My Week in Manga: May 9-May 15, 2011

My News and Reviews

I’ve been rather lazy (and busy) lately, so the “My News and Reviews” section is going to be brief this week. Last week I posted three reviews, two here at Experiments in Manga and one over at Experiments in Reading. First up was Keigo Higashino’s award-winning novel Naoko which I liked even better than the only other of his works currently available in English, The Devotion of Suspect X (also an award winner). At Experiments in Reading I posted a review of the third (and possibly final) book in Jane Lindskold’s Breaking the Wall series, Five Odd Honors. I mention it here because the magic system is based on mahjong, granted a Chinese version. But still—Mahjong! And finally, my first in-depth manga review for May: Vagabond, Omnibus 1 by Takehiko Inoue based on Eiji Yoshikawa’s epic historical novel Musashi, which I reviewed last month.

Derik Badman at The Panelists will be hosting the Manga Moveable Feast this month. This time around, we’ll be focusing on Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game. The Feast will start on May 22nd and run until May 28th. I’ll be reviewing the first volume published by Viz Media, which is equivalent to the first three volumes released in Japan.

Quick Takes

Afterschool Charisma, Volume 1 by Kumiko Suekane. Somehow, I’m not quite convinced by the clones. They don’t all seem to have the sort of quirks stereotypically associated with their original personalities. Granted, that seems to be part of the point. And Suekane does do some nice things with the concept, like everyone shunning Hitler because of his original even when the clone hasn’t done anything. It would have been nice to have some sort of list of the characters’ historical basis; while I easily identified some of the originals, there were others I had never even heard of before. I didn’t particularly care for the “Almighty Dolly” subplot, though I appreciated its significance. This could turn out to be a really interesting series.

Alice the 101st, Volumes 1-2 by Chigusa Kawai. As a musician, Alice the 101st appeals to me a great deal. It’s a little goofy and over the top on the drama, but it’s actually a pretty realistic portrayal of what it takes to become a professional performer. The characters all have very strong personalities even if they tend to be a little one-note (hehe). Alice himself is extremely spastic which could get annoying, but I found to be generally amusing. The introduction of Georges (and a brief cameo by Robert) in the second volume makes a nice crossover from one of Kawai’s other manga series, La Esperança. I really want to know what is going on between Vick and Max, so I hope another volume is released soon.

Ayako by Osamu Tezuka. One of Tezuka’s darker adult titles, Ayako is not an easy read even if it is hard to look away. Women are not treated well at all and poor Ayako herself seems to be considered more of an object to possess and control rather than an actual person. The Tenges are one messed up family and it’s difficult to feel any sort of sympathy for them. First and foremost they take care of the family and its reputation, even if individual members must suffer for it. The ending did feel a bit forced to me—I was wondering how Tezuka was going to try to tie everything together—but it was somehow appropriate despite the blatant symbolism.

Winter Demon, Volumes 1-4 written by Yamila Abraham, illustrated by Studio Kosaru, Le Peruggine, and Rhea Silvan. I found it a little strange at first that the artist would often change from chapter to chapter, but it was interesting to see the characters captured in different styles while still remaining obvious who was who. The first volume of Winter Demon is probably the weakest, but the series steadily improves as the story progresses. However, I wasn’t entirely convinced by how easily Hakuin seemed to fall for Fuyu even if it made me happy to see them happy together. Two side stories are introduced in the series and eventually Abraham ends up bringing all three together in the final volume, which I liked.

9 Souls directed by Toshiaki Toyoda. Nine inmates, the titular 9 Souls, unexpectedly manage to escape their prison cell. They plan to stick together at least until they find a rumored stash of counterfeit currency. Nine men travelling together are bound to attract some attention, especially when their disguises are limited to dressing in drag or wearing glasses and pasted on facial hair. One by one they find the end to their own story as they try to reconnect with their past lives or start new ones. While the film ends on a serious note, there’s actually a fair amount of humor in 9 Souls. I hadn’t heard of the film before and just picked it up randomly, but I actually quite enjoyed it.

The Book of the Dead directed by Kihachirō Kawamoto. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a stop action animation, so although I had never seen before The Book of the Dead I felt rather nostalgic watching the film. The story, based on a novel by Shinobu Orikuchi, feels a little disjointed and I think I missed some of the finer cultural aspects of the tale since I’m not particularly familiar with 8th century Japan. However, the puppets are both beautiful and creepy as needed for the story. Iratsume, a sought after and young noblewoman, has a vision, mistaking the young man she sees in it for the Buddha. In actuality, he is the soul of an executed prince and he mistakes her for the last woman he saw before his death.

Tiger & Bunny, Episodes 1-7 directed by Keiichi Satou. Initially, I had no intention of watching Tiger & Bunny—superheros generally aren’t my thing. But then just about everyone I know started raving about the series and I started to feel left out. So I watched it and had a fantastic time. The show is a lot of fun; there’s a reason it already has a significant fan following. It’s somewhat episodic (but that is changing), and the existence of super powered humans is only halfheartedly explained, but the character interactions are great. That being said, for me it is the characters that carry the anime, particularly Tiger. I find him adorkable, but if you don’t like him, you probably won’t like the show, either.

My Week in Manga: December 6-December 12, 2010

My News and Reviews

I don’t have much manga news for this past week, but there was some One Piece Manga Moveable Feast carryover, including an episode of the Manga Out Loud podcast devoted to the series. The Manga Curmudgeon, as the host, is keeping track of everything still trickling in. As for me, I posted Part 5 of my Library Love series. I do apologize for it being a bit more spoilery than usual, but that can be difficult to avoid when writing about middle volumes. I also posted a review of Ryu Murakami’s Popular Hits of the Showa Era (also known as Karaoke Terror) due to be released by W. W. Norton in January. The novel is a dark satire, absurd, and potentially offensive, but I quite enjoyed it.

Quick Takes

Cain, Volume 1 by Le Peruggine. I’m sorry to say, but the first volume of Cain, which was originally an Italian publication, did almost nothing for me. I didn’t get a good feeling for what was going on and I didn’t get attached to any of the characters or care about their relationships. Perhaps if I had read all three volumes of the series together, I might have a better opinion. I like the cover art, but the illustration work inside doesn’t reach the same quality and is sometimes difficult to follow. There are hints that Cain may be something other than human, which could be interesting, but I probably won’t follow up with the rest of the series.

Chi’s Sweet Home, Volume 3 by Konami Kanata. This series is simply wonderful and gets my vote for one of the best new series released in 2010. For cat lovers at least, Chi’s Sweet Home is a must. Much of Volume 3 explores Chi’s relationship with Blackie, or the Bear-Cat as the humans call him. Chi learns a lot about what it means to be a cat from Blackie and as much as Chi can annoy him, he’s grown quite fond of the kitten. As for Chi, she’s become quite attached to Blackie and her human family. Unfortunately, cats aren’t allowed at their apartment complex and the super is on a mission to track down the offending tenants.

D. N. Angel, Volumes 1-13 by Yukiru Sugisaki. D. N. Angel was one of the first and favorite manga series that my youngest sister read. Daisuke Niwa has a rather unusual condition—whenever he experiences intense romantic feelings, he transforms into the legendary Phantom Thief Dark, just like his ancestors before him. Sugisaki can’t seem to decide whether D. N. Angel is a romantic comedy or a darker, more serious fantasy and it sometimes feels like she’s just making things up as she goes along. However, I still found the series to be fun and enjoyable to read if I didn’t think too hard about it. The artwork is very appealing, although occasionally inconsistent.

Happy Mania, Volumes 1-5 by Moyoco Anno. Shigeta wants nothing more in life than a boyfriend. Unfortunately, she’s obsessive, self-absorbed, and goes a little bit crazy once she sets her sights on a guy. It’s hard to see why Shigeta has any friends at all. Even Takahashi, who desperately loves her and who she can’t seem to admit is perfect for her, questions his devotion. She ends up sleeping with plenty of men, but has yet to find a satisfying relationship. Even when she knows better, poor Shigeta makes one bad decision after another. It might be terrible, but Shigeta’s self-destructive tendencies make for one hilarious manga. Happy Mania is a great josei series and I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of the volumes.

Spirit Marked, written by Colter Hillman and illustrated by Yishan Li. While I liked the art (for the most part), Spirit Marked doesn’t have a particularly original story. This English language manga had a lot of potential but it unfortunately doesn’t deliver. Instead of a single volume, it probably would have worked better as a longer series which would allow more exploration of the characters and a chance to differentiate its plot. As it is, Spirit Marked seems more like an outline or a proposal rather than a finished work—the plot feels rushed and incomplete. In addition to the title story, the book also includes an unrelated bonus story called Clockwork Heart.