My Week in Manga: December 19-December 25, 2016

My News and Reviews

Nothing other than the usual My Week in Manga feature was posted last week at Experiments in Manga. However, I still have a few things in store before the year is through. Later this week you’ll want to be on the lookout for the monthly manga giveaway for December. I’ve also been hard at work on my list of notable manga, comics, and other books that I’ve read that were released in 2016. That list should be ready to post in the very near future as well!

Quick Takes

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Volume 2The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Volumes 2-6 by Aya Shouoto. It was the beautiful artwork and yokai that first drew The Demon Prince of Momochi House to my attention and that continues to be a large part of the series’ appeal for me. I’m also enjoying the story’s melancholic atmosphere as the manga explores themes of loneliness and the desire to belong. Himari, who is an incredibly sweet and caring person, is steadily building her relationships and friendships with the locals, ayakashi and humans alike. However, more the romantic elements of the series are admittedly less convincing. Although there is an underlying story about the mysteries surrounding Aoi and Himari’s efforts to free him from his tragic fate, The Demon Prince of Momochi House frequently almost seems episodic in nature as Himari is introduced to a variety of supernatural wonders and dangers. The seemingly directionless and less-than-cohesive storytelling can be frustrating and sometimes even feels a little shallow, but overall I find the series to be alluring and provocative and look forward to reading more.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 9What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volumes 9-11 by Fumi Yoshinaga. I am incredibly happy that What Did You Eat Yesterday? is being released in English, so it makes me sad that the series doesn’t seem to be doing especially well in translation. It’s a shame, because it really is a wonderful manga. While I certainly appreciate the food aspects of What Did You Eat Yesterday?, I particularly love the realistic and nuanced characterizations found in the series. The food is all well and good, not to mention beautifully illustrated, but it’s the characters and their relationships that really make the series work. Shiro’s character development has probably been the most interesting and satisfying. I’m very glad to see his relationship with his parents improving even after some significant setbacks. While he’s still not out in his professional life, it is clear that he is becoming more comfortable publicly expressing his sexuality. Fortunately, Shiro and his long-term boyfriend Kenji have the love, support, and acceptance of others which makes that easier. More recently, rather than their homosexuality, what they’ve had to worry about are Shiro’s aging parents and the rising cost of living.

Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 3Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibuses 3-4 (equivalent to Volumes 5-8) by Wataru Watanabe. Out of the recent spate of new sports manga being released in North America, Yowamushi Pedal is currently one of my favorites. I have seen a fair amount of the anime adaptation so at this point I am very familiar with where the plot is heading, but even so I still find the original manga to be immensely engaging. Before Yowamushi Pedal, I actually didn’t realize how much of a team effort cycling could be; it’s interesting to learn about the various strategies that can be used to win a race. These couple of omnibuses largely focus on Sohoku’s intensive training camp and also introduce some of the major competition. The characters are fun, some of them are frankly pretty cool, too, and they all have distinctive personalities. The Sohoku team especially is made up of a group of quirky but likeable and talented young cyclists. Art-wise Yowamushi Pedal could almost be described as ugly, but I really like its highly dramatic and energetic style. Watanabe probably uses more speedlines than any other artist I’ve seen, but the effect is great.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Volume 2: AmbitionLegend of the Galactic Heroes, Volumes 2-3 by Yoshiki Tanaka. Despite the nearly constant war and political upheaval present in the Legend of the Galactic Heroes novels, the series isn’t really that action-oriented. I suspect some people will actually find it to be rather dry and perhaps even textbook-like. With only the occasional bout of melodrama, the series quickly moves from one event or venue to the next and the cast of characters only continues to grow. (Granted, as this is war, not all of them survive very long after being introduced.) Because the scope is so sprawling sometimes it feels as though Legend of the Galactic Heroes lacks depth of story and characters, instead opting for a wider view and summary of major events. However, Tanaka does show how the complexities of societal, political, economic, and militaristic influences can impact one another. The books frequently read like a popular history, and the series actually reminds me a bit of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, too. So far I’m really enjoying the series and find its story and characters interesting. I like the focus on tactics and strategy as well as the influence that real-life history has had on the series.

My Week in Manga: June 20-June 26, 2016

My News and Reviews

Not much news to report in regards to Experiments in Manga this past week, though I would like to take to the opportunity to thank everyone for the kind words, encouragement, and support as I work to find some life-work-blog-etc balance. (In case you missed it, I went into more detail in last week’s My Week in Manga.) Currently I’m working on an Adaptation Adventures feature for Mushishi for my horror manga review project, but it’s been delayed (yet again) as I needed to get my DVD player working in order to watch the live-action film. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish the post up soon!

Elsewhere online, Libre responded responded to Digital Manga’s rather unprofessional announcement that the publishers were parting ways. (Apparently there was a breach of contract; from how Libre’s comments are phrased, I’m assuming it was on Digital Manga’s part.) Digital Manga will stop selling manga that were licensed from Libre on June 30th and posted a list of the discontinued titles on Twitter. Justin at The OASG interviewed Ajani Oloye, one of Kodansha Comics’ manga editors. In licensing news, Bruno Gmünder’s catalog for Fall 2016 lists two new collections from Mentaiko Itto in its Gay Manga line, a poster book and the manga The Boy Who Cried Wolf. (I highly enjoyed Itto’s previous English-language manga collection, Priapus, so this is good news for me.)

Quick Takes

Forget Me Not, Volume 2Forget Me Not, Volume 2 written by Mag Hsu and illustrated by Nao Emoto. While the catalyst behind Forget Me Not is the mystery woman who helped to save Serizawa’s life after he was in a motorcycle accident, so far the series spends most of its time exploring Serizawa’s past and lost loves. One of the most touching incidents in the second volume (at least for me) actually had nothing to do with Serizawa’s erstwhile romances—a classmate confesses to Serizawa that he’s gay and that he has feelings for him. Serizawa handles the situation remarkably well, especially when considering the social disasters so many of his other relationships end up becoming. But even those failed relationships are important for Serizawa’s growth as a person and show that good things actually can come about as the result of struggling with rejection. Serizawa is a much more interesting character than I initially gave him credit for. He’s a believably and realistically flawed person who makes stupid mistakes but isn’t generally acting out of malice. Serizawa does occasionally act like a complete jerk, but for the most part it’s unintentional. I like that the series shows how he matures, and in some cases doesn’t, over time.

Your Lie in April, Volume 3Your Lie in April, Volumes 3-7 by Naoshi Arakawa. It was the series’ emphasis on music that first brought Your Lie in April to my attention, and it’s still one of the thing that I like best about the manga. As a musician, I appreciate the characters’ efforts to express themselves through their art, though as a composer I can’t completely agree with the amount of disregard some of the characters show towards the original score. The more I read of Your Lie in April, the more I realize that while music is an important aspect of the series, at it’s very heart the manga is about messy and complicated love of varying types. Kosei’s relationship with his  mother is deeply intertwined with his relationship to music and everything else in his life stems from that. Everyone in the series seems focused on Kosei. It can all be very melodramatic and at times Your Lie in April narrowly avoids becoming overly sentimental. But then I, too, believe in the power of music. Kosei’s return to playing the piano is traumatic, but ultimately healing for him. Realistically, however, it music shouldn’t be a complete replacement for the emotional and psychological support that he needs to recover from years of abuse and the death of his mother.

Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 2Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 3-4) by Wataru Watanabe. I’ve seen a fair amount of the Yowamushi Pedal anime so I know exactly what’s going to happen this early on in the original manga, but I still find the series incredibly enjoyable to read. I think that part of that has to do with the artwork; I really like Watanabe’s style in Yowamushi Pedal. The art is not at all what I would call pretty—in fact many people might even consider its roughness and angularity ugly—but it is very dynamic, energetic, and thrilling. Story-wise, the second omnibus is almost entirely devoted to the inaugural race of the first year members of the road racing club. Most of the team are experienced racers but Onoda, the lead of Yowamushi Pedal, most definitely is not. Since Onoda himself is learning the rules and techniques used in road cycling for the first time, Watanabe is able to take advantage of the opportunity to introduce the same concepts to readers who likewise might not be familiar with them. From time to time it does interrupt the flow of the narrative, but Yowamushi Pedal generally moves along at a good pace. I find the series very entertaining and I’m really looking forward to reading more.

My Week in Manga: January 4-January 10, 2016

My News and Reviews

The new year is now well on its way, and I finally feel like I’m getting back into my writing groove; my regular posting schedule has mostly returned, though there might be a slight interruption in February. Anyway. In addition to the regular My Week in Manga feature, there were two other posts at Experiments in Manga last week. The first was the announcement of the Merman in My Tub Giveaway Winner which also includes a compiled list of some of the giveaway participants’ favorite manga that were released in 2015. The second post last week also happened to be the second in-depth manga review for the year—JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Volume 3 by Hirohiko Araki. It’s such a ridiculous, over-the-top series, but I’m sincerely enjoying it.

As for some of the interesting things I’ve discovered online recently: The news was previously leaked, but Dark Horse has now officially announced its two new manga licenses, Kenji Tsuruta’s Wandering Island and CLAMP’s RG Veda. I thought I had mentioned it a few weeks ago when it first launched (apparently I forgot), but Digital Manga’s boys’ love imprint Juné has a new Kickstarter project to publish four titles by Sakira in print. At least three of the four manga were Digital Manga Guild publications that were previously only available digitally. The project has already succeeded, but Digital Manga’s plan is to put a fair amount of the money pledged into restocking/reprinting some of its older, hard-to-find boys’ love titles. Finally, over at MangaBlog, Kate Dacey, Brigid Alverson, and Deb Aoki talk about some of their most anticipated manga of 2016, many of which happen to be some of my most anticipated releases as well.

Quick Takes

Itazura na Kiss, Volume 4Itazura na Kiss, Volumes 4-6 by Kaoru Tada. For the most part, I’m continuing to enjoy Itazura na Kiss. At this point in the series, Naoki and Kotoko are in college, each trying to figure out what to do with their lives. Kotoko’s infatuation with Naoki is the most important impetus for her to do just about anything, whether it be joining the tennis club, becoming a waitress, or trying her hand at office work. Normally, this would probably annoy me, but I appreciate her gusto, individuality, and willingness to follow through with what she’s started. Even though Kotoko is so incredibly focused on Naoki, her world actually doesn’t completely revolve around him and she’s not defined by him either, which I think is what makes her character work for me. Were it otherwise, I don’t think that I would enjoy the series nearly as much. Naoki continues to be aloof and more often than not a jerk. One particular instance in which Kotoko is unnecessarily treated very poorly could have been avoided entirely if he would have just had the courtesy to tell her what was going on, and there was no good reason for him not to. Thankfully, this sort of behavior isn’t romanticized or idealized in the manga.

Love in All Forms: The Big Book of Growing Up QueerLove in All Forms: The Big Book of Growing Up Queer edited by Serafina Dwyer. I follow the work of Kori Michele Handwerker who contributed to Love in All Forms which is how I first learned about the collection. I was also thrilled to discover that Jennifer Doyle, another artist whose work I enjoy, was also a contributor. The anthology collects fourteen comics by queer creators about queer children. Most of the creators were actually new to me, so I’ve definitely found some new artists to follow. As for the comics themselves, some of the stories are based in reality, while others are fantasy or science fiction, but they all deal with love and personal identity in one way or another. Many of the characters skew towards the feminine side of the gender non-conforming spectrum, but there’s a nice range of representation in the anthology with an emphasis on acceptance. Generally the stories tend to be fairly optimistic, which is marvelously refreshing. The name of the anthology might be a little misleading, or at least overly broad or ambitious, but it’s a lovely collection of beautifully heartfelt and touching queer comics.

Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 1Yowamushi Pedal, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Wataru Watanabe. I’ve watched and enjoyed part of the Yowamushi Pedal anime adaptation, so I wasn’t especially surprised by any of the developments found in the original manga. Even so, the first omnibus was great fun and I enjoyed it a great deal. Onoda is a fan of anime and manga whose surprising natural talents and regular trips by bicycle to Akihabara using less than ideal equipment have granted him some impressive cycling skills. He doesn’t even recognize his own abilities, though, not at all identifying with the more athletically inclined students at his school. But after several curious turns of events, he finds himself joining the bicycle road racing club. Watanabe isn’t very subtle when working information about cycling and bicycles into the story, which can be a little jarring, but the manga is still entertaining and I really like the characters. I’m glad that Yen Press is taking a chance on a long-running sports manga (the series is already over forty volumes in Japan and is still ongoing) and I sincerely hope that Yowamushi Pedal is a success.