My Week in Manga: June 24-June 30, 2013

My News and Reviews

As I’m posting this I am at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Chicago and have been for the last several days. I was hoping to pick up an early copy of Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund while I was here, but unfortunately the books were lost in the mail and never made it to the conference center. Even though I kept very busy in Chicago, I still somehow managed to post two reviews last week. The first was for Yoshitaka Amano’s debut novel Deva Zan: The Chosen Path, which for me worked better as an artbook than as a novel. I’m a long-time fan of Amano’s artwork. I also reviewed Takako Shimura’s long-delayed Wandering Son, Volume 4 from Fantagraphics. I was sad to see some of the editing errors that made it through even after the delay (scattered typos and the description on the back cover is actually for volume five), but I am glad to finally have the book in my hands. And Shimura’s work is as wonderful as always. I should also mention that Experiments in Manga’s June manga giveaway is currently under way. There’s still time to enter for a chance to win both a copy of No. 6, Volume 1 and Attack on Titan, Volume 5!

Quick Takes

Knights of Sidonia, Volumes 2-3 by Tsutomu Nihei. While I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume of Knights of Sidonia, I wasn’t really blown away by it. Still, I was interested enough in the series to stick it out for a least a couple more volumes to see how things would develop. And now after reading the next two volumes I can honestly say I can’t wait for more of Knights of Sidonia. Nihei is pulling things together very nicely; there were some great twists and worldbuilding in these two volumes. The Gauna are marvelously creepy adversaries and the human society on the Sidonia has its own mysteries and secrets. I’m also starting to really dig the cleaner, more simplified artstyle that Nihei uses for this series.

Mardock Scramble, Volumes 2-4 by Yoshitoki Oima. When I read Tow Ubukata’s Mardock Scramble, a trilogy of strange cyberpunk-ish novels, I was convinced that a visual adaptation of the story would be fantastic. The original Mardock Scramble is a massive work, so I am actually quite surprised and impressed by how coherent Oima’s manga adaptation manages to be. She sticks to the story’s highlights, particularly focusing on the more action-oriented sequences and battles. After four volumes, the manga adaptation is about halfway through the original work. Due to the constraints of the medium, some of the elements found in the novels have been glossed over, but the major themes are still there. The world of Mardock Scramble is an odd one, but I like Oima’s interpretation of it.

Words of Devotion, Volumes 1-2 by Keiko Konno. Although they are extremely close, Tachibana and Otani aren’t always the best at communicating with each other. Some of their acquaintances joke around and suspect that they might actually be more than just friends, but the two young men can’t quite admit their own feelings aloud to each other let alone tell anyone else. Tachibana and Otani’s rocky relationship is already established before the first volume begins. They have trust and control issues, insecurities and jealousies, but there is no question that they care about each other. The second volume actually serves as a prequel, largely exploring Tachibana and Otani’s highschool days.

My Week in Manga: February 11-February 17, 2013

My News and Reviews

I posted two reviews last week. The first was for Dana Sachs’ novel The Secret of the Nightingale Palace. I didn’t like the main characters which made it difficult for me to enjoy the book, but there were still some parts that I appreciated. I also reviewed Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal, Volume 18: The Sparrow Net. This volume is an important one for both plot and character development. Plus, we get to see Isaku and Dōa fight as a team.

Licensing news! Sean Gaffney has a nice writeup on the New Licenses from Viz and Seven Seas at A Case Suitable for Treatment. Vertical also announced some great titles at Katsucon which will be released this fall: Satoshi Kon’s Tropic of the Sea and Hikari Asada’s Sickness Unto Death. I’m particularly excited for Tropic of the Sea. I hadn’t heard about Sickness Unto Death before, but it looks like it will be an intriguing psychological manga (and it’s only two volumes).

Finally, the Naoki Urasawa Manga Moveable Feast has begun! This month’s Feast is being hosted by Justin at Organization Anti-Social Geniuses. Urasawa is one of my favorite mangaka, so I’m very excited for this particular Feast. Later this week I’ll be taking a look at Pineapple Army, his first work to be published in English.

Quick Takes

Knights of Sidonia, Volume 1 by Tsutomu Nihei. I’ve heard Knights of Sidonia called Nihei’s most accessible work to date, which I think is probably true. His artwork is certainly cleaner and more simplified, but I personally prefer Nihei’s darker, grungier illustrations in Biomega and Blame! So far the story in Knights of Sidonia is fairly straightforward, too. After living alone for years in the depths of the spaceship Sidonia, Nagate is discovered must learn to adapt to a human society that has evolved to survive in space. I find Nihei’s exploration of the course of human evolution one of the more interesting aspects of Knights of Sidonia; I’m particularly curious to learn more about Nagate’s friend Izana, who is neither female or male.

Rurouni Kenshin, Omnibus 7 (equivalent to Volumes 19-21) by Nobuhiro Watsuki. After the completion of lengthy Kyoto arc in the last omnibus,  Rurouni Kenshin is now well into its next story arc. Particularly important in this omnibus is the revealing of Kenshin’s background and past life as an assassin, for which he is still trying to atone. A new group of antagonists have appeared looking for revenge and they’re not afraid to strike out at those who are close to Kenshin. There are a few nice fight scenes, but this section of the story is much slower compared to the flurry of duels that ended the previous arc. I do like that these fighters are slightly more realistic. It’s not so much that they are super-powered but that they have access to technology and weapons that give them an advantage.

Sumo by Thien Pham. I really enjoyed Sumo, Pham’s first solo graphic novel. Scott is a football player whose dreams of playing professionally have crumbled. When he is offered a chance train in Japan to become a sumo wrestler, he takes it. Sumo is a surprisingly quiet and introspective work. Scott is trying to find his place in the world and struggling to reclaim the confidence he once had. Pham weaves three different time periods in Scott’s life together to create a single coherent story. The artwork is simple and stylized but very effective. It is not absolutely necessary to enjoy the work, but it does help to have some basic understanding of the hierarchy system inherent to sumo training halls.

Your Story I’ve Known by Tsuta Suzuki. In addition to a few volumes of A Strange and Mystifying Story, You’re Story I’ve Known is the only other manga by Suzuki currently available in English. I’m rather fond of Suzuki’s artwork. Her characters look like grown, adult men and she is capable of drawing some of the most endearing grins that I have ever seen. Your Story I’ve Known collects four boys’ love stories of varying lengths. There isn’t really a theme to the collection other than the fact that the characters have some actual depth to them. Unfortunately, the translation is problematic in a few places, and at least one scene is nearly incomprehensible. Granted, that may have been just as much Suzuki’s fault as the translator’s. But in the end, I still enjoyed the manga.

Blue Spring directed by Toshiaki Toyoda. Ever since I read Taiyo Matsumoto’s manga Blue Spring, I’ve had a hard time getting it out of my head. When I discovered that there was a live-action adaptation of it, I knew that I had to see it. Toyoda’s film is missing some of the more surreal elements of the original manga, but it still captures a lot of its heart. The film combines bits and pieces of many but not all of the stories included in the Blue Spring manga into a single narrative. It actually works quite well. It’s a violent tale about the disaffected students at an all-boys high school and the ways they find to take control of their realities. As a bonus, the film has a great soundtrack, too.