Archive for the English Manga Category


Yuri Manga: MURCIÉLAGO, Volume 2 (English)

May 23rd, 2017

In Volume 1 of MURCIÉLAGO, we were introduced to serial killer Koumori Kuroko, who now subcontracts for the police, “closing” cases they can’t deal with. 

MURCIÉLAGO, Volume 2 begins with the final piece of the “Murder Party” arc, in which we can see that Kuroko is in fact, a pervert, as well preternaturally good at her work.

The phrase “Congenital Insensitivity to Pain and Anhydrosis” is less funny here if only because it was originally presented in English. However, killer maid Yukari’s response is still a hoot. 

“Murder Party” wraps up with several key points – a glimpse of sniper Reiko and a hope that we will see her again, and a detailed exposition of Yukari’s situation and, ultimately some discussion of how Kuroko found herself in this position. Speaking of positions, Kuroko gets a little sex in (yes, I went there and did that) and Hinako gives us our first glimpse of the not-really-rightness that is her. It’s just a brief hint so far. We’ll get more later. 

The book wraps up with a lead-in to a new arc that is, I must warn you, really quite horrible on at least two levels. If you were waffling about the violence in Volumes 1-2, wait ’til Volume 3. “Domestic Killer” ramps it up considerably. And it’s also creepy and lolicon fetishy. That may work for you if that’s works for you. It was not my favorite arc. 

Ratings:

Art – 6 Still very ugly
Story – 7 Still  horrible violence and sex
Characters – 8 Double the amount of psychotic women means it was twice as good.
Service – 10 Creative, awful and pervasive
Yuri – 9 

Overall – 9

I am biding my time waiting for the Virginal Rose arc. ^_^

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LGBTQ Manga: My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness (English)

May 19th, 2017

Nagata Kabi made a huge splash on online art community Pixiv with her heartfelt and honest autobiographical comic, in which she discussed her depression, the eating disorder she developed as a result and the long path to recovery and hope. East Press picked up Nagata-san’s narrative from it’s online home and printed it in book form. When I reviewed Sabishi-sugi Rezu Fuzoku ni Ikimashita Report (さびしすぎてレズ風俗に行きましたレポ) in 2016, I was convinced there was no chance we’d ever see it in English. I am so pleased to be completely wrong about that. ^_^

There are several amazing things about this book right on the surface. The publisher in English is Seven Seas, which has shown a genuine desire to be a Yuri powerhouse in the western manga market, but which – up until now – has favored moe schoolgirls over lesbians. I don’t blame them, I’m not criticizing…if anything I’m thankful that this is so out of their wheelhouse. Unlike something steeped in genre tropes like Hana & Hina Afterschool, I think Kabi Nagata’s My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness has a significant chance of reaching a non-manga-reading audience with a story that will very likely be meaningful for them. This is no Sweet Blue Flowers, this is a fairly brutal tale of a real life in crisis.

The most notable thing about this story is not that the artist is a lesbian. It’s that the Pixiv response to this woman’s honesty about her detachment from herself ,shows that a lot of people (not just in Japan) find themselves completely alienated from their own needs at an even earlier age these days than previously. The “mid-life” crisis has become just a “life crisis.” Pixiv readers resonated with this idea of the life one assumed one was supposed to have, the self-flagellation of not being able to even so much as fake that, and the breakdown when it all becomes too much. I sometimes think about the desperate loneliness of men and women in earlier centuries, unable to access – or even perhaps conceive –  of a life more emotionally fulfilling than the one they occupied.

The complete honesty of this story is moving. It hurts watching Nagata-san struggle…even when I know that she would come out the other end of this long tunnel.  

In my review of the Japanese volume I said “I think the story will resonate for a lot of people, although I am not one of them. I’m accustomed to my own bouts of depression and burn-out, but do not find solace in other people’s tales of their own experience.” I stand by this, but want to amend that the language barrier did affect me after all, because in English I was more deeply touched by the words. For that, I need to give my sincere thanks to translator Jocelyne Allen and adaptor Lianne Sentar (for whom I also owe thanks for the review copy!) Technically, this book looks awesome, maintaining the original three color interior of the original. And for that, I thank Lissa Patillo and all the fine folks at Seven Seas. You did an especially good job, with an especially challenging and especially worthy manga.

Which brings me to the final notable point about this book. It will officially hit shelves on June 6 and is already the #1 top selling manga in the Yaoi, Gay & Lesbian manga category! (And, almost in the top 5000 for books in general, wow.) When I checked yesterday Yuri manga filled 6 of the top 10 slots in that category, along with Hana & Hina Afterschool , Bloom Into You, and the Kase-san series (especially Kase-san and Bento, Volume 2 of the series), it’s something I never expected to see, and it warmed the cockles of this Yuri-lover’s heart.

Ratings:

Art – 6
Story – 8
Character – 8
Service – 2
Yuri – 7

Overall – 8

Please buy this book, so we get more Yuri about lesbians. Please buy this book so we get more comic essays by lesbians. Buying this book lets Seven Seas know that you want lesbians in your Yuri. ^_^ And tell everyone you know about it. This book is, along with My Brother’s Husband, a game-changer.

And, while you’re at it, let Amazon know that the category title ought to be Yaoi, Yuri, Gay & Lesbian. I’ve written them to ask for it to be changed. If you write them, too, maybe they’ll change it!

 

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Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga, Volume 1 (English)

May 10th, 2017

A few years ago, we had the 15th anniversary re-release of the Revolutionary Girl Utena anime from Nozomi/RightStuff, and this year we have the Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga Complete Deluxe Box Set from Viz Media! And what a deluxe set it is.

This two-volume set of all 6 volumes of the manga (5 for the TV series, one for the movie) drawn by Saito Chiho, in collaboration with Be-Papas, comes in a black box that provides a similar kind of gravitas that the anime packaging provided, with beautiful rose-themed design work in both black glossy on black matte and in color. 

Volume 1 has the pink color theme of the first of the anime arcs, a nice nod to an established color scheme.

Each volume comes with color page inserts from the magazine run and covers of the manga. The collection also includes a poster of Anthy and Utena, suitable for any Yuri fan and guaranteed to have you singing Rinbu Revolution as soon as you see it.

Unlike most manga series that come out at the same time as an anime, the Revolutionary Girl Utena manga is not a literal rendering of the anime at all, but a separate tale, using the same characters and elements that existed in the anime. The rose sigil, the dueling ground, Akio’s car, the planetarium projector all exist here, as they did in the anime. But they do not necessarily mean (or not mean) the same things. Where the anime went for visual effect, the manga relies on shoujo manga tropes of emotional relationships, complications and manipulation.

Compared to the anime, the manga is short, tight, and deeply complicated. When we meet her, Tenjou Utena is very apparently a very young, immature girl with a dream of a Prince that has extremely tenuous roots in reality. It becomes quickly apparent that everything around Utena has extremely tenuous roots in reality. And, when Utena arrives at Ohtori Academy, this does not change.

Where, in the anime, we spend a lot of time with the Student Council, here in the manga they swiftly take a second seat to Ohtori Akio. In the anime, Akio is insidious and horrible, here he is overtly manipulative and power hungry. His honesty about his desires for power and his use of Utena to that end doesn’t make him any less loathsome. What is significantly different is the character of Touga who appeared to be manipulated almost until the very end of the anime here defects to Utena’s side and acts in part as a Greek Chorus, explaining the whims of the gods, and part as a Virgil to Utena’s Dante.

Speaking of shoujo tropes, the relationships portrayed in the manga are almost all toxic. Non-consensual kisses and slapping are common. There is a lot of slapping in these 3 volumes. A lot. Even when it doesn’t really serve any function, or move the story forward. By the time Saionji hauls off on Anthy the last time, in the bonus curry explosion chapter, you can be forgiven for thinking Anthy wouldn’t mind seeing them all dead.

Ratings:

Art- 8 Good, solid, sensual, beautiful but compared to her current outstanding work in Torikaebaya it’s almost simplistic.
Story – 7 Uncomfortable making, weird, and still, strangely hopeful.
Characters – 7 Not as fully developed as in the anime. Everyone seems slightly more delusional.
Service – 5 Creepy non-con seductions and slapping so…mostly violence against women’s autonomy
Yuri- 1 Only if you’re reading anything into Anthy and Utena’s relationship which, as of yet, has not developed beyond lies.

Overall – 8 for content , 9 for presentation

It’s equally as uncomfortable as the anime, although in different ways. I like that Akio is more overtly horrible, but am sad that it’s at the loss of fully developed Student Council.

When I read this series the first time back in 1998 or so, when I remember that it was very difficult for me to read the word “hyou” (leopard) for the longest time. Yes, I know there is a leopard on the page. I wanted to find a official translation…and couldn’t. It moved me to buy my first Japanese dictionary. ^_^

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Yuri Manga: Hana & Hina Afterschool, Volume 1 (English)

May 3rd, 2017

After reading the English-language version of Volume 1 of Milk Morinaga’s Hana & Hina Afterschool, I’ve decided that it is a series of tropes that, at first, appear to be struggling to find their story. In my review of the Japanese edition I called it “a Cards for Humanity “Yuri Tropes” edition. Which, I pointed out, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Hana is a typical high school student with an illicit after-school job in a store selling character goods.  She enjoys the job, but makes no effort to understand the stock. I don’t need to explain to you how vexing it would be if you wanted the special edition Senbonzakura Miku, not the Spring Version Miku and the salesperson didn’t have a clue what you meant. 

Hina is a tall attractive, mature-looking young lady with an encyclopedic knowledge of character goods. She is an amateur model and gets a job in the store working with Hana. And, it turns out, she attends Hana’s school And, Hina is younger than she seems. In one moment, Hana gains a kouhai at school and work.

Hina and Hana have a slightly uncomfortable relationship as they become more friendly on the job, but feel that they must not interact at school. The tension between them increases as both girls begin having a harder time balancing their friendship and school life. The tension comes to a crisis during the sports festival when they decide they will just go ahead and be friends. But…it appears that that solves only one of their problems – Hina is still afraid of scaring away Hana, by liking her too much. 

Although I know how the series ends, I still managed to feel some concern for Hina’s  distress. Which says a lot for both the visual narrative and the translation, as handled by Jennifer McKeon and adapted by Shannon Fey. As we have come to expect, the reproduction here is top-notch. Long ago are the days of backgrounds that are masses of moire and migraines. Of course that means we’re looking even more closely for imperfections. And it’s a pleasure to know that those are rare with Seven Seas’ publications.

Morinaga series are, for better or worse, relatively formulaic. When it works, it works well. In Hana & Hina Afterschool, it has the potential to work. The pacing is uneven, which keeps this story from just being another Odd Couple mis-match fable and the characters are likable which keep you rooting for them.

Ratings:

Art – 8  with an emphasis on the cute
Story – 7 with potential 
Characters – halfway through I’d have said 6, but by the end, 8
Service –6 I mentioned the cuteness, right? And, dressing and undressing.
Yuri – 4, but climbing

Overall – 7

Again, quoting my initial review, “You want them to come together – but you want it to be realistic and have depth of connection, not just ’cause this is a Yuri manga.”

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Yuri Manga: Secret of the Princess (English)

April 28th, 2017

Sometimes, you hope something is finally translated into English, only to find it wasn’t nearly as good as you remembered. And sometimes, it’s the opposite! In Milk Morinaga’s The Secret of the Princess, we split the difference – it weathered the last two years since I first reviewed it relatively well and ended up being a more decent read in English than I expected. ^_^

Miu’s mother has told her repeatedly that the most important thing a girl can do is to devote her energies to being attractive to “her prince” – whomever that may ultimately be. But in the meantime, Miu’s stuck in an all-girl school without so much as a guy to be asked out by. Fortune puts her in the way of some mildly damning information about Fujiwara, the school sports star and, once in a position for some light extortion, she jumps to it. She asks Fujiwara to become a practice prince for her. And, as uncomfortable as the idea makes her, Fujiwara is in no position to protest. So, Miu and Fujiwara begin “dating.”

With a set up like this, in a single-volume Morinaga series, there can be little doubt that the two girls will come around reasonably quickly to having actual feelings for one another. And so they do. Despite the fairly obvious path the narrative takes, it’s not a terrible story. Miu, who might easily have been exceptionally unlikable, changes considerably during the course of the story and Fujiwara, who begins the book as a cipher, ends up equally as sympathetic. For a one-shot, this is a pretty enjoyable read. Even when the tables turn and Miu could easily become a one-dimensional sympathetic bad guy, Morinaga’s writing finds a happier path for the characters and the readers. ^_^

The production is, as one expects from Seven Seas, clean and easy to read. Translation and adaptation by Jennifer McKeon and Shannon Fey give us a pleasant, authentic reading experience. Just what one hope from Yuri manga from Seven Seas. 

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 7 Problematic in the beginning, by smooths out over time
Characters – 7 
Yuri – 7
Service – 3 bits here and there

Overall – 7

Miu’s mom, though, phew. What crappy advice to give to your kid!

Many thanks to Seven Seas for the review copy!

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