My Week in Manga: August 8-August 14, 2011

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted two reviews, neither one of which were for manga. I reviewed Book Girl and the Famished Spirit, the second volume in Mizuki Nomura’s Book Girl light novel series. I didn’t enjoy it quite as well as the first volume, but I still love the series’ premise of a literature eating yōkai. I also reviewed Christopher Ross’ memoir/travelogue/biography thingy (it’s a little difficult to classify) Mishima’s Sword: Travels in Search of a Samurai Legend. It’s an interesting read and I’d recommended it to anyone interested in Yukio Mishima or in Japanese swords and swordsmanship.

The Fumi Yoshinaga Manga Moveable Feast starts today! This month the Feast will be co-hosted by Kristin Bomba of Comic Attack and Linda Yau of Animemiz’s Scribblings. Yoshinaga is one of the darlings of the manga blogging community so there should be plenty of great submissions. As for me, I’ll be reviewing the third volume of Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, which may possibly be my favorite Yoshinaga series. At least at the moment. If I had at all been paying attention, I would have also read a bunch of Yoshinaga manga for this post’s quick takes section. Anyway, that was my original intention. The Feast somehow snuck up on me this time around. My bad. So, I’ll all make sure to do it for next week’s quick takes instead.

Also of note: Experiments in Manga’s one-year anniversary is coming up in a few days!

Quick Takes

Adamo Anthology, Volume 1: Strange Love by Various. 2010 saw the publication of several independent original-English boys’ love collections, Adamo Anthology among them. The first volume collects four stories and four pin-up illustrations with the theme of “strange love.” Each story has some sort of supernatural element or other oddity to the featured couple’s relationship—psychics and psychopaths, a kidnapped rookie cop, haunted guitars, a musician who’s shut himself away from the world. Each artist has a distinctive style and its nice to see the variety in the stories and illustrations. The pinups are fun, too. I haven’t heard anything about a second Adamo Anthology yet, but if there ever is one I’ll be picking it up.

Chi’s Sweet Home, Volume 4-6 by Konami Kanata. I’ll admit it, I love Chi’s Sweet Home. Admittedly, I like cats and people who like cats are probably the people who will find this series most appealing. Kanata seems to have anthropomorphized Chi a bit more in these volumes than in the previous ones, but she is still primarily very cat like. I was already familiar with some of these chapters since they were the basis of some of the Chi’s Sweet Home: Chi’s New Address anime episodes, but they were still delightfully charming. I am impressed that Kanata has been able to come up with so many adventures for Chi without becoming too repetitive. Although, if you’ve read any of Chi’s Sweet Home, you pretty much know what to expect by now.

Chobits, Omnibus 1-2 (equivalent to Volumes 1-8) by CLAMP. Chobits was my introduction to CLAMP and I’m quite fond of the series. Granted, I’m a sucker for android stories. To be honest, there’s a fair amount of pandering in Chobits, particularly early on in the series. The fanservice does show up throughout the series, though. To some extent, the fanservice actually serves to further the story as the characters struggle to understand concepts of love, desire, loneliness, and what it means to be human. I like Hideki, the protagonist of the series. As just about every character mentions (much to his dismay), he’s a good guy. Chobits has nice art, an engaging story, and likeable characters.

Color of Rage written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Seisaku Kano. Something just doesn’t sit right with me about Color of Rage. It’s as though a blaxploitation film has been crossed with a manga about feudal Japan. It’s not necessarily a bad combination, but Color of Rage just doesn’t quite pull it off. The characters frequently liken slavery in the United States to Japan’s caste system, but the comparison is oversimplified and therefore unconvincing. King, one of the escaped slaves, doesn’t really convince me, either. His motivations and actions seem inconsistent even though he is intended to be the more honorable of the two. Kano’s gekiga-style illustrations work well for the story, although the action sequences can be somewhat difficult to follow.

Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Black Rose Saga directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. The second of Nozomi’s Revolutionary Girl Utena box sets, The Black Rose Saga collects episodes thirteen through twenty-four of the series. This is my first time watching Revolutionary Girl Utena and I’m still loving it. Sure, the reuse of animation sequences is noticeable and the duels in The Black Rose Saga are somewhat repetitive because of it. Also, The Black Rose Saga introduces new characters and plot complications rather suddenly. But the psychological elements in the series are tremendous and frequently heartbreaking. The Ohtori Academy is one awfully strange place to go to school.

Samurai Champloo, Episodes 16-26 directed by Shinichirō Watanabe. I love this series so much. There’s not much filler in Samurai Champloo and every episode contains some plot or character developments. A few of the episodes are more silly than anything else, but even the silly episodes aren’t wasted. Although humor can be found in each installment, Samurai Champloo handles serious moments and plot arcs well, too. Sometimes the contrast between the serious and the silly can be a little odd, but it works for me. Occasionally the animation in Samurai Champloo can be a little shaky, but for the most part the quality is consistently high and visually appealing. I think Samurai Champloo is a great series. It’s got a great soundtrack, too.

My Week in Manga: August 1-August 7, 2011

My News and Reviews

The first week of the month is always a slow one here at Experiments in Manga. I announced the Ghost Talker’s Giveaway Winner, which also includes a few recommendations for absurd manga. Interestingly enough, most of them have something to do with food in one way or another. I also posted July’s Bookshelf Overload. Since I purchase most of my new manga from Borders, which is now undergoing liquidation, I expect that the lists for future months will be somewhat shorter for the most part. Otherwise, I don’t have much to report this week.

Quick Takes

2001 Nights, Volumes 1-3 by Yukinobu Hoshino. 2001 Nights is probably the best science fiction manga that I’ve read. I absolutely loved it. Granted, I’m already a fan of Golden Age science fiction—the likes of Asimov, Clarke, and such—and 2001 Nights is definitely an homage to that tradition. The manga is a collection of nineteen interconnected stories, many of which can stand alone. But read together, they form a magnificently layered narrative. The first volume takes place in the near future, at a time that humanity is just starting to explore deep space, and each volume takes them further and further. It really is a pity that this series is out of print. If you enjoy science fiction, I highly recommend 2001 Nights.

East Coast Rising, Volume 1 by Becky Cloonan. East Coast Rising is one of the unfortunate victims of Tokyopop’s fiascos dealing with their original English-language properties. Only the first volume of the series was ever published, but not because it’s a bad comic. In fact, it was nominated for both an Eisner Award and an International Manga Award in 2007. There’s not much character or plot development in this first volume except for what can be gleaned from how individuals interact with one another. However, there is plenty of action and humor. I think East Coast Rising is fantastic, the art is great, and I am deeply saddened that we’ll probably never get to see the rest of the series.

The Embalmer, Volumes 3-4 by Mitsukazu Mihara. I have come to really like this series; each volume seems to get better and better. Tokyopop only published the first four volumes of The Embalmer, but from what I can tell it’s up to at least six volumes in Japan. However, the series is fairly episodic, so it makes it hurt a little less that it’s not available in its entirety in English. Although, I would really like to know how things turn out between Shinjyurou and Azuki. I particularly enjoyed the third volume since it delves into Shinjyurou’s backstory. I really like Shinjyurou and there is a lot more to him than first appears. In some ways, The Embalmer reminds me of the film Departures, and that is not at all a bad thing.

Gravitation Collection, Volumes 1-4 (equivalent to Volumes 1-8) by Maki Murakami. This is a reread for me—I realized that I never actually finished reading Gravitation and I wanted a quick refresher before I read the last collected volume. This is a series that could easily give a reader whiplash. Most of the time Gravitation is over-the-top insanity and craziness, thanks mostly to one of its leads—Shuichi, a budding rock star. But from time to time it will suddenly turn overly melodramatic and serious. Usually, when the plot has something to do with the other lead—the romance novelist Eiri Yuki with whom Shuichi has fallen in love. Admittedly it’s not the greatest series out there, but for the most part I do find it entertaining.

Samurai Champloo, Episodes 1-15 directed by Shinichirō Watanabe. Samurai Champloo is one of my favorite anime series. In fact, I think it’s the first series I ever purchased volume by volume. Samurai and hip hop make an excellent combination. Despite Samurai Champloo‘s obvious anachronisms, for a very long time this series formed the basis of my knowledge of Edo period Japan (don’t worry, I didn’t stop there). Samurai Champloo has style and a great sense of humor. I adore the characters of Jin, Mugen, and Fuu and enjoy getting to know them as they get to know each other. The trio’s constant bickering can’t hide the fact that they’ve become very important to one another.

My Week in Manga: July 11-July 17, 2011

My News and Reviews

As I am writing this, I’m sitting on the beach. Well, technically I’m sitting on a balcony overlooking the beach since I’m sure my laptop would hate me if I actually took it down to the sand. Either way though, I’m currently on vacation—the longest that I’ve been on in a very long time. Nearly two weeks!

Anyway. Last week I posted a couple of non-manga reviews. The first review was for Kaoru Kurimoto’s The Guin Saga, Book Two: Warrior in the Wilderness. I liked the second volume much better than the first and am starting to understand why this series is so well loved. The second review was for Ric Meyers’ newest book Films of Fury: The Kung Fu Movie Book. While mainly focused on Chinese films, I decided to include the review on this blog since Meyers’ addresses the portrayal of Japanese in kung fu movies among other things.

Coming soon is July’s Manga Moveable Feast (July 24-30). This month will feature Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket. David Welsh at The Manga Curmudgeon will be hosting. I unfortunately won’t be participating this month, but I have read the entire series and look forward to seeing what everyone else has to say.

I’d also like to bring your attention to the latest Manga Out Loud podcast focusing on the first volume of Takako Shimura’s Wandering SonEpisode #41. As always, the podcast has some great conversation and discussion. I am terribly excited about this series’ release in English and will be posting my own review of the first volume later this week.

Quick Takes

Samurai Champloo: The Complete Series by Masaru Gotsubo. I adore the Samurai Champloo anime; it’s one of my favorites. Perhaps my expectations for the manga adaptation were set too high because of this. Overall, the manga just didn’t work for me and I found it to be rather dull. If I didn’t already care about the characters, I probably wouldn’t have cared about it at all. Even though most of the material after the first chapter is distinct from the anime, the manga still managed to feel like it was retreading old ground. It wasn’t all bad though, and I did like some of the characters that were introduced; both the unlikely magistrate and the Russian amused me greatly. Still, people will probably do better to just stick with the anime.

Seito Shokun!, Volume 1 by Yōko Shōji. Apparently, Seito Shokun is one of the very first shōjo manga to be published in English. Unfortunately, this means it’s somewhat difficult to find. I was extremely excited when I managed to get my hands on a copy of the first volume. It’s a bilingual edition, which makes it even cooler and makes for a nice Japanese language study aid. Naoko Kitashiro, who insists that everyone call her Nakki, is a delightful protagonist. She’s smart and energetic and utterly charming even if she is a little rough around the edges. Actually, her directness and honesty are some of the things that makes her so appealing. She’s a bit of a troublemaker, but that’s part of the fun.

Shout Out Loud!, Volumes 1-5 by Satosumi Takaguchi. Some people might find Shout Out Loud! to start out fairly slowly, and despite being a yaoi title, there is very little sex until towards the end of the series. But this series isn’t about the sex. Instead, it is about relationships and discovering the necessary balance between worrying about others and their needs and worrying about yourself and your own happiness. Shino is a voice actor who has been recently reunited with Nakaya, his high school-aged son. In order to support his son, who has moved in with him, Shino begins to take jobs he previously avoided, including boys’ love drama CDs. The art might not be spectacular, but Shout Out Loud! is a very well done manga.

S.S. Astro, Volume 1 by Negi Banno. Yonkoma, or four panel manga, tends to be pretty hit or miss for me, but I happened to really enjoy S.S. Astro. Many yonkoma available in English tend to feature cute girls doing whatever, but there aren’t that many that feature cute women (and men). S.S. Astro primarily follows four youngish female instructors and the various shenanigans they get into. Other teachers are introduced in a flurry about halfway through the book and I’d love a chance to get to know them as well as the main four protagonists, too. As far as I can tell, the series is on hiatus with only one volume released, but I definitely would pick up the next one if it’s ever published.