My Week in Manga: May 16-May 22, 2016

My News and Reviews

I ended up posting it a little later than I really intended, but my random musings on TCAF 2016 are now available to read. Although I didn’t make it to as many panels this year, I still had a great time and really enjoyed myself. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the audio yet, but I was also happy to discover that some of the panels that I missed The Sparkling World of Shojo Manga. In licensing news, Yen Press has picked up both the light novels and the manga for Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody and Konosuba. Princess Jellyfish has been doing well enough for Kodansha Comics that the publisher is considering releasing more josei and seinen. In the meantime, expect to see more additions to the Attack on Titan franchise in English from Kodansha as well as Shuzo Oshimi’s manga Happiness. Also, Vertical Comics will be releasing Chihiro Ishizuka’s manga series Flying Witch.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 7Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 7 written by Ryo Suzukaze and illustrated by Satoshi Shiki. I missed reading a few volumes of the Before the Fall manga, but I have read the original novel that it was based on so I didn’t expect that I would have much trouble picking the series up again. However, I think that the manga might actually be expanding on some of the material of the original, because I don’t recall things playing out exactly in the same way as they are in the manga. Or it could just be that it’s been so long since I’ve read the novel that I’ve managed to forget major plot points. Either way, I do like the way that Before the Fall expands the worldbuilding of Attack on Titan and how the prequel emphasizes some of the scientific and technological advances that are needed to make the main series work. Basically, the main character, in addition to having the requisite tragic backstory, is a test pilot (if that’s the right word) for what will eventually become the Vertical Maneuvering Equipment. A significant portion of the seventh volume of the Before the Fall manga is actually devoted to a field test which, like most encounters with the Titans, ist fraught with danger, disaster, and potential death.

Dicebox, Volume 1: WanderDicebox, Volume 1: Wander by Jenn Manley Lee. I discovered Lee’s ongoing comic Dicebox a couple of years ago while reading Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present where it was briefly mentioned. It piqued my interest so I thought I would give Wander, the first book out of four planned volumes (the second book is currently being serialized online), a try. I suspected that Dicebox would probably be a comic I would enjoy, but I didn’t expect that I would become so invested in the characters by the end of the first volume. Wander is almost completely driven by the characters and their relationships—the dramatic story boiling under the surface doesn’t become obvious until the final few chapters. Dicebox follows the lives of Molly and Griffin, two itinerant blue-collar workers moving from one job to the next, from one planet to the next. Molly tends to be fairly well liked, but Griffin, well she tends to piss people off, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. Eventually it’s revealed that one of the reasons that Molly puts up with Griffin is that they are married. Dicebox is incredibly well-realized near-future science fiction. It’s also undeniably queer, and quite possibly has the widest representation of the variance of human gender and sexuality that I’ve ever come across in a single work of fiction, comic or otherwise. I’m loving Dicebox and definitely plan on reading more of the series.

Ninja Slayer Kills, Volume 2Ninja Slayer Kills!, Volume 2 by Koutarou Sekine. I can’t say that I was overly impressed by the first volume of Ninja Slayer Kills and I really wasn’t planning on following the series, but I ended up with a review copy of the second volume, so I figured I might as well give it a try. I am admittedly surprised, but I enjoyed the second volume much more than the first. Almost the entirety of the second volume is devoted to a flashback, which is easy to miss unless close attention is paid to the manga’s prefatory material. Some of my complaints about the manga remain the same—for a series that is so focused on fight scenes and mayhem, the action can be frustratingly difficult to follow—but other aspects have improved. For one, there is absolutely no mistaking at least one of the character designs. Agony visually looks something like a highly-sexualized version of Pinhead from Hellraiser, complete with an enormous crotch-bulge sprouting numerous needles. The design is more disturbing than sexy, but it is memorable. Ninja Slayer Kills is all about being as over-the-top as possible, often reading like an in-your-face parody. It’s deliberately absurd and ridiculously violent, intentionally making heavy use of cyberpunk ninja tropes taken to their extremes.

My Week in Manga: August 10-August 16, 2015

My News and Reviews

Last week was a two-review week at Experiments in Manga. Both reviews were of manga and, more specifically, both reviews were of shoujo manga. First up was the first omnibus of Hiro Fujiwara’s Maid-sama!. The series was originally licensed by Tokyopop, which released the first eight volumes, but the manga was more recently rescued by Viz Media’s Shojo Beat imprint. Though he has his moments, I’m not particularly fond of the male lead Takumi at this point, but I absolutely adore the female protagonist Misaki. If for no other reason, I’ll be reading more of Maid-sama! for her sake. The second in-depth review from last week was of Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare, Volume 5. I continue to find After School Nightmare to be both compelling and highly distressing. The review is part of my ongoing monthly horror manga review project; September’s review will focus on the fifth volume of Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi.

As for a few other interesting manga-related posts found online last week, Comic Attack has a nice interview with Stacy King, the editor of Udon Entertainment’s Manga Classics line. (I’ve written a little bit about Udon’s Manga Classics in the past.) Also, Mangabrog has posted a translation of an interview of Kiyohiko Azuma, the creator of Yotsuba&!, from 2014. A few weeks ago I posted some random musings about my manga collection as part of a game of manga tag. One of the people who I specifically tagged to participate was Manga Xanadu’s Lori Henderson. She recently posted her own responses to the manga tag questions and Justin at Organization Anti-Social Geniuses took time to provide some answers, too. I really enjoy reading about other manga enthusiast’s collections. If you’re interested, be sure to check the posts out!

Quick Takes

Clan of the Nakagamis, Volume 1Clan of the Nakagamis, Volumes 1-2 by Homerun Ken. Although only two volumes of Clan of the Nakagamis have been released in English, it’s actually a three-volume boys’ love series. It’s unlikely that the third volume will be officially translated, but the manga tends to be fairly episodic. The final volume may be “missing,” but at least the series’ story doesn’t depend on it. Clan of the Nakagamis was brought to my attention due to the fact that Norikazu Akira, whose manga I’ve enjoyed, is somehow related to Homerun Ken. (She’s either one of the members of the two-person creative team or their older sister; I’m not entirely sure which.) Clan of the Nakagamis is intentionally ridiculous, a mashup of all sorts of unrelated tropes that the mangaka found amusing or were particularly fond of, everything from student-teacher relationships, to family conglomerates, to crossdressers. I actually wasn’t particularly impressed by the first volume of Clan of the Nakagamis, finding it to be too chaotic and lacking in cohesiveness, but I did legitimately enjoy the second. I even laughed out loud. It probably helped that it had a more coherent story and improved artwork.

Ninja Slayer Kills, Volume 1Ninja Slayer Kills!, Volume 1 by Koutarou Sekine. Ninja Slayer started as a series of novels, supposedly written by a couple of Americans, that inspired a recent anime adaptation as well as at least three different manga series (two of which have been licensed for English-language release). Sekine’s Ninja Slayer Kills! is the franchise’s shounen manga offering. It’s intended to be approachable and understandable even for readers who aren’t familiar with Ninja Slayer. I’m not sure it’s successful in accomplishing that, though. Very little of the story, characters, or setting is explained beyond broadly establishing a tale of super-powered revenge in a gritty near future. The first volume is mostly battle after battle and not much more. The fight scenes and their setups are marvelously epic, but unfortunately the action itself is difficult to follow so they lose their impact. That’s a significant flaw since so much of the manga is focused on these martial conflicts. On their own, the character designs of the cybernetic ninja are great, but they tend to blend together in the actual manga, which also makes determining what exactly is going on a challenge.

A Silent Voice, Volume 2A Silent Voice, Volume 2 by Yoshitoki Oima. I was greatly impressed by the first volume of A Silent Voice. It was a hard read due to its subject matter, specifically its realistic portrayal of bullying—how utterly cruel kids can be to each other and how adults, whether intentionally or not, can often encourage such behavior. While there is still some tragedy and darkness in the second volume, overall it’s a much lighter read; where the first is heartbreaking, the second makes it seem as though forgiveness and change is possible. Shoya, feeling that it is impossible to redeem himself for his past cruelty, plans to take his own life after apologizing to Shoko for adding so much misery to hers. But when he meets her again they end up forming an unexpected friendship instead. Even more surprisingly, Shoya eventually becomes friends with her younger sibling as well (though he doesn’t known that’s who the kid is at the time). Shoya recognizes that he can’t undo the harm that he’s already caused to Shoko and her family, but he’s slowly doing what he can to make up for it. I still think that A Silent Voice is one of the very best manga to debut this year.