My Week in Manga: August 3-August 9, 2015

My News and Reviews

Okay! In addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature, I managed to post three other things last week. First up was the announcement of the Sparkler Monthly Giveaway Winner, which also includes a list of the current, ongoing series being released in Sparkler Monthly (which is only a fraction of the total content). The other two posts were in-depth manga reviews; I took a look at a couple of Kodansha Comics’ recent releases. The first in-depth review of the month went to Naoshi Arakawa’s Your Lie in April, Volume 2, which I enjoyed. But then again, it’s a music manga, so it’s not too surprising that I like it. I also reviewed Masayuki Ishikawa’s Maria the Virgin Witch, Volume 3. It’s the last volume of the series, although the seque Exhibition is scheduled to be released in English later this year. Maria the Virgin Witch is somewhat uneven, but I still found it to be both intriguing and engaging.

As seems to always be the case nowadays, life was keeping me very busy last week, but I still came across some interesting things  elsewhere online. A translation of an interview of Daisuke Igarashi, for example. Last week also marked the seventieth anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States. It’s quite timely then that Last Gasp launched a Kickstarter project to create a hardcover edition of Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen with schools and libraries specifically in mind. To coincide with this, Paul Gravett reposted his article “Keiji Nakazawa: Barefoot in Hiroshima”. Barefoot Gen is a tremendous work. One of the Manga Moveable Feasts was even devoted to it back in the day. If anyone is interested in learning more about Nakazawa himself as well as some of the historical context surrounding Barefoot Gen, his autobiography was translated into English several years ago.

Quick Takes

Prophecy, Volume 3Prophecy, Volume 3 by Tetsuya Tsutsui. The first volume of Prophecy is the one that left the greatest impression on me, but in general it’s a very strong series. I didn’t find the second volume to be quite as compelling as the first, but the third provides a mostly satisfying conclusion to the series even though in some ways it felt a little anticlimactic. One of the members of Paperboy tips off the police and soon the Cyber Crimes Division has been able to identify the four terrorists. As the investigators draw closer and closer to capturing the men, they begin to notice what at first seem to be mistakes, slip ups, and inconsistencies in the group’s behavior. However, everything falls into place once Paperboy’s true motivations for committing all of the crimes are revealed. Prophecy is a realistic, smart, and engaging series with the added bite of social commentary. There’s apparently also a Prophecy spin-off series. I don’t think that it has been licensed, or that there are any current plans to do so, but I’d certainly be interested in reading it.

xxxHolic, Omnibus 6xxxHolic, Omnibus 6 (equivalent to Volumes 16-17) by CLAMP. For the most part I have been enjoying xxxHolic since the beginning of the series, but I think this omnibus has been my favorite so far. I really liked its brooding, ominous atmosphere. The humor that was so prevalent earlier in the series is actually almost entirely gone. The comedy in xxxHolic could be fun, but I have a particular penchant for the series’ supernatural angst, and that’s definitely taken the forefront in the last few volumes. I also initially found the crossover between Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle and xxxHolic to be intriguing, but I’ll admit that I was happy to see that the other series didn’t intrude too much in this omnibus. Instead, xxxHolic is focusing on how Watanuki and the others are coping now that Yuko is gone. Watanuki takes it especially hard and his tendency to slip in and out of dreams is becoming increasingly dangerous. There’s not much that the people who care about him can actually do except to watch over and support him as best as they can.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 3Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 3 by Miki Yoshikawa. There really are witches in this series! With its good-natured comedy and gender play, I’ve liked Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches a great deal from the very start. But with the third volume, Yoshikawa has started to really develop the series’ worldbuilding and is diving even further into the details of how the magic works. The relationships between the characters are also becoming more fleshed-out and complicated, which I’m enjoying as well. One of the things that I particularly appreciate about the series is that it seems perfectly okay for a guy to be crushing on another guy. Yes, it’s because there are some strange supernatural powers at work, but it’s also not treated like something gross. The setup also allows kissing to freely occur regardless of gender, which is fun. There’s still plenty of fanservice in Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, as one would probably expect from a shounen series full of gender- and body-swapping, but I generally find it to be tastefully done.

My Week in Manga: February 23-March 1, 2015

My News and Reviews

February has come to an end, but there is still time to enter Experiments in Manga’s most recent manga giveaway for a chance to win the first volume of Ken Akamatsu’s newest series UQ Holder!, published in English by Kodansha Comics. (The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so get those entries in!) Also last week, I posted two in-depth reviews. The first was of Yaya Sakuragi’s manga Hide and Seek, Volume 1. Because Sakuragi was my introduction to boys’ love manga I tend to be interested in and enjoy her work, but I think Hide and Seek may very well be one of her strongest series yet. The second review I posted was of Richard Reeves’ nonfiction work Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II. Technically the book won’t be released until April, but I received an advance copy from the publisher. It’s an informative though strongly worded examination of the internment camps and the service of Japanese Americans in the military during the war.

Elsewhere online, MangaBlog‘s Brigid Alverson has a new gig writing about manga for Barnes and Noble’s Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog. The Comics Journal has an interview with Breakdown Press, which includes additional information about its manga releases. Paste Magazine posted an overview of Fantagraphics’ manga publishing efforts. Seven Seas made two license announcements: Eiji Matsuda’s My Monster Secret and Kashiwa Miyako’s The Testament of Sister New Devil. Yen Press snuck some license announcements in over the weekend as well: Ryukishi07 and Souichirou’s Rose Gun Days: Season 1, Takatoshi Shiozawa’s Final Fantasy Type-0: The Reaper of the Icy Blade, and Daisuke Hagiwara’s Horimiya. Also of note, Drawn & Quarterly will be publishing a new paperback edition of Seiichi Hayashi’s Red Colored Elegy (bringing it back into print) which will include an essay by Ryan Holmberg not found in the original hardcover release. Finally, Graham Kolbeins put together a short documentary, The House of Gay Art, about a private museum in Japan devoted to the preservation of homoerotic artwork.

Quick Takes

His Favorite, Volume 1His Favorite, Volumes 1-7 by Suzuki Tanaka. I didn’t realize it at first since His Favorite is so completely different, but I actually read (and enjoyed) another of Tanaka’s boys’ love manga several years ago—her collection of short stories Love Hurts. Whereas Love Hurts tended to be a little on the dark side, His Favorite is most definitely a comedy. For the most part, it’s fairly chaste as well. I had actually intended to only read a few volumes last week, but I found myself enjoying the series so much that I ended up reading everything that is currently available in English. There’s really not much of a plot to His Favorite, just an entertaining set up and cast of characters. I especially adore Yoshida, the series’ protagonist who, with his short stature, unpopularity, and somewhat strange appearance, is an extraordinarily atypical boys’ love lead. Then there’s Sato, the other half of the manga’s main couple, who makes all the girls (and some of the guys) literally swoon. Honestly, although he has good looks, Sato is not a very nice person. He does, however, love Yoshida dearly. Of course, since he’s also a sadist, he loves tormenting and teasing him, too. While some aspects of their relationship are questionable, His Favorite is a genuinely amusing series.

Prophecy, Volume 2Prophecy, Volume 2 by Tetsuya Tsutsui. I was very impressed by the first volume of Prophecy and so was looking forward to reading the second a great deal. One of the reasons Prophecy works so well is that the intense social drama the manga deals in feels incredibly relevant. Paperboy’s desire for justice is understandable, but the methods employed by the group of vigilantes really can’t be condoned, though there are many who find their actions satisfying and even entertaining. The sudden shift in Paperboy’s popularity, the increase in the support of the group despite its blatant criminal activity, the appearance of copycats, the Anti Cyber Crimes Division becoming the villains in the eyes of the public, and many of the other developments found in the second volume of Prophecy are frighteningly believable. Internet culture can be extremely toxic and the manga presents a plausible scenario resulting from that. Though I didn’t find the second volume to be quite as compelling the first—much of the manga is focused on the chase rather than the character’s underlying motivations—Prophecy continues to be an excellent series; I’ll definitely be picking up the third and final installment.

The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 4The Seven Deadly Sins, Volumes 4-6 by Nakaba Suzuki. Currently, the fights in The Seven Deadly Sins are probably what appeal to me most about the series, but they can also be a rather frustrating part of the manga. The problem is that when everyone is so incredibly overpowered, and because Suzuki seems to be making up new abilities and powers on the fly, the battles have a tendency to lose their meaning; it never feels like anyone is in danger of actually losing anything of significance. So far, when supposedly important deaths and sacrifices do occur in the series, it tends to be side characters who have barely managed to establish themselves that are falling victim. As a result, the impact isn’t as great as it could or should be. These particular volumes of The Seven Deadly Sins feature a good number of battles, which admittedly can be entertaining. Unfortunately, for the most part the plot falls by the wayside and the protagonists don’t even approach the fighting tournament that they have entered intelligently. However, I was happy that the fourth volume included a side story that explores Ban’s background a bit more since he continues to be my favorite character in The Seven Deadly Sins.

My Week in Manga: December 1-December 7, 2014

My News and Reviews

There were a few different things posted at Experiments in Manga last week. First up was the announcement of the Seven Seas Sampler manga giveaway winner. The post also includes a list of some favorite titles published or soon to be published by Seven Seas. The honor of the first in-depth manga review for December goes to Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Volume 7 by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. Even if you’re not particularly interested in Gundam (I’ll readily admit to not being a devotee of the franchise, myself), I’d still highly recommend the series to readers looking for some great science fiction manga. The Origin is consistently great, and Vertical’s edition remains one of the best-looking manga releases in English. Also, over the weekend, I posted November’s Bookshelf Overload for those of you interested in what made it onto my shelves last month. (Granted, it doesn’t all actually fit on my shelves at the moment, thus the “overload.” There are a few strategically placed piles and boxes in my room, too…)

Elsewhere online, Digital Manga has a survey soliciting Tezuka Kickstarter Feedback. According to a recent e-mail newsletter, Digital Manga is expecting to launch a Kickstarter project sometime in 2015 to reprint Unico, Swallowing the Earth, and Barbara, all of which have previously been Kickstarted. Philip of Eeeper’s Choice expresses some of the concerns over these recent developments. Also interesting, a Publishers Weekly article about Digital Manga’s recent Kickstarter efforts notes that Digital Manga is apparently not planning on actually distributing the Tezuka manga outside of direct sales and the library market. This means that individuals who want the manga will either have to back a successful Kickstarter project, or purchase them directly from the publisher. I’ve been extremely busy at work lately (my immediate supervisor retired on Friday, which more or less leaves me in charge of my unit for the time being), so I wasn’t able to follow much more than the Digital Manga drama, but I did see that Viz made a new license announcement: Junji Ito’s Fragments of Horror! And speaking of licenses, Reverse Thieves has compiled a list of all of the manga, light novels, and anime licenses that were announced in 2014.

Quick Takes

Angel Sanctuary, Volume 11Angel Sanctuary, Volumes 11-15 by Kaori Yuki. It took more than half of the series, but Angel Sanctuary has finally grabbed a hold of me. I’ve enjoyed Yuki’s artwork since the beginning, I’ve always liked the series’ exploration of overarching themes of love, destiny, and personal responsibility, and I can certainly appreciate the tremendous amount of research Yuki has put into creating her mythology, but the story itself has been somewhat of an unfocused mess up until this point. Now things are starting to pull together in a very satisfying way though. I’m actually looking forward to reading the conclusion of Angel Sanctuary instead of just feeling obligated to finish the manga. It’s getting really good and the drama is epic. Yuki still has the tendency to be a little haphazard in her narrative structure, but the series has become much easier to follow. It probably helps that her editors wouldn’t allow her to introduce any more new characters. The cast of Angel Sanctuary is huge, and so it’s understandably challenging to present all of their backstories while maintaining the series’ forward momentum. Fortunately, as it approaches its turbulent end, Angel Sanctuary seems to have found its center and drive.

Manga Dogs, Volume 1Manga Dogs, Volume 1 by Ema Toyama. Up until now, the only other manga that I’ve read by Toyama is her ongoing series Missions of Love, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Manga Dogs. Turns out it’s a very different series, probably best described as gag manga about making manga and the manga industry. While for me it was never laugh-out-loud hilarious, I was generally amused and consistently entertained by the first volume of Manga Dogs. It’s silly fun. Even though she’s only fifteen, Kanna Tezuka recently made her manga debut. Granted, her series isn’t doing so well and is in danger of cancellation. Her high school has a new major specializing in manga, though it’s incredibly poorly run, which is where three pretty boys attach themselves to her. Fumio Akatsuka, Fujio Fuji, and Shota Ishinomori are more interested in the fame and fortune they associate with successful mangaka rather than the sweat and stress it takes to get there, though. As can be seen with the characters’ names, Manga Dogs has plenty of nods and references to established mangaka, but most of the humor comes from the three young men’s misguided efforts to become famous artists without actually putting in any effort.

Prophecy, Volume 1Prophecy, Volume 1 by Tetsuya Tsutsui. Before reading the first volume of Prophecy I actually didn’t know much about the manga except that Vertical was approached to publish it directly by the author. Prophecy is a mature, chilling, and realistic series dealing with cyber crime, social media, how quickly people can turn on one another, and the terrible things that can be done under the guise of anonymity. A small group of vigilantes are taking matters into their own hands, viciously striking out against those who have trespassed against others online. While their methods are extreme, their motivation is easy to understand and even empathize with; the world can be a cruel, cruel place. It’s an entirely different sort of case than the members Anti Cyber Crimes Division of the Metropolitan Police are usually involved in. Specializing in internet crime, they more commonly deal with copyright and intellectual property infringement. But in this particular war of information, people’s lives are at stake, not just their livelihoods. The first volume of Prophecy was exceptional. In my opinion, it’s one of the strongest series to debut this year. I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of the manga.