My Week in Manga: June 12-June 18, 2017

My News and Reviews

It’s been couple of months since there’s been an in-depth review here at Experiments in Manga (I mostly blame TCAF 2017), but last week I was very pleased to write about Yeon-sik Hong’s award-winning manhwa Uncomfortably Happily which was just released by Drawn & Quarterly this past Tuesday. It’s an engrossing and relatable memoir about the time Hong and his wife moved from the city of Seoul to the countryside of Pocheon. Normally I would have posted May’s Bookshelf Overload last week, but because I wanted to feature Uncomfortably Happily close to its release date, I’ll be posting it later this week instead.

As for other interesting things to read online, The OASG interviewed a few cosplayers about their opinions on Yui Sakuma’s Complex Age, a manga in which cosplaying takes a very important role. (I’ve fallen a little behind in reading the series, but the first volume in particular left a huge impression on me.) Matt Thorn’s blog, which had been dormant for so long, has a couple of new posts now, too: Before the Forty-Niners takes a look at the early history of shoujo manga while Who’s to Judge Tezuka’s Rivals? delves into even more shoujo manga history by looking at some of Osamu Tezuka’s contemporaries.

Quick Takes

Blossom BoysBlossom Boys by Tanaw. I don’t exactly remember how I came across Blossom Boys, but it may have been thanks to one of Tanaw’s Yuri!!! on Ice fanworks. Tanaw is an illustrator and comics creator based in the Philippines. Blossom Boys had its start as part of a webcomics class that Tanaw decided to take and was finished a year later. It’s a charming boys’ love story that is earnest, adorable, sweet, and even a little surprising. Reese is a university student who wants nothing more than to be loved. He’s desperate for someone to ask him out–it doesn’t really matter who they are or what their gender is–and so he is ecstatic when he unexpectedly receives a bouquet of flowers in the middle his math class. Thus begins Reese’s endearingly awkward relationship with Prince, a florist whose peculiarly stern demeanor is the complete opposite of Reese’s bubbly personality. Although Blossom Boys does have an overarching story, many of the individual chapters can be fairly episodic. Tanaw also experiments with different illustration styles, palettes, and techniques over the course of the comic. What holds Blossom Boys together instead is its delightful characters and sense of humor. I enjoyed the comic a great deal and I’m glad to have found it; I would definitely be interested in reading more of Tanaw’s work.

My Lesbian Experience with LonelinessMy Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata. Before it was picked up by a manga publisher, Nagata released the majority of My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness on Pixiv. The manga is an autobiographical and very personal account of Nagata’s struggles with her mental wellness and sexuality. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is a powerful work which has been met with well-deserved acclaim. Nagata is forthright, frankly portraying her experiences in a way that is both accessible and disarming. Even though the subject matter is quite serious (self-harm, eating disorders, anxiety, and debilitating depression are all discussed), the pink-hued artwork in the manga is actually rather cute. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness outlines a turning point in Nagata’s life. On the verge of giving up on life, feeling so incredibly isolated and alone, Nagata makes the impulisve decision to hire a lesbian escort. Ultimately the whole affair doesn’t really solve any of Nagata’s problems and even amplifies some of those that already existed, but it does encourage her to look critically at who she is and the source of her suffering. That’s the story that Nagata captures in My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness and the story with which so many readers have found they could identify. Admittedly and understandably, it’s not always an easy read, but it is a very good one.

Short Program, Volume 1Short Program, Volumes 1-2 by Mitsuru Adachi. My introduction to Adachi’s work was through the baseball manga series Cross Game and its anime adaptation. I only recently discovered that Adachi’s first manga to be translated into English was actually Short Program. The series is a collection of short manga taken from a variety of magazines from all of the major demographics (shounen, shoujo, seinen, and josei) spanning from the late 1970s to the early 2000s. Viz Media only ever published the first two volumes of Short Program; it would have been nice to have seen the rest of the series released as well, but since the stories are largely unrelated to one another, at least it’s not like readers will be left with a cliffhanger or otherwise unresolved narrative. For the most part, the short manga of the first two volumes of Short Program are quirky romances, often with twist endings that add a little surprise to what would otherwise be fairly straightforward and even mundane stories. Adachi successfully works within a number of different genres in Short Program–some of the stories are comedies while others are thrillers, some are unabashedly romantic while others are intentionally disconcerting. Overall, Short Program is a solidly engaging and consistently entertaining series.

The LeaversThe Leavers by Lisa Ko. Although Ko has written numerous short stories and essays, The Leavers is her debut work as a novelist and the winner of the 2017 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. It’s a particularly timely novel, too, examining the impact of illegal immigration on the families both directly and tangentially involved. The Leavers follows two entwined lives, alternating perspectives between them. First there is Deming, a young man who has yet to find his place in the world. After his undocumented mother Polly suddenly disappears when he is eleven, Deming is fostered and adopted by a white couple who rename him Daniel, never knowing what happened to her. The second is narrative is that of Polly herself, telling the story of her background, how she came to the United States from China, and eventually what really happened to her before and after she was gone from her son’s life. The Leavers is in turns compelling and tedious, engaging and exasperating. The issues explored are important ones, but the telling of the character’s stories, especially Deming’s, can sometimes be frustratingly unfocused. Granted, this may also be a deliberate reflection of Deming’s own obscured state of mind.

My Week in Manga: December 7-December 13, 2015

My News and Reviews

Okay! Last week I submitted my promotion dossier at work, which means I’ll be able to start paying more attention to Experiments in Manga again. I still have a few other life things preoccupying me at the moment, but I’m hoping to get back to my normal posting schedule by the beginning of the new year if not before. That being said, I only posted one in-depth review last week. Soji Shimada’s classic mystery novel The Tokyo Zodiac Murders was recently re-released in English, which seemed as good an excuse as any to get around to reading it. According to this interview with Shimada, if The Tokyo Zodiac Murders does well, the next book in the series might be translated, too, which I would definitely like to read.

As for other interesting things found online: Seven Seas’ ten-day licensing spree has now wrapped up. (The new license tag on Seven Seas’ tumblr is probably still the easiest place to see them all at once.) Out of all the announced titles the one I’m most curious about is Ichiya Sazanami’s Magia the Ninth which features master composers as demon hunters with music-based magic. (Sazanami is the creator of Black Bard which I likewise couldn’t resist because of the combination of music and magic.) And in case you need to catch up on all of the anime, manga, and light novel licenses announced in 2015, Reverse Thieves has you covered. Also of note, Manga Brog has translated an excerpt of an interesting interview of Kentaro Miura, the creator of Berserk.

Quick Takes

Captain Ken, Volume 1Captain Ken, Volumes 1-2 by Osamu Tezuka. I think that I’ve mentioned here before that I happen to have a particular fascination with Mars, which was one of the primary reasons that I was interested in reading Captain Ken. Of course, it didn’t hurt that series was also created by Tezuka. (Though granted, I would love to see more classic manga that isn’t by Tezuka released in English.) Captain Ken is basically a western in space—Mars has been deliberately developed to be reminiscent of the American Southwest, the primary mode of transportation is by (robotic) horse, and the Martians have met with the same tragic fate as the Native Americans. The series is an odd mashup of science fiction and western genre tropes and American history, including references to World War II and the dropping of the atomic bomb. (The portrayal of Americans, perhaps justifiably, isn’t especially flattering.) Captain Ken explores the same themes of anti-war and anti-discrimination found in many of Tezuka’s other manga. Overall, it’s an entertaining adventure story with a rather bittersweet ending.

Cross Game, Omnibus 6Cross Game, Omnibuses 6-8 (equivalent to Volumes 12-17) by Mitsuru Adachi. I still don’t have much of an interest in baseball when it comes to real life, but I’m completely invested in the sport when it comes to Cross Game. I’ve come to care tremendously about the characters in the series and, because baseball is incredibly important to so many of them, by proxy the baseball is important to me as well. Cross Game‘s last three omnibuses focus on the final year of high school baseball for Ko and his classmates. In fact, the eighth omnibus is almost entirely devoted to a single game—the last opportunity for the Seishu team to make Wakaba’s dream of seeing them play at summer Koshien a reality. They’ve worked hard as a team and have several players who are individually impressive as well, but that never guarantees a win. I’ve watched the Cross Game anime series, which turns out to have been a very faithful adaptation, so I knew how things would end. Even so, the manga is incredibly engaging and has a ton of heart. I never expected to be so taken with a baseball manga, but Cross Game is excellent.

U Don't Know MeU Don’t Know Me by Rakun. After a somewhat dubious beginning, I ended up really enjoying U Don’t Know Me. Plot-wise there’s a lot packed into this one-volume boys’ love manhwa and the characterization is quite good as well. Seyun and Yoojin are childhood friends who have only recently come to realize that they share feelings for each other which are much more lustful in nature. While the manhwa is primarily about Seyun and Yoojin and the evolution of their friendship into a romance, their relationships with their friends and families are also extremely important to the story. Context is provided for their love for earch another and the implications of that love. My favorite part of U Don’t Know Me was actually the response of the boys’ parents upon discovering their sons’ intimate relationship. Initially they were shocked and upset, but they ultimately give their love and support and are very involved in ensuring the well-being of both young men. The realistic portrayal of this sort of positive acceptance seems to be something of a rarity in boys’ love, so it makes me particularly happy when I see it.

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.

Manga Giveaway: Cross Game Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the Cross Game Giveaway is…Lilian!

As the winner, Lilian will receive a copy of the first volume of the English edition of Cross Game by Mitsuru Adachi. As part of the Cross Game Giveaway, I wanted to learn about everyone’s favorite sports manga, a genre that I never expected to like but do anyway. I’ve compiled a list here of some sports and game manga that have been licensed in English, but be sure to check out the Cross Game Giveaway comments for entrant’s personal favorites. I’ve expanded the list to encompass games mostly as an excuse to include Hikaru No Go, which I love. I’ve also included a few titles like Hana-Kimi which may not be sports manga per se, but in which a sport is an important element.

Some of the sports and game themed manga available in English:

Air Gear by Oh!Great
Ashen Victor by Yukito Kishiro
Baki the Grappler by Keisuke Itagaki
Bamboo Blade written by Masahiro Totsuka, illustrated by Aguri Igarashi
Battle Club by Yuji Shiozaki
Boys of Summer written by Chuck Austen, illustrated by Hiroki Otsuka
Crimson Hero by Mitsuba Takanashi
Cross Game by Mitsuru Adachi
Diamond Girl by Takanori Yamazaki
Eyeshield 21 written by Riichirou Inagaki, illustrated by Yuusuke Murata
Girl Got Game by Shizuru Seino
Hana-Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo
Harlem Beat by Yuriko Nishiyama
Hikaru No Go written by Yumi Hotta, illustrated by Takeshi Obata
Laugh Under the Sun by Yugi Yamada
Love Round!! by Hinako Takanaga
My Heavenly Hockey Club by Ai Morinaga
Ninja Baseball by Shunshin Maeda
One-Pound Gospel by Rumiko Takahashi
Prince of Tennis by Takeshi Konomi
Real by Takehiko Inoue
Rebound by Yuriko Nishiyama
Sasameke by Ryuji Gotsubo
Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue
Sugar Princess by Hisaya Nakajo
Suzuka by Kouji Seo
Swan by Kyoko Ariyoshi
Ultimate Muscle by Yude Tamago
Whistle! by Daisuke Higuchi

Manga Giveaway: Cross Game Giveaway

The end of March approaches, which means it is yet again time for a manga giveaway! Today also marks the start of the 2012 Major League Baseball season. So, I thought it would be appropriate that this month’s giveaway should be for a brand new copy of the first volume of Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game, Volume 1 as published by Viz Media. (This edition is actually equivalent to the first three volumes of the series.) As always, the contest is open world-wide.

I never really expected to enjoy sports manga. Not that I have anything against sports. I actually used to play soccer and softball in my youth. And as a member of marching and pep bands, I became quite familiar with American football and basketball from the stands. But, except for a bizarre obsession with curling, I’ve never really followed sports. Much to my surprise, I discovered that I actually quite like sports manga and anime. At the moment, my favorite is probably Takehiko Inoue’s Real, which features a realistic portrayal of wheelchair basketball. I was introduced to and pleasantly surprised by Cross Game, another sports manga, when it was featured as part of the Manga Moveable Feast last May.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win Cross Game, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me about your favorite sports manga. If you don’t have one, or have never read any, just mention that.
2) You can earn a second entry by simply naming a sports manga that hasn’t been mentioned yet by me or by someone else.
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can gain a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

There you have it! Each individual has the chance to earn up to three entries for this giveaway. You have one week to submit your comments. If you would prefer, or if you have trouble, you can also e-mail me your entries at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. I will then post the comments in your name. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on April 4, 2012. Good luck!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: Cross Game Giveaway Winner