My Week in Manga: January 16-January 22, 2017

My News and Reviews

It’s been several months since my last in-depth review, but over the weekend I actually managed to post one delving into the eighth omnibus of Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga. I really love this series so I am thrilled that Kodansha Comics was able to continue publishing it. The eighth omnibus marks the start of an exciting new story arc and introduces some great new characters. On a personal note, it also felt good to actually finish writing a review since it’s been so long. I’d like to continue posting at least one long-form review or feature every month in addition to the usual My Week in Manga, Bookshelf Overload, and Giveaway features. On the surface it seems to be a reasonable goal, so I guess I’ll see how it goes!

Elsewhere online, Sparkler Monthly‘s first issue of 2017 has been released. As can be expected, all of the content is great, but this issue specifically features Denise Schroeder and her delightful lesbian-themed comic Before You Go. I took a look at the first installment of Before You Go as part of my Year of Yuri review project a couple of years ago. It’s a great comic, so I’m glad so see more of it. And if things go well, there should be a collected edition in the near future as well! Also last week, Seven Seas announced its collaboration with J-Novel Club to release Ao Jyumonji’s Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash and Chiyomaru Shikura’s Occultic;Nine in print.

Quick Takes

Dimension W, Volume 2Dimension W, Volumes 1-2 by Yuji Iwahara. Several of Iwahara’s manga series have been released in English. I’ve read and enjoyed both Cat Paradise and King of Thorn, but there’s also Chikyu Misaki and most recently Dimension W. I’ve come to expect a few things from Iwahara’s manga: great artwork and action, large and diverse casts, intriguing settings and premises, and entertaining stories that take numerous twists and turns (and which often end up rather convoluted as a result). So far, it seems as though Dimension W will also follow this pattern and, being Iwahara’s longest series, I suspect that the plot will go in some truly bizarre directions. But even considering that Iwahara seems to be constantly making up and changing the rules when it’s convenient just to make the story work, I’m actually really enjoying Dimension W. In the series, New Tesla is a company that has gained a tremendous amount of political and social influence due to the fact that it monopolizes a nearly limitless source of energy and the technology needed to use it. The power could be dangerous in the wrong hands, and New Tesla may very well be the wrong hands.

Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Volume 11Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Volumes 11-20 by Masahito Soda. One of the things about Firefighter! is that once I start reading it, I can’t seem to put it down. It’s a fantastic action series that’s firmly based in reality, although some of the scenarios are so completely over-the-top that they strain believability. Even so, the drama and intensity of Firefighter! is thrilling. With every rescue Soda keeps increasing the stakes, finding ways to make each one even more daring and astonishing than the last. And seeing as the first half of Firefighter! ends with Daigo intentionally crashing a fire engine into a building, that’s a pretty impressive feat. Admittedly, the series can get pretty absurd, but it’s always entertaining as well as engaging. The character development is excellent, too. In the heat of the moment, Daigo has the tendency to make some incredibly dangerous although ultimately life-saving decisions, but afterwards he struggles to come to terms with his actions and underlying motives. Firefighter! is a great series and well-worth a look. The manga is currently out-of-print, but fortunately it is readily available digitally.

Please Tell Me! Galko-chan, Volume 1Please Tell Me! Galko-chan, Volume 1 by Kenya Suzuki. I first learned about the Please Tell Me! Galko-chan manga due to its recent anime adaptation (which I haven’t actually seen yet), but I was still very curious about the original series. What I didn’t realize until I picked up the first volume was that the manga is actually completely illustrated in color; the palette and style that Suzuki uses for the cover illustration is pretty much what is used for the interior artwork as well. Please Tell Me! Galko-chan is a surprisingly sweet, funny, and charming series, especially considering that it frankly deals with issues surrounding puberty, sex, and so on. Some of the subject matter is more innocent, but there’s plenty of  dirty humor and jokes, too. Though the framing of the series is fictional, the largely short and episodic manga of Please Tell Me! Galko-chan do incorporate a fair amount of factual information. What I really appreciate about Please Tell Me! Galko-chan is that while the topics covered often embarrass the characters–frequently they’re discussing breasts, menstruation, and sex in a deliberate attempt to make each other blush–there’s never a sense that they or their bodies are shameful.

Ze, Volumes 10-11 by Yuki Shimizu. Despite at one point being rather fond of Shimizu’s supernatural boys’ love Ze, it’s taken me a while to actually get around to reading the main manga’s last story arc and conclusion. (Granted, that may have also been partly due to the numerous delays and unreliability of Digital Manga’s release schedule.) As a whole Ze tends to be fairly sexually explicit, but these two volumes are for the most part relatively tame and include very little sex at all. The relationships and power dynamics in the series are still pretty intense, though. The final story arc of Ze is almost entirely devoted to revealing the backstory of Waki and his connection to the Mitou family. In an interesting twist, it turns out that Waki has always been an asshole and there was nothing in particular that made him that way; although unfortunate things have certainly happened to him, his depraved personality is completely his own. The Mitou family’s past is certainly a strange and tragic one that has resulted in a great deal of suffering over time, but Shimizu does manage to end the series on a positive and redemptive note.

My Week in Manga: March 19-March 25, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Jiro Taniguchi Manga Moveable Feast and so I made a point to take advantage of that fact. I posted my second in-depth manga review for March, taking a closer look at Taniguchi’s most recent work to be released in print in English, A Zoo in Winter. I also borrowed and read all of the Taniguchi manga that my library had, resulting in Library Love: Jiro Taniguchi. It’s been a few months since there has been a Library Love post. I’m planning on continuing the feature on a bimonthly basis, so look for the next one sometime in May.

Last year I reviewed the first issue of Monkey Business and I’ve been looking forward to the next volume ever since. It looks like the release date has been pushed back from mid-March to sometime in April. In the meantime, the Monkey Business website is now available and the second issue can be preordered! Completely unrelated, someone pointed out Symphony of the Blood to me. From what I can tell, it’s fan created concept art for an Osamu Tezuka fighting game. It is awesome and I would totally play it if it actually existed.

This past week I also came across a few interesting articles about the state of the manga industry. I always enjoy reading Dan Kanemitsu’s work; this time he has a great piece Analysizing the State of the Anime and Manga industry in 2012, specifically in Japan. Over at ICv2 there were two articles focusing on the US side of the industry: Manga after Borders and an interview with Dark Horse’s Carl Horn. (It also sounds like Dark Horse will be releasing more manga from Blade of the Immortal‘s Hiroaki Samura, which I’m very excited to hear!)

Quick Takes

A, A′ by Moto Hagio. The problem with reading Hagio’s science fiction is that it makes me want to read more of Hagio’s science fiction, and I’ve already read everything that’s currently available in English. I loved A, A′. Originally published in Japan in 1981, it is a collection of three stories, two of which are somewhat related. All three stories feature “unicorns,” a race of humans initially bio-engineered for space travel in the 21st century who have since become increasingly rare. The back cover calls A, A′ “science fiction with a romantic twist,” which is fairly accurate. Hagio incorporates themes of love, gender, sex, and sexuality into her stories. The relationships between people, romantic and otherwise, are very important.

King of Thorn, Volumes 2-6 by Yuji Iwahara. Having previously read Iwahara’s Cat Paradise, I can’t say that I was particularly surprised by the somewhat convoluted plot of King of Thorn. This is not to say that I don’t like the series. In fact, I am quite fond of it. I also happen to really like Iwahara’s artwork. It’s just that he never seems content with a simple story and tends to introduce plot twist after plot twist. King of Thorn ended up going in some very unexpected directions, but the ride is thrilling. King of Thorn may not always be particularly original (even Iwahara states that many of the story elements are “ripped off” from elsewhere), but it’s still a lot of fun. Plus, the series gives one of the characters, Marco Owen, plenty of opportunities to run around being a badass.

Mister Mistress, Volume 1 by Rize Shinba. I have no idea why this series is called Mister Mistress other than being a silly title for a silly boys’ love manga. Rei is an incubus who feeds of the sexual vitality of young men. And what better source of energy than a horny, sex-obsessed teenager who’s constantly masturbating? At first Rei only appears in Fujimaru’s dreams, but eventually he amasses enough energy from Fujimaru to physically manifest. Although Fujimaru is understandably disconcerted by this development, his sexual fantasies continue unabated, heightened by Rei’s magical powers. Shinba’s artwork is attractive and the series has a sense of humor. I mean, even Fujimaru’s penis gets a character page.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time directed by Mamoru Hosoda. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a lovely film. It’s more or less a sequel to the 1967 novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui. Although likeable, Makoto isn’t the smartest or most coordinated person in her class. Instead of thinking about her future, she’d rather just play catch with her two best friends Chiaki and Kousuke. But she soon finds herself thinking a lot about time when she discovers she has the ability to travel back into the past. And so she does, trying to change events to make things better for her and her friends or to avoid conversations and confrontations that she’d rather not have. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time has both a lighthearted and a serious side which are balanced nicely.

Manga Giveaway: King of Thorn for Keeps Winner

And the winner of King of Thorn for Keeps is…Nagihiko!

As the winner, Nagihiko will receive a brand new copy of King of Thorn, Volume 1 by Yuji Iwahara. King of Thorn is a great survival manga. For the King of Thorn for Keeps manga giveaway, I wanted to learn a bit more about other survival manga that people liked since it’s a theme that I particularly enjoy. I’ve compiled an (incomplete) list here of survival manga that have been licensed in English from all sorts of genres, but be sure to check out the King of Thorn for Keeps comments if you want to know which are people’s personal favorites!

A selection of manga with survival themes available in English:

Alive: The Final Evolution written by Tadashi Kawashima, illustrated by Adachitoka
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa
Battle Royale written by Koushun Takami, illustrated by Masayuki Taguch
Bokurano: Ours by Mohiro Kitoh
Cage of Eden by Yoshinobu Yamada
Color of Rage written by Kazuo Koike, illustrated by Seisaku Kano
Deadman Wonderland written by Jinsei Kataoka, illustrated by Kazuma Kondou
Demon Flowers by Hakase Mizuki 
Dragon Head by Minetaro Mochizuki
Drifting Classroom by Kazuo Umezu
Eden: It’s an Endless World by Hiroki Endo
Future Diary by Sakae Esuno
Gantz by Hiroya Oku 
Highschool of the Dead written by Daisuke Sato, illustrated by Shouji Sato
Hunter x Hunter by Yoshihiro Togashi
The Ice Wanderer and Other Stories by Jiro Taniguchi
Innocent W by Kei Kusunoki
Jyu-Oh-Sei by Natsumi Itsuki
King of Thorn by Yuji Iwahara
Limit by Keiko Suenobu
Lives by Masayuki Taguchi
Metro Survive by Yuki Fujisawa
Pure Trance by Junko Mizuno 
The Summit of the Gods written by Baku Yumemakura, illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi
Togainu no Chi by Suguro Chayamachi
Tokyo Zombie by Yusaku Hanakuma
Until Death Do Us Part written by Hiroshi Takashige, illustrated by DOUBLE-S

Manga Giveaway: King of Thorn for Keeps

It’s time for Experiments in Manga’s monthly manga giveaway! This month you can enter for a chance to win a brand new copy of the first volume of Yuji Iwahara’s King of Thorn as was published by Tokyopop. The contest is open world-wide, so I hope you’ll take the opportunity to enter!

I was probably in middle school, or maybe even younger, when I first became interested in survival stories. I have yet to grow out of that particular fondness which is why manga like King of Thorn, where the characters’ struggle to survive is an important part of the plot, appeal to me. Survival stories can be found in just about any genre or flavor. You have survival “games” in manga like Koushun Takami and Masayuki Taguchi’s Battle Royale in which characters face off against each other for the right to live. In manga like Dragon Head, by Mochizuki Minetaro, characters struggle not only against each other but against apocalyptic and catastrophic conditions. Characters pit themselves against nature itself in manga like Baku Yumemakura and Jiro Taniguichi’s The Summit of the Gods. But no matter what the genre, they do what it takes to survive. It can be both terrifying and inspiring.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win King of Thorn, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me about your favorite survival manga. If you don’t have one, you can just mention that.
2) To earn a second entry in the giveaway, simply name a survival manga that hasn’t been mentioned yet by me or by someone else.
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

So that’s it! Each person can earn up to three entries for this giveaway. You have one week to submit your comments. If you have trouble leaving comments, or if you would prefer, you can e-mail me your entries at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. I’ll then post the comments in your name. The winner will be announced and randomly selected on March 7, 2012.

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: King of Thorn for Keeps Winner

My Week in Manga: October 24-October 30, 2011

My News and Reviews

Today is the last day of the Horror Manga Moveable Feast and it’s been a great one! My quick takes from last week featured vampire themed manga while this week I’m featuring a variety of other horror influenced manga (plus Sugar Sugar Rune which isn’t horror, but reminds me of Hallowe’en). Last week I also posted a review of Otsuichi and Kendi Oiwa’s Goth manga adaptation. And after some encouragement from the Feast’s host Lori Henderson, I made a last minute contribution—Random Musings: Nightmare Inspector. (Which is one of the reasons this week’s new and reviews section is rather brief.)

Also! October’s manga giveaway for Moyoco Anno’s Sugar Sugar Rune, Volume 1 is up and going. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first volume of a great fantasy series—Manga Giveaway: Happy Hallowe’en! (Sugar Sugar Rune Giveaway)

Quick Takes

Berserk, Volume 35 by Kentaro Miura. Guts and his companions are still on the high seas when the wind of change passes over the world. He is also still recovering from his last battle, but his skills are needed when the ship must face a hoard of demons from the sea. Occasionally Miura’s monster designs can feel somewhat repetitive, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less frightening. The art in Berserk is detailed and the battles are chaotic. Guts’ ordeal continues as he fights to protect those he’s come to consider friends. But the very power that he must use might also be the power that destroys them all. Berserk remains one of my favorite manga series; now begins the long wait for the next volume. 

Dragon Head, Volumes 1-10 by Mochizuki Minetaro. I enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction and Dragon Head is one of the best examples of the genre that I’ve come across in manga. The series explores the fear and the darkness, both literal and figurative, that cataclysmic events bring about. Dragon Head is fiction, and so some of the human responses to the tragedy feels overly dramatized, but the story is still very engrossing. I did find the inclusion of the scar heads somewhat odd, but they do provide another interesting perspective on fear. One of the most terrifying things in the world is the unknown, and the characters are never able to determine for certain what has happened. Minetaro’s art works fantastically well for the series, particularly the ravaged landscapes and scenes of destruction.

Grand Guignol Orchestra, Volume 1 by Kaori Yuki. I have a feeling that Grand Guignol Orchestra is a series that I like in theory but am unsatisfied with in reality. I mean, an orchestra that fights zombies with music (among other things)? How great is that? Pretty great in my opinion, but after reading the first volume I haven’t been convinced that Yuki will be able to pull it off. Even the characters haven’t settled in yet. The first volume seems unfocused and rushed at the same time, as if Yuki was trying to shove in too many manic ideas all at once. Still, the ability to take out a zombie with a tuning fork is pretty awesome. And even though it seems to have nothing to do with the actual story, I really like Gwin’s pet hedgehog.

King of Thorn, Volume 1 by Yuji Iwahara. The extremely deadly Medusa virus is running rampant across the world. In an effort to find a cure, a group of people chosen by lottery are put into stasis. But some awake to a world drastically different from the one they left. The facility they are in is in an extreme state of decay and carnivorous dinosaur-like creatures are roaming the grounds. The virus is no longer their immediate concern as they must struggle to simply survive. One of the things I like best about King of Thorn is that the ensemble cast is so diverse in both character design and personality. It is obvious from the way they interact with each other that Iwahara has put some thought into exactly who these people are. I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of the series.

Sugar Sugar Rune, Volumes 1-8 by Moyoco Anno. For a series that was created with elementary school students in mind, Sugar Sugar Rune is incredibly engaging for adult readers as well. It starts out innocently enough, two young witches have come to the human world to compete to become the next queen of the magical world, but the story quickly becomes deeper and more complex. The characters and setting are wonderfully well-rounded. Anno’s art is great even if some of the pages become a bit overwhelming. Marvelous attention is given to details such as clothing. Sometimes plot developments come out of nowhere, but they generally work in the long run. I really loved this series and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

Black Jack, Episodes 18-28 and Black Jack Special: The 4 Miracles of Life directed by Makoto Tezuka. I wouldn’t necessarily classify Black Jack anime as horror, although the potential is certainly there. I, for one, wouldn’t want to have to face the various diseases and conditions that afflict Black Jack’s patients. I find Black Jack to be a fantastic character and prefer the episodes where he plays a greater role in the story. He can be an absolute ass, but underneath he’s really very compassionate. Also, he’s a baddass. The Black Jack anime ran for sixty-one episodes but only the first twenty-nine episodes and the special are available through Crunchyroll. Fortunately, Black Jack is primarily episodic, so at least we’re not left with unresolved plot arcs. Plus, there’s always the original manga!