My Week in Manga: December 22-December 28, 2014

My News and Reviews

The end of the year is drawing near and because of the holidays I’ve been traveling quite a bit to see family. Despite being in a part of the country with less than ideal and spotty Internet access for most of the week (middle-of-nowhere Ohio), I still managed to post a few things. The honor of the final in-depth manga review of the year goes to Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It, one of my most anticipated releases of 2014. Technically it’s more than just manga—the anthology includes photography, essays, creator profiles, and more. It’s a fantastic work, and highly recommended for anyone even remotely interested in gay manga. Last week I also posted my list of notable releases from 2014. Massive is on the list, as are many other works, including comics and prose in addition to manga. It’s the second year I’ve done a list like this and I enjoyed making it, so I think it’ll probably become an annual feature.

One of the other notable manga that made my list was Makoto Yukimura’s marvelous Vinland Saga. Sadly, Kodansha Comics announced on Twitter that publication of the series has been temporarily suspended. No official explanation or reason has been given at this time (although there has been plenty of speculation), but Kodansha hopes to have more to say about the situation come the new year. Elsewhere online, Mangabrog has posted a lengthy translation of Brutus magazine’s interview with Hajime Isayama from its November 2014 Attack on Titan special issue. And although it’s not exactly manga news, the Smithsonian has begun putting the Pulverer Collection online—an impressive collection of Japanese illustrated books—along with related essays and videos. There were probably some other interesting things happening last week, but like I mentioned I’ve been traveling and visiting with family, so let me know if I missed something!

Quick Takes

Missions of Love, Volume 7Missions of Love, Volumes 7-9 by Ema Toyama. It’s been a little while since I’ve read Missions of Love, but it didn’t take me very long at all to fall back into the twisted relationship drama of the series. I’m actually glad that I had a few volumes saved up to read all at once since I tend to speed through the manga so quickly. Missions of Love is a series that has me easily turning page after page just to see how audacious the storyline can be without actually crossing the line into something blatantly indecent. The series is smutty and extremely suggestive. The characters are terrible people, selfish and manipulative. Their relationships are a twisted, tangled mess. But I can’t seem to turn away from the outrageousness of the series. Several confessions of love are made over the course of these particular volumes which only serve to complicate further an already complicated situation. And on top of that, Yukina’s preschool teacher, who unintentionally traumatized her when she was his student, is back in the picture which creates even more turmoil. Missions of Love certainly isn’t the most wholesome manga series, but it is an addicting one.

Punch Up!, Volume 1Punch Up!, Volumes 1-4 by Shiuko Kano. Although Punch Up! is a technically spinoff of Play Boy Blues, which was never completely released in English, knowledge of the earlier series isn’t necessary; Punch Up! stands perfectly well on its own. Kouta is a young but skilled construction worker who, thanks to a missing cat, ends up becoming the roommate of Motoharu, a successful and sought-after architect. Eventually, and not too surprisingly since this is a boys’ love manga, the two of them hook up as well. And since they both enjoy sex, it’s a frequent occurrence in the series. (One of Motoharu’s most prominent and amusing character traits is how horny he is.) Punch Up! also features a lengthy amnesia arc. Normally this isn’t a plot device that I’m particularly fond of, but it actually does provide for some interesting character development in the manga, so I’m a little more forgiving than I might otherwise be. Punch Up! has a fair amount of humor to it and a large cast of interesting secondary characters. And cats. For the most part I enjoyed the series, but there were a few things—like the treatment of Kouta’s older transgender sibling—that left something to be desired.

Silver SpoonSilver Spoon, Season 2 directed by Kotomi Deai. It’s unlikely that Hiromu Arakawa’s award-winning manga series Silver Spoon will ever be licensed in English (although I would love to see it released), but at least the anime adaptation is available. I thoroughly enjoyed the first season of Silver Spoon and the second season is just as good if not better. Silver Spoon is a wonderful series. For me, part of the anime’s appeal is that it actually reminds me of home—I grew up in a small, rural farming community—and I can greatly empathize with the plights of the series’ characters and their families when tough decisions must be made. The importance of family is actually one of the second season’s particular emphases. Farming is not an easy or forgiving profession and deserves much more respect than it is often given. Silver Spoon doesn’t sugarcoat the harsh realities of agricultural work, but at the same time it isn’t overly pessimistic, either. There are humorous, cheerful, heartwarming, and even inspiring elements that nicely balance out the anime’s seriousness and occasional tragedy and sadness. Silver Spoon has great characters and character growth. I only wish that there was more of the series!

My Week in Manga: November 11-November 17, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week was apparently “Blade of the Immortal Week” here at Experiments in Manga. I finally got around to reading and reviewing Blade of the Immortal: Legend of the Sword Demon, a novel written by Junichi Ohsako with illustrations by Hiroaki Samura, which is a re-imagining of the early part of the manga series. Honestly, I was disappointed with it and would only recommend the novel to fellow Blade of the Immortal completists. I also reviewed Blade of the Immortal, Volume 27: Mist on the Spider’s Web. With that review, I have now caught up with the English released of the Blade of the Immortal manga series. And so, I wrote some random musings on Wrapping Up the Blade of the Immortal Monthly Review Project.

And now for a few interesting things found online last week. SciFi Japan has a great interview with Zack Davisson, the translator for the recently released Showa: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki. The School Library Journal’s Good Comics for Kids has an interesting roundtable on Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints. Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son, Volume 4 is one of the nominees for the 2014 Rainbow Book List. (As is Julie Maroh’s Blue Is the Warmest Color, for that matter.) And finally, Kodansha Comicss participated in Reddit’s Ask Me Anything. I haven’t had the chance to read through all of the comments yet, but what I’ve read so far has been interesting.

Quick Takes

Battling BoyBattling Boy by Paul Pope. I have enjoyed Paul Pope’s work in the past and so I was very excited for the release of Battling Boy, his most recent graphic novel. What I didn’t realize was that it was the first volume in what will be at least a two-volume series, not including the recently announced prequel The Rise of Aurora West. It was a little frustrating to reach the end of Battling Boy just when things were really starting to pull together only to discover that it stops without any sort of conclusion and not even much of a cliffhanger. Still, Battling Boy is a tremendous amount of fun and I did enjoy it. I appreciate Pope’s offbeat humor and slightly surreal and absurd storytelling. The artwork’s pretty great, too. Following the eponymous demigod Battling Boy as he struggles to complete his coming-of-age ceremony and become a hero, the graphic novel is Pope’s original take on the superhero origin story. While he brings his own touch to the genre, there are plenty of influences from other comics (such as Batman and Thor to name two) that can be seen in the work.

Endless RainEndless Rain by Yuuya. I’ve not had particularly good luck with the boys’ love that I’ve been reading recently and Endless Rain hasn’t changed that. I can’t say that I enjoyed this one-shot much at all. Despite having a happy ending (which I am not at all convinced would happen) the manga isn’t particularly pleasant and includes what basically amounts to forced prostitution. The plotting is sloppy, the narrative is difficult to follow and at times doesn’t make any sense, and the characterization is inconsistent. With Hyougami’s vendetta against the Kasuga family and the bad blood between Akira Kasuga and his father Endless Rain had some potential, but Yuuya doesn’t quite pull it off. Maybe if the manga was a little longer it wouldn’t have been such a mess. As it is, Yuuya tries to cram in too much and it ends up rushed. The only part of Endless Rain that I really liked was Iwao—a scarred and severe-looking yakuza who dotes on Akira’s younger brother. Contrary to his appearance, he’s actually a very sweet guy. Unfortunately, he only briefly shows up as a side character.

Missions of Love, Volume 5Missions of Love, Volume 5 by Ema Toyama. Although I am familiar with the basic premise of Missions of Love, I haven’t actually read any of the series until this volume. When I heard the manga described it seemed so trope-filled that I just couldn’t muster up any interest in it despite the rather provocative covers. But now I’m kind of sorry that I missed out on the earlier volumes. Yes, there are quite a few tropes being used, but the twisted romantic relationships are mesmerizing even if they aren’t particularly healthy. None of the characters are really very nice people and their interactions are a mess of lies and manipulation. Missions of Love is very suggestive and scandalous even though all that really happens in this volume (well, except for the emotional exploitation) is a bit of ear nibbling. I can see why others call Missions of Love addicting; I know that I want to read more. The only thing that really annoyed me about Missions of Love is how Yukina’s glasses are drawn (or rather how the aren’t drawn)—the lines used are so minimal that they barely seem to exist at all.

Silver SpoonSilver Spoon directed by Tomohiko Ito. Based on the award-winning manga series Silver Spoon by Hiromu Arakawa (which was in part inspired by her experiences growing up on dairy farm), the Silver Spoon anime adaptation is quite well done. The series is very forthright and honest about where food comes from, including the raising and slaughtering of animals for meat. I know that particular subject will distrub some viewers, but I think it is something that is important for people to understand and the anime does handle it very well. Many of its characters are also conflicted over it. One of the major story lines of Silver Spoon has to do with Hachiken, the protagonist, trying to come to terms with what it is he eats. However, life and the taking of it is treated with immense respect in the series. I myself grew up in a farming community among the cows, corn, and soybeans (my neighbors actually happened to be dairy farmers), and so I could appreciate Silver Spoon‘s realistic portrayal of the challenges faced by those who make their living caring for animals and crops.