My Week in Manga: July 3-July 9, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I announced the winner of the Summer Spookiness manga giveaway. The post also includes some of the manga available in English that incorporate Japanese folklore, ghosts, or urban legends in some way. Otherwise, it was a rather quiet week except for the fact that on Friday evening I discovered that the room I was storing a bunch of my books in had flooded thanks to a broken radiator pipe. So, a fair amount of my Friday night and weekend was spent on recovery efforts and assessing the damage. All things considered, I came out of the whole thing pretty well. Although I did lose some material, and it was heartbreaking, I was able to save the majority of the books. (I’m really glad I took the preservation and conservation class during library school!) Fortunately, only two of the severely damaged books were truly irreplaceable. One is just about dry enough now that I can start to try pressing it back into shape and the other is currently in the freezer. They won’t necessarily be pretty, but they should still be readable when I’m through.

Anyways! On to the licensing news and announcements made during the final days of Anime Expo: Among other things, Kodansha Comics revealed the details behind the new Eternal Edition of Naoko Takeuchi’s Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, confirmed the print edition of CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, and announced Yukito Kishiro’s Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle. (Kodansha is also continuing its trend of calling manga digital-first with no real indication that a print edition will ever emerge.) As for Kodansha’s sister company Vertical Comics, we have City by Keiichi Arawi, Moteki by Mitsuro Kubo, Strangulation by Nisioisin, and My Boy by Hitomi Takano to look forward to. Seven Seas announced a number of manga and light novels, too: Ryo Shirakome and Takayaki’s Arifureta; Yuu Kamiya, Tsubaki Himana, and Sino’s Clockwork Planet; Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi’s Getter Robo Devolution; Akihito Tukushi’s Made in Abyss; Coolkyoushinja and Mitsuhiro Kimura’s Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: Kanna’s Daily Life; Kina Kobayashi’s Nameless Asterism Shoutarou Tokunou’s New Game; the continuation of Ichigo Takano’s Orange; Yuyuko Takemiya and Yasu’s Toradora; and Nozomu Tamaki’s Soul Liquid Chambers. Also, Udon Entertainment plans on publishing the Daigo the Beast and Infini-T Force manga. (Still waiting for Udon’s Rose of Versaille and Sugar Sugar Rune to make an appearance, though.)

Quick Takes

Boy, I Love YouBoy, I Love You edited by Kou Chen, Emily Forster, and Eric Alexander Arroyo. I had the delightful opportunity to meet the editors and a few of the other contributors of Boy, I Love You while at TCAF, but as one of the anthology’s Kickstarter backers I was well-aware of the anthology before that and was greatly looking forward to its release. The volume brings together six comics and one illustrated prose story by seven different creators, all of which take inspiration from the more wholesome aspects of the boys’ love genre. It’s a delightful collection with an appealing range of stories, everything from slice-of-life to mecha space battles. If I had to choose a favorite (which is difficult to do because all seven contributions are honestly great) it would probably be Forster’s “Mix Plate” which incorporates themes of family and food along with the comic’s central romance. The focus of the stories in Boy, I Love You is primarily on relationships and how the characters’ navigate them and their feelings. While as a whole the anthology is fairly chaste–the physical closeness that’s shown between the men is largely limited to a few kisses and embraces–the intimacy expressed in the stories is undeniable. Boy, I Love You is a highly enjoyable and heartfelt anthology of queer stories.

Dreamin' Sun, Volume 1Dreamin’ Sun, Volume 1 by Ichigo Takano. Orange, the first of Takano’s manga to be released in English translation, left a huge and personally significant impression on me. As a result, when Dreamin’ Sun was licensed for an English-language edition, too, it immediately caught my attention. Shimana Kameko is terribly unsatisfied with her life and so, without putting much thought into it, she decides to run away from home. While playing hooky from school she meets Fujiwara Taiga in a nearby park, a man who has left home for an entirely different reason–he’s been kicked and locked out of his house for being drunk. He offers to rent Kameko a room but among other things she will have help retrieve the keys first. I unquestionably love the quirky and increasingly large cast of Dreamin’ Sun, but the story itself is somewhat lackluster at this point. I’m also finding it a little difficult to believe that Kameko’s father would so readily let his high school daughter move out of their home. However, the narrative does hint at a familial backstory that hasn’t yet been fully revealed which may go far to help explain his decision. While Dreamin’ Sun isn’t nearly as compelling as Orange, I certainly wouldn’t mind reading more of the series. The first volume was goofy and a little ridiculous, but not at all in a bad way.

Erased, Omnibus 2Erased, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 3-4) by Kei Sanbe. While the beginning of Erased took a little while to fully click with me, by the end of the first omnibus I was thoroughly hooked on the series. After inexplicably traveling back in time to his childhood, Satoru Fujinuma is doing all that he can to try to stop a series of kidnappings and murders he knows is about to happen. Thanks to a strange ability that he calls “Revival,” he has been able to change things in his past before, but saving the lives of his classmates and friends is proving to be an extraordinary challenge. Sanbe’s artwork in Erased can be a little inconsistent and unrefined at times, but the story has become truly gripping. Not only is Satoru faced with trying to solve the deadly mysteries from earlier in his life, in the present day he’s also being skillfully framed for the murder of his mother and he must find a way to prove his innocence. The two situations are closely linked together and Satoru is understandably desperate to find answers. There are also some really touching moments in Erased as Satoru grows as a person–although he’s worried for their safety and doesn’t want to endanger anyone, he’s finally able to start accepting help from and form meaningful relationships with other people.

Mysterious Girlfriend X, Omnibus 1Mysterious Girlfriend X, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Riichi Ueshiba. I had already heard a fair amount about Mysterious Girlfriend X before reading the first omnibus, but I wasn’t at all anticipating how surprisingly charming the series would be. Ueshiba’s illustrations can actually be pretty cute, too. That being said, Mysterious Girlfriend X is an incredibly weird manga and many people won’t be able to get past the drool and literal swapping of spit around which much of the story revolves. Akira Tsubaki is a fairly normal high school student but his first girlfriend, the newly transferred Mikoto Urabe, most definitely is not. If she is destined to have a close bond with someone, she is able to convey her feelings to them through her drool and she can likewise understand their feelings from their drool. She’s also phenomenally talented when it comes to using scissors, either artistically or in self-defense, and she always keeps a pair tucked away in her panties. Much about Urabe unknown, but after tasting her drool, Tsubaki can’t seem to help but fall in love with her. In general, Mysterious Girlfriend X tends to be somewhat episodic in nature although Tsubaki and Urabe’s strangely heartwarming relationship can be seen to very slowly progress over the course of the first omnibus.

My Week in Manga: March 13-March 19, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted an in-depth review of Ichi-F: A Worker’s Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant by Kazuto Tatsuta. It’s an important and fascinating manga which reveals the day-to-day lives and work of the people who are directly involved with the ongoing cleanup following the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters in Japan. On a related note, a while back I also reviewed Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill’s Strong in the Rain: Surviving Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster which provides a fairly comprehensive and approachable overview of the disasters themselves as well as some of the initial recovery efforts. As for future in-depth reviews, I’m currently working on one for Akira Himekawa’s The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Volume 1 which I hope to post sometime later this week. (That would mean two reviews from me this month!) Initially I was planning to write a quick take on Nagabe’s The Girl from the Other Side, Volume 1 for today’s post, but I loved it so much that I want to delve into it more deeply, so expect to see a more comprehensive review for that manga in the relatively near future as well.

Quick Takes

Erased, Omnibus 1Erased, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Kei Sanbe. Although I haven’t actually watched it yet, Sanbe’s Erased manga was first brought to my attention due to its recent anime adaptation. I’ve heard very good things about it and so when Yen Press started releasing the original manga in a hardcover, omnibus edition it immediately caught my attention. Satoru Fujinuma has a peculiar ability which causes him to spontaneously travel back in time. Usually it happens just before some tragedy is about to occur, allowing him to try to prevent it, although doing so can sometimes cause problems for him personally. When a particularly traumatic event occurs, Satoru unexpectedly finds himself nearly two decades in his past, giving him the opportunity to try to stop a series of kidnappings and murders that haunted his childhood. While I found the story’s premise intriguing from the very start, it actually took me a little while to get into Erased. But by the end of the first volume I was hooked and by the end of the first omnibus I couldn’t wait to read more. (Also, fun fact!: Sanbe was one of Hirohiko Araki’s assistants and worked on JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.)

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of AgesThe Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages by Akira Himekawa. Despite being a fan of The Legend of Zelda, I haven’t actually read very many of the video games’ manga adaptations. However, the Legendary Edition of Himekawa’s The Legend of Zelda manga that Viz Media has recently begun releasing may very well change that. With the handsome book designs, larger trim, color pages, and previously unreleased material, the new edition of the series is tremendously appealing. Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages is the second volume in the Legendary Edition to be released, adapting the two linked video games of the same name. I haven’t actually played the Oracle games so I can’t comment on the adaptation itself, but the manga is fun and energetic. The series is aimed at younger readers which isn’t inherently a bad thing, but the story and characters can occasionally come across as somewhat simplistic as a result. The antagonists in particular seem to lack nuance and tend to be evil for evil’s sake. But as a whole the Oracle manga are enjoyable adventures, following a young Link, a warrior of destiny but still a knight-in-training, as he tries to figure out what he wants to do with his life even while he’s saving the kingdom.

Samejima-kun and Sasahara-kunSamejima-kun and Sasahara-kun by Koshino. Currently, Samejima-kun and Sasahara-kun is the only boys’ love manga by Koshino to have been released in English in print, but I enjoyed it so much that I hope there will one day be more translated. For a while there Samejima-kun and Sasahara-kun had gone out-of-print, but it’s more-or-less available again. (Digital Manga seems to be using some sort of print-on-demand service to restock titles lately; sadly, though adequate, the production quality isn’t quite as good.) Samejima and Sasahara are both college classmates and coworkers at a convenience store. Everything seemed to be going along fine  between them until Samejima confesses that he has fallen in love with Sasahara, thereby putting their friendship in danger. At first Sasahara tries to ignore the development, wanting to just remain friends, but he comes to realize he enjoys the attention, if only he could get Samejima to believe him. Their relationship (as well as the eventual sex they have together) is endearingly awkward–Samejima obviously cares about Sasahara and vice versa, but they also annoy the hell out of each other in a way that only the closest friends can do. They’re an argumentative couple, but the manga’s humor makes it work.

Now with Kung Fu Grip!: How Bodybuilders, Soldiers and a Hairdresser Reinvented Martial Arts for AmericaNow with Kung Fu Grip!: How Bodybuilders, Soldiers and a Hairdresser Reinvented Martial Arts for America by Jared Miracle. It would be understandable, if inaccurate, to assume from its title and description that Miracle’s Now with Kung Fu Grip! is a work of popular history. I personally found the subject matter to be interesting and learned quite a bit, however the book is difficult to recommend to a casual reader. While Miracle’s style of writing isn’t overly academic, it is incredibly dense and as a whole the volume seems unfocused. Most people will do well to simply read the book’s conclusion which provides an adequate summary, foregoing the rest of the content unless more explicit detail is desired. The cover image, taken from the Chinese martial arts film Fearless, is somewhat misleading as well as the book is almost exclusively devoted to Japanese martial arts and the ways in which they’ve been incorporated into American culture. Now with Kung Fu Grip! is less about martial arts themselves and more about their social and historical contexts and the mythologies and stories that practitioners construct around them. In particular, Miracle ties the evolution of Japanese martial arts traditions in America to their commercialization and to the changing interpretations and expectations of idealized American masculinity over time.