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: November 12-November 18, 2012

My News and Reviews

Two reviews went up last week. The first was for Jirō Nitta’s historical novel Phantom Immigrants. It’s about Jinsaburo Oikawa, salmon fishing, Canada, and immigrant smuggling. The novel is somewhat difficult to find in print, but the translator has made a digital edition available. For the most part, I picked up Phantom Immigrants because I wanted to read more of Nitta’s work. (I read another of his historical novels, Death March on Mount Hakkōda, not too long ago.) The second review I posted was part of my Blade of the Immortal manga review project. This month I took a look at Blade of the Immortal, Volume 15: Trickster. Although I was a little disappointed with some of the fight scenes, I’m still enjoying the series.

Speaking of disappointment, Digital Manga has announced that it would be putting almost all of its print releases on hiatus (the exceptions are those works that were funded by Digital Manga’s Kickstarter projects). Digital Manga’s president Hikaru Sasahara stressed that the licenses haven’t been canceled, just that the print releases have been delayed. Digital Manga has also indicated that at least some of the titles will be available digitally before they’re available in print.

It’s a late notice, but Matt Blind has posted the call for participation for November’s Manga Moveable Feast to be hosted at Rocket Bomber later this week. It’ll be a short Feast, running from November 21 to November 25. Since the Feast will coincide with Thanksgiving in the US, we’re doing something a little different this month, focusing on manga that we’re thankful for, so do check it out!

And one last side-note: October’s manga giveaway winner Stephanie recently posted about winning at Rodeo Bucket (and said some nice things about Experiments in Manga, too)—Right-Brain Living & Winning!

Quick Takes

Battle Royale: Ultimate Edition, Volume 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-3) written by Koushun Takami and illustrated by Masayuki Taguchi. I love Takami’s original Battle Royale novel, but it took me a while to get around to reading the manga. The loose English adaptation, which attempts to establish the program as a reality television show, is unfortunate; I wish the story had been left alone. I also wasn’t particularly fond of the more sexualized elements of the Battle Royale manga. And the manga’s program administrator is my least favorite version of that character. Taguchi’s artwork is at its best when portraying extreme violence and gore. The “ultimate edition” includes some great extras, including an interview with Takami.

Full House, Volumes 1-4 by Sooyeon Won. After reading Won’s manhwa series Let Dai, I made a point to seek out more of her work. I was looking forward to reading Full House. The first volume was okay, but I can’t say I enjoyed the series much at all except for the character designs. Even for a romantic comedy (at least that’s what I think the series is supposed to be), the plot makes little believable sense. The main character is an absolutely terrible person—she’s malicious, vindictive, and incredibly selfish for no good reason. I couldn’t bring myself to like her or to even feel sorry for her plight, which could easily be solved if she would simply be honest. Only the first four volumes of Full House were released in print in English but more are available digitally from Netcomics.

K-ON!, Volumes 2-4 by Kakifly. I’ll admit that I enjoy K-ON!. But although the first volume of the series made me tremendously happy, I wasn’t quite as taken with the rest of K-ON!. As a musician, I personally enjoy the series the most when music is somehow involved which, as it turns out, really isn’t all that often. As far as yonkoma go, K-ON! is fairly story driven which I can appreciate. Granted, there’s not much of a plot to the series. It mostly consists of a group of high school girls enjoying each other’s company; I don’t see anything wrong with that. At four volumes, I think K-ON! is just the right length. Yen Press also has plans to release both K-ON!‘s sequel K-ON! College and its spinoff K-ON! Highschool.

Secretary’s Love by Tohko Akiba. If I hadn’t picked up Secretary’s Love for a couple of bucks way back when Borders was shuttering its doors, I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to reading this boys’ love one-shot. It simply wasn’t a title that I was particularly interested in. And I was right. Secretary’s Love is incredibly boring. It could have been cute, but instead of focusing on Tanemura and Tanizaki’s relationship, Secretary’s Love seems to be more about their being secretaries. There’s not much romance to be found in the manga, mostly a few chaste kisses in the workplace and vague allusions to more carnal nocturnal activities. If it wasn’t explicitly stated, it would be hard to guess that the two men have been dating for eight years; there’s just no passion.

Manga Giveaway: King of Thorn for Keeps

It’s time for Experiments in Manga’s monthly manga giveaway! This month you can enter for a chance to win a brand new copy of the first volume of Yuji Iwahara’s King of Thorn as was published by Tokyopop. The contest is open world-wide, so I hope you’ll take the opportunity to enter!

I was probably in middle school, or maybe even younger, when I first became interested in survival stories. I have yet to grow out of that particular fondness which is why manga like King of Thorn, where the characters’ struggle to survive is an important part of the plot, appeal to me. Survival stories can be found in just about any genre or flavor. You have survival “games” in manga like Koushun Takami and Masayuki Taguchi’s Battle Royale in which characters face off against each other for the right to live. In manga like Dragon Head, by Mochizuki Minetaro, characters struggle not only against each other but against apocalyptic and catastrophic conditions. Characters pit themselves against nature itself in manga like Baku Yumemakura and Jiro Taniguichi’s The Summit of the Gods. But no matter what the genre, they do what it takes to survive. It can be both terrifying and inspiring.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win King of Thorn, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me about your favorite survival manga. If you don’t have one, you can just mention that.
2) To earn a second entry in the giveaway, simply name a survival manga that hasn’t been mentioned yet by me or by someone else.
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

So that’s it! Each person can earn up to three entries for this giveaway. You have one week to submit your comments. If you have trouble leaving comments, or if you would prefer, you can e-mail me your entries at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. I’ll then post the comments in your name. The winner will be announced and randomly selected on March 7, 2012.

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: King of Thorn for Keeps Winner