My Week in Manga: June 2-June 8, 2014

My News and Reviews

Three posts last week! The first was the announcement of the Oi, Oishinbo! manga giveaway winner, which also includes a list of some of the food manga that has been licensed in English. And speaking of food manga, last week I reviewed Fumi Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 2. I’m really enjoying the series and am thrilled that it’s being released in English. I also reviewed Blade of the Immortal, Volume 29: Beyond Good and Evil by Hiroaki Samura, which is pretty much the beginning of the end of the series. I love Blade of the Immortal, so I’m interested to see how Samura will wrap everything up and who, if anyone, will survive its conclusion.

Things have been a bit hectic in my life lately, so I’ve not been able to pay attention to all of the news and announcements recently, but I did catch a few things on Vertical’s Twitter account. Apparently, its warehouse is down to the last 24 copies of Message to Adolf, Part 1 and it may or may not be reprinted. So, if you want a copy, you should probably grab it sooner rather than later. Adolf was my introduction to Osamu Tezuka, and it remains one of my favorite works by him. Also, Vertical was at AnimeNEXT and made a new license announcementDream Fossil: The Complete Short Stories of Satoshi Kon. Though it wasn’t perfect, I enjoyed Kon’s Tropic of the Sea a great deal, so am looking forward to this collection as well as the other Kon manga announced by Dark Horse a couple of months ago.

Quick Takes

Monster Soul, Volume 1Monster Soul, Volume 1 by Hiro Mashima. For readers intimidated by the length of Fairy Tail or Rave Master, Mashima’s two-volume Monster Soul sets a much lower bar for entry to his work. During the Human-Monster War, the Black Airs were an elite group of exceptionally powerful monsters. Now that the war is over, and the monsters have lost, they mostly try to keep to themselves. But with human poachers, a ghost with an agenda, and another monster picking a fight, trouble seems to find them anyway. Monster Soul is somewhat episodic, but Mashima does seem to be developing some sort of underlying plot. Since the series is only two volumes long though, it probably can’t be particularly convoluted or in-depth. That being said, I’m not entirely sure what direction Monster Soul will be taking. The story moves along very quickly, there are numerous fights, and the characters are boisterous. I wasn’t blown away, but the first volume of Monster Soul could be entertaining.

Otomen, Volume 16Otomen, Volumes 16-18 by Aya Kanno. I’m not sure that Otomen really needed to be eighteen volumes long, but I enjoyed every volume of it. The series just makes me so incredibly happy. It can be ridiculous and eyeroll-worthy at times, usually deliberately so, but I love it. The characters, while they don’t have much depth, are incredibly endearing. Kanno plays around with gender roles and expectations in Otomen, that’s one of the major points of the series, but never in a denigrating way. The not-so-subtle message of Otomen is that it is just fine to be whoever it is you are. These final three volumes find Asuka and many of the others in their last year of high school. They begin drifting apart for various reasons, the biggest being the influence of Asuka’s mother, and it is heartbreaking to see. Kanno has never hesitated to make use of well-worn tropes and plot developments in Otomen—frequently the series verges on parody because of that—but I was a little unsure about the memory loss arc. Ultimately though, the series ends in a very satisfying way.

The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 1The Seven Deadly Sins, Volumes 1-2 by Nakaba Suzuki. Back in my undergrad days I took a fantastic course that focused on the use and portrayal of the seven deadly sins in music and literature, and so Suzuki’s The Seven Deadly Sins manga immediately caught my attention. At first, I was a little uncertain about The Seven Deadly Sins. It took a few chapters to really grow on me, and when present Meliodas’ lecherous tendencies still seem more like a tired cliché rather than any sort of legitimate character development, but the series has great potential. The Seven Deadly Sins are a group of extremely talented warriors who may be the only ones capable of stopping the Holy Knights from destroying Britannia. It isn’t yet known why the group goes by “The Seven Deadly Sins,” or what sins the members have committed to earn their monikers, but I’m assuming that will be revealed sometime in the future. The Holy Knights are the ones being framed as the series’ villains, but the Sins aren’t entirely good, either, which I appreciate. With interesting characters and epic battles, I’m looking forward to reading more.

The Sleep of ReasonThe Sleep of Reason: An Anthology of Horror edited by C. Spike Trotman. Edited by the same person who has been coordinating the new Smut Peddler anthologies, The Sleep of Reason collects twenty-six short horror comics. Some of the creators (like Jason Thompson and Carla Speed McNeil, among others) I was already familiar with, but there were plenty of other contributors whose work I was encountering for the very first time. That’s one of the things I love about anthologies like The Sleep of Reason—they introduce me to new artists that I want to follow. I also love being exposed to so many different styles of art and storytelling. There is some blood, death, and gore in The Sleep of Reason, but the collection isn’t a splatter fest and relies much more heavily on the psychological aspects of horror rather than on violence. As with any anthology, some of the stories are stronger than others. I’m not sure that I even completely understood some of them, but they all were eerie, disconcerting, and creepy. The Sleep of Reason is a great collection; definitely recommended for fans of horror.

My Week in Manga: May 6-May 12, 2013

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted here at Experiments in Manga last week. I took a look at Monkey Business: New Writing from Japan, Volume 3, the most recent issue in the international edition of the Japanese literary journal Monkey Business. I think I preferred the second volume slightly more, but the third volume was a great collection, too. Earlier in the week I reviewed The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: The Master of Gay Erotic Manga. This volume is the first collection of bara manga to be published in print in English. Tagame’s work is amazing, but it certainly isn’t for everyone. I’m thrilled that he’s finally received a major release in English.

And what was even more exciting? I spent the entire weekend at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF)—I actually got to meet Tagame and Taiyo Matsumoto in person in addition to a ton of other fantastic creators. I’ll be posting about my TCAF experience later on this week, but I can tell you right now that I definitely plan on going again next year. It was amazing.

And speaking of Tagame, PictureBox has announced a new anthology scheduled to be published in 2014—Massive: Gay Erotic Manga And The Men Who Make It. It sounds like it will be a fantastic collection; I am ecstatic about its upcoming release! In other publishing news, Sublime Manga rescued the license for Ayano Yamane’s Crimson Spell for a print release. Media Blasters had previously published the first two volumes but they are now very out-of-print. Crimson Spell is my favorite of Yamane’s series, so I’m very excited about Sublime’s new editions; I’ll happily be double-dipping.

Elsewhere online, Heidi MacDonald article How Graphic Novels Became the Hottest Section in the Library at Publishers Weekly is a good read and touches on the role of manga in that evolution. It’s not very often that you see an article from Sports Illustrated talking about manga, but Ben Sin’s post Slam Dunk: How Japan’s Love of Basketball Can Be Traced Back to a Comic was republished on Sports Illustrated‘s culture blog. Finally, if you’ve not come across Ukiyo-e Search yet, it’s a phenomenal resource for Japanese woodblock prints.

Quick Takes

The Devil’s Trill by Sooyeon Won. The Devil’s Trill is the fourth and final volume in Netcomics’ manhwa novella collection, intended to feature prominent Korean creators. I haven’t read any of the other volumes in the series, but I picked up The Devil’s Trill because Won’s manhwa Let Dai left such an impression on me. For me, the highlight of The Devil’s Trill was Won’s lovely artwork. Lately I’ve found myself bored with vampire tales, and so the story of The Devil’s Trill didn’t really grab me. Plus, I prefer my vampires to be a little scarier and less romantic. However, I did like how the manhwa incorporates reincarnation and stretches across three time periods: 18th-century Germany, Berlin in the 1990s, and 2150.

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. I’ve been following Hicks for quite some time now, but her graphic novel Friends with Boys was the first of her long works that I read that wasn’t a collaboration. I loved it. The story follows Maggie as she enters a public high school, having previously only been home schooled. With three older brothers she grew up as somewhat of a tomboy. Oh, and she seems to be haunted by a ghost. The character designs and artwork in Friends with Boys are great; it’s also filled with all sorts of nerdy and geeky goodness. In part, I see the graphic novel as a celebration of being someone that society might call a freak, which made me very happy. The importance and strength of families (especially siblings) is also a prominent theme.

Kizuna, Volumes 4-6 by Kazuma Kodaka. The first half of Kizuna seemed to emphasize the drama and violence surrounding the characters’ yakuza connections. While this never completely disappears, the second half of the series shifts to addressing slightly more realistic issues and problems faced by the characters: homophobia, coming out to family, establishing lives together, and so on. Despite some inconsistencies in the quality of the art, especially early on, Kizuna has really grown on me. Kei and Ranmaru make a wonderful couple. They have their fights, misunderstandings, and disagreements, but they’re totally in love with each other and are physically very affectionate.

Otomen, Volumes 11-15 by Aya Kanno. I am still really enjoying Otomen although the series’ gimmick—”manly” men with “girly” interests—seems to be stretched a little too thin by this point. I think Otomen would have been more successful if Kanno kept the focus on the main cast instead of introducing so many side characters. Granted, I like the side characters, too, but the series may have benefited from a little more focus. Partly because there are so many characters, none of them have a lot of depth and tend to be fairly one-note even if they are endearing. I particularly enjoy how the series plays with gender expectations. Plus, Kanno includes plenty of nods and references to other series, like Utena and Golgo 13, which is fun. Otomen is a silly, lighthearted, and fluffy read for me.

My Week in Manga: September 24-September 30, 2012

My News and Reviews

Since it is the end of one month and the beginning of another, the most recent manga giveaway has been posted. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first volume of Mayu Shinjo’s Ai Ore!, Volume 1 as published by Viz Media. The most recent Library Love feature was also posted. Basically, it’s a bunch of quick takes of manga that I borrowed from my library.

Also posted last week was my review of Elements of Manga Style by João Henrique Lopes, a Brazilian artist. Lopes was kind enough to send me a copy of the book for review. I found the subject matter to be fascinating and now want to read more about the theory and design of comics and manga.

Finally, there’s one item of news that I want to mention: Hiroaki Samura’s manga Blade of the Immortal is coming to an end. He’s been working on the series for nineteen years. The English release of Blade of the Immortal (which I am slowly reviewing) is still several volumes behind the Japanese release, but the end is drawing near.

Quick Takes

Barbara by Osamu Tezuka. Barbara is a very odd manga, but I’m not convinced that Tezuka was deliberately trying to be strange; I think it just happened to turn out that way. The manga focuses on Yosuke Mikura, a novelist, who happens across Barbara, a young woman and a drunk destined to become his muse. It is reveled early on that Mikura isn’t a particularly reliable narrator, so there’s always a question of how much of Barbara is the truth and how much of it is his delusions. For me, this was the most fascinating aspect of the manga. The final “twist” to the story was heavily foreshadowed and therefore wasn’t at all surprising, but even though it was completely predictable I did like the ending.

Maka-Maka, Volumes 1-2 by Torajiro Kishi. I haven’t read much explicit, adult-oriented yuri manga, but in my limited experience Maka-Maka is one of the best out there. It’s also completely in color. Each chapter is only about eight pages long and centers around a moment in the lives of Jun and Nene. The two young women are best friends and in Maka-Maka are shown to be almost constantly in each others arms, teasing, fondling, and having sex with each other. Maka-Maka is very voyeuristic but not at all sleazy. It is abundantly clear that Jun and Nene enjoy being with each other. There’s a lot of giggling involved and they are incredibly affectionate. Both Jun and Nene have boyfriends, but their relationship with each other is incredibly important.

Makeshift Miracle, Book 1: The Girl from Nowhere written by Jim Zub and illustrated by Shun Hong Chan. Makeshift Miracle originally started as a webcomic written and illustrated entirely by Zub. The present incarnation has been rewritten and Chan has been brought in to handle the art. So far, the most striking thing about Makeshift Miracle is its gorgeous artwork. The color work in particular is beautiful and dreamy. Plot-wise, not much has happened yet, the first book mostly serves to set the mood and scenario, but I find myself intrigued. I’m particularly curious about and amused by Esurio. Current plans are for the next volume to be released in 2013. I’ll certainly be keeping my eye out for it.

Otomen, Volumes 6-10 by Aya Kanno. I am still really enjoying this series. Even though it has a serious and honest message, Otomen is frequently silly and even ridiculous. But that’s what makes it such a delightfully fun series for me. That and Asuka is absolutely adorable when he blushes, which is often. The characters face trials and tribulations, but for the most part Otomen is a fluffy, feel-good manga. Granted, the characters aren’t particularly complex or deep, but I do like them. Which is good, because more and more characters keep being introduced. Technically, Otomen is a romantic comedy so supposedly there’s an overarching story dealing with the romance between Asuka and Ryo, but that particular plot point is going nowhere fast.

Rurouni Kenshin, Omnibus 4 (equivalent to Volumes 10-12) by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The long Kyoto arc continues! I find that I generally prefer the longer more involved stories in Rurouni Kenshin over the shorter ones. This particular arc has taken a few detours along the way, but I’m glad to see that the main cast has finally been reunited. As much as I like Kenshin as a character, I think the manga works best when his “family” is around him. I was pleased to see more of Kenshin’s past and background revealed in this omnibus, specifically his younger years before he became the skilled swordsman that he now is. As part of this, the master swordsman he was raised by and studied under is also introduced, which was nice to see.

Slam Dunk, Episodes 1-23 directed by Nobutaka Nishizawa. I haven’t read much of Takehiko Inoue’s Slam Dunk manga yet, preferring his more serious works, but I was still excited to discover that the anime adaptation of the series was available in English. I’m not quite a quarter of the way through the anime and there’s only been one real basketball game so far, which surprised me. I was particularly impressed that almost an entire episode was able to devote itself to a single minute of game time without losing my interest or feeling too drawn out. While the comedic elements are definitely still there, it seems like Slam Dunk is becoming more dramatic and serious as the series progresses. I’m looking forward to watching more.

My Week in Manga: September 10-September 16, 2012

My News and Reviews

I posted two reviews last week here at Experiments in Manga. First was for Strawberry Panic: The Complete Novel Collection written by Sakurako Kimino with illustrations by Namuchi Takumi. I was introduced to the Strawberry Panic yuri franchise through the manga, which was never completed. The novels are utterly ridiculous and yet highly entertaining. The other review was part of my Blade of the Immortal review project—Blade of the Immortal, Volume 13: Mirror of the Soul. I’m still loving the series. Mirror of the Soul focuses on Anotsu who I find to be an incredibly compelling character.

This week is the Shojo Beat Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Manga Report! All of the quick takes below feature Shojo Beat manga and anime. On Wednesday, I’ll be posting an in-depth review of the first volume of the manga series Sand Chronicles by Hinako Ashihara. I think Sand Chronicles is one of the best contemporary shōjo manga series out there; it’s certainly one my favorites.

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to see Kataoka Ichiro, a professional benshi, in action. It was very cool. The University of Michigan’s Center for Japanese Studies hosts two film series every year. This fall, the series is focusing on the silent films by Ozu Yasujiro which are being shown accompanied by live music and benshi. With the exception of the opening night, the films and performances are free and open to the public. If you’re in Southeast Michigan on a Friday evening between September 14 and November 9, I highly recommend checking the series out. Can’t make it to the films? Kataoka’s interview on arwulf-arwulf’s “Face the Music” radio show is worth listening to, too.

I am absolutely thrilled with Nozomi Entertainment’s most recent license announcement—The Rose of Versailles. Hopefully, the acquisition of the anime series means that the manga may be within reach for English-reading audiences. The series is infamous for being unlicensable, but maybe there could now be a chance. Either way, I’m very happy that The Rose of Versailles anime will be available next year.

The Hooded Utilitarian, a cultural criticism blog that largely focuses on comics (including manga, from time to time), is celebrating it’s fifth anniversary with a roundtable called the Anniversary of Hate. So far, two of the posts have focused on manga: Jason Thompson’s From Habibi to Tezuka, With Ono In Between and Kate Dacey’s Peace and Hate. Some of the comments on these posts are also very intriguing and worth reading.

Quick Takes

Dengeki Daisy, Volumes 5-8 by Kyousuke Motomi. I used to consider Dengeki Daisy a guilty pleasure of mine. Well, I’ve gotten over the guilt and now just enjoy myself. I find the series absolutely hilarious. Sure, it has it’s serious and melodramatic scenes, but it never fails to make me laugh. However, the eight volume has a drastically different tone (Motomi even admits as much). The volume delves into Kurosaki’s past and is understandably more somber, but it still contains moments of humor. Kurosaki’s guilt has been hinted at and its revelation has been built up to from the beginning of the series. Even though I wasn’t entirely convinced, for the most part I found myself satisfied with explanation.

Library Wars: Love & War, Volume 8 by Kiiro Yumi. Library Wars still isn’t as good as I want it to be, but I enjoy the manga enough to keep reading and I love the basic premise of the series. The resolution of book burning incident from previous volume is fairly anticlimactic, but as a result Iku finally realizes that Dojo is her prince. This gives Yumi plenty of opportunity to draw “jittery Iku” as Iku processes this development. The results are quite amusing. I’ve actually never been exceptionally fond of Iku as the main character (her incompetence as a librarian frustrates me), but she is growing on me and I appreciate her enthusiasm. Still, I tend to prefer almost any other character in Library Wars over Iku. I’m particularly fond of the romance developing between Tezuka and Shibasaki.

Otomen, Volumes 1-5 by Aya Kanno. Asuka Masamune is the epitome of manliness—strong, handsome, cool-headed, chivalrous. However, his hobbies, which he desperately tries to keep hidden, are less than manly. He loves cute things, sewing, cooking, and shōjo manga. Asuka is an otomen—a girly guy. Otomen relies heavily on gender expectations, stereotypes, shōjo tropes and cliches. Although the gender-bending nature of the characters and their interests are the source of the series’ humor, the manga doesn’t make fun of characters themselves. The series is lighthearted fun with the message that it’s okay to be who you are even when defies expectation. I am really enjoying Otomen and look forward to reading more.

Honey and Clover, Box Set 1 directed by Ken’ichi Kasai. I haven’t actually read the Honey and Clover manga, but I’ve heard great things about it and it’s anime adaptation. The series revolves around a group of friends who are students at an art college in Tokyo. We never really see their initial friendships develop, which makes me feel like I’m missing out on something. It is clear that their bonds are strong ones, though. Despite this, there is also a lot of loneliness in Honey and Clover. But there’s also plenty of humor, too, including the most epic game of Twister I’ve ever seen. While I’m not in a huge rush to finish the series, I did enjoy the time I spent with the characters of Honey and Clover. Their quirkiness is probably why I liked them so well.

Manga Giveaway: Crazy Karate Contest Winner

And the winner of my first ever manga giveaway is…PB!

As the winner of the Crazy Karate Contest, PB will be receiving a free copy of Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2, Volume 11: Creative Cures.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest and got the word out to others; it is greatly appreciated. I hope to do more giveaways in the future and see an even bigger response. In the meantime, those of you who enter have a really good chance of winning some free manga.

So, this contest was about naming some martial arts manga and martial artist manga characters. Here’s what we came up with:

Samejima Ranmaru from Kazuma Kodaka’s yaoi series Kizuna: Bonds of Love is a skilled kendōka. Kendo is a martial art based on traditional Japanese sword fighting with a history dating back to at least the 12th century.

Asuka Masamune, “the manliest of men,” from Aya Kanno’s romantic shōjo comedy Otomen also studies kendo. He’s the captain of his team and has gone on to compete in the national championship tournament. He also excels at judo, a martial art that focuses on throwing and grappling, and karate.

In Yuu Watase’s Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden, another shōjo series, Takiko Okuda is very competent with a naginata, a weapon that in Japan is generally associated with women, traditionally of the samurai class. A naginata is a pole weapon with a curved blade—sort of a mix between a short sword and a spear—that can be used to slash, stab, hook, or bludgeon an adversary.

Juline, the eponymous character of Narumi Kakinouchi’s Juline manga series, studies kung fu. A Chinese martial art, kung fu has a number of different styles that can vary widely from one another. I’m not familiar enough with Juline to identify which style is involved, but my dōjō offers training in both Hung Gar-Sil Lum (also known as the Tiger-Crane style) and Wing Chun.