My Week in Manga: November 4-November 10, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week I announced the winner of the Sankarea manga giveaway. The post also includes a list of zombie manga that has been licensed in English, for those who might be interested. Considering the recent popularity of zombies, I was actually a little surprised to discover there weren’t more. I also posted two reviews last week. The first was for Makoto Kobayashi’s What’s Michael, Book Two, a fantastic cat manga sent to me by a Manga Bookshelf reader for review. My second review from last week was for Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician by Shinmon Aoki, which was the inspiration for Yōjirō Takita’s award-winning film Departures.

And now for a few things that I’ve come across online over the last couple of weeks. Crunchyroll Manga is now up and running. Deb Aoki wrote a good article about it for Publishers Weekly—Kodansha, Crunchyroll Talk Global ‘Simulpub’ Manga . At A Case Suitable for Treatment, Sean took a quick look at the manga series currently being offered through the platform—Kodansha and Crunchyroll Partnership: What Are We Getting?. Mostly unrelated, Kodansha posted on its Tumblr account a great summary of why some manga may never be licensed in North America, even if it’s really good. Rob Vollmar’s essay for World Literature Today “Dark Side of the Manga: Tezuka Osamu’s Dark Period” is actually from last year, but was recently brought to my attention again. And finally, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund focused on Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints (which I think is one of the best comics to be released this year) as part of its Using Graphic Novels in Education column.

Quick Takes

Animal Land, Volume 5Animal Land, Volumes 5-8 by Makoto Raiku. It took a few volumes for Animal Land to really grow on me, but now that it has I find that I quite like the series. The occasional focus on scatological humor feels a bit out-of-place to me, though it seems to have become less common as the series progresses. The artwork in Animal Land is a little strange—a combination of realism and anthropomorphism—but generally engaging. The characters, particularly Taroza, are very likeable. I have enjoyed watching him grow up. A newborn at the beginning of the series, by the end of the eighth volume he has become a young man who has had to face the hard truths about his idealism. Taroza wants to put an end to the cycle of killing and eating, but to do so will require him to throw all of Animal Land into turmoil. He is not the only one who has an interest in shifting the power dynamics of the world—four other humans have made themselves known and have their own ideas about how things should be. I was a little surprised to see a bit of science fiction and time travel work its way into Animal Land, but I am very curious to see how things continue to develop.

Battle Vixens, Volume 1Battle Vixens, Volume 1 by Yuji Shiozaki. Supposedly, Battle Vixens (aka Ikki Tousen) is somehow based on, or at least inspired by the classic Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Had I not known this going into the series, I’m not sure I really would have picked it up from reading the first volume. As far as I can tell, the references are barely there. (Which reminds me, I really do need to get around to finishing Romance of the Three Kingdoms.) What is readily apparent from the first page of the manga is that the English title, Battle Vixens was aptly chosen. The series is all about the fights and the fan service. There might be some sort of plot, too, but after only one volume I am still incredibly confused as to what is actually supposed to be going on. Basically there’s this girl, Hakufu Sonsaku, with a sizable chest and the penchant for getting into brawls. Towards what end? I am unsure. She simply seems predisposed to violence and having her clothes ripped off of her in the process. For a series based on fights the action unfortunately tends to be somewhat difficult to follow, but some of the panels have great composition.

Watamote, Volume 1No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Volume 1 by Nico Tanigawa. Okay, I’m just going to refer to this series by its Japanese abbreviation WataMote because I can never seem to remember the title in its entirety. (Plus, it’s really long.) WataMote is simultaneously one of the most funny and depressing manga that I’ve read recently. The story follows Tomoko Kuroki, an extraordinarily awkward and socially inept young woman who has just started high school. Most of her “life experience” has come from reading manga and playing video games, which may explain why she has difficulty interacting with her classmates. They mostly just ignore her or at least tolerate her existence. Occasionally she tries to be more than the weirdo in the corner, but it doesn’t often turn out well for her. I care about Tomoko and find her to be a sympathetic character which is why her trials and errors, though humorous, can also be a bit painful to watch. WataMote isn’t exactly mean-spirited, but it’s not particularly pleasant either. Her interactions with her younger brother are fantastically awkward (granted, all of Tomoko’s relationships are awkward), but there are some glimpses of familial love, too.

Flowers of EvilFlowers of Evil directed by Hiroshi Nagahama. Based on the manga series by Shuzo Oshimi, the Flowers of Evil anime series is a phenomenal adaptation. It’s one of the rare cases where I might actually prefer the anime over the original manga. That being said, the anime is definitely not a series that everyone will be able to enjoy. First of all, the pacing is excruciatingly slow. It worked for me and I think it creates marvelous tension, but someone who needs a bit more action and forward movement from their anime will be very frustrated. Not much actually happens from episode to episode; the focus is more on the inner turmoil and crises of the characters. The animation also relies heavily on rotoscoping techniques, resulting in a style that doesn’t personally bother me, but I know plenty of people who can’t stand it. I think it was suitable for Flowers of Evil, creating a slightly disconcerting and surreal mood that fits the unsettling atmosphere and darker nature of the series. The use of music and silence in the series is also quite remarkable. The twisted triangle of a relationship between Kasuga, Nakamura, and Saeki is intense. The Flowers of Evil anime captures it perfectly using art film-like sensibilities.

My Week in Manga: August 5-August 11, 2013

My News and Reviews

The Boys’ Love Manga Moveable Feast came to an end last week. Khursten at Otaku Champloo did a fabulous job as the host and posted some great content. Sadly, it may be the last Manga Moveable Feast to be held, at least in the foreseeable future. I did have one last offering for August’s Feast before it ended: I announced the 801 Manga Giveaway Winner. The post also includes a wishlist of boys’ love manga. (And speaking of manga giveaway winners, the winner of the Umineko giveaway from a few months ago created a video of the unboxing of her prize.)

Last week I also posted two in-depth reviews. The first was for Suehiro Maruo’s The Strange Tale of Panorama Island. I have literally been waiting for this manga for years and am thrilled that it is finally available in English. Last Gasp has done a beautiful job with the release. The manga is an adaptation of Edogawa Rampo’s novella Strange Tale of Panorama Island which I reviewed earlier this year. The second review that I posted last week was for Isuna Hasekura’s light novel Spice & Wolf, Volume 8: Town of Strife I. Although I had previously enjoyed the series, with this volume Spice & Wolf has finally lost its charm for me.

I also updated the Resources page, adding a couple of sites. Last week I mentioned Deb Aoki’s new site Manga Comics Manga which is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already. I also recently discovered Seth T. Hahne’s review site Good Ok Bad. I really like the site which includes reviews of manga in addition to other comics and graphic novels.

On to other interesting things found online! has the very interesting article Urasawa Naoki Talks with Top European Artists. The most recent Speakeasy podcast at Reverse Thieves is about American comics recommended for manga readers. Reverse Thieves also posted a review with Melissa Tanaka talking about her work translating Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin. (I loved the first volume of the series and my review of the second should be coming soon.) If you’re interested in what Viz Media is up to these days, ICv2 has a two part interview with Leyla Aker and Kevin Hamric and Comic Book Resources has an interview with Ken Sasaki.

Also last week was Otakon. Sean Gaffney at A Case Suitable for Treatment takes a quick look at some of the recent manga announcements. Vertical has licensed Fumi Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday? which I am extremely excited about. Viz Media is bringing Naoki Urasawa’s Monster back into print in a deluxe omnibus edition. I already own the series and probably won’t be double-dipping, but I’m very happy to see this re-release. Finally, Seven Seas will be publishing Milk Morinaga’s most recent yuri series Gakuen Police. I really enjoyed Morinaga’s Girl Friends and Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossoms Pink, so I plan on picking up Gakuen Police, too.

Quick Takes

Animal Land, Volumes 1-4 by Makoto Raiku. I’m not sure why I was so reluctant to read Animal Land but after repeated urging from a few fans of the series I decided to finally give it a try. And I’m very glad that I did. It took me a volume or so to really settle into the story, but I definitely want to read more. Taroza is a human who was abandoned as a baby only to be rescued and raised by a young female tanuki in a world of animals. The art in Animal Land is kind of strange, mixing realism, anthropomorphism, and just plain goofiness even within the same species. Despite its cuteness, the story in Animal Land can be very dark. It’s also not particularly subtle, but it is engaging. Animal Land surprised me; so far it’s a great series.

Ichiro by Ryan Inzana. Ichiro is a young man living with his Japanese mother in New York City after his American father dies. When her work takes them both to Japan, Ichiro has the chance to get to know his grandfather who he’s never met and learn more about the country’s history and culture. One night he unexpectedly stumbles into an even stranger world. I did find the sections dealing with Ichiro’s real life to be much more compelling than his adventures in the land of the gods and immortals. However, I really liked the blend of story, mythology, and reality in Ichiro and I loved the artwork. Inzana smoothly shifts his style of art and use of color throughout the graphic novel depending on the tale being told in a very effective way.

Limit, Volumes 5-6 by Keiko Suenobu. Limit has been very hit-or-miss for me. Overall, I did like it, but I had a few problems with the story. There weren’t plot holes per se, but significant suspension of disbelief is required. (I’m still trying to figure out how Usui’s bandage ended up on the ground and why no one seemed to hear the helicopters.) But the series had some truly great moments and intense, dramatic group dynamics. The fear that the characters deal with as they struggle to survive is almost palpable. I liked most of the fifth volume which revealed some great plot twists, but found the final volume to be rather unsatisfying. Everything is tied up too neatly and nicely and there’s a fair amount of moralizing.

Triton of the Sea, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Osamu Tezuka. I was delighted when Triton of the Sea was licensed as part of one of Digital Manga’s Kickstarter projects. Although I don’t have a particular affinity for merfolk, I have always enjoyed stories involving oceans and other bodies of water. Triton is a merman, one of the last of his kind when his clan is wiped out by Poseidon, the king of the sea. Unaware of his true nature, Triton is adopted by a human family. As he grows older he is drawn into a fight against Poseidon. Triton of the Sea isn’t as strong or as innovative as some of Tezuka’s other manga, but it’s still a solid adventure story. I particularly enjoyed Triton’s relationship with his family and his interactions with humans.