My Week in Manga: November 11-November 17, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week was apparently “Blade of the Immortal Week” here at Experiments in Manga. I finally got around to reading and reviewing Blade of the Immortal: Legend of the Sword Demon, a novel written by Junichi Ohsako with illustrations by Hiroaki Samura, which is a re-imagining of the early part of the manga series. Honestly, I was disappointed with it and would only recommend the novel to fellow Blade of the Immortal completists. I also reviewed Blade of the Immortal, Volume 27: Mist on the Spider’s Web. With that review, I have now caught up with the English released of the Blade of the Immortal manga series. And so, I wrote some random musings on Wrapping Up the Blade of the Immortal Monthly Review Project.

And now for a few interesting things found online last week. SciFi Japan has a great interview with Zack Davisson, the translator for the recently released Showa: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki. The School Library Journal’s Good Comics for Kids has an interesting roundtable on Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints. Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son, Volume 4 is one of the nominees for the 2014 Rainbow Book List. (As is Julie Maroh’s Blue Is the Warmest Color, for that matter.) And finally, Kodansha Comicss participated in Reddit’s Ask Me Anything. I haven’t had the chance to read through all of the comments yet, but what I’ve read so far has been interesting.

Quick Takes

Battling BoyBattling Boy by Paul Pope. I have enjoyed Paul Pope’s work in the past and so I was very excited for the release of Battling Boy, his most recent graphic novel. What I didn’t realize was that it was the first volume in what will be at least a two-volume series, not including the recently announced prequel The Rise of Aurora West. It was a little frustrating to reach the end of Battling Boy just when things were really starting to pull together only to discover that it stops without any sort of conclusion and not even much of a cliffhanger. Still, Battling Boy is a tremendous amount of fun and I did enjoy it. I appreciate Pope’s offbeat humor and slightly surreal and absurd storytelling. The artwork’s pretty great, too. Following the eponymous demigod Battling Boy as he struggles to complete his coming-of-age ceremony and become a hero, the graphic novel is Pope’s original take on the superhero origin story. While he brings his own touch to the genre, there are plenty of influences from other comics (such as Batman and Thor to name two) that can be seen in the work.

Endless RainEndless Rain by Yuuya. I’ve not had particularly good luck with the boys’ love that I’ve been reading recently and Endless Rain hasn’t changed that. I can’t say that I enjoyed this one-shot much at all. Despite having a happy ending (which I am not at all convinced would happen) the manga isn’t particularly pleasant and includes what basically amounts to forced prostitution. The plotting is sloppy, the narrative is difficult to follow and at times doesn’t make any sense, and the characterization is inconsistent. With Hyougami’s vendetta against the Kasuga family and the bad blood between Akira Kasuga and his father Endless Rain had some potential, but Yuuya doesn’t quite pull it off. Maybe if the manga was a little longer it wouldn’t have been such a mess. As it is, Yuuya tries to cram in too much and it ends up rushed. The only part of Endless Rain that I really liked was Iwao—a scarred and severe-looking yakuza who dotes on Akira’s younger brother. Contrary to his appearance, he’s actually a very sweet guy. Unfortunately, he only briefly shows up as a side character.

Missions of Love, Volume 5Missions of Love, Volume 5 by Ema Toyama. Although I am familiar with the basic premise of Missions of Love, I haven’t actually read any of the series until this volume. When I heard the manga described it seemed so trope-filled that I just couldn’t muster up any interest in it despite the rather provocative covers. But now I’m kind of sorry that I missed out on the earlier volumes. Yes, there are quite a few tropes being used, but the twisted romantic relationships are mesmerizing even if they aren’t particularly healthy. None of the characters are really very nice people and their interactions are a mess of lies and manipulation. Missions of Love is very suggestive and scandalous even though all that really happens in this volume (well, except for the emotional exploitation) is a bit of ear nibbling. I can see why others call Missions of Love addicting; I know that I want to read more. The only thing that really annoyed me about Missions of Love is how Yukina’s glasses are drawn (or rather how the aren’t drawn)—the lines used are so minimal that they barely seem to exist at all.

Silver SpoonSilver Spoon directed by Tomohiko Ito. Based on the award-winning manga series Silver Spoon by Hiromu Arakawa (which was in part inspired by her experiences growing up on dairy farm), the Silver Spoon anime adaptation is quite well done. The series is very forthright and honest about where food comes from, including the raising and slaughtering of animals for meat. I know that particular subject will distrub some viewers, but I think it is something that is important for people to understand and the anime does handle it very well. Many of its characters are also conflicted over it. One of the major story lines of Silver Spoon has to do with Hachiken, the protagonist, trying to come to terms with what it is he eats. However, life and the taking of it is treated with immense respect in the series. I myself grew up in a farming community among the cows, corn, and soybeans (my neighbors actually happened to be dairy farmers), and so I could appreciate Silver Spoon‘s realistic portrayal of the challenges faced by those who make their living caring for animals and crops.

My Week in Manga: January 28-February 3, 2013

My News and Reviews

I’ve mostly recovered from hosting the Manga Moveable Feast in January and it looks like things will be getting back to a more normal schedule here at Experiments in Manga. This past week I posted January’s Bookshelf Overload. There were quite a few nice deluxe hardcover releases last month. Speaking of nice, hardcover releases: I also posted the first in-depth manga review of February—Osamu Tezuka’s Message to Adolf, Part 2. I am absolutely thrilled that this series is available in English again. I sincerely think it’s one of Tezuka’s best works. January’s manga giveaway was also posted last week. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win Blue Exorcist, Volume 1 by Kazue Kato.

On to other fun things online! Sublime Manga, Viz Media’s boys’ love imprint, is celebrating its first anniversary with a great sale at Right Stuf and some fantastic license announcements. I am absolutely thrilled that Sublime will be releasing Tetuzoh Okadaya’s The Man of Tango and est em’s Tableau Numéro 20 in print later this year. On Twitter, Digital Manga is hinting that its next Kickstarter project will have something to do with Ishinomori Shotaro, which would be very exciting indeed. In other release news, the third issue of the English-language edition of the Japanese literary journal Monkey Business has been sent off to the printers. I really enjoyed the first two volumes, so I’m very excited to read the next one as well.

Elsewhere online, Kuriousity posted a great interview with Digital Manga’s newer hentai manga imprint, Project-H Books—Handling Hentai: An Interview With Project-H. Noah Berlatsky of The Hooded Utilitarian (among other places) wrote an essay on The Ethics of Scanlation for the Center for Digital Ethics & Policy. It’s a fantastic summary of some of the issues and different perspectives involved. On Facebook, Vertical shared a breakdown of its recent reader survey. Finally, the call for participation for the Naoki Urasawa Manga Moveable Feast has been posted. Justin at Organization Anti-Social Geniuses will be hosting be hosting the Feast later this month.

Quick Takes

Girl Friends, Omnibus 2 by Milk Morinaga. As much as I enjoyed the first Girl Friends omnibus, I think the second collection is even better. The first half of the series was told largely from Mari’s perspective; this time Akko’s point of view has become more prominent. At this point, Mari is trying to suppress her feelings for Akko, hoping that they can at least remain friends. Akko, on the other hand, is reassessing their relationship, trying to work out the differences between friendship and love. Eventually the two young women must navigate their budding romance together. Girl Friends really is a wonderful series and certainly one of the most realistic yuri manga that I have read.

The One Trick Rip-Off + Deep Cuts by Paul Pope. If you’ve never read any of Pope’s work, the newly released, hardcover anthology The One Trick Rip-Off + Deep Cuts is a fantastic introduction. It collects his longer work The One Trick Rip-Off (originally published by but now out of print from Dark Horse) as well as fourteen shorter comics, including the manga and manga-influenced work he created for Kodansha in Japan. The collection exhibits a nice variety of styles and genres from the more realistic to the more fantastical. The selected works span nearly a decade of Pope’s career. There is an appealing quirkiness to many of Pope’s characters and stories. At other times there is a sense of poetic lyricism. I loved The One Trick Rip-Off + Deep Cuts; it’s a marvelous volume.

Rurouni Kenshin, Omnibus 6 (equivalent to Volumes 16-18) by Nobuhiro Watsuki. This omnibus sees the conclusion of the lengthy Kyoto arc of Rurouni Kenshin as well as its aftermath. The duels between Kenshin and his allies and Shishio and his faction continue, ultimately ending in a violent showdown against Shishio himself. Some of the duelists’ techniques and powers are over-the-top and logically ridiculous, but they do make for some exciting and dramatic fights. I particularly liked how Watsuki was able to end the conflict with Shishio in such a way that Kenshin was still able to remain true to his vow. Kenshin and the others may have dealt with the immediate threat, but they haven’t made it through unscathed.

Tenjo Tenge, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Oh!Great. Tenjo Tenge was originally published by CMX manga in a heavily edited version which was never released in its entirety. However, the license was rescued by Viz Media and released in a non-censored, “full contact” edition. The manga is certainly deserving of its mature rating: Tenjo Tenge is violent and has plenty of fanservice. I’ve been told Tenjo Tenge gets better as it progresses, but right now neither the characters nor plot interests me enough for me to continue with the series. There were some really nice fighting bits, and legitimate martial arts philosophy and strategy were worked into the story, too, which I liked. There was also a hint of the supernatural. Even so, Tenjo Tenge didn’t really grab me.