My Week in Manga: July 28-August 3, 2014

My News and Reviews

Another week, another few posts at Experiments in Manga. First up was my most recent manga giveaway. Tell me about your favorite mecha manga (if you have one) for a chance to win the first volume of Mohiro Kito’s Bokurano: Ours. (The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to send in comments!) The first in-depth manga review of August went to In Clothes Called Fat, the most recent manga by Moyoco Anno to have been released in English. I honestly believe it to be one of the best comics of the year. (Well, at least out of those that I’ve read so far.) I also posted July’s Bookshelf Overload over the weekend for those of you who are interested in the manga that I purchase or otherwise receive over the course of a month.

Elsewhere online, Sparkler Monthly is celebrating its first year of publication by offering a free sampler download that includes the first chapter of all of its series—prose, comics, and audio dramas. Deb Aoki has a nice overview of some of the manga happenings at this years San Diego Comic Con over at Publishers Weekly. Jamie Coville has also posted audio for some of the SDCC panels, including a few focusing on manga. (Actually, there are a ton of manga related files on that page from past comic events, too.)

August 1 was 801 Day (aka Yaoi or Boys’ Love Day), and though probably not technically related the most recent Manga Studies column at Comics Forum focused boys’ love research in Japan. (Did you know that Guin Saga‘s Kurimoto Kaoru was also a BL author, editor, and scholar? Now you do!) There have been a few new Fujojocast episodes posted recently, including one specifically for 801 Day. I found episode seven, Give what’s due to Saezuru, which talks about translation, adaptation, and frustrations over publishers’ quality and quality control to be especially interesting. SuBLime made a “new” license announcement—it has gained the digital rights to couple of series that were previously print-only. The announcement is particularly noteworthy because it seems to indicate that SuBLime was able to do this because the Japanese publishers are beginning to trust that fans won’t abuse digital downloads.

Quick Takes

Cowboy Bebop, Volume 1Cowboy Bebop, Volumes 1-3 written by Hajime Yatate and illustrated by Yutaka Nanten. Of the two Cowboy Bebop manga that were released (Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star being the other), Nanten’s series is the one that is most similar to the anime. This makes a fair amount of sense considering that both the anime and the Cowboy Bebop manga were written by the same group of creators, whereas Shooting Star was really its own thing. The Cowboy Bebop manga is closer in tone to the anime’s more humorous episodes, though there is some seriousness as well. The overarching plot dealing with Spike’s feud with Vicious is largely missing, however the other character’s backstories are all filled in a little bit more. The manga, like the much of the anime, is generally episodic. Most of the stories wouldn’t have been too out-of-place with the anime itself, though for the most part I didn’t find them to be as strong as their televised counterparts. The manga will likely appeal most to those who have seen the anime and would like a chance to spend some additional time with the characters; the manga feels like bonus material and deleted scenes rather than anything substantial.

Deadlock, Volume 1Deadlock, Volume 1 written by Saki Aida and illustrated by Yuh Takashina. Though technically a boys’ love series, not much has happened in the way of romance after the first volume of Deadlock. However, there is a good deal of plot to be found, and I think that it’s a more interesting manga because of that. Yuto Lennix is a drug investigator who was framed for the murder of his best friend and partner. Incarcerated in the Californian state prison system, he has been given the chance to reduce his sentence by helping the FBI to determine the identity of terrorist leader who is believed to be a fellow inmate. That of course is assuming he doesn’t get himself killed first. It’s a somewhat idealized version of prison—everyone is very good-looking for one—but the portrayal of the racial tensions within the system is surprisingly realistic and generally avoids using stereotypes. So far, Deadlock has a fairly large cast. The social dynamics between the prisoners are a very important part of the manga as Yuto learns his place in the hierarchy while he carries out his investigation. Deadlock is currently an ongoing series; I sincerely hope that future volumes will be licensed when they’re released as well.

Madara, Volume 1Madara, Volumes 1-5 written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Shou Tajima. Apparently, Madara was one of CMX’s debut manga. I’ve been discovering some fantastic series from CMX. Sadly, Madara is not one of them. I initially became interested in the series because the creators are also responsible for the extraordinarily dark and graphic MPD-Psycho. The premise of Madara also appealed to me—a young man prophesied to be king fighting demons to restore the body that his father tried to destroy—but that’s probably because it’s so similar to Osamu Tezuka’s Dororo. Except that Dororo is actually good. Madara comes across as a fairly generic sword-and-sorcery RPG more than anything else. (The series actually did go on to inspire several video games, and even an anime.) It also seems as though Otsuka and Tajima are just making things up as they go. There’s not much of an ending, either. Small glimmers of Tajima’s stunning art style (which I love) can be seen, especially towards the end of the series, but the illustrations in Madara are tragically lacking in comparison. Granted, it is a much earlier series. Here’s a fun fact about Madara, though: the series was created in a left-to-right format.

Sonny Leads, Volume 1Sonny Leads, Volume 1 written by Richard Mosdell and illustrated by Genshi Kamobayashi. Sonny Leads holds a black belt in karate but he’s unsatisfied with his progress and so has come to Japan to further his training. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does, and he’s in for a bit of a culture shock, too. Both Mosdell and Kamobayashi are karateka and instructors. Their knowledge of and passion for karate definitely comes through in Sonny Leads. I especially like Kamobayashi’s artwork. Particular attention is given to the proper and realistic presentation of karate forms and stances as well as to more subtle details like the appearance of the knuckles developed and used for punches and strikes. As with most of Manga University’s publications, there’s also a strong educational element present in Sonny Leads—it’s possible to learn a bit of Japanese language and culture while reading it. A very interesting essay about high school karate clubs as well as a directory to the various karate organizations in Japan are also included in the volume. I’m not sure that Sonny Leads will have much general appeal, but as a karateka myself I’d be curious to see more of the series.

My Week in Manga: May 20-May 26, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Yumi Tamura Manga Moveable Feast, hosted at Tokyo Jupiter. For my contribution to the Feast, I reviewed Tamura’s Chicago, Volume 1: The Book of Self and Chicago, Volume 2: The Book of Justice. Chicago was the first of Tamura’s manga to be officially released in English. The series had great potential, so it was shame that Tamura prematurely ended it after only two volumes. Anna of Tokyo Jupiter also took a look at Beauty and Grit in Tamura’s Chicago, with a particular focus on the use of music in the series.

While paging through the August 2013 issue of Otaku USA I came across a review for Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices. I don’t know how I missed the fact that this book was being published; there currently seems to be very little information about it available. It’s being edited by Manga Bookshelf‘s Melinda Beasi for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Contributing authors include Katherine Dacey, Shaenon Garrity, Sean Gaffney, Ed Chavez, Erica Friedman, and Robin Brenner. The book is being funded by a gift to CBLDF from The Gaiman Foundation. I might have just heard about Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices, but I’m already very excited for its release.

I recently came across two manga review projects while wandering around on the Internet. The anime blog The Cart Driver has begun a series of Manga Driver posts focusing on, but not limited to, great manga series that haven’t yet been adapted into anime. The queer literature blog I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? has a new intern exploring LGTBQ Teen Manga. Aaron’s list of manga to review includes boys’ love and yuri as well as manga from other genres. (The reviews can be found by browsing the blog’s manga tag.)

I mentioned a few months ago that Vertical’s contract for Keiko Takemiya manga will soon come to an end, meaning that her two series To Terra… and Andromeda Stories will sadly be going out of print. (Additionally, any remaining stock that Vertical has after the cutoff dates will be destroyed.) Right Stuf has a little more information and is currently offering the manga at 40% off. To Terra… in particular is a fantastic series. If you haven’t already read Takemiya’s manga, this would be a good time to pick them up for a great price before they’re gone for good.

Finally, the manga blog Manga Weekend is hosting a Manga Olympics for Bloggers (MOB). Unfortunately, I won’t be able to participate due to my personal and work schedules. I’ll be doing a lot of traveling in June; it’ll be tough enough just to keep Experiments in Manga’s posts on schedule. I do plan on keeping my eye MOB, though, and hope to discover some new manga blogs in the process.

Quick Takes

Heroes Are Extinct!!, Volumes 1-3 by Ryoji Hido. I was taken completely by surprise by how entertaining and funny Heroes Are Extinct!! was. Sentai fans in particular will appreciate the series, but others should enjoy it, too. Heroes Are Extinct!! begins as a fairly standard parody but as it progresses Hido incorporates inter-galactic politics and court intrigue as well. Grand Galactic General Cassiel of the Bazue Empire has been charged with conquering Earth, but is disappointed by the lack of heroes. (He may have watched a little too much Earth television as a child.) With no suitable foe present, he begins training the Earth Force Terra Rangers to make his invasion a little more interesting.

MPD-Psycho, Volume 10 written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Shou Tajima. At the end of 2011 the tenth volume of MPD-Psycho was released by Dark Horse after a two year hiatus. Since then there has been no word if any later volumes will be published. There were some pretty big plot reveals in volume ten, so I sincerely hope that more of the series will be seen in English. The manga isn’t without its problems, but I do find it engaging overall. MPD-Psycho is a graphic, violent, and dark series with an increasingly strange and convoluted plot. Clones, bizarre murders, cults, eugenics, and secret organizations all play important roles even when it’s not immediately clear what those roles are. Tajima’s creepy art style suits the disconcerting story nicely.

Only Serious About You, Volumes 1-2 by Kai Asou. Although Only Serious About You is a boys’ love series, it’s just as much about Nao trying to raise his young daughter Chizu as a single parent as it is about his developing relationship with Yoshi, an openly gay man who freqents the restaurant where Nao works. The initial circumstances surrounding the two men getting together seemed a little forced to me. (Coming down with a fever seems to be a really big deal in Japan.) However, their bond develops very realistically from there. Only Serious About You is a charming and sweet manga. With its emphasis on family and cooking, it’s also one of the most domestic boys’ love stories that I’ve read.

Sunny, Volume 1 by Taiyo Matsumoto. I have become rather fond of Matsumoto’s work and so was excited when Viz announced it would be publishing his most recent manga series Sunny, and in a beautiful hardcover edition no less. The manga follows a group of kids living in a children’s home who either don’t have families or have been separated from them for one reason or another. The narrative isn’t straightforward; instead, Sunny is more a collection of impressions. Many of the vignettes are rather melancholic—none of the kids’ situations are anywhere close to being ideal. But there are moments of cheerfulness and genuine caring as well. Although some might find it ugly, I really enjoy Matsumoto’s artwork. His color pages in particular are lovely.

Dear Brother, Episodes 1-20 directed by Osamu Dezaki. Dear Brother is a thirty-nine episode anime adaptation from the early 1990s based on Riyoko Ikeda’s classic yuri manga. Nanako Misonoo is a first year at Seiran Academy, an elite all-girls school. There she is caught up in the drama surrounding three of the most popular girls in the school. As the series progresses the relationships between the characters are revealed to be incredibly complicated. They can also be very tragic, angst-ridden, and twisted. At times the Dear Brother anime is almost ponderous in its pacing while at other times it’s marvelously melodramatic. I’m really looking forward to watching the second half of the series.

My Week in Manga: February 28-March 6, 2011

My News and Reviews

The Manga Moveable Feast for March is coming up in a couple of weeks (March 20-26), which I believe will be hosted by Linda at Animemiz’s Scribblings. The feast will be focusing on Aria by Kozue Amano. I’ve been meaning to read the series for a while now, so this will be a perfect excuse to finally get around to it.

Arguably the biggest happening in the world of manga last week was the news that Tokyopop will be laying off more of its staff. Brigid Alverson at Robot 6 wrote a passionate response (Tokyopop lays off senior editors) that got quite a few people talking. Daniella Orihuela-Gruber, a freelance editor at Tokyopop, offers a personal response to the news at All About MangaLife of a (Rookie) Editor: Love and Job Security.

A couple of weeks ago, Jason Thompson (Manga: The Complete Guide) wrote a post for io9 that I almost missed about the insane political satire and mahjong manga The Legend of KoizumiThe Legend of Koizumi: Japanese Politics, Mahjon Action and Space Nazis. It’s not currently available (legally) in English, but I hope that one day it will be. I tried to put a bug in Vertical‘s ear last time they were looking for license requests, but I’m not sure it was noticed.

Last week I announced the Have Some Hetalia Winner and posted the Bookshelf Overload for February. Also, a few more resources have been added to the Resources page: Animanga Nation, Anime, Manga and Manhwa Reviews, Animemiz’s Scribblings, and A Life in Panels (which I thought was already listed, but I guess not). And apparently green was the featured color for this week’s manga quick takes.

Quick Takes

Legal Drug, Volumes 1-3 by CLAMP. Currently, Legal Drug is on hiatus; there hasn’t been a new volume released since 2003. The first two volumes are somewhat episodic, although hinting at an overarching plot, while the third volume is primarily devoted to a single story. Things can be a bit confusing at times, and occasionally the plot is a little hard to follow, but I do like the overall story so far. Even more, I like the characters. Though, having only three volumes makes it difficult to really get to know them. But they certainly all have their own distinct personalities, and it’s a lot of fun to watch them interact. I found the artwork to be quite nice as well.

MPD-Psycho, Volumes 7-9 written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Shou Tajima. I’m still not quite sure I understand everything that’s going on in MPD-Psycho, but I’m still completely fascinated by it. The artwork, too, while vaguely disconcerting is enthralling; it helps emphasize the creepy qualities of the story. I would really like to know what’s going on, so I hope that Dark Horse publishes another volume soon. The series is up to fifteen volumes in Japan, but the the last volume in English was released almost two years ago. Towards the end of last year I heard that Dark Horse planned to resume publishing, but I haven’t seen anything since then.

Natsume’s Book of Friends, Volumes 1-3 by Yuki Midorikawa. It’s been a while since I read the first volume of Natsume’s Book of Friends; I had forgotten how much I enjoy the series. It was first recommended to me because I liked Yuki Urushibara’s series Mushishi. Both series are primarily episodic, although Natsume’s Book of Friends has more recurring characters. They also both have a sort of nostalgic, melancholy feel to them. Natsume’s Book of Friends tends to have a bit more humor than Mushishi and is more approachable and straightforward for younger readers. But that doesn’t mean older readers won’t enjoy it, too. I know that I certainly do.

Saturn Apartments, Volume 2 by Hisae Iwaoka. Mitsu continues learning more about himself and his father in this second volume of Saturn Apartments. I’m enjoying watching as he allows himself to grow closer to the people he works with. I’m not entirely sure why, but I absolutely adored the entire conversation revealing Tamachi’s obsession with eggs. It’s amusing to watch everyone hang out and rib on each other. I’m glad the Mitsu is beginning to feel like part of the group, but I do still worry about him. There’s still a fair amount of mystery surrounding his father’s accident; I’m particularly interested in learning more about this aspect of the story.

Berserk directed by Naohito Takahashi. I am more or less obsessed with Kentaro Miura’s manga series Berserk, so it was only a matter of time before I picked up the anime as well. The storyline has been streamlined and focused but there were definitely parts that I missed. Some of the emotional impact is reduced, but there were still moments that gave me chills. Susumu Hirasawa’s soundtrack is great. Overall, it’s a fantastic adaptation; the most important aspects and themes of the story remain intact although the supernatural elements are downplayed (at least until the end). The anime does end rather abruptly; it probably could have used one or two more episodes to tie everything together better.

My Week in Manga: October 11-October 17, 2010

My News and Reviews

Finally, I have posted my first in-depth manga review in over a month—Brilliant Blue, Volume 2. I’m really going to try to post more manga reviews in addition to all of the reviews I post for novels and nonfiction. My goal right now is two in-depth manga reviews per month. Eventually I’d like to do one a week, but that would be pushing it for me right now.

In other news, I also reviewed the first Haruhi Suzumiya light novel, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Although it has a few issues, overall I found the book to hilarious and quite enjoyable. Also, be on the lookout for my next manga giveaway starting later this week. Enter for a chance to win a nice copy of Mushishi, Volume 6.

Quick Takes

Chi’s Sweet Home, Volumes 1-2 by Konami Kanata. This series is just so incredibly cute and adorable. Kanata has perfectly captured the felineness of Chi and the loving cluelessness of her adopted human family. The artwork, while simple, is marvelous. I’m very glad that Vertical chose to keep it in color—I think it would have lost some of its effectiveness otherwise. Chi’s babytalk really annoyed me at first, but I eventually grew used to it or was at least able to ignore it for the most part. I’m not sure how much this series will appeal to those who aren’t cat people, but I absolutely love it.

Love Hurts: Aishiatteru Futari by Suzuki Tanaka. Love Hurts is a collection of four stories, three of which are vaguely boys’ love and all of which are slightly on the dark side. The first two stories are very loosely related to each other while the others are completely separate. It’s kind of a strange collection with murderers, superheros, and aliens all playing their part. It’s not great but it’s certainly not horrible and I did enjoy reading it. Plus Koharu has simply got to be one of the cutest manga guys I’ve seen in a while and fortunately for me, he shows up in two of the stories.

MPD-Psycho, Volumes 4-6 written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Shou Tajima. This series is turning out to be quite different than what I was expecting, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. From the first few volumes I thought it would be mostly about Kazuhiko Amamiya, but it turns out he’s a very small part in a very big picture that has yet to be complete revealed. Although the story is becoming more complex and convoluted, it is still utterly fascinating and I can’t help but want to read more. Tajima’s artwork continues to be fantastically unsettling, as does Otsuka’s story.

Song of the Hanging Sky, Volumes 1-2 by Toriko Gin. Published by the now defunct Go! Comi, only the first two volumes of what I believe is a four volume series have been released in English. Toriko’s character designs, which appear to be heavily influenced by Native American cultures, are simply beautiful. The story can be a little confusing at times, but things become more clear as the series progresses. The first volume introduces the characters while the second volume looks more closely at the tragic history of the ancient race of bird-people. I really hope someone picks up this license—it’s very different from most of the other manga I’ve read so far and quite lovely.

Yellow, Omnibus Editions 1-2 by Makoto Tateno. I had previously read the first omnibus edition but had forgotten how funny it was. The second volume takes a much darker turn, although some of the humor remains. Yellow is by far my favorite work by Tateno that I’ve read so far. Taki and Goh are simply marvelous together and the secondary characters are great as well. It’s starts off rather episodic, but by the end there’s a solid plotline going on. Sometimes the solutions to the riddles posed are rather ridiculous, and the drama can be over the top and completely unrealistic, but the series is a lot of fun to read. I’ll definitely be looking into Yellow 2.

Mushishi, Episodes 1-26. I love Yuki Urushibara’s manga series Mushishi and was excited to learn that an anime series of the story was also made. This has to be one of the most literal anime adaptations that I’ve seen—it’s like reading the manga except it has sound and color. The backgrounds and landscapes are absolutely gorgeous and the music lovely and atmospheric. Although the stories appear in a slightly different order, they’re all original to the manga. It’s not a series for everyone—it’s slow and episodic, and rather strange at times, but I love it.

My Week in Manga: October 4-October 10, 2010

My News and Reviews

Experiments in Manga has been going for two months now! So far I’ve been pretty happy with how things have turned out, but I am going to try to start posting more full length manga reviews. Unfortunately, the site search still isn’t working as well as I would like it to and I can’t seem to fix it—very frustrating. Just as a heads up: I’ll be posting the October giveaway next week and this time you’ll only have one week to enter instead of two. You have been warned.

This past week I posted a review for Natsuhiko Kyogoku’s novel Loups-Garous, published under Viz Media’s Haikasoru imprint. It’s an oddly fascinating piece of science fiction mixed with mystery. Library Love, Part 3 gives you a glimpse at some of the manga I’ve been borrowing from my local library—they’ve even thanked me for helping out with their circulation statistics, that’s how much manga I read. And finally, over on Experiments in Reading I reviewed the second book in Jane Lindskold’s Breaking the Wall series, Nine Gates. It’s heavily influenced by Chinese legend and mythology, but most importantly mahjong!

Quick Takes

Library Wars: Love & War, Volumes 1-2 by Kiiro Yumi. Based on the light novel series by Hiro Arikawa, which I really want to read now but it’s not currently available in English, this is one of two manga adaptations. The armed Library Defense Force has been established to protect books against censorship and defend readers’ rights. As a librarian myself, I really couldn’t pass up on such a great story concept. Iku is passionate about her work, but I really wish she wasn’t quite so scatterbrained. The second volume is better than the first so I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of the series and I hope it continues to improve.

MPD-Psycho, Volumes 1-3 written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Shou Tajima. I’ve been reading and enjoying Otsuka’s The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and thought I would give his more controversial MPD-Psycho a try. It’s gory, disturbing, and absolutely fascinating. Tajima’s art fits the story perfectly—it’s stylish and quite often disconcerting. After killing the serial murderer that attacked his girlfriend, Detective Yosuke Kobayashi’s multiple personality disorder is triggered and Kazuhiko Amamiya becomes the dominant personality. His complicated past is slowly revealed and I’m looking forward to reading more of the series to see where things are going to go.

Twin Spica, Volume 1 by Kou Yaginuma. This is really a lovely and heartfelt start to a manga series. I’ve heard so many good things about Twin Spica and they are all true. Asumi does seem to me to be too childlike for a fourteen-year-old, but she is a wonderful character and her interactions with other characters, especially her father, are great. I want to cheer her on as she pursues her dream to become an astronaut. While the art is on the cute side, the story is wistful and realistic near-future science fiction. I have a feeling I’ll be following this manga through to the end. Even after only reading the first volume, I highly recommend this series.

Vassalord, Volumes 1-3 by Nanae Chrono. This series got its start as a pinup illustration. No, really, it did. It’s a strange mish-mash of things that Chrono just felt like throwing together, and in an odd sort of way it works. When I heard that one of the main characters was a gay cyborg vampire who wants to be a priest and who works as a mercenary for the Vatican, I couldn’t pass it up. It’s outrageous, ridiculous, and frequently sacrilegious, but certainly unique. The action and plot are often confused and don’t always make much sense, but Chrono’s artwork provides some great eye-candy—especially with the sexy, sexy vampires Rayflo and Rayfell.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Episodes 1-13. The Ghost in the Shell film was one of the first anime that I ever saw and it made a big impact on me. So, I was excited when a television series came out based on Masamune Shirow’s original manga, but it wasn’t until now that I’ve gotten a chance to sit down and watch the whole thing. Yoko Kanno, one of my absolute favorite composers, is responsible for the soundtrack and it’s fantastic. Stand Alone Complex is divided into two different types of episodes, “Stand Alone” which stand alone and “Complex” which follow the Laughing Man plot line. I find that I really have to pay attention while watching otherwise I miss something important, but it’s good stuff.