My Week in Manga: November 27-December 3, 2017

My News and Reviews

The most recent manga giveaway at Experiments in Manga is currently underway! The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still a little time left to enter for a chance to win four of Kodansha Comics’ print debuts from 2017: Haruko Kumota’s Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, Lily Hoshino’s Kigurumi Guardians, Haruko Ichikawa’s Land of the Lustrous, and Musawo’s Love & Lies. (Also, a couple other giveaways are going on right now that I would like to highlight: The Manga Test Drive’s annual holiday giveaway and Taneka Stott’s third annual queer comics giveaway.) Last week I finally managed to post the in-depth review that I’ve been working on for a while now, taking a closer look at Knights-Errant, Volume 1 by Jennifer Doyle. Knights-Errant is a fantastic comic, a queer-positive, dark historical fantasy with a compelling story and characters. I highly, highly recommend the series. (It can also be read online for free at Sparkler Monthly!) Initially I was intending to write one more in-depth review before the year was over (and before I retire Experiments in Manga), but after some thought I think that Knights-Errant will have the honor of receiving the last. However, I am still working on and will be posting my random musings on some of year’s notable releases, so there is that to look forward to.

Quick Takes

Arakawa Under the Bridge, Omnibus 1Arakawa Under the Bridge, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Hikaru Nakamura. My introduction to Arakawa Under the Bridge was through its anime adaptation, an incredibly quirky and bizarre work which I found to be highly entertaining. Only later did I discover that the creator of the original manga was also the creator of Saint Young Men, a series that I hope might one day be translated as well. (Despite interest from fans and publishers alike, Saint Young Men has been unlicensable for the North American market, but I can’t help hoping that if Arakawa Under the Bridge is successful that might change.) Arakawa Under the Bridge is an absolutely ridiculous manga and I enjoyed it immensely. The chapters are short and somewhat episodic so the narrative flow can be disjointed, but Nakamura eventually develops a nice rhythm as more of the increasingly large, and strange, cast is introduced. The absurdity of the characters is really what makes Arakawa Under the Bridge work. I’m particularly fond of Sister, an ex-mercenary who crossdresses as a nun, but the manga is filled with astonishing personalities.

A Polar Bear in Love, Volume 1A Polar Bear in Love, Volume 1 by Koromo. Stories about star-crossed lovers aren’t especially rare, but none in my experience are quite like A Polar Bear in Love. Granted, at this point only one of the pair is actually in love. As impossible as it seems, Mr. Polar Bear as fallen for Li’l Seal. Understandably, considering the normal order of the food chain, Li’l Seal is a bit concerned by this. They’re both males, too, but the real issue is that Li’l Seal expects to be eaten at any moment. The power dynamics are a little tricky, but over the course of the first volume, Mr. Polar Bear demonstrates the earnestness of his love and at least tries not to be too pushy about his feelings. Li’l Seal slowly realizes he might not actually be on the menu, but that’s not going to solve everything about their relationship, either. A Polar Bear in Love can be both incredibly adorable and surprisingly dark, occasionally even at the same time. Even while being anthropomorphized, Li’l Seal and and Mr. Polar Bear also have to face more realistic concerns of survival. On the surface A Polar Bear in Love is delightfully silly manga, but it also has a thing or two to say about love and relationships.

To Your Eternity, Volume 1To Your Eternity, Volume 1 by Yoshitoki Oima. I have been following Oima’s progress as an artist and storyteller with great interest. Oima’s first major work was the manga adaptation of Tow Ubukata’s novel Mardock Scramble, parts of which I actually greatly preferred over its source material. However, what really impressed me was her powerful original series, A Silent Voice. When Kodansha Comics announced it would be releasing To Your Eternity, Oima’s current ongoing series, I immediately took note and looked forward to reading it with great anticipation. The first chapter of To Your Eternity is one of the most beautifully devastating narratives that I’ve read in a while and it seems as though it may only be a prelude for what is to come. (It also includes a fairly significant plot twist which makes the series a little difficult to discuss without giving away major spoilers.) Oima has created a complex fantasy world complete with it’s own legends and lore exploring the meaning of life and loyalty to family and community. To Your Eternity is absolutely heartbreaking, unsettling, and striking in both its story and artwork. I definitely plan on reading more.

My Week in Manga: March 24-March 30, 2014

My News and Reviews

Posts last week at Experiments in Manga included a new manga giveaway as well as two new in-depth manga reviews! There’s still time to enter the giveaway, too. Head over to the Battle Angel Alita Giveaway to enter for a chance to win the first omnibus in Yukito Kishiro’s manga series Battle Angel Alita: Last Order. As for the reviews: I took a look at the most recent Moyoco Anno manga to be released in English, Insufficient Direction. It’s an autobiographical manga about her married life with Hideaki Anno and is quite funny. I adore Anno’s work, so was happy to learn a little more about her. I also wrapped up my Manga March Madness project. I was rather pleased that I managed to pull it off. Every weekend in March I reviewed a volume of Takehiko Inoue’s basketball manga Real. Since there were five weekends in March and I started with the first volume in the series, my last review for the project was for Real, Volume 5. I hope I was able to at least begin to express why Real is such a fantastic manga in my reviews, because it really is a phenomenal series.

Speaking of Takehiko Inoue, David Brothers, writing for Comics Alliance back in 2010, had a great article that was recently brought to my attention again—From Samurai to Shooting Hoops: Takehiko Inoue, Art Chameleon. As for other things found online: Nahoko Uehashi (the author of Moribito) won the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Author Award, which is a pretty big deal. As usual, Organization Anti-Social Geniuses had some great manga content last week. I particularly enjoyed What Manga Publishers Can Actually License in The US and Advice on Manga Editing, From Manga Editors. Tokyopop’s Stu Levy participated in a recent “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit. The daughter of Osamu Tezuka opened a drawer of her father’s desk that had been locked since 1985 and found some pretty cool stuff. And finally, I was pointed towards a brief biography of Takashi Nagasaki, who works closely with Naoki Urasawa.

Quick Takes

Berserk, Volume 37Berserk, Volume 37 by Kentaro Miura. I love the early story arcs of Berserk and continue to enjoy the series, so I’m always excited when another volume of the manga is finally released. After reading the thirty-seventh volume, I’m particularly anxious to get my hands on the next installment, whenever that may be. The battle between Guts and the rest of the crew against the sea god and its minions reaches its climax in this volume. They are aided by the merrow, Berserk‘s mermaids. Even though Miura’s version of mermaids is fairly traditional, though perhaps slightly more fish-like, I did like them. The thirty-seventh volume also contains a long flashback to Guts’ past as a young mercenary, which I particularly enjoyed reading. It’s set during a time when magic and the supernatural were more hidden and uncommon in the world, though hints of it could still be seen. The end of the volume also turns towards the current activities of Griffith’s army, which recently hasn’t had much prominence in the manga. After so much action and fighting, which I do enjoy, I’m very glad to see more story and plot development.

Black Sun, Volume 2Black Sun, Volume 2 by Uki Ogasawara. It’s been quite a while since I read the first volume of Ogasawara’s boys’ love manga Black Sun. I had a few issues with the story itself, mostly that the lead characters’ relationship moved a little too quickly from lust to possible love, but overall I thought the manga had good potential. I particularly liked the setting of Black Sun, a medieval fantasy inspired in part by the Crusades. Ogasawara’s artwork was also excellent, with particular attention given to the beautiful details of clothing and weaponry as well as attractive, muscular men. When I read the first volume of Black Sun I didn’t actually realize that it was a first volume. I appreciated it’s somewhat ambiguous ending, but was ultimately glad to discover that there was more to the series. The ending of the second and final volume is much less ambiguous, and much happier than I expected that it would be. Black Sun is part of Digital Manga’s 801 Media imprint, so unsurprisingly there is a fair amount of sex to go along with the plot. And Black Sun actually does have a plot. The relationship between Jamal and Leonard plays out against a backdrop of war and political intrigue.

From the New World, Volume 2From the New World, Volumes 2-3 written by Yusuke Kishi and illustrated by Toru Oikawa. I was very torn over the first volume of the From the New World manga. I absolutely loved its dark tone, but found the blatant, pandering fanservice to be a bit off-putting and out-of-place. Thankfully, the fanservice in the second volume is greatly toned down. The outfits worn by the young women are still fairly ridiculous and revealing, though, especially when compared to the male characters who tend to be covered from head to toe in oversized clothing. The lesbian sex returns in the third volume, but it makes much more sense within the context of the series than it did in the first volume. Part of this is because the worldbuilding has progressed significantly. From the New World suffers a little from large info dumps, but at least all of the information is new to the characters, too, so it’s not as egregious a problem as it could be. I’m still loving the actual story of From the New World. The series atmosphere is creepy and ominous, contrasting magnificently with what is supposed to be a perfect and pristine society. What humanity is willing to give up and the terrible steps that have been taken to maintain that system are now being revealed.

Swan, Volume 13Swan, Volumes 13-15 by Kyoko Ariyoshi. In Japan, Swan lasted for twenty-one volumes, only fifteen of which were released in English. It’s too bad that CMX folded before the series could be completely released. Swan is fantastic, and I’m very glad for the fifteen volumes that were translated. These last three volumes of the English edition follow Masumi as she travels to New York with Leonhardt to continue her study of ballet following the aftermath of the Tokyo World Ballet Competition. It’s the beginning of an important new story arc. Masumi has grown tremendously as a ballerina as well as a person, but her time in the United States presents new challenges. Her foundation is in classical ballet but now she is faced with modern ballet which is completely outside of her experience. She has trouble understanding modern ballet and so struggles greatly with its performance. Also introduced in these volumes are new characters and even a potential new love interest, which offers another set of problems for Masumi to deal with. Swan is a beautiful and surprisingly intense series; I was very impressed by it.

Arakawa2Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge, Season 2 directed by Akiyuki Shinbo. I enjoyed the first season of Arakawa Under the Bridge a great deal. I very much enjoyed the second season, too, but for some reason wasn’t quite as taken with it. I’m not really sure why that is though since not much really changed between the two. Arakawa Under the Bridge is still funny and absurd. I still like the humor and the characters. While the first season focused on Rec as he gets to know everyone living along the banks of the Arakawa River, everyone’s personalities and quirks have been well established by the start of the second. Maybe it’s that sense of newness and discovery that the second series lacks. But then again maybe not: the second season introduces new cast members as well as a storyline that provides an ongoing framework for some of the gags. (Ultimately it doesn’t really end up going anywhere, though.) One of the things that particularly amused me about the second season of Arakawa Under the Bridge is that Rec has more or less become a shoujo heroine, complete with flowers and sparkles. Nods to Riyoko Ikeda’s series are right at home alongside references to Fist of the North Star and other “manly” anime.

My Week in Manga: March 3-March 9, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week the Smuggler Giveaway Winner was announced. As usual, I took the opportunity to compile a list. In this case, I pulled together some of the manga licensed in English that feature assassins. And speaking of assassins, last week I reviewed Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal, Volume 28: Raining Chaos which focuses on the confrontation between the remnants of the Ittō-ryū and the Rokki-dan warriors and the Mugai-ryū assassins. There isn’t much plot development in the volume, but there are some great battle sequences. I also reviewed Real, Volume 2 by Takehiko Inoue, which features battles of an entirely different sort. Real is a mix of human drama, tragedy, and hope as its characters deal with events in their lives beyond their control. It’s a truly fantastic series.

There was quite a bit of manga industry news and analysis last week. I’m particularly excited that Moyoco Anno will be a featured guest at TCAF! ICv2 interviewed Dark Horse’s manga editor Carl Horn (Part 1, Part 2). Deb Aoki took a look at the state of digital manga for Publishers Weekly. Vertical’s licensing survey is currently underway. Vertical also posted a little more information about past surveys and how they’ve been used. Sean Gaffney rounds up some of the recent licensing announcements at A Case Suitable for Treatment. Not directly related to the current state of the manga industry but still worth a read is Dan Mazur’s post about early shōjo manga.

Quick Takes

My Little Monster, Volume 1My Little Monster, Volume 1 by Robico. On the first day of school, Haru was suspended and he hasn’t been back since. As a favor to a teacher, Shizuku agrees to bring him his homework which Haru interprets as a sign of friendship. Now, much to Shizuku’s dismay, the two of them have become nearly inseparable. Because of Haru’s propensity towards violence and his almost complete lack of understanding as to what is socially appropriate behavior, some of the situations in My Little Monster can be extremely uncomfortable and worrisome. However, although they are often used as a source of humor, I was very happy to see that Haru’s actions were not romanticized. His tendency to lash out and physically intimidate others, whether out of fear or for some other reason, was not generally portrayed as a desirable characteristic. It’s completely understandable that some people are afraid of him. However, Haru’s naivety and earnestness can be very endearing. Shizuku, one of the few people who can seem to handle the volatile Haru, is an interesting character in her own right with both flaws and strengths. They are both social misfits in their own ways; I’m very curious to see how their relationship continues to develop.

Thermae Romae, Omnibus 3Thermae Romae, Omnibus 3 by Mari Yamazaki. If it seems like it’s been a long time since the last Thermae Romae omnibus was released, that’s because it’s been almost a year. Thermae Romae is a series that started out more like a gag manga, following the exploits of the Roman bath engineer Lucius as he somehow time travels to modern-day Japan and back after repeated near-drownings. With the second omnibus, the series shifts into a romantic comedy when Lucius meets Satsuki after becoming stuck in Japan. That ongoing plot continues through the rest of the series. Although there is still plenty of humor in the third omnibus, Thermae Romae takes a decidedly more serious turn when it looks like Satsuki and Lucius will be torn apart. Satsuki’s grandfather, an incredibly skilled massage artist (as well as a man who should definitely not be trifled with), plays an increasingly important role in the story. Thermae Romae is a great deal of fun. It has drama and romance and comedy, not to mention great art. The ending does feel a little abrupt, but Yamazaki notes that she hopes to write additional Thermae Romae stories that address some of the lingering questions that readers may have about the series and its characters.

Arakawa Under the BridgeArakawa Under the Bridge, Season 1 directed by Akiyuki Shinbo. The Arakawa Under the Bridge anime series is based on an ongoing manga by Hikaru Nakamura. Kou Ichinomiya lives his life following one very simple rule that has been instilled in him by his father: never be indebted to another person. So when Nino, a rather strange young woman living on the banks of the Arakawa River, saves him from drowning, Kou wants to repay the favor and move on as quickly as possible. Except, the only thing that she wants is for him to stay with her and so Kou finds himself obligated to move in under the bridge. There he meets the other residents of the Arakawa River, all of whom are not just a bit peculiar and strange. Though Kou is supposedly the “normal” one, it quickly becomes obvious that he fits right in and is just weird as the rest of them. I found Arakawa Under the Bridge to be highly entertaining and enjoyable in all of its absurdity. The series doesn’t have much of an ending, which makes some amount of sense seeing as there is a second season (which I’ll definitely be watching), but the anime tends to be fairly episodic so I wouldn’t necessarily expect it to have a definitive conclusion, either.

Like Father, Like SonLike Father, Like Son directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. Ryota and Midori Nonomiya are stunned when they discover that their son Keita isn’t related to them biologically. Six years ago at the hospital where he was born, Keita was somehow switched with Ryusei, the son of Yudai and Yukari Saiki. Now the two families must decide how to handle the situation and whether blood ties are stronger than those of time. Ryota, who has his own father issues to work out and whose relationship with Keita wasn’t especially strong to being with, is having a particularly difficult time, but his wife is struggling tremendously as well. The members of the Saiki family tend to be a little more easy-going in comparison, but the situation is a challenge for them as well. And caught up in the whole mess are Keita and Ryusei, who have very little say in the matter. The revelation of the two boys being switched at birth disrupts both families, resulting in both joy and heartbreak as they grow to know each other better. Like Father, Like Son is a beautiful film about parental and familial love as Ryota learns what is important in life and what it really means to be a father.

The Wind RisesThe Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki. The anime film The Wind Rises is historical, biographical fiction, following the life of Jiro Horikoshi, an aeronautic engineer who designed fighter planes for Japan during World War II. Almost as much of the film takes place in Jiro’s dreams as it does in his waking life. At first, the designs of the planes in The Wind Rises are very fantastical but as the film progresses they become more and more realistic as Jiro makes his dreams a reality. There is an emphasis placed on the beauty of design and creativity, but this is contrasted with the ugly, destructive forces of war and the terrible applications of those innovations. His planes may have been beautiful, but their purposes were not, which begs the question—how much responsibility do artists hold over their creations and their use? The Wind Rises‘ answer to that question is left ambiguous. As with many of Miyazaki’s other films, The Wind Rises has gorgeous flight sequences and an anti-war sentiment. Some of the time skips were a little difficult to follow at first, and I think the film was a little longer than it really needed to be, but overall The Wind Rises was well done. It’s far from my favorite Miyazaki film, though.