Category Archives: Manga Reviews

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is not a light read.

It has been a while since I have done a graphic novel review, and this is a book I would recommend older teens to college age students to read. Shigeru Mizuki is considered to be a living mangaka legend, well respected and influential to generations of Japanese manga readers. His work GeGeGe no Kitaro, popularized the concept of youkai usage in manga, so if you mention either the title or author to any Japanese they definitely would know it.

However that work is still not avaliable in English, so rather last month at Mocca, I saw Drawn & Quarterly release one of Mizuki’s wartime memoirs, Onward Towards Our Noble Death. The story is a semi-autobiographical account from the mangaka’s own experiences fighting in World War II, where in real life he did survive and only lost an arm.

War is not a pretty thing, and as history pointed out, Japan took the role of a aggressor. American’s may know of the famous Bataan Death March, but Onward Towards Our Noble Death, is from the perspective of Japanese soldiers surviving and taking a last ditch desperate stand on the island to what is to be known as Papua New Guinea.

At the beginning of the book, there is a roll call of who is going to be in the unit/cast, but the simplistic style of Mizuki proves a challenge to keep a track of who’s who in the events of the story. There are detailed black and white depictions of background art, since that is what Mizuki is known for, comedic depictions of humans but great detail for background. The cultural notes from the text is quite interesting, and reading this book made me think that in war there really is not victor. There is always victims and hardships for both sides involved.

If you want to definitely want to see a comparison in film, Letters from Iwo Jima covers a similar scenario that Onward Towards Our Noble Death did.

 

A New York City evening with mangaka Natsume Ono

New York City manga fans recently had an opportunity to meet Natsume Ono, the author of not Simple, Ristorante Paradiso, Gente, and House of Falling Leaves. The titles just listed are works that are available in English, and from those works, Ristorante Paradiso and House of Falling Leaves have been adapted into anime. This event took place at midtown’s Kinokuniya. There was an author talk, and then book signing. Since there were so many fans, everyone was allowed only one item to be signed.

Due to the author’s camera shyness, there was a no photo policy, but the table where the talk was conducted was filled with her manga in English and Japanese, so I snapped a photo of that. The author talk was conducted by Megumi Sato of Samurai Beat Radio, and the event began slightly early since the space was packed with appreciative fans.

I didn’t have my recorder, but with my iPad I spent the event tapping away at notes, so this entry is going to be summing of my notes. Natsume Ono was physically petite, and looking at her, you definitely wouldn’t believe that she is over 30. She was a soft spoken women with long wavy hair and glasses. She was dressed in an outfit that was of typical Japanese fashion, that a friend commented probably won’t be as popular in the U.S. (Simple orange toned shirt dress with a olive green leggings).

This was Natsume Ono’s first appearance at Kinokuniya, but not her first time in New York City. Her prior trip to New York City was to conduct research for a not translated manga titled Coppers, that depicts the New York Police Department.

Her inspiration for Ristorante Paradiso came as she was studying abroad at Italy. In Ristorante there is the mention of food a lot, so Ono mentions that she wanted to draw about everyday life. Eating provides a ready setting of conversation and what she wanted to depict. Family is also a very important part of her writing.

Personally, she loves her father, so there was a dango experience in her life.  One time when her father was not traveling with her and her mother, he personally arranged for dangos to be delivered to the ryokkan where they were staying at. So on the phone, he mentions that he wanted to share the same dessert at the same time they were having it.

She has a sweet tooth, but also likes alcohol, and potatoes… (french fries, and the U.S. has so many different type of fries). She is also a fan of Hill Street Blues, and REM. In a typical work day, she starts early, but as the day goes longer…she would end up drinking alcohol, then working some more, with finally falling asleep. (Typical salary man behavior as Megumi comments). There are typically no established days that she gets to take off with nothing to do, but if there are things to do with friends and family, off she goes.

She has drawn a version of something similar to herself in La Quinta Camera, and this is a work that would be translated/released around July. Ono is set to have a new series at this time in the Japanese version of ikki, the work is untitled. But is set in Edo featuring two men around Kawasaki Temple. She wants to eventually experience writing fantasy or a manga work with lots and lots of characters.

By this time the audience question segment came on, and there were questions about what inspires her. She stated that she was very impressed by the anime adaptations, since it went beyond her expectations. When inquired about Ristorante Paradiso and the many gentleman’s appearances. She confirms to female sequels in the audience that she has a thing for reading glasses.

After the audience questions, a line began for her book signing, and I am very impressed. She drew for every fan a depiction of their favorite character. When it was my turn, I request for a picture of Gigi, and I got this cute image of him eating. I also got a postcard depicting images of the Ono Kuma, (Natsume Ono’s mascot). I was pretty happy, and ended up also with another autograph image of Claudio, a friend of mine was great to wait on line for me. (Can I just say that I really liked Ristorante Paradiso a lot, when I first watched the series.)

Now several days later, I am still feeling happy from my experience at meeting Natsume Ono. I am crossing my fingers here, Natsume Ono as a writer has also written several bl manga, under the name of Basso. So I spent some time trying to think about any publishers that would snap up her older works. Kodansha USA maybe for her Coppers work, or what other publisher in the United States would want to publish her bl-works? DMP?

May 29, 2011 EDIT: Samurai Beat Radio has actual audio podcast of event, so here check out Part 1 and Part 2.

April MMF: Ranma 1/2 Artbook – A Feast For a Fanboy’s Eyes

Everyone should have at least once in their lifetime encounter Ranma 1/2. It is after all the standard of many current harem type anime comedies. Rob of Panel Patter has been spending a year covering the series of Ranma, and now he is running a weekly Takahashi Rumiko feast on his blog. Even on my own blog, I have written about five other entries for the feast. But seeing that I have covered art books on this site. Here I go!

This version of the art book has out of print for a while, you can still find used copies of it online. Actually around six years ago, I saw a copy of this in London, but didn’t think to pick it up until now. If you collect anime/manga art books you may have realized that many of them is quite costly since it is usually an imported product, but many American publishers of manga, has translated some artbook, so this is definitely a wallet saver. The Art of Ranma 1/2 has many quintessential images of the manga represented in this book.

Lets see the table content are pretty clear in what is the subject of this book.

  • Boys and Girls
  • Everybody Together
  • Everything in Martial Arts
  • Girls in Love
  • Relationship Chart
  • Rivalry Chart
  • Rumiko Takahashi Interview

So there you have it, a treat for any fan of this classic tale of Ranam 1/2. Definitely a favorite depiction of Ranma and cast is in China style clothing.

Shampoo is also a fan favorite, so there are many pleasing images of her. Although she was never my favorite, since of the entire female fiancees, with the exception of female Ranma, I have always been an Ukyou fan. Who is your favorite?

There’s a great deal of manga depiction of many supporting characters, especially in those fantastic group pictures. So for fans who are only familiar with the anime, there is the manga look of characters as well. This is a pure feast for the eyes of any Ranma 1/2 fans, and the comments that are written is in English, so definitely.

Kamisama Kiss – Are you sure you want to be kissed?

Kamisama Kiss
Story and Art by Julietta Suzuki
Published by Viz Media/Shojo Beat. 200 pages. 2010 $9.99

Nanami Momozono is quite alone after her deadbeat father ran out on her. She unwittingly becomes a Tochigami, after she saves a man from being mauled, and accepts his offer of staying at his home. Adjusting to being a god is not easy, especially with the shrine’s Shinshi, Tomoe a fox youkai. How can she even adjust, and just what would she have to give up? As a god, in order to get the obedience of youkai for her shrine, she has to kiss him.. (Tomoe). If Tomoe hates her guts then what?

Now what is a Tochigami and a Shinshi? As the book describes it, they are a location god and a familiar. I was pretty amused by this story, since it reminded me of a lot of Chinese mythical folk tales, such as the aspect of 土地公. That’s what I thought when I read of Nanami’s role. Then I thought of Tomoe as the image below.

Julietta Suzuki shouldn’t be as unfamiliar to manga readers. She has published Karakuri Odette in the past, and it happened to be a MMF pick. So this is her newest manga to be published in the United States. On Amazon, there is three more volumes scheduled to be released this year. Volume 2 has already been released.

Now what points that made me smile about this series:

  • Has been a while for me on seeing a deadbeat father. I am not surprised, but it has been a while, since I see this concept (Ranam 1/2), or in Japanaese dramas (Atashinchi no Danshi).
  • Himemiko of the Swamp, though she is a fish makes for a pretty cute schoolgirl. She also has a tick that makes her interesting to look at.  She is a fish with a motive though, trying to confess to a human boy she likes.
  • The dialogue between Nanami and Tomoe amused me until I finished reading the book, and hoped for more.
Who looks more dismayed?

 

Dengeki Daisy: trust and temptation of an unlikely relationship.

Dengeki Daisy
Story and Art by Kyousuke Motomi
Published by Viz Media. 192 pages. 2010. $9.99

There must be a low tolerance level to reading about the actions of a puny A-cup High School Girl and a lolicon delinquent custodian in this Daddy Longlegs-esque story. There is certainly chemistry in this highly unlikely pairing. Really, I honestly swear. I definitely want to read more, beyond the three volumes I just recently consumed. There are five more volumes available so far in Japanese.

Teru is a scholarship high school that is left alone with her brother’s death. Sure there’s a unique gang of friends who looks out for her, but she relies more on the attentions of a secret person known to her as Daisy. What is unknown to her is that Daisy is in fact very close to her. Daisy is in the form of a Kurosaki, who is determined to overwork Teru, on the basics of treating her like a servant. If you think that tsundere was a anime female characterstic, how about try it for a male character, what do they call those types anyway?

I was mostly cracking up to the insane expressions that Teru or Kurosaki gets when things don’t go their way. In spite of how much I don’t mind the funny moments of this story, sometimes the actions of Kurosaki does make me want to strangle him if he was alive. He won’t reveal his identity to Teru, and in these emo moments he reflects on an unspoken and not revealed yet reason as why he doesn’t openly confess his feelings.  Yet with all these emotional tormented scenes, (sighs) the parts when Kurosaki rescues Teru, or reveals a part of himself to her, my heart goes pitter patter.

For probably reading similarities, for a type of servant commanding apect, Zombie Loan is a good fit. For the protector and unspoken role, Wild Ones would be a similar read. For the dead brother, and age gap aspect, Loveless is also another similar read.

Poor Teru!

Happy Cafe: Light hearted story about yet another dense lead

Happy Cafe
Story and Art by Kou Matsuzuki
Published by Tokyopop. 192 pages. 2009. $10.99

Easily one of the things I notice about this series is the covers for each of the volumes, and then when you look at the page under the cover, you’ll probably laugh as I did. Because for every serious pose there is on the cover. There’s always a funny NG or parody of the main cover image on the insert page. I noticed the same exact treatment within the pages of Wild Ones. Another similar point  to make about the cover page is the fact that there is always three characters.

Happy Cafe is another shoujo title that I have been reading. It looks to be finished at 15 volumes, so English once again has some catch up to do. I have only read up to volume six so far. Now Uru is a high school student who gets mistaken to be a child a lot, because of her short statue. She is also very very strong, and very determined to not be in the way of her mother’s happiness. She gets hired to work at the Cafe Bonheur, where at the first volume, she meets two guys Shindo who is the unsmiling patisserie chef, and Ichiro, her co-worker who falls asleep when he’s hungry.

Despite her appearance and personality, she attracts nearly every single guy around her. I am pretty interested in seeing who Uru ends up with. Somehow the main pairing seems to be Shindo and Uru, since they won’t talk about their feelings for one another, but somehow into the mix gets thrown in Ichiro and a lot of other shoujo type-supporting characters.

If you want to read any other similar titles, for the dense and unassuming female lead check out Haruhana by by Yuana Kazumi. For the bakery setting read Antique Bakery by Fumi Yoshinaga. Working as an anime series, should be the most similar pair for this type of book title.

Ultimo: crossovers should or shouldn’t be this extreme?

Karakuri Doji ULTIMO
Written by Hiroyuki Takei & Stan Lee and drawn by Hiroyuki Takei
Published by Viz Media. 216 pages. 2010. $9.99.

I read this series, not just because it is a crossover between comic legend Stan Lee, and Hiroyuki Take (mangaka of Shamen King). I read this to just experience if English comic/collaboration crosses over well into manga. Reading this type of manga is just as what Ray is doing with watching the Japanese adaptations of Iron Man and Wolverine. Difference is that, Ultimo is a new and original collaboration. There is currently five volumes in Japanese for this ongoing series, and three volumes with fourth book coming out March in English.

The plot premises of Ultimo is on the question of which is more stronger, good or evil? Dunstan, a scientist/doctor creates two powerful dolls (Ultimo/Vice) that personifies good and evil. They are to be locked in an eternal battle that can annihilate worlds around them. They listen and bond with one human master, and from there learn what makes the world tick for better or worse. (Warning for lots of rather obvious shota moments.) Ultimo bonds with Yamato, a reincarnated bandit who for better or worse is the main human character in this one. Talk about a dense male lead.

My opinion, from the three volumes I have read, is being provided with a quick superficial entertainment for the most part. I am reminded of flipping through Chinese wuxia manga. Especially during the action battle scenes, scenes are depicted with extreme/epic graphic/text. Also do check out images of Dunstan, who is obviously modeled after Stan Lee.  Then again there are photo of Mr. Lee himself wearing a white spider print yukata.

This series I definitely wouldn’t want to have on my bookshelf, but for a one time read then it is good. If the franchise is successful enough, then I definitely wouldn’t be surprise if they adapt this into an animation series. This type of story has enough action scenes that would entertain fans of Bleach, Yugioh, or even  Gurren Laggen.

What happens when a doll goes near the deep end.

Meaningful readings of Natsume’s Book of Friends

Natsume’s Book of Friends
Written and drawn by Yuki Midorikawa
Published by Viz Media. 208 pages. 2010. $9.99

What to love about this title? Lots of elements… that comes down to either Nyanko-sensei or even just how cool Natsume is (especially when he blows out youkai names.) Okay okay.. Natsume as a character attracts a lot of female fans, and the visuals of Natsume blowing is so aptly animated by the anime. But there’s more to this title than staring at the main character. I have recently caught up with reading the manga, so for fans of the anime, won’t you check out the manga or vice versa? I still found myself tearing up to the same stories that I was emotionally struck by during the anime.

Now back another aspect to my feelings about the character of Nyanko-sensei, I wish he was real, since he is such a fat wise ass commenting “cat”. There are artist columns and notes devoted to him in the manga. Midorikawa pointed out that her assistants also loved Nyanko-sensei. They based drawing his body like a round dumpling. But then that is the ceramic body that he inhabit, his real form is way more majestic.

Before I get too far off into my own Nyanko-sensei tangent, let’s move on.

The story of Natsume begins with his grandmother, Reiko who collected the names of youkai as an entertainment. Then she passes away, so Natsume’s Book of Friends is about Natsume and his quest to return the names of youkai who seeks him. With each name he returns, he learns a memory of his grandmother, and the importance of what friendship is like.

At this moment, United States are going to have to play some catch up with Natsume’s Book of Friends. There’s going to be 11 books out in Japan by this March, and the states just released five volumes in English. Every chapter is quite episodic and I actually was reading out of volumes. Other than needing to be somewhat familiar with some recurring characters, there’s no issue with reading out of order.

Of course the episodes of each and every story is entertaining and interesting, but what gets to me, most often from reading any manga is the mangaka explanations of her character analysis/inspiration. This is so much more in depth to appreciating and liking a series that makes it a memorable experience.

For episodic read alike similarities it would be good to check out  Mushishi. For reading about other world spirits that can’t be seen by normal human eyes, then xxxHolic or Youkai Doctor might fit the bill. Now if you got into reading into it for Nyanko-sensei, then to see another smart cat, Aria would most likely fit that bill.

Lots of interesting characters and shdows, this is from vol 3.

La Corda d’Oro – lots of pretty guys, and classical music.

La Corda d’Oro
Written and Drawn by Yuki Kure.
Published by Viz Media. 184 pages. 2006. $8.99

Just when I believe that there wasn’t going to be another show just like Nodame Cantabile, came to my awareness about this series several years ago as an anime. Then I picked up the manga to read. The basic premises of the story focus on Hino Kahoko, who got picked to play in a school music competition even though she doesn’t even know how to play any instruments herself. She meets a lot of people, and finds potential in maturing with a genuine passion for music.

Originally this series was  inspired by a role playing video game. La Corda d’Oro eventually had two anime seasons, and various compact disc releases. This book series is probably a good read for any reader who enjoys reading about classical music, and of individual determination to adapt to a situation.

This series also has a reverse harem, so it is clearly targeted toward the female audience. Harems have a particular following within manga/anime culture. A main character, and then a group of the opposite gender. Of course nearly everyone in the group falls for the main character or is significantly affected by their presence and relationship. You see it in Tenchi Muyo, Ranma 1/2, Vandread or Love Hina. Those series appeal to the male audience though. Of course with reverse harem, there the girl with a lot of really cute guys. Fushigi Yuugi, Fruits Basket, Ooku, and Ouran High School Host Club fit the bill for this one.

Of course with the harem element, there is a variety of character types, and so an individual can have a favoring or leaning toward as the one true pairing. There are a lot of men in this series, and I can mention with a straight face that I find my preference in the pairing of Kahoko and Kazuki, even though it appears that Kahoko potentially likes Len the best.

At the moment there is 12 volumes in English, and volume 13 will be released in March. This is still an on going manga series in which, the English has successfully been adapted right alongside the Japanese, so there is no worry about playing catch up with this series.

For potential read alike, of course there’s going to be a long list of potential shoujo choices. La Corda D’Oro already has an interesting perspective that is really not as covered by a lot of other manga at the moment out there. For classical music similarities, there is Nodame Cantabile. For reverse harem there’s Ouran High School Host Club since more than one male falls for Haruhi, not as much as for Kahoko though. Lastly for the inclusion of fairies or other worldly guardians, Shugo Chara, or Full Moon wo Sagashite fit the bill for this.

This really is a female targeted title, so I potentially won’t see guys enjoying this title as much. Any different opinions? Of course I am in the crowd that definitely found similarity with shonen manga, once a reader got over the so many shoujo cliche moments. The main character finds strength and determination to succeed in an area, there are conflicts for the main character. There is friendship, although there is the every popular shoujo idea of an ideal match.

Poignent words, and definitely a scene of change/growth.

Kimi ni Todoke – A look between the anime and the manga.

Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You
Story and Art by Karuho Shiina.
Published by Viz Media. 216 pages. 2009. $8.99

How many ways can I justify Kimi ni Todoke? It certainly impressed two of Anime Diet’s other writers to have written past blog entries about it. (Even I got into writing about the anime for a little bit on my blog.)

Ray’s Take -01
Mike’s Take on Why I like Sawako
Mike’s Mild Therapy Entry
Mike’s 8-9
Mike’s Midway Point
animemiz initial impression
animemiz Midway point

There is also the second season that currently airing in Japan this anime season. If you do enjoy the anime greatly, then you definitely should check out the manga version. The anime version can be a draw for visual people, but manga reading has subtle nuances that rely an internal feeling that is only produced by the reader. That’s how I felt when I read the first book. There are also more spoken in the manga that is otherwise overlooked in the anime.

Still upon reading the manga, there are some drawbacks… for one if you read the manga before seeing the anime, there are some expectations in seeing what is animated or not. Then there is disappointment when the bits are not animated. Another is the obvious five senses used of course. Reading uses only the sight, but watching is sight and sounds. Smells is also another condition that is for your discretion of course.

Kimi ni Todoke is an extremely innocent and slow paced high school romance. This may not be a realistic reality for many people, but this is definitely an ideal one from a very proper approach. Meeting someone who you want to be with for the rest of your life, having that same feeling return and maintaining a relationship is not going to be an easy thing to occur.

I don’t believe I have ever seen a male protagonist blush as much as what Kazehaya does. The manga has themes of friendship, acceptance, understanding, and inner beauty. There is not as much conflicts that Sawako should overcome, other than her own confidence on being accepted in spite of other school situation. Sawako is a shy and introverted girl with a “scary” face.

I definitely have pretty high hopes to see more of this series soon, so that’s my thoughts of this series at the moment. There has been six volumes with a seventh coming out soon in English and Japanese. This is one series that definitely has caught up with the Japanese version.

Kare Kano and High School Debut may be similar manga reads. Both are shoujo titles with teen relationships in it, but that is where similarities may end. Kimi ni Todoke has an interesting premise that please a reader who is patient enough with the relationship being developed slowly.

So everyone's pretty scared of her... but the art's pretty cute?

Bakuman: Dear Artists/Writers – Slice of reality!

Bakuman.
Story by Tsugumi Ohba and Art by Takeshi Obata.
Published by Viz Media. 208 pages. 2010. $9.99

Just how many noticed the past fall season?

Anime Diet has been pretty heavy in discussing Bakuman which had its anime run Fall 2010. (Mike’s 1st post, 2nd post, 3rd post) Now I am finally bringing up a review for the graphic novel version, to which I am pleased to say is quite engaging, and definitely eye opening.

Moritaka aka Saiko (a play on his name) and Akagi aka Shujin are both junior high school student who has a goal of becoming pro mangaka, and having an anime made from a series of their creation by the time they are 18 years old.

Frantically at work....

So far the first two volumes are out in English, with two more coming out this year (2011) in English. There are 11 volumes in Japanese. I can only say that it would be a bit of a waiting game to wait for this graphic novel series to come out. But would be artist/authors can be in the know on some aspects of publishing industry.

This manga follows a slice of life Japanese path. Do you want to stray from the “normal” path to pursing a dream? It can either make or break a person. This manga is quite realistic to the real life, with even blurring the lines of reality or not in mentioning Shonen Jump employees. Call this a realistic parody if you must.

I have yet to read other manga that would be a really similar read alike, but if you do like this book, and want to go for another of a similar vibe.. then Dramacon, or Genshiken would be pretty good choices in my opinion at the moment.