My Week in Manga: October 17-October 23, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week was yet another week during which I wasn’t online much, though this time it was because I was on a short family vacation in Ohio to visit my folks. I did however still manage to post my review of the absolutely wonderful children’s book Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko. The book, fully illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri, combines a biographical narrative of Kaneko’s work and life written by David Jacobson along with a selection of Kaneko’s poems presented in both the original Japanese and in English translation. Are You an Echo? is a beautiful book that adults will be able to appreciate, too; I wasn’t previously familiar with Kaneko’s poetry and am incredibly glad to have been introduced to it.

Although I was busy with family last week, a few things did catch my eye online: Vertical’s Fall 2016 manga licensing survey is now live for those interested in suggesting titles that they’d like to see the company publish in English; The Mystery Writers of Japan have released a very useful website in English which includes great information such as an outline of the group’s history and a list of recent English translations of the members’ works; As for cool queer comics Kickstarters, there is a newly launched campaign to collect Tab Kimpton’s delightful Minority Monsters comics in a single volume along with additional bonus content.

Quick Takes

Fairy Tail, Volume 55Fairy Tail, Volume 55 by Hiro Mashima. With all of the recent developments in Fairy Tail it seems like the series might in fact be reaching its final story arcs. Granted, Mashima could just as easily stretch things out for quite a bit longer as he has repeatedly done in the past. Often Fairy Tail feels rather directionless to me, as though the creator is making things up as he goes (which he has admitted to) or isn’t sure exactly what he wants to do with the series. That being said, when Mashima actually manages to bring together disparate storylines and plot developments together in a way that makes sense and seems planned from the beginning (even if it actually wasn’t) the results can be thrilling. The fifty-fifth volume of Fairy Tail opens with one of the biggest game-changing reveals in the series as Natsu and Zeref face each other down. It’s a dramatic encounter and works tremendously well. Sadly, the rest of the volume isn’t quite as strong as its opening and many of the other plot twists and backstories feel forced at best. Still, this most recent story arc is probably my favorite out of those that I’ve so far read. (I started reading Fairy Tail part way through, so there are several arcs that I’ve missed.) I especially appreciate how it gives the tournament arc, which grew increasingly tedious, a greater purpose in the series as a whole. The action sequences and battles continue to be an exciting part of the manga as well, and there are plenty of those to be found in this volume.

intense1Intense, Volume 1: Night on the Red Road by Kyungha Yi. I’ve deliberately been keeping a lookout for new print releases from Netcomics, but even if I wasn’t Yi’s Intense would have caught my attention. The series’ cover artwork is stunning and the manhwa’s production values and quality is some of the best that I’ve seen from Netcomics. Intense was originally released in six digital volumes, but the print edition has been collected into four. The interior artwork, though it’s not in color, is just as beautiful, striking, and moody as Yi’s cover illustrations. The story is likewise very moody and at times can be extremely dark and violent. The series follows Jiwoon, an assassin and bodyguard for a crime syndicate who has been temporarily assigned to a red-light district. There he encounters and is drawn to the mysterious Soohan who works there as a sort of handyman. With their melancholic, slightly detached personalities, it seems as though the two young men likely share a fair amount in common, so much so that the tragic backstory revealed in the flashbacks interspersed throughout the first volume could easily belong to either of them. If nothing else, Intense is certainly well named. The manhwa is heavy and intense both emotionally and psychologically, moreso than many other boys’ love stories I’ve read. I definitely plan on reading the rest of the series and I’m very curious to see how the relationship between Jiwoon and Soohan develops.

Paradise Residence, Volume 3Paradise Residence, Volume 3 by Kosuke Fujishima. Admittedly, it has been quite some time since I’ve read the first two volumes of Paradise Residence, but I really don’t remember the characters being especially infatuated with motorbikes and motorcycles which is something that is quite prominent in the third and final volume. Maybe I just completely missed it before and that’s why it seemed to suddenly come out of nowhere, but the resulting story is nice. However, it’s another sudden development that becomes the dramatic focus of the rest of the volume–due to some unfortunate circumstances, the dorm is scheduled for demolition rather than renovation and the young women living there must do all that they can to save their beloved home. They come up with a rather creative solution to their problem that, while it strains believability, is impressively audacious and clever. Paradise Residence is a series that I enjoyed much more than I thought or expected I would. It doesn’t really have a lot of substance or depth to it, but it’s a pleasant slice-of-life manga set in an all-girls high school. Though not particularly nuanced, most of the characters are generally likeable. Even with the occasional bit of drama, Paradise Residence tends to be a fairly quiet and low-key series. The artwork is attractive, too, although Fujishima seems fond of drawing characters with one eye closed; I’m not sure if they’re supposed to be winking or what.

Spoof on Titan, Volume 1Spoof on Titan, Volume 1 by Hounori. In general the manga spinoffs of Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan depend on readers having at least some familiarity with the original series, although to varying degrees. Spoof on Titan perhaps requires a little more than many of the others as the humor relies heavily on knowledge of the characters and their personalities. Unlike Attack on Titan: Junior High, the other Attack on Titan comedy series, Spoof on Titan is firmly set in the world of the original manga. Granted, it’s a much more friendly version of that world–the Titans, though mentioned frequently, barely make an appearance and the death, destruction, and violence has been greatly toned down. The gore and darkness of Attack on Titan aren’t really to be found in Spoof on Titan. Hounori’s illustrations and character redesigns are pretty cute, too. Spoof on Titan is a four-panel comedy manga which is a format that I tend to really like when it’s done well, but the comics in Spoof on Titan tended to be fairly hit-or-miss for me. Some of them legitimately made me laugh while I barely cracked a smile at others. Overall, though, I am largely enjoying the series and find it amusing. I’m not sure that I would necessarily want to binge-read Spoof on Titan, but the series can be fun in small doses. The first volume reads like a collection of comedic Attack on Titan bonus manga, which is essentially what it is even if Isayama himself isn’t directly working on the series.


My Week in Manga: June 6-June 12, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted May’s Bookshelf Overload. Largely in part due to my trip to TCAF and the generosity of Kodansha Comics, I ended up with a lot of comics and manga to add to my shelves in May. I was actually out of the state traveling for work for most of the week, but while I was gone I did manage to post an in-depth review of Yui Sakuma’s Complex Age, Volume 1 which is scheduled to be released later this month. I was completely taken by surprise by how strongly the manga resonated with me.

As for some of the interesting reading that I came across online last week: Kodansha Comics’ most recent creator spotlight, which includes links to interviews, videos, and more, focuses on Yoshitoki Oima. ICv2 interviewed Stu Levy about Tokyopop’s return to print publishing. At The OASG, Jenny McKeon shared part of her story about becoming a manga translator in comic form. Also, the most recent installment of The Sparkling World of 1970s Shojo Manga highlights Keiko Takemiya and her work.

Quick Takes

Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volume 3Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volumes 3-4 by Junko. I can’t help it. I do have some reservations about the occasional emphasis placed on Serinuma’s weight (although it does reflect more poorly on the other characters than it does on Serinuma herself), but Kiss Him, Not Me! honestly makes me grin. The story is ridiculous and over-the-top, as are Junko’s illustrations. The characters’ facial expressions and extreme reactions can be pretty spectacular. But there’s also some legitimate character development in the series to go along with the comedy. At times it can even be quite touching. One of the things that makes Kiss Him, Not Me! particularly refreshing is that although Serinuma is basically dealing with a reverse-harem situation, she doesn’t really have any sort of romantic interest in any of the other characters. Like the title suggests, she’d much rather her fujoshi fantasies be indulged. But at this point she does care a great deal about them all as friends, and she makes a great friend even if her suitors would like something more. The four boys and now also the one girl (who is a fantastic addition to the series) are slowly changing for the better and are becoming better people simply by knowing her.

Orange, Omnibus 2Orange, Omnibus 2 by Ichigo Takano. The first manga to really floor me this year was the debut of Orange. I was a little worried how the second half of the series would turn out, but Takano handles the story very well, finding a good balance between hopefulness and bittersweetness. Orange is a series that deals very frankly, realistically, and powerfully with heavy subject matter like depression and suicide. Takano captures extraordinarily well what it can be like to have depression and how extremely difficult it can be not only for that person but for their loved ones as well. Orange recognizes that issues surrounding mental health are complicated and simple fixes don’t really exist. The manga is not always an easy read—honestly, it can be devastating and I’ll admit to reading through tears on multiple occasions—but it most definitely is a worthwhile series. The second omnibus is filled out by one of Takano’s earlier manga Haruiro Astronaut, a romantic comedy which plays around with shoujo tropes. After the hard-hitting emotional drama of Orange, Haruiro Astronaut comes across as a little frivolous, but it’s enjoyable and in the end I rather liked it’s goofiness.

Paradise Residence, Volume 2Paradise Residence, Volume 2 by Kosuke Fujishima. I’m a little surprised by how much I’m enjoying Paradise Residence. Perhaps it’s because the series reminds me of some of the better parts of living in a dormitory and leaves me feeling a bit nostalgic for my college days. (Paradise Residence is about an all-girls high school, though, so the experience isn’t quite the same.) I was particularly fond of the chapter in the second volume in which everyone shows off their culinary skills and creations using low-budget ingredients and super-simple cooking techniques. (Actual recipes are included in the volume as well, which is a nice touch.) Paradise Residence is a fairly low-key comedy that relies more on the charming nature of its cast rather than on over-the-top humor, although sometimes the manga can be pretty ridiculous. The characters are generally likeable and their interactions are entertaining, providing much of the series’ appeal. However, their characterization does come across as somewhat shallow; some of the girls seem to be little more than a “type” or are stuck with a single gag instead being allowed to be fully-realized characters.

Manga Giveaway: Paradise Residence Giveaway Winner

Paradise Residence, Volume 1And the winner of the Paradise Residence manga giveaway is… Chris Lawton!

As the winner, Chris will be receiving a copy of Kosuke Fujishima’s Paradise Residence, Volume 1 as published in English by Kodansha Comics. I’m currently in the process of moving, so I’ve recently been thinking about the different ways that people live together a fair amount. And so for the Paradise Residence giveaway, I was interested in learning about some of the manga that the participants enjoyed which involve communal living, whether it be boarding schools, dormitories, or something else entirely. Be sure to check out the giveaway comments for everyone’s detailed responses!

Some of the manga in English with communal living arrangements:
After School Nightmare by Setona Mizushiro
Akuma no Riddle written by Yun Kouga, illustrated by Sunao Minakata
Beauty Is the Beast by Tomo Matsumoto
Blue Exorcist by Kazue Kato
Dokkoida?! written by Taro Achi, illustrated by Yu Yagami
Hana-Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo
Hayate X Blade by Shizuru Hayashiya
The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio
Here Is Greenwood by Yukie Nasu
Maison Ikkoku by Rumiko Takahashi
Love Hina by Ken Akamatsu
Oh My Goddess! by Kosuke Fujishima
Paradise Residence by Kosuke Fujishima
Persona 3 by Shuji Sogabe
Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura
Prison School by Akira Hiramoto
Revolutionary Girl Utena by Chiho Saito
Seihou Boys’ High School by Kaneyoshi Izumi
Strawberry-chan by Ai Morinaga
Sunshine Sketch by Ume Aoki
Tenshi Ja Nai!! by Takako Shigematsu.
Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino
Venus in Love by Yuki Nakaji
Yu-Gi-Oh! GX by Naoyuki Kageyama

The above list is by no means exhaustive, but it does include the favorites that were mentioned as well as some more well-known examples. (And some lesser-known examples, too.) I tried, I think successfully, to show a range of different genres and types of stories, so there should hopefully be a little bit of something for everyone. Thank you to all of the participants in the giveaway who shared some of your favorite manga with me! I hope to see you all again for the next one.

Manga Giveaway: Paradise Residence Giveaway

The end of May is almost here. I’m very aware of this fact since my family’s goal is to be completely moved in, or at least living in, the new house by the end of the month. So this last week of May is crunch time and I’m rather preoccupied, but there’s no way that I could forget this month’s manga giveaway! This time you’ll all have a chance to win Paradise Residence, Volume 1 by Kosuke Fujishima as published in English by Kodansha Comics, which means that the manga also includes Volume 0 as bonus material. And, as always, the giveaway is open worldwide!

Paradise Residence, Volume 1

As mentioned above, I’m currently in the process of moving. There’s been so much cleaning, painting, packing, unpacking, yard work, general maintenance, repairs and such going on that I’ve been keeping very busy. It’s also making me a little nostalgic for the days when I lived in dorms and cooperatives where most of that work wasn’t my responsibility (except for that one year I served as the maintenance manager for a 30-person household). Boarding schools and dormitories aren’t terribly uncommon when it comes to manga and in some series they even end up as one of the primary settings. With that many people living together in one place, there is plenty of opportunity for all sorts of antics and other drama to ensue. In addition to Paradise Residence, Yukie Nasu’s Here Is Greenwood immediately comes to mind as another example, as does the communal apartment in Akiko Higashimura’s Princess Jellyfish even though it’s not associated with a school.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a copy of Paradise Residence, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little about one of your favorite manga that takes place in a dorm or other communal living arrangement. (If you don’t have a favorite, or haven’t read any, simply 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).

Pretty easy, right? Participants have one week to submit comments and can earn up to two entries for this giveaway. Comments can also be sent to me at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com if needed or if preferred. I will then post the entries in the comments here in your name. The winner of the giveaway will be randomly selected and announced on June 1, 2016. Good luck! (And now back to moving!)

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: Paradise Residence Giveaway Winner

My Week in Manga: April 4-April 10, 2016

My News and Reviews

In case anyone was wondering just how much I was looking forward to seeing Akiko Higashimura’s Princess Jellyfish released in English, I apparently ended up devoting an entire week to it at Experiments in Manga. (Sort of.) First was the announcement of the winner of the Princess Jellyfish giveaway, which also includes a list of upcoming manga releases that I and the giveaway participants are especially looking forward to. (Yes, Princess Jellyfish was mentioned multiple times, and not just by me.) The honor of the first in-depth manga review for April goes to the first Princess Jellyfish omnibus which I (unsurprisingly) loved. I’m enjoying the manga immensely, but I’m especially looking forward to getting to the point in the series where the anime adaptation left off. Princess Jellyfish even got a specific mention in March’s Bookshelf Overload, which was posted over the weekend.

There were a few manga-related things caught my eye last week. Brigid Alverson’s article on the state of the North American manga industry, which focuses on the impact of a few of the top-selling series, is now free to read at Publishers Weekly. The translation and quality of Digital Manga’s original release of the first volume of Kou Yoneda’s Twittering Birds Never Fly drew a fair amount of criticism from fans, so much so that the publisher decided to completely revise and re-release it. Apparently 200 of the 223 pages were redone in some fashion. The new edition should be available sometime in late May or early June. Also, Vertical launched it’s most recent licensing and readership survey for anyone who might have any manga or light novel requests. And last but certainly not least—Kodansha Comic’s will be releasing more of Vinland Saga!

Quick Takes

Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic AnthologyBeyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology edited by Sfé R. Monster. A fair number of independent queer comics anthologies have been released relatively recently, but I’m always happy to see more. Beyond collects twenty works from twenty-seven creators. I was previously familiar with a few of the contributors, but most of them were actually new to me. Overall, it’s a strong, well-thought-out collection.  The anthology shows a wonderful range of stories and characters, but I was especially happy to see a wide variety of diverse trans identities represented. While many of the works in Beyond include some romantic elements, romance isn’t at all at the forefront of the collection. Instead, the stories tend towards science fictional and fantastical adventures—space exploration, battles against monsters, survival in strange worlds, and so on—in which queer characters are not only the protagonists but the heroes of their stories. A second Beyond anthology focusing on urban fantasy and post-apocalyptic worlds is currently in the works; I’m looking forward to it a great deal and will definitely be picking it up.

Goodnight Punpun, Omnibus 1Goodnight Punpun, Omnibus 1 by Inio Asano. The first omnibus of Goodnight Punpun is one of the manga that has left the greatest impression on me so far this year, though I have difficulty coherently explaining why I find it so extraordinary. The series has been described as a surreal and dark coming-of-age story, which is accurate but doesn’t quite capture the intense experience of actually reading the manga. Punpun is the titular character, an elementary school student who, along with the rest of his family, is portrayed as a bird-like creature. This perhaps slightly softens the blows of the story. In addition to dealing with the normal sorts of problems associated with getting older, Punpun’s family is also violently falling apart. And if growing up wasn’t terrifying enough, most of the adults in Goodnight Punpun seem to be on the verge of insanity if they haven’t already succumbed to it. Although there are wonderful moments of hope and humor, the worldview presented in Goodnight Punpun is a pessimistic one and Punpun is learning some very hard truths. Goodnight Punpun is heart-wrenching, but very good.

Paradise Residence, Omnibus 1Paradise Residence, Volume 1 by Kosuke Fujishima. Oh My Goddess! has been one of the mainstays of the North American manga industry, so it’s probably no too surprising that one of Fujishima’s most recent series, Paradise Residence, was licensed. I’m not entirely sure if the series is being released in an omnibus edition or not, but the first volume from Kodansha Comic’s also includes Volume 0 as bonus material at the end. I would actually recommend reading Volume 0 first as some of the jokes and characterization in Volume 1 make much more sense with more context. This is important because the humor, which can be legitimately if inconsistently funny, tends to be based on the characters’ personalities. Despite some of the more outrageous scenarios in Paradise Residence, the comedy is actually fairly subdued. Paradise Residences is a largely episodic manga about dorm and school life at an all-girls boarding school. At times Paradise Residence can be a really sweet and charming series, but every once in a while some nonsensical fanservice is thrown in that’s more distracting than anything else.