My Week in Manga: November 9-November 15, 2015

My News and Reviews

Last week was the first week of the temporary adjustment in my posting schedule at Experiments in Manga. I’ve got a lot going on right now and not enough time to do everything that I need to or would like. Hopefully I’ll have some good news to share soon, though! (I don’t want to jinx anything by saying too much, yet.) Anyway! Last week I reviewed Mushishi, Volume 6 by Yuki Urushibara as part of my monthly horror manga review project. I’ve read the series before so I already know that I like it (in fact, it’s a favorite of mine), but I’ve really been enjoying my reread.

A few interesting things that I came across online last week: Netcomics hinted on Twitter that it would have some exciting licenses to announce soon. Dark Horse has confirmed that it will be releasing Kenji Tsuruta’s Wandering Island. And Kodansha Comics has licensed Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail Zero prequel. The English Light Novels site has an interview with light novel translator Stephen Paul. And Shojo Beat posted the first part of an interview with Arina Tanemura.

Quick Takes

Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls, Volume 4Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls, Volume 4 by Okayado. I suspect it’s at least in part due to the enormous success of Monster Musume that Seven Seas has been able to expand its catalog and take a few more risks with its licenses of late. Monster Musume has been a bestseller since the release of its very first volume. I’m not exactly a member of the manga’s target audience though and so I haven’t really been keeping up with it. But I can easily understand why it’s so popular. And there actually are a few things that I like about the series in addition to the things that I don’t particularly care for. I enjoy the absolutely atrocious puns and wordplay, for one. I also appreciate the variety of monster girls and that new races are always being introduced. Considering the highly-sexualized nature of the manga and the obsession with breasts and nipples, the story can at times be surprisingly sweet and endearing. Kimihito is a legitimately nice guy who honestly cares for the well-being of the liminals that he meets and is put in charge of. Ultimately however, there’s no question that Monster Musume is an ecchi harem fantasy.

Noragami: Stray Go, Volume 6Noragami: Stray God, Volumes 6-7 by Adachitoka. The fifth volume of Noragami ended with one heck of a cliffhanger so I was very much looking forward to reading more of the series. The sixth volume is excellent and probably my favorite volume of the manga to date. It brings Yato and Bishamonten’s battle to an effective close, but there will still be lingering consequences and repercussions of the fight that will have to be dealt with moving forward. After the intense drama, emotions, and action of the sixth volume, Adachitoka takes the seventh in a different direction, bringing back some of the manga’s humor and goofiness while still building the underlying tension of the series. As the next story arc begins, new characters and antagonists are introduced and additional backstories are explored. One particularly important revelation is that Yato’s very existence is somewhat precarious, which is why maintaining his ties to other people is so critical. I’ve largely enjoyed the series since the beginning, but Noragami is starting to get really good. I’m like seeing the evolution of the characters and the changing dynamics of their relationships.

Showa: A History of Japan, 1953–1989Showa: A History of Japan, 1953-1989 by Shigeru Mizuki. Each volume of Showa has been massive, but this final installment covers the longest period of time. In fact, the fourth volume provides an outline of more years than the first three volumes combined. 1953-1989 follows Japan through the country’s postwar period, the falls and rises of the economy, and the political turmoil and change of the era. Woven into the history of Japan is Mizuki’s own personal story. One of the reasons that the fourth volume of Showa especially appealed to me was that it explores a bit of manga history as well, following Mizuki’s start and growth as a mangaka including the management of a studio of assistants. Sanpei Shirato, Ryoichi Ikegami, Yoshiharu Tsuge, and many other prominent creators and editors all make appearances. Mizuki’s interest in yokai is shown to become increasingly important as well. The final volume of Showa also includes some of Mizuki’s color work, which I’d never seen before. Mizuki’s black and white manga is great, but some of the color illustrations are simply stunning.

My Week in Manga: July 7-July 13, 2014

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted at Experiments in Manga last week, though neither of them were actually for manga. First up was Yasutaka Tsutsui’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which collects two of his stories: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is one of Tsutsui’s most well-known and beloved novels and was the inspiration for Mamoru Hosoda’s 2006 anime by the same name, which happens to be one of my favorite animated films. I also reviewed Dan Mazur and Alexander Danner’s Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present. It’s an extremely informative volume and highly recommended for people who are interested in the history of comics, including manga. I wasn’t online much last week, but I did notice that Revealing and Concealing Identities: Cross-Dressing in Anime and Manga, Part 6 was posted at The Lobster Dance, focusing on Fumi Yoshinaga’s marvelous series Ōoku: The Inner Chambers. If there were any big announcements or other noteworthy news items that I missed, please do let me know!

Quick Takes

Andre the Giant: Life and LegendAndre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown. Growing up, I knew of Andre the Giant from his role as Fezzik in the film The Princess Bride, only later learning about his professional wrestling career. Andre Roussimoff was a literal giant of a man—at one point over seven feet tall and over six hundred pounds—who also suffered from acromegaly, though he wasn’t diagnosed with the condition until he reached his twenties. Brown’s thoroughly researched biographical comic captures Andre’s life and legacy, revealing just how human the legend really was. Like anyone else, he had his strengths and his flaws. Because of his size the life he led was an unusual one and he was treated differently, and not always kindly, by other people. Surprisingly, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend is actually one of the very few works devoted to Andre. It’s a collection of stories and anecdotes about the man beginning with his childhood in France and then following him through his globe-spanning career as a professional wrestler as well as his time on the set of The Princess Bride. The comic is very well done and includes a bibliography in addition to notes on the sources used.

Bokurano: Ours, Volume 1Bokurano: Ours, Volume 1 by Mohiro Kito. One summer, fourteen seventh graders and a fourth grader participating in a nature school program wander into a seaside cave where they discover a strange man holed away who invites them to play a game. They will be placed in charge of piloting a giant robot in order to fight massive alien invaders. Except that the game they’ve agreed to play turns out to be much more real than any of them counted on. This early in the series it’s a little difficult to get a good feel for all of the characters since there are so many of them, but it seems that as they each have their own opportunity to pilot the robot more will be revealed about them as individuals. It also looks like the series will have a fairly high death count, too, even when it comes to main, named characters. Bokurano: Ours has a dark ambiance as well strong psychological elements. Though there are grand battles, the real drama of the series revolves around how the children respond to being granted such enormous power. Some delight in the chance to wreak havoc while others are more hesitant, understandably concerned about the strange situation they’ve gotten themselves into.

Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls, Volume 2Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls, Volumes 2-3 by Okayado. At its heart, Monster Musume is an unapologetic, ecchi harem series. Readers looking for nuanced characters or plot from the manga will be sorely disappointed. And considering the amount of uninhibited fanservice, highly suggestive scenarios, partial nudity, and nipples on display, I continue to be surprised that Seven Seas is able to get away with calling Monster Musume a series for older teens. Initially, I wondered if monster boys existed in the manga since the series focuses almost entirely on monster girls. They actually do, but that fact isn’t confirmed until a bunch of otaku orcs appear in the third volume. In addition to the orcs, plenty of other liminal races have been introduced as well: slimes, mermaids, zombies, ogres, cyclops, shape-shifters, and so on. Not all of the liminal ladies become love interests for Kimihito, the series’ protagonist and host family for many of the visiting monster girls, which is a good thing. Monster Musume is an extraordinarily silly and trashy manga that can actually be a lot of fun for those who don’t mind its blatantly sexualized content. Its monster girl gimmick sets it apart from other harem manga, but probably won’t win anyone over who doesn’t already read the genre.

Soul Rescue, Volume 1Soul Rescue, Volumes 1-2 by Aya Kanno. I’ve really enjoyed Kanno’s other manga currently available in English (Blank Slate and Otomen), so when I discovered that Tokyopop had also published one of her series I made a point to track it down. I believe Soul Rescue was actually Kanno’s debut manga, too, which made me even more interested in reading it. Honestly, it’s a bit of a mess. The artwork is nice, even though the pages are very full, and I liked the characters and basic premise of the story, but it doesn’t quite pull together as a whole. Renji is an angel with a propensity towards being overly violent, and so he has been temporarily banished to Earth in order to mend his ways. Another angel, Kaito, has been sent along with Renji as his supervisor to keep him in check and prevent him from doing too much damage. Renji will be allowed to return to Heaven after rescuing the souls of 10,000 humans. (Kissing is somehow involved in all of this.) By the end of Soul Rescue, he’s only saved two, maybe three souls. Though there are recurring characters, the series is largely episodic with almost no overarching plot arc or real conclusion. Kanno doesn’t seem to be concerned with consistent time periods or settings in the manga, either. Modern cities, Medieval kingdoms, and fuedal Japan, all with their own anachronisms, exist simultaneously.

White GuardianWhite Guardian by Duo Brand. I’m fairly certain that White Guardian was Duo Brand’s first professional boys’ love manga; it was also their first manga to be released in English. White Guardian includes many elements found in the pair’s other manga that I’ve read, namely swords, sex, and fantasy. Granted, in the case of White Guardian, it seems to be more of a historical setting than it is strictly fantasy; there are no supernatural aspects or magic involved in the plot. The kingdom of Landa is suffering from internal conflict and corruption which the Crown Prince is determined to address with the aid of the famed General Sei. Prince Linth is a bit of an oddball, lighthearted and earnest if a bit naive. He’s also strangely accepting and forgiving of his own rape, which happens multiple times over the course of the short manga. Happily, there’s some consensual sex to be found in White Guardian, too. The manga has some actual plot to go along with its smut as well. I’ll admit to being fond of court intrigue, espionage, and battles, which are all present and play their own roles in the story. White Guardian is followed by its sequel Crimson Wind which was also released in English, though it’s a little more difficult to find at this point.

Knights of SidoniaKnights of Sidonia directed by Kobun Shizuno. I have been enjoying Tsutomu Nihei’s Knights of Sidonia manga a great deal, and so when the anime adaptation was announced I was immediately interested in watching it. Of all places, the series was exclusively made available for streaming in English through Netflix with both a dubbed version and a subbed version. Overall, the anime was a fantastic adaptation. It hits all the major plot points and highlights of the manga, and in some cases it was actually easier to follow what was going on. The anime is very faithful to the original without slavishly adapting the source material to a new medium. As should be expected, the pacing of the story is slightly changed and the visual impact of the anime is different from that of the manga. However, I was never completely sold on the 3D CG animation style. Though the backgrounds, environments, and many of the special effects looked great with it and were sometimes even stunning, the movements of the characters occasionally would feel just a little off. It did seem to improve as the series went along, but maybe it was just that I was finally getting used to it. I do look forward to seeing the second season.

My Week in Manga: October 21-October 27, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week I reviewed Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son, Volume 5. The series is personally very important to me, so I’m always happy when a new volume is released. Sadly, we probably won’t see the next volume until next year. Last week I also posted Discovering Manga: Podcasts Redux. It’s a quick update on some of the podcasts that I’ve listened to and written about in the past. It also outlines my plan to write more podcast posts since my previous ones seem to have been fairly popular. If you have a manga podcast that you think I should check out, do let me know!

On to good stuff found online! A commenter on my recent post Random Musings: Queer Theory, Japanese Literature, and Translation linked to a fascinating article from earlier this year: Talking about (a)sexuality in Japanese. Over at Publishers Weekly, Deb Aoki has a great recap of Manga at New York Comic Con. Misaki C. Kido gives seven reasons Why Felipe Smith Is the Only Mangaka from America (So Far). And some of the most interesting news from last week: Crunchyroll will begin to digitally distribute Kodansha manga, providing access to new chapters the same day they are released in Japan. (Including some titles not previously available in English!) It should be interesting to see how this venture develops.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan, Volume 8Attack on Titan, Volume 8 by Hajime Isayama. The mystery of the Female Titan has been solved! Or, at least one of the mysteries—the identity of the person is who is controlling it. The reasons behind why and for what purpose are still unknown. For every question that is answered in Attack on Titan it seems as though there are even more to be asked. This particular volume includes a huge (dare I say titanic?) plot reveal which ends with a fantastic confrontation between Hanji and Minister Nick. (As an aside, I love that Hanji is a canonically gender ambiguous character.) One of the major secrets dealing with the walls is literally uncovered, but has yet to be fully explained. Attack on Titan continues to get stranger and stranger. For those who have been watching the Attack on Titan anime but who have thus far been avoiding the manga for one reason or another (I know plenty of people who can’t get past the terribly inconsistent artwork), the eighth volume is where you’ll want to pick the series up if you want to see any more of the story any time soon.

Knights of Sidonia, Volume 4Knights of Sidonia, Volumes 4-5 by Tsutomu Nihei. I am still enjoying Knights of Sidonia, but it frequently strikes me as a peculiar mix of science fiction horror and romantic comedy. But whatever genre it falls into at any given time, I do think the manga is Nihei’s most accessible work to date. Occasionally I still miss his grittier style of illustration, but the cleaner and somewhat simpler artwork in Knights of Sidonia has really grown on me. One of the things that amuses me tremendously is that Nagate is frequently seen stuffing food into his face. This emphasizes how much of an oddity he is compared to the rest of society on the Sidonia. And he is rather odd. His social interactions can be very awkward and often he is completely oblivious to his faux pas until it’s too late. (Let’s just say that it’s fortunate that he heals quickly.) The Gauna continue to be daunting adversaries. While at first they were terrifying enigmas, over the course of the series they have adapted and evolved and have even adopted (or at least mimicked) human technology and tactics, making them even more frightening.

Monster Musume, Volume 1Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls, Volume 1 by Okayado. Monster Musume is a harem series that attempts to distinguish itself by featuring monster girls. There is absolutely no question that Monster Musume is an ecchi manga, so unsurprisingly there are a lot of boobs and other bits. (I’m still trying to figure out how a snake can have a camel toe.) Kurusu Kimihito is an average guy who was “volunteered” for an exchange program between human and part-human species. He has become the host family for Miia, a lamia who is overly fond of him (inter-species canoodling is forbidden). Overwhelmed, he is constantly in a state of near-panic. As the first volume of Monster Musume progresses, bad puns and groan-inducing wordplay become increasingly prominent. (I’m one of those odd people who actually appreciates this sort of intentionally and ridiculously terrible dialogue, though.) It’s not at all a deep story—and I do wonder where all the monster boys are—but Monster Musume can actually be rather entertaining on occasion.