My Week in Manga: May 15-May 21, 2017

My News and Reviews

Other than the usual My Week in Manga, I didn’t manage to post any other features at Experiments in Manga last week. This was largely expected since I’m still catching up from my trip to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. I have, however, been working on writing up some of my random musings about this year’s festival and hope to have those ready to post within the next few days. There is one thing that happened last week that I’d definitely like to share with everyone, though: the artwork that I commissioned from KaiJu was finished!

KaiJu Tokyo Demons Commission

The illustration is of the characters Sachi and Kadoyuki from Lianne Sentar’s Tokyo Demons, a series which I love very, very much. I’m also quite fond of KaiJu’s original work as well, some of which I’ve previously reviewed here at Experiments in Manga. The creative team’s current comic is Novae which is absolutely wonderful and well-worth checking out.

Elsewhere online: Lilian Min talks to Jane Mai and An Nguyen about their new book So Pretty / Very Rotten in the article The Complex Femininity of Japanese Lolita Fashion. One of Tofugu’s most recent podcasts, Interpreting for Osamu Tezuka, features Frederick L. Schodt. Also at Tofugu, manga translator Zack Davisson has some advice for learning Japanese. Speaking of Davisson, he’ll be translating two of Seven Sea’s recently announced acquisitions: Go Nagai’s original Devilman manga series (this is huge!) as well as Go Nagai and Team Moon’s Devilman vs. Hades manga. In other licensing news, Viz Media will be releasing Hinodeya Sankichi’s Splatoon manga.

Quick Takes

Flying Witch, Volume 1Flying Witch, Volume 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka. I was only vaguely aware of Flying Witch before Vertical Comics licensed the manga; although I haven’t actually watched it, a twelve-episode anime adaptation of the series first aired a little over a year ago. Flying Witch is a manga about Makoto, a fifteen-year-old witch who has moved to the country to stay with her relatives while she completes her magic training. She’s a bit of an airhead and has a terrible sense of direction, but she’s earnest and kind and quick to make friends with the locals. The focus of Flying Witch is on the everyday lives of Makoto, her relatives, and friends. It’s a gentle and harmless manga that much of the time isn’t even about magic though it can still occasionally be charming. The manga’s artwork, much like the story itself, is functional but not particularly distinctive and even the worldbuilding is somewhat lacking. Flying Witch isn’t a bad series, but it didn’t really grab me, either. Granted, I don’t have a particular interest in witches. However, I did really like the series’ countryside setting. Additionally, The Harbinger of Spring, a nature spirit introduced in one of the final chapters of the first volume, was a fascinating addition and easily my favorite part of the manga.

Jane EyreJane Eyre adapted by Crystal Silvermoon Chan and illustrated by SunNeko Lee. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre holds a very special place in my heart; I first read it in high school and it remains one of my favorite novels. To varying degrees, I’ve enjoyed the numerous films, novels, comics, and other works inspired by Jane Eyre that I’ve encountered as well. And so I was very curious to read one of the most recent adaptations, Chan and Lee’s Jane Eyre comic from Udon Entertainment’s Manga Classics line. (This is the same creative team which worked on the adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, one of Manga Classics debut titles.) Though overall Lee’s artwork is attractive, I wasn’t entirely satisfied by the character designs of the leads–Jane as a young woman doesn’t look much older than when she was a child, and Mr. Rochester comes across as too traditionally handsome. Other than that relatively minor complaint, Chan and Lee’s Jane Eyre remains true to Brontë’s original and is an enjoyable and very accessible rendition. Some small changes have been made, as Chan describes in the essay about the adaptation process, but all the major characterization and plot points remain. The volume also includes additional historical background information. Now I really want to reread the novel again.

Sherlock, Volume 1: A Study in PinkSherlock, Volume 1: A Study in Pink by Jay. I believe Sherlock is the very first manga to be released by Titan Comics, recently followed by Yano Takashi and Kenji Oiwa’s Assassin’s Creed: Awakening. The fact that Titan isn’t a typical manga publisher and hasn’t released many manga may partly explain why Jay’s adaptation of the BBC’s television series Sherlock was first released in English as six individual comic issues before being collected into a single volume. Titan’s catalog largely consists of comic adaptations of Western television and video game franchises, so Jay’s Sherlock fits in nicely with the rest. Sherlock is a modern reimagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, A Study in Pink influenced heavily by Doyle’s novel A Study in Scarlet. It’s been a while since I’ve actually watched A Study in Pink, but Jay’s interpretation does seem to be a very faithful one, including character designs that are based on the show’s actors, most notably Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) and Martin Freeman (Watson). Some of the action can be a little difficult to follow, but otherwise I largely enjoyed Jay’s version of A Study in Pink. However, because it is such a close adaptation and nothing much is added or taken away I’m not entirely sure who the best or intended audience for the Sherlock manga would be; most people would likely be satisfied with the original episode.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 10Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volumes 10-12 by Miki Yoshikawa. From the beginning Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches wasn’t without its problems, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first part of the manga. However, I’m now starting to find the series somewhat wearisome even though there are some things that are quite well done and that I still like about it. With these three volumes, Yoshikawa brings the second major story arc of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches to a close and begins yet another one. To the Yoshikawa’s credit, each time the story is more or less restarted it makes logical sense, but at this point it feels like the series is being stretched out far longer than it was originally intended. (I suspect that Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches may be a victim of its own popularity and success.) The first story arc was highly entertaining, but I wasn’t as impressed with the second and the third hasn’t instilled much confidence in me that it will greatly improve. On top of that, the manga’s fanservice has become more and more forced as the series has progressed. Where at one point it was incorporated well into the story, more recently the fanservice is haphazard at best. Because at first I did greatly enjoy Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches and appreciated its gender play and themes of friendship, it saddens me to see the series’ decline.

My Week in Manga: September 12-September 18, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted the Bookshelf Overload for August. I picked up some great out-of-print (or soon to be out-of-print) manga and comics last month in addition to some highly-anticipated new releases. I was particularly busy with work and taiko last week so I wasn’t online much, but there is one thing that I’d like to draw attention to–the thirty-eighth and most recent issue of Sparkler Monthly. In it is the first part of a Skyglass side story written by Jenn Grunigen and illustrated by Mookie called “The Mud God” which, in addition to being adorably cute, is partly my fault as it’s related to another Skyglass commission that the author is working on for me. (Hopefully that one will be able to be shared soon, too!)

Quick Takes

Inuyashiki, Volume 4Inuyashiki, Volume 4 by Hiroya Oku. The fourth volume of Inuyashiki begins immediately where the third volume ends, with the devastating and gruesome aftermath of Inuyashiki’s confrontation with an powerful organized crime group. It then turns to follow Shishigami’s story again. One thing that I found to be particularly interesting about Inuyashiki, Volume 4 is the character development of the two main leads. Since the beginning of the series, Inuyashiki and Shishigami have been opposites, using their newly-granted powers in vastly different ways. Though they both are mechanical monsters with many of the same abilities, Inuyashiki has focused on helping others, whether that be by curing major illnesses or fighting on behalf of those who are weaker, while Shishigami has been going on killing sprees for his own selfish reasons. Inuyashiki abhors violence, even when he is a willing participant; Shishigami delights in it. But the fourth volume of Inuyashiki sees some of that change. Inuyashiki is learning to consciously use and control his more deadly powers, specifically in order to put an end to Shishigami. He still considers it to be a necessary evil, though. As for Shishigami, his mother’s illness inspires him to use his abilities for less destructive purposes, but it’s still difficult to sympathize with him since he shows very little regret or remorse for the suffering he has wrought in the recent past.

One-Punch Man, Volume 4One-Punch Man, Volumes 4-8 written by One and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. I continue to be greatly impressed by both the artwork and writing of One-Punch Man although the series is not without its flaws. The manga plays around with many of the tropes of the superhero genre and makes use of plenty of stereotypes in the process. Unfortunately, that means the introduction of an unquestionably gay hero and the perceived threat of his sexuality is intended to be comedic, resulting in an uncomfortable setup in which implied sexual assault is treated as a joke. Personally, I didn’t find this to be particularly funny. However, other than that glaring misstep, the humor in One-Punch Man is fantastic. A slew of new heroes and villains have been brought in; their powers are frequently over-the-top and frankly ridiculous, fitting the overall tone of the series perfectly. Murata’s artwork can be absolutely stunning and is incredibly dynamic, shifting from simplified illustrations to those that are nearly photo-realistic depending on the needs of the story and humor. The action sequences are great, filled with intense battles between absurdly powered opponents and accompanied by a suitably tremendous amount of destruction. It’s not at all surprising that One-Punch Man has been adapted into an anime series–the manga as a whole but especially the visual components seem to beg for it.

Queen Emeraldas, Volume 1 Queen Emeraldas, Volume 1 by Leiji Matsumoto. Older manga are not often released in English, so I was very excited to learn that Kodansha Comics would be publishing a classic series. I was even more interested when I found out that series would be Matsumoto’s space opera Queen Emeraldas which takes place in the same universe as his Captain Harlock stories. Although the hardcover English-language edition is based on a Japanese release from 2009, Queen Emeraldas was originally serialized in the late 1970s. The story largely follows a young man by the name of Hiroshi Umino, a runaway from Earth who crash lands on Mars in a spaceship he cobbled together himself. The titular Emeraldas is charismatic and enigmatic woman, a living legend who metes out justice as she wanders the stars. She takes a particular interest in the boy, repeatedly aiding him in his struggle to survive in space. Initially her concern seems to emerge from the fact that his story shares so many similarities with her own although later it is implied that she may have a deeper connection to him. However, like much of Queen Emeraldas, the nature of that connection is still a mystery. So far, I am thoroughly enjoying Queen Emeraldas. The manga is moody, atmospheric, and melancholic with a Western frontier flair. The characters are ambitious, seeking a life of freedom in a world that is harsh and unforgiving.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 9Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 9 by Miki Yoshikawa. It’s fairly common for bodyswap manga to incorporate a fair amount of fanservice, especially when different genders are involved, and Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is no exception to that trend. Generally, the fanservice in the series doesn’t bother me that much especially considering the context, but every once in a while it’s more of a distraction than anything else. A case in point is a completely inexplicable panty shot in the ninth volume which completely threw me out of the story; it served no purpose for either characterization or plot, and even how the scene was illustrated didn’t make any sense. Usually, Yoshikawa is much better than that. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the ninth volume of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. There are some interesting twists and revelations as Yamada tries to find a way to return everyone’s missing memories. I’m not always very fond of amnesia plotlines in stories simply because they can be a lazy way for creators to write themselves out of a corner or cause unnecessary drama, but in the case of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches it actually works really well. At it’s very heart the series about friendship and overcoming isolation. Yamada, intentionally or not, was the one who brought so many of the characters together in the first place and he will do everything that he can to bring them together again.

My Week in Manga: October 26-November 1, 2015

My News and Reviews

A few different things were posted at Experiments in Manga last week. The most recent manga giveaway is currently underway, for one, and here’s still time to enter for a chance to win Barakamon, Volume 1 by Satsuki Yoshino. Last week I reviewed Vinland Saga, Omnibus 6 by Makoto Yukimura. The series continues to impress me a great deal with its story telling and character development. The fate of the series in English will be in part determined by how well the sixth and seventh omnibuses do (the seventh omnibus is currently scheduled to be released in December); I truly hope that Kodansha will be able to release more because Vinland Saga is fantastic. Finally, over the weekend, I posted the Bookshelf Overload for October.

I’ve been extremely busy with all sorts of life stuff, so while I’m sure there were plenty of interesting things going on in the realm of manga online, there were only two that really caught my eye last week: Shojo Beat posted a short interview with Rinko Ueda and Chris Butcher wrote about his experience interviewing Masashi Kishimoto at New York Comic Con. Also as a heads up, because I am so extraordinarily caught up in things going on at work and at home right now, I’ve decided to go a little easier on myself with my blogging schedule for November (and probably for the first half of December as well). Instead of the usual Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule, in the upcoming weeks I may just be posting on Monday and Thursday. Hopefully things will calm down and I can get back to writing more soon!

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail, Volume 50Fairy Tail, Volume 50 by Hiro Mashima. After so many arcs in which the Fairy Tail guild was fighting to save the world, I’m particularly enjoying the beginning of this most recent arc in which Fairy Tail doesn’t technically even exist anymore. Although there are some epic, world-altering developments occurring in the background, for the moment the story is focusing on the much more personal crises of the disbanded guild as it rebuilds itself. It’s a nice change of pace, though I’m fairly certain it won’t last for very long. A year or so has passed since the members of Fairy Tail parted their separate ways. Quite a few of the magic users have managed to power up during that time, allowing Mashima the opportunity to come up with some exciting and interesting new skills for them in order to show just how badass they’ve become (and they were strong to begin with). Some of the fan service focusing on the female characters in Fairy Tail continues to feel very out-of-place and distracting, but at least the women are frequently some of the strongest and most well-developed characters. The male characters are the subject of fan service from time to time, too, though never to the same extent.

Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 1Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 1-3 by Sui Ishida. The glut of vampire and zombie manga continues—and I’m not really a devotee of either of those subgenres—so I especially appreciate that Tokyo Ghoul makes use of an entirely different creature, the titular ghoul. In the case of this particular manga series, ghouls largely pass as normal humans assuming that they can master their intense hunger for human flesh. After an encounter with a ghoul that nearly leaves him dead, Kaneki finds himself in the unique position of partly belonging to both the human world and the world of the ghouls, and yet it will be a struggle for him to survive in either of them. In Tokyo Ghoul, humans are just as capable of being monsters. And Ishida isn’t afraid of killing off prominent characters, whether they be human or ghoul, so there is a constant sense of danger. Sadly, I think the emotional impact of the deaths was somewhat diminished since readers hadn’t yet had the chance to really get to know the characters involved as individuals. Still, kudos to Ishida for potentially making good use of some shocking, unexpected developments, especially as some early parts of the first volume were a little predictable.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 4Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 4 by Miki Yohsikawa. Although the fan service in Fairy Tail tends to bug me, the fan service in Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches doesn’t really bother me at all, probably because it’s better incorporated into the story itself. Admittedly, it can still be gratuitous from time to time. Since the manga in part deals with body-swapping, it makes sense that there would be some focus on the characters’ physical traits. Plus this particular volume includes the obligatory beach and onsen scenes. One thing that really impresses me about Yoshikawa’s artwork in the Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is that it’s obvious from the characters’ facial expressions and body language when there has been some swapping going on. This actually ends up being explicitly pointed out in the series when one character develops a crush on a specific combination of personality and body type. The witch count continues to grow in the series as does Yamada’s group of friends while he begins to work out a theory explaining why everyone has the powers that they do. I’m still really enjoying Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. Though largely a comedy, it has some heart to it as well.

My Week in Manga: August 3-August 9, 2015

My News and Reviews

Okay! In addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature, I managed to post three other things last week. First up was the announcement of the Sparkler Monthly Giveaway Winner, which also includes a list of the current, ongoing series being released in Sparkler Monthly (which is only a fraction of the total content). The other two posts were in-depth manga reviews; I took a look at a couple of Kodansha Comics’ recent releases. The first in-depth review of the month went to Naoshi Arakawa’s Your Lie in April, Volume 2, which I enjoyed. But then again, it’s a music manga, so it’s not too surprising that I like it. I also reviewed Masayuki Ishikawa’s Maria the Virgin Witch, Volume 3. It’s the last volume of the series, although the seque Exhibition is scheduled to be released in English later this year. Maria the Virgin Witch is somewhat uneven, but I still found it to be both intriguing and engaging.

As seems to always be the case nowadays, life was keeping me very busy last week, but I still came across some interesting things  elsewhere online. A translation of an interview of Daisuke Igarashi, for example. Last week also marked the seventieth anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States. It’s quite timely then that Last Gasp launched a Kickstarter project to create a hardcover edition of Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen with schools and libraries specifically in mind. To coincide with this, Paul Gravett reposted his article “Keiji Nakazawa: Barefoot in Hiroshima”. Barefoot Gen is a tremendous work. One of the Manga Moveable Feasts was even devoted to it back in the day. If anyone is interested in learning more about Nakazawa himself as well as some of the historical context surrounding Barefoot Gen, his autobiography was translated into English several years ago.

Quick Takes

Prophecy, Volume 3Prophecy, Volume 3 by Tetsuya Tsutsui. The first volume of Prophecy is the one that left the greatest impression on me, but in general it’s a very strong series. I didn’t find the second volume to be quite as compelling as the first, but the third provides a mostly satisfying conclusion to the series even though in some ways it felt a little anticlimactic. One of the members of Paperboy tips off the police and soon the Cyber Crimes Division has been able to identify the four terrorists. As the investigators draw closer and closer to capturing the men, they begin to notice what at first seem to be mistakes, slip ups, and inconsistencies in the group’s behavior. However, everything falls into place once Paperboy’s true motivations for committing all of the crimes are revealed. Prophecy is a realistic, smart, and engaging series with the added bite of social commentary. There’s apparently also a Prophecy spin-off series. I don’t think that it has been licensed, or that there are any current plans to do so, but I’d certainly be interested in reading it.

xxxHolic, Omnibus 6xxxHolic, Omnibus 6 (equivalent to Volumes 16-17) by CLAMP. For the most part I have been enjoying xxxHolic since the beginning of the series, but I think this omnibus has been my favorite so far. I really liked its brooding, ominous atmosphere. The humor that was so prevalent earlier in the series is actually almost entirely gone. The comedy in xxxHolic could be fun, but I have a particular penchant for the series’ supernatural angst, and that’s definitely taken the forefront in the last few volumes. I also initially found the crossover between Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle and xxxHolic to be intriguing, but I’ll admit that I was happy to see that the other series didn’t intrude too much in this omnibus. Instead, xxxHolic is focusing on how Watanuki and the others are coping now that Yuko is gone. Watanuki takes it especially hard and his tendency to slip in and out of dreams is becoming increasingly dangerous. There’s not much that the people who care about him can actually do except to watch over and support him as best as they can.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 3Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 3 by Miki Yoshikawa. There really are witches in this series! With its good-natured comedy and gender play, I’ve liked Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches a great deal from the very start. But with the third volume, Yoshikawa has started to really develop the series’ worldbuilding and is diving even further into the details of how the magic works. The relationships between the characters are also becoming more fleshed-out and complicated, which I’m enjoying as well. One of the things that I particularly appreciate about the series is that it seems perfectly okay for a guy to be crushing on another guy. Yes, it’s because there are some strange supernatural powers at work, but it’s also not treated like something gross. The setup also allows kissing to freely occur regardless of gender, which is fun. There’s still plenty of fanservice in Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, as one would probably expect from a shounen series full of gender- and body-swapping, but I generally find it to be tastefully done.