My Week in Manga: August 29-September 4, 2016

My News and Reviews

The end of August has come and gone, but there’s still time to enter Experiments in Manga’s most recent giveaway. This time around you all have the opportunity to enter for a chance to win the first three volumes of Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul. (The winner will be announced on Wednesday.) Other than that, it was a fairly quiet week at Experiments in Manga. I was actually on vacation last week, too. I wasn’t online much, but I did catch that Viz Media will be releasing Hidenori Kusaka and Satoshi Yamamoto’s Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire manga as well as a Pokémon Pocket Comics box set.

Quick Takes

Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volume 5Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volumes 5-6 by Junko. The overall narrative of the last few volumes of Kiss Him, Not Me! has fallen into a noticeable pattern; the series focuses on Serinuma’s potential romantic interests one after another in turn, each of them becoming the subject of their very own mini story arc which briefly delves into their relationship with Serinuma and how they have changed (generally for the better) because of it. Much to my surprise, yet another character has been introduced who has developed feelings for Serinuma, though just how serious he is is somewhat ambiguous. Granted, it’s mostly because of him that everyone ends up confessing their own feelings to Serinuma. As for Serinuma herself, she still seems to be completely uninterested in romance, though she is enjoying having a larger group of friends. Kiss Him, Not Me! continues to be an over-the-top romantic comedy that doesn’t take itself at all seriously. Even when the basic story elements start to feel a little repetitive (such as when Serinuma goes on a date with each of her admirers) the series is unpredictable and varied enough that it remains both entertaining and engaging. The characters aren’t especially deep, and there’s plenty about the series that’s unbelievable, but Kiss Him, Not Me! is silly fun.

Tramps Like Us, Volume 10Tramps Like Us, Volumes 10-14 by Yayoi Ogawa. I am so glad that I made a point to collect Tramps Like Us when I did; the series is now very much out of print and unlikely to be rescued. (Although, considering the recent expansion in Kodansha’s digital offerings, there might yet be some hope there.)  I’m really not sure why it took me so long to actually get around to reading Tramps Like Us, because I ended up loving the manga and its characters. The basic premise is somewhat strange and the series frequently takes off on flights of fantasy, but somehow the emotions and relationship dynamics still manage to be incredibly real and relatable. The final volume of the series did feel a little rushed to me, and everything might have been tied up a little too nicely, but I still found the slightly bittersweet but predominantly happy ending to be very satisfying. Some of the developments weren’t really that surprising; it was only a matter of time before Sumire and Momo/Takeshi had to face what their relationship had become and actually do something about it. Although she has to give some things up, Sumire is able to find a balance between her career, home life, and love life that makes her happy. And I have to admit, although it might ultimately be a little idealistic, the ending made me happy, too.

Your Lie in April, Volume 8Your Lie in April, Volume 8-9 by Naoshi Arakawa. As a musician, I’m naturally drawn to manga in which music is featured in some way. And so, because music plays a very prominent role in Your Lie in April, the series immediately caught my attention. Arakawa captures the deep emotional connection a person can have with music remarkably well in Your Lie in April. My own relationship with music is a complicated one, so I’m glad to see that sort of complexity reflected in the manga as well. Generally, however, the series does tend more towards the angst associated with performance rather than the joy of music. Many of the characters are pouring their whole selves into their art; being a musician can be both a thrilling and terrifying experience. Effectively expressing oneself through music is a tremendous accomplishment, but frequently this is accompanied by fear and worry that one will never be good enough. Still, there are wonderful moments in Your Lie in April in which the characters are able to break through their insecurities. While music is an important part of Your Lie in April, probably even more important are the relationships between the characters, even if Kosei still seems oblivious to the fact that he means so much to so many different people.

My Week in Manga: June 6-June 12, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted May’s Bookshelf Overload. Largely in part due to my trip to TCAF and the generosity of Kodansha Comics, I ended up with a lot of comics and manga to add to my shelves in May. I was actually out of the state traveling for work for most of the week, but while I was gone I did manage to post an in-depth review of Yui Sakuma’s Complex Age, Volume 1 which is scheduled to be released later this month. I was completely taken by surprise by how strongly the manga resonated with me.

As for some of the interesting reading that I came across online last week: Kodansha Comics’ most recent creator spotlight, which includes links to interviews, videos, and more, focuses on Yoshitoki Oima. ICv2 interviewed Stu Levy about Tokyopop’s return to print publishing. At The OASG, Jenny McKeon shared part of her story about becoming a manga translator in comic form. Also, the most recent installment of The Sparkling World of 1970s Shojo Manga highlights Keiko Takemiya and her work.

Quick Takes

Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volume 3Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volumes 3-4 by Junko. I can’t help it. I do have some reservations about the occasional emphasis placed on Serinuma’s weight (although it does reflect more poorly on the other characters than it does on Serinuma herself), but Kiss Him, Not Me! honestly makes me grin. The story is ridiculous and over-the-top, as are Junko’s illustrations. The characters’ facial expressions and extreme reactions can be pretty spectacular. But there’s also some legitimate character development in the series to go along with the comedy. At times it can even be quite touching. One of the things that makes Kiss Him, Not Me! particularly refreshing is that although Serinuma is basically dealing with a reverse-harem situation, she doesn’t really have any sort of romantic interest in any of the other characters. Like the title suggests, she’d much rather her fujoshi fantasies be indulged. But at this point she does care a great deal about them all as friends, and she makes a great friend even if her suitors would like something more. The four boys and now also the one girl (who is a fantastic addition to the series) are slowly changing for the better and are becoming better people simply by knowing her.

Orange, Omnibus 2Orange, Omnibus 2 by Ichigo Takano. The first manga to really floor me this year was the debut of Orange. I was a little worried how the second half of the series would turn out, but Takano handles the story very well, finding a good balance between hopefulness and bittersweetness. Orange is a series that deals very frankly, realistically, and powerfully with heavy subject matter like depression and suicide. Takano captures extraordinarily well what it can be like to have depression and how extremely difficult it can be not only for that person but for their loved ones as well. Orange recognizes that issues surrounding mental health are complicated and simple fixes don’t really exist. The manga is not always an easy read—honestly, it can be devastating and I’ll admit to reading through tears on multiple occasions—but it most definitely is a worthwhile series. The second omnibus is filled out by one of Takano’s earlier manga Haruiro Astronaut, a romantic comedy which plays around with shoujo tropes. After the hard-hitting emotional drama of Orange, Haruiro Astronaut comes across as a little frivolous, but it’s enjoyable and in the end I rather liked it’s goofiness.

Paradise Residence, Volume 2Paradise Residence, Volume 2 by Kosuke Fujishima. I’m a little surprised by how much I’m enjoying Paradise Residence. Perhaps it’s because the series reminds me of some of the better parts of living in a dormitory and leaves me feeling a bit nostalgic for my college days. (Paradise Residence is about an all-girls high school, though, so the experience isn’t quite the same.) I was particularly fond of the chapter in the second volume in which everyone shows off their culinary skills and creations using low-budget ingredients and super-simple cooking techniques. (Actual recipes are included in the volume as well, which is a nice touch.) Paradise Residence is a fairly low-key comedy that relies more on the charming nature of its cast rather than on over-the-top humor, although sometimes the manga can be pretty ridiculous. The characters are generally likeable and their interactions are entertaining, providing much of the series’ appeal. However, their characterization does come across as somewhat shallow; some of the girls seem to be little more than a “type” or are stuck with a single gag instead being allowed to be fully-realized characters.

My Week in Manga: April 25-May 1, 2016

My News and Reviews

April has come to a close and May has begun, but there’s still a little time left to enter April’s manga giveaway for a chance to win a duo of superhero manga: Jiro Kuwata’s Batmanga, Volume 1 and Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi’s Ultraman, Volume 1. In addition to the manga giveaway, I also snuck in my review of Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare, Volume 9 last week. It’s a particularly dramatic volume in the series with some major twists and reveals. I’m very curious to see how Mizushiro will bring things to a close in the tenth and final volume. The review was part of my monthly horror manga review project, and I just barely got it written and posted before April ended. I’ve been super busy and stressed out lately, which makes writing even more difficult for me than it usually is. There are plenty of great and wonderful things going on right now in my life, but sadly the busyness and stress probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail: Ice Trail, Volume 1Fairy Tail: Ice Trail, Volume 1 by Yuusuke Shirato. There have recently been several manga spin-offs of Hiro Mashima’s series Fairy Tail released, but Ice Trail is the first that I’ve read. (For that matter, I’ll have to admit that I’ve not actually read most of Fairy Tail proper.) What primarily interested me in Ice Trail is that it serves as an origin story for Gray Fullbuster, one of Fairy Tail‘s most popular characters (as well as one of my personal favorites). Gray is a badass ice mage with a tragic past and the propensity for walking around without a shirt. Ice Trail shows Gray’s childhood in the brief time between when his home village was destroyed and when he joined the Fairy Tail guild. Despite the cuteness of seeing Gray as a kid, Ice Trail is very reminiscent of Fairy Tail in both style and tone. Apparently the series is only two volumes long, which may partially explain why the manga moves along at a break-neck pace with one action-packed battle after another. Ice Trail can mostly stand on its own, but will likely be most appreciated by readers who are already familiar with Gray and with Fairy Tail as a whole—though not absolutely necessary, that additional context can be helpful.

Kiss Him, Not Me, Volume 2Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volume 2 by Junko. I do get a kick out of Kiss Him, Not Me! I was a little worried at first since the series’ plot essentially hinges on the heroine’s sudden and drastic weight loss to bring her to the romantic attention of four of the hottest guys at her school. However, the manga quickly moves on from that premise and I don’t think it was even referenced at all in the second volume. Instead, Kiss Him, Not Me! revels in its humor and the comedic situation of a fujoshi finding herself on the opposite side of her usual fantasies. Basically, Serinuma’s life has become an otome game in which numerous young men are vying for her favor. The second volume of Kiss Him, Not Me! primarily focuses on two events: the school festival, during which each of the guys has the opportunity to have a mini-date with Serinuma (with varying degrees of success), and the Winter Comiket, which they all attend together although Serinuma is by far the most enthusiastic about it. One of the things that I particularly appreciate about Kiss Him, Not Me! is that no one asks Serinuma to change who she is at heart—she still gets to be an otaku. The second volume also introduces a new character who greatly intrigues me.

A Silent Voice, Volume 4A Silent Voice, Volumes 4-6 by Yoshitoki Oima. One of the manga to debut last year that I found to be particularly notable was Oima’s A Silent Voice and it continues to be a series that greatly impresses me. It’s not necessarily an especially happy read, though. The manga realistically portrays teenage angst compounded by issues of disability and bullying and explores the accompanying relationships which are extraordinarily messy and complicated. Emotional and physical violence takes its toll not only on the people who are being directly targeted, but also on the people who surround them. For better and for worse, the characters are all trying to deal with the repercussions of their past mistakes as best as they can, and even those who come across as antagonistic generally have their own problems they are working through. Just how deep a wound bullying can leave and how it can literally change a person’s life is more fully expressed in these volumes, and frankly it’s devastating. Thankfully, there are still moments of hope and redemption so A Silent Voice, while very serious and at times emotionally wrenching, never seems to become overwhelmingly bleak, but sometimes it does get close.

My Week in Manga: October 12-October 18, 2015

My News and Reviews

It was a two-review week at Experiments in Manga last week. First off, I reviewed the third and final volume of Hide and Seek by Yaya Sakuragi, which I enjoyed immensely. In general, I tend to like Sakuragi’s boys’ love manga, but I think that Hide and Seek has probably become my favorite. It’s a bit more serious and realistic than some of her other manga, but it still has a great sense of humor. The second review from last week, and the most recent addition to my ongoing monthly horror manga review project, was After School Nightmare, Volume 6 by Setona Mizushiro. The series continues to be both disconcerting and compelling; I’m looking forward to seeing how it continues to develop.

Elsewhere online: The Shojo Beat tumblr posted a short interview with Kyousuke Motomi. Tofugu presents Japanese Onomatopoeia: The Definitive Guide, which is pretty great. The BBC has a brief spot on Hajime Isayama. Coming out of the New York Comic Con, Women Write About Comics had a chat with Kodansha executives Hiroaki Morita, Kohei Furukawa, and Yasumasa Shimizu. Brigid Alverson reports on Kodansha’s panels at New York Comic-Con, which included Yohei Takami, the editor of Noragami, as a special guest. Masashi Kishimoto was in New York for NYCC as well. Deb Aoki covered Masashi Kishimoto’s NYCC visit for Anime News Network. Brigid Alverson reports on Kishimoto’s main panel. Weekly Shonen Jump Blog has some Kishimoto NYCC videos to share, including interviews and panels. Also, the recording from Kishimoto’s SoHo Apple Store visit is now available.

Quick Takes

Aron's Absurd Armada, Omnibus 2Aron’s Absurd Armada, Omnibuses 2-3 (equivalent to Volumes 3-5) by MiSun Kim. I read the first Aron’s Absurd Armada omnibus quite a while ago. I largely enjoyed the full-color manhwa, which I believe had its start as a webtoon, and have been meaning to get around to reading the rest of the series. I’m not sure that binge-reading Aron’s Absurd Armada was really the way to go for optimal enjoyment, though. I still find the series to be consistently or at least vaguely amusing, and it even managed to make me laugh out loud a few times, but it’s a little hard to take in large doses. The humor isn’t particularly clever, mostly relying on the fact that almost every single character in the manhwa is incredibly shallow or dimwitted. As such, there’s not much depth to the story or characters. Surprisingly enough, Aron’s Absurd Armada actually does have a plot, granted it’s very meandering and almost stream-of-conscious. There are pirates and treasure, kingdoms and political intrigue, and a whole mess of other complicating factors. Aron’s Absurd Armada is indeed absurd.

Citrus, Volume 2Citrus, Volumes 2-3 by Saburouta. Although I didn’t find some of the first volume of Citrus to be particularly realistic, I did find the intense emotions and drama to be engaging enough to be interested in continuing the series. The next two volumes follow in a similar vein—unbelievable in parts but still having the potential to become addictive. The series has begun to introduce prominent new characters as well. Not only is there another girl who has her eye on Mei, there’s also a young woman with designs for Yuzu. Mei’s father finally makes an appearance in the manga as well, albeit rather briefly. I’m not really entirely sure what to make of the man yet. Mei continues to be something of a mystery, too. One thing is for certain, though, a fair amount of Mei’s emotional issues, which have a huge effect on her interactions with other people, are tied up in her poor relationship with her father. As for the artwork, for the most part Citrus is drawn quite nicely in an overall attractive style that I like, but every so often there’s some weird anatomy going on which can be distracting.

Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volume 1Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volume 1 by Junko. Serinuma is on fairly good terms with many of the hottest boys at her school, but what most people don’t know is that in her spare time she enjoys fantasizing about them in relationships with each other. She’s also a huge fan of the anime Mirage Saga and she’s devastated when her favorite character dies. Locking herself in her room for more than a week, she wastes away. Nearly unrecognizable (on the outside), she begins turning the boys’ heads when she returns to school. Personally, I would have preferred another gimmick than sudden weight loss to bring Serinuma to the attention of her schoolmates, but at least it’s not at all played seriously. In fact, there is very little that is serious about Kiss Him, Not Me!. Its ridiculousness is what makes the manga work. And it is funny. The humor primarily revolves around Serinuma being a hopeless otaku, specifically a fujoshi. Junko herself, who is also a boys’ love mangaka (I believe Mr. Mini Mart is currently her only other work released in English), is a fujoshi as well, so happily the jokes never feel mean-spirited.