My Week in Manga: October 24-October 30, 2011

My News and Reviews

Today is the last day of the Horror Manga Moveable Feast and it’s been a great one! My quick takes from last week featured vampire themed manga while this week I’m featuring a variety of other horror influenced manga (plus Sugar Sugar Rune which isn’t horror, but reminds me of Hallowe’en). Last week I also posted a review of Otsuichi and Kendi Oiwa’s Goth manga adaptation. And after some encouragement from the Feast’s host Lori Henderson, I made a last minute contribution—Random Musings: Nightmare Inspector. (Which is one of the reasons this week’s new and reviews section is rather brief.)

Also! October’s manga giveaway for Moyoco Anno’s Sugar Sugar Rune, Volume 1 is up and going. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first volume of a great fantasy series—Manga Giveaway: Happy Hallowe’en! (Sugar Sugar Rune Giveaway)

Quick Takes

Berserk, Volume 35 by Kentaro Miura. Guts and his companions are still on the high seas when the wind of change passes over the world. He is also still recovering from his last battle, but his skills are needed when the ship must face a hoard of demons from the sea. Occasionally Miura’s monster designs can feel somewhat repetitive, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less frightening. The art in Berserk is detailed and the battles are chaotic. Guts’ ordeal continues as he fights to protect those he’s come to consider friends. But the very power that he must use might also be the power that destroys them all. Berserk remains one of my favorite manga series; now begins the long wait for the next volume. 

Dragon Head, Volumes 1-10 by Mochizuki Minetaro. I enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction and Dragon Head is one of the best examples of the genre that I’ve come across in manga. The series explores the fear and the darkness, both literal and figurative, that cataclysmic events bring about. Dragon Head is fiction, and so some of the human responses to the tragedy feels overly dramatized, but the story is still very engrossing. I did find the inclusion of the scar heads somewhat odd, but they do provide another interesting perspective on fear. One of the most terrifying things in the world is the unknown, and the characters are never able to determine for certain what has happened. Minetaro’s art works fantastically well for the series, particularly the ravaged landscapes and scenes of destruction.

Grand Guignol Orchestra, Volume 1 by Kaori Yuki. I have a feeling that Grand Guignol Orchestra is a series that I like in theory but am unsatisfied with in reality. I mean, an orchestra that fights zombies with music (among other things)? How great is that? Pretty great in my opinion, but after reading the first volume I haven’t been convinced that Yuki will be able to pull it off. Even the characters haven’t settled in yet. The first volume seems unfocused and rushed at the same time, as if Yuki was trying to shove in too many manic ideas all at once. Still, the ability to take out a zombie with a tuning fork is pretty awesome. And even though it seems to have nothing to do with the actual story, I really like Gwin’s pet hedgehog.

King of Thorn, Volume 1 by Yuji Iwahara. The extremely deadly Medusa virus is running rampant across the world. In an effort to find a cure, a group of people chosen by lottery are put into stasis. But some awake to a world drastically different from the one they left. The facility they are in is in an extreme state of decay and carnivorous dinosaur-like creatures are roaming the grounds. The virus is no longer their immediate concern as they must struggle to simply survive. One of the things I like best about King of Thorn is that the ensemble cast is so diverse in both character design and personality. It is obvious from the way they interact with each other that Iwahara has put some thought into exactly who these people are. I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of the series.

Sugar Sugar Rune, Volumes 1-8 by Moyoco Anno. For a series that was created with elementary school students in mind, Sugar Sugar Rune is incredibly engaging for adult readers as well. It starts out innocently enough, two young witches have come to the human world to compete to become the next queen of the magical world, but the story quickly becomes deeper and more complex. The characters and setting are wonderfully well-rounded. Anno’s art is great even if some of the pages become a bit overwhelming. Marvelous attention is given to details such as clothing. Sometimes plot developments come out of nowhere, but they generally work in the long run. I really loved this series and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

Black Jack, Episodes 18-28 and Black Jack Special: The 4 Miracles of Life directed by Makoto Tezuka. I wouldn’t necessarily classify Black Jack anime as horror, although the potential is certainly there. I, for one, wouldn’t want to have to face the various diseases and conditions that afflict Black Jack’s patients. I find Black Jack to be a fantastic character and prefer the episodes where he plays a greater role in the story. He can be an absolute ass, but underneath he’s really very compassionate. Also, he’s a baddass. The Black Jack anime ran for sixty-one episodes but only the first twenty-nine episodes and the special are available through Crunchyroll. Fortunately, Black Jack is primarily episodic, so at least we’re not left with unresolved plot arcs. Plus, there’s always the original manga!

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

My News and Reviews

February is a short month, but I was still able to get in two in-depth manga reviews, woo! I’ve been able to reach my goal for several months now. It seems to be a good pace for me, especially as I review other materials in addition to manga. Eventually, I’d like to do more in-depth manga reviews, but I’m going to stick with at least two a month for now. My second review for February was Hisae Iwaoka’s science fiction slice of life manga Saturn Apartments, Volume 1.

My monthly manga giveaway is underway and you still have a couple more days to Have Some Hetalia. Enter for a chance to receive a brand new copy of the second volume of the global phenomenon Hetalia: Axis Powers by Hidekaz Himaru. The winner will be announced Wednesday, March 2.

This past week, LibraryThing posted an interview with Japanese translator Alexander O. Smith that I helped out with under the name PhoenixTerran. Smith is one of my favorite translators working today and he is incredibly versatile, so I was thrilled to have a chance to ask him some questions.

A while back I had a feature on Experiments in Manga called As Seen Online where I posted interesting things that I found online. I haven’t been doing much with it recently, and so I have decided to incorporate a version of it into the “My News and Reviews” section. Each week I’ll mention a few cool links. The first thing I want to bring your attention to (although you’ve probably already seen it) is a very interesting and informative post by a senior editor at Tokyopop about why series go on hiatus. And since I read AX: Alternative Manga, Volume 1 this week, I also wanted to revisit the AXed Twitter transcripts.

As promised, I’ve added a handful of new manga reviews and news sources to the Resources page: Angela L. Eastman, A Case Suitable for Treatment, Emily’s Random Shoujo Manga Page, Heart of Manga, Manga Cast, Manga Life, Manga Village, Otaku Champloo, Yuri no Boke. I’ve also added We Read Comics which isn’t specifically about manga but fairly regularly comments on manga. It’s run by the folks at Vault of Midnight, some of my very favorite people. If you’re a manga blogger or reviewer and would like to be added to the list, please just let me know.

Quick Takes

All Nippon Air Line: Paradise at 30,000 Feet by Kei Azumaya. Oh, All Nippon Air Line, you are such a silly, silly manga. It is a collection of short comics by Azumaya, some original to the volume and some previously published, all centering on the All Nippon Air Line or A.N.A.L. Yes, that’s right, A.N.A.L. Every single employee in the company is male and the large majority of them also happen to be gay. Let the bad puns and ridiculousness commence! Themed flights, diverse obsessions and fantasies, and more than a few workplace romances, A.N.A.L. has it all. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the artwork, but I didn’t mind too terribly much because I was so highly amused by the manga as a whole.

AX: Alternative Manga, Volume 1 edited by Sean Michael Wilson. A wonderfully diverse anthology by thirty-three creators of alternative manga. I didn’t always “get” some of the contributions, but there were plenty of others that I was able to more fully appreciate. Even when I didn’t understand what was going on, I loved seeing all of the different art styles. One of the most frustrating things about the collection is that most of the creators probably won’t have much of their other work published in English and I’d really like to see more. I’ll definitely be picking up the second volume of AX, currently scheduled to be released this coming November.

Lone Wolf and Cub, Volumes 1-4 written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Goseki Kojima. Once serving as the executioner for the Shōgun, Ogami Ittō now travels the path of the assassin accompanied only by his young son Diagorō. Ogami is an extraordinary swordsman and a brilliant tactician. The series tends to be just slightly more episodic than I would wish, but I still find myself absorbed in Koike’s story and Kojima’s art. Actually, the cinematic artwork is one of my favorite things about the manga. The fight sequences are kinetic and the landscapes detailed and serene. My only complaint is that the books, and therefore the panels and text, are small which with my bad eyesight can be problematic.

Black Jack, Episodes 1-17 directed by Makoto Tezuka. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of the Black Jack manga, but I vaguely remember Black Jack being more of a bastard than he is portrayed in the anime. I do wish that he’d get a bit more screen time though since he’s my favorite character. Some of the episodes I recognize from the manga while others are original to the anime series. Some familiarity with the original comic is expected (exactly who Pinoko is is never explicitly stated, for example) but even newcomers should be able to enjoy the Black Jack anime. The series is fairly episodic and each episode is mostly self contained although there are some recurring characters.