My Week in Manga: April 11-April 17, 2016

My News and Reviews

As I alluded to a few months ago, I’ve been in the process of trying to purchase a house. Well, I finally made it happen! I signed all of the papers on Friday, so for the foreseeable I’m going to be a little preoccupied getting things ready and moving over to the new place. It’s all sorts of exciting, but it does mean I’ll have significantly less time to devote to other things for a while. And so, I’m back to a reduced posting schedule at Experiments in Manga for the time being. Expect to continue to regularly see My Week in Manga, but there will probably only be one other review or feature most weeks. That all being said, last week I reviewed the recently released Midnight Stranger, Volume 1, a supernatural boys’ love manga with a sense of humor (as well as some pretty great monster designs) by Bohra Naono. I haven’t seen a lot of manga news over the last week, although I’m sure there has been some, but I did want to mention that Viz Media has licensed Kohske and Syuhei Kamo’s Gangsta: Cursed, a prequel series to Gangsta (a manga of which I’m particularly fond.)

Quick Takes

Itazura na Kiss, Volume 7Itazura na Kiss, Volumes 7-8 by Kaoru Tada. It’s been a little while since I’ve read any of Itazura na Kiss, but it’s a pretty easy series to put down and pick up again since nothing of major importance really ever seems to change all that much. I have been enjoying the series, but I’m starting to long for a little more forward momentum and the characters are beginning to wear me down a little. At the same time, while the overall pacing is fairly slow, Tada is expert in changing and moving the story along just enough to keep things interesting. Kotoko and Naoki are now newlyweds, but otherwise their relationship is pretty par for the course. Kotoko is utterly infatuated with Naoki, and Naoki continues to be fairly cold towards her. Thankfully, Kotoko is (slowly) beginning to mature and determine for herself what it is she really wants to do with her life. It can be difficult to tell at times, but Naoki really does love Kotoko and cares for her well-being, he just tends to be a total ass about it which can be tiresome. Granted, it does make it particularly satisfying when he ends up being thrown out of his comfort zone.

The JudgedThe Judged by Akira Honma. Having greatly enjoyed the first two volumes of Honma’s Rabbit Man, Tiger Man boys’ love series, and considering the fact that the third and final volume is unlikely to ever be released in English, I decided to seek out the creator’s other works in translation. I didn’t realize it until I finished reading manga, but The Judged was actually Honma’s first volume to be released as a professional mangaka. The titular story is about a prosecuting investigator and member of the Diet who are navigating a political scandal, while their shared past makes things even more complicated. The Judged also includes Honma’s debut manga “Like a White Phantom” about an initially antagonistic relationship between two young doctors. For the most part, the focus of The Judged is more on the drama and less on the romance. The manga tends to be fairly serious and the relationships aren’t necessarily the most healthy. They’re not always particularly happy relationships, either. Many of the characters have some pretty heavy personal issues do deal with, including physical and emotional abuse.

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Side: P3, Volume 1Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Side: P3, Volume 1 by So Tobita. The Persona series is perhaps the most popular subset of the larger Shin Megami Tensei video game franchise. Persona Q is a relatively recent spinoff from 2014 made for the Nintendo 3DS which combines characters from Persona 3 and Persona 4—a player can choose to experience the game from either perspective. Likewise, a reader can choose from either the Side: P3 or Side: P4 manga adaptation which present two different sides of the same story. When it comes to manga adaptations of video games, there seem to be two major types, those that are accessible to anyone and those that are intended to be appreciated by fans of the original. So far, the Side P3 manga would seem to be one of the latter, requiring some prior knowledge of the franchise to fully enjoy the series. Very little is explained about the world or the characters in the manga itself. But for those who are familiar with Persona, the Side: P3 manga can be a fun way to quickly experience or re-experience the story and game of Persona Q, though I’m not sure that it really adds anything new.

My Week in Manga: January 4-January 10, 2016

My News and Reviews

The new year is now well on its way, and I finally feel like I’m getting back into my writing groove; my regular posting schedule has mostly returned, though there might be a slight interruption in February. Anyway. In addition to the regular My Week in Manga feature, there were two other posts at Experiments in Manga last week. The first was the announcement of the Merman in My Tub Giveaway Winner which also includes a compiled list of some of the giveaway participants’ favorite manga that were released in 2015. The second post last week also happened to be the second in-depth manga review for the year—JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Volume 3 by Hirohiko Araki. It’s such a ridiculous, over-the-top series, but I’m sincerely enjoying it.

As for some of the interesting things I’ve discovered online recently: The news was previously leaked, but Dark Horse has now officially announced its two new manga licenses, Kenji Tsuruta’s Wandering Island and CLAMP’s RG Veda. I thought I had mentioned it a few weeks ago when it first launched (apparently I forgot), but Digital Manga’s boys’ love imprint Juné has a new Kickstarter project to publish four titles by Sakira in print. At least three of the four manga were Digital Manga Guild publications that were previously only available digitally. The project has already succeeded, but Digital Manga’s plan is to put a fair amount of the money pledged into restocking/reprinting some of its older, hard-to-find boys’ love titles. Finally, over at MangaBlog, Kate Dacey, Brigid Alverson, and Deb Aoki talk about some of their most anticipated manga of 2016, many of which happen to be some of my most anticipated releases as well.

Quick Takes

Itazura na Kiss, Volume 4Itazura na Kiss, Volumes 4-6 by Kaoru Tada. For the most part, I’m continuing to enjoy Itazura na Kiss. At this point in the series, Naoki and Kotoko are in college, each trying to figure out what to do with their lives. Kotoko’s infatuation with Naoki is the most important impetus for her to do just about anything, whether it be joining the tennis club, becoming a waitress, or trying her hand at office work. Normally, this would probably annoy me, but I appreciate her gusto, individuality, and willingness to follow through with what she’s started. Even though Kotoko is so incredibly focused on Naoki, her world actually doesn’t completely revolve around him and she’s not defined by him either, which I think is what makes her character work for me. Were it otherwise, I don’t think that I would enjoy the series nearly as much. Naoki continues to be aloof and more often than not a jerk. One particular instance in which Kotoko is unnecessarily treated very poorly could have been avoided entirely if he would have just had the courtesy to tell her what was going on, and there was no good reason for him not to. Thankfully, this sort of behavior isn’t romanticized or idealized in the manga.

Love in All Forms: The Big Book of Growing Up QueerLove in All Forms: The Big Book of Growing Up Queer edited by Serafina Dwyer. I follow the work of Kori Michele Handwerker who contributed to Love in All Forms which is how I first learned about the collection. I was also thrilled to discover that Jennifer Doyle, another artist whose work I enjoy, was also a contributor. The anthology collects fourteen comics by queer creators about queer children. Most of the creators were actually new to me, so I’ve definitely found some new artists to follow. As for the comics themselves, some of the stories are based in reality, while others are fantasy or science fiction, but they all deal with love and personal identity in one way or another. Many of the characters skew towards the feminine side of the gender non-conforming spectrum, but there’s a nice range of representation in the anthology with an emphasis on acceptance. Generally the stories tend to be fairly optimistic, which is marvelously refreshing. The name of the anthology might be a little misleading, or at least overly broad or ambitious, but it’s a lovely collection of beautifully heartfelt and touching queer comics.

Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 1Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Wataru Watanabe. I’ve watched and enjoyed part of the Yowamushi Pedal anime adaptation, so I wasn’t especially surprised by any of the developments found in the original manga. Even so, the first omnibus was great fun and I enjoyed it a great deal. Onoda is a fan of anime and manga whose surprising natural talents and regular trips by bicycle to Akihabara using less than ideal equipment have granted him some impressive cycling skills. He doesn’t even recognize his own abilities, though, not at all identifying with the more athletically inclined students at his school. But after several curious turns of events, he finds himself joining the bicycle road racing club. Watanabe isn’t very subtle when working information about cycling and bicycles into the story, which can be a little jarring, but the manga is still entertaining and I really like the characters. I’m glad that Yen Press is taking a chance on a long-running sports manga (the series is already over forty volumes in Japan and is still ongoing) and I sincerely hope that Yowamushi Pedal is a success.

My Week in Manga: December 14-December 20, 2015

My News and Reviews

Only one in-depth review was posted at Experiments in Manga last week. I should be getting back to my regular blogging schedule very soon, though. As for the said review, I took a look at Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare, Volume 7 as part of my monthly horror manga review project. After School Nightmare is an effectively unsettling work, but it’s also engrossing. The seventh volume has some particularly chilling developments and revelations. (And that’s it from me at the moment!)

Quick Takes

Black Rose Alice, Volume 4Black Rose Alice, Volumes 4-6 by Setona Mizushiro. From what I can tell, Black Rose Alice is currently on hiatus in Japan. Fortunately, the first six volumes appear to complete the first major story arc of the manga. While I certainly hope that the Black Rose Alice continues, and I look forward to seeing how it develops, at least readers are provided with some resolution and closure for what could be a long wait. This second half of the first arc deals with the aftermath of Leo’s demise. The relationship dynamics in Black Rose Alice have always been a little peculiar and unnerving, but as they begin to fracture under the strain of the loss of Leo it’s shown just how strong and just how tenuous they can be at the same time. These volumes also include the reappearance of Koya, which throws the situation into even more turmoil, and the revelation of the twins tragic backstory. Emotions run high and the drama is intense as everything seems to be falling apart. Black Rose Alice continues to be dark and creepy and Mizushiro’s vampires are still some of the most unusual ones that I’ve come across.

Itazura na Kiss, Volume 1Itazura na Kiss, Volumes 1-3 by Kaoru Tada. Considering the number of boys’ love titles that Digital Manga releases in print (as well as its recent efforts to translate all of Osamu Tezuka’s works and its foray into hentai) it can be easy to forget that the publisher has other interesting manga in its catalog, too. Itazura na Kiss is one such series, a classic shoujo manga from the nineties which was extremely successful in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. The story is about Kotoko, an academically-challenged young woman in high school who has fallen in love Naoki, another student who is a legitimate genius. He also turns out to be a huge jerk, but every once in a while he shows a warmer, kinder side of himself. So far, I have been enjoying Itazura na Kiss, perhaps more than I expected. Kotoko shows wonderful strength of character and even Naoki’s unpleasant personality has more depth to it than initially appears. Despite the best efforts of their parents who would love to see them married, the romance between the two of them is believably slow to develop. I also like that the story doesn’t get stuck in high school and follows Naoki and Kotoko as they enter college.

Merman in My Tub, Volume 1Merman in My Tub, Volume 1 by Itokichi. Seven Seas has made something of a name for itself as the publisher of monster girl manga, but with Merman in My Tub monster boys are now better represented as well. The basic and appropriately ridiculous premise of Merman in My Tub is that Wakasa, a merman, has become a permanent resident in the bathtub of Tatsumi, a young man who rescued him from a polluted river. His mere presence causes all sorts of problems and inconveniences for Tatsumi, especially when his other aquatic acquaintances begin showing up, too. The series is a largely episodic four-panel comedy manga although there are some small story arcs, recurring characters, and running jokes. There is also plenty of boys’ love tease and innuendo. (In part Itokichi seems to have created the series as an excuse to draw half-naked men.) At the same time, Merman in My Tub makes use of some of the vaguely incestuous little sister/big brother tropes that can be fairly prevalent these days. As a result, though it has its charm, the series sometimes seems a little confused about which audience it’s trying to appeal to.