My News and Reviews
The Sparkler Monthly Year 3 Kickstarter campaign ends tonight, so this is one of my last opportunities to give it a shout-out! I actually spent a lot of last week trying to draw attention to the project and the spectacular work being done by the staff and creators of Sparkler Monthly. For example, my most recent giveaway, which is currently underway, is for the second book in Tokyo Demons (one of my favorite series ever, not just one of my favorite Sparkler series) as well as one additional Sparkler goody of the winner’s choice. And for my final in-depth review for the month of July, I featured Heldrad’s delightful Orange Junk, Volume 1, a romantic comedy strongly influenced by shoujo manga. I also posted July’s Bookshelf Overload over the weekend, which I also managed to briefly tie into Sparkler Monthly.
In publishing news, Bruno Gmünder is adding two more volumes of gay manga to its catalog for the 2015 Fall/Winter season—Takeshi Matsu’s Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories and Gengoroh Tagame’s The Contracts of the Fall—and Breakdown Press will be releasing Ding Dong Circus and Other Stories, 1967-1974 by alt-mangaka Sasaki Maki. Ryan Holmberg, the collection’s translator and editor, recently wrote about Sasaki Maki for The Comics Journal. Also of note, Kodansha has plans to expand its digital distribution. There were also a couple of interesting interviews posted last week: over at Anime News Network Deb Aoki talked with mangaka Miki Yoshikawa in addition to one of Yoshikawa’s editors, and Organization Anti-Social Geniuses spoke with Marlene First, one of the manga editors at Viz.
Akame ga Kill!, Volume 1 written by Takahiro and illustrated by Tetsuya Tashiro. It seems as though every dark fantasy manga that has been released in English recently has a similar plot—the current ruling government and upper classes of society are staggeringly corrupt and a small group of exceptionally skilled fighters are battling against them. In many of the stories, the twist is that the “bad guys” are really the “good guys,” though it’s not much of a twist anymore since it’s becoming increasingly common. In Akame ga Kill!, that group is a team of assassins who target high-profile nobles and government officials. It’s a decent premise, but I’m not entirely convinced by Akame ga Kill!. Plot developments seem to occur more out of convenience than anything else, and despite delving into their various backstories the characters don’t yet have much depth to them. Takahiro mentions in the postscript that he finds Tashiro’s action scenes particularly eye-catching. I’m not familiar with Tashiro’s other manga, but when comes to Akame ga Kill! I was actually a little disappointed with the fight sequences. Battles happen so quickly that it appears as though nothing happens at all, and on occasion the action is skipped over completely. This conveys impressive speed, but I’d like to actually see the fights.
Let’s Dance a Waltz, Volume 2 by Natsumi Ando. If it wasn’t for the series’ unfortunate focus on Himé’s weight loss, I would be really enjoying Let’s Dance a Waltz. The first volume ends with her losing more than forty pounds after two weeks of intensive dance study. I would be willing to begrudgingly move on from this, except that the second volume never lets the reader forget about it. The manga seems to constantly emphasize that someone has to be slim to be of worth. It really is a shame, because I like so many of the other elements of Let’s Dance a Waltz. I love the dancing in the series and Himé’s developing passion for it as a sport. The second volume includes her first contest, which is partly an effort to compel Tango to compete once again. And I love the delicious melodrama surrounding the competitors and the dynamics of their tangled personal relationships. Yūsei cares tremendously for his dance partner Sumiré, but she seems to have feelings for Tango. They both want to see Tango return dance, but that also means that he will become their opponent in the ballroom. Himé is in love with Tango, too, which introduces tension into her friendships with all three of them. There’s so much to like about Let’s Dance a Waltz, but the handling of the weight issues in the series honestly bothers me.