My Week in Manga: February 10-February 16, 2014

My News and Reviews

Not one, but two in-depth manga reviews were posted last week at Experiments in Manga. It wasn’t intentional on my part, though it did make me happy, but both manga deal with queer themes. The first review was for Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son, Volume 6. Even though it can be a somewhat difficult read for me personally since the subject matter often hits very close to home, I’m still absolutely loving this series. The seventh volume of Wandering Son is currently scheduled for release in August, which feels like a long ways off right now. As part of my “Year of Yuri” review project, last week I also took a closer look at Kiriko Nananan’s Blue, the only example of her long-form manga available in English. It’s a sweet and melancholic story of first love which follows the relationship of two young women who are classmates at an all-girls high school. The artwork in particular is very striking.

I’ve come across plenty of interesting reading and news over the last week. Brigid Alverson attended the Angoulême International Comics Festival this year and has been writing several reports on the experience. One of those explores the current state of the French manga market. In other festival news, The Guys with Pencils podcast interviewed Christ Butcher to talk about the fantastic Toronto Comics Arts Festival which he co-founded in 2003. Justin Stroman recently wrote two articles that I found to be particularly interesting: The Great Tumblr Industry Experience for Organization Anti-Social Geniuses and The Legal Manga Reading Sites You Don’t Know About for Manga Bookshelf. Finally, there has been some more movement on the licensing front. Yen press announced three new manga titles (Übel Blatt by Etorouji Shiono, Barakamon by Satsuki Yoshino, and Hiroyuki Aigamo’s adaptation of Accel World), as did Vertical (Gamon Sakurai’s Demi-Human, Ryū Mizunagi’s Witchcraft Works, and Midori Motohashi’s adaptation of The Garden of Words).

Quick Takes

Mister Mistress, Volume 2Mister Mistress, Volume 2 by Rize Shinba. It’s been quite a while since I read the first volume of Mister Mistress, but I did enjoy it enough that I made a point to track down the now out-of-print second volume. (Happily, both volumes are now available digitally from SuBLime, though I don’t believe there are currently any plans to continue the series.) Mister Mistress works best for me when it sticks to being a comedy. Shinba introduces a somewhat tragic backstory for Rei in this volume, but fortunately it doesn’t take too long for this to be turned around and played for laughs. The series’ strength really isn’t its plot, but its humor. Fujimaru is a bit of a goofball who can’t quite decide what to do about Rei. He halfheartedly attempts to exorcise the incubus several times, but on occasion he actually appreciates having him around. Though I’m not entirely convinced by their developing feelings for each other, it can be rather convenient for a horny teenager to have a personal incubus to aid in the realization of his sexual daydreams. As such, the sex scenes in Mister Mistress tend to be a little unusual.

Sherlock Bones, Volume 2Sherlock Bones, Volumes 2-3 written by Yuma Ando and illustrated by Yuki Sato. I wasn’t sure after reading the first volume of Sherlock Bones, but after reading the second and third volumes it appears as though the series will be mostly episodic. Which is just fine and works pretty well. After the basic premise of the series has been established—Sherlock Holmes reincarnated as a mix-breed puppy—the mysteries tend to be fairly self-contained. I was pleasantly surprised by the first volume of Sherlock Bones and, if anything, I think these two volumes are even better than the first. Sherdog seems to always be present when a murder is taking place, so Sherlock Bones isn’t really a “whodunit.” Instead, the series focuses on outwitting the criminals and finding ways to reveal their attempts to cover up what they have done. For the most part this means relying on circumstantial evidence and pressuring the killers into confessing. Although murder seems to be the crime du jour, Sherlock Bones features some more lighthearted and silly investigations as well which take advantage of the fact that Sherdog is adorable.

Stone, Volume 1Stone, Volumes 1-2 by Sin-ichi Hiromoto. In 2004, the editor of the English edition of Hiromoto’s short manga series Stone called it a “tribute to all of the fantastic sci-fi/action/fantasy films of the past thrity-odd years.” That seems to be a fairly accurate description of Stone. Hiromoto borrows and remixes elements from many films and franchises along with his own creations to devise something entirely his own. I was frequently reminded of Waterworld and to some extent Dune, and I definitely caught nods to Hellraiser and Star Wars. I get the feeling that there were references that I completely missed, too. Stone is a quickly paced manga with plenty of action set in a post-apocalyptic world in which the planet has been covered in a literal sea of sand. My favorite parts of Stone are the nightmarish sand creatures that Hiromoto has designed. Zizi, a fiesty young woman and the series’ lead, is also pretty great. I did prefer the series’ beginning over its end. As the manga becomes increasingly chaotic as the story progresses. The artwork remains visually interesting and engaging, but the plot makes less and less sense as it goes along.

Two Flowers for the Dragon, Volume 5Two Flowers for the Dragon, Volumes 5-6 by Nari Kusakawa. I have now reached the point in this series where I must lament the fact that the final volume wasn’t able to be released in English before CMX folded. These two volumes form the climax of Two Flowers for the Dragon and include some extraordinarily significant plot developments and betrayals. The direction the story has taken was definitely foreshadowed, but that doesn’t make it any less heart-wrenching to see play out. I thought it was all very well done. One of the things that I like the best about Two Flowers for the Dragon is how well-developed and complicated the main characters are. They all have their strengths and their weaknesses, flaws as well as redeeming qualities. The supporting cast is likewise well-rounded, though at this point the series’ true villain unfortunately seems to be less so. The characters and their interactions are a highlight of Two Flowers for the Dragon, but I’m really enjoying the story as well. I like the mix of action, fantasy, romance, and intrigue. So much so, that I’m tracking down a copy of the last volume in Japanese. I want to know what happens!

My Week in Manga: January 27-February 2, 2014

My News and Reviews

I only posted one review last week, but there were a couple of other posts as well. As for the review, I took a look at Haruki Murakami’s award-winning Kafka on the Shore. Of the two Murakami novels that I have so far read, this is my favorite. Still, at times I found it to be a rather frustrating reading experience, although there were parts of the novel that I absolutely loved. For the few people who are actually interested, I also posted January’s Bookshelf Overload last week. But, perhaps most importantly, my first manga giveaway of the year is currently in progress! I accidentally ended up with two copies of the second Vinland Saga omnibus, so now you have a chance to win one for your very own! The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still some time to enter the giveaway.

On to other things online! Matt Thorn has tracked down the interview with Inio Asano that sparked the whole discussion about his gender identity among fandom and offers some of his own comments. Over at All About Manga, Daniella Orihuela-Gruber writes about Hetalia’s Version of History: What Does It Offer Readers?. The fourth episode of Fujojocast has been posted, which takes a look at some award-winning and award-nominated manga. And speaking of honor-worthy manga, Wandering Son made the Rainbow List again this year and quite a few manga appear on YALSA’s 2014 list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens (which is actually a great list of graphic novels for anyone, not just teens). Finally, Seven Seas has had a week full of license announcements, including Vampire Bund doujinshi, Kokoro Connect, and it’s newest yuri acquisition Citurs.

Quick Takes

Attack on Titan, Volume 11Attack on Titan, Volume 11 by Hajime Isayama. To be honest, I’ve recently been a little worried reading Attack on Titan due to the sheer number of plot twists that seem to be included in every volume. While this does make for some exciting (and occasionally confusing) storytelling, it also makes the series feel like Isayama barely has it under his control. Fortunately, the eleventh volume of Attack on Titan is relatively the free of any “big reveals.” (At least in comparison to previous volumes.) Instead, the characters must deal with the fallout from some of the most recent developments—there are a surprising number of Titans who have come out of the 104th Corps. So, while there aren’t many dramatic plot twists in the eleventh volume, there is a major Titan battle between Eren and some of the people he once considered to be his comrades. Some nice character development comes out of it, too, as well as some more hints regarding what the Titans really are and who is behind it all. I’m still sticking with the series at this point.

Sake JockSake Jock: Comics from Today’s Japanese Underground edited by Adam Glickman. Published in 1995, Sake Jock is described as being “the first collection of Japanese alternative artists to appear in English.” Sadly, this slim volume from Fantagraphics can be rather difficult to find nowadays. Sake Jock collects seven short manga, most if not all of which were originally published in the influential alternative manga magazine Garo. Some of the creators I was already familiar with from other underground comics anthologies while others I was encountering for the first time. I was particularly happy to see a work by Kiriko Nananan included since I love her style. Overall, I appreciated and enjoyed the manga collected in Sake Jock. I’m not sure that the collection will hold much general appeal except to those who already have an established interest in alternative manga; there have since been other anthologies published that would make a better introduction. It’s kind of a cool artifact, though, and I am glad to have it as part of my collection.

Two Flowers for the Dragon, Volume 2Two Flowers for the Dragon, Volumes 2-4 by Nari Kusakawa. It’s actually been a few years since I read the first volume of Two Flowers for the Dragon, but I remember being quite taken with it so I figured it was about time to get around to reading more of the series. I’ve rediscovered that I really enjoy the manga. It’s a wonderful mix of fantasy and romance with great character dynamics. There’s also a bit of court intrigue and some assassination plots for good measure.(And some unexpected gender-bending, too, for that matter.) Shakuya, the princess and heir of the Dragon Clan, has two fiancés vying for her affections. Kuwan is a capable but somewhat arrogant captain of the guard while Lucien is a kind-hearted young man who has lost many of his memories. The two of them obviously care for her dearly and are understandably a little antagonistic towards one another. Much to her dismay, Shakuya has developed feelings for both of them to varying degrees. But trying to figure out the workings of her own heart is only one of her many concerns.

The Tyrant Falls in Love, Volume 7The Tyrant Falls in Love, Volume 7-8 by Hinako Takanaga. Volumes seven and eight of The Tyrant Falls in Love form the last story arc in the series although Takanaga does promise that she hasn’t completely abandoned the story and characters. She plans on creating more manga—side stories, epilogues, and so on—but The Tyrant Falls in Love forms a complete story on its own, even considering the fact that it was a sort of follow-up to her debut series Challengers. Throughout The Tyrant Falls in Love, Morinaga and Souchi’s communication has been absolutely terrible. Their relationship is an extraordinarily rocky and volatile one; I honestly wasn’t sure what sort of ending Takanaga was going to go for. Overall, I was very satisfied with the series’ conclusion and I think it works. The only thing I wasn’t entirely convinced by is the direction that Masaki’s relationship with Morinaga’s older brother seems to be taking. Granted, that particular development did set in motion a pretty critical realization on Morinaga’s part.

My Week in Manga: July 25-July 31, 2011

My News and Reviews

In my latest manga giveaway, I’ve got a brand new copy of Saki Okuse and Sankichi Meguro’s Ghost Talker’s Daydream, Volume 1 up for grabs. The contest ends this Wednesday, so you still have a couple of days to get your entries in! (Manga Giveaway: Ghost Talker’s Giveaway) Also this week, I managed to sneak in my second in-depth manga review for July. Usamaru Furuya’s Lychee Light Club left quite an impression on me. It’s definitely not a manga for everyone due to its highly graphic nature, but it is well done.

Good news for Wild Adapter fans! After being put on hiatus for so long, the series has found a new home! See Wild Adapter Moves to Ichijinsha at Manga Bookshelf for more information. If you enjoyed my post about Mahjong, Kubota, and Wild Adapter and like mahjong, you might also be interested in a post mentioned by a recent commenter. Ranith at Livejournal has a very cool and detailed breakdown and analysis of an important mahjong game that takes place in Saiyuki: Part 1 and Part 2. Well, I think it’s cool anyway, but then I love mahjong.

Last week was the Fruits Basket Manga Moveable Feast. I wasn’t able to participate this time around, but there were some fantastic contributions from other manga bloggers. You can check out the archive at The Manga Curmudgeon. In other Feast news, The Manga Critic has kindly posted the schedule for the upcoming Manga Moveable Feasts (Manga Moveable Feast Schedule, 2011-12.) You’ll even see my name listed there as a host! I’m both very excited and very nervous about it.

Quick Takes

Kizuna, Volumes 1-3 by Kazuma Kodaka. There was a lot of excitement from fans when Digital Manga rescued Kizuna from the Be Beautiful imprint of the now defunct Central Park Media. As for me, I wasn’t familiar with the series until now. So far, I’m liking the characters and, for the most part, the story. The balance between the yakuza elements and the boys’ love elements is handled fairly well. The art, however, is atrociously inconsistent and oftentimes just bad, especially early on in the series. But as the manga progresses, the artwork improves immensely and some of the bonus chapters show off Kodaka’s more current and much more polished style. I’ll probably follow Kizuna a bit further.

Tetragrammaton Labyrinth, Volume 1 by Ei Itou. Tetragrammaton Labyrinth ended up being a bit more fetishy than I originally anticipated, but I guess I’m not all that surprised. The manga has a slight yuri flavor to it, but it certainly isn’t the primary focus. The artwork is probably the best thing about this particular manga, but that’s not really saying much and the action sequences are often difficult to follow. Tetragrammaton Labyrinth is somewhat of a mess, and it just didn’t work for me. I haven’t been convinced by it the plot or the characters yet. I have no problem with fan service, but Itou has an unfortunate tendency to focus this service on Angela. She might not actually be a twelve-year-old girl, but she is in the body of one.

Tokyo Tribes, Volumes 1-2 by Santa Inoue. Tokyo Tribes is another manga that just didn’t work for me this week, albeit for slightly different reasons. Inoue’s artwork is nicely stylized and the English translation and adaptation is very well done. I even really like the covers for this series. However, the manga seems to glorify gang violence and all of the women in it are treated terribly. I actually liked Tokyo Tribes less and less the more I read of it. I don’t care about any of the characters or what might happen to them. In fact, there were several characters that I actively disliked. After two volumes, I don’t feel like I want to or even need to read any more of Tokyo Tribes and so I won’t be.

Two Flowers for the Dragon, Volume 1 by Nari Kusakawa. After several disappointments this week, I was very pleased to discover that the first volume of Two Flowers for the Dragon is absolutely delightful. I definitely want to track down the rest of the series, which will unfortunately be a bit expensive since CMX is gone and the manga is out of print. The final volume sadly never even made it into English. Shakuya is the next leader of the Dragon Clan. With the blood and power of a dragon running through her veins, she’ll be responsible for protecting the Oasis. But at the moment, she needs to choose between her two fiancés. Two Flowers for the Dragon has a lovely mix of fantasy and romance. And dragons!

Cross Game, Episodes 23-35 directed by Osamu Sekita. I never expected that I would come to care about baseball so much. Not that I ever had anything against the game, I just was never really all that interested in it. Cross Game has changed that. Because baseball is important to the characters, and the characters are important to me, baseball has also become important to me (at least in the context of Cross Game.) And I’ve learned a lot about the game from the anime—I never realized how much strategy was involved. But while Cross Game is to some extent about baseball, it’s still really more about the characters. I was a little hesitant about the introduction of Akane, but so far it’s been handled well.