My News and Reviews
Last week was one of the slower weeks at Experiments in Manga. I announced the winner of the historical manga giveaway and took the opportunity to ramble on a bit about historical manga as well. I also posted the Bookshelf Overload for March, if you’re interested in seeing the embarrassing amounts of manga and such that I managed to acquire over the month. The honor of the first in-depth manga review for April goes to Baku Yumemakura and Jiro Taniguchi’s The Summit of the Gods, Volume 2. It’s a fantastic series with stunning artwork. It looks like the fourth and penultimate volume might be released in English this year; I’m really looking forward to it.
I believe I’ve mentioned in the past my love for Jen Lee Quick’s Off*Beat. The first two volumes were originally published by Tokyopop and the series was sadly never completed. Happily, the newly established Chromatic Press is bringing Off*Beat back into print and fans will finally see the third and final volume published. A pre-order Kickstarter has been launched for the new Chromatic Press editions, which include bonus material. Any extra funds raised will be going towards the launch of Sparkler Monthly, Chromatic Press’ digital anthology, and Jen Lee Quick will get a nice bonus, too.
I’m starting to really take notice of PictureBox and its planned manga releases. For starters, The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame is one of my most anticipated English manga releases of the year (it should be out later this month.) The publisher also recently confirmed that in addition to its new “Ten-Cent Manga” line, it will also start a “Masters of Alternative Manga” series. I’m very interested in seeing how PictureBox’s manga plans continue to develop.
As for other good stuff online: The newest of Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga columns, which is always worth a read, features Shin Mashiba’s Nightmare Inspector: Yumekui Kenbun. (I quite like the series and wrote a little about it myself a while back–Random Musings: Nightmare Inspector.) The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has a short documentary that’s well worth watching–Defending Manga: The Ryan Matheson Story. Over at Good E-Reader, Brigid Alverson posted an insightful interview with Ed Chavez on Vertical’s Digital Manga Strategy. And finally, the call for participation for April’s Manga Moveable Feast has been posted! The Feast, held from April 20 through 26, will feature Kaori Yuki and her work. The Beautiful World will be hosting for the first time.
20th Century Boys, Volumes 17-19 by Naoki Urasawa. The series is nearing it’s conclusion, but that’s okay: 20th Century Boys is starting to feel rather drawn out. I’ll admit that I am still enjoying it, though. Urasawa employs a really interesting narrative technique in 20th Century Boys that I haven’t seen used very often. The manga has its cast of main characters, but the series frequently follows their story indirectly by following the secondary characters instead. The plot is often seen from their perspective. This can be a little messy at times though since it introduces even more characters that readers need to keep track of and 20th Century Boys is fairly complicated to begin with.
Boy Princess, Volumes 1-5 by Seyoung Kim. When the princess elopes with a stable boy two days before a crucial arranged marriage between two kingdoms the youngest prince is disguised and sent in her place. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take long for the switch to be discovered. Boy Princess starts out as a comedy but at the point where I stopped reading it seems to be veering off towards something more tragic. Personally, I think the series works best when it’s being a little silly. Boy Princess has a nice fantasy setting with a good if often confusing attempt at court intrigue. Kim’s artwork is unfortunately uneven, but improves immensely as the series progresses. Some panels are frankly gorgeous and the costume designs are consistently lovely.
Genshiken, Omnibus 3 (equivalent to Volumes 7-9) by Shimoku Kio. When I wasn’t paying close attention, Genshiken naturally developed into a full-fledged otaku love story. And it’s absolutely wonderful. Much of this third and final omnibus is devoted to Ogiue, her backstory and self-hatred, and her changing relationships with the other members of the Genshiken. There are plenty of serious and touching moments, but the humor and goofiness of the series are still there, too. I’ll admit, I’ve grown rather fond of the characters in Genshiken and all of their quirkiness; I think we’d probably get along pretty well in real life. I’ve really enjoyed this series and look forward to continuing it with Genshiken: Second Season.
I Kill Giants written by Joe Kelly and illustrated by J. M. Ken Niimura. Last year, I Kill Giants became the first comic from the United States to win the International Manga Award. With bullies at school and problems at home, Barbara is going through some very difficult times. A bit of misfit and an outsider, her fantasies give her a way to escape some very harsh realities. It’s easier to hunt and kill giants than it is to face the truth, but some things in life simply can’t be stopped or ignored. Niimura’s art and Kelly’s writing are great and mix Barbara’s fantasies together with her reality in very effective ways. Her confrontation and showdown with the Titan in particular is phenomenal. At times dark and disconcerting, I Kill Giants is a very powerful and personal work.
Blue Submarine No. 6 directed by Mahiro Maeda. Discotek announced earlier this year that it had rescued the license for Blue Submarine No. 6 (originally released by Bandai), so I was curious. The four-episode OVA adapts a manga by Satoru Ozawa from 1967. The series is a bit confusing and rushed in places, and almost none of the characters were as well developed as I wanted them to be, but it pulls itself together pretty nicely in the end. I particularly liked the series’ post-apocalyptic ocean setting. Despite the occasionally awkward computer graphics, there were still some very nice visuals and great character designs. I enjoyed Blue Submarine No. 6 well enough, but it’s not a series that I’ll need to own.
Shigurui: Death Frenzy directed by Hiroshi Hamasaki. Based on a manga by Takayuki Yamaguchi, which in turn adapts a novel by Norio Nanjō, Shigurui is an extremely brutal, graphic, and violent series. Nearly all of the characters are detestable and their actions are appalling. The series definitely isn’t for everyone and will offend many. To say it’s intense is to put it mildly. After the first episode, most of the anime is a long flashback; unfortunately, the bloody tale of power and revenge never quite comes full circle. Visually, the series is very distinctive in its style with creepy motifs and merciless fight scenes. I found Shigurui to be incredibly absorbing and even compelling. It’s been a while since an anime has left such a profound impression on me.