Manga Giveaway: Kodansha Comics Collection Winner

Happiness, Volume 1Nekogahara: Stray Cat Samurai, Volume 1
The Prince in His Dark Days, Volume 1Welcome to the Ballroom, Volume 1

And the winner of the Kodansha Comics Collection manga giveaway is… Amaya!

As the winner, Amaya will be receiving not one but four of Kodansha Comics print debuts from 2016: Shuzo Oshimi’s Happiness, Hiroyuki Takei’s Nekogahara: Stray Cat Samurai, Hico Yamanaka’s The Prince in His Dark Days, and Tomo Takeuchi’s Welcome to the Ballroom. As I was reflecting back on the manga of 2016, I found that I was particularly impressed by the increased variety in Kodansha Comics titles. And so, for this giveaway, I asked that participants tell me about their favorite 2016 Kodansha Comics manga, debuts or otherwise. Akiko Higashimura’s Princess Jellyfish seems to have garnered the most love and attention, but be sure to check out the giveaway comments for everyone’s excitement over all of the great manga released by Kodansha Comics this year!

Kodansha Comics 2016 print debuts:
Attack on Titan: Lost Girls written by Koji Seko, illustrated by Ryosuke Fuji.
Attack on Titan Coloring Book by Hajime Isayama
Attack on Titan Anthology edited by Ben Applegate and Jeanine Schaefer
Cells at Work by Akane Shimizu
Complex Age by Yui Sakuma
Fairy Tail: Twin Dragons of Saber Tooth by Kyouta Shibano
Fairy Tail: Zero by Hiro Mashima
Fire Force by Atsushi Ohkubo
Forget Me Not written by Mag Hsu, illustrated by Nao Emoto
The Ghost and the Lady by Kazuhiro Fujita
Happiness by Shuzo Oshimi
In/Spectre by Chashiba Katase
Interviews with Monster Girls by Petos
Maga-Tsuki by Hoshino Taguchi
Nekogahara: Stray Cat Samurai by Hiroyuki Takei
Neo Parasyte F by Various
Paradise Residence by Kosuke Fujishima
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Side: P3 by So Tobita
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Side: P4 by Mizunomoto
The Prince in His Dark Days by Hiko Yamanaka
Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura
Queen Emeraldas by Leiji Matsumoto
Real Account written by Okushou, illustrated by Shizumu Watanabe
Spoof on Titan by Hounori
Sweetness and Lightning by Gido Amagakure
That Wolf-Boy is Mine! by Yoko Nogiri
Welcome to the Ballroom by Tomo Takeuchi

As always, thank you to everyone who took the time to participate in the giveaway and for sharing your favorite Kodansha Comics manga with me. 2016 was a great year for manga and 2017 looks like it should be pretty darn good, too. But before we get to that, I hope to see you again for this year’s last giveaway!







Manga Giveaway: Kodansha Comics Collection Giveaway

Both the last Wednesday and the last day of November has arrived, so it is once again time for a giveaway at Experiments in Manga! Last week was Thanksgiving in the States which happens to be my favorite holiday. (I really enjoy the delicious food and spending time with my family. The extra sleep helps, too.) As is now tradition, I like the giveaways for November to involve a whole feast of manga in order to celebrate. This year you all have the chance to win four first volumes of manga released in English by Kodansha Comics in 2016: Shuzo Oshimi’s Happiness, Hiroyuki Takei’s Nekogahara: Stray Cat Samurai, Hico Yamanaka’s The Prince in His Dark Days, and Tomo Takeuchi’s Welcome to the Ballroom. And, as always, the giveaway is open worldwide!

Happiness, Volume 1Nekogahara: Stray Cat Samurai, Volume 1The Prince in His Dark Days, Volume 1Welcome to the Ballroom, Volume 1

As the end of 2016 steadily approaches I’m starting to think about the manga published in the last year that I found particularly notable. Inevitably, I’m asked what my favorite manga is and I generally try to get away with mentioning a single publisher rather than a single title. This year, I’ve especially been impressed by the manga that Kodansha Comics has been licensing and releasing. Over the last few years Kodansha has been successfully expanding its catalog and demographic reach, offering titles that were at one point rumored to either be unliscensable or otherwise highly risky. Josei? Kodansha has it. Classic manga? Kodansha has it. Sports manga? Kodansha has it. Food manga? Kodansha has that, too. In fact, some of my most anticipated manga releases for 2016 were published by Kodansha Comics and looking forward to 2017 it seems as though that will likely be the case next year, too.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a collection of Kodansha Comics?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little about a manga released by Kodansha Comics in 2016 that you particularly enjoyed and what you liked about it. (If you haven’t read or enjoyed any, simply mention that instead.)
2) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting, or retweeting, about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

And there you have it! Participants in the giveaway have one week to submit comments and can earn up to two entries. If needed or preferred, comments can also be submitted directly to phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com and I will then post them here in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on December 7, 2016. Good luck!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address in the comment form, a link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced–Manga Giveaway: Kodansha Comics Collection Winner


My Week in Manga: November 14-November 20, 2016

My News and Reviews

Nothing except the usual My Week in Manga feature was posted last week at Experiments in Manga. I was hoping to have my random musings on Ichigo Takano’s Orange ready for November, but the month has been particularly stressful and energy-draining so at this point it looks as though December will be far more likely. Hopefully, I’ll have an in-depth feature of some sort to share soon. I also have my list of notable release from 2016 to work on, too!

There is one thing from last week that I’m very excited for–the most recent Sparkler Monthly Kickstarter! The campaign is raising funds to support the print edition of Heldrad’s highly-amusing send-up to shoujo manga Orange Junk. I greatly enjoyed the first volume of Orange Junk, which I’ve previously reviewed, but the series gets even better as it goes along. Never read any of Orange Junk? Give it a try over at Sparkler Monthly and if you like what you see please consider contributing to the Kickstarter!

Quick Takes

Ajin: Demi-Human, Volume 3Ajin: Demi-Human, Volumes 3-8 by Gamon Sakurai. For a variety of reasons, while I’ve continued to stockpile Ajin, I’ve been rather lax when it some to actually reading the manga. The eighth and latest volume in English was released relatively recently, so I figured it was probably about time that I finally got around to catching up with the series. In retrospect, I’m actually kind of glad that I had a whole stack of Ajin to read all at once. The manga generally tends to be very quickly paced so it was nice to be able to move directly from one volume to the next in succession. Ajin is best, both in art and in storytelling, when there’s action going on. Sakurai’s fight sequences are tremendously dynamic and exciting. The use of the demi-humans’ immortality and black ghosts can actually be quite clever at times, too. While the series continues to be exceptionally violent and brutal, it doesn’t seem to be as gruesome and grotesque as it once was when the demi-humans were shown to be the subjects of live experimentation. The story can be a little heavy-handed, especially when it comes to government corruption and the revelation of everyone’s tragic backstories, but the psychological elements do tend to be handled well in spite of this.

Happiness, Volume 1Happiness, Volume 1 by Shuzo Oshimi. I’m not especially interested in vampires and they seem to have been so overdone lately that there often has to be some sort of extra impetus for me to actually pick up a vampire manga. In the case of Happiness, the additional push that was needed came from the fact that Oshimi is also the creator of The Flowers of Evil, a manga series which left a pretty big impression on me. Oshimi is incredibly skilled at establishing the mood and atmosphere of a series. Happiness is about Okazaki, a bullied high school student who survives being attacked by a vampire only to become one himself. The pacing of Happiness is leisurely, showing only the first few days of Okazaki’s new existence as he struggles to adjust to his emerging symptoms. Given how the first volume unfolds, Okazaki’s descent into vampirism can easily be read as a metaphor for puberty and sexual awakening; it will be interesting to see if the manga continues in that direction. Happiness has an underlying sense of eroticism mixed in with its horror which, at least in my opinion, is exactly how a vampire story ought to be. There is also a fair amount of angst in the manga, something that I’ve come to expect from Oshimi’s work.

Kitaro, Volume 2: Kitaro Meets NurarihyonKitaro, Volume 2: Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon by Shigeru Mizuki. I am still absolutely thrilled that more of Mizuki’s Kitaro manga is being released in English. However, I was a little sad that the second volume of Drawn & Quarterly’s new series didn’t include the same sort of bonus activities that were present in the first. Those were fun. But then again, Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon is plenty of fun in and of itself. In addition to an opening essay and a closing set of yokai files by the series’ translator Zack Davisson,  the volume collects seven of Mizuki’s short Kitaro manga, most of which are from the latter part of the 1960s although one is from the late 1970s. Generally when I think of yokai, I think of traditional Japanese folklore. However, the term can also be applied more broadly. In Kitaro, Mizuki doesn’t limit himself and incorporates mythology, urban legends, and popular culture from both within and outside of Japan. For example, in Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon, a descendant of Dracula plays a very important role in one of the stories. Sometimes the results are more cohesive than others, but I particularly enjoy and find it interesting how Mizuki is able to meld seemingly disparate elements and traditions together.

Nekogahara: Stray Cat Samurai, Volume 1Nekogahara: Stray Cat Samurai, Volume 1 by Hiroyuki Takei. Best known as the creator of Shaman King (which I somewhat surprisingly haven’t actually read yet), one of Takei’s most recent manga series is Nekogahara. Story-wise, it’s a fairly familiar tale of a ronin wandering the country, doing good deeds while trying to outrun past tragedies. There are numerous manga, novels, anime, and film that follow a similar premise. What makes Nekogahara stand out from all of those is that all of the principal players are literally cats. Granted, they’re cats dressed in kimono, carrying swords, and so on. Humans exist in Nekogahara, too, more or less as the daimyo, though they are generally discussed rather than seen. The lead of Nekogahara is Norachiyo, a scarred tom who was once a kept cat but who is now living his life as a stray. He is an extremely capable fighter and legend has it that he once even killed a person. Both the story and the visuals of Nekogahara rely on chanbara tropes. The actual flow of movement and action can sometimes be difficult to discern, but overall the artwork and character designs are rather stylish. Nekogahara is played fairly straight, but the characters’ more cat-like behaviors do bring levity to the manga.

The Black Cat Takes a Stroll: The Edgar Allan Poe LecturesThe Black Cat Takes a Stroll: The Edgar Allan Poe Lectures by Akimaro Mori. Bento Books doesn’t release very many titles, but the publisher’s books tend to be interesting so I make a point to keep an eye out for them. The Black Cat Takes a Stroll is one of Bento Books most recent releases. In addition to being the first volume in Mori’s Black Cat series, it was also the winner of Japan’s inaugural Agatha Christie Award for mystery fiction. The book collects six largely episodic but related short stories featuring the Black Cat, a young but respected professor specializing in aesthetic truth, told from the perspective of his personal assistant, a female graduate student whose research focuses on Edgar Allan Poe. I really wanted to like The Black Cat Takes a Stroll more than I actually did. I love the series’ basic concept and all of the literary and cultural references found in the stories. Sadly, the mysteries come across as trying too hard to be intellectual or overly academic and their solutions are frequently convoluted and coincidental. In addition to that, despite having a few charming and endearing quirks (such as his fondness for strawberry parfaits), the Black Cat tends to be infuriating more than anything else, misusing his intelligence in a way that is deliberately cryptic and intentionally manipulative of both the narrator and readers.

My Week in Manga: October 27-November 2, 2014

My News and Reviews

October is finally over, and I somehow managed to survive! I’ve been extremely busy at work which bled over into the rest of my life and has interfered with a lot of things that I would otherwise rather be doing. I’m really hoping that my stress levels and schedule settle down a bit in November, but my immediate supervisor is retiring in December and I’ll be taking on some more responsibilities in my unit (at least temporarily), so we’ll see how that goes! Anyway, I was somehow able to keep on top of my posts here at Experiments in Manga. The most recent manga giveaway is currently in progress and there’s still time to enter for a chance to win Sherlock Bones, Volume 1. Since this past Friday was Hallowe’en, I decided it would be appropriate to review Junji Ito’s manga Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror. It’s been deservedly called a masterpiece, and the deluxe omnibus edition is especially nice. And over the weekend, I posted October’s Bookshelf Overload for those of you interested in what made it onto my bookshelves last month. I’m sure there was plenty of interesting reading to be found online, but I’m afraid I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to pay much attention recently. Let me know if I missed something particularly good!

Quick Takes

Angel Sanctuary, Volume 1Angel Sanctuary, Volumes 1-5 by Kaori Yuki. It’s pretty clear after reading the first few volumes of Angel Sanctuary that this manga is going to be epic, for better or for worse. Angel Sanctuary has a huge cast (most with multiple names and multiple identities) and easily enough material for several completely different and unrelated series. So much is crammed into the early volumes that I’m afraid that Yuki might be trying to do too much at once with the manga. Though he is initially unaware of it, Setsuna is the reincarnation of the angel Alexiel, fated to suffer for her past deeds life after life. This causes significant problems for him—other angels and demons are searching for Alexiel,  some to reawaken her soul and some to completely destroy her. But even more problematic is Setsuna’s incestuous love for his younger sister Sara. So far the story is somewhat confusing and difficult to follow, albeit with moments of brilliance. However, I do consistently enjoy Yuki’s gothic artwork, tragic melodrama, and gender play. Many of Yuki’s angels also happen to be sexist assholes, completely capable of murder, deception, and greed, which is certainly an interesting take on the celestial beings.

The Flowers of Evil, Volume 10The Flowers of Evil, Volumes 10-11 by Shuzo Oshimi. Several years have passed since the incident in Kasuga’s hometown and his tumultuous relationship with Nakamura. The time has now come for him to face everything that he has done in his past and to confront how his actions have affected the people in his life—his family, his former classmates, his girlfriend, and most importantly himself. Up until now, he has been unable to move on with his life. His past, though he tries to hide it or run away from it, still defines who he is. The finale of The Flowers of Evil is a very effective exploration of personal identity and responsibility. Oshimi’s artwork, while never awful, has improved tremendously since the beginning of the series. This is particularly important for the last two volumes of The Flowers of Evil since large portions of the manga are completely without dialogue or narration; the art must be strong enough to carry the story entirely on its own, and it succeeds in that. The Flowers of Evil is a surprising series, ending with a very different tone and in a very different place than where it first began. It was quite a journey and it was worth every page.

Free!: Eternal SummerFree!: Eternal Summer directed by Hiroko Utsumi. I rather enjoyed the first season of Free! and was pleasantly surprised to discover that in addition to its goofiness the anime series actually had some substance to it. And so I was looking forward to watching its second season, Eternal Summer. A lot of the humor and drama in the second season comes from the introduction of several new characters. It was a little strange to have best friends suddenly appear when I’m pretty sure they weren’t even hinted at in the first season, but I ended up really liking the additions to the cast. Although most of the characters see some development, most striking is how much Rin has changed from the first season. His anger and angst is mostly gone and he’s become fairly chill, although he’s still very passionate about swimming. It’s a passion that he shares with the other swimmers in the anime, but each has his own approach and way of expressing it. They really don’t always make the best, wisest, or most mature decisions, though. (Not that I would expect that teenagers would.) Driving the narrative of Eternal Summer is the characters’ struggles and searches for their dreams and futures. The season provided a very satisfying conclusion to Free!.

My Week in Manga: April 28-May 4, 2014

My News and Reviews

I was in Texas for much of last week, attending a conference for work, but I was still able post a few things here at Experiments in Manga. The most recent manga giveaway is underway, for one. This month you all have a chance to win the first omnibus of Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist. All you have to do is tell me a little about some of your favorite women mangaka. April’s Bookshelf Overload was also posted; there were all sorts of great releases last month. And finally, the first in-depth manga review of May goes to the very recently released Vinland Saga, Omnibus 3 by Makoto Yukimura. Vinland Saga is one of my favorite series currently being published in English. The entire series is epic and third omnibus is awesome.

Because I was traveling and caught up in conference goings-on, I may have missed some news. (If there’s something that caught your interest last week, do let me know!) However, I did come across a few things that made for good reading. I particularly enjoyed Tony Yao’s post at Manga Therapy, The Ambiguously Amazing Hange Zoe which discusses things like Attack on Titan, gender, and ambiguity. I recently reviewed Jen Lee Quick’s Off*Beat, Volume 2 in preparation for the release of the third and final volume. The series’ editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl offers some Editorial Thoughts on the End of Off*Beat, one of Chromatic Press’ flagship titles. RocketNews24 offers a list of the twenty most popular manga in Japan, based on publication numbers. Justin Stroman interviews Eric Eberhardt (Viz Media’s Director of Digital Publishing) about Viz’s new digital imprint VIZ Select.

And for those of you in the Toronto area next week and weekend, do be sure to check out the Toronto Comic Arts Festival! There will be some phenomenal programming and incredible creators in attendance (including Moyoco Anno, Est Em, and Akira Himekawa among many, many more), and it’s free! TCAF is the only comic festival/conference that I go to and I highly, highly recommend it.

Quick Takes

Constellations in My PalmConstellations in My Palm written by Chisako Sakuragi and illustrated by Yukine Honami. I happen to really enjoy Honami’s artwork—a somewhat softer style with light but expressive lines—so I’ve slowly been getting around to reading the various boys’ love manga that she’s worked on. As far as I know, Constellations in My Palm is the only manga that Sakuragi has written. It’s a fairly realistic romance and tends to be somewhat quiet and subdued. It’s narrated by Mizuho, a college student, whose younger cousin Enji moves in with his family as he is about to start college, too. When they were younger they were very close, but it’s been seven years since they’ve been in contact with or seen each other. Mizuho and Enji both care about each other, but their relationship has become awkward and strained. Constellations in My Palm has some wonderful moments in it, but I was largely frustrated by the manga. So much of the story is driven by misunderstandings, and many of them aren’t even the result of miss-communication. Generally, it’s Mizuho who’s the culprit—even when he’s told something straight to his face, repeatedly, he simply can’t or chooses not to believe it. As Mizuho has some self-esteem issues this does fit his character, but it doesn’t make it any less exasperating.

The Flowers of Evil, Volume 7The Flowers of Evil, Volumes 7-9 by Shuzo Oshimi. I’ve been waiting for the entirety of the third arc of The Flowers of Evil to be released before reading it. I’m glad that I did, because once I started I didn’t want to put the manga down. After the resolution of the incident at the summer festival, there is a timeskip of three years. Kasuga and his family have moved to a different town in order to start over, but he is still haunted by his past. His relationship with his parents is broken and almost nonexistent. His new classmates tolerate him, but he remains distant and disconnected (and understandably so). But then he meets and, despite his weirdness and strange behavior, is befriended by Tokiwa—a popular and attractive girl whom all of the boys have a crush on. Like Kasuga, she’s hiding parts of herself from others, too. On the surface, the third arc is almost tame when compared to what came before it, but it is still extremely effective. It has a very different sort of intensity than the previous arcs. The story has become more subtle but retains a constant undercurrent of dread. Even when good things happen it seems as though they could only possibly be a prelude to some sort of disaster. The Flowers of Evil is an incredibly engaging series and just keeps getting better and better.

Say I Love You, Volume 1Say I Love You, Volume 1 by Kanae Hazuki. I didn’t really know much about Say I Love You before reading the first volume; I was vaguely aware of the series because of its recent anime adaptation (which I haven’t seen yet), but that’s about it. There’s not really much of a “hook” per se in Say I Love You. The characters are fairly normal. The story isn’t particularly unusual. The the two leads are Mei Tachibana—who although she avoids making friends is very aware of others and their feelings—and Yamato Kurosawa—whose popularity stems from his good looks but who otherwise is extremely average. So far the manga is simply about a group of teenagers living out their high school years. This includes all of the cliques and the bullying, the stress caused by interpersonal relationships, the self-consciousness and the issues of self-esteem. But that realism is probably the series’ strength. Say I Love You has some humorous moments, but I wouldn’t really describe it as a comedy at this point since in general Hazuki takes a more serious approach with the series. I’m actually very curious to see how Mei and Yamato’s relationship continues to develop, as well as how the relationships between the other characters evolve as well.

Wolfsmund, Volume 3Wolfsmund, Volumes 3-4 by Mitsuhisa Kuji. At first Wolfsmund seemed to me as though it was going to be an episodic series, but with the third and fourth volumes the manga has focused in on an overarching narrative. However, the bleakness and brutality that has been present from the very start of Wolfsmund remains constant. These volumes see the beginning of the Swiss rebellion against the Austrian occupation and all of the violence and death that entails, including the incredible siege of the Wolf’s Maw at Sankt Gotthard Pass. The uprising has been in the planning stages for quite some time, but now the rebels finally have the opportunity to take action. 14th-century warfare is not pretty. There are very good reasons why attacking an overtaking a fortress are difficult tasks to accomplish—they are built to withstand assault and are designed to allow defenders to wreak havoc on invading forces and to cause tremendous amounts of damage. The rebels must face skilled soldiers, traps, fire, molten lead, boiling water, and more. And on top of that Wolfram, the bailiff of the Wolf’s Maw, is a vicious and sadistic leader who is not above torture. In fact, he seems to delight in it. Wolfsmund continues to be a dark and intense manga that is definitely meant for maturer audiences.