Tag Archives: manga

Review: Uncomfortably Happily by Yeon-Sik Hong

I picked up this volume pretty much on a whim. While I’ve read plenty of manga, manhua is relatively new to me, and it seemed like a good time to dive in. The story of two artists leaving bustling city life behind for a secluded, yet picturesque existence on an isolated mountaintop was immediately appealing; I’m a sucker for anything about the beauty of nature (except for actually going outside in real life, since there are bugs out there, but let’s gloss over that for now.)

So I was expecting a kind of manhua version of Non Non Biyori, or Laid Back Camp; a comic that immerses you in the wonders of the outdoors through beautiful artwork, and leaves you feeling serene and somehow, purified. Uncomfortably Happily is that, to a certain extent, but there’s a lot more going on here. It’s also about the dangers (both physical and psychological) of trying to earn your daily bread as an artist, and the difficulty of living in the moment even when you’re trying your absolute damndest to do so.

Hong’s style is well-suited to the material. While the characters are very cartoony (and quite adorable), the backgrounds are elegant; detailed, yet not fussy or over-rendered. The story covers the change of several seasons, and through Hong’s linework, you can very nearly feel the change in the temperature on your skin. When the trees are all covered in snow and Hong and his wife huddle around their little charcoal stove, you can feel that warmth, that inviting coziness, so effortlessly. At some points the art loses its detail work and becomes very stark, but always in the service of creating powerful images that communicate the characters’ inner lives better than any dialogue could.

This is an autobiographical comic and it feels like it, filled with tons of little details that would probably only occur to someone who had lived in this exact scenario. I’m always a little hesitant to use the term “autobiography” in regard to comics, because a lot of so-called autobiographical comics that I’ve read feature a lot of fiction weaved in with the real-life remembrances (and there isn’t anything wrong with that, necessarily, but it does make me wonder if the term “semi-autobiographical” isn’t a safer designation.) I have no idea how much of this comic was drawn directly from Hong’s experience, and how much might have been exaggerated for drama, but regardless, it feels real; it feels like a glimpse into a year or so of someone’s life, disappointments and all.

Sometimes I think about retreating to some rural cottage somewhere, breathing clean air and going swimming in a crystal-clear stream every morning. It’s a nice idea, but for some reason, I think I’d always assumed that in that venue, my problems would just disappear, and Uncomfortably Happily shows all the reasons why natural beauty, as wonderful as it is, is not a cure-all for your problems. In fact, sometimes it felt a little uncomfortable to read this book, since the gap between the pastoral paradise Hong wants and the reality of his life is so jarring, it made me conscious of how unrealistic my own fantasies were. Nevertheless, nature can be a cure for what ails you, but it’s not going to do the work all by itself; you need to meet nature halfway, by being at peace with yourself (or close enough to it) that you can actually take in the wonder of what you’re surrounded by with clear eyes.

Uncomfortably Happily is $29.95, published by Drawn and Quarterly. Originally published in two volumes in Korea, this thick edition has the complete story. The paperback edition isn’t as robust as I would like; after one reading, the spine already looks pretty worn. Nevertheless, it’s an attractive looking book and deserves a place on your graphic novel shelf. And if you don’t have a graphic novel shelf, for some strange reason, you can always just put it on your regular bookshelf (preferably next to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden), and call it a day.

Mitsuru Adachi’s Mix Manga to Get TV Anime in Spring 2019

More baseball anime is coming? But my birthday isn’t until October!

Earlier this week, it was revealed that a TV anime adaptation of Mitsuru Adachi’s Mix manga series will air in spring 2019. If you’re a fan of the series Touch (also created by Adachi) you’ll want to pay super close attention to this.

In this series, the story takes place about thirty years after the events of Touch and will follow two stepbrothers who are trying to get into Koushien. The series first began running in 2012 in Monthly Shonen Sunday and will soon have thirteen volumes in print.

I will never complain about more baseball anime! I am a bit concerned because I never got around to watching Touch, but I’m hoping that this series set far enough away from those events that new fans can get into the story without much effort.

Via Moetron

Healing Manga Okoshiyasu, Chitose-chan Gets TV Anime Adaptation

Our penguin chick

Gah! The cuteness! It’s killing me! Send halp!

Yesterday, it was revealed via an official website and Twitter account that the healing manga Okoshiyasu, Chitose-chan will be getting a TV anime adaptation.

The story behind this one is pretty simple; the main plot follows a baby Emperor penguin living in Kyoto and experiencing life. Seeing the famous sights of Kyoto, eating the local food, etc, etc, but all from a penguin’s perspective. The series will premiere this coming October 5 on Tokyo MX and KBS Kyoto stations.

The manga originally started in Be-Love magazine two years agom created by Yukiko Natsume. No official English version is available as of this writing. The anime will be directed by Kyou Yatate at studio Gathering.

This cute little penguin chick could take the world by storm, so be sure to check this series out when it premieres later this year!

Via CR News

Manga Series Kono Oto Tomare! Gets TV Anime Adaptation

Stop This Sound Vol 17 Cover

Japan has been kind of quiet lately with new anime adaptation announcements. Luckily for us, one quietly announced yesterday is sure to get your toes tapping… or maybe just your head nodding in quiet contemplation.

A TV anime adaptation has been announced for the shonen manga Kono Oto Tomare! (Stop This Sound!). The series will be directed by Ryouma Mizuno with series composition handled by Ayumu Hisao. The animation will be produced by Platinum Vision.

As for the manga series, it originally began running in Jump Square magazine back in August 2012 and will soon have eighteen volumes in print. The series hasn’t been licensed for release in English but Baka Updates describes the story as:

Since the graduation of the senior members of the club, Takezou ends up being the sole member of the “Koto” (traditional Japanese string instrument) club. Now that the new school year has begun, Takezou will have to seek out new members into the club, or the club will become terminated. Out of nowhere, a new member barges into the near-abandoned club room, demanding to join the club. How will Takezou be able to keep his club alive and deal with this rascal of a new member?

I’ve always had a soft spot for traditional Japanese music. I’m not going to go so far as to say that I’m an aficionado, but I do enjoy listening to it when it comes across my aural field. Combining this music with a shonen high school club story might prove to be interesting, so I think I’ll be keeping an eye on this series.

Via CR News

Rumiko Takahashi Inducted Into Will Eisner Comic Awards Hall of Fame

Ranma 1/2

After being snubbed three times, world-famous manga author Rumiko Takahashi has taken her place among the elite in her industry.

Yesterday, Takahashi was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Awards Hall of Fame. This was her fourth time to be nominated for the honor (her previous nominations came in 2014, 2016, and 2017). This is an award that is given out to those who have achieved the peak of their industry. Other names that were voted in this year included Charles Addams, Karen Berger, and Dave Gibbons.

Takahashi is a name that anyone connected to manga should recognize immediately due to her amazing four decades in the industry. Over the years she’s created series which range from Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikkoku, Ramna 1/2, Inuyasha, RIN-NE, and more. It seems as though no matter what characters Takahashi decides to bring to life, once those pages are seen by the public they turn into gold.

RIN-NE

Don’t just take my word for it though; this is how The Eisner Awards describe Takahashi’s career:

Popular manga creator Rumiko Takahashi is said to be the bestselling female comics artist in history, with hundreds of millions of her books sold around the world. Takahashi’s first published work was the one-shot Katte na Yatsura in 1978. Later that year her first major work began being serialized, Urusei Yatsura. She went on to create such classic works as Maison Ikkoku, Ranma ½, InuYasha, One Pound Gospel, Mermaid Saga, and Rumic Theater. Several of her works have been animated.

She joins other Japanese legends in the Hall of Fame including Osamu Tezuka, Kazuo Koike, Katsuhiro Otomo, and others.

This is a remarkable accomplishment for someone who has dedicated her life to creating amazing works that are enjoyed by youth and adults alike around the world. With any luck, we’ll all be enjoying Takahashi’s works for many more years to come.

Via Anime Herald

Magical Girl Special Ops Asuka Manga Series Gets 2019 Anime Adaptation

Magical Girl Special Ops Asuka Key Visual

It’s very rare that I don’t enjoy something produced by Liden Films, so this is officially on my radar.

According to an official site launch, the manga series Magical Girl Special Ops Asuka (Mahou Shoujo Tokushuusen Asuka) from Makoto Fukami and Seigo Tokiya is getting an anime adaptation in January 2019.

Here’s what we know already:

The title character will be played by Aya Suzaki while the crew will be filled out by Hideyo Yamamoto in the director’s chair. Makoto Fukami and Norimitsu Kaihou will be handling the series composition.

The manga series first serialized in June 2015 in Monthly Big Gangan magazine. Seven Seas is currently publishing it in English and describes the story as:

When the Earth is threatened by the sudden appearance of undead creatures, a group of young women blessed with powers from a mysterious source rose to defeat them. Now, after three years of apparent peace, the same malevolent creatures have resurfaced. Five magical girls are once again conscripted to war as the Magical Girl Special-Ops force, to defend mankind from an unholy nemesis.

So, it’s a high action, magical girl series? I can dig that.

Via Anime Herald

Domestic Girlfriend Manga Gets TV Anime

Domestic Girlfriend Gets TV Anime!

It’s another good day for fans of romantic comedy manga because Domestic Girlfriend (Domestic na Kanojo) is getting a TV anime! Making this announcement just a bit sweeter, though, is the news that this just isn’t any announcement; it’s a full announcement complete with a key visual, primary crew, and cast!

Let’s start with what the series is. First serialized in Weekly Shonen Magazine in April 2014, the series has been steadily producing content ever since. The 17th volume is actually set to be released in Japan in the next few days.

Kodansha USA has been publishing an English language version since April 2017 and describe the story as:

High schooler Natsuo is hopelessly in love with his cheerful and popular teacher, Hina. However, one day at a mixer, he meets a moody girl by the name of Rui and ends up sleeping with her. Soon after, his father announces that he’s getting remarried to a woman with two daughters of her own. And who shows up in tow, other than both Hina and Rui?! Natsuo’s outrageous new life starts now!

Crew and cast for the series read as follows:

Animation Production – Diomedéa
Director – Shota Ihata
Series Composition – Tatsuya Takahashi
Character Designs – Naomi Ide

Rui Tachibana – Maaya Uchida
Hina Tachibana – Yoko Hikasa

Via CR News

Comic Girls, Episode 7

Time for more horror with Fuura-sensei, which I could generally do without, however it kind of works on a meta-level this week. See, this episode is about Kaos learning how to draw backgrounds, and that’s a terrifying subject for most newbie comic artists, so it’s only fitting that she has to do it in an attic, literally surrounded by skeletons, dripping candles and creepy dolls. It’s a clever bit of juxtaposition that might not be immediately obvious, but I’m pretty sure it’s intentional.

Kaos seems to pick up background-drawing rather quickly though, while I still struggle with it, which makes me wonder; would I allow Fuura-sensei to tutor me, even if it means I have to be subjected to her horror shtick for an hour or so? I don’t know if even I love comics enough to go through with that….

This is about my reaction when I realize that I have to draw backgrounds. I have this weird mental block with linear perspective, where I never seem to do it right no matter how many times I read about it or have it explained to me. It’s actually pretty sad.

The best part of this episode is when Fuura-sensei shows Ruki a panel that Kaos drew, and Ruki doesn’t believe it because everyone knows that Kaos can’t draw well, then realizes how cruel it is to say that out loud in front of Kaos. It’s funny to me that “Kaos can’t draw” is basically a house rule that everyone acknowledges in a dorm specifically intended for artists. I would say “Git Gud, Kaos,” except now that she can draw bg, she’s technically better than me, so I’ll shut up.

The other significant thing in this episode is the revelation that Koyume got a magazine serialization, so she’s jumped ahead of Kaos in terms of professional credits. She says it’s a short serialization, so she’s not quite on Ruki and Tsubasa’s level yet, but she’s getting there. I wonder: did she ever learn how to draw guys? I feel like she must have, and I feel kind of robbed that we never got to see that. No major improvements off-camera, Comic Girls!

The rest of this episode is about Kaos getting glasses, which is typical CGDCT fodder that I really have nothing to say about. I don’t have a problem with this show having the girls do cutesy humor (it’s kind of part of the mandate and all), but I would be really stretching to find anything to say about that whole sequence beyond “it’s cute, I guess.”

Hopefully the next episode will have a little more substance, because they were on a roll there for a little while.

Comic Girls, Episode 6

Sometimes my personal quirks put me in a weird position where I hate something, but I know that’s totally on me and does not reflect badly on the media in any way. I pretty much hate horror and have no tolerance for jump-scares and stuff like that, so the fact that this episode is half over-the-top horror was pretty unpleasant to me. That said, I can appreciate that it was well done; in fact, I think this show did a better job creating a horror atmosphere, even with tongue-planted firmly in cheek, than a lot of horror anime that try to do it seriously. Of course, I’ve just admitted that I don’t really watch horror anymore, so I guess I wouldn’t know? The point is, the animators captured the horror vibe really well.

Please stop with these shockingly effective mood shots, I want a tepid Cute Girls Doing Cute Things show and I won’t stand for any insubordination! Wow, I get bossy when I’m terrified.

Once again, I find myself strongly identifying with Kaos, who was screaming her head off during this whole segment; if only I, too, could harness the power of my love of boobs for strength the way she does. Unfortunately, I’m only just okay on boobs (don’t really have strong feelings for them one way or the other), and the more anime I watch, the more I’m beginning to feel that this is a disadvantage. Kaos may be a boiling cauldron of crippling insecurities, but she could probably summon the courage to slay a dragon if someone just told her that she could see some awesome boobs afterwards, and it’s kind of inspiring.

A pretty accurate depiction of my face during the first half of this episode, if only I could watch TV while I was in the bath…waitaminute. Why can’t I watch TV in the bath? A TV in the bathroom sounds unsafe, but it’s only a matter of time before they start making baths with included waterproof TVs, right?

To change the subject from my excessive wussiness, I do like the fact that the new girl embodies her genre of manga, and it would be cool to see more of this. Imagine if they introduce a magical girl manga artist, only she’s actually a magical girl? That would be surreal, but really cool if done right.

Fuura-sensei; I wish I was better able to appreciate her character, because I know a lot of fans of the show took to her immediately. I just can’t get past the fact that she shows suddenly behind people in mirrors, that’s way too creepy dammit.

The second half of the episode focuses on Tsubasa, who is my least favorite of the four main girls. I don’t dislike her exactly, but she’s just so darned successful at such a young age, it’s hard to relate to her. Ruki is successful as well, but in a different way than she expected or wanted, whereas Tsu has gotten successful drawing exactly what she wants all the time, which isn’t that interesting. We’re supposed to be sympathetic to her because she’s hiding her identity as a girl, thus she can’t go to signings and connect with her fans, but….eh, I just don’t find that very compelling. I’m pretty sure she could come out at as a girl tomorrow, and if anything it would just serve as a PR boost for her manga. It seems like a non-problem.

Homeroom teacher Nijino-sensei, as seen through patented Kaos-vision. I joke about Kaos having no talent, but to be fair, her art style is very cute and well-suited to 4Koma. Now she just needs everything else….

I like the character of the otaku teacher, and she serves an important practical purpose; now that the girls have an ally inside the school, maybe they can stop running themselves so ragged trying to keep up with academics and their manga. Look, I’m not suggesting that Nijino-sensei fabricate their grades or anything, but maybe she could cut them a little slack, y’know?

Plus, the fact that Tsubasa’s biggest fan is someone simultaneously really close to her, yet far from her in terms of social rank creates an interesting dynamic. I’m hoping they’re going to come up with some fun things for Nijino to do to try to “help” Tsubasa with her manga that add to the gleeful everyday insanity.

Finally, Kaos seems to be developing as an artist since she’s learning to create characters inspired by people she finds interesting in real life, which is a really useful tool for her to have in her arsenal. She still doesn’t know anything about writing a story, but baby steps kids; baby steps. Frankly, considering the amount of investment Kaos’ editor is putting into her development, Kaos darned well turn out to be the next Rumiko Takahashi at the end of all this, but who’s to say she won’t be? It’s a goofy, surreal, wish-fulfillment kind of anime; nothing is off the table, and that’s what I like about it.

Comic Girls, Episodes 4 & 5

I had to take care of some real-life stuff, so I’m a little behind on anime. To catch up, I’m going to be doubling up on some of these episode posts– or maybe tripling up, if I get even further behind. Who knows what kind of wacky anime coverage you might find at Otakusphere? It’s part of the charm! Err, hopefully.

Me, getting ready to do some blogging. I think I might steal “I Feel Digital Just Sitting On It” as the title for a memoir.

Episode 4: Sex is Not So Bad

I like the ongoing joke that Ruki is inadvertently sexy, even when she’s being a total dork. It’s the rarely seen parallel to the trying-too-hard-to-be sexy character.

Anyway, back to the Manga Artist Dorm of Awesomeness. Ruki is running herself ragged trying to keep up with her manga and school, to the point where she’s staying up multiple nights in a row, and seeing that kind of behavior always makes me wince a bit. Ruki, my girl, I give you permission to skip school if you need more than one all-nighter to finish your manga, okay? Maybe I’m a bad influence, but I think school attendance becomes less important if you already have a job in the adult world. Besides, sleep is very important, people; I thought I was functioning on minimal sleep in college, but when I look at some of the dumbass choices I made back then, I wonder.

This is the first episode that really had a strong theme, that of Ruki getting over her issues with drawing lewd manga. I really liked this angle, since Ruki being dreadfully uncomfortable with the manga she’s drawing has been arguably more disturbing than humorous since the beginning. I like that when she gets out and meets her readers, they’re all totally normal women and girls from different walks of life, and there’s nothing unsavory about the experience; basically, this episode is a little paintbox full of sex positivity. Everyone has sexual fantasies, this is normal, and Ruki shouldn’t feel bad for drawing manga with sexual elements.

“Hello, ladies! I’m 14 and I’ve never even kissed a boy, but please come up to me and ask for advice on your marriage– It’s not like I’m going to make it any worse, right?”

Of course, the idea that a sheltered, 14-year-old girl can pull off the role of an experienced older sister-type at a public event, to an audience of people twice her age, isn’t really plausible. However, criticizing this kind of show for the characters being precocious is a little like watching a giant robot show and then complaining that the animators didn’t account for how the robot would be effected by air resistance; there are certain genre conventions that are at odds with reality, but we all knowingly accept them for the sake of entertainment. This story with Ruki would make more sense if she were 24 instead of 14 (or 34, God forbid!), but that’s true of a lot of anime characters in various genres.

I guess you could criticize storylines like this as part of a larger point about how Japanese pop culture is youth-obsessed, but A)that’s not just Japanese pop culture, that applies to INTERNATIONAL pop culture and B)I’ve always thought the reasons why younger characters tend to dominate entertainment were pretty intuitive. I may lament the lack of characters my age in anime sometimes, but I understand the reasons why they’re rare.

In any event, this episode really felt like Comic Girls finding a purpose beyond tepid cuteness, and I for one felt validated that I had a reason to be watching it in the first place. My taste, validated! Surely this won’t last….

Episode 5: We Are Up To 50% Lesbian, And That’s Fine

…and it’s a beach episode, goddamit.

Actually, it’s really not bad. I appreciate the fact that this episode only devoted half it’s runtime to the beach, and then moved onto other things. The girls all look lovely in their swimsuits if you’re into that sort of thing, and the show managed to remember that this show is about artistic girls, not just generic cute girls. I like the fact that three out of the four girls had to basically be dragged kicking and screaming to go swim in the ocean, since they preferred to sit on the beach and draw. I haven’t been to the beach in a long time, but when I did go, I was the girl who was sitting on the blanket drawing, so I relate to Kaos and co., as usual.

One minor note that perturbed me though; Can you really rent bathing suits at the beach these days? That seems really unsanitary, and given how cheaply you can buy a bathing suit if you want to, really unnecessary. I mean, I’m sure the rental place washes the suits between customers and stuff, but who wants to wear a bathing suit that ten other people have worn? It’s not like going skiing, where most people rent equipment so you don’t have to drop $1000 on your own set. I mean, I realize this is tangential to the episode and I really shouldn’t care, but I’m curious now.

After fun-in-the-sun hijinks, we get Koyume and Tsubasa going on a date with everyone else spying on them, as you do. What’s funny is that Koyume seems genuinely flummoxed that she knows that Tsu is a girl, but she’s attracted to her anyway. It’s called being a lesbian, Ko-chan; Kaos is also struggling with this crazy, obscure concept. Someone needs to sit these girls down and draw them a map, because this is getting embarrassing already.

Let’s be honest, I would go on a date with Tsubasa too. Mostly to grill her for manga-drawing tips, but the point still stands.

I guess the date may be exciting for people who like girl-on-girl romance, but I don’t really care much for that sort of thing one way or the other. The part of this episode that resonated with me was Tsu telling Koyume that the most important part of drawing manga was to enjoy it, and not to obsess over professional achievement. It may be simple and it may be trite, but honestly, I don’t think it’s possible to tell an artistic person that too often. I wish I had a Tsu in my life to tell me that back when I really needed to hear it; my life might be very different today, if I had.

So after a rocky start, Comic Girls seems to be hitting it’s stride, not so much as a show about manga (although the manga element is always there), but more as a show about (unusually sheltered) teen girls trying to wrap their heads around sex and growing up. Even though I would personally prefer a show that went super-in depth into the manga-drawing process, this is probably a smarter direction for the show to go in general.

I hope at least a few people who aren’t watching the show read this post, so they can feast their eyes on this screenshot with no context at all.