My Week in Manga: June 9-June 15, 2014

My News and Reviews

I posted two in-depth manga reviews at Experiments in Manga last week. The first was of Baku Yumemakura and Jiro Taniguchi’s The Summit of the Gods, Volume 3. It’s the middle volume of a five-volume, award-winning series and is a critical turning point for the story and characters. The Summit of the Gods is my favorite Taniguchi collaboration as well as one of my favorite manga series in general. And if manly mountain men don’t interest you, perhaps my review of Mari Okazaki’s out-of-print josei collection Sweat & Honey might entice you to track down a copy for yourself. The short manga included in the anthology focus on the close and often complicated relationships between women. The post is a part of my Year of Yuri monthly review project and makes the seventh installment. Only five more reviews to go!

Elsewhere online there were plenty of interesting things to read. Yen Press has a new set of license announcements. Organization Anti-Social Geniuses had two posts last week that I particularly liked: an interview with Cho, the founder of the site English Light Novels (which is an incredibly useful resource that I was previously unaware of), and a look at some of the reasons why people tell publishers they read illegal version of manga. Otaku USA has a nice interview with Helen McCarthy, whose newest book A Brief History of Manga will be released soon. The Lobster Dance has posted Revealing and Concealing Identities: Cross-Dressing in Anime and Manga, Part 4, with at least one more part to come. Lastly, the second manga studies column at Comics Forum is now available, focusing on the history of manga and Kitazawa Rakuten.

Quick Takes

A Centaur's Life, Volume 2A Centaur’s Life, Volumes 2-3 by Kei Murayama. The more I read of A Centaur’s Life, the more I like the series. It can be incredibly sweet and adorable, and Murayama’s world-building is fascinating. Not all of that world-building makes it into the series proper (at least not yet), but the extra material between chapters and at the beginning and end of the volumes. Is interesting, delving into the politics, history, and mythology of A Centaur’s Life. It’s obvious that a lot of thought has been put into the series to make it as realistic as possible; Murayama takes into account even the smallest details of everyday life and how things like cars, furniture, and buildings have to be modified to accommodate races with completely different anatomies. A Centaur’s Life is fairly episodic, but more and more recurring characters are introduced as the series progresses. These two volumes in particular frequently feature the youngest generation of centaurs and other folk. Like any kids, they can be hellions but they can be super cute, too.

Same Cell OrganismSame Cell Organism by Sumomo Yumeka. Much like Yumeka’s later manga, The Day I Become a Butterfly, Same Cell Organism tends to be fairly quiet and subdued. Yumeka’s artwork is lovely, with a light, airy touch to it, though her character designs from one story to the next are similar enough to cause some brief confusion from time to time. Same Cell Organism is a collection of some of her earliest boys’ love manga. It’s a somewhat uneven volume, mostly do to the fact that one of the stories, “To Make an Angel” was never actually completed. All of the set up is there, but then it suddenly ends with no real conclusion. However, I absolutely adored the titular story “Same Cell Organism” and its subsequent chapters. The story follows two young men in high school who might seem like unlikely friends because their personalities are so different: Yokota is loud, enthusiastic, and outgoing while Nakagawa is much quieter and reserved and has a more difficult time expressing himself. However, their relationship develops naturally and is delightfully loving and sweet.

Say I Love You, Volume 2Say I Love You, Volume 2 by Kanae Hazuki. I was a little surprised by how much I enjoyed the first volume of Say I Love You and so was very interested in seeing how the characters’ stories and relationships continued to develop in the second. I particularly like the leads, Mei and Yamato. Mei especially is marvelous; she’s confident enough in herself to avoid bad situations involving other people, which made me very happy to see. Yamato obviously cares for Mei and is very respectful of her. However, many of the other characters aren’t likeable at all, and much of the second volume is devoted to them. Hayakawa is a womanizer and an absolute asshole. His story arc in this volume is a bit uncomfortable—he gets his comeuppance, but he also gets the girl. (I worry about her, so I truly hope that his colors have changed having been redeemed by love.) Aiko, who apparently used to be a lovely young woman, is simply not a nice person at all anymore. She has her reasons, but she’s still not sympathetic. Say I Love You deals very honestly with sex and its emotional repercussions at such a young age. Some of the relationships in the series aren’t at all healthy, making the budding romance between Mei and Yamato refreshing in comparison.

Sherlock Bones, Volume 5Sherlock Bones, Volume 5 written by Yuma Ando and illustrated by Yuki Sato. Sherlock Holmes reincarnated as a puppy is still a rather silly premise, but I’ll admit that I’ve largely been enjoying the series. Occasionally there’s an unnecessary flash of underwear, but generally that’s fairly easy to pass over. The mysteries in the series are interesting with some very clever, though sometimes outlandish, twists. The artwork provides clues for readers to pick up on if they’d like a more interactive story experience, too. One of the things that I actually liked best about this particular volume of Sherlock Bones is that the story moves from Takeru being a high school student to his entry into the workforce. Unsurprisingly, coming from a police family and considering his recent work solving crimes with Sherdog, Takeru becomes a patrol officer. Already it’s proving to supply even more cases for him and Sherdog to investigate, and a few new characters are introduced as well. Sherlock Bones continues to be an entertaining series, and I look forward to reading the remaining two volumes.

My Week in Manga: September 23-September 29, 2013

My News and Reviews

There were a few different things going on at Experiments in Manga last week. First off is the Arisa manga giveaway. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so you still have a little time to enter for a chance to win the first and eleventh volumes of Natsumi Ando’s Arisa. The most recent Library Love feature was posted last week, too, which is basically a collection of quick takes of manga that I’ve borrowed from my local library. My quest to read all of Edogawa Rampo’s material available in English also continued. This time I took a look at The Edogawa Rampo Reader, which is a nice introduction to his life and work. The volume collects eighteen of his short stories and essays from over a span of thirty years.

A few interesting things found online: Brigid Alverson interviewed Charles Brownstein of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund about its new manga guide which will be released later this year. (I reviewed Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices not too long ago and found it to be a great resource.) And speaking of the CBLDF, Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen was recently highlighted as part of the Using Graphic Novels in Education feature. Finally, Vertical made some licensing announcements at Anime Weekend Atlanta: Tetsuya Tsutui’s manga Prophecy (interestingly enough, Tsutui approached Vertical directly about the license) and Shinobu Hashimoto’s biographical novel Compound Cinematics: Akira Kurosawa and I.

Quick Takes

Arisa, Volume 8Arisa, Volumes 8-11 by Natsumi Ando. The true King has been revealed! As has that person’s motivations and back story, which are suitably dark and dramatic. Arisa and its characters are all pretty twisted—the King isn’t the only one with serious issues. The most stable character in Arisa is probably Tsubasa, but sometimes I wonder about her, too. It’s not just anyone who would pretend to be someone else, after all. At times Arisa can be extraordinarily over the top with its action and melodrama, but that’s probably one of the reasons I find the series so absorbing. Some of it comes across as unintentionally ridiculous, though. But for every development that’s laughable, there’s another that is effectively disturbing. Arisa is a series that’s really easy to tear through. Despite all of the twists and turns in its plot (or maybe because of them) the manga reads very quickly. With only one volume left to go in the series, I’m very curious to see how things will play out.

Black Jack, Volume 7Black Jack, Volumes 7-9 by Osamu Tezuka. Every once in a while I get the urge to read a bunch of Black Jack. Since the series is fairly episodic, it’s easy to pick up even if it’s been a while since I’ve read any of the manga. There were a couple of things that particularly struck me about these volumes. First of all, Black Jack should really stay away from cliffs as he seems to have a habit of falling off of them. Secondly, since Black Jack is an unlicensed doctor, it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that he would have a tendency to become involved with criminals. Often this works out quite well for him—he is able to demand his high prices and the other parties want to keep things quiet, too. However, on occasion Black Jack’s association with organized crime comes back to bite him and he ends up a little worse for wear. As always, I adore Black Jack as a character. I enjoy how much of a bastard he can be while still maintaining a strong sense of integrity.

Cyborg 009Cyborg 009 written by F. J. DeSanto and Bradley Cramp and illustrated by Marcus To and Ian Herring. Working closely with Ishimori Productions, Cyborg 009 is a single-volume, hardcover graphic novel adapting Shotaro Ishinomori’s Cyborg 009 manga with a Western audience in mind published by Archaia. The comic is in full-color with updated character designs closer to some of the more recent anime adaptations than the original manga. Actually, the artwork was one of my favorite things about the Cyborg 009 graphic novel. Story-wise it would have benefited from either being a little more focused or a little bit longer. As it is, the graphic novel is very compressed and not all of the plot lines introduced are adequately developed. But it is fun and quickly paced, not to mention beautifully presented; hopefully it will encourage readers to seek out the original material. Also of note: the back cover indicates that Cyborg 009 is “Ishimori Universe Book 1.” I know that I’d be very interested in seeing more collaborations between Archaia and Ishimori.

The Day I Become a ButterflyThe Day I Become a Butterfly by Sumomo Yumeka. Although The Day I Become a Butterfly was released under Digital Manga’s Juné imprint, two of the six collected stories aren’t at all boys’ love and a few of the others could be argued not to be as well. Yumeka describes the short manga in The Day I Become a Butterfly as inexplicable (she also admits to not liking them), but I think I would call them poetic. Instead of being straightforward narratives, the stories are quiet and almost impressionistic. They tend to be fairly introspective and melancholy; the desire for acceptance from others is a recurring theme throughout the volume. Yumeka’s artwork is lovely, although some of the character designs seem to be reused from one story to the next. Normally this might not be much of a problem, but because some of the stories in The Day I Become a Butterfly are interrelated it was sometimes confusing when the characters from an unrelated story looked like some of the recurring characters.

AkagiAkagi, Episodes 1-13 directed by Yuzo Sato. I love mahjong and Akagi is one of the mahjong series. I was thrilled when Crunchyroll picked up the anime for streaming. (I hold no illusions—mahjong manga and anime is very niche and unlikely to ever receive a physical release in North America.) Watching Akagi has actually improved my game a bit. It has also taught me how to cheat…not that I would. People who are at least vaguely familiar with mahjong will probably get more out of Akagi than those who aren’t, but it’s not necessary to understand the minutia of mahjong to enjoy the anime. The series can be surprisingly brutal at times and the games are intense—high stakes, crooked cops, yakuza, violence, manipulation. A huge emphasis is put on the psychological elements of the game. Akagi is a brilliant player and absolutely ruthless, both at the table and away from it. He seems to be afraid of nothing and is extremely ballsy. I’m really looking forward to watching the series’ second half.