My Week in Manga: January 2-January 8, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga the winner of the Kuroko’s Basketball giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the tournament and competition manga that has been licensed in English. As per usual these days, there wasn’t much else from me, but there is some other very exciting Manga Bookshelf news: The Manga Critic is back! Be on the lookout for some great content from Kate Dacey. Last week I also read Makoto Yukimura’s eighth Vinland Saga omnibus which was, as expected, excellent. (I highly recommend the series as a whole.) However, you won’t find a quick take of it below because I’m going to try to write up a full-length review of it instead. We’ll see how it goes!

Elsewhere online, The OASG has started a new series called How Fans Can Help the Anime & Manga Industries Grow in which industry folk share their experiences an thoughts on the subject. So far, the responses from Charlene Ingram, Viz Media’s senior manager of marketing, and Charis Messier, lead translator at Cross Infinite World, have been shared. Another interesting read courtesy of Sakuga Blog is a translation of a roundtable with three manga editors (Tatsuya Kusunoki, Katsuyuki Sasaki, and Ryouji Takamatsu) discussing the growth of the yuri genre. As for boys’ love, Khursten at Otaku Champloo takes a closer look at the Dangerous BL Manga list for 2017.

Quick Takes

Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Volume 2Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Volumes 2-10 by Masahito Soda. I enjoyed the first volume of Firefighter! well enough to seek out the rest of the manga (while the entire series is now available digitally, most of the individual volumes are well out-of-print) and I am so incredibly glad that I did. I’m only halfway through, but Firefighter! is fantastic. It has exciting action, compelling drama, and engaging characters. The titular Daigo is a rookie firefighter who, although he seems to have good instincts, has a lot to learn. Each rescue he’s a part of is more audacious than the last and he frequently ends up in the hospital as a result. Daigo hasn’t lost anyone yet, but his unorthodox ways, disregard for direct orders, and tendency to go overboard puts his own life and the lives of other rescue workers at risk. It seems like it’s only a matter of time before tragedy will strike, but no one can deny that he has saved people who would have otherwise died. Firefighter! is intense and thrilling, but it actually has a fair amount of humor as well. (For all his bravery, Daigo is kind of a goofball.) I’m definitely looking forward to reading the series’ second half.

Horimiya, Volumes 2-4 written by Hero, illustrated by Daisuke Hagiwara. While I wasn’t quite as taken with these few volumes as I was with the first, I am still enjoying Horimiya a great deal. After accidentally discovering each other’s secrets, Miyamura and Hori have developed a close friendship which is slowly evolving into something more. It takes some time, but eventually they’re able to recognize their feelings and actually act on them. In large part, Horimiya is a manga about relationships of all types. Friendship and family are just as important, and are sometimes even more important, than the series’ romance. It’s also a manga which excels in depicting the characters’ multifaceted natures, showing how they behave differently depending on who is present. As more characters are introduced (including Hori’s father and some of Miyamura’s friends from middle school), the social dynamics in the series naturally change. Horimiya isn’t a manga that has me on edge desperate to know what will happen next, but the characters are tremendously endearing and I do want to see things work out for all of them.

Warning! Whispers of LoveWarning! Whispers of Love by Puku Okuyama. So far, only two of Okuyama’s boys’ love manga have been released in print. I had previously read and wasn’t overly impressed by the more recent Caramel despite liking some of the manga’s individual elements (in fact, overall I can’t really say that I enjoyed it much) but I already had a copy of Warning! so I figured I should at least give it a try. I’m happy to say that I enjoyed Warning! much more than I did Caramel. It’s a collection of rather silly boys’ love stories ranging from the subtly amusing to the overtly goofy. They tend to be fairly cute as well and generally any physical intimacy that is shown is limited to a few kisses and chaste embraces. Most of Warning! is devoted to the story of Hajime, a first year at an all-boys school, and the incredibly awkward relationship that develops between him and an upperclassman who seems to want nothing more than to clean the wax from Hajime’s ears. It’s easily the most ridiculous setup in the entire volume but it can be legitimately funny–all the boys’ love tropes and jokes that would typically be applied to sex are applied to ear cleaning instead and it’s surprisingly effective.

Wandering SonWandering Son directed by Ei Aoki. Takako Shimura’s manga Wandering Son is an incredibly important series to me personally, so I was greatly saddened when Fantagraphics stopped releasing it in English. Initially I wanted to read the entire manga before watching the anime adaptation but, seeing as the rest likely won’t be available any time soon, I finally gave in. The Wandering Son anime is a lovely series. It’s not an exact adaptation of the manga, but it is faithful to the original story and characters. In general, the narrative style of the anime tends to be a little more linear than that of the manga. However, both series provide an empathetic exploration of gender identity, following a group of middle school students who are learning who they are. It’s a fairly realistic portrayal, meaning that society isn’t always the most accepting which can be absolutely heartbreaking. However, seeing the characters become more confident in their selves even when that goes against what is expected of them is exceptionally validating. The anime only adapts a portion of the manga and doesn’t provide much of a resolution (though it does go beyond where Fantagraphics left off), but it is still very well done and well-worth watching.


My Week in Manga: March 28-April 3, 2016

My News and Reviews

A couple of different things were posted at Experiments in Manga last week. For starters, since it’s the end of one month and the beginning of another, it’s time for another manga giveaway! There’s still an opportunity to enter for chance to win the first omnibus of Akiko Higashimura’s wonderful Princess Jellyfish. I also posted an in-depth review last week of The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa, which is an engaging work in addition to being surprisingly entertaining and humorous. Fukuzawa helped to shape modern-day Japan; I was inspired to pick up his autobiography after reading Minae Mizumura’s The Fall of Language in the Age of English.

Quite a few Kickstarter projects have caught my attention over the last week or so. I’m especially excited to see that Sparkler Monthly has launched a campaign to release the first volume of Jenn Doyle’s Knights-Errant in print. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund launched a project for She Changed Comics, a book that will profile women comics creators from around the world, including Moto Hagio, Machiko Hasegawa, Rumiko Takahashi, the Year 24 Group, and others. There’s an illustration zine inspired by and dedicated to gay manga called Burl & Fur that looks like it will be amazing. As promised, Digital Manga’s most recent classic manga Kickstarter is for a non-Tezuka title—Izumi Matsumoto’s Kimagure Orange Road. Finally, I wanted to take the opportunity to mention the campaign for the North American release of the Skip Beat! anime again. The series needs financial support in order to be dubbed, which is a requirement by the licensor for its release.

Quick Takes

CaramelCaramel by Puku Okuyama. The cover art of Caramel makes it look like a cute and sweet boys’ love one-shot, and at times that’s exactly what it is, but there’s enough about the story and the leads’ relationship that’s dubious and questionable that overall I can’t say that I really enjoyed it all that much. Part of the point of Caramel is the contrast between the two main characters, Roku and Iori, each of whom is childish in his own way. Roku is a successful businessman who is afraid of the dark and picky about his food. Iori has just moved to Tokyo to begin his first year of university, and being younger has had less experience in life and love. I think most of my annoyance with Caramel stems from Roku—I have little patience for and a difficult time sympathizing with adults who exhibit such an astounding lack of self-responsibility, not to mention that he’s an utter creep at first. I have no idea how he even survived before Iori became his roommate and eventual lover. Iori, on the other hand, I found to be much more likeable. He’s the oldest of four siblings and so has developed into a very responsible young adult. Iori also loves to cook and I liked how food was incorporated into Caramel.

Livingstone, Volume 1Livingstone, Volume 1-2 written by Tomohiro Maekawa and illustrated by Jinsei Kataoka. I’m not especially familiar with Maekawa, a respected playwright and director, but I recognized Kataoka as one of the creators of the manga series Deadman Wonderland. One of Maekawa’s short plays provides the inspiration for Livingstone, a largely episodic manga exploring themes of life, death, and the human soul. The series follows Sakurai and Amano who help to collect and preserve psycholiths, stones that are the physical manifestations of human souls after they have left their respective bodies. Though at this point frustratingly incomplete, I find the worldbuilding in Livingstone to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the manga, especially in regards to souls. There are a limited number of souls and the world is beginning to run out so that some people, like Amano, are born without them, which is one reason that the work of psycholith collectors is so important. Additionally, souls that are irrevocably damaged at the end of a person’s life will shatter, leaving behind psychic stains that will continue to contaminate others unless the cycle can be stopped.

Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Omnibus 3Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Omnibuses 3-4 (equivalent to Volumes 5-8) by Satoshi Mizukami. I’m definitely behind in reading Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer but I do enjoy the manga. It’s a rather peculiar series with oddball characters who are in the position to either save the world or destroy it—the line between heros and villains can be very thin. Most of the characters have something dark or tragic about their pasts, so their feelings about the world and the other people in it are understandably conflicted. Tragedy isn’t limited to their pasts, either. These two omnibuses include multiple deaths that have great impact, as well as other moments of pain and devastation. But the characters also grow and overcome many of these challenges, becoming stronger mentally and emotionally as well as physically. There are betrayals, both real and imagined, as well as love confessions as friendships and relationships change, some characters drifting apart while others are realizing that people might not be so bad after all. All of this interpersonal drama plays out against the backdrop of a literal battle against monsters as the series ramps up the danger in preparation for its finale.