My Week in Manga: January 16-January 22, 2017

My News and Reviews

It’s been several months since my last in-depth review, but over the weekend I actually managed to post one delving into the eighth omnibus of Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga. I really love this series so I am thrilled that Kodansha Comics was able to continue publishing it. The eighth omnibus marks the start of an exciting new story arc and introduces some great new characters. On a personal note, it also felt good to actually finish writing a review since it’s been so long. I’d like to continue posting at least one long-form review or feature every month in addition to the usual My Week in Manga, Bookshelf Overload, and Giveaway features. On the surface it seems to be a reasonable goal, so I guess I’ll see how it goes!

Elsewhere online, Sparkler Monthly‘s first issue of 2017 has been released. As can be expected, all of the content is great, but this issue specifically features Denise Schroeder and her delightful lesbian-themed comic Before You Go. I took a look at the first installment of Before You Go as part of my Year of Yuri review project a couple of years ago. It’s a great comic, so I’m glad so see more of it. And if things go well, there should be a collected edition in the near future as well! Also last week, Seven Seas announced its collaboration with J-Novel Club to release Ao Jyumonji’s Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash and Chiyomaru Shikura’s Occultic;Nine in print.

Quick Takes

Dimension W, Volume 2Dimension W, Volumes 1-2 by Yuji Iwahara. Several of Iwahara’s manga series have been released in English. I’ve read and enjoyed both Cat Paradise and King of Thorn, but there’s also Chikyu Misaki and most recently Dimension W. I’ve come to expect a few things from Iwahara’s manga: great artwork and action, large and diverse casts, intriguing settings and premises, and entertaining stories that take numerous twists and turns (and which often end up rather convoluted as a result). So far, it seems as though Dimension W will also follow this pattern and, being Iwahara’s longest series, I suspect that the plot will go in some truly bizarre directions. But even considering that Iwahara seems to be constantly making up and changing the rules when it’s convenient just to make the story work, I’m actually really enjoying Dimension W. In the series, New Tesla is a company that has gained a tremendous amount of political and social influence due to the fact that it monopolizes a nearly limitless source of energy and the technology needed to use it. The power could be dangerous in the wrong hands, and New Tesla may very well be the wrong hands.

Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Volume 11Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Volumes 11-20 by Masahito Soda. One of the things about Firefighter! is that once I start reading it, I can’t seem to put it down. It’s a fantastic action series that’s firmly based in reality, although some of the scenarios are so completely over-the-top that they strain believability. Even so, the drama and intensity of Firefighter! is thrilling. With every rescue Soda keeps increasing the stakes, finding ways to make each one even more daring and astonishing than the last. And seeing as the first half of Firefighter! ends with Daigo intentionally crashing a fire engine into a building, that’s a pretty impressive feat. Admittedly, the series can get pretty absurd, but it’s always entertaining as well as engaging. The character development is excellent, too. In the heat of the moment, Daigo has the tendency to make some incredibly dangerous although ultimately life-saving decisions, but afterwards he struggles to come to terms with his actions and underlying motives. Firefighter! is a great series and well-worth a look. The manga is currently out-of-print, but fortunately it is readily available digitally.

Please Tell Me! Galko-chan, Volume 1Please Tell Me! Galko-chan, Volume 1 by Kenya Suzuki. I first learned about the Please Tell Me! Galko-chan manga due to its recent anime adaptation (which I haven’t actually seen yet), but I was still very curious about the original series. What I didn’t realize until I picked up the first volume was that the manga is actually completely illustrated in color; the palette and style that Suzuki uses for the cover illustration is pretty much what is used for the interior artwork as well. Please Tell Me! Galko-chan is a surprisingly sweet, funny, and charming series, especially considering that it frankly deals with issues surrounding puberty, sex, and so on. Some of the subject matter is more innocent, but there’s plenty of  dirty humor and jokes, too. Though the framing of the series is fictional, the largely short and episodic manga of Please Tell Me! Galko-chan do incorporate a fair amount of factual information. What I really appreciate about Please Tell Me! Galko-chan is that while the topics covered often embarrass the characters–frequently they’re discussing breasts, menstruation, and sex in a deliberate attempt to make each other blush–there’s never a sense that they or their bodies are shameful.

Ze, Volumes 10-11 by Yuki Shimizu. Despite at one point being rather fond of Shimizu’s supernatural boys’ love Ze, it’s taken me a while to actually get around to reading the main manga’s last story arc and conclusion. (Granted, that may have also been partly due to the numerous delays and unreliability of Digital Manga’s release schedule.) As a whole Ze tends to be fairly sexually explicit, but these two volumes are for the most part relatively tame and include very little sex at all. The relationships and power dynamics in the series are still pretty intense, though. The final story arc of Ze is almost entirely devoted to revealing the backstory of Waki and his connection to the Mitou family. In an interesting twist, it turns out that Waki has always been an asshole and there was nothing in particular that made him that way; although unfortunate things have certainly happened to him, his depraved personality is completely his own. The Mitou family’s past is certainly a strange and tragic one that has resulted in a great deal of suffering over time, but Shimizu does manage to end the series on a positive and redemptive note.

My Week in Manga: June 1-June 7, 2015

My News and Reviews

Happy June, everyone! I’ve been super busy (I seem to say that a lot, don’t I?) but was still able to post a few things here at Experiments in Manga last week. The winner of the Ema Toyama Twosome manga giveaway was announced. That post also includes a list of manga available in English that feature novelists and other writers. The honor of the first in-depth manga review for the month of June goes to Masayuki Ishikawa’s Maria the Virgin Witch, Volume 2. Ishikawa seems to be trying to do a lot with such a short series (it’s only three volumes), maybe a bit too much. Even if he’s not able to successfully pull everything off, I still find Maria the Virgin Witch to be an intriguing series and want to read the rest of it. Finally, over the weekend I posted the Bookshelf Overload for May. I had a pretty big haul of manga and comics last month; I largely blame TCAF.

Elsewhere online there’s been some interesting reading to be found. Justin interviewed Kate Dacey (aka The Manga Critic) over at Organization Anti-Social Geniuses. Kate was one of my biggest manga blogging inspirations, so I’ve been very happy to see her recent return. Sean Kleefeld brought my attention to a panel on the history of manhwa. Drawn & Quarterly recently released the massive anthology Drawn and Quarterly: Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels. Joe McCulloch specifically looks at the volume’s manga content. Mangabrog has a translation of a conversation between Naoki Urasawa and Hisashi Eguchi. Last but not least, two licensing announcements were made last week that I’m very excited about: Viz Media is finally releasing a print edition of One-Punch Man by ONE and Yusuke Murata and Drawn & Quarterly is releasing more of Shigeru Mizuki’s GeGeGe no Kitaro! (I loved the publisher’s first Kitaro collection.)

Quick Takes

Welcome to the N.H.K., Volume 1Welcome to the N.H.K., Volumes 1-4 by Kendi Oiwa. Originally published in print by Tokyopop, Viz Media recently announced that it would be releasing Welcome to the N.H.K. digitally in the very near future. Tatsuhiko Takimoto’s original Welcome to the N.H.K. light novel was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed the anime adaptation, too. It was only a matter of time before I read Kendi Oiwa’s manga adaptation, though I am a little surprised that it’s taken me this long to get around to it. It has been a while since I’ve read or watched the other versions of Welcome to the N.H.K., but so far the manga is closer to the anime than it is to the novel, except that it seems a little more streamlined and perhaps even a little raunchier. Satou is a college dropout and hikikomori who has been targeted by Misaki, a young woman who is determined to rehabilitate him despite her own oddities and personal issues. In some ways, the more recent Watamote is reminiscent of Welcome to the N.H.K. Both series feature protagonists who are extremely socially awkward and both series can be hilarious, but they can also be somewhat depressing and painful to read at times, too. But, I am enjoying the manga version of Welcome to the N.H.K. a great deal.

xxxHolic: Rei, Volume 3xxxHolic: Rei, Volume 3 by CLAMP. Initially, I felt that it wasn’t necessary to have read xxxHolic in order to enjoy xxxHolic: Rei. However after reading the third volume, I feel I need to revise that opinion. It’s still not absolutely necessary to have read xxxHolic, but Rei makes a lot more sense and is much more meaningful if a reader has that background. I’ve actually not finished reading the entirety of xxxHolic, so while I was able to get the basic gist of what was going on in Rei, I did feel I was missing out on some important context while reading the third volume. However, I really like what CLAMP is doing with the series and I’m looking forward to reading the part of xxxHolic where Rei ties in directly. Rei has developed a marvelously ominous atmosphere that has a surreal, dreamlike quality to it. CLAMP’s high-contrast artwork in the series is great, too. At first, Rei felt directionless as though CLAMP didn’t really know what to do with the series, but the third volume begins to bring everything together in a way that actually makes sense. Of course, this also means the Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles connection is becoming more pronounced as well, which can sometimes feel forced.

Ze, Volume 7Ze, Volumes 7-9 by Yuki Shimizu. Despite it being a series that I tend to enjoy, it’s actually been a few years since I’ve read any of Shimizu’s supernatural boys’ love manga Ze. Although there is some dubious content (which doesn’t really surprise me much at this point), these three volumes reminded me what it is about Ze that I like so much: Shimizu has a knack for creating fascinatingly intense and complex relationship and power dynamics. The seventh and eighth volumes explore the backstories of Kotoha and Konoe; I was very satisfied with the explanation of their peculiar relationship and personalities. (Granted, most of the characters and relationships in Ze are pretty strange.) Ze, Volume 8 focuses on Shoui and Asari. Most of the story arcs have been two volumes long, but perhaps because their relationship has been developing in the background over the course of the series, the eighth volume is the only one specifically devoted to the couple. These three volumes are also very important in setting up the next and what I believe is the final story arc which will reveal more of Waki’s tragic history. I had forgotten how much of an asshole he can be, so I am curious to find out what made him the person he is.

My Week in Manga: August 20-August 26, 2012

My News and Reviews

This week is The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Manga Moveable Feast! Eeeper’s Choice Podcast is hosting the Feast for the first time. I’ve already submitted one contribution—a review of the first volume in the series. I’ve read The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service before but had forgotten how darkly funny the series is. I’ll be posting another contribution to the Feast latter this week, most likely on Friday.

I did have one other post this past week that seems to be going over pretty well. It’s a part of my infrequent Finding Manga feature in which I give some tips on finding and buying manga. This time around I took a look at one of the largest anime and manga specific retailers in  North America—Finding Manga: Right Stuf. Right Stuf happens to be one of my favorite places to buy manga and anime.

Quick Takes

Drifters, Volume 2 by Kohta Hirano. Other than their names, Hirano doesn’t provide much background on any of the characters in Drifters. The series really works best if you already have an good handle on the their historical inspirations outside of the manga itself. Otherwise, they just come across as very unbalanced and slightly insane. However, considering some of their histories and the fact that they’ve inexplicably been thrown into a completely unfamiliar world, I can’t really blame them. The worldbuilding is progressing slowly and there is still plenty about Drifters that hasn’t been explained yet. I might not understand everything that’s going on, but I am thoroughly enjoying Drifters‘ chaos.

R.O.D: Read or Dream, Volumes 1-4 written by Hideyuki Kurata and illustrated by Ran Ayanaga. The contrast between the Read or Die manga and the Read or Dream manga is astounding. Both are written by Kurata and both technically take place in the same universe (there’s even a cameo made by Yomiko Readman in Read or Dream), but they are vastly different in tone. Read or Dream is often silly and heartwarming with delightful yuri overtones. Michelle, Maggie, and Anita make up the Paper Sisters Detective Agency. They specialize in finding solutions to problems that have something to with books, their owners, or authors. As a fellow bibliophile I particularly enjoyed the emphasis given to the love of books in the series. (I was also very fond of Maggie’s “bifauxnen” character design.)

Shirahime-Syo: Snow Goddess Tales by CLAMP. Shirahime-Syo collects three short manga that are framed by the legend of the Snow Princess. Each of the stories is a tragic tale of love and loss. None of them are directly related to one another, but they all make references to the Snow Princess. One of the things I enjoyed the most about Shirahime-Syo was the artwork. (I actually find this to be true for most of CLAMP’s manga.) I’m not sure who the lead artist was on this particular CLAMP work, but she has taken obvious inspiration from traditional Japanese ink paintings. The style works especially well in Shirahime-Syo because it helps to emphasize the folktale-like atmosphere of the stories.

Ze, Volumes 5-6 by Yuki Shimizu. Following the pattern set by the previous volumes of Ze—every two volumes Shimizu explores the relationship of a newly introduced pair—these two volumes turn their attention to the story of Moriya and Ryuusei. Moriya is a kami desperately in search of a master while Ryuusei desperately wants to deny his power as a kotodama user. I liked both of Moriya and Ryuusei’s backstories, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by the chemistry that was supposed to exist the two of them. Some of the most climatic and dramatic moments in their story were reminiscent of those from previous volumes which unfortunately lessened their impact. I’m still enjoying Ze, though. I like the modern setting and supernatural elements.

Hetalia, Season 3: World Series directed by Bob Shirohata. I like Hetalia best when it’s dealing directly with history rather than just playing around with national stereotypes. Admittedly, I still laugh. Yes, I know that Hetalia is incredibly offensive to some people. But (fortunately?) I’m very hard to offend and don’t take the series too seriously. I often find that I learn something while watching it, too. Hetalia: World Series follows Hetalia: Axis Powers. Other than not emphasizing World War II to the same extent that the original series does, there’s really not much of a difference between the two. Granted, World Series introduces a few more characters/countries.

My Week in Manga: March 28-April 3, 2011

My News and Reviews

Things are always slow at Experiments in Manga towards the end of the month, and this week was no exception. I posted March’s Bookshelf Overload and then there’s the monthly manga giveaway. This month I have a brand new copy of Old Boy, Volume 1 that I’m giving away. The winner will be randomly selected this coming Wednesday and not many people have entered yet. Old Boy is an Eisner award winning series that’s definitely worth checking out. Enter Manga Giveaway: Omnivorous Old Boy before it’s too late!

This week’s interesting online finds include an interview with one of my favorite translators Alexander O. Smith on the podcast if you’re just joining us. He talks about Harmony, which is up for a Philip K. Dick Award, and translating video games, among other things. Apparently, he is currently working on the translation of Miyuki Miyabe’s Ico: Castle of Mist for Haikasoru. (Smith also translated Miyabe’s Brave Story and The Book of Heroes.) I also found an interview with Japantor Radio’s Zac Bentz on Nihongaku. I love Japanator Radio, so it was nice to read what Zac had to say about it. I only discovered the podcast recently, but it’s been airing for over three years now.

Two more things I want to bring attention to: Manga Bookshelf’s Don’t Fear the Adaptation feature recently focused on House of Five Leaves. I love, love, love this anime and really hope we get a DVD release of it. And finally, NPR’s Talk of the Nation had a segment last Monday with Donald Keene and Kimiko Hahn looking at Japanese literature with reading recommendations in light of the recent earthquakes and tsunami: Books to Help You Understand Japan. The recommendations primarily focus on traditional and classic works.

Actually, there’s one more thing I want to mention. Anime and Manga Bloggers for Japan is still going strong. We’ve almost raised $5,000 for Shelter Box and Doctors without Borders. It would be fantastic if we could reach that goal or more. If you are able, please consider donating.

Also, added to the Resources page: Ain’t It Cool News Anime, Blog of the North Star, Diary of a Bookworm, and Yaoi 911

Quick Takes

Trigun, Volumes 1-2 by Yasuhiro Nightow. The first few volumes of Immortal Rain share quite a few similarities with Trigun, which is the series that came first. Except that I adore Immortal Rain and can barely stand Trigun. I don’t really like the art at all (although there are some interesting character designs) and found both it and the story extremely difficult to follow. Things start to become a bit more coherent and interesting towards the end of the second volume, but then the series ends abruptly. I preferred the science fiction elements of the story over the more generic Western elements but ultimately Trigun just didn’t work for me.

Trigun Maximum, Volumes 1-7 by Yasuhiro Nightow. This series is such an improvement over the original manga. Trigun Maximum begins two years after the events Trigun. The story is clearer but still somewhat difficult to follow. The fight sequences are also difficult to follow, but at least the art looks a lot better than it did in the original series. I like Trigun Maximum much more than I did Trigun, but the manga still frustrates me. I felt that I had to put too much effort into trying to understand what was going on. But, I do like the characters and the story that I was able to figure out I did enjoy. I might give the anime a try.

Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition by Stan Sakai. I’ve never actually read any Usagi Yojimbo until now. The series began in 1987 and is still going. Fantagraphics’ The Special Edition is a marvelous collection of the first seven trade volumes plus a ton of great extras, including a cover gallery and interviews with Sakai. The influence of samurai films on Sakai’s work is obvious and the references and nods are delightful. (Lone Goat and Kid, anyone?) Usagi is inspired by Miyamoto Musashi and Sakai has put a lot of research into the creation of his anthropomorphic version of Edo era Japan. I really enjoyed Usagi Yojimbo and plan on reading more.

Ze, Volumes 3-4 by Yuki Shimizu. As adorable and awkward as Raizou and Kon’s relationship is in the first two volumes of Ze, Genma and Himi’s relationship in volumes three and four is just as dark and brutal. Genma really has some serious issues to work out, which is very unfortunate for his kami Himi. Granted, most people in the Mitou family have issues. More details are revealed regarding kami and their creation in these volumes. Additional characters are introduced, too, and lighten things back up a bit after Genma and Himi’s intensity. There’s even an honest to goodness threesome in volume four, something I haven’t seen much of in manga licensed in English.

Monster, Episodes 61-74 directed by Masayuki Kojima. I finally got around to finishing the anime adaptation of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster. It wasn’t a terrible adaptation, and I’m happy to see just about any version of Urasawa’s work, but it doesn’t have much life of its own. I think it tried to be too true to the original manga and it simply didn’t work as well. The pacing needed for a television series is not the same that is needed for a written series and the anime comes across as being slow and unfocused. Ultimately, and perhaps not too surprisingly, I prefer the manga over the anime. But, I am glad that I took time to watch the anime. It’s not bad, it’s just not as good as I wanted it to be.

My Week in Manga: March 14-March 20, 2011

My News and Reviews

I mentioned this previously (Random Musings: Anime and Manga Bloggers for Japan), but if you haven’t checked out the Anime and Manga Boggers for Japan effort, please do. I’ll be keeping the banner at the top of this blog for a while and eventually will move it to the side bar. Our initial goal was to raise $1,000 ($2,000 total) for Shelter Box USA—Japan Disaster Relief and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. At the time of this posting, we’ve reached $3,170, which is simply fantastic.

Other posts this week included the first in-depth manga review for March—Blade of the Immortal, Volume 5: On Silent Wings II. Blade of the Immortal is one of my favorite manga series, and there’s some really great character development for Rin going on in the On Silent Wings arc. I also posted a review of the first volume of the Book Girl light novel series Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime, which I really enjoyed. I’ll definitely be following the series.

A couple of interesting things that I’ve recently found online: The Manga Readers Choice Awards have been announced as has the Graphic Novel Reporter’s Core List of Manga for Spring 2011. Also, since I read Qwan this week, I want to draw your attention to Kate Dacey’s much more coherent write up of the series at The Manga Critic—The Best Manga You’re Not Reading: Qwan.

Finally, the Aria Manga Moveable Feast has begun! I’ve included quick takes of both Aqua and Aria here, and later this week I’ll have an in-depth review of the first volume of Aqua.

Quick Takes

Aqua, Volumes 1-2 by Kozue Amano. There was no way I could pass up Amano’s manga Aqua—Mars has been turned into a water planet through terraforming. The art is probably my favorite part of the series. Pretty girls in a pretty setting. There are panels that I keep flipping back to look at again, happily absorbing myself staring at the illustrations. I love Aika’s frequent admonishments of Akari’s sappy lines. And the chapters focusing on the exploits of President Aria are always fun. I was happy to see a little more conflict introduced in the second volume, but overall the series is still has a very relaxed feeling about it. I like the characters, but they almost seem to be living separate from the society around them.

Aria, Volumes 1-6 by Kozue Amano. Aria is pretty much the same series as Aqua except for the magazine it was originally published in. It still has a calm, relaxing storyline and beautiful artwork (I would love to see some of Amano’s color prints). The manga continues to be fairly episodic but it’s nice to see the same characters showing up again and again. And there are quite a few more charming characters introduced as well. The first few volumes of Aria focus on the changing seasons. Autumn is featured in the first volume, a personal favorite of mine. It’s also interesting to see the preservation of various Manhome customs and traditions on Aqua. I still find it strange how little Akari actually knows about Aqua and Neo-Venezia.

Qwan, Volumes 1-4 by Aki Shimizu. Unfortunately, only the first four volumes of the seven volume series have been released in English. It’s unlikely that the remaining volumes will be published, but Qwan is still worth taking a look at. Shimizu’s artwork is marvelous and the characters fascinating. I’m particularly fond of the lowlife Chikei (and would really like to know what happened to him). The story is a great mix of Chinese court and political intrigue and supernatural battles. The actual action can be difficult to follow sometimes, but overall the fight sequences are great. The story, too, requires that the reader be paying attention, but I found effort needed to be satisfying.

Ze, Volumes 1-2 by Yuki Shimizu. I’ve frequently seen Ze referred to as a yaoi version of Fruits Basket, and there are certain similarities. Familial and romantic relationships and dynamics are certainly bizarre and intense. And Raizou, the primary character in the first two volumes, is extraordinarily kindhearted, self-sacrificing, and just a bit awkward. Adorably so. (I really like Raizou as a character.) I enjoyed watching him work out his relationship with Kon. The magic system used in Ze can be somewhat confusing at first if you try to think too hard about it. But, I’ve always liked the concept of words being inherently powerful, both literally and figuratively.

The Irresponsible Captain Tylor directed by Kōichi Mashimo. This series was recommended to me by a friend who was shocked that I had never even heard of it. It is so very terribly amusing. Justy Ueki Tylor joined the United Planets Space Force in search of an easy desk job, but unexpectedly finds himself promoted to a captain a destroyer after diffusing a hostage situation. The crew of the Soyokaze is made up of the worst troublemakers and misfits of the UPSF. Somehow, Tylor wins them over and they manage to survive repeat encounters against the enemy Raalgon Empire. No one can really tell if Tylor is simply a complete idiot or an absolute genius, but they can all agree that he is one lucky bastard.