Tag Archives: Manga Moveable Feast

November MMF: I didn’t read One Piece

That’s right. I didn’t. Yes, I know that sort of defeats the whole purpose of writing an MMF post, but I wanted to participate somehow. I haven’t been able to participate in a few of the past months because I was too busy or because I couldn’t find my copies of the manga. (Where the heck ARE you After School Nightmare?!)

There are a few reasons why I’ve shirked reading One Piece:

1. There were no copies of the first omnibus on the shelves of any bookstore that I went to in the months since the One Piece Manga Moveable Feast was scheduled. If there had been, I probably would have  guilted myself into buying it. I was too lazy to buy it online. (More specifically, I don’t really trust the postal system or delivery services after my college job.) I didn’t want to buy the first three volumes separately because what if I didn’t really like it? Then I have volumes I don’t want to read wasting precious apartment space. With an omnibus, it just felt easier to slide in.

2. Shounen manga isn’t my thing. At all. I am a shoujo manga person by heart. I get upset when I realize I’ve been ignoring my favorite shoujo series for other awesome stuff like Black Jack or Real or some gekiga manga. (No really, I have gotten upset that I haven’t read the latest volumes of Kimi ni Todoke because I’ve been focusing on reading other genres.) I haven’t read too many shounen manga that I’d even want to buy. Someone gave me a copy of Soul Eater not too long ago and I don’t want to continue the series on my own. The only shounen manga I’ve bought for myself recently is Cross Game (because I know there’s a romantic aspect) and a couple of copies of Shounen Jump (for research.)

3. Frankly, the idea of picking up a series that is already 60 volumes long, with no clear end in sight, is terrifying. I haven’t collected any series longer than about 35 volumes. Bookshelf space is precious to me because I live in a tiny apartment right now. One Piece just seems like the kind of thing I’d be more interested in if I had space to spare. I do not. Trying to smartly use the space that I have for non-manga stuff is hard enough already… I don’t even have enough room for my entire collection to boot! A sizable chunk is still at my mom’s place. Maybe when I have a bigger place and tons of shelves to call my own.

I know what the reaction to this post is going to be. Some people will probably berate me for being so stupid about not trying One Piece out. Others might offer to send me a copy (which is nice of you, but if we aren’t close, I won’t accept it. Thank you for the nice gesture, though.) Some people will be disappointed in me, either silently or openly and that is fine. I’ve expected all that. Some might suggest I face the series from a different vantage point (there’s been lots of talk about how later arcs of One Piece are more engaging than the beginning), but I’m a bit of a purist. I’d much rather get started from the beginning and be interested enough to continue collecting.

So I’m not reading One Piece right now.

I’ll still keep an eye out for that first omnibus though.

If you want to read more about the One Piece Manga Moveable Feast, however, I suggest looking elsewhere.

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August MMF: Yotsuba&! and Chi’s Sweet Home

Hello everyone, this is my entry for the Manga Moveable Feast this month. You can view more reviews and essays on Yotsuba&! and other kid-appropriate manga over at Good Comics For Kids.

Summaries:

Yotsuba&! volume 1 by Kiyohiko Azuma is about a young girl, Yotsuba, and her father, who have just moved to a new neighborhood. As they get adjusted to their new location, they quickly become friends with the girls who live in the house next door, especially Fuuka, the middle daughter. The volume consists of short stories and adventures involving Yotsuba and either her father, her father’s ridiculously tall friend Jumbo or the girls next door.

Chi’s Sweet Home volume 1 by Konami Kanata is the story of a lost little kitten who gets rescued by a young family, despite the fact that they can’t have pets in their apartment. Chi and the family adjust to each other and the readers are treated to short stories about being housebroken, wanting to claw the furniture, running away and various other things that pets do.

My opinions:

I have no problems with the stories or the art in either Chi’s Sweet Home or Yotsuba&! In both manga, the art is clean and simple, yet detailed enough to interest the reader in the backgrounds and not just the characters. In Chi’s Sweet Home, the manga is in color, giving it a neat, but watercolor-like feel. (Oh, the magic of a skilled hand with Copic markers.) Both manga feature succinct storytelling that allows for those little moments that convey simple actions and emotions effectively while not getting too hung up on those moments either. And, most importantly, these manga are both perfectly appropriate for kids. The raunchiest it gets is in Yotsuba&! when Jumbo tries to flirt a little with Asagi, the eldest daughter, makes some light joke about being comfortable “in the buff” and calls her attractive.

Despite both these manga being appropriate for children, I feel like Yotsuba&! isn’t a manga for children at all. Instead it is a manga for adults who want to read about children being cute. Basically it’s like a Japanese version of Kids Say the Darnest Things. While this is all perfectly fine for anyone who’s got a few years between them and being a kid, I’m just not convinced most kids would be entertained long enough to keep reading. For one, I can see older kids reading this and going, “Why’s this girl so weird/stupid/dumb?” and walking away. Younger kids (kids around her age) won’t keep reading because they don’t understand or because Yotsuba just isn’t that funny when you’re that age. They won’t get the jokes about global warming or why it’s funny that Yotsuba cannot pronounce it. In the end, Yotsuba is a comic that is meant for adults to laugh at the cute things that young children do, specifically this little oddling that Azuma has created. I’m not claiming to be an expert on what kid’s will understand, relate to and want to read, but the intended audience of this manga is really clear to me. It just also happens to be a manga that you can safely give to kids.

Chi’s Sweet Home, on the other hand, is definitely more intended for kids despite having run in a seinen manga magazine. It is nothing but the funny, simple moments of a kitten and it’s adopted family. It’s meant for anyone to enjoy so any kid who likes animals will love it. Plus there are enough visual cues for children to laugh at or relate to than in Yotsuba&!, which is one of the charm points in this manga: Chi’s hilarious and cute expressions. Even if you read this manga to a three year-old, I’d bet they’d giggle at Chi’s teary-eyed faces and cute kitten antics.

At the same time, I’m a little bit dissatisfied with editorial decisions both manga. Yen Press has a habit of subtitling in sound effects with both the romanization of the text and the English-language sound effect. It’s nit-picky, I know. But it’s bothered me in every single Yen Press book I’ve read and will probably continue to bother me in the future.

As for Chi’s Sweet Home, there’s heavy use of “baby talk” in the form of the letters ‘r’ or ‘l’ being turned into ‘w’, amongst other things. While this would work if you were reading aloud to your kid, wouldn’t a young reader get tripped up by the misspelling? Also, the “baby talk” is inconsistent and rather jarring when it appears. I found myself getting yoinked out of my reading experience and frowning every time the “baby talk” came back again. The manga would have been perfectly fine without it. Also bothersome to me was the price for Chi’s Sweet Home. While I understand why it’s priced higher than regular manga with the beautiful color pages, if someone less familiar with manga came along, they might find it too prohibitive for such a small book. Or worse, a parent shopping in a children’s section would probably pass it over for a higher quantity of less expensive children’s books. These are hard economic times and I imagine parents are some of the people who are the most worried about how they spend their money. Surely there might have been a way to bring the cost down a few dollars? I know Vertical’s not been having any problems selling the book, so maybe a lower price could have been possible without hurting the publisher too much.

Either way, I recommend both manga for anyone who wants a good laugh. Chi’s Sweet Home is great for kids, adults and cat lovers of all ages and the quality of the color pages is fantastic. Yotsuba&! is a fun read for the adults in the house and although it may or may not capture your child’s interest, you could put it in the kids’ reach without any worries.

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May MMF: To Terra, A Space Holocaust

There was something chilling about reading To Terra from Vertical for the first time this weekend. I couldn’t really put my finger on it until I started thinking about how I wanted to write up the series for this month’s MMF.  It reminded me of the Holocaust in different skin.

The obvious comparison, is the on-going oppression of the Mu. The Mu are killed when found before or after the Maturity Checks (think eugenics) and any Mu hiding in human society is likely to be killed on the spot as well. There’s no death camps or labor camps for Mu, but they are discriminated against for their telepathic abilities and weaker bodies despite the fact that they are still human. While the Jews didn’t exactly have telepathy, there were plenty of other “qualities” that the Jews “possessed” that made them so reviled by other Europeans.

On top of that, human society uses the Mu as lab rats, much like the infamous Josef Mengele. Much like the Jews, the Mu go into hiding and must use the most desperate measures in order to stay hidden, moving from place to place and hoping they are safe there. My grandmother did the same thing after Kristallnacht, moving from Austria to Hungary and then into the Hungarian countryside when the Nazis came for the Jewish men and took my grandfather away. (He later was freed from Auschwitz-Birkenau by American troops while waiting in line for the gas chambers.) That intense journey to find a safe place to call home reminds me of the Mu in so many ways. Much like the Jews, the Mu have their own resistance and there are even a few humans who are against the Super Domination regime like Seki Ray Shiroe.

Even the human side of things reminds me very much of Nazi Germany and the anti-Semetic attitude of the rest of Europe at the time. All the humans listen blindly to the super computer, Mother, while she dictates every detail of their lives, from the level of the education to whether they get to marry or not. That may not be totally Hitler-like, but it certainly matches certain aspects of the Nazi regime. Educational Station E-1077 isn’t that far from the Hitler Youth, weeding out the elites of society from the inferior chaff, preparing new leaders and also new soldiers. Keith Anyan is the perfect example of this. He’s breed right down to the very last gene to be Mother’s perfect child. The foster parent system on Ataraxia and other planets in To Terra are similar to Nazi eugenics that attempted to promote Aryan dominance through careful marriage choices and create the perfect genetic and mental environment. There are even some hints that Mother is not what she seems or promotes,  much like Hitler’s supposed Jewish ancestry.

Of course, the comparison isn’t perfect. There’s no real equivalent to Jomy Marcus Shin, Physis or Soldier Blue as the Jewish resistance was scattered at best and the Jews in hiding certainly did not have one leader.  However, if I were to make a comparison on a smaller scale, you could equate them to being like the rabbi of a shtetl, many of whom kept their communities together after being taken to concentration camps. Such people were pillars of their communities no matter what happened to the people and Jomy and Solider Blue are similarly exalted by the Mu.

A quick edit: I forgot to add that the Mu’s spirit and drive to return to Terra is never extinguished, much like the Jewish spirit was never truly trampled no matter what indignities they faced.

Don’t get me wrong, To Terra isn’t about the Nazi regime or the Holocaust, but the similarities struck me so hard when I realized it that I can’t help but wonder if Keiko Takemiya researched the time period as an example for her totalitarian society and it’s victims. All of this is making me so eager to read the third volume and see if this similarity continues.

As for the the quality of the story and the art, both are amazing. Like I said before, I’m kicking myself for not finding volume three a little sooner before the MMF started. Takemiya’s writing kind of smooth in that way that I keep reading without noticing how far I’ve gotten or really noticing the craftsmanship of it. I think that’s the best kind of writing, where you just sit down, finish and go WOAH because you’re suddenly hit with awesome. The art is just what I want out of a scifi story. A lot of scifi manga decide to do something I like to call “detail porn” where every little technical aspect of a device is drawn. I’ve always thought that kind of art was overdone. Instead, Takemiya uses her shojo stylings and some of the aspects of the story to make the background art not just about the machines behind the people, which is great because this manga is very much about the people. Another thing I noticed was the way she differentiated between the soft, ethereal Mu and the somewhat harsher humans. The Mu all have light hair, clear eyes and slightly pointy but delicate features whereas the humans are either sharper or fleshier. I like how the Mu are sort of fairy-like while the humans are very real and kind of pudgy or something.

As for the editorial side, the translation is excellent and I noticed only a few mistakes like not erasing the Japanese text behind the English text. The biggest recurring problem I saw was with word flow that occasionally split out into the art. I kind of come from the school where art is top priority in manga and we’d best not interfere with it.

Overall? I’d recommend it. It’s a masterpiece of a different kind and it’s wonderful to see different kinds of classics released in English.

If you’d like to check out other Manga Moveable Feast entries on To Terra…, please check out Kate Dacey’s roundups at The Manga Critic.

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Manga Moveable Feast: Mushishi vol. 1-4

The first time I came across Mushishi was when my really awesome college anime club watched it about two years ago. I picked up the manga in bookstores to take a peek, but it wasn’t high on my list of things to buy. So I never did. UNTIL NOW. -cue dramatic music-

Said club having really terrific taste in anime, I rather loved watching Mushishi although it usually hit me as kind of slow. (It showed right before our dinner break, so I guess I was just anxious for some grub or something.) That was awhile ago so picking up the first four volumes of the Mushishi manga felt familiar, but still rather fresh.

Mushishi is about a “doctor” of sorts named Ginko who researches and deals with cases of mushi, semi-mystical and bug-like primordial beings that coexist alongside plants and animals, but act in many different ways, be they parasitic, otherwise harmful or completely docile. The manga chronicles Ginko’s adventures in no particular order with self-contained plots in each chapter. While some might say it would be easy to start at a random volume, I still feel like it’s best to start at the beginning where Yuki Urushibara is making the effort to explain the mushi and what Ginko does.

Urushibara is specifically unclear as she states in her postscript that there isn’t a particular time attached to Mushishi, although she suspects it is sometime between the Edo and Meiji periods. I’m glad she made this choice because it would be a lot more difficult to do this story in a modern setting, like some manga might which always strikes me as a little B-rated fantasy flick-ish. Thanks to this, Mushishi retains a mystical and timeless quality as it really should be.

Ginko is a really cool protagonist. He seems like a real person despite his strange surroundings who tries very hard at his job and really likes mushi a lot. He regularly attempts to make all the right decision for everybody, but isn’t totally against doing something that will benefit himself or something that technically breaks a taboo. My favorite chapters throughout the first four volumes (I’m planning on picking up the rest on Saturday, so perhaps I can do a second post right before the Manga Moveable Feast ends) are “The Sea of Brushstrokes” (vol. 2) about a girl born with a mushi sealed inside her right leg who must write about killing mushi in order to expel it, “The Fish Gaze” (vol.3) which is about Ginko’s past and how he got his strange features, “Picking the Empty Cocoon” (vol. 4) about a girl who takes care of a certain kind of mushi and the loss of her sister to this mushi and “In the Cage” (vol. 4) about a family that is trapped inside a bamboo grove by a white bamboo mushi.

This manga reminds me a lot of Natsume’s Book of Friends mixed with Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (in a sort of action-packed with interesting characters way) so if you like either of those manga you’ll probably be interested in Mushishi.

The art starts out a bit on the difficult side of sketchy at first, but eventually comes into it’s own as the manga moves on.  While I’m perfectly content with the style, if you really really like super clean artwork, then this manga isn’t for you.  All in all, I think it really suits the story and it’s mysterious subjects, but I won’t lie that a few years ago I probably would have frowned a little at this style. I used to really admire clean lines.

While I rather like the art and the story, I have some complaints from a editor’s perspective. From volume 1 I was extremely annoyed by the choice of font for the narratives. I was really hoping it would go away after the first volume, but no such luck. It also had some spiky strokes (usually white  lines around the font to make it show up against darker panels, etc.)  that just looked so unnatural to me. I know this is kind of a really picky thing to complain about, but font choice is pretty important and this particular font pretty much reminded me of the way Papyrus is misused for every single “ancient”-looking thing out there. I hate Papyrus with a passion if you can’t tell. I personally would have chosen something that looked more handwritten and similar to the wavy brushstrokes that are used to draw the mushi.

Another problem I had with the book was that Del Rey seemed completely unaware that some of the dialogue was in the bleed zone. (The bleed zone is some buffer space given so nothing important, like dialogue, will be cut off in printing.) This happened consistently through four volumes and it just REALLY pisses me off to have to practically crack the book’s spine just to get at some text in the middle or to see half of a line of text disappear at the bottom of a page. To me this says: SOMEONE WASN’T PAYING ATTENTION, takes me out of the book and makes the whole thing a lot harder to read. They also advertised “special extras” on the back of every volume, but if the special extras were the inclusion of a few pages of the next volume, I could have done without the anticipation. Sure, it’s not in the original Japanese version, but extra pages (in Japanese) of the next volume are NOT that special to me. Am I jaded? Perhaps, but it’s not like I was buying Mushishi for these “special extras” anyway. Overall, the packaging is nice and I like the paper they used for the covers, which isn’t glossy and makes the watercolored cover art to look really awesome. All the covers are pretty, but volume 4 (pictured above) is my favorite so far.

Finally, and this is probably an artistic or editorial decision on the Japanese side to let some of the tones slip over into the word balloons. I don’t know why it bothers me so much because it does seem to fit the whole feel of Mushishi, but it just seems so lazy to me. It’s not that consistent either, although I noticed it usually happens to balloons in landscape scenes. In the end, I guess this is all just stuff I would correct as an editor, if I was the editor.

As whole, I wouldn’t skip Mushishi just because of my little editorial nitpicking. It says something about this series that even after I’ve seen the anime (which is basically a verbatim adaption of the manga), I’ve been more than happy to buy the manga. (Not just for the Feast, but it was an excellent excuse.) I’d even be willing, in a few months time, to pick it up for a casual re-read.

If you would like to read more about Mushishi, check out the other Manga Moveable Feast entries at Manga Worth Reading! Thank you to Ed Sizemore for hosting this month’s event!

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