My Week in Manga: October 19-October 25, 2015

My News and Reviews

I posted a couple of different things at Experiments in Manga last week in addition to the usual My Week in Manga feature. Having recently read and enjoyed Yukito Ayatsuji’s debut novel The Decagon House Murders, I made a point to finally get around to reading and reviewing his first novel released in English, Another. Though I felt a little cheated by one of the plot twists, overall the novel is a great mix of horror and mystery. I enjoyed the story so much that I plan on checking out the manga and anime versions, too. (Seems like a good candidate for an Adaptation Adventures feature.) My other post last week was some random musings on A Moment of Respite in Kohske’s Gangsta. Basically, a single scene from the sixth volume of the manga (more specifically, a sequence of three panels from that scene), inspired me to write more than a thousand words about some of the things that I particularly appreciate and love about the series.

A few things of interest found online last week: First of all, the most recent entry in Ryan Holmberg’s What Was Alternative Manga? column, Gottfredson’s Illegitimate Heirs: Tezuka Osamu and the Great Wall of 1945, was posted at The Comics Journal. Speaking of Tezuka, Stone Bridge Press will be publishing the manga The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime in a single, massive volume. In other licensing news, NBM Publishing continues to release graphic novels in the Louvre Collection. Hirohiko Araki was the first Japanese creator to contribute to the series with the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure spinoff Rohan at the Louvre, but In 2016, Jiro Taniguchi’s full-color Guardians of the Louvre will be translated.

Quick Takes

A Centaur's Life, Volume 4A Centaur’s Life, Volumes 4-5 by Kei Murayama. I love the world that Murayama has created for A Centaur’s Life. A fair amount of the worldbuilding can be found within the series’ narrative, but there’s also a ton of supplementary material between chapters—lessons in history and biology and such. The full introduction of a new character in these volumes, a transfer student who’s also an Antarctic snake person, allows for even more worldbuilding to be incorporated directly into the manga as she is learning about cultures outside of her own while the other students are learning about hers. The issues of race and discrimination that come up fairly frequently in A Centaur’s Life can sometimes be a little heavy-handed or simplistic, but the lessons learned are good ones. The series does tend to be fairly episodic, and even the individual stories and chapters can be fairly fragmented. They give glimpses into the characters and their lives without there necessarily being much of a plot. Generally, A Centaur’s Life is fairly charming and sweet though it has moments that, for one reason or another, are vaguely disturbing, too.

LDK, Volume 1LDK, Volume 1 by Ayu Watanabe. I’ve largely enjoyed most of Kodansha Comics’ recent shoujo series (or at least found something about them that I’ve liked even if as a whole they didn’t work for me), so I was looking forward to giving LDK a try. I believe that LDK is Watanabe’s first manga to be released in English. I’m not especially familiar with her or her series, but she seems to primarily work in shoujo romance. LDK falls squarely into that category. However, after only one volume, I remain completely unconvinced by the supposed romantic chemistry between who will obviously become the lead couple after they end up living together. Part of my difficulty probably stems from the fact that I don’t particularly like either of the characters involved. Shusei is frankly a jerk with apparently no sense of how to express his interest in another person without being an absolute creep. And sadly Aoi is so concerned about doing right by her best friend that she doesn’t actually listen to what she says or needs. On top of that, so far LDK is just a little too generic in both its story and artwork for me to feel truly engaged with the series.

Passion, Volume 1Passion, Volumes 1-4 written by Shinobu Gotoh and illustrated by Shoko Takaku. I actually read the first volume of Passion several years ago, but the series begins so unpleasantly (opening with what appears to be a rape scene) that it took me this long to get around to finishing it. I gave it a second chance for two reasons: I was assured by others that the series improves and I’m loving the artist’s more recent series I’ve Seen It All. While it’s still not a favorite of mine, Passion does get significantly better. That opening scene which was so awful has repercussions for everyone involved and ends up being handled rather well by the creators. Hikaru is a high school student who is desperately in love with Shima, one of the teachers at his school. He forces himself on Shima and, after a peculiar turn of events, the two initially pretend to be lovers. But then their relationship continues to deepen. It turns out Shima is terribly manipulative, but he does recognize that about himself and is extremely troubled by it. Passion takes place over the course of multiple years. It’s interesting to see how the characters grow and evolve while dealing with their bad decisions.

Library Love, Part 17

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Arisa5Arisa, Volumes 5-7 by Natsumi Ando. As ridiculous and unbelievable as Arisa can be, I’ll have to admit that I actually am rather enjoying the series. The number of plot twists that Ando works into the manga is astounding. I know that they’re coming, but I have no idea where Arisa is going. I’ve learned not to stress out about it and just sit back and enjoy the absurdity as it develops. However, I can’t help but wonder where all the adults are in all of this. Occasionally a teacher, parent, or guardian is seen, but none of them seem very involved in the students’ lives at all. But then again, that might be part of the point of the series. The students in class 2-B have issues (they have a lot of issues) and King Time began in part because their needs and concerns weren’t being addressed elsewhere. More and more of their secrets are being revealed, but I’m not sure we’re any closer to actually learning who the King really is. Arisa continues along its dark and twisted path and I can’t help but be oddly mesmerized by the whole thing.

Cowa!Cowa! by Akira Toriyama. Cowa! had completely slipped under my radar until just recently. It’s a shame that I didn’t read it sooner because it is a terrific and highly enjoyable manga appropriate for kids as well as adults. The first few chapters are fairly episodic and start out with Paifu, a young half-vampire/half-werekoala, and his best friend and ghost José Rodriguez getting into all sorts of trouble. But then the manga develops a continuing story—Paifu’s hometown of Batwing Ridge is suffering from an epidemic of the Monster Flu. It’s up to Paifu, José, their not exactly friend Apron, and Maruyama, a grumpy ex-sumo wrestler, to save the day. Together they travel in search of the cure and it ends up becoming quite an adventure. There’s action and danger, bad guys and monsters. The interactions between Maruyama and the youngsters are simply marvelous. The manga is a lot of fun and funny, too. It may be silly at times, but it’s also heartwarming and has a good message. Cowa! is an absolute delight and definitely worth a look.

Slam Dunk, Volume 7Slam Dunk, Volumes 7-10 by Takehiko Inoue. I am a huge fan of Inoue’s manga. While Slam Dunk isn’t my favorite of his series, I still find it to be a great manga. Slam Dunk was Inoue’s breakthrough work and is immensely popular and influential. The basketball games in Slam Dunk are extremely well done, but so far what appeals most to me about the series is the characters. I particularly enjoy all of the delinquents that show up in the series and on Shohoku’s basketball team. The guys are just as capable in a fist fight as they are on the court. Granted, Sakuragi still has a lot to learn about basketball. He has some natural ability and potential, but I’m not sure anyone has actually taken the time to explain all the rules to him. Realistically, this is somewhat unbelievable, but it does provide a certain amount of humor. In general, Slam Dunk is much more comedic than Inoue’s other manga available in English. However, there’s still some seriousness and plenty of heartfelt passion in the series, too.

Time LagTime Lag written by Shinobu Gotoh and illustrated by Hotaru Odagiri. I didn’t realize it at first, but Odagiri is also the artist for Only the Ring Finger Knows, which I quite enjoyed. Time Lag is a slightly older work, and not quite as memorable, but still enjoyable and rather sweet. Satoru and Shirou used to be very close growing up, but after junior high they’ve grown apart despite Satoru repeatedly professing his love for the other young man. Satoru can’t seem to figure out what went wrong, but when a letter from Shirou arrives three years late he may have one last chance at setting things right. However, complicating matters even further is a love-triangle involving Seichii, another classmate. Plots that revolve around a giant misunderstanding often annoy me, but in the case of Time Lag I think it was handled very well. Some of the smaller misunderstandings were still frustrating, though. Granted, those deliberately created by Seichii and his jealousy make a fair amount of sense in the context of the story and the resulting drama is understandable.