My News and Reviews
A few different things were posted at Experiments in Manga last week. First of all, it’s time for the most recent monthly giveaway. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so you all still have a chance to enter to win the first volume of Madoka Takadono and Utako Yukihiro’s Devils and Realist. The honor of the first in-depth review for October goes to Jim Zub and Steve Cummings’ Wayward, Volume 2: Ties That Bind, which continues to successfully meld the history and legends surrounding yokai with a brand new story. The series, which I’m thoroughly enjoying, would probably make a great entry point for manga fans who would be interested in exploring American-style comics. Finally, over the weekend I posted September’s Bookshelf Overload.
As for some of the interesting things that caught my attention elsewhere online last week: Foreign Policy has a nice piece about evolving LGBT rights in Japan and the role that manga like Wandering Son and boys’ love has played in it; Otaku USA has an interview with the (in)famous mangaka and tentacle master Toshio Maeda; it looks as though Masahiko Matsumoto’s long-awaited Cigarette Girl is currently scheduled for release in 2016 by Top Shelf; and Digital Manga, despite the trouble it seems to be having actually publishing anything in print these days, has launched its newest Tezuka Kickstarter aiming to release Wonder 3 and, as a stretch goal, The Film Lives On.
The Divine by written by Boaz Lavie and illustrated by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka. The striking color artwork of The Divine is what first caught my attention. (It looked vaguely familiar, and indeed, it turns out that Tomer created the cover art for Haikasoru’s recent Battle Royale releases.) The graphic novel follows Mark, an explosives expert, who travels to a remote Southeast Asian country on a military contract. The mission seems relatively straightforward—blowing up a mountain, supposedly to help the locals gain better access to its rich mineral resources—but Mark ends up caught up in the local civil war when he’s captured by a group of young rebels. Mixing mythology and modern warfare and the supernatural with man-made terrors, the comic is graphic in its blood and violence. The artwork is consistently great, but I found the narrative to be a little uneven and none of the characters are particularly likeable. The Divine was in part inspired by a photograph of the twelve-year-old Htoo twins from Burma, the leaders of the God’s Army guerrilla group in the 1990s. Although I did enjoy The Divine, I think I’d actually be even more interested in seeing a direct retelling of their story.
Inuyashiki, Volume 1 by Hiroya Oku. It’s been a long while since I’ve read any of Gantz, the series that Oku is most well-known for, but I was still curious about Inuyashiki, his most recent series to be released in English. Almost unheard of in manga available in translation, which largely tends to be targeted at a younger audiences, one of lead characters, the titular Ichiro Inuyashiki, is nearly sixty years old. In fact, he looks even older than that. The first volume of Inuyashiki seems to mostly be a prologue for the rest of the series, establishing the premise of the manga and introducing the characters who will become the major players. Oku makes a point to emphasize just how sad and miserable Inuyashiki’s life is before killing him and another innocent bystander off in a freak accident. Granted, they are then both resurrected as extraordinarily powerful, weaponized cyborgs. In the case of Inuyashiki, he’s using his new-found abilities for good, and in spectacular fashion, too. As for the other victim, I don’t expect that he’ll be quite as magnanimous. Inuyashiki, as ridiculous as its setup is, has a promising start. I’m rather curious to see the direction Oku will be taking the series.
Suikoden III: The Successor of Fate, Volumes 1-5 by Aki Shimizu. Although I am aware of the RPG series, I haven’t actually played any of the Suikoden video games. I was specifically interested in the Suikoden III manga adaptation for two reasons: the entire Suikoden series is loosely based on the Chinese classic Water Margin, and I generally enjoy Shimizu’s work (which also tends to have a Chinese influence). An overview of the previous two Suikoden stories is provided before the manga gets underway; it’s a nice, but largely unnecessary addition. The Successor of Fate seems to stand well on it own, so far. The manga doesn’t really feel like a video game adaptation, either, which I was happy to discover. References are made to past events (and past games, technically), but for the characters that history is shrouded in myth and legend. At this point The Successor of Fate hasn’t really made itself stand out from most other epic fantasy series, but its a solid beginning and, despite a few infodumps, there are plenty of things to like: a large cast of characters (including quite a few women in prominent roles), prophecies and magic, politics and intrigue, battles that rely on strategy as much as strength, and so on.