My Week in Manga: October 3-October 9, 2011

My News and Reviews

The winner for Experiments in Manga’s latest manga giveaway was announced last week—Manga Giveaway: Hikaru no Go Giveaway Winner. As part of the contest I asked people to tell me about the manga that inspires them. There were some great responses, so I hope you’ll take the time to check them out. I also posted the September 2011 Bookshelf Overload, if anyone cares about that particular feature.

There are a few links I’d like to point out this week. First is an essay posted on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund website that was written by Melinda Beasi of Manga BookshelfVoicing an Opinion: Manga Bookshelf’s Melinda Beasi Talks Canada Customs Case. Beasi’s arguments are very well stated and I support them fully. I also read an interesting interview with Sean Michael Wilson, who edited the first volume of AX: Alternative Manga among other things—From Scotland to Japan. There was also an nice look at Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond that I came across—‘Vagabond’: Takehiko Inoue creates a samurai masterpiece. Vagabond is a fantastic series and I highly recommend it. I’ve reviewed the first omnibus volume as well as Eiji Yoshikawa’s novel Musashi on which the series is based.

Finally, there have been some blogs added to the Resource page, so give them a look: Chou-Dori, Nagareboshi Reviews, OtakuStew, Read About Comics.

Quick Takes

Don’t Blame Me, Volumes 1-2 by Yugi Yamada. Don’t Blame Me is the first of Yugi Yamada’s works that I’ve read. It took a little while for the artwork to grow on me, but the story telling is excellent from the beginning. Don’t Blame Me doesn’t end with everything tied up nicely. Relationships are messy, complicated, and far from perfect. Yamada does a very nice job portraying this while still crafting a very satisfying ending. Additionally, Don’t Blame Me doesn’t just focus on the potential romance between the lead couple. Instead, there is a whole cast of characters that play an important part in the story. It’s nice to see everyone’s interactions and developing relationships.

Kekkaishi, Omnibus 1 by Yellow Tanabe. I really enjoyed my first taste of Kekkaishi; its a lot of fun. A few things make it stand out for me among shōnen fighting series. First and foremost are the two main characters. Both are very strong in their own ways and complement each other nicely. Yoshimori may be more powerful, but his rival and potential love interest Tokine is more knowledgeable, practiced, and generally more competent than her younger neighbor. They are both well-rounded characters, especially Yoshimori. Another thing I really like about Kekkaishi is the magic system used. Tanabe comes up with some really creative uses and applications for the cuboid force fields that Yoshimori and Tokine can create.

Kiichi and the Magic Books, Volumes 1-5 by Taka Amano. As a librarian, I feel a certain affinity for Kiichi and the Magic Books. Mototaro reminds me a bit of Ginko from Mushishi, which is not a bad thing at all. The series starts out as a solid little fantasy, but ends up going in some strange directions. While there were some elements I really liked—especially the power granted to books and librarians—ultimately, I’m not sure I completely got or was really convinced by the world’s mythology. Still, I enjoyed the manga, particularly the earlier volumes. I think Kiichi and the Magic Books will probably appeal more to younger readers than older audiences, but there’s good stuff to be found and the artwork is nice.

Kurozakuro, Volumes 1-2 by Yoshinori Natsume. I haven’t figured out exactly why, but Kurozakuro is surprisingly entertaining for such a mediocre series. There’s really nothing that makes it stand out story-wise or art-wise in these first two volumes and I’ve seen most of the plot elements before. Even the message the series is sending seems to be mixed. Mikito finally has the power to stand up for himself, but is basically told that he has to remain an underdog or die. However, I do like the change in art style between the dream sequences and reality, although the more abstract dream style occasionally bleeds over. Kurozakuro is only seven volumes, so it might be worth pursuing to see how and if it might improve.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Season 2, Part 1 (Episodes 29-40) directed by Seiji Mizushima. While I have seen the first season of Fullmetal Alchemist several times, this is the first time I’ve watched the second season. Much of this season is spent exploring the homunculi and their origins. I’m still not sure if there’s a deeper meaning to naming them after the seven deadly sins or not, but the symbolism certainly has the potential to be significant. There were a few twists thrown in that I probably should have seen coming but didn’t. Even if they were somewhat unexpected, they still make a lot of sense in the context of what came before. We learn more about Scar and his brother in these episodes, too.

Seven Samurai directed by Akira Kurosawa. Seven Samurai was the first film by Akira Kurosawa that I ever saw and it remains my favorite. If you’ve never seen Seven Samurai before, you should really take the three and a half hours to watch it. Not only is it a good film, it’s also a highly influential one. The premise is fairly simple: a group of samurai is hired by a farming village to protect it from bandits. But first the villagers will have to find samurai willing to fight for them for very little pay and no glory. Fortunately, they come across the charismatic Shimada and are able to win him over to their cause. Soon, more samurai follow, each for their own reasons. That’s when the real battle starts.

My Week in Manga: June 6-June 12, 2011

My News and Reviews

I’ve mostly recovered from my trip to St. Louis and was able to post a couple reviews this past week. The first review was for the inaugural volume of the English edition of the Japanese literary journal Monkey Business. It’s a pretty cool collection that includes manga along with short fiction, poetry, and an interview with Haruki Murakami. The second review was for The Twelve Kingdoms, Volume 1: Sea of Shadow a fantasy light novel by Fuyumi Ono. I liked the first volume of The Twelve Kingdoms so well that I bought the rest of the series (well, all of the books that were published in English, anyway) as well as the anime adaptation. Next week is the Wild Adapter Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Manga Bookshelf. Wild Adapter is one of my favorite series, so I’m looking forward to the Feast. I’ll be reviewing the first volume as well as taking a quick look at Mahjong and Kubota.

I’ve added two publishers (well, a publisher and an imprint) to the Resources page: Kodansha Comics, which has taken over quite a few of Del Rey’s titles and Kodansha licenses, and Digital Manga’s new hentai imprint Project H.

Quick Takes

7 Billion Needles, Volumes 2-4 by Nobuaki Tadano. 7 Billion Needles is a nice, compact, four volume science fiction series. Tadano’s artwork is consistently well done but the plot feels a little hurried in the last two volumes. Some elements, like the subspecies and the Moderator, are introduced without much explanation. I do like Hikaru’s rapport with Horizon and Maelstrom and it doesn’t feel forced. I still haven’t read Hal Clement’s novel Needle, but I’m interested in the source material since I enjoyed the manga. The final volume includes the story “Hikikomori Headphone Girl” which I quite liked; the main character serves as a prototype for Hikaru although the plot is unrelated to 7 Billion Needles.

Finder, Volumes 1-3 by Ayano Yamane. Finder began in a special S&M issue and so understandably the sex is fairly intense and explicit, especially in the first volume. Because Akihito is constantly being abducted by one criminal faction or another there is a fair amount of non-con to begin with. But while there’s plenty of sex, there’s also a fairly well developed plot to go along with it. And I really like Yamane’s artwork; it’s clean and consistent. Her men are definitely lanky bishōnen, but they also have some muscle, which I like to see. Each volume also includes a few unrelated stories; I’m particularly happy to see the characters from “Plants in Love” make repeat appearances.

Iono-sama Fanatics, Volume 1 by Miyabi Fujieda. What a delightful yuri fantasy! It’s too bad the second volume was never published in English, I would really like to read it. Iono is the queen of a small country who has a habit of collecting women. At the moment, she is particularly interested in black haired maidens and so has come to Japan to find some to take home with her. The art is attractive and while Fujieda might overuse chibis, they are absolutely adorable. Iono-sama Fanatics is funny and sweet with charming characters, particularly the titular Iono. Her attendants are completely devoted to her and she adores them in return; I couldn’t help but love her sincere but lighthearted personality.

Itsuwaribito, Volume 1 by Yuuki Iinuma. Do not allow the cuddly tanuki on the cover fool you: there’s some cute in Itsuwaribito but there’s even more bloody violence. Iinuma does some clever things with the concept of lying to do good, but Utsuho’s catch phrases “I was lying” and “I was lying about lying” were pretty obvious and somewhat annoying. I do like his moral ambiguity, though.  His obi is absolutely ridiculous, but it does prove to be useful. I personally preferred the character of Doctor Yakuma, who is introduced towards the end of the first volume, and was very happy to learn that he becomes one of the main protagonists in the series. And Pochi, the aforementioned tanuki, is really cute.

The Lower Depths directed by Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa’s film The Lower Depths is based on Maxim Gorky’s play The Lower Depths. I’m not familiar with the play, but I am familiar with Kurosawa’s films and have liked all of the ones that I have seen so far. The Lower Depths doesn’t really have much of a plot, and most of the film takes place in a single room, but it does make up for it with memorable and interesting characters—a group of tenants living together and their landlords, each with their own story to tell. They form an odd sort of family, and many of them don’t get along all that well, but the arrival of a new lodger allows all of them the opportunity to shake things up a bit.

Woman in the Dunes directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara. Woman in the Dunes is based on a novel by the same name by Kōbō Abe. Abe actually wrote the screenplay, as well, so it’s not too surprising that the adaptation sticks very close to the original material. An amateur entomologist visiting a secluded area to search for beetles finds himself held captive in a village that is slowly succumbing to the sand dunes that surround it. Left at the bottom of a sand pit with the widow who calls it home, they must shovel sand to survive. It sounds rather odd, and it is, but it’s also a fascinating story. Reading the novel and watching the film, I can only cringe thinking how terribly uncomfortable sex must be in such a sandy environment.

My Week in Manga: October 18-October 24, 2010

My News and Reviews

I currently have a manga giveaway going on that ends on Wednesday, October 27 (this week)—Mushishi Madness. No one has entered yet, which makes me very sad. Mushishi is a great series and I want to share the love! So, come on, get your free manga.

I haven’t updated the Resources page in a while, but I have been collecting links and have found some great new (to me) sites. I’ll try to get most of those added this week. I’ll also be creating a new section for podcasts, so if you know of any good ones, let me know.

On Friday I posted my personal response to the Gay for You? Yaoi and Yuri Manga for GBLTQ Readers panel held at NYAF/NYCC. Deb Aoki has posted the transcript of the event. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, you should. I’m rather proud of myself and this post and am very happy to see the number of hits it’s been receiving. Thank you to David Welsh of The Manga Curmudgeon and Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf for helping to get the link out there. I’d also like to thank everyone for the kind comments, support, and encouragement I received after posting it.

Quick Takes

Black Lagoon, Volumes 1-5 by Rei Hiroe. Black Lagoon opens with what has to be my favorite first panel ever—a close-up of a salaryman taking a hard punch to the face. From there, the action and mayhem hardly ever stop. It’s violent, over-the-top, sometimes ridiculous, and sometimes rather dark, but man is it a fun ride. I like this series best when either Revy or Rock are on the scene. Revy is a gun-toting badass with an extremely foul-mouth and viscous attitude. She’s kinda scary in a psychotically awesome sort of way. Rock on the other hand, the aforementioned salaryman, seems like he won’t last too long as part of the underworld but he’s a lot more reslient than he first appears.

Cat Paradise, Volumes1-2 by Yuji Iwahara. At Matabi Academy a small group of students, along with their cats, have been chosen to protect the school and the world against the evil demon Kaen and his minions. The superpowers granted to each pair is based on what suits them best, something that they can do better than anyone else. In the case of Yumi, that’s creating outfits for her cat Kansuke, much to his embarrassment and dismay. How can you not love magical knitting that gives a cat human form so that he can fight monsters? So it might be a little silly, but the series is extremely entertaining and I can’t wait to read more.

Embracing Love, Volumes 1-3 by Youka Nitta. Iwaki and Katou are rival porn stars that end up sleeping together as part of an audition for a mainstream film. Straight Iwaki, whose career is waning, at first can’t stand the younger, more successful Katou but ends up developing feelings for him. In addition to having to deal with career problems and media scandals, the two will also have to confront their families about their choices. Nitta includes plenty of sex scenes for the two, none of which feel out of place. Katou’s carefree nature plays nicely against Iwaki’s more restrained personality. This is seriously one of the best yaoi series that I’ve read and I really hope that someone rescues the license.

Rashomon, directed by Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa has directed some brilliant films, including Seven Samurai, one of my personal favorites. A few years before that he directed Rashomon, which won an Oscar in 1951 for Best Foreign Language Film. A woman is raped and her husband murdered while traveling through the woods. Three days later the women, the assailant, the dead man (through a medium), and a woodcutter who happened across the scene give their testimony at the local court. But they each give a different version of the events and each has a reason to lie or hide truth of what actually happened.