My Week in Manga: April 28-May 4, 2014

My News and Reviews

I was in Texas for much of last week, attending a conference for work, but I was still able post a few things here at Experiments in Manga. The most recent manga giveaway is underway, for one. This month you all have a chance to win the first omnibus of Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist. All you have to do is tell me a little about some of your favorite women mangaka. April’s Bookshelf Overload was also posted; there were all sorts of great releases last month. And finally, the first in-depth manga review of May goes to the very recently released Vinland Saga, Omnibus 3 by Makoto Yukimura. Vinland Saga is one of my favorite series currently being published in English. The entire series is epic and third omnibus is awesome.

Because I was traveling and caught up in conference goings-on, I may have missed some news. (If there’s something that caught your interest last week, do let me know!) However, I did come across a few things that made for good reading. I particularly enjoyed Tony Yao’s post at Manga Therapy, The Ambiguously Amazing Hange Zoe which discusses things like Attack on Titan, gender, and ambiguity. I recently reviewed Jen Lee Quick’s Off*Beat, Volume 2 in preparation for the release of the third and final volume. The series’ editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl offers some Editorial Thoughts on the End of Off*Beat, one of Chromatic Press’ flagship titles. RocketNews24 offers a list of the twenty most popular manga in Japan, based on publication numbers. Justin Stroman interviews Eric Eberhardt (Viz Media’s Director of Digital Publishing) about Viz’s new digital imprint VIZ Select.

And for those of you in the Toronto area next week and weekend, do be sure to check out the Toronto Comic Arts Festival! There will be some phenomenal programming and incredible creators in attendance (including Moyoco Anno, Est Em, and Akira Himekawa among many, many more), and it’s free! TCAF is the only comic festival/conference that I go to and I highly, highly recommend it.

Quick Takes

Constellations in My PalmConstellations in My Palm written by Chisako Sakuragi and illustrated by Yukine Honami. I happen to really enjoy Honami’s artwork—a somewhat softer style with light but expressive lines—so I’ve slowly been getting around to reading the various boys’ love manga that she’s worked on. As far as I know, Constellations in My Palm is the only manga that Sakuragi has written. It’s a fairly realistic romance and tends to be somewhat quiet and subdued. It’s narrated by Mizuho, a college student, whose younger cousin Enji moves in with his family as he is about to start college, too. When they were younger they were very close, but it’s been seven years since they’ve been in contact with or seen each other. Mizuho and Enji both care about each other, but their relationship has become awkward and strained. Constellations in My Palm has some wonderful moments in it, but I was largely frustrated by the manga. So much of the story is driven by misunderstandings, and many of them aren’t even the result of miss-communication. Generally, it’s Mizuho who’s the culprit—even when he’s told something straight to his face, repeatedly, he simply can’t or chooses not to believe it. As Mizuho has some self-esteem issues this does fit his character, but it doesn’t make it any less exasperating.

The Flowers of Evil, Volume 7The Flowers of Evil, Volumes 7-9 by Shuzo Oshimi. I’ve been waiting for the entirety of the third arc of The Flowers of Evil to be released before reading it. I’m glad that I did, because once I started I didn’t want to put the manga down. After the resolution of the incident at the summer festival, there is a timeskip of three years. Kasuga and his family have moved to a different town in order to start over, but he is still haunted by his past. His relationship with his parents is broken and almost nonexistent. His new classmates tolerate him, but he remains distant and disconnected (and understandably so). But then he meets and, despite his weirdness and strange behavior, is befriended by Tokiwa—a popular and attractive girl whom all of the boys have a crush on. Like Kasuga, she’s hiding parts of herself from others, too. On the surface, the third arc is almost tame when compared to what came before it, but it is still extremely effective. It has a very different sort of intensity than the previous arcs. The story has become more subtle but retains a constant undercurrent of dread. Even when good things happen it seems as though they could only possibly be a prelude to some sort of disaster. The Flowers of Evil is an incredibly engaging series and just keeps getting better and better.

Say I Love You, Volume 1Say I Love You, Volume 1 by Kanae Hazuki. I didn’t really know much about Say I Love You before reading the first volume; I was vaguely aware of the series because of its recent anime adaptation (which I haven’t seen yet), but that’s about it. There’s not really much of a “hook” per se in Say I Love You. The characters are fairly normal. The story isn’t particularly unusual. The the two leads are Mei Tachibana—who although she avoids making friends is very aware of others and their feelings—and Yamato Kurosawa—whose popularity stems from his good looks but who otherwise is extremely average. So far the manga is simply about a group of teenagers living out their high school years. This includes all of the cliques and the bullying, the stress caused by interpersonal relationships, the self-consciousness and the issues of self-esteem. But that realism is probably the series’ strength. Say I Love You has some humorous moments, but I wouldn’t really describe it as a comedy at this point since in general Hazuki takes a more serious approach with the series. I’m actually very curious to see how Mei and Yamato’s relationship continues to develop, as well as how the relationships between the other characters evolve as well.

Wolfsmund, Volume 3Wolfsmund, Volumes 3-4 by Mitsuhisa Kuji. At first Wolfsmund seemed to me as though it was going to be an episodic series, but with the third and fourth volumes the manga has focused in on an overarching narrative. However, the bleakness and brutality that has been present from the very start of Wolfsmund remains constant. These volumes see the beginning of the Swiss rebellion against the Austrian occupation and all of the violence and death that entails, including the incredible siege of the Wolf’s Maw at Sankt Gotthard Pass. The uprising has been in the planning stages for quite some time, but now the rebels finally have the opportunity to take action. 14th-century warfare is not pretty. There are very good reasons why attacking an overtaking a fortress are difficult tasks to accomplish—they are built to withstand assault and are designed to allow defenders to wreak havoc on invading forces and to cause tremendous amounts of damage. The rebels must face skilled soldiers, traps, fire, molten lead, boiling water, and more. And on top of that Wolfram, the bailiff of the Wolf’s Maw, is a vicious and sadistic leader who is not above torture. In fact, he seems to delight in it. Wolfsmund continues to be a dark and intense manga that is definitely meant for maturer audiences.

My Week in Manga: February 4-February 10, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week the Blue Exorcist Giveaway Winner was announced. The post also includes a pretty great list of some favorite manga that was read in 2012 by those who entered the giveaway. I also managed to post two reviews last week. The first was for Yaya Sakuragi’s boys’ love manga Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 2. Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love isn’t my favorite Sakuragi manga, but I’m still amused and entertained by it. I also reviewed Isuna Hasekura’s Spice & Wolf, Volume 7: Side Colors, a collection of three side stories to the main series. It’s not essential reading, but still a nice addition to the series for fans of Spice & Wolf.

In other news, I finished reading Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima by Naoki Inose and Hiroaki Sato. (The book is enormous, so I consider it to be an accomplishment.) I’m planning on posting an in-depth review of Persona next week, but I wanted to mention a section included in the biography called “A Paean to Manga” which briefly explores Mishima’s thoughts and opinions on manga. Mishima actually really like manga. He wasn’t a fan of Shirato Sanpei, but he loved Hirata Hiroshi (which I previously knew) and Akatsuka Fujio and liked Mizuki Shigeru’s yokai stories. He is quoted as saying, “Compared with American comics, Japanese graphic tales are a shade more grim and dark both in eroticism and cruelty. To make up for it, though, they are avant-garde in nonsense.”I thought this was interesting and wanted to share.

Elsewhere, some very exciting developments in comics publishing were revealed last week! Kuriousity interviewed Jen Lee Quick, creator of Off*Beat (among other things) which I really enjoy. The first two volumes of Off*Beat were published by Tokyopop, but the series was left unfinished. Happily, Quick was able to get the rights to her work back. The series will be reprinted, and completed, by the newly established Chromatic Press. For more information about Chromatic Press, check out Brigid Alverson’s exclusive at MTV Geek—Chromatic Press Launches New Manga Magazine, Brings Back Off*Beat. I’m very excited about Chromatic Press and what its trying to do.

A couple more more manga publishing developments that I wanted to mention. At Good E-Reader, Brigid Alverson looks at Gen Manga’s plans for the year—GEN Manga Offers Free E-Books, Prepares to Launch Korean Comics Magazine. And on Twitter, Vertical mentioned in passing that its Keiko Takemiya licenses will be expiring this summer. This means that Andromeda Stories and To Terra… will be going out of print. I’m a huge fan of Takemiya’s work. To Terra… in particular is a fantastic space opera and is definitely worth picking up before it disappears.

Quick Takes

Eyeshield 21, Volumes 1-7 written by Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. Despite watching every single football game in high school and college (I was in the marching band), I’ve never really been a fan of American football. I picked up Eyeshield 21 mainly because it is illustrated by Murata who many of the artists I follow admire. Sena, a rather timid high school first year, has developed impressive running skills, mostly as a way to flee from bullies. But this also makes him an ideal candidate for the running back of the Deimon Devil Bats, his school’s football club. Eyeshield 21 turned out to be a surprisingly fun, entertaining, and slightly ridiculous series. And yes, Murata’s artwork is great.

Genshiken, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 4-6) by Shimoku Kio. I’m continuing to enjoy this otaku slice-of-life series. After nearly burning down one of the university’s buildings at the end of the last omnibus, this volume finds the Genshiken club homeless and assigned to community service as penance. New characters and proclivities are introduced which creates some conflict within the group. I love that most of the Genshiken members are completely comfortable with themselves as otaku. They might occasionally be embarrassed, but they aren’t ashamed. There is one notable exception: Ogiue claims to hate all otaku although she is one herself, but she seems to be coming around. I also am greatly amused by how often porn comes up as part the group’s discussions.

Samurai Legend written by Kan Furuyama and illustrated by by Jiro Taniguchi. Yagyū Jūbei is a famous swordsman who was active during the Tokugawa era in Japan. Although there are few confirmed facts about his life, he has become a popular legendary figure. Samurai Legend is more than two decades old now, but it’s still a great historical one-shot. It was actually the first historical manga on which Taniguchi worked as an artist. His efforts paid off—the manga is filled with dynamic action sequences and believable battles. The characters don’t need superpowers to have amazing and impressive martial skill. Taniguchi also deliberately strives to be as historically accurate as possible in Samurai Legend.

Sweet Revolution written by Serubo Suzuki and illustrated by Yukine Honami. Tatsuki and Ohta are two transfer students who aren’t nearly as human as they first appear and the young men’s relationship is more complicated than their classmates realize. The first two chapters of Sweet Revolution are told from the perspective of Kouhei, one of their classmates, and have a slightly different tone than the rest of the volume. But then the manga begins to explore the pair’s history and motivations more directly. The storytelling builds quite nicely from there. I particularly enjoyed the supernatural elements in Sweet Revolution. I didn’t realize when I began reading the manga that in part it would be a yokai tale. And, well, I happen to like yokai.

Fist of the North Star: The TV Series, Volume 1 (Episodes 1-36) directed by Toyoo Ashida. While at this point I can safely say that I prefer the Fist of the North Star manga, I’m still getting a kick out of the anime adaptation. Granted, a large part of this first box set is a bit of a grind and rather repetitive. The beginning of the manga started out in a similar way, so I wasn’t entirely surprised. However, the anime has a lot of filler at the beginning. But even so, I enjoyed myself. I can’t help but like Kenshiro, one of the most stoic badasses that I know of. Plus, there’s plenty of over-the-top martial arts in the series. I’m really looking forward to watching more of Fist of the North Star.

My Week in Manga: August 23-August 29, 2010

My News and Reviews

I’ve become a reviewer for Netcomics! If you’re a manga blogger and are interested in reviewing and working with Netcomics you can send them an e-mail at info (at) netcomics (dot) com for more information. I had read several of Netcomics manga and manhwa titles before becoming an “official” reviewer and really enjoyed them.

Several more blogs have been listed in the News and Reviews section of the Resources page. First is All About Manga, written by Daniella Orihuela-Gruber, currently a freelance editor for Tokyopop. Manga Maniac Cafe is run by fellow manga fan and Michigander Julie. I recently discovered Tony Yao’s very cool site Manga Therapy which takes a look at the psychological aspects of manga, anime, and video games. Finally, the blog of one of my Twitter buddies, Ryu’s Dreams—I’m not sure how I missed that one the first time.

As for reviews posted this past week, I give you the first volume of the Spice & Wolf light novel series. Also this week, my first Library Love post features quick comments on manga that I’ve borrowed from the library. Over on my other book blog, Experiments in Reading, I have a review for Alex Bellos’ Here’s Looking at Euclid: A Surprising Excursion through the Astonishing World of Math. Although not related enough to cross-post the review here at Experiments in Manga, I mention it because the book has some interesting sections on Japanese counting, origami, Sudoku, soroban (Japanese abacus), and Japanese mathematicians, among other things.

Quick Takes

GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, Volumes 1-7 by Tohru Fujisawa. I have huge admiration for teachers and what they do. Unfortunately, they don’t often get the respect and credit they deserve. Enter 22-year-old, ex-gang member Eikichi Onizuka who hates teachers but decides to become one, initially as an excuse to chase high school skirt. However, it turns out he makes an awesome, although unconventional, teacher who really cares about his students. Outrageous, often inappropriate, and utterly unrealistic, the manga is shaping up to be even better than the anime (which I thoroughly enjoyed as well).

Hikkatsu!: Strike a Blow to Vivify, Volume 1 by Yu Yagami. I enjoy crazy karate manga, so it makes sense that I would pick up Hikkatsu. Shota’s convinced that he can perfect the repair blow and on occasion pulls it off to great effect. Most of the time though he just ends up shattering things beyond recognition. The manga’s not particularly deep, but it’s funny with good comedic timing. Shota is definitely my favorite character although Asuka, introduced at the very end of the volume, is pretty bad-ass, too. The art and backgrounds tend to be rather busy, but I like Shota’s somewhat mopey character design. The characters are one-dimensional, and their single-minded focus makes them come across as a bit air-headed, but so far I don’t mind as long as the comedy is there.

Maiden Rose, Volume 1 by Fusanosuke Inariya. I’m almost surprised that this title wasn’t published under Digital Manga’s 801 division instead of the Juné imprint—the sex scenes are intense to say the least and Klaus has a tendency to be rather forceful. I feel bad for poor Taki who is obviously conflicted over their relationship. His reasons are revealed by the end of the first volume, much to the shock and dismay of Klaus. He never knew how much Taki was risking so that they could be together. The character designs are lovely, although the art occasionally has some minor continuity issues. The ending raises some questions about where Klaus’ loyalties lie. I’ll definitely be taking a look at the next volume.

Thirsty for Love written by Satosumi Takaguchi and illustrated by Yukine Honami. This one volume manga is mature and melancholy. Three high school boys are consumed by the loss of the girl they love and who loved them in return. The story is dark and heavy with complicated relationships. The three manage to find discordant comfort in each other, an intense mixture of love and hate as they grieve.  Honami is the same artist who worked on Rin! which I read last week, and I’ve really grown to like her style.

Kurau: Phantom Memory, Episodes 10-16. I have continued watching this wonderful anime since last week. The beginning of the series seemed a little more episodic, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but this middle third of the series is much more cohesive plot wise. The strong characters are something that I love about this series. I still adore Kurau, Christmas is becoming more mature, and I was happy to see that their father plays an important role in story at this point. If you enjoy thoughtful science fiction, you should really give Kurau: Phantom Memory a try.

My Week in Manga: August 16-August 22, 2010

My News and Reviews

Obviously, my biggest news for the week was the launch of Experiments in Manga. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m very excited about it. Probably no one else really cares all that much, but it makes me happy. You can read about the release here: Announcing Experiments in Manga!

Also, the site’s search bar only seems to return results for posts published after August 18, 2010. This kinda defeats the purpose of having a search and so I’m working on getting this fixed as soon as possible. Fortunately, everything posted before August 18, 2010 can be found linked to from the Review Index.

Reviewed this past week was Miyuki Miyabe’s novel Brave Story. It’s a great story, if a bit long, with a very good translation from Alexander O. Smith. I also talked a bit about my 365 Days of Manga Loot. The contest is still running, so if you live in the United States you should go enter.

Quick Takes

20th Century Boys, Volumes 1-2 by Naoki Urasawa. Urasawa is one of my favorite mangaka so it was a no-brainer that I would pick up his most recent series to be translated into English. The plot is slowly revealed and it’s hard to know where he’s going with it, but its good. There are also some wonderful bits of nostalgia as characters reflect back on their childhood. I particularly like the character of Kenji and his design. Obviously this very normal guy is going to be caught up in whatever happens to unfold.

Gravitation Collection, Volume 5 (equivalent to Volumes 9-10) by Maki Murakami. Up until now I’ve really enjoyed the craziness that is Gravitation, but for whatever reason this volume just didn’t do it for me. The insanity is still there but it seems to have lost its originality and is knowingly repeating itself. A slew of new characters have been introduced while older characters have unfortunately been left by the wayside. The artwork is more polished than in previous volumes, but I’m not sure that necessarily is a good thing. I almost prefer the earlier, more spastic style—it fit the story.

Rin!, Volumes 1-3 written by Satoru Kannagi and illustrated by Yukine Honami. Originally intended as a single volume, the story ended up becoming three. I’m not sure if it’s because of the translation, but the first volume feels really disjointed and fragmented but the subsequent volumes improve. It’s a sweet story, more about Katsura learning to have confidence in himself than the boy/boy romance, although that’s there too. Honami’s art is lovely and her layouts are wonderful. I love kyūdō (even if I hardly know anything about it) so I like the series for that if nothing else.

Kurau: Phantom Memory, Episodes 1-9. I first learned about this anime series while perusing the TV Tropes Bifauxnen entry. It’s good science fiction with believable relationships. I have developed a huge crush on Kurau (as to be expected) and Christmas is adorably cute without being annoying. The two of them are wonderful together. It’s nice to see a competent, likeable over-twenty woman as a lead character. I’ve really liked what I’ve seen of the series so far and am looking forward to watching the rest.