My Week in Manga: October 17-October 23, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week was yet another week during which I wasn’t online much, though this time it was because I was on a short family vacation in Ohio to visit my folks. I did however still manage to post my review of the absolutely wonderful children’s book Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko. The book, fully illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri, combines a biographical narrative of Kaneko’s work and life written by David Jacobson along with a selection of Kaneko’s poems presented in both the original Japanese and in English translation. Are You an Echo? is a beautiful book that adults will be able to appreciate, too; I wasn’t previously familiar with Kaneko’s poetry and am incredibly glad to have been introduced to it.

Although I was busy with family last week, a few things did catch my eye online: Vertical’s Fall 2016 manga licensing survey is now live for those interested in suggesting titles that they’d like to see the company publish in English; The Mystery Writers of Japan have released a very useful website in English which includes great information such as an outline of the group’s history and a list of recent English translations of the members’ works; As for cool queer comics Kickstarters, there is a newly launched campaign to collect Tab Kimpton’s delightful Minority Monsters comics in a single volume along with additional bonus content.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail, Volume 55Fairy Tail, Volume 55 by Hiro Mashima. With all of the recent developments in Fairy Tail it seems like the series might in fact be reaching its final story arcs. Granted, Mashima could just as easily stretch things out for quite a bit longer as he has repeatedly done in the past. Often Fairy Tail feels rather directionless to me, as though the creator is making things up as he goes (which he has admitted to) or isn’t sure exactly what he wants to do with the series. That being said, when Mashima actually manages to bring together disparate storylines and plot developments together in a way that makes sense and seems planned from the beginning (even if it actually wasn’t) the results can be thrilling. The fifty-fifth volume of Fairy Tail opens with one of the biggest game-changing reveals in the series as Natsu and Zeref face each other down. It’s a dramatic encounter and works tremendously well. Sadly, the rest of the volume isn’t quite as strong as its opening and many of the other plot twists and backstories feel forced at best. Still, this most recent story arc is probably my favorite out of those that I’ve so far read. (I started reading Fairy Tail part way through, so there are several arcs that I’ve missed.) I especially appreciate how it gives the tournament arc, which grew increasingly tedious, a greater purpose in the series as a whole. The action sequences and battles continue to be an exciting part of the manga as well, and there are plenty of those to be found in this volume.

intense1Intense, Volume 1: Night on the Red Road by Kyungha Yi. I’ve deliberately been keeping a lookout for new print releases from Netcomics, but even if I wasn’t Yi’s Intense would have caught my attention. The series’ cover artwork is stunning and the manhwa’s production values and quality is some of the best that I’ve seen from Netcomics. Intense was originally released in six digital volumes, but the print edition has been collected into four. The interior artwork, though it’s not in color, is just as beautiful, striking, and moody as Yi’s cover illustrations. The story is likewise very moody and at times can be extremely dark and violent. The series follows Jiwoon, an assassin and bodyguard for a crime syndicate who has been temporarily assigned to a red-light district. There he encounters and is drawn to the mysterious Soohan who works there as a sort of handyman. With their melancholic, slightly detached personalities, it seems as though the two young men likely share a fair amount in common, so much so that the tragic backstory revealed in the flashbacks interspersed throughout the first volume could easily belong to either of them. If nothing else, Intense is certainly well named. The manhwa is heavy and intense both emotionally and psychologically, moreso than many other boys’ love stories I’ve read. I definitely plan on reading the rest of the series and I’m very curious to see how the relationship between Jiwoon and Soohan develops.

Paradise Residence, Volume 3Paradise Residence, Volume 3 by Kosuke Fujishima. Admittedly, it has been quite some time since I’ve read the first two volumes of Paradise Residence, but I really don’t remember the characters being especially infatuated with motorbikes and motorcycles which is something that is quite prominent in the third and final volume. Maybe I just completely missed it before and that’s why it seemed to suddenly come out of nowhere, but the resulting story is nice. However, it’s another sudden development that becomes the dramatic focus of the rest of the volume–due to some unfortunate circumstances, the dorm is scheduled for demolition rather than renovation and the young women living there must do all that they can to save their beloved home. They come up with a rather creative solution to their problem that, while it strains believability, is impressively audacious and clever. Paradise Residence is a series that I enjoyed much more than I thought or expected I would. It doesn’t really have a lot of substance or depth to it, but it’s a pleasant slice-of-life manga set in an all-girls high school. Though not particularly nuanced, most of the characters are generally likeable. Even with the occasional bit of drama, Paradise Residence tends to be a fairly quiet and low-key series. The artwork is attractive, too, although Fujishima seems fond of drawing characters with one eye closed; I’m not sure if they’re supposed to be winking or what.

Spoof on Titan, Volume 1Spoof on Titan, Volume 1 by Hounori. In general the manga spinoffs of Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan depend on readers having at least some familiarity with the original series, although to varying degrees. Spoof on Titan perhaps requires a little more than many of the others as the humor relies heavily on knowledge of the characters and their personalities. Unlike Attack on Titan: Junior High, the other Attack on Titan comedy series, Spoof on Titan is firmly set in the world of the original manga. Granted, it’s a much more friendly version of that world–the Titans, though mentioned frequently, barely make an appearance and the death, destruction, and violence has been greatly toned down. The gore and darkness of Attack on Titan aren’t really to be found in Spoof on Titan. Hounori’s illustrations and character redesigns are pretty cute, too. Spoof on Titan is a four-panel comedy manga which is a format that I tend to really like when it’s done well, but the comics in Spoof on Titan tended to be fairly hit-or-miss for me. Some of them legitimately made me laugh while I barely cracked a smile at others. Overall, though, I am largely enjoying the series and find it amusing. I’m not sure that I would necessarily want to binge-read Spoof on Titan, but the series can be fun in small doses. The first volume reads like a collection of comedic Attack on Titan bonus manga, which is essentially what it is even if Isayama himself isn’t directly working on the series.


My Week in Manga: August 1-August 7, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week brought some very good news! Sparkler Monthly‘s Kickstarter campaign for its fourth year was successfully funded, so we’ll all be getting another twelve months of phenomenal new content in addition to all of marvelous the Sparkler Monthly content that already exists, most of which is freely available online. Somewhat related to that, last week the winner of Experiments in Manga’s Sparkler Monthly Year 4 giveaway was announced. I was hoping to post the wrap up to my horror manga review project last week, too, but it looks like that should be going up sometime this week, instead.

Speaking of Kickstarters, there were two recently launched projects that specifically caught my attention last week. The first is a project to publish the second volume of Moonshot, a comics anthology featuring indigenous creators. The first volume was very impressive and earned multiple awards and honors, so I expect the second volume will be great, too. The other campaign is for the first print volume of Der-shing Helmer’s webcomic The Meek. I haven’t actually read The Meek myself yet, but I’ve heard very good things about the series.

Elsewhere online (well, I guess specifically at Anime News Network), it was a Seven Seas sort of week: Deb Aoki interviewed Okayado, the creator of the massively successful Monster Musume, at Anime Expo, the transcript of which has now been posted. I haven’t had time to listen to it yet, but the most recent ANNCast featured Jason DeAngelis, Adam Arnold and Lissa Patillo from Seven Seas. And in licensing news, Seven Seas will be releasing Atami Michinoku’s The High School Life of a Fudanshi.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail, Volume 52Fairy Tail, Volumes 52-54 by Hiro Mashima. Despite its immense popularity, for me Fairy Tail fairly tends to be fairly hit-or-miss. Mashima readily admits that he doesn’t always know where he’s going with the story and characters, but every once in a while he manages to pull it all together to form something truly grand and epic. I have to admit, I’m really liking the most recent story arc of Fairy Tail. Once again, the members of the Fairy Tail guild are responsible for trying to save the world, but the enemies that they face this time are so strong that it’s not something that they will be able to do alone. To me, this showdown feels more personal than some of the previous world-altering battles. Granted, that impression may in part be because my reading of Fairy Tail has been somewhat fragmented. However, I greatly appreciate the more character-driven arcs of Fairy Tail. These three volumes explore the past of Fairy Tail and the guild’s connection to Zeref, the dark wizard cursed to live forever who is trying to find a way to end it all. (This I believe is all explored in greater depth in the Fairy Tail Zero spinoff, which I suspect I would likely enjoy.) The battles in this story arc are well-paced in addition to being suitably dramatic and over-the-top, fitting for a conflict that will determine the fate of the world.

Haikyu!, Volume 1Haikyu!!, Volumes 1-2 by Haruichi Furudate. Due to my increasingly busy schedule, I’ve only managed to watch the first few episodes of the Haikyu!! anime adaptation, but that was more than enough to determine that I wanted to read the original manga when it was released in English. I find that even though I’m not especially interested in sports, I really enjoy sports manga, and so far Haikyu!!, about a boys’ high school volleyball team, doesn’t disappoint. Like many other sports-oriented manga, Haikyu!! features characters who are in one way or another exceptionally skilled or naturally talented athletes. What makes Haikyu!! stand out from other sports manga that I’ve read is that it emphasizes teamwork in a way that I’ve not usually seenthe manga’s not just about great players who are simply part of the same team, it’s about teammates bringing out the best in one another, finding ways to effectively complement their strengths and weaknesses to form a group that’s more capable than any one individual. The characterization is pretty great in Haikyu!!, too, which is particularly important for a series which will likely have a fair number of characters to keep track of. I really like the characters in Haikyu!!; they all have very distinctive personalities. If Haikyu!! continues as strongly as it begins, I’m definitely in for the long haul with this series.

UQ Holder!, Volume 7UQ Holder!, Volumes 7-8 by Ken Akamatsu. There’s something about UQ Holder! that rubs me the wrong way. Frustratingly, I haven’t been able to identify exactly what it is about the series, especially as there are parts of the manga that I actually like. I do wonder if part of this dissonance is caused by the fact that I’ve never read Negima! Magister Negi Magi. Although UQ Holder! initially seemed to be a stand-alone spinoff, lately it seems to be tying itself back to the original to a greater extent; I feel like I’m missing some important context. Much of the humor in UQ Holder! seems to fall flat for me, too, even when I can tell that what I’m reading is intended to be funny. The series also seems to have a bit of an identity crisis, as though Akamatsu can’t quite decide what type of story it’s supposed to be. At this point, UQ Holder! has now suddenly veered into becoming a martial arts tournament; previous incarnations of the series included a murder mystery, among other things. The martial arts tournament was a good choice, thoughthe battles in UQ Holder! are generally the most entertaining aspect of the series. The tournament also gives the characters an actual, definitive goal to focus on rather than their more ambiguous ambitions. These volumes also delve more into Evangeline’s backstory, which was good to see.

My Week in Manga: July 18-July 24, 2016

My News and Reviews

Other than the regular My Week in Manga feature, there were no posts from me last week at Experiments in Manga. I was, however, able to make some progress on my review for the final volume of Setona Mizushiro’s manga series After School Nightmare. I hope to finish and post the review in the very near future, and then officially wrap up my horror manga review project.

Elsewhere online last week, I came across two interesting interviews: a translation of a 2006 conversation between Taiyo Matsumoto and Fumiko Takano as well as an interview with Kazue Kato, creator of Blue Exorcist, from Anime Expo 2016. The San Diego Comic Con took place over the weekend and there were a few licensing announcements to come out of the event: Kodansha Comics is planning a deluxe edition of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell; Udon Entertainment has acquired Yuztan’s Dragon Crown manga adaptation in addition to more artbooks, Manga Classics, and a Street Fighter novel; and Viz Media will be releasing a Princess Mononoke artbook as well books based on RWBY.

Finally, in part due to a suggestion made by a regular reader of Experiments in Manga, I’d like to start more regularly mentioning some of the crowdfunding projects that I’m either supporting or that have caught my eye. In the past, I’ve tended to only mention projects that were directly or tangentially related to manga in some way, but I’d like to begin highlighting other campaigns as well. And so! Natasha Alterici is raising funds for the second volume of Heathen, a beautifully illustrated comic about lesbian Vikings. Jason Thompson, author of Manga: The Complete Guide and a comic creator in his own right, is printing a poster map of alien invaders. Bones of the Coast is an anthology of horror comics inspired by the Pacific Northwest.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to give the Sparkler Monthly Year 4 campaign another shout out. (If you follow me on Twitter, that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing for the last week or so, and will probably continue to do so for a while.) I really love everything that Sparkler Monthly/Chromatic Press is doing, and will be legitimately heartbroken if the Kickstarter doesn’t succeed.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail, Omnibus 2Fairy Tail, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 6-10) by Hiro Mashima. When I first started reading Fairy Tail, I ended up jumping into the series around the twenty-fifth volume. Fairy Tail has a huge following, but it just didn’t seem to click with me. However, now that I’ve read some of earlier volumes, I think I finally more fully understand the appeal of the series. Fairy Tail is a fun and exciting manga with likeable characters and an emphasis on friendship and found family. One of my complaints about Fairy Tail in the past has been that it often seems directionless. Even this early in the series Mashima readily admits to making things up as the he goes with no concrete plan in place. He even seemed surprised when he realized that the series would reach ten volumes. (And it’s now over fifty and still ongoing.) Interestingly, this lack of direction didn’t seem to bother me as much as it has before, I think in part due to the fact that Mashima spends a fair amount of second omnibus exploring the main characters’ back stories which provided the needed amount of focus. I liked getting to know the characters better, something I missed out on by starting with a later story arc. Also, Kodansha’s massive, oversized “Master’s Edition” omnibuses show off Mashima’s artwork and are a great way to catch up on the series.

Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 2Princess Jellyfish, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 3-4) by Akiko Higashimura. I am still incredibly happy that Kodansha Comics is releasing a print edition of Princess Jellyfish. I’m also glad that the series seems to be worth the risk and is doing fairly well for the publisher so far. I am especially looking forward to reaching the parts of the story that weren’t included in the anime adaptation. While there are some differences, for the most part the second omnibus fall entirely into what was adapted for the anime. Because of that I’m not at all surprised by any of the plot developments, but I still am thoroughly enjoying the story and characters. I also get a kick out of the visual nods to classic shoujo manga that Higashimura scatters throughout the series, usually when something particularly dramatic is going on. Princess Jellyfish is probably first and foremost a comedy, but through its humor it explores issues of gender roles and expectations. There is a fair amount of relationship drama, too. At this point in the series, Kuranosuke is trying to come up with a plan to raise the funds needed to save the Amamizukan apartments from being demolished and in doing so becomes more and more attached to Tsukimi. As for Tsukimi, she’s dealing with her own personal and romantic turmoils.

A Silent Voice, Volume 7A Silent Voice, Volume 7 by Yoshitoki Oima. The first volume of A Silent Voice left a huge impression on me, and the series as a whole has consistently been one of the strongest stories that I’ve recently read. Granted, A Silent Voice isn’t always an easy read and the subject matter can be pretty heavy. Bullying, depression, social anxiety, suicide attempts, and other tough issues all come into play. Oima isn’t afraid to let the relationships between the characters be extremely messy and complicated. I especially appreciate that Oima doesn’t just slap romance on the situation like magical bandage that will fix everything or erase the misdeeds of the past. From time to time, I was a little worried that might happen, but A Silent Voice takes a more nuanced and much less stereotypical route with the story. If anything, the romantic feelings just complicate matters further. The characters themselves are realistically and believably flawed people. Frankly, they can even be unlikeable, they still remain interesting and compelling. Many of them are struggling with mistakes that they have made and are dealing with devastating regret. But by the end of the series, the characters able to begin to look forward towards the future instead of wallowing in what can’t be changed; their pasts have shaped who they are, but won’t be the only thing that defines them.

My Week in Manga: October 26-November 1, 2015

My News and Reviews

A few different things were posted at Experiments in Manga last week. The most recent manga giveaway is currently underway, for one, and here’s still time to enter for a chance to win Barakamon, Volume 1 by Satsuki Yoshino. Last week I reviewed Vinland Saga, Omnibus 6 by Makoto Yukimura. The series continues to impress me a great deal with its story telling and character development. The fate of the series in English will be in part determined by how well the sixth and seventh omnibuses do (the seventh omnibus is currently scheduled to be released in December); I truly hope that Kodansha will be able to release more because Vinland Saga is fantastic. Finally, over the weekend, I posted the Bookshelf Overload for October.

I’ve been extremely busy with all sorts of life stuff, so while I’m sure there were plenty of interesting things going on in the realm of manga online, there were only two that really caught my eye last week: Shojo Beat posted a short interview with Rinko Ueda and Chris Butcher wrote about his experience interviewing Masashi Kishimoto at New York Comic Con. Also as a heads up, because I am so extraordinarily caught up in things going on at work and at home right now, I’ve decided to go a little easier on myself with my blogging schedule for November (and probably for the first half of December as well). Instead of the usual Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule, in the upcoming weeks I may just be posting on Monday and Thursday. Hopefully things will calm down and I can get back to writing more soon!

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail, Volume 50Fairy Tail, Volume 50 by Hiro Mashima. After so many arcs in which the Fairy Tail guild was fighting to save the world, I’m particularly enjoying the beginning of this most recent arc in which Fairy Tail doesn’t technically even exist anymore. Although there are some epic, world-altering developments occurring in the background, for the moment the story is focusing on the much more personal crises of the disbanded guild as it rebuilds itself. It’s a nice change of pace, though I’m fairly certain it won’t last for very long. A year or so has passed since the members of Fairy Tail parted their separate ways. Quite a few of the magic users have managed to power up during that time, allowing Mashima the opportunity to come up with some exciting and interesting new skills for them in order to show just how badass they’ve become (and they were strong to begin with). Some of the fan service focusing on the female characters in Fairy Tail continues to feel very out-of-place and distracting, but at least the women are frequently some of the strongest and most well-developed characters. The male characters are the subject of fan service from time to time, too, though never to the same extent.

Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 1Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 1-3 by Sui Ishida. The glut of vampire and zombie manga continues—and I’m not really a devotee of either of those subgenres—so I especially appreciate that Tokyo Ghoul makes use of an entirely different creature, the titular ghoul. In the case of this particular manga series, ghouls largely pass as normal humans assuming that they can master their intense hunger for human flesh. After an encounter with a ghoul that nearly leaves him dead, Kaneki finds himself in the unique position of partly belonging to both the human world and the world of the ghouls, and yet it will be a struggle for him to survive in either of them. In Tokyo Ghoul, humans are just as capable of being monsters. And Ishida isn’t afraid of killing off prominent characters, whether they be human or ghoul, so there is a constant sense of danger. Sadly, I think the emotional impact of the deaths was somewhat diminished since readers hadn’t yet had the chance to really get to know the characters involved as individuals. Still, kudos to Ishida for potentially making good use of some shocking, unexpected developments, especially as some early parts of the first volume were a little predictable.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 4Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 4 by Miki Yohsikawa. Although the fan service in Fairy Tail tends to bug me, the fan service in Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches doesn’t really bother me at all, probably because it’s better incorporated into the story itself. Admittedly, it can still be gratuitous from time to time. Since the manga in part deals with body-swapping, it makes sense that there would be some focus on the characters’ physical traits. Plus this particular volume includes the obligatory beach and onsen scenes. One thing that really impresses me about Yoshikawa’s artwork in the Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is that it’s obvious from the characters’ facial expressions and body language when there has been some swapping going on. This actually ends up being explicitly pointed out in the series when one character develops a crush on a specific combination of personality and body type. The witch count continues to grow in the series as does Yamada’s group of friends while he begins to work out a theory explaining why everyone has the powers that they do. I’m still really enjoying Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. Though largely a comedy, it has some heart to it as well.

My Week in Manga: August 31-September 6, 2015

My News and Reviews

A few different things posted at Experiments in Manga last week. First up was the announcement of the Yumi Tamura Giveaway Winner which also includes a list of mangaka whose work the giveaway participants consistently enjoy and follow. For the second post last week, which also happens to be the first in-depth review of September, I took a look at Takeshi Matsu’s second English collection of erotic gay manga Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories which I quite enjoyed. Overall, I think it may even be stronger than his first collection, More and More of You and Other Stories, which I also liked. Finally, over the weekend, I posted August’s Bookshelf Overload for those of you interested in what sorts of things I’ve picked up recently.

A little over a month ago I posted my responses to a game of manga tag. Well, that game is still making the rounds! Most recently, I discovered that Daiyamanga’s Krystallina took the opportunity to talk about her collection. Elsewhere online, Shojo Beat posted a brief interview with Kimi ni Todoke‘s creator Karuho Shiina. And in licensing news, Seven Seas has picked up three more manga: Nanatsuki Takafumi and Risumai’s I Was Abducted by an Elite All-Girls School as a Sample Commoner, Amemiya Yuki and Ichihara Yukino’s Battle Rabbits, and Takeoka Hazuki and Tiv’s Masamune-kun’s Revenge.

My News and Reviews

An Even More Beautiful LieAn Even More Beautiful Lie by Kei Kanai. It was the lovely, ethereal, and sensuous cover of An Even More Beautiful Lie that initially caught my eye and first brought the boys’ love one-shot to my attention. And, except for the creepy way that Kanai draws some of the characters’ eyes, I really liked the interior artwork as well with its strong inking and solid blacks. I enjoyed the basic premise and setup of the story, too, but ultimately I felt a little betrayed by the manga. Kurosu is a university student studying art. He’s particularly fond of the paintings by Yukari, a fellow student, genius artist, and something of a recluse. Yukari’s life is devoted to painting. Sometimes while in the grip of inspiration he’s so focused on creating that forgets to eat or even sleep. Which is why it’s fortunate that he left his umbrella on the train—returning it gives Kurosu the excuse he needed to talk to Yukari and the two grow close; Yukari now has someone who not only cares about his paintings, but cares about his well-being, too. I wish An Even More Beautiful Lie would have continued in that vein, but instead there’s an abrupt shift in the story’s tone that’s and a horrible, unnecessary rape scene. But at least it’s not between the two leads and their relationship remains intact.

Fairy Tail, Volume 49Fairy Tail, Volume 49 by Hiro Mashima. The forty-ninth volume of Fairy Tail brings to an end the Tartaros story arc while beginning new one. Since Igneel dominates the cover, I was hoping for an epic showdown between dragons. There is a pretty good fight, but sadly it’s over fairly quickly. In fact, the whole Tartaros arc seemed to be wrapped up sooner than anticipated. And indeed, Mashima mentions in the afterword that it was cut short. Even so, it ends in a suitably dramatic fashion and the next arc promises to be very interesting. Of course, Mashima does have to retcon a few things to really pull it off well. That’s one of the things about Fairy Tail that I’m consistently frustrated by—although Mashima claims to have thought out the story well in advance, due to the lack of adequate foreshadowing and what seems like constant rewriting, I’m not convinced. And as the series continues to grow in length (I don’t see Fairy Tail ending any time soon), keeping internal consistency is going to become more and more of a challenge. Even though magic is obviously a major part of Fairy Tail, I think it’s been used one to many times to backtrack the narrative when Mashima has written himself into a corner; major plot and character developments lose their impact if they can so easily be waved away later on.

Prison School, Omnibus 1Prison School, Omnibus 1 by Akira Hiramoto. Some people, like me, may be familiar with Hiramoto as the creator of the acclaimed manga series Me and the Devil Blues, a supernaturally-tinged historical drama about a blues musician. Prison School is a completely different manga that, except for Hiramoto’s tremendous skill as an artist, has very little in common that earlier series. Prison School is an absurdly dramatic and over-the-top comedy. Even though the manga can hardly be taken seriously it will still likely be incredibly offensive and obscene to a large number of readers since the most powerful characters—the young women of Hachimitsu Private Academy’s shadow student council—are also the most sexualized and fetishized. The men in the series are all varying degrees of despicable, and they unapologetically revel in it. And yet, if one can stand the stunningly less-than-flattering portrayal of just about every character in the series, Prison School can be immensely entertaining and engaging. Considering all of the perversion, sadomasochism, nudity, and violence in Prison School, it’s certainly not a series that I would recommend to everyone, though. I expect that Prison School will be a divisive series, but I’m still intensely curious to see how the manga plays out.