My Week in Manga: May 29-June 4, 2017

My News and Reviews

The most recent manga giveaway at Experiments in Manga was posted last week. This month everyone participating has a chance to win Anonymous Noise, Volume 1 by Ryoko Fukuyama. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter. Simply tell me about your favorite singer or vocalist from a manga! In other giveaway news, Taneeka Stotts is sponsoring a tremendous Queer Comics Giveaway for Pride Month. I’ve read and/or own a fair number of the comics in the giveaway and they’re all great. Even if you don’t enter or win, the list itself is still well-worth checking out!

As for other interesting things that I’ve recently come across online: Terry Hong (creator of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s BookDragon review blog, which I greatly enjoy) compiled a list of fourteen Japanese thrillers for The Booklist Reader which includes both novels and manga. (I’ve read most of the books on the list and they’re great; here are my in-depth reviews of some of the titles mentioned: The Devotion of Suspect X, Malice, and Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki, and Nijigahara Holograph by Inio Asano.) Matt Thorn has re-posted an old article from The Comics Journal on The Magnificent Forty-Niners. Also, my Manga Bookshelf cohort Brigid Alverson is now writing for ICv2 as well. Her first post is a roundup of recent manga news.

Quick Takes

Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh, Volume 1Boogiepop Doesn’t Laugh, Volumes 1-2 written by Kouhei Kadono and illustrated by Kouji Ogata. The Boogiepop franchise began as a series of light novels but would eventually expand to include music, a live-action film, an anime, and two short manga series among other things. Boogiepop Doesn’t Laugh is actually the second of the two manga series to be released but it’s an adaptation of Boogiepop and Others, the very first Boogiepop light novel. Although the manga does include a few additional scenes, for the most part it’s a very close adaptation. Like the original novel, the narrative of Boogiepop Doesn’t Laugh is deliberately fragmented–the supernatural mysteries surrounding the serial disappearances of a number of high school girls are explored through multiple perspectives taken from before, after, and during the events. Sadly, the technique isn’t nearly as effective in the manga as it was in the novel and the adaptation never quite reaches the same depth as the original, but the story remains and interesting and curious one. Perhaps obviously what makes the manga stand apart from its predecessor is its artwork. The first quarter or so of the series isn’t especially impressive, but then Ogata switches to a style reminiscent of ink wash paintings which is quite lovely.

Persona 3, Volume 1Persona 3, Volumes 1-3 by Shuji Sogabe. Having read and largely enjoyed what has so far been translated of Sogabe’s Persona 4 manga adaptation, I was looking forward to giving the Persona 3 manga a try as well. (Especially as I’ve actually played some of Persona 3, unlike Persona 4. Granted, I still haven’t actually finished the video game.) I really wanted to like the manga, but I was very disappointed with the first three volumes of Sogabe’s Persona 3. Apparently, it was Sogabe’s first professional manga, which may explain some of the series problems. The Persona 3 manga will likely work best for readers who are already very familiar with the original, and even then I suspect that most would rather just play the game again. The manga has no clear or coherent narrative to it, jumping around in the story and in an out of battles without reason. Considering the number of fight sequences included, it’s particularly unfortunate that conveying action is one of Sogabe’s weakest areas. Characterization is largely lacking in the manga and most of the cast members are never fully or adequately introduced, but at least their designs are attractive enough. Overall, I didn’t enjoy the Persona 3 manga much at all, mostly because it didn’t make much sense at all. Some of the more comedic moments were admittedly amusing, though.

To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts, Volume 1To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts, Volumes 1-2 by Maybe. Before reading To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts I was under the impression that the series used the American Civil War as the foundation of its story. It turns out that’s not really the case, although the worldbuilding and character designs take obvious inspiration from nineteenth-century United States and the setting of the manga is a country recovering from a great war between the North and the South. (I suppose To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts could be some sort of alternative historical fantasy, but for the moment at least it doesn’t read that way to me.) In order to emerge victorious from the war, the North relied on soldiers known as Incarnates–humans who were granted tremendous abilities and battle prowess but at a great cost; they were literally turned into monsters. The metaphor may not be particularly subtle, but how To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts tackles the psychological ramifications and ravages of war is certainly engaging. Now that the conflict is over and an uneasy peace has been established, there is no longer any need for creatures of war and the Incarnate soldiers largely find themselves feared and despised. As the last of their humanity slips from their grasp, the Incarnates ultimately become the targets of the Beast Hunters.

My Week in Manga: December 12-December 18, 2016

My News and Reviews

After a slight delay, November’s Bookshelf Overload was posted last week at Experiments in Manga. Last week I also came to the sad conclusion that my feature on Ichigo Takano’s Orange simply isn’t going to happen despite the progress that I’ve made on it and all of my best efforts. I’d like to extend an apology to everyone who was looking forward to that post, myself included. Orange deeply resonated with me and my own experiences and I wanted to share that with others. Specifically, I wanted to write an essay exploring its sensitive, honest, and compassionate portrayal of the very personal challenges surrounding issues of guilt, depression, and suicide. Ironically, it’s partly due to my own mess of anxieties, et al. that I’m having so much trouble lately. Even when I have the inspiration and desire, I’m still having a terribly difficult time actually writing. So, I’m not sure when my long-form features will return–even though I miss writing and sharing them, I’m trying to be kind to myself by giving myself a bit of a break–but I hope that it is sooner rather than later. However, I can at least still commit to regularly posting My Week in Manga, Giveaways, and Bookshelf Overload features! It’s not much compared to my past output, but at least it is something. Oh, and I’ll definitely be posting my list of notable 2016 releases at the end of the month!

Quick Takes

The Boy Who Cried WolfThe Boy Who Cried Wolf by Mentaiko Itto. Bruno Gmünder’s Gay Manga line began in 2013 and the publisher has been slowly but steadily releasing gay erotic manga in English translation ever since. The Boy Who Cried Wolf is the second collection of Mentaiko Itto’s erotic doujinshi to be published by Bruno Gmünder. The volume collects three of Itto’s short manga: “Hamu and the Boy Who Cried Wolf,” “Holy Night,” and “As Swift as Lightning.” As I’ve come to expect from Itto’s work, in addition to uninhibited sex scenes there is also a fair amount of humor to be found in The Boy Who Cried Wolf as well as a great deal of heart. Unlike Priapus, Itto’s previous collection in translation, The Boy Who Cried Wolf is generally more realistic and less fantastic in nature. Granted, as a historical comedy of sorts, “As Swift as the Lightning” deliberately includes its fair share of anachronisms. But Itto actually incorporates some autobiographical elements in “Hamu and the Boy Who Cried Wolf,” a manga about a young man who is initially so deeply closeted that he unintentionally hurts the person he cares most about. However, because this is Itto, the story isn’t nearly as gloomy as that description sounds. The Boy Who Cried Wolf is a great collection of highly entertaining erotic manga. I truly hope that more of Itto’s work will be translated in the future.

In/Spectre, Volume 1In/Spectre, Volume 1 by Chasiba Katase. Although In/Spectre is based on the novel Invented Inference: Steel Lady Nanase by Kyo Shirodaira, Katase seems to have been given plenty of freedom in adapting the story as a manga series. If the note from the original author is to be believed, the currently ongoing In/Spectre manga is actually the more popular of the two renditions. Unsurprisingly, I was primarily drawn to the manga because yokai play a prominent role in the series. Considering the title I thought it might also be a mystery manga which, as it turns out, in some ways it is and in some ways it isn’t. I didn’t find the first volume of In/Spectre to be as engaging as I hoped it would be–at times the pacing can be agonizingly slow–but I am still greatly intrigued by the series. Now that the setting has been established and the rather peculiar characters have been introduced, I’m hoping that future volumes have more energy to them because I really do like the basic premise of the series. In/Spectre largely follows a young woman named Kotoko Iwanaga who has become a god of wisdom to Japan’s yokai. This has its benefits, but it also cost her an eye and a leg. She is responsible for helping to mediate disputes between yokai, but also for keeping the more unruly ones in check when humans are in danger.

Persona 4, Volume 2Persona 4, Volumes 2-5 by Shuji Sogabe. Though I suspect that I would enjoy it, I still haven’t actually played the original Persona 4 video game, so it’s difficult for me to directly compare Sogabe’s manga adaptation. However, I can say that for the most part the manga can stand alone as its own work. However occasionally it does feel as though the characters are being railroaded and the story has only one possible path to take, probably a remnant from the manga’s RPG origins. While overall the artwork is attractive and stylish, the action-oriented scenes and fight sequences can be somewhat lacking in their execution. But I love the themes that Persona 4 deals with, especially those of personal identity and self-acceptance. As the series progresses, concepts of gender and sexuality come into greater play as well which (as always) I find particularly interesting. In general like all of the characters, too. Yosuke can unfortunately be a homophobic ass from time to time, but I absolutely adore Kanji, a tough guy with a good heart who has traditionally feminine interests and hobbies. Much of the character and story development in Persona 4 is ambiguous enough that multiple and sometimes opposing readings and interpretations are possible, some of which are frankly unflattering. Personally, I prefer and am more comfortable with the more positive interpretations.

Stand Still, Stay Silent, Volume 1Stand Still, Stay Silent, Book 1 by Minna Sundberg. The first book of Sundberg’s ongoing Stand Still, Stay Silent collects the award-winning webcomic’s prologue, first five chapters, and additional bonus content. It’s available in both digital and physical editions, but the hardcover print volume is absolutely gorgeous. Much like Sundberg’s earlier epic A Redtail’s Dream, Nordic influences are a major part of Stand Still, Stay Silent. The comic is stunningly illustrated with beautiful, full-color artwork. Stand Still, Stay Silent is a post-apocalyptic tale of adventure and exploration with an ominous touch of horror and the unknown. At the same time, the comic manages to be lighthearted and humorous. The prologue establishes the comic’s fascinating setting–a seemingly harmless disease which turns out to be fatal quickly spreads across the globe. Ninety years later, Iceland, which was able to completely close itself off from the rest of the world, has become the center of known civilization, but a team has been assembled to see what can be found beyond the relative safety of the Nordic countries. Despite scenes of intense terror and action, the plot of Stand Still, Stay Silent is actually on the slower side; the focus is almost entirely on the characters and their interpersonal dynamics. The character writing, worldbuilding, and humor in Stand Still, Stay Silent is simply fantastic.

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: June 27-July 3, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week was the end of one month and the beginning of another, which means it’s time for yet another manga giveaway at Experiments in Manga. There are still a couple of days left to enter for a chance to win Complex Age, Volume 1 by Yui Sakuma. As can probably be gleaned from my relatively recent review of the first volume, so far I’m really liking the series.

In other news, it sounds like Akimaro Mori’s award-winning collection of short mysteries The Black Cat Takes a Stroll will finally be released by Bento Books this year, perhaps even within the next few months. Fans of Vampire Hunter D will likely be interested in a recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce Vampire Hunter D: Message from Mars, a comic based on Hideyuki Kikuchi’s unpublished short story Message from Cecile. (Anime News Network posted an interview with part of the creative team which has more information.) But the Kickstarter project I’m personally most excited about at the moment is the campaign to support the fourth year of Sparkler Monthly Magazine. I’m not shy about my love of Chromatic Press and Sparkler Monthly (Chromatic Press even has its own tag here at Experiments in Manga) so I really want to see the campaign succeed.

Anime Expo began last week and there were plenty of licensing announcements to come out of the event. Dark Horse has licensed Hatsune Miku: Rin-Chan Now!, Neon Genesis Evangelion: Legend of the Piko-Piko Middle School Students, and H.P. Lovecraft’s The Hound and Other Stories by Gou Tanabe which should be great. The announcements from Kodansha Comics included an interactive Attack on Titan novel, and four manga for print release: Fire Force, Clockwork PlanetToppu GP and the one I’m probably most interested in, Ichi F, about a nuclear power plant worker in Fukushima. Seven Seas has picked up Magical Girl Site, Species Domain, Plum Crazy! Tales of A Tiger-Striped Cat, and Dreamin’ Sun which is by Ichigo Takano, so I definitely plan on checking it out. Vertical will be translating the Nisemonogatari light novels. Viz Media will be releasing Dragon Ball Super, The Water Dragon’s Bride, and Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt and will be rereleasing Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V, Rurouni Kenshin, and Revolutionary Girl Utena. Yen Press has added one light novel (Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers), five manga (Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers, The Isolator, Big Order, Smokin’ Parade, Murciélago) as well as an original graphic novel by Cassandra Jean, Reindeer Boy, which I’m especially looking forward to.

Quick Takes

My Little Monster, Volume 11My Little Monster, Volumes 11-13 by Robico. While the middle part of the series felt like it dragged a bit, overall I would say My Little Monster was a manga that for the most part I enjoyed. I particularly liked the characters and their quirkiness. The story itself was at times tedious to read due to the fact that the narrative often backtracked after any forward progress was made in regards to the plot and so the same ground had to be covered multiple times. The seriousness of some parts of the story (like Haru’s background and family situation) didn’t always seem to mesh well as a whole with the series’ comedy. Robico tended to handle the humor better, and I like My Little Monster best when it’s being ridiculous (I can’t begin to tell you how pleased I was to see Nagoya the chicken at the wedding), but there were still some very touching moments. I also really enjoy Robico’s after-chapter four-panel manga. The series proper actually ends with the twelfth volume while the thirteenth volume collects various side stories and epilogue chapters that focus on the series’ supporting cast. Because the English-language release of series has been so well supported, Kodansha Comics also includes an extra sixty pages of comics and character profiles which were a great deal of fun.

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Side: P4, Volume 1Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Side: P4, Volumes 1-2 by So Tobita. I still haven’t played the original Persona Q video game, but since I’ve read the Side: P3 manga adaptation I now have a decent sense of its story. Or, at least the beginning of the story; Side: P3 was only two volumes long. I incorrectly assumed that Side: P4 would follow the same pattern, but as far as I can tell the series is still ongoing. Reading Side: P4 almost immediately after reading Side: P3 does cause a fair amount of déjà vu, and understandably so as it’s more or less the same story simply from a different perspective with the characters from the Persona 4 series taking the lead this time instead of those from the Persona 3 series. There are original scenes and content to be found in Side: P4, but the further along the series gets the more similarities are to be found. While I generally liked Side: P3, I’m actually really enjoying Side: P4. This rendition of the story is able to stand on its own fairly well so that even readers who aren’t already familiar with Persona as a whole can follow along more easily. I also find that I generally connect more with the Persona 4 cast more than I do the Persona 3 cast. And as an added bonus, Side: P4 has significantly more homoeroticism, which I do enjoy.

Wrecked HeartsWrecked Hearts by Mathilde Kitteh and Luca Oliveri. I came across Wrecked Hearts almost entirely by accident but I’m so glad that I did because I loved it. The volume was published by a small press in Sweden and features science fiction stories in English from two creators based in France which are heavily influenced by shoujo manga. Wrecked Hearts opens with the shorter of the two comics, Oliveri’s “The Real Thing,” about a shape-shifting alien living her life as a human girl while her father studies the human race. She develops a crush on a boy in her class and so poses as another boy during a school trip in order to try to get to know him better. The longer comic, “Dark Energy” by Kitteh, is about a celestial goddess who takes human form to experience love only to encounter heartbreak after heartbreak, ultimately deciding to travel through space alone until an android journalist comes to visit her ship. The two comics in Wrecked Hearts are not directly related by characters or plot, but the tone of the stories and some of the themes explored are similar—loneliness, love, romance, gender, sexuality, and identity are all important to the tales being told. Wrecked Hearts is also a beautifully produced book, and both Kitteh and Oliveri’s illustration styles are lovely.

My Week in Manga: June 13-June 19, 2016

My News and Reviews

Okay. So I don’t usually get very personal here at Experiments in Manga, but I feel it’s needed this time. Last week I had every intention of posting an in-depth review of Dawn, the first novel in Yoshino Tanaka’s renowned space opera Legend of the Galactic Heroes. But Thursday came along and I’d only managed to write a quarter of it and I finally had to admit to myself that it just wasn’t going to happen. And so while driving to and from taiko rehearsal that evening I took the opportunity to reevaluate some things and to try to find a sustainable solution for Experiments in Manga.

The last year and a half or so has been rough on me. Without going into unnecessary details, I have been under tremendous amount of stress at work, at home, and just in general with more and more responsibilities to take on and less and less time for myself. While my anxiety issues are fortunately mostly in check at the moment, being stressed out feeds directly into my depression which in turn feeds into being stressed out. It’s a miserable cycle that’s difficult to break. And it makes doing all of the things that I want to do nigh impossible, even if I actually had the time to do all of those things (which I don’t).

I can’t do much about the situation at work right now, and my options outside of work are limited, too, but one thing that I have complete control over is my blogging. While there are some very strong arguments to be made for me to completely give up writing at Experiments in Manga, that’s not really something that I’m prepared to do yet. However, I will be drastically changing my approach and will be writing less, at least for the time being. I’m hoping this won’t be permanent, but I will have to see how things go as I try to find some balance in my life.

And so: For now the My Week in Manga feature will continue to be posted as normal, as will the monthly manga giveaways. The Bookshelf Overload feature will still make an appearance every month, too. However, in-depth reviews and other long-form features will by necessity be posted more sporadically and won’t necessarily adhere to a specific schedule. To make up for this somewhat, the Quick Takes section of My Week in Manga will be expanded slightly to include my thoughts on novels and nonfiction works among other things. Even though overall I will be writing less, this means that I’ll be able to read more, and hopefully relax more, which will be very good for me.

Anyway! In happier news, according to the series’ translator, the second volume of Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner is scheduled for release later this year. (I reviewed the first volume when it was released and liked it so well that it made my list of notable works of 2014.) Kodansha Comics’ most recent creator spotlight features an interview with Akiko Higashimura. The latest manga Kickstarter campaign to launch is a project by Fakku and Toshio Maeda to release a remastered edition of Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend. Some pretty big news for fans of BL in translation, Japanese publisher Libre has cut its ties with Digital Manga. Sadly, though perhaps not especially surprising at this point, Digital Manga’s press release comes across as very passive aggressive and unprofessional.

Quick Takes

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Side: P3, Volume 2Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Side: P3, Volume 2 by So Tobita. I haven’t actually played the Persona Q video game, but from what I hear from others, the manga adaptation remains true to its tone and main storyline. My knowledge of the original Persona Q, as well as my knowledge of Persona 3 and Persona 4 which directly tie into Persona Q, is admittedly cursory. Those who do not have at least some familiarity with the Persona franchise will be at a significant disadvantage when reading Persona Q, especially when it comes to understanding the characters and their personalities. Fortunately, I know enough to be able to appreciate the Persona Q for what it is—a fun and slightly silly adventure with puzzles, labyrinths, and cute artwork (much like the game itself, which I suspect I would greatly enjoy playing). The manga is very clearly an adaptation of an role-playing game as some of the side quests, boss fights, and other elements of gameplay remain quite evident, but the ways in which they are incorporated into the story are generally unobtrusive and make sense within the context of all that is going on.

Red Red Rock and Other Stories, 1967-1970Red Red Rock and Other Stories, 1967-1970 by Seiichi Hayashi. As far as creators of alternative manga go, Hayashi is fairly well represented in English with several volumes of manga available in translation. The most recent is Red Red Rock and Other Stories, a collection of thirteen of Hayashi’s short avant-garde manga as well as an accompanying essay by the volume’s editor and manga historian Ryan Holmberg. Most of the stories come from the influential alternative manga magazine Garo, but two of the selections were actually created for the magazine A Woman’s Self. Out of all of Hayashi’s manga currently available in English, Red Red Rock and Other Stories is probably one of the least immediately accessible. While Hayashi’s imagery can be stunning and appreciated by all, some of the short manga in Red Red Rock and Other Stories will likely be nearly impenetrable for a casual reader. But that’s where Holmberg’s informative essay comes in handy, explaining some of the references and historical context needed to fully understand the collection. I enjoyed the manga in Red Red Rock and Other Stories, but I also appreciated being able to learn more about them.

The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 12The Seven Deadly Sins, Volumes 12-14 by Nakaba Suzuki. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of The Seven Deadly Sins, but I picked up the series again just in time for a major showdown. Granted, just about any of the fights that occur in The Seven Deadly Sins become epic battles simply because all of the combatants involved are so incredibly powerful. The action sequences are impressive, although sometimes it can be difficult to tell exactly what is going on. Some of the characters move so quickly only the results of their martial techniques are apparent. Occasionally Suzuki absolutely nails these sequences and they can be thrillingly effective, but just as often the action ends up being confusing. Suzuki also seems reluctant to actually kill anyone off which means the stakes don’t seem as high they should be. Well, except for the potential end of the world. At first it seems as though an apocalypse has been averted in these few volumes, but soon it become apparent it that it may have only been delayed. The Seven Deadly Sins still have plenty of fighting left to do, not only for the future of their world but also to overcome their past mistakes.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Volume 1: DawnLegend of the Galactic Heroes, Volume 1: Dawn by Yoshiki Tanaka. Thanks to Viz Media’s speculative fiction imprint Haikasoru, Tanaka’s award-winning Legend of the Galactic Heroes novels are finally getting an official English-language release. Although Dawn is largely a standalone novel, it feels even more like an extended prologue to the ten-volume work as a whole, providing an introduction to the setting and the war that is the focus of the series. Much of Dawn is devoted to two opposing factions, the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance, but there’s also the Phezzan Dominion, a third faction which ultimately isn’t as neutral as it first appears. While the cast of characters in Legend of the Galactic Heroes is fairly large, at this point the most is known about two rival strategists—the reluctant hero Yang Wen-li and the ambitious genius Reinhard von Lohengramm—and their closest cohorts. With strategists as some of the main characters, a fair amount of legitimate battle strategy is included in Dawn which I particularly liked. There’s also a significant amount of politics involved in the story and none of the factions come out of the first volume looking very good with their warmongering ways.