My Week in Manga: June 19-June 25, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted the Bookshelf Overload for May, a rather lengthy list of manga, comics, and other books that have recently made their way into my home. One reason it was such a long was due to the fact that the Toronto Comic Arts Festival was also held in May and I’m always inspired to pick up a bunch of things while I’m there. Normally I post the Bookshelf Overload feature during the second week of the month rather than the third, but I switched things up this time in order to post my review of Yeon-sik Hong’s manhwa Uncomfortabily Happily closer to its release date.

Elsewhere online, Deb Aoki recently took a look at some of the major trends impacting the North American manga industry for Publishers Weekly–“Nine Reasons Manga Publishers Can Smile in 2017.” Otherwise, I didn’t really come across much in the way of manga news and announcements last week. While it may have in fact been a relatively quiet week, I suspect that I might have just missed things due to the fact that I wasn’t online much. (I’m in the midst of preparing lesson plans for an introduction to taiko course that I’ll be instructing over the summer.) Do let me know if there was anything in particular that you’ve found interesting lately, though!

Quick Takes

Cosmic CommandosCosmic Commandos by Chris Eliopoulos. Every once in a while a comic is directly sent my way that I otherwise would probably have never encountered. Cosmic Commandos, the debut graphic novel of American comics creator and illustrator Eliopoulos, is one such work. In part inspired by his own identical twin sons, Cosmic Commandos follows an unexpected adventure that a pair of twin brothers find themselves caught up in. Jeremy and  his (slightly) younger brother Justin have vastly different personalities, much to Jeremy’s dismay and embarrassment. In fact, Jeremy seems pretty annoyed and bored with a lot in his life, but that soon changes when a cereal box prize turns him into the hero from his favorite video game. Not only that, the monsters and villains from the game are now invading the town, too. However, they are proving to be much more difficult to beat in real life and, like it or not, Jeremy will need to rely on Justin’s help to save the day. Cosmic Commandos is aimed towards younger readers but some of the more subtle jokes and humor will probably be appreciated even more by the adults in their lives. It’s not a comic that I would normally find myself reading, but it was a fun and energetic story. There’s even a sequel in the works, Monster Mayhem, which sounds delightful.

Gangsta: Cursed, Volume 1Gangsta: Cursed, Volumes 1-2 written by Kohske and illustrated by Syuhei Kamo. I was surprised and impressed by how close Kamo’s artwork in Gangsta: Cursed aligns with Kohske’s artwork in Gangsta. This can probably be largely explained by the fact that Kamo is actually one of Kohske’s assistants for the original series, of which I wasn’t previously aware. Gangsta: Cursed primarily takes place before the events of the main series and is set during another time in Ergastulum’s history in which violence against the Twilight population was at a peak. Although there hasn’t been much story yet per se–for the most part the first two volumes of Gangsta: Cursed consist of one brutal action sequence after another–functionally the series serves as the backstory for Marco Adriano, who at that point was known as Spas. Unsurprisingly, considering that this is still Gangsta, his past is a tragic one filled blood and death. Indoctrinated as a young man to hate Twilights above all else, he is part of a group of particularly vicious Hunters known as the Destroyers. They have been instructed to kill all of the Twilights that they can find along with any normal human sympathizers, and they do. However, Spas is beginning to have doubts and seems to be quickly approaching a psychological breakdown.

I Am a Hero, Omnibus 2I Am a Hero, Omnibuses 2-3 (equivalent to Volumes 3-6) by Kengo Hanazawa. I’ll have to admit, although in general I’ve grown somewhat weary of the zombie subgenre, I’m finding I Am a Hero to be a gripping series. It can also be fairly gruesome and outright disturbing at times. Hanazawa has at this point established a good narrative rhythm, allowing both the characters and readers to have moments of respite (even if those moments are still frequently anxiety-inducing) in between intense, action-oriented, near-death experiences. Hideo, the lead of I Am a Hero, continues to be one of the most interesting characters that I’ve recently encountered in a manga, mostly due to the non-sensationalistic portrayal of the numerous mental health issues he deals with on top of simply trying to survive a zombie outbreak. Most everyone he knows has already died or has otherwise succumbed to the devastating infection, but as the series progresses further he does at least temporarily find some allies who can confirm that something terrible is going on in the world and that it’s not just all in his head. How long any of them will last is an entirely different matter though; the death count in I Am a Hero continues to be incredibly high and any survivors aren’t having an easy time of it, either.

Kase-san and Morning GloriesKase-san and Morning Glories by Hiromi Takashima. I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on exactly why, but I find the cover art of the first volume in the Kase-san series to be both cute and slightly off-putting. Fortunately, later volumes don’t seem to have the same issue. It’s also somewhat misleading as the interior illustrations are drawn in a completely different style, but one that I greatly prefer even though the anatomy can occasionally be a bit off. Like many manga, Kase-san and Morning Glories originally started as a one-shot story which is probably why the early part of the series feels very episodic. I’m not sure if the episodic nature of the manga will continue or if the series will develop a larger overarching narrative (which by the end of the first volume it seems that it might), but what I am certain of is that Kase-san and Morning Glories is adorable, light, and fluffy. There’s not much depth to the characters or stories at this point, but they are likeable and charming. The manga is largely seen from the perspective of Yamada, a young woman who loves to garden and who has recently found herself attracted to the titular Kase, one of the tomboyish stars of their school’s track team. Kase likes Yamada, too, but it takes some time for them to realize that their feelings are mutual.

My Week in Manga: May 2-May 8, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I announced the winner of the superhero duo manga giveaway. As usual, the post also includes a list of manga, in this particular case a list of manga featuring superheros of one ilk or another. Last week I also posted my review of Rokudenashiko’s comic memoir What Is Obscenity?: The Story of a Good for Nothing Artist in Her Pussy which is a wonderfully engaging and important work. Rokudenashiko is one of the featured guests at the Toronto Comic Arts festival which is this upcoming weekend; I greatly admire her and her work, so I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to meet her in person.

Elsewhere online: Rokudenashiko was recently interviewed in preparation for her trip to Toronto. Massive Goods hints at an upcoming announcement regarding an English-language release of Gengoroh Tagame’s award-winning My Brother’s Husband, which I am super-excited about. And Ryan Holmberg wrote a about Katsumata Susumu’s Anti-Nuclear Manga for the Sainsbury Institute and, at the other end of the spectrum, about the Nuclear Literati: Nakashima Kiyoshi’s Furusato Goes to Hell for The Comics Journal.

Quick Takes

I Am a Hero, Omnibus 1I Am a Hero, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Kengo Hanazawa. By this point I’m fairly burned-out when it comes to zombies, but I had heard so many good things about the award-winning I Am a Hero that I had to give it a try. And, I must admit, the manga is one of the most interesting and best examples of the genre that I’ve come across in quite some time. For me what makes I Am a Hero stand out is the lead character, Hideo. After making his debut as a professional mangaka, he’s back to being an assistant when his career failed to take off. He has the tendency to talk to himself, hear voices, and hallucinate, so everything that he experiences has to be questioned. The zombie apocalypse doesn’t really come until the second half of the first I Am a Hero omnibus. Until that happens, most of the hints and clues of the impending disaster can be easily dismissed as part of Hideo’s delusions. When the apocalypse finally does happen the series suddenly becomes horrifyingly brutal and grotesque as the world descends into chaos. Hideo remains surprisingly calm in the face of it all, partially because he initially assumes that the end of the world is just another one of his hallucinations. By the end of the first omnibus there’s already an extraordinarily high body count (most the named characters are done for and even Hideo isn’t completely unscathed), so I am very curious to see where the series goes from here.

Maga-Tsuki, Volume 1Maga-Tsuki, Volume 1 by Hoshino Taguchi. Apparently the initial inspiration behind Maga-Tsuki was originally going to be worked into a shōnen battle manga, but in the end it turned into a harem-ish romantic comedy. Personally, in this case I probably would have been more interested in the action-oriented series, but Maga-Tsuki does offer some variations on the usual tropes that are amusing. It is, however, very trope-heavy and contains the expected levels of fanservice for this type of story. When he accidentally breaks the sacred mirror protected by his family’s shrine, Yasuke finds himself cursed by the goddess sealed within it. In order to lift the curse he must make Orihime, a goddess of calamity and misfortune, happy, which proves to be something of a challenge. In the meantime, his soul has been separated from his body and he must maintain constant physical contact with Orihime or else he will die. A kiss from Orihime will conveniently revive him, though. This obviously results in all sorts of complications and misunderstandings, especially when it comes to trying to confess his feelings to the girl that he likes. I like that Maga-Tsuki makes use of Japanese mythology, otherwise I’m not sure that it would have managed to hold my attention. However, I do have a hard time seeing the sweetly cute and seemingly innocent Orihime as an ancient, all-knowing goddess even if her divine powers are suitably impressive.

The Nameless CityThe Nameless City, Volume 1 by Faith Erin Hicks with colors by Jordie Bellaire. In general I tend to be fond of Hicks’ work, but I’ve been especially anticipating the debut of The Nameless City trilogy having followed its development and progress online. The titular Nameless City is a city that has been conquered and re-conquered countless times. Situated in a geographically advantageous location which allows the ruling kingdom immense control over the area’s economics and trade it makes a sought-after target. The city is currently under the domain of the Dao and has been for a few decades, but it’s likely only a matter of time before there’s another invasion or the residents rise up in revolt. Inspired in part by Chinese history, The Nameless City is about an unlikely friendship that develops over the backdrop of warfare, clashing cultures, and political intrigue. Kaidu is one of the Dao, sent to the Nameless City to participate in military education and training (though he’d much rather be reading than fighting), while Rat is one of the city’s many orphans whose parents were killed by the Dao. As Kaidu gets to know Rat he gets to know the city, and he learns more about his own people in the process, too. As for Rat, she initially hates Kaidu simply because he is Dao, but that slowly changes as she realizes that not all Dao are the same. I’m really enjoying seeing their relationship develop and look forward to the next volume, The Stone Heart, a great deal.