My Week in Manga: April 22-April 28, 2011

My News and Reviews

I’m feeling lazy this week (not that that’s really anything new) and so I will be brief. I posted a few reviews of interest this past week. The first was Yasunari’s Kawabata’s novel Thousand Cranes which was one of three works to be cited when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. I read it as part of the Japanese Literature Book Group. I also reviewed Blade of the Immortal, Volume 6: Dark Shadows by Hiroaki Samura. Blade of the Immortal is one of my favorite manga and Dark Shadows marks the beginning of the second major story arc in the series. Finally, over at Experiments in Reading, I reviewed Ernest Cline’s debut novel Ready Player One, which is a treasure trove of geeky pop culture references. Among many other things, Ultraman plays a significant role and a couple of the important secondary characters happen to be hikikomori. It’s not breaking any new ground, but it is a lot of fun. I should also mention that I’ve reorganized the Review Index, separating the manga reviews from the non-manga reviews. Oh! And my next manga giveaway will begin this coming Wednesday!

Quick Takes

Gravitation Collection, Volume 6 (equivalent to Volumes 11-12) by Maki Murakami. I get the feeling that Gravitation was a series that was stretched out a little too long. I did like this volume better than the previous one, but I still greatly prefer the earlier books in the series. While it certainly has its moments, this final volume isn’t nearly as outrageous as a whole. I find this to be both a good and a bad thing. The art has gotten cleaner, but at the same time Shuichi seems to get younger and younger in appearance as the series progresses. This collection is a decent ending to the series. Unfortunately, in order to make it work, Murakami has to force characters to change their personalities and their motivations.

What a Wonderful World!, Volume 1-2 by Inio Asano. What a Wonderful World! is told through a series of vaguely interconnected stories and vignettes. Visual cues carry over from one story to another and many of the characters make reappearances. Most but not all of the characters are twenty-somethings struggling to find a balance between pursuing their dreams and reality, or simply coming to the realization and accepting (or not) that their dreams will never be fulfilled in the ways that they want. It can get a bit angsty at times, but it’s my kind of angst. The stories all have a somewhat surreal quality to them although some are a bit more obvious about it than others. It can be a little strange at times, but I really enjoyed this short manga series.

Works by Eriko Tadeno. I don’t think I’ve ever read another manga quite like Works. Sure, it’s yuri, but it also features honest-to-goodness lesbian relationships between adult women. I haven’t come across this before and it’s a shame that it is so uncommon in the manga that has made it into English translation. Works collects four stories (two of which focus on the same couple) plus a few extras. Even the cover art has a story behind it. The stories are short and sweet and, yes, include sex. But the sex is an extension of the development of the characters and their relationships. The intimacy feels genuine. The only drawback to Works is that it’s over too soon and that I want to read more.

Wolf’s Rain, Volume 1 written by Keiko Nobumoto and illustrated by Toshitsugu Iida. I have never seen the Wolf’s Rain anime on which the two-volume Wolf’s Rain manga series was based. Maybe that’s why I was so frustrated by this first volume. The plot is a mess and the pacing a wreck. Perhaps reading the second volume is necessary to understand what is going on in the first. Actually, I almost wonder if the series would have done better with more volumes in order to more fully explore the story elements introduce. As it is, things feel very rushed and sometimes even nonsensical. I did like the character designs, though. And I am interested enough in the world of Wolf’s Rain to consider checking out the anime series instead.

Sound of the Sky directed by Mamoru Kanbe. The 1121st Platoon, consisting of four teenage girls, is stationed out in the middle of nowhere making the war feel very distant. They do seem awfully young to be fully fledged military recruits, but maybe that just goes to show how unfortunate the world’s situation is. The series follows the girl’s day to day lives which mostly consist of trying to maintain good relations with the locals. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a little more attention given to the buglers’ training, but that’s mostly because I’m a musician myself. It’s a fairly lighthearted series on the surface, reinforced by the cute art style, but Sound of the Sky certainly has some very dark moments.