My Week in Manga: September 18-September 24, 2017

My News and Reviews

I was running a little behind my intended schedule last week (and today for that matter–this seems to be somewhat par for the course lately), but over the weekend I was finally able to post my review of the ninth omnibus of Vinland Saga, an award-winning historical manga by Makoto Yukimura which has become one of my favorite series currently being released in English. Last week I also attend a talk by Hiroshi Yoshioka, a professor at Kyoto University’s Kokoro Research Center, called Hiroshima, Fukushima, and Beyond: Borders and Transgressions in Nuclear Imagination. Yoshioka’s research addresses the portrayal of nuclear power within popular culture, whether that be manga like Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen, Sunao Katabuchi’s In This Corner of the World anime adaptation, other visual arts, or even Giant Baba’s “atomic drop” in professional wrestling. I won’t be doing a full write-up of the talk (although perhaps I should), but I did find it to be fascinating. A couple of other interesting things that I’ve come across recently include Ryan Holmberg’s two part article “Yokoyama Yuichi and Audiovisual Abstraction in Comics” as well as an edited version of a talk by Tyran Grillo, the translator working on the Legend of the Galactic Heroes novels, about the series and its author Yoshiki Tanaka.

Quick Takes

Frau Faust, Volume 1Frau Faust, Volume 1 by Kore Yamazaki. The German legend of Faust, a scholar who sells his soul to the Devil in order to gain great knowledge and worldly delights, has had numerous interpretations over the centuries. (Considering my background in music, I’m personally most familiar with the various operatic and symphonic renditions of the tale.) Faust being the subject of a manga would be enough for me to take an immediate interest, but the fact that Frau Faust is by Yamazaki, the creator of The Ancient Magus’ Bride which I greatly enjoy, made it a series that I absolutely knew I needed to read. One volume in, not only am I intrigued, I am completely on board with Yamazaki’s reimagining of the classic tale. As can be gathered from the title, Faust in this case is a woman. Johanna is strikingly enigmatic, the complexity of her true nature slowly revealed over the course of the first volume of the manga. The pacing of Frau Faust is excellent. Plenty of mystery remains by the first volume’s end, but rather than the story feeling like it’s being unnecessarily drawn out, it simply makes me want to read more. The only real complaint I have about the manga, and it’s a relatively minor one at that, is Johanna’s eyeglasses which tend to inexplicably appear and disappear from one panel to the next and I can’t tell if it’s meant to be intentional or not.

Kiss of the Rose Princess, Volume 1Kiss of the Rose Princess, Volumes 1-2 by Aya Shouoto. Since I’ve been enjoying The Demon Prince of Momochi House I’ve been making a point to try some of the other manga by Shouoto available in English. Sadly, I haven’t been nearly as taken with Kiss of the Rose Princess, one of Shouoto’s earlier series. I think that part of my lack of interest in the series stems from the fact that there’s not much of a plot even hinted at until the second volume. It’s almost as if the first volume, and much of the second, is devoted to a side quest before really getting to the meat of the story. Anise is a high school student who quite unexpectedly finds herself in command of a quartet of knights (who are also her classmates) that she can magically summon, a situation that hasn’t been fully explained. More than anything else, the setup comes across as a convenient excuse for the series’ heroine have a number of young men who are in some way bound to her if not vying for her attention. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but at this point most of the characters come across as “types” and any convincing romantic tension is nearly nonexistent. Everyone is very prettily drawn, however. Shouoto seems to be favoring silliness over seriousness in Kiss of the Rose Princess, which again isn’t necessarily bad, but a satisfying balance between the tones hasn’t been reached yet.

Queen Emeraldas, Volume 2Queen Emeraldas, Volume 2 by Leiji Matsumoto. In addition to being a classic manga, which I’m always happy to see more of in translation, I found the first half of Queen Emeraldas to be wonderfully engrossing, so I was looking forward to reading the conclusion of the series. One of the things that particularly appeals to me about the Queen Emeraldas is the mood that Matsumoto is able to create–the melancholic atmosphere of the manga as well as the portrayal of the great expanse and loneliness of the universe. (I also adore Matsumoto’s illustrations of space.) Emeraldas is a woman traveling the stars, her ship her only constant companion. However, her destiny still frequently crosses paths with those of others. Hiroshi Umino repeatedly finds himself drawn into her orbit as he tries to establish a life of freedom in space. The chapters of Queen Emeraldas are loosely-connected stories with the presence of Emeraldas as the uniting factor. She herself is frequently the narrator of the tales, but the focus is often on the follies and arrogance of the men she meets. I was actually hoping to learn more about Emeraldas and her personal story, but by the end of the series very little has been explicitly stated about her past. Even so, Emeraldas is a marvelously charismatic character, capable of great empathy and compassion but dedicated to justice.

My Week in Manga: February 6-February 12, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted the Bookshelf Overload for January–it was kind of a strange month for manga and other media acquisitions for me, but it wasn’t as absurd as December so at least my wallet’s a little happier. I also managed to finish my draft for February’s in-depth review, so I should have that cleaned up and posted sometime later this week.

Last week I came across a few interesting things online related to queer manga, comics, and other media. Massive has now released Jiraiya’s Two Hoses in English, a manga telling the story of “The Greatest Couple,” characters who were initially designed for the company as part of its launch. (Massive has released Jiraiya’s Caveman Guu manga, too, which was subsequently collected in the excellent anthology Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It.)

I haven’t had a chance to actually listen to it yet, but the most recent ANNCast focused on LGBT representation in manga and anime with guests Erica Friedman, Jason Thompson, and Valerie Complex. Friedman also visited the University of Michigan back in January to discuss queer manga. The recording of her presentation Alt Manga, Queer Manga: Telling Our Own Stories is now available to watch on YouTube.

There were a few Kickstarter campaigns that caught my attention last week as well. First and foremost, Chromatic Press is raising funds to release the final volume of Lianne Sentar’s series Tokyo Demons in print, produce a revised edition of the first novel, as well as reprint the other books in the series. It isn’t a secret that I am a huge fan of the series, so I definitely want to see the project succeed. Tabula Idem is a great-looking tarot-themed queer comics anthology with an accompanying queer-themed major arcana tarot deck. I’m not very familiar with most of the artists involved, but Kaiju (whose comics I greatly enjoy) is contributing the cover illustration. Pamela Kotila has also launched a campaign to print the second volume of the webcomic Spidersilk. Though I haven’t actually read it yet, I recently picked up the first volume so this project seems to be aptly-timed.

Quick Takes

The Ancient Magus' Bride, Volume 4The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Volumes 4-6 by Kore Yamazaki. It’s been a little while since I’ve read The Ancient Magus’ Bride but that’s not because I don’t like the manga. In fact, it’s quite the opposite–The Ancient Magus’ Bride is actually one of my favorite series currently being released in English. I simply wanted to have a whole stack of volumes to read all at once. (Also worth noting: The first printing of Volume 6 is even accompanied by a special booklet with an additional comic!) Somehow, I had managed to forget just how much I enjoy The Ancient Magus’ Bride. I love its moody atmosphere and setting, beautiful artwork, and intriguing characters. Elias remains something of an enigma although parts of his past have now been revealed. He isn’t particularly happy about this development, though. Likewise, more is known about Chise, too, although she is still hesitant to share. The relationship dynamics in The Ancient Magus’ Bride are somewhat peculiar but remain compelling. Most of the characters in the manga are struggling with some sort of heartbreaking loneliness or feelings of isolation. To see them slowly drawing closer together, forming bonds of friendship, family, and love is immensely satisfying.

Mr. Mini MartMr. Mini Mart by Junko. Although the boys’ love manga Mr. Mini Mart was released in English first, my introduction to Junko’s work was through the series Kiss Him, Not Me. Because I was enjoying that series, I made a point to track down a copy of Mr. Mini Mart which for a time had gone out-of-print. (It’s more-or-less back in print again, but the manga seems to only be available directly from Juné Manga’s online store.) I forget why I initially passed on Mr. Mini Mart but I’m very glad that I finally got around to reading it. Mr. Mini Mart collects two boys’ love stories. Most of the volume is devoted to the titular “Mr. Mini Mart” but a short, unrelated one-shot manga “Young Scrubs” is included as well. It’s not nearly as good, though. “Mr. Mini Mart” is wonderful and surprisingly sweet. The story follows the high-school-aged Nakaba who, after an unfortunate incident in middle school, has been living as a shut-in. He gets finally gets out of the house when his uncle gives him a job at his store, but Nakaba has a difficult time getting along with his coworker Yamai and his abrasive personality. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for a sensitive tough guy and it turns out that Yamai is an amazing example of one and is just a great person in general.

The Seven Princes of the Thousand-Year Labyrinth, Volume 1The Seven Princes of the Thousand-Year Labyrinth, Volume 1 written by Yu Aikawa and illustrated by Haruno Atori. I really wanted to like the first volume of The Seven Princes of the Thousand-Year Labyrinth more than I actually did. The basic premise is intriguing. A group of some of the kingdom’s most noteworthy, and in some cases most notorious, citizens wake up to find themselves trapped together in an elaborately booby-trapped castle. (The exception is the protagonist Ewan whose only distinguishing characteristics are his trusting nature, inherent kindness, and the fact that he’s from the kingdom’s most remote island.) The assumption is that whoever manages to survive the ordeal will become the kingdom’s emperor and reigning lords. There is a ton of potential in this set up, but The Seven Princes of the Thousand-Year Labyrinth simply didn’t work for me. Mostly I think it’s because the characters all come across as types rather than well-rounded individuals. What’s more is that they don’t even feel like they should all be a part of the same series; I found this lack of cohesiveness to be frustrating. The artwork is pretty, though, if not especially distinctive and there are plenty of plot twists, too.

TomieTomie by Junji Ito. Although uncommon, license rescues aren’t particularly rare, but Ito’s horror series Tomie is one of the very few manga to have been released in English by three different publishers. Most recently, Viz Media has collected the entire series in a single, massive tome with over seven hundred forty pages. The translation used is the same as the one in Dark Horse’s Museum of Terror series which I own, but I couldn’t resist the deluxe, hardcover treatment the volume received to match Viz’s other recent re-releases of Ito’s manga. Tomie was actually Ito’s award-winning professional debut and began serialization in 1987 in a shoujo magazine. The manga is largely episodic although there may be several chapters devoted to a single story arc and later stories sometimes make passing references to earlier ones. What ties the series together is the presence of Tomie, a beautiful young woman who is seemingly immortal. Time and again men fall desperately in love with Tomie and are eventually overcome by a desire to murder and dismember her. Not only does Tomie survive, she regenerates and multiplies, and so the horror continues. While not as mind-bendingly bizarre as some of Ito’s later works, Tomie is still weird, horrifying, gruesome, and grotesque.

My Week in Manga: January 25-January 31, 2016

My News and Reviews

A couple of different things were posted at Experiments in Manga last week in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. First up was the first manga giveaway of the year, and there’s still time to enter for a chance to win Fuka Mizutani’s Love at Fourteen, Volume 1. Last week I also reviewed the first omnibus of Hiroaki Samura’s Die Wergelder, which is brutal and intense to say the least. The manga is greatly influenced by violent, erotic Japanese films from the 1970s and it shows. And speaking of explicit manga, Digital Manga’s Project-H imprint is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to publish Yamatogawa’s Vanilla Essence hentai collection. It seems like Digital Manga is now relying on Kickstarter projects for just about everything, and I have no idea how long the publisher will be able to last like that; it’s a bit concerning.

Quick Takes

The Ancient Magus' Bride, Volume 3The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Volume 3 by Kore Yamazaki. I continue to love The Ancient Magus’ Bride and look forward to future volumes a great deal. The series has this sort of atmospheric melancholy to it that I really like along with touches of horror and darkness that have yet to become overwhelmingly bleak. In large part, The Ancient Magus’ Bride seems to be dealing with loneliness and the intense longing and need to belong somewhere. It’s only after being purchased by Elias that Chise feels as though she’s actually wanted and that is a dangerously enticing feeling to have. Their relationship is a peculiar one, but it is also compelling. For better or for worse, Chise still knows very little about Elias. He seems very reluctant to reveal his true nature to her, whether out of fear that he will be rejected or for some other reason entirely. What is clear is that Elias is very powerful, very dangerous, and not entirely honest. Despite this and despite the warnings of others, Chise remains devoted to him. She, too, is powerful and dangerous, though she has yet to learn how to completely control and claim that power for her own.

Dog X Cat, Volume 4Dog X Cat, Volume 4 by Yoshimi Amasaki. I believe Dog X Cat is up to six volumes or so and still ongoing in Japan, but it seems unlikely that more of the series will be released in English any time soon if ever. It’s been a few years since I read the first three volumes of the boys’ love series, but it didn’t take very long to get reoriented with the manga. The fourth volume is actually a fairly self-contained story, too. Atsu and Junya used to only be best friends but now they’re also well-established lovers. Junya is the more adventurous and demanding when it comes to sex to the point of ignoring Atsu’s needs and desires which is unfortunate; otherwise their relationship is quite good and they obviously love each other. Keeping with the rest of the series, Amasaki finds plenty of opportunities to include sex scenes. However, their vacation-cum-research trip to the mountains takes an extremely unfortunate turn when an earthquake traps them under a burning building. Though there are sweet moments, most of the forth volume of Dog X Cat deals with this traumatizing event and its lasting aftermath.

Library Wars: Love & War, Volume 11Library Wars: Love & War, Volumes 11-14 by Kiiro Yumi. I’ll readily admit to enjoying Library Wars and its dramatic and fantastical portrayal of librarianship. I don’t think that librarians will militarize themselves any time soon in the fight for freedom of expression and information, but it does make for an interesting story that does actually explore some of the complexities of the debates surrounding censorship. Library Wars has two sides to it that don’t always mesh with each other very well, but I do like them both. There’s the romantic and comedic side of things as many of the characters come to terms with their evolving feelings for their colleagues and then there’s the more action-oriented part of the story, complete with shootouts and attempted kidnappings. These particular volumes have some pretty exciting developments on both fronts. Although Iku’s ineptitude is often emphasized, which is something that I dislike about the series, she continues to prove her reliability in dangerous situations when it really counts. I didn’t realize that there is only one more volume left in this series, but I’m really looking forward to it; it should be a good one.

My Week in Manga: September 7-September 13, 2015

My News and Reviews

I was on a much-needed vacation last week; the family spent a fair amount of time in northern Michigan enjoying nature and good food and drink. I got some extra sleep and caught up on some of my reading and writing, too. All in all, a lovely time was had. I wasn’t online much at all except to post a couple of reviews, so I’m sure that I’ve missed out on all sorts of things. (If you would, please do fill me in on anything that was particularly interesting!) The first review I posted was of the rather clever debut mystery novel The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji (who also happens to be the creator of the horror mystery Another and the husband of Fuyumi Ono). I also reviewed Hirohiko Araki’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Volume 1 which continues to be marvelously strange and over-the-top.

Quick Takes

The Ancient Magus' Bride, Volume 2The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Volume 2 by Kore Yamazaki. The first volume of The Ancient Magus’ Bride was one of my favorite debuts of 2015 and I continue to thoroughly enjoy the series with the second volume. Although overall there is a disconcerting, dark, ominous, and creepy atmosphere to the manga, but there are also moments light; the horror and mystery are accompanied by touches of humor and hope that help keep the series from becoming too oppressive. Yamazaki also captures the capricious nature of the fae perfectly. I was rather pleased to see Titania and Oberon, the queen and king of the fairies, introduced in this volume as well. Although more is hinted about Elias’ past—he has connections to the fae, mages, and alchemists, but isn’t really accepted by any of them—he’s still reluctant to open up and talk about it. He largely remains shrouded in mystery, but it seems as though he may have more in common with Chise than would initially appear. Their relationship has a peculiar dynamic to it in addition to a significant imbalance of power, but I’m very curious to see how it develops; there may be healing involved for both of them.

Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto, Volume 1Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, Volume 1 by Nami Sano. The exceedingly odd Sakamoto doesn’t seem to care at all about what other people might think of him, making him immune to bullying and giving him the reputation of being the coolest student in school despite his weirdness. Somehow, he is able to take control of any situation and use it to his advantage; he always ends up looking good. The girls all love him and the guys, though they would like to hate him, can’t help but admire and respect him. And that’s what makes the manga so funny. So far, Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto is fairly episodic although there are some recurring characters and running jokes. Both the series and Sakamoto are admittedly strange, but the comedy is played seriously with an incredibly straight face. At the same time, Sano’s artwork highlights the drama and humor of the various situations. Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto is kind of absurd and yet highly entertaining. I’m not sure for how long Sano will be able to keep the gags fresh, but I’m looking forward to reading more of the series and finding out.

UQ Holder!, Volume 5UQ Holder!, Volume 5 by Ken Akamatsu. Up until this point, my feelings toward UQ Holder! have been fairly lukewarm. I’ve enjoyed the wide variety of immortals and some of the action sequences can be highly entertaining, but the story and characters more often than not are frustratingly directionless and shallow. That being said, I was surprised by how much I actually liked the fifth volume of UQ Holder!. I didn’t have much hope for it at first as the opening battle ends up being extremely anticlimactic. I’m sure this was meant to be an amusing development, but Akamatsu’s sense of humor in the series doesn’t always work for me. But then four of the UQ Holder members are sent undercover as high school students to investigate a string of serial murders in which an immortal may be involved. Not unexpectedly, some silliness ensues alongside the seriousness of the killings. The murder case is interesting, though, even if its solution ultimately feels forced. And while I liked some of the newly-introduced characters, the lead’s oblivious optimism and aggressive friendliness continues to be both an asset and a detriment to the series.


My Week in Manga: June 29-July 5, 2015

My News and Reviews

Once again, I was actually away for most of the week last week. The taiko ensemble I that primarily play with had a series of performances, a mini taiko tour of sorts, so I was traveling. We had a great time; I only wish I that could make my living in music! (Who knows, maybe in the future I’ll be able to make it work. You know, once the mountain of student loans has been paid back.) Although I fell behind in my reading and writing, I did have a few things in queue to post at Experiments in Manga. First, the Assassination Classroom Giveaway Winner was announced. The post also includes a list of manga available in English that feature teachers. I’m a couple of volumes behind in my reviews for the series, but the honor of the first in-depth manga review for July goes to Fumi Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 7. Kenji finally has the chance to meet Shiro’s parents and it’s great. Finally, over the weekend, I posted June’s Bookshelf Overload. Most notably, I found an entire set of the tragically out-of-print Banana Fish that I didn’t have to trade a kidney to obtain!

Because I was away from the Internet for so many days, I didn’t really stumble across any articles that I found particularly interesting. However, Anime Expo was held last week, and there were a ton of licensing announcements. (Manga Bookshelf cohort Sean has a nice roundup.) Kodansha has Akiko Higashimura’s Princess Jellyfish (I’m thrilled!), Shizumu Watanabe and Okushō’s Real Account, and Hoshino Taguchi’s Magatsuki. Haikasoru has the first three novels of Yoshiki Tanaka’s Legend of the Galactic Heroes (hooray!), and Sentai licensed the anime series. Shojo Beat picked up Matsuri Hino’s Shuriken and Pleats and Bisco Hatori’s Behind the Scenes. Seven Seas licensed Angel Beats!: Heaven’s Door. Tokyopop returns to manga publishing in 2016, but no specific titles have yet been mentioned. Vertical will be releasing Keiichi Arawi’s Nichijō, and Kanata Konami’s FukuFuku: Kitten Tales among other things. Yen Press announced a slew of manga and light novel acquisitions, too, including the mahjong manga Saki! (Sadly, it’s currently only a digital release.) I’m sure I’ve missed something, so please let me know what exciting news or reading I should be aware of!

Quick Takes

The Ancient Magus' Bride, Volume 1The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Volume 1 by Kore Yamazaki. Apparently, The Ancient Magus’ Bride started as a one-shot doujin before catching the eye of an editor. It’s a curious and atmospheric manga, mostly set in current-day England, albeit it’s a world in which magic and alchemy take their place alongside science. Although magic use seems to be fading away, fae are still very real and a few humans show rare talent for the craft. Chise is one of those humans. Sold into slavery, she is purchased and perhaps rescued by a Elias, a powerful mage who wants her to become his apprentice. He also mentions something about Chise becoming his bride, too, though she can’t quite tell if he’s being serious or not. Granted, it’s a little difficult to read a person with an animal skull for a head. Yokai exist in The Ancient Magus’ Bride as well (they can be seen in the background of some of Chise’s memories), but so far it appears as though the manga will be focusing on Europe’s fantastical and legendary creatures. I enjoyed the first volume of The Anceint Magus’ Bride a great deal and look forward to reading more of the series.

An Entity Observes All ThingsAn Entity Observes All Things by Box Brown. I was already curious about An Entity Observes All Things, but after briefly meeting Brown at TCAF I knew that I wanted to read it. The volume includes nine of Brown’s short, alternative comics, three of which were previously published elsewhere while I believe the other six are new for the collection. Though for the most part the comics are unrelated to each other—they don’t really share characters, plots, or settings and even their color palettes are different—in general, the short works fall into the category of science fiction and deal with themes of exploration, specifically of the world and of the self. They all tend to be fairly quirky, too, and can often be rather humorous without necessarily being comedies. I enjoyed An Entity Observes All Things quite a bit. As with most collections, some of the individual comics worked for me more than others, but overall I found the selections to be engaging. Sometimes funny and sometimes sad, the comics are all somewhat strange, and that’s something that I particularly appreciate about An Entity Observes All Things.

Man of Many Faces, Volume 1Man of Many Faces, Volumes 1-2 by CLAMP. I largely enjoy manga by CLAMP, but if I’m going to be honest, I was primarily interested in Man of Many Faces due to its loose connection to the works of Edogawa Rampo. For the most part, the Rampo references are limited to the characters’ names and roles. There’s the titular “Twenty Faces,” a skilled thief in both Rampo and CLAMP’s creations, a young man by the name of Kobayashi who chases after him, and even Akechi-sensei, although he’s a school doctor rather than a detective in the manga. Man of Many Faces is one of CLAMP’s earliest professional works and it is very, very silly, the more absurd elements being lampshaded and intentionally left unexplained. However, the manga ends up being rather sweet and charming, too. Twenty Faces is a third grader who has taken on the role of the gentleman thief in the absence of his father. Akira steals things according to the whims of his two eccentric mothers in addition to doing all of the cooking and housework. Although the story at first focuses on the various heists, ultimately Man of Many Faces is about romantic love.