My Week in Manga: February 3-February 9, 2014

My News and Review

Last week I announced the winner of the Vinland Saga manga giveaway. The post also includes a list of the manga with memorable snowy scenes that were mentioned during the contest. (Just in case you haven’t had enough snow where you are this winter.) And speaking of Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga, I also reviewed the second omnibus of the manga. I’m really loving the series and enjoyed the second volume even more than I did the first. Over the weekend I reviewed Mieko Kanai’s award-winning novel Oh, Tama! which I greatly enjoyed. I know quite a few people who find it to be a boring work, but I found it to be delightfully low-key with a quirky sense of humor.

As for news and interesting reading seen online this week: The fourth issue of the international edition of Monkey Business will be released later this month. I quite enjoy Monkey Business, so I’m looking forward to it. Seven Seas answered a question about some of the decisions that go into licensing manga for omnibus release over on its Tumblr. At Organization Anti-Social Geniuses, Justin posted a great List of Where You Can Buy Anime/Manga in 2014. Hooded Utilitarian’s Ng Suat Tong writes about some of the best online comics criticism of 2013, including some great articles on manga that I hadn’t previously come across.

Quick Takes

Dictatorial Grimoire, Volume 1: CinderellaDictatorial Grimoire, Volume 1: Cinderella by Ayumi Kanou. I have a feeling that Dictatorial Grimoire may very well be one of those manga that is so bad that it’s good. The story is admittedly a bit of a mess and sometimes doesn’t even make a whole lot of sense. However, I can’t deny that I had fun reading the manga. It’s all sorts of ridiculous. (I’m not sure that all of it is entirely intentional, though.) Otogi Grimm is the descendant of the Brothers Grimm which turns out to be a rather dangerous thing to be. The Brothers made a pact with demons offering up the lives of their descendants in exchange for the stories that formed the basis of their famous fairy tales. Many of those demons—such as the progenitor’s of Cinderella and Snow White—are now after Otogi in one way or another. He does seem to maintain some control over them, though it’s never explained how he learned, developed, or perhaps inherited this power. I did love that Cinderella is a complete masochist, although that fact is used mostly as a gag rather than for any meaningful characterization. I was, however, amused.

Fairy Tail, Volume 34Fairy Tail, Volume 34 by Hiro Mashima. The thirty-fourth volume of Fairy Tail gets off to a good start with the conclusion of Natsu’s confrontation with the Saber Tooth Guild. Then it’s back to the Grand Magic Games for the third day of competition. After a nice buildup to the day’s challenge event, called Pandemonium, Erza’s epic battle is largely reduced to a two-page spread. More time is spent on what basically amounts to target practice for the other teams than on what could have been a glorious combat sequence; it was extremely disappointing. Some of the other fights in this volume fare better, but others are completely rushed through. I’m more interested in the plots going on behind the scenes than I am in the tournament itself, but it seems that to some extent Mashima has given up on the Grand Magic Games. Even the event challenges, which were initially interesting because they required some actual thought and strategy to be put into them in addition to magic and martial skill, have become little more than all-out brawls in this volume. That, too, was a rather disappointing development.

Manic LoveManic Love by Satomi Yamagata. Manic Love is a prequel of sorts to Yamagata’s Fake Fur; it delves deeper into the back story of Maki Sonoda, an important side character. Yamagata jokes in the afterword that she had challenged herself to write a manga that was half nude scenes, so there’s quite a bit of sex in Manic Love. But it’s actually handled quite tastefully and the sex scenes are an important part of the manga and the themes with which Yamagata is working. As was the case with Fake Fur, Manic Love explores the relationship between romantic love and sexual desire and how they can influence each other. Sex is used as a form of communication and connection between the characters in addition to being something that they enjoy. One of the things that I particularly liked about Manic Love is that each chapter it told from a different characters’ point of view. Maki is in what is probably best described as a sort of love triangle, but it’s one without hard feelings or anger. It’s interesting to be able to see that unusual relationship from multiple perspectives, including one from someone who is outside of that triangle entirely.

My Week in Manga: December 9-December 15, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted the first review in my new monthly review project, A Year of Yuri. This project will focus on comics and manga with yuri and lesbian themes. For this month’s review, I took a closer look at June Kim’s debut graphic novel 12 Days which was even better than I remembered it being. It’s a beautiful work that addresses the complexities of grief, family, love, and loss.

Also last week, I wrote a post that focused on how to find manga in libraries—Finding Manga: Library Love. The post is sort of a combination of two of my semi-regular features—Finding Manga and Library Love. (I’ve actually decided to retire Library Love, so the post was also a way for me to give the feature a nice send-off.) It’s a pretty long post; if you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, you can always just skip to the quick tips at the end.

As for interesting things found online: The Pew Research Center coincidentally posted its report on How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities the same day I was expressing my own love of libraries; over at Geekscape, Kari Lane discussed yaoi with Jennifer LeBlanc, SuBLime’s editor; and Erica Friedman talked about some of the differences between the U.S. and Japanese comic book industries on Quora.

Quick Takes

Fake FurFake Fur by Satomi Yamagata. For a boys’ love manga, Fake Fur is surprisingly realistic in its portrayal of Yamashita—a young man who in high school is just starting to come to terms with his sexuality and homosexuality. The manga follows him as he becomes aware that he is in love with his close friend Kubo and how he handles the aftermath of that realization and his changing relationships. Fake Fur deals with both physical and romantic desire and how those two aspects of love can often be in conflict with each other. In some cases, sex and physical pleasure is used as a replacement for true affection. For Yamashita and several of the other characters in Fake Fur, this is something that is both comforting and heartbreaking. On the other hand, for better or for worse, physical intimacy can naturally lead to emotional intimacy. After all, a sexual relationship is still a relationship. In Fake Fur Yamashita and the others grapple with this, hoping to find love but also recognizing that there is more than one way to be close to another person.

Sankarea: Undying Love, Volume 4Sankarea: Undying Love, Volume 4 by Mitsuru Hattori. The covers for the English-language edition of the Sankarea manga tend to focus on the horror elements of the series. While that horror is certainly a part of Sankarea, I still see it as more of a romantic comedy than anything else. Granted, it is a very strange romantic comedy with even stranger characters. I like the series best when it’s focusing on the relationship between Chihiro and the recently zombified Rea, which has some interesting developments in this volume. For one, Rea continues to become more zombie-like, her cravings for flesh barely being held in check by her natural inhibitions. However, I was less impressed with the mostly unnecessary scene between Chihiro and Rea’s mother in which she drunkenly and nakedly propositions him. Apparently the volume’s fanservice quota needed to be met somehow. My favorite part of this volume was actually the side-comic “I Am Also…A Zombie…” which is told from the perspective of Chihiro’s pet cat (and zombie) Bub. Bub is the greatest.

Showa1Showa: A History of Japan, 1926-1939 by Shigeru Mizuki. Originally published in Japan as an eight-volume series, Drawn & Quarterly’s edition of Showa: A History of Japan is being released in four, two-volume omnibuses. Japan’s Showa era, corresponding to Emperor Hirohito’s reign, lasted from December 25, 1926 to January 7, 1989. In the introduction to the first volume of Showa, Frederik L Schodt describes the Showa era as one of “the most tumultuous, violent, and tragic” periods in Japan’s history. There are actually two intertwining stories contained in Mizuki’s Showa: the factual history of the country as a whole at that time and Mizuki’s personal history as someone who lived through it. Mizuki’s artwork also reflects these two different portrayals of the Showa era. The illustrations range from the highly detailed and realistic, based on news and photographs from that period, to the more free-form and cartoonish. Showa is an informative read. I’m personally more familiar with the late Showa era, so I appreciated being able to learn more about early Showa in such an engaging format.

The World Exists for Me, Volume 1The World Exists for Me, Volumes 1-2 written by Be-Papas and illustrated by Chiho Saito. The literal translation of the Japanese title for The World Exists for Me would actually be The World of S and M. Though I’m sure it was intentionally chosen, it’s a rather peculiar title for a rather peculiar manga. Only two volumes were ever published, but I get the feeling that The World Exists for Me was originally conceived of as a much longer work. The ending comes very suddenly and very little, if anything, is actually resolved. The series definitely had some potential—I found its use of time travel, destiny, and historical figures and events to be interesting—but the story never quite pulls together as something particularly coherent. It’s a bit of a mess, really. While it can be enjoyable, it doesn’t really make much sense at all. The World Exists for Me was developed by the same creators involved with the Revolutionary Girl Utena manga. Some similarities can be seen between the two series, but I much prefer Utena.