Archive for the 'Manga Review' Category

More manga as a Fantagraphics kickstarter stretch goal

by dm00


The Fantagraphics Kickstarter to jump-start their spring catalog has added a new stretch goal: if they reach $250,000 (by Thursday 5 December 2013), they’ll “increase our line of literary and experimental manga translation.”

(The Kickstarter page is maybe a little NSFW.)

They’ve been printing Wandering Son, works by Moto Hagio, and will be bringing out Inio Asano’s Nijigahara Holograph.

Wandering Son and Nijigahara Holograph may be pre-ordered as premiums on this Kick-starter.

Ohikkoshi – Hiroaki Samura does comedy in a modern setting

by dm00

animepaper.net_picture_standard_artists_samura_hiroaki_ohikkoshi_140294_rauzan_preview-f5a0ff13Ohikkoshi is an anthology of short stories from Blade of the Immortal‘s Hiroaki Samura.

Blade of the Immortal has always looked too violent for me, so I’ve never looked into it — though I can appreciate the artistic talent of the creator.

Ohikkoshi, published by Dark Horse, is a collection of three comic short stories set in the contemporary world.  The title story is about a collection of college-age ne’er do-wells drinking, forming bands, encountering Italian assassins, and missing connections when it comes to love.

Continue reading ‘Ohikkoshi – Hiroaki Samura does comedy in a modern setting’

Yumekui Kenbun — Nightmare Inspector

by dm00

A recent Jason Thompson column about Yumekui Kenbun — Nightmare Inspector sent me off to the library. This is a delightful mild-horror series. The art is very nice (with some wonderful dream concepts). In the first three volumes, at least, I’d say the writing is stronger than that of xxxHoLic, in a similar genre. xxxHoLic makes better use of drifting smoke and textiles, Yumekui Kenbun is a little better at the fantastic, I think.

Hiroku is a baku — a dream-eater. He hangs out in the Silver Star Tea Shop (which basically destroys the shop’s business, as only people afflicted by nightmares go there). While at first the series seems pretty nightmare-of-the-week episodic, by the third volume we’re seeing links among some of the dreams and dreamers. After reading the first few volumes from the library, I’ve decided this is a series I want to add to my collection. Continue reading ‘Yumekui Kenbun — Nightmare Inspector’

Do androids dream of electric teddybears? Gunslinger Girl manga omnibus v6

by dm00

Triela armed for bear.

Triela armed for bear.

Well: that’s pretty conclusive.

There’s not a lot one can say about the sixth omnibus collection of Gunslinger Girl without bringing in spoilers, but I am going to try to avoid them.

This book is full of ghosts. You know it’s going to be grim by the time you get to page three.

Triela, whose self-awareness has always been a critical part of this series, has a couple of truly wonderful moments in conversation with Hilshire. The bumbling Hilshire (along with Petrushka’s Alessandro) has replaced Jose as the center of sanity among the fratelli. The choices that Hilshire and Jose make in this volume might not be the ones you have been expecting.

And damn, Alessandro (Petrushka’s fratello) is in full Sherlock mode. In a book that’s been nonstop action for 200 pages, I think it’s a brilliant move to have the climax come in the form of a drawn-out conversation.

Triela, Hilshire, Petrushka and Alessandro appear to be different replies to the stories of the characters who find themselves using others as tools. Some embrace that exploitation, some are torn with guilt as they see themselves doing it, some reject the exploitation at first, but then their focus returns to the ends they think justify their means.

The action is just a little confused — there are a lot of second-generation cyborgs in the action sequences, so there are a lot of new characters. There’s a lot of young people among the Padanian terrorists, too, so it’s sometimes hard to know who is who, especially when you add the new fratelli to the mix.

The book has many pages of “the world of Gunslinger Girl” — cultural notes about Italy.
Jason Thompson just mused on the topic of manga as travelogue in his column at ANN. It’s easy to see Aria as a tourist brochure, but surprisingly, maybe Gunslinger Girl is one, too.

There’s one more volume to go, even though there aren’t many loose ends left (and there are a surprising number of threads brought into play in this volume). I’m wondering if the next volume is going to be a “20 years later” sort of epilogue to the series.

The final volume of the series will be released in July. When it is, I expect to re-read the series from beginning to end.

Manga: House of Five Leaves ends

by dm00

All in the family

Viz’s Ikki imprint recently finished their run of the eight-volume manga series House of Five Leaves by Natsume Ono.

The series tells the story of an Edo-era gang of kidnappers, who ransom members of rich families. Masanosuke is a mostly honest, but disgraced ronin who reluctantly becomes involved with the gang when he meets the enigmatic Yaichi, their leader. Others in the gang are Ume, the sake-house owner; Otake, a geisha whom Yaichi redeemed from bondage in a brothel; Matsukichi, the distrustful burglar and spy. They’re not Robin Hoods — the proceeds go to various purposes, though in at least one case the victim stays his vengeful hand when he discovers where the money went.

Like most of Ono’s work, it is a slow, subtle character study. Many readers may have found it too slow, especially in volumes five through seven. I think that frustration at pacing has been aggravated by the wait between volumes. The wait is over: now is the time to pick up the series, so you can read it all through from beginning to end, with no need to wait for the payoff.

The final volume wraps up the story nicely, providing a wonderful conclusion to the subtle development that’s gone on in the past few volumes.

In the end, the manga is about family. It weaves its story with threads of several (mostly) dysfunctional families — kidnapping victims, Yaichi’s past and his ghosts, Masanosuke’s trouble with his brother, to the various gangs past and present. The Five Leaves may be the healthiest of the lot, even if we’ve spent the last few volumes wondering if Yaichi is going to betray them all in order to escape the past that is catching up with him.

The past several volumes carry the story beyond the end of the anime, introducing a new major character (a foil for Yaichi) In them, Masanosuke grows to accept his lot (and to achieve a good deal of nobility in the process): he teaches his brother a lesson about duty, he sacrifices to save his friends, he becomes Yaichi’s path to redemption; we learn the story of Yaichi’s past and the reason the Five Leaves works through kidnapping; we see the retiring of some old debts, and the forgiveness of others.

Ono’s art is a little like deliberately-crude CLAMP: her characters are long and lanky, drawn with heavy lines with dark voids for eyes. An acquired taste, perhaps, but a refreshing change from BESM cliche, well-suited to the subtle play of expression on her characters’ faces. Melancholy CLAMP: her characters have made mistakes and are living with the consequences. Adult CLAMP: there’s not a pretty boy to be seen, but Otake would be fine company for XxxHoLic’s Yuuko.

I like the presentation of the series, with the paperback covers folded over like dust-jackets, with page-sizes large enough to do Ono’s artwork justice, and inks and paper that gives the contrast and weight that her line-work demands. Viz might be better served by re-releasing the series as a pair of omnibus volumes.

Clockwork Sky: Steam-powered Astroboy/Dickens in Metropolis

by dm00

Cover of “Clockwork Sky”

Madeleine Rosca, author of the delightful rag-punk Hollow Fields returns with a steam-punk story that looks like it will reimagine Astroboy in a Dickensian Metropolis London.

Sally Peppers is a girl with an aptitude for things mechanical and a fascination for velocity in a London full of people left unemployed by her uncle’s steam-powered robots. She chafes at the restrictions Victorian England puts on the female children of the upper classes, and becomes adept at escaping parental supervision.

On one high-speed outing she enters a race through London’s sewers — the illegitimate entertainment of the unemployed. There, she encounters Sky, her uncle’s new steam-powered police-boy, dispatched to return her to Proper Society.

Together, they stumble on a sinister secret lurking in the sewers.

The art is energetic and fresh. The writing is solid, though perhaps there’s little innovation in plot or characterization: Sally is spunky, Sky is rule-bound and earnest, Sally’s uncle looks like a Tezuka villain. Some of the side-characters bear watching: Sky’s police commander seems poised between corruption and duty, and the London Sally lives in promises to be a complex mix of technology and poverty. I look forward to finding out what place Sally will find for herself there.

Ryushika, Ryushika 4: further adventures of Yoshitoshi ABe’s Yotsuba-with-attitude

by dm00


In volume four of Yoshitoshi ABe’s tale of a young girl, Ryushika has an encounter with mortality (saying farewell to Buuuuuunnnnnn, a beloved refrigerator), explores the transience of existence tutored by a Taiko-Taiko-Revolution game, and meets her match in a staring contest on the subway.

This old lady knows how to push Ryushika’s buttons (the actual manga page is in color).

Along the way, Hamu, her brother’s pet chameleon is Ryushika’s guide to the nocturnal world of lucid dreaming, and her family watches a movie.

The series is charming, surreal, and has a flavor of the word- and conceptual-games of Lewis Carroll.

The humor is primarily visual, but as always, Ryushika’s dialoge is in hiragana.  Some of the adults around her use kanji.  The books are easily read by anyone with a bit of Japanese grammar under their belt.

Available or (with more affordable shipping) from:

xxxHoLIc graphic novel 19: ending with a bang-up whimper

by dm00

Those butterflies are there for a reason

The end.

Continue reading ‘xxxHoLIc graphic novel 19: ending with a bang-up whimper’

The Authors (with others, too.)

The Good Old Days

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