My News and Reviews
Happy New Year, everyone! 2016 may now be over, but there’s still a little time left to enter Experiments in Manga’s December giveaway. Tell me a little about your favorite tournament manga or tournament story arc by Wednesday for a chance to win the first omnibus of Tadatoshi Fujimaki’s Kuroko’s Basketball. Also posted at Experiments in Manga last week were my random musings about some of the notable manga, comics, and other books that debuted in 2016. Despite there being three posts last week (which hasn’t happened in a very long time!) I actually wasn’t online much at all. As a result, I probably missed out on some interesting reading and announcements, so do let me know if there was anything particularly cool. One thing that I did see though was an interview with Kabi Nagata, creator of My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness which is scheduled to be released in English by Seven Seas later this year (and which I’m really looking forward to).
Bungo Stray Dogs, Volume 1 written by Kafka Asagiri and illustrated by Sango Harukawa. The Armed Detective Agency specializes in the dangerous cases that the Japanese police and military either won’t or can’t handle. It’s a team of uniquely skilled individuals who have abilities that seem to come right out of fiction, but the “good guys” aren’t the only ones with formidable powers. While there are names that a more casual reader might recognize—Osamu Dazai, Edogawa Rampo, Junichiro Tanazaki, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and so on—others, like the lead Atsushi Nakajima, are less well-known in English. (I actually happen to be a pretty big fan of Nakajima’s work.) Their supernatural talents and personality quirks are all based on their namesakes. For example, Dazai’s power is named No Longer Human and he has a penchant for attempting suicide. It’s off to an intriguing start, but I’m not sure if Bungo Stray Dogs will appeal quite as much to someone not as familiar with the literary references being made. It’s not necessary to understand them to enjoy the manga, though. So far, I am getting a kick out of the series and look forward to seeing how it develops.
Hunter x Hunter, Volumes 1-8 by Yoshihiro Togashi. I’ve been somewhat reluctant to start reading Hunter x Hunter (it might have something to do with the manga already being over thirty volumes long), but I’ve seen so much excitement and fan art for the series recently that I finally gave in. And I’ll admit, there’s a tremendous amount that I found appealing about the beginning of Hunter x Hunter. The setting is interesting, too, especially the concept of Hunters. These are people who, after putting their lives at risk to pass a grueling series of tests, are granted access to resources and information that others can only dream of. The manga largely follows Gon, a boy who wants to become a Hunter in order to find his father Ging, himself a hunter of great renown, as well as the friends and enemies Gon makes along the way. I really enjoyed the first story arc in which the candidates are trying to pass the Hunter exam. The second arc, while it serves an important purpose, I found to be a bit tedious as some of the world’s metaphysics are overexplained. However, the series quickly recovers its momentum again with clever action, intriguing characters, and drama.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Volume 1 by Coolkyousinnjya. Out of Seven Seas more recent monster girl manga, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is the one that I was most interested in. For one, I happen to really like dragons. It also doesn’t hurt that the series is yuri-esque and that the titular Miss Kobayashi is an adult woman working as a systems engineer. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid features some nudity and bawdiness but for the most part it doesn’t tend to be overly-sexualized which is also refreshing. The manga can actually be surprisingly cute, charming, and sweet. Hotaru is a dragon who has taken it upon herself to act as Kobayashi’s maid after Kobayashi saves her life. For her part, Kobayashi thought it was all an alcohol-induced dream and so is very surprised to discover that a dragon girl has made herself at home in her apartment. Why a maid specifically? It turns out that Kobayashi is a bit of a maid otaku (which becomes very clear when she goes off on drunken rants on the subject). Hotaru, who loves Kobayashi dearly, wants to do anything to make Kobayashi happy even if her efforts are somewhat awkward and frequently miss the mark.
Reindeer Boy by Cassandra Jean. I am a fan of Jean’s illustration work, and so I was very excited to learn that an original graphic novel was in the making. Reindeer Boy is based on a series of character drawings that Jean has been creating (and that I’ve been following) since 2013. The comic follows Quincy, a young woman whose life takes an unexpected turn when a group of students, all of whom have antlers, transfer into her high school. They seem to take particular interest in her, especially the flirtatious Cupid who claims they are Santa’s reindeer. Quincy’s not sure what to make of it all, but the more she gets to know them the more she likes them. Admittedly, the story of Reindeer Boy does feel like it was made to fit the characters rather than the other way around. It’s kind of a strange comic, but it’s fun, goofy fluff with a bit of romance, delightful characters, and beautiful, sensual artwork. Reindeer Boy, while telling a complete story, does seem to end rather abruptly. I’m not sure if there are plans to release any additional reindeer comics, but I’d love the opportunity to spend more time with the characters and learn more about the mythology that Jean has created.
Yuri!!! on Ice directed by Sayo Yamamoto. It’s been a long while since I’ve had the time and opportunity to marathon an entire anime series, but I knew that once I started Yuri!!! on Ice that I wouldn’t want to stop. And I was right; I love this series so much and hope that there will be a nice physical release that I can purchase in the future. The underlying story is fairly straightforward and simple: After a miserable performance at the Grand Prix, the career of Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki is falling apart when his idol Victor Nikiforov unexpectedly quits competing to become his coach. Yuri!!! on Ice is a series about love, passion, and inspiration in many forms. It’s also about people struggling against their selves, fighting through failure and realizing their self-worth. Yuri!!! on Ice is a tightly written and immensely satisfying show, but I do think it would have been even better if there were just a few more episodes to allow the characters and story more room to breathe. That being said, there is still some impressive character development with the series’ short span and the psychological elements are handled particularly well. Understandably, the leads receive the most attention, but I’d really like to know more about the supporting cast, too.