My Week in Manga: December 5-December 11, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I announced the winner of the Kodansha Comics Collection manga giveaway. The post also includes a list of Kodansha Comics’ 2016 print debuts, the variety of which quite impressed me. I’ve made a little more progress on my Orange feature, but not as much as I originally intended as I found myself working on a job application instead (which is greatly stressing out my current supervisor).

Anyway! There were a few things that caught my attention online last week: Manga translator Jenny McKeon was interviewed for Forbes. Sally Ito, one of the translators of the marvelous Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko, was interviewed over at Tofugu. In licensing news, Kodansha Comics recently announced the acquisition of the anthology Otomo: A Tribute to the Mind Behind Akira, which sounds like it should be fantastic, and Haruko Kumota’s Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, which I am extremely excited about. (I’ve actually known about the licenses for a while now, but I didn’t want to say anything until the official announcement was made.)

Quick Takes

Gate: Where the JSDF Fought, Volume 1Gate: Where the JSDF Fought, Volume 1 written by Takumi Yanai and illustrated by Satoru Sao. Sekai Project primarily localizes visual novels and video games but has very recently expanded its catalog to include manga. Gate is Sekai Project’s first manga publication. The Gate manga is based on an ongoing series of light novels by Yanai. After a gate to another world opens up in Ginza, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces successfully fights off an invasion of knights and dragons and establishes a base on the other side. What I especially liked about Gate is that it addresses the real-world politics and implications of the gate alongside those encountered in the fantasy-like environment. Japan obviously wants to maintain control of the gate and the resources to which it can provide access, but the United States (supposedly Japan’s ally) and China are both preparing to leverage their weight, too. On the other side of the gate, the standing empire is using some less-than-ethical tactics as it struggles to maintain its power and control after such a tremendous defeat. Despite some peculiar name choices (the princess Piña Co Lada, for one), so far the setting and culture clashes of Gate are interesting. It’s also really nice to see so many competent female characters in prominent roles.

Intense, Volume 2Intense, Volumes 2-4 by Kyungha Yi. The first volume of Yi’s boys’ love manhwa Intense was, well, intense. The rest of the series continues to be psychologically and emotionally heavy and at times is outright bleak. However, it is beautifully drawn. The second and third volumes of Intense aren’t quite as compelling as the first–though necessary and important to the story, I didn’t find the temporary focus on the political dynamics of organized crime to be especially engaging–but the fourth volume more than makes up for that. Overall, Intense was a very satisfying series. Jiwoon and Soohan’s happy ending does not come easily. (Honestly, I was afraid they wouldn’t get one at all and was steeling myself for the tragedy that I hoped wouldn’t come.) Even after they are able to extricate themselves from the crime syndicate that more or less owned Jiwoon, things do not go well. Though they deal with them in vastly different ways, both Jiwoon and Soohan struggle with abandonment issues. Soohan is surprisingly controlling and overbearing, desperate to be indispensable, while Jiwoon hasn’t yet developed a sense of self-worth or the ability to stand up for himself. This combination of traits is devastating and heartbreaking. They both care tremendously for the other, but initially neither of them are in a healthy enough place to make the relationship work.

Kuroko's Basketball, Omnibus 1Kuroko’s Basketball, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Tadatoshi Fujimaki. In Japan, Kuroko’s Basketball has been hugely successful. English-reading fans have been clamoring for the series to be licensed for years, but it was only picked up relatively recently. There has been something of a renaissance when it comes to sports manga in translation, and Kuroko’s Basketball is one of the major series to usher in that trend. However, while I did enjoy the first omnibus a great deal, so far I’m not quite as enamored with it as I am with some of the other leading sports manga, namely Haikyu!! and Yowamushi Pedal. Still, Kuroko’s Basketball has quite a few things going for it and even turns a few well-worn tropes on their heads. Rather than being overly realistic, Kuroko’s Basketball takes a more fantastic approach–the abilities of the highly-skilled players and coaches are almost supernatural. Kuroko, the lead, is deliberately one of the most nondescript and unassuming  characters in the series, but he is able to use this to his a team’s advantage on the court. Kuroko’s Basketball can actually be quite clever and entertaining. I was also absolutely delighted to discover that instead of having an attractive young woman as its manager (which is fairly standard for a sports manga), Kuroko’s team has an attractive young woman as its coach. I hope that remains the case as the series progresses.

Yona of the Dawn, Volume 2Yona of the Dawn, Volumes 2-3 by Mizuho Kusanagi. I enjoy epic fantasies and seem to have a particular proclivity for epic shoujo fantasies specifically, so reading Yona of the Dawn was an obvious choice. While the first volume did an excellent job of setting the stage for the unfolding drama, Yona herself spent much of it in shock and barely functioning. Fortunately, although she is still devastated by her father’s death and the betrayal of her cousin Su-won, Yona recovers in the second volume and by the third she begins to show her mettle by actively taking control of her life and destiny. These couple of volumes also expand on the series’ worldbuilding, introducing myths, legends, and prophecies that will have a direct impact on the story. Seeking a way not only to protect herself but also the people she cares about and those who are doing all that they can to keep her safe, Yona sets off on a quest to secure the help of the descendants of the four dragons who aided the country’s first king. Yona’s close friend and bodyguard Hak continues to accompany her but others begin to join them on their journey as well–Yona is proving to be a leader worth following. No longer the sheltered and naive girl she once was at the palace, Yona is working to improve and strengthen herself in addition to making an effort to learn more about her country and its people.



Manga Giveaway: Yona of the Dawn Giveaway Winner

Yona of the Dawn, Volume 1And the winner of the Yona of the Dawn manga giveaway is… Kate!

As the winner, Kate will be receiving a copy of Yona of the Dawn, Volume 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi as published in English by Viz Media. As someone who tends to love epic shoujo fantasies, I was very excited for the release of Yona of the Dawn. For this giveaway, I asked participants to tell me a little about their own favorite shoujo fantasy manga, epic or otherwise, but I was specifically interested in works with a compelling female lead Be sure to check out the giveaway comments for everyone’s detailed responses! The list below includes the favorites mentioned and more.

Some of the shoujo fantasy manga with great female leads available in English:
Alice 19th by Yuu Watase
Basara by Yumi Tamura
Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP
The Demon Prince of Momochi House by Aya Shouoto
Dawn of the Arcana by Rei Toma
From Far Away by Kyoko Hikawa
Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden by Yuu Watase
Immortal Rain by Kaori Ozaki
Kamisama Kiss by Julietta Suzuki
Kobato by CLAMP
Liselotte & Witch’s Forest by Natsuki Takaya
Magic Knight Rayearth by CLAMP
Please Save My Earth by Saki Hiwatari
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi
Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit’s Tale by Ryo Mizuno
Red River by Chie Shinohara
Revolutionary Girl Utena by Chiho Saito
Romeo x Juliet by Com
St. ♥ Dragon Girl by Natsumi Matsumoto
The Story of Saiunkoku written by Sai Yukino, illustrated by Kairi Yura
Time Stranger Kyoko Arina Tanemura
Tsubasa: Those with Wings by Natsuki Takaya
Two Flowers for the Dragon by Nari Kusakawa
Vampire Game by Judal
Yona of the Dawn by Mizuho Kusanagi

Viz Media seems to have a pretty good corner on the shoujo fantasy market, especially when it comes to epics, but other publishers have released some great manga, too. And, of course, the above list certainly isn’t exhaustive. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their personal favorites with me! I hope to hear from you all again.

Manga Giveaway: Yona of the Dawn Giveaway

The end of September is almost here, which means it’s once again time for Experiments in Manga’s monthly giveaway. This month everyone participating has the opportunity to enter for a chance to win the first volume in Mizuho Kusanagi’s manga series Yona of the Dawn as published in English by Viz Media. And as always, the giveaway is open worldwide!

Yona of the Dawn, Volume 1

I generally appreciate a good epic fantasy, but I seem to particularly enjoy those with compelling female leads. Some of the Japanese novels, manga, and anime that I love the most fall into this category, such as Nahoko Uehashi’s Moribito, Fuyumi Ono’s The Twelve Kingdoms, and Yumi Tamura’s Basara to name just a few. One of the most recent manga of this type to be released in English is Mizuho Kusanagi’s Yona of the Dawn which, like Basara, is even more specifically a shoujo fantasy epic. And so, it’s probably not too surprising that I’m looking forward to reading the manga series, and there’s an anime adaptation to watch, too!

So, you may be wondering, how can you win Yona of the Dawn, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little about one of your favorite shoujo fantasy manga with a great female lead. (Haven’t read one? Simply mention that instead.)
2) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting, or retweeting, about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

That’s all there is to it. Those participating can earn up to two entries for the giveaway and have one week to submit comments. Comments can be sent directly to phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com if you have trouble using the comment form or if you would prefer. I will then post those comments here in your name. The winner of the giveaway will be randomly selected and announced on October 5, 2016. Good luck!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address in the comment form, a 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: Yona of the Dawn Giveaway Winner


My Week in Manga: September 19-September 25, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted an in-depth review of Human Acts, an incredibly beautiful, tremendously powerful, and absolutely devastating novel by South Korean author Han Kang. (Some may recognize Kang as the author of The Vegetarian which has earned her a fair amount of international attention and acclaim.) Human Acts is one of the best books that I’ve read in quite some time, but it’s a chilling and challenging read due to its subject matter. The book focuses on the violent Gwanju Uprising and its long-lasting aftermath, however it’s not at all necessary to be familiar with that particular incident to understand and appreciate the novel.

Elsewhere online, there was some very exciting licensing news: Pantheon Books will be releasing Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband! The impending English-language release has been hinted at, but now it’s official and I’m absolutely thrilled. Digital Manga’s Juné imprint also had a few licensing announcements from Yaoicon: Velvet Toucher’s Eden’s Mercy, the third volume of Yoneda Kou’s Twittering Birds Never Fly, and Junko’s The Prince’s Time. And over the weekend Yen Press slipped in an announcement for the acquisition of Tsukumizu’s Shojo Shumatsu Ryoko. A few other interesting things that I came across last include a video of Viz Media’s SDCC 2016 Panel, the Comic Book Resources feature “20 Years Ago, Dragon Ball Z Came to America to Stay,” and Otaku Champloo’s BL Manga Starter Kit. Also, a couple of recent queer comics Kickstarters caught my eye: Ngozi Ukazu’s already massively successful campaign to release Check Please!, Year Two and a project to raise funds for the final volume and omnibus edition of Jennie Wood’s Flutter.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan, Volume 19Attack on Titan, Volume 19 by Hajime Isayama. For a while there I was starting to become a little weary of the sheer number of plot twists in Attack on Titan. Instead of renewing my interest in the story, I started to lose confidence in it. However, the more recent volumes of the series have regained some focus. The story developments and turns in the story are more exciting because of it, even if there are still a few major mysteries which have yet to be fully explained. The nineteenth volume of Attack on Titan is an exciting one as a massive confrontation between a contingent of intelligent Titans and the decimated Survey Corps begins. Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and the rest will have to directly face off against the Armored Titan and the Colossus Titan, knowing that the humans controlling them were once their comrades. It’s a kill-or-be-killed situation with very little room for negotiation. The action sequences in the nineteenth volume are dramatic and well-done, but the most notable aspect of the manga is probably the psychological impact that the battle for survival against one-time friends has on the characters. Also, for Attack on Titan fans who are interested in Levi and Erwin, the special edition of the nineteenth volume comes along with the second and final part of the No Regrets OVA anime adaptation. I haven’t had a chance to watch it myself yet, but I am glad that it’s available and am looking forward to seeing it.

CurveballCurveball by Jeremy Sorese. Although I’m only now finally getting around to reading Curveball, I’ve actually been meaning to for a while now. The comic was first brought to my attention when it became a finalist for the 2016 Lambda Literary Award for best LGBT Graphic Novel. And then at TCAF 2016 I had the opportunity to hear Sorese talk about Curveball specifically and queer science fiction in general. There are two things in particular that I especially love about Curveball. The first is the inherent queerness of the characters and worldbuilding. Numerous genders are represented in the comic and relationships, romantic and otherwise, occur in a multitude of combinations. The main character, Avery, is non-binary and there are a fair number of others who are genderqueer or genderfluid as well. This isn’t at all a big deal in the comic, it’s simply a natural and unobtrusive part of the setting. The second thing that I particularly enjoyed about the comic is Sorese’s use of color. The illustrations in Curveball are primarily grayscale except for the use of an extraordinarily vibrant and literally fluorescent orange to represent technology, and more specifically energy. The effect is very striking. Curveball is mostly about relationships, but the characters are also dealing with a developing energy crisis. The fluorescent orange and the occasional lack thereof is a constant visual reminder of this.

Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 15The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 15 by Nakaba Suzuki. The stakes can’t get much higher than they are at the moment in The Seven Deadly Sins seeing as the fate of the entire world is in grave peril now that the extraordinarily powerful demons known as the Ten Commandments have been released. Granted, just about everyone and everything in The Seven Deadly Sins is extraordinarily powerful, so it’s sometimes difficult to get a good feel for the grand scale of the series; the shock and awe is frequently lost. Despite the tremendous abilities that everyone has and despite the massive amounts of damage dealt to both people and property, it ends up coming across as common rather than impressive. Recently Suzuki has resorted to having Hawk actually announce the combat classes and magic levels of the various characters are, but that just seems superfluous when there is effectively no difference between a class level of 3,370 and 5,500 on the page. Even so, the fight scenes and battle sequences somehow still manage to be engaging and entertaining and are honestly one of the best things about the series. The fifteen volume of the manga sees the Seven Deadly Sins starting to fight off the Ten Commandments on two separate fronts. First they must try to fend off the Commandment’s minions and are largely successful, but eventually one of the demons appears to confront them directly. By the end, things aren’t looking good for the Deadly Sins.

Yona of the Dawn, Volume 1Yona of the Dawn, Volume 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi. Even if it wasn’t for the fact that I tend to enjoy epic fantasy series with strong female leads, the amount of excitement surrounding the anime adaptation and the licensing announcement for the original manga series in English would have been enough for Yona of the Dawn to catch my attention and interest. Admittedly, Yona spends a large part of the series’ first volume in shock and barely able to function. The reason is understandable–she has witnessed the murder of her beloved father the king at the hands of one of the people she most loved and trusted in the world. The unexpected betrayal leaves her stunned; the only reason she avoids a similar fate is that her personal guard whisks her away from the palace. However, the very beginning of the volume implies that Yona will take control of her own destiny. That’s the story that I really want to read. I want to see Yona overcome her tragic circumstances, to find the strength to protect herself and those she loves. If the manga is able to deliver its promise (and I suspect that it will), Yona of the Dawn will indeed be a series well-worth following. While Yona comes across as weak and helpless for a significant portion of the first volume of Yona of the Dawn, showing Yona at her lowest does provide the necessary setup required for dramatic story and character developments. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of Yona of the Dawn.