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 Lover’s Guide to SDCC 2015

sdcc_logoAre you headed to San Diego this week? If so, this column is for you! We’ve compiled a handy list of the major manga events, from VIZ’s Ultraman spectacular to Tokyopop’s Don’t-Call-It-a-Comeback panel. Our own Brigid Alverson will be joining an all-star line-up of bloggers for the Best and Worst Manga of 2015 panel, which will be held on Saturday, July 11th at 7:00 pm. We’ll also be updating the blog throughout the week with the latest licensing announcements.

A final note about the programs listed below: our list focuses on manga, but there are also a wealth of anime programs including cosplay panels, voice acting workshops, and screenings of Spirited Away. A comprehensive schedule of anime events is now live on the SDCC website, and available through the Comic-Con app (iOS and Android).

THURSDAY, JULY 9th

Shonen Jump: Past, Present, and Future
10:00 – 11:00 am, Room 5AB
From the program: “Hang out with the English language editors of the world’s most popular manga, plus special surprise guests! Come hear some exciting news about the latest new series, all-time fan favorites, and everything in between. Plus a chance to win amazing prizes by showing off your SJ trivia skills.”

What Do Women Want? Female Gaze in Manga
3:00 – 4:00 pm, Room 29AB
From the program: “From shojo manga to boys love manga to reverse harem ‘otome’ video games and anime filled with delectable guys, these media have been catering to the tastes of female fans in Japan. These stories are reaching readers and inspiring comics creators worldwide more than ever. See what manga publishing pros Leyla Aker (senior vice president, publishing, VIZ Media), JuYoun Lee (editor-in-chief, Yen Press), Lillian Diaz-Pryzbyl (head of comics, Sparkler Monthly), and manga creator Jamie Lynn Lano (The Princess of Tennis, Denkiki) have to say about ‘female gaze’ in manga, why it sells, and why it matters. They’ll also share their picks for your next must-read manga that’ll make you swoon. Moderated by Deb Aoki (Publishers Weekly, Manga Comics Manga).”

VIZ Media
4:00 – 5:00 pm, Room 7AB
From the program: “Come party with VIZ Media! And by party, they mean sit in a chair and listen to thrilling tales of upcoming releases and other Earth-shattering announcements from North America’s largest distributor of manga and anime… Hosted by Urian Brown, Charlene Ingram and VIZ Media staff, with special guests.”

Making a Living in Manga: Japan Creators, Editors Talk
5:00 – 6:00 pm, Room 29AB
From the program: “What’s it like to work as a comics creator in Japan? What does it take to sell your self- published manga at Tokyo’s Comic Market (Comiket), the world’s largest comics show? How do Japanese manga editors work with creators to craft addictive stories that keep readers coming back for more? Hear what it’s really like to work in the motherland of manga from Japan- and U.S.-based pros who have done all of this and more. Akihide Yanagi (writer, agent), Kamome Shirahama (manga artist, Eniale & Dewiel), Philip S. Y. Tan (Heaven, Uncanny X-Men), Makoto Nishi (manga editor), and Philip Knall (translator, salaryman) offer a rare look behind the scenes of Japan’s manga biz, followed a Q&A session moderated by Deb Aoki (Publishers Weekly, Manga Comics Manga).”

Dark Horse Manga
6:00 – 7:00 pm, Room 9
From the program: “Dark Horse’s history with Japanese comics can be traced back to the company’s earliest years… Dark Horse continues to publish some of the industry’s bestselling titles… Be on hand for a look at the past, present, and future of manga at Dark Horse.”

Manga: Lost In Translation
7:00 – 8:00 pm, Room 9
From the program: “It seems that manga is charging back from its late ’00s slump, and anime simulcasts have become the norm. So what is it like to work in the industry? Here’s your chance to ask some of the top professionals in the manga and anime industry about their jobs and the titles they’ve worked on. Join William Flanagan (Fairy Tail), Jonathan “Jake” Tarbox (Fist of the North Star), Mari Morimoto (Naruto), Stephen Paul (One Piece), Ed Chavez (director, Vertical Comics), and Lillian Diaz-Przybyl (head of comics, Chromatic Press Inc.) for this panel.”

FRIDAY, JULY 10th

Get Your Comic Published in Japan: Silent Manga Audition
1:30 – 2:30 pm, Room 5AB
From the program: “Jonathan Tarbox (CEO, Arashi Productions) explains how manga artists from any nation can submit their work to a contest run by a major Japanese publisher. Winners will have their submission published in Japan and be considered for the opportunity to work in the manga industry…”

VIZ Media: Ultraman
3:00 – 4:00 pm, Room 23ABC
From the program: “For their first international appearance, Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi, creators of the new VIZ Media manga series Ultraman, inspired by the original Japanese TV show, are joined onstage by special guests from Legendary Comics to discuss Japan’s quintessential superhero and the influence of kaiju in today’s pop culture…”

Manga Publishing Industry Roundtable
5:00 – 6:00 pm, Room 4
From the program: “Manga publishing in North America has definitely seen its shares of highs and low, from the manga boom in the early 2000s to the crash ten years later, caused by a perfect storm of the U.S. recession, Borders bookstores closures, and the growth of online piracy. So how are things now? Get a taste of what’s hot, what’s not, and what’s next for manga in North America and Japan, from top publishing pros including Leyla Aker (senior VP, publishing, VIZ Media), Kurt Hassler (VP, publishing director, Yen Press), Michael Gombos (director of licensing Asia, Dark Horse Comics), Ben Applegate (associate director, publishing services, Penguin Random House), and Erik Ko (chief of operations, Udon Entertainment). Moderated by Deb Aoki (Publishers Weekly, Manga Comics Manga).”

Showcasing the Best in Korean Comics
7:30 – 8:30 pm, Room 26AB
From the program: “A team of Korea’s prolific artists and animation studios, represented by Jongmin Shin (CEO of EGA Studios), showcases the latest and greatest trends in Korean comics and animation. They will also showcase their recent and upcoming productions on some of today’s hottest comics. Join Jongmin and crew for this Q&A session moderated by Austin Osueke (publisher of eigoMANGA).”

SATURDAY, JULY 11th

Kodansha Comics
11:30 am – 12:30 pm, Room 8
From the program: “The publisher of the manga megahit Attack on Titan… reveals exciting upcoming titles. General manager Kana Koide and senior editor Ben Applegate will answer your questions about Kodansha’s books and the manga industry.”

Spotlight on Yu-Gi-Oh! and Creator Kazuki Takahasi
2:00 – 3:00 pm, Room 7AB
From the program: “Get a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the Yu-Gi-Oh! phenomenon and a sneak peek at the third Yu-Gi-Oh! feature film through the eyes of world-renowned manga artist and Yu-Gi-Oh! creator Kazuki Takahashi, and other distinguished panelists…”

Tokyopop: The Robofish Rises
6:00 – 7:00 pm, Room 28DE
From the program: “Big News, TOKYOPOP is coming back! Meet Stu Levy (founder, CEO), Clay Bohle, and the TOKYOPOP team to get the scoop firsthand. Giveaways for all attendees. If you’re an artist, bring your portfolio for review, and if you’re a fan, bring all your questions.” [Editor’s note: for more information about Tokyopop’s past and future, check out Brigid’s recent article at Comic Book Resources. If you’re planning to bring your portfolio, be sure to read Alex De Campi’s blog post about her complicated–and sometimes exploitative–relationship with Tokyopop.]

Best and Worst Manga of 2015
7:00 – 8:00 pm, Room 23ABC
From the program: “A panel of opinionated bloggers, retailers, librarians, manga mavens, and comics curmudgeons spotlight the best new manga that hit the shelves in the past year. See them rave about their favorite continuing series. Watch them rant about the excruciatingly mediocre manga that they were forced to read. Find out what Brigid Alverson (Robot 6, Good Comics for Kids), David Brothers (4thletter!), Christopher Butcher (The Beguiling, Toronto Comic Arts Festival), Eva Volin (Alameda Free Library, No Flying No Tights), and Deb Aoki (Manga Comics Manga, Publishers Weekly) loved and loathed to read in the past year. Hear about their picks for the most anticipated upcoming releases for fall 2015 and beyond, and discover their favorite underappreciated manga gems that are worth picking up.”

The Manga Revue: A Silent Voice and Your Lie in April

It’s been a while since I checked in with Kodansha, so this week’s column explores two recent additions to the KC catalog: A Silent Voice, which explores the complex relationship between a bully and his victim, and Your Lie in April, which focuses on a piano prodigy who flamed out at an early age.

A Silent VoiceA Silent Voice, Vol. 1
By Yoshitoki Oima
Rated T, for Teens
Kodansha Comics, $10.99

Thirteen-year-old Shouya Ishida is at loose ends: he’s a mediocre student, a latch-key kid, and a thrill-seeker who goads his friends into dangerous stunts. When deaf girl Shoko Nishimiya joins Ishida’s class, however, Ishida’s recklessness shades into cruelty. He orchestrates a systematic campaign of harassment against her, mocking her speech, stealing her hearing aides, and blaming her for “ruining” the class.

What distinguishes A Silent Voice from dozens of other issue-of-the-week manga is its perspective: author Yoshitoki Oima tells the story from the bully’s point of view rather than the victim’s, thus avoiding the temptation to paint Ishida as a monster. As Oima capably shows, Ishida’s inability to control his worst impulses is not a sign of depravity, but of loneliness, frustration, and immaturity. Similarly, Oima resists the urge to blame Ishida’s mother for her son’s behavior, portraying her as a hard-working, decent woman who’s struggling to run a business and raise two children on her own. Instead, Oima zeroes in the complex dynamic between Ishida and his classmates, acknowledging the degree to which their own hostility towards Nishimiya validates–and encourages–Ishida’s cruelty.

In one scene, for example, the teacher calls on Nishimiya to read a passage out loud. Her words are labored and difficult to understand, prompting uncomfortable stares from the class. When Ishida is asked to do the same, he’s emboldened by his peers’ response. “Uwah! Uwoh! Argle! Bargle!” he declares, feasting on the giggles and snickers his impression generates. Though the teacher issues Ishida a stern warning, Mr. Takeuchi’s own contempt for Nishimiya seeps into their conversation, granting Ishida further license to harass his classmate.

I’d be the first to admit that A Silent Voice is a difficult read, not least for the scenes in which Ishida torments Nishimiya; Oima captures Nishimiya’s reactions with heart-breaking specificity, even though her character seldom utters a word. It’s a worthwhile series, however, for the truthful way in which it explores the role of passivity and group-think in creating an environment ripe for harassment.

your_lie_april_EnglishYour Lie in April, Vol. 1
By Naoshi Arakawa
Rated T, for Teens
Kodansha Comics, $10.99

Your Lie in April follows the budding relationship between Kosei Arima, a piano prodigy, and Kaori Miyazono, a violinist who plays by her own rules. When Arima first meets Miyazono, he’s crippled by his own perfectionism. Miyazono, on the other hand, is fearless, giving emotionally authentic–if messy–performances that irk judges and wow audiences. Miyazono has an equally messy personality–she’s impetuous, petulant, and bossy–but captivates Arima with the sheer force of her enthusiasm.

I’ll be honest: I’d like Your Lie in April a lot more if it focused on a drama troupe or a sports team. That may seem like an odd admission from a musicologist, but Miyazono’s character embodies what I dislike most about popular depictions of classical music. Her eclectic performances are offered as evidence of her “true” musical ability, while the judges’ disapproval is portrayed as a failure of imagination. Yet a score isn’t a loose set of guidelines to be followed at the musician’s whim, it’s an explicit representation of the composer’s intentions; willfully ignoring tempo markings, dynamics, and phrasing misses the entire point of musical notation. Miyazono may make Beethoven’s Kreutzer sonata “unequivocally her own,” but is she really capturing the spirit of the piece in taking so many liberties with it?

Given my own prejudices, I don’t know if I can give Your Lie in April a fair shake. I found the artwork clean and expressive, and the dynamic between Arima and his non-musical friend Tsubaki Sawabe true to life. (In contrast to Miyazono, Sawabe is not simply a vehicle for the hero’s self-actualization, but a character in her own right.) I also enjoyed the program notes at the end of every chapter–a nice touch for readers who recognize Saint-Saens’ name, but can’t quite tie him to a specific composition or stylistic period. I’m not sure these small pleasures are enough inducement for me to pick up volume two, but a less fussy music lover might well enjoy this coming-of-age drama.

Reviews: Bust out your handkerchief–the final installment of House of 1000 Manga has been posted! Jason Thompson takes a few minutes to reflect on the column, list his ten favorite manga, and discuss what he’ll be doing next. Like many of ANN’s regular readers, I will miss House of 1000 Manga dearly; Shaenon and Jason did a terrific job of sharing their knowledge of and enthusiasm for manga with readers in a consummately effortless style.

Courtney Sanders on vol. 16 of 07-Ghost (Three If By Space)
Connie on vol. 2 of Alice in the Country of Clover: Knight’s Knowledge (Slightly Biased Manga)
Connie on vol. 3 of Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz (Slightly Biased Manga)
Al Sparrow on vol. 1 of The Ancient Magus’ Bride (ComicSpectrum)
Ken H. on vol. 4 of Attack on Titan: Before the Fall (Sequential Ink)
Erica Friedman on Awajime Hyakkei (Okazu)
Connie on vol. 18 of Black Bird (Slightly Biased Manga)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 10 of Black Lagoon (The Fandom Post)
Connie on vol. 28 of Blade of the Immortal (Slightly Biased Manga)
Helen on Cardcaptor Sakura (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses)
Connie on vol. 1 of Citrus (Slightly Biased Manga)
TSOTE on vol. 29 of C.M.B. (Three Steps Over Japan)
Connie on vol. 2 of Demon Love Spell (Slightly Biased Manga)
Rebecca Silverman on Dream Fossil (ANN)
Holly Saiki on Fragments of Horror (Examiner)
Courtney Sanders on Fragments of Horror (Three If By Space)
Ken H. on In Clothes Called Fat (Sequential Ink)
Luke Halliday on vol. 2 of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood (Snap 30)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 18 on Kamisama Kiss (ANN)
Sakura Eries on vol. 4 of Kiss of the Rose Princess (The Fandom Post)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 14 of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery System (Comics Worth Reading)
Connie on vol. 5 of Love Pistols (Slightly Biased Manga)
Kristin on vol. 3 of Master Keaton (Comic Attack)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 3 of Master Keaton (WatchPlayRead)
Anna N. on vol. 2 of Meteor Prince (The Manga Report)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Non Non Biyori (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Al Sparrow on Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt (ComicSpectrum)
TSOTE on vol. 1 of Q.E.D. iff (Three Steps Over Japan)
Matthew Alexander on vol. 9 of Sankarea (The Fandom Post)
Megan R. on Seraph of the End (The Manga Test Drive)
Al Sparrow on vol. 1 of A Silent Voice (ComicSpectrum)
Connie on vol. 34 of Skip Beat! (Slightly Biased Manga)
L.B. Bryant on vol. 1 of So Cute It Hurts! (ICv2)
Matthew Alexander on vol. 9 of Triage X (The Fandom Post)
Connie on vol. 16 of We Were There (Slightly Biased Manga)
Ash Brown on vol. 7 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Experiments in Manga)

The Manga Revue: Alice in Murderland and Demon From Afar

Reading Kaori Yuki is a little bit like eating a bag of Pop Rocks and washing it down with a can of Tab: the rush is undeniable, but the aftertaste is pretty gnarly. I swore off her manga years ago–too much stimulation for my taste–but her two latest series looked so snazzy I couldn’t resist giving her work a second chance.

AliceinMurderlandv1Alice in Murderland, Vol. 1
By Kaori Yuki
Rated OT, for Older Teens
Yen Press, $17.00

Nine Is Enough might be a better title for Alice in Murderland, as it neatly summarizes the main plot: per their mother’s orders, the nine Kuonji children must fight to the death to determine who will inherit the family fortune. Of course, if you’ve read Godchild or Angel Sanctuary, you know that even Kaori Yuki’s most basic story ideas are complicated by a profusion of subplots and supporting characters. Alice in Murderland is no exception: Yuki introduces over thirty people in volume one, each of whom has a stake in the outcome of the Kuonji Battle Royale.

The characters are so hastily conceived, however, that their behavior makes no sense; when they turn on each other, those reversals register not as betrayals but as speed bumps on the road to the next gruesome showdown. Even the revelation that the Kuonji matriarch is a bandersnatch–no, really–barely makes an impression, as her breathless monologue about demonic powers is no more shocking or ridiculous than the violent melodrama that precedes it. (On the plus side, it does explain her rotten parenting skills.) The artwork, though attractive, barely hangs together; small wonder that Yuki relies so heavily on dialogue to plug the holes in her storytelling.

The verdict: No amount of Lewis Carroll references can disguise the fact the Alice in Murderland is a flaming hot mess.

Yuki_DemonFromAfarV1_HCDemon From Afar, Vol. 1
By Kaori Yuki
Rated T, for Teens
Yen Press, $18.00

In contrast to Alice in Murderland, Demon From Afar has a discernible storyline and real characters. Three teens–Sorath, Garan, and Kiyora–live on the estate of the wealthy, ruthless Baron Kamichika. As children, they found solace in each others’ company, as the Baron was a cruel guardian; as young adults, however, they unwittingly become pawns in his elaborate scheme to achieve immortality.

Though Kaori Yuki can’t help but populate the fringes of the story with beautiful, inscrutable figures, the main narrative never loses it focus on Sorath, Garan, and Kiyora’s increasingly tenuous allegiance. The supernatural elements–another potential distraction–prove organic to the story as well; from the very first pages, it’s clear that Sorath possesses unusual powers, though we don’t see them fully manifested in volume one. Only Yuki’s decision to invoke Walpurgisnacht raises a few eyebrows: surely there was a Japanese festival or tradition that would have made more sense in the context of the Taisho-era setting. (The story takes place shortly after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.) Faust tributes aside, Demon From Afar manages the difficult feat of juggling many stylistic sensibilities–horror, romance, teen angst–without sacrificing coherence or pacing.

The verdict: Demon From Afar won’t win the Tezuka Prize, but it scores points for readability and visual flair.

Reviews: Sad news for fans of ANN’s House of 1000 Manga: Jason Thompson and Shaenon Garrity have announced that their final column will run next week. To mark the occasion, Shaenon counts down her ten favorite manga from the House archives.

Deionte Coates on vol. 5 of Cardfight!! Vanguard (BentoByte)
Megan R. on City Hunter (The Manga Test Drive)
Lori Henderson on vol. 1 of Demon From Afar (Manga Xanadu)
Adam Caps on Dream Fossil (BentoByte)
Holly Saiki on Dream Fossil (Examiner)
Leroy Douresseaux on Fragments of Horror (Comic Book Bin)
Sean Gaffney on Fragments of Horror (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Orrin Gray on Fragments of Horror (Innsmouth Free Press)
Vernieda Vergara on vols. 1-3 of The Heroic Legend of Arslan (Women Write About Comics)
Ash Brown on vol. 2 of Hide and Seek (Experiments in Manga)
Alice Vernon on Judge (Girls Like Comics)
Nic Wilcox on Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink: The Complete Collection (No Flying No Tights)
Sarah on vol. 1 of Love Stage! (Anime UK News)
Wolfen Moondaughter on vol. 5 of Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign (Sequential Tart)
Ken H. on vols. 5-8 of The Seven Deadly Sins (Sequential Ink)
Paige Sammartino on vol. 1 of A Silent Voice (Women Write About Comics)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of So Cute It Hurts! (Comics Worth Reading)
Richard Eisenbeis on vols. 1-2 of Sword Art Online: Girls’ Ops (Kotaku)
Thomas Maluck on vol. 1 of Sword Art Online: Progressive (No Flying No Tights)
Karen Maeda on vol. 6 of Terraformars (Sequential Tart)
Ian Wolf on Tony Takezaki’s Neon Genesis Evangelion (Anime UK News)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 7 of Toradora! (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 28 of Toriko (Sequential Tart)
Rob Clough on Trash Market (High-Low)
James Hadfield on Trash Market (The Japan Times)
L.B. Bryant on vol. 1 of Trinity Seven: The Seven Magicians (ICv2)

The Manga Revue: Dream Fossil

The last two years have been kind to Satoshi Kon fans: Dark Horse and Vertical Comics have each released two volumes of Kon’s manga, from Tropic of the Sea, a supernatural mystery, to Seraphim 266613336 Wings, an unfinished collaboration with Ghost in the Shell director Mamoru Oshii. This week, I investigate Dream Fossil, which collects all of Kon’s published short stories into a single volume.

dream_fossilDream Fossil: The Complete Stories of Satoshi Kon
By Satoshi Kon
No rating
Vertical Comics, $24.95

Dream Fossil is a window into a crucial stage in Satoshi Kon’s development: the six-year period between the publication of his first short story (1984) and his first long-form manga (1990). Readers may be astonished by Kon’s undisguised homage to Katsuhiro Otomo, and the flaws in his storytelling technique. Yet Dream Fossil is not simply a collection of juvenilia; these stories represent Kon’s first meaningful attempt to grapple with the themes that define his mature work, from Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers to Paranoia Agent and Paprika.

Consider “Carve” and “Toriko,” two of Kon’s earliest works. Both take place in dystopian societies that stress conformity and obedience over individualism and free will–an ideal set-up for exploring the boundaries between reality and illusion. Though Kon delineates these boundaries more baldly in “Carve” and “Toriko” than in his later films, all of Kon’s characters exist in a false state of consciousness; only shattering acts of violence force them to question what they think is real. These early stories also suggest Otomo’s strong influence on Kon; “Carve,” in particular, feels like a compressed retelling of Akira, as both feature a young male protagonist whose extrasensory powers turn him into God-like being.

“Beyond the Sun” and “Joyful Bell” are another instructive pairing. Both stories evoke the humanist spirit of Tokyo Godfathers in their fond, funny depictions of two city-dwellers who temporarily escape the confines of their daily routines. As in Tokyo Godfathers, the urban landscape proves an essential component of both stories; Kon treats the city as a playground where adults can shed the burdens of age, failure, and loneliness to recover their optimism and youthful wonder.

Other stories work well on their own terms. “Guests,” a cautionary tale about real estate, skillfully blends humor and horror, while “Picnic,” one of Dream Fossil‘s briefest selections, depicts the sepulchral beauty of a submerged metropolis. At the other end of the spectrum are Kon’s coming-of-age stories “Horseplay,” “Summer of Anxiety,” and “Day Has Dawned,” all of which suffer from tonal schizophrenia, see-sawing between wacky hijinks and meaningful lessons about adulthood. This combination might have worked in a longer format, but Kon’s characters are so underdeveloped that they never register as distinct individuals who are motivated by their own beliefs, fears, and desires.

If pressed to say whether I “liked” Dream Fossil, I’d be reluctant to give a simple yes-or-no answer. It’s difficult to overlook the rubbery faces and clumsy internal transitions in the volume’s weakest stories, or Kon’s flagrant efforts to cop Otomo’s style. Yet many of the stories feature the kind of arresting sequences, amusing plot twists, and flashes of genuine imagination that are hallmarks of Kon’s best films, making it difficult to dismiss this uneven body of work as “good,” “bad,” or “okay.”

Reviews: Jason Thompson makes a strong case that Kekkaishi is the best shonen manga you haven’t read. At Anime UK News, Sarah reviews Servamp, a supernatural adventure about–what else?–vampires. Closer to home, TCJ columnist Joe McCulloch sings the praises of Professor Layton, an untranslated manga in which “a top-hatted archeologist and his adolescent weed carrier solve extremely unlikely and sentimental mysteries” by means of word games, puzzles, and riddles.

Ash Brown on vol. 4 of After School Nightmare (Experiments in Manga)
Matthew Warner on vol. 2 of Akame ga KILL! (The Fandom Post)
Connie on vol. 1 of Alice in the Country of Clover: Knight’s Knowledge (Slightly Biased Manga)
Alice Vernon on The Angel of Elhamburg (Girls Like Comics)
Connie on vol. 17 of Black Bird (Slightly Biased Manga)
Connie on vol. 5 of Crimson Spell (Slightly Biased Manga)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 10 of Dogs: Bullets and Carnage (Comic Book Bin)
Helen and Justin on Donyatsu (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses)
Connie on vol. 1 of Earthian (Slighty Biased Manga)
Kory Cerjak on vol. 44 of Fairy Tale (The Fandom Post)
Frank Inglese on vols. 1-2 of Food Wars! Shokugeki No Soma (Snap 30)
Rich Johnston on Fragments of Horror (Bleeding Cool)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 6 of Gangsta (The Fandom Post)
Connie on vol. 11 of Inuyasha: VIZBIG Edition (Slightly Biased Manga)
L.B. Bryant on vol. 1 of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (ICv2)
Luke Halliday on vol. 1 of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood (Snap 30)
Tony Yao on Kiss Him, Not Me (Manga Therapy)
Seth Hahne on Last Man, Vol. 2: The Royal Cup (Good Ok Bad)
Kane Bugeja on The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Snap 30)
Kathryn Hemmann on The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Contemporary Japanese Literature)
Connie on vol. 9 of Maoh: Juvenile Remix (Slightly Biased Manga)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 3 of Master Keaton (Comic Book Bin)
Robert Frazer on vol. 2 of My Neighbor Seki (UK Anime Network)
Dan Barnett on vols. 1-4 of Neon Genesis Evangelion (UK Anime Network)
Connie on Nonnonba (Slightly Biased Manga)
Erica Friedman on Seijun Shoujo Paradigm (Okazu)
Connie on vol. 18 of Sensual Phrase (Slightly Biased Manga)
Megan R. on Strawberry 100% (The Manga Test Drive)
Andy Hanley on vol. 1 of Sword Art Online Girls’ Ops (UK Anime Network)
Sakura Eries on vol. 2 of Sword Art Online Progressive (The Fandom Post)
Joceyln Allen on vol. 2 of USCA (Brain vs. Book)
Lori Henderson on vols. 1-5 of W Juliet (Manga Xanadu)
Erica Freidman on vol. 6 of Wandering Son (Okazu)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 8 of Wandering Son (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Connie on vol. 15 of We Were There (Slightly Biased Manga)
Robert Frazer on vols. 5-6 of Wolfsmund (UK Anime Network)
Ken H. on vols. 1-2 of Yamada-Kun and the Seven Witches (Sequential Ink)
Connie on vol. 1 of Yukarism (Slightly Biased Manga)

 

The Manga Revue: One-Punch Man

Here in the US, VIZ has been in the vanguard of digital manga initiatives. VIZ was among the first publishers to make its catalog available across a variety of platforms, allowing readers to enjoy Dragon Ball and Vampire Knight on their device of choice. VIZ has also been using its app and website to re-release older titles, both from its own catalog–hello again, Basara!–and from Tokyopop’s. More recently, VIZ has experimented with digital-first titles such as Tokyo Ghoul, releasing two or three volumes online before introducing a print edition. Today’s column focuses on another digital-first title, ONE and Yusuke Murata’s tokusatsu spoof One-Punch Man.

One-Punch ManOne-Punch Man, Vols. 1-2
Story by ONE, Art by Yusuke Murata
Rated T, for teens
VIZ Media, $6.99 (digital)

In a scene that would surely please Jack Kirby, One-Punch Man opens with a pow! splat! and boom!, as Saitama, the eponymous hero, goes mano-a-mano with the powerful Vaccine Man, a three-story menace with razor-sharp claws. Though Vaccine Man is formidable, he has a pronounced Achilles’ heel: chattiness. “I exist because of humankind’s constant pollution of the environment!” he tells Saitama. “The Earth is a single living organism! And you humans are the disease-causing germs killing it! The will of the earth gave birth to me so that I may destroy humanity and their insidious civilization!” Vaccine Man is so stunned that Saitama lacks an equally dramatic origin story that he lets down his guard, allowing Saitama to land a deadly right hook.

And so it goes with the other villains in One-Punch Man: Saitama’s unassuming appearance and matter-of-fact demeanor give him a strategic advantage over the preening scientists, cyborg gorillas, were-lions, and giant crabmen who terrorize City Z. Saitama’s sangfroid comes at a cost, however: the media never credit his alter ego with saving the day, instead attributing these victories to more improbable heroes such as Mumen Rider, a timid, helmet-wearing cyclist. Even the acquisition of a sidekick, Genos, does little to boost Saitama’s visibility in a city crawling with would-be heroes and monsters.

If it sounds as if One-Punch Man is shooting fish in a barrel, it is; supermen and shonen heroes, by definition, are a self-parodying lot. (See: capes, spandex, “Wind Scar.”) What inoculates One-Punch Man against snarky superiority is its ability to toe the line between straightforward action and affectionate spoof. It’s jokey and sincere, a combination that proves infectious.

Saitama is key to ONE’s strategy for bridging the action/satire divide: the character dutifully acknowledges tokusatsu cliches while refusing to capitulate to the ones he deems most ridiculous. (In one scene, Saitama counters an opponent’s “Lion Slash: Meteor Power Shower” attack with a burst of “Consecutive Normal Punches.”) ONE’s script is complemented by bold, polished artwork; even if the outcome of a battle is never in question, artist Yusuke Murata dreams up imaginative obstacles to prevent Saitama from defeating his opponents too quickly, or rehashing an earlier confrontation.

Is One-Punch Man worthy of its Eisner nomination? Based on what I’ve read so far, I’d say yes: it’s brisk, breezy, and executed with consummate skill. It may not be the “best” title in the bunch–I’d give the honor to Moyocco Anno’s In Clothes Called Fat–but it’s a lot more fun than either volume of Showa: A History of Japan… Scout’s honor.

The verdict:  Highly recommended. Binge-readers take note: seven digital volumes are now available. The first two print volumes arrive in stores in September.

Reviews: Are you crafty? If so, then Jocelyn Allen’s glowing appraisal of sewing manga Tsukuroitatsu Hito will be right in your wheelhouse. Here at Manga Bookshelf, Michelle Smith, Anna N. and Sean Gaffney post short reviews of new releases, from D. Frag! to Seraph of the End.

Nick Creamer on vol. 1 of The Ancient Magus’ Bride (ANN)
Allen Kesinger on vol. 1 of Big Hero 6 (No Flying No Tights)
Megan R. on Death Note (The Manga Test Drive)
Joe McCulloch on Dream Fossil (The Comics Journal)
Helen and Justin S. on Father and Son (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 12 of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic (Comic Book Bin)
Wolfen Moondaughter on vol. 12 of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic (Sequential Tart)
Lori Henderson on vol. 3 of Manga Dogs (Manga Xanadu)
ebooksgirl on vol. 2 of My Neighbor Seki (Geek Lit Etc.)
Ash Brown on The Ring of Saturn (Experiments in Manga)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 5 of Seraph of the End (Comic Book Bin)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of So Cute It Hurts! (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 1 of So Cute It Hurts! (Sequential Tart)
Ian Wolf on vol. 1 of So Cute It Hurts! (Anime UK News)
Hillary Brown on Trash Market (Paste Magazine)
Shea Hennum on Trash Market (This Is Infamous)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 8 of Voice Over! Seiyu Academy (Sequential Tart)
Ash Brown on vol. 8 of Wandering Son (Experiments in Manga)
Ken H. on vol. 3 of Witchcraft Works (Sequential Ink)

The internet is a big place, and it’s easy to miss a good manga review! If you’d like to see your work featured in our weekly link round-up, leave a comment below.

The Manga Revue: The Ancient Magus’ Bride and Evergreen

Are there publishers whose work you avoid? I’ll cop to feeling that way about Seven Seas, a company whose manga generally tilt too far towards the ecchi end of the spectrum for an old broad like me. In the last few months, however, the company has made some unexpected licensing announcements–The Ancient Magus’ Bride and Orange among them–that made me wonder if I’d unfairly dismissed their catalog. In an exploratory spirit, therefore, I’m dedicating this week’s column to two new Seven Seas titles: The Ancient Magus’ Bride and Evergreen.

magus1 The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Vol. 1
By Kore Yamazaki
Rated OT, for Older Teens
Seven Seas, $12.99

One part The Name of the Flower, one part Apothecarius Argentum, The Ancient Magus’ Bride freely commingles elements of romance, fantasy and horror, then seasons the mix with old-fashioned melodrama. The title refers to Chitose, a fifteen-year-old orphan with an unwanted gift: she can see fairies, ghosts, and other supernatural beings. For most of her life, she’s been passed between relatives and shunned by her peers. When sorcerer Ellias Ainsworth purchases her from an unscrupulous aunt and uncle, however, Chitose embarks on a new life as his apprentice and, perhaps, his bride-to-be.

I’d be the first to admit that the storylines often feel like they’ve been pinched from other fantasy manga, right down to a scene in which Ainsworth rescues Chitose from a malicious fairy. (Quick–name two Shojo Beat titles with a similar plot twist!) Though the plot has a been-there, read-that quality, Kore Yamazaki’s imaginative character designs and meticulously rendered backgrounds do not; his vision is so particular that the reader is plunged into Ainsworth and Chitose’s world as a participant, not a casual observer. The series’ other redeeming strength is its emotional honesty. Yamazaki convincingly depicts the characters’ grief and isolation without resorting to voice-overs or pointed dialogue–an impressive feat, given the plot’s reliance on such Victorian-lit staples as dead mothers and callous relatives.

The verdict: Although I’m not wild about the prospect of a May-December relationship between Chitose and Ainsworth, I’ll gladly soldier through another volume.

evergreen1Evergreen, Vol. 1
Story by Yuyuko Takemiya, Art by Akira Kasukabe
Rated OT, for Older Teens
Seven Seas, $12.99

Full disclosure: I usually loathe the costume failures, manic pixie dream girls, and improbable harems that are stock-in-trade of shonen romances. Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered Evergreen, a smart coming-of-age story that devotes twice as many pages to the hero’s complicated emotional life than it does the heroine’s predilection for wearing swimsuits.

What distinguishes Evergreen from, say, Suzuka, is its principal character’s palpable angst. Hotaka bears a figurative and literal scar from childhood: not only did he lose his father at an early age, Hotaka also had open-heart surgery to treat the very condition that claimed his father’s life. (In other words, he’s earned the right to be unhappy, unlike the heroes of Suzuka, Love Hina, and countless other shonen romantic comedies who brood without real cause.) As a result, Hotaka vacillates between fierce self-loathing and cautious optimism in a way that seems genuinely adolescent. His conversations, nightmares, and interior monologues reveal the degree to which Hotaka’s fear of being judged prevents him from forging a meaningful connection with dream girl Niki Awaya, the “tawny haired” captain of the girls’ swim club.

Lest I make Evergreen sound like a colossal bummer, rest assured that Hotaka’s angsty monologues are balanced by slapstick and jokes. Hotaka’s fellow manga club members, for example, bring a welcome jolt of comic energy to the proceedings, functioning as the series’ low-rent Greek chorus. There’s also a soupçon of fanservice for folks who like that sort of thing; artist Akira Kasukabe never misses an opportunity to depict Awaya in her bathing suit. (Actually, it’s a pretty chaste suit by shonen manga standards; you could swim laps in it without flashing anyone.) Awaya’s objectification is balanced by a positive portrayal of On-Chan, the sole female member of the manga club and Hotaka’s self-appointed wingman. On-Chan’s can-do attitude, enthusiasm for manga, and mean left hook aren’t novel traits, exactly, but taken as a whole, make her one of the more appealing, empowered female characters in the Seven Seas catalog.

The verdict: A pleasant surprise; count me in for volume two.

Reviews: TCJ columnist Joe McCulloch takes an in-depth look at Drawn and Quarterly: Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics and Graphic Novels, focusing on contributions from Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Shigeru Mizuki. Elsewhere on the web, Ken H. reviews Dream Fossil, a collection of short stories by Satoshi Kon, while Tony Yao tackles Orange, a time-traveling drama that offers a candid look at teen depression.

Sarah on vol. 1 of The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Anime UK News)
Tessa Barber on Anomal (No Flying No Tights)
Wolfen Moondaughter on vol. 4 of Black Rose Alice (Sequential Tart)
Megan R. on Bloody Monday (The Manga Test Drive)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 6 of Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma (Comic Book Bin)
Megan R. on Girl Friends (The Manga Test Drive)
Lori Henderson on vols. 9-10 of Goong: The Royal Palace (Manga Xanadu)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 3 of Hide and Seek (Sequential Tart)
Joseph Luster on vol. 13 of Knights of Sidonia (Otaku USA)
Seth Hahne on vol. 1 of Last Man (Good OK Bad)
Alice Vernon on vol. 1 of Log Horizon (Girls Like Comics)
Sean Gaffney on vols. 5-6 of Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Ash Brown on vol. 2 of Maria the Virgin Witch (Experiments in Manga)
Jason Thompson on vols. 1-2 of Meteor Prince (ANN)
Joseph Luster on vol. 2 of My Neighbor Seki (Otaku USA)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 70 of Naruto (Comic Book Bin)
Amanda Vail on vols. 1-4 of Noragami: Stray God (Women Write About Comics)
Ian Wolf on vol. 1 of A Silent Voice (Anime UK News)
Theron Martin on vol. 1 of Sword Art Online: Girls’ Ops (ANN)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Tokyo Ghoul (ANN)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 27 of Toriko (Sequential Tart)
Terry Hong on vol. 8 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Book Dragon)
Sakura Eries on vol. 2 of Yukarism (The Fandom Post)

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