Friday, November 17, 2017

Seven Seas License Announcements: My Thoughts

Seven Seas having just wrapped up a week-long announcement of new license acquisitions I figured I'd lay out my thoughts on the titles that got picked and what ones I am most excited about along with pricing and release dates this will go in order as it was announced. Dragon Goes House-Hunting by Kawo Tanuki and Choco Aya ( Volume 1 will be released on September 11, 2018, for $12.99 USA / $15.99) CAN. The story of a cowardly Dragon forced to find new housing after he is kicked out of his family residence. This struck me as kind of an oddball comedy that could have promise but didn't really grab my attention. Harukana Receive by Nyoijizai ( Volume 1 will be released on September 11, 2018, for $12.99 USA / $15.99 CAN): A sports Manga about girl's Beach Volleyball set in Okinawa when cousins short but experienced Kanata tall but neophyte Haruka set up a team it's up to Kanata to train her cousin in the fundamentals while Haruka tries to reignite Kanata's love for the game. Honestly, this simply could have been a slice of nothing Fan Service but it feels like a series that takes it's sport serious. Sure cute girls are in it but the series is as much about the sport. I am excited about this as I honestly don't read sports manga but this seems like one I could get into if only for the seeming earnestness it seems to exude. My Solo Exchange Diary by Nagata Kabi (released in one volumeJune 5, 2018, for $13.99 USA / $16.99 CAN)A sequel to My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness this is one I hope continues the almost confessional like honesty of Kabi's deservedly lauded autobiographical Manga. It's rare to find a new voice so refreshingly honest in recent memory. I can only hope that this volume continues the strong and brave writing of My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. As that was a series that felt unafraid to discuss even extremely painful details of the Mangaka's personal life. Wonderland by Yugo Ishikawa (Volume 1 will be released on November 6, 2018, for $12.99 USA / $15.99 CAN) A survival horror series based around Alice and Wonderland it's hard for me to work up any real enthusiasm for this series both because I'm sick of seeing reimaginings of Alice In Wonderland and I don't like survival horror. If you do like these things then this will probably appeal to you as for me I'll pass. How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom by Dojyomaru and Fuyuyuki (Volume 1 will be released on September 11, 2018, for $13.99 USA / $16.99 CAN: Another title that started out as a digital release on J-Novel Club this will be the physical release of the series. The idea of an Isekai novel where the hero has to win by strategy and statecraft definitely sounds like an interesting twist on a genre that seems prone to gimmicky hooks and power fantasy. It's definitely something I will give a chance. Space Battleship Yamato: The Classic Collection by Leiji Matsumoto (released on October 30, 2018, for $29.99 USA / $34.50 CAN in one volume). Leiji Matsumoto's trailblazing Space Opera about human forces feeling a desolate earth while trying to fight off alien invaders. Makes something that many thought would never happen as older Manga has often had a reputation for not selling or being sold at prohibitively expensive prices. Thankfully Seven Seas with their recent acquisition of many older titles has learned to make them economically accessible. This is one I will gladly read it for its sweeping story and expert craftsmanship. Versailles of the Dead by Kumiko Suekane (Volume 1 will be released on October 30, 2018, for $12.99 USA / $15.99 CAN) From the mind behind After School Chrasmia comes a Zombie Survival horror series set in alternate pre-revolutionary era France. I have no interest in Zombie Horror so this title simply is a pass for me no malice implied though. Claudine by Riyoko Ikeda (released on June 26, 2018, for $13.99 USA / $16.99 CAN) A one-volume story chronicling the trials and tribulations of titular Claudine a woman who identifies as a man and lives through pain and relationship drama. This is an older Shojo Manga title by the creator of Rose of Versailles. Again priced reasonably a must buy for me as I love older Manga even if I hate that it is often marketed like some rarified jewel. Fairy Tale Battle Royale by Soraho Ina (Volume 1 will be released on October 9, 2018, for $12.99 USA / $15.99 CAN.)A bloody death match between fairy story characters this if anything has really impressive art while also feeling original. I really have no idea how this would go but it's another Pixiv title like Please Tell Me Galko-Chan and My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness. So it is nice to see something come from the Internet and get a physical release. The Bride & the Exorcist Knight by Keiko Ishihara (Volume 1 will be released on July 17, 2018, for $12.99 USA / $15.99 CAN)A four-volume supernatural romance about a woman who is about to be married to the lord of all Demons against her will and taken to Hell. While she also has a bodyguard concealing his own affections for her. Honestly, this sounds plain Shojo fluff wich is not bad but I need something more substantial than this to make want to read it. True Tenchi Muyo! light novel trilogy written by Masaki Kajishima and Yousuke Kuroda (Volume 1 will be released on June 19, 2018, for $14.99 USA / $17.99 CAN) Fleshing out character backstory form the original Tenchi Muyo OVA series this is an instant buy for me as I became an Anime fan thanks in part to this series. Plus-Sized Elf by Synecdoche (October 9, 2018, for $12.99 USA / $15.99 CAN) A series about an employee at a Health Spa who ends up with a cast of otherworldly clients including a french fry obsessed elf who needs to slim down. It's been a cult hit on 4chan for some time now and it has an odd sense of humor combined with slight skewering fantasy tropes. This seems like something that would be a fun read with body types not often seen in Ecchi Manga. Ojojojo by coolkyousinnjya (Put out in two omnibus editions. The first omnibus will be released on December 24, 2018, for $16.99 USA / $19.99 CAN.) The story of two friendless weirdos the icy Tsundere Jigokumeguri Haru and oddball Kawayanagi Tsurezure. Feels like the first series by the Dragon Maid Mangaka I could care about it being put out in an omnibus also makes it something I'd want to read as I like an omnibus. Could be charming might be funny I'll give this one a shot. The Bride Was a Boy by Chii (single large trim edition. The book will be released on May 1, 2018, for $13.99 USA / $16.99 CAN.) An autobiographical Manga about a Transexual Woman who transitions from being a Man to a Woman and eventually marrying a Man. Is a sweet looking one volume Diary Manga that will probably end up being critically lauded and I'll have to go through it with a fine-toothed comb when I review it. I also think if anything I'll come away with a greater sense of empathy and that's what good art is supposed to do engender empathy and be beautiful.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dreamin' Sun Vol. 4 Review

Shimana tries to figure out not only her feelings for Taiga but also his mysterious past and her relationship with Zen. While Ken has his bout with Sakamoto and hopefully rekindle his dream of becoming world champion. While Shimana encourages Ken in order to spur on Zen to his dream of being a Mangaka. Shimana also struggles with how to confess to Taiga and learn more about the mysterious Landlord, in particular, his High School years and what his dream now deferred may have been. IT's hard to not have this review devolve into "this series is so good you should read it" for sentences on end. Yet this continues to be a series that captures so much so well simply in small panel layout or scenes of interaction that it's hard to know where to begin. So I figure I'll start with the surprisingly competently drawn boxing match between Sakamoto and Ken. While Takano-Sensei does an expert job of setting up the motive for Ken to fight wich while Money is set up it's honestly because Rei his girlfriend asks him to. The set up of the match with the crowd Zen having to wrangle his younger siblings to the crush of the crowd. Until the match starts with expertly used panel layout juxtaposing between the match in the ring and the audience's reaction to the results with the actual boxing action not highly choreographed and kept to one panel the quick focus and cropped panels zooming in on the combatants and back to the audience give the overall feel of the scene three dimensions a reality within the fictional universe. It may not be as cinematic as Tomorrow's Joe but this scene does show that Takeno-Sensei knows how to make a scene of action more compelling due to the psychological and character insight prior and after the fight. Yet this is a Shojo Manga so as much as I can praise the well-crafted Boxing short story. The character interactions are where this volume really shines, in particular, Shimana the amount of internal anguish she goes over wanting to not only know more about Taiga but also whether she should just give up on her feelings for Taiga. Are another testament to Takeno-Sensei's expertly crafted and realistic grasp of the inner psychology of the charters. Shimana is a girl in love but her struggles hurt to watch while also some scenes such as her getting a hair clip from Taiga and being overjoyed where simple honest and heartwarming. In fact, the whole Christmas Eve scene felt like walking a razor's edge of soft and sweet sentiment and the angst of being in love but your beloved being unaware or uninterested in reciprocating those feelings it both kind of hurt and also showed the depth of Shimana's commitment though she wavers at times in subsequent moments. If anything this volume takes what seemed like an out of left field plot twist and made it believable and as if it actually had some grounding in the reality of the series and not because a character became conspicuously popular as the chapter was being serialized. After this volume, the series will be halfway to completion of its total ten volume run. Which leaves me in a quandary as part of me doesn't want the series to end I just want to marinate in everything from its expert blend of comedy and drama to its expressive artwork that can make dialogue almost unneeded. Still, this volume continues the almost immaculate run of the series and avoids the sometimes stygian pacing of romance and confessions in Shojo Manga. A continued recommendation of a must-read for any Shojo Manga Aficionado.

Friday, November 3, 2017

To Your Eternity Vol. 1 Review

A sentient life form is placed on earth by a supernatural being and the being slowly learns to mimic other creatures at first as a rock than as moss and finally as a wolf using the wolf's consciousness to lead him back to a young boy in an abandoned village. Who sets out to find the fabled paradise the other residents set out to find. Only to have the boy die from exhaustion and an untreated wound. The intelligence than takes on the form of the boy but has no grasp of even basic bodily functions and dies several times only to resurrect at shorter and shorter intervals. Until it makes the acquaintance of a young girl who has been chosen to be the sacrifice to a tribal deity. While thematically similar to Oima Sensei's much-lauded A Silent Voice with it's emphasis on isolation and the importance of community and friendship. Story-wise this is a completely different series and adventurous look into folklore the meaning of what it means to be human and the sometimes dark elements of tradition. While essentially two different stories with two different protagonists the unnamed boy from the village in the first story and March a young girl from a Tribe that looks loosely modeled after the Ainu. Each has an overall feel of alienation be it the isolation of the unnamed boy or March both wanting to be an adult and also forced to participate in an ancient blood rite to spare others. It's in places extremely grim with our unnamed intelligence Wich March names Fushi being torn asunder by a bear to a sickening level of detail. Wich I guess is a testament to Oima's improved draftsmanship and eye for detail while the action scenes toward the end have a brutality that is at times stomach churning but so expertly shaped by the eye of the camera in the panel that it feels like one fluid movement from panel to panel. At times savagely naturalistic and others filled with warmth that belies it's sometimes strange premise To Your Eternity marks the growing artistic sophistication of one of the bright new voices of Manga making for a haunting read.

In this Corner of the World Review

Chronicling the daily life of Suzu Urano during World War Two as she grows up in Eba a town located near Hiroshima attending school and helping in her family seaweed cultivation business. Until at the age of Eighteen she receives a marriage proposal from Shuusaku Houjou a forgotten childhood acquaintance from the port city of Kure. Quickly having to learn how to adapt not only to the new dynamic of marrying into another family but also the progressively grimmer realities of civilian life from Allied bombing raids to food rationing. All while the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima hangs over the story like the Sword of Damocles. It would be far too easy to damn this series with the faint praise of platitudes such as "life-affirming" or "poignant and lyrical" making any analysis of the work come off as back cover copy or a pull quote for later editions. Yet this series more than it's stark realities and historical accuracy is a story about Suzu and her growth as a human being it would be really easy to simply make this about Suzu and her Sex but that would do a disservice to universal truths of the story. Suzu at times comes off as another Sazae Fuguta though more with a touch of the romantic dreamer in her often times having to juggle her own personal desires with the realities of war, being newly married and being unable to have children with her husband due to the poor nutrition and stress of wartime combined with having an often acerbic sister-in-law Keiko who could been a one dimensional archetype but came off as more wounded and lashing out due to painful life circumstances under the Patriarchal and Militrisitc culture of Wartime Japan . This kind of even-handed realistic character writing is what makes the series so special every character has multiple layers including flaws and weaknesses. Suzu may be plucky but she is just as likely to question whether she will ever fit in or be able to be a good wife or what the War ultimately had any greater purpose. As to the question of the presentation of the War, this is neither an Anti-War story like Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen or a retelling of historical fact like Shigeru Mizuki's Showa: A History of Japan. Instead, it simply presents the daily life a family during wartime with that War sometimes costing them dearly. Kouno-Sensei is less interested in making a political statement the justice or injustice of The War or highhandedly and condescendingly condemning past generations than she is in letting the proverbial dead speak.Just as content to show daily life and the relationships and small kindnesses Suzu forms with her new family as well as other citizens of her home city. From learning how to make white rice out of brown rice to now long forgotten marriage customs. At times this feels more like a slice of life Manga than a Manga about World War II and that is a good thing as life during wartime is often just that life. The daily necessities of making food mending clothing interacting with other humans while also having to adjust to the austerities imposed by war. This makes the overall theme of the seeming futility and absurdity of Japan's Imperialistic venture all the more trenchant and somber while ending on a simple and profoundly true appeal to simple human kindness. In this Corner of the World is less interested in trying to score political points than it is in getting you to love it's characters and succeeding exponentially. Showing a deep understanding of the characters inner lives while also making the city feel like home for the audience with a decidedly old-fashioned art style that grows progressively more and more "modern" looking as the series progresses. Going from backgrounds and character design that look more at home in 1930s Newspaper Comic strips to wordless expertly framed scenes that make great use of Manga as a visual storytelling medium. I can not recommend this book enough it is an emotional feast giving bitter, sweet, and bittersweet servings of life and humanity to the audience reading it made me want to be a better person and grow more in my understanding and emotional comprehension of empathy for others. Heartfelt and nourishing like the stories of Kenji Miyazawa

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Love & Lies Volume Two Review

Nejima and Lilina end up interviewed by their gover9nment caseworkers for their government arranged marriage and learn all of the studies testing and effort the government puts into it while Lilina continues to try and nudge Nejima and Takasaki into surreptitiously expressing their feelings for each other and also finds herself falling for Nejima in spite of herself. While Nejima also has to deal with being alone with both girls on a family camping trip and invites Nisaka along on it making for a frankly miserable trip for the most part. This volume continues the series problematic writing of wanting to "eat its cake and have it too" as concerns Nejima and his potential relationships with Takasaki and Lilina and Nisaka's entire relationship with Nejima is drenched in dramatic irony. Eventually, a decision has to be made by Nejima and while it's romantic to think of Nejima and Takasaki ending up together. There is no real chemistry or interactions other than a few furtive kisses and one awkward moment in a dark forest. While Lilina is simply naive and told that she is just that by Nisaka in one of the few refreshingly honest parts of dialogue in the entire volume in a speech where he tells Lilina that she risks endangering Nejima's future and educational plans. Really what makes this volume frustrating is it feels like what I wanted in more focus on characterization and the relationships meant taking all logical and critical thinking and reducing the main love triangle to a poorly written series of interactions. While also being frustrating because it's not impossible to write a thoughtful romantic comedy or drama with a love triangle or with multiple love interests two prominent examples being Masakazu Katsura's Manga I"s and the 1988 Kimagure Orange Road film I Want to Return to That Day. Instead, Love & Lies feels deathly afraid of offending fans of either of the main heroines or having any real consequences. Again making for a frustrating read because the few moments of honesty or interactions that don't feel like loaded dice towards some kind of process to draw out the story. Have real promise along with the fact that for all intents purposes the government mandated system seems extremely successful with the majority of the couples that were matched through it appearing very happy. For a system that is supposed to be so draconian and soul-crushing, it sure has a lot of satisfied people even the throwaway character at the end that is injected into the story to give a chance for Nejima to be noble in front of Lilina's only complaint is that his wife is not pretty. I continue to hold out hope that this series will improve but as now it's lost in a mire cliche and poor two-dimensional character writing. Interspersed with moments of honesty that make it better than it should be.

Alice & Zoroku Volume 2 Review

Sana now abducted by the ex U.S. military officer and Alice's Dream User Miriam C. Tachibana who works for the mysterious K&C Pharmaceuticals the company that once held Sana captive seeks to return Sana to the laboratory of the company. While also questioning whether the little girl in her custody with mysterious powers is really human or not. While Zoroku wants only to protect the little girl he has taken under his care even if she is not the textbook definition of human. With volume two Tetsuya Imai covers questions of the nature of humanity and what it is to be human found more often in dense Sci-Fi novels like Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick Or Mamoru Oshii's Ghost In The Shell. I have to give respect to a series that seemed like it was going to simply be a cute slice of life series with some magical realistic elements. Offer to ask questions this complex and not become overly cerebral or self-impressed ultimately I think this is thanks to the entire moral core series being Zoroku and his stubborn commitment to do what is right for Sana. This keeps the series big-hearted and kind. Even Tachibana is not so much evil as morally ambivalent about tactics she uses to stop what she sees as a potential danger to all of mankind. It reminded me of the rule people in Screenwriting classes you have to understand why the villain thinks that they are the hero or that their actions are good or carry some sort of justification for them. While ultimately for all it's references to the Chinese Room thought experiment and pondering of the nature of humanity Alice & Zoroku is about one of the most basic and seemingly cliche ideas in fiction and life family what it means to have a family what constitutes a family. It's simple but it hits hard and the series never feels as if it's trying to play on the audience's sympathies for one side or the other and while ultimately I felt the right choice was made one can see while the tactics of Tachibana and her handlers are ethically dubious at beast the concerns are not unrealistic. While the character design can have this rough-hewn design with quick scraggly lines and simple character design while the concluding action scene while not overly complex capture the pandemonium of two super-powered humans fighting each other. Giving food for thought and a kind conclusion to this arc of the story Volume Two of Alice & Zoroku continues to be a series that may never gain a wide audience much like I said about Generation Witch but for those that give this series a chance one will find a sometimes thought-provoking and charming story.

Aho-Girl Volume 3 Review

Yoshiko's continued manic reign of appetitive idiocy continues unabated in volume 3 Akkun still being the put-upon straight man while all the other characters are sucked into the chaos. except when Yoshiko's Mother is trying to force Akuru to marry Yoshiko or the Head Monitor sinks deeper and deeper into being a delusional stalker while Sayaka tries to be the voice of reason. Ryuichi fails at trying to be Akuru's friend and Akuru botches his relationship with his little sister Ruri due to his insensitivity and befriends Yoshiko's dog. Aho-Girl is very much still based around the straight man funny man dynamic and honestly the dynamic of Akkun's cold harsh treatment of the manic and overly energetic Yoshiko. Still, works whether the punchlines be Akkun suplex Yoshiko out of a second story window only to have Yoshiko survive like some demented cartoon character. To the whole number of other characters that Yoshiko inflicts herself on, in particular, the few interactions she has with Ruri are particularly painful to watch. Due to the fact that Ruri does not want to end up like Yoshiko but has no seeming way to fix her stupidity due to her brother's tone-deaf attempts at being supportive which seeing the often cold and contemptuous. Akkun reduced to groveling for his sister's forgiveness make for some of the most cringe-inducing parts of the volume. Overall this volume is more of the same from the first two volumes fast-paced rapid-fire pop culture larded comedy involving the most utterly unlikeable people. While the story has minimal character development and simple plotting with the joke being all that matters in this volume. Characterization the use of the visual grammar of film even in some cases the characters own self-respect is sacrificed in the name of the joke or punchline. How funny you find this will all depend on your tolerance for often cruel and mean-spirited humor. Still, it is the almost wall to wall amount of humor that makes this series so addictively readable every page is simply saturated with everything from a sight gag, slapstick comedy, or unfortunate cringe humor. In short, this is laughing at someone's pain and it continues to be hilarious