My Week in Manga: June 5-June 11, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga, I announced the winner of the Anonymous Noise give away. The post also includes a list of manga which have characters who have notable singing voices. I got a particularly kick out of the fact that not all of the manga were necessarily music manga. Also, a bit of a heads up: I’m switching around my usual posting schedule. Normally the second week of the month would be devoted to the Bookshelf Overload feature, but I’ll be posting an in-depth review this week instead–Yeon-Sik Hong’s award winning manhwa Uncomfortably Happily is being released in English by Drawn & Quarterly on Tuesday and I’m working on putting the finishing touches on my write-up. Spoilers: I enjoyed the work immensely.

As for interesting reading elsewhere online: Hitomi Yoshio, a professor and translator, wrote a little about teaching Japanese Literature in Translation. And speaking of Japanese literature in translation, it looks like the second volume of Yu Godai’s Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner will finally be released sometime later this summer. (I enjoyed the first volume a great deal when it was published three years ago and sincerely hope that the wait between future volumes is much shorter.) I’ve known about the upcoming translation of Kazuki Sakuraba’s A Small Charred Face for a while, but now it’s official–Haikasoru will be releasing the novel in the fall. Sakuraba may best be known as the creator of Gosick, but my introduction to author’s work was through Red Girls: The Legend of the Akakuchibas, which I loved. Finally, I’d like to draw attention a series of fascinating Golden Kamuy Cultural Notes & Video References put together by @zeppelichi on Twitter.

Quick Takes

Blinded by the IceBlinded by the Ice by Saicoink (An Nguyen). In general, I don’t buy very many fan works or doujinshi, generally preferring to support artists’ original comics over their explorations of other people’s creations. However, I do occasionally make exceptions and I was very excited for Saicoink’s Yuri!!! on Ice fan book Blinded by the Ice. In addition to some bonus comics, illustrations, and research notes, the volume focuses on two main stories. The first and longest, Don’t Leave Me This Way, was probably my favorite comic of the two. I enjoyed Makes Me Think of You as well–it’s a charming and sweet holiday story which takes place after most of the events of the original anime series–but Don’t Leave Me This Way is the one that really impressed me. The comic is set in the late seventies and early eighties, featuring an alternative universe in which Victor and Yuri’s relationship must develop over both time and distance due to the fact that Victor is a high-profile athlete for the USSR. The only time the two of them can really meet in person is during competitions and even then it is very challenging and difficult. Blinded by the Ice is fantastic; I love the humor and insight that Saicoink brings to the stories and the time and effort Saicoink put into research really pays off, too.

Delicious in the Dungeon, Volume 1Delicious in Dungeon, Volume 1 by Ryoko Kui. I enjoy tabletop role-playing games (or at least enjoy being present while other people are playing them) and I love food manga, so Delicious in Dungeon was a series that immediately caught my attention. The groups that I’ve played pen and paper RPGs with actually tended to devote a fair amount of attention to the food within the games. Our adventures never quite turned out how it does for Laois and his dungeoning companions, though. When, partially due to hunger, his party is nearly wiped out by a dragon, Laois and the other survivors find themselves facing the prospect of having to launch a rescue mission to save one of their own. There’s just one problem: their supplies are limited and they don’t have any food. And so Laois proposes that they simply find what they need to eat and sustain themselves inside the dungeon itself, something that he’s apparently been wanting to try for a very long time. The others, on the other hand, are much more skeptical. Conveniently, they are all fortunate enough to meet a dwarf who is much more skilled and experienced than Laois when it comes to making monsters palatable. The conceit of Delicious in Dungeon is frankly brilliant. Unsurprisingly, I loved the first volume of the series and definitely plan on reading more.

Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, Volume 1Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, Volume 1 by Haruko Kumota. Although I haven’t actually had the opportunity to watch it yet, Kumota’s manga series Descending Stories was first brought to my attention due to its recent anime adaptation. The excitement surrounding the anime and the licensing of the original manga made Descending Stories one of the debuts I was most looking forward to in 2017; I was not disappointed. Rakugo is a traditional Japanese performance art which isn’t as popular as it once was but still has a devoted following. Familiarity with rakugo isn’t at all necessary to enjoy Descending Stories, but readers who have at least some basic understanding of it will likely get even more out of the series. But while rakugo is an important and interesting part of Descending Stories, it’s the relationships and drama between the characters that really make the manga so engrossing and compelling. Kyoji is an outgoing young man who has recently been released from prison. Curiously, the first thing he does with his freedom is to seek out Yakumo, a famous rakugo artist, and demand to become his apprentice. Up until this point Yakumo has always rejected those who want to study under him, but to everyone’s surprise on a whim takes Kyoji into his household.

My Week in Manga: December 26, 2016-January 1, 2017

My News and Reviews

Happy New Year, everyone! 2016 may now be over, but there’s still a little time left to enter Experiments in Manga’s December giveaway. Tell me a little about your favorite tournament manga or tournament story arc by Wednesday for a chance to win the first omnibus of Tadatoshi Fujimaki’s Kuroko’s Basketball. Also posted at Experiments in Manga last week were my random musings about some of the notable manga, comics, and other books that debuted in 2016. Despite there being three posts last week (which hasn’t happened in a very long time!) I actually wasn’t online much at all. As a result, I probably missed out on some interesting reading and announcements, so do let me know if there was anything particularly cool. One thing that I did see though was an interview with Kabi Nagata, creator of My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness which is scheduled to be released in English by Seven Seas later this year (and which I’m really looking forward to).

Quick Takes
Bungo Stray Dogs, Volume 1Bungo Stray Dogs, Volume 1 written by Kafka Asagiri and illustrated by Sango Harukawa. The Armed Detective Agency specializes in the dangerous cases that the Japanese police and military either won’t or can’t handle. It’s a team of uniquely skilled individuals who have abilities that seem to come right out of fiction, but the “good guys” aren’t the only ones with formidable powers. While there are names that a more casual reader might recognize—Osamu Dazai, Edogawa Rampo, Junichiro Tanazaki, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and so on—others, like the lead Atsushi Nakajima, are less well-known in English. (I actually happen to be a pretty big fan of Nakajima’s work.) Their supernatural talents and personality quirks are all based on their namesakes. For example, Dazai’s power is named No Longer Human and he has a penchant for attempting suicide. It’s off to an intriguing start, but I’m not sure if Bungo Stray Dogs will appeal quite as much to someone not as familiar with the literary references being made. It’s not necessary to understand them to enjoy the manga, though. So far, I am getting a kick out of the series and look forward to seeing how it develops.

Hunter x Hunter, Volume 1Hunter x Hunter, Volumes 1-8 by Yoshihiro Togashi. I’ve been somewhat reluctant to start reading Hunter x Hunter (it might have something to do with the manga already being over thirty volumes long), but I’ve seen so much excitement and fan art for the series recently that I finally gave in. And I’ll admit, there’s a tremendous amount that I found appealing about the beginning of Hunter x Hunter. The setting is interesting, too, especially the concept of Hunters. These are people who, after putting their lives at risk to pass a grueling series of tests, are granted access to resources and information that others can only dream of. The manga largely follows Gon, a boy who wants to become a Hunter in order to find his father Ging, himself a hunter of great renown, as well as the friends and enemies Gon makes along the way. I really enjoyed the first story arc in which the candidates are trying to pass the Hunter exam. The second arc, while it serves an important purpose, I found to be a bit tedious as some of the world’s metaphysics are overexplained. However, the series quickly recovers its momentum again with clever action, intriguing characters, and drama.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, Volume 1Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Volume 1 by Coolkyousinnjya. Out of Seven Seas more recent monster girl manga, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is the one that I was most interested in. For one, I happen to really like dragons. It also doesn’t hurt that the series is yuri-esque and that the titular Miss Kobayashi is an adult woman working as a systems engineer. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid features some nudity and bawdiness but for the most part it doesn’t tend to be overly-sexualized which is also refreshing. The manga can actually be surprisingly cute,  charming, and sweet. Hotaru is a dragon who has taken it upon herself to act as Kobayashi’s maid after Kobayashi saves her life. For her part, Kobayashi thought it was all an alcohol-induced dream and so is very surprised to discover that a dragon girl has made herself at home in her apartment. Why a maid specifically? It turns out that Kobayashi is a bit of a maid otaku (which becomes very clear when she goes off on drunken rants on the subject). Hotaru, who loves Kobayashi dearly, wants to do anything to make Kobayashi happy even if her efforts are somewhat awkward and frequently miss the mark.

Reindeer BoyReindeer Boy by Cassandra Jean. I am a fan of Jean’s illustration work, and so I was very excited to learn that an original graphic novel was in the making. Reindeer Boy is based on a series of character drawings that Jean has been creating (and that I’ve been following) since 2013. The comic follows Quincy, a young woman whose life takes an unexpected turn when a group of students, all of whom have antlers, transfer into her high school. They seem to take particular interest in her, especially the flirtatious Cupid who claims they are Santa’s reindeer. Quincy’s not sure what to make of it all, but the more she gets to know them the more she likes them. Admittedly, the story of Reindeer Boy does feel like it was made to fit the characters rather than the other way around. It’s kind of a strange comic, but it’s fun, goofy fluff with a bit of romance, delightful characters, and beautiful, sensual artwork. Reindeer Boy, while telling a complete story, does seem to end rather abruptly. I’m not sure if there are plans to release any additional reindeer comics, but I’d love the opportunity to spend more time with the characters and learn more about the mythology that Jean has created.

Yuri!!! on IceYuri!!! on Ice directed by Sayo Yamamoto. It’s been a long while since I’ve had the time and opportunity to marathon an entire anime series, but I knew that once I started Yuri!!! on Ice that I wouldn’t want to stop. And I was right; I love this series so much and hope that there will be a nice physical release that I can purchase in the future. The underlying story is fairly straightforward and simple: After a miserable performance at the Grand Prix, the career of Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki is falling apart when his idol Victor Nikiforov unexpectedly quits competing to become his coach. Yuri!!! on Ice is a series about love, passion, and inspiration in many forms. It’s also about people struggling against their selves, fighting through failure and realizing their self-worth. Yuri!!! on Ice is a tightly written and immensely satisfying show, but I do think it would have been even better if there were just a few more episodes to allow the characters and story more room to breathe. That being said, there is still some impressive character development with the series’ short span and the psychological elements are handled particularly well. Understandably, the leads receive the most attention, but I’d really like to know more about the supporting cast, too.