My Week in Manga: September 17-September 23, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Shojo Beat Manga Moveable Feast. One of my contributions to the Feast included an in-depth review of Hinako Ashihara’s Sand Chronicles, Volume 1. Sand Chronicles is one of my favorite contemporary shoujo manga series. October’s Feast, currently scheduled to be hosted by Chic Pixel, will focus on vampire-themed manga.

Also this past week, I posted a review of Yurei Attack!: The Japanese Ghost Survival Guide written by husband and wife team Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt and illustrated by Shinkichi. I had previously read and loved the previous two books in the Attack! series, Yokai Attack! and Ninja Attack!. I was not at all disappointed with Yurei Attack! I highly recommend the entire series.

I am a huge fan of Takako Shimura’s manga series Wandering Son. Fantagraphics, the series English-language publisher, is offering a great deal for the next three upcoming releases: a special discounted subscription for volumes four through six is now available. Alternatively, volumes four and five can now be preordered directly from the publisher.

Quick Takes

The Art of Man, Volume 8: Special Edition Japan from Firehouse Publishing. I happened across The Art of Man, a quarterly fine arts journal devoted to the male figure, while looking for examples of Gengoroh Tagame’s work. The Spring 2012 issue focuses on artists (sculptors, painters, illustrators, etc.) of the male form from Japan. The artists spotlighted include Shimamura Saburou, Yujiro, Shozo Nagano, Hideki Koh, Kenya Shimizu, and Naoki Tatsuya. Masahiko Takagi, the curator and director of Japanese Gay Art, a section of Mayumi International, is also highlighted. The best part is that the volume is filled with gorgeous color reproductions of the artists’ work.

Attack on Titan, Volumes 1-2 by Hajime Isayama. The artwork in Attack on Titan is very unpolished which distracts from the story, especially in the beginning. Isayama’s artwork either improves as the series progresses, or I simply started to get used to it; by the end of the second volume I didn’t mind its roughness as much. Admittedly, the crude illustrations do make the titans (monstrous creatures threatening humanity’s very existence) feel particularly wrong and disconcerting, which is certainly effective. Despite my frustrations with the art, I really do want to see where Isayama is taking the story. It is both weird and oddly compelling. I’m also fascinated by the “three dimensional maneuvers” fighting system which has had some significant thought put into it.

Joan, Volumes 1-3 by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. Due to unfortunate circumstances surrounding her family, Emily is adopted and raised as Emil, the son of Robert de Baudricourt. Emil finds inspiration in Joan of Arc; Emi’ls visions and intense admiration lead her to continue Joan’s work, who was burned at the stake roughly ten years before. Emil’s story and life actually have many parallels to that of the life of Joan of Arc. It’s an interesting narrative technique and is quite effective; Yasuhiko would use it again in some of his other historically based manga. Yasuhiko’s color artwork in Joan is lovely and atmospheric. The attention to detail given to the castles and architecture as well as the characters’ clothing is marvelous.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Volumes 5-8 by Hirohiko Araki. I wanted to try to avoid using the word “bizarre” when describing JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, but I’m finding it very difficult to do. The series is fantastically strange and has a style all its own. It didn’t take long for Araki to work his way through the major arcana as models for his Stand powers and their users (some of the results are really quite clever); through necessity he has moved on to the Egyptian pantheon for additional inspiration. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has strong elements of horror, but they are used more as accents rather than being the main focus. Araki incorporates a lot of local color into the manga’s settings and backgrounds, making a point to visit the locations he uses when he can. I am still loving this series.

Men of Tattoos by Yuiji Aniya. When I say Men of Tattoos is tragic, I truly mean it. And not only tragic, but dark, brutal, and violent as well. But Men of Tattoos also very, very good. The characters go through terrible things and do terrible things to one another—love and hatred are tied very closely together. Men of Tattoos has an almost traumatizing intensity that sneaks up on the reader. The first chapter begins lightheartedly but the repercussions of the events echo throughout the rest of the story. It is not pretty; I can’t even begin to imagine a happy ending for anyone involved. The final third or so of the volume turns to an entirely different story which is much more benign, but still quite good.

Toward the Terra directed by Osamu Yamazaki. The 2007 Toward the Terra anime series is the second animated incarnation of Keiko Takemiya’s science fiction manga To Terra… that I have seen. It makes for a good adaptation and does well as its own work, too. At twenty-four episodes it has room to breathe and is able to incorporate much of the original. It also expands on the story and characters to some extent. I liked most of the additions, but they do make the narrative pacing a little slow in places, especially towards the beginning and middle of the series. But, much like the manga itself, the series gets better and better as it progresses and the pacing improves. The ending is somewhat different from the original manga, but I was still very happy with it.