My Week in Manga: July 18-July 24, 2016

My News and Reviews

Other than the regular My Week in Manga feature, there were no posts from me last week at Experiments in Manga. I was, however, able to make some progress on my review for the final volume of Setona Mizushiro’s manga series After School Nightmare. I hope to finish and post the review in the very near future, and then officially wrap up my horror manga review project.

Elsewhere online last week, I came across two interesting interviews: a translation of a 2006 conversation between Taiyo Matsumoto and Fumiko Takano as well as an interview with Kazue Kato, creator of Blue Exorcist, from Anime Expo 2016. The San Diego Comic Con took place over the weekend and there were a few licensing announcements to come out of the event: Kodansha Comics is planning a deluxe edition of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell; Udon Entertainment has acquired Yuztan’s Dragon Crown manga adaptation in addition to more artbooks, Manga Classics, and a Street Fighter novel; and Viz Media will be releasing a Princess Mononoke artbook as well books based on RWBY.

Finally, in part due to a suggestion made by a regular reader of Experiments in Manga, I’d like to start more regularly mentioning some of the crowdfunding projects that I’m either supporting or that have caught my eye. In the past, I’ve tended to only mention projects that were directly or tangentially related to manga in some way, but I’d like to begin highlighting other campaigns as well. And so! Natasha Alterici is raising funds for the second volume of Heathen, a beautifully illustrated comic about lesbian Vikings. Jason Thompson, author of Manga: The Complete Guide and a comic creator in his own right, is printing a poster map of alien invaders. Bones of the Coast is an anthology of horror comics inspired by the Pacific Northwest.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to give the Sparkler Monthly Year 4 campaign another shout out. (If you follow me on Twitter, that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing for the last week or so, and will probably continue to do so for a while.) I really love everything that Sparkler Monthly/Chromatic Press is doing, and will be legitimately heartbroken if the Kickstarter doesn’t succeed.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail, Omnibus 2Fairy Tail, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 6-10) by Hiro Mashima. When I first started reading Fairy Tail, I ended up jumping into the series around the twenty-fifth volume. Fairy Tail has a huge following, but it just didn’t seem to click with me. However, now that I’ve read some of earlier volumes, I think I finally more fully understand the appeal of the series. Fairy Tail is a fun and exciting manga with likeable characters and an emphasis on friendship and found family. One of my complaints about Fairy Tail in the past has been that it often seems directionless. Even this early in the series Mashima readily admits to making things up as the he goes with no concrete plan in place. He even seemed surprised when he realized that the series would reach ten volumes. (And it’s now over fifty and still ongoing.) Interestingly, this lack of direction didn’t seem to bother me as much as it has before, I think in part due to the fact that Mashima spends a fair amount of second omnibus exploring the main characters’ back stories which provided the needed amount of focus. I liked getting to know the characters better, something I missed out on by starting with a later story arc. Also, Kodansha’s massive, oversized “Master’s Edition” omnibuses show off Mashima’s artwork and are a great way to catch up on the series.

Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 2Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 3-4) by Akiko Higashimura. I am still incredibly happy that Kodansha Comics is releasing a print edition of Princess Jellyfish. I’m also glad that the series seems to be worth the risk and is doing fairly well for the publisher so far. I am especially looking forward to reaching the parts of the story that weren’t included in the anime adaptation. While there are some differences, for the most part the second omnibus fall entirely into what was adapted for the anime. Because of that I’m not at all surprised by any of the plot developments, but I still am thoroughly enjoying the story and characters. I also get a kick out of the visual nods to classic shoujo manga that Higashimura scatters throughout the series, usually when something particularly dramatic is going on. Princess Jellyfish is probably first and foremost a comedy, but through its humor it explores issues of gender roles and expectations. There is a fair amount of relationship drama, too. At this point in the series, Kuranosuke is trying to come up with a plan to raise the funds needed to save the Amamizukan apartments from being demolished and in doing so becomes more and more attached to Tsukimi. As for Tsukimi, she’s dealing with her own personal and romantic turmoils.

A Silent Voice, Volume 7A Silent Voice, Volume 7 by Yoshitoki Oima. The first volume of A Silent Voice left a huge impression on me, and the series as a whole has consistently been one of the strongest stories that I’ve recently read. Granted, A Silent Voice isn’t always an easy read and the subject matter can be pretty heavy. Bullying, depression, social anxiety, suicide attempts, and other tough issues all come into play. Oima isn’t afraid to let the relationships between the characters be extremely messy and complicated. I especially appreciate that Oima doesn’t just slap romance on the situation like magical bandage that will fix everything or erase the misdeeds of the past. From time to time, I was a little worried that might happen, but A Silent Voice takes a more nuanced and much less stereotypical route with the story. If anything, the romantic feelings just complicate matters further. The characters themselves are realistically and believably flawed people. Frankly, they can even be unlikeable, they still remain interesting and compelling. Many of them are struggling with mistakes that they have made and are dealing with devastating regret. But by the end of the series, the characters able to begin to look forward towards the future instead of wallowing in what can’t be changed; their pasts have shaped who they are, but won’t be the only thing that defines them.

My Week in Manga: May 30-June 3, 2016

My News and Reviews

Since it was the end of one month and the beginning of another, there were a couple of different things posted at Experiments in Manga in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. First of all, the Paradise Residence Giveaway Winner was announced along with a list of some manga licensed in English that feature boarding schools, dormitories, or other communal living arrangements. As for the first in-depth manga review of the month, I was absolutely thrilled to write about Shigeru Mizuki’s The Birth of Kitaro, the first volume of Drawn & Quarterly’s new Kitaro series designed to appeal to readers of all ages. I am so incredibly happy that more Kitaro manga is being released in English. I loved Drawn & Quarterly’s original Kitaro collection from back in 2013 (it was one of my most notable releases of the year), but if The Birth of Kitaro is any indication, I’m going to love this series even more.

I’m still keeping plenty busy at home and at work, but there were I couple things in particular that caught my eye online last week. For one, the fourth part of “The Sparkling World of 1970s Shojo Manga,” focusing on Moto Hagio, was posted at The Lobster Dance. Also, Seven Seas made a slew of new licensing announcements over the course of the week. The one that I’m most excited for is The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún by Nagabe (coincidentally, Jocelyne Allen recently reviewed the first volume at Brain vs Book and it sounds fantastic), but Seven Seas has also picked up four more yuri manga—Milk Morinaga’s Secret of the Princess and Hana & Hina After School, Hiromi Takashima’s Kase-san and…, and Hachi Ito’s Kindred Spirits on the Roof—as well as Seiju Natsumegu’s Ghost Diary, Tsukasa Saimura’s Tokyo Undead, Kawakami Masaki and Hato’s There’s A Demon Lord on the Floor, and a collaboration with Mamenosuke Fujimaru to create an English-first manga, Captive Hearts of Oz.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan, Volume 16Attack on Titan, Volumes 16-18 by Hajime Isayama. It’s been a little while since I’ve read Attack on Titan proper as opposed to one of the spinoff manga or novels. Granted, part of that is because the North American release of the manga has more or less caught up with the Japanese release; with number twists and turns in the series’ plot, I find that Attack on Titan generally works better for me if I can read several volumes at once. These three volumes delve into the backstories of several of the characters including Levi and, probably more importantly, Historia. There are also several important reveals regarding the nature of the world and of the Titans. Overall, an exciting few volumes with some legitimately interesting developments. Although the series is still ongoing, it feels as though Isayama is beginning to set up the series’ finale. I’m hoping for a satisfying conclusion, and I’m starting to believe that Isayama might actually be able to pull one off. With the sixteenth volume, Kodansha Comics has also started releasing special editions which are packaged with other merchandise. Some of the extras, like playing cards, I’m not personally interested in but others, like the No Regrets anime, I’m definitely glad to have.

Fairy Tail: Blue Mistral, Volume 2Fairy Tail: Blue Mistral, Volume 2 by Rui Watanabe. Recently, I’ve been sampling quite a few of Fairy Tail‘s spinoff manga being released in English. Some I’ve actually liked while others I’ve merely tolerated, so it was anyone’s guess as to whether or not I’d appreciate the franchise’s shoujo offering, Blue Mistral. I’m happy to say that, for the most part, it’s not a bad series at all. The plot of Blue Mistral, Volume 2 may seem to oversimplify what is really a rather complicated situation and some of story’s resolutions feel like they come a little too easily, but considering that the series original intended audience was preteens and early teens I don’t necessarily consider that to be a true fault. Actually, it’s kind of refreshing to read such a sweet, cheery, and bright version of the world and characters of Fairy Tail. Blue Mistral follows the adventures of Wendy Marvell, an impressively skilled twelve-year-old sky-dragon slayer magic user. She’s a likeable and earnest protagonist who believes in friendship and in helping others whenever she is able. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Blue Mistral‘s shoujo version of Wendy may be even more adorable than Fairy Tail‘s shounen version, in part because Watanabe’s artwork tends to be fairly cute.

Wild ButterflyWild Butterfly by Hiroki Kusumoto. It wasn’t until I was about halfway through reading Wild Butterfly that I realized that I had previously read another of Kusumoto’s manga, the first volume of Vampire’s Portrait. I didn’t especially like Vampire’s Portrait (I never got around to reading the second and final volume), but it did have one thing in common with Wild Butterfly—when called upon, Kusumoto can draw some fantastically frightening scenes with shocking reveals. Wild Butterfly is a collection of five unrelated short manga. Despite the fact that, because the volume was released under Digital Manga’s June imprint, “yaoi manga”  is emblazoned on the front cover, only one of the five stories could even arguably be considered boys’ love. Most of the stories have a bit of horror or some supernatural elements, although the titular “Wild Butterfly” is more of a period piece about the tragedy of war. There aren’t really any overarching themes in Wild Butterfly, but the stories do tend to be fairly melancholic and somber. The collection isn’t outstanding or particularly refined, but there are some interesting aspects to the stories. I did at least enjoy Wild Butterfly much more than I did the beginning of Vampire’s Portrait.

My Week in Manga: May 23-May 29, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week, I was rather preoccupied with my move. The rest of the family and I are now successfully living in the new house, but we aren’t through with moving and there’s still plenty left to do. However, amidst all of the chaos, I was able to post this month’s manga giveaway and there’s still time to enter for a chance to win a copy of Paradise Residence, Volume 1 by Kosuke Fujishima. (The winner will be announced on Wednesday.) Although I wasn’t online much at all last week, there were still a few things that I heard about. Digital Manga announced a new imprint, PeCChi, which will focus on ecchi manga of various types, starting with The Secret Devil-chan by Emu as well as Me and the Impish Devil by Hideaki Yoshikawa. Digital Manga’s most recent Kickstarter project will be released under the Pecchi imprint if it succeeds—Kaworu Watashiya’s controversial Kodomo no Jikan which was previously licensed by Seven Seas but never published. And, completely unrelated, the third part of “The Sparkling World of Shojo Manga,” which focuses on Riyoko Ikeda and The Rose of Versailles Manga, was recently posted at The Lobster Dance.

Quick Takes

Fairy Girls, Volume 1Fairy Girls, Volume 1 by Boku. Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail has inspired a fair number of spinoff manga  and adaptations, several of which have been released in English relatively recently. Fairy Girls, featuring four of the most popular female characters from the Fairy Tail guild—Erza, Juvia, Lucy, and Wendy—is one such spinoff. The series takes place immediately following the Grand Magic Games arc in the original series, but for the most part doesn’t actually require the reader to know much at all about Fairy Tail to follow along. Actually, those who are familiar with Fairy Tail and love these characters might end up more frustrated than not with Boku’s version. Fairy Girls almost reads like an unfunny parody, but I don’t think that was at all the intention. I wanted to like the manga much more than I actually did seeing as the basic premise had such promise. Many of the women in Fairy Tail are great characters, but in Fairy Girls they come across as extremely shallow versions of their true selves. The fanservice in Fairy Girls is somewhat odd, too. Without going back to check the entire volume page-by-page, I believe Boku has managed to completely avoid any panty shots (almost conspicuously so) but the manga does frequently seem to be fairly boob-focused.

LDK, Volume 2LDK, Volume 2 by Ayu Watanabe. I know a few people who really enjoy LDK and so I want to like it, too, but at this point in the series I find it to be more infuriating than anything else. Maybe the manga gets better as it goes along, but I can’t say that I’m particularly interested in finding out since there is very little about the first two volumes that I actually enjoyed. Probably my biggest issue with LDK is that the series’ leading man, Shusei, shows absolutely no respect for Aoi, the series’ heroine, despite supposedly having feelings for her. The second volume of LDK introduces a romantic rival who, likewise, doesn’t actually seem to care about Aoi’s feelings. And I still remain unconvinced that any of the people involved legitimately love or even like any of the others. I believe LDK is intended to be a romantic comedy, but it just doesn’t seem to work as one for me, probably because the characters have failed to win me over. Even though some of the scenarios and situations in LDK are admittedly ridiculous and over-the-top (though not especially original), for whatever reason the humor just isn’t very funny as a whole and the balance between it and the manga’s more serious aspects is off.

Tramps Like Us, Volume 6Tramps Like Us, Volumes 6-9 by Yayoi Ogawa. As the series progresses, the basic premise of Tramps Like Us doesn’t really become any easier to explain without making it sound stranger than it is. Takeshi Gouda is a brilliant dancer trained in classical ballet who is trying to break into modern dance, but he is also Momo, the pet of Sumire Iwaya, a successful journalist who is under a lot of stress in both her love life and career. Their relationship is a very complicated and curious one but it’s very important to them both, which is why it’s concerning for them when it begins to change and they slowly begin to realize that their feelings for each other are less platonic and more romantic. Occasionally Tramps Like Us does feel a little directionless in these particular volumes, as though Ogawa is starting to lose narrative focus or trying to stretch the series longer than it necessarily needs to be. Some of the more stand-alone chapters, while still enjoyable, tend to come across as filler or bonus manga rather than being crucial to the story proper. Even so, I love the characters of Tramps Like Us (Sumire, Iwaya, and all the others) so am glad to be able to spend as much time as I can with them. I am enjoying Tramps Like Us immensely and look forward to reading the final third of the series.

My Week in Manga: April 25-May 1, 2016

My News and Reviews

April has come to a close and May has begun, but there’s still a little time left to enter April’s manga giveaway for a chance to win a duo of superhero manga: Jiro Kuwata’s Batmanga, Volume 1 and Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi’s Ultraman, Volume 1. In addition to the manga giveaway, I also snuck in my review of Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare, Volume 9 last week. It’s a particularly dramatic volume in the series with some major twists and reveals. I’m very curious to see how Mizushiro will bring things to a close in the tenth and final volume. The review was part of my monthly horror manga review project, and I just barely got it written and posted before April ended. I’ve been super busy and stressed out lately, which makes writing even more difficult for me than it usually is. There are plenty of great and wonderful things going on right now in my life, but sadly the busyness and stress probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail: Ice Trail, Volume 1Fairy Tail: Ice Trail, Volume 1 by Yuusuke Shirato. There have recently been several manga spin-offs of Hiro Mashima’s series Fairy Tail released, but Ice Trail is the first that I’ve read. (For that matter, I’ll have to admit that I’ve not actually read most of Fairy Tail proper.) What primarily interested me in Ice Trail is that it serves as an origin story for Gray Fullbuster, one of Fairy Tail‘s most popular characters (as well as one of my personal favorites). Gray is a badass ice mage with a tragic past and the propensity for walking around without a shirt. Ice Trail shows Gray’s childhood in the brief time between when his home village was destroyed and when he joined the Fairy Tail guild. Despite the cuteness of seeing Gray as a kid, Ice Trail is very reminiscent of Fairy Tail in both style and tone. Apparently the series is only two volumes long, which may partially explain why the manga moves along at a break-neck pace with one action-packed battle after another. Ice Trail can mostly stand on its own, but will likely be most appreciated by readers who are already familiar with Gray and with Fairy Tail as a whole—though not absolutely necessary, that additional context can be helpful.

Kiss Him, Not Me, Volume 2Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volume 2 by Junko. I do get a kick out of Kiss Him, Not Me! I was a little worried at first since the series’ plot essentially hinges on the heroine’s sudden and drastic weight loss to bring her to the romantic attention of four of the hottest guys at her school. However, the manga quickly moves on from that premise and I don’t think it was even referenced at all in the second volume. Instead, Kiss Him, Not Me! revels in its humor and the comedic situation of a fujoshi finding herself on the opposite side of her usual fantasies. Basically, Serinuma’s life has become an otome game in which numerous young men are vying for her favor. The second volume of Kiss Him, Not Me! primarily focuses on two events: the school festival, during which each of the guys has the opportunity to have a mini-date with Serinuma (with varying degrees of success), and the Winter Comiket, which they all attend together although Serinuma is by far the most enthusiastic about it. One of the things that I particularly appreciate about Kiss Him, Not Me! is that no one asks Serinuma to change who she is at heart—she still gets to be an otaku. The second volume also introduces a new character who greatly intrigues me.

A Silent Voice, Volume 4A Silent Voice, Volumes 4-6 by Yoshitoki Oima. One of the manga to debut last year that I found to be particularly notable was Oima’s A Silent Voice and it continues to be a series that greatly impresses me. It’s not necessarily an especially happy read, though. The manga realistically portrays teenage angst compounded by issues of disability and bullying and explores the accompanying relationships which are extraordinarily messy and complicated. Emotional and physical violence takes its toll not only on the people who are being directly targeted, but also on the people who surround them. For better and for worse, the characters are all trying to deal with the repercussions of their past mistakes as best as they can, and even those who come across as antagonistic generally have their own problems they are working through. Just how deep a wound bullying can leave and how it can literally change a person’s life is more fully expressed in these volumes, and frankly it’s devastating. Thankfully, there are still moments of hope and redemption so A Silent Voice, while very serious and at times emotionally wrenching, never seems to become overwhelmingly bleak, but sometimes it does get close.

My Week in Manga: October 26-November 1, 2015

My News and Reviews

A few different things were posted at Experiments in Manga last week. The most recent manga giveaway is currently underway, for one, and here’s still time to enter for a chance to win Barakamon, Volume 1 by Satsuki Yoshino. Last week I reviewed Vinland Saga, Omnibus 6 by Makoto Yukimura. The series continues to impress me a great deal with its story telling and character development. The fate of the series in English will be in part determined by how well the sixth and seventh omnibuses do (the seventh omnibus is currently scheduled to be released in December); I truly hope that Kodansha will be able to release more because Vinland Saga is fantastic. Finally, over the weekend, I posted the Bookshelf Overload for October.

I’ve been extremely busy with all sorts of life stuff, so while I’m sure there were plenty of interesting things going on in the realm of manga online, there were only two that really caught my eye last week: Shojo Beat posted a short interview with Rinko Ueda and Chris Butcher wrote about his experience interviewing Masashi Kishimoto at New York Comic Con. Also as a heads up, because I am so extraordinarily caught up in things going on at work and at home right now, I’ve decided to go a little easier on myself with my blogging schedule for November (and probably for the first half of December as well). Instead of the usual Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule, in the upcoming weeks I may just be posting on Monday and Thursday. Hopefully things will calm down and I can get back to writing more soon!

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail, Volume 50Fairy Tail, Volume 50 by Hiro Mashima. After so many arcs in which the Fairy Tail guild was fighting to save the world, I’m particularly enjoying the beginning of this most recent arc in which Fairy Tail doesn’t technically even exist anymore. Although there are some epic, world-altering developments occurring in the background, for the moment the story is focusing on the much more personal crises of the disbanded guild as it rebuilds itself. It’s a nice change of pace, though I’m fairly certain it won’t last for very long. A year or so has passed since the members of Fairy Tail parted their separate ways. Quite a few of the magic users have managed to power up during that time, allowing Mashima the opportunity to come up with some exciting and interesting new skills for them in order to show just how badass they’ve become (and they were strong to begin with). Some of the fan service focusing on the female characters in Fairy Tail continues to feel very out-of-place and distracting, but at least the women are frequently some of the strongest and most well-developed characters. The male characters are the subject of fan service from time to time, too, though never to the same extent.

Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 1Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 1-3 by Sui Ishida. The glut of vampire and zombie manga continues—and I’m not really a devotee of either of those subgenres—so I especially appreciate that Tokyo Ghoul makes use of an entirely different creature, the titular ghoul. In the case of this particular manga series, ghouls largely pass as normal humans assuming that they can master their intense hunger for human flesh. After an encounter with a ghoul that nearly leaves him dead, Kaneki finds himself in the unique position of partly belonging to both the human world and the world of the ghouls, and yet it will be a struggle for him to survive in either of them. In Tokyo Ghoul, humans are just as capable of being monsters. And Ishida isn’t afraid of killing off prominent characters, whether they be human or ghoul, so there is a constant sense of danger. Sadly, I think the emotional impact of the deaths was somewhat diminished since readers hadn’t yet had the chance to really get to know the characters involved as individuals. Still, kudos to Ishida for potentially making good use of some shocking, unexpected developments, especially as some early parts of the first volume were a little predictable.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 4Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 4 by Miki Yohsikawa. Although the fan service in Fairy Tail tends to bug me, the fan service in Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches doesn’t really bother me at all, probably because it’s better incorporated into the story itself. Admittedly, it can still be gratuitous from time to time. Since the manga in part deals with body-swapping, it makes sense that there would be some focus on the characters’ physical traits. Plus this particular volume includes the obligatory beach and onsen scenes. One thing that really impresses me about Yoshikawa’s artwork in the Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is that it’s obvious from the characters’ facial expressions and body language when there has been some swapping going on. This actually ends up being explicitly pointed out in the series when one character develops a crush on a specific combination of personality and body type. The witch count continues to grow in the series as does Yamada’s group of friends while he begins to work out a theory explaining why everyone has the powers that they do. I’m still really enjoying Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. Though largely a comedy, it has some heart to it as well.