My Week in Manga: October 19-October 25, 2015

My News and Reviews

I posted a couple of different things at Experiments in Manga last week in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. Having recently read and enjoyed Yukito Ayatsuji’s debut novel The Decagon House Murders, I made a point to finally get around to reading and reviewing his first novel released in English, Another. Though I felt a little cheated by one of the plot twists, overall the novel is a great mix of horror and mystery. I enjoyed the story so much that I plan on checking out the manga and anime versions, too. (Seems like a good candidate for an Adaptation Adventures feature.) My other post last week was some random musings on A Moment of Respite in Kohske’s Gangsta. Basically, a single scene from the sixth volume of the manga (more specifically, a sequence of three panels from that scene), inspired me to write more than a thousand words about some of the things that I particularly appreciate and love about the series.

A few things of interest found online last week: First of all, the most recent entry in Ryan Holmberg’s What Was Alternative Manga? column, Gottfredson’s Illegitimate Heirs: Tezuka Osamu and the Great Wall of 1945, was posted at The Comics Journal. Speaking of Tezuka, Stone Bridge Press will be publishing the manga The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime in a single, massive volume. In other licensing news, NBM Publishing continues to release graphic novels in the Louvre Collection. Hirohiko Araki was the first Japanese creator to contribute to the series with the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure spinoff Rohan at the Louvre, but In 2016, Jiro Taniguchi’s full-color Guardians of the Louvre will be translated.

Quick Takes

A Centaur's Life, Volume 4A Centaur’s Life, Volumes 4-5 by Kei Murayama. I love the world that Murayama has created for A Centaur’s Life. A fair amount of the worldbuilding can be found within the series’ narrative, but there’s also a ton of supplementary material between chapters—lessons in history and biology and such. The full introduction of a new character in these volumes, a transfer student who’s also an Antarctic snake person, allows for even more worldbuilding to be incorporated directly into the manga as she is learning about cultures outside of her own while the other students are learning about hers. The issues of race and discrimination that come up fairly frequently in A Centaur’s Life can sometimes be a little heavy-handed or simplistic, but the lessons learned are good ones. The series does tend to be fairly episodic, and even the individual stories and chapters can be fairly fragmented. They give glimpses into the characters and their lives without there necessarily being much of a plot. Generally, A Centaur’s Life is fairly charming and sweet though it has moments that, for one reason or another, are vaguely disturbing, too.

LDK, Volume 1LDK, Volume 1 by Ayu Watanabe. I’ve largely enjoyed most of Kodansha Comics’ recent shoujo series (or at least found something about them that I’ve liked even if as a whole they didn’t work for me), so I was looking forward to giving LDK a try. I believe that LDK is Watanabe’s first manga to be released in English. I’m not especially familiar with her or her series, but she seems to primarily work in shoujo romance. LDK falls squarely into that category. However, after only one volume, I remain completely unconvinced by the supposed romantic chemistry between who will obviously become the lead couple after they end up living together. Part of my difficulty probably stems from the fact that I don’t particularly like either of the characters involved. Shusei is frankly a jerk with apparently no sense of how to express his interest in another person without being an absolute creep. And sadly Aoi is so concerned about doing right by her best friend that she doesn’t actually listen to what she says or needs. On top of that, so far LDK is just a little too generic in both its story and artwork for me to feel truly engaged with the series.

Passion, Volume 1Passion, Volumes 1-4 written by Shinobu Gotoh and illustrated by Shoko Takaku. I actually read the first volume of Passion several years ago, but the series begins so unpleasantly (opening with what appears to be a rape scene) that it took me this long to get around to finishing it. I gave it a second chance for two reasons: I was assured by others that the series improves and I’m loving the artist’s more recent series I’ve Seen It All. While it’s still not a favorite of mine, Passion does get significantly better. That opening scene which was so awful has repercussions for everyone involved and ends up being handled rather well by the creators. Hikaru is a high school student who is desperately in love with Shima, one of the teachers at his school. He forces himself on Shima and, after a peculiar turn of events, the two initially pretend to be lovers. But then their relationship continues to deepen. It turns out Shima is terribly manipulative, but he does recognize that about himself and is extremely troubled by it. Passion takes place over the course of multiple years. It’s interesting to see how the characters grow and evolve while dealing with their bad decisions.

My Week in Manga: September 15-September 21, 2014

My News and Reviews

Two manga reviews were posted at Experiments in Manga last week, both with a bit of queer bent to them. First, I took a look at Wandering Son, Volume 7 by Takako Shimura. Wandering Son is a series that means a tremendous amount to me personally, so I’m always happy when a new volume is released. (And speaking of releases—Fantagraphics assured me that the eighth volume will be published sometime next year.) My second review from last week was of Fumi Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 4, which I continue to thoroughly enjoy (even though it can sometimes make me hungry when I’m reading it).

A while back I, and a handful of other people, were interviewed by Justin Stroman about why we buy manga. He turned it into a pretty great article, so I hope you’ll check out Why It’s Worth It to Buy Manga over on Manga Bookshelf. As a followup of sorts, Justin also posted Life As a Manga Fan in the United Arab Emirates at Organization Anti-Social Geniuses which was a fascinating read. Another interesting interview from last week was Tofugu’s conversation with translator and interpreter Jocelyne Allen who has translated a ton of manga among other things. Also of note: Breakdown Press recently announced its next alternative manga publication—Masahiko Matsumoto’s “The Man Next Door.”

Quick Takes

I've Seen It All, Volume 1I’ve Seen It All, Volumes 1-2 by Shoko Takaku. The featured guest of this year’s YaoiCon was Shoko Takaku. I realized that I hadn’t actually read any of her work, so I decided to pick up I’ve Seen It All. Dr. Saikawa is a specialist in men’s health, specifically addressing concerns dealing with genitals. By chance he meets and soon falls in love with Asano who is blessed with a “cock of peerless beauty.” I’ve Seen It All easily has the most references to penises that I’ve ever come across in a boys’ love manga. Saikawa is completely unfazed about it—it is his job after all—and no one else seems to be either which just makes the manga even funnier. Asano and Saikawa are adorable as a couple. It was also nice to see that they both try to make sure that the other enjoys their more intimate moments (of which there are plenty). The other characters are pretty great, too. Despite some of the more realistic elements of the series, I’ve Seen It All leans slightly more towards the silly and sweet. Happily, there is at least one more volume of I’ve Seen It All; I just hope that the rest of the series will be translated because I loved the first two volumes.

Monster Soul, Volume 2Monster Soul, Volume 2 by Hiro Mashima. I’ll admit, I did enjoy the second and final volume of Monster Soul slightly more than the first, but it’s still not a series that left much of an impression on me. Where the first volume was largely episodic, the majority of the second volume of Monster Soul focused on one story—the Black Airs’ efforts to rescue the souls of an entire kingdom of humans from the clutches of the Drei Kommandos. In the process, Mashima takes the opportunity to delve into the back stories of the individual members of the Black Airs. I personally appreciated that the characters were further developed, but the series is too short to really take advantage of it all. Although Monster Soul doesn’t stand out much, it is generally entertaining. The action sequences in particular are fairly well done. Admittedly, there are a few annoying character quirks that don’t make much sense within the context of the story as a whole, such as Mummy’s propensity for stripping for no particular reason. Overall, Monster Soul feels more like a prototype than anything else. It is very energetic, though.

Time KillersTime Killers by Kazue Kato. While I largely enjoyed Kato’s manga series Blue Exorcist, I never seemed to be quite as taken with the story as so many others were. However, I’ve always been fond of Kato’s artwork. And so, I was very interested in reading Kazuo’s short story collection Time Killers. The anthology collects eleven short manga selected from over a decade’s worth of Kazuo’s work, including some of her earliest and debut stories. Many of the manga included in Time Killers simply consist of whatever elements Kazuo felt like exploring and mashing together, completely disregarding what readers might be interested in. The manga ends up being a somewhat odd conglomeration with a strong indie feel to it, but I rather enjoyed its quirkiness. The collection also includes a story that is derived from the same source material as Blue Exorcist, which was interesting to see. It’s also worth noting that Time Killers is probably the nicest release that I’ve seen from Viz Media’s Shonen Jump imprint. It has a slightly larger trim size, includes beautiful color pages, and is printed on high-quality, glossy paper, too.