My News and Reviews
Last week brought some very good news! Sparkler Monthly‘s Kickstarter campaign for its fourth year was successfully funded, so we’ll all be getting another twelve months of phenomenal new content in addition to all of marvelous the Sparkler Monthly content that already exists, most of which is freely available online. Somewhat related to that, last week the winner of Experiments in Manga’s Sparkler Monthly Year 4 giveaway was announced. I was hoping to post the wrap up to my horror manga review project last week, too, but it looks like that should be going up sometime this week, instead.
Speaking of Kickstarters, there were two recently launched projects that specifically caught my attention last week. The first is a project to publish the second volume of Moonshot, a comics anthology featuring indigenous creators. The first volume was very impressive and earned multiple awards and honors, so I expect the second volume will be great, too. The other campaign is for the first print volume of Der-shing Helmer’s webcomic The Meek. I haven’t actually read The Meek myself yet, but I’ve heard very good things about the series.
Elsewhere online (well, I guess specifically at Anime News Network), it was a Seven Seas sort of week: Deb Aoki interviewed Okayado, the creator of the massively successful Monster Musume, at Anime Expo, the transcript of which has now been posted. I haven’t had time to listen to it yet, but the most recent ANNCast featured Jason DeAngelis, Adam Arnold and Lissa Patillo from Seven Seas. And in licensing news, Seven Seas will be releasing Atami Michinoku’s The High School Life of a Fudanshi.
Fairy Tail, Volumes 52-54 by Hiro Mashima. Despite its immense popularity, for me Fairy Tail fairly tends to be fairly hit-or-miss. Mashima readily admits that he doesn’t always know where he’s going with the story and characters, but every once in a while he manages to pull it all together to form something truly grand and epic. I have to admit, I’m really liking the most recent story arc of Fairy Tail. Once again, the members of the Fairy Tail guild are responsible for trying to save the world, but the enemies that they face this time are so strong that it’s not something that they will be able to do alone. To me, this showdown feels more personal than some of the previous world-altering battles. Granted, that impression may in part be because my reading of Fairy Tail has been somewhat fragmented. However, I greatly appreciate the more character-driven arcs of Fairy Tail. These three volumes explore the past of Fairy Tail and the guild’s connection to Zeref, the dark wizard cursed to live forever who is trying to find a way to end it all. (This I believe is all explored in greater depth in the Fairy Tail Zero spinoff, which I suspect I would likely enjoy.) The battles in this story arc are well-paced in addition to being suitably dramatic and over-the-top, fitting for a conflict that will determine the fate of the world.
Haikyu!!, Volumes 1-2 by Haruichi Furudate. Due to my increasingly busy schedule, I’ve only managed to watch the first few episodes of the Haikyu!! anime adaptation, but that was more than enough to determine that I wanted to read the original manga when it was released in English. I find that even though I’m not especially interested in sports, I really enjoy sports manga, and so far Haikyu!!, about a boys’ high school volleyball team, doesn’t disappoint. Like many other sports-oriented manga, Haikyu!! features characters who are in one way or another exceptionally skilled or naturally talented athletes. What makes Haikyu!! stand out from other sports manga that I’ve read is that it emphasizes teamwork in a way that I’ve not usually seen–the manga’s not just about great players who are simply part of the same team, it’s about teammates bringing out the best in one another, finding ways to effectively complement their strengths and weaknesses to form a group that’s more capable than any one individual. The characterization is pretty great in Haikyu!!, too, which is particularly important for a series which will likely have a fair number of characters to keep track of. I really like the characters in Haikyu!!; they all have very distinctive personalities. If Haikyu!! continues as strongly as it begins, I’m definitely in for the long haul with this series.
UQ Holder!, Volumes 7-8 by Ken Akamatsu. There’s something about UQ Holder! that rubs me the wrong way. Frustratingly, I haven’t been able to identify exactly what it is about the series, especially as there are parts of the manga that I actually like. I do wonder if part of this dissonance is caused by the fact that I’ve never read Negima! Magister Negi Magi. Although UQ Holder! initially seemed to be a stand-alone spinoff, lately it seems to be tying itself back to the original to a greater extent; I feel like I’m missing some important context. Much of the humor in UQ Holder! seems to fall flat for me, too, even when I can tell that what I’m reading is intended to be funny. The series also seems to have a bit of an identity crisis, as though Akamatsu can’t quite decide what type of story it’s supposed to be. At this point, UQ Holder! has now suddenly veered into becoming a martial arts tournament; previous incarnations of the series included a murder mystery, among other things. The martial arts tournament was a good choice, though–the battles in UQ Holder! are generally the most entertaining aspect of the series. The tournament also gives the characters an actual, definitive goal to focus on rather than their more ambiguous ambitions. These volumes also delve more into Evangeline’s backstory, which was good to see.