My Week in Manga: March 11-March 17, 2013

My News and Reviews

Two reviews for you all this past week! First up was my review of Edogawa Rampo’s novella Strange Tale of Panorama Island. I enjoyed it quite a bit and am now even more excited for the release of Suehiro Maruo’s manga adaptation of the story, which looks like it will actually be published this year. (I’ve been waiting since 2009.) The second review posted was my monthly Blade of the Immortal review—Blade of the Immortal, Volume 19: Badger Hole. In this volume the women of the series get a moment to shine before the introduction of a new character diverts readers’ attention.

The biggest manga news from last week is that the digital manga service JManga will be shutting down. JManga7 is already gone, but more information regarding JManga’s closure (termination schedule, refunds, FAQs, etc.) can be found here. I personally never got around to using JManga (I still have plenty of print manga keeping me busy), but I am still sad to see the service go.

In happier news, Kuriousity takes a quick look at a couple of One Peace Books’ upcoming manga: Black Bard and Smuggler. Smuggler was previously published by Tokyopop, but Black Bard is a new English license. I’m actually somewhat interested in both titles, but especially in Black Bard since it will be an omnibus release and has a music connection, too. Over at All About Manga, Daniella Orihuela-Gruber takes on a 30 Day Yaoi Challenge. Check out the first post/review to learn more about the project and what’s in store for Daniella and All About Manga readers.

Quick Takes

Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Omnibus 2 written by Satoru Akahori and illustrated by Yukimaru Katsura. Hazumu is still trying to get used to being a girl, but in the second omnibus she has even more pressing concerns to deal with. While I vaguely enjoyed reading Kashimashi, it hasn’t really left much of an impression. As strange and original as Kashimashi tries to be, it ends up feeling very derivative. I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, but Yasuna (one of the love interests) reminds me a lot of Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura in both character design and personality. Seven Seas also made the bizarre decision to include the translation notes for the entire series in the second omnibus.

Paradise Kiss, Part 3 by Ai Yazawa. I continue to be impressed by the characterizations and complicated relationships found in Yazawa’s manga. Her characters come complete with flaws and are much more interesting because of it. In Paradise Kiss I was particularly pleased to see Yukari’s development and growth as a person. In the beginning, she frequently annoyed me, but as she matures I found her to be a more sympathetic character. Part 3 of the series also spends a little bit of time exploring Isabella’s backstory, which made me happy. (This also includes seeing George as a dapper young boy.) I was very satisfied with the ending of Paradise Kiss. It might not be the happily ever after that some readers hope for, but I think it was the right one and true to the characters.

Solanin by Inio Asano. In the afterword, Asano describes the characters of Solanin as “just your average 20-somethings,” with nothing particularly noteworthy about them. Meiko is a recent graduate who hates her office lady job. And so she quits, even though her savings won’t last that long. Her live-in boyfriend Naruo is faced with a similar dilemma: he doesn’t mind his job as an illustrator, but he would be much happier if his band could make it big. Searching for their place in the world, Meiko, Naruo, and their friends aren’t quite ready to become adults. Solanin is largely a melancholic work, but it has just the right touch of humor and hope to keep the manga from becoming too depressing.

Usagi Yojimbo: Yokai by Stan Sakai. In 2009, Sakai celebrated the 25th anniversary of his marvelous series Usagi Yojimbo. As part of that celebration, Yokai was published as a standalone graphic novel. Although Yokai is written in such a way that newcomers to the series can approach it, established fans will probably appreciate it more. Fans of yokai will also get a kick out of the volume as Usagi encounters a fair number of yokai before the story is through. Which, considering the title, probably isn’t that surprising. What sets Yokai apart from the rest of Usagi Yojimbo is that it is Sakai’s first story to be completely hand-painted in watercolor. The volume also includes a nice interview with Sakai discussing a little about yokai the creation of the work.

My Week in Manga: March 28-April 3, 2011

My News and Reviews

Things are always slow at Experiments in Manga towards the end of the month, and this week was no exception. I posted March’s Bookshelf Overload and then there’s the monthly manga giveaway. This month I have a brand new copy of Old Boy, Volume 1 that I’m giving away. The winner will be randomly selected this coming Wednesday and not many people have entered yet. Old Boy is an Eisner award winning series that’s definitely worth checking out. Enter Manga Giveaway: Omnivorous Old Boy before it’s too late!

This week’s interesting online finds include an interview with one of my favorite translators Alexander O. Smith on the podcast if you’re just joining us. He talks about Harmony, which is up for a Philip K. Dick Award, and translating video games, among other things. Apparently, he is currently working on the translation of Miyuki Miyabe’s Ico: Castle of Mist for Haikasoru. (Smith also translated Miyabe’s Brave Story and The Book of Heroes.) I also found an interview with Japantor Radio’s Zac Bentz on Nihongaku. I love Japanator Radio, so it was nice to read what Zac had to say about it. I only discovered the podcast recently, but it’s been airing for over three years now.

Two more things I want to bring attention to: Manga Bookshelf’s Don’t Fear the Adaptation feature recently focused on House of Five Leaves. I love, love, love this anime and really hope we get a DVD release of it. And finally, NPR’s Talk of the Nation had a segment last Monday with Donald Keene and Kimiko Hahn looking at Japanese literature with reading recommendations in light of the recent earthquakes and tsunami: Books to Help You Understand Japan. The recommendations primarily focus on traditional and classic works.

Actually, there’s one more thing I want to mention. Anime and Manga Bloggers for Japan is still going strong. We’ve almost raised $5,000 for Shelter Box and Doctors without Borders. It would be fantastic if we could reach that goal or more. If you are able, please consider donating.

Also, added to the Resources page: Ain’t It Cool News Anime, Blog of the North Star, Diary of a Bookworm, and Yaoi 911

Quick Takes

Trigun, Volumes 1-2 by Yasuhiro Nightow. The first few volumes of Immortal Rain share quite a few similarities with Trigun, which is the series that came first. Except that I adore Immortal Rain and can barely stand Trigun. I don’t really like the art at all (although there are some interesting character designs) and found both it and the story extremely difficult to follow. Things start to become a bit more coherent and interesting towards the end of the second volume, but then the series ends abruptly. I preferred the science fiction elements of the story over the more generic Western elements but ultimately Trigun just didn’t work for me.

Trigun Maximum, Volumes 1-7 by Yasuhiro Nightow. This series is such an improvement over the original manga. Trigun Maximum begins two years after the events Trigun. The story is clearer but still somewhat difficult to follow. The fight sequences are also difficult to follow, but at least the art looks a lot better than it did in the original series. I like Trigun Maximum much more than I did Trigun, but the manga still frustrates me. I felt that I had to put too much effort into trying to understand what was going on. But, I do like the characters and the story that I was able to figure out I did enjoy. I might give the anime a try.

Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition by Stan Sakai. I’ve never actually read any Usagi Yojimbo until now. The series began in 1987 and is still going. Fantagraphics’ The Special Edition is a marvelous collection of the first seven trade volumes plus a ton of great extras, including a cover gallery and interviews with Sakai. The influence of samurai films on Sakai’s work is obvious and the references and nods are delightful. (Lone Goat and Kid, anyone?) Usagi is inspired by Miyamoto Musashi and Sakai has put a lot of research into the creation of his anthropomorphic version of Edo era Japan. I really enjoyed Usagi Yojimbo and plan on reading more.

Ze, Volumes 3-4 by Yuki Shimizu. As adorable and awkward as Raizou and Kon’s relationship is in the first two volumes of Ze, Genma and Himi’s relationship in volumes three and four is just as dark and brutal. Genma really has some serious issues to work out, which is very unfortunate for his kami Himi. Granted, most people in the Mitou family have issues. More details are revealed regarding kami and their creation in these volumes. Additional characters are introduced, too, and lighten things back up a bit after Genma and Himi’s intensity. There’s even an honest to goodness threesome in volume four, something I haven’t seen much of in manga licensed in English.

Monster, Episodes 61-74 directed by Masayuki Kojima. I finally got around to finishing the anime adaptation of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster. It wasn’t a terrible adaptation, and I’m happy to see just about any version of Urasawa’s work, but it doesn’t have much life of its own. I think it tried to be too true to the original manga and it simply didn’t work as well. The pacing needed for a television series is not the same that is needed for a written series and the anime comes across as being slow and unfocused. Ultimately, and perhaps not too surprisingly, I prefer the manga over the anime. But, I am glad that I took time to watch the anime. It’s not bad, it’s just not as good as I wanted it to be.