My Week in Manga: September 5-September 11, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week was a relatively quiet week at Experiments in Manga (granted, that’s true of most weeks these days), but the winner of to Tokyo Ghoul giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English which feature half-humans of one type or another. Elsewhere online, there were plenty of interesting things posted: Massive and gay manga were featured at Edge Media Network, and it sounds like we should be seeing more of Jiraya’s work in English later this fall; Alice Nicolov wrote an article on queer representation in manga for Dazed and Confused Magazine; Nami Sato, the creator of Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto was interviewed for the first time in either English or Japanese; and Publishing Perspectives posted some of the highlights of a conversation with Allison Markin Powell and Hiromi Kawakami about Japanese literature translation. Also, the Kickstarter project for Power & Magic, a queer fantasy comics anthology about witches of color (which looks like it should be fantastic), was recently launched.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 8Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 8 written by Ryo Suzukaze and illustrated by Satoshi Shiki. It’s been a while since I’ve read Suzukaze’s Before the Fall light novels so I may be misremembering, but the novel adaptation seems to include characters and storylines not found in the original. It also expands on some of worldbuilding and characterizations of the franchise as a whole, so readers interested in the most comprehensive Attack on Titan experience will want to read the manga even if they’ve already read Suzukaze’s novels. Sharle, while still managing to come across as a stereotypical maiden in distress at times, is a more well-rounded and independent character in the manga. Her brother plays a more prominent and slightly more sympathetic role as well although he’s still one of the main human antagonists (and an ass). The Titans actually don’t even make an appearance in this volume and are barely mentioned as the manga focuses on the conflict and intrigue among the military, political, and religious factions. Overall, it’s an exciting volume with some interesting twists. Unfortunately it suffers some from Shiki prioritizing cool-looking panels and scenes over continuity and logical plot developments. (I’m sorry, if someone is going to daringly scale a wall to sneak into a city, they really shouldn’t be attempting the maneuver above the few guards that are present unless there’s a good reason for it.)

Devil Survivor, Volume 6Devil Survivor, Volume 6 by Satoru Matsuba. I wasn’t especially enamored with the first volume of Devil Survivor and so haven’t really been following the manga very closely. However, the series had potential, and I’m glad to see that the sixth volume delivers on that promise. The Devil Survivor manga is based on a video game in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, one of many adaptations from the megaseries to have recently been translated in English. Probably my biggest criticism of the first volume of Devil Survivor was that it read too much like a video game and not enough like a manga. If the sixth volume is anything to judge by, the series has greatly improved in that regard. While the video game elements are still readily clear, the manga seems to be focusing more on plot and characters. I actually really like the underlying story and find some of the characters to be interesting as well. The artwork is serviceable, understandably keeping close to the designs of the video games, but the way Matsuda draws the more well-endowed women can be a bit awkward to say the least. Many of the demons invading Tokyo look pretty good, though. The sixth volume is a turning point in the story as the series enters its final arc. Important revelations are made, a major boss battle is fought, and already dangerous situations become even more dangerous as the characters prepare to do all that they can to survive and save Tokyo from destruction.

The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and AnimeThe Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime by Toshio Ban. While I certainly understand why Stone Bridge Press chose to release the entirety of The Osamu Tezuka Story in a single volume, the book is huge, amounting to over nine hundred pages of material. Most of the volume consists of Ban’s manga, but it also includes an excellent introduction by the translator (and friend of Tezuka) Frederick L. Schodt and one of the most exhaustive lists of Tezuka’s work that I’ve seen in one place. I’ve read my fair share of works examining the life and career of Tezuka so I wasn’t especially surprised by anything in the manga, but The Osamu Tezuka Story provides one of the most comprehensive, engaging, and accessible biographies. The manga, which is largely chronological, is divided into three parts which delve into Tezuka’s childhood, his entry into manga, and the expansion of his career into anime. Commissioned following Tezuka’s death in 1989, the biography incorporates many of Tezuka’s own words taken from his essays and earlier interviews. Ban, who was one of Tezuka’s sub-chiefs in the manga department, adopts an illustration style very similar to that of Tezuka and excerpts from some of Tezuka’s manga and anime are also used. The Osamu Tezuka Story reveals just how remarkable and influential a creator Tezuka was and is highly recommended for anyone interested in the history of Japan’s manga and anime industries.

Our Little SisterOur Little Sister directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. I’m not sure when (or if) Our Little Sister will receive a home video release, but I recently had the opportunity to see the film in a theater. Our Little Sister is actually a live-action adaptation of Umimachi Diary (the title more literally translates to “Seaside Town Diary”), an award-winning ongoing manga series by Akimi Yoshida who some will likely recognize as the creator of Banana Fish. I’ve seen one other film by Kore-eda (Like Father, Like Son) which is similar in both theme and tone to Our Little Sister. Both films, despite intense interpersonal drama, are fairly quiet and gentle without becoming saccharine and focus on the complexities of familial relationships. In the case of Our Little Sister, the story primarily follows three sisters whose father left their mother for another woman more than fifteen years ago and whose mother largely left them behind to be raised by their grandmother. After their father dies they meet their half-sister, the daughter of his second wife (out of three), for the first time while at the funeral. For a variety of reasons, they invite her to live with them. While this does cause some raised eyebrows and strain in the family, both immediate and extended, the decision is ultimately a healing one as all four sisters grow closer as they pull together their fragmented lives. Our Little Sister is simply a lovely film. (And I’d certainly be interested in reading the original manga, too!)

My Week in Manga: May 16-May 22, 2016

My News and Reviews

I ended up posting it a little later than I really intended, but my random musings on TCAF 2016 are now available to read. Although I didn’t make it to as many panels this year, I still had a great time and really enjoyed myself. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the audio yet, but I was also happy to discover that some of the panels that I missed The Sparkling World of Shojo Manga. In licensing news, Yen Press has picked up both the light novels and the manga for Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody and Konosuba. Princess Jellyfish has been doing well enough for Kodansha Comics that the publisher is considering releasing more josei and seinen. In the meantime, expect to see more additions to the Attack on Titan franchise in English from Kodansha as well as Shuzo Oshimi’s manga Happiness. Also, Vertical Comics will be releasing Chihiro Ishizuka’s manga series Flying Witch.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 7Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 7 written by Ryo Suzukaze and illustrated by Satoshi Shiki. I missed reading a few volumes of the Before the Fall manga, but I have read the original novel that it was based on so I didn’t expect that I would have much trouble picking the series up again. However, I think that the manga might actually be expanding on some of the material of the original, because I don’t recall things playing out exactly in the same way as they are in the manga. Or it could just be that it’s been so long since I’ve read the novel that I’ve managed to forget major plot points. Either way, I do like the way that Before the Fall expands the worldbuilding of Attack on Titan and how the prequel emphasizes some of the scientific and technological advances that are needed to make the main series work. Basically, the main character, in addition to having the requisite tragic backstory, is a test pilot (if that’s the right word) for what will eventually become the Vertical Maneuvering Equipment. A significant portion of the seventh volume of the Before the Fall manga is actually devoted to a field test which, like most encounters with the Titans, ist fraught with danger, disaster, and potential death.

Dicebox, Volume 1: WanderDicebox, Volume 1: Wander by Jenn Manley Lee. I discovered Lee’s ongoing comic Dicebox a couple of years ago while reading Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present where it was briefly mentioned. It piqued my interest so I thought I would give Wander, the first book out of four planned volumes (the second book is currently being serialized online), a try. I suspected that Dicebox would probably be a comic I would enjoy, but I didn’t expect that I would become so invested in the characters by the end of the first volume. Wander is almost completely driven by the characters and their relationships—the dramatic story boiling under the surface doesn’t become obvious until the final few chapters. Dicebox follows the lives of Molly and Griffin, two itinerant blue-collar workers moving from one job to the next, from one planet to the next. Molly tends to be fairly well liked, but Griffin, well she tends to piss people off, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. Eventually it’s revealed that one of the reasons that Molly puts up with Griffin is that they are married. Dicebox is incredibly well-realized near-future science fiction. It’s also undeniably queer, and quite possibly has the widest representation of the variance of human gender and sexuality that I’ve ever come across in a single work of fiction, comic or otherwise. I’m loving Dicebox and definitely plan on reading more of the series.

Ninja Slayer Kills, Volume 2Ninja Slayer Kills!, Volume 2 by Koutarou Sekine. I can’t say that I was overly impressed by the first volume of Ninja Slayer Kills and I really wasn’t planning on following the series, but I ended up with a review copy of the second volume, so I figured I might as well give it a try. I am admittedly surprised, but I enjoyed the second volume much more than the first. Almost the entirety of the second volume is devoted to a flashback, which is easy to miss unless close attention is paid to the manga’s prefatory material. Some of my complaints about the manga remain the same—for a series that is so focused on fight scenes and mayhem, the action can be frustratingly difficult to follow—but other aspects have improved. For one, there is absolutely no mistaking at least one of the character designs. Agony visually looks something like a highly-sexualized version of Pinhead from Hellraiser, complete with an enormous crotch-bulge sprouting numerous needles. The design is more disturbing than sexy, but it is memorable. Ninja Slayer Kills is all about being as over-the-top as possible, often reading like an in-your-face parody. It’s deliberately absurd and ridiculously violent, intentionally making heavy use of cyberpunk ninja tropes taken to their extremes.

Attack on Titan: Kuklo Unbound

Attack on Titan: Kuklo UnboundAuthor: Ryo Suzukaze
Illustrator: Thores Shibamoto

Translator: Ko Ransom
U.S. publisher: Vertical
ISBN: 9781939130877
Released: May 2015
Original release: 2012

Between 2011 and 2012, three light novels written by Ryo Suzukaze and illustrated by Thores Shibamoto were released in Japan, forming a prequel trilogy to Hajime Isayama’s massively popular manga series Attack on Titan. All three novels were translated into English by Ko Ransom and published by Vertical. The first novel was released as Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, which is the title that the entire trilogy is known by in Japan. The second and third novels, originally published in 2012, were released together in English as an omnibus in 2015 called Attack on Titan: Kuklo Unbound. The manga series Attack on Titan: Before the Fall adapts the same story found in Kuklo Unbound. I’ve been reading the Before the Fall manga and I enjoyed the first Before the Fall novel well enough, so I was interested in reading Kuklo Unbound as well.

Roaming the earth in search of humans to feast upon are the Titans–giant, monstrous creatures of mysterious origins which nobody completely understands. In order to protect itself, humanity literally walled itself off from the outside world. The Titans are nearly invincible and very few people manage to live through a direct encounter with them, but Kuklo is one such survivor. Swallowed whole by a Titan while still in his mother’s womb, against all odds Kuklo was somehow saved. However, he has never been able to completely rid himself of the stigma of being born the “son” of a Titan. Feared and hated during a time when very few people have actually even seen a Titan, Kuklo is an orphan who is abused, held captive, and treated as a sideshow oddity. As he grows older he desires nothing more than to escape his cruel fate and to prove to himself and others that he is indeed human. And though his birth was ill-omened, Kuklo may in fact be the key needed to unlock humanity’s full potential in the fight against the Titans.

Attack on Titan: Kuklo Unbound, page 52Since I have been reading the ongoing Before the Fall manga series, I was already familiar with a fair amount of the story of Kuklo Unbound and wasn’t especially surprised by any of the developments. I do think that out of the two versions the original novels are the stronger, though. The manga doesn’t always capture the internal thoughts and feelings of the characters very well, and that perspective is very important to understanding Kuklo Unbound. I feel that Kuklo Unbound is better written than the first Before the Fall novel, too, or at least it was overall more enjoyable to read. Parts of Kuklo Unbound did feel very repetitive–there was a tendency to restate obvious and well-established plot points and even use the exact same descriptions over and over again–but for the most part the pace of the narrative is quick enough that the redundancy wasn’t too frustrating. As a whole, many of the characters in Kuklo Unbound seemed to be slightly better-developed and less reliant on worn tropes when compared to those of Before the Fall, too.

Kuklo Unbound works well as an omnibus, telling Kuklo’s entire story, but the two novels contained are distinct in their focus. In the first novel, Kuklo is the undisputed star. In the second novel attention is still primarily turned towards Kuklo, but by that point in the trilogy the story is really about the Vertical Maneuvering Equipment, the most recognizable technological innovation to be found in Attack on Titan. The predecessor of the Vertical Maneuvering Equipment was created in the Before the Fall novel, so this ties the prequel together quite nicely. While being different from most other Attack on Titan stories, the prequel trilogy also feels familiar, incorporating the types of scenes that have been seen before, including deadly battles with Titans, political intrigue and religious turmoil, and intense military training sequences. What makes Before the Fall and Kuklo Unbound particularly interesting is that they serve as an origin story, showing not only the development and implementation of the Vertical Maneuvering Equipment, but also the beginnings of the Survey Corps when it was still celebrated instead of despised.

My Week in Manga: May 4-May 10, 2015

My News and Reviews

Despite spending a long weekend in Canada for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival and generally being very busy, I still managed to post a few things here at Experiments in Manga last week. To begin with, the winner of the Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches manga giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English that feature witches. As for reviews, two were posted. The first was for Blade of the Immortal, Volume 31: Final Curtain, the last volume of Hiroaki Samura’s epic manga series. With that post, I have now written a review for every Blade of the Immortal trade collection in English. (At some point, I do hope to work on an Adaptation Adventures feature for the Blade of the Immortal anime, as well.) Last week’s other review is only very tangentially related to manga. I finally read Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, which is simply marvelous and I highly recommend the novels. I specifically read (and reviewed) Seven Seas’ recent omnibus edition which includes hundreds of delightful illustrations by International Manga Award-winning artist Kriss Sison.

As previously mentioned, I spent a portion of last week at TCAF and so was rather preoccupied. (I hope to post some random musings about the event later this week, most likely on Friday if I can’t manage to get the feature together that quickly. Otherwise, I’ll aim for next week.) Still, I did catch some interesting things online. For example, a recent episode of the Inkstuds podcast features Anne Ishii and Graham Kolbeins, the editors of the Massive anthology, talking about gay manga, its creators, and other related topics. Tofugu posted a couple of manga-related articles recently: an interview with Araki Joh and Exploring Shueisha. A few licenses were announced last week as well. Coinciding with the news that Masashi Kishimoto will be a guest at this year’s New York Comic-Con, Viz also announced new Naruto light novels, an artbook, and a box set. Seven Seas slipped in another license announcement, too: Tsukasa Saimura’s manga series Hour of the Zombie. And not to be left behind, Yen Press also made two license announcements on Twitter: Of the Red, the Light and the Ayakashi by HaccaWorks* and Nanao, and School-Live! by Sadoru Chiba and Norimitsu Kaihou.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 4Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 4 written by Ryo Suzukaze, illustrated by Satoshi Shiki. Although Before the Fall has kept my attention since the beginning of the series, the fourth volume is the first volume that really excited and engaged me. Part of that is likely due to the introduction of a new character, Cardina Baumeister, who is much more capable than he initially appears. (Although, maybe it’s a bad thing that I find him more interesting than the series’ protagonist…) He and Kuklo are both prisoners who will soon be quietly and secretly sent to their deaths. The method of their planned execution? Abandonment outside of the walls, left to be consumed by the Titans. Fortunately for Kuklo, there are people who are invested in keeping him alive. But even considering that, surviving still won’t be an easy feat. At this point in the series, Before the Fall is beginning to tie in a little more closely with the established history and worldbuilding of Attack on Titan as a whole, which I like to see. The fourth volume reveals a bit more about the political and social settings of Attack on Titan in addition to having some exciting action sequences. I don’t really care much for how the Titans are drawn in Before the Fall, though. Or Sharle’s character design, for that matter.

Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 7The Seven Deadly Sins, Volumes 7-8 by Nakaba Suzuki. Happily, by the beginning of the seventh volume, the largely pointless tournament arc of Seven Deadly Sins is done and over with and the series is getting back on track with an actual plot. More of Meliodas’ personal history is revealed as are the motivations of the Holy Knights who are trying to incite a massive war. Another of the legendary Seven Deadly Sins is introduced in these volumes as well: Gowther, a rather peculiar young man known as the Goat Sin of Lust. I still haven’t been able to figure out the significance of the animals or even the sins as the relate to the warriors, which seems like a lost opportunity for Suzuki’s worldbuilding. Perhaps there really is no greater meaning, and the names are just supposed to sound cool. It’s also rather curious that, despite having been comrades who fought closely together in the past, the Seven Deadly Sins don’t seem to actually know who each other are. They don’t seem to pay attention to each other either; for example, Meliodas seems very surprised to discover a demon he is fighting used to be a Holy Knight when Gowther stated that very fact at the end of the previous chapter. But, while Seven Deadly Sins can be frustrating, there are very entertaining parts as well, like when Diane simply chucks her teammates forty miles when they need to cover distance quickly.

Your Honest Deceit, Volume 1Your Honest Deceit, Volumes 1-2 by Sakufu Ajimine. I believe that the short boys’ love series Your Honest Deceit is the only work by Ajimine to have been released in English. It’s a largely enjoyable manga, but for me it wasn’t a particularly spectacular one. However, I did appreciate that for the most part the story revolves around grown, adult men with well-established careers. In this particular case, Your Honest Deceit is about lawyers and their professional assistants. (Granted, if I’m in the mood to read about gay lawyers, I would generally prefer Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ichigenme… The First Class Is Civil Law. Or What Did You Eat Yesterday?, for that matter.) Kuze is the younger of the two men of the series’ primary couple. He went to law school and did exceptionally well in his classes, but he seems to not be interested in becoming a lawyer and is content working as a secretary for the older Kitahara, the lawyer and object of his affections and one of the school’s lecturers. Your Honest Deceit has its serious moments and misunderstandings, but Ajimine incorporates a fair amount of humor in the manga. At the same time, I’m not really sure that I would call it a comedy; Kuze and Kitahara’s burgeoning relationship is threatened by their own jealousies as well as by interference from other people, so it can be rather dramatic at time.

My Week in Manga: March 9-March 13, 2015

My News and Reviews

Two reviews at Experiments in Manga last week! First up, I finally got around to reading Kouhei Kadono’s Boogiepop at Dawn. Technically the sixth Boogiepop novel, and the fourth to be released in English, it actually serves as a prequel to the entire series. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read of the Boogiepop series and found Boogiepop at Dawn to be particularly satisfying. I’m hoping to do a Boogiepop Adaptation Adventures post once I have a chance to read the manga and watch the anime and live-action adaptations. The second review posted last week was of Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi, Volume 2. Mushishi is one of my favorite manga, and the second volume includes some of my favorite stories in the series. The review is part of my monthly manga review project focusing on horror manga. Next month will feature Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare again.

Sparkler Monthly has been getting some good press recently, which I’m happy to see. Jason Thompson delves into the comics side of the magazine in the most recent House of 1000 Manga. Lianne Sentar was interviewed by Brigid Alverson at Robot 6 about Marketing to the Female Gaze. Sparkler has been adding a bunch of new comics lately. The most recent is actually a rescue from the closure of Inkblazers, Heldrad’s Orange Junk. More comics and more print releases will be announced in the very near future (I’m particularly looking forward to the Tokyo Demons Cherry Bomb collection), so now is a better time than ever to consider becoming a member to support the creators and the rest of the Sparkler team.

Last week was apparently “manga week” at ICv2, which included interviews with Dark Horse’s Mike Richardson (Part 1 and Part 2) and Viz Media’s Kevin Hamric (Part 1 and Part 2). The Comics Journal has been collecting and posting tributes to the late Yoshihiro Tatsumi, and Ryan Holmberg has written an in-depth article on Tatsumi for the site as well. Elsewhere online, Comics Forum posted Masafumi Monden’s article Shōjo Manga Research: The Legacy of Women Critics and Their Gender-Based Approach and Reflecting Lights has a nice publisher spotlight on Vertical Comics. Finally, Sean has a roundup of all the manga and light novel licenses that have recently been announced.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 3Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 3 written by Ryo Suzukaze and illustrated by Satoshi Shiki. An adaptation of a series of light novels, Before the Fall is a prequel to Hajime Isayama’s immensely popular and successful manga Attack on Titan. It takes place well before the original series, during a time in which humanity is facing the Titans, but has yet to really find a way to effectively deal with them. At this point, the Survey Corps at least knows how to destroy the Titans, but it is lacking the resources—specifically the three-dimensional maneuvering gear—that greatly aids in actually accomplishing the feat. Apparently, as the extra manga at the end of the third volume implies, Kuklo will somehow be involved in reclaiming that crucial bit of technology. However, most of the volume is devoted to the intense battle and tragic outcomes of the Survey Corps and Kuklo’s unfortunate confrontation with a Titan outside of the walls. There’s some plot and story development as well, but the action takes precedence this time around. In general, I don’t find Before the Fall to be quite as compelling as the original Attack on Titan, but it is interesting to see more of the overall worldbuilding and backstory that has been created for the franchise as a whole.

Cage of Eden, Volume 16Cage of Eden, Volume 16 by Yoshinobu Yamada. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Cage of Eden, though the sixteenth volume seems to be pretty par for the course. I enjoy a good survival story, but the manga is just not as enthralling as I want it to be. It doesn’t help that the fanservice tends to be narratively awkward; the sixteenth volume includes not one but two naked bath scenes of buxom middle school girls that interrupt the flow of the story. As for the story itself, there have been a few interesting developments. Having split into separate groups to investigate the spire and the pyramid on the island, the survivors have been able to begin piecing together exactly where they are as they uncover more and more secrets. Considering the number of deaths in Cage of Eden so far, it’s probably a safe bet that not everyone is going to survive to the end of the series. Especially taking into account the fact that the dinosaurs and other beasts aren’t the only dangerous creatures on the island. Humans can also be extremely deadly. And manipulative, too. It’s this menacing human element that the sixteenth volume of Cage of Eden focuses on. Trying to survive on the island has definitely taken its toll on the characters both mentally and physically.

Missions of Love, Volume 10Missions of Love, Volume 10 by Ema Toyama. To be completely honest, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Missions of Love nearly as much as I do, but here I am, ten volumes later, still completely hooked on the series’ melodrama and exceptionally twisted train wrecks of relationships. And there are some pretty momentous developments in those relationships in this volume, specifically a confession of love that can’t be mistaken or ignored. It seems as thought the time is drawing very near in which Yukina will have to choose either Shigure or Akira, but she’s only now realizing that might mean losing one of them completely. Partially in an attempt to avoid having to make an immediate decision, she challenges them both with a mission: to take her on a date as boyfriend and girlfriend. Missions of Love has always been suggestive, often skirting the edge of what would be deemed appropriate behavior and occasionally crossing over the line, and the tenth volume is no different. The relationships in the series aren’t healthy ones and never have been. Seeing as how many of them were initially based on manipulation and blackmail that probably isn’t too surprising, but it is interesting to see the characters develop legitimate feelings of affection for one another. They just don’t always go about expressing it in the best fashion.

xxxHolic, Omnibus 1xxxHolic, Omnibuses 1-2 (equivalent to Volumes 1-6) by CLAMP. I read the first few volumes of xxxHolic when the manga was originally being published by Del Rey Manga but never got around to finishing the series before it went out of print, so I’m happy that Kodansha Comics is releasing the omnibuses. xxxHolic is a manga of extremes. One moment it’s ridiculously comedic and the next it’s deadly serious. The manga can be a strange mix of humor and horror; sometimes the balance between those two aspects of the series works better than others. I like the incorporation of yokai in xxxHolic since I have a particular interest in yokai. Generally, CLAMP’s renditions of the traditional stories are much more contemporary and free-form in nature. Yokai and folk tales serve more as a source of loose inspiration rather than a rigid structure for the manga to build upon. xxxHolic and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle are directly related to each other, although they can be read separately without to much of a problem. So far, I find the Tsubasa references to be some of the least interesting in xxxHolic, but I do get a kick out of some of the throwaway nods to other CLAMP manga. For example, the leads from Legal Drug make a brief appearance with a minor (yet arguably crucial) role selling a hangover cure.