My Week in Manga: October 27-November 2, 2014

My News and Reviews

October is finally over, and I somehow managed to survive! I’ve been extremely busy at work which bled over into the rest of my life and has interfered with a lot of things that I would otherwise rather be doing. I’m really hoping that my stress levels and schedule settle down a bit in November, but my immediate supervisor is retiring in December and I’ll be taking on some more responsibilities in my unit (at least temporarily), so we’ll see how that goes! Anyway, I was somehow able to keep on top of my posts here at Experiments in Manga. The most recent manga giveaway is currently in progress and there’s still time to enter for a chance to win Sherlock Bones, Volume 1. Since this past Friday was Hallowe’en, I decided it would be appropriate to review Junji Ito’s manga Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror. It’s been deservedly called a masterpiece, and the deluxe omnibus edition is especially nice. And over the weekend, I posted October’s Bookshelf Overload for those of you interested in what made it onto my bookshelves last month. I’m sure there was plenty of interesting reading to be found online, but I’m afraid I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to pay much attention recently. Let me know if I missed something particularly good!

Quick Takes

Angel Sanctuary, Volume 1Angel Sanctuary, Volumes 1-5 by Kaori Yuki. It’s pretty clear after reading the first few volumes of Angel Sanctuary that this manga is going to be epic, for better or for worse. Angel Sanctuary has a huge cast (most with multiple names and multiple identities) and easily enough material for several completely different and unrelated series. So much is crammed into the early volumes that I’m afraid that Yuki might be trying to do too much at once with the manga. Though he is initially unaware of it, Setsuna is the reincarnation of the angel Alexiel, fated to suffer for her past deeds life after life. This causes significant problems for him—other angels and demons are searching for Alexiel,  some to reawaken her soul and some to completely destroy her. But even more problematic is Setsuna’s incestuous love for his younger sister Sara. So far the story is somewhat confusing and difficult to follow, albeit with moments of brilliance. However, I do consistently enjoy Yuki’s gothic artwork, tragic melodrama, and gender play. Many of Yuki’s angels also happen to be sexist assholes, completely capable of murder, deception, and greed, which is certainly an interesting take on the celestial beings.

The Flowers of Evil, Volume 10The Flowers of Evil, Volumes 10-11 by Shuzo Oshimi. Several years have passed since the incident in Kasuga’s hometown and his tumultuous relationship with Nakamura. The time has now come for him to face everything that he has done in his past and to confront how his actions have affected the people in his life—his family, his former classmates, his girlfriend, and most importantly himself. Up until now, he has been unable to move on with his life. His past, though he tries to hide it or run away from it, still defines who he is. The finale of The Flowers of Evil is a very effective exploration of personal identity and responsibility. Oshimi’s artwork, while never awful, has improved tremendously since the beginning of the series. This is particularly important for the last two volumes of The Flowers of Evil since large portions of the manga are completely without dialogue or narration; the art must be strong enough to carry the story entirely on its own, and it succeeds in that. The Flowers of Evil is a surprising series, ending with a very different tone and in a very different place than where it first began. It was quite a journey and it was worth every page.

Free!: Eternal SummerFree!: Eternal Summer directed by Hiroko Utsumi. I rather enjoyed the first season of Free! and was pleasantly surprised to discover that in addition to its goofiness the anime series actually had some substance to it. And so I was looking forward to watching its second season, Eternal Summer. A lot of the humor and drama in the second season comes from the introduction of several new characters. It was a little strange to have best friends suddenly appear when I’m pretty sure they weren’t even hinted at in the first season, but I ended up really liking the additions to the cast. Although most of the characters see some development, most striking is how much Rin has changed from the first season. His anger and angst is mostly gone and he’s become fairly chill, although he’s still very passionate about swimming. It’s a passion that he shares with the other swimmers in the anime, but each has his own approach and way of expressing it. They really don’t always make the best, wisest, or most mature decisions, though. (Not that I would expect that teenagers would.) Driving the narrative of Eternal Summer is the characters’ struggles and searches for their dreams and futures. The season provided a very satisfying conclusion to Free!.

My Week in Manga: September 30-October 6, 2013

My News and Reviews

It’s the beginning of one month and the end of another, which means it’s one of the slower weeks here at Experiments in Manga. I announced the winner of the Arisa manga giveaway. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English that feature twins. For those of you who are interested in the absurd amount of manga and other related materials that make their way into my home, September’s Bookshelf Overload was also posted. Finally, the honor of the first in-depth manga review for October goes to Satoshi Kon’s Tropic of the Sea. I thought it was fantastic. Hopefully it does well and more of Kon’s manga will be able to be released in English.

For anyone looking for more anime and manga blogs to follow, CryMore.Net (formerly known as Whiners.Pro) has put together the most comprehensive list of active sites that I’ve seen. (And yes, Experiments in Manga is included.) If you’re interested in yokai, Matthew Meyer recently launched a Kickstarter project for his most recent artbook/guide The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits. It’s already met its goal (and I was one of the people to support it), but it’s still worth checking out if you like yokai. I reviewed Meyer’s previous book (also funded through Kickstarter) The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: A Field Guide to Japanese Yokai and really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to seeing more of his work in print.

Quick Takes

Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Volume 18Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Volume 18 by Yukito Kishiro. I could be wrong since I haven’t read the entire series, but I believe that the eighteenth volume of Battle Angel Alita: Last Order is the first volume to prominently feature Figure Four (the burly dude on the cover). A love interest in the original Battle Angel Alita manga, up until this point in Last Order he’s been mostly relegated brief references. The eighteenth volume concludes the fallout from the ZOTT combat tournament with the series’ titular chapter “Last Order” before jumping nearly a year back in time to follow Figure for the rest of the volume. He’s hard at work training in anti-cyber martial arts when he learns that Alita may be dead and so goes searching for both her and the truth. Sechs makes a brief, but important appearance in the volume, which made me happy since Sechs is one of my favorite characters in the series. And as a side note, Kishiro designs some really creepy cyborgs.

Dengeki Daisy, Volume 9Dengeki Daisy, Volumes 9-12 by Kyousuke Motomi. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Dengeki Daisy. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the series. Dengeki Daisy is kind of a strange manga, mixing rather mundane school life with hackers and cyber espionage, but I am consistently and highly entertained by it. I really like the quirkiness of characters in Dengeki Daisy. Motomi calls Dengeki Daisy a love comedy, which I suppose in the end it is, but in addition to being funny and occasionally romantic, the series also has a lot of action and drama. Kurosaki’s past and his guilt over it continues to be a major driving force behind the story. His disappearance is resolved fairly quickly, which surprised me, but that fact emphasizes how much he cares for Teru and how much Teru and the others care about him. Motomi has a tendency to use stereotypical shoujo plot devices but then completely turns them on their head. The fake-outs are both effective and refreshing.

Incubus, Volume 1Incubus, Volumes 1-3 by Yayoi Neko. The mythology in Incubus is fairly complex and the comic’s exposition can be somewhat long-winded, but I overall I’m liking this yaoi series. It has humor and drama, and I’m rather fond of the two leads—a college student named Judas and the surprisingly endearing half-demon Lennial. Judas’ dream sequences are great. In them, the different sides of his psyche try to make sense of what is going on around him as he is repeatedly confronted by demonic powers. The results are often amusing, but his emotional struggles can be heartbreaking. Judas has a very troubled past and what little good there was in it has been torn from him. Not everything has been revealed about his and Lenniel’s history together, but Neko seems to have a firm grasp on the series’ direction. Incubus is currently on hiatus due to the creator’s health—the first three volumes only cover the first half or so of the story—but I look forward to reading more of it if she is ever able to continue the series.

Sickness Unto Death, Volume 1Sickness Unto Death, Volume 1 written by Hikari Asada and illustrated by Takahiro Seguchi. I didn’t know much about Sickness Unto Death before picking it up, but I’m willing to give anything released by Vertical a try. Emiru is a frail young woman suffering from despair—a sickness of the spirit that is causing her body to fail. Kazuma has recently enrolled in college to pursue a career in clinical psychology. When he meets Emiru he not only wants to do all that he can to help her, but he falls in love with her as well. I found the manga’s basic premise intriguing, but in the end I was largely disappointed with the first volume of Sickness Unto Death, though I can’t seem to quite pinpoint why. However, I am still interested in reading the second half. The big reveal as to the cause of Emiru’s despair has been set up and I am very curious about it. I’ll admit that don’t have a lot of confidence, but I am hoping that it will be worth it and that it won’t be something too absurd or overblown.

FreeFree!: Iwatobi Swim Club directed by Hiroko Utsumi. I really enjoyed Free!, finding it to be both a fun and funny series. At times it even manages to be rather touching. The anime has a lot of self-aware goofiness in addition to a decent story and great animation. The swimming in particular is beautifully animated and, for the most part, realistically portrayed. (This also means that there are plenty of muscles to appreciate.) Although it is an important part of the series, Free! is actually less about swimming than it is about the relationships between its characters and their personal struggles and doubts. They all have their own reasons for swimming, but ultimately what brings them together is their desire to connect with one another—swimming just happens to be the way they go about doing it. A second season has been hinted at for the series; I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing more of Free! I’d also love to see it licensed for a physical release.