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.

My Week in Manga: November 7-November 13, 2011

My News and Reviews

Okay, here we go! I posted a couple of reviews last week. The first was Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Yashakiden: The Demon Princess, Volume 1 courtesy of Digital Manga. I had some problems with the first volume, but I do plan on reading more of the series. The second review I posted was the first in-depth manga review for November, Death Note, Volume 10: Deletion. After a few bumpy middle volumes, the series is starting to get really good again.

Ed Sizemore of Manga Worth Reading and my favorite podcast Manga Out Loud is saying goodbye to reviewing manga to the same extent that he’s doing now. I understand his decision but am still sad and will definitely miss his voice. My best wished go out to Ed and his future pursuits.

Over on, Ron Hogan has an interesting essay about Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 and why those who read speculative fiction might get more out of it than those who don’t—Genre in the Mainstream: Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. I’m currently reading 1Q84 and should have a review of my own posted within the next couple of weeks.

Once upon a time, June 2009 to be exact, Digital Manga published Osamu Tezuka’s Swallowing the Earth. Since then, the book has gone out of print. However! Digital Manga has created a Kickstarter project to bring the manga back. I’m particularly excited about this venture because if it succeeds it could establish a workable publishing model to bring niche manga to English-reading audiences.

And finally, this week is the Natsume Ono Manga Moveable Feast! I’ve got a bunch of quick takes here for you featuring some of Ono’s works (plus a couple that are completely unrelated). Later this week I’ll also be posting an in-depth manga review of House of Five Leaves, Volume 1. I am quite fond of Ono’s manga, so I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone’s contributions to the Feast.

Quick Takes

The Drops of God, Volume 1 written by Tadashi Agi and illustrated by Shu Okimoto. While I like the drink, I am not by any means a wine connoisseur. Still, I enjoyed The Drops of God probably even more than I expected to. I will admit, I’m actually a little jealous of the characters and their passion for wine. For them, it’s not just a drink but a way to express themselves. The characters’ experiences and the mental images elicited while drinking are brilliantly captured in Okimoto’s artwork. It makes me envious that I’ve never had such visceral and emotional reactions to wine. The Drops of God reminds me a lot of Oishinbo, which I don’t think is a bad thing. I’m looking forward to reading more.

Gente: The People of Ristorante Paradiso, Volumes 1-3 by Natsume Ono. Ono has a superb talent for drawing marvelously sexy…pardon me, distinguished…older gentlemen. I don’t think that Gente always stands very well on its own, but as a companion series to Ono’s one-shot Ristorante Paradiso, it’s wonderful. The manga is a series of short stories and vignettes featuring characters from Ristorante Paradiso. It’s really nice to be able to get to spend more time with them and learn a little bit more about their pasts and personalities. The first two volumes take place before for the events of Ristorante Paradiso while the final volume takes place during the same time period and perhaps a little bit after.

House of Five Leaves, Volumes 2-4 by Natsume Ono. As much as I enjoy all of Ono’s work, House of Five Leaves is my favorite series by her. I saw the anime adaptation before the manga was available in English, so it’s difficult for me not to compare the two. The fourth volume is the first volume with a significant amount of unique content, including a character that doesn’t even appear in the anime. However, the heart of the story remains the same. The manga reveals some of the characters’ backstories in greater depth and explores their personal turmoils in more detail. In particular, the vicious side of Yaichi’s nature is shown more than it is implied. I’m greatly anticipating the release of the rest of the series.

La Quinta Camera: The Fifth Room by Natsume Ono. La Quinta Camera was Ono’s breakthrough work. It was originally published as a webcomic before being picked up by a publisher. The manga is a slice of life story focusing on the lives of four men who share an apartment in Italy and their relationships with the constantly changing tenant of the fifth room which is rented out to exchange students. Each chapter, six in all, brings a new student and reveals just a little bit more of the residents’ lives. Some of the tenants are only there briefly while others stick around even after they’ve moved out, but they all leave a lasting impression on the men. I prefer Ono’s later work but I did enjoy La Quinta Camera. Although it’s fiction, the manga has a charming sense of authenticity to it.

Dragon Head directed by George Iida. While I can safely say that I, for the most part, prefer the Dragon Head manga, the live-action film is not that bad of an adaptation. It just doesn’t translate the character’s struggles with fear quite as well. Nobuo’s descent into madness seems a bit rushed at the beginning (granted, it happens pretty quickly in the manga, too), but that is somewhat understandable since there was a lot of material to fit into a two hour movie. Certain plot details of the story have been changed, some for the better, and an excellent job was done making the whole film coherent. The special effects are pretty decent and the devastated Tokyo landscape was particularly well done.

House of Five Leaves directed by Tomomi Mochizuki. House of Five Leaves may very well be my favorite anime series; I am absolutely crushed that a Region 1 DVD set hasn’t been licensed. I’m glad that I can at least stream the series, but watching the show on my laptop is less than ideal. It’s a story that profoundly resonates with me for some reason and I continue to think about the series long after I’ve finished watching it. It’s not a anime that will work for everyone. It has a sort of art house feel to it, retaining much of Ono’s style, and the drama relies entirely on the characters. The music also creates an odd, but I think effective, sort of atmosphere, mixing traditional Japanese instruments with modern beats and what sounds a lot like a French tango.

My Week in Manga: March 21-March 27, 2011

My News and Reviews

I was on vacation for most of last week so I wasn’t around online much, but I did still mange to get a couple of reviews posted. I reviewed Kozue Amano’s Aqua, Volume 1 for the Aria Manga Moveable Feast. Amano’s artwork is lovely, and the story is relaxing. The second review was for Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide written by Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt and illustrated by Tatsuya Morino. It’s a fantastic and colorful introduction to traditional Japanese creepy crawlies and supernatural creatures.

And as for other fun stuff online: Jason Thompson’s House of a 1000 Manga recently featured Hinako Takanaga, one of his favorite boys’ love mangaka (who also happens to be one of my favorites as well). On a related note, Jennifer LeBlanc of The Yaoi Review has finished posting her three part interview with Takanaga (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Since I read both Sundome and Peepo Choo this past week, I’d also like to draw your attention to a couple episodes of Ed Sizemore’s Manga Out Loud podcasts featuring the series: Sundome with Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf and Peepo Choo w/ Erica Friedman, David Welsh, & Melinda Beasi. I really enjoy Manga Out Loud—it’s nice to see (well, hear) such candid conversations about manga, especially regarding potentially controversial series and materials.

Quick Takes

Peepo Choo, Volumes 1-3 by Felipe Smith. Take a few stereotypes to the extreme, add more than enough graphic violence and sex, and finish off by including a few stunningly over-the-top characters, and you might get close to understanding the mind-blowing insanity that is Peepo Choo. It’s not a type of insanity that everyone will be able to appreciate. The story, especially towards the beginning of the series, frequently comes across as cruel and there’s plenty of material at which to take offense. But Smith’s tough-love approach plays out nicely by the end. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with being a walking embodiment of a stereotype if that’s what someone wants to be.

Ristorante Paradiso by Natsume Ono. Older gentlemen, let alone sexy older gentlemen, are not often featured in manga licenses that make their way over to the United States. Fortunately, we’ve at least got Ristorante Paradiso. Ono’s artwork is distinctive and may take a little warming up to, but I’ve fallen in love with it. Nicoletta has traveled to Rome to track down and confront her mother who left her to be raised by her grandparents. In the process, she finds the Casetta dell’Orso, a restaurant owned by her mother’s new husband. Ristorante Paradiso is a charming and romantic glimpse into Nicoletta’s life as she works out her relationship with her mother and her crush on the head waiter, Claudio.

Sundome, Volumes 1-8 by Kazuto Okada. Another series that’s difficult to recommend to just anyone, Sundome is certainly deserving of it’s mature rating. I wasn’t actually that fond of the artwork overall, but it was effective in conveying certain elements of the story. Kurumi’s health problems, never fully explained, are certainly obvious from the beginning just by looking at her. The teens are portrayed as very sexual beings, which may bother some people, but I actually found the characters’ frankness regarding a wide variety of kinks and fetishes to be refreshing. There’s also a fair amount of humor. The exploration of Hideo and Kurumi’s relationship, something they both want and need, is fascinating and compelling.

Antique Bakery directed by Yoshiaki Okumura. It’s been a while since I’ve read Fumi Yoshinaga’s manga series Antique Bakery. I’d forgotten how much I adored the characters, and the anime and voice actors capture them perfectly. I’d also forgotten how funny the series can be. The anime is only twelve episodes, so the story has been condensed and focuses mostly on the four main characters. It may be missing some of the sidestories, but it’s a lovely adaptation. The CG used for background and buildings unfortunately clashes terribly with the hand drawn elements, but I really like the color palette used. The music, featuring plenty of string ensembles, was also a wonderful fit.

Guin Saga, Episodes 1-13 directed by Atsushi Wakabayashi. The Guin Saga anime adaptation is so incredibly epic and overly dramatic that it’s almost embarrassing, but I’m enjoying it immensely. The score is also suitably epic—but then I’d expect no less from Nobuo Uematsu. I’ve only read the first Guin Saga light novel, which takes up only three episodes of the anime, so I’m not sure how the adaptation compares to the original. But it it feels like the anime is only scratching the surface of a much deeper and more complex story. And there is an unfortunate tendency to pause in the middle of fight scenes to allow characters to make grand speeches. The animation is pretty, but perhaps too colorful for the story.