My Week in Manga: October 16-October 22, 2017

My News and Reviews

Well, it was a very quiet week at Experiments in Manga last week. I was hoping to post my review of the first omnibus of Takako Shimura’s Sweet Blue Flowers, but a variety of things came up–little dude’s preschool open house, helping family members with their cross-country move, spending most of a day on the road for an out-of-state taiko performance, to name just a few. But never fear! I’ll almost certainly be posting the review later this week instead. I haven’t been online much recently either, but I did catch a couple of thing of interest last week. The first was an announcement from Dark Horse, which will be releasing Kentaro Miura’s official Berserk guidebook in March of next year. The second was Brigid Alverson’s discussion with Akira Himekawa, the two-person creative team behind most of the manga adaptations of The Legend of Zelda.

Quick Takes

Goodnight Punpun, Omnibus 6Goodnight Punpun, Omnibus 6-7 (equivalent to Volumes 11-13) by Inio Asano. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve read the fifth omnibus of Goodnight Punpun, but in reality it’s only been a few months. Perhaps it seems so long since Goodnight Punpun can be such a hard-hitting, exhausting experience which requires time to fully recover between volumes. (At least, that tends to be the case for me.) Goodnight Punpun is a surreal and extremely dark coming-of-age story. The series is intense, easily earning its explicit content warning with the manga’s portrayal of emotional, psychological, and physical violence. But while much of Goodnight Punpun is incredibly bleak, there are also moments of hope. Granted, that hope can also be extremely painful. Goodnight Punpun worked best for me when it was exploring the inner turmoil of its titular protagonist. I was actually frequently reminded of Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human as the series approached its conclusion. The manga’s second major plot involving the cult wasn’t nearly as compelling or convincing, coming across as superfluous and tangential to me. But having now reached the end of Goodnight Punpun, I find that I want to read it again. The manga has multiple layers to it and I’m fairly certain there are elements that I either missed entirely or didn’t fully appreciate my first time through the series.

Waiting for Spring, Volume 1Waiting for Spring, Volume 1 by Anashin. Although the basic premise of Waiting for Spring makes it seem like the manga’s setup could easily slip into a reverse harem territory, after reading the first volume I don’t think that’s the direction Anashin will be taking with the series. However, it does still look like there will be at least some romantic rivalry involved. If there’s one thing that Mitsuki wants from high school, it’s to finally make some friends. She’s having a difficult time of it, though. The other young women in her class aren’t really hostile towards her, but she hasn’t been able to really connect with them, either. But things start to change when she gets mixed up with and is unexpectedly befriended by the four stars of the men’s basketball team. In general, most of the relationships in Waiting for Spring are very well done. The blossoming romance between Mitsuki and one of the basketball players is very sweet, but I’m particularly enjoying the friendships in the first volume. Mitsuki treats all of the guys like they’re real people. She isn’t blinded by their good looks and athletic talent (though she can still appreciate them) and doesn’t hesitate to give them what for when needed. This is actually something of a novelty for them, but it’s what allows their friendships with her to naturally develop. The already well-established relationships between the four young men are also very entertaining.

Attack on Titan Adventure: Year 850: Last Stand at Wall RoseAttack on Titan Adventure: Year 850: Last Stand at Wall Rose written by Tomoyuki Fujinami and illustrated by Ryosuke Fuji and Toru Yoshii. Growing up, I was a huge fan of the Choose Your Own Adventure series and other types of gamebooks. (I’ve even held onto a few particularly well-loved volumes from my youth.) And so I was very curious about Last Stand at Wall Rose, an interactive novel set during the Battle of Trost which takes place early on in Hajime Isayama’s original Attack on Titan manga. The mechanics of Last Stand at Wall Rose are interesting, incorporating elements of roleplaying games. Since I’m used to standard branching-plot stories, the book wasn’t as linear as I was expecting and in some ways was even more interactive than I thought it would be. Keeping pencil and paper nearby while reading can be very useful. Last Stand at Wall Rose was fun, but I did find some of the formatting and gameplay to be annoying. The most egregious issue was the amount of unnecessary flipping of pages which made the narrative more disjointed than it otherwise would have been. I also almost wish that page numbers hadn’t been included since the novel’s navigation is based on a system of independently numbered story sections rather than pages. (Also of note: Readers of the first printing of Last Stand at Wall Rose will want to refer to the errata posted online.)

My Week in Manga: November 21-November 27, 2016

My News and Reviews

With American Thanksgiving, traveling, and visiting family, last week was once again a quiet one at Experiments in Manga. However, I am at least still reliably posting the My Week in Manga feature. Yen Press, though, was a little busier than I was last week and announced three new licenses: Asari Endō’s Magical Girl Raising Project light novel, Mutsumi Okubashi’s Grimgar of Fantasy & Ash manga, and the first Sound! Euphonium novel by Ayano Takeda. Of the three, Sound! Euphonium is definitely the one that I’m most interested in and am looking forward to. Even if I wasn’t a brass player (fun fact: I actually have a degree in horn performance), that would probably still be the case.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan: Lost Girls, Volume 1Attack on Titan: Lost Girls, Volume 1 written by Koji Seko and illustrated by Ryosuke Fuji. Considering how well Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan has been doing in North America, it’s not too surprising that most of the various spinoff series have been licensed as well. I actually didn’t know much about Lost Girls before reading it except that the series focuses on some of the more prominent female characters of Attack on Titan. The first volume of Lost Girls is a complete story in and of itself featuring Annie during the time she served as part of the Military Police Brigade. (Interestingly, it’s one of the few spinoff stories to take place within the context and timeline of the original series.) What I didn’t anticipate was that the first volume of Lost Girls is basically a murder mystery, or at least that’s what it turns into after Annie agrees to investigate the disappearance of a young woman. I’ll admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the first Lost Girls; it’s actually pretty great. The manga follows Annie as she searches for clues, uncovering some of the seedier aspects of the city and kicking ass as necessary. It also delves into her backstory. After reading the first volume of Lost Girls, I’ve come to appreciate even more how interesting a character Annie is.

Fire Force, Volume 1Fire Force, Volume 1 by Atsushi Ohkubo. Although Fire Force isn’t the first manga by Ohkubo (who is probably best known as the creator of Soul Eater) to be released in English, it is the first one that I’ve actually read. I really like the basic premise of Fire Force. In order to fight back against something akin to demonic possession combined with spontaneous human combustion, brigades of Fire Soldiers have been formed. These teams are essentially exorcism units with unique firefighting capabilities, including pyrokinetic members who can control and create fire. The series’ main character is Shinra, a young fire user with a tragic past who has recently joined one of these brigades and who has the unfortunate habit of grinning maniacally whenever he’s nervous. Fire Force has the potential to be a fun and exciting manga with some great action sequences, but the first volume managed to extinguish most of my enthusiasm for the series. Ohkubo’s exposition is incredibly heavy-handed, frequently stating the obvious and relying on forced conversations to tediously explain everything that is going on rather than using more natural methods of worldbuilding or allowing the artwork to convey the action on its own.

His House, Volume 1His House, Volumes 1-3 by Hajin Yoo. If I recall correctly, the first manhwa that I ever read was Yoo’s boys’ love series Totally Captivated and it remains a series of which I am quite fond. And so, when I learned that Netcomics was releasing His House, one of Yoo’s most recent full-color manhwa, I was immediately interested. The series follows Gangyoo, an orphan trying to finish college while struggling to make ends meet. In order to earn enough money for room, board, books, and tuition, he’s been renting himself out to women who for one reason or another temporarily need a fake boyfriend. Fortunately, his most recent gig pays so well that he won’t have to worry about his finances for a long time, however it’s a challenging and strange situation–not only is his client Soohyun a man, he doesn’t seem to actually like Gangyoo or even be interested in his services. The strongest points of Yoo’s manhwa tend to be the lead characters and their well-developed personalities. The stories, while engaging with excellent pacing, can sometimes run a little wild and end up somewhat convoluted. This is true of His House, too, but I still enjoyed the series. The manhwa is a page-turner as Gangyoo and Soohyun’s relationship evolves and their hidden pasts and true motivations are slowly revealed.

My Love Story!!, Volume 7My Love Story!!, Volume 7-10 written by Kazune Kawahara and illustrated by Aruko. I absolutely love My Love Story!! and yet I still somehow manage to forget just how much I enjoy the series between readings. This, of course, means that I get to rediscover my love for the manga on a fairly regular basis which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My Love Story!! is one of those series that just makes me incredibly happy to read it and sometimes that’s just exactly what I need in a manga. It’s a funny, charming, and upbeat series with loveable and endearing characters which, incredibly, doesn’t come across as being overly sweet or idealistic. Takeo and Yamato’s earnest and pure romance is marvelously refreshing. But while I have no doubt that their relationship will continue there is still some uncertainty in it and it still takes communication and work on both of their parts. They have moments when they feel insecure or lack confidence, often because they love each other so much and want the absolute best for the other. Takeo and Yamato’s friendships with the other characters in My Love Story!! are likewise wonderful. I especially appreciate Sunakawa’s presence in the series and the closeness that exists between him and Takeo. I continue to adore My Love Story!!.