My Week in Manga: August 6-August 12, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted my first in-depth manga review for August, focusing on Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son, Volume 3. I am incredibly grateful that this series is being released in English. The story hits very close to home for me, which can sometimes make it difficult for me to review, but it’s a wonderful series. Now comes the long wait for the next volume, which will probably be released sometime in 2013. I also reviewed Losing Kei,  the debut novel by Suzanne Kamata, an American expatriate living in Japan. I didn’t always like the main character, but even still the novel was very engaging. Kamata’s own experiences living in Japan add to the authenticity of the story.

A few months ago, I reviewed Hirohiko Araki’s full-color manga Rohan at the Louvre, a spin-off story from his series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Only the third part of that series and Rohan at the Louvre have been licensed in English. Over at The Hooded Utilitarian, there is a great introduction to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Araki Hirohiko at the Louvre, Part 1) and Rohan at the Louvre (Araki Hirohiko at the Louvre, Part 2) that are worth checking out. And check out Rohan at the Louvre itself, too, for the artwork if nothing else.

Quick Takes

Kekkaishi, Omnibus 3 (equivalent to Volumes 7-9) by Yellow Tanabe. Kekkaishi has taken a serious turn. Although the comedic elements are still there, and the series still has a great sense of humor, the more lighthearted aspects of the series have been downplayed. Much of this omnibus focuses on Gen and his back story, which I was glad to see. It’s a tragic tale, but explains a lot about him as a person. Yoshimori, Tokine, and Gen make a great trio. The series’ well-developed and well-rounded characters are probably its greatest strength. But, as much as I’ve enjoyed Kekkaishi so far, I’m not quite ready to invest in the individual volumes. I really wish Viz would publish the rest of the series as omnibuses, too.

Polterguys, Volume 1 by Laurianne Uy and Nathan Go. The influence of reverse harem manga is readily clear, but Polterguys is definitely its own charming comic. Bree is a freshmen in college who can’t seem to get along with any of her roommates. She thinks renting a room in an old house will be the perfect solution, only to find out later that the house is already inhabited by a group of ghosts. Polterguys features a great cast of characters; each one of them has a distinct personality. I wasn’t surprised by any of the story’s twists, but I enjoyed them immensely nonetheless. The development of the characters’ relationships does feel a little rushed here or there, but for the most part this volume is an excellent start to the series. I can’t wait to read the second volume.

Twin Spica, Volumes 11-12 by Kou Yaginuma. If you didn’t enjoy the first few volumes of Twin Spica, there are no drastic changes in the manga that would make you reconsider. If, like me, you have been enjoying Twin Spica, the last two volumes are a satisfying ending to a great series. The manga’s tone has been the same from the very beginning—slightly melancholic but with a sense of hope as the characters pursue their dreams against the odds. The students training to become astronauts through Tokyo Space School’s newly established program have all been put to the test. Repeatedly pushed to their limits and beyond, they have become an inspiration to those around them.

The Tyrant Falls in Love, Volumes 3-4 by Hinako Takanaga. Isogai was one of my favorite characters in Challengers and so I was delighted to see him return in The Tyrant Falls in Love. And yes, he causes just as much trouble this time around as he did in the original series. The Tyrant Falls in Love is sort of a strange manga, each volume tends to vary wildly in tone from the next. The second volume was rather serious while the third volume (with a little help of Isogai) was substantially more comedic. The fourth volume returns to being serious in some ways but in other ways the narrative is completely ridiculous and unbelievable. But I am glad to see that Morinaga is slightly less of an ass and that Souichi is slowly coming to terms with their relationship.

The Book of Bantorra, Episodes 14-27 directed by Toshiya Shinohara. I am completely torn over The Book of Bantorra. I absolutely love the basic premise of the series. Unfortunately, most of the time I had no idea what the hell was going on. And frankly, the complete lack of consistent character design annoys me. But as much as the series frustrates me, The Book of Bantorra has some absolutely brilliant worldbuilding. I also appreciate the fact that the series is willing to kill off important characters when the story calls for it. Even when I just didn’t get the anime, I was consistently engaged and curious to learn more. And the ending is fantastic. I’ll probably give The Book of Bantorra another try at some point.

My Week in Manga: March 12-March 18, 2012

My News and Reviews

So, I finally got around to my follow-up post about podcasts—Discovering Manga: Podcasts, Part 2. In it I talk about three podcasts that have regular manga content. If you’re interested, please check out the original podcast post, too—Discovering Manga: Podcasts. Also this past week, I posted my first in-depth manga review for the month, Blade of the Immortal, Volume 7: Heart of Darkness by Hiroaki Samura.

And speaking of Blade of the Immortal! Several people have mentioned interest in my reviews for the series, and so I’ve given myself a new goal. Beginning in April, I plan on reviewing one volume of Blade of the Immortal each month. Ideally this will be in addition to my regular in-depth manga reviews which, hopefully, means there will be three manga reviews each month! This will also allow me to catch up to current volume more quickly. It should take me about a year and a half. We’ll see how it goes, so fingers crossed!

There has been some exciting news this past week. The criminal charges have been dropped in the Canada customs case dealing with Ryan Matheson attempting to cross the border with manga on his laptop. His personal statement can be read on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund website. Charles Brownstein, executive director of the CBLDF, also made some comments on lessons learned from the case. This past Thursday, Digital Manga announced on their blog that their account for Kindle publishing had been suspended. Thankfully, after an outpouring of support for the publisher, Amazon reversed their decision and Digital Manga’s Kindle account was restored on Friday.

On to slightly less vexing issues! Booklist has posted a core collection list for Japanese Manga for Adults. It’s a pretty great list with some fantastic selections that I can easily get behind. Also, this week is the Jiro Taniguchi Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Manga Worth Reading. Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading, and mostly enjoying, a bunch of Taniguchi manga. I’ll have a review of A Zoo in Winter and a slew of Taniguchi manga quick takes later this week.

Quick Takes

Blame!, Volume 1 by Tsutomu Nihei. If you have read and enjoyed Nihei’s more recent manga Biomega, you should probably check out Blame! as well. The two series are quite similar in many ways. The artwork and setting is dark, character designs are appropriately creepy, and action and environment take precedence over dialogue. Killy is a loner with a big gun, making his way up from the depths of the The City searching for anyone possessing Net Terminal Genes. Humans are just barely surviving, fighting amongst themselves and against terrifying creatures. No explanation is given as to what happened to bring humanity to its current state, but that’s not particularly important to the story at the moment.

Dengeki Daisy, Volume 4 by Kyousuke Motomi. Dengeki Daisy can be absolutely ridiculous at times, but I’m still enjoying the series. Probably because that even with all the potential for melodrama, it never takes itself too seriously. Teru is now aware that Kurosaki is Daisy, something that she had suspected, but decides to hide that fact from him because she’s afraid he’ll leave if he knows. More is revealed about the mystery surrounding her brother and his death in this volume as well as some of Daisy’s darker past (at which had previously been hinted). Motomi is very slowly doling out tidbits of information. I want to learn more, but I’m not frustrated yet by how little I actually do know. The character dynamics and interactions are also very interesting to watch.

Kekkaishi, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 4-6) by Yellow Tanabe. In the earlier volumes of Kekkaishi it seemed like Tanabe was just making things up as the series went along, but the manga seems to have a settled down somewhat. Granted, there are still some major plot developments and characters that are introduced out of nowhere. I am enjoying Kekkaishi quite a bit. I appreciate that brute strength is not seen to be the ultimate expression of power, but that knowledge and tactics are also extremely important. I also enjoy seeing the innovative ways that Tanabe comes up with to use the kekkai barriers. I certainly never expected them to be used for what amounts to aerial combat; that was pretty cool.

Samurai Deeper Kyo, Volumes 1-2 by Akimine Kamijyo. I had high hopes for Samurai Deeper Kyo. I enjoy stories set in the Tokugawa era. I also thought the series conceit—two souls with vastly different personalities trapped in the same body—sounded interesting. Mibu Kyoshiro, a traveling medicine peddler and a bit of a goofball, fights for control over his body with Demon Eyes Kyo, a vicious killer. And there’s a bounty out for each of them. Despite their potential, I actually found the first couple of volumes Samurai Deeper Kyo to be a bit bland. Like the lead character’s split personality, it seems like the series hasn’t quite decided what it wants to be yet. The humor isn’t quite funny enough for it to be straight comedy, but the drama isn’t quite dramatic enough, either.

V. B. Rose, Volume 1 by Banri Hidaka. As I’m not particularly interested in weddings or wedding dresses, I wasn’t particularly expecting to enjoy the first volume of V. B. Rose. I was surprised by how much I ended up liking it. Ageha’s older sister is getting married which ultimately leads to Ageha helping out at the bridal shop Velvet Blue Rose when one of her sister’s dress designers injures his hand. The story in the first volume is fairly self-contained, which makes me wonder how Hidaka manages to stretch it out for fourteen volumes. Also, Yukari and Mitsuya (the designers) are totally a couple and are absolutely adorable together; no one will be able to convince me otherwise. Even if it is all in my imagination. Which it is.

Whisper of the Heart directed by Yoshifumi Kondō. Whisper of the Heart is a predecessor of sorts to The Cat Returns; both are based on manga by Aoi Hiiragi. As a librarian, I enjoyed seeing an old school library complete with card catalog and check out cards. The story simply couldn’t have happened in the same way with today’s computerized libraries and privacy concerns. Shizuku is a bookworm, so I couldn’t help but to feel some affinity with her. Her love of books and the library was endearing to me. However, I did find that I had little patience for all of the junior high school love drama. They’re all just so terribly earnest. I think it was supposed to be nostalgic, but it mostly made me roll my eyes. Still, the film did make me smile and even laugh on a few occasions.

My Week in Manga: October 3-October 9, 2011

My News and Reviews

The winner for Experiments in Manga’s latest manga giveaway was announced last week—Manga Giveaway: Hikaru no Go Giveaway Winner. As part of the contest I asked people to tell me about the manga that inspires them. There were some great responses, so I hope you’ll take the time to check them out. I also posted the September 2011 Bookshelf Overload, if anyone cares about that particular feature.

There are a few links I’d like to point out this week. First is an essay posted on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund website that was written by Melinda Beasi of Manga BookshelfVoicing an Opinion: Manga Bookshelf’s Melinda Beasi Talks Canada Customs Case. Beasi’s arguments are very well stated and I support them fully. I also read an interesting interview with Sean Michael Wilson, who edited the first volume of AX: Alternative Manga among other things—From Scotland to Japan. There was also an nice look at Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond that I came across—‘Vagabond’: Takehiko Inoue creates a samurai masterpiece. Vagabond is a fantastic series and I highly recommend it. I’ve reviewed the first omnibus volume as well as Eiji Yoshikawa’s novel Musashi on which the series is based.

Finally, there have been some blogs added to the Resource page, so give them a look: Chou-Dori, Nagareboshi Reviews, OtakuStew, Read About Comics.

Quick Takes

Don’t Blame Me, Volumes 1-2 by Yugi Yamada. Don’t Blame Me is the first of Yugi Yamada’s works that I’ve read. It took a little while for the artwork to grow on me, but the story telling is excellent from the beginning. Don’t Blame Me doesn’t end with everything tied up nicely. Relationships are messy, complicated, and far from perfect. Yamada does a very nice job portraying this while still crafting a very satisfying ending. Additionally, Don’t Blame Me doesn’t just focus on the potential romance between the lead couple. Instead, there is a whole cast of characters that play an important part in the story. It’s nice to see everyone’s interactions and developing relationships.

Kekkaishi, Omnibus 1 by Yellow Tanabe. I really enjoyed my first taste of Kekkaishi; its a lot of fun. A few things make it stand out for me among shōnen fighting series. First and foremost are the two main characters. Both are very strong in their own ways and complement each other nicely. Yoshimori may be more powerful, but his rival and potential love interest Tokine is more knowledgeable, practiced, and generally more competent than her younger neighbor. They are both well-rounded characters, especially Yoshimori. Another thing I really like about Kekkaishi is the magic system used. Tanabe comes up with some really creative uses and applications for the cuboid force fields that Yoshimori and Tokine can create.

Kiichi and the Magic Books, Volumes 1-5 by Taka Amano. As a librarian, I feel a certain affinity for Kiichi and the Magic Books. Mototaro reminds me a bit of Ginko from Mushishi, which is not a bad thing at all. The series starts out as a solid little fantasy, but ends up going in some strange directions. While there were some elements I really liked—especially the power granted to books and librarians—ultimately, I’m not sure I completely got or was really convinced by the world’s mythology. Still, I enjoyed the manga, particularly the earlier volumes. I think Kiichi and the Magic Books will probably appeal more to younger readers than older audiences, but there’s good stuff to be found and the artwork is nice.

Kurozakuro, Volumes 1-2 by Yoshinori Natsume. I haven’t figured out exactly why, but Kurozakuro is surprisingly entertaining for such a mediocre series. There’s really nothing that makes it stand out story-wise or art-wise in these first two volumes and I’ve seen most of the plot elements before. Even the message the series is sending seems to be mixed. Mikito finally has the power to stand up for himself, but is basically told that he has to remain an underdog or die. However, I do like the change in art style between the dream sequences and reality, although the more abstract dream style occasionally bleeds over. Kurozakuro is only seven volumes, so it might be worth pursuing to see how and if it might improve.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Season 2, Part 1 (Episodes 29-40) directed by Seiji Mizushima. While I have seen the first season of Fullmetal Alchemist several times, this is the first time I’ve watched the second season. Much of this season is spent exploring the homunculi and their origins. I’m still not sure if there’s a deeper meaning to naming them after the seven deadly sins or not, but the symbolism certainly has the potential to be significant. There were a few twists thrown in that I probably should have seen coming but didn’t. Even if they were somewhat unexpected, they still make a lot of sense in the context of what came before. We learn more about Scar and his brother in these episodes, too.

Seven Samurai directed by Akira Kurosawa. Seven Samurai was the first film by Akira Kurosawa that I ever saw and it remains my favorite. If you’ve never seen Seven Samurai before, you should really take the three and a half hours to watch it. Not only is it a good film, it’s also a highly influential one. The premise is fairly simple: a group of samurai is hired by a farming village to protect it from bandits. But first the villagers will have to find samurai willing to fight for them for very little pay and no glory. Fortunately, they come across the charismatic Shimada and are able to win him over to their cause. Soon, more samurai follow, each for their own reasons. That’s when the real battle starts.