My Week in Manga: March 25-March 31, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week was March’s Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Khursten at Otaku Champloo and focusing on historical manga. I particularly enjoyed Khursten’s post on Manga and Memories. As for my contributions to the Feast, I reviewed the third omnibus in Takehiko Inoue’s award-winning manga series Vagabond. Based on a historical novel which is in turn based on the life of the legendary Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, Vagabond is a great series. The most recent manga giveaway at Experiments in Manga has also been posted. Come tell me about your favorite historical manga for a chance to win Shigeru Mizuki’s semi-autobiographical Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths.

Unrelated to the Feast, I also posted a review of The Infernal Devices, Volume 1: Clockwork Angel, HyeKyung Baek’s graphic novel adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s novel of the same name. Now, I actually haven’t read the original novel, although I am somewhat familiar with the series (one of my sisters loves the books.) I do get the feeling that the graphic novel will be better appreciated by someone who has read The Infernal Devices. To that end, I have invited a housemate who has read the original novel to submit a guest post to Experiments in Manga with her impressions of the graphic novel adaptation. It should be posted sometime in the near future, so be on the look out for it! I’d also like to thank Manga Critic’s Kate Dacey once again for sending along a review copy of Clockwork Angel for me to read.

Quick Takes

Emerald and Other Stories by Hiroaki Samura. Published under the title Sister Generator in Japan, Emerald and Other Stories collects seven short manga works as well as several illustrations by Samura. All of the stories except for one feature women in lead roles. I was very excited about the collection for several reasons. First and foremost, I am a fan of Samura’s work. Emerald and Other Stories also includes a brief mahjong manga “Low-Grade Strategy: The Mirror Play” which won’t mean much to people unfamiliar with the game, but I got a kick out of it. I really enjoyed the collection as a whole, too. Samura’s shorter works can be odd, dark, quirky, and rather weird, which I appreciate, and I love his artwork.

Eyeshield 21, Volumes 11-14 written by Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. As much as I’m enjoying Eyeshield 21, I still don’t really care about American football. But the manga is a lot of fun. It’s filled with great, likeable characters (even those who are complete asses) and Murata’s artwork is fantastic. His fluid, exaggerated style fits the exaggerated characters well. At this point in the story, the Devil Bats have returned from their training in America and the fall tournament has begun. The manga moves through most of the games fairly quickly. Sometimes only a page or two is spent on each, just enough time for the teams to leave an impression. But then the Devil Bats face-off with the Kyoshin Poseidons and several volumes are devoted to their rivalry.

Gakuen Heaven by You Higuri. Because I’ve enjoyed some of Higuri’s past work, I picked up Gakuen Heaven on a whim out of a bargain bin for a mere pittance. I’m not convinced that it was worth it. The manga is the first volume in a series of adaptations of the dating sim game Gakuen Heaven: Boy’s Love Scramble. Probably not surprisingly, the characters and story are one cliche and trope after another and nothing creative is done with them. To some extent, the direction that plot takes was left up to reader polls. The artwork in Gakuen Heaven isn’t terrible, but like the rest of the manga it is very generic. The detail and sensuality found in the artwork of Higuri’s other manga is nowhere to be found.

Hero Tales, Volumes 1-5 written by Jin Zhou Huang, illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa. I was unfortunately very disappointed by Hero Tales. A Chinese-influenced fantasy with strong wuxia underpinnings (which I liked), the manga unfortunately ends up feeling very derivative and fails to distinguish itself. The characters have very little depth to them and even more problematic, the story itself frequently doesn’t make any sense as plot developments are either skipped over entirely or come out of nowhere. Arakawa’s artwork is nice, and there are some decent fight sequences and martial arts, but even this can’t save the manga. I did, however, very much enjoy the end-of-volume comics following Arakawa and her assistants around China as they gather reference materials for the series.

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade directed by Hiroyuki Okiura. I’ve been meaning to watch Jin-Roh for a while now. I’m glad that I finally got around to it; I really should have seen it sooner. Set in an alternate history of Japan, the anime follows Kazuki Fuse, a member of the military police’s elite special unit. He comes under investigation when he fails to shoot a young suicide bomber before she detonates her charge. Although there are several key action sequences and firefights, the pacing of the story is rather slow and deliberate. Personally, I don’t consider this at all to be a bad thing and was thoroughly engaged for the entire movie. The animation and overall atmosphere of the film were excellent.

My Week in Manga: December 20-December 26, 2010

My News and Reviews

You would think that I would get a substantial amount of manga reading done since my winter break started last week, but I didn’t read quite as much as I expected I would (although, I have become obsessed with Berserk). Part of this is because my new glasses still haven’t come in. It’s also due to the fact that it’s the holidays and I had quite a bit of traveling to do. That, and I also received poi as a gift and have been spending many, many hours giving myself bruises and hitting myself in the head instead of reading. Anyway.

I’m currently running a manga and light novel giveaway for a Strawberry Panic Starter Pack. The winner will be picked on Wednesday, so you still have a couple of days to tell me about a yuri/girls’ love manga that you’ve read for a chance to win. I also posted the sixth part in my Library Love series which takes a quick look at manga that I’ve borrowed and read from my local library.

Quick Takes

Berserk, Volumes 1-17 by Kentaro Miura. It’s obvious from the very start that something terrible has happened to Guts, a brutal, one armed swordsman to make him the way he is. He isn’t really a very sympathetic character at the beginning. Most of the first half of the series explores his backstory and explains exactly how he got to be the way he is—savage, inhuman, and frequently more frightening than the demons he hunts. Berserk is incredibly violent and graphic, but I wouldn’t say it is gratuitous. It is however very intense, dark, and emotionally taxing to read. Occasionally the more comedic elements feel out of place, but I can confidently say that this has become one of my favorite series.

Gorgeous Carat, Volume 1 by You Higuri. I’ve read Higuri’s Cantarella before and so I already knew I enjoy her art style which features men with beautiful character designs and attention to details (especially with clothing and backgrounds). Gorgeous Carat is a historical fantasy adventure story that takes place in Paris during the turn of the century. I still like Higuri’s artwork, but the story of Gorgeous Carat really didn’t capture my attention except for the frequent use of whips. There’s a bit of jumping around in the plot that can be difficult to follow at times and some developments are hardly believable. So far, Gorgeous Carat mostly seems like an excuse to have pretty men in period clothing.

Happy Mania, Volumes 6-11 by Moyoco Anno. I wasn’t laughing as hysterically during the second half of Happy Mania as I did at the first half, but there were still plenty of moments that I found myself laughing out loud. Some of the story elements are frankly ridiculous, but they’re meant to be. It is this self aware humor, in addition to Shigeta’s general and constant insanity, that I like best about the series. This is probably also why I enjoyed the first half of the series more, since the second half is a bit more heavy and serious. But still, Happy Mania is a great series and I enjoyed it immensely. Anno frequently includes entertaining tributes to other mangaka and series (and I know I didn’t catch them all).

GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, Episodes 1-9 directed by Noriyuki Abe and Naoyasu Hanyu. I’ve previously watched the GTO anime adaptation and more recently read the manga. One of my biggest complaints about the anime is that the consistency in character design is virtually nonexistent. You can always tell who someone is supposed to be, but they can look significantly different even in the same episode (and I’m not talking about the intentional art style changes used for dramatic effect). However, I do enjoy the anime and think it’s hilarious even though some of the situations can be a bit uncomfortable to watch, but this was also the case for the manga.