My Week in Manga: February 15-February 21, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week was another one-review week at Experiments in Manga, but I should hopefully be back to the normal swing of things again soon. (Though it does seem as though one review per week is the new normal… ) As for the review itself, I took a look at the first omnibus of Planetes, an excellent series about space exploration and development by Makoto Yukimura. I don’t tend to double-dip when it comes to manga (Planetes was originally released in English by Tokyopop), but Dark Horse has done such a nice job with the new edition that I couldn’t help myself. I really enjoy Planetes and am very glad to see it back in print.

In licensing news, Jay’s manga adaptation of the BBC’s television series Sherlock will be released in English by Titan. Elsewhere online, Kodansha Comics posted an interview with Hiro Mashima and Viz Media’s Shonen Jump posted an interview with Kohei Horikoshi. The OASG hosted an interesting light novel roundtable in which my Manga Bookshelf cohort Sean Gaffney participated. And the Toronto Comic Arts Festival announced its second wave of featured guests, which includes Shintaro Kago and Faith Erin Hicks among other great artists.

Quick Takes

Chiro: The Star Project, Volume 1Chiro: The Star Project, Volume 1 by HyeKyung Baek. I picked up Chiro mainly for two reasons. The first was that the manhwa is one of Netcomics most recent releases. (Technically, it could even be considered a license rescue; Udon Entertainment published a few volumes of the series back in the day, which I also counted in its favor.) The second reason was that at some point Chiro apparently begins to play with gender in interesting ways. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen in the first volume and there is nothing else that does happen in the first volume that would convince me to read any further. No matter what directions the series might eventually take, I really did not like the beginning of Chiro at all. The lead is incredibly self-conceited and self-absorbed and her actions frequently make no logical sense whatsoever. The plot, too, seems to be lacking any real direction at this point and ends up being a mess of unfortunate cliches and tropes. At times I think Baek is intentionally attempting to be off-the-wall and absurd, but the humor and the series as a whole just isn’t working for me.

Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, Volume 5Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, Volumes 5-8 written by Yuto Tsukuda and illustrated by Shun Saeki. I tend to enjoy food manga, so it doesn’t really surprise me that I find Food Wars! to be entertaining. The fanservice is admittedly and purposefully ridiculous. People frequently lose their clothing not only figuratively but literally as their reactions to tasting exquisite food are nearly orgasmic. And there are plenty of delectable dishes to go around—these particular volumes bring to a conclusion the challenges of the school’s cooking camp and the beginning of the Fall Classic competition. One danger of a tournament-style manga like Food Wars! is the sheer number of characters that are introduced over the course of the series. Fortunately, Tsukuda and Saeki have so far managed to create a cast made up of characters who, while not necessarily being particularly nuanced or deep, are distinctive in their personalities and designs. Perhaps even more important is that they each have their own dramatic and over-the-top style of cooking. It’s especially interesting seeing the different approaches to cuisine pitted against one another.

Horimiya, Volume 1Horimiya, Volume 1 written by Hero, illustrated by Daisuke Hagiwara. Because I knew quite a few people who were very excited when Horimiya was first licensed I wanted to make a point to give the manga a try even though I didn’t really know much about it except for the fact that it was adapted from a webcomic. They were right to be excited—Horimiya is a delightfully sweet and charming series. The basic premise is similar to any number of other manga featuring a high school romance with quirky characters, but both the leads and Hagiwara’s execution of the story are so wonderful that I didn’t at all mind. At school, Hori presents herself as fashionable and upbeat, but she’s a bit frustrated with her family situation which requires her to be something of a homebody. Miyamura is a classmate whose reserved nature and social awkwardness hides the fact that he’s liberally tattooed and pierced. Neither of them are quite like the other expected but they fall into an easy and natural friendship with each other. I’m really looking forward to reading more of Horimiya. It’s cute, funny, and has a ton of heart.

My Week in Manga: February 16-February 22, 2015

My News and Reviews

Happy (belated) Chinese New Year, everyone! It’s already been a busy season for me with multiple lion dance and taiko performances for the lunar new year over the last few days (with more to come!), but was I still able to get some reading and writing in, too. Last week was another two-review week at Experiments in Manga, except this time both in-depth reviews were actually of manga. First up was my review of Ken Niimura’s collection of short manga Henshin, which I enjoyed immensely. Niimura is actually a Spanish artist, but Henshin was first released online by the now sadly departed Ikki manga magazine. The second review was of Gamon Sakurai’s Ajin: Demi-Human, Volume 2. I had enjoyed the first volume, but things are starting to get really good with the second. Hopefully the trend continues.

So, earlier this year I wrote a quick take of Under the Sign of Capricorn, the first release in the new English-language edition of Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese comics. Much to my surprise, I ended up getting a brief mention in an Italian article about Americans’ responses to the comic. (I’ll admit, that was pretty cool.) Elsewhere online, Vertical’s survey for recommendations for Spring 2016 manga licenses is currently underway. Viz Media announced two new manga licenses of its own: Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi’s Ultraman and Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia. And speaking of Viz, Hope Donovan, one of the publisher’s manga editors, was interviewed over at Panels. I also want to mention Purity, a new Kickstarter project featuring some fantastic creators. Described as a “post-yaoi anthology,” it’s a collection of comics from artists whose work has been influenced in some way by the boys’ love genre.

Quick Takes

BattleAngelAlitaLastOrder5Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Omnibus 5 (equivalent to Volumes 13-15) by Yukito Kishiro. First of all, I just want to say that I absolutely love the cover of this omnibus; the Space Karate team as a group of rock stars is just about perfect. This may also very well be my favorite installment of Last Order that I’ve read so far. It features epic, over-the-top battles and action as well as some additional backstory. In particular, more about Zazie is revealed. Also, Sechs (who is still one of the characters I like best) plays a major role and gets to be a badass in addition to being an occasional source of comic relief. Although the styles of martial arts in Last Order are fictional, I appreciate that Kishiro actually incorporates small kernels of traditional teachings to create the super-evolved combat forms found in the series. The Space Karate team is prominently featured in this omnibus. As a karateka myself, I get a kick out of the characters and I particularly enjoyed seeing the progression of their tournament fights. Kishiro’s cyborgs and genetically modified creatures allow for some pretty incredible and entertaining combat feats and techniques that otherwise would be impossible.

Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, Volume 2Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, Volumes 2-4 written by Yuto Tsukuda and illustrated by Shun Saeki. While the fanservice certainly hasn’t disappeared from Food Wars!, each volume seems to tone down the overly sexually suggestive imagery a little more. Personally, I generally found the over-the-top reaction shots amusing rather than offensive. They’re becoming more and more ridiculous and absurd, however they may still present a barrier for some people. But to the creators’ credit, at least there’s eye-candy in Food Wars! for all sorts of readers–nudity and bare skin isn’t limited to just one gender. And then there’s the eye-candy for the foodies, too; the dishes in the series are gorgeously drawn. Saeki’s artwork in Food Wars! really is one of the highlights of the series. I’m liking the characters and their designs as well. Plenty more have been introduced in these volumes, all with their own personality quirks and culinary specialties. Which, of course, presents plenty of opportunities for some fantastically epic battles and competition in the kitchen. I also like that Soma isn’t the only student at Totsuki Institute who doesn’t come from a rich, high-class background.

RestartRestart by Shoko Hidaka. Since I’m loving Hidaka’s ongoing series Blue Morning, I figured that I should probably look into her other boys’ love manga that have been released in English. Restart is a collection of manga that includes some of her earliest professional work, including the titular “Restart”–her first story to be published in a magazine. Most of the stories follow Tadashi and Aki, two male models who end up in a relationship with each other. Tadashi is the older and more experienced professional of the two, but his popularity is fading while Aki’s star begins to rise, which understandably causes some tension and frustration. A tangentially related story features a fashion photographer and another young model who has yet to really break into the industry. The other short manga shares no connection with the others. It’s about a college student who was never able to confess his feelings because the young man he was in love with went missing. However, over time he finds himself growing closer to his crush’s younger brother. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn’t find Restart to be as compelling overall as Blue Morning but even Hidaka’s early manga exhibit solid story-telling and well-developed characters.

My Week in Manga: August 18-August 24, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week—last Monday, to be exact—Experiments in Manga celebrated its fourth anniversary. I’ve taken to writing what usually ends up being a rather lengthy anniversary post every year in which I reflect on the past three-hundred-sixty-five days, and this year was no different. I also posted a review last week of The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan, Ivan Morris’ classic study of Heian-era Japan and The Tale of Genji. The work was originally published in 1964 and it’s still a great read. Finally, for something a little different, I posted a Spotlight on Masaichi Mukaide who, in the late 1970s, became one of the first Japanese comics artists to be released in English. I rather enjoyed investigating this bit of comics history; I hope other people find it interesting as well.

While working on my random musings about Masaichi Mukaide, I discovered that the three short manga currently believed to be the earliest manga to have been translated into English (Akasegawa Genpei’s “Sakura Illustrated,” Shirato Sampei’s “Red Eyes,” and Tsuge Yoshiharu’s “The Stopcock”) are available online to read digitally. Another interesting piece of reading that I came across last week was Ryan Holmberg’s article on manga, art history, and Seiichi Hayashi at The Comics Journal. Elsewhere online, Sean at A Case Suitable for Treatment looks at some of the latest offerings from Crunchyroll Manga and Justin at Organization Anti-Social Geniuses was able to get some of the manga publishers to weigh in on their approaches to the last pages of manga volumes.

Quick Takes

Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, Volume 1Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, Volume 1 written by Yuto Tsukuda and illustrated by Shun Saeki. Soma Yukihira wants nothing more than to surpass his father in the kitchen, but his goal of becoming the ultimate chef becomes a little more difficult when his father closes up the family restaurant for three years. In the meantime, Soma is expected to transfer into the most elite and competitive culinary school in Japan. The other students aren’t very welcoming of the son of a low-end family restaurant, so it’s entirely up to the arrogant and uncouth Soma to prove that his cooking is just as impressive as their high-class cuisine. Overall, the artwork in Food Wars is great. The illustrations of the food in particular are incredibly sumptuous. And then there are the reaction shots—those who taste Soma’s cooking often fall into nearly orgasmic ecstasy which is accompanied by highly sexualized imagery. This does include such things as young women being molested by tentacles, which will certainly not appeal to every reader. Personally, I was for the most part rather amused by the ridiculous levels and absurdity of the occasional fanservice.

The Prince of Tennis, Volume 1The Prince of Tennis, Volumes 1-7 by Takeshi Konomi. While recently reading The Princess of Tennis, a memoir written by one of Konomi’s assistants, I came to the realization that I had never actually read any of The Prince of Tennis. The series is one of the most successful and popular sports manga in Japan, growing into a fairly substantial franchise. The Prince of Tennis is an oddly addictive series—I tore through the first seven volumes very quickly—but to some extent it’s also a bit frustrating. There is virtually no story or character development, simply game after game of tennis and middle school trash talk. Some of the most important games, the ones that actually impact the characters’ growth (what little there is) happen almost entirely off-page. All of the players are very strong to begin with, so there hasn’t been much evolution in their performance or skill levels, either. But the various games are interesting and entertaining, if a little over-the-top. There are a lot of good-looking characters of various types, too, which is probably a large part of the series’ appeal. I’m not in a rush to read more, but I did enjoy the first seven volumes.