My Week in Manga: April 6-April 12, 2015

My News and Reviews

I posted two reviews last week at Experiments in Manga that featured some of Kodansha Comics’ newest series: Masayuki Ishikawa’s Maria the Virgin Witch, Volume 1, released back in February, and Naoshi Arakawa’s Your Lie in April, Volume 1, which will be released later this month. The main reason I picked up Maria the Virgin Witch was because Ishikawa was the creator of Moyasimon. I really wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, but now I’m very interested in reading the rest of the series. Your Lie in April caught my attention because it’s a music manga. It has the potential to become rather melodramatic, but I did enjoy the first volume and plan on reading more.

Last week also saw the release of Gamon Sakurai’s Ajin: Demi-Human, Volume 4 from Vertical. I’m actually quoted on the back cover, a blurb taken from my review of the first volume. This is all very exciting, although my legacy will now probably be that of an ignorant reviewer who spouts nonsense about production values and the quality of paper. Although I thought it looked nice, it turns out Ajin is actually printed on one of the cheaper, thinner stocks used by Vertical. Anyway. Lesson learned! I also discovered that a much more flattering quote of mine from a quick take last year was used for the final volume of Tetsuya Tsutsui’s Prophecy, except that it was credited to Manga Bookshelf. So it goes!

Elsewhere online, Lori of Manga Xanadu has recently been putting together some interesting lists of manga. A few weeks ago she featured sewing and fashion manga and last week focused on manga which include books with great power. Organization of Anti-Social Geniuses posted the transcription of the panel with Abigail Blackman on manga editing, lettering, and Japanese nuance. from the Castle Point Anime Con. Geeks OUT! has an exclusive interview with Jiraiya (one of the creators featured in the Massive gay manga anthology) from his recent North American tour. And Zero Comprehension has a brief guide to the official releases of the Golgo 13 manga in English.

In licensing-ish news, Digital Manga has launched another Tezuka Kickstarter for Clockwork Apple and is making plans for its next yaoi Kickstarter. Unrelated, there’s also a Kickstarter project for an original-English boys’ love anthology that looks quite good—Boy, I Love You. Viz Media has licensed the Yo-Kai Watch manga series for its Perfect Square imprint. I don’t often mention anime licenses, but I was very excited to learn that Discotek Media will be releasing Library Wars and Dororo. Finally, Sparkler Monthly has added the reboot of Jennifer Doyle’s excellent webcomic Knights-Errant. (Also, the most recent Sparkler Podcast talks about josei manga and the differences between the Japanese manga industry and the North American comics industry, among other topics.)

Quick Takes

Genshiken: Second Season, Volume 4Genshiken: Second Season, Volumes 4-6 by Shimoku Kio. For some reason, I don’t find the second season of Genshiken to be as engaging as the original manga series. I haven’t quite been able to identify why yet, though I suspect it may be because most of the newer characters haven’t seen much development in the recent volumes and the characters from the first “season” feel like they’re invading the new series. I think Genshiken works best for me with an ensemble cast. While there are still plenty of characters in the manga as well as regular plot tangents, lately the story has primarily focused on just a few. Admittedly, the two characters who are getting the most attention, namely Madarame and Hato, happen to be my favorites in the series. Hato in particular is marvelous. He’s going through some significant personal turmoil over his cross-dressing and love of boys’ love, which has a tremendous impact on the rest of the story and characters. And apparently just about everyone is in love with Madarame. But as interesting as the increasingly convoluted relationships in the series are, at this point what I really want is to know more about the other club members.

Last Man, Volume 1: The StrangerLast Man, Volume 1: The Stranger by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville, and Balak. Despite France being one of the world powerhouses of comics creation, relatively few French comics have been translated into English, especially when compared to the number of manga available. Last Man, which is in part inspired and heavily influenced by shōnen battle manga, has been very well received in France. And now, thanks to First Second, it’s available in English. (I believe Last Man may actually the first comic in translation that has been released by First Second.) Adrian is a young boy who has been training hard for his first fighting tournament, but when his teammate gets sick, it looks like he won’t be able to compete. Enter Richard, the titular stranger and a physically imposing man, who also needs a partner in order to compete. They make a peculiar pair: Adrian hasn’t quite mastered the magic and special techniques of his martial style, and Richard relies completely on his fists and strength. He also doesn’t appear to actually know the rules of the tournament, which poses a bit of a problem. So far, Last Man is delightfully engaging; I’m really looking forward to reading more of the series.

Missing RoadMissing Road by Shushushu Sakurai. Before quietly disappearing, DramaQueen released two final manga by Sakurai, Junk! and Missing Road. What particularly caught my attention about these two manga was the fact that they were science fiction—a genre that I’ve rarely seen in translated boys’ love manga. Missing Road specifically was described as “an epic sci-fi adventure of love, loss, and redemption.” Sadly, although some of Sakurai’s ideas certainly had great potential and I did like the setting, Missing Road doesn’t quite live up to that promise. The manga would have been more successful from a narrative standpoint if Sakurai could have expanded the story over the course of multiple volumes. As it is, she tries to cover too much ground in a single installment and many of the manga’s elements feel underdeveloped or truncated as a result. There are important close and intimate relationships, but Missing Road isn’t really a love story and is instead more about brutal war and revenge. Most of the sex is of a violent nature and rape occurs on several different occasions. The English-language edition was actually censored (with permission from Sakurai) for fear of United States child pornography laws.

Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Omnibus 3Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Omnibus 3 by CLAMP. With this omnibus, I have entered into territory that I previously didn’t have the opportunity to read before Tsubasa originally went out-of-print in English. At this point, I’m still enjoying the series. It’s not always the most emotionally compelling manga (although admittedly it can sometimes be heart-wrenching), but Tsubasa is definitely a solid adventure tale. The manga’s premise allows CLAMP to very creative and develop world after world, each one different from the ones preceding and following it and each with its own challenges and dangers to be faced. Nods to other CLAMP manga and characters are still prevalent, and I assume this will likely be true for the entire series. This particular omnibus prominently features RG Veda, which I haven’t actually read, so I probably don’t appreciate the references as much as someone who has. It looks like the alternate version of Seishirō from Tokyo Babylon and X will be an important antagonist in Tsubasa as well. The series Tsubasa most directly crosses over with is xxxHolic. This connection actually works very well for Tsubasa, but I find it somewhat distracting when reading xxxHolic.

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  1. You’re living the dream, Ash! ;) My roommate was wondering why I went, “Ah!” when I picked up the volume at B&N.

    No worries, I too was fond of that bright white paper they use for Ajin, only to be schooled by the lovely manga-wiki Ed Chavez. I thought he had a pretty good point about the paper maybe being overly noticeable, but I suppose that what’s separates the fans from the professionals: I just went “Oooo, shiny and such dark ink! I like it!” :P I would love to read a book by that guy though; I would sit through an entire chapters about paper stock.

    • Ash Brown says

      Haha, that I am! :D

      I really do like how Ajin looks with all that dark ink on the white paper. It’s a very striking effect. But, yeah, “high-quality” obviously wasn’t the best choice of words to use. XD

      Ed Chavez is a very knowledgeable guy. I, too, would happily read chapters upon chapters written by him about paper stock, production, and other ins and outs of the book/manga industry. I’ve already learned a lot by following him and Vertical on social media.

      • Hey, I thought it was high quality too! XD

        Vertical’s is a goldmine of info. There’s so much good info there and it’s kind of a shame it might get buried there… I would love a book about about actual manga production itself.

        • Ash Brown says

          There really ought to be some sort of Vertical “best of” compilation. There’s so much great information that gets passed along via Ask, Tumblr, Twitter and so on, it would be nice to have it all in one stable place.

  2. I’m trying to get through my ungodly manga backlog, I’m going to try and read at least two manga a day, lol

    I finished Godchild, totally a Kaori Yuki manga. As were the first two volumes of Demon From Afar. Hard to describe her stuff, but once you’ve read it, it’s easy to see how they’re all similar in many ways. But yeah, I did enjoy Godchild and the conspiracies and murder and stuff. I still have Grand Guignol Orchestra waiting for me to read too.

    And I read v1 of Yukarism, I look forward to more of that too. I like the whole “reincarnation” theme in manga, and while not instantly the strongest, I do want to see where it’s going to go.

    One thing I’m not continuing though is Requiem for the Rose King. Possibly because of my zero familiarity with the source material (I can’t honestly say I care much for Shakespeare, nor his writing style), I just could not follow what was going on whatsoever. I haven’t been so confused by a manga in quite a while.

    And I read some more 100% Perfect Girl! I’m still getting into manhwa (though there’s so much less manhwa in English that it’s somewhat easier) and man is this just solo juicy and filled with cheese. I mean, we already have foreign marriage, amnesia, and plenty of other addictive tropes and I’m four volumes in!

    • Ash Brown says

      Good luck with trying to get through your backlog! I can never seem to catch up. ^_^;

      Kaori Yuki does have a style! I’ve read Angel Sanctuary, Godchild, and a little bit of Grand Guignol Orchestra. Dark and dramatic are the first two words that come to mind.

      I loved Requiem for the Rose King, but at times the storytelling in the first volume is really disjointed and jumps around. I can definitely see how it would be confusing, especially if someone doesn’t already have some familiarity with the source material or the people and events involved. I’m hoping that will smooth out some as the series progresses and that the manga will become more accessible.

      I haven’t read 100% Perfect Girl yet, though I’ve been meaning to. I really enjoyed Wann’s anthology 9 Faces of Love. Netcomics is currently releasing one of her newest series, Give to the Heart, which I’m collecting but haven’t had a chance to read. (Speaking of never catching up with my backlog!)

      • I’m always making my backlog worse too. I just bought With the Light for $40 on eBay (all 8 vols too!), but I already have Let Dai, half of Project Arms, Little Queen, some Fairy Tail, more xxxHolic, Dragon Ball, half of Itazura na Kiss (I still can’t tell when 11 and 12 are coming out. According to the internet, v12 comes out before v11, and that just makes zero sense), Knights of Sidonia, lots of Kaze Hikaru, Switch, Muhyo & Roji, and that’s not even mentioning all the random things still coming out that I get behind on (Witch Buster, Kamisama Kiss, Skip Beat).
        Not even going into my anime backlog, it’s gotta be like 40-some series (but I don’t collect many new series anymore unless dirt cheap or very special, so I tend to get lots of Discotek series and hope that Space Bros will be in the RightStuf xmas sale in like 9 months)

        Oh and I forgot that a couple of weeks ago, I got to read 2001 Nights! It was indeed very good and definitely worth the rare hunt if you ask me. I remember reading a bit at a con library, but con libraries are no place to test things out when shinier things are happening outside. Speaking of cons, I also pre-ordered for Otakon, woohoo!

        • Ash Brown says

          Oh, sounds like you’ve got some great reading ahead of you!

          I’ve mostly managed to get my anime-buying habit under control by relying on streaming when I can and only purchasing sets when it’s something that I really want to own and rewatch (or is on super sale).

          2001 Nights is indeed excellent! I’d love to see Viz release a nice omnibus edition of it, though I don’t expect that to happen any time soon, if ever. I’m glad you got a chance to read it, because it’s a great short series. :)

          I hope you enjoy Otakon! I’m looking forward to TCAF here in a few weeks. :D

          • I actually don’t watch many streaming series. I like to let time weed out the ones that started well but didn’t continue. Also, I really mostly like scifi, and anime in general seems to have moved away from scifi and towards moe slice of life, so there’s less that I’m interested in. When something awesome does come along though, like Steins;Gate, I’m all over that, but it seems to be maybe 2-3 series a year tops.

            Man, I forgot all the manga I had hidden away in other places that I need to read! Slam Dunk, House of Five Leaves, Saturn Apartments, Fake, Iron Wok Jan, Lone Wolf & Cub, some of the more recent Tezuka books to come out (Triton 2 and Captain Ken for sure). Yeah, I’ve got quite a bit I need to read.

    • Ah, so I wasn’t the only one that was thrown off my the disjointedness of Requiem for a Rose King? It’s so pretty and I feel like I should like it, but I’m not super familiar with the source material either.

      (Also, all of With the Light for 40 bucks? :O)

      • I was surprised at that price too! And it’s already arrived (seller was in my state) and it’s all fine. I was even just recently lamenting over how I’d missed that $50 set a few years back. Now if I can just get Silent Mobius…

        As for Requiem, I feel no obligation to like it. I’ve not really read Otomen and I barely remember that time I know I rented Blank Slate from the library so I don’t have author loyalty here. But I was just so confused, are there two Edwards, one on each side? When that lady get rid of Richard and was it that same side that got him back? Was that her standing in the background? Who are these people again? I really could not follow it.

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