My Week in Manga: October 15-October 21, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was apparently mountain survival week here at Experiments in Manga. I posted two reviews, both of which had something to do with life and death situations in the mountains. It wasn’t really intentional either; it just happened to work out that way. The first review was of Jirō Nitta’s historical novel Death March on Mount Hakkōda, which is about a disastrous military winter exercise known as the Hakkōda Mountains Incident that occurred in Japan in 1902. I first learned about the incident while reading Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt’s Yurei Attack!. Nitta has done his research; Death March on Mount Hakkōda is a chilling account. For my second review last week, I took a look Baku Yumemakura and Jiro Taniguchi’s The Summit of the Gods, Volume 1. The series is my favorite Taniguchi collaboration currently available in English. The artwork is phenomenal and the characters are compelling. In time, I plan to review the entire series.

This week is the Vampire Manga Moveable Feast! Anne at Chic Pixel is hosting for the very first time, so let’s all show some support. As part of my contribution to the Feast, I have a bunch of vampire manga quick takes below. Later this week, I will be posting a review of the first volume of Saiko Takaki’s manga adaptation of Vampire Hunter D. I’ll also be posting a review of the third volume of the English-language release of Yashakiden: The Demon Princess by Hideyuki Kikuchi. Although it’s not manga, Yashakiden most certainly fits in with this week’s vampire theme.

Quick Takes

Blood Sucker: Legend of Zipangu, Volumes 1-4 written by Saki Okuse and illustrated by Aki Shimizu. With vampires, organized crime, religious cults, and assassins, Blood Sucker has plenty of violent, bloody action going on. There is a plot, too, but the almost non-stop combat is more prominent. The series jumps into the middle of the action before launching into an extended flashback exploring the characters’ histories. The relationship between Yusuke and Kikuri does develop rather quickly, but there’s destiny and reincarnation involved so there is an excuse for the hasty progression. I actually really enjoyed Blood Sucker, so I’ll be tracking down the rest of the volumes that made it into English before Tokyopop’s demise.

Devil by Torajiro Kishi. In addition to Kishi, Madhouse Studios was involved in Devil, a full color Western-style comic created exclusively for Dark Horse. (Depending on how you want to define the term, Devil may or may not be considered manga.) Written as a four-issue mini-series, Devil is not particularly long. It’s a quick, vaguely entertaining read and the art style Kishi uses fits nicely. Set in a near future where the human race is succumbing to a virus that causes vampirism, the story follows two cops who serve on a special unit that deals with those who have been infected. The ending seems to imply that the government may have somehow been involved in the creation of the disease, but Devil isn’t long enough to explore this, so it feels like a halfhearted addition to the plot.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Volumes 13-16 by Hirohiko Araki. I can’t help it, I love this series. It’s stylish. It’s weird. It has great characters. And it’s a lot of fun. I’m sad that this is the only arc licensed in English, because I want to read more. Jotaro and the others have finally made it to Dio’s mansion in Cairo. Not much has been seen of Dio up until now, but he is one scary dude. Extremely powerful, and a vampire to boot, he has very few weaknesses. The showdown between Jotaro and Dio is fantastic—one of the greatest fight scenes that I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently. I like that the battles in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure aren’t just about brute strength; outwitting and outmaneuvering opponents is important, too. 

Pathos, Volumes 1-2 by Mika Sadahiro. Not surprisingly, two vampires taking charge of raising a human child to adulthood is not a good idea. The relationships that develop between the characters are intense and twisted. Dark passion and jealousy consume them. Pathos isn’t creepy because vampires are involved; it’s disturbing because the characters’ relationships are so unhealthy and warped. Technically Pathos is boys’ love, but it’s not at all romantic. Desire, lust, and attraction all play an important role the series, but love, despite what the characters might claim, is not to be found. Although provocative, the more intimate scenes in Pathos aren’t nearly as explicit as those in Sadahiro’s other series. Unfortunately, Pathos is plagued by plot inconsistencies.

Until the Full Moon, Volumes 1-2 by Sanami Matoh. Originally published by Broccoli Books, Until the Full Moon‘s license was rescued by Kodansha Comics and published with additional material. It’s a quirky, fairly episodic series about David, a vampire, and his cousin Marlo, a half-vampire/half-werewolf who, instead of transforming into a wolf under the full moon, changes from a man into a woman. Their parents, who may actually be the most delightfully absurd characters in the series, decide that they should be married to each other. Until the Full Moon is a short, amusing series, and I did enjoy it’s silliness, but it’s nothing spectacular. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll be following up with the sequel, @Full Moon.

Vampire Hunter D, Volumes 2-5 by by Saiko Takaki. I still haven’t read any of the novels in Hideyuki Kikuchi’s series Vampire Hunter D, but I have been following the manga adaptation to some extent. So far, each volume of the manga adapts one of volume of the original series. Other than that, I can’t say how the two series compare. For the most part, the different volumes stand alone. Except for a few minor reference to previous volumes, the eponymous D is really the only thing that ties them all together. I quite like D. He’s a dark, handsome (well, beautiful may be the more accurate term), brooding anti-hero. I also like how the series blends all sorts of elements and genres together—Western, science fiction, horror, fantasy, and more.

My Week in Manga: January 17-January 23, 2011

My News and Reviews

The Manga Moveable Feast for Karakuri Odette finished up yesterday. I was pleased to contribute not one, but two posts this time around (three if you count my quick take of the entire series). This probably won’t happen very often, but we’ll see what I can do. My first post was an in-depth review of the first volume of Karakuri Odette. This is the second in-depth manga review for January, so I’ve met my goal for another month, hooray! I also took a closer look at the androids of Karakuri Odette to see how they measured up to Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. It’s kind of silly, but I had fun with it.

Did you get a chance to see the live-action Gantz film last week? Or maybe you just heard about it? Or perhaps you have no idea what I’m talking about? Regardless, there’s been an increased interest in the manga series it was based on, so I’ll be giving away a brand new copy of Gantz, Volume 1 by Hiroya Oku. The contest will begin this coming Wednesday, January 26 and will run for a week.

Quick Takes

ES: Eternal Sabbath, Volumes 1-8 by Fuyumi Soryo. I originally read the first four volumes of Eternal Sabbath from the library, but I liked the series so well that I picked up an entire set for myself. Shuro’s development as a character was particularly interesting. Incredibly intelligent and mature for his age, he is inexperienced emotionally and has to come to grips with this. And he isn’t the only character to grow and change throughout the series. The story itself explores some tough moral questions. The ending was a bit abrupt and parts of it were a little disappointing—Soryo probably could have used a couple more volumes finish—but I still really enjoyed the series.

Gantz, Volumes 1-5 by Hiroya Oku. The artwork is gloriously graphic and slightly disconcerting, but I do like it. However, there is bit more fan-service and misogyny than is necessary, although some of it is appropriate to the story. Gantz is dark. Gantz is violent. Gantz is edgy. It’s hard to say where Oku is going to go with the series and what the aim is or if there is some deeper meaning, but so far the examination of the human psyche is very interesting. The willingness that some characters show to participate in a deadly “game” that they don’t even understand is fascinating. I’ll probably keep with the series for a bit longer; I’d really like to know what is going on and there’s a lot of potential.

Sand Chronicles, Volume 10 by Hinako Ashihara. This is the final volume of Sand Chronicles which remains one of my favorite shoujo series. The main story ended with the eighth volume; volume ten is a side story that takes place when the main characters are in their thirties. They still struggle to accept and deal with their pasts which is not at all an easy thing. The emotional authenticity of Sand Chronicles has been one of its highlights throughout the series and the final volume is no exception. It provides a very satisfying conclusion (and continuation) to the series. The focus this time is on Daigo and it’s nice to see a bit more of the story from his perspective.

Under Grand Hotel, Volumes 1-2 by Mika Sadahiro. Incredibly intense, Under Grand Hotel is fiercely passionate and violent. Turn to a random page and you’ll most likely end up in the middle of a sex scene, but I was okay with that. Taking place in an underground prison, the manga is certainly a fantasy but a completely developed one. Sword is the shot-caller at UGH and Sen becomes his cellmate and lover for protection. At first it’s simply a convenient arrangement, but it soon becomes more. It’s not really a romantic love that is fostered, but instead the two men become mutually dependent upon one another and their lives are intertwined to such an extent that they can’t break free.

Departures directed by Yōjirō Takita. Departures won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009, an honor that is well deserved, among many, many other awards. Daigo lands his dream job as a cellist just before the orchestra is dissolved. (As a fellow “failed” musician, I completely understand what he is going through.) He returns to his hometown and, mostly by chance or fate, becomes the assistant to an encoffiner. It’s a misunderstood a job that isn’t looked well upon, and so he tries to hide it from his wife and is unsure about pursuing it himself. Departures is a beautiful film that faces life and death head on without getting too heavy.

Gantz (World Premiere Live Event) directed by Shinsuke Sato. It was really unfortunate that they decided to screen this with an English dub rather than subtitles. Otherwise, the films seem to be a fairly decent adaptation of the manga so far and the visuals are great. The suits in particular are fantastic. However, for as much action and violence that is in the movie, the pacing seems to drag quite a bit. It also seems to be missing some of the intensity and edge present in the manga. I did enjoy Kenji Kawai’s score and the music was just the right mixture of creepy and driving. The actors did a fine job, particularly Kenichi Matsuyama, and I’m interested in seeing the second part of Gantz when it is released latter this year.

As Seen Online

As most people have probably heard by now, phenomenal director, writer, and animator Satoshi Kon passed away on August 24, 2010 from pancreatic cancer. I’ve only seen two of his films—Millennium Actress and his directorial debut Perfect Blue—both of which were frickin’ fantastic and I really need to see more of his work. He will be greatly missed. (Post from Anime News Network)

There are two posts from Deb Aoki over at Manga that I want to point out. First is the 2010 Comic-Con Best and Worst Manga Panel. It lists the manga mentioned during the panel and includes commentary and links. Fairly short, but definitely entertaining, you’ll find the best and worst manga from 2009-2010, the most anticipated releases, and manga that the panelists would like to see licensed in English. I recognized quite a few of the titles and learned about more. The second post is the transcript of her interview with Felipe Smith. Smith is the creator of Peepo Choo, perhaps one of the most contentious manga that I’ve seen released recently. People seem to either love it or hate it, but either way the interview is great.

Dave Walsh is running a cool series at The Manga Curmudgeon and is making his way through The Seinen Alphabet, commenting on magazines and individual seinen titles. He’s made it up to F so far.

Over at Manga Bookshelf, Melinda Beasi and Michelle Smithtake a quick look at some boys’ love/yaoi titles recently released by Blu and Digital Manga with BL Bookrack: August Mix, including the first volume of Mika Sadahiro’s Under Grand Hotel (which should be arriving in my mailbox soon).

I have been trying for quite some time now to get my hands on a copy of the first volume of AX: Alternative Manga, but it seems to be on backorder everywhere I look. In the meantime, TFWA has an interview with Sean Michael Wilson, the editor of the book: Sean Michael Wilson Introduces Us to AX Alternative Manga.