My Week in Manga: November 26-December 2, 2012

My News and Reviews

Although it wasn’t a particularly busy week at Experiments in Manga, I did have three posts in addition to the usual My Week in Manga. November’s Bookshelf Overload was posted over the weekend. There were some really lovely deluxe manga and box sets released in November. The most recent Library Love feature was also posted. I took a quick look at some of the manga that I borrowed from my local library: Black Blizzard, Here Is Greenwood, Nana, and Peace Maker Kurogane. Also, November’s manga giveaway is currently in progress. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first four volumes of Harold Sakuishi’s Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad. Simply tell me about your favorite music-themed manga. I also want to mention a marvelous feature on Takehiko Inoue that CNN released as part of its “Human to Hero” feature—How ‘Slam Dunk’ Manga Artist Brings Characters to Life.

Quick Takes

13th Boy, Volume 1 by SangEun Lee. I’m not entirely sure what to make of 13th Boy, and I have no idea where Lee is taking the story, but I did enjoy the first volume—it was delightfully quirky. The manhwa could have been a fairly straightforward romantic comedy, except for the fact that it incorporates a bit of magic, destiny, and a sentient cactus. (Yes, you read that correctly, a sentient cactus.) Hee-So Eun dated Won-Jun Kang, the boy she fell in love with at first sight, for less than a month before he broke up with her. What she can’t seem to understand is why, and so she’s more determined than ever to prove to him that they should be together. But a mysterious boy in her class, Whie-Young Jang, keeps getting in the way.

Finder, Volumes 4-6 by Ayano Yamane. If I understand correctly (and I very well may be wrong), Finder was originally intended to end with the fifth volume, but its popularity was such that Yamane was able to publish more. The sixth volume mostly focuses on Akihito’s everyday life as he tries to get his feet back under him after his traumatic experiences in Japan and Hong Kong’s underworld. It was still a great volume with quite a bit of action, but I did miss the intense, dark drama and complicated character interactions that Fei Long’s presence brought to the previous volumes. The fairly extensive crossover between the Finder series and Yamane’s “In Love” short manga did make me very happy, though.

Real, Volumes 10-11 by Takehiko Inoue. I honestly believe that Real is one of the best manga series currently being published in English. I first read Real after borrowing the series from the library, but it is such a great series that I had to have a set of my own. I really can’t recommend this series enough. Inoue’s artwork is fantastic and his characters are marvelously complex. The series’ realism is phenomenal. All of the characters are struggling with their own limitations and searching for their place in the world. There are triumphs and there are failures, but how the characters deal with them is what makes the series so compelling, powerful, and even inspiring. I can hardly wait for the next volume.

Reiko the Zombie Shop, Volumes 1-6 by Rei Mikamoto. Action-packed, gory fun is probably the easiest way to describe Reiko the Zombie Shop. It reminds me a bit of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, which is not at all a bad thing; granted Reiko the Zombie Shop was published first. I actually preferred the shorter one-shot stories in the series over the longer more involved plot arcs. Although the longer stories have some advantages: there’s more time to get a feel for the characters (of course, Mikamoto doesn’t hesitate to kill most of them off, anyway), and there’s a wider variety of zombies and powers displayed. Only six of the eleven volumes were released in English, ending on a cliffhanger, but the series is entertaining.

My Week in Manga: June 6-June 12, 2011

My News and Reviews

I’ve mostly recovered from my trip to St. Louis and was able to post a couple reviews this past week. The first review was for the inaugural volume of the English edition of the Japanese literary journal Monkey Business. It’s a pretty cool collection that includes manga along with short fiction, poetry, and an interview with Haruki Murakami. The second review was for The Twelve Kingdoms, Volume 1: Sea of Shadow a fantasy light novel by Fuyumi Ono. I liked the first volume of The Twelve Kingdoms so well that I bought the rest of the series (well, all of the books that were published in English, anyway) as well as the anime adaptation. Next week is the Wild Adapter Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Manga Bookshelf. Wild Adapter is one of my favorite series, so I’m looking forward to the Feast. I’ll be reviewing the first volume as well as taking a quick look at Mahjong and Kubota.

I’ve added two publishers (well, a publisher and an imprint) to the Resources page: Kodansha Comics, which has taken over quite a few of Del Rey’s titles and Kodansha licenses, and Digital Manga’s new hentai imprint Project H.

Quick Takes

7 Billion Needles, Volumes 2-4 by Nobuaki Tadano. 7 Billion Needles is a nice, compact, four volume science fiction series. Tadano’s artwork is consistently well done but the plot feels a little hurried in the last two volumes. Some elements, like the subspecies and the Moderator, are introduced without much explanation. I do like Hikaru’s rapport with Horizon and Maelstrom and it doesn’t feel forced. I still haven’t read Hal Clement’s novel Needle, but I’m interested in the source material since I enjoyed the manga. The final volume includes the story “Hikikomori Headphone Girl” which I quite liked; the main character serves as a prototype for Hikaru although the plot is unrelated to 7 Billion Needles.

Finder, Volumes 1-3 by Ayano Yamane. Finder began in a special S&M issue and so understandably the sex is fairly intense and explicit, especially in the first volume. Because Akihito is constantly being abducted by one criminal faction or another there is a fair amount of non-con to begin with. But while there’s plenty of sex, there’s also a fairly well developed plot to go along with it. And I really like Yamane’s artwork; it’s clean and consistent. Her men are definitely lanky bishōnen, but they also have some muscle, which I like to see. Each volume also includes a few unrelated stories; I’m particularly happy to see the characters from “Plants in Love” make repeat appearances.

Iono-sama Fanatics, Volume 1 by Miyabi Fujieda. What a delightful yuri fantasy! It’s too bad the second volume was never published in English, I would really like to read it. Iono is the queen of a small country who has a habit of collecting women. At the moment, she is particularly interested in black haired maidens and so has come to Japan to find some to take home with her. The art is attractive and while Fujieda might overuse chibis, they are absolutely adorable. Iono-sama Fanatics is funny and sweet with charming characters, particularly the titular Iono. Her attendants are completely devoted to her and she adores them in return; I couldn’t help but love her sincere but lighthearted personality.

Itsuwaribito, Volume 1 by Yuuki Iinuma. Do not allow the cuddly tanuki on the cover fool you: there’s some cute in Itsuwaribito but there’s even more bloody violence. Iinuma does some clever things with the concept of lying to do good, but Utsuho’s catch phrases “I was lying” and “I was lying about lying” were pretty obvious and somewhat annoying. I do like his moral ambiguity, though.  His obi is absolutely ridiculous, but it does prove to be useful. I personally preferred the character of Doctor Yakuma, who is introduced towards the end of the first volume, and was very happy to learn that he becomes one of the main protagonists in the series. And Pochi, the aforementioned tanuki, is really cute.

The Lower Depths directed by Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa’s film The Lower Depths is based on Maxim Gorky’s play The Lower Depths. I’m not familiar with the play, but I am familiar with Kurosawa’s films and have liked all of the ones that I have seen so far. The Lower Depths doesn’t really have much of a plot, and most of the film takes place in a single room, but it does make up for it with memorable and interesting characters—a group of tenants living together and their landlords, each with their own story to tell. They form an odd sort of family, and many of them don’t get along all that well, but the arrival of a new lodger allows all of them the opportunity to shake things up a bit.

Woman in the Dunes directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara. Woman in the Dunes is based on a novel by the same name by Kōbō Abe. Abe actually wrote the screenplay, as well, so it’s not too surprising that the adaptation sticks very close to the original material. An amateur entomologist visiting a secluded area to search for beetles finds himself held captive in a village that is slowly succumbing to the sand dunes that surround it. Left at the bottom of a sand pit with the widow who calls it home, they must shovel sand to survive. It sounds rather odd, and it is, but it’s also a fascinating story. Reading the novel and watching the film, I can only cringe thinking how terribly uncomfortable sex must be in such a sandy environment.