Tag Archives: manga

Review: An Invitation from a Crab

(This review was originally posted on The Fandom Post.)

Never turn down an invitation from a sassy crustacean, especially if you haven’t decided what’s for dinner yet.

Creative Staff:
Story and art: panpanya
Translator: Ko Ransom
Production: Nicole Dochych

Denpa, the new publisher on the block, specializes in publishing manga that are a little off the beaten path; either hard to categorize, or simply overlooked. This is a good thing, but I think we need to be careful not to let the company’s niche color our perception of their books too heavily. After all, if we assume that every book that comes out of Denpa is going to be some strange, art-house affair, we’re probably doing a disservice to much of what they publish; just because a book has been overlooked for English-language publication thus far doesn’t mean it’s necessarily strange.

All that said, make no mistake: An Invitation from a Crab is strange. A series of vignettes featuring the barest suggestion of a manga-style school girl traversing warped, sometimes muddy backgrounds, all the while experiencing bizarre encounters with fish and crustaceans, interspersed with essays from the author on topics like “what is that light produced by the inside of your eyeballs?” Yeah, that’s unusual, to say the least.

What’s compelling about Crab is the way it presents its own brand of surrealism. Concepts like a dolphin-powered calculator seem like they would be right at home in The Hitchhikers’ Guide to The Galaxy, but the mood is much more Günter Grass than Douglas Adams. Even the stories that deal with more mundane subject matter always give the sense that something sinister is afoot. Our sketchily rendered protagonist may be able to eat a crab hotpot for dinner, but she may not really be at the top of the food chain. The world here is one of endless consumption, where humans and animals alike are put through a symbolic meat grinder, and any attempt to reconnect with the natural world is doomed to end in failure. It sounds like I’m saying this manga is anti-capitalist, and that may very well be true, but I think that may be an oversimplification. Something else is going on here; I’m not exactly sure what, but I’m going to keep thinking about it until I figure it out. Hopefully.

Something else I need to figure out is how I feel about this book’s art. Some of the backgrounds are great, with an almost sculptural quality, like the environments have been chiseled out of the paper somehow. Other times, the art becomes more minimalist and blurry, and I’m not sure it works. Ironically, the detailed, clear backgrounds do a better job of communicating the surreal mood of the story than the more smudgy, suggestive panels. The art is always at least adequate to tell the story, but if were always as good as panpanya is clearly capable of, I think we’d have something incredible here.

Whether or not the art is up to the level of the writing (and I’m sure others would disagree with me there), this is an unusual, thought-provoking title that discerning adult readers should seek out. The book may be rated Teen, but I think it’s mature (in the best sense of the word), and likely to be of particular interest to people who have already been reading manga for many years. If any 14-year-olds want to read it, hey: knock yourself out. Don’t let me stop you! But I think part of the experience of An Invitation from a Crab is comparing it to the other manga you’ve read, and the deeper your personal catalogue is, the more you’ll get out of it.

In Summary:
A surreal collection of stories and short essays with a serious bite to them, despite the fact that they may seem nonsensical at first.

Grade: A

Age Rating: Teen (13+)
Released By: Denpa, LLC.
Release Date: December 19, 2018
MSRP: US $12.95 CAN $14.95

Anime NYC Part Two

As you already know if you saw my status update, trying to attend a huge, huge convention didn’t work out so hot for me. That said, there’s still some stuff I did at the con that I wanted to write a little about before we get too far past it. Besides, whatever problems I was having, at least I had tons of cool cosplayers like the above gender-flipped Sailor Moon Boy Band to cheer me up.

Saturday, Nov. 17 was unofficial Manga and Light Novel Day at the con, since most print publishers had their panels that day. I was able to attend panels for Kodansha, Denpa Books and Vertical, Inc.; I wanted to attend the Viz Media panel, but that was full to capacity before I even got there. Curses! It’s like Viz has mega-popular franchises in their catalogue or something. Yen Press also had their panel that day, but unfortunately, I was getting sleepy and dragged my sick ass back to the hotel instead of staying for it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend nearly as much as I wanted, but on the plus side, I found the panels I did attend to be quite interesting.

Manga Library

They had twice as much manga as this, but I didn’t take a pic of the whole room because I didn’t want to get photos of people reading their manga. Privacy, yo.

Not a panel, but I wanted to at least duck my head into the Manga Library while I was there. For a while, I didn’t really get the point of manga libraries at conventions, to be honest. It’s like, “I just moved heaven and Earth to get to this convention, at great expense; why don’t I just squander this opportunity by ignoring all the con programming and reading Fruits Basket in a corner for four hours?”

What I didn’t realize then, but has become increasingly obvious to me now, is that it’s really nice to have a quiet place at a major con where you can just relax, without being surrounded by thousands of other people. I don’t think the main purpose of manga libraries is to cater to people with anxiety, but if you do happen to have anxiety, being able to tuck yourself away somewhere nice and quiet with a favorite manga for distraction can be extraordinarily helpful. I know some cons have instituted “quiet rooms” or what have you for this reason, but I like the manga library better specifically because it serves multiple purposes. Even people who really like the hustle and bustle of a big con can benefit from spending a quiet hour or two in the manga library, and then people with anxiety aren’t effectively segregated from everyone else.

The manga library at Anime NYC was provided by the Carolina Manga Library. Carolina doesn’t just do conventions, but also schools and libraries, so check them out if you want to set up a manga book fair in your neighborhood– because why wouldn’t you?

Kodansha

The Kodansha/Vertical, Inc. panel was a long list of manga and light novel announcements, which are by now old news, so I won’t detail all of them here. They did spend some time talking about the new Sailor Moon Eternal Edition, which kind of annoys me; I just bought the complete English-language Sailor Moon manga that Kodansha put out a couple of years ago, and now they’ve got this whole new version with interior color pages and all that great stuff. Similarly, they’re releasing a hardcover “Collector’s Edition” of Card Captor Sakura in spring 2019, right after I just bought the omnibus editions of that series not long ago.

This is like when you rush out to buy a great JPRG, only to have it come out later for PSP or Vita with better graphics and added dungeons and all kinds of new stuff, and I’m getting tired of it. I guess I am happy for fans who get to buy these better-than-ever editions, but I’m not buying either magical girl series again; do I look made of money to you? Anyway, my personal regrets and bitterness aside, it’s a good time to be a magical girl manga fan (who isn’t me).

They also talked about a title called Gleipnir, which is supposedly like  “Pokemon meets Prison School,”; Kodansha editor Ben Applegate confessed to being “deeply ashamed” of how much he enjoys this manga, so if nothing else I’ve got to find out what’s going on there. Gleipnir comes out March 5, 2019.

Denpa Books

I didn’t even know Denpa Books existed until Anime NYC. They just started up this year, and considering that I haven’t exactly been watching the manga industry like a hawk, it’s not surprising that they’ve been kind of under my radar. But I was really impressed by what they had to show at the convention. Their publishing schedule for the next six months or so is full of unusual, quirky manga that you might not expect to see published stateside…and the manga version of the especially fluffy Fate/Stay Night spinoff, Today’s Menu For The Emiya Family.

Huh. I guess even artistic, boutique publishers need to milk the Fate cash cow every now and then to keep the money flowing (and who am I to judge?) To be fair, Denpa Founder Ed Chavez straight-up admitted at the panel that some of the titles that his company would be licensing would be done for financial reasons, despite the company’s general preference for more obscure titles with high artistic merit, so there’s no obfuscation about this.

Anyway, what’s particularly impressive about Denpa is that they’re a standalone company; they aren’t a subsidiary of Hachette, or Penguin, or any other large publisher, which is what you would usually expect. Out of their upcoming releases, personally I’m most interested in Maiden Railways. The fact that someone made a josei manga, focused on love stories, but said manga is also all about trains, sounds like something I would make up as a joke for the podcast, but no, apparently it really exists. I’m fascinated by the prospect of examining fanatical railroad obsession through a uniquely feminine lens, and if you’re not…well, let’s just say I question whether or not you know how to party.

In any case, I want to read pretty much everything Denpa has in the pipeline, so don’t be surprised if you see reviews of some of their manga pop up here in the future.

Vertical, Inc

Most of Vertical’s panel was dedicated to the forthcoming release of the Katanagatari light novels and uh…I’m not a fan of that series. I watched the first episode of the anime when it came out years ago and was hella bored, so I’m not that interested in going back to read the source material. Translator Sam Bett of BestBettJapanese had a lot of interesting things to say about the translation process though, so it was still interesting on that level.

Just to give you an example, Bett replaced the term “deviant blades” in Katanagatari with “mutant blades,” because in his opinion, the term ‘deviant’ brought up moral, Christian associations that weren’t appropriate to the setting. I liked this anecdote because it goes to show just how complex the process of translation really is; you’re not only dealing with the literal meanings of words, but also their connotations, and where those connotations came from.

He also noted that he decided to use a lot of footnotes in a “Jokey, kind of postmodern way,” which almost makes me want to buy Katanagatari despite my general lack of interest in the series; I’m a sucker for footnotes. Perhaps I will review it just so I can talk about the footnotes…stranger things have happened.

That’s all for my Anime NYC experience; it may not have been a good time for me, but I still feel comfortable saying it was a good convention in general. It has pretty much everything you could want at an anime con, and then some.

 

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.