My Week in Manga: December 7-December 13, 2015

My News and Reviews

Okay! Last week I submitted my promotion dossier at work, which means I’ll be able to start paying more attention to Experiments in Manga again. I still have a few other life things preoccupying me at the moment, but I’m hoping to get back to my normal posting schedule by the beginning of the new year if not before. That being said, I only posted one in-depth review last week. Soji Shimada’s classic mystery novel The Tokyo Zodiac Murders was recently re-released in English, which seemed as good an excuse as any to get around to reading it. According to this interview with Shimada, if The Tokyo Zodiac Murders does well, the next book in the series might be translated, too, which I would definitely like to read.

As for other interesting things found online: Seven Seas’ ten-day licensing spree has now wrapped up. (The new license tag on Seven Seas’ tumblr is probably still the easiest place to see them all at once.) Out of all the announced titles the one I’m most curious about is Ichiya Sazanami’s Magia the Ninth which features master composers as demon hunters with music-based magic. (Sazanami is the creator of Black Bard which I likewise couldn’t resist because of the combination of music and magic.) And in case you need to catch up on all of the anime, manga, and light novel licenses announced in 2015, Reverse Thieves has you covered. Also of note, Manga Brog has translated an excerpt of an interesting interview of Kentaro Miura, the creator of Berserk.

Quick Takes

Captain Ken, Volume 1Captain Ken, Volumes 1-2 by Osamu Tezuka. I think that I’ve mentioned here before that I happen to have a particular fascination with Mars, which was one of the primary reasons that I was interested in reading Captain Ken. Of course, it didn’t hurt that series was also created by Tezuka. (Though granted, I would love to see more classic manga that isn’t by Tezuka released in English.) Captain Ken is basically a western in space—Mars has been deliberately developed to be reminiscent of the American Southwest, the primary mode of transportation is by (robotic) horse, and the Martians have met with the same tragic fate as the Native Americans. The series is an odd mashup of science fiction and western genre tropes and American history, including references to World War II and the dropping of the atomic bomb. (The portrayal of Americans, perhaps justifiably, isn’t especially flattering.) Captain Ken explores the same themes of anti-war and anti-discrimination found in many of Tezuka’s other manga. Overall, it’s an entertaining adventure story with a rather bittersweet ending.

Cross Game, Omnibus 6Cross Game, Omnibuses 6-8 (equivalent to Volumes 12-17) by Mitsuru Adachi. I still don’t have much of an interest in baseball when it comes to real life, but I’m completely invested in the sport when it comes to Cross Game. I’ve come to care tremendously about the characters in the series and, because baseball is incredibly important to so many of them, by proxy the baseball is important to me as well. Cross Game‘s last three omnibuses focus on the final year of high school baseball for Ko and his classmates. In fact, the eighth omnibus is almost entirely devoted to a single game—the last opportunity for the Seishu team to make Wakaba’s dream of seeing them play at summer Koshien a reality. They’ve worked hard as a team and have several players who are individually impressive as well, but that never guarantees a win. I’ve watched the Cross Game anime series, which turns out to have been a very faithful adaptation, so I knew how things would end. Even so, the manga is incredibly engaging and has a ton of heart. I never expected to be so taken with a baseball manga, but Cross Game is excellent.

U Don't Know MeU Don’t Know Me by Rakun. After a somewhat dubious beginning, I ended up really enjoying U Don’t Know Me. Plot-wise there’s a lot packed into this one-volume boys’ love manhwa and the characterization is quite good as well. Seyun and Yoojin are childhood friends who have only recently come to realize that they share feelings for each other which are much more lustful in nature. While the manhwa is primarily about Seyun and Yoojin and the evolution of their friendship into a romance, their relationships with their friends and families are also extremely important to the story. Context is provided for their love for earch another and the implications of that love. My favorite part of U Don’t Know Me was actually the response of the boys’ parents upon discovering their sons’ intimate relationship. Initially they were shocked and upset, but they ultimately give their love and support and are very involved in ensuring the well-being of both young men. The realistic portrayal of this sort of positive acceptance seems to be something of a rarity in boys’ love, so it makes me particularly happy when I see it.

My Week in Manga: November 23-November 29, 2015

My News and Reviews

Last week was Thanksgiving in the United States, which means that I was fairly busy traveling and visiting family. I still posted a couple of things at Experiments in Manga, though. Because it’s the end of the month, it’s also time for a manga giveaway. And, because it’s November, the giveaway is for multiple volumes. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win four first volumes of manga in the Kodansha Shoujo Smorgasbord giveaway. I also posted a review last week of Attack on Titan: Kuklo Unbound, which is an omnibus edition of the last two volumes in Ryo Suzukaze’s trilogy of novels which form a prequel to Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan manga series. It’s a pretty quick read, and provides an interesting perspective and backstory that fans of the franchise will appreciate.

Because I was traveling and visiting family, I didn’t spend much time online last week, but there were a few things that managed to catch my attention. Comics Forum’s Manga Studies column continued with “What are you reading? Approaches and reasons for looking at language in manga” by Giancarla Unser Schutz. Gengoroh Tagame’s Otouto No Otto (My Brother’s Husband) won a Japan Media Arts Award, which is kind of a big deal. Viz Media posted its Fall 2015 survey about anime and manga buying habits and convention attendance. And, in much sadder news, mangaka and yokai enthusiast Shigeru Mizuki has passed away.

Quick Takes

Behind Story, Volume 1Behind Story, Volume 1 by Narae Ahn. I’ve been trying to make a point to sample some of Netcomics’ recent releases which is what first brought Ahn’s boys’ love manhwa Behind Story to my attention. I wasn’t previously aware of the series, and I actually haven’t been able to find much information about Ahn, either. The the story didn’t initially engage me, likely because of the school setting which didn’t do much to distinguish itself, but by the end of the first volume I was left wanting more. Johann is a transfer student who is rumored to be gay, which means that most of his classmates avoid him, but recently Taehee has developed an interest in him. One of their teachers has, too, and Johann finds himself the target of an unhealthy and abusive obsession. Behind Story has tumultuous emotions and drama, with the potential to go in some very dark and dangerous directions. While the cover art of Behind Story is particularly striking, the interior artwork is attractive, too, although some of the transitions between scenes and flashbacks were occasionally difficult to follow.

Cross Game, Omnibus 2Cross Game, Omnibuses 2-5 (equivalent to Volumes 4-11) by Mitsuru Adachi. It’s been a long while since I read the first Cross Game manga omnibus or watched the anime series; I’d forgotten just how good the story is. I’m not even especially interested in baseball, and yet I find myself completely absorbed by Cross Game. Probably because the manga really is about more than just baseball, although the way that Adachi paces the games does makes them very exciting. And after reading the manga, I am able to better appreciate and understand the strategy involved in the sport. But for me, the baseball in Cross Game takes a backseat to the series’ exploration of love and loss. In more than one way, the characters are dealing with the utter unfairness of life. Sometimes they are able to triumph over adversity and it’s magnificent, but sometimes there is nothing to be done but to live and learn and try to move on as best as they can. Cross Game is a series that manages to be very emotionally resonant; I find that I’ve come to care about the characters and their well-being a great deal.

A Silent Voice, Volume 3A Silent Voice, Volume 3 by Yoshitoki Oima. I continue to be impressed with A Silent Voice and Oima’s willingness to include characters who are simply awful people. It does make the series a little difficult or unpleasant to read at times, but the manga is still very well done. Fortunately, the series isn’t completely depressing. There’s hope for redemption and the promise that, while the mistakes of the past can’t be undone, people can indeed change for the better. It’s a lesson that Shoya is still learning as he is constantly reminded of and trying to make up for how horrible he once was. Though he has apologized and sincerely regrets the actions of his sixth-grade self, he’s uncertain whether or not he actually deserves to be forgiven and what his motivations in seeking forgiveness truly are. Shoya is still a little oblivious and self-centered when it comes to his relationships with other people, and he still makes plenty of mistakes, but he is slowly beginning to grow and mature and form honest friendships. His heart at least is in the right place, and he has become a much more sympathetic character over the last few volumes.

Manga Giveaway: Cross Game Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the Cross Game Giveaway is…Lilian!

As the winner, Lilian will receive a copy of the first volume of the English edition of Cross Game by Mitsuru Adachi. As part of the Cross Game Giveaway, I wanted to learn about everyone’s favorite sports manga, a genre that I never expected to like but do anyway. I’ve compiled a list here of some sports and game manga that have been licensed in English, but be sure to check out the Cross Game Giveaway comments for entrant’s personal favorites. I’ve expanded the list to encompass games mostly as an excuse to include Hikaru No Go, which I love. I’ve also included a few titles like Hana-Kimi which may not be sports manga per se, but in which a sport is an important element.

Some of the sports and game themed manga available in English:

Air Gear by Oh!Great
Ashen Victor by Yukito Kishiro
Baki the Grappler by Keisuke Itagaki
Bamboo Blade written by Masahiro Totsuka, illustrated by Aguri Igarashi
Battle Club by Yuji Shiozaki
Boys of Summer written by Chuck Austen, illustrated by Hiroki Otsuka
Crimson Hero by Mitsuba Takanashi
Cross Game by Mitsuru Adachi
Diamond Girl by Takanori Yamazaki
Eyeshield 21 written by Riichirou Inagaki, illustrated by Yuusuke Murata
Girl Got Game by Shizuru Seino
Hana-Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo
Harlem Beat by Yuriko Nishiyama
Hikaru No Go written by Yumi Hotta, illustrated by Takeshi Obata
Laugh Under the Sun by Yugi Yamada
Love Round!! by Hinako Takanaga
My Heavenly Hockey Club by Ai Morinaga
Ninja Baseball by Shunshin Maeda
One-Pound Gospel by Rumiko Takahashi
Prince of Tennis by Takeshi Konomi
Real by Takehiko Inoue
Rebound by Yuriko Nishiyama
Sasameke by Ryuji Gotsubo
Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue
Sugar Princess by Hisaya Nakajo
Suzuka by Kouji Seo
Swan by Kyoko Ariyoshi
Ultimate Muscle by Yude Tamago
Whistle! by Daisuke Higuchi

Manga Giveaway: Cross Game Giveaway

The end of March approaches, which means it is yet again time for a manga giveaway! Today also marks the start of the 2012 Major League Baseball season. So, I thought it would be appropriate that this month’s giveaway should be for a brand new copy of the first volume of Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game, Volume 1 as published by Viz Media. (This edition is actually equivalent to the first three volumes of the series.) As always, the contest is open world-wide.

I never really expected to enjoy sports manga. Not that I have anything against sports. I actually used to play soccer and softball in my youth. And as a member of marching and pep bands, I became quite familiar with American football and basketball from the stands. But, except for a bizarre obsession with curling, I’ve never really followed sports. Much to my surprise, I discovered that I actually quite like sports manga and anime. At the moment, my favorite is probably Takehiko Inoue’s Real, which features a realistic portrayal of wheelchair basketball. I was introduced to and pleasantly surprised by Cross Game, another sports manga, when it was featured as part of the Manga Moveable Feast last May.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win Cross Game, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me about your favorite sports manga. If you don’t have one, or have never read any, just mention that.
2) You can earn a second entry by simply naming a sports manga that hasn’t been mentioned yet by me or by someone else.
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can gain a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

There you have it! Each individual has the chance to earn up to three entries for this giveaway. You have one week to submit your comments. If you would prefer, or if you have trouble, you can also e-mail me your entries at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. I will then post the comments in your name. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on April 4, 2012. Good luck!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, 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: Cross Game Giveaway Winner

My Week in Manga: September 19-September 25, 2011

My News and Reviews

All right! Another week! And what sorts of goodies did I have for you all? First off was my review for Spice & Wolf, Volume 4. Isuna Hasekura’s light novel that is. (It also happens to be the 100th review posted on Experiments in Manga!) I haven’t delved into the manga version because I’m happily content with the novels. I also posted a review for Natsume Sōseki final novel and masterpiece Kokoro. I’ve been meaning to read it for over a year now. Fortunately, it was chosen as the September/October 2011 selection for the Japanese Literature Book Group. I’d also like to mention a review for Diana Wynne Jones’ novel Howl’s Moving Castle that I posted over on my book review site Experiments in Reading. If you’ve only seen the anime adaptation, which I have a quick take for below, you’re missing out on some great stuff.

And, as promised, a few interesting things that I’ve recently come across online. I don’t know much about the dance performance TeZukA other than the fact that I would really like to see it. Helen McCarthy, author of The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga, has a few things to say about it on her blog—TeZukA: bridges and doors. The BBC also has a few photos of the production which just make me want to see it eve more—In pictures: Manga meets contemporary dance in TeZukA. Over on Tofugu I came across a nice, concise introduction to the Takarazuka Revue, another performance group that I would love to see—Gender Bending Thespians Confuse and Amuse. Finally, the Young Adult Library Services Association had a great post over on their blog—Graphic Novelists You Should Know — Manga Edition. I heartily support their choices and recommendations.

Oh! If you happen to be in the Southeast Michigan area this coming weekend, Sunday is the Japan Festival in Novi. I went as a visitor last year and had a great time. This year I’ll actually be performing with my taiko group! The event is free and a lot of fun.

Quick Takes

Les Bijoux, Volumes 1-5 written by Jo Eun-ha and illustrated by Park Sang-sun. I really liked the conceit that the characters and their personalities and powers were based on various precious stones. I also liked that the main character changes between genders, although I don’t think it was handled as well as it could be. I get the impression that the series had to end earlier than the creators intended; it shows as they have to cram too much plot into the final volumes. Had they been given the chance to thoroughly explore their world and characters, I think Les Bijoux could have been great. As it is, the narrative is too choppy and requires the reader to fill in too many blanks. I did like the art though, and the men are very, very pretty.

Library Wars, Volumes 3-6 by Kiiro Yumi. I really wish this series was better than it actually is. I do still like it, though. Dojo by far is my favorite character. We get to see a bit more of his backstory in these volumes, which made me happy. It’s been obvious to readers (and to most of the other characters) since the beginning that he’s Iku’s prince although she hasn’t realized it yet. I’m starting to warm up to Iku a little, but it frustrates me that her passion often makes her look so damned incompetent. Her constant need to be rescued by Dojo makes for extremely repetitive scenes which is unfortunate. Although, it does mean Dojo gets more appearances which I’m always okay with. I’d really like to read the original light novels.

Love Attack, Volumes 1-2 by Shizuru Seino. Chiemi’s about to be expelled for fighting when her teacher makes a deal with her. If she can get her classmate Hirata to shape up, her record will be cleared. One flying kick to the face later, he’s in love and the two become the scariest couple in school. It’s the first serious relationship either of them have been in, and they are delightfully awkward with each other. I loved the first volume of Love Attack but didn’t like the second one nearly as well. The second volume was very silly and, while entertaining, the tone of the story just changed too much for me. The series is up to thirteen volumes in Japan and is still ongoing; Tokyopop managed to publish the first six.

Cross Game, Episodes 23-50 directed by Osamu Sekita. Even though I don’t really consider myself a fan of basball, I got incredibly caught up in and anxious over the games in Cross Game. I think I may have even cheered out loud on several occasions. The series keeps you guessing right up until the end whether or not the team will make it to Kōshien. I could honestly see the story going either way. Despite the palpable intensity of many of the baseball games, Cross Game is not a fast paced anime by any means. The plot and character development is slow and deliberate and yet it remains engaging throughout. The series is very good. Even if you’re not a sports fan, I’d still recommend giving it a try.

Howl’s Moving Castle directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Howl’s Moving Castle is loosely based on a novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones. Sophie has been cursed by the Witch of the Waste—although a young woman, she now appears to be ninety—and must seek the aid of the Wizard Howl to break it. While the basic premise, plot, and characters are very similar, Miyazaki takes the story in a very different direction. One of the most noticeable changes is the emphasis given to the war in Miyazaki’s version (he’s not very subtle about it at all.)  Howl’s Moving Castle is nowhere near my favorite film by Miyazaki, but I still found it to be enjoyable. I particularly liked the look and feel given to the castle itself.

Summer Wars directed by Mamoru Hosoda. I enjoyed Summer Wars immensely and am not at all surprised by the number of awards it has received. It has a great soundtrack, too. The Jinnouchi family is fantastic. Sure, there’s plenty of conflict, but they care for each other and are able to pull together when they need to. They all have distinct personalities, but good luck keeping everyone straight (there’s a lot of them.)While the anime’s not always very realistic, I didn’t really care and was thoroughly entertained. On the other hand, some of the problems caused by what basically amounts to “breaking the Internet” are very real. Visually, Summer Wars is a feast; it just looks great. The differences in style between the OZ network and real life are handled especially well.