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.

My Week in Manga: June 20-June 26, 2016

My News and Reviews

Not much news to report in regards to Experiments in Manga this past week, though I would like to take to the opportunity to thank everyone for the kind words, encouragement, and support as I work to find some life-work-blog-etc balance. (In case you missed it, I went into more detail in last week’s My Week in Manga.) Currently I’m working on an Adaptation Adventures feature for Mushishi for my horror manga review project, but it’s been delayed (yet again) as I needed to get my DVD player working in order to watch the live-action film. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish the post up soon!

Elsewhere online, Libre responded responded to Digital Manga’s rather unprofessional announcement that the publishers were parting ways. (Apparently there was a breach of contract; from how Libre’s comments are phrased, I’m assuming it was on Digital Manga’s part.) Digital Manga will stop selling manga that were licensed from Libre on June 30th and posted a list of the discontinued titles on Twitter. Justin at The OASG interviewed Ajani Oloye, one of Kodansha Comics’ manga editors. In licensing news, Bruno Gmünder’s catalog for Fall 2016 lists two new collections from Mentaiko Itto in its Gay Manga line, a poster book and the manga The Boy Who Cried Wolf. (I highly enjoyed Itto’s previous English-language manga collection, Priapus, so this is good news for me.)

Quick Takes

Forget Me Not, Volume 2Forget Me Not, Volume 2 written by Mag Hsu and illustrated by Nao Emoto. While the catalyst behind Forget Me Not is the mystery woman who helped to save Serizawa’s life after he was in a motorcycle accident, so far the series spends most of its time exploring Serizawa’s past and lost loves. One of the most touching incidents in the second volume (at least for me) actually had nothing to do with Serizawa’s erstwhile romances—a classmate confesses to Serizawa that he’s gay and that he has feelings for him. Serizawa handles the situation remarkably well, especially when considering the social disasters so many of his other relationships end up becoming. But even those failed relationships are important for Serizawa’s growth as a person and show that good things actually can come about as the result of struggling with rejection. Serizawa is a much more interesting character than I initially gave him credit for. He’s a believably and realistically flawed person who makes stupid mistakes but isn’t generally acting out of malice. Serizawa does occasionally act like a complete jerk, but for the most part it’s unintentional. I like that the series shows how he matures, and in some cases doesn’t, over time.

Your Lie in April, Volume 3Your Lie in April, Volumes 3-7 by Naoshi Arakawa. It was the series’ emphasis on music that first brought Your Lie in April to my attention, and it’s still one of the thing that I like best about the manga. As a musician, I appreciate the characters’ efforts to express themselves through their art, though as a composer I can’t completely agree with the amount of disregard some of the characters show towards the original score. The more I read of Your Lie in April, the more I realize that while music is an important aspect of the series, at it’s very heart the manga is about messy and complicated love of varying types. Kosei’s relationship with his  mother is deeply intertwined with his relationship to music and everything else in his life stems from that. Everyone in the series seems focused on Kosei. It can all be very melodramatic and at times Your Lie in April narrowly avoids becoming overly sentimental. But then I, too, believe in the power of music. Kosei’s return to playing the piano is traumatic, but ultimately healing for him. Realistically, however, it music shouldn’t be a complete replacement for the emotional and psychological support that he needs to recover from years of abuse and the death of his mother.

Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 2Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 3-4) by Wataru Watanabe. I’ve seen a fair amount of the Yowamushi Pedal anime so I know exactly what’s going to happen this early on in the original manga, but I still find the series incredibly enjoyable to read. I think that part of that has to do with the artwork; I really like Watanabe’s style in Yowamushi Pedal. The art is not at all what I would call pretty—in fact many people might even consider its roughness and angularity ugly—but it is very dynamic, energetic, and thrilling. Story-wise, the second omnibus is almost entirely devoted to the inaugural race of the first year members of the road racing club. Most of the team are experienced racers but Onoda, the lead of Yowamushi Pedal, most definitely is not. Since Onoda himself is learning the rules and techniques used in road cycling for the first time, Watanabe is able to take advantage of the opportunity to introduce the same concepts to readers who likewise might not be familiar with them. From time to time it does interrupt the flow of the narrative, but Yowamushi Pedal generally moves along at a good pace. I find the series very entertaining and I’m really looking forward to reading more.

My Week in Manga: January 4-January 10, 2016

My News and Reviews

The new year is now well on its way, and I finally feel like I’m getting back into my writing groove; my regular posting schedule has mostly returned, though there might be a slight interruption in February. Anyway. In addition to the regular My Week in Manga feature, there were two other posts at Experiments in Manga last week. The first was the announcement of the Merman in My Tub Giveaway Winner which also includes a compiled list of some of the giveaway participants’ favorite manga that were released in 2015. The second post last week also happened to be the second in-depth manga review for the year—JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Volume 3 by Hirohiko Araki. It’s such a ridiculous, over-the-top series, but I’m sincerely enjoying it.

As for some of the interesting things I’ve discovered online recently: The news was previously leaked, but Dark Horse has now officially announced its two new manga licenses, Kenji Tsuruta’s Wandering Island and CLAMP’s RG Veda. I thought I had mentioned it a few weeks ago when it first launched (apparently I forgot), but Digital Manga’s boys’ love imprint Juné has a new Kickstarter project to publish four titles by Sakira in print. At least three of the four manga were Digital Manga Guild publications that were previously only available digitally. The project has already succeeded, but Digital Manga’s plan is to put a fair amount of the money pledged into restocking/reprinting some of its older, hard-to-find boys’ love titles. Finally, over at MangaBlog, Kate Dacey, Brigid Alverson, and Deb Aoki talk about some of their most anticipated manga of 2016, many of which happen to be some of my most anticipated releases as well.

Quick Takes

Itazura na Kiss, Volume 4Itazura na Kiss, Volumes 4-6 by Kaoru Tada. For the most part, I’m continuing to enjoy Itazura na Kiss. At this point in the series, Naoki and Kotoko are in college, each trying to figure out what to do with their lives. Kotoko’s infatuation with Naoki is the most important impetus for her to do just about anything, whether it be joining the tennis club, becoming a waitress, or trying her hand at office work. Normally, this would probably annoy me, but I appreciate her gusto, individuality, and willingness to follow through with what she’s started. Even though Kotoko is so incredibly focused on Naoki, her world actually doesn’t completely revolve around him and she’s not defined by him either, which I think is what makes her character work for me. Were it otherwise, I don’t think that I would enjoy the series nearly as much. Naoki continues to be aloof and more often than not a jerk. One particular instance in which Kotoko is unnecessarily treated very poorly could have been avoided entirely if he would have just had the courtesy to tell her what was going on, and there was no good reason for him not to. Thankfully, this sort of behavior isn’t romanticized or idealized in the manga.

Love in All Forms: The Big Book of Growing Up QueerLove in All Forms: The Big Book of Growing Up Queer edited by Serafina Dwyer. I follow the work of Kori Michele Handwerker who contributed to Love in All Forms which is how I first learned about the collection. I was also thrilled to discover that Jennifer Doyle, another artist whose work I enjoy, was also a contributor. The anthology collects fourteen comics by queer creators about queer children. Most of the creators were actually new to me, so I’ve definitely found some new artists to follow. As for the comics themselves, some of the stories are based in reality, while others are fantasy or science fiction, but they all deal with love and personal identity in one way or another. Many of the characters skew towards the feminine side of the gender non-conforming spectrum, but there’s a nice range of representation in the anthology with an emphasis on acceptance. Generally the stories tend to be fairly optimistic, which is marvelously refreshing. The name of the anthology might be a little misleading, or at least overly broad or ambitious, but it’s a lovely collection of beautifully heartfelt and touching queer comics.

Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 1Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Wataru Watanabe. I’ve watched and enjoyed part of the Yowamushi Pedal anime adaptation, so I wasn’t especially surprised by any of the developments found in the original manga. Even so, the first omnibus was great fun and I enjoyed it a great deal. Onoda is a fan of anime and manga whose surprising natural talents and regular trips by bicycle to Akihabara using less than ideal equipment have granted him some impressive cycling skills. He doesn’t even recognize his own abilities, though, not at all identifying with the more athletically inclined students at his school. But after several curious turns of events, he finds himself joining the bicycle road racing club. Watanabe isn’t very subtle when working information about cycling and bicycles into the story, which can be a little jarring, but the manga is still entertaining and I really like the characters. I’m glad that Yen Press is taking a chance on a long-running sports manga (the series is already over forty volumes in Japan and is still ongoing) and I sincerely hope that Yowamushi Pedal is a success.

My Week in Manga: June 30-July 6, 2014

My News and Reviews

The first week of the month tends to be a little slow at Experiments in Manga (at least it feels slow to me). Granted, there were still three posts last week. The Juné Manga Giveaway Winner was announced, which also includes a list of some favorite Juné manga. June’s Bookshelf Overload was posted. (My wallet thanks me that June was a little less ridiculous than the last few month have been.) And finally, the first in-depth manga review of July goes to Battle Royale: Angels’ Border. Written by the author of the original Battle Royale novel, the volume collects two side stories about the girls who try to survive the death match by banding together at a lighthouse. Angels’ Border is surprisingly romantic, but if you know anything about Battle Royale, you know that things don’t end very well for almost anyone involved.

There were plenty of things that I found to read online last week. Here’s a quick list of a few of the posts that I thought were particularly interesting: Ryan Holmberg takes a look at Hayashi Seiichi’s pop music manga, specifically focusing on “Flowering Harbour” (which is now available in English!) Moyoco Anno was interviewed by Publishers Weekly. The Beautiful World has created a Transgender Manga Masterpost. J. R. Brown has a fascinating article about what can be gleaned by paying attention to the details of ukiyo-e prints. And Justin has a rant about the state of manga in translation that is worth reading. Also, Anime Expo was last week and there were a ton of announcements. Sean has a good roundup of the licenses at A Case Suitable for Treatment.

Quick Takes

Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star, Volume 1Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star by Cain Kuga. Of the two Cowboy Bebop manga, Shooting Star was actually the first to be released in Japan although it was the second series to be published in English. Technically, it also preceded the Cowboy Bebop anime series, which I hadn’t previously realized. However, it’s still based on the anime. Kuga was given free rein with the characters and story, which makes Shooting Star not exactly a retelling but more like an alternate version or universe. The manga isn’t as dark as the anime (though there’s humor to be found there as well), and the story is somewhat different, but the basic premise of near-future bounty hunters in space remains. Frankly, though vaguely entertaining in places, Shooting Star just isn’t as good as the anime, the action can be difficult to follow, and the slapstick is a little too silly for my taste. Shooting Star will most likely be of interest to established fans of the Cowboy Bebop anime as a curiosity more than anything else. Even though Shooting Star mostly stands on its own, people who haven’t seen the anime probably won’t get much out of it.

I Shall Never Return, Volume 1I Shall Never Return, Volumes 1-5 by Kazuna Uchida. Although the first volume of I Shall Never Return is a little shaky at the start (and parts of Ken’s stepfather’s backstory seem to be unnecessary and superfluous), overall I was actually rather impressed with this short boys’ love series. Ken comes from a broken home and is a high school dropout. His best friend Ritsuro was the only stable thing in his life but now they’re having problems, too. I Shall Never Return is filled with drama and deals with some very mature themes, such as abuse, drug use, prostitution, and rape. Terrible things happen and I was constantly waiting for something even worse. But there are also some wonderful moments of support, love, and acceptance. One of the things that I found particularly interesting about I Shall Never Return is that while it’s definitely a romance, the two leads actually spend much of the series apart from each other. Ritsuro remains in Japan while Ken travels to Singapore and then to India, trying to find a new start and become a better person. They have to deal with a long-distance relationship at the same time they’re coming to terms with their feelings for each another. It’s a believable and difficult process.

Knights of Sidonia, Volume 8Knights of Sidonia, Volumes 8-9 by Tsutomu Nihei. Maybe it’s because the manga’s such a bizarrely quirky series—a strange mix of science fiction, horror, and romantic comedy—but I can’t help but love Knights of Sidonia a little more with each passing volume. Nagate, Tsumugi, and Izana make a marvelous and frequently awkward family unit. And even considering that Tsumugi is a monstrous human-Gauna hybrid, she manages to be endearingly charming, sweet, and adorable. Nagate continues to be socially inept, though certainly less so, and Izana has fallen more in love with him, which has triggered physical changes. The three of them together are simply delightful, forming a not quite love triangle. In direct contrast to the humor and cheerfulness surrounding the trio, humanity’s fight for survival against the Gauna remains terrifyingly intense and death tolls continue to rise. Sometimes the battles can be a little difficult to follow, but they’re always exhilarating. There are some definite sexual overtones to Knights of Sidonia in these two volumes, which are especially apparent in the artwork, but this appropriately adds to the series’ more disconcerting atmosphere.

This One SummerThis One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. The Tamakis are a pair of cousins who previously worked together on the award-winning graphic novel Skim. This One Summer is their second collaboration. The story follows Rose over the course of her family’s summer vacation at Awago Beach where they have always rented a cottage. Rose’s mother has become more distant over the last year and can’t seem to relax, creating a significant amount of tension. There are reasons for that, though, and Rose is more perceptive than her parents might realize. But because communication has broken down between them all, it may be a while before everything will be okay again. Meanwhile, Rose spends time with her friend Windy, enjoying the beach and bingeing on horror films that they probably shouldn’t be watching at their age. In the background another drama is unfolding among the local teenagers when one of the young women discovers that she might be pregnant. It’s heartbreaking to see how insidious sexism can be. In addition to the strong and effectively layered storytelling in This One Summer, the artwork is beautiful as well.

YowamushiPedalYowamushi Pedal, Episodes 15-26 directed by Osamu Nabeshima. This set of episodes finishes up the Sohoku racing club’s grueling training camp and then launches almost directly into the Inter-High race, following the competition up through the first section of the first day and ending with one heck of a dramatic plot development. Yowamushi Pedal manages to be incredibly exciting, mostly due the intensity and passion of the characters and because it includes just a touch of the ridiculous. More characters and teams are introduced, and more backstories and rivalries are revealed in this part of the series, too. The animation is sadly a bit inconsistent, sometimes impressively good while at other times lacking in finesse. Although I enjoy cycling, I’ve never really followed road racing closely. I was surprised to learn just how much teamwork can go into it; I’d always assumed it was more of an individual event. I’ve also enjoyed learning more about some of the strategies involved in racing. (And I’ll admit, now that the weather is finally decent where I live I really want to get my bike out again and hit the road! Who says watching anime can’t be good for you?)

My Week in Manga: January 20-January 26, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week I declared it to be Usamaru Furuya Week here at Experiments in Manga. Ostensibly, it was to celebrate Furuya-sensei’s birthday, but mostly it was just an excuse for me to finally get around to reviewing more of his manga. I have now written an in-depth review of all of Furuya’s manga currently available in English. As for last week’s Furuya reviews, I have for your reading pleasure Short Cuts, Volume 2 (the final volume of one of my favorite gag manga), the second and third volumes of Genkaku Picasso (probably the most accessible entry into Furuya’s English manga), and the second and third volumes of No Longer Human (an excellent adaptation of Osamu Dazai’s novel No Longer Human). I’d love to see more of Furuya’s work translated. Although there are no immediate plans, I know that Vertical has expressed interest, so I am hopeful that someday we’ll see more.

Elsewhere online, manga translator and scholar Matt Thorn has an excellent piece Regarding Inio Asano’s gender identity. (He also talks a bit about his own gender identity.) And speaking of the complexities of gender, sexuality, and translation, a few months back I attended the lecture “Out Gays” or “Shameless Gays”? What Gets Lost, and What is Gained, when U.S. Queer Theory is Translated into Japanese? and posted some random musings about queer theory, Japanese literature, and translation. Well, the video of the lecture was posted earlier this month and is freely available to view. The most recent ANNCast, Vertical Vortex, features Ed Chavez from Vertical and included a license announcement for Takuma Morishige’s comedy manga My Neighbor Seki. In other licensing news, Seven Seas has acquired Kentarō Satō’s horror manga Magical Girl Apocalypse. Also, Seven Seas will soon be announcing licenses for a new yuri manga and a doujinshi (which is very unusual in English). Finally, Shawne Kleckner, the president of Right Stuf (one of my favorite places to find manga), recently participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything.

Quick Takes

The Drifting Classroom, Volume 1The Drifting Classroom, Volumes 1-3 by Kazuo Umezu. An award-winning horror manga from the early 1970s, The Drifting Classroom is a series that I’ve been meaning to read. After a bizarre earthquake, Yamato Elementary School along with more than 860 students and staff disappear, leaving behind an enormous hole in the ground and very few clues as to what has happened. From the students’ perspective, everything outside the school has been turned into a wasteland. The situation they find themselves in may be extreme and unbelievable, but the consequences that follow are terrifyingly probable. The series’ setup allows Umezu to freely explore humanity’s darkness. The Drifting Classroom isn’t frightening because of the unknown; the true horror comes from how people react out of fear to the unexplainable. There are immediate concerns for survival, such as the lack of food and water, but even more problematic is the violence the erupts among the school’s survivors. The Drifting Classroom is an intense horror and survival manga with extremely dark psychological elements. I’ll definitely be reading more.

Missions of Love, Volume 6Missions of Love, Volume 6 by Ema Toyama. I started reading Missions of Love in the middle of the series. Although there is some background information that I am missing, I was still able to pick up on the major plot points fairly quickly. I really should go back and read the earlier volumes, though, as I’m enjoying the series much more than I anticipated. None of the characters are particularly nice people; their relationships are a twisted and tangled mess because of how they are all manipulating one another. And in the process, they’re confusing their own personal feelings as well. Missions of Love is intentionally scandalous and deliberately suggestive. However, it’s not exactly what I would call fanservice since it is meant more for the story and characters’ sakes rather than for the readers’. There are intimate moments and scenes of extreme vulnerability that challenge appropriateness but never quite cross the line, although Toyama frequently pushes the limits. I’m just waiting for something really terrible to happen. At this point, I can’t imagine that any of the characters in Missions of Love will be able to make it through the series unscathed.

Red Colored ElegyRed Colored Elegy by Seiichi Hayashi. Another manga from the early 1970s, originally serialized in the alternative manga magazine Garo, Red Colored Elegy is only one of two volumes of Hayashi’s work available in English. The story follows Ichiro and Sachiko, two young animators in love and living together, but who are struggling to make ends meet as life slowly drives them apart. Hayashi’s artwork is deceptively simple and often free of backgrounds, placing the emphasis on the characters and their tumultuous lives and relationships. He conveys a tremendous amount of emotion through a minimalist, almost stream-of-conscious approach. Hayashi’s style in Red Colored Elegy can make it feel a bit disjointed from page to page, as though it were a collection of closely related vignettes rather than a single continuing story, but the overall melancholic mood created by the manga is consistent. Red Colored Elegy is about falling into and out of love and about pushing through life’s tragedies, both small and large. Emotionally compelling and beautifully crafted, Red Colored Elegy stands up to multiple readings.

Yowamushi PedalYowamushi Pedal, Episodes 1-14 directed by Osamu Nabeshima. The Yowamushi Pedal anime series is based on an ongoing manga by Wataru Watanabe. Sakamichi Onoda is an otaku trying to revive the anime club at his new high school, but he quite unexpectedly finds himself caught up in the bicycle racing club instead. He has some natural talent at cycling—his frequent 90 km trips by bike to Akihabara probably didn’t hurt—but he has had no formal training. That’s about to change, though. The series so far has mostly focused on Onoda and the Sohoku High School racing club. The other teams that they will be facing have only been shown briefly. However, now that Onoda has started to get the basics of cycling down, the other cyclists are becoming more prominent in the story. I particularly like Yowamushi Pedal‘s casting; all of the characters have very distinctive speech patterns and voices which are very entertaining. I’m enjoying the series a great deal. Although I never was a racer and I don’t cycle as much as I used to (once upon a time, it was my primary mode of transportation), Yowamushi Pedal makes me want to get my bike out again.