My Week in Manga: December 30, 2013-January 5, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week I announced the 4-Koma for You Winner. In case you’re looking for something to read, the post includes a list of yonkoma manga that have been released in print in English, too. I also posted December’s Bookshelf Overload last week, for those of you interested in following my adventures in buying way too much manga and other media. Finally, over the weekend I posted a review of Delavier’s Mixed Martial Arts Anatomy. This is one of the most tangentially related reviews I’ve written at Experiments in Manga. Why is it here? Simply because I’m a karateka and found it to be a useful book. It’s a great strength training resource for any martial artist. Plus, it has lots of illustrations.

I’ve more or less been on vacation for the last two weeks, so I haven’t been online much except to make sure that things were updated here at Experiments in Manga. Even so, there were two things in particular that caught my eye recently. First and foremost, the Massive anthology of gay manga originally scheduled to be published by PictureBox has been picked up by Fantagraphics! Right now, it looks like we should see the release sometime in October 2014. The other news that I was excited to hear about is that we’ll be getting a second season of the Mushishi anime nearly ten years after the first season aired. I loved Yuki Urushibara’s original manga (which is now unfortunately out-of-print in English) and I loved the first anime series so I’m looking forward to the second season a great deal.

Quick Takes

A Bride's Story, Volume 5A Bride’s Story, Volume 5 by Kaoru Mori. The art in A Bride’s Story always blows me away. Mori’s illustrations are so beautiful and detailed that it’s no surprise that there’s such a long wait in between each volume’s release. Most of the fifth volume of the series is devoted to the wedding between the twins and their husbands-to-be. The best word that I can think of to describe this volume is “joyous.” Mori shows the preparations that both families make for the happy occasion—a celebration that lasts an entire week. There’s dance and song, levity, plenty of food, and numerous guests. It’s extremely satisfying to see the entire community’s participation in the event. The manga as a whole is a gorgeous work, but the wedding itself is quite lovely. I enjoyed seeing the twins’ story develop. Their outgoing personalities might be annoying for some readers, but in the end I found the two of them to be quite endearing. Now begins the long wait for the next volume of A Bride’s Story.

Castle Mango, Volume 1Castle Mango, Volume 1 written by Narise Konohara and illustrated by Muku Ogura. Despite what the cover and title page of Digital Manga’s release indicate, Konohara wrote Castle Mango while Ogura was responsible for the artwork. Konohara is the same author who wrote About Love, which I quite enjoyed, so I was interested in reading Castle Mango. Both manga are slightly atypical boys’ love stories. Instead of being straightforward man-meets-man romances, the stories are more layered. There is an emphasis on well-developed characters and actual plot; it’s not just about getting guys into bed with each other. The leads of Castle Mango are rather unusual as well. Yorozu’s family owns and runs a love hotel while Tagame is a well-known porn director. Yorozu more or less blackmail’s Tagame into a relationship in order to keep him away from his brother, but he doesn’t even really like the older man. Their story is concluded in the second and final volume of Castle Mango. I’m very curious to see how things unfold, so I’ll definitely be picking it up.

A Centaur's Life, Volume 1A Centaur’s Life, Volume 1 by Kei Murayama. One of several “monster girl” manga recently released by Seven Seas, A Centaur’s Life is far less ecchi than the other titles. Plus, this one includes plenty of monster boys in addition to the monster girls, which I greatly appreciate. The manga is definitely centered around the series’ young women, though. The titular centaur is Kimihara Himeno; the manga is mostly a slice-of-life story which follows her and her other high school friends. (As a side note, I adore Himeno’s wild mass of hair on the cover.) Some people might find reading the first chapter a little uncomfortable as the story revolves around the girls’ privates, but following chapters are much less questionable. Overall, the manga was rather charming. And I am interested in learning more about the world that Murayama has imagined; it seems that some significant thought has been put into it. Although not the focus of the series, politics, law, cultural differences, disputes between races, and history have all been taken into consideration.

Ranma 1/2, Volume 15Ranma 1/2, Volumes 15-20 by Rumiko Takahashi. It’s been so long since I’ve read any of Ranma 1/2 that I had forgotten how much I love the series. After the main characters and basic premise are established, the manga becomes fairly episodic so it’s easy to pick up part way through the series and still know what’s going on. I find Ranma 1/2 to be hilarious and particularly enjoy the absurd martial arts that Takahashi comes up with. These particular volumes feature martial arts based around eating food extremely quickly and cheerleading, just to give two examples. I like the characters and I like the story, as silly and superfluous as it can be. Akane and Ranma seem to be no closer to getting married than they were at the beginning of the series. They argue quite a bit, but there are moments of genuine affection, too. Granted, those moments are frequently interrupted and don’t tend to last very long. The series’ off-the-wall comedy won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for me Ranma 1/2 is highly entertaining and a lot of fun.

Otome Yokai ZakuroOtome Yokai Zakuro directed by Chiaki Kon. The Otome Yokai Zakuro anime is based on an ongoing manga series by Lily Hoshino (which hasn’t been licensed in English.) The story takes place in an alternate version of Japan’s Meiji Era in which yokai and humans coexist. The office of Spirit Affairs is created in order to improve relations between the two groups. It’s made up of a small contingent of military officers and half-spirit girls who team up to work together. I’ll admit, I liked the first part of the series which explored the concerns over Japan’s Westernization and loss of traditions through the conflicts between humans and yokai much more than I did its end. Seeing as the opening has a bit of a spoiler in it, the series’ major plot twist was clearly planned well in advance, but it just didn’t seem to flow well as a whole as the narrative suddenly changes direction. The romantic subplots are broadcast from the very first episode—it’s obvious who will be falling in love with who—so none of those developments were particularly surprising or unexpected, either.

Manga Giveaway: Return of Ranma Winner

And the winner of the Return of Ranma manga giveaway is…Matthew J. Brady!

Only three people entered the contest this month, which makes me sad, but a huge thank you to those of you who visited and commented! As the winner of the giveaway, Matthew will be receiving copies of the first two volumes of Ranma 1/2 by Rumiko Takahashi. These are in the larger, first edition format published by Viz Media. I’d also like to mention that Matthew has a comics blog that includes manga content, Warren Peace Sings the Blues, which is worth checking out.

This giveaway was in honor of April’s Rumiko Takahashi Manga Moveable Feast and so I asked people to declare their favorite Takahashi manga and post a link to one of the Feast entries. Takahashi’s works appeal to a lot of people for a lot of different reasons and so no one gave the same answer. One Pound Gospel, Rin-ne, Maison Ikkoku, Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura, and InuYasha were all mentioned. (See the Return of Ranma comments for more detail.) People have shown a tremendous amount of love for Takahashi during the Feast and this has inspired me to try more of her works myself.

Here are the Feast links that were posted:

Random Sunday question: Takahashi (David Welsh, The Manga Curmudgeon)
MMF: Mermaid Saga and Rin-ne (Katherine Dacey, The Manga Critic)
Because It’s Funny: Rumiko Takahashi and Characterization (Sean Gaffney, A Case Suitable For Treatment)

Manga Giveaway: Return of Ranma

The very first manga I gave away at Experiments in Manga was a volume of Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2. And now, in honor of the Rumiko Takahashi Manga Moveable Feast, I’m giving more Ranma 1/2 away—specifically, first editions of the first two volumes. As always, the giveaway is open worldwide!

Rumiko Takahashi is one of the few mangaka to have almost all of her work translated for English reading audiences with most of it still being in print. Plenty of her manga have also had anime adaptations made. Even if they don’t recognize Takahashi by name, many people are familiar with InuYasha or Ranma 1/2 either through the anime or manga. I was very excited when Takahashi was selected for the Manga Moveable Feast for April 2011. The manga of Ranma 1/2 was my introduction to Takahashi and was one of the first series I fell in love with. Viz Media originally began publishing the series in 1993. In 2003, they began re-releasing the previously published volumes in a second edition. Although the content is the same, I actually tend to prefer the first editions—mostly because they’re bigger. Unfortunately, only the first twenty-one volumes were published in the larger size.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win the first two volumes of Ranma 1/2?

1) In the comments section below, tell me which of Rumiko Takahashi’s works is your favorite. Haven’t read any Takahashi yet or maybe you can’t stand her manga? That’s okay! Just mention that instead.
2) Visit another Rumiko Takahashi Manga Moveable Feast entry and post the link to it in the comments here. The Rumiko Takahashi Manga Moveable Feast’s index or the Takahashi MMF label at Panel Patter are good places to look to find relevant posts.
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

That’s it! One person may earn up to three entries for this manga giveaway. You have one week to enter for a chance to win. The winner will be randomly selected on May 4, 2011. Good luck!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, 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: Return of Ranma Winner

My Week in Manga: April 18-April 24, 2011

My News and Reviews

It is time for the Rumiko Takahashi Manga Moveable Feast! The feast begins today and will end on Sunday. Rob McMonigal at Panel Patter will be hosting. Rob has also been running a spotlight on Takahashi that is worth checking out. There is also a fantastic Takahashi fansite, Rumic World, that has a ton of great information available about Takahashi and her works. As for me, I spent all last week immersing myself in Takahashi manga and anime in order to prepare for the Manga Moveable Feast. So, all of my quick takes feature Takahashi. My manga giveaway for this month (starting on Wednesday) will be the first two volumes of Ranma 1/2. And on Friday, I’ll be posting an in-depth review of the first volume of Mermaid Saga. I’ll should also mention a review that I previously posted for Ranma 1/2, Volume 1: Battle of the Sexes.

As for last week’s posts, I reviewed Eiji Yoshikawa’s epic historical novel Musashi and Isuna Hasekura’s light novel Spice & Wolf, Volume 3. I’m really enjoying the Spice & Wolf series more than I thought I would; I absolutely adore Lawrence and Holo. Musashi is the basis for numerous films as well as Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond. I promised myself I would read the novel before starting the manga series, and now I have. It’s a very long book, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Quick Takes

InuYasha, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-3) by Rumiko Takahashi. I’m not sure if it’s because I saw the anime before I read the manga, but I think I actually prefer the anime in this case. Granted, I’ve not read or seen enough of InuYasha to be able to know for sure. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the manga because I did. It’s certainly not my favorite work by Takahashi, though. Although, some things do make more sense in the manga than they do in the anime. However, the manga feels like it’s rushing from battle to battle without taking time to really develop the characters or story. It reads very, very quickly which is both a good and a bad thing. The yōkai are varied and their fights are entertaining.

Mermaid Saga, Volumes 1-4 by Rumiko Takahashi. Mermaid Saga is one of Takahashi’s shortest series. It’s also dark, creepy, disconcerting, and utterly fantastic. If you couldn’t tell, I loved it. Eating the flesh of a mermaid potentially grants the gift of immortality, but those who aren’t so lucky die a painful death or are transformed into monstrous “lost souls” from the poison. But even life as an immortal may be more of a curse than a blessing. Yuta has been alive for five hundred years, dying and returning to life dozens of times, and is tired of his lonely existence. As he searches for a way to return to normal he occasionally comes across other immortals, each with their own tragic history. Messing around with life and death never ends well.

Ranma 1/2, Volumes 2-14 by Rumiko Takahashi. Oh, Ranma 1/2, how I adore you. This series is one of the first manga I fell in love with and collected in its entirety. It was also my introduction to Takahashi. Some of the humor is going to be hit and miss simply due to personal preference—I, for one, can barely stand the principal. Still, I am impressed by how long Takahashi can keep the joke going without it feeling too repetitive. Ranma 1/2 is absurd and ridiculous and a tremendous amount of fun. Even though I had previously read the series, I still found it to be amusing. Full of gender swapping, not to mention species swapping, and an abundance of crazy and insane martial arts, I can’t help but love it.

InuYasha: Season 1, Episodes 1-19 directed by Masashi Ikeda and Yasunao Aoki. Although I enjoyed the anime from the beginning, initially it felt too episodic to me. But as the series progresses an overarching plot is introduced. This is what I needed to really invest myself in the story. Although I really like the Higurashi family and appreciate when they get some screen time, I greatly prefer the episodes that take place during the Warring States period over those that take place during the modern era. Actually, I like most of the characters—their strong personalities make for some great interactions. While I might not continue reading the manga, I’ll probably be watching more of the anime.

Urusei Yatsura, Episodes 1-4 directed by Mamoru Oshii. I don’t even remember when or where I got this DVD, but fortunately the Manga Moveable Feast reminded me that I owned it. It’s really too bad that I took so long to finally watch it, because it has some very funny stuff in it. In fact, I found myself maniacally giggling out loud on several occasions. I’ve only seen these four episodes (out of one hundred ninety five) but I can safely say I would like to see more. It’s a weird and strange story about obnoxious aliens that intend to invade Earth but are stopped when they are defeated in a game of tag by a lecherous high schooler. Some of the aliens stick around and hijinks ensue.

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.