My News and Reviews
Last week I announced the winner of the Nausicaä giveaway. In addition to naming the winner, the post excerpts some of the entrants' thoughts on the various formats in which manga is released in English. I also managed to post two reviews last week. The first was for the new edition of Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt's Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide. I had read and reviewed (and thoroughly enjoyed) the original edition in the past, but the revised edition is even better. I also reviewed The Immortal: Demon in the Blood, the comic adaptation of Fumi Nakamura's novel Enma the Immortal. I absolutely love Enma the Immortal; unfortunately, The Immortal: Demon in the Blood didn't quite live up to my hopes.
Probably the biggest news in the manga blogging community last week is that Kate Dacey's The Manga Critic will be shutting down. Kate has been a huge inspiration to me, so I'm sad to see The Manga Critic go. Fortunately, she will continue to write for The Manga Bookshelf from time to time. In happier news, I've found two great blogs to add to the Resource page: Shojo Corner and The Manga Test Drive.
Arisa, Volume 1 by Natsumi Ando. I originally picked up Arisa after hearing the story described as something that Naoki Urasawa might come up with if he wrote shōjo. And for the most part, I think that's a pretty apt description. The mystery is ominous and there is an impressive number of plot twists in just the first volume. Arisa and Tsubasa are twin sisters who have been separated due to their parents' divorce. Tsubasa adores her sister who she thinks leads the perfect life. But Arisa is hiding a terrible secret. I really want to know what's going on, so I guess I'll just have to read more of Arisa to find out. Also, if the artwork in Arisa looks familiar, it's because Ando was the illustrator for the series Kitchen Princess.
Baoh, Volumes 1-2 by Hirohiko Araki. I've been going through a JoJo's Bizarre Adventure withdrawal and so I decided to give Araki's short series Baoh a try. Baoh is certainly no JoJo. In fact, the series was largely a failure in the American market. However, it was interesting to see some of Araki's earlier work. After being kidnapped and experimented upon by the Judas Laboratory, Ikuro has been turned into deadly bioweapon. But with the aid of a young psychic, he is able to escape his captors who desperately want to find him again. The story itself felt fairly generic to me but I am rather fond of Ikuro as a character. The art in Baoh isn't as refined as it is in Araki's later series but there's plenty of the strangeness and gore that I've come to expect.
Dorohedoro, Volumes 4-7 by Q Hayashida. Sure, the story can be all over the place and doesn't always make a lot of sense, but I still find Dorohedoro to be a tremendous amount of graphic, gory fun. I love its dark humor and quirky characters (who seem to be eating constantly). Hayashida's artwork perfectly captures the dirt and the grime of the series' setting. More about the world of Dorohedoro is slowly being revealed and many of the characters' back stories are explored in these volumes. The plot is beginning to be a bit more coherent, too. Dorohedoro is such an incredibly weird series, but it does make me happy. I'm really looking forward to future volumes, so here's hoping Viz continues to release them!
Empowered: Deluxe Edition, Volume 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-3) by Adam Warren. I love Empowered. It's smart, sexy, and genuinely funny. Empowered is an associate member of a superhero group known as the Superhomeys. Unfortunately, her teammates are jerks and Emp is often caught in compromising situations (her supersuit is less than reliable). Fortunately, she has a great guy for a boyfriend (even if he did work as minion for a string of supervillians) and a runaway ninja princess for a best friend. Empowered exists in this strange place between manga and superhero comics; although for the most part it's accessible on its own, Empowered probably works best for readers who have at least some rudimentary knowledge of both.
Lovers in the Night by Fumi Yoshinaga. There are quite a few parallels between Yoshinaga's Lovers in the Night and her later series Gerard & Jacques (which I happened to read first). Both are historical romances taking place in France around the time of the French Revolution. Each manga also features a couple with significant age and class differences, although the dynamics of their respective relationships are significantly different. Lovers in the Night is a one-shot collection of related stories featuring the aristocratic Antoine and his extraordinarily competent butler Claude. The characters made their first appearance in Yoshinaga's anthology Truly Kindly in the story "A Butler's Proper Place."
Ristorante Paradiso directed by Mitsuko Kase. I missed the Ristorante Paradiso anime when it was first streamed. It's been unavailable for a while now, which is one of the reasons I was so excited when the series was licensed for a DVD release. The Ristorante Paradiso anime uses both Natsume Ono's one-shot manga Ristorante Paradiso and its companion series Gente as its source material. It's nice too see so many of the stories pulled together into one series. The anime captures the elegance and sensuality (and dare I say sexiness) of the Casetta dell'Orso's staff quite nicely. Claudio in particular is beautifully portrayed. Ristorante Paradiso is a slow and quiet anime; it's about the characters and setting more than anything else, but there's human drama, too.