My Week in Manga: February 27-March 4, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was my usual set of posts for the end/beginning of the month, which means it was a slightly slower week. February’s Bookshelf Overload was posted as was Experiments in Manga’s monthly manga giveaway. You still have a couple of days to enter for a chance to win King of Thorn for Keeps. Also posted last week were some random musings about the Manhwa Creator Bank, a campaign being coordinated by Korea’s Seoul Animation Center and Netcomics.

The next Manga Moveable Feast is coming up in a couple of weeks and will be held from March 18 to March 24. Manga Worth Reading will be hosting and this time we’ll all be taking a look at the work of Jiro Taniguchi—Jiro Taniguchi Topic of Next Manga Moveable Feast. I’ve got a couple of thing planned for the Feast, including an in-depth review of Taniguchi’s most recent release in English, A Zoo in Winter.

Now it’s time for some interesting reading that I’ve found online recently! Anime News Network has an interview with Tomomi Mochizuki, the director of the House of Five Leaves anime adaptation which just finally had a Region 1 DVD release. (I’m absolutely thrilled about this release and preordered the set the day it was announced.) Over at Robot 6 is another great interview: Felipe Smith talks manga — and life. Finally, and on a much less happier note, I’d like to direct your attention to a post over on Manga Bookshelf: Apple censors still targeting LGBTQ content? What Apple has been and is doing continues to piss me off, and Amazon is guilty of similar actions, too.

Quick Takes

Demon Diary, Volumes 1-7 written by Lee Chi-hyong (volume 1) and Lee Yun-hee (volumes 2-7) and illustrated by Kara. Raenef has been declared to be a demon lord, but with his innocent and kindhearted personality he doesn’t really seem to be cut out for the job. It’s up to the demon Eclipse to show him how things are done. About halfway through the series, the story changes significantly in tone. While there is still humor and comedy to be found, Demon Diary becomes much more serious and dramatic. Almost everything that does end up happening was at least hinted about, so at least the developments don’t come out of nowhere. I think I preferred the more overt silliness, but I did find later volumes to be interesting, too.

Library Wars: Love & War, Volume 7 by Kiiro Yumi. I like Library Wars best when library policy becomes a more integral part of the story. The last few volumes seemed to stray from that a bit, focusing on some of the characters’ personal lives (which makes them come across as high schoolers rather than grown adults), but the seventh volume brings library issues to the forefront again. A couple of new characters have been introduced, including a new antagonist, so things should continue to become more interesting. I’m still frustrated by Iku’s incompetence, but that seems to have been downplayed somewhat in this volume, which I appreciated. While I haven’t really been blown away by Library Wars, for the most part I have been enjoying the series and will continue to follow it.

No Longer Human, Volume 3 by Usumaru Furuya. I have been both dreading and really looking forward to the final volume in Furuya’s adaptation of Osamu Dazai’s novel No Longer Human. Dreading because it is such an intense and dark story, and looking forward because Furuya has done such a phenomenal job with the series. Having read the original novel I knew where things were heading, but it doesn’t make it any easier as a reader. Yozo finally experiences and has a chance at true happiness only to have it torn away from him as he slips back into darkness. The back cover calls it a “devastating finale” which is very apt. The changes that Furuya has made from Dazai’s original have worked really well.

Purgatory Kabuki, Volume 1 by Yasushi Suzuki. I wanted to like Purgatory Kabuki. I really, really did. I mean, the cover art is absolutely gorgeous and flipping through the volume reveals some stunning illustrations as well. But, that’s really all the manga has going for it. Unfortunately, Purgatory Kabuki lacks coherence, even in its artwork. Had I not previously read a summary, I would have had no idea what was going on in the story. Actually, even after reading a summary, I still didn’t really know what was happening. Something having to do with demons and swords and hell…I think. It is pretty, though. Originally, Purgatory Kabuki was intended to be three volumes long, but as far as I can tell only the first volume ever reached publication.

Cromartie High School directed by Hiroaki Sakurai. While for the most part I can say that I prefer the original manga series (although, that might just be because I read it first), the anime adaptation of Cromartie High School has some things going for it, too. It doesn’t stray much from the original material, but it does have the advantage of sound—Mechazawa’s smooth voice, the music that accompanies most of Freddie’s appearances, etc. Hayashida’s hair has a life of its own. Even though I already knew what all the jokes were going to be, they still made me laugh. There are twenty-six episodes, but each one is only about twelve minutes long. It’s a ridiculous series with an absurd sense of humor.

Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast: A Final Farewell

© Usamaru Furuya

A week ago today marked the end of the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast. Quite often, posts continue to trickle in even after a Feast is technically over. Here are a couple for your enjoyment.

Connie of Slightly Biased Manga reviews the second volume of Furuya’s No Longer Human, noting that the series is powerful, but hard to read:

You know that Yozo isn’t going to have a happy ending. There’s nobody left to help him. And he alienates those that try. It’s a self-destructive circle, and both the story and art do a good job of portraying the utter despair that permeates absolutely everything in this story.

Over at Otaku Ohana, Jason S. Yadao provides “a between-MMF snack” and takes a look at Genkaku Picasso:

The sketches Hikari draws of the scenes he sees within people’s hearts are the perfect canvas for Furuya’s imagination to run wild, whether it’s something as simple as a mecha standing over a crystal, as complex as a giant rabbit keeping watch over a melancholy baby, or as mind-numbingly surreal as a giant rose hovering over Tokyo Tower in the rain with a rapidly rising sea.

Thank you again to everyone who did their part to make the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast a success!

Manga Giveaway: Genkaku Picasso Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the Genkaku Picasso Giveaway is…Ikari!

As the winner, Ikari will be receiving a brand new copy of Usamaru Furuya’s Genkaku Picasso, Volume 1. Last week, Experiments in Manga hosted the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast. I decided to coordinate this month’s giveaway with the Feast by selecting one of Furuya’s manga.

For the giveaway, I wanted to learn a little bit about how other people were first introduced to Furuya and his works. Check out the Genkaku Picasso Giveaway comments for some great stories. I was surprised by how many people’s first experience was Short Cuts, although I probably shouldn’t have been. Personally, I didn’t find out about Furuya until Lychee Light Club was licensed. I think I can safely say that I’ve made up for it since then, though.

Usamaru Furuya’s Manga in English
Genkaku Picasso
Lychee Light Club
No Longer Human
Palepoli (excerpted in Japan Edge and Secret Comics Japan) 
Short Cuts

Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast: An Epilogue

© Usamaru Furuya

The Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast is drawing to a close. It’s been a great week with some great contributions. Here are the most recent submissions.

At Experiments in Manga, I posted a review of No Longer Human, Volume 1. Furuya’s adaptation of Osamu Dazai’s original novel was one of my most anticipated releases for 2011. I wasn’t disappointed.

Connie of Slightly Biased Manga brings us a license request for Palepoli, which includes great examples from the manga showing off the tremendous range in Furuya’s artwork:

Every single one of his books is interesting to look at. He’s constantly using unusual imagery and a plethora of styles to convey the story visually, and there’s nobody quite like him when it comes to this. It’s fine art in manga form, and I wish like nobody’s business that more of his work would be licensed.

Manga Connection participates in the Manga Moveable Feast for the very first time and uses the opportunity to take a look at Furuya’s No Longer Human, noting how easy it is to dislike Yozo and yet still relate to him:

Yozo is a manipulator and takes advantage, no doubt, but how many of us acknowledge it like he does? Does that make him any better or worse that us — no longer human? These are questions I could mull over a long time.

Terry Hong of BookDragon, a part of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program, only recently discovered the Manga Moveable Feast and joins in for the first time, reviewing the final two books of Genkaku Picasso:

Picasso’s closer friends finally begin to wonder how he knows so much about their lives. Questions, then accusations fly, sending Picasso off on a soul-search of his own … and Chiaki must guide him through one more challenging adventure.

Genkaku Picasso is also the subject of All About Manga‘s Daniella Orihuela-Gruber’s delightful article Usamaru Furuya’s Genkaku Picasso & Why It’s Currently the Only Shounen Manga on My Shelves which looks at the series from the perspective of someone who’s not generally a fan of shōnen manga:

Genkaku Picasso, on the other hand, has enough creativity to attack unconventional issues and goes so far as to mock the generic shounen formula it does take. Not to forget the manga’s shounen roots, the ending will probably make you cry a single, manly tear. I couldn’t think of a better shounen title to read right now.

As always, if I’ve missed something relating to the Feast, please let me know so that I can add it to the archive. While today was the official end of the Feast, I know there are still some contributions out there being written. Maybe you wanted to participate but for one reason or another weren’t able to during the Feast. Don’t let that hold you back! I will be posting one last, final farewell sometime later this week. Please let me know if you plan on submitting something and I’ll be sure that you are included.

I have already mentioned this several times during the Feast, but this was the first time that Experiments in Manga hosted the Manga Moveable Feast. It was a lot of work, but it was a great experience for me. I’m very glad that I volunteered. I sincerely hope that I was able to serve an adequate host. (Actually, I really hope that I was good host, but I’ll settle for adequate.) But, more importantly, I hope that you enjoyed the Feast.

I would like to thank everyone who participated in the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast, especially those who contributed reviews and articles. I would also particularly like to thank everyone who helped spread the word about and link to the Feast; Experiments in Manga is a newer and not particularly well-known manga and Japanese literature blog, so I really appreciated the assistance. Thank you also to everyone who took time to comment on the various posts. And all of you lurkers who wandered around reading but not saying anything? I’d like to thank you, too. The Feast would have been unrewarding if no one showed up to appreciate it. Thank you all for making the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast a success.

I hope you’ll all join us again for February’s Feast, hosted by the magnificent Kate Dacey of The Manga Critic. Scheduled for February 19-February 25, we’ll be celebrating Osamu Tezuka and exploring his works together. Bring a friend!

No Longer Human, Volume 1

Creator: Usamaru Furuya
Original story: Osamu Dazai

U.S. publisher: Vertical
ISBN: 9781935654193
Released: October 2011
Original release: 2009

Usamaru Furuya’s No Longer Human, a manga adaptation of Osamu Dazai’s novel of the same name, was one of my most anticipated releases for 2011. The original novel was published in 1948 while the first volume of Furuya’s interpretation was released in Japan in 2009. Vertical began bringing the series to English-reading audiences in 2011. (I was hoping that the third and final volume of Furuya’s No Longer Human would be published in time for the Usamaru Furuya Manga Movable Feast, but alas, the release date was moved back.) Dazai’s novel is a tremendous work and Furuya is a tremendous artist, so I was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to read his version of the story. It’s not a strictly literal adaptation—Furuya has moved the story to modern day Japan and has even inserted himself into it.

While searching for inspiration for his next series, manga artist and author Usamaru Furuya stumbles across the online diary of a young man named Yozo Oba. Yozo is the youngest son of a wealthy family. While attending a private high school in Tokyo, he was known as the class clown. Extremely charismatic, he was well liked by his classmates and teachers. What they didn’t know was that it was all an act. Yozo views his life as a performance, his actions are deliberate and calculated. The intense and constant effort Yozo puts into convincing others to like and accept him leaves him miserable and unhappy. He has a difficult time connecting with and understanding other people and is afraid that someone will notice his inauthenticity. For now, Yozo just tries to act the part that is expected of him.

Furuya easily slips between and melds two different art style in No Longer Human. One is fairly clean and straightforward, primarily used for dealing with Yozo’s interactions with other people. The other style is darker, murkier, and slightly more abstract, reflecting more closely Yozo’s inner state of mind and emphasising his sense of separation and detachment. The contrast between the two can be rather disconcerting. Furuya’s artwork is extremely effective and he creates some phenomenally chilling moments. The changes that Furuya has made to No Longer Human, which are actually relatively few, also work quite well. Each chapter closes with a direct quote from the novel and important lines—such as the one from the beginning of Yozo’s diary, “I’ve lived a life full of shame.”—are incorporated into the manga in very powerful ways.

It is not necessary to have read Dazai’s original novel in order to appreciate Furuya’s No Longer Human. (Although, if you haven’t read the novel before, I do recommend the book.) Furuya’s vision is compelling, although I didn’t find Yozo to be as sympathetic in the manga. In the novel, Dazai is able to be much more explicit about Yozo’s internal conflicts while Furuya relies on his art to express the same things, in some ways leaving more room for readers’ individual interpretations. The artwork allows readers to catch glimpses of how Yozo sees things, often without accompanying explanation. The first volume of Furuya’s No Longer Human is rather short, but if you rush through it, it is easy to miss some of the subtle cues in the art that add a tremendous amount of depth to both Yozo and to the story. If you can, take time to linger in the darkness.