My Week in Manga: January 11-January 17, 2016

My News and Reviews

It was entirely unintentional, but last week was apparently the week for sevens—both of my in-depth manga reviews last week were for the seventh installment of their respective series. They both happen to be manga currently licensed by Kodansha Comics, as well, which was also a coincidence.  On Wednesday, I reviewed the seventh omnibus of Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura. The series continues to be magnificent. The seventh omnibus might be the last of the series to be released in English, which would truly be a shame. The volume does bring to a close one of the series’ major story arcs, but I really hope more of Vinland Saga will be able to be translated. The second review, part of my monthly horror manga review project, was of Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi, Volume 7. Mushishi continues to be one of my favorite manga. I’m really enjoying my reread of the series and the opportunity to write about it in more detail. One other thing I wanted briefly to mention was a Kickstarter project to help Yamakiya Taiko, a wonderful youth taiko ensemble from Fukushima, raise money to defray the cost of their upcoming trip to the United States in March. I’ll actually be playing with the group a bit while they’re in Michigan, so I especially hope that the campaign succeeds.

Quick Takes

Core Scramble, Volume 1Core Scramble, Volume 1 by Euho Jun. I’ve been slowly making my way through Netcomics’ new series which is what brought Core Scramble to my attention. That and the promise of boys’ love mixed with science fiction, fantasy, and action. At this point, romance doesn’t seem to be the priority of Core Scramble, though there is some sexual harassment thrown in. Chaeun is a fairly average soldier—one of many fighting in a war against swarms of extra-dimensional monsters invading the planet—but he has developed a knack for surviving situations that many seasoned veterans would consider hopeless. His tenacity has impressed his comrades as well as those who would like to take advantage of the invasion for their own purposes. The first volume of Core Scramble spends quite a bit of time establishing the series’ setting, explaining how the world’s magic, science, and inter-dimensional portals function and interact. Infodumps are a regular occurrence and break up the flow of the story itself, but I suspect that this shouldn’t be as much of an issue for the series’ later volumes. Granted, there are only two more.

Deep Dark FearsDeep Dark Fears by Fran Krause. What started out as a project to illustrate all of his irrational fears eventually evolved into an ongoing series of  online comics in which Krause would not only draw his own fears but the fears submitted by his readers as well. Just over a hundred of those comics have now been brought together in the print collection of Deep Dark Fears, about half of them being newly published while the other half were selected by Krause as some of his favorites from online. While the subject matter can be disturbing and occasionally even grotesque, the comics themselves are actually quite charming. Krause doesn’t comment on or judge any of the fears but simply presents them as they are, irrational but still discomfiting whether they be based on known falsehoods learned as children or overactive imaginations as adults. Deep Dark Fears is a great collection of short comics about strange and bizarre fears. Some are only a single panel long while others may be a few pages, but they all leave an impression. I’m not sure if Krause has plans for additional print collections, but the series continues to grow online.

Witchcraft Works, Volume 3Witchcraft Works, Volumes 3-7 by Ryu Mizunagi. Although I quite enjoyed the first two volumes of Witchcraft Works, I recently realized that I had fallen behind in actually reading the series. After catching up I can say that there are still things that I like about the manga, but I also find myself slightly less enamored with it than I once was. Primarily, I continue enjoy the reversal of stereotypical gender roles. If it wasn’t for that, I think the series would have bored me fairly quickly, even despite its other entertaining quirks. With the seemingly endless of author’s notes, it’s obvious that Mizunagi has put plenty of thought into the world of Witchcraft Works, but it isn’t always incorporated well into the story itself which is unfortunate. This seems to especially be a problem during the series’ battle and action-oriented story arcs where it feels like the characters spend more time explaining things they already know to one another rather than fighting, though they do eventually get around to that, too. Witchcraft Works is a great looking manga, though, Mizunagi’s visual style working wonders with all of the magic and mayhem. But ultimately, I think what I want is a little more substance to accompany all the spectacle.

My Week in Manga: January 12-January 18, 2015

My News and Reviews

I posted two reviews at Experiments in Manga last week. The first review was of Manazuru, Hiromi Kawakami’s first novel to be translated into English. It’s a slightly surreal but moving work about memory, loss, letting go, and moving on. I had previously read and enjoyed some of Kawakami’s short stories, but Manazuru is her first long-form work that I’ve read. The other review posted last week was a part of my monthly horror manga review project. In December I took a look at took a look at Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare, Volume 1, but this month I started digging into Yuki Urushibara’s award-winning Mushishi, which happens to be one of my favorite manga series. (Next month will be After School Nightmare‘s turn once again, and I’ll continue to alternate between the series.)

On to other interesting news and reading! Sparkler Monthly has a new subscription model for the new year, which means even more of its content is now free. (But if you like what you see, please consider becoming a member!) Kodansha Comics announced several new licenses, including a new series from Blade of the Immortal‘s Hiroaki Samura among other intriguing manga. Amazon leaked Vertical Comics’ most recent acquisition announcement, Hajime Segawa’s Tokyo ESP. And speaking of Vertical, here’s a list of Vertical manga that may be going out of print in the near future. And completely unrelated, Gayumbos has an interview with Kazuhide Ichikawa, one of the creators featured in Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It.

Finally, I wanted to draw everyone’s attention to the Female Goth Mangaka Carnival which is currently under way and will continue through the end of January. Hosted by the The Beautiful World, which previously hosted the Kaori Yuki Manga Moveable Feast, the Carnival is focusing on Fujiwara Kaoru, Kusumoto Maki, Mitsukazu Mihara, Junko Mizuno, Asumiko Nakamura and their works. I have a few things in mind for the Carnival, including a spotlight on Mitsukazu Mihara, a manga giveaway that ties into the Carnival, and a review of Asumiko Nakamura’s Utsubora. Assuming all goes according to plan, my Carnival posts should start showing up by Friday.

Quick Takes

Ani-Imo, Volume 1Ani-Imo, Volume 1 by Haruko Kurumatani. I often enjoy body-swap manga, but I was somewhat wary of Ani-Imo. I’ll admit, the first volume actually wasn’t as terrible as I anticipated it would be. There were even parts of it that I legitimately liked. Still, overall I really can’t say that I enjoyed the manga. There’s a lot about Ani-Imo that frankly makes me uncomfortable. I’m actually not bothered by the potential incest itself (although the manga’s excuse that makes it not really incest seems awfully convenient and not particularly believable). However, I intensely disliked the doctor in the manga. He comes across as extremely predatory and unfortunately his bisexuality is used to emphasize that point. Also, the young women in the series, despite being high schoolers, look more like elementary grade students, which makes the sexual overtones of Ani-Imo even harder to take. Some of the manga’s creepiness I’m sure is intentional, but since the series seems to be trying to be a comedy. The balance of the series’ tone doesn’t seem quite right and the manga ends up being a bit off-putting.

Manga Dogs, Volume 2Manga Dogs, Volume 2 by Ema Toyama. Since Manga Dogs is more of a gag manga than anything else, there isn’t really much of a driving plot to the series. Instead there’s the initial setup (a high school with a new, but abysmally supported manga program) and the introduction of the main players (Tezuka and the three classmates who have attached themselves to her, as well as a small handful of supporting cast members) which serve as the starting point for all of the hijinks in the series. I’m not really sure where Manga Dogs is heading, or even if it is heading anywhere, but I do find it amusing. Granted, much of the humor depends on a reader having a deeper interest in and understanding of manga and its creation than the casual fan might generally possess. The other major source of the series’ comedy are the goofball antics of Tezuka’s enthusiastic yet delusional devotees—Specs, Prince, and Dream Kid. But, surprisingly enough, although they’re usually air-headed idiots, every once in a while the three of them actually do exhibit some common sense.

Witchcraft Works, Volume 1Witchcraft Works, Volumes 1-2 by Ryu Mizunagi. Witches seem to be showing up in anime and manga more and more often these days, but I don’t have a particular interest in them. I almost passed over Witchcraft Works because of that. But since it’s a manga being released by Vertical Comics, I was a little more inclined to check it out. That and I generally liked the artwork; the cover in particular is striking, but the interior art looks great, too (even if some of the character designs tend to be absurdly buxom). So far, Witchcraft Works is a delightfully strange and quirky manga, it’s ridiculousness and weirdness making it a lot of fun. I’m especially enjoying the reversals in the usual gender roles—Honoka, the male lead, is the one who needs saving and protecting while Ayaka, the female lead, is the strong and stoic hero. (I also love that she’s at least a head taller than him.) Ayaka is an incredibly powerful fire witch which means many of the action sequences are done and over with before they’ve really had the chance to begin, but at least she puts an end to things with flair. And often literally with flare.

TaishoBaseballGirlsTaisho Baseball Girls directed by Takashi Ikehata. Although I’ve discovered that I generally enjoy sports anime, I was particularly interested in Taisho Baseball Girls because of its historical setting. Not many series take place during the Taisho era, a time period in which Japan was becoming increasingly Westernized and there was some societal anxiety caused by that. Although the twelve-episode anime is based on an ongoing series of light novels written by Atsushi Kagurazaka, it tells a complete and very satisfying story. A group of nine high school girls band together to form a baseball team in order to challenge an all-boys team and prove that women’s place in the world shouldn’t be and isn’t limited to the household. The problem is that very few of the girls actually have any experience playing baseball. Taisho Baseball Girls is a charming and heartwarming series without being overly sentimental. Some of the girls’ family members, friends, and teachers oppose what they’re doing and their unladylike behavior while others are incredibly supportive of them and their hard work.