My News and Reviews
Happy (belated) Chinese New Year, everyone! It’s already been a busy season for me with multiple lion dance and taiko performances for the lunar new year over the last few days (with more to come!), but was I still able to get some reading and writing in, too. Last week was another two-review week at Experiments in Manga, except this time both in-depth reviews were actually of manga. First up was my review of Ken Niimura’s collection of short manga Henshin, which I enjoyed immensely. Niimura is actually a Spanish artist, but Henshin was first released online by the now sadly departed Ikki manga magazine. The second review was of Gamon Sakurai’s Ajin: Demi-Human, Volume 2. I had enjoyed the first volume, but things are starting to get really good with the second. Hopefully the trend continues.
So, earlier this year I wrote a quick take of Under the Sign of Capricorn, the first release in the new English-language edition of Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese comics. Much to my surprise, I ended up getting a brief mention in an Italian article about Americans’ responses to the comic. (I’ll admit, that was pretty cool.) Elsewhere online, Vertical’s survey for recommendations for Spring 2016 manga licenses is currently underway. Viz Media announced two new manga licenses of its own: Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi’s Ultraman and Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia. And speaking of Viz, Hope Donovan, one of the publisher’s manga editors, was interviewed over at Panels. I also want to mention Purity, a new Kickstarter project featuring some fantastic creators. Described as a “post-yaoi anthology,” it’s a collection of comics from artists whose work has been influenced in some way by the boys’ love genre.
Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Omnibus 5 (equivalent to Volumes 13-15) by Yukito Kishiro. First of all, I just want to say that I absolutely love the cover of this omnibus; the Space Karate team as a group of rock stars is just about perfect. This may also very well be my favorite installment of Last Order that I’ve read so far. It features epic, over-the-top battles and action as well as some additional backstory. In particular, more about Zazie is revealed. Also, Sechs (who is still one of the characters I like best) plays a major role and gets to be a badass in addition to being an occasional source of comic relief. Although the styles of martial arts in Last Order are fictional, I appreciate that Kishiro actually incorporates small kernels of traditional teachings to create the super-evolved combat forms found in the series. The Space Karate team is prominently featured in this omnibus. As a karateka myself, I get a kick out of the characters and I particularly enjoyed seeing the progression of their tournament fights. Kishiro’s cyborgs and genetically modified creatures allow for some pretty incredible and entertaining combat feats and techniques that otherwise would be impossible.
Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, Volumes 2-4 written by Yuto Tsukuda and illustrated by Shun Saeki. While the fanservice certainly hasn’t disappeared from Food Wars!, each volume seems to tone down the overly sexually suggestive imagery a little more. Personally, I generally found the over-the-top reaction shots amusing rather than offensive. They’re becoming more and more ridiculous and absurd, however they may still present a barrier for some people. But to the creators’ credit, at least there’s eye-candy in Food Wars! for all sorts of readers–nudity and bare skin isn’t limited to just one gender. And then there’s the eye-candy for the foodies, too; the dishes in the series are gorgeously drawn. Saeki’s artwork in Food Wars! really is one of the highlights of the series. I’m liking the characters and their designs as well. Plenty more have been introduced in these volumes, all with their own personality quirks and culinary specialties. Which, of course, presents plenty of opportunities for some fantastically epic battles and competition in the kitchen. I also like that Soma isn’t the only student at Totsuki Institute who doesn’t come from a rich, high-class background.
Restart by Shoko Hidaka. Since I’m loving Hidaka’s ongoing series Blue Morning, I figured that I should probably look into her other boys’ love manga that have been released in English. Restart is a collection of manga that includes some of her earliest professional work, including the titular “Restart”–her first story to be published in a magazine. Most of the stories follow Tadashi and Aki, two male models who end up in a relationship with each other. Tadashi is the older and more experienced professional of the two, but his popularity is fading while Aki’s star begins to rise, which understandably causes some tension and frustration. A tangentially related story features a fashion photographer and another young model who has yet to really break into the industry. The other short manga shares no connection with the others. It’s about a college student who was never able to confess his feelings because the young man he was in love with went missing. However, over time he finds himself growing closer to his crush’s younger brother. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn’t find Restart to be as compelling overall as Blue Morning but even Hidaka’s early manga exhibit solid story-telling and well-developed characters.