November 16, 2014
Moyoco Anno – Vertical – 2014 – 1 volume
I bought and read this the same week it came out, which again, I haven’t really been doing. But this. I’ve been waiting years for this book. Here’s an article I wrote in 2011, for instance. I was so happy that we were getting more Moyoco Anno (and Kyoko Okazaki! and Asumiko Nakamura!) in English.
So I’ve already talked about the plot, then. An overweight woman named Noko endures teasing by a specific coworker with a vendetta against her. Said coworker seduces Noko’s long-time boyfriend and sends happy, introverted Noko into a body-centric depression.
Noko tries initially to get back at her boyfriend by sleeping with a random stranger. She finds a rich old man. Said old man is the kindest person in this unkind story, which isn’t saying much, because he winds up being weirdly unkind in the end. This man worships Noko’s body, and tells her not to be ashamed, there’s nothing wrong with the way she looks. Noko thinks that being thin is the only way she can be happy, and the old man tells her that being thin definitely won’t help. But he gives her enough money to go to an expensive weight loss clinic.
Noko takes the treatments and begins a dieting process, but with the constant torment from the spiteful coworker and her d-bag boyfriend, she loses self-confidence and develops bulimia.
She doesn’t admit this to anybody, but she does lose a lot of weight. But being thinner doesn’t solve Noko’s problems. She still lacks self-confidence, and she still lets her d-bag boyfriend and coworkers walk all over her.
This is a depressing story, and still reads as contemporary even though it’s almost 20 years old. Somehow, Anno is a master of depressing main characters who try to solve their problems and can’t. This one’s even more depressing because Noko doesn’t have anyone to help her with happiness, so she latches on to being pretty. She has a coworker that tries to help her with the bullying at work, but unfortunately Noko latches on to the fact that this woman is bullied for her looks, as well.
The kindest character is probably the harsh coach at the weight loss clinic. She’s quite mean to Noko, but gives her what advice she can on what is and isn’t good for Noko, and tries to help her out. But she can’t, which is one of the crueler and more confusing plot twists in this story.
The art is pretty vintage Anno. Think Happy Mania rather than Sakuran or Sugar Sugar Rune. Spare and contemporary, it looks like a josei manga, with large eyes, angular characters, and not a whole lot of detail. But the spareness for this story fits very well.
Very good, and very different (few manga deal with weight loss issues, and they are even more rarely so dark), but just remember… it is a downer.
November 16, 2014
Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2012 – 20 volumes
Even after an extended break, this is still absurdly exciting. I was surprised how easily I got back into this. I remembered all the characters, and exactly what was going on. Still wasn’t all that surprising when the mastermind behind the “manga factory” was revealed. Of course it was him.
I loved that they analyzed the analytical manga-making process, talked about how to beat it, and found its flaw (which was, admittedly, kinda underwhelming, but makes total sense in the context of this series). The tactic where you go back to the beginning of your series to make the most exciting storyline you can is a good one.
I also liked all the talk about the older manga artists, and their place in Jump. Interesting, since a lot of the current top artists have had series running for 15 or so years. Of course, the real guys are super-successful, and the ones in Bakuman are almost-gave-ups. But still.
Shujin and Saiko are still grinding away on PCP. I’m waiting for that to change sometime soon, probably within the last three volumes. But next time, if I’ve been good, we get to find out what Eiji Nizuma is up to. And Shujin and Saiko may be starting their own new series. One that is, and I quote, “cult-type mainstream battle manga with good-versus-evil powered characters.” Hm.
November 16, 2014
Kyousuke Motomi – Viz – 2012 – 16 volumes
Sometimes, I worry that this series lost its spark after Teru found out about Daisy. Then, Kurosaki wishes gout upon Teru, and I remember why this is still good to read. Also, I like that he complains about being poor, but apparently wears D&G underwear. And I really like that a reader comment in back said that one of Kurosaki’s bad points is that he’s not going bald like everyone is hoping. So maybe I have that to look forward to in future volumes.
So I do still like it. But having said that, I’m still not sure I’m all that into the direction the plot is taking right now. This volume starts in on a new threat, this time headed by Teru’s friend Rena’s fiancee. It’s a new version of Jack Frost, and Morizono is a pretty sleazy guy who tries to bribe Teru and does all sorts of awful stuff to Rena.
But… again, I don’t really want to read a shoujo manga about computer hacking and espionage. Teru is still kinda in danger, because she’s being targeted as Daisy’s contact person. But most of this volume is about Rena, and about Morizono slowly being unveiled as a sleaze.
I do still like Teru and Kurosaki, and I adore the sense of humor that’s still slipping in occasionally. But I think I’m gonna need to get through this storyline before I start getting bigger doses of what I want.
November 16, 2014
Kosuke Fujishima – Dark Horse – 2012 – 48 volumes
Though I read relatively few volumes of manga this year, the end of Oh My Goddess did not escape me. I really, really like this series, and even during other periods where I read little manga over the years, I still read Oh My Goddess (this one included, I’m behind on reviews, but not reading it). There’s nothing spectacular, really, I’ve just grown to genuinely love the characters over the years, and Fujishima has been good at continually coming up with interesting situations. Dark Horse hasn’t scheduled the last volume yet, but it’s sad to think that the next time I take a break, Oh My Goddess won’t be there for me.
I was surprised to see yet another foe in this volume. Again, I wasn’t expecting the storyline to last this long, since Oh My Goddess stories generally do not. But it goes on for a little longer still. Another foe is mainly featured in this volume, Mokkurkalfi. Mokkurkalfi is a machinist, which of course means that this fight belongs to Skuld.
Again, I know it’s not exciting to people who haven’t been reading this series for, like, 15 years, but seeing Skuld fight in a situation that defeats both Belldandy and Urd, and getting an explanation about what makes Skuld great, is awesome. She is often played for laughs, and acts childishly, but here she fights like no other. Even Banpei gets to be super-cool. But then again, Banpei always is.
There’s also a great moment towards the end of the book where Mokkurkalfi proves that, while they all look like smoking hot older women, the demons and goddesses are just magical beings, and can look like whatever they want. Then she proves it by going super-dark-powerful-creepy on Keiichi. And yes, he realizes, he forgets what he’s lived with all these years. Again, a great moment because Oh My Goddess doesn’t often get dark like that, nor call attention to the fact that the Goddesses are… well, just that. This storyline in particular is great, because Keiichi can do almost literally nothing against these demons (except for last time <3).
And we get more of the good stuff in the next volume!
November 16, 2014
Ayano Yamane – SuBLime – 2013 – 5+ volumes
Again, trying to shake off my manga funk, I’m picking and choosing titles carefully. I was in the mood for some BL, and have a towering stack of unread volumes to choose from… but I didn’t want a bad experience to sour me. I’m glad I went for Ayano Yamane. She’d never do me wrong.
This was perfect, because this is basically a fantasy series with a lot of sex. I was a little shocked by how much sex, though I shouldn’t have been, because… well, I’ve read the Finder series. This series is about a gentleman/prince named Vald who is crippled by a curse from his family’s heirloom sword. He turns into a bloodthirsty demon and does he doesn’t know what to innocent people while in this state. So he seeks out the help of magician Havi, so he can go back and live in his kingdom.
Havi is an aloof magician with a fondness for really weird artifacts. He agrees to help Vald if Vald helps him on a dragon-slaying quest. Vald agrees, as he’s “good at that sort of thing.”
The sex comes in when Vald has to sleep at night in some magically sealed shackles in order to keep his demon at bay. Havi takes them off and binds the demon, then has sex with it. Because this is an Ayano Yamane manga.
It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which I like, but it keeps it light without drifting into overt comedy (unless you count the plant sex in the bonus chapter, which is a bonus chapter and shouldn’t count). The story is kind of run-of-the-mill, but just interesting enough that it would keep my attention without the sex. It straddles an uncomfortable line as to whether it’s non-con or not – Vald doesn’t know what happens to him when he’s a demon… and the demon seems to enjoy the rough treatment. At least after the first time.
I like Yamane’s artwork a lot (nice character designs, and she’s got a flair for the medieval here), and I like fantasy stories as long as they have a bit of flavor for the plot and characters, which this one does.
I wish it ended with volume 5… not only because I can run out and buy the rest of it right now, but also because this series releases PAINFULLY SLOW in Japan. We’ve only had 5 volumes since 2004. I’m not sure that I’m going to like waiting several years for volume 6. But I will anyway, because that’s what I do.
November 16, 2014
Naoko Takeuchi – Kodansha USA – 2013 – 12 volumes
Okay! Still going back to basics! The S story arc is still going on, and most of this volume deals with side stories about the non-main Sailor Guardians powering up and finding their own inner Tiny Senshi. Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter each get their own chapter, and Venus gets a double chapter where her inner Tiny Senshi is actually man-Artemis. Then Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto re-enter the story. YES. If it was possible, Michiru and Haruka got much cooler while they were away. But there’s no way to not make Haruka cool.
The stories are… about what you’d expect from Sailor Moon. The Amazon trio, plus Xenotime and Xenolite, wreak havoc in this volume while the Amazoness Qartet sends them to their deaths from the sidelines. These bad guys are actually my favorites, and they get developed a little more than usual here (or, at least, the Amazon Trio does), because they have to bond with Ami, Makoto, and Rei in order to get them to contemplate their inner selves.
I liked this volume for that reason, it was nice to step away from Usagi, Chibiusa, and Mamoru for awhile. Of course, they still have all their stuff going on. In fact, Mamoru is dying, and Chibiusa is initially heartbroken because she falls hard for Pegasus and later gets jealous because he’s looking for Sailor Moon, and not her. Mamoru is driving Usagi away because he doesn’t want to bring her down, and… that’s about it. We get some development for Chibiusa, and we learn what the deal with Pegasus is, but not so much for Usagi. Which is fine, because we normally see an awful lot of her.
So now that Saturn is back and everyone is Super-fied, it’s time to bring down the Dead Moon! Then we can commence with the serious business of Sailor Stars afterwards.
It really is a shame I like Sailor Stars so much. It means this story arc gets left in the lurch, and it really isn’t so bad.
November 16, 2014
Rumiko Takahashi – Viz – 2012 – 22+ volumes
I… still don’t know quite what to make of this one. The extremely straight-faced jokes are throwing me off. Like, the characters will do something ridiculous, and then all be totally cool and serious in the next panel talking about how that didn’t work, or that was really unfortunate. I love bizarre humor like that normally, but it’s weird seeing it in a Rumiko Takahashi manga, because she’s better at slapstick.
Admittedly, after watching some Ranma 1/2 and Urusei Yatsura lately, and reading more Inu-Yasha, it is refreshing to have characters that aren’t constantly yelling at one another. I think I like that about it.
I also like that Rin-ne continues to be shorter stories, which is the format that suits it best. Here, Rin-ne investigates 500 yen of missing membership dues, we learn about the Shinigami taboo of the expired ghost house, settle a wayward bus spirit, a tennis spirit, the spirit of the father of the captain of the girls’ Judo team, and finish up the story involving Ageha from last volume.
No character development. Rin-ne is still poor. Sakura Mamiya is still not shocked by anything that goes on. They kinda still don’t have a relationship.
As annoying as some of that is to see over and over again in hundreds of shounen and shoujo manga, you don’t realize how important it is until it isn’t there.
This is a good occasional read… but it is rather underwhelming. I’ll probably finish up Inu-Yasha before I come back to this. I love reading Rumiko Takahashi, but I should finish up the better series first. Then dip into the Ranma 1/2 reprints (I have the original format volumes, which weren’t bound well, and they are crumbling to dust in my hands).