My Week in Manga: August 15-August 21, 2011

My News and Reviews

As promised, this week’s quick takes section explores a bunch of manga by Fumi Yoshinaga. Technically, the Fumi Yoshinaga Manga Moveable Feast ended yesterday, but I’m still going to count this post as part of it (especially since I really meant to write it for last week). Also for the Feast, I posted my review for Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 3.

Last Thursday marked the one year anniversary of Experiments in Manga. I reflected a bit on this milestone (Random Musings: One Year of Experiments in Manga) and a few of my readers left me some very nice comments that made me very happy. Thanks, guys! I also posted one other review last week for the second volume of the Chinese classic The Journey to the West, as translated by Anthony C. Yu.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the Resources page, but I’ve added a few blogs: Organization Anti Social Geniuses (Justin occasionally comments here), Joy Kim, Comics-and-More (which has a Manga Monday feature), and Sesho’s Anime and Manga Reviews.

Quick Takes

All My Darling Daughters by Fumi Yoshinaga. All My Darling Daughters is one of the most recently translated single volume works by Yoshinaga. The manga collects a series of interconnected stories featuring Yukiko, her family, and her friends. The stories examine the characters’ relationships, and while many of them feel rather melancholy, there is happiness to be found as well. Yoshinaga makes me care about the characters and their lives; I want things to work out for the best for them. I am particularly impressed by Yoshinaga’s story-telling in this manga. The stories may be brief, but the narratives are suffused with a remarkable amount of emotional depth and complexity.

Antique Bakery, Volumes 1-4 by Fumi Yoshinaga. Antique Bakery won a Kodansha Manga Award in 2002 and was nominated for an Eisner in 2007. The pacing of the first volume is rather awkward but soon after Yoshinaga establishes a nice flow for the story. As appropriate for a manga about a bakery, the food has been drawn with just as much loving care as the rest of the characters. The panels can get a bit text heavy from time to time, but seeing as it’s often because of the delicious descriptions of the various pastries, I don’t mind too terribly much. The characters are more complex than they first appear, sometimes in unexpected ways. Working together at the Antique changes them and they each find something there that they needed.

Flower of Life, Volumes 1-4 by Fumi Yoshinaga. Flower of Life is one of my favorite works by Yoshinaga. To some extent, this surprises me; I’m not generally that big on school comedies. The series doesn’t really have a gimmick—it’s just a story about normal people. Flower of Life is funny and touching and just generally wonderful. It makes my heart ache. One of the complaints I often hear about Yoshinaga is that her characters look so similar to one another. However, in Flower of Life, the cast exhibits a delightful amount of variety and diversity not only in their appearances but in their (often intense) personalities as well. Flower of Life makes me nostalgic for a high school experience that I never had.

The Moon and the Sandals, Volumes 1-2 by Fumi Yoshinaga. The very first Yoshinaga manga that I ever read was The Moon and the Sandals. It was also her debut work outside of doujinshi. I originally picked it up when I first started reading boys’ love titles. While it still follows many of the tropes found in the genre, The Moon and the Sandals is much more realistic in its approach than most other boys’ love manga that I’ve read. The series also has sympathetic female characters. The first volume introduces all of the characters while the second volume features quite a bit of sex (a pattern seen in several other works by Yoshinaga). But it’s not just sex for the sake of sex—it’s necessary to show the development of the characters as well as the plot.

Tiger & Bunny, Episodes 13-20 directed by Keiichi Satou. I have been enjoying Tiger & Bunny immensely. Sure, the writing can be a bit uneven at times, but I really like the characters. Overall, it’s still a fun show. Some of the earlier episodes were rather goofy, but the anime has gotten more serious and goes to some pretty dark places. Since defeating Jake, Kotetsu and Barnaby’s relationship has become more amicable. I actually sort of miss their more antagonistic banter. But while they’re now generally on good terms with each other they still have some trust issues to work out. Kotetsu is still my favorite character and this set of episodes explores more of his backstory and family history.

My Week in Manga: March 21-March 27, 2011

My News and Reviews

I was on vacation for most of last week so I wasn’t around online much, but I did still mange to get a couple of reviews posted. I reviewed Kozue Amano’s Aqua, Volume 1 for the Aria Manga Moveable Feast. Amano’s artwork is lovely, and the story is relaxing. The second review was for Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide written by Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt and illustrated by Tatsuya Morino. It’s a fantastic and colorful introduction to traditional Japanese creepy crawlies and supernatural creatures.

And as for other fun stuff online: Jason Thompson’s House of a 1000 Manga recently featured Hinako Takanaga, one of his favorite boys’ love mangaka (who also happens to be one of my favorites as well). On a related note, Jennifer LeBlanc of The Yaoi Review has finished posting her three part interview with Takanaga (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Since I read both Sundome and Peepo Choo this past week, I’d also like to draw your attention to a couple episodes of Ed Sizemore’s Manga Out Loud podcasts featuring the series: Sundome with Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf and Peepo Choo w/ Erica Friedman, David Welsh, & Melinda Beasi. I really enjoy Manga Out Loud—it’s nice to see (well, hear) such candid conversations about manga, especially regarding potentially controversial series and materials.

Quick Takes

Peepo Choo, Volumes 1-3 by Felipe Smith. Take a few stereotypes to the extreme, add more than enough graphic violence and sex, and finish off by including a few stunningly over-the-top characters, and you might get close to understanding the mind-blowing insanity that is Peepo Choo. It’s not a type of insanity that everyone will be able to appreciate. The story, especially towards the beginning of the series, frequently comes across as cruel and there’s plenty of material at which to take offense. But Smith’s tough-love approach plays out nicely by the end. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with being a walking embodiment of a stereotype if that’s what someone wants to be.

Ristorante Paradiso by Natsume Ono. Older gentlemen, let alone sexy older gentlemen, are not often featured in manga licenses that make their way over to the United States. Fortunately, we’ve at least got Ristorante Paradiso. Ono’s artwork is distinctive and may take a little warming up to, but I’ve fallen in love with it. Nicoletta has traveled to Rome to track down and confront her mother who left her to be raised by her grandparents. In the process, she finds the Casetta dell’Orso, a restaurant owned by her mother’s new husband. Ristorante Paradiso is a charming and romantic glimpse into Nicoletta’s life as she works out her relationship with her mother and her crush on the head waiter, Claudio.

Sundome, Volumes 1-8 by Kazuto Okada. Another series that’s difficult to recommend to just anyone, Sundome is certainly deserving of it’s mature rating. I wasn’t actually that fond of the artwork overall, but it was effective in conveying certain elements of the story. Kurumi’s health problems, never fully explained, are certainly obvious from the beginning just by looking at her. The teens are portrayed as very sexual beings, which may bother some people, but I actually found the characters’ frankness regarding a wide variety of kinks and fetishes to be refreshing. There’s also a fair amount of humor. The exploration of Hideo and Kurumi’s relationship, something they both want and need, is fascinating and compelling.

Antique Bakery directed by Yoshiaki Okumura. It’s been a while since I’ve read Fumi Yoshinaga’s manga series Antique Bakery. I’d forgotten how much I adored the characters, and the anime and voice actors capture them perfectly. I’d also forgotten how funny the series can be. The anime is only twelve episodes, so the story has been condensed and focuses mostly on the four main characters. It may be missing some of the sidestories, but it’s a lovely adaptation. The CG used for background and buildings unfortunately clashes terribly with the hand drawn elements, but I really like the color palette used. The music, featuring plenty of string ensembles, was also a wonderful fit.

Guin Saga, Episodes 1-13 directed by Atsushi Wakabayashi. The Guin Saga anime adaptation is so incredibly epic and overly dramatic that it’s almost embarrassing, but I’m enjoying it immensely. The score is also suitably epic—but then I’d expect no less from Nobuo Uematsu. I’ve only read the first Guin Saga light novel, which takes up only three episodes of the anime, so I’m not sure how the adaptation compares to the original. But it it feels like the anime is only scratching the surface of a much deeper and more complex story. And there is an unfortunate tendency to pause in the middle of fight scenes to allow characters to make grand speeches. The animation is pretty, but perhaps too colorful for the story.