My Week in Manga: January 25-January 31, 2016

My News and Reviews

A couple of different things were posted at Experiments in Manga last week in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. First up was the first manga giveaway of the year, and there’s still time to enter for a chance to win Fuka Mizutani’s Love at Fourteen, Volume 1. Last week I also reviewed the first omnibus of Hiroaki Samura’s Die Wergelder, which is brutal and intense to say the least. The manga is greatly influenced by violent, erotic Japanese films from the 1970s and it shows. And speaking of explicit manga, Digital Manga’s Project-H imprint is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to publish Yamatogawa’s Vanilla Essence hentai collection. It seems like Digital Manga is now relying on Kickstarter projects for just about everything, and I have no idea how long the publisher will be able to last like that; it’s a bit concerning.

Quick Takes

The Ancient Magus' Bride, Volume 3The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Volume 3 by Kore Yamazaki. I continue to love The Ancient Magus’ Bride and look forward to future volumes a great deal. The series has this sort of atmospheric melancholy to it that I really like along with touches of horror and darkness that have yet to become overwhelmingly bleak. In large part, The Ancient Magus’ Bride seems to be dealing with loneliness and the intense longing and need to belong somewhere. It’s only after being purchased by Elias that Chise feels as though she’s actually wanted and that is a dangerously enticing feeling to have. Their relationship is a peculiar one, but it is also compelling. For better or for worse, Chise still knows very little about Elias. He seems very reluctant to reveal his true nature to her, whether out of fear that he will be rejected or for some other reason entirely. What is clear is that Elias is very powerful, very dangerous, and not entirely honest. Despite this and despite the warnings of others, Chise remains devoted to him. She, too, is powerful and dangerous, though she has yet to learn how to completely control and claim that power for her own.

Dog X Cat, Volume 4Dog X Cat, Volume 4 by Yoshimi Amasaki. I believe Dog X Cat is up to six volumes or so and still ongoing in Japan, but it seems unlikely that more of the series will be released in English any time soon if ever. It’s been a few years since I read the first three volumes of the boys’ love series, but it didn’t take very long to get reoriented with the manga. The fourth volume is actually a fairly self-contained story, too. Atsu and Junya used to only be best friends but now they’re also well-established lovers. Junya is the more adventurous and demanding when it comes to sex to the point of ignoring Atsu’s needs and desires which is unfortunate; otherwise their relationship is quite good and they obviously love each other. Keeping with the rest of the series, Amasaki finds plenty of opportunities to include sex scenes. However, their vacation-cum-research trip to the mountains takes an extremely unfortunate turn when an earthquake traps them under a burning building. Though there are sweet moments, most of the forth volume of Dog X Cat deals with this traumatizing event and its lasting aftermath.

Library Wars: Love & War, Volume 11Library Wars: Love & War, Volumes 11-14 by Kiiro Yumi. I’ll readily admit to enjoying Library Wars and its dramatic and fantastical portrayal of librarianship. I don’t think that librarians will militarize themselves any time soon in the fight for freedom of expression and information, but it does make for an interesting story that does actually explore some of the complexities of the debates surrounding censorship. Library Wars has two sides to it that don’t always mesh with each other very well, but I do like them both. There’s the romantic and comedic side of things as many of the characters come to terms with their evolving feelings for their colleagues and then there’s the more action-oriented part of the story, complete with shootouts and attempted kidnappings. These particular volumes have some pretty exciting developments on both fronts. Although Iku’s ineptitude is often emphasized, which is something that I dislike about the series, she continues to prove her reliability in dangerous situations when it really counts. I didn’t realize that there is only one more volume left in this series, but I’m really looking forward to it; it should be a good one.

My Week in Manga: July 8-July 14, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted two reviews. The first was for The Vast Spread of the Seas, the third novel in Fuyumi Ono’s fantasy series The Twelve Kingdoms. I’ve really been enjoying reading The Twelve Kingdoms and this volume was no exception. I also reviewed Jen Lee Quick’s Off*Beat, Volume 1. Originally published by Tokyopop, the recently established Chromatic Press has rescued the series and I couldn’t be happier. The new Chromatic editions also include some additional bonus content as well.

Elsewhere online: Xavier Guilbert has published his interview with Taiyo Matsumoto from the 2013 Toronto Comic Arts Festival. The most recent episode of the Comic Books Are Burning In Hell podcast focuses on Suehiro Maruo. Kodansha Comics is offering two digital samplers containing the complete first chapters of many of its series. The Real sampler collects chapters from Kodansha’s “real-life” manga: Arisa, Bloody Monday, Danza, Genshiken, Genshiken: Second Season, I Am Here, Kitchen Princess, Missions of Love, and Vinland Saga. The Unreal sampler includes chapters from Kodansha’s fantasy, science fiction, and supernatural series: @ Full Moon, Attack on Titan, Cage of Eden, Fairy Tail, Mardock Scramble, Ninja Girls, No. 6, Sankarea: Undying Love, and Until the Full Moon.

Finally, this week is the Yun Kouga Manga Moveable Feast! Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf is hosting this round and has already posted a marvelous introduction. For my contribution to the Feast I’ll be reviewing the first Loveless omnibus later this week. Loveless was originally published in English by Tokyopop, but Viz Media rescued the license last year (which made me very happy.) Although I enjoy Loveless, I haven’t actually read any of Kouga’s other manga. I look forward to seeing what everyone else has to say about her work.

Quick Takes

Dog X Cat, Volume 1Dog X Cat, Volumes 1-3 by Yoshimi Amasaki. Junya and Atsu have been friends since they were young. They’re in college now and their friendship becomes a little more complicated when Junya lets it slip that he’s actually in love with Atsu. Dog X Cat might not have the most original plot—I’ve seen the friends becoming lovers storyline many a time—but the two young men have a charming relationship with each other and a lot of sex. (Dog X Cat is part of Digital Manga’s more explicit 801 imprint, after all.) Some chapters are told from Junya’s perspective while others are from Atsu’s. It’s nice to see both sides of their story. Dog X Cat is an ongoing series; the fourth volume is scheduled to be released in English in 2014.

Mardock Scramble, Volume 5Mardock Scramble, Volumes 5-7 by Yoshitoki Oima. I’ve read Tow Ubukata’s original Mardock Scramble, but somehow managed to forget how pivotal child and sexual abuse was to the plot. The manga handles it fairly well and hasn’t turned it into something titillating. One thing that I didn’t forget from the novels was the lengthy casino scene. In particular, nearly two hundred pages worth of Blackjack which sorely tried my patience. Although some of the finer details and plot complications are glossed over in Oima’s adaptation, I much preferred reading the two volumes of manga covering the same material. This left one volume for Oima to bring everything to a quickly paced, action-packed close. For the most part, Oima’s interpretation of Mardock Scramble largely succeeds.

No. 5, Volume 1No. 5, Volumes 1-2 by Taiyo Matsumoto. Only two volumes of No. 5 were ever released in English in print. However, the entire series is now available digitally (on a platform I can’t use). I’ve come to love Matsumoto’s work in general and I particularly enjoy No. 5. The story follows Number Five, a member of the Rainbow Council of the International Peackeeping Forces, a small group of people with superhuman abilities. He’s fallen in love and gone rogue and now his teammates must hunt him down. While Number One and the rest of the Rainbow Council try to maintain control of the situation, there are others who are making the argument that the group is obviously dangerous and should no longer exist.

Black Lagoon, Episodes 13-24 directed by Sunao Katabuchi. Although I still enjoyed the second half of Black Lagoon anime, for some reason that I can’t identify I didn’t like it quite as much as the first. The anime follows the manga fairly closely, but takes a few of its own liberties while keeping the same tone as the original. I do think that I still prefer the manga slightly more than the anime, but the anime is entertaining as well. Additionally, the action is a little clearer and easier to follow in the anime. And I continue to be impressed by the sound design. The Black Lagoon anime tends to be violent and bloody and even the protagonists aren’t really “good guys.” They can be just as vicious as the other people they come up against.