My Week in Manga: July 13-July 19, 2015

My News and Reviews

Two in-depth reviews were posted at Experiments in Manga last week. The first took a look at Mushishi, Volume 4 by Yuki Urushibara. The review is part of my monthly horror manga review project; next month I’ll be bouncing back to Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare. Mushishi continues to be one of my favorite manga series. The second review was of A Sky Longing for Memories: The Art of Makoto Shinkai, the most recent artbook to be released by Vertical. It’s a gorgeous volume to simply look at, but I also learned a little about art design and digital illustration while reading it, too. Also of note, over at Organization Anti-Social Geniuses, I and six other manga and anime enthusiasts weighed in on the question “What Was the Biggest Announcement at Anime Expo/SDCC?”

There were a few other manga-related posts at OASG last week, too, including some great tips on getting manga for cheap, advice from manga letterers, and an interview with Kodansha’s Ben Applegate from San Diego Comic-Con. A couple of other convention-related articles that I came across: Brigid Alverson talked to Tokyopop’s Stu Levy and Deb Aoki summarizes some of the recent manga news. Also, the audio recordings of some of the SDCC panels, including the Best and Worst Manga panel, have been posted.

In licensing news, Seven Seas announced The Other Side of Secret manga series by Hideaki Yoshikawa. Seven Seas will also be releasing a newly-illustrated omnibus of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz & The Marvelous Land of Oz. (This will be similar to Seven Seas’ edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass which was quite charming.) Finally, a couple of interesting reads I happened upon: Léopold Dahan wrote about studying the magazine Garo and Kevin Frane discussed gender in Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner. (Frane is the translator of the series in English, and I really enjoyed the first volume, but I’m looking forward to the following volumes even more now.)

Quick Takes

After I WinAfter I Win by Kaname Itsuki. Out of all the boys’ love manga that I’ve so far read, I think After I Win is the one that is the quickest to reach the all-important love confession. Only three pages into the manga and the leads—the beautiful Hiyori and his underclassman and roommate Kasumi—have admitted their feelings for each other. Granted, it takes most of the rest of the volume for them each to realize that the other young man actually meant what he said. After I Win is probably also the boys’ love manga with the most masturbation scenes that I’ve come across. (In the afterword, Itsuki mentions that it was her intention to feature at least one such scene in every chapter.) Hiyori and Kasumi spend so much time getting it on on their own rather than getting it on together for two main reasons: the aforementioned confusion regarding how seriously they should take each other’s confession, and the fact that Hiyori gets so nervous with anticipation and excitement that he tends to get nauseous. But even considering this, and despite his angelic appearance, Hiyori is very dirty-minded and looks forward to the opportunity to cement his relationship with Kasumi physically. After I Win, perhaps surprisingly, is actually pretty cute.

Alice in the Country of Hearts: My Fanatic Rabbit, Volume 1Alice in the Country of Hearts: My Fanatic Rabbit, Volumes 1-2 by Psyche Delico. After reading and enjoying the first Alice in the Country of Hearts manga series, I asked fellow enthusiasts to recommend which among the multitude of Alice manga I should follow-up with. My Fanatic Rabbit wasn’t mentioned a single time. So why did I tackle it next? Mostly because Psyche Delico was involved. (I loved her other manga released in English, Love Full of Scars.) My Fanatic Rabbit is more or less a retelling of Alice in the Country of Hearts, except that Alice has decided to stay with the Hatter mafia rather than Julius, ultimately falling in love with the March Hare. There are some cute romantic parts scattered throughout the series, especially towards the end, as well as some genuinely funny moments, but overall the manga really isn’t especially strong. It doesn’t stand well on its own and those who have read the first series won’t find much new, either. Maybe in part because it’s a shorter series, neither the characters nor the world have much of chance to develop and simply must be taken as is. My Fanatic Rabbit will likely appeal most to those who want to see Elliot and Alice together.

Aquarion Evol. Volume 1Aquarion Evol, Volumes 1-3 written by Shoji Kawamori, illustrated by Aogiri. Despite taking place twelve thousand years after Genesis of Aquarion, its sequel Aquarion Evol doesn’t make much sense at all to those who aren’t already familiar with the franchise. At least that’s the case for the ongoing manga series; perhaps the anime does a better job of initiating newcomers. Having seen neither of the anime series, I can only say that the story of the Aquarion Evol is a mess and nearly impenetrable at first. By the third volume things begin to be explained a little more coherently, but the manga seems to be taking a lot of shortcuts with the plot and character development. Probably because of my confusion, I generally wasn’t overly impressed with the Aquarion Evol, but there were still some things that I liked about it. The various supernatural powers are interesting (there’s even a music-based one!) as are the somewhat bizarre gender dynamics and curious sexual overtones. The artwork is attractive, too, with exciting action sequences and nice character designs. The mecha are difficult to tell apart at first glance, though. I wonder if I might actually enjoy the Aquarion Evol anime, but I find the manga to be frustrating.

Fantasy Sports, Volume 1Fantasy Sports, Volume 1 by Sam Bosma. Before stumbling upon Fantasy Sports, I hadn’t previously read any of Bosma’s work. I definitely want to read more now because Fantasy Sports was fantastic. It apparently started out as a self-published, black-and-white comic called Fantasy Basketball, but it was later expanded and colored for release by Nobrow and made the first installment in an ongoing series. I absolutely loved the comic and can’t wait to read future volumes of Fantasy Sports. The story follows Wiz, a young magic user and intern at The United and Ancient Order of Mages. Her mentor in the guild is Mug, a hulk of a man who usually solves his problems through brute strength and who doesn’t know a thing about magic. They don’t really get along very well, making their job raiding and searching for treasure even more difficult. During their most recent expedition, they encounter an ancient mummy who they must defeat in a game of basketball if they hope to escape with the fortune and their lives intact. It’s a slim volume, but with great art, great colors, and great characters, not to mention just enough silliness and adventure, the first volume of Fantasy Sports is a tremendous amount of fun.

My Week in Manga: August 11-August 17, 2014

My News and Reviews

So, as I briefly mentioned in my anniversary post this morning, my partners and I very recently became parents. We all ended up spending most of last week at the hospital; needless to say I was a bit preoccupied. But everyone is happy, healthy, and at home now, so everything’s good. Thankfully, I already had a couple of posts typed up and ready to go. Otherwise, it would have been a very quiet week here at Experiments in Manga since I didn’t get much reading or writing done at all. (For some reason.)

Anyway, I did somehow manage to post two reviews last week! First up was Denise Schroeder’s wonderful, delightful, and charming short comic Before You Go. The review is the latest installment in my Year of Yuri monthly manga review project, which focuses on manga and other comics with lesbian and yuri elements. Also reviewed last week was Jamie Lynn Lano’s memoir The Princess of Tennis: My Year Working in Japan As an Assistant Manga Artist. It’s a very interesting and informative book about the manga industry and Japan. The book can currently be purchased through Sparkler Monthly’s Distro program.

Despite being rather busy last week, I did come across a few things online that made for interesting reading. At Manga Connection, Manjiorin wraps up her Swan review project. The fourth Manga Studies column at Comics forum has been posted, focusing on Ishiko Junzō and gekiga. Joe McCulloch has a piece on the early work of Ryōichi Ikegami at The Comics Journal. Mangabrog has a translation of a conversation between Usamaru Furuya and Inio Asano. Also highly recommended is Comics Alliance’s interview with Vertical’s Ed Chavez.

Quick Takes

Gangsta3Gangsta, Volume 3 by Kohske. As can probably be inferred from the cover, much of the third volume of Gangsta delves into the pasts of Nic and Worick, how they met, and their somewhat complicated relationship with each other. In the process more is revealed about the history of Ergastulum and the Twilights, too. Gangsta is a very violent series. Even when Nic and Worick were young they found themselves surrounded by death in a harsh environment of political turmoil. In the case of Nic, he was being kept by a mercenary group hired to act as bodyguards to Worick’s family; he’s done plenty of killing of his own. He apparently has always been somewhat terrifying. The beginnings of Nic and Worick’s exceptionally close connection are seen in this volume. Neither of them come from a good family situation, both of them are seen as socially unacceptable (Nic because he’s a Twilight, Worick because he’s a bastard son), and both of them are physically abused by those who should care about them. Though they get off to a rough start, the two broken young men are able to find some solace in each other’s company. Nic and Worick fascinate me; I’m glad to have gotten more of their backstory in the third volume. I’ve enjoyed Gangsta from the very beginning and continue to do so.

Love Full of ScarsLove Full of Scars by Psyche Delico. Okay. So, Love Full of Scars is a collection of utterly ridiculous and absurd boys’ love stories. The over-the-top humor certainly won’t be to every reader’s taste, but I loved the volume. Though I largely enjoyed all of the short manga included in Love Full of Scars, my favorite was probably the titular story. (It also happens to be the longest, with several chapters devoted to it and side stories of its own.) Kanda is a high school punk who has a crush on Uesaka, the school’s biggest badass. The problem is that every time Kanda tries to confess his feelings, he ends up picking a fight instead. Fortunately, Uesaka is able to see through all of Kanda’s posing. They’re both delinquents so more often than not communicating with their fists and punching each other in the face helps them to solve their differences. The sex in Love Full of Scars, when and if it actually happens, usually ends up being rather awkward and incredibly earnest at the same time. The stories in the collection generally avoid the stereotypical seme/uke dynamics of the boys’ love genre. There is also a bit of a fixation on facial and body hair. And, well, pubic hair, too, for that matter. (Granted, that’s mostly for the sake of gag.) The manga is rough, rude, and raunchy, but I found it to be highly amusing and entertaining.

Tonari no Seki-kunTonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time directed by Yūji Mutoh. The anime adaptation of Takuma Morishige’s manga series My Neighbor Seki had completely slipped under my radar until Vertical announced that it had licensed the manga. My curiosity was piqued, so I decided to watch the anime while waiting for the manga to be released. The anime was an absolute delight; I wish there was more! I’m definitely looking forward to reading the manga next year. The premise of the series is disarmingly simple. Yokoi and Seki sit next to each other in the back of their high school classroom. But instead of studying, Seki occupies himself at his desk in all sorts of ways, messing around with erasers, shogi pieces, knitting, and so on. The scenarios are actually all very imaginative, creative, and elaborate. Try as she might, Yokoi can’t help but be caught up whatever it is Seki is doing, so she doesn’t get much studying done, either. The anime is much more entertaining than I’ve probably made it sound. Each episode is under eight minutes and they are all very funny. There is very little dialogue in the series. Instead, the narrative relies very heavily on Yokoi’s internal monologue. Yokoi’s voice actress, Kana Hanazawa, does a fantastic job with the role—she is exceptionally dynamic and expressive.