My Week in Manga: August 7-August 13, 2017

My News and Reviews

I shifted around my usual posting schedule at Experiments in Manga a little last week so, instead of posting July’s Bookshelf Overload, I ended up featuring my review of Kazuki Sakuraba’s most recent work to be released in English, A Small Charred Face. The book is scheduled to be released in September (I received an advanced copy from Haikasoru for review purposes), and is definitely worth checking out. I’m not especially interested in vampire fiction, but A Small Charred Face makes for a very interesting contribution to the genre and I loved the queerness present in the story. Sakuraba is probably best known as the creator of Gosick, which I’ve been meaning to read, but my introduction to her work was through Red Girls: The Legend of the Akakuchibas.

Elsewhere online last week: Justin of The OASG posted a transcript of Four Hundred Pages of Manga Every Single Week, a roundtable discussion held in July which was sponsored by Kodansha Comics and featured three of Weekly Shonen Magazine‘s editors, including the editor-in-chief; Anime News Network interviewed Akira Himekawa, the creative team behind most of The Legend of Zelda manga adaptations; Viz Media made a some licensing announcements while at Otakon including RWBY by Shirow Miwa, Takane & Hana by Yuki Shiwasu, and The Young Master’s Revenge by Meca Tanaka; Also at Otakon, Sekai Project, which is still relatively new to manga publishing, announced the acquisition of Keika Hanada and Kanemune’s manga adaptation of The House in Fata Morgana.

Quick Takes

Clockwork Apple by Osamu Tezuka. I’ll admit, I managed to burn myself out on Tezuka for a bit, so I’ve managed to amass quite a stockpile of his recently-translated manga which I haven’t actually gotten around to reading yet. Clockwork Apple is a collection of eight short manga originally published between 1968 to 1973. While they aren’t directly related to one another, they do share a similar tone, were generally intended for an adult audience (mostly seinen, I believe), and can all broadly be described as speculative fiction. The stories in Clockwork Apple tend to be fairly dark, dramatic, and serious. The visual humor, breaking of the forth wall, and self-awareness frequently present in Tezuka’s other non-comedic works are nearly nonexistent in the Clockwork Apple. (I don’t think the Tezuka’s Star System was applied, either.) Tezuka was personally having a difficult time in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so perhaps the tenor of these stories is partly a reflection of that. In general, I enjoyed the stories collected in Clockwork Apple even though the endings would sometimes be a little hit-or-miss or feel rushed. Each story would have at least one plot-altering twist, some had several, but occasionally those developments would come across as convenient rather than compelling.

Flesh-Colored HorrorFlesh-Colored Horror by Junji Ito. Most of Ito’s manga to have been translated into English are currently in print or have been recently reissued in a new edition and even more have been scheduled to be released in the near future. One of the few exceptions is Flesh-Colored Horror, the third and final volume in The Junji Ito Horror Comic Collection series released by ComicsOne. Currently, the volume can be a little difficult and expensive to find, but fortunately one of my local libraries had a copy. (I really hope to be able to find a reasonably-priced one of my own someday.) In addition to the titular story, Flesh-Colored Horror collects five of Ito’s other short horror manga. The six unrelated stories were originally published between 1988 and 1994 in Monthly Halloween, a shoujo manga magazine specializing in horror. Flesh-Colored Horror is a fantastic collection that is well-worth seeking out for either fans of Ito’s work or of weird horror in general. Ito has a way of starting with a simple and at times even mundane premise and twisting it into something truly strange and horrific. For whatever reason, while I greatly enjoy most of Ito’s work, I do find that I often prefer Ito’s older short manga over more recent collections; Flesh-Colored Horror continues that trend.

Giant Days, Volume 1Giant Days, Volume 1 written by John Allison and illustrated by Lissa Treiman and Whitney Cogar. I’ve been hearing good things about Giant Days for a while–the series has been nominated for multiple Eisner and Harvey Awards in the past, and several of my friends keep up with the comic–but I’m only getting around to reading it now. One thing that I didn’t realize about Giant Days, which initially started as a self-published webcomic before being picked up by Boom! Studios, is that it’s actually a spinoff of Allison’s earlier series Scary Go Round. I haven’t actually read Scary Go Round, but fortunately familiarity with that comic isn’t at all necessary to understand Giant Days. The comic largely follows three university students–Esther, Daisy, and Susan–who become close friends after living together in the same residence hall. The first volume seems to favor exploring the characters, their personalities, and relationships over having a strong overarching plotline. At times the comic feels somewhat disjointed and the scene changes can be rather abrupt, but the series has a good sense of humor and I do honestly like the characters. I think I would need to read a little more of Giant Days to really feel invested in their stories, but I greatly appreciate the inclusion of queer characters in the increasingly large cast.

My Week in Manga: July 31-August 6, 2017

My News and Reviews

The winner of The Royal Tutor manga giveaway was announced last week at Experiments in Manga. As usual, I also used the giveaway as an excuse to compile a thematic list of manga–in this particular case, a list of some of the manga available in English which feature royalty. This week I’m (once again) probably going to be switching around my regular posting schedule a little bit. Normally, this week would feature the Bookshelf Overload for July, but I’ve been working on an in-depth review of Kazuki Sakuraba’s A Small Charred Face which I would like to post sooner rather than later.

There are a few interesting things that I’ve recently encountered online that I’d like to share. First of all, MariNaomi has created the Queer Cartoonists Database (which does include mangaka), a followup of sorts to the Cartoonists of Color Database, both of which are fantastic resources. Khursten Santos and Thomas Baudinette, both scholars of queer themes in Japanese media, discuss gay manga, boys’ love, and such on the latest episode of the Fujojocast. Also, hat tip to Khursten for pointing out the recent audio recording and transcript of Masafumi Monden’s fascinating talk A Portrait of Shōjo: The Poetic Ambience of Japanese Girlhood.

As for some of the Kickstarter projects that have caught my attention lately: Sweethearts of 1989 is a queer romance comic by Kale Jeffery which is also in part an homage to anime and manga from the 1980s and 1990s. Zainab Akhtar is campaigning for a second volume of Critical Chips, an anthology of comics and comics criticism. (At least one essay will be about manga, specifically Taiyo Matsumoto’s No. 5.) Allison Shaw’s ongoing comic adaptation of the Greek myth of Persephone looks lovely. And of course, the Sparkler Monthly Year 5 campaign is still underway and could use a boost to help fund another twelve months of fantastic new content.

Quick Takes

I Hear the SunspotI Hear the Sunspot by Yuki Fumino. Although in Japan it was serialized in a magazine that focuses on boys’ love manga, Fumino didn’t originally envision the story of I Hear the Sunspot with that in mind. However, even if the potential for the manga’s to lead characters to become romantically involved was added at a later point, their relationship grows and develops beautifully. After an illness in middle school resulted in permanent hearing loss, Kohei has struggled not only with his sudden disability but also with finding acceptance and understanding from others. Now in law school, Kohei has become withdrawn and has closed himself off from his peers, though that doesn’t stop his more outgoing and personable classmate Taichi from trying to become his friend. As the importance of their unexpected friendship naturally takes hold both Kohei and Taichi have their own issues to deal with, but it is obvious that they care tremendously for each other. As a whole, I Hear the Sunspot is a lovely story, but the nuanced characterization and character growth in the manga is particularly excellent. The depiction of Kohei’s hearing loss and how it has impacted his life and who he is also handled very well. I wholeheartedly loved I Hear the Sunspot.

Liselotte & Witch's ForestLiselotte & Witch’s Forest, Volumes 1-3 by Natsuki Takaya. While waiting for the next volume of Twinkle Stars to be released, I figured I might as well give another of Takaya’s recently-translated manga series a try. (Liselotte & Witch’s Forest is actually one of Takaya’s most recent manga period, although I believe in Japan it’s on hiatus at the moment.) So far, while I am still enjoying the series, Liselotte & Witch’s Forest doesn’t work as well for me as either Twinkle Stars or Fruits Basket. I think the biggest impediment is that there seems to be a significant imbalance in the tone of the manga. The underlying story is dark and tragic–Liselotte & Witch’s Forest largely following in the tradition of Western fairy tales–but the narrative often relies heavily on lighthearted humor to carry it out. As a result, it feels as though Takaya can’t quite decide whether the series should be a drama or a comedy; every time something serious happens it’s countered by something ridiculous and it doesn’t always mesh well. It also takes a little while for the story to take off, although it’s interesting once it does. A young woman of noble birth, the titular Liselotte is now living in exile along with two servants, her stubborn cheerfulness obscuring the anguish she feels.

Stages of RotStages of Rot by Linnea Sterte. The comic Stages of Rot is the first published work by Sterte, an illustrator and animator currently based in Sweden. I wasn’t previously aware of Sterte’s creative output before reading Stages of Rot, but if the comic is at all representative, it will be well worth seeking out more. Although Stages of Rot does include some dialogue and narration, the comic is largely wordless, the strength of Sterte’s gorgeous illustrations easily carrying the flow of the narrative. The story unfolds in five chapters, each of which uses a different palette of muted colors to depict the passage of time and the evolution of nature and civilization within the fantastical world that Sterte has created. The title is derived from the comic’s narrative impetus–the body of a giant sky whale has crashed to the earth, the creature’s death allowing both life and conflict to flourish in ways that would have otherwise been impossible, the accomplishments of one era in some ways dependent on the decay of another. If nothing else, the comic is visually stunning, but the themes exploring the cyclical nature of life and death are also marvelously executed. Stages of Rot is a curious, beautiful, and ultimately hopeful work; I am very glad to have encountered it.

My Week in Manga: July 17-July 23, 2017

My News and Reviews

Although I’ve started to include Quick Takes of novels as part of the weekly My Week in Manga feature, it’s been a little while since I’ve actually written and in-depth review of a novel here at Experiments in Manga. However, last week featured my review of Tomoyuki Hoshino’s ME, one of my most anticipated literary releases of 2017. Much like the rest of Hoshino’s work available in translation, ME is challenging and can demand quite a bit from the reader, but I found it to be worth the effort. The novel is an incredibly surreal but thought-provoking exploration of identity, self, and society. Hoshino’s fiction definitely isn’t for everyone, but I hope to see even more of it translated in the future.

Last week there were also some manga-related licensing announcements made at the San Diego Comic Con. Among other things, Udon Entertainment has picked up Virginia Nitōhei’s manga adaptation of Otherwordly Izakaya “Nobu,” will be adding Romeo & Juliet, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Adventures of Huckleberry Fin to its Manga Classics line, and will be releasing Mega Man MasterMix, a full-color edition of Hitoshi Ariga’s Mega Man Megamix. Vertical Comics will be publishing Kinoko Natsume’s Chi’s Sweet Adventure, a spin-off of Konami Kanata’s Chi’s Sweet Home. And finally, Viz Media announced that it would be releasing Tsuyoshi Takaki’s Black Torch, Inio Asano’s Dead Dead Demon’s Dededededestruction (I’m definitely interested in this), Aka Akasaka’s Kaguya-sama: Love is War, and Koyoharu Gotouge’s Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.

Elsewhere online, a recent episode of the Manga Mavericks podcast provides an overview of the licensing news from Anime Expo in addition to digging into Kabi Nagata’s My Lesbian Experience in Loneliness and Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband. Over at The OASG, Krystallina expresses some valid concerns and criticisms of Digital Manga’s most recent crowdfunding efforts. And speaking of crowdfunding campaigns, there have been several less dubious projects that have caught my eye recently: Deer Woman is an anthology featuring comics created by Native and Indigenous woman which are inspired by traditional Deer Woman stories; Gothic Tales of Haunted Love is a collection of full-color gothic romance comics; and then of course there’s Sparkler Monthly Magazine: Year 5 which is particularly important to me. With every year that passes Sparkler Monthly just keeps getting better and better. I’ve featured a small selection of some of the magazine’s content before, but there’s so much more that I’ve never even mentioned here and it’s all great stuff. Please consider contributing to the campaign if you’re able!

Quick Takes

After Hours, Volume 1After Hours, Volume 1 by Yuhta Nishio. Recently there has been a notable surge of yuri and other lesbian-themed manga being released in English, mostly by Seven Seas, although other publishers have been licensing some as well. After Hours, for example, is the first yuri title from Viz Media if not ever at least in a very long time. That certainly caught my attention, but even more so was the fact that After Hours is not a schoolgirl manga and is instead about adult women (although the cover art does make Emi in particular look fairly young). Emi is invited out to a club by her friend but is generally left to fend for herself once she’s there. That’s when Kei more or less comes to her rescue. The two women hit it off and Emi ends up going home with Kei that night, one thing leading to another. It’s incredibly refreshing that Emi and Kei’s mutual attraction isn’t treated like an aberration or made out to be like it’s a big deal simply because they’re both women. After that first night their relationship continues to naturally develop, largely without angst, as they get to know each other better, Kei introducing Emi to her friends, the local music scene, and her passion as a DJ. The release of second volume of After Hours hasn’t been publicly announced yet, but there is no question that I’ll be picking it up; I absolutely loved the first volume and look forward to reading more.

Blindsprings, Volume 1Blindsprings, Volume 1 by Kadi Fedoruk. Sadly, I was unable to contribute to the Blindsprings Kickstarter campagin which raised funds to release the first print volume of the webcomic, so I was thrilled when I had the chance to pick up an early copy and chat a little with Fedoruk at this year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival. In addition to first five chapters of the comic, the first volume also includes twenty-six pages of bonus content, artwork, and character profiles. Blindsprings is a beautifully illustrated, full-color comic with an engaging story, a diverse cast of characters, and an intriguing, complex, and well-developed world. (I especially appreciate how a variety of genders and sexualities are naturally and unobtrusively incorporated into the story.) Princess Tamaura is about to complete her 300-year agreement to serve the as an Orphic priestess for the sake of her sister, but her contract with the Spirits is broken when she is “rescued” against her will by a young man determined to prove a point. Tammy is torn from her sanctuary and thrust into a modern world in which Orphic traditions and their practitioners are harshly oppressed, the Academists and their magic now largely in control of what was her homeland. But there are still those who resist, and Tammy soon finds herself caught up in the conflict.

Tokyo Ghoul: PastTokyo Ghoul: Past written by Shin Towada Sui Ishida and illustrated by Sui Ishida. Viz Media doesn’t publish many novels outside of its Haikasoru imprint, but considering the popularity of Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul manga series, it’s not too surprising that Towada’s trilogy of light novels were released as well. Although Past is Towada’s third Tokyo Ghoul novel (well, technically it’s more of a collection of vaguely-related short stories), the volume serves as a prequel to Tokyo Ghoul as a whole, the six chapters delving into the backstories of many of the Tokyo Ghoul‘s prominent characters. Despite taking place before the main series, Past is definitely not an introduction. It is intended for readers who are already invested in the franchise–a few of the stories don’t absolutely require prior knowledge in order to follow them, but others are nearly incomprehensible without at least some basic familiarity with Tokyo Ghoul. The general premise of Past is great, the volume allowing fans of Tokyo Ghoul the chance to spend more time with and gain a better understanding of some of the characters, especially as Past is able to tell stories that wouldn’t have immediately fit in the primary series. It’s unfortunate then that the actual writing is frustratingly awful much of the time with drama and angst frequently favored over plot developments that make logical sense.

My Week in Manga: July 10-July 16, 2017

My News and Reviews

Things are more or less back on regular schedule here at Experiments in Manga which means last week I posted the Bookshelf Overload for June. It was a relatively small month, especially when compared to other recent months, but I was still very excited about the various manga, comics, and other books that I picked up. Since I’m back on schedule, later this week I’ll be posting my long-overdue review of Tomoyuki Hoshino’s novel ME. Like the rest of Hoshino’s work available in English (I’ve also reviewed We, the Children of Cats and Lonely Hearts Killer in the past), the novel is challenging but I think worth the effort it takes to read.

Speaking of things that I’ve reviewed in the past, Yeon-sik Hong’s Uncomfortably Happily was a manhwa that I greatly enjoyed. The translator, Hellen Jo, was recently interviewed about her work on the comic and how she personally related to Hong’s story. Manga podcasts seem to be making a comeback these days, and I don’t see that as a bad thing. Last week saw the release of the first episode of Manga in Your Ears, a podcast featuring a few of the manga bloggers that I particularly admire, so I’m very excited to give it listen. Another interesting development that I caught wind of last week was Digital Manga’s most recent crowdfunding campaign. Juné Manga is attempting to raise funds to reprint some titles (A Promise of Romance by Kyoko Akitsu, Endless Comfort by Sakuya Sakura, and Secrecy of the Shivering Night by Muku Ogura) directly through its website rather than through Kickstarter.

Lately, I’ve been somewhat remiss in mentioning the Kickstarter projects that have caught my eye, so here’s a quick list of some of the comics campaigns that are currently running: Lucy Bellwood’s 100 Demon Dialogues is a collection of wonderful short comics exploring themes of anxiety and self-doubt; Elizabeth Beier’s autobiographical comics about bisexuality are being collected together in The Big Book of Bisexual Trials and Errors; the comics anthology Immortal Souls, which focuses on queer witches and dark magicis the followup to the excellent Power & Magic; the third and final volume of Speculative Relationships brings together a variety of science fiction romance comics; Tim’rous Beastie has a great lineup of creators whose comics take inspiration from works like RedwallThe Rats of NIHM, and Watership Down; and finally there’s We’re Still Here, an anthology bringing together fifty-five trans comic creators in what should be phenomenal collection.

Quick Takes

Land of the Lustrous, Volume 1Land of the Lustrous, Volume 1 by Haruko Ichikawa. Despite the frequently heavy-handed and detailed exposition present in the first volume of Land of the Lustrous, I can’t say that I necessarily understand everything that’s going in the series yet, but I am most definitely intrigued. If nothing else, Ichikawa’s illustrations are incredibly striking and I would be happy to read more of the manga for no other reason than the artwork. Twenty-eight crystalline lifeforms known as the Lustrous, each with their own unique qualities and abilities, battle for survival against the enigmatic Lunarians. Phosphophyllite wants nothing more than to fight but, being such a fragile gem, is instead given the task of writing a natural history. Though it’s said to be a vitally important job, Phos isn’t particularly pleased but comes to realize that many of the other gems aren’t wholly satisfied with their lots either. The first volume’s theme is “searching for purpose” which at this point seems to apply both to the series itself as well as to its characters. At first the narrative feels somewhat directionless, generally serving as a vehicle for stunning visuals and not much else, but once the peculiar world and characters have been thoroughly established, a tantalizing potential for greater drive and meaning begins to coalesce.

Sacred HeartSacred Heart by Liz Suburbia. Sacred Heart is Suburbia’s debut graphic novel, a completely redrawn version of her webcomic by the same name. When Ben Schiller comes across the dead body of someone she knows very early on in the comic–a moment that is acknowledged but passes with surprisingly little excitement or comment–it’s one of the first clues that something is off about the town of Alexandria. Eventually it’s revealed that all of the adults have left, supposedly to return, but no one knows when that will be. In the meantime the teenagers have the run of the place, waiting for their parents and distracting themselves from their predicament by spending their time partying and hooking up. But that can only last for so long–tensions are high and more and more people are dying under peculiar circumstances. While there is an underlying and marvelously ominous unease pervading the story, Suburbia also shows a great sense of humor in the comic. The very end of Sacred Heart was a bit abrupt and not everything is completely explained (which admittedly isn’t necessary), but for the most part I really enjoyed the comic and would be interested in reading more of Suburbia’s work. Fortunately, it seems that Suburbia has plans for three more volumes to follow Sacred Heart as sequels.

Whispered Words, Omnibus 2Whispered Words, Omnibuses 2-3 (equivalent to Volumes 4-9) by Takashi Ikeda. While I enjoyed Whispered Words from its very start, I do feel that it’s a series that gets even better as it progresses. Though there is still a fair amount of humor, Ikeda largely moves away from the over-the-top ridiculousness found in the early series in favor of a more mature exploration of Sumika and Ushio’s changing relationship. It’s extremely unfortunate then that the quality of One Peace Books’ edition somehow manages to get even worse as it goes along. Probably most problematic is that partway through the third and final omnibus a page was skipped. The series is still readable, but the flow of the manga and the two-page spreads are completely ruined as a result. Ikeda has a tendency to develop the story by simultaneously exploring the character’s feelings and experiences from multiple points in time. It’s a technique that can be quite effective, but the printing error can make the transitions between the flashforwards and flashbacks jarring. I do believe the publisher corrected the issue of the missing page in later printings, so it’s something to be aware of and look out for. Quality control aside, Whispered Words is generally a pretty great yuri series. (It also gets bonus points from me for being about karate, too.)

My Week in Manga: July 3-July 9, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I announced the winner of the Summer Spookiness manga giveaway. The post also includes some of the manga available in English that incorporate Japanese folklore, ghosts, or urban legends in some way. Otherwise, it was a rather quiet week except for the fact that on Friday evening I discovered that the room I was storing a bunch of my books in had flooded thanks to a broken radiator pipe. So, a fair amount of my Friday night and weekend was spent on recovery efforts and assessing the damage. All things considered, I came out of the whole thing pretty well. Although I did lose some material, and it was heartbreaking, I was able to save the majority of the books. (I’m really glad I took the preservation and conservation class during library school!) Fortunately, only two of the severely damaged books were truly irreplaceable. One is just about dry enough now that I can start to try pressing it back into shape and the other is currently in the freezer. They won’t necessarily be pretty, but they should still be readable when I’m through.

Anyways! On to the licensing news and announcements made during the final days of Anime Expo: Among other things, Kodansha Comics revealed the details behind the new Eternal Edition of Naoko Takeuchi’s Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, confirmed the print edition of CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, and announced Yukito Kishiro’s Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle. (Kodansha is also continuing its trend of calling manga digital-first with no real indication that a print edition will ever emerge.) As for Kodansha’s sister company Vertical Comics, we have City by Keiichi Arawi, Moteki by Mitsuro Kubo, Strangulation by Nisioisin, and My Boy by Hitomi Takano to look forward to. Seven Seas announced a number of manga and light novels, too: Ryo Shirakome and Takayaki’s Arifureta; Yuu Kamiya, Tsubaki Himana, and Sino’s Clockwork Planet; Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi’s Getter Robo Devolution; Akihito Tukushi’s Made in Abyss; Coolkyoushinja and Mitsuhiro Kimura’s Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: Kanna’s Daily Life; Kina Kobayashi’s Nameless Asterism Shoutarou Tokunou’s New Game; the continuation of Ichigo Takano’s Orange; Yuyuko Takemiya and Yasu’s Toradora; and Nozomu Tamaki’s Soul Liquid Chambers. Also, Udon Entertainment plans on publishing the Daigo the Beast and Infini-T Force manga. (Still waiting for Udon’s Rose of Versaille and Sugar Sugar Rune to make an appearance, though.)

Quick Takes

Boy, I Love YouBoy, I Love You edited by Kou Chen, Emily Forster, and Eric Alexander Arroyo. I had the delightful opportunity to meet the editors and a few of the other contributors of Boy, I Love You while at TCAF, but as one of the anthology’s Kickstarter backers I was well-aware of the anthology before that and was greatly looking forward to its release. The volume brings together six comics and one illustrated prose story by seven different creators, all of which take inspiration from the more wholesome aspects of the boys’ love genre. It’s a delightful collection with an appealing range of stories, everything from slice-of-life to mecha space battles. If I had to choose a favorite (which is difficult to do because all seven contributions are honestly great) it would probably be Forster’s “Mix Plate” which incorporates themes of family and food along with the comic’s central romance. The focus of the stories in Boy, I Love You is primarily on relationships and how the characters’ navigate them and their feelings. While as a whole the anthology is fairly chaste–the physical closeness that’s shown between the men is largely limited to a few kisses and embraces–the intimacy expressed in the stories is undeniable. Boy, I Love You is a highly enjoyable and heartfelt anthology of queer stories.

Dreamin' Sun, Volume 1Dreamin’ Sun, Volume 1 by Ichigo Takano. Orange, the first of Takano’s manga to be released in English translation, left a huge and personally significant impression on me. As a result, when Dreamin’ Sun was licensed for an English-language edition, too, it immediately caught my attention. Shimana Kameko is terribly unsatisfied with her life and so, without putting much thought into it, she decides to run away from home. While playing hooky from school she meets Fujiwara Taiga in a nearby park, a man who has left home for an entirely different reason–he’s been kicked and locked out of his house for being drunk. He offers to rent Kameko a room but among other things she will have help retrieve the keys first. I unquestionably love the quirky and increasingly large cast of Dreamin’ Sun, but the story itself is somewhat lackluster at this point. I’m also finding it a little difficult to believe that Kameko’s father would so readily let his high school daughter move out of their home. However, the narrative does hint at a familial backstory that hasn’t yet been fully revealed which may go far to help explain his decision. While Dreamin’ Sun isn’t nearly as compelling as Orange, I certainly wouldn’t mind reading more of the series. The first volume was goofy and a little ridiculous, but not at all in a bad way.

Erased, Omnibus 2Erased, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 3-4) by Kei Sanbe. While the beginning of Erased took a little while to fully click with me, by the end of the first omnibus I was thoroughly hooked on the series. After inexplicably traveling back in time to his childhood, Satoru Fujinuma is doing all that he can to try to stop a series of kidnappings and murders he knows is about to happen. Thanks to a strange ability that he calls “Revival,” he has been able to change things in his past before, but saving the lives of his classmates and friends is proving to be an extraordinary challenge. Sanbe’s artwork in Erased can be a little inconsistent and unrefined at times, but the story has become truly gripping. Not only is Satoru faced with trying to solve the deadly mysteries from earlier in his life, in the present day he’s also being skillfully framed for the murder of his mother and he must find a way to prove his innocence. The two situations are closely linked together and Satoru is understandably desperate to find answers. There are also some really touching moments in Erased as Satoru grows as a person–although he’s worried for their safety and doesn’t want to endanger anyone, he’s finally able to start accepting help from and form meaningful relationships with other people.

Mysterious Girlfriend X, Omnibus 1Mysterious Girlfriend X, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Riichi Ueshiba. I had already heard a fair amount about Mysterious Girlfriend X before reading the first omnibus, but I wasn’t at all anticipating how surprisingly charming the series would be. Ueshiba’s illustrations can actually be pretty cute, too. That being said, Mysterious Girlfriend X is an incredibly weird manga and many people won’t be able to get past the drool and literal swapping of spit around which much of the story revolves. Akira Tsubaki is a fairly normal high school student but his first girlfriend, the newly transferred Mikoto Urabe, most definitely is not. If she is destined to have a close bond with someone, she is able to convey her feelings to them through her drool and she can likewise understand their feelings from their drool. She’s also phenomenally talented when it comes to using scissors, either artistically or in self-defense, and she always keeps a pair tucked away in her panties. Much about Urabe unknown, but after tasting her drool, Tsubaki can’t seem to help but fall in love with her. In general, Mysterious Girlfriend X tends to be somewhat episodic in nature although Tsubaki and Urabe’s strangely heartwarming relationship can be seen to very slowly progress over the course of the first omnibus.