My Week in Manga: May 14-May 20, 2012

My News and Reviews

It was another two review week here at Experiments in Manga. To start off, I reviewed Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage, and the Modern Japanese Woman by Sumie Kawakami. The book is an intimate look at the romantic lives of women in Japan. Unfortunately it has gone out of print, but there will be a digital version released in the near future. The second review to be posted last week was for Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal, Volume 9: The Gathering, Part II. This volume is the end of the second major story arc in the series. I’m still loving Blade of the Immortal. Look for the review of the next volume to be posted sometime next month.

I meant to mention this last week after I finished reading The Guin Saga novels that are available in English, but Vertical has a really interesting Guin Roundtable transcript available on their website. It does include some minor spoilers, but it’s a great way to gain more insight into the series (especially the English edition). Over at, Deb Aoki has started a fabulous series of posts about Making a Living in Manga, specifically examining North American creators. Also, if you’re an anime or manga fan, please consider taking time to complete the Anime and Manga Fandom survey being conducted as part of a fellow fan’s dissertation project.

Finally, May’s Manga Moveable Feast begins this week! The Feast will be focusing on Oishinbo and other food manga. Khursten of Otaku Champloo, who is hosting this month, has already posted a fantastic introduction to food manga in Japan. For the Feast I’ll be reviewing Oishinbo, A la Carte: Ramen & Gyōza and posting some random musings on the series later in the week.

Quick Takes

20th Century Boys, Volumes 10-12 by Naoki Urasawa. The Friend’s face has finally been revealed to the readers! Although the Friend’s identity makes some amount of sense to the story, I can’t help but be skeptical. I’m pretty sure Urasawa still has at least one major twist in store when it comes to the Friend. And that’s not even considering all of the other twists and turns that 20th Century Boys has been taking. The story keeps getting more and more complicated and there’s a huge number of characters to keep track of, but I’m still enjoying the series a tremendous amount. I particularly like how important people’s memories of their pasts are to the story’s current timeline.

Black Butler, Volumes 5-8 by Yana Toboso. If every volume of Black Butler was like the eighth, I would have been more enthusiastic about the series from the very beginning. Black Butler is finally starting to settle into a nice balance between the humor and the darker elements. It’s somewhat a personal preference, but I enjoy the series more the darker it gets. I am pleased to see that the Phantomhive servants get the opportunity to prove what badasses they are. I much prefer this side of the characters to their previous buffoonery. I also enjoyed Sebastian and Ciel’s brief stint at the Noah’s Ark Circus (I happen to like European-style circuses), which gave Toboso plenty of opportunity to have fun with character designs. Toboso’s version of Queen Victoria is pretty great, too.

Deeply Loving a Maniac by You Higashino. Morita is an otaku and his lover Sakura has become the object of his obsession and devoted affection. This could potentially be a creepy relationship, but Sakura enjoys the attention he gets from Morita so it’s endearing instead. Sakura even allows Morita to dress him in cosplay, which is adorable. It’s obvious that these two genuinely care for each other. Morita’s otaku tendencies can still cause some stress in their relationship, though. Apparently, Deeply Loving a Maniac is the second volume in a three book series. It stands perfectly well on its own, but I hope the other two volumes are licensed as well. I’d love to see how these guys got together in the first place.

Usagi Drop directed by Kanta Kamei. I’ve really been enjoying Yumi Unita’s Bunny Drop manga, so I was interested in seeing how the anime held up in comparison. The anime is actually a very faithful adaptation of the first four volumes of the manga. (These are all of the volumes before the story’s infamous time jump.) The anime does include some brief, wonderful moments not in the original manga which I quite enjoyed. The voice actors were cast perfectly, too. The beginning of each episode is done in a lovely style reminiscent of watercolor paintings. I actually wouldn’t have minded seeing entire episodes done in such a fashion. They weren’t, but the largely pastel color palette is carried over which helps to unify the animation.

My Week in Manga: April 2-April 8, 2012

My News and Reviews

It’s the beginning of the month which means the usual couple of posts. First, the winner of the monthly manga giveaway was announced—Manga Giveaway: Cross Game Giveaway Winner. Check out the post for a list of sports and game themed manga licensed in English. I also posted the Bookshelf Overload for March. I had a pretty good month finding out of print manga on ebay. On top of these two posts, I also reviewed The Moon Over the Mountain and Other Stories, a collection of short works by Atsushi Nakajima. I really enjoyed the volume and wish more of his work was available.

An update on the Aniblog Tourney II: The final bracket for the tournament has been announced. The tournament will begin on April 15th (all of the dates can be found here.) Experiments in Manga has been seeded in the second round of the green bracket and will be facing off with either Shameful Otaku Secret! or O-New on May 1st. There are a lot of really interesting blogs in the tournament that are worth taking a look at. And if it’s your thing, make sure to vote.

Elswhere online: Over at Okazu Eriaca Friedman has a fantastic and illuminating post about the licensing, translating, and editing of manga—Invisible Layers of Manga. The 2012 Manga Readers’ Choice Award Winners have been announced as have the nominees for the Eisner Awards. Brigid Alverson of MangaBlog (among other places) is one of the Eisner jurors this year. Also, Viz has licensed the new Berserk film trilogy!

Quick Takes

Black Butler, Volumes 1-4 by Yana Toboso. Black Butler takes its time to settle in. It starts off as a rather goofy series before introducing the more serious aspects of the story. Although I am greatly amused by the comedic elements, I actually prefer the darker atmosphere. Some of the supporting characters, while initially endearing, can be somewhat annoying. The story takes place in Victorian England but includes plenty of fun anachronistic details. The attention Toboso gives to the characters’ clothing is fantastic. I also love Sebastian’s bishōnen design. I’m not completely sold on Black Butler yet, but there’s still enough to the series that interests me that I’ll probably give a few more volumes a try.

The Drops of God, Volumes 2-3 written by Tadashi Agi and illustrated by Shu Okimoto. The characters in The Drops of God all have very strong and very distinct personalities. Their utter passion and devotion to wine can be a little hard to take sometimes but I do like them as people. The series can be a rather absurd and ridiculous from time to time—wine apparently can cure all ills and fix any problem. Still, I am enjoying the books and learning quite a bit about wine in the process of reading them. One of my favorite things about the series is the art. Although there are a lot of panels which consist primarily of talking heads, the visual interpretations of the characters’ experiences drinking wine are marvelous.

Two of Hearts by Kano Miyamoto. Like the other works by Miyamoto available in English, Two of Hearts has a certain sadness to it. Haruya is an aspiring writer who has given up completing his novel and now makes his living writing for a magazine. By chance, he meets Maki, a troubled young man from difficult family circumstances. As the story progresses it becomes clear that Haruya genuinely cares for Maki but early on it almost seems like he is taking advantage of the young man. While ultimately it is a good relationship for both Haruya and Maki, which makes me happy, Miyamoto really skirts the uncomfortable with the characters and their situations. Ultimately though, I think it’s handled fairly well.

Pom Poko directed by Isao Takahata. At nearly two hours long, Pom Poko is a little too lengthy and somewhat tiresome but the film does have its moments. As a fan of yokai, I am glad that I watched it. The film features tanuki, including their infamous testicles and multi-purpose scrotum (innocently called a “pouch” in the English dub, but there’s really no question what they’re actually talking about if you’re paying attention.) Other yokai, such as kitsune, also make appearances. And the yokai parade is wonderful. In order to protect their forest from encroaching human development, the racoons (tanuki) of Tama Hills must master the art of transformation in an attempt to scare the humans away from their lands.