manga bookshelf

Six to grow on

Viz has certainly delivered some beloved manga to English-reading audiences in their almost-25-year history, haven’t they? Yesterday’s discussion has certainly reinforced that belief. So, by all means, let us extend warm and gracious thanks for the seinen, the shônen, the shôjo, the josei, the fifth genre, and so on! And yet… It would not be […]

Spice and Wolf, Vol. 4

At some point in your childhood, a well-meaning adult — a parent, a teacher, Mr. Rodgers — exhorted you “not to judge a book by its cover.” I’m not as diligent about following that advice as I should be, though I have enough experience as a consumer to correctly guess a book’s contents and intended […]

Rumiko Takahashi’s Rumic Theater

Most American readers know Rumiko Takahashi through her work in Shonen Sunday, but Takahashi has a foot in the seinen world as well. Maison Ikkoku ran in Big Comic Spirits from 1980-87, alongside Area 88 and Wounded Man, while short stories such as “To Grandmother’s House We Go” and “One Hundred Years of Love” appeared […]

Butterfly, Vol. 1

Reading Butterfly won’t change your life, make you a better person, or cause subtle but significant changes to South American weather patterns, but it may just restore your faith in Tokyopop’s ability to suss out smart, entertaining series that quietly subvert genre conventions. The genre in question is what I call “seeing dead people,” in […]

Twin Spica, Vols. 5-6

If you spend any time surfing the mangasphere, you don’t need me to tell you that Twin Spica is about a group of teenagers who are training to become Japan’s first astronauts. You probably know — or have heard from other readers — that it’s poignant. And you may have heard pundits declare it one […]

The Manga Hall of Shame: Wounded Man

Nicholas Cage, I have a swell idea for your next project: option the rights to Wounded Man. This mid-eighties schlockfest is tailor made for you. It has a hero with extravagantly bad hair, bad guys so charismatic they beg for Christopher Walken or Sharon Stone to play them, and copious amounts of acrobatic sex and […]

7 Short Series Worth Adding to Your Manga Bookshelf

I like getting lost in a long, twisty story as much as the next person, but I often lose interest in a manga around the five- or ten-volume mark. As a service to other people afflicted with Manga ADHD, therefore, I’ve compiled a list of seven shorter series that enjoy pride of place on my […]

LIVES, Vol. 1

Everything you need to know about LIVES is summed up by the following category tags: “big breasts,” “meteor,” “stranded,” “strategically torn clothing,” and “survival.” (Kudos to the Baka-Updates moderator who felt the need to give “strategically torn clothing” its due as a category. But what, no “hungry predators”?) Plot-wise, LIVES resembles Battle Royale, Gantz, and […]

Manga Artifacts: Hotel Harbour View

Back in 1990, before anyone had hit on the magic formula for selling manga to American readers, VIZ tried a bold experiment. They released a handful of titles in a prestige format with fancy covers, high-quality paper, and a large trim size, and called them “Viz Spectrum Editions.” Only three manga got the Viz Spectrum […]

The Best Manga You’re Not Reading: Blue Spring

As depicted in most shojo and shonen manga, the Japanese high school is the epitome of order, with students in neat, military-style uniforms diligently studying for exams, tidying up classrooms, staging plays, and participating in cultural festivals. Students who don’t fit into the school’s established pecking order — social, athletic, or academic — quickly find […]

Ayako

Ayako is an odd beast. Structurally, it resembles a Russian realist novel, using a once-powerful family of landowners to embody the political and economic upheaval caused by America’s seven-year occupation of Japan (1945-52). Temperamentally, however, Ayako feels more like a John Frankenheimer movie, with subplots involving a Communist organizer, an assassin who stashes orders in […]

7 Billion Needles, Vols. 1-2

First published in 1950, Hal Clement’s Needle was a unique mixture of hard science fiction and police procedural. The story focused on an alien detective who crash-lands on Earth while chasing an intergalactic criminal. With his ship destroyed and his symbiant companion dead, The Hunter takes up residence inside a teenager’s body, eventually persuading his […]

Gente and House of Five Leaves

I find Natsume Ono’s work rewarding and maddening in equal measure. On the plus side, I love her idiosyncratic style; her panels are spare and elegantly composed, with just enough detail to convey the story’s time and place. Her character designs, too, are a welcome departure from the youthful, homogenized look of mainstream shojo and […]

Manga Artifacts: Lycanthrope Leo

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, before publishers realized that they could sell manga to teenagers through Borders and Books-A-Million, VIZ and Dark Horse actively courted the comic-store crowd with blood, bullets, and boobs. It was a golden age for manly-man manga — think Crying Freeman and Hotel Harbor View — but it was also […]

The Manga Hall of Shame: Color of Rage

When reading historical manga, I grant the artist creative license to tell a story that evokes the spirit of an age rather than its details. What rankles my inner historian, however, are the kind of anachronisms that result from sheer laziness or paucity of imagination: modern slang, gross disregard for well-established fact. Alas, Color of […]