Berserk 37

December 19, 2014

Kentaro Miura – Dark Horse – 2013 – 37+ volumes

Sigh.  I put off reading this, because we only get one a year, if we’re lucky.  We don’t get one this year, for instance, and next year’s not looking really good right now, either.  Having read this, I have none left for the foreseeable future.  Which is a sad thing, because Berserk is AMAZING.

Even still.  I wasn’t really on board with the end of the sea monster fight at the beginning of the volume, honestly.  That’s just a huge heaving mass of abstractions, with battles going on with its tentacles, in the sea outside its body, and with Guts inside.  I mean, it was really cool that Guts was stumbling around inside trying to stab its heart, and couldn’t, because the beating was too loud.  That’s the kind of extreme that’s hard to come by outside of Berserk.  While that’s going on, the thing is being swarmed by mermaids, which is also cool.

Alas, they STILL don’t get to Elf Island.  How many years have I been waiting for this, now?  Unless they have another detour, or some character-building on the open sea, I expect it should happen next volume.  Maybe.  It’s hard to tell with Berserk.

The sea monster fight was a little abstract for me, but that was made up for by the side story we got in the middle of the volume.  It went back to tell the story of young mercenary Guts and his encounter with a little flower elf/fairy.  It was an adorable story, and a good reminder of what the series was about before Guts was fighting huge heaving masses of tentacles and weird stuff in dark, cursed armor.

We also get a check-in with Falconia.  Nothing we don’t already know, other than it’s going to look really bad if Falconia gets invaded.  We also get to see more of the demon archer Griffith has working for him, who is my favorite of those new demonic types.

The art is still super-amazing, and this is still completely and totally Berserk.  It was great, the volume went by too fast, and now I have to wait forever for the next brief installment.

You know, I’ve never read the text on the ad that always appears in the back of the volume that lists all the ISBNs for the different volumes.  One of the ways the series is described is… “mercilessly funny.”  I don’t… know about that.

Ranma 1/2 1 (2-in-1 ed.)

December 19, 2014

Rumiko Takahashi – Viz – 2014 – 38 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 1-2

I tried really hard to resist these editions.  They weren’t the nice 3-in-1s with bonus art and larger trim size, and I have the full set of Ranma already.  But my roommate and I have been watching the first season of the anime.  He watched the anime a hundred times while he was in high school, and I read the manga a hundred times while I was in high school.  We were able to give each other the blow-by-blow and have a lot of fun.  I wanted to re-read the manga, but my early volumes of it are the old editions, and the binding is rotten on them.  So that’s was the weak justification I used.

I regret nothing.  I love this series.  Admittedly, reading this after watching the anime made it lose its impact a bit (the lines are almost verbatim between the two), but this still brought back a lot of memories.  The first volume of Ranma was the first collected manga graphic novel I ever read.  I mail-ordered it, and when I cracked it open and saw Ranma and Akane’s bare breasts half a dozen pages in, my innocent mind was blown.  I hid it under the bed and didn’t get it out for another week.  I was 14.

Amazingly, I’ve talked about this series a lot on this site before.  I looked up how long ago that was, and got depressed, so I’m not going to mention it.  But basically, I’ve talked about this, and you probably know what the deal is, so I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail.

These first couple volumes, after a break of I-don’t-want-to-think-about-it since reading them, seem a little more manic than I remember.  There’s some longer storylines (particularly the Ryoga introduction, but I’d also count the Dr. Tofu stuff since he stops recurring in a couple volumes), but mostly these are character introductions.  Granted, Ranma isn’t known for its substantial storylines, but this seems a little skip-y compared to sitting down with a volume that covers, say, martial arts cheerleading and some sort of pervert-jellyfish, and that’s it.

And again, I was a little less charmed than I could have been because I’d just seen the exact same stories in the anime, and still had all the lines memorized because I literally did read these two volumes that many times.  But I still loved it, and I still loved seeing Ryoga’s introduction.  He and Ranma were always my favorite characters, and I still love that Ryoga is such a great frenemy.

Compared to the originals – again, I have the old-old ones (not the $10 modern-trim-size ones that match the last volumes), but the most noticeable difference is that the print quality is way, way better.  The first chapter was in color in Shounen Sunday, and the reproduction is awful in the old volumes I have.  Otherwise, the retouch artwork is the same (in the parts I remember), and I’m fairly sure the translation is mostly the same as well, though I don’t have them to do a side-by-side comparison.  Slang, colloquialisms, and odd phrasings seem to mostly be what I remember, though again, some spot-changing could have happened, and my memory could be faulty.

Actually, I lied, the most notable difference is that the 2-in-1 volumes are unflipped.  That’s not really worth the price of admission for me, but it’s still pretty awesome, since I’ve never read Ranma that way before.

These are coming out quarterly, and though I’ll hate myself for it, I’m probably going to follow it again.  Next volume is Kodachi/Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics, so I’m not sure that I can stop now.  Though I probably will stop reviewing them when I catch up to the reviews I’ve already done… then again, I could just delete those old ones and do myself as well as the internet a service.  Seriously, don’t read those.

Rumic World Trilogy 1

December 19, 2014

Rumiko Takahashi – Viz – 1996 – 3 volumes

Protip:  If you’re looking for volumes of this trilogy, there’s two versions of volume 1 floating around.  This one (from 1996) has two extra stories that the other (from 1993) does not.  The two stories are Those Selfish Aliens and Time Warp Trouble.  The former is Takahashi’s professional debut, so you’ll probably want to see it if you’re bothering to seek these volumes out.

Unfortunately, I can’t distinguish them much more than that.  Both are black (though the older is black and purple, and the newer is black and red), and both have cover illustrations from The Laughing Target.  The newer volume also has the archers from The Laughing Target in the illustration, and the older just has the girl’s portrait.  They’re also titled slightly different things – Rumic World (1993) versus Rumic World Trilogy (1996), though that may not mean much in the world of bad internet data.  Here’s a link to my LibraryThing account with the data and covers for both.

Anyway!  These are among the oldest of Takahashi’s short stories, and as such… are a little rough.  The aforementioned Time Warp Trouble was my least favorite in the collection.  A chemistry experiment goes awry and some folks in period costumes rush the school and steal the lunches.  Much is said/yelled about food and farming preservation.  The interlopers escape back through a time warp.  There is a twist on the last two pages that made this somewhat more interesting, though not necessarily worth the price of admission.  It reads a lot like the characters are continuously belaboring a current event that I am unaware of.

Those Selfish Aliens isn’t much better, although I enjoyed the cute premise of a delivery boy becoming the ultimate weapon of three different races, unbeknownst to anyone but the reader.  This is also where the fishman in the spacesuit comes from, who appeared regularly in Urusei Yatsura (kind of like a Tezuka cast member).

Fire Tripper was probably the best story in the collection, about a girl who is spirited away to the distant past after a gas explosion in the present.  She befriends a local teen boy and realizes a young boy who’s hand she was holding during the explosion was also brought over with her, and tries desperately to find him.  There’s some more back-and-forth time travel, and the ultimate explanation was… a little mind-blowing, honestly.  I had to put the book down to process the crossing paths properly.  Basically, the plot of the story is very sound, but the development is a little harder to sit through.

The Laughing Target is a good horror story, very Mermaid Saga-esque.  A woman is promised in marriage to her cousin at a young age, and re-enters his life as a teen obsessed with him.  She begins terrorizing his current girlfriend, and we find out later she has some rather wicked powers.  This one didn’t have very interesting characters, but was still a good story.

Finally, Maris the Chojo was a very Urusei Yatsura-esque comedy story about a burly alien trying to get out of debt.  Cute.

An interesting collection, but the other two I’ve read have better stories.  Still, a must for the huge fan of Takahashi, as “Those Selfish Aliens” is her first, and “Fire Tripper,” “Laughing Target,” and “Maris the Chojo” were all animated as 90s OAVs.  Still available on VHS!

Ikigami 6

December 19, 2014

Motoro Mase – Viz – 2010 – 10 volumes

For the holiday weekend (Thanksgiving, in case I post this later), I grabbed a big handful of Viz Signature/Ikki manga to read.   Since Ikigami 6-7 were on the shelf together, I assumed I had helped myself out and shelved the TBR together.  That was not the case, and I’m going to have to dig through my stacks for volume 5 (and apparently 8 as well).

For Ikigami though, reading 6 ahead of 5 is fine, since each volume is two stand-alone stories.

There’s a slight story arc in the framing device of the man that delivers the death warrants.  He decides to be a patriot and an informer, and deals with that decision.

But mostly, the first story is about a relatively optimistic homeless youth, formerly a battered child, who is served an Ikigami.  He lives it up (an Ikigami can be used as currency in most stores/restaurants/hotels/etc), and it’s sad, but then he later decides to reconcile with his guardians.  Turns out, his uncle is still a jerk, and the nearly departed decides to implicate them as enemies of the state so they don’t get his Ikigami benefits/death cash.  There’s some commentary about the homeless youth, and an unusually happy ending, given the nature of this series.

The second one is about a young man who loses his mother to illness, and is disillusioned with his father, who has given up his journalistic fight with the government.  He is secretly part of an anti-government movement (strictly forbidden), and when he is served his Ikigami, he causes a scene with our friendly neighborhood Ikigami Messenger in order to disgrace his father.

This series is a real downer, which would explain why it’s taken me so long to pick up another volume.  I am going to read 7 this weekend though, which will tell me how “fast” the regular plot is moving, and I’ll probably check out 5 within the next week or so in order to fill in the hole.  I’m happy the series is over at 10 volumes… but reading the last 3 after this is a depressing prospect.  The stories are always really good… but they don’t make me wanna celebrate life and/or rebel against the government.  They make me want to read something less depressing.

Real 10

December 19, 2014

Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2011 – 13+ volumes

It never fails to impress me how much I absolutely love every volume by Takehiko Inoue.  I mean, absolutely none of the subject matter interests me.  I don’t like basketball, chanbara, or, really, wheelchair basketball.  Sometimes, I have to psych myself up before I read a volume.  But it’s always a pleasure, in the end.

In the case of Real, I know I love it, and I held onto volumes because they come out slowly and read very quickly.

There wasn’t even a whole lot going on in this volume, I read it in 20 minutes, and I haven’t touched this series since practically 2010.  But I was able to dive right back in, and I loved every page.

One of the major pitfalls with Real is that the volumes can be depressing, particularly the volumes that deal with Takahashi.  But even Takahashi’s story is beginning to look up here.  He’s still got a long way to go (for instance, we learn that he has to keep himself carefully balanced in his wheelchair, because his abdominal muscles no longer support his torso), but being in a gym again is getting to him.  And the last few pages of the volume introduce him to wheelchair basketball.

My favorite part here was Kiyoharu’s annual exam.  Inoue perfectly captured the mood of Kiyoharu, his father, and his nearly-girlfriend.  Kiyoharu wakes up, and tells himself the entire day that there’s nothing wrong.  But the dark thoughts keep intruding.  What if the cancer comes back?  Is the test taking too long because they found cancer?  Does the doctor want to look at his last x-ray to compare because he sees cancer?  It’s scary, and hopeful, and somehow Inoue also makes it feel like a regular day.  It’s rather odd how well it works.

Meanwhile, we also get a lot of Nomiya, who’s all ready to go pro.  He’s very optimistic, and spreading his optimism around.  Which is great, because after his ups and downs, I’m so glad to see him on his feet again.  Which, admittedly, is ridiculous, because I’m only ten volumes into this series, and I haven’t read it in four years.  But that’s how Real is.  Empathetic characters, and their difficult struggles, are what it does well.  Wheelchair basketball is just a bonus.

Luckily, I’ve got the next two volumes here, and 13 comes out tomorrow (I’m writing this on the 17th).  I’M READY.

Shunju Aono – Viz – 2013 – 5 volumes

I’m glad this finished up in 5 volumes.  I was never quite sure what to make of this.  My roommate loved it, and found it inspirational.  I’m not sure what to make of that, either.  He’s too young for a mid-life crisis.

The other volumes aside, this one was really touching.  It’s not so much about Shizuo as it is the other people in his life this time.  The first part of the volume talks about his friend, Miyata, who opened a bakery to try and be close to his young son, from whom he was separated.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but God, that was really sad.  And shocking.  That it was so depressing and kind of a regular, unremarkable thing was what made it hit home for me.

Similarly, the final two chapters, told from Shizuo’s daughter’s perspective, were sad for the same reason.  They were just depressing, but in an average, everyday kind of way.  Again, I think it was the depressing realism that made it so hard to read.  I liked ending the volume/series this way, too, since we’re never sure what Shizuo’s daughter thinks of anything he does.

Honestly, we still kinda don’t.  But it was still a nice way to end the series.

Does Shizuo get published?  Well, this series has always been about the journey.

Again, I’m still not sure what the… tone of this series was supposed to be.  Funny?  Depressing?  Awkward?  Inspirational?  Autobiographical?

But it was something.  Something worth reading.  Will everyone appreciate its special genius?  Probably not.  But if you get a hankering for a depressing 5-volume series about a mid-life crisis, this is definitely your series.  I’m glad I found it.

Sakura Hime 10

December 19, 2014

Arina Tanemura – Viz – 2013 – 12 volumes

I kept the last three volumes of Sakura Hime together and on the top of my to be read stack while breaking from manga, because I knew if there was something that would suck me back down the rabbit hole of shoujo, it would be Arina Tanemura.  I love her so much!  And I always have, ever since I was drooling over her pretty Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne color art in the late 90s.  And that was even before I read the manga.

I was worried that Sakura Hime was going to be a little too soap-y to dive back into the end.  But really, I’ve read enough shoujo manga to know what’s going on, and with the character chart in front, I was good to go.

I was happy to see the end of the Rurijo/Hayate story at the beginning of this volume.  It was So! Freaking! Cute!  I really like Rurijo, and she’s well-written as a somewhat cheery and very honest, but still a villain, and she still only exists because Enju made her to be a monster that looked like his sister.  Which is super-creepy, but she seems to deal with it well.

The only bad thing about the Rurijo/Hayate story is that it splits up Hayate/Kohaku, which I also like.  Where does my girly shoujo heart lie?!  Well, I do like Rurijo better than Kohaku.  Then again, the scene between Hayate and Kohaku after the first chapter here nearly broke me, so I don’t know that my pure shoujo heart of hearts can root for a villain.  Realistically, since Rurijo isn’t a real person, she’ll probably dissolve in a cloud of mermaid tears or whatever, Hayate will be sad, then Hayate and Kohaku will hook up anyway.  But the agony of indecision is what makes reading shoujo fun.

Near the middle of the volume, Sakura gets to meet the emperor.  That doesn’t go well.  Luckily, we don’t have to worry about that for too long.  That was… super-dark and fairly shocking, even for me.

Later, another fun storyline plays out about the relationship between Princess Yuri and Enju’s henchman Maimai, both of whom are obsessed with beauty.  They play well off each other as well as Sakura, and I cracked a smile more than once through there.  There’s dark backstory too, of course, and it ends with some fairly serious sacrifices.  But it was still a fun story, and I’m glad that Tanemura is balancing that well with the dark stuff.

After this volume, I can see how this story might be wrapping up in two more volumes.  The opposition is slowly weakening, though Enju himself is very terrifying.  That… may be all there is left to deal with, unless Rurijo gets another story.  I am ready.


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