My Week in Manga: February 16-February 22, 2015

My News and Reviews

Happy (belated) Chinese New Year, everyone! It’s already been a busy season for me with multiple lion dance and taiko performances for the lunar new year over the last few days (with more to come!), but was I still able to get some reading and writing in, too. Last week was another two-review week at Experiments in Manga, except this time both in-depth reviews were actually of manga. First up was my review of Ken Niimura’s collection of short manga Henshin, which I enjoyed immensely. Niimura is actually a Spanish artist, but Henshin was first released online by the now sadly departed Ikki manga magazine. The second review was of Gamon Sakurai’s Ajin: Demi-Human, Volume 2. I had enjoyed the first volume, but things are starting to get really good with the second. Hopefully the trend continues.

So, earlier this year I wrote a quick take of Under the Sign of Capricorn, the first release in the new English-language edition of Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese comics. Much to my surprise, I ended up getting a brief mention in an Italian article about Americans’ responses to the comic. (I’ll admit, that was pretty cool.) Elsewhere online, Vertical’s survey for recommendations for Spring 2016 manga licenses is currently underway. Viz Media announced two new manga licenses of its own: Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi’s Ultraman and Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia. And speaking of Viz, Hope Donovan, one of the publisher’s manga editors, was interviewed over at Panels. I also want to mention Purity, a new Kickstarter project featuring some fantastic creators. Described as a “post-yaoi anthology,” it’s a collection of comics from artists whose work has been influenced in some way by the boys’ love genre.

Quick Takes

BattleAngelAlitaLastOrder5Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Omnibus 5 (equivalent to Volumes 13-15) by Yukito Kishiro. First of all, I just want to say that I absolutely love the cover of this omnibus; the Space Karate team as a group of rock stars is just about perfect. This may also very well be my favorite installment of Last Order that I’ve read so far. It features epic, over-the-top battles and action as well as some additional backstory. In particular, more about Zazie is revealed. Also, Sechs (who is still one of the characters I like best) plays a major role and gets to be a badass in addition to being an occasional source of comic relief. Although the styles of martial arts in Last Order are fictional, I appreciate that Kishiro actually incorporates small kernels of traditional teachings to create the super-evolved combat forms found in the series. The Space Karate team is prominently featured in this omnibus. As a karateka myself, I get a kick out of the characters and I particularly enjoyed seeing the progression of their tournament fights. Kishiro’s cyborgs and genetically modified creatures allow for some pretty incredible and entertaining combat feats and techniques that otherwise would be impossible.

Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, Volume 2Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, Volumes 2-4 written by Yuto Tsukuda and illustrated by Shun Saeki. While the fanservice certainly hasn’t disappeared from Food Wars!, each volume seems to tone down the overly sexually suggestive imagery a little more. Personally, I generally found the over-the-top reaction shots amusing rather than offensive. They’re becoming more and more ridiculous and absurd, however they may still present a barrier for some people. But to the creators’ credit, at least there’s eye-candy in Food Wars! for all sorts of readers–nudity and bare skin isn’t limited to just one gender. And then there’s the eye-candy for the foodies, too; the dishes in the series are gorgeously drawn. Saeki’s artwork in Food Wars! really is one of the highlights of the series. I’m liking the characters and their designs as well. Plenty more have been introduced in these volumes, all with their own personality quirks and culinary specialties. Which, of course, presents plenty of opportunities for some fantastically epic battles and competition in the kitchen. I also like that Soma isn’t the only student at Totsuki Institute who doesn’t come from a rich, high-class background.

RestartRestart by Shoko Hidaka. Since I’m loving Hidaka’s ongoing series Blue Morning, I figured that I should probably look into her other boys’ love manga that have been released in English. Restart is a collection of manga that includes some of her earliest professional work, including the titular “Restart”–her first story to be published in a magazine. Most of the stories follow Tadashi and Aki, two male models who end up in a relationship with each other. Tadashi is the older and more experienced professional of the two, but his popularity is fading while Aki’s star begins to rise, which understandably causes some tension and frustration. A tangentially related story features a fashion photographer and another young model who has yet to really break into the industry. The other short manga shares no connection with the others. It’s about a college student who was never able to confess his feelings because the young man he was in love with went missing. However, over time he finds himself growing closer to his crush’s younger brother. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn’t find Restart to be as compelling overall as Blue Morning but even Hidaka’s early manga exhibit solid story-telling and well-developed characters.

My Week in Manga: September 22-September 28, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week unintentionally turned into an Osamu Tezuka Week at Experiments in Manga…sort of. First of all, this month’s manga giveaway features Tezuka’s Triton of the Sea. Tell me a little about the merfolk you’ve encountered in manga for a chance to win the first omnibus of the series. (The winner will be selected and announced on Wednesday, so you still have a little time!) I also reviewed Dororo, Volume 3. Out of all of Tezuka’s manga that has so far been released in English, Dororo is one of my personal favorites. It’s currently available from Vertical in an omnibus edition which contains the entire series, however it may not be reprinted. I highly recommend picking up a copy sooner rather than later if it seems like a series you’d be interested in. And then for something completely different, over the weekend I reviewed the tenth-century classic The Tale of the Cavern (also known as The Tale of the Hollow Tree) which has absolutely nothing to do with Tezuka, but everything to do with music, love, and Heian-era court life.

In other news, the second volume of Lianne Sentar’s Tokyo Demons is now available for purchase as an ebook from the Sparkler Shop, which means the print edition will be released in the near future as well! (If you missed my early review of the novel, I loved it.) And speaking of Sparkler, the membership drive is still going on. If Sparkler Monthly doesn’t get at least 1,000 subscribers it most likely won’t be able to continue beyond its second year, which would make me extraordinarily sad. Please consider supporting Sparkler Monthly, if you can!

Elsewhere online, Shonen Jump is soliciting questions for Takeshi Obata, who will be a guest at New York Comic Con this year. If, like me, you can’t make it out to NYCC, Obata’s panel will thankfully be streamed live online. (Hopefully it will also be recorded.) In London, the Cartoon Museum is currently showing the exhibit Gekiga: Alternative Manga from Japan. To coincide with the exhibition, The Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain wrote a brief introduction to gekiga. Finally, Vertical released a particularly interesting post on its Tumblr account about manga’s English-language market and specifically about the pricing of books.

Quick Takes

Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Volume 19Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Volume 19 by Yukito Kishiro. Last Order was my introduction to the Battle Angel Alita universe. It’s probably best described as an alternate ending to the original series. While I was never as taken with Battle Angel Alita as much as other people seem to be, there were parts that I really enjoyed: interesting characters and character designs, martial arts, great action scenes, and so on. But the plot just never seemed to pull together in a way that satisfied me. I didn’t realize or expect that the nineteenth volume would be the final volume of Last Order. It’s also one of the most frustrating volumes as Kishiro seems to rush through the story in order to bring everything to some sort of conclusion and, in my opinion, fails to do so. Even more disappointing is the fact that Alita doesn’t even really make much of an appearance in it. Apparently there is yet another Battle Angel Alita series that will soon be starting in Japan, but I have no idea how it relates to Last Order. There was certainly enough left confused and unresolved in Last Order that there’s plenty of material for Kishiro to choose from.

Devils and Realist, Volume 2Devils and Realist, Volume 2 written by Madoka Takadono and illustrated by Utako Yukihiro. Although I mostly enjoyed the first volume of Devils and Realist, I was unsure how far I wanted to pursue the series and so decided to read at least one more volume. After reading the second installment, I can say that I’ll probably be reading even more of Devils and Realist in the future. Generally stronger than the first volume and more even in tone, the second volume takes a slightly more serious and dramatic turn. The series’ humor is still present though, interspersed among the more life-threatening events of the manga and the story’s other dangerous mysteries. Yukihiro’s artwork and character designs are very attractive, and as a whole there are some definite homoerotic undertones to the manga as well. Readers’ enjoyment of Devils and Realist will probably largely depend on how well they like the lead and his personality. I, for one, am greatly amused by William’s refusal to believe in the supernatural despite it staring him in the face as he stubbornly tries to come up with any other possible explanation for the strangeness going on in his life.

Fairy Tail, Volume 40Fairy Tail, Volumes 40-42 by Hiro Mashima. I’ve only read two series by Mashima—Fairy Tail and Monster Soul—but out of those two, I find that Fairy Tail is the better manga. The long Grand Magic Games tournament arc has now finally reached its conclusion with the fortieth volume. While I did find some of the Games enjoyable, for the most part I’m happy to be moving on to battles that actually have some real purpose and meaning behind them beyond securing bragging rights; I tend to enjoy Fairy Tail more when it feels like there’s something at stake. I’m glad to see the beginning of a new story arc that promises just that—things are starting to get a bit more serious again. (Granted, there was the whole dragon invasion during the Games arc; the possibility that the world will be destroyed is a pretty big deal.) It also looks like Gray will be getting some significant page time, too, which I’m not going to complain about. The Fairy Tail Guild’s latest mission requires Gray to confront his painful memories and past tragedies. It isn’t a pleasant experience for him, but he is also able to draw incredible strength from it.

Hetalia: Axis Powers, Volume 6Hetalia: Axis Powers, Volume 6 by Hidekaz Himaruya. Perhaps by this point I should no longer be surprised, but I always seem to unexpectedly learn something new whenever I read Hetalia. Sometimes it’s a historical tidbit, and sometimes it’s actually something more closely related to current events. This particular volume of Hetalia features micronations and Molossia makes an appearance among several others. (I had never even heard of Molossia before, and it’s in Nevada!) The Nordic states are also an important part of the sixth volume, which includes Iceland. (Ever since writing a report on Iceland in the sixth grade, I’ve always been interested in and fond of the country, so I did get a kick out of that.) Often the humor in Hetalia does require some familiarity with or prior knowledge of world history and politics to really appreciate it, so in the process of trying to make sense of some of the jokes I find that I’m learning about all sorts of interesting things. Admittedly, Hetalia frequently makes use of stereotypes as part of its gags, which some people may find offensive and has generated a fair amount of controversy.

Manga Giveaway: Battle Angel Alita Giveaway Winner

Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Omnibus 1And the winner of the Battle Angel Alita Giveaway is…Anna-neko!

As the winner, Anna-neko will be receiving the first omnibus in Kodansha Comics’ release of Battle Angel Alita: Last Order by Yukito Kishiro. The omnibus collects the first three volumes of the series as well as additional stories by Kishiro. The titular Alita is a kick-ass cyborg, and I have a particular fondness for cyborgs, so I asked those entering the giveaway to tell me a little about their favorite cyborgs from manga. Check out the Battle Angel Alita Giveaway comments for all of the details, and check out the list of some of the manga available in English that feature cyborgs below!

Cyborg manga in English:
Appleseed by Masamune Shirow
Ashen Victor by Yukito Kishiro
Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro
Battle Angel Alita: Last Order by Yukito Kishiro
Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei
B’t X by Masami Kurumada
Cyborg 009 by Shotaro Ishinomori
Cowboy Bebop by Yutaka Nanten
Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star by Cain Kuga
Descendents of Darkness by Yoko Matsushita
Eden: It’s an Endless World by Hiroki Endo
Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex by Yu Kinutani
Gunslinger Girl by Yu Aida
Heavy Metal Warrior Xenon by Masaomi Kanzaki
Kamen Rider by Shotaro Ishinomori
Knights of Sidonia by Tsutomu Nihei
Madara written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Shou Tajima
Made in Heaven written by Ami Sakurai and illustrated by Yukari Yashiki
Mardock Scramble by Yoshitoki Oima.
One-Punch Man written by ONE and illustrated by Yusuke Murata
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi by Sin-ichi Hiromoto
Trigun by Yasuhiro Nightow
Trinity Blood written by Sunao Yoshida and illustrated by Kiyo Kyujyō
Vassalord by Nanae Chrono
The World of Narue by Tomohiro Marukawa

Thank you to everyone who participated in the giveaway and shared a bit about their favorite cyborgs from manga. I hope to see you all again for the next giveaway, too!

Manga Giveaway: Battle Angel Alita Giveaway

Perhaps because March follows the shortest month of the year it seems to have lasted a particularly long time for me. Granted, that feeling may attributed to how incredibly busy I’ve been recently. Regardless, the end of March is almost here, which means it’s time for another manga giveaway! This month you’ll all have the chance to win the first omnibus in Yukito Kishiro’s Battle Angel Alita: Last Order as published by Kodansha Comics. The omnibus collects the first three volumes of the series as well as additional stories by Kishiro not previously released in English. As always, the giveaway is open worldwide!

Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Omnibus 1

It’s not at all a secret that I am a fan of androids (I blame the absurd amount of Isaac Asimov that I read in my youth), so it probably isn’t too surprising that I’m rather fond of cyborgs as well. That’s one of the reasons that Battle Angel Alita particularly appeals to me. The existence of ancient Martian martial arts and space karate in the series doesn’t hurt, either. In general, cyborgs aren’t a particularly uncommon element in near future science fiction and I’m aware of quite a few from manga specifically. Much as with android stories, I enjoy stories about cyborgs because they allow creators a way to explore what it means to be human in interesting ways.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a copy of the first Battle Angel Alita: Last Order omnibus?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little about your favorite cyborg from manga. (If you don’t have one, you can simply mention that.)
2) For a second entry, name another manga that features a cyborg that hasn’t been mentioned yet by me or by someone else.
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

That’s all there is to it. Each person can earn up to three entries for the giveaway and has a week to submit comments. If you have trouble leaving a comment, or if you would prefer, entries may also be submitted via e-mail to phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com which will then be posted in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on April 2, 2014. Best of luck to you all!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, a link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: Battle Angel Alita Giveaway Winner

My Week in Manga: September 30-October 6, 2013

My News and Reviews

It’s the beginning of one month and the end of another, which means it’s one of the slower weeks here at Experiments in Manga. I announced the winner of the Arisa manga giveaway. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English that feature twins. For those of you who are interested in the absurd amount of manga and other related materials that make their way into my home, September’s Bookshelf Overload was also posted. Finally, the honor of the first in-depth manga review for October goes to Satoshi Kon’s Tropic of the Sea. I thought it was fantastic. Hopefully it does well and more of Kon’s manga will be able to be released in English.

For anyone looking for more anime and manga blogs to follow, CryMore.Net (formerly known as Whiners.Pro) has put together the most comprehensive list of active sites that I’ve seen. (And yes, Experiments in Manga is included.) If you’re interested in yokai, Matthew Meyer recently launched a Kickstarter project for his most recent artbook/guide The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits. It’s already met its goal (and I was one of the people to support it), but it’s still worth checking out if you like yokai. I reviewed Meyer’s previous book (also funded through Kickstarter) The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: A Field Guide to Japanese Yokai and really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to seeing more of his work in print.

Quick Takes

Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Volume 18Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Volume 18 by Yukito Kishiro. I could be wrong since I haven’t read the entire series, but I believe that the eighteenth volume of Battle Angel Alita: Last Order is the first volume to prominently feature Figure Four (the burly dude on the cover). A love interest in the original Battle Angel Alita manga, up until this point in Last Order he’s been mostly relegated brief references. The eighteenth volume concludes the fallout from the ZOTT combat tournament with the series’ titular chapter “Last Order” before jumping nearly a year back in time to follow Figure for the rest of the volume. He’s hard at work training in anti-cyber martial arts when he learns that Alita may be dead and so goes searching for both her and the truth. Sechs makes a brief, but important appearance in the volume, which made me happy since Sechs is one of my favorite characters in the series. And as a side note, Kishiro designs some really creepy cyborgs.

Dengeki Daisy, Volume 9Dengeki Daisy, Volumes 9-12 by Kyousuke Motomi. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Dengeki Daisy. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the series. Dengeki Daisy is kind of a strange manga, mixing rather mundane school life with hackers and cyber espionage, but I am consistently and highly entertained by it. I really like the quirkiness of characters in Dengeki Daisy. Motomi calls Dengeki Daisy a love comedy, which I suppose in the end it is, but in addition to being funny and occasionally romantic, the series also has a lot of action and drama. Kurosaki’s past and his guilt over it continues to be a major driving force behind the story. His disappearance is resolved fairly quickly, which surprised me, but that fact emphasizes how much he cares for Teru and how much Teru and the others care about him. Motomi has a tendency to use stereotypical shoujo plot devices but then completely turns them on their head. The fake-outs are both effective and refreshing.

Incubus, Volume 1Incubus, Volumes 1-3 by Yayoi Neko. The mythology in Incubus is fairly complex and the comic’s exposition can be somewhat long-winded, but I overall I’m liking this yaoi series. It has humor and drama, and I’m rather fond of the two leads—a college student named Judas and the surprisingly endearing half-demon Lennial. Judas’ dream sequences are great. In them, the different sides of his psyche try to make sense of what is going on around him as he is repeatedly confronted by demonic powers. The results are often amusing, but his emotional struggles can be heartbreaking. Judas has a very troubled past and what little good there was in it has been torn from him. Not everything has been revealed about his and Lenniel’s history together, but Neko seems to have a firm grasp on the series’ direction. Incubus is currently on hiatus due to the creator’s health—the first three volumes only cover the first half or so of the story—but I look forward to reading more of it if she is ever able to continue the series.

Sickness Unto Death, Volume 1Sickness Unto Death, Volume 1 written by Hikari Asada and illustrated by Takahiro Seguchi. I didn’t know much about Sickness Unto Death before picking it up, but I’m willing to give anything released by Vertical a try. Emiru is a frail young woman suffering from despair—a sickness of the spirit that is causing her body to fail. Kazuma has recently enrolled in college to pursue a career in clinical psychology. When he meets Emiru he not only wants to do all that he can to help her, but he falls in love with her as well. I found the manga’s basic premise intriguing, but in the end I was largely disappointed with the first volume of Sickness Unto Death, though I can’t seem to quite pinpoint why. However, I am still interested in reading the second half. The big reveal as to the cause of Emiru’s despair has been set up and I am very curious about it. I’ll admit that don’t have a lot of confidence, but I am hoping that it will be worth it and that it won’t be something too absurd or overblown.

FreeFree!: Iwatobi Swim Club directed by Hiroko Utsumi. I really enjoyed Free!, finding it to be both a fun and funny series. At times it even manages to be rather touching. The anime has a lot of self-aware goofiness in addition to a decent story and great animation. The swimming in particular is beautifully animated and, for the most part, realistically portrayed. (This also means that there are plenty of muscles to appreciate.) Although it is an important part of the series, Free! is actually less about swimming than it is about the relationships between its characters and their personal struggles and doubts. They all have their own reasons for swimming, but ultimately what brings them together is their desire to connect with one another—swimming just happens to be the way they go about doing it. A second season has been hinted at for the series; I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing more of Free! I’d also love to see it licensed for a physical release.