My Week in Manga: February 29-March 6, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga, I announced the World Trigger Giveaway Winner. As usual for such announcements, the post also includes a thematic list of manga. In this case, I’ve put together a list of some of the manga licensed in English that feature parallel worlds, dimensions, and universes. Speaking of which, last week I also reviewed the first volume of a series that was included on that list–Shuji Sogabe’s Persona 4, Volume 1. I haven’t played any of the Persona 4 video games yet, but the manga adaptation is off to an intriguing start. I’m looking forward to reading more, and I’ll likely give the anime a try as well.

I found quite a few interesting things to read last week. Frederik L. Schodt (whose work I greatly admire) wrote about translating manga for World Literature Today. ICv2 has been busy interviewing folks from the North American manga industry, including a twopart interview with Viz’s Kevin Hamric and another twopart interview with Dark Horse’s Michael Gombos and Carl Horn.

There have been a few interviews with manga creators posted recently, as well. Manga Brog translated an interview with Tsutomu Nihei from earlier this year. Kazuo Koike participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything. And Kodansha Comics has a new creator interview with Chuya Koyama, the mangaka of Space Brothers. Related to that interview is an autograph sweepstakes and survey about Space Brothers which is a great opportunity to let Kodansha know if, like me, you’d be interested in seeing a print release of the series.

In licensing news, Seven Seas slipped in an announcement for Kanekiru Kogitsune and Kobayakawa Haruyoshi’s Re:Monster manga adaptation. There’s also currently an Indiegogo campaign to add an English dub to and generally improve the quality of the upcoming North American DVD and Blu-ray release of the Skip Beat! anime adaptation.

Quick Takes

A Bride's Story, Volume 6A Bride’s Story, Volumes 6-7 by Kaoru Mori. Every time I pick up A Bride’s Story I can’t help but be impressed by Mori’s stunningly detailed and beautiful artwork. The manga is gorgeous to look at, but the storytelling is lovely as well. These two volumes fall at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to tone, but they’re both still wonderfully engaging. Though it has its quiet moments, the sixth volume is dominated by exciting action sequences and battles as Amir’s original clan struggles to find a way to survive now that it has lost access to grazing lands. The intensity of the sixth volume isn’t found in the seventh, but there’s still plenty of drama as the series shifts to follow more of Mr. Smith’s journey. The story itself focuses Anis, a young Persian woman whose husband is quite wealthy. Because of this she leads a somewhat lonely and secluded life until, at the urging of her maid, she starts going to the public baths where she can spend more time with other women. (Much of the volume takes place at the baths, so there is a fair amount of tasteful nudity.)

TokyoESP1Tokyo ESP, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Hajime Segawa. It took me a couple of chapters to completely warm up to Tokyo ESP, but by the end of the first omnibus I was completely engaged. Segawa’s artwork doesn’t particularly grab me, but I’m immensely enjoying the quirkiness of the manga’s characters and the weirdness of its story. Tokyo ESP is ridiculous in a good sort of way. One morning, Rinka wakes up to discover that she has the ability to pass through physical objects. She’s not the only Tokyoite to have suddenly gained strange superpowers, but Rinka does appear to be one of the few to try to use her newfound skills for justice rather than personal gain. Though reluctant at first, wishing that she could just go back to normal, Rinka is quite capable and soon finds herself caught up in gang war fighting other espers. Tokyo ESP is a violent, action-packed series with a goofy sense of humor. Rinka can literally kick ass, but she also gets her fair share of beatings. The manga can actually be surprisingly brutal at times.

The World's Greatest First Love: The Case of Ritsu Onodera, Volume 1The World’s Greatest First Love: The Case of Ritsu Onodera, Volumes 1-3 by Shungiku Nakamura. I know quite a few people who we extraordinarily pleased when SuBLime announced that it would be releasing The World’s Greatest First Love. It was their enthusiasm that led me to giving the manga a try–I had read and even enjoyed parts of Nakamura’s earlier series boys’ love series Junjo Romantica, but overall I wasn’t especially enamored with it so I wasn’t necessarily intentionally seeking out more of the creator’s work. But I will admit, so far I am consistently amused and entertained by The World’s Greatest First Love even if I am more interested in the series’ hilarious (and I’m told accurate) portrayal of the inner workings a shoujo magazine than I am in any of the manga’s dubious romances. The World’s Greatest First Love works best for me when it’s a bit over-the-top and not trying to be taken too seriously. Though the anatomy of the characters can occasionally be rather awkward, Nakamura excels at reaction shots and the artwork is well-suited for a comedy.

My Week in Manga: December 30, 2013-January 5, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week I announced the 4-Koma for You Winner. In case you’re looking for something to read, the post includes a list of yonkoma manga that have been released in print in English, too. I also posted December’s Bookshelf Overload last week, for those of you interested in following my adventures in buying way too much manga and other media. Finally, over the weekend I posted a review of Delavier’s Mixed Martial Arts Anatomy. This is one of the most tangentially related reviews I’ve written at Experiments in Manga. Why is it here? Simply because I’m a karateka and found it to be a useful book. It’s a great strength training resource for any martial artist. Plus, it has lots of illustrations.

I’ve more or less been on vacation for the last two weeks, so I haven’t been online much except to make sure that things were updated here at Experiments in Manga. Even so, there were two things in particular that caught my eye recently. First and foremost, the Massive anthology of gay manga originally scheduled to be published by PictureBox has been picked up by Fantagraphics! Right now, it looks like we should see the release sometime in October 2014. The other news that I was excited to hear about is that we’ll be getting a second season of the Mushishi anime nearly ten years after the first season aired. I loved Yuki Urushibara’s original manga (which is now unfortunately out-of-print in English) and I loved the first anime series so I’m looking forward to the second season a great deal.

Quick Takes

A Bride's Story, Volume 5A Bride’s Story, Volume 5 by Kaoru Mori. The art in A Bride’s Story always blows me away. Mori’s illustrations are so beautiful and detailed that it’s no surprise that there’s such a long wait in between each volume’s release. Most of the fifth volume of the series is devoted to the wedding between the twins and their husbands-to-be. The best word that I can think of to describe this volume is “joyous.” Mori shows the preparations that both families make for the happy occasion—a celebration that lasts an entire week. There’s dance and song, levity, plenty of food, and numerous guests. It’s extremely satisfying to see the entire community’s participation in the event. The manga as a whole is a gorgeous work, but the wedding itself is quite lovely. I enjoyed seeing the twins’ story develop. Their outgoing personalities might be annoying for some readers, but in the end I found the two of them to be quite endearing. Now begins the long wait for the next volume of A Bride’s Story.

Castle Mango, Volume 1Castle Mango, Volume 1 written by Narise Konohara and illustrated by Muku Ogura. Despite what the cover and title page of Digital Manga’s release indicate, Konohara wrote Castle Mango while Ogura was responsible for the artwork. Konohara is the same author who wrote About Love, which I quite enjoyed, so I was interested in reading Castle Mango. Both manga are slightly atypical boys’ love stories. Instead of being straightforward man-meets-man romances, the stories are more layered. There is an emphasis on well-developed characters and actual plot; it’s not just about getting guys into bed with each other. The leads of Castle Mango are rather unusual as well. Yorozu’s family owns and runs a love hotel while Tagame is a well-known porn director. Yorozu more or less blackmail’s Tagame into a relationship in order to keep him away from his brother, but he doesn’t even really like the older man. Their story is concluded in the second and final volume of Castle Mango. I’m very curious to see how things unfold, so I’ll definitely be picking it up.

A Centaur's Life, Volume 1A Centaur’s Life, Volume 1 by Kei Murayama. One of several “monster girl” manga recently released by Seven Seas, A Centaur’s Life is far less ecchi than the other titles. Plus, this one includes plenty of monster boys in addition to the monster girls, which I greatly appreciate. The manga is definitely centered around the series’ young women, though. The titular centaur is Kimihara Himeno; the manga is mostly a slice-of-life story which follows her and her other high school friends. (As a side note, I adore Himeno’s wild mass of hair on the cover.) Some people might find reading the first chapter a little uncomfortable as the story revolves around the girls’ privates, but following chapters are much less questionable. Overall, the manga was rather charming. And I am interested in learning more about the world that Murayama has imagined; it seems that some significant thought has been put into it. Although not the focus of the series, politics, law, cultural differences, disputes between races, and history have all been taken into consideration.

Ranma 1/2, Volume 15Ranma 1/2, Volumes 15-20 by Rumiko Takahashi. It’s been so long since I’ve read any of Ranma 1/2 that I had forgotten how much I love the series. After the main characters and basic premise are established, the manga becomes fairly episodic so it’s easy to pick up part way through the series and still know what’s going on. I find Ranma 1/2 to be hilarious and particularly enjoy the absurd martial arts that Takahashi comes up with. These particular volumes feature martial arts based around eating food extremely quickly and cheerleading, just to give two examples. I like the characters and I like the story, as silly and superfluous as it can be. Akane and Ranma seem to be no closer to getting married than they were at the beginning of the series. They argue quite a bit, but there are moments of genuine affection, too. Granted, those moments are frequently interrupted and don’t tend to last very long. The series’ off-the-wall comedy won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for me Ranma 1/2 is highly entertaining and a lot of fun.

Otome Yokai ZakuroOtome Yokai Zakuro directed by Chiaki Kon. The Otome Yokai Zakuro anime is based on an ongoing manga series by Lily Hoshino (which hasn’t been licensed in English.) The story takes place in an alternate version of Japan’s Meiji Era in which yokai and humans coexist. The office of Spirit Affairs is created in order to improve relations between the two groups. It’s made up of a small contingent of military officers and half-spirit girls who team up to work together. I’ll admit, I liked the first part of the series which explored the concerns over Japan’s Westernization and loss of traditions through the conflicts between humans and yokai much more than I did its end. Seeing as the opening has a bit of a spoiler in it, the series’ major plot twist was clearly planned well in advance, but it just didn’t seem to flow well as a whole as the narrative suddenly changes direction. The romantic subplots are broadcast from the very first episode—it’s obvious who will be falling in love with who—so none of those developments were particularly surprising or unexpected, either.

My Week in Manga: February 25-March 3, 2013

My News and Reviews

February seemed to pass by quickly. Granted, it is the shortest month of the year. But because it is the end of one month and the beginning of another, it does mean it’s time for another manga giveaway! The winner will be announced this coming Wednesday, so there is still time to enter for a chance to win the hardcover edition of Osamu Tezuka’s Ayako.

For those of you who are interested in my absurd manga-buying habits, February’s Bookshelf Overload was also posted last week. The most recent Library Love feature—basically a bunch of quick takes of manga that I’ve borrowed and read from my local library—is now available, too.

A few things that I came across online this past week: Brigid Alverson has a lengthy interview with Stu Levy, the CEO of Tokyopop, at MangaBlog. Vertical announced two new manga licenses at Genericon—From the New World and Pink. And speaking of Vertical, keep an eye on the publisher’s tumblr for a new questions and answers column.

Quick Takes

A Bride’s Story, Volume 4 by Kaoru Mori. I absolutely love Mori’s artwork. The attention she gives to detail and historical accuracy is superb. If nothing else, A Bride’s Story is gorgeous. But I also enjoy Mori’s storytelling. The fourth volume in the series is a little more lighthearted and comedic than previous volumes. The story turns its focus to Laila and Leyli, twins with very outgoing personalities who are in search of husbands. Personally, I prefer the earlier volumes, but this was a fun one, too. The English release of A Bride’s Story has now almost caught up with the Japanese release. I have no idea when the next volume will be published, but I’m looking forward to it immensely.

Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Omnibus 1 written by Satoru Akahori and illustrated by Yukimaru Katsura. Kashimashi is a very odd yuri series. Hazumu is an effeminate high school boy who has been brought back to life by aliens after they crash land their spaceship on him. Only now Hazumu is female all the way down to her DNA. The series follows Hazumu as she adjusts to being a girl and the new relationship dynamics that brings. The girl she had a crush on and was rejected by as a guy is now interested in her, and her best friends are conflicted over the romantic feelings they have developed for Hazumu. As for Hazumu’s parents and teachers: the adults in Kashimashi are much more immature and annoying than the teenagers. Fortunately, they’re not around all that much.

Tekkon Kinkreet: Black & White by Taiyo Matsumoto. Dark, surreal, and compelling are characteristics that I’ve come to expect from Matsumoto’s manga. His award-winning Tekkon Kinkreet is a fantastic example of this. It’s one of his more approachable works, as well. But as a warning, Tekkon Kinkreet can also be disturbingly violent. Black and White are two orphans living on the streets of Treasure Town who come into direct conflict with the yakuza who are trying to take control of the city. Black is tough and streetwise while White is childlike in his innocence. But they both need each other. The manga is about balance. Balance between good and evil, right and wrong, darkness and light, Black and White.

Manga Giveaway: Read or Dream Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the Read or Dream Giveaway is…Dawn H!

As the winner, Dawn will be receiving the first volume of Hideyuki Kurata and Ran Ayanaga’s manga R.O.D: Read or Dream. I had previously read the related series, R.O.D: Read or Die, and was rather surprised when Read or Dream ended up being entirely different in tone. And so for this giveaway, I asked entrants to tell me about manga that surprised them or that wasn’t quite what they were expecting. Normally, I would simply suggest reading the giveaway comments, but since there were only five submissions this month, I’ve decided to simply share them here:

X by CLAMP (submitted by Dawn H):

I think one of the first manga series to really surprise me was x/1999. Back in the 90s, my first exposure to CLAMP was their series Magic Knight Rayearth, which was rather Sailor Moon-ish (though it did have giant robots & a twist ending). So when I saw that Animerica was running a comic in it by the same artists, I assumed (stupidly) that it would be similar to Rayearth (since I hadn’t seen or read Tokyo Babylon yet…this was pre-“everyone had the internet” days, so I didn’t know about it yet). Well…you can probably imagine my surprise when I first read it, heh. NOTHING like Rayearth, unless you count the art style. But I ended up liking it, anyway.

I recently started reading X myself. Even though I had been warned, I was still surprised by how graphically violent the series is.

Emma by Kaoru Mori (submitted by teaNrice):

When I first saw my Library’s copy of the first volume of Emma: A Victorian Romance I had a quick look at the blurb on the back and put it back down unimpressed by what I thought sounded like an immensely cliche plot. It wasn’t until years later that I would realize my mistake. Emma is surprising because it shows that even a seemingly cliche plot like a romance between the upper and lower classes can still shine when the execution is so superb.

Emma is another series that I’ve only started reading recently. The manga is tragically out of print in English, but my library fortunately has the entire series, too. And yes, it is very good.

Kokou no Hito written by Yoshiro Nabeda and Jiro Nitta, illustrated by Shinichi Sakamoto (submitted by Vito):

Kokou no Hito, it’s licensed in Italy under the name Climber and in France as Ascension, great stuff. The beginning is very misleading, young introverted protagonist transfers to a new school, classmates bullies by way of which he also introduces him to climbing and it all leads to a competition, by now it’s sort of leading you to believe it’s going to be a shounen sports competition manga, complete with a mystery progeny showing up. That quickly changes, the rest of the story explores the character, his growth, follows his various mountain expeditions etc. I do recommend reading it and the art is really really good.

I didn’t previously know about Kokou no Hito, but now I really want to read it! It sounds like a series I would really enjoy.

Death Note written by Tsugumi Ohba, illustrated by Takeshi Obata (submitted by KenshinGirl)

I completely overlooked Death Note when they ran a preview for it in Shonen Jump because the art didn’t appeal to me. I decided to go back and read it a while later when I had no other manga to read, and I was instantly hooked. After that, I couldn’t wait for the next volume and ended up recommending it to everyone I knew. My older brother had no interest in manga, but once I got him to read it, he couldn’t put it down either.

You know, I really need to finish the last couple of reviews for Death Note. Coincidentally, this is a series I managed to get my brother, who isn’t a big manga reader, interested in, too.

A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori (submitted by Literate.Ninja)

I’d say the most recent surprise I got from a manga was reading A Bride’s Story. I got it from my library after hearing about it online, and I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, since I am somewhat familiar with the culture and time period the book is set in. However, when it turned out to be a warm, touching story of a family coming together to embrace a new member, I was completely charmed, and have since recommended it to all my friends and co-workers.

Another Kaoru Mori manga! A Bride’s Story was actually the first work by Mori that I read. I was absolutely astonished by the gorgeously detailed artwork.

Thank you all for sharing your manga surprises with me!

My Week in Manga: April 23-April 29, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Viz Signature Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Kate Dacey at The Manga Critic. In addition to last week’s quick takes, I took a closer look at Q Hayashida’s Dorohedoro, Volume 1 for the Feast. If you don’t mind graphic violence (which I don’t), the series is well worth checking out. It’s a little weird and has great art and memorable characters. The giveaway for April has also been posted. This time around I’m giving away the first volume of I’ll Give It My All…Tomorrow by Shunju Aono (which happens to be a Viz Signature title). As usual, the giveaway is open worldwide. And there’s still a couple of days left to submit your entries! If you’re not sure about the series, The Manga Critic has a few reasons why I’ll Give It My All…Tomorrow is the one of the best manga you’re not reading.

On to some cool things online! The second Aniblog Tourney is well underway. The voting for the first round finished up recently. Experiments in Manga has been matched up with Shameful Otaku Secret! for the second round of voting which will begin on May 1st. (Hello to all of you tourney folk who may be visiting Experiments in Manga for the first time, and welcome back to all of you who have wandered by this way before.) Only three manga-centric blogs (Heart of Manga, Kuriousity, and Shades of Grey) made it through the first round of voting. However, some manga blogs, including Experiments in Manga, were seeded into the second round and haven’t been voted on yet. I’m interested in seeing how Experiments in Manga, which isn’t particularly well known and hasn’t been around for long, will fare.

Elsewhere online, Vertical mentioned on Twitter that they expect to have at least five new licenses to announce this summer. I always enjoy Vertical’s manga and novel releases, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what they have in store. Manga creator Moto Hagio was recently awarded the Purple Ribbon Medal of Honor. Deb Aoki has a great article about the medal at Manga. I also came across an interview with Hagio from 2005 conducted by manga translator and shoujo aficionado Matt Thorn.

Quick Takes

20th Century Boys, Volumes 7-9 by Naoki Urasawa. I’ll admit it—Naoki Urasawa is one of the of the reasons I developed an obsession with manga. 20th Century Boys the most recent of Urasawa’s works to be released in English and I’m loving it. Granted, it can be a bit frustrating that every time the Friend is about to be revealed Urasawa cuts away, but otherwise he does a fantastic job of generating suspense. In fact, he can create some incredibly intense and exciting scenes. Urasawa also handles a large cast well; I like how he brings in new characters to interact with the players that have already been established. He’s dealing with a couple of different timelines, but they’re slowly coming together nicely.

A Bride’s Story, Volumes 2-3 by Kaoru Mori. If I had to describe A Bride’s Story in one word, it would be “gorgeous.” Mori’s artwork is marvelous to behold. The amount of detail she devotes to each panel is astounding but never overwhelming. The story, too, is lovely. Reading the manga I’m torn between lingering over the artwork and turning the pages to find out what happens next. The first volume was fairly quiet, but the second volume has significantly more conflict as Amir’s family comes to reclaim her, by force if necessary. In the third volume the story actually begins to follow Mr. Smith, the linguist staying with the Eihon family. I liked Smith as a secondary character but I wasn’t sure how well I would like him as a lead. It didn’t take long for Mori to convince me.

Fist of the North Star: Master Edition, Volumes 1-3 written by Buronson and illustrated by Tetsuo Hara. Fist of the North Star is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which people are struggling to survive, fighting over the most meager of resources. Enter Kenshiro, a dark hero who wanders the land protecting the innocent. Even though Kenshiro’s martial art of Hokuto Shinken may seem to be nearly invincible, he still takes quite a beating from time to time as he faces more and more powerful foes. But he’s calm and collected and enough of a badass that he tends to come out on top in the end. I really enjoyed Fist of the North Star; I’ll definitely be tracking down the couple of volumes that I have missing from the series.

The Book of Bantorra, Episodes 1-13 directed by Toshiya Shinohara. It only took two words for me to pick up The Book of Bantorra: Armed Librarians. As a librarian myself, I can’t help but love kickass and fantastic portrayals of my profession. Unfortunately, beyond the basic premise of the series which I really liked, I found The Book of Bantorra to be rather disappointing. For one, the narrative is a mess. Perhaps it makes more sense to someone who’s had the opportunity to read the novels upon which the anime is based. Plot developments seem to come out of nowhere and often aren’t explained adequately. Neither are the characters’ motivations. Still, as much as The Book of Bantorra frustrates me, I will be following the series through to the end.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi directed by David Gelb. At the age of 85, Jiro Ono is considered to be one of the greatest sushi masters in the world. His skill and passion for his work is readily apparent in Gelb’s debut documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The film shows the absolute care and thoughtfulness that goes into every detail of making sushi: the cooking of the rice, the selection of the fish, the presentation of the meal, the development and honing of techniques, and more. Making sushi is frequently compared to making music and this is nicely reflected in the film’s soundtrack. Orchestral works and concertos are expertly paired with beautiful imagery of the sushi’s creation. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a wonderful film.