My Week in Manga: December 30, 2013-January 5, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week I announced the 4-Koma for You Winner. In case you’re looking for something to read, the post includes a list of yonkoma manga that have been released in print in English, too. I also posted December’s Bookshelf Overload last week, for those of you interested in following my adventures in buying way too much manga and other media. Finally, over the weekend I posted a review of Delavier’s Mixed Martial Arts Anatomy. This is one of the most tangentially related reviews I’ve written at Experiments in Manga. Why is it here? Simply because I’m a karateka and found it to be a useful book. It’s a great strength training resource for any martial artist. Plus, it has lots of illustrations.

I’ve more or less been on vacation for the last two weeks, so I haven’t been online much except to make sure that things were updated here at Experiments in Manga. Even so, there were two things in particular that caught my eye recently. First and foremost, the Massive anthology of gay manga originally scheduled to be published by PictureBox has been picked up by Fantagraphics! Right now, it looks like we should see the release sometime in October 2014. The other news that I was excited to hear about is that we’ll be getting a second season of the Mushishi anime nearly ten years after the first season aired. I loved Yuki Urushibara’s original manga (which is now unfortunately out-of-print in English) and I loved the first anime series so I’m looking forward to the second season a great deal.

Quick Takes

A Bride's Story, Volume 5A Bride’s Story, Volume 5 by Kaoru Mori. The art in A Bride’s Story always blows me away. Mori’s illustrations are so beautiful and detailed that it’s no surprise that there’s such a long wait in between each volume’s release. Most of the fifth volume of the series is devoted to the wedding between the twins and their husbands-to-be. The best word that I can think of to describe this volume is “joyous.” Mori shows the preparations that both families make for the happy occasion—a celebration that lasts an entire week. There’s dance and song, levity, plenty of food, and numerous guests. It’s extremely satisfying to see the entire community’s participation in the event. The manga as a whole is a gorgeous work, but the wedding itself is quite lovely. I enjoyed seeing the twins’ story develop. Their outgoing personalities might be annoying for some readers, but in the end I found the two of them to be quite endearing. Now begins the long wait for the next volume of A Bride’s Story.

Castle Mango, Volume 1Castle Mango, Volume 1 written by Narise Konohara and illustrated by Muku Ogura. Despite what the cover and title page of Digital Manga’s release indicate, Konohara wrote Castle Mango while Ogura was responsible for the artwork. Konohara is the same author who wrote About Love, which I quite enjoyed, so I was interested in reading Castle Mango. Both manga are slightly atypical boys’ love stories. Instead of being straightforward man-meets-man romances, the stories are more layered. There is an emphasis on well-developed characters and actual plot; it’s not just about getting guys into bed with each other. The leads of Castle Mango are rather unusual as well. Yorozu’s family owns and runs a love hotel while Tagame is a well-known porn director. Yorozu more or less blackmail’s Tagame into a relationship in order to keep him away from his brother, but he doesn’t even really like the older man. Their story is concluded in the second and final volume of Castle Mango. I’m very curious to see how things unfold, so I’ll definitely be picking it up.

A Centaur's Life, Volume 1A Centaur’s Life, Volume 1 by Kei Murayama. One of several “monster girl” manga recently released by Seven Seas, A Centaur’s Life is far less ecchi than the other titles. Plus, this one includes plenty of monster boys in addition to the monster girls, which I greatly appreciate. The manga is definitely centered around the series’ young women, though. The titular centaur is Kimihara Himeno; the manga is mostly a slice-of-life story which follows her and her other high school friends. (As a side note, I adore Himeno’s wild mass of hair on the cover.) Some people might find reading the first chapter a little uncomfortable as the story revolves around the girls’ privates, but following chapters are much less questionable. Overall, the manga was rather charming. And I am interested in learning more about the world that Murayama has imagined; it seems that some significant thought has been put into it. Although not the focus of the series, politics, law, cultural differences, disputes between races, and history have all been taken into consideration.

Ranma 1/2, Volume 15Ranma 1/2, Volumes 15-20 by Rumiko Takahashi. It’s been so long since I’ve read any of Ranma 1/2 that I had forgotten how much I love the series. After the main characters and basic premise are established, the manga becomes fairly episodic so it’s easy to pick up part way through the series and still know what’s going on. I find Ranma 1/2 to be hilarious and particularly enjoy the absurd martial arts that Takahashi comes up with. These particular volumes feature martial arts based around eating food extremely quickly and cheerleading, just to give two examples. I like the characters and I like the story, as silly and superfluous as it can be. Akane and Ranma seem to be no closer to getting married than they were at the beginning of the series. They argue quite a bit, but there are moments of genuine affection, too. Granted, those moments are frequently interrupted and don’t tend to last very long. The series’ off-the-wall comedy won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for me Ranma 1/2 is highly entertaining and a lot of fun.

Otome Yokai ZakuroOtome Yokai Zakuro directed by Chiaki Kon. The Otome Yokai Zakuro anime is based on an ongoing manga series by Lily Hoshino (which hasn’t been licensed in English.) The story takes place in an alternate version of Japan’s Meiji Era in which yokai and humans coexist. The office of Spirit Affairs is created in order to improve relations between the two groups. It’s made up of a small contingent of military officers and half-spirit girls who team up to work together. I’ll admit, I liked the first part of the series which explored the concerns over Japan’s Westernization and loss of traditions through the conflicts between humans and yokai much more than I did its end. Seeing as the opening has a bit of a spoiler in it, the series’ major plot twist was clearly planned well in advance, but it just didn’t seem to flow well as a whole as the narrative suddenly changes direction. The romantic subplots are broadcast from the very first episode—it’s obvious who will be falling in love with who—so none of those developments were particularly surprising or unexpected, either.

My Week in Manga: April 9-April 15, 2012

My News and Reviews

This past week I posted two reviews. My first in-depth manga review in April was for Rohan at the Louvre by Hirohiko Araki. It’s a handsome hardcover volume with pages in full color. Araki’s artwork is fantastic. I really enjoyed the manga. Fun fact: It was commissioned by the Louvre Museum. I also reviewed the original Welcome to the N.H.K. novel by Tatsuhiko Takimoto which has had both anime and manga versions made from it. I enjoyed the novel so much that I’ll definitely be tracking down the adaptations as well.

Heads up! April’s Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Kate Dacey at The Manga Critic, will begin on April 22nd. This month we’ll be focusing on Viz Media’s Signature imprint, home to some great series like Pluto and Vagabond just to name a couple. Also, voting started yesterday for the second Aniblog Tourney if you’re into that sort of thing. (Experiments in Manga has been included in the tournament this year.) Last week I mentioned that the nominees for this year’s Eisner Awards had been announced. Brigid Alverson, one of the judges, gives a sneak peek into the award process in Best Job Ever: My Six Months As An Eisner Judge.

Quick Takes

No Touching At All by Kou Yoneda. One thing that I’ve seen mentioned in most reviews for No Touching At All are problems with the translation; I’ll admit, it’s not the best that I’ve seen. But for me, the strength of the story and strength of the characters ultimately won out—I loved No Touching At All. Shima’s awkward introversion actually reminded me a lot of myself which was probably one of the reasons that I connected so well with the manga. He has difficulty accepting his own feelings and even more trouble accepting the feelings of others. Togawa on the other hand is more confident and straightforward. I found both of the lead characters to be realistic and their relationship believable.

Rumic World Trilogy, Volumes 1-3 by Rumiko Takahashi. Rumic World Trilogy is a collection of short manga of varying lengths by Rumiko Takahashi, mostly from early in her career. As with most short story collections, the stories tend to be hit-or-miss but Takahashi generally hits. Most of the stories in the Rumic World Trilogy tend towards the comedic although there are a few that are more serious, too. Rumic World Trilogy is not my favorite manga by Takahashi, but for the most part I enjoyed it. Probably my least favorite story was “Wasted Minds.” I found parts of it to be very amusing, but the five-part series seemed to drag on too long. I preferred the shorter stories which forced Takahashi to focus her storytelling a bit more.

Twin Spica, Volumes 5-8 by Kou Yaginuma. It makes me sad that the English release of Twin Spica hasn’t been more successful; I think it’s a wonderful series. From the very beginning of the newly established astronaut training program in Japan it has been made clear that only a few students will actually be given the opportunity to go to space. Asumi and her friends are mostly concentrating on their immediate coursework, but things will soon get more competitive—they all want a chance at space. Twin Spica primarily focuses on the feelings and relationships of its characters. Even with all of the science fiction elements (which I love), they feel like authentic people.

The Irresponsible Captain Tylor: OVA Series directed by Kōichi Mashimo and Naoyuki Yoshinaga. I had a lot of fun watching the initial anime series of The Irresponsible Captain Tylor and so made a point to seek out the OVA series as well. Unfortunately, the OVA series somehow lacks the charm of the original and I wasn’t as impressed by it. However, it was great to have the opportunity to spend more time with the characters. The OVA episodes, which take place not long after the original series ends, tend to focus on individual characters rather than the crew as a whole. I think this might be where the series goes astray—the characters seem to work better as a cast ensemble than on their own. Still, even if I didn’t like the OVA series as much as the original, I was entertained.

Manga Giveaway: Return of Ranma Winner

And the winner of the Return of Ranma manga giveaway is…Matthew J. Brady!

Only three people entered the contest this month, which makes me sad, but a huge thank you to those of you who visited and commented! As the winner of the giveaway, Matthew will be receiving copies of the first two volumes of Ranma 1/2 by Rumiko Takahashi. These are in the larger, first edition format published by Viz Media. I’d also like to mention that Matthew has a comics blog that includes manga content, Warren Peace Sings the Blues, which is worth checking out.

This giveaway was in honor of April’s Rumiko Takahashi Manga Moveable Feast and so I asked people to declare their favorite Takahashi manga and post a link to one of the Feast entries. Takahashi’s works appeal to a lot of people for a lot of different reasons and so no one gave the same answer. One Pound Gospel, Rin-ne, Maison Ikkoku, Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura, and InuYasha were all mentioned. (See the Return of Ranma comments for more detail.) People have shown a tremendous amount of love for Takahashi during the Feast and this has inspired me to try more of her works myself.

Here are the Feast links that were posted:

Random Sunday question: Takahashi (David Welsh, The Manga Curmudgeon)
MMF: Mermaid Saga and Rin-ne (Katherine Dacey, The Manga Critic)
Because It’s Funny: Rumiko Takahashi and Characterization (Sean Gaffney, A Case Suitable For Treatment)

Mermaid Saga, Volume 1

Creator: Rumiko Takahashi
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781591163367
Released: July 2004
Original run: 1984-1994 (Shōnen Sunday)
Awards: Seiun Award

I came to read Mermaid Saga as part of the April 2011 Manga Moveable Feast focusing on the series’ creator Rumiko Takahashi. I’m ashamed to admit it, but before the Feast I had never read any of Takahashi’s works except for Ranma 1/2, which I adore. Mermaid Saga is one of Takahashi’s shortest series and she completed it between 1984 and 1994. Also in 1994, Viz Media began publishing the entire work in three volumes: Mermaid Forest, Mermaid Scar, and Mermaid’s Gaze. In 2004, Viz re-released the series in a smaller sized second edition under the title Mermaid Saga, this time in four volumes. Mermaid Saga, Volume 1 contains all but the last chapter of Mermaid Forest. Once again, the Manga Moveable Feast has given me the excuse to read something I’ve been meaning to get around to for quite some time.

Mermaid Saga is told in a sequence of related short stories. The first volume collects “A Mermaid Never Smiles,” “The Village of the Fighting Fish,” and frustratingly only the first half of “Mermaid Forest.” There is a legend that eating the flesh of a mermaid will bring a human eternal youth and longevity. However, it is just as likely, if not more so, that the person will be poisoned by the flesh, either killing them or transforming them into a monster. Yuta, who has eaten mermaid flesh, is arguably one of the lucky ones. Although immortal, he is tired of the suffering and pain of dying only to return to a life where he is lonely and ostracized. And so he searches for the mermaids, believing that they are the only ones who know how to return his body to normal, allowing him live his life, grow old, and die.

I was happy to find that Takahashi executes dark and creepy in Mermaid Saga just as well as she handles comedic and absurd in Ranma 1/2. Her mermaids are not gentle and kind supernatural beings. Instead, they are vicious and selfish creatures, not only towards humans but towards their own kind as well. (Not unlike humans, actually.) They are also somewhat of a mystery—other than the fact that their flesh and blood has strange and powerful properties when consumed, very little is actually known about the mermaids.Still, whether out of obsession or desperation, mortals pursue the mermaids and immortality. But without complete knowledge or understanding of the circumstances, this can lead to severe and dire consequences for all involved. Unfortunately, because the details regarding mermaids are only slowly revealed, it sometimes feels like Takahashi is making them up as needed for the story rather than having a coherent and consistent vision to begin with. But even if that is the case, the mood remains the same throughout Mermaid Saga and the stories are effectively disconcerting.

I really enjoyed the first volume of Mermaid Saga. My favorite story, despite some over the top dialogue, was “The Village of the Fighting Fish.” The chemistry between Yuta and Rin is excellent and the development of their relationship over such a short period of time is completely believable. While I find Yuta to be the most interesting character at this point, they all have distinctive personalities and well developed backgrounds. This is true for most of the minor and secondary characters as well. I’ve come to expect dynamic and exciting action sequences and fight scenes from Takahashi and Mermaid Saga doesn’t disappoint in that respect either. The art is skillfully done: the backgrounds and landscapes are wonderfully detailed, water and spray look wet, the mermaids are terrifying and beautiful in turn, and the panel and page layouts show effective variation. Overall, I feel that Mermaid Saga is off to an excellent start with engaging stories, art, and characters. I look forward to reading the rest of the series—I may have found a new favorite Takahashi.

Manga Giveaway: Return of Ranma

The very first manga I gave away at Experiments in Manga was a volume of Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2. And now, in honor of the Rumiko Takahashi Manga Moveable Feast, I’m giving more Ranma 1/2 away—specifically, first editions of the first two volumes. As always, the giveaway is open worldwide!

Rumiko Takahashi is one of the few mangaka to have almost all of her work translated for English reading audiences with most of it still being in print. Plenty of her manga have also had anime adaptations made. Even if they don’t recognize Takahashi by name, many people are familiar with InuYasha or Ranma 1/2 either through the anime or manga. I was very excited when Takahashi was selected for the Manga Moveable Feast for April 2011. The manga of Ranma 1/2 was my introduction to Takahashi and was one of the first series I fell in love with. Viz Media originally began publishing the series in 1993. In 2003, they began re-releasing the previously published volumes in a second edition. Although the content is the same, I actually tend to prefer the first editions—mostly because they’re bigger. Unfortunately, only the first twenty-one volumes were published in the larger size.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win the first two volumes of Ranma 1/2?

1) In the comments section below, tell me which of Rumiko Takahashi’s works is your favorite. Haven’t read any Takahashi yet or maybe you can’t stand her manga? That’s okay! Just mention that instead.
2) Visit another Rumiko Takahashi Manga Moveable Feast entry and post the link to it in the comments here. The Rumiko Takahashi Manga Moveable Feast’s index or the Takahashi MMF label at Panel Patter are good places to look to find relevant posts.
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

That’s it! One person may earn up to three entries for this manga giveaway. You have one week to enter for a chance to win. The winner will be randomly selected on May 4, 2011. Good luck!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, 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: Return of Ranma Winner