My Week in Manga: March 3-March 9, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week the Smuggler Giveaway Winner was announced. As usual, I took the opportunity to compile a list. In this case, I pulled together some of the manga licensed in English that feature assassins. And speaking of assassins, last week I reviewed Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal, Volume 28: Raining Chaos which focuses on the confrontation between the remnants of the Ittō-ryū and the Rokki-dan warriors and the Mugai-ryū assassins. There isn’t much plot development in the volume, but there are some great battle sequences. I also reviewed Real, Volume 2 by Takehiko Inoue, which features battles of an entirely different sort. Real is a mix of human drama, tragedy, and hope as its characters deal with events in their lives beyond their control. It’s a truly fantastic series.

There was quite a bit of manga industry news and analysis last week. I’m particularly excited that Moyoco Anno will be a featured guest at TCAF! ICv2 interviewed Dark Horse’s manga editor Carl Horn (Part 1, Part 2). Deb Aoki took a look at the state of digital manga for Publishers Weekly. Vertical’s licensing survey is currently underway. Vertical also posted a little more information about past surveys and how they’ve been used. Sean Gaffney rounds up some of the recent licensing announcements at A Case Suitable for Treatment. Not directly related to the current state of the manga industry but still worth a read is Dan Mazur’s post about early shōjo manga.

Quick Takes

My Little Monster, Volume 1My Little Monster, Volume 1 by Robico. On the first day of school, Haru was suspended and he hasn’t been back since. As a favor to a teacher, Shizuku agrees to bring him his homework which Haru interprets as a sign of friendship. Now, much to Shizuku’s dismay, the two of them have become nearly inseparable. Because of Haru’s propensity towards violence and his almost complete lack of understanding as to what is socially appropriate behavior, some of the situations in My Little Monster can be extremely uncomfortable and worrisome. However, although they are often used as a source of humor, I was very happy to see that Haru’s actions were not romanticized. His tendency to lash out and physically intimidate others, whether out of fear or for some other reason, was not generally portrayed as a desirable characteristic. It’s completely understandable that some people are afraid of him. However, Haru’s naivety and earnestness can be very endearing. Shizuku, one of the few people who can seem to handle the volatile Haru, is an interesting character in her own right with both flaws and strengths. They are both social misfits in their own ways; I’m very curious to see how their relationship continues to develop.

Thermae Romae, Omnibus 3Thermae Romae, Omnibus 3 by Mari Yamazaki. If it seems like it’s been a long time since the last Thermae Romae omnibus was released, that’s because it’s been almost a year. Thermae Romae is a series that started out more like a gag manga, following the exploits of the Roman bath engineer Lucius as he somehow time travels to modern-day Japan and back after repeated near-drownings. With the second omnibus, the series shifts into a romantic comedy when Lucius meets Satsuki after becoming stuck in Japan. That ongoing plot continues through the rest of the series. Although there is still plenty of humor in the third omnibus, Thermae Romae takes a decidedly more serious turn when it looks like Satsuki and Lucius will be torn apart. Satsuki’s grandfather, an incredibly skilled massage artist (as well as a man who should definitely not be trifled with), plays an increasingly important role in the story. Thermae Romae is a great deal of fun. It has drama and romance and comedy, not to mention great art. The ending does feel a little abrupt, but Yamazaki notes that she hopes to write additional Thermae Romae stories that address some of the lingering questions that readers may have about the series and its characters.

Arakawa Under the BridgeArakawa Under the Bridge, Season 1 directed by Akiyuki Shinbo. The Arakawa Under the Bridge anime series is based on an ongoing manga by Hikaru Nakamura. Kou Ichinomiya lives his life following one very simple rule that has been instilled in him by his father: never be indebted to another person. So when Nino, a rather strange young woman living on the banks of the Arakawa River, saves him from drowning, Kou wants to repay the favor and move on as quickly as possible. Except, the only thing that she wants is for him to stay with her and so Kou finds himself obligated to move in under the bridge. There he meets the other residents of the Arakawa River, all of whom are not just a bit peculiar and strange. Though Kou is supposedly the “normal” one, it quickly becomes obvious that he fits right in and is just weird as the rest of them. I found Arakawa Under the Bridge to be highly entertaining and enjoyable in all of its absurdity. The series doesn’t have much of an ending, which makes some amount of sense seeing as there is a second season (which I’ll definitely be watching), but the anime tends to be fairly episodic so I wouldn’t necessarily expect it to have a definitive conclusion, either.

Like Father, Like SonLike Father, Like Son directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. Ryota and Midori Nonomiya are stunned when they discover that their son Keita isn’t related to them biologically. Six years ago at the hospital where he was born, Keita was somehow switched with Ryusei, the son of Yudai and Yukari Saiki. Now the two families must decide how to handle the situation and whether blood ties are stronger than those of time. Ryota, who has his own father issues to work out and whose relationship with Keita wasn’t especially strong to being with, is having a particularly difficult time, but his wife is struggling tremendously as well. The members of the Saiki family tend to be a little more easy-going in comparison, but the situation is a challenge for them as well. And caught up in the whole mess are Keita and Ryusei, who have very little say in the matter. The revelation of the two boys being switched at birth disrupts both families, resulting in both joy and heartbreak as they grow to know each other better. Like Father, Like Son is a beautiful film about parental and familial love as Ryota learns what is important in life and what it really means to be a father.

The Wind RisesThe Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki. The anime film The Wind Rises is historical, biographical fiction, following the life of Jiro Horikoshi, an aeronautic engineer who designed fighter planes for Japan during World War II. Almost as much of the film takes place in Jiro’s dreams as it does in his waking life. At first, the designs of the planes in The Wind Rises are very fantastical but as the film progresses they become more and more realistic as Jiro makes his dreams a reality. There is an emphasis placed on the beauty of design and creativity, but this is contrasted with the ugly, destructive forces of war and the terrible applications of those innovations. His planes may have been beautiful, but their purposes were not, which begs the question—how much responsibility do artists hold over their creations and their use? The Wind Rises‘ answer to that question is left ambiguous. As with many of Miyazaki’s other films, The Wind Rises has gorgeous flight sequences and an anti-war sentiment. Some of the time skips were a little difficult to follow at first, and I think the film was a little longer than it really needed to be, but overall The Wind Rises was well done. It’s far from my favorite Miyazaki film, though.

My Week in Manga: June 3-June 9, 2013

My News and Reviews

I was traveling for work for most of last week. Despite my hectic schedule I somehow still managed  to post a few things here at Experiments in Manga. First of all, the Umineko: When They Cry manga giveaway winner was announced. The post also includes a lengthy (but certainly not comprehensive) list of video game manga that have been licensed in English. I also posted the most recent Library Love feature which consists of quick takes of manga that I’ve read from my local library. Technically, if I was strictly following Library Love’s bimonthly schedule, it should have been posted in May. But then I went to TCAF and ended up writing about that instead. (It took place at a library, so that counts, right?) Anyway, expect the next Library Love to be posted sometime in July. Finally, for the first in-depth manga review of June, I took a look at No. 6, Volume 1, the first volume in Hinoki Kino’s manga adaptation of Atsuko Asano’s series of science fiction novels. I enjoyed the anime adaptation of the novels, but was disappointed by its rushed ending. I’m looking forward to seeing where Kino will take the manga adaptation. I’d love to read the original novels, but it’s highly unlikely that they will ever be licensed in English.

Because I was traveling and doing stuff for work for most of the week, I didn’t have as much time to trawl the Internet for interesting articles. (If I’ve missed any big news, please do let me know!) However, I did come across a series of reviews and in-depth analysis of Naoki Urasawa’s manga series Pluto by Jeffrey O. Gustafson of The Comic Pusher. Also, the call for participation for the Skip Beat! Manga Moveable Feast has been posted! Laura at Heart of Manga will be hosting the Feast from June 17 to June 23. Hopefully, I should have a review of the first omnibus in the series ready to go by then.

Quick Takes

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Episode 4: ¥ €$ by Yu Kinutani. Much as the name Stand Alone Complex implies, the individual volumes of the manga largely stand alone—assuming that you have at least a vague familiarity with the Ghost in the Shell universe. This particular volume adapts the fourteenth episode of the Stand Alone Complex anime, “Automated Capitalism ¥€$.” It’s been a while since I’ve actually seen the anime, but from what I remember the manga seems to be a very straightforward adaptation. I largely enjoyed Kinutani’s artwork, although some of fanservice is not at all subtle. The Major has always had somewhat questionable attire, but a few of the clothing choices in ¥€$ are particularly absurd. 

Liberty Liberty! by Hinako Takanaga. I tend to really enjoy Takanaga’s boys’ love manga. While Liberty Liberty isn’t my favorite work of hers—it isn’t particularly compelling or groundbreaking in any sort of way—it’s still an enjoyable read and a solid story. Kouki is a cameraman for a local television station who happens upon Itaru nearly passed-out drunk in a pile of garbage. Kouki’s camera is broken in the resulting scuffle and Itaru ends up working for the station in order to pay off the debt. Despite an unfortunate beginning, he actually has some useful skills to bring to the group. The romantic elements in Liberty Liberty are fairly chaste but include an adorably awkward confession of love after Itaru develops a crush on Kouki, who has feelings for another coworker.

Thermae Romae, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 3-4) by Mari Yamazaki. It’s been about half a year since I read the first Thermae Romae omnibus, but I do recall enjoying it quite a bit. What I don’t remember is if it made me as unabashedly happy as reading the second one did. This series honestly makes me laugh out loud. Thermae Romae has just enough of the ridiculous about it to make it very funny. And, as a bonus, I end up learning about Roman and Japanese bathing cultures. The last story in second omnibus actually turns the series into a time travel romantic comedy which has yet to reach its conclusion. Unfortunately, there’s currently no release information available for the next volume.

Moyashimon, Season 1 directed by Yūichirō Yano. Sadly, only two volumes of Masayuki Ishikawa’s manga Moyasimon were ever released in English. I was excited when Crunchyroll began streaming the anime adaptation which closely follows the manga. I quite liked the manga so I was glad to have the opportunity to spend more time learning about microbes and following the strange antics of agricultural college students. Moyashimon is an incredibly quirky series with an incredibly quirky cast. It does seem as though the series can’t quite decide what sort of story it should be. Sometimes its serious while other times its rather goofy. It can be legitimately educational, but it can also be mindless entertainment. Either way, I tend to enjoy it and find it amusing.

My Week in Manga: December 3-December 9, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was another three post week here at Experiments in Manga! (In addition to the usual My Week in Manga, that is.) First up was the announcement of the Music Manga Giveaway Winner. The post also includes a list of manga that has been licensed in English that incorporate music. The other two posts were reviews. The honor of the first in-depth manga review of December goes to Dororo, Volume 2 by Osamu Tezuka. Dororo remains one of my favorite Tezuka manga. The second review posted was for Keigo Higashino’s mystery novel Salvation of a Saint. The novel is a part of his Detective Galileo series. Only one other novel in the series, The Devotion of Suspect X, is currently available in English, but there are plans to release A Midsummer’s Equation, as well. I’m a fan of Higashino’s work (so far, Naoko is my personal favorite); I’m looking forward to reading more.

It’s been a while since I’ve pointed out interesting things that I’ve found online, but I’m hoping to get back into the habit. Last week there were two things that particularly caught my attention. First of all, there’s another My Week in Manga in town! Melinda Beasi kicked off a new video feature at Manga Bookshelf—My Week in Manga, Episode 1. Over at Yuri no Boke, Katherine Hanson is reviewing Paros no Ken (Sword of Paros)—a three volume manga series which I’m fairly certain takes place in the Guin Saga universe. It will probably never, ever be licensed in English, but the reviews really make me want to read it. Also, Linda of Animemiz’s Scribblings has posted the call for contributions for December’s Manga Moveable Feast! This month’s Feast will feature Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata’s wonderful series Hikaru no Go as well as other game-oriented manga. The Feast will take place between December 26 and December 31.

Quick Takes

Here Is Greenwood, Volumes 3-5 by Yukie Nasu. Although I loved the first two volumes of Here Is Greenwood, I wasn’t quite as taken with these three volumes. I like the series best when it is being utterly absurd, and there wasn’t quite as much of that going on here. I still enjoyed these volumes, though; the series manages to make me laugh on a fairly regular basis. The various story arcs are fairly episodic and there doesn’t seem to be an over-arching plot to be concerned about, although the continued development of the characters’ personalities is important. All of the scenarios usually found in a series centering around a school are present here—ghost stories, school festivals, summer vacations, and so on.

Limit, Volumes 1-2 by Keiko Suenobu. For some reason I wasn’t initially going to pick up Limit (it might’ve been the schoolgirl angle), but I’m really glad that I did—the series is right up my alley. A terrible bus accident claims the lives of nearly an entire class of high school students on their way to a secluded campground. Five of the surviving girls team together while waiting to be rescued. Well, “team together” might be stretching it. The girls carry a lot of hostility and can barely get along. They’ll not only have to survive the situation in which they find themselves but survive each other as well. The power and relationship dynamics in Limit are intense and exceptionally well done. Limit can be brutally realistic at times. I’ll definitely be following the rest of the series.

Sensitive Pornograph by Ashika Sakura. Sensitive Pornograph is a collection of six short, unrelated boys’ love manga. The title story and “Trophies Belong In the Bedroom” (which were probably my favorite two), were later made into an OVA. “Please, Kiss Me” is one of Sakura’s older works. The artwork isn’t as accomplished as it is in the other stories, but it’s light fun. “Non-Adult Situations” seemed like something I’d read before. “Indirect Youth” is unfortunately rape-y, but still manages to have its cute moments. “Come Home” has a nice family-oriented twist to it. Published under Digital Manga’s 801 imprint there’s plenty of explicit, uncensored sex in Sensitive Pornograph, but there’s a bit of plot, too.

Thermae Romae, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to volumes 1-2) by Mari Yamazaki. Yen Press’ deluxe hardcover release of Thermae Romae is fantastic and the content more than lives up to its presentation. Yamazaki’s personal notes included after each chapter are also a delightful addition. Thermae Romae manages to be both extremely entertaining as well as somewhat educational. Lucius is a Roman bath engineer from the Hadrian era who has a tendency to slip, fall, and almost drown in the baths on a regular basis. This somehow causes him to time-travel to various baths and hot springs in modern Japan. Lucius transforms the bizarre experiences he has in Japan into architectural and bathing innovations upon his eventual return to ancient Rome.

Berserk: The Golden Age, Arc I: The Egg of the King directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka. Kentaro Miura’s Berserk is one of my favorite manga series, particularly the “Golden Age” arc. I was very excited about the new series of anime films. The first film is a decent adaptation. It moves very, very quickly, taking the story up through the assassination of Count Julius. Unfortunately, the pace does mean that the characters have lost some of their depth. However, most of the important plot points make it into the film. I wasn’t overly fond of the sequences that relied heavily upon 3D CG animation, although occasionally it is used to great effect. The fight choreography in particular is exciting and very nicely done.