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: 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.

Your Lie in April, Volume 2

Your Lie in April, Volume 2Creator: Naoshi Arakawa
U.S. publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781632361721
Released: June 2015
Original release: 2012
Awards: Kodansha Manga Award

Your Lie in April is an eleven-volume manga series created by Naoshi Arakawa that began serialization in Japan in 2011. The manga is one of Arakawa’s earliest professional works. Even so, Your Lie in April would go on to win a Kodansha Manga Award in 2013 and in 2014 the series’ anime adaptation debuted. Although I haven’t actually seen it yet, it was the anime that first brought Your Lie in April to my attention. As a lover of both manga and music (in addition to being a musician myself), the basic premise of Your Lie in April appealed to me a great deal. I was glad that Kodansha Comics licensed the series since I’m always excited to see more music manga released in English. I largely enjoyed the first volume of Your Lie in April and so was happy to receive a review copy of the second as well. Your Lie in April, Volume 2 was originally published in Japan in 2012 while the English translation was released in 2015.

Kosei hasn’t played the piano publicly for years, having tried to give it up after the death of his mother and a disastrous performance in competition. He has become so psychologically distraught that he literally can no longer his own music; the sound seems to disappear when he begins to seriously play. Very few people actually know why Kosei no longer performs or competes, and his closest friends continue to encourage him to play despite his reluctance. Somehow Kaori manages to bully him into serving as her accompanist in the second round of her violin competition at the last minute. She’s a passionate and headstrong musician who other pianists find difficult work with, sometimes even refusing to accompany her. But Kaori wants to be remembered by her audiences and she is convinced that Kosei, who was once well-known as a child prodigy, can help her do that. Except that he’s never been an accompanist before, they’ve never practiced together, and he hasn’t even had the change to study the score.

YourLieApril2-68Though Your Lie in April can be somewhat melodramatic at times, I appreciate that Arakawa is leveraging the psychological states of the series’ characters in order to further the story. Kosei being thrust into the spotlight and once again experiencing the thrill of performance doesn’t simply make everything all right or solve his problems. If anything, it actually makes matters more complicated. He continues to be torn between wanting to play and never wanting to touch the piano again. Hovering over Kosei is the shadow of his dead mother, an abusive woman who demanded perfection from him and his playing. But she was also the person who first taught him to love music. By the end of her life she had become cruel, but Your Lie in April, Volume 2 reveals that before she became ill she was much kinder and gentler person. It doesn’t excuse how she eventually treated her son, though it does help to explain in part why Kosei remained and continues to be devoted to her throughout the pain and suffering that was inflicted upon him.

What little is known about Kosei’s mother so far in Your Lie in April provides an interesting counterpoint to what little is known about Kaori. They are both musicians, they both are partly responsible for drawing Kosei into the world of music and, as the second volume of the series shows, they both struggle with physical illness. However, whereas Kosei’s mother became cruel, Kaori’s illness has caused her to devote herself to her music, striving to leave a lasting impression on those around her. No matter what happens in the future, Kosei’s relationship with Kaori, like the one with his mother, will be a formative one. He, at least, will never be able to forget her. She is an inspiration dragging him out of his personal darkness. This is something that is visually reinforced in the manga as well. Kaori is almost always shown in the light, sometimes she even seems to be the source of light, while Kosei is frequently seen in shadow, especially when he is playing. But Kaori is challenging and changing him. The time may come when Kosei will be able to freely stand in the light, too.

Thank you to Kodansha for providing a copy of Your Lie in April, Volume 2 for review.

Your Lie in April, Volume 1

YourLieApril1Creator: Naoshi Arakawa
U.S. publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781632361714
Released: April 2015
Original release: 2011
Awards: Kodansha Manga Award

Your Lie in April is the first and so far only manga series by Naoshi Arakawa to have been released in English. Arakawa is still fairly early on in his career—Your Lie in April was only his third major work—but the series earned him a Kodansha Manga Award in 2013 for Best Shōnen Manga. The first volume of the eleven-book series was originally published in Japan in 2011. In English, the manga was released by Kodansha Comics in 2015. The entirety of Your Lie in April was adapted into an anime series between 2014 and 2015, which is how I first learned about the manga. My interest in the series primarily stems from the prominent role that music has to play in the manga. Music is something that is incredibly important to me and continues to be a major part of my life. Probably unsurprisingly, I tend to enjoy music manga. And so, I was particularly happy to receive an early copy of Your Lie in April from Kodansha for review.

Kosei Arima was a child prodigy, admired for his skill and success as a pianist, winning competition after competition. But ever since his mother died and he had a breakdown in the middle of a performance on stage when he was eleven, he hasn’t been able to play the piano. Not for others and not even for himself. Piano was such an integral part of Kosei’s life that he seems to be somewhat lost without it and he hasn’t been able to completely let music go. Several years have passed since then, leaving Kosei a rather withdrawn and gloomy young man. But then he meets Kaori Miyazono, an extremely passionate violinist who attends the same middle school that he does. Kaori plays the way that she wants to play, disregarding traditional interpretations and technique to make the music her own. Though he is still reluctant and hesitant, watching Kaori’s enthusiastic, free-spirited performances has reignited something within Kosei and she and his friends are determined to see him play once again.

Your Lie in April, Volume 1, page 6A particular challenge faced by music manga like Your Lie in April is expressing sound in a visual medium. It takes more than simply throwing notes on the page to effectively convey the feeling of music in a comic. For the most part, Arakawa handles this aspect of the series quite well. The music itself isn’t heard, but the expressions and reactions of the listeners and musicians, the impact created by the music, can readily be seen. Perhaps the best example of this in Your Lie in April, Volume 1 is Kaori’s performance during a violin competition. The violinists before her are poised and fairly reserved in their playing, but Kaori uses her entire body to emote and express the music. This and the stunned faces of the audience members make it very clear that her invigorated style is drastically different and unexpected. But while music is obviously an important part of Your Lie in April, the real focus of both the artwork and the storytelling is on people’s experiences of that music.

Kosei’s relationship with music, and specifically with playing the piano, is a complicated one. He is struggling with intense psychological distress and it is revealed very early on in Your Lie in April that his mother physically, and very likely emotionally, abused him as well, trying to force her own dreams onto her son. Whether he is aware of it or not, Kosei’s feelings towards music and the piano are very much tied up with his feelings towards his mother. Underneath a relatively calm exterior is a turmoil of conflicting emotions that includes both love and hatred and even some fear. Deep down, Koesi does still seem to have the desire to continue playing the piano, though he denies it to himself and to others. It’s something that he will have to face head-on eventually, but Kaori’s influence threatens to make it something that he will have to deal with sooner rather than later, perhaps even before he’s really ready. I am very curious to see how Your Lie in April continues to develop and the steps Kosei may take to overcome his trauma.

Thank you to Kodansha for providing a copy of Your Lie in April, Volume 1 for review.