My Week in Manga: April 6-April 12, 2015

My News and Reviews

I posted two reviews last week at Experiments in Manga that featured some of Kodansha Comics’ newest series: Masayuki Ishikawa’s Maria the Virgin Witch, Volume 1, released back in February, and Naoshi Arakawa’s Your Lie in April, Volume 1, which will be released later this month. The main reason I picked up Maria the Virgin Witch was because Ishikawa was the creator of Moyasimon. I really wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, but now I’m very interested in reading the rest of the series. Your Lie in April caught my attention because it’s a music manga. It has the potential to become rather melodramatic, but I did enjoy the first volume and plan on reading more.

Last week also saw the release of Gamon Sakurai’s Ajin: Demi-Human, Volume 4 from Vertical. I’m actually quoted on the back cover, a blurb taken from my review of the first volume. This is all very exciting, although my legacy will now probably be that of an ignorant reviewer who spouts nonsense about production values and the quality of paper. Although I thought it looked nice, it turns out Ajin is actually printed on one of the cheaper, thinner stocks used by Vertical. Anyway. Lesson learned! I also discovered that a much more flattering quote of mine from a quick take last year was used for the final volume of Tetsuya Tsutsui’s Prophecy, except that it was credited to Manga Bookshelf. So it goes!

Elsewhere online, Lori of Manga Xanadu has recently been putting together some interesting lists of manga. A few weeks ago she featured sewing and fashion manga and last week focused on manga which include books with great power. Organization of Anti-Social Geniuses posted the transcription of the panel with Abigail Blackman on manga editing, lettering, and Japanese nuance. from the Castle Point Anime Con. Geeks OUT! has an exclusive interview with Jiraiya (one of the creators featured in the Massive gay manga anthology) from his recent North American tour. And Zero Comprehension has a brief guide to the official releases of the Golgo 13 manga in English.

In licensing-ish news, Digital Manga has launched another Tezuka Kickstarter for Clockwork Apple and is making plans for its next yaoi Kickstarter. Unrelated, there’s also a Kickstarter project for an original-English boys’ love anthology that looks quite good—Boy, I Love You. Viz Media has licensed the Yo-Kai Watch manga series for its Perfect Square imprint. I don’t often mention anime licenses, but I was very excited to learn that Discotek Media will be releasing Library Wars and Dororo. Finally, Sparkler Monthly has added the reboot of Jennifer Doyle’s excellent webcomic Knights-Errant. (Also, the most recent Sparkler Podcast talks about josei manga and the differences between the Japanese manga industry and the North American comics industry, among other topics.)

Quick Takes

Genshiken: Second Season, Volume 4Genshiken: Second Season, Volumes 4-6 by Shimoku Kio. For some reason, I don’t find the second season of Genshiken to be as engaging as the original manga series. I haven’t quite been able to identify why yet, though I suspect it may be because most of the newer characters haven’t seen much development in the recent volumes and the characters from the first “season” feel like they’re invading the new series. I think Genshiken works best for me with an ensemble cast. While there are still plenty of characters in the manga as well as regular plot tangents, lately the story has primarily focused on just a few. Admittedly, the two characters who are getting the most attention, namely Madarame and Hato, happen to be my favorites in the series. Hato in particular is marvelous. He’s going through some significant personal turmoil over his cross-dressing and love of boys’ love, which has a tremendous impact on the rest of the story and characters. And apparently just about everyone is in love with Madarame. But as interesting as the increasingly convoluted relationships in the series are, at this point what I really want is to know more about the other club members.

Last Man, Volume 1: The StrangerLast Man, Volume 1: The Stranger by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville, and Balak. Despite France being one of the world powerhouses of comics creation, relatively few French comics have been translated into English, especially when compared to the number of manga available. Last Man, which is in part inspired and heavily influenced by shōnen battle manga, has been very well received in France. And now, thanks to First Second, it’s available in English. (I believe Last Man may actually the first comic in translation that has been released by First Second.) Adrian is a young boy who has been training hard for his first fighting tournament, but when his teammate gets sick, it looks like he won’t be able to compete. Enter Richard, the titular stranger and a physically imposing man, who also needs a partner in order to compete. They make a peculiar pair: Adrian hasn’t quite mastered the magic and special techniques of his martial style, and Richard relies completely on his fists and strength. He also doesn’t appear to actually know the rules of the tournament, which poses a bit of a problem. So far, Last Man is delightfully engaging; I’m really looking forward to reading more of the series.

Missing RoadMissing Road by Shushushu Sakurai. Before quietly disappearing, DramaQueen released two final manga by Sakurai, Junk! and Missing Road. What particularly caught my attention about these two manga was the fact that they were science fiction—a genre that I’ve rarely seen in translated boys’ love manga. Missing Road specifically was described as “an epic sci-fi adventure of love, loss, and redemption.” Sadly, although some of Sakurai’s ideas certainly had great potential and I did like the setting, Missing Road doesn’t quite live up to that promise. The manga would have been more successful from a narrative standpoint if Sakurai could have expanded the story over the course of multiple volumes. As it is, she tries to cover too much ground in a single installment and many of the manga’s elements feel underdeveloped or truncated as a result. There are important close and intimate relationships, but Missing Road isn’t really a love story and is instead more about brutal war and revenge. Most of the sex is of a violent nature and rape occurs on several different occasions. The English-language edition was actually censored (with permission from Sakurai) for fear of United States child pornography laws.

Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Omnibus 3Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Omnibus 3 by CLAMP. With this omnibus, I have entered into territory that I previously didn’t have the opportunity to read before Tsubasa originally went out-of-print in English. At this point, I’m still enjoying the series. It’s not always the most emotionally compelling manga (although admittedly it can sometimes be heart-wrenching), but Tsubasa is definitely a solid adventure tale. The manga’s premise allows CLAMP to very creative and develop world after world, each one different from the ones preceding and following it and each with its own challenges and dangers to be faced. Nods to other CLAMP manga and characters are still prevalent, and I assume this will likely be true for the entire series. This particular omnibus prominently features RG Veda, which I haven’t actually read, so I probably don’t appreciate the references as much as someone who has. It looks like the alternate version of Seishirō from Tokyo Babylon and X will be an important antagonist in Tsubasa as well. The series Tsubasa most directly crosses over with is xxxHolic. This connection actually works very well for Tsubasa, but I find it somewhat distracting when reading xxxHolic.

My Week in Manga: February 2-February 8, 2015

My News and Reviews

A small variety of posts went up at Experiments in Manga last week. First up, the Cinderalla manga giveaway winner was announced. The contest was a tie-in to the Female Goth Mangaka Carnival, so the post also includes a list of the featured creators’ manga available in English. The first in-depth manga review for February was Saki Nakagawa’s Attack on Titan: Junior High, a parody spinoff of the immensely popular Attack on Titan franchise. The series’ funniness can be somewhat uneven, but it can be absolutely hilarious at times. And posted over the weekend was January’s Bookshelf Overload, revealing the absurd amount of manga that came into my household last month.

Elsewhere online, Viz Media’s Shojo Beat announced two new licenses: QQ Sweeper by Kyousuke Motomi (the creator of Dengeki Daisy, which I rather enjoy) and Idol Dreams by Arina Tanemura. Organization Anti-Social Geniuses posted The Very Unofficial Guide to Discovering Manga in 2015, which is a nice overview of demographics, publishers, where to read and buy manga, and so on. Den of Geek has an interview with comics historian Graham Kolbeins, one of the editors behind Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It and The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: The Master of Gay Erotic Manga. Finally, Otaku USA interviews Patrick Macias about Hypersonic Music Club, his collaboration with artist Hiroyuki Takahashi and the first of Crunchyroll Manga’s original series.

Quick Takes

Sky LinkSky Link by Shiro Yamada. Like many boys’ love mangaka, before making her professional debut Yamada started by creating doujinshi (she seems to have been particularly fond of pairing Gintoki and Hijikata from Gin Tama together). Sky Link is Yamada’s first original manga and is currently the only work of hers available in English. The volume collects two unrelated boys’ love stories, the titular “Sky Link” and “You through a Kaleidoscope.” Unfortunately, neither of the short manga are particularly satisfying; while her artwork can at times be quite lovely (occasionally her characters’ eyes are unintentionally creepy), Yamada definitely has room to grow as a storyteller. “Sky Link” had too many disparate elements to it. It could have worked quite well as a longer series, but as a short story Yamada didn’t have enough time to effectively develop the plot or characters and everything is left frustratingly vague. Ritsuki is a first year college student with some sort of troubled past who has caught the attention and affections of one of his new professors who, it is later revealed, has a troubled past of his own. “You through a Kaleidoscope,” a fairly standard high school boys’ love romance, isn’t as ambitious but is more successful as a result.

Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Omnibus 1Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Omnibuses 1-2 (equivalent to Volumes 1-6) by CLAMP. I originally read the first few volumes of Tsubasa back when it was being released by Del Rey. Because I was borrowing it from the library and people had a tendency to steal volumes Tsubasa and its sort-of crossover series xxxHolic, I never got very far with the series. I’m glad that Kodansha is bringing Tsubasa back into print, because it really is an immensely enjoyable adventure tale. And because the setting is constantly moving from one dimension to the next, CLAMP is able to have a lot of fun with the clothing designs and worldbuilding from one short story arc to the next. The drive of the series is the search for Princess Sakura’s memory, pieces of which have been scattered throughout space and time, but the remembrances of her and the other characters form an important part of the story as well. I do think I’m enjoying Tsubasa a little more my second time trying to read it. I’ve now been exposed to more of CLAMP’s work, so I can better appreciate the references being made and the alternate-dimension versions of characters from the group’s other manga. (Seeing couples originally from X actually have a chance at happiness is both touching and heart-wrenching.)

UQHolder3UQ Holder!, Volume 3 by Ken Akamatsu. I enjoyed the third volume of UQ Holder more than I did the first two, but the series has yet to win me over. It seems as though the manga is starting to focus a bit more, which it desperately needed to do, but that may simply be because Akamatsu spends very little time on trying to develop a coherent plot and primarily sticks with the action sequences. The third volume is almost entirely devoted to a sequence of fight scenes. Right now the battles in UQ Holder are probably my favorite thing about the series. They are entertaining, exciting, and extremely energetic. And because immortals are involved, they can be pretty epic, too. The damage inflicted on both persons and property is impressive. Many of the characters, even the non-immortals, have superhuman powers of some sort. Incredible strength, quick regeneration, shape-shifting, and magic—either alone or in combination—are only a few examples of the over-the-top abilities found in UQ Holder. But as entertaining as the battles can be, from time to time the action is unclear. Something will happen and it will be extremely difficult to understand exactly what or how. I’m not even going to try to attempt to explain why Yukihime suddenly loses her skirt for seemingly no reason.