My Week in Manga: April 7-April 13, 2014

My News and Reviews

With all of the various review project that I recently have had going on, it’s been a while since there’s only been two posts at Experiments in Manga for any given week. (Not counting the My Week in Manga feature.) Last week I posted a review of Chōhei Kambayashi’s science fiction novel Yukikaze. Although interesting from the start, it did take me a few chapters to really get into the book, but ultimately I was very impressed with the depth of Kambayashi’s ideas. The sequel Good Luck, Yukikaze has also been translated and released in English. I’ll be making a point of reading it, as well. My other post last week was a part of the Discovering Manga feature which explores some of the ways that I learn about and learn more about manga and the manga industry. This time around I talked about the site Organization Anti-Social Geniuses which has some great manga-related content—not just reviews, but articles and interviews, too. If you’re not already familiar with OASG, it’s definitely worth checking out.

As for other things worth checking out online: Justin Stroman’s most recent guest post at Manga Bookshelf focuses on manga adapters and the history of manga adaptation. Vertical is hinting at a new license. (A huge volume of 1980s manga, possibly in hardcover? Yes, please.) Manjiorin of Manga Connection has started her Swan review project. I recently finished reading all of Swan that was published in English. I absolutely loved the series, so am looking forward to reading her reviews. A Bento Books newsletter is now available for those interested in staying on top of Bento Books and its releases. The Kodansha Comics tumblr weighs in on piracy from a publisher’s perspective. And finally, Ryan Holmberg takes a look at 1930s shoujo manga with his article Matsumoto Katsuji and the American Roots of Kawaii.

Quick Takes

Beast & FeastBeast & Feast by Norikazu Akira. After a somewhat dubious first chapter, Beast & Feast ends up being a rather cute and sweet boys’ love manga, although it does seem a little odd to describe it using those words. Considering the seriousness of the yakuza storyline and the violence (mostly implied rather than seen), the manga can actually be surprisingly lighthearted. This is mostly due to the characters. Despite their differences, and despite the fact that Hyodo is a yakuza and Kazuha is a police detective, the two of them ultimately make a great couple and they care about each other tremendously. There’s also a fair amount of explicit sex. Hyodo’s sexual appetite is insatiable, making Beast & Feast a very apt title for the manga. While I wasn’t blown away by Beast & Feast, it was solidly entertaining in addition to having attractive artwork. I enjoyed the manga and its characters. So much so that I plan on picking up Honey Darling, the only other manga by Akira currently available in English. (Actually, now that I think about it, she also collaborated on Clan of the Nakagamis.)

Bride of Deimos, Volume 1Bride of Deimos, Volumes 1-7 written by Etsuko Ikeda, illustrated by Yuho Ashibe. There is something about shoujo horror that I find irresistible; maybe it’s just that so much of it seems to have close ties to Gothic literature and Romanticism and emphasizes the emotional and psychological aspects of the story. Bride of Deimos is an interesting example of this type of shoujo horror. It’s from the 1970s and so it also has that fabulous classic shoujo style, too. Only seven of the seventeen volumes were ever released in English. However, the manga tends to be mostly episodic, so it’s not as though the story feels terribly incomplete. I do wish more had been translated though; I ended up really enjoying the series. The framing story for Bride of Deimos focuses on Minako, a young woman whom the androgynously beautiful devil Deimos is determined to make his bride. Many of the individual tales in some way involve love and generally end very badly for those involved. Bride of Deimos somewhat strangely incorporates both Japanese and Greek mythology as well other elements of traditional Western horror and the supernatural.

Panorama of HellPanorama of Hell by Hideshi Hino. And then there’s Panorama of Hell, a horror manga of a completely different sort from 1982. As can probably be determined from the cover alone, Panorama of Hell is extremely gruesome, bloody, violent, and visceral. Panorama of Hell is legitimately terrifying and frightening, and probably one of the best horror manga that I have read. But because it is so graphic and disturbing, and because the humor is so exceptionally dark, Panorama of Hell is definitely not something that I would recommend to just anyone. It takes a reader with a strong heart and stomach to really appreciate the manga. Panorama of Hell is the story of an unnamed painter who has an obsession with blood which he uses in the creation of his artwork. The manga explores his paintings before turning to his family, his past, and all of the abuse and insanity which has had a tremendous influence on him. Hino mixes surreal imagery with historic events in Panorama of Hell. The results are hellish, driving home just how terrible reality can be. Some of Panorama of Hell is actually based on Hino’s life, which in itself is terrifying.

Sunny, Volume 2Sunny, Volumes 2-3 by Taiyo Matsumoto. Sunny is another manga that draws inspiration from the creator’s life. Set in Japan in the 1970s, Sunny can be almost overwhelmingly melancholic. Although there are heartwarming moments there are just as many scenes that are absolutely heartbreaking. Sunny follows the lives of the children at the Star Kids Home. Some are orphans, some have been completely abandoned by their parents, and some have only been temporarily separated from their families. The story also follows the adults in their lives, both those who are positive influences on the children and those who have caused them harm. The people at Star Kids Home, the children and the adults, form an odd sort of family with all of the benefits and disadvantages that that entails. Out of all of the manga by Matsumoto that has so far been released in English, Sunny is the most realistic and therefore probably the most readily accessible for a casual reader. It lacks much of the surrealism present in his other works. Instead Sunny relies even more heavily on the complexities of the characters and their relationships with one another.

My Week in Manga: November 18-November 24, 2013

My News and Reviews

I’ve never run a poll before, so I’m probably more excited about this than I should be, but you all currently have the opportunity to vote on my next monthly manga review project. I’ve narrowed it down to five different options—a mix of individual series and thematic collections—and am letting readers decide which manga I will be focusing on next. Check out the post for all the details. The poll will run through the end of November, so please come and vote!

Last week I posted my review of Hinoki Kino’s manga No. 6, Volume 3. I am very happy to be able to say that the series continues to improve. I’m really looking forward to the next volume. And for your reading pleasure, here are a couple of interesting articles that I happened across online last week: A Short History Of Japanese Sign Language (with a fascinating connection to manga) and Are Comics Too Hot For Apple?, about the impact of Apple’s inconsistent policies when it comes to digital comics, including manga.

Quick Takes

Darkside BluesDarkside Blues written by Hideyuki Kikuchi and illustrated by Yuho Ashibe. I think I’ve suspected it for a while, but reading Darkside Blues seems to confirm it—Kikuchi may have some great ideas and settings for his stories, but he can’t quite seem to focus long enough to pull them all together into something coherent. Darkside Blues features many of the elements that I’ve come to expect from Kikuchi’s work: a mix of near-future technology, magic, and bizarre horror; evil organizations bent on taking over the world, crushing those that would stand in their way; a tall, dark, and handsome (well, androgynously beautiful) anti-hero. I’m fairly certain the manga is related to Kikuchi’s Demon City universe, or at least it makes reference to it. There are some great scenes here and there, but the story as a whole is a mess and doesn’t make much sense. Kikuchi claims that the story is complete, but it feels like a small part of something much larger. However, I did like Ashibe’s artwork, and so will probably look into tracking down Bride of Deimos because of that.

Fairy Tail, Volume 32Fairy Tail, Volume 32 by Hiro Mashima. Now that the preliminaries are over, the Grand Magic Games proper have begun. Eight teams will be competing in the Games which consists of a mix of event challenges and battles. The teams themselves represent guilds that have been encountered in the series before as well as a few new ones. One thing that irked me a little was that there are actually two teams from Fairy Tail participating. That in itself didn’t bother me, but the fact that it was played up as a surprise (to both the readers and the characters) was unconvincing. Also, it has been established that Fairy Tail has always been one of the weakest guilds to participate in the Games, so I find it a little difficult to believe that not one but two teams made it past preliminaries this year. That annoyance aside, the event challenge in this volume was actually pretty interesting. I appreciate that the players have to put some actual thought and strategy into it instead of simply relying on who can out-magic the other. Magical skill certainly helps, but being clever is important, too.

I'll Be Your SlaveI’ll Be Your Slave by Miki Araya. I’ll admit it. I laughed. Several times. Out loud, even. I’ll Be Your Slave is so incredibly ridiculous, and intentionally so, that I just couldn’t help it. Moriya is having a difficult time finding the perfect model for his project when he happens across Ouno, a beautiful but extraordinarily lazy teenager. Fortunately, Ouno’s job will basically amount to him sitting around and looking pretty. He’s easily tired and loses interest in things quickly, but if he doesn’t want to put the effort into doing something he simply lets someone else do it for him. (This even includes walking from place to place.) Moriya is more than willing to pamper Ouno. Mopping up sweat? Check. Foot massages? Check. Sex? Sure, why not! I’ll Be Your Slave is definitely more of a comedy than it is a romance. The humor is great and the over-the-top reaction shots—complete with dramatic poses and bursts of sparkles—are hilarious. The characters admittedly don’t have much depth to them, but that’s also part of what makes the manga so funny.

Swan, Volume 1Swan, Volumes 1-3 by Kyoko Ariyoshi. While I appreciate and admire dance and dancers, and even watch dance performances from time to time, I’ve never had a particular interest in ballet. That’s probably the primary reason that it took me so long to get around to reading Swan. (It’s also out of print and some of the volumes can be a little hard to find.) But, I kept hearing how wonderful Swan was, so I finally made a point of seeking it out. I should have done it sooner, because it really is a fantastic series. I may not be a dancer but I am a trained musician; there are many parallels between the two arts seen in Swan with which I can personally identify. The importance of basics. The grueling practices that push the body, mind, and soul to their breaking points. The good-natured competition and the vicious rivalries. The passion, drama, frustration, and desire that go hand in hand with creative expression. The complete joy experienced with success and the utter despair felt at failure. Swan is incredible; I can’t wait to read more.