My Week in Manga: February 13-February 19, 2017

My News and Reviews

Hooray! I managed to write and post another in-depth review at Experiments in Manga. Even if I’m not writing as much as I once was, it still feels pretty good to get back into the (slow) swing of things. Anyway, last week I took a look at Jen Lee Quick’s dark fantasy Western Gatesmith, Volume 1. The comic is off to an intriguing start though it can also be a little frustrating. The series is currently on break, but I hope that there will be more soon.

As many people are probably aware, the prolific and versatile mangaka Jiro Taniguchi passed away earlier this month. Despite not being particularly well known in English, a fair number of his manga have been released in translation. Kate Dacey of The Manga Critic has a nice guide to Taniguchi’s work for those interested in what is currently available. At The Comics Journal, Taniguchi was the subject of a recent article by Joe McCulloch and an obituary written by Zack Davisson. Other comic sites like The Beat have recently honored Taniguchi as well. I’ve read most but not quite all of Taniguchi’s work in English, my personal favorites being A Distant Neighborhood and his collaboration with Baku Yumemakura The Summit of the Gods. Way back when there was a Manga Moveable Feast devoted to Taniguchi, too. Some of the links are no longer work, but many of the features can still be tracked down.

In happier news, SuBLime announced three new licenses last week: Akane Abe’s Am I In Love or Just Hungry? (digital-only), Scarlet Beriko’s Jackass!, and Tsuta Suzuki’s A Strange and Mystifying Story. (I’m very curious about Jackass! and I’m very happy about A Strange and Mystifying Story which is actually a license rescue. The first three of seven volumes were originally published in English by Digital Manga; I remember quite liking them.) The Toronto Comic Arts Festival has started announcing its featured guests for the year which will include Gengoroh Tagame among other fantastic creators. The OASG talked to Kodansha Comics about the licensing of Chihayafuru. While still probably unlikely, a print edition of the series isn’t completely off the table. As for Kickstarter campaigns for queer comics that have recently caught my attention, Megan Lavey-Heaton has launched a project to print the third volume of Namesake.

Quick Takes

Blood Blockade Battlefront, Volume 1Blood Blockade Battlefront, Volumes 1-7 by Yasuhiro Nightow. I wasn’t initially planning on reading Blood Blockade Battlefront–I wasn’t a huge fan Nightow’s Trigun–but I kept hearing great things about the anime adaptation and then I came across a “complete” set of the manga on super sale, so I picked it up. The series is actually ten volumes long; supposedly Dark Horse has plans to release the final three at some point. In general the manga tends to be fairly episodic, so even if the rest of the series isn’t translated at least readers aren’t left with an unresolved story. It wasn’t until partway through the second volume of Blood Blockade Battlefront that the series started to click with me, but once it did I found myself really enjoying the manga. Its mix of goofy everyday life and action-heavy sequences actually reminded me a bit of Cowboy Bebop. The manga is essentially about a semi-secret group of monster hunters working in what used to be New York before it was destroyed by the sudden appearance of an interdimensional portal. The character designs of the main cast are sadly simple and plain compared to the series’ fantastic setting and creatures, but their distinctive personalities mostly make up for that.

The Box ManThe Box Man by Imiri Sakabashira. The North American manga industry is primarily focused on publishing more popular, mainstream works, but occasionally an alternative or independent work is released as well. The Box Man was originally serialized in Ax, an alternative manga magazine in Japan which was the basis for the Ax: Alternative Manga English-language anthology. Examples of Sakabashira’s work can be found in that anthology and in the earlier collection Sake Jock, but The Box Man is his first long-form work to be translated. Granted, there’s very little dialogue that actually needs to be translated–for the most part the manga is an entirely visual experience. Even the story is fairly limited in scope. The narrative follows a kappa-like cat accompanying a man on a scooter who is transporting a box which turns out to contain something rather peculiar. The strangeness of The Box Man doesn’t end there, but the point of the manga seems to be less about telling a story and more about creating a visual spectacle. The artwork incorporates popular culture references (some of which I’m sure I completely missed) and at times can be rather bizarre, violent, or erotically-charged.

Giganto MaxiaGiganto Maxia by Kentaro Miura. Though it certainly has its problems, Miura’s Berserk is one of my favorite series. I have been significantly less enamored with the other manga by Miura that have been released in English–specifically his collaborations with Buronson Japan and King of Wolves–but I was still very curious about Giganto Maxia. Whether it’s intentional or not, the dark fantasy manga shares some similarities with Attack on Titan and Terra Formars and also appears to be heavily influenced by professional wrestling. Miura’s artwork in Giganto Maxia is tremendous but the story, while it isn’t awful, struggles to match the caliber of the illustrations. I almost wonder if Giganto Maxia was originally intended to be longer than a single volume since so much about the manga’s world and characters are left unexplained in the end. Giganto Maxia does more or less tell a complete story, but it feels like a single episode taken from the middle of a larger narrative. At one time a slave forced to battle to the death in a gladiatorial arena, Delos is now fighting against the empire itself. Joining forces with Prome, a powerful spirit who takes the form of a young girl (and who is constantly trying to get him to drink her “nectar” ), Delos can transform into the mythic titan Gohra in order to do battle.

Lake JehovahLake Jehovah by Jillian Fleck. Lake Jehovah, Fleck’s debut graphic novel, first came to my attention due to the fact that Jay, the comic’s protagonist, is genderqueer. While themes of identity, gender, and sexuality are integral to the comic’s story they aren’t the primary focus of Lake Jehovah. Instead, the comic is about the end of the world, both literally and figuratively. Human civilization has already succumbed to multiple apocalypses but Jay unexpectedly becomes the prophet for the next impending disaster while dealing with even more personal and existential crises. Jay struggles with intense depression and anxiety which slowly destroys xis relationship with xis fiance. Eventually she leaves, no longer able to cope with Jay’s instability, and Jay is left recover and come to terms with everything alone. Lake Jehovah actually handles the topic of mental illness better than many other comics I’ve read. It’s an emotionally tumultuous work, tempering despair with humor as the characters search for meaning in their lives even while everything is falling apart around them. Some turn to sex or drugs while others find comfort in poetry or art. Lake Jehovah is a somewhat strange but undeniably compelling comic.

Manga Giveaway: Omnivorous Old Boy Winner

And the winner of the Omnivorous Old Boy manga giveaway is…Jason!

Thank you to everyone who visited Experiments in Manga and participated in the contest. Only four people entered this time, which I thought was a little disappointing. Hopefully there will be a bigger turn out next month. Although, a smaller entry pool means there’s better odds for you if you participate. Anyway. As the winner, Jason will be receiving a brand new copy of Old Boy, Volume 1 written by Garon Tsuchiya and illustrated by Nobuaki Minegishi.

Since there are some great scenes in Old Boy involving food, I asked entrants for some favorite scenes from other manga that also involve food. (See the Omnivorous Old Boy comments for more details.) The manga mentioned included two “food” manga Yakitate!! Japan by Takashi Hashiguchi and Bambino! by Tetsuji Sekiya. Understandably, there are quite a few notable scenes involving food in those two series. There’s a fair amount of food and cooking related manga available, which I think is wonderful. I love food. I love manga. The combination works for me.

There are plenty of scenes in “non-food” manga involving food that are fun and important, too. I offered up Old Boy as one example. I found it interesting that the two “non-food” series mentioned in the comments both happened to have post-apocalyptic, science fiction elements. Yasuhiro Nightow’s Trigun and Trigun Maximum have quite a few moments involving food and drink. Wolfwood and Vash fighting over spaghetti early on in Trigun Maximum amused me greatly. Also mentioned was a delightful scene from Eden: It’s an Endless World! by Hiroki Endo. I don’t remember which volume this is from (I think it’s volume eight), but I do remember the moment:

Eden: It’s an Endless World! by Hiroki Endo

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.