My Week in Manga: March 5-March 11, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week I announced the King of Thorn for Keeps Winner. Also included in the post is a list of some manga with survival themes that have been licensed in English. There are some great titles on the list and I now have some more reading to do. I also posted a review of The Journey to the West, Volume 4, the final volume in Anthony C. Yu’s complete translation of the Chinese classic. Written in the 1500s, it’s a marvelous tale that continues to inspire creators centuries of later. And don’t forget! March’s Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Manga Worth Reading and featuring the work of Jiro Taniguchi, will be held next week!

In other news (and the reason this section is so short this week), I spent most of my weekend with the members of Hanayui, a small performance group out of Kodo, and Yoshikazu Fujimoto, one of the preeminent o-daiko players in the world. They joined us on Saturday for a joint concert with Raion Taiko and students from the Great Lakes Taiko Center (of which I am one). In addition to the pieces I was playing, I also worked as part of the stage crew for Hanayui’s performance. On Sunday, they held a couple of workshops for us, including an intensive o-daiko practice with Fujimoto-san. I’ve been playing taiko for just under a year, so it was a wonderful opportunity to meet and to learn from some amazing artists. Even though it was a long and exhausting weekend, I had a fabulous time and it was a fantastic experience.

Quick Takes

Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga, Volume 1 by Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma. I am so incredibly glad that I tracked down a copy of the now out of print Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga because it is a magnificent piece of work. Although a parody of “how to” instructional art books, Aihara and Takekuma provide some legitimate lessons as well. Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga can be rather vulgar, with plenty of sexual and scatological humor, and is definitely aimed at adults. The creators take a look at the various genres and demographics, noting the stereotypes in each (but presenting them in all seriousness). It is absolutely hilarious. Plus, there’s an entire chapter devoted to mahjong manga!

Neko Ramen, Volumes 2-3 by Kenji Sonishi. Although I wasn’t overwhelmed by the first volume of Neko Ramen, I have become quite fond of the series. It’s a solidly funny yonkoma manga featuring Taisho, a cat that makes ramen who, it is revealed, also attempts to make curry on occasion. He’s not particularly successful at either, but for some reason Tanaka is always showing up at the shop to eat. Sonishi has introduced a new character, the pretty boy Akkun, who can apparently eat, and enjoy, anything (and a lot of it). Taisho makes sure to take advantage of this fact. Taisho’s mother also makes a few appearances and she’s marvelous. Only one more volume of the series was published in English by Tokyopop; I’ll probably try to find a copy at some point.

Lovers and Souls by Kano Miyamoto. I was surprised to learn that Lovers and Souls was Miyamoto’s first published work. I found her storytelling to be quite mature with complex characters. From time to time the plot borders on the melodramatic, but Miyamoto never quite crosses that line. Lovers and Souls tends to be serious, and perhaps a bit angsty, but it’s well done. Miyamoto’s artwork, too, is very good. She is particularly skilled in capturing subtle, and not so subtle, changes in facial expressions. Lovers and Souls is also probably the first boys’ love manga that I’ve come across that honestly acknowledges the existence of biphobia, and not in a way that sensationalizes or perpetuates it.

House of Five Leaves directed by Tomomi Mochizuki. Finally, House of Five Leaves has received a Region 1 DVD release! NIS America has done a wonderful job. Unfortunately, there isn’t much extra content on the DVDs, only a trailer and a clean opening and beginning, but the set comes with a beautiful (if all to brief) full-color artbook. The box itself is also lovely and begs to be displayed. I am simply thrilled and delighted to finally be able to watch House of Five Leaves on something other than my crappy laptop with an Internet connection that leaves something to be desired. House of Five Leaves is my favorite anime series and I am extremely happy that I can now say I that own it.

My Week in Manga: September 27-October 3, 2010

My News and Reviews

Congratulations again to PB, winner of my first ever manga giveaway, Crazy Karate Contest!

Other than that, this past week has been pretty slow for me news-wise. The only other post was the September 2010 Bookshelf Overload, which probably really isn’t that interesting to anyone other than myself. However, I’m currently working on a post about manga related podcasts and will be adding a podcast section to the Resources page. If you know of any podcasts, please let me know. I’ve also been collecting more links to add, but I haven’t actually gotten around to it yet.

Quick Takes

Neko Ramen, Volume 1: Hey! Order Up! by Kenji Sonishi. I kept hearing good things about this manga and so even though I was hesitant to pick it up, I finally read the first volume. And yeah, it’s pretty good. I haven’t read many four panel manga but I did enjoy Neko Ramen—it’s silly and it made me laugh out loud a number of times. I found the funniest bits to be the gags that remind the reader that Taishō is indeed a cat, albeit one that loves to make ramen. I don’t know if I’ll buy the next volume, but I just might.

Off*Beat!, Volumes 1-2 by Jen Lee Quick. This series is supposed to be at least three volumes long, but only two volumes have been published so far and the third one probably won’t be. This is really too bad since the Off*Beat! is an excellent original English manga, and I want the rest of the story! Tory’s obsession in his mysterious neighbor Colin is swiftly turning into a crush whether he’s aware of it or not. (Plus, he’s really cute when he blushes.) Colin finds himself strangely interested in Tory as well. Just as they start to work out their friendship the series prematurely ends, but it’s still worth the read. I really liked this one a lot.

Suppli, Volumes 1-5 by Mari Okazaki. I think there are ten volumes plus one volume of extras in this series. So far, five volumes have been released in English and I hope that the rest are as well. I’ve only read a few josei manga so I don’t have much to compare it to, but I liked Suppli. Okazaki has some beautiful page layouts and water imagery in her artwork. Fujii was dumped by her boyfriend of seven years and now she only has her work to keep her going. She loves her job, but it’s pretty depressing and stressful at times. And finding love in the workplace only complicates matters further. I’d really like to see her end up with Ishida, the only decent guy at the office who’s genuinely interested in her.

Yotsuba&!, Volume 1 by Kiyohiko Azuma. Okay, this manga is seriously cute. Jumbo is probably my favorite character so far, but really they’re all pretty great. I was worried that Yotsuba would annoy me—I am easily irritated by little kids and forced cuteness—but I ended up finding her to be quite adorable. Her interactions with the neighbors, Jumbo, and her adoptive father bring out the delight in living each day to it’s fullest. Yotsuba’s a strange child, much to the befuddlement of others; she brings out the kid in those around her. I liked this manga, it made me smile, and I’ll be picking up more of the volumes to read.

Kurau: Phantom Memory, Episodes 17-24. It’s been about a month since I’ve had the opportunity to watch Kurau, but I finally got around to finishing the series. I fell back into the anime easily and I still love the characters. Although the ending it more or less a happy one, it still felt very melancholy to me. Kurau, even with all of the science fiction and alien elements, speaks very much about human loneliness. It’s a wonderful anime series that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to those who like character driven science fiction. I am very glad that I picked it up.