My Week in Manga: July 28-August 3, 2014

My News and Reviews

Another week, another few posts at Experiments in Manga. First up was my most recent manga giveaway. Tell me about your favorite mecha manga (if you have one) for a chance to win the first volume of Mohiro Kito’s Bokurano: Ours. (The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to send in comments!) The first in-depth manga review of August went to In Clothes Called Fat, the most recent manga by Moyoco Anno to have been released in English. I honestly believe it to be one of the best comics of the year. (Well, at least out of those that I’ve read so far.) I also posted July’s Bookshelf Overload over the weekend for those of you who are interested in the manga that I purchase or otherwise receive over the course of a month.

Elsewhere online, Sparkler Monthly is celebrating its first year of publication by offering a free sampler download that includes the first chapter of all of its series—prose, comics, and audio dramas. Deb Aoki has a nice overview of some of the manga happenings at this years San Diego Comic Con over at Publishers Weekly. Jamie Coville has also posted audio for some of the SDCC panels, including a few focusing on manga. (Actually, there are a ton of manga related files on that page from past comic events, too.)

August 1 was 801 Day (aka Yaoi or Boys’ Love Day), and though probably not technically related the most recent Manga Studies column at Comics Forum focused boys’ love research in Japan. (Did you know that Guin Saga‘s Kurimoto Kaoru was also a BL author, editor, and scholar? Now you do!) There have been a few new Fujojocast episodes posted recently, including one specifically for 801 Day. I found episode seven, Give what’s due to Saezuru, which talks about translation, adaptation, and frustrations over publishers’ quality and quality control to be especially interesting. SuBLime made a “new” license announcement—it has gained the digital rights to couple of series that were previously print-only. The announcement is particularly noteworthy because it seems to indicate that SuBLime was able to do this because the Japanese publishers are beginning to trust that fans won’t abuse digital downloads.

Quick Takes

Cowboy Bebop, Volume 1Cowboy Bebop, Volumes 1-3 written by Hajime Yatate and illustrated by Yutaka Nanten. Of the two Cowboy Bebop manga that were released (Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star being the other), Nanten’s series is the one that is most similar to the anime. This makes a fair amount of sense considering that both the anime and the Cowboy Bebop manga were written by the same group of creators, whereas Shooting Star was really its own thing. The Cowboy Bebop manga is closer in tone to the anime’s more humorous episodes, though there is some seriousness as well. The overarching plot dealing with Spike’s feud with Vicious is largely missing, however the other character’s backstories are all filled in a little bit more. The manga, like the much of the anime, is generally episodic. Most of the stories wouldn’t have been too out-of-place with the anime itself, though for the most part I didn’t find them to be as strong as their televised counterparts. The manga will likely appeal most to those who have seen the anime and would like a chance to spend some additional time with the characters; the manga feels like bonus material and deleted scenes rather than anything substantial.

Deadlock, Volume 1Deadlock, Volume 1 written by Saki Aida and illustrated by Yuh Takashina. Though technically a boys’ love series, not much has happened in the way of romance after the first volume of Deadlock. However, there is a good deal of plot to be found, and I think that it’s a more interesting manga because of that. Yuto Lennix is a drug investigator who was framed for the murder of his best friend and partner. Incarcerated in the Californian state prison system, he has been given the chance to reduce his sentence by helping the FBI to determine the identity of terrorist leader who is believed to be a fellow inmate. That of course is assuming he doesn’t get himself killed first. It’s a somewhat idealized version of prison—everyone is very good-looking for one—but the portrayal of the racial tensions within the system is surprisingly realistic and generally avoids using stereotypes. So far, Deadlock has a fairly large cast. The social dynamics between the prisoners are a very important part of the manga as Yuto learns his place in the hierarchy while he carries out his investigation. Deadlock is currently an ongoing series; I sincerely hope that future volumes will be licensed when they’re released as well.

Madara, Volume 1Madara, Volumes 1-5 written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Shou Tajima. Apparently, Madara was one of CMX’s debut manga. I’ve been discovering some fantastic series from CMX. Sadly, Madara is not one of them. I initially became interested in the series because the creators are also responsible for the extraordinarily dark and graphic MPD-Psycho. The premise of Madara also appealed to me—a young man prophesied to be king fighting demons to restore the body that his father tried to destroy—but that’s probably because it’s so similar to Osamu Tezuka’s Dororo. Except that Dororo is actually good. Madara comes across as a fairly generic sword-and-sorcery RPG more than anything else. (The series actually did go on to inspire several video games, and even an anime.) It also seems as though Otsuka and Tajima are just making things up as they go. There’s not much of an ending, either. Small glimmers of Tajima’s stunning art style (which I love) can be seen, especially towards the end of the series, but the illustrations in Madara are tragically lacking in comparison. Granted, it is a much earlier series. Here’s a fun fact about Madara, though: the series was created in a left-to-right format.

Sonny Leads, Volume 1Sonny Leads, Volume 1 written by Richard Mosdell and illustrated by Genshi Kamobayashi. Sonny Leads holds a black belt in karate but he’s unsatisfied with his progress and so has come to Japan to further his training. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does, and he’s in for a bit of a culture shock, too. Both Mosdell and Kamobayashi are karateka and instructors. Their knowledge of and passion for karate definitely comes through in Sonny Leads. I especially like Kamobayashi’s artwork. Particular attention is given to the proper and realistic presentation of karate forms and stances as well as to more subtle details like the appearance of the knuckles developed and used for punches and strikes. As with most of Manga University’s publications, there’s also a strong educational element present in Sonny Leads—it’s possible to learn a bit of Japanese language and culture while reading it. A very interesting essay about high school karate clubs as well as a directory to the various karate organizations in Japan are also included in the volume. I’m not sure that Sonny Leads will have much general appeal, but as a karateka myself I’d be curious to see more of the series.

My Week in Manga: June 30-July 6, 2014

My News and Reviews

The first week of the month tends to be a little slow at Experiments in Manga (at least it feels slow to me). Granted, there were still three posts last week. The Juné Manga Giveaway Winner was announced, which also includes a list of some favorite Juné manga. June’s Bookshelf Overload was posted. (My wallet thanks me that June was a little less ridiculous than the last few month have been.) And finally, the first in-depth manga review of July goes to Battle Royale: Angels’ Border. Written by the author of the original Battle Royale novel, the volume collects two side stories about the girls who try to survive the death match by banding together at a lighthouse. Angels’ Border is surprisingly romantic, but if you know anything about Battle Royale, you know that things don’t end very well for almost anyone involved.

There were plenty of things that I found to read online last week. Here’s a quick list of a few of the posts that I thought were particularly interesting: Ryan Holmberg takes a look at Hayashi Seiichi’s pop music manga, specifically focusing on “Flowering Harbour” (which is now available in English!) Moyoco Anno was interviewed by Publishers Weekly. The Beautiful World has created a Transgender Manga Masterpost. J. R. Brown has a fascinating article about what can be gleaned by paying attention to the details of ukiyo-e prints. And Justin has a rant about the state of manga in translation that is worth reading. Also, Anime Expo was last week and there were a ton of announcements. Sean has a good roundup of the licenses at A Case Suitable for Treatment.

Quick Takes

Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star, Volume 1Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star by Cain Kuga. Of the two Cowboy Bebop manga, Shooting Star was actually the first to be released in Japan although it was the second series to be published in English. Technically, it also preceded the Cowboy Bebop anime series, which I hadn’t previously realized. However, it’s still based on the anime. Kuga was given free rein with the characters and story, which makes Shooting Star not exactly a retelling but more like an alternate version or universe. The manga isn’t as dark as the anime (though there’s humor to be found there as well), and the story is somewhat different, but the basic premise of near-future bounty hunters in space remains. Frankly, though vaguely entertaining in places, Shooting Star just isn’t as good as the anime, the action can be difficult to follow, and the slapstick is a little too silly for my taste. Shooting Star will most likely be of interest to established fans of the Cowboy Bebop anime as a curiosity more than anything else. Even though Shooting Star mostly stands on its own, people who haven’t seen the anime probably won’t get much out of it.

I Shall Never Return, Volume 1I Shall Never Return, Volumes 1-5 by Kazuna Uchida. Although the first volume of I Shall Never Return is a little shaky at the start (and parts of Ken’s stepfather’s backstory seem to be unnecessary and superfluous), overall I was actually rather impressed with this short boys’ love series. Ken comes from a broken home and is a high school dropout. His best friend Ritsuro was the only stable thing in his life but now they’re having problems, too. I Shall Never Return is filled with drama and deals with some very mature themes, such as abuse, drug use, prostitution, and rape. Terrible things happen and I was constantly waiting for something even worse. But there are also some wonderful moments of support, love, and acceptance. One of the things that I found particularly interesting about I Shall Never Return is that while it’s definitely a romance, the two leads actually spend much of the series apart from each other. Ritsuro remains in Japan while Ken travels to Singapore and then to India, trying to find a new start and become a better person. They have to deal with a long-distance relationship at the same time they’re coming to terms with their feelings for each another. It’s a believable and difficult process.

Knights of Sidonia, Volume 8Knights of Sidonia, Volumes 8-9 by Tsutomu Nihei. Maybe it’s because the manga’s such a bizarrely quirky series—a strange mix of science fiction, horror, and romantic comedy—but I can’t help but love Knights of Sidonia a little more with each passing volume. Nagate, Tsumugi, and Izana make a marvelous and frequently awkward family unit. And even considering that Tsumugi is a monstrous human-Gauna hybrid, she manages to be endearingly charming, sweet, and adorable. Nagate continues to be socially inept, though certainly less so, and Izana has fallen more in love with him, which has triggered physical changes. The three of them together are simply delightful, forming a not quite love triangle. In direct contrast to the humor and cheerfulness surrounding the trio, humanity’s fight for survival against the Gauna remains terrifyingly intense and death tolls continue to rise. Sometimes the battles can be a little difficult to follow, but they’re always exhilarating. There are some definite sexual overtones to Knights of Sidonia in these two volumes, which are especially apparent in the artwork, but this appropriately adds to the series’ more disconcerting atmosphere.

This One SummerThis One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. The Tamakis are a pair of cousins who previously worked together on the award-winning graphic novel Skim. This One Summer is their second collaboration. The story follows Rose over the course of her family’s summer vacation at Awago Beach where they have always rented a cottage. Rose’s mother has become more distant over the last year and can’t seem to relax, creating a significant amount of tension. There are reasons for that, though, and Rose is more perceptive than her parents might realize. But because communication has broken down between them all, it may be a while before everything will be okay again. Meanwhile, Rose spends time with her friend Windy, enjoying the beach and bingeing on horror films that they probably shouldn’t be watching at their age. In the background another drama is unfolding among the local teenagers when one of the young women discovers that she might be pregnant. It’s heartbreaking to see how insidious sexism can be. In addition to the strong and effectively layered storytelling in This One Summer, the artwork is beautiful as well.

YowamushiPedalYowamushi Pedal, Episodes 15-26 directed by Osamu Nabeshima. This set of episodes finishes up the Sohoku racing club’s grueling training camp and then launches almost directly into the Inter-High race, following the competition up through the first section of the first day and ending with one heck of a dramatic plot development. Yowamushi Pedal manages to be incredibly exciting, mostly due the intensity and passion of the characters and because it includes just a touch of the ridiculous. More characters and teams are introduced, and more backstories and rivalries are revealed in this part of the series, too. The animation is sadly a bit inconsistent, sometimes impressively good while at other times lacking in finesse. Although I enjoy cycling, I’ve never really followed road racing closely. I was surprised to learn just how much teamwork can go into it; I’d always assumed it was more of an individual event. I’ve also enjoyed learning more about some of the strategies involved in racing. (And I’ll admit, now that the weather is finally decent where I live I really want to get my bike out again and hit the road! Who says watching anime can’t be good for you?)

My Week in Manga: June 27-July 3, 2011

My News and Reviews

Okay! You only have a couple more days to enter my most recent manga giveaway. We’re talking about samurai manga, so head over to Manga Giveaway: Rorouni Kenshin Contest to enter for a chance to win a new copy of the first Rurouni Kenshin omnibus. The winner will be announced Wednesday, July 6. And for those who are interested in what sort of manga and other goodies I’ve managed to recently procure, I posted the Bookshelf Overload for June. Not much else to report right now except that I’ll be going on an extended vacation pretty soon. Hopefully, there shouldn’t be any interruption to my normal posting schedule. That’s the plan, anyway; I’m still in the process of working things out.

I’ve made some updates to the Resources page. Unfortunately, Manga Views no longer seems to be running, so I’ve removed it from the list. But, I’ve also added three more resources: Manga Connection, Japanamerica, and Comic Attack. Comic Attack isn’t specifically about manga, but they do have a regular feature called Bento Bako Weekly (although it’s often more than weekly) that is worth keeping an eye on.

Quick Takes

Nightmare Inspector: Yumekui Kenbun, Volumes 3-9 by Shin Mashiba. Nightmare Inspector is mostly episodic except for the ninth volume which ties everything together and reveals the truth behind Hiruko. The final volume is just about perfect. I don’t want to spoil the ending but I will say it is highly appropriate for a series that’s all about nightmares. The series is very dark and genuinely disconcerting. Knowing each story will end with some kind of grim twist doesn’t make it any easier. Hiruko gives each dreamer what they ask for and the results can be terrifying. There are a few humorous episodes, but their tone is so different from the rest of the series that I find it difficult to consider them part of the main story.

Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! by Fumi Yoshinaga. I found Not Love to be a charming little collection about friendship and the love of food. Each chapter features an actual restaurant in Tokyo, complete with locations, recommendations, and how much you should expect to spend for a meal. With plenty of self-deprecating humor and quirky “characters” (the manga is fairly autobiographical), Not Love is also delightfully amusing. Despite the obvious importance of food and eating, I’m not sure I would actually call Not Love a food manga. Instead it seems to me to be more about the relationships people develop around the table. And not just their relationships with the food, either, but their relationships with each other as well.

Not Simple by Natsume Ono. Not Simple is a tragic tale. A really, really tragic tale. Made worse by the fact that despite some melodramatic elements, it’s actually a fairly realistic story. Not Simple was the first of Ono’s works to be made available in English. It’s also one of her earlier works, so her distinctive art style was still in the process of maturing. The narrative is interesting in that the story is framed within another story, leaving it up to the reader to interpret the ambiguity and determine how much is true and how much has been embellished. But either way, it’s not an easy read. Ian is a very pure and innocent character. He’s a little odd, but he’s certainly not at fault for the way things turn out.

Your Love Sickness by Kuku Hayate. Okay, I’ll admit it. I picked up Your Love Sickness because it’s boys’ love and had a dragon in it (specifically, the story “Disappearing into the Dew.”) The title story features kitsune in love, or at least in devoted infatuation. And if anthropomorphism doesn’t float your boat, Hayate turns from the supernatural to the more mundane in the final two stories. “Cheeping” finds a model and the local bento shop owner locking eyes (as well as a bit more) and “Cross My Heart” sees two friends reunited only to find their developing relationship to be rather problematic since one has grown up to be a detective and the other is yakuza. Your Love Sickness is a fun collection with interesting stories with interesting character designs to fit.

Cowboy Bebop, Episodes 1-26 directed by Shinichirō Watanabe. Cowboy Bebop holds a special place in my heart. It is the very first anime series that I saw in its entirety and I frequently re-watch parts of it. I even have the opening theme song, “Tank!,” set as my ringtone. (The music, by Yoko Kanno, is actually one of my favorite things about the series.) It has been a while since I’ve sat down and watched the whole series through from start to finish, though. I’d forgotten how odd some of the episodes were—at times, Cowboy Bebop can be a rather eccentric series. But there’s also plenty of action, with dramatic gunfights and theatric hand-to-hand combat, humor, and a good overarching story.

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

My News and Reviews

I’ve more or less gotten back on schedule after my vacation. Not much news to speak of, although I have some fun things in store for all of you out there. An interesting story about my third volume of Challengers: I went to read it only to discover that it was volume two hiding in the dust jacket of volume three. I have never seen something like this happen before, but the folks at Akadot Retail (from whom I ordered the books several months ago) were marvelous to work with in fixing the situation.

I did review Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Slum Online this past week which I’m pretty sure was a light novel. If you like video games, you’ll probably enjoy it, and if you don’t, you might still enjoy it. There is also another As Seen Online post with links to all sorts of interesting things.

I’ve added a few more sites to the Resources page. I don’t remember how I stumbled across Kathryn Hemmann’s Contemporary Japanese Literature, but it was a very happy accident. The blog features book reviews for everything from nonfiction to manga. I’ve also added Manga Worth Reading, which is a part of Comics Worth Reading sites, A Feminist Otaku, which explores gender issues in manga and anime, and the news and review site Manga Xanadu.

Quick Takes

Challengers, Volumes 3-4 by Hinako Takanaga. The third volume is probably my favorite in the entire series. While there is still plenty of humor and goofiness going on—it is a romantic comedy after all—the last two books take a slightly more serious turn. Though, I do giggle every time I read the phrase “Satan’s rape demons.” Anyway—we get a showdown between Kurokawa’s mother and Souichi, Morinaga admits to Souichi that he’s gay, a female coworker is out to rehabilitate Kurokawa, and Tomoe is given the opportunity to work in America. Challengers is followed by the series The Tyrant Falls in Love which focuses on Morinaga and Souichi.

Dining Bar Akira by Tomoko Yamashita. The first thing I want to say is that I absolutely adore the cover of Dining Bar Akira; it really does a great job of capturing the feeling of the story. Despite having fallen for one another, Akria and Torihara piss each other off so much. They’re complete opposites and it’s hilarious in a very realistic way. Yamashita’s art reminds me a little of est em’s which is not at all a bad thing. In addition to the main story there are also two shorts, “Foggy Scene” and “Riverside Moonlight.” The dialogue is a little hard to follow at times, but I really enjoyed this one-shot.

GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, Volumes 15-20 by Tohru Fujisawa. I do like this series, I do, I do. At this point, most of the material is completely new to me and doesn’t show up in the anime. The craziness, inappropriateness, and well intentioned insanity continues. While Onizuka has won over most of his students by now, he still has plenty to work out with their parents, other teachers, and the school administration. Now my only problem is that I haven’t been able to track down affordable copies of the last five books in the series. I’ll be keeping my eyes open, though.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie The Cowboy Bebop series was one of the first anime that I ever saw and remains one of my favorites. I don’t think the movie is quite as good, but it’s still pretty fantastic. It’s hard to go wrong with awesome music and awesome characters. Apparently, the movie is rated R for violence, which I hadn’t realized until now. The movie doesn’t seem to have the same sense of urgency as the series does, but granted the creators have almost two hours to explore one plot arc as opposed to under a half hour. Still, the movie is pretty great and even if you haven’t seen the series you should still be able to follow everything.