My Week in Manga: February 2-February 8, 2015

My News and Reviews

A small variety of posts went up at Experiments in Manga last week. First up, the Cinderalla manga giveaway winner was announced. The contest was a tie-in to the Female Goth Mangaka Carnival, so the post also includes a list of the featured creators’ manga available in English. The first in-depth manga review for February was Saki Nakagawa’s Attack on Titan: Junior High, a parody spinoff of the immensely popular Attack on Titan franchise. The series’ funniness can be somewhat uneven, but it can be absolutely hilarious at times. And posted over the weekend was January’s Bookshelf Overload, revealing the absurd amount of manga that came into my household last month.

Elsewhere online, Viz Media’s Shojo Beat announced two new licenses: QQ Sweeper by Kyousuke Motomi (the creator of Dengeki Daisy, which I rather enjoy) and Idol Dreams by Arina Tanemura. Organization Anti-Social Geniuses posted The Very Unofficial Guide to Discovering Manga in 2015, which is a nice overview of demographics, publishers, where to read and buy manga, and so on. Den of Geek has an interview with comics historian Graham Kolbeins, one of the editors behind Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It and The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: The Master of Gay Erotic Manga. Finally, Otaku USA interviews Patrick Macias about Hypersonic Music Club, his collaboration with artist Hiroyuki Takahashi and the first of Crunchyroll Manga’s original series.

Quick Takes

Sky LinkSky Link by Shiro Yamada. Like many boys’ love mangaka, before making her professional debut Yamada started by creating doujinshi (she seems to have been particularly fond of pairing Gintoki and Hijikata from Gin Tama together). Sky Link is Yamada’s first original manga and is currently the only work of hers available in English. The volume collects two unrelated boys’ love stories, the titular “Sky Link” and “You through a Kaleidoscope.” Unfortunately, neither of the short manga are particularly satisfying; while her artwork can at times be quite lovely (occasionally her characters’ eyes are unintentionally creepy), Yamada definitely has room to grow as a storyteller. “Sky Link” had too many disparate elements to it. It could have worked quite well as a longer series, but as a short story Yamada didn’t have enough time to effectively develop the plot or characters and everything is left frustratingly vague. Ritsuki is a first year college student with some sort of troubled past who has caught the attention and affections of one of his new professors who, it is later revealed, has a troubled past of his own. “You through a Kaleidoscope,” a fairly standard high school boys’ love romance, isn’t as ambitious but is more successful as a result.

Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Omnibus 1Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Omnibuses 1-2 (equivalent to Volumes 1-6) by CLAMP. I originally read the first few volumes of Tsubasa back when it was being released by Del Rey. Because I was borrowing it from the library and people had a tendency to steal volumes Tsubasa and its sort-of crossover series xxxHolic, I never got very far with the series. I’m glad that Kodansha is bringing Tsubasa back into print, because it really is an immensely enjoyable adventure tale. And because the setting is constantly moving from one dimension to the next, CLAMP is able to have a lot of fun with the clothing designs and worldbuilding from one short story arc to the next. The drive of the series is the search for Princess Sakura’s memory, pieces of which have been scattered throughout space and time, but the remembrances of her and the other characters form an important part of the story as well. I do think I’m enjoying Tsubasa a little more my second time trying to read it. I’ve now been exposed to more of CLAMP’s work, so I can better appreciate the references being made and the alternate-dimension versions of characters from the group’s other manga. (Seeing couples originally from X actually have a chance at happiness is both touching and heart-wrenching.)

UQHolder3UQ Holder!, Volume 3 by Ken Akamatsu. I enjoyed the third volume of UQ Holder more than I did the first two, but the series has yet to win me over. It seems as though the manga is starting to focus a bit more, which it desperately needed to do, but that may simply be because Akamatsu spends very little time on trying to develop a coherent plot and primarily sticks with the action sequences. The third volume is almost entirely devoted to a sequence of fight scenes. Right now the battles in UQ Holder are probably my favorite thing about the series. They are entertaining, exciting, and extremely energetic. And because immortals are involved, they can be pretty epic, too. The damage inflicted on both persons and property is impressive. Many of the characters, even the non-immortals, have superhuman powers of some sort. Incredible strength, quick regeneration, shape-shifting, and magic—either alone or in combination—are only a few examples of the over-the-top abilities found in UQ Holder. But as entertaining as the battles can be, from time to time the action is unclear. Something will happen and it will be extremely difficult to understand exactly what or how. I’m not even going to try to attempt to explain why Yukihime suddenly loses her skirt for seemingly no reason.

My Week in Manga: September 8-September 14, 2014

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted at Experiments in Manga last week. Coincidentally, they both happened to be for works that are a bit disconcerting. First up was my review of Boogiepop and Others, the light novel by Kouhei Kadono which launched the entire Boogiepop franchise. The book is a fantastic mix of science fiction, mystery, and horror with a particularly interesting narrative structure. I’ll definitely be tracking down more of the series to read. The second review was a part of my Year of Yuri monthly review project. I took a look at Erica Sakurazawa’s Between the Sheets, one of the very first josei manga to be released in English. It’s a story about obsessive love and is legitimately disturbing, but in an entirely different way than Boogiepop and Others.

I’ve been super busy at work recently (actually, life in general has been pretty busy) so I’ve not been able to keep up with a lot of manga news, but I did catch a couple of license announcements from this year’s YaoiCon. SuBLime has a new slate of digital and print manga to look forward to (I was particularly excited to see a Tomoko Yamashita manga licensed; sadly, I think it’s digital-only at this point) and Digital Manga will be releasing a collection of Kou Yoneda’s No Touching at All side stories, among other things. Also, Mangabrog posted translation of a Q Hayashida interview from a few years ago. As a fan of Hayashida’s Dorohedoro, I was very happy to have a chance to read the interview.

Quick Takes

From the New World, Volume 4From the New World, Volumes 4-5 written by Yusuke Kishi and illustrated by Toru Oikawa. I continue to be completely torn by From the New World. There are parts of the manga that I absolutely love, but there are several things that frustrate me immensely and greatly inhibit my enjoyment of the series. I am not a prude and am generally not offended by fanservice, but the sex scenes in From the New World seem so incredibly out-of-place. I know that sexual relationships are an important aspect of the worldbuilding in From the New World, but the manga does not integrate them very well at all. I can only assume the original novel handles it better. Thankfully, the sex scenes in the manga are relatively rare. Unfortunately, they are very difficult to ignore and are only ever shown when young girls are involved. From the New World does much better with the story’s science fiction and horror elements. It is dark and disturbing, and these two volumes are particularly graphic and violent, as well. Despite my reservations—of which I have quite a few—I do plan on finishing the series. There are only two more volumes after all.

Kinoko Inu: Mushroom Pup, Volume 1Kinoko Inu: Mushroom Pup, Volume 1 by Kimama Aoboshi. The first volume of Mushroom Pup may very well be one of the oddest manga that I’ve read recently. And even though I enjoyed the volume, I’m still not exactly sure what to make of it. Calling Mushroom Pup quirky would be putting it extremely lightly. Hotaru Yuyami writes and illustrates horror books for children, but ever since his beloved dog Hanako died his creative impulse has completely left him. One evening a strange pink mushroom growing in his garden turns into an even stranger intelligent dog-like creature which attempts to help Yuyami get over his loss in some very bizarre ways. (This isn’t even attempted to be explained.) Also invading Yuyami’s life as he tries to grieve is his childhood friend-cum-editor and a mushroom researcher (with an amazing mohawk) who just so happens to be a huge fan of Yuyami’s work. For all of its strangeness, Mushroom Pup is actually rather subdued and even the humor tends to be straight-faced, which in some ways makes it even funnier. At the same time, it’s also a bit melancholy and heartwarming.

Raqiya: The New Book of Revelation, Volume 1Raqiya: The New Book of Revelation, Volumes 1-2 written by Masao Yajima, illustrated by Boichi. One Peace Books doesn’t tend to do much in the way of marketing or press releases, so it seems as though the publisher’s manga appears almost out of nowhere. Raqiya is a five-volume series focused around a young woman named Luna who seems to be the harbinger for the end of days. She has caught the interest of a small but extreme cult of heretical Christians as well as the attention of a secret and heavily armed Catholic organization charged with hunting down such heretics. It’s interesting to see Christianity play such a huge role in a manga, even if it is a highly fictionalized version of the religion. There’s also plenty of destruction and action in Raqiya—explosions, gun fights, car chases, and so on. Boichi’s artwork is effectively dynamic and extremely intense, if occasionally a bit over the top. Raqiya is definitely a violent and extreme manga; Boichi doesn’t hold back. Boichi is a Korean artist now working and living in Japan. His series Sun-Ken Rock has been available digitally, but Raqiya is his first manga to be released in English in print.

UQ Holder!, Volume 1UQ Holder!, Volumes 1-2 by Ken Akamatsu. Technically a sequel of sorts to Negima!: Magister Negi Magi (or at least set in the same universe), UQ Holder! seems to stand completely on its own and requires no knowledge of the earlier series. (Which is a good thing seeing as I haven’t read it.) So far I am fairly underwhelmed by UQ Holder!, though there are a few things I like about the series. Akamatsu’s fight and action sequences can be fairly entertaining, for one. Also, I tend to enjoy manga that explore the repercussions of immortality, which UQ Holder! is set up to do. Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite followed through on that potential yet, despite a wide variety of different types of immortals and immortality being introduced (vampires, genetically modified humans, cursed beings, and many others). In general, the story of UQ Holder! is lacking a clear direction with far too many different genre elements, tropes, and cliches being forced to share the same series. It doesn’t help that the goals and motivations of the series’ protagonist are left deliberately vague as well; Akamatsu tries to make a joke of it, but it either doesn’t quite work or just isn’t funny.

Manga Giveaway: Love Hina Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the Love Hina Giveaway is…Ikari!

As the winner, Ikari will be receiving the first omnibus of Ken Akamatsu’s manga series Love Hina as published by Kodansha. Love Hina was one of the first harem manga that I ever read. And so for this giveaway, I was interested in learning what other harem manga people were reading and enjoying. Be sure to check out the Love Hina Giveaway comments for everyone’s favorites. And, because I like making lists, I’ve used those recommendations as a basis for a list of harem (and reverse harem!) manga that have been licensed in English. This is only a small selection of the titles available, but it’s not a bad place to start.

Ai Yori Aoshi by Kou Fumizuki
Alice in the Country of Hearts written by QuinRose and illustrated by Soumei Hoshino
The All-New Tenchi Muyo! by Hitoshi Okuda
Chobits by CLAMP
La Corda d’Oro by Yuki Kure
Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
Fushigi Yûgi: The Mysterious Play by Yuu Watase
Gacha Gacha: The Next Revolution by Hiroyuki Tamakoshi
Hayate the Combat Butler by Kenjiro Hata
Hot Gimmick by Miki Aihara
Iono-sama Fanatics, Volume 1 by Miyabi Fujieda
Love Hina by Ken Akamatsu
Oh My Goddess! by Kosuke Fujishima
Negima: Magister Negi Magi by Ken Akamatsu
No Need for Tenchi by Hitoshi Okuda
Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori
Ranma 1/2, Volumes 2-14 by Rumiko Takahashi
Rosario + Vampire by Akihisa Ikeda
Sakura Wars by Ouji Hiroi
Samurai Harem: Asu no Yoichi by Yū Minamoto
Strawberry 100% by Mizuki Kawashita
To Heart written by Leaf and illustrated by Ukyō Takao
The Wallflower by Tomoko Hayakawa

See you again next month for another giveaway!

Manga Giveaway: Love Hina Giveaway

Did July pass by quickly for anyone else? Before I knew it, it was time to announce the next manga giveaway here at Experiments in Manga! So, here you go. This month I have a new copy of the first Love Hina omnibus published by Kodansha. The omnibus collects the first three volumes of Ken Akamatsu’s manga series Love Hina. And, as always, the contest is open worldwide.

Ah, good ol’ harem manga. My introduction to the genre was through Kou Fumizuki’s Ai Yori Aoshi, followed closely by Ken Akamatsu’s Love Hina (back in it’s Tokyopop days). For me, harem manga tends to be a guilty pleasure. This is not to say that there isn’t good harem manga out there. But in my limited experience, as fun as harem manga can be, it can also frequently be a bit sexist. This goes for reverse-harem manga, too. Still, while I recognize some of the genre’s potential problems, I am not here to condemn harem manga. As I’ve already admitted, I even enjoy it from time to time. Often ridiculous and frequently unbelievable, harem manga, when done well, can be quite entertaining. (Who knows? Maybe I’m just jealous and want my own harem filled with attractive and likeable people.) Love it or hate it, harem manga seems to be a popular genre and will probably be around for a while.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win Love Hina, Omnibus 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me about your favorite harem or reverse-harem manga. If you don’t have one or have never read a harem manga, just mention that.
2) For a second entry, name a harem or reverse-harem manga that hasn’t been mentioned yet by me or by someone else.
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

It’s as easy as that! You can earn up to three entries for this giveaway. As usual, there is one week to submit your comments. If you have trouble leaving comments, or if you would prefer, you can e-mail me your entries at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on August 1, 2012. Best of luck to you all!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: Love Hina Giveaway Winner

Love Hina, Omnibus 1

Creator: Ken Akamatsu
U.S. Publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781935429470
Released: October 2011
Original release: 1999

A few years ago I read about half of Ken Akamatsu’s manga series Love Hina, but for some reason never finished it. At the time, Tokyopop had published the fourteen volumes between 2002 and 2003; Love Hina was a very successful series for the company. Love Hina was also successful in its native Japan. Serialized between 1998 and 2001, Love Hina went on to inspire anime, light novel, and even video game adaptations. In 2001, Love Hina also won the Kodansha Manga Award for the shōnen category. Love Hina was selected for the September 2011 Manga Moveable Feast, although for various reasons we held it in October, to coincide with Kodansha Comics new English release of the series. Kodansha was even kind enough to send out review copies of the new omnibus edition, collecting the first three volumes of the series, to some of the participants. I figured it was a good opportunity to give the series another try.

Keitaro Urashima is a second year rōnin. He has applied to the prestigious Tokyo University twice and failed entry both times. It’s really not that surprising though if you take a look at his atrocious test scores. Regardless, he is determined to make it in because of a promise he made to a childhood friend (a girl) who he hasn’t seen or heard from in fifteen years. Unfortunately, Keitaro’s parents are fed up with the situation and have kicked him out of the house. And so he hopes his grandmother will let him stay at her inn. What he doesn’t know is that Hinata Inn has been turned into an all-female dormitory. Finding his grandmother away and himself suddenly the manager of the property, Keitaro has a lot more to worry about than just his entrance exams. The poor guy has very little experience with women, and the residents of Hinata Inn are not going to make it easy on him.

Much of the humor in Love Hina involves Keitaro unintentionally stumbling upon the girls in various stages of dress or undress and subsequently being declared a pervert and getting pummeled by them for it. I’ll admit that I find this rather amusing, but it does get somewhat repetitive, something that even the characters notice. The resulting fanservice caused by these incidents tend to be fairly mild, more imagined than shown, although there are still plenty of panty shots and the like to be found. I’m actually not all that bothered by the fanservice in Love Hina because it serves a legitimate purpose to the story—there are narrative reasons for it to be there. But much like the repeated gags to which it is so closely tied, the fanservice, too, becomes fairly monotonous over time.

While I don’t actively dislike Love Hina, I’m not finding myself particularly engaged by it, either. I’m not really sure why, because there are parts I really like. I appreciate the fact that all the young women living at Hinata Inn have distinct personalities that are, for the most part, independent from Keitaro. It is fairly clear from their interactions with one another that the household has an established rapport and that Keitaro has simply been added to the mix. Unfortunately, once the characters have been fully introduced, there isn’t much further development in these early volumes. At this point, I also feel that the narrative flow is somewhat disjointed. Love Hina isn’t exactly an episodic series, but some of the transitions between chapters, or lack thereof, can be jarring. Still, there are some genuinely funny moments in Love Hina amongst the silliness and I’m glad that I gave the series another look.

Thank you to Kodansha for providing a copy of Love Hina, Omnibus 1 for review.