My Week in Manga: January 25-January 31, 2016

My News and Reviews

A couple of different things were posted at Experiments in Manga last week in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. First up was the first manga giveaway of the year, and there’s still time to enter for a chance to win Fuka Mizutani’s Love at Fourteen, Volume 1. Last week I also reviewed the first omnibus of Hiroaki Samura’s Die Wergelder, which is brutal and intense to say the least. The manga is greatly influenced by violent, erotic Japanese films from the 1970s and it shows. And speaking of explicit manga, Digital Manga’s Project-H imprint is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to publish Yamatogawa’s Vanilla Essence hentai collection. It seems like Digital Manga is now relying on Kickstarter projects for just about everything, and I have no idea how long the publisher will be able to last like that; it’s a bit concerning.

Quick Takes

The Ancient Magus' Bride, Volume 3The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Volume 3 by Kore Yamazaki. I continue to love The Ancient Magus’ Bride and look forward to future volumes a great deal. The series has this sort of atmospheric melancholy to it that I really like along with touches of horror and darkness that have yet to become overwhelmingly bleak. In large part, The Ancient Magus’ Bride seems to be dealing with loneliness and the intense longing and need to belong somewhere. It’s only after being purchased by Elias that Chise feels as though she’s actually wanted and that is a dangerously enticing feeling to have. Their relationship is a peculiar one, but it is also compelling. For better or for worse, Chise still knows very little about Elias. He seems very reluctant to reveal his true nature to her, whether out of fear that he will be rejected or for some other reason entirely. What is clear is that Elias is very powerful, very dangerous, and not entirely honest. Despite this and despite the warnings of others, Chise remains devoted to him. She, too, is powerful and dangerous, though she has yet to learn how to completely control and claim that power for her own.

Dog X Cat, Volume 4Dog X Cat, Volume 4 by Yoshimi Amasaki. I believe Dog X Cat is up to six volumes or so and still ongoing in Japan, but it seems unlikely that more of the series will be released in English any time soon if ever. It’s been a few years since I read the first three volumes of the boys’ love series, but it didn’t take very long to get reoriented with the manga. The fourth volume is actually a fairly self-contained story, too. Atsu and Junya used to only be best friends but now they’re also well-established lovers. Junya is the more adventurous and demanding when it comes to sex to the point of ignoring Atsu’s needs and desires which is unfortunate; otherwise their relationship is quite good and they obviously love each other. Keeping with the rest of the series, Amasaki finds plenty of opportunities to include sex scenes. However, their vacation-cum-research trip to the mountains takes an extremely unfortunate turn when an earthquake traps them under a burning building. Though there are sweet moments, most of the forth volume of Dog X Cat deals with this traumatizing event and its lasting aftermath.

Library Wars: Love & War, Volume 11Library Wars: Love & War, Volumes 11-14 by Kiiro Yumi. I’ll readily admit to enjoying Library Wars and its dramatic and fantastical portrayal of librarianship. I don’t think that librarians will militarize themselves any time soon in the fight for freedom of expression and information, but it does make for an interesting story that does actually explore some of the complexities of the debates surrounding censorship. Library Wars has two sides to it that don’t always mesh with each other very well, but I do like them both. There’s the romantic and comedic side of things as many of the characters come to terms with their evolving feelings for their colleagues and then there’s the more action-oriented part of the story, complete with shootouts and attempted kidnappings. These particular volumes have some pretty exciting developments on both fronts. Although Iku’s ineptitude is often emphasized, which is something that I dislike about the series, she continues to prove her reliability in dangerous situations when it really counts. I didn’t realize that there is only one more volume left in this series, but I’m really looking forward to it; it should be a good one.

My Week in Manga: September 16-September 22, 2013

My News and Reviews

Well, I somehow managed to post three reviews last week. This is a little unusual for me as normally I only have one or two ready to go. The first review was for Hinoki Kino’s No. 6, Volume 2. The pacing, characterization, and world-building improves on the first volume, which I was very glad to see. (I’m really hoping that the manga will have a better ending than the anime.) The second review was for Yoshiyuki Tomino’s Mobile Suit Gundam: Awakening, Escalation, Confrontation, an omnibus of a trilogy of early Gundam novels—the first part of the Gundam franchise to be officially released in English. (To be honest, though, I much prefer Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s manga series Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin.) I also reviewed Sherlock Bones, Volume 1 by Yuma Ando and Yuki Sato. I was very skeptical going into the series, but found the first volume of the manga to be surprisingly entertaining.

As for a few interesting things found online: Comic Natalie has announced the winners of its first annual manga awards. If you don’t read Japanese and can’t identify manga by their covers, Vertical compiled a list of the winners currently avilable in English (in addition to posting a hint for an as of yet unannounced Vertical license.) As reported by the Business Standard, Viz Media is apparently entering the market in India—Top Manga publisher set to make India entry. And if the relationship between Kodansha Comics, Del Rey/Del Rey Manga, and Random House has you confused, Kodansha posted a brief explanation/clarification of the situation on its Tumblr account.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan, Volume 7Attack on Titan, Volume 7 by Hajime Isayama. The terror in Attack on Titan has started to shift. At the beginning of the series the fear was much more about the unknown—the titans were these terrifying creatures beyond comprehension. But now the fear is coming from the knowledge that other humans may very well have a hand in what is happening. There have been plenty of deaths in Attack on Titan, but when those deaths involve characters who you’ve gotten a chance to know instead of just being nameless faces, suddenly the casualties carry even more weight. It makes the terror, frustration, and utter despair experienced by the characters even more palpable. Attack on Titan is dark, and it has been from the start, but the developments in the seventh volume pack quite a punch. I’ve had my doubts about the series in the past, and the artwork is still terribly inconsistent and occasionally difficult to follow, but I am hooked on it.

BoxersBoxers & Saints written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang, colors by Lark Pien. Boxers & Saints is easily one of the best comics that I’ve read this year. The two graphic novels that make up the duology can be read separately, but together they are even more powerful. The work is a retelling of the Boxer Rebellion—a violent uprising against foreign and Christian influence in northern China that took place at the turn of the 20th century. Boxers follows the life of a young man who becomes one of the leaders of the rebellion while Saints shows the conflict from the perspective of a young Chinese woman who converted to Christianity. Although very different in their details and narrative style, the two volumes follow a similar story arc as the characters come of age and find something to believe in, but are then challenged by those beliefs and conflicted over their decisions and actions. The Boxer Rebellion was a complicated and tragic event for both sides of the dispute. Boxers & Saints is a fictional account, but Yang put in a tremendous amount of research into the work. Highly, highly recommended.

Genshiken: Second Season, Volume 1Genshiken: Second Season, Volumes 1-3 by Shimoku Kio. The Genshiken has turned into a fujoshi club. This doesn’t really bother me (I also enjoy BL and yaoi), but to an extent I do miss the greater variety of otaku that were represented in the original series. Still, even the fujoshi have their quirks and differences—the Genshiken has always attracted weirdos. And then there’s the cross-dressing Hato-kun, who for me is really stealing the show in the second season of Genshiken. The only male first-year to join the club, he’s created a very complete and convincing female persona. I find him to be the most interesting new character in the new series and he seems to be the focal point for much of the drama. I’m also particularly enjoying Yajima’s character development. She is uncomfortable with Hato’s cross-dressing but becomes very protective of him. As for the older characters, I was very happy to see Madarame return as he remains one of my favorites. Put him and Hato together in a scene and it’s just perfect.

Library Wars, Volume 9Library Wars: Love & War, Volumes 9-10 by Kiiro Yumi. Perhaps it’s because I’m a librarian, but I can’t help but be fond of Library Wars even when it’s not always the strongest series. Sometimes the characters and their interactions are fantastic, and sometimes it seems as if they’re all acting like a bunch of high school students when they’re supposed to be mature, capable adults. Granted, there are some delightfully awkward scenes now that Iku has come to the realization that Dojo is her “prince.” He’s known for quite a while, but he doesn’t know that she knows, yet. It’s all rather amusing. I am very glad that Iku seems to be more competent now than she was at the beginning of the series. I don’t care how enthusiastic a person is, if they don’t have the needed skills for the job there’s not much hope for them. Library Wars is a fantasy, but it actually does address some real issues encountered in the library world. Censorship is the biggest one and at the core of the series, but things like sexual harassment and dealing with inappropriate patron behavior come up, too.

Totally Peeking Under the Sheets, Volume 1Totally Peeking Under the Sheets, Volumes 1-2 by Hajin Yoo. Totally Peeking Under the Sheets is a collection of side stories relating to Yoo’s boys’ love manwha Totally Captivated. It’s definitely intended for those who have read and enjoyed the original series. The first volume contains quite a few short manhwa, some of them only a few pages long. Many of these stories emphasize the more humorous aspects of Totally Captivated and its characters. And as might be expected from the title Totally Peeking Under the Sheets, several stories are also rather racy—what little plot there is is used to get Ewon and Mookyul into bed with each other. (Not that that’s very difficult.) The focus of the second volume is a much longer sequel manhwa called “The Final Chapter.” Although there were some great character moments, the story felt forced to me. Ewon suddenly has to deal with his family, particularly the mother who abandoned him. I’m not sure the situation would have really played out in the way that Yoo presents it. Overall, I much preferred the first volume.

Fist of the North Star, Collection 2Fist of the North Star: The TV Series, Volume 2 (Episodes 37-72) directed by Toyoo Ashida. While the first collection of the Fist of the North Star anime series had quite a bit of filler, the second collection starts to really dig into the plot and characters. The series is much better for it. Plus, the anime has now reached a point in the story beyond the manga that was released in English. Some of the fights do still get to be a little repetitive, especially when the protagonists face off against large groups of unnamed bad guys and minions, but there’s always something about each battle that makes it stand out from the rest. The best fights, though, are those that occur between two martial arts masters. But Fist of the North Star isn’t just about power, skill, and strength (although that’s certainly an important part of it). The series is also about destiny, loyalty, friendship, and love. Kenshiro is a tragic hero who continues to lose those who are close to him. Fist of the North Star is a post-apocalyptic martial arts epic, and I’m loving it.

My Week in Manga: September 10-September 16, 2012

My News and Reviews

I posted two reviews last week here at Experiments in Manga. First was for Strawberry Panic: The Complete Novel Collection written by Sakurako Kimino with illustrations by Namuchi Takumi. I was introduced to the Strawberry Panic yuri franchise through the manga, which was never completed. The novels are utterly ridiculous and yet highly entertaining. The other review was part of my Blade of the Immortal review project—Blade of the Immortal, Volume 13: Mirror of the Soul. I’m still loving the series. Mirror of the Soul focuses on Anotsu who I find to be an incredibly compelling character.

This week is the Shojo Beat Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Manga Report! All of the quick takes below feature Shojo Beat manga and anime. On Wednesday, I’ll be posting an in-depth review of the first volume of the manga series Sand Chronicles by Hinako Ashihara. I think Sand Chronicles is one of the best contemporary shōjo manga series out there; it’s certainly one my favorites.

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to see Kataoka Ichiro, a professional benshi, in action. It was very cool. The University of Michigan’s Center for Japanese Studies hosts two film series every year. This fall, the series is focusing on the silent films by Ozu Yasujiro which are being shown accompanied by live music and benshi. With the exception of the opening night, the films and performances are free and open to the public. If you’re in Southeast Michigan on a Friday evening between September 14 and November 9, I highly recommend checking the series out. Can’t make it to the films? Kataoka’s interview on arwulf-arwulf’s “Face the Music” radio show is worth listening to, too.

I am absolutely thrilled with Nozomi Entertainment’s most recent license announcement—The Rose of Versailles. Hopefully, the acquisition of the anime series means that the manga may be within reach for English-reading audiences. The series is infamous for being unlicensable, but maybe there could now be a chance. Either way, I’m very happy that The Rose of Versailles anime will be available next year.

The Hooded Utilitarian, a cultural criticism blog that largely focuses on comics (including manga, from time to time), is celebrating it’s fifth anniversary with a roundtable called the Anniversary of Hate. So far, two of the posts have focused on manga: Jason Thompson’s From Habibi to Tezuka, With Ono In Between and Kate Dacey’s Peace and Hate. Some of the comments on these posts are also very intriguing and worth reading.

Quick Takes

Dengeki Daisy, Volumes 5-8 by Kyousuke Motomi. I used to consider Dengeki Daisy a guilty pleasure of mine. Well, I’ve gotten over the guilt and now just enjoy myself. I find the series absolutely hilarious. Sure, it has it’s serious and melodramatic scenes, but it never fails to make me laugh. However, the eight volume has a drastically different tone (Motomi even admits as much). The volume delves into Kurosaki’s past and is understandably more somber, but it still contains moments of humor. Kurosaki’s guilt has been hinted at and its revelation has been built up to from the beginning of the series. Even though I wasn’t entirely convinced, for the most part I found myself satisfied with explanation.

Library Wars: Love & War, Volume 8 by Kiiro Yumi. Library Wars still isn’t as good as I want it to be, but I enjoy the manga enough to keep reading and I love the basic premise of the series. The resolution of book burning incident from previous volume is fairly anticlimactic, but as a result Iku finally realizes that Dojo is her prince. This gives Yumi plenty of opportunity to draw “jittery Iku” as Iku processes this development. The results are quite amusing. I’ve actually never been exceptionally fond of Iku as the main character (her incompetence as a librarian frustrates me), but she is growing on me and I appreciate her enthusiasm. Still, I tend to prefer almost any other character in Library Wars over Iku. I’m particularly fond of the romance developing between Tezuka and Shibasaki.

Otomen, Volumes 1-5 by Aya Kanno. Asuka Masamune is the epitome of manliness—strong, handsome, cool-headed, chivalrous. However, his hobbies, which he desperately tries to keep hidden, are less than manly. He loves cute things, sewing, cooking, and shōjo manga. Asuka is an otomen—a girly guy. Otomen relies heavily on gender expectations, stereotypes, shōjo tropes and cliches. Although the gender-bending nature of the characters and their interests are the source of the series’ humor, the manga doesn’t make fun of characters themselves. The series is lighthearted fun with the message that it’s okay to be who you are even when defies expectation. I am really enjoying Otomen and look forward to reading more.

Honey and Clover, Box Set 1 directed by Ken’ichi Kasai. I haven’t actually read the Honey and Clover manga, but I’ve heard great things about it and it’s anime adaptation. The series revolves around a group of friends who are students at an art college in Tokyo. We never really see their initial friendships develop, which makes me feel like I’m missing out on something. It is clear that their bonds are strong ones, though. Despite this, there is also a lot of loneliness in Honey and Clover. But there’s also plenty of humor, too, including the most epic game of Twister I’ve ever seen. While I’m not in a huge rush to finish the series, I did enjoy the time I spent with the characters of Honey and Clover. Their quirkiness is probably why I liked them so well.

My Week in Manga: February 27-March 4, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was my usual set of posts for the end/beginning of the month, which means it was a slightly slower week. February’s Bookshelf Overload was posted as was Experiments in Manga’s monthly manga giveaway. You still have a couple of days to enter for a chance to win King of Thorn for Keeps. Also posted last week were some random musings about the Manhwa Creator Bank, a campaign being coordinated by Korea’s Seoul Animation Center and Netcomics.

The next Manga Moveable Feast is coming up in a couple of weeks and will be held from March 18 to March 24. Manga Worth Reading will be hosting and this time we’ll all be taking a look at the work of Jiro Taniguchi—Jiro Taniguchi Topic of Next Manga Moveable Feast. I’ve got a couple of thing planned for the Feast, including an in-depth review of Taniguchi’s most recent release in English, A Zoo in Winter.

Now it’s time for some interesting reading that I’ve found online recently! Anime News Network has an interview with Tomomi Mochizuki, the director of the House of Five Leaves anime adaptation which just finally had a Region 1 DVD release. (I’m absolutely thrilled about this release and preordered the set the day it was announced.) Over at Robot 6 is another great interview: Felipe Smith talks manga — and life. Finally, and on a much less happier note, I’d like to direct your attention to a post over on Manga Bookshelf: Apple censors still targeting LGBTQ content? What Apple has been and is doing continues to piss me off, and Amazon is guilty of similar actions, too.

Quick Takes

Demon Diary, Volumes 1-7 written by Lee Chi-hyong (volume 1) and Lee Yun-hee (volumes 2-7) and illustrated by Kara. Raenef has been declared to be a demon lord, but with his innocent and kindhearted personality he doesn’t really seem to be cut out for the job. It’s up to the demon Eclipse to show him how things are done. About halfway through the series, the story changes significantly in tone. While there is still humor and comedy to be found, Demon Diary becomes much more serious and dramatic. Almost everything that does end up happening was at least hinted about, so at least the developments don’t come out of nowhere. I think I preferred the more overt silliness, but I did find later volumes to be interesting, too.

Library Wars: Love & War, Volume 7 by Kiiro Yumi. I like Library Wars best when library policy becomes a more integral part of the story. The last few volumes seemed to stray from that a bit, focusing on some of the characters’ personal lives (which makes them come across as high schoolers rather than grown adults), but the seventh volume brings library issues to the forefront again. A couple of new characters have been introduced, including a new antagonist, so things should continue to become more interesting. I’m still frustrated by Iku’s incompetence, but that seems to have been downplayed somewhat in this volume, which I appreciated. While I haven’t really been blown away by Library Wars, for the most part I have been enjoying the series and will continue to follow it.

No Longer Human, Volume 3 by Usumaru Furuya. I have been both dreading and really looking forward to the final volume in Furuya’s adaptation of Osamu Dazai’s novel No Longer Human. Dreading because it is such an intense and dark story, and looking forward because Furuya has done such a phenomenal job with the series. Having read the original novel I knew where things were heading, but it doesn’t make it any easier as a reader. Yozo finally experiences and has a chance at true happiness only to have it torn away from him as he slips back into darkness. The back cover calls it a “devastating finale” which is very apt. The changes that Furuya has made from Dazai’s original have worked really well.

Purgatory Kabuki, Volume 1 by Yasushi Suzuki. I wanted to like Purgatory Kabuki. I really, really did. I mean, the cover art is absolutely gorgeous and flipping through the volume reveals some stunning illustrations as well. But, that’s really all the manga has going for it. Unfortunately, Purgatory Kabuki lacks coherence, even in its artwork. Had I not previously read a summary, I would have had no idea what was going on in the story. Actually, even after reading a summary, I still didn’t really know what was happening. Something having to do with demons and swords and hell…I think. It is pretty, though. Originally, Purgatory Kabuki was intended to be three volumes long, but as far as I can tell only the first volume ever reached publication.

Cromartie High School directed by Hiroaki Sakurai. While for the most part I can say that I prefer the original manga series (although, that might just be because I read it first), the anime adaptation of Cromartie High School has some things going for it, too. It doesn’t stray much from the original material, but it does have the advantage of sound—Mechazawa’s smooth voice, the music that accompanies most of Freddie’s appearances, etc. Hayashida’s hair has a life of its own. Even though I already knew what all the jokes were going to be, they still made me laugh. There are twenty-six episodes, but each one is only about twelve minutes long. It’s a ridiculous series with an absurd sense of humor.

My Week in Manga: September 19-September 25, 2011

My News and Reviews

All right! Another week! And what sorts of goodies did I have for you all? First off was my review for Spice & Wolf, Volume 4. Isuna Hasekura’s light novel that is. (It also happens to be the 100th review posted on Experiments in Manga!) I haven’t delved into the manga version because I’m happily content with the novels. I also posted a review for Natsume Sōseki final novel and masterpiece Kokoro. I’ve been meaning to read it for over a year now. Fortunately, it was chosen as the September/October 2011 selection for the Japanese Literature Book Group. I’d also like to mention a review for Diana Wynne Jones’ novel Howl’s Moving Castle that I posted over on my book review site Experiments in Reading. If you’ve only seen the anime adaptation, which I have a quick take for below, you’re missing out on some great stuff.

And, as promised, a few interesting things that I’ve recently come across online. I don’t know much about the dance performance TeZukA other than the fact that I would really like to see it. Helen McCarthy, author of The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga, has a few things to say about it on her blog—TeZukA: bridges and doors. The BBC also has a few photos of the production which just make me want to see it eve more—In pictures: Manga meets contemporary dance in TeZukA. Over on Tofugu I came across a nice, concise introduction to the Takarazuka Revue, another performance group that I would love to see—Gender Bending Thespians Confuse and Amuse. Finally, the Young Adult Library Services Association had a great post over on their blog—Graphic Novelists You Should Know — Manga Edition. I heartily support their choices and recommendations.

Oh! If you happen to be in the Southeast Michigan area this coming weekend, Sunday is the Japan Festival in Novi. I went as a visitor last year and had a great time. This year I’ll actually be performing with my taiko group! The event is free and a lot of fun.

Quick Takes

Les Bijoux, Volumes 1-5 written by Jo Eun-ha and illustrated by Park Sang-sun. I really liked the conceit that the characters and their personalities and powers were based on various precious stones. I also liked that the main character changes between genders, although I don’t think it was handled as well as it could be. I get the impression that the series had to end earlier than the creators intended; it shows as they have to cram too much plot into the final volumes. Had they been given the chance to thoroughly explore their world and characters, I think Les Bijoux could have been great. As it is, the narrative is too choppy and requires the reader to fill in too many blanks. I did like the art though, and the men are very, very pretty.

Library Wars, Volumes 3-6 by Kiiro Yumi. I really wish this series was better than it actually is. I do still like it, though. Dojo by far is my favorite character. We get to see a bit more of his backstory in these volumes, which made me happy. It’s been obvious to readers (and to most of the other characters) since the beginning that he’s Iku’s prince although she hasn’t realized it yet. I’m starting to warm up to Iku a little, but it frustrates me that her passion often makes her look so damned incompetent. Her constant need to be rescued by Dojo makes for extremely repetitive scenes which is unfortunate. Although, it does mean Dojo gets more appearances which I’m always okay with. I’d really like to read the original light novels.

Love Attack, Volumes 1-2 by Shizuru Seino. Chiemi’s about to be expelled for fighting when her teacher makes a deal with her. If she can get her classmate Hirata to shape up, her record will be cleared. One flying kick to the face later, he’s in love and the two become the scariest couple in school. It’s the first serious relationship either of them have been in, and they are delightfully awkward with each other. I loved the first volume of Love Attack but didn’t like the second one nearly as well. The second volume was very silly and, while entertaining, the tone of the story just changed too much for me. The series is up to thirteen volumes in Japan and is still ongoing; Tokyopop managed to publish the first six.

Cross Game, Episodes 23-50 directed by Osamu Sekita. Even though I don’t really consider myself a fan of basball, I got incredibly caught up in and anxious over the games in Cross Game. I think I may have even cheered out loud on several occasions. The series keeps you guessing right up until the end whether or not the team will make it to Kōshien. I could honestly see the story going either way. Despite the palpable intensity of many of the baseball games, Cross Game is not a fast paced anime by any means. The plot and character development is slow and deliberate and yet it remains engaging throughout. The series is very good. Even if you’re not a sports fan, I’d still recommend giving it a try.

Howl’s Moving Castle directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Howl’s Moving Castle is loosely based on a novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones. Sophie has been cursed by the Witch of the Waste—although a young woman, she now appears to be ninety—and must seek the aid of the Wizard Howl to break it. While the basic premise, plot, and characters are very similar, Miyazaki takes the story in a very different direction. One of the most noticeable changes is the emphasis given to the war in Miyazaki’s version (he’s not very subtle about it at all.)  Howl’s Moving Castle is nowhere near my favorite film by Miyazaki, but I still found it to be enjoyable. I particularly liked the look and feel given to the castle itself.

Summer Wars directed by Mamoru Hosoda. I enjoyed Summer Wars immensely and am not at all surprised by the number of awards it has received. It has a great soundtrack, too. The Jinnouchi family is fantastic. Sure, there’s plenty of conflict, but they care for each other and are able to pull together when they need to. They all have distinct personalities, but good luck keeping everyone straight (there’s a lot of them.)While the anime’s not always very realistic, I didn’t really care and was thoroughly entertained. On the other hand, some of the problems caused by what basically amounts to “breaking the Internet” are very real. Visually, Summer Wars is a feast; it just looks great. The differences in style between the OZ network and real life are handled especially well.