My Week in Manga: September 24-September 30, 2012

My News and Reviews

Since it is the end of one month and the beginning of another, the most recent manga giveaway has been posted. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first volume of Mayu Shinjo’s Ai Ore!, Volume 1 as published by Viz Media. The most recent Library Love feature was also posted. Basically, it’s a bunch of quick takes of manga that I borrowed from my library.

Also posted last week was my review of Elements of Manga Style by João Henrique Lopes, a Brazilian artist. Lopes was kind enough to send me a copy of the book for review. I found the subject matter to be fascinating and now want to read more about the theory and design of comics and manga.

Finally, there’s one item of news that I want to mention: Hiroaki Samura’s manga Blade of the Immortal is coming to an end. He’s been working on the series for nineteen years. The English release of Blade of the Immortal (which I am slowly reviewing) is still several volumes behind the Japanese release, but the end is drawing near.

Quick Takes

Barbara by Osamu Tezuka. Barbara is a very odd manga, but I’m not convinced that Tezuka was deliberately trying to be strange; I think it just happened to turn out that way. The manga focuses on Yosuke Mikura, a novelist, who happens across Barbara, a young woman and a drunk destined to become his muse. It is reveled early on that Mikura isn’t a particularly reliable narrator, so there’s always a question of how much of Barbara is the truth and how much of it is his delusions. For me, this was the most fascinating aspect of the manga. The final “twist” to the story was heavily foreshadowed and therefore wasn’t at all surprising, but even though it was completely predictable I did like the ending.

Maka-Maka, Volumes 1-2 by Torajiro Kishi. I haven’t read much explicit, adult-oriented yuri manga, but in my limited experience Maka-Maka is one of the best out there. It’s also completely in color. Each chapter is only about eight pages long and centers around a moment in the lives of Jun and Nene. The two young women are best friends and in Maka-Maka are shown to be almost constantly in each others arms, teasing, fondling, and having sex with each other. Maka-Maka is very voyeuristic but not at all sleazy. It is abundantly clear that Jun and Nene enjoy being with each other. There’s a lot of giggling involved and they are incredibly affectionate. Both Jun and Nene have boyfriends, but their relationship with each other is incredibly important.

Makeshift Miracle, Book 1: The Girl from Nowhere written by Jim Zub and illustrated by Shun Hong Chan. Makeshift Miracle originally started as a webcomic written and illustrated entirely by Zub. The present incarnation has been rewritten and Chan has been brought in to handle the art. So far, the most striking thing about Makeshift Miracle is its gorgeous artwork. The color work in particular is beautiful and dreamy. Plot-wise, not much has happened yet, the first book mostly serves to set the mood and scenario, but I find myself intrigued. I’m particularly curious about and amused by Esurio. Current plans are for the next volume to be released in 2013. I’ll certainly be keeping my eye out for it.

Otomen, Volumes 6-10 by Aya Kanno. I am still really enjoying this series. Even though it has a serious and honest message, Otomen is frequently silly and even ridiculous. But that’s what makes it such a delightfully fun series for me. That and Asuka is absolutely adorable when he blushes, which is often. The characters face trials and tribulations, but for the most part Otomen is a fluffy, feel-good manga. Granted, the characters aren’t particularly complex or deep, but I do like them. Which is good, because more and more characters keep being introduced. Technically, Otomen is a romantic comedy so supposedly there’s an overarching story dealing with the romance between Asuka and Ryo, but that particular plot point is going nowhere fast.

Rurouni Kenshin, Omnibus 4 (equivalent to Volumes 10-12) by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The long Kyoto arc continues! I find that I generally prefer the longer more involved stories in Rurouni Kenshin over the shorter ones. This particular arc has taken a few detours along the way, but I’m glad to see that the main cast has finally been reunited. As much as I like Kenshin as a character, I think the manga works best when his “family” is around him. I was pleased to see more of Kenshin’s past and background revealed in this omnibus, specifically his younger years before he became the skilled swordsman that he now is. As part of this, the master swordsman he was raised by and studied under is also introduced, which was nice to see.

Slam Dunk, Episodes 1-23 directed by Nobutaka Nishizawa. I haven’t read much of Takehiko Inoue’s Slam Dunk manga yet, preferring his more serious works, but I was still excited to discover that the anime adaptation of the series was available in English. I’m not quite a quarter of the way through the anime and there’s only been one real basketball game so far, which surprised me. I was particularly impressed that almost an entire episode was able to devote itself to a single minute of game time without losing my interest or feeling too drawn out. While the comedic elements are definitely still there, it seems like Slam Dunk is becoming more dramatic and serious as the series progresses. I’m looking forward to watching more.

My Week in Manga: August 27-September 2, 2012

My News and Reviews

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Manga Moveable Feast concluded last week. I had previously reviewed the first volume of the series for the Feast. This past week, I had some random musings about the inclusion of embalmers and embalming in The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service contrasted with Mitsukazu Mihara’s series The EmbalmerRandom Musings: Dealing with the Dead in The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and The Embalmer. September’s Manga Moveable Feast will focus on Shojo Beat titles. Anna over at Manga Report has already posted the call for participation. Completely unrelated to the Feast, August’s manga giveaway is currently underway. The winner of the Read or Dream giveaway will be announced on Wednesday, but there’s still time to enter!

Quick Takes

20th Century Boys, Volumes 13-16 by Naoki Urasawa. One of my favorite things about 20th Century Boys is the importance placed on memories and the past. Unfortunately, in these volumes, the jumps between the past, present, and future can be a little difficult to follow. The manga also seems to be in danger of losing its direction. Urasawa continues to expand the cast of characters and continues to add new storylines and plot twists, so it is easy to lose track of what has come before. I hope it doesn’t all end up being complexity for complexity’s sake and that Urasawa will be able to tie everything together. 20th Century Boys is still intriguing, and I want to know where things are going.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Volumes 1-4 by Hirohiko Araki. The English release of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is actually the third part of the series as a whole. Also known as Stardust Crusaders, it begins with the Japanese Volume 13. In it, Araki introduces the concept of Stands—supernatural powers and abilities that manifest in a semi-physical form. The Stands fascinate me, especially as many of the ones introduced so far have associations with the major arcana of the tarot. (Tarot happens to be a personal interest of mine.) I am loving JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. It’s a great mix of action-adventure and horror with a ton of weird imagery and a touch of deadpan humor and manly tears. Initially JoJo comes across as a standoffish but likeable jerk; his character quickly grew on me.

Rurouni Kenshin, Omnibus 3 (equivalent to Volumes 7-9) by Nobuhiro Watsuki. I’m still enjoying Rurouni Kenshin‘s more realistic aspects over its more outrageous elements (although they can admittedly be fun). I appreciate that Watsuki continues to include his own interpretations of historical events and figures in Rurouni Kenshin. I also like Watsuki’s tendency of turning antagonists into allies of sorts. It creates interesting interactions and character dynamics as their relationships change as the manga progresses. Kenshin is still my favorite character, but I’ve become particularly fond of Saitō Hajime as well. The third omnibus is the beginning of one of the longer story arcs as Kenshin leaves Tokyo for Kyoto.

The Tyrant Falls in Love, Volumes 5-6 by Hinako Takanaga. Morinaga and Souichi’s relationship is so intenesly messed up and their communication skills are terrible. It’s no wonder there are so many misunderstandings, but it does seem appropriate for their characters. I am impressed that Takanaga has been able to drag out the development of their relationship for so long without their encounters becoming monotonous. They are mostly variations on a theme and could be somewhat repetitive but they continue to be engagin. The best moments are when Souichi happens reaches out to Morinaga completely of his own free will, whether he means to or not. There are two more volumes in the series and I’m very interested in seeing how things will be resolved.

My Week in Manga: July 2-July 8, 2012

My News and Reviews

I was on vacation for most of last week, which basically meant that I was camping in the backwoods of Ohio with nearly thirty of my relatives. Even with no Internet connection and no cell phone reception, I was able to schedule a few posts for while I was away. First was the announcement of the From Eroica with Love Giveaway Winner, which also includes a short wishlist of out-of-print manga. I also posted June’s Bookshelf Overload. Finally, my review for Haikasoru’s first original anthology The Future Is Japanese is up. I was really looking forward to this release and was ultimately very satisfied with it. Because I was out in the middle of the woods, I’m sure that I missed out on most of the manga news from the past week. If there’s anything particularly exciting that I should know about, please let me know! One thing that I did catch: the call for participation for July’s Manga Moveable Feast focusing on the work of Clamp.

Quick Takes

Rurouni Kenshin, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 4-6) by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The more I read of Rurouni Kenshin, the more I find myself enjoying the series. Watsuki does a fantastic job of incorporating historical reality into his historical fantasy. I particularly enjoy the inclusion “The Secret Life of Characters” sections which give some insight into Watsuki’s inspirations and story and character development. I’m liking the series a bit more now that Kenshin’s opponents, while still frequently over-the-top, are more realistic and slightly less bizarre. Kenshin is still easily my favorite character in the series. I was a little unsure of Rurouni Kenshin at first, but now I’m genuinely looking forward to reading more.

Strawberry Panic: The Complete Manga Collection written by Sakurako Kimino and illustrated by Namuchi Takumi. The Strawberry Panic manga has been discontinued in Japan, but this omnibus collects and translates everything that is available (including two chapters which were not previously available in English). The manga was my introduction to the Strawberry Panic franchise, which started out as a series of short stories. It’s a light, fluffy yuri fantasy, but I do enjoy it, even considering that the manga leaves off just as the story really starts to get going. The vaguely Catholic trappings of the all-girls schools are forgotten fairly quickly as the Etoile competition begins takes precedence in the story.

The Summit of the Gods, Volume 3 written by Baku Yumemakura and illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi. The third volume of The Summit of the Gods serves very much as a transition. I would have liked to have seen more focus on the mountain climbing, but the volume is important to both plot and character development. It brings some resolution to Fukamachi’s obsession with Habu and provides the setup for the next major arc in the story—Habu’s astounding Everest attempt and Fukamachi’s decision to follow him. Taniguchi’s artwork is fantastic with stunning mountainscapes and detailed Nepalese cityscapes. This series is one of my favorites and I can’t wait for the next volume.

Basilisk directed by Fumitomo Kizaki. The Basilisk anime is an adaptation of the Basilisk manga which in turn is an adaptation of Fūtaro Yamada’s novel The Kouga Ninja Scrolls. The original novel is still my favorite version of the story by far. The anime does expand on some of the characters’ backstories in ways not found in either the manga or the novel, including giving an explicit reason behind the Kouga and Iga clans’ continued feuding. There are also some nice moments between Oboro and Gennosuke. Otherwise, the anime follows the manga very closely. However, the animation isn’t nearly as striking as Masaki Segawa’s artwork in the manga, which isn’t especially surprising but is still too bad. Oboro’s eyes in particular annoyed me.

My Week in Manga: April 30-May 6, 2012

My News and Reviews

I had a taiko performance this past weekend which meant I was kept pretty busy all week with extra rehearsals. I didn’t get a chance to watch anything since I wasn’t at home much, but thankfully manga is fairly portable. Experiments in Manga had the usual set of end/beginning of the month posts during the week. I announced the Give It Your All Giveaway Winner. The post also includes a list of manga licensed in English that feature mangaka as characters. The bookshelf overload for April was also posted. And, just to mix things up a little bit, the latest Library Love has been posted. I also updated the Resources page to include two new blogs: Sequential Ink, which I thought I had already added long ago, and Matt Talks About Manga, which one of my manga buddies just recently started.

I’d like this opportunity to congratulate Shameful Otaku Secret!, the blog matched with Experiments in Manga in the second round of the Aniblog Tourney, for advancing to the third round! Overall, the tournament was less traumatic than I thought it was going to be. I received some constructive criticism, some not so constructive criticism, a few compliments, and even gained a couple of new readers. Some people loved Experiments in Manga while others absolutely hated it. Probably even more people didn’t really care much either way. And I’m perfectly okay with that.

Probably the biggest bit of manga news from last week is that Right Stuf has teamed up with Tokyopop to publish the third volume of Hetalia for the first time ever in English. They are also offering the first two volumes as part of their newly established print on demand service. If Hetalia does well, they hope to expand the service to include other out of print manga as well. This is very exciting news for manga publishing and I hope they are successful. Right Stuf posted a YouTube video explaining the project and shows off the final product. Brigid Alverson also has a great interview with Right Stuf’s director of marketing and communications about the project over at MTV Geek—Hetalia Manga Rescue: What Happened, and What Might Happen Next.

Quick Takes

Hikaru no Go, Volumes 13-16 written by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. Even though the stress and drama surrounding the pro test is over, Hotta is still able to find interesting ways to keep the series steadily moving forward as Hikaru begins his new career. The foreshadowing is a little heavy handed, but that doesn’t make Sai’s fate any less heartbreaking once it finally comes to pass. I was very happy to see Isumi return as a character. Isumi is important to Hikaru’s story and development, but the series also lets him take the lead briefly while exploring the world of Chinese Go—introducing some fantastic secondary characters in the process. I hope we’ll see them return as well.

R.O.D: Read or Die, Volumes 1-4 written by Hideyuki Kurata and illustrated by Shutaro Yamada. Read or Die started as a light novel series, but the manga is also written by the same author. I love the conceit of the Read or Die universe so much that I like the manga more than I probably should. Papermasters are bibliophiles who love books and are loved by books in return to such an extent that they have gained supernatural control over paper itself. Yomiko Readman, also known as “The Paper,” is an agent of the ominous British Library and is an extremely talented papermaster. It’s a pity that the manga doesn’t quite live up to its premise, with a plot that is all over the place and occasionally incoherent. The first volume could almost belong to an entirely different story.

Reversible, Volume 1 by Various. I had high hopes for what was supposed to be the first volume of the Reversible boys’ love anthology series. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The title of the anthology is somewhat misleading—so far, there are no reversible couples to be found (which makes me very sad). Perhaps the name is supposed to reflect the a variety of stories? Except, there really isn’t much variety contained. Reversible collects eleven stories, many of which are the creators’ debuts in English. The selections are either short, standalone manga or the beginning of a longer story. None of them were particularly noteworthy. As far as I know, there are no immediate plans for the release of a second volume.

Rurouni Kenshin, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-3) by Nobuhiro Watsuki. Rurouni Kenshin is such a popular and successful manga that new adaptations are still being made of it. Kenshin is a wandering swordsman during the Meiji era. Although he once worked as an assassin during the final days of the Tokugawa shogunate, he wants nothing more than to live peacefully and atone for the lives he has taken. I really like Kenshin as a character. He’s easily my favorite part of the series up to this point. Although I’m not particularly riveted by the manga as a whole yet, I do appreciate the story’s historical basis and inspiration. Some of Kenshin’s more outrageous opponents seem a bit odd and out of place considering the more realistic aspects of the manga, but I am liking the series.

Manga Giveaway: Rurouni Kenshin Contest Winner

And the winner of the Rurouni Kenshin Contest is…Rij!

As the winner, Rij will be receiving the first omnibus volume of Nobuhiro Watsuki’s Rurouni Kenshin published by Viz Media. A big thank you to everyone who entered! As part of the giveaway, I had entrants tell me a little about their favorite samurai manga. Their responses can be read in the Rurouni Kenshin Contest comments. I was happy to see a lot of love for Natsume Ono’s House of Five Leaves (both the anime and the manga) which is a personal favorite of mine. The Samurai Champloo anime was also mentioned several times and I happen to adore that series as well. I haven’t read the manga adaptation yet, though.

As some of you probably know, I often use my manga giveaways as an excuse to create lists. This giveaway is no exception. Here for your samurai manga enjoyment are two lists. The first list consists of some favorite samurai series (identified by me and those who commented) while the second list collects other samurai manga that have been licensed in English. This list is almost certainly incomplete, but it’s what I could come up with off the top of my head.

Some favorite samurai series:
Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura
Gin Tama by Hideaki Sorachi
House of Five Leaves by Natsume Ono
Lone Wolf and Cub written by Kazuo Koike, illustrated by Goseki Kojima
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers by Fumi Yoshinaga
Satsuma Gishiden by Hiroshi Hirata
Samurai Deeper Kyo by Akimine Kamijyo
Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai
Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue

And some more suggestions (licensed in English):
Afro Samurai by Takashi Ohazaki
Dororo by Osamu Tezuka
Kaze Hikaru by Taeko Watanabe 
Kurogane by Kei Toume
Lady Snowblood by written by Kazuo Koike, illustrated by Kazuo Kamimura
Path of the Assassin by Kazuo Koike, illustrated by Goseki Kojima
Peacemaker Kurogane by Nanae Chrono
Red Hot Chili Samurai by Yoshitsugu Katagiri
Rurouni Kenshin by Nobuhiro Watsuki
Samurai Champloo by Masaru Gotsubo
Samurai Crusader written by Hiroi Oji, illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami
Samurai Executioner written by Kazuo Koike, illustrated by Goseki Kojima
Samurai Legend by Kan Furuyama 
Samurai Seven by Mizutaka Suhou
Samurai Shodown written by Kyoichi Nanatsuki, illustrated by Yuki Miyoshi