My Week in Manga: December 13-December 19, 2010

My News and Reviews

Some of you lovely readers are already aware of my glasses frame crisis, but I’ve been using a very old prescription for the last week (I think it’s from 2002, if not before). Because of this, I didn’t do as much reading as I would have liked because my eyesight is terrible and it gives me a headache. Also, apparently all the manga I read had to have a pink cover this week. However, I did discover that watching TV didn’t cause too much of a problem as long as I wasn’t expected to read subtitles. So, I ended up watching a lot of English dubbed anime. And speaking of anime: Crunchyroll is now available on the Roku player, woohoo!

This past week I posted my first in-depth manga review for December—I was very excited to see the publication of Yaya Sakuragi’s Stay Close to Me and hope more of her work is licensed in English. I also posted my first entry in my Finding Manga series where I gave some tips on finding and buying manga through Half.comFinding Manga: on All About Manga, Daniella Orihuela-Gruber has been gathering together the 2010 Great Manga Gift Guides. It’s a great list of great lists, so you should check it out.

Finally, I meant to mention this last week but forgot. Over on Experiments in Reading I have a review posted for the anthology Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories about People Who Know How They Will Die. It’s a great collection and worth a read. Machine of Death includes the story “Prison Knife Fight” by Shaenon K. Garrity who is a freelance manga editor for Viz among other very cool things. The only explicitly Japan-related story (yakuza!) is “Improperly Prepared Blowfish” by speculative fiction author Gord Sellar who is currently living South Korea. 

Quick Takes

Cardcaptor Sakura, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-3) by CLAMP. Dark Horse’s omnibus reprints of CLAMP’s work have been of extremely high quality and the first gorgeous volume of Cardcaptor Sakura is no exception. Once upon a time I had seen a few episodes of the anime adaptation that I really enjoyed, so I was excited to finally get a chance to read the original story. So far, the manga is utterly delightful. I was afraid the cuteness might be overwhelming, but it’s balanced nicely against the more serious elements of the story. There is also plenty of humor, and I enjoy watching the interactions and the developing relationships between the characters. I’ll definitely be following this series.

Hate to Love You, by Makoto Tateno. In the United States, Tateno is primarily known for her boys’ love works and Hate to Love You was her first foray into the genre. Despite being the sons of rival real estate agencies, Masaya and Yuma became childhood friends although by the time they reach high school they’ve grown apart. But their constant fighting about their fathers’ businesses, which they stand to inherit, can’t hide the fact they still harbor feelings for one another. “Hate to Love You” wasn’t bad, but I found the unrelated bonus story “You Can’t Call It Love” to be more memorable. It’s not a pleasant story, in fact it’s rather dark and disturbing, but it is more emotionally potent.

Hayate X Blade, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-3) by Shizuru Hayashiya. Hayate X Blade is one of the few yuri-ish manga that I’m familiar with in English translation. It’s a bombastic action comedy that doesn’t always make a lot of sense but it is a lot of fun. I’m not entirely sure what the point of the Sword Bearer program is, other than being an excuse to have cute girls fight one another, but I’m okay with that. Not to mention the fact that I’ve developed a huge crush on Ayana (as well as a few others). I’m really enjoying this manga. It may be a bit ridiculous at times, which in this case is not a bad thing. It’s funny, has great art, and the girls are all unique in looks and personalities.

The Lily and the Rose, by Dany & Dany. The Lily and the Rose is the first work that Dany & Dany, a pair of Italian manga creators, wrote specifically with a United States audience in mind. Their artwork is quite accomplished and distinctive; I’ve never confused their style for anyone else’s. Christophe and Alain fell in love as schoolmates, but Christophe chose the priesthood over his friend. With Christophe gone, Alain is left with nothing but a burning desire to kill the man who murdered his mother. Seven years later the two meet again under less than ideal circumstances—Alain has been charged with catching Christophe in a scandal, creating one if necessary.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Second Season directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first Haruhi Suzumiya light novel so I figured I’d give the anime a try as well. The second season is based on some of the later books. The animation team does some really cool things with color and lighting, especially in the “Endless Eight” sequence of episodes. Although the speculative fiction elements of the story are marvelous, Kyon is really what makes this series work for me. Although outwardly resigned to being the only “normal” person in the SOS Brigade, his inner dialogue and griping is hilarious.

Monster, Episodes 28-39 directed by Masayuki Kojima. These episodes include the University of Munich Library arc which has some of the most epic scenes in the entire story. I was really looking forward to seeing this part, and was not disappointed. At this point, the story also reveals quite a bit more about Johan and just how disconcerting he really is. Some plot threads are introduced in this section that don’t really go very far (this was the case in the manga as well), so I was surprised to see them included while some of the arguably more pertinent scenes were significantly compressed or dropped entirely. Had I not previously read the manga, I think I may have been confused by some of what was going on, but overall this is still an excellent adaptation.

One Piece, Season One: First Voyage directed by Kōnosuke Uda. I wasn’t particularly taken by Romance Dawn, the first volume of the One Piece manga, but I saw so much love for the series during the Manga Moveable Feast that I haven’t given up on it yet. It only took me a few episodes of the anime to get me hooked. Oda’s manga works fantastically well in adaptation and his artwork was just asking to be animated. (Although almost everyone seems to have bizarrely long arms. Luffy, okay that makes sense, but Nami, too?) The English voice cast is simply perfect and I loved the use of music for dramatic purposes, especially in the early episodes.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Author: Nagaru Tanigawa
Illustrator: Noizi Ito
Translator: Chris Pai
U.S. Publisher: Little, Brown
ISBN: 9780316039017
Released: July 2009
Original release: 2003
Awards: Sneaker Award

I’m not exactly sure where I first learned about Nagaru Tanigawa’s light novel The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but when I heard that the very existence of our world depends on the eponymous Haruhi Suzumiya not getting bored, I knew that I had to read the book. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was published in Japan in 2003 where it won the Sneaker Award grand prize. (I don’t know much about this award except that it is give out by Kadokawa Shoten to light novels.) In 2009 Chris Pai’s English translation of the book was published by Little, Brown in association with Yen Press (which also publishes the manga adaptation). The English edition retains both the color and black and white illustrations by Noizi Ito. It also seems as though English edition is being marketed towards younger readers, but adults should really give the series a shot as well.

Kyon meets the infamous Haruhi Suzumiya for the first time on the first day of high school. It’s just his luck that his desk is right next to hers and he seems to be the only person she’s willing to talk to. Haruhi isn’t interested in ordinary things or people, instead she wants to seek out the extraordinary—aliens, time travelers, espers—anything to make life more interesting. To that extent she establishes the Save the World by Overloading it with Fun Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade (or the SOS Brigade for short), dragging Kyon along for the ride. She’s eventually able to coerce three other people to join the Brigade, all for the sake of her own entertainment. Much to his surprise, Kyon soon learns that he’s the only normal human in the entire group when the others confess their secrets to him. Haruhi meanwhile, for better or worse, is completely unaware of the fantastical qualities of her somewhat reluctant lackeys.

Haruhi is aggressive and manages to almost always get her way (although it turns out there’s a very good reason for this.) Kyon describes her perfectly when he calls her “an eccentric, bossy, self-centered girl who causes trouble for everyone around her.” It’s quite amusing to watch the chaos flourish in her presence. She’s able to convince just about anyone to do whatever she wants whether they want to or not and it’s extremely funny to watch happen. However, I will admit her near constant sexual harassment of Mikuru is off-putting and a bit hard to take. She knows she’s doing it, but Haruhi just doesn’t care or acknowledge the other girl’s embarrassment, finding it difficult to pass up the opportunity for some fan service. She simply doesn’t seem to realize there might be something wrong with that. Granted, it doesn’t bother her to be put in similar situations herself. Both Haruhi and the story are spastic and the situations utterly ridiculous, but that’s what makes the story so incredibly entertaining.

I’m glad I picked up The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I found the light novel to be hilarious and it made me very happy while reading it. Much of this had to do with Kyon being the narrator and interpreter of what’s going on. While the story is technically about Haruhi, it’s even more about this poor kid who’s been caught in her wake. Kyon is an absolutely fantastic character—he’s funny, sarcastic, flippant, and most definitely a teenage boy. His voice is fabulous and Pai’s translation captures it and the book’s humor perfectly. I’m almost afraid to pick up the next light novel in the series, The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya, because I enjoyed the first book so much; I have a feeling it will be hard to top. I’ll definitely be reading the next volume though—I’m looking forward to seeing what other craziness Tanigawa can come up with for the SOS Brigade to get into.