My Week in Manga: May 6-May 12, 2013

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted here at Experiments in Manga last week. I took a look at Monkey Business: New Writing from Japan, Volume 3, the most recent issue in the international edition of the Japanese literary journal Monkey Business. I think I preferred the second volume slightly more, but the third volume was a great collection, too. Earlier in the week I reviewed The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: The Master of Gay Erotic Manga. This volume is the first collection of bara manga to be published in print in English. Tagame’s work is amazing, but it certainly isn’t for everyone. I’m thrilled that he’s finally received a major release in English.

And what was even more exciting? I spent the entire weekend at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF)—I actually got to meet Tagame and Taiyo Matsumoto in person in addition to a ton of other fantastic creators. I’ll be posting about my TCAF experience later on this week, but I can tell you right now that I definitely plan on going again next year. It was amazing.

And speaking of Tagame, PictureBox has announced a new anthology scheduled to be published in 2014—Massive: Gay Erotic Manga And The Men Who Make It. It sounds like it will be a fantastic collection; I am ecstatic about its upcoming release! In other publishing news, Sublime Manga rescued the license for Ayano Yamane’s Crimson Spell for a print release. Media Blasters had previously published the first two volumes but they are now very out-of-print. Crimson Spell is my favorite of Yamane’s series, so I’m very excited about Sublime’s new editions; I’ll happily be double-dipping.

Elsewhere online, Heidi MacDonald article How Graphic Novels Became the Hottest Section in the Library at Publishers Weekly is a good read and touches on the role of manga in that evolution. It’s not very often that you see an article from Sports Illustrated talking about manga, but Ben Sin’s post Slam Dunk: How Japan’s Love of Basketball Can Be Traced Back to a Comic was republished on Sports Illustrated‘s culture blog. Finally, if you’ve not come across Ukiyo-e Search yet, it’s a phenomenal resource for Japanese woodblock prints.

Quick Takes

The Devil’s Trill by Sooyeon Won. The Devil’s Trill is the fourth and final volume in Netcomics’ manhwa novella collection, intended to feature prominent Korean creators. I haven’t read any of the other volumes in the series, but I picked up The Devil’s Trill because Won’s manhwa Let Dai left such an impression on me. For me, the highlight of The Devil’s Trill was Won’s lovely artwork. Lately I’ve found myself bored with vampire tales, and so the story of The Devil’s Trill didn’t really grab me. Plus, I prefer my vampires to be a little scarier and less romantic. However, I did like how the manhwa incorporates reincarnation and stretches across three time periods: 18th-century Germany, Berlin in the 1990s, and 2150.

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. I’ve been following Hicks for quite some time now, but her graphic novel Friends with Boys was the first of her long works that I read that wasn’t a collaboration. I loved it. The story follows Maggie as she enters a public high school, having previously only been home schooled. With three older brothers she grew up as somewhat of a tomboy. Oh, and she seems to be haunted by a ghost. The character designs and artwork in Friends with Boys are great; it’s also filled with all sorts of nerdy and geeky goodness. In part, I see the graphic novel as a celebration of being someone that society might call a freak, which made me very happy. The importance and strength of families (especially siblings) is also a prominent theme.

Kizuna, Volumes 4-6 by Kazuma Kodaka. The first half of Kizuna seemed to emphasize the drama and violence surrounding the characters’ yakuza connections. While this never completely disappears, the second half of the series shifts to addressing slightly more realistic issues and problems faced by the characters: homophobia, coming out to family, establishing lives together, and so on. Despite some inconsistencies in the quality of the art, especially early on, Kizuna has really grown on me. Kei and Ranmaru make a wonderful couple. They have their fights, misunderstandings, and disagreements, but they’re totally in love with each other and are physically very affectionate.

Otomen, Volumes 11-15 by Aya Kanno. I am still really enjoying Otomen although the series’ gimmick—”manly” men with “girly” interests—seems to be stretched a little too thin by this point. I think Otomen would have been more successful if Kanno kept the focus on the main cast instead of introducing so many side characters. Granted, I like the side characters, too, but the series may have benefited from a little more focus. Partly because there are so many characters, none of them have a lot of depth and tend to be fairly one-note even if they are endearing. I particularly enjoy how the series plays with gender expectations. Plus, Kanno includes plenty of nods and references to other series, like Utena and Golgo 13, which is fun. Otomen is a silly, lighthearted, and fluffy read for me.

My Week in Manga: July 25-July 31, 2011

My News and Reviews

In my latest manga giveaway, I’ve got a brand new copy of Saki Okuse and Sankichi Meguro’s Ghost Talker’s Daydream, Volume 1 up for grabs. The contest ends this Wednesday, so you still have a couple of days to get your entries in! (Manga Giveaway: Ghost Talker’s Giveaway) Also this week, I managed to sneak in my second in-depth manga review for July. Usamaru Furuya’s Lychee Light Club left quite an impression on me. It’s definitely not a manga for everyone due to its highly graphic nature, but it is well done.

Good news for Wild Adapter fans! After being put on hiatus for so long, the series has found a new home! See Wild Adapter Moves to Ichijinsha at Manga Bookshelf for more information. If you enjoyed my post about Mahjong, Kubota, and Wild Adapter and like mahjong, you might also be interested in a post mentioned by a recent commenter. Ranith at Livejournal has a very cool and detailed breakdown and analysis of an important mahjong game that takes place in Saiyuki: Part 1 and Part 2. Well, I think it’s cool anyway, but then I love mahjong.

Last week was the Fruits Basket Manga Moveable Feast. I wasn’t able to participate this time around, but there were some fantastic contributions from other manga bloggers. You can check out the archive at The Manga Curmudgeon. In other Feast news, The Manga Critic has kindly posted the schedule for the upcoming Manga Moveable Feasts (Manga Moveable Feast Schedule, 2011-12.) You’ll even see my name listed there as a host! I’m both very excited and very nervous about it.

Quick Takes

Kizuna, Volumes 1-3 by Kazuma Kodaka. There was a lot of excitement from fans when Digital Manga rescued Kizuna from the Be Beautiful imprint of the now defunct Central Park Media. As for me, I wasn’t familiar with the series until now. So far, I’m liking the characters and, for the most part, the story. The balance between the yakuza elements and the boys’ love elements is handled fairly well. The art, however, is atrociously inconsistent and oftentimes just bad, especially early on in the series. But as the manga progresses, the artwork improves immensely and some of the bonus chapters show off Kodaka’s more current and much more polished style. I’ll probably follow Kizuna a bit further.

Tetragrammaton Labyrinth, Volume 1 by Ei Itou. Tetragrammaton Labyrinth ended up being a bit more fetishy than I originally anticipated, but I guess I’m not all that surprised. The manga has a slight yuri flavor to it, but it certainly isn’t the primary focus. The artwork is probably the best thing about this particular manga, but that’s not really saying much and the action sequences are often difficult to follow. Tetragrammaton Labyrinth is somewhat of a mess, and it just didn’t work for me. I haven’t been convinced by it the plot or the characters yet. I have no problem with fan service, but Itou has an unfortunate tendency to focus this service on Angela. She might not actually be a twelve-year-old girl, but she is in the body of one.

Tokyo Tribes, Volumes 1-2 by Santa Inoue. Tokyo Tribes is another manga that just didn’t work for me this week, albeit for slightly different reasons. Inoue’s artwork is nicely stylized and the English translation and adaptation is very well done. I even really like the covers for this series. However, the manga seems to glorify gang violence and all of the women in it are treated terribly. I actually liked Tokyo Tribes less and less the more I read of it. I don’t care about any of the characters or what might happen to them. In fact, there were several characters that I actively disliked. After two volumes, I don’t feel like I want to or even need to read any more of Tokyo Tribes and so I won’t be.

Two Flowers for the Dragon, Volume 1 by Nari Kusakawa. After several disappointments this week, I was very pleased to discover that the first volume of Two Flowers for the Dragon is absolutely delightful. I definitely want to track down the rest of the series, which will unfortunately be a bit expensive since CMX is gone and the manga is out of print. The final volume sadly never even made it into English. Shakuya is the next leader of the Dragon Clan. With the blood and power of a dragon running through her veins, she’ll be responsible for protecting the Oasis. But at the moment, she needs to choose between her two fiancés. Two Flowers for the Dragon has a lovely mix of fantasy and romance. And dragons!

Cross Game, Episodes 23-35 directed by Osamu Sekita. I never expected that I would come to care about baseball so much. Not that I ever had anything against the game, I just was never really all that interested in it. Cross Game has changed that. Because baseball is important to the characters, and the characters are important to me, baseball has also become important to me (at least in the context of Cross Game.) And I’ve learned a lot about the game from the anime—I never realized how much strategy was involved. But while Cross Game is to some extent about baseball, it’s still really more about the characters. I was a little hesitant about the introduction of Akane, but so far it’s been handled well.

Manga Giveaway: Crazy Karate Contest Winner

And the winner of my first ever manga giveaway is…PB!

As the winner of the Crazy Karate Contest, PB will be receiving a free copy of Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2, Volume 11: Creative Cures.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest and got the word out to others; it is greatly appreciated. I hope to do more giveaways in the future and see an even bigger response. In the meantime, those of you who enter have a really good chance of winning some free manga.

So, this contest was about naming some martial arts manga and martial artist manga characters. Here’s what we came up with:

Samejima Ranmaru from Kazuma Kodaka’s yaoi series Kizuna: Bonds of Love is a skilled kendōka. Kendo is a martial art based on traditional Japanese sword fighting with a history dating back to at least the 12th century.

Asuka Masamune, “the manliest of men,” from Aya Kanno’s romantic shōjo comedy Otomen also studies kendo. He’s the captain of his team and has gone on to compete in the national championship tournament. He also excels at judo, a martial art that focuses on throwing and grappling, and karate.

In Yuu Watase’s Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden, another shōjo series, Takiko Okuda is very competent with a naginata, a weapon that in Japan is generally associated with women, traditionally of the samurai class. A naginata is a pole weapon with a curved blade—sort of a mix between a short sword and a spear—that can be used to slash, stab, hook, or bludgeon an adversary.

Juline, the eponymous character of Narumi Kakinouchi’s Juline manga series, studies kung fu. A Chinese martial art, kung fu has a number of different styles that can vary widely from one another. I’m not familiar enough with Juline to identify which style is involved, but my dōjō offers training in both Hung Gar-Sil Lum (also known as the Tiger-Crane style) and Wing Chun.