My Week in Manga: September 15-September 21, 2014

My News and Reviews

Two manga reviews were posted at Experiments in Manga last week, both with a bit of queer bent to them. First, I took a look at Wandering Son, Volume 7 by Takako Shimura. Wandering Son is a series that means a tremendous amount to me personally, so I’m always happy when a new volume is released. (And speaking of releases—Fantagraphics assured me that the eighth volume will be published sometime next year.) My second review from last week was of Fumi Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 4, which I continue to thoroughly enjoy (even though it can sometimes make me hungry when I’m reading it).

A while back I, and a handful of other people, were interviewed by Justin Stroman about why we buy manga. He turned it into a pretty great article, so I hope you’ll check out Why It’s Worth It to Buy Manga over on Manga Bookshelf. As a followup of sorts, Justin also posted Life As a Manga Fan in the United Arab Emirates at Organization Anti-Social Geniuses which was a fascinating read. Another interesting interview from last week was Tofugu’s conversation with translator and interpreter Jocelyne Allen who has translated a ton of manga among other things. Also of note: Breakdown Press recently announced its next alternative manga publication—Masahiko Matsumoto’s “The Man Next Door.”

Quick Takes

I've Seen It All, Volume 1I’ve Seen It All, Volumes 1-2 by Shoko Takaku. The featured guest of this year’s YaoiCon was Shoko Takaku. I realized that I hadn’t actually read any of her work, so I decided to pick up I’ve Seen It All. Dr. Saikawa is a specialist in men’s health, specifically addressing concerns dealing with genitals. By chance he meets and soon falls in love with Asano who is blessed with a “cock of peerless beauty.” I’ve Seen It All easily has the most references to penises that I’ve ever come across in a boys’ love manga. Saikawa is completely unfazed about it—it is his job after all—and no one else seems to be either which just makes the manga even funnier. Asano and Saikawa are adorable as a couple. It was also nice to see that they both try to make sure that the other enjoys their more intimate moments (of which there are plenty). The other characters are pretty great, too. Despite some of the more realistic elements of the series, I’ve Seen It All leans slightly more towards the silly and sweet. Happily, there is at least one more volume of I’ve Seen It All; I just hope that the rest of the series will be translated because I loved the first two volumes.

Monster Soul, Volume 2Monster Soul, Volume 2 by Hiro Mashima. I’ll admit, I did enjoy the second and final volume of Monster Soul slightly more than the first, but it’s still not a series that left much of an impression on me. Where the first volume was largely episodic, the majority of the second volume of Monster Soul focused on one story—the Black Airs’ efforts to rescue the souls of an entire kingdom of humans from the clutches of the Drei Kommandos. In the process, Mashima takes the opportunity to delve into the back stories of the individual members of the Black Airs. I personally appreciated that the characters were further developed, but the series is too short to really take advantage of it all. Although Monster Soul doesn’t stand out much, it is generally entertaining. The action sequences in particular are fairly well done. Admittedly, there are a few annoying character quirks that don’t make much sense within the context of the story as a whole, such as Mummy’s propensity for stripping for no particular reason. Overall, Monster Soul feels more like a prototype than anything else. It is very energetic, though.

Time KillersTime Killers by Kazue Kato. While I largely enjoyed Kato’s manga series Blue Exorcist, I never seemed to be quite as taken with the story as so many others were. However, I’ve always been fond of Kato’s artwork. And so, I was very interested in reading Kazuo’s short story collection Time Killers. The anthology collects eleven short manga selected from over a decade’s worth of Kazuo’s work, including some of her earliest and debut stories. Many of the manga included in Time Killers simply consist of whatever elements Kazuo felt like exploring and mashing together, completely disregarding what readers might be interested in. The manga ends up being a somewhat odd conglomeration with a strong indie feel to it, but I rather enjoyed its quirkiness. The collection also includes a story that is derived from the same source material as Blue Exorcist, which was interesting to see. It’s also worth noting that Time Killers is probably the nicest release that I’ve seen from Viz Media’s Shonen Jump imprint. It has a slightly larger trim size, includes beautiful color pages, and is printed on high-quality, glossy paper, too.

My Week in Manga: June 2-June 8, 2014

My News and Reviews

Three posts last week! The first was the announcement of the Oi, Oishinbo! manga giveaway winner, which also includes a list of some of the food manga that has been licensed in English. And speaking of food manga, last week I reviewed Fumi Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 2. I’m really enjoying the series and am thrilled that it’s being released in English. I also reviewed Blade of the Immortal, Volume 29: Beyond Good and Evil by Hiroaki Samura, which is pretty much the beginning of the end of the series. I love Blade of the Immortal, so I’m interested to see how Samura will wrap everything up and who, if anyone, will survive its conclusion.

Things have been a bit hectic in my life lately, so I’ve not been able to pay attention to all of the news and announcements recently, but I did catch a few things on Vertical’s Twitter account. Apparently, its warehouse is down to the last 24 copies of Message to Adolf, Part 1 and it may or may not be reprinted. So, if you want a copy, you should probably grab it sooner rather than later. Adolf was my introduction to Osamu Tezuka, and it remains one of my favorite works by him. Also, Vertical was at AnimeNEXT and made a new license announcementDream Fossil: The Complete Short Stories of Satoshi Kon. Though it wasn’t perfect, I enjoyed Kon’s Tropic of the Sea a great deal, so am looking forward to this collection as well as the other Kon manga announced by Dark Horse a couple of months ago.

Quick Takes

Monster Soul, Volume 1Monster Soul, Volume 1 by Hiro Mashima. For readers intimidated by the length of Fairy Tail or Rave Master, Mashima’s two-volume Monster Soul sets a much lower bar for entry to his work. During the Human-Monster War, the Black Airs were an elite group of exceptionally powerful monsters. Now that the war is over, and the monsters have lost, they mostly try to keep to themselves. But with human poachers, a ghost with an agenda, and another monster picking a fight, trouble seems to find them anyway. Monster Soul is somewhat episodic, but Mashima does seem to be developing some sort of underlying plot. Since the series is only two volumes long though, it probably can’t be particularly convoluted or in-depth. That being said, I’m not entirely sure what direction Monster Soul will be taking. The story moves along very quickly, there are numerous fights, and the characters are boisterous. I wasn’t blown away, but the first volume of Monster Soul could be entertaining.

Otomen, Volume 16Otomen, Volumes 16-18 by Aya Kanno. I’m not sure that Otomen really needed to be eighteen volumes long, but I enjoyed every volume of it. The series just makes me so incredibly happy. It can be ridiculous and eyeroll-worthy at times, usually deliberately so, but I love it. The characters, while they don’t have much depth, are incredibly endearing. Kanno plays around with gender roles and expectations in Otomen, that’s one of the major points of the series, but never in a denigrating way. The not-so-subtle message of Otomen is that it is just fine to be whoever it is you are. These final three volumes find Asuka and many of the others in their last year of high school. They begin drifting apart for various reasons, the biggest being the influence of Asuka’s mother, and it is heartbreaking to see. Kanno has never hesitated to make use of well-worn tropes and plot developments in Otomen—frequently the series verges on parody because of that—but I was a little unsure about the memory loss arc. Ultimately though, the series ends in a very satisfying way.

The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 1The Seven Deadly Sins, Volumes 1-2 by Nakaba Suzuki. Back in my undergrad days I took a fantastic course that focused on the use and portrayal of the seven deadly sins in music and literature, and so Suzuki’s The Seven Deadly Sins manga immediately caught my attention. At first, I was a little uncertain about The Seven Deadly Sins. It took a few chapters to really grow on me, and when present Meliodas’ lecherous tendencies still seem more like a tired cliché rather than any sort of legitimate character development, but the series has great potential. The Seven Deadly Sins are a group of extremely talented warriors who may be the only ones capable of stopping the Holy Knights from destroying Britannia. It isn’t yet known why the group goes by “The Seven Deadly Sins,” or what sins the members have committed to earn their monikers, but I’m assuming that will be revealed sometime in the future. The Holy Knights are the ones being framed as the series’ villains, but the Sins aren’t entirely good, either, which I appreciate. With interesting characters and epic battles, I’m looking forward to reading more.

The Sleep of ReasonThe Sleep of Reason: An Anthology of Horror edited by C. Spike Trotman. Edited by the same person who has been coordinating the new Smut Peddler anthologies, The Sleep of Reason collects twenty-six short horror comics. Some of the creators (like Jason Thompson and Carla Speed McNeil, among others) I was already familiar with, but there were plenty of other contributors whose work I was encountering for the very first time. That’s one of the things I love about anthologies like The Sleep of Reason—they introduce me to new artists that I want to follow. I also love being exposed to so many different styles of art and storytelling. There is some blood, death, and gore in The Sleep of Reason, but the collection isn’t a splatter fest and relies much more heavily on the psychological aspects of horror rather than on violence. As with any anthology, some of the stories are stronger than others. I’m not sure that I even completely understood some of them, but they all were eerie, disconcerting, and creepy. The Sleep of Reason is a great collection; definitely recommended for fans of horror.