My Week in Manga: October 10-October 16, 2016

My News and Reviews

I was a little preoccupied last week, dealing with some unexpected developments at work and home, so I wasn’t online much at all. However, I did still manage to post September’s Bookshelf Overload in which I reveal the manga, comics, books, and anime that I picked up last month. Also, a few weeks ago I mentioned the short story “The Mud God” which is tangentially related to a commission that Jenn Grunigen wrote for me. Well, it’s now freely available to read online!

Quick Takes

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Volume 2Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, Volumes 2-4 by Izumi Tsubaki. My introduction to Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun was through the anime series which I adored. Because I loved the anime, it only made sense for me to seek out the original manga as well. Unsurprisingly, I enjoyed the first volume immensely. Despite that, it’s actually been quite a while since I’ve read any of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, which just means that I had the chance to fall in love with the series all over again. And I did, wholeheartedly. The series’ comedy is largely based on the characters and their personalities. The characters themselves are all a little odd but they are also incredibly endearing. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun plays around with expectations, so the personality quirks of the characters intentionally defy stereotypes and are deliberately unexpected. In part, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is also a romantic comedy. The cast is fairly large and there could be any number of couples among the members except for the fact that most of the characters are completely oblivious of or misinterpret their own feelings. No one is actually together in the sense that they are dating in Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun (at least not yet), but in many cases they might as well be. The various relationships in Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun are close ones and are yet another major source of the manga’s good-natured humor.

The Prince and the Swan, Volume 2The Prince and the Swan, Volumes 1-2 by April Pierce and Gareth C.J. Wee. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake, itself based on Russian folklore, has been the inspiration and basis for countless other works. One of the more recent retellings that I’m aware of is the webcomic The Prince and the Swan which began in 2013. I discovered the comic while at the 2016 Toronto Comics Arts Festival where the second print volume was making its debut; I couldn’t pass up Swan Lake reimagined as a queer fairytale. Knowledge of the ballet’s story isn’t at all necessary to enjoy The Prince and the Swan although readers who are familiar with it will be in a better position to appreciate the changes made for the comic. The basic premise of the story remains the same, but in the case of The Prince and the Swan Odette is now Odet, a prince who suffers from a curse that transforms him into a swan during the day. The other lead character in the comic is Prince Siegfried who is reluctantly preparing for his coronation and marriage as king. A chance encounter between the two men will change the course of both of their lives. The pacing of The Prince and the Swan seems a little slow at first, but the artwork, characterization, and storytelling quickly improve and gain confidence as the comic progresses. I look forward to seeing how The Prince and the Swan continues to develop.

Say I Love You, Volume 15Say I Love You, Volume 15 by Kanae Hazuki. One would think that after fifteen volumes Say I Love You would no longer surprise me, but I continue to be impressed by its honesty and authenticity. I do wonder if the recently introduced Aoi twins will continue to play a role in the series as most of the main characters are graduating high school in pursuit of their individual futures. While I was initially a little unsure of the addition of prominent new characters so late in the series, I ended up really liking them and their story arcsI’d now hate to see them discarded so soon. (Granted, Kai still has another year to go before he graduates, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the twins will continue to make appearances.) The fifteenth volume of Say I Love You would have been a natural ending point for the series. As many of the characters are preparing to go their separate ways, either by immediately entering the workforce or by continuing their education, a fair amount of time is devoted to introspection and reflection on the past. Mei in particular has changed significantly since the beginning of the series, but all of the characters have grown and matured as individuals. The characterization in Say I Love You has always been one of the series’ strong points. It will be interesting to see where the manga goes from here as both the story and characters move beyond high school.

Run, Melos! and Other StoriesRun, Melos! and Other Stories by Osamu Dazai. I forget exactly when it was that I first learned of Dazai’s short story “Run, Melos!” but it’s more or less a staple of the Japanese education system so references to the work are fairly common in Japanese popular culture. I’ve been wanting to read to story for quite some time but was under the mistaken impression that it wasn’t actually available in English. However, I recently discovered that it had indeed been translated as part of the Kodansha English Library series… which was only ever released in Japan. Thanks to the power of inter-library loan, I was finally able to read “Run, Melos!” along with six of Dazai’s other works of short fiction: “A Promise Fulfilled,” “One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji,” “Schoolgirl,””Cherry Leaves and the Whistler,” “Eight Scenes of Tokyo,” and “One Snowy Night.” I had previously read another translation of Schoolgirl but the other stories were all new to me. Normally when I think about Dazai it’s his tragic novel No Longer Human that immediately comes to mind; I had actually forgotten how humorous some of his stories can be. Even though there is still a fair amount of melancholy to be found, this humor is much more apparent in Run, Melos! and Other Stories. Overall, the volumes a charming collection of stories mostly set in early twentieth-century Japan (the exception to that being “Run, Melos!” itself) with surprisingly relatable characters.



My Week in Manga: August 8-August 14, 2016

My News and Reviews

Two posts went up at Experiments in Manga last week in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. The first was the Bookshelf Overload for July in which I talk a little about my manga purchases for the month and the fact that I went a little overboard during some recent sales. The second was a brief wrap-up of my recently completed horror manga review project; it took me around a year and a half to review each volume in Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare and Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi. I’d like to do another review project in the future (and have readers of Experiments in Manga vote on the featured manga as they have for the past two projects), but since I’m currently following reduced posting schedule I’m going to hold off on that for the moment.

Elsewhere, NPR recently released a segment featuring food manga like Food Wars. (Interestingly, NPR was actually where I first learned of Death Note.) The seventh part of “The Sparkling World of 1970s Shojo Manga” was posted at The Lobster Dance and focuses on Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena. Also posted last week were not one, but two interviews with Naoshi Arakawa, the creator of Your Lie in April, from when he was visiting the United States for Anime Expo: Misaki C. Kido interviewed Arakawa for Kodansha Comics while Deb Aoki interviewed Arakawa for Anime News Network. And since I’m mentioning interviews, manga translator Zack Davisson was also interviewed over at The Comics Journal about Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro.

Finally, a bit of licensing news: Viz Media announced at Otakon that it would be releasing Akira Himekawa’s The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Kyousuke Motomi’s Queens Quality (the sequel to QQ Sweeper), and Takako Shimura’s Sweet Blue Flowers. For me, the most exciting and unexpected license was Sweet Blue Flowers. Digital Manga previously had the rights to the series but only released one volume of a less-than-stellar digital edition. (Jocilyn Wagner posted a guest review of the manga here a while back.) Before that, a version of Sweet Blue Flowers was available through the now defunct JManga. Shimura’s Wandering Son is a tremendously important series to me, so I’m very happy that Sweet Blue Flowers will be receiving the attention it deserves. Ideally, if the series does well, it could hopefully encourage Fantagraphics to release more of Wandering Son.

Quick Takes

Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto, Volume 2Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, Volumes 2-4 by Nami Sano. I greatly enjoyed the first volume of Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, so it was only a matter of time before I got around to finishing the rest of the series. I love the manga’s absurdity, humor, and over-the-top scenarios. First and foremost, Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto is a comedy, but it also has heartthe fourth and final volume in particular is surprisingly touching. While I’m sure I would have enjoyed reading more Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, four volumes seems to be the right length for the series. It’s short enough that the the gags still feel fresh and unexpected, but long enough that the manga develops an underlying story to accompany its primarily episodic nature. The entirety of Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto follows Sakamoto’s first year of high school. As a transfer student it might be expected that he would have some trouble fitting in, and he seems so blissfully unaware socially that he never really does, but everyone adores him, even those who want to hate him. No matter what the circumstances, Sakamoto takes everything in cool, collected stride, frequently facing down and disarming the school’s delinquents with his utter kindness and friendship. Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto is a ridiculous series and I’m very happy that it’s available in English.

Say I Love You, Volume 10Say I Love You, Volumes 10-14 by Kanae Hazuki. Although I enjoy Say I Love You, for whatever reason it’s not a series that makes me want to rush to find out what happens next, and so I’ve managed to fall behind. But every time that I read Say I Love You, I am greatly impressed by the manga. The slow, natural development of the story and characters is actually a large part of the series appeal; a manga doesn’t have to be full of action to be dramatic and engaging. These few volumes introduce two underclassmen (a brother and sister who are twins) as important characters in an already large cast. At first, I was a little uncertain about their addition to the series, but I’ve grown to really like them. The realistic and earnest portrayal of teenage sexuality in Say I Love You is particularly well done. The characters are maturing and discovering not only who they are as individuals, but who they are in relation to other people. What I especially appreciate about Say I Love You is that sex isn’t necessarily idealized or treated as an end goal, it’s simply one potential part of a relationship which in fact often makes things even more messy and complicated. The characters in Say I Love You are at the point in their lives in which they are transitioning from adolescence into adulthood. In addition to worrying about their friendships and romances, they are concerned about the immediate future.

Sweetness & Lightning, Volume 1Sweetness and Lightning, Volume 1 by Gido Amagakure. I tend to enjoy food manga so will gladly read at least the first volume of a new series which is even tangentially related to the genre. Sweetness and Lightning most definitely fits squarely within the genreit even contains recipesbut I was particularly interested in the series because it features a single dad who is responsible for caring for his daughter after her mother passes away. He’s a terrible cook so for months they’ve been living on convenience store food and prepackaged, ready-made meals, but when he sees how happy Tsumugi is after eating a home-cooked dinner (not even a dinner really, but a serving of rice), he decides to learn how to cook himself. Helping him is Kotori, one of the students in his high school math class, whose mother owns a restaurant. Kotori sees Inuzuka as a surrogate father, but there also seems to be the possibility that she may develop romantic feelings for him as well. The first volume of Sweetness and Lightning was adorable. Tsumugi is a cute kid, the love and care that Inuzuka shows is endearing, and sharing food with others is joyful experience for Kotori. At this point the three of them together make for a delightful combination. Sweetness and Lightning also has an air of melancholy about it as the characters are dealing with loneliness and loss. Inuzuka does all that he can to make Tsumugi happy, but being a single parent isn’t at all easy.

Manga Giveaway: Kodansha Shoujo Smorgasbord Winner

LDK, Volume 1Let's Dance a Waltz, Volume 1
My Little Monster, Volume 1Say I Love You, Volume 1

And the winner of the Kodansha Shoujo Smorgasbord manga giveaway is… Rebecca!

As the winner, Rebecca will be receiving four first volumes of shoujo manga published by Kodansha Comics: LDK, Volume 1 by Ayu Watanabe; Let’s Dance a Waltz, Volume 1 by Natsumi Ando; My Little Monster, Volume 1 by Robico; and Say I Love You, Volume 1 by Kanae Hazuki. Kodansha usually isn’t the first publisher I think of when I think of shoujo, but I’ve really been enjoying some of the shoujo manga that it has licensed. For this giveaway, I asked that participants tell me a little about their favorite Kodansha shoujo manga. As was pointed out by several people, Kodansha also releases quite a few shounen series which have tremendous shoujo crossover appeal. Check out the the giveaway comments for all of the responses!

Some of the shoujo (and josei) manga available from Kodansha Comics:
Arisa by Natsumi Ando
Attack on Titan: No Regrets by Hikaru Suruga
Codename: Sailor V by Naoko Takeuchi
Fairy Tail: Blue Mistral written by Hiro Mashima, illustrated by Rui Watanabe
I Am Here by Ema Toyama
Kiss Him, Note Me! by Junko
Kitchen Princess by Natsumi Ando
LDK by Ayu Watanabe
Let’s Dance a Waltz by Natsumi Ando
Manga Dogs by Ema Toyama
Missions of Love by Ema Toyama
My Little Monster by Robico
No. 6 by Hinoki Kino
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Short Stories by Naoko Takeuchi
Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura
Say I Love You by Kanae Hazuki
Shugo Chara! by Peach-Pit
Shugo Chara Chan! by Peach-Pit
Tokyo Mew Mew written by Reiko Yoshida, illustrated by Mia Ikumi
Tokyo Mew Mew a la Mode by Mia Ikumi
The Wallflower by Tomoko Hayakawa

Thank you to everyone who shared your favorite Kodansha shoujo manga (or shounen manga with a shoujo flair) with me. I hope to see you all again for the next giveaway!

Manga Giveaway: Kodansha Shoujo Smorgasbord

The end of November is almost here, and you know what that means! It’s time for another manga giveaway at Experiments in Manga. As is tradition for November’s giveaway, in celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States (my favorite holiday) I’m offering up a manga feast. You all will have a chance to win not one, but four volumes of manga this month: LDK, Volume 1 by Ayu Watanabe; Let’s Dance a Waltz, Volume 1 by Natsumi Ando; My Little Monster, Volume 1 by Robico; and Say I Love You, Volume 1 by Kanae Hazuki–a veritable smorgasbord of shoujo from Kodansha Comics! And, as always, the giveaway is open worldwide.

LDK, Volume 1Let's Dance a Waltz, Volume 1My Little Monster, Volume 1Say I Love You, Volume 1

When I used to think of Kodansha Comics, shoujo manga never really came to mind. However, over the last couple of years, the publisher has made a point to expand its shoujo offerings. As a result, Kodansha has started to develop a nice catalog of shoujo manga, including titles that feature science fiction, mystery, action, romance, comedy, drama and more. For the most part, I’ve really been enjoying Kodansha’s shoujo series and I like seeing the variety in the manga.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a Kodansha Shoujo Smorgasbord?

1) In the comments below, tell me a little bit about your favorite shoujo manga released by Kodansha Comics. (If you don’t have one yet, simply mention that.)
2) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting, or retweeting, about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

And there you have it! Each person can earn up to two entries for this giveaway and has one week to submit comments. If you have trouble leaving comments, or if you would prefer, entries can also be emailed to me at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. I will then post the comments here in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on December 2, 2015. Good luck to you all!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address in the comment form, a 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: Kodansha Shoujo Smorgasbord Winner

My Week in Manga: November 16-November 22, 2015

My News and Reviews

Only one review was posted at Experiments in Manga last week since I’m still on my more relaxed blogging schedule. I’m a little behind in reviewing the series, but I finally took a closer look at What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 8 by Fumi Yoshinaga. I’m still really loving the manga, especially the realistic portrayal of its characters and their relationships. The eighth volume had some heartbreaking moments as well as heartwarming moments and just the right touch of humor to keep it all entertaining.

I came across quite a few interesting things to read online last week. Organization Anti-Social Geniuses has a great post about the skills and education that are helpful for pursuing a career in the manga publishing industry. The Guardian looks at some recent and past manga controversies in the article “Manga rows show why it’s still Japan’s medium of protest.” Also of note, Dark Horse, partnering with Le Vision, will apparently be adapting six Chinese comics into English. Compared to manga or even manhwa, hardly any manhua has been published in English; there is only one other publisher that I know of off the top of my head (JR Comics) which is currently releasing manhua in translation.

Elsewhere online, Manhattan Digest interviewed Graham Kolbeins, talking about gay manga, MASSIVE, and the group’s hopes to expand into more queer content, which is very exciting. Wondering about the state of the English edition of Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son? Crunchyroll gathered together some of the comments made by Matt Thorn (the series’ translator) about the manga’s current status. Sadly, it’s not especially encouraging. Although Fantagraphics has stated in the past that it intends to release the entire series, the publication date for ninth and next volume has yet to be set. Fantagraphics is still working on manga projects, though–Moto Hagio’s Otherworld Barbara should hopefully be released sometime in 2016.

Quick Takes

My Neighbor Seki, Volume 2My Neighbor Seki, Volumes 2-4 by Takuma Morishige. I continue to be utterly charmed and delighted by My Neighbor Seki. The anime series was wonderful, too, but I’m especially glad for the chance to read the chapters that where never adapted. My Neighbor Seki is an episodic manga, but there are a few running jokes that have emerged. Several scenarios feature the robot family, for one; Seki’s younger sister repeatedly appears after being introduced; and Yokoi and Seki’s classmate Goto more than once erroneously believes their relationship to be of a romantic nature. And of course there is the primary gag that underlies the entire series: Seki goofing off in class in impressively ridiculous ways and Yokoi being completely caught up in it all despite herself. My Neighbor Seki is marvelously funny and imaginative. Seki’s antics and Yokoi’s reactions (and overreactions) to them never disappoint. Reading the manga always leaves me smiling and has even been known to make me laugh out loud. I’m very glad that Vertical ultimately decided to release the entire series rather than just a “best of” collection.

One Is EnoughOne Is Enough by Love. Gen Manga is one of the very few publishers to release translations of doujinshi in English. The selections are independent, amateur works that unsurprisingly vary in quality, but I generally find them interesting. I believe One Is Enough was the first and so far has been the only boys’ love offering from Gen. I originally read the first half or so of the manga while it was being serialized, but am only now getting around to reading the completed volume. I’m not entirely sure whether it’s intentional or not, but at times One Is Enough almost seems to be a parody of boys’ love, exaggerating some of the genre’s well-worn tropes and plot devices. Although there are some nice individual panels and sequences, the manga’s artwork is sadly very inconsistent. Even the story itself seems to be constantly shifting in tone, as though the creator couldn’t quite decide which direction to take the manga. One Is Enough can be silly, cute, and sweet, but it also occasionally deals with some pretty heavy subject matter like suicide and self harm. Honestly, the manga is a bit of a mess without much cohesion, but it does have its moments.

Say I Love You, Volume 9Say I Love You, Volume 9 by Kanae Hazuki. As the winners of the school idol contest, Megumi and Yamato are expected to go on a date with each other, despite the fact that he already has a girlfriend. While I had to suspend my disbelief for some of the setup, Hazuki actually handles the scenario as a whole very well. I was completely satisfied with the way that the date played out and ultimately ended. I also feel better about Megumi as she continues to mature as a person; the date was a turning point for her. Many of the characters in Say I Love You are dealing with some very personal issues, but there is hope that they will be okay in the end even though the journey itself may be painful. After the date and its fallout has been resolved, most of the ninth volume is actually spent exploring the tragic backstory of Yamato’s brother Daichi and how it complicates and interferes with his present-day relationships. Hazuki promises to return to Mei and Yamato’s story which will be good to see, but one of the things I particularly like about Say I Love You is Hazuki’s willingness to take the time to delve into the lives of the other characters as well.