Archive for the English Manga Category


Yuri Manga: Kase-san and an Apron (English)

February 18th, 2018

Yamada’s life has changed radically since she’s started to go out with Kase-san. She’s always been kind of average and had no confidence in herself, except in relation to the greenery committee at school. But being with Kase-san has taught her some important things. 

In Kase-san and an Apron, the 4th volume of Takashima Hiromi’s high school Yuri romance, during the school festival a tired trope about jealousy is turned into a lesson is about speaking your mind.

Yamada has always been jealous of Kase-san’s talent, her athleticism, her popularity. But when she learns that Kase-san has felt the same way, something important takes root in her, a germ of self-confidence that will continue to grow through the volume. Kase-san has been teaching her to value her own strengths – her persistence, her desire to do things for the joy of it. Guilelessly, Kase-san is also teaching Yamada that she’s attractive just the way she is.

Yamada’s best friend Miwacchi has also started noticing the changes. In her own offhand way, she praises Yamada for deciding on a college in Tokyo, rather than shooting for a local school and a less interesting life. 

The chapters that comprise this volume were originally distributed variably online and in print,  and the collected volume itself came out in Japan just after the official animation clip was released. (I reviewed the deluxe edition which included the Blu-ray of the clip here on Okazu last autumn.)

This series, which got it’s start in a quarterly, now defunct, Yuri magazine, has continued to chug along with surprising strength. This summer that little animation clip will get a theatrical release as a OVA movie and  we’ll be getting more Yamada and Kase-san in days to come! The Kase-san series is the little Yuri series that could. ^_^ It is everything I have looked for in a high school Yuri romance. It’s got honesty and growth and humor and a likable couple who have friends and teachers and family and interests outside the romance. And in the meantime, the artist’s skill has grown considerably. Her panels are tight, her lines are deft and her use of body language (which has always been good) and expression have gotten stronger.

It’s gonna be hard to beat this for best of the year, I think.

Ratings: 

Art – 8
Character – 9
Story – 8
Service – 2 It’s dropped considerably since moving to Wings.
Yuri – 9

Overall – 8

Thanks very much to the folks at Seven Seas for the review copy! This is hitting shelves here in the west this week, so get out there and get yourself a copy!. I’m hoping to take a physical copy of the book with me to Japan and get it signed by Takashima-sensei. ^_^ Fingers crossed.

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Yuri Manga: Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl, Volume 4 (English)

January 11th, 2018

Mizuki is facing a crisis. It’s her senior year and her last chance to make the nationals in track. But her longtime friend and her inspiration, Moe, can see that it’s not so simple as just ramping up training.

Moe insists that Mizuki stop using her as a muse and find it in herself to run because she wants to. In Volume 4 of Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl, Mizuki loses the battle, but wins the war when finds her love of running again, and she and Moe get to admit their true feelings for each other.

This is, to date, one of my favorite volumes of Canno’s series. The set-up feels more honest and less “plot complication”-y than most of the scenarios in the series so far. I also quite like Moe because she’s says what she’s thinking, a quality not often see in Yuri romances. Additionally, the series has sort of settled in for a longer haul now, and we can turn our eyes almost completely away from main couple Kurozawa and Shiramine without fearing that the entire series will disappear in a puff. So, while Yurine and Ayaka do make an appearance, it’s almost a walk on, until the amusingly snarky final chapter, which was all obligatory Valentine’s Day stories ever, all at once.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 7 Cute, sweet, etc
Yuri – 8
Service – 1 on principle only

Overall – 8

The English-language Volume 5 has a release date of late February, and I’m working on Volume 7 in Japanese right now. At this rate of release you’re all gonna all catch up with the Japanese series by next summer!

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Attack on Titan Anthology Manga (English) Guest Review by Eric P.

January 10th, 2018
Happy first Guest Review Wednesday of 2018!  Thanks to Okazu Patrons, this is also the first paid Guest Review ever here, hopefully, the first of many. I cannot think of a better person to be our very first paid reviewer here than our longtime supporter and friend Eric P.! Please give him your attention and a few kind words and away we go!
 
You know a series is a huge popular hit when the manga remains bestselling to this day, when it inspires a big-budget (underrated) live-action movie adaptation, and when a devoted fanbase (im)patiently waits for the next anime season to adapt the next arc to the screen no matter how long the gap between. Another sign is when manga authors/artists get together and create a special anthology of original stories paying tribute to the series. But how often is it when western authors/artists do the same thing for the same purpose, and still under the original creator’s supervision? It does not get clearer than that in how successful Attack on Titan has been in achieving a cross-cultural impact.
 
The Attack on Titan Anthology is a collection of 12 personal takes by supposedly high-profile comics creators. I say “supposedly” because I confess I do not normally follow western comics and am unfamiliar with all the listed names, so I could really only judge this book by the content within once I open the cover. The results found are indeed diverse as well as widespread. 
 
Some titles are more lavishly illustrated than others, and some are more intriguing and poignant than others. All the dramatic stories are meant to take place in the manga’s universe. They may not be taken as “canon” per se, but their placement within the original continuity not only still feel like they make sense, but they also help expand on Hajime Isayama’s mythos. The first one, Under the Surface, provides a window to a world far more familiar to us right before the Titans begin their invasion. Another called Live and Let Die is about a Survey Corps member separated from her party outside the walls, before finding a group of other stranded Survey Corps members that chose to never return. Even though there is danger to be had dealing with the Titans, they ironically find more freedom outside the walls than they do within. One other standout is The Glorious Walled Cities, not a story but a field guide styled as blatant propaganda depicting the world within the walls as a paradise. The last entry, however, is disorganized and cuts off abruptly when the writer apparently ventured into confidential territory.
 
 
But the story relevant to Okazu would be Skies Above,written by Rhianna Pratchett and Ben Applegate, illustrated by Jorge Corona, colored by Jennifer Hickman, and lettered by Steve Wands. In a time before Eren, there was a female engineer named Lyla who also dreamed of breaching the world beyond the walls. This was when Erwin Smith was student-aged, long before the Survey Corps existed and when the Military Police was Law itself, and scientific bureaucracy prevented any and all technological innovation. Rene, a teacher acquainted with Erwin Smith’s father (both worked at the same school), on the other hand is content with the world they live in since they have everything they need. But Lyla recognizes everything as nothing but a cage to break free from, thus in secret she puts together a flying contraption to serve that purpose, seated for two. Rene, her confidante and lover, in the end resigns to Lyla’s wish as they make the attempt, and escape the Military Police’s clutches. Just from reading this, one could already assume this story about two people ahead of their time in an oppressive world does not have a happy ending. But depending on how one looks at it, especially with how beautifully drawn the final page is, one could still get a strange sense of alleviation that counters the usual Attack on Titan themes of cruelty and injustice.
 
But not all in this anthology is drama, it also balances itself out with parodies poking fun at the source material, some being far more amusing than others. In the original story, you know how the characters have a habit of consistently screaming out their dialogue? That gets spoofed here, and there was one other clever bit about how the title, Attack on Titan, actually does not make much sense when you think about it.
 
When this book came out last year, Kodansha had raised hype and excitement over it, yet in the end it seemed to garner a mixed reaction from its fanbase. Having read it just recently, I am surprised that it was not better received. Like with most anthologies, there are both hits and misses to be found, but it can really vary depending on the reader’s personal taste or expectation. Ask this reviewer, and there are a few stories I cared less than others, with maybe a couple I did not get at all, but there is too much more to like and appreciate. If you are an Attack on Titan fan, and are open to western interpretations—especially by artists that clearly did this out of passionate love for the original—you are bound to find at least a handful of titles to your liking, and even that still makes it worth the purchase for one’s collection.
 
Ratings: 
 
Overall-a rounded-out 8 (Solid without being completely perfect, once again due to personal tastes)
 
Erica here again: Thank you Eric for this look at something I would never have thought to take a look at. Which is exactly why I love Guest Reviews. Gail Simone, Faith Erin Hicks, Tomer Hanuka and Attack on Titan creator Hajime Isayama all have stories in this collection. Now I’ll keep an eye out for this. Thanks!
 
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Yuri Manga: Sweet Blue Flowers, Volume 2 (English)

January 8th, 2018

A good translation of a manga can be a little bit like magic. You pick up a book and without effort you are able to read this story created in a different country, in a different time or place. It’s an extraordinary feeling. The Viz Media edition of Takako Shimura’s Sweet Blue Flowers is a little bit like magic.

In Volume 1, we met Manjoume Fumi and Okudaira Akira, two childhood friends reunited as teens, and their school friends. 

In Volume 2, Fumi is coming off a relationship with Sugimoto, an older girl who hadn’t been honest with her and she’s feeling a bit bitter about it. Even worse, Sugimoto keeps trying to salvage it, but is doing a crappy job of it. Fumi’s had it with her ex, and lets her know that in no uncertain terms. 

Akira is surrounded by people who are falling in love and isn’t sure at all how she feels about it. When she asks Fumi, Fumi admits that Akira was her first love and again Akira has no idea what to do with the information. It’s almost as vexing as one of her friends going out with her annoying older brother. And when she overhears something she didn’t want to know about her friend Kyoko’s family, she has no idea what to do with that, either.

Back at school, the girls are all second-years now, with new students coming in. We meet Ryoko Ueda who kind of reminds Akira of Fumi and Haruka Ono, who is clearly (to us) bearing the burden of a (to us) fairly obvious secret of her own. Side stories indicate that there’s more complexity to relationships than just what we see here in the main story.

This volume moves quickly and slowly at the same time. Scenes are slow and leisurely – drama club practice, sleeping over a friend’s house – but time is whizzing by. One second Mogi sort of likes Akira’s brother, then next they are dating and we never actually saw them together much at all. Good translation can be magic, but it can’t fill holes left by a serialized manga schedule. ^_^;  Shimura’s super strong on developing characters, but putting in all the details of the story has never been her best skill.

This volume comprises Volume 3 and Volume 4 of the original Japanese edition. This is an excellent English release and I think we can expect it to maintain this high quality.

Art – 8
Characters – 8
Story – 7
Lesbian – 4
Service – 1

Overall – 8

Volume 3 of the English edition will be available in March, so you have plenty of time to pre-order. ^_^ If you haven’t already picked up this “new classic” of Yuri, I definitely recommend it, for having a depth of early 20th century  literary history and still being grounded in the present.

 

 

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Yuri Manga: Hana & Hina After School, Volume 3 (English)

January 4th, 2018

In Volume 3 of Hana & Hina After School, Hana and Hina face a growing distance between them manufactured out of their mutual desire to avoid their feelings for one another. Nonetheless, we’re probably not all that concerned about it, and the story just sort of coasts along from small crisis to confrontation to confession and finally conclusion.

Because we’re not really concerned at whether the principals will get together – it’s pretty much assumed that they will – it’s more or less how they’ll get there that is what we’re reading.

In my review of the Japanese volume, I noted that it’s extraordinary for a Morinaga Milk Yuri manga story to address any real-life issues. I wrote:

“In Kisses, Sighs and Cherry Blossoms Pink, Hitomi merely fantasizes about a future in which she and Nana are adults and can be together. In GIRL FRIENDS (Volume 1 and Volume 2) Morinaga-sensei took a step outside the isolation of a “couple in love” and gave Akiko and Mari friends…friends who accepted them and their relationship. In the very end, Mari even gave some thought to the issues of coming out to parents and what school and work might think…in the future.”

And that’s about all we get. In this volume we touch briefly on the concept of same-sex marriage at the very end and, in a roundabout way we see the possible awakening of same-sex interest in classmate Takagi, although it’s somewhat disappeared by the translation. My memory of the original has her saying something like, “I think I’m like that, too…” rather than “I want to do that, too.” Of course I could be wrong – and I could have been wrong originally, as well. I’m not motivated to go find Volume 3 to find out. ^_^ The rest of the technicals are top notch, as always. I just remember this particular scene as bing a “whoa!”moment for Hina’s classmate.

So brief touches on the realities of a life after getting together is all we’ve gotten and all we’re likely to get, but I still hope that one day, Morinaga-sensei writes something that goes beyond Story A. (Wouldn’t it be nice if in a future girl-meets-girl manga, we see a grown up Nana and Hitomi (or Hina and Hana they are mostly interchangable, so it hardly matters) who are there to help the main characters through their first-love-crisis-du-jour? I kinda think it might. 

Ratings:

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

Overall – 8 

3 volumes was just the right length for this series. I think Morinaga-sensei is at her best when she has time to work through the “zOMG we’re in love” crisis, without having to rush it or drag it out. 

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