About Katherine Dacey

Katherine Dacey has been reviewing manga since 2006, when she joined PopCultureShock. Over the next two years, she worked with webmaster Jon Haehnle and fellow contributor Erin Finnegan to transform Erin’s “Manga Recon” concept from a bi-monthly column into a full-fledged website covering manga, anime, and Japanese pop culture. She stepped down from her post in January 2009. Kate’s resume also includes serving as a panelist at the American Library Association's national conference, New York Comic-Con, and Wondercon; contributing to Chopsticks, a “comprehensive guide to Japanese culture in New York City”; and contributing to the School Library Journal’s Good Comics for Kids blog, where she writes Good Manga for Kids, a column that focuses on manga for pre-teen readers. When she isn’t writing about manga, Kate swings a golf club, plays the oboe, runs long distances, watches old movies, and frolicks with her dog Grendel. Kate lives in Boston, MA.

Rin-ne Anime Debuts in April

Coming soon to the NHK: the first episode of Rin-ne, which will air on April 4th. Rin-ne is Rumiko Takahashi’s eighth series to be adapted for television.

French filmmakers announced plans to bring Jiro Taniguchi’s Everest drama Summit of the Gods to the big screen.

The latest installment of Finder bumps Unofficial Hatsune Mix and Attack on Titan from the top of this week’s New York Times Manga Bestseller list. Other titles posting strong numbers include Assassination Classroom, Nisekoi: False Love, and The Seven Deadly Sins.

What’s arriving in comic book stores on January 28th? The Manga Bookshelf team highlights next week’s new releases.

To celebrate Weekly Shonen Jump‘s third anniversary, Anime News Network is giving away cool swag. The deadline to enter is January 31st, so get clicking!

The Female Goth Mangaka Carnival is in full swing, with new contributions from Ash Brown, who explores the macabre world of Mitsukazu Mihara, and Michelle, who celebrates the unique artistry of Junko Mizuno.

News from Japan: Oricon reports that the Japanese manga market grew 4% in 2014, posting total sales of 282 billion yen (roughly $2.4 billion).

Reviews: J-Horror alert: Toshi Nakamura sings the praises of Kouisho Radio, a collection of short stories not yet available in English, while Shaenon Garrity looks at Kazuo Umezu’s funny-scary classic Cat-Eyed Boy.

Lori Henderson on vol. 19 of Bakuman (Manga Xanadu)
Ken H. on vols. 5-6 of Brave 10 (Sequential Ink)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 26 of Full Metal Alchemist (Lesley’s Musings on Anime & Manga)
Sakura Eries on vol. 1 of Kiss of the Rose Princess (The Fandom Post)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 27 of Naruto (Lesley’s Musings on Anime & Manga)
Megan R. on The One I Love (The Manga Test Drive)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 3 of Say I Love You (Lesley’s Musings on Anime & Manga)
Chris Kirby on vol. 3 of Sunny (The Fandom Post)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Sword Art Online: Progressive Manga (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Leroy Doresseaux on vol. 4 of Terra Formars (Comic Book Bin)
Lori Henderson on vols. 1-2 of Tiger and Bunny (Good Comics for Kids)
Michelle Smith and Melinda Beasi on Yukarism, Kiss of the Rose Princess, and What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Manga Bookshelf)

Manga Star Wars Coming to a Galaxy Near You

manga_star_warsIf the phrase “manga Star Wars” is music to your ears, you’ll be happy to learn that ComiXology has just reissued manga adaptations of the original trilogy and The Phantom Menace(Hey, the manga’s gotta be better than Episode One, right?)

According to the Yano Research Institute, manga accounted for almost 80% of the overall digital book market in Japan last year.

Diamond Comics just released its annual sales rankings. Not surprisingly, Attack on Titan dominated the list of 2014’s best-selling manga, along with such perennial favorites as Bleach, Naruto, and Yu-Gi-Oh.

Vertical Comics just confirmed that it will be publishing Hajime Segawa’s Tokyo ESP, which is currently running in the pages of Monthly Shonen Ace. Look for the first volume in fall 2015.

Erica Friedman posts a eulogy for the short-lived Waai! magazine, which featured stories and manga about “Otoko no ko,” boys who dress as girls.

Justin Stroman offers ten bold predictions for the manga publishing industry in 2015.

Good news for digital manga enthusiasts: Crunchyroll’s premium membership now includes access to its growing manga library.

News from Japan: To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Appleseed‘s original publication, Book Walker and Amazon JP are releasing a new digital edition of Masamune Shirow’s debut work.

Hiro Mashima will publish a new full-color story for Monthly Fairy Tail magazine; look for “Aoneko Happy” (Happy the Blue Cat) in the February 17th edition.

After a bout with serious illness, manga-ka Tite Kubo told fans that Bleach will be on a brief hiatus; no new chapter will appear in the January 19th edition of Weekly Shonen Jump.

Reviews: What should you be reading on Crunchyroll? Jason Thompson investigates. Over at The Comics Journal, Joe McCulloch looks at the latest manga by Suehiro Maruo. Needless to say, some of the images are NSFW, no matter how chill your office may be.

Alice Vernon on vols. 1-3 of Bloody Cross (Girls Like Comics)
Chris Kirby on vol. 24 of D.Gray-Man (The Fandom Post)
Alice Vernon on vols. 1-2 of Durarara!! Yellow Scarves Arc (Girls Like Comics)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 4 of Gangsta (Sequential Tart)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 9 of Happy Marriage?! (Comic Book Bin)
Leroy Douresseaux on Jaco the Galactic Patrolman (Comic Book Bin)
Joseph Luster on vol. 1 of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood (Otaku USA)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 1 of Kiss of the Rose Princess (Sequential Tart)
Anna N. on vol. 2 of Kiss of the Rose Princess (Manga Report)
Toshi Nakamura on The Literacy of Nana (Kotaku)
Sakura Eries on vol. 1 of Manga Dogs (The Fandom Post)
Thomas Maluck on The Manga Guide to Linear Algebra (No Flying No Tights)
Ash Brown on vol. 1 of Mushishi (Experiments in Manga)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of My Neighbor Seki (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Ken H. on vol. 1 of My Neighbor Seki (Sequential Ink)
Ryotaro Aoki on vol. 14 of Neon Genesis Evangelion (Otaku USA)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 73 of One Piece (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Jessikah Chautin on vols. 1-5 of Puella Magi Kazumi Magica: The Innocent Malice (No Flying No Tights)
Phillip Anthony on vol. 2 of Skip Beat! 3-in-1 (Manga Bookshelf)
Matthew Warner on vol. 3 of Terraformars (The Fandom Post)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 24 of Toriko (Sequential Tart)
Lori Henderson on vol. 1 of Vinland Saga (Good Comics for Kids)
Matthew Warner on vol. 4 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? (The Fandom Post)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 6 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Manga Worth Reading)
Erica Friedman on Yuridori Midori (Okazu)

New Licenses from Kodansha

Kodansha just announced a large slate of new manga for 2015, including more Attack on Titan products–no, really!–as well as an interesting assortment of seinen, shojo, and shonen series. Here is a brief round-up of the eight titles that will be coming to a bookstore near you this year:

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Kuroda Iou’s Appleseed Alpha. (Fall 2015)

Appleseed α (Masamune Shirow and Kuroda Iou): A prequel to Masamune Shirow’s sci-fi classic Appleseed, set in 22nd century New York City. Sexy Voice and Robo artist Kuroda Iou provides the illustrations. (Fall 2015)

Attack on Titan: Colossal Edition, Vol. 2 (Hajime Isayama): An oversized omnibus collecting volumes 6-10 of everyone’s favorite series. (September 2015)

Die Wergelder (Hiroaki Samura): A seinen title from Blade of the Immortal creator Hiroaki Samura, featuring three women who kick ass, take names, and really, really want their stuff back. (Fall 2015)

Fairy Girls! (Hiro Mashima and BOKU) Yet another Fairy Tail spin-off; this one chronicles the further adventures of Erza, Wendy, Lucy, and Juvia. (Fall 2015)

Kiss Him, Not Me! (Junko): A shojo comedy about a fujoshi who just wants her male classmates to make out with one another, dammit… (Fall 2015)

Livingstone (Jinsei Kataoka and Tomohiro Maekawa): A supernatural story featuring artwork by Deadman Wonderland manga-ka Jinsei Kataoka. Expect gorgeous illustrations and a lot of earnest discussion about the weight of human souls. (Fall 2015)

Maria the Virgin Witch Exhibition (Masayuki Ishikawa): A one-volume sequel to Maria the Virgin Witch. Both manga have been licensed by Kodansha; both manga feature a young witch who uses her magic to alter the course of the Hundred Years’ War. (August 2015)

The Science of Attack on Titan (Rikao Yanagita and Hajime Isayama): A generously illustrated text that answers all your burning questions about giant anatomy, intellect, and powers. Guaranteed to be 100% free of any actual science, or your money back. (June 2015)

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Hiroaki Samura’s Die Wergelder (Fall 2015)

 

Bookmarked! The Best Manga of 2014

File this week’s Bookmarked! column under the heading Better Late Than Never. Brigid and I sat down this week to review our favorite manga of 2014, from swashbuckling Viking sagas to goofy shojo comedies. We also chatted about the series we thought we’d love but didn’t, and looked ahead to potential candidates for the Best Manga of 2015.

JUN131345 Brigid: When I was compiling my best of the year list for Robot 6, I mentioned three manga—Kyoko Okazaki’s Helter Skelter, Moyoco Anno’s In Clothes Called Fat, and Inio Asano’s Nijigahara Holograph—but I’m smacking my head because I somehow spaced on Vinland Saga. Even though Kodansha Comics has temporarily put the series on hold, it’s well worth a read. It’s a really well done story with a complex plot—lots of double-crosses and surprises—and some interesting characters. It’s also beautifully drawn, and Kodansha Comics has gone the extra mile in terms of production quality, with double-size hardback volumes and some little touches that make it feel really special. I simply disappeared into these books over the Fourth of July, and now I want to go back and read all the way through Volume Five.

Kate, what was your standout pick for the year?

974d10d54b54987b252eb2fece9827d4_1394065624_full_a3d4c3086a7e1d355a3b27f0c4f2091cKate: I’m also a Moyocco Anno fan, though I preferred Memoirs of Amorous Gentleman. I found Anno’s depiction of Colette, the prostitute-heroine of Memoirs, less mean-spirited than her depiction of Noko, the binge-eating heroine of In Clothes Called Fat; when I read Noko’s story, I had a difficult time distinguishing the author’s feelings about Noko from the other characters’. The other reason I liked Memoirs better: the artwork! The story takes place in a fin-de-siecle brothel in Paris, which provides Anno with a swell excuse to draw extravagant clothing, accessories, and lingerie. Her attention to detail doesn’t end with the clothing, either; the character designs are more soft and sensual than in her earlier series like Flowers & Bees.

Other titles making my best-of list would include Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga, which DC Comics has presented in a smart-looking, unflipped edition; Master Keaton, an older Naoki Urasawa title about a globe-trotting, crime-solving insurance agent; My Love Story!!, a goofy shojo comedy that offers a teenage boy’s perspective on first love; and OPUS, a manga-within-a-manga by the late animator Satoshi Kon. Honorable mention goes to the final volume of Thermae Romae, which managed to wring a surprising amount of story from a slender premise.

If you could only pick one of the titles from your list as “the best manga of 2014,” which one would it be?

Yamazaki_ThermaeRomae_V3_HCBrigid: I think Vinland Saga truly was the best manga of the year, but let me go back to your honorable mention of Thermae Romae. It’s hard to give that the best-manga tag, because the art is a bit odd and the story wobbled all over the place, yet there’s something really wonderful about that manga. I think it reflects our own reality in a way, because just like Lucius, we are taking artifacts from Japanese culture and making them our own—only for us, it’s manga, not bathrooms. I thought this was an amazing series and kudos to Yen Press for publishing it in such a beautiful edition.

Attack on Titan hardly needs a boost from me, but I have to say it was one of the series I turned to when I just wanted to relax and enjoy a good story. I also really liked Nisekoi in the same way—it’s not deep, just a fun read.

Were there any series you were reading just for fun?

Kate: VIZ tends to be my go-to label for fun series. I already mentioned My Love Story!!, which usually makes me laugh out loud, but I also enjoyed the first volume of Assassination Classroom. I won’t make any grand claims for Classroom; the story has a sentimental streak a mile wide, even though the premise is subversive. Koro-sensei’s preposterous assignments, dedication to his craft, and super-human grading skills, however, provide a reliable stream of chuckles even when the author loses his nerve and goes for the “awwww” moment instead of risking offense.

142156906XAnother series in my “just for fun” pile was Naoki Urasawa’s Monster. When VIZ began reissuing Monster last year, I dusted off my old set and revisited it for the first time since 2008. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the series was almost as good as I remembered. The crack pacing and twisty plots held my attention, as did the plight of the enormous cast of supporting characters. (And oh, those characters! No one draws a nose, a brow, or a paunch with the same elan as Urasawa.) The only thing that disappointed was the ending, which felt more suitable for an episode of Scooby-Doo than the conclusion of a thriller exploring the underbelly of the former Soviet bloc.

I was certain that Fumi Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday? would be on my “fun” list, too, but I’ve found it oddly unengaging. The problem, for me, lies with the ratio of interpersonal to culinary shoptalk. Though Shiro and Kenji’s travails as a middle-aged couple are compelling, the endless panels of recipes, food preparation, and grocery shopping are too run-of-the-mill to hold my attention, even if some of the ingredients are exotic from an American’s perspective. I liken it to reading a manga about household chores: unless the character has a talking robot vacuum cleaner or uses depth charges to clear a messy bedroom, it’s hard to make such routine tasks interesting on the printed page.

What series didn’t live up to your expectations?

1421575892Brigid: Shockingly, Naoki Urasawa’s Master Keaton. I really loved his other series (although I agree with you about the end of Monster), so I was really looking forward to this one. The setup is great: The main character is an archaeology professor who moonlights as an insurance investigator, which gives him plenty of excuses to solve mysteries, but the plots have holes you could drive a Mack truck through. Still, Urasawa on his worst day is better than most other creators on their best. His art is great, although not quite as sophisticated as in his later books, and his lead character, who is sort of a combination of Sherlock Holmes and McGyver, is fun to watch.

Another manga that I felt was solid but didn’t quite live up to its hype was Barakamon. The premise is solid: A talented calligrapher punches the wrong guy and exiles himself to a remote island to hone his craft in solitude, but the locals keep intruding into his life. The city-boy-in-the-country humor works, and Satsuki Yoshino does a nice job of establishing a sense of atmosphere with the backgrounds and settings. The weak point was the way figures were drawn—they often looked like piles of clothes with no structure underneath. Also, while I understand the decision to have the locals speak in dialect, I don’t really agree with it. It makes the story hard to read. I think this series is just hitting its stride, though, and I have the second volume queued up on my reading stack.

Jaco 1To end on an up note, though, I already have a favorite manga of 2015, and it’s one I had low expectations for: Jaco the Galactic Patrolman. It’s a one-shot by Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball, which is not really my kind of book, so I didn’t have high expectations, but I was really impressed by the art. Toriyama knows how to set a scene, with clear lines and just the right amount of detail. All his characters looked very different, with strong personalities of their own. The plot is a ridiculous pileup, but Toriyama pulls it off, and his earnest but vain galactic patrolman is a perfect foil for the cranky Omari and the spunky Tights. (Yes, that’s her name.) There is a bit of a Dragon Ball crossover, plus a bonus Dragon Ball story at the end, but you don’t have to have read that series to enjoy this book. It was a real treat, and I highly recommend it for one of those gray winter days when you just need a laugh.

*  *  *  *  *

Now we turn the floor over to you: what were your favorite new manga of 2014? What titles disappointed you the most? Inquiring minds want to know!

VIZ Rescues More CLAMP Titles

shirahime-syoPull up a chair and pour yourself a strong cup of coffee–today’s super-sized post rounds up the best news stories, manga reviews, and personal essays from around the web!

VIZ is reissuing two CLAMP titles from the Tokyopop catalog: Duklyon: CLAMP School Defenders and Shirahime-Syo: Snow Goddess. As with VIZ’s other Tokyopop license rescues, Duklyon and Shirahime-Syo will be digital-only releases.

Sean Gaffney reports on the latest licensing news from Seven Seas and Yen Press, from light novels to 4-koma novelties such as Merman in a Tub. 

Over at Organization Anti-Social Geniuses, Justin Stroman interviews former Tokyopop editor Lillian Diaz-Pryzbyl about her experiences in the manga industry.

Manga scholar Ryan Holmberg posts a lengthy essay on Osamu Tezuka’s Manga Classroom, a how-to series that appeared in Manga Shonen from 1952 to 1954.

Unofficial Hatsune Mix tops this week’s New York Times Manga Bestseller list, followed by the first volume of Assassination Classroom and the second volume of Attack on Titan: No Regrets.

What’s arriving in comic book stores this week? The Manga Bookshelf gang lists the good, the bad, and the ho-hum.

Erica Friedman shares the latest yuri manga news at Okazu.

Khursten Santos has compiled a handy list of “the most dangerous BL titles of 2015,” complete with charts, cover art, and analysis.

Charles Pulliam-Moore explores the world of bara, manga by and for gay men.

In case you missed it: Chris Randle interviews translator Anne Ishii about her experience working on the new anthology Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It.

Using Tokyo Ghoul as a jumping-off point, Tony Yao explores Japanese fans’ changing taste in manga.

Wondering what josei fans are reading in Japan? Heart of Manga explores the current issue of Cookie magazine, from Rin Saito’s Back Alley Animal Clinic to Miho Obana’s Honey Bitter.

On Wednesday, January 14th, Kodansha Comics USA will be holding a special event at the midtown Manhattan Kinokuniya. Expect licensing announcements, manga giveaways, and Q&A with the Kodansha editorial staff.

Manga n00b Christina Negroni files a report on her visit to the Kyoto Manga Museum. While some of her reactions are stereotypical–who knew there was smutty manga?–her discussion of the museum’s collection is worth a read.

News from Japan: As part of its efforts to promote the Kindle platform in Japan, Amazon just launched a new service that gives customers free access to manga magazines via smart phones, tablets, and laptops. Kodansha is also getting into the e-manga game with simultaneous digital and print editions of Monthly Shonen Magazine, Weekly Shonen Magazine, and Young Magazine.

When asked, Which manga series would you most like to see end this year?, Japanese fans overwhelmingly cited Kochira Katsushika-ku Kamearikouen-mae Hashutsujo, which began serialization in 1976, and Detective Conan (a.k.a. Case Closed), which began serialization in 1994. And speaking of final volumes, the following series will be posting their last chapters in 2015: Ai Morinaga’s Kirara no Hoshi, which currently runs in Bessatsu Friend; Ryoichi Ikegami’s Tenshi wa Maioritawhich currently runs in Weekly Manga Times; Mako Kamao’s Ange Verge Linkage, which currently runs in Dragon Age; and Tsutomu Mutsuki’s Is This Girl for Real?!, which currently runs in Comic High!

Reviews: Shaenon Garrity devotes the latest House of 1000 Manga column to Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It. Here at Manga Bookshelf, Michelle Smith, Anna N., and Sean Gaffney offer pithy assessments of D-Frag!, Knights of Sidonia, and other recent releases.

Ken H. on vol. 2 of Ajin: Demi-Human (Sequential Ink)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Ani-Imo (ANN)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 1 of Assassination Classroom (Comic Book Bin)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Assassination Classroom (ANN)
Julia Smith on vol. 2 of Black Rose Alice (The Fandom Post)
Matthew Warner on vol. 12 of Blue Exorcist (The Fandom Post)
Chris Kirby on vol. 10 of Bunny Drop (The Fandom Post)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 14 of Dengeki Daisy (Comic Book Bin)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Drug & Drop (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Kate O’Neil on Garden of Words (The Fandom Post)
Kory Cerjak on vol. 2 of Honey Blood (The Fandom Post)
Katie Skelly on In Clothes Called Fat (The Comics Journal)
Joseph Luster on vol. 12 of Knights of Sidonia (Otaku USA)
Sean Gaffney on Legal Drug Omnibus (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Love at Fourteen (ANN)
Kathryn Hemmann on Marshmallow Bungaku Girl (Contemporary Japanese Literature)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 1 of Master Keaton (Comic Book Bin)
Laura on vol. 1 of Meteor Prince (Heart of Manga)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Meteor Prince (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vols. 1-2 of Monster: Perfect Edition (Manga Worth Reading)
Ash Brown on More of You and Other Stories (Experiments in Manga)
Matthew Warner on vol. 6 of Nisekoi: False Love (The Fandom Post)
Ken H. on vol. 1 of Norigami (Sequential Ink)
Jessica Chautin on vol. 1 of Phantom Thief Jeanne (No Flying No Tights)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Prophecy (Manga Worth Reading)
Joseph Luster on vol. 1 of Prophecy (Otaku USA)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Prophecy (ANN)
Erica Friedman on vol. 16 of Rakuen Le Paradis (Okazu)
Julia Smith on vol. 1 of Resident Evil: The Marwha Desire (The Fandom Post)
Matthew Warner on vol. 16 of Rin-ne (The Fandom Post)
Chris Kirby on vol. 21 of Toriko (The Fandom Post)
Megan R. on Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles (The Manga Test Drive)
Ash Brown on vol. 5 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Experiments in Manga)
Lori Henderson on vol. 1 of xxxHolic Rei (Manga Xanadu)

Quick Reviews and Links, 1/2/15

Did you receive an Amazon or RightStuf gift certificate this holiday? If so, this post is for you! Below, I’ve reviewed the first volumes of three series that debuted in 2014, offering a quick-and-dirty assessment of each. Already read Food Wars? Fear not–I’ve also rounded up reviews from around the web to help you find the perfect title.

thumb-10857-FDW_01_webFood Wars, Vol. 1
Story by Yuto Tsukada, Art by Shun Saeki
Rated T+, for Older Teens
VIZ Manga, $9.99

Food Wars begins with an only-in-manga scenario: Soma Yukihira’s dad shutters the family’s greasy spoon restaurant and lights out for America, leaving his son behind. With no place to go, Soma enrolls at Totsuki Culinary Academy, a hoity-toity cooking school that prides itself on its wealthy alumnae, rigorous curriculum, and high attrition rate. Soma’s working-class background is a major handicap in this environment, but his can-do attitude and culinary instincts allow him to triumph in difficult situations, whether he’s salvaging an over-salted pot roast or wowing an unscrupulous developer with a simple potato dish.

In theory, I ought to hate Food Wars for its cartoonish characters and abundant cheesecake. But here’s the thing: it’s fun. Soma repeatedly shows up bullies and snobs with his ability to transform everyday dishes into haute cuisine, proving that good food doesn’t need to be fancy. (Pro tip: Don’t read Food Wars on an empty stomach.) Though Soma’s foes are stock types–the Busty Bitch, the Rich Mean Boy, the Teacher With Impossibly High Standards–Shun Sakei’s crisp caricatures make them seem like fresh creations. I wish I could say the same for Sakei’s abundant fanservice, which quickly wears out its welcome with porny images of women enjoying Soma’s cooking. These pin-up moments are supposed to be funny, I guess, but the heavy emphasis on heaving cleavage and bare skin seems more like a concession to teenage male taste than an organic part of the story.

The verdict: I can’t decide if Food Wars is a guilty pleasure or a hate read, but I’ve just purchased volumes 2-4.

Manga Dogs 1Manga Dogs, Vol. 1
By Ema Toyama
Rated T, for Teens
Kodansha Comics, $10.99

Manga Dogs has a terrific premise: a teenage artist decides to enroll in her school’s manga program, only to discover that her teacher is inept, and her classmates are pretty-boy otakus with no skill or work ethic. When Kanna’s classmates discover that she’s actually a published artist, Fumio, Fujio, and Shota glom onto her in hopes of breaking into the business–even though her debut series is on the verge of being cancelled.

With such a ripe set-up, it’s a pity that Manga Dogs is DOA. Part of the problem is that the script panders to the reader at every turn, whether it’s poking fun at reverse-harem tropes or saddling the characters with pun-tastic names inspired by famous manga creators. The author spends too much time patting the reader on the back for “getting” the jokes and not enough time writing genuinely funny scenarios or imbuing her characters with more than one personality trait each. The other issue is pacing: the story and artwork are both frenetic, with characters screaming, jumping, and flapping their arms on almost every page. By the end of the third chapter, I felt as if someone had beaten me up for my lunch money while asking me, “Do you think I’m funny? No? Now do you think I’m funny?”

The verdict: Just say no.

1421575906Yukarism, Vol. 1
By Chika Shiomi
Rated T, for Teen
VIZ Media, $9.99

Yukarism combines the supernatural elements of Rasetsu with the historical drama of Sakuran, then adds a dash of gender-bending weirdness for good measure. The story revolves around Yukari, a best-selling author whose novels explore the history of Edo’s red-light district. Though fans attribute the abundant details in his writing to research, Yukari has an even better strategy for learning about the past: he visits it! When he returns to the 1800s, however, Yukari becomes Yumurasaki, a top-earning oiran (or courtesan) enmeshed in a web of political intrigue, lust, and violence.

Given the complexity of the plot, it’s not surprising that the first volume of Yukarism is a bumpy ride. The tone see-saws between broad physical comedy and brooding melodrama, making it difficult to know if Yukari’s plight is being played for laughs or sniffles. The script, on the other hand, is too pointed; manga-ka Chika Shiomi is so intent on telling us what Yukari is thinking and seeing that she forgets the old dictum about showing, not telling. The same kind of editorial interventions result in at least one character waxing profusely about how handsome and cool Yukari is, just in case we haven’t realized that he’s supposed to be handsome and cool. Now that the basic parameters of the story have been established, however, Shiomi can dispense with the heavy-handed dialogue and do what she does best: write sudsy supernatural romances with beautiful characters in beautiful costumes.

The verdict: Pure guilty pleasure.

Reviews: Here at Manga Bookshelf, Michelle Smith, Sean Gaffney, and Anna N. post a fresh crop of mini-reviews. Further afield, Megan Purdy discusses est em’s Carmen, a swell-looking manga treatment of the Bizet opera.

Laura on vol. 1 of Ani-Imo (Heart of Manga)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 2 of Attack on Titan: No Regrets (The Fandom Post)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Barakamon (Manga Worth Reading)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 6 of A Bride’s Story (Manga Worth Reading)
Jenny Ertel on vols. 1-13 of Dorohedoro (No Flying No Tights)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 14 of Dorohedoro (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Drug & Drop (Manga Worth Reading)
Johanna Draper Carlson on The Garden of Words (Manga Worth Reading)
Matthew Alexander on vol. 25 of Higurashi: When They Cry (The Fandom Post)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Milkyway Hitchhiking (ANN)
Kory Cerjak on vol. 1 of Prophecy (The Fandom Post)
Lori Henderson on vols. 1-6 of Strobe Edge (Good Comics for Kids)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 8 of Umineko: When They Cry (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Megan R. on vol. 1 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? (The Manga Test Drive)