Archive for the English Manga Category


Yuri Manga: Bloom Into You, Volume 1 (English)

February 12th, 2017

Nakatani Nio’s blockbuster manga has debuted in English as Bloom Into You, Volume 1 from Seven Seas.

When I originally reviewed Volume 1 of Yagate Kimi ni Naru, I said that it was “a sweet little Yuri romance that I both enjoyed a lot and also have several real problems with.” My opinion has not changed for the better as the issues with it have not abated, but intensified. (And for those of you new here, I’ve also reviewed Volume 2 and Volume 3 in Japanese. No need to try to “explain” the series to me. Thanks. You’re welcome to disagree, but you won’t change my opinion. ^_^)

On the ANNCast Friday, Jacob Chapman delved into the stereotype of the predatory gay man as a thing that really put him off. I briefly spoke about the line where it becomes victimization that really bothers me. But I wasn’t able to address the other part of that…something that bothers me in all manga, not just LGBTQ characters – coercion. I dislike it immensely when a character uses their perceived or real power to coerce another character into a situation they don’t want to be in. This is as true for Strawberry Panic! as it is for Shitsurakuen. And it seems obvious to me that the entirety of Bloom Into You can be summed up in this single panel (read-right-to-left): “Why not just tell her no?”  “I tried, but Nanami-sempai won’t give up on the idea!”

That’s just a deal killer for me. “No means no” whether someone says it about being a campaign manager or a girlfriend and whether the person asking is male or female. It wouldn’t be cute if it was a guy insisting and it’s not cute that it’s a girl.

Moreover, it’s even more obvious to me this time that Sayaka was just dissed right to her face. It’s really hard for me to like Touko ever again.

Part of the problem here is that this is a manga, although rated Teen by Seven Seas, was written for a magazine for adult men, and it adheres to the standard male romantic lead plot – stalk her, bug her, insist your feelings are sincere and magically she’ll realize she loves you. This is horrible in Hollywood movies and it’s no less toxic here. No, this is not how one convinces a girl to like one. Nor is Akari’s plan to wait until the reason the guy she likes uses to not go out with her runs out, a sensible one. These are stupid lessons and stuff that sets my teeth on edge about any “romance.” If feelings aren’t returned, it’s okay to feel shitty about being rejected, but not okay to just keep insisting they’ll come around.

The delusion so many of the characters live under make me sympathetic only to Sayaka who seems to see the whole thing most clearly, right down to her own unfulfilled desire. She’s basically the only reason I’m still reading this series.

Very unusually for Seven Seas, this volume also contains several name translation mistakes. Nanami Touko is  at least once referred to as “Nanako” (a mistake I noticed on the Amazon description, and had meant to, but completely forget to, email Seven Seas about, woops, sorry) and Saeki Sayaka is sometimes referred to referred to as Sanae Sayaka. The page reproduction is the usual high quality we’ve come to expect, however.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 5
Service – 1

Overall – 6 My reservations remain and have increased over time. The transition into English has not helped and the translation inconsistency (while quite probably because they had two proofreaders but no managing editor,) just sort of felt like an extra stone in my shoe.

“Sometimes love just takes time for the other person to get in to, right?”

Argh.

I really wish I liked this series, but I still have a lot of trouble with the premise. So, if you really like it a lot, I invite you to write in a short review for this volume in the comments and if you’d like to write about Volume 2 when it comes out in English, do let me know!

Send to Kindle




Yuri Manga: Gakuen Polizi, Volume 2 (English)

February 5th, 2017

Time is a funny thing. I first reviewed Gakuen Polizi, Volume 2 when it came out in Japanese. And, since then, I’ve found myself increasingly dissatisfied with the narrative. So much so, that I reviewed Gakuen Polizi, Volume 1 in English in 2014(!) and have been stalling on Volume 2 since.  Today, at last, I’m sitting down to talk with you about Gakuen Polizi, Volume 2 in English from Seven Seas.

Why? You don’t have to ask, because obviously I am going to tell you. ^_^

You know the phrase Women in Refrigerators? It was coined by comic writer and amazing human, Gail Simone. I’m going to be lazy and quote Wiki here:

It refers to an incident in Green Lantern #54 (1994), written by Ron Marz, in which Kyle Rayner, the title hero, comes home to his apartment to find that his girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, had been killed by the villain Major Force and stuffed into a refrigerator. Simone and her colleagues then developed a list of fictional female characters who had been “killed, maimed or depowered”, in particular in ways that treated the female character as merely a device to move a male character’s story arc forward, rather than as a fully developed character in her own right.

In subsequent years, we’ve had many discussions in comics and other popular media about “fridging” and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s “sexy lamp test” about which she said

“If you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.”

In a nutshell, these issues are part of the disenfranchising of female characters. And, to some extent, they are also part of the de-nuancing of the villains. In the weekend after watching Steven Universe “That Will Be All” in which we were gifted with fabulously nuanced and evocative performances from the villains of the story, it’s kind of brute-force narrative to have to turn to a manga in which a female character is almost gang raped on film just to show you how bad the nameless baddies are. UGH.

So, yeah, that’s why. ^_^

There are some other problematic things about the story. The relationship between a student and a teacher might be sincere, but will always be fraught. It was presented with some, but not enough context, just enough to make both characters sympathetic and the story less ham-handed, but the situation was still creepy.

Sometimes, when I write a story, I find it taking off into a dark place. I’ve cut out tens of thousands of words in stories when the idea needed to be treated with a light hand and kept crawling into a dark corner. This story needed that. It worked best when it was dealing with moments of human frailty and not big crime rings. 

The ending makes sense best if you recognize the characters from a doujinshi Morinaga-sensei drew decades ago. To be honest, I assumed from the beginning that that story was the kernel for this manga. 

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 6
Service – 8 Way more service than the first volume

Overall – 7

I would not rate this series among Morinaga-sensei’s best. I’m glad it’s in the past and that she’s moved on to Hana to Hina ha Houkago, which will be coming out in English as Hana and Hina Aterschool this spring. 

Send to Kindle




Steel Fist Riku Manga, Volumes 1-2-3 (English)

January 6th, 2017

Today’s review was brought to you by the kindness of Okazu Superhero Louis P, and I have to really commend him for his patience and perseverance, finding all three volumes of this obscure little series. Many thanks Louis!

And when I say “obscure” I mean that it was published by CMX, the manga imprint run by DC Comics. They were primed for success – really talented editors and some strong titles out of the gate, but. With a number of early controversies and DC’s strategic shift away from all their innovative ways to branch out into new comics and manga into making movies about the old characters, CMX was just one of a number of heads on DC’s chopping block in 2010.

The basic premise of Steel Fist Riku is something any older manga fan might instantly recognize – it’s a classic “perpetually hungry martial artist action-comedy.” In this iteration, we meet Riku, who lives with her adoptive father running a celebrity photo store, while training with him in his family style of martial arts.

In the course of the story, Riku is given a male rival who could be a love interest if they wanted, but thankfully they don’t. And she has, in the course of three volumes, more than one female friend, which goes a really long way to making this manga readable. Riku is herself a likable enough character. She’s very strong, always hungry and prone to getting involved in situations that just happen to need her fighting skills to resolve. As one does.

The only truly negative thing about the series is the main, often repeated, joke. Riku’s martial style is triggered by breathing and to do that, she has to pull off the binders from her chest. Aha.ha.ha. Ha.

Despite this not-terribly-funny joke, the manga is generally quite enjoyable. Riku’s nickname comes from her mysterious ability to turn her left arm to steel, a technique that would naturally come in handy in a fight.

This skill is so mysterious, Riku herself has no idea where it comes from . In fact, she knows little about her own history, as she was a foundling. When she encounters another person with the same skill, she’s excited to meet someone who can tell her about herself! Unfortunately, he’s a criminal and not willing to divulge any information. Nonetheless, Rika finds something even more important – her mother. So the series comes to a happy conclusion, despite the somewhat abrupt end.

I quite liked the village, in which animal-people lived side by side with humans with no apparent tension. 

But why, you must be asking by now, did Louis send you this pleasant, but obscure martial arts comedy? Thanks for asking! In one scene Riku picks up some side work as security at rich man’s mansion. In between resolving some family drama and fighting off thieves, Riku is quite dashing in her suit…regulation wear, according to the boss.

And when Riku and her childhood friend Oguri meet again and get past their issues, one could easily see them being very slashable if one was inclined.

Steel Fist Riku had a lot of things to like about it, especially if you were a Ranma 1/2 fan, as it steals quite heavily from Takahashi Rumiko’s formula.

Ratings:

Art – 7 Adequate, if not quite up to the fighting
Story – 8, Cute with moments of very decent
Characters – 8 Better than one might expect, given the premise.
Service – 4 Not quite as bad as one might expect, given the premise.

Overall – A solid 7. This might be something to ask Global Bookwalker to pick up for us. It’s not going to be reprinted, and probably not worth all the effort Louis put into getting it for me, but still was a fun read. ^_^

 

Send to Kindle




Kannazuki no Miko, Volume 2

August 9th, 2016

t_x200In Volume 2 of Kannazuki no Miko we come face to face with a centuries old prophecy meeting self-inflicted homophobia of a young woman. Through no effort of the creative team, we recognize that should Chikane have had a single person to speak with who was gay, very little of this story would have happened.

But as Chikane’s desire is meant to represent “forbidden,” and therefore dangerous, love, instead of finding solace and acceptance in Himeko’s arms, Chikane nearly destroys the world.

Luckily for everyone, Himeko ignores all of Chikane’s behavior, and sees through the emotional and physical abuse, for what it really is…

..no.

Nope.

I just can’t do this.

This *could* have been a good love story, but it’s really just not.

Kaishaku had no interest in understanding this relationship, or “love” in general. They just handwaved away all the many horrible things in the name of “love.” But Kannazuki no Miko is just not a good love story. Its just a list of fetishes, clothed in names, and handwaved past what would have been a decent ending into another fetish they could shove in there.

I wonder if this boos had been written 10 years later, would it have been different? I think it might, honestly. Yuri still wasn’t regularly getting happy endings in the 2000s. Would it have ever been “good”? I don’t think so.

Mad props for the Viz team. The story makes sense, the dialogue makes sense, the motivations, (while still super-duper annoying) make sense. They deserve a “Soup out of Stone” award for their work on this manga.

And, if you lovelovelove this manga and always wanted to read a decent English-language version of it, Viz Media and Global Bookwalker have finally given you that opportunity. Take it, before this slips back into the oblivion it so richly deserves once more.

Ratings:

Art – 6
Story – 5
Characters – 6
Yuri – 8
Service – 9

Overall – 6

Giant Robots who are ancient Gods of Japan and Yuri. What a fantastic series this might have been.

Send to Kindle




Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki (English)

May 12th, 2016

SFLII know you know that I don’t really game all that much, but even living under a gaming rock as I do, I know Street Fighter. I remember seeing the first versions of this in arcades in my youth and I’ve seen, although never played, any number of the iterations since. ^_^

Well, when Okazu Superhero Louis P offered to sponsor today’s review, he made a very charming pitch. Warning me about the art, he suggested that the characters make up for the visual pandering. I find him to be pretty spot on about that kind of thing, so I took him up on his offer and here we are talking a look at Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki,  put out in full glossy color by our friends at Udon Press.

The premise is a bit similar to DC’s Super Hero Girls series, (which follow key DC female characters as teens at school. Never been done before, you know.) in which we see the private life of teenage ninja Ibuki. Ibuki is balancing ninja training and life as a “normal” teenage girl and that balancing act is, for the most part, the bulk of the story. We meet Sarai, her utterly non-powered friend, and transfer students Makoto, a martial artist with a chip on her shoulder, and Elena, a not-at-all African looking African princess. I found Elena’s portrayal endlessly fascinating as a foil to the issues around casting Scarlet Johansson as Major Kusanagi in the Hollywood remodel of Ghost in the Shell. It does not comfort me particularly to note that we are not alone in erasing ethnic identity and un-darking skin. If I had been drawing Elena she’d have looked more like a young Grace Jones, ala Red Sonja, sans bullshitty fur bikini. But no one asks me.

Ibuki is herself an admirable heroine, working hard at both school and fantasy ninja training, even with an entire rival ninja clan after her, tests of courage and will and college exams in front of her. The main point – one that I actually appreciated – wasn’t whether she won, but that she tried. The culture of “trying” is still seen as weak in many parts of the world, and while sincerity isn’t always a valid replacement for competence, we also have to learn how to deal with failure.

Of course our rivals become our allies and the cute guy ninja is at the college she is going to attend, so bonus!

The story reads very tween-aged audience, and even the pandery gallery art isn’t explicitly oversexualized, but it still is pretty pandery. Apparently Capcom thinks 12 year old boys and girls will both be able to enjoy this book. Girls can, but they have flip past some of the pics to be able to do it. As usual. Sigh.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 7, +1 for lessons that make sense
Characters – 8 Definitely the strong point
Yuri – 0
Service – 2 Mild by the game’s standards

Overall – 8 More enjoyable than expected, you were right on the money Louis!

…sometimes I fantasize about a media and entertainment complex that didn’t compulsively sexualize women, an industry that cast black-skinned and Asian people in roles without controversy. It’s not just a fantasy. All we have to do is be a little less lazy and we could change this.

Send to Kindle