New Licenses, More Digital

Elite All-Girls SchoolSeven Seas inexplicably chose the Friday before Labor Day to announce three new licenses: I Was Abducted by an Elite All-Girls School as a Sample Commoner, the title of which pretty much gives away the plot; Battle Rabbits, by 07-Ghost creators Yuki Amemiya and Yukino Ichihara; and the high school romantic comedy Masamune-kun’s Revenge.

More big manga news: Kodansha Comics manga is now available on comiXology, and so is Shonen Jump. This makes comiXology a handy one-stop shop for manga, as Dark Horse, Viz, Seven Seas, DMP, Gen Manga, Udon, and even Tokyopop are all on there. Only Vertical and Yen Press are missing.

And speaking of Shonen Jump, Viz has just announced that the first chapter of Mononofu, by Kurogane creator Haruto Ikezawa, will run in the next issue.

Guardian HeartsViz has been bringing back a lot of manga originally licensed by Tokyopop in its Viz Select digital line; the new series debuting in September include CLAMP School Detectives, Rizelmine, Guardian Hearts, Chocolate Cosmos, and Saber Marionette J.

It’s Hayate the Combat Butler vs. Richard II as the Manga Bookshelf team discuss their Pick of the Week.

Helen McCarthy hooks us up with a 1994 documentary on manga, first broadcast by the BBC as an intro to their broadcast of Akira. The half-hour film includes appearances by Katsuhiro Otomo and Hayao Miyazaki.

At Heart of Manga, Laura looks at this month’s new shoujo and josei manga releases.

And Erica Friedman posts the latest edition of Yuri Network News at Okazu.

Reviews: The Anti-Social Geniuses review the first chapter of 43 Viz Select manga, most if not all of which were originally published by Tokyopop. Ash Brown updates us with My Week in Manga at Experiments in Manga.

Sean Gaffney on vol. 16 of Attack on Titan (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Lori Henderson on vol. 1 of Attack on Titan Junior High (Manga Xanadu)
Chris Beveridge on chapter 641 of Bleach (The Fandom Post)
Jocelyne Allen on Cocoon (Brain Vs. Book)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 16 of Dorohedoro (The Fandom Post)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 6 of Genshiken: Second Season (Comics Worth Reading)
Helen on Inari Konkon (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 1 of Komomo Confiserie (I Reads You)
Anna N on vol. 1 of Komomo Confiserie (Manga Report)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Komomo Confiserie (ANN)
AstroNerdBoy on K-ON! High School (AstroNerdBoy’s Anime and Manga Blog)
Nick Creamer on vol. 1 of My Hero Academia (ANN)
Sakura Eries on vol. 9 of My Little Monster (The Fandom Post)
Ken H on vol. 5 of Noragami (Sequential Ink)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 1 of One-Punch Man (I Reads You)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 7 of Terra Formars (The Comic Book Bin)
Sarah on Yotsuba&! (nagareboshi reviews)

The Manga Revue: Inuyashiki, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and Tokyo Ghoul

I’m fresh out of snappy intros, so I’ll cut to the chase: this week’s column looks at Inuyashiki, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus Edition, and Tokyo Ghoul.

inuyashikiInuyashiki, Vol. 1
By Hiroya Oku
Rated OT, for older teens (16+)
Kodansha Comics, $12.99

Bette Davis famously declared that “Old age is no place for sissies,” a statement borne out by the first chapters of Hiroya Oku’s grimly compelling Inuyashiki. Its hero, a 58-year-old salaryman, is a picture of despair: his family loathes him, his co-workers ignore him, and his health is failing. In a blinding flash of light, however, his life changes. He wakes up to discover that his memories are intact but his body has changed; his once-frail limbs and failing eyes are now military-grade weapons, capable of withstanding lethal force. What to do with this gift? That question animates the final pages of volume one, as Ichiro tests his new body’s limits for the first time.

This final scene is a neat illustration of what’s good — and not so good — about Inuyashiki. Oku stages a suspenseful confrontation between Ichiro and a gang of teenage thugs; though we sense that Ichiro will prevail, how he gains the upper hand is a nifty surprise made more effective by Oku’s meticulously detailed illustrations. The incident that precipitates the showdown, however, is saddled with a heavy-handed script; Oku stokes the reader’s sense of righteous indignation by revealing that the thugs’ intended victim is a good but vulnerable man. By overemphasizing the victim’s inherent decency, Oku reduces him to a saintly caricature, a problem that also mars Ichiro’s early interactions with his family.

Even if Ichiro’s catharsis is less earned than contrived, watching him transform from terminal sad-sack to indestructible bad-ass is a deeply satisfying experience — he’s raging against the light, and might just take out a few whippersnappers in the process. Now that’s a fantasy I can get behind.

The verdict: Pour yourself a scotch before reading; you’ll need the emotional fortification to navigate the early chapters.

kurosagi_omnibus1The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus Edition, Book One
By Eiji Ōtsuka and Housui Yamazaki
Rated OT, for older teens (16+)
Dark Horse, $19.99

Scooby Doo for grown-ups — that’s how I’d describe The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, a macabre comedy about five cash-strapped college students who drive around in a van solving supernatural mysteries. The Kurosagi gang’s bread-and-butter are mysterious (and often violent) deaths. Through dowsing and channeling, they discover how and why their “clients” died, enabling the victims’ spirits to cross over to the other side.

The new omnibus edition — which collects the first three volumes of KCDS —  includes two of the series’ best stories: “Lonely People,” in which the gang stumbles across a portable altar with a mummy inside, and “Crossing Over,” in which the gang searches for the victim of an organ harvesting ring. Though the denouement of both “deliveries” include a few gruesome panels, the deadpan dialogue, expressive character designs, and snappy pacing prevent KCDS from sinking to the level of torture porn; the horrific imagery functions as a rim shot or an exclamation mark, not the main attraction. The self-contained nature of the stories is another plus: you can begin your KCDS odyssey almost anywhere in the series and still grasp what’s happening, though the crew’s origin story (“Less Than Happy,” the very first chapter) offers an interesting window into Buddhist university culture in Japan.

The verdict: If you haven’t tagged along on one of the Kurosagi crew’s “deliveries,” the omnibus edition gives you an economical way to do so.

Review copy provided by Dark Horse.

tokyo_ghoul2Tokyo Ghoul, Vol. 2
By Sui Ishida
Rated OT, for older teens (16+)
VIZ Media, $12.99

The first volume of Tokyo Ghoul reads like an urban legend: Ken Kaneki, earnest college student, goes out for dinner with a pretty girl, but wakes up in the hospital with a brand-new set of organs… that used to belong to his date. Within a few days of his release, Kaneki begins turning into a flesh-eating monster, a side effect of the transplant surgery. Volume two picks up where volume one left off: now caught between the human and demon worlds, Kaneki casts his lot with the demons of cafe Anteiku. They teach him tricks for passing as a human, and warn him about the deep divide between the ghouls who embrace their predator status and those who feel some kinship with humanity.

Although volume two introduces several new and potentially interesting characters, Kaneki’s wet-blanket personality continues to put a damper on the story: he whines and frets and refuses to do anything that might compromise the reader’s good opinion of him. As anyone who’s read Death Note knows, however, a charismatic, intelligent protagonist doesn’t have to be good or right to command the audience’s sympathy — someone who’s flawed, misguided, or tempted to abuse a new-found power might actually invite more self-identification than a goody two-shoes lead.

The verdict: Tokyo Ghoul isn’t bad, just a little too obvious to sustain my interest.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media.

Reviews: Joe McCulloch looks at the new English-language version of Comics Zenon, Michelle Smith and Anna N. post a fresh set of Bookshelf Briefs, and Vernieda Vergara asks if Bleach has overstayed its welcome.

Connie on vol. 19 of Bakuman (Slightly Biased Manga)
Julie on The Desert Lord’s Bride (Manga Maniac Cafe)
Ash Brown on Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories (Experiments in Manga)
Connie on vol. 3 of Earthian (Slightly Biased Manga)
Kory Cerjak on vol. 47 of Fairy Tail (The Fandom Post)
James Ristig on Full Metal Alchemist (How to Love Comics)
Matthew Alexander on vol. 1 of Hayate Cross Blade (The Fandom Post)
Connie on vol. 11 of Kamisama Kiss (Slightly Biased Manga)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 23 of Kaze Hikaru (Anime News Network)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 1 of Komomo Confisere (WatchPlayRead)
Jordan Richards on vol. 1 of Komomo Confiserie (AiPT!)
Connie on vol. 14 of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Slightly Biased Manga)
Angel Cruz on vols. 1-2 of Love at Fourteen (Women Write About Comics)
Lori Henderson on vols. 1-3 of Neon Genesis Evangelion (Manga Xanadu)
Ken H. on vol. 1 of Ninja Slayer Kills! (Sequential Ink)
Matthew Warner on vol. 10 of Nisekoi: False Love (The Fandom Post)
Connie on vol. 4 of No. 6 (Slightly Biased Manga)
Jocelyn Allen on Nobara (Brain vs. Book)
David Brooke on vol. 1 of Noragami: Stray God (AiPT!)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 1 of One-Punch Man (WatchPlayRead)
Kristin on vols. 1-2 of One-Punch Man (Comic Attack)
Jordan Richards on vol. 2 of One-Punch Man (AiPT!)
Matthew Warner on vol. 18 of Rin-ne (The Fandom Post)
Sarah on vol. 1 of The Royal Tutor (Anime UK News)
Al Sparrow on vol. 1 of So I Can’t Play H (Comic Spectrum)
Helen on Sweetness and Lightning (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses)
Dustin Cabeal on vol. 1 of Tokyo Ghoul (Comic Bastards)
Matthew Warner on vol. 1 of Tokyo Ghoul (The Fandom Post)
Connie on vol. 6 of Toradora! (Slightly Biased Manga)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 29 of Toriko (Sequential Tart)
Adam Capps on vol. 1 of Ultraman (BentoByte)
Michael Burns on vol. 3 of Yamada-Kun and the Seven Witches (AniTAY)

Vertical Confirms New 2016 License

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Manga Review Index

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

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

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

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

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

The Manga Revue: Ultraman

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

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

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

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

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

In contrast to the introduction, which is a model of economy, the first chapter sags under the weight of too much expository dialogue. (A sample exchange: “We certainly don’t see much of each other these days.” “Right, even though I work at the Ministry of Defense, too.”) The pace improves with the sudden appearance of Be Mular–one of Ultraman’s old adversaries–who lures the inexperienced Shinjiro into a rooftop battle. Although the script has a familiar rhythm–powerful attacks punctuated by snappy one-liners–the fight choreography is well executed; you can almost feel the force of Shinjiro’s punches. Equally important, the fight’s outcome is not a foregone conclusion: the chapter ends on a cliffhanger just as Shinjiro realizes that he isn’t strong enough to protect his family from Be Mular… yet.

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

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

Review copy provided by VIZ Media.

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

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

The Manga Revue: A Brief History of Manga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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