My Week in Manga: May 19-May 25, 2014

My News and Reviews

After a week full of random musings comes a week full of reviews. Well, that is if you consider two reviews “full.” Either way, there were two reviews posted at Experiments in Manga last week. First up was Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill’s Strong in the Rain: Surviving Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. Originally released in 2012 as a hardcover, it is now available as a trade paperback. The volume is very approachable and makes an excellent overview of many of the aspects of the March 2011 disaster. As promised, I also reviewed the first omnibus of Takashi Ikeda’s yuri manga series Whispered Words. So far, I’m really enjoying the series (it even has karate in it!), but One Peace Books’ edition is rather disappointing in regards to quality control. Check out the review’s comments for more specific details.

As for other interesting things online: Oishinbo has certainly made some political and social commentary in the past, but the manga recently managed to get suspended amidst nuclear furor. The latest ANNCast features the return of the super manga pals Deb Aoki and Rebecca Silverman. The Gay Manga tumblr has a great post about how language impacts the way that sexuality is thought and talked about, looking at the terms “bara” and “gei” among other things. (The discussion reminded me quite a bit about my random musings on translation and queer theory.) Another fantastic post (well, series of four posts) is Revealing and Concealing Identities: Cross-Dressing in Anime and Manga over at The Lobster Dance. So far, Part 1 and Part 2 have been posted.

Quick Takes

Bunny Drop, Volume 10Bunny Drop, Volume 10 by Yumi Unita. Oh, Bunny Drop. I love parts of the series while other aspects frankly piss me off. I personally don’t mind incest plotlines in my fiction (and technically there’s no incest in Bunny Drop), it’s just that it was handled so incredibly poorly. It’s been a while since a manga has gotten such a visceral reaction from me. But even though Bunny Drop left me seething, I was still looking forward to reading the tenth volume—a collection of short side stories as well as an extensive interview with Unita about the series and its anime adaptation. Most of the volume is devoted to when Rin and Kouki were small (including the story of how he got the scar on his forehead), which I enjoyed. I also rather liked the story that focused on Rin’s mother and the man who would become her husband. However, the final story takes place sometime after Rin and Daikichi are married—a development that I continue to be completely unconvinced by, a sentiment this final story does nothing to alleviate.

Carciphona, Volume 1Carciphona, Volumes 1-4 by Shilin Huang. Another splurge purchase from TCAF, Carciphona is a self-published manga-style series of graphic novels which are also available to read online. It was Huang’s spectacular artwork that caught my eye. (Her artbook Toccata is simply gorgeous.) Though the interior art isn’t as stunning as the series’ covers, it is still excellent. Huang considers herself more of an illustrator than an comics artist; though it was fairly strong to begin with, her storytelling improves greatly from volume to volume. Occasionally Carciphona falls prey to infodumps in order to establish the setting, especially early on in the series, but the worldbuilding and characters are interesting. Carciphona is high fantasy with magic and religion, assassins and political intrigue, and tension between races. The story follows Veloce Visrin, a young, powerful sorceress living in a world where common magic—magic which relies on demonic spirits—has been prohibited. Her life has not been an easy or happy one, so she’s a bit surly (and understandably so), but she is also very loyal and protective of those who become her friends.

Devils and Realist, Volume 1Devils and Realist, Volume 1 written by Madoka Takadono and illustrated by Utako Yukihiro. William Twining comes from a prestigious family and has done everything he can to meet, and surpass, all expectations so as not to disgrace his family’s name. He’s brilliant and at the top of his class…and recently lost most of his wealth due to his uncle’s bankruptcy. Perhaps even more problematic is that he’s somehow also responsible for selecting the next ruler of hell, despite being scientifically minded and refusing to believe in the demons right in front of him who are trying to bribe him. The artwork in Devils and Realist is attractive, though the more action-oriented sequences, while pretty, can be somewhat difficult to follow. It was amusing to see many of the demons introduced become transfer students at William’s school, but personally I’d like to see the story focus less on school antics and more on the struggle for control of hell. Then again, I actually did enjoy the sillier aspects of the manga. Devils and Realist has some potential; I’ll probably be giving it at least one more volume to see which direction it takes.

I've Moved Next Door to YouI’ve Moved Next Door to You by Fuhri Misasagi. There were two things that particularly appealed to me about I’ve Moved Next Door to You and which led me to pick up Misasagi’s boys’ love one-shot: the somewhat “reversible” nature of the characters and their polyamorous relationship. At least it’s described as being a polyamorous relationship—it’s really more of a pseudo-love triangle. Sadly, neither of those things could save this manga for me. With the aid of his secretary Kamoshida (who is in love with him), Takumi has recently moved into a rundown apartment after leaving his company. Up until now he’s led a very privileged and sheltered life and so has no idea how to live on his own. However, his new neighbor Renji is more than happy to help him out, which apparently also includes sexually harassing him any chance he gets. Even though the manga is supposed to be a comedy, tragic backstories are also added to the mess of unbelievable characters and plot. I’ve Moved Next Door to You isn’t sexy or romantic, and it’s not even very funny, though it does try very hard to be all of those things. I can’t say that I enjoyed the manga much at all.

Sengoku Basara: Samurai KingsSengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, Season 1 directed by Itsuro Kawasaki. A little to my surprise, I enjoyed the Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends manga so much that I decided to track down more of Sengoku Basara. I still haven’t gotten around to playing any of the video games, which is where the franchise started, but I have been happily watching the Samurai Kings anime. Sengoku Basara is based on the actual historic figures and events from Japan’s Warring States period, but it is delightfully irreverent and over-the-top with its portrayals. Honestly, Sengoku Basara is ridiculous and doesn’t at all take itself too seriously, but because of that it’s also a tremendous amount of fun. I mean, it has literal battle auras, impossible feats, absurd amounts of damage, nearly indestructible warriors, epic battles, and constantly shifting alliances, not to mention a healthy dose of improbable technology and anachronisms. I get a kick out of it all, though, and find Sengoku Basara to be highly entertaining. Samurai Kings might not be a series that I’ll watch over and over again, but I’ll definitely be checking out the second season.

My Week in Manga: August 26-September 1, 2013

My News and Reviews

I only posted one review last week, but that wasn’t the only thing going on at Experiments in Manga. The review was for Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Volume 2: Garma. The third volume is scheduled to be released later this month and I realized that I hadn’t reviewed the second one yet. If you enjoy science fiction manga the series is definitely worth checking out, even if you’re not a Gundam fan. What else was going on at Experiments in Manga? I posted August’s Bookshelf Overload for those interested in the absurd amounts of manga I manage to collect. My most recent manga giveaway is currently in progress as well; there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first Blood Lad omnibus. Since Experiments in Manga is now part of the Manga Bookshelf team, I’ve also started to participate in some of the group features: Pick of the Week and Manga the Week of.

Elsewhere online, Dan Kanemitsu wrote an opinion piece for CBLDF about the recent ban of Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen manga in Japan—The Inconvenience of Barefoot Gen. Happily, the ban has since been lifted. (In the past I reviewed both the first volume of Barefoot Gen and Nakazawa’s autobiography for the Barefoot Gen Manga Moveable Feast.) Sean Kleefeld at Kleefeld on Comics has put together some pie charts based on Alex Woolfson’s survey of the readers of his Young Protectors comic—Who Reads Yaoi Webcomics?. I found the results and demographics to be very interesting. Finally, Ng Suat Tong posted Island of Sex, Panorama of Empire at The Hooded Utilitarian, an in-depth analysis of Suehiro’s Maruo’s The Strange Tale of Panorama Island manga and Edogawa Rampo’s original novella. (In the past, I reviewed the manga and the novella separately.)

Quick Takes

Blue Is the Warmest ColorBlue Is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh. Originally published in French in 2010, Blue Is the Warmest Color has only recently been released in English. The graphic novel has won several awards as has its film adaptation. It’s a beautiful comic and a beautiful love story. Maroh’s artwork is wonderful. I particularly liked her use of color; much of the graphic novel is illustrated with muted tones with blue as an accent color.Clementine is in high school when she completely falls for Emma. She must come to terms with her identity and sexuality—something that is at first difficult for her to fully embrace and something even more difficult for many of her friends and her family to accept. Although the ultimate ending of Clementine and Emma’s story is known from the very beginning of Blue Is the Warmest Color, Clementine’s death still seems to come rather suddenly. Blue Is the Warmest Color is tragic and bittersweet, but it is also a lyrical exploration of love and desire.

Bunny Drop, Volume 7Bunny Drop, Volumes 7-9 by Yumi Unita. Parts of Bunny Drop were spoiled for me early on but I wanted to see how things played out and how Unita handled it all. These volumes actually do a great job showing Rin’s developing relationship with her mother as well as her struggle with her feelings for Daikichi and his response to them. But then along comes a huge plot reveal in the fifty-fourth chapter that attempts to smooth everything over and make it okay. (Honestly, I was kind of pissed off about it.) It’s as though Unita was trying to find an easy way out after backing herself into a corner. Unfortunately it doesn’t really work, contradicts earlier parts of the story, and even negates previous character developments. In part due to poor planning, the twist is neither satisfying nor believable. Perhaps if Unita had taken the time to show the intervening two years and how Daikichi’s feelings evolved it would have been more convincing. Even though I found the ending of Bunny Drop to be disappointing, I still plan on picking up the final volume of short stories.

Sankarea: Undying Love, Volume 2Sankarea: Undying Love, Volume 2 by Mitsuru Hattori. I’m a little surprised by how much I’m liking Sankarea. At least I can say that I enjoyed the second volume more than the first. I even chuckled out loud a few times while reading it. I hope the series continues to improve. At this point Sankarea is definitely more of a romantic comedy than it is a horror story. The horror elements are still there though, as are the nods to zombies in popular culture. But it’s Rea’s father who remains the creepiest part of the series. In one delightful scene, Chihiro even calls him out on it directly to his face. And even though Sankarea is a comedy, I’m glad to see that Danichiro’s disturbingly unhealthy relationship and obsession with his daughter isn’t seen as funny. On the other hand, Rea’s relationship with Chihiro—as weird as it is and as weird as they both are as individuals—is almost charming. Sankarea is kind of a strange series, but then so are hydrangea zombies.

Wolfsmund, Volume 1Wolfsmund, Volume 1 by Mitsuhisa Kuji. Very few historical manga with a European setting have been licensed in English, and so I was intrigued by Vertical’s acquisition of Wolfsmund. I was even more interested when I learned that Kuji was once an assistant for both Kentaro Miura and Kaoru Mori, whose work I love. (I particularly noticed Mori’s influence in how Kuji draws many of the character’s eyes in Wolfsmund.) Wolfsmund takes place in 14th-century Switzerland and is a retelling of sorts of the legend of William Tell. So far the story has focused on those attempting to illicitly cross through the Sankt Gotthard Pass, generally unsuccessfully but not without putting up a fight. While Wolfsmund isn’t overly graphic—most of the gorier moments are implied rather than actually seen—it is a violent and brutal manga. Very dark and very intriguing, I’m looking forward to the next volume of Wolfsmund a great deal.

My Week in Manga: October 22-October 28, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Vampire Manga Moveable Feast. As part of my contribution, I reviewed Vampire Hunter D, Volume 1—Saiko Takaki’s manga adaptation of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s novel of the same name. I still haven’t read the original Vampire Hunter D novels, but the manga adaptation of the series is starting to grow on me. Keeping with the vampire theme, I also reviewed Hideyuki Kikuchi’s vampire novel Yashakiden: The Demon Princess, Volume 3. There are parts of Yashakiden that I really enjoy but there are just as many parts that frustrate me immensely. Since there are only two more volumes in the English release, and I’ve already come this far, I’ll probably end up finishing the series at some point. Completely unrelated to vampires, but because it’s a graphic novel I wanted to mention it here: Over at my other blog, Experiments in Reading, I’ve posted a review of Mark Siegel’s Sailor Twain: Or, The Mermaid on the Hudson, which I quite enjoyed.

Quick Takes

Apocalypse Zero, Volumes 1-6 by Takayuki Yamaguchi. Unfortunately, only six of the eleven volumes of Apocalypse Zero were released in English. I can’t say that I’m surprised and I don’t expect that the license will ever be rescued—the series will appeal only to those with a strong constitution and who aren’t offended easily. It’s extremely graphic, bloody and violent. The imagery is deliberately repulsive, gloriously grotesque, and highly sexualized. Honestly, I feel a little dirty admitting that I loved Apocalypse Zero in all of its outrageousness, but I did. Yamaguchi does make use of a lot of standard tropes and cliches, but he takes them to such ridiculous, over-the-top extremes that they are almost unrecognizable.

Bunny Drop, Volumes 5-6 by Yumi Unita. With a ten year time skip, Bunny Drop has become an entirely different series. It’s not bad, but it has lost much of charm that made the first four volumes stand out. However, the character interactions are still great. The “new” Bunny Drop probably wouldn’t be a series that I would follow had I not already been invested its characters. It seems to have turned into a pretty typical high school drama. I did enjoy seeing the kids all grown up though, Rin and Kouki especially. Unfortunately, Daikichi, who has always been my favorite, has almost become a secondary character in these volumes (although, a very important one). I do still like Unita’s artwork and plan on finishing the last few volumes in the series.

The Drops of God: New World written by Tadashi Agi and illustrated by Shu Okimoto. It’s sad to say, but New World may very well be the last volume of The Drops of God to be published in English. At the request of the author, this omnibus (collecting volumes 22 and 23 of the original release) jumps ahead in the story to a point which features New World wines. As Shizuku heads to Australia and Issei heads to America in search of the seventh apostle, they both manage to get into some serious trouble. The plot might be a little ridiculous at times, but I still find The Drops of God to be entertaining and informative. Who knew the world of wine could be so dangerous?

The Flowers of Evil, Volumes 2-3 by Shuzo Oshimi. I really thought that I was through with middle school dramas, but then I started reading The Flowers of Evil. The series is exceedingly dark and ominous. I have a hard time looking away as the events unfold. I have no idea where Oshimi is going with this series and I’m almost afraid to find out. It’s intense, to say the least. The characters in The Flowers of Evil are so incredibly messed up. Even those who at first appear “normal” have some serious issues; it’s hard to tell what’s really going on in their heads. Kasuga is caught in this agonizing relationship between Saeki, the girl he idolizes, and Nakamura, the girl who torments him but from whom he can’t seem to break away.

Tonight’s Take-Out Night! by Akira Minazuki. A collection of three boys’ love stories, Tonight’s Take-Out Night is the first manga that I’ve read by Minazuki. While I enjoyed the stories, the high-contrast art style is what really caught my attention. The stories are short, so the development of the couples’ relationships has to happen fairly quickly. However, Minazuki’s characterizations are strong enough that they carry the stories fairly well. I liked the pairings and I liked their relationships which were mostly free of non-consensual elements. The first and third story are both good-natured and a little quirky. But the second story, with it’s period setting and supernatural twist, was my personal favorite.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Volumes 1-6 produced by Studio APPP. Technically, the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure anime adaptation is two series. The last six episodes were released between 1993 and 1994 while the first seven were released between 2000 and 2002. I do prefer the manga over the anime, but the OVA series is an excellent adaptation. The anime strips the story down to it’s core. The humor and the horror elements of the original tend to be downplayed; the anime focuses mostly on the action and battles. This does mean that some of my favorite moments from the manga were cut, but all of the fights that are particularly important to plot and character development are included. No matter what the medium, I love JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

My Week in Manga: May 14-May 20, 2012

My News and Reviews

It was another two review week here at Experiments in Manga. To start off, I reviewed Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage, and the Modern Japanese Woman by Sumie Kawakami. The book is an intimate look at the romantic lives of women in Japan. Unfortunately it has gone out of print, but there will be a digital version released in the near future. The second review to be posted last week was for Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal, Volume 9: The Gathering, Part II. This volume is the end of the second major story arc in the series. I’m still loving Blade of the Immortal. Look for the review of the next volume to be posted sometime next month.

I meant to mention this last week after I finished reading The Guin Saga novels that are available in English, but Vertical has a really interesting Guin Roundtable transcript available on their website. It does include some minor spoilers, but it’s a great way to gain more insight into the series (especially the English edition). Over at, Deb Aoki has started a fabulous series of posts about Making a Living in Manga, specifically examining North American creators. Also, if you’re an anime or manga fan, please consider taking time to complete the Anime and Manga Fandom survey being conducted as part of a fellow fan’s dissertation project.

Finally, May’s Manga Moveable Feast begins this week! The Feast will be focusing on Oishinbo and other food manga. Khursten of Otaku Champloo, who is hosting this month, has already posted a fantastic introduction to food manga in Japan. For the Feast I’ll be reviewing Oishinbo, A la Carte: Ramen & Gyōza and posting some random musings on the series later in the week.

Quick Takes

20th Century Boys, Volumes 10-12 by Naoki Urasawa. The Friend’s face has finally been revealed to the readers! Although the Friend’s identity makes some amount of sense to the story, I can’t help but be skeptical. I’m pretty sure Urasawa still has at least one major twist in store when it comes to the Friend. And that’s not even considering all of the other twists and turns that 20th Century Boys has been taking. The story keeps getting more and more complicated and there’s a huge number of characters to keep track of, but I’m still enjoying the series a tremendous amount. I particularly like how important people’s memories of their pasts are to the story’s current timeline.

Black Butler, Volumes 5-8 by Yana Toboso. If every volume of Black Butler was like the eighth, I would have been more enthusiastic about the series from the very beginning. Black Butler is finally starting to settle into a nice balance between the humor and the darker elements. It’s somewhat a personal preference, but I enjoy the series more the darker it gets. I am pleased to see that the Phantomhive servants get the opportunity to prove what badasses they are. I much prefer this side of the characters to their previous buffoonery. I also enjoyed Sebastian and Ciel’s brief stint at the Noah’s Ark Circus (I happen to like European-style circuses), which gave Toboso plenty of opportunity to have fun with character designs. Toboso’s version of Queen Victoria is pretty great, too.

Deeply Loving a Maniac by You Higashino. Morita is an otaku and his lover Sakura has become the object of his obsession and devoted affection. This could potentially be a creepy relationship, but Sakura enjoys the attention he gets from Morita so it’s endearing instead. Sakura even allows Morita to dress him in cosplay, which is adorable. It’s obvious that these two genuinely care for each other. Morita’s otaku tendencies can still cause some stress in their relationship, though. Apparently, Deeply Loving a Maniac is the second volume in a three book series. It stands perfectly well on its own, but I hope the other two volumes are licensed as well. I’d love to see how these guys got together in the first place.

Usagi Drop directed by Kanta Kamei. I’ve really been enjoying Yumi Unita’s Bunny Drop manga, so I was interested in seeing how the anime held up in comparison. The anime is actually a very faithful adaptation of the first four volumes of the manga. (These are all of the volumes before the story’s infamous time jump.) The anime does include some brief, wonderful moments not in the original manga which I quite enjoyed. The voice actors were cast perfectly, too. The beginning of each episode is done in a lovely style reminiscent of watercolor paintings. I actually wouldn’t have minded seeing entire episodes done in such a fashion. They weren’t, but the largely pastel color palette is carried over which helps to unify the animation.

My Week in Manga: February 6-February 12, 2012

My News and Reviews

I posted two reviews last week. The first was for Isuna Hasekura’s light novel Spice & Wolf, Volume 5. I’m really enjoying this series, much more than I expected I would. I’m looking forward to the next volume’s release, currently scheduled for June. The second review I posted was for Haruki Murakami’s oral history of the 1995 Tokyo sarin gas attack, Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche. It’s an excellent volume that is an abridged translation of two of Murakami’s books, Underground and The Place That Was Promised.

Reverse Thieves has an great post about The Heroines of Princess Knight. It should help you get in the mood for February’s Manga Moveable Feast featuring “the god of manga” Osamu Tezuka and his works, hosted by Kate Dacey of The Manga Critic. The Feast will be held from February 19 to February 25. For more information, see Dacey’s call for participation. It should be a good time! I plan on reading a bunch of Tezuka manga and should have a couple reviews ready for the Feast.

Quick Takes

Bunny Drop, Volumes 3-4 by Yumi Unita. I really do enjoy Unita’s Bunny Drop. Daikichi is a sweet guy who has really gotten in over his head when he takes in his now deceased grandfather’s six-year-old illegitimate child Rin. The two of them make a cute little family, and Daikichi honestly cares for her well-being, but he is constantly reminded how little he actually knows about raising a kid. He very quickly realizes how difficult it actually is, especially as a single parent. Fortunately for him, Daikichi makes some “daddy friends” and Rin seems to be doing really well. Daikichi’s very lucky to have Rin as opposed some of other child terrors in Bunny Drop, but he manages to handle them pretty well, too.

Death: At Death’s Door by Jill Thompson. Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman was my introduction to comics and I still love the series. Death: At Death’s Door is a retelling of “Season of Mists,” an arc from The Sandman which happens to be one of my personal favorites. In Thompson’s version, the story is seen mostly from the perspective of Dream’s oldest sister Death, who I happen to adore. Thompson contributed to the original The Sandman (although I don’t believe she was involved with “Season of Mists”) and has created several spin-offs from the series. Death: At Death’s Door is a fun, quirky volume that is fairly accessible even to those not familiar with The Sandman. I do think that those who have read “Season of Mists” will get more out of it, though. Personally, I’m quite fond of it.

Love Machine by Amayo Tsuge. Shiro is an experimental android, a model known as an Etowa (Every Time Only With Affection). Designed as a companion and health monitor, the true extent of the capabilities of the new design is unknown. No one anticipated the intensity of the emotional bonds that the Etowa would develop for their masters. Kokuyo, after ending up in the hospital, is given Shiro as much for his own sake as for the android’s designers to have a chance to collect some data. Love Machine appeals to my love of android stories, but it doesn’t really do anything particularly new or unique with the subgenre. Love Machine also includes an unrelated story “My Boyfriend Is a Vampire,” which is cute.

A directed by Tatsuya Mori. A is a documentary over two hours long that takes a look into the inner workings of Aum Shinrikyo and the everyday lives of its members. In 1995 members of Aum, including its leader Shoko Asahara, were involved in the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. The documentary was filmed while the criminal trials against these members were being conducted. The film primarily follows Aum member Hiroshi Araki who became the organization’s chief spokesperson during this time. Very little background, context, or framing is given and so viewers are left to draw their own conclusions from the film. A, released in 1998, was followed up by another documentary on Aum directed by Mori, A2, in 2001.

The Cat Returns directed by Hiroyuki Morita. From Studio Ghibli comes a charming little tale about Haru, a high school girl with the forgotten ability to talk to cats. After she saves a cat from being hit by a truck, she finds herself the recipient of unwanted thanks from the Cat Kingdom. It turns out that the cat she saved, Lune, happens to be their prince. Haru is whisked away to the Cat Kingdom and will turn into a cat herself if she doesn’t find a way to return home. I enjoyed the variety of character designs for the cats; I particularly liked the secret service/bodyguards. The Cat Returns is an indirect sequel to Whisper of the Heart, which I haven’t seen yet. Both are based on manga by Aoi Hiiragi.

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion directed by Shunya Itō. Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion is a pink film, more or less softcore pornography intended for theatrical release. So, yes, there is plenty of female nudity as well as a fair amount of violence. The “women in prison” exploitation film was Itō’s debut directorial work and became the first in a series starring the beautiful Meiko Kaji as Sasori (“Scorpion”). After being betrayed during a sting operation by her boyfriend, a narcotics detective, Nami Matsushima is sent to prison. Abused by the guards and fellow convicts, she is determined to escape and seek revenge. The series is alluded to in Sion Sono’s film Love Exposure (one of the characters dresses as Sasori) which is how I learned about the movies.