My Week in Manga: December 29, 2014-January 4, 2015

My News and Reviews

Happy New Year, everyone! Things are already off to a good start at Experiments in Manga. The last manga giveaway of 2014 is currently underway and there’s still time to enter for a chance to win No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Volume 1 by Nico Tanigawa. All you have to do is tell me a little about some of your favorite otaku. The honor of the first in-depth manga review of the year, and in fact the very first post of 2015, goes to Hiroaki Samura’s Vigilance, the thirtieth and penultimate volume of Blade of the Immortal. I still love the series after all this time, and this installment has some particularly nice fight sequences. Finally, December’s Bookshelf Overload was posted over the weekend as well.

There were a few interesting things from Vertical this week, including a roundup of the happenings of 2014 and what fans can look forward to from the publisher in 2015. Another enlightening read from Vertical’s Tumblr account tackles sports, sports fiction, and sports manga and the challenges it presents to the North American market. Also, in case you missed it, Vertical is now on and is answering all sorts of questions there. Last but not least, thanks to the success of its release of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Vertical is looking into publishing more Gundam manga. If you’re interested and haven’t already, be sure to take Vertical’s Gundam survey which will be open through the end of today.

Elsewhere online, Khursten has made a manga resolution for the year to feature josei more at Otaku Champloo. Organization Anti-Social Geniuses debuted a new feature, Inside the Industry, with Inside the Manga Industry with Lillian Diaz-Przybyl. The Hairpin has an excellent interview with Anne Ishii who, among other things, is the translator and one of the editors of the newly released Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It (which I recently reviewed; it’s great).

Quick Takes

Blue Morning, Volume 1Blue Morning, Volumes 1-5 by Shoko Hidaka. I’ve been meaning to read Blue Morning for a while but have only now gotten around to it. The benefit of this is that I had five volumes that I could read all at once. The drawback, of course, is the long wait until the sixth volume is released. I loved Blue Morning. It’s a moody, slow-burning boys’ love series with beautiful, elegant artwork and well-developed, subtly nuanced characters. A dramatic period piece, the manga takes place during Japan’s Meji era in which the country’s social, political, and economic structures underwent great change. The story focuses on Akihito Kuze who, after being orphaned, is suddenly thrust into Japan’s peerage as a viscount at the age of ten. Tomoyuki Katsuragi, the Kuze family steward, becomes his tutor and guardian. As he grows Akihito ends up developing feelings for Katsuragi and their relationship undergoes an intense evolution and power reversal. The romantic elements of Blue Morning are important, but much of the plot is actually focused on the political maneuverings of both Katsuragi and Akihito to raise the family’s status, though the each of the men have their own reasons for doing so.

KnightsSidonia10Knights of Sidonia, Volumes 10-12 by Tsutomu Nihei. I decided to save up a few volumes of Knights of Sidonia since they read so quickly and I wanted to enjoy a larger chunk of the story. But even though there are quite a few major developments in these particular volumes, including the introduction of an important new character, somehow it just feels like Nihei is stalling for time and that there wasn’t actually much forward movement in the series. Even so, it was still an enjoyable read and I still like the manga. Knights of Sidionia remains a rather peculiar series, a combination of horror, science fiction and, of all things, romantic comedy. Sidonia’s hero Tanikaze, despite being incredibly awkward socially, has managed capture the romantic interest of quite a few of the other characters, basically amassing one of the most unusual harems that I’ve ever come across in manga. And while he has all sorts of domestic challenges to deal with now that his house has five residents more or less living there, he’s also one of humanity’s best pilots in the fight for survival against the Gauna. The war is entering a new stage, new technology has been developed, and the Gauna continue to gain new abilities.

Say I Love You, Volume 4Say I Love You, Volume 4 by Kanae Hazuki. Four volumes in, Say I Love You continues to set itself apart from many of the other shoujo manga series that are currently being released with its very realistic approach to young adult relationships, romance, and sexuality. The characters show a believable mix of maturity and immaturity, at times handling themselves extraordinarily well and at other times ending up a mess of confused emotions. This volume also introduces a new character, Kai, whom I’m particularly looking forward to seeing more of. In the afterword Hazuki mentions that she believes that manga “isn’t just for showing the nice side of things,” a belief that I think comes through in Say I Love You. There are the wonderful moments between characters as they grow closer, but every relationship has its ups and downs and Hazuki isn’t afraid to show the emotional pain and turmoil experienced by her characters as part of that growth. Regret, jealousy, selfishness, and uncertainty all have a role to play as do happiness, affection, altruism, and confidence. None of the characters are perfect and they all make mistakes as they navigate new and sometimes surprising relationships.

Ping Pong: The AnimationPing Pong: The Animation directed by Masaaki Yuasa. Taiyō Matsumoto’s breakout manga was a five-volume series from the mid-1990s called Ping Pong. I’ve become a fan of Matsumoto’s work and would love to read Ping Pong, but it’s probably unlikely to ever be licensed. However, the eleven-episode anime adaptation made me very happy. The style of animation is somewhat unusual, reminiscent of Matsumoto’s loose but deliberate lines and uses a variety of palettes ranging from monochrome to pastel to vivid colors. I was particularly impressed by the series’ sound design and effective use of music. Smile and Peco are close friends and the strongest members of their school’s table tennis club but they both approach the game very differently. On its surface, Ping Pong is a fairly straightforward tale about competitive table tennis, but the series has prominent psychological elements and more depth than it might appear at first glance. Peco and Smile aren’t the only important players in Ping Pong; the protagonists and antagonists of the series are in constant flux. I enjoyed the Ping Pong anime immensely; I’ll definitely be picking up the physical release this summer.

My Week in Manga: July 7-July 13, 2014

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted at Experiments in Manga last week, though neither of them were actually for manga. First up was Yasutaka Tsutsui’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which collects two of his stories: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is one of Tsutsui’s most well-known and beloved novels and was the inspiration for Mamoru Hosoda’s 2006 anime by the same name, which happens to be one of my favorite animated films. I also reviewed Dan Mazur and Alexander Danner’s Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present. It’s an extremely informative volume and highly recommended for people who are interested in the history of comics, including manga. I wasn’t online much last week, but I did notice that Revealing and Concealing Identities: Cross-Dressing in Anime and Manga, Part 6 was posted at The Lobster Dance, focusing on Fumi Yoshinaga’s marvelous series Ōoku: The Inner Chambers. If there were any big announcements or other noteworthy news items that I missed, please do let me know!

Quick Takes

Andre the Giant: Life and LegendAndre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown. Growing up, I knew of Andre the Giant from his role as Fezzik in the film The Princess Bride, only later learning about his professional wrestling career. Andre Roussimoff was a literal giant of a man—at one point over seven feet tall and over six hundred pounds—who also suffered from acromegaly, though he wasn’t diagnosed with the condition until he reached his twenties. Brown’s thoroughly researched biographical comic captures Andre’s life and legacy, revealing just how human the legend really was. Like anyone else, he had his strengths and his flaws. Because of his size the life he led was an unusual one and he was treated differently, and not always kindly, by other people. Surprisingly, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend is actually one of the very few works devoted to Andre. It’s a collection of stories and anecdotes about the man beginning with his childhood in France and then following him through his globe-spanning career as a professional wrestler as well as his time on the set of The Princess Bride. The comic is very well done and includes a bibliography in addition to notes on the sources used.

Bokurano: Ours, Volume 1Bokurano: Ours, Volume 1 by Mohiro Kito. One summer, fourteen seventh graders and a fourth grader participating in a nature school program wander into a seaside cave where they discover a strange man holed away who invites them to play a game. They will be placed in charge of piloting a giant robot in order to fight massive alien invaders. Except that the game they’ve agreed to play turns out to be much more real than any of them counted on. This early in the series it’s a little difficult to get a good feel for all of the characters since there are so many of them, but it seems that as they each have their own opportunity to pilot the robot more will be revealed about them as individuals. It also looks like the series will have a fairly high death count, too, even when it comes to main, named characters. Bokurano: Ours has a dark ambiance as well strong psychological elements. Though there are grand battles, the real drama of the series revolves around how the children respond to being granted such enormous power. Some delight in the chance to wreak havoc while others are more hesitant, understandably concerned about the strange situation they’ve gotten themselves into.

Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls, Volume 2Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls, Volumes 2-3 by Okayado. At its heart, Monster Musume is an unapologetic, ecchi harem series. Readers looking for nuanced characters or plot from the manga will be sorely disappointed. And considering the amount of uninhibited fanservice, highly suggestive scenarios, partial nudity, and nipples on display, I continue to be surprised that Seven Seas is able to get away with calling Monster Musume a series for older teens. Initially, I wondered if monster boys existed in the manga since the series focuses almost entirely on monster girls. They actually do, but that fact isn’t confirmed until a bunch of otaku orcs appear in the third volume. In addition to the orcs, plenty of other liminal races have been introduced as well: slimes, mermaids, zombies, ogres, cyclops, shape-shifters, and so on. Not all of the liminal ladies become love interests for Kimihito, the series’ protagonist and host family for many of the visiting monster girls, which is a good thing. Monster Musume is an extraordinarily silly and trashy manga that can actually be a lot of fun for those who don’t mind its blatantly sexualized content. Its monster girl gimmick sets it apart from other harem manga, but probably won’t win anyone over who doesn’t already read the genre.

Soul Rescue, Volume 1Soul Rescue, Volumes 1-2 by Aya Kanno. I’ve really enjoyed Kanno’s other manga currently available in English (Blank Slate and Otomen), so when I discovered that Tokyopop had also published one of her series I made a point to track it down. I believe Soul Rescue was actually Kanno’s debut manga, too, which made me even more interested in reading it. Honestly, it’s a bit of a mess. The artwork is nice, even though the pages are very full, and I liked the characters and basic premise of the story, but it doesn’t quite pull together as a whole. Renji is an angel with a propensity towards being overly violent, and so he has been temporarily banished to Earth in order to mend his ways. Another angel, Kaito, has been sent along with Renji as his supervisor to keep him in check and prevent him from doing too much damage. Renji will be allowed to return to Heaven after rescuing the souls of 10,000 humans. (Kissing is somehow involved in all of this.) By the end of Soul Rescue, he’s only saved two, maybe three souls. Though there are recurring characters, the series is largely episodic with almost no overarching plot arc or real conclusion. Kanno doesn’t seem to be concerned with consistent time periods or settings in the manga, either. Modern cities, Medieval kingdoms, and fuedal Japan, all with their own anachronisms, exist simultaneously.

White GuardianWhite Guardian by Duo Brand. I’m fairly certain that White Guardian was Duo Brand’s first professional boys’ love manga; it was also their first manga to be released in English. White Guardian includes many elements found in the pair’s other manga that I’ve read, namely swords, sex, and fantasy. Granted, in the case of White Guardian, it seems to be more of a historical setting than it is strictly fantasy; there are no supernatural aspects or magic involved in the plot. The kingdom of Landa is suffering from internal conflict and corruption which the Crown Prince is determined to address with the aid of the famed General Sei. Prince Linth is a bit of an oddball, lighthearted and earnest if a bit naive. He’s also strangely accepting and forgiving of his own rape, which happens multiple times over the course of the short manga. Happily, there’s some consensual sex to be found in White Guardian, too. The manga has some actual plot to go along with its smut as well. I’ll admit to being fond of court intrigue, espionage, and battles, which are all present and play their own roles in the story. White Guardian is followed by its sequel Crimson Wind which was also released in English, though it’s a little more difficult to find at this point.

Knights of SidoniaKnights of Sidonia directed by Kobun Shizuno. I have been enjoying Tsutomu Nihei’s Knights of Sidonia manga a great deal, and so when the anime adaptation was announced I was immediately interested in watching it. Of all places, the series was exclusively made available for streaming in English through Netflix with both a dubbed version and a subbed version. Overall, the anime was a fantastic adaptation. It hits all the major plot points and highlights of the manga, and in some cases it was actually easier to follow what was going on. The anime is very faithful to the original without slavishly adapting the source material to a new medium. As should be expected, the pacing of the story is slightly changed and the visual impact of the anime is different from that of the manga. However, I was never completely sold on the 3D CG animation style. Though the backgrounds, environments, and many of the special effects looked great with it and were sometimes even stunning, the movements of the characters occasionally would feel just a little off. It did seem to improve as the series went along, but maybe it was just that I was finally getting used to it. I do look forward to seeing the second season.

My Week in Manga: June 30-July 6, 2014

My News and Reviews

The first week of the month tends to be a little slow at Experiments in Manga (at least it feels slow to me). Granted, there were still three posts last week. The Juné Manga Giveaway Winner was announced, which also includes a list of some favorite Juné manga. June’s Bookshelf Overload was posted. (My wallet thanks me that June was a little less ridiculous than the last few month have been.) And finally, the first in-depth manga review of July goes to Battle Royale: Angels’ Border. Written by the author of the original Battle Royale novel, the volume collects two side stories about the girls who try to survive the death match by banding together at a lighthouse. Angels’ Border is surprisingly romantic, but if you know anything about Battle Royale, you know that things don’t end very well for almost anyone involved.

There were plenty of things that I found to read online last week. Here’s a quick list of a few of the posts that I thought were particularly interesting: Ryan Holmberg takes a look at Hayashi Seiichi’s pop music manga, specifically focusing on “Flowering Harbour” (which is now available in English!) Moyoco Anno was interviewed by Publishers Weekly. The Beautiful World has created a Transgender Manga Masterpost. J. R. Brown has a fascinating article about what can be gleaned by paying attention to the details of ukiyo-e prints. And Justin has a rant about the state of manga in translation that is worth reading. Also, Anime Expo was last week and there were a ton of announcements. Sean has a good roundup of the licenses at A Case Suitable for Treatment.

Quick Takes

Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star, Volume 1Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star by Cain Kuga. Of the two Cowboy Bebop manga, Shooting Star was actually the first to be released in Japan although it was the second series to be published in English. Technically, it also preceded the Cowboy Bebop anime series, which I hadn’t previously realized. However, it’s still based on the anime. Kuga was given free rein with the characters and story, which makes Shooting Star not exactly a retelling but more like an alternate version or universe. The manga isn’t as dark as the anime (though there’s humor to be found there as well), and the story is somewhat different, but the basic premise of near-future bounty hunters in space remains. Frankly, though vaguely entertaining in places, Shooting Star just isn’t as good as the anime, the action can be difficult to follow, and the slapstick is a little too silly for my taste. Shooting Star will most likely be of interest to established fans of the Cowboy Bebop anime as a curiosity more than anything else. Even though Shooting Star mostly stands on its own, people who haven’t seen the anime probably won’t get much out of it.

I Shall Never Return, Volume 1I Shall Never Return, Volumes 1-5 by Kazuna Uchida. Although the first volume of I Shall Never Return is a little shaky at the start (and parts of Ken’s stepfather’s backstory seem to be unnecessary and superfluous), overall I was actually rather impressed with this short boys’ love series. Ken comes from a broken home and is a high school dropout. His best friend Ritsuro was the only stable thing in his life but now they’re having problems, too. I Shall Never Return is filled with drama and deals with some very mature themes, such as abuse, drug use, prostitution, and rape. Terrible things happen and I was constantly waiting for something even worse. But there are also some wonderful moments of support, love, and acceptance. One of the things that I found particularly interesting about I Shall Never Return is that while it’s definitely a romance, the two leads actually spend much of the series apart from each other. Ritsuro remains in Japan while Ken travels to Singapore and then to India, trying to find a new start and become a better person. They have to deal with a long-distance relationship at the same time they’re coming to terms with their feelings for each another. It’s a believable and difficult process.

Knights of Sidonia, Volume 8Knights of Sidonia, Volumes 8-9 by Tsutomu Nihei. Maybe it’s because the manga’s such a bizarrely quirky series—a strange mix of science fiction, horror, and romantic comedy—but I can’t help but love Knights of Sidonia a little more with each passing volume. Nagate, Tsumugi, and Izana make a marvelous and frequently awkward family unit. And even considering that Tsumugi is a monstrous human-Gauna hybrid, she manages to be endearingly charming, sweet, and adorable. Nagate continues to be socially inept, though certainly less so, and Izana has fallen more in love with him, which has triggered physical changes. The three of them together are simply delightful, forming a not quite love triangle. In direct contrast to the humor and cheerfulness surrounding the trio, humanity’s fight for survival against the Gauna remains terrifyingly intense and death tolls continue to rise. Sometimes the battles can be a little difficult to follow, but they’re always exhilarating. There are some definite sexual overtones to Knights of Sidonia in these two volumes, which are especially apparent in the artwork, but this appropriately adds to the series’ more disconcerting atmosphere.

This One SummerThis One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. The Tamakis are a pair of cousins who previously worked together on the award-winning graphic novel Skim. This One Summer is their second collaboration. The story follows Rose over the course of her family’s summer vacation at Awago Beach where they have always rented a cottage. Rose’s mother has become more distant over the last year and can’t seem to relax, creating a significant amount of tension. There are reasons for that, though, and Rose is more perceptive than her parents might realize. But because communication has broken down between them all, it may be a while before everything will be okay again. Meanwhile, Rose spends time with her friend Windy, enjoying the beach and bingeing on horror films that they probably shouldn’t be watching at their age. In the background another drama is unfolding among the local teenagers when one of the young women discovers that she might be pregnant. It’s heartbreaking to see how insidious sexism can be. In addition to the strong and effectively layered storytelling in This One Summer, the artwork is beautiful as well.

YowamushiPedalYowamushi Pedal, Episodes 15-26 directed by Osamu Nabeshima. This set of episodes finishes up the Sohoku racing club’s grueling training camp and then launches almost directly into the Inter-High race, following the competition up through the first section of the first day and ending with one heck of a dramatic plot development. Yowamushi Pedal manages to be incredibly exciting, mostly due the intensity and passion of the characters and because it includes just a touch of the ridiculous. More characters and teams are introduced, and more backstories and rivalries are revealed in this part of the series, too. The animation is sadly a bit inconsistent, sometimes impressively good while at other times lacking in finesse. Although I enjoy cycling, I’ve never really followed road racing closely. I was surprised to learn just how much teamwork can go into it; I’d always assumed it was more of an individual event. I’ve also enjoyed learning more about some of the strategies involved in racing. (And I’ll admit, now that the weather is finally decent where I live I really want to get my bike out again and hit the road! Who says watching anime can’t be good for you?)

My Week in Manga: February 24-March 2, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week ended up being surprisingly busy here at Experiments in Manga. The most recent manga giveaway was posted, and there’s still some time left to enter for a chance to win a copy of the new edition of Shohei Manabe’s Smuggler. All you have to do is tell about your favorite assassin in manga. Last week I also posted my review of Hinoki Kino’s manga No. 6, Volume 5. I already knew going into the series that I liked the characters and story, having seen the No. 6 anime, but each volume of the manga is progressively stronger than the last. Over the weekend, I posted February’s Bookshelf Overload for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing. Also over the weekend, I reviewed Real, Volume 1 by Takehiko Inoue. I honestly believe Real to be one of the best manga currently being released in English. The review is part of what I’m calling “Manga March Madness.” Each weekend in March I will be posting a review for another volume of Real. At least that’s the plan. We’ll see if I can pull it off or not.

On to other interesting thing online! The Guys with Pencils podcast posted the second part of their interview with TCAF-founder Chris Butcher. Organization Anti-Social Geniuses has some Advice on Manga Lettering, From Manga Letterers. Khursten Santos wrote about The Silence on Josei Manga on Otaku Champloo, and had some feedback and followup to the post show up on Tumblr. Finally, the Comics Book Legal Defense Fund has an interesting article about the impact government regulations can have on creative freedom—History Repeats Itself: How Korean Manwha Met the Same Fate as American Comics

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 1Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, Volume 1 written by Ryo Suzukaze and illustrated by Satoshi Shiki. Set some seventy years before the main events of Hajime Isayama’s original Attack on Titan manga, Before the Fall is based on a series of light novels by Ryo Suzukaze (which Vertical will begin releasing later this year). Despite having a different author than the original manga, Before the Fall fits right in with Isayama’s worldbuilding and the tone set by Attack on Titan—there is still plenty of fear and darkness. The most striking difference, which didn’t come at all as a surprise, is that the artwork in Before the Fall is much stronger overall. The story follows Kuklo, a young man who, due to the unusual circumstances of his birth, is feared, abused, and reviled by those around him. It’s not pretty. People who have read the original Attack on Titan will have a slightly better understanding of the world than those who haven’t, but so far Before the Fall seems to stand quite well on its own. Before the Fall has a lot of potential; I look forward to seeing how it develops.

I Give to YouI Give to You by Ebishi Maki. As far as I can tell, I Give to You is Maki’s first and currently only boys’ love manga. It’s not a typical boys’ love story, either. The focus is very much on the characters themselves and their personal struggles and less on romance. The manga addresses what it means to be normal and lead a normal life, which isn’t an option for either of the leads. Ryoichi is being pursued by debt collectors after his ex-boyfriend defaults on a loan they co-signed together. He takes shelter from a storm in a teahouse run by Ren, another young man with a past he’d like to put behind him. The two are very different—despite his financial worries, Ryoichi tends to be fairly warm and happy-go-lucky while Ren is cooler and much more reserved. In the beginning, it’s Ryoichi who needs help and acceptance from Ren, but by the end of I Give to You their roles have almost completely reversed. The evolution of their relationship happens so slowly and naturally over the course of the manga that I was quite impressed with how it was handled. I would definitely be interested in reading more of Maki’s manga.

Knights of Sidonia, Volume 6Knights of Sidonia, Volumes 6-7 by Tsutomu Nihei. For most of Knights of Sidonia, it has been the Gauna who have been adapting and evolving by adopting human strategies, techniques, and even form. In these volumes, it’s the humans who have begun to apply the abilities and characteristics of the Gauna to their own technologies, creating terrifying and powerful human-Guana hybrids in the process. Understandably, not everyone is comfortable with these developments, but humanity is running out of options if it wants to survive. Knights of Sidonia has this odd mix of comedy and creepiness that somehow works. Although by this point in the series he has largely been accepted by the rest of the population of Sidonia and even has a few romantic interests, Nagate continues to be incredibly awkward socially. Because of this he still has a tendency to unintentionally create quite a commotion, often with humorous results. At the same time, Knights of Sidonia is also a horror manga. The Gauna, and now the hybrids as well, have very disconcerting designs that can be both grotesque and beautiful.

Ral Ω Grad, Volume 1Ral Ω Grad, Volumes 1-4 written by Tsuneo Takano and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. The primary reason I decided to read Ral Ω Grad was because I’m a fan of Obata’s artwork. Ral Ω Grad is a loose adaptation of the 2006 video game Blue Dragon. The manga definitely has a fantasy RPG feel to it—a young hero with special abilities fights against the destruction of the world by gathering together a party of other gifted individuals around him—but familiarity with Blue Dragon isn’t at all necessary to understand what’s going on. Generally, Ral Ω Grad manages to be vaguely entertaining even though it’s breaking no new ground. I found that I enjoyed the series more when I approached it as a parody rather taking it too seriously. (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t intended to be a parody, though…) Ral’s motivation for saving the world? Because he loves women. And boobs. Consequently, there’s fanservice and groping aplenty, but Ral spends quite a bit of his time running around mostly naked, too. In the end, the series’ highlight really is Obata’s artwork, which is consistently excellent. The story, sadly, is less engaging.

My Week in Manga: October 21-October 27, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week I reviewed Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son, Volume 5. The series is personally very important to me, so I’m always happy when a new volume is released. Sadly, we probably won’t see the next volume until next year. Last week I also posted Discovering Manga: Podcasts Redux. It’s a quick update on some of the podcasts that I’ve listened to and written about in the past. It also outlines my plan to write more podcast posts since my previous ones seem to have been fairly popular. If you have a manga podcast that you think I should check out, do let me know!

On to good stuff found online! A commenter on my recent post Random Musings: Queer Theory, Japanese Literature, and Translation linked to a fascinating article from earlier this year: Talking about (a)sexuality in Japanese. Over at Publishers Weekly, Deb Aoki has a great recap of Manga at New York Comic Con. Misaki C. Kido gives seven reasons Why Felipe Smith Is the Only Mangaka from America (So Far). And some of the most interesting news from last week: Crunchyroll will begin to digitally distribute Kodansha manga, providing access to new chapters the same day they are released in Japan. (Including some titles not previously available in English!) It should be interesting to see how this venture develops.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan, Volume 8Attack on Titan, Volume 8 by Hajime Isayama. The mystery of the Female Titan has been solved! Or, at least one of the mysteries—the identity of the person is who is controlling it. The reasons behind why and for what purpose are still unknown. For every question that is answered in Attack on Titan it seems as though there are even more to be asked. This particular volume includes a huge (dare I say titanic?) plot reveal which ends with a fantastic confrontation between Hanji and Minister Nick. (As an aside, I love that Hanji is a canonically gender ambiguous character.) One of the major secrets dealing with the walls is literally uncovered, but has yet to be fully explained. Attack on Titan continues to get stranger and stranger. For those who have been watching the Attack on Titan anime but who have thus far been avoiding the manga for one reason or another (I know plenty of people who can’t get past the terribly inconsistent artwork), the eighth volume is where you’ll want to pick the series up if you want to see any more of the story any time soon.

Knights of Sidonia, Volume 4Knights of Sidonia, Volumes 4-5 by Tsutomu Nihei. I am still enjoying Knights of Sidonia, but it frequently strikes me as a peculiar mix of science fiction horror and romantic comedy. But whatever genre it falls into at any given time, I do think the manga is Nihei’s most accessible work to date. Occasionally I still miss his grittier style of illustration, but the cleaner and somewhat simpler artwork in Knights of Sidonia has really grown on me. One of the things that amuses me tremendously is that Nagate is frequently seen stuffing food into his face. This emphasizes how much of an oddity he is compared to the rest of society on the Sidonia. And he is rather odd. His social interactions can be very awkward and often he is completely oblivious to his faux pas until it’s too late. (Let’s just say that it’s fortunate that he heals quickly.) The Gauna continue to be daunting adversaries. While at first they were terrifying enigmas, over the course of the series they have adapted and evolved and have even adopted (or at least mimicked) human technology and tactics, making them even more frightening.

Monster Musume, Volume 1Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls, Volume 1 by Okayado. Monster Musume is a harem series that attempts to distinguish itself by featuring monster girls. There is absolutely no question that Monster Musume is an ecchi manga, so unsurprisingly there are a lot of boobs and other bits. (I’m still trying to figure out how a snake can have a camel toe.) Kurusu Kimihito is an average guy who was “volunteered” for an exchange program between human and part-human species. He has become the host family for Miia, a lamia who is overly fond of him (inter-species canoodling is forbidden). Overwhelmed, he is constantly in a state of near-panic. As the first volume of Monster Musume progresses, bad puns and groan-inducing wordplay become increasingly prominent. (I’m one of those odd people who actually appreciates this sort of intentionally and ridiculously terrible dialogue, though.) It’s not at all a deep story—and I do wonder where all the monster boys are—but Monster Musume can actually be rather entertaining on occasion.