My Week in Manga: March 17-March 23, 2014

My News and Reviews

Experiments in Manga featured two manga reviews as well as something a little different last week. First up, I took a look at Saki Nakagawa’s Attack on Titan: Junior High, Omnibus 1. It’s a rather absurd and ridiculous series, but I was amused. The manga does require some familiarity with both Attack on Titan and Attack on Titan fandom to fully appreciate it, though. Not too long ago, I read Jeffrey Angles’ Writing the Love of Boys which introduced me to the work of Kaita Murayama. Not much about Murayama has been written in English, and only two of his short stories have ever been translated, but I was interested in learning more about him and his work. The result was a Spotlight on Kaita Murayama. (I’m actually very happy with how the post turned out!) Finally, as the actual March Madness begins, I posted the penultimate review in my own Manga March Madness—Real, Volume 4 by Takehiko Inoue, which delves more deeply into Togawa’s past. Real is a fantastic series, and one of my favorite manga.

And now for a few things found online! Vertical’s tumblr often has something interesting to read. Last week’s response to a question about licensing old Tokyopop titles was particularly informative. I enjoy House of 1000 Manga, but the most recent column focuses on Usamaru Furuya and his work, which I’m always happy to read more about. Sequart has a great interview with Kumar Sivasubramanian, the translator of some of my very favorite manga. Gay Manga posted an excellent article about the censorship of a billboard designed by artist Poko Murata promoting HIV awareness which also addresses some of the history of gay artwork in Japan. And in other censorship news, it looks like the manga series Barefoot Gen, after running into some trouble last year, may end up being banned again in parts of Japan.

Quick Takes

Brody's Ghost, Book 4Brody’s Ghost, Book 4 by Mark Crilley. It’s been quite a while since I’ve read any of Brody’s Ghost, but I do enjoy the series. Each installment is frustratingly thin though (each is less than a hundred pages) and only one book is released per year. Once the story is finished, I’d love to see Brody’s Ghost collected into a single omnibus. I think the series would benefit from being read in larger chunks or all at once. Which is not to say the individual books aren’t enjoyable. Each one has a great mix of action, story, and character development. I enjoy Crilley’s artwork, too. I also enjoy the bonus content that Crilley includes, outlining some of his design choices and storytelling decisions. In this particular volume of Brody’s Ghost, Brody is doing everything that he can to track down the Penny Murderer, including impersonating a detective. His ex-girlfriend, who he still cares about, may very well be the next victim and he is desperate to prevent that from happening. Things are even more complicated now that he has discovered that Talia—the ghost who pressured him into the investigation—has been lying to him.

FlutterFlutter by Momoko Tenzen. I appreciate it when a boys’ love manga includes a character who is actually openly gay, so that aspect of Flutter particularly appealed to me. Mizuki is that man—a respected and skilled project leader at his company. He presents himself as someone who is extremely well put together, but that public face is deliberately crafted to hide his weaknesses and insecurities. Asada is one of Mizuki’s coworkers. He finds himself inexplicably drawn to Mizuki. After the two of them are assigned to the same project they get to know each other, first as friends and then as something possibly more as Mizuki begins to drop his guard around Asada. Flutter is a slowly paced and relatively quiet manga, which is somewhat surprising as Mizuki’s backstory is fairly melodramatic. However, that melodrama is completely lacking from Mizuki and Asada’s somewhat awkward relationship; I enjoyed watching it develop. Asada’s personality is very kind and candid and his inability to hide what he is thinking and feeling is adorable. This open honesty is just what Mizuki needs, whether he realizes it or not.

Missions of Love, Volume 1Missions of Love, Volumes 1-4 by Ema Toyama. I’ll admit it, I’m addicted to Missions of Love. I actually began reading the series with the fifth and sixth volumes, but I enjoyed them enough that I wanted to go back and read it from the beginning to learn how the whole mess between Yukina, Shigure, Akira, and Mami came to be. Missions of Love isn’t the most believable series and some of it is admittedly silly, but I don’t think I would enjoy the manga as much as I do if Toyama took a more serious or realistic approach. The story itself might be somewhat ridiculous, but the complicated relationships and emotions are real enough. Ultimately, that’s what appeals to me about Missions of Love—the intensity of the characters’ feelings paired with a plot that can be over-the-top. In the beginning, Yukina and Shigure don’t even like each other which is what allows them to resort to blackmail and manipulation. But as the series progresses, they come to care for and rely on each other in a way that is incredibly twisted. All of the relationships in Missions of Love are like that. I can’t help but want to watch the emotional chaos and turmoil unfold.

The Mysterious Underground MenThe Mysterious Underground Men by Osamu Tezuka. The Mysterious Underground Men is the second volume in Ryan Holmberg’s Ten-Cent Manga series which explores classic manga influenced by classic American comics and cartoons. Tezuka, often called the grandmaster of contemporary manga and anime, has had many of his works released in English. Granted, only a small fraction of his total output has been translated. As much as I appreciate Tezuka’s manga and his importance as a creator, I’m actually much more interested in the work of other classic mangaka who are less likely to be licensed. Initially, I wasn’t even planning on reading The Mysterious Underground Men. But because I was so impressed by the first volume of Ten-Cent Manga, I decided to give it a try after all. I’m glad that I did, not so much for the manga itself (which I did enjoy), but more for the supplementary material—Tezuka’s afterword, in which he describes The Mysterious Underground Men as his first story manga, and Holmberg’s essay which puts the manga into historical context, specifically noting its Western pop culture influences.

Time of EveTime of Eve directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura. It’s not a secret that I have a fondness for stories about androids, so it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that I liked Time of Eve, a six episode anime series that was first released online. The series revolves around an unusual cafe, the titular Time of Eve, where humans and androids can interact while ignoring the laws that normally separate them. The cafe has only one rule, that there is to be no discrimination between the two groups. Rikuo discovers the cafe while looking into the unexpected behavior of “Sammy,” his household’s android. Along with his close friend Masaki, Rikuo’s assumptions about androids and how humans treat them are challenged as he gets to know the other customers at the cafe. Time of Eve doesn’t break any new ground when it comes to androids and makes good use of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. I’ve read and watched so much android fiction that nothing about the series surprised me (including what were supposed to be dramatic reveals), but I still found the anime to be immensely enjoyable.

My Week in Manga: August 12-August 18, 2013

My News and Reviews

Two reviews, and some big news! First up was my review of Blade of the Immortal, Volume 24: Massacre by Hiroaki Samura. As you might suspect from the title, it’s a rather bloody volume. It also features what I think is one of the best visually executed battles in the series. I also reviewed Yukio Mishima’s novel Forbidden Colors which is a bit twisted but extremely engrossing and very good. Like his earlier novel Confessions of a Mask, it deals with homosexual themes and includes autobiographical elements.

As for the big news! Over the weekend Experiments in Manga celebrated it’s third anniversary and I wrote quite a lengthy post about it. If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, here’s the really important bit: I am delighted to announce that in the very near future Experiments in Manga will be joining the Manga Bookshelf network of blogs!

I was traveling quite a bit last week (a couple of my friends were getting married), so I’m a little out of touch when it comes to some of the most recent manga news. However, there is one thing that I want to be sure to pass along. I personally don’t read much manga digitally, but Organization of Anti-Social Geniuses has a fantastic post looking at all the legal ways to read digital manga in 2013.

Quick Takes

The Last of the Mohicans by Shigeru Sugiura. The Last of the Mohicans is the first volume in editor Ryan Holmberg’s Ten-Cent Manga series, exploring classic manga influenced by popular culture and comics from the United States. In addition to the manga itself, the volume also includes an article by Sugiura and an extensive essay by Holmberg which puts The Last of the Mohicans into context. For me, this was probably the greatest appeal of the volume. I more or less enjoyed the manga, but I valued to an even greater extent learning about its history and Sugiura’s influences. I don’t know that The Last of the Mohicans will necessarily entice casual manga readers, but for those interested in comics history it’s great.

Math Girls Manga, Volume 1 written by Hiroshi Yuki and illustrated by Mika Hisaka. Based on the Math Girls series of novels, the manga focuses a little more on the romance and a little less on the math, but it still can teach a thing or two about it. Unfortunately, errors slipped into the English edition and some of the mathematical symbols are missing. Seeing as Math Girls is about, well, math, this is somewhat problematic. But if you can ignore that, Math Girls is a rather delightful and charming manga. Math lovers in particular will appreciate it, but as with the novels it’s possible to skip over the math-intensive sections and just enjoy the story. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of the Math Girls manga, but I suspect there won’t be another volume released anytime soon.

Strawberry Chan, Volumes 1-2 by Ai Morinaga. I picked up Morinaga’s Strawberry Chan manga on a whim. The series consists of two volumes, The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry Chan and The Super Cool Life of Strawberry Chan. The manga is fairly episodic and each chapter is very short. The titular Strawberry Chan is a small pet frog owned by Taro Akiyoshi, a sadistic high school student who delights in tormenting him. Despite his cruelty, Strawberry Chan adores his master. And then there’s Taro’s roommate who’s legitimately in love with Strawberry Chan and a masochistic classmate who just wants Taro to abuse him instead of the frog. Strawberry Chan is utterly ridiculous, random, and all sorts of wrong. I loved it.

Three Wolves Mountain by Bohra Naono. So far, only two of Naono’s manga have been released in English. Yokai’s Hunger largely frustrated me but I thoroughly enjoyed Three Wolves Mountain; it’s easily my favorite manga out of the two. It’s an odd mix of comedy, drama, and the supernatural, but Naono makes it work this time. Kaya Susugi is a cafe owner by day and a grave keeper by night who ends up taking in Tarou and Jiro Tsukihara, two werewolf brothers. Susugi is used to being alone but becomes very close with both of the brothers, but especially with Jiro who has fallen in love with him. I wasn’t expecting Three Wolves Mountain to become such a family affair, but parents, siblings, and even cousins all have their role to play in the story. Three Wolves Mountain is great stuff.