My News and Reviews
I posted two reviews last week. The first was for Dana Sachs' novel The Secret of the Nightingale Palace. I didn't like the main characters which made it difficult for me to enjoy the book, but there were still some parts that I appreciated. I also reviewed Hiroaki Samura's Blade of the Immortal, Volume 18: The Sparrow Net. This volume is an important one for both plot and character development. Plus, we get to see Isaku and Dōa fight as a team.
Licensing news! Sean Gaffney has a nice writeup on the New Licenses from Viz and Seven Seas at A Case Suitable for Treatment. Vertical also announced some great titles at Katsucon which will be released this fall: Satoshi Kon's Tropic of the Sea and Hikari Asada's Sickness Unto Death. I'm particularly excited for Tropic of the Sea. I hadn't heard about Sickness Unto Death before, but it looks like it will be an intriguing psychological manga (and it's only two volumes).
Finally, the Naoki Urasawa Manga Moveable Feast has begun! This month's Feast is being hosted by Justin at Organization Anti-Social Geniuses. Urasawa is one of my favorite mangaka, so I'm very excited for this particular Feast. Later this week I'll be taking a look at Pineapple Army, his first work to be published in English.
Knights of Sidonia, Volume 1 by Tsutomu Nihei. I've heard Knights of Sidonia called Nihei's most accessible work to date, which I think is probably true. His artwork is certainly cleaner and more simplified, but I personally prefer Nihei's darker, grungier illustrations in Biomega and Blame! So far the story in Knights of Sidonia is fairly straightforward, too. After living alone for years in the depths of the spaceship Sidonia, Nagate is discovered must learn to adapt to a human society that has evolved to survive in space. I find Nihei's exploration of the course of human evolution one of the more interesting aspects of Knights of Sidonia; I'm particularly curious to learn more about Nagate's friend Izana, who is neither female or male.
Rurouni Kenshin, Omnibus 7 (equivalent to Volumes 19-21) by Nobuhiro Watsuki. After the completion of lengthy Kyoto arc in the last omnibus, Rurouni Kenshin is now well into its next story arc. Particularly important in this omnibus is the revealing of Kenshin's background and past life as an assassin, for which he is still trying to atone. A new group of antagonists have appeared looking for revenge and they're not afraid to strike out at those who are close to Kenshin. There are a few nice fight scenes, but this section of the story is much slower compared to the flurry of duels that ended the previous arc. I do like that these fighters are slightly more realistic. It's not so much that they are super-powered but that they have access to technology and weapons that give them an advantage.
Sumo by Thien Pham. I really enjoyed Sumo, Pham's first solo graphic novel. Scott is a football player whose dreams of playing professionally have crumbled. When he is offered a chance train in Japan to become a sumo wrestler, he takes it. Sumo is a surprisingly quiet and introspective work. Scott is trying to find his place in the world and struggling to reclaim the confidence he once had. Pham weaves three different time periods in Scott's life together to create a single coherent story. The artwork is simple and stylized but very effective. It is not absolutely necessary to enjoy the work, but it does help to have some basic understanding of the hierarchy system inherent to sumo training halls.
Your Story I've Known by Tsuta Suzuki. In addition to a few volumes of A Strange and Mystifying Story, You're Story I've Known is the only other manga by Suzuki currently available in English. I'm rather fond of Suzuki's artwork. Her characters look like grown, adult men and she is capable of drawing some of the most endearing grins that I have ever seen. Your Story I've Known collects four boys' love stories of varying lengths. There isn't really a theme to the collection other than the fact that the characters have some actual depth to them. Unfortunately, the translation is problematic in a few places, and at least one scene is nearly incomprehensible. Granted, that may have been just as much Suzuki's fault as the translator's. But in the end, I still enjoyed the manga.
Blue Spring directed by Toshiaki Toyoda. Ever since I read Taiyo Matsumoto's manga Blue Spring, I've had a hard time getting it out of my head. When I discovered that there was a live-action adaptation of it, I knew that I had to see it. Toyoda's film is missing some of the more surreal elements of the original manga, but it still captures a lot of its heart. The film combines bits and pieces of many but not all of the stories included in the Blue Spring manga into a single narrative. It actually works quite well. It's a violent tale about the disaffected students at an all-boys high school and the ways they find to take control of their realities. As a bonus, the film has a great soundtrack, too.