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.

Manga Giveaway: Crazy Karate Contest

I am currently in possession of an extra copy of Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2, Volume 11: Creative Cures and so I have decided to run a contest. The giveaway is open world-wide, so if you’re interested in a chance to win a free, brand new copy of Ranma 1/2, Volume 11, read on!

I have been studying karate for a little over a year now. I absolutely love it and it has been really good for me. I also happen to love when karate makes an appearance in the manga that I read. It doesn’t matter whether it’s crazy karate like in Ranma 1/2 or Yu Yagami’s Hikkatsu! or something more serious—it just makes me happy. Sometimes, karate might not be critical to the story itself, but is important to a specific character. Eikichi Onizuka, the eponymous character from Tohru Fujisawa’s Great Teacher Onizuka, is a second-degree black-belt and captain of his university karate team. In Yaya Sakuragi’s yaoi series Tea for Two, both Tokumaru and his sister study karate and he helps teach the kids’ class and run the dojo’s training camp.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a copy of Ranma 1/2, Volume 11?

1) In the comments section below, name any martial arts manga or martial artist manga character that hasn’t been mentioned in this post or in others’ comments. If possible, include the style of martial art involved.
2) If that style is a form of karate, you get a bonus entry!
3) If you’re on Twitter you can earn another entry by tweeting about this contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me) so that I know you’ve tweeted.

And that’s it! One person can earn up to three entries in the contest. The winner will be randomly chosen and announced on Wednesday, September 29, 2010—so you’ve got two weeks to get your entries in.

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: Crazy Karate Contest Winner

Ranma 1/2, Volume 1: Battle of the Sexes

Creator: Rumiko Takahashi
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781569319628
Released: May 2003
Original run: 1987-1996 (Weekly Shōnen Sunday)

I had seen Ranma 1/2 sitting on the shelf many a time before I finally gave it a try (at thirty-six volumes, it’s kinda hard to miss). Part of the problem was that I didn’t particularly like most of the covers except for the first one and after a quick flip through a volume or two the artwork simply didn’t appeal to me overly much. Eventually though, I did pick up the first volume, Battle of the Sexes. In the United States, Rumiko Takahashi is debatably best known for her series InuYasha although Ranma 1/2 makes for a very close second. Viz Media first started publishing Ranma 1/2 in English in 1993. Beginning in 2003, they re-released the collected volumes in a smaller sized second edition. This smaller format was retained from volume twenty-two through the end of the series in 2006. (In Japan, the series ran from 1987 to 1996). I’ve only read about a quarter of Ranma 1/2 so far, but let me tell you, despite my initial hesitation, I’m absolutely loving it.

During a training exercise in China, highly skilled martial artist Ranma Saotome, sixteen, suffered an unfortunate accident. Now whenever he’s splashed with cold water he turns into a girl, although hot water will turn him back. His father Genma fell victim to the same incident, except that he turns into a panda. Years ago, Genma made and agreement with the owner of the Tendo “School of Indiscriminate Grappling” that one day Ranma would marry one of his three daughters. When the Saotome’s returned from China, it is the youngest daughter, Akane, that is chosen. Of course, Ranma’s “condition” causes a certain amount of commotion. He’s very sensitive about it, although he’s more than willing to use or brag about it to his advantage, unfortunately often at the expense of Akane. He eventually realizes he may sorta-kinda like her, but there are plenty of obstacles in the way. Akane has a crush on the acupuncturist Dr. Tofu while upperclassman Kuno has declared his love for both Ranma (well, the girl Ranma, anyway) and Akane. And then the embittered and ever directionally challenged Ryoga shows up seeking revenge.

Although it is growing on me, I am not particularly taken with the style of artwork in Ranma 1/2. Most of the younger characters, especially the girls (even including Ranma), have very similar faces, the hairstyle often being the only distinguishing feature. Although, I do suppose this means that the Tendo sisters actually do look like sisters. However, I will gladly say that Takahashi’s layouts and attention to detail are fantastic. Page designs show a nice variety and exhibit flawless comedic timing. Things that at first seem like mistakes are readily, and sometimes unexpectedly, turned into gags. Small, seemingly unimportant and easily missed trifles, like a sign reading “To defeat owner in savage combat, use rear door,” are delightful additions. Another thing that was particularly well handled was Ranma’s sex changes. His character designs as a boy and a girl are close enough that it is obviously the same character (at least to readers) but different enough that it’s apparent at a glance which sex he is sat any given moment. Plus, his body is smaller as a girl while his clothing remains the same and Takahashi never forgets this.

The first volume of Ranma 1/2 is a whopping three hundred pages, so there is plenty of time to get acquainted with the story and characters. I’m not entirely sure why this series makes me so incredibly happy, but it does. It is absolutely ridiculous, over-dramatic, silly and completely unbelievable—which is what makes it so wonderful. Frequently, I would find myself laughing, chortling, and snorting out loud while my housemates wondered about my sanity. The humor in Ranma 1/2 is probably not for everyone, it can be rather absurd and random at times and even the basic premise is preposterous, but I found it to be hilarious. I love Ranma 1/2, it makes me grin, and the first volume gets the series off to a great start. I’m definitely looking forward to rereading volume two, Challenging Situations.