My Week in Manga: April 10-April 16, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga was relatively quiet, but I did post the Bookshelf Overload for March. As mentioned in that post (and I think sometime prior to that as well), I’m currently in the process of changing jobs, so I’ve been a bit preoccupied to say the least. (If you follow me on Twitter, this largely explains my sporadic appearances there.) This week is my last week in my current position, so I’m understandably pretty busy with meetings and tying up loose ends and such. I still plan on finishing up and posting my review of the first volume of Nagabe’s The Girl from the Other Side sometime this week, but it will probably be towards the end.

Over the last week, Seven sees announced a couple more new licenses: Yoshikazu Takeuchi’s Perfect Blue novels (which were the basis for Satoshi Kon’s anime film of the same name) as well as Jin and Sayuki’s manga series Nirvana. Yen Press also had a slew of announcements: Natsume Ono’s ACCA 13 (probably the one I’m most excited about), Kudan Naduka and Nakoto Sanada’s Angel of Slaughter, Matoba’s As Miss Beelzebub Likes, Rihito Takarai’s Graineliers, Afro’s Laid-Back Camp?, Mufirushi Shimazaki’s The Monster Tamer Girls, Koromo’s A Polar Bear in Love, Matcha Hazuki’s One Week Friends, Fuse’s Regarding Reincarnating as Slime light novel (Kodansha Comics has licensed the manga), both the light novel and manga of Carlo Zen’s The Saga of Evil Tanya, Okina Baba’s light novel So I’m a Spider, So What?, Keiichi Shigusawa and Tadadi Tamori’s Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Online, Abec’s Sword Art Online Artworks artbook, Reki Kawahara and Shii Kiya’s Sword Art Online: Calibur, Mai Tanaka’s Terrified Teacher at Ghoul School, Kakashi Oniyazu’s Though You May Burn to Ash, and Ryousuke Asakura’s Val X Love.

As for crowdfunding efforts, Digital Manga will be launching its most recent Juné Kickstarter sometime later today in an effort to publish print editions of some of Psyche Delico’s manga which were previously only released digitally. (This is in addition to recently announced print licenses of Psyche Delico’s Even a Dog Won’t Eat It and Choco Strawberry Vanilla.) Another Kickstarter project to keep an eye on is Retrofit Comic’s Spring 2017 collection which includes Yuichi Yokoyama’s Iceland. (In general Retrofit Comics releases some great books, but this will be the publisher’s first manga to be translated.) Finally, the wonderful people behind Queer Japan are currently raising funds for the film’s post-production as well as some of the non-profit organizations featured in the documentary.

Quick Takes

Dawn of the Arcana, Volume 7Dawn of the Arcana, Volumes 7-13 by Rei Toma. I enjoyed the first part of Dawn of the Arcana a great deal and so was looking forward to reading the rest of the series. As the manga progresses it becomes less reliant on the standard fantasy tropes that form its base, although it never escapes them entirely. However, even considering this, Dawn of the Arcana is still a satisfying and enjoyable series. The story’s most dramatic plot twist I guessed at long before it was actually revealed, but there were still developments and directions that the story took that managed to surprise me. At times it felt like Dawn of the Arcana was only scratching the surface, as if the manga was only providing a summary version of a much more complicated narrative. The characters and story have depth to them, but not everything is thoroughly and completely explored, much of the more nuanced interpretations being left to the readers to form. I really liked Dawn of the Arcana. It can be heartbreaking–the characters’ struggling with circumstances that have no easy resolutions–but also thrilling as they find ways to take control of their own fates.

Murciélago, Volume 1Murciélago, Volume 1 by Yoshimurakana. I was forewarned about the violence, gore, and otherwise explicit nature of Murciélago, so I was well aware of what I was getting myself into by picking up the manga. Murciélago is ridiculous, absurd, extreme, over-the-top, and a great deal of fun if someone doesn’t have a problem with the series’ aforementioned blood and brutality. Interestingly, the risqué lesbian sex scenes which both open and close the first volume, while being deliberately lewd, scandalous, and outrageous are also entirely consensual and in a way are bizarrely one of the more wholesome aspects of the manga. The lead of Murciélago is Kuroko Koumori, a dangerous, murderous, and lecherous woman who has been sentenced to death for her crimes. Kuroko is a monster and is portrayed as such. (She’s an awful person, but I really like her as a character.) The only reason that she’s still alive is that the police have indefinitely postponed her execution in order to take advantage of her impressive skills as an assassin. So, yeah, Murciélago definitely isn’t a series for everyone, but I certainly plan on reading more of it.

Triton of the Sea, Omnibus 2Triton of the Sea, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 3-4) by Osamu Tezuka. It has been a very long time since I read the first half of Triton of the Sea. So long ago in fact that I had forgot that I hadn’t actually finished the series yet. Fortunately, the manga was pretty easy to pick up again. I seem to like Triton of the Sea best when the story centers its focus on family. In the first omnibus, it was Triton’s relationships with his human family that really captured my attention and in the second it was his experiences as a new father that most delighted me. (It probably didn’t hurt that the baby merfolk were super cute.) Triton of the Sea is also a story of revenge. Triton is determined destroy the Poseidon clan for the sake of his people who have been nearly driven to extinction, his desire for retribution blinding him from seeing other courses of action that might allow the two clans to establish a lasting peace. This of course only serves to continue the cycle of violence that puts him and his loved ones in danger. Triton of the Sea isn’t Tezuka’s strongest or most notable work, but I did appreciate the themes that Tezuka was exploring with the series.

Wandering Island, Volume 1Wandering Island, Volume 1 by Kenji Tsuruta. The premise of Wandering Island is fairly simple: Mikura Amelia is a pilot for an air delivery service based in the Izu Islands that she and her grandfather established together. When he unexpectedly passes away, she understandably takes it pretty hard. While in mourning she discovers package among her grandfather’s belongings with an address on it that shouldn’t exist, leading Mikura to become obsessed with a search for a mysterious, disappearing island. Although there are some wonderful scenes of Mikura in flight, there’s not really much action in Wandering Island. Instead, the manga is rather leisurely paced with a contemplative and melancholic feel to it. Wandering Island is also beautifully illustrated, Tsuruta’s artwork being one of the series’ highlights. I love how Tsuruta is able to capture a sense of place and the people who live there. I’m not sure when or if the second volume of Wandering Island will be published in English (the Japanese edition itself isn’t even scheduled to be released until next month), but I would definitely like to see it translated.

Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains PureHorses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure: A Tale That Begins with Fukushima by Hideo Furukawa. Fukushima has been on my mind lately which reminded me of the fact that I had yet to read Furukawa’s Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure, one of the first major literary responses to the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters associated with March 11, 2011. The work is rather curious, but it’s also worthwhile and powerful. In part it’s a sequel of sorts to Furukawa’s novel Seikazoku (The Holy Family), which hasn’t actually been released in English. However, familiarity with that earlier work isn’t at all necessary. Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure also delves into the history of Fukushima as a whole, both before and after 2011. But perhaps most importantly, it’s an incredibly personal memoir. Though he was away at the time, Furukawa was originally from Fukushima. Soon after the disasters struck, he traveled back to the area in order to witness the aftermath of the events himself. A fair amount of the volume is devoted to Furukawa’s profound experiences while on that trip, combining fiction, history, and biography in a compelling way.

My Week in Manga: September 5-September 11, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week was a relatively quiet week at Experiments in Manga (granted, that’s true of most weeks these days), but the winner of to Tokyo Ghoul giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English which feature half-humans of one type or another. Elsewhere online, there were plenty of interesting things posted: Massive and gay manga were featured at Edge Media Network, and it sounds like we should be seeing more of Jiraya’s work in English later this fall; Alice Nicolov wrote an article on queer representation in manga for Dazed and Confused Magazine; Nami Sato, the creator of Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto was interviewed for the first time in either English or Japanese; and Publishing Perspectives posted some of the highlights of a conversation with Allison Markin Powell and Hiromi Kawakami about Japanese literature translation. Also, the Kickstarter project for Power & Magic, a queer fantasy comics anthology about witches of color (which looks like it should be fantastic), was recently launched.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 8Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 8 written by Ryo Suzukaze and illustrated by Satoshi Shiki. It’s been a while since I’ve read Suzukaze’s Before the Fall light novels so I may be misremembering, but the novel adaptation seems to include characters and storylines not found in the original. It also expands on some of worldbuilding and characterizations of the franchise as a whole, so readers interested in the most comprehensive Attack on Titan experience will want to read the manga even if they’ve already read Suzukaze’s novels. Sharle, while still managing to come across as a stereotypical maiden in distress at times, is a more well-rounded and independent character in the manga. Her brother plays a more prominent and slightly more sympathetic role as well although he’s still one of the main human antagonists (and an ass). The Titans actually don’t even make an appearance in this volume and are barely mentioned as the manga focuses on the conflict and intrigue among the military, political, and religious factions. Overall, it’s an exciting volume with some interesting twists. Unfortunately it suffers some from Shiki prioritizing cool-looking panels and scenes over continuity and logical plot developments. (I’m sorry, if someone is going to daringly scale a wall to sneak into a city, they really shouldn’t be attempting the maneuver above the few guards that are present unless there’s a good reason for it.)

Devil Survivor, Volume 6Devil Survivor, Volume 6 by Satoru Matsuba. I wasn’t especially enamored with the first volume of Devil Survivor and so haven’t really been following the manga very closely. However, the series had potential, and I’m glad to see that the sixth volume delivers on that promise. The Devil Survivor manga is based on a video game in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, one of many adaptations from the megaseries to have recently been translated in English. Probably my biggest criticism of the first volume of Devil Survivor was that it read too much like a video game and not enough like a manga. If the sixth volume is anything to judge by, the series has greatly improved in that regard. While the video game elements are still readily clear, the manga seems to be focusing more on plot and characters. I actually really like the underlying story and find some of the characters to be interesting as well. The artwork is serviceable, understandably keeping close to the designs of the video games, but the way Matsuda draws the more well-endowed women can be a bit awkward to say the least. Many of the demons invading Tokyo look pretty good, though. The sixth volume is a turning point in the story as the series enters its final arc. Important revelations are made, a major boss battle is fought, and already dangerous situations become even more dangerous as the characters prepare to do all that they can to survive and save Tokyo from destruction.

The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and AnimeThe Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime by Toshio Ban. While I certainly understand why Stone Bridge Press chose to release the entirety of The Osamu Tezuka Story in a single volume, the book is huge, amounting to over nine hundred pages of material. Most of the volume consists of Ban’s manga, but it also includes an excellent introduction by the translator (and friend of Tezuka) Frederick L. Schodt and one of the most exhaustive lists of Tezuka’s work that I’ve seen in one place. I’ve read my fair share of works examining the life and career of Tezuka so I wasn’t especially surprised by anything in the manga, but The Osamu Tezuka Story provides one of the most comprehensive, engaging, and accessible biographies. The manga, which is largely chronological, is divided into three parts which delve into Tezuka’s childhood, his entry into manga, and the expansion of his career into anime. Commissioned following Tezuka’s death in 1989, the biography incorporates many of Tezuka’s own words taken from his essays and earlier interviews. Ban, who was one of Tezuka’s sub-chiefs in the manga department, adopts an illustration style very similar to that of Tezuka and excerpts from some of Tezuka’s manga and anime are also used. The Osamu Tezuka Story reveals just how remarkable and influential a creator Tezuka was and is highly recommended for anyone interested in the history of Japan’s manga and anime industries.

Our Little SisterOur Little Sister directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. I’m not sure when (or if) Our Little Sister will receive a home video release, but I recently had the opportunity to see the film in a theater. Our Little Sister is actually a live-action adaptation of Umimachi Diary (the title more literally translates to “Seaside Town Diary”), an award-winning ongoing manga series by Akimi Yoshida who some will likely recognize as the creator of Banana Fish. I’ve seen one other film by Kore-eda (Like Father, Like Son) which is similar in both theme and tone to Our Little Sister. Both films, despite intense interpersonal drama, are fairly quiet and gentle without becoming saccharine and focus on the complexities of familial relationships. In the case of Our Little Sister, the story primarily follows three sisters whose father left their mother for another woman more than fifteen years ago and whose mother largely left them behind to be raised by their grandmother. After their father dies they meet their half-sister, the daughter of his second wife (out of three), for the first time while at the funeral. For a variety of reasons, they invite her to live with them. While this does cause some raised eyebrows and strain in the family, both immediate and extended, the decision is ultimately a healing one as all four sisters grow closer as they pull together their fragmented lives. Our Little Sister is simply a lovely film. (And I’d certainly be interested in reading the original manga, too!)

My Week in Manga: December 7-December 13, 2015

My News and Reviews

Okay! Last week I submitted my promotion dossier at work, which means I’ll be able to start paying more attention to Experiments in Manga again. I still have a few other life things preoccupying me at the moment, but I’m hoping to get back to my normal posting schedule by the beginning of the new year if not before. That being said, I only posted one in-depth review last week. Soji Shimada’s classic mystery novel The Tokyo Zodiac Murders was recently re-released in English, which seemed as good an excuse as any to get around to reading it. According to this interview with Shimada, if The Tokyo Zodiac Murders does well, the next book in the series might be translated, too, which I would definitely like to read.

As for other interesting things found online: Seven Seas’ ten-day licensing spree has now wrapped up. (The new license tag on Seven Seas’ tumblr is probably still the easiest place to see them all at once.) Out of all the announced titles the one I’m most curious about is Ichiya Sazanami’s Magia the Ninth which features master composers as demon hunters with music-based magic. (Sazanami is the creator of Black Bard which I likewise couldn’t resist because of the combination of music and magic.) And in case you need to catch up on all of the anime, manga, and light novel licenses announced in 2015, Reverse Thieves has you covered. Also of note, Manga Brog has translated an excerpt of an interesting interview of Kentaro Miura, the creator of Berserk.

Quick Takes

Captain Ken, Volume 1Captain Ken, Volumes 1-2 by Osamu Tezuka. I think that I’ve mentioned here before that I happen to have a particular fascination with Mars, which was one of the primary reasons that I was interested in reading Captain Ken. Of course, it didn’t hurt that series was also created by Tezuka. (Though granted, I would love to see more classic manga that isn’t by Tezuka released in English.) Captain Ken is basically a western in space—Mars has been deliberately developed to be reminiscent of the American Southwest, the primary mode of transportation is by (robotic) horse, and the Martians have met with the same tragic fate as the Native Americans. The series is an odd mashup of science fiction and western genre tropes and American history, including references to World War II and the dropping of the atomic bomb. (The portrayal of Americans, perhaps justifiably, isn’t especially flattering.) Captain Ken explores the same themes of anti-war and anti-discrimination found in many of Tezuka’s other manga. Overall, it’s an entertaining adventure story with a rather bittersweet ending.

Cross Game, Omnibus 6Cross Game, Omnibuses 6-8 (equivalent to Volumes 12-17) by Mitsuru Adachi. I still don’t have much of an interest in baseball when it comes to real life, but I’m completely invested in the sport when it comes to Cross Game. I’ve come to care tremendously about the characters in the series and, because baseball is incredibly important to so many of them, by proxy the baseball is important to me as well. Cross Game‘s last three omnibuses focus on the final year of high school baseball for Ko and his classmates. In fact, the eighth omnibus is almost entirely devoted to a single game—the last opportunity for the Seishu team to make Wakaba’s dream of seeing them play at summer Koshien a reality. They’ve worked hard as a team and have several players who are individually impressive as well, but that never guarantees a win. I’ve watched the Cross Game anime series, which turns out to have been a very faithful adaptation, so I knew how things would end. Even so, the manga is incredibly engaging and has a ton of heart. I never expected to be so taken with a baseball manga, but Cross Game is excellent.

U Don't Know MeU Don’t Know Me by Rakun. After a somewhat dubious beginning, I ended up really enjoying U Don’t Know Me. Plot-wise there’s a lot packed into this one-volume boys’ love manhwa and the characterization is quite good as well. Seyun and Yoojin are childhood friends who have only recently come to realize that they share feelings for each other which are much more lustful in nature. While the manhwa is primarily about Seyun and Yoojin and the evolution of their friendship into a romance, their relationships with their friends and families are also extremely important to the story. Context is provided for their love for earch another and the implications of that love. My favorite part of U Don’t Know Me was actually the response of the boys’ parents upon discovering their sons’ intimate relationship. Initially they were shocked and upset, but they ultimately give their love and support and are very involved in ensuring the well-being of both young men. The realistic portrayal of this sort of positive acceptance seems to be something of a rarity in boys’ love, so it makes me particularly happy when I see it.

My Week in Manga: November 3-November 9, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga the winner of the Sherlock Bones manga giveaway was announced. As usual, I took the opportunity to compile a list of manga as well, in this case a list of manga available in English that feature detectives or other crime solvers. I also posted two reviews last week. The first review was of No. 6, Volume 9, the final volume of Hinoki Kino’s No. 6 manga adaptation. I’m happy to report that the manga has a much less rushed and much more complete ending than the anime adaptation had. And for something completely different, I also reviewed Ivan Morris’ translation of The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon last week. It may have been written in the tenth and eleventh centuries, but it’s still an engaging and enjoyable work.

Interesting reading found elsewhere online included a look at some of the most completely collected manga series in Japan, many of which have been licensed in English in whole or in part. (I was happy to see some of my personal favorites, like Parasyte and Hikaru no Go on the list.) Brigid Alverson has a nice overview of the current state of the manga industry in North America for School Library Journal. And over at A Case for Suitable for Treatment, Sean Gaffney has a roundup of some of the recent manga licenses from various publishers. There are also two surveys that are going on right now. Viz has its Fall 2014 Anime and Manga Survey and Vertical has its first ever light novel survey. Last but not least, Khursten Santos of Otaku Champloo has an excellent writeup of the Manga Futures conference recently held in Australia.

Quick Takes

Black Jack, Volume 14Black Jack, Volumes 14-17 by Osamu Tezuka. It’s a shame that much of Black Jack has gone out of print. Fortunately, Vertical announced just last week that it will be publishing ebooks of all its Tezuka manga, so readers who missed Black Jack in print will at least be able to read it digitally. Even though Black Jack isn’t my favorite Tezuka manga, I enjoy the series immensely and Black Jack is one of my favorite Tezuka characters. He can be a bit of a bastard, but there’s usually a reason for it and it tends to mostly be a cover for his extraordinary compassion. He’s also amazingly skilled. Some of the stories in Black Jack are fairly improbable although still highly entertaining while others are actually quite realistic. (Tezuka’s medical training comes in very handy for Black Jack.) Plastic surgery, specifically surgeries that are intended to change or hide a person’s identity, are particularly prominent in these final volumes. It provides an interesting contrast to Black Jack himself who rarely denies who he is. The seventeenth volume in Vertical’s edition of Black Jack also includes a handy guide to the publication history of the individual chapters.

Black Rose Alice, Volume 2Black Rose Alice, Volume 2 by Setona Mizushiro. I absolutely loved the first volume of Black Rose Alice and I remained captivated by the second. It’s a strange, dark, and disconcerting series. Mizushiro’s vampires are completely different from any other type of vampire that I’ve come across in fiction. I do like that, but it’s also challenging since readers can’t rely on an already established mythos or assume what it actually means to be a vampire; Mizushiro has to explain it all. I’m not sure that I actually understand everything that is going on with the vampires yet, but I’m assuming that more will be revealed as the series progresses. One thing is certain, though: they are definitely very creepy. In exchange for the life of the young man with whom she is in love, Azusa has entered into an agreement with a nest of vampires. Out of the four vampires, she must choose one to procreate with after which they will both die. The relationship dynamics are bizarre, and honestly a little discomforting, but very compelling as the vampires vie for her affections. It’s not as simple as choosing one of the vampires; in order to fulfill her agreement, she will actually have to come to love them. I’m really looking forward to reading more of Black Rose Alice.

Same DifferenceSame Difference by Nozomu Hiiragi. Tsuburaya and Ozaki are the elite of the elite, and both adored by the women at the company where they work. (So much so that the ladies literally swoon in their presence.) However, Ozaki isn’t used to sharing the attention, and so decides to make Tsuburaya fall in love with him, unintentionally falling for Tsuburaya in the process. Out of the two of them, Ozaki is more muscular and crude while Tsuburaya is more elegant and refined. Despite arguably being the more masculine and aggressive of the pair, Ozaki is often the one being out-maneuvered by Tsuburaya in their seemingly antagonistic relationship. It’s not that Tsuburaya dislikes Ozaki—quite the opposite, actually—it’s just that he has a sadistic streak and enjoys making the other man squirm. Same Difference is definitely played for laughs more than romance. Apparently the manga is actually an ongoing series that’s currently up to three volumes in Japan, which I hadn’t realized while reading it. Unfortunately, only the first volume has been licensed in English at this point. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind reading more of the series. It doesn’t have the most subtle, nuanced, or realistic characters or story, but it’s amusingly ridiculous and doesn’t take itself seriously at all.

Manga Giveaway: Triton of the Sea Giveaway Winner

Triton of the Sea, Volume 1And the winner of the Triton of the Sea manga giveaway is…Haley S.!

As the winner, Haley will be receiving a copy of the first omnibus in Osamu Tezuka’s series Triton of the Sea. About a year ago, I came to the realization that I had read quite a few manga that featured merfolk of one sort or another. And so for this giveaway, I was interested in learning about all of the mermaids and mermen that other people had come across while reading manga. I’ve complied a list below of manga that feature merfolk, but be sure to check out the giveaway comments for more details on some of them.

Some of the manga in English featuring merfolk:
Castle of Dreams by Masami Tsuda
Children of the Sea by Daisuke Igarashi
A Centaur’s Life by Kei Murayama
Berserk by Kentaro Miura
The Earl and the Fairy by Ayuko
Legendz written by Rin Hirai, illustrated Makoto Haruno
Mermaid Saga by Rumiko Takahashi
Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls by Okayado
Moon Child by Reiko Shimizu
One Piece by Eiichiro Oda
Pichi Pichi Pitch written by Michiko Yokote, illustrated by Pink Hanamori
Princess Mermaid by Junko Mizuno
Selfish Mr. Mermaid by Nabako Kamo
Triton of the Sea by Osamu Tezuka
Tropic of the Sea by Satoshi Kon

I was a little lenient with the definition of merfolk above (mostly because I wanted an excuse to include Daisuke Igarashi’s Children of the Sea) and I’m certain that it’s not a comprehensive list, either. But, it should be a good place to start if you’re looking for some mermen or mermaids in manga. Thank you to everyone who participated in this month’s giveaway; I hope to see you all again for the next one, too!