About Katherine Dacey

Kate Dacey has been writing about comics since 2006. From 2007 to 2008, she was the Senior Manga Editor at PopCultureShock, a site covering all aspects of the entertainment industry from comics to video games. In 2009, she launched The Manga Critic, where she reviewed Japanese comics and novels until 2012. Kate’s resume also includes serving as a panelist at ALA, New York Comic-Con, and Wondercon; penning reviews for the School Library Journal’s Good Comics for Kids blog; and writing the introductory chapter of CBDLF Presents Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices, which Dark Horse published in 2013. Kate works in Boston, MA as a musicologist, and currently contributes to MangaBlog.

The Manga Revue: Guardians of the Louvre

Whew–it’s been a while! Life got in the way of blogging for a few months, but the summer forecast looks good for manga reviewing. On the docket this week: Jiro Taniguchi’s Guardians of the Louvre, part of an ongoing graphic novel series published by NBM/Comics Lit that also includes Glacial Period, On the Odd Hours, and Rohan at the Louvre.

COVERLAYOUT.inddGuardians of the Louvre
By Jiro Taniguchi
No rating
NBM Graphic Novels, $24.99

One part Times of Botchan, one part Night at the Museum, Jiro Taniguchi’s Guardians of the Louvre is a stately, handsomely illustrated manga that never quite rises to the level of greatness.

The premise is simple: a Japanese artist lies ill in his Parisian hotel room, feverishly dreaming about the museum’s galleries. In each chapter, the hero is temporarily transported to a particular place and time in the Louvre’s history, rubbing shoulders with famous artists, witnessing famous events, and chatting with one of the museum’s most famous works–the Nike of Samothrace, who takes the form of a stone-faced tour guide. If the set-up sounds like The Times of Botchan, it is, though Guardians of the Louvre is less ambitious; Taniguchi’s primary objective is to celebrate the museum’s collection by highlighting a few of its most beloved works, rather than immersing the reader in a specific milieu.

The artist-as-time-traveler schtick is a little hackneyed, but provides Taniguchi with a nifty excuse to showcase the breadth of his artistry, offering the reader a visual feast of rural landscapes, gracious country manors, war-ravaged cities, and busy galleries. Using watercolor and ink, Taniguchi convincingly recreates iconic paintings by Van Gogh and Corot, effortlessly slipping into each artist’s style. Taniguchi’s characters are rendered with a similar degree of meticulousness, though their waxen facial expressions sometimes mar scenes calling for a meaningful display of emotion; everyone appears to have had a few Botox injections, the Nike of Samothrace included.

What prevents Guardians of the Louvre from taking flight is its relentlessly middlebrow sensibility. In one scene, for example, the Nike of Samothrace leads our unnamed hero through an empty Salle des États, home of the Mona Lisa. The artist examines the painting closely, musing about the tourist hordes that normally throng the gallery. “It’s not about art appreciation anymore. It’s wholly a popular tourist destination” he says wistfully–a comment that registers more as bourgeois snobbery than a meaningful meditation on the commercialization of fine art, or the outsized fame of Da Vinci’s canvas.

A similarly pedestrian spirit animates the chapters documenting the 1939 evacuation of the Louvre. To be sure, the mechanics of packing and transporting the art are fascinating; Taniguchi’s expert draftsmanship conveys the complexity and physical demands of the task in vivid detail, inviting us to ride along with Delacroix’s monumental Raft of the Medusa on its perilous journey from Paris to Versailles. The dialogue that frames these passages, however, is rife with cliches. “They were ready to risk everything to evacuate the paintings,” the Nike solemnly informs our hero before implying that this operation was a little-known episode in French history–a strange claim, given the story’s romantic treatment in popular culture: surely the Nike has read All the Light We Cannot See or watched The Monuments Men?

The manga’s most effective passages, by contrast, are wordless. We see our hero wander through a forest where Corot silently paints the undulating boughs, and a medieval town where Van Gogh sets up his easel in a sun-drenched hay field. In these fleeting moments, Taniguchi’s sensual imagery allows us to step into the artist’s shoes and relive the creative process that yielded Recollection of Mortefontaine and Daubigny’s Garden. If only the rest of the manga wasn’t so insistent on telling us how to appreciate these paintings.

Reviews: Sean Gaffney gives Rokudenashiko’s autobiographical manga What Is Obscenity? the thumbs-up. Over at The Fandom Post, Matthew Alexander jumps in the WABAC Machine for a look at Shaman Warrior, one of the first manhwa published by Dark Horse.

VIZ Has Banner Year, Kodansha Offers Humble Bundle

PokemonBrigid is wrapping up a busy stint TCAF, so I’ll be subbing for her this week. Here’s a quick round-up of new and noteworthy developments:

ICv2 buries the lede in this interview with Viz Media’s Beth Kawasaki, who tells them “This last fiscal year was our best ever, in the history of the company, and we do have some hit kids’ titles contributing greatly to that.” Emphasis ours. The most popular of those kids’ properties are Pokemon, Yo-kai Watch, and Legend of Zelda, and there’s a Pokemon cookbook on the way. [ICv2]

The latest volume of Akame ga Kill! tops the New York Times Manga Bestseller List, followed by the first volumes of I Am a Hero, Tokyo Ghoul, and One-Punch Man. [The New York Times]

Yen Press announced a new light novel license: Goblin Slayer! [Anime News Network]

There are just two days left to download Kodansha Comics’ Humble Bundle, which includes the first three volumes of Attack on Titan, the first two volumes of Ajin: Demi-Human and Inuyashiki, and the first volumes of The Seven Deadly Sins, Parasyte, and Space Brothers. Proceeds benefit The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. [Crunchyroll]

Should vendors and guests of Anime Expo be subject to background checks? The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SJPA) is considering such a policy; Christopher MacDonald, however, worries that this initiative may backfire. [Anime News Network]

In case you missed it: Ryan Holmberg posts a new installment of What Was Alternative Manga?, focusing on the work of Nakashima Kiyoshi. [The Comics Journal]

What’s arriving in your local bookstore this week? The Manga Bookshelf gang investigates. [Manga Bookshelf]

Despite the backlash against DreamWorks’ Ghost in the Shell film, Hollywood seems bullish on manga and anime properties. Among the projects currently in the pipeline are Death Note (courtesy of Netflix) and AKIRA (courtesy of Warner Brothers). [The Hollywood Reporter]

News from Japan: Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi will finish its run in Monthly Comic Gene on June 15th… This dedicated cosplayer trekked to Mongolia to recreate scenes from Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Story… Which Shonen Jump character is sexiest? Japanese readers recently voted, expressing a strong preference for villains… Yotsuba&! creator Kiyohiko Azuma will share the Tezuka Cultural Prize with Kei Ichinoseki, author of Hanagami Sharaku.

Reviews: Over at The Comics Journal, Robert Kirby reviews the provocatively titled What Is Obscenity? The Story of a Good-for-Nothing Artist and Her Pussy. Closer to home, Michelle Smith and Sean Gaffney offer a fresh batch of Bookshelf Briefs that include the latest installments of Barakamon, Maid-Sama!!, and What Did You Eat Yesterday?

Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Anne Happy: Unhappy Go Lucky! (Comics Worth Reading)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 4 of Emma (Comics Worth Reading)
Erica Friedman on vols. 1-2 of Futaribeya (Okazu)
Incendiary Lemon on The Gods Lie (Anime UK News)
Terry Hong on Guardians of the Louvre (Book Dragon)
Lori Henderson on The Infernal Devices Trilogy (Manga Xanadu)
Ian Wolf on vols. 1-2 of Maga-Tsuki (Anime UK News)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 1 of Midnight Stranger (Sequential Tart)
Megan R. on Mr. Flower Groom (The Manga Test Drive)
SKJAM! on vol. 1 of Mysterious Girlfriend X (SKJAM! Reviews)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 78 of One Piece (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of The Other Side of Secret (Anime News Network)
Mariko S. on vol. 2 of Otome no Teikoku (Okazu)
Megan R. on Passion (The Manga Test Drive)
Ken H. on vol. 1 of Princess Jellyfish (Sequential Ink)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Servant x Service (Comics Worth Reading)
Laura on vol. 1 of Shuriken and Pleats (Heart of Manga)
Megan R. on Three Wolves Mountain (The Manga Test Drive)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 10 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Comics Worth Reading)
Terry Hong on vol. 10 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Book Dragon)
Ash Brown on What Is Obscenity? The Story of a Good-for-Nothing Artist and Her Pussy (Experiments in Manga)
Matt on vol. 2 of Yowamushi Pedal (Ani-TAY)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 2 of Yowamushi Pedal (A Case Suitable for Treatment)

The Manga Revue: Brave Dan and FukuFuku: Kitten Tales

Do you own a cat tea cosy? Is there an enormous feline jungle gym in your living room? Have you lost entire afternoons to watching YouTube videos of cats opening doors, playing pianos, and riding Roombas? If you answered “yes” to at least one of the following questions, this week’s column is for you, as I’ll be reviewing two cat-centric comics: Osamu Tezuka’s Brave Dan–a boy-and-his-tiger story–and Kanata Konami’s FukuFuku: Kitten Tales–a manga about cats doing normal cat things.

brave_danBrave Dan
By Osamu Tezuka
Rated Teen, for readers 13 and up
Digital Manga Publishers, Inc., $15.95

Brave Dan begins as a rollicking adventure: Kotan, an orphaned Ainu boy, befriends Dan, a “man-eating” tiger, and embarks on a quest with him to find a valuable treasure. The pair dodges bullets, escapes from a helicopter, and tangles with guardian spirits in their search for the tomb of an ancient Ainu warrior. As the story enters its final act, however, a darker subplot emerges, one in which Dan is forced to confront the wisdom of associating with humans.

Though Tezuka makes frequent reference to Kotan’s Ainu heritage, this plot strand is more window dressing than serious thematic element; Kamuiroji’s tomb looks more like a set from a Flash Gordon or Tarzan serial than an authentic expression of Ainu culture. (Granted, it’s a pretty nifty tomb; Indiana Jones would have had a field day exploring it.) Tezuka is on firmer ground when staging a chase or a fight. In one memorable scene, for example, Dan plunges into a lake to save Kotan from an enormous spider-demon. Tezuka captures the fluidity and speed of Dan’s attacks with a few carefully chosen “snapshots” of him tumbling and twisting in the water, struggling to crush the monster with his paws. Small details–such as the trail of bubbles from each of Dan’s legs–remind us that in this underwater setting, Dan has a fleeting window of opportunity to save his friend. By the time that he and Kotan burst to the lake’s surface, we’re gasping for air, too–a testament to Tezuka’s ability to transport the reader to the scene of the action.

Tezuka’s artwork also plays an important role in garnering sympathy for Dan, establishing the tiger’s bravery, intelligence, and unwavering loyalty to Kotan. Though Tezuka can’t resist some ham-fisted touches–Dan actually shakes his paw at the sky in one scene–Dan’s essential tigerness is never compromised. The emphasis on Dan’s animal nature reminds us that his friendship with Kotan can only exist apart from human society; kind and smart as Dan may be, adults perceive him as a threat, to be killed or contained in a zoo.

The bottom line: If you still bear scars from reading The Yearling and Old Yeller, be warned: Dan is as doomed as those other noble animal protagonists. Less sensitive souls, however, can enjoy Brave Dan as both a gonzo adventure story and a meditation on the perils of interspecies friendships. Recommended for readers ten and up.

Fuku Fuku Kitten TalesFukuFuku: Kitten Tales, Vol. 1
By Kanata Konami
All Ages
Vertical Comics, $10.95

FukuFuku: Kitten Tales is perfectly calibrated to elicit an “awwww” and a chuckle on every page. The title character–a spunky calico–does predictably cute things: she falls asleep in odd places, escapes from a sudsy bath, plays with her food, and snatches a fish from the table. Unlike Chi, star of Konami’s other hit manga, FukuFuku doesn’t voice her thoughts about her new owner, or the strangeness of her new surroundings; she simply does what she pleases. Konami’s minimalist artwork captures the nuances of FukuFuku’s moods surprisingly well, however, as Konami bends and stretches the kitten’s moon-shaped face into an astonishing range of smiles, scowls, and grimaces. Absent a plot or a deeper sense of how FukuFuku sees her world, the story hits fewer emotional notes than Chi’s Sweet Home, focusing almost exclusively on the kind of ordinary cat behavior that’s been documented copiously on YouTube. You may find that the vignettes–charming as they are–have a sameness about them that prevents them from being genuinely funny or surprising.

The bottom line: As with Chi’s Sweet Home, Konami demonstrates a talent for drawing winsome kitties doing winsome things. She’s also cornered the market on disdainful feline reaction shots.

Reviews: ANN columnist Rebecca Silverman posts an early review of Inio Asano’s critically lauded drama Goodnight Pun-Pun, while Seth Hahne, host of Good OK Bad, tackles another Asano work: A Girl on the Shore.

Mark Pelligrini on vol. 3 of AKIRA (AiPT!)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 7 of Blood Lad (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Adrienne on vol. 1 of Bloody Mary (Heart of Manga)
Sean Gaffney on The Boy and the Beast (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Julie on The Cinderella Solution (Manga Maniac Cafe)
Julie on Crowns and a Cradle (Manga Maniac Cafe)
ebooksgirl on vol. 1 of FukuFuku: Kitten Tales (Geek Lit Etc.)
Karen Maeda on vol. 1 of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 2: Battle Tendency (Sequential Tart)
Wolfen Moondaughter on vol. 23 of Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You (Sequential Tart)
Nick Creamer on vol. 3 of My Hero Academia (Anime News Network)
David Brooke on vol. 5 of One-Punch Man (AiPT!)
Ash Brown on vol. 1 of Persona 4 (Experiments in Manga)
Jordan Richards on vol. 1 of Pokemon Adventures (AiPT!)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 2 of QQ Sweeper (Sequential Tart)
Wolfen Moondaughter on vol. 1 of Gakyuu Hotei: School Judgment (Sequential Tart)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 3 of Umineko When They Cry Episode 5: End of the Golden Witch (Anime News Network)
Austin Lanari on issue no. 13 of Weekly Shonen Jump (Comic Bastards)

The Manga Revue: Handa-Kun

VIZ isn’t the only manga publisher experimenting with digital-first releases; Yen Press has also rolled out new titles in digital form before introducing print editions. One of the latest Yen titles to make the leap from web to page is Handa-kun, Satsuki Yoshino’s comedy about a talented teen calligrapher. If the premise sounds familiar, that’s because the title character also stars in Yoshino’s later series Barakamon–which begs the question, is Handa-kun just for fans, or will it appeal to the uninitiated? Read on for my verdict.

handakunHanda-kun, Vol. 1
By Satsuki Yoshino
Rated T, for teens
Yen Press, $15.00

By the time we meet Sei Handa in the first pages of Barakamon, he’s a twenty-something jerk who bristles at criticism, resents authority, and resists overtures of friendship. The tenth-grader we meet in Handa-kun isn’t as curmudgeonly, but he has a problem: he constantly misreads other people’s motives, whether he’s interpreting a love letter as a threat or perceiving a job offer as a “shady” attempt to unload stolen clothing. For all his weirdness, however, Handa’s classmates worship him, viewing his odd behavior and sharp calligraphy skills as proof of his coolness.

Author Satsuki Yoshino wrings a surprising number of laughs from this simple premise by populating the story with a large, boisterous cast of supporting players. Though the outcome of every chapter is the same–female suitors and male rivals alike profess their sincere admiration for Handa–the path to each character’s epiphany takes unexpected turns. Yoshino complements these humorous soliloquies with expressive, elastic artwork that sells us on the characters’ transformations.

In the volume’s best chapter, for example, Yoshino pits Handa against a bespectacled nerd named Juniichi. Juniichi’s entire self-image is rooted in his years of service as class representative–that is, until one of his peers nominates Handa for the honor. Yoshino makes us feel and smell Juniichi’s desperation by showing us how Juniichi sweats, grimaces, and paces his way through the vote-counting process, flagging or rallying with each ballot. By chapter’s end, Juniichi’s cheerful declaration that “Right now, I feel the best I have ever felt in my life” seems like the natural culmination of this fraught emotional journey–even though, of course, his feeling is rooted in a false sense of Handa’s moral rectitude.

My primary concern about Handa-kun is that the series will overstay its welcome. Handa seems fundamentally unable to learn from his interactions with peers, and his classmates seem just as clueless in their blind adoration of him. If Yoshino doesn’t take steps to change this dynamic–perhaps by introducing a character who is genuinely unimpressed with Handa–the series risks settling into a predictable routine. For a few volumes, however, the current set-up will do just fine, offering the same brand of off-kilter humor as Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto.

The bottom line: The first volume is funny enough to appeal to newbies and die-hard Barakamon fans.

Reviews: Megan R. jumps in the WABAC machine for a close look at two BL titles from the mid-00s: Brother (originally published by Drama Queen) and Love Pistols (originally published by BLU Manga). At The OASG, Justin Stroman convenes a round table discussion of Kentaro Miura’s Giganto Maxima.

Theron Martin on vol. 1 of Angel Beats!: Heaven’s Door (Anime News Network)
Matt on vol. 1 of Die Wergelder (Ani-TAY)
Matt on vol. 1 of Dimension W (Ani-TAY)
Julie on vol. 1 of FukuFuku: Kitten Tales (Manga Maniac Cafe)
Helen on vol. 1 of Ga-Rei (The OASG)
Sarah on vols. 2-3 of Kiss Him, Not Me! (Anime UK News)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 8 of Kiss of the Rose Princess (Sequential Tart)
Karen Maeda on vol. 3 of Komomo Confiserie (Sequential Tart)
Terry Hong on vol. 5 of Master Keaton (Book Dragon)
Ken H. on vol. 7 of Noragami (Sequential Ink)
SKJAM! on vols. 10-11 of Ooku: The Inner Chambers (SKJAM! Reviews)
Plutoburns on Parasistence Sana (Plutoburns)*
Marissa Lieberman on vol. 1 of School-Live! (No Flying No Tights)
Matt on vol. 2 of School-Live! (Ani-TAY)
Kane Bugeja on vol. 7 of Seraph of the End (Snap 30)
Sarah on vol. 4 of Servamp (Anime UK News)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Taboo Tattoo (Anime News Network)
Nic Creamer on vol. 3 of UQ Holder! (Anime News Network)
Michael Burns on vols. 5-6 of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches (Ani-TAY)

* Denotes a video review

The Manga Revue: Behind the Scenes!!

It’s a snowy day here in Boston, giving me the perfect excuse to tunnel under a blanket and read a goofy, light-hearted story. My escapism of choice: Bisco Hatori’s latest series, Ouran University Host Club Behind the Scenes!!

BehindTheScenes-01Behind the Scenes!!, Vol. 1
By Bisco Hatori
Rated T, for teens
VIZ Media, $9.99

Behind the Scenes!! embodies what’s good–and not so good–about Bisco Hatori’s storytelling.

In the plus column, Hatori has a knack for writing ensemble pieces in which the principal characters exhibit a genuine fondness for one another. The stars of her latest series are Shichikoku University’s Art Squad, a scrappy outfit that makes props for the Film Club–or, more accurately, clubs, as there are several students groups competing for the Art Squad’s services, each with their own aesthetic objectives. Ranmaru, the series’ protagonist, gets a crash course in film making when he stumbles into the middle of an Art Squad project: a low-budget horror flick. As penance for disrupting the shoot, Ranmaru joins the Art Squad and is quickly pressed into service painting props, folding paper cranes, and building a fake hot spring.

These scenes–in which Ranmaru and the gang tackle set-design challenges–are among the series’ most enjoyable. Not only do they give us a sneak peek at the movie-making process, they also show us how the club members’ friendly overtures embolden the timid, self-doubting Ranmaru to let go of his painful childhood and become part of a community. In one exchange, for example, Ranmaru tells a fellow squad member about a black-and-white film that made a powerful impression on him. Hatori cuts between scenes from this imaginary film and Ranmaru’s face, registering how powerfully Ranmaru identified with the film’s principal character, a toy robot who dreams of flying. The symbolism of the toy is hard to miss, but the directness and simplicity with which Hatori stages the moment leavens the breezy tone with a note of poignancy.

In the minus column, Hatori often strains for comic effect, overwhelming the reader with too many shots of characters mugging, shouting, and flapping their arms. The Art Squad’s interactions with various student directors give Hatori license to indulge this tendency; the auteurs’ snits and whims frequently force the Art Squad members to behave more like the Scooby Doo gang–or Hollywood fixers–than actual college students juggling coursework and extra-curriculars. (The Art Squad even has a goofy dog mascot.)

At the same time, however, these wannabe Spielbergs bring out the best in Hatori’s draftsmanship. Each one’s personality is firmly established in just a single panel: one looks like a refugee from Swingin’ London (or perhaps an Austin Powers film); another dresses like a Taisho-era author, swanning around campus in a yukata; and a third sports a shaggy mane, Buddy Holly glasses, and a female entourage. The efficiency with which Hatori introduces these characters, and the range of personalities they embody, demonstrate just how crisp and distinctive her artwork can be. That Hatori’s heroes are visually bland by comparison says less about her skills, I think, than it does her desire to make Ranmaru’s new “family” seem normal–well, as normal as anyone who specializes in making fake zombie guts can be.

The bottom line: Tentatively recommended. If Hatori can tone down her characters’ antic behavior, Behind the Scenes!! could be a winner.

Reviews: Sean Gaffney and Michelle Smith post a fresh crop of Bookshelf Briefs. Also new at Manga Bookshelf: Sean tackles the first volume of orange (no, that’s not a typo), Anna N. reviews Takeshi Obata’s kiddie-thriller School Judgment, and Ash Brown weighs in on Hiroaki Samura’s stylish (and bloody) manga Die Wergelder. Further afield, translator Jocelyn Allen posts her annual doujinshi round-up.

Sara Dempster on The Angel of Elhamburg (No Flying No Tights)
Matthew Warner on vol. 5 of Ani-Emo (The Fandom Post)
Michael Burns on vols. 7-8 of Barakamon (AniTAY)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 12 of Chi’s Sweet Home (Comics Worth Reading)
Adam Brunell on vol. 12 of Deadman Wonderland (ComicSpectrum)
SKJAM! on Dream Fossil (SKJAM! Reviews)
Josh Begley on vol. 2 of Emma (The Fandom Post)
Patrick Moore on vol. 1 of Honey So Sweet (Bentobyte)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Ken H. on Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu (Sequential Ink)
Kory Cerjak on vol. 13 of Magi (The Fandom Post)
Megan R. on Millennium Prime Minister (The Manga Test Drive)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 12 of My Little Monster (Anime News Network)
Exile on vol. 1 of My Monster Secret (AniTAY)
Jocelyn Allen on Night Worker (Brain vs. Book)
Matthew Warner on vol. 2 of Puella Magi Tart Magica (The Fandom Post)
Matt on vol. 5 of A Silent Voice (AniTAY)
Terry Hong on vol. 2 of Ultraman (Book Dragon)
Nick Creamer on vol. 2 of UQ Holder! (Anime News Network)
Frank Inglese on Uzumaki Naruto: Illustrations (Snap 30)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 3 of Yo-Kai Watch (Sequential Tart)

 

 

The Manga Revue: Giganto Maxia

Kentaro Miura’s Berserk is a rite of passage for manga readers: you may not have soldiered past the second volume, but you tried because a Real Manga Fan told you that it was The Most Amazing Manga Ever. I freely admit that I didn’t finish Berserk–too violent for me, I’m afraid–but I marveled at its intricate plotting, feverish pace, and deadly seriousness. (Also: Miura’s penchant for awful names.) When Dark Horse announced that it had acquired Giganto Maxia, I decided to treat this new series as a second “date” with Miura–a chance to decide if I’d judged his work unfairly the first time around. Here’s how that date went.

giganto_maxiaGiganto Maxia
By Kentaro Miura
Rated 16+, for older teens
Dark Horse, $13.99

Let’s start with the good: Giganto Maxia is a visual feast that’s every bit as imaginative as Hayao Mizayaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Kentaro Miura’s pages abound in war-ravaged landscapes, fantastic fighting machines, and bizarre creatures that straddle the fence between human and animal. The specificity of his vision, and the care with which he stages battle scenes, obviates the need for dialogue; we can almost hear and feel what the characters are experiencing on every page.

Miura’s script, however, is as tin-eared and self-serious as a high school literary rag. The two leads–Prome, a pale mystic who looks like a young girl, and Delos, a warrior slave–spend an inordinate amount of time describing what’s happening around them, even when the pictures make it abundantly clear. Yet for all their chatter, neither character provides much useful information about the post-apocalyptic world in which Giganto Maxia takes place: who are the Olympians? Why are they so intent on annihilating other tribes? And what, exactly, are the Giganto? The absence of these details leaves a big hole in the story: the characters’ motivation for fighting the Giganto. At the end of the volume, we’re not really sure what Prome and Delos stand for, or what’s at stake if they fail–two fatal flaws in a series that desperately wants the reader to get swept up in their quest.

The bottom line: A talky script and barely-there characters sink this smart-looking fantasy series.

The publisher provided a review copy.

Reviews: Sean Gaffney and Michelle Smith round up the latest volumes of Arpeggio of Blue Steel, Kimi ni Todoke, and Non Non Biyori at Manga Bookshelf; Sean also reads The Testament of New Sister Devil so that you don’t have to. Over at Women Write About Comics, Amanda Vail and Paige Sammartino offer “short & sweet” reviews of Barakamon, Are You Alice?, and My Hero Academia.

Nick Creamer on vol. 3 of The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Anime News Network)
Gary Thompson on vol. 10 of Black Jack (The Fandom Post)
Demelza on Fairy Tail (Anime UK News)
Megan R. on Gate 7 (The Manga Test Drive)
Nick Creamer on vol. 7 of Genshiken: Second Season (Anime News Network)
Sean Rogers on A Girl on the Shore (The Globe and Mail)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 1 of Honey So Sweet (Sequential Tart)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Honey So Sweet (Anime News Network)
Matt on vol. 2 of Inuyashiki (AniTAY)
Sean Gaffney on Kagerou Daze III: The Children Reason (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Claire Napier on Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen (Comics Alliance)
Michael Burns on vol. 13 of Nisekoi (AniTAY)
Matthew Warner on vol. 76 of One Piece (The Fandom Post)
Matthew Warner on vol. 3 of One-Punch Man (The Fandom Post)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 4 of One-Punch Man (Anime News Network)
Matthew Warner on vol. 3 of Peepo Choo (The Fandom Post)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 5 of Pokemon X.Y. (Sequential Tart)
Helen on vol. 1 of ReLife (The OASG)
Matt on vol. 4 of A Silent Voice (AniTAY)
Saeyong Kim on vol. 3 of Thermae Romae (No Flying No Tights)
Sarah on Tsubasa WoRLD CHRoNiCLE: Niraikani (Anime UK News)
Charlotte Finn on Wandering Son (Comics Alliance)