My Week in Manga: March 28-April 3, 2016

My News and Reviews

A couple of different things were posted at Experiments in Manga last week. For starters, since it’s the end of one month and the beginning of another, it’s time for another manga giveaway! There’s still an opportunity to enter for chance to win the first omnibus of Akiko Higashimura’s wonderful Princess Jellyfish. I also posted an in-depth review last week of The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa, which is an engaging work in addition to being surprisingly entertaining and humorous. Fukuzawa helped to shape modern-day Japan; I was inspired to pick up his autobiography after reading Minae Mizumura’s The Fall of Language in the Age of English.

Quite a few Kickstarter projects have caught my attention over the last week or so. I’m especially excited to see that Sparkler Monthly has launched a campaign to release the first volume of Jenn Doyle’s Knights-Errant in print. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund launched a project for She Changed Comics, a book that will profile women comics creators from around the world, including Moto Hagio, Machiko Hasegawa, Rumiko Takahashi, the Year 24 Group, and others. There’s an illustration zine inspired by and dedicated to gay manga called Burl & Fur that looks like it will be amazing. As promised, Digital Manga’s most recent classic manga Kickstarter is for a non-Tezuka title—Izumi Matsumoto’s Kimagure Orange Road. Finally, I wanted to take the opportunity to mention the campaign for the North American release of the Skip Beat! anime again. The series needs financial support in order to be dubbed, which is a requirement by the licensor for its release.

Quick Takes

CaramelCaramel by Puku Okuyama. The cover art of Caramel makes it look like a cute and sweet boys’ love one-shot, and at times that’s exactly what it is, but there’s enough about the story and the leads’ relationship that’s dubious and questionable that overall I can’t say that I really enjoyed it all that much. Part of the point of Caramel is the contrast between the two main characters, Roku and Iori, each of whom is childish in his own way. Roku is a successful businessman who is afraid of the dark and picky about his food. Iori has just moved to Tokyo to begin his first year of university, and being younger has had less experience in life and love. I think most of my annoyance with Caramel stems from Roku—I have little patience for and a difficult time sympathizing with adults who exhibit such an astounding lack of self-responsibility, not to mention that he’s an utter creep at first. I have no idea how he even survived before Iori became his roommate and eventual lover. Iori, on the other hand, I found to be much more likeable. He’s the oldest of four siblings and so has developed into a very responsible young adult. Iori also loves to cook and I liked how food was incorporated into Caramel.

Livingstone, Volume 1Livingstone, Volume 1-2 written by Tomohiro Maekawa and illustrated by Jinsei Kataoka. I’m not especially familiar with Maekawa, a respected playwright and director, but I recognized Kataoka as one of the creators of the manga series Deadman Wonderland. One of Maekawa’s short plays provides the inspiration for Livingstone, a largely episodic manga exploring themes of life, death, and the human soul. The series follows Sakurai and Amano who help to collect and preserve psycholiths, stones that are the physical manifestations of human souls after they have left their respective bodies. Though at this point frustratingly incomplete, I find the worldbuilding in Livingstone to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the manga, especially in regards to souls. There are a limited number of souls and the world is beginning to run out so that some people, like Amano, are born without them, which is one reason that the work of psycholith collectors is so important. Additionally, souls that are irrevocably damaged at the end of a person’s life will shatter, leaving behind psychic stains that will continue to contaminate others unless the cycle can be stopped.

Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Omnibus 3Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Omnibuses 3-4 (equivalent to Volumes 5-8) by Satoshi Mizukami. I’m definitely behind in reading Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer but I do enjoy the manga. It’s a rather peculiar series with oddball characters who are in the position to either save the world or destroy it—the line between heros and villains can be very thin. Most of the characters have something dark or tragic about their pasts, so their feelings about the world and the other people in it are understandably conflicted. Tragedy isn’t limited to their pasts, either. These two omnibuses include multiple deaths that have great impact, as well as other moments of pain and devastation. But the characters also grow and overcome many of these challenges, becoming stronger mentally and emotionally as well as physically. There are betrayals, both real and imagined, as well as love confessions as friendships and relationships change, some characters drifting apart while others are realizing that people might not be so bad after all. All of this interpersonal drama plays out against the backdrop of a literal battle against monsters as the series ramps up the danger in preparation for its finale.

My Week in Manga: July 23-July 29, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was the CLAMP Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by the Manga Bookshelf. As part of my contribution to the Feast, I reviewed the omnibus edition of Clover which is one of my personal favorites when it comes to CLAMP’s work. Next month’s Feast will be focusing on Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service written by Eiji Ōtsuka and illustrated by Housui Yamazaki. Eeeper’s Choice Podcast will be hosting. The scheduling of future Feasts is currently under discussion in the MMFeast Google Group if you’d like to jump in and have your say.

On to interesting things I found online! Deb Aoki has posted the notes from the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con best and worst manga panel. I always look forward to seeing the resulting lists each year. Also at the San Diego Comic-Con, JManga announced the Manga Translation Battle, which has now officially started. JManga also recently started a new blog—JManga Poi Poi. Over at Okazu, Erica Friedman posted some excellent food for thought Why Yuri Cannot be Financially Successful…The Gospel According To Fandom.

Also! The most recent manga giveaway here at Experiments in Manga has been posted. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, but you still have time to enter to win the Love Hina Giveaway.

Quick Takes

Aftershock: Artists Respond to Disaster in Japan edited by Adam Pasion. Although I only recently learned about it, Aftershock is one of several comics anthologies that were released in response to the 2011Tōhoku earthquake. Aftershock is a fairly slim volume but packs in works from over thirty-five contributors hailing from all over the globe. The comics capture the artist’s personal responses to the earthquake in Japan and how their lives and works have been influenced by Japanese culture. A few of the selections relate the experiences of some of the creators who were in Japan at the time of the earthquake. Overall, I found Aftershock to be a great collection. (Proceeds go to various relief agencies.)

Crimson Snow by Hori Tomoki. While I wasn’t blown away by Crimson Snow, I did enjoy Tomoki’s debut collection of boys’ love stories. The the anthology includes the titular “Crimson Snow” about a yakuza rescued by a tea ceremony heir, “At First Sight” in which two university students admit their feelings for each other, “Cry for the Sun” about a young man’s relationship with his father’s lover, and “Galance” which is a continuation of “Crimson Snow.” Although there are certainly a few intimate scenes, Crimson Snow focuses more on the characters, their histories, and their emotions than it does on sex. The majority of the encounters feel like natural extensions of the developing relationships rather than being included just because they’re an expected part of the genre.

Deadman Wonderland, Volumes 2-5 written by Jinsei Kataoka and illustrated by Kazuma Kondou. I was very intrigued by the first volume of Deadman Wonderland. However, as much I thoroughly enjoyed parts of the subsequent volumes, there were other parts of the manga that frustrated me immensely. For one, major plot twists are dramatically revealed only to be forgotten for volumes at a time. I also have a hard time believing that the Deadman Wonderland inmates are given so much free reign within the prison. But there are still aspects of Deadman Wonderland that I enjoy. I particularly like Kondou’s artwork and most of the character designs. And even when it doesn’t make a lot of sense, the story is frequently engaging.

Sanctuary, Volumes 5-9 written by Sho Fumimura (Buronson) and illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami. Sanctuary is one of the best manga series that I’ve read recently; it’s really a pity that it’s long out of print. The juxtaposition of organized crime and politics is fascinating. Each are cutthroat and dangerous in their own ways, the players in each realm working within strict codes of conduct. At times, the mafia seems more honest and honorable than the politicians. I’m not even particularly interested in modern-day politics but nonetheless found Sanctuary to be incredibly gripping. The story of Hojo and Asami’s relationship and their struggle to change Japan together after surviving the killing fields of Cambodia is intense to say the least.

My Week in Manga: January 10-January 16, 2011

My News and Reviews

This week is the Manga Moveable Feast for Karakuri Odette, hosted by Anna at Manga Report. I’ll have in-depth review of the first volume up on Wednesday and a related silly something to post on Friday. Technically, today’s post features a quick take of the first five volumes. That means every post this week will have at least a little something to do with Karakuri Odette and the Manga Moveable Feast, so go me! I happen to really like androids and had never read Karakuri Odette before, so I’m particularly interested in seeing what people have to say.

In not-so breaking news, I won a ticket to the Gantz World Premiere event taking place on January 20th! In honor of this, my giveaway for the month will be a brand new copy of the first volume of the Gantz manga. The contest will open next Wednesday, the 26th, and run for a week, so be on the look out.

As for last week, I posted some tips on effectively finding and buying manga at Borders—Finding Manga: Borders. I love Borders and really hope they’re able to pull through their troubles. I’m doing my part by buying lots of stuff from them, manga and otherwise. I also posted a review of a financial thriller that takes place in Tokyo, At the Sharpe End, which was sent to me by the author Hugh Ashton.

Quick Takes

Beyond My Touch by Tomo Maeda. I was a little surprised by how much I enjoyed Beyond My Touch. The volume collects three stories, all with a sort of melancholy feel to them. The titular story was probably my favorite. A young man is haunted by the ghost of a recently deceased classmate and discovers just how alone he was before. Maeda could have gone for the tragically sad ending, but instead goes for a more bittersweet one. What could have simply been silly and goofy was actually rather touching. I wasn’t quite as fond of the second two, shorter stories (“Cool Lips” and “Recipe”), although I did enjoy them as well. It’s a cute collection.

Crying Freeman, Volumes 1-5 written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami. Yo Hinamura is the world’s greatest assassin and as the appointed heir to the criminal syndicated known as the 108 Dragons, there are plenty of people after his and his loved ones’ lives. For some inexplicable reason, all fights apparently must be conducted either nearly or completely in the nude. But Ikegami’s bodies are gorgeous and his fight scenes beautiful, so I must say I’m not going to complain too much (at least about that). The large tattoos that cover many of the characters are stunning and intricate I don’t envy Ikegami having to illustrate them panel after panel.

Deadman Wonderland, Volume 1 written by Jinsei Kataoka and illustrated by Kazuma Kondou. I haven’t heard much about Deadman Wonderland and don’t remember why I picked it up, but I’m glad that I did—this was another manga that I was surprised by how much I liked it. Ganta is a survivor of the Great Tokyo Earthquake which sank 70% of the city. Ten years later, he’s the only suspect in the massacre of his middle school class and is sentenced to Deadman Wonderland, a privately owned detention facility cum violently bizarre theme park. I have no idea what is really going on at this point (granted, neither does Ganta), but I want to know!

Karakuri Odette, Volumes 1-5 by Julietta Suzuki. Perhaps surprisingly, Odette is actually not my favorite character in Karakuri Odette. That honor probably goes to either Professor Yoshizawa or Chris and I liked the story best when at least one of them was around. Although, Asao is pretty great, too. I found that I enjoyed the heavier science fiction aspects of the series than I did the school life aspects, but overall the series is quite charming. My biggest complaint about Karakuri Odette is that characters seem to be introduced only to disappear (and sometimes reappear) with very little justification. Still, I like the series and look forward to the final volume.

Seven by Momoko Tenzen. Separated after the orphanage they were institutionalized in burned down, Mitsuha has been unsuccessfully searching for his younger brother for years when he meets a young man with an eerily similar background and name. Meanwhile, his brother has his own reasons for not reaching out to find his older brother. The most interesting aspects of the manga, the mysterious backgrounds of several of the characters, are actually only hinted at and mostly left up to the imagination. The dialogue can be a bit difficult to follow at times and it’s not always clear who is speaking. Overall though, I did like the general atmosphere of the manga.

Hula Girls directed by Lee Sang-il. Based on a true story and winner of quite a few film awards, Hula Girls is heartfelt and inspiring. I first learned about the film because ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro (who I am a huge fan of) was responsible for most of the music and soundtrack. A small mining town in rural Japan is slowly dying as the world turns away from coal to embrace oil. The company initiates a plan to build a Hawaiian themed spa in an attempt to keep at least some of the workers employed. They face adversity, and most of the town is against the retreat, but the coal miners’ daughters pour their hearts and souls into the project.

Planetes: Complete Collection,  directed by Gorō Taniguchi. Many of the things and moments that I loved from the manga were absent from the anime, but the animated series has its own charms. The two start out very similar, but the ending of the anime is quite different and more thoroughly explores aspects of the Planetes universe that the manga only touches on. The manga and the anime complement each other nicely and are different enough that it’s hard to say which I prefer. If I had to choose, I would probably say the anime, but I really liked them both. Planetes is great, believable, near future science fiction with plenty realism and a lot of heart.