My Week in Manga: January 5-January 11, 2015

My News and Reviews

Well, last week unintentionally became a week filled with gay-themed manga here at Experiments in Manga, not that that’s something I’m going to complain about. But, first things first, the WataMote manga giveaway winner was announced. The post also includes a list of otaku manga available in English for anyone looking for something to read in that sub-genre. And now, back to the gay manga! I posted two in-depth manga reviews last week. The first review was of Takeshi Matsu’s English-debut More and More of You and Other Stories, a collection of gay erotic doujinshi. It’s both a fun and funny volume, so I hope to see more of Matsu’s work translated in the future. Over the weekend, I also posted a review of What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 5 by Fumi Yoshinaga. I continue to really enjoy the series’ mix of food and contemporary gay life. The sixth volume was actually released last week, so I’m a little behind in my reviews, but it’s still a great series.

Elsewhere online, Digital Manga launched its first non-Tezuka Kickstarter project, an effort to reprint and restock the first six volumes of Ayano Yamane’s Finder boys’ love series. (Like many of Digital Manga’s recent Kickstarter projects, I have mixed feelings about this one.) In licensing news, Seven Seas and Yen Press announced quite a few new titles on social media. Sean has a nice roundup of the licenses over at A Case Suitable for Treatment. For those who are interested in the history of manga or are more academically inclined, be sure to check out Ryan Holmberg’s most recent What Was Alternative Manga? column, “The Fukui Ei’ichi Incident and the Prehistory of Komaga-Gekiga” at The Comics Journal and the second part of Nicholas Theisen’s manga studies essay “Takeuchi Osamu and Manga Expression” at Comics Forum.

Quick Takes

Alice in the Country of Hearts, Omnibus 2Alice in the Country of Hearts, Omnibuses 2-3 (equivalent to Volumes 3-6) by Soumei Hoshino. I was taken by surprise by how much I enjoyed the first omnibus of Alice in the Country of Hearts and so soon found myself tracking down the rest of the series. I became a little less enamored with the manga the more I read, but in the end I still thoroughly enjoyed the series and I definitely plan on picking up some of the spinoffs. Because Alice in the Country of Hearts is based on a romance adventure game, it’s not too surprising that Alice is eventually paired off with one of the multitude of people who have expressed intense interest in her. However, I didn’t really like who it was she ended up with in Alice in the Country of Hearts because he’s a violent jerk. Granted, I can say that and not really spoil too much since so many of the guys in the series are violent jerks—they feel so strongly for Alice that more than one of them actually wants to, or even tries to, kill her. This certainly adds to the ominous atmosphere of Alice in the Country of Hearts, which is one of the things I particularly like about the series. What I was hoping to see and what the manga doesn’t quite deliver on was more explanation about the world itself and about the “game” that is being played. I suspect some of the other Alice series may expand on this, though.

Citrus, Volume 1Citrus, Volume 1 by Saburouta. I know quite a few people who were very excited for Citrus, Seven Seas’ most recent yuri acquisition. I didn’t know much about the series, but I’m always interested in seeing, and reading, more yuri in English. Yuzu is boisterous young woman whose life has been thrown into turmoil after her mother remarries. She has a new name, a new high school, and even a new sister. Mei and Yuzu don’t really get along that well and their relationship gets even more complicated when Mei suddenly kisses Yuzu, but not out of any sort of true affection. Yuzu’s not entirely sure what’s going on with her new sibling, but after the kiss she can’t get her out of her mind and begins to develop non-sisterly feelings for Mei. Quite a few things in the first volume of Citrus strained my suspension of disbelief—I cannot and will never be convinced that Yuzu’s mother completely failed to mention before they all actually moved into the same household together that as part of her remarriage Yuzu would be gaining a stepsister—but it is an intriguing start to the series. The manga has great potential for melodrama. Mei is somewhat of a mystery at this point, and I’m curious to learn more about her. She puts up a good front for most people, but she’s incredibly manipulative and Yuzu’s one of very few people who knows about and has seen that side of her.

Orphan BladeOrphan Blade written by M. Nicholas Almand and illustrated by Jake Myler. After previewing some of Myler’s work in progress for Orphan Blade, I was really looking forward to reading the graphic novel. Unfortunately, while there were some aspects of the comic that I really appreciated (it’s nice to see a gay protagonist), overall I was disappointed with Orphan Blade, especially since it had such great potential. The setting is an alternate-universe, 17th-century Japan in which the world was overrun with kaijū. But now that most of the monsters have been destroyed, humans are once again at war with each other. Particularly coveted are Artifacts, weapons of immense power fashioned out of the bodies and bones of the defeated kaijū. Hadashi is a young man who comes into possession of one of those Artifacts, but it possesses him in return. For the most part, Myler’s artwork is excellent. The monster and character designs, while lacking cohesiveness, are great and I love the colors. Orphan Blade is surprisingly violent, bloody, and gruesome. There are plenty of dynamic battles, however the action is frequently confusing and difficult to follow which is particularly problematic since a large part of the graphic novel is devoted to fight sequences. I like the world and basic premise of Orphan Blade, but the story feels inexpertly cobbled together in places, which may be explained by the fact that Almand sadly passed away before the comic’s completion.

My Week in Manga: November 24-November 30, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week was a busy week for me as I was traveling and such for the Thanksgiving holiday, but Experiments in Manga had quite a few things going on, too. The most recent manga giveaway was posted and there’s still time to enter for a chance to win a Seven Seas Sampler—four first volumes of some of Seven Seas’ manga series. I also posted two reviews last week. First up was Yu Godai’s novel Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner, Volume 1 which I loved. It’s based on the same story as Digital Devil Saga, a spinoff of the Shin Megami Tensei video game series. I also reviewed Ryosuke Takeuchi and Takeshi Obata’s All You Need Is Kill manga adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s original All You Need Is Kill novel. I think the novel is the stronger of the two, but I enjoyed the manga as well. Last week I also joined in with the other Manga Bookshelf bloggers for a roundtable on food manga over at MangaBlog.

I should also probably mention that the votes have been tallied for my next monthly manga review project. After School Nightmare took an early lead, but it ended up being a very close contest between it and Dorohedoro and Mushishi. And in the end, After School Nightmare and Mushishi actually tied with each other! So, I’ve decided to review both manga. There are a few different ways to approach this, but beginning with After School Nightmare, each month I’ll alternate between the two series. If everything goes according to schedule, it should take me a year and a half to complete the review project. Thank you to everyone who participated in the poll! I was very glad to see interest expressed in all of the series to which I had narrowed down the vote. I’ll be sure to keep in mind the other series that were strongly supported and try to feature them as best as I can, too. I wish that I had more time to read and write!

Elsewhere online, Organization Anti-Social Geniuses had a couple of posts that I found particularly interesting last week—an interview with Abigail Blackman, one of Yen Press’ editors and letterers, and a discussion of some of the fears of buying manga from U.S. publishers. Digital Manga has launched yet another Osamu Tezuka manga Kickstarter, though one that seems much more reasonable than the last failed project. This time, Digital Manga is trying to raise funding for the publication of Tezuka’s Ludwig B, an unfinished manga series about Beethoven. (In part because of my background in music, I’m actually really interested in Ludwig B.) I’d also like to bring a little attention to an effort started by Becca Hillburn—a group for Western Shoujo Comic Artists. More about it and the endeavor to create a network of support for manga-influenced artists can be read at Hillburn’s website Nattosoup: Solidarity and the American Shoujo/Josei Comic Scene.

Quick Takes

Alice in the Country of Hearts, Omnibus 1Alice in the Country of Hearts, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Soumei Hoshino. Based on an otome game by Quin Rose, Hoshino’s Alice in the Country of Hearts is one of many manga adaptations and spinoffs. Originally the series was partially released in English by Tokyopop, but the license was later rescued by Yen Press. Despite hearing good things about Alice in the Country of Hears, one of the reasons it took me so long to give the manga a try was the sheer number of volumes associated with the franchise. I’m glad that I finally got around to reading the first omnibus, though, because I loved it. At first, Alice in the Country of Hearts seems like a fairly straightforward re-imagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (Granted, many of the characters are now bishōnen of various types.) But it soon becomes clear that something very ominous and disconcerting is brewing under the story’s surface. Alice has been transported to Wonderland and if she ever wants to return home she will have to get to know its residents better. Although they are participating in some sort of game to win her affections, those who live in Wonderland are prone to violence and have a very different sense of what is normal.

Milkyway Hitchhiking, Omnibus 1Milkyway Hitchhiking, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Sirial. Although occasionally the same characters make an appearance in multiple stories, Milkyway Hitchhiking is generally an episodic manhwa. The only thing that really ties the volume together is the presence of Milkyway, a beautiful cat who can apparently travel through space and time. She may or may not actually play an active role in the stories being told. Sometimes she’s just an observer and sometimes she’s a participant. Sometimes she’s a focal point of a tale and sometimes she simply happens to be present while events unfold around her. The most striking thing about Milkyway Hitchhiking is its beautiful, full-color artwork. Some of the individual illustrations are simply stunningly gorgeous. A variety of color palettes are used to lovely effect. While I particularly appreciate Milkyway Hitchhiking for Sirial’s art, I also enjoyed the individual episodes, too. The stories range from the fantastical to those grounded in reality. Some feel very much like something out of a fairy tale while others are contemporary slice-of-life or historical in nature. At times heartwarming and at times heartbreaking, I very much enjoyed Milkyway Hitchhiking and look forward to reading more of the series.

Tale of the Waning Moon, Volume 1Tale of the Waning Moon, Volume 1 by Hyouta Fujiyama. I have a tendency to forget that Yen Press releases boys’ love series. Tale of the Waning Moon is one of those manga. Fujiyama has had quite a few of her works released in English, but I haven’t read any until now. Tale of the Waning Moon is pretty ridiculous. Ryuka is a young man whose girlfriend recently left him for another man. While drowning his sorrows Ryuka accidentally calls upon Ixto, the spirit of the last quarter moon, to grant him true love. The twist is that all of the eligible candidates that Ixto comes up with are men, which doesn’t particularly appeal to Ryuka. The real problem is that when Ryuka rejects those options, he comes under Ixto’s spell and is therefore compelled to leave his village on a quest to reunite with the spirit. From there, Ryuka sets of on his journey, unintentionally amassing an adventuring party of sorts in the process. Tale of the Waning Moon has sex (not all of it consensual) and silliness, magic and mayhem. Inspired and heavily influenced by fantasy RPGs, the manga is definitely more of a comedy than it is a romance. Tale of the Waning Moon is a short series—only four volumes—and the first installment entertained me well enough, so I’ll probably get around to picking up the rest at some point.

Ubel Blatt, Omnibus 0Übel Blatt, Omnibus 0 (equivalent to Volumes 0-1) by Etorouji Shiono. Übel Blatt, which translates as “evil blade,” has a lot going for it that generally appeals to me—a dark fantasy setting, a tale of revenge, epic battles, and so on—but for some reason, the first omnibus (the zeroth omnibus?) didn’t quite grab me as much as I expected it to. I’m not really sure why, since it seems like a series that should interest me. In fact, overall I actually did like the story. I even like many of the characters, especially its lead. But there were a few little (and big) things here and there that just didn’t work for me. For one, the sexual content and rape in the volume seems entirely unnecessary. It comes across as a superfluous attempt to add more edginess as opposed to being important to the story. Most of the female characters don’t fare particularly well, either. Occasionally there’s a little bit of hope that they’ll overcome their scantily clad fantasy tropes, but it never quite seems to happen. At this point, many of the antagonists in Übel Blatt seem fairly one-dimensional, too, though I suspect that this will change as the series progresses. All that being said, Übel Blatt does feature some excellent fight sequences and scenes of destruction. And while I’m not desperate to read the next volume, the series does show potential.