My Week in Manga: August 17-August 23, 2015

My News and Reviews

Last week Experiments in Manga reached its fifth anniversary, so I wrote a somewhat lengthy post about what I’ve been up to online and offline over the last year. Thank you again to everyone who has shown support and encouragement for Experiments in Manga over the years. Apparently, people actually want to see another five years, so I guess I better get to work on that. With that in mind, have two more in-depth reviews! Last week I took a look at Rikao Yanagita’s surprisingly entertaining The Science of Attack on Titan, one of the two non-manga books that Kodansha Comics has released so far. (The other one was related to Attack on Titan, as well.) I also reviewed Baku Yumemakura and Jiro Taniguchi’s The Summit of the Gods, Volume 5, which is the final volume in one of my favorite series. The writing and artwork in The Summit of the Gods is superb; I’m so glad that the entire manga is now available in English.

A few other things caught my eye online last week. Mangabrog has translated an article from 2013 that provides a tour through Inio Asano’s workspace. More information has been revealed about Kodansha’s digital efforts and the publisher is aiming high: digital editions of two thousand volumes translated into English by the end of 2017. Occasionally manga makes its way to NPR (which I believe is how I actually first learned about and became interested in Death Note). Most recently, one of NPR’s contributors featured a few great romantic manga: Kaoru Mori’s Emma, Ichigo Takano’s Orange, and Ai Yazawa’s Nana. I haven’t had a chance to read Orange yet, but considering the quality of Emma and Nana, I’m now looking forward to Seven Sea’s upcoming print release of the series even more. The game of manga tag continues to make it rounds, this time Narrative Investigations’ Helen tackles the questions.

Quick Takes

Castle Mango, Volume 2Castle Mango, Volume 2 written by Narise Konohara and illustrated by Muku Ogura. While I liked the first volume of Castle Mango, I really enjoyed the second and final volume of the series. Castle Mango is an unusual boys’ love manga; most of it doesn’t have anything to do with romance. The close relationship between Yorozu and Togame begins with a terribly manipulative lie, but it eventually develops into something real for both of them. In the first volume, the two men frequently seemed to have an almost father-son sort of vibe, but by the end of the series I was slightly more convinced by their intimacy as boyfriends. It does take a little while to get there though; they spend a large portion of the second volume apart. Togame is trying to give Yorozu space, feeling that it’s in the younger man’s best interest, but he doesn’t really go about it in the best way. Unfortunately, this is happening at the same time that Yorozu is struggling to take care of his little brother and his family’s business (a love hotel) when his mother is hospitalized. Yorozu is in the process of shedding the last of his immaturity and makes some terrible decisions in the process. In many ways, Castle Mango is more about Yorozu’s growth as a person than anything else.

Give to the Heart, Volume 1Give to the Heart, Volumes 1-4 by Wann. After a long period of silence, about a year ago Netcomics quietly began publishing books in print again. Give to the Heart was the first manhwa to be released after the publisher’s hiatus. I was interested in reading the series because I wanted to support Netcomics, but also because it was created by Wann. (I had previously read and thoroughly enjoyed Wann’s collection of short manhwa 9 Faces of Love.) At first Give to the Heart seemed like it was going to largely be fantasy fiction, but as the series progresses, more and more science fictional elements are introduced. The ongoing story is about Sooyi, a young woman who became the wife of Ganok, the demon king who controls all water, but who is now attempting to escape him. Not only that, she is trying to find a way to kill him as well, or at least cause him as much pain as possible even if that means sacrificing her own life in the process. Though it is implied that Sooyi and Ganok were at one point content and happy as a pair, their current relationship obviously has its problems. Actually, considering the extreme imbalance of power between them—Ganok being a cruel god and Sooyi being a human with a strong will—that’s been true from the very beginning.

My Little Monster, Volume 9My Little Monster, Volume 9 by Robico. So, Haru and Shizuku are now officially a couple, although not much has actually changed in their relationship. But now that that has been settled, the other romantically interested parties are more or less able to move on with their lives. As a result, the plot of My Little Monster is now able to move along as well. This particular volume includes summer vacations and festivals, which is fairly standard for a high school romance, but Haru’s family drama is starting to come to the forefront of the story again. Underneath the humor of My Little Monster there seems to have been something ominous lurking waiting to be revealed. Haru’s brother Yuzan isn’t as terrifying as he once was, but there is definitely something going on between him and Haru and with Haru’s reluctance to interact with the rest of his family. Haru is trying to keep Shizuku from finding out the details, though eventually he’s really going to need to come clean with her and explain his situation. But, while Shizuku is still in the dark, at least readers get to learn a bit more. I continue to enjoy My Little Monster, especially the series’ quirky characters, and I’m happy to see the manga continue to gain some forward momentum.

My Week in Manga: December 30, 2013-January 5, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week I announced the 4-Koma for You Winner. In case you’re looking for something to read, the post includes a list of yonkoma manga that have been released in print in English, too. I also posted December’s Bookshelf Overload last week, for those of you interested in following my adventures in buying way too much manga and other media. Finally, over the weekend I posted a review of Delavier’s Mixed Martial Arts Anatomy. This is one of the most tangentially related reviews I’ve written at Experiments in Manga. Why is it here? Simply because I’m a karateka and found it to be a useful book. It’s a great strength training resource for any martial artist. Plus, it has lots of illustrations.

I’ve more or less been on vacation for the last two weeks, so I haven’t been online much except to make sure that things were updated here at Experiments in Manga. Even so, there were two things in particular that caught my eye recently. First and foremost, the Massive anthology of gay manga originally scheduled to be published by PictureBox has been picked up by Fantagraphics! Right now, it looks like we should see the release sometime in October 2014. The other news that I was excited to hear about is that we’ll be getting a second season of the Mushishi anime nearly ten years after the first season aired. I loved Yuki Urushibara’s original manga (which is now unfortunately out-of-print in English) and I loved the first anime series so I’m looking forward to the second season a great deal.

Quick Takes

A Bride's Story, Volume 5A Bride’s Story, Volume 5 by Kaoru Mori. The art in A Bride’s Story always blows me away. Mori’s illustrations are so beautiful and detailed that it’s no surprise that there’s such a long wait in between each volume’s release. Most of the fifth volume of the series is devoted to the wedding between the twins and their husbands-to-be. The best word that I can think of to describe this volume is “joyous.” Mori shows the preparations that both families make for the happy occasion—a celebration that lasts an entire week. There’s dance and song, levity, plenty of food, and numerous guests. It’s extremely satisfying to see the entire community’s participation in the event. The manga as a whole is a gorgeous work, but the wedding itself is quite lovely. I enjoyed seeing the twins’ story develop. Their outgoing personalities might be annoying for some readers, but in the end I found the two of them to be quite endearing. Now begins the long wait for the next volume of A Bride’s Story.

Castle Mango, Volume 1Castle Mango, Volume 1 written by Narise Konohara and illustrated by Muku Ogura. Despite what the cover and title page of Digital Manga’s release indicate, Konohara wrote Castle Mango while Ogura was responsible for the artwork. Konohara is the same author who wrote About Love, which I quite enjoyed, so I was interested in reading Castle Mango. Both manga are slightly atypical boys’ love stories. Instead of being straightforward man-meets-man romances, the stories are more layered. There is an emphasis on well-developed characters and actual plot; it’s not just about getting guys into bed with each other. The leads of Castle Mango are rather unusual as well. Yorozu’s family owns and runs a love hotel while Tagame is a well-known porn director. Yorozu more or less blackmail’s Tagame into a relationship in order to keep him away from his brother, but he doesn’t even really like the older man. Their story is concluded in the second and final volume of Castle Mango. I’m very curious to see how things unfold, so I’ll definitely be picking it up.

A Centaur's Life, Volume 1A Centaur’s Life, Volume 1 by Kei Murayama. One of several “monster girl” manga recently released by Seven Seas, A Centaur’s Life is far less ecchi than the other titles. Plus, this one includes plenty of monster boys in addition to the monster girls, which I greatly appreciate. The manga is definitely centered around the series’ young women, though. The titular centaur is Kimihara Himeno; the manga is mostly a slice-of-life story which follows her and her other high school friends. (As a side note, I adore Himeno’s wild mass of hair on the cover.) Some people might find reading the first chapter a little uncomfortable as the story revolves around the girls’ privates, but following chapters are much less questionable. Overall, the manga was rather charming. And I am interested in learning more about the world that Murayama has imagined; it seems that some significant thought has been put into it. Although not the focus of the series, politics, law, cultural differences, disputes between races, and history have all been taken into consideration.

Ranma 1/2, Volume 15Ranma 1/2, Volumes 15-20 by Rumiko Takahashi. It’s been so long since I’ve read any of Ranma 1/2 that I had forgotten how much I love the series. After the main characters and basic premise are established, the manga becomes fairly episodic so it’s easy to pick up part way through the series and still know what’s going on. I find Ranma 1/2 to be hilarious and particularly enjoy the absurd martial arts that Takahashi comes up with. These particular volumes feature martial arts based around eating food extremely quickly and cheerleading, just to give two examples. I like the characters and I like the story, as silly and superfluous as it can be. Akane and Ranma seem to be no closer to getting married than they were at the beginning of the series. They argue quite a bit, but there are moments of genuine affection, too. Granted, those moments are frequently interrupted and don’t tend to last very long. The series’ off-the-wall comedy won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for me Ranma 1/2 is highly entertaining and a lot of fun.

Otome Yokai ZakuroOtome Yokai Zakuro directed by Chiaki Kon. The Otome Yokai Zakuro anime is based on an ongoing manga series by Lily Hoshino (which hasn’t been licensed in English.) The story takes place in an alternate version of Japan’s Meiji Era in which yokai and humans coexist. The office of Spirit Affairs is created in order to improve relations between the two groups. It’s made up of a small contingent of military officers and half-spirit girls who team up to work together. I’ll admit, I liked the first part of the series which explored the concerns over Japan’s Westernization and loss of traditions through the conflicts between humans and yokai much more than I did its end. Seeing as the opening has a bit of a spoiler in it, the series’ major plot twist was clearly planned well in advance, but it just didn’t seem to flow well as a whole as the narrative suddenly changes direction. The romantic subplots are broadcast from the very first episode—it’s obvious who will be falling in love with who—so none of those developments were particularly surprising or unexpected, either.

My Week in Manga: December 16-December 22, 2013

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted last week at Experiments in Manga. The first review was for Yaya Sakuragi’s boys’ love manga Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 3. Although the series isn’t my favorite work by Sakuragi, I tend to enjoy her manga and Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love has been growing on me. The second review was for Tales of Moonlight and Rain, the most recent English translation of Ueda Akinari’s Ugetsu monogatari, a collection of short stories about ghosts and other mysterious happenings that was originally published in Japan in 1776. It may be over two centuries old, but it’s still a great read.

I came across quite a few interesting things online last week: The Advocate posted its 10 Great Graphic Novel Gifts. It’s a great list of queer comics that came out this year and it includes a few excellent manga selections as well; Some Fog uses Kazuo Umezu’s Drifting Classroom as an example on how to creat comics–Lessons from Umezu; Voting has opened for the second Manga Translation Battle; The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund reports that Core Magazine Pleads Guilty in Japanese Obscenity Case, feeling that a “guilty plea would be a better option than a protracted legal battle.; On a happier note, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival has announced it’s initial list of featured guests. Among other great comics creators, Est Em will be coming to TCAF 2014!

Quick Takes

About LoveAbout Love written by Narise Konohara and illustrated by Tomo Ootake. Despite his family’s misgivings over his choice of career, Asaka has become an enthusiastic wedding planner. But recently things haven’t been going so well—several of the couples that he has been working with have canceled their weddings. That’s when he reunites with his first client, a man by the name of Sasagawa who has the perfect marriage and serves as an inspiration to Asaka. However, his marriage isn’t nearly as perfect as it seems. About Love is a slow-burning romance; Asaka and Sasagawa’s relationship takes a great deal of time to develop and solidify, but it’s a natural progression from acquaintances, to friends, to possibly something greater. About Love focuses on the emotional connection between the two men more than it does on their physical intimacy, although that has a role to play as well. In addition to their evolving relationship, About Love addresses some issues of same-sex marriage and there are other gay and lesbian couples important to the story as well.

Attack on Titan, Volume 10Attack on Titan, Volume 10 by Hajime Isayama. I’m not entirely sure how Isayama pulls it off, but it’s rather impressive how many twists and turns Attack on Titan has been taking lately. I went into this volume expecting a respite from major plot reveals since there have been so many recently. I was wrong. The focus of the tenth volume is on 104th’s struggle to survive against a massive titan attack on the castle in which they were hoping to hide and recover. They are without weapons or maneuvering gear, making their situation particularly precarious. This alone would have been enough to carry the volume and there are some very exciting moments in the fight. But no. After an extended action sequence, Isayama throws in not one but two (well, maybe three depending on how you’re counting) major story twists. Although there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered, the titans themselves are becoming less of a mystery. I actually kind of miss when they were beyond humanity’s comprehension, but I’m still interested in seeing how things play out.

Baron Gong Battle, Volume 1Baron Gong Battle, Volumes 1-6 by Masayuki Taguchi. Only six out of the nine volumes of Baron Gong Battle have been released in English. After his girlfriend is horrifically murdered by a Neo Hume, Baron is determined to seek revenge against those who killed her. The Neo Hume’s are extraordinarily powerful creatures born out of the Nazi’s biological experiments. Baron Gong Battle is an utterly absurd and violent action-packed manga series that can be a tremendous amount of trashy fun when it’s not being completely offensive. Baron is an over-the-top badass and the dialogue is extreme. However, the more that I read, the less enamored I became with Baron Gong Battle. The manga’s utter ridiculousness is highly entertaining, and it becomes more and more outrageous as the series progresses, but I soon became tired of the role that the women play. Occasionally they can be very competent fighters, but more often than not they seem to only be a part of the series in order to fawn over Baron and to run around mostly if not entirely naked.

PinkPink by Kyoko Okazaki. While I didn’t find Pink to be as brutal or as hard-hitting as Okazaki’s later work Helter Skelter, I still think that the manga is an excellent work and I enjoyed it a great deal. Pink is rather curious manga filled with rather curious characters. In general, they are much more likeable than those in Helter Skelter, but they are definitely an odd bunch. Yumi works as a part-time call girl in order to feed her pet crocodile Croc. Although Yumi’s on great terms with her younger stepsister Keiko—a precocious girl with a bottomless stomach—she and her stepmother hate each other. Things get a little complicated when Yumi becomes involved with Haruo, her stepmother’s manstress and wannabe novelist. I was actually surprised by how much of the Pink was told from Haruo’s perspective. His strange relationships with these three women, and Croc, forms the basis for much of the story. But even so, it’s Yumi who really seems to be the focus of the manga. Pink has a very cynical and oddball sense of humor which I could appreciate.

From the New WorldFrom the New World directed by Masashi Ishihama. Overall I really liked the story and setting of the From the New World anime, an adaptation of the novel by the same name written by Yusuke Kishi (which sadly has yet to be licensed in English.) However, I frequently found the series’ pacing and narrative structure to be frustrating and somewhat disjointed. Saki, the main protagonist, also had an annoying habit of echoing back whatever was being said to her by someone else. I did like that the story focused on the characters at several different points in their lives. From the New World takes place in what is eventually revealed to be a post-apocalyptic environment. I actually would have liked to have seen more about how society reached the point that it is at in the series; most of the past events are merely hinted at. From the New World deals quite a bit with the terrible lengths humanity is willing to go to when driven by fear. It’s very well done in places. The anime also gets bonus points for the nice use of music from Dvořák’s From the New World symphony.