My Week in Manga: June 25-July 1, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Takehiko Inoue Manga Moveable Feast. For my contribution, I reviewed the second Vagabond omnibus. Vagabond is a phenomenal series based on Eiji Yoshikawa’s epic historical novel Musashi. Expect to see more reviews for the series here in the future. My most recent manga giveaway has also been posted. The winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win Yasuko Aoike’s From Eroica with Live, Volume 1!

Digital Manga’s Unico Kickstarter has reached both its initial goal and its first stretch goal, which means we’ll be seeing an English edition of Osamu Tezuka’s manga Unico as well as Atomcat. The next stretch goal, set at $47,000 (more than double the original goal), is for Tezuka’s manga series Triton of the Sea. Personally, I’m more excited about the possibility of Triton than I am about Unico and Atomcat combined. I’m also a little disappointed to see Triton of the Sea added as a secondary goal instead of receiving its own project.

As with Digital Manga’s other Kickstarter projects, the Unico project has caused debate within the online manga community as to whether an established publisher should be taking advantage of the platform. Alexander Hoffman has some More Thoughts on Kickstarter over at Manga Widget. There is also an excellent Manga Out Loud podcast episode that outlines some of the issues. The episode was released after Digital Manga’s Barbara Kickstarter project; Ed Sizemore is planning another episode on the subject, so keep an ear out for it.

Anime Expo took place over the weekend. I wasn’t able to attend, but there were a few announcements made that caught my attention. Rigtstuf has established a new division, Lucky Penny, which will allow them to release more anime. I’m particularly excited about two of the Lucky Penny licenses: the anime adaptation of Natsume Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso, to be released fall 2012, and Aoi Hana, based on the manga by Takako Shimura (the author of Wandering Son), to be released sometime in 2013. It was also announced at Tokyopop’s panel that the fourth and fifth volumes of the Hetalia manga will be released in English, although no definite plans have been set for their publication.

Quick Takes

The Flowers of Evil, Volume 1 by Shuzo Oshimi. I initially didn’t plan on picking up The Flowers of Evil, middle school drama isn’t generally my thing anymore, but after seeing the positive reactions from several other manga bloggers, I decided to give it a try. I’m glad that I did, because it’s a really intriguing title. One afternoon, Kasuga ends up stealing the gym clothes of a girl he likes (mostly by accident) and is seen by another classmate, Nakamura, who is intent on blackmailing him. I’m interested in seeing where Oshimi will take the series. I’m particularly curious about Nakamura, who’s a bit of a sadist; it’s hard to tell what’s going through her head and what her motivations and ultimate goals are.

Jyu-Oh-Sei, Volumes 1-3 by Natsumi Itsuki. I’ll readily admit that I’m a fan of shōjo science fiction, especially from the seventies and eighties. Jyu-Oh-Sei, serialized between 1993 and 2003, is reminiscent of the classics in the genre. Although there were parts that I enjoyed immensely, I didn’t find the series to be nearly as successful as some of those older works. Itsuki has a tendency to infodump instead of naturally incorporating plot and background details into the story. Not to mention that there were some inconsistencies in her world-building. Still, it is an entertaining series with gripping character dynamics. The third volume is particularly good as Itsuki ramps up the action, revealing several important plot developments in the process.

One Thousand and One Nights, Volumes 6-11 written by Jeon JinSeok and illustrated by Han SeungHee. The second half of One Thousand and Nights focuses a bit more on the development of the framing narrative. Sehara’s stories in the second half of the series are even more varied than in the first, ranging from Greek history to Romance of the Three Kingdoms to original tales. Unfortunately, they aren’t incorporated as well and the series isn’t as cohesive as a result. While I appreciate what JinSeok was attempting to do with the stories and that take place in the modern era, ultimately they don’t mesh well with the series as a whole. I did, however, really like the final twist to the story.

Rideback directed by Atsushi Takahashi. Rin Ogata is talented ballerina whose career is brought to halt due to an injury. She ends up joining her school’s rideback club where her exceptional sense of balance is an asset. Little does she know that this will lead to her being swept up in the political and military turmoil surrounding her country. The ridebacks are very cool machines (even considering the fact that they should really have a third wheel). A cross between a motorcycle and a humanoid robot, they are extremely maneuverable. I actually wish they were put through their paces a bit more in the series because they’re exciting to watch. Although some of the character development is rushed, Rideback is tightly plotted and highly engaging. Overall, it’s an excellent series.

My Week in Manga: June 11-June 17, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week I managed to post two reviews. The first was for the second issue of the English-language edition of Monkey Business, a literary journal that originally started in Japan. I’ve really been enjoying Monkey Business; it’s introduced me to a lot of creators, many of which I probably wouldn’t have come across otherwise. It also includes manga! The second review is a part of my Blade of the Immortal project. I’ve managed to review one volume of the series each month for the past four months. It looks like this is a completely reasonable pace for me, even considering the other two in-depth manga reviews I write every month. (For some reason, writing manga reviews is more difficult for me than writing other kinds of book reviews.) Anyway, Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal, Volume 10: Secrets is my latest review.

Also last week, I mentioned that Drawn & Quarterly had licensed Shigeru Mizuki’s GeGeGe no Kitaro. It seemed like it would be a “best of” collection but, if D&Q’s Twitter account is anything to go by, it looks like the release will be starting at the beginning of the series. I hope the title does well for them; I’m really looking forward to it. Elswhere online, Brigid Alverson has an excellent interview with JManga’s business manager Robert Newman about JManga’s Evolving Digital Subscription Service over at Publishers Weekly.

Several months ago, I reviews Haruki Murakami’s excellent oral history Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche. A couple of weeks ago Naoko Kikuchi, one of the Aum Shinrikyo members associated with the attack who was still at large, was arrested. With the arrest of Katsuya Takahashi just last week, the final member that remained has now been found. According to The Asahi Shimbun, his weakness for manga may have helped lead to his capture.

Finally, June’s Manga Moveable Feast will be starting on the 24th! This month we’ll be taking a look at the works of Takehiko Inoue who is a phenomenal mangaka. For my part, I’ll have a quick take on the first couple of volumes of Slam Dunk and an in-depth review of the second Vagabond omnibus.

Quick Takes

Ai Ore!, Volume 1 by Mayu Shinjo. The basic premise of Ai Ore!—a girl who’s often mistaken for a boy and a boy who’s often mistaken for a girl fall for each other—appealed to me quite a bit. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed. Supposedly, Ai Ore! is intended to be a romantic comedy, but I didn’t find it particularly funny. In fact, I didn’t really enjoy much of the first volume. I’ve been told that the series improves, but at this point I have no desire to continue on to find out. Probably the biggest issue I have with Ai Ore! is that I don’t like the male lead at all and I’m obviously supposed to. I can handle manipulative bastards and unhealthy relationships in my fiction, but Akira is just not working for me.

Hikaru no Go, Volumes 17-20 written by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. These volumes are a turning point in Hikaru no Go. With the seventeenth volume, the series could have easily found a natural place to stop. However, I wasn’t disappointed that it continued since I enjoy Hikaru no Go a great deal. The eighteenth volume features six side stories which are not directly related to the main plot or that show previous scenes from a different point of view. It might be a bit of a filler, but it’s a fun volume nonetheless. I still only barely understand the finer points of go, but the characters’ passion for the game is obvious. It’s thrilling to see how intense they become when playing. With three more volumes to go, I’m looking forward to seeing how Hotta wraps things up.

One Thousand and One Nights, Volumes 1-5 written by Jeon JinSeok and illustrated by Han SeungHee. Changing the female Scheherazade into the male Sehara does defeat some of the purpose of One Thousand and One Night‘s framing story, but I will admit to enjoying the boys’ love overtones it lends to the narrative. Each volume features one of Sehara’s stories in addition to developing the plot and characters of the framing story. JinSeok doesn’t limit himself to tales found in the original One Thousand and One Nights; he draws from other world literature and folklore, as well. The selections do tend towards the unhappy, but I’m a sucker for tragic love stories, so I’m not going to complain too strenuously.

Gin Tama, Collection 2 (Episodes 14-26) directed by Shinji Takamatsu. At this point I still prefer the original manga, but the Gin Tama anime adaptation is steadily growing on me. I prefer the series when it finds new ways of approaching the material instead of strictly adhering to the manga’s version. I also really like the casting. Daisuke Sakaguchi in particular does a fantastic job of voicing Shinpachi; he has an incredibly dynamic range from cool and collected to frantic and freaked out. Gin Tama is a series with humor that often relies on the viewer being familiar with other series to fully appreciate, but there’s still plenty of ridiculousness that can be enjoyed regardless. I know for a fact that I’m missing many of the references, but I still get a kick out of the series’ absurdity.