My Week in Manga: November 21-November 27, 2016

My News and Reviews

With American Thanksgiving, traveling, and visiting family, last week was once again a quiet one at Experiments in Manga. However, I am at least still reliably posting the My Week in Manga feature. Yen Press, though, was a little busier than I was last week and announced three new licenses: Asari Endō’s Magical Girl Raising Project light novel, Mutsumi Okubashi’s Grimgar of Fantasy & Ash manga, and the first Sound! Euphonium novel by Ayano Takeda. Of the three, Sound! Euphonium is definitely the one that I’m most interested in and am looking forward to. Even if I wasn’t a brass player (fun fact: I actually have a degree in horn performance), that would probably still be the case.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan: Lost Girls, Volume 1Attack on Titan: Lost Girls, Volume 1 written by Koji Seko and illustrated by Ryosuke Fuji. Considering how well Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan has been doing in North America, it’s not too surprising that most of the various spinoff series have been licensed as well. I actually didn’t know much about Lost Girls before reading it except that the series focuses on some of the more prominent female characters of Attack on Titan. The first volume of Lost Girls is a complete story in and of itself featuring Annie during the time she served as part of the Military Police Brigade. (Interestingly, it’s one of the few spinoff stories to take place within the context and timeline of the original series.) What I didn’t anticipate was that the first volume of Lost Girls is basically a murder mystery, or at least that’s what it turns into after Annie agrees to investigate the disappearance of a young woman. I’ll admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the first Lost Girls; it’s actually pretty great. The manga follows Annie as she searches for clues, uncovering some of the seedier aspects of the city and kicking ass as necessary. It also delves into her backstory. After reading the first volume of Lost Girls, I’ve come to appreciate even more how interesting a character Annie is.

Fire Force, Volume 1Fire Force, Volume 1 by Atsushi Ohkubo. Although Fire Force isn’t the first manga by Ohkubo (who is probably best known as the creator of Soul Eater) to be released in English, it is the first one that I’ve actually read. I really like the basic premise of Fire Force. In order to fight back against something akin to demonic possession combined with spontaneous human combustion, brigades of Fire Soldiers have been formed. These teams are essentially exorcism units with unique firefighting capabilities, including pyrokinetic members who can control and create fire. The series’ main character is Shinra, a young fire user with a tragic past who has recently joined one of these brigades and who has the unfortunate habit of grinning maniacally whenever he’s nervous. Fire Force has the potential to be a fun and exciting manga with some great action sequences, but the first volume managed to extinguish most of my enthusiasm for the series. Ohkubo’s exposition is incredibly heavy-handed, frequently stating the obvious and relying on forced conversations to tediously explain everything that is going on rather than using more natural methods of worldbuilding or allowing the artwork to convey the action on its own.

His House, Volume 1His House, Volumes 1-3 by Hajin Yoo. If I recall correctly, the first manhwa that I ever read was Yoo’s boys’ love series Totally Captivated and it remains a series of which I am quite fond. And so, when I learned that Netcomics was releasing His House, one of Yoo’s most recent full-color manhwa, I was immediately interested. The series follows Gangyoo, an orphan trying to finish college while struggling to make ends meet. In order to earn enough money for room, board, books, and tuition, he’s been renting himself out to women who for one reason or another temporarily need a fake boyfriend. Fortunately, his most recent gig pays so well that he won’t have to worry about his finances for a long time, however it’s a challenging and strange situation–not only is his client Soohyun a man, he doesn’t seem to actually like Gangyoo or even be interested in his services. The strongest points of Yoo’s manhwa tend to be the lead characters and their well-developed personalities. The stories, while engaging with excellent pacing, can sometimes run a little wild and end up somewhat convoluted. This is true of His House, too, but I still enjoyed the series. The manhwa is a page-turner as Gangyoo and Soohyun’s relationship evolves and their hidden pasts and true motivations are slowly revealed.

My Love Story!!, Volume 7My Love Story!!, Volume 7-10 written by Kazune Kawahara and illustrated by Aruko. I absolutely love My Love Story!! and yet I still somehow manage to forget just how much I enjoy the series between readings. This, of course, means that I get to rediscover my love for the manga on a fairly regular basis which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My Love Story!! is one of those series that just makes me incredibly happy to read it and sometimes that’s just exactly what I need in a manga. It’s a funny, charming, and upbeat series with loveable and endearing characters which, incredibly, doesn’t come across as being overly sweet or idealistic. Takeo and Yamato’s earnest and pure romance is marvelously refreshing. But while I have no doubt that their relationship will continue there is still some uncertainty in it and it still takes communication and work on both of their parts. They have moments when they feel insecure or lack confidence, often because they love each other so much and want the absolute best for the other. Takeo and Yamato’s friendships with the other characters in My Love Story!! are likewise wonderful. I especially appreciate Sunakawa’s presence in the series and the closeness that exists between him and Takeo. I continue to adore My Love Story!!.

My Week in Manga: November 30-December 6, 2015

My News and Reviews

So, one of the many reasons that I’ve been incredibly busy lately (which led to me temporarily reducing the number of posts that I’ve been writing each week) is that I’m in the process of applying for a promotion at work. I’m currently putting the final touches on my dossier which is due later this week. At this point it’s already well over two hundred pages and has taken up a significant amount of my time; I’m really looking forward to being done and over with the whole thing so I can get back to reading and writing about things that I actually enjoy.

That being said, last week I announced the winner of the Kodansha Shoujo Smorgasbord manga giveaway. The post also includes a list of some of Kodansha Comics’ shoujo and josei manga, of which there’s a nice variety. The honor of the first in-depth review of the month went to Studio Kôsen’s Windrose, Volume 1 from Chromatic Press/Sparkler Monthly. Kôsen has had a few other releases in English, but I think that Windrose is probably my favorite so far. Finally, over the weekend I posted November’s Bookshelf Overload which will likely be the last list of its utterly ridiculous size for a while.

Elsewhere online in manga publishing announcements: Kodansha Comics manga are now available digitally on Overdrive, which is great news for libraries in Canada and the United States. Seven Seas is in the midst of celebrating ten days of licenses with some interesting as well as not-so-surprising choices. (At the moment, the new license tag on Seven Seas’ Tumblr may be the easiest place to see all of the new titles at once.) Yen Press probably made the biggest license announcement last week, though–Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket is being re-released in English! Yen plans to release Takaya’s Liselotte & Witch’s Forest and Twinkle Stars as well.

Quick Takes

Alley of First LoveAlley of First Love by Ellie Mamahara. I picked up Alley of First Love without knowing much about the manga except that it was a boys’ love one-shot. Sometimes that can a risky proposition ripe with potential for disappointment, but Alley of First Love ended up being a pleasant surprise. After graduating high school, Shusuke’s best friend (and crush) Atsushi left to study abroad in England with no intention of returning to Japan. But six years later he unexpectedly comes back and Shusuke must once more face the fact that his feelings for Atsushi go far beyond friendship. There were quite a few things that appealed to me about the Alley of First Love: the leads are adult men, the prominence of their tightly-knit families and community (and the realistic rumor mills that accompany those), the touches of humor and overall heartwarming nature of the story, and so on. Readers looking forward to steamy love scenes will be left wanting as they are mostly implied rather than shown (Mamahara jokes in her notes that she’s terrible at drawing them), but the emotional connection between Shusuke and Atsushi is definitely there.

Love at Fourteen, Volume 3Love at Fourteen, Volumes 3-4 by Fuka Mizutani. I didn’t anticipate that I would enjoy the first couple of volumes of Love at Fourteen nearly as much as I actually did. However, although I also enjoyed the third and fourth volumes, my compulsion to read more of the series has somewhat diminished. Tanaka and Yoshikawa may be the leads, but I think they may actually be some of the least interesting characters in the series. But even though their personalities aren’t particularly strong, I do like them. And I like their relationship and the portrayal of the slow development of young love. But in the end, I find that I’m more intrigued by the supporting characters and their stories. Perhaps I’m not the only one who felt this way—Mizutani adds even more of them to the series in these two volumes. My favorite character has turned out to be Nagai, a delinquent with a talent for singing. However, the way that the music teacher manipulates and leads him on is troubling. She’s supposedly fallen in love with her fourteen-year-old student. I’m not sure if Mizutani intends for it to be tragically romantic, humorous, or what, but the way it plays out and is shown in the manga comes across as creepy more than anything else.

My Love Story!!, Volume 3My Love Story!!, Volume 3-6 written by Kazune Kawahara and illustrated by Aruko. I absolutely loved the first two volumes of My Love Story!! and so have made a point to collect the manga even though I’ve fallen behind in actually reading it. At first, I wasn’t really sure how long the series would be able to last before the gimmick was completely played out and became tiresome. After all, the manga was initially intended to be a one shot. Happily, My Love Story!! has yet to lose its charm for me. It continues to be funny and sweet, earnest and endearing. The story is beginning to expand more, as well. While Takeo and Yamato’s incredibly adorable and wholesome romance is at the heart of it all, the manga is now exploring the lives and relationships of their friends and family members as well. At one point it seemed as though My Love Story!! was going to be somewhat episodic, but some longer, continuing storylines are being introduced as are new, recurring characters. My Love Story!! always manages to make me happier just by reading it, so I’ll definitely continue following it.

My Week in Manga: October 6-October 12, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week Experiments in Manga saw the introduction of a new feature—Adaptation Adventures. Basically, the feature is intended to explore and compare different versions of the same story, which I think should be an interesting approach. I specifically had things in mind like the Parasyte anime adaptation that recently began airing  (readers of Experiments in Manga have expressed interest in some sort of Parasyte comparison in the past), but I quickly realized that the feature provides nearly endless options. For the first Adaptation Adventures column, I took a look at Udon Entertainment’s Manga Classics, a line of manga-style graphic novel adaptations of classic literature. I was pleasantly surprised by the Manga Classics editions of Pride & Prejudice and Les Misérables and look forward to seeing future releases. I also posted an in-depth manga review last week of Yaya Sakuragi’s Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 4, the last volume in the series. Sakuragi was my introduction to boys’ love manga and I’m always happy to see more of her work available in English. Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love isn’t my favorite Sakuragi manga, but I did enjoy its goofiness.

Elsewhere online, I was extremely happy to see that the one and only Manga Critic (Katherine Dacey) has come out of “retirement” and joined forces with Brigid Alverson at MangaBlog. Kate was one of my major inspirations for starting Experiments in Manga, so I’m very happy to see her return and look forward to reading her commentary. This also means that MangaBlog will be updated more regularly again, which will be great. In other news: Sean Gaffney at A Case Suitable for Treatment has a roundup of Seven Seas recent license announcements. Over at Comics Forum, the most recent Manga Studies column has been posted—Takeuchi Osamu and Manga Expression pt. 1: Tezuka Osamu as Manga Locus by Nicholas Theisen. Also, October’s issue of Sparkler Monthly is now available. It includes the launch of the third and final volume of Tokyo Demons as well as some additional bonus stories for the series. (Since I love Tokyo Demons, I’m particularly excited for and dreading the beginning of the end.)

The New York Comic Con took place over the weekend, and there was plenty of excitement to come out of that. Sean was there this year and has written up some notes on the panels he was able to attend. Vertical is spinning off Vertical Comics as a separate imprint to focus on manga and related material while Vertical continues to release prose and nonfiction. Vertical also licensed more Attack on Titan light novels, which will probably do pretty well. Viz Media also had a few new licenses to announce, as did Kodansha Comics. In addition to several other licenses, Yen Press has rescued Kaoru Mori’s Emma for a deluxe hardcover omnibus release! I only discovered Emma after CMX’s edition went out of print (and became extremely expensive), so I’m thrilled that I’ll finally be able to own the series in such a lovely format. (If you’re curious about Emma, I recommend checking out the archives for the Emma Manga Moveable Feast.)

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 2Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 2 written by Ryo Suzukaze and illustrated by Satoshi Shiki. I have largely been enjoying Attack on Titan‘s prequel manga Before the Fall, but I think I like it even more now that I have read the first Before the Fall novel that was recently released by Vertical. (My review of that volume can be found here.) Other than both being prequels to Attack on Titan, the stories of the novel and the manga aren’t directly related, but small references are made to the novel’s plot and characters in the manga. Which makes a fair amount of sense since the Before the Fall manga series is based on the second and third Attack on Titan light novels written by Suzukaze. In the second volume of the Before the Fall manga, Kuklo and Sharle have made their escape—Kuklo from the dungeons and Sharle from her overbearing father—but they are now faced with surviving among the common people. They actually make a pretty good life for themselves at first, but then Kuklo becomes obsessed with wanting to see a Titan for himself which, as anyone who is familiar with Attack on Titan will know, is an absolutely terrible idea that probably won’t end well for anyone involved.

My Love Story!!, Volume 2My Love Story!!, Volume 2 written by Kazune Kawahara and illustrated by Aruko. I absolutely adored the first volume of My Love Story!!, so much so that I was actually a little afraid to read the second volume since my expectations had been set so high. However, I am very pleased to report that I also loved My Love Story!!, Volume 2. The entire series just makes me so extremely happy to read. Takeo and Yamato’s love is incredibly pure and sweet and the two of them are utterly endearing and charming together. Misunderstandings do happen on occasion, but forgiveness is quick in coming and no harm is done. My Love Story!! has the potential to be sickeningly sweet, but the romance and characters are handled with such humor and lightheartedness that, at least for me, the manga hasn’t reached that point. There isn’t much nuance or subtlety to the characters—Takeo is a manly many with a sensitive heart, Yamato is adorable and earnest, Suna is cool and aloof—but I like them all so much that I don’t mind. My Love Story!! is ridiculous and over-the-top and I love it. I’m still not sure how the story will be able to be sustained for an entire series now that the basic conceit has been so well-established, but I look forward to finding out.

A New Season of Young LeavesA New Season of Young Leaves written by Venio Tachibana and illustrated by Akeno Kitahata. Ever since reading the two-volume boys’ love manga series Seven Days (which I loved) I have made a point to seek out more of Tachibana’s work available in English. And so I was very excited when A New Season of Young Leaves was licensed. I’ll admit, at first I was actually a little disappointed with A New Season for Young Leaves. I simply didn’t understand the relationship and odd power dynamics between the super popular Mariya and the socially awkward Nachi. But then about halfway through the volume, during an extensive flashback that explores the evolution of their strange friendship, the manga finally clicked for me. I found it to be incredibly compelling and I immediately wanted to read it again, which I take as a very good sign. I didn’t realize it when I initially began reading A New Season for Young Leaves, but it’s actually the first manga in a series that is at least three volumes long. While there were definitely a few plot lines introduced that were left unresolved, for the most part A New Season of Young Leaves does tell a complete story. But I really do hope more of the series is licensed; I am very curious to see how things continue to develop between Mariya and Nachi and the rest of their classmates.

My Week in Manga: June 23-June 29, 2014

My News and Reviews

Another three posts last week! It’s the end of June, so I decided to have a Juné Manga Giveaway. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still some time left to enter for a chance to win a copy of Momoko Tenzen’s boys’ love one-shot Flutter. Last week I also took a closer look at the two Gengoroh Tagame manga recently published by Bruno Gmünder, Endless Game and Gunji. (And speaking of Bruno Gmünder, more titles for its Gay Manga line have been announced! Look for Mentaiko Itto’s Priapus, Takeshi Matsu’s More and More of You, and Tagame’s Fisherman’s Lodge in English later this year.) Finally, I posted a review of Kaoru Ohno’s historical novel Cage on the Sea which is about the survival and eventual repatriation of the Japanese holdouts on Anatahan Island after World War II. It was a story that was sensationalized in the 1950s,  but Ohno’s thoroughly researched novel is a much more nuanced portrayal of the events and people involved.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail, Volume 38Fairy Tail, Volume 38 by Hiro Mashima. While the battles and challenges could be entertaining, I’ll admit that I had started to grow a little weary of the Grand Magic Games arc of Fairy Tail. Thankfully, a secondary (which has now become primary) plot was introduced which has much higher stakes than who will be declared the winner of the tournament. The possibility of the world being destroyed by the return of the dragons is a pretty big deal, after all. The lengthy buildup of the Grand Magic Games pays off in this volume though as the tournament reaches its conclusion. Actually, I think it’s one of the better volumes of Fairy Tail to have recently been released. Most of it is devoted to the various battles which are taking place, the Guild members showing just how much they’ve grown and how strong they’ve become in a very dramatic fashion. Friendship, loyalty, and teamwork have always been vital to Fairy Tail, but it really shows in this volume. Even though there is a focus on the action and fighting, there are also some important plot twists and story developments in the thirty-eighth volume, too.

My Love Story!!, Volume 1My Love Story!!, Volume 1 written by Kazune Kawahara and illustrated by Aruko. I absolutely adored the first volume of My Love Story!!—it’s funny and charming, and the characters are incredibly amusing and endearing. Although Takeo is heroic, enthusiastic, loyal, manly, and strong, he’s not traditionally good-looking, so people often overlook his better qualities. He falls in love easily, but all of the girls he likes fall for his attractive best friend Suna instead. (So far, Suna’s turned them all down, though.) But when Takeo saves a girl named Yamato from a groper on the train it seems as though his chance at love has finally arrived, if he isn’t too dense to realize it, that is. Takeo’s developing romance with Yamato is delightful, but his close friendship with Suna is marvelous, too. I’m not sure for how long the creators will be able spin the series’ basic premise without it feeling drawn out, but the manga is currently still ongoing at six volumes in Japan. Regardless, I’m looking forward to the next volume immensely; My Love Story!! is easily one of my favorite manga debuts of 2014.

Sankarea: Undying Love, Volume 7Sankarea: Undying Love, Volume 7 by Mitsuru Hattori. Bub’s condition continues to decline, so Rea has decided to leave for the ZoMA research facility, hoping that her unusual form of zombism will provide a clue to save him. (Is it sad that an undead cat is actually my favorite character in Sankarea?) Chihiro isn’t about to let her go on her own though, in part because he still feels responsible for Rea and wants to protect her, but also because he’s very interested in visiting the “zombie holy land.” Sankarea is a quirky series which tries to balance horror and romantic comedy. This volume actually succeeds fairly well in that. Chihiro has always expressed interest in zombie girls, and he is very excited to meet more of them at ZoMA, which causes him to reevaluate his relationship with Rea. Does he like her simply because she’s a zombie? Would he still like Rea even if there was a way to revive her? Considering Chihiro’s reactions to the other zombies, I could actually see Hattori going either way with the story. The seventh volume is a solid addition to the series, and ends on a pretty intense cliffhanger.