My Week in Manga: September 11-September 17, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted August’s Bookshelf Overload which lists the manga, comics, and other media that found their way into my home last month. Otherwise, it was fairly quiet here at the blog, but I did come across some great interviews elsewhere online: Paul Semel interviewed author Kazuki Sakuraba whose novel A Small Charred Face will be released in translation this week. (I actually recently reviewed the book; it’s well-worth picking up.) Susannah Greenblatt interviewed Motoyuki Shibata, one of the cofounders of the Monkey Business literary magazine, discussing translation and Japanese literature among other things. (I’ve previously reviewed some of the early issues of Monkey Business.) And for something a little more manga-centric, Brigid Alverson interviewed manga editor Yumi Sukimune who works with Akiko Higashimura on Princess Jellyfish (which I greatly enjoy) in addition to other series.

And then there’s the licensing news from last week. Udon Entertainment, for example has plans to release Yuztan’s Dragon’s Crown manga adaptation. Most of last week’s manga and light novel licensing announcements came from another Seven Seas’ sprees, though: Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter manga by Reia and Suki Umemiya; two companion volumes to Kore Yamazaki’s The Ancient Magus’ Bride (which I’ll definitely be picking up); Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest manga by Ryou Hakumai and RoGa; the original Cutie Honey manga by Go Nagai; The Dungeon of Black Company manga by Youhei Yasumura; Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! light novels and manga by FUNA, Itsuki Akata, and Neko Mint; Go For It, Nakamura! manga by Syundei (probably the one I’m personally most excited about); Himouto! Umaru-chan manga by Sankaku Head; How Not to Summon a Demon Lord manga by Yukiya Murasaki and Naoto Fukuda; How to Treat Magical Beasts manga by Kajiya; Hungry For You: Endo Yasuko Stalks the Night manga by Flowerchild; If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord manga by CHIROLU and Hota; Little Devils manga by Uuumi; Mushroom Girls in Love, a one-volume manga by Kei Murayama; Precarious Woman Executive Miss Black General by Jin; Satan’s Secretary manga by Kamotsu Kamonabe; The Voynich Hotel manga by Seiman Doumanv. It’s an interesting mix!

Quick Takes

Delicious in Dungeon, Volume 2Delicious in Dungeon, Volume 2 by Ryoko Kui. I absolutely loved the first volume of Delicious in Dungeon and after reading the second volume my opinion of the series hasn’t changed–I still find it tremendously entertaining. The conceit of Delicious in Dungeon is fairly simple and straightforward. Basically, Kui has taken a dungeon-crawling adventure and turned it into a food manga. It’s a brilliant combination of subgenres with endless possibilities when it comes to the sheer variety monsters that could end up as a meal for the manga’s protagonists. While this alone could carry the series a fair distance (especially considering the immense creativity Kui exhibits in how fantasy creatures might be used to either directly or indirectly support an adventurer’s diet), Delicious in Dungeon also benefits from having a main cast that largely consists of a bunch of endearing goofballs. Kui has also started to expand on the actual worldbuilding of the series, too. While the manga still relies fairly heavily on the well-established tropes of fantasy role-playing games, small details are being introduced that make the setting of Delicious in Dungeon a little less generic. Of course, part of the series’ humor and charm is firmly based on Kui taking familiar fantasy elements and twisting them just a bit. It’s all great fun.

Sweetness & Lightning, Volume 6Sweetness & Lightning, Volumes 6-7 by Gido Amagakure. Although I love food manga, I never generally read a particular title thinking that I’ll actually make any of the recipes that might be contained within it. If I ever did, though, Sweetness & Lightning is probably the series that I would turn to. Since the main characters are in the process of learning to cook (and one of them is a preschooler about to start kindergarten), the dishes that they tackle typically tend to be within the reach of a beginner and aren’t usually overly-complicated. The fact that Sweetness & Lightning is a food manga is what initially brought the series to my attention, but at this point it’s really the characters which keep me coming back for more. I’m particularly impressed by the portrayal of the father-daughter relationship between Inuzuka and Tsumugi. Amagakure is also incredibly successful in depicting little kids in a convincing way. Sweetness & Lightning is in turns adorable and bittersweet, and these two volumes have some especially poignant and heartbreaking moments. Since Tsumugi is so young she still doesn’t entirely understand the death of her mother and Inuzuka still grieves the loss of his wife. But the sixth and seventh volumes also introduce more members of their extended family which was lovely.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 12What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 12 by Fumi Yoshinaga. The English-language edition of What Did You Eat Yesterday? has essentially caught up with the original Japanese release so the individual aren’t published as frequently as they once were, but I’m always very happy to get my hands on the latest installment in the series. The food in What Did You Eat Yesterday? is beautifully illustrated from start to finish. The individual ingredients, the techniques used, and the resulting dishes are wonderfully and realistically rendered. Visually, the people in What Did You Eat Yesterday? aren’t nearly as detailed as the food they are eating, but the believably complex and nuanced characterizations in the series is exceptional. The characters certainly have their personal flaws and Yoshinaga isn’t afraid to reveal them; rather than portraying some sort of romanticized ideal, Yoshinaga captures the messiness of real-life relationships in the series. It’s an approach that I particularly appreciate. What Did You Eat Yesterday? follows the day-to-day lives of two adult men who are in a committed, long-term relationship with each other which of course is something that I also greatly value. At times the food aspects of What Did You Eat Yesterday? seem tangential to everything else going on, but it’s still a great series.

My Week in Manga: June 5-June 11, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga, I announced the winner of the Anonymous Noise give away. The post also includes a list of manga which have characters who have notable singing voices. I got a particularly kick out of the fact that not all of the manga were necessarily music manga. Also, a bit of a heads up: I’m switching around my usual posting schedule. Normally the second week of the month would be devoted to the Bookshelf Overload feature, but I’ll be posting an in-depth review this week instead–Yeon-Sik Hong’s award winning manhwa Uncomfortably Happily is being released in English by Drawn & Quarterly on Tuesday and I’m working on putting the finishing touches on my write-up. Spoilers: I enjoyed the work immensely.

As for interesting reading elsewhere online: Hitomi Yoshio, a professor and translator, wrote a little about teaching Japanese Literature in Translation. And speaking of Japanese literature in translation, it looks like the second volume of Yu Godai’s Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner will finally be released sometime later this summer. (I enjoyed the first volume a great deal when it was published three years ago and sincerely hope that the wait between future volumes is much shorter.) I’ve known about the upcoming translation of Kazuki Sakuraba’s A Small Charred Face for a while, but now it’s official–Haikasoru will be releasing the novel in the fall. Sakuraba may best be known as the creator of Gosick, but my introduction to author’s work was through Red Girls: The Legend of the Akakuchibas, which I loved. Finally, I’d like to draw attention a series of fascinating Golden Kamuy Cultural Notes & Video References put together by @zeppelichi on Twitter.

Quick Takes

Blinded by the IceBlinded by the Ice by Saicoink (An Nguyen). In general, I don’t buy very many fan works or doujinshi, generally preferring to support artists’ original comics over their explorations of other people’s creations. However, I do occasionally make exceptions and I was very excited for Saicoink’s Yuri!!! on Ice fan book Blinded by the Ice. In addition to some bonus comics, illustrations, and research notes, the volume focuses on two main stories. The first and longest, Don’t Leave Me This Way, was probably my favorite comic of the two. I enjoyed Makes Me Think of You as well–it’s a charming and sweet holiday story which takes place after most of the events of the original anime series–but Don’t Leave Me This Way is the one that really impressed me. The comic is set in the late seventies and early eighties, featuring an alternative universe in which Victor and Yuri’s relationship must develop over both time and distance due to the fact that Victor is a high-profile athlete for the USSR. The only time the two of them can really meet in person is during competitions and even then it is very challenging and difficult. Blinded by the Ice is fantastic; I love the humor and insight that Saicoink brings to the stories and the time and effort Saicoink put into research really pays off, too.

Delicious in the Dungeon, Volume 1Delicious in Dungeon, Volume 1 by Ryoko Kui. I enjoy tabletop role-playing games (or at least enjoy being present while other people are playing them) and I love food manga, so Delicious in Dungeon was a series that immediately caught my attention. The groups that I’ve played pen and paper RPGs with actually tended to devote a fair amount of attention to the food within the games. Our adventures never quite turned out how it does for Laois and his dungeoning companions, though. When, partially due to hunger, his party is nearly wiped out by a dragon, Laois and the other survivors find themselves facing the prospect of having to launch a rescue mission to save one of their own. There’s just one problem: their supplies are limited and they don’t have any food. And so Laois proposes that they simply find what they need to eat and sustain themselves inside the dungeon itself, something that he’s apparently been wanting to try for a very long time. The others, on the other hand, are much more skeptical. Conveniently, they are all fortunate enough to meet a dwarf who is much more skilled and experienced than Laois when it comes to making monsters palatable. The conceit of Delicious in Dungeon is frankly brilliant. Unsurprisingly, I loved the first volume of the series and definitely plan on reading more.

Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, Volume 1Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, Volume 1 by Haruko Kumota. Although I haven’t actually had the opportunity to watch it yet, Kumota’s manga series Descending Stories was first brought to my attention due to its recent anime adaptation. The excitement surrounding the anime and the licensing of the original manga made Descending Stories one of the debuts I was most looking forward to in 2017; I was not disappointed. Rakugo is a traditional Japanese performance art which isn’t as popular as it once was but still has a devoted following. Familiarity with rakugo isn’t at all necessary to enjoy Descending Stories, but readers who have at least some basic understanding of it will likely get even more out of the series. But while rakugo is an important and interesting part of Descending Stories, it’s the relationships and drama between the characters that really make the manga so engrossing and compelling. Kyoji is an outgoing young man who has recently been released from prison. Curiously, the first thing he does with his freedom is to seek out Yakumo, a famous rakugo artist, and demand to become his apprentice. Up until this point Yakumo has always rejected those who want to study under him, but to everyone’s surprise on a whim takes Kyoji into his household.