My Week in Manga: August 15-August 21, 2106

My News and Reviews

After a somewhat tumultuous year, last week marked the sixth anniversary of Experiments in Manga! Though at one point I was very stressed out about the fate and state of the blog, I’m now honestly looking forward to year seven, even if I’m not able to write as much anymore. Thank you to everyone who has read and supported Experiments in Manga in the past, present, and future!

Elsewhere online, Speculative Fiction in Translation interviewed Tyran Grillo, translator of Yusaku Kitano’s award-winning Mr. Turtle, the most recent offering from Kurodahan Press. And Barnes & Noble posted a list of 8 Great Japanese Books in Translation That Aren’t by Haruki Murakami. It’s a great listI’ve only reviewed one of the novels included (Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami), but I’m very fond of Keigo Higashino‘s work and several of the other books are very high on my to-be-read pile.

Quick Takes

Forget Me Not, Volume 3Forget Me Not, Volume 3 written by Mag Hsu and illustrated by Nao Emoto. I was taken a little by surprise by how much I enjoyed the first two volumes of Forget Me Not and so I was looking forward to reading the third volume as well. The series delves into the life and past loves of Serizawa, a young man who so far has been shown to have very little luck when it comes to romance. Some of his relationship woes can be credited to the fact that he’s still immature and inexperienced, but that’s starting to become less and less of an excuse for him now that he’s in college. Perhaps because of that, the third volume of Forget Me Not didn’t work quite as well for me as the previous volumes did. It is very clear that the relationships shown in the third volume are heading towards an absolute train wreck. Considering the beginning of the series it’s already a known fact that Serizawa ends up alone and full of regret, but it’s still painful to watch the whole mess unfold. I feel just as badly for the two young women involved as I do for Serizawa. They both like him and he likes them both; Serizawa just hasn’t been able to figure out exactly what that means yet. Apparently, he still has quite a bit of growing up left to do. Despite my frustration with the most recent volume of Forget Me Not, I am curious to see how this unfortunate past ties in with the mystery of Serizawa’s current situation.

Noragami: Stray God, Volume 15Noragami: Stray God, Volumes 15-16 by Adachitoka. Although the series’ quirky humor hasn’t completely disappeared, Noragami has become increasingly dark and dramatic over time. Adachitoka does still find appropriate moments within the series to insert a bit of levity, but for me what makes the manga compelling is its characters. The real heart of the much of the conflict in Noragami–the frequently unpredictable relationships between the various gods as well as the turbulent relationships between the gods and mortalshas once again been thrust to the forefront of the series with the manga’s most recent story arc. One thing that I found particularly interesting about these two volumes of Noragami is that Adachitoka introduces several deities of indigenous origins in addition to recognizing the existence of foreign gods. I’m not sure that they will necessarily have a large role to play in the series (then again, it seems as though they might), but this expansion is marvelous from a worldbuilding perspective, especially as Noragami is currently dealing heavily with the court and political intrigue of the Heavens. Along with that also comes a few tremendous fight sequences. Ocassionally some of the individual actions can be a little difficult to follow amidst the chaos of battle, but overall the scenes are effective and at times even impressive.

Ten Count, Volume 1Ten Count, Volume 1 by Rihito Takarai. Although the art style in Ten Count looked familiar to me, I actually didn’t make the connection at first–Takarai was the artist of the short boys’ love series Seven Days which I loved. Ten Count, however, is a very different manga than Seven Days. Even before it was licensed in English, I was aware of Ten Count. It’s a massively popular boys’ love manga, but the series also has a fair number of detractors and understandably so. Only one volume in and Ten Count is already a deliberately uncomfortable and troubling story with dark psychological elements, dubious ethics, and emotional manipulation. The manga follows Shirotani, a young man with a severe obsessive-compulsive disorder which has remained untreated since it first manifested. After a chance meeting Shirotani catches the attention of Kurose, a clinical psychotherapist who would seem to have some emotional issues of his own. Kurose takes a particular and decidedly unprofessional interest in Shirotani, offering to help Shirotani deal with his condition off-the-record and off-the-clock. Without realizing it, as Shirotani begins to be able to more easily function within society, he has also become more and more reliant on Kurose. Romantic it certainly is not, but at least for the moment I’m part of the group that finds Ten Count compelling and definitely plan on reading more.

Another: Episode S/0Another: Episode S/0, novel by Yukito Ayatsuji, manga by Hiro Kiyohara. While I was left feeling a little cheated by how some of the major reveals were handled in the horror-mystery novel Another, for the most part I did like the book. And so I was excited when Yen Press licensed both the not-exactly-sequel Another: Episode S (the main action of the novel takes place during the original Another but is only tangentially related) and the short prequel manga Another 0, releasing them together in a single, beautiful hardcover volume. (Out of all the North American manga publishers, Yen Press has had some of the best book designs of late.) Sadly, Episode S has many of the same narrative problems found in Another, namely important reveals that, while they make sense, seem a bit unfair to the readers. I actually really liked the plot twists themselves in Episode S, it’s just that their execution falls short; once again left feeling unsatisfied by the story’s developments. Tonally, Episode S is a little different from Anotherwhile it’s still a ghost story of sorts and there are some marvelously disturbing scenes, the mystery is emphasized far more than the horror. The atmosphere of Another 0, written and illustrated by the creator who helmed the Another manga adaptation, is much closer that of Another. The prequel relies heavily on readers’ familiarity with the original while Episode S largely stands on its own.

Ultimate Conditioning for Martial ArtsUltimate Conditioning for Martial Arts by Loren Landow. From an athletic standpoint, I have found several of the books published by Human Kinetics to be useful resources in supplementing my study of traditional Okinawan karate. Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts, one of the publisher’s most recent titles, can technically apply to any martial artist, but the book does tend to be geared more towards athletes and competitors. Landow also assumes that readers already have basic knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and sports training methods. While perhaps not suitable for absolute beginners, Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts does provide a good starting point for established martial artists who want to begin incorporating speed, agility, and conditioning work into their training. In addition to providing suggested conditioning exercises and programs, Landow also incorporates an overview of relevant and closely-related topics such as the evaluation and establishment of fitness baselines, warmups and flexibility, rest and recovery, and nutrition. The book includes a generous number of helpful photographs to accompany the descriptions of the specific exercises, but the photographs selected aren’t always the ones that would be most illustrative or useful. Additionally, rather than explaining the particular functions and applications of the individual exercises, Landow tends to broadly generalize and categorize their benefits. This lack of specificity and guidance can make the creation of an individualized conditioning program challenging for someone who has never developed one before. Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts groups commonly practiced martial arts disciplines together as either striking and kicking arts or wrestling and grappling arts. Landow suggests specific conditioning exercises for each category but also emphasizes the benefits of using a blended approach when developing a training program. Mixed Martial Arts is the only discipline that’s addressed in-depth but Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts is still broadly applicable to other martial arts and a valuable resource, providing a fine overall introduction to conditioning and endurance training.

My Week in Manga: July 4-July 10, 2016

My News and Reviews

Okay! A couple of different although expected things were posted last week at Experiments in Manga in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. First up was the announcement of the Complex Age Giveaway Winner which also includes a list of manga which incorporates cosplay in one way or another. I also posted the Bookshelf Overload for June last week for those of you interested in what manga and such I’ve recently acquired.

Other interesting things found online: As Anime Expo wrapped up early last week, a few more licensing announcements were made. Viz Media announced that it plans on publishing the fourth part of Hirohiko Araki’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure as well as Araki’s How to Create Manga. Yen Press will release Erased by Kei Sanbe and Bungo Stray Dogs written by Kafka Asagiri and illustrated Sango Harukawa. Also announced last week was SuBLime’s partnership with Libre, outlining their plans to release Ayano Yamane’s Finder series as well as other titles in English. Ani-gamers posted an interview with Rei Hiroe from AnimeNext 2016. And over at the Lobster Dance, the sixth installment of “The Sparkling World of 1970s Shojo Manga” takes a look at the Rose of Versailles franchise.

Quick Takes

As Many As There Are StarsAs Many As There Are Stars by Miecohouse Matsumoto. As Many As There Are Stars starts as one thing but by the end of volume the manga has turned into something else entirely. Matsumoto may very well have had this planned out in advance—hints about Kousuke’s tragic past and proclivities are present from very early on—but the shift in tone is still a bit jarring. As Many As There Are Stars is a boys’ love one-shot about seven young men who are all in the same club at college. Supposedly it’s an astronomy club of some sort, but it might as well be a club for sexual tension as most of the members have feelings for one or more of the others. The notable exception is the first year who, despite being an important plot point in the first chapter, is largely forgotten for the rest of the volume. Initially, the manga is fairly sweet and lighthearted if somewhat cliché as it explores the relationships between the club members. Eventually As Many As There Are Stars turns its focus onto Kousuke, an art student who is both desperate to be and terrified of being loved. What starts as a somewhat goofy manga develops into something more melancholic, a story about an unfortunate young man confronted by friendship and love.

Inuyashiki, Volume 2Inuyashiki, Volumes 2-3 by Hiroya Oku. After reading the first volume of Inuyashiki, I was curious to see what direction Oku would take the series. At this point, I’m not entirely convinced that Oku actually has a cohesive overarching narrative in mind. Instead, the basic premise of the series creates a platform for Oku to tell some legitimately disturbing stories; I’m just not sure that there’s much of a point to them beyond their violence and depravity. Inuyashiki often feels like it’s being distasteful just to be distasteful in order to see just how far Oku can push the boundaries of acceptability. However, I will admit that it can be can oddly satisfying to see someone who looks like an elderly man protect others by beating the crap out of obvious wrongdoers. (Oku seems to go out of the way to make the bad guys as over-the-top and awful as possible, which is fitting for the series as a whole.) Inuyashiki—the previously mentioned old man—is starkly contrasted by Shishigami, the manga’s other, much younger, lead. Like Inuyashiki, Shishigami has been reborn as a cyborg. Unlike Inuyashiki, he has been using his newly-gained powers to cause death a mayhem at will. He is unyielding in his deliberate cruelty and absolutely terrifying.

Noragami: Stray God, Volume 8Noragami: Stray God, Volumes 8-14 by Adachitoka. I have been enjoying Noragami more and more as the series progresses, but I still managed to fall behind on the manga. I was actually intending to only read a few volumes this past week, but once I started I found myself devouring my entire backlog; Noragami continues to get better and better. More of Yato’s backstory has been revealed at this point and his past has become central to the plot. The narrative flow can be somewhat odd, though. In between the intensely dramatic and serious story arcs, Adachitoka has the tendency to introduce several chapters (or more) of what feels like playful filler material. However, I’m really enjoying Adachitoka’s modernized take on Japanese deities and mythologies. (I also appreciate the thorough translation and cultural notes included in the volumes.) The interplay between the gods, shinki, ayakashi, and humans is fascinating and the relationships and power dynamics between them all are marvelously complex and nuanced even if the characters’ actions aren’t always the most subtle. Adachitoka also isn’t afraid of killing off major characters, which heightens the tension of the series’ conflicts and it’s unlikely anyone will remain unscathed.



My Week in Manga: November 9-November 15, 2015

My News and Reviews

Last week was the first week of the temporary adjustment in my posting schedule at Experiments in Manga. I’ve got a lot going on right now and not enough time to do everything that I need to or would like. Hopefully I’ll have some good news to share soon, though! (I don’t want to jinx anything by saying too much, yet.) Anyway! Last week I reviewed Mushishi, Volume 6 by Yuki Urushibara as part of my monthly horror manga review project. I’ve read the series before so I already know that I like it (in fact, it’s a favorite of mine), but I’ve really been enjoying my reread.

A few interesting things that I came across online last week: Netcomics hinted on Twitter that it would have some exciting licenses to announce soon. Dark Horse has confirmed that it will be releasing Kenji Tsuruta’s Wandering Island. And Kodansha Comics has licensed Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail Zero prequel. The English Light Novels site has an interview with light novel translator Stephen Paul. And Shojo Beat posted the first part of an interview with Arina Tanemura.

Quick Takes

Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls, Volume 4Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls, Volume 4 by Okayado. I suspect it’s at least in part due to the enormous success of Monster Musume that Seven Seas has been able to expand its catalog and take a few more risks with its licenses of late. Monster Musume has been a bestseller since the release of its very first volume. I’m not exactly a member of the manga’s target audience though and so I haven’t really been keeping up with it. But I can easily understand why it’s so popular. And there actually are a few things that I like about the series in addition to the things that I don’t particularly care for. I enjoy the absolutely atrocious puns and wordplay, for one. I also appreciate the variety of monster girls and that new races are always being introduced. Considering the highly-sexualized nature of the manga and the obsession with breasts and nipples, the story can at times be surprisingly sweet and endearing. Kimihito is a legitimately nice guy who honestly cares for the well-being of the liminals that he meets and is put in charge of. Ultimately however, there’s no question that Monster Musume is an ecchi harem fantasy.

Noragami: Stray Go, Volume 6Noragami: Stray God, Volumes 6-7 by Adachitoka. The fifth volume of Noragami ended with one heck of a cliffhanger so I was very much looking forward to reading more of the series. The sixth volume is excellent and probably my favorite volume of the manga to date. It brings Yato and Bishamonten’s battle to an effective close, but there will still be lingering consequences and repercussions of the fight that will have to be dealt with moving forward. After the intense drama, emotions, and action of the sixth volume, Adachitoka takes the seventh in a different direction, bringing back some of the manga’s humor and goofiness while still building the underlying tension of the series. As the next story arc begins, new characters and antagonists are introduced and additional backstories are explored. One particularly important revelation is that Yato’s very existence is somewhat precarious, which is why maintaining his ties to other people is so critical. I’ve largely enjoyed the series since the beginning, but Noragami is starting to get really good. I’m like seeing the evolution of the characters and the changing dynamics of their relationships.

Showa: A History of Japan, 1953–1989Showa: A History of Japan, 1953-1989 by Shigeru Mizuki. Each volume of Showa has been massive, but this final installment covers the longest period of time. In fact, the fourth volume provides an outline of more years than the first three volumes combined. 1953-1989 follows Japan through the country’s postwar period, the falls and rises of the economy, and the political turmoil and change of the era. Woven into the history of Japan is Mizuki’s own personal story. One of the reasons that the fourth volume of Showa especially appealed to me was that it explores a bit of manga history as well, following Mizuki’s start and growth as a mangaka including the management of a studio of assistants. Sanpei Shirato, Ryoichi Ikegami, Yoshiharu Tsuge, and many other prominent creators and editors all make appearances. Mizuki’s interest in yokai is shown to become increasingly important as well. The final volume of Showa also includes some of Mizuki’s color work, which I’d never seen before. Mizuki’s black and white manga is great, but some of the color illustrations are simply stunning.

My Week in Manga: July 20-July 26, 2015

My News and Reviews

I posted one in-depth manga review last week, Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends, Omnibus 2 by Yak Haibara. It’s the final omnibus in the series, collecting the third and fourth volume of Haibara’s Sengoku Basara 2 manga adaptation. I get a huge kick out of Sengoku Basara. It’s incredibly over-the-top but actually does manage to incorporate some legitimate history. Samurai Legends stands fairly well on its own, too, so no previous knowledge of the franchise is necessary. The other post last week (other than the usual My Week in Manga feature, of course) was something a little different: I was tagged in a game of manga tag, so I had an excuse to talk a bit about my collection. It was fun, so I hope others found it interesting.

Otakon was last week and there were some pretty great licenses announced. Viz Media picked up Inio Asano’s Goodnight Pun Pun as well as Takeshi Obata’s artbook Blanc et Noir and Keiko Ishihara’s The Heiress and the Chauffeur. Vertical will be releasing Riichi Ueshiba’s Mysterious Girlfriend X, Ryo Hanada’s Devil’s Line, and Kaori Ozaki’s The Gods Lie. (Ozaki is also the creator of Immortal Rain, which I love, so I’m especially excited for this one.) Kodansha Comics has plans to publish Yui Sakum’s Complex Age, Nao Emoto’s Forget Me Not, and most notably Leiji Matsumoto’s classic manga Queen Emeraldas! Also of note, Sekai Project, which primarily releases visual novels, has a new manga publishing initiative, starting with Satoru Sao, Takumi Yanai, and Daisuke Izuka’s GATE.

Elswhere online, Viz posted an interview with Canadian comics creator Faith Erin Hicks talking about many things, including her love of manga. (Also, her comics are great and well-worth checking out.) Organization Anti-Social Geniuses interviewed Kurt Hassler from Yen Press’ at Anime Expo. (All those manga recently licensed for digital release? There is a possibility we’ll be seeing them in print!) Graham Kolbeins of MASSIVE posted an impassioned but thoughtful explanation of how online piracy negatively impacts creators of gay manga. Deb Aoki has posted the audio and transcript of the gay manga panel from TCAF earlier this year. (It’s was a great panel that I only touched upon briefly in my TCAF roundup, so I’m glad it’s now available for anyone to read/listen to!) Finally, I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to an excellent post by Christopher Butcher about “othering” in the comics industry: Shifts and Living History

Quick Takes

Incredible KintaroThe Incredible Kintaro by Naomi Guren. In Japanese folktales, Kintaro is a young boy with incredible strength who, among other things, runs around in the mountains with his trusty axe wearing nothing but a bib and wrestling bears. Those legends partly inspire The Inncredible Kinato, except that the youth is now a virile bishōnen. He does still spend a lot of time with very little clothing on and his junk hanging out, though. Currently, Kintaro is working as a janitor in order to protect his childhood love and friend Makoto. After his grandfather dies, Makoto is serving as the acting principal at the private high school where he is also a student, becoming a target of all the other men who would like to take control of the institute. And since the school’s motto is “Heart, Lust, Body,” that means it’s his virginity that’s at stake. The Incredible Kintaro is an intentionally ludicrous boys’ love manga. Makoto finds himself in all sorts of dubious situations, the teachers coming up with some rather creative scenarios to win his body if not his heart. The characters are shallow, so The Incredible Kintaro must rely on its bizarre premise and sense of humor to carry the story. Readers will need a high tolerance for the absurd to really enjoy the volume.

Johnny Wander, Volume 1Johnny Wander, Volume 1-3 written by Ananth Panagariya and illustrated by Yuko Ota. I was first introduced to the online comic Johnny Wander through several of the strips devoted to the cats in the character’s lives. They were hilarious and I was hooked. Johnny Wander isn’t always about cats, though. Actually, it really isn’t about anything. Johnny Wander is a sequence of short, one-page, autobiographically-inspired comics. Although there are recurring characters, scenarios, and even the occasional running joke, most of the individual comics stand completely on their own merits. They’re brief glimpses into somewhat nerdy, after-college, daily life and they’re very funny. The cast consists of family, friends, and roommates (and cats). The setting is made up of the various cities and apartments (some of which are kind of sketchy even if they’re fondly remembered) in which they’ve lived. It’s incredibly ordinary and wonderful at the same time. Johnny Wander is entertaining, delightful, and charming, made up of the types of stories and jokes that people who know each other well will reminisce about, and tell and retell over the years. I really do love this series, and it just recently began updating again!

Noragami: Stray God, Volume 5Noragami: Stray God, Volume 5 by Adachitoka. Although it hasn’t completely disappeared, at times I miss the quirky humor that was fairly prevalent in the early volumes of Noragami. But I must say, the drama in recent installments has been increasingly intense and engaging. The fifth volume in particular is an especially excellent addition to the series, and it ends on one heck of a cliffhanger. Although not everything has yet been revealed, the fifth volume delves into the unfortunate history between Yato and Bishamonten, which turns out to be much more complicated than many realize. Importantly, with Bishamonten finding it difficult to control her numerous shinki, it seems as though the two of them are now facing a very similar situation. It didn’t end well the first time, which ignited their current feud and Bishamonten’s desire for vengeance, and it looks like they are now on the brink of another tragedy. Kugaha is manipulating the entire situation, successfully igniting a confrontation between Yato and Bishamonten in the hopes that she will die in the process. The intrigue in Noragami has reached new heights and the battles between gods has become even more perilous; I need to know what happens next.