manga bookshelf

Bookshelf Briefs 2/27/12

This week, Michelle, Melinda, Sean take a look at new releases from the Digital Manga Guild, Viz Media, Dark Horse Manga, and Vertical, Inc., while Kate offers up an unusual Tezuka find as she wraps up this month’s Manga Moveable Feast!

Ata | By Tamaki Fuji | Digital Manga Guild – I’ve reviewed quite a few books now from various groups in the Digital Manga Guild and most have been pretty good. And then there was Ata. It’s an absolute mess, with lousy art and mistakes galore. Releasing a book with an error on practically every page just goes to show that passing DMP’s proficiency tests is not sufficient to guarantee a quality product. But maybe it’s “rediculous” to expect them to be able to spell “speical” words like “fufilling,” especially when it’s “hard to breath” near the tree when it “bares” its fruit. You’ll note that I haven’t said anything yet about Ata‘s story, and that’s because I was so overwhelmed and distracted by the dozens upon dozens of easily preventable mistakes that I was unable to become invested in it. The shoddy work of this group ruined the manga for me. Avoid at all costs. – Michelle Smith

Bleach, Vol. 38 | By Tite Kubo | Viz Media – If there’s one thing Bleach seems determined to remind me, it’s that I’m not its target audience. And while this may seem like an obvious conclusion for a 40-something woman reading a shounen battle manga, the thing about Bleach is that originally I was. Tite Kubo won me over easily in the series’ early volumes, with well-developed relationships, a terrific sense of humor, and an ability to make readers care about a large cast of characters, both friend and foe. Though later volumes have devolved into increasingly tedious fight sequences featuring increasingly disinteresting enemies, he’s won me back, time and again, as recently as volume 36. Sadly, with this volume, he’s lost me again. Despite one short, dramatic scene revolving around the defeat of Ikkaku, the volume overall hinges on the reader’s interest in fights for their own sake. Unfortunately, that’s just not enough for me. – Melinda Beasi

Gate 7, Vol. 2 | By CLAMP | Dark Horse Manga – Back in December, I described Gate 7 as “my kind of CLAMP,” and while I believe this still may well be the case, the series’ second volume doesn’t put in much effort to prove it. Volume one’s greatest weakness was a glut of exposition, and that trend continues here, as CLAMP introduces us to a whole slew of brand new characters before we’ve had a chance to fall for the ones we already have. The result is shaky pacing and glassy-eyed confusion, exacerbated by an onslaught of historical information likely to send most western readers thumbing their way repeatedly to the book’s (thankfully extensive) endnotes in the hopes of reaching solid ground. Though as a long-time CLAMP fan, I’m willing to grant the artists a few more volumes to create some emotional stakes worthy of my investment, many readers may find their patience waning by the end of this volume, and I’m not yet confident enough to urge them on. Not quite recommended. – Melinda Beasi

Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 7 | By Julietta Suzuki | Viz Media – There’s a lot of manga cliches going on here, honestly. Which is not always bad, but when I saw Nanami telling Tomoe that he had to stay behind while she went to the meeting of the Gods, I knew it was a classic “if only she’d explained” moment. Sigh. Other than that, this volume introduces a lot of new kami, as we delve into just how much prejudice Nanami has to fight to be accepted as a god herself. Of course, for those who want romance, there’s Chapter 38, which is almost a perfect ‘date’ chapter, and sure to warm the heart. Overall, though, this felt like a transitional volume of Kamisama Kiss, setting up the plots that will be taken care of in the next volume. Still good stuff, though. – Sean Gaffney

No Longer Human, Vol. 3 | By Usamaru Furuya | Vertical, Inc. – After enjoying the first two volumes of No Longer Human more than I’d expected to, I was really looking forward to the final volume, which seems an odd thing to say, given the extent of the extremely grim things that tend to happen in this series. We begin one year into Yozo Oba’s marriage to cheerful and innocent Yoshino. They’re happy together, but shortly after a friend points out that Yozo must eventually pay for his past crimes, something terrible happens to strip Yoshino of her trusting personality, and the change in her destroys Yozo’s happy fantasy. Forced to confront the awfulness of humanity, he spirals into drug abuse and madness. Furuya depicts Yozo’s descent into ruin with creative, effective imagery, which results in some odd moments where readers are admiring the art whilst something profoundly unsettling is actually happening in the panel. Dark and strange, No Longer Human may not be for everyone, but I still recommend it. – Michelle Smith

Nura: Rise Of The Yokai Clan, Vol. 7 | By Hiroshi Shiibashi | Viz Media – This volume of Nura is neatly divided into two parts. The first deals with Yura, who is finding herself confused as to the true nature of the yokai… and is suspecting that Rikuo is involved somehow. What’s worse, her two older brothers show up, and explicitly state that there is no such thing as a good yokai. Anyone who says they see the world only in black and white morality is never going to be a good guy in manga, but these two are surprisingly well handled. And Yura gets some nice bonding with Rikuo (another potential romance? This isn’t getting harem-ey, is it?). The second half is mostly a flashback to how Nura’s grandfather met his grandmother, and interested me mostly for seeing Tsurara’s grandmother, a lot less perky and a lot more sultry in the Yuki-Onna department. As always, recommended for Jump fans. – Sean Gaffney

Otomen, Vol. 12 | By Aya Kanno | Viz Media – The best part of this volume, to me, was seeing the flashback to Asuka’s mother in school, which strikes me as an amazing story… which we don’t see. Indeed, Aya Konno explicitly says she wanted to draw more of it, but didn’t. Oh Otomen, why do you always sidestep my expectations? Instead, we get the expected resolution between Asuka and his father (if you hadn’;t guessed who it was, you weren’t reading hard enough), which is nice and sentimental but not as deep as I’d have liked. I hope we get more of his mother in future. The best part of the book was the final chapter, a terrific side story with Amakashi and a rather stoic high school girl, which did what I wanted the main story to do. Otomen seems to be heading into its endgame, so I hope we’ll see some better resolution of the main plotline. And more Ryo! – Sean Gaffney

Tezuka: The Marvel of Manga | By Philip Brophy | National Gallery of Victoria – This slim, handsomely packaged book is, in fact, the catalog for an exhibition mounted by the National Gallery of Victoria back in 2006. As such, it has all the virtues and faults of a museum product. On the plus side, the book contains immaculate reproductions of Tezuka’s work, from his very earliest stories — Metropolis, Crime and Punishment — to his final manga, Ludwig B. Editor Philip Brophy has paired these images with numerous statements by Tezuka about his characters and creative process — an impressionistic but effective strategy for helping the reader understand Tezuka’s artistry. On the minus side, the contextual essays run the gamut from very good to hopelessly vague; readers looking for biographical information will find Helen McCarthy’s The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga a more comprehensive introduction to the master’s life and work. – Katherine Dacey

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  3. […] kind of CLAMP,” its second volume’s onslaught of exposition and historical information left me a bit cold. However, having now discovered this tumblr full of guidance on Gate 7‘s historical matters, […]

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