My Week in Manga: October 5-October 11, 2015

My News and Reviews

Last week was a slower week at Experiments in Manga, but I am steadily coming to terms with the fact that I’m leading an increasingly busy life and that it’s okay to have slow blogging weeks. (Though I still wish I had the time to read and write more.) Anyway, last week I announced the Devils and Realist Giveaway Winner. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English that feature demons and devils. I also reviewed Project Itoh’s debut novel Genocidal Organ which is an excellent, intelligent work of near future science fiction. I’ve now read almost everything of Itoh’s that has been translated (I still need to pick up his Metal Gear Solid novel) which makes me a little sad since it’s all so good and I want more.

New York Comic Con was last week and there were some exciting license announcements to come out of that. Kodansha Comics will be releasing an Attack on Titan anthology collecting Western creator’s takes on the franchise (considering some of the artists and writers involved, this should be great) and has licensed Hounori’s Spoof on Titan and Hiroki Katsumata’s I Am Space Dandy. Viz Media announced a slew of new print titles: Mitsu Izumi’s 7th Garden, Yūki Tabata’s Black Clover, Izumi Miyazono’s Everyone’s Getting Married, Haruichi Furudate’s Haikyu!!, Tadatoshi Fujimaki’s Kuroko’s Basketball, Keiichi Hikami and Shin Yamamoto’s Monster Hunter, and Mizuho Kusanagi’s Yona of the Dawn. (I was very happy to see more sports manga and josei in that mix!) And Yen Press will be releasing Mikoto Yamaguchi’s Scumbag Loser, Makoto Kedōin and Toshimi Shinomiya’s Corpse Party: Blood Covered, Masafumi Harada, Sung-woo Park, and Red Ice’s Space Dandy, Yuji Iwahara’s Dimension W, and Cotoji’s Unhappy Go Lucky! as well as several new light novels.

Unrelated to NYCC (but still very interesting), manga-translator and yokai expert Zack Davisson was a guest on That Girl with the Curls podcast talking about all sort of things Japan-related. Actually, Davisson has been making the podcast rounds and was recently interviewed at Kaijucast, too, which happens to be featuring yokai all this month. Also of note, Connie at Slightly Biased Manga has posted a nice introduction/guide to all the various Alice in the Country of manga and light novels for anyone who may be intimidated the sheer number of titles involved.

Quick Takes

Devil Survivor, Volume 1Devil Survivor, Volume 1by Satoru Matsuba. Shin Megami Tensei is a huge and popular franchise of video games spanning multiple series and spinoffs which has spawned numerous anime and manga adaptations. Matsuba’s Devil Survivor is one of those, based on a 2009 tactical RPG for the Nintendo DS system. I’m always a little wary of manga adaptations of video games but was still interested in Devil Survivor. Unfortunately, it’s painfully obvious that the manga originated from a game. Although the story has some great mystery and action elements, as well as religious cults, demons, and so on, the original game mechanics are blatant in the story, made even more obvious by the characters’ use of handheld consoles. I’m not completely writing off the Devil Survivor manga, but honestly, I was disappointed with the first volume. I’m hoping that in the future the series will focus more on the story and characters, which have some great potential, and develop into something that takes advantage of the manga medium and feels less like watching someone else play a video game.

No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Volume 4No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Volumes 4-6 by Nico Tanigawa. In general Watamote tends to be fairly episodic, but time does slowly pass; the rhythm of school life drives the series along even if there isn’t much plot or character development per se. However, more and more recurring characters and running jokes are introduced and smaller story arcs form. The basic premise of Watamote is unchanging—Tomoko is an extremely awkward young woman whose social skills (or really the lack thereof) are entirely informed by the video games and manga that she’s interested in, many of which are rather raunchy. Occasionally she makes an effort to fit in with her classmates, but more often than not it backfires in terribly embarrassing ways. Watamote can be very funny in a painful and incredibly crass sort of way. Some but not all of the humor requires the reader to be at least vaguely familiar with Japanese pop culture, especially anime, manga, and video games. But there are copious translation notes available and the manga is usually fairly successful in conveying the basic gist of any given joke.

The Sky Over My SpectaclesThe Sky Over My Spectacles by Mio Tennohji. I will readily admit that I have a thing for glasses; in addition to having to wear them myself, I really like how they look on other people. One of the leads in titular story of The Sky Over My Spectacles has a similar fetish, which is what initially drew the collection of boys’ love manga to my attention. (The Sky Over My Spectacles was actually one of the first boys’ love manga that I ever read.) The four main manga collected in the volume—”The Sky Over My Spectacles,” “Let’s Fall in Love,” “Let’s Meet at 1 p.m.,” and “Tell Me You Love Me with Earnest Eyes”—all tend to be fairly upbeat and even surprisingly cute and sweet. Although there’s a bit of drama to be found, nothing ends in tragedy, which I appreciate. I also enjoy the light sense of humor present throughout the stories in the collection. The titular, and longest, manga is probably my favorite, though. In it, Azuma, whose glasses fetish is infamous, has developed a crush on one of his male, glasses-wearing classmates but then discovers that his feelings remain unchanged even when the glasses come off.

Manga Giveaway: WataMote Giveaway Winner

No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Volume 1And the winner of the WataMote giveaway is…MegaKnogga!

As the winner, MegaKnogga will be receiving a copy of the first volume in Nico Tanigawa’s No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! (hereafter referred to as WataMote) as published by Yen Press. Because WataMote is a humorous, if sometimes painful, story about otaku, for this giveaway I asked that entrants tell me a little about their favorite otaku or otaku manga. Check out the WataMote giveaway comments for the detailed responses.

Some otaku manga (or manga with great otaku characters) available in English:

Barakamon by Satsuki Yoshino
Blood Lad by Yuuki Kodama
Flower of Life by Fumi Yoshinaga
Fujoshi Rumi by Natsumi Konjoh
Galaxy Angel by Kanan
Gin Tama by Hideak Sorachi
Genshiken by Shimoku Kio
Hayate the Combat Butler by Kenjiro Hata
I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow by Shunju Aono
Insufficient Direction by Moyoco Anno
Kiss Him, Not Me by Junko
Love Stage!! written by Eiki Eiki, illustrated by Taishi Zaou
Lucky Star by Kagami Yoshimizu
My Girlfriend Is a Geek written by Pentabu, illustrated by Rize Shinba
No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! by Nico Tanigawa
Oh My Goddess! by Kosuke Fujishima
Oreimo by Sakura Ikeda
Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori
Peepo Choo by Felipe Smith
Welcome to the N.H.K. written by Tatsuhiko Takimoto, illustrated by Kendi Oiwa

Welcome to the N.H.K. got quite a few mentions, which made me happy (the novel is great, as are the manga and anime adaptations), as did a few of my other otaku favorites like Fujoshi Rumi and Genshiken (and Flower of Life and Gin Tama, too!). Thank you to everyone who participated and shared; there are a few manga that I definitely need to pick up. I hope to see you all again for the first manga giveaway of 2015!

Manga Giveaway: WataMote Giveaway

It may be the last day of December, but there’s still time for one more manga giveaway before the year is through. For this month’s giveaway, participants will have the opportunity to win the first volume of Nico Tanigawa’s manga series No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! as published by Yen Press. (From here on out, I’m just going to refer to it by its Japanese abbreviation WataMote). As always, the giveaway is open worldwide!

No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Volume 1

I enjoy reading manga about otaku. It’s a term that has a slightly different meaning in English than it does in Japanese, but generally speaking otaku refers to someone with an extreme or obsessive interest in something.  Often this is assumed to be an interest in anime or manga, but it can really be a specific interest in anything. I myself could probably be considered an otaku, which is probably one of the reasons I like otaku manga—it’s easy for me to identify with many of the characters and the things they enjoy. Some otaku manga though, like Watamote, do occasionally make for uncomfortable reads. Watamote can be hilarious, but it can also be a bit painful since Tomoko is so incredibly and terribly awkward. I do like her, though, and find her endearing in her odd sort of way.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win the first volume of WataMote?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little about your favorite otaku manga or favorite otaku from manga. (If you don’t have one, you can just mention that.)
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).

There it is! Each person can earn up to two entries for this giveaway and has one week to submit them. If you have trouble leaving comments, or if you would prefer, entries can be sent directly to me by e-mail using the address phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. The comments will then be posted here in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on January 7, 2015. Happy New Year, everyone!

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: WataMote Giveaway Winner

My Week in Manga: May 12-May 18, 2014

My News and Reviews

Well, it was my intention to review the first omnibus of Whispered Words by Takashi Ikeda last week, but then Sean reviewed it the day before I was planning to post my review. So, to avoid making the Manga Bookshelf front page look a little strange, I decided to bump my Whispered Words review to later this week. But never fear, I had other posts in reserve! First up was my Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2014 recap, which is very, very long. If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, that’s fine, but I do want people to know that TCAF is an amazing festival. A month or so ago I had the opportunity to attend a presentation given by Natsuki Kikuya, a sake sommelier and from a centuries-old family of sake brewers in Tōhoku, about the brewing of sake, its history, and current trend in the industry, so I posted some random musings about that as well—Cultures of Japanese Sake. I was quite pleased to discover that I actually had already had a strong introduction to the subject from reading manga, specifically Oishinbo, A la Carte: Sake and Moyasimon.

Now, going back to TCAF for a moment: Heidi MacDonald has an excellent summary of the festival at Publishers Weekly; the Beat has audio for a selection of the panels available for listening; and Okazu’s Erica Friedman has a great recap of the est em panel, which she moderated. Unrelated to TCAF, but still worth reading: Marvel, Yen Caught in Amazon-Hachette Crossfire; an interview with Leyla Aker, the editor at Viz Media responsible for Kohske’s Gangsta series; and Tokyo Government Declares Imōto Paradise! 2 Manga Unhealthy. Also, Deb Aoki has started updating her site Manga Comics Manga with some interesting new material, including Japanese to Spanish Manga Translation: Readers Speak Out and What Would Make Manga More Appealing to Comics Fans? + 24 Manga for New Readers.

Quick Takes

Dictatorial Grimoire, Volume 3: Red Riding HoodDictatorial Grimoire, Volume 3: Red Riding Hood by Ayumi Kanou. The first volume of Dictatorial Grimoire, as ridiculous as it was, entertained me. The second volume was no less ridiculous, and it had some great moments, but I was frustrated by how trope-based it was. Fortunately, the series’ originality largely returns in the third volume and Dictatorial Grimoire once again becomes a glorious mess. The plot actually starts to make a little more sense and even becomes somewhat interesting, but just as things start to really get going the story is quickly brought to an end. It feels very abrupt and truncated, as if the series was initially supposed to be much longer. Still, I think the third volume of Dictatorial Grimoire was actually my favorite in the series. The demon from which the story Red Riding Hood comes is thoroughly introduced and he’s pretty great—a mix of the Wolf, Hunter, and Red. (He’s actually a decent guy once he gets his werewolf problem under control.) I also get a kick out of Snow White’s animal companions. Instead of the cute woodland critters that might traditionally be expected, he always has some poisonous creatures hanging about. Dictatorial Grimoire is far from the best manga out there, but it can be fun in all of its ridiculousness.

Dorohedoro, Volume 10Dorohedoro, Volumes 10-12 by Q Hayashida. I continue to enjoy Dorohedoro immensely. It’s a strange, weird manga, and one that I find difficult to coherently explain to people. Dorohedoro is bloody, violent, and grim and yet at the same time it is also incredibly endearing, charming, and funny. It can even be heartbreaking from time to time. Occasionally something feels a little bit off about Hayashida’s artwork in the series—body proportions don’t always seem to be quite right—but for the most part I really enjoy the gritty look and feel of Dorohedoro. I was particularly impressed by how effectively dizzying and disconcerting the artwork could be when Aikawa’s magic comes into play. There’s quite a bit of plot development in these volumes and several of the characters have their backstories filled out—more is learned about the pasts of Nikaido, Asu, and the various members of the Cross-Eyes. There’s plenty of action in this part of the series, too, including excellent fight sequences and brutal battles. There are some significant deaths, as well, though it’s never certain that someone will stay completely dead in Dorohedoro. There are seven more volumes to go in the series; I really hope that Viz will be able to stick with it through to the end.

Hotblood!: A Centaur in the Old West, Volume 1Hotblood!: A Centaur in the Old West, Volume 1 by Toril Orlesky. While at TCAF, I made the point to pick up a few things that I hadn’t heard about before or was otherwise unfamiliar with. One of those random splurges was Orlesky’s Hotblood!, a webcomic that currently updates twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I am absolutely loving it—the characters, the art, everything. The first print volume collects the series’ prologue and the entirety of its first chapter, as well as an exclusive appendix and other additional bonus material. Tremendous thought and care has been put into the worldbuilding of the comic—a sort of alternative history—especially in regards to the relationships and interactions between humans and centaurs and their cultures. The story begins in Wyoming in 1873 with James Rook, the titular centaur, and Asa Langley a steel magnate on the run as wanted men. It then jumps back two years in time to when they first met. In the prologue the two are obviously very close, but at the beginning of their relationship they didn’t get along much at all. Langley is a bit of a jerk, frequently making jokes in poor taste at Rook’s expense, but Rook needs a job so he puts up with it. He has been assigned to be Langley’s secretary; neither one of them is particularly happy about it, though.

Watamote2No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Volumes 2-3 by Nico Tanigawa. Overall, I do enjoy WataMote, but I will be the first to admit that it can be a harsh and uncomfortable read. (I get the feeling that the creators largely didn’t enjoy their high school years and that they don’t have many fond memories of that time in their lives.) WataMote can be very funny, but it’s not always very pleasant. So far the series has been fairly episodic, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage, but a few characters have been introduced in these volumes which may change that. I would like to see some actual character development in the series, though. Right now it seems as though Tomoko, her family, and classmates are stuck in a rut. This works in terms of the series’ premise—Tomoko is a misfit to put all other misfits to shame—but it’s a little painful and sad to not see her learn from her mistakes and experiences. Which, I suppose, is actually probably one of the points of the manga. Tomoko can be endearing in her extreme awkwardness, but that awkwardness can also be fairly alarming and embarrassing. WataMote is definitely not a series that everyone will be able to enjoy or even appreciate, but I do plan on following it further.

My Week in Manga: November 4-November 10, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week I announced the winner of the Sankarea manga giveaway. The post also includes a list of zombie manga that has been licensed in English, for those who might be interested. Considering the recent popularity of zombies, I was actually a little surprised to discover there weren’t more. I also posted two reviews last week. The first was for Makoto Kobayashi’s What’s Michael, Book Two, a fantastic cat manga sent to me by a Manga Bookshelf reader for review. My second review from last week was for Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician by Shinmon Aoki, which was the inspiration for Yōjirō Takita’s award-winning film Departures.

And now for a few things that I’ve come across online over the last couple of weeks. Crunchyroll Manga is now up and running. Deb Aoki wrote a good article about it for Publishers Weekly—Kodansha, Crunchyroll Talk Global ‘Simulpub’ Manga . At A Case Suitable for Treatment, Sean took a quick look at the manga series currently being offered through the platform—Kodansha and Crunchyroll Partnership: What Are We Getting?. Mostly unrelated, Kodansha posted on its Tumblr account a great summary of why some manga may never be licensed in North America, even if it’s really good. Rob Vollmar’s essay for World Literature Today “Dark Side of the Manga: Tezuka Osamu’s Dark Period” is actually from last year, but was recently brought to my attention again. And finally, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund focused on Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints (which I think is one of the best comics to be released this year) as part of its Using Graphic Novels in Education column.

Quick Takes

Animal Land, Volume 5Animal Land, Volumes 5-8 by Makoto Raiku. It took a few volumes for Animal Land to really grow on me, but now that it has I find that I quite like the series. The occasional focus on scatological humor feels a bit out-of-place to me, though it seems to have become less common as the series progresses. The artwork in Animal Land is a little strange—a combination of realism and anthropomorphism—but generally engaging. The characters, particularly Taroza, are very likeable. I have enjoyed watching him grow up. A newborn at the beginning of the series, by the end of the eighth volume he has become a young man who has had to face the hard truths about his idealism. Taroza wants to put an end to the cycle of killing and eating, but to do so will require him to throw all of Animal Land into turmoil. He is not the only one who has an interest in shifting the power dynamics of the world—four other humans have made themselves known and have their own ideas about how things should be. I was a little surprised to see a bit of science fiction and time travel work its way into Animal Land, but I am very curious to see how things continue to develop.

Battle Vixens, Volume 1Battle Vixens, Volume 1 by Yuji Shiozaki. Supposedly, Battle Vixens (aka Ikki Tousen) is somehow based on, or at least inspired by the classic Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Had I not known this going into the series, I’m not sure I really would have picked it up from reading the first volume. As far as I can tell, the references are barely there. (Which reminds me, I really do need to get around to finishing Romance of the Three Kingdoms.) What is readily apparent from the first page of the manga is that the English title, Battle Vixens was aptly chosen. The series is all about the fights and the fan service. There might be some sort of plot, too, but after only one volume I am still incredibly confused as to what is actually supposed to be going on. Basically there’s this girl, Hakufu Sonsaku, with a sizable chest and the penchant for getting into brawls. Towards what end? I am unsure. She simply seems predisposed to violence and having her clothes ripped off of her in the process. For a series based on fights the action unfortunately tends to be somewhat difficult to follow, but some of the panels have great composition.

Watamote, Volume 1No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Volume 1 by Nico Tanigawa. Okay, I’m just going to refer to this series by its Japanese abbreviation WataMote because I can never seem to remember the title in its entirety. (Plus, it’s really long.) WataMote is simultaneously one of the most funny and depressing manga that I’ve read recently. The story follows Tomoko Kuroki, an extraordinarily awkward and socially inept young woman who has just started high school. Most of her “life experience” has come from reading manga and playing video games, which may explain why she has difficulty interacting with her classmates. They mostly just ignore her or at least tolerate her existence. Occasionally she tries to be more than the weirdo in the corner, but it doesn’t often turn out well for her. I care about Tomoko and find her to be a sympathetic character which is why her trials and errors, though humorous, can also be a bit painful to watch. WataMote isn’t exactly mean-spirited, but it’s not particularly pleasant either. Her interactions with her younger brother are fantastically awkward (granted, all of Tomoko’s relationships are awkward), but there are some glimpses of familial love, too.

Flowers of EvilFlowers of Evil directed by Hiroshi Nagahama. Based on the manga series by Shuzo Oshimi, the Flowers of Evil anime series is a phenomenal adaptation. It’s one of the rare cases where I might actually prefer the anime over the original manga. That being said, the anime is definitely not a series that everyone will be able to enjoy. First of all, the pacing is excruciatingly slow. It worked for me and I think it creates marvelous tension, but someone who needs a bit more action and forward movement from their anime will be very frustrated. Not much actually happens from episode to episode; the focus is more on the inner turmoil and crises of the characters. The animation also relies heavily on rotoscoping techniques, resulting in a style that doesn’t personally bother me, but I know plenty of people who can’t stand it. I think it was suitable for Flowers of Evil, creating a slightly disconcerting and surreal mood that fits the unsettling atmosphere and darker nature of the series. The use of music and silence in the series is also quite remarkable. The twisted triangle of a relationship between Kasuga, Nakamura, and Saeki is intense. The Flowers of Evil anime captures it perfectly using art film-like sensibilities.