My Week in Manga: April 24-April 30, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted two features in addition to the usual My Week in Manga. First up was the monthly giveaway. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first volume of Leiji Matsumoto’s Queen Emeraldas. All you have to do is tell me a little about your favorite space manga (if you have one). Also posted last week was the long-form manga review for April. I took a look at The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún, Volume 1 by Nagabe. The manga was one of my most anticipated debuts of 2017 and it is easily one of my favorites to be released so far this year. Last week was also the first week at my new job so I was rather preoccupied and busy with settling in there and so wasn’t online all that much. However, I did catch an interesting feature on the recent josei renaissance over at Anime Feminist. The article is written by Megan from The Manga Test Drive, one of the manga review blogs that I make a point to follow and particularly like.

Quick Takes

Ghost Diary, Volume 1Ghost Diary, Volume 1 by Seiju Natsumegu. My experience reading Ghost Diary was a little odd. I can’t say that I was overly impressed by the first volume while I was reading it, but by the time I reached the end I found that I actually had enjoyed myself and was interested in reading the rest of the short series. The individual elements of Ghost Diary aren’t particularly original, but as a whole it’s horrific fun. In some ways the manga feels like it’s a mashup of other existing stories which deal with the supernatural and the occult. Even the illustrations reminded me of other works, in particular some of CLAMP’s darker series. I was actually expecting Ghost Diary to be much more serious than it actually was. The manga definitely has a disturbing side to it, but to me it comes across as a dark comedy more than anything else. It’s both goofy and grotesque. The story follows Sukami Kyouichi, the youngest son in a long line of exorcists whose older sister (also an exorcist and far more powerful than he is) mysteriously disappears after he angers a god due to his inexperience, ineptitude, and ignorance. Now he’s desperately searching for her which proves to be a very dangerous venture.

Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 4Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 4 (equivalent to Voluems 7-8) by Akiko Higashimura. At this point the Princess Jellyfish manga has progressed much further along in the story than the content that was adapted for the anime series (which was my introduction to the work). So far, my love for the series has yet to diminish. In this omnibus the women of the Amamizukan apartments (along with Kuranosuke) somehow manage pull off a successful fashion show which is intended, in a roundabout way, to save their home from being demolished and redeveloped. However, for that to work, their success will have to extend to actually launching the Jelly Fish brand as well, and reality is much more challenging than a dream. Princess Jellyfish is intentionally outrageous and comedic in the telling of its story but the underlying heart of the manga is believable earnest. I find the manga’s style of humor to be immensely entertaining, but probably what I enjoy most about Princess Jellyfish are its characters and their relationships with one another. I especially liked how Shuu and Kuranosuke’s brotherly affections were developed and portrayed in these two volumes.

Twinkle Stars, Omnibus 1Twinkle Stars, Omnibuses 1-2 (equivalent to Volumes 1-4) by Natsuki Takaya. Probably like most people, my introduction to Takaya’s work was through the series Fruits Basket, a landmark title in the North American manga industry. It would seem, then, that Takaya’s next major series, Twinkle Stars, would be an obvious license choice, but the manga only began to be released in English relatively recently. Other than the fact that Takaya was the creator, I actually didn’t know much about Twinkle Stars before reading it. The series turns out to be an incredibly compelling and emotionally resonant work even if some of the story developments do seem a little convenient and trope-worn. The lead of Twinkle Stars is Sakyua Shiina, an endearing highschool third-year whose outward cheerfulness goes a long way to hide her inner struggle with depression and self-worth, the result of a troubled family life. Fortunately, she now has people in her life who care for her dearly. Under some rather peculiar circumstance she meets and ultimately falls in love with Chihiro, a young man who likewise is left dealing with the aftermath of past tragedies. At times Twinkle Stars can be absolutely heartbreaking but this countered by the immense kindness that is also exhibited in the series.

WitchlightWitchlight by Jessi Zabarsky. Before being edited and published in a collected edition with additional content, most of Witchlight had previously been released as a series of individual comic chapters. Described as a shoujo adventure, Witchlight is a delightful fantasy comic about the close bond of friendship and love which slowly develops between two young women as they travel together on a quest. They don’t start out on good terms, though. Sanja is kidnapped by Lelek, a candle witch who demands that she teach her how to use a sword. Lelek is searching for a part of herself that has been lost and magic isn’t always enough to protect her. While being abducted isn’t exactly a promising beginning to a relationship, Sanja is more curious than afraid and her good nature and openness has a positive influence on the untrusting Lelek who has kept her heart closed off from others for so long. Lelek and Sanja’s emotional journeys are the most important aspects of Witchlight, but their physical journey is also wonderful to watch unfold as they encounter other cultures and and types of magic. The characterizations, worldbuilding, artwork in Witchlight are all lovely.

RevengeRevenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa. I find the cover design and even the title selected for the English-language edition of Ogawa’s Kamoku na shigai, midara no tomurai to be somewhat misleading. Revenge, although it does make a few appearances throughout the volume, is not at all an overarching theme. And while there is death and violence, most of the gruesomeness implied by the cover occurs off-page. That being said, Revenge is a marvelously disconcerting work of subdued horror. Everything in Revenge is told from a first-person perspective, giving the collection a surprisingly quiet and contemplative atmosphere which becomes increasingly dark as the volume progresses. The individual stories can all be read and function well on their own, but what makes Revenge such a phenomenal collection is how they are all entangled with one another. Often the connections are tangential–similar turns of phrases and references are used, main characters and plot points from one story appear and reappear in the backgrounds of others, and so on–but sometimes they have a profound impact on the interpretation of the various narratives. A close, careful reading of Revenge is rewarded with the revelation of a complex, strange, and surreal web of the macabre.

Your NameYour Name directed by Makoto Shinkai. Originally I thought I would be waiting to watch a home video release of Your Name but the film actually ended up being shown at one of my local theaters and a friend invited me out to see it over the weekend. Your Name is a beautiful film, both visually and thematically, and not quite what I was expecting. (Granted, I’m not entirely sure exactly what it was that I was expecting.) To me it almost feels like three different films have been merged into one. Initially Your Name is about Mitsuha and Taki, two young people who don’t really know each other but who have started to spontaneously and erratically switch bodies when they fall asleep. But when the switching suddenly and unexpectedly stops, the film changes its focus to Taki as he tries to locate Mitsuha, keenly feeling the absence of the close intimacy that the two understandably developed over time. From there the urgency of Your Name increases even more as Taki uncovers the truth and he and Mitsuha struggle to prevent further disaster and loss. In part a romantic comedy, in part a meditation on love and spirituality, and in part (it would seem) a response to the Fukushima disasters, Your Name largely remains cohesive even while bending and shifting between genres.

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.

My Week in Manga: July 18-July 24, 2016

My News and Reviews

Other than the regular My Week in Manga feature, there were no posts from me last week at Experiments in Manga. I was, however, able to make some progress on my review for the final volume of Setona Mizushiro’s manga series After School Nightmare. I hope to finish and post the review in the very near future, and then officially wrap up my horror manga review project.

Elsewhere online last week, I came across two interesting interviews: a translation of a 2006 conversation between Taiyo Matsumoto and Fumiko Takano as well as an interview with Kazue Kato, creator of Blue Exorcist, from Anime Expo 2016. The San Diego Comic Con took place over the weekend and there were a few licensing announcements to come out of the event: Kodansha Comics is planning a deluxe edition of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell; Udon Entertainment has acquired Yuztan’s Dragon Crown manga adaptation in addition to more artbooks, Manga Classics, and a Street Fighter novel; and Viz Media will be releasing a Princess Mononoke artbook as well books based on RWBY.

Finally, in part due to a suggestion made by a regular reader of Experiments in Manga, I’d like to start more regularly mentioning some of the crowdfunding projects that I’m either supporting or that have caught my eye. In the past, I’ve tended to only mention projects that were directly or tangentially related to manga in some way, but I’d like to begin highlighting other campaigns as well. And so! Natasha Alterici is raising funds for the second volume of Heathen, a beautifully illustrated comic about lesbian Vikings. Jason Thompson, author of Manga: The Complete Guide and a comic creator in his own right, is printing a poster map of alien invaders. Bones of the Coast is an anthology of horror comics inspired by the Pacific Northwest.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to give the Sparkler Monthly Year 4 campaign another shout out. (If you follow me on Twitter, that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing for the last week or so, and will probably continue to do so for a while.) I really love everything that Sparkler Monthly/Chromatic Press is doing, and will be legitimately heartbroken if the Kickstarter doesn’t succeed.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail, Omnibus 2Fairy Tail, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 6-10) by Hiro Mashima. When I first started reading Fairy Tail, I ended up jumping into the series around the twenty-fifth volume. Fairy Tail has a huge following, but it just didn’t seem to click with me. However, now that I’ve read some of earlier volumes, I think I finally more fully understand the appeal of the series. Fairy Tail is a fun and exciting manga with likeable characters and an emphasis on friendship and found family. One of my complaints about Fairy Tail in the past has been that it often seems directionless. Even this early in the series Mashima readily admits to making things up as the he goes with no concrete plan in place. He even seemed surprised when he realized that the series would reach ten volumes. (And it’s now over fifty and still ongoing.) Interestingly, this lack of direction didn’t seem to bother me as much as it has before, I think in part due to the fact that Mashima spends a fair amount of second omnibus exploring the main characters’ back stories which provided the needed amount of focus. I liked getting to know the characters better, something I missed out on by starting with a later story arc. Also, Kodansha’s massive, oversized “Master’s Edition” omnibuses show off Mashima’s artwork and are a great way to catch up on the series.

Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 2Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 3-4) by Akiko Higashimura. I am still incredibly happy that Kodansha Comics is releasing a print edition of Princess Jellyfish. I’m also glad that the series seems to be worth the risk and is doing fairly well for the publisher so far. I am especially looking forward to reaching the parts of the story that weren’t included in the anime adaptation. While there are some differences, for the most part the second omnibus fall entirely into what was adapted for the anime. Because of that I’m not at all surprised by any of the plot developments, but I still am thoroughly enjoying the story and characters. I also get a kick out of the visual nods to classic shoujo manga that Higashimura scatters throughout the series, usually when something particularly dramatic is going on. Princess Jellyfish is probably first and foremost a comedy, but through its humor it explores issues of gender roles and expectations. There is a fair amount of relationship drama, too. At this point in the series, Kuranosuke is trying to come up with a plan to raise the funds needed to save the Amamizukan apartments from being demolished and in doing so becomes more and more attached to Tsukimi. As for Tsukimi, she’s dealing with her own personal and romantic turmoils.

A Silent Voice, Volume 7A Silent Voice, Volume 7 by Yoshitoki Oima. The first volume of A Silent Voice left a huge impression on me, and the series as a whole has consistently been one of the strongest stories that I’ve recently read. Granted, A Silent Voice isn’t always an easy read and the subject matter can be pretty heavy. Bullying, depression, social anxiety, suicide attempts, and other tough issues all come into play. Oima isn’t afraid to let the relationships between the characters be extremely messy and complicated. I especially appreciate that Oima doesn’t just slap romance on the situation like magical bandage that will fix everything or erase the misdeeds of the past. From time to time, I was a little worried that might happen, but A Silent Voice takes a more nuanced and much less stereotypical route with the story. If anything, the romantic feelings just complicate matters further. The characters themselves are realistically and believably flawed people. Frankly, they can even be unlikeable, they still remain interesting and compelling. Many of them are struggling with mistakes that they have made and are dealing with devastating regret. But by the end of the series, the characters able to begin to look forward towards the future instead of wallowing in what can’t be changed; their pasts have shaped who they are, but won’t be the only thing that defines them.

Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 1

Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 1Creator: Akiko Higashimura
U.S. publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781632362285
Released: March 2016
Original release: 2009
Awards: Kodansha Manga Award

Akiko Higashimura’s Kodansha Manga Award-winning Princess Jellyfish wasn’t a manga series that I expected would be licensed for an English-language release. Anecdotally, josei manga hasn’t historically done particularly well in the North American market. And on top of that, Princess Jellyfish is a longer series, currently ongoing at more than fifteen volumes, which can also make licensing prohibitive. When Kodansha Comics announced that it would be publishing Princess Jellyfish in print in English, fulfilling the hopes of many fans, I was thrilled. My knowledge of Princess Jellyfish stems from the 2010 anime adaptation directed by Takahiro Omori which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, as the anime only adapted a small portion of the series, it left me wanting more, so I am very excited to see the original Princess Jellyfish manga available in translation. Kodansha’s release of the series is an omnibus edition with a larger trim size and color pages included. The first omnibus, published in 2016, collects the first two volumes of the series as released in Japan in 2009.

Tsukimi is the youngest resident of Amamizukan in Tokyo, a communal apartment building catering to a particular type of woman who is completely and utterly devoted to her specific interests despite societal expectations—the fujoshi. Chieko, the manager of Amamizukan, collects traditional Japanese dolls and kimono. Mayaya is obsessed with Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Jiji has an intense appreciation for older, distinguished gentleman. Banba is fixated on trains. Mejiro is a reclusive boys’ love mangaka. And as for Tsukimi, ever since her mother took her to an aquarium as a child, she has adored jellyfish. Tsukimi’s love of jellyfish is one of her remaining ties to her mother who died of illness many years ago. It’s also that passion that leads to her chance encounter with Kuranosuke, the illegitimate son of a prominent politician who she initially assumes is a stylish and fashionable young woman due to the way he was dressed at the time. Their meeting will not only have a great impact on Tsukimi, but on everyone living at Amamizukan.

Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 1, page 227Like the residents of Amamizukan, Kuranosuke goes against society’s set roles and expectations, but in his case he’s doing it deliberately rather than it being an unintentional side effect of an obsession. Princess Jellyfish plays with the notions of outward appearance and self-expression in some really interesting and satisfying ways. I’m generally skeptical of stories that put an emphasis on beauty and looks or that make use of dramatic makeovers (for various reasons, Tsukimi and the rest of the Amamizukan fujoshi become targets of Kuranosuke’s enthusiasm for fashion and makeup), but Princess Jellyfish is a series that recognizes that a person’s appearance is only one part of an extremely complicated whole and that attractiveness is much more than skin deep. It also recognizes that there is tremendous power in someone being able to influence other people’s perceptions of who they are and that first impressions are often rightly or wrongly based on what can be visibly seen. Kuranosuke understands this and uses that knowledge to his advantage, as does the series antagonist Inari—a woman paving the way to the demolition of Amamizukan to make way for new urban development. Through blackmail and her own sex appeal, she leverages the importance placed on appearances and society’s inherent sexist prejudices for her own benefit, often finding the circumstances to be distasteful but the feeling of being in control of them intoxicating.

While it is the impetus for much of the story’s forward movement in the first omnibus, the threat of losing Amamizukan is only one of many intertwined plot threads in Princess Jellyfish. Tsukimi’s maturation as she continues to deal with the pain of her mother’s death and begins to fall in love for the first time is very important to the series as is Kuranosuke’s complicated family history and relationships. Although Kuranosuke is heterosexual, considering his custom of dressing as a woman his presence in the manga brings additional elements of queerness and gender fluidity to the series which I especially enjoy. (Also worth mentioning: the Princess Jellyfish translation notes are very thorough and valuable in explaining some of the nuances of Japanese word usage and terminology in regards to various gender and queer identities, which can be quite different from their Western counterparts.) Princess Jellyfish incorporates a fair amount of comedy which is one of the reasons the manga has such charm. But while Kuronosuke’s fashion choices and gender performance can result in humorous situations, the series treats him as a person and not as a joke, which I greatly appreciate. In fact, Princess Jellyfish has an entire cast full of wonderful characters which is perhaps the series’ greatest strength.

Manga Giveaway: Princess Jellyfish Giveaway Winner

Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 1And the winner of the Princess Jellyfish manga giveaway is… Laura!

As the winner, Laura will be receiving a copy of the first omnibus in Kodansha Comic’s English-language edition of Akiko Higashimura’s Princess Jellyfish. There are quite a few manga releases that I’m looking forward to in 2016, but the debut Princess Jellyfish in English was one of my most highly-anticipated. I was curious to know what other upcoming manga people were excited about, so for this giveaway I asked participants to tell me a little about some of the manga they’re looking forward to. Check out the giveaway comments for the detailed responses, and check out below for the compiled list of manga mentioned (plus a few more that I’ve added for good measure).

Some upcoming manga releases to look forward to in English:
Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei
Don’t be Cruel by Nekota Yonezou
Dissolving Classroom by Junji Ito
A Distant Neighborhood by Jiro Taniguchi
The Gods Lie by Kaori Ozaki
Guardians of the Louvre by Jiro Taniguchi
Haikyu!! by Haruichi Furudate
I Am a Hero by Kengo Hanzawa
In/Spectre written by Kyo Shirodaira, illustrated by Chasiba Katase
Magia the Ninth by Ichiya Sazanami
Neo Parasyte F by Various
Nichijou by Keiichi Arawi
The Osamu Tezuka Story by Toshio Ban
Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura
Orange by Ichigo Takano
Otherworld Barbara by Moto Hagio
Queen Emeraldas by Leiji Matsumoto
Rose of Versailles by Riyoko Ikeda
Sherlock: A Study in Pink by Jay
A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima
Sweetness and Lightning by Gido Amagakure
That Wolf-Boy Is Mine! by Yoko Nogiri
Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle by CLAMP
Welcome to the Ballroom by Tomo Takeuchi
Yona of the Dawn by Mizuho Kusanagi

Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their excitement with me; quite a few of the manga that were mentioned are releases that I’m looking forward to a great deal as well. This should be a great year for manga!