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

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted last week at Experiments in Manga. The first review was for Yaya Sakuragi’s boys’ love manga Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 3. Although the series isn’t my favorite work by Sakuragi, I tend to enjoy her manga and Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love has been growing on me. The second review was for Tales of Moonlight and Rain, the most recent English translation of Ueda Akinari’s Ugetsu monogatari, a collection of short stories about ghosts and other mysterious happenings that was originally published in Japan in 1776. It may be over two centuries old, but it’s still a great read.

I came across quite a few interesting things online last week: The Advocate posted its 10 Great Graphic Novel Gifts. It’s a great list of queer comics that came out this year and it includes a few excellent manga selections as well; Some Fog uses Kazuo Umezu’s Drifting Classroom as an example on how to creat comics–Lessons from Umezu; Voting has opened for the second Manga Translation Battle; The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund reports that Core Magazine Pleads Guilty in Japanese Obscenity Case, feeling that a “guilty plea would be a better option than a protracted legal battle.; On a happier note, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival has announced it’s initial list of featured guests. Among other great comics creators, Est Em will be coming to TCAF 2014!

Quick Takes

About LoveAbout Love written by Narise Konohara and illustrated by Tomo Ootake. Despite his family’s misgivings over his choice of career, Asaka has become an enthusiastic wedding planner. But recently things haven’t been going so well—several of the couples that he has been working with have canceled their weddings. That’s when he reunites with his first client, a man by the name of Sasagawa who has the perfect marriage and serves as an inspiration to Asaka. However, his marriage isn’t nearly as perfect as it seems. About Love is a slow-burning romance; Asaka and Sasagawa’s relationship takes a great deal of time to develop and solidify, but it’s a natural progression from acquaintances, to friends, to possibly something greater. About Love focuses on the emotional connection between the two men more than it does on their physical intimacy, although that has a role to play as well. In addition to their evolving relationship, About Love addresses some issues of same-sex marriage and there are other gay and lesbian couples important to the story as well.

Attack on Titan, Volume 10Attack on Titan, Volume 10 by Hajime Isayama. I’m not entirely sure how Isayama pulls it off, but it’s rather impressive how many twists and turns Attack on Titan has been taking lately. I went into this volume expecting a respite from major plot reveals since there have been so many recently. I was wrong. The focus of the tenth volume is on 104th’s struggle to survive against a massive titan attack on the castle in which they were hoping to hide and recover. They are without weapons or maneuvering gear, making their situation particularly precarious. This alone would have been enough to carry the volume and there are some very exciting moments in the fight. But no. After an extended action sequence, Isayama throws in not one but two (well, maybe three depending on how you’re counting) major story twists. Although there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered, the titans themselves are becoming less of a mystery. I actually kind of miss when they were beyond humanity’s comprehension, but I’m still interested in seeing how things play out.

Baron Gong Battle, Volume 1Baron Gong Battle, Volumes 1-6 by Masayuki Taguchi. Only six out of the nine volumes of Baron Gong Battle have been released in English. After his girlfriend is horrifically murdered by a Neo Hume, Baron is determined to seek revenge against those who killed her. The Neo Hume’s are extraordinarily powerful creatures born out of the Nazi’s biological experiments. Baron Gong Battle is an utterly absurd and violent action-packed manga series that can be a tremendous amount of trashy fun when it’s not being completely offensive. Baron is an over-the-top badass and the dialogue is extreme. However, the more that I read, the less enamored I became with Baron Gong Battle. The manga’s utter ridiculousness is highly entertaining, and it becomes more and more outrageous as the series progresses, but I soon became tired of the role that the women play. Occasionally they can be very competent fighters, but more often than not they seem to only be a part of the series in order to fawn over Baron and to run around mostly if not entirely naked.

PinkPink by Kyoko Okazaki. While I didn’t find Pink to be as brutal or as hard-hitting as Okazaki’s later work Helter Skelter, I still think that the manga is an excellent work and I enjoyed it a great deal. Pink is rather curious manga filled with rather curious characters. In general, they are much more likeable than those in Helter Skelter, but they are definitely an odd bunch. Yumi works as a part-time call girl in order to feed her pet crocodile Croc. Although Yumi’s on great terms with her younger stepsister Keiko—a precocious girl with a bottomless stomach—she and her stepmother hate each other. Things get a little complicated when Yumi becomes involved with Haruo, her stepmother’s manstress and wannabe novelist. I was actually surprised by how much of the Pink was told from Haruo’s perspective. His strange relationships with these three women, and Croc, forms the basis for much of the story. But even so, it’s Yumi who really seems to be the focus of the manga. Pink has a very cynical and oddball sense of humor which I could appreciate.

From the New WorldFrom the New World directed by Masashi Ishihama. Overall I really liked the story and setting of the From the New World anime, an adaptation of the novel by the same name written by Yusuke Kishi (which sadly has yet to be licensed in English.) However, I frequently found the series’ pacing and narrative structure to be frustrating and somewhat disjointed. Saki, the main protagonist, also had an annoying habit of echoing back whatever was being said to her by someone else. I did like that the story focused on the characters at several different points in their lives. From the New World takes place in what is eventually revealed to be a post-apocalyptic environment. I actually would have liked to have seen more about how society reached the point that it is at in the series; most of the past events are merely hinted at. From the New World deals quite a bit with the terrible lengths humanity is willing to go to when driven by fear. It’s very well done in places. The anime also gets bonus points for the nice use of music from Dvořák’s From the New World symphony.

My Week in Manga: September 2-September 8, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week I announced the Blood Lad Giveaway Winner. The post also includes a list of manga licensed in English that feature vampires, too, if you’re looking for something to sink your teeth into. I posted two reviews last week in addition to the giveaway announcement. The honor of the first in-depth manga review for September goes to Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro. The manga collects stories from the first three volumes of Mizuki’s yokai classic GeGeGe no Kitaro. I absolutely loved it. I also reviewed Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices, edited by Manga Bookshelf’s own Melinda Beasi and presented by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. It’s a great resource and recommended for anyone wanting to learn a bit more about manga. The book’s general release is in December, but it is possible to purchase an early copy directly from CBLDF.

Elsewhere online, Vertical’s licensing and reader survey is now open and will close on September 25. It’s a great way to let Vertical know what you’re reading. If you want you can even suggest manga you’d like to see Vertical publish in English. Related to Vertical manga, Matt Cycyk at Matt Talks About Manga has a nice post about Knights of Sidonia and why fans of Attack on Titan might want to check the series out—Attack on Sidonia: Selling Knights of Sidonia to Attack on Titan Fans. And speaking of manga, I was amused to come across the article Attack on Titan’s author causes a stir with his less-than-stellar sketches at RocketNews24. (Amused since I’m used to hearing complaints about the artwork in Attack on Titan and didn’t realize it was something so shocking.)

Quick Takes

Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Omnibus 1Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Omnibus 1-2 (equivalent to Volumes 1-6) by Yukito Kishiro. Although I have been aware of Battle Angel Alita for quite some time I haven’t read any of the manga until now. Last Order is the original series’ immediate successor, serving as a sort of alternate ending. It’s still ongoing in Japan. The manga is a little difficult to jump into without already having some familiarity with the franchise; I frequently found myself confused why certain characters were important to the story and what their motivations were. But by the time I reached the second omnibus I had started to settle into the series and even began to enjoy myself. I like Last Order best when Kishiro isn’t trying to be too serious with the story and focuses more on the action—cyborg battles, ancient Martian martial arts, space karate, and so on. Alita is an appealing lead, but at the moment I think I like the more erratic and unruly supporting character Sechs even better.

Chi's Sweet Home, Volume 10Chi’s Sweet Home, Volume 10 by Konami Kanata. I can always count on Chi’s Sweet Home to bring a smile to my face. Kanata’s color work is lovely and Chi is adorable. I grew up around a lot of cats and continue to be surrounded by them, so I can particularly appreciate Chi’s antics. And with the tenth volume of Chi’s Sweet Home, there are even more kittens romping around—Cocchi and Chi have befriended a pair of sibling kittens. Kanata captures the attitudes and behavior of cats perfectly. Chi has finally come to the realization that she’s a not a human, but she still has a far way to go before mastering all the skills expected of a feline. In many ways Chi’s Sweet Home is very episodic, but there’s also the underlying story of Chi being separated from her original family. By the end of the tenth volume it looks as though she may be getting closer to finding her mother. (She’s easily distracted, though.) Generally the series is funny and sweet, but there’s a bit of sadness and drama, too.

Diary of SangchulDiary of Sangchul by Hajin Yoo. Two side stories from Yoo’s Totally Captivated boys’ love manhwa were released in English. One of those is Diary of Sangchul, which is a prequel to the main series. It’s not absolutely necessary to have read Totally Captivated in order to enjoy Diary of Sangchul, but the manhwa will probably appeal most to those who have. The majority of the volume is devoted Sangchul’s story through which is shown Mookyul’s rise to power and how he earns the respect of the men who work under him. Dairy of Sangchul also reveals more about Mookyul’s relationship with the Chairman (who looks a lot younger here than he does in the original series.) Diary of Sangchul dovetails quite nicely with Totally Captivated. There is also a short manhwa about Mookyul and the Chairman’s first meeting included in the volume. In the epilogue Yoo goes on to outline the rest of their story. I’m not sure if she ever drew it, but I’m okay if she didn’t—it’s extraordinarily melodramatic.

Helter Skelter: Fashion UnfriendlyHelter Skelter: Fashion Unfriendly by Kyoko Okazaki. I’m always happy to see more josei released in English, but I was especially excited for Okazaki’s debut. Okazaki is a particularly influential josei artist. (The marvelous Moyoco Anno even once worked as her assistant.) The award-winning Helter Skelter is a harsh and brutal tale about the darker side of the entertainment industry. Thanks to drastic and repeated plastic surgery, Liliko is enjoying the height of her career as a celebrity but the operations can only take her so far. As her body begins to deteriorate her life begins to spin out of control. Her obsessions and society’s unrealistic expectations drive her to extremes; in the end she isn’t the only one ruined. Helter Skelther is an startling work. Even though the characters are often unlikeable, the manga is extremely engaging; it’s hard to look away from their unraveling. Helter Skelter works simply as fiction, but it can also be read as a deeper criticism of celebrity culture.