My Week in Manga: June 16-June 22, 2014

My News and Reviews

Well, it wasn’t entirely intentional, but both of my in-depth manga reviews from last week featured manga released by Kodansha Comics. I managed to get my hands on an early copy of Hikaru Suruga’s Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Volume 1, the first installment in a short shoujo series focusing on Erwin and Levi and their pasts. It’s a welcome addition to the Attack on Titan canon and I enjoyed it a great deal. The second review was of Hinoki Kino’s No. 6, Volume 7 which may very well be the best volume yet in the series; it’s intense. I’d still love to read the original novels, but I’m glad that the manga adaptation is being released. I also had a bonus post last week—Random Musings: Cherry Bomb, Cinderseed, and Skyglass. Cherry Bomb is the mature imprint of Chromatic Press. Cinderseed was released through Cherry Bomb and is the prologue to the illustrated novel Skyglass which debuted earlier this month. I’m absolutely loving what I’ve seen of Skyglass so far.

And speaking of great stuff from Chromatic Press, I encourage everyone to check out its Kickstarter to release Gauntlent in print. As for other interesting things found online: The fifth part of Revealing and Concealing Identities: Cross-Dressing in Anime and Manga was posted at The Lobster Dance and focuses on Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son. Sean has a roundup of the recent license announcements from Seven Seas at A Case Suitable for Treatment. The UK-based comics publisher Breakdown Press is launching a series of classic and avant garde manga in translation, starting with Seiichi Hayashi’s Flowering Harbour in July. And last but not least, I discovered manga brog a newish site which already has some extremely interesting content, like a translation of a conversation between Taiyo Matsumoto, Inio Asano, and Keigo Shinzo.

Quick Takes

Click, Volume 5Click, Volumes 5-8 by Youngran Lee. The relationship dynamics in Click are exceptionally complicated, made more complicated by the fact that Joonha’s sex and gender are in flux. After spending sixteen years of his life physically and mentally as male, the fact that he now has a female body has presented some problems. Initially he tried to separate himself from those closest to him, but now they’re back in his life. For better and for worse, Joonha still hasn’t fully explained the situation or his peculiar genetic condition. Some people treat him as the boy he once was, others treat him as the girl he seems to be now. Surprisingly enough, Joonha seems to care less and less about gender, more or less ignoring it in order to focus on other aspects of life. (Which really is how it should be.) Click is extremely melodramatic, emotions run high, and the plot can occasionally take some absurd turns. Despite being somewhat of a jerk, most everyone seems to be in love with Joonha and those feelings are returned. As a result, the manhwa forms an extraordinary mess of romantic entanglements.

Crimson Spell, Volume 4Crimson Spell, Volumes 3-4 by Ayano Yamane. The first two volumes of Crimson Spell were originally released in English by Media Blasters. I was thrilled when SuBLime rescued the license; Crimson Spell is my favorite Yamane series, and there are relatively few boys’ love manga set in a sword and sorcery fantasy world. On rereading the series, I realized that I had forgotten just how funny it can be, too. Granted, the third volume takes a fairly serious turn when Halvir is captured and Vald must go to his rescue. The plot is getting more involved, more and more characters are introduced, and Vald’s curse and the bond between him and his demon self are growing stronger. Halvir and Vald desperately need to sort out their feelings for one another, a particular thorny issue since Vald has now discovered that Halvir has been taking great pleasure in satisfying the carnal needs of the demon without Vald’s knowledge (or consent). Understandably, Vald isn’t particularly happy to learn this. With all of the drama, magic, and sword fights, and all of the smut to go along with it, I’m still loving Crimson Spell.

Eyeshield 21, Volume 35Eyeshield 21, Volumes 35-37 written by Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. These last three volumes of Eyeshield 21 feel like an afterthought to the series more than anything else. The Christmas Bowl is over, but with the Youth World Cup about to begin Japan needs to pull together its all-star team. Basically this final arc amounts to an excuse to bring all of the favorite characters from the various Japanese teams together one last time. Despite it being a world championship, Eyeshield 21 seems to have lost the sense of urgency and emotional investment that was present during the battles in the Christmas Bowl. In part this is probably due to the fact that most of the members of the other national teams are new to the series, so any established rivalries or histories are missing. As expected, the championship game in the Youth World Cup comes down to Japan versus America. It’s a good game, but I found it to be rather anticlimactic in the end. Still, Eyeshield 21 is a lot of fun and as always Murata’s artwork is fantastic. I mean, the image of Ceasar riding a dinosaur? That’s some great stuff there.

My Little Monster, Volume 2My Little Monster, Volume 2 by Robico. I’m quite enjoying My Little Monster. I particularly appreciate the series’ quirky, offbeat characters—a group of misfits with varying degrees of social awkwardness, ineptitude, and obliviousness. Shizuku is currently struggling to find the balance between her accidental friendships, her feelings towards Haru, and her studying, which had been the only thing in her life that had been constant. As for Haru, he’s starting to become more comfortable at school and around other people. But, though he means well, his more violent tendencies still cause some problems. Haru’s older brother is introduced in this volume and some of Haru’s troubled family life is revealed as well, adding some mystery and ominous undertones to what is generally a fairly lighthearted series. I like Robico’s dry sense of humor in My Little Monster. So far, the series has achieved a nice blend of more serious and more comedic elements. There are certainly some uncomfortable moments, but at this point the series has avoided becoming too heavy. I’m looking forward to reading more of My Little Monster.

JJBATV1JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure directed by Kenichi Suzuki and Naokatsu Tsuda. The first season of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure television anime series covers the first two parts of Hirohiko Araki’s inter-generational action manga epic. Phantom Blood is adapted in a mere nine episodes but still manages to hit most of the major plot points and remains coherent despite its quick pace. The remaining seventeen episodes are devoted to the second story arc, Battle Tendency. While they both obviously belong to the same anime series, the individual parts have their own stylistic quirks in the music and animation that give each its own feel. Phantom Blood has a classically oriented soundtrack and palette while Battle Tendency introduces dubstep and bright, fluorescent colors. Some shortcuts were taken with the animation in order to keep to a budget, some of which are more effective than others. However, the story remains entertaining and engaging, a mix of horror, revenge, and intense battles and action with strong psychological elements. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure can be, well, bizarre and over-the-top, but I’ll gladly admit that I get a huge kick out of it.

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

My News and Reviews

It’s the holiday season and I’m doing all sorts of traveling, but I did manage to post two reviews last week. The first was for the historical novel An Alaskan Tale by Jirō Nitta. Only three of Nitta’s novels have been translated into English; An Alaskan Tale was the first to be published, but I ended up reading it last. An Alaskan Tale, based on a true story, is about the life and adventures of Frank Yasuda, a Japanese in Alaska in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I also reviewed MiSun Kim’s yonkoma-ish manhwa Aron’s Absurd Armada, Omnibus 1. I was actually surprised by how much I ended up enjoying the volume, and look forward to the next omnibus, scheduled to be released June 2013. Later this week, December 26 to be exact, the Hikaru no Go Manga Moveable Feast will begin! I’ll be reviewing the first volume of Hikaru no Go as part of my contribution. I’ll probably also be using the Feast as an excuse to talk about mahjong in manga again (having previously written about Mahjong, Kubota, and Wild Adapter.) The 26th is also the last day of Akadot Retail‘s End of the World Blowout. This is the best sale I’ve ever seen on Akadot: 45% off of orders of $60 or more, which also qualifies you for free shipping if you live in the United States. Simply use the code xmas2012 at checkout. Last year I posted Finding Manga: Akadot Retail which has some tips about finding and buying manga through Akadot.

Quick Takes

The Crimson Spell, Volumes 1-2 by Ayano Yamane. There don’t seem to be many fantasy-oriented boys’ love manga available in English. The Crimson Spell is one of the few that I have read. It was also my introduction to the work of Ayano Yamane. Even though only two of the four volumes were ever released in English, The Crimson Spell is my personal favorite Yamane manga. I enjoy the fantasy setting, Yamane’s beautiful artwork, the drama and sword fights, the outlandish characters, and the healthy dose of humor that the series incorporates. I also like that sexual energy is tied so closely to magical energy, which ends up being a perfect excuse to include plenty of explicit sex scenes.

Genshiken, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-3) by Shimoku Kio. I missed out on Genshiken when it was being released by Del Rey Manga, and so was excited to get a chance to read it when Kodansha began releasing the omnibus editions. Genshiken is probably best described as an otaku slice-of-life comedy. Kanji Sasahara is a university freshmen who has never had the confidence to pursue his interests until he joins a club filled with other otaku who act as his guide to the wonderful world of fandom. Genshiken covers a lot of ground: dōjinshi, Comiket, cosplay, models, video games (including porn games), and more. While I wasn’t blow away by the first Genshiken omnibus, I still thoroughly enjoyed the story and characters. I look forward to reading more of the series.

Here Is Greenwood, Volumes 6-9 by Yukie Nasu. I really enjoyed Here Is Greenwood. I wouldn’t call it a spectacular manga, but I’m glad that I read the series. I was consistently entertained by its offbeat characters and goofy humor. Here Is Greenwood is a funny and even heartwarming series. I like the guys of the Greenwood dormitory quite a bit. The manga is mostly episodic, but these last few volumes introduce an overarching background story and love interest for the series’ main protagonist Hasukawa. Not surprisingly, he has even more to be stressed out about now than when the series first started. And though he’s able to begin to stand up for himself, he still has pranks pulled on him on a fairly regular basis.

X, Omnibus 4 (equivalent to Volumes 9-12) by CLAMP. For me, X is a series that’s so bad it’s good. I have to admit that I love the manga in all its melodramatic glory, but it really is a ridiculous series. Not ridiculous as in funny, but in how incredibly over-the-top it is. The cast of characters is huge and more and more characters continue to be introduced. None of the characters are particularly well-developed, but I do like them. The plot is a mess and doesn’t always make a lot of sense despite the fact that what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen is constantly being rehashed. Because of this, the story doesn’t go anywhere fast. But I still find the series to be engaging. I like the omnibus releases of X. I don’t think I’d have as much patience with the single volumes.

Slam Dunk, Episodes 24-38 directed by Nobutaka Nishizawa. At this point, I’ve seen more of the Slam Dunk anime than I’ve read of Takehiko Inoue’s original manga, so I can’t really compare the two. I’m still enjoying the anime, though. Basketball is the main focus of the series, but I’m glad to see that all of the delinquents are still getting some screen time. (Mito is probably my favorite character in the entire series.) The basketball team has a fair number of delinquents on it, too, including the series’ lead Sakuragi. Except for his enthusiasm and comic relief, I’m not entirely sure what purpose he serves on the team yet, but I am very fond of him as a character.

My Week in Manga: November 26-December 2, 2012

My News and Reviews

Although it wasn’t a particularly busy week at Experiments in Manga, I did have three posts in addition to the usual My Week in Manga. November’s Bookshelf Overload was posted over the weekend. There were some really lovely deluxe manga and box sets released in November. The most recent Library Love feature was also posted. I took a quick look at some of the manga that I borrowed from my local library: Black Blizzard, Here Is Greenwood, Nana, and Peace Maker Kurogane. Also, November’s manga giveaway is currently in progress. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first four volumes of Harold Sakuishi’s Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad. Simply tell me about your favorite music-themed manga. I also want to mention a marvelous feature on Takehiko Inoue that CNN released as part of its “Human to Hero” feature—How ‘Slam Dunk’ Manga Artist Brings Characters to Life.

Quick Takes

13th Boy, Volume 1 by SangEun Lee. I’m not entirely sure what to make of 13th Boy, and I have no idea where Lee is taking the story, but I did enjoy the first volume—it was delightfully quirky. The manhwa could have been a fairly straightforward romantic comedy, except for the fact that it incorporates a bit of magic, destiny, and a sentient cactus. (Yes, you read that correctly, a sentient cactus.) Hee-So Eun dated Won-Jun Kang, the boy she fell in love with at first sight, for less than a month before he broke up with her. What she can’t seem to understand is why, and so she’s more determined than ever to prove to him that they should be together. But a mysterious boy in her class, Whie-Young Jang, keeps getting in the way.

Finder, Volumes 4-6 by Ayano Yamane. If I understand correctly (and I very well may be wrong), Finder was originally intended to end with the fifth volume, but its popularity was such that Yamane was able to publish more. The sixth volume mostly focuses on Akihito’s everyday life as he tries to get his feet back under him after his traumatic experiences in Japan and Hong Kong’s underworld. It was still a great volume with quite a bit of action, but I did miss the intense, dark drama and complicated character interactions that Fei Long’s presence brought to the previous volumes. The fairly extensive crossover between the Finder series and Yamane’s “In Love” short manga did make me very happy, though.

Real, Volumes 10-11 by Takehiko Inoue. I honestly believe that Real is one of the best manga series currently being published in English. I first read Real after borrowing the series from the library, but it is such a great series that I had to have a set of my own. I really can’t recommend this series enough. Inoue’s artwork is fantastic and his characters are marvelously complex. The series’ realism is phenomenal. All of the characters are struggling with their own limitations and searching for their place in the world. There are triumphs and there are failures, but how the characters deal with them is what makes the series so compelling, powerful, and even inspiring. I can hardly wait for the next volume.

Reiko the Zombie Shop, Volumes 1-6 by Rei Mikamoto. Action-packed, gory fun is probably the easiest way to describe Reiko the Zombie Shop. It reminds me a bit of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, which is not at all a bad thing; granted Reiko the Zombie Shop was published first. I actually preferred the shorter one-shot stories in the series over the longer more involved plot arcs. Although the longer stories have some advantages: there’s more time to get a feel for the characters (of course, Mikamoto doesn’t hesitate to kill most of them off, anyway), and there’s a wider variety of zombies and powers displayed. Only six of the eleven volumes were released in English, ending on a cliffhanger, but the series is entertaining.

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.