My Week in Manga: February 10-February 16, 2014

My News and Reviews

Not one, but two in-depth manga reviews were posted last week at Experiments in Manga. It wasn’t intentional on my part, though it did make me happy, but both manga deal with queer themes. The first review was for Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son, Volume 6. Even though it can be a somewhat difficult read for me personally since the subject matter often hits very close to home, I’m still absolutely loving this series. The seventh volume of Wandering Son is currently scheduled for release in August, which feels like a long ways off right now. As part of my “Year of Yuri” review project, last week I also took a closer look at Kiriko Nananan’s Blue, the only example of her long-form manga available in English. It’s a sweet and melancholic story of first love which follows the relationship of two young women who are classmates at an all-girls high school. The artwork in particular is very striking.

I’ve come across plenty of interesting reading and news over the last week. Brigid Alverson attended the Angoulême International Comics Festival this year and has been writing several reports on the experience. One of those explores the current state of the French manga market. In other festival news, The Guys with Pencils podcast interviewed Christ Butcher to talk about the fantastic Toronto Comics Arts Festival which he co-founded in 2003. Justin Stroman recently wrote two articles that I found to be particularly interesting: The Great Tumblr Industry Experience for Organization Anti-Social Geniuses and The Legal Manga Reading Sites You Don’t Know About for Manga Bookshelf. Finally, there has been some more movement on the licensing front. Yen press announced three new manga titles (Übel Blatt by Etorouji Shiono, Barakamon by Satsuki Yoshino, and Hiroyuki Aigamo’s adaptation of Accel World), as did Vertical (Gamon Sakurai’s Demi-Human, Ryū Mizunagi’s Witchcraft Works, and Midori Motohashi’s adaptation of The Garden of Words).

Quick Takes

Mister Mistress, Volume 2Mister Mistress, Volume 2 by Rize Shinba. It’s been quite a while since I read the first volume of Mister Mistress, but I did enjoy it enough that I made a point to track down the now out-of-print second volume. (Happily, both volumes are now available digitally from SuBLime, though I don’t believe there are currently any plans to continue the series.) Mister Mistress works best for me when it sticks to being a comedy. Shinba introduces a somewhat tragic backstory for Rei in this volume, but fortunately it doesn’t take too long for this to be turned around and played for laughs. The series’ strength really isn’t its plot, but its humor. Fujimaru is a bit of a goofball who can’t quite decide what to do about Rei. He halfheartedly attempts to exorcise the incubus several times, but on occasion he actually appreciates having him around. Though I’m not entirely convinced by their developing feelings for each other, it can be rather convenient for a horny teenager to have a personal incubus to aid in the realization of his sexual daydreams. As such, the sex scenes in Mister Mistress tend to be a little unusual.

Sherlock Bones, Volume 2Sherlock Bones, Volumes 2-3 written by Yuma Ando and illustrated by Yuki Sato. I wasn’t sure after reading the first volume of Sherlock Bones, but after reading the second and third volumes it appears as though the series will be mostly episodic. Which is just fine and works pretty well. After the basic premise of the series has been established—Sherlock Holmes reincarnated as a mix-breed puppy—the mysteries tend to be fairly self-contained. I was pleasantly surprised by the first volume of Sherlock Bones and, if anything, I think these two volumes are even better than the first. Sherdog seems to always be present when a murder is taking place, so Sherlock Bones isn’t really a “whodunit.” Instead, the series focuses on outwitting the criminals and finding ways to reveal their attempts to cover up what they have done. For the most part this means relying on circumstantial evidence and pressuring the killers into confessing. Although murder seems to be the crime du jour, Sherlock Bones features some more lighthearted and silly investigations as well which take advantage of the fact that Sherdog is adorable.

Stone, Volume 1Stone, Volumes 1-2 by Sin-ichi Hiromoto. In 2004, the editor of the English edition of Hiromoto’s short manga series Stone called it a “tribute to all of the fantastic sci-fi/action/fantasy films of the past thrity-odd years.” That seems to be a fairly accurate description of Stone. Hiromoto borrows and remixes elements from many films and franchises along with his own creations to devise something entirely his own. I was frequently reminded of Waterworld and to some extent Dune, and I definitely caught nods to Hellraiser and Star Wars. I get the feeling that there were references that I completely missed, too. Stone is a quickly paced manga with plenty of action set in a post-apocalyptic world in which the planet has been covered in a literal sea of sand. My favorite parts of Stone are the nightmarish sand creatures that Hiromoto has designed. Zizi, a fiesty young woman and the series’ lead, is also pretty great. I did prefer the series’ beginning over its end. As the manga becomes increasingly chaotic as the story progresses. The artwork remains visually interesting and engaging, but the plot makes less and less sense as it goes along.

Two Flowers for the Dragon, Volume 5Two Flowers for the Dragon, Volumes 5-6 by Nari Kusakawa. I have now reached the point in this series where I must lament the fact that the final volume wasn’t able to be released in English before CMX folded. These two volumes form the climax of Two Flowers for the Dragon and include some extraordinarily significant plot developments and betrayals. The direction the story has taken was definitely foreshadowed, but that doesn’t make it any less heart-wrenching to see play out. I thought it was all very well done. One of the things that I like the best about Two Flowers for the Dragon is how well-developed and complicated the main characters are. They all have their strengths and their weaknesses, flaws as well as redeeming qualities. The supporting cast is likewise well-rounded, though at this point the series’ true villain unfortunately seems to be less so. The characters and their interactions are a highlight of Two Flowers for the Dragon, but I’m really enjoying the story as well. I like the mix of action, fantasy, romance, and intrigue. So much so, that I’m tracking down a copy of the last volume in Japanese. I want to know what happens!

My Week in Manga: March 19-March 25, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Jiro Taniguchi Manga Moveable Feast and so I made a point to take advantage of that fact. I posted my second in-depth manga review for March, taking a closer look at Taniguchi’s most recent work to be released in print in English, A Zoo in Winter. I also borrowed and read all of the Taniguchi manga that my library had, resulting in Library Love: Jiro Taniguchi. It’s been a few months since there has been a Library Love post. I’m planning on continuing the feature on a bimonthly basis, so look for the next one sometime in May.

Last year I reviewed the first issue of Monkey Business and I’ve been looking forward to the next volume ever since. It looks like the release date has been pushed back from mid-March to sometime in April. In the meantime, the Monkey Business website is now available and the second issue can be preordered! Completely unrelated, someone pointed out Symphony of the Blood to me. From what I can tell, it’s fan created concept art for an Osamu Tezuka fighting game. It is awesome and I would totally play it if it actually existed.

This past week I also came across a few interesting articles about the state of the manga industry. I always enjoy reading Dan Kanemitsu’s work; this time he has a great piece Analysizing the State of the Anime and Manga industry in 2012, specifically in Japan. Over at ICv2 there were two articles focusing on the US side of the industry: Manga after Borders and an interview with Dark Horse’s Carl Horn. (It also sounds like Dark Horse will be releasing more manga from Blade of the Immortal‘s Hiroaki Samura, which I’m very excited to hear!)

Quick Takes

A, A′ by Moto Hagio. The problem with reading Hagio’s science fiction is that it makes me want to read more of Hagio’s science fiction, and I’ve already read everything that’s currently available in English. I loved A, A′. Originally published in Japan in 1981, it is a collection of three stories, two of which are somewhat related. All three stories feature “unicorns,” a race of humans initially bio-engineered for space travel in the 21st century who have since become increasingly rare. The back cover calls A, A′ “science fiction with a romantic twist,” which is fairly accurate. Hagio incorporates themes of love, gender, sex, and sexuality into her stories. The relationships between people, romantic and otherwise, are very important.

King of Thorn, Volumes 2-6 by Yuji Iwahara. Having previously read Iwahara’s Cat Paradise, I can’t say that I was particularly surprised by the somewhat convoluted plot of King of Thorn. This is not to say that I don’t like the series. In fact, I am quite fond of it. I also happen to really like Iwahara’s artwork. It’s just that he never seems content with a simple story and tends to introduce plot twist after plot twist. King of Thorn ended up going in some very unexpected directions, but the ride is thrilling. King of Thorn may not always be particularly original (even Iwahara states that many of the story elements are “ripped off” from elsewhere), but it’s still a lot of fun. Plus, the series gives one of the characters, Marco Owen, plenty of opportunities to run around being a badass.

Mister Mistress, Volume 1 by Rize Shinba. I have no idea why this series is called Mister Mistress other than being a silly title for a silly boys’ love manga. Rei is an incubus who feeds of the sexual vitality of young men. And what better source of energy than a horny, sex-obsessed teenager who’s constantly masturbating? At first Rei only appears in Fujimaru’s dreams, but eventually he amasses enough energy from Fujimaru to physically manifest. Although Fujimaru is understandably disconcerted by this development, his sexual fantasies continue unabated, heightened by Rei’s magical powers. Shinba’s artwork is attractive and the series has a sense of humor. I mean, even Fujimaru’s penis gets a character page.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time directed by Mamoru Hosoda. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a lovely film. It’s more or less a sequel to the 1967 novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui. Although likeable, Makoto isn’t the smartest or most coordinated person in her class. Instead of thinking about her future, she’d rather just play catch with her two best friends Chiaki and Kousuke. But she soon finds herself thinking a lot about time when she discovers she has the ability to travel back into the past. And so she does, trying to change events to make things better for her and her friends or to avoid conversations and confrontations that she’d rather not have. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time has both a lighthearted and a serious side which are balanced nicely.