My Week in Manga: June 8-June 14, 2015

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted last week at Experiments in Manga. First up was my review of the short comic The Ring of Saturn by Kaiju, a creative team made up of Kate Rhodes and Jennifer Xu. I had previously read the comic online at Sparkler Monthly and loved it, but now it’s available in print! The second review was of Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son, Volume 8. The series is an incredibly important one to me, and I’m very glad that it’s being released in English. The eighth volume ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I have no idea when the ninth volume will be released, so now I’m doubly anxious.

Elsewhere online, the MASSIVE/Gay Manga tumblr talks a bit about the success of Gengoroh Tagame’s first manga for a general audience, My Brother’s Husband. It sounds like there’s an ongoing effort to license the series for an English-language release, which I really hope happens! Drawn & Quarterly made an interesting licensing announcement of its own, Yeon-sik Hong’s Uncomfortably, Happily. You don’t hear about many new manhwa being released in English these days. (Although Netcomics does seem to be making a quiet comeback.) Frederik L. Schodt spoke briefly on To the Best of Our Knowledge about Osamu Tezuka and his works. Finally, Organization Anti-Social Geniuses continues its Manga Advice series, this time interviewing four manga designers.

Quick Takes

My Little Monster, Volume 8My Little Monster, Volume 8 by Robico. The last volume of My Little Monster got my hopes up as the series seemed to be regaining its momentum. I wouldn’t say my hopes were dashed reading the eight volume since there were plenty of funny and dramatic moments, not to mention the introduction of a new character as well as several confessions of love, but the series still isn’t going anywhere fast. Both Robico and the characters know this, too, and even comment on the fact that nothing has really changed all that much from the beginning of the story. Although, I do suppose that it’s an important development that Shizuku and Haru are now officially a couple. (Except that I thought they already were? Guess I was wrong.) My Little Monster does frustrate me a little with all of its one step forward, one step back approach to storytelling and relationships, and it seems to have forgotten some of the major plot threads that were started earlier, but I do still like the series as a whole. My Little Monster can be very funny at times and the quirky characters continue to amuse me. So, I’ll likely keep reading.

Say I Love You, Volume 7Say I Love You, Volume 7 by Kanae Hazuki. Although Mei and Yamato are clearly the main characters of Say I Love You, large portions of the series are actually devoted to their friends, classmates, and families. After showing the outcome of Mei and Yamato’s date (which his sister crashed before his older brother was able to drag her away) and the result of their first night spent completely alone together, the seventh volume largely focuses on Megumi’s story. After Megumi was rejected by Yamato, who remains devoted to Mei, she has been trying to ruin all of Mei’s new-found friendships. She actually ends up making herself miserable in the process and ends up withdrawing more and more from the people who legitimately care about her. Like many of the characters in Say I Love You, Megumi is dealing with some pretty serious personal issues. Her self-confidence has been destroyed, she doesn’t trust other people, and her relationships are falling apart. As unlikeable as she can be at times, it’s still heartbreaking to see her intense unhappiness. But the growth and development of the characters in Say I Love You is excellent.

Wuvable OafWuvable Oaf by Ed Luce. I was introduced to Ed Luce and his work thanks to TCAF 2014’s Queer Mixer where I learned that Fantagraphics would be releasing a collection of his most well-known creation, Wuvable Oaf. The volume opens with “Music Is My Boyfriend,” the first major Wuvable Oaf story arc which follows the titular Oaf, an ex-pro wrestler who now spends his time crafting handmade dolls (stuffed with his own body hair) and working at Oaf’s Home for Wayward Kitties Who Are Really Cute & Need Lotsa Love, and his relationship with Eiffel, a much smaller and extremely surly fellow who is the lead singer of Ejaculoid, a disco grindcore band. The volume also includes a collection of Wuvable Oaf short stories and “The Official Handbook to the Oafiverse,” which contains detailed (and humorous) character profiles among other things. Oaf himself is adorable and an absolute sweetheart. Although occasionally kind of gross, Wuvable Oaf can be surprisingly sweet and charming, filled with all sorts of marvelous queerness. Wuvable Oaf is also very, very funny. And it just so happens to be a cat comic, too!

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 2Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 2 by Miki Yoshikawa. Despite the manga’s title, the witches of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches have yet to make their presence known, though I’m assuming it’s only a matter of time. I enjoyed the first volume Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches a great deal. I enjoyed the second as well, but it didn’t manage to leave as big of an impression on me. The fanservice seemed a little more forced in the second volume, too. Still, the series is a comedy more than anything else and I continue to find it to be highly entertaining. (But then again, I do have a proclivity towards stories that include body-swapping and gender play.) Yamada has discovered that he has a strange ability that allows him to switch bodies with another person if they kiss. He doesn’t know why he has this power, nor does he completely understand how it works. But even so, he and the few people who know about it are more than willing to use Yamada’s peculiar skill to their advantage, whether it’s appropriate or not. (Often it’s not.) This of course means there’s all sorts of kissing and other antics going on.

My Week in Manga: April 27-May 3, 2015

My News and Reviews

Last week was the end of one month and the beginning of another, which means the most recent manga giveaway at Experiments in Manga is currently underway. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still a little time to enter for a chance to win Miki Yoshikawa’s Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 1. An in-depth manga review was posted last week as well. I took a look at Aki’s The Angel of Elhamburg, a bittersweet tragedy which, although it can be difficult to follow in places, is a lovely single-volume manga. And finally, over the weekend, April’s Bookshelf Overload was posted for those who are curious about the manga that made its way into my home last month.

On to other interesting reading and news found elsewhere online! Sparkler Monthly has started a monthly blog and the first post Why do we need “comics for women”? Why not “comics for everyone”? is excellent. Seven Seas announced three new manga licenses last week: Katsuhisa Kigitsu’s Fraken Fran, Wataru Karasuma’s Not Lives, and Ichigo Takano’s Orange (which is also being released digitally by Crunchyroll.) Franken Fran in particular has been a oft-requested title by fans. Organization Anti-Social Geniuses talked with Lissa Pattillo from Seven Seas about the Franken Fran license. Also at OASG is an interview with Hope Donovan, a managing editor at Viz Media. And Mangabrog has posted a translation of a conversation between mangaka Nobuyuki Fukumoto and musician and author Kenji Ohtsuki.

Quick Takes

Cipher, Volume 1Cipher, Volumes 1-6 by Minako Narita. During its time, CMX published some really great manga, including several old-school shoujo series. Cipher is one of those, and probably one of the most eighties manga that I’ve read. The series, set in New York, began serialization in 1984 and includes many references to American pop culture of the time. Anise is trying to make friends with Siva, an up-and-coming actor as well as one of her classmates, when she discovers his secret. He has a twin, Cipher, and they’ve been taking turns pretending to be “Siva.” And so they make a bet: if after two weeks she can tell the two twins apart, they will tell her why they have been sharing an identity. Cipher doesn’t always have the most believable story—for one, I don’t know of any parents who would ever let their child move in with someone they’ve never met even temporarily—but the characters and interpersonal drama are consistently engaging and at times even compelling. So far, I’m loving it. Cipher is often slow-moving, generally focusing on the everyday lives of American teenagers, but a plot twist towards the end of the sixth volume hastens and sets up important character and story developments for the second half of the series.

Junk!Junk! Shushushu Sakurai. If I’m not mistaken, Junk! was the very last manga to be released by DramaQueen before the publisher disappeared. Like Sakurai’s other DramaQueen release, Missing Road, Junk! is a boys’ love manga that incorporates elements of science fiction and action. Also like Missing Road, Junk! is a manga that could have benefited from additional volumes in order to explore some of the complexities of the plot and setting. Reading these manga, Sakurai seems to be overly ambitious when it comes to her stories. However, I think Junk! is the more cohesive, coherent, and successful of the two overall. Even though it’s only a single volume, Junk! has a lot going on in it. A religious cult focused on breeding people together—whether they are male or female—in order to foster the evolution of even stronger humans. A man who holds the key to a closely kept government secret that ensures a person’s survival even in the face a nuclear apocalypse. And, because it is a mature boys’ love title after all, there’s plenty of sex, too, even at inopportune moments. (Seriously, taking time to bang your lover in the middle of a dangerous infiltration mission doesn’t seem to be the wisest decision.)

My Little Monster, Volume 7My Little Monster, Volume 7 by Robico. The last few volumes of My Little Monster left me a little frustrated with the lack of progress in the development of the series’ story and in the relationships of its characters. Fortunately, the seventh volume seems to get things back on track and the manga continues to be a fairly amusing and even endearing series from time to time. Also, I love that after everything that has happened, Nagoya, the pet chicken, continues to make repeated appearances. The cast of My Little Monster is made up of a bunch of oddballs who tend to be socially awkward, but I do like them quite a bit. Part of that social awkwardness means they can be completely oblivious to other people’s feelings, even when those feelings have been clearly and repeatedly stated. To be fair, they’re sometimes oblivious to their own feelings as well. The result is one heck of a mess of tangled and conflicting relationships. The seventh volume of My Little Monster sees some but certainly not all of those relationships sorted out after several confessions of love are made and replies to them eventually given. At this point the series is more than halfway over, so I hope Robico is able to maintain its forward momentum.

Sankarea: Undying Love, Volume 11Sankarea: Undying Love, Volume 11 by Mitsuru Hattori. I was very curious to see how Sankarea would end since I honestly had no idea which direction Hattori was going to take things. And now that I’ve read the final volume, I’m not entirely convinced that Hattori actually knew, either. From the very beginning Sankarea has been a strange mix of horror and romantic comedy, an offbeat story with offbeat characters. Sometimes the ideal balance between the two genres was there, and sometimes it wasn’t. The finale of Sankarea would seem to demand that Hattori choose one over the other, but instead he attempts to satisfy the requirements of both by employing a series of false endings. I think that ultimately the conclusion of Sankarea would have been more satisfying if Hattori had simply picked one ending and ran with it. Like the rest of the series, the eleventh volume of Sankarea had its cute and sweet moments as well its moments of blood and gore. It also has the return of Rea’s abusive father (legitimately one of the most disturbing elements of the series), trying to put him in a slightly more sympathetic light.  In the end, little Bub the undead cat is probably still my favorite part of the entire series.

My Week in Manga: March 2-March 8, 2015

My News and Reviews

And the honor of the first in-depth manga review for the month of March at Experiments in Manga goes to Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki’s Oishinbo, A la Carte: Vegetables which, as is probably fairly obvious, is a food manga about vegetables. I tend to enjoy the Oishinbo, A la Carte collections, finding them to be both educational and entertaining. Vegetables is a good volume, but it does get pretty political. I also posted a list of manga featuring immortals last week as part of the announcement of the UQ Holder! Giveaway Winner. February’s Bookshelf Overload was posted as well, which can mostly be summarized by me yelling “JooooooJoooooo!

I was fairly busy last week, but a few things did catch my eye online. Viz Media’s Shojo Beat imprint announced two new licenses: Bloody Mary by Akaza Samamiya and Honey So Sweet by Amu Meguro. Seven Seas had a pretty big surprise, too—it’s opened a division focused on producing anime and manga themed tabletop games. First up? A deck-building game based on Space Dandy. Tofugu posted a great article about choosing the best yokai books available in English. I’ve reviewed two of the books mentioned—Yokai Attack: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide and The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: A Field Guide to Japanese Yokai—and have read some of the others, so I can confirm that it’s a worthwhile list. Also, Paul Gravett has a lovely post remembering mangaka Yoshihiro Tatsumi, who passed away over the weekend.

Quick Takes

Black Rose Alice, Volume 3Black Rose Alice, Volume 3 by Setona Mizushiro. After a brief detour into lighter territory in the second volume, the third volume Black Rose Alice has taken a definite turn for the darker again. The series can be legitimately disconcerting and oddly provocative at the same time. Alice is getting to know all of the vampires in the nest a little better, but it’s Leo who is in the lead for her affections. The twins are somewhat immature and Dimitri is intentionally trying to not get involved with her, so Leo seems to be Alice’s obvious choice for procreation. Going through with it will lead to both of their deaths, so she is taking her time in making the decision, wanting to feel confident that her choice is the correct one. However, time is not on Leo’s side; his death is already imminent. Alice is unaware of this, though she does notice him acting out-of-character. Black Rose Alice is a strange and disturbing series. As a whole the vampire mythology that Mizushiro has created continues to be unlike any other that I’ve encountered. There is a very dark eroticism to the story as well. Occasionally there are more humorous moments, but they only serve to emphasize the underlying horror of the series.

My Little Monster, Volume 4My Little Monster, Volumes 4-6 by Robico. The third volume back-pedaled from the progress that the story and characters had made in the first two volumes and now with these three it seems as though My Little Monster is stuck in some sort of mire. I still like the characters, most of whom are quirky or weird in one way or another, but I find it immensely frustrating that the series just isn’t going anywhere. Actually, other than the awkward romance, I’m not entirely sure what the overarching story is even supposed to be at this point. However, there is definitely one heck of a love polygon going on. But even with so many unrequited feelings, there doesn’t seem to be as much drama as would be expected. In some ways, that’s actually a little refreshing. It’s nice that the characters can enjoy one another’s company even considering the romantic rivalries. I am glad to see that Haru’s volatile and frequently violent emotional state hasn’t been romanticized, although occasionally it is used for a bit of humor. In part, My Little Monster is intended to be a comedy, but these volumes are generally a bit more serious overall. There are still some genuinely funny and endearing moments, though.

Not Enough TimeNot Enough Time by Shoko Hidaka. Because I’m enjoying her ongoing series Blue Morning so much, and to make the wait for the next volume a little easier, I’ve made a point to read more of Hidaka’s manga. Not only was Not Enough Time Hidaka’s debut in English, it was also her first volume of boys’ love manga to be released in Japan. Even though it’s an early work, Hidaka’s storytelling and nuanced characterizations were already quite excellent. Her artwork is lovely, too. Not Enough Time is a collection of six short boys’ love manga, some of which share a few recurring characters while others are completely unrelated. One lead couple consists of two high school students, but all of the other romances in the volume are between adult men. The basic settings and overall scenarios of the stories collected in Not Enough Time aren’t particularly unusual or unique. What makes them stand out is Hidaka’s willingness to allow the relationships to be complicated and messy; the endings aren’t always wrapped up happily or neatly. Instead, there is a sense of ambiguity and the feeling that characters’ lives continue on well after the manga has concluded. I thoroughly enjoyed the collection.

xxxHolic: Rei, Volume 2xxxHolic: Rei, Volume 2 by CLAMP. After two volumes, I’m not yet convinced that CLAMP knows exactly where Rei is going as it feels a bit aimless. I find that I’m much less interested in the episodic stories of the series than I am in its underlying plot. Only ominous hints are given as to what is going on, just enough to keep the manga engaging. Watanuki is as clueless as the readers are at this point (if not more so), though he is becoming increasingly suspicious about his precarious situation. Both Yuko and Domeki obviously know what is what, but they either can’t or won’t tell him. Rei may be somewhat haphazard story-wise, but I really do enjoy the series’ striking artwork. It might not be absolutely necessary to have read xxxHOlic to follow Rei, but I do get the feeling that the manga will be more meaningful to those who have at least passing familiarity with the original series. (I should actually get around to finishing xxxHolic one of these days, especially now that it’s back in print; I’ve only ever read the first few volumes or so.) I’m very curious to see how Rei ties back into xxxHolic proper, or if it ever does. The third volume of Rei has been released in Japan, but apparently the series is currently on hiatus.

My Week in Manga: September 29-October 5, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga there were three posts in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. To start with, the winner of the Triton of the Sea manga giveaway was announced. The post also includes a list of some of the manga available in English that feature mermaids and/or mermen. Next was my review of Ryo Suzukaze’s novel Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, which is a prequel to Hajime Isayama’s original Attack on Titan manga series. I liked the premise of the novel much more than I did its execution, but it should still be pretty interesting for Attack on Titan fans. And finally, over the weekend, September’s Bookshelf Overload was posted. As for other interesting things online…I’ve been so busy at work lately that I’ve not really been able to keep up with all that’s going on. However, I do know that Seven Seas is currently in the process of revealing seven new licenses via Twitter. I’m pretty sure that Sean will be doing a wrap-up at A Case Suitable for Treatment soon which I’ll link to, but in the meantime you can always check out Seven Seas’ Twitter timeline. (There have been some really interesting choices so far!)

Quick Takes

My Little Monster, Volume 3My Little Monster, Volume 3 by Robico. I have been thoroughly enjoying My Little Monster and its cast of rather quirky characters. However, the third volume doesn’t seem to really move the plot along much, nor does it really develop the characters further. If anything, the series has lost its forward momentum and undoes some of the progress that has been made. After the various confessions of love from the previous volumes, Haru and Shizuku spend most of the third going through it all again. Shizuku has once more decided that she doesn’t have time for friendships or romantic relationships and wants to focus on her studies. Haru is fitting in a little better at school and is actually able to put the fact that everyone except Shizuku is terrified of him to good use, although he’s still fairly volatile and his behavior and obliviousness of others occasionally causes some real problems. So overall, not much has really changed in My Little Monster except that a few more hints have been dropped about Haru’s brother, whom I’m very curious about. I’m still enjoying the series and find its deadpan humor amusing, but I do hope to see more plot and character development in future volumes.

The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 3The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 3 by Nakaba Suzuki. As can be safely assumed from the cover, the third volume of The Seven Deadly Sins heavily features the newly introduced Ban, the Fox Sin of Greed. I’m okay with this because, well, I actually like Ban as a character. Despite being one of the Seven Deadly Sins and therefore being one of the series’ heroes (or at least one of its protagonists), Ban’s really not that nice of a guy. Frankly, he’s an unapologetic jerk (with a very nice set of abs and a fondness for alcohol, though he really can’t hold his drink). But, like the other Sins, Ban has a tragic past to go along with his arrogant personality. He’s also kind of a goofball. One of the things that I particularly enjoy about The Seven Deadly Sins is the ridiculously overpowered battles between the ridiculously overpowered characters. The action can sometimes be a little difficult to follow, but the resulting destruction is quite obvious. I’m also rather impressed by how well Suzuki visually handles Diane, the giantess of the Seven Deadly Sins. She’s huge, but her presence always seems very natural on the page and Suzuki does a nice job of incorporating her into the artwork.

The Shadow HeroThe Shadow Hero written by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Sonny Liew. Initially I wasn’t planning on picking up The Shadow Hero, most likely because I’m generally not that interested in superheroes. Fortunately I realized that was a very silly reason not to read the comic, especially considering that Yang is a fantastic writer and I really like Liew’s artwork and use of color. Long story short, I absolutely loved The Shadow Hero. The story of The Shadow Hero was inspired by an obscure superhero from the 1940s called the Green Turtle which was created by Chu Hing, one of the first Asian Americans to work in American comics. (The volume also contains a reproduction of the first Green Turtle comic, which was a nice addition.) The Shadow Hero serves as the Green Turtle’s origin story. Hank Chu is the son of a Chinatown grocer who looks forward to taking over his father’s store. His mother, however, has much bigger plans for her son and has decided that he will become a superhero, despite the complete lack of any superpowers. With a great story and great art, and plenty of humor to balance the more serious aspects of the comic, The Shadow Hero is definitely recommended.

Sleeping Moon, Volume 1Sleeping Moon, Volumes 1-2 by Kano Miyamoto. I tend to really enjoy Miyamoto’s work, so I was pretty excited when SuBLime licensed her short boys’ love series Sleeping Moon. I was particularly looking forward to it due to its supernatural elements, but in the end I didn’t find it as compelling as some of her other manga which are more firmly based in reality. Part of that is probably because much of the romantic relationship between two of the leads felt as though it was tacked on simply because the series was supposed to be boys’ love. Still, there were parts of Sleeping Moon that I enjoyed, and Miyamoto’s artwork is as lovely as ever. Akihiko’s family is cursed—the male heirs all die young, never making it past their thirties. And since his thirtieth birthday is fast approaching, Akihiko has a vested interest in discovering the truth behind the curse in order to prevent his own death and the death of his cousin. And that’s when the time slips begin—Akihiko finds himself spontaneously traveling to the Meiji era where one of his distant relatives is trying to unravel the same mystery. The moody supernatural and horror elements work better than the manga’s romance and the time traveling is handled quite well, too.

My Week in Manga: June 16-June 22, 2014

My News and Reviews

Well, it wasn’t entirely intentional, but both of my in-depth manga reviews from last week featured manga released by Kodansha Comics. I managed to get my hands on an early copy of Hikaru Suruga’s Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Volume 1, the first installment in a short shoujo series focusing on Erwin and Levi and their pasts. It’s a welcome addition to the Attack on Titan canon and I enjoyed it a great deal. The second review was of Hinoki Kino’s No. 6, Volume 7 which may very well be the best volume yet in the series; it’s intense. I’d still love to read the original novels, but I’m glad that the manga adaptation is being released. I also had a bonus post last week—Random Musings: Cherry Bomb, Cinderseed, and Skyglass. Cherry Bomb is the mature imprint of Chromatic Press. Cinderseed was released through Cherry Bomb and is the prologue to the illustrated novel Skyglass which debuted earlier this month. I’m absolutely loving what I’ve seen of Skyglass so far.

And speaking of great stuff from Chromatic Press, I encourage everyone to check out its Kickstarter to release Gauntlent in print. As for other interesting things found online: The fifth part of Revealing and Concealing Identities: Cross-Dressing in Anime and Manga was posted at The Lobster Dance and focuses on Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son. Sean has a roundup of the recent license announcements from Seven Seas at A Case Suitable for Treatment. The UK-based comics publisher Breakdown Press is launching a series of classic and avant garde manga in translation, starting with Seiichi Hayashi’s Flowering Harbour in July. And last but not least, I discovered manga brog a newish site which already has some extremely interesting content, like a translation of a conversation between Taiyo Matsumoto, Inio Asano, and Keigo Shinzo.

Quick Takes

Click, Volume 5Click, Volumes 5-8 by Youngran Lee. The relationship dynamics in Click are exceptionally complicated, made more complicated by the fact that Joonha’s sex and gender are in flux. After spending sixteen years of his life physically and mentally as male, the fact that he now has a female body has presented some problems. Initially he tried to separate himself from those closest to him, but now they’re back in his life. For better and for worse, Joonha still hasn’t fully explained the situation or his peculiar genetic condition. Some people treat him as the boy he once was, others treat him as the girl he seems to be now. Surprisingly enough, Joonha seems to care less and less about gender, more or less ignoring it in order to focus on other aspects of life. (Which really is how it should be.) Click is extremely melodramatic, emotions run high, and the plot can occasionally take some absurd turns. Despite being somewhat of a jerk, most everyone seems to be in love with Joonha and those feelings are returned. As a result, the manhwa forms an extraordinary mess of romantic entanglements.

Crimson Spell, Volume 4Crimson Spell, Volumes 3-4 by Ayano Yamane. The first two volumes of Crimson Spell were originally released in English by Media Blasters. I was thrilled when SuBLime rescued the license; Crimson Spell is my favorite Yamane series, and there are relatively few boys’ love manga set in a sword and sorcery fantasy world. On rereading the series, I realized that I had forgotten just how funny it can be, too. Granted, the third volume takes a fairly serious turn when Halvir is captured and Vald must go to his rescue. The plot is getting more involved, more and more characters are introduced, and Vald’s curse and the bond between him and his demon self are growing stronger. Halvir and Vald desperately need to sort out their feelings for one another, a particular thorny issue since Vald has now discovered that Halvir has been taking great pleasure in satisfying the carnal needs of the demon without Vald’s knowledge (or consent). Understandably, Vald isn’t particularly happy to learn this. With all of the drama, magic, and sword fights, and all of the smut to go along with it, I’m still loving Crimson Spell.

Eyeshield 21, Volume 35Eyeshield 21, Volumes 35-37 written by Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. These last three volumes of Eyeshield 21 feel like an afterthought to the series more than anything else. The Christmas Bowl is over, but with the Youth World Cup about to begin Japan needs to pull together its all-star team. Basically this final arc amounts to an excuse to bring all of the favorite characters from the various Japanese teams together one last time. Despite it being a world championship, Eyeshield 21 seems to have lost the sense of urgency and emotional investment that was present during the battles in the Christmas Bowl. In part this is probably due to the fact that most of the members of the other national teams are new to the series, so any established rivalries or histories are missing. As expected, the championship game in the Youth World Cup comes down to Japan versus America. It’s a good game, but I found it to be rather anticlimactic in the end. Still, Eyeshield 21 is a lot of fun and as always Murata’s artwork is fantastic. I mean, the image of Ceasar riding a dinosaur? That’s some great stuff there.

My Little Monster, Volume 2My Little Monster, Volume 2 by Robico. I’m quite enjoying My Little Monster. I particularly appreciate the series’ quirky, offbeat characters—a group of misfits with varying degrees of social awkwardness, ineptitude, and obliviousness. Shizuku is currently struggling to find the balance between her accidental friendships, her feelings towards Haru, and her studying, which had been the only thing in her life that had been constant. As for Haru, he’s starting to become more comfortable at school and around other people. But, though he means well, his more violent tendencies still cause some problems. Haru’s older brother is introduced in this volume and some of Haru’s troubled family life is revealed as well, adding some mystery and ominous undertones to what is generally a fairly lighthearted series. I like Robico’s dry sense of humor in My Little Monster. So far, the series has achieved a nice blend of more serious and more comedic elements. There are certainly some uncomfortable moments, but at this point the series has avoided becoming too heavy. I’m looking forward to reading more of My Little Monster.

JJBATV1JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure directed by Kenichi Suzuki and Naokatsu Tsuda. The first season of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure television anime series covers the first two parts of Hirohiko Araki’s inter-generational action manga epic. Phantom Blood is adapted in a mere nine episodes but still manages to hit most of the major plot points and remains coherent despite its quick pace. The remaining seventeen episodes are devoted to the second story arc, Battle Tendency. While they both obviously belong to the same anime series, the individual parts have their own stylistic quirks in the music and animation that give each its own feel. Phantom Blood has a classically oriented soundtrack and palette while Battle Tendency introduces dubstep and bright, fluorescent colors. Some shortcuts were taken with the animation in order to keep to a budget, some of which are more effective than others. However, the story remains entertaining and engaging, a mix of horror, revenge, and intense battles and action with strong psychological elements. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure can be, well, bizarre and over-the-top, but I’ll gladly admit that I get a huge kick out of it.