My Week in Manga: August 29-September 4, 2016

My News and Reviews

The end of August has come and gone, but there’s still time to enter Experiments in Manga’s most recent giveaway. This time around you all have the opportunity to enter for a chance to win the first three volumes of Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul. (The winner will be announced on Wednesday.) Other than that, it was a fairly quiet week at Experiments in Manga. I was actually on vacation last week, too. I wasn’t online much, but I did catch that Viz Media will be releasing Hidenori Kusaka and Satoshi Yamamoto’s Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire manga as well as a Pokémon Pocket Comics box set.

Quick Takes

Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volume 5Kiss Him, Not Me!, Volumes 5-6 by Junko. The overall narrative of the last few volumes of Kiss Him, Not Me! has fallen into a noticeable pattern; the series focuses on Serinuma’s potential romantic interests one after another in turn, each of them becoming the subject of their very own mini story arc which briefly delves into their relationship with Serinuma and how they have changed (generally for the better) because of it. Much to my surprise, yet another character has been introduced who has developed feelings for Serinuma, though just how serious he is is somewhat ambiguous. Granted, it’s mostly because of him that everyone ends up confessing their own feelings to Serinuma. As for Serinuma herself, she still seems to be completely uninterested in romance, though she is enjoying having a larger group of friends. Kiss Him, Not Me! continues to be an over-the-top romantic comedy that doesn’t take itself at all seriously. Even when the basic story elements start to feel a little repetitive (such as when Serinuma goes on a date with each of her admirers) the series is unpredictable and varied enough that it remains both entertaining and engaging. The characters aren’t especially deep, and there’s plenty about the series that’s unbelievable, but Kiss Him, Not Me! is silly fun.

Tramps Like Us, Volume 10Tramps Like Us, Volumes 10-14 by Yayoi Ogawa. I am so glad that I made a point to collect Tramps Like Us when I did; the series is now very much out of print and unlikely to be rescued. (Although, considering the recent expansion in Kodansha’s digital offerings, there might yet be some hope there.)  I’m really not sure why it took me so long to actually get around to reading Tramps Like Us, because I ended up loving the manga and its characters. The basic premise is somewhat strange and the series frequently takes off on flights of fantasy, but somehow the emotions and relationship dynamics still manage to be incredibly real and relatable. The final volume of the series did feel a little rushed to me, and everything might have been tied up a little too nicely, but I still found the slightly bittersweet but predominantly happy ending to be very satisfying. Some of the developments weren’t really that surprising; it was only a matter of time before Sumire and Momo/Takeshi had to face what their relationship had become and actually do something about it. Although she has to give some things up, Sumire is able to find a balance between her career, home life, and love life that makes her happy. And I have to admit, although it might ultimately be a little idealistic, the ending made me happy, too.

Your Lie in April, Volume 8Your Lie in April, Volume 8-9 by Naoshi Arakawa. As a musician, I’m naturally drawn to manga in which music is featured in some way. And so, because music plays a very prominent role in Your Lie in April, the series immediately caught my attention. Arakawa captures the deep emotional connection a person can have with music remarkably well in Your Lie in April. My own relationship with music is a complicated one, so I’m glad to see that sort of complexity reflected in the manga as well. Generally, however, the series does tend more towards the angst associated with performance rather than the joy of music. Many of the characters are pouring their whole selves into their art; being a musician can be both a thrilling and terrifying experience. Effectively expressing oneself through music is a tremendous accomplishment, but frequently this is accompanied by fear and worry that one will never be good enough. Still, there are wonderful moments in Your Lie in April in which the characters are able to break through their insecurities. While music is an important part of Your Lie in April, probably even more important are the relationships between the characters, even if Kosei still seems oblivious to the fact that he means so much to so many different people.

My Week in Manga: May 23-May 29, 2016

My News and Reviews

Last week, I was rather preoccupied with my move. The rest of the family and I are now successfully living in the new house, but we aren’t through with moving and there’s still plenty left to do. However, amidst all of the chaos, I was able to post this month’s manga giveaway and there’s still time to enter for a chance to win a copy of Paradise Residence, Volume 1 by Kosuke Fujishima. (The winner will be announced on Wednesday.) Although I wasn’t online much at all last week, there were still a few things that I heard about. Digital Manga announced a new imprint, PeCChi, which will focus on ecchi manga of various types, starting with The Secret Devil-chan by Emu as well as Me and the Impish Devil by Hideaki Yoshikawa. Digital Manga’s most recent Kickstarter project will be released under the Pecchi imprint if it succeeds—Kaworu Watashiya’s controversial Kodomo no Jikan which was previously licensed by Seven Seas but never published. And, completely unrelated, the third part of “The Sparkling World of Shojo Manga,” which focuses on Riyoko Ikeda and The Rose of Versailles Manga, was recently posted at The Lobster Dance.

Quick Takes

Fairy Girls, Volume 1Fairy Girls, Volume 1 by Boku. Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail has inspired a fair number of spinoff manga  and adaptations, several of which have been released in English relatively recently. Fairy Girls, featuring four of the most popular female characters from the Fairy Tail guild—Erza, Juvia, Lucy, and Wendy—is one such spinoff. The series takes place immediately following the Grand Magic Games arc in the original series, but for the most part doesn’t actually require the reader to know much at all about Fairy Tail to follow along. Actually, those who are familiar with Fairy Tail and love these characters might end up more frustrated than not with Boku’s version. Fairy Girls almost reads like an unfunny parody, but I don’t think that was at all the intention. I wanted to like the manga much more than I actually did seeing as the basic premise had such promise. Many of the women in Fairy Tail are great characters, but in Fairy Girls they come across as extremely shallow versions of their true selves. The fanservice in Fairy Girls is somewhat odd, too. Without going back to check the entire volume page-by-page, I believe Boku has managed to completely avoid any panty shots (almost conspicuously so) but the manga does frequently seem to be fairly boob-focused.

LDK, Volume 2LDK, Volume 2 by Ayu Watanabe. I know a few people who really enjoy LDK and so I want to like it, too, but at this point in the series I find it to be more infuriating than anything else. Maybe the manga gets better as it goes along, but I can’t say that I’m particularly interested in finding out since there is very little about the first two volumes that I actually enjoyed. Probably my biggest issue with LDK is that the series’ leading man, Shusei, shows absolutely no respect for Aoi, the series’ heroine, despite supposedly having feelings for her. The second volume of LDK introduces a romantic rival who, likewise, doesn’t actually seem to care about Aoi’s feelings. And I still remain unconvinced that any of the people involved legitimately love or even like any of the others. I believe LDK is intended to be a romantic comedy, but it just doesn’t seem to work as one for me, probably because the characters have failed to win me over. Even though some of the scenarios and situations in LDK are admittedly ridiculous and over-the-top (though not especially original), for whatever reason the humor just isn’t very funny as a whole and the balance between it and the manga’s more serious aspects is off.

Tramps Like Us, Volume 6Tramps Like Us, Volumes 6-9 by Yayoi Ogawa. As the series progresses, the basic premise of Tramps Like Us doesn’t really become any easier to explain without making it sound stranger than it is. Takeshi Gouda is a brilliant dancer trained in classical ballet who is trying to break into modern dance, but he is also Momo, the pet of Sumire Iwaya, a successful journalist who is under a lot of stress in both her love life and career. Their relationship is a very complicated and curious one but it’s very important to them both, which is why it’s concerning for them when it begins to change and they slowly begin to realize that their feelings for each other are less platonic and more romantic. Occasionally Tramps Like Us does feel a little directionless in these particular volumes, as though Ogawa is starting to lose narrative focus or trying to stretch the series longer than it necessarily needs to be. Some of the more stand-alone chapters, while still enjoyable, tend to come across as filler or bonus manga rather than being crucial to the story proper. Even so, I love the characters of Tramps Like Us (Sumire, Iwaya, and all the others) so am glad to be able to spend as much time as I can with them. I am enjoying Tramps Like Us immensely and look forward to reading the final third of the series.

My Week in Manga: April 18-April 24, 2016

My News and Reviews

As I recently mentioned, for a while here I’ll be down to one review a week or so at Experiments in Manga. And so, last week’s review was of The Inugami Clan by Seishi Yokomizo, a popular Japanese murder mystery from the early 1950s that has sadly gone out of print in English. Currently, the novel is the only work by Yokomizo that has been translated, but I enjoyed it a great deal. It vaguely reminded me a bit of Edogawa Rampo’s work, which I don’t at all consider to be a bad thing.

Elsewhere online: YALSA’s 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teen was recently announced, which includes a fair number of manga, as were the 2016 Eisner Award Nominees. Forbes interviewed Yoshiki Tanaka, the author of The Legend of the Galactic Heroes (a series I hope to find time to actually read sooner rather than later). At du9, Adrian Tomine was interviewed about editing Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s manga for Drawn & Quarterly. And in licensing news, Dark Horse will be releasing Ontama’s Hatsune Miku: Mikubon.

Quick Takes

Forget Me Not, Volume 1Forget Me Not, Volume 1 written by Mag Hsu and illustrated by Nao Emoto. I knew very little about Forget Me Not before reading the first volume. In fact, I didn’t even recall that it had been licensed until the release was in my hands. Forget Me Not is about Yusuke Serizawa, a young man who seems to have terrible luck when it comes to romance, but it’s the sort of bad luck that he’s partly responsible for. The first volume alone features his attempts at three different relationships with three different loves that he had between middle school and high school. Most of them have their sweet moments, but there are also moments that Serizawa will intensely regret for years. He blames himself for the relationships ending in ruin, and in some cases rightly so. The reason that Forget Me Not focuses on Serizawa’s past and the women in it is that one of them recently helped to save his life after he was in a motorcycle accident. Except that he isn’t sure exactly who it is. He’d like to meet her, but he’s also certain that whoever it is he’s done her some great harm, which may explain why it seems like she’s toying with him by keeping her identity secret.

SnackiesSnackies by Nick Sumida. I had a fairly good idea that I would enjoy Snackies, but I don’t think I anticipated just how much I would end up enjoying it. Snackies is a slim volume containing short comics which are at least semi-autobiographically inspired. Many of the comics stand on their own or aren’t necessarily connected to one another, but others are part of short series which become increasingly ridiculous and bizarre, such as the set of comics in which Sumida spies fellow passengers on mass transit who initially seem attractive, but who then turn out to have a really bad haircut or just so happen to be an alien that would aesthetically belong in something like Parasyte. And then there are the comics that seem to come completely out of nowhere. Though at times fairly cynical, playing on the angst and self-deprecation of a young artist, Snackies is very funny. It also has a queer bent to it which I especially enjoyed and appreciated. Snackies doesn’t take long to read, but it gives enough of a taste that I hope to see more of Sumida’s work in the future.

Tramps Like Us, Volume 1Tramps Like Us, Volumes 1-5 by Yayoi Ogawa. I’ve been meaning to read Tramps Like Us for quite some time. It really is a shame that it took me so long to get around to it, because so far I’m absolutely loving the manga. Sumire is highly accomplished, attractive, and well-educated career woman, which unfortunately intimidates her fiancé who feels inadequate in comparison and leaves her for someone else. As a result, Sumire is determined to only date men who are paid more, are better educated, and are taller than she is. Around the same time, Sumire gains a “pet,” a homeless twenty-something ballet dancer that she takes in off of the street and calls Momo. Sumire’s peculiar but earnest relationship with Momo is marvelous. Though they have their disagreements and their communication isn’t always the best, both of them find great comfort in the other. He’s the only person she feels truly at ease with. But then Sumire is reunited with an old flame who she still loves and who happens to meet all of her dating requirements, but their relationship is strained. It’s a strange sort of set up and love-triangle, but all of the varied emotions are convincingly real.