My Week in Manga: September 26-October 2, 2011

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted my review for Yoshitoki Oima’s Mardock Scramble, Volume 1 which begins the manga adaptation of Tow Ubukata’s SF Taisho award-winning series Mardock Scramble. Having read Haikasoru’s omnibus edition when it was released earlier this year, I can safely say that Oima’s version is a pretty good adaptation of the original so far. And because it was the end of the month, I also posted the most recent manga giveaway: Hikaru no Go Giveaway. The winner will be announced this Wednesday, so there’s still time to get your entries in!

And now onto the good stuff I’ve found online recently. To start off with, Deb Aoki has a great article/rant from a manga fan’s perspective responding to the DC Comics kerfuffle surrounding the portrayal of women in some of their recent reboots—Femme Fan Fury at DC 52: Confessions of a Former Superhero Comics Fan. Jason Thompson’s most recent House of 1000 Manga post features Oishinbo. I always enjoy this column, but I was particularly pleased to see Thompson write about Oishinbo since I happen to really like the series. (So far, I’ve reviewed the A la Carte volumes for Japanese Cuisine and Sake.) Oishinbo and food manga in general is currently scheduled for the Manga Moveable Feast to be held in February.

And speaking of the Manga Moveable Feast! September’s Feast, featuring Ken Akamatsu’s Love Hina, will actually be taking place beginning this week on October 5 and will run until October 12. This change in scheduling is in part due to  Kodansha Comics pushing back the release for the new edition of the series. Jason Green will be hosting at PLAYBACK:stl; more information can be found here. Don’t worry, October’s Feast is still happening, too! Lori Henderson at Manga Xanadu will be hosting the Horror Manga Moveable Feast from October 24 to October 31. I haven’t quite yet decided on what I’ll be doing, but I’ll definitely be participating.

Quick Takes

In These Words, Chapters 1-4 by Guilt | Pleasure. In These Words has actually been picked up by Libre Publishing in Japan and will be premiering in the October 2011 issue of BeBoy Gold. The story begins with a prose prologue (an extra scene that follows immediately after can be found online here) before the manga picks it up. It’s dark, and disturbing, and very well done. Katsuya has helped the police to profile and capture Shinohara, a sadist and serial murderer. The dialogue occasionally feels a bit awkward, but I absolutely adore Jo Chen’s artwork. She has a gorgeous sense of aesthetic. Her figure work and tones are marvelous. Warning: In These Words includes both torture and rape.

Yōkaiden, Volumes 1-2 by Nina Matsumoto. Yōkaiden was one of Del Rey’s ventures into original English-language manga. Only two volumes have been published, but they’re worth picking up. The series is delightfully charming and funny. The humor often breaks the fourth wall or introduces unexpected references or anachronistic elements. The story follows Hamachi, a nine-year-old boy who loves and is obsessed with yōkai. He’s a guileless and likeable protagonist who humans and yōkai alike think is just a little weird. The series is a fun introduction to yōkai and kami for audiences that aren’t well versed in the lore and it’s still a lot of fun for readers that are. I enjoyed the second volume even more than the first, so I certainly hope to see more of Yōkaiden published in the future.

Your & My Secret, Volumes 4-7 by Ai Morinaga. I believe Your & My Secret was completed at eight volumes, but only the first seven are available in English. I’d like to see how it ends, but I’m still torn as to whether or not I actually like the series. The character interactions are interesting and fortunately slightly less cruel than they were earlier. I still feel terrible for Akira, but was happy to see him start to stand up for himself a bit. The seventh volume has a flashback chapter where Akira and Nanako are in their original, “mismatched” bodies—maybe that’s the story that I really wanted to read. One thing that does impress me is how Morinaga takes the same character designs and makes the personalities so obviously different.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo directed by Mahiro Maeda. I have never seen anything like Gankutsuou. The unusual animation style won’t suit everyone; it’s disconcerting at first, and occasionally a bit overwhelming, but I loved it. It’s hard for me to describe, but it’s almost like a collage mixed with the paintings Gustav Klimt (I’m particularly thinking of “The Kiss”). The atmosphere of the series is ominous and intense; appropriate for a revenge tale. I’ll admit, I even cried at times. At first Albert is so naive and trusting that it’s almost painful, but he’s forced to change as his world falls apart around him. The twenty-four episodes are incredibly engaging and each and every one of them counts. Gankutsuou is easily one of my top anime series.

Tiger & Bunny, Episodes 21-25 directed by Keiichi Satou. The main reason I watch Tiger & Bunny is because I like Kotetsu so much. It’s a fun show with a great visual style, even if the CGI doesn’t always mesh very well with the hand drawn material. Unfortunately, the series seems to be plagued with lazy writing, inconsistencies in the NEXT powers and how exactly they work, villains with ambiguous motivations that make stupid mistakes, and missed opportunities to let the support cast shine. Okay, that just made it sound terrible, but it’s not all bad; the series has good stuff going for it, too. Even with its problems, I like Tiger & Bunny well enough that I’d seriously consider picking up the DVDs if we get them.

My Week in Manga: August 15-August 21, 2011

My News and Reviews

As promised, this week’s quick takes section explores a bunch of manga by Fumi Yoshinaga. Technically, the Fumi Yoshinaga Manga Moveable Feast ended yesterday, but I’m still going to count this post as part of it (especially since I really meant to write it for last week). Also for the Feast, I posted my review for Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 3.

Last Thursday marked the one year anniversary of Experiments in Manga. I reflected a bit on this milestone (Random Musings: One Year of Experiments in Manga) and a few of my readers left me some very nice comments that made me very happy. Thanks, guys! I also posted one other review last week for the second volume of the Chinese classic The Journey to the West, as translated by Anthony C. Yu.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the Resources page, but I’ve added a few blogs: Organization Anti Social Geniuses (Justin occasionally comments here), Joy Kim, Comics-and-More (which has a Manga Monday feature), and Sesho’s Anime and Manga Reviews.

Quick Takes

All My Darling Daughters by Fumi Yoshinaga. All My Darling Daughters is one of the most recently translated single volume works by Yoshinaga. The manga collects a series of interconnected stories featuring Yukiko, her family, and her friends. The stories examine the characters’ relationships, and while many of them feel rather melancholy, there is happiness to be found as well. Yoshinaga makes me care about the characters and their lives; I want things to work out for the best for them. I am particularly impressed by Yoshinaga’s story-telling in this manga. The stories may be brief, but the narratives are suffused with a remarkable amount of emotional depth and complexity.

Antique Bakery, Volumes 1-4 by Fumi Yoshinaga. Antique Bakery won a Kodansha Manga Award in 2002 and was nominated for an Eisner in 2007. The pacing of the first volume is rather awkward but soon after Yoshinaga establishes a nice flow for the story. As appropriate for a manga about a bakery, the food has been drawn with just as much loving care as the rest of the characters. The panels can get a bit text heavy from time to time, but seeing as it’s often because of the delicious descriptions of the various pastries, I don’t mind too terribly much. The characters are more complex than they first appear, sometimes in unexpected ways. Working together at the Antique changes them and they each find something there that they needed.

Flower of Life, Volumes 1-4 by Fumi Yoshinaga. Flower of Life is one of my favorite works by Yoshinaga. To some extent, this surprises me; I’m not generally that big on school comedies. The series doesn’t really have a gimmick—it’s just a story about normal people. Flower of Life is funny and touching and just generally wonderful. It makes my heart ache. One of the complaints I often hear about Yoshinaga is that her characters look so similar to one another. However, in Flower of Life, the cast exhibits a delightful amount of variety and diversity not only in their appearances but in their (often intense) personalities as well. Flower of Life makes me nostalgic for a high school experience that I never had.

The Moon and the Sandals, Volumes 1-2 by Fumi Yoshinaga. The very first Yoshinaga manga that I ever read was The Moon and the Sandals. It was also her debut work outside of doujinshi. I originally picked it up when I first started reading boys’ love titles. While it still follows many of the tropes found in the genre, The Moon and the Sandals is much more realistic in its approach than most other boys’ love manga that I’ve read. The series also has sympathetic female characters. The first volume introduces all of the characters while the second volume features quite a bit of sex (a pattern seen in several other works by Yoshinaga). But it’s not just sex for the sake of sex—it’s necessary to show the development of the characters as well as the plot.

Tiger & Bunny, Episodes 13-20 directed by Keiichi Satou. I have been enjoying Tiger & Bunny immensely. Sure, the writing can be a bit uneven at times, but I really like the characters. Overall, it’s still a fun show. Some of the earlier episodes were rather goofy, but the anime has gotten more serious and goes to some pretty dark places. Since defeating Jake, Kotetsu and Barnaby’s relationship has become more amicable. I actually sort of miss their more antagonistic banter. But while they’re now generally on good terms with each other they still have some trust issues to work out. Kotetsu is still my favorite character and this set of episodes explores more of his backstory and family history.

My Week in Manga: June 13-June 19, 2011

My News and Reviews

I don’t have much to say news-wise about this past week, but I did post a couple of reviews. Oishinbo, A la Carte: Sake happens to be my first in-depth manga review for June. I love food and I love manga, so Oishinbo is a great match for me. The second review I wrote in part for the Japanese Literature Book Group—Kōbō Abe’s novel The Woman in the Dunes is a rather strange, but still compelling, story.

This week starts the Wild Adapter Manga Moveable Feast! I’ve been looking forward to this Feast since I love Kazuya Minekura’s Wild Adapter. Below, I have a few quick comments on the series as a whole. Later this week I’ll be talking a little bit about mahjong (it’s related, I promise) and will be reviewing the first volume in the series.

And one last thing! The dates and location for the next MangaNEXT manga convention have been announced: February 24-26, 2012 at the Sheraton Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. MangaNEXT is the only manga specific convention that I know of, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to get there in February. Believe it or not, I’ve never actually been to any sort of convention before.

Quick Takes

Jazz, Volumes 1-4 written by Tamotsu Takamure and illustrated by Sakae Maeda. The relationship between Naoki and Narusawa is extraordinarily unhealthy and abusive. While this certainly makes for intense drama, it is not at all romantic. I wouldn’t even call it a love story, even though the manga presents itself as such. The first two volumes handle the situation in an interesting way, focusing on the turmoil of the characters’ emotions. Unfortunately, the last two volumes don’t seem to work as well once they’ve fallen in “love” with each other. Things don’t work perfectly for them, and they certainly still have their ups and downs, but I have a hard time believing in their relationship.

Ohikkoshi by Hiroaki Samura. Blade of the Immortal is one of my favorite manga series and so I was interested in reading other manga by Hiroaki Samura. Ohikkoshi is the only other of his works currently available in English and I’m very glad that Dark Horse published it. It’s a delightfully quirky, absurd, and odd manga. The titular “Ohikkoshi,” a peculiar romantic comedy with over-the-top tendencies, is followed by two unrelated short stories: the bizarrely ludicrous “Luncheon of Tears Diary” and the autobiographical “Kyoto Super Barhopping Journal.” Samura has no problem with breaking the fourth wall, often to hilarious effect. While this collection doesn’t really present opportunities for epic battles, Samura’s artwork remains wonderfully kinetic.

The Other Side of the Mirror, Volumes 1-2 by Jo Chen. While marketed as and often called manga, technically The Other Side of the Mirror is a manhua from Taiwan. I am a huge fan of Jo Chen’s artwork and so when I learned that she wrote a comic, I decided to pick it up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as I was hoping it would be. While the artwork is quite nice, the narrative is a mess. The story has potential and there are some lovely moments, but overall it’s fairly muddled. I much preferred the short stories included in the two volumes. Maybe Chen just wasn’t ready yet for a longer, more involved work (“The Other Side of the Mirror” was one of her first comics.) I do like the illustrations, though.

Wild Adapter, Volumes 1-6 by Kazuya Minekura. Although Kubota and Tokito are the series main characters, each volume of this manga features a secondary character around whom the story is framed. It’s an interesting narrative technique and it actually works quite well. The character and personalities of the young men are slowly revealed through the others’ perspectives. And while the exact nature of their relationship is never explicitly stated or revealed and is the subject of much speculation, it is obvious that it is a very close and intimate one. Wild Adapter is unfinished at six volumes (and a few chapters), the series having been put on hiatus due to Minekura’s health. I really do hope to see more in English, but now that Tokyopop is no more it is unfortunately unlikely.

Bullet Ballet directed by Shinya Tsukamoto. Goda, a successful commercial director, is completely taken aback by the suicide of his girlfriend of ten years. He can’t comprehend why she killed herself and has no idea where she even got the gun. He becomes obsessed with obtaining a gun of the same make and model—a desire that consumes him. But after reaching his goal his life becomes more complicated. In the process, he becomes entangled with a local gang and things can’t possibly end well for any of them. Filmed in black and white, Bullet Ballet is a visually interesting film even if it can be difficult to follow at times. I also happened to really like Chu Ishikawa’s industrial styled soundtrack

Tiger & Bunny, Episodes 8-12 directed by Keiichi Satou. The animation quality seems to be a little inconsistent in these later episodes, and the plot as well, but it is still a very fun series. I am very much enjoying Tiger & Bunny and I like the characters immensely. While the main plot is developing nicely, I particularly enjoy the side stories that feature a particular hero. In these episodes, we get a chance to learn a bit more about Origami Cyclone and Dragon Kid. I do wish Lunatic wasn’t pushed into the background so soon, though. There will be at least fifteen episodes to the series, but I hope to see more than that. I have a hard time believing everything will be able to be wrapped up satisfactorily in such a short period of time.

My Week in Manga: May 9-May 15, 2011

My News and Reviews

I’ve been rather lazy (and busy) lately, so the “My News and Reviews” section is going to be brief this week. Last week I posted three reviews, two here at Experiments in Manga and one over at Experiments in Reading. First up was Keigo Higashino’s award-winning novel Naoko which I liked even better than the only other of his works currently available in English, The Devotion of Suspect X (also an award winner). At Experiments in Reading I posted a review of the third (and possibly final) book in Jane Lindskold’s Breaking the Wall series, Five Odd Honors. I mention it here because the magic system is based on mahjong, granted a Chinese version. But still—Mahjong! And finally, my first in-depth manga review for May: Vagabond, Omnibus 1 by Takehiko Inoue based on Eiji Yoshikawa’s epic historical novel Musashi, which I reviewed last month.

Derik Badman at The Panelists will be hosting the Manga Moveable Feast this month. This time around, we’ll be focusing on Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game. The Feast will start on May 22nd and run until May 28th. I’ll be reviewing the first volume published by Viz Media, which is equivalent to the first three volumes released in Japan.

Quick Takes

Afterschool Charisma, Volume 1 by Kumiko Suekane. Somehow, I’m not quite convinced by the clones. They don’t all seem to have the sort of quirks stereotypically associated with their original personalities. Granted, that seems to be part of the point. And Suekane does do some nice things with the concept, like everyone shunning Hitler because of his original even when the clone hasn’t done anything. It would have been nice to have some sort of list of the characters’ historical basis; while I easily identified some of the originals, there were others I had never even heard of before. I didn’t particularly care for the “Almighty Dolly” subplot, though I appreciated its significance. This could turn out to be a really interesting series.

Alice the 101st, Volumes 1-2 by Chigusa Kawai. As a musician, Alice the 101st appeals to me a great deal. It’s a little goofy and over the top on the drama, but it’s actually a pretty realistic portrayal of what it takes to become a professional performer. The characters all have very strong personalities even if they tend to be a little one-note (hehe). Alice himself is extremely spastic which could get annoying, but I found to be generally amusing. The introduction of Georges (and a brief cameo by Robert) in the second volume makes a nice crossover from one of Kawai’s other manga series, La Esperança. I really want to know what is going on between Vick and Max, so I hope another volume is released soon.

Ayako by Osamu Tezuka. One of Tezuka’s darker adult titles, Ayako is not an easy read even if it is hard to look away. Women are not treated well at all and poor Ayako herself seems to be considered more of an object to possess and control rather than an actual person. The Tenges are one messed up family and it’s difficult to feel any sort of sympathy for them. First and foremost they take care of the family and its reputation, even if individual members must suffer for it. The ending did feel a bit forced to me—I was wondering how Tezuka was going to try to tie everything together—but it was somehow appropriate despite the blatant symbolism.

Winter Demon, Volumes 1-4 written by Yamila Abraham, illustrated by Studio Kosaru, Le Peruggine, and Rhea Silvan. I found it a little strange at first that the artist would often change from chapter to chapter, but it was interesting to see the characters captured in different styles while still remaining obvious who was who. The first volume of Winter Demon is probably the weakest, but the series steadily improves as the story progresses. However, I wasn’t entirely convinced by how easily Hakuin seemed to fall for Fuyu even if it made me happy to see them happy together. Two side stories are introduced in the series and eventually Abraham ends up bringing all three together in the final volume, which I liked.

9 Souls directed by Toshiaki Toyoda. Nine inmates, the titular 9 Souls, unexpectedly manage to escape their prison cell. They plan to stick together at least until they find a rumored stash of counterfeit currency. Nine men travelling together are bound to attract some attention, especially when their disguises are limited to dressing in drag or wearing glasses and pasted on facial hair. One by one they find the end to their own story as they try to reconnect with their past lives or start new ones. While the film ends on a serious note, there’s actually a fair amount of humor in 9 Souls. I hadn’t heard of the film before and just picked it up randomly, but I actually quite enjoyed it.

The Book of the Dead directed by Kihachirō Kawamoto. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a stop action animation, so although I had never seen before The Book of the Dead I felt rather nostalgic watching the film. The story, based on a novel by Shinobu Orikuchi, feels a little disjointed and I think I missed some of the finer cultural aspects of the tale since I’m not particularly familiar with 8th century Japan. However, the puppets are both beautiful and creepy as needed for the story. Iratsume, a sought after and young noblewoman, has a vision, mistaking the young man she sees in it for the Buddha. In actuality, he is the soul of an executed prince and he mistakes her for the last woman he saw before his death.

Tiger & Bunny, Episodes 1-7 directed by Keiichi Satou. Initially, I had no intention of watching Tiger & Bunny—superheros generally aren’t my thing. But then just about everyone I know started raving about the series and I started to feel left out. So I watched it and had a fantastic time. The show is a lot of fun; there’s a reason it already has a significant fan following. It’s somewhat episodic (but that is changing), and the existence of super powered humans is only halfheartedly explained, but the character interactions are great. That being said, for me it is the characters that carry the anime, particularly Tiger. I find him adorkable, but if you don’t like him, you probably won’t like the show, either.