My Week in Manga: February 20-February 26, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Osamu Tezuka Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Kate Dacey at The Manga Critic. There was a good turn out this month. As for me, I managed to post two in-depth reviews related to the Feast. The first was Helen McCarthy’s Harvey Award-winning The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga. It’s a great introduction to Tezuka and his works, plus its a lot of fun to look at with hundreds of images. I also reviewed the first volume of Dororo, which is one of my favorite series by Tezuka.

I’ve added two new blogs that I enjoy to the Resources page, neither of which is specifically about manga but occasionally features a title: Nihon distractions: Readings in translated Japanese Literature and BookDragon, a part of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program. I’d also like to point out a list of Yuri Manga Titles Available Outside of Japan put together by Erica Friedman over at Okazu. The list focuses on manga that is currently or will soon be in print.

I should probably mention that Experiments in Manga has been selected to compete in the second Aniblog Tourney. (I have no idea how they found out about me.) The first tournament focused on anime blogs, but this year manga-oriented blogs will be included as well. I’m mostly interested in learning about blogs that I don’t already know about through the tournament.

And as a complete side note, the fact that all of my manga quick takes for this week have something to do with boxing and/or wrestling was completely unintentional. However, now I really want someone to license Ashita no Joe. I tend to be particularly interested in karate since that is what I study, but I do enjoy series about martial arts and combat sports in general as well.

Quick Takes

Gen, Issues 1-6 by Various. Gen is primarily touted as a digital manga magazine, but the issues are also eventually made available in print (which is how I read them). The magazine collects seinen indie and dōjinshi manga from Tokyo. There is a nice mix of stories: sports (boxing and sumo), comedy, drama, fantasy. I’ve never read a manga magazine before; I’ve always waited for a series to be collected. I am really enjoying Gen, though. I’ve been introduced to manga that I probably wouldn’t have thought to pick up otherwise. I only have one major complaint about Gen so far and that is that there is an overabundance of spelling errors in the translation. If I notice them, you know it’s bad.

Love Round!! by Hinako Takanaga. I am fond of Takanaga’s work, and Love Round!! is no exception. It’s a silly little boys’ love one-shot, but is quite amusing and has likeable leads. Kubo is a high school boxing champion with dreams of going pro. His classmate, the effeminate looking Kaoru, turns out to be a flyweight powerhouse with a punch that can even knock out Kubo (and does so repeatedly). Kubo does his best to convince Kaoru to join his gym and the two end up becoming friends (and eventually a bit more). Kubo is a endearingly dense and his big mouth gets him into trouble on more than one occasion. Kaoru on the other hand, while cute, is a little spitfire. It’s easy to forget that they’re both high school students since most of the story takes place in the gym.

Super Pro K.O.! by Jarrett Williams. For a comic about professional wrestling, and despite Williams’ fun artwork, I actually found Super Pro K.O.! to be rather boring. This makes me sad, because I really wanted to like it. Maybe it’s just because I don’t have a particular interest in pro wrestling. I think that Williams was a little too ambitious for the debut volume. So many plot elements and characters were introduced that there wasn’t enough time to thoroughly develop any of them. I did like Joe Somiano, the supposed lead (I say supposed since he doesn’t appear much). Once a track star, he gave track up in order to pursue professional wrestling. He’s inexperienced and guileless, but very enthusiastic.

InuYasha: Season 1, Episodes 20-27 directed by Masashi Ikeda and Yasunao Aoki. It’s been a while since I watched the first part of the first season of InuYasha, but there’s enough recapping in each episode that I caught up pretty quickly. In fact, I feel that in general there’s too much recycling. While I’m sure it was useful when the series was being broadcast, it makes marathoning a bit of a slog since it slows down the pacing of the narrative. By the end of the first season, all of the main protagonists have been introduced as well as Naraku, the primary antagonist. I’m enjoying InuYasha, but at the same time I don’t really feel compelled to pursue the series, especially considering it’s length. Still, I’ll probably give the second season a try at some point.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion directed by Hideaki Anno and Kazuya Tsurumaki. Long story short, The End of Evangelion is an alternate ending to the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series, “replacing” the controversial final two episodes. Although there were parts of Neon Genesis Evangelion I really enjoyed, I think that to some extent I’ve lost my patience with the franchise. The End of Evangelion does explain some things that were not made explicitly clear in the original series, which I was very grateful for, but at the same time there are still parts that are terribly perplexing and there are still plenty of questions that have answers that are left up to interpretation.

The Secret World of Arrietty directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Based on The Borrowers, a series of childrens’ fantasy novels by Mary Norton, The Secret World of Arrietty is the most recent film from Studio Ghibli to be released in the United States. The story focuses on a family of small people known as Borrowers and a human who wants to befriend them. While the animation is beautiful, the garden and plants are particularly lovely, the pacing of the film very slow. I found myself paying more attention to the visual details of the world that was created rather than the actual story. I loved seeing how the Borrowers repurposed and used the items they found. My favorite part of the film was how liquids (tea, water, etc.) were handled as large droplets as opposed free-flowing fluids.

My Week in Manga: January 30-February 5, 2012

My News and Reviews

Although expected, it was a particularly slow week here at Experiments in Manga, especially after the flurry of posts I made for the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast not so long ago. January’s Bookshelf Overload was revealed and the Genkaku Picasso Giveaway Winner was announced. I also posted one last roundup/final farewell for the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast. Apologies for such a brief news and reviews section—I’m still recovering from the Feast!

Quick Takes

Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, Volumes 1-4 by Harold Sakuishi. Only twelve volumes of Beck, a thirty-four volume Kodansha Manga Award-winning series, made it into English. The protagonist, Koyuki, is a fourteen-year-old boy who leads a fairly normal, boring life. Things start to get a little more interesting for him when he is introduced to indie rock music. This, among other things, inspires him to learn to play the guitar. Beck isn’t a particularly quickly paced manga, but the story is fairly solid. The fourth volume ends with Koyuki about to take the stage with his friend’s band Beck. I’d like to see how Koyuki’s first performance as part of the band turns out and where he goes from there.

Comics Underground Japan edited by Kevin Quigley. A manga anthology from 1996, Comics Underground Japan may now be out of print but is still worth tracking down. The volume collects fourteen short comics from twelve different artists working in alternative manga. I picked up Comics Underground Japan specifically because I wanted to read Suehiro Maruo’s contribution “Planet of the Jap.” I’m glad that I did because the collection is marvelously diverse; I was introduced to mangaka I wasn’t previously aware of and whose work I’d like to read more of. Unfortunately, they don’t all have other manga available in English. Often strange and bizarre, each comic in the anthology leaves a distinct impression.

Steady Beat, Volumes 1-2 by Rivkah. Part of Tokyopop’s abandoned original-English manga line, only the first two volumes of Steady Beat were published. The third and final volume was to be released online, but if it ever was it doesn’t seem to be available now. Leah, the daughter of a conservative Texas state senator, discovers that her older sister might be a lesbian, throwing her life into confusion. Steady Beat is actually a rather silly comic and makes use of quite a few cliches. When it does pause to take itself seriously, it comes across as preachy. While there was certainly room for improvement, and some things annoyed me tremendously, there were many aspects of the series that I really enjoyed.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Complete directed by Hideaki Anno. Somehow, I’ve gone this long without actually having seen Neon Genesis Evangelion. I found it to be fascinating and enjoyed much of it although occasionally it was also very confusing. Still, the psychological exploration of the characters was compelling. The director’s cuts of episodes twenty-one through twenty-four (included in the boxset) really help to tie everything together better than the originals. The final two episodes, while interesting, are drastically different from the rest of the series and aren’t led up to very well. I’m not surprised fans revolted against them—they don’t make for a particularly satisfying ending.