My Week in Manga: March 26-April 1, 2012

My News and Reviews

All right, so what sorts of fun things did we have here at Experiments in Manga last week? Well, the monthly manga giveaway has started. You have through Tuesday to enter for a chance two win a copy of the first volume of Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game and to tell me about your favorite sports manga. I also reviewed Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Demon City Shinjuku: The Complete Edition which  collects his debut novel Demon City Shinjuku and its sequel Demon Palace Babylon. If you’re a fan of Kikuchi or the Demon City setting, you probably won’t want to miss out on the omnibus.

I came across an interesting article at CNN’s Geek Out! blog by Christian Sager who looks at manga from the perspective of an American comics fan—What’s up with manga? A comics fan’s deep dive. Although he mentions some of the series that he read in the article, I would have liked to have seen a complete list of the titles he gave a try. While reading Manga Bookshelf I discovered that a Wild Adapter OVA had been announced. I’m a big fan of Wild Adapter so this makes me happy, even if we’ll probably never see it or the rest of the manga licensed. Also at Manga Bookshelf this past week was a great post about Claiming our BL biases.

Quick Takes

Absolute Boyfriend, Volumes 1-6 by Yuu Watase. I’ve mentioned before that I have a soft spot for android stories, so it probably isn’t too surprising that I’m fond of Watase’s Absolute Boyfriend. Sure the series tends to be rather silly and is fairly unrealistic, but that’s what makes it fun. Night is a love figure (yes, that is exactly what it sounds like) created by Kronos Heaven that Riiko accidentally purchased, except that she doesn’t actually have the money to cover the cost. She discovers that she likes having him around though and is determined to pay the company back. The series is mostly escapist fantasy, but its funny and endearing. Night is constantly taking off his clothes which amused me to no end.

Golgo 13, Volume 1: Supergun by Takao Saito. Viz’s thirteen volume release of Golgo 13 selects the “greatest hits” from throughout the series’ original (still ongoing) Japanese run. Supergun collects two stories, “The Gun at Am Shara” from May 1997 and “Hit and Run” from April 1979. The volume also includes a nice section for Golgo 13’s profile and history information. Duke Togo, one of the many pseudonyms for the man also known as Golgo 13, is highly skilled and feared assassin-for-hire. In case there was any doubt how much of a badass he is, Togo doesn’t even actually make an appearance in “Hit and Run” but the mere thought of him has a crime boss scared shitless. Even in “The Gun at Am Shara” he keeps to the shadows, which is certainly appropriate for his character.

Say Please by Kano Miyamoto. Say Please, like Miyamoto’s earlier work Lovers and Souls, has a bit of a melancholic air to it. I didn’t like it quite as well, though. Ryouichi works at a brothel which is how he met Sakura. He becomes captivated with the man and their relationship begins to evolve into something more complicated than client and escort. Sakura is somewhat of an enigma, generally quiet and reserved but more than capable of violence. I like that Miyamoto’s characters have histories and problems outside of the primary romance. In Sakura’s case, he’s a high school teacher that has to keep the fact that he’s gay hidden in order to keep his job. This secret impacts the rest of his life and relationships as well.

In Praise of Shadows: Japanese Avant-Garde Films of the 1990s & 2000s. I will readily admit that I’m not very knowledgeable about film, let alone avant-garde film. I’m pretty sure that a lot of In Praise of Shadows (a screening at the 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival of nine films ranging from three minutes to twenty minutes in length) went way over my head. Still, I was impressed by the amount of time, effort, and skill needed and involved in the creation of these short films. This particular selection featured films that made use of light, shadow, and exposure. While I may not have been able to appreciate them fully due to my lack of expertise, I am still very glad that I had the opportunity to see the films.

SPACE / TIME: Japanese Avant-Garde Films of the 1970s & 1980s. SPACE / TIME was another screening at the 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival, this time featuring ten short films ranging from two minutes to twelve minutes in length exploring the useage of space through movement and the passage of time. Quite a few of the selected films are very rarely seen. There was a Japanese film expert at the theater who was absolutely thrilled by the program; even he had only ever seen about half of the films before. While I enjoyed In Praise of Shadows, I think I liked SPACE / TIME even more. I was amazed by some of the filming techniques used and have no idea how some of the resulting effects were even created.

Library Love, Part 5

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Dragon Ball, Volume 6 by Akira Toriyama. I think I enjoy this series most when there’s crazy fighting and battles going on. Compared to previous volumes, Volume 6 seems to be somewhat lacking in that department, which isn’t to say there aren’t any clashes. For example, Goku finishes his assault on the Red Ribbon army’s Muscle Tower to great effect, but unfortunately that’s about it. I didn’t find this volume quite as funny as the previous books either, although it does have its moments. I’ll probably still keep reading the series because it has been pretty fun so far and I have enjoyed it.

Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden, Volume 7 by Yuu Watase. Ah, no, not Soren! Watase has proven in the past that she’s not afraid to kill off characters, but it’s rather unfortunate that he was one of my favorites. But, it certainly makes for some emotional turmoil and I’m interested in seeing how his death continues to affect the others. Limdo in particular is understandably hard hit and I want to see what he does. This volume also reveals more about Urumiya—the twin brothers Hagus and Teg—which I was looking forward to, but I hope to learn even more. Watase’s art is much more consistent and even in Volume 7 than it was in the previous volume.

Naruto, Volume 1 by Masashi Kishimoto. For various reasons, I’m always afraid to start a ridiculously popular manga series, but I finally decided to give Naruto a try. I think I’ll probably end up reading at least a few more volumes, too, because I enjoyed the first book more than I expected. It’s got fighting and humor and interesting characters. The character designs are fun and their interactions are great. Naruto makes me grin as does his instructor Kakashi, who I think is fantastic. Although, I do hope that Sakura ends up being more than just a boy-crazy, token girl character which is how she comes across in this first volume.

Skip Beat!, Volumes 3-5 by Yoshiki Nakamura. Overall, I’m not particularly taken with the art style but Nakamura throws in some great glares and the visual gags are fantastic. Some of the plot elements are just plain silly but I really enjoy seeing the acting stunts Kyoko manages to pull off. It’s really a very amusing manga and I’m enjoying the series. There is a potential romance developing between Ren and Kyoko which I’m not all that interested in—I much prefer Kyoko’s spunky and over-the-top revenge antics, even when they blow up in her face. Plus, it looks like she’s starting to want to get into showbiz for herself now and not just to get back at Sho, which is nice.

Manga Giveaway: Crazy Karate Contest Winner

And the winner of my first ever manga giveaway is…PB!

As the winner of the Crazy Karate Contest, PB will be receiving a free copy of Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2, Volume 11: Creative Cures.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest and got the word out to others; it is greatly appreciated. I hope to do more giveaways in the future and see an even bigger response. In the meantime, those of you who enter have a really good chance of winning some free manga.

So, this contest was about naming some martial arts manga and martial artist manga characters. Here’s what we came up with:

Samejima Ranmaru from Kazuma Kodaka’s yaoi series Kizuna: Bonds of Love is a skilled kendōka. Kendo is a martial art based on traditional Japanese sword fighting with a history dating back to at least the 12th century.

Asuka Masamune, “the manliest of men,” from Aya Kanno’s romantic shōjo comedy Otomen also studies kendo. He’s the captain of his team and has gone on to compete in the national championship tournament. He also excels at judo, a martial art that focuses on throwing and grappling, and karate.

In Yuu Watase’s Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden, another shōjo series, Takiko Okuda is very competent with a naginata, a weapon that in Japan is generally associated with women, traditionally of the samurai class. A naginata is a pole weapon with a curved blade—sort of a mix between a short sword and a spear—that can be used to slash, stab, hook, or bludgeon an adversary.

Juline, the eponymous character of Narumi Kakinouchi’s Juline manga series, studies kung fu. A Chinese martial art, kung fu has a number of different styles that can vary widely from one another. I’m not familiar enough with Juline to identify which style is involved, but my dōjō offers training in both Hung Gar-Sil Lum (also known as the Tiger-Crane style) and Wing Chun.

Library Love, Part 2

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Dragon Ball, Volume 5 by Akira Toriyama. Dragon Ball is an extraordinarily popular manga and I will admit, I’m really enjoying it. The series is very, very loosely based on the classic of Chinese literature, Journey to the West. The fifth volume sees the conclusion of the Strongest Under the Heavens tournament after which Goku takes off to track down the Dragon Ball his grandfather gave him. During his search Goku runs into the Red Ribbon Army who are trying to collect the Dragon Balls. Toriyama’s action and fight sequences are great and easy to follow. The humor is rather silly, but overall this has been a fun series so far.

Eden: It’s and Endless World, Volume 5 by Hiroki Endo. This volume starts with an interesting character study of Sophia that I really enjoyed but then spins off into a plot line that I only have vague recollection of. I was a little confused and it made me feel like I had skipped a volume.The fourth volume mostly focused on Kenji’s past (probably my favorite character in the series), so perhaps it’s just been too long since I’ve read the third. Endo’s art can be a rather busy at times, but it’s great in conveying horror and violence.

Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden, Volume 5-6 by Yuu Watase. So, there’s some sort of “forbidden love” storyline going on here between Limdo and Takiko, but for the life of me I couldn’t tell you why they have to keep it a secret. I usually enjoy Watase’s art (she draws very pretty boys), but these couple of volumes seemed really inconsistent to me. However, it’s nice to see a female Celestial Warrior join the group. I’m also looking forward to seeing where Urumiya’s story is going to go.

Kitchen Princess, Volume 7 written by Miyuki Kobayashi and illustrated by Natsumi Ando. I was rather surprised when Kobayashi killed off a main character in the sixth volume. I also feel somewhat cheated that Mizuno looks exactly like Sora. But I primarily read Kitchen Princess for the food anyway, so I won’t complain too terribly much. Najika and Mizuno face off with a madeleine competition and later on in the volume she goes to various restaurants to earn money by entering eating challenges. Every time I read this series it makes me hungry.