My Week in Manga: March 25-March 31, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week was March’s Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Khursten at Otaku Champloo and focusing on historical manga. I particularly enjoyed Khursten’s post on Manga and Memories. As for my contributions to the Feast, I reviewed the third omnibus in Takehiko Inoue’s award-winning manga series Vagabond. Based on a historical novel which is in turn based on the life of the legendary Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, Vagabond is a great series. The most recent manga giveaway at Experiments in Manga has also been posted. Come tell me about your favorite historical manga for a chance to win Shigeru Mizuki’s semi-autobiographical Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths.

Unrelated to the Feast, I also posted a review of The Infernal Devices, Volume 1: Clockwork Angel, HyeKyung Baek’s graphic novel adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s novel of the same name. Now, I actually haven’t read the original novel, although I am somewhat familiar with the series (one of my sisters loves the books.) I do get the feeling that the graphic novel will be better appreciated by someone who has read The Infernal Devices. To that end, I have invited a housemate who has read the original novel to submit a guest post to Experiments in Manga with her impressions of the graphic novel adaptation. It should be posted sometime in the near future, so be on the look out for it! I’d also like to thank Manga Critic’s Kate Dacey once again for sending along a review copy of Clockwork Angel for me to read.

Quick Takes

Emerald and Other Stories by Hiroaki Samura. Published under the title Sister Generator in Japan, Emerald and Other Stories collects seven short manga works as well as several illustrations by Samura. All of the stories except for one feature women in lead roles. I was very excited about the collection for several reasons. First and foremost, I am a fan of Samura’s work. Emerald and Other Stories also includes a brief mahjong manga “Low-Grade Strategy: The Mirror Play” which won’t mean much to people unfamiliar with the game, but I got a kick out of it. I really enjoyed the collection as a whole, too. Samura’s shorter works can be odd, dark, quirky, and rather weird, which I appreciate, and I love his artwork.

Eyeshield 21, Volumes 11-14 written by Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. As much as I’m enjoying Eyeshield 21, I still don’t really care about American football. But the manga is a lot of fun. It’s filled with great, likeable characters (even those who are complete asses) and Murata’s artwork is fantastic. His fluid, exaggerated style fits the exaggerated characters well. At this point in the story, the Devil Bats have returned from their training in America and the fall tournament has begun. The manga moves through most of the games fairly quickly. Sometimes only a page or two is spent on each, just enough time for the teams to leave an impression. But then the Devil Bats face-off with the Kyoshin Poseidons and several volumes are devoted to their rivalry.

Gakuen Heaven by You Higuri. Because I’ve enjoyed some of Higuri’s past work, I picked up Gakuen Heaven on a whim out of a bargain bin for a mere pittance. I’m not convinced that it was worth it. The manga is the first volume in a series of adaptations of the dating sim game Gakuen Heaven: Boy’s Love Scramble. Probably not surprisingly, the characters and story are one cliche and trope after another and nothing creative is done with them. To some extent, the direction that plot takes was left up to reader polls. The artwork in Gakuen Heaven isn’t terrible, but like the rest of the manga it is very generic. The detail and sensuality found in the artwork of Higuri’s other manga is nowhere to be found.

Hero Tales, Volumes 1-5 written by Jin Zhou Huang, illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa. I was unfortunately very disappointed by Hero Tales. A Chinese-influenced fantasy with strong wuxia underpinnings (which I liked), the manga unfortunately ends up feeling very derivative and fails to distinguish itself. The characters have very little depth to them and even more problematic, the story itself frequently doesn’t make any sense as plot developments are either skipped over entirely or come out of nowhere. Arakawa’s artwork is nice, and there are some decent fight sequences and martial arts, but even this can’t save the manga. I did, however, very much enjoy the end-of-volume comics following Arakawa and her assistants around China as they gather reference materials for the series.

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade directed by Hiroyuki Okiura. I’ve been meaning to watch Jin-Roh for a while now. I’m glad that I finally got around to it; I really should have seen it sooner. Set in an alternate history of Japan, the anime follows Kazuki Fuse, a member of the military police’s elite special unit. He comes under investigation when he fails to shoot a young suicide bomber before she detonates her charge. Although there are several key action sequences and firefights, the pacing of the story is rather slow and deliberate. Personally, I don’t consider this at all to be a bad thing and was thoroughly engaged for the entire movie. The animation and overall atmosphere of the film were excellent.

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