Vertical Confirms New 2016 License

kamikemo01Good news for folks who like fantasy: Vertical Comics just confirmed that it will be publishing MAYBE’s The Abandoned Sacred Beasts, which is currently running in Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. Look for volume one in May 2016.

The latest volumes of Tokyo Ghoul, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, and Monster Musume top this week’s NY Times Manga Best Seller list.

On September 4th, the NHK will begin airing the four-part series Urasawa Naoki no ManbenEach episode will focus on a different manga-ka, offering the viewer an in-depth look at the process of creating a series. Among the featured artists are Akiko Higushimura, Inio Asano, and Takao Saito.

Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto has begun dropping hints about his next manga project, fueling speculation that he will formally announce the title at New York Comic Con.

Justin Stroman interviews Sekai Project publishing director Evan Mapoy about the company’s plans to license manga for the American market.

With 10 days to go, Last Gasp has raised $18,430 in its efforts to publish and distribute 4,000 copies of Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen to schools and libraries around the country.

How should translators handle the catch-phrases that give JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure its unique flavor? Deb Aoki posed the question to Twitter, sparking a lively debate about the challenges of localizing manga for American audiences.

Headed to London this fall? The British Museum is sponsoring an exhibit called Manga Now: Three Generations, which will feature three commissioned works by Chiba Tetsuya, Hoshino Yukinobu and Nakamura Hikaru. The exhibit runs from September through mid-November.

Anime News Network is looking for a freelance reporter to cover movie screenings and events in Tokyo. More details here.

What’s arriving in bookstores next week? The Manga Bookshelf gang investigates.

It’s the end of the month, which means that Ash Brown is once again giving away manga. This month’s prize is Chicago, a two-volume series by Basara creator Yumi Tamura. The deadline to enter is September 2nd, so hop to it!

News from Japan: Yuu Watase has put Arata: The Legend on hiatus again, while Akiko Higashimura has just announced that she will debut a new series in Cocohana magazine this November: Bishoku Tantei, which translates to Gourmet Detective. (The tagline writes itself, doesn’t it?) Topping this week’s Japanese manga bestseller list are the latest volumes of Detective Conan, Terra Formars, and–what else?–Attack on Titan.

You know you want to read it: Hiro Mashima just published a Fairy Tail/Parasyte crossover story in the October issue of Afternoon.

The latest chapters of Yuichi Okano’s autobiographical manga Pecoross no Haha no Tamatebako (The Treasure Chest of Pecoross’ Mother) explore the impact of the 1945 Nagasaki bombing on its youngest survivors.

Reviews: Ian Wolf posts an early review of Inuyashiki, Claire Napier shares her thoughts on Space Brothers, and Austin Lanari tackles the latest issue of Weekly Shonen Jump. Over at the Smithsonian’s awesome BookDragon blog, Terry Hong looks at the latest volumes of Wandering Son and What Did You Eat Yesterday?, while Japan Times contributor Kanta Ishida writes about Hiromu Arakawa’s agro-centric manga Gin no Saji (Silver Spoon).

Michael Burns on vol. 6 of Barakamon (Ani-TAY)
Henry Ma on chapter 639 of Bleach (Ka Leo)
Gabriella Ekens on vols. 1-4 of Blood Blockade Battlefront (Anime News Network)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Core Scramble (Anime News Network)
Anna N. on Cosplay Basics (The Manga Report)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 1 of The Demon Prince of Momochi House (Sequential Tart)
Matthew Warner on Dream Fossil: The Complete Short Stories of Satoshi Kon (The Fandom Post)
ebooksgirl on vol. 1 of The Devil Is a Part-Timer! (Geek Lit Etc.)
Kory Cerjak on vol. 46 of Fairy Tail (The Fandom Post)
Dae Lee on Fragments of Horror (Otaku Review)
Erica Friedman on vol. 1 of Iono The Fanatics: Special Edition (Okazu)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 23 of Kaze Hikaru (Anime News Network)
Bruce P. on Kinoko Ningen no Kekkon (Okazu)
Helen on Lucky Star (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses)
Kimber on Manga Classics: Emma (The Book Ramble)
Lisa Rabey on Manga Classics: Emma (No Flying No Tights)
Adam Capps on vol. 1 of My Hero Academia (Bento Byte)
Justin Stroman on vol. 1 of My Hero Academia (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses)
Matthew Warner on vol. 2 of My Neighbor Seki (The Fandom Post)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 10 of Nisekoi: False Love (Sequential Tart)
Jessikah Chaustin on vol. 1 of Puella Magi Tart Magica: The Legend of Jeanne d’Arc (No Flying, No Tights)
Jocelyn Allen on Rafnas (Brain vs. Book)
Ken H. on vols. 5-6 of Say I Love You (Sequential Ink)
Ken H. on vols. 7-8 of Say I Love You (Sequential Ink)
Nick Creamer on vol. 1 of A Silent Voice (Anime News Network)
Michael Burns on vol. 2 of A Silent Voice (Ani-TAY)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 5 of Spell of Desire (Anime News Network)
Ash Brown on vol. 5 of The Summit of the Gods (Experiments in Manga)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 7 of Terra Formars (Anime News Network)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 7 of Tiger & Bunny (Comic Book Bin)
Matthew Warner on vol. 2 of Ubel Blatt (The Fandom Post)
Isaac Akers on vol.1 of Tokyo Ghoul (Otaku Review)
Chris Sims on vol. 1 of Ultraman (Comics Alliance)
Kelly Harrass on vol. 1 of Ultraman (Panels on Pages)
Kristin on vol. 1 of Ultraman (Comic Attack)
Sakura Eries on vol. 12 of Voice Over! Seiyu Academy (The Fandom Post)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 9 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Comics Worth Reading)
Adam Capps on vol. 5 of Witchcraft Works (Bento Byte)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 6 of World Trigger (Comic Book Bin)
Matthew Alexander on vol. 3 of xxxHolic Rei (The Fandom Post)

Summer Manga Review Index

yotsuba_figureIn a sure sign that the dog days of August are upon us, Manga Bookshelf’s most productive reviewer announced that he is taking a few days off for a well-earned vacation. We’re also in favor of poolside margaritas, so we decided to follow Sean’s lead this week. Never fear: we’ll be back in the saddle next Friday with reviews of Inuyashiki, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and Tokyo Ghoul.

Still looking for something to read? We’ve got you covered with a handy index to all the books we’ve reviewed this summer:

Total Number of Manga Reviewed: 19
Total Number of Books Reviewed: 1
Most Viewed: Alice in Murderland and Demon From Afar
Most Tweeted: Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, My Hero Academia, and My Neighbor Seki
Favorite Manga of the Summer: One-Punch Man
Least Favorite Manga of the Summer: Twin Star Exorcists

Alice in Murderland, Vol. 1 (Yen Press)
The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Vol. 1 (Seven Seas)
A Brief History of Manga (Ilex Publishing)
Demon From Afar, Vol. 1 (Yen Press)
The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol. 1 (VIZ)
Dream Fossil: The Complete Stories of Satoshi Kon (Vertical Comics)
Evergreen, Vol. 1 (Seven Seas)
Fragments of Horror (VIZ)
Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, Vol. 1 (Seven Seas)
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part One: Phantom Blood, Vol. 1 (VIZ)
Love at Fourteen, Vol. 1 (Yen Press)
My Hero Academia, Vol. 1 (VIZ)
My Neighbor Seki, Vols. 1-3 (Vertical Comics)
One-Punch Man, Vols. 1-2 (VIZ)
Prison School, Vol. 1 (Yen Press)
Seraphim 266613336 Wings (Dark Horse)
A Silent Voice, Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics)
Twin Star Exorcists, Vol. 1 (VIZ)
Ultraman, Vol. 1 (VIZ)
Your Lie in April, Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics)

We’d also like to hear from you: Are there great reviewers or websites that we’ve overlooked in our weekly round-ups? Is there a series that you’d like to see featured in the Manga Revue? Have we neglected a genre or artist that you feel deserves a bigger audience? Tell us about it in the comments–and be sure to include links!

The Manga Revue: Ultraman

Ultraman made his television debut in 1966, defending Earth from the dual scourge of aliens and giant monsters. What began as a 39-episode series soon blossomed into one of Japan’s most prolific franchises, yielding dozens of sequels, spin-offs, movies, video games–and now a manga, which has been running in Monthly Hero’s magazine since 2011. Today’s column looks at this incarnation of the Ultraman story, which arrived in stores on Tuesday.

For extra insight into Ultraman‘s history, I encourage you to check out Brigid Alverson’s interview with Tomohiro Shimoguchi and Eiichi Shimizu, the creators of the latest Ultraman manga.

Ultraman_2011Ultraman, Vol. 1
By Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi
Rated T, for teens
VIZ Media, $8.99 (digital edition)

Dusting off a beloved franchise and making it appeal to a new generation is a hazardous undertaking: stray too far from the source material and incur the wrath of purists, but hew too closely to the original and risk redundancy or camp. Manga-ka Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi have found an elegant strategy for introducing Ultraman to contemporary readers, using the original premise of the 1966 TV show as a starting point for a new chapter in the story.

The prelude to volume one neatly outlines Ultraman’s origins. Shin Hayata, member of the Science Special Search Party (a.k.a. the Science Patrol), unwittingly becomes the host for Ultraman, a powerful alien tasked with ridding Earth of dangerous monsters. Only a few members of the Science Patrol know Ultraman’s true identity–a secret they keep from Hayata, who is unaware that he is the vessel for Ultraman’s powers. The story then leaps forward thirty years: Ultraman has returned to his own world, Hayata has retired from the Science Patrol, and his son Shinjiro is beginning to manifest powers of his own.

In contrast to the introduction, which is a model of economy, the first chapter sags under the weight of too much expository dialogue. The pace improves with the sudden appearance of Be Mular–one of Ultraman’s old adversaries–who lures the inexperienced Shinjiro into a rooftop battle. Although the script has a familiar rhythm–powerful attacks punctuated by snappy one-liners–the fight choreography is well executed; you can almost feel the force of Shinjiro’s punches. Equally important, the fight’s outcome is not a foregone conclusion: the confrontation ends on a poignant cliffhanger as Shinjiro realizes that he isn’t strong enough to protect his family from Be Mular… yet.

Though Shimizu and Shimoguchi have done a nice job of bringing Ultraman and Be Mular’s appearance in line with contemporary seinen aesthetics, they’ve preserved the look and feel of the original characters. Ultraman and Be Mular don’t exactly resemble their rubber-suited predecessors, but a long-time fan will recognize them as spiritual descendants–a fair compromise for a series that’s toeing the line between 1960s kitsch and 2010s pop culture.

The verdict: The first chapter is a tough slog, but the combat is staged with enough panache that I’ll be checking out volume two.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media.

Reviews: Here at Manga Bookshelf, Sean Gaffney and Michelle Smith tackle the latest volumes of Black Rose Alice, Citrus, Evergreen, and Food Wars! Further afield, Megan R. takes a nostalgic look at Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances; Aimee A. deconstructs shojo stereotypes in Skip Beat!!; Seth Hahne praises Ajin: Demi-Human for its “fantastic cat-and-mouse” plotting; and Erica Friedman reviews Manga de Tsuzuru Yurina Hibi, a “non-fiction comic essay” about the relationship between a businesswoman and her girlfriend.

Alice Vernon on Akame ga Kill! (Girls Like Comics)
Wolfen Moondaugter on vol. 22 of Arata: The Legend (Sequential Tart)
Austin Lanari on The Art of Satoshi Kon (Comic Bastards)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 5 of Assassination Classroom (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Nick Smith on Awkward (ICv2)
Emma Weiler on vols. 1-5 of Crimson Spell (No Flying No Tights)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 10 of Deadman Wonderland (WatchPlayRead)
Lori Henderson on vol. 1 of The Demon Prince of Momochi House (Manga Xanadu)
Frank Inglese on vols. 5-6 of Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma (Snap30)
Sheena McNeill on vol. 7 of Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma (Sequential Tart)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 10 of Happy Marriage?! (Comics Worth Reading)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto (Anime News Network)
Erica Friedman on vol. 2 of Hayate x Blade (Okazu)
Allen Kesinger on vols. 4-5 of High School DxD (No Flying No Tights)
Matthew Alexander on vol. 6 of Judge (The Fandom Post)
Sarah on vol. 2 of Karneval (Anime UK News)
Anna N. on vol. 5 of Kiss of the Rose Princess (The Manga Report)
Austin Lanari on The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus Edition: Book One (Comic Bastards)
Ian Wolf on vols. 1-2 of Maid-Sama! (Anime UK News)
Kristin on Manga Classics: Emma (Comic Attack)
Ken H. on vol. 1 of My Hero Academia (Sequential Ink)
Ash Brown on The Science of Attack on Titan (Experiments in Manga)
Frank Inglese on vol. 1 of Tokyo Ghoul (Snap30)
Michael Burns on vol. 1 of Tokyo Ghoul (Ani-TAY)
Michael Burns on vol. 2 of Tokyo Ghoul (Ani-TAY)
Julie on vol. 2 of Tokyo Ghoul (Manga Maniac Cafe)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 1 of Ultraman (WatchPlayRead)
Elizabeth Lotto on vol. 1 of Ultraman (The Outer Haven)
Nick Lyons on vol. 1 of Ultraman (DVD Corner)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 9 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Anime News Network)
Wolfen Moondaugter on vol. 2 of The World’s Greatest First Love: The Case of Ritsu Onodera (Sequential Tart)

The Manga Revue: A Brief History of Manga

I’m taking a break from shojo romances and shoot ’em ups this week and reviewing Helen McCarthy’s A Brief History of Manga, a slim introduction to the medium’s history, stars, and influential series.

9781781570982A Brief History of Manga
By Helen McCarthy
Ilex Press, $12.95

A Brief History of Manga is an odd duck: it’s too short and impressionistic to be a reference work, but too focused on historically significant titles to appeal to a casual Attack on Titan fan. That’s a pity, because Helen McCarthy’s generously illustrated book provides an accessible introduction to manga, from its prehistory to the present.

A Brief History of Manga begins with Toba Sojo’s famous Choju-jinbutsue-giga, a twelfth century scroll depicting frogs, rabbits, and monkeys engaged in human activities, then jumps ahead to the nineteenth century, when European ex-pats helped popularize new cartooning styles via influential publications such as The Japan Punch (1862). The rest of the book explores the emergence of longer-form storytelling, from the newspaper-style comics of Rakuten Kitazawa (1876-1955) to the cyberpunk manga of Masamune Shirow (b. 1961). Sprinkled throughout the book are callouts highlighting specific artists’ contributions to the medium, as well as summaries of famous series, thumbnail histories of important magazines, and milestones in the globalization of manga.

For a reader familiar with Frederick Schodt’s venerable Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics (1983), many of McCarthy’s insights are old news. Schodt covered the early history of Japanese print culture in considerably more detail, painstakingly connecting the dots between Sojo’s frolicking animals, the birth of the Japanese publishing industry, and the emergence of the post-war manga market, bringing his narrative up to the 1980s. The final section of McCarthy’s book is a useful coda to Manga! Manga!, however, offering insights into more recent trends and titles, some well known–Boys Over Flowers, Death Note, Hetalia: Axis Powers–others less so–51 Ways to Save Her, Field of Cole, XX.

A Brief History of Manga has a more fundamental problem, however: its layout. Although the book’s designer has taken great pains to group images thematically, and link each entry with a timeline, the visual presentation is sometimes misleading. The 1931 entry, for example, pairs images of “manga pup” Norakuro with robot cat Doraemon without acknowledging the forty-year gap that separates the two characters. (Norakuro’s first story appeared in Shonen Club in 1931, while Doraemon debuted in 1969.) A caption informs the reader that Doraemon creator Hiroshi Fujimoto was born in 1933, but the main text never explicitly establishes the influence of Suiho Tagawa’s series on Fujimoto’s; even a simple, declarative sentence stating that Fujimoto had grown up reading Norakuro would have made this entry more valuable by demonstrating the role of pre-war children’s magazines in popularizing certain character types and storylines.

The first mention of gekiga–“1959: Manga’s Punk Movement Takes Root”–is similarly confusing. Although the text introduces gekiga pioneers Takao Saito (b. 1936) and Yoshihiro Tatsumi (1935-2015), the featured images are drawn from Fukushima Masami (b. 1948) and Kai Takizawa’s ultra-violent Prince Shotoku, a fascinating oddity from the late 1970s. While these images are among the most striking in the entire volume, they are not representative of early gekiga; it’s as if someone saw the word “punk” in the manuscript and set out to find the most visually outlandish artwork to emphasize McCarthy’s word choice. Complicating matters further is that the text never mentions Fukushima or Takizawa, or explains how their work built on the legacy of Saito and Tatsumi–no small oversight, given the pronounced differences between Prince Shotuko and Baron Air (1955) and Black Blizzard (1956), Saito and Tatsumi’s debut works.

I’m less bothered by McCarthy’s omissions than earlier reviewers were*; though it’s easy to cavil about missing works, McCarthy has chosen a representative sample of titles and authors across a wide spectrum of genres, demographics, and time periods. A manga newbie would find enough here to pique her interest, and perhaps steer her towards more comprehensive treatments of manga’s history. Knowledgable readers may find the quasi-encyclopedic format and emphasis on familiar material more frustrating, though they may be pleasantly surprised to discover new names and series through a careful scrutiny of the timeline. I did.

The verdict: A Brief History of Manga would make a swell gift for a new reader looking for information about the P.N.E. (that’s the Pre-Naruto Era).

* It’s worth noting that I heartily agree with Prof. Kathryn Hemmann’s concerns about the dearth of female creators in A Brief History of Manga. As Hemmann persuasively argues, this omission effectively silences some of the medium’s most influential and interesting voices. Click here to read Hemmann’s thoughts on the subject.

Reviews: Over at The Comics Journal, weekly columnist Joe McCullock compares the Dragon Ball comic with its most recent big-screen adaptation. Closer to home, Sean Gaffney and Michelle Smith post a new installment of Bookshelf Briefs. Kathryn Hemmann reviews Buchō wa onee, a bara title “about ferocious anthro muscleheads being adorable.”

Matt on vol. 11 of BTOOOM! (AniTay)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 55 of Case Closed (Sequential Tart)
Al Sparrow on vol. 1 of Chaika, The Coffin Princess (ComicSpectrum)
manjiorin on Clay Lord: The Master of Golems (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses)
Johanna Draper Carlson on Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats, and Ramen — A Comic Book Writer’s Personal Tour of Japan (Comics Worth Reading)
Ian Wolf on vol. 1 of The Demon Prince of Momochi House (Anime UK News)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 10 of Dogs: Bullets and Carnage (Sequential Tart)
Ken H. on vol. 49 of Fairy Tail (Sequential Ink)
Nick Creamer on Fragments of Horror (Anime News Network)
Austin Ganari on vol. 36 of Gantz (Comic Bastards)
Al Sparrow on vol. 1 of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (ComicSpectrum)
Matt on vol. 2 of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (AniTAY)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 3 of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part One: Phantom Blood (WatchPlayRead)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 3 of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part One: Phantom Blood (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 2 of Let’s Dance a Waltz (The Fandom Post)
Ash Brown on vols. 1-2 of Maid-Sama! (Experiments in Manga)
Rebecca Silverman on vols. 1-2 of Maid-Sama! (Anime News Network)
Ash Brown on vol. 3 of Maria the Virgin Witch (Experiments in Manga)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of My Hero Academia (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
SKJAM on vol. 1 of My Hero Academia (SKJAM! Reviews)
ebooksgirl on vol. 1 of Recorder and Randsell (Geek Lit Etc.)
Wolfen Moondaughter on vol. 18 of Rin-ne (Sequential Tart)
Julie on The Secret Princess (Manga Maniac Cafe)
Matthew Warner on vol. 5 of Seraph of the End (The Fandom Post)
Joceyln Allen on Sorairo no Kani (Book vs. Brain)
Anna N. on vol. 5 of Spell of Desire (The Manga Report)
Austin Lanari on issue 37-38 of Weekly Shonen Jump (Comic Bastards)
Wolfen Moondaughter on The World’s Greatest First Love: The Case of Ritsu Onodera (Sequential Tart)

Tokyo Ghoul Tops the Best-Seller List

Tokyo Ghoul

The first volume of Tokyo Ghoul tops the New York Times manga best-seller list. Want to check it out? Viz is offering an extended preview on its digital service.

The Attack on Titan: Before the Fall manga is two degrees of separation from the original series—it’s an adaptation of a light novel spinoff—but even so, it’s doing well, with 1.4 million copies in print in Japan, according to Kodansha’s Bessatsu Shōnen magazine, where the series runs. Kodansha Comics publishes the manga in North America, where the fifth volume is due out on August 25, and Vertical publishes the light novels.

Deb Aoki’s advice to journalists who want to interview manga-ka has lots of interesting tidbits about the industry and cultural differences that make it a good read for any manga fan.

Zainab Akhtar has a quick introduction to the two Inio Asano titles that will be published next year, A Girl on the Shore and Goodnight PunPun.

Erica Friedman brings us the latest edition of Yuri Network News at Okazu.

The venerable shoujo manga magazine Margaret has launched a digital edition.

Reviews

Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 1 of Black Rose Alice (Lesley’s Musings on Manga)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 13 of Blue Exorcist (The Comic Book Bin)
Zainab Akhtar on Fragments of Horror (Comics & Cola)
Lori Henderson on vols. 2 and 3 of Genkaku Picasso (Manga Xanadu)
Richard Gutierrez on vol. 1 of Log Horizon (The Fandom Post)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 75 of One Piece (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Matthew Warner on vol. 28 of Toriko (The Fandom Post)

The Manga Revue: Back to School Special

My inbox is overflowing with emails touting back-to-school deals on everything from sneakers to school supplies–a sure sign that the fall semester is right around the corner, and a nice reminder that Seven Seas, VIZ, and Vertical all have new (well, new-ish) school-themed comedies arriving in stores this month. Today, I take a look at Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, a comedy about the World’s Most Fascinating High School Student; My Hero Academia, a shonen adventure about a teen who’s studying to become a superhero; and My Neighbor Seki, a gag series about a slacker who elevates procrastination to an art form.

sakamotoHaven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, Vol. 1
By Miki Sano
Rated Teen
Seven Seas, $12.99

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto is “The Aristocrats” of manga, a basic joke that yields endless variations, each more baroque than the last. The premise is simple: transfer student Sakamoto is handsome, brilliant, and athletic, making him a natural target for bullies and lovelorn girls. Any time a challenging situation arises–a bee in a classroom, a classmate injured by a softball–Sakamoto effortlessly meets that challenge, in the process revealing a previously undisclosed talent.

In the hands of a less imaginative storyteller, Sakamoto might be a wish-fulfillment character for every teenager who’s ever been tongue-tied or harassed by other students. Nami Sano puts a distinct spin on the material, however, portraying Sakamoto as so calculating and unflappable that he’s genuinely creepy; Sakamoto never smiles, laughs, or shows any discernible human emotion, even when confronted with other people’s tears or anger. (The real joke seems to be that everyone admires Sakamoto anyway.) I’m not sure that I LMAO, but Sakamoto’s odd persona and equally odd talents are a welcome rebuke to the school council presidents and earnest strivers who populate most teen-oriented manga; I’d much rather spend time with him than a standard-issue shonen prince.

The verdict: You’ll either find Sakamoto’s antics inspired or too weird to be amusing.

academiaMy Hero Academia, Vol. 1
By Kohei Horikoshi
Rated T, for teens
VIZ Media, $9.99

Meet Izuku Midoriya: he’s an ordinary teen living in a world where 80% of humanity possesses a super power. That doesn’t stop Izuku from aspiring to become a professional hero, however; since childhood, he’s dreamed about the day he might gain admission to prestigious U.A. High School, a training ground for future crime-fighters. A chance encounter with All Might, a celebrity superhero, gives Izuku a chance to prove his mettle and get the coaching he needs to pass the U.A. entrance exam.

Though the plot twists are unsurprising, and Izuku’s classmates familiar types (e.g. the Bully, the Spazzy Enthusiast), the breezy script propels My Hero Academia past its most hackneyed moments. The clean linework, playful superhero costumes, and artfully staged combat further enhance the series’ appeal; Kohei Horikoshi could give a master class on the reaction shot, especially when a supervillain is wrecking havoc on a downtown skyline. Most importantly, Horikoshi respects the sincerity of Izuku’s ambitions without letting the character’s earnest intensity cast a pall over the fun–in essence, it’s a Silver Age comic in modern shonen drag, with all the corny humor and fist-pumping action of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s best work on Spider-Man.

The verdict: My Hero Academia is as predictable as death and taxes, but a smart script and crisp artwork help distinguish it from other titles in the Shonen Jump catalog.

sekiMy Neighbor Seki, Vols. 1-3
By Takuma Morishige
Unrated
Vertical Comics, $10.95

Like Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, My Neighbor Seki is a one-joke series: middle-school student Seki goofs off during class, much to the consternation of his seat mate Rumi. Seki isn’t just doodling in his notepad, however. He pets kittens, builds elaborate sculptures from shoji pieces, runs an intraschool mail service, and hosts a tea ceremony. To vary the rhythm of the joke-telling, artist Takuma Morishige occasionally transplants the action from the schoolroom to the playground, though the set-up remains the same; Seki does something outrageous and Rumi reacts, prompting the teacher to scold Rumi for not paying attention.

Given Seki‘s slender premise, it’s not surprising that each volume is a hit-and-miss affair. In volume one, for example, Seki knits a cactus plushie using a double-ended afghan hook. Rumi initially scoffs at his choice of tool; as she observes, “The hallmark of afghan knitting is its unique thickness and softness. It’s a texture best utilized when making sweaters,” not stuffed animals. When she sees the final results, however, she concedes that Seki has chosen the perfect technique and materials for his cactus, sending her into a rapturously funny meditation on yarn. Not all the gags are as successful: Seki’s penchant for staging elaborate scenes with action figures is moderately amusing at first, but grows more tiresome with each new and less imaginative iteration. Still, it’s impossible to deny the energy, creativity, and specificity with which Morishige brings Seki’s exploits to life, making this series more “win” than “fail.”

The verdict: My Neighbor Seki is best enjoyed in one or two chapter installments; when read in large bursts, some scenarios read like 4-koma strips stretched to epic and unfunny proportions.

Reviews: Over at Manga Connection, manjiorin reviews the first four volumes of Princess Jellyfish, which are currently available on Crunchyroll. TCJ columnist Joe McCulloch jumps in the WABAC machine for a nostalgic look at Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga. In honor of 801 Day, Megan R. reviews a title from the Tokyopop/BLU Manga catalog, Shout Out Loud.

Matthew Alexander on vol. 1 of Aoi House (The Fandom Post)
Michael Burns on vol. 5 of Assassination Classroom (AniTAY)
Nick Creamer on vol. 4 of A Bride’s Story (Anime News Network)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of First Love Monster (Anime News Network)
Michael Burns on vol. 7 of Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma (AniTAY)
SKJAM! on Fragments of Horror (SKJAM! Reviews)
Connie on vol. 1 of Junjo Romantica (Slightly Biased Manga)
Sean Gaffney on vols. 1-2 of Maid-Sama! (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Wolfen Moondaughter on vols. 1-2 of Maid-Sama! (Sequential Tart)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 1 of My Hero Academia (WatchPlayRead)
Adam Capps on vol. 3 of My Neighbor Seki (Bento Byte)
Connie on No Touching At All (Slightly Biased Manga)
Adam Capps on vol. 75 of One Piece (Bento Byte)
Ken H. on vols. 9-11 of Sankarea: Undying Love (Sequential Ink)
Matthew Warner on vol. 7 of Say I Love You (The Fandom Post)
ebooks girl on vol. 1 of Shiba Inuko-san (Geek Lit Etc.)
confusedmuse and Helen on Shugo Chara (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses)
Marissa Lieberman on vol. 1 of Spell of Desire (No Flying No Tights)
manjiorin on vol. 1 of Tokyo Ghoul (Manga Connection)
Ian Wolf on vol. 1 of Twin Star Exorcists (Anime UK News)
Connie on vol. 1 of Twittering Birds Never Fly (Slightly Biased Manga)
Connie on vol. 2 of Twittering Birds Never Fly (Slightly Biased Manga)
Lori Henderson on vols. 3-4 of Until Death Do Us Part (Manga Xanadu)
Sarah on vol. 9 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Anime UK News)
Connie on vol. 1 of World’s Greatest First Love (Slightly Biased Manga)
Alice Vernon on xxxHolic (Girls Like Comics)
SKJAM! on vol. 1 of Yamada-Kun and the Seven Witches (SKJAM! Reviews)
Ash Brown on vol. 2 of Your Lie in April (Experiments in Manga)