My Week in Manga: December 2-December 8, 2013

My News and Reviews

I posted two reviews here at Experiments in Manga last week. The honor of the first in-depth manga review for December goes to Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Volume 3: Ramba Ral. The fourth volume in the series is scheduled to be released this month, so I wanted to make sure to catch up with my reviews. Though I wouldn’t call myself a Gundam fan, I’m still really enjoying The Origin manga. The second review was for Ivan Morris’ The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan. Originally published in 1975, the work was recently brought back into print by Kurodahan Press. It’s an extremely illuminating and fascinating volume. I also announced the Fairy Tail Feast Winner last week. In case you’re looking for some epic manga to read, the post also includes a list of series that have had at least thirty volumes published in English.

I’ve come across quite a few manga-related things online recently. Sadly, that includes the news that PictureBox will no longer be releasing any new titles. PictureBox had some fantastic manga releases this year, including the start of the Ten-Cent Manga and Masters of Alternative Manga series. It also released The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame. PictureBox’s closing means that the previously announced anthology Massive: Gay Erotic Manga And The Men Who Make It, originally scheduled for release in 2014, is now in limbo.

In happier news, Manga Bookshelf’s Melinda Beasi was interviewed at Diamond Bookshelf—Understanding Manga: Editor Melinda Beasi Discusses CBLDF Presents Manga. I thought that Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices was a great resource when I read it, so it was interesting to hear about some of the behind-the-scenes work that went into it.

And speaking of interesting interviews, Organization Anti-Social Geniuses has been Talkin’ Seven Seas and Manga Business With Conner Crooks. Crooks is the Social Media Manager at Seven Seas, which has been having a very good year. Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview series are currently available. Part 3 should be posted on Tuesday.

Continuing on with the Seven Seas theme, Sean Gaffney took a look at the publisher’s recently announced licenses over at A Case Suitable for Treatment. And if you’re interested in all of the anime, manga, artbook, and light novels that were licensed in 2013 (as well as related successful crowdfunding projects), Reverse Thieves has you covered with All the Titles Fit to License, 2013 Edition.

Quick Takes

Hero Heel, Volume 2Hero Heel, Volumes 2-3 by Makoto Tateno. Out of the boys’ love manga by Tateno that I have so far read, I think that Hero Heel is probably one of her better works. At least it has some of the most interesting and believable character development. Although that being said, I’m not sure that I’m entirely convinced by the ending, but that might just be because I feel bad for Katagiri. Minami in particular goes through a lot of change as the series progresses. In the first volume he’s almost the villain of the story, blackmailing and forcing his feelings on Sawada. By the end of Hero Heel he’s a much more sympathetic character and has matured significantly. As for Sawada, he comes across as rather harsh from the start, though how much of an asshole he really is isn’t revealed until later. The themes of hero and villain and what it means to be a good person are very prominent in Hero Heel. It’s interesting to see the parallels between the characters that Minami and Sawada play on the superhero show they costar in and their lives off the set.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Short Stories, Volume 2Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Short Stories, Volume 2 by Naoko Takeuchi. For the most part, I think I probably enjoyed the second (and final) volume of Sailor Moon short stories more than I did the first. In general, they don’t rely as heavily on knowledge of the main series; a basic understanding of the Sailor Moon universe is sufficient to follow the short manga in the second collection of stories. Well, at least that’s true for the first two stories. The third short manga “Parallel Sailor Moon” requires a bit more, and even then it’s a really strange, almost nonsensical piece. I much preferred the first two stories in the collection. “Princess Kaguya’s Lover” is the longest and most involved, basically amounting to a one-sided love story between Luna and Dr. Ohzora, an astronomy professor. It has space and astronauts, which I’ll admit to having a fondness for, so that made me happy. (Takeuchi even visited the Kennedy Space Center on a research trip for the story.) “Casa Blanca Memory” is a shorter work featuring Rei, which also made me pretty happy.

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends, Omnibus 2Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 3-4) by Yak Haibara. I get a huge kick out of the Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends manga. I’ve never played Sengoku Basara 2—the video game on which it is directly based (it hasn’t been released in North America)—nor have I seen any of the Sengoku Basara anime (though I may make a point to check it out now), but I do have some familiarity with the Warring States period. Because of the number of characters, battles, alliances, castles and such to keep track of in Samurai Legends, which are all based on historical figures and events, that familiarity has come in handy. Overall, I think the first omnibus of Samurai Legends was a little stronger than the second omnibus. The last half of the series has a few continuity problems in the artwork, and there are some characters who are introduced more because they are a part of the franchise than because they had an important role to play in the manga, but it was still a lot of fun. I really enjoy the series’ over-the-top fights, characters, and dialogue.

Sickness Unto Death, Volume 2Sickness Unto Death, Volume 2 written by Hikari Asada and illustrated by Takahiro Seguchi. Probably because it doesn’t employ nearly as many clichés, the second volume of Sickness Unto Death is much better than the first. Granted, the first volume was needed to set it up the whole scenario; I just think it could have been handled better. But the payoff is mostly satisfying. Even so, the manga still makes me vaguely uncomfortable, and not in the way I think it was intended to. The problem I have with the story of Sickness Unto Death stems from the way Emiru’s case is handled. That Kazuma wants to help and treat her I’m fine with. In fact, there’s some really interesting conflicts of interest and ethical and philosophical questions that arise because of it. At its best, Sickness Unto Death has some marvelously dark psychological elements to it. What particularly bothers me about the series is that Kazuma’s continued “treatment” of Emiru is actually encouraged by his professor, which is highly irresponsible not to mention unprofessional.

My Week in Manga: October 7-October 13, 2013

My News and Reviews

I posted two in-depth reviews last week, one manga and one not. The first review was for Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga, Omnibus 1. I was trying coordinate my review with the manga’s release, but unfortunately there was a delay through some distributors so not all of the books have yet arrived where they should. I’ve been hoping that Vinland Saga would be licensed in English for years. I wasn’t disappointed by the first omnibus and am looking forward the next one a great deal. The second review posted last week was for Laura Joh Rowland’s The Shogun’s Daughter. The novel is the seventeenth volume in her series of Tokugawa-era mystery and crime novels but the first one that I’ve actually read. I was annoyed by parts of the novel but the use of actual Japanese history is quite clever in The Shogun’s Daughter.

As for fun things found online, the most recent column of The Mike Toole Show, “Tiles Against Humanity,” focuses on mahjong anime and manga, particularly Akagi and Kaiji. I’ve professed my love of mahjong here at Experiments in Manga, so I’m always happy to come across others writing about the subject. This past weekend was the New York Comic Con and there were quite a few announcements to come out of it. My Manga Bookshelf cohorts have write-ups of the panels they attended: Melinda’s can be found under the NYCC tag and Sean’s are listed in the NYCC/NYAF category.

Some of the licenses at NYCC that particularly caught my attention include (but are certainly not limited to) Black Rose Alice by Setona Mizushiro, Terra Formars, and the Battle Royale side story Angels’ Border from Viz (which should go nicely with Haikasoru’s recently announced Battle Royale materials); Kodansha picked up two Attack on Titan spin-offs, Before the Fall and No Regrets (yup, the shoujo one) in addition to the Attack on Titan Junior High gag manga and the guidebooks; Vertical is also getting in on the Attack on Titan action, picking up the Before the Fall light novel series, and has also licensed Moyoco Anno’s manga In the Clothes Named Fat.

Quick Takes

Nana, Volume 19Nana, Volumes 19-21 by Ai Yazawa. Wow, this is one heck of a place for Nana to leave off—the tragedy that has been alluded to for so long has finally occurred and it is absolutely devastating. More and more of the series has actually been devoted to the incident’s aftermath and how it continues to affect the characters even years later, but the twenty-first volume is all about its immediate consequences. Heartbreaking only begins to describe it. Nana is a phenomenal series with fantastic characterizations. After Shin’s arrest, both the Black Stones and Trapnest begin to fall apart and the band members’ individual problems start to spin out of control. It’s very dramatic but the progression of the story feels natural and the characters’ development, reactions, and behaviour are all believable. Even if the series is never finished, Nana is well worth reading. I continue to be extremely impressed by Yazawa’s work. I wish her all the best as she continues to recover her health.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Short Stories, Volume 1Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Short Stories, Volume 1 by Naoko Takeuchi. Though it is not my favorite series, I enjoy Sailor Moon and am happy to see it doing so well. Kodansha released the main series in twelve volumes and is collecting the related short stories and bonus manga into two additional volumes. That being said, the short stories don’t really stand on their own very well. Fans of Sailor Moon will definitely be interested in them, but their appeal probably won’t extend very far beyond that. The stories in the first volume all tend towards the sillier, more lighthearted side of the series, focusing more on the characters’ everyday lives and less on their monumental confrontations with those who would destroy humanity. Although, there is a some of that, too. And the Sailor Guardian’s daily lives can be pretty hectic. I found the first volume of short stories to be mostly entertaining, but I would sigh a little bit to myself every time there was a dig at someone becoming “chunky.”

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends, Omnibus 1Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Yak Haibara. I tend to be fairly wary of video game manga and so I ended up enjoying the first omnibus of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends far more than I ever expected. Samurai Legends is based on Sengoku Basara 2, the second game in the Sengoku Basara series, but no prior knowledge of the franchise is needed to enjoy the manga. Inspired by prominent historical events and figures of the Warring States Period, the story begins with the death of Oda Nobunaga at the burning of Honnou Temple and then follows the resulting power struggle. With marvelously over-the-top and dynamic battles and duels, humorous anachronisms, larger-than-life characters, and attractive artwork and designs, Samurai Legends is a tremendous amount of fun. There’s even a tiny bit of legitimate history, too. Samurai Legends is pretty great; I’ll definitely be picking up the second and final omnibus.

Yuri Monogatari, Volume 3Yuri Monogatari, Volumes 3-4 by Various. Although it was the third Yuri Monogatari collection that was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, out of these two volumes I actually much prefer the fourth. Yuri Monogatari is an anthology that collects short, lesbian-themed comics from Japan, America, and Europe. I am glad to have discovered Yuri Monogatari for no other reason than the series has introduced me to the work of Althea Keaton—whose contributions continue to be some of my favorites—but I enjoy the other comics included as well. I was particularly fond of Tomomi Nakasora’s “Kissing the Petal” which not only features an endearing lesbian couple but also their close friend Chii, a transman who’s looking for a girlfriend. Yuri Monogatari has a nice mix of speculative fiction as well as pieces that are based in reality. The artwork isn’t always the strongest, but the stories are consistently engaging. Some are sweet while others are more sorrowful, but they’re all generally positive in tone.

Attack on TitanAttack on Titan directed by Tetsurō Araki. I’m not at all surprised that Hajime Isayama’s manga Attack on Titan was selected for an anime adaptation—it almost seems to be begging for it. For people who can’t get past the varying quality of Isayama’s artwork but who are still interested in the series’ story, the anime makes a good alternative and the animation is much more consistent. Some of the events are revealed in a slightly different order—the anime tends to be more chronological and employs fewer extended flashbacks than the manga—but otherwise the anime series is a very faithful adaptation of the original. Established fans of the manga will find things to like, too. It’s very cool to see the three-dimensional maneuvering gear in action, which something that the manga can’t convey to the same extent. The music in the Attack on Titan anime is also suitably epic with sweeping orchestral and choral pieces effectively increasing the drama of the humans’ confrontations with the titans.

My Week in Manga: July 22-July 28, 2013

My News and Reviews

I recently watched and enjoyed Kids on the Slope which inspired me to learn more about jazz in Japan. To that end, I decided to read one of the very few books on the subject, Jazz Journeys to Japan: The Heart Within by jazz writer and journalist William Minor. It’s part travelogue and part music criticism and history. Personally, I found Minor’s writing style to be annoying, but the information was great. Last week I also posted the most recent Library Love feature, which is now back on its regular bimonthly schedule.

Deb Aoki, the former editor of, has launched a new website of her own—Manga Comics Manga. She’s already posted some great content, including the list of manga from the Best & Worst Manga panel at the San Diego Comic-Con and the accompanying audio. Last week I mentioned some of the news from SDCC that I was particularly interested in, but Brigid Alverson has a nice roundup of most of the manga news from SDCC at MTV Geek and at A Case Suitable for Treatment Sean Gaffney takes a closer look at the licenses that were announced.

A few more interesting items that I’ve recently come across online: Toh EnJoe was interviewed at SFFWorld. Special attention is given to Self-Reference Engine, which remains one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. Also, the winners of the Silent Manga Audition competition have been announced and the winning entries have all been made available for download. Later this week, the Boys’ Love Manga Moveable will begin! Khursten of Otaku Champloo will be hosting and has already posted a couple of great giveaways: We want new webcomics! and Name your kinks.

Quick Takes

Flowers of Evil, Volumes 4-6 by Shuzo Oshimi. I have no idea where Oshimi is going with Flowers of Evil but the series seems to be getting better and better. Kasuga has changed considerably from who he was at the beginning of the manga. Nakamura has forced him to realize things about himself that he had tried to keep hidden or that he wasn’t aware of to begin with. And then there’s Saeki, who he once idolized but who isn’t the embodiment of purity he thought or wanted her to be. The relationship between the three is a dangerous and twisted triangle of love, power, and submission. Flowers of Evil is intense. It’s dark. It’s perverted. I’m looking forward to the next arc a great deal.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volume 11 by Naoko Takeuchi. The eleventh and penultimate volume of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon is the beginning of the final major story arc in the series. After an all too brief time of peace, the Sailor Guardians once again must face a powerful enemy. And this time the entire galaxy may be at stake. The last volume I read of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon was actually the fourth one, but I was still able to fall into the story of the eleventh fairly easily. I love how Takeuchi plays around with gender roles and expectations in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. The series continues to be frantically paced and occasionally difficult to follow, but its mix of silliness and seriousness is charming. I can understand why the manga is so well loved.

Yokai’s Hunger by Bohra Naono. I really wanted to like Yokai’s Hunger, and there were parts of it that I did enjoy, but for the most part the manga frustrated me. In particular, the legends and mythologies in this boys’ love one-shot were a complete mess. Koma is described as a tengu, but he’s depicted as a dog spirit rather than the usual avian-inspired yokai. Later the manga tries to merge Mesopotamian myths with the story; it doesn’t end up working very well. I didn’t realize when I first picked up Yokai’s Hunger that it was largely a comedy. The humorous moments in the manga are certainly much more successful than those attempting to be more serious. Yokai’s Hunger was actually quite funny in places.

Dear Brother, Episodes 21-39 directed by Osamu Dezaki. The second half of the Dear Brother anime adaptation picks up the pace from the first and I found myself consistently engaged. There is so much drama in the Dear Brother and it’s marvelous (even when it’s not particularly believable.) The story unfolds within the social dynamics of Seiran Academy and within the personal lives of the students. What happens at the academy pales in comparison to the tragedies outside of it. Some of the plot twists seem to come out of nowhere and some of the revelations are shocking, but it makes for an absorbing tale. The very last scene is a bit of a cop-out, but otherwise I found the ending of the series to be satisfying. I really enjoyed Dear Brother.

My Week in Manga: July 1-July 7, 2013

My News and Reviews

Well, I made it back from the American Library Association conference in Chicago and then promptly left to visit my family in Chicago for a few days. I was busy for most of June and the first part of July traveling from one place to another, so I’m looking forward to staying put for a little while. Even though I was all over the place last week, I did post a few things here at Experiments in Manga. First up was the announcement of the Dystopian Duo Winner. The post also includes a select list of dystopian manga that has been licensed in English. Next up was the Bookshelf Overload for June. And finally, I reviewed Sankarea: Undying Love, Volume 1 by Mitsuru Hattori, which is a weird romantic comedy and a rather unusual take on zombies. Coming next week is July’s Manga Moveable Feast which will feature the works of Yun Kouga. Melinda has posted the call for participation with more information over at Manga Bookshelf. For my contribution to the Feast, I plan on reviewing the first omnibus volume in Viz Media’s new release of Loveless.

Because I’ve been traveling I’m sure that I’ve missed all sorts of news, but I did manage to catch a few things. Sparkler Monthly, the digital multimedia magazine from Chromatic Press, has launched its website. Tokyopop and Rightstuf will be releasing the fourth and fifth volumes of Hidekaz Himaruya’s Hetalia manga this year. Digital Manga is teaming up with Tezuka Pro to publish all of Osamu Tezuka’s manga in English, focusing on digital releases with the possibility of some print releases. Vertical announced its licensing of Moyoco Anno’s autobiographical manga Insufficient Direction, which focuses on the mangaka’s relationship with her husband Hideaki Anno (of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame.) Earlier this year I hosted the Moyoco Anno Manga Moveable Feast, so I’m particularly excited for this license. Also, Viz made quite a few announcements, including the fact that it will be bringing Rumiko Takahashi’s manga Ranma 1/2 back into print in an unflipped, omnibus edition. I already own the entire series and probably won’t be double-dipping, but it’s exciting nonetheless. If I’ve missed any other recent manga news that you think I shouldn’t overlook, please do let me know!

Quick Takes

Junjo Romantica, Volume 7-12 by Shungiku Nakamura. In Japan, Junjo Romantica is currently an ongoing series. However, only the first twelve volumes were released in English. My opinion of the series hasn’t really changed much since the first six volumes. My favorite couple/story by far is still Egoist. Unfortunately, they don’t make as many appearances as I would like in these volumes. I’ve grown weary of the Romantica pairing—despite the progression in the plot, the characters barely see any development and I frequently feel that I’m reading the same material over and over. I do find Junjo Romantica amusing from time to time, but I’m not nearly as enamored with the series as many other people seem to be.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volumes 3-4 by Naoko Takeuchi. These two volumes of Sailor Moon close one story arc (The Dark Kingdom Arc) and begin another (The Black Moon Arc). Takeuchi tends to move things along pretty quickly. As a result, it can occasionally be a little difficult to follow the story. Often, things just happen because they need to happen and they aren’t always fully explained. Sometimes, the story elements don’t even make much sense. But even so, I do find Sailor Moon to be an enjoyable manga. I particularly like that it’s the young women in the series who are so powerful and that while they’re strong they’re not perfect. I’ve seen the story of the prince saving the princess so many times that it’s wonderfully refreshing to see their positions switched.

Utsubora: The Story of a Novelist by Asumiko Nakamura. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Utsubora, but the manga is marvelous. Both the artwork and the story are just a little disconcerting and unsettling. Utsubora is layered, dark, arresting, and sensual. I loved it. The manga begins with a young woman plummeting from a building to her death. Only two people are in her cell phone’s contact list: the famed author Shun Mizorogi and a woman claiming to be her twin sister. From there the story twists and turns, the apparent suicide somehow connected to Mizorogi’s most recent work. I sincerely hope that Utsubora does well; I would love to see more of Nakamura’s manga available in English.

Paradise Kiss directed by Osamu Kobayashi. The Paradise Kiss anime is a fairly straightforward and trimmed adaptation of Ai Yazawa’s original manga. Some of the story’s depth is missing and some of the details have been glossed over, but all of the most important aspects of the plot and character development are successfully included within twelve episodes. Although I do prefer the manga and found it to be more emotionally persuasive, overall the anime is really quite excellent. Unfortunately, the Region 1 DVDs are currently out of print and a little difficult to track down, but they’re definitely worth keeping an eye out for. The animation in Paradise Kiss is consistently great and the character designs are lovely—the eyes in particular are captivating.

Manga Giveaway: Magical Girl Mania Winner

And the winner of the Magical Girl Mania manga giveaway is…Lori Henderson of Manga Xanadu! (Which is a nice site, by the way. You should go visit and say hi.)

As the winner, Lori will be receiving Naoko Takeuchi’s Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volume 1. Last week was the Sailor Moon Manga Moveable Feast; coordinating this manga giveaway with that, I was interested in learning what other magical girl series people were enjoying. There was actually a lot of love shown for Sailor Moon, but you should check out the Magical Girl Mania comments for the full range of responses.

And now, a list of magical girl manga for your reading pleasure and delight!

Akko-chan’s Got a Secret! by Fujio Akatsuka
Alice 19th by Yuu Watase
Angel’s Wing by Tetsuya Aoki
Because I’m the Goddess by Shamneko
Cardcaptor Sakura by Clamp
Codename: Sailor V by Naoko Takeuchi
Corrector Yui written by Kia Asamiya, illustrated by Keiko Okamoto
Cutey Honey ’90 by Go Nagai
Full Moon o Sagashite by Arina Tanemura
Ironcat by Masaomi Kanzaki
Kamichama Karin by Koge-Donbo
Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne by Arina Tanemura
Magic Knight Rayearth by Clamp
Magical Mates by Mio Odagi
Mamotte! Lollipop by Michiyo Kikuta
Mink by Megumi Tachikawa
Miracle Girls by Nami Akimoto
Pichi Pichi Pitch: Mermaid Melody written by Michiko Yokote, illustrated by Pink Hanamori
Pretear: The New Legend of Snow White by Kaori Naruse
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi
Princess Tutu written by Ikuko Itoh and Jun-ichi Satoh, illustrated by Mizuo Shinonome
Revolutionary Girl Utena by Chiho Saito
Saint Tail by Megumi Tachikawa
Shadow Lady by Masakazu Katsura
Shugo Chara! by Peach-Pit
Spellbound: The Magic of Love by Tomoko Taniguchi
Sugar Sugar Rune by Moyoco Anno
Tokyo Mew Mew written by Reiko Yoshida, illustrated by Mia Ikumi
Ultra Maniac by Wataru Yoshizumi
Wedding Peach by Nao Yazawa