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.

My Week in Manga: September 8-September 14, 2014

My News and Reviews

Two reviews were posted at Experiments in Manga last week. Coincidentally, they both happened to be for works that are a bit disconcerting. First up was my review of Boogiepop and Others, the light novel by Kouhei Kadono which launched the entire Boogiepop franchise. The book is a fantastic mix of science fiction, mystery, and horror with a particularly interesting narrative structure. I’ll definitely be tracking down more of the series to read. The second review was a part of my Year of Yuri monthly review project. I took a look at Erica Sakurazawa’s Between the Sheets, one of the very first josei manga to be released in English. It’s a story about obsessive love and is legitimately disturbing, but in an entirely different way than Boogiepop and Others.

I’ve been super busy at work recently (actually, life in general has been pretty busy) so I’ve not been able to keep up with a lot of manga news, but I did catch a couple of license announcements from this year’s YaoiCon. SuBLime has a new slate of digital and print manga to look forward to (I was particularly excited to see a Tomoko Yamashita manga licensed; sadly, I think it’s digital-only at this point) and Digital Manga will be releasing a collection of Kou Yoneda’s No Touching at All side stories, among other things. Also, Mangabrog posted translation of a Q Hayashida interview from a few years ago. As a fan of Hayashida’s Dorohedoro, I was very happy to have a chance to read the interview.

Quick Takes

From the New World, Volume 4From the New World, Volumes 4-5 written by Yusuke Kishi and illustrated by Toru Oikawa. I continue to be completely torn by From the New World. There are parts of the manga that I absolutely love, but there are several things that frustrate me immensely and greatly inhibit my enjoyment of the series. I am not a prude and am generally not offended by fanservice, but the sex scenes in From the New World seem so incredibly out-of-place. I know that sexual relationships are an important aspect of the worldbuilding in From the New World, but the manga does not integrate them very well at all. I can only assume the original novel handles it better. Thankfully, the sex scenes in the manga are relatively rare. Unfortunately, they are very difficult to ignore and are only ever shown when young girls are involved. From the New World does much better with the story’s science fiction and horror elements. It is dark and disturbing, and these two volumes are particularly graphic and violent, as well. Despite my reservations—of which I have quite a few—I do plan on finishing the series. There are only two more volumes after all.

Kinoko Inu: Mushroom Pup, Volume 1Kinoko Inu: Mushroom Pup, Volume 1 by Kimama Aoboshi. The first volume of Mushroom Pup may very well be one of the oddest manga that I’ve read recently. And even though I enjoyed the volume, I’m still not exactly sure what to make of it. Calling Mushroom Pup quirky would be putting it extremely lightly. Hotaru Yuyami writes and illustrates horror books for children, but ever since his beloved dog Hanako died his creative impulse has completely left him. One evening a strange pink mushroom growing in his garden turns into an even stranger intelligent dog-like creature which attempts to help Yuyami get over his loss in some very bizarre ways. (This isn’t even attempted to be explained.) Also invading Yuyami’s life as he tries to grieve is his childhood friend-cum-editor and a mushroom researcher (with an amazing mohawk) who just so happens to be a huge fan of Yuyami’s work. For all of its strangeness, Mushroom Pup is actually rather subdued and even the humor tends to be straight-faced, which in some ways makes it even funnier. At the same time, it’s also a bit melancholy and heartwarming.

Raqiya: The New Book of Revelation, Volume 1Raqiya: The New Book of Revelation, Volumes 1-2 written by Masao Yajima, illustrated by Boichi. One Peace Books doesn’t tend to do much in the way of marketing or press releases, so it seems as though the publisher’s manga appears almost out of nowhere. Raqiya is a five-volume series focused around a young woman named Luna who seems to be the harbinger for the end of days. She has caught the interest of a small but extreme cult of heretical Christians as well as the attention of a secret and heavily armed Catholic organization charged with hunting down such heretics. It’s interesting to see Christianity play such a huge role in a manga, even if it is a highly fictionalized version of the religion. There’s also plenty of destruction and action in Raqiya—explosions, gun fights, car chases, and so on. Boichi’s artwork is effectively dynamic and extremely intense, if occasionally a bit over the top. Raqiya is definitely a violent and extreme manga; Boichi doesn’t hold back. Boichi is a Korean artist now working and living in Japan. His series Sun-Ken Rock has been available digitally, but Raqiya is his first manga to be released in English in print.

UQ Holder!, Volume 1UQ Holder!, Volumes 1-2 by Ken Akamatsu. Technically a sequel of sorts to Negima!: Magister Negi Magi (or at least set in the same universe), UQ Holder! seems to stand completely on its own and requires no knowledge of the earlier series. (Which is a good thing seeing as I haven’t read it.) So far I am fairly underwhelmed by UQ Holder!, though there are a few things I like about the series. Akamatsu’s fight and action sequences can be fairly entertaining, for one. Also, I tend to enjoy manga that explore the repercussions of immortality, which UQ Holder! is set up to do. Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite followed through on that potential yet, despite a wide variety of different types of immortals and immortality being introduced (vampires, genetically modified humans, cursed beings, and many others). In general, the story of UQ Holder! is lacking a clear direction with far too many different genre elements, tropes, and cliches being forced to share the same series. It doesn’t help that the goals and motivations of the series’ protagonist are left deliberately vague as well; Akamatsu tries to make a joke of it, but it either doesn’t quite work or just isn’t funny.