My Week in Manga: October 28-November 3, 2013

My News and Reviews

I have been so incredibly busy recently (which is why I don’t have any fun online discoveries to share with you all this week) but I was still somehow able to post a few things here at Experiments in Manga. The most recent manga giveaway is underway and there is still time to enter for a chance to win Sankarea: Undying Love, Volume 1 by Mitsuru Hattori. For those of you interested in the absurd amount of manga that make its way onto my bookshelves, October’s Bookshelf Overload was also posted. And finally, I reviewed the second edition of Hedi Varian’s The Way of Taiko. I myself am a taiko player, and there are very few books in English devoted to taiko, so I am very happy to see the volume back in print in a new edition.

Quick Takes

His ArroganceHis Arrogance by Takashi Kanzaki. Despite being part of Digital Manga’s 801 Media imprint, His Arrogance isn’t exceptionally explicit. It’s also not very interesting and I found myself bored with both the story and the characters. Even the artwork, while fairly solid, wasn’t particularly outstanding or noteworthy. Although, occasionally Kanzaki would capture a look of utter adoration that was delightful to see. Ryou’s father established a modeling agency specifically to aid Ryou’s older brother Tomohito in his career. In addition to helping out with the company, Ryou also lives in the dorms with the models. Kazuto is one of those models, one of Ryou’s classmates, and the self-proclaimed rival of Tomohito. I think I would have enjoyed His Arrogance more if Kanzaki would have kept the manga’s focus on Ryou and Kazuto’s relationship. Instead, Ryou’s rather bizarre and vaguely incestuous bond with his brother severely encroaches upon the story. Perhaps it was supposed to be played as comedy, but it just ends up being kind of weird and awkward.

Real, Volume 12Real, Volume 12 by Takehiko Inoue. Many people assume that Inoue’s masterpiece Vagabond would be my favorite of his manga, but that honor probably goes to his series Real. I absolutely love Real, and I’m not even a huge fan of basketball. Although the sport is certainly an incredibly important part of the series, to me Real is much more about the characters themselves, their internal and external struggles, and their development as people. While the previous volume had a particular focus on Nomiya and his tryout for the Tokyo Lightnings, the twelfth volume turns its attention to Togawa and his efforts to become a better team player—something that is extremely difficult for him. Despite of or maybe because of his natural skill as an athlete, Togawa has always been very critical, harsh, and demanding of his fellow players. If there is a theme to Real, Volume 12, I would say that it is change, and specifically the need, desire, and willingness for change. Several of the manga’s characters must make important decisions about who they are and who they want to be in this volume.

Sankarea: Undying Love, Volume 3Sankarea: Undying Love, Volume 3 by Mitsuru Hattori. The best thing about the third volume of Sankarea? Rea’s father isn’t in it. (That guy is an utter creep.) Hattori also introduces an important new character—Darin Arciento Kurumiya, who is very interested in zombies and therefore very interested in Rea. She also brings along with her a marvelously ridiculous zombie owl. In addition to Kurumiya’s introduction, this particular volume also focuses on Rea and her attempt to return to school after her zombification. There are some challenges, to say the least. Her body continues to decay and fall apart and since she doesn’t really feel pain anymore she has a tendency to overtax herself physically. I was a little surprised to see how toned-down the extraneous fanservice was in this volume. It’s still there, but it’s not nearly as prominent or distracting as it once was. I am honestly enjoying Sankarea much more than I ever expected that I would. It’s a very odd series with very odd characters and I can appreciate its quirkiness. Rea and Chihiro are both weirdos, but they make a cute not-quite-couple.

KajiUltimateSurvivorKaiji: Ultimate Survivor directed by Yūzō Satō. After watching and enjoying Akagi, watching Kaji seemed to be a natural choice. It’s another anime series based on a manga Nobuyuki Fukumoto featuring some exceptionally intense and legitimately life-threatening gambles. But whereas Akagi is calm, cool, and collected, Kaiji is hot-blooded and frenetic. (The actor who voiced Akagi also voiced Kaiji; I was quite impressed by his range and how differently he was able to play the two characters.) Kaiji also has extremely bad luck. His troubles really begin when a friend defaults on a loan that Kaiji agreed to co-sign. A man comes to collect but Kaiji, himself in debt, has no way to repay the loan. But he is given an extraordinary opportunity to clear the debt by participating in a series of absurd and increasingly dangerous gambles. Kaiji is incredibly intense and occasionally disturbing with a huge focus on the psychological aspects of the story and the mental torment and despair of its characters. Even a seemingly simple game of rock-paper-scissors can be a traumatic experience.

My Week in Manga: November 26-December 2, 2012

My News and Reviews

Although it wasn’t a particularly busy week at Experiments in Manga, I did have three posts in addition to the usual My Week in Manga. November’s Bookshelf Overload was posted over the weekend. There were some really lovely deluxe manga and box sets released in November. The most recent Library Love feature was also posted. I took a quick look at some of the manga that I borrowed from my local library: Black Blizzard, Here Is Greenwood, Nana, and Peace Maker Kurogane. Also, November’s manga giveaway is currently in progress. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first four volumes of Harold Sakuishi’s Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad. Simply tell me about your favorite music-themed manga. I also want to mention a marvelous feature on Takehiko Inoue that CNN released as part of its “Human to Hero” feature—How ‘Slam Dunk’ Manga Artist Brings Characters to Life.

Quick Takes

13th Boy, Volume 1 by SangEun Lee. I’m not entirely sure what to make of 13th Boy, and I have no idea where Lee is taking the story, but I did enjoy the first volume—it was delightfully quirky. The manhwa could have been a fairly straightforward romantic comedy, except for the fact that it incorporates a bit of magic, destiny, and a sentient cactus. (Yes, you read that correctly, a sentient cactus.) Hee-So Eun dated Won-Jun Kang, the boy she fell in love with at first sight, for less than a month before he broke up with her. What she can’t seem to understand is why, and so she’s more determined than ever to prove to him that they should be together. But a mysterious boy in her class, Whie-Young Jang, keeps getting in the way.

Finder, Volumes 4-6 by Ayano Yamane. If I understand correctly (and I very well may be wrong), Finder was originally intended to end with the fifth volume, but its popularity was such that Yamane was able to publish more. The sixth volume mostly focuses on Akihito’s everyday life as he tries to get his feet back under him after his traumatic experiences in Japan and Hong Kong’s underworld. It was still a great volume with quite a bit of action, but I did miss the intense, dark drama and complicated character interactions that Fei Long’s presence brought to the previous volumes. The fairly extensive crossover between the Finder series and Yamane’s “In Love” short manga did make me very happy, though.

Real, Volumes 10-11 by Takehiko Inoue. I honestly believe that Real is one of the best manga series currently being published in English. I first read Real after borrowing the series from the library, but it is such a great series that I had to have a set of my own. I really can’t recommend this series enough. Inoue’s artwork is fantastic and his characters are marvelously complex. The series’ realism is phenomenal. All of the characters are struggling with their own limitations and searching for their place in the world. There are triumphs and there are failures, but how the characters deal with them is what makes the series so compelling, powerful, and even inspiring. I can hardly wait for the next volume.

Reiko the Zombie Shop, Volumes 1-6 by Rei Mikamoto. Action-packed, gory fun is probably the easiest way to describe Reiko the Zombie Shop. It reminds me a bit of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, which is not at all a bad thing; granted Reiko the Zombie Shop was published first. I actually preferred the shorter one-shot stories in the series over the longer more involved plot arcs. Although the longer stories have some advantages: there’s more time to get a feel for the characters (of course, Mikamoto doesn’t hesitate to kill most of them off, anyway), and there’s a wider variety of zombies and powers displayed. Only six of the eleven volumes were released in English, ending on a cliffhanger, but the series is entertaining.

Library Love, Part 10

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Good-bye by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Good-bye collects nine short manga from gekiga pioneer Yoshihiro Tatsumi. The stories all tend to be somewhat dark and pessimistic but somehow manage to avoid being overly depressing. Sex and sexuality seems to permeate the tales. The political commentary and social satire can be a bit heavy at times, but overall the stories are all very strong. I haven’t read much of Tatsumi’s manga, but Good-bye seems to be a fine introduction to his work. The storytelling is powerful and the narratives are engaging. Frederik L. Schodt contributes an excellent introduction to the collection. A brief interview with Tatsumi is included at the end of the volume as well.

Mangaman written by Barry Lyga and illustrated by Colleen Doran. Mangaman has a fun concept that, sadly, wasn’t executed as well as I was hoping. The basic premise is that Ryoko Kiyama, a manga character, has fallen through a rip between worlds and has landed in reality. Expect, he brings all the quirks of manga and comics along with him—people can see his thought bubbles, he literally transforms into a chibi, speedlines get in the way and fall to the floor making a mess, and so on. Unfortunately, the comic is hindered by a plot that barely exists and flat characters. There’s also a tendency to rely too heavily on stereotypical perceptions of manga. Still, Mangaman can be amusing and quite clever at times (especially visually) and I did like Doran’s high-contrast artwork.

Real, Volumes 7-9 by Takehiko Inoue. I think Real may very well be my favorite series by Takehiko Inoue. This surprises me a bit since while I enjoy sports manga, it’s not really my “thing.” But Real is phenomenal. Sure, there’s wheelchair basketball and it’s important to the story (and the athletes are amazing), but to me Real is more about its human elements and drama than it is about sports. The characters are confronted by their limitations and either have to overcome them and accept themselves as who they are or else fall into despair. The characters’ struggles aren’t easy ones—they make progress and they have their setbacks. I can’t help but wish the best for all of them. I’ll be picking up this series to own.

Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror by Junji Ito. Uzumaki features some genuinely creepy and disturbing imagery. Kurôzu-cho is a small Japanese village that has become infected with spirals. This doesn’t sound particularly horrifying, but in Ito’s hands it absolutely is. People become obsessed and driven insane by the spirals they find in nature or by those that are man made. Bizarre and terrifying events unfold in the town that can all be traced back to spirals. The stories are fairly episodic, but they do all tie together in the end. Many of them are also somehow tied to a girl named Kirei who often serves as the narrator. I preferred the first volume before things get really weird, but I was thoroughly engaged for the entire series. I was seeing spirals everywhere long after I finished Uzumaki.

Library Love, Part 6

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Banana Fish, Volumes 14-17 by Akimi Yoshida. Yoshida has really ratcheted up the action and plot with these four volumes. There are only two left in the series and I have no idea how she’s going to wrap everything up! I’ve really been enjoying Banana Fish; the deepening relationship between Ash and Eiji is simply fantastic. Things are getting really dangerous for them and their allies and it’s hard to see how they’re going to pull through. Eiji in particular is a very changed person, although he has had a significant influence on Ash as well. I want to see the both of them happy but it’s going to be difficult with multiple crime syndicates and mercenaries gunning for Ash.

Hikaru No Go, Volumes 4-7 written by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. I really didn’t expect Hikaru to become as serious as his is now about Go. It’s fascinating to see him grow as both a person and a player. Sai is as adorable and earnest about the game as ever and is happy to see Hikaru take more interest. Although, it does mean he doesn’t get to play as much as he would like. More and more characters are being introduced as Hikaru moves on from his school’s Go club to being accepted as an insei, hoping one day to become a professional Go player. Even though it’s heading in a different direction than I originally thought, I’m loving this series and can’t wait to read more.

Real, Volumes 4-6 by Takehiko Inoue. Damn this series is good! It can be a little emotionally exhausting and intense at times. We get a bit more of Togawa’s back story, Nomiya’s struggle to find his direction in life, and Takahashi’s discord with his family. These are real people dealing with real issues that aren’t always pretty. The attention given to the un-idealized portrayal of disability, physical therapy, recovery and the effects they have on people is stunning. I highly recommend this series even if you’re not into sports manga because it really is about so much more than basketball. Real amazes me.

Yotsuba&!, Volumes 2-3 by Kiyohiko Azuma. Jumbo is still my favorite character and I love seeing the trio of him, Yotsuba, and her father hanging out together. Yotsuba still manages to be adorable without being annoying, completely confounding her friends and neighbors. I’m actually surprised by how much she manages to get away with; the others put up with her antics with amazing tolerance. Perhaps it’s just that she’s such a good-hearted kid even when she’s getting herself into trouble. It’s really a delight to watch as she experiences and enjoys things in life for the first time.

Library Love, Part 3

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Banana Fish, Volumes 12-13 by Akimi Yoshida. I am really enjoying watching Eiji and Ash’s relationship develop and deepen. By this point it’s fairly well established, but these volumes show just how far they are willing to go for each other. Particularly interesting is Eiji, whose innocence and naiveté finally seems to have been tainted by the chaos and violence around him. In some ways it does seem like variations of the same thing keep happening over and over and there are still six more volumes to go. There are a lot of open plot lines right now, so it’ll be interesting to see how everything ties together.

Hikaru no Go, Volumes 2-3 written by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. I had a feeling this was going to happen, but now I really want to learn to play Go. Fortunately for me, these early volumes actually cover the basics of the game both in the context of and apart from the story. Sai consistently makes me smile over how obsessed he is with the game and it’s nice to see Hikaru becoming more serious about playing. I’m really liking this series so far and will definitely be reading more.

Real, Volume 3 by Takehiko Inoue. Typically, I’m not into sports manga, but Real is fantastic. I picked up the series because I wanted to read something by Inoue (his art is wonderful) and Real was the only manga of his currently available at my library. It’s about wheelchair basketball and tough guys having to deal with tough issues in a very realistic way. Much of the third volume focuses on Takahashi who is struggling to accept the fact that he will never walk again. He’s always been a bit of an asshole, but I still care about him. The emotions, from anger to despair, are intense.

Vampire Knight, Volume 8 by Matsuri Hino. I waited too long between reading the seventh volume and the eighth. Fortunately this volume is mostly a huge reveal of up till now missing back story. There’s some crazy stuff introduced—some of which didn’t really make much sense or just wasn’t thoroughly explained. I will admit didn’t get all of what was going on. Still, there were some interesting plot developments and it’s nice to have some questions answered. The series has definitely taken a very serious turn and it’s missing some of the humor that could be found in the earlier volumes.