Bookmarked! 11/12/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Did You Eat Yesterday 5

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

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

Genshiken Second Season 5

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

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

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

Judge5

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

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

Garden of Words

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

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

Miyazaki Talks Manga; Ninja Overload

MiyazakiSamuraiTop

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, legendary director Hayao Miyazaki discusses his current project: a manga about samurai warriors. Don’t hold your breath, however; Miyazaki told Variety that he doubts he’ll finish it. “I wanted to put a lot of  effort into it, ignoring costs, like a hobby,” he tells the magazine. “I thought I’d have free time, but I keep getting project offers.”

As Naruto draws to a close, Jason Thompson attempts the impossible: he’s reading the entire series in 48 hours, recording his impressions as he goes. The first installment is now live, and covers volumes 1-27.

Speaking of everyone’s favorite spiky-haired ninja, worldwide sales figures for Naruto have topped 200 million volumes. Though the lion’s share of books were sold in Japan, fans in 35 countries around the world have purchased a whopping 75 million volumes during the series’ fifteen-year run.

Masashi Kishimoto chats with The Asahi Shimbun about the phenomenal success of Naruto.

The latest installments of Attack on Titan and Black Butler top this week’s New York Times Manga Bestseller list.

Good news for anyone who missed Ode to Kirihito the first time around: Vertical Comics will be re-issuing ten classic Tezuka titles in ebook form.

In other licensing news, Seven Seas announced two more Alice in the Country of… manga, while VIZ added two new titles to its Shojo Beat line-up: Hiro Fujiwara’s Maid-Sama! (formerly published by Tokyopop) and Maki Minami’s Komomo Confiserie.

News from Japan: Io Sakisaka’s Blue Spring Ride is winding down, as is Yukinori Kitajima and Yuki Kodama’s detective series Hamatora.

Reviews: Alexander Hoffman reviews Monokuro Kinderbook, an oldie but goodie from the Fanfare/Ponet Mon catalog. Over at the Infinite Rainy Day, Jonathan Kaharl shares a list of his favorite horror manga, from xxxHolic to Franken Fran.

Nic Wilcox on vols. 1-4 of Alice in the Country of Jokers (No Flying No Tights)
Leroy Douresseaux on All You Need Is Kill (Comic Book Bin)
Alice Vernon on vol. 1 of Barakamon (Girls Read Comics)
Matthew Warner on vol. 4 of Bloody Cross (The Fandom Post)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 12 of Blue Exorcist (Lesley’s Musings on Anime & Manga)
Ken H. on vols. 40-41 of Fairy Tail (Sequential Ink)
Megan R. on Hetalia: Axis Powers (Manga Test Drive)
Kristin on vol. 1 of Kiss of the Rose Princess (Comic Attack)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 1 of Kiss of the Rose Princess (Lesley’s Musings on Anime & Manga)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 23 of Naruto (Lesley’s Musings on Anime & Manga)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 16 of Rin-ne (Comic Book Bin)
Khursten Santos on Sono Otoko Amatou nitsuki (Otaku Champloo)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 7 of Until Death Do Us Part (The Fandom Post)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 1 of Voice Over! Seiyu Academy (Lesley’s Musings on Anime & Manga)

 

Attack on Titan Conquers All

I wrote a roundup of the current manga scene for SLJTeen newsletter, with notes on publishing trends (omnibuses, license rescues) and some recommended series.

CBR has more details on the Attack on Titan/Marvel crossover, including where it’s going to run: In the Japanese culture magazine Brutus.

Lori Henderson looks at this week’s new manga at Manga Xanadu.

The Manga Bookshelf team discusses next week’s new manga, and Melinda Beasi has some pix of the new Pandora Hearts art book.

Attack on Titan creator Hajime Isayama was named “Tourism Friendship Ambassador to the ‘Beautiful Riverside Location of Hita,'” his home town in Oita Prefecture. Isayama came back to his hometown for a two-day cultural event, “Shingeki no Satogaeri” (Attack on Returning Home), and during a talk show that was part of the event, he said that the landscape of the area was his inspiration for the setting of Attack on Titan.

Three volumes of Attack on Titan make the BookScan best-seller list, which tracks graphic novel sales in bookstores; just like in the old days, the latest volume of Naruto tops the list, and vol. 19 of Vampire Knight is there as well.

Naruto comes to an end next week, but it’s not really going away: Next week’s issue of Shonen Jump includes an announcement that a new mini-series will launch in the spring, and a couple of novels are already in the works. What’s more, something called the “Naruto Shin Jidai Kaimaku Project” (Naruto’s New Era Opening Project) has a countdown for a big announcement on Monday. So stay tuned!

Kadokawa launched its Book Walker app this week with an array of titles, some old, some new.

Laura looks at the series currently running in BetsuHana magazine.

Reviews: Sean Gaffney and Anna N. look at some new releases from Viz, Seven Seas, and Vertical in the latest edition of Bookshelf Briefs. Ash Brown looks back at the week in manga at Experiments in Manga.

Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Barakamon (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Ein Gamagori on vol. 2 of Food Wars (The Fandom Post)
Anna N. on vol. 1 of Kiss of the Rose Princess (Manga Report)
Sarah on vol. 12 of Library Wars (nagareboshi reviews)
Kory Cerjak on vol. 8 of Magi (The Fandom Post)
Erica Friedman on vol. 1 of Mebae (Okazu)
Matthew Warner on vol. 5 of Nisekoi (The Fandom Post)
Ash Brown on vol. 9 of No. 6 (Experiments in Manga)
Sakura Eries on vol. 17 of Oresama Teacher (The Fandom Post)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire (ANN)
Sarah on Sword Art Online: Aincrad (nagareboshi reviews)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 0 of Übel Blatt (A Case Suitable for Treatment)

Marvel Universe to Invade Attack on Titan

AoT Marvel Crossover

Marvel editor CB Cebulski Tweeted some startling news yesterday:

Not a joke, folks. Attack on Titan and the @Marvel universe are crossing over!

And then he posted the sample art above.

ANN collected all CB’s Tweets about the crossove, and Steve Sunu has a bit more at CBR, but the Marvel folks haven’t said much beyond the original Tweet. We know the crossover is happening in Japan, but presumably they will be bringing it over to the U.S. as well.

Reaction on Twitter and the CBR boards has been mostly positive; it may be that the Marvel and Attack on Titan audiences are already crossing over, and the story is just following them.

Naruto Goes Out with a Bang

Here’s the word on the final episode of Naruto, which is coming very, very soon: It will be two chapters long, with the second chapter in color, and it will be “astonishing.”

New Seven Seas title No Game, No Life tops this week’s New York Times Manga Bestseller list, followed by the latest volumes of Naruto and Food Wars.

The Manga Bookshelf gang take a gander at this week’s new manga arrivals.

How would you like to receive college credit for reading manga? That offer sounded appealing to hundreds of students at Taiwan’s National Cheng Chi University, who vied for one of 120 seats in Professor Cai Zeng Jia’s class “Japan Through Manga.” On the syllabus: Sanctuary, Dragon Zakura, and The Drops of God. 

Variety critic Peter Debruge shares his thoughts on Parasyte: Part 1, which recently debuted at the Tokyo Film Festival.

The Tezuka Museum is sponsoring a retrospective of manga-influenced drawings and paintings by Kiyoshiro Imawano, Japan’s “King of Rock.”

Weekly Shonen Jump editor Jean-Baptiste Akira Hattori’s advice for anyone wanting to break into the manga biz? Read widely, and don’t limit your interests to manga and anime.

Erica Friedman rounds up the latest yuri anime and manga news at Okazu.

Melinda Beasi shares three of her favorite sequences from Heart of Thomas, Please Save My Earth, and xxxHolic.

In case you missed it: the ladies of Women Write About Comics list their five favorite feminist horror series. Two manga–Rumiko Takahashi’s Mermaid Saga and Kyoko Okazaki’s Helter Skelter–make the cut.

Time is running out for you to purchase a Humble Horror Book Bundle. Among the goodies you’ll receive are volumes 1-3 of Knights of Sidonia. Proceeds go to benefit one of our favorite causes: the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

News from Japan: Artist Lalko Kojima (Hoshikuzu Drop/Stardust Drop) has had to cancel an autograph session scheduled for the Animate Girls Festival due to a threat. Go Nagai’s new series, Devilman Saga, will launch on December 25 in Big Comic, while Ayumi Komura (Mixed Vegetables) will begin a new manga in January 2015 in Margaret. And speaking of foodie manga, Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki’s Food Wars will be making the leap from page to screen in 2015.

Reviews: Shaenon Garrity takes a look at the horror and romance tropes in Midnight Secretary in her House of 1000 Manga column at ANN.

Joseph Medina on vol. 1 of Ajin (Joseph Medina)
Sean Gaffney on Alice in the Country of Diamonds: Bet on My Heart (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Kristin on vol. 1 of All You Need Is Kill (Comic Attack)
L.B. Bryant on vol. 1 of Barakamon (ICv2)
Sakura Eries on vol. 1 of Barakamon (The Fandom Post)
Megan R. on Crimson Cross (Manga Test Drive)
Ken H. on vols. 1-2 of Doubt! (Sequential Ink)
Jared Nelson on vol. 11 of The Flowers of Evil (Ani-Gamers)
Erica Friedman on vol. 1 of Hayate x Blade 2 (Okazu)
Evan Minto on Helter Skelter: Fashion Unfriendly (Ani-Gamers)
Mad Manga on vol. 1 of Honey Blood (Cartoon Geek Corner)
Angela Sylvia on vol. 15 of Kamisama Kiss (The Fandom Post)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 1 of Kiss of the Rose Princess (Comic Book Bin)
Mad Manga on Legal Drug Omnibus (Cartoon Geek Corner)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 19 of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (The Fandom Post)
Sarah on vol. 67 of Naruto and vol. 72 of One Piece (nagareboshi reviews)
Naru on No Longer Heroine (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses)
Matthew Warner on vol. 72 of One Piece (The Fandom Post)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 17 of Oresama Teacher (Comic Book Bin)
Megan R. on Petshop of Horrors (Manga Test Drive)
Rebecca Silverman on vols. 1-2 of Raqiya (Anime News Network)
Tony Yao on Ruroni Kenshin (Manga Therapy)
Matthew Warner on vol. 2 of Seraph of the End (The Fandom Post)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 7 of Sherlock Bones (Anime News Network)
Ash Brown on Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror (Experiments in Manga)
Laura on vol. 19 of Vampire Knight (Heart of Manga)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 19 of Vampire Knight (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Matthew Warner on vol. 6 of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5DS  (The Fandom Post)

Bookmarked! 10/29/14

Welcome to another edition of Bookmarked, our weekly feature in which Kate and I, and an invited guest, discuss what we’re reading this week. These are not formal reviews—they are more like works-in-progress, and we totally claim the right to have opinions about manga we haven’t finished yet. Our guest this week is Justin S, founder of Organization Anti-Social Geniuses. Take it away, Justin!

Justin: Last week, Deb and Kate ended up choosing My Love Story!! as titles they’ve been reading recently. Brigid chose Barakamon. Both are titles I’ve also read in the past week and probably would have chosen for this column had they not been covered already. I’m only bringing this up because I just want to say you should definitely be checking out those works as they’re both pretty great.

But I think I have a fairly solid backup to those two titles, and while it’s been finished for a while now, it still manages to chill me every time I turn the page: Monster!

Monster 2

For Vol 2 of the Perfect Edition of Monster, the search for cold blooded killer Johan is on for Tenma and Anna, while they both have to deal with their troubles: Tenma’s been framed for murders he didn’t commit, while Anna has to delve into the seedy backgrounds of Frankfurt and avoid getting into unnecessary trouble. During their search, the past of Johan—how he got himself into the situations he did as a child, the people involved with him, his true personality, or personalities—are uncovered, and this discovery only leads the two to conclude one thing: They must stop him, at any cost.

Monster is always going to be a weird beast for me. I’ve read this story a couple of times, yet each and every time I read it again, it feels like something new happens and I’m taken aback. In this omnibus format, the experience of seeing seemingly minor characters like Heckel the thief and Schumann the doctor (who lives in a remote area) and how they influence the story this time around is exciting and fresh! Yeah, we know who the story really revolves around and those guys ultimately are the focus, but I find that in re-reading some works, sometimes the other things, like the supporting characters, take your attention that makes you appreciate the ongoing journey. In this case for example, just seeing a regular nurse treat a kid that Tenma, who is wanted for murder, gives to her and has to leave for some time, and then watch her give the kid to someone else—that someone else happened to be abusing the kid—even though rationally, she is supposed to give the kid up because he’s the guardian and has no knowledge of how he’s been treated, makes me angry. Predictable, probably, but being predictable can be a good thing if everything else is set up properly. That is one of the reasons Monster still continues to be so great even despite time passing by, and I can only thank Viz enough for re-releasing it in this brand new version.

GTO Paradise Lost

Another manga that’s gotten my attention is on Crunchyroll. It has something to do with “delinquent, former gang leader” “Teacher” and “immature schoolkids with a host of problems.”

That practically sums up Fujisawa’s latest GTO iteration, Paradise Lost. As the sequel to GTO, it’s still grounded in the same roots that’s made the series popular: Onizuka is not the normal teacher, most of his co-workers are out to get him fired, and he has to deal with problem kids… that also are out to get him fired. This time however, he has to deal with students who are also idols, which means they bring their stardom (and their fans), along with their sense of superiority and arrogance, to the classroom. Needless to say, Onizuka doesn’t stand for that, especially if that means treating the lesser classmates that may not be stars but have an importance nonetheless, like trash.

I knew going in that I was probably going to like this new version of Onizuka, but I’m surprised I like it as much as I do. It’s still the same as all the others, but the angle of working with a former model, teaching a bunch of kids that are destined to be famous, and seeing how he does it considering how they act inside and outside of school has been neat. It’s gotten pretty crazy recently with one idol who can’t stand Onizuka, to the point where he decided it’d be cool to let one of his stalker fans kill Onizuka. But as always, Onizuka finds a way to survive it, though whether he’ll have success teaching him a lesson…well, he probably will eventually, but it’s still too early to say. Anyways, while the art still remains somewhat of a distraction, this is still classic GTO, and hard to turn down.

Well, the art does have its good moments.

Kate: I had a similar experience re-reading Monster this summer: I found myself more interested in the subplots and supporting characters than in Tenma’s quest to find Johann. I often feel like Urasawa does his best work on the periphery of the main story, populating it with memorable people who feel truer-to-life than his lead characters. He also does a better job of wrapping up these brief story arcs; much as I love Monster, Pluto, and 20th Century Boys, Urasawa can’t end a series to save his life.

Zipang

Speaking of older gems, I’ve been reading the first volumes of Kaiji Kawaguchi’s time-traveling thriller Zipang. Kodansha published a bilingual edition in 2002, and while they didn’t translate the whole series, it’s still a good read. The premise is uncannily similar to The Final Countdown (1980), a cheesy Martin Sheen-Kirk Doulgas flick in which an American aircraft carrier is accidentally transported back to 1941. The crew then must decide whether to use their superior weaponry to thwart the bombing of Pearl Harbor or allow history to follow its textbook course. Zipang tells a similar story from a Japanese perspective: the crew members of the Mirai, a state-of-the-art destroyer, find themselves deposited in the Pacific theater on the eve of Midway. You can guess what happens next: characters debate the ethics of altering the space-time continuum while engaging in some good old-fashioned sea battles. This time-traveling gimmick has been done to death, but I have a terrible fondness for hyper-serious manly-man manga, especially when the pacing and artwork are as crisp as Kawaguchi’s. I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to read the whole series–at 43 volumes, it’s easy to guess why no American publisher would touch it—but can’t help but wish that Crunchyroll would license it.

Brigid: I also have been reading My Love Story!!, and I especially enjoy the art and the way that Aruko uses patterns and screentones to express emotion—every time Yamato does something that Takeo finds unspeakably cute, his profile is filled with streaks of lightning. It’s totally over the top, but that’s what makes it so funny.

I’ll weigh in on Monster as well: I agree with Kate about Urasawa’s endings. The end of Monster made me want to throw the book across the room. It’s a shame, because Urasawa is a master storyteller, and I love following all the story threads, so it’s disappointing when the series just goes “pfft” at the end.

Noragami 1

I started a couple of promising series this week. One was Noragami, a comedy about a homeless god, Yato, who makes up in attitude for what he lacks in tact. The book begins with Yato somewhat reluctantly helping a bullied girl—as so often happens in manga, the chief culprits are not her jerky schoolmates but supernatural creatures called ayakashi. Yato slashes them to ribbons with the help of his shinki (“divine weapon”), a girl who becomes a knife at his command, but then his shinki leaves. Perhaps this is one of those manga that started as a one-shot chapter in a magazine, because this first chapter stands completely apart from the rest of the story.

What happens next is a bit confusing: A girl named Hiyori is hit by a bus and almost dies, or has some sort of near-death experience, and while she seems to have recovered, she keeps slipping out of her body. She attaches herself to Yato, and it looks like maybe she will become his new shinki, but noooo, some other dude shows up at the end. So I’m not sure where the Hiyori thing is going. There’s plenty to like about this book anyway, though, with lots of humor in this book (including the fact that Hiyori is a closet wrestling fan) and just enough action. Adachitoka lays on the screentones with a heavy hand (and not as skillfully as Aruko), which makes the art hard to look at sometimes, but the characters themselves are well drawn and well defined. I’ll be on board for at least one more volume of this one. Bonus points for the extensive translation notes in the back!

World Trigger 1

I thought that World Trigger might be something special, as Viz released the first two volumes at once, but it seems pretty average. It’s your basic Shonen Jump story about teenagers protecting the world (or in this case, Mikado City) from invaders from outer space, the Neighbors. The group of protectors is called Border, and they have the usual tightly fitted uniforms and cool weapons (they get a special battling body when they fight, which minimizes damage to the actual body). There are a couple of twists in the book: The main character, Osamu Mikumo, is a low-level trainee who isn’t much of a fighter. However, he is a very ethical guy who won’t allow a classmate to be bullied or allow one of the bullies to be eaten by a space monster that pops up out of nowhere. The bullied classmate is the new kid in town, who seems a bit more clueless than he ought to be. It’s hard to say more without giving the plot away, but there is a bit more to it than your average fighting-the-monsters story. If you like a book with a lot of battles, this is one to try, but by the beginning of volume 2, I had had enough.