devil-related incidents. Vampirism in Devils’ Line has an intensely sexual component to it; the eroticism often associated with vampires in other stories is in this case incredibly dark and violent.

The Ghost and the Lady, Volume 2The Ghost and the Lady, Volume 2 by Kazuhiro Fujita. Admittedly, The Ghost and the Lady is kind of a strange manga series. In part historical fiction and in part supernatural drama, the manga’s disparate elements don’t always perfectly mesh, but I still enjoyed the series a great deal. In The Ghost and the Lady, Fujita mixes together historical facts and legends, reimagining the life of Florence Nightingale and her accomplishments during the Crimean War with a distinctly supernatural flair. It’s clear that Fujita has done a tremendous amount of research for the series; and as the afterword by the series’ translator Zack Davisson points out, more or less every named character in the manga has a historical counterpart. There’s Nightingale herself as well as the people she knew, Grey is based on a famous ghost of the Drury Lane theater, and even historical figures like the Chevalier d’Éon have prominent roles to play. (Speaking of whom, I really need to find a good biography of d’Éon to read.) Despite the presence of the ghosts, the supernatural aspects of The Ghost and the Lady seem to come and go; I do wish that the eidolons had been utilized a little more in the series’ second half because it’s great when they are.

Holy Corpse Rising, Volume 1Holy Corpse Rising, Volume 1 by Hosana Tanaka. As can be safely assumed by provocative cover art, Holy Corpse Rising is a manga series that includes a fair amount of nudity and scantily clad women. However, despite the occasional ridiculousness, the fanservice is largely keeping with the style and tone of the series as a whole, so it doesn’t feel out-of-place; a significant portion of Holy Corpse Rising is intended to be titillating. In general, Tanaka’s artwork is quite attractive, though the women in the series are the most beautiful. They’re also by far the most powerful characters, both in ability and status. The first volume of Holy Corpse Rising serves as an introduction to the war between the Credic Church and the witches. Nikola, a monk who is a specialist in witch lore, is charged with securing the aid of the coven of first witches in the Church’s fight against their descendants. But first Nikola must resurrect them and in the process manages to put himself in some rather compromising situations. So far the first witches each seem to gain their power from a different bodily fluid (tears, blood). And since there are twelve of them, Holy Corpse Rising has the potential to enter some pretty kinky territory.

The One Hundred Nights of HeroThe One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg. I don’t recall exactly what it was that brought The One Hundred Nights of Hero to my attention, but I’m so glad that I read it because it is marvelous; I loved the comic. Greenberg takes inspiration from existing stories and even provides retelling of folktales over the course of the graphic novel. The framework is deliberately similar to that of One Thousand and One Nights and there are stories within stories within stories. In fact, The One Hundred Nights of Hero is about the power of stories and storytellers. It’s also about love and “brave women who don’t take shit from anyone.” At the center of the comic is Cherry and her maid Hero, two women who love each other dearly. Night after night, Hero spins tale after tale in an effort to save their lives. The world of The One Hundred Nights of Hero is an incredibly misogynistic one. While different from our own, in some ways it is also tragically reminiscent. The One Hundred Nights of Hero isn’t always particularly subtle and can at times feel somewhat heavy-handed, but it’s a wonderfully powerful and unabashedly feminist work. I definitely plan on seeking out more of Greenberg’s comics.

Moshi MoshiMoshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto. Despite being an extremely prolific author and one of the most well-known Japanese novelists translated in English, I haven’t actually read any of Yoshimoto’s works until now. The story of Moshi Moshi is told from the first-person perspective of Yoshie, a young woman whose father has recently died. A successful musician, the circumstances surrounding his death are somewhat unclear, but it’s believed that he committed double suicide with a woman who neither she or her mother knows. The novel follows Yoshie as she tries to come to terms with the unexpected loss of her father by reinventing her life in the chic neighborhood of Shimokitazawa. Her mother joins her there, feeling that the ghost of her husband is haunting the family home, and Yoshie herself is plagued with recurring dreams in which her father appears, searching for his phone. Though Moshi Moshi does tend to drag a little in places, I really liked how Yoshimoto handles the themes of love, loss, and the inevitability of change in the novel. I suspect that Moshi Moshi likely isn’t the best introduction to Yoshimoto’s work, but for the most part I did appreciate it.

My Week in Manga: November 7-November 13, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week was pretty quiet at Experiments in Manga (like most weeks these days, really) but I did finally get around to posting October’s Bookshelf Overload for those interested in some of the cool things I picked up last month. Last week was pretty stressful for a variety of reasons so I wasn’t online much, but I did recently find out about two Japanese novels scheduled to be released in translation next year that I’m very excited about. In May be on the lookout for Minae Mizumura’s Inheritance from Mother. Only two of Mizumura’s long works have been translated so far–A True Novel which in part is a reimagining of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and the utterly fascinating nonfiction treatise The Fall of Language in the Age of English–both of which were tremendous, so I’m really looking forward to reading more by Mizumura. And in June look for Tomoyuki Hoshino’s Me, a novel exploring themes of identity. Hoshino’s stories are frequently challenging and unsettling but I find that it’s well-worth the effort it takes to read them. Like Mizumura, currently there are only two books by Hoshino available in English–the novel Lonely Hearts Killer and the short fiction collection We, the Children of Cats which in particular left a huge impression on me–so I’m happy that there will be a third.

Quick Takes

Cells at Work!, Volume 1Cells at Work!, Volume 1 by Akane Shimizu. Sometimes the premise of a manga is so fantastically odd that I can’t help but be curious. Cells at Work, in which the cells of the human body, bacteria, and such are literally personified, is one such series. It’s also an educational manga–readers may very well learn a thing or two about microbiology and human anatomy and physiology thanks to Cells at Work (assuming they weren’t already familiar with how the body functions). Although there are recurring characters, the first volume of Cells at Work is fairly episodic, mostly focusing on the immune system’s response to injury and potential infection. Things are more exciting when the world seems like it’s about to end and a catastrophe must be averted. Bacteria are portrayed like monsters and villains out of some sort of super sentai show. White blood cells are fairly cool and laid-back, at least until they’re fighting off invaders and are completely overcome by maniacal bloodlust. Influenza causes a zombie outbreak. Cedar pollen triggers an apocalyptic allergies. Sneezes take the form of enormous missiles. Cells at Work is actually kind of ridiculous and over-the-top (with artwork to match), but it’s a great deal of fun.

ghostlady1The Ghost and the Lady, Volume 1 by Kazuhiro Fujita. As far as I can tell, The Ghost and the Lady actually makes up the last two volumes of the three-volume series The Black Museum. I don’t believe Kodansha Comics has any current plans to release the rest of The Black Museum, but if it’s anywhere near as good as the first volume of The Ghost and the Lady then I hope to one day see it. The Ghost and the Lady is admittedly somewhat peculiar. Basically it’s a supernatural retelling of the life and legends surrounding Florence Nightingale. Tormented by eidolons–spectral manifestations of ill-will and malice–Florence seeks her own death, asking a ghost known as the Man in Grey to kill her. He agrees, but declares he will only take her life once she reaches the depths of despair. (Grey, who haunts a theater, has perhaps seen Shakespeare’s tragedies one too many times.) The Ghost and the Lady is intense and enthralling with both Grey and Florence precariously balanced on the edge of insanity. The series is a little difficult to describe in a way that conveys just how great it is. Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from The Ghost and the Lady, but I loved the first volume and am looking forward to reading the second half of the story.

Requiem of the Rose King, Volume 4Requiem of the Rose King, Volumes 4-5 by Aya Kanno. I continue to thoroughly enjoy Requiem of the Rose King, Kanno’s dark and sensual reimagining of Shakespeare’s plays Henry VI and Richard III and of the historical Wars of the Roses. Shakespeare took some liberties when dramatizing England’s dynastic conflicts and Kanno has as well. The most notable difference in Requiem of the Rose King is the deliberate ambiguity of Richard’s sex–the perceived imperfection of his physical body contributing to his supposed demonic nature and already established mental and emotional anguish. Kanno’s artwork in the series is fittingly provocative, moody, and atmospheric. Dreams and reality are heavily intertwined which can occasionally make some of the transitions in the story difficult to follow, but for the most part it’s a marvelously effective technique. Anyone even remotely familiar with Shakespeare or history will know that Requiem of the Rose King can only end in tragedy. The never-ending political and personal betrayals along with the characters’ constant struggles to determine the destiny of the kingdom and of their selves makes for an immensely engrossing and provocative tale. I absolutely love the series.

Welcome to the Ballroom, Volume 1Welcome to the Ballroom, Volume 1 by Tomo Takeuchi. Even with the resurgence of sports manga in translation, I still wasn’t expecting that Welcome to the Ballroom would be licensed. Competitive ballroom dancing, despite being very physically demanding, probably isn’t what immediately comes to most people’s mind as a sport. In addition to that, in my experience many people are unfairly dismissive of dance and especially of men who dance. I, however, more than welcome a series on the topic. Welcome to the Ballroom is about a high school student, Tatara Fujita, who ultimately becomes interested in dance after finding refuge from a group of bullies at a local studio. At first he’s embarrassed and he hides the fact that he’s taking lessons, but at last he’s finally found something in his life to be passionate about. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t seem to have any natural talent for dance except for the uncanny ability to shadow and mimic another dancer. The first volume of Welcome to the Ballroom didn’t engage me as much as I thought or hoped that it would and some of the characters’ casual sexism was bothersome, but I’m still curious to see where the series goes from here, in part because it ends with quite a cliffhanger.