My Week in Manga: January 20-January 26, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week I declared it to be Usamaru Furuya Week here at Experiments in Manga. Ostensibly, it was to celebrate Furuya-sensei’s birthday, but mostly it was just an excuse for me to finally get around to reviewing more of his manga. I have now written an in-depth review of all of Furuya’s manga currently available in English. As for last week’s Furuya reviews, I have for your reading pleasure Short Cuts, Volume 2 (the final volume of one of my favorite gag manga), the second and third volumes of Genkaku Picasso (probably the most accessible entry into Furuya’s English manga), and the second and third volumes of No Longer Human (an excellent adaptation of Osamu Dazai’s novel No Longer Human). I’d love to see more of Furuya’s work translated. Although there are no immediate plans, I know that Vertical has expressed interest, so I am hopeful that someday we’ll see more.

Elsewhere online, manga translator and scholar Matt Thorn has an excellent piece Regarding Inio Asano’s gender identity. (He also talks a bit about his own gender identity.) And speaking of the complexities of gender, sexuality, and translation, a few months back I attended the lecture “Out Gays” or “Shameless Gays”? What Gets Lost, and What is Gained, when U.S. Queer Theory is Translated into Japanese? and posted some random musings about queer theory, Japanese literature, and translation. Well, the video of the lecture was posted earlier this month and is freely available to view. The most recent ANNCast, Vertical Vortex, features Ed Chavez from Vertical and included a license announcement for Takuma Morishige’s comedy manga My Neighbor Seki. In other licensing news, Seven Seas has acquired Kentarō Satō’s horror manga Magical Girl Apocalypse. Also, Seven Seas will soon be announcing licenses for a new yuri manga and a doujinshi (which is very unusual in English). Finally, Shawne Kleckner, the president of Right Stuf (one of my favorite places to find manga), recently participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything.

Quick Takes

The Drifting Classroom, Volume 1The Drifting Classroom, Volumes 1-3 by Kazuo Umezu. An award-winning horror manga from the early 1970s, The Drifting Classroom is a series that I’ve been meaning to read. After a bizarre earthquake, Yamato Elementary School along with more than 860 students and staff disappear, leaving behind an enormous hole in the ground and very few clues as to what has happened. From the students’ perspective, everything outside the school has been turned into a wasteland. The situation they find themselves in may be extreme and unbelievable, but the consequences that follow are terrifyingly probable. The series’ setup allows Umezu to freely explore humanity’s darkness. The Drifting Classroom isn’t frightening because of the unknown; the true horror comes from how people react out of fear to the unexplainable. There are immediate concerns for survival, such as the lack of food and water, but even more problematic is the violence the erupts among the school’s survivors. The Drifting Classroom is an intense horror and survival manga with extremely dark psychological elements. I’ll definitely be reading more.

Missions of Love, Volume 6Missions of Love, Volume 6 by Ema Toyama. I started reading Missions of Love in the middle of the series. Although there is some background information that I am missing, I was still able to pick up on the major plot points fairly quickly. I really should go back and read the earlier volumes, though, as I’m enjoying the series much more than I anticipated. None of the characters are particularly nice people; their relationships are a twisted and tangled mess because of how they are all manipulating one another. And in the process, they’re confusing their own personal feelings as well. Missions of Love is intentionally scandalous and deliberately suggestive. However, it’s not exactly what I would call fanservice since it is meant more for the story and characters’ sakes rather than for the readers’. There are intimate moments and scenes of extreme vulnerability that challenge appropriateness but never quite cross the line, although Toyama frequently pushes the limits. I’m just waiting for something really terrible to happen. At this point, I can’t imagine that any of the characters in Missions of Love will be able to make it through the series unscathed.

Red Colored ElegyRed Colored Elegy by Seiichi Hayashi. Another manga from the early 1970s, originally serialized in the alternative manga magazine Garo, Red Colored Elegy is only one of two volumes of Hayashi’s work available in English. The story follows Ichiro and Sachiko, two young animators in love and living together, but who are struggling to make ends meet as life slowly drives them apart. Hayashi’s artwork is deceptively simple and often free of backgrounds, placing the emphasis on the characters and their tumultuous lives and relationships. He conveys a tremendous amount of emotion through a minimalist, almost stream-of-conscious approach. Hayashi’s style in Red Colored Elegy can make it feel a bit disjointed from page to page, as though it were a collection of closely related vignettes rather than a single continuing story, but the overall melancholic mood created by the manga is consistent. Red Colored Elegy is about falling into and out of love and about pushing through life’s tragedies, both small and large. Emotionally compelling and beautifully crafted, Red Colored Elegy stands up to multiple readings.

Yowamushi PedalYowamushi Pedal, Episodes 1-14 directed by Osamu Nabeshima. The Yowamushi Pedal anime series is based on an ongoing manga by Wataru Watanabe. Sakamichi Onoda is an otaku trying to revive the anime club at his new high school, but he quite unexpectedly finds himself caught up in the bicycle racing club instead. He has some natural talent at cycling—his frequent 90 km trips by bike to Akihabara probably didn’t hurt—but he has had no formal training. That’s about to change, though. The series so far has mostly focused on Onoda and the Sohoku High School racing club. The other teams that they will be facing have only been shown briefly. However, now that Onoda has started to get the basics of cycling down, the other cyclists are becoming more prominent in the story. I particularly like Yowamushi Pedal‘s casting; all of the characters have very distinctive speech patterns and voices which are very entertaining. I’m enjoying the series a great deal. Although I never was a racer and I don’t cycle as much as I used to (once upon a time, it was my primary mode of transportation), Yowamushi Pedal makes me want to get my bike out again.

My Week in Manga: November 11-November 17, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week was apparently “Blade of the Immortal Week” here at Experiments in Manga. I finally got around to reading and reviewing Blade of the Immortal: Legend of the Sword Demon, a novel written by Junichi Ohsako with illustrations by Hiroaki Samura, which is a re-imagining of the early part of the manga series. Honestly, I was disappointed with it and would only recommend the novel to fellow Blade of the Immortal completists. I also reviewed Blade of the Immortal, Volume 27: Mist on the Spider’s Web. With that review, I have now caught up with the English released of the Blade of the Immortal manga series. And so, I wrote some random musings on Wrapping Up the Blade of the Immortal Monthly Review Project.

And now for a few interesting things found online last week. SciFi Japan has a great interview with Zack Davisson, the translator for the recently released Showa: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki. The School Library Journal’s Good Comics for Kids has an interesting roundtable on Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints. Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son, Volume 4 is one of the nominees for the 2014 Rainbow Book List. (As is Julie Maroh’s Blue Is the Warmest Color, for that matter.) And finally, Kodansha Comicss participated in Reddit’s Ask Me Anything. I haven’t had the chance to read through all of the comments yet, but what I’ve read so far has been interesting.

Quick Takes

Battling BoyBattling Boy by Paul Pope. I have enjoyed Paul Pope’s work in the past and so I was very excited for the release of Battling Boy, his most recent graphic novel. What I didn’t realize was that it was the first volume in what will be at least a two-volume series, not including the recently announced prequel The Rise of Aurora West. It was a little frustrating to reach the end of Battling Boy just when things were really starting to pull together only to discover that it stops without any sort of conclusion and not even much of a cliffhanger. Still, Battling Boy is a tremendous amount of fun and I did enjoy it. I appreciate Pope’s offbeat humor and slightly surreal and absurd storytelling. The artwork’s pretty great, too. Following the eponymous demigod Battling Boy as he struggles to complete his coming-of-age ceremony and become a hero, the graphic novel is Pope’s original take on the superhero origin story. While he brings his own touch to the genre, there are plenty of influences from other comics (such as Batman and Thor to name two) that can be seen in the work.

Endless RainEndless Rain by Yuuya. I’ve not had particularly good luck with the boys’ love that I’ve been reading recently and Endless Rain hasn’t changed that. I can’t say that I enjoyed this one-shot much at all. Despite having a happy ending (which I am not at all convinced would happen) the manga isn’t particularly pleasant and includes what basically amounts to forced prostitution. The plotting is sloppy, the narrative is difficult to follow and at times doesn’t make any sense, and the characterization is inconsistent. With Hyougami’s vendetta against the Kasuga family and the bad blood between Akira Kasuga and his father Endless Rain had some potential, but Yuuya doesn’t quite pull it off. Maybe if the manga was a little longer it wouldn’t have been such a mess. As it is, Yuuya tries to cram in too much and it ends up rushed. The only part of Endless Rain that I really liked was Iwao—a scarred and severe-looking yakuza who dotes on Akira’s younger brother. Contrary to his appearance, he’s actually a very sweet guy. Unfortunately, he only briefly shows up as a side character.

Missions of Love, Volume 5Missions of Love, Volume 5 by Ema Toyama. Although I am familiar with the basic premise of Missions of Love, I haven’t actually read any of the series until this volume. When I heard the manga described it seemed so trope-filled that I just couldn’t muster up any interest in it despite the rather provocative covers. But now I’m kind of sorry that I missed out on the earlier volumes. Yes, there are quite a few tropes being used, but the twisted romantic relationships are mesmerizing even if they aren’t particularly healthy. None of the characters are really very nice people and their interactions are a mess of lies and manipulation. Missions of Love is very suggestive and scandalous even though all that really happens in this volume (well, except for the emotional exploitation) is a bit of ear nibbling. I can see why others call Missions of Love addicting; I know that I want to read more. The only thing that really annoyed me about Missions of Love is how Yukina’s glasses are drawn (or rather how the aren’t drawn)—the lines used are so minimal that they barely seem to exist at all.

Silver SpoonSilver Spoon directed by Tomohiko Ito. Based on the award-winning manga series Silver Spoon by Hiromu Arakawa (which was in part inspired by her experiences growing up on dairy farm), the Silver Spoon anime adaptation is quite well done. The series is very forthright and honest about where food comes from, including the raising and slaughtering of animals for meat. I know that particular subject will distrub some viewers, but I think it is something that is important for people to understand and the anime does handle it very well. Many of its characters are also conflicted over it. One of the major story lines of Silver Spoon has to do with Hachiken, the protagonist, trying to come to terms with what it is he eats. However, life and the taking of it is treated with immense respect in the series. I myself grew up in a farming community among the cows, corn, and soybeans (my neighbors actually happened to be dairy farmers), and so I could appreciate Silver Spoon‘s realistic portrayal of the challenges faced by those who make their living caring for animals and crops.