My News and Reviews
After a somewhat tumultuous year, last week marked the sixth anniversary of Experiments in Manga! Though at one point I was very stressed out about the fate and state of the blog, I’m now honestly looking forward to year seven, even if I’m not able to write as much anymore. Thank you to everyone who has read and supported Experiments in Manga in the past, present, and future!
Elsewhere online, Speculative Fiction in Translation interviewed Tyran Grillo, translator of Yusaku Kitano’s award-winning Mr. Turtle, the most recent offering from Kurodahan Press. And Barnes & Noble posted a list of 8 Great Japanese Books in Translation That Aren’t by Haruki Murakami. It’s a great list–I’ve only reviewed one of the novels included (Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami), but I’m very fond of Keigo Higashino‘s work and several of the other books are very high on my to-be-read pile.
Forget Me Not, Volume 3 written by Mag Hsu and illustrated by Nao Emoto. I was taken a little by surprise by how much I enjoyed the first two volumes of Forget Me Not and so I was looking forward to reading the third volume as well. The series delves into the life and past loves of Serizawa, a young man who so far has been shown to have very little luck when it comes to romance. Some of his relationship woes can be credited to the fact that he’s still immature and inexperienced, but that’s starting to become less and less of an excuse for him now that he’s in college. Perhaps because of that, the third volume of Forget Me Not didn’t work quite as well for me as the previous volumes did. It is very clear that the relationships shown in the third volume are heading towards an absolute train wreck. Considering the beginning of the series it’s already a known fact that Serizawa ends up alone and full of regret, but it’s still painful to watch the whole mess unfold. I feel just as badly for the two young women involved as I do for Serizawa. They both like him and he likes them both; Serizawa just hasn’t been able to figure out exactly what that means yet. Apparently, he still has quite a bit of growing up left to do. Despite my frustration with the most recent volume of Forget Me Not, I am curious to see how this unfortunate past ties in with the mystery of Serizawa’s current situation.
Noragami: Stray God, Volumes 15-16 by Adachitoka. Although the series’ quirky humor hasn’t completely disappeared, Noragami has become increasingly dark and dramatic over time. Adachitoka does still find appropriate moments within the series to insert a bit of levity, but for me what makes the manga compelling is its characters. The real heart of the much of the conflict in Noragami–the frequently unpredictable relationships between the various gods as well as the turbulent relationships between the gods and mortals–has once again been thrust to the forefront of the series with the manga’s most recent story arc. One thing that I found particularly interesting about these two volumes of Noragami is that Adachitoka introduces several deities of indigenous origins in addition to recognizing the existence of foreign gods. I’m not sure that they will necessarily have a large role to play in the series (then again, it seems as though they might), but this expansion is marvelous from a worldbuilding perspective, especially as Noragami is currently dealing heavily with the court and political intrigue of the Heavens. Along with that also comes a few tremendous fight sequences. Ocassionally some of the individual actions can be a little difficult to follow amidst the chaos of battle, but overall the scenes are effective and at times even impressive.
Ten Count, Volume 1 by Rihito Takarai. Although the art style in Ten Count looked familiar to me, I actually didn’t make the connection at first–Takarai was the artist of the short boys’ love series Seven Days which I loved. Ten Count, however, is a very different manga than Seven Days. Even before it was licensed in English, I was aware of Ten Count. It’s a massively popular boys’ love manga, but the series also has a fair number of detractors and understandably so. Only one volume in and Ten Count is already a deliberately uncomfortable and troubling story with dark psychological elements, dubious ethics, and emotional manipulation. The manga follows Shirotani, a young man with a severe obsessive-compulsive disorder which has remained untreated since it first manifested. After a chance meeting Shirotani catches the attention of Kurose, a clinical psychotherapist who would seem to have some emotional issues of his own. Kurose takes a particular and decidedly unprofessional interest in Shirotani, offering to help Shirotani deal with his condition off-the-record and off-the-clock. Without realizing it, as Shirotani begins to be able to more easily function within society, he has also become more and more reliant on Kurose. Romantic it certainly is not, but at least for the moment I’m part of the group that finds Ten Count compelling and definitely plan on reading more.
Another: Episode S/0, novel by Yukito Ayatsuji, manga by Hiro Kiyohara. While I was left feeling a little cheated by how some of the major reveals were handled in the horror-mystery novel Another, for the most part I did like the book. And so I was excited when Yen Press licensed both the not-exactly-sequel Another: Episode S (the main action of the novel takes place during the original Another but is only tangentially related) and the short prequel manga Another 0, releasing them together in a single, beautiful hardcover volume. (Out of all the North American manga publishers, Yen Press has had some of the best book designs of late.) Sadly, Episode S has many of the same narrative problems found in Another, namely important reveals that, while they make sense, seem a bit unfair to the readers. I actually really liked the plot twists themselves in Episode S, it’s just that their execution falls short; once again left feeling unsatisfied by the story’s developments. Tonally, Episode S is a little different from Another–while it’s still a ghost story of sorts and there are some marvelously disturbing scenes, the mystery is emphasized far more than the horror. The atmosphere of Another 0, written and illustrated by the creator who helmed the Another manga adaptation, is much closer that of Another. The prequel relies heavily on readers’ familiarity with the original while Episode S largely stands on its own.
Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts by Loren Landow. From an athletic standpoint, I have found several of the books published by Human Kinetics to be useful resources in supplementing my study of traditional Okinawan karate. Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts, one of the publisher’s most recent titles, can technically apply to any martial artist, but the book does tend to be geared more towards athletes and competitors. Landow also assumes that readers already have basic knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and sports training methods. While perhaps not suitable for absolute beginners, Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts does provide a good starting point for established martial artists who want to begin incorporating speed, agility, and conditioning work into their training. In addition to providing suggested conditioning exercises and programs, Landow also incorporates an overview of relevant and closely-related topics such as the evaluation and establishment of fitness baselines, warmups and flexibility, rest and recovery, and nutrition. The book includes a generous number of helpful photographs to accompany the descriptions of the specific exercises, but the photographs selected aren’t always the ones that would be most illustrative or useful. Additionally, rather than explaining the particular functions and applications of the individual exercises, Landow tends to broadly generalize and categorize their benefits. This lack of specificity and guidance can make the creation of an individualized conditioning program challenging for someone who has never developed one before. Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts groups commonly practiced martial arts disciplines together as either striking and kicking arts or wrestling and grappling arts. Landow suggests specific conditioning exercises for each category but also emphasizes the benefits of using a blended approach when developing a training program. Mixed Martial Arts is the only discipline that’s addressed in-depth but Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts is still broadly applicable to other martial arts and a valuable resource, providing a fine overall introduction to conditioning and endurance training.