My Week in Manga: June 6-June 12, 2011

My News and Reviews

I’ve mostly recovered from my trip to St. Louis and was able to post a couple reviews this past week. The first review was for the inaugural volume of the English edition of the Japanese literary journal Monkey Business. It’s a pretty cool collection that includes manga along with short fiction, poetry, and an interview with Haruki Murakami. The second review was for The Twelve Kingdoms, Volume 1: Sea of Shadow a fantasy light novel by Fuyumi Ono. I liked the first volume of The Twelve Kingdoms so well that I bought the rest of the series (well, all of the books that were published in English, anyway) as well as the anime adaptation. Next week is the Wild Adapter Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Manga Bookshelf. Wild Adapter is one of my favorite series, so I’m looking forward to the Feast. I’ll be reviewing the first volume as well as taking a quick look at Mahjong and Kubota.

I’ve added two publishers (well, a publisher and an imprint) to the Resources page: Kodansha Comics, which has taken over quite a few of Del Rey’s titles and Kodansha licenses, and Digital Manga’s new hentai imprint Project H.

Quick Takes

7 Billion Needles, Volumes 2-4 by Nobuaki Tadano. 7 Billion Needles is a nice, compact, four volume science fiction series. Tadano’s artwork is consistently well done but the plot feels a little hurried in the last two volumes. Some elements, like the subspecies and the Moderator, are introduced without much explanation. I do like Hikaru’s rapport with Horizon and Maelstrom and it doesn’t feel forced. I still haven’t read Hal Clement’s novel Needle, but I’m interested in the source material since I enjoyed the manga. The final volume includes the story “Hikikomori Headphone Girl” which I quite liked; the main character serves as a prototype for Hikaru although the plot is unrelated to 7 Billion Needles.

Finder, Volumes 1-3 by Ayano Yamane. Finder began in a special S&M issue and so understandably the sex is fairly intense and explicit, especially in the first volume. Because Akihito is constantly being abducted by one criminal faction or another there is a fair amount of non-con to begin with. But while there’s plenty of sex, there’s also a fairly well developed plot to go along with it. And I really like Yamane’s artwork; it’s clean and consistent. Her men are definitely lanky bishōnen, but they also have some muscle, which I like to see. Each volume also includes a few unrelated stories; I’m particularly happy to see the characters from “Plants in Love” make repeat appearances.

Iono-sama Fanatics, Volume 1 by Miyabi Fujieda. What a delightful yuri fantasy! It’s too bad the second volume was never published in English, I would really like to read it. Iono is the queen of a small country who has a habit of collecting women. At the moment, she is particularly interested in black haired maidens and so has come to Japan to find some to take home with her. The art is attractive and while Fujieda might overuse chibis, they are absolutely adorable. Iono-sama Fanatics is funny and sweet with charming characters, particularly the titular Iono. Her attendants are completely devoted to her and she adores them in return; I couldn’t help but love her sincere but lighthearted personality.

Itsuwaribito, Volume 1 by Yuuki Iinuma. Do not allow the cuddly tanuki on the cover fool you: there’s some cute in Itsuwaribito but there’s even more bloody violence. Iinuma does some clever things with the concept of lying to do good, but Utsuho’s catch phrases “I was lying” and “I was lying about lying” were pretty obvious and somewhat annoying. I do like his moral ambiguity, though.  His obi is absolutely ridiculous, but it does prove to be useful. I personally preferred the character of Doctor Yakuma, who is introduced towards the end of the first volume, and was very happy to learn that he becomes one of the main protagonists in the series. And Pochi, the aforementioned tanuki, is really cute.

The Lower Depths directed by Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa’s film The Lower Depths is based on Maxim Gorky’s play The Lower Depths. I’m not familiar with the play, but I am familiar with Kurosawa’s films and have liked all of the ones that I have seen so far. The Lower Depths doesn’t really have much of a plot, and most of the film takes place in a single room, but it does make up for it with memorable and interesting characters—a group of tenants living together and their landlords, each with their own story to tell. They form an odd sort of family, and many of them don’t get along all that well, but the arrival of a new lodger allows all of them the opportunity to shake things up a bit.

Woman in the Dunes directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara. Woman in the Dunes is based on a novel by the same name by Kōbō Abe. Abe actually wrote the screenplay, as well, so it’s not too surprising that the adaptation sticks very close to the original material. An amateur entomologist visiting a secluded area to search for beetles finds himself held captive in a village that is slowly succumbing to the sand dunes that surround it. Left at the bottom of a sand pit with the widow who calls it home, they must shovel sand to survive. It sounds rather odd, and it is, but it’s also a fascinating story. Reading the novel and watching the film, I can only cringe thinking how terribly uncomfortable sex must be in such a sandy environment.

Manga Giveaway: Strawberry Panic Starter Pack Winner

And the winner of the Strawberry Panic Starter Pack giveaway is…Slyphoria!

As the winner, Slyphoria will be receiving the first volume of the Strawberry Panic manga as well as the first volume of the Strawberry Panic light novels. I would also like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who participated in this contest.

For the most part, I only read English manga translations although I am working on learning Japanese. Because of this, my knowledge of yuri is fairly limited since not many titles have been licensed in English. From what I can tell, yuri is currently one of the most underrepresented genres in the English language manga market. Fortunately, there has been some increase in available works in the last couple of years or so. (This is my own personal impression, I could be completely mistaken.)

As part of the Strawberry Panic Starter Pack giveaway, I had people tell me a little about the yuri that they’ve read and enjoyed. Many of the titles mentioned in the contest comments (which are worth checking out) are not currently licensed in English. I, for one, would be really interested in seeing many of these officially translated. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. There was also quite a bit of love shown for Miyabi Fujieda’s yuri works, one of which (the first volume of Iono-sama Fanatics) has been published in English.

Thank you again to everyone who entered the contest—I very much enjoyed learning about some of the great yuri that’s out there and hope that more will become available in English.