My Week in Manga: July 29-August 4, 2013

My News and Reviews

The Boys’ Love Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Khursten of Otaku Champloo, is in full swing. Khursten is doing a fantastic job hosting the Feast; I highly recommend checking out her posts! I myself posted a couple of contributions to the Feast last week. The most recent manga giveaway at Experiments in Manga is for Shiuko Kano’s boys’ love collection Affair. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter! I also devoted my first in-depth manga review of the month to Tomoko Yamashita’s Black-Winged Love. I tried to explain why it’s one of my absolute favorite collections of short manga. (July’s Bookshelf Overload was also posted last week. Although it’s not really a part of the Feast, it does include some boys’ love on the list.) Finally, as you can see below, I spent last week reading a bunch of boys’ love manga by Yugi Yamada. I really enjoy her sense of humor, cranky characters, and bickering (but loving) couples. Oh, and I also watched Gravitation.

Quick Takes

Dry Heat by Yugi Yamada. I don’t think that Dry Heat shows Yamada at her best, but it is still an engaging read. Dry Heat has an odd mix of tones. The story itself is quite serious with a tendency towards the melodramatic, but there is a fair amount of humor included as well. It’s as though Yamada couldn’t quite decide whether the manga should be a comedy or a drama. Sometimes the balance works and sometimes it doesn’t. The plot is a little over the top and stretches believability in places and I can’t say that I was particularly convinced by the romantic interests, but Dry Heat does have some really great moments. Dry Heat is in turns touching, exasperating, and very funny.

Glass Sky by Yugi Yamada. Glass Sky is a great collection of short boys’ love manga ranging from the bittersweet to the almost cheerful with a few laugh out loud moments. The strongest selection in the volume is the titular “Glass Sky.” It’s a rough and intense story, but very, very good. Dealing with bullying and violence, it’s the most sobering story in Glass Sky and is especially shocking since it follows some of the more lighthearted pieces. I was surprised to recognize characters from Yamada’s earlier one-shot manga Laugh Under the Sun in several of the stories in Glass Sky. However, it’s not at all necessary to have read it in order to appreciate their stories. (Although if you have, Glass Sky does provide a little more insight into the characters—Naoki, especially.)

No One Loves Me by Yugi Yamada. I really enjoyed No One Loves Me. It’s  one of my favorite manga by Yamada. Katsuhiro is a subdued and awkward book lover and used book store owner with a particular interest in Czech literature. The much brasher Masafumi is in the sales department of a publishing house but is thrust into a translation project as Katsuhiro’s editor. Their relationship, professional and otherwise, has its ups and downs and is wonderful to watch unfold. No One Loves Me isn’t as outrageously funny as some of Yamada’s other manga, but there’s still plenty of humor. Plus, the incorporation of the love of books into the story is a nice bonus and something that I particularly appreciated.

Open the Door to Your Heart by Yugi Yamada. One of my favorite Yamada manga is Close the Last Door, a short two-volume series. Open the Door to Your Heart is a one-volume side story which slightly overlaps, following the two older Honda brothers. I didn’t like Open the Door to Your Heart nearly as well, but still enjoyed parts of the manga. It was nice to get to know the Hondas better, both the brothers as individuals and the family a whole. What Yamada captures particularly well in Open the Door to Your Heart is the struggle that Sho, the oldest brother, continues to go through trying to fully accept that he has been adopted. This is complicated by the fact that he is in love with his younger brother and that those feelings are returned.

Picnic by Yugi Yamada. Once again, the titular story “Picnic” is probably the strongest manga in this collection. Or, at least it’s one of my favorites. Granted, most of the manga collected in the volume are well done. Picnic tends towards the sillier and sweeter side of things, but there are some genuinely touching moments that balance out the goofier ones quite nicely. Two of the stories feature characters from an earlier manga by Yamada which at this point hasn’t been licensed in English. (They may have also been spun off into their own series, though I’m not certain about that.) The focus of the short manga collected in Picnic is less on the plot more on the characters themselves.

Spring Fever by Yugi Yamada. Spring Fever collects two unrelated stories by Yamada: the titular “Spring Fever” and “Wildman Blues.” The beginning of “Spring Fever” is delightfully funny before taking quite a serious turn. Yusuke is constantly falling head-over-heels for the most unlikely candidates only to be rejected again and again. This time the object of his desire happens to be an older man—a divorcé with a young son. “Wildman Blues” ties in with “Glass Sky” (and by extension Laugh Under the Sun.) Yamada once again turns her attention to Naoki. Despite all the heartache and anguish she puts him through, Yamada seems to have a fondness for the character. I’ve come to really like him, too. “Wildman Blues” provides a very satisfying conclusion to his story.

Gravitation directed by Bob Shirohata. The thirteen-episode Gravitation anime is much more even-keeled than Maki Murakami’s original manga series. The darker moments aren’t quite as dark and the humor, while still ridiculous, isn’t quite as outrageous. The anime adapts a little more than half of the manga series. I personally preferred the manga’s earlier storyline anyway, so I didn’t have a problem with the anime stopping where it did. The anime compresses and streamlines the plot of Gravitation. As a result, Shuichi and Yuki’s relationship seems a bit rushed, but for the most part the adaptation is really well done. I did wish there was a little more variety in the music, though.

My Week in Manga: September 5-September 11, 2011

My News and Reviews

I’m still recovering from last week’s misadventures, but that hasn’t stopped me from updating Experiments in Manga. Other than that, however, I don’t have much news. I announced the winner of the Joy of Josei manga giveaway. The post also includes a list of recommended josei and josei-esque manga licensed, so please check it out. There were some titles that I hadn’t heard of before that I look forward to giving a try. I also posted a review of Shogo Oketani’s semi-autobiographical novel J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 that I received from Stone Bridge Press through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program. It’s not the most engaging book, but I did find it to be interesting and informative. Anyway, that’s all for now!

Quick Takes

Gravitation EX, Volume 1 by Maki Murakami. Fun fact: the first print volume of Gravitation EX was released simultaneously in Japan and in the United States. The series is still ongoing, but only the first volume was ever published in English. It’s hard to tell from only one volume, but Gravitation EX seems to be very different in tone than Gravitation. I’d be hard pressed to actually put my finger on what exactly makes it different, though. The randomness and craziness is certainly still there, but feels a bit forced. Almost all of the major characters from Gravitation make at least a brief appearance, although once again some of the personalities seem to have been adjusted or changed.

Redmoon, Volumes 1-6 by Mina Hwang. As far as I know, Redmoon is one of the first examples of manhwa to be released in English. The series is eighteen volumes long, but only the first six volumes were published by ComicsOne before the company went defunct. I’ll admit, I didn’t really start to enjoy Redmoon until the fifth and sixth volumes when the story follows a major flashback. Before that, the confusing plot lines with random introductions of characters from out of nowhere developed far too slowly for me to really take an interest. However, I did like the characters. Philar’s development in particular is handled well. He starts as a fairly carefree high school student but has to come to terms with the fact that he’s sharing his body with another entity.

Riot, Volume 1 by Satoshi Shiki. I have no idea where I picked up Riot or why I even have it because, really, it’s not very good. The series only lasted for two volumes before being canceled. The world-building is a mess; Shiki can’t seem to decide between dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic, straight up science fiction, or Western. This could be fun, but Shiki isn’t quite able to pull it off. He does manage to cram a lot plot threads in a single volume. Some have decent potential, but I get the feeling that he’s being too ambitious and would have done better to focus on just one or two elements. I did like character design for Billy (a.k.a. Billy the Kid), but most everyone else’s, especially the women’s outfits, are fairly ridiculous.

Robot: Super Color Comic, Volume 1 edited by Range Murata. To me, Robot comes across more as an artbook rather than manga. It’s oversized and in full color. The first volume collects contributions from twenty different creators. Some of the works are one-shots or pinups while others are part of a continuing series. I was already familiar with some of the artists, Yoshitoshi Abe and Sho-u Tajima for example, but most were new to me. Many contributions are under ten pages, just enough to get a taste of what the creators can do. The storytelling varies tremendously in quality but the artwork is consistently top-notch. Granted, there is some unnecessary fanservice, too. But overall, Robot is a gorgeous collection to look at if not read.

Ultraman, Episodes 1-13. I’m surprised that I’ve never actually seen Ultraman until now. I’m really enjoying it so far. In case you weren’t already aware, Ultraman is a Japanese live-action television show, thirty-nine episodes, that was broadcast between 1966 and 1967. Ultraman in all its iterations continues to be a huge pop culture phenomenon to this day. The series focuses on the Japanese branch of the Science Patrol who are called upon to investigate odd and unexplained happenings. Inevitably, this leads them to confront the monster, or kaiju, of the week. The members of the Science Patrol are competent, but more often than not they need the aid of Ultraman. It’s a really fun show.

My Week in Manga: April 22-April 28, 2011

My News and Reviews

I’m feeling lazy this week (not that that’s really anything new) and so I will be brief. I posted a few reviews of interest this past week. The first was Yasunari’s Kawabata’s novel Thousand Cranes which was one of three works to be cited when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. I read it as part of the Japanese Literature Book Group. I also reviewed Blade of the Immortal, Volume 6: Dark Shadows by Hiroaki Samura. Blade of the Immortal is one of my favorite manga and Dark Shadows marks the beginning of the second major story arc in the series. Finally, over at Experiments in Reading, I reviewed Ernest Cline’s debut novel Ready Player One, which is a treasure trove of geeky pop culture references. Among many other things, Ultraman plays a significant role and a couple of the important secondary characters happen to be hikikomori. It’s not breaking any new ground, but it is a lot of fun. I should also mention that I’ve reorganized the Review Index, separating the manga reviews from the non-manga reviews. Oh! And my next manga giveaway will begin this coming Wednesday!

Quick Takes

Gravitation Collection, Volume 6 (equivalent to Volumes 11-12) by Maki Murakami. I get the feeling that Gravitation was a series that was stretched out a little too long. I did like this volume better than the previous one, but I still greatly prefer the earlier books in the series. While it certainly has its moments, this final volume isn’t nearly as outrageous as a whole. I find this to be both a good and a bad thing. The art has gotten cleaner, but at the same time Shuichi seems to get younger and younger in appearance as the series progresses. This collection is a decent ending to the series. Unfortunately, in order to make it work, Murakami has to force characters to change their personalities and their motivations.

What a Wonderful World!, Volume 1-2 by Inio Asano. What a Wonderful World! is told through a series of vaguely interconnected stories and vignettes. Visual cues carry over from one story to another and many of the characters make reappearances. Most but not all of the characters are twenty-somethings struggling to find a balance between pursuing their dreams and reality, or simply coming to the realization and accepting (or not) that their dreams will never be fulfilled in the ways that they want. It can get a bit angsty at times, but it’s my kind of angst. The stories all have a somewhat surreal quality to them although some are a bit more obvious about it than others. It can be a little strange at times, but I really enjoyed this short manga series.

Works by Eriko Tadeno. I don’t think I’ve ever read another manga quite like Works. Sure, it’s yuri, but it also features honest-to-goodness lesbian relationships between adult women. I haven’t come across this before and it’s a shame that it is so uncommon in the manga that has made it into English translation. Works collects four stories (two of which focus on the same couple) plus a few extras. Even the cover art has a story behind it. The stories are short and sweet and, yes, include sex. But the sex is an extension of the development of the characters and their relationships. The intimacy feels genuine. The only drawback to Works is that it’s over too soon and that I want to read more.

Wolf’s Rain, Volume 1 written by Keiko Nobumoto and illustrated by Toshitsugu Iida. I have never seen the Wolf’s Rain anime on which the two-volume Wolf’s Rain manga series was based. Maybe that’s why I was so frustrated by this first volume. The plot is a mess and the pacing a wreck. Perhaps reading the second volume is necessary to understand what is going on in the first. Actually, I almost wonder if the series would have done better with more volumes in order to more fully explore the story elements introduce. As it is, things feel very rushed and sometimes even nonsensical. I did like the character designs, though. And I am interested enough in the world of Wolf’s Rain to consider checking out the anime series instead.

Sound of the Sky directed by Mamoru Kanbe. The 1121st Platoon, consisting of four teenage girls, is stationed out in the middle of nowhere making the war feel very distant. They do seem awfully young to be fully fledged military recruits, but maybe that just goes to show how unfortunate the world’s situation is. The series follows the girl’s day to day lives which mostly consist of trying to maintain good relations with the locals. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a little more attention given to the buglers’ training, but that’s mostly because I’m a musician myself. It’s a fairly lighthearted series on the surface, reinforced by the cute art style, but Sound of the Sky certainly has some very dark moments.

My Week in Manga: August 1-August 7, 2011

My News and Reviews

The first week of the month is always a slow one here at Experiments in Manga. I announced the Ghost Talker’s Giveaway Winner, which also includes a few recommendations for absurd manga. Interestingly enough, most of them have something to do with food in one way or another. I also posted July’s Bookshelf Overload. Since I purchase most of my new manga from Borders, which is now undergoing liquidation, I expect that the lists for future months will be somewhat shorter for the most part. Otherwise, I don’t have much to report this week.

Quick Takes

2001 Nights, Volumes 1-3 by Yukinobu Hoshino. 2001 Nights is probably the best science fiction manga that I’ve read. I absolutely loved it. Granted, I’m already a fan of Golden Age science fiction—the likes of Asimov, Clarke, and such—and 2001 Nights is definitely an homage to that tradition. The manga is a collection of nineteen interconnected stories, many of which can stand alone. But read together, they form a magnificently layered narrative. The first volume takes place in the near future, at a time that humanity is just starting to explore deep space, and each volume takes them further and further. It really is a pity that this series is out of print. If you enjoy science fiction, I highly recommend 2001 Nights.

East Coast Rising, Volume 1 by Becky Cloonan. East Coast Rising is one of the unfortunate victims of Tokyopop’s fiascos dealing with their original English-language properties. Only the first volume of the series was ever published, but not because it’s a bad comic. In fact, it was nominated for both an Eisner Award and an International Manga Award in 2007. There’s not much character or plot development in this first volume except for what can be gleaned from how individuals interact with one another. However, there is plenty of action and humor. I think East Coast Rising is fantastic, the art is great, and I am deeply saddened that we’ll probably never get to see the rest of the series.

The Embalmer, Volumes 3-4 by Mitsukazu Mihara. I have come to really like this series; each volume seems to get better and better. Tokyopop only published the first four volumes of The Embalmer, but from what I can tell it’s up to at least six volumes in Japan. However, the series is fairly episodic, so it makes it hurt a little less that it’s not available in its entirety in English. Although, I would really like to know how things turn out between Shinjyurou and Azuki. I particularly enjoyed the third volume since it delves into Shinjyurou’s backstory. I really like Shinjyurou and there is a lot more to him than first appears. In some ways, The Embalmer reminds me of the film Departures, and that is not at all a bad thing.

Gravitation Collection, Volumes 1-4 (equivalent to Volumes 1-8) by Maki Murakami. This is a reread for me—I realized that I never actually finished reading Gravitation and I wanted a quick refresher before I read the last collected volume. This is a series that could easily give a reader whiplash. Most of the time Gravitation is over-the-top insanity and craziness, thanks mostly to one of its leads—Shuichi, a budding rock star. But from time to time it will suddenly turn overly melodramatic and serious. Usually, when the plot has something to do with the other lead—the romance novelist Eiri Yuki with whom Shuichi has fallen in love. Admittedly it’s not the greatest series out there, but for the most part I do find it entertaining.

Samurai Champloo, Episodes 1-15 directed by Shinichirō Watanabe. Samurai Champloo is one of my favorite anime series. In fact, I think it’s the first series I ever purchased volume by volume. Samurai and hip hop make an excellent combination. Despite Samurai Champloo‘s obvious anachronisms, for a very long time this series formed the basis of my knowledge of Edo period Japan (don’t worry, I didn’t stop there). Samurai Champloo has style and a great sense of humor. I adore the characters of Jin, Mugen, and Fuu and enjoy getting to know them as they get to know each other. The trio’s constant bickering can’t hide the fact that they’ve become very important to one another.

Manga Giveaway: Feast of Firsts Winner

And the winner of the Feast of Firsts manga giveaway is…Katherine Dacey of The Manga Critic!

As the winner, Katherine will be receiving the first volume of Eerie Queerie!, Gravitation, Love Mode, and Shout Out Loud! Oh, and if you haven’t already visited Katherine’s site The Manga Critic, you should really check it out; it’s a great one.

For the Feast of Firsts giveaway, I had people tell me a little about the first manga they read and the first shōnen-ai/boys’ love/yaoi/whatever you want to call it manga that they read. I’ll briefly mention them here because I like making lists, but if you’ve got a moment and are interested you should read the Feast of Firsts comments, too. So, here we go!

First manga:
Emma by Kaoru Mori. I have heard a lot of good things about this manga, and know a lot of people who really enjoy it.

Hellsing by Kohta Hirano. The tenth and last volume of this manga was published by Dark Horse this past May.

Hot Gimmick by Miki Aihara. I haven’t read this one yet although I do have the first omnibus volume. It’s despised by many and a complete guilty pleasure for others.

Inuyasha by Rumiko Takahashi. I’ve seen a bit of the anime but haven’t had the chance to read the manga. I am a huge fan of Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2, though.

The Wallflower by Tomoko Hayakawa. I keep seeing this manga mentioned, so I guess it’s about time I pick it up. My library has it, so I have no excuse.

First boys’ love manga:
Fumi Yoshinaga is a creator of many excellent manga, several of which feature gay characters or are specifically boys’ love manga.

The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese by Setona Mizushiro. I would really like to see this one available in English and I’m not alone.

Crimson Spell by Ayano Yamane is getting a little hard to find, especially the second volume, but rumor has it Media Blasters plans on printing more.

Gorgeous Carat by You Higuri was actually mentioned by two different people. I haven’t read it (yet) but I have read Higuri’s Cantarella.

Room Share by Sakyou Yozakura isn’t currently licensed in English, but Tokyopop’s Blu Manga imprint recently published Yozakura’s Blood Honey.

Tokyo Babylon by Clamp is sitting on my shelf at home; I should probably get around to reading it at some point.

X-Kai- by Asami Tohjoh. I’ll admit, I hadn’t even heard of this manga before this giveaway; I’ll have to check it out.