My Week in Manga: September 18-September 24, 2017

My News and Reviews

I was running a little behind my intended schedule last week (and today for that matter–this seems to be somewhat par for the course lately), but over the weekend I was finally able to post my review of the ninth omnibus of Vinland Saga, an award-winning historical manga by Makoto Yukimura which has become one of my favorite series currently being released in English. Last week I also attend a talk by Hiroshi Yoshioka, a professor at Kyoto University’s Kokoro Research Center, called Hiroshima, Fukushima, and Beyond: Borders and Transgressions in Nuclear Imagination. Yoshioka’s research addresses the portrayal of nuclear power within popular culture, whether that be manga like Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen, Sunao Katabuchi’s In This Corner of the World anime adaptation, other visual arts, or even Giant Baba’s “atomic drop” in professional wrestling. I won’t be doing a full write-up of the talk (although perhaps I should), but I did find it to be fascinating. A couple of other interesting things that I’ve come across recently include Ryan Holmberg’s two part article “Yokoyama Yuichi and Audiovisual Abstraction in Comics” as well as an edited version of a talk by Tyran Grillo, the translator working on the Legend of the Galactic Heroes novels, about the series and its author Yoshiki Tanaka.

Quick Takes

Frau Faust, Volume 1Frau Faust, Volume 1 by Kore Yamazaki. The German legend of Faust, a scholar who sells his soul to the Devil in order to gain great knowledge and worldly delights, has had numerous interpretations over the centuries. (Considering my background in music, I’m personally most familiar with the various operatic and symphonic renditions of the tale.) Faust being the subject of a manga would be enough for me to take an immediate interest, but the fact that Frau Faust is by Yamazaki, the creator of The Ancient Magus’ Bride which I greatly enjoy, made it a series that I absolutely knew I needed to read. One volume in, not only am I intrigued, I am completely on board with Yamazaki’s reimagining of the classic tale. As can be gathered from the title, Faust in this case is a woman. Johanna is strikingly enigmatic, the complexity of her true nature slowly revealed over the course of the first volume of the manga. The pacing of Frau Faust is excellent. Plenty of mystery remains by the first volume’s end, but rather than the story feeling like it’s being unnecessarily drawn out, it simply makes me want to read more. The only real complaint I have about the manga, and it’s a relatively minor one at that, is Johanna’s eyeglasses which tend to inexplicably appear and disappear from one panel to the next and I can’t tell if it’s meant to be intentional or not.

Kiss of the Rose Princess, Volume 1Kiss of the Rose Princess, Volumes 1-2 by Aya Shouoto. Since I’ve been enjoying The Demon Prince of Momochi House I’ve been making a point to try some of the other manga by Shouoto available in English. Sadly, I haven’t been nearly as taken with Kiss of the Rose Princess, one of Shouoto’s earlier series. I think that part of my lack of interest in the series stems from the fact that there’s not much of a plot even hinted at until the second volume. It’s almost as if the first volume, and much of the second, is devoted to a side quest before really getting to the meat of the story. Anise is a high school student who quite unexpectedly finds herself in command of a quartet of knights (who are also her classmates) that she can magically summon, a situation that hasn’t been fully explained. More than anything else, the setup comes across as a convenient excuse for the series’ heroine have a number of young men who are in some way bound to her if not vying for her attention. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but at this point most of the characters come across as “types” and any convincing romantic tension is nearly nonexistent. Everyone is very prettily drawn, however. Shouoto seems to be favoring silliness over seriousness in Kiss of the Rose Princess, which again isn’t necessarily bad, but a satisfying balance between the tones hasn’t been reached yet.

Queen Emeraldas, Volume 2Queen Emeraldas, Volume 2 by Leiji Matsumoto. In addition to being a classic manga, which I’m always happy to see more of in translation, I found the first half of Queen Emeraldas to be wonderfully engrossing, so I was looking forward to reading the conclusion of the series. One of the things that particularly appeals to me about the Queen Emeraldas is the mood that Matsumoto is able to create–the melancholic atmosphere of the manga as well as the portrayal of the great expanse and loneliness of the universe. (I also adore Matsumoto’s illustrations of space.) Emeraldas is a woman traveling the stars, her ship her only constant companion. However, her destiny still frequently crosses paths with those of others. Hiroshi Umino repeatedly finds himself drawn into her orbit as he tries to establish a life of freedom in space. The chapters of Queen Emeraldas are loosely-connected stories with the presence of Emeraldas as the uniting factor. She herself is frequently the narrator of the tales, but the focus is often on the follies and arrogance of the men she meets. I was actually hoping to learn more about Emeraldas and her personal story, but by the end of the series very little has been explicitly stated about her past. Even so, Emeraldas is a marvelously charismatic character, capable of great empathy and compassion but dedicated to justice.

Manga Giveaway: Queen Emeraldas Giveaway Winner

Queen Emeraldas, Volume 1And the winner of the Queen Emeraldas manga giveaway is… Sofia!

As the winner, Sofia will be receiving a copy of the first volume of Leiji Matsumoto’s Queen Emeraldas as published in English (and in hardcover!) by Kodansha Comics. Queen Emeraldas is a relatively recent example of a manga released in translation that is set in space. I happen to be rather fond of stories with space settings and so for this giveaway I asked that participants tell me a little about their favorite space manga. Check out below for a list of manga, but everyone’s detailed responses can be found in the giveaway comments.

Some of the manga with space settings released in print in English:
2001 Nights by Yukinobu Hoshino
A, A′ by Moto Hagio
Astra Lost in Space by Kenta Shinohara
Andromeda Stories written by Ryu Mitsuse, illustrated by Keiko Takemiya
Battle Angel Alita: Last Order by Yukito Kishiro
Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace by Chibimaru
Captain Harlock: Dimensional Voyage written by Leiji Matsumoto, illustrated by Kouichi Shimahoshi
Chronowar by Kazumasa Takayama
Earthian by Yun Kouga
Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo by Mahiro Maeda
Gin Tama by Hideaki Sorachi
Jyu-Oh-Sei by Natsumi Itsuki
Knights of Sidonia by Tsutomu Nihei
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt by Yasuo Ohtagaki
Moon Child by Reiko Shimizu
Phoenix by Osamu Tezuka
Planetes by Makoto Yukimura
Please Save My Earth by Saki Hiwatari
Queen Emeraldas by Leiji Matsumoto
Stellvia by Ryo Akitzuki
Saber Tiger by Yukinobu Hoshino
Saturn Apartments by Hisae Iwaoka
Terra Formars written by Yu Sasuga, illustrated by Ken-ichi Tachibana
They Were Eleven by Moto Hagio
To Terra… by Keiko Takemiya
Trigun by Yasuhiro Nightow
Twin Spica by Kou Yaginuma
The Two Faces of Tomorrow by Yukinobu Hoshino
The Voices of a Distant Star written by Makoto Shinkai, illustrated by Mizu Sahara

As usual, the above list is not at all comprehensive (and there’s even more available digitally), but it should hopefully provide a good launching point. I’ve personally read and am quite fond of many of the titles listed, but there are some that I have yet to try, too. Thank you to everyone who took time to share your favorite space manga with me! I hope to see you all again for the next monthly giveaway.

Manga Giveaway: Queen Emeraldas Giveaway

It’s that time again! The end of the month is fast approaching which means another giveaway at Experiments in Manga is now underway! This month’s giveaway features Queen Emeraldas, Volume 1 by Leiji Matsumoto as published in English by Kodansha Comics. (It’s a hardcover!) The second and final volume of the series will be released later this year (I believe it’s scheduled for July), so this giveaway is a great opportunity for a chance to win the first volume to give the series a try. And, as always, the giveaway is open worldwide!

Queen Emeraldas, Volume 1

I have been a long-time fan of speculative and science fiction of all types, but I do seem to particularly fond of those that somehow involve space. Taking that into consideration, it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that manga about space travel and exploration especially tend to appeal to me. When Leiji Matsumoto’s Queen Emeraldas was licensed it immediately caught my attention. Not only does it take place in space, it’s also a series from the 1970s. “Classic” manga aren’t frequently released in English (unless they’re by Osamu Tezuka), so that aspect of Queen Emeraldas interested me, too. And indeed, I enjoyed the first volume a great deal.

So, you may be wondering, how can you a copy of the Queen Emeraldas, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me about your favorite manga set in space. (Don’t have a favorite or have never read one? Simply mention that instead.)
2) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting, or retweeting, about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

And there you have it. Everyone participating in the giveaway can earn up to two entries and has one week to submit comments. If needed or preferred, entries can also be sent directly to me at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. The comments will then be posted here in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on May 3, 2017. Good luck!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address in the comment form, a link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced–Manga Giveaway: Queen Emeraldas Giveaway Winner

My Week in Manga: September 12-September 18, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted the Bookshelf Overload for August. I picked up some great out-of-print (or soon to be out-of-print) manga and comics last month in addition to some highly-anticipated new releases. I was particularly busy with work and taiko last week so I wasn’t online much, but there is one thing that I’d like to draw attention to–the thirty-eighth and most recent issue of Sparkler Monthly. In it is the first part of a Skyglass side story written by Jenn Grunigen and illustrated by Mookie called “The Mud God” which, in addition to being adorably cute, is partly my fault as it’s related to another Skyglass commission that the author is working on for me. (Hopefully that one will be able to be shared soon, too!)

Quick Takes

Inuyashiki, Volume 4Inuyashiki, Volume 4 by Hiroya Oku. The fourth volume of Inuyashiki begins immediately where the third volume ends, with the devastating and gruesome aftermath of Inuyashiki’s confrontation with an powerful organized crime group. It then turns to follow Shishigami’s story again. One thing that I found to be particularly interesting about Inuyashiki, Volume 4 is the character development of the two main leads. Since the beginning of the series, Inuyashiki and Shishigami have been opposites, using their newly-granted powers in vastly different ways. Though they both are mechanical monsters with many of the same abilities, Inuyashiki has focused on helping others, whether that be by curing major illnesses or fighting on behalf of those who are weaker, while Shishigami has been going on killing sprees for his own selfish reasons. Inuyashiki abhors violence, even when he is a willing participant; Shishigami delights in it. But the fourth volume of Inuyashiki sees some of that change. Inuyashiki is learning to consciously use and control his more deadly powers, specifically in order to put an end to Shishigami. He still considers it to be a necessary evil, though. As for Shishigami, his mother’s illness inspires him to use his abilities for less destructive purposes, but it’s still difficult to sympathize with him since he shows very little regret or remorse for the suffering he has wrought in the recent past.

One-Punch Man, Volume 4One-Punch Man, Volumes 4-8 written by One and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. I continue to be greatly impressed by both the artwork and writing of One-Punch Man although the series is not without its flaws. The manga plays around with many of the tropes of the superhero genre and makes use of plenty of stereotypes in the process. Unfortunately, that means the introduction of an unquestionably gay hero and the perceived threat of his sexuality is intended to be comedic, resulting in an uncomfortable setup in which implied sexual assault is treated as a joke. Personally, I didn’t find this to be particularly funny. However, other than that glaring misstep, the humor in One-Punch Man is fantastic. A slew of new heroes and villains have been brought in; their powers are frequently over-the-top and frankly ridiculous, fitting the overall tone of the series perfectly. Murata’s artwork can be absolutely stunning and is incredibly dynamic, shifting from simplified illustrations to those that are nearly photo-realistic depending on the needs of the story and humor. The action sequences are great, filled with intense battles between absurdly powered opponents and accompanied by a suitably tremendous amount of destruction. It’s not at all surprising that One-Punch Man has been adapted into an anime series–the manga as a whole but especially the visual components seem to beg for it.

Queen Emeraldas, Volume 1 Queen Emeraldas, Volume 1 by Leiji Matsumoto. Older manga are not often released in English, so I was very excited to learn that Kodansha Comics would be publishing a classic series. I was even more interested when I found out that series would be Matsumoto’s space opera Queen Emeraldas which takes place in the same universe as his Captain Harlock stories. Although the hardcover English-language edition is based on a Japanese release from 2009, Queen Emeraldas was originally serialized in the late 1970s. The story largely follows a young man by the name of Hiroshi Umino, a runaway from Earth who crash lands on Mars in a spaceship he cobbled together himself. The titular Emeraldas is charismatic and enigmatic woman, a living legend who metes out justice as she wanders the stars. She takes a particular interest in the boy, repeatedly aiding him in his struggle to survive in space. Initially her concern seems to emerge from the fact that his story shares so many similarities with her own although later it is implied that she may have a deeper connection to him. However, like much of Queen Emeraldas, the nature of that connection is still a mystery. So far, I am thoroughly enjoying Queen Emeraldas. The manga is moody, atmospheric, and melancholic with a Western frontier flair. The characters are ambitious, seeking a life of freedom in a world that is harsh and unforgiving.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 9Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 9 by Miki Yoshikawa. It’s fairly common for bodyswap manga to incorporate a fair amount of fanservice, especially when different genders are involved, and Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is no exception to that trend. Generally, the fanservice in the series doesn’t bother me that much especially considering the context, but every once in a while it’s more of a distraction than anything else. A case in point is a completely inexplicable panty shot in the ninth volume which completely threw me out of the story; it served no purpose for either characterization or plot, and even how the scene was illustrated didn’t make any sense. Usually, Yoshikawa is much better than that. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the ninth volume of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. There are some interesting twists and revelations as Yamada tries to find a way to return everyone’s missing memories. I’m not always very fond of amnesia plotlines in stories simply because they can be a lazy way for creators to write themselves out of a corner or cause unnecessary drama, but in the case of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches it actually works really well. At it’s very heart the series about friendship and overcoming isolation. Yamada, intentionally or not, was the one who brought so many of the characters together in the first place and he will do everything that he can to bring them together again.