My Week in Manga: August 6-August 12, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted my first in-depth manga review for August, focusing on Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son, Volume 3. I am incredibly grateful that this series is being released in English. The story hits very close to home for me, which can sometimes make it difficult for me to review, but it’s a wonderful series. Now comes the long wait for the next volume, which will probably be released sometime in 2013. I also reviewed Losing Kei,  the debut novel by Suzanne Kamata, an American expatriate living in Japan. I didn’t always like the main character, but even still the novel was very engaging. Kamata’s own experiences living in Japan add to the authenticity of the story.

A few months ago, I reviewed Hirohiko Araki’s full-color manga Rohan at the Louvre, a spin-off story from his series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Only the third part of that series and Rohan at the Louvre have been licensed in English. Over at The Hooded Utilitarian, there is a great introduction to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Araki Hirohiko at the Louvre, Part 1) and Rohan at the Louvre (Araki Hirohiko at the Louvre, Part 2) that are worth checking out. And check out Rohan at the Louvre itself, too, for the artwork if nothing else.

Quick Takes

Kekkaishi, Omnibus 3 (equivalent to Volumes 7-9) by Yellow Tanabe. Kekkaishi has taken a serious turn. Although the comedic elements are still there, and the series still has a great sense of humor, the more lighthearted aspects of the series have been downplayed. Much of this omnibus focuses on Gen and his back story, which I was glad to see. It’s a tragic tale, but explains a lot about him as a person. Yoshimori, Tokine, and Gen make a great trio. The series’ well-developed and well-rounded characters are probably its greatest strength. But, as much as I’ve enjoyed Kekkaishi so far, I’m not quite ready to invest in the individual volumes. I really wish Viz would publish the rest of the series as omnibuses, too.

Polterguys, Volume 1 by Laurianne Uy and Nathan Go. The influence of reverse harem manga is readily clear, but Polterguys is definitely its own charming comic. Bree is a freshmen in college who can’t seem to get along with any of her roommates. She thinks renting a room in an old house will be the perfect solution, only to find out later that the house is already inhabited by a group of ghosts. Polterguys features a great cast of characters; each one of them has a distinct personality. I wasn’t surprised by any of the story’s twists, but I enjoyed them immensely nonetheless. The development of the characters’ relationships does feel a little rushed here or there, but for the most part this volume is an excellent start to the series. I can’t wait to read the second volume.

Twin Spica, Volumes 11-12 by Kou Yaginuma. If you didn’t enjoy the first few volumes of Twin Spica, there are no drastic changes in the manga that would make you reconsider. If, like me, you have been enjoying Twin Spica, the last two volumes are a satisfying ending to a great series. The manga’s tone has been the same from the very beginning—slightly melancholic but with a sense of hope as the characters pursue their dreams against the odds. The students training to become astronauts through Tokyo Space School’s newly established program have all been put to the test. Repeatedly pushed to their limits and beyond, they have become an inspiration to those around them.

The Tyrant Falls in Love, Volumes 3-4 by Hinako Takanaga. Isogai was one of my favorite characters in Challengers and so I was delighted to see him return in The Tyrant Falls in Love. And yes, he causes just as much trouble this time around as he did in the original series. The Tyrant Falls in Love is sort of a strange manga, each volume tends to vary wildly in tone from the next. The second volume was rather serious while the third volume (with a little help of Isogai) was substantially more comedic. The fourth volume returns to being serious in some ways but in other ways the narrative is completely ridiculous and unbelievable. But I am glad to see that Morinaga is slightly less of an ass and that Souichi is slowly coming to terms with their relationship.

The Book of Bantorra, Episodes 14-27 directed by Toshiya Shinohara. I am completely torn over The Book of Bantorra. I absolutely love the basic premise of the series. Unfortunately, most of the time I had no idea what the hell was going on. And frankly, the complete lack of consistent character design annoys me. But as much as the series frustrates me, The Book of Bantorra has some absolutely brilliant worldbuilding. I also appreciate the fact that the series is willing to kill off important characters when the story calls for it. Even when I just didn’t get the anime, I was consistently engaged and curious to learn more. And the ending is fantastic. I’ll probably give The Book of Bantorra another try at some point.

My Week in Manga: May 28-June 3, 2012

My News and Reviews

The most recent manga giveaway is underway here at Experiments in Manga. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still some time to enter. Plus, there aren’t many entries yet, so the odds are really good! Stop by the Read or Die Giveaway and tell me about your favorite bibliophile for a chance to win. I know that at least a couple of people enjoy my Bookshelf Overload posts, which is one of the reasons I keep writing them. If you’re one of those people, May’s Bookshelf Overload is now available for viewing. Over the weekend I posted my review of Matthew Meyer’s book The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: A Field Guide to Japanese Yokai. It’s a fantastic volume with great artwork that any yokai lover should enjoy. Be sure to check out his website for examples of his art, too. I haven’t been this excited about a book in a very long time; I absolutely loved it.

Quick Takes

Basilisk, Volumes 1-5 by Masaki Segawa. This manga series is an adaptation of Fūtaro Yamada’s semi-historical novel The Kouga Ninja Scrolls. I had previously read and enjoyed the novel, which is probably one of the reasons I didn’t appreciate the manga as much in the beginning—I missed having a lot of the background information the novel included. However, by the end of the series I was completely engaged. I’ve often heard the basic premise of the story described as “Romeo & Juliet…with ninja,” which is accurate up to a point. The large cast of ninja, each with their own special abilities, provide plenty of opportunities for intense battles and underhanded assassination attempts.

Brody’s Ghost, Books 2-3 by Mark Crilley. I believe Brody’s Ghost is planned to be a six volume series, so this brings us to the halfway point. Volumes two and three follow Brody as he gets his life back together while he undergoes training to gain control over his emerging supernatural powers. He’s also given some real motivation to pursue the Penny Murderer, something that was previously lacking. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of the series so far, but I have no idea when the next book is due to come out! I’ll definitely be picking it up once it does, though. One thing I really like about Brody’s Ghost is the extra material that Crilley includes at the end of each volume which explores his creative processes and decisions.

Gerard & Jacques, Volumes 1-2 by Fumi Yoshinaga. After a very uncomfortable beginning, Gerard & Jacques eventually turns into an great historical drama. Despite the title being Gerard & Jacques, the focus is really on Gerard. He is certainly the most thoroughly developed character in this short series, but Yoshinaga doesn’t slack off when it comes to writing the other characters, either. Even the secondary characters have their defining moments. The story itself ranges from the heavy and dark to the light and comedic which can be jarring, but enjoyable. I’m not particularly interested in the French Revolution but it serves as a good backdrop for the series and ultimately becomes very important to the plot as well.

Twin Spica, Volumes 9-10 by Kou Yaginuma. For such a gentle seeming series Twin Spica can also be incredibly heart-wrenching. The manga has always had a melancholic air to it as the characters struggle to accept their pasts while striving to achieve their dreams. Even years after the Lion disaster people are still having to deal with the consequences of the shuttle’s crash. As graduation draws closer for Asumi and her friends at the space school they’ve all come to realize how important they are to one another. They also know that soon the time will come when they have to say goodbye. I’m really looking forward to reading the final two volumes in Vertical’s release of the series.

Welcome to the N.H.K. directed by Yūsuke Yamamoto. I loved Tatsuhiko Takimoto’s original Welcome to the N.H.K. novel and I must say, the anime adaptation is excellent. Although the humor is still there, I didn’t find the anime to be as outrageously funny as the novel. But even with the anime’s more serious tone there are moments of hilarity which are needed to keep the series from becoming too depressing. The anime stays true to the novel while expanding parts of the storyline and characterizations. The plot arc dealing with the pyramid scheme was a little tedious, but for the most part the changes made for the anime worked very well. The characters may sometimes be extreme, but they’re very human, too.

My Week in Manga: April 9-April 15, 2012

My News and Reviews

This past week I posted two reviews. My first in-depth manga review in April was for Rohan at the Louvre by Hirohiko Araki. It’s a handsome hardcover volume with pages in full color. Araki’s artwork is fantastic. I really enjoyed the manga. Fun fact: It was commissioned by the Louvre Museum. I also reviewed the original Welcome to the N.H.K. novel by Tatsuhiko Takimoto which has had both anime and manga versions made from it. I enjoyed the novel so much that I’ll definitely be tracking down the adaptations as well.

Heads up! April’s Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Kate Dacey at The Manga Critic, will begin on April 22nd. This month we’ll be focusing on Viz Media’s Signature imprint, home to some great series like Pluto and Vagabond just to name a couple. Also, voting started yesterday for the second Aniblog Tourney if you’re into that sort of thing. (Experiments in Manga has been included in the tournament this year.) Last week I mentioned that the nominees for this year’s Eisner Awards had been announced. Brigid Alverson, one of the judges, gives a sneak peek into the award process in Best Job Ever: My Six Months As An Eisner Judge.

Quick Takes

No Touching At All by Kou Yoneda. One thing that I’ve seen mentioned in most reviews for No Touching At All are problems with the translation; I’ll admit, it’s not the best that I’ve seen. But for me, the strength of the story and strength of the characters ultimately won out—I loved No Touching At All. Shima’s awkward introversion actually reminded me a lot of myself which was probably one of the reasons that I connected so well with the manga. He has difficulty accepting his own feelings and even more trouble accepting the feelings of others. Togawa on the other hand is more confident and straightforward. I found both of the lead characters to be realistic and their relationship believable.

Rumic World Trilogy, Volumes 1-3 by Rumiko Takahashi. Rumic World Trilogy is a collection of short manga of varying lengths by Rumiko Takahashi, mostly from early in her career. As with most short story collections, the stories tend to be hit-or-miss but Takahashi generally hits. Most of the stories in the Rumic World Trilogy tend towards the comedic although there are a few that are more serious, too. Rumic World Trilogy is not my favorite manga by Takahashi, but for the most part I enjoyed it. Probably my least favorite story was “Wasted Minds.” I found parts of it to be very amusing, but the five-part series seemed to drag on too long. I preferred the shorter stories which forced Takahashi to focus her storytelling a bit more.

Twin Spica, Volumes 5-8 by Kou Yaginuma. It makes me sad that the English release of Twin Spica hasn’t been more successful; I think it’s a wonderful series. From the very beginning of the newly established astronaut training program in Japan it has been made clear that only a few students will actually be given the opportunity to go to space. Asumi and her friends are mostly concentrating on their immediate coursework, but things will soon get more competitive—they all want a chance at space. Twin Spica primarily focuses on the feelings and relationships of its characters. Even with all of the science fiction elements (which I love), they feel like authentic people.

The Irresponsible Captain Tylor: OVA Series directed by Kōichi Mashimo and Naoyuki Yoshinaga. I had a lot of fun watching the initial anime series of The Irresponsible Captain Tylor and so made a point to seek out the OVA series as well. Unfortunately, the OVA series somehow lacks the charm of the original and I wasn’t as impressed by it. However, it was great to have the opportunity to spend more time with the characters. The OVA episodes, which take place not long after the original series ends, tend to focus on individual characters rather than the crew as a whole. I think this might be where the series goes astray—the characters seem to work better as a cast ensemble than on their own. Still, even if I didn’t like the OVA series as much as the original, I was entertained.

My Week in Manga: November 22-November 28, 2010

My News and Reviews

Last week was Thanksgiving vacation for me which means that I didn’t have to work but did have to do much more driving than usual. I did still find time to get some manga reading in and raided my youngest sister’s bookshelves in between visiting with my family. I even found time to post my review of the second Spice & Wolf light novel; I’m enjoying this series so far and will definitely be picking up the third volume when it’s released in December. And as a reminder, I’m currently running a boys’ love/yaoi manga giveaway, Feast of Firsts. The winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday, so you still have a couple days to enter.

It’s also time for the most recent Manga Moveable Feast, featuring Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece. David Welsh of The Manga Curmudgeon is hosting, so check out his post Setting Sail and the updating index. I’ll be posting a review of the first volume, Romance Dawn, later this week. This will be the first Manga Movable Feast that I will have participated in, so I’m particularly looking forward to it.

Quick Takes

Case Closed, Volume 1 by Gosho Aoyama. After being caught sticking his nose into a crime in progress, the teenage detective prodigy Jimmy Kudo is poisoned by mysterious men in black. Instead of killing him as intended, the untested poison instead transforms Jimmy’s body into that of a grade schooler. (And quite an adorable one at that.) As cute as Jimmy, now going by the name Conan Edogawa, and the art is, there is still a substantial amount of blood and gore. The manga vaguely reminds me of Encyclopedia Brown. The mysteries aren’t particularly complex yet, but watching Jimmy/Conan’s deductions is fun.

Fake, Volumes 1-7 by Sanami Matoh. Fake was the the first boys’ love series that I ever read. I often see it listed among people’s favorites, but I’ve never been quite as taken with it as others seem to be. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy the manga, because I do. Ignoring the fact that realistic police procedure is completely thrown out the window, particularly in the early volumes, the series has a decent plot and a fair amount of humor to go along with its sexual tension. Occasionally the recurring story elements and gags can get a little tedious. I really do like the relationship between Dee and Ryo though, and the secondary characters are pretty great, too.

Sand Chronicles, Volumes 1-9 by Hinako Ashihara. After borrowing and reading the first volume of Sand Chronicles from the library, I knew it was a series that I needed to own. I also knew it was going to break my heart and it did, repeatedly—this manga is so good it hurts. The characters must find balance between love and loneliness and selfishness and selflessness. None of them are bad people, but they do have issues to work through. The main story is completed in eight volumes while volumes nine and ten consist of bonus and side stories. Sand Chronicles won the Shogakukan Manga Award in 2004 and it’s seriously one of the best shoujo manga that I’ve read.

Twin Spica, Volumes 2-4 by Kou Yaginuma. I’m really enjoying this manga so far. It’s a quiet series and a bit melancholy at times, but very touching. The art is also lovely and quite good, although its cuteness sometimes seems at odds with the seriousness of the story. The students of the newly instated astronaut training program all face mental, emotional, and physical challenges as they strive to accomplish their dream of traveling to space. Twin Spica is very realistic science fiction, which I appreciate. I like all of the characters, but I think Mr. Lion is probably my favorite. I’m looking forward to reading future volumes as they are released.

Monster, Episodes 1-11 directed by Masayuki Kojima. So far the Monster anime series has been extremely faithful to Naoki Urasawa’s source material. And because the original manga is fantastic, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Both the animation and the voice acting is solid. Although a few of the voices in the English dub annoy me from time to time, the casting is very well done overall. The soundtrack is also good and I particularly like the opening theme. The anime runs for seventy-four episodes, and I’m interested in seeing how the complex, one-hundred-sixty-two chapter manga will be adapted.

My Week in Manga: October 4-October 10, 2010

My News and Reviews

Experiments in Manga has been going for two months now! So far I’ve been pretty happy with how things have turned out, but I am going to try to start posting more full length manga reviews. Unfortunately, the site search still isn’t working as well as I would like it to and I can’t seem to fix it—very frustrating. Just as a heads up: I’ll be posting the October giveaway next week and this time you’ll only have one week to enter instead of two. You have been warned.

This past week I posted a review for Natsuhiko Kyogoku’s novel Loups-Garous, published under Viz Media’s Haikasoru imprint. It’s an oddly fascinating piece of science fiction mixed with mystery. Library Love, Part 3 gives you a glimpse at some of the manga I’ve been borrowing from my local library—they’ve even thanked me for helping out with their circulation statistics, that’s how much manga I read. And finally, over on Experiments in Reading I reviewed the second book in Jane Lindskold’s Breaking the Wall series, Nine Gates. It’s heavily influenced by Chinese legend and mythology, but most importantly mahjong!

Quick Takes

Library Wars: Love & War, Volumes 1-2 by Kiiro Yumi. Based on the light novel series by Hiro Arikawa, which I really want to read now but it’s not currently available in English, this is one of two manga adaptations. The armed Library Defense Force has been established to protect books against censorship and defend readers’ rights. As a librarian myself, I really couldn’t pass up on such a great story concept. Iku is passionate about her work, but I really wish she wasn’t quite so scatterbrained. The second volume is better than the first so I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of the series and I hope it continues to improve.

MPD-Psycho, Volumes 1-3 written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Shou Tajima. I’ve been reading and enjoying Otsuka’s The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and thought I would give his more controversial MPD-Psycho a try. It’s gory, disturbing, and absolutely fascinating. Tajima’s art fits the story perfectly—it’s stylish and quite often disconcerting. After killing the serial murderer that attacked his girlfriend, Detective Yosuke Kobayashi’s multiple personality disorder is triggered and Kazuhiko Amamiya becomes the dominant personality. His complicated past is slowly revealed and I’m looking forward to reading more of the series to see where things are going to go.

Twin Spica, Volume 1 by Kou Yaginuma. This is really a lovely and heartfelt start to a manga series. I’ve heard so many good things about Twin Spica and they are all true. Asumi does seem to me to be too childlike for a fourteen-year-old, but she is a wonderful character and her interactions with other characters, especially her father, are great. I want to cheer her on as she pursues her dream to become an astronaut. While the art is on the cute side, the story is wistful and realistic near-future science fiction. I have a feeling I’ll be following this manga through to the end. Even after only reading the first volume, I highly recommend this series.

Vassalord, Volumes 1-3 by Nanae Chrono. This series got its start as a pinup illustration. No, really, it did. It’s a strange mish-mash of things that Chrono just felt like throwing together, and in an odd sort of way it works. When I heard that one of the main characters was a gay cyborg vampire who wants to be a priest and who works as a mercenary for the Vatican, I couldn’t pass it up. It’s outrageous, ridiculous, and frequently sacrilegious, but certainly unique. The action and plot are often confused and don’t always make much sense, but Chrono’s artwork provides some great eye-candy—especially with the sexy, sexy vampires Rayflo and Rayfell.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Episodes 1-13. The Ghost in the Shell film was one of the first anime that I ever saw and it made a big impact on me. So, I was excited when a television series came out based on Masamune Shirow’s original manga, but it wasn’t until now that I’ve gotten a chance to sit down and watch the whole thing. Yoko Kanno, one of my absolute favorite composers, is responsible for the soundtrack and it’s fantastic. Stand Alone Complex is divided into two different types of episodes, “Stand Alone” which stand alone and “Complex” which follow the Laughing Man plot line. I find that I really have to pay attention while watching otherwise I miss something important, but it’s good stuff.