I’ve confessed my fondness for Setona Mizushiro before. I’ve written up Heartbroken Chocolatier as a translation request, but I mentioned that my absolute favorite was something else. It’s this two volume series. I like this story so much, I decided to wait for the official BL holiday, 8/01, to write it up. But that almost cheapens it, because it’s different from most BL. That the characters are gay is incidental, though it’s much better at portraying a “real” relationship (though one filled with ridiculous amounts of drama) than most BL. It’s a josei series, a romance about two men. It’s also probably the best romance manga I’ve ever read.
Some of these images are mildly NSFW.
I was a bit torn this week on which series to license request. But then I remembered suddenly that this was the week of the Manga Moveable Feast, Viz Signature edition, hosted by Kate over at the Manga Critic. This doesn’t really count, since it hasn’t been translated into English. But it did run in Ikki magazine in Japan, so the SigIkki line is the most likely place for it were it to be licensed. And it’s an excuse to talk about it, too. It’s very good.
I’ve said before that I enjoy melodramatic romance titles. This… falls under that umbrella, but honestly, it’s better than that. It transcends that, and is almost uncomfortable to read because of it. The relationship is extremely desperate. The melodrama is completely serious in the context of the series, too. Unlike countless car accidents the characters simply recover from whenever the plot needs some spice, Gunjo starts out with a murder, and both the main characters flee, and constantly waver back and forth about whether to deal with the real-world consequences of their actions. They’re really, really no good for each other. It’s not a romance in the sense that the two will end up together. Because they probably won’t. But the story is about their relationship anyway.
I have a confession to make: I think I like Setona Mizushiro better than Fumi Yoshinaga. While Yoshinaga is a master at portraying the small moments of life in the most entertaining way possible… I seem to connect to Mizushiro’s stories more. Their stories rarely overlap (Mizushiro has done a lot of more fantasy-oriented work and more blatant BL), but the ones that do, like Heartbroken Chocolatier and Antique Bakery… well, while both of them are really great, and very much worth reading, I prefer the slightly demented twist to Heartbroken Chocolatier, and Mizushiro’s stories in general.
On a different note, it’s difficult to convey just how impressed I was by After School Nightmare. Not only was it a fun and completely addictive ride all the way through, it subverted my expectations and had one of the most mind-blowing and cosmic endings to any shoujo manga I’ve ever read. I’ve read it three times, and I’m still not sure I like the ending, but I’m impressed by the masterful twist every time.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Setona Mizushiro’s work remains untranslated. After School Nightmare is tragically out of print, and the only other series available in English is X-Day, a very strange 2-volume story about people that want to blow up their school. That nothing else has appeared in English is absolutely criminal, because her knack for crafting strange and interesting stories with believable characters seems a cut above most other shoujo and josei mangaka. Be they vampire princesses or Chinese gang members, her characters are always believable, and she writes some of the most sincere romances I’ve ever read, even while the weirdness pervades them.
I’d read anything in English by her, honestly. She’s written dozens of series, and all of them sound wonderful, be they for young or old audiences. The one I want the most is actually something else, but that’s a special story for another day. But for a classy lady with mature taste like me, Heartbroken Chocolatier is an absolute must.
I know I promised Eroica content this week, but I had to switch my schedule for the next license request when I found out that the Manga Moveable Feast for this month featured Usamaru Furuya. It’s hosted by Ash Brown over at Experiments in Manga.
Usamaru Furuya is an infinitely interesting artist. I like what I’ve read of his stories, too, but his art gets me in every single book that I’ve read by him. Be it the surreal pencil sketches that Picasso enters in Genkaku Picasso, the occasional random but elaborate 2-page nonsequitor illustrations in Short Cuts, or the amazing throwback work unlike his usual style in Lychee Light Club, every single one of his books is interesting to look at. He’s constantly using unusual imagery and a plethora of styles to convey the story visually, and there’s nobody quite like him when it comes to this. It’s fine art in manga form, and I wish like nobody’s business that more of his work would be licensed.
Palepoli is his first published volume of manga, and the best showcase for his visual vernacular. He also has a knack for elaborate visual puns and gags, and breaks the fourth wall constantly. Not with dialogue, but with image. It’s something one rarely sees.
You can read a handful of these in the compilations Secret Comics Japan and Japan Edge, but even with no knowledge of Japanese, Palepoli is worth owning. It’s just so much fun to look at. Still, I would dearly love to see a full English translation of it.
Kaim Tachibana – Gakken/Futabasha – 1993 – 9 volumes
I have a special place in my heart for manga about sentai and tokusatsu. Sentai manga aren’t released in English nearly enough, so I don’t get to talk about it much. I can count the ones I’ve read on one hand – Duklyon: CLAMP School Defenders, Heroes are Extinct, Ratman, Dokkoida, and Imperfect Hero. It’s a tragedy that these series are never more popular (Ratman and Heroes Are Extinct, in particular, are fantastic), because they are among the few series that actually make me laugh out loud. Most sentai manga I run across are comedies that poke fun at the inherent strangeness that is a team of color-coordinated superheroes beating up giant monsters. It’s really hard to make jokes about sentai fall flat, and easy to come up with increasingly ridiculous situations for them to be in. Serious tokusatsu-type/superhero series exist (Kikaider Code 02, MD Geist, maybe Apocalypse Zero), but they are way less fun than the sentai humor variety.
Moyoco Anno – Bunshun / Shodensha / Shufu to Seikatsusha – 1997 – 1 volume
I know I shouldn’t cover two Moyoco Anno series in a row, but I read something today that made me remember this story, and it’s worth talking about. While Sakuran is my favorite series by her, I feel like I appreciate her work more when she’s offering sharp commentary on modern society. Happy Mania and Flowers and Bees both work that way, and so does this one. Except, unlike Happy Mania and Flowers and Bees, she isn’t really… out to entertain this time.
I’ve never been able to come up with a good English title for this series. I gave the literal translation of 脂肪と言う名の服を着て above, but it’s super-awkward. I’ve been trying for years to think of a better one, but anything that holds the original meaning sounds just as awkward (Wearing Fat as Clothes?), and others don’t make sense (Fatware?). You get the idea, though.
If the title or some of my suggestions sound a little insensitive, that’s because this is a very brutal story. It’s one of only two very good body image manga I’ve ever read. The main character, Noko, is an overweight and very introverted office lady. She puts up with sarcastic commentary from her beautiful coworkers along with getting dumped on by her bosses for absolutely everything that goes wrong. The only good thing in her life is her boyfriend, who she’s been dating for eight years. But when she begins to realize that not even he finds her attractive anymore, she decides to make a positive life change.
Except there’s absolutely nothing positive on any page of this story.
There’s some NSFW images after the cut.
Moyoco Anno – Evening Magazine (Kodansha) – Seinen – 1 volume
This book was my next license request, but Vertical beat me to the punch by announcing it at the New York Comic Con a few weeks ago. That doesn’t mean I can’t still talk about it, though. So instead of another round of wishful thinking on my part, I’ll just show off why this was an awesome choice on Vertical’s part. Vertical is also releasing a new English edition of Adolf, by Osamu Tezuka, another series I’ve discussed at length before, so look forward to that as well.
Kazuo Umezu – Shogakukan (serialized in Big Comic Spirits) – 1990 – 26 volumes
For the month of October, the license request has to be horror manga. And honestly, there’s no horror manga I’d rather see in English than Fourteen, by Kazuo Umezu.
Truthfully, any Umezu manga will do. We’ve been very fortunate already, of course, and there are 18 volumes of other things by him available in English, including the must-read Drifting Classroom. Another true thing is that Fourteen is not even the best of the untranslated Umezu manga. That would probably be Left Hand of God, Right Hand of the Devil (which is about a child that dreams of the future, and can also alter reality through his dreams), or maybe My Name is Shingo (about a couple who gives birth to a robot boy and his quest to find his parents). But Fourteen is the one I most want to read in English.
Why? Because Chicken George is unique and unforgettable. I’m a little ashamed to admit I’m almost afraid to read this series because he’s so scary, but I admire him all the more for it.
Minami Ozaki – 5/14/1 volumes – shoujo/BL – Margaret/Chorus – 1989-2011
It’s no secret I’m a terrible sucker for romance comics. Especially weepy, drama-filled romance comics. This series is the queen of weepy, drama-filled romance. Zetsuai/Bronze goes so over the top that car accidents become trivial because they happen so frequently. Not even I can take it seriously by the end, and I read Let Dai about seven times before I could finally admit to myself how bad the dialogue was. But I still love Let Dai to pieces, and I don’t love Zetsuai/Bronze any less for being… a smidge unlikely.
I’ll be honest with you, though. I was completely obsessed with this series about a year or so ago, but I couldn’t bring myself to re-read it before I wrote it up here. I was afraid that I would hate it if I read it again. That I would come to my senses and realize that I didn’t like either of the characters, or that it was just too ridiculous. But I loved it to pieces the first time through. I’d buy an English translation the second it came out, I would read every page, and I would probably try and get as many others to read it as possible. With the recent release of the gaiden/final volume of the series, along with Viz’s apparently imminent boys’ love line, I think the chances of this series getting translated are good.
It is one of the early cornerstones of the boys’ love genre. It’s among the first of these modern super-soapy BL stories, and it does love and drama with quite a bit of style. Over twenty years later, there’s still not much that can match the drama of Zetsuai 1989 and its sequels. And I love it unconditionally for that.
Yumiko Oshima – 7 volumes – shoujo – Lala – 1978-1987
So, when I re-designed the site, I took down my Most Wanted Licenses page. It was updated sporadically, and it never felt that good to add something new to it since there was no way to call attention to it. So instead, I split it up and am making the old content part of my new Friday features stuff. Hopefully it’ll be something I can put on a monthly rotation. In terms of license requests, David Welsh already does this every Friday, and he has much better taste than me, so if you want to read about stuff that would actually be a good idea to license, I suggest taking a look at his choices. I suspect stuff I’m going to highlight will have zero chance of being licensed.
Anyway! On to the first choice!
Whenever I see anyone mention Chi’s Sweet Home I get a little sad, because it only reminds me that I can’t read the Star of Cottonland in English. I’m sure they’re nothing alike (I’ve never read Chi’s Sweet Home), but I think that What’s Michael and Chi could use some company in the category of English-language manga about the lives of cats. And who better to join them than the original nekomimi/catgirl? Would you believe that phenomenon started off utterly innocent and adorable?