My Week in Manga: December 4-December 10, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I announced the winner of the Cache of Kodansha Comics giveaway. The post also includes a list of Kodansha Comics’ manga debuts from 2017. Before the year is over and Experiments in Manga enters retirement I will be holding one last manga giveaway. This week, however, I will be posting the final Bookshelf Overload feature. As for other thing found elsewhere online: Anime Feminist has been posting some really interesting content lately, including but certainly not limited to an interview with Arina Tanemura. Iron Circus Comix recently revealed that it would be releasing Japanese creator Sachiko Kaneoya’s first English-language collection. And speaking of Iron Circus Comix, the publisher’s most recent Kickstarter for Niki Smith’s erotic graphic novel Crossplay may also be of interest. Another Kickstarter project that is worth taking a look at is for the second volume of Minna Sundberg’s fantastic comic Stand Still, Stay Silent. (I enjoyed the first book tremendously.)

Quick Takes

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department, Volume 1ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department, Volume 1 by Natsume Ono. My first encounter with Ono’s work was through the anime adaptation of House of Five Leaves. After watching it, I immediately sought out the original along with Ono’s other manga available in English. I was very happy when Yen Press announced it would be releasing ACCA (which itself recently received an anime adaptation). The country of Dowa is divided into thirteen separate districts, each of which independently operates a branch of ACCA, a civil service-orientated organization. Jean Otus works for ACCA’s Inspection Department which is always on the alert for and investigates possible corruption within the agency. When the situation demands it, Jean’s colleagues at the office are shown to be quite capable at their jobs, but most of their time seems to be spent bantering over pastries. This does reinforce the perception that the Inspection Department has become superfluous in a time of peace and prosperity, but I also find it to be a delightful bit of characterization. The first volume of ACCA is a slow burn, but it has incredible atmosphere and I enjoyed it greatly.

Neo-Parasyte MNeo-Parasyte M by Various. It’s been a while since I first read it, but I still remember the huge impression that Hitoshi Iwaaki’s horror manga series Parasyte made on me. (I really need to reread it again sometime in the near future.) Last year Kodansha Comics released Neo-Parasyte F, a shoujo/josei anthology created as a tribute to the original Parasyte. It was a fantastic anthology, so I was very excited when its shounen/seinen counterpart (and technically its predecessor) was also licensed. As a whole, I think that Neo-Parasyte F worked better or at least more consistently for me than Neo-Parasyte M, but there are still some terrific stories in the collection. The roster of contributors is rather impressive, too. Of particular note, a piece by Moto Hagio opens the volume. As is to be expected, most of the short manga in the anthology require at least a basic familiarity with Parasyte to be fully appreciated. The twelve stories in Neo-Parastye M take a variety of approaches. Some are more serious while others are more comedic, and a few can even be described as endearing. Not every contribution is successful, but overall Neo-Parasyte M is a great collection.

My Week in Manga: October 31-November 6, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga the winner of the Sweetness & Lightning manga giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English that feature notable fathers or father figures. As for more in-depth features, I’m (still) currently working on some random, but rather personal, musings about Ichigo Takano’s manga series Orange. Progress on that post is a little slower than I would like it to be, but hopefully I’ll have something to share in the relatively near future.

As for interesting things that I’ve recently found online: The Honolulu Museum of Art recently hosted a series of lectures and discussions called Manga in Japan, Hawai‘i, and Throughout the World; many of the recordings can now be watched online. The proceedings of the Manga at a Crossroads symposia are available to read or download from The Ohio State University. Anna Madill has also posted the slides from her 2016 Comics Forum keynote address–Genre, genealogy, and gender: Reflecting on Boys’ Love manga–which includes some interesting results from her BL Fandom Survey. And speaking of boys’ love, Digital Manga’s Juné imprint is seeking the print rights for Asumiko Nakamura’s Classmates (Doukyusei).

Quick Takes

Haikyu!!, Volume 3Haikyu!!, Volumes 3-5 by Haruichi Furudate. The new Karasuno team has made it through its first game, but the members still have some practicing to do before they can completely shed the nickname of the fallen champions. But considering their tremendous talent and potential, that might not take them too long. With these volumes, a few more Karasuno veterans are introduced, as are their rivals, before the series quickly moves from training to tournaments. Although there are some very exciting moments, I actually find the games to be the least interesting part of Haikyu!!, which may (but not necessarily) present a problem in the long run for what is primarily a sports manga.  Some of the action was a little difficult for me to follow until I got used to Furudate’s visual language, probably because I’m not actually all that familiar with volleyball gameplay. Growing up, my family’s anything-goes backyard games followed vastly different rules; Haikyu!! is actually teaching me how volleyball as a sport is really played. However, I am still enjoying Haikyu!! immensely. I particularly love the series’ focus on teamwork and even more so its unflagging positivity. Haikyu!! manages to be competitive without being mean. I also really like the distinctive personalities of the characters, and Furudate’s sense of humor and comedic timing is great. The manga continues to be great fun.

Neo-Parasyte fNeo-Parasyte F by Various. Hitoshi Iwaaki’s series Parasyte happens to be not only one of my favorite horror manga, but one of my favorite manga in general. That’s probably the main reason I was so excited that the Parasyte shoujo tribute anthology Neo-Parasyte F was licensed, but the list of contributors is exciting in and of itself, too. I was especially happy to have the chance to read more of Asumiko Nakamura’s work, but there are other creators that English-reading fans will likely recognize as well, such as Ema Toyama, Kaori Yuki, and  Yuri Narushima among others. Neo-Parasyte F collects fifteen short manga that in one way or another pay tribute to Parasyte. Some of the stories take place within the same world as Parasyte–Shinichi and Migi, the main characters of the original series, even make a few appearances–while others are set completely apart. Many of the manga are still horror-themed, but there are a surprising number that actually take a more humorous approach. Ever wonder what Parasyte would be like as an otome game? Neo-Parasyte F presents one possible interpretation of just that. Overall, the volume is a great anthology containing an excellent variety of genres and styles. Neo-Parasyte F will likely appeal most to readers who are fans of or at least familiar with Parasyte, although a few of the contributions can stand completely on their own.

The Prince in His Dark Days, Volume 1The Prince in His Dark Days, Volume 1 by Hico Yamanaka. In Japan, Yamanaka is probably better known for her boys’ love manga, but that’s not all that she’s done. For example, The Prince in His Dark Days, Yamanaka’s English-language debut, does not fall into that particular genre. However, it is poised to explore gender and sexuality in interesting ways, which is what first brought the series to my attention. The story follows Atsuko, a high school student from a broken and abusive family who is struggling to make ends meet. She is more or less coerced into becoming the stand-in for Itaru, the wealthy heir to a major corporation who has gone missing. Very possibly he ran away due to some of his own unfortunate circumstances. Until Itaru is found, Atsuko will be taking them on in his place. Although she’s not exactly leading a life of luxury–parts of Itaru’s own life are less than ideal–at least she’s no longer quite as miserable as she once was. The initial setup of The Prince in His Dark Days is a little rough and feels a somewhat forced, but it does establish understandable reasons for everything that follows. Admittedly, the whole situation is rather strange, but once Atsuko has adopted her new role she devotes herself completely to it. In the process, she begins to create meaningful if somewhat peculiar relationships with the people around her. I’m not entirely sure where The Prince in His Dark Days is heading, but I do know that I want to find out.

Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 3Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 3 (equivalent to Volumes 5-6) by Akiko Higashimura. I am still incredibly pleased that Princess Jellyfish manga series is being released in print. I thoroughly enjoyed the anime adaptation and was left wanting more after it ended, so I’m thrilled to finally have the chance to read the original manga. The anime began around the same time that the sixth volume was originally being released in Japan, so from this point on more and more of what is seen in the manga will either be new or significantly different. It has been a while since I’ve watched the anime so I may be misremembering parts of it, but already I can identify where notably different choices were made as to plot and characters. However, the heart of both the manga and the anime are definitely the same. Despite the various romantic and relationship dramas, Princess Jellyfish is largely a comedy. Serious matters like familial and social expectations are addressed and explored in the series, but Higashimura primarily does so through humor, sometimes more successfully and sometimes less so. Princess Jellyfish is an energetic manga that can be over-the-top and ridiculous, but it can also be very touching. As the women of Amamizukan search for a way to save their beloved home they are finding new ways to express themselves through skills and talents that they never realized they had, slowly coming out of their shells in ways they never expected.

Parasyte, Volume 1

Creator: Hitoshi Iwaaki
U.S. publisher: Del Rey
ISBN: 9780345496249
Released: May 2007
Original release: 1990
Awards: Kodansha Manga Award, Seiun Award

I first learned about Hitoshi Iwaaki’s manga series Parasyte at a library conference last year. Kate Dacey of The Manga Critic mentioned it during the “Best Manga You’re Not Reading” panel which focused on great manga that relatively few libraries seemed to have on their shelves. Parasyte was originally published in Japan between 1990 and 1995, winning the Kodansha Manga Award in 1993. The series was initially published in English by Tokyopop in twelve volumes. In fact, Parasyte was one of the first series that they ever published. Beginning in 2007, Parastye was released in English by Del Rey Manga, following the original eight volumes of the Japanese edition. I’ve never read Tokyopop’s version of Parasyte, but I have read the entire series as published by Del Rey. They have done a fantastic job with the printing and adaptation of the series. I completely agree that Parasyte belongs on the list of best manga you’re not reading. That is, if you haven’t already read it.

They fell from the sky. Small, intelligent, parasitic creatures that after entering the host’s body, completely take over its brain and begin eating potential hosts of the same species. The parasites favored group? Humans. And most of them don’t even know the parasites exist. But high school student Shinichi Izumi does. He’s been infected by a parasite that failed to take over his brain and now resides in his right arm. Neither of them are particularly happy with this situation, but it’s currently beneficial for them to cooperate with each other. Without Shinichi, Migi, the parasite, would die. Understandably, it’s very protective of Shinichi’s body. It soon becomes clear that Shinichi’s survival depends on Migi, as well. And even if it didn’t, without the parasite he would be down an arm. So, for the time being at least, they’ll work together, hoping to keep their existence a secret from both the parasites and the humans.

The relationship between Shinichi and Migi is extremely important in Parasyte. Shinichi does seem to move rather quickly from absolute terror to a lazy acceptance of the situation, but he doesn’t really have much of a choice. He gets more and more used to having Migi around, but every once in a while the parasite will do or say something to bring Shinichi crashing back to reality. I like Shinichi a lot. He has a good-natured, easygoing personality. Migi, too, is fairly likeable even considering what it is. However, the longer they stay together the more they change and adapt. And the changes don’t go unnoticed—both Shinichi’s (unofficial) girlfriend Murano and his mother sense something is different. As a reader, it’s fascinating to watch Shinichi and Migi’s relationship develop. Initially, Migi is only concerned about its own, and by extension Shinichi’s, survival. In turn, this slowly makes Shinichi more ruthless and selfish in his own thinking.

I really like Parasyte. The first volume easily pulls the reader in. Not only is the series entertaining and engaging, it also considers pretty serious questions about the nature of humanity. Parasyte has some fantastic moments of humor, mostly caused by Migi not quite understanding the subtleties of human interaction yet, which keeps the series from getting too heavy. Granted, this does make the darker aspects of the story stand out even more in contrast. Another source of amusement is Shinichi’s parents. They’re wonderfully down-to-earth people, especially his father, and they have a great relationship with their son. Iwaaki also incorporates some excellent visual gags, including one of my favorite unexpected moments out of all the manga I’ve read so far. (I won’t say more, because I don’t want to spoil it.) I’ll just end by saying you should give Parasyte a try if you haven’t already; it’s a great series.

My Week in Manga: November 1-November 7, 2010

My News and Reviews

I had a very busy week and wasn’t home much which means I didn’t get much manga reading in, either. However, I did manage to clean my room and completely reorganize my bookcases, getting all the manga that’s been accumulating in boxes onto actual shelves. (Except for Ranma 1/2—I’ve a box it fits in perfectly and being the longest series I own it takes up too much space otherwise.) Granted, they’re all stacked at least two deep but at least now they’re alphabetized and I know where everything is.

This past week featured October’s Bookshelf Overload, which I now know at least one other person enjoys, as well as a book review for Nahoko Uehashi fantasy novel Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. I really enjoyed the book, so I hope more people will check it and its sequel out. Maybe then Arthur A. Levine Books will publish the rest of the series!

I hit a bit of a technical snag while updating the Resources page and lost a bunch of links and my backup was a bit outdated. Fortunately, I think I’ve managed to recover most if not all of them. And now, like I’ve been promising, there’s a section for podcasts! I’ve only got eight so far—if you know of any others, specifically those manga related, please let me know. My post on podcasts will probably appear sometime next week. That’s the goal anyway.

Completely unrelated to manga, but I’m still excited about it—I was able to attend Jake Shimabukuro’s concert on Thursday night! It was a fantastic performance. Jake is an amazing musician and has a wonderful stage presence, too.

Quick Takes

Black-Winged Love by Tomoko Yamashita. I am in love with this collection. I had previously read Yamashita’s Dining Bar Akira and enjoyed it, but Black-Winged Love is even better. The manga collects seven boys’ love stories plus some fun bonus material. The stories are mostly serious in tone, but each also exhibit a quirky sense of humor. While there’s very little actual sex, the manga is still sexy and smart (I mean, we’ve got references to Yukio Mishima and others in here). I keep changing my mind about which story is my favorite; I liked them all and reread the book several times. I’m setting this manga aside to do a more in-depth review in the future.

Parasyte, Volumes 1-8 by Hitoshi Iwaaki. I spent most of my Saturday reading through this entire series, it’s that good and addicting of a story. It’s fascinating to not only see Izumi change and grow as a person through the series, but to see the Parasites develop and evolve as well. And his relationship with Migi—the Parasite that took over his right arm after failing to take over his brain—is simply great. The two of them must learn to work together and coexist in the same body, but they are definitely both individuals. There’s a lot in the manga that explores human nature, and sometimes it’s the Parasites with their straightforward logic that appear to be the more humane creatures.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, Episodes 1-12 directed by Kenji Kamiyama. As I mentioned above, I recently read and adored the novel this anime series was based on, so I was very excited to watch it. The first few episodes follow the book very closely, but the middle section has been greatly expanded while still holding to the spirit of the original story. The attention to detail in the animation is wonderful, not only for the characters (the eyes in particular are gorgeous and expressive) and beautiful backgrounds, but even the clothing and weaponry. Occasionally though the CG used does feel a bit out of place. I look forward to watching the rest of the series.

Princess Mononoke written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Although I have enjoyed just about every Miyazaki film that I’ve seen, I think that Princess Mononoke is probably my favorite. And at over two hours, it is also one of the longest animated films ever made. I think the thing I love most about this anime is the complexity of the characters and the situations they find themselves in. There’s man versus nature, and man versus man, and it’s not always easy to pick a side and say who is right. With lovely animation and accompanying soundtrack, it is is a wonderful movie and has been adapted well for English speaking audiences.