My Week in Manga: October 19-October 25, 2015

My News and Reviews

I posted a couple of different things at Experiments in Manga last week in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. Having recently read and enjoyed Yukito Ayatsuji’s debut novel The Decagon House Murders, I made a point to finally get around to reading and reviewing his first novel released in English, Another. Though I felt a little cheated by one of the plot twists, overall the novel is a great mix of horror and mystery. I enjoyed the story so much that I plan on checking out the manga and anime versions, too. (Seems like a good candidate for an Adaptation Adventures feature.) My other post last week was some random musings on A Moment of Respite in Kohske’s Gangsta. Basically, a single scene from the sixth volume of the manga (more specifically, a sequence of three panels from that scene), inspired me to write more than a thousand words about some of the things that I particularly appreciate and love about the series.

A few things of interest found online last week: First of all, the most recent entry in Ryan Holmberg’s What Was Alternative Manga? column, Gottfredson’s Illegitimate Heirs: Tezuka Osamu and the Great Wall of 1945, was posted at The Comics Journal. Speaking of Tezuka, Stone Bridge Press will be publishing the manga The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime in a single, massive volume. In other licensing news, NBM Publishing continues to release graphic novels in the Louvre Collection. Hirohiko Araki was the first Japanese creator to contribute to the series with the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure spinoff Rohan at the Louvre, but In 2016, Jiro Taniguchi’s full-color Guardians of the Louvre will be translated.

Quick Takes

A Centaur's Life, Volume 4A Centaur’s Life, Volumes 4-5 by Kei Murayama. I love the world that Murayama has created for A Centaur’s Life. A fair amount of the worldbuilding can be found within the series’ narrative, but there’s also a ton of supplementary material between chapters—lessons in history and biology and such. The full introduction of a new character in these volumes, a transfer student who’s also an Antarctic snake person, allows for even more worldbuilding to be incorporated directly into the manga as she is learning about cultures outside of her own while the other students are learning about hers. The issues of race and discrimination that come up fairly frequently in A Centaur’s Life can sometimes be a little heavy-handed or simplistic, but the lessons learned are good ones. The series does tend to be fairly episodic, and even the individual stories and chapters can be fairly fragmented. They give glimpses into the characters and their lives without there necessarily being much of a plot. Generally, A Centaur’s Life is fairly charming and sweet though it has moments that, for one reason or another, are vaguely disturbing, too.

LDK, Volume 1LDK, Volume 1 by Ayu Watanabe. I’ve largely enjoyed most of Kodansha Comics’ recent shoujo series (or at least found something about them that I’ve liked even if as a whole they didn’t work for me), so I was looking forward to giving LDK a try. I believe that LDK is Watanabe’s first manga to be released in English. I’m not especially familiar with her or her series, but she seems to primarily work in shoujo romance. LDK falls squarely into that category. However, after only one volume, I remain completely unconvinced by the supposed romantic chemistry between who will obviously become the lead couple after they end up living together. Part of my difficulty probably stems from the fact that I don’t particularly like either of the characters involved. Shusei is frankly a jerk with apparently no sense of how to express his interest in another person without being an absolute creep. And sadly Aoi is so concerned about doing right by her best friend that she doesn’t actually listen to what she says or needs. On top of that, so far LDK is just a little too generic in both its story and artwork for me to feel truly engaged with the series.

Passion, Volume 1Passion, Volumes 1-4 written by Shinobu Gotoh and illustrated by Shoko Takaku. I actually read the first volume of Passion several years ago, but the series begins so unpleasantly (opening with what appears to be a rape scene) that it took me this long to get around to finishing it. I gave it a second chance for two reasons: I was assured by others that the series improves and I’m loving the artist’s more recent series I’ve Seen It All. While it’s still not a favorite of mine, Passion does get significantly better. That opening scene which was so awful has repercussions for everyone involved and ends up being handled rather well by the creators. Hikaru is a high school student who is desperately in love with Shima, one of the teachers at his school. He forces himself on Shima and, after a peculiar turn of events, the two initially pretend to be lovers. But then their relationship continues to deepen. It turns out Shima is terribly manipulative, but he does recognize that about himself and is extremely troubled by it. Passion takes place over the course of multiple years. It’s interesting to see how the characters grow and evolve while dealing with their bad decisions.

Manga Giveaway: Seven Seas Sampler Winner

A Centaur's Life, Volume 1Dictatorial Grimoire, Volume 1: Cinderella
Gakuen Polizi, Volume 1Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Omnibus 1

And the winner of the Seven Seas Sampler manga giveaway is…Karen Swartz!

As the winner, Karen will be receiving A Centaur’s Life, Volume 1 by Kei Murayama; Dictatorial Grimoire, Volume 1: Cinderella by Ayumi Kanou; Gakuen Polizi, Volume 1 by Milk Morinaga; and Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Omnibus 1 written by Satoru Akahori and illustrated by Yukimaru Katsura. Over the last couple of years, Seven Seas has really taken off, adding more licenses than ever before and diversifying its catalog. So, for this giveaway, I asked people tell me a little about some of their favorite manga released by Seven Seas. I’ve compiled a list below (those with an asterisk were mentioned by more than one person), but be sure to check out the Seven Seas Sampler comments for more details.

Some favorite Seven Seas titles:
Afro Samurai by Takashi Okazaki
Alice in the Country of created by Quin Rose
Amazing Agent Luna written by Nunzio DeFillippis, Christina Weir, illustrated by Shiei
Blood Alone by Masayuki Takano
Boogiepop created by Kouhei Kadono
A Centaur’s Life by Kei Murayama
A Certain Scientific Railgun written by Kazuma Kamachi, illustrated by Motoi Fuyukawa
Citrus by Saburouta
*D-Frag! by Tomoya Haruno
Dance in the Vampire Bund by Nozomu Tamaki
*Devils and Realist written by Utako Yukihiro, illustrated by Madoka Takadono
Dragonar Academy written by Ran, illustrated by Shiki Mizuchi
Freezing by Kwang-Huyn Kim
Gakuen Polizi by Milk Morinaga
*Girl Friends by Milk Morinaga
*Gunslinger Girl by Yu Aida
*Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends written by Yomi Hirasaka, illustrated by Itachi
Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto by Nami Sano
Hayate X Blade by Shizuru Hayashiya
Inukami! written by Mamizu Arisawa, illustrated by Mari Matsuzawa
Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink by Milk Morinaga
Kokoro Connect written by Sadanatsu Anda, illustrated by CUTEG
*Lizzie Newton: Victorian Mysteries written by Hey-jin Jeon, illustrated by Ki-ha Lee
Love in Hell by Reiji Suzumaru
*Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer by Satoshi Mizukami
Magical Girl Apocalypse by Kentaro Sato
Strawberry Panic written by Sakurako Kimino, illustrated by Takuminamuchi
*Toradora! written by Yuyuko Takemiya, illustrated by Zekkyou
Witch Buster by Jung-man Cho
*Young Miss Holmes by Kaoru Shintani
Zero’s Familiar written by Noboru Yamaguchi, illustrated by Nana Mochizuki

Thank you to everyone who participated in the giveaway and shared some of your favorites; I hope to see you all again for the next one!

Manga Giveaway: Seven Seas Sampler

The end of the month draws near, so it’s once again time for another manga giveaway at Experiments in Manga! As is tradition, November’s giveaway features multiple volumes. This month you will all have a chance to win a sampling of some of Seven Sea’s manga releases, both old and new: A Centaur’s Life, Volume 1 by Kei Murayama; Dictatorial Grimoire, Volume 1: Cinderella by Ayumi Kanou; Gakuen Polizi, Volume 1 by Milk Morinaga; and Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Omnibus 1 written by Satoru Akahori and illustrated by Yukimaru Katsura. And as always, the giveaway is open worldwide!

A Centaur's Life, Volume 1Dictatorial Grimoire, Volume 1: CinderellaGakuen Polizi, Volume 1Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Omnibus 1

It used to be that I didn’t pay much attention to Seven Seas. It had a smallish catalog and I wasn’t particularly interested in most of the series it was publishing at the time. But with the success of Monster Musume and the various Alice series, Seven Seas has really taken off in recent years. And increased sales mean even more manga licenses. Seven Seas has been making a particular point to diversify its offerings lately. It has helped revive interest in yuri manga in English. A range of genres are being released, including slice-of-life, comedy, fantasy, horror, mystery, and science fiction among others. There are otome manga as well as quirky shounen series.  Ecchi and fanservice manga features heavily, but there are more wholesome titles, too. Seven Seas really is trying to have a little something of everything and a little something for everyone. I might not personally be interested in every license the publisher picks up, but I do like seeing the variety of works. You’ve caught my attention, Seven Seas. Now show me what you can do.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a Seven Seas Sampler?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little about your favorite manga released or licensed by Seven Seas if you have one. (If you don’t have a favorite or haven’t read any of Seven Seas manga, just mention that.)
2) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting, or retweeting, about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

It’s as easy as that. Each person can earn up to two entries for this giveaway. As usual, participants will have one week to submit comments. Entries can also be sent via e-mail to phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com which I will then post in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on December 3, 2014. Happy feasting!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address in the comment form, a link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: Seven Seas Sampler Winner

My Week in Manga: June 9-June 15, 2014

My News and Reviews

I posted two in-depth manga reviews at Experiments in Manga last week. The first was of Baku Yumemakura and Jiro Taniguchi’s The Summit of the Gods, Volume 3. It’s the middle volume of a five-volume, award-winning series and is a critical turning point for the story and characters. The Summit of the Gods is my favorite Taniguchi collaboration as well as one of my favorite manga series in general. And if manly mountain men don’t interest you, perhaps my review of Mari Okazaki’s out-of-print josei collection Sweat & Honey might entice you to track down a copy for yourself. The short manga included in the anthology focus on the close and often complicated relationships between women. The post is a part of my Year of Yuri monthly review project and makes the seventh installment. Only five more reviews to go!

Elsewhere online there were plenty of interesting things to read. Yen Press has a new set of license announcements. Organization Anti-Social Geniuses had two posts last week that I particularly liked: an interview with Cho, the founder of the site English Light Novels (which is an incredibly useful resource that I was previously unaware of), and a look at some of the reasons why people tell publishers they read illegal version of manga. Otaku USA has a nice interview with Helen McCarthy, whose newest book A Brief History of Manga will be released soon. The Lobster Dance has posted Revealing and Concealing Identities: Cross-Dressing in Anime and Manga, Part 4, with at least one more part to come. Lastly, the second manga studies column at Comics Forum is now available, focusing on the history of manga and Kitazawa Rakuten.

Quick Takes

A Centaur's Life, Volume 2A Centaur’s Life, Volumes 2-3 by Kei Murayama. The more I read of A Centaur’s Life, the more I like the series. It can be incredibly sweet and adorable, and Murayama’s world-building is fascinating. Not all of that world-building makes it into the series proper (at least not yet), but the extra material between chapters and at the beginning and end of the volumes. Is interesting, delving into the politics, history, and mythology of A Centaur’s Life. It’s obvious that a lot of thought has been put into the series to make it as realistic as possible; Murayama takes into account even the smallest details of everyday life and how things like cars, furniture, and buildings have to be modified to accommodate races with completely different anatomies. A Centaur’s Life is fairly episodic, but more and more recurring characters are introduced as the series progresses. These two volumes in particular frequently feature the youngest generation of centaurs and other folk. Like any kids, they can be hellions but they can be super cute, too.

Same Cell OrganismSame Cell Organism by Sumomo Yumeka. Much like Yumeka’s later manga, The Day I Become a Butterfly, Same Cell Organism tends to be fairly quiet and subdued. Yumeka’s artwork is lovely, with a light, airy touch to it, though her character designs from one story to the next are similar enough to cause some brief confusion from time to time. Same Cell Organism is a collection of some of her earliest boys’ love manga. It’s a somewhat uneven volume, mostly do to the fact that one of the stories, “To Make an Angel” was never actually completed. All of the set up is there, but then it suddenly ends with no real conclusion. However, I absolutely adored the titular story “Same Cell Organism” and its subsequent chapters. The story follows two young men in high school who might seem like unlikely friends because their personalities are so different: Yokota is loud, enthusiastic, and outgoing while Nakagawa is much quieter and reserved and has a more difficult time expressing himself. However, their relationship develops naturally and is delightfully loving and sweet.

Say I Love You, Volume 2Say I Love You, Volume 2 by Kanae Hazuki. I was a little surprised by how much I enjoyed the first volume of Say I Love You and so was very interested in seeing how the characters’ stories and relationships continued to develop in the second. I particularly like the leads, Mei and Yamato. Mei especially is marvelous; she’s confident enough in herself to avoid bad situations involving other people, which made me very happy to see. Yamato obviously cares for Mei and is very respectful of her. However, many of the other characters aren’t likeable at all, and much of the second volume is devoted to them. Hayakawa is a womanizer and an absolute asshole. His story arc in this volume is a bit uncomfortable—he gets his comeuppance, but he also gets the girl. (I worry about her, so I truly hope that his colors have changed having been redeemed by love.) Aiko, who apparently used to be a lovely young woman, is simply not a nice person at all anymore. She has her reasons, but she’s still not sympathetic. Say I Love You deals very honestly with sex and its emotional repercussions at such a young age. Some of the relationships in the series aren’t at all healthy, making the budding romance between Mei and Yamato refreshing in comparison.

Sherlock Bones, Volume 5Sherlock Bones, Volume 5 written by Yuma Ando and illustrated by Yuki Sato. Sherlock Holmes reincarnated as a puppy is still a rather silly premise, but I’ll admit that I’ve largely been enjoying the series. Occasionally there’s an unnecessary flash of underwear, but generally that’s fairly easy to pass over. The mysteries in the series are interesting with some very clever, though sometimes outlandish, twists. The artwork provides clues for readers to pick up on if they’d like a more interactive story experience, too. One of the things that I actually liked best about this particular volume of Sherlock Bones is that the story moves from Takeru being a high school student to his entry into the workforce. Unsurprisingly, coming from a police family and considering his recent work solving crimes with Sherdog, Takeru becomes a patrol officer. Already it’s proving to supply even more cases for him and Sherdog to investigate, and a few new characters are introduced as well. Sherlock Bones continues to be an entertaining series, and I look forward to reading the remaining two volumes.

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.