My Week in Manga: November 23-November 29, 2015

My News and Reviews

Last week was Thanksgiving in the United States, which means that I was fairly busy traveling and visiting family. I still posted a couple of things at Experiments in Manga, though. Because it’s the end of the month, it’s also time for a manga giveaway. And, because it’s November, the giveaway is for multiple volumes. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win four first volumes of manga in the Kodansha Shoujo Smorgasbord giveaway. I also posted a review last week of Attack on Titan: Kuklo Unbound, which is an omnibus edition of the last two volumes in Ryo Suzukaze’s trilogy of novels which form a prequel to Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan manga series. It’s a pretty quick read, and provides an interesting perspective and backstory that fans of the franchise will appreciate.

Because I was traveling and visiting family, I didn’t spend much time online last week, but there were a few things that managed to catch my attention. Comics Forum’s Manga Studies column continued with “What are you reading? Approaches and reasons for looking at language in manga” by Giancarla Unser Schutz. Gengoroh Tagame’s Otouto No Otto (My Brother’s Husband) won a Japan Media Arts Award, which is kind of a big deal. Viz Media posted its Fall 2015 survey about anime and manga buying habits and convention attendance. And, in much sadder news, mangaka and yokai enthusiast Shigeru Mizuki has passed away.

Quick Takes

Behind Story, Volume 1Behind Story, Volume 1 by Narae Ahn. I’ve been trying to make a point to sample some of Netcomics’ recent releases which is what first brought Ahn’s boys’ love manhwa Behind Story to my attention. I wasn’t previously aware of the series, and I actually haven’t been able to find much information about Ahn, either. The the story didn’t initially engage me, likely because of the school setting which didn’t do much to distinguish itself, but by the end of the first volume I was left wanting more. Johann is a transfer student who is rumored to be gay, which means that most of his classmates avoid him, but recently Taehee has developed an interest in him. One of their teachers has, too, and Johann finds himself the target of an unhealthy and abusive obsession. Behind Story has tumultuous emotions and drama, with the potential to go in some very dark and dangerous directions. While the cover art of Behind Story is particularly striking, the interior artwork is attractive, too, although some of the transitions between scenes and flashbacks were occasionally difficult to follow.

Cross Game, Omnibus 2Cross Game, Omnibuses 2-5 (equivalent to Volumes 4-11) by Mitsuru Adachi. It’s been a long while since I read the first Cross Game manga omnibus or watched the anime series; I’d forgotten just how good the story is. I’m not even especially interested in baseball, and yet I find myself completely absorbed by Cross Game. Probably because the manga really is about more than just baseball, although the way that Adachi paces the games does makes them very exciting. And after reading the manga, I am able to better appreciate and understand the strategy involved in the sport. But for me, the baseball in Cross Game takes a backseat to the series’ exploration of love and loss. In more than one way, the characters are dealing with the utter unfairness of life. Sometimes they are able to triumph over adversity and it’s magnificent, but sometimes there is nothing to be done but to live and learn and try to move on as best as they can. Cross Game is a series that manages to be very emotionally resonant; I find that I’ve come to care about the characters and their well-being a great deal.

A Silent Voice, Volume 3A Silent Voice, Volume 3 by Yoshitoki Oima. I continue to be impressed with A Silent Voice and Oima’s willingness to include characters who are simply awful people. It does make the series a little difficult or unpleasant to read at times, but the manga is still very well done. Fortunately, the series isn’t completely depressing. There’s hope for redemption and the promise that, while the mistakes of the past can’t be undone, people can indeed change for the better. It’s a lesson that Shoya is still learning as he is constantly reminded of and trying to make up for how horrible he once was. Though he has apologized and sincerely regrets the actions of his sixth-grade self, he’s uncertain whether or not he actually deserves to be forgiven and what his motivations in seeking forgiveness truly are. Shoya is still a little oblivious and self-centered when it comes to his relationships with other people, and he still makes plenty of mistakes, but he is slowly beginning to grow and mature and form honest friendships. His heart at least is in the right place, and he has become a much more sympathetic character over the last few volumes.

My Week in Manga: October 12-October 18, 2015

My News and Reviews

It was a two-review week at Experiments in Manga last week. First off, I reviewed the third and final volume of Hide and Seek by Yaya Sakuragi, which I enjoyed immensely. In general, I tend to like Sakuragi’s boys’ love manga, but I think that Hide and Seek has probably become my favorite. It’s a bit more serious and realistic than some of her other manga, but it still has a great sense of humor. The second review from last week, and the most recent addition to my ongoing monthly horror manga review project, was After School Nightmare, Volume 6 by Setona Mizushiro. The series continues to be both disconcerting and compelling; I’m looking forward to seeing how it continues to develop.

Elsewhere online: The Shojo Beat tumblr posted a short interview with Kyousuke Motomi. Tofugu presents Japanese Onomatopoeia: The Definitive Guide, which is pretty great. The BBC has a brief spot on Hajime Isayama. Coming out of the New York Comic Con, Women Write About Comics had a chat with Kodansha executives Hiroaki Morita, Kohei Furukawa, and Yasumasa Shimizu. Brigid Alverson reports on Kodansha’s panels at New York Comic-Con, which included Yohei Takami, the editor of Noragami, as a special guest. Masashi Kishimoto was in New York for NYCC as well. Deb Aoki covered Masashi Kishimoto’s NYCC visit for Anime News Network. Brigid Alverson reports on Kishimoto’s main panel. Weekly Shonen Jump Blog has some Kishimoto NYCC videos to share, including interviews and panels. Also, the recording from Kishimoto’s SoHo Apple Store visit is now available.

Quick Takes

Aron's Absurd Armada, Omnibus 2Aron’s Absurd Armada, Omnibuses 2-3 (equivalent to Volumes 3-5) by MiSun Kim. I read the first Aron’s Absurd Armada omnibus quite a while ago. I largely enjoyed the full-color manhwa, which I believe had its start as a webtoon, and have been meaning to get around to reading the rest of the series. I’m not sure that binge-reading Aron’s Absurd Armada was really the way to go for optimal enjoyment, though. I still find the series to be consistently or at least vaguely amusing, and it even managed to make me laugh out loud a few times, but it’s a little hard to take in large doses. The humor isn’t particularly clever, mostly relying on the fact that almost every single character in the manhwa is incredibly shallow or dimwitted. As such, there’s not much depth to the story or characters. Surprisingly enough, Aron’s Absurd Armada actually does have a plot, granted it’s very meandering and almost stream-of-conscious. There are pirates and treasure, kingdoms and political intrigue, and a whole mess of other complicating factors. Aron’s Absurd Armada is indeed absurd.

Citrus, Volume 2Citrus, Volumes 2-3 by Saburouta. Although I didn’t find some of the first volume of Citrus to be particularly realistic, I did find the intense emotions and drama to be engaging enough to be interested in continuing the series. The next two volumes follow in a similar vein—unbelievable in parts but still having the potential to become addictive. The series has begun to introduce prominent new characters as well. Not only is there another girl who has her eye on Mei, there’s also a young woman with designs for Yuzu. Mei’s father finally makes an appearance in the manga as well, albeit rather briefly. I’m not really entirely sure what to make of the man yet. Mei continues to be something of a mystery, too. One thing is for certain, though, a fair amount of Mei’s emotional issues, which have a huge effect on her interactions with other people, are tied up in her poor relationship with her father. As for the artwork, for the most part Citrus is drawn quite nicely in an overall attractive style that I like, but every so often there’s some weird anatomy going on which can be distracting.

Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volume 1Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volume 1 by Junko. Serinuma is on fairly good terms with many of the hottest boys at her school, but what most people don’t know is that in her spare time she enjoys fantasizing about them in relationships with each other. She’s also a huge fan of the anime Mirage Saga and she’s devastated when her favorite character dies. Locking herself in her room for more than a week, she wastes away. Nearly unrecognizable (on the outside), she begins turning the boys’ heads when she returns to school. Personally, I would have preferred another gimmick than sudden weight loss to bring Serinuma to the attention of her schoolmates, but at least it’s not at all played seriously. In fact, there is very little that is serious about Kiss Him, Not Me!. Its ridiculousness is what makes the manga work. And it is funny. The humor primarily revolves around Serinuma being a hopeless otaku, specifically a fujoshi. Junko herself, who is also a boys’ love mangaka (I believe Mr. Mini Mart is currently her only other work released in English), is a fujoshi as well, so happily the jokes never feel mean-spirited.

My Week in Manga: August 24-August 30, 2015

My News and Reviews

Last week was a bit slow at Experiments in Manga as I decided to take it a little easy on myself, but I did still post a couple of things in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. The most recent manga giveaway was posted, for one, and there’s still time to enter for a chance to win a complete set of Yumi Tamura’s shoujo action thriller Chicago. I also posted an in-depth review of Minae Mizumura’s award-winning A True Novel which I absolutely loved. In part it’s a reimagining of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights set in postwar Japan, but it’s not at all necessary to have read Brontë’s novel to appreciate Mizumura’s work.

Elsewhere online, Mangabrog has posted a translation of an interview of Parasyate‘s Hitoshi Iwaaki from 2005. Justin interviewed Sekai Project for Manga Bookshelf about the company entering the manga market. In licensing news, Kodansha Comics has picked up some Fairy Tail and Noragami side stories and Vertical Comics confirmed its acquisition of Maybe’s The Abandoned Sacred Beasts. Also of note, Humanoids will be releasing an anthology in 2016 called The Tipping Point which will include contributions from mangaka Katsuya Terada, Naoki Urasawa, Taiyo Matsumoto, and Atsushi Kaneko in addition to other comics creators from Europe and the United States.

Quick Takes

Dorohedoro, Volume 13Dorohedoro, Volumes 13-16 by Q Hayashida. Even though I love Dorohedoro, it’s been a while since I’ve read the series; I like to save up a few volumes to read all at once. The manga is now entering what I believe will be its final story arc. Granted, Dorohedoro tends to be all over the place with all sort of plot lines weaving in and out, so its difficult to identify distinct story arcs, but Hayashida is now bringing it all back together again. She’s even tying in what initially seemed to be extraneous side stories from earlier in the series more cohesively. Dorohedoro is such a bizarre manga, somehow managing to be sweet and charming at the same time it is disgusting and grotesque. Hayashida’s artwork is marvelous, creating horrific, nightmare-inducing images and an atmosphere that’s dank, dirty, and dingy. But the series is also fun and funny, with a quirky sense of humor and a peculiar fixation on food. At this point, though there is still comedy, Dorohedoro is actually getting pretty serious and dramatic. En’s dead and the rest of the family is currently homeless and on the run; the Cross-Eyes have taken over, but they seem to be losing control of the extremely deadly situation.

Evyione: Ocean Fantasy, Volume 1Evyione: Ocean Fantasy, Volume 1 by Young-Hee Kim. Back in the day, Udon Entertainment had a line of manwha which, sadly, didn’t end up going very far. Tragically, only the first volume of Kim’s twelve-volume series Evyione: Ocean Fantasy was translated and released. It’s admittedly disappointing that there isn’t more, but the first volume of Evyione serves as a sort of prologue and is well worth checking out even though the rest of the story will likely never be translated. The manhwa is in part inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid except that in the case of Evyione, it’s the king of the sea who has fallen in love with a human princess. The artwork in the series is stunningly gorgeous. The ocean scenes and merfolk are beautiful, sensuous, and slightly disconcerting. There’s a touch of horror to the king’s transformation into a human, keeping with the darker aspects of the original story. On land, Kim pays particular attention to the characters’ clothing and attire, the dresses especially are intricately detailed. Although Evyione is obviously based on The Little Mermaid, it’s not a simple retelling and incorporates political and court intrigue as well as additional plot elements.

Say I Love You, Volume 9Say I Love You, Volume 8 by Kanae Hazuki. I continue to really enjoy Say I Love You. Hazuki’s forthright portrayal of teenage sexuality in particular tends to be handled quite well. After focusing on some of the series’ supporting characters, the eighth volume of Say I Love You largely turns its attention back to Mei. Most of the volume is dealing with a popularity contest being held as part of the school festival that thrusts Mei into the spotlight when she becomes a finalist—some students voting for her because they like her, and some students voting for her in hopes that she will utterly embarrass herself. Yamato is a participant in the contest as well and out of all of the boys he’s expected to win, meaning he’ll be going on an arranged date with whichever girl receives the most votes. All together, this is a very challenging situation for Mei. She doesn’t really want all of the attention and yet she feels compelled to try to win. Hazuki avoids the pitfall of a makeover suddenly changing a person into someone completely unrecognizable. It’s not so much that Mei’s outward appearance is drastically altered, it’s that she’s starting to overcome some of her insecurities and reclaim her femininity for herself.

My Week in Manga: August 17-August 23, 2015

My News and Reviews

Last week Experiments in Manga reached its fifth anniversary, so I wrote a somewhat lengthy post about what I’ve been up to online and offline over the last year. Thank you again to everyone who has shown support and encouragement for Experiments in Manga over the years. Apparently, people actually want to see another five years, so I guess I better get to work on that. With that in mind, have two more in-depth reviews! Last week I took a look at Rikao Yanagita’s surprisingly entertaining The Science of Attack on Titan, one of the two non-manga books that Kodansha Comics has released so far. (The other one was related to Attack on Titan, as well.) I also reviewed Baku Yumemakura and Jiro Taniguchi’s The Summit of the Gods, Volume 5, which is the final volume in one of my favorite series. The writing and artwork in The Summit of the Gods is superb; I’m so glad that the entire manga is now available in English.

A few other things caught my eye online last week. Mangabrog has translated an article from 2013 that provides a tour through Inio Asano’s workspace. More information has been revealed about Kodansha’s digital efforts and the publisher is aiming high: digital editions of two thousand volumes translated into English by the end of 2017. Occasionally manga makes its way to NPR (which I believe is how I actually first learned about and became interested in Death Note). Most recently, one of NPR’s contributors featured a few great romantic manga: Kaoru Mori’s Emma, Ichigo Takano’s Orange, and Ai Yazawa’s Nana. I haven’t had a chance to read Orange yet, but considering the quality of Emma and Nana, I’m now looking forward to Seven Sea’s upcoming print release of the series even more. The game of manga tag continues to make it rounds, this time Narrative Investigations’ Helen tackles the questions.

Quick Takes

Castle Mango, Volume 2Castle Mango, Volume 2 written by Narise Konohara and illustrated by Muku Ogura. While I liked the first volume of Castle Mango, I really enjoyed the second and final volume of the series. Castle Mango is an unusual boys’ love manga; most of it doesn’t have anything to do with romance. The close relationship between Yorozu and Togame begins with a terribly manipulative lie, but it eventually develops into something real for both of them. In the first volume, the two men frequently seemed to have an almost father-son sort of vibe, but by the end of the series I was slightly more convinced by their intimacy as boyfriends. It does take a little while to get there though; they spend a large portion of the second volume apart. Togame is trying to give Yorozu space, feeling that it’s in the younger man’s best interest, but he doesn’t really go about it in the best way. Unfortunately, this is happening at the same time that Yorozu is struggling to take care of his little brother and his family’s business (a love hotel) when his mother is hospitalized. Yorozu is in the process of shedding the last of his immaturity and makes some terrible decisions in the process. In many ways, Castle Mango is more about Yorozu’s growth as a person than anything else.

Give to the Heart, Volume 1Give to the Heart, Volumes 1-4 by Wann. After a long period of silence, about a year ago Netcomics quietly began publishing books in print again. Give to the Heart was the first manhwa to be released after the publisher’s hiatus. I was interested in reading the series because I wanted to support Netcomics, but also because it was created by Wann. (I had previously read and thoroughly enjoyed Wann’s collection of short manhwa 9 Faces of Love.) At first Give to the Heart seemed like it was going to largely be fantasy fiction, but as the series progresses, more and more science fictional elements are introduced. The ongoing story is about Sooyi, a young woman who became the wife of Ganok, the demon king who controls all water, but who is now attempting to escape him. Not only that, she is trying to find a way to kill him as well, or at least cause him as much pain as possible even if that means sacrificing her own life in the process. Though it is implied that Sooyi and Ganok were at one point content and happy as a pair, their current relationship obviously has its problems. Actually, considering the extreme imbalance of power between them—Ganok being a cruel god and Sooyi being a human with a strong will—that’s been true from the very beginning.

My Little Monster, Volume 9My Little Monster, Volume 9 by Robico. So, Haru and Shizuku are now officially a couple, although not much has actually changed in their relationship. But now that that has been settled, the other romantically interested parties are more or less able to move on with their lives. As a result, the plot of My Little Monster is now able to move along as well. This particular volume includes summer vacations and festivals, which is fairly standard for a high school romance, but Haru’s family drama is starting to come to the forefront of the story again. Underneath the humor of My Little Monster there seems to have been something ominous lurking waiting to be revealed. Haru’s brother Yuzan isn’t as terrifying as he once was, but there is definitely something going on between him and Haru and with Haru’s reluctance to interact with the rest of his family. Haru is trying to keep Shizuku from finding out the details, though eventually he’s really going to need to come clean with her and explain his situation. But, while Shizuku is still in the dark, at least readers get to learn a bit more. I continue to enjoy My Little Monster, especially the series’ quirky characters, and I’m happy to see the manga continue to gain some forward momentum.

My Week in Manga: November 24-November 30, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week was a busy week for me as I was traveling and such for the Thanksgiving holiday, but Experiments in Manga had quite a few things going on, too. The most recent manga giveaway was posted and there’s still time to enter for a chance to win a Seven Seas Sampler—four first volumes of some of Seven Seas’ manga series. I also posted two reviews last week. First up was Yu Godai’s novel Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner, Volume 1 which I loved. It’s based on the same story as Digital Devil Saga, a spinoff of the Shin Megami Tensei video game series. I also reviewed Ryosuke Takeuchi and Takeshi Obata’s All You Need Is Kill manga adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s original All You Need Is Kill novel. I think the novel is the stronger of the two, but I enjoyed the manga as well. Last week I also joined in with the other Manga Bookshelf bloggers for a roundtable on food manga over at MangaBlog.

I should also probably mention that the votes have been tallied for my next monthly manga review project. After School Nightmare took an early lead, but it ended up being a very close contest between it and Dorohedoro and Mushishi. And in the end, After School Nightmare and Mushishi actually tied with each other! So, I’ve decided to review both manga. There are a few different ways to approach this, but beginning with After School Nightmare, each month I’ll alternate between the two series. If everything goes according to schedule, it should take me a year and a half to complete the review project. Thank you to everyone who participated in the poll! I was very glad to see interest expressed in all of the series to which I had narrowed down the vote. I’ll be sure to keep in mind the other series that were strongly supported and try to feature them as best as I can, too. I wish that I had more time to read and write!

Elsewhere online, Organization Anti-Social Geniuses had a couple of posts that I found particularly interesting last week—an interview with Abigail Blackman, one of Yen Press’ editors and letterers, and a discussion of some of the fears of buying manga from U.S. publishers. Digital Manga has launched yet another Osamu Tezuka manga Kickstarter, though one that seems much more reasonable than the last failed project. This time, Digital Manga is trying to raise funding for the publication of Tezuka’s Ludwig B, an unfinished manga series about Beethoven. (In part because of my background in music, I’m actually really interested in Ludwig B.) I’d also like to bring a little attention to an effort started by Becca Hillburn—a group for Western Shoujo Comic Artists. More about it and the endeavor to create a network of support for manga-influenced artists can be read at Hillburn’s website Nattosoup: Solidarity and the American Shoujo/Josei Comic Scene.

Quick Takes

Alice in the Country of Hearts, Omnibus 1Alice in the Country of Hearts, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Soumei Hoshino. Based on an otome game by Quin Rose, Hoshino’s Alice in the Country of Hearts is one of many manga adaptations and spinoffs. Originally the series was partially released in English by Tokyopop, but the license was later rescued by Yen Press. Despite hearing good things about Alice in the Country of Hears, one of the reasons it took me so long to give the manga a try was the sheer number of volumes associated with the franchise. I’m glad that I finally got around to reading the first omnibus, though, because I loved it. At first, Alice in the Country of Hearts seems like a fairly straightforward re-imagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (Granted, many of the characters are now bishōnen of various types.) But it soon becomes clear that something very ominous and disconcerting is brewing under the story’s surface. Alice has been transported to Wonderland and if she ever wants to return home she will have to get to know its residents better. Although they are participating in some sort of game to win her affections, those who live in Wonderland are prone to violence and have a very different sense of what is normal.

Milkyway Hitchhiking, Omnibus 1Milkyway Hitchhiking, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Sirial. Although occasionally the same characters make an appearance in multiple stories, Milkyway Hitchhiking is generally an episodic manhwa. The only thing that really ties the volume together is the presence of Milkyway, a beautiful cat who can apparently travel through space and time. She may or may not actually play an active role in the stories being told. Sometimes she’s just an observer and sometimes she’s a participant. Sometimes she’s a focal point of a tale and sometimes she simply happens to be present while events unfold around her. The most striking thing about Milkyway Hitchhiking is its beautiful, full-color artwork. Some of the individual illustrations are simply stunningly gorgeous. A variety of color palettes are used to lovely effect. While I particularly appreciate Milkyway Hitchhiking for Sirial’s art, I also enjoyed the individual episodes, too. The stories range from the fantastical to those grounded in reality. Some feel very much like something out of a fairy tale while others are contemporary slice-of-life or historical in nature. At times heartwarming and at times heartbreaking, I very much enjoyed Milkyway Hitchhiking and look forward to reading more of the series.

Tale of the Waning Moon, Volume 1Tale of the Waning Moon, Volume 1 by Hyouta Fujiyama. I have a tendency to forget that Yen Press releases boys’ love series. Tale of the Waning Moon is one of those manga. Fujiyama has had quite a few of her works released in English, but I haven’t read any until now. Tale of the Waning Moon is pretty ridiculous. Ryuka is a young man whose girlfriend recently left him for another man. While drowning his sorrows Ryuka accidentally calls upon Ixto, the spirit of the last quarter moon, to grant him true love. The twist is that all of the eligible candidates that Ixto comes up with are men, which doesn’t particularly appeal to Ryuka. The real problem is that when Ryuka rejects those options, he comes under Ixto’s spell and is therefore compelled to leave his village on a quest to reunite with the spirit. From there, Ryuka sets of on his journey, unintentionally amassing an adventuring party of sorts in the process. Tale of the Waning Moon has sex (not all of it consensual) and silliness, magic and mayhem. Inspired and heavily influenced by fantasy RPGs, the manga is definitely more of a comedy than it is a romance. Tale of the Waning Moon is a short series—only four volumes—and the first installment entertained me well enough, so I’ll probably get around to picking up the rest at some point.

Ubel Blatt, Omnibus 0Übel Blatt, Omnibus 0 (equivalent to Volumes 0-1) by Etorouji Shiono. Übel Blatt, which translates as “evil blade,” has a lot going for it that generally appeals to me—a dark fantasy setting, a tale of revenge, epic battles, and so on—but for some reason, the first omnibus (the zeroth omnibus?) didn’t quite grab me as much as I expected it to. I’m not really sure why, since it seems like a series that should interest me. In fact, overall I actually did like the story. I even like many of the characters, especially its lead. But there were a few little (and big) things here and there that just didn’t work for me. For one, the sexual content and rape in the volume seems entirely unnecessary. It comes across as a superfluous attempt to add more edginess as opposed to being important to the story. Most of the female characters don’t fare particularly well, either. Occasionally there’s a little bit of hope that they’ll overcome their scantily clad fantasy tropes, but it never quite seems to happen. At this point, many of the antagonists in Übel Blatt seem fairly one-dimensional, too, though I suspect that this will change as the series progresses. All that being said, Übel Blatt does feature some excellent fight sequences and scenes of destruction. And while I’m not desperate to read the next volume, the series does show potential.