Superhero comics have long been a staple of the medium in the United States. Arguably they’ve dominated sales and the public conscious more so than any other genre in the American comic book scene for over half a century. Japan, on the other hand, not so much. That said, Japan certainly has had their own superhero tradition, one look at the long running live action franchises like Super Sentai or Kamen Rider is proof of this. Over the last few years, Viz has shown interest in tapping into America’s love of the superhero with several superhero manga titles. Tiger & Bunny, One Punch Man and now… Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia.
The latest in Viz’s small wave of superhero manga My Hero Academia, Vol. 1 introduces us to a world where superpowers are the norm and the road to becoming a hero is an academic one. Enter Izuku Midoriya, a middle school student who stands out from the rest of his powered classmates by virtue of not having any powers. With nothing but a dream and determination, he sets out on his quest to become a hero… but can he?
For the first time in nearly a decade, Junji Ito returns to the horror genre with Fragments of Horror, a new collection of short stories of the macabre, bizarre and horrifying. Best known for his horror masterpieces, Uzumaki and Gyo, Junji Ito is one of the most well known creators of horror manga in the U.S. Will Fragments of Horror live up to the expectations and reputation of the previous works of his released here?
It’s time for the midweek manga review, here at Sequential Ink! This week I’ll be taking a look at Jormungand, Vol. 11, but first… the news!
- Yesterday saw Vertical release the first volume of the Attack on Titan: Before the Fall light novel series. To help promote the book, they posted a 10 page preview of the novel on their Tumblr.
- Viz adds CLAMP’s Suki: A Like Story to their digital line up. The three volume series debuts on the September 23rd and appears to be a digital only offering at the moment.
- Justin Stroman, founder of the Organization Anti-Social Geniuses, wrote the lengthy and interesting “Why It’s Worth It To Buy Manga” article for MangaBookshelf.
- The Reverse Thieves are holding a manga giveaway contest. Winners will receive Raqiya, Vols. 1 & 2 along with some other manga goodies.
Without further ado, this week’s review of Jormungand, Vol. 11!
After ten volumes Keitaro Takahashi’s manga about war, arms dealing and more comes to its conclusion. Koko’s ultimate plan to end war stands revealed, but the fact that it’ll cost 700,000 people their lives causes Jonah to question it’s implementation.
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.
- This past week saw the unveiling of the first teaser trailer to the live action adaption of Hitoshi Iwaaki’s classic manga, Parasyte!
- A new live theatrical presentation is about to have it’s Boston area premier, Astro Boy and the God of Comics will combine aspects of traditional plays and “live cartooning” to tell the story of Osamu Tezuka and Astro Boy.
- And of course, The New York Times Best Sellers List for the week for July 12th.
With that brief interlude done with, it’s time for this weeks featured review of One Punch Man, Vols. 1 + 2!
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.
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.
- NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour takes a look at Edge of Tomorrow , the big budget live action adaption of All You Need is Kill and other movies in a show about “noble flops”.
- David Brothers has a nice little write up about the manga series, Ajin: Demi-Human. The series is currently serialized digitally on Crunchyroll, and is set to receive a physical release from Vertical at some point in the future.
And now onto the featured review of Battle Royale: Angel’s Border!
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.
Rurouni Kenshin, Vol. 6 (Viz Big Edition)
By Nobuhiro Watsuki
Viz, 584 pp
Rating: T +(Older Teens)
Rouroni Kenshin’s epic Kyoto arc comes to a head! For the past several volumes Kenshin and his allies, the brawler Sanosuke Sagara, former Shinsengumi member turned cop Saito Hajime and the rest have clashed with the forces of Shishio from Tokyo to Kyoto and now the battle comes to its conclusion with the final showdown between Kenshin and Shishio! But as one threat fades another rises as more figures from Kenshin’s past emerge from the shadows.
It’s been a while since I’ve read Rurouni Kenshin but one of the things that impressed me is how easy it was to get into the story even after a break of a year or more from it. As mentioned above this volume finishes off the Kyoto arc which is probably the best known and most well regarded arc from the series. I saw it years ago in anime form on Toonami and it’s lovely to see it in it’s manga incarnation. Everything that comes after it though, that’s all new material and uncharted territory for me. I’m rather interested in it all since finding out more about Kenhin’s history is always welcome. That said I’m a little worried that Watsuki’s repeating himself here. Shishio’s arc was pretty heavy with Kenshin being forced to face and deal with his violent past and judging from the second half of this volume it looks like we’re heading there again. At least it looks to be a little more personal this time around though.
Visually Watsuki’s art is pretty fantastic. While we get the odd hit or miss character design in this volume when he gets it right he gets it right in a big way. Shishio is an incredibly memorable figure as are most the cast involved in the final showdown with him. The new group doesn’t look quite as good at this point but we haven’t seen much of them yet but at least one character is noticeably anachronistic and another is the fourth or fifth X-Men we’ve seen so far. Watsuki’s action scenes are intense and full of splash pages that feel like they’re ready to explode off the page. While they’re lovely to look at I found myself wanting some more back and forth in the fight. Some smaller moments between the big moves and supposed one hit kills would have been nice and I think the final battle with Shishio which dominates the action in the volume really would have warranted them. It’s also worth mentioning that thanks to the paper quality of the Viz Big line Watsuki’s art looks absolutely fantastic and beautifully sharp and detailed. Whether it’s the line work indicating speed and force or just the quiet Kenshin gives Shishio it all looks crisp and amazing and as good as anything coming out today.
I’m still digging the hell out of the series even if the final battle with Shishio wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. It carried a nice emotional punch though and the following arc certainly seems to be something I’ll be interested in reading. Hopefully this time I won’t wait a year or so in between tracking down the Viz Big volumes.
Ruouni Kenshin, Vol. 6 (Viz Big Edition) is available now from Viz.
Hiroshi Yamamoto brings us MM9, an entertaining novel following the exploits of Japan’s Monsterological Measures Department, a group of civil servants tasked with predicting, studying and handling Japan’s defenses when it comes to kaiju (giant monster) attacks!
This is an incredibly fun read. It’s light, breezy and very entertaining. The book is essentially a short story collection, each chapter telling a tale of one of the MMD’s encounters with a kaiju. The stories are primarily linked by the small ensemble cast of characters more than any over arching plot line, though there is a vague one of those in a few of the stories as well. Hiroshi Yamamoto does a great job at capturing the feel of the monster movies with stories echoing and bringing to mind some of the various movies fans of the genre know and love. The entire book is also a love song to the genre as a whole with references and nods to not only Japans pantheon of kaiju but the international contribution as well. Keen eyed readers will pick up on passing references and nods to Lovecraft, the movie Them!, various myths from around the world and more. None of the characters are terribly fleshed out or three dimensional but that really only serves to reinforce the feeling of a kaiju movie and series where characters tend to have one or two pronounced personality traits and roles to fill. The explanations and scientific theories that are used to explain how the monsters exist are interesting and dabble lightly with ideas like consensus reality, quantum physics, Schoedingers Cat and more.
Obviously I’m not familiar with the original Japanese edition but this English language translation from Nathan Collins reads quite well. There’s not a lot of awkward phrasing or verbiage though this causes the one or two moments that an odd turn of phrase pops up too really jump out at the reader. Still it was light and easy, casual read.
Haikasoru has generally been promoting itself as a hard sci-fi/fantasy line, carrying the best and most popular works of the genre from Japan. This, however, feels like a light novel and not in a bad way. It’s incredibly and incredibly simple and easy read which bats around some high minded sci-fi concepts but doesn’t delve into them to the point where the text becomes dry and boring. Add this to the whole giant monster concept, a dedicated group of scientists battling and directing operations when it comes to them, some rather thin characterization and you have a recipe for a bad light novel. Thankfully, it’s not. In fact it’s exactly the opposite. All the ingredients gel together wonderfully and the result is the kind of light, easy read that makes for perfect vacation, traveling and beach reading. In the end, MM9 is an enthralling, fun read and in a perfect world more folks would be talking about it.
MM9 is available now from Haikasoru.