My Week in Manga: October 3-October 9, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga, the Yona of the Dawn Giveaway Winner was announced. The post also includes a list of a variety of shoujo fantasy manga available in English that have compelling female leads. That was about it from me last week other than the usual My Week in Manga post, but I am currently working on a feature for Ichigo Takano’s Orange and a review of Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko which I should hopefully be ready to share soon.

In licensing news, Viz Media will be releasing Yuhta Nishio’s After Hours yuri manga and has announced the acquisition of Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul:Re, Matsuri Hino’s Vampire Knight Memories, and Satoru Noda’s Golden Kamuy (which is the one I’m most interested in). Kodansha Comics announced a whole slew of licenses at New York Comic Con: Regarding My Reincarnation as a Slime by Fuse, Fairy Tail: Rhodonite by Shibano Kyouta, Kigurumi Defense Squad by Lily Hoshino, Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight by Rin Mikimoto, Waiting for Spring by Anashin, Love and Lies by Musawo Tsumugi, Ahogaru: Clueless Girl by Hiroyuki, Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty by Mei Morino, Frau Faust by Kore Yamazaki (the creator of The Ancient Magus’ Bride, so I’ll definitely be trying the series), and Land of the Lustrous by Haruko Ichikawa.

As for Kickstarter projects, Digital Manga announced that Under the Air and The Crater will be part of it’s upcoming Osamu Tezuka project, though I’m not sure when that will actually take place. As for a few projects that are currently underway that have caught my eye there’s the contemporary comics essay zine Critical Chips, the Johnny Wander omnibus Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us, and the second volume of O Human Star, which is a fantastic science fiction comic with queer themes.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan AnthologyAttack on Titan Anthology edited by Ben Applegate and Jeanine Schaefer. While I wouldn’t consider myself to be a diehard of Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan, I do largely enjoy the series. One of the things that I actually find most interesting about the series is how it has become a worldwide phenomenon. Attack on Titan Anthology is a prime example of that, bringing together works by numerous Western comics creators which explore the world and characters of Isayama’s original Attack on Titan. There are some pretty big names among the contributors from both mainstream and independent comics. The result is spectacular and even better than I expected. I love the variety found in the works included in Attack on Titan Anthology. The stories range from darkly comedic to deadly serious (Asaf and Tomer Hanuka’s “Memory Maze” actually almost made me cry), and each work is different from the others in both style and tone. Some take place directly in the world that Isayama has created while others parody or completely reimagine it. Attack on Titan is an exciting and engaging collection. As someone who is a fan of both Western and Japanese comics, I greatly enjoyed seeing some of my favorite creators tackle Attack on Titan in their own unique ways. I suspect the anthology will appeal most to people who are already familiar with Attack on Titan, but others might be drawn to it simply due to the specific creators involved. Either way, Attack on Titan Anthology is simply fantastic. The volume’s production-quality is probably the best that I’ve seen from Kodansha Comics, too.

Avialae, Chapter 1Avialae, Chapters 1-2 by Lucid. Every once in a while, I pick up a comic knowing nothing about it other than the fact that I really like the cover art. That’s how I came to find out about Avialae–I saw the first chapter at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival in 2016 and had to read it. Avialae is actually a webcomic, the second chapter of which was just recently released in print. The artwork in the series is absolutely gorgeous, easily on par with the cover illustrations, and is able to effectively convey both body horror as well as erotic encounters as demanded by the story. The comic follows Gannet, a gay high school student who suddenly, and quite painfully, grows a pair of wings. Initially his next-door neighbor and classmate Gilbert is the only one who knows about Gannet’s transformation. As a result, their relationship undergoes some significant changes, too, and eventually becomes rather intimate. As far as sex goes, the first chapter is fairly tame while the second is much more explicit, easily earning the comic its 18+ rating. Avialae is marvelously sex-positive, the steamy scenes are entirely consensual, the sex is loving, and there’s plenty of communication between those involved. I find both Gannet and Gilbert to be endearing and I’m enjoying seeing how their relationship develops both physically and emotionally. Actually, all of the characters and their relationships, whether familial, romantic, or platonic, are incredibly well-realized  in Avialae. Also, much to my delight and surprise, Avialae includes a transguy and his portrayal is excellent.

Complex Age, Volume 2Complex Age, Volume 2 by Yui Sakuma. The first volume of Complex Age surprised me. Since I don’t have a particular interest in cosplay which is a major part of the manga’s premise, I was completely taken aback by how much I was able to identify with the series and Nagisa, its main character. Complex Age is about cosplay and reading the manga has even been somewhat educational, but to an even greater extent the series is about adult fans who have hobbies that many people feel are more suited to a younger age group. It’s about women in fandom and about keeping up appearances. It’s about finding a balance between work, family and friends, and personal interests and happiness. The first volume of Complex Age also included the Sakuma’s original one-shot manga “Complex Age” which deals with similar themes. It wasn’t initially clear exactly how or if the series would tie into the original. I was very happy to discover in Complex Age, Volume 2 that the one-shot and the series actually are directly related to one another–Sawako (from the one-shot) is in fact Nagisa’s mother. I’m excited to see Sawako’s story explored more in Complex Age. It’s interesting, and in some ways a little heartbreaking, to see the impact her decision to let go of her hobby has had on her life. Now that Nagisa knows more about her mother as a person I wonder how the knowledge of Sawako’s past will influence Nagisa’s own decisions in regards to her pursuit of cosplay. Complex Age continues to surprise and impress me; I’m looking forward to reading more.

The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Volume 4The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Volumes 4-5 by Hiromu Arakawa. Neither the characters or the story of The Heroic Legend of Arslan are especially nuanced and they come across as fairly standard for the genre, but the series is nevertheless engaging and the battles are exciting. That and I’ll always glad to see more work by Arakawa (and in this case by proxy Yoshiki Tanaka) available in English. At this point in the series, Arslan and his small group of allies are fighting for their lives as they try to reach what remains of the Parsian forces along the border hoping to find reinforcements. They must face the Lusitanian invaders, confront Parsians with dubious loyalties, and contend with unknown powers working against them from the shadows. Not only that, the legitimacy of Arslan’s claim to the throne has been called into question. I enjoy historical fantasies which incorporate court and political intrigue, and The Heroic Legend of Arslan certainly has plenty of that. The forces of both Pars and Lusitania are fragmented and suffer from betrayals and infighting. The chaos this causes makes the situation increasingly dangerous and unpredictable; it is difficult know exactly what will happen next as alliances are made only to fall apart again. The Heroic Legend of Arslan can actually be pretty brutaldeath, whether from battle or assassination, is a frequent occurrence. Arakawa’s artwork, while not being overly grotesque or gruesome, does still show enough blood carnage that there’s no question as to what is happening. The horses have a very rough time of it, too.

Manga Giveaway: Complex Age Giveaway Winner

Complex Age, Volume 1And the winner of the Complex Age manga giveaway is… Sean Kleefeld!

As the winner, Sean (whose writing at Kleefeld on Comics and elsewhere I greatly enjoy) will be receiving a copy of Yui Sakuma’s Complex Age, Volume 1 as published in English by Kodansha Comics. I read (and reviewed) the first volume and was rather surprised by how much the manga resonated with me and wanted to spread the love. For this giveaway, I asked participants to tell me a little about the manga that they’ve read that included cosplay, the passion of Complex Age‘s main character. Check out the giveaway comments for the detailed responses, and check out below for a list!

Some of the manga available in English which include cosplay:
Anything and Something by Kaoru Mori
Complex Age by Yui Sakuma
Genshiken by Shimoku Kio
Genshiken: Second Season by Shimoku Kio
Girl Friends by Milk Morinaga
I, Otaku: Struggle in Akihabara by Jiro Suzuki
Kiss Him, Not Me by Junko
Lucky Star by Kagami Yoshimizu
Maid-sama! by Hiro Fujiwara
Maniac Road by Shinsuke Kurihashi
My Girlfriend’s a Geek by Rize Shinba
Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori
Servant X Service by Karino Takatsu
Sunshine Sketch by Ume Aoki

The above list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it does have some variety. Although cosplay doesn’t take precedence in many series (or at least in many of the series that have been translated), there are numerous examples of manga where there’s a character who is into cosplay or a class that sponsors a cosplay cafe for a school festival. Manga with otaku themes usually mention it at least in passing, too. And depending on the definition being used, cosplay can be found in plenty of the more… ahem… adult-oriented manga of various ilk (which I decided to leave off the list this time). Anyway! The list presented above contains series which include cosplay that either immediately came to my mind or that were mentioned in the giveaway comments and some feature cosplay more heavily than others. Thank you to everyone who participated in the giveaway; hope to see you again at Experiments in Manga!

Manga Giveaway: Complex Age Giveaway

While I’m currently following a more relaxed posting schedule at Experiments in Manga if there’s one thing that you’ll be able to count on it’s the monthly manga giveaway. And as it is now nearing the end of the June, it’s time for another one! This month you all have a chance to win a copy of Yui Sakuma’s Complex Age, Volume 1 as recently published in English by Kodansha Comics. As always, this giveaway is open worldwide!

Complex Age, Volume 1

I reviewed the first volume of Complex Age not too long ago and was surprised by how much I could identify with a manga that focuses on cosplay. Not that I have anything against cosplay. Quite the contrary, I admire the enthusiasm and devotion that so many cosplayers display and enjoy seeing the results of their efforts; it’s just that cosplay isn’t something that I’m personally invested or involved in. Complex Age is one of the few manga I know of in which cosplay has such a prominent role, but I can think of a few others that incorporate it in passing as well. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I tend to enjoy them, but Complex Age was the first to really hit close to home for me.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a copy of Complex Age, Volume 1?

1) Have you encountered cosplay in a manga? If so, tell me a little about it in the comments below! (If you haven’t, simply 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 simple as that. Everyone participating has one week to submit comments and can earn up to two entries each for this giveaway. If you prefer or if you have trouble with the comment form, you can also send your comments to phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com and they will be posted here in your name. The winner of the giveaway will be randomly selected and announced on July 6, 2016. Best of luck to you all!

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: Complex Age Giveaway Winner

Complex Age, Volume 1

Complex Age, Volume 1Creator: Yui Sakuma
U.S. publisher: Kodansha Comics
ISBN: 9781632362483
Released: June 2016
Original release: 2014
Awards: Tetsuya Chiba Award

I almost passed over the English-language debut of Yui Sakuma’s Complex Age, but I’m very glad that I took the opportunity I had to read it. Complex Age, Volume 1 was first released in Japan in 2014 while the English-language edition of the volume was released in 2016 by Kodansha Comics. I believe that Complex Age is currently the first and only professional work by Sakuma to have been released. The manga began in 2013 as a one-shot which won the Tetsuya Chiba Award. (That one-shot is also included in the first volume of Complex Age.) Then, in 2014, Complex Age was relaunched as a series. While the original one-shot and the longer series don’t appear to be directly related when it comes to characters and plot, they do share a similar basic premise—an adult woman who is growing older and coming to terms with what that means for her hobbies and interests. I actually didn’t know that was what Complex Age was really about before reading the first volume. I thought it was simply about cosplay and since cosplay—the passion of the series’ main character—isn’t a particular interest of mine, I wasn’t anticipating that the manga would be story that I would end up so closely identifying with.

Nagisa Kataura is twenty-six years old, lives with her parents, and works as a temp worker for a tutoring agency, but in her spare time she is an accomplished and admired cosplayer. Her favorite character to cosplay is Ururu from the anime Magical Riding Hood Ururu who represents everything she wants to be as a person. Nagisa pours herself into her creations and is known for her attention to detail and high-quality work. She does all that she can to achieve perfection and to completely embody a character. However, despite cosplay being such a huge part of her life, she keeps her hobby a secret from her family and coworkers. Now that she’s an adult it’s become even more difficult for Nagisa to share her passion with people who aren’t already accepting of cosplay; it’s considered by many to be a frivolous hobby more suited for much younger fans. As she ages, Nagisa becomes more and more self-conscious about her cosplaying and the criticism that she receives becomes harder and harder for her to take. And yet Nagisa still loves what she does and cosplay is a very important part of who she is.

Complex Age, Volume 1, page 32At first, I wasn’t sure that I really liked Nagisa. The opening chapter begins with her preparing for an event at which she will be cosplaying Ururu, putting an incredible amount of effort into making sure that everything is just right. But while she is at the event she is exceptionally rude and judgemental of the other people there, her behavior culminating in an outburst in which she harshly and publicly criticizes another cosplayer for not respecting the hobby and for not taking it seriously enough. However, as Complex Age progresses, Nagisa becomes a much more sympathetic, or at least understandable, character. The reason she is so sensitive is that her confidence, self-worth, and personal identity are almost irrevocably intertwined with her cosplaying. And so what Nagisa perceives as an insult to the hobby becomes an insult to her personally; when someone else is more talented or more physically suited to portray her favorite characters, she can only see her own faults and limitations being emphasized in comparison. She’s genuinely afraid that she is getting too old for cosplay and that voluntarily giving it up or being rejected by others because of her looks or age would result in her losing a large part of herself.

Before reading Complex Age I didn’t know much at all about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into cosplay, but the manga generally  incorporates those sorts of interesting details quite nicely into the story. I’m still not particularly interested in or personally invested in cosplay myself, but Complex Age still resonated with me a great deal. Like Nagisa, I’m an adult interested in media and hobbies that many people look down upon or generally associate with a younger age group (in my case, manga and comics among other things). I also know quite well and understand the dangers of allowing a passion to define one’s self or to impact one’s self-esteem. I have dealt with and, if I’m completely honest, continue to deal with many of the same uncertainties, insecurities, and struggles that Nagisa faces in Complex Age. While so far I do like the series, I think that the Complex Age one-shot about Sawako, a thirty-four-year-old woman letting go of her passion for dressing in Gothic Lolita fashion, made an even greater impression on me. (Also, Sawako’s husband is pretty great.) I’m very curious to see if Sakuma will take Nagisa’s story in a similar direction or if ultimately the Complex Age series will be a little less bittersweet than its predecessor.

Thank you to Kodansha Comics for providing a copy of Complex Age, Volume 1 for review.