My Week in Manga: April 17-April 23, 2017

My News and Reviews

Well, I didn’t manage to post my in-depth manga review for April last week after all. Today I’m starting in a new position at a different library, meaning that last week I spent most of my time tying up as many loose ends as possible at my previous job. This included writing a lot of documentation. And since I was doing so much writing for work, by the time I got home I didn’t want to do anything but read, so that’s what I did. (Which goes to explain why I ended up finishing Cixin Liu’s excellent novel The Three-Body Problem much sooner than I had originally anticipated.) But never fear, I’ll be posting my review of Nagabe’s The Girl from the Other Side later this week in addition to the monthly manga giveaway.

In other news, Seven Seas continued its string of licensing announcements, adding Orikō Yoshino and Z-ton’s light novel series Monster Girl Doctor, Kazuki Funatsu’s Yokai Girls manga, and Saki Hasemi and Kentaro Yabuki’s To Love Ru and To Love Ru Darkness manga to the slate. Recent announcements from Viz Media included Sankichi Hinodeya’s Splatoon manga, a Hello Kitty coloring book, picture books of Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky and Princess Mononoke, as well as the My Little Pony: The Movie artbook. Kodansha Comics had a couple of announcements to make recently, too, such as the upcoming release of full-color hardcover edition of Gun Snark’s Attack on Titan: No Regrets (I’ve previously reviewed the series’ first English-language release) and a hardcover omnibus edition of Yukito Kishiro’s Battle Angel Alita. (The series was originally published in English by Viz Media but has been out-of-print for quite some time.)

I also came across a few other interesting things last week: Over at The OASG, Justin interviewed Mariko Hihara and Kotoyo Noguchi, two independent manga creators in Japan. Noguchi also had some questions to ask in return. Frederik L. Schodt (whose work I greatly enjoy) was recently profiled at The article takes a look at his involvement as an ambassador for manga over the last four decades. Caitlin from I Have a Heroine Problem presented a panel called “Is This Feminist or Not? Ways of Talking about Women in Anime” at Sakura Con 2017 and has made her slides available. A very nicely designed site called Persona Problems offers criticism of Persona 5‘s English localization and delves into translation theory and practice that even people who don’t play the game may find interesting. Finally, the author and designer Iku Okada has started a series of autobiographical essays called Otaku Girl and Proud which explores Japanese gender inequality and identity and how popular culture can impact that experience.

Quick Takes

Dorohedoro, Volume 17Dorohedoro, Volumes 17-20 by Q Hayashida. Despite being one of my favorite ongoing series currently being released in English, I seem to somehow always forget how incredibly much I love Dorohedoro. I tend to forget how tremendously horrific the manga can be, too, mostly because it simultaneously manages to be surprisingly endearing. Hayashida’s story and artwork is frequently and stunningly brutal, gut-churning, and grotesque, but Dorohedoro also carries with it a great sense of humor. Granted, the comedy in Dorohedoro tends to be phenomenally dark. Lately, as Dorohedoro continues to steadily progress along what I believe will be it’s final major story arc, the series has become fairly intense and serious, but it remains exceptionally weird and has yet to completely lose its humor. The plot of Dorohedoro does meander a bit and because it’s been so long since I’ve read the previous volumes I’m sure that I’ve forgotten a few important details as the story takes multiple convoluted turns along the way. Ultimately, it doesn’t seem to really matter though since the world and characters of of Dorohedoro follow and operate under their own peculiar sort of logic; Dorohedoro doesn’t need to make a lot of sense in order to be bizarrely enjoyable.

FukuFuku: Kitten Tales, Volume 1FukuFuku: Kitten Tales, Volumes 1-2 by Kanata Konami. Before there was Chi’s Sweet Home there was FukuFuku Funyan, Konami’s cat manga which started in the late 1980s. The series featured an elderly woman and her cat FukuFuku. More recently, Konami created FukuFuku: Kitten Tales, a spinoff of FukuFuku’s first series which, as can be accurately assumed by the manga’s title, shares stories from the loveable feline’s youth. While Konami’s artwork in FukuFuku: Kitten Tales is black-and-white rather than being full-color and the manga is only two-volumes long rather than being twelve, the series is otherwise very similar in format to Chi’s Sweet Home. It’s actually been quite a while since I’ve read any of Chi’s Sweet Home, but FukuFuku: Kitten Tales feels like it might be a little more episodic as well. However, it is still an incredibly cute series. Each chapter is only six pages or so but manages to tell a complete story, accurately portraying the everyday life and antics of a kitten. FukuFuku: Kitten Tales isn’t especially compelling or creative as far as cat manga goes, but it is an adorable series which consistently made me smile and even chuckle from time to time.

Magia the Ninth, Volume 2Magia the Ninth, Volume 2 by Ichiya Sazanami. I enjoyed the first volume of Magia the Ninth immensely. I’m not really sure I could call it a good manga per se, and I don’t think I would necessarily recommend it broadly, but personally I got a huge kick out of it. That being said, I can’t say that I’m surprised that the series only lasted two volumes. (I don’t know for certain, but I get the feeling that Magia the Ninth was cancelled.) What did surprise me was how well Sazanami was able to pull everything together to conclude the manga in a coherent (and almost satisfying) fashion when obviously it was intended to be a series on a much grander scale. To be honest, Magia the Ninth probably would have done much better for itself if the manga had had that level of focus from the very beginning. Magia the Ninth is a strange and somewhat goofy little series about demons, magic, and music. While the series wasn’t always the most comprehensible, it’s stylishly drawn, has tremendous energy, and even manages to effectively incorporate legitimate music history into the story. Magia the Ninth may not have lived up to its potential, but I had fun with it.

The Prince in His Dark Days, Volume 2The Prince in His Dark Days, Volumes 2-3 by Hico Yamanaka. More and more of The Prince in His Dark Days seems to revolve around Itaru, but at this point I would still consider Atsuko, who is serving as Itaru’s double, to be the real lead of the manga. Unfortunately, Atsuko is casually threatened with sexual violence on a regular basis in the series which frankly makes me uncomfortable. In general, the power dynamics in The Prince in His Dark Days tend to be fairly disconcerting. It doesn’t really help when other characters’ try to play it off as a joke, either. If anything, it only seems to emphasize the fact that so many of them are unrepentant jerks. I know that I’m supposed to empathize with some of their personal struggles, but I find it difficult to spare a lot of sympathy for entitled assholes. However, the themes that Yamanaka explores in The Prince in His Dark Days are of tremendous interest to me, most notably those of gender expression and sexual identity. I also appreciate the manga’s melancholy mood and the slow blossoming of love in unexpected places. There’s only one volume left in The Prince in His Dark Days and despite some of my reservations about the series I am curious to see how it ends.

The Three-Body ProblemThe Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. If my memory serves me right, The Three-Body Problem is actually the first contemporary Chinese novel that I’ve read. It initially came to my attention when it became the first work in translation to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel. Interestingly, when The Three-Body Problem was translated into English by Ken Liu, the order of the chapters was restored to what the author originally intended and a few additional changes were made in consideration of some of the real-world scientific advances that had developed since the novel was first published in China. As a novel that leans heavily on hard science, I found The Three-Body Problem to be fascinating. (At one point in my life, I actually considered going into theoretical physics.) But what makes The Three-Body Problem so compelling are the social aspects of the narrative. In particular, China’s Cultural Revolution and the characters’ responses to it play a critical role in the story’s development. The Three-Body Problem is the first book in a trilogy, Remembrance of Earth’s Past, and so while largely being a satisfying novel on its own, it’s obviously only the beginning of a larger work. I definitely plan on reading the rest.

My Week in Manga: August 24-August 30, 2015

My News and Reviews

Last week was a bit slow at Experiments in Manga as I decided to take it a little easy on myself, but I did still post a couple of things in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. The most recent manga giveaway was posted, for one, and there’s still time to enter for a chance to win a complete set of Yumi Tamura’s shoujo action thriller Chicago. I also posted an in-depth review of Minae Mizumura’s award-winning A True Novel which I absolutely loved. In part it’s a reimagining of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights set in postwar Japan, but it’s not at all necessary to have read Brontë’s novel to appreciate Mizumura’s work.

Elsewhere online, Mangabrog has posted a translation of an interview of Parasyate‘s Hitoshi Iwaaki from 2005. Justin interviewed Sekai Project for Manga Bookshelf about the company entering the manga market. In licensing news, Kodansha Comics has picked up some Fairy Tail and Noragami side stories and Vertical Comics confirmed its acquisition of Maybe’s The Abandoned Sacred Beasts. Also of note, Humanoids will be releasing an anthology in 2016 called The Tipping Point which will include contributions from mangaka Katsuya Terada, Naoki Urasawa, Taiyo Matsumoto, and Atsushi Kaneko in addition to other comics creators from Europe and the United States.

Quick Takes

Dorohedoro, Volume 13Dorohedoro, Volumes 13-16 by Q Hayashida. Even though I love Dorohedoro, it’s been a while since I’ve read the series; I like to save up a few volumes to read all at once. The manga is now entering what I believe will be its final story arc. Granted, Dorohedoro tends to be all over the place with all sort of plot lines weaving in and out, so its difficult to identify distinct story arcs, but Hayashida is now bringing it all back together again. She’s even tying in what initially seemed to be extraneous side stories from earlier in the series more cohesively. Dorohedoro is such a bizarre manga, somehow managing to be sweet and charming at the same time it is disgusting and grotesque. Hayashida’s artwork is marvelous, creating horrific, nightmare-inducing images and an atmosphere that’s dank, dirty, and dingy. But the series is also fun and funny, with a quirky sense of humor and a peculiar fixation on food. At this point, though there is still comedy, Dorohedoro is actually getting pretty serious and dramatic. En’s dead and the rest of the family is currently homeless and on the run; the Cross-Eyes have taken over, but they seem to be losing control of the extremely deadly situation.

Evyione: Ocean Fantasy, Volume 1Evyione: Ocean Fantasy, Volume 1 by Young-Hee Kim. Back in the day, Udon Entertainment had a line of manwha which, sadly, didn’t end up going very far. Tragically, only the first volume of Kim’s twelve-volume series Evyione: Ocean Fantasy was translated and released. It’s admittedly disappointing that there isn’t more, but the first volume of Evyione serves as a sort of prologue and is well worth checking out even though the rest of the story will likely never be translated. The manhwa is in part inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid except that in the case of Evyione, it’s the king of the sea who has fallen in love with a human princess. The artwork in the series is stunningly gorgeous. The ocean scenes and merfolk are beautiful, sensuous, and slightly disconcerting. There’s a touch of horror to the king’s transformation into a human, keeping with the darker aspects of the original story. On land, Kim pays particular attention to the characters’ clothing and attire, the dresses especially are intricately detailed. Although Evyione is obviously based on The Little Mermaid, it’s not a simple retelling and incorporates political and court intrigue as well as additional plot elements.

Say I Love You, Volume 9Say I Love You, Volume 8 by Kanae Hazuki. I continue to really enjoy Say I Love You. Hazuki’s forthright portrayal of teenage sexuality in particular tends to be handled quite well. After focusing on some of the series’ supporting characters, the eighth volume of Say I Love You largely turns its attention back to Mei. Most of the volume is dealing with a popularity contest being held as part of the school festival that thrusts Mei into the spotlight when she becomes a finalist—some students voting for her because they like her, and some students voting for her in hopes that she will utterly embarrass herself. Yamato is a participant in the contest as well and out of all of the boys he’s expected to win, meaning he’ll be going on an arranged date with whichever girl receives the most votes. All together, this is a very challenging situation for Mei. She doesn’t really want all of the attention and yet she feels compelled to try to win. Hazuki avoids the pitfall of a makeover suddenly changing a person into someone completely unrecognizable. It’s not so much that Mei’s outward appearance is drastically altered, it’s that she’s starting to overcome some of her insecurities and reclaim her femininity for herself.

My Week in Manga: May 12-May 18, 2014

My News and Reviews

Well, it was my intention to review the first omnibus of Whispered Words by Takashi Ikeda last week, but then Sean reviewed it the day before I was planning to post my review. So, to avoid making the Manga Bookshelf front page look a little strange, I decided to bump my Whispered Words review to later this week. But never fear, I had other posts in reserve! First up was my Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2014 recap, which is very, very long. If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, that’s fine, but I do want people to know that TCAF is an amazing festival. A month or so ago I had the opportunity to attend a presentation given by Natsuki Kikuya, a sake sommelier and from a centuries-old family of sake brewers in Tōhoku, about the brewing of sake, its history, and current trend in the industry, so I posted some random musings about that as well—Cultures of Japanese Sake. I was quite pleased to discover that I actually had already had a strong introduction to the subject from reading manga, specifically Oishinbo, A la Carte: Sake and Moyasimon.

Now, going back to TCAF for a moment: Heidi MacDonald has an excellent summary of the festival at Publishers Weekly; the Beat has audio for a selection of the panels available for listening; and Okazu’s Erica Friedman has a great recap of the est em panel, which she moderated. Unrelated to TCAF, but still worth reading: Marvel, Yen Caught in Amazon-Hachette Crossfire; an interview with Leyla Aker, the editor at Viz Media responsible for Kohske’s Gangsta series; and Tokyo Government Declares Imōto Paradise! 2 Manga Unhealthy. Also, Deb Aoki has started updating her site Manga Comics Manga with some interesting new material, including Japanese to Spanish Manga Translation: Readers Speak Out and What Would Make Manga More Appealing to Comics Fans? + 24 Manga for New Readers.

Quick Takes

Dictatorial Grimoire, Volume 3: Red Riding HoodDictatorial Grimoire, Volume 3: Red Riding Hood by Ayumi Kanou. The first volume of Dictatorial Grimoire, as ridiculous as it was, entertained me. The second volume was no less ridiculous, and it had some great moments, but I was frustrated by how trope-based it was. Fortunately, the series’ originality largely returns in the third volume and Dictatorial Grimoire once again becomes a glorious mess. The plot actually starts to make a little more sense and even becomes somewhat interesting, but just as things start to really get going the story is quickly brought to an end. It feels very abrupt and truncated, as if the series was initially supposed to be much longer. Still, I think the third volume of Dictatorial Grimoire was actually my favorite in the series. The demon from which the story Red Riding Hood comes is thoroughly introduced and he’s pretty great—a mix of the Wolf, Hunter, and Red. (He’s actually a decent guy once he gets his werewolf problem under control.) I also get a kick out of Snow White’s animal companions. Instead of the cute woodland critters that might traditionally be expected, he always has some poisonous creatures hanging about. Dictatorial Grimoire is far from the best manga out there, but it can be fun in all of its ridiculousness.

Dorohedoro, Volume 10Dorohedoro, Volumes 10-12 by Q Hayashida. I continue to enjoy Dorohedoro immensely. It’s a strange, weird manga, and one that I find difficult to coherently explain to people. Dorohedoro is bloody, violent, and grim and yet at the same time it is also incredibly endearing, charming, and funny. It can even be heartbreaking from time to time. Occasionally something feels a little bit off about Hayashida’s artwork in the series—body proportions don’t always seem to be quite right—but for the most part I really enjoy the gritty look and feel of Dorohedoro. I was particularly impressed by how effectively dizzying and disconcerting the artwork could be when Aikawa’s magic comes into play. There’s quite a bit of plot development in these volumes and several of the characters have their backstories filled out—more is learned about the pasts of Nikaido, Asu, and the various members of the Cross-Eyes. There’s plenty of action in this part of the series, too, including excellent fight sequences and brutal battles. There are some significant deaths, as well, though it’s never certain that someone will stay completely dead in Dorohedoro. There are seven more volumes to go in the series; I really hope that Viz will be able to stick with it through to the end.

Hotblood!: A Centaur in the Old West, Volume 1Hotblood!: A Centaur in the Old West, Volume 1 by Toril Orlesky. While at TCAF, I made the point to pick up a few things that I hadn’t heard about before or was otherwise unfamiliar with. One of those random splurges was Orlesky’s Hotblood!, a webcomic that currently updates twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I am absolutely loving it—the characters, the art, everything. The first print volume collects the series’ prologue and the entirety of its first chapter, as well as an exclusive appendix and other additional bonus material. Tremendous thought and care has been put into the worldbuilding of the comic—a sort of alternative history—especially in regards to the relationships and interactions between humans and centaurs and their cultures. The story begins in Wyoming in 1873 with James Rook, the titular centaur, and Asa Langley a steel magnate on the run as wanted men. It then jumps back two years in time to when they first met. In the prologue the two are obviously very close, but at the beginning of their relationship they didn’t get along much at all. Langley is a bit of a jerk, frequently making jokes in poor taste at Rook’s expense, but Rook needs a job so he puts up with it. He has been assigned to be Langley’s secretary; neither one of them is particularly happy about it, though.

Watamote2No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Volumes 2-3 by Nico Tanigawa. Overall, I do enjoy WataMote, but I will be the first to admit that it can be a harsh and uncomfortable read. (I get the feeling that the creators largely didn’t enjoy their high school years and that they don’t have many fond memories of that time in their lives.) WataMote can be very funny, but it’s not always very pleasant. So far the series has been fairly episodic, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage, but a few characters have been introduced in these volumes which may change that. I would like to see some actual character development in the series, though. Right now it seems as though Tomoko, her family, and classmates are stuck in a rut. This works in terms of the series’ premise—Tomoko is a misfit to put all other misfits to shame—but it’s a little painful and sad to not see her learn from her mistakes and experiences. Which, I suppose, is actually probably one of the points of the manga. Tomoko can be endearing in her extreme awkwardness, but that awkwardness can also be fairly alarming and embarrassing. WataMote is definitely not a series that everyone will be able to enjoy or even appreciate, but I do plan on following it further.

My Week in Manga: April 22-April 28, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week was rather busy here at Experiments in Manga. In addition to usual My Week in Manga feature, there were four other posts. (Normally, there are only two or three.) First off, you still have a couple more days to enter April’s manga giveaway. Tell me about your favorite English license rescue for a chance to win the first omnibus as well as the ninth volume of Yun Kouga’s Loveless.

About a month ago, I reviewed The Infernal Devices, Volume 1: Clockwork Angel, HyeKyung Baek’s graphic novel adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s novel by the same name. I hadn’t read the original novel, and so was thrilled when my good friend Traci (who has) agreed to share her thoughts on the adaptation. She made a video, a first for Experiments in Manga!

Last week was also the Kaori Yuki Manga Moveable Feast. For my contribution, I reviewed Grand Guignol Orchestra, Volume 1: Overture. I’ll admit, I think I like the series better in concept than in execution. And last but certainly not least, I posted some random musings on Tokyo Demons, one of my most recent obsessions. Not too long ago I reviewed the first novel in the series, but ended up with more that I wanted to say. And even now, I’m not sure that I said everything that I wanted to.

On to some interesting things found online! I recently reviewed and loved Toh EnJoe’s Self-Reference Engine. I thought Terry Gallagher’s work as the translator for the book was particularly remarkable. Haikasoru posted a Q/A with a translator: Terry Gallagher which I found very interesting. And speaking of Japanese literature in translation, translator Allison Markin Powell (who worked on Osamu Dazai’s Schoolgirl among other things) has created a searchable database of Japanese Literature in English. Entries are still being added but it’s already a fantastic resource.

Elsewhere online, The Comics Reporter interviewed Christopher Butcher, “the driving force behind the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.” Two of the featured guests this year will be mangaka Taiyo Matsumoto and Gengoroh Tagame. I mentioned last week that the 2013 Eisner Award nominees had been announced. Over at No Flying No Tights, the contributors shared their reactions to the list both good and bad, including their disappointment over the lack of manga in some of the categories. Finally, the Dark Horse manga zone takes a look at the release, and re-release, of Lone Wolf & Cub as part of the Dark Horse Manga Timeline.

Quick Takes

20th Century Boys, Volumes 20-22 by Naoki Urasawa. Don’t be fooled: these last three volumes in 20th Century Boys are not the end of the story, there are still two more volumes of 21st Century Boys to go. While it has been a long and convoluted journey, things are starting to fall together. The major players in the series have all returned and the final showdown has begun. And I’m thoroughly enjoying it now that it is here. Music has always been a part of the series and an important touchstone, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so crucial to the plot in the end. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised though since there were plenty of clues in the manga. As a musician, it makes me immensely happy.

Blue Exorcist, Volumes 5-8 by Kazue Kato. While I’m still enjoying Blue Exorcist to some extent, I did prefer the earlier volumes a bit more. Blue Exorcist works best for me when Kato finds a balance between the humor and the darker story elements. In these volumes, the balance was a little off and the more serious side of Blue Exorcist overwhelmed its goofier aspects. Personally, I like the series best when it’s being just a little sillier. To be honest, I was actually a little bored with this story arc. In part, I think it’s because the focus of the story shifts away from Rin. However, even if the pacing was slow, it was nice to see some of the other characters’ back stories filled in. Fortunately, the humor returns the action starts to ramp up again in the eighth volume.

Dorohedoro, Volumes 8-9 by Q Hayashida. I am still loving Dorohedoro. It’s just so delightfully weird and off-beat. Somehow the series manages to be incredibly gruesome and utterly charming all at the same time. In the past, Dorohedoro‘s story has been all over the place and hasn’t always been particularly cohesive, but at this point in the series the plot has developed some forward and almost linear momentum. It’s still wonderfully strange, though. The eighth and ninth volumes begin to delve further into the characters’ pasts and their connections to one another. The tone is rather ominous at the end of the ninth volume, so I’m anxious to see what developments Hayashida has in store next.

A Fallen Saint’s Kiss by You Higashino. A Fallen Saint’s Kiss is certainly one of the kinkiest yaoi I’ve come across in print in English. And because it is part of Digital Manga’s 801 imprint, it is also very explicit. A Fallen Saint’s Kiss is a one-shot featuring three interrelated couples in sadomasochistic relationships (which, as a heads up, includes student-teacher relations.) There’s bondage and humiliation and all sorts of sex toys (something I haven’t seen much of before.) Two chapters are devoted to each couple’s relationship. What works particularly well about the first two stories is that each chapter is told from a different partner’s perspective, allowing both sides of the relationship to be seen. Unfortunately, the third story breaks this pattern.

To directed by Fumihiko Sori. To is a collection of two short films (Elliptical Orbit and Symbiotic Planet) which are based on two standalone chapters of Yukinobu Hoshino’s science fiction manga 2001 Nights. I adore 2001 Nights. The films are very faithful adaptations of original stories and not many changes were made. Of the two films, I preferred Symbiotic Planet—overall, its pacing was better; Elliptical Orbit suffered from too many long, awkward, dramatic pauses. To is completely animated using CGI with mixed results. The ships and environments are absolutely gorgeous. Sadly, this makes the more stylized and less detailed humans feel flat and incomplete in comparison.

My Week in Manga: November 5-November 11, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week I announced the winner of the Nausicaä giveaway. In addition to naming the winner, the post excerpts some of the entrants’ thoughts on the various formats in which manga is released in English. I also managed to post two reviews last week. The first was for the new edition of Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt’s Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide. I had read and reviewed (and thoroughly enjoyed) the original edition in the past, but the revised edition is even better. I also reviewed The Immortal: Demon in the Blood, the comic adaptation of Fumi Nakamura’s novel Enma the Immortal. I absolutely love Enma the Immortal; unfortunately, The Immortal: Demon in the Blood didn’t quite live up to my hopes.

Probably the biggest news in the manga blogging community last week is that Kate Dacey’s The Manga Critic will be shutting down. Kate has been a huge inspiration to me, so I’m sad to see The Manga Critic go. Fortunately, she will continue to write for The Manga Bookshelf from time to time. In happier news, I’ve found two great blogs to add to the Resource page: Shojo Corner and The Manga Test Drive.

Quick Takes

Arisa, Volume 1 by Natsumi Ando. I originally picked up Arisa after hearing the story described as something that Naoki Urasawa might come up with if he wrote shōjo. And for the most part, I think that’s a pretty apt description. The mystery is ominous and there is an impressive number of plot twists in just the first volume. Arisa and Tsubasa are twin sisters who have been separated due to their parents’ divorce. Tsubasa adores her sister who she thinks leads the perfect life. But Arisa is hiding a terrible secret. I really want to know what’s going on, so I guess I’ll just have to read more of Arisa to find out. Also, if the artwork in Arisa looks familiar, it’s because Ando was the illustrator for the series Kitchen Princess.

Baoh, Volumes 1-2 by Hirohiko Araki. I’ve been going through a JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure withdrawal and so I decided to give Araki’s short series Baoh a try. Baoh is certainly no JoJo. In fact, the series was largely a failure in the American market. However, it was interesting to see some of Araki’s earlier work. After being kidnapped and experimented upon by the Judas Laboratory, Ikuro has been turned into deadly bioweapon. But with the aid of a young psychic, he is able to escape his captors who desperately want to find him again. The story itself felt fairly generic to me but I am rather fond of Ikuro as a character. The art in Baoh isn’t as refined as it is in Araki’s later series but there’s plenty of the strangeness and gore that I’ve come to expect.

Dorohedoro, Volumes 4-7 by Q Hayashida. Sure, the story can be all over the place and doesn’t always make a lot of sense, but I still find Dorohedoro to be a tremendous amount of graphic, gory fun. I love its dark humor and quirky characters (who seem to be eating constantly). Hayashida’s artwork perfectly captures the dirt and the grime of the series’ setting. More about the world of Dorohedoro is slowly being revealed and many of the characters’ back stories are explored in these volumes. The plot is beginning to be a bit more coherent, too. Dorohedoro is such an incredibly weird series, but it does make me happy. I’m really looking forward to future volumes, so here’s hoping Viz continues to release them!

Empowered: Deluxe Edition, Volume 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-3) by Adam Warren. I love Empowered. It’s smart, sexy, and genuinely funny. Empowered is an associate member of a superhero group known as the Superhomeys. Unfortunately, her teammates are jerks and Emp is often caught in compromising situations (her supersuit is less than reliable). Fortunately, she has a great guy for a boyfriend (even if he did work as minion for a string of supervillians) and a runaway ninja princess for a best friend. Empowered exists in this strange place between manga and superhero comics; although for the most part it’s accessible on its own, Empowered probably works best for readers who have at least some rudimentary knowledge of both.

Lovers in the Night by Fumi Yoshinaga. There are quite a few parallels between Yoshinaga’s Lovers in the Night and her later series Gerard & Jacques (which I happened to read first). Both are historical romances taking place in France around the time of the French Revolution. Each manga also features a couple with significant age and class differences, although the dynamics of their respective relationships are significantly different. Lovers in the Night is a one-shot collection of related stories featuring the aristocratic Antoine and his extraordinarily competent butler Claude. The characters made their first appearance in Yoshinaga’s anthology Truly Kindly in the story “A Butler’s Proper Place.”

Ristorante Paradiso directed by Mitsuko Kase. I missed the Ristorante Paradiso anime when it was first streamed. It’s been unavailable for a while now, which is one of the reasons I was so excited when the series was licensed for a DVD release. The Ristorante Paradiso anime uses both Natsume Ono’s one-shot manga Ristorante Paradiso and its companion series Gente as its source material. It’s nice too see so many of the stories pulled together into one series. The anime captures the elegance and sensuality (and dare I say sexiness) of the Casetta dell’Orso’s staff quite nicely. Claudio in particular is beautifully portrayed. Ristorante Paradiso is a slow and quiet anime; it’s about the characters and setting more than anything else, but there’s human drama, too.