My Week in Manga: February 15-February 20, 2011

My News and Reviews

This past week was the February 2011 Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Sam Kusek over at A Life in Panels. It was a great feast featuring Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen; even Last Gasp, the publishers for the series in English, participated. I had three related posts, including reviews of Nakazawa’s autobiography Hiroshima: The Autobiography of Barefoot Gen and my first in-depth manga review for February for Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima.

I really need to updated the Resources page—I’ve a bunch of new sites to add—so I’ll try to get around to that this week. Also coming up this week: Wednesday will start my monthly manga giveaway. I haven’t quite decided which manga it will be yet, so you’ll just have to drop by on Wednesday to find out. I’m also excited for Wednesday to roll around since Kodo will be in town for a performance, and I have tickets!

Quick Takes

Dog Style, Volumes 1-3 by Modoru Motoni. The first volume of Dog Style is a bit sporadic and difficult to follow at times, but by the end of the third volume Motoni had completely won me over. As the series progresses, both Motoni’s art (which was pretty good to begin with) and writing improves greatly. The story gets a bit angsty at times, and it’s not exactly romantic, but I enjoyed seeing Teru and Miki’s relationship develop. Teru and his friends are delinquents, so he tends to get involved in violent fights, and Miki has his own problems and past to deal with. The two start out as strangers but come to rely on each other; complete with some killer kisses and more. (Also, bonus points for use of condoms.)

Japan written by Buronson and illustrated by Kentaro Miura. The primary reason I picked up Japan was that Berserk‘s creator, Kentaro Miura, worked on it. Also, the setting interested me since post-apocalyptic fiction is one of my favorite sub-genres. There were some nice story elements in Japan that could have made a great short series. Unfortunately, in this one-shot they’re overshadowed by the constant and unnecessary, semi-political commentary on what it really means to be “Japanese.” I think Miura’s art works best in the post-apocalyptic setting; I wasn’t quite as convinced by his modern environments.

K-ON!, Volume 1 by Kakifly. This may just be the best yonkoma manga that I’ve read so far. I laughed so much. Granted, as a musician, I felt a particular fondness for the girls in the pop music club as they try to put together their own band. I found Yui, the accidental guitarist, particularly amusing since she doesn’t know a thing about music but she’s still very enthusiastic about the whole thing. Actually, I like all of the characters that have been introduced up to this point. K-ON! makes me very happy and I can easily see why this series is so popular. I’ll definitely be reading future volumes as they are released in English.

Chi’s Sweet Home: Chi’s New Address, Episodes 1-52 directed by Mitsuyuki Masuhara. Chi’s New Address is the second Chi’s Sweet Home anime. I’ve never seen the first, but I have been reading and loving the original manga series. And I’m loving the anime, too. The season is 104 episodes long, but each episode is under three minutes long. At first, the baby noises that Chi makes annoyed me, but I soon got over it. The anime is every bit as cute and adorable as the manga. The animation is simply delightful and almost every episode made me laugh. And it didn’t matter how many times I watched the opening—I giggled every single time.

Monster, Episodes 40-60 directed by Masayuki Kojima. While I’m still enjoying the anime adaptation of Monster, I think I can safely say at this point that I prefer the manga. The slow, deliberate plot development that worked so well in the original comes across as tedious and ponderous in the anime. It’s a problem of the anime trying too faithfully to recreate the manga. It probably would make a better series if the story was trimmed and focused a bit more. However, it’s not all bad. Grimmer, probably my favorite character in the entire series, makes his first appearance in these episodes. And Nina and Johan’s backstory, the truth behind everything that is going on, begins to be revealed.

My Week in Manga: December 6-December 12, 2010

My News and Reviews

I don’t have much manga news for this past week, but there was some One Piece Manga Moveable Feast carryover, including an episode of the Manga Out Loud podcast devoted to the series. The Manga Curmudgeon, as the host, is keeping track of everything still trickling in. As for me, I posted Part 5 of my Library Love series. I do apologize for it being a bit more spoilery than usual, but that can be difficult to avoid when writing about middle volumes. I also posted a review of Ryu Murakami’s Popular Hits of the Showa Era (also known as Karaoke Terror) due to be released by W. W. Norton in January. The novel is a dark satire, absurd, and potentially offensive, but I quite enjoyed it.

Quick Takes

Cain, Volume 1 by Le Peruggine. I’m sorry to say, but the first volume of Cain, which was originally an Italian publication, did almost nothing for me. I didn’t get a good feeling for what was going on and I didn’t get attached to any of the characters or care about their relationships. Perhaps if I had read all three volumes of the series together, I might have a better opinion. I like the cover art, but the illustration work inside doesn’t reach the same quality and is sometimes difficult to follow. There are hints that Cain may be something other than human, which could be interesting, but I probably won’t follow up with the rest of the series.

Chi’s Sweet Home, Volume 3 by Konami Kanata. This series is simply wonderful and gets my vote for one of the best new series released in 2010. For cat lovers at least, Chi’s Sweet Home is a must. Much of Volume 3 explores Chi’s relationship with Blackie, or the Bear-Cat as the humans call him. Chi learns a lot about what it means to be a cat from Blackie and as much as Chi can annoy him, he’s grown quite fond of the kitten. As for Chi, she’s become quite attached to Blackie and her human family. Unfortunately, cats aren’t allowed at their apartment complex and the super is on a mission to track down the offending tenants.

D. N. Angel, Volumes 1-13 by Yukiru Sugisaki. D. N. Angel was one of the first and favorite manga series that my youngest sister read. Daisuke Niwa has a rather unusual condition—whenever he experiences intense romantic feelings, he transforms into the legendary Phantom Thief Dark, just like his ancestors before him. Sugisaki can’t seem to decide whether D. N. Angel is a romantic comedy or a darker, more serious fantasy and it sometimes feels like she’s just making things up as she goes along. However, I still found the series to be fun and enjoyable to read if I didn’t think too hard about it. The artwork is very appealing, although occasionally inconsistent.

Happy Mania, Volumes 1-5 by Moyoco Anno. Shigeta wants nothing more in life than a boyfriend. Unfortunately, she’s obsessive, self-absorbed, and goes a little bit crazy once she sets her sights on a guy. It’s hard to see why Shigeta has any friends at all. Even Takahashi, who desperately loves her and who she can’t seem to admit is perfect for her, questions his devotion. She ends up sleeping with plenty of men, but has yet to find a satisfying relationship. Even when she knows better, poor Shigeta makes one bad decision after another. It might be terrible, but Shigeta’s self-destructive tendencies make for one hilarious manga. Happy Mania is a great josei series and I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of the volumes.

Spirit Marked, written by Colter Hillman and illustrated by Yishan Li. While I liked the art (for the most part), Spirit Marked doesn’t have a particularly original story. This English language manga had a lot of potential but it unfortunately doesn’t deliver. Instead of a single volume, it probably would have worked better as a longer series which would allow more exploration of the characters and a chance to differentiate its plot. As it is, Spirit Marked seems more like an outline or a proposal rather than a finished work—the plot feels rushed and incomplete. In addition to the title story, the book also includes an unrelated bonus story called Clockwork Heart.

My Week in Manga: October 11-October 17, 2010

My News and Reviews

Finally, I have posted my first in-depth manga review in over a month—Brilliant Blue, Volume 2. I’m really going to try to post more manga reviews in addition to all of the reviews I post for novels and nonfiction. My goal right now is two in-depth manga reviews per month. Eventually I’d like to do one a week, but that would be pushing it for me right now.

In other news, I also reviewed the first Haruhi Suzumiya light novel, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Although it has a few issues, overall I found the book to hilarious and quite enjoyable. Also, be on the lookout for my next manga giveaway starting later this week. Enter for a chance to win a nice copy of Mushishi, Volume 6.

Quick Takes

Chi’s Sweet Home, Volumes 1-2 by Konami Kanata. This series is just so incredibly cute and adorable. Kanata has perfectly captured the felineness of Chi and the loving cluelessness of her adopted human family. The artwork, while simple, is marvelous. I’m very glad that Vertical chose to keep it in color—I think it would have lost some of its effectiveness otherwise. Chi’s babytalk really annoyed me at first, but I eventually grew used to it or was at least able to ignore it for the most part. I’m not sure how much this series will appeal to those who aren’t cat people, but I absolutely love it.

Love Hurts: Aishiatteru Futari by Suzuki Tanaka. Love Hurts is a collection of four stories, three of which are vaguely boys’ love and all of which are slightly on the dark side. The first two stories are very loosely related to each other while the others are completely separate. It’s kind of a strange collection with murderers, superheros, and aliens all playing their part. It’s not great but it’s certainly not horrible and I did enjoy reading it. Plus Koharu has simply got to be one of the cutest manga guys I’ve seen in a while and fortunately for me, he shows up in two of the stories.

MPD-Psycho, Volumes 4-6 written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Shou Tajima. This series is turning out to be quite different than what I was expecting, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. From the first few volumes I thought it would be mostly about Kazuhiko Amamiya, but it turns out he’s a very small part in a very big picture that has yet to be complete revealed. Although the story is becoming more complex and convoluted, it is still utterly fascinating and I can’t help but want to read more. Tajima’s artwork continues to be fantastically unsettling, as does Otsuka’s story.

Song of the Hanging Sky, Volumes 1-2 by Toriko Gin. Published by the now defunct Go! Comi, only the first two volumes of what I believe is a four volume series have been released in English. Toriko’s character designs, which appear to be heavily influenced by Native American cultures, are simply beautiful. The story can be a little confusing at times, but things become more clear as the series progresses. The first volume introduces the characters while the second volume looks more closely at the tragic history of the ancient race of bird-people. I really hope someone picks up this license—it’s very different from most of the other manga I’ve read so far and quite lovely.

Yellow, Omnibus Editions 1-2 by Makoto Tateno. I had previously read the first omnibus edition but had forgotten how funny it was. The second volume takes a much darker turn, although some of the humor remains. Yellow is by far my favorite work by Tateno that I’ve read so far. Taki and Goh are simply marvelous together and the secondary characters are great as well. It’s starts off rather episodic, but by the end there’s a solid plotline going on. Sometimes the solutions to the riddles posed are rather ridiculous, and the drama can be over the top and completely unrealistic, but the series is a lot of fun to read. I’ll definitely be looking into Yellow 2.

Mushishi, Episodes 1-26. I love Yuki Urushibara’s manga series Mushishi and was excited to learn that an anime series of the story was also made. This has to be one of the most literal anime adaptations that I’ve seen—it’s like reading the manga except it has sound and color. The backgrounds and landscapes are absolutely gorgeous and the music lovely and atmospheric. Although the stories appear in a slightly different order, they’re all original to the manga. It’s not a series for everyone—it’s slow and episodic, and rather strange at times, but I love it.