My Week in Manga: January 9-January 15, 2012

My News and Reviews

I posted two reviews last week. The first was The Kouga Ninja Scrolls by Fūtaro Yamada. The novel was the basis for Basilisk and Shinobi: Heart Under Blade (see the quick take below) among other things. The second review was of Ryū Mitsuse’s Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights, considered to be one of the greatest Japanese science fiction novels. I was so excited for this release that I bought the book in hardcover rather than waiting for a paperback edition. Also, the dust jacket glows in the dark, which is just cool. I had a particularly difficult time writing the review, but am very happy with how it turned out.

On to some fun stuff online! Digital Manga’s Kickstarter project to bring back Osamu Tezuka’s Swallowing the Earth was successful and so they’ve recently announced their next project to publish Tezuka’s Barbara in English. No Flying No Tights has another excellent list to peruse, this time focusing on must have anime titles for the uninitiated. And finally, Blog of the North Star has started a series of posts featuring mixed martial arts manga. Pay attention, there’s some great stuff, and three posts so far—Hopes for 2012: For chrissakes SOMEONE license an MMA manga, MMA Manga Top Contenders: Holyland, MMA Manga Top Contenders: Shamo.

And please remember! This coming Sunday, January 22, the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast begins! This will be my first time hosting the Feast, so I hope you’ll all stop by and maybe even contribute. I’m nervous, but looking forward to it.

Quick Takes

Cromartie High School, Volumes 6-12 by Eiji Nonaka. The absurdity continues. Each chapter is rather short, but Nonaka starts to string more of them together as the series progresses. I think I actually preferred the shorter, but recurring jokes rather than the longer arcs, but they are still pretty amusing, too. Nonaka is parodying more than just juvenile delinquent manga with Cromartie High School, there are plenty of references to music and other pop culture as well. Only the first twelve volumes of a seventeen volume series made it into English translation. Fortunately, because the manga doesn’t have much an overarching plot, this isn’t too much of an issue. It would be nice to see the series finished, though.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, Volumes 1-3 by Mahiro Maeda. I absolutely love the Gankutsuou anime and so was interested in seeing a slightly different imagining of the story. The manga starts out very similarly to the anime but soon goes off in its own direction, focusing more on the Count than on the younger generation. Some of the characterizations and story elements have also been changed. However, it did seem to me that the manga ended rather abruptly, just as the dénouement was about to begin. I certainly prefer the anime over the manga, but the manga does provide details not found in the anime, such as a more explicit exploration of who/what Gankutsuou is and the Count’s time imprisoned at the Chateau d’If. See the anime first, but the manga is also intriguing.

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga. Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise was a complete bomb at the box office when it was first released in 1987, but it has since been highly acclaimed and critically well received. The story follows Shirotsugh Lhadatt, a cadet in the space force only because his grades weren’t good enough to get into the navy. The space force is the joke of the military and no one really takes it seriously, including most of its members. Unexpectedly, Shiro volunteers to be the first man sent into space and the space force suddenly has a real purpose. The pacing is slow and deliberate and animation is fantastic. I really enjoyed it.

Shinobi: Heart Under Blade directed by Ten Shimoyama. Based on Fūtaro Yamada’s novel The Kouga Ninja Scrolls, the live action film Shinobi: Heart Under Blade continues the tradition of supernatural ninja. The Kouga and the Iga ninja clans have been fighting each other for centuries but a truce enforced by the Tokugawa shogunate has resulted in a temporary peace. When the truce is lifted, the clans find themselves once again at war, including Gennosuke and Oboro. They are the heirs of the rival clans, but they have fallen in love with each other. The ending is quite different from that of the novel, but is still very satisfying. The ninja battles are also highly entertaining.

My Week in Manga: September 26-October 2, 2011

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted my review for Yoshitoki Oima’s Mardock Scramble, Volume 1 which begins the manga adaptation of Tow Ubukata’s SF Taisho award-winning series Mardock Scramble. Having read Haikasoru’s omnibus edition when it was released earlier this year, I can safely say that Oima’s version is a pretty good adaptation of the original so far. And because it was the end of the month, I also posted the most recent manga giveaway: Hikaru no Go Giveaway. The winner will be announced this Wednesday, so there’s still time to get your entries in!

And now onto the good stuff I’ve found online recently. To start off with, Deb Aoki has a great article/rant from a manga fan’s perspective responding to the DC Comics kerfuffle surrounding the portrayal of women in some of their recent reboots—Femme Fan Fury at DC 52: Confessions of a Former Superhero Comics Fan. Jason Thompson’s most recent House of 1000 Manga post features Oishinbo. I always enjoy this column, but I was particularly pleased to see Thompson write about Oishinbo since I happen to really like the series. (So far, I’ve reviewed the A la Carte volumes for Japanese Cuisine and Sake.) Oishinbo and food manga in general is currently scheduled for the Manga Moveable Feast to be held in February.

And speaking of the Manga Moveable Feast! September’s Feast, featuring Ken Akamatsu’s Love Hina, will actually be taking place beginning this week on October 5 and will run until October 12. This change in scheduling is in part due to  Kodansha Comics pushing back the release for the new edition of the series. Jason Green will be hosting at PLAYBACK:stl; more information can be found here. Don’t worry, October’s Feast is still happening, too! Lori Henderson at Manga Xanadu will be hosting the Horror Manga Moveable Feast from October 24 to October 31. I haven’t quite yet decided on what I’ll be doing, but I’ll definitely be participating.

Quick Takes

In These Words, Chapters 1-4 by Guilt | Pleasure. In These Words has actually been picked up by Libre Publishing in Japan and will be premiering in the October 2011 issue of BeBoy Gold. The story begins with a prose prologue (an extra scene that follows immediately after can be found online here) before the manga picks it up. It’s dark, and disturbing, and very well done. Katsuya has helped the police to profile and capture Shinohara, a sadist and serial murderer. The dialogue occasionally feels a bit awkward, but I absolutely adore Jo Chen’s artwork. She has a gorgeous sense of aesthetic. Her figure work and tones are marvelous. Warning: In These Words includes both torture and rape.

Yōkaiden, Volumes 1-2 by Nina Matsumoto. Yōkaiden was one of Del Rey’s ventures into original English-language manga. Only two volumes have been published, but they’re worth picking up. The series is delightfully charming and funny. The humor often breaks the fourth wall or introduces unexpected references or anachronistic elements. The story follows Hamachi, a nine-year-old boy who loves and is obsessed with yōkai. He’s a guileless and likeable protagonist who humans and yōkai alike think is just a little weird. The series is a fun introduction to yōkai and kami for audiences that aren’t well versed in the lore and it’s still a lot of fun for readers that are. I enjoyed the second volume even more than the first, so I certainly hope to see more of Yōkaiden published in the future.

Your & My Secret, Volumes 4-7 by Ai Morinaga. I believe Your & My Secret was completed at eight volumes, but only the first seven are available in English. I’d like to see how it ends, but I’m still torn as to whether or not I actually like the series. The character interactions are interesting and fortunately slightly less cruel than they were earlier. I still feel terrible for Akira, but was happy to see him start to stand up for himself a bit. The seventh volume has a flashback chapter where Akira and Nanako are in their original, “mismatched” bodies—maybe that’s the story that I really wanted to read. One thing that does impress me is how Morinaga takes the same character designs and makes the personalities so obviously different.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo directed by Mahiro Maeda. I have never seen anything like Gankutsuou. The unusual animation style won’t suit everyone; it’s disconcerting at first, and occasionally a bit overwhelming, but I loved it. It’s hard for me to describe, but it’s almost like a collage mixed with the paintings Gustav Klimt (I’m particularly thinking of “The Kiss”). The atmosphere of the series is ominous and intense; appropriate for a revenge tale. I’ll admit, I even cried at times. At first Albert is so naive and trusting that it’s almost painful, but he’s forced to change as his world falls apart around him. The twenty-four episodes are incredibly engaging and each and every one of them counts. Gankutsuou is easily one of my top anime series.

Tiger & Bunny, Episodes 21-25 directed by Keiichi Satou. The main reason I watch Tiger & Bunny is because I like Kotetsu so much. It’s a fun show with a great visual style, even if the CGI doesn’t always mesh very well with the hand drawn material. Unfortunately, the series seems to be plagued with lazy writing, inconsistencies in the NEXT powers and how exactly they work, villains with ambiguous motivations that make stupid mistakes, and missed opportunities to let the support cast shine. Okay, that just made it sound terrible, but it’s not all bad; the series has good stuff going for it, too. Even with its problems, I like Tiger & Bunny well enough that I’d seriously consider picking up the DVDs if we get them.