My Week in Manga: October 24-October 30, 2016

My News and Reviews

Although I was finally around for most of last week (as opposed to traveling and being busy with family stuff and such like I was for previous two weeks), all that was posted in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature was the monthly manga giveaway for October. Experiments in Manga is currently following a more relaxed posting schedule which, while it does still frustrate me that I’m not currently able to post more, is better than not posting anything at all. Anyway! There’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first two volumes of Gido Amagakure’s Sweetness & Lightning. All you have to do is tell me a little about your favorite dad or father figure from manga.

Seven Seas was celebrating its twelfth anniversary last week and announced a slew of new licenses including Yurino Tsukigase’s Otome Mania!!, Aikawa Shou’s Concrete Revolutio, Isaki Uta’s Generation Witch, Aoki Spica’s Beasts of Abigaile!, Nozomu Tamaki’s Don’t Meddle With My Daughter, Hachijou Shin’s Red Riding Hood and the Big Sad Wolf, Aosa Tsunemi’s Akashic Records of the Bastard Magical Instructor, Shiramine’s Tales of Zestiria, and Kabi Nagata’s My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness (which is probably the manga that I’m most curious about). Also of note, it looks as though Seven Seas might be getting back into the light novel game and the first print run of Kore Yamazaki’s The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Volume 6 will be accompanied by a booklet with a bonus chapter.

Not to be outdone, Yen Press announced three new acquisitions: Delicious in Dungeon by Ryoko Kui, the original novel, manga adaptations, and spinoff novel of Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, and No Game No Life, Desu! by Yuu Kamiya and Kazuya Yuizaki. Also, Bento Books is preparing to release some more manga, including second volume of the Math Girls adaptation and the first two volumes of Female Math Major. After a bit of a mishap the first time around, the relaunch of Digital Manga’s most recent Kickstarter is well on its way to raise funds to release several of Osamu Tezuka’s short manga collections: Under the Air, Melody of Iron, and The Crater (which has its own history of mishaps separate from Digital Manga’s). Other Kickstarters that have recently caught my eye include the queer, supernatural, erotic comic Letters for Lucardo and the supernatural horror-comedy comic Not Drunk Enough.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail: Blue Mistral, Volume 3Fairy Tail: Blue Mistral, Volume 3 by Rui Watanabe. Out of all of the various Fairy Tail spinoffs (and to some extent even Fairy Tail itself), Blue Mistral is the manga that I’m most enjoying so far. I find this particularly interesting because out of all the series, Blue Mistral is the one aimed at a demographic farthest from the one that technically I belong to. I believe Blue Mistral is currently the only shoujo version of Fairy Tail (or at least is the only one to have been published in  English at this point) and the magazine in which it was originally released is generally geared toward middle school girls. However, this audience is fitting for a series which follows Wendy Marvell, Fairy Tail’s twelve-year-old dragon slayer magic user. Although other characters from Fairy Tail do make appearances in the series, Blue Mistral is absolutely about Wendy and her adventures apart from the rest of the guild. In this particular volume, she spends much of her time posing as a boy for her own safety as she investigates the disappearances of a group of young women in the town of Aiya. After joining the town guard, she comes to discover that the circumstances are much more complicated than they first appeared. Romantic feelings play an important role in the story, but generally the romance occurs between characters who are not Wendy. Her heart does beat a little faster from time to time, though. Blue Mistral, even with all of the danger that Wendy must face, continues to be a generally upbeat, fun, and charming series.

Forget Me Not, Volume 4Forget Me Not, Volume 4 written by Mag Hsu and illustrated by Nao Emoto. Although by and large I have been enjoying Forget Me Not, the third volume managed to frustrate me immensely. However, the fourth volume worked much better for me. Serizawa’s romantic relationships and attempts at romantic relationships continue to be utter utter wrecks (which considering the premise of the series is entirely expected), but at least he’s finally gained some more maturity and is able to begin to understand his own feelings. The fourth volume also delves into Serizawa’s family history which reveals some of the likely reasons that he has so much trouble forming relationships to begin with–raised by his mother after his father abandons them for another woman, he hasn’t really had a good model to follow. That’s actually something that I really appreciate about Forget Me Not. Many series which focus on romance and love tend to idealize them when in fact relationships of any sort take a tremendous amount of work. Serizawa is in the process of learning this, and it can be painful to watch as he not always successfully navigates his romances, but he is making some progress, slowly recognizing what he needs is not necessarily what the other person needs. What is missing from the fourth volume of Forget Me Not is its connection to the series’ hook, the reason why Serizawa is currently looking back on his disappointing love life; I’m hoping that the series will explore this again soon.

The Gods LieThe Gods Lie by Kaori Ozaki. Even though it was never fully released in English, I loved Ozaki’s Immortal Rain (or Meteor Methuselah as it was originally titled). And so when The Gods Lie was licensed, I was understandably thrilled that I would have the opportunity to read more of Ozaki’s work. Other than the fact that I recognized the creator, I didn’t actually know anything about The Gods Lie. However, I was very happy to discover that it was just as beautifully drawn and emotionally resonant as Immortal Rain. Ozaki’s storytelling in The Gods Lie is just as strong if not stronger, too. It’s also a more mature work aimed at a more mature audience, seinen rather than shoujo. The Gods Lie is a heartwrenching and devastating manga. The themes that Ozaki explores with the work are pretty heavy and hard-hitting–death, abandonment, and desperation being some of the most prominent. But there’s also love and righteousness to be found. Interpersonal relationships and families, both good and bad, provide the manga’s center. The story takes place during a very limited span of time, primarily over the course of Natsuru Nanao’s sixth-grade summer vacation, but the events that occur will have a tremendous impact on the young man. Natsuru’s characterization is incredibly well done. In part The Gods Lie is a cutting coming-of-age story. Natsuru changes and matures in very believable ways, losing some of his innocence while gaining a better understanding of and dealing with some of the world’s more unfortunate realities.

Otherworld Barbara, Omnibus 1Otherworld Barbara, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Moto Hagio. Fantagraphics doesn’t currently have a huge line of manga (and sadly we may never see the rest of Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son translated), but the works it does publish are quality ones. I was very excited for the release of the first half of Otherworld Barbara; the manga was one of my most-anticipated titles for 2016. Although Hagio is a very influential creator in Japan, not much of her work has been published in English. I’ve loved everything that has been translated but have a particular fondness for Hagio’s science fiction. Otherworld Barbara is very much a part of that genre–it’s even one of the few manga to have won the Nihon SF Taisho Award–but it also includes strong elements of fantasy and the supernatural in addition to some significant family drama. Dreams, reality, past, present, and future all overlap with one another in Otherworld Barbara. Tokio is a dream pilot with the ability to enter other people’s dreams, gaining insight into their psyches in the process. Often he’s called upon to use his ability to help with criminal investigations, but more recently a group of researchers has asked him explore the dreams of a young woman who has been asleep for seven years. Surprisingly, his estranged son seems to somehow be tied to her case. The deeper Tokio probes, the more strange coincidences he uncovers, and the more dangerous the situation becomes for him and everyone else involved. I’m immensely curious to see how the story plays out.

My Week in Manga: August 15-August 21, 2106

My News and Reviews

After a somewhat tumultuous year, last week marked the sixth anniversary of Experiments in Manga! Though at one point I was very stressed out about the fate and state of the blog, I’m now honestly looking forward to year seven, even if I’m not able to write as much anymore. Thank you to everyone who has read and supported Experiments in Manga in the past, present, and future!

Elsewhere online, Speculative Fiction in Translation interviewed Tyran Grillo, translator of Yusaku Kitano’s award-winning Mr. Turtle, the most recent offering from Kurodahan Press. And Barnes & Noble posted a list of 8 Great Japanese Books in Translation That Aren’t by Haruki Murakami. It’s a great listI’ve only reviewed one of the novels included (Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami), but I’m very fond of Keigo Higashino‘s work and several of the other books are very high on my to-be-read pile.

Quick Takes

Forget Me Not, Volume 3Forget Me Not, Volume 3 written by Mag Hsu and illustrated by Nao Emoto. I was taken a little by surprise by how much I enjoyed the first two volumes of Forget Me Not and so I was looking forward to reading the third volume as well. The series delves into the life and past loves of Serizawa, a young man who so far has been shown to have very little luck when it comes to romance. Some of his relationship woes can be credited to the fact that he’s still immature and inexperienced, but that’s starting to become less and less of an excuse for him now that he’s in college. Perhaps because of that, the third volume of Forget Me Not didn’t work quite as well for me as the previous volumes did. It is very clear that the relationships shown in the third volume are heading towards an absolute train wreck. Considering the beginning of the series it’s already a known fact that Serizawa ends up alone and full of regret, but it’s still painful to watch the whole mess unfold. I feel just as badly for the two young women involved as I do for Serizawa. They both like him and he likes them both; Serizawa just hasn’t been able to figure out exactly what that means yet. Apparently, he still has quite a bit of growing up left to do. Despite my frustration with the most recent volume of Forget Me Not, I am curious to see how this unfortunate past ties in with the mystery of Serizawa’s current situation.

Noragami: Stray God, Volume 15Noragami: Stray God, Volumes 15-16 by Adachitoka. Although the series’ quirky humor hasn’t completely disappeared, Noragami has become increasingly dark and dramatic over time. Adachitoka does still find appropriate moments within the series to insert a bit of levity, but for me what makes the manga compelling is its characters. The real heart of the much of the conflict in Noragami–the frequently unpredictable relationships between the various gods as well as the turbulent relationships between the gods and mortalshas once again been thrust to the forefront of the series with the manga’s most recent story arc. One thing that I found particularly interesting about these two volumes of Noragami is that Adachitoka introduces several deities of indigenous origins in addition to recognizing the existence of foreign gods. I’m not sure that they will necessarily have a large role to play in the series (then again, it seems as though they might), but this expansion is marvelous from a worldbuilding perspective, especially as Noragami is currently dealing heavily with the court and political intrigue of the Heavens. Along with that also comes a few tremendous fight sequences. Ocassionally some of the individual actions can be a little difficult to follow amidst the chaos of battle, but overall the scenes are effective and at times even impressive.

Ten Count, Volume 1Ten Count, Volume 1 by Rihito Takarai. Although the art style in Ten Count looked familiar to me, I actually didn’t make the connection at first–Takarai was the artist of the short boys’ love series Seven Days which I loved. Ten Count, however, is a very different manga than Seven Days. Even before it was licensed in English, I was aware of Ten Count. It’s a massively popular boys’ love manga, but the series also has a fair number of detractors and understandably so. Only one volume in and Ten Count is already a deliberately uncomfortable and troubling story with dark psychological elements, dubious ethics, and emotional manipulation. The manga follows Shirotani, a young man with a severe obsessive-compulsive disorder which has remained untreated since it first manifested. After a chance meeting Shirotani catches the attention of Kurose, a clinical psychotherapist who would seem to have some emotional issues of his own. Kurose takes a particular and decidedly unprofessional interest in Shirotani, offering to help Shirotani deal with his condition off-the-record and off-the-clock. Without realizing it, as Shirotani begins to be able to more easily function within society, he has also become more and more reliant on Kurose. Romantic it certainly is not, but at least for the moment I’m part of the group that finds Ten Count compelling and definitely plan on reading more.

Another: Episode S/0Another: Episode S/0, novel by Yukito Ayatsuji, manga by Hiro Kiyohara. While I was left feeling a little cheated by how some of the major reveals were handled in the horror-mystery novel Another, for the most part I did like the book. And so I was excited when Yen Press licensed both the not-exactly-sequel Another: Episode S (the main action of the novel takes place during the original Another but is only tangentially related) and the short prequel manga Another 0, releasing them together in a single, beautiful hardcover volume. (Out of all the North American manga publishers, Yen Press has had some of the best book designs of late.) Sadly, Episode S has many of the same narrative problems found in Another, namely important reveals that, while they make sense, seem a bit unfair to the readers. I actually really liked the plot twists themselves in Episode S, it’s just that their execution falls short; once again left feeling unsatisfied by the story’s developments. Tonally, Episode S is a little different from Anotherwhile it’s still a ghost story of sorts and there are some marvelously disturbing scenes, the mystery is emphasized far more than the horror. The atmosphere of Another 0, written and illustrated by the creator who helmed the Another manga adaptation, is much closer that of Another. The prequel relies heavily on readers’ familiarity with the original while Episode S largely stands on its own.

Ultimate Conditioning for Martial ArtsUltimate Conditioning for Martial Arts by Loren Landow. From an athletic standpoint, I have found several of the books published by Human Kinetics to be useful resources in supplementing my study of traditional Okinawan karate. Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts, one of the publisher’s most recent titles, can technically apply to any martial artist, but the book does tend to be geared more towards athletes and competitors. Landow also assumes that readers already have basic knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and sports training methods. While perhaps not suitable for absolute beginners, Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts does provide a good starting point for established martial artists who want to begin incorporating speed, agility, and conditioning work into their training. In addition to providing suggested conditioning exercises and programs, Landow also incorporates an overview of relevant and closely-related topics such as the evaluation and establishment of fitness baselines, warmups and flexibility, rest and recovery, and nutrition. The book includes a generous number of helpful photographs to accompany the descriptions of the specific exercises, but the photographs selected aren’t always the ones that would be most illustrative or useful. Additionally, rather than explaining the particular functions and applications of the individual exercises, Landow tends to broadly generalize and categorize their benefits. This lack of specificity and guidance can make the creation of an individualized conditioning program challenging for someone who has never developed one before. Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts groups commonly practiced martial arts disciplines together as either striking and kicking arts or wrestling and grappling arts. Landow suggests specific conditioning exercises for each category but also emphasizes the benefits of using a blended approach when developing a training program. Mixed Martial Arts is the only discipline that’s addressed in-depth but Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts is still broadly applicable to other martial arts and a valuable resource, providing a fine overall introduction to conditioning and endurance training.

My Week in Manga: June 20-June 26, 2016

My News and Reviews

Not much news to report in regards to Experiments in Manga this past week, though I would like to take to the opportunity to thank everyone for the kind words, encouragement, and support as I work to find some life-work-blog-etc balance. (In case you missed it, I went into more detail in last week’s My Week in Manga.) Currently I’m working on an Adaptation Adventures feature for Mushishi for my horror manga review project, but it’s been delayed (yet again) as I needed to get my DVD player working in order to watch the live-action film. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish the post up soon!

Elsewhere online, Libre responded responded to Digital Manga’s rather unprofessional announcement that the publishers were parting ways. (Apparently there was a breach of contract; from how Libre’s comments are phrased, I’m assuming it was on Digital Manga’s part.) Digital Manga will stop selling manga that were licensed from Libre on June 30th and posted a list of the discontinued titles on Twitter. Justin at The OASG interviewed Ajani Oloye, one of Kodansha Comics’ manga editors. In licensing news, Bruno Gmünder’s catalog for Fall 2016 lists two new collections from Mentaiko Itto in its Gay Manga line, a poster book and the manga The Boy Who Cried Wolf. (I highly enjoyed Itto’s previous English-language manga collection, Priapus, so this is good news for me.)

Quick Takes

Forget Me Not, Volume 2Forget Me Not, Volume 2 written by Mag Hsu and illustrated by Nao Emoto. While the catalyst behind Forget Me Not is the mystery woman who helped to save Serizawa’s life after he was in a motorcycle accident, so far the series spends most of its time exploring Serizawa’s past and lost loves. One of the most touching incidents in the second volume (at least for me) actually had nothing to do with Serizawa’s erstwhile romances—a classmate confesses to Serizawa that he’s gay and that he has feelings for him. Serizawa handles the situation remarkably well, especially when considering the social disasters so many of his other relationships end up becoming. But even those failed relationships are important for Serizawa’s growth as a person and show that good things actually can come about as the result of struggling with rejection. Serizawa is a much more interesting character than I initially gave him credit for. He’s a believably and realistically flawed person who makes stupid mistakes but isn’t generally acting out of malice. Serizawa does occasionally act like a complete jerk, but for the most part it’s unintentional. I like that the series shows how he matures, and in some cases doesn’t, over time.

Your Lie in April, Volume 3Your Lie in April, Volumes 3-7 by Naoshi Arakawa. It was the series’ emphasis on music that first brought Your Lie in April to my attention, and it’s still one of the thing that I like best about the manga. As a musician, I appreciate the characters’ efforts to express themselves through their art, though as a composer I can’t completely agree with the amount of disregard some of the characters show towards the original score. The more I read of Your Lie in April, the more I realize that while music is an important aspect of the series, at it’s very heart the manga is about messy and complicated love of varying types. Kosei’s relationship with his  mother is deeply intertwined with his relationship to music and everything else in his life stems from that. Everyone in the series seems focused on Kosei. It can all be very melodramatic and at times Your Lie in April narrowly avoids becoming overly sentimental. But then I, too, believe in the power of music. Kosei’s return to playing the piano is traumatic, but ultimately healing for him. Realistically, however, it music shouldn’t be a complete replacement for the emotional and psychological support that he needs to recover from years of abuse and the death of his mother.

Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 2Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 3-4) by Wataru Watanabe. I’ve seen a fair amount of the Yowamushi Pedal anime so I know exactly what’s going to happen this early on in the original manga, but I still find the series incredibly enjoyable to read. I think that part of that has to do with the artwork; I really like Watanabe’s style in Yowamushi Pedal. The art is not at all what I would call pretty—in fact many people might even consider its roughness and angularity ugly—but it is very dynamic, energetic, and thrilling. Story-wise, the second omnibus is almost entirely devoted to the inaugural race of the first year members of the road racing club. Most of the team are experienced racers but Onoda, the lead of Yowamushi Pedal, most definitely is not. Since Onoda himself is learning the rules and techniques used in road cycling for the first time, Watanabe is able to take advantage of the opportunity to introduce the same concepts to readers who likewise might not be familiar with them. From time to time it does interrupt the flow of the narrative, but Yowamushi Pedal generally moves along at a good pace. I find the series very entertaining and I’m really looking forward to reading more.

My Week in Manga: April 18-April 24, 2016

My News and Reviews

As I recently mentioned, for a while here I’ll be down to one review a week or so at Experiments in Manga. And so, last week’s review was of The Inugami Clan by Seishi Yokomizo, a popular Japanese murder mystery from the early 1950s that has sadly gone out of print in English. Currently, the novel is the only work by Yokomizo that has been translated, but I enjoyed it a great deal. It vaguely reminded me a bit of Edogawa Rampo’s work, which I don’t at all consider to be a bad thing.

Elsewhere online: YALSA’s 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teen was recently announced, which includes a fair number of manga, as were the 2016 Eisner Award Nominees. Forbes interviewed Yoshiki Tanaka, the author of The Legend of the Galactic Heroes (a series I hope to find time to actually read sooner rather than later). At du9, Adrian Tomine was interviewed about editing Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s manga for Drawn & Quarterly. And in licensing news, Dark Horse will be releasing Ontama’s Hatsune Miku: Mikubon.

Quick Takes

Forget Me Not, Volume 1Forget Me Not, Volume 1 written by Mag Hsu and illustrated by Nao Emoto. I knew very little about Forget Me Not before reading the first volume. In fact, I didn’t even recall that it had been licensed until the release was in my hands. Forget Me Not is about Yusuke Serizawa, a young man who seems to have terrible luck when it comes to romance, but it’s the sort of bad luck that he’s partly responsible for. The first volume alone features his attempts at three different relationships with three different loves that he had between middle school and high school. Most of them have their sweet moments, but there are also moments that Serizawa will intensely regret for years. He blames himself for the relationships ending in ruin, and in some cases rightly so. The reason that Forget Me Not focuses on Serizawa’s past and the women in it is that one of them recently helped to save his life after he was in a motorcycle accident. Except that he isn’t sure exactly who it is. He’d like to meet her, but he’s also certain that whoever it is he’s done her some great harm, which may explain why it seems like she’s toying with him by keeping her identity secret.

SnackiesSnackies by Nick Sumida. I had a fairly good idea that I would enjoy Snackies, but I don’t think I anticipated just how much I would end up enjoying it. Snackies is a slim volume containing short comics which are at least semi-autobiographically inspired. Many of the comics stand on their own or aren’t necessarily connected to one another, but others are part of short series which become increasingly ridiculous and bizarre, such as the set of comics in which Sumida spies fellow passengers on mass transit who initially seem attractive, but who then turn out to have a really bad haircut or just so happen to be an alien that would aesthetically belong in something like Parasyte. And then there are the comics that seem to come completely out of nowhere. Though at times fairly cynical, playing on the angst and self-deprecation of a young artist, Snackies is very funny. It also has a queer bent to it which I especially enjoyed and appreciated. Snackies doesn’t take long to read, but it gives enough of a taste that I hope to see more of Sumida’s work in the future.

Tramps Like Us, Volume 1Tramps Like Us, Volumes 1-5 by Yayoi Ogawa. I’ve been meaning to read Tramps Like Us for quite some time. It really is a shame that it took me so long to get around to it, because so far I’m absolutely loving the manga. Sumire is highly accomplished, attractive, and well-educated career woman, which unfortunately intimidates her fiancé who feels inadequate in comparison and leaves her for someone else. As a result, Sumire is determined to only date men who are paid more, are better educated, and are taller than she is. Around the same time, Sumire gains a “pet,” a homeless twenty-something ballet dancer that she takes in off of the street and calls Momo. Sumire’s peculiar but earnest relationship with Momo is marvelous. Though they have their disagreements and their communication isn’t always the best, both of them find great comfort in the other. He’s the only person she feels truly at ease with. But then Sumire is reunited with an old flame who she still loves and who happens to meet all of her dating requirements, but their relationship is strained. It’s a strange sort of set up and love-triangle, but all of the varied emotions are convincingly real.