My Week in Manga: May 8-May 15, 2017

My News and Reviews

The Bookshelf Overload for April was posted at Experiments in Manga last week; otherwise, things were pretty quiet. Initially I had an in-depth feature scheduled for this week, but I’ll probably end up pushing that back to next week instead. I spent last Thursday through Sunday in Canada with the family for vacation and the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) which I’ll be writing up like I have in years past. We had a great time, although not everything went exactly as planned.

Speaking of TCAF, Heidi MacDonald, Brigid Alverson, Deb Aoki, and Erica Friedman were apparently all sharing a hotel room for the event. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, but they took advantage of that fact by recording a podcast in which they (and eventually Robin Brenner and Eva Volin as well) discuss a wide variety of topics including manga, queer comics, food, libraries, and more: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4. I only found out about the details after I got back home, but once again some people had trouble crossing the border between the United States and Canada in order to attend TCAF. In one notable case, Anne Ishii, one of the folks behind Massive and Gengoroh Tagame’s interpreter and translator, was detained for over two hours before eventually being allowed to enter the country.

A few things from elsewhere online last week: Anyone who picked up the Attack on Titan choose-your-own-path book from Kodansha Comics will want know about the corrections and errata that were recently released online. Kodansha also confirmed it would be releasing the Neo Parasyte M manga anthology (a sort of companion volume to Neo Parasyte F which I greatly enjoyed). In other licensing news, although an official public announcement hasn’t been made, The OASG received some confirmation that Udon Entertainment is currently “deep into the localization” of Rose of Versailles and Sugar Sugar Rune. No release dates have been set yet, though. Seven Seas hasn’t mentioned any release dates for its most recent set of licensing announcements, either, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Okayado’s MaMaMa: Magical Director Mako-chan’s Magical Guidance, Mintarou’s DNA Doesn’t Tell Us, Tekka Yaguraba’s Sorry For My Familiar, Hiroaki Yoshikawa’s Crisis Girls, Tsuina Miura and Takahiro Oba’s High-Rise Invasion, and Coolkyoushinja’s Mononoke Sharing all released first.

A couple of Kickstarters that have recently caught my attention, too. Chromatic Press’ latest campaign is raising funds to print the first volume of Magical How? by Eurika Yusin Gho (aka Eyugho). Though on occasion I’ve mentioned Magical How? on Twitter, I haven’t really wrote much about the comic here at Experiments in Manga. (Or at least not yet.) It’s a pretty fun series though, a sort of magical girl/boys’ love mashup with energetic, full-color artwork and lots of humor. The other project I specifically want to mention is for the second volume of Beyond, a queer speculative fiction comics anthology. If successful, the project will also allow the award-winning first volume (which is great) to be reprinted.

Quick Takes

Captive Hearts of Oz, Volume 1Captive Hearts of Oz, Volume 1 written by Ryo Maruya, illustrated by Mamenosuke Fujimaru. One of the most interesting things about Captive Hearts of Oz is that the English-language release is actually the first time the manga has been published; rather than licensing existing content, the series is a direct collaboration between Seven Seas and the creators. Captive Hearts of Oz is Maruya’s debut work in English, but Fujimaru already has a notable presence due to the numerous Alice in the Country of… manga that have been translated. I suspect that it’s intentional then that Captive Hearts of Oz has a similar vibe to those series. Interestingly, there’s no explicit romance in the series yet although the manga is reminiscent of an otome game. Dorothy has simply been swept into an unfamiliar world where she meets a number of unusual people, many of whom just happen to be attractive young men. Captive Hearts of Oz is a somewhat unusual reimagining of a Western classic which may (or may not) have more depth to it than initially appears. At the very least there’s something dark and mysterious going on, although after only one volume it’s not entirely clear exactly what that is. The narrative is frustratingly disjointed in places, but I am curious to see how Captive Hearts of Oz continues to develop.

Goodnight Punpun, Omnibus 4Goodnight Punpun, Omnibuses 4-5 by Inio Asano. At this point in Goodnight Punpun, the series’ titular protagonist has entered early adulthood and his life largely remains a directionless disaster not entirely of his own making. He’s not completely blameless, though. I find that I have to time my reading of Goodnight Punpun very carefully. The manga has a very pessimistic worldview with which I can very easily identify, so if I’m already feeling mentally or emotionally exhausted, it’s usually a good idea for me to wait to tackle the series. On the other hand, it can sometimes be extremely cathartic to completely acknowledge the unfairness and darkness of the story and its real-life parallels. Either way, Goodnight Punpun is an incredible and powerful work, but it’s also very hard-hitting. Asano seems to be very aware of this and very aware of some of the related criticisms that have been leveled at the series. I, for one, have at times questioned whether or not all of the pain and suffering in Goodnight Punpun ultimately serves a purpose or if the manga is simply reveling in gloom and despair. I’ll admit that I’m still not sure and probably won’t be convinced one way or another until the manga’s conclusion, but Asano does directly recognize those concerns by having the creative work of some of the series’ characters similarly criticized.

So Pretty / Very RottenSo Pretty / Very Rotten: Comics and Essays on Lolita Fashion and Cute Culture by Jane Mai and An Nguyen. I don’t have a particular interest in fashion, so if it wasn’t for the fact that I make a point to follow the work of Nguyen (aka Saicoink) I might not have gotten around to reading So Pretty / Very Rotten for quite some time. That would have been a shame because So Pretty / Very Rotten is both a terrific and fascinating work. I was certainly aware of Lolita culture previously, but I can confidently say that I have a much better understanding of it and even appreciation for it after reading So Pretty / Very Rotten. The volume examines numerous topics related to Lolitas–history, culture, fashion, identity, gender, expression, community and more–through approachable and accessible essays, both personal and academic (the Lolita lifestyle is one of the areas of Nguyen’s research), as well as through comics and illustrations. It’s a mix that works quite well. The essays are informative and the comics are cute and engaging, effectively demonstrating the concepts addressed through visual narratives. So Pretty / Very Rotten also includes an interview with and essay by Novala Takemoto, a prominent figure in Lolita culture who is probably best known in North America as the creator of Kamikaze Girls.

The Whipping Girl by Nuria Tamarit. I’m not entirely certain, but I believe that The Whipping Girl is the first published solo comic by Tamarit, an illustrator from Valencia, Spain. Even if it’s not, I certainly hope that there will be more in the future if for no other reason than Tamarit’s striking artwork is gorgeous. Color pencils are prominently used to illustrate The Whipping Girl and the effect is lovely. Writing-wise, the work isn’t quite as strong; The Whipping Girl feels like it ends rather abruptly, even considering that it’s a short comic to begin with, but it’s still an enjoyable tale. The story largely follows Agape, the whipping girl of Prince Dalibor. He’s a bit of a jerk, intentionally behaving improperly in order to get back at Agape who is generally much more capable than he is. She finally gets so fed up with the whole situation that she decides to make a run for it. Neither she nor Dal are able to anticipate the complete extent of the repercussions of her actions, and both are surprised to discover how close their bond really is. Overall, The Whipping Girl is a very satisfying comic with beautiful artwork, expressive characters, and a great sense of humor. Agape in particular is a delight, an intelligent, strong-willed young woman with an attitude.

My Week in Manga: March 21-March 27, 2016

My News and Reviews

I only posted one in-depth manga review at Experiments in Manga last week, taking a look at Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, Volume 1 by Nanao, which is an adaptation of a visual novel by the doujin group HaccaWorks*. I was actually a little surprised by how much I enjoyed the manga. Though I can imagine the series getting tiresome if at least some answers to story’s many mysteries aren’t given soon, at the moment I’m intensely intrigued. I think I’m finally starting to come to terms with the fact that much of the time I can only manage one review per week right now, though I’d honestly love to do more reading and writing. I also want to quickly follow-up on a statement that I made in the Bookshelf Overload for February—I mentioned that I wasn’t sure if Keigo Higashino’s novel Under the Midnight Sun would be released in the United States or not, but it turns out that it will be! The United Kingdom simply got it first, which is sometimes what happens with works in translation.

In other licensing news, several manga publishers made announcements over the course of last week and the weekend. Kodansha Comics will be releasing twelve new titles in print, some of which I find to be particularly exciting or intriguing (the Parasyte shoujo anthology, shounen ballroom dancing, single fathers learning to cook, and more!). Among other things Viz Media will be publishing a new deluxe edition of Junji Ito’s Tomie (which has gone out of print at least twice before from two other publishers) and will continue releasing more of the fancy JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure hardcovers. Yen Press announce seven print manga licenses, two of which were previously part of its digital manga catalog. (This gives me hope that one day, however unlikely, it could be possible to see Saki in print.) Finally, Sekai Project, is expanding its manga efforts by licensing Suzunone Rena’s Sakura Spirit manga adaptation. (Also, the first two volumes of the publisher’s debut manga, Gate, are now available for preorder.) I also came across a couple of interviews last week that were interesting: the Shojo Beat tumblr posted the second part of its interview with Arina Tanemura and Anime News Network has an interview with Inio Asano.

Quick Takes

Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz, Volume 5Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz, Volumes 5-7 by Mamenosuke Fujimaru. Overall, I must say that I rather enjoyed Cheshire Cat Waltz. It’s only the second followup to the original Alice in the Country of Hearts manga that I’ve read, but I liked how it expanded the story, characters, and world of the franchise. Cheshire Cat Waltz features two tangentially related storylines. The first is the romance between Alice and Boris which by now is well established even though she’s still working through some self-doubt. Their relationship actually ends up being rather sweet. One of the running themes in the various Alice in the Country of manga is that Alice’s very presence changes the others in Wonderland; Boris certainly has become a better person over time. The second major storyline in Cheshire Cat Waltz has to do with the mob war in which Alice unwittingly becomes embroiled in due to her association with the Hatter’s mafia family. These last few volumes of Cheshire Cat Waltz also include an Alice in the Country of Hearts story which features Boris as Alice’s romantic interest as well.

Ichigenme... The First Class is Civil Law, Volume 1Ichigenme… The First Class is Civil Law, Volumes 1-2 by Fumi Yoshinaga. Out of all of Yoshinaga’s boys’ love manga that have been released in English, I believe that Ichigenme may very well be one of the most explicit. Like many of her other two-volume series, it does take its time getting there, though. The first volume of Ichigenme is mostly focused on introducing the various characters and their evolving relationships. The leads of the manga are two law students who happen to join the same seminar—the particularly bright and honest Tamiya, who’s in the process of coming to terms with his homosexuality, and the openly gay Tohdou, a seemingly carefree son of a politician. The second volume, which is actually set seven years later after the first, more fully explores the developments in their physical relationship. What I particularly appreciate about all of the sex in Ichigenme is that it isn’t just sex for sex’s sake—Yoshinaga uses it to delve into the character’s themselves, revealing parts of their thoughts, feelings, and personalities through their intimacy with each other.

Tomodachi x Monster, Volume 1Tomodachi x Monster, Volume 1 by Yoshihiko Inui. I’ve heard Tomodachi x Monster described as a dark parody, but after reading the first volume, I’m not sure how accurate that really is. The humor that I would expect seems to be missing (granted, parody doesn’t necessarily mean comedy), but the darkness is certainly there—Tomodachi x Monster is what you get when you take a series like Pokémon and turn it into a bizarre horror manga accompanied by heavy doses of violence and gore. Confrontations between middle school students become much more dangerous and deadly when their little monster pals inflict extraordinary amounts of damage and pain. Characters start dying off surprisingly quickly in Tomodachi x Monster, generally in some sort of gruesome fashion. The series can be pretty ridiculous and over-the-top with its violence. While the art style tends towards creepy-cute designs, some of the most effective imagery in the manga is legitimately disturbing. The mental states of most of the characters are perhaps even more terrifying, though.

My Week in Manga: March 7-March 13, 2016

My News and Reviews

I was finally able to post February’s Bookshelf Overload at Experiments in Manga last week, a few days later than I originally intended, but at least it’s up. I’ve been intentionally decreasing the number of new manga and other things that I’m buying at the moment, which means that I’ll be happily digging into my backlog and catching up on older series. I also posted an in-depth review last week, though perhaps it’s more of a summary. Either way, Mechademia, Volume 10: World Renewal contains some interesting material for those looking for a more scholarly approach to the study of manga, anime, and other Japanese popular culture. The volume also includes “Nanohana,” a short manga by Moto Hagio, and a story by Tomoyuki Hoshino called “Good Morning.” I am very fond of both creators’ work, so that made me especially happy to see.

Interesting things found online last week: Viz Media will apparently be releasing a new volume of Haikyu every month after it’s debut in July until the English edition catches up with the Japan’s releases, which is rather impressive. Yokai scholar and manga translator Zack Davisson wrote a great piece for The Comics Journal called Confessions of a Manga Translator. (Some of the comments are worth reading, too.) VICE has an interview with Gengoroh Tagame, who will also be participating in the Queer Japan documentary. (The Kickstarter campaign for the project ends very soon and could use some additional support; if it at all interests you, please consider contributing!) Graham Kolbeins, the filmmaker behind the documentary was recently interviewed as well.

Quick Takes

Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz, Volume 1Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz, Volumes 1-4 by Mamenosuke Fujimaru. With the extraordinary number of retellings, spinoffs, and sequels to Alice in the Country of Hearts, it can be somewhat daunting to know where to start. Fortunately, I have people looking out for me; Cheshire Cat Waltz was one of the series that was repeatedly recommended by multiple individuals. Although it still has the same vaguely ominous atmosphere (which I like), the Country of Clover is actually a slightly different setting than the Country of Hearts. Even the personalities of the characters that are shared between the two are somewhat changed as they adapt to their modified roles. I found Boris, the Cheshire Cat, an especially interesting character in the first manga series, so it probably makes sense that I would enjoy a series where he plays a leading role. Admittedly, the pairings in the various Alice in the Country of manga that I’ve read certainly shouldn’t be lauded as examples of healthy relationships. Boris, as sweet and considerate as he can sometimes be, is also very possessive. The story is engaging, though, and Cheshire Cat Waltz is surprisingly steamy as well.

Behind Story, Volume 2Behind Story, Volumes 2-3 by Narae Ahn. I enjoyed the first volume of Behind Story more than I thought I would, so I wanted to be sure to read more of the boys’ love manhwa. At the time, I didn’t even know how long the series was, and I wasn’t able to find out much about the creator, either. It turns out Behind Story is only three volumes, was Ahn’s debut series, and was originally published online. The final two volumes of Behind Story take place three years after the first. Johann has survived his teacher’s attempted murder-suicide, but his life is still a complicated mess; he’s more or less forced transfer out of school, leaving Taehee—one of the very few people who legitimately cared for him and his well-being—behind with no way to contact him. Eventually the two of them do reunite, but they’ve both changed over the years and neither are sure what direction their relationship will take in the future. Behind Story is a fairly solid debut with interesting characters and a story that, for the most part, moves beyond the genre’s standard tropes. The series’ ending does perhaps wrap up a little too quickly and nicely and could have used a little more development, but overall the manhwa is enjoyable.

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Volume 1Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, Volume 1 by Izumi Tsubaki. I absolutely loved the anime adaptation of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, so I was very happy when Yen Press announced that it would be releasing the original manga series. The success of four-panel manga can be rather hit-or-miss in the North American market as their comedy is often firmly situated within a Japanese sense of humor and context. A few of the jokes in the first volume of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun I may not have immediately understood if I hadn’t already seen the anime (which was able to more fully expound on things due to its format) but overall the manga and its gags are largely accessible and very funny. The series revolves around Nozaki—a relatively successful shoujo mangaka who has a difficult time convincing many of his high school classmates of that fact due to his large stature and seemingly stoic nature—and the various students who become his assistants or the inspiration for his characters. The manga is good-natured fun, much of the humor the result of the differences between the characters’ personalities and how most other people actually perceive them. I especially appreciate the series’ willingness to play with gender roles and expectations.