My Week in Manga: March 30-April 5, 2015

My News and Reviews

An interesting variety of things was posted last week at Experiments in Manga. First of all, I had the privilege and opportunity to announce one of Sparkler Monthly‘s most recent additions, Kôsen’s Lêttera, a three-volume comic that was originally published in Spain. The winner of the Yukarism giveaway was announced last week as well. The post also includes a list of manga that feature reincarnation. As for reviews, I took a look at Akira Arai’s debut novel A Caring Man which shared the inaugural Golden Elephant Award grand prize with Fumi Nakamura’s Enma the Immortal. Whereas Enma the Immortal is historical fiction with fantastical elements, A Caring Man is a contemporary crime thriller that by and large is very believable. Finally, over the weekend I posted March’s Bookshelf Overload, which features a slightly less absurd amount of manga than most months.

Elsewhere online, Organization Anti-Social Geniuses has been posting some great manga-related content, including recording of a panel with manga editor and letterer Abigail Blackman from the Castle Point Anime Convention and a quick interview with editor Brendan Wright about Dark Horse’s upcoming release of Makoto Yukimura’s Planetes. (I’m very excited for this license rescue! I already own Tokyopop’s edition of the series, but Dark Horse’s sounds like it will be great, so I’ll most likely be double-dipping.) And speaking of Dark Horse, the final volume of Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal was released last week. Robot 6 has an interview with Philip Simon reflecting on the manga’s end. Chic Pixel has a guide on how to import manga cheaply from Amazon Japan. Throughout March, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund posted a series of articles, Women Who Changed Free Expression, the last of which focused on the influential 24 Nengumi, or the Year 24 Group, as the female progenitors of shoujo manga.

Anime Boston took place over the weekend. Both Yen Press and Kodansha Comics had some pretty exciting announcements to make. Yen Press has licensed thirteen new manga, some of which will be digital-only releases. The two print releases that particularly caught my attention were the omnibus edition of Yowamushi Pedal, particularly surprising since it’s a sports manga that’s nearly forty volumes lone and still ongoing in Japan, and the yonkoma Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun which, if it’s anywhere near as good as the anime adaptation, should be fantastic. As for Kodansha’s announcements, Attack on Titan, Volume 16 will have a special edition. New licenses include Ninja Slayer Kills, two video game-related manga—Persona Q and Devil Survivor—and Junji Ito’s Cat Diary, which is the one I’m personally most excited for. Also revealed was the status of Vinland Saga, which had temporarily been suspended. Basically, only two more volumes are guaranteed to be released unless sales for the series improve. Vinland Saga is magnificent; if you haven’t already given it a try, this would be the time to do it!

Quick Takes

Barakamon, Volume 2Barakamon, Volumes 2-3 by Satsuki Yoshino. While I largely enjoyed the first volume of Barakamon, I wasn’t particularly blown away by it. Still, I was interested in reading more of the series. I’m glad that I did, because it’s really starting to grow on me. Barakamon does have a little bit of a story to it—the once successful and respected calligrapher Seishuu has moved to a remote island to regain his composure and maybe find some inspiration—but mostly the series is about its characters and their interactions with one another. Even though he’s still a city-boy at heart, Seishuu has started to settle in on the island and isn’t nearly as out-of-place as he once was. The humor seems to now be a little less about the differences between country folk and people from more urban areas (although there still is plenty of that, especially when a couple of Seishuu’s friends and admirers from Tokyo show up) and more about the characters’ individuality and quirkiness. I am glad to see Seishuu relax somewhat and lose a bit of his arrogance from the first volume. In general he’s becoming a much more likeable character, which is probably part of the point of the series.

Cage of Eden, Volume 17Cage of Eden, Volume 17 by Yoshinobu Yamada. Finally! The monsters have returned! Well, technically it’s only one monster (not counting the absolutely terrible people), but it’s a pretty big deal. The dinosaurs and creatures are some of the only things I actually like about Cage of Eden; they’ve been largely missing from the last few volumes, so I was glad to see them back in such a dramatic way. Most of the seventeenth volume is devoted to an intense, and most likely deadly, battle against a man-made, genetic monstrosity. Probably best described as a chimera, the creature is formidable and extremely dangerous. The students make some extraordinarily bad decisions when it comes to confronting the beast, which really makes me wonder how they’ve managed to survive for so long. (Granted, the body count in Cage of Eden is pretty high.) The fight hasn’t concluded by the end of the volume, though I suspect it won’t last too much longer. One of the good things about Cage of Eden suddenly focusing on action is there is less opportunity for the more obnoxious fanservice to interrupt the story. Some of the girls even get to put up a decent fight. (At least at first.)

Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Omnibus 2Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 3-4) by Satoshi Mizukami. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer and reading the first omnibus didn’t help much with that, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sadly, I wasn’t nearly as taken with the second omnibus. I still enjoyed it, and I still plan on reading more of the series, but Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer seems to have lost a little of its spark for me. Maybe I’ve just gotten used to its strangeness, but at the same time that’s also what I enjoy most about the series. Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer is just so marvelously weird. At times the manga can be surprisingly dark, too, which I also appreciate. In the second omnibus, a slew of new characters are introduced as the identities of the rest of the Beast Knights are uncovered, although some of them are discovered to already be dead. All of them are rather eccentric with pasts that have some significant pain or sadness to them. The mage who plans on destroying the planet makes several appearances as well, and to some extent his motivations are explained, too. Much like the rest of the series, he’s not quite what one might expect.

Virtuoso di AmoreVirtuoso di Amore by Uki Ogasawara. I was primarily drawn to Virtuoso di Amore for two reasons, the role that music plays in the boys’ love manga and the fact that it was created by Ogasawara. I enjoyed parts of her short and very smutty series Black Sun, currently the only other manga of hers available in English. (Techincally, Chronicle of the Divine Sword was at one point licensed, but I don’t think it was ever actually published.) Virtuoso di Amore follows Kenzo Shinozuka, a failed classical pianist (mostly due to his volatile temper), who has been hired by an aristocrat to live in his manor and play for him every night. His patron is Lorenzo Carlucci who, it turns out, used to attend the same music school as Kenzo. Lorenzo is determined to help Kenzo remake is name as a musician. I really liked the basic premise of Virtuoso di Amore as well as its dark ambiance and fervent drama, but Ogasawara’s storytelling is unfortunately disjointed and occasionally difficult to follow. For example, Lorenzo and Kenzo fall in love, or at least in lust, very suddenly, which makes me think their relationship at school must have been much more involved than is implied elsewhere in the manga.

My Week in Manga: March 9-March 13, 2015

My News and Reviews

Two reviews at Experiments in Manga last week! First up, I finally got around to reading Kouhei Kadono’s Boogiepop at Dawn. Technically the sixth Boogiepop novel, and the fourth to be released in English, it actually serves as a prequel to the entire series. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read of the Boogiepop series and found Boogiepop at Dawn to be particularly satisfying. I’m hoping to do a Boogiepop Adaptation Adventures post once I have a chance to read the manga and watch the anime and live-action adaptations. The second review posted last week was of Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi, Volume 2. Mushishi is one of my favorite manga, and the second volume includes some of my favorite stories in the series. The review is part of my monthly manga review project focusing on horror manga. Next month will feature Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare again.

Sparkler Monthly has been getting some good press recently, which I’m happy to see. Jason Thompson delves into the comics side of the magazine in the most recent House of 1000 Manga. Lianne Sentar was interviewed by Brigid Alverson at Robot 6 about Marketing to the Female Gaze. Sparkler has been adding a bunch of new comics lately. The most recent is actually a rescue from the closure of Inkblazers, Heldrad’s Orange Junk. More comics and more print releases will be announced in the very near future (I’m particularly looking forward to the Tokyo Demons Cherry Bomb collection), so now is a better time than ever to consider becoming a member to support the creators and the rest of the Sparkler team.

Last week was apparently “manga week” at ICv2, which included interviews with Dark Horse’s Mike Richardson (Part 1 and Part 2) and Viz Media’s Kevin Hamric (Part 1 and Part 2). The Comics Journal has been collecting and posting tributes to the late Yoshihiro Tatsumi, and Ryan Holmberg has written an in-depth article on Tatsumi for the site as well. Elsewhere online, Comics Forum posted Masafumi Monden’s article Shōjo Manga Research: The Legacy of Women Critics and Their Gender-Based Approach and Reflecting Lights has a nice publisher spotlight on Vertical Comics. Finally, Sean has a roundup of all the manga and light novel licenses that have recently been announced.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 3Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 3 written by Ryo Suzukaze and illustrated by Satoshi Shiki. An adaptation of a series of light novels, Before the Fall is a prequel to Hajime Isayama’s immensely popular and successful manga Attack on Titan. It takes place well before the original series, during a time in which humanity is facing the Titans, but has yet to really find a way to effectively deal with them. At this point, the Survey Corps at least knows how to destroy the Titans, but it is lacking the resources—specifically the three-dimensional maneuvering gear—that greatly aids in actually accomplishing the feat. Apparently, as the extra manga at the end of the third volume implies, Kuklo will somehow be involved in reclaiming that crucial bit of technology. However, most of the volume is devoted to the intense battle and tragic outcomes of the Survey Corps and Kuklo’s unfortunate confrontation with a Titan outside of the walls. There’s some plot and story development as well, but the action takes precedence this time around. In general, I don’t find Before the Fall to be quite as compelling as the original Attack on Titan, but it is interesting to see more of the overall worldbuilding and backstory that has been created for the franchise as a whole.

Cage of Eden, Volume 16Cage of Eden, Volume 16 by Yoshinobu Yamada. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Cage of Eden, though the sixteenth volume seems to be pretty par for the course. I enjoy a good survival story, but the manga is just not as enthralling as I want it to be. It doesn’t help that the fanservice tends to be narratively awkward; the sixteenth volume includes not one but two naked bath scenes of buxom middle school girls that interrupt the flow of the story. As for the story itself, there have been a few interesting developments. Having split into separate groups to investigate the spire and the pyramid on the island, the survivors have been able to begin piecing together exactly where they are as they uncover more and more secrets. Considering the number of deaths in Cage of Eden so far, it’s probably a safe bet that not everyone is going to survive to the end of the series. Especially taking into account the fact that the dinosaurs and other beasts aren’t the only dangerous creatures on the island. Humans can also be extremely deadly. And manipulative, too. It’s this menacing human element that the sixteenth volume of Cage of Eden focuses on. Trying to survive on the island has definitely taken its toll on the characters both mentally and physically.

Missions of Love, Volume 10Missions of Love, Volume 10 by Ema Toyama. To be completely honest, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Missions of Love nearly as much as I do, but here I am, ten volumes later, still completely hooked on the series’ melodrama and exceptionally twisted train wrecks of relationships. And there are some pretty momentous developments in those relationships in this volume, specifically a confession of love that can’t be mistaken or ignored. It seems as thought the time is drawing very near in which Yukina will have to choose either Shigure or Akira, but she’s only now realizing that might mean losing one of them completely. Partially in an attempt to avoid having to make an immediate decision, she challenges them both with a mission: to take her on a date as boyfriend and girlfriend. Missions of Love has always been suggestive, often skirting the edge of what would be deemed appropriate behavior and occasionally crossing over the line, and the tenth volume is no different. The relationships in the series aren’t healthy ones and never have been. Seeing as how many of them were initially based on manipulation and blackmail that probably isn’t too surprising, but it is interesting to see the characters develop legitimate feelings of affection for one another. They just don’t always go about expressing it in the best fashion.

xxxHolic, Omnibus 1xxxHolic, Omnibuses 1-2 (equivalent to Volumes 1-6) by CLAMP. I read the first few volumes of xxxHolic when the manga was originally being published by Del Rey Manga but never got around to finishing the series before it went out of print, so I’m happy that Kodansha Comics is releasing the omnibuses. xxxHolic is a manga of extremes. One moment it’s ridiculously comedic and the next it’s deadly serious. The manga can be a strange mix of humor and horror; sometimes the balance between those two aspects of the series works better than others. I like the incorporation of yokai in xxxHolic since I have a particular interest in yokai. Generally, CLAMP’s renditions of the traditional stories are much more contemporary and free-form in nature. Yokai and folk tales serve more as a source of loose inspiration rather than a rigid structure for the manga to build upon. xxxHolic and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle are directly related to each other, although they can be read separately without to much of a problem. So far, I find the Tsubasa references to be some of the least interesting in xxxHolic, but I do get a kick out of some of the throwaway nods to other CLAMP manga. For example, the leads from Legal Drug make a brief appearance with a minor (yet arguably crucial) role selling a hangover cure.

My Week in Manga: June 10-June 16, 2013

My News and Reviews

Another week at Experiments in Manga, another couple of reviews. Kaori Ekuni’s award-winning novel Twinkle Twinkle was recently brought to my attention and so I decided to read it. (Vertical is celebrating it’s tenth year of publishing, and Twinkle Twinkle was the first book it ever published.) I absolutely loved Twinkle Twinkle. It’s a peculiar love story between a woman and her gay husband who mostly married to get their parents off of their cases. It’s one of the best things I’ve read recently. As part of my Blade of the Immortal review project, I took a look at Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal, Volume 22: Footsteps. The volume marks the beginning of the final major story arc in the series. Blade of the Immortal has ended in Japan but there are still a handful of volumes that remain to be released in English.

And speaking of manga series ending, after ten and a half years Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son will be reaching its conclusion in Japan at the end of July. The fourth volume of the English-language edition of manga was recently released by Fantagraphics. I hope the entire series will be able to be translated as Wandering Son is a particularly important manga to me. Elsewhere online, there were a couple of podcasts of particular interest: Ed Sizemore returned with a one-time special episode of Manga Out Loud, which went on hiatus last year, and the Comic Books Are Burning In Hell podcast devoted an episode to Taiyo Matsumoto and his work. Also, Manga Xanadu’s podcast is now up to ten episodes! Oh, and one more thing—this week is the Skip Beat! Manga Moveable Feast!

Quick Takes

Cage of Eden, Volume 10 by Yoshinobu Yamada. I enjoy a good survival story, which is why I was looking forward to Cage of Eden when it was first released. Unfortunately, I found very little to like about the first volume and haven’t read any more of the series until now. The tenth volume is better than the first, but I’m still not convinced that Cage of Eden is worth my time even though I want it to be. By this point in the series the dialogue seems to have improved and there weren’t as many glaringly convenient coincidences and plot holes. The fanservice is still a bigger part of the manga than it really needs to be, though. Personally, I’m more interested in the action and mystery than I am in middle schoolers’ panties.

Godzilla: The Half-Century War by James Stokoe. Although I followed Stokoe’s Godzilla comic as it was being released in single issues, I still made a point to pick up the trade collection, too. I don’t have a particular interest in Godzilla, but I love Stokoe’s detailed and spectacularly colored artwork, which is what initially drew me to the comic. The Half-Century War is told from the perspective of Ota Murakami who in 1954 faces Godzilla as a member of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and becomes obsessed with the creature. The following chapters take place in different decades and locations: 1967 Vietnam, 1975 Ghana, 1987 Bombay, and 2002 Antarctica. The comic is pretty great with a quick pace and a good sense of humor. And Godzilla isn’t the only kaiju to make an appearance, either.

Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossoms Pink by Milk Morinaga. After reading Morinaga’s yuri series Girl Friends, I knew I needed to read her earlier work Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossoms Pink. Although overall the manga isn’t quite as sophisticated in its story as Girl Friends, it is just as sweet, charming, and romantic. In fact, I think I probably enjoyed Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossoms Pink even more than I did Girl Friends. The omnibus collects two volumes and nearly a decade’s worth of stories about the young women who attend the all-girls high school Sakurakai. There’s love and romance, friendship and affection with just a touch of the bittersweet. It’s a wonderful yuri collection.

The Two Faces of Tomorrow by Yukinobu Hoshino. I loved Hoshino’s 2001 Nights, so I’ve made a point to track down more of his work available in English. The Two Faces of Tomorrow manga is actually an adaptation of British science fiction author James P. Hogan’s 1979 novel of the same name. Scientists have developed a highly advanced artificial intelligence system that could be an incredible boon to human society, but there are fears that system could gain sentience and then turn against its creators. And so what is supposed to be a carefully controlled experiment is staged on a space station. The Spartacus AI is deployed and then deliberately provoked in order to determine how it will react and evolve. For fans of classic science fiction, The Two Faces of Tomorrow is well worth checking out.

Un-Go directed by Seiji Mizushima. I really wanted to like Un-Go, but after only a few episodes I found myself incredibly bored by it. It poses as a mystery series, but fails to actually engage the viewers in any of the investigations. I did find it interesting that the anime is loosely based on the novels and stories of Ango Sakaguchi. I was also fascinated by Inga. Actually, one of the reasons I finished the series was that I hoped to learn more about Inga and Shinjūrō’s relationship and their history. Unfortunately, none of this is ever explored in any sort of detail. In the end, I was more curious about the characters backstories than I was in whatever they were currently doing. Un-Go didn’t really work for me.

My Week in Manga: October 31-November 6, 2011

My News and Reviews

This is the time of month my entries on Experiments in Manga probably tend to be a little boring for most people. I announced the winner of the Sugar Sugar Rune giveaway (Manga Giveaway: Happy Hollowe’en! Winner) and posted the October 2011 Bookshelf Overload. To help make things a little more interesting, I’m starting up my Library Love feature again. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted one. Basically, it’s similar to my weekly quick takes except that it focuses specifically on manga that I’ve borrowed and read from the library. I think I’ll try to make it a monthly feature. Anyway, here’s Part 7!

I know that some of my readers were excited to hear about Viz Media’s entry into the boys’ love genre with their new imprint SuBLime. Deb Aoki has posted further information about the venture over at Manga. Part 1 is a transcript of the SuBLime panel and question and answer session that was held at Yaoicon. Part 2 features interviews with two of SuBLime’s editors: Leyla Aker (who is also vice-president of publishing at Viz) and Jennifer LeBlanc (whose blog The Yaoi Review may be familiar to some of you).

Also, completely unrelated, Takehiko Inoue has started work on Vagabond again! The series had been put on hold due to his health concerns among other factors. I’m very happy to see he’s working on the series again and hope this means he’s feeling better, too.—Takehiko Inoue Now Drafting Return of Vagabond Manga.

And as a heads up! The Natsume Ono Manga Moveable Feast will be held from November 13 to November 20. The Feast is being hosted by Alexander Hoffman of Manga Widget. I thought it was going to be later this month, so I was caught a little off guard. Still, I’ll should have a small bunch of Ono quick takes ready for next week as well as an in-depth review of the first volume of House of Five Leaves (my introduction to and favorite series by Ono).

Quick Takes

Cage of Eden, Volume 1 by Yoshinobu Yamada. Part of the problem that I have with Cage of Eden is probably the result of having just recently read a couple of very good survival manga. I may have enjoyed the series a little more if I hadn’t. But then again, there are plenty of things that would annoy me about Cage of Eden regardless. The worst offense is probably the dialogue. This is manga, the text should be working to enhance the artwork, not describing every single detail that I can obviously see right there on the page. I don’t care about any of the characters at this point. They can just go ahead and get eaten by dinosaurs for all I’m concerned. Actually, the dinosaurs and other creatures are kinda cool. Go, team dinosaurs!

Close the Last Door, Volumes 1-2 by Yugi Yamada. One of the things that I like best about the works by Yamada that I’ve read so far is that the characters’ relationships are complicated and messy. There are no simple solutions and they all have to face the problems that they create for themselves in their lives. Nagai has been in love with his younger coworker Saitou for years. After acting as the best man at Saitou’s wedding, Nagai finds himself drowning his sorrows at a bar along with Honda, an ex-boyfriend of the bride. Things get more complicated from there. I liked Close the Last Door quite a bit. I also found it extremely amusing that Nagai’s moments of fantasizing/agonizing while in the office break room were constantly being interrupted.

Code:Breaker, Volumes 1-2 by Akimine Kamijyo. Only the first two volumes of this series have been published; I’m not sure if Kodansha plans on continuing it where Del Rey left off or not. I thought the first volume was significantly better than the second, but I would still really like to see where this series is going. Sakurakouji is one of the better female characters I’ve come across recently in a shōnen series. For starters, she’s not stupid or there just to be ogled (although there is some inexplicable boob gropage in volume two). I particularly like the fact that she is an accomplished martial artist. She is also definitely her own person. The story is told from her perspective, but the focus is really on Ogami at this point.

Dengeki Daisy, Volumes 1-3 by Kyousuke Motomi. I had heard good things about Dengeki Daisy, but I was still pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the first few volumes of the series. Sure, there is some silliness and a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is needed, particularly in the first volume. But, there are also some really interesting elements. The series seems to be less about the potential romance between Kurosaki and Teru, although that is certainly an important aspect, and more about the mystery surrounding the death of Teru’s brother Souchirou and his work. Many of the characters in Dengeki Daisy have some sort of connection to Souchirou. I want to know what happened and why Kurosaki feels so conflicted and guilty.

Guin Saga, Episodes 14-26 directed by Atsushi Wakabayashi. The English dub of the Guin Saga anime was never its strong point but it’s especially uneven in the second half. Malius in particular is simply terrible. (And for a minstrel, he really can’t sing.) However, ignoring that, I have been enjoying Guin Saga in all its epic glory. Although there is still some fighting, the second half moves away from the battlefield and deals more with court politics. The series still feels like a watered down version of a more complex narrative, but I’m just happy to have any version of such an influential story available in English. They did find a decent stopping place, but it’s obvious that there is plenty more story to go.