My Week in Manga: June 20-June 26, 2011

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Wild Adapter Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Manga Bookshelf. I was already very fond of Kazuya Minekura’s Wild Adapter and so was very excited to read everyone’s contributions. In addition to a few comments about the series as a whole in last week’s My Week in Manga, I also reviewed the first volume and posted some random musings about mahjong in relation to the series—Random Musings: Mahjong, Kubota, and Wild Adapter. I was very pleased with how well my mahjong post seemed to go over. Next month’s Manga Moveable Feast will feature Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket and will be hosted by David Welsh at The Manga Curmudgeon.

And briefly, for a much better and complete look at the manga Hot Gimmick which I provide a quick take for below, see Jason Thompson’s recent House of 1000 Manga column: Hot Gimmick.

Quick Takes

Isle of Forbidden Love by Duo Brand. I’ve only read one other Duo Brand manga, but I tend to like their artwork. Isle of Forbidden Love is a nice but not outstanding one shot. I found the science fiction trappings, creating a legitimate excuse to mix Edo period Japan and firearms, to be much more interesting than the boys’ love elements. The romance itself felt too rushed to me to be realistic and I wasn’t convinced by how quickly the characters fall for each other. But other than that, I did like the story as a whole. The omake included are pretty great, too, especially the three “On the Edge” segments where Duo Brand discuss their sword and spear fetishes and how they like to incorporate them into their works.

Hanako and the Terror of Allegory, Volume 1 by Sakae Esuno. I’m a fan of Japanese folklore and urban legends and so am always interested in manga that explore them in some way, which is how I found out about Hanako and the Terror of Allegory. And with a title like that, I couldn’t pass up opportunity to give the series a try. The first volume features stories about the man with an axe under the bed, the slit mouthed woman, and the human-faced fish. I like the concept of the series where allegories and legends literally haunt people and Esuno does some interesting things with it. I particularly like Detective Aso. He’s completely fed up with investigating these strange cases and happens to be haunted himself. Also, he has an impressive porn collection.

Hayate X Blade, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 4-6) by Shizuru Hayashiya. I’m really enjoying this series and hope that Seven Seas is able to license more of Hayate X Blade. It’s fun and goofy, plus, you know, it has cute girls and sword fighting. I appreciate the fact that there are so many unique and individual characters and that they all get a chance to shine. With such a large cast, there is plenty of opportunity for craziness and drama. Each pair of sisters-in-arms have their own issues to work out. The only thing that disappoints me about the omnibus collections is that the excellent translation and editors’ notes from the individual volumes are not included for some reason.

Hot Gimmick, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-3) by Miki Aihara. Holy cow, Hot Gimmick is one extraordinarily twisted but addictive manga series. I’ve seen it described as a bodice-ripper in manga form and from what I’ve seen so far that seems to be pretty accurate. Poor Hatsumi is surrounded by utter assholes who only want to use her as a means to an end. Every once in awhile it seems like they might redeem themselves, but no, they’re still assholes. Even when she gets up the courage to stand up for herself it never works out for her. The only decent guy in her life seems to be her older brother, but that relationship has some complications to it as well. If only she hadn’t agreed to buy that pregnancy test for her younger sister…

Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Student Council Saga directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. The Student Council Saga is the first of three boxed sets to be released by Nozomi and consists of the first twelve episodes of the Revolutionary Girl Utena anime. I had never seen the anime before but I have absolutely fallen in love with this series. It’s surreal and strange, but also extremely compelling. It is also frequently hilarious and always dramatic. There’s a lot plot-wise that hasn’t been explained, and I don’t know if it ever will be, but I don’t care. I can’t wait for the next box set, The Black Rose Saga, to be released. Revolutionary Girl Utena has easily become one of my favorite anime series.

My Week in Manga: December 13-December 19, 2010

My News and Reviews

Some of you lovely readers are already aware of my glasses frame crisis, but I’ve been using a very old prescription for the last week (I think it’s from 2002, if not before). Because of this, I didn’t do as much reading as I would have liked because my eyesight is terrible and it gives me a headache. Also, apparently all the manga I read had to have a pink cover this week. However, I did discover that watching TV didn’t cause too much of a problem as long as I wasn’t expected to read subtitles. So, I ended up watching a lot of English dubbed anime. And speaking of anime: Crunchyroll is now available on the Roku player, woohoo!

This past week I posted my first in-depth manga review for December—I was very excited to see the publication of Yaya Sakuragi’s Stay Close to Me and hope more of her work is licensed in English. I also posted my first entry in my Finding Manga series where I gave some tips on finding and buying manga through Half.comFinding Manga: on All About Manga, Daniella Orihuela-Gruber has been gathering together the 2010 Great Manga Gift Guides. It’s a great list of great lists, so you should check it out.

Finally, I meant to mention this last week but forgot. Over on Experiments in Reading I have a review posted for the anthology Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories about People Who Know How They Will Die. It’s a great collection and worth a read. Machine of Death includes the story “Prison Knife Fight” by Shaenon K. Garrity who is a freelance manga editor for Viz among other very cool things. The only explicitly Japan-related story (yakuza!) is “Improperly Prepared Blowfish” by speculative fiction author Gord Sellar who is currently living South Korea. 

Quick Takes

Cardcaptor Sakura, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-3) by CLAMP. Dark Horse’s omnibus reprints of CLAMP’s work have been of extremely high quality and the first gorgeous volume of Cardcaptor Sakura is no exception. Once upon a time I had seen a few episodes of the anime adaptation that I really enjoyed, so I was excited to finally get a chance to read the original story. So far, the manga is utterly delightful. I was afraid the cuteness might be overwhelming, but it’s balanced nicely against the more serious elements of the story. There is also plenty of humor, and I enjoy watching the interactions and the developing relationships between the characters. I’ll definitely be following this series.

Hate to Love You, by Makoto Tateno. In the United States, Tateno is primarily known for her boys’ love works and Hate to Love You was her first foray into the genre. Despite being the sons of rival real estate agencies, Masaya and Yuma became childhood friends although by the time they reach high school they’ve grown apart. But their constant fighting about their fathers’ businesses, which they stand to inherit, can’t hide the fact they still harbor feelings for one another. “Hate to Love You” wasn’t bad, but I found the unrelated bonus story “You Can’t Call It Love” to be more memorable. It’s not a pleasant story, in fact it’s rather dark and disturbing, but it is more emotionally potent.

Hayate X Blade, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-3) by Shizuru Hayashiya. Hayate X Blade is one of the few yuri-ish manga that I’m familiar with in English translation. It’s a bombastic action comedy that doesn’t always make a lot of sense but it is a lot of fun. I’m not entirely sure what the point of the Sword Bearer program is, other than being an excuse to have cute girls fight one another, but I’m okay with that. Not to mention the fact that I’ve developed a huge crush on Ayana (as well as a few others). I’m really enjoying this manga. It may be a bit ridiculous at times, which in this case is not a bad thing. It’s funny, has great art, and the girls are all unique in looks and personalities.

The Lily and the Rose, by Dany & Dany. The Lily and the Rose is the first work that Dany & Dany, a pair of Italian manga creators, wrote specifically with a United States audience in mind. Their artwork is quite accomplished and distinctive; I’ve never confused their style for anyone else’s. Christophe and Alain fell in love as schoolmates, but Christophe chose the priesthood over his friend. With Christophe gone, Alain is left with nothing but a burning desire to kill the man who murdered his mother. Seven years later the two meet again under less than ideal circumstances—Alain has been charged with catching Christophe in a scandal, creating one if necessary.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Second Season directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first Haruhi Suzumiya light novel so I figured I’d give the anime a try as well. The second season is based on some of the later books. The animation team does some really cool things with color and lighting, especially in the “Endless Eight” sequence of episodes. Although the speculative fiction elements of the story are marvelous, Kyon is really what makes this series work for me. Although outwardly resigned to being the only “normal” person in the SOS Brigade, his inner dialogue and griping is hilarious.

Monster, Episodes 28-39 directed by Masayuki Kojima. These episodes include the University of Munich Library arc which has some of the most epic scenes in the entire story. I was really looking forward to seeing this part, and was not disappointed. At this point, the story also reveals quite a bit more about Johan and just how disconcerting he really is. Some plot threads are introduced in this section that don’t really go very far (this was the case in the manga as well), so I was surprised to see them included while some of the arguably more pertinent scenes were significantly compressed or dropped entirely. Had I not previously read the manga, I think I may have been confused by some of what was going on, but overall this is still an excellent adaptation.

One Piece, Season One: First Voyage directed by Kōnosuke Uda. I wasn’t particularly taken by Romance Dawn, the first volume of the One Piece manga, but I saw so much love for the series during the Manga Moveable Feast that I haven’t given up on it yet. It only took me a few episodes of the anime to get me hooked. Oda’s manga works fantastically well in adaptation and his artwork was just asking to be animated. (Although almost everyone seems to have bizarrely long arms. Luffy, okay that makes sense, but Nami, too?) The English voice cast is simply perfect and I loved the use of music for dramatic purposes, especially in the early episodes.