My Week in Manga: July 22-July 28, 2013

My News and Reviews

I recently watched and enjoyed Kids on the Slope which inspired me to learn more about jazz in Japan. To that end, I decided to read one of the very few books on the subject, Jazz Journeys to Japan: The Heart Within by jazz writer and journalist William Minor. It’s part travelogue and part music criticism and history. Personally, I found Minor’s writing style to be annoying, but the information was great. Last week I also posted the most recent Library Love feature, which is now back on its regular bimonthly schedule.

Deb Aoki, the former editor of, has launched a new website of her own—Manga Comics Manga. She’s already posted some great content, including the list of manga from the Best & Worst Manga panel at the San Diego Comic-Con and the accompanying audio. Last week I mentioned some of the news from SDCC that I was particularly interested in, but Brigid Alverson has a nice roundup of most of the manga news from SDCC at MTV Geek and at A Case Suitable for Treatment Sean Gaffney takes a closer look at the licenses that were announced.

A few more interesting items that I’ve recently come across online: Toh EnJoe was interviewed at SFFWorld. Special attention is given to Self-Reference Engine, which remains one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. Also, the winners of the Silent Manga Audition competition have been announced and the winning entries have all been made available for download. Later this week, the Boys’ Love Manga Moveable will begin! Khursten of Otaku Champloo will be hosting and has already posted a couple of great giveaways: We want new webcomics! and Name your kinks.

Quick Takes

Flowers of Evil, Volumes 4-6 by Shuzo Oshimi. I have no idea where Oshimi is going with Flowers of Evil but the series seems to be getting better and better. Kasuga has changed considerably from who he was at the beginning of the manga. Nakamura has forced him to realize things about himself that he had tried to keep hidden or that he wasn’t aware of to begin with. And then there’s Saeki, who he once idolized but who isn’t the embodiment of purity he thought or wanted her to be. The relationship between the three is a dangerous and twisted triangle of love, power, and submission. Flowers of Evil is intense. It’s dark. It’s perverted. I’m looking forward to the next arc a great deal.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volume 11 by Naoko Takeuchi. The eleventh and penultimate volume of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon is the beginning of the final major story arc in the series. After an all too brief time of peace, the Sailor Guardians once again must face a powerful enemy. And this time the entire galaxy may be at stake. The last volume I read of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon was actually the fourth one, but I was still able to fall into the story of the eleventh fairly easily. I love how Takeuchi plays around with gender roles and expectations in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. The series continues to be frantically paced and occasionally difficult to follow, but its mix of silliness and seriousness is charming. I can understand why the manga is so well loved.

Yokai’s Hunger by Bohra Naono. I really wanted to like Yokai’s Hunger, and there were parts of it that I did enjoy, but for the most part the manga frustrated me. In particular, the legends and mythologies in this boys’ love one-shot were a complete mess. Koma is described as a tengu, but he’s depicted as a dog spirit rather than the usual avian-inspired yokai. Later the manga tries to merge Mesopotamian myths with the story; it doesn’t end up working very well. I didn’t realize when I first picked up Yokai’s Hunger that it was largely a comedy. The humorous moments in the manga are certainly much more successful than those attempting to be more serious. Yokai’s Hunger was actually quite funny in places.

Dear Brother, Episodes 21-39 directed by Osamu Dezaki. The second half of the Dear Brother anime adaptation picks up the pace from the first and I found myself consistently engaged. There is so much drama in the Dear Brother and it’s marvelous (even when it’s not particularly believable.) The story unfolds within the social dynamics of Seiran Academy and within the personal lives of the students. What happens at the academy pales in comparison to the tragedies outside of it. Some of the plot twists seem to come out of nowhere and some of the revelations are shocking, but it makes for an absorbing tale. The very last scene is a bit of a cop-out, but otherwise I found the ending of the series to be satisfying. I really enjoyed Dear Brother.

My Week in Manga: October 22-October 28, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Vampire Manga Moveable Feast. As part of my contribution, I reviewed Vampire Hunter D, Volume 1—Saiko Takaki’s manga adaptation of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s novel of the same name. I still haven’t read the original Vampire Hunter D novels, but the manga adaptation of the series is starting to grow on me. Keeping with the vampire theme, I also reviewed Hideyuki Kikuchi’s vampire novel Yashakiden: The Demon Princess, Volume 3. There are parts of Yashakiden that I really enjoy but there are just as many parts that frustrate me immensely. Since there are only two more volumes in the English release, and I’ve already come this far, I’ll probably end up finishing the series at some point. Completely unrelated to vampires, but because it’s a graphic novel I wanted to mention it here: Over at my other blog, Experiments in Reading, I’ve posted a review of Mark Siegel’s Sailor Twain: Or, The Mermaid on the Hudson, which I quite enjoyed.

Quick Takes

Apocalypse Zero, Volumes 1-6 by Takayuki Yamaguchi. Unfortunately, only six of the eleven volumes of Apocalypse Zero were released in English. I can’t say that I’m surprised and I don’t expect that the license will ever be rescued—the series will appeal only to those with a strong constitution and who aren’t offended easily. It’s extremely graphic, bloody and violent. The imagery is deliberately repulsive, gloriously grotesque, and highly sexualized. Honestly, I feel a little dirty admitting that I loved Apocalypse Zero in all of its outrageousness, but I did. Yamaguchi does make use of a lot of standard tropes and cliches, but he takes them to such ridiculous, over-the-top extremes that they are almost unrecognizable.

Bunny Drop, Volumes 5-6 by Yumi Unita. With a ten year time skip, Bunny Drop has become an entirely different series. It’s not bad, but it has lost much of charm that made the first four volumes stand out. However, the character interactions are still great. The “new” Bunny Drop probably wouldn’t be a series that I would follow had I not already been invested its characters. It seems to have turned into a pretty typical high school drama. I did enjoy seeing the kids all grown up though, Rin and Kouki especially. Unfortunately, Daikichi, who has always been my favorite, has almost become a secondary character in these volumes (although, a very important one). I do still like Unita’s artwork and plan on finishing the last few volumes in the series.

The Drops of God: New World written by Tadashi Agi and illustrated by Shu Okimoto. It’s sad to say, but New World may very well be the last volume of The Drops of God to be published in English. At the request of the author, this omnibus (collecting volumes 22 and 23 of the original release) jumps ahead in the story to a point which features New World wines. As Shizuku heads to Australia and Issei heads to America in search of the seventh apostle, they both manage to get into some serious trouble. The plot might be a little ridiculous at times, but I still find The Drops of God to be entertaining and informative. Who knew the world of wine could be so dangerous?

The Flowers of Evil, Volumes 2-3 by Shuzo Oshimi. I really thought that I was through with middle school dramas, but then I started reading The Flowers of Evil. The series is exceedingly dark and ominous. I have a hard time looking away as the events unfold. I have no idea where Oshimi is going with this series and I’m almost afraid to find out. It’s intense, to say the least. The characters in The Flowers of Evil are so incredibly messed up. Even those who at first appear “normal” have some serious issues; it’s hard to tell what’s really going on in their heads. Kasuga is caught in this agonizing relationship between Saeki, the girl he idolizes, and Nakamura, the girl who torments him but from whom he can’t seem to break away.

Tonight’s Take-Out Night! by Akira Minazuki. A collection of three boys’ love stories, Tonight’s Take-Out Night is the first manga that I’ve read by Minazuki. While I enjoyed the stories, the high-contrast art style is what really caught my attention. The stories are short, so the development of the couples’ relationships has to happen fairly quickly. However, Minazuki’s characterizations are strong enough that they carry the stories fairly well. I liked the pairings and I liked their relationships which were mostly free of non-consensual elements. The first and third story are both good-natured and a little quirky. But the second story, with it’s period setting and supernatural twist, was my personal favorite.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Volumes 1-6 produced by Studio APPP. Technically, the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure anime adaptation is two series. The last six episodes were released between 1993 and 1994 while the first seven were released between 2000 and 2002. I do prefer the manga over the anime, but the OVA series is an excellent adaptation. The anime strips the story down to it’s core. The humor and the horror elements of the original tend to be downplayed; the anime focuses mostly on the action and battles. This does mean that some of my favorite moments from the manga were cut, but all of the fights that are particularly important to plot and character development are included. No matter what the medium, I love JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

My Week in Manga: June 25-July 1, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Takehiko Inoue Manga Moveable Feast. For my contribution, I reviewed the second Vagabond omnibus. Vagabond is a phenomenal series based on Eiji Yoshikawa’s epic historical novel Musashi. Expect to see more reviews for the series here in the future. My most recent manga giveaway has also been posted. The winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win Yasuko Aoike’s From Eroica with Live, Volume 1!

Digital Manga’s Unico Kickstarter has reached both its initial goal and its first stretch goal, which means we’ll be seeing an English edition of Osamu Tezuka’s manga Unico as well as Atomcat. The next stretch goal, set at $47,000 (more than double the original goal), is for Tezuka’s manga series Triton of the Sea. Personally, I’m more excited about the possibility of Triton than I am about Unico and Atomcat combined. I’m also a little disappointed to see Triton of the Sea added as a secondary goal instead of receiving its own project.

As with Digital Manga’s other Kickstarter projects, the Unico project has caused debate within the online manga community as to whether an established publisher should be taking advantage of the platform. Alexander Hoffman has some More Thoughts on Kickstarter over at Manga Widget. There is also an excellent Manga Out Loud podcast episode that outlines some of the issues. The episode was released after Digital Manga’s Barbara Kickstarter project; Ed Sizemore is planning another episode on the subject, so keep an ear out for it.

Anime Expo took place over the weekend. I wasn’t able to attend, but there were a few announcements made that caught my attention. Rigtstuf has established a new division, Lucky Penny, which will allow them to release more anime. I’m particularly excited about two of the Lucky Penny licenses: the anime adaptation of Natsume Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso, to be released fall 2012, and Aoi Hana, based on the manga by Takako Shimura (the author of Wandering Son), to be released sometime in 2013. It was also announced at Tokyopop’s panel that the fourth and fifth volumes of the Hetalia manga will be released in English, although no definite plans have been set for their publication.

Quick Takes

The Flowers of Evil, Volume 1 by Shuzo Oshimi. I initially didn’t plan on picking up The Flowers of Evil, middle school drama isn’t generally my thing anymore, but after seeing the positive reactions from several other manga bloggers, I decided to give it a try. I’m glad that I did, because it’s a really intriguing title. One afternoon, Kasuga ends up stealing the gym clothes of a girl he likes (mostly by accident) and is seen by another classmate, Nakamura, who is intent on blackmailing him. I’m interested in seeing where Oshimi will take the series. I’m particularly curious about Nakamura, who’s a bit of a sadist; it’s hard to tell what’s going through her head and what her motivations and ultimate goals are.

Jyu-Oh-Sei, Volumes 1-3 by Natsumi Itsuki. I’ll readily admit that I’m a fan of shōjo science fiction, especially from the seventies and eighties. Jyu-Oh-Sei, serialized between 1993 and 2003, is reminiscent of the classics in the genre. Although there were parts that I enjoyed immensely, I didn’t find the series to be nearly as successful as some of those older works. Itsuki has a tendency to infodump instead of naturally incorporating plot and background details into the story. Not to mention that there were some inconsistencies in her world-building. Still, it is an entertaining series with gripping character dynamics. The third volume is particularly good as Itsuki ramps up the action, revealing several important plot developments in the process.

One Thousand and One Nights, Volumes 6-11 written by Jeon JinSeok and illustrated by Han SeungHee. The second half of One Thousand and Nights focuses a bit more on the development of the framing narrative. Sehara’s stories in the second half of the series are even more varied than in the first, ranging from Greek history to Romance of the Three Kingdoms to original tales. Unfortunately, they aren’t incorporated as well and the series isn’t as cohesive as a result. While I appreciate what JinSeok was attempting to do with the stories and that take place in the modern era, ultimately they don’t mesh well with the series as a whole. I did, however, really like the final twist to the story.

Rideback directed by Atsushi Takahashi. Rin Ogata is talented ballerina whose career is brought to halt due to an injury. She ends up joining her school’s rideback club where her exceptional sense of balance is an asset. Little does she know that this will lead to her being swept up in the political and military turmoil surrounding her country. The ridebacks are very cool machines (even considering the fact that they should really have a third wheel). A cross between a motorcycle and a humanoid robot, they are extremely maneuverable. I actually wish they were put through their paces a bit more in the series because they’re exciting to watch. Although some of the character development is rushed, Rideback is tightly plotted and highly engaging. Overall, it’s an excellent series.