Manga Giveaway: Nana Giveaway Winner

Nana, Volume 1And the winner of the Nana Giveaway is…Jocilyn!

As the winner, Jocilyn will be receiving a copy of Ai Yazawa’s Nana, Volume 1 as published by Viz Media. Nana is a fantastic series that, for whatever reason, took me two tries to really get into, but then I was hooked. I was curious to know if other readers ever gave a manga or series a second chance and what their experiences were. Most, but not all, of those who commented were willing to try a manga a second (or even third!) time. Sometimes their opinions would change after a second reading, and sometimes they still couldn’t enjoy it. Do check out the Nana Giveaway comments for the details of everyone’s story!

Some manga (that might be) worth a second look:
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
Berserk by Kentaro Miura
Fate/Stay Night by Dat Nishiwaki
Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden by Yuu Watase
Knights of Sidonia by Tsutomu Nihei
Nana by Ai Yazawa
Magi by Shinobu Ohtaka
Maka-Maka: Sex, Life, and Communication by Torajiro Kishi
Ogre Slayer by Kei Kusunoki
One Piece by Eiichiro Oda
Otomen by Aya Kanno
Shakugan no Shana written by Yashichiro Takahashi, illustrated by Ayato Sasakura
xxxHolic by CLAMP

Thank you for everyone who entered the giveaway and shared your manga-reading experiences. I hope to see you again for the next one!

Manga Giveaway: Nana Giveaway

It’s that time again! Time for Experiments in Manga’s monthly manga giveaway! This month everyone will have a chance to win the first volume of Ai Yazawa’s fantastic series Nana as published by Viz Media. The series may not be finished, and it might never be, but it’s still well worth reading. The first volume actually stands very well on its own, too. As always, this giveaway is open worldwide!

Nana, Volume 1

Many, many years ago, before Experiments in Manga even existed, I read the first volume of Ai Yazawa’s Nana. I enjoyed it well enough, but didn’t initially get around to reading much beyond that. However, I kept seeing other people write about the series, expressing their love for the manga. And so a couple of years ago I decided to try reading the series again. And it floored me. (In a good way.) Who knows why at first Nana didn’t grab me? Maybe it was just bad timing, or maybe I was in a bad mood the day I read it. But I’m so glad that I gave the series a second look—it’s a tremendous work deserving all of the praise that has been bestowed upon it. Nana isn’t the only series that I’ve had a similar experience with. Take CLAMP’s X, for another example. I didn’t like the first volume at all, but gave the series a second chance when Viz began to release the beautiful omnibus edition. For whatever reason, the second time around X hooked me. Granted, in the case of X, it’s one of those manga that’s so bad it’s good as opposed to something like Nana which is just damn good.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a copy of Nana, Volume 1?

1) Have you ever given a particular manga or series a second chance? If so, tell me about your experience in the comments below. If not, simply mention that and tell me why.
2) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting, or retweeting, about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

There you have it! Each person can earn up to two entries for this giveaway and has one week to submit comments. If you prefer or have trouble with the comment form, entries may also be sent via e-mail to phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. (The entry will then be posted in your name.) The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on September 3, 2014. Best of luck!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address in the comment form, a link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: Nana Giveaway Winner

My Week in Manga: October 7-October 13, 2013

My News and Reviews

I posted two in-depth reviews last week, one manga and one not. The first review was for Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga, Omnibus 1. I was trying coordinate my review with the manga’s release, but unfortunately there was a delay through some distributors so not all of the books have yet arrived where they should. I’ve been hoping that Vinland Saga would be licensed in English for years. I wasn’t disappointed by the first omnibus and am looking forward the next one a great deal. The second review posted last week was for Laura Joh Rowland’s The Shogun’s Daughter. The novel is the seventeenth volume in her series of Tokugawa-era mystery and crime novels but the first one that I’ve actually read. I was annoyed by parts of the novel but the use of actual Japanese history is quite clever in The Shogun’s Daughter.

As for fun things found online, the most recent column of The Mike Toole Show, “Tiles Against Humanity,” focuses on mahjong anime and manga, particularly Akagi and Kaiji. I’ve professed my love of mahjong here at Experiments in Manga, so I’m always happy to come across others writing about the subject. This past weekend was the New York Comic Con and there were quite a few announcements to come out of it. My Manga Bookshelf cohorts have write-ups of the panels they attended: Melinda’s can be found under the NYCC tag and Sean’s are listed in the NYCC/NYAF category.

Some of the licenses at NYCC that particularly caught my attention include (but are certainly not limited to) Black Rose Alice by Setona Mizushiro, Terra Formars, and the Battle Royale side story Angels’ Border from Viz (which should go nicely with Haikasoru’s recently announced Battle Royale materials); Kodansha picked up two Attack on Titan spin-offs, Before the Fall and No Regrets (yup, the shoujo one) in addition to the Attack on Titan Junior High gag manga and the guidebooks; Vertical is also getting in on the Attack on Titan action, picking up the Before the Fall light novel series, and has also licensed Moyoco Anno’s manga In the Clothes Named Fat.

Quick Takes

Nana, Volume 19Nana, Volumes 19-21 by Ai Yazawa. Wow, this is one heck of a place for Nana to leave off—the tragedy that has been alluded to for so long has finally occurred and it is absolutely devastating. More and more of the series has actually been devoted to the incident’s aftermath and how it continues to affect the characters even years later, but the twenty-first volume is all about its immediate consequences. Heartbreaking only begins to describe it. Nana is a phenomenal series with fantastic characterizations. After Shin’s arrest, both the Black Stones and Trapnest begin to fall apart and the band members’ individual problems start to spin out of control. It’s very dramatic but the progression of the story feels natural and the characters’ development, reactions, and behaviour are all believable. Even if the series is never finished, Nana is well worth reading. I continue to be extremely impressed by Yazawa’s work. I wish her all the best as she continues to recover her health.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Short Stories, Volume 1Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Short Stories, Volume 1 by Naoko Takeuchi. Though it is not my favorite series, I enjoy Sailor Moon and am happy to see it doing so well. Kodansha released the main series in twelve volumes and is collecting the related short stories and bonus manga into two additional volumes. That being said, the short stories don’t really stand on their own very well. Fans of Sailor Moon will definitely be interested in them, but their appeal probably won’t extend very far beyond that. The stories in the first volume all tend towards the sillier, more lighthearted side of the series, focusing more on the characters’ everyday lives and less on their monumental confrontations with those who would destroy humanity. Although, there is a some of that, too. And the Sailor Guardian’s daily lives can be pretty hectic. I found the first volume of short stories to be mostly entertaining, but I would sigh a little bit to myself every time there was a dig at someone becoming “chunky.”

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends, Omnibus 1Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Yak Haibara. I tend to be fairly wary of video game manga and so I ended up enjoying the first omnibus of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends far more than I ever expected. Samurai Legends is based on Sengoku Basara 2, the second game in the Sengoku Basara series, but no prior knowledge of the franchise is needed to enjoy the manga. Inspired by prominent historical events and figures of the Warring States Period, the story begins with the death of Oda Nobunaga at the burning of Honnou Temple and then follows the resulting power struggle. With marvelously over-the-top and dynamic battles and duels, humorous anachronisms, larger-than-life characters, and attractive artwork and designs, Samurai Legends is a tremendous amount of fun. There’s even a tiny bit of legitimate history, too. Samurai Legends is pretty great; I’ll definitely be picking up the second and final omnibus.

Yuri Monogatari, Volume 3Yuri Monogatari, Volumes 3-4 by Various. Although it was the third Yuri Monogatari collection that was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, out of these two volumes I actually much prefer the fourth. Yuri Monogatari is an anthology that collects short, lesbian-themed comics from Japan, America, and Europe. I am glad to have discovered Yuri Monogatari for no other reason than the series has introduced me to the work of Althea Keaton—whose contributions continue to be some of my favorites—but I enjoy the other comics included as well. I was particularly fond of Tomomi Nakasora’s “Kissing the Petal” which not only features an endearing lesbian couple but also their close friend Chii, a transman who’s looking for a girlfriend. Yuri Monogatari has a nice mix of speculative fiction as well as pieces that are based in reality. The artwork isn’t always the strongest, but the stories are consistently engaging. Some are sweet while others are more sorrowful, but they’re all generally positive in tone.

Attack on TitanAttack on Titan directed by Tetsurō Araki. I’m not at all surprised that Hajime Isayama’s manga Attack on Titan was selected for an anime adaptation—it almost seems to be begging for it. For people who can’t get past the varying quality of Isayama’s artwork but who are still interested in the series’ story, the anime makes a good alternative and the animation is much more consistent. Some of the events are revealed in a slightly different order—the anime tends to be more chronological and employs fewer extended flashbacks than the manga—but otherwise the anime series is a very faithful adaptation of the original. Established fans of the manga will find things to like, too. It’s very cool to see the three-dimensional maneuvering gear in action, which something that the manga can’t convey to the same extent. The music in the Attack on Titan anime is also suitably epic with sweeping orchestral and choral pieces effectively increasing the drama of the humans’ confrontations with the titans.

My Week in Manga: September 9-September 15, 2013

My News and Reviews

I posted two reviews here at Experiments in Manga last week. The first was for Yusuke Kishi’s novel of horror and survival The Crimson Labyrinth. Currently The Crimson Labyrinth is the only work by Kishi available in English, but Vertical will begin releasing the manga adaptation of his novel From the New World later this year. (The same From the New World recently had an anime adaptation, too.) I also posted my latest Blade of the Immortal review—Blade of the Immortal, Volume 25: Snowfall at Dawn. The last few volumes of Blade of the Immortal have been building up to the showdown between Shira and Manji; finally the time has arrived when they face each other.

There were a couple of interesting things that I came across online last week. First, there was an interview with Annaliese Christman, a freelance letterer for Viz Media. I didn’t know much about lettering, so I found it to be a very interesting read. The other item I wanted to mention was Dan Kanemitsu’s examination of the impact the upcoming Tokyo Olympics may have on censorship in Japan—Fear and Loathing in the Bold New Olympic Era. (Too long, didn’t read? CBLDF has a nice overview of the article with some additional commentary—Tokyo Olympics Emboldens Censors.)

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail, Volume 29Fairy Tail, Volume 29 by Hiro Mashima. This is only the second volume of Fairy Tail that I’ve had the opportunity to read in its entirety. At this point my general impression is that it’s a fun, but rather generic series. I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that I’ve seen it all before. I do like the variety of magic styles, though. Most of the twenty-ninth volume focuses on the battle between five young members of the Fairy Tail guild and Hades, the guild’s former grandmaster. Although not entirely unexpected, there were some great moments during fight that really show off the group’s teamwork. Fairy Tail moves along quickly with plenty of battles and action sequences. For the most part, Mashima’s art works nicely. However, all of the cuts and scratches that the characters end up with over the course of their fights make them look like they all have scales, which is a little odd. Although for some characters, like Natsu with his dragon abilities, it’s rather appropriate.

Nana, Volume 16Nana, Volumes 16-18 by Ai Yazawa. The more of Yazawa’s manga that I read, the more I am impressed by it. Nana is a fantastic series. The characters are complex and multilayered; the story is dramatic and absorbing without being overwrought. These particular volumes deal just a little less with the music industry and the bands as a whole. Instead, they delve more into the characters’ personal lives. Particularly important is the revelation of Nana and Shin’s pasts as well as their less than ideal family circumstances—something that proves to be very problematic. Also included in these volumes are two lengthy side stories. One shows Nobu and Nana’s relationship back when they were in school together. Similarly, Takumi’s complicated feelings for Reira is the focus of the other. The side stories are a really nice addition to Nana, giving the story even more depth. They show the importance of the characters’ relationships and how they developed over time to become what they are in the series proper. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of Nana.

Saiyuki Reload, Volume 7Saiyuki Reload, Volumes 7-9 by Kazuya Minekura. While the early part of the series seemed directionless, by the end of Saiyuki Reload Minekura has a great narrative drive going. Some of the plot elements and storylines do unfortunately seem to have been dropped or forgotten (though perhaps she pulls them all back in for the finale) but the manga does benefit from having a stronger focus. What is particularly interesting about these volumes is that the yokai’s side of the conflict is shown in more detail. Although there have been exceptions, for the most part the yokai have simply been the series’ monsters. Minekura makes it very clear here that the yokai are really not all that different from humans and that it is the humans who are sometimes the real monsters. Looking back, this has actually been one of the recurring themes in the series. Although Saiyuki Reload is ten volumes long, only nine volumes were ever released in English. It’s particularly tragic since the ninth volume ends on one heck of a cliffhanger.

Smut PeddlerSmut Peddler by Various. Smut Peddler had its beginnings as a three-issue indie minicomic series back in 2003. In 2012, Smut Peddler returned as a full-length anthology collecting twenty-six short erotic comics. Smut Peddler is a phenomenal collection of sex-positive, lady- and queer-friendly comics. I was particularly happy to see the diversity included in the anthology, not only in terms of the characters’ various identities but in genre as well. Smut Peddler contains science fiction and fantasy as well as reality-based works, both historical and contemporary. The stories are short, sexy, and sweet. Some are more serious and others are more humorous, but they are all heartfelt. I was previously familiar with and already follow the work of many of the creators included in the anthology, but there were plenty of artists and writers who I was encountering for the first time. (I now have even more creators I want to seek out.) Work has already begun on a second Smut Peddler anthology, currently scheduled for release in 2014. I can’t wait.

Velveteen & MandalaVelveteen & Mandala by Jiro Matsumoto. Reading Velveteen & Mandala was a rather odd experience for me. I was consistently engaged while I was reading it, but I wasn’t sure that I actually liked it. But after finishing Velveteen & Mandala I couldn’t seem to get it out of my head which to me is a sign of a good manga. The more I think about it, the more I want to read it again—it’s like a lingering and intense fever-dream (or nightmare.) Velveteen & Mandala is a very strange horror manga with strong psychological elements, extremely black humor, frequent pop culture references, and characters who all seem to be at least slightly insane. The ending’s big twist was something that I suspected from the very beginning of Velveteen & Mandala but that doesn’t make it any less effective. Velveteen & Mandala easily earns it’s 18+ rating—it’s gruesome, violent, and sexually explicit. The manga’s off-beat, weird, and bizarre horror and humor definitely aren’t for everyone, but if you can stomach it Velveteen & Mandala is a strangely intriguing work.

Library Love, Part 16

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Basara, Volumes 1-5 by Yumi Tamura. After reading only the first five volumes of Basara, I am already convinced that I want to own the entire series. Unfortunately, parts of it are tragically out of print. What’s also unfortunate? My library only has the first five volumes. Basara might be difficult to find but I think it’s worth tracking down. Set in a post-apocalyptic Japan, Basara follows a young woman named Sarasa. She hides the fact that her twin brother Tatara, the “child of destiny” prophesied to save their people from tyrannical imperial rule, has died by taking his place. So far, Basara is a quickly paced series featuring complex characters (including kick-ass women) and a fair amount of violence and tragedy for good measure.

Kaze Hikaru, Volumes 1-3 by Taeko Watanabe. I enjoy a good period manga and I’ve recently developed a particular interest in the Shinsengumi, so it was about time I gave Kaze Hikaru a try. (Plus, it has cross-dressing!) The series was Watanabe’s first foray into historical manga and she put a ton of research and reference work into the story and art. Kaze Hikaru follows Tominaga Sei, a young woman who has disguised herself as a boy in order to join the Mibu-Roshi which will later become the Shinsengumi. What she lacks in skill she makes up for in enthusiasm; for personal reasons, she is determined to become a great swordsman. Like all of the Shinsengumi manga that I’ve read, there are a lot of characters to keep track of in Kaze Hikaru. But I am enjoying Watanabe’s take on the era.

Nana, Volumes 13-15 by Ai Yazawa. I am still absolutely loving this series. (In fact, I finally caved and purchased an entire set. It’s just that good.) The characters and their relationships continue to grow and evolve as the series progresses. Some of them have even closer connections than I initially realized—the lives of the members of Trapnest and the Black Stones all intertwine and have been for quite some time now. Trust issues and jealousy show just how tenuous a relationship can be even when people are deeply in love. Since the beginning the narration of Nana has been somewhat ominous, implying some sort of impending tragic event without yet revealing what has happened. At this point, I’m starting to really worry.

Saturn Apartments, Volumes 3-6 by Hisae Iwaoka. It’s been a while since I’ve read any Saturn Apartments; I had forgotten how much I enjoy this quieter science fiction slice-of-life tale. At first the series seems to be fairly episodic, but as the manga develops an over-arching plot is established. Mitsu continues his training as a window washer of the ring system—a dangerous job, but one that he has come to love. Through his work the likable young man has made many connections and friends. At the same time, the tension between the working class of the lower levels and the upper class residents continues to increase. The sixth volume of Saturn Apartments is particularly excellent. I’m looking forward to seeing how Iwaoka brings everything to a close.