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: December 19-December 25, 2016

My News and Reviews

Nothing other than the usual My Week in Manga feature was posted last week at Experiments in Manga. However, I still have a few things in store before the year is through. Later this week you’ll want to be on the lookout for the monthly manga giveaway for December. I’ve also been hard at work on my list of notable manga, comics, and other books that I’ve read that were released in 2016. That list should be ready to post in the very near future as well!

Quick Takes

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Volume 2The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Volumes 2-6 by Aya Shouoto. It was the beautiful artwork and yokai that first drew The Demon Prince of Momochi House to my attention and that continues to be a large part of the series’ appeal for me. I’m also enjoying the story’s melancholic atmosphere as the manga explores themes of loneliness and the desire to belong. Himari, who is an incredibly sweet and caring person, is steadily building her relationships and friendships with the locals, ayakashi and humans alike. However, more the romantic elements of the series are admittedly less convincing. Although there is an underlying story about the mysteries surrounding Aoi and Himari’s efforts to free him from his tragic fate, The Demon Prince of Momochi House frequently almost seems episodic in nature as Himari is introduced to a variety of supernatural wonders and dangers. The seemingly directionless and less-than-cohesive storytelling can be frustrating and sometimes even feels a little shallow, but overall I find the series to be alluring and provocative and look forward to reading more.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 9What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volumes 9-11 by Fumi Yoshinaga. I am incredibly happy that What Did You Eat Yesterday? is being released in English, so it makes me sad that the series doesn’t seem to be doing especially well in translation. It’s a shame, because it really is a wonderful manga. While I certainly appreciate the food aspects of What Did You Eat Yesterday?, I particularly love the realistic and nuanced characterizations found in the series. The food is all well and good, not to mention beautifully illustrated, but it’s the characters and their relationships that really make the series work. Shiro’s character development has probably been the most interesting and satisfying. I’m very glad to see his relationship with his parents improving even after some significant setbacks. While he’s still not out in his professional life, it is clear that he is becoming more comfortable publicly expressing his sexuality. Fortunately, Shiro and his long-term boyfriend Kenji have the love, support, and acceptance of others which makes that easier. More recently, rather than their homosexuality, what they’ve had to worry about are Shiro’s aging parents and the rising cost of living.

Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 3Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibuses 3-4 (equivalent to Volumes 5-8) by Wataru Watanabe. Out of the recent spate of new sports manga being released in North America, Yowamushi Pedal is currently one of my favorites. I have seen a fair amount of the anime adaptation so at this point I am very familiar with where the plot is heading, but even so I still find the original manga to be immensely engaging. Before Yowamushi Pedal, I actually didn’t realize how much of a team effort cycling could be; it’s interesting to learn about the various strategies that can be used to win a race. These couple of omnibuses largely focus on Sohoku’s intensive training camp and also introduce some of the major competition. The characters are fun, some of them are frankly pretty cool, too, and they all have distinctive personalities. The Sohoku team especially is made up of a group of quirky but likeable and talented young cyclists. Art-wise Yowamushi Pedal could almost be described as ugly, but I really like its highly dramatic and energetic style. Watanabe probably uses more speedlines than any other artist I’ve seen, but the effect is great.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Volume 2: AmbitionLegend of the Galactic Heroes, Volumes 2-3 by Yoshiki Tanaka. Despite the nearly constant war and political upheaval present in the Legend of the Galactic Heroes novels, the series isn’t really that action-oriented. I suspect some people will actually find it to be rather dry and perhaps even textbook-like. With only the occasional bout of melodrama, the series quickly moves from one event or venue to the next and the cast of characters only continues to grow. (Granted, as this is war, not all of them survive very long after being introduced.) Because the scope is so sprawling sometimes it feels as though Legend of the Galactic Heroes lacks depth of story and characters, instead opting for a wider view and summary of major events. However, Tanaka does show how the complexities of societal, political, economic, and militaristic influences can impact one another. The books frequently read like a popular history, and the series actually reminds me a bit of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, too. So far I’m really enjoying the series and find its story and characters interesting. I like the focus on tactics and strategy as well as the influence that real-life history has had on the series.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 8

What Did You Eat Yesterday, Volume 8Creator: Fumi Yoshinaga
U.S. publisher: Vertical
ISBN: 9781941220238
Released: May 2015
Original release: 2013

I have been a fan of Fumi Yoshinaga’s manga for quite some time now, so I was very happy when her series What Did You Eat Yesterday? was licensed for release in English. Although I’ve enjoyed all of Yoshinaga’s translated work, I was particularly interested in What Did You Eat Yesterday? because it promised and has since proved to be a manga realistically portraying the lives of two gay men (and boyfriends) living together in Japan. As can be safely assumed from the title of the series, What Did You Eat Yesterday? also happens to be a food manga, which is another niche genre that I especially enjoy. Unsurprisingly, with its well-developed characters a touches of humor, I find the series immensely appealing. What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 8 was originally released in Japan in 2013 while Vertical published the English-language edition of the manga in 2015.

As a lawyer, Shiro often finds himself involved in sorting out other people’s relationships, helping to resolve child custody disputes and providing divorce consultations and such. In many ways, this allows him to better appreciate his relationship with his boyfriend Kenji. Shiro isn’t always the most outwardly or physically demonstrative with his affection, especially when in public or when compared to Kenji’s exuberance, but the two men have built a comfortable life together. Their relationship has its ups and downs, just like any other couple might encounter, though being gay in contemporary Japan still has its own particular challenges. While Kenji’s family is largely supportive, Shiro’s parents are still adjusting to the fact that their son is in committed relationship with another man and has been for years. Thankfully, both Kenji and Shiro have close friends and acquaintances who have no problems whatsoever with the two of them being together.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 8, page 53While Shiro and Kenji are obviously a couple, What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 8 offers several scenarios in which they’re actually acting as a couple. I honestly enjoyed all of the stories collected in the volume, but two that particularly stood out to me explicitly showed them as boyfriends. The first story featured a trip where the two of them visit Kyoto together for Kenji’s birthday in which Shiro acts more stereotypically romantic and boyfriend-like than he has during the entire rest of the series, stunning Kenji in the process. Granted, the underlying reason for Shiro treating Kenji to such an extravagant vacation is a little heartbreaking when it is revealed. A story taking place a few months later sees Kenji and Shiro baking brownies together to celebrate Valentine’s Day, which is all sorts of sweet and wonderful. That chapter is also an excellent example of how the food and recipes included in What Did You Eat Yesterday? can be directly incorporated into the story itself. Some chapters are more successful at this than others–occasionally the food in the series comes across as being tangential–but I absolutely love when Yoshinaga pulls it off well.

The relationships between the characters of What Did You Eat yesterday?, often expressed through the sharing and enjoyment of food, are a crucial part of the series. There are many different types of relationships portrayed, but What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 8 in particular reminded me of the importance of family relations in the manga. Just like in real life, the opinions and actions of family members can have a tremendous impact on an individual. The eighth volume reveals more about Kenji’s family circumstances when he returns home on the occasion of the death of his father. The acceptance shown to him by his mother and his sisters and their children was comforting to see, giving hope that in time Shiro’s parents, too, will be able to more fully accept their son. Family isn’t necessarily limited by law or blood in the series, either–Shiro ends up becoming a godfather of sorts when the daughter of one of his friends has a baby. And, of course, there is the small family made up of Shiro and Kenji themselves. Though they have their disagreements, What Did You Eat Yesterday? makes it clear that they greatly care for each other.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 7

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 7Creator: Fumi Yoshinaga
U.S. publisher: Vertical
ISBN: 9781941220221
Released: March 2015
Original release: 2012

What Did You Eat Yesterday? incorporates so many things that I love—the work of Fumi Yoshinaga, food, queer life, and so on—that it’s really not too much of a surprise that I enjoy the manga series. Yoshinaga has had many of her manga released in English. I have always been particularly impressed by the subtle complexities of her characterizations. Her skill at writing people is especially important for a series like What Did You Eat Yesterday? in which a tremendous amount of focus is given to the characters themselves rather than to an intricate, overarching plot, at least when the manga’s not focusing on food. The characters in What Did You Eat Yesterday?, likeable or not, are all very realistically portrayed, which is one of the things that I appreciate most about the series. What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 7 was originally published in Japan in 2012. The English-language edition, released by Vertical, was published in 2015.

Shiro and Kenji have been living together for years, but it’s only recently that Shiro has managed to get up the courage to actually introduce his long-term boyfriend to his parents. It’s a momentous albeit awkward occasion, but Kenji at least is thrilled by the prospect. Shiro’s family has known he was gay for quite some time, however they are still coming to terms with exactly what that means. Happily, sharing a good meal can go a long way to help acceptance and understanding grow. Food has helped to improve and stabilize Kenji and Shiro’s relationship as well—Shiro enjoys cooking and Kenji is usually more than happy to accommodate his boyfriend, not to mention eat the fruits of his efforts—which is why when work interferes with their dinner dates at home it’s particularly vexing. The salon that Kenji works at is undergoing renovations and staffing changes while the law office where Shiro is employed is inundated with bankruptcy cases. Both men have been very busy of late, but they are still ready to support each other both inside the kitchen and outside of it.

What Did You Eat Yesterday, Volume 7, page 24Food, and the preparation and consumption of said food, is a major component of What Did You Eat Yesterday?. A majority of the seventh volume, if not the entire series, is spent either cooking in a kitchen or eating around a table. While other aspects of Yoshinaga’s artwork are rather simple, she puts a tremendous amount of detail into the various dishes that are featured in the manga—the food in What Did You Eat Yesterday? is beautifully illustrated. The recipes in the series tend to be fairly detailed as well. It is entirely possible for an experienced cook to successfully recreate many of the courses. I’ve even been tempted to try a few myself. (The tea sorbet from the seventh volume sounds especially appealing to me.) Occasionally, the focus on food in What Did You Eat Yesterday? can get in the way of the stories being told, but sometimes it’s expertly integrated.

As much as I enjoy all of the food and eating What Did You Eat Yesterday? (and I certainly do), what really makes the series work for me are its characters and the realistic portrayal of their lives. I have come to love and care for the characters in the series a great deal in spite of, or maybe because of, their very human flaws. They all come across as real people with both good traits and bad. I enjoy seeing their relationships evolve and change, and I enjoy seeing them continue to grow as people well into their adulthood. The individual chapters of What Did You Eat Yesterday? provide small snapshots of the characters’ everyday lives. Sometimes the events shown are fairly ordinary or mundane, such as grocery shopping followed by a quick stop at a cafe, while others are more momentous, like meeting the parents of an established partner for the first time. But even the seemingly small and quiet moments in What Did You Eat Yesterday? are important, carrying signficant meaning and impact, and showing just how skilled a writer Yoshinaga can be.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 6

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 6Creator: Fumi Yoshinaga
U.S. publisher: Vertical
ISBN: 9781939130815
Released: January 2015
Original release: 2012

Fumi Yoshinaga’s series What Did You Eat Yesterday? is a manga that I’m very glad is being released in English. Part slice-of-life manga focusing on contemporary gay relationships, work relationships, and friendships, and part food manga, the series holds a tremendous amount of appeal for me. Plus, it’s created by Yoshinaga whose manga as a whole I tend to enjoy. I particularly appreciate the subtle and nuanced depth that many of her characters exhibit, which is certainly true of the characters found in What Did You Eat Yesterday?. The sixth volume of the series was originally released in Japan in 2012 while the English-language edition was published in 2015 by Vertical. Although this particular volume does have some translation issues—some awkward phrasing as well as questionable word choices (such as “pepper balls” instead of “peppercorns”)—generally Vertical’s release of the series has been great.

Although Shiro will soon be turning forty-seven, he still has room to grow and has only recently started to really become comfortable with his sexuality. He and his boyfriend Kenji have been living together for years but its a relationship that he has largely kept private. Shiro’s parents know he’s gay, as do a select handful of close friends, but he hasn’t mentioned it to his colleagues and he’s terrified of being found out by straight strangers. Kenji, on the other hand, is able to be much more relaxed and open about who he is. Happily, Shiro and Kenji have developed a good friendship with another gay couple, Kohinata and Wataru, which has allowed Shiro to become a little less anxiety-ridden in public. He continues to worry about appearances, and he’s still fairly reserved when it comes to outwardly demonstrating his affection, but it has become easier for Shiro to enjoy time spent with Kenji outside of the house, whether it be a major grocery shopping trip or a bento lunch picnic in the park.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 6, page 48Although I am a huge fan of food manga in general, and meals and their preparation are certainly a major component of What Did You Eat Yesterday?, what I find most appealing about the series is its characters and their lives. But the manga works best for me when the food and recipes tie directly into the plot and character development instead of being a more tangential element. Some volumes of What Did You Eat Yesterday? bring the characters and food together better than others, but overall the sixth is fairly successful in doing that. High-quality ingredients are given as gifts of thanks, meals are prepared as a way to offer comfort and support, recipes are modified when finances are tight, the qualities of a proper bento are debated, and more. Food is obviously important to the characters in the volume.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? tends to be fairly episodic, each chapter exploring a small part of Shiro and Kenji’s lives and featuring a recipe detailed enough that an adventurous reader or experienced cook could actually attempt to make the dish. However, recurring characters and continuing story threads do help to tie the series together as a cohesive whole. There may not be a grand, overarching plot to What Did You Eat Yesterday?, but there is still character and story development to be found. Each reappearance of an established character adds more depth to them as a person and reveals more about the complexities of their relationships with other people. Each volume of What Did You Eat Yesterday? explores more about Shiro and Kenji as well as about their families, friends, and coworkers. And with the sixth volume specifically, I’m especially happy to see Shiro becoming gradually more confident and accepting of himself.