My Week in Manga: September 11-September 17, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted August’s Bookshelf Overload which lists the manga, comics, and other media that found their way into my home last month. Otherwise, it was fairly quiet here at the blog, but I did come across some great interviews elsewhere online: Paul Semel interviewed author Kazuki Sakuraba whose novel A Small Charred Face will be released in translation this week. (I actually recently reviewed the book; it’s well-worth picking up.) Susannah Greenblatt interviewed Motoyuki Shibata, one of the cofounders of the Monkey Business literary magazine, discussing translation and Japanese literature among other things. (I’ve previously reviewed some of the early issues of Monkey Business.) And for something a little more manga-centric, Brigid Alverson interviewed manga editor Yumi Sukimune who works with Akiko Higashimura on Princess Jellyfish (which I greatly enjoy) in addition to other series.

And then there’s the licensing news from last week. Udon Entertainment, for example has plans to release Yuztan’s Dragon’s Crown manga adaptation. Most of last week’s manga and light novel licensing announcements came from another Seven Seas’ sprees, though: Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter manga by Reia and Suki Umemiya; two companion volumes to Kore Yamazaki’s The Ancient Magus’ Bride (which I’ll definitely be picking up); Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest manga by Ryou Hakumai and RoGa; the original Cutie Honey manga by Go Nagai; The Dungeon of Black Company manga by Youhei Yasumura; Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! light novels and manga by FUNA, Itsuki Akata, and Neko Mint; Go For It, Nakamura! manga by Syundei (probably the one I’m personally most excited about); Himouto! Umaru-chan manga by Sankaku Head; How Not to Summon a Demon Lord manga by Yukiya Murasaki and Naoto Fukuda; How to Treat Magical Beasts manga by Kajiya; Hungry For You: Endo Yasuko Stalks the Night manga by Flowerchild; If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord manga by CHIROLU and Hota; Little Devils manga by Uuumi; Mushroom Girls in Love, a one-volume manga by Kei Murayama; Precarious Woman Executive Miss Black General by Jin; Satan’s Secretary manga by Kamotsu Kamonabe; The Voynich Hotel manga by Seiman Doumanv. It’s an interesting mix!

Quick Takes

Delicious in Dungeon, Volume 2Delicious in Dungeon, Volume 2 by Ryoko Kui. I absolutely loved the first volume of Delicious in Dungeon and after reading the second volume my opinion of the series hasn’t changed–I still find it tremendously entertaining. The conceit of Delicious in Dungeon is fairly simple and straightforward. Basically, Kui has taken a dungeon-crawling adventure and turned it into a food manga. It’s a brilliant combination of subgenres with endless possibilities when it comes to the sheer variety monsters that could end up as a meal for the manga’s protagonists. While this alone could carry the series a fair distance (especially considering the immense creativity Kui exhibits in how fantasy creatures might be used to either directly or indirectly support an adventurer’s diet), Delicious in Dungeon also benefits from having a main cast that largely consists of a bunch of endearing goofballs. Kui has also started to expand on the actual worldbuilding of the series, too. While the manga still relies fairly heavily on the well-established tropes of fantasy role-playing games, small details are being introduced that make the setting of Delicious in Dungeon a little less generic. Of course, part of the series’ humor and charm is firmly based on Kui taking familiar fantasy elements and twisting them just a bit. It’s all great fun.

Sweetness & Lightning, Volume 6Sweetness & Lightning, Volumes 6-7 by Gido Amagakure. Although I love food manga, I never generally read a particular title thinking that I’ll actually make any of the recipes that might be contained within it. If I ever did, though, Sweetness & Lightning is probably the series that I would turn to. Since the main characters are in the process of learning to cook (and one of them is a preschooler about to start kindergarten), the dishes that they tackle typically tend to be within the reach of a beginner and aren’t usually overly-complicated. The fact that Sweetness & Lightning is a food manga is what initially brought the series to my attention, but at this point it’s really the characters which keep me coming back for more. I’m particularly impressed by the portrayal of the father-daughter relationship between Inuzuka and Tsumugi. Amagakure is also incredibly successful in depicting little kids in a convincing way. Sweetness & Lightning is in turns adorable and bittersweet, and these two volumes have some especially poignant and heartbreaking moments. Since Tsumugi is so young she still doesn’t entirely understand the death of her mother and Inuzuka still grieves the loss of his wife. But the sixth and seventh volumes also introduce more members of their extended family which was lovely.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 12What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 12 by Fumi Yoshinaga. The English-language edition of What Did You Eat Yesterday? has essentially caught up with the original Japanese release so the individual aren’t published as frequently as they once were, but I’m always very happy to get my hands on the latest installment in the series. The food in What Did You Eat Yesterday? is beautifully illustrated from start to finish. The individual ingredients, the techniques used, and the resulting dishes are wonderfully and realistically rendered. Visually, the people in What Did You Eat Yesterday? aren’t nearly as detailed as the food they are eating, but the believably complex and nuanced characterizations in the series is exceptional. The characters certainly have their personal flaws and Yoshinaga isn’t afraid to reveal them; rather than portraying some sort of romanticized ideal, Yoshinaga captures the messiness of real-life relationships in the series. It’s an approach that I particularly appreciate. What Did You Eat Yesterday? follows the day-to-day lives of two adult men who are in a committed, long-term relationship with each other which of course is something that I also greatly value. At times the food aspects of What Did You Eat Yesterday? seem tangential to everything else going on, but it’s still a great series.

My Week in Manga: May 1-May 7, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga, the winner of the Queen Emeraldas manga giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English which are at least partially set in space. Otherwise, it was a fairly quiet week. I’m still very busy at work, training for the new job, but things are largely going well on that front. Later this week I’ll be leaving for a long weekend in Toronto for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, so hopefully I’ll still be able to remember everything that I’ve been learning when I get back.

Elsewhere online, Brigid Alverson recently reported back on manga at the C2E2 conference for Publishers Weekly. The Anime Feminist continues to host interesting features on manga; most recently freelance translator Jenny McKeon took a look at yuri manga. The San Diego Comic-Con is fast approaching which means that this year’s Eisner Award nominations have been announced. As usual, most of the nominated manga are found in the Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia category (Goodnight Punpun by Inio Asano, Orange by Ichigo Takano, The Osamu Tezuka Story by Toshio Ban, Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura, and Wandering Island by Kenji Tsuruta) but Takeshi Obata’s artbook Blanc et Noir was also nominated for Best Comics-Related Book.

Quick Takes

Cigarette GirlCigarette Girl by Masahiko Matsumoto. Although touted as the first collection of Matsumoto’s work in English (which may technically be true), Cigarette Girl is actually the second volume of manga by Matsumoto to be translated. Granted, Cigarette Girl was likely to be the first licensed (it was first announced by Top Shelf back in 2010), but it didn’t end up being released until 2016, two years after The Man Next Door was published by Breakdown Press. Matsumoto, like Yoshihiro Tatsumi (who provides the introduction to Cigarette Girl), worked in the gekiga tradition of manga. Cigarette Girl collects eleven of Matsumoto’s short gekiga manga, originally created for several different magazines in the early 1970s. Most of the stories could be considered romances of one sort or another. While an exploration of love isn’t necessarily the focus of the volume, the manga are all about relationships between people and often those relationships between men and women have a romantic bent to them. The stories in Cigarette Girl tend to be fairly quiet and focus on the everyday life of everyday people, but they’re also rather quirky and surprisingly funny, too. I enjoyed Cigarette Girl a great deal and would definitely be interested in reading more of Matsumoto’s work.

Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl, Volume 1Kiss & White Lily for My Dearest Girl, Volume 1 by Canno. Lately, most of the yuri and other lesbian-themed manga translated in English are currently being released by Seven Seas, but other publishers have been starting to explore (or re-explore) the genre as well. One of Yen Press’ most recent yuri offerings is Canno’s Kiss & White Lily for My Dearest Girl, an ongoing series about the lives and loves of the students at an all-girls school. So far two main couples have been introduced and the short manga between chapter breaks implies that most of the background characters are in one way or another paired off together as well. As for the lead couples, first there is Ayaka and Yurine, the school’s top students. Ayaka is used to being first academically but finds that no matter how hard she tries, Yurine’s natural genius is tough to beat. Yurine, bored with how easy everything is for her, is delighted to finally have someone that she can consider a rival. While Ayaka and Yurine currently have something of a love-hate relationship going on, the affections of the second main couple are much sweeter and more clearly romantic–Ayaka’s tomboyish cousin Mizuki has been in a close relationship with Moe for years.

Nichijou: My Ordinary Life, Volume 1Nichijou: My Ordinary Life, Volumes 1-2 by Keiichi Arawi. I’ve heard great things about Nichijou, both the original manga and it’s anime adaptation and so I was fully expecting to enjoy the series. But while I tend to like absurd humor, for whatever reason the offbeat comedy found in the first two volumes of Nichijou just didn’t work for me. Or at least not consistently. While many of the gags fell flat, there were definitely individual bits that I found to be extremely funny. Some even made me laugh out loud. I was frequently amused by the manga as well as delightfully bemused. But as a whole, Nichijou seems to lack real substance. Granted, that’s not necessarily a bad thing and may very well be part of the point. The series mixes the mundane with the strange and completely unexpected,  but that randomness can be difficult to follow at times. On top of the nearly nonexistent narrative logic, action and movement isn’t always conveyed clearly by Arawi’s artwork. As a result, the series’ humor can be difficult to interpret. Even so, Nichijou is admittedly silly and entertaining. But I was very surprised to discover that I didn’t enjoy the manga more than I actually did; it seems like it should haven been a series I loved.

Sweetness and Lightning, Volume 3Sweetness & Lightning, Volumes 3-5 by Gido Amagakure. As I’ve mentioned many times previously, I love food manga and Sweetness & Lightning is no exception. The series is an absolute delight. There’s the food, of course, which I find appealing, but perhaps even more so I enjoy the manga’s focus on friendship and family. Granted, all of this is all tied together in the story–food is what brings people together, creates connections, and deepens relationships. Preparing and sharing a meal is shown as a way of expressing love for another person. Food can also help keep memories alive. Inuzuka keenly feels the loss of his wife and their daughter Tsumugi misses her mother dearly. But as they learn to cook together, recreating family dishes and traditions, they can still be close to her even though she is gone. There are moments of intense sadness but there is also a tremendous amount of joy in Sweetness & Lightning. Amagakure’s illustrations are very expressive, finding an easy balance between these moods. In addition to more exaggerated expressions, the artwork also captures subtle changes. As Tsumugi grows older, for example, her character design matures slightly as well. Sweetness & Lightning is a wonderful series.

My Week in Manga: November 28-December 4, 2016

My News and Reviews

November may have come and gone, but there’s still time to enter November’s manga giveaway for a chance to win the first volumes of 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. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so get those entries in! Other than the monthly giveaway, last week continued to be rather quiet at Experiments in Manga. Happily though, I was able to make some progress on my feature for Ichigo Takano’s Orange.

In case you’re looking for more giveaways, Manga Test Drive’s annual holiday giveaway is currently underway. (Also, if you’re looking for some great manga reviews, Manga Test Drive is well-worth checking out.) As for other interesting things online: Vertical has posted its novel survey which includes the opportunity to make a license request; Justin at The OASG has compiled a list of Princess Jellyfish‘s chapter title pop culture references; and the final part of The Sparkling World of 1970s Shojo Manga has been posted at The Lobster Dance.

Quick Takes

Interviews with Monster Girls, Volume 1Interviews with Monster Girls, Volume 1 by Petos. I’ve come to associate monster girl manga with Seven Seas and so initially I was a little surprised to learn that Interviews with Monster Girls was actually being released by Kodansha Comics. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with another publisher giving a recently but immensely popular niche some attention! Tetsuo Takahashi, a high school biology teacher, has both a personal and professional interest in demi-humans. He has always wanted to meet one but has never had the opportunity until he suddenly and unexpectedly encounters not one but four demi at his school. Three are students–an energetic vampire, a lonely dullahan, and a meek yuki onna–while the fourth is both a succubus and one of the school’s math teachers. One thing that’s different in Interviews with Monster Girls from many of the other monster girl manga that I’ve read is that the demi don’t seem to be a separate species from humans but are instead a sort of spontaneous, rare genetic mutation. So far, Interviews with Monster Girls is fairly innocuous. The story tends to be fairly quiet and even introspective with touches of humor, focusing on the daily lives, troubles, and worries of the young demi women.

Magia the Ninth, Volume 1Magia the Ninth, Volume 1 by Ichiya Sazanami. I had previously read and enjoyed Sazanami’s earlier series Black Bard which would have been enough to interest me in Magia the Ninth but when I heard that the series was about magic-wielding, demon-hunting, bishonen composers I knew that I wouldn’t be able to resist it. The manga follows Takeru, a young man whose parents were killed by demons. He wants revenge and so seeks the aid of  the magia, a group of people imbued with the souls of classical composers who use musical masterpieces as exorcism tools. Specifically, he tries to convince Beethoven to make him his apprentice. Honestly, at times Magia the Ninth is barely coherent. The worldbuilding is a mess and the story nearly nonexistent. The manga is a spectacle without being spectacular but even so, I absolutely loved the first volume. It’s an absurd but highly entertaining and energizing manga. And due to my classical training, I’m in a position to appreciate Sazanami’s nods to the personal quirks and histories of the original composers. Apparently Magia the Ninth is actually only two volumes long. I don’t know if Sazanami planned it to be that short or if the series was canceled early (which wouldn’t surprise me), but I definitely plan on reading the second half.

Prison School, Omnibus 3Prison School, Omnibus 3-5 (equivalent to Volumes 5-10) by Akira Hiramoto. I’m not sure if Prison School could be any more different than Me and the Devil Blues, currently the only other manga by Hiramoto to have been licensed in English. The only immediate similarity between the two series is Hiramoto’s exceptional artwork. Many people will find Prison School appalling and rightly or at least understandably so, especially if they’re expecting something more akin to Hiramoto’s earlier work. Prison School is blatant in its highly sexualized and fetishized characterizations, story, and illustrations. The fanservice is frequently so extreme as to be grotesque. But it’s all done deliberately–Prison School is so absolutely ridiculous and over-the-top that it’s impossible to take seriously. While it’s not exactly a parody, it is a romantic comedy of sorts. Assuming someone isn’t simply outright offended by the manga, Prison School is legitimately funny and at time even hilarious. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I’ll admit to enjoying the series. These particular omnibuses conclude the first major story arc and begin the second which delves more deeply into the pasts of several characters.

Sweetness and Lightning, Volume 2Sweetness and Lightning, Volume 2 by Gido Amagakure. I really enjoyed the mix of food and family present in the first volume of Sweetness and Lightning and so was looking forward to reading more of the series. The second volume continues in very much the same vein with perhaps just a little less melancholy. Granted, there are still a few heartwrenching moments, it’s just that there are plenty of heartwarming moments to go along with them. Inuzuka’s skills as a single dad and as a cook continue to slowly grow as the series progresses. One of his most recent stumbling blocks is trying to find a way to incorporate green peppers and other bitter vegetables into meals and have them be acceptable to his young daughter Tsugumi. The father-daughter relationship between Inuzuka and Tsugumi is one of my favorite relationships in Sweetness and Lightning and is one of the main reasons I enjoy the series so much. The dynamic is very sweet in addition to being portrayed very realistically–sometimes there are smiles and sometimes there are tears, sometimes there is laughter and joy and sometime there is yelling and frustration, but most importantly there’s always love. All of the good food doesn’t hurt things, either.



Manga Giveaway: Sweetness & Lightning Giveaway Winner

Sweetness & Lightning, Volume 1
Sweetness & Lightning, Volume 2

And the winner of the Sweetness & Lightning manga giveaway is… Joseph Miller!

As the winner, Joseph will be receiving a copy of the first two volumes of Gido Amagakure’s manga series Sweetness & Lightning as published in English by Kodansha Comics. In addition to being a food manga, which I generally enjoy, Sweetness & Lightning is also a series about family. In particular, the father-daughter relationship between Kōhei and Tsumugi is a major part of the story. Kōhei is a great dad, so for this giveaway I asked that participants tell me a little about their favorite fathers and father figures from manga. Be sure to check out the giveaway comments for all of the detailed responses!

Some of the manga available in English with notable dads and father figures:
Baby & Me by Marimo Ragawa
Barakamon by Satsuki Yoshino
Bokurano: Ours by Mohiro Kito
Bunny Drop by Yumi Unita
Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama
Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima
Fake by Sanami Matoh
Fate/Zero written by Gen Urobuchi, illustrated by Shinjiro
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
Gugure! Kokkuri-san by Midori Endou
Hide & Seek by Yaya Sakuragi
Lone Wolf & Cub written by Kazuo Koike, illustrated by Goseki Kojima
Master Keaton written by Hokusei Katsushika, Takashi Nagasaki, Naoki Urasawa
My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame
My Neighbor Totoro by Hayao Miyazaki
Neon Genesis Evangelion by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
One-Punch Man written by One, illustrated by Yusuke Murata
Only Serious About You by Kai Asou
Otomen by Aya Kanno
Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori
Persona 4 by Shuji Sogabe
Real by Takehiko Inoue
Sweetness & Lightning by Gido Amagakure
Tiger & Bunny by Mizuki Sakakibara
Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida
Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura
Wandering Son by Takako Shimura
Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma

As usual the above list certainly isn’t comprehensive but it does provide a variety of manga to explore. Thank you to everyone who participated in the giveaway and shared some of your favorite manga dads with me! I hope you see you all again for the next giveaway.

Manga Giveaway: Sweetness & Lightning Giveaway

It’s the last Wednesday in October, so it’s yet again time for another monthly giveaway at Experiments in Manga! This time you’ll all have the chance to win both the first and second volumes of Gido Amagakure’s food and family manga Sweetness & Lightning as released in English by Kodansha Comics. Why two volumes? Mostly because I feel like it! And also because I ended up with extra copies of both. But I also wanted to share the cuteness and food. Anyway, as always, this month’s giveaway is open worldwide!

Sweetness & Lightning, Volume 1Sweetness & Lightning, Volume 2

It’s not really a secret that I enjoy food manga and will basically give any series a try if food is somehow prominently featured. That’s what initially drew me to Amagakure’s Sweetness & Lightning, but what I find particularly endearing about the series is the loving father-daughter relationship that it portrays. (Kōhei Inuzuka is great, and his daughter is pretty darn adorable.) Maybe it’s because I’ve become a parent relatively recently myself (okay… it’s been two years now), but I find parent-child relationships in manga to be particularly interesting, especially when they are a core element to the story being told. And that’s certainly the case with Sweetness & Lightning. While it’s still early on in the manga’s English-language release, so far I find the mix of food and family in Sweetness & Lightning to be immensely appealing.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win the first two volumes of Sweetness & Lightning?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little about your favorite dad or father figure from manga. (Don’t have a favorite? 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).

Not too difficult, right? Everyone can earn up to two entries each and has one week to submit comments for the giveaway. If the comment form gives you trouble, or if you prefer, responses can also be submitted directly to phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. The comments will then be posted here in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on November 2, 2016. Best of luck to you all!

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: Sweetness & Lightning Giveaway Winner