My Week in Manga: December 21-December 27, 2015

My News and Reviews

I think I’m finally getting back to my regular posting schedule. I get the week between Christmas and New Year’s off of work which is letting me catch up on a few things. (Sort of. Life has still been rather hectic of late.) Last week I posted an in-depth review of one of Chromatic Press’ most recent paperbacks, Jessica Chavez’s debut novel Dead Endings, illustrated by Irene Flores. The novel has a fantastic combination of horror, mystery, and snark, making it both fun and frightening. I’m looking forward to reading its sequel a great deal. And because the end the 2015 is fast approaching, last week I also posted my annual list of notable manga, comics, and novels of the year.

Quick Takes

Apple and HoneyApple and Honey / His Rose Colored Life by Hideyoshico. I wasn’t previously familiar with Hideyoshico’s work, but after reading the boys’ love collection Apple and Honey and its sequel/spinoff His Rose Colored Life, I sincerely hope that more is translated. In addition to the unrelated three-part story “Shades of Summer at the End of the World,” Apple and Honey introduces Natsuki and Komano who are the focus of His Rose Colored Life. Hideyoshico’s characterization is excellent—the characters have depth and the development of their relationships are entirely believable. Komano is this lovable outgoing goofball while Natsuki is much more reserved and unsure of himself. I was especially impressed by the sensitive portrayal of Natsuki’s anxieties and insecurities. While he desperately wants to be loved, he is also terrified of it, having been repeatedly hurt in the past; it’s hard for him to accept that it’s okay for him to be happy. (Natsuki also gets bonus points for majoring in information science which I hold a degree in but have never before seen in a manga.) Komano and Natsuki together make a wonderful couple, nicely balancing each other’s personalities.

Lone Wolf and Cub, Omnibus 3Lone Wolf and Cub, Omnibuses 3-5 (equivalent to Volumes 6-12) written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Goseki Kojima. The omnibuses are rather chunky, but I am so glad that Dark Horse is releasing Lone Wolf and Cub in a larger trim size; the previous edition was so small as to be nearly unreadable with my bad eyesight. Plus, it’s nice to be able to see Kojima’s excellent artwork more clearly. Lone Wolf and Cub is a fantastic series. Although there is an ongoing story to the manga, the individual chapters tend to be somewhat episodic. Ogami Itto was once the shogun’s official executioner but after being framed as a traitor he has become an assassin seeking revenge. Accompanying him on his journey is Diagoro, his now three-year-old son who has known nothing but a life filled with death. Lone Wolf and Cub is a violent series. Ogami is an incredibly skilled and resourceful warrior, surviving multiple attempts on his own life even as he is hired to end those of others. But he is also a father. Some of the most compelling chapters in the manga examine the depth of Daigoro and Ogami’s bond more closely.

Milkyway Hitchhiking, Omnibus 2Milkyway Hitchhiking, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 2-3) by Sirial. I’m not entirely certain, but I believe that with the second omnibus Milkyway Hitchhiking is complete. (Because the manhwa is a series of largely unrelated stories, it can be difficult to tell.) Whether or not it is actually finished, Milkyway Hitchhiking continues to be a beautiful series. The full-color artwork is gorgeous, Sirial changing art styles and color palettes to better suit the mood of each of the stories. The manhwa ranges from brightly colored, upbeat tales to those that are more somber and melancholy. Some are based in reality while others incorporate elements of horror, science fiction, or fantasy. The only thing that really ties the individual stories in Milkyway Hitchhiking together is the presence of the Milkyway, a space-time cat. Although she’s the titular character, Milkyway Hitchhiking isn’t necessarily about Milkyway herself. She frequently has an important role to play, however the focus of the series is much more on the stories of the people she encounters.

My Week in Manga: July 14-July 20, 2014

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted at Experiments in Manga last week, one of a manga and one not. The first review was part of my Year of Yuri monthly review project. I took a look at Milk Morinaga’s Gakuen Polizi, Volume 1, which is quite different from her other work currently available in English. The first volume at least is less of a romance and more of a buddy cop story, but it’s still fairly entertaining. (She does promise that more of the drama in the second volume will be romance-related and less crime-related, though.)

My second review last week was of Tokyo Demons, Book 2: Add a little Chaos, a novel written by Lianne Sentar with illustrations by Rem. In case it isn’t clear from the review, I absolutely adore Tokyo Demons. It can get pretty dark and heavy, but it’s a fantastic series. The second volume should be available as an ebook later this month and the print edition is currently scheduled for release in October. (Tokyo Demons is one of Chromatic Press and flagship series, so in the meantime it can also be read online at Sparkler Monthly.)

Once again I wasn’t actually online much last week, but I did catch a few things that other people may be interested in: Over at Comics Forum, Martin de la Iglesia writes about Early manga translations in the West. Kate at Reverse Thieves explains How the Library Became My Go-to Place for Manga and Comics. (I posted a bit about finding manga at the library a little while back, too.) And on Twitter, manga scholar and translator Matt Thorn hints that a project with Moto Hagio is in the works. Let’s hope so!

Quick Takes

Honey DarlingHoney Darling by Norikazu Akira. After reading and enjoying Beast & Feast I decided to track down more manga by Akira available in English. This led me to picking up Honey Darling. The manga isn’t the most realistic or believable, but it is cute, delightful, funny, and very sweet. Chihiro is a young man without any real goals in his life until he takes in a stray kitten. When Shiro falls ill, Chihiro ends up working as the live-in housekeeper for Kumazawa, the vet who treats her, and helping out in the animal clinic. Honey Darling has a lot going for it: nice art, a sense of humor, adorable cats and dogs, amusing and ttractive leads, likeable side characters (including women!), and so on. Ultimately Honey Darling is a boys’ love manga, though. As might be expected, Chihiro and Kumazawa become more than just roommates by the time the manga ends, but the development feels more like Akira fulfilling a requirement of the genre rather than being something that was necessarily called for by story itself. Still, I did enjoy Honey Darling a great deal, the two of them made me happy as a couple, and the manga frequently made me smile.

Lone Wolf and Cub, Omnibus 1Lone Wolf and Cub, Omnibuses 1-2 (equivalent to Volumes 1-5) written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Goseki Kojima. One of the first manga to be translated into English, Lone Wolf and Cub wasn’t released in its entirety until Dark Horse picked up the license. Sadly, the first Dark Horse edition was tiny and, while extremely portable, was difficult to read because the text was so small and crowded. Additionally, those original twenty-eight volumes have steadily been going out of print. Thankfully, Dark Horse recently started releasing Lone Wolf and Cub in an omnibus format with a larger trim size. Though quite hefty (each omnibus is around 700 pages and collects about two and a half volumes or so), the reading experience is much improved overall. Lone Wolf and Cub is an excellent series, so I’m very glad that the manga will remain in print for a bit longer. The series is fairly episodic, following the titular Lone Wolf and Cub: Ogami Ittō, who once served as the Shogun’s executioner but who has become an assassin-for-hire out of revenge over the destruction of his family, and his young son Diagorō.

Mail, Volume 1Mail, Volumes 1-3 by Housui Yamazaki. Summer is the time for ghost stories in Japan, so I felt it was appropriate to finally get around to reading Mail. I came across this short series thanks to The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service which shares the same illustrator. Reiji Akiba—detective, exorcist, and the protagonist of Mail—actually briefly appears in the fourth volume of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service as well. One of the things that particularly struck me about Mail is how often the stories incorporated modern technology such as cell phones and computers. It’s as though traditional ghost stories and urban legends have been updated for a contemporary audience. Occasionally Akiba will present a sort of prologue to the individual chapters, giving the stories an almost Twilight Zone feel to them. Mail can be legitimately creepy and at times a bit bloody, but gore is not at all the focus of the series. In general Mail is episodic, although the final volume adds a recurring character who becomes Akiba’s assistant as a sort of homage to Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack.

Stone Collector, Book 2Stone Collector, Book 2 written by Kevin Han and illustrated by Zom-J. I want to like Stone Collector more than I actually do, but at this point I can’t really say that I’ve been enjoying the manhwa much at all. It’s not all bad. The artwork in particular has moments when it can be impressively dynamic. The character’s facial expressions are great. Even the basic premise of the story isn’t terrible. As a whole though, Stone Collector just isn’t working for me. Though it moves along quickly, the plot is thin and the characters are underdeveloped, almost as if it’s an outline or draft than a finished product. The second half of the second volume of Stone Collector of is devoted to a side story, “Land of Ice.” I was more interested in “Land of Ice” than the main story more because of its tundra setting than anything else, but it still frustrated me and had many of the same problems that Stone Collector proper has. November 2013 was the last time there was a Stone Collector update. I’m not sure if there are plans to release more (it may simply be that “more” doesn’t exist yet), but the story clearly hasn’t reached its conclusion yet.

Sengoku Basara: Samurai KingsSengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, Season 2 directed by Kazuya Nomura. While I was entertained by the first season of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, I really enjoyed the second season. While there are still fantastically outrageous fights and action sequences, there’s also more focus on the characters and their characterization and on battle strategies and tactics. Personally, I appreciate the added context this gives the series. The characters, who continue to be magnificently and ridiculously overpowered, come across as a bit more human since their pasts and motivations are clearer. Their confrontations carry more emotional weight because of this as well. Miyamoto Musashi makes an appearance in this season, too. I was greatly amused by the fact that he fights with a giant oar. (Legend has it that Musashi once forgot to bring a sword with him to a duel and so carved a bokken out of the oar he used to get there; this why his weapon choice in Samurai Kings is simply perfect.) Samurai Kings is a tremendous amount of fun. Based on a video game that’s nominally based on actual events and historic figures, it’s wonderfully absurd and irreverent.

My Week in Manga: August 8-August 14, 2011

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted two reviews, neither one of which were for manga. I reviewed Book Girl and the Famished Spirit, the second volume in Mizuki Nomura’s Book Girl light novel series. I didn’t enjoy it quite as well as the first volume, but I still love the series’ premise of a literature eating yōkai. I also reviewed Christopher Ross’ memoir/travelogue/biography thingy (it’s a little difficult to classify) Mishima’s Sword: Travels in Search of a Samurai Legend. It’s an interesting read and I’d recommended it to anyone interested in Yukio Mishima or in Japanese swords and swordsmanship.

The Fumi Yoshinaga Manga Moveable Feast starts today! This month the Feast will be co-hosted by Kristin Bomba of Comic Attack and Linda Yau of Animemiz’s Scribblings. Yoshinaga is one of the darlings of the manga blogging community so there should be plenty of great submissions. As for me, I’ll be reviewing the third volume of Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, which may possibly be my favorite Yoshinaga series. At least at the moment. If I had at all been paying attention, I would have also read a bunch of Yoshinaga manga for this post’s quick takes section. Anyway, that was my original intention. The Feast somehow snuck up on me this time around. My bad. So, I’ll all make sure to do it for next week’s quick takes instead.

Also of note: Experiments in Manga’s one-year anniversary is coming up in a few days!

Quick Takes

Adamo Anthology, Volume 1: Strange Love by Various. 2010 saw the publication of several independent original-English boys’ love collections, Adamo Anthology among them. The first volume collects four stories and four pin-up illustrations with the theme of “strange love.” Each story has some sort of supernatural element or other oddity to the featured couple’s relationship—psychics and psychopaths, a kidnapped rookie cop, haunted guitars, a musician who’s shut himself away from the world. Each artist has a distinctive style and its nice to see the variety in the stories and illustrations. The pinups are fun, too. I haven’t heard anything about a second Adamo Anthology yet, but if there ever is one I’ll be picking it up.

Chi’s Sweet Home, Volume 4-6 by Konami Kanata. I’ll admit it, I love Chi’s Sweet Home. Admittedly, I like cats and people who like cats are probably the people who will find this series most appealing. Kanata seems to have anthropomorphized Chi a bit more in these volumes than in the previous ones, but she is still primarily very cat like. I was already familiar with some of these chapters since they were the basis of some of the Chi’s Sweet Home: Chi’s New Address anime episodes, but they were still delightfully charming. I am impressed that Kanata has been able to come up with so many adventures for Chi without becoming too repetitive. Although, if you’ve read any of Chi’s Sweet Home, you pretty much know what to expect by now.

Chobits, Omnibus 1-2 (equivalent to Volumes 1-8) by CLAMP. Chobits was my introduction to CLAMP and I’m quite fond of the series. Granted, I’m a sucker for android stories. To be honest, there’s a fair amount of pandering in Chobits, particularly early on in the series. The fanservice does show up throughout the series, though. To some extent, the fanservice actually serves to further the story as the characters struggle to understand concepts of love, desire, loneliness, and what it means to be human. I like Hideki, the protagonist of the series. As just about every character mentions (much to his dismay), he’s a good guy. Chobits has nice art, an engaging story, and likeable characters.

Color of Rage written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Seisaku Kano. Something just doesn’t sit right with me about Color of Rage. It’s as though a blaxploitation film has been crossed with a manga about feudal Japan. It’s not necessarily a bad combination, but Color of Rage just doesn’t quite pull it off. The characters frequently liken slavery in the United States to Japan’s caste system, but the comparison is oversimplified and therefore unconvincing. King, one of the escaped slaves, doesn’t really convince me, either. His motivations and actions seem inconsistent even though he is intended to be the more honorable of the two. Kano’s gekiga-style illustrations work well for the story, although the action sequences can be somewhat difficult to follow.

Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Black Rose Saga directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. The second of Nozomi’s Revolutionary Girl Utena box sets, The Black Rose Saga collects episodes thirteen through twenty-four of the series. This is my first time watching Revolutionary Girl Utena and I’m still loving it. Sure, the reuse of animation sequences is noticeable and the duels in The Black Rose Saga are somewhat repetitive because of it. Also, The Black Rose Saga introduces new characters and plot complications rather suddenly. But the psychological elements in the series are tremendous and frequently heartbreaking. The Ohtori Academy is one awfully strange place to go to school.

Samurai Champloo, Episodes 16-26 directed by Shinichirō Watanabe. I love this series so much. There’s not much filler in Samurai Champloo and every episode contains some plot or character developments. A few of the episodes are more silly than anything else, but even the silly episodes aren’t wasted. Although humor can be found in each installment, Samurai Champloo handles serious moments and plot arcs well, too. Sometimes the contrast between the serious and the silly can be a little odd, but it works for me. Occasionally the animation in Samurai Champloo can be a little shaky, but for the most part the quality is consistently high and visually appealing. I think Samurai Champloo is a great series. It’s got a great soundtrack, too.

My Week in Manga: March 7-March 13, 2011

My News and Reviews

Most everyone is probably aware by now of the terrible earthquake, tsunami, and resulting (and ongoing) disasters that struck Japan on March 11. Yokoso News, which normally focuses on Japanese culture and such, has been providing live English coverage of Japanese news sources for the last few days. They’ve been doing a great job and I’ve pretty much been listening to the broadcast whenever I get a chance.

My posts for this past week included two reviews. The first was for The Guin Saga, Book One: The Leopard Mask by Kaoru Kurimoto. I didn’t enjoy as much as I hoped I would, but I will still be reading the rest of The Guin Saga volumes available in English. The second review was for Tow Ubukata’s award-winning Mardock Scramble, which I mostly enjoyed. Just don’t talk to me about Blackjack. Animemiz’s Scribblings has made the announcement for this month’s Manga Moveable Feast which starts next week: Announcing March 2011’s Manga Movable Feast and a Call for Contribution. The feast will featuring Aria by Kozue Amano. My contribution will be an in-depth review of the first volume of the prequel, Aqua, Volume 1.

Since I read Offered this week, I thought I’d mention a few recent posts made about other manga created by Kazuo Koike and Ryoichi Ikegami: Kate Dacey at The Manga Critic takes a look at Wounded Man as part of her Manga Hall of Shame feature, and Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga focused on Crying Freeman a few weeks ago.

Comics Should Be Good at Comic Books Resources is featuring LGBT comics this month. The entire archive of posts can be found here, but I specifically wanted to mention Brian Cronin’s brief review and preview of Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son. The first volume of this manga is to be released by Fantagraphics in June; I’ve really been looking forward to this series ever since it was announced.

And finally, a few more websites have been added to the Resources page: Anime Research, Manga Widget, Masters of Manga, and Same Hat!

Quick Takes

Immortal Rain, Volumes 3-8 by Kaori Ozaki. I am in love with this series. The characters are great, the artwork is wonderful, the plot is both heartfelt and exciting. The more melancholy aspects of the story (of which there are plenty) are balanced nicely with moments of humor and quickly paced action. Rain is one of my favorite manga characters that I’ve come across recently. He’s adorable. Even after more than six hundred years of life, he has somehow managed to retain his humanity. I believe the eleventh and final volume is currently scheduled for release in Japan in May. Tokyopop has published the first eight volumes; I’m not sure what the plans are for the last few volumes, but I really hope they will be released, too.

Love Mode, Volumes 1-2 by Yuki Shimizu. Love Mode is one of the longest boys’ love series currently available in English. The first two volumes rely a little too heavily on rape and the threat of rape to move the plot along, for me. Some people might also be bothered by the age differences between the couples. Fortunately, Takamiya is actually a really decent person. There is also a fair amount of humor, particularly in the first volume. In fact, there are moments that are absolutely hilarious and had me laughing out loud. I’m not particularly fond of Shimizu’s art style in this series; the first two volumes look a bit dated. Love Mode hasn’t really grabbed me yet, though I’ve been told it becomes quite addicting later on.

Nightmare Inspector: Yumekui Kenbun, Volumes 1-2 by Shin Mashiba. Nightmare Inspector is surprisingly dark for as innocent looking as the artwork first appears. The character designs are appealing although it’s difficult to tell the relative ages of the different characters, they all look young. Hiruko is a baku, a creature that eats nightmares, the more bloody and painful the better. It’s mostly only been hinted up to this point, but there is something ominous about Hiruko’s existence and backstory. People come to him for help interpreting and dispelling their nightmares. The story is fairly episodic so far as each dream is explored, but it is genuinely creepy. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

Offered, Volumes 1-2 written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami. I haven’t quite been able to decide whether Offered is so bad it’s good, or if it’s just simply bad. There’s a lot going on: Olympic athletes, drug cartels, Nazis, mummies, underground kingdoms, hypnotism, ancient sperm, nudist colonies, cults, animal sacrifices…did I mention ancient sperm? The manga is ridiculous and absurd and it’s played absolutely straight. The story is ludicrous, but the it presents itself completely seriously. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole thing. I am, however, a sucker for Ikegami’s artwork. His figure work is gorgeous and I can’t help but love it. I’m not sure I can recommend Offered, but it’s certainly an experience.

The Great Yokai War directed by Takashi Miike. The Great Yokai War is the first film that Miike directed for children; he’s probably better known in the United States for his more controversial and extreme works. However, The Great Yokai War is a family-friendly romp featuring a delightful cornucopia of colorful yokai, a summer adventure, and quirky humor and visuals. I recently read Yokai Attack! and was thrilled to be able to pick out and identify many of the creatures in the movie. If a particular yokai happens to catch your eye, make sure to check out the gallery on the DVD which includes their names and usual locals. It’s really the yokai that make this movie for me, but the lead kid is freaking cute, too.

My Week in Manga: February 21-February 27, 2011

My News and Reviews

February is a short month, but I was still able to get in two in-depth manga reviews, woo! I’ve been able to reach my goal for several months now. It seems to be a good pace for me, especially as I review other materials in addition to manga. Eventually, I’d like to do more in-depth manga reviews, but I’m going to stick with at least two a month for now. My second review for February was Hisae Iwaoka’s science fiction slice of life manga Saturn Apartments, Volume 1.

My monthly manga giveaway is underway and you still have a couple more days to Have Some Hetalia. Enter for a chance to receive a brand new copy of the second volume of the global phenomenon Hetalia: Axis Powers by Hidekaz Himaru. The winner will be announced Wednesday, March 2.

This past week, LibraryThing posted an interview with Japanese translator Alexander O. Smith that I helped out with under the name PhoenixTerran. Smith is one of my favorite translators working today and he is incredibly versatile, so I was thrilled to have a chance to ask him some questions.

A while back I had a feature on Experiments in Manga called As Seen Online where I posted interesting things that I found online. I haven’t been doing much with it recently, and so I have decided to incorporate a version of it into the “My News and Reviews” section. Each week I’ll mention a few cool links. The first thing I want to bring your attention to (although you’ve probably already seen it) is a very interesting and informative post by a senior editor at Tokyopop about why series go on hiatus. And since I read AX: Alternative Manga, Volume 1 this week, I also wanted to revisit the AXed Twitter transcripts.

As promised, I’ve added a handful of new manga reviews and news sources to the Resources page: Angela L. Eastman, A Case Suitable for Treatment, Emily’s Random Shoujo Manga Page, Heart of Manga, Manga Cast, Manga Life, Manga Village, Otaku Champloo, Yuri no Boke. I’ve also added We Read Comics which isn’t specifically about manga but fairly regularly comments on manga. It’s run by the folks at Vault of Midnight, some of my very favorite people. If you’re a manga blogger or reviewer and would like to be added to the list, please just let me know.

Quick Takes

All Nippon Air Line: Paradise at 30,000 Feet by Kei Azumaya. Oh, All Nippon Air Line, you are such a silly, silly manga. It is a collection of short comics by Azumaya, some original to the volume and some previously published, all centering on the All Nippon Air Line or A.N.A.L. Yes, that’s right, A.N.A.L. Every single employee in the company is male and the large majority of them also happen to be gay. Let the bad puns and ridiculousness commence! Themed flights, diverse obsessions and fantasies, and more than a few workplace romances, A.N.A.L. has it all. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the artwork, but I didn’t mind too terribly much because I was so highly amused by the manga as a whole.

AX: Alternative Manga, Volume 1 edited by Sean Michael Wilson. A wonderfully diverse anthology by thirty-three creators of alternative manga. I didn’t always “get” some of the contributions, but there were plenty of others that I was able to more fully appreciate. Even when I didn’t understand what was going on, I loved seeing all of the different art styles. One of the most frustrating things about the collection is that most of the creators probably won’t have much of their other work published in English and I’d really like to see more. I’ll definitely be picking up the second volume of AX, currently scheduled to be released this coming November.

Lone Wolf and Cub, Volumes 1-4 written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Goseki Kojima. Once serving as the executioner for the Shōgun, Ogami Ittō now travels the path of the assassin accompanied only by his young son Diagorō. Ogami is an extraordinary swordsman and a brilliant tactician. The series tends to be just slightly more episodic than I would wish, but I still find myself absorbed in Koike’s story and Kojima’s art. Actually, the cinematic artwork is one of my favorite things about the manga. The fight sequences are kinetic and the landscapes detailed and serene. My only complaint is that the books, and therefore the panels and text, are small which with my bad eyesight can be problematic.

Black Jack, Episodes 1-17 directed by Makoto Tezuka. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of the Black Jack manga, but I vaguely remember Black Jack being more of a bastard than he is portrayed in the anime. I do wish that he’d get a bit more screen time though since he’s my favorite character. Some of the episodes I recognize from the manga while others are original to the anime series. Some familiarity with the original comic is expected (exactly who Pinoko is is never explicitly stated, for example) but even newcomers should be able to enjoy the Black Jack anime. The series is fairly episodic and each episode is mostly self contained although there are some recurring characters.