More on Digital’s Kickstarters; New Naruto Novels

At Publishers Weekly, I talked to Digital Manga Publishing CEO Hikaru Sasahara about their ambitious Kickstarter, which would have raised over half a million dollars to publish 31 volumes of manga by Osamu Tezuka. I also talked a bit about their new Kickstarter, which is closer to the older model. At Eeepers Choice, Phillip questions the wisdom of their plans to hold another Kickstarter to fund a new printing of Unico, Swallowing the Earth, and Barbara.

The Manga Bookshelf team discusses this week’s new releases.

Volume 72 of Naruto will be the final volume; it will be out in February in Japan and sometime in 2016 in the U.S. Also, Shueisha has announced the full list of post-manga Naruto novels, which will continue the story and feature art by manga-ka Masashi Kishimoto.

One Piece is taking a one-week hiatus from Shonen Jump (in Japan, so presumably from Viz’s Shonen Jump as well) so author Eiichiro Oda can do some research.

Erica Friedman brings us up to date with a new Yuri Network News post at Okazu.

Lori Henderson posts the weekly top ten lists from Viz’s digital site and the New York Times, plus a list of the manga that appeared in BookScan’s top 20 list for November.

Lori also posts a Manga Gift Guide at Manga Xanadu, and she gives her take on the past week’s new manga.

News from Japan: Da Vinci magazine revealed its list of the top manga of the year, based on votes by over 4,000 readers, retailers, and reviewers, and Attack on Titan was number one for the second year in a row. Inio Asano is taking a break from his current series, Dead Dead Demon’s Dededededestruction; it will return to Big Comic Spirits in the spring.

Reviews

Erica Friedman on Ashita no Kimi ni Hanabata wo (Okazu)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 5 of Attack on Titan (Lesley’s Musings on Manga)
Dan Greenfield on vol. 1 of Batmanga (13th Dimension)
A Library Girl on vols. 1-4 of Durarara!!! (A Library Girl’s Familiar Diversions)
Drew McCabe on E-Robot (Comic Attack)
Erica Friedman on Himitsu no Kakera (Okazu)
Laura on vol. 1 of Kiss of the Rose Princess (Heart of Manga)
Ash Brown on vol. 7 of Mobile Suit Gundam (Experiments in Manga)
A Library Girl on vols. 1, 2, and 5-18 of Monster (A Library Girl’s Familiar Diversions)
Lori Henderson on vols. 15-21 of Pokemon Adventures: Ruby and Sapphire (Good Comics for Kids)
Anna N on vol. 3 of Seraph of the End (Manga Report)
Matthew Alexander on vol. 5 of Sherlock Bones (The Fandom Post)
Sean Gaffney on Showa 1944-1953: A History of Japan (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Kristin on vol. 2 of Spell of Desire (Comic Attack)
TSOTE on vol. 2 of Swallowing the Earth (Three Steps Over Japan)
Josh Begley on vol. 4 of Vinland Saga (The Fandom Post)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 1 of Yukarism (I Reads You)

The Problem with Doraemon

OpusZainab Akhtar posts a preview of Satoshi Kon’s Opus, which is due out this week from Dark Horse.

At Eeeper’s Choice, Phillip weighs in on Digital’s new Tezuka Kickstarter, which is considerably more modest than the last one.

Doraemon is the most iconic children’s character in Japan, if not all of Asia, so why have publishers been so slow to bring him over here? Roland Kelts looks at the problem, with input from translators Matt Alt (who is translating the manga, which is being released digitally), and Matt Thorn.

This week’s Pick of the Week at Manga Bookshelf comes down to two very different manga.

Erica Friedman recommends the digital magazine Sparkler Monthly.

Laura looks at this month’s new shoujo manga releases at Heart of Manga.

At Organization Anti-Social Geniuses, Justin and Manjiorin discuss five fears they have about buying manga. Any dedicated manga reader will relate!

A Library Girl notes a mini-revolt going on in the Crunchyroll forums because the company did not offer its traditional Black Friday discount on the All Access pass. Why are we writing about this on a manga blog? Because the All Access pass is what you use to read manga; if a substantial number of customers drop their subscriptions or convert to the anime-only service, it could hurt their digital manga program.

Peking University in Beijing, China, has opened a manga library.

News from Japan: This year’s best selling manga were One Piece, with 11,885,957 volumes sold, and Attack on Titan, with 11,728,368, but the numbers drop off quickly after that; Naruto, in the number six slot, had only half the sales of One Piece. Princess Resurrection manga-ka Yasunori Mitsunaga has a new series, Kako to Nise Tantei (Kako and Detective Nise), set to debut in the next issue of Young Jump.

Reviews: The Manga Bookshelf bloggers round up some quick takes on recent releases in the latest edition of Bookshelf Briefs. Ash Brown sums up a week’s worth of manga reading at Experiments in Manga. At Brain Vs. Book, Jocelyne Allen reviews Fumiko Fumi’s Memento Mori, which hasn’t been translated into English. Johnanna Draper Carlson takes a look at the how-to book Kawaii Manga: Adorable! at Comics Worth Reading.

Ash Brown on All You Need Is Kill (Experiments in Manga)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 2 of Black Rose Alice (The Comic Book Bin)
Erica Friedman on the September issue of Comic Yuri Hime (Okazu)
Sakura Eries on vol. 6 of GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class (The Fandom Post)
TSOTE on Heureka (Three Steps Over Japan)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Manga Dogs (Comics Worth Reading)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 14 of Neon Genesis Evangelion (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 16 of Rin-ne (The Comic Book Bin)
A Library Girl on vols. 7-9 of The Story of Saiunkoku (A Library Girl’s Familiar Diversions)

Bookmarked: Setting the Table

On the eve of Thanksgiving, we decided to whet our appetite for tomorrow’s dinner with a conversation about our favorite food manga. Our guests around the table today are the Manga Bookshelf bloggers: Melinda Beasi, who runs Manga Bookshelf and blogs there as well, Ash Brown of Experiments in Manga, Michelle Smith of Soliloquy in Blue, Anna N of Manga Report, and Sean Gaffney of A Case Suitable for Treatment. Bon appetit!

Michelle: I’ve thoroughly been enjoying What Did You Eat Yesterday?, especially the idea that this is everyday fare that a person on a budget might be able to make, were they so ambitious. Somehow it’s so refreshing to see someone using powder mixes! I love Shiro’s shopping trips and his sense of triumph upon scoring a good deal. My one regret is that I really can’t imagine how the vast majority of what he makes actually tastes.

Another food manga I enjoy, somewhat despite myself, is Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma. I kind of feel like I should be more bothered by the fan service than I am, but to me it seems purposefully ridiculous and not meant to titillate, but I suppose it could be doing both things at once. Anyway, this manga is basically Prince of Tennis with food. You’ve got the cocky protagonist, whose father possibly is a famous cooking ninja or something, who immediately takes on and bests his classmates at an elite culinary school. And being that it’s kind of sports manga with food, it is completely up my alley.

oishinbo1_coverAsh: I love food and I love manga, and so when the two come together in the same work I’m always going to check it out. More often than not, I end up enjoying it, too. My first food manga was Oishinbo: A la Carte, and it remains one of my favorite food series. With its food and family drama, Oishinbo is both informational and highly entertaining. Occasionally it can be controversial as well. Despite being a best-selling food manga in Japan, back in May publication of the series was suspended after its depiction of health issues in the Fukushima area. The series can be very opinionated, and at times those opinions aren’t widely held or popular. Another example is the support shown in favor of whaling. But I appreciate a work that can take a strong stance; even if I don’t necessarily agree with it I usually learn something by reading it.

Currently my go-to food manga is What Did You Eat Yesterday? Granted, it’s not just the food that particularly appeals to me about the series; I also welcome its realistic portrayal of gay life in contemporary Japan. Food frequently has an important role to play in Fumi Yoshinaga’s manga, as can be seen in Antique Bakery and Not Love But Delicious Foods among others, but What Did You Eat Yesterday? takes it to a whole new level. I know plenty of readers who don’t really enjoy the detailed food preparation and recipes found in the manga, but I’m one of those people who can happily watch cooking and food shows for hours at a time (if I actually had the time, that is) so it doesn’t bother me at all. And I especially like how the creation of a dish is shown to be a method of personal expression and communication.

What Did You Eat Yesterday 5Melinda: I’ll pipe up here to add myself to the list of folks who are rabidly consuming What Did You Eat Yesterday? There’s pretty much nothing I love more than the combination of Fumi Yoshinaga and food. As a food-lover who does not cook, I suppose I especially appreciate the fact that even food-preparation serves to move the story along in a Yoshinaga manga, so I’m never left to face my inadequacies in the kitchen alone; there’s always a little bit of human drama to keep me company. Actually, I think that’s a significant part of what always drew me to CLAMP’s xxxHolic as well. It’s not a food manga by any means, but there’s an enormous amount of food and food-preparation involved in the story. These things are inextricable from the character’s lives.

Brigid: Michelle, I’m right there with you on Food Wars. It’s so over the top that it’s hard to take seriously, and it must be said that the delicious food has the same effect on guys as on girls, although somehow it’s funnier with the guys. Anyway, it’s one of those manga I enjoy in spite of my better judgment. And the food is interesting.

I’m going to toss out a few more titles to get your reactions: Back when it first came out, I read the first couple of volumes of Yakitate!! Japan, a shonen manga about a guy who wants to create the national bread of Japan—it’s funny because Japan is a rice culture, not a bread culture—and it was sort of interesting how he had these bread-baking beatdowns with other would-be bakers. Then there’s Kitchen Princess, a super-shoujo drama about a good-hearted orphan girl, Najika, who has perfect taste, the way some people have perfect pitch, and can make really delicious, classic dishes out of cheap ingredients. This story is very much about the emotional side of food, as it’s basically a soap opera in which all problems are solved by Najika’s cooking. I also really like Toriko, the story of gourmet hunters in search of the world’s rarest and most elusive foods, just because the plants and animals the author comes up with are so imaginative. And finally, an oldie but a goodie, Iron Wok Jan, sort of a manga version of Iron Chef that’s set in a Chinese restaurant. Does anyone have any thoughts on these, or am I the only one who read them?

Michelle: I have the complete runs of Kitchen Princess and Yakitate!! Japan, but haven’t read them. I did, however, watch a few episodes of the latter’s anime and what I remember also kind of reminds me of Food Wars, in that it’s a big sports manga-ish (maybe what I really mean here is simply that it’s thoroughly shounen) and there are over-the-top reactions to food, though not so much fanservicey as wacky. Like Drops of God or something. :) I definitely intend to read both series one of these days.

Kitchen_Princess_vol01Ash: Yakitate!! Japan is a series I’ve been meaning to read, but haven’t quite got around to yet. Kitchen Princess, on the other hand, I have read. It’s deliciously melodramatic, and the food is tasty, too! I’ve actually seen more of the Toriko anime than I’ve read of the manga, but I do enjoy the series. It’s a lot of fun. As you mentioned, Brigid, the flora and fauna are incredibly imaginative. The gourmet hunters and their prey are both fantastically over-the-top. And I really like Toriko himself—he’s a powerful and skilled fighter, but he also has a respect for life and a childlike delight in food. It’s been a while since I’ve read Iron Wok Jan (it was one of my very first food manga), but I do remember some pretty epic and intense battles in that series, too!

Anna: I enjoyed the first few volumes of Yakitate!! Japan, mostly due to the horrible puns and the baking competitions. Iron Wok Jan I read several volumes of many years ago, and it had a bit of a fiercer edge to the cooking competitions, just because the main character was so intense. There was a little less humor and more over the top cooking aggression from what I remember from that series. I read most of Kitchen Princess, and I enjoyed being able to read a foodie manga in a shoujo setting, because it seems like more often when food manga comes out here, it comes with an Iron Chef-like series of shonen competitions.

I have to say that for food manga now I do prefer the works of Fumi Yoshinaga, just because her enthusiasm for food is so genuine it ends up getting reflected so well in the way her characters react to their meals. I’m a little less than enthused about Food Wars due to the fanservice, but there still is something entertaining about the combination of cooking mastery and an elite school for young chefs.

I do also enjoy food manga that are a bit more didactic or instructive in addition to the variations of battle manga. I was really glad to have the chance to read some translations of Ekiben Hitoritabi when JManga was up and running. I’ve also enjoyed a few volumes of Drops of God and Oishinbo.

Sean: I enjoy a lot of food manga, but not necessarily for the food—I’m honestly a McNuggets kind of guy. I like how it shows that anything can be adapted to fit the manga style. The titles like Food Wars and Yakitate Japan all are very much shonen fighting/training/making friends series, just about food.

Most of the seinen food manga we’ve seen consist of “talk about food preparation/eat food/exult about how delicious food is”, with close ups of amazed faces. Though Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday? at least does have characters, much as I don’t care for Shiro. With Oishinbo, characterization was so irrelevant that Viz could simply release seven omnibuses from all over the spectrum, with Kurita going from vaguely attracted to Yamaoka to already having kids and back depending on the food “theme.” (Also, lots of Shiros in food manga.)

As for series like Mixed Vegetables and Kitchen Princess, the food is a vital ingredient, but it isn’t the plot, like with Food Wars or What Did You Eat Yesterday? The standard shoujo romance and high school traumas take the front seat, though food may be used to advance those plots.

And josei, well, that’s Yoshinaga as well, right? Not Love But Delicious Foods?

Michelle: Oh, Ekiben Hitoritabi! I forgot about that one, but I also really liked it. Too, JManga had Gokudou Meshi, in which a bunch of prisoners had a yearly tradition of telling each other about delicious food they had eaten. I’m sad I won’t get to read more of either of those.

Kate: I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one mourning the demise of JManga–that was my go-to source for off-beat food manga! I was a big fan of both Ekiben Hitoritabi and Gokudou Meshi, in part because neither had fanservice, over-the-top battle sequences, or idiot savants whose one great gift was making awesome cakes. Of the two, I had a slight preference for Gokudou, as the script was a deft blend of slapstick comedy and culinary shop-talk, with characters waxing poetic about their last meal “on the outside,” or favorite comfort food. Ekiben unfolded at a more leisurely pace that, at times, bordered on snoozy; how much is there to say about the food at train stations? Still, Ekiben captured the feeling of train travel, and made me sad that the food options at Penn Station are so abysmal.

gourmetAnother JManga title that I loved was Kodoko no Gourmet, quite possibly the least manly-man title ever illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi. Its hero, Goro Inoshigara, is a traveling salesman who spends most of his time checking out new restaurants in each city he visits. (If he actually transacts any business during the course of the series, I missed it.) Each chapter is just a few pages long, but gives us a window into a variety of different types of restaurants, from mom-and-pop noodle joints to upscale bistros. Taniguchi does a terrific job of conveying the atmosphere of each place that Goro visits–something that frequently gets overlooked in competition-oriented food manga, where the tastiness of the food trumps all other considerations.

I’d also like to join the chorus of folks praising Fumi Yoshinaga. Though I share Sean’s opinion of What Did You Eat Yesterday?, I adored Not Love But Delicious Foods. The story consists of fifteen vignettes, each centered around a particular eatery: a Korean restaurant, a French bistro, a bagel bakery. (Call me a recovering New Yorker, but I hate to think of what passes for a decent bagel in Tokyo.) The meals are an important ingredient in every story, but it’s the conversation that really pops; Yoshinaga does a great job of demonstrating the power of wine and food in bringing people together, smoothing over disagreements, and giving people license to break taboos.

Still hungry? Back in 2012, Khursten Santos hosted a Manga Moveable Feast devoted to food manga; click here to view the entire archive.

DMP Kickstarter Fails, Yen Confirms New Licenses

Johanna Draper Carlson has some commentary on Digital Manga’s Tezuka World Kickstarter, which failed to reach its goal last week. Lori Henderson shares her thoughts as well at Manga Xanadu.

Some sharp-eyed folks spotted a couple of unannounced manga on Amazon, and Yen Press confirmed it: They will publish Sword Art Online: Girls Ops in May and Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Rebellion Story in June. They also announced that they will publish Tomoco Kanemaki’s Kingdom Hearts light novel series in a single volume.

What’s good this week? The Manga Bookshelf bloggers have some recommendations.

Lori Henderson rounds up the Viz and New York Times best-sellers in one handy post.

Erica Friedman looks at the latest issue of Eureka Magazine, which focuses on “The Current State of Yuri Culture,” and she updates us on just that with the latest edition of Yuri Network News.

Help Ash Brown decide what series to write about next at Experiments in Manga.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project will end this summer.

News from Japan: Matsuri Hino wrapped up Vampire Knight a little while ago, but now she’s back with a new chapter that will run in the March issue of LaLaDX. Shueisha’s Miracle Jump magazine announced that there are now 4.5 million volumes of One Punch Man out there. Crunchyroll has a preview of Peach-Pit’s first shonen manga, Wandering Wonder World, which will debut in the January issue of Shonen Ace. Kaiji Kawaguchi (Zipang, Eagle) will launch a new series, Kūbo Ibuki (Aircraft Carrier Ibuki), in Big Comic Magazine in December.

Reviews: Streamline your reading by checking out this week’s Bookshelf Briefs at Manga Bookshelf. Ash Brown has more short takes and a roundup of a week’s worth of manga reading.

Lori Henderson on Another (Manga Xanadu)
Sarah on vol. 18 of Black Butler (nagareboshi reviews)
Anna N on vol. 2 of Black Rose Alice (Manga Report)
Erica Friedman on vol. 2 of Bousou Girlsteki Mousou Renaiteki Suteki Project (Okazu)
Kory Cerjak on vol. 5 of Deadman Wonderland (The Fandom Post)
Damion Julien-Rohman on Gangsta (The State Press)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 26 of Higurashi: When They Cry (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Matthew Warner on vol. 5 of Inu x Boku (The Fandom Post)
Matthew Warner on vol. 4 of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (The Fandom Post)
Steve Bennett on vol. 1 of LBX: New Dawn Raisers (ICv2)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 17 of Natsume’s Book of Friends (The Fandom Post)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 25 of Pokemon Adventures (Lesley’s Musings on Manga)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 1 of Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire (I Reads You)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 17 of Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee (The Comic Book Bin)
Ash Brown on vol. 5 of Vinland Saga (Experiments in Manga)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 7 of Voice Over (The Comic Book Bin)

Naruto creator speaks

Shonen Jump’s latest “Jump Start” manga are Ryohei Yamamoto’s E-ROBOT and Nobuaki Enoki and Takeshi Obata’s Gakkyu Hotei. The magazine will run the first three chapters of each series.

In an interview with the Asahi Shimbun, Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto talks about how he was different as a child than the character he created:

“I was unable to do well in school and felt a strong sense of inferiority,” he said. “When Naruto said, ‘I will be Hokage,’ people surrounding him laughed at his dream. Since childhood, I also told others that I would be a manga artist but had no foundation.

“Unlike Naruto, I did not have the courage to declare that I will become a manga creator at any cost. So I would just say in my mind, ‘It may be possible.’”

Erica Friedman updates us with a new Yuri Network News post at Okazu.

News from Japan: The Osaka Prefectural Police have filed charges against 16 people, including manga-ka Rensuke Oshikiri, in the Hi Score Girl copyright infringement case. A new volume of Doraemon Plus will be released on December 1, the 80th birthday of creator Fujiko F. Fujio. A One Piece spinoff, One Piece Party, will launch in the January issue of Saikyo Jump; it will feature super-deformed versions of the One Piece cast. The next issue of Morning magazine will include a one-shot by Go Nagai, titled Kaiketsu Furo Zukin (The Amazing Bath Hood).

Reviews: Ash Brown takes us through a week of manga reading at Experiments in Manga. Three Steps Over Japan reviews the Osamu Tezuka manga Neo Faust, which has not been published in English.

Connie on vol. 2 of Castle Mango (Slightly Biased Manga)
Matthew Warner on vol. 8 of Happy Marriage?! (The Fandom Post)
A Library Girl on vols. 1-5 of Kobato (A Library Girl’s Familiar Diversions)
Connie on vol. 2 of Moon and Blood (Slightly Biased Manga)
Connie on vol. 2 of Neon Genesis Evangelion (3-in-1 edition) (Slightly Biased Manga)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 1 of Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire (The Comic Book Bin)
Sean Gaffney on vols. 9 and 10 of Ranma 1/2 (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Connie on vol. 10 of Rin-Ne (Slightly Biased Manga)
Connie on vol. 9 of Sailor Moon (Slightly Biased Manga)
A Library Girl on vol. 1 of Soulless (A Library Girl’s Familiar Diversions)
Matthew Warner on vol. 1 of Void’s Enigmatic Mansion (The Fandom Post)

Bookmarked! 11/12/14

Welcome to another edition of Bookmarked! This week, Johanna Draper Carlson of Comics Worth Reading joins Kate and I as we talk about what’s on the top of our reading stacks this week. I’ll start:

Legal DrugBrigid: I have been reading CLAMP’s Legal Drug a few pages at a time, which is really not the way to read it. I know this manga was a big deal back in the 2000s, but I have to confess I don’t always get CLAMP, and I’m finding this story somewhat tiresome because the characters all seem like types. The lead character, Kazahaya Kudo, was dying in the snow (for reasons that aren’t at all clear) when he was rescued by Rikuo, a young man who is as sullen as he is handsome. Now they live together and work for a pharmacy, but they spend a lot of time doing side jobs for the overly winsome owner of the business. The tasks they are assigned seem impossible—catch an invisible firefly—and they are given no direction, although they do have special psychic powers to fall back on. The puzzle part of it is interesting, and the art is lovely, but I just can’t warm up to any of these characters. It is nice, though, that Dark Horse has collected it into a single, thick omnibus, and that makes it easy for me to keep on plowing through it.

AnomalAnomal, by contrast, is a slim volume filled with lots of interesting characters. It’s a collection of short stories about the interactions between humans and yokai, and although they are all by the same creator, they vary quite a bit in tone. The character on the cover is a hyaku-me, or “hundred-eyes,” and he only figures in the first story, which is a shame as he’s a striking character. Some of the tales touch on deep emotions such as love, loss, and indebtedness, but there are a couple of semi-humorous ones, too. Unfortunately, the longest story is also the most annoying, about a schoolgirl who wants to become a yokai master because she loves to hug yokai. Nukuharu has an interesting way of drawing yokai, but like the stories, the art is uneven. I would love to see a more polished work from this creator, but Anomal is an interesting work and very different from the usual run of yokai tales.

Kate: I read Legal Drug about eight years ago. Though I loved it then, I’m not sure I’d be as enthusiastic about Legal Drug now. I still find CLAMP’s artwork elegant, but I agree with your assessment of the characters: they’re paper-thin collections of tics and mannerisms that grow tiresome quickly.

book_witchcraftworks01My nightstand is overflowing with new Vertical Comics. First up for me is volume one of Witchcraft Works, a series that falls squarely under the heading of Manga for Teenage Boys. The story focuses on Honoka Takamiya, a nebbishy high school student who has inexplicably attracted the attention of the class queen, Ayaka Kagari. After Ayaka rescues Honoka from an army of vicious stuffed rabbits — yes, it’s that kind of manga — we learn that Ayaka has been tasked with protecting Honoka from her fellow witches.

I’ll give creator Ryu Mizunagi credit: he wastes no time on exposition, diving into the action in the very first pages. Later chapters are denser in explanation, but generally read like conversations, rather than convenient exchanges of information for the reader’s benefit. I’m a little “meh” on the art, as it’s been calculated to appeal to the male gaze; most of the female characters are comically well endowed. (Several would topple over in real life, given their otherwise slender proportions.) There’s a fair amount of mammary-oriented fanservice and silly outfits, as well as an element of male wish fulfillment that just doesn’t resonate with an older female reader like me.

book_ajin-demihuman01More promising is Ajin: Demi-Human, a supernatural thriller that starts slowly but builds momentum quickly. The first ten or so pages are a chore to read, as author Tsuina Miura provides a detailed explanation of what demi-humans are–they’re immortal–and how many walk the earth. (Hint: not many.) After this clumsy intro, however, the author delivers a nasty jolt: seemingly ordinary teen Kei Nagai learns the hard way that he’s immortal when he survives a hit-and-run accident with a truck. The intense media interest in this discovery forces Kei to go on the lam to avoid bounty hunters, government agents, and evil scientists.

A story likes Ajin lives or dies by its artwork, and manga-ka Gamon Sakurai proves he’s up to the task of bring Miura’s script to life. Kei’s accident, for example, is suitably icky and unsettling, leaving the reader as dumbfounded as the characters who witnessed it. Sakurai’s action scenes are crisply rendered, too–a big plus, considering how many pages of volume one are devoted to high-speed chases and hand-to-hand combat. My only nit-picky criticism is the character designs: although the adults look good, some of the teenagers have serious Manga Hair. That’s a minor complaint, however, considering how much I enjoyed volume one.

9781939130402Also on my nightstand are volumes three and four of Fumi Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday? I admit that I began this series fully expecting to love it, but have been mildly disappointed thus far. The issue, for me, is the ratio of drama to shop talk. The vignettes exploring the relationship between Shiro, an uptight lawyer, and his partner Kenji, a cheerful hairdresser, are lovely, capturing the normal rhythms of a middle-aged couple’s life. We also get glimpses of each man’s work situation, and how they interact with peers and clients—another winning touch. The food talk, however, is less compelling. Though some of the dishes sound appetizing, I found these passages as tedious as listening to someone give a blow-by-blow account of an expensive meal. Your mileage may vary; if you live to eat, you may find these stove-side rhapsodies more engaging than I have.

Johanna: It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to read any manga—too much life stuff getting in the way—but the bright side of that is lots of volumes to catch up on over the holidays from series I expect to enjoy. I did manage to dive into a few books recently, plus try a new one-shot.

What Did You Eat Yesterday 5

Let’s start with one of my current favorites, What Did You Eat Yesterday? Volume 5 is just out, and every new book for me is a reminder that I’m thrilled that we’re getting this series in English. I adore Fumi Yoshinaga’s art, and her combination of recipe how-tos and small moments of daily life for a gay couple works well. I keep thinking I’m going to try one of the dishes Shiro prepares, but they’re too domestic. They use short-cut bottled sauces and whatever he gets at the local grocery, which is realistic (someone who has to get dinner on the table every day doesn’t spend a lot of time making fancy dishes) and a great insight into his personality, but that makes them difficult to replicate in the U.S. Yet that cultural authenticity adds another level of enjoyment. I need to learn to mimic how he thinks about meals, with easy but balanced side dishes included, instead of getting caught up in the details. I’m not sure I could filet my own whole fish in my kitchen, the way Shiro does, either.

Ha! I originally typoed “meals” as “males” above, which leads into the other piece of the work, the comfortable relationship between the two men. It’s not about what Shiro and Kenji say, specifically, to each other in an evening, it’s that they’re sharing the details of their experiences. Some of them are dramatic, as when Kenji explains how his father abandoned his family. There’s a good deal of humor, too. Early on, a friendly housewife’s husband tries to make Shiro friends with the other gay guy he knows just because they’re both gay. Anyone who’s been matched up on a superficiality can ruefully relate to that. Overall, I never know what a new chapter will bring, which I like a lot.

Genshiken Second Season 5

Reaching further back, I also read Volume 5 of Genshiken: Second Season. I don’t always know exactly what’s going on with the characters, since they’re so fannish and detailed about media I’m unfamiliar with, but I can appreciate their dedication to their hobbies, even if this go-round for the series is a lot about cosplay and yaoi.

The one character I remember best from the previous series, the terminally nerdy Madarame, is still hanging around the college club, although he’s graduated. The younger club members have decided to do him a favor by orchestrating him being in the club room with the girl he’s had a crush on for four years. The encounter plays out in a way I found totally unexpected, but quietly charming and good-hearted. That’s why I’m still “hanging around” with these wackos—it’s like being part of your own group of fans, virtually. The details may vary, but the underlying love and dedication, even when taken to extremes, is similar. I also like the way each chapter is followed up by four 4-koma strips that comment on the events we’ve just seen.

In my own burst of fannish trivia, it’s part of the cosplay girl’s (I don’t know any character names beyond “Sue”) character that she’s very large-breasted, in contrast to her sweet, unassuming personality (when she’s not dressing up). In some of the outfits she wears here (and the chapter where she’s topless), I was reminded of what they used to say about Wally Wood drawing Power Girl, that he told his assistants that he was going to keep drawing her bigger and bigger until they made him stop … and they never did.

Judge5

From sex to violence. I also read Judge, volume 5, although I am embarrassed to admit it. I only keep up with it because I’m lucky enough to get review copies. (If not, I’d be getting it out of the library, because I only want to buy series I expect to reread, and once the final villain is revealed, I suspect my interest will disappear entirely.) Next volume is supposedly the last, and I’m glad, the same way I’m glad when they cancel a TV show I should have stopped watching several episodes before but couldn’t quite break the habit on.

It’s one of those “a bunch of random people are told to kill each other one by one” stories—and why did Japan develop that genre?—that’s gone on too long. There are a couple of revelations in this book that I think are supposed to be interesting and provide twists, but I just want it to be over. Especially since it’s turned into a mini-harem, with our nice-ish guy protagonist mostly dealing with three girls. I expected more from it, with the original theme of the seven deadly sins, but I can’t keep up with who had which animal head which was what sin. Really bad pacing, this series has.

Garden of Words

My one new read was The Garden of Words, which I failed. Remember when I said things had been really busy lately? As a result, I’ve been in a super-charged mood of “let’s get more stuff done,” and I want what I’m reading to keep up. This book is the exact opposite. It’s about an older woman and school-age boy who meet at a gazebo when it rains. It requires leisurely reflection and an awareness of connections in life and pondering how someone can affect our lives temporarily but then we move on.

I was in totally the wrong mood for it. I’m going to try reading it again when I can better calm myself and approach it on its terms before I decide whether it’s too much like other things I’ve read or has its own special qualities.