My Week in Manga: January 16-January 22, 2017

My News and Reviews

It’s been several months since my last in-depth review, but over the weekend I actually managed to post one delving into the eighth omnibus of Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga. I really love this series so I am thrilled that Kodansha Comics was able to continue publishing it. The eighth omnibus marks the start of an exciting new story arc and introduces some great new characters. On a personal note, it also felt good to actually finish writing a review since it’s been so long. I’d like to continue posting at least one long-form review or feature every month in addition to the usual My Week in Manga, Bookshelf Overload, and Giveaway features. On the surface it seems to be a reasonable goal, so I guess I’ll see how it goes!

Elsewhere online, Sparkler Monthly‘s first issue of 2017 has been released. As can be expected, all of the content is great, but this issue specifically features Denise Schroeder and her delightful lesbian-themed comic Before You Go. I took a look at the first installment of Before You Go as part of my Year of Yuri review project a couple of years ago. It’s a great comic, so I’m glad so see more of it. And if things go well, there should be a collected edition in the near future as well! Also last week, Seven Seas announced its collaboration with J-Novel Club to release Ao Jyumonji’s Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash and Chiyomaru Shikura’s Occultic;Nine in print.

Quick Takes

Dimension W, Volume 2Dimension W, Volumes 1-2 by Yuji Iwahara. Several of Iwahara’s manga series have been released in English. I’ve read and enjoyed both Cat Paradise and King of Thorn, but there’s also Chikyu Misaki and most recently Dimension W. I’ve come to expect a few things from Iwahara’s manga: great artwork and action, large and diverse casts, intriguing settings and premises, and entertaining stories that take numerous twists and turns (and which often end up rather convoluted as a result). So far, it seems as though Dimension W will also follow this pattern and, being Iwahara’s longest series, I suspect that the plot will go in some truly bizarre directions. But even considering that Iwahara seems to be constantly making up and changing the rules when it’s convenient just to make the story work, I’m actually really enjoying Dimension W. In the series, New Tesla is a company that has gained a tremendous amount of political and social influence due to the fact that it monopolizes a nearly limitless source of energy and the technology needed to use it. The power could be dangerous in the wrong hands, and New Tesla may very well be the wrong hands.

Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Volume 11Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Volumes 11-20 by Masahito Soda. One of the things about Firefighter! is that once I start reading it, I can’t seem to put it down. It’s a fantastic action series that’s firmly based in reality, although some of the scenarios are so completely over-the-top that they strain believability. Even so, the drama and intensity of Firefighter! is thrilling. With every rescue Soda keeps increasing the stakes, finding ways to make each one even more daring and astonishing than the last. And seeing as the first half of Firefighter! ends with Daigo intentionally crashing a fire engine into a building, that’s a pretty impressive feat. Admittedly, the series can get pretty absurd, but it’s always entertaining as well as engaging. The character development is excellent, too. In the heat of the moment, Daigo has the tendency to make some incredibly dangerous although ultimately life-saving decisions, but afterwards he struggles to come to terms with his actions and underlying motives. Firefighter! is a great series and well-worth a look. The manga is currently out-of-print, but fortunately it is readily available digitally.

Please Tell Me! Galko-chan, Volume 1Please Tell Me! Galko-chan, Volume 1 by Kenya Suzuki. I first learned about the Please Tell Me! Galko-chan manga due to its recent anime adaptation (which I haven’t actually seen yet), but I was still very curious about the original series. What I didn’t realize until I picked up the first volume was that the manga is actually completely illustrated in color; the palette and style that Suzuki uses for the cover illustration is pretty much what is used for the interior artwork as well. Please Tell Me! Galko-chan is a surprisingly sweet, funny, and charming series, especially considering that it frankly deals with issues surrounding puberty, sex, and so on. Some of the subject matter is more innocent, but there’s plenty of  dirty humor and jokes, too. Though the framing of the series is fictional, the largely short and episodic manga of Please Tell Me! Galko-chan do incorporate a fair amount of factual information. What I really appreciate about Please Tell Me! Galko-chan is that while the topics covered often embarrass the characters–frequently they’re discussing breasts, menstruation, and sex in a deliberate attempt to make each other blush–there’s never a sense that they or their bodies are shameful.

Ze, Volumes 10-11 by Yuki Shimizu. Despite at one point being rather fond of Shimizu’s supernatural boys’ love Ze, it’s taken me a while to actually get around to reading the main manga’s last story arc and conclusion. (Granted, that may have also been partly due to the numerous delays and unreliability of Digital Manga’s release schedule.) As a whole Ze tends to be fairly sexually explicit, but these two volumes are for the most part relatively tame and include very little sex at all. The relationships and power dynamics in the series are still pretty intense, though. The final story arc of Ze is almost entirely devoted to revealing the backstory of Waki and his connection to the Mitou family. In an interesting twist, it turns out that Waki has always been an asshole and there was nothing in particular that made him that way; although unfortunate things have certainly happened to him, his depraved personality is completely his own. The Mitou family’s past is certainly a strange and tragic one that has resulted in a great deal of suffering over time, but Shimizu does manage to end the series on a positive and redemptive note.

My Week in Manga: January 2-January 8, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga the winner of the Kuroko’s Basketball giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the tournament and competition manga that has been licensed in English. As per usual these days, there wasn’t much else from me, but there is some other very exciting Manga Bookshelf news: The Manga Critic is back! Be on the lookout for some great content from Kate Dacey. Last week I also read Makoto Yukimura’s eighth Vinland Saga omnibus which was, as expected, excellent. (I highly recommend the series as a whole.) However, you won’t find a quick take of it below because I’m going to try to write up a full-length review of it instead. We’ll see how it goes!

Elsewhere online, The OASG has started a new series called How Fans Can Help the Anime & Manga Industries Grow in which industry folk share their experiences an thoughts on the subject. So far, the responses from Charlene Ingram, Viz Media’s senior manager of marketing, and Charis Messier, lead translator at Cross Infinite World, have been shared. Another interesting read courtesy of Sakuga Blog is a translation of a roundtable with three manga editors (Tatsuya Kusunoki, Katsuyuki Sasaki, and Ryouji Takamatsu) discussing the growth of the yuri genre. As for boys’ love, Khursten at Otaku Champloo takes a closer look at the Dangerous BL Manga list for 2017.

Quick Takes

Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Volume 2Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Volumes 2-10 by Masahito Soda. I enjoyed the first volume of Firefighter! well enough to seek out the rest of the manga (while the entire series is now available digitally, most of the individual volumes are well out-of-print) and I am so incredibly glad that I did. I’m only halfway through, but Firefighter! is fantastic. It has exciting action, compelling drama, and engaging characters. The titular Daigo is a rookie firefighter who, although he seems to have good instincts, has a lot to learn. Each rescue he’s a part of is more audacious than the last and he frequently ends up in the hospital as a result. Daigo hasn’t lost anyone yet, but his unorthodox ways, disregard for direct orders, and tendency to go overboard puts his own life and the lives of other rescue workers at risk. It seems like it’s only a matter of time before tragedy will strike, but no one can deny that he has saved people who would have otherwise died. Firefighter! is intense and thrilling, but it actually has a fair amount of humor as well. (For all his bravery, Daigo is kind of a goofball.) I’m definitely looking forward to reading the series’ second half.

Horimiya, Volumes 2-4 written by Hero, illustrated by Daisuke Hagiwara. While I wasn’t quite as taken with these few volumes as I was with the first, I am still enjoying Horimiya a great deal. After accidentally discovering each other’s secrets, Miyamura and Hori have developed a close friendship which is slowly evolving into something more. It takes some time, but eventually they’re able to recognize their feelings and actually act on them. In large part, Horimiya is a manga about relationships of all types. Friendship and family are just as important, and are sometimes even more important, than the series’ romance. It’s also a manga which excels in depicting the characters’ multifaceted natures, showing how they behave differently depending on who is present. As more characters are introduced (including Hori’s father and some of Miyamura’s friends from middle school), the social dynamics in the series naturally change. Horimiya isn’t a manga that has me on edge desperate to know what will happen next, but the characters are tremendously endearing and I do want to see things work out for all of them.

Warning! Whispers of LoveWarning! Whispers of Love by Puku Okuyama. So far, only two of Okuyama’s boys’ love manga have been released in print. I had previously read and wasn’t overly impressed by the more recent Caramel despite liking some of the manga’s individual elements (in fact, overall I can’t really say that I enjoyed it much) but I already had a copy of Warning! so I figured I should at least give it a try. I’m happy to say that I enjoyed Warning! much more than I did Caramel. It’s a collection of rather silly boys’ love stories ranging from the subtly amusing to the overtly goofy. They tend to be fairly cute as well and generally any physical intimacy that is shown is limited to a few kisses and chaste embraces. Most of Warning! is devoted to the story of Hajime, a first year at an all-boys school, and the incredibly awkward relationship that develops between him and an upperclassman who seems to want nothing more than to clean the wax from Hajime’s ears. It’s easily the most ridiculous setup in the entire volume but it can be legitimately funny–all the boys’ love tropes and jokes that would typically be applied to sex are applied to ear cleaning instead and it’s surprisingly effective.

Wandering SonWandering Son directed by Ei Aoki. Takako Shimura’s manga Wandering Son is an incredibly important series to me personally, so I was greatly saddened when Fantagraphics stopped releasing it in English. Initially I wanted to read the entire manga before watching the anime adaptation but, seeing as the rest likely won’t be available any time soon, I finally gave in. The Wandering Son anime is a lovely series. It’s not an exact adaptation of the manga, but it is faithful to the original story and characters. In general, the narrative style of the anime tends to be a little more linear than that of the manga. However, both series provide an empathetic exploration of gender identity, following a group of middle school students who are learning who they are. It’s a fairly realistic portrayal, meaning that society isn’t always the most accepting which can be absolutely heartbreaking. However, seeing the characters become more confident in their selves even when that goes against what is expected of them is exceptionally validating. The anime only adapts a portion of the manga and doesn’t provide much of a resolution (though it does go beyond where Fantagraphics left off), but it is still very well done and well-worth watching.


My Week in Manga: February 8-February 14, 2016

My News and Reviews

Life has gotten to be rather hectic again for me, though hopefully things should settle back down soon. In the meantime, I’ve returned to a reduced posting schedule for a little bit. Last week I only posted one in-depth review, but it was for the most recent installment in one of my favorite series currently being released—Aya Kanno’s Requiem of the Rose King. In this volume a tenuous peace has been established while the story moves away from the battlefield to delve into the dangerous political intrigue of the court.

Elsewhere online, The Organization of Anti-Social Geniuses (which has moved, by the way), posted a short interview with Casey Brienza, the author of the recently released Manga in America (which I hope to review in the not too distant future). The wonderful folks behind MASSIVE have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund The Queer Japan Project documentary, which should be phenomenal. In manga news, Kodansha Comics has announced that its release of the final volume of My Little Monster will include an additional sixty pages of content. Over the weekend, Vertical announced the addition of a few more titles: the Bakemonogatari novels by Nisioisin, the manga Immortal Hounds by Ryo Yasohachi, the master edition of Tsutomu Nihei’s manga Blame!, and (the one I’m most excited about) the josei horror manga Dissolving Classroom by Junji Ito. Not to be left out, Seven Seas snuck in a license announcement on Sunday as well—Nakatani Nio’s yuri manga Bloom Into You.

Quick Takes

Batmanga, Volume 1Batmanga, Volume 1 by Jiro Kuwata. Back in the 1960s, Kuwata was commissioned to create a manga series featuring the iconic American masked vigilante Batman specifically tailored for a Japanese audience. This series was nearly forgotten in the United States but was rediscovered and introduced in translation relatively recently. DC Comics is now releasing the entire series in English. Although I do enjoy Batman and grew up with the franchise, I don’t really consider myself to be a huge fan or aficionado. But I was very interested in the publication history of Batmanga, and it’s not very often that an older manga is licensed. Kuwata’s Batmanga is understandably most reminiscent of the 1960s television series starring Adam West than any of Batman‘s more recent incarnations (the sixties apparently saw a Batman craze in Japan). The manga is a lot of fun with plenty of ridiculous action, camp, and wordplay. I believe that all the villains are unique to the manga, their origin stories often having something to do with devious scientific innovations or experiments gone awry.

False Memories, Volume 1False Memories, Volumes 1-2 by Isaku Natsume. A few of Natsume’s boys’ love manga have been released digitally, but I believe False Memories is only the second one to be released in print. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Natsume’s manga, so I was surprised by how charming and touching False Memories ended up being. Nakano and Tsuda drifted apart soon after they slept together in high school. Ten years have passed since their graduation, but they suddenly find themselves assigned to work together on the same project by their respective companies. The misunderstandings surrounding their high school days continue to prove problematic, though. The two men will at least need to pretend to be friendly, but old feelings can be difficult to ignore. I enjoyed False Memories more than I expected I would, largely because I found the characters to be so likeable and relatable. Nakano’s insecurities are understandable, having unintentionally been hurt by Tsuda in the past. As for Tsuda, he’s a well-meaning goofball. The two of them do honestly care for each other, it just takes them a little while to figure that out.

Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Volume 1Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Volume 1 by Masahito Soda. I recently happened across the first volume of Firefighter! and so picked it up. It’s been out-of-print for some time now, but the entire series is now available digitally from Viz Media. When Daigo Asahina was a child, he almost died in a fire but was rescued by a heroic local firefighter. Ever since then, it has been his dream to become a firefighter himself. Fresh out of training he’s eager to prove himself, only the station that he’s been assigned to deals with very few major fires. While this would normally be considered to be a good thing, for Daigo it’s frustrating, especially when his rival at another company has already seen plenty of action. Despite the seemingly relaxed atmosphere of Company M, Firefighter! quickly ramps up the excitement. Only one volume in and Daigo’s had to rescue a cat, help prevent a potential gas explosion, fight multiple fires, and face the fact that he’s not nearly as well-prepared as he thought he was. The veterans of Company M know their stuff, though, and are very good at what they do.