My Week in Manga: September 12-September 18, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted the Bookshelf Overload for August. I picked up some great out-of-print (or soon to be out-of-print) manga and comics last month in addition to some highly-anticipated new releases. I was particularly busy with work and taiko last week so I wasn’t online much, but there is one thing that I’d like to draw attention to–the thirty-eighth and most recent issue of Sparkler Monthly. In it is the first part of a Skyglass side story written by Jenn Grunigen and illustrated by Mookie called “The Mud God” which, in addition to being adorably cute, is partly my fault as it’s related to another Skyglass commission that the author is working on for me. (Hopefully that one will be able to be shared soon, too!)

Quick Takes

Inuyashiki, Volume 4Inuyashiki, Volume 4 by Hiroya Oku. The fourth volume of Inuyashiki begins immediately where the third volume ends, with the devastating and gruesome aftermath of Inuyashiki’s confrontation with an powerful organized crime group. It then turns to follow Shishigami’s story again. One thing that I found to be particularly interesting about Inuyashiki, Volume 4 is the character development of the two main leads. Since the beginning of the series, Inuyashiki and Shishigami have been opposites, using their newly-granted powers in vastly different ways. Though they both are mechanical monsters with many of the same abilities, Inuyashiki has focused on helping others, whether that be by curing major illnesses or fighting on behalf of those who are weaker, while Shishigami has been going on killing sprees for his own selfish reasons. Inuyashiki abhors violence, even when he is a willing participant; Shishigami delights in it. But the fourth volume of Inuyashiki sees some of that change. Inuyashiki is learning to consciously use and control his more deadly powers, specifically in order to put an end to Shishigami. He still considers it to be a necessary evil, though. As for Shishigami, his mother’s illness inspires him to use his abilities for less destructive purposes, but it’s still difficult to sympathize with him since he shows very little regret or remorse for the suffering he has wrought in the recent past.

One-Punch Man, Volume 4One-Punch Man, Volumes 4-8 written by One and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. I continue to be greatly impressed by both the artwork and writing of One-Punch Man although the series is not without its flaws. The manga plays around with many of the tropes of the superhero genre and makes use of plenty of stereotypes in the process. Unfortunately, that means the introduction of an unquestionably gay hero and the perceived threat of his sexuality is intended to be comedic, resulting in an uncomfortable setup in which implied sexual assault is treated as a joke. Personally, I didn’t find this to be particularly funny. However, other than that glaring misstep, the humor in One-Punch Man is fantastic. A slew of new heroes and villains have been brought in; their powers are frequently over-the-top and frankly ridiculous, fitting the overall tone of the series perfectly. Murata’s artwork can be absolutely stunning and is incredibly dynamic, shifting from simplified illustrations to those that are nearly photo-realistic depending on the needs of the story and humor. The action sequences are great, filled with intense battles between absurdly powered opponents and accompanied by a suitably tremendous amount of destruction. It’s not at all surprising that One-Punch Man has been adapted into an anime series–the manga as a whole but especially the visual components seem to beg for it.

Queen Emeraldas, Volume 1 Queen Emeraldas, Volume 1 by Leiji Matsumoto. Older manga are not often released in English, so I was very excited to learn that Kodansha Comics would be publishing a classic series. I was even more interested when I found out that series would be Matsumoto’s space opera Queen Emeraldas which takes place in the same universe as his Captain Harlock stories. Although the hardcover English-language edition is based on a Japanese release from 2009, Queen Emeraldas was originally serialized in the late 1970s. The story largely follows a young man by the name of Hiroshi Umino, a runaway from Earth who crash lands on Mars in a spaceship he cobbled together himself. The titular Emeraldas is charismatic and enigmatic woman, a living legend who metes out justice as she wanders the stars. She takes a particular interest in the boy, repeatedly aiding him in his struggle to survive in space. Initially her concern seems to emerge from the fact that his story shares so many similarities with her own although later it is implied that she may have a deeper connection to him. However, like much of Queen Emeraldas, the nature of that connection is still a mystery. So far, I am thoroughly enjoying Queen Emeraldas. The manga is moody, atmospheric, and melancholic with a Western frontier flair. The characters are ambitious, seeking a life of freedom in a world that is harsh and unforgiving.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 9Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 9 by Miki Yoshikawa. It’s fairly common for bodyswap manga to incorporate a fair amount of fanservice, especially when different genders are involved, and Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is no exception to that trend. Generally, the fanservice in the series doesn’t bother me that much especially considering the context, but every once in a while it’s more of a distraction than anything else. A case in point is a completely inexplicable panty shot in the ninth volume which completely threw me out of the story; it served no purpose for either characterization or plot, and even how the scene was illustrated didn’t make any sense. Usually, Yoshikawa is much better than that. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the ninth volume of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. There are some interesting twists and revelations as Yamada tries to find a way to return everyone’s missing memories. I’m not always very fond of amnesia plotlines in stories simply because they can be a lazy way for creators to write themselves out of a corner or cause unnecessary drama, but in the case of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches it actually works really well. At it’s very heart the series about friendship and overcoming isolation. Yamada, intentionally or not, was the one who brought so many of the characters together in the first place and he will do everything that he can to bring them together again.

My Week in Manga: December 28, 2015-January 3, 2016

My News and Reviews

Happy New Year, everyone! 2015 may now be over, but there is still time to enter Experiments in Manga’s last giveaway of the year for a chance to win Merman in My Tub, Volume 1 by Itokichi; simply tell me a little about your favorite manga released in 2015. As for the first in-depth manga review of the year, that particular honor goes to Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki’s Oishinbo, A la Carte: The Joy of Rice, which examines the heart and soul of rice in Japanese culture and cuisine. Finally, over the weekend, I posted December’s Bookshelf Overload, the first of what I expect to be many fairly lean months when it comes to book purchases.

Since I’ve been on holiday for the last week or so, I haven’t actually been online much, so I’m certain that I’ve missed out on all sorts of manga news, announcements, and articles. (Please do let me know of any that were particularly exciting!) However, I did come across a few things that made for interesting reading last week. For example, Jonathan Hammill, Tokyo Symphony’s Principal Horn player, wrote about performing and recording music for anime. (I’m a horn player myself, so I found this doubly interesting.) The Shojo Beat tumblr posted the first part of an interview with Arina Tanemura, with the second part to come. And Organization Anti-Social Geniuses has the 2016 update of it’s incredibly useful guide to reading digital manga legally.

Quick Takes

Nephilim, Volume 1Nephilim, Volumes 1-2 by Anna Hanamaki. It was the basic conceit of Nephilim that first brought the series to my attention. The Nephilim are a race of people who change sex and gender, revealing their true selves at night before transforming again in the morning. Should a human see a Nephilim’s true form, the Nephilim must either kill that human or else die of a curse themselves. (That last bit is apparently too inconvenient from a storytelling standpoint and is soon dropped, however.) When Abel is seen by Guy she is determined to take his life, but that was before she fell in love with him. Now she has a terrible choice to make since a romance between a human and a Nephilim would seem to be doomed from the very start. As far as I can tell, Nephilim was canceled after two volumes; I can’t say that I’m particularly surprised. Despite a vaguely promising start and intriguing worldbuilding, unfortunately the series ends up being a confusing, nonsensical mess with hardly a likeable character in it, somehow managing to become more and more cliche as unfolds even while incorporating unique elements. The artwork could be pretty at times, though.

One-Punch Man, Volume 1One-Punch Man, Volumes 1-3 written by One and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. For over a year, most of One-Punch man was only available in English digitally; it was only recently that it was finally released in print. I had been holding out, so I was glad when I could finally hold the series in my hand. I have been hearing great things about One-Punch Man since it first began and I was sincerely afraid that I would be disappointed when I read it. I was very happy to discover that the series lives up to its reputation. Both the writing and the artwork are excellent. The premise of One-Punch Man is that Saitama, at one point a miserable salaryman, has taken his hero training so far that he can now defeat any enemy with a single punch, once again leaving him bored and frustrated with life. He’s actually more worried about missing bargain days at the supermarket than he is about dying in battle. One-Punch Man is legitimately funny and the fight and action sequences are great. I’m actually rather impressed by how many different scenarios One has come up with for what could have been a very limited, one-shot joke.

Tale of the Waning Moon, Volume 2Tale of the Waning Moon, Volumes 2-4 by Hyouta Fujiyama. The first volume of Tale of the Waning Moon amused and entertained me, so I figured that I should read the rest of the short boys’ love series. The manga continues to be utterly ridiculous, although by the end it has become surprisingly weighty. In the beginning, the plot progression of Tale of the Waning Moon is highly influenced by role-playing games, complete with random old men giving clues as to what needs to be done next (I love this) and multiple side quests that must be completed before the main goal can be achieved. The goal in this case being uniting Ryuka with Ixto, one of the spirits of the Moon. The RPG elements become less prominent as the series develops although the fantasy setting remains. I generally preferred the goofier side of Tale of the Waning Moon; some of the more serious developments actually felt a little out-of-place and less convincing than the series’ comedy and silliness. But I did enjoy the manga overall. Though it had a dubious start, Ryuka and Ixto’s relationship is sincere in the end. I did, however, find that I was often more invested in the supporting cast and couples.