My Week in Manga: September 21-September 27, 2015

My News and Reviews

Apparently, considering the two in-depth reviews that I posted, Experiments in Manga was all about dynastic struggles and warfare last week. Ken Liu is an author that I’ve started to follow since reading one of his short stories in The Future is Japanese. His debut novel, Grace of Kings, was released this year and I absolutely loved it. It’s the first book in The Dandelion Dynasty, a fantasy epic which is inspired by and reimagines Chinese history and legends, such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms (which I really need to get around to finishing). I also reviewed Aya Kanno’s Requiem of the Rose King, Volume 2. So far, I’m really liking the series which takes its inspiration from William Shakespeare’s plays dealing with the Wars of the Roses. I think the second volume of Requiem of the Rose King improves on the first and is generally a little easier to follow as well. I continue to love the manga’s dark atmosphere and theatrical nature. Fortunately, the wait won’t be quite as long for the release of the next volume.

Quick Takes

Gangsta, Volume 4Gangsta, Volumes 4-6 by Kohske. I intentionally saved up a few volumes of Gangsta to read all at once, but somehow during that time I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the series. I love the diverse cast of characters, the gritty setting, and the action and intrigue of the story. In addition to an escalation in the conflicts between “normals” and Twilights, these particular volumes of Gangsta include significant plot developments as well as more character development. For one, Alex’s memories are slowly returning, revealing small fragments of her past which should have major implications as the series progresses. Her younger brother even enters the scene. While Gangsta can be an extremely violent, brutal, and cruel manga, Kohske remembers to include quieter and more lighthearted moments to provide a contrast to the series’ intensity. Granted, they also serve to emphasize the manga’s tragic turns. Kohske isn’t afraid of killing off characters, either. With all of the battles going on between exceptionally skilled and powerful fighters, it’s probably not too surprising that there will be death, severe injury, and tremendous suffering involved.

Hard RockHard Rock by Akane Abe. Because of my interest in and love of music, I have a tendency to seek out related manga (no matter how tangential), which is how I initially came across the boys’ love one shot Hard Rock. The manga follows four young men who started a band together. However, the volume actually begins with the band’s breakup and not much time is spent on music at all. Instead, Hard Rock focuses on the former bandmates’ changing friendships and relationships. There’s an underlying tangle of crushes, angst, and unrequited love, but relatively little romance, most of the major developments occurring off panel between chapters. With the exception of one page in the epilogue manga, close physical intimacy in Hard Rock is almost nonexistent beyond an occasional kiss or even rarer groping. The young men are just as likely to punch one another as they are to hug. Thus, readers looking for steamy bedroom scenes will probably be disappointed. Personally, I actually liked and appreciated the understated romance; Abe makes it work. Although Hard Rock ended up having very little to do with music, I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

Ultraman, Volume 1Ultraman, Volume 1 by Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi. I’ve watched and enjoyed a little over a dozen episodes of the live-action Ultraman series from the 1960s and so was curious about Shimizu and Tomohiro’s addition to the incredibly successful franchise. Readers who aren’t familiar with the original needn’t fear—the first chapter of the sequel has a tremendous amount of exposition crammed into it. While this does quickly establish the premise of the manga, it’s not the most effective or enjoyable introduction. However, the narrative of the following chapters quickly improves and the volume ends with a great hook. The manga takes place a generation after the end of the Ultraman television series and focuses on Shinjiro Hayata who, as the son of the original Ultraman, has inherited superhuman powers. He becomes the target of an alien attack which leads him to accept the role of the new Ultraman. However, instead of transforming into a powerful giant, Shinjiro uses an exo-suit to enhance his abilities. So far, the Ultraman manga is shaping up to be more serious and a fair amount darker than the original series.