With very little new manga shipping this week, we’ve decided to do something a little different. Instead of choosing something fresh off the presses, each of us will recommend a title we’ve reviewed in the past six months that we feel deserves a moment in the spotlight. Check out our Picks below!
KATE: I’m glad I’m going first this week, because that allows me to recommend a Manga Bookshelf staff favorite: The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko. The first volume of this delightful, snarky comedy arrived in the final weeks of December, too late to make my Best Manga of 2010 list, but just in time to redeem my opinion of Tokyopop’s recent licensing choices. Many critics have been making favorable comparisons between Lady Kanoko and Harriet the Spy, not least because both stories feature young girls who fill notebooks with observations about their peers. What makes Kanoko so appealing, however, isn’t just that it shares plot points with Louise Fitzhugh’s famous story; it’s Kanoko herself, who uses her position as a neutral observer to help her classmates better understand their own behavior. Kanoko refuses to be pulled into their power struggles and romantic travails, making her an uncommonly independent, powerful shojo heroine. (She’s also blisteringly funny.) Assuming Tokyopop’s recent layoffs haven’t had a significant impact on their release calendar, volume two will arrive in stores next week.
MJ: I’m going to go in a bit of an unexpected direction here and recommend Seven Days: Monday-Thursday, the first of a two-volume BL series by Rihito Takarai & Venio Tachibana, released rather quietly on DMP’s Juné imprint last year. Though the second volume won’t come out here for months still, I have to admit it’s been lurking around in the back of my mind since I reviewed it in November. It’s not a showy series by any means, and its primary charm is in its emotional messiness, something I know I tend to appreciate more than most. Though it starts with an unbelievable premise (a boy offers himself up as a joke to a classmate with a reputation for dating any girl who asks him) the plot is just an excuse to explore adolescent confusion and awkwardness in the very best way possible. This was one of my favorite new BL series last year, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
DAVID: My pick is a book that seemed to slide in under the radar: Oji Suzuki’s A Single Match from Drawn & Quarterly. It’s an intriguing and challenging collection of short stories that were originally published in Garo, and Suzuki has a sensibility that’s simultaneously dreamlike and gritty. Chris Mautner did a fine job describing the creator’s approach in a review for The Comics Journal, saying “Perhaps the key is that Suzuki isn’t as interested in telling stories, per se, as much as he is in capturing certain moments — of memory, of awareness — and the emotions that roil underneath.” If all of the stories collected here aren’t equally successful, the majority of them are certainly intellectually and emotionally striking enough to merit close reading (and rereading). If you’re looking for an ambitious change of pace, A Single Match would be a fine choice. I reviewed the book back in February.
Readers, recent title would you recommend?