Manga Giveaway: Kodansha Shoujo Smorgasbord Winner

LDK, Volume 1Let's Dance a Waltz, Volume 1
My Little Monster, Volume 1Say I Love You, Volume 1

And the winner of the Kodansha Shoujo Smorgasbord manga giveaway is… Rebecca!

As the winner, Rebecca will be receiving four first volumes of shoujo manga published by Kodansha Comics: LDK, Volume 1 by Ayu Watanabe; Let’s Dance a Waltz, Volume 1 by Natsumi Ando; My Little Monster, Volume 1 by Robico; and Say I Love You, Volume 1 by Kanae Hazuki. Kodansha usually isn’t the first publisher I think of when I think of shoujo, but I’ve really been enjoying some of the shoujo manga that it has licensed. For this giveaway, I asked that participants tell me a little about their favorite Kodansha shoujo manga. As was pointed out by several people, Kodansha also releases quite a few shounen series which have tremendous shoujo crossover appeal. Check out the the giveaway comments for all of the responses!

Some of the shoujo (and josei) manga available from Kodansha Comics:
Arisa by Natsumi Ando
Attack on Titan: No Regrets by Hikaru Suruga
Codename: Sailor V by Naoko Takeuchi
Fairy Tail: Blue Mistral written by Hiro Mashima, illustrated by Rui Watanabe
I Am Here by Ema Toyama
Kiss Him, Note Me! by Junko
Kitchen Princess by Natsumi Ando
LDK by Ayu Watanabe
Let’s Dance a Waltz by Natsumi Ando
Manga Dogs by Ema Toyama
Missions of Love by Ema Toyama
My Little Monster by Robico
No. 6 by Hinoki Kino
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Short Stories by Naoko Takeuchi
Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura
Say I Love You by Kanae Hazuki
Shugo Chara! by Peach-Pit
Shugo Chara Chan! by Peach-Pit
Tokyo Mew Mew written by Reiko Yoshida, illustrated by Mia Ikumi
Tokyo Mew Mew a la Mode by Mia Ikumi
The Wallflower by Tomoko Hayakawa

Thank you to everyone who shared your favorite Kodansha shoujo manga (or shounen manga with a shoujo flair) with me. I hope to see you all again for the next giveaway!

Manga Giveaway: Kodansha Shoujo Smorgasbord

The end of November is almost here, and you know what that means! It’s time for another manga giveaway at Experiments in Manga. As is tradition for November’s giveaway, in celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States (my favorite holiday) I’m offering up a manga feast. You all will have a chance to win not one, but four volumes of manga this month: LDK, Volume 1 by Ayu Watanabe; Let’s Dance a Waltz, Volume 1 by Natsumi Ando; My Little Monster, Volume 1 by Robico; and Say I Love You, Volume 1 by Kanae Hazuki–a veritable smorgasbord of shoujo from Kodansha Comics! And, as always, the giveaway is open worldwide.

LDK, Volume 1Let's Dance a Waltz, Volume 1My Little Monster, Volume 1Say I Love You, Volume 1

When I used to think of Kodansha Comics, shoujo manga never really came to mind. However, over the last couple of years, the publisher has made a point to expand its shoujo offerings. As a result, Kodansha has started to develop a nice catalog of shoujo manga, including titles that feature science fiction, mystery, action, romance, comedy, drama and more. For the most part, I’ve really been enjoying Kodansha’s shoujo series and I like seeing the variety in the manga.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a Kodansha Shoujo Smorgasbord?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little bit about your favorite shoujo manga released by Kodansha Comics. (If you don’t have one yet, simply mention that.)
2) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting, or retweeting, about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

And there you have it! Each person can earn up to two entries for this giveaway and has one week to submit comments. If you have trouble leaving comments, or if you would prefer, entries can also be emailed to me at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. I will then post the comments here in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on December 2, 2015. Good luck to you all!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address in the comment form, a 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: Kodansha Shoujo Smorgasbord Winner

My Week in Manga: July 27-August 2, 2015

My News and Reviews

The Sparkler Monthly Year 3 Kickstarter campaign ends tonight, so this is one of my last opportunities to give it a shout-out! I actually spent a lot of last week trying to draw attention to the project and the spectacular work being done by the staff and creators of Sparkler Monthly. For example, my most recent giveaway, which is currently underway, is for the second book in Tokyo Demons (one of my favorite series ever, not just one of my favorite Sparkler series) as well as one additional Sparkler goody of the winner’s choice. And for my final in-depth review for the month of July, I featured Heldrad’s delightful Orange Junk, Volume 1, a romantic comedy strongly influenced by shoujo manga. I also posted July’s Bookshelf Overload over the weekend, which I also managed to briefly tie into Sparkler Monthly.

In publishing news, Bruno Gmünder is adding two more volumes of gay manga to its catalog for the 2015 Fall/Winter season—Takeshi Matsu’s Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories and Gengoroh Tagame’s The Contracts of the Fall—and Breakdown Press will be releasing Ding Dong Circus and Other Stories, 1967-1974 by alt-mangaka Sasaki Maki. Ryan Holmberg, the collection’s translator and editor, recently wrote about Sasaki Maki for The Comics Journal. Also of note, Kodansha has plans to expand its digital distribution. There were also a couple of interesting interviews posted last week: over at Anime News Network Deb Aoki talked with mangaka Miki Yoshikawa in addition to one of Yoshikawa’s editors, and Organization Anti-Social Geniuses spoke with Marlene First, one of the manga editors at Viz.

Quick Takes

Akame ga Kill!, Volume 1Akame ga Kill!, Volume 1 written by Takahiro and illustrated by Tetsuya Tashiro. It seems as though every dark fantasy manga that has been released in English recently has a similar plot—the current ruling government and upper classes of society are staggeringly corrupt and a small group of exceptionally skilled fighters are battling against them. In many of the stories, the twist is that the “bad guys” are really the “good guys,” though it’s not much of a twist anymore since it’s becoming increasingly common. In Akame ga Kill!, that group is a team of assassins who target high-profile nobles and government officials. It’s a decent premise, but I’m not entirely convinced by Akame ga Kill!. Plot developments seem to occur more out of convenience than anything else, and despite delving into their various backstories the characters don’t yet have much depth to them. Takahiro mentions in the postscript that he finds Tashiro’s action scenes particularly eye-catching. I’m not familiar with Tashiro’s other manga, but when comes to Akame ga Kill! I was actually a little disappointed with the fight sequences. Battles happen so quickly that it appears as though nothing happens at all, and on occasion the action is skipped over completely. This conveys impressive speed, but I’d like to actually see the fights.

Let's Dance a Waltz, Volume 2Let’s Dance a Waltz, Volume 2 by Natsumi Ando. If it wasn’t for the series’ unfortunate focus on Himé’s weight loss, I would be really enjoying Let’s Dance a Waltz. The first volume ends with her losing more than forty pounds after two weeks of intensive dance study. I would be willing to begrudgingly move on from this, except that the second volume never lets the reader forget about it. The manga seems to constantly emphasize that someone has to be slim to be of worth. It really is a shame, because I like so many of the other elements of Let’s Dance a Waltz. I love the dancing in the series and Himé’s developing passion for it as a sport. The second volume includes her first contest, which is partly an effort to compel Tango to compete once again. And I love the delicious melodrama surrounding the competitors and the dynamics of their tangled personal relationships. Yūsei cares tremendously for his dance partner Sumiré, but she seems to have feelings for Tango. They both want to see Tango return dance, but that also means that he will become their opponent in the ballroom. Himé is in love with Tango, too, which introduces tension into her friendships with all three of them. There’s so much to like about Let’s Dance a Waltz, but the handling of the weight issues in the series honestly bothers me.

My Week in Manga: April 20-April 26, 2015

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted a review of Kaori Ekuni’s quiet yet devastating novel God’s Boat. Ekuni’s debut novel Twinkle Twinkle is one of my favorites, so I made it a point to read more of her work. The underlying premise of God’s Boat—a young woman and her daughter living their lives together while the child’s father has gone missing—is somewhat similar to Hiromi Kawakami’s novel Manazuru which a I read relatively recently, but the two books are very different. I find Ekuni’s work to be very effective, so I wish that more was available in translation. Last week I also posted my second Adapatation Adventures feature, this time taking a closer look at The Twelve Kingdoms and comparing the anime adaptation with the original novels. Both version of The Twelve Kingdoms are excellent. I’m really hoping that one day the novels might be licensed again.

As for other interesting reading that I discovered last week, Brigid Alverson wrote A Brief History of Ultraman in honor of Viz licensing one of the more recent Ultraman manga. Jonathan Clements posted an article about the Japanese manga industry, particularly in regards to digital publishing. Alicia at Things We Lost at Dusk translated an excerpt of an interview with Hanamura Eiko, Chiba Tetsuya, and Takemiya Keiko about drawing girls in early shoujo manga. Other interesting things of note, the 2015 Eisner Award Nominations have been announced. As always, there are some great comics on the list. Though, as usual, manga has for the most part been relegated into the Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia category: All You Need Is Kill, In Clothes Called Fat, Master Keaton, One-Punch Man, Showa: A History of Japan, and Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki. The major exception this year is Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It which is up for Best Anthology. Viz’s Hello Kitty, Hello 40: A Celebration in 40 Stories was also nominated in the Best Publication for Early Readers category. And speaking of Viz, the publisher is currently running a survey about social media and websites.

Quick Takes

Let's Dance a Waltz, Volume 1Let’s Dance a Waltz, Volume 1 by Natsumi Ando. I’ve previously read two other series in which Ando was involved: Kitchen Princess and Arisa. Her manga tend to incorporate a fair number of well-worn shoujo tropes and melodrama, which is true of Let’s Dance a Waltz as well. But, the manga are put together in such a way that makes for an enjoyable read even if the series aren’t particularly ground breaking. Let’s Dance a Waltz is cute, and I liked the series’ focus on ballroom dancing, which isn’t often seen in manga in English. However, one thing that really annoyed and bothered me was how Ando handled Himé’s weight at the end of the volume. After two weeks of intense dancing, she loses over forty pounds, becoming stereotypically slim and pretty. She was already cute before that though. Sadly, I suppose it was too much to ask that her and the series’ expressed admiration of the other dancers was an appreciation of their elegance and confidence rather than their slim figures. But at least Himé seems to be interested in dancing for dancing’s sake rather than as a weight loss program.

Lies & KissesLies & Kisses Masara Minase. A few of Minase’s boys’ love manga have been translated into English, but so far Lise & Kisses is the only one that I’ve actually read. Tatsuya has been searching for his long-lost half-brother Haruka and unwittingly sleeps with him after bringing an attractive stranger home from the bar one evening. Haru does switch from being the adoring younger brother to the sex-craving lover surprisingly easily and quickly, so the manga loses its believability very early on. But ignoring that, the aptly named Lies & Kisses actually handles the characters’ emotional turmoil and baggage surprisingly well. The reasons for Haru and Tatsuya’s repeated miscommunication makes sense and their conflicting feelings as their relationship evolves are understandable. When it is revealed that they may or may not actually be related by blood, even more emotional drama ensues. Most of the decisions made by the two men to lie and to hide things from each other, while misguided, are generally done so with good intentions and with concern for the other’s well-being.

UQ Holder, Volume 4UQ Holder!, Volume 4 by Ken Akamatsu. I continue to be somewhat frustrated by UQ Holder! and the hero’s ambiguous and seemingly directionless ambitions, but I have liked the last couple of volumes more than the first two. Tōta’s goal is still extraordinarily vague and uncomplicated—as far as I can tell, at this point it basically amounts to just wanting to be awesome—but at least the fight scenes tend to be fairly entertaining. The part of UQ Holder! that currently interests me the most is the wide variety of immortals in the series. This particular volume reveals yet another character with a special skill that, with careful use, more or less renders her immortal. Functionally, she is able to create a “save point” which, although it does have its limitations, is an admittedly cool ability. The fourth volume also ties UQ Holder! in a little closer to the tangentially related series Negima! by introducing one of its major characters, Fate Averruncus, as a primary antagonist. Hopefully this means the story of UQ Holder! will become more engaging now that it seems that the manga might be developing an actual plot.

Wolfsmund, Volume 5Wolfsmund, Volumes 5-6 by Mitsuhisa Kuji. If I recall correctly, Wolfsmund was initially expected to end with the sixth volume, but it looks like there will be at least seven volumes if not more. Wolfsmund is an extraordinarily brutal manga and its violence is not at all romanticized. The fighting and torture is savage and cruel, making the series an uncomfortable read at times. In these two volumes of Wolfsmund, the Swiss rebellion continues its attack on the “Wolf’s Maw” of Sankt Gotthard Pass. Austrian reinforcements are expected, so their time is limited. They must overtake the barrier station and its bailiff as quickly as possible. Desperate measures are needed in order to accomplish that. The rebels literally throw their lives and bodies at the fortress, becoming willing participants in what amounts to a suicide mission. Even after breaching the outer defenses, they still have to contend with the traps found inside the barrier station itself and the clever design of a fortress built to withstand invasion from the outside. The deaths are gruesome and extremely unpleasant, but ultimately the rebels are able to overcome simply because they have a great number of people who are willing to die for their cause.

My Week in Manga: January 13-January 19, 2013

My News and Reviews

There were three posts at Experiments in Manga last week, only two of which were mine. First up was my review of Negi Banno’s S.S. Astro, Volume 1, a yonkoma manga about a group of young, twenty-something high school teachers. Sadly, the series was canceled before a second volume could be released. The review is the second manga for my Year of Yuri review project. My other post last week is a part of my continuing efforts to track down manga podcasts. Discovering Manga: Podcasts, Part 3 takes a look a three ongoing podcasts that started in 2013. Also last week, I was happy to welcome Jocilyn Wagner as a guest to Experiments in Manga with her review of Hiroki Ugawa’s Shrine of the Morning Mist, Volume 1.

On to interesting things found online! Alexander Hoffman posted a Lessons from the Crater Project over at Manga Widget, which is a great summary of the events surrounding the Kickstarter project for Osamu Tezuka’s The Crater. The Daily Dot has an excellent overview of the debate over Zoë Hange gender in Attack on Titan, which has apparently become rather heated in some circles. Opening Ceremony took time to talk to the wonderful folks behind Massive—New-to-OC Brand MASSIVE on Husky Gay Asian Erotica. I also particularly enjoyed reading Tony Yao’s post The Beautiful Negativity of Seinen over at Manga Therapy.

One last thing: Usamaru Furuya’s birthday is on January 25. In honor of that, I’m declaring this week Usamaru Furuya Week at Experiments in Manga. Basically, it’s an excuse for me to get around to reviewing the rest of his manga, which I’ve been meaning to do ever since I hosted the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast a couple of years ago. So, I’ll be posting a whopping five reviews this week! I hope you enjoy.

Quick Takes

Arisa, Volume 12Arisa, Volume 12 by Natsumi Ando. Since its beginning Arisa has gone through so many disconcerting twists and turns, how is it possible that the twins look so utterly happy on the cover of the final volume? For the most part, I was satisfied with the ending of Arisa. Things aren’t resolved as happily as the cover might imply, which I find appropriate considering the darker aspects of the story. And I wouldn’t want everything to be tied up neatly. Once again though, some of the plot twists are a little ridiculous and over-the-top. I’m all for heightened drama, but I also like it to at least make some logical sense. Admittedly, Arisa can be a bit of a mess. Even so, I really enjoyed reading the series. Also included in this volume is a rather silly side story that takes place before the events of the main series. In this case it’s Arisa posing as her sister instead of the other way around. The results are amusing though not particularly believable. Granted, at this point I’m not expecting Arisa to be particularly believable anyway.

Eyeshield 21, Volume 28Eyeshield 21, Volumes 28-31 written by Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. I’ve discovered that, for some reason, I really like sports manga, even when that sport is something that I’m not particularly interested in in real life. For example, American football. Yet here I am thoroughly enjoying Eyeshield 21, completely caught up in the Deimon Devil Bats’ fight to reach the Christmas Bowl. And a fight it is. These volumes focus on the game between the Devil Bats and the Hakushu Dinosaurs with an emphasis placed on football as a combat sport. (I’ve actually never really thought of football that way before, so that was an interesting take on the sport for me.) The Dinosaurs have a habit of intentionally sending their opponents to the hospital, so it’s a fairly rough game. The face-off between the two teams also shows just how far Sena has come as a player since the beginning of the series. Once a weakling pushover, he’s now become much more confident in his abilities and in himself. I’m very excited to read more of Eyeshield 21.

Hetalia: Axis Powers, Volume 4Hetalia: Axis Powers, Volumes 4-5 by Hidekaz Himaruya. I know just as many people who absolutely hate the Hetalia franchise as I do people who absolutely love it. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a rabid fan, but it is a series I follow. I do, however, generally prefer the anime adaptation over the original manga. For some reason, even though the anime and the manga both make the same jokes, I find the anime to be funnier. There are times that I just can’t seem to figure out what the punchline is supposed to be in the manga. The manga still can make me laugh, though, and I even occasionally learn a bit of history in the process, which I appreciate. The number of countries involved in Hetalia continues to grow with these volumes, including more female personifications which is nice to see. The Netherlands in particular seems to get a fair amount of page time this time, too. Hetalia does rely heavily on stereotypes for its humor, but I don’t get the feeling that they’re being used maliciously or to be deliberately offensive.

White BrandWhite Brand by Youka Nitta. Although I didn’t realize it until reading the afterword, apparently White Brand was Nitta’s first collection of boys’ love short stories. I’ve now read several of Nitta’s manga, but it seems that they tend to be fairly hit-or-miss for me. Despite Embracing Love actually being one of my favorite yaoi series, none of Nitta’s other works have really grabbed me. That hasn’t especially changed with White Brand, though I did like it more than The Prime Minister’s Secret Diplomacy. White Brand collects five short boys’ love manga. I’m not sure if it was an intentional or not, but a recurring theme throughout most of the stories is opposites. “White Brand” is about cousins with different color skin tones. “Teal End” is about two men from different countries. “Exhibition Painting” features men from very different classes and walks of life. “One Size Fits All” is somewhat frivolous story about a tall model and a much shorter man. “Hasta la Vista, Baby” is the only story that this play on opposites isn’t immediately obvious.

MushishiMushishi: Sun-Eating Shade directed by Hiroshi Nagahama. I won’t lie—I love both the Mushishi manga and the anime. I was very excited when the special episode was announced and thrilled when Crunchyroll picked it up so that I could actually watch it. Although about twice as long as the individual episodes of the anime series, Sun-Eating Shade matches the tone, atmosphere, and ambiance perfectly. I was very happy to see that the same animation style was kept for the special episode. The backgrounds are still gorgeous, the music is still haunting, the pacing is still relaxed and unhurried. Mushishi has always been a rather episodic series, but I liked how Sun-Eating Shade made references to and loosely tied together several stories adapted in the first season of the anime. If someone didn’t enjoy the original anime series, there is nothing in Sun-Eating Shade that will change their mind. But established Mushishi fans (like me) probably won’t be disappointed with the special episode. I’m looking forward to the second season of Mushishi a great deal.