My Week in Manga: February 18-February 24, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Naoki Urasawa Manga Moveable Feast. Organization Anti-Social Geniuses did a great job hosting. For my contribution to the Feast, I reviewed the first of Urasawa’s works to be released in English: Pineapple Army. The volume collects ten stories from the eight-volume series Pineapple Army written by Kazuya Kudo and illustrated by Urasawa that focuses on the exceptionally capable Jed Goshi, a Japanese-American Vietnam war veteran. As promised, I also posted a review of Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima by Naoki Inose and Hiroaki Sato. It is easily the most comprehensive single-volume work on Mishima currently available in English. It’s a huge volume, but well worth the effort it takes to read it if, like me, you have an established interest in Mishima.

I’ve made a few updates to the Resources page. The Manga Critic has now been absorbed by Manga Bookshelf and so no longer has its own entry. I did come across a newish blog that looks to be quite interesting, What Is Manga?, which is described as “a regular interrogation of what Japanese “comics” are and are not.” A couple of publisher websites have also disappeared: Bandai Entertainment and Icarus Comics. However, I did add Drawn and Quarterly (which was missing for some reason) and the newly established Chromatic Press to the list.

Elsewhere online, Gen Manga has launched a Kickstarter project for the print run of Sorako, one of the magazine’s stronger stories. A fascinating conversation between Igarashi Daisuke (Children of the Sea, etc.) and Taiyo Matsumoto (Tekkon Kinkreet, etc.) made its way onto Tumblr. The newest installment of Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga focuses on Kingyo Used Books which unfortunately (but probably not surprisingly) has been canceled in English. I was also  sad to learn about the passing of Donald Richie, an influential writer and lover of Japan.

Quick Takes

Cyborg 009, Volume 7 by Shotaro Ishinomori. There is something about Cyborg 009 that makes me really happy to read it. Volume seven concludes part five of the series, which features the showdown between the zero-zero cyborg prototypes and the Myutos cyborgs. Initially I wasn’t overly impressed by the Myutos cyborgs. Their designs are inspired by Greek mythology, which seemed to be a rather strange and not entirely convincing combination. However, I quickly got over it and just enjoyed the story and its nearly non-stop action. The fights don’t just boil down to who happens to have the better or stronger superpower. Cleverness, teamwork, and character are just as important.

Eyeshield 21, Volumes 8-10 written by Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. Eyeshield 21 is definitely not the most realistic sports manga. Although there are a few serious-minded themes, Inagaki and Murata revel in the more absurd and humorous elements of the series. I think that’s really what makes the series work for me. That and Murata’s dynamic and engaging artwork. These three volumes wrap up the America story arc with the Deimon Devil Bats facing off against the NASA Aliens. Eventually the team ends up in the United States for a few days of utterly ridiculous summer training. Yes, Eyeshield 21 is over-the-top and hardly believable, but it is highly entertaining.

Rabbit Man, Tiger Man Volume 1 by Akira Honma. After rescuing the life of Nonami, a yakuza boss, timid Uzuki suddenly discovers that he’s caught the attention of a very dangerous man. Admittedly, the basic premise of the manga isn’t particularly original; I’ve read plenty of other boys’ love stories with a similar setup. Even so, Rabbit Man, Tiger Man has a nice mix of humor and drama and I’m quite fond of the characters. I particularly liked Nonami. He’s a tough guy, but he also has a very sweet nature. His underling Taka is pretty great, too. I actually quite enjoyed this first installment of Rabbit Man, Tiger Man. I’ll most likely be picking up the next volume at some point.

VS Aliens by Yu Suzuki. In addition to being one of Gen Manga’s debut stories, VS Aliens was also the first story in the magazine to be collected in its entirety in a single volume. Unlike a few of the other Gen Manga collections, there is no additional material included in VS Aliens that didn’t originally appear during its initial serialization. One day, Kitaro is approached by Segawa, one of his classmates, who seems to be convinced that another girl in their class, Sakuma, is an alien. Not wanting to hurt either of the girls’ feelings, Kitaro tries his best to figure out what’s going on. But that may turn out to be a little more difficult than he realizes. VS Aliens is a rather silly manga but an enjoyable piece of fluff and an amusing, quick read.

My Week in Manga: October 29-November 4, 2012

My News and Reviews

Over the past weekend, I posted the first in-depth manga review for November—Yaya Sakuragi’s Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 1 published by Viz Media’s new boys’ love imprint Sublime. I’m a fan of Sakuragi’s work and so was very happy to have more of it published in English. Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love isn’t my favorite manga by her, but I still enjoyed it. Last week I also posted October’s Bookshelf Overload. I had a little too much fun on ebay last month, so I’ll be trying to curb my impulse buys for at least the rest of the year. Finally, the most recent manga giveaway is going on. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first seven issues of the original English-language release of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. I didn’t realize it until now, but as can be seen by the quick takes below, I spent last week reading a bunch of out of print manga. Most, except for a few of the Cyborg 009 volumes, are still fairly easy to find, though. (Fortunately, Comixology plans on releasing all of Cyborg 009 and the rest of Shotaro Ishinomori’s works digitally.)

Quick Takes

Angel Nest by Erica Sakurazawa. Apparently, Angel Nest is the second book in a loosely related three-volume series. I haven’t read the other two, but Angel Nest stands on its own, so it doesn’t really matter. The four-story collection takes its name from the first and longest story, which I actually found it to be the least interesting one out of the bunch. (Although, I did get a kick out of the angel’s preference for gin.) In “God Only Knows,” a gay man tries to hook up his straight best friend with a girl. “Tea Time” follows a woman who finds comfort in a tour guide when her boyfriend seems to have abandoned her. And in “A Gift from the Heavens,” a young man finds unexpected companionship after stealing a car on a whim.

Broken Blade, Volumes 1-3 by Yunosuke Yoshinaga. It took a little while to grow on me, but I ended up quite liking the first three volumes of Broken Blade. Unfortunately, the rest of the series is unlikely to ever be licensed in English. (But at least we have the anime adaptation.) Rygart Arrow is one of the very few people born without the ability to control magic, making him somewhat of an outcast, but he may also be the key to his country’s survival as the continent becomes embroiled in war. I did have some difficulty telling the different golem designs apart, which didn’t help during the fairly frequent mecha battles, but the worldbuilding and multi-faceted characters in Broken Blade are great. I particularly liked the intrigue surrounding the leadership of the various factions.

Cyborg 009, Volumes 1-6 by Shotaro Ishinomori. I’m not sure why it took me this long to get around to reading Cyborg 009, but I’m glad that I finally did. (Now I just need to track down the rest of the English volumes.) A group of misfits from all over the world are kidnapped and coerced into serving as human guinea pigs for the Black Ghost organization’s experimental cybernetic enhancements. After escaping, the zero-zero series is constantly being pursued by increasingly more advanced cyborgs. However, it’s the prototypes’ remaining humanity that allows them to prevail. Cyborg 009 is almost all non-stop action; the confrontations occur everywhere from deep sea trenches to outer space.

Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President, Volume 1 by Kaiji Kawaguchi. As election day approaches in the United States, I thought it would be appropriate to give Eagle a try. The manga takes place during the 2000 American presidential election. Takashi Jo, a Japanese reporter, is personally selected by presidential candidate Senator Kenneth Yamaoka to serve as his foreign correspondent. Jo eventually comes to realize that Yamaoka may very well be his father. Having a bastard son is the type of scandal that could ruin Yamaoka’s chance of being elected. Even though I have very little interest in politics and therefore found portions of Eagle to be rather tedious, the manga is well-written and I’m curious to see where Kawaguchi might go with the story.

Truly Kindly by Fumi Yoshinaga. Truly Kindly is an enjoyable but somewhat peculiar collection of boys’ love stories from Yoshinaga. I’m not sure how these seven stories ended up being collected together since there doesn’t appear to be an overarching theme. Some are very serious in tone, others are romantic, and some tend towards the goofier side of things. The first three stories are modern tales (two take place in Japan and one in the United States) while the rest are period and historical pieces. Truly Kindly also includes the story “A Butler’s Proper Place” which takes place during the French Revolution (a time period favored by Yoshinaga) and is the basis for another of her works, Lovers in the Night.