It’s another big week for manga arrivals at Midtown Comics. See below for recommendations from the Manga Bookshelf bloggers and special guest Michelle Smith!
DAVID: My pick for this week is the third volume of Natsume Ono’s Eisner-nominated House of Five Leaves from Viz, and I’m really happy to be able to add that adjectival phrase in front of the title. The series is about an out-of-work samurai who falls in with a gang of kidnappers under the seductive influence of the gang’s charismatic ringleader. Don’t let the warrior protagonist and criminal endeavors fool you: this is a very introspective, character-driven series that looks at the consequences of individual choices. Ono has a wonderfully distinctive style that’s graceful and understated but still forceful. Ono will be a featured guest at the Toronto Comic Art Festival May 7 and 8, and if you want to familiarize yourself with her work before then or just be a fully informed Eisner voter, you should really give this series a try.
KATE: Well, nuts, I was going to name House of Five Leaves my pick of the week as well before David said everything I might have said, only more eloquently. So I’m going to choose the sixth and final volume of AKIRA instead. I’d be the first to admit that Kodansha could have done so much more with the latest edition of this iconic series — unflipped artwork, fancy paper, essays and artist interviews, hardcovers — but I’m glad to see Katsuhiro Otomo’s work readily available again in stores; every other Otomo series that’s been licensed for the US market (Domu: A Child’s Dream, The Legend of Mother Sarah, Memories) is out of print, making it difficult for newer manga readers to discover this seminal artist for themselves. Otomo’s influence on popular culture can’t be understated; his postapocalyptic vision of Tokyo, which has been aped by countless comic artists and film directors, is simply one of the most original, beautiful, and iconic renderings of a city that’s ever been committed to paper.
MICHELLE: I’m certainly happy to see the fourth volume of Udon’s Silent Mobius: Complete Edition appearing on the list of new arrivals at last, but I am going to have to cast my vote instead for the fifth volume of Kaoru Tada’s classic shoujo romantic comedy, Itazura Na Kiss. Tada’s work is extremely different from that of Katsuhiro Otomo, and yet it was perhaps just as influential in its own way. Quite a few shoujo scenarios that we regard today as cliché started with Itazura Na Kiss, but it doesn’t read as dated in any way. In this particular volume, genius male love interest Naoki discovers and abandons his goal in life while ditzy protagonist Kotoko begins to realize that she has no dreams of her own, since she’s been wrapped up in thoughts of Naoki for the last five years. I suppose that might not sound like much, but in the context of this slice-of-life series, it counts as real and important progress. Highly recommended.
MJ: First, let me echo Kate’s sentiment, in that I was fully prepared to name House of Five Leaves, even if it was a repeat on the list, but given how beautifully David recommended it, my vote feels quite unnecessary. With that in mind, I’ll give a shout-out to Jun Mochizuki’s Pandora Hearts. I reviewed the series’ fifth volume in today’s Bookshelf Briefs, and though Mochizuki’s work is not without flaw, it’s also full to overflowing with beauty and real feeling. From the pretty, pretty pages of G Fantasy, the virtues of Pandora Hearts extend far deeper than its attractive surface. If you can only buy one volume of manga this week, buy House of Five Leaves. If you can afford more, take a good look at Pandora Hearts.
So readers, what are your Picks this week?