My Week in Manga: June 13-June 19, 2016

My News and Reviews

Okay. So I don’t usually get very personal here at Experiments in Manga, but I feel it’s needed this time. Last week I had every intention of posting an in-depth review of Dawn, the first novel in Yoshino Tanaka’s renowned space opera Legend of the Galactic Heroes. But Thursday came along and I’d only managed to write a quarter of it and I finally had to admit to myself that it just wasn’t going to happen. And so while driving to and from taiko rehearsal that evening I took the opportunity to reevaluate some things and to try to find a sustainable solution for Experiments in Manga.

The last year and a half or so has been rough on me. Without going into unnecessary details, I have been under tremendous amount of stress at work, at home, and just in general with more and more responsibilities to take on and less and less time for myself. While my anxiety issues are fortunately mostly in check at the moment, being stressed out feeds directly into my depression which in turn feeds into being stressed out. It’s a miserable cycle that’s difficult to break. And it makes doing all of the things that I want to do nigh impossible, even if I actually had the time to do all of those things (which I don’t).

I can’t do much about the situation at work right now, and my options outside of work are limited, too, but one thing that I have complete control over is my blogging. While there are some very strong arguments to be made for me to completely give up writing at Experiments in Manga, that’s not really something that I’m prepared to do yet. However, I will be drastically changing my approach and will be writing less, at least for the time being. I’m hoping this won’t be permanent, but I will have to see how things go as I try to find some balance in my life.

And so: For now the My Week in Manga feature will continue to be posted as normal, as will the monthly manga giveaways. The Bookshelf Overload feature will still make an appearance every month, too. However, in-depth reviews and other long-form features will by necessity be posted more sporadically and won’t necessarily adhere to a specific schedule. To make up for this somewhat, the Quick Takes section of My Week in Manga will be expanded slightly to include my thoughts on novels and nonfiction works among other things. Even though overall I will be writing less, this means that I’ll be able to read more, and hopefully relax more, which will be very good for me.

Anyway! In happier news, according to the series’ translator, the second volume of Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner is scheduled for release later this year. (I reviewed the first volume when it was released and liked it so well that it made my list of notable works of 2014.) Kodansha Comics’ most recent creator spotlight features an interview with Akiko Higashimura. The latest manga Kickstarter campaign to launch is a project by Fakku and Toshio Maeda to release a remastered edition of Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend. Some pretty big news for fans of BL in translation, Japanese publisher Libre has cut its ties with Digital Manga. Sadly, though perhaps not especially surprising at this point, Digital Manga’s press release comes across as very passive aggressive and unprofessional.

Quick Takes

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Side: P3, Volume 2Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Side: P3, Volume 2 by So Tobita. I haven’t actually played the Persona Q video game, but from what I hear from others, the manga adaptation remains true to its tone and main storyline. My knowledge of the original Persona Q, as well as my knowledge of Persona 3 and Persona 4 which directly tie into Persona Q, is admittedly cursory. Those who do not have at least some familiarity with the Persona franchise will be at a significant disadvantage when reading Persona Q, especially when it comes to understanding the characters and their personalities. Fortunately, I know enough to be able to appreciate the Persona Q for what it is—a fun and slightly silly adventure with puzzles, labyrinths, and cute artwork (much like the game itself, which I suspect I would greatly enjoy playing). The manga is very clearly an adaptation of an role-playing game as some of the side quests, boss fights, and other elements of gameplay remain quite evident, but the ways in which they are incorporated into the story are generally unobtrusive and make sense within the context of all that is going on.

Red Red Rock and Other Stories, 1967-1970Red Red Rock and Other Stories, 1967-1970 by Seiichi Hayashi. As far as creators of alternative manga go, Hayashi is fairly well represented in English with several volumes of manga available in translation. The most recent is Red Red Rock and Other Stories, a collection of thirteen of Hayashi’s short avant-garde manga as well as an accompanying essay by the volume’s editor and manga historian Ryan Holmberg. Most of the stories come from the influential alternative manga magazine Garo, but two of the selections were actually created for the magazine A Woman’s Self. Out of all of Hayashi’s manga currently available in English, Red Red Rock and Other Stories is probably one of the least immediately accessible. While Hayashi’s imagery can be stunning and appreciated by all, some of the short manga in Red Red Rock and Other Stories will likely be nearly impenetrable for a casual reader. But that’s where Holmberg’s informative essay comes in handy, explaining some of the references and historical context needed to fully understand the collection. I enjoyed the manga in Red Red Rock and Other Stories, but I also appreciated being able to learn more about them.

The Seven Deadly Sins, Volume 12The Seven Deadly Sins, Volumes 12-14 by Nakaba Suzuki. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of The Seven Deadly Sins, but I picked up the series again just in time for a major showdown. Granted, just about any of the fights that occur in The Seven Deadly Sins become epic battles simply because all of the combatants involved are so incredibly powerful. The action sequences are impressive, although sometimes it can be difficult to tell exactly what is going on. Some of the characters move so quickly only the results of their martial techniques are apparent. Occasionally Suzuki absolutely nails these sequences and they can be thrillingly effective, but just as often the action ends up being confusing. Suzuki also seems reluctant to actually kill anyone off which means the stakes don’t seem as high they should be. Well, except for the potential end of the world. At first it seems as though an apocalypse has been averted in these few volumes, but soon it become apparent it that it may have only been delayed. The Seven Deadly Sins still have plenty of fighting left to do, not only for the future of their world but also to overcome their past mistakes.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Volume 1: DawnLegend of the Galactic Heroes, Volume 1: Dawn by Yoshiki Tanaka. Thanks to Viz Media’s speculative fiction imprint Haikasoru, Tanaka’s award-winning Legend of the Galactic Heroes novels are finally getting an official English-language release. Although Dawn is largely a standalone novel, it feels even more like an extended prologue to the ten-volume work as a whole, providing an introduction to the setting and the war that is the focus of the series. Much of Dawn is devoted to two opposing factions, the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance, but there’s also the Phezzan Dominion, a third faction which ultimately isn’t as neutral as it first appears. While the cast of characters in Legend of the Galactic Heroes is fairly large, at this point the most is known about two rival strategists—the reluctant hero Yang Wen-li and the ambitious genius Reinhard von Lohengramm—and their closest cohorts. With strategists as some of the main characters, a fair amount of legitimate battle strategy is included in Dawn which I particularly liked. There’s also a significant amount of politics involved in the story and none of the factions come out of the first volume looking very good with their warmongering ways.

My Week in Manga: April 11-April 17, 2016

My News and Reviews

As I alluded to a few months ago, I’ve been in the process of trying to purchase a house. Well, I finally made it happen! I signed all of the papers on Friday, so for the foreseeable I’m going to be a little preoccupied getting things ready and moving over to the new place. It’s all sorts of exciting, but it does mean I’ll have significantly less time to devote to other things for a while. And so, I’m back to a reduced posting schedule at Experiments in Manga for the time being. Expect to continue to regularly see My Week in Manga, but there will probably only be one other review or feature most weeks. That all being said, last week I reviewed the recently released Midnight Stranger, Volume 1, a supernatural boys’ love manga with a sense of humor (as well as some pretty great monster designs) by Bohra Naono. I haven’t seen a lot of manga news over the last week, although I’m sure there has been some, but I did want to mention that Viz Media has licensed Kohske and Syuhei Kamo’s Gangsta: Cursed, a prequel series to Gangsta (a manga of which I’m particularly fond.)

Quick Takes

Itazura na Kiss, Volume 7Itazura na Kiss, Volumes 7-8 by Kaoru Tada. It’s been a little while since I’ve read any of Itazura na Kiss, but it’s a pretty easy series to put down and pick up again since nothing of major importance really ever seems to change all that much. I have been enjoying the series, but I’m starting to long for a little more forward momentum and the characters are beginning to wear me down a little. At the same time, while the overall pacing is fairly slow, Tada is expert in changing and moving the story along just enough to keep things interesting. Kotoko and Naoki are now newlyweds, but otherwise their relationship is pretty par for the course. Kotoko is utterly infatuated with Naoki, and Naoki continues to be fairly cold towards her. Thankfully, Kotoko is (slowly) beginning to mature and determine for herself what it is she really wants to do with her life. It can be difficult to tell at times, but Naoki really does love Kotoko and cares for her well-being, he just tends to be a total ass about it which can be tiresome. Granted, it does make it particularly satisfying when he ends up being thrown out of his comfort zone.

The JudgedThe Judged by Akira Honma. Having greatly enjoyed the first two volumes of Honma’s Rabbit Man, Tiger Man boys’ love series, and considering the fact that the third and final volume is unlikely to ever be released in English, I decided to seek out the creator’s other works in translation. I didn’t realize it until I finished reading manga, but The Judged was actually Honma’s first volume to be released as a professional mangaka. The titular story is about a prosecuting investigator and member of the Diet who are navigating a political scandal, while their shared past makes things even more complicated. The Judged also includes Honma’s debut manga “Like a White Phantom” about an initially antagonistic relationship between two young doctors. For the most part, the focus of The Judged is more on the drama and less on the romance. The manga tends to be fairly serious and the relationships aren’t necessarily the most healthy. They’re not always particularly happy relationships, either. Many of the characters have some pretty heavy personal issues do deal with, including physical and emotional abuse.

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Side: P3, Volume 1Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Side: P3, Volume 1 by So Tobita. The Persona series is perhaps the most popular subset of the larger Shin Megami Tensei video game franchise. Persona Q is a relatively recent spinoff from 2014 made for the Nintendo 3DS which combines characters from Persona 3 and Persona 4—a player can choose to experience the game from either perspective. Likewise, a reader can choose from either the Side: P3 or Side: P4 manga adaptation which present two different sides of the same story. When it comes to manga adaptations of video games, there seem to be two major types, those that are accessible to anyone and those that are intended to be appreciated by fans of the original. So far, the Side P3 manga would seem to be one of the latter, requiring some prior knowledge of the franchise to fully enjoy the series. Very little is explained about the world or the characters in the manga itself. But for those who are familiar with Persona, the Side: P3 manga can be a fun way to quickly experience or re-experience the story and game of Persona Q, though I’m not sure that it really adds anything new.