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One-Punch Man, Vols. 1 + 2

July 23, 2014 3 comments

Despite the San Diego Comicon begin right around the corner, the reviews just keep on coming! This week I’ll be taking a look at One Punch Man, Vols. 1 + 2, but first a rather anemic look at news stories that caught my attention this past week. No doubt next week’s line up will be more robust in the wake of the con.

With that brief interlude done with, it’s time for this weeks featured review of One Punch Man, Vols. 1 + 2!

One-Punch Man, Vol. 1One-Punch Man, Vols. 1 + 2
Story by ONE, Art by Yusuke Murata
Viz
Rating: Teen (13 +)

ONE and Yusuke Murata’s superhero comedy, One-Punch Man, is something of a critical darling. It’s garnered high praise from many anime and manga fans, but despite this has yet to really breakthrough into the larger anime/manga community. The series tells the tale of Saitama, a young man who’s trained himself to become a nigh unbeatable superhero capable of defeating any foe with a single punch. Unfortunately such training and power has led him to nothing but incredible boredom, and a seemingly unending hunt for a challenge. Lovingly skewering both Western superhero conventions, shonen manga tropes and tokusatsu shows, One-Punch Man has the potential to be a break out hit, appealing to American comic book fans as well as manga readers.
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Categories: emanga Reviews, Manga Reviews, Reviews Tags:

The Seven Deadly Sins, Vols. 1 + 2

July 16, 2014 1 comment

Another Wednesday means another review! This week I’ll be taking a look at The Seven Deadly Sins, Vols. 1 + 2 from Kodansha. Before we get into that, here are a few news items that have caught my attention over the past few weeks.

A lot of those stories were slated to be linked to in last week’s column, but due to the flood of manga news they got bumped back until now. Better late than never! With that done, it’s onto this week’s featured review of The Seven Deadly Sins, Vols. 1 + 2.

The Seven Deadly Sins, Vol. 1The Seven Deadly Sins, Vols. 1 + 2
By Nakaba Suzuki
Kodansha Comics
Rating: Teen (13 +)

The land of Brittania is in turmoil! A group known as the Holy Knights have overthrown the King, forcing Princess Liones to seek help from the legendary group of knights known as The Seven Deadly Sins. Unfortunately for her, the group has been declared outlaws for nearly a decade following an attempted coup of their own. Struggling to save her kingdom Liones must track down these outlaws and uncover the conspiracy surrounding the Holy Knights actions, in Nakaba Suzuki’s The Seven Deadly Sins, Vols. 1 + 2.
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Knights of Sidonia, Vols. 5 + 6

July 9, 2014 1 comment

It’s Wednesday, which means it must be time for another review! With the recent release of Knights of Sidonia on Netflix, I figured now would be a good time to revisit the series with a look at Knights of Sidonia, Vols. 5 + 6. Before we get to the review though, there’s a ton of manga news out of Anime Expo from this past weekend. Below are a few manga highlights from the con.

That’s just a taste of the news that came out of the convention, if you want more I highly recommend swinging by Anime News Network and checking out their full coverage. Before you go running off to do that though, stay and take a look at this week’s featured review of Knights of Sidonia, Vols. 5 + 6!

Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 6Knights of Sidonia, Vols. 5 + 6
By Tsutomu Nihei
Vertical
Rating: T + (Older Teens)

Set in the distant future when mankind has been forced to the stars in massive ships like the Sidonia as they battle for their very existence against the biological nightmare knows as the Gauna, Knights of Sidonia is a sci-fi/horror series from the brilliant Tsutomu Nihei, creator of Blame! and Biomega. As a meteor controlled by the alien Gauna threatens the Sidonia, Tanikaze and the other young pilots of the mecha’s known as Garde’s find themselves facing off against a veritable army of Gauna’s, and even if they can survive the initial wave of Gauna guarding the meteor, can any of them stand against the enigmatic and unique Gauna dubbed the Hawk Moth? All this and looming threat from within awaits in Knights of Sidonia, Vols. 5 + 6.
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Say I Love You, Vol. 2

July 2, 2014 3 comments

Welcome to the latest review at Sequential Ink! This week I’ll be taking a look at Say I Love You, Vol. 2, but first, please enjoy some news-y tidbits!

With the news roundup out of the way, it’s onto this weeks featured review of Say I Love You, Vol. 2!

Say I Love You, Vol. 2Say I Love You, Vol. 2
by Kanae Hazuki
Kodansha Comics, 160 pg
Rating: Older Teen (16+)

With volume 2 of Say I Love You, Kanae Hazuki continues to use Yamatao and Mei’s growing relationship and their circle of friends to explore the rocky shores of teenage relationships. With the introduction of several new characters, she takes the opportunity to look at body issues, teen sex, and more in this fascinating shojo series.
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Battle Royale: Angel’s Border

June 25, 2014 Leave a comment

Welcome to the latest review at Sequential Ink! This week I’ll be taking a look at Battle Royale: Angel’s Border, but first some news items and things that caught my eye during the week.

And now onto the featured review of Battle Royale: Angel’s Border!

Battle Royale: Angel's BorderBattle Royale: Angel’s Border
Written by Koushun Takami (with N-Cake), Art by Mioko Ohnishi and Youhei Oguma
Viz, 280 pgs
Rating: T + (Older Teens)

Created in 1999, Battle Royale was the debut novel of Koushun Takami. It’s a brutal tale set in an alternate authoritarian version of Japan which holds a yearly contest known only as “The Program.” Once a year a 9th grade class is picked to take part in “The Program” which forces the students to fight to death until only one remains. Now, for the first time in nearly a decade, Koushun Takami returns to his international sensation with Battle Royale: Angel’s Border. This single volume manga’s a collection of two short stories set around the events of the original Battle Royale novel. In Episode I, Toushun explores the friendship between Yukie and Haruka, the two girls who helped organize the all girl group that hid inside the lighthouse in the original novel. Episode II likewise takes a character from the all girl group, Chisato, and expands upon her relationship with the athletic computer genius, Shinji Mimura.
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Categories: Manga Reviews, Reviews Tags:

Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 1

June 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Welcome back to Sequential Ink, or just welcome for those visiting for the first time. For those wondering, I’ve spent the last year or so writing Manga in Minutes column for Comics Should Be Good, part of Comic Book Resources. My association with them is now at an end, but my review writing isn’t! With that in mind I’ll be dusting off this blog and posting weekly manga reviews every Wednesday night between 6 and 7 PM EST. As time goes on I may expand a bit and return to mixing in American comic reviews and novel reviews as well, but first things first.

Now that that’s taken care of, let’s take a look at a few news items that caught my eye this past week.

Speaking of Attack on Titan, with the news out of the way it’s time to take a look at Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 1!

Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 1Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 1
Art by Hikaru Sugura, Story by Gun Snark (Nitroplus)
Kodansha Comics, 192 pg
Rating: Older Teen (16+)

Adapted from a visual novel included with the Japanese Blu-Ray release of Attack on Titan, Jikaru Sugura’s Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 1 delves into the history of Levi, one of the more popular characters in the series, and promises to show how he met Commander Erwin, joined the Survey Corps and became the character fans know and love.
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Errantry: Strange Stories

January 30, 2013 Leave a comment

errantryErrantry: Strange Stories
Written by Elizabeth Hand
Small Beer Press, 288 pp
Rating: Not Rated

Errantry: Strange Stories, a collection of short, strange stories is the latest release from Elizabeth Hand. This collection is comprised primarily of tales about normal people and their encounters with things far beyond the norm.

Being a short story collection each tale is ultimately different, dealing with different characters and ideas, though many are unified by shared themes. The most obvious among them being encounters with the supernatural and otherworldly, and the recent loss of a loved one. This turns up again and again in the volume, most notably in the opening story, “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon“, “Uncle Lou” and the deeply unsettling “Near Zennor”. In addition Hand often sets the stories in the wilderness or at the edge of civilization. Isolated Maine communities, something fans of her Cassandra Neary stories should be familiar with, hard to reach, rural English towns, abandoned islands in the South and more. Hand uses these lonely, natural settings as “soft spots” areas where the skin between the “mundane” real world we all know and the “other” world is at its thinnest and where they often interact. They’re the areas one expects and associates legends of fairy mounds, hauntings, big foot encounters and more. These encounters almost always occur without explanation which, bizarrely, lends them a certain grounded feeling. As a result, each feels less like some spectacular, over the top urban fantasy story, and instead carry the same feeling as modern accounts of encounters with ghosts, UFO’s and other unexplained phenomena. It’s a smart move and one that makes the encounters that much more effective and genuine.

While all the stories are entertaining and enjoyable, the stand out in this volume is easily “Near Zennor”. The story starts off normally enough and focuses on a man dealing with the death of his wife. What starts out as an attempt to clear out her belongings leads him on a quest with disturbing implications regarding her childhood, and ultimately leads to one of the most terrifying and disturbingly realistic paranormal encounters I’ve ever come across in fiction. It’s a moment that left me deeply unnerved, and something that haunted my dreams and left me with an unsettled feeling which lingered for several days after having read it.

Errantry seems like it would be a decent introduction to her work for newcomers, while appealing to her already existing fanbase by collection some of these wonderful gems in one handy location. All in all, it’s an enjoyable and solid collection with “Near Zennor” along being worth the price of admission.

Errantry: Strange Stories is available now from Small Beer Press. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters

November 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters
By August Ramone
Chronicle Books, 200 pp
Rating: Not Rated

Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters is a look back at the life and career of one of the most influential names in Japanese cinema. Perhaps best known in the west as one of the co-creators of Godzilla, Tsuburaya’s legacy goes far beyond that and August Ramone does a fantastic job at illuminating other aspects of this legendary creator’s life and career.

The bulk of the book focuses on the different eras of Tsuburaya’s career, beginning with a biographical like look back at Tusburaya’s childhood, his family and more before it segues into his career in special effects. While the early days of his life certainly hold some interest it’s Tsuburaya’s film career that’s the main attraction here, and what a career it is. As I mentioned above, if people have heard of Tusburaya in America it’s mostly likely as a co-creator of Godzilla, but August Ramone shows that he’s gone far beyond on that and makes a good case for Tsuburaya being an incredible innovator and driving force behind key trends in Japanese pop culture; not to mention laying the ground work for Japanese visual effects and creating techniques, methods, and even camera rigs, which are still used to this day. Along the way he touches bases with all of his famous movies, and a fair amount which Western audiences are probably ignorant of. The Godzilla and Ultraman franchise both figure heavily into the book, but along the way are other movies and TV shows he was involved with as well, including his propaganda films and works such as Booska, a children’s TV series.

In addition to the main chapters focusing on different parts of Tsuburaya’s career, there’s a number of essays and articles from other writers, critics and contemporaries. These range from brief looks at the toys based upon Tsuburaya’s creations, to a look at the careers of his associates like Ishiro Honda and Akira Ifukube, to accounts and remembrances of working at Tsuburaya Productions from his son, Akira Tsuburaya.

If all this wasn’t enough, the book is also full of absolutely gorgeous, eye catching, high quality photographs, giving readers a lovely look behind the scenes of shows like Ultra Q, the Godzilla movies and more. Images of Tsuburaya at work, various movie posters, toys, statues and more litter almost every page of the book, making it a visual treat as well as an engaging read.

After reading Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters, I found myself wishing that more of these movies and TV shows were available in the US. While several of the major ones, a large chunk of the Godzilla cannon is currently unavailable, as are a number of movies and TV shows he had worked on. To make matters worse, the book isn’t available anymore either! Still, this is most definitely a must have for hardcore fans of Tsuburaya’s various creations and is worth tracking down through your local library system if you don’t feel like paying through the nose for it.

Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monters was published by Chronicle Books.

Godzilla

November 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Godzilla
By Kazuhisa Iwata
Dark Horse, 200 pp
Rating: 10 +

Originally created in 1954 by a legendary duo of Eiji Tsuburaya and Ishiro Honda, Godzilla stomped a path of destruction across Japan and on the silver screen that would span five decades and leave an indelible impression upon the minds of audiences both young and old. Arguably one of the most well known film franchises in the world, Godzilla has carved a swath of destruction through film, television, animation and, yes, comics and manga. Originally released in 1988, Godzilla was Kazuhisa Iwata’s adaption of Godzilla 1985 (aka. The Return of Godzilla) and was one of the first, if not the first, manga series released by Dark Horse Comics. With all that in mind one might expect Godzilla to be a lost epic, one of the cream of the manga crop. If only that were true.

The manga closely adheres to original Japanese movie, depicting the events that lead to the legendary monster’s return and the attempts of the Japanese government to halt the monster’s advance. The drama heavily unfolds through the eyes of a young reporter named Goro Maki and others as they desperately try to cook up a scheme to defeat the monster. The story is solid and fans who have only seen the US edition of the movie, Godzilla 1985 will be pleased to see the original plot line unfold pretty much as intended with a little extra focus on the human characters and their relationships to one another.

While the story remains as solid today as it was in the 80s, the artwork has not aged as well. The character designs are hideous and the heads seemingly emerge from the torso sans any necks. Mouths are placed at bizarre, impossible angles and everyone emotes dramatically no matter what conversation is being had. There’s a distinct lack of background throughout most of the book which in turns hurts attempts at conveying atmosphere or location, particularly for the human portions of the book. Thankfully Godzilla fairs a little better and comes off looking appropriately monstrous in several portions, and there are also some lovely full page spreads showing the amount of devastation that his rampage wrought upon Tokyo. The few actions that occur are unfortunately short and lack any real ebb and flow, often times feeling static and.. dare I say it, almost boring at times.

Godzilla is an interesting historic relic, but sadly that’s about it. The manga leaves a lot to be desired in the visual department, which is kind of key for any Godzilla comic or manga. The story itself holds up alright, it’s just not a fantastic adaption. If anything, I guess this goes to show that it’s not just American comics which has run into problems with translating the exploits of King of Monsters into the sequential art medium.

Godzilla is available now from Dark Horse Comics.

Categories: Manga Reviews, Reviews Tags:

Skullman

October 21, 2012 1 comment

SkullmanSkullman
By Shotaro Ishinomori
Comixology 94 pp
Rating: 15 +

Shotaro Ishinomori’s manga classic, Skullman, is available for the first time in the US thanks to the fine folks at Comixology! This singe volume story tells the tell of a dark, masked avenger carrying out a war against a massive, secret organization that seemingly controls the world. Unlike his spiritual brothers in the Kamen Rider franchise, Skullman presents a rather grim take on the concept.

This is something I’ve been wanting to read for a while now and there’s something of an urban legend feel to it’s creation. The story goes that Ishinomori was asked to create a new hero for a kids show Toei was putting together. He presented them with this, Skullman, a dark, grim and possibly insane man waging a war against a secret organization. Reportedly the executives rejected it as being too violent and scary, so Ishinomori went home and after a few days he tweaked the concept and thus was born Kamen Rider. Indeed it’s hard to look at Skullman and not see quite a bit of Kamen Rider present in it. But make no mistake, the executives were right on this account; Skullman is surprisingly dark and he’s definitely not a knight in shining armor, he’s not even a knight in slightly tarnished armor, he’s a driven man who seems to take sadistic glee in the lives he takes and at one point even claims that genocide is an acceptable means to his ultimate end.

Shotaro Ishinomori’s artwork is lovely and effective. His action scenes are easy to follow but exciting and he does a fantastic job at conveying motion, speed and energy throughout the book. At times the cartoony style does seem to clash with the grim nature of the story and there are a few moments which lose a little impact because of it. In addition there’s another small issue with Skullman when it comes to visuals, namely… Skullman himself. His costume is fine, the all black clothing and the jacket that is vaguely evocative of some kind of military dress suit and the cape all work wonderfully together. It’s the helmet that really threw me a loop though. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the recent Skullman anime series, but Skullman’s helmet in this just doesn’t scream scary or skull to me. It’s a large, white helmet which covers most of his face, leaving his mouth and jaw exposed, with two giant red eyes. It’s not terribly skull-like and actually made me think of Riderman rather than.. a scary, skull like monstrosity. Still, despite this and the odd cartoony style I did love the book and it has some absolutely gorgeous moments. The opening with the giant bat in particular is visually impressive and memorable.

I’m incredibly glad that this is finally available in the US and I’m very thankful for both Ishinomori Productions and Comixology for getting it out to us, along with several other series of his that I’ve been interested in. While I did have some minor issues with the visuals as I mentioned above, and the ending feels a bit sudden and anti-climatic, I did enjoy reading this and I can see myself going back to it again and again in the future as well. Fans of classic manga, tokusatsu shows like Kamen Rider or the Power Rangers, and superhero fans in general should definitely give this a look.

Skullman is available now from Comixology.

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